Cordelia hadn’t been asleep for more than twenty minutes when a harsh pounding roused her back awake. “Ah, whaaat now?” She whined, quickly throwing back the covers and jumping out of bed.
Slipping on her terrycloth robe, she took a chance and glanced at the clock. With a cringe and a grumble, she marched out into the living room ready to swing the door open wide. She had a good idea of who it was barging in at the late hour; it wasn’t just anyone who would come banging on her door at 3 am…
Lamps came to life one by one as she crossed the floor. If she weren’t in such a state, she’d have at least nodded a thanks to her ghost. But as it was, Cordelia wasn’t in the mood to deal with ANYTHING.
And so Dennis went un-thanked. After a night like this, he’d expected it though, and his feelings weren’t hurt…that much.
As she reached the door, her chest heaved in silent anticipation and she grasped the doorknob with a hard grip. This night definitely already fit into the crappiest of crap category, one of the top five worst nights of her entire existence… So what was one more run in with Angel going to do?
What did she have to lose? She scowled, scratched her head, and then when another fierce knock made her jump, she decided to peer out the peephole. You never know, it could actually be a burglar…
“Cordelia,” Angel’s voice broke through the wood grain; low and deep, and commanding. She contemplated not even opening the door at all. Maybe if she didn’t, he’d just go away— “I can hear your heartbeat. I know you’re there. Open up.”
“Ugh.” She rolled her eyes but did as he asked—or not asked actually, but demanded. She didn’t even have time to invite him in—not that it mattered, one invite was enough and he’d have forever and a day to come and go as he pleased— when he strode in past her, in a rush into her apartment; a veil of dew resting in drops across his leather jacket—it must be drizzling out—and a hard, steely toughness consuming his face.
Cordelia bit down on her lip.”Explain something to me,” He demanded fiercely, quickly turning on her as she took a moment to push the door closed. His close proximity surprised her when she faced him, and she flinched, falling back against the door with a squeal.
Angel halted, then swore under his breath, and respectfully backed a few paces. He went silent, but continued to gaze at her though, unwavering and waiting…and he even started to pace a bit, with not much patience.
“W-what?” She asked flatly. She would’ve succeeded in sounding indifferent if her voice hadn’t cracked, but as her luck would have it, it cracked, and Cordelia’s deck was blown wide open. She couldn’t hide her anxiety if her life depended on it! besides…really didn’t matter what came out of her mouth, Angel could smell her fear.
He hadn’t meant to scare her though. But he was so damn mad… “Tonight,” He growled. Cordelia waited for further prompting, but guessed she wouldn’t be getting it. So she looked away, shrugging in the manner she’d used too many times as a teen when her father had caught her sneaking in in the early morning hours, and had demanded to know where she’d been all night.
She mumbled in the same begrudging half-whisper, “I don’t know.” She’d meant it to sound incoherent.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” He snapped. Guess it wasn’t as incoherent as she’d hoped—
“I don’t know, Angel.” She repeated in a lost, little girl voice. Her eyes finally rose to meet his, and she’d really wished she hadn’t because he was really angry, angrier than she’d seen him in a long, long time.
And aside from the fact that he was doing the crazed-Angel-pacing dance, she could tell he was doing his best to keep his composure. He trembled with violence, at least in her eyes he did, and Cordelia found herself backing up as close to the door as she could get, even though she knew, or at least she hoped she knew, that he would never physically harm her.
Not as Angel anyway. Angelus was a whole other story—Cordelia’s eyes went wide with sudden contemplation.
What if this were Angelus? What if he’d… What if Angel and Paige had… And then he’d… And then she’d… Oh, why in the hell had she opened that door! She gulped, hard; heart fluttering wildly like the wings of a rabid butterfly.
Angel watched her go completely still. Statuesque. And he suddenly realized she was terrified. His eyes narrowed and a low growl emitted from his throat. He hadn’t meant to let it out, but he was frustrated. Cordelia winced, tensing, and then he did something that surprised her; he stopped his pacing, took an intimate step forward and peered into her eyes.
He made her look into his, he made her look deep, and he proved that it was he, and not his deadly counterpart unsheathed on the world, as his hardened expression was replaced by softened confusion and pain.
With realization of what had just been racing through her head, something else arose in his face, something else very familiar…deep, painful guilt. “I’m sorry,” He whispered. “Please don’t be afraid. I didn’t mean to scare you, barging in like this.”
Cordelia felt her body fighting to breathe and she suddenly remembered to exhale. It came out a sigh. A deep, relieved sigh. And slowly her muscles relaxed enough to allow her body to sag against the doorframe.
Angel looked away and Cordelia smiled grimly. He really hadn’t meant to scare her, and Cordelia appreciated that. When they were a safe distance apart, Angel asked her again. “Just tell me why. Tell me something… Let me understand why you did what you did. Give me a clue, Cordy. Give me a chance to understand your reasoning behind this…insane, bizarre, selfish craziness…that you’ve been acting out.” When he looked up at her again, he looked exasperated. “At least…at least say you’re sorry, for making me so crazy!”
Actually, he looked like he were about to cry. Cordelia managed to unclench her fingers from their tight, little fists and she took a shaky step towards him. Her bare feet barely made a sound on the cold tiles, and as a chill shimmied up her spine, she really wished she’d remembered to put on her bunny slippers before going to the door.
Maybe bunny slippers would have appeared endearing to the big, thoroughly upset vampire in her living room…maybe. Perhaps one look at them and he wouldn’t be so angry anymore…maybe he’d be so consumed with how cute they looked that he wouldn’t be pissed. YEAH RIGHT.
Glancing at his face, she knew nothing could save her now, especially not some stupid bunny slippers. It was explanation time:”Angel…I am sorry. I’m sorry I’ve been acting so weird about…this.”
“And why have you been acting weird?”
“Because you’ve been acting so weird.”
“Yes, you! You’ve been behaving completely bizarro over this dumb girl, Paige!”
“She’s not dumb,” He warned.
“She’s not exactly smart,”
“She’s so…goody-goody! And sweet. And she just seems so…ditzy!”
“Cordelia! She’s a normal girl!”
“It’s not like she’s all super intelligent, she’s not exactly a rocket scientist or anything!”
“Cordelia, I don’t know anybody who’s a rocket scientist!”
“Well…Fred comes pretty close.”
“ANGEL!!!” He stared at her hard, his edge coming back in a dangerous might, nostrils flaring. Cordelia swallowed hard, but her nostrils were starting to flare too, and she suddenly remembered that Angel wasn’t the only one with something to be angry about…
“Cordelia! Why the hell are you being sooo…so completely… UGH!” Angel threw his hands up, running one through his hair in frustration, angering it and causing it to be more disheveled then was normal for his style. It’d have looked cute, if she didn’t feel so threatened right now. Cordelia pouted and crossed her arms.
“So what, exactly?”
“Me, IMPOSSIBLE? For the last few weeks you’ve been playing with fire! And I’ve warned you! Tried talking to you! But you wouldn’t even hear it!”
“You haven’t talked to me about anything!”
“I SO have!”
“You have not! All you’ve done is act like a brat! Making nasty little comments, and throwing glares… And tonight. Tonight you were completely out of line!”
“ME? OUT OF LINE?”
“NO! YOU WERE OUT OF LINE, MISTER! Hugging and kissing on that…that…GIRL!”
“She has a name, and her name is Paige!”
“I know what her stupid name is!”
“Then use it! And stop talking about her like she’s not good enough for you. You don’t even know her,”
“I don’t want to know her,”
“Stop calling her names!”
“JEZEBEL???” He ripped. “Remember? I heard that, Cordy. I can only imagine what you say when I’m not around…”
“You hear everything, don’t you!” She snapped sarcastically.
“Yes. I hear EVERYTHING.” He pointed at his ear.
Cordelia looked guilty.
“And I even asked you!” Angel went on. “I asked you to be nice to her! To give her a chance! You promised!”
“Well, that’s before I knew how involved things were between the two of you!”
“And what’s wrong with being involved!”
“ANGEL! Does DUH mean anything to you at all!” Cordelia glared at him like he was crazy. “DUH? Angel? DUH? Ring a bell??? I know I’ve said it enough times on this subject, Angel! I know you haven’t already forgotten the meaning of DUH…”
“Cordy,” Angel hissed, crossing his arms and rolling his eyes. “Just stop it! Really. Just stop!”
“You stop!” She dared ruefully. “You stop, Angel! You’re the one that’s doing something he shouldn’t be doing! Angel, you have no business seeing this girl! No business dating! Have you honestly forgotten about the curse? I mean, GOD! Are you that blinded by her big boobs and perfect, apple-shaped ASS that you’ve forgotten about the curse! Tell me you haven’t!”
“I’m not—I’m not blinded by her…her…” Angel’s face went flush. “…ass.”
“I’ll ignore that you’re not disputing the boob thing! SO THEN WHAT IS IT Angel? It SURE AS HELL CAN’T BE HER SPARKLING PERSONALITY!”
Angel huffed. “Maybe she’s just a nice girl, Cordy!”
“Nice. Nice.” She mimicked disgustedly. “Nice is one thing, Angel. But you find her ATTRACTIVE!”
“I have never treated you the way you treated me tonight. Never—what’s wrong with attractive!”
“Maybe that’s because I’m not you, and you’re not me!”
“I’d never treat you like that, PERIOD.”
“If I were cursed with a clause, a SEVERE clause like what you’ve got going, and I started doing things that might jeopardize my family, WE ARE FAMILY, AREN’T WE?”
“Of course we are!”
“Then you’re telling me you wouldn’t do a damn thing about it?” She peered at him skeptically. “You’re telling me you’d stand back and say and do nothing! You’d let me risk it. Risk it all! On some stupid, temporary FLING! You’re telling me you’d do that—”
“Maybe she’s not a fling! Maybe she’s more important than that!”
“Oh, yeah! Like what? Maybe you want to be her boyfriend? Maybe you want to have a relationship with her???”
“That’s laughable, Angel! Completely laughable!”
“WELL MAYBE I’M IN LOVE WITH HER! DID YOU EVEN CONSIDER THAT?”
“I’M SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE—Wait! What do you mean?” Cordelia fell back a step, her eyes suddenly widening. “What do you mean, ‘maybe you’re in love with her’?” Angel didn’t answer. He stood there, rigid, fuming, hard. “Angel?” She repeated fiercely. “Angel, what do you mean!”
And then Cordelia started to tremble. With fury. Angel remained silent, his jaw taught, teeth grinding as she suddenly approached him.
“Tell me what you meant!” She rasped, eyes burning. Angel stared down into her, cold and mean, and didn’t budge as she invaded his personal space, almost so that her nose touched his chin. They were mere inches apart, enough for him to taste her breath, and close enough to smell the tears ready to fall.
It was a stand off, and neither seemed ready to fall back. But after a moment, Angel finally did. He looked away, shamefully, and Cordelia felt herself falling apart inside.
“You…you love her?” She repeated. He seemed to hesitate, and she felt her insides turn against her as her heart, and guts, and earlier meal seemed to leap into her throat. Through what could only be described as sheer control,
Cordelia did not throw up right there. Instead she quivered. “Angel…d-do you?”
“No.” He said finally, turning back to stare at her. He yielded his gaze only slightly, looking more disappointed than anything. “But if I did,” He went on. “Would it have even made a difference?”
An uncomfortable silence filled the air, and Cordelia’s responses fell numb. Angel, whether he took her silence as an answer she couldn’t be sure, at that point decided to leave.
She was dumbstruck as he walked passed her towards the door; her feet firmly planted where she stood, her mouth dry, tongue repressed. She could barely move her head to watch him go.
She wanted to shout, “NO, STAY! PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME!” but her body wouldn’t let her. She wanted to move, block his exit, throw herself at his feet, wrap her arms around his legs and hold him here if she had to and beg him not to go, explain everything, fix this before it went any further… But her mind kept her stalling where she was.
Finally, as he reached the door, he turned one last time to regard his silent Seer. “You hurt me, Cordelia. You embarrassed me. And you broke your promise. I…I don’t know why. I can only imagine… But I want you to know…I want to say one thing. I would never, ever, have let you down the way you let me down tonight. I would never have intentionally done something like that to you…”Think about that, will you? Think about what that means. And when you’re ready,” He swallowed. “I’d like you to explain it to me. Really explain it. Tell me the truth. And then maybe we can move past this.”
“But if you can’t do that, then…well…I guess…” He never finished his sentence. Instead, he shook his head and slipped away, and Cordelia began to tremble. When she finally heard the door close, it was like a magic spell had been broken and she finally regained use of her limbs.
She winced, testing her voice and found it still available in her throat. With a cry, she crossed the tile quickly, and threw open the door. But the hallway was empty. Angel was already gone. She stared at the empty hallway, considered getting dressed and following him. Or not bothering, and just following him.
Her fatigue won out.
She closed the door, leaning against it as she locked it tight and took a moment to compose herself. When she finally could move again, she headed slowly back to her bedroom. When the lights continued to glow, she took it as a sign that Dennis was hiding. She couldn’t blame him, not in the least.
She stopped at each lamp to gently turn them off, throwing the room into absolute darkness. She made it into her bedroom and slammed the door shut behind her. Flinging off her robe, and falling into bed, she prayed for sleep to come quickly.
She couldn’t deal with lying awake all night and thinking about this. She couldn’t, no, not at all. Eventually her prayers were answered because her eyes finally closed and she finally drifted off.
It was sometime around 4:30.