There is No End 6-7

Part 6

He’d expected it to take him longer. The memories and emotions about Buffy were tumultuous and random. They covered the hundred years before her, the century before that and the random years of hell after her. There was the freshness and freedom he had felt about seeing her as she learned of her destiny and of her powers. The knowledge that she was where he had to head, to help, to aid her and against all rationale fallen in love with her.

And he loved her still, would love her always. Yet, he was at her grave, he was standing a few feet away staring at her name etched in stone. It meant he was ready to say goodbye and he felt surprised by the ease in which the decision had been reached. To stop his thoughts of her, to leave the mansion and make his way to the cemetery to the patch of earth that held her body. That held a body that would never hold her soul again. She wasn’t even here, just her name in stone, just the dates of a short life – shorter than his own human life – and the epitaph that showed she’d done more than most imagine.

She’d saved the world. A lot. Angel supposed she’d lived, she’d had family, friends that would die for her, she’d loved him and even loved another. And she’d given him more than he could explain. More than he could even fully understand, because until he’d met her. Angel had had no clue how to live. He’d just been a monster, stopped by a conscience and drowned by his own guilt. He’d made attempts at life, he’d made attempts to care about the lives he found he could no longer taunt, maim and then finally kill… but he’d never found the strength or emotion to care until Buffy.

She was the first. The first to make him care. The first to make him love. How was it he was here, at her grave, already, willing to say a goodbye and move on? It startled him but he couldn’t deny the truth of it.

He’d been standing there for an hour now, remembering her. The first time he’d seen her, watched her take in and accept her calling to fight the darkness of the world. So young, so free and suddenly with so much on slight shoulders. She’d awed him with the determination and heart she’d taken on the duty. Unable to turn her back, unable to not care about the people around her. Right and wrong seemed so easy to her. It amazed him and fascinated him. It was still a struggle for him, which was the right and wrong turn to make and he still slipped.

Her mistakes, her judgments and her assumptions were never moral slips. She’d never tasted true darkness, though she lived trapped inside it with the monsters. He had envied it, wanted her to remain untouched by the heavy pound of evil-done that clouded him daily and would’ve done anything to assure it. He’d walked away once thinking it would, denying it was his own fear that had driven to run.

He closed his eyes, he’d once thought if they could’ve been together that nothing would stop him from taking her and keeping her forever. Angel laughed and wondered if she knew now, about the one perfect day they’d had together. About his heartbeat and his love of chocolate and peanut butter? He wondered if her death had given her the gift of that memory back? Or was he still the only one who remembered those moments, that day and the decision to take it back?

A decision Angel found he didn’t regret, because he hadn’t earned it, because they would have to leave the bed sometime and her life was still tied to the darkness. Things wouldn’t have remained steady, perfect and he had yet to earn blood that pumped through his heart. He may never earn it, it may never come but it didn’t matter. He had no regrets, but he couldn’t help but wonder why?

There was no more chances for him and Buffy, hadn’t he always thought in the back of his mind that maybe someday the timing, the moment would be right. That maybe they’d get a one last chance? Angel dug his toe into the dirt and wondered about her soul. Where did it go?

His own soul had been pulled from somewhere and placed inside of him, a vampire. Buffy’s? Where had it gone? He knew so much, but he didn’t know that answer – he just hoped it was bright. No, he knew. He knew she was someplace where the darkness he’d wished she hadn’t had to know was never going to touch her again.

The only thing he regretted was the time he’d been soulless, the guilt of his actions then would always burn him but he had no regrets about him and Buffy. The choices they made, the fights they had, the pain they inflicted and the happiness and love shared. He felt okay, it confused him, but it felt right to be at her grave with a goodbye on his lips and the knowledge he’d love and miss her until the day he was dust.

“Buffy,” his voice was harsher than he expected, he cleared his throat knowing it was fruitless but he wanted to sound clear. He laughed at himself, clear for what the dirt and grass? No, she’d hear him. “Buffy, I…”

“Aww, ain’t it sweet…tell you what, man, what if I make it so you can join this Bunny person?”

Angel tensed at the intruders voice and he sniffed the air. He wasn’t surprised to smell the telltale scent of another vampire, or that mold and dirt was still a part of his clothes. He turned and took in the younger demon, a very young demon from the stance he had and the overly arrogant confidence spread across his vampire visage.

“It’s Buffy,” Angel said before launching himself at the other vampire.

~~

Angel brushed the dust off his leather jacket and shirt, grumbling at the grass stain marring the silk of his shirt and wondering again why he kept buying silk shirts – he just couldn’t seem to help himself. Rolling his shoulders, he started back towards Buffy’s grave intent on finishing what he’d started. He wouldn’t feel right until he did, the lump in his throat and the constriction in his chest wasn’t going to fade until he’d told he loved her, would always and said his goodbye. It was going to hurt, he might cry and he knew it but he knew it was right and it would be worth it. Somehow.

Moving around a tree, he stalled mid-step when he realized that there was a shadowed figured near Buffy’s grave. He frowned, hoping it wasn’t another damn vampire and stalked forward utilizing his skill of stealth. The smell of plums mixed with coming rain told him instantly it was Cordelia. Her scent had always reminded him of a coming rainstorm and he had to admit it fit what he knew of her personality from the time he’d known her before moving to L.A. She’d come to the grave, he’d thought she would have done that sooner but perhaps she’d spent most of the day with Willow and Xander. Disappointment flooded him, as he realized he’d have to wait longer to speak one last time with Buffy.

He finally stopped walking, thinking for a moment of where to go to wait when Cordelia started to talk.

“Hey. I would have been here sooner, but I ended up in The Bronze. Remember when you almost staked me there, I don’t know; I ended up outside the bathroom thinking about that. I thought you were such a freak. You nearly killed me. But then… you saved me from the poor girl, the sociopath who turned invisible and hated me. Then there was so many other things, but I guess I remember the almost staking and Homecoming the most…” Cordelia trailed off and squatted down on her heels, reaching out she touched the epitaph on the tombstone.

“You didn’t save the world that night – but you kept us alive. Then we both lost Homecoming Queen to those two stupid nobodies. I would have way preferred losing to you. Not because you were The Slayer, not because you saved my life, or anything, but because you were worthy competition. I had to step up and fight, I had to keep on my toes. I never bitched at you, or gave you a hard time because of disliking you – well, I did sometimes. But mostly it was, you were my equal Buffy. Truth is if you hadn’t had be out saving the world and beheading demons, you would have given me a run for my money every day in the halls of Sunnydale High. That’s why I couldn’t stand you. Think it’s why I got on your nerves too – why you got so mad I forgot to tell you about the school pictures. Why I didn’t tell you about them? You said that night, while we were hiding that you wanted to win Homecoming because you wanted to be chosen for something besides Slayerdom…” Cordelia trailed off again and took a long deep breath.

“Yeah, I didn’t get it then, don’t know if I get it now, Buffy. I never had time to react that night, there was the damn demon and then that bomb-thingy…and the running and that vampire I scared off, then the damn guys with the guns…then we lost. And I just wanted to take a bath to be honest…” Cordelia laughed. “And I’m totally getting off subject. You want to know what I was going to say, Buffy? What I was going to tell your damn chosen little ass? That you were a blind stupid bitch that’s what.”

Cordelia made Angel jump as she stood up swiftly to punctuate her sudden shift in tone and emotion. “I was thinking, who is this girl… Chosen for more than the freaky things in the night. Doesn’t she know my boyfriend talks about her consistently? Doesn’t she get that Willow and Giles would probably die for her, facing a whole bunch of danger they shouldn’t have to see? Doesn’t she get that she had Angel; this totally to die for boyfriend who sure he went evil and all but it was because of bliss – because of you. Damn Buffy, you had a mother who gave a damn for you. She fought for you. Me, my parents never noticed if I came home or not. I never had to call and lie about staying over at your house or Willow’s for all night cram sessions. And while we were fighting for our lives, Willow and Xander were all worried and guilty about kissing and cheating on me and Oz. They only put us together, because of guilt, because their guilt about me got things screwed up with you. It was all about you. You inspired all this loyalty and love and it sure as hell wasn’t because you can stake vampires. Every single animosity between you and me had nothing to do with your freaky nature Buffy. It was all just life, real life and petty, stupid, childish jealousy on my part. Because you had people who loved you and were loyal to you without any doubt or wonder about it. You could count on them and I hated seeing you take them for granted. Why I did things, why I said things, why I was such a bitch.”

Cordelia took a deep breath and squatted back down. “But, damn it I really did like you too. And I got what your life was like, how hard it had to be with all that pressure and I knew after Homecoming that when you saw me, you saw this normal part of being a teenager you thought you wanted. Being crowned Queen, having popular friends, homework and only cheating boyfriends and not homicidal ones to worry about. I get that. More than I did then, but I got it then. And I never forgot Homecoming, Buffy. Our competition or what you said in that shack. And well, I went to a flower store today. Was going to get you yellow roses to match your yellow hair or something. But there were all these flowers and I looked at them and all could I think of was that they weren’t quite right. And then I walked out of the store and went to dollar store and found this. It’s kind of close to what you or I should’ve won Homecoming night. I remember you said you looked good in a tiara. And I knew you were right. I mean what pretty girl doesn’t look great in a tiara? And I just wanted you to know, that no one is mourning the destiny you were called for. Willow’s mourning her best friend, Dawn’s mourning her sister, Xander’s mourning his friend and his first real crush. Giles is mourning someone that was like a daughter to him. I even saw Angel, Buffy. He’s mourning his love. And me. I’m mourning the only real competition I ever had in Sunnydale High School. So here you go, I dub you Homecoming Queen. Here is your tiara.”

Angel had become transfixed, he’d known at first as he listened he should have left but he hadn’t. Then Cordelia had switched gears so many times in her tone and her body language toward the grave that he couldn’t move. And then she’d given Buffy in her speech something he knew would mean the world to her. Cordelia had told her that she saw Buffy as a normal girl. His mind reeled at it and then he saw the tiara Cordelia had pulled out of a bag, glistening in the moonlight on the tombstone and he stepped forward. He wanted a better look; he wanted to imagine what it would like in Buffy’s hair and the smile she would have getting to wear it. His foot crunched against a fallen branch on the ground and it punctured the silence that had fallen around them.

Before he knew it a cross was in front of him and Cordelia was yelling something about knowing how to use the stake in her other hand. He held up his hands in a protective gesture and shook his head. “It’s Angel. Cordelia it’s me.”

The cross lowered and Cordelia cursed at him. “Fuck. Angel, don’t sneak up on a girl in a Sunnydale cemetery unless you have a death wish…” her eyes widened. “Oh! Oh my God! You don’t do you! Buffy wouldn’t like that and don’t make me have to suicide watch you I don’t think I have the stamina for that.”

“What? No. I just wanted to look at the tiara…” Angel heard himself stammer.

Cordelia stared at him, her mouth opening and closing; he heard her blood swishing through her veins as it got hotter from her embarrassment. She glanced at the tiara and back at him and then her eyes flashed with anger. “You were eavesdropping on my private conversation with Buffy! You dumbass!”

Angel stared at her, what had she just called him. “I am not.”

“Are too. You don’t eavesdrop on people when they are talking to the dead.”

“Well, I didn’t mean to but you were here when I came back – I wasn’t done talking, I hadn’t even gotten to start talking to her when a vampire showed up thinking I’d make a good snack.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “So? I don’t see how a vampire dusting gives you a good reason to eavesdrop on me.”

“It didn’t, I just… you were talking and then… the Homecoming story… damn it I just want to see the tiara okay?”

“What? What the hell, should I have bought you one too? Could had a certain pizzazz but it wouldn’t really look right with the leather.”

“Everything works with leather.”

“Just keep telling yourself that, dumbass. Maybe it will make it true.”

Angel closed his eyes and wondered what the hell to do. How did he stop this never-ending conversation and get to what he wanted. A better look at the tiara, so he could imagine Buffy in it and then say goodbye to the brilliant image of sunshine and gold he was sure it would make. “Cordelia, I still need to… I didn’t get to be alone with her…” he trailed off and looked over her shoulder at where he knew the grave was but Cordelia was blocking.

“Oh!” Cordelia’s eyes grew round and she nodded. “Sorry, I…well you can apologize to me later.” She bent down and grabbed her purse, and the empty bag that had held the tiara, then she breezed past him.

Glancing over his shoulder, he watched until she disappeared from his sight then he hurried to the tombstone and picked up tiara and smiled. “She’s right, Buffy. It looks good on you,” he whispered settling it back down, the image he’d wanted burned into his mind. “Buffy, I…”

And Angel said goodbye to his first love.


Part 7

Angel felt weird. Grief and sadness mixed with relief and acceptance were the emotions that weighed down his chest and it was the last thing he expected. It was weird, weirder even than the fact that Cordelia Chase was sitting in the passenger side of his Plymouth, her feet on the dashboard, munching on a candy bar. Frowning he stepped up to the car, slapped her legs and then glided to the driver’s side and slipped in, quickly readjusting the seat and the wheel to his satisfaction.

“Rude,” Cordelia snapped at him.

And he turned to see her glaring at him and assumed she’d been holding the same expression since then. “You’re getting crumbs on the leather.”

She stared at him and then followed his gaze to her candy bar. “Whatever. I didn’t realize you were Felix Unger.”

“Who?”

“Never mind. Pop Culture. Vampire. Stupid Cordelia,” she muttered to herself and started to settle her feet back up in front of her.

“Hey,” Angel snapped, and slapped her lower leg again. “Feet on the floor of the car.”

“Okay, okay, don’t go grr on me,” she moved back in her seat and proceeded to knock her purse off the seat and topple all its contents onto the floor. “Oh, wonderful, look what you made me do, Angel.”

Angel rolled his eyes and prayed that none of the things a woman like Cordelia carried around with her would end up stuck or staining the floor of his car. “Just pick it all up.”

Cordelia made some sort of sound at him that Angel supposed was the human form of a growl. He chose to ignore her and started the engine and drove quickly out onto the road.

“Oh. Before I forget. Faith wants you to meet her,” Cordelia said, as she straightened up from grabbing the contents of her purse.

“What?” Angel looked over at her blankly.

“Faith. Brunette. A Slayer. Kind of feral in nature. I guess she got out of her coma and everyone forgave her, or something. She wants to meet you. Some tomb by the cemetery near the mansion.”

Faith knew he was in town? How? Damn it, he didn’t want to see anyone. He just wanted to grieve and say goodbye, and be done with it. Why didn’t anyone seem to get that this was a private trip. “How the hell does she know I’m here?”

“The car. Duh. I didn’t tell a soul. She just knew this was your ride.”

“What tomb?”

“Balling, Bearing, Barstool…Barrington!” Cordelia stuttered, stammered and then suddenly smiled as she remembered and caught his eye.

Angel glanced away from her and focused on the road, accepting the fact he was going to have to go talk to Faith. “She didn’t mention why she wanted to see me did she?”

“Do I look like a secretary?” Cordelia sighed. “Wait, don’t answer that, I probably do.”

Angel gave her a sidelong glance; she looked like she always had, stunning and way too pretty for any ego to handle. “Just wondering if she said why, I hope it’s not demons or something. I need to get back to LA.”

“Don’t think it was Hellmouth related. Got the feeling it was about…well… you know,” Cordelia trailed off, her voice lowering and her face turning completely to the right and away from him. It got the point across loud and clear though without making any big deal about. Faith wanted to discuss Buffy. Angel growled.

“Whoa. You aren’t going to bite the messenger are you?” Cordelia’s hand fell into her purse and the cross she’d shoved in his face at Buffy’s grave started to poke out from its lips.

“No,” Angel swallowed. “Didn’t mean to do that out loud. I just don’t want to talk about…”

“Oh, I get that,” Cordelia said, cutting him off before he finished the sentence. “If it is any consolation, I think that Faith may want to talk about her feelings and not yours.”

Angel growled again.

“Okay, right, you do the silent broody thing. Guess you don’t want her feelings on the subject anymore than airing your own to other people…And Hey!”

Angel felt himself tense, Cordelia’s voice had risen to an odd tone and it was angry one. He felt her body coil and spring toward him in the moving car, and her breath was suddenly on his neck. And he had to stop for a stoplight, he slowly hit the car’s brake and waited for Cordelia’s next move.

“You completely, and very rudely eavesdropped on my private feelings on ‘said unnamed subject’ in the cemetery. And then proceeded to put your grubby hands over my special gift for her! You owe me a major apology tiara-man.”

Angel cringed, he had eavesdropped but how could he not have. He’d liked the speech, and he’d liked the tiara, though not in the way Cordelia kept implying. “I am not a tiara-man.”

“Are too.”

“Am not… and you were loud, and I have very sensitive hearing…”

“Don’t play the vampire hearing card with me bub,” she slapped his shoulder. “The lights green.”

Angel glared at her and then looked at where she’d hit his shoulder. She’d really hit him, it had hurt – not much but it had hurt. He pulled through the intersection and took a reflexive breath to help figure out how to get her to stop yelling at him.

“Look, I couldn’t help listening and the tiara was a nice gesture…”

“That’s a compliment not an apology. Not that I am hating the compliment but I rather have both.”

“Cordelia, look…I’m sorry.”

“Thank you. See, was that really so hard.” She poked him in the shoulder then and then settled back on her side of the car. Angel gave her a long sidelong glance as he slowed the car to take the left turn onto Crawford where his mansion was located. She was leaning back and biting haphazardly into her candy bar again, chocolate crumbs falling down from her mouth, missing her clothes and hitting his leather interior.

“Chocolate on the leather, Cordelia,” he muttered.

“Chill out. Shouldn’t be hard you have no body temperature.”

He pulled into the long winding driveway to the mansion and slammed on the breaks by the front doors. “Yeah, well will you be okay alone?”

“In a eerie dark mansion?” Cordelia said getting out of the car. “I don’t know…” she bit her lip.

Angel started to worry, God she wasn’t going to make him take her to the cemetery with him. He wasn’t sure he could stand another car ride with her – oh God, what if he had to bring her back to LA? Oh, God he was driving her back to LA, he could feel it in his bones. He had to get away from her now and figure out how to get his bearings. Of course how he was going to do that while trying not to talk to Faith about Buffy he didn’t know.

“Gotcha!” Cordelia’s loud snort of laughter broke into Angel’s thoughts. There she was standing outside the car, her mouth wide open and her head thrown back in raucous laughter. “You should have seen your face. Your brow was so furrowed as you tried to think of a way to get rid of me for a few hours. Ha! Classic. You are so easy.”

Angel stared at her and felt torn between laughing himself or just driving away without another word. Instead he said. “I don’t want to get rid of you.”

“Yeah right. You want me to shut up and let you brood. Don’t worry; when you get back I’ll be asleep. And I’ll try not to be chatty when I wake up,’ Cordelia laughed again and then winked at him. “’Night Tiara-man, thanks for the use of the car today.”

***

Angel leaned against the Barrington tomb, straightened his leather jacket out before stuffing his hands into the pockets as he watched Faith expertly and swiftly take care of three vampires. She was moving quicker and with more grace than she’d fought in the past, and with a lot less anger. He couldn’t help but feel proud of her, since their time together in LA she’d come a long way.

Faith gave him a wide grin as she wiped dust off her black jeans and strutted up to him. “Didn’t think CC would give you the message. Then I was a bit concerned you might not show.”

“Almost didn’t.”

“Had to get away from CC?”

“She was getting chocolate all over my car.”

Faith snorted through her nose. “You are anal as hell, man.”

Angel closed his eyes and let his head hit the hard wall behind him. He was not in the mood for another woman who would keep giving him snappy comebacks. There had been a reason he’d wanted to be alone. “Look Faith, what is it? It’s not demon problems or something is it?”

“No, no. I got the Hellmouth guarded, got Giles doing the Watcher thing. It’s…okay. I mean I think they all accept me. Some more than others, namely Dawn. Which is good, she’s everyone’s main concern.”

Angel nodded but grew concerned, Faith’s posture was tightening up and she was getting the look she got when she was ready to attack. It made her eyes glint, like a wild cat or dog, she had so much pain inside of her that it wouldn’t do for anyone to forget it. Last time it had gone unchecked she’d gone rogue and done a lot of damage to herself and innocent bystanders. “Faith? What is it?”

Faith groaned and lifted her hands above her head and cracked her back. “It’s all this tension. All this pressure. I just… she’s gone – and I know you get that, better than most. But she was keeping me sane. She didn’t get everything, she couldn’t but it was okay because she got the slayer thing just enough. Now it’s just me. And unless I’m willing to die for two seconds there will be no other Slayer ever. There were two of us; I wasn’t alone. She and I we got close. We were really getting to be something…” Faith grunted and rolled her eyes. “Listen to me I’m like all Hallmark card or something. It wasn’t that mushy. She and I still got on each other’s last nerve but there was a working relationship. A balance. I’m scared.”

“That you’ll lose the balance without her?” Angel asked, beginning to understand why he’d been called to the cemetery for the late night chat. Cordelia had been right; it had been about what Faith needed. It wasn’t really even about Buffy which meant this was something he could do without having to fight his own selfish wants. Relief flooded him. “You can.”

Faith leaned next to him against the tomb and leaned her head toward him. “I can?” She asked her voice uncharacteristically void of arrogance.

“I did. Been a fight but I found my way without Buffy to keep me remembering the right and wrong of things. I knew them on my own, and some of those gray areas too. And I had friends. Let them in Faith, as much as they’ll let you. All of you will get things done. Day after day.”

“And one day after the other, right – cliché but true, huh?” Faith asked him.

“Yeah.”

“And I can call you?” Faith asked.

“Always,” Angel said. “If you need a reality check, or just a lecture. Wesley will be willing, too.”

Faith sighed. “How is he?”

“Fine.”

“Why ain’t he with you?”

“Didn’t let him come. Wanted to be alone.”

“And instead you got stuck with CC.”

Angel laughed. “It isn’t so bad.”

“She’d make me freaking nuts. Want to rip that big mouth right off of her to shut her up.”

Angel laughed. “Long as she keeps talking about nothing I don’t care.”

Faith laughed with him and then took a deep breath. “I think I might.”

“What?”

“Call you and the Wes-man. Keep in touch. I mean Giles is okay. Dawn’s great. But you two are more on the level. I mean I beat you both up, you both hit back and still offered to help me back in LA. I just… what you two did meant something.”

“We both had our reasons.”

“And I did too,” Faith whispered. “Folks in Sunnydale, except maybe Giles, don’t much get the guilt as motivation thing. What do they have to feel guilty about, schoolyard pranks?”

Angel shook his head. “You know where Wes and I are.”

“Yeah. Thanks,” she moved away and looked around. “Well, going to finish my patrol and head back to make sure the kids in her bed. She sneaks up to wait for me, lately. I guess it’s a thing…”

“Take care of her.”

“With my life,” Faith said and she winked at him, then ran away into the darkness.

Angel stared after her, into the void that had wrapped her up and he smiled. She had a handle on things, she knew her limits and he felt sure if she really needed help or thought the pressure was getting to her she’d call the hotel and talk to him or Wesley. Sunnydale was safe, something he’d been sure of anyway but seeing it did bring about a certain relief.

Standing straight, he cleared his mind and made his way back to his car. As he got nearer he heard the distinct sound of a phone ringing and he sighed. He could have sworn he turned the ringer off of his cell phone. Wesley had made him bring it but had promised to only call if something really huge happened. Frowning he got into the car and fumbled around, finding the phone under the seat and wondering when the hell it’d fallen there. It could have been anytime; he never paid much attention to the damn contraption.

“Yeah,” he barked into the phone. “This better be good.”

“Cordelia?” A male voice asked sounding confused.

“What?” Angel said, pulling the phone away from his ear and realizing that it wasn’t his at all. Damn it, it must have fallen out of her purse earlier and he rolled his eyes. “She isn’t here,” he said lamely into the phone. “I’ll have her call you back, who are you?”

“Uh, who are you?” The man asked, his voice now containing anger along with his confusion. “She told me she was with her girlfriends seeing a play some of them were in.”

Angel raised his eyebrows; she’d lied about her whereabouts interesting. Wonder why she hadn’t told this guy she was going to Sunnydale to see her old friends because of Buffy? “Uh, look who are you and I’ll just have her…”

“I’m Alec. Alec Pendergrast, her fiancé. Who are you?”

“Angel, look she’s not around. I’ll just have her…”

“Angel? Angel who? You one of her acting friends?”

Angel sighed and figured it wasn’t up to him to tell this man the truth. “Sure. I mean yeah. I’m in the play. She’s out with her friends, somehow her phone got in my car. I’ll have her call you back, Alex.”

“Alec.”

“Alec. Pendergrass?”

“Pendergrast.”

“Well Alec, she’ll call you in an about an hour or so.”

“So, you are in the play? How long have you known her, she’s never mentioned you?”

Angel leaned back in the seat of the car frustrated, would this guy just shut up and let him hang up. “Nor you, look I need to go, so I can get her back her…”

“Look, do you know about my car?”

His car? Angel took the phone away from his ear and contemplated hanging up when he remembered why the man was wondering about his car. “Look it had a flat…”

“Oh. Well it’s being towed back to LA now. I can leave now to pick Cordelia up if that is what she wants. Just give me directions would you?”

He should have hung up, Angel thought and he gripped Cordelia’s phone tighter. “I’m driving her back up. I live in LA too.”

“Who are you again?”

“Angel.”

“An acting friend of Cor’s?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’d rather pick her up.”

“Look, she has a ride.” Angel snapped. This guy was really starting to bug him and Cordelia had lied to him for a reason, he wasn’t about to break her cover by giving him directions to Sunnydale. Him coming for her was Cordelia’s call. “If she wants to change our plans I’ll have her call you. In fact I’ll just tell her to call you.” Angel clicked off the phone before the man could say anything and smirked.

***

“Call your fiancé.”

Cordelia looked up from where she was sitting on the bed in the mansion and stared at the vampire. He was standing at the foot of the bed, holding out her cell phone and looking at her expectantly, only she was too confused to take the phone. “Call who?”

“Your fiancé?” Angel said but he suddenly sounded uncertain. “I’m pretty sure he said you two were engaged.”

“Who? What? Where?” Cordelia scrunched up her nose, feeling a sudden weight on her chest that she’d thought her trip to the graveyard had released from her body. Fiancé? Engaged? Her? To Alec? He had to be talking about Alec; he did have her cell phone but how. And she wasn’t anyone’s fiancée; she wasn’t engaged. Not yet, and Alec though he was bound too hadn’t been showing any signs of asking for her hand in marriage complete with a big sparkling diamond.

“Alec Pendergrast. He called you on your phone after I talked to Faith. I thought it was my phone at first. Anyway it must have rolled under the seat when you dropped your purse.”

“Alec called me his fiancé?”

***

“That bastard!” Cordelia sat up more fully on the bed and glared at Angel, since Alec wasn’t there. “Where the hell does he get off saying that I’m engaged to him? He hasn’t even asked me, and he’s going around telling people that I’ve said I’d marry him. Sure of himself much? That arrogant son of a bitch.”

Angel stepped away from the bed and set the phone down on a nearby chair. “Yeah, so, not going to call him back soon I take it.”

“Call him back. God, no,” Cordelia said and then she felt all the blood rush out of her. “Angel! Please, please tell me you didn’t tell him where I was, or why I was here. I told him I was going someplace else, a girl’s weekend with acting friends to see a play.”

“Yeah, I know. He thinks I’m an actor friend of yours you’ve never mentioned.”

Cordelia felt both relief and laughter run through her, she could just picture Alec’s face when Angel had said he was a friend of hers on the phone. Alec let her come and go as she pleased, mostly, but she had noticed he got a bit possessive when she mentioned anyone male. She liked it a bit, only because it wasn’t anything crude or out of control.

Hearing Angel on her phone must have driven Alec nuts and that’s what he deserved going around saying she was already his fiancée. “Well that I like. He’s probably fuming about this mysterious guy named Angel. Serves him right. Um, why did he call? Was it just to say he loves me?”

“Uh, no. He heard about his car. Must have been towed in by the police. He’s had it towed back to LA already. Wanted to come get you.”

Cordelia clenched her jaw and could feel her body temperature start to rise up in that restless and uncomfortable way it did sometimes when she was in Alec’s apartment. She climbed off the bed and walked over to a window, fumbling with the heavy velvet curtain over it, trying to get to the glass. It had to be cooler than the air in the room. “You told him I didn’t need one right,” she whispered still trying to fight with the curtain.

Suddenly Angel’s hand brushed her shoulder and the curtain was pulled away from the window. “I told him I was bringing you back, and if you wanted to change our plans you’d call him. Actually, I told him you’d call him back more than once. He kept cutting me off.”

“He’s like that sometimes,” Cordelia whispered, leaning her forehead against the glass, thankful it was cooler than her. She focused on the smooth surface and on making her breathing more even. “And thank you for covering for me.”

“Wasn’t my place not to.”

Cordelia nodded and felt herself start to blush. Angel was standing right behind her, he’d opened the curtain for her and he could probably hear the blood rushing through her body making her hot and uncomfortable. This was beyond embarrassing; she took a deep breath and forced a smile on her face. It was time to save some face.

“Well, sorry for my outburst there and everything. And the phone thing…so, um. I’m just going to rest and everything. I take it we leave at sunset tomorrow?”

“Yeah.”

“Great. Well until then I’ll just stay out of your way, and you stay out of mine. I’m sure we both still have some processing to do, you know with everything…” she trailed off and kept up with the unspoken rule they both had to not say anything about Buffy’s death.

“Right,” Angel said. “Thanks. And you’re welcome.”

Cordelia felt like his eyes were boring through her, was he buying her line about Buffy. It wasn’t true, not anymore anyway. Right now all she wanted to do was remember why she was dating Alec, why she planned to say yes when he did finally ask her to marry him and why she liked her place in his life and his place in hers. There were reasons, she was sure of it, she just wasn’t sure what they were but by the time Angel dropped her off at her apartment complex tomorrow night she would remember them all. And she’d be able to clear everything up with Alec about Angel with few lies and a bat of her eyelashes.

“Ditto, Angel,” Cordelia said.

Angel nodded. “Okay, see you at sunset tomorrow.”

“Great.” Cordelia kept the smile on her face until Angel left the room. Then she turned back to the window and once again let her forehead hit the glass.

Part 8

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