Striding into the lounge after being buzzed in, Angel walks up and slams his hands on the bar.
“I need answers.”
“Well Sugarplum, to get an answer you need to ask a question.”
Standing in his robe, the precog demon sips his seabreeze and watches the champion he was destined to help.
This boy’s abuzz with anger, angst, apprehension and all those other “a” words.
“We die Lorne. We all die. Cordy leaves and then Gunn and Wes and we all die alone. And she did this thing with her vision. She let me see it somehow. And she senses my thoughts.”
“Okay kiddo, still not in a form of a question.”
“Why would she get a vision like that?”
“If I would have to gander a guess I would say it was a warning of what’s to come?”
“Well, how about ‘If it’s not stopped that’s what will happen’?”
“You know this all already Angelcakes. Her visions are given to her so you can stop them. So, and again I’m guessing here, you need to ah stop it.”
“I know that. But “how”?”
Angel rubs his forehead, racking his brain, he just can’t understand how they all got to this place in their lives. He heaves a sigh.
“I don’t know how I got here.”
“The fact that you keep coming back, and in the middle of my naps I might add, begs to differ with that.”
“Listen, I told you, what? A week ago? when you came to me? That you were at a crossroads. The path to finding Darla was not your path and you took it anyway. I’d said it led to a bad place and well…..look where you are?”
“I don’t need lectures right now Lorne, I need answers.”
“You have all the answers Sweetcheeks, you just haven’t found the right questions.”
“So what are the right questions?”
“I can’t give you those. You have to find them yourself. It’s all part and parcel of your journey.”
“I can tell you that it has to do with past, present and future loves though.”
“It’s the “L” word isn’t it? Not in your vocabulary much……tends to confuse you…”
“Whether you want it, need it or even feel you deserve it, you still got it. And from several sources I might add……I should be so lucky….”
“What are you talking about?”
“Love, in any form, takes work. You have to nurture it, nudge it along, help it blossom. You can try and ignore it and hope it will all go away, you know, because that always works. But it doesn’t. Each person that is close to you, stays with you. And the consequences of denying yourself those bonds are painful. They form bricks in a wall that stops you from being close to others.”
“Okay, you really need to stop with the metaphors. Flowers and bricks……?”
“You remember that big light bulb going off over your head recently? The one that showed you you need to re-connect with those you care about. It’s not just the ones here in L.A. Those that don’t know how you feel about them need to be told. People in your past and present. “
“You do remember the big knowledge infusion you got? Right?”
“You mean this all has to do with me seeing Buffy?”
“I said it was all tied into your epiphany, not your a-buff-a-ny.”
“Sooo, this doesn’t have to do with Buffy….”
“Have you been listening to anything I’ve said?!?”
“What? Do I have to start naming names? You know who the people are that you care about. You need to find them and tell them, honestly, how you feel. That’s about as straight forward as I can get.”
“But how is talking to these people going to stop Cordelia from leaving? Stop us all from dying?”
“Every action has a re-action Angel. Every act of kindness or cruelty, a consequence. You affect many lives on your road to redemption. And if you’ve learned nothing else so far, it’s that those small acts matter. “
“I still don’t see how this is going to do anything. Besides make me look stupid.”
“Do you have *any* memories of what you were like that first hundred and some odd years after getting your soul? Before you became this big hunk of hero-sandwhich that stands before me today?”
“And did you get here all by your big-broody self?”
“Ya. I mean no. I mean……what do you mean?”
“What I mean Angel, is that now that you have learned, somewhat, that people matter, as individuals to you, that you need to not only acknowledge it internally but express it outwardly. And those people are just the stepping stones on the path to the big splash in the pond we all call true love.”
“I’m suppose to fall in love? With who?”
“If you don’t want me to smack that fat melon of yours that you call a head, I suggest you don’t ask me that question again. Now get going, that Seer of yours is all tied in knots and could probably use a shot of that man-pire comfort you give right about now.”
“Oh ya, I need to call her. Can I use your phone?”
“Behind the bar.”
Angel reached around and grabbed the phone, putting it on the bar in front of him. Picks up the receiver to dial and stops. Set’s it back down.
“What about what she did? You know, with the vision and the thought thing?”
“What about it?”
“Well….. how’d she do it?”
“Got me Buck-a-roo. The morbid picture show you partook in? My guess is she’s always been able to. Came with the whole vision package. Don’t know about the other. But our Cordelia doesn’t like to share the wealth when it comes to dealing with the pain and misery. Especially with you. She’s very selfish like that. What with the loving you and all.”
“What? She doesn’t love me. She hates me. I mean, I know she cared about me… and cares about the mission… and Gunn and Wesley. Just you know….not…the love…..kinda love.”
“Well I *know* you don’t believe that’s true. But hey, what’s one little lie between you and yourself?”
Loves me? Like a brother or, or a Father, no not a Father. Most definitely a friend. I know we’re close. Or, we were. I know now how I feel. But it could never happen. Just because I think of her in that way…….which is kinda not right……she could never….would never…..would she…..?
Lorne sat at the bar watching the wheels go round in Angel’s head. Watching his scowl go deeper as he really thought about what he’d just said.
Okay, I just may get in trouble for that one. Not suppose to let slip with the whole true love thing. And twice in two minutes. Eeee. But hey, what’s a demon to do? I tell ya. Giving me that kinda info and attaching a no blab clause is just not the smartest thing when you’re dealing with a demon who’s first love in life is gossip.
“Oh, ya, right.” He looks at the phone blankly.
“It won’t bite. Promise.”
“So, I do need to go to Sunnydale then…..right?….and talk to Buffy?”
“Don’t know Bro. Do ya?”
“Yea, I do…….how am I going to tell Cordy? This is really not the right time for this.”
“Is it ever?”
“I guess not.”
“Well, I’m going back to bed. Been a big week with all the lawyers coming in unsure of their life expectancy. You know, what with the not being able to keep some vampire out of their 75 year review and ending up with one pissed off Senior Partner. But hey, who am I to gripe? I’m just a bar owner. Toodels.”
Angel winced at that last part as he watched Lorne saunter off to his room in the back.
“Oh, and Angel? Just so, you know, you have it straight? Your past love is just that…..past. Your true love is, well, true.”
Grabbing the phone he dialed the hotel to update his Seer on the next plan of action.
She’s so gonna rip me a new one over this……….
“I don’t believe this. I don’t FUCKING believe this!”
Angel held the phone away from his ear as Cordelia’s voice screamed over the phone line. He’d just finished telling her why he had to go to Sunnydale and thought she’d hung up on him.
“I know. It’s not a…”
“Oh you don’t know anything buddy. You have no idea. Figures. The lives of the people I love are at stake and it turns out that Buffy is at the bottom of it all.”
“I don’t think Lorne meant…”
“I know what he meant all right. The next time I see that green, aura reading, mojo man I’m gonna give him what for….right between the eyes!!”
“What he said was….”
“What he said was you need to go see little ole Buffy because only she can make your boo boo better. That’s what he said!”
“Ahhh, not really. It was more like…”
“Like sending you off on a treasure hunt? What? What was it “more like” Angel? Hmmm?”
“If you’d just calm down a minute I can finish telling you what he told me. And I never said I was going to see Buffy.”
“No, you didn’t. You said you had to go to Sunnydale and tell people you cared about them. That’s what you said. And to me it translates to ‘You’re leaving LA and going to Sunnydale to tell Buffy she is the love of your life and you have to stay and help her fight the good fight just to be by her side and you’re never coming back.’ ……ever…..that’s what you said.”
“Cordy….I’m not….I will…..I mean I won’t….she isn’t……or she was…but not……and………I won’t leave you. I swear.”
“Do you believe me?”
“No Angel. I don’t think I do.”
“Cordelia. I will not ever leave you again…….I swear it. Please….”
“I don’t want to talk about it any more Angel. Go do what you have to do.”
The click on the line sounded like a death toll in his ear. He slammed the reciever down and raced out of the bar straight for the sewers.
The trip that took him normally 25 minutes, took him 10. And in that 10 minutes his fear turned to frustration and in his frustration was anger. An anger at her and himself. That they couldn’t get it together long enough to stop ending up at each others throats. They had to talk this out.
As he ran up the basement stairs, all he could do was pray she hadn’t left. Coming to a stop in front of Wesley an Gunn in the middle of the lobby he growled.
“Where is she.”
Both sets of male eyes looked in the direction of the courtyard. Angel stomped up the stairs and out the door.
She was standing right in the middle of the courtyard, bright sunlight all around her. The highlights in her hair glistening, her skin glowing, warmed by the sun. His face softened. His anger melted. He could never stay mad her. But being bound to the periphery of the garden was frustrating when all he wanted to do was grab her by the shoulders and shake her.
She heard him barge through the hotel doors. She glanced at him briefly and then turned her back to him.
“Don’t do this Cordelia.”
“Don’t shut me out now. Not when we need each other so much.”
It broke her heart to hear the pain in his voice. All she wanted to do was go to him and wrap her arms around him. To have him lay his head on her chest. To hold him close and comfort him.
But he doesn’t want that from me. He took his comfort in Darla and now he’s going to go and soothe his pains with Buffy.
“Angel. I understand what you have to do. And if it will save Wes and Gunn’s life than you have no choice but to go. You need her. I get that. I really do.”
“But you don’t. Don’t you see? I think what Lorne was trying to tell me with all the bricks and flowers stuff, is that I need to say thank you. That I was so close to being nothing when Whistler found me that I practically didn’t exist. And she was the first step toward my journey to……this.”
He opened his arms wide, noting everything and everyone that meant so much to him.
“I never would have made it out of the alleys and sewers if it wasn’t for her and if not for that I never would have found my place here. With you…….and Wes and Gunn. I need to thank her for that. And that’s all.”
She turned around slowly, unsure and scared. Wanting so badly to believe him. That he wouldn’t leave her alone again.
He’s trying. He really is. He wants to make this right. I can see it. I just……’sigh’
“Okay……..I’ll believe you.”
“You will? I mean, you do?”
“Then, will you come with me?”
He chuckles softly, “Yes. Sunnydale. With me. Today.”
“Hm. Mm. Why…..?”
“Can we stop with the repeat-o dialog?”
“Uh, sorry. I guess because I want you there…….with me….in Sunnydale.”
“Oookay. But why do you want me there?”
Lorne said I needed to be honest. That I needed to tell the people I cared about how I feel about them. And I care about this woman more than anyone on earth……
“Because I care about you?”
“Okay, one, that didn’t make any sense and two…..is that a question?”
“No, no. Because I care about you.”
“I get that. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. But that’s not an answer Angel……it’s a statement.”
He paced back and forth in the shadowed area of the courtyard jamming his hand through the top of his hair.
Why is it so hard to explain what I’m feeling…..just say it…
She’s looking at him with a confused expression on her face. Waiting, patiently. But that won’t last long with her.
She’s going to get very impatient, very soon if I don’t get it together.
He stops his pacing and faces her.
“I do care about you Cordelia. A lot. And this trip to Sunnydale is going to be hard for me. And when things are hard…..you’re there. To help me. Get through them I mean. Everyone thinks that I’m so strong and can shoulder any burden. But I’m not. I mean I’m not weak or anything, you know I can beat any demon that comes my way. In no way a sissy here…….”
Cordelia smiles, she can’t help herself.
Always with the machismo. Got to make sure his manliness isn’t compromised……God, what a dork.
“….but with the other stuff. You know the ‘life’ stuff. You….show me….and talk….to me…..you help me work it out. Get through it. Understand it………..and that’s why I need you to go to Sunnydale with me…….to help me not screw everything up……….Why are you smiling?”
“I’m smiling because you’re a dork. Which in my language means a really sweet kinda guy.”
“And that’s good…….right?”
“Yes, that’s good. And yes, I’ll go with you. I kind of understand what you’re trying to tell me. That you’re basically crap at the whole human emotion stuff. And I know that. I’ve always known that. But I guess I forget sometimes. Because excluding all the ‘creature of the night’ stuff you’re really just a man. And *no* man likes to share his feelings. Even though you are a little bit more phobic about it than your average ‘Joe’.”
“Thank you for that.”
“You’re welcome. I’m a big person, I can admit when I’m wrong.”
“Okay, so maybe not every time I’m wrong.”
She gives him a smirk and a roll of her eyes. With a quick turn she walks up the stairs throwing a
“To SunnyHell it is!”
Over her shoulder.
Angel takes a much needed, not needed, breath.
That was close. I can’t stand this roller coaster of emotions much longer. And we still don’t know how much time we have before the vision becomes reality. I guess as long as she’s with me in Sunnydale, she can’t pack her bags and walk out of the Hotel…..And this trip better be all hell-fire worth it or *I’m* gonna punch that ‘aura reading, mojo man’!
The drive to Sunnydale was uneventful. Both thought that it would give them a couple hours to talk things out. It would be good to be alone and sort through a lot of the emotions that had been churning for the last few days.
What actually happened was far from that.
Angel driving, squirming in his seat when he thought he’d screwed up enough courage to say something. Cordelia waiting expectantly for him to speak, watching one emotion after the other play over his face. And then he’d give up the internal conflict and sit quietly again.
She knew she wasn’t doing any better than he was. The twisting and turning of her hands in her lap. The fiddling with the radio stations. Staring sightlessly out the window at the passing scenery. Trying to find a starting point to the troubles they had was practically impossible. She understood Angel’s inability to figure out where to begin all too well.
So the drive was quite. The silence heavy with unspoken words. Then they hit the outskirts of town.
“Do we have a place to sleep?”
“I thought we’d stay at the mansion…..If that’s alright with you?.”
“Oh, yea, forgot about that place. Sure, that’s fine.”
“I figured we’d go straight there since Buffy would be out patrolling any way and I’m still not sure what I’m going to say to her.”
“You mean you’re not going to do your patented “Stalker of the Night routine”? Trail her around spying on her behind her back, then leave town?”
“What? It’s not like you haven’t done it before. I mean you could just stick with that, except you could, you know, catch her alone, say ‘thanks’ and we could be headed back to LA in no time!”
“I don’t think that’s what Lorne meant when he said I needed to tell people how I felt. And besides, there’s someone else here that means a lot to me that I’ve never said a word to.”
“Someone else? But there isn’t anyone else.”
“Yes. There is. Willow.”
“Yea. I owe her a lot. I mean “a lot”. And she’s always been a friend to me. She never held the things Angelus did against me. If I ever needed help, she was always there. I never told her how much that meant to me.”
“Willow hunh? Wow, who’d a thunk it. I guess you’re right though. Out of all the scoobies she was always the one who gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. Even me. Well, until that whole thing with Xander, but she got me back good with the kissing thing. So I think we’re pretty much even now. And even the tiniest of accessions seems to bring people together. What with all the death and destruction.”
“Yea, I guess that would happen.”
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”
“No. That’s okay.”
They sit quietly both lost in their own thoughts of the past. Angel starts out slowly, carefully choosing his words to tell her of that night.
“The night I left Sunnydale……..the night of the ascension?……. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done…….Not just because of Buffy. But to leave the security of what I had known for three years…….To strike out on my own. To choose to be alone again……..It was rough…..I knew my place here, I was Buffy’s boyfriend…….I stuck to the shadows and helped when I was needed. It wasn’t much of a life but at least it was more than what I had had. And as hard as leaving was, it was still the ‘best’ decision I ever made. I found Doyle…….. or he found me. And…….I found you. …….My mission. My place in this world. And I’d do it all again. Even those first 3 months of hell. Just to be right where I am. “
Trying to see her reaction to what he said and yet not be obvious, he glances at her out of the corner of his eye. She’s staring straight at him, her expression thoughtful.
“You know, you don’t say much very often and when you do it’s usually some weird, retarded view of things. But every once in awhile you can come up with some pretty amazing insights………I’m proud of you.”
They drove the last few minutes to the mansion. Pulling up the long drive way Cordelia let out a low whistle.
“I forgot how big this thing was.”
“Yea, I got it for a killing. Literally. I killed the owner.”
“Okay. You never have to mention that again.”
“Sorry. I’ve had an agency come in every couple weeks and keep the place up. I’ll have to check and see if I’m getting my money’s worth.
“Well as long as there’s clean sheets on the bed and hot water for showers I’m good.”
“There is, I called ahead and had them make up the rooms and stock the cupboards and refrigerator in case you were hungry. Had them turn the heat up and put some rugs on the floor too. I know how your feet get cold.”
Opening the door and stepping out, Cordelia looks across the top of the car in wonderment.
“You did that….for me?”
Feeling a bit awkward Angel looks down and scuffs his foot on the pavement.
“…..I know how you get hungry in the evenings and you like to eat. That you wear your fuzzy slippers like they’re a lifeline. Or when you’re upset or unsure you wring your hands and……and a whole lotta other stuff…….”
Angel trailed off thinking he better stop while he was ahead, before he mentioned that she slept with her hand curled under her cheek or that she put something in her bath water that made her smell like a fresh spring morning. Or that he knew she had a mole on her left shoulder blade and one on her hip.
That sweet look of appreciation on her face would turn quickly into shock And of course that would also lead to questions which she would make me answer and that shock would definitely turn into anger. Because telling her that I’ve gone to her apartment to check up on her without her knowing would really piss her off and since that’s the only other thing I could say besides the truth that I was watching her because…..because……well……’because’. And what was that Lorne said about a lie between me and myself?
“Thank you Angel.”
“What? Oh…… your welcome.”
“Shall we?” Stretching her arm out in invitation to the front door, she smiles and tilts her head.
Angel fishes in his pocket for the key, unlocking the door he steps aside to let her enter. She stops half way into the entry way and turns around to wait for him. Angel flips on the lights and a thousand memories bombard him. They’re so strong and unexpected it throws him, he leans against the wall to balance himself.
“Angel!” Cordelia runs to him, ducking under his arm to grab him around the waist so he doesn’t fall. “What happened? What is it?”
The memories pass quickly and he rights himself. “It’s nothing. I just……I wasn’t expecting…..I haven’t thought about this place, the things that happened here, in so long. It just came back to me all at once.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t stay here then? I’m sure we could find a hotel or something.”
“No. I’m fine. I had thought I’d put all of it behind me. That it was just part of my past, that I’d gotten over it. I guess Lorne was right…….I’ve never dealt with any of it.”
Looking down into the face of his closest friend he could see the worry etched into her features. He could also feel the warmth of her body pressed up close to his side, her arm around his waist, her hand on his chest, resting over his un-beating heart.
As hard as this is going to be, how could I *not* go through with it? If for no other reason than to earn the trust of this incredible woman back. She holds a secret place in my heart that nobody, not even Buffy can penetrate. In that place she’s mine and I’m hers.
Angel pushes back those haunted desires that creep up on him for this beautiful woman. Pushes them down into that secret place and holds them there. Where only in private, alone with his thoughts, does he close his eyes and bring forth the curve of her face, the depths of her eyes, the scent of her skin. Only in the safety and seclusion of his room does he let his fantasies run wild and safely sate his cravings for this dark haired beauty.
“Angel?…….you have a weird look on your face. Are you going to be sick?”
Cordelia quickly untangles herself from him and takes a few steps back eyeing him suspiciously.
“No. I’m fine. Really.”
Shaking off the remains of his thoughts he strides through the room to the doors of the courtyard. Unlocking them he pulls them open to let in the fragrant breeze and to give himself a minute to pull himself together.
He can hear her tentatively walking around behind him. He turns his head slightly to see her picking up a statuette from a pedestal. Nodding appreciatively, she sets it back down and walks around the back of the sofa, trailing her fingers along the hard wood surface. He laughs to himself as he sees her crane her neck around trying to see through the entrance to his old bedroom. He speaks suddenly and she jumps a little, startled at being caught snooping.
“You’ve never been here before? Have you?”
“No. I never have. I wasn’t exactly one of your bestest buds when we lived here.”
“No. I guess you weren’t. I’m sorry about that.”
“Now why would you be sorry about something like that? It’s not like you had any control over it. I chose to be the way I was. I could have been nicer, but I wasn’t. But I’m not that person any more anyway. So, you know, water under the bridge and all.”
She watches him, noticing broad shoulders, tapered waist, long legs with determined steps, as he moves through the room toward her. The pure gracefulness of his movements catches her breath in her throat every time she lets herself watch him. Stopping in front of her, he searches her eyes. She sees his hand come up to the side of her face, a strong masculine hand and ever so gently he puts a stray hair behind her ear. His fingers lingering softly on her jaw. Then he lets his hand drop to his side.
“I am sorry…….I missed out on three years of knowing you.”
Flustered by the caress, she stammers.
“O-oh. W-well that’s okay, you probably wouldn’t have liked me that much back then anyway.”
“I can’t believe that’s true Cordelia. I did know you a little and what I saw, I liked.”
Confused by his straight forward comments and unsure how to handle the feelings he evoked in her she moves away from him. Walking to the curtained opening she stops.
“So what’s in here?”