Angel parked up again, got out of the car and headed for the elevator. If Fred had been around to see him now she would have been seriously worried, he walked like an old man. His head heavy and steps slow, even just lifting up an arm to press the button looked like it took tremendous effort.
Once inside it he leaned back against the rear of the mirrored cage and watched the doors close with dark and unseeing eyes. Without meaning to he slid down until he was sitting on the floor of it with his head in his hands. The doors opened with a soft ping on arriving at his apartment, so lost in thought he didn’t even notice and the doors shut again, with him still inside.
A few minutes later he walked out of the elevator and headed directly for the drinks cabinet, sliding off his coat he dumped it on a chair and slid into another one, a glass and bottle in his hands. He opened it with a sharp twist of the cap and poured the first of many in the search for oblivion.
Cordy gave up trying to sleep and flung back the covers; she was too filled with anger and bitterness to even think about sleep right now. She got up and paced the rooms that had been his, hating him at that moment but also hating the fact that doing so hurt her too.
“How could he do that to me”? That question crossed her mind at least two dozen times an hour and it was driving her crazy.
“I love you Cordy, he says, yeah right and I believed him”, the sarcasm was almost savage in intensity and her pacing increased along with the agitation. “He would never have done that to her, or tried to tell her what to do”, she spun again and nearly tripped in the edge of the rug covering that part of the floor. That just made her angrier as if the rug was his fault too.
“Well OK I’m not Buffy but I never tried to be, I’m me and if he can’t deal with that, tough” Talking out loud was not exactly a sign of mental health but she had to spill it or go mad.
“I hate him and I’m never going to even speak to him again, that’s it we’re through”, she spat the words out filled with venom and a hint of tears. Her face scrunched up a moment before she forcefully smoothed it out, tears till sparkled in her hazel eyes but she was damned if she was going to let them fall. She took a deep breath and forced it out slowly, her mind whirling in different directions.
“This is way too coincidental coming on top of everything else, someone else is behind this and I’m going find out who”, her first thought was Eve and making an impulsive decision she stalked over to the closet to get dressed.
She was even upset over the fact that she’d bothered to put stuff in the closet, but just a few short hours ago she’d been planning to persuade him to let her stay in the hotel, like that was gonna happen now.
A little while later she found herself outside Eve’s apartment door, memories of the last time flitted through her mind but she shrugged them off too angry to really care. Her second round of knocking still produced no results and she nearly screamed in frustration. A door opened a little along the hall and she turned to see a nerdy looking guy with glasses and a pale complexion blinking at her.
“She’s gone” the little man said before she could even ask and shut the door again. She debated with herself for a moment and then knocked very gently on his door. He opened it with a startled look on his face.
It was late and he didn’t know her, so she gave him a forced smile and tried to look apologetic for disturbing him, “Thanks for telling me that, you wouldn’t know where she’s gone would you”? She used her most inviting voice and followed it up with a brighter smile.
“No she didn’t say, just took off with a few things and that’s it”, he still looked scared, “When was this”? Last question and then she was finished; he looked desperate to shut the door and go back to whatever nerdy stuff he had to do, probably hacking a bank or something.
“Two days I think, yeah that’s about right”. She nodded her thanks and walked back down the hallway.
Angel was lying crossways on the bed, only half undressed, his naked back gleamed in the starlight, thick arms were wrapped around a pillow, clutched tightly as he slept. He groaned and turned his head the other way still dreaming and his arms tightened on the pillow before in a sudden burst of movement flinging it across the room.
He rolled on his back and lifted his hands to press into his eyes, his muscular torso arching as he dug his heels in, he rolled onto his side with a deep sigh and opened burning eyes to stare out of the window next to his bed. The curtains were open and he could see the stars but didn’t care; all he cared about was trying to forget what had happened with Cordy, particularly the acrid smell of fear.
He’d done it deliberately but it still had the power to hurt; Cordy had been afraid of him and he couldn’t stop hearing her ask if that was what he’d wanted; God no, he didn’t, how could he when he loved her. Would she ever understand why and forgive him?
Just thinking about her dying froze him inside, he knew he couldn’t bear to go through that again and even if it meant she hated him he wouldn’t let her come that close to it ever again. But heaven help him it hurt so much. He stood up and walked back over to the pillow to pick it up and lifting it to his face, breathed in her scent.
She was insane! There was no other explanation for what she was doing here in a demon bar at the dead of night, standing in the door waiting for them to notice her. It didn’t take long and the silence that followed was unnerving, but she stiffened her spine and walked fully inside.
She just hadn’t been able to face going back to the hotel having failed to get anywhere with finding out who was determined to ruin her life, plus it felt like admitting defeat and that would mean that Angel was right and she might as well give up now, not going to happen she had thought fiercely. She knew a large part of why she had chosen this as the next lead was to spite him and she was exhilarated at the thought. Let him try and tell her what to do, NOT.
“Do any of you know who I am”? She asked the silent and wary patrons, all ugly ass demons with no two looking the same, except for some vamps at a table by themselves. She stood by the bar so that she could see most of them at once and she’d come unarmed, keeping her hands in the pockets of her denim jacket. It was a really grungy and smelly place but she managed to keep her face calm and expressionless as she waited for someone to speak up.
“Yeah we know who you are girl, whatcha doin here”? It was the bartender who answered her; he looked nervously at the door on their left as if he expected her to have company.
She didn’t turn around but moved sideways so that he was in her line of sight when she replied “I want information on whoever was behind the attack on me a few days ago”. There were murmurings then and a few of the demons shuffled around, some even moving back like she was going to attack them or something.
“He already killed them all” Said one of the vamps, his voice ringing out across the room and his companions all male, nodded enthusiastically.
“I’m not talking about the lackeys” Answered Cordy, ignoring the reference to Angel, “I want the people behind it; the one’s who sicced Drusilla on me in the first place”. There were a lot more confused murmurings now and one or two of the demons sidled out of the exit and away, not wanting to have anything to do with her or whatever she was mixed up in now.
“Well I dunno but I heard there was some woman from that law firm involved in the beginning but then she just, ya know disappeared” Said one of the other vamps. Cordy decided they were obviously the best source of information so walked over to their table; they did not look pleased at the prospect of her joining them. She pulled up a chair anyway and sat down.
They all looked at her as if unsure what to do or say now, looking at one another and back to her; their yellow eyes wary and even afraid, wow he must have done a real job on them she thought, then quashed it, don’t go there she told herself.
“I’m not going anywhere even if I have to stay here all night, until someone tells me where I can find this woman, someone in here must know where she went considering the amount of demon stuff she’s mixed up in”, it was a statement of intent, declared in a loud and determined voice and they believed her.
Eve was sitting in front of the TV, the curtains were shut but the glow from the screen was more than adequate light for reading the letter she’d heard pushed through the motel room door, hand delivered at 3 am.
She still had one more shot and then she was shit outta luck, the package had been delivered now and the results of that should make things around here a bit more interesting. “I’m a firm believer that a girl needs to make a choice and to do that well she needs a few choices”, she smirked at the thought, coming to life a bit.
She ran her hands through her hair and stretched like a cat, coming out of the stupor she’d fallen into. “I’ll have to stop taking the tranqs”. She’d started taking them after she’d heard about Dru, but she needed her wits about her now. She also needed to get in character again, just in case he got here earlier than she expected.
She imagined what the reaction would be to the video and giggled. Those images were not going to be well received at all. She’d even sent a note with it suggesting that Ms Chase had not been a willing participant; that should certainly light a fire under his ass.
There was a knock on the door and she stiffened, who the hell was knocking on her door halfway through the night, this couldn’t be good. She stayed silent and hoped whoever it was would just go away.
“Eve if you don’t open the door in the next twenty seconds then I’m going to start picking the lock, so open up”, Cordy demanded from the other side of the door.
Eve gaped when she heard that voice, this was unbelievable -and she panicked thinking Angel must be with her. She dived for the window at the back of the room and started to climb out, but was dumbfounded when she was confronted by Cordelia Chase all on her lonesome, except for a very sharp knife which was pressed to the skin of her throat, so close it drew blood.
“I want to know all about your little trysts with Dru and why the hell you’ve been coming after me like a bitch in heat” snarled Cordy face to face with Eve; she pressed the knife harder into skin.
THE HYPERION HOTEL – CATHY (MORNING AFTER)
Cathy sighed and carefully turned on her side, she could hear Cordelia moving around in her room and she almost got out of bed to go and try and comfort her, No, better to wait until a little later.
“Men, they’re all the same and he’s worse than the rest; 250 years old and he still hasn’t learnt how to deal when a woman tells him no”, she muttered angrily to herself.
How the hell am I going to fix this? she thought groaning at the prospect. Giving up the idea of getting comfortable she faced the ceiling again, she understood the need to protect the people you love; it was actually quite an admirable trait. He was also right in that Cordy wouldn’t last long on her own and that was why she had been careful on the ‘cases’ she found, nothing too dangerous but then of course she hadn’t planned on so much interference from the outside.
It was obvious that Cordy needed Angel because of his ruthlessness and capacity for violence, but even more than that, Angel needed Cordy for her compassion and perception, things that he sadly lacked at times. Certainly the others were important; but after the last year it was even more obvious that this whole mess had to be fixed or risk losing what had turned out to be a very effective defence against the darkness and the beings that thrived in it.
Wesley was a good man and friend but the vampire needed to love, it was as if the soul once starved now craved it, something else she understood very well. Fred was a darling but nowhere near in Cordy’s league and as for Gunn well, he had his own twisty tunnel to pass through before he could be counted on again.
There was nothing else for it, she was just going to have to find a way to bring these two stubborn characters together again. She raised her eyes upwards and scowled with frustration “A little help here would be sooo appreciated”, but she knew she was on her own, like always. Aah well that’s what you get for being a ‘fixer upper’, except somehow she hadn’t been expecting to have to play cupid.
Did it help that she had come to love Cordelia Chase as a friend and not just someone in need of help? She liked to think so; it was so much better to actually care about what you where doing. She’d been burned so many times in the past that she’d stopped letting herself care but with Cordelia it just couldn’t be helped.
Well she was just going to have to start breaking a few rules, starting now.
MEETING ROOM – WOLFRAM & HART
They had just finished the daily case progress meeting, all department heads were present including Wesley, Fred and Lorne along with numerous others and Angel. Gunn had been called out with an emergency to do with the surveillance on Eve, but was due to report in later.
Once everyone else had left but himself, Fred and Lorne, Wesley looked at Angel at the head of the table, leaning back in his chair looking out of the window at the bright and sunny day, lost in thought.
“So are you going to tell us what happened after you left my apartment”? Asked Wesley; watching as Angel tensed and look back at him with unreadable eyes.
“I went after the rest of the vamps, killed them and made sure the message got out that nothing like it had better happen again”.
“Oh I heard that” said Lorne with an affected shudder, “According to my messages you’d gone and started a bloodbath, what they thought I could do about is anyone’s guess” He gave the vampire a penetrating look. “So I’ve got to admit Angelface it’s good to see you looking fairly sane today”.
“What about Cordelia, how is she”? Asked Fred concern evident in her voice and earnestly pretty face.
“Cordelia’s OK” Replied Angel shortly not meeting anyone’s eyes; “Do we know anymore about this woman she’s with, Cathy”? He asked Wesley, who looked at Lorne.
“Nothing more than what Cordelia told us, nothing matches her abilities and appearance on the demon database, healing rarely does and the fact that she looks and smells like a human” He trailed off, they were all thinking about Jasmine.
“I did a test on the blood Wesley brought me from the bandage, looks pretty normal to me and I got it checked for a second opinion, human it is” Said Fred, relieved to be able to report that much at least.
“Lorne” prompted Angel
“I got nada, nothing on the wind or coming in from my various sources, although I gotta admit most of them were intrigued by what I was asking so I had to play it safe and be discreet”.
“Keep looking all of you, I want to know more about her and how she met Cordelia” Instructed Angel to the group as a whole.
“Can’t you just ask Cordy” Said Fred surprised he hadn’t thought of that, “I know she was reserved with Wesley but you’re …….. erm different”, she nearly stopped when she saw his face.
Angel slumped back in his chair and fiddled with his pen, he looked up at Fred when an uncomfortable silence fell over the table, “No I can’t talk to Cordy about it” was all he said in reply.
“Did you speak to Cordy about not telling you Drusilla had threatened her”? Wesley asked Angel.
“I told her she wasn’t doing anymore demon hunting” Angel finally replied uncomfortably and picking up a report from in front of him, he flicking through it trying to look absorbed. He looked back up to find three sceptical and expectant gazes on his face.
“Did you fight”? Asked Fred, boy she had no idea just how literal that was, thought Angel with a wince, before looking towards the double doors just as they were both slammed open and Gunn came in saying “You guys are not gonna believe this”.
Angel’s heart sank as he looked into Gunn’s dark and excited eyes, “What”? he asked shortly.
“Our very own Cordelia Chase has just run little Evie outta town at knifepoint”, he chuckled with laughter and then saw Angel’s face and stopped with a choke.
“Cordelia went to see Eve again?” Asked Angel quietly and slowly as if trying to make sure he understood exactly what he was being told.
“Yup”, Uh oh; better not mention the other thing. “How did she find out where Eve had gone”? Asked Fred her brow creased in confusion. Gunn had to stifle an urge to shift from foot to foot as they all looked at him waiting for him to answer.
THE HYPERION HOTEL – CORDY
Cordy was covered in sweat and tossing and turning on the bed, moaning in pain and wishing she could wake up, wake up, WAKE UP!! She shot up wild eyed, looking around the room trying to get her bearings and waiting for her heart to stop racing and her breathing to slow down.
“Oh God, Oh god it’s over it was just a dream”, she shook her head and pressed a trembling hand to her mouth, tears threatened but she blinked them away as reality finally sunk in. She looked at the clock beside the bed and groaned it was nearly 11am.
She got out of the bed and stood beside it for a moment trying to still her trembling knees, what an awful nightmare. She entered the bathroom and ran the cold tap over her wrists, glad for once that the room didn’t have a mirror. She was sure that she must look as bad as she felt. Sitting down on the edge of the bath she crossed her hands on her knees and took deep calming breaths.
“What the hell was that”? She asked herself; she had never had a dream like it before. She had expected to have a nightmare or two about nearly dying and Dru and all but not like that, she had dreamt the whole thing not as her seeing it, but Angel, every thought and feeling she had felt was his. If it was even a little bit true, she could almost understand….
“Oh no you don’t” she suddenly snapped, angry with herself “That is not gonna happen; there will be no forgiving or forgetting”.
Cathy was already downstairs and had explored a bit, found the coffee-maker and coffee and started it going, not surprising considering she was a self confessed caffeine addict.
“Hey, how are you” she asked when she saw Cordy coming down the stairs. It was redundant question really as Cordy’s tight and angry face gave her away. But asking the question gave an opportunity for venting.
“Fine” said Cordy shortly, irritable and dog tired, she flopped onto one of the puff chairs, deliberately avoiding ‘that’ couch. Cathy just looked at her over the mug she was holding, “Go on” she prompted when Cordy didn’t elaborate.
“What” asked Cordy Defensively?
“You may as well tell me and get it over with” said Cathy, she could see it brewing away in there and knew the sooner she got it out the better.
Cordy stood up and started to pace around the lobby, different areas in the big space seemed to make her angrier when her eyes touched on them before jerking away again. “Men are complete bastards” she got out at last, muttering under her breath something about vampires.
“Uh huh” no disagreement from me there, thought Cathy
“I hate him”
“Fair enough”, sure you do
“I don’t want to talk about it”; she was as upset as Cathy had ever seen her.
“Later then” Cathy conceded. “Maybe” said Cordy unwillingly
The conversation was cut short by a knock on the glass panes of the door and it being opened by a slight young woman with dark hair and glasses. “Hi Fred” said Cordy really, really glad of the distraction. “What’s up”?
“Wow the hotel looks good! You wouldn’t think it had been empty so long,” she exclaimed as she came down the steps, looking around happily and with some nostalgia.
“Well yeah, that’s because you got it cleaned,” said Cordy confused now.
“I know but still it looks lived in, so you’re staying here now” said Fred with a pleased smile.
“Er no, we’re going home today” Replied Cordy with a scowl, there was no way she was asking Angel for anything and he could just stay the hell away from her.
“That’s not what…..Oh erm, yeah OK” Fred faltered in the middle and then finished with the last words tapering off in embarrassment.
“That’s not what you, what”? Asked Cordy suspiciously
“Well that is..” Fred looked at her feet torn; “Fred” said Cordy losing patience.
“Angel said you would be staying here now” she finally blurted out, watching Cordy’s reaction, she knew something had gone wrong between Cordy and Angel in the last few days, something more than just the near death experience. Angel had gone into simmering mode when he’d heard about the demon bar and ordered a 24 hour surveillance to be put on her, based from the hotel.
“Angel said that”? Asked Cordy in utter disbelief, was she hearing this right, what happened to making things difficult for her? Why was he giving her what she wanted? – not that he knew that of course because she hadn’t got to mention it, but still there was something up with this picture somewhere, she narrowed her eyes at Fred.
“Yeah” said Fred with a bright but uneasy smile.
“Fred why don’t I introduce you to Cathy, my friend and then we all go for a late lunch and have a nice chat” suggested Cordy with a wave towards Cathy.
Fred confused and a little perplexed; agreed absently and then remembering her manners smiled and waved at Cathy trying not to look like she was a little freaked out by what Wesley had told her about this woman but also relieved that this was going better than she’d thought; she felt a pang of guilt for Angel but hey fair was fair right?
Angel had gone back to his office to work, but after snapping twice at the same woman who’d made the mistake of interrupting him in full brood and then nearly knocking some poor guy over the balcony and down to the foyer below, just because he hadn’t been paying attention to where he’d been going and bumped into him, he decided he needed to be alone if he was going to stay out of trouble.
Back upstairs he paced around the apartment, going outside was impossible until the sun went down and the tunnels and sewer systems would drive him crazy at the moment, he needed space. He felt as if he needed to burn off all the energy that was pumping through him and enclosed spaces wouldn’t help him.
“I can’t believe she did something so stupid and dangerous” He ranted, knowing she’d done it to prove a point to him, more than anything else.
“Well she won’t do it again”, He’d arranged for her to be watched, every move she made, he was going to know about and if there was any danger it would be headed off before she got there. She was going to hate that but it was the only way he could protect her and she was just going to have to get used to the idea.
“What if she leaves LA again, to get away from you” He thought and had to shut it down because it was too painful to think of. She wouldn’t leave, “that would be admitting defeat and she’d rather stake me than do that“
He hoped that was true; he needed her nearby even if he couldn’t be with her, he needed to know he could at least see her occasionally even if she didn’t love him anymore; that would have to be enough for him, to love her from a distance was better than feeling nothing and hoping for nothing.
He wanted to see her now, “Bad idea“, impossible and he knew it, they both needed to calm down and he didn’t want to push her into thinking she had to leave LA. after all “I won’t let her” He felt the rise of emotion inside and cut the thought again, he had to get a grip on his own possessive nature now or he’d end up driving himself crazy and going out of control, “Like that hasn’t happened before“.
His friends were worried about him and if he was honest they had reason to be, he knew he was slipping backwards when it came to his humanity. It couldn’t have been helped, with everything that had happened last year, losing Cordy and Connor; he’d had to pull back into himself just to be able to carry on.
Being inside Wolfram & Hart wasn’t exactly therapeutic either and there were times recently when he felt as if all the progress he’d made in the last few years was nothing but an illusion. That he was still just an outsider, unable to relate to anything or anyone around him, unless it involved death and violence.
“You were too rough with her“. His conscience smote at him
“It was necessary”; he muttered with a sort of desperate need to convince his inner self.
“It never used to be, why didn’t you just ask her to join in here“
“I don’t want her mixed up with this place”. That was true enough
“Oh right but scaring her is OK, well you certainly did that didn’t you, did you smell it“
“Shut up, I had to try, it’s better than her dying and losing her completely”
“You think you haven’t anyway“?
That was it, he had to get these thoughts out of his head and stop thinking about her constantly; obsessing about her was bad and getting him nowhere. He yanked off his black knitted shirt and then undid his zipper before reaching into the closet and pulling out a pair of loose drawing string pants. He needed to empty his head and the only thing that had worked in the past was meditating, it was time for some tai chi.
“What are you trying to prove Angel, that I should be afraid of them or of you“? Her voice echoed in his head.
BACK AT THE HYPERION
“Surveillance, I just do not believe this guy, he is insane” Cordy’s shouting must have been heard from at least two blocks away, Cathy winced at the volume.
She felt a hell of a lot of admiration for Cordy’s restraint; that had been bottled up for at least an hour, ever since Fred had spilled the beans. They were back now though and the need for restraint was gone.
“We are leaving here immediately”; snapped Cordy running for the stairs to gather the few things she’d brought here.
“Wait” said Cathy, “Don’t be so hasty”
“Hasty” the volume was still at mega watt, as Cordy whirled round to stand with hands on hips “That stupid sh… Dork has set a bunch of mindless morons to watch me”. Fury was evident in every word, not to mention what she’d almost called him.
“Exactly, stupid morons that we can run rings around, like that”; Cathy snapped her fingers and grinned at Cordy and then waited for the possibilities to filter through the anger, it didn’t take long.
“You mean…” said Cordy with an intrigued look on her face, Cathy’s grin just got bigger “Oh yeah”.
“Won’t that piss him off” Cordy grinned back her; her nimble mind running through all of the scenarios that could be, all of which ended up with Angel having egg on his handsome face.
“This hotel has hundred of rooms, numerous exits and you know them all like the back of your hand, what better place can you think of”? Asked Cathy.
“There is none, you’re right and Angel will think he’s got me exactly where he wants me, but he’s sooo going to find out different”. She was getting excited now, this was actually good news.
“No one uses me like that and gets away with it” Said Cordy, damn she hadn’t meant to say that out-loud but it was too late, she saw Cathy focus on her.
“Just because his wits went A.W.O.L. overreacting to you nearly dying in front of him doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you” Said Cathy with quiet conviction.
“Whatever, it doesn’t matter” replied Cordy turning her face away, but Cathy wasn’t finished.
“Cordy” she waited until she turned back “He does love you, don’t let anger kid you into fooling yourself otherwise, would he have gone so ballistic if he didn’t”?
Cordelia remembered the dream she’d had and didn’t brush it away this time, had he really felt that bad? Even if he had was it really any excuse for the way he’d acted; was love a good enough excuse? She didn’t know what to think anymore, Cathy sounded so certain and even if she shouldn’t let it, it did knock away at the foundation of her anger with him.
“I’ll worry about that later, for now we have a business to finish getting started”. She would focus on that for now and see what fell out of the woodwork; she was too confused and angry at the moment to think rationally about her abortive relationship with Angel or lack of one.