If it wasn’t bad enough that he had to break into his own Hotel, the dust and debris covering the lobby certainly was.
Cordelia walked in silently when he stood back to let her by; she had yet to say anything since they left Wolfram & Hart, and his throat was too tight to even attempt to try and talk to her.
He reached out for the light switch, praying that they worked, and let out a sigh of relief when they came on. The look of shock deepened on Cordelia’s face as she took a good look around.
“Well, I can see why you don’t live here any more.” She muttered under her breath, then moved over to one of the couches, too weary to be bothered by the dust that covered the rich red velvet; coughing a little when it spiraled around her for a few seconds.
“So…how long was I Coma Girl, Angel?” Cordelia decided to jump right in, as, going by his slightly hunched and awkward figure still hovering by the far wall, Angel had no immediate plans to fill her in. his head shot up at her blunt question and he shuffled his feet.
“About six months, give or take.” He replied hoarsely. He still couldn’t believe she was right in front of him, finally awake.
“You know, I thought the whole being dressed in a scratchy hospital gown, and bunking with half a dozen other ‘patients’ meant it was pretty recent. Obviously I was wrong.” Angel flinched at the bitterness lacing her low tone.
“If I’d have known, Cordy, I’d have-” he began, already thinking about the punishments he’d dole out to his employees for treating the most important person to him like that, but she cut in, disbelief making her voice rise by quick degrees.
“If you’d known? IF? I take it from that, your ass never made it to my bedside?” Angel swallowed convulsively as he walked forward hurriedly, his hands held out beseechingly.
“I know it sounds pretty damning, but-“
“There is no ‘sounds’ about it. Good to know where I fit into your new life, Angel.” Cordelia rose to her feet and moved away from him.
“It wasn’t like that, Cordy; I couldn’t…” he raked a trembling hand through his hair, pinning her with wounded brown eyes, “I couldn’t look at you like that; thinking I’d lost you.” He finished softly. Cordelia’s eyes hardened.
“Well, at least some things never change, I suppose.” Swallowing down the hurt and anger, she paced the lobby for a few seconds, then turned to face him, her face set resolutely.
“I think it’s time to fill the gaps- but first; who’s the blonde?” her hazel eyes flicked his half naked form, and Angel gut coiled in self-disgust at the hint of revulsion in those lovely depths.
“I know- what you saw… it was a shock.” And not just to you! he thought, dazed yet again by the whole incident.
“You boning yet another blonde? – Nope” She cut in swiftly; a disparaging flick of her hand, “disappointed, more like” she concentrated on her nails, not wanting him to see just how wounded she was. Bastard!
“”It was some kinda spell; I’m sure of it!” he defended his actions. It had to be a spell; come on! He hadn’t sunk that low, for God’s sake.
“Another one? Boy, there are a lot of those around where your sex life is concerned – not forgetting the original one.” Cordelia smiled grimly, ignoring the flinch that jolted his frame; not that surprised when he didn’t deign to reply. An uncomfortable silence filled the dusty lobby.
“Kinda pretty – not that you could see her face right then.” She snarked, and almost cracked a smile at the unusual flush of color in his pale face.
“I suppose we should all be glad she didn’t quite make with the ‘happy’ – unless you’re a tamer version of Mister Psycho Guy?” Angel swallowed hard and shook his head infinitesimally. ‘Happy’ wasn’t quite the word that came to mind. Pig sick, maybe.
“So she’s your secretary? Never thought you were one of those bosses who did the desk-chase. Learn something new every day.” She finally broke the tense silence.
“No! – L-Like I ever did that to you?” Angel stuttered slightly, his mind’s eye temporarily visualizing that particular fantasy.
“Well, I wasn’t exactly your Secretary, was I? Vision Girl, Office Manager- nurse; general dogs body, blah, blah” she ticked off the multitude of job descriptions on her fingertips, tamping down the thought of “No such luck” and flicking her eyes briefly towards his face. His jaw worked under her gaze,
“She’s…a go-between; for Wolfram & Hart.” He ran his long fingers through his hair roughly, as the conversation spiraled into severe decline. “And you were more than that, Cordy.” He insisted roughly, moving a few steps nearer.
“Yeah, whatever,” she, in turn, moved back and folded her arms defensively. “Getting back to Wolfram and Hart; I need to know whats been going on and how I got to be back on this Hell on Earth and unconscious for, like almost ever.” She moved back over to the couch and sat down again.
“Whenever you’re ready, Mister CEO.”…
“Wow.” Words failed the brunette. The eyes that locked sightlessly onto the wall behind Angel’s head were slightly glazed and wet.
“So…let me get this straight: You came back from Las Vegas and found ‘Me’ in the lobby amnesia-ey and lost-little-girl. I then decided to move out and bunk up with-with…. And you let me?” although it sounded like a question, Angel remained silent – and she continued on, her voice flat and expressionless.
“Lorne found a spell that finally worked in a roundabout back-to-the-past kinda way, and unbeknownst to all my friends it wasn’t me at all, but an evil entity called Jasmine possessing my body.” Cordelia took a deep breath and briefly covered her lips to hide their momentary trembling.
“I then bumped uglies with a boy I considered my nephew… and you still had no idea…?” a dry sob escaped her, but his instinctive response of sweeping her into a hug was thwarted by the swift lift of her hands and the ice-cold glare she shot his way.
“-released Angelus, killed Lilah – tried to kill Angelus, Lorne and Willow; gave birth to a Fallen Power and fell into a mystical coma?” Her breaths came out harshly by the time she’d finished, and it was the only sound in the building for the next few minutes.
“Have I missed anything out? – Besides you signing a deal with the devil, ‘saving’ C-Connor- and mind-wiping our family? Anything else I should know, Angel?” he shook his head yet again, unable to form a verbal reply. Cordelia had just summarized the worst time possible in a few sentences- but it didn’t make it any less ugly.
The strained silences were getting longer by the minute, and although Cordelia was used to the vampire being stoic, this was one time she could have done without his seeming inability to speak. His revelations had rocked her to her foundations – but shock and rage could come later – alone. There was just one more thing she needed to know :
“What was the deal you made with them? Was your fair-weather soul included in the small print? Should I be running outta here screaming for my life?” a bitter smile touched her mouth as she glanced down at her robe-clad self ” – but, then again, I’m still in one piece, so maybe they’ve kept that clause for emergencies – or blackmail.- or did they make it permanent as a bonus?” Her mouth twisted with bitter distaste as she recalled vividly what she’d walked in on.
Angel instantly shook his dark head as he read accurately the sudden line of her thoughts, his own mouth twisting with regret and anger at both himself and whatever had caused him to… he finally sank into the couch opposite his Seer as he pulled his scattered thoughts into some sort of order, then lifted his head to speak.
“My soul wasn’t part of the deal.” He assured her huskily, “they needed something from me, and I…I gave them my stipulations.” Her brow rose in query.
“A new life for my son; the mind wipe was needed for that,” Angel explained defensively; the brow remained raised. “As well as seeing you had the best care – and to find a cure.” He flinched at her bitter comment of ‘best care!’ and cleared his throat. The bastards would pay for that oversight, he promised himself; desperately ignoring his own, totally unacceptable disregard of her. He’d deal with that later- alone.
“What was in it for them to agree to all that? ” Cordelia’s stomach clenched as she waited for his reply.
“They wanted me to take over their LA branch- and run it any way I pleased” Angel added strongly, “They also needed me to go to Sunnydale.” He held an unneeded breath and watched her carefully. Cordelia was far from stupid, and he waited for the inevitable fallout.
“Sunnydale? Why?” She stood up abruptly. “Don’t tell me; not Sunnydale per se- more like something to do with the resident Slayer?”
“Who says it wasn’t something to do with the Hellmouth?” Angel demurred, but at the curl of her lip he sighed heavily. He had really hoped he’d never have to tell her about that particular trip.
“Okay, they needed me to deliver an amulet- Buffy had a major battle going on over there; end of the world kinda thing – this time though, the chances of winning were pretty much zero without it. Obviously, it wasn’t an apocalypse the Senior Partners wanted.” Angel explained quietly.
“Did it work?” was all she asked; adding “Duh, world: still here!” rolling her eyes with a ftwisted smile, and he relaxed marginally.
“Yeah…but Sunnydale is just a big hole in the ground now – they got out okay, Cordy.” He assured her hurriedly at her gasp of dismay.
Angel Investigations wasn’t the only thing changed and gone, Cordelia realized sickly; it seemed everything she was familiar with had changed; and all in bad ways.. Suddenly the whole coma deal seemed a lot more appealing to her frazzled mind.
As her gaze rested on the partially clothed vampire, her eyes narrowed speculatively. She knew him so well – hah! At least one of them could attest to that – and she didn’t miss that small shadow of extra, embarrassed guilt when Sunnydale was brought up. Swallowing down the bitter bile, Cordelia forced herself to dig deeper.
“So…catch up on all the gossip with Buffy?” her heart sank when his head jerked hard before his gaze dropped to his leather-shod feet.
“Yeah… she had her own problems going on, I think I told you that?” Cordelia nodded, her hazel eyes pinned on his rapidly paling face.
“Did you tell her about our ‘problems’- my leap to the Dark side? No? And there was me, thinking it was maybe on a par.” Cordelia muttered darkly at the shake of his dark head, “So what did you talk about?” God, she knew that expression so well, and it fucking hurt. “Did you talk at all- or just do what you two were so good at?” Something else that hadn’t changed either.
Cordelia knew she had no right to feel betrayed- yet again. She knew this; but that shame-filled look on the face of the manpire she loved… “You know what? I don’t wanna know, Angel; I’m tired.” She made her way over to the stairs only to be halted by a cool hand latching on to her arm. She looked down at it with disdain and smiled coldly when he hesitated and removed it.
“Angel, I said I’m tired- plus, it’s not really any of my business what you get up to; your new blonde does know about your….tendency to not commit; and that little habit of yours to refresh your lip’s memory of a certain Slayer, I suppose?” for a moment, a flare of amber flickered in the dark brown eyes that lifted to hers, but Cordelia was beyond caring. How could she have been so…stupid!
Maybe it was for the best at the time that she’d ascended after all; minus the whole Skip betrayal, that is! The thought of how she’d considered proclaiming her love for someone who’d turned out to obviously have no such feelings for her made her cringe in the imagined humiliation.
“You can’t stay here” he again halted her, but this time by stepping in front of her as she made her way up the stairs. Her brows rose.
“What- you’re throwing me out now?” Angel instantly shook his head, horrified that she’d think he’d do something so…
“No! I didn’t mea… this place is cold, damp and dirty- it’s also empty and you’d be vulnerable here.” Cordy stared at him for a few seconds, then pushed past him, continuing up. “Cordy…”
“I’m not going back to that place, Angel. So unless you kept my apartment, here is where I’m gonna stay- for now” she added under her breath; but he heard it and caught up with her.
“What does that mean?” Cordy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “As you’ve said yourself, I can’t really stay here all alone, so tomorrow I’ll look for somewhere else.” They stood glaring at each other for an endless moment, then Angel growled low in his chest and turned to ascend the stairs.
“You can use my old room. Get some rest; but then,” he glanced over his shoulder, inwardly grateful that she was following, “then, we’ll discuss what happens next.”
Too tired to argue any more, Cordelia silently followed the dark figure of her best friend, hoping that daylight would bring with it renewed strength to face the days- and nights ahead of her…