Faint Heart. 4-5

Part 4

Angel shifted uncomfortably on the floor outside his old room.

After sorting out bedding, and hefting boxes of her clothes to his room for Cordelia [the fact that they’d been left behind had only chilled the cold in her eyes to ice] he’d originally sat in his leather chair, preparing to watch over the-again silent brunette. She’d soon made it perfectly clear that that plan was totally unacceptable and unwelcome :

“I don’t need you to watch over me while I sleep, Angel; I’m a big girl now.”

“I’m not leaving you on your own, Cordelia!” he returned with solid determination; a scowl creasing his face at her harsh bark of short laughter.

“So much concern- where did that come from? Been saving it up for a special occasion?” She sneered, and he had the grace to blush but he still refused to move.

“I’m not leaving.” He repeated – then shot to his feet when she turned towards the door.

Then I will” reaching out for the door handle, she almost growled in anger when Angel’s hand clamped over hers.

The staring competition lasted a few minutes before he finally stepped back and agreed to go – “But I’m not going far” he warned with a growl of his own…

***

That had been over two hours ago, and Angel knew Cordelia was aware of exactly where he was.

And in those two hours he’d done a lot of thinking- more than he’d done in the last six months.

Rehashing everything with Cordelia had put into question a lot of his actions and decisions over the past year, and he found most of what she’d picked up on left a lot to be desired where he was personally concerned.

His actions with Buffy for one. He still wasn’t sure why he’d said and done what he had. If he was honest with himself, it had been a form of desperate escapism; old town, old memories…yearning for a time when everything, though not pleasant; seemed easier to deal with. His deep feelings for Buffy had faded to something he had looked back on as a learning experience that wasn’t really regretted, but was also no longer part of the person he was now.

Falling back into that old pattern of maybes had been comforting at the time – pushing aside feelings he had for another woman… being disrespectful of Cordy for not having the decency to put Buffy into the picture about his love for her; acting jealous scenting Spike all over his past love. Kissing his ex and pretending to enjoy it as much as she seemed to…both lying to each other, he realized afterwards…

I’m a complete bastard! Angel dropped his head and stared unseeingly at the dusty carpet he now sat on. And to top it all, Cordelia walking in on him having sex in his office; his office in Wolfram & Hart!

That reminded him of something else that needed clearing up- why had he been having sex with Eve in the first place?

Yeah, the woman had been coming on to him, less subtly as time went on- but, not being exactly bad looking, it had been easy to ignore. Only once had he felt the need to get lost in physical gratification, and that had been with Darla. Angel honestly couldn’t see himself wanting to become so intimate with another woman whilst Cordelia still lived and breathed – regardless of her coma.

He would definitely look into that tomorrow; and he had the feeling he wouldn’t have to look further than the host of the party he’d walked out on.

His mind turned back to the Slayer again. How many times in the past couple of months had he played one-upmanship with Spike over her affections? He cringed in hindsight. The blonde bastard would no doubt take great pleasure in bringing those times up once he managed to worm himself into the same room as Cordy- especially when the perceptive little shit clicked on to Angel’s feelings regarding the brunette.

As for the rest; well, Angel decided he’d have to field each curve as it was thrown, and hope to God his justifications didn’t sound as lame out loud as they did in his head. Leaning his head back against the door, Angel closed his eyes and attempted to switch off his brain and rest.

He was well and truly fucked.

***

Cordelia tossed and turned, but couldn’t settle. God, she was tired! Fair enough, she’d been in snooze land for months and should have felt rested; but being an unnatural sleep, it obviously hadn’t worked out like that. She compared it to one of those nights where you felt like you’d just closed your eyes and it was morning two seconds later.

But as tired as she was, the freaky day she’d woken up to still hammered away at her brain. Could you ever be too hurt, too shocked and too angry? Obviously not! To find he hadn’t even bothered to take along her things; instead leaving them to gather dust just like he did her, compounded the pain.

Sighing heavily and stifling a moan of frustration, Cordelia thumped the slightly musty pillow that still retained the faint scent of the vampire who now played Sentinel outside the door of HIS old room whilst she lay in HIS old bed… and finally she let the tears flow.

Was it so wrong of her to wish she’d never woken up from that goddamn coma?

“Whoever said that ignorance is bliss HAD to have had a life as sucky as mine” she whispered hoarsely; her eyes finally drifting shut as she fell into a fitful sleep…

***

Walking out of the bathroom, Cordelia attempted to smooth the creases out of the cream blouse she’d dug out of one of the boxes. Her mouth curled at the faint musty odor of the underwear, blouse and low-slung jeans she now wore; coming to an abrupt halt at finding Angel once again ensconced in the bedside chair.

“Did I invite you in?” All earlier pain raced back to the surface, and she felt not a little satisfaction at the dark circles that now rested below his shadowed eyes.

At least she wasn’t the only one who’d had a bad night.

To her surprise, the vampire was now fully dressed- and going by the similar whiff of must coming off the black silk-knit sweater and pants, he’d obviously found a change of clothes in the hotel.

“Cordy.” Was Angel’s only reply. Seeing her out of that nondescript robe and hospital gown brought home to him even more that she was actually back. Although slightly creased and unsurprisingly loose, the difference was heart warming.

As soon as he’d heard her enter the bathroom, Angel had quietly entered and routed through his closet where most of his old clothes still remained. There hadn’t really been much call for them after finding his new Penthouse apartment already housed a new wardrobe of designer suits and accessories.

“I see you not only left my stuff behind,” her acerbic comment caused him to shift uncomfortably in his seat as he watched her pull out a brush and yank it through her much longer – and darker hair.

Angel was ashamed to admit that he hadn’t been around to see her hair grow out of the blonde until it again rested just below her shoulders; they hadn’t even bothered to rid her of the bleached locks that began just below her jaw now. His jaw tightened in renewed anger and self-hatred at yet another piece of glaring evidence of their lack of care. Especially his.

Cordelia, Aware of his silent scrutiny, finished with the brush and tied her hair back carelessly with a rescued hair scrunchie before rummaging through yet another box for a pair of plain brown sandals; perching on the unmade bed to slip them on. Then she sat up and folded her arms, her eyes latching on to a spot beyond his shoulder. She supposed she should be glad he hadn’t left her here too- though, to be honest, she’d probably have preferred waking up here.

Angel let out a breath and rose to his feet. “Are you ready to go?” he asked, half turning towards the door.

“Go? Now where would I be going? It’s a bit early in the day for me to start apartment-hunting.” she returned with a hint of steel lacing her low tone. Angel closed his eyes briefly; so much for things being better the morning after.

“I meant; I really need to get back to… They’ll be wondering where I am- especially now the sun is shining.” He explained, expelling another breath when her arms across her chest tightened along with her full mouth.

“And that affects me how? Don’t let me stop you – after all, I’m sure you have a lot of important stuff to do for your new evil bosses. – But I’m staying here.” the steel strengthened.

Angel couldn’t just leave. Anything could happen to her. Although no one had attempted to break in to the hotel since he’d moved out; possibly due to his reputation, it didn’t mean it couldn’t happen. He tried another tactic.

“Don’t you want to see the others? I thought you-“

“Did they do that ‘not’ visiting a friend thing too?” at his flinch, Cordelia used every ounce of self-control not to echo it. “If they ask, you can tell them where to find me- If they ask, that is.” Rising to her feet, she walked past the now silent vampire and opened the door, disappearing out of it. After a few seconds, Angel uncurled his clenched fists and followed…

***

As soon as he entered his office, Angel immediately contacted security and sent out a detail to watch and guard the hotel. He couldn’t remember ever racing through the sewers so fast in his whole unlife, breaking all records and arriving at W & H in under ten minutes without breaking a sweat.

He’d gone downstairs after Cordelia to find her routing through his old office, noting the rise of her brow at the untouched filing cabinets and various items left abandoned on the dusty desk’s surface. In fact, looking around she couldn’t help but notice that the place looked like they’d just upped and left without looking back.

Her silence had become deadly after seeing that the weapons cabinet was full too – even housing Gunn’s damaged axe.

After that, any persuasion he attempted fell on stone cold ears, and only the fact that he couldn’t do anything worthwhile to sort out at least some of the mess from the hotel finally pushed him to leave her; his mouth had twisted in pain when, looking back just before he disappeared down the basement steps, Cordelia seemed more interested in flicking through an old magazine than watching him go…

Was it so impossible for her to understand that when he’d left, going back had been simply too much to bear? Looking forward had been his only chance to stay sane, without her there to make it easier, anyway. Rubbing his gritty eyes, Angel leaned forward and pressed the button on his phone.

“Yes, boss?” Harmony’s shrill voice grated on his ears, along with his heart sinking lower at Cordelia’s inevitable reaction on finding out who exactly was his secretary now.

“I want to see Lorne; now.” flicking the switch, Angel leaned back in his seat and glowered blindly at the far wall while he waited…


Part 5

Cordelia spent the morning washing and drying most of her clothes in the basement, unable to tolerate wearing musty clothing longer than she had to. Although not seeing any visible signs, she was all too aware that she was no longer as alone as earlier.

Her mouth tightened even more at the realization that her comings and goings would be dogged by Wolfram & Hart yet again – but this time at Angel’s command. She couldn’t believe he actually trusted them!

“Geeze” how dumb can he be”? She muttered and heaved a pained sigh.

As much as she loved him, she had to admit he could, on occasion…well, maybe a bit more than that, she decided; be completely dense on some things- but to put his trust in an evil law firm; one that went through every dirty trick in the book to put them into the ground. That just staggered her, even knowing his track record as well as she did.

Although he’d denied working for or with them, what would he call what he was doing? If it was really just his to run as he saw fit- “They handed it over lock, stock and barrel.” she rolled her eyes recalling how he’d justified it – then why the need for a middle wo-man to act as a go-between? That was so far from ‘no connections’ it scared the bejeebers out of her.

The sound of shrill ringing jolted her out of her thoughts abruptly. Racing up the basement stairs and entering the lobby, Cordelia followed the sound to the phone still perched on the check-in counter. Hesitantly, she reached out, and taking a deep breath, picked it up.

“Cordy?” At the sound of Angel’s deep voice, her stomach twisted painfully.

“Call off the Hellhounds, Angel.” A long pause followed her cold response.

“They’re there to protect you. Please don’t be…difficult. This is hard eno-“

“Difficult?” Cordelia couldn’t believe the arrogant bastard! The weary impatience in his tone raised her hackles. “You wanna see ‘difficult? Keep trying to take over my life, and I swear to God, ‘difficult’ will seem like a walk in the park, buddy!” another silence; more strained, lengthened, and she could almost feel the vibes of anger coming down the line.

“Look, it’ll only be until I can get back.” Angel finally spoke; the strain still evident even as he attempted to soothe her ruffled feelings. Cordy scrunched up her nose and childishly stuck her tongue out at the receiver.

“I don’t need you here to hold my hand,” she replied with saccharine sweetness, and Angel could almost feel the cavities developing in his teeth. “Thanks for connecting the phone, by the way- I can start on my apartment hunting now – And don’t worry, you don’t need to pop by. I don’t need you here,” she repeated with a brittle smile.

“I said I’ll be back, and I will…” Angel swallowed the pain of her words and allowed a little spite to creep out in retaliation: “So how are you gonna manage finding an apartment? Do you have a nest egg I wasn’t aware of?” As soon as the words left his mouth, Angel curled up on himself. Low! shit! the catch in her breath lashed at him mercilessly.

“Well, obviously, I’ll be job hunting first” she finally managed to talk over the hard lump wedged in her chest, “and I’m sure I could find somewhere else to stay then – that is, unless you want me out of here today?” her fingers twisted the phone cord as she waited for his reply.

“You know what I want, Cordelia.” Angel finally answered quietly.

“Do I? Hmmm, we can agree to differ on that – so is that a yes to me staying here?” Cordelia blinked rapidly when, after a few long seconds, Angel sighed heavily and concurred, adding “I’ll be over later.” He broke the connection before she could argue.

After lowering the receiver with exaggerated care, taking several deep breaths and wiping the traces of tears from her eyes and cheeks, Cordelia turned and made her way back to the basement…

***

“So let me get this straight: You had your sleep ‘surgically’ removed – and this metamorphosed into everything you suggested at the party turning into reality?” Angel stared in disbelief at the squirming demon sitting opposite him.

“You make it sound so much worse than it was, Angelkins” at the barely concealed fury aimed his way, Lorne sank deeper, if possible, into the chair facing Angel’s desk. “ookay… well the good news is it’s all back to normal business again – as normal as we get, anyway.” He muttered.

Taking a deep breath, Lorne looked into the vampire’s face and asked:

“So… what little gem did I cook up for you?” He gulped in fear at the unadulterated rage now blatantly showing on Angel’s face, flinching when he rose to his feet and made his way round the large desk, only stopping to perch on the edge directly in front of him.

“Having sex- with EVE behind the couch.” Lorne’s mouth dropped open comically, and continued to fall lower as Angel continued, “In my office where anyone could walk in – and DID.” his jaw now rested on his chest; then snapped shut with an audible click at the vampire’s next words:

“And guess who walked in, Lorne?” Angel paused for affect: “Cordelia!”

“Oh, WOW! ….Oh, JEEZE!” Lorne added with a whimper; the instant joy quickly melting to mortification.

***

“I can’t believe he’s actually posted our security to protect the little bitch” Eve’s mouth ached with smiling; she’d done a lot since yesterday evening.

The devastated expression on the woozy-looking Seer’s face had made her day, and she hadn’t held much hope in the vampire’s ability to make it all better.

Eve wasn’t where she was today without a hell of a lot of overtime put into knowing her enemies- and one of the first things she’d done on finding out about her new ‘case’ was find out every scrap of information about Angel Investigations and all the members- especially Angel and Cordelia Chase.

Lilah Morgan had been scrupulously obsessive in her file keeping, and the details were meticulously recorded on how their relationship had developed to almost lovers. After reading of Angel’s fall to the dark side a few years ago, and, of course, the fallout between Warrior and Seer over the whole Darla incident; well, she could only praise the Senior Partners for finding the ultimate weak spot between them.

Okay- so the vampire hadn’t actually wanted to look at her face while he fucked her senseless, but she’d actually enjoyed it. Angel sure knew how to use a woman – she’d cum long before him- plus some! Being attracted to the dark, sinfully handsome vampire with a soul, Eve was grateful for any crumbs thrown her way- and if magic happened to be part of it; well… better than nothing, Eve decided without the slightest pang to her self-respect!

That wasn’t something worth having when you worked for Wolfram & Hart, anyway. A small part of her was glad that bitch would never get a taste – what with the curse, and his feelings about her. Angelus would be back in less that a heartbeat.

She’ll never know what she’s been missing! Eve squirmed in her chair with remembered pleasure.

Although Angel hadn’t made any attempt to visit the comatose woman, the Senior Partners were well aware of his reasons: his deluded idea that if he couldn’t see it with his own eyes, it wasn’t real. Because of this, Angel had unwittingly given them even more ammunition to drive a wedge between them when she finally awoke.

-And the lack of concern from her other ‘family’ would only add more nails to the coffin. God, she loved her job!

They’d known it would only be a matter of time before Cordelia Chase DID wake up. Although Jasmine was completely purged from her body, the woman was still half-demon.

Jasmine’s ‘minion’, Skip, had exaggerated the truth quite a lot in his revelations. Being demonized was the only way she could cope with the later possession of the Ex Power – as Skip was apparently working for the real PTB, he was only able to use Demon DNA that was intrinsically good. But the foundation was enough for Jasmine to get a foothold into her almost immediately. No one noticed the subtle changes in her personality as Jasmine began asserting herself, and by the time the Pylean Warrior had arrived, her ‘family’ hadn’t even questioned her reaction to his presence. The full possession came shortly after she ascended- and Cordelia wasn’t even aware that her ‘decision’ to ascend and leave Angel had been taken out of her hands, Her initial doubts and reluctance being pushed aside by the Power with ease.

Freewill was only required by the PTB.

Keeping the Seer unconscious for a short while until she was ‘needed’ hadn’t been easy. The woman still had relatively unused demon-powers of her own- not supernatural, as in levitation, glowing or such- that had all been Jasmine. But rapid healing and a mind that was almost impossible to invade any more. Luckily for them, enough sedation that would kill a normal human worked until they were ready to use her to break Angel enough to wipe out any remaining resistance he still held onto.

Eve tapped her long fingernails on her desk as she again read the transcript of the Vampire and Seer’s earlier phone conversation, the smug smile again tugging at her brightly painted mouth.

The wedge grew by the second – and Eve could almost see a promotion in the very near future.

“Who’d have thought; the oldest trick in the book- jealousy, would work better than any magic?”

***

The silence that pervaded the room reminded Angel of the similar silence that had consumed him at the Hyperion – the awkward, guilty silence. After his little talk with Lorne, the others were soon notified and appeared in Angel’s office displaying various states of emotions.

Lorne was by now on about his tenth Sea Breeze and was still unable to look the vampire in the eye. He doubted he’d ever lose that sick feeling in the pit of his stomach at the thought of the Princess’ feelings regarding the sight she’d been privy to – and, after the upset of Darla-boffing, Lorne just knew Angelkins wouldn’t get off half as lightly; which was saying a hell of a lot.

Wes stood by the far wall and seemed riveted to the almost blinding gleam coming off the lenses he polished with such vigor.

After been made fully aware, along with the others, that the Cordelia now awake was in fact the real Cordelia he’d known for so long, his guilt at his ‘remiss’ behavior regarding visitations had nothing to do with the fact that she’d been evil prior to the coma; in fact, he’d found it easy to separate the two.

No. That wasn’t the reason why he had not been to see Cordelia since they’d settled at Wolfram & Hart… Wesley Wyndham Pryce’s attention had been solely on the treasures of the libraries in the building – and his unrequited feelings for Winifred Burkle.

Fred could claim similar reasons. -The labs at Wolfram & Hart; – and later, the appearance of the blonde vampire, Spike. It only occurred to her now that she’d spent all of her time helping someone she hardly knew and promptly forgot about the once-heart of Angel Investigations.

And she had no excuse for it- unless you counted giving up on the idea of Cordelia ever coming round, pretty quickly in fact.

Gunn wasn’t sure how he felt about the whole thing. His path had taken him away from the core of Angel Investigations- he was meant for bigger, better things. The young man couldn’t afford to keep looking back; holding on to things- or people. It didn’t fit into his new life. Charles Gunn supposed the discomfort in his heart when he thought about her now must just be echoes of a life he no longer desired.

“So what happens now?” Wes finally broke the heavy silence, and squirmed a little under the vampire’s cold look.

“She’s well – or as well as can be expected, given the circumstances.” Angel’s unexpected and obviously condemning response shocked them all.

Not one of them had asked. Not one. Including him; what the hell are we turning into? Angel asked himself with well hidden and panicked horror.

For the first time, Fred felt a prickle of moisture at the back of her eyes, as she realized no one, including herself, had even thought to ask. Her last memory of Cordelia had been witnessing her attempt on Lorne’s life. Even now, though, she couldn’t recall how the other brunette had escaped them all so easily. One minute Angel had her by the throat, the next, he was on the floor unconscious, and Cor- Jasmine had gone.

“It was Jasmine” she muttered under her breath, and flinched at the low growl that tore from the vampire’s throat.

“Not any more,” shame filled his entire being. Cordelia’s comments about the others echoed in his mind as he eyed the rest of what he’d once considered his ‘family’. Dammit, he wanted to smash things, there’s so much to fix and I don’t even know where to start.

“No! I-I didn’t mean that! I meant before- before when she was possessed by Jasmine; I was just reminding myself…” Fred’s words trailed off and she looked around, her distressed gaze glancing off the faces of the others, who looked just as yucky as she now felt. “I’m glad she’s okay, Angel.” She added softly, then ducked her head and wished herself elsewhere.

“That’s good…where is she now?” Wes belatedly asked, flushing with shame at his original question. How soon they forget…

“At the Hyperion.” Angel’s tone was stiff and cold, and he had to turn his back on them, fiddling with the pen caddy on his desk; so very glad Cordy hadn’t been here to witness their initial reaction- Surprise, fear; quickly followed by suspicion.

The shame all but one displayed now was, in his opinion, just as damning.

“We should, we should go see her; hey guys?” Fred and Lorne nodded instantly; Wes a little slower to agree- he wasn’t sure he could face her.

“Why?” everyone except Angel turned shocked eyes on the snappily suited young black man.

“I mean; no one knew she was gone- or would have known if it weren’t for him,” Gunn elucidated, jerking a finger towards Angel. “No disrespect to Barbie- but don’t you think that’s being a lot dishonest? Y’all couldn’t care what room she was holed up in a day ago – and before y’all get in my face, I was right there with you.” He walked over to the door and opened it- sparing a dismissive glance at the leather-clad blonde that stood eavesdropping on the other side.

“Me? I’ve got nothing to say so far- but you guys… What reasons can you give for forgettin’ the girl, huh?” Gunn threw over his shoulder and then left abruptly, pushing past Spike and disappearing out of sight.

“So… the Cheerleader’s back in the land of the livin’? This should be interestin’,” Spike rubbed his hands together, smirking at what he’d overheard; the grin growing unpleasantly at the imperceptible flinch of his sire at his cheerful words.

The shit was beginning to hit the fan…

Part 6

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