Soulripper 15

Part 15: Survival

The decision was never really up to him. It was a simple fact. Cordelia’s life was far more important than his own. He would save her life, even if he took him away from the death he so wanted now.

“Follow me, quickly!” he shouted. Angel grabbed his Seer’s hand and ran back to Kelemoke’s library. Cordelia followed, having full faith that Angel would save them. But she was confused, how would they get out through here?

Angel led her to the bookcase behind Kelemoke’s desk. On a shelf about shoulder level sat a bust of Nero. Angel pulled hard on the bust. Cordelia realized it was a lever. Machinery grinded audibly as the bookcase slid to the left, reveling a stone stairwell.

“It leads to the tunnels below! Come on!” No sooner that the two set foot on the first step did they hear the sounds of the explosion. The pair raced down the steps into a stone lined tunnel. The earth quaked around them. Dust dropped from the ceiling below as the wooden rafters shook.

Chunks of stone began to drop from above. “Angel! We’re not going to make it!”

“Yes we are!” Angel shouted back.

As more stone began to fall above them, Angel spotted a hole located at the bottom of the wall to his left. “Dive in there!” he commanded. Cordelia, for once, did as he told her. The vampire followed behind her. The hole actually led to a small room that had been blocked off by stone.

“This looks like a damn bomb shelter!” Cordelia exclaimed. Plates of steel lined the walls of the room. It looked several inches thick.

“It probably is,” Angel exclaimed. “This place was built in the fifties.”

Both turned as they saw that stones had fallen and blocked the access hole. They were sealed in. “We’re trapped!” Cordelia said.

Angel grabbed onto Cordy to calm her down. “It’s okay,” he tried to assure her. “These tunnels are fairly well built. They should be able to bare the brunt of the blast. It may take a little time to push the stone out of the way, but we WILL get out.”

Cordelia stared at the stone a moment longer before nodding. “Yeah,” Cordelia whispered. “We’ll get out.” Staring into Angel’s eyes she asked, “How did you know to go here?”

“I explored this building inside and out. Just in case I needed to leave in a hurry. I found this room on one of my explorations,” Angel explained.

The pair stood in silence as the last vestiges of the explosion died down. The earth stopped shaking. The sounds of thunder ceased echoing. A single heartbeat between two individuals marked the only sound.

Angel made a very unmanly ‘eek’ of surprise when Cordelia enveloped him in a hug. “I’m so glad you’re back.” If Angel breathed, he would need to do it right about now. Cordelia clung to him tightly. Angel so wanted to enjoy the contact, but he wouldn’t allow himself to. Gently, he broke the embrace.

“Glad to be back,” he said. Angel hoped he sounded convincing. From Cordelia’s look, he decided he didn’t. “Come on,” he said, wanting to avoid a lecture. “Let’s get to work on moving those rocks.”

*********

For several hours the duo worked to free themselves from the shelter. They finally succeeded.

When they finally crawled from the room, they were able to survey the tunnels. Angel was right, the tunnels did survive the brunt of the blow. In fact, it seemed that most of the fallen stones decided to drop in front of the bomb shelter’s opening. Cordelia didn’t fail to make note of that.

“Would you rather have taken your chances we’d make it?” Angel asked.

“Not really,” Cordelia mumbled. Angel almost smiled at her child-like response. Almost.

Angel led the way through the darkened tunnels. After what was probably a walk of several city blocks, they came to a steel door. With a strong tug, Angel jerked the door opened.

“Sewer? Eww.”

“We’ll be in there only long enough to get to a manhole,” Angel assured her. Hopping into the wet, dark sewage tunnels, the pair only had to walk another block before they reached a manhole.

Climbing up first, Angel easily flipped the cover to the side. From the smell, the vampire could tell that the sun had just set. Angel jumped up into the alley, and then helped pull Cordelia to the surface. When the two walked into the street, they were amazed at the sight.

There was nothing left of Kelemoke’s palace. The only thing to mark the past existence of the large and stretching building was the rubble that scattered for blocks. Firetrucks, ambulances, and police cars surrounded the scene.

“Oh my God,” Cordelia said. “It’s like a war zone.”

“That’s because it is,” Angel said solemnly. “Come on. Let’s go find the others.”

***********

At Cordelia’s apartment, the gang waited in silence. None knew what to say. For a while they batted around ideas about how to deal with Diaz, but that conversation died down. They mainly just sat and hoped that their friends would arrive.

“Y’know what would be great?” Willow asked. “Call INS and sick them on that Diaz bastard. I could alter his visa to say it expired. Get them to get him out of the country.”

Gunn sat in a recliner, Fred resting her head on his shoulder as she sat in his lap. “Sure,” he said. “Go for it.”

The room fell into silence again. When the doorbell rang, everyone started at the loud noise. Willow stood quickly and went for the door. But before she reached it, she had seconds thoughts. “Dennis,” she called. “Who is it?”

The phantom began to knock excitedly on the coffee table. A rush of air was felt as the ghost sprinted to the door. The door bolts were quickly unlocked and the door flew open.

Excited shouts filled the previously silent room as the gang rushed to greet Cordelia and Angel. Cordelia eagerly accepted the hugs that everyone offered, but the vampire hung back from the crowd. He smiled slightly as the Seer was engulfed in the crowd.

“We’re glad you’re safe,” Gunn said for the group.

“Yeah!” Fred said anxiously. “Did you see that explosion? Where have you guys been?”

“No, I didn’t see the explosion. I sure as hell felt it though. We escape into some tunnels and hid in a bomb shelter or something that was underneath the compound. It just took a while to dig out.”

While everyone continued to pay attention to Cordelia, Angel took the opportunity to slip away. He needed someplace dark, someplace where he could brood about what a monster he was.

Cordelia had no intention of letting him do that. As Willow and Tara gave her a group hug, her eyes followed the vampire that both tried to kill her, and tried to save her. Cordelia knew him to well. She knew what Angel was thinking. She knew he wanted to reflect on the things he’d done.

Cordelia removed herself from all the hugs and followed the vampire. The gang knew that they needed to talk, so they busied themselves with talk about how they saved the day and on how to deal with Diaz.

Cordelia found him in the bedroom by the moonlit window, sitting in a cheap rocking chair she bought at a garage sale. The vampire was fully aware of her presence. After years of working with him, she knew his mannerisms, most of them anyway. He had a habit of stiffening his shoulders slightly when someone entered a room that he alone occupied.

“This is a great chair,” he said softly. “I used to have a rocker. Bought it in London around 1843. It was an impulse buy. The thing lasted about two weeks. Darla ended up smashing me over the head with it after a squabble.”

“You vampires, I tell ya, you’re crazy creatures. I never said it before, but I always hoped you kids could work out your problems.”

Angel fell silent. The vampire continued to stare out the window, the moonlight glowing over his face. Cordelia couldn’t stand it.

“Knock it off, Vampire. I’m not going to tolerate your fucking brooding.” Angel’s eyes locked onto her face. Good, she thought, she had his attention.

“You’ll listen to what I say, and then we’ll begin to move on, you got it?” Angel continued to stare at her, but Cordelia could see that spark of attention in his eyes. “I know what you are, what you’re capable of. I know the evil you can cause. I’d seen it before this ordeal, so had Willow.

“But in the time that we’ve worked together, I’ve learned to accept the demon as a part of you. I did so because I cared for you, because I loved you. I owed you that love, because you were probably the first person to ever accept me for what I was.

“Kelemoke told me that at your core that you are a vicious monster. Shut up,” she said when Angel tried to speak. “I don’t believe that. It isn’t the demon that defines who you are. The demon is inside all vampires. What defines who you are is the soul, not the demon. I’ve seen what your soul is capable of doing. I’ve seen the incredible good that you’ve done. You’re soul is a good one, no matter what you might think.

“What you’re thinking is this: I want to die. I deserve to die. Be quiet!” she silenced him again. “That’s bullshit. You lost your soul. You had it ripped from your body. The events that transpired afterwards are not your fault.

“So I will not listen to you brood over things beyond your control. And I will hear nothing, and I mean NOTHING, about you wanting to die. I told you back in that building, we have a purpose in this world. We were meant to be together on this. Without out you, what point is there to any of it?”

Cordelia flopped down on her bed, exhausted from her tirade. Dust and dirt coated her hair and skin. Her wrists were rubbed raw from trying to escape the handcuffs he had placed on her. But her eyes held a deep passion and conviction for what she was saying.

“Cordelia…” he began.

“No, Angel,” Cordelia interrupted. She crawled from the bed and knelt before the vampire. “You have to listen to me. I NEED you Angel. Because all we’ve done, all the good we’ve done in this city means shit if you back out now. I can’t do my job without MY Champion. I need you Angel. Not just because of the mission, but because I love you.”

Angel sucked in a long breath. He wanted to refuse her, to deny what she was saying. He was worthless, a monster at best. But her eyes, God, her eyes. They made him want to believe. In the end, his decision came down to one simple truth. He couldn’t refuse her anything.

“Okay,” Angel agreed softly. “I’ll live. For you.”

Those were the words she wanted. The tears that had barely been kept back flowed freely then. Angel slid down into the floor next to his Seer. Gently, he wrapped his arms around her, holding her close as the tears continued to fall.

“I’m so sorry,” Angel whispered in her ear. “I hope you forgive me someday.”

Cordelia clutched the vampire tighter. “I already have. I hope that you forgive yourself.”

Angel held onto Cordelia like she was his lifeline. Hell, he just practically said she was. “I’ll try,” Angel promised her. “I’ll try.”

EPILOGUE

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