Breathe Again 11-12

Part 11

“Fuck, fuck-a-duck…fuck, fuck-a-duck…” 

Cordy had once come across the word ‘Lalochezia,’ in a magazine, of all places. The definition of it apparently means: ‘Emotional discharge gained by uttering indecent or filthy words.  Surprisingly, her current mantra actually seemed to help to — admittedly – a tiny degree, and although the pain was still blinding, she’d quote the whole vulgar dictionary over and over again if it gave her the slightest ease.

Cordy sighed, a shudder working through her aching body, before opening her eyes and finally having a look at her reflection in the mirror above the washbasin. She couldn’t remember walking into the bathroom after having her head put through a mental blender, whilst simultaneously hot lava poured in through the gaping crack rending her skull. 
Maybe she’d crawled? It hurt too much to think about the how’s right now.

Rigid with pain, she stared through sore, gritty eyes at her reflection; too wrung out to even get upset over the fact that her makeup was totally ruined. Blood smeared over her chin, and was still tricking at a sluggish pace from her nose. She didn’t need to check her favourite pink blouse. That had bitten the dust minutes- or hours before.

Fuck, fuck-a…” the words caught in her throat, along with stifled sobs. Nope. Wasn’t working any more. Holding one shaking hand to her head, Cordy reached down and turned on the cold tap; changed her mind with a shudder and instead turned on the hot. Just the word ‘cold’ sent added bolts of spearing pain through her skull. As the water ran over her hand, she watched absently as her blood rinsed from her skin and swirled around the drain — then her head exploded with pain again.

It took her a moment to realize the loud crash hadn’t been her brain coming apart as her upper arm was captured, her body jerked around much too fast for her stomach to deal with — crap! Just enough time to turn her head and throw up on the floor, hitting one of the leather clad arms holding her a little too firmly.

Angel grimaced and took a step back, but refused to release his trembling seer. “Cordy?” He whispered hoarsely, dipping his head in an attempt to get a clearer view of her face. Eventually, the world righted itself and bloodshot eyes lifted to his, and as he took in the grey-tinged pallor, the dried tears and blood smeared mouth and chin, he gasped aloud.

That involuntary sound pulled Cordy out of her stupor, and hazel eyes narrowed with attempted annoyance. “Did it even occur to you that I might be doing…other stuff in my bathroom? Sheesh, Angel, intrude much?” Her voice shook, but she was beyond caring right now. By the look of her door, which was now drunkenly leaning against the wall from one hinge, it wouldn’t be closing properly anytime soon. Concerned brown eyes shot to hers, and for a moment, a flicker of apology shone through.

“Dennis called, we were worried-” he began defensively.

“It was just a vision, God, like I haven’t had one of them a zillion times before – and don’t even think of asking me to apologize for barfing all over your nice leather. You shouldn’t have grabbed me like that.” Reaching up, Cordy peeled his hand away and yanked the sleeve of his jacket under the tap; inwardly glad she’d only had soup earlier. “The mystery of the carrot,” she hoarsely muttered, rinsing the remaining goop from the leather, all the time absently aware of his dark gaze raking her averted face.

As soon as she’d finished, Angel rescued his arm and stood waiting while she bent down to rinse out her mouth, swiping at her chin as she did so. As she straightened, he reached out to tilt up her chin, whispering sorry at her wince and ‘jeez’ when his sudden movement jarred her.

“Cordy… Jesus…” swallowing hard, he leaned down to pull a handful of sheets from the toilet roll and wiped away the moisture and then dabbed at her still oozing nose.

Reaching up, Cordy halted his ministrations. “The vision. I need to tell-” a cool finger pressed against her mouth and she frowned up at him.

“That can wait.”

“No it can’t”

“This is more important.”

“No, it really isn’t.”



They faced off for a tense moment and then with a harrumph, Cordy pushed past him, leaving him standing there still holding the bloody tissue as she made her way to the lounge on trembling legs.

Ignoring their gasps of concern at the train wreck Cordy knew they were seeing, she fixed her eyes on Wes; fully aware that the vampire had followed quickly behind her and now stood a little too close for comfort. “Two spiny greeny-grey demons oozing God know what out of their…” her brow crinkled, “mouths? Must be. Anyway, they’re gonna gatecrash a teen party at the campus — what?” Almost snarling as a hand wrapped around her upper arm and gently tugged.

He still could feel the fine tremor going through her, as well as the slight sway of her upper body. “You need to sit. Now” For a moment, she stared blankly at Angel before shaking her head and letting out a sharp bark of laughter.

“I have plenty of time for sitting after I tell you guys about the vision.” She turned back to Wes who still stood a few feet from her half-open front door alongside Gunn.

“We know the place, Cordelia. How long do we have?” Wes quietly asked. Inwardly he was tearing into shreds at the sight of her, but knew he must concentrate on the vision. It was difficult not to think of her as one of the victims they’d regularly saved: shaken, blood smeared across her face and clothes, and as pale as death.

“Um, 40 minutes — maybe less. You need to go now.” Pulling away from Angel’s light hold, Cordy looked up at him with a deep frown when he continued to stand there even as the other turned to exit. “Angel? Go already.”

He shook his head. “I’m not going.” The other men stopped dead in their tracks and turned back round.

“What? Yes, you are, dumbass.” Cordy took a step back in surprise. “Remember this?” she pointed to her head. “You kill the baddies, and I feel better?” Angel swallowed hard but shook his head determinedly. “That’s what we do.” She reminded him, her voice hoarse.

“I’m staying- I’m not gonna leave you like this.” He glanced over to Wes and Gunn apologetically. “They can do this fine without me-“

“Hold up a damn well minute!” Her skull was threatening to explode with the pain, and he wasn’t helping at all. “You’re back now, right?” He nodded, a small frown of confusion marred his pale brow. “Good. So no more leaving us to fight alone.” Wes stepped forward hesitantly.

“It’s alright Cordelia, we’ll-“

“NO! It’s not alright!” Keeping her gaze locked on Angel’s even as she replied. “There are two — incredibly massive, mean and powerful demons in this mix, and it’s not okay at all.” The agony she suffered was for the Mission — for him! And he was still just standing there, arguing about how he wanted to stay and hold her frikken hand?

“Cordelia, I can’t just l-”

“Just go already! This is your frikken redemption! Go earn it, for chrissakes.” Shocked silence followed her harshly shouted words. The vampire seemed to deflate before their eyes. He swivelled on his heel and walked out; the other two quickly moving out of his way.

Wes glanced at an equally shocked Gunn before taking a hesitant back. “Yes…well… We’ll be back shortly, Cordelia. Try to get some rest….” He elbowed the young man standing next to him, whose face was reluctantly stretching into a smile of admiration.

“Huh? Yeah…. What he said.” As they exited the apartment, Gunn spoke almost conversationally. “We’d better keep a sharp eye on him tonight. I figure he might be off his game.”

Wes nodded in agreement. “Yes, he may very well be a little…distracted.”

The moment Dennis swung the door closed behind them, Cordy sagged; arms dropping limply to her side. Shuffling like an old woman, she headed back to the bathroom to attempt to repair her traffic accident face. “Wow…. The power of the ‘f’ word. Who’d have figured?” She murmured under her breath. At the same time, attempting to scrub the vision of his deeply hurt gaze from her mind, along with the crushing guilt over her too-harsh words.


“Shit! I need an invite. Now, guys!” Angel growled aloud, thumping futilely against the invisible barrier.

“Kinda busy right now,” Gunn grunted as he attempted to hold off one of the demons that had its sights on a cowering young girl. Angel looked on helplessly, turning his head to watch Wes avoid blows from spine-covered knuckles whilst attempting to get in a few punches of his own; his crossbow in two pieces several feet away.

“He could be dead already!” Wes breathlessly called out, ducking again. Angel just looked at him with a raised eyebrow, the pads of his fingers on the hand pressed against the barrier rapped a telling tattoo… “Oh… Right,” Wes shrugged with a sheepish grin -and ducked again.

“This your room?” He grabbed hold of each human fleeing for the door, releasing them as they shook their heads and struggled to get loose. Countless minutes passed by before he finally grabbed the right one. “Invite me in!” the student stuttered out the words, then ran as soon as the strange-looking guy released his sweater.

“Finally!” almost falling through the doorway in his haste, Angel leapt onto the back of one of the demons, groaning as spikes sliced into his chest and gut. Grimacing with pain, he hooked a heavy arm around the demon’s throat and wrenched it back. It roared and stumbled a few steps, swinging around and throwing him off.

“You can’t kill them that way! — Through the kidneys!” Wes panted tiredly as he ducked under another swing, unbalancing himself in the process. Vulnerable, his arms rose instinctively over his head as the snarling demon raised a razor-sharp fist and brought it crashing down. Life flashing before his eyes, Wes managed to move off a fraction to the side at the last second, almost choking on his tongue when the spines embedded with a crunch into the wooden floor; the fist brushing the side of his head.

Then the arm faltered and folded, the demon groaned and toppled forward until Wes oophed as its full dead weight landed on him. Looking over its spiny shoulder, Wes faintly grinned as he caught sight of Gunn standing over them with a bloody axe. “Thank you.” He gasped out.

“Welcome.” Gunn glanced around, nodding his bald head with satisfaction on finding the room completely clear of students, dead or alive. Leaning over, he helped Wes roll the corpse off and pulled the man to his feet, dragging him to a clear spot against the wall.

“The kidneys, Angel!” Wes called out on seeing the vampire slashing away at the increasingly bloody demon, whose roars only intensified with pain and anger.

“I know,” he replied distractedly, agilely avoiding the hands that lashed out blindly. Ramming his sword deep into the demon’s gut, he twisted and pulled upwards. It let out a scream of pain and staggered back, spiny hands clutching its middle as greyish guts spilled out.

Roaring in agony it lifted its head, cupped claws futilely trying to push in his guts, cover the gaping wound and swing with the other. Angel ducked, rolled, and sprang to his feet behind the demon, drop-kicking it in the back. The added momentum took it forward to crash into the wall opposite. Taking his time, Angel jiggled his sword and approached it, ramming the steel blade deep into its lower back.

“Finally.” Gunn muttered, stretching his arms above his head until his spine clicked satisfyingly. “Thought we’d be here all night.” Wes nodded absently, watching the vampire through tired eyes as he cleaned his sword on a shredded drape littering the floor.

“No rest for the good, never mind the wicked,” he muttered. Gunn looked at him enquiringly. “Clean up time,” Wes sighed, looking askance at the two corpses. “What do you think? Burn, bury or dismember?”

“All the above,” Gunn grouched, heaving a heavy sigh and moving over to the nearest one.


“Aren’t we going to Cordelia’s?” Wes asked, glancing over his shoulder to catch Gunn’s gaze, but the younger man shrugged, looking just as surprised.

“No. Hotel.” Angel replied, adding, “I thought we should get cleaned up before going over.” He glanced down at his torn and bloodied shirt, grimacing at the thought of Cordy seeing the state of him right now. The other two didn’t look much better. “Everyone okay with that?”

His very tone shouted ‘tough’, but they weren’t going to argue. The physical result of the brunette’s earlier vision was still deeply ingrained into their minds.

“Makes sense. No need to stress her out.” Gunn grunted his agreement. Angel’s foot slipped on the pedal and, with a low curse, reached down into the footwell, and yanked hard; his hand coming up holding a broken spike.

“That bastard ruined my Cats ©,” he muttered and flicked the spike towards Wes, who caught. Bringing it closer to his face, he closely scrutinized it and then lobbed it over to Gunn, who grinned and slipped it into his jacket pocket.


They were more than a little surprised to find the lounge in darkness when they arrived. Angel immediately checked Cordy’s bedroom, finding her curled up in the centre of her bed asleep, a hot water bottle held tightly against her chest.

She’d obviously showered, and he was glad to see her nosebleed stopped. But her face was still deathly pale; shadows now unhidden and stark against her skin without the cover of her usual perfect makeup. Angel stood over her for several minutes, giving in to the urge to run a finger along her cheek. With a shaky sigh, he tucked a strand of silky hair behind her ear before straightening up’

With a soft sigh, Cordy opened her eyes and drowsily looked up at the dark shadow looming over her. “Angel? Is everything okay?” she started to sit up, but he caught her shoulder and eased her back.

“We’re fine. Go back to sleep,” he whispered as he gave into the urge to sit on the edge of the bed. Cordy nodded, but her eyes remained open. After a few seconds, she reached up and touched his cheek, softly running her fingers down the cool skin before resting against his jaw.

“About earlier… I’m sorry I was such a bitch,” the regret in her voice matched that of her eyes, and he caught her hand under his and pressed it against his skin.

“You don’t need to apologize.” He heaved a sigh himself and momentarily leaned into her touch, fingers sliding lower to curl around her wrist and smooth tiny circles into the soft flesh over her thrumming pulse. “You were right. I wouldn’t have gone- and I needed to be reminded why I had to.” Pulling away her hand, he dropped a kiss on the inner side of her wrist and released it.

“Get some sleep. I’ll be in the lounge.” With a slight nod, she closed her eyes. As soon as Angel was sure she’d drifted off, he rose to his feet and left the dark room.

Five minutes after joining the others and reassuring them she was okay, Wes and Gunn left looking relieved, but as bone weary as he felt himself.

Guilt chewed him out when his eye caught sight of the bathroom door. When he’d raced in earlier ahead of the others, his senses had caught the pungent smell of Cordy’s blood, along with small splashes on the hardwood floor.

Privacy had honestly been the last thing on his mind when he’d put a foot to the bathroom door. A completely pointless action, considering it hadn’t been locked in the first place. With a silent promise to himself to fix it later, Angel walked into the lounge. Removing his boots first, then shedding his jacket and shirt, he stretched out on the couch in pants and white undershirt.

“Thanks, Dennis,” he murmured, grabbing the pillow and blanket sent his way and settled back; wincing, as the move pulled at his partially healed wounds.

There was a time when Cordy wouldn’t have rested until she’d checked them all out for injuries. The very fact she hadn’t, told of her rapidly worsening condition. Angel tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable; the need to hear her faint, regular heartbeat in the next room made him fight the exhaustion that had grown over the passing of the day.

The warmth in Cordy’s expression aimed his way earlier tugged at his heart. It seemed so long since she’d looked at him that way, and he couldn’t help but feel hesitantly optimistic. The earlier fight eventually took its toll, and he finally fell into a dreamless sleep.

Part 12

Cordy cracked a wide yawn and then winced as the pain of her vision lingered. Glancing at her alarm clock, she bit back a groan. More than twelve hours had passed since it hit, but the ache behind her eyes didn’t feel that much better.

Quietly entering the lounge and taking in the sight of the sleeping vampire sprawled on his back on the couch, her conscience over last night’s blow-out at least felt a little lighter. Awakening to find him hovering had brought her to a decision: enough of the conflict between them. For one, she was just too darn tired, and each tense moment took too much out of her.

So she had issues, on top of everything else. They now felt a little …wrong. Cordelia knew that she should be concentrating on dealing with what the coming weeks or months had in store — not instead making things even more difficult for her friends. And Angel. Although still feeling the well of hurt when looking at him, she couldn’t deny those other feelings that ran even more profound.

All last night had done was end up hurting both of them, and was it worth it? It was time to try to tuck away those personal grievances and move on. After all, a simple friendship wouldn’t be such a bad thing, would it?

Not, sadly, the way it used to be, though. That relationship had crashed and burned a while back. Any thoughts of more were just a pipe dream, anyway. Even without the whole ‘happy = his soulless alter ego, Angel’s propensity to abandon her – and the guys — had told her all she’d needed to know about where his priorities lay. She just had to accept it and move on.

Her feet unconsciously took her closer to the couch. Angel’s strong, angular face had softened in sleep. He almost looked as innocent as a babe. Her mouth tilted up in gentle amusement at the thought. Dark hair sleep-tousled, head turned towards the cushion, stretching out his thick neck; powerful shoulders pale and stark against the chocolate fabric of the couch, and a white undershirt that barely hid the defined muscles of his chest.

As her eyes wandered, not realising that her eyes were hungrily eating him up, a pink mark peeking from the neckline of his vest caught her attention. It looked raw and angry, and Cordy instantly knew this was a wound from last night’s fight. — And what had she done? Crawled wearily to her bed before they returned, without any thought to injuries he or the others may have sustained. Guilt and concern had her dropping to her knees next to the couch, a tentative hand reaching out to pull the neckline lower. She gasped at the viciousness of the wound and traced her fingers carefully over it, and then long, cool fingers encircled her wrist. Her head shot up, startled eyes meeting drowsy brown.

“Cor?” his sleep-roughened voice jerked her out of the deer-in-the-headlights trance, and her eyes dropped back to the wound on his chest. His fingers relaxed their hold, but still kept the connection.

“You’re hurt,” she lifted her other hand and stroked the intact skin around the wound, feeling his muscles tense beneath the pads of her fingers. “Still painful?” her eyes rose to meet his again, her fingers still unconsciously caressing his cool flesh.

To wake up finding the woman who now resided in his heart kneeling next to him and stroking his skin was more than pleasant, and for a moment, his fingers flexed around her wrist. Her touch stirred more than his emotions, unfortunately. “They’re not so bad,” he replied huskily, grateful for the thick blanket that covered him from the waist down. “Most of them have already gone.”

Instantly, her captured hand was tugged from his hold as she reached for the hem of his vest. “They? There are more than one? Why didn’t you say anything last night?” a frown marred her brow as she carefully lifted the soft white material, gasping on finding several nasty wounds peppering his skin. “Oh, my God! What did you do, jump on its back?” her concerned eyes flicked to his face, and he shrugged.

“I didn’t see the spikes until they barbecued me,” he defended himself, and her eyes closed in mortification, pulling down his vest carefully and leaning back. Instantly, Angel felt the loss of her touch.

“This is all my fault,” Cordy’s tone high with self-anger. “I should have told you guys that these demons were like mutant versions of Sonic.” Angel propped himself up on one elbow, a slight frown of confusion shadowing his features.

“You know; the action game Gunn plays all the time. The blue hedgehog -oh, it doesn’t matter,” she huffed out, shaking her head at his still-clueless expression. “The point being, I didn’t tell you enough last night.” Angel reached out a hand to stay the movement when she started to rise to her feet.

“Hey… don’t worry about it.” Cordy fidgeted in his light grasp. “We don’t expect you to reel off a minutely detailed description,” he assured soothingly, “especially when you’re hurting so much.” Silence blanketed the room again as both recalled the events of the night before.

The eruption had acted as a catharsis, letting most of the steaming anger and hurt out, leaving her calmer and able to think past her bitterness. The pain eased, leaving her a feeling a little lighter and more able to see past herself to the others, including Angel. But recalling her overly harsh behaviour towards him, even though he hadn’t been referring to that, and him blaming it purely on the vision pain, brought fresh guilt rushing to the surface.

This feeling pulled her away from his side, and she rose unsteadily to her feet. “I’m making coffee; do you want some? — Or maybe something to eat?” she half turned away before glancing back. “Oh… do you have anything here?” she chewed her lip anxiously; something else to add to her Not Thinking of Others list.

Angel nodded and carefully sat up, swinging his long legs off the couch. He quickly went through his last words, inwardly trying to figure out what he’d said wrong to have her backing off so abruptly -the visions. Maybe it was too soon to get into that right now, he decided, before answering her question. “I brought some over last night- and yes, something to eat would be good. Thanks.” He called after her retreating figure; and then sighed heavily, flopping back against the cushions.

Angel couldn’t complain — not by a long shot. Except for that moment of unease, they’d finally had a normal angst-free conversation, and he knew he hadn’t imagined the concern in her eyes when she’d checked him over,

It seemed that Cordy had decided to set the pace towards some compromise, and he was all for going along with it and seeing where it would take them. Angel seriously doubted that this turnabout was more than an unspoken offer of friendship, but hell, he was more than willing to accept the olive branch.

Even if, deep down, he wanted so much more.


As soon as she’d finished her coffee, Cordy disappeared into the lounge, giving a faint smile as she’d risen from her chair.

They’d barely talked, but the more leisurely atmosphere between them had made the quiet intervals almost companionable. Gulping down the last bit of blood, Angel rose to his feet, reaching out for her empty coffee mug and turned to the sink to wash them both out, and then he checked the fridge.

Eggs, milk, juice and several cartons of blood were all that graced the shelves, and with a mental note to collect some groceries next time he was out, he grabbed the eggs and milk and routed out a pan. “Scrambled eggs it is, then,” he murmured. At least it would do until he stocked up.

Once the fluffy concoction was placed on a plate and covered, he left the kitchen to find her. As he walked through the lounge after rapping and calling softly through her bedroom door, Angel came to a sudden halt.

The door that had been hanging off one hinge last night lay flush with the doorpost- and closed. He absently scratched his head, wondering if that fight had given him a concussion, making him forget he’d fixed the door. As he turned around to walk away, the door gave a warning creak and crashed to the floor. Swivelling on his heel, Angel stared at the sight of his seer standing just inside the bathroom with a hand pressed over her mouth. She looked up from the door and dropped her hand with a sheepish grin. “Oops.”

“Are you okay?” movement came back after the initial shock of the crash, and he walked forward, concern etched on his face.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Cordy pointed vaguely to the door before adding, “Dennis propped it up for me while I was getting ready. I kind of forgot when I went to open it,” her cheeks pinked with embarrassment even as her grin widened with amusement. Angel couldn’t help but return it before stooping down and lifting the door with ease, taking it into the hall and propping it carefully against the wall.

“I’ll fix it after I’ve dressed,” Angel promised, turning to look at her hesitantly. “I’m sorry about that.” He seemed so full of remorse that Cordy’s grin softened and reached out a reassuring hand to pat his forearm, then flushed an even deeper pink before dropping it to her side.

“It’s okay. No big- Mmm, something smells good,” sniffing the air appreciatively. “Eggs a la Angel?” he nodded with a slight shrug.

“It’s on the stove, so it should still be warm. I’ll just…” indicating the bathroom and then stood there unmoving.

She stood facing him with a slight frown, wondering why he was waiting. Then it dawned on her,” Oh, right; you need me to move.” An unexpected giggle escaped her lips as she sidestepped, ducking her head in slight embarrassment before moving past him and down the hall. He watched her go with a soft smile lighting his face.

It was good to see colour in her cheeks — especially as he’d been the one to put it there, and right at that moment, his world seemed almost complete. Cordy’s 180-degree turnaround still knocked him off-balance — but in a good way.

The smile broadened as he walked into the bathroom, deciding to keep his ablutions to a minimum, so he could get a quick start on rehanging the door.


Wes arrived, followed shortly after by Gunn as Angel brushed his teeth. By the time he’d thrown on his shirt and laced up his boots before joining them in the kitchen, they were sitting around the table chatting away.

No one brought up what had happened the night before, and Angel took his cue from them. Wes did take a moment to look from one to the other with curiosity at the significant change in vibes coming off his previously tension-ridden friends, which quickly turned to relief. Gunn, being Gunn, just went with the roll.

Half an hour and a fill-up of tea and coffee, Cordy looked across the table at Wes. “Angel said Dennis called you last night.” “How did he manage to do that?” She took a quick sip of her coffee.

“Well…” Wes leaned back in his seat with a faint smile on his face. “At first, it was silent, and then he tapped out a bit of Morse code against the handset,” he divulged. Three pairs of wide eyes looked at him.

“Really? Wow! Dennis knows Morse Code?” Cordy looked impressed.

You know Morse code?” Gunn instead asked Wes, then grinned, waving a hand. “Forget I asked that; ‘course you would.” He snickered; as Angel asked what Dennis had  ‘tapped out’.

Wes took a long sip of his tea before answering, an amused grin spreading across his face. “He said, “why would I have to use Morse Code when you have caller ID- ouch!” he yelped as Cordy leaned across the table and whacked his arm.

“Thank God for Caller ID” Angel lifted his mug in a mock toast. The others clinked their mugs against it and drank with grins on their faces.

“And Thank God for Dennis!” Cordy added. Mugs clinked, and after a companionable pause, Gunn shifted in his seat and turned to look at the vampire quizzically.

Angel fidgeted under his intense gaze for a moment before asking, “What?”

“Nothing,” Gunn replied. He turned away with a shrug and slumped back in his chair, then immediately straightened up and looked back at Angel. “I was just wonderin’…how come you don’t burn or turn to dust when you say the Lord’s name.” Cordy sniggered, repeating ‘Lords’, innocently smiling when Gunn shot her a half-hearted glare.

Angel took a deep gulp of his coffee before answering. “Certain words said aloud can have great power, as we know, but as for that, I don’t know  – do you, Wes?”

“Looking up from his contemplation of the bottom of his teacup, Wes glanced around at the enquiring faces turned in his direction. “Why do you always ask me?” he instead replied.

“Because you’re the one with the book smarts, Watcherman,” Gunn replied with a grin.

“I think you overestimate my knowledge sometimes,” Wes ran his finger along the collar of his shirt before straightening his spectacles.

“Is that your ‘book smart’ way of saying you don’t know either?” Cordy asked with a teasing twinkle in her eyes.

Wes nodded without thinking and then huffed. “I’m sure there is some explanation out there over that point, but I have yet to read or hear of it,” He conceded. “Considering how much the word God is used in the English language nowadays, I could see it being an advantage on our part if just saying His Name combusted a vampire.”

“Maybe for you,” Angel muttered before finishing off his coffee. Cordy reached out and patted the hand resting on the tabletop, commiserating.

“Well, it hasn’t happened, so don’t you worry your pretty little head about it,” she said in a teasing tone, then rose to her feet, telling the others it was about time she got dressed.

As soon as she’d left the kitchen, Angel turned to the others and asked, “Do you think my head’s small?” Wes and Gunn groaned aloud and rose to their feet, making a mass exodus. “Guys? I’m just asking!”


After sitting around for an hour doing squat, Cordy looked around her lounge, feeling bored. Wes slouched in a chair, avidly reading the supply of books that were originally his. By the look of them, they’d been read many times by him as well as people of the past, similarly afflicted with the love of reading stuffy grubby old books. Angel was engrossed in polishing an equally old -looking knife that he must have brought with him. Even Gunn was currently browsing her bookcase after spending several hours on his game and occasionally chatting to her and the others. It had been great to relax with her friends, but was also beginning to feel a healthy dose of cabin fever. 

Cordy’s thoughts drifted back to the moment she woke up and her decision to allow the vampire a reprieve from her recently acerbic attitude, and she was surprised to find that it was easier than she’d thought it would be. This realization caused her to frown confused, utterly unaware that her preoccupied eyes still rested on the subject of her thoughts.

She just had to remind herself constantly that this was purely a friend-thing, no letting him in so totally this time. The last time still made her heart clench and ache. Cordy couldn’t honestly see herself climbing out of yet another pit of despair if he decided to leave again. The ever-present throbbing behind her eyes had, thankfully, eased with the loss of tension between them. Angel seemed to be trying so hard to make things easier, and it made her more determined to bite her tongue in the future and try to cut him a break.


Angel shifted in his seat under her unreadable expression, wondering what had happened in the last few seconds to make her first seem content and then frown with a shadow darkening her eyes as she stared at him. The gradual sensation of hope he’d been feeling, since finding her kneeling beside him, had continued to grow. For the first time in weeks, the cold ache around his heart had eased, with the hope that they’d finally be able to move forward.

But now, watching her face with a whole gamut of emotions running beneath the surface since that frown, Angel was beginning to wonder if he’d rushed the fences somehow. Maybe he should back off just a little? If Cordy felt he was trying too hard, the breakthrough of this morning could end up being nothing but a flash in the pan.

He was about to rise to his feet when Cordy blinked and blurted out: “As fun as it’s been so far, shouldn’t we go to the Hyperion and catch up on work?”

Wes raised his head from one of the old reference books he’d found (that were his) on her bookshelf and lifted a brow. “I’m working,” he indicated the book in his lap. Cordy merely rolled her eyes.

“You’d probably find a chance to do work on a Ferris wheel”. She rose to her feet quickly, “I meant me. As you guys already know, I have a low attention span and am bored out of my brains just sitting around here doing nothing.”

“Yeah, because sitting around the hotel all day is so different,” Gunn absently replied, not bothering to look up from the trashy romance novel he’d grabbed half an hour earlier. Both Wes and Angel stifled snorts of amusement at her gasp of outrage, openly grinning when she went over to the young man, whipped the book out of his hands and whacked him around the head with it.

“I’ll have you know I work — Just look at my desk! Full to brimming with work.”

Gunn shrugged, pointedly rubbing the side of his head.

“Yes, Cordelia… ‘Work’ that is still currently pending, if I’m not mistaken,” Wes drily responded.

Huffing loudly, she turned her back on her boss and rose a fine eyebrow towards Angel. He instantly straightened his features into bland.

“Are you Just gonna sit there and let them insult me?” she asked, and the vampire shifted uncomfortably in his seat. What to do…? What do I say…?

“I … don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go in today,” he replied, going for diplomacy. “You’ve had a rough night, and should be taking it easy.”

Thrown by his words, Cordy gapped for a moment and then folded her arms tightly across her chest. “I’m fine now, and I need to get out of here for a while, Angel, and no matter what these back-stabbers say,” sending a fulminous glare their way, “I have filing and stuff to do.”

Before Angel could respond, Gunn reached over and grabbed the book back from her, then frowned in annoyance. “Dammit, girl, you lost my page!” he glared up at her. “I was just gettin’ to the good bit, too.” She rolled her eyes.

“See? I’m not the only one who needs to leave for sanity’s sake. Gunn’s stooped to reading about ivory breasts spilling out of the corsets of so-called innocent virgins.” She cupped her breasts, pushing them up and together, completing the damsel effect by pouting her lips and striking a pose.

Gunn laughed, half annoyed, and then continued with his reading. Wes was oblivious, his eyes still glued to his book, and Angel dragged his gaze away with difficulty. They’d only just settled their differences, and he had a distinct feeling that if Cordy had seen his lecherous expression, it wouldn’t have ended well.

“I still think it’s too soon,” he finally spoke as she dropped her arms and sighed with pushed her lips out in a sullen pout.

“Soon shmoon.” She replied tartly. “Anyway, I wasn’t asking for permission.” Cordy turned on her heel and walked quickly over to her bedroom, opening the door, muttering under her breath as she closed it behind her with a sharp click.

Less than a minute passed before Cordy returned with a tan leather jacket on and a matching purse. She proceeded to fill it with the contents of the bag resting on the coffee table, deliberately ignoring the unblinking stare of the vampire in her peripheral vision.

Angel moved closer, a hand reaching out to touch her shoulder lightly. “I think you should stay here today; it’s too soon …” Cordy paused and turned her head to look up at him.

“It was just a vision, Angel,” she finally replied after reading the concern in his dark eyes. “Are you saying my life should come to a standstill because of them?” She couldn’t keep the edge out of her tone and inwardly sighed. So much for turning over a new leaf with the ‘tude. He took a step back and shoved his hands deep in his pockets.

“But they’re not just visions any more. They chew you up and spit you out.” He watched as the line of her spine stiffened before she dipped her head and continued filling her purse.

“They’ve been doing that for a long time. I see no difference to how it is now,” Cordy zipped up the purse abruptly and straightened up. Angel winced but wouldn’t back down, fully aware that the other occupants had turned away on the pretext of putting away books, but the easy atmosphere had drained away in the last few minutes. “Stop trying to rule my life! You’re not my father!” She felt his body tense instantly, the hesitant expression melting away into cold determination.

“You’re not going to work today.” He’d said it. No more hiding behind tentative suggestions, and even as the demand came out of his mouth, Angel knew he’d just blown the truce to pieces.

She stared at him agog for a moment, then her mouth stretched in false amusement. “You’re banning me from your hotel?” Angel opened his mouth to refute that, but she continued. “If that’s what you’re saying, then fine. I’ll just go somewhere else.”

“I didn’t mean that, and you know it,” his word came out clipped as he suppressed the urge to shake her for being so… deliberately twisting his words. His shoulders drooped. Today’s more than pleasant events had a few specific clauses of what he wasn’t, until now, aware.

Cordy eyed him expressionlessly, and then a false smile widened her mouth. “Fine,” she replied. “Then hi ho and off to work we go,” Reaching behind her, Cordy grabbed her purse and then slipped past him, making for the door. Dennis opened it before she got there, and she walked out. “See you downstairs, guys,” she threw over her shoulder before disappearing outside.

A heavy silence settled over the lounge as her heels click-clacked and faded. Angel shook himself and walked over to grab his jacket, his whole body tensing with the need to rush after her, a big no-no with the midday sun blazing down. “Sewers it is, then,” he muttered under his breath, shrugging the soft leather over his broad shoulders.

Lifting a hand to jiggle his keys, Gunn grinned. “Maybe for you. We’re going in the truck. Later,” he winked and followed Cordy.

Wes hesitated, eying the morose vampire for a few seconds before speaking. “I’ll accompany you. My legs could do with a stretch.” Angel quietly refused his offer and told him to go with the others.

With a weary nod, Wes and turned to the door before pausing. “Today has been good, more than I’d hoped possible. Especially after last night, Angel.” He looked over his shoulder and met dark stormy eyes, “but you two still have a way to go.”

Angel stared back, his features enigmatic; then, he blew out a breath and dropped his eyes. “I know that. I just thought…” pausing to rake an unsteady hand through his dark hair. “I’ll see you at the hotel.” Wes lingered for a moment and then sighed and continued out.

Waiting several minutes before finally following, Angel pulled the door behind him and closed it. He heard the bolt slide across on the other side before making his way downstairs to the shaded maintenance hole cover of the sewers, and frowned as the sound reminded him all too clearly that it wouldn’t take a lot for Cordy to close off as securely as her front door had just done.

Stealth was his bag- but softly-softly was something he’d have to work on a bit more.


Sat in between Gunn and Wes, Cordy fidgeted and inwardly cursed her fleeting show of irritation. For all her good intentions, Angel still managed to rub her up the wrong way.

She sighed heavily, drawing curious glances from the men on either side of her.” Are you okay?” forcing a smile on her face, Cordy nodded at Wes, deliberately ignoring the knowing look in his pale blue eyes.

Dammit. It had been a great morning. The family-feel so long missing between herself, Angel, and the others had reawakened after her resolution to rein in her personal feelings, and she didn’t doubt that would continue — even though things had been tense before she left. If Angel could get it into his head that Independence and Cordelia Chase went hand in hand, things would hopefully settle down.

If only she could shove down the mild resentment and irritation at his recent and overwhelming show of concern. Cordy knew instinctively that this wasn’t a “Be nice, show concern and get into her good books” endeavour, but although she felt guilty for having such negative thoughts, it still grated. And, God, strike her down if she ignored the olive branch proffered. That was no longer an option. Just like the others, she wanted what they once had before he left.

Leaving. That was the problem.

The phantom of worry refused to leave her, no matter how hard she tried to tamp it down or how much Miss Rationale whispered in her head that she was paranoid. Angel had always run when the going got tough. And no, she didn’t think it was her being spiteful; it was a fact. Leaving Sunnydale, emotionally separating himself from the others when he went all beigy, and that, last time, although understandable- but three Frikken months?

A small, selfish, and insecure part of her wondered how long Angel would have mourned for her if she’d died from the visions?

“Shall we stop for take out?” Wes’ quiet voice dragged Cordy out of her maudlin thoughts, and even though she’d eaten a few hours earlier, the thought of more food made her belly grumble. Herself and Gunn mutually agreed it was a good idea, and they’d changed direction, and the truck pulled up outside a quaint little diner a few minutes later.

“Uh- what are you doing?” Cordy asked when Wes pulled out his cell and flicked it open.

“Letting Angel know we’ve taken a slight detour.” He replied. Cordy let out a ‘pfft’ and rolled her eyes before snatching the cell from him.

“We’re going to be- what? Fifteen minutes later than we would have been, tops,” snapping the cell shut, she shoved it into his jacket pocket. “We’ve been stuck in traffic longer than that. Stop fussing. Jeeze” Wes opened his mouth and received a glare that caused his body to hunch defensively. Gunn shook his head with a grin before turning to the counter to put in their order.


Angel paced the empty lobby, his agitation growing by the second. Where the hell are they? He wondered for the tenth time. He’d been back fifteen minutes and hadn’t rushed. To his calculations, that meant Gunn’s truck had left Cordy’s apartment around five minutes before him, which would have taken ten minutes at this time of the day. Which meant. Fuck, he needed to get a grip.

Taking a deep cleansing breath, Angel attempted to centre himself, then moved over to the circular couch and flopped onto it. After running fidgety hands through his hair, he caught himself yet again, checking the clock on the far wall. Another five minutes had passed- and now he was getting worried- and feeling guilty about it.

What was it that Cordy had said earlier? “Stop trying to rule my life; geez, you’re not my father!” purposely ignoring the fatherly part, which at the time had almost made him laugh in disbelief. She had no idea; paternal thoughts couldn’t have been further from his mind — he could see why she’d think he was trying to take over. Considering things were still tentative between them, Angel knew he wasn’t helping the situation by being overprotective. He could see it from her perspective now. After three months of absence, showing such a high degree of concern for her welfare immediately afterward; yes, Angel didn’t need to be an expert in psychology to figure out where she was coming from.

Cordy had it all wrong as far as he was concerned, but telling her that hadn’t worked. Knowing her as he did, it didn’t take long to learn that words alone meant nothing in her book. It just took him a while to remember it, is all. Action is what counted. Being a man-pire of action, it should have been easy, but hell. Where to start?

He looked at the clock. Twenty-five minutes had passed now. Was he wrong to be worried? He rubbed his face roughly and let the growl that was working its way up escape his throat. It didn’t help. He knew for a fact that if they walked in now and saw him sitting there, facing the door — also aware his expression was tight with anxiety, it wouldn’t go down well. The need to look busy; appear as if he weren’t nearly off his face with worry had him surging to his feet. The trouble was, once standing, the urge to pace came back.

Enough. Angel glanced down at the outfit he was wearing and admitted it was a little worse for wear. By the time he’d finished, they’d be back. Glancing once again at the clock, Angel cursed a blue streak. Halfway up the stairs, it occurred to him that he wasn’t the only one in the hotel. Fred Burkle was still a resident. Cocking his dark head, he concentrated until he could hear the faintest heartbeat.

Change of clothes. Check on Fred. They would surely be back by the time he returned to the lobby.

He hoped.


Cordelia shifted the bag of food and reached out to pull open the door to the hotel, half expecting a pissed vampire to be directly on the other side. They’d left him at her apartment nearly an hour ago. It had taken them a while to agree on what to order. Bickering like three-year-olds was more like it. She’d won in the end. Pfft. Where Wes, Gunn, and food were concerned, she always won.

Her thoughts came to an abrupt halt on realizing, not only wasn’t Angel on the other side of the door, but nowhere to be seen in the lobby either. Perversely, a twinge of something, maybe irritation, or possibly a twinge of disappointment, hit her. On realizing this, feelings of resentment won out, now aimed at herself. Be consistent, she reminded herself harshly. You can’t have it both ways. The trouble was, in a twisted way, Cordy did want both.

His protecto-guy persona scratched the itch of neediness she never knew she was capable of until he’d crept into her heart. It also reminded her of the lack during his long absence and the ache it left behind. One thing Cordy was one hundred percent sure of; she needed to get a grip!

After rummaging through the take-out bag and grabbing her order, Cordy made her way to her desk, making a concerted effort not to check every corner of the lobby on the way. At least until she sat herself down, then she looked. About to wonder aloud where Angel was, her eyes landed on the carefully laid out leather coat on the back of one of the couches. That answered her unasked question.

But it still niggled that he hadn’t been in the lobby when they’d arrived.

“Has anyone tried to contact Fred’s family yet?” Speak of the devil. Three pairs of eyes lifted and watched as the vampire made his way down the stairs. Wes waited until he’d joined them before replying.

“Actually…. No,”

“Oh. Why not?” The chicken baguette was a millimetre away from Cordy’s open mouth when Angel’s terse response sounded. Placing it carefully back onto the napkin, she swivelled in her seat and pinned him with a glare.

“We were short-staffed, so, busy as hell — emphasis on the hell’.” At his slight flinch and averting eyes, Cordy toned down on the sharp a tad. “Fred talks a lot- a LOT”, she emphasized, “but doesn’t really tell you anything. Well, not anything that makes sense, and time we didn’t have.”

Gunn swallowed down the last of his food that had kept him quiet up to now and hopped down from the counter he’d been lounging on since returning.

“The girl never comes out of her room- and you’d have to have seen all the crazy stuff on the walls?” he shuddered a little before grabbing the take-out bag. “We got her some food. Nearly forgot.” with a deliberately nonchalant shrug, he made for the stairs.

“Fred hasn’t come out of her room since you, um, left, Angel” Wes broke the ensuing uncomfortable silence and could have sworn that the vampire let out a sigh of relief. Cordy had turned back to her baguette and was attacking it almost ferociously. “We did attempt to encourage her to join us, but…” he left the sentence hanging.

Angel slowly nodded. He hadn’t meant to sound accusing. Just that each time he saw the young girl that way freaked him out too. Three months in that room. Hell, was there any difference from hiding in a cave for so long? Fair enough, she now had access to a proper bathroom and real food, but he was just surprised to find her still here.

“I just spoke to her,” he explained, flicking an almost furtive look towards Cordy, who still had her back half turned towards him. “She mentioned that her parents live in Texas.” Cordy did turn to face him then.

“Wow, have you, like, got some kind of magic touch?” Angel frowned, confused. “It took us three days to get her to tell us what toppings she wanted on her pizza,” Cordy explained shortly. “Then you turn up again, and voilà! A couple of visits, and she answers your questions right away.” She turned back to her food. “Maybe I should up and go on a long vacation. Seems to have pretty cool benefits.” as soon as the words were out of her mouth, Cordy felt the hot colour of shame rise from her neck to the hairline. It was a cheap shot, and she didn’t need to look at him to know it had hit the bull’s eye.

Angel shifted and looked at his feet as hurt blossomed in his chest. He darted his gaze up briefly, noting her averted flushed face, teeth chewing her bottom lip. Realizing that she regretted her comment didn’t make him feel any better, and on hearing Wes’ gently chastising “Cordelia,” Angel turned on his heel and walked towards the stairs. “I’ll see if I can get an address.” Wes nodded, unable to hide his discomfort, and watched him climb the stairs with a noticeable slumping of broad shoulders.

“You were right; she liked the tacos,” Gunn declared with a grin as he appeared around the corner. He briefly nodded at Angel as they passed, glancing back with a frown on seeing the vampire’s stormy expression. “What’s up with him?” he asked once settled back on the counter.

Wes glanced at Cordelia, who studiously ignored them both, before letting out a weary sigh. “Don’t ask.”


Taking a deep breath to calm her twanging nerves, Cordy raised a hand and lightly rapped the door.

Then she waited. Shifting from one foot to another, she contemplated the still closed door with a frown. Once upon a time, the knock would have been followed immediately by her entering. Other times, Angel would have opened the door before her knuckles had even connected.

All she knew was that currently, their ‘estrangement’ had never felt so in her face. Glancing down at the mug of warm blood she clutched, Cordy debated whether just to leave it on the floor or take it back downstairs. An annoyed huff left her; the whole point of taking it up was to apologize for earlier.

Since she’d opened her big flappy mouth, there’d been no sign of the vampire for most of the afternoon, and boy, hadn’t she felt meaner by the second? So much for mending fences. What had slipped had been akin to her pulling the wall apart and using one of the pieces to jab him where it hurt? All too aware of the disapproving looks Wes occasionally sent her way over a large book he was drooling over hadn’t helped either. At least Gunn had lost interest in it after the initial “I’d hate to get on your bad side, girl”.

All in all, Cordy was feeling just about guilted up to the fins. Fins? Distracted by wondering where that particular phrase had come from, she almost jumped out of her skin when the door abruptly opened. Then she gulped.

A slightly wet Angel in a towel was not something Cordy needed to see right now, considering that the said towel hung a little too low on lean hips. Going by the rumpled hair, she figured he’d just rubbed a towel through it. That was the only thought she was capable of forming right now — so she simply gawped.

Angel took advantage of her silence to gather his jumbled thoughts. He was still surprised when sensing her presence as he’d walked out of his bathroom. Earlier, he’d already decided to have a shower after visiting Fred, but now, all thoughts of washing went out of the window on leaving her as soon as he heard activity downstairs.

He’d spent a couple of hours shifting between anger and hurt, and then guilt, until finally deciding to take a long shower. It had ended up lasting half an hour, possibly due to the anger still gripping him and the hot water that pounded his form, easing the tightness knotting in his shoulders.

“Um, sorry to disturb you, but I brought you some food,”

Angel blinked hard, brought back to the present with a jolt.

“As you know, I had no blood at home — except the bag you’d brought, Cordy explained. “And we didn’t get back here until late, so I thought….” Her words petered to a stop as soon as she realized that her rambling was bordering on the lines of Fred Burkle Syndrome, and instead silently held out the mug.

Angel looked at the proffered blood for a moment before lifting his eyes to pin her with cool detachment. “Why bother?” At her puzzled frown, he elucidated. “Or is this an excuse to ream me out again?” Angel asked. ‘Cos that’s getting old fast, and I’m done with it.” Anger and hurt re-established themselves as he recalled her last visit — the only time she’d come to his rooms since he’d got back from Tibet.

Her barely hidden flinch at his cold words, strangely enough, gave him a modicum of satisfaction. The mug shook a little in her outstretched hand, and she looked down at it blankly before bringing it closer and hugging it to her chest with both palms wrapped around it.

Stifling the instinctive urge to snap back, Cordy swallowed thickly. He had a point. But then again, she’d had a right to be angry with him earlier. But it was no surprise that he’d assumed her presence at his door was going to be like the last time she’d confronted him here, and could understand why he was so cold with her right now. Keeping in mind the why, she thought carefully about her reply before opening her mouth. “I… I actually came to apologize. I was a total bitch. I’m truly sorry.”

Going by Angel’s unchanging expression, it hadn’t had the tension-easing effect she’d hoped for.

“I- Um. Your food is getting cold; here,” Cordy shoved the mug at him, relieved when he automatically reached out to grasp it. The relief was short-lived when his large hand wrapped around hers, trapping it between his cool palm and the still-warm ceramic.


She gave up her attempt to ease out her hand from under his and looked up, startled at his abrupt question. “I thought you might be hungr-” Stopping when his head shook sharply, the drying, presently gel-free hair, flopping onto his forehead almost boyishly.

“When are you going to make up your mind, Cordelia?” Angel asked, anger making him oblivious to how her pupils dilated in response to him stepping into her personal space. “I’ve said I’m sorry. I keep on saying that, but you….” Angel paused, his trapping hand flexing briefly over hers; “One minute you act like you’ve accepted my apology and moved past it, and the next you’re rubbing it in my face all over again.” Cordy tugged on her hand again, and this time, he let her slide it from under his, stepping back.

Cordy’s cheeks flushed with renewed mortification. Unable – or unwilling to answer that question herself, she shrugged helplessly. Angel stared down at her, his body tensing as he watched several emotions flit across her expressive face: embarrassment, confusion, anger, and pain.

“I can’t figure out what you want from me, any more, Cordelia,” he tiredly responded. She continued to stare mutely up at him. “I make mistakes just like everyone else, but you — you want me to be the perfect champion. I’m not. Never will be. “Angel forestalled her reply, whatever it may have been, but judging by her expression, it was going to be some kind of refute. But he’d had a gutful.

“I’m done. It happened, and I sincerely apologize for what I did. Hopefully, I’ll learn from it. But it would help if you moved past it, too. If you can’t…” words hung in the air between them. Hazel eyes locked with brown; both darkened with turmoil and unspoken fear. Cordelia broke the connection, unable to bear the hint of desolation she found deep in his shadowed gaze.

“I thought we were friends.” The tension holding Angel’s body rigid disappeared, leaving him feeling drained. So much emotion spilt into that one simple sentence. What chance did they have of a more in-depth relationship if they didn’t even have that any more? His regret had never been so intense.

“So did I.” he eventually replied, just as softly and watched with an aching heart as she dropped her head and turned away, putting more distance between them as she headed down the dimly lit corridor…

Back / Part 13

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