Breathe Again 13-14

Part 13

As I sit staring blankly at the TV screen, the words go through my mind on a seemingly eternal loop.

“I thought we were friends.” I knew what I meant when I said it, but did you? Now I’m left to wonder.

“So did I.” Your response said it all, Angel. You didn’t get it.

But how can you get it, when I can’t bring myself to face the issue and talk it through?

But now, my heart is weary of it all. Going over old ground is just keeping the loop going. Unless I’m honest with you- and myself, and admit why I can’t move past it.

“I hated the way it made me feel. Like I didn’t matter.”

And I know I’m being a selfish bitch. Some things never change, it seems.

I swallow the thick wedge of pain down and blink furiously. They say tears shed are a healing process. It is hard to believe that, when all I seem to experience from them are sore, red eyes and a raging headache – and deep shame for stupidly feeling cheated. For not dealing with the ease in which someone you love walks away.

“…but you need to move past it too. If you can’t ….” Your words haunt me. What did you mean? Were you hinting that maybe I should be the one leaving? Would you be okay with that? Would I  be? Right now, I find myself envying your ability to move past anything whenever the mood takes you.

But I can’t do that. Move on. Be done. Again, I wish I could.

Here am I, vision girl to a champion. I can’t see much room for choice at the end of the day. A dry, broken laugh falls from my lips.

The loop kicks back in, and here I am at Square One before I can blink.

Moving on seems an impossibility.

Stop it, Cor!

I reach for the mug of coffee Dennis quietly sets beside me, and the warmth of the liquid jolts my system. I hadn’t realized just how cold I’d become inside. I shudder with horror at the thought.

I’d become a quitter. That thought shook me more than anything else. Cordelia Chase didn’t quit. Ever. Roughly shaking my head, I settle back into the soft couch cushions and consciously attempt to be sensible- realistic.

The sound of a soft knock on the front door pulls me out of my spiraling, most likely heading towards clinical depression, and I automatically look at the clock on the wall—10:30 pm. I’m not expecting anyone, and am not wanting to be sociable, so I think about ignoring it. The second knock is a little more determined, followed by the slightly irritating sound of my name.

It’s you.

“I know you’re in there, Cordelia. Open the door.” Great. Top my day with the last visitor in the world I want at my door right now. If ever. With a heavy sigh and a heated glare aimed towards the ceiling, I drag myself to my feet and shuffle over.

“What?” Beyond the barest of pleasantries, being tired and wrung out, I glare just as ferociously into unreadable brown eyes. Pfft, so much for attempting to move on.

“You forgot something when you left.” Now you’re hovering on the doorstep as if uncertain as to what you should do next.

“What?” I repeat, a little blankly this time, knowing my expression mirrored the tone.

“Me.” The response was as colourless as your attire, leaving me a little stunned, confused. Then finally, movement kicks in, reflexively stepping back, and you stride past me and into my apartment.

Have you ever been so deeply stuck in your thoughts that when obliged to speak, you can’t entirely pull yourself back into gear enough to form words of more than one syllable?

Not usually my kind of problem. Until now. “You?” I echo.

You aren’t on the same page and look annoyed at my sudden lack of verbal skills. “Yes, me.” You rake a hand through hair that already looked like it had had that treatment for a while. “We agreed you wouldn’t be left alone, remember?”

I fold my arms tight across my chest. “You decided, and I don’t recall agreeing to it.” My voice, dammit, sounds rusty and told of previously shed tears. My eyes slide away from your narrowed ones, and I stalk past you like the Queen I once was, heading towards the kitchen with my chin tilted up and ignoring your sigh of what I guess is your continued annoyance with a hefty dose of weariness.

And boy do I suddenly feel petty.

With that shameful thought in mind, I pause in mid-step and turn towards you. God, it hurts to look at you, but like a rat caught in the hypnotic gaze of a King Cobra, I can’t stop staring. When it seems as if the very air thickens by the second and will shatter with the unresolved tension, I open my mouth.

“Angel, I ….oh, Not now!” A sudden whoosh of dizziness. Pain unlike any I’ve ever experienced lances through my brain. It’s followed, surprisingly, not by a vision, but a gratefully welcomed numbing darkness that creeps across my eyes at about the exact moment you catch me; your pale, frightened face blurs into nothing. Like a light switch flipped off, consciousness ends.


She’s going to be okay, Angel.”

I hear Wesley’s reassuring words, but my head keeps replaying the terrifying sight of a deathly pale face – and blood. So much blood.

Your nose, and ears, were oozing thick life-giving fluid, and any other time the sight and scent would have made my demon go crazy with deep-seated hunger. But not then. All I could think right then was that you were going to die in my arms.

Being told that it wasn’t ‘The Plan’, that it was part of what the PTB were putting you through, didn’t even make a dent at the time. I just picked you up and ran.

Before I knew it, I was at the hotel and confronted by Wes.

“She’s going to be okay”, he repeated the reassurance. But even as he said it, his expression reflected his fear, Gunn’s- and mine. Catching my stricken gaze, he dropped his head and stepped away.

“I’ll call Lorne.”

I didn’t wait to see him rush over to the counter and pick up the phone; I was already halfway up the stairs, holding my precious bundle close to my chest.

The blood has stopped and is now just a bad memory, thanks to someone placing a bowl of warm water and a wash cloth on my bedside table. I couldn’t even say who’d put it there – my eyes refusing to leave your face. It helped a little when your skin was finally blood-free: that and the sound of the steady thrumming of your heart.

“You need to wake up now,” I’ve said that several times in the last two minutes, and a small part of me knows I sound like an oblivious child, innocently waiting for the ‘only sleeping’ figure tucked up in my bed to open her eyes.

Lorne is here now, and doesn’t he ever shut up?  I hunch my shoulders and grip your limp hand even tighter. Will the others understand if I turn around and rip the demon’s head off?

Even as I think it, the coherent part of my brain is listening to his words.

We’re looking at the cocoon, Angelcakes.” I can almost hear your impatient voice ordering him to quit it and cut to the chase. Your lovely eyes would roll in that cute way I’m already missing. “We’ve just got to wait for our butterfly princess to grow her wings and come out.”

Momentarily, my thoughts become clear. “When?”

Lorne jolts at the sound of my voice, but his gaze doesn’t waver when I pin him with mine.

He replies after a pause. “That, I don’t know.” A silent apology hangs in the air.  The tension is so thick that my fangs could probably sink into it.

“Leave us.” No arguments, no hesitation. The door shuts quietly behind them. He’s forgotten in an instant.

“You need to wake up now.”


Five days had passed since Cordy had collapsed into her comatose state, and Wesley had spent the time conducting research.

Currently, he was sitting in a chair in the corner of Angel’s suite. “In the Book of Genesis, it wasn’t unusual for people to live for centuries. For example, Adam 930 years, Methuselah 969.”

In addition to studying numerous ancient texts and tracking obscure references, he had practically interrogated the Host for more useful information. The resulting theory was startling. So, it was necessary to explain the possible connection between biblical references and Cordy’s situation.

“It’s also widely accepted that much of the Old Testament was written around 1200 to 1000 BC,” Wesley glanced up from the page of notes on his legal pad, expecting the proverbial penny to drop at any moment. When it didn’t, he added, “Now obviously the ancient Jews of 1200 BC knew what a solar year was. After all, they lived in an agrarian culture. So there isn’t any reasonable explanation for why life spans in Genesis seemed to be off by about a factor of 10.”

Lorne’s explanation of the ‘upgrade’ Cordy was going through had brought into question many things. Namely, what exactly would be Cordelia’s new status afterward? Passing on the information to an obviously worried and irritable vampire, who’d refused to leave Cordelia’s bedside since he’d brought her here, made for an uncomfortable twenty minutes, but he doggedly continued on.

“Lorne spoke of rapid human evolution- and yet incredibly long lives already appeared to be a quite normal state of being in that time period,” Wesley explained with a forming frown. “The only assumption I can make from that is possibly man was somehow de-evolved in terms of life span as the world’s population rose. Nothing else makes sense.”

In an attempt to cover all avenues, Wes had extended his research to cover the human genome & gene dormancy. “The human genome contains the functional & the evolutionary history of our species. So little is currently known.” Wes now divulged.  “It is quite possible that the genes related to hyperextending the human lifespan became dormant over time. Activating them again would not be as simple as flipping a switch.”

Angel wearily rubbed his face. “I’m guessing there’s a point to this, Wes?” He half regretted his sharp tone but, although vampires could easily cope with limited sleep, constant worry and outright fear were slowly eroding his self-control. After almost a week into his relentless vigil, Angel was starting to feel like hell. He’d been afraid to slide into temporary oblivion terrified that Lorne had got it wrong -and in missing the betraying falter of her heart, that he would lose her just because he’d not been awake to save her.

Although vague on exactly how, Angel knew he would save her. He had to.

“A point. Yes, indeed. A very intriguing one at that,” Wes responded after a short pause, noting the play of intense yet unreadable emotions flitting across the vampire’s face. “One of the benefits of Cordelia’s evolvement is apparently a very long life: similar to those mentioned in Genesis,” he added in an upbeat tone.

Angel’s head shot up at that. “How long?” God, the number of times he’d used that phrase in the last 60-plus hours. He was beginning to sound like a broken record.

Wes leaned back in his chair, slightly taken aback by the expression of almost childlike expectancy in Angel’s expression. “That isn’t clear right now, but as I explained previously, it wasn’t unusual in the Biblical era to live for almost a thousand years,” he added optimistically, and then frowned perplexedly as another thought popped into his head. “Unless…”

“Unless what?” Irritation flared in Angel, but he tempered the urge to shake his friend out of his habitual waffle mode.

Wes’ eyes lost their haze of distraction and focussed fully on Angel. “It just occurred to me that maybe this elongated lifespan has more to do with it being advantageous for both you and the Powers.” He pursed his lips and hesitated before continuing. “Until such a time as you either shanshu or die. That would make more sense.”

For a moment, Angel froze. Cordy with him for the rest of his unnatural life? To maybe shanshu with her by his side? … Thoughts of sunlit walks along the beach — possibly accompanied by their first child? He gasped aloud and hunched low; eyes squeezing shut as his imagination set off an even deeper emotion.

“Angel? Are you alright?” Wes asked and half rose from his seat, concerned by the expression of abject fear that abruptly replaced the second’s earlier wonderment.

Wrenching pain didn’t come as half expected, and Angel visibly sagged in weak-limbed relief. Although told his soul was now permanent, he hadn’t realized that a twinge of doubt had lingered in the back of his mind until this very moment. Thoughts of a future – both as a vampire and then possibly human – with Cordy, had unexpectedly catapulted him to a moment of pure joy.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Angel finally replied, for the first time turning to face his friend, his voice hoarse and holding a slight tremor that held Wes’ complete attention. “I … need to tell you”, he hesitated, taking a deep breath before continuing.

“Something happened when I was in Tibet. Something big. I should have told you guys when I got back, but…” Angel shrugged helplessly. So much had happened since he’d returned that it hadn’t been high on his list at the time.

Wes nodded. Curiosity intermingled with wariness at his friend’s sudden hesitance. He leaned forward, entire body tense and waiting.

“Um… Are we talking Good ‘big’ or Bad?”

Part 14

“I can’t see why he’d leave it so long to put us in the picture. Knowing that we had one less evil dude to worry about, would have been good.” Gunn slouched deeper into his seat with a disgruntled expression on his young face.

“What with the… strained atmosphere between himself and Cordelia of late, it was probably the last thing on his mind.” Wes found the need to defend the vampire almost a knee-jerk reaction, although the news that Angelus was no longer a threat… “But yes, it would have eased our fears, somewhat,” he agreed. “I have my suspicions as to why it, um, slipped his mind.”

Gunn lightly sucked his teeth and slid even lower. “Don’t take a genius to figure out our girl has somethin’ to do with it. The vamp needs his head read. Telling us might’ve cut through some of the shit that’s been going on around here.”

Wes inwardly disagreed. If he were correct, it could have actually made things worse. Then again, he wondered if his suspicion that Angel had truly moved on — that his affections now aimed fully towards Cordelia — were accurate? At the time, he’d been more than a little apprehensive about where it could – God help them all, possibly lead. But now…

The scenario that now worried him was that if those affections were merely a by-product, caused by the tragic loss of Buffy… Wes would have had to be blind not to figure out why Cordelia’s behaviour had been off since Angel’s sabbatical, and the tense atmosphere on his return. If he was right in thinking that she’d made the mistake of falling in love, and that Angel’s recent, noticeably burgeoning feelings were, in fact, simply a case of a rebound, it could cause irreparable damage to their relationship.

“Well, all I can say is Hallelujah, and Praise your Lord.” Wes jolted back into the present when a cheerful voice piped up. He turned in time to see the colourful demon saunter across the lobby towards them.

Gunn shifted over, irritation written all over his face when Lorne decided to share the couch with him, and asked. “You mean you didn’t know? About the soul thing?”

Lorne shook his head, a brow lifting in mild amusement. “Who am I, Mystic Meg? The big lug hasn’t exactly been in the mood to hum a tune since he got back. I do have some limitations, you know.” Gunn pointedly eyed the canary yellow suit, but the demon ignored him and turned to Wes. “So, what finally got our friendly neighbourhood vampire to share the fantabulous news?”

“Angel and I were discussing the ramifications of Cordelia’s predicament,” Wes replied, then his mouth tilted wryly. “Or, to be more precise, I spoke and Angel mostly ignored me – until I said something he actually wanted to hear.”

Lorne grinned. “I’m taking a not so wild guess here that the news of Cordelicious being around for a looong time perked up his ears.”

“Indeed. But I doubt that Angel was delighted to find out that a long life doesn’t mean Cordelia will be any less vulnerable to harm,” Wes divulged.

Gunn lifted his eyes from the Cosmopolitan magazine he’d grabbed from Cordy’s desk earlier. He hadn’t been present when Lorne had filled Wes in with the finer details. The tension that had earlier faded crept back into his gut, “Is this lack of delight gonna impact us?”

Wes immediately shook his head, an expression of reassurance replacing momentary anxiety. “You have to keep in mind that Angel is a demon and immortal. And thus, would only be completely happy if Cordelia was at least almost as invulnerable as he himself is,” Wes explained. “Although her life span will now exceed that of all humans at our current level of phylogenesis, it does not exclude her from severe injury or death, be it accidental or deliberate.”

Gunn had to ask. “So, our girl will still be, you know – human?” Both Lorne and Wesley nodded the affirmative, and he breathed a sigh of relief. “Good to know – no offence, dude.” He glanced quickly at the green demon lounging beside him, who merely smiled.

“None taken,” Lorne replied and then sighed dramatically. “Angelcakes wants it all. No surprise there. Hello? Who wouldn’t want a delectable cocktail like the princess, on tap for the rest of his life?”

“As said, Cordelia will still be human,” Wes began. “Lifespan aside, the benefits are – quite literally, a blessing.” Gunn leaned forward in his seat, large hands clasping loosely between spread thighs, expression attentive.

“The visions will still pack a whammo,” Lorne warned them.

“She’ll still be suffering?” Gunn asked, anger tingeing his voice. “What’s the point of this PTB voodoo if it’s gonna be no different from it was before?” he asked.

“Easy to ignore someone knocking at your door. Having it kicked in, kinda grabs the attention.” Lorne replied helpfully, only to lean away from the hostile glare of the young man by his side.

Wes attempted to defuse the tension building in the lobby. “Apparently, Angel’s last seer, Francis Doyle, even though having the advantage of being part-demon, still suffered the pain of receiving messages from the Powers That Be.”

Gunn was slightly mollified, but it brought another question to his mind. “Part-demon. Right. How come the PTB didn’t do that to Cordy?” he asked. “Though gotta admit, this whole deal isn’t what I was brought up to believe.”

Wes opened his mouth to speak, but Gunn continued on. “Angels are from heaven, Demons are from hell, yada yada. And here we have seers who are usually either demons or only part human. It doesn’t make sense, is all I’m saying,” he said with a deep frown, then grimaced and glanced towards, the Host. “No Off-” Lorne waved the words away with a careless hand.

“As with everything in life, Gunn, shades of grey are a factor,” Wes replied the only way he could without getting deep into a discussion that would have more questions than answers. He found that to be prevalent in his days as a Watcher-in-training. He looked over to Lorne, who’d remained strangely silent before adding, “There is no disputing the fact that Lorne himself is a demon in the unique position of being guided by the Powers That Be.”

At Wesley’s response, Gunn found himself again flicking Lorne a faintly apologetic look. Old habits died hard; instinctive mistrust was still ingrained deep in his bones. The red gaze that locked with his for a moment held no offence, only empathy.

The silence that followed was strangely peaceful as each of them got lost in their thoughts, to a point that when the phone on the counter suddenly came to life, breaking the silence with a shrill ring, all three men visibly jolted. Rising to his feet with a weary sigh, Wesley found himself half hoping it wasn’t a client in need of saving. Besides Angel possibly – make that almost definitely not willing to leave Cordelia’s side, the others were feeling the effects of troubled sleeping patterns due to worry and weren’t really at their best.

“Angel Investigations, we help the—” he began; only to raise his brows when an excited female voice cut through his automatic spiel.


The moment the door closed quietly behind Wes, Angel took a deep unneeded breath and arched his back until it clicked audibly before picking up the phone receiver. “Hey, Willow.”

Keeping his tone light was difficult. He fought with both irritation and instinctive concern. Irritation not at the caller, but the timing. Wes had only added that the redhead had omitted to tell him the purpose of the call, and on recalling the last time he’d spoken to Willow an edge crept into Angel’s voice as he asked almost automatically, “Is everyone okay?”

His whole body relaxed at her instant reassurance- then tensed up again as she rushed on in a high-pitched, excited voice. “H-how- when – is she…?” Angel finally responded, his voice reflecting disbelief at Willow’s shocking news.

“Buffy’s okay, yeah,” Willow replied, quick to reassure, then her voice dropped a little. “Um…she’s still a bit out of it, but we got her back! I still can’t believe it worked!” she finished breathlessly, a hint of smugness colouring her tone.

“Neither can I,” Angel muttered half to himself, not sure right then how he felt about the young witch’s actions. Bringing someone back from the dead was no mean feat. The fact that Willow had used Dark Arts to perform it caused his concern to skyrocket.

As his head reeled at the enormity of it all, Willow continued to talk. “So, I was wondering when can we expect you?”

Angel pulled the receiver away from his ear to stare blankly at it for a second as her question sunk in, and then compulsively looked over at Cordelia’s still form tucked into his bed.

“Hello? Angel? Are you still there?” Willow’s voice echoed around the room.


Running water was a soothing backdrop to the sound of muted rustling paper. The latter irked her. Eyes still closed, the temptation to roll over and seek the dreams that she now couldn’t remember faded as it occurred to her that she was more than ready to wake up.

Her eyes opened and blinked slowly, taking in the shadowed ceiling directly above her before turning her head towards the soft signs of life to her side. Hunched in a chair with a book on his knee and a pad in one hand, Cordy wondered at Wes’ presence in this particular room – which also led her to wonder why she too was ensconced in Angel’s suite….his bed.

“Wes?” His head lifted with a jerk at the soft query, pad lowering as his distracted blue eyes met alert yet confused hazel. The book on his knee slid to the floor, hitting the rug with a soft thud as Wes struggled to his feet.

“Oh, my…” Wes’ torso connected with Cordelia’s just as she levered herself upright; long, lean arms enfolded her a little too tightly, and a slightly rough cheek pressed to her sleep softened one. Woah! Then he drew back, an impossibly wide smile splitting his normally reticent face, eyes glittering with relief.

“Welcome back.” His heart-filled words were like a light switch to her slightly hazy mind, and recollection hit: the pull of sucking darkness and the fear engraved in every strong line of a paler than usual face.

Angel .

As his name registered in her head, her eyes searched the lamp-lit room, double-checking the shadows cast by the dim glow while she half-listened to Wes, who’d pulled away and now sat perched on the edge of the bed.

“Cordelia?” His concerned voice halted her half-formed wanderings, and she pulled her eyes away from their continued perusal of the room to meet his. “Are you alright? He asked anxiously, adding, “How do you feel?” when she continued to stare at him a little blankly.

Cordy’s brow furrowed, pausing just as the words ‘I’m fine’ were ready to leave the tip of her tongue. “I’m not fine.” Wes blinked. The relief he’d felt on finding her awake began to dwindle- and then she smiled. “I feel…. Great! Better than great.” The smile widened in amazement.

And it was true. The ache she usually felt behind her eyes was now missing. So were the sharp knives that had constantly stabbed at her brain with every movement. Even the splintery feel with every blink of her eyes was completely gone! The lack of pain that had been a constant companion for the past, God knows how long, made Cordy feel almost euphoric; her head felt lighter than the proverbial feather.

“OhthankGod.” The fervently muttered words muffled against her temple triggered goosebumps. Cordy felt she’d awoken in the Twilight Zone as once again she was engulfed in a hug, two within five minutes. Although as close to her as a sibling the last six months, Wesley Wyndham Pryce was not a hugger. Far from it. Hot moisture pricked at her eyes as she hugged him back tightly before easing away but catching hold of one of his hands to keep the connection.

She sniffled a little sheepishly and squeezed his fingers. “How long have I been,” gesturing to the bed with her free hand, which dropped limply at his soft reply. “A week?!” she repeated in an incredulous whisper. “Wow.” Swallowing the shock, she blinked rapidly to clear her head, and then looked around the room once more.

“Yes, a whole week, give or take a few hours,” Wes responded, a slight edge to his voice revealing a world of worry that had dogged him. She felt the slight tremble that ran through his hand and squeezed it again, and his face relaxed into a soft smile. “But now you’re awake and well.” he paused as if to let that fact sink in and then continued, a thread of excitement lifting his tone. “We have made some fascinating discoveries while you were…asleep.”

Recognizing the beginning of a discussion that would probably put her back to sleep, Cordy impulsively leaned forward and kissed his cheek softly, which raised his brows and caused a flush of pink to creep up his neck. “‘We’ as in you, huh?” His responding smile expressed pride, even as he shrugged modestly and gave credit to Lorne. Her smile slowly faded.

Cordy fidgeted in an attempt to shake off the disappointment that ran through her as her eyes again swept the empty room. Not that she expected to wake up to a room full of her friends hovering over her like mother hens. In their line of business, things couldn’t take a back seat just because one of them was out of action for a while. It made sense to have her in the hotel. However, she wasn’t sure why it was this particular room instead of the one she often used when too tired/too late to make her way home. Why here?

Well, not exactly empty, but. It wasn’t like anyone was expecting her to die. “Um… is Angel around?” She had to ask, and then wondered at the pained expression that had settled on Wes’ features.

“Angel.” He sighed long and drawn out, causing Cordy to tense with a sinking feeling in her chest. “He has been beside himself, refusing to leave your side since he brought you here, for a single moment. As if Gunn and I weren’t capable of watching over you as well as he could!” he snorted with mild disgust.

That eased the ache, but Cordy’s eyes roamed the room once more confused as Wes continued detailing the events of the last week and the vampire’s part in it- which, he pointed out drolly, was to haunt her side and not much else. Wes and Gunn took turns keeping an eye on them both. Hearing of Angel’s concern should have removed that ache, but words weren’t enough.

“Angel wouldn’t even leave you to grab something to eat, so we took it upon ourselves to ensure that he had a ready supply up here.” He went on, oblivious to her rising confusion and pensive expression.

“Not leaving my side, huh?” Cordy finally spoke. Wes nodded, and at any other time, she would have grinned at the unaccustomed sight of the rolling of his eyes. But the marked absence of the vampire in question – especially considering Wes’ description of an almost obsessive vigil, unsettled her.

No, words just weren’t enough right now. Doubting-Thomas hovered on the periphery.

“So, Wes… where is he?”

Back / Part 15


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