Breathe Again 9-10

Part 9

The night passed all too slowly for both of them. Cordy remained hidden in her bedroom under the pretext of sleeping, and Angel lay tensely sprawled out on the couch in the dark.

The following morning was one big rush, instigated by Cordy. She hadn’t stood still for one second since getting up; racing around and preparing herself for the day at work, having slept until almost lunchtime. Except for taking a moment to growl at Angel for not waking her, he barely had a chance to say a word as she rushed from the bedroom to the bathroom and back to her bedroom.

After refusing the breakfast he’d made her, and ignoring his quiet protests, Cordy walked towards the front door, shrugging her jacket on at the same time.

“As fun as I know it wouldn’t be going the scenic route with you, I’m catching the bus,” she finally spoke to him again whilst checking her purse, avoiding eye contact as if her life depended on it.

Angel put out an arm, his hand covering the handle before Cordy could open the door, his face a mixture of mild irritation at her determination not to interact with him, and anxiety at the thought of her leaving alone.

“I am not convinced that’s such a good idea,” he began, refusing to move his arm when she looked from his face to his hand with an arched brow.

“And you think trekking through stinky sewers when I don’t have to is a better plan?” Angel shifted his feet, not really wanting to verbalize the thoughts rushing through his head.

When she tugged at his sleeve with a growing scowl, he finally spoke. “Cordy… I don’t like the idea of you being out there alone,” he explained gently. Cordy pffted scornfully.

“What’s so different to all the other zillions of times I’ve made this journey, huh?” at the instant darkening of his deep brown eyes, the light bulb went off. “Angel… you can’t wrap me in cotton wool!” She smoothed her hands over her knee-length skirt. Then reached out to tug more firmly on his arm.

Feeling like a total bastard, Angel continued to hold on to the handle, barely feeling her effort to move him. “Humour me…please?” He whispered, catching her annoyed gaze.

After several seconds, Cordy broke the silent connection and rolled her eyes. “Okaaayyy! If it’ll get me out of this apartment, I’ll go wreck my sense of smell for the rest of the day,” His hand instantly dropped.

Pulling open the door, she glanced back at him, a frown marring her smooth brow. “If you were at the hotel, you wouldn’t have to worry about becoming a crispy critter,” she huffed.

“And if you stayed at the hotel, like I suggested, it wouldn’t be an issue.” He instantly replied.

Cordy stiffened for a second. “I’m not leaving my apartment- or Dennis,” her voice firm and determined as she picked up her pace.

“Then you’ll just have to get used to the sewers,” equal determination echoed back quietly, his long strides easily catching up with her rapidly retreating figure.


While covertly watching his seer, Angel half wished he could get inside her head and hear what was truly going on in there.

Her tight-faced replies were often followed by an expression of guilt, and he wanted nothing more than to say he understood the strain she was under, but doubted his reassurance would be appreciated.

Knowing his crappy luck of late, she’d probably think he was being patronizing. Not exactly a good addendum to add to his shaky resume where she was concerned right now. Tiptoeing around as if on eggshells, and rethinking every word he said, was beginning to fray his nerves. The urge to just shut his mouth and give up talking altogether, was getting more tempting by the second.

The other two seemed to be dealing just as badly as himself, and the comradely atmosphere that usually pervaded the hotel was shot to hell. This thought led him to think about other changes that had occurred at Angel Investigations.

Namely, the petite Texan brunette they’d saved, still hiding in her room upstairs.

What with the latest- and most devastating ‘big bad’ in their lives, Angel cringed a little in shame, with the knowledge that he’d barely seen Winifred Burkle since her arrival, what with him leaving so soon after they returned home.

And only once or twice since coming back from Tibet. Taking one last searching look towards Cordy, he heaved a tired sigh and decided to lessen at least some tension by retreating — and using that time to re-acquaint himself with the new person currently in their lives.


“No, thanks, I’m good.” Cordy’s mouth stretched into a strained smile as she looked up at Gunn, holding up the still full coffee mug Wes had brought over ten minutes earlier. God, if this carried on, she thought tiredly, death by hot brown liquid could be a possibility!

Did they truly think she was too dense to realize that their worried gazes were constantly on her? Watching every move she made, and attempting casual enquiries every time she rose from her seat? She loved them to bits, but another hour — or even a minute — of their undivided and overprotective attention, and they’d all have to rethink the not-exploding of her head issue.

All she wanted to do was run and hide for a few millennia until whatever was happening to her brain happened, and then things could go back to normal.

Each time she witnessed the flicker of wounded hurt in Angel’s dark eyes, she just wanted to reach out and hug him, pleading for forgiveness for being such a bitch, but…at the same time, her walls were already compromised, and the thought of what would happen once she was finally well and herself again made her shy from giving him much-needed reassurance.

Why was it so different from how it was with the others? Ninety percent of the time, Cordy managed to bite back the snark and think before she spoke. A bitter smile touched her mouth fleetingly, aware that she knew exactly why. Cordy loved Wes and Gunn to death, yes, but she didn’t love them in the same way as she did Angel.

Her hands shook as her conscious mind finally bought a clue… and then despair overwhelmed her. Life could be so unfair. “When it rains, it pours,” she muttered under her breath — although that particular saying sounded way too lame for how she felt inside.

Why now? Of all the times to have an epiphany, why when her brain felt scrambled and her ability to deal was almost zero.

God, she had to get out of there!

Luck smiled on her for the first time in the last ever. Gunn slipping into Wes’ office and closing the door quietly behind them was a Godsend, “Most likely having the ‘poor Cordelia’ talk. Yet again!” Taking a covert look around, Cordy was relieved to find still no sign of Angel since he’d disappeared upstairs.

Making the most of it, she grabbed her purse and scooted across the lobby without looking back, not stopping until the hotel was out of sight.

“Now what?” she asked herself. It wasn’t like she could go home. Or anywhere that was known and not accessible to a Vampire on a sunny afternoon. As she circled, her eye caught sight of an oasis almost a block away that solved the problem of a stalking vamp.

Cordy just hoped Wes understood her need for space a little better than her overbearing shadow…


Even before his feet landed on the lobby floor, Angel knew she wasn’t there…. There, as in not just away from the lobby, but also the hotel. Holding down the instant surge of panic and fear, he took a moment to take a deep breath and clear his emotions long enough to scent the air thoroughly.

But panic began its too-rapid build-up even as his large body moved lithely through the ground floor area, checking every room.

Cordy had gone.

“Where the hell is she?” Both Wes and Gunn’s heads swivelled round abruptly as the low, but harsh voice tore through their quiet discussion.

It took them less than a second to realize who the visibly irate vampire meant. Any instinctive fear that would have normally crept in at Angel’s barely hidden rage, was swamped by concern and growing panic even as they shot to their feet.

“But she was…” Wes stumbled around his desk in his haste to leave the office, following the retreat of the vampire and young black man as they disappeared back into the empty lobby. “… Here…”

Angel completed a slow circle; anxious eyes double-checking areas he knew he’d already checked seconds before; noting again that her purse was definitely missing, then raked a slightly trembling hand through his now dishevelled dark hair. “How could you be so damned careless?” He growled, ignoring the instant stiffening of two human spines.

“Whoa, hold up there,” Gunn approached the vampire, anger quickly joining his agitation. “Last time I checked, there were three of us here.” Angel stepped forward, mouth opening to reply, his expression equally belligerent.

“Bickering between ourselves won’t help us find Cordelia,” Wes smoothly intervened. “I suggest we save our energy for more productive things — like trying to work out where she may have gone… Angel?” he watched the vampire turn away with a low growl and walk over to grab his leather jacket, shrugging it on as he made his way towards the basement door.

“You can waste time figuring it out, but I prefer the old-fashioned method,” Angel threw back, not bothering to look at the men.

“Ahhh, yes, because, naturally, Cordelia will be sitting in her apartment waiting for your inevitable arrival, thus defeating the object of running off in the first place?” Angel swung around and glared mutely at the younger man.

“He’s right; you want space, you stay clear of places you can be found” Gunn agreed. “Especially if it’s some vampire not lookin’ for a cookin’,” Jerking his dark head towards the main doors where a glimmer of bright sun shone through the crack.

“So, what do you suggest?” Angel barely held back the growl of anger, shoving clenched hands deep into his pants pockets and barely resisting the urge to shut the kid up. “Hang around here until she decides to come back?”

Grinning cockily, Gunn made for the main door. “Some of us ain’t toast in daylight.”

“This isn’t getting us anywhere. Gunn?” Wes, who’d silently observed the byplay, stepped forward; slightly pale face visibly struggling for calm, “let us consider our options before we go off half-cocked. Cordelia would have also considered our none-combustible abilities, which means she’ll no doubt go somewhere unfamiliar to us all,” he reasoned. The other two men visibly deflated and reluctantly joined their boss at the counter.

Angel gritted his teeth audibly, eying the man with growing impatience. “She could go anywhere, and the longer we stand here trying to figure it out, the further away she will get.”

Wes returned the glare, not bothering to hide his growing annoyance. “You must stop thinking the worst, Angel. Even though Cordelia obviously feels the need for a time-out, I sincerely doubt she’d go far,” he retorted. “She is currently going through a terrible time, yes. But one thing I can be sure of is that no matter how dreadful she must be feeling, Cordelia wouldn’t want us to unnecessarily worry.”

“And yet, somehow, that’s precisely what we are doing — just get to the point, Wes, because I’m guessing you have one?” Gunn nodded, for the first time since they’d found Cordy gone, for once, totally in agreement with the vampire standing next to him.

“I have,” Wes replied abruptly. “There are two options: we can wait it out and let her come back under her own steam, or Gunn and I can also go on foot and check the local areas, and considering the approximate distance she could have gone since we last saw her.”

“That’s if she didn’t take the bus,” Gunn added, which caused a momentary lull. Angel broke the tense silence with a low curse and stalked over to one of the couches, shrugging off his jacket and throwing it carelessly over the back of it.

He sat down, stretching out long, powerful legs and crossed his arms, outwardly nonchalant. “Okay. I’ll stay here…not much choice in that,” he added beneath his breath. “And you two can go scout the area. But,” he abruptly leaned forward, halting their footsteps to the main entrance. “If she isn’t back by the time the sun goes down, don’t expect to find me here waiting.” That said, he settled back, watching through stormy eyes as they exited the building.

Part 10

God, Why do I feel so guilty? I mean; yeah, I upped and ran the first moment I got, but sheesh…

It didn’t sit at all well that she’d high-tailed it out of the hotel as soon as all eyes were off her, but at the same time, she needed the break. Was it wrong to want to have a little time to herself? Cordy was determined not to feel like she’d committed the eighth sin. It wasn’t like she had anywhere else to go…unwind…rail silently and basically let it all hang out.

Her apartment was no longer her refuge, since that big, dumb, interfering vampire had forced his way in and refused to leave her for one second- and nope, she wasn’t gonna feel bad for thinking that either; maybe later, but right now, it felt good to vent. Even if it was in her mind. That was the thing, though. Already she was finding it difficult to hide her feelings, and so much pressure right now, what with the visions – and resentments old and new regarding Angel, weren’t helping matters.

She wondered if they’d realized she’d fled the coop; glancing at her watch, she realized, with surprise, that forty-five minutes had passed since entering the coffee shop. A twinge of remorse grew, but before it could force her to her feet, Cordy pushed it down ruthlessly. This was about her right now — remorse would have to wait.

“Would ya like a fill-up, sweetie?” Cordy was jerked abruptly from her thoughts, lifting her head to turn a blinding smile on the waitress.

“Thanks,” as soon as her cup was filled, she pulled her attention away from the older woman, and went back to staring sightlessly out of the window she sat next to.

The coffee shop was small and quaint, with only a few customers. Music reminiscent of the fifties floated through the air, only broken by the odd clinking of cutlery in the background. And for the first time in days, Cordy finally relaxed the tight hold she had on her aching muscles and jaw. Squeezing her eyes shut for a moment, she drew in a deep breath, and let it out slowly, opening her eyes as she did so.

Jolting when they connected with concerned blue through the pane of glass. “Just great,” she muttered, already feeling a flush of shame burn her cheeks as the two men out on the side walk turned and walked towards the entrance.

“Cordelia.” Wes eyed the hunched brunette carefully, before easing into the bench seat opposite her. Gunn followed suit and at the same time caught the eye of the waitress. They sat in silence as cups were brought out and filled with fragrant hot coffee.

“I’m sorry guys,” Cordy spoke before either one could begin the chastising; “I just needed to, you know…”

“Escape the intense atmosphere for a while?” Cordy blew out a short breath and Wes’ eyes reflected understanding. “I realize things are…. Difficult for you, Cordelia, but, disappearing like that was bound to cause concern-”

“He’s pissed at me.” Cordy cut in abruptly, watching with a raised brow as her boss paused. She could almost see him attempting to sugar coat his next words. “Don’t bother, Wes, I pretty much guessed he would be freaking out; if you’d seen him this morning, Hoo, boy.” She cracked a grin, which both men noticed was strained. “Wouldn’t even let me take the bus to work.”

“I know Angel can be…” Wes hesitated before continuing. “Can be a little overzealous sometimes,” Gunn instantly snorted and rolled his eyes. Leaning forward, Wes continued earnestly. “But he worries about you.”

This time it was Cordy’s turn to roll her eyes. “A bit late in the day for that …. I’m sorry Wes, I didn’t mean… it’s just- I feel like I’m about to implode or…” Reaching out to touch the back of his hand briefly, she then slumped low in her seat. “I didn’t mean to worry any of you,” she murmured softly.

Gunn nodded. “We get that. Our lifestyle means we all need our chillin’ time,” he briefly grinned. “But it’s cool if as long as you let us know where you’re going.”

“Are you kidding me?” Cordy looked at them both askance. “The way everyone’s been today; jeeze! Even going to the bathroom got me the third degree — I’m surprised one of you didn’t stand outside the door until I was finished.” both pairs of eyes slid away. “Guys?!.” sitting back in her seat, she folded her arms tightly across her chest.

“We’re just …a little anxious about letting you out of our sight right now; it’s perfectly understandable, Cordelia,” Wes justified himself quietly.

“Yeah…and I get that- but I need to breathe, and if you keep suffocating me like you did today… do you blame me for making a break for it?” Sighing heavily, she lifted a hand to rub it roughly over her face before looking at them both.  “If I’d have said  ‘Hey, guy’s, I’m gonna take five and go get a coffee’ – or whatever, could you seriously see Angel, for one, going for that?” Neither man could argue.

After several minutes of silence and drinking coffee, Gunn put down his cup and smiled. “How about me and you go get some eats, chill for a few hours?” the returning smile was almost as bright as the sun shining through the window.

“I’d like that, yeah. Wes? That okay with you?” She asked, although her expression told him that she didn’t really care whether he disagreed or not.

“If that’s what you want, then who am I to argue?” Wes let out a heavy sigh and dragged himself to his feet; “Which leaves me to go back and let Angel know…the joys of being the boss.” He almost whined.

“Yeah, but think of the perks,” Cordy grinned up at him, an apologetic glint in her lovely eyes. Gunn rose to his feet, patting the older man sympathetically on his shoulder.


Things were quiet – too quiet for the vampire, who sat half facing the main door with a book in his lap. To the onlooker, he seemed to be engrossed in the dusty old pages, but his boss was uncomfortably aware of the tense set of shoulders and continued flicker of angry eyes lifting to the closed doors.

To say Angel was pissed was an understatement.

First, his seer runs at the first opportunity and then, to top it all, Wes returns sans Cordy – and no Gunn. He’d listened to Wes with a clenched jaw; muscles twitching even as his hands curled into fists before shoving them deep into his pockets. It seemed the only person she wanted to escape from was himself. And that didn’t sit well on his shoulders.

Angel sighed heavily. No matter that things had rushed along at an unbelievable pace, there were still the underlying problems between himself and Cordy. Issues he knew were only adding to the already heavy burden that was his relationship with his Seer.

Would she ever soften and see his side? At times like these, he seriously doubted it. What to do when it seemed he was to be the only one in her life who was never allowed to fall from grace? To say Cordy accepted his demon was something he would always marvel at and be grateful for, but did she forget at times he was also as human in many ways as others; thus equally prone to the weaknesses that came with it?

He was far from perfect. And every so often Cordy’s unforgiving nature truly riled. Angel rubbed a hand across his face, stretching his long legs and crossing them at the ankles. His outward display did nothing to reassure Wes, who watched warily through the open door of his office.

Shadows lengthened until darkness crept in, and Wes could almost feel the vampire’s muscles bunching as he gathered himself and rose to his feet – breathing a sigh of relief when at that moment the main door opened, the young black man entering with easy grace. The relief melted away when the heavy door swung shut behind him. By the time he’d walked around his desk and entered the lobby, both men were facing each other.

“Chill, dawg. Cordy wanted to go home, so I dropped her off.” Gunn raised his hands even as he took a step back to move around the simmering vampire. Swivelling on his heel, Angel opened his mouth to argue when Wes stepped forward, hoping to defuse the situation before it rocketed into orbit.

“Angel… Cordelia is practically in a 24/7 situation with you currently, and as such, there are times when she needs a breathing space.” He reasoned quietly.

“I’ve been staying at her place less than a day” Angel shot back abruptly. “And don’t tell me you aren’t as concerned about her being alone.” He added gruffly. Wes conceded with a nod, and then replied.

“Nevertheless, things aren’t exactly…. Rosy between the two of you right now, and that has to be considered.”

“I don’t need to be constantly reminded of that.” Wes took an unconscious step back at the edge of anger in Angel’s tone.

“I’m sorry to keep harping on about it, but you *have* to take that into consideration.” He winced at the naked pain flickering through the brown eyes. “Just give her time to unwind for an hour or so.”

“Time. Right. Why not?” Angel returned sharply. “But just remember, the ‘alone time’ is the reason I’m staying with her – the reason not one of us has slept well since finding out what Cordy has been and will be going through for God knows how long.” Both Wes and Gunn looked away uncomfortably.

“I still think you are going about it entirely the wrong way, Angel,” Wes spoke after a few seconds of silence. “Yes, Cordelia does need to be watched, but at the cost of her sanity? I don’t think-” the shrill ring of the phone cut him off, and with a low mutter, Wes turned and made his way to his office.

Gunn sucked his teeth and walked over to the weapons cabinet, grabbing his axe and keeping himself occupied rather than saying a few choice words that were stuck in his throat. He could understand where the vampire was coming from- but at the same time, Angel had no one to blame but himself for the state of his relationship with his seer…. Even though, Gunn silently admitted, circumstances were out of the norm. He shook his head. The best thing he could do was stay the hell out of it.

Standing in the centre of the lobby, Angel was torn. A part of him wanted to say to hell with it all and walk out the door, but at the same time, he couldn’t argue with Wes’ reasoning. He definitely didn’t want Cordy pushing him further away. The sight of his boss rushing from his office, pale and worried, tore him from his thoughts. “Wes?”

“That was… Dennis,” his voice hoarse, Wes shrugged on his jacket and headed for the door – the others instantly followed; Angel grabbing his jacket on the way and checking for his keys.

As they climbed swiftly into the Plymouth, all three kept their mouths shut. Now was not the time for recriminations or ‘I told you so’s’…


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