Content: Angst/alternating Angel POV, 3rd person
Spoilers: Through Dead End
Summary: As Cordelia's visions get worse, Angel must deal with the guilt, and has a revelation in the process.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt, and belong to Twentieth Century Fox, all rights reserved. This story is not for profit.
Dedicated to the A/C board. Subtext yay!
She gets the visions because of me. She didn't ask for them, she doesn't need them, and she certainly doesn't deserve them. She's not atoning. She hasn't wronged thousands of people over a span of four lifetimes. She's 20 years old, barely out of high school, and she came to Los Angeles to pursue her dream.
Instead, she got a nightmare. As per usual, Cordelia got stuck with a raw deal.
(I hate my whole life.)
I didn't feel so bad at first; Cordelia genuinely seemed to like having a purpose. She certainly liked her elevated status as vision girl, and on more than one occasion deemed herself deserving of a raise due to her current non-expendable status. But now, all the money in the world, I guess, wouldn't make up for the pain.
It's more than pain, now. It's debilitating. And it's getting worse. Cordelia is slowly deteriorating right before my eyes. It's killing me to watch. My heart might not beat, but it hurts like hell. I'm more than guilty: I'm hurting yet another person I love.
(It's part of the job, right?)
She won't complain. Not anymore. That's how I know it's hurting her more than anything. She can't even find it in herself to complain about the pain. So I just hurry up and wait. Finish the job as fast as I can, wait for the next vision to start it all over again. It's a hell of a life, one I deserve.
(I'll be with you until you do.)
I have no idea what spurs Cordelia's loyalty to me. I never earned it, never expected it, and yet she gives it to me - gives everything to me blindly, without question. It makes my abandonment that much worse. I cut her - deep. Deeper than anyone probably ever has.
I'll never be able to make up for that hurt, just like I can't make up for the visions. I can buy her a new wardrobe once a month, order sandwiches in every day, and it'll never be enough.
Not for me.
She forgave me - I got her back. And I know she won't leave me, even though I left her once. Even though she hates her life. Even though these visions are slowly killing her.
Wesley, Gunn and I have talked about the toll her visions are taking. More than once, Wes mentioned that Doyle was a demon, and probably much better equipped to handle the consequences of mind shattering pain. Cordelia can only hold on for so much longer. We've talked about the possibility of the visions rendering her completely insane. We've talked about the possibility of the visions killing her.
But we haven't talked about how we're going to fix it.
And I have to fix this. Cordy's my responsibility, and I'm not going to let her down.
"Angel. Angel. ANGEL!" Cordelia snapped her fingers in front of the vampire's face then replaced her hand on her hip. "Snap out of it, brood boy! We've gotta go!"
Finding his hands balled into fists in his lap, Angel blinked and looked up, discovering his Seer standing above him, hands on her hips - hips covered in silky black material she had *definitely* not been wearing last time he'd seen her.
"What? What are you - "
Cordelia shook her head, obviously not having any time for his excuses. She gripped his hand - was that pink nailpolish? - and pulled him into a standing position. Her lips were pink too, eye makeup applied, hair pulled back into an upsweep. No, she definitely hadn't looked like this last time he'd seen her. She'd been wearing jeans and a tank top, no makeup, no nailpolish.
Angel looked down at his feet, settling into the familiar awkwardness that always plagued him when he had no idea what was going on.
Which was pretty much always.
She seemed to be appraising his outfit. It was standard, black on black, and certainly didn't need such close examination as she was giving it. Her hand was in his collar, fingernails brushing against his neck -
- pulling out the tag. "What is this?" Speaking to no one in particular, because Angel's answer was that it was his shirt, thankyouverymuch. "Silk blend." She mulled her discovery over. "Blended with what?" Now directed at Angel, "I thought you were changing while I got ready."
He definitely did not remember that. How lost in his thoughts had he been while she'd instructed him to change into something else? And what for?
"Cordy, I have no idea what you're talking about."
Honesty, was, after all, the best policy. At least that's what they said. Of course, they didn't have to answer to Cordelia Chase.
She huffed at him, pushed a stray tendril behind her ear, and tapped her heeled toe. "I knew you weren't listening when I was talking to you earlier! God!" She snatched her purse and started toward the stairs that ascended to Angel's suite. "We're going to a party at David Nabbit's. It's an important party, at which there will be important people. We're lucky we got an invite. So we're going."
Her voice was gradually getting louder as she made her way across the Hyperion lobby and started up the stairs.
"Uh, Cordelia, I'd rather not - "
A wave of her hand effectively cut Angel off. "We're going," she repeated, finality in her tone. "I'm getting you another shirt. One that's not a silk blend and one that's not black. Deal with it."
Then she disappeared into the hallway, and Angel let his body fall back onto the sofa he'd recently occupied, finding himself weary at the prospect of arguing with Cordelia.
A party at David Nabbit's. A party. With people. At David Nabbit's. Well, there were worse places to be stuck with a bunch of people. At least Angel could count on himself not being the only one avoiding everyone with a pulse.
Angel heard Cordelia's heels clacking against the lobby floor and forced himself to stand, accepting the shirt she thrust at him. She watched him carefully as he stripped himself of his perfectly fine black silk blend and donned the red silk not-a-blend-dry-clean-only shirt she'd picked out for him.
"I'm putting it on," he intoned, feeling something akin to uneasiness - embarrassment? - crawling up his spine under her gaze.
Cordelia simply nodded. "I see that," she replied. "Keep going. We're losing our fashionably late window. We don't want to be rude." She sniffed. "I mean, let's face it, Brad and Jennifer we are not."
The last button fastened, Angel faced Cordelia head on. He cocked an eyebrow as she examined him for lint. "Who are Brad and Jennifer?" She ignored him, reaching a hand up and brushing his shoulder. Angel looked at the spot that had her attention. "Damn invisible lint."
He cracked a smile at his own joke. Cordelia did not. She slid her hand down his arm, hooked her hand into his and smiled brightly at him, as though he hadn't said anything at all. "Ready!"
We didn't even get to the car. I was finally feeling okay about going to this party - admittedly it was Cordy's hand squeezing mine that was making things okay - when she groaned and stumbled.
A vision hit hard on the front steps of the Hyperion. Cordelia's heel caught on the hem of her dress and the fabric tore as she cried out. I have to be honest; it's quite possible her protest was just as much for the anger of ripping her dress as it was for the pain of the vision.
I caught her as she crumpled - she sagged against me, breath hitching in loud, desperate sobs. All at once, my chest tightened. This is the worst part...the crying.
Several people stopped at the front gates of the hotel, staring in curiously. It was all I could do not to growl at them. A stern enough look - in my human face - kept them moving before Cordelia noticed and yelled obscenities at them to either help or mind their own business. No kidding - that's happened before.
She was still crying, softer now, as I hooked one arm behind her knees and lifted her into my arms. I didn't ask her what she'd seen, I didn't ask her if she was okay, because she wanted neither of those things. I held her as close to me as I could possibly get her - because that's what I wanted - and took her back into the hotel.
I'd settled her into my bed without one protest and managed to get a glass of water and several painkillers before she even attempted to speak. When she did, her voice was weak, raspy, as if she'd been screaming for hours. She took the water from me, swallowed the pills with a thankful smile, and blinked back tears.
That was the first thing she said to me. She apologized. I wanted to shake some sense into her - I wanted to order the Powers That Be to give this responsibility to someone else, someone who had something to pay for, because Cordy didn't. Cordy didn't deserve any of this, yet she took it, full force, and then apologized.
I wanted to hit something.
Instead, I pushed a stray hair - that same one that had come loose earlier - behind her ear and let my hand linger on her cheek for moments longer. She leaned into my palm, sighing softly against it and closed her eyes briefly. When she opened them again, they were dry of tears.
I asked her what she saw. She told me, and I listened - didn't push - even though her details were slow in coming, and it obviously pained her to recall them. When she had exhausted herself with the descriptive, she whimpered, closed her eyes and sunk deep into my pillow.
Only the weak bulb of a small lamp offered light in Angel's suite. Cordelia blinked and strained to see into the shadows, rewarding herself only by worsening her headache. She grumbled softly, deciding she was alone, reached a trembling hand to the glass of water on the nightstand and took a small sip.
The clock beside the bed said it was 11:42, almost exactly three hours since she had dragged Angel out of the hotel with the intention of spending the evening schmoozing the Hollywood crowd.
That had so not worked out. But, Cordelia reasoned, silver lining - at least the vision hadn't hit at the party.
Angel stood in the doorway, looking no worse for the usual wear, but obviously having just returned from slaying the big nasty in Cordelia's vision. He divested himself of his weapons and shrugged off his coat, laying it across the back of a chair before perching himself on the edge of the bed.
Cordelia shrugged, then nodded for his benefit - he always looked so damn guilty after she had a vision. "I'm fine," she said, smiling to punctuate her big fat lie.
Dark eyes narrowed as Angel scrutinized her, and Cordelia started to worry about what she must look like: bed hair, mascara racooning her eyes, drool marks down her chin...
"Stop staring at me." She hadn't meant to snap.
The vampire blinked, looked away. "Sorry. Are you sure you're okay?"
The plan was to snap again - he usually backed off after that - but she didnt' have the energy. "I'm okay," Cordelia sighed. Her head throbbed. She fought the urge to lift her hand to her temple and begin a slow, circular massage. "I'm just - "
Cordelia really was no good at lying. Angel knew it, and he pursed his lips, ready for recrimination if she took it any further. She paused, debating. He wouldn't yell at her, but he'd press. And nag. And brood. He'd probably stake himself over the guilt of it all anyway - she probably owed it to him to give it to him straight.
Sighing, Cordelia allowed her hand to drift upward; she cradled her own head for a moment before massaging her temples slowly. "It hurts so bad, Angel," she admitted, voice cracking just a trace before she pulled a resolute breath inward and plowed on. "Even now, it still hurts. I feel like one of these times, I'm gonna pass out. And I'm not gonna be able to give you the message."
Angel nodded - he'd probably suspected everything she'd just said - he looked defeated. "I don't know how to fix this, Cordy," he admitted. Eyes drifted down to the bedclothes, and his long, elegant fingers picked at the sheets he was sitting on.
Cordelia sat in silence and watched as one hand twisted into the other; he looked up, back down, closed his eyes, opened them, fisted hands, released. Cordelia reached out, twined one set of fingers with hers, then the other, brought one palm to her lips - kiss - the other palm - kiss - and heard him sigh, just barely.
She wrapped each of his strong arms around her waist and leaned into him, breathing deeply and exhaling, feeling surrounded by protection, by her Angel. She let go of his hands and they stayed there, cradling her at the small of her back. Her fingers traveled in front of her, releasing two of the buttons on his shirt - the red silk not-a-blend - and put her forehead against his bare chest, his skin cooling the tension there.
No heartbeat, no breath, but a deep, melancholy sigh.
"I don't want you to hurt anymore."
As he said it, she felt the bulk of his weight press against her, and she let him guide them backward until they lay together, propped against the headboard of his bed. She pushed herself closer still.
"It's not your fault, Angel."
I heard her voice catch when she said it, but I promised myself not to contemplate what it meant. She'd folded herself into me, resting her fevered forehead against my chest, and I knew - then - she needed me.
We lay there together, two against the world, and determination set in. The angry kind. The kind that I am very familiar with. She was running her fingers up my arm and back down, pinching the material between her fingertips - the shade of my shirt just a few darker than her nailpolish. It was a gesture so tender, the hardness in my voice nearly ruined it.
"I'm going to figure out a way to make this stop, Cordelia."
She only nodded slightly - fingers slowing - murmuring sleepily that it couldn't be stopped.
She didn't have to believe me - didn't have to believe it would ever stop because I knew in that moment that I would find a way, no matter what I had to do, to release her of her Seer duties and keep her with me anyway.
Because it hit me then, though I'd known it for so long now, that she wasn't my assistant, she wasn't my secretary, and she wasn't my Seer. She was just ... mine. My best friend, my family. My Cordelia.
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