The Lion, the Witch and Cordelia's Wardrobe
Disclaimer: Joss owns everything of Buffy/Angel verse. C.S. Lewis wrote the original The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (great book by the way). And George Lucas owns Yoda. I own nothing.
She called him Angelus.
That's what she thought of him. A demon. He leaned against the tree, feeling the ridges of the bark against his back. He wanted to bash his head against the trunk until he attained some deep level of unconsciousness. He deserved her scorn, her ire. He'd disregarded them, threw them away when he no longer wanted to feel, no longer wished to be human. Yet he had not realized how far he had fallen in her eyes until today.
When she called him Angelus. Her focus steady and fixed, she never wavered when she said it. His actions merited it though he worked to redeem himself in their eyes, in her eyes. The strain built with each passing day, each night when he felt alienated as they sat together eating dinner. He stopped drinking blood in front of them. The tension threaded to a single string, frayed and taunt. Until it snapped.
Why had he said it? He shifted and the wound slicing his ribs protested. Grimacing, he grasped it and quelled the shudder of pain. He cursed, low, under his breath. If she'd taken care of him with her tender ministrations to clean and cover the wound he wouldn't be suffering now. He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes until he saw flashes of light. He shouldn't blame her. He was to blame, for all of it, the guilt burdened his shoulders.
Standing in the shadows of the hotel lobby, he had watched as she comforted and cared for both Wesley's and Gunn's wounds. Though their wounds were minor, she lingered over the cuts and abrasions from their latest encounter with a beast from her visions. Cordelia had smiled at them and bid them good night. She never offered to clean his wounds, never handed him the bandages to seal the wound that still seeped blood.
He swallowed hard against the recalled memory. How she averted her eyes as she left the hotel lobby, ignoring his serious injuries. Witnessing her slight, Wesley volunteered to assist him in wrapping his broken ribs and splinting his shattered leg. He waved the ex-Watcher off and limped up the stairs. Shooting pain arced up his leg but he ignored it. He was a vampire and the demon within would creep its way to his injuries to fix the damage with or without her help. He dropped onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling, the dark shadows of night left him little to gaze upon in his reverie. Except thoughts of her.
Morning issued the sounds of the city and he laid where he had fallen the previous night. Listening as the noises of life, life of the day filtered up to his room. He crawled to sit up and winced at the throbbing in his leg. If she had touched him, nursed for him as she had done for Wesley and Gunn his extensive injuries would not be plaguing him this morning. Shuffling down the stairs he watched from the landing as they – his friends – started their day. So much of what they did, they did without him.
Cordelia noticed him and said, "You look like a meat grinder ate your clothes. Didn't you even take a shower and clean yourself up after last night?"
Wesley jumped to say something to distract him but the first shot hung in the air. He received it calmly and dutifully answered it with one of his own. "I don't think a self-professed princess wearing second hand thrift shop clothes should comment on my attire."
She stopped digging through the pile of invoices on the coffee table and narrowed her eyes at him. Cold, steel, frozen. In all his days of fighting the fiends of hell, he never experienced such unmitigated anger. She walked over to him and said in a low growl even he couldn't manage. "You can get your own coffee today," she paused then hissed, "Angelus."
Her words tore into him, ripped apart his reticent manner and he stumbled back from her as if she physically struck him. Raising an eyebrow, she lifted her chin and went back to work on the files. He escaped to the sewers and hadn't returned.
Night fell and he sat in a park, far away from the scent of her. Sat staring at the passing lights of the cars, listening to the beat of engines and scream of sirens. And he realized as he rested he couldn't fix the harm he'd inflicted. The Host had been right. There was no way to turn back.
"Seems a creature of the night such as yourself would be more aware of people creeping up on you."
He startled and looked up to see an old woman crouching over him. The wrinkles folded over her face and lined the years across her skin. She gave him a smile, though no teeth were evident. The tangles of her hair knotted and twisted with the knitted cap on her head. Easing down, she braced herself against his shoulder and settled her bulk next to him. The odor wafting from her nearly made him pass out. He blinked as his eyes teared but remained seated. In the back of his mind he wondered if she might have fleas.
"Creature of the night sitting here in broad day light."
He glanced briefly at the moon and said, "It isn't day."
"Yes it is." She spat and he swore her last tooth flew out of her mouth. She dug in the pockets of her moth eaten coat and pulled out a wad of tobacco. "Want some?"
He shook his head.
"Why not? You ain't gonna die of cancer." She laughed but it turned into a snort as her shoulders shook. "Not any time soon."
"Why are you here?" He shoved away from her, putting a bit of distance between the two of them. "And how do you know anything about me?"
As she ripped off a chunk of tobacco, she chuckled and said, "Ain't just any ol' bag lady you're talking to." She choked on the size of the chew, flung some of it out of her mouth and wiped her chin on her sleeve. He saw stains traveling up her arm from past displays. "I'm Lucy in the Sky."
He rolled his eyes. Why did he always attract this sort? Maybe it was from his days as a bum. "Really I don't know what you're talking about."
"You know the Beatles song?"
He nodded. At least he knew of that.
"Well, that's me."
"That refers to drugs." He glanced at her again and realized the woman could easily be on drugs and the name wasn't too far off. Shrugging he said, "What do you want, Lucy?"
"In the sky," she corrected. "You have to say the whole thing if you want me to help you."
"Listen," he said as he jumped to his feet. "I don't care what your name is. I don't give a crap that you know I'm a vampire and I don't want any crazy lady pretending to be my own personal Yoda." He started away.
"But she's sorry too," Lucy in the Sky called after him.
He stopped and faced her. "What? What did you say?"
"She's sorry too." The old lady leaned back and started to rub her neck. "Damned sidewalk is never as comfortable as it looks when you're drunk."
He closed the distance between them and bent on his haunches. "She's sorry?"
Lucy in the Sky snickered and crooned at him. "So sorry she is. Wants to make it better she does."
He bit back his reply and quieted the need to vamp out on her. "Okay I deserved the Yoda impression, now tell me what I can do?"
The bag lady smiled, baring her gummed mouth for him. "Make it right by what you said." She sniffled, pinched her nose and blew it on her shirt.
Grimacing, Angel sat back and asked, "That doesn't make much sense."
"I'm not supposed to make sense, I'm crazy." Getting on all fours, she waddled over to him and whispered, "A princess needs what?"
"A princess?" He frowned at her.
She slapped him up side the head. "Try not to be a creature for once and try to be human instead." Rolling over she gazed up at the dim night sky. "The stars are all blotted out by the smog. Nothing can be pretty in this city anymore. It gobbles you up." And she started making sounds quite similar to a over grown turkey.
"Nothing can be pretty?" He tilted his head to the few stars overhead. "A princess." Scrambling to his feet, he considered kissing the bag lady, decided against it and simply mumbled his thanks.
"Do or do not, there is no try!" she giggled and waved good bye to him as he set off.
He stood in front of her door, his fist paused to knock when it opened automatically. No one opened it and he surmised Dennis had just invited him in. He stepped inside and called out, "Cordelia? Are you here?"
He heard a slight shuffle in the bedroom and detected the murmur of a heartbeat. No two heartbeats. He stopped. Two heartbeats in her bedroom? He scowled.
"Damn Dennis, you could have warned me," he said through clenched teeth as the bedroom door opened.
"I'm sorry to intrude, but," he stopped.
Her eyes were swollen and red. Tears streaked her face and her cheeks were burnt red from the salt of her tears.
"What happened, Cordelia? What happened?" His mind whirled and he forced himself not to launch into her bedroom to pummel the idiot in there.
She shook her head and wiped away the last of her tears. "I'm just, I'm just. So, so. I'm so sorry, Angel." She wrapped her arms around him, buried her face in the folds of his coat. "Please I didn't. I shouldn't have said it. It was just that."
"Just nothing," he said and with gentle pressure withdrew her from him. "You have nothing to be sorry for Cordelia. It's me. I'm the one that has a world to make up for. Please don't think even think of apologizing to me. I'm not worth that, or your tears"
"Angel," she whispered and pulled him close again. "You're worth so much more. So much more than you know."
They stood like that curled around each other. Her head laying upon his chest, his head resting upon the crown of hers. The stillness of the night wrapped around them and he found a certain solace in her arms.
"I have, I have something for you," he said after a time.
She glanced up at him but did not question him.
He went to the hallway and brought the packages in. Box after box, bag after bag. "I had to guess at the sizes. But after nearly two hundred fifty years you get pretty good at this."
"Oh my, oh my God! Angel!" Her excitement popped as she skipped around the room. "You went shopping for me?" She started to dig through the bags, opening the boxes and fishing out the blouses, skirts, pants, shoes. Even a pair of earrings. "I can't believe you did this for me!" She leapt into his arms again and squeezed him. Tight. So tight. "Oh wait."
"No, now you can't say you don't want them." He started to pace. "I know I can't make up for things with material goods. But you deserve a little bonus, you put the business together." He was babbling and he knew it but he desperately wanted her to accept these gifts.
"No, no!" She laughed. "Like I'm going to give up designer clothes." She grabbed his hands. "I have something for you too. A little gift. I thought it would help you get through the nights, you know when we're all sleeping and you're alone." She led him into the bedroom.
Sleeping in the center of her bed a tiny kitten snuggled. Two heartbeats. Two. He should have know it wasn't human but he'd been so damned nervous about the clothes.
"Her name is Lioness." She gathered the ball of fur and cradled the kitten. "Here."
A kitten? And a vampire? He raised his eyebrow but didn't take the cat.
"Both creatures of the night. Both have long fangs. Both associated with the devil. You know you have a lot in common." She offered the kitten to him again.
It was the color of a lion and purred as he took it in his hands. The kitten woke briefly, sniffed and licked him, then curled in the corner of his arm.
"See, I knew she'd be perfect for you." Cordelia beamed. "You want a fashion show?"
The ends of night found him reclining on her couch as she twirled before him in her new wardrobe. The kitten quietly slumbered in his embrace.
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