It seems strange to be the one being haunted instead of the one doing the haunting after all this time, but that's exactly what's happened. He spent years trying to chase every one from his apartment, and yet now, he would give anything to hear true laughter ring through its hollow walls again. He hears her voice every day, calling his name, chiding him for taking the remote or making that certain article of clothing she liked so much but he felt unworthy of her disappear, teasing him, even crying over Angel, but she's never truly there. She hasn't been now for months.
He thought he had grown accustomed to waiting for her. He would play the television or radio sometimes just to fill the silence where her voice and laughter should be as he waited for her to come home. He'd rush to the door with every jingle of keys or steps he heard outside only to have the living walk pass him again. He'd count the tiles on the ceiling even sometimes as he waited, in sheer and complete boredom, for her return. He's done all this a hundred times at least, and she still hasn't come home.
They came to get some of her belongings the other day. He hadn't wanted to let them in at first, but little, mousy Fred had been with them. The girl really was quite charming in her own sweet and naive ways, as Cordy might put it, and he'd found her rapidly endearing. He'd let them in, but then he hadn't wanted to let them back out again, especially with the way they'd whispered about his best friend.
Now he knows the truth. She isn't home, because she's in some kind of coma. But they've watched programs about people in comas. Her spirit should still be able to travel. She should still be able to come home to him, even if others couldn't see her, but she hasn't. Being trapped between these walls has never been more frustrating.
He's spent whole nights calling for her, howling and moaning her name. He's made such a noise that the people downstairs now know the level above them is haunted, and more people than ever before have been moving out of the apartment building. He used to find it fun to scare unwanted guests, but nothing's fun any more. Nothing seems to hold the same appeal as it did when they shared things together.
Fred had commented once about possibly staying with him for a while, but Dennis is glad she didn't. As sweet as the girl is, she's no Cordelia. She can't make him laugh the way Queen C did, and she certainly can't hold her own against him. Keeping the remote or pulling the bed sheets would be no fun without a beauty to chastise him like Cordelia had. He rattles the walls, knocking another picture loose and sending it crashing to the floor. Cordelia's face smiles up at him, and he howls again, shaking the room even harder.
There is no one like his Cordy not in his time, her time, or any other time and not among the living or the dead! There is only one Queen C, and he misses the pain in his rear more than he'd ever thought he could. The nights without her as she'd helped Angel and his little team win back the world or stop another apocalypse had been hard enough, but these nights that seem to have stretched into endless weeks seem almost impossible to endure without her bright light!
Her bright light. He stops, realizing what he's just thought and reflects upon his own sentiment. Cordelia certainly had shone with a bright, radiant light. She had shone and sparkled not just among the living but among the dead as well. That's why she was so important to an undead boy who couldn't get his mess together and stop pining over some Slayer who isn't half the woman his Cordelia is: She was Angel's link to humanity, but not just his. Somewhere between the time he'd first tried to run her out of his apartment and now, Cordelia had also become his link to humanity. She had become his best friend, the sister and confidante he had never had while he'd still been alive.
And now she's gone, living him here still in this place to haunt their apartment alone. He's no fool. He knows what those sad eyes and tears meant the other day. He knows what Fred wanted to tell him but couldn't find the words, or the heart, to say. Dennis weeps even as his ghostly howls ring throughout the apartment, breaking more glass and causing a car alarm somewhere outside to go off. Cordelia isn't coming home this time.
She's not only in a coma. The doctors don't expect her to come back, and neither do her friends. That's why they came to get her things. That's why the TV bill hasn't been paid and it's shut off to the point that even he can not get fuzzy channels to come up on the thing. It's why the landlord is trying yet again to rent out his apartment to people who don't belong here.
He used to believe, for so many years, that he was the only one who belonged here, and maybe he was right. After all, if Cordelia is no longer among the living, shouldn't she be able to come here to him if she belongs here? Shouldn't she be able to come at least speak to him one last time? Shouldn't she be able to see him as a ghost, to embrace him as a fellow spirit? She shouldn't she be able to come home to him?
He weeps and howls not just today but every day until at last he looks up when hearing his name whispered in her beautiful voice again and she really is there. She smiles at him through the tears flooding her lovely, hazel eyes.
"You came home," he whispers, hoarse, and reaches for her without thinking. His fingers wipe tears away from her eyes, and that's when he knows. That's when he understands. "C-Cordy - " His voice breaks as he, too, starts to cry for now he can see the golden light in which she is bathed.
"I can't stay," she whispers apologetically, looking up at him through her flood of tears.
"What am I supposed to do without you?"
His hoarse back of laughter rings throughout the apartment. She wraps her arms around him and holds him close. The feel of her cheek against his doubles his tears. "You know what I mean," she whispers in his ear. "I wouldn't have survived this place without you, Dennis. There will be another young woman who needs you just as badly as I did. You'll know her when you see her."
"I don't want another friend! I want you!"
"I want to be with you too, Dennis, but for whatever reason, they're not letting you come home yet. Your mission isn't over."
"Yes, it is! If yours is, mine is!"
She can't help the laughter that escapes her. He sounds so childish right now, so much like the brother she always secretly wanted but never got to have. "No," she says simply, pressing her fingers to his lips, "it's not. But when it is, I'll be waiting for you."
He purses his lips against her finger. She lifts her fingers and moves to kiss his cheek, but he turns his head and kisses her gently on her lips instead. "Angel never deserved you," he vows quietly.
"Don't start - " she begins to protest, but he's shaking his head.
"Neither did I." The truth rings between them. He had never deserved her beauty or her love, probably not even her friendship, and that's exactly the reason why she's being taken from him now. Another girl will come along, and since it's important to her, he knows he will eventually help the child. But he'll never feel for another what he feels for this woman, his dearest and most treasured friend who, had they lived at the same time, could have perhaps been so very much more.
"Nonsense." Cordelia smiles even as she steps back into the light that is now so bright it hurts his eyes. "I'm the one who never deserved you, but I'll never forget you or stop loving you." Or Angel, she thinks but doesn't say those words aloud. Dennis doesn't need to be reminded of her Angel any more than Angel needed to have her Groosalugg shoved into his face, but what is done is done. Her life, and her choices, are over now, but theirs remain. Her lips tremble, but she forces herself to continue smiling at him through her tears. "Be good, Dennis," she says, and then she's gone, leaving him to howl and tear through their emptied apartment again.
People come and go through their apartment, but they never stay long. He makes certain of it until one day a family comes in. He tries to scare them, but the parents dismiss what they think they see with logical reasons. The boy laughs, and the girl just looks at him. She stares right at him and snaps, "Don't mess with me things, ghost!"
Phantom Dennis, he remembers with a fond name, was what Cordelia had first called him. That was the name his Princess had given him, and his Princess had told him that this girl would come. She would come, and she would need him. For Cordelia, Dennis thinks and finally settles in with his new family, helping the children not for himself but for Cordelia. For the Princess, he thinks as Doyle, Groo, and even Angel did before him. For the Princess.
And finally, he laughs again. He smiles again, but he never feels whole until many decades later when at last he stands before Cordelia again and this time, they each readily wrap the other in a tight hug. "Welcome home," his Princess whispers in his ear, and his heart booms through his beaming smile for at last, he knows, he is indeed home. He's with her, exactly where he's always been destined to be.