Author: Niamh St. George
Spoilers: Anything up to and including "You're Welcome" is fair game.
Rating: PG 13 for language
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy (Grr! Arrgh!), and Twentieth Century Fox. They are being used without permission; no profit will come from this infringement.
Author's notes: Great thanks to Calendar for searching through "You're
Welcome" for my mystery Cordy quote. I've been out of the fandom for awhile,
but, really, after an ep like "You're Welcome," the angst muse reared
her head once again.
The words had hit him like a physical blow. Later, much later, after he'd had time to process the events, he would not remember much about the generically sympathetic voice other than the fact that said voice had delivered to him news both impossible and devastating.
But mostly impossible.
And with those words, Angel felt the entire world fall away. Dead. Cordy -- his Cordy -- his voice of reason, his conscience, his friend, his confidante, and though she'd never been his lover, he had loved her. And, he believed now, she him.
And she was dead.
Logic, of course, dictated otherwise. He knew what he'd seen -- and the others had seen her too. She'd been there -- warm, vibrant, alive. He'd felt her living body against him, arms flung around his neck, her mouth against his. Angel had been all-too aware of her scent, her heartbeat, her breath hot against his face as she exhaled into the kiss. He'd cataloged every nuance, every moment, because part of him simply couldn't believe that she was alive, that she was all right, and that she was there with him.
But then, she wasn't any of those things, was she? Cordelia wasn't alive. She wasn't all right. And, god damn it, she wasn't there with him.
Shaking his head slowly, Angel ran a hand over his face, still trying to absorb the enormity of the situation. On a very primal level, he refused to believe it -- it simply wasn't possible. Either it was a very bad joke played in extremely poor taste, or he was going crazy. He was even willing to accept the possibility that the parasite was still inside of him, taunting him with what he most wanted while at the same time tormenting him with his deepest fears.
Cordelia. The blinding, brilliant, convincing smile -- the face behind the desk, the face of Angel Investigations. She was... light. Illumination made manifest, sunlight incarnate -- and he had basked without fear of immolation.
And now, contrary to what he'd always believed, he felt as if he would die without that light.
Not only had she brought sunshine to shadow -- she had been and would always be his heart. Her trademark honesty had succeeded more times than not, because Cordelia had a gift for making him see, making him understand when the others didn't. For whatever reason, he could more easily ignore Wesley, Fred, Gunn, and Lorne (and had on more than one occasion and, yes, sometimes with disastrous results), but whether it was something in him or something in her, Angel had always found it more difficult to ignore her. Or, at least, if he'd managed to ignore her advice, he always felt the worse for it.
'I naturally assumed you'd be lost without me, but this?'
'I am lost without you.'
'You just forgot who you are...'
And now she was gone. Gone. He could not visit her; he'd never again hold her warm, slack hand in his cool, firm one, spending hours in silence, an endless mantra rolling through his head, begging her to wake, pleading with her to use the strength he knew she had -- the strength she'd transferred to him on more than one instance and simply wake up.
But she never had; not really.
And she never would.
A harsh, hoarse sob wrenched through his throat. He'd never needed air, but now he felt the need to draw a breath -- and found that he couldn't.
Had she been there? Had it all been a hallucination? A dream? A very convincing fantasy?
No. No, her scent still lingered in the room, her taste still clung to his lips. Angel could still feel her warmth in his arms. She'd been there. And, more to the point, she'd been real. And she'd saved him.
She'd saved his life, certainly. She had come through. Crisis averted -- the Champion would rise to fight another day (or night). She had been there for him to depend on. It had all felt so natural, he'd almost forgotten that she'd ever been anything but always there. They'd fought side by side, and it had felt... natural. Normal.
But, more than that, she'd saved his soul. This time it hadn't been happiness that posed the insidious threat. This time it had been apathy, disgust, frustration -- the things that kill the spirit in most everyone else. The dissatisfaction that had been growing in his gut over the past several months was becoming unbearable, and Angel had long felt that he'd begun to wander from his path. He felt further and further away from his meaning -- his calling. In fact, he'd never felt less like a Champion than he did lately.
And wasn't it fitting that Cordelia's final act was to set him back on his path?
Her final act. Or perhaps it was more accurate to call it her curtain call.
Tears he hadn't felt form were already making slow tracks down either side of his face. The ache inside throbbed like a sore tooth as the truth, the reality of the situation settled over him like a heavy, oppressive blanket -- wet wool that he could not fling free. She was dead. He could not change it, he could not fix it. And while she had saved him, he hadn't been able to save her.
A fine tremor invaded his limbs, rendering them nearly useless, and Angel slowly lowered himself to the floor, leaning his back against his desk. He was cold -- far colder than normal -- and he wrapped his arms around himself to protect himself against the chill while at the same time trying to preserve the fading traces of Cordelia's touch. Once that was gone, it was gone forever.
He would not forget how she felt in his arms, against his mouth. He wouldn't let himself forget.
And with that promise to himself, a single terrifying thought ricocheted through his mind -- would the others remember? If it had all truly happened, and Angel was convinced it had, would they be left with knowledge of it?
Or would the Powers let him shoulder this burden alone? Was he doomed to remember? Was that his fate -- to remember that which others forgot? It had already happened more than once -- Connor, the son known only to him; Buffy, a few scant hours (indeed, it felt like little more than minutes) of humanity. These were his memories, and his alone. Would he be the only one to remember her final moments?
Regardless, he promised himself that he would not let her down.
'Oooh, no. That's for you to figure out, bubba. I can tell you who you were. A guy who always fought his hardest for what was right, even when he couldn't remember why. Even when he was miserable, which was, let's face it, a not-small portion of the time. He did right. And that gave him something... a light... A glimmer. And that's the guy I fell in-- The, um... The guy I knew. I see him around here, and maybe I'll start believing.'
'Lemme know if you do.'
From the far reaches of his consciousness, Angel heard a muted trilling. At first he pushed himself to his knees -- the movement took more effort than he would have believed possible, and he suddenly felt every one of this two-hundred some-odd years. His hand closed over the cold receiver and he brought it to his ear. He was momentarily confused by the dial tone buzzing and when the trilling continued, he reached inside his jacket and withdrew his cell phone, answering it.
It was Lorne.
"Angel Dream!" the demon's voice crackled over the cellular phone. "What's taking you two so long?"
'You can explain things to the gang... once you understand.'
Angel's mouth felt dry suddenly; they did remember.
And now he was starting to wish they didn't; for once, Angel wanted to be spared the pain that came with responsibility.