He woke with Cordelia stretched out on top of him. Her blood had dried over night, but he could still smell it. Rich and thick. It had been the most amazing blood he'd ever tasted. He didn't think it had been human. It had been better.
It was early for him to be awake, and his body still ached for sleep. Something had pulled him out of his slumber.
He stilled, hearing it again. Voices. The Slayers had already cleared out of his hotel. The only person in there with him should've been Cordelia. He rolled her off of him, finding his clothes and dressing quickly.
As he approached the stairs, he knew who it was, their scents recognizable now that he wasn't surrounded by Cordelia's. The thought of them being here, in his home, made him angry. They shouldn't be here, especially sneaking around the way their hushed tones indicated they were.
He bounded down the stairs, going to meet the intruders. "Buffy, William! So good of you to drop by."
Buffy and Spike turned towards the stairs as they heard his voice. "Um, hi Angel," Buffy said.
He stopped at the foot of the stairs. "So what brings such a lovely couple to my hotel on this very sunny afternoon?"
"We wanted to talk to you about the Shanshu Prophecy." Buffy replied bluntly
That damn prophecy… He should've known. "Oh, that. Why are you asking me?" he asked, gesturing towards Spike. "He's the lucky recipient, after all."
"Because we don't know anything about it," Buffy said with a sigh. "You've read it. I thought maybe you could help us figure some things out."
"Yeah, I've read it, but it doesn't look like it did a lot of good. Who knows, maybe there was just more than Mountain Dew in that cup after all."
Buffy's brow wrinkled. "Mountain Dew?"
"Tell you later," Spike said.
The vampire took a couple of steps closer. "What, you didn't tell Buffy yet? Thought for sure you'd give her a blow by blow, tell her all about how you proved yourself the better man." He sneered. "How was it you described your time with Buffy that day? Oh yeah, 'stickin' it to her' was the phrase, I believe."
"Oh, sure, take that out of context, why don't you," Spike snapped. "You know…"
"Look, Angel, I am so not in the mood for this. So how about you act like a grown-up here?"
Buffy had placed her hand on Spike's arm as she spoke, and it wasn't something her former lover missed. Neither one of them seemed to flinch at all at the gesture, rubbing it in his face how comfortable they were with touching each other. "You want my help, Buffy? Fine. I'll give you some advice. Stay away from Spike. That should help you out a lot."
"Dammit, Angel, what is wrong with you? Look, I know you're upset that the prophecy wasn't about you, but…"
"Upset?" He started walking again, slowly moving towards them. "'Upset,' she says. I have everything I've worked for, my redemption, stolen from me by this pathetic excuse for a man here, and she says I'm 'upset.' Let me tell you something, Buffy. I'm a little more than upset."
Spike moved himself between Angel and Buffy. "Look, your problem is with me, not Buffy. Leave her alone. You've hurt her enough for one lifetime."
"Aw, what do we have here? William the Bloody trying to be all manly and stand up for a girl that's never going to be his. This just gets pathetic after a while, you know that, Billy?"
"I'm pathetic? You're the jealous wanker who's swaggering around here making an ass of yourself."
"Yeah? Then maybe we should cut the chit-chat." He punched Spike, sending him staggering backwards and to the ground.
"Angel! What the hell is wrong with you?" Buffy exclaimed. She turned towards Spike, and gasped.
That's when he realized the mistake he'd made. Spike's eyes flashed feral yellow as he charged his grandsire. He'd just picked a fight with a Spike who was not quite as human as he'd thought...
Not that it really mattered now that he was struggling to hold his own in the brawl.
He heard Buffy yell for them to stop, but he didn't. He was too angry, and he wanted Spike to suffer. Wanted him to hurt for what he'd taken from him.
Suddenly, a bright white light surrounded both the men, and they floated away from each other. They looked puzzled for a moment before trying to start up again, only to discover they couldn't move.
"You know, Angel," Cordelia said as she walked down the stairs and towards the vampire, "I was upset enough when I woke up alone a few minutes ago, but then to come down here and find you fighting with Spike… Did you not listen to anything I've said to you these past couple of days? Because honestly, if there's one thing I hate, it's being ignored."
Angel had the decency to look sheepish. "Uh, hi, Cordy. You think maybe you could…"
"Let you go? Nuhuh. Not until I'm finished talking, buster. See, I've said this over and over, but you don't seem to listen, so I'm going to try one more time. Maybe if you're a captive audience, it'll sink in to that thick skull of yours. The Shanshu Prophecy was not yours. It was meant for a Champion—not the CEO of Evil, Inc. You didn't prove yourself worthy—Spike did. Spike was instrumental in adverting four potentially major apocalypses, and two of those were before he had a soul. He risked himself out of selflessness time and time again, and that was almost always because of love. He continually put those he loved first, allowing himself to be driven by his heart, even when it didn't beat. That's what a Champion is, Angel. It's someone who loves with every bit of who they are, who puts love above all else. Love, real love, is the essence of selflessness, of sacrifice. You've had chance after chance to love like that, and you've run from it every time. Spike never has, even when it threatened to tear him apart."
Angel stared at Cordelia, not knowing what to say. He knew he had no rational way of arguing against that, not with her. She knew him too well. And truth be told, he was tired of trying. The past couple days had been some of the hardest he'd ever had to face, and they'd taken their toll. He'd lost everything. Where was the use in doing anything but giving in? "But Cordy, what…what do I do now?" he asked softly.
"You're getting one more chance. That's why I'm here. Took an awful lot to convince the PTB you were worth keeping around after that stunt with the Circle of the Black Thorn, let me tell you. But we made a deal. You get to stick around—with a newly-anchored soul—in exchange for being the Champion I told them you could be. Means you're going to have to work a bit more there, buddy. No more going to bat for Team Evil."
"What about you?" Angel asked.
"I'm here to stay. Someone has to make sure you keep on your path after all. But all this Buffy jealousy crap has to stop, or I am so out that door."
With that, Cordelia released the hold she had on Spike and Angel, and Angel immediately pulled Cordelia into his arms. "I love you, Cordy," he whispered against her ear.
Cordelia held him tightly. "I know, Angel," she said after a moment. "I love you, too." She pulled away, smiling softly at him. "We'll talk more in a bit, but I have some important things to tell Spike and Buffy, okay? Can you go upstairs and wait for me?"
Angel glanced behind him, seeing Buffy and Spike out in the gardens. The sunlight was shining on them both, and he felt defeated. It was sinking in. He'd lost. Spike had won. "Yeah, I'll go up."
Cordelia kissed his cheek. "I'll join you shortly, okay?"
Angel nodded and went up the stairs.
Cordelia came into the bedroom with a bowl and a rag. "What's that for?" Angel asked.
"You've got blood on your face. I'm cleaning it off," Cordy replied as she knelt down in front of him. She dipped the rag in the bowl, wetting it with warm water before cleaning Angel's cuts. "That was a pretty stupid thing to do, you know," she said after a moment.
"I didn't know he still had all that strength. And by the way, why is he still strong?"
"Whether you knew or not, it was still stupid. And as for the strength, the Powers thought it would be for the best. Spike wouldn't like having to sit on the sidelines. It's better for Buffy, too. She needs someone who can keep up with her."
"So she is with Spike?"
"She will be. Soon."
"She shouldn't be."
Cordelia threw the rag back into the water and stood up. She stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. "Dammit," Angel muttered, getting up and going after her. "Cordy!"
Cordelia stopped in the middle of the hall, turning around. "I really don't want to talk to you right now."
"Look, whatever I did to piss you off, I'm sorry."
"Whatever you did? You don't even know?"
"Something to do with Buffy?" Angel tried.
"Good guess," Cordelia snapped. She stalked over to him, anger flashing in her eyes. "What is it about her, Angel? I know you don't really want to be with her. I know you love me. But you can't let her go."
"She shouldn't be with Spike! He's no good for her."
"That isn't your decision, Angel. As a matter of fact, none of Buffy's decisions are yours. She's a grown-up now. And she's getting along just fine without you."
Angel flinched. "I care about her, Cordy. I care about what happens to her."
"No. What you care about is that Spike has something you don't. You think I don't know what went on this past year? You think just because I wasn't there in body that I couldn't see? Instead of welcoming Spike as another soldier for your cause, you belittled him, fighting him at almost every turn. And what the hell was that crap in Rome? Huh? You're so damn jealous of Spike that it's seriously clouding your judgment."
"Jealous of Spike? Come on, Cordelia, he's pathetic."
"Angel! Geez! I'm not falling for it. I know you're jealous. You're jealous of what he has. You're jealous of how easy he makes it look. You spent years trying to do the whole vampire with a soul thing, and Spike swoops in and achieves in two years what you couldn't in a century. And to rub salt in the wound, Buffy loves him. Probably more than she loved you. And yeah, you're jealous. It's ludicrous to even pretend you're not. But get the hell over it! This is how things were meant to be. Shut up and deal with it."
"No, listen to me." Cordelia jabbed her finger against his chest. "I gave up a hell of a lot for you, Angel. First, I gave up a chance at stardom so you wouldn't be all crazy with the visions. And now, I've given up a nice, cushy existence in the Higher Realms so you won't go over the edge. I have everything riding on you, you know that? I had to convince the Powers that Be that you weren't a hopeless cause, and right now, you're making me look like a fool."
"Cordy…" Angel tried again, but Cordelia wouldn't let him talk.
"I can't do this right now, Angel. I made love to you last night, gave everything I had to you. I let you drink from me. And how do I wake up? Alone. Where were you? Fighting over Buffy. This is the thanks I get for everything I've done for you? I have suffered for you, Angel. I've lived with near-constant pain to be your link to the Powers. I've faced death time and time again to be at your side. And you don't even care."
"No! That isn't true! I love you, Cordelia. I really do. I never meant…"
Cordelia held up her hand. "I'm sure you didn't mean a lot of things. I just…I need to go right now."
"Cordy, please. I'm sorry about this morning. I just heard someone downstairs, and I went to check it out. I didn't know it was them. And when I saw them together, I snapped. I'm sorry."
"I have to go," Cordelia said again, turning around and walking down the stairs. Angel ran after her, only to have Cordelia turn, her eyes flashing white as she pushed out at him, an invisible force hitting him and slamming him backwards.
Angel fell to the ground, staring as she ran out of the hotel.
Again, please, please review.
Also, for those of you who've read "Daylight," too, there's only one more scene that will be from that fic before it's on to all new stuff.