AUTHOR'S NOTE New fic up! The first chapter is always so exciting. I'm posting this now as kind-of an interim Christmas present for Lauren, since her real one isn't done yet. So Lauren, this is for you! I hope everyone enjoys!
DISCLAIMER I don't own anyone in this story. This exchange in the beginning of this chapter is taken from the Angel episode "There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb" and was written by whoever wrote that episode. I'm just borrowing it.
Prologue – 2001
The five of them left Lorne to clean up Caritas and rode back to the Hyperion. Fred was excited to be back. "Are you sure about that?" she asked as they pushed open the wrought iron gate to the garden.
"Trust me," Cordelia replied. "Tacos everywhere. And soap!" Fred looked thrilled.
"Yo, that portal jumping is a fun ride," Gunn commented. "We should sell it to a theme park. We could get paid!"
They laughed. "Okay. Can I say it?" Angel asked excitedly as they neared the doors. "I want to say it!"
"Say what?" Wesley asked.
Angel pushed the door open. "There's no place like…" His voice trailed off and he asked hesitantly, "Willow?"
The red-headed witch stood from the chair she had been hunched over in. There was a deadness in her eyes that none of them had ever seen before. "What's…?" Cordelia asked, not sure that she wanted to know the answer.
Angel and Willow stared at each other. Finally, Angel said quietly, "It's Buffy."
They stood silently for a moment, Angel and Willow still holding the other's gaze while Wesley and Gunn looked at the floor and Fred fell into her usual silence. Cordelia was unable to process a single thought as the sudden knowledge that Buffy must be dead fell heavily upon her.
Something spurred them to subdued life again and they made it a few steps passed the doorway. Wesley led Fred up to a room and returned to find Willow sitting once again on the chair, now with tears running down her face. Gunn had retreated to the office, feeling that he didn't belong in the discussion about the Slayer that he had never known. Cordelia brought Willow a cup of tea and sat beside her, offering what little comfort she could.
Angel listened in stoic silence as Willow recounted the horrifying tale of their battle with Glory, sparing no details. She talked of the sudden appearance of the Key in the form of a little sister called Dawn and the death of Buffy's mother. She told them, with an edge in her voice, of how her lover Tara had fallen victim to Glory's thirst for sanity. Finally, tearfully, she spoke of the last battle and Buffy's great sacrifice for her sister.
It didn't seem real. Cordelia couldn't bring herself to believe that Buffy Summers was really dead. No one could. There were no questions for Willow to answer after she'd finished the story; Cordelia, Angel, and Wesley were too much in shock to think. Afterward, Willow turned down Angel's offer of a room for the night, claiming that she was needed by everyone back in Sunnydale, and left.
They were by themselves, devastated by the loss of the girl who had sacrificed so much for them. "I can't believe I left her," Angel muttered.
Cordelia and Wesley, their faces wet with tears, both rushed to his side. "Angel, no," Cordelia said. "You know this isn't your fault."
"We all left her," Wesley said softly.
Angel shook his head. "I should have been there for her. I should have been fighting at her side."
"You can't do this to yourself," Cordelia pleaded. "There was nothing you could have done."
Angel looked at her. His eyes looked more dead and empty than she had ever seen them before. "You don't know that."
There was no reaching him. Cordelia looked at Wesley helplessly, but the ex-Watcher just shook his head. They watched as the vampire fled up the stairs. Cordelia tried to stifle a sob as she heard the slamming of a door waft down from the guest floors above them. Wesley put an arm around her shoulder and held her close.
No one saw Angel for a week. Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn tried to handle the business that came in, although no world-threatening events loomed on the horizon. They filled Lorne in on what had happened and the green-skinned demon promised to keep a look out for anything that might require Angel's attention. Fred wandered listlessly around the hotel, only coming out of her room for meals or when Cordelia coaxed her out with promises of tacos. Without Angel, the girl seemed just as lost in Los Angeles as she had in Pylea.
Finally, the vampire reappeared in the lobby just as the sun set. Cordelia was at what had once been the reception desk, poring over an ancient book of Wesley's. Wesley was in his office and Gunn was cleaning the weapons. They were all startled by the sound of Angel's footsteps.
Cordelia rushed from behind the desk. "Hey! You're back!" She paused. "I mean, you're, well, downstairs. With us. And not, you know, hiding in your room."
He turned his dark eyes to her and she cringed at the empty look. "Sorry," she mumbled.
"Angel, are you alright?" Wesley asked, a concerned edge in his voice.
Up above, Fred came silently to the balcony to watch the scene with hesitant interest. Angel looked at each of the three of them in turn. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.
"Sorry for what?" Cordelia asked.
If he had had any breath, Angel would have sighed. "I'm leaving."
He was met with silence. "Leaving?" Cordelia whispered. "Leaving where?"
"There's a place."
Anger boiled over and the words just came tumbling unchecked from Cordelia's mouth. "There's a place? You're leaving us all alone to fight the good fight because you found a place? No. There is no way in Hell that I'm letting you, that we're letting you walk out on us because you're having a bad day!"
Wesley came up softly behind Cordelia and put a hand on her arm. "Cordelia."
She turned on Wesley. "No! He's left us once before; I am not letting him leave us again!"
Wesley looked at the misery written clearly on Angel's face. "He needs to find peace."
Angel nodded. "Yeah."
"Peace?" Cordelia cried. Then her expression crumpled and tears sprang to her eyes. "Why can't you find peace here with us?"
"Or you could go to Vegas."
All eyes turned to Gunn. He shrugged. "I'm just saying."
Angel headed for the door. "I'm sorry, Cordy," he said.
"Yeah!" she shouted after him as he left. "You're sorry! Well not as sorry as you're gonna be! How many times do you think I'm going to let you leave?"
Then he was gone. Wordlessly, Wesley took Cordelia in his arms and let her cry on his shoulder.
After Angel left, the team fell into a depressed limbo. Fred withdrew almost permanently into her room at the Hyperion. Gunn spent more time on the streets, lending a hand to his old gang. Wesley buried himself in researching nearly any demon he could think of. And Cordelia was left alone.
The bitter misery that the team had fallen into after Buffy's death shook Cordelia to the core. She thought back to the life she had once known, before Doyle's visions, before Angel Investigations, before the horror that was graduation, before that tragic relationship with Xander, and before the Slayer ever entered her life. There was happiness there, far back in the recesses of her memory. It was almost too long ago to remember.
She missed being happy. Maybe it was time to find that happiness again.
The next day, Cordelia found herself alone in the hotel with only Fred locked in her room. She approached Angel's door and found it unlocked. With a sigh, she pushed it open and headed for his personal files.
She wasn't exactly sure what she was looking for until she found it. All it was was an address, written in Doyle's hand. More tears came to her as she thought of the other one who had made her life in Los Angeles less miserable that first year. Now both Doyle and Angel were gone.
She was careful to leave Angel's room exactly as she found it, then eased the door closed behind her. An ear to Fred's door told her that the girl was busy scribbling away on her walls as always. Cordelia slipped out the front door.
The address turned out to be the post office. She laughed ruefully. It made sense. Carefully, she picked her way down an ancient set of stairs that she had a creepy suspicion only she could see.
There it was before her. A stone archway set behind a sacrificial alter. She burned the appropriate herbs and said, "I beseech access to the knowing ones," all the while hoping that new Oracles had been called since the others' deaths at Vocah's hand nearly a year before.
The doorway opened and her hope was bolstered. She stepped through the blinding white entrance and found herself in a marble and alabaster temple. Two gold and blue beings in black togas stood before her. "Who are you, lower being?" the male asked.
Cordelia breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh good. I'm so glad that someone's here. I'm Cordelia. I'm a messenger from the Powers to Angel."
The female cocked her head. "A messenger to a champion," she said. "What have you brought us?"
Cordelia dug into her pocket and withdrew a golden scarab that she had taken from Wesley. The female Oracle held out her hand and the scarab flew into it as if called. "Ancient Egyptian." She smiled. "Just like us. Your gift is accepted. What do you ask of us?"
Tears gathered in Cordelia's eyes. "I ask you to take my visions away," she said, her voice breaking.
The Oracles looked at her, confused. "Why?" the male one asked.
"Because I can't do this anymore. I can't go through this pain."
The female glared at her. "This is a very selfish thing you are asking of us. If you abandon your champion, how will he continue to serve the Powers?" she asked.
Cordelia took a deep breath. "I'm asking that you transfer my gift to another. A girl that Angel rescued and brought back to this dimension. She needs some purpose in her life and I need a new beginning. It will be better for both of us," she said. "Please. I'm begging you. Please let my visions be transferred to her as they were once to me."
The Oracles were silent for a moment. Finally, the male one nodded. "We see that your request is made in selfishness, but balanced with good intentions. For this reason, we will grant your request. But now that once your visions are gone, they can never be returned to you. If you make this choice, it is forever."
Cordelia nodded firmly. "I understand."
"Very well." The Oracles looked at each other and then back to Cordelia. "It is done." With a wave of their golden hands, Cordelia was bathed in a burning flash of white light and found herself back in the grotto under the post office.
She wasted no time returning to the Hyperion and gathering her things. As usual, only Fred was at the hotel, but Cordelia did not stop to say goodbye. She simply packed what she needed from the hotel and her apartment, then sold her car and took a taxi to LAX to board the next flight to New York City.
Two weeks later, she found herself in the empty living room of her new apartment. She had nothing but a handful of suitcases. Her visions were gone. Her friends were gone. Her old life was over.
Her words to the Groosalug echoed in her mind. "I've got a job to do back home." As she looked around her bare apartment and thought of all the things and memories and people that she had left behind in Los Angeles, of the mission that she had so willingly abandoned, Cordelia sat down in the middle of her living room floor and sobbed.
Phantom Dennis picked up a blanket and draped it around her shoulders. She hugged it to her as she cried.