Lyrics from "All the Same" by Sick Puppies
"I don't mind where you come from,
As long as you come to me..."
Doyle opened one reluctant, thoroughly baffled eye as a persistent sound jarred him from his hard-earned sleep (and by hard-earned I am referring to the better portion of a bottle of whisky he had downed before passing out). With half his face pressing into the couch cushions, he struggled to focus on the glowing red digits of the clock across the room.
1:38 AM, just six hours shy of the time he would be waking up for another fun-filled day of enduring head-cracking visions, following Angel through whatever hell said visions put on the agenda, and acting as a personal punching bag for all the nasty critters of the city.
That realization earned a groan of dismay and he quickly decided whatever the noise had been it could not possibly be important enough to get off the couch in order to investigate.
He had just closed his eye again; sleep eagerly drawing him back into its welcomed embrace, when the knock came a second time. His brows drew together in annoyance as he lazily rolled his face to the side enough to cast a suspicious glare at his door. The tapping was entirely too light to be his junkie neighbor asking to bum a smoke…and he knew damned well that a debt collector would have just shouldered their way through or picked the lock by now. Considering those were the only types of visitors he got these days, he was at a loss for who it could be.
Again the knock came, a bit more persistent but still quiet and soft. With a great deal of effort (and whimpering), he gracelessly rolled off the couch onto the floor. He swayed a bit as he climbed to his feet, waiting for the room to stop spinning before running a hand over his face in an attempt to wake up.
With a yawn, he shuffled toward the door, snagging the Louisville slugger on the way just to be safe. In his current state, he was sure he would never be able to hit anything but hoped it would make him appear less vulnerable. Not enough time had passed for him to undergo the transition from 'drunk' to 'hung-over'. As such, he found himself staring out the peephole wondering if he had bought a different kind of scotch by mistake. His typical brand had never caused hallucinations.
He stepped back away from the door quickly, blinking repeatedly, rubbing his eyes, and hoping to God he wasn't finally losing his mind. After taking a steadying breath, he leaned in to have another look. Sure as shit, there she remained.
In the dimly lit hallway beyond his door, stood the one, the only, the incomparably gorgeous (not to mention unwaveringly difficult) Miss Cordelia Chase.
"What in the name of…?" He breathed, hurriedly unlocking the door and pulling it open, instantly wincing and shielding his eyes as the light stung them. "Delia?" He managed with his features twisted in confusion.
She forced the saddest excuse for a smile he had ever seen in his life and managed a weak, "Hey, Doyle."
"What's…are ya alright? Has something happened?" He asked groggily, his mind finally putting together that if she was here at this hour, there must be trouble.
"I'm fine." She assured him quietly, that pathetic attempt at a smile making a second appearance. She took a deep breath before continuing. "Listen, I know it's late – and I'm sorry for waking you up, I just…"
All right, now she was really waking him up. Had she just apologized to him for rude behavior? He narrowed his eyes on her suspiciously, squinting as he searched for any signs of injury (or demonic possession…body snatching, perhaps) that would explain her entirely uncharacteristic behavior.
After allowing his (shh, half-demon) senses to check her over, he found her temperature normal and heart beating strongly in her chest. Both were major pluses – they ruled out the unthinkable (because he knew damned well he'd never be able to stake her if she ever showed up in at his door a vampish way).
"No, no worries – just…here, come on in." He stammered as he continued trying to make sense of her presence, stepping back and opening the door wide enough to allow her entry. His eyes followed her as she walked past him into the apartment, a hand absently wandering over his disheveled hair in an attempt to smooth it. "So…what's…?" He tried again as he closed the door. He was too tired (drunk) to come up with a less off-putting alternative to the obvious question of 'why are you here?'
"I was in the neighborhood." She offered softly, sinking down onto his couch and sitting her purse on the coffee table without making eye contact.
Confused would no longer cut it as a description; perplexed, mystified, puzzled…they only skimmed the surface of the level of bafflement she was inflicting. He attempted to rub the sleep from his eyes as he took it all in. Cordelia…dressed to the nines…in his apartment…after midnight…acting awkward and border-line self-conscious…because she'd been 'in the neighborhood'…
Who the hell would be out in this neighborhood at this hour? The cops didn't even venture here after dark.
"Okay, well…" He scratched his head, wishing she would stop being so abnormally quiet and just ramble to him for five minutes like always about what had led up to her arrival. "Can I get ya anything? Water? Whisky?" He arched a brow at the mental catalogue of his kitchen's contents and confessed. "Yeah, sadly that's all I've to offer."
There was milk; it had just been a few weeks since he had last classified it as 'questionable'. He curled his lip and made a mental note to toss it as soon as possible.
"No, it's okay, I'm good." Cordelia said, looking up at him and adding a soft. "Thanks, though."
And body-snatching had just resurfaced as a possibility. What in the name of Christ was going on here? Where was the bossy, outspoken, snide, adorably flippant Cordy he knew and worshipped?
He crossed his arms over his chest, the action instantly making him curse in his mind at his attire. With the shape he had been in after he and Angel had finished clearing a demon nest, he had not been up to the challenge of getting changed once he finally made it home. Instead, he had just peeled off a few layers before drinking himself to sleep. He was still wearing pants and an undershirt that likely had remnants of his own blood on them (which, of course, he'd say belonged to the other guy if questioned). Nothing he could do about it now, though. It wasn't like he had been expecting any visitors, especially not visitors of the Cordy variety.
That brought him back to the bizarrely out-of-place goddess at hand. He needed to find a way to get an explanation out of her. Usually, once you got her talking all you had to do was stand back and let her rip. He just had to find a question to lead in with. Alright, for starters, why was she dressed like…?
He winced as he remembered the answer to that question. "Date didn't go well, I take it?" He asked, cautiously settling on the other end of the couch.
"No." She said quietly, looking down at her nails and swallowing hard. "It didn't."
Doyle's brows drew together as he chewed the inside of his cheek and studied her. He had struck a nerve with that one, apparently. So the date with the latest rich boy had gone sour – what would have her all down and timid afterward? It was unsettling to see her like this, like someone had gone and broken her confidence or something.
His eyes widened, the booze instantly losing out to the adrenaline rush which came with a possible answer as to what might have caused her current state. Oh, please don't let it be that, he begged in his mind. If it was he'd definitely be all spine-faced here in about two seconds ('Surprise, Cordy!') and in jail by sunrise ('Hey, Angel – listen, man I'm real sorry but I won't be making it in to work…ever. You'll just have to visit the penitentiary every few days to see if I've had a vision.')
He found that his mouth had gone impossibly dry once he fought to form words. "He didn't…? I mean, did he try…?" He asked in a strained voice.
Cordy's head immediately came up, her expression both shocked and apologetic as she realized the worry she had unintentionally put in his mind. "No! God, no – nothing like that, really." She assured as she turned to face him, reaching over and squeezing his hand. "I'm fine, Doyle. I promise."
The color rushed back to his face as relief passed over him, which of course was instantly replaced by surprise at the way she was sitting so closely and holding his hand in hers. He let out a sigh and locked eyes with her, no longer able to dance around the subject.
"Then tell me what's happened, princess. What's got ya here in the middle of the night all sad like this?" He asked worriedly.
She frowned as the sincerity in his gaze nearly opened the floodgates, looking down at his hand and away from those sparkling blue eyes while she explained. "He was just…he just wasn't, you know? So I told him to take me back to the office…but it made him mad. I've never had it make a guy mad like that before."
She left out the fact that she had made all of her dates take her back to the office; she just wasn't finding a connection with any of them. This wasn't the time to wonder at her inability to date, though.
"So out of nowhere he started screaming and saying all these really mean things…" She cleared her throat, recalling some of his words and taking a deep breath. "Just really hurtful things so we argued…and then he dropped me off on the side of the road and took off."
She shrugged as if it was no big deal but even with the way she was trying to keep her face down Doyle could spot the tears forming in her eyes. He watched her sympathetically, shaking his head as he rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb. It was the safest act of comfort he could offer. They definitely weren't on hugging terms but she really looked like she could use one.
"Where?" He asked in barely more than a whisper when he focused on her high heels for the first time. They had seen a great deal of use since she had left the office, that was for sure.
"I don't know exactly." She said, her bottom lip trembling as she continued. "I think it took me about an hour to get here."
It surprised her how comforting she found the deep breath Doyle took in response to that confession to be. Wandering the streets of the neighborhood she had been ditched in at night, alone, dressed the way she was, would be dangerous enough without the threat of vampires and demons. She still couldn't believe that she had made it…or understand why she hadn't gone to the office instead. It would have taken less time and her car was there. She fought back tears, her brows drawing together once again wondering at her instinctive desire to come talk to him about her problems.
"Jesus…" Doyle breathed, shaking his head and closing his eyes. "Cordy…I am so sorry, love." He offered genuinely.
That did her in; the floodgates were now officially open. She leaned forward and (much to the shock of both of them) wrapped her arms around him, clinging to him as she hid her face against his chest and broke down.
His eyes snapped open and he looked down at her in stunned disbelief for a second. By some miracle he managed to push his astonishment aside, holding her as she curled up against him.
"Shh…it's alright…you're alright now…" He whispered as she wept.
"He dropped me off in the ghetto with the hookers, Doyle." She sobbed and he held her tighter, clenching his jaw furiously. "He drove all the way out there just because he said that's where I belonged."
Why did it make her feel better to tell him this?
Doyle scanned a list of phone numbers in his mind; unsavory types who would visit the bastard and provide him with a lengthy stay in an ICU. What he would have to do to repay that type of favor…eh, not something he wanted to contemplate. Let's just say Angel, the police and the Lord Almighty would not look kindly upon it. On some level Doyle was seriously praying that this guy was a demon or vamp. At least then Angel wouldn't have any qualms about helping to kill him. It would certainly make getting rid of the body a hell of a lot easier…
Plotting would have to wait, though. He had a sobbing Cordelia in his arms who was looking to him for support for some unfathomable reason. All he could do was hold her as she let it out, run his hands through her hair and assure her that she was safe, that it was over.
When she finally sat up she did not pull away from him, instead she looked into his eyes and asked softly, "Doyle, do you…" Her voice cracked and she tried again. "Do you think I'm pretty?"
His eyes widened and jaw fell open at the absolute absurdity of the question.
Is the pope catholic?
Does a bear shit in the woods?
Is brooding an integral part of Angel's daily routine?
"Why would ya even ask tha? Ya know you're gorgeous, princess! It's not just a matter of me thinking it." He assured her before adding, "Which by the way, I most definitely do." He insisted as he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Look, that guy didn't even deserve to be in your presence let alone on a date with ya and he damned well knew it. Whatever he said was a sad attempt to drag ya down to his level and I know you're not gonna take any of it to heart, yeah?" Her bottom lip was sticking out and he put a hand under her chin, looking into her eyes intensely. "Because Cordelia Chase doesn't take crap from anyone; not ghosts, not vamps, not demons and especially not dirt-bags, right?" He coaxed, arching a brow and waiting for her agreement.
She sniffled and nodded with tears still streaming down her cheeks. He sighed, shaking his head at the sight of her in that moment.
"Come here." He said, pulling her back to him as she quickly returned to her former position of clinging. "Listen to me, darling – you're too good for every guy everywhere and don't ya ever forget tha. You decide what's best for you, won't settle for anything less and rightly so. Let's face it – you're one hellof a catch. When ya meet a man who has what you're looking for he'll be thanking his lucky stars for the rest of his life that he has you. So just forget about this clown." He told her, then scowled and corrected himself. "Wait…scratch that – don't 'just forget about this clown' until after you've jotted down his name for me." He added and she laughed softly through her tears.
All right, it was still strange to hear her laughing sweetly at his jokes (seriously, though – he intended to get the guy's name) but at least it was an improvement over her bawling. After several moments, it became apparent that she did not plan to move off of him in the near future. He made himself comfortable against the couch, closing his eyes and settling in for the long haul.
It might have been ten minutes or so later when confusion hit again. He must have dozed off because the pleasant sensation at the side of his neck did not ring any warning bells in his mind at first.
His eyes snapped open the instant he realized the source. Warning GONGS were now sounding.
"Hey…hey, hey, hey…" He breathed in shock. Cordelia…was kissing…his neck. He craned his head back enough to look her in the eyes, getting a grip on her upper arms and urging her away from him. "Cordy, what are ya…?" He asked while his mind suffered a massive meltdown.
She looked up at him with equal confusion, not understanding the problem. Maybe she wasn't making herself clear here. "I just thought…" She said softly, reaching up and pushing the strap of her dress off of her shoulder, watching his eyes lock on the invitation. She leaned forward, bringing her lips toward his but his hands on her arms held her at bay.
"Whoa, princess; slow down just a bit for me. What exactly are ya doing?" He asked worriedly. Maybe he wasn't the only one who'd been drinking to excess tonight.
Cordelia couldn't begin to understand what the problem was. "Well I wanted to…you know…be with you." She offered, searching his eyes for the joy that statement should have invoked.
It didn't come – and even more perplexing than his lack of grinning, was the fact that her words seemed to have the opposite of the intended effect. She watched in hopeless confusion as he instantly tensed, all humor leaving his features.
"That's not 'being with me', princess." He said quietly and shook his head, clenching his jaw at how quickly this had gotten out of hand. "Look, you're needing support which is fine; I get that – and hey, I'm here. Ya had the night from hell and don't want to be alone…totally understandable, I'll keep ya company. Just…not like that, all right?" He asked, his eyes searching hers imploringly.
Cordelia stared at him in disbelief for at least a minute, words failing her as she struggled to take this in.
"Well why the hell not?" She finally demanded in wounded shock. What was wrong with her tonight? How in God's name was Doyle turning her down? He was the one guy she never questioned her ability to snag in a heartbeat…not that she should have ever wanted to, of course.
He took a deep, staggered breath, looking into her eyes intensely. "First you tell me why."
She moved away from him, growing steadily more annoyed by his lack of response. "I have to have a reason?" She demanded with an arched brow as she crossed her arms over her chest.
Doyle closed his eyes for a second as parts of him continued adamantly protesting his decision. "Yeah, princess." He told her as he looked back at her once more. "Ya do."
If looks could kill, his coffee table would have fallen to a pile of smoking debris as she avoided his gaze. She did not need to explain herself. He should have been ecstatic that she was actually offering to give him a one-nighter. After several moments of heated silence, she decided to give him a chance; she guessed she owed it to him after barging in on him in the middle of the night. "I want comfort." She said honestly, turning and expecting to see a smile on his face.
Only there was none, just a sympathetic look and twinges of sadness in those blue eyes. "Is that it?" He asked softly.
Cordelia's mouth hung open. "Is that…? What is wrong with you? Yeah, 'that's it'. Why am I facing an inquisition here?" She demanded. "You know if this is the kind of hassle a girl has to go through to get you into bed, no wonder you're single." She snapped, but part of her flinched the instant the words fell from her lips. She did not want to be mean to Doyle; he just brought it out of her…a lot for some reason.
Doyle let out a soft, bitter laugh and nodded, sighing and studying her. "So all you want is comfort then?" He asked and watched her posture change as if she was gearing up for a victory.
"That's what I said, isn't it?" She answered coldly.
"Fine." He said in an equally unfeeling tone as he climbed from the couch. "That's all you'll get."
The sound of his voice stung her as effectively as a slap. She had never heard him speak to her with anything short of sweetness before. Somehow his face suddenly seemed different– there was something missing in his eyes that she couldn't place. They weren't sparkling anymore…
She watched in confusion as he took her hand in his and urged her to climb to her feet. As soon as she was standing, he turned away from her. Even his hand on hers felt…impersonal. No talking, no joking, no smiling as he led her to his bedroom.
He closed the door behind them, walking past her and stretching out on the bed as she watched him with uncertainty passing over her features.
"Well? Come here then." He said impatiently, once again in that icy tone, and motioned to the space beside him on the small mattress.
She wrung her hands as she stared at him worriedly. This was not the Doyle she got coffee and joked around with, this was someone different entirely and she did not like it. The hesitance she was suddenly feeling made the short distance to the bed seem impossibly far as she walked over to it.
Maybe this was a mistake, why was he acting like this? It was supposed to be sweet. She'd always figured that if she decided to use him for a night it would be romantic and tender, that he'd be 'thanking his lucky stars' – isn't that what he'd said a man would do if they had her? What the hell had gone wrong? He hadn't spent the expected hour kissing her, telling her she was beautiful, undressing her like he was unwrapping the greatest gift he'd ever receive. Why?
Slowly she sat on the bed beside him, trying to read his eyes in the dimly lit room. There was still no sparkle there, no adoration for her like she was used to seeing.
He sighed impatiently and reached up to wrap an arm around her waist, pulling her down to lie on the mattress with her back to him. She tensed at his touch. Good, he thought to himself. She needed to understand something important here.
Cordelia held her breath, wondering what she had done for the longest minute of her life. It was wrong. Everything was all wrong.
She didn't want Doyle like this.
Wait, she didn't want Doyle like anything, right?
It wasn't at all how she'd envisioned it.
Good God, how many times had she envisioned it?
She was rigid when she finally felt him moving closer to her, her mind reeling at the loss of what she had hoped for.
Her eyes widened in shock. Now wait just a damned minute, hoped for? Since when? Had she actually wanted this on some level to the point where she'd been hoping for it?
Maybe a little.
She rolled her eyes as she finally answered herself truthfully.
Fine, yes. But now it was done, and it wasn't right, and somehow she felt like it was all her fault for forcing the issue.
But WHY? Doyle had always been interested in her, where had she gone wrong here? He'd asked a question and then wham! Total personality change. So she had answered wrong. That must have been what messed this up. He had asked why she wanted to do this and she had said all she wanted was…
To her confusion Doyle curled his body around her and kissed the back of her hair. His hand found hers, entwining their fingers as he held her close…but he didn't make a move past that.
Doyle, you little rat bastard. She sighed in frustration (and was that a touch of relief?) as she realized this was all she was getting.
"Very funny." She breathed in annoyance.
"Actually it's not." He answered with a smile evident in his voice.
She quickly rolled over in his arms to face him. "So you mean to tell me that you're going to use the one chance you get with me in your bed…to cuddle me?" She asked skeptically and he laughed. Despite herself she smiled at the sound and the fact that the sparkle was back in his eyes. She rested her head on his pillow and marveled at how such subtle differences in his expression could have such an impact on her level of relaxation.
"Look, princess – once it's done it's done, no taking it back after, yeah? Not to say I'm not interested cuz that'd be the biggest lie ever told, you know damned well how much I want to…" He trailed off, deciding against finishing that sentence for fear it would break his resolve. Instead of words, he gave a sly smile and eyebrow waggle; judging by the laugh it earned that he had properly conveyed his point.
Taking a deep breath, he studied her eyes for a moment, forcing himself to explain. "See, the thing of it is…that's not all I want from you. You're worth a whole lot more than just the physical fun to be had." He told her quietly and more importantly, sincerely.
Cordelia fought the glowing smile that wanted to form in response to those words. "Did I mention 'one chance'?" She asked with an arched brow.
Doyle shook his head and sighed. "Maintaining the possibility of ever having something meaningful with you is worth the risk of missing out on something meaningless."
Despite her best efforts she did smile at that.
"And besides…" He began, closing his eyes as she curled up closer to him, tucking her face under his chin and wrapping her arm around him. "Least I'll have the memory of having you here in bed with me to warp into something wicked and perverse should the need arise."
Cordelia laughed and pinched his back.
"Owww, but it's true!" Doyle insisted which only made her laugh more.
"Shut up." She said as she shook her head. "Goodnight, Doyle." She whispered against his chest.
"Goodnight, princess." He whispered back with a smile and kissed the top of her head.
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