Word Count: 30,173
Spoilers: City Of, I've Got You Under My Skin, Expecting, Dead End, Rm w/a Vu, Heartthrob, The Price
Pairing: Angel/Cordelia, Gunn/Fred
Summary: After an attack, Cordy's life is turned upside down. She questions whether anyone would ever want her again. However, in the aftermath, she discovers that is something she hasn't needed to worry about for a long time.
Warning: Rape, violence, occasional swearing
Disclaimer: If you recognize them, they belong to Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt. Otherwise, they're mine.
Author's Note: Written for jossverse_bb and 30kin3. This is set in late season 3 so Wes isn't in this one. Other than the that, it goes completely AU.
Thank you to Dev for being the best beta around, bar none. Thank you for your encouragement and confidence in me. It meant more than you know.
Angel had been restless all night, ever since Cordy left for the night and he didn't know why. He just had this uneasy feeling, but had no idea what to do about it. So he paced. He paced between his office and Cordy's desk. He paced between the front counter and the gray circular sofa that occupied the center of the lobby. He paced between the red sofa in front of his office and the front door. He paced until Fred and Gunn couldn't stand it anymore. "Angel!" Gunn finally exclaimed.
Angel stopped his pacing long enough to glance up at his friend. "Yeah?"
"What's wrong?" Fred asked.
"I don't know," Angel admitted. "I've just got this bad feeling."
"About what?" Gunn inquired.
"Did you try calling her?" Fred questioned the vampire.
Angel shook his head. "No." He sat down at Cordy's desk and picked up the phone, dialing her cell phone. When there was no answer there, he dialed her home. He waited for Cordy to pick up, but all he got was a recording. "This is Cordelia. Please leave your name and number and I'll get back to you as soon as I can."
"Damn," he muttered, replacing the receiver and turning back to Fred and Gunn, who were looking at him expectantly.
"Well?" Gunn asked.
"There was no answer on her cell phone or at home," he told them worriedly.
"Maybe she was just in the shower," Fred suggested.
"Maybe," he agreed. "But any other time I've called when she was in the shower, she heard the phone and had Dennis get her the phone."
"Do you want to go see if we can find her?" Gunn asked, knowing that Angel wouldn't rest until he found her. And, besides which, he had an almost sixth sense about her.
Angel nodded emphatically. "Yes."
"Come on then," Gunn told the vampire as he pulled on his jacket. He was glad to do something besides watching Angel's relentless pacing.
Angel stood and grabbed his leather jacket from the hook on the wall. "Fred, you stay here in case she calls," Angel told the young brunette.
"You got it Angel." Fred watched as the two men slipped out the Hyperion's doors and disappeared into the Los Angeles night. She shook her head, smiling. Angel was clearly a man deeply in love. The truth was, he and Cordy were so in love and had been for quite some time. The only problem was they had yet to admit it to each other. Each as stubborn as the other. Knowing those two, they probably wouldn't admit their love until either a near-tragedy forced them to or they were damn good and ready. The thing, though, was that knowing each other as well as they did, was that they were usually spot on when they sensed trouble about the other. The very thought sobered Fred. "Hurry, Angel," she whispered.
"Where to first?" Gunn asked his friend as they sped down the highway. Gunn was behind the wheel and Angel was looking more worried by the minute.
"She said something about needing new black boots when the heel of hers broke when we got back from fighting that Haklar demon earlier. Maybe she went to the shoe store."
Angel glanced over at Gunn with a pained expression. "We'll have to start at one end of the Beverly Center strip and work our way to the other end. Hopefully, we'll find her before too long."
Gunn nodded. "To the strip it is," he said, pulling into the turning lane and turning left at the next intersection.
Gunn pulled Angel's Plymouth convertible into the parking lot of the first store on the strip ten minutes later. Without a word, both men exited the vehicle, a sense of purpose in their stride.
Angel opened the door of Boots and More, hoping to find Cordy surrounded by a dozen or so shopping bags trying to decide between the black one or two inch heel. Angel shook his head at that very thought. Before Cordy, he hadn't even known there was more than one choice. He always thought a boot was a boot.
"Can I help you?" a well-dressed blonde who looked to be about Fred's age greeted them.
"Just looking, thanks," Angel told her.
Angel turned to Gunn after she turned to help a teenage girl and her mother. "You start on that side, I'll start on this one and we'll meet in the middle."
Gunn nodded. "Okay."
Angel walked off in the direction of the women's dress shoe section, praying he'd find Cordy soon. The first aisle was empty except for an older woman looking at black flats. The next aisle over held a mother and her three small children. Angel sighed and hoped Gunn was having more luck as he rounded the corner.
Unfortunately, Gunn was having about as much luck as Angel was. The first aisle that he went into had a teenage boy looking at hiking boots. The next aisle had a middle-aged man studying a pair of walking shoes. When Gunn rounded the corner, he hoped they'd find Cordy soon.
Five minutes later, Angel and Gunn met in the middle at the back of the store. "Nothing?" Angel asked.
Gunn shook his head. "No."
Three hours later, Angel and Gunn had been in not only Boots and More, but also Fashionable Heels, Chloe's Casuals and even Shoe Carnival. Cordy was nowhere to be found.
"Where to now?" Gunn asked sliding behind the wheel of Angel's Plymouth convertible.
"The mall," Angel sighed.
"Los Angeles Parkway, here we come," Gunn said, pulling the vehicle into oncoming traffic.
"How are we going to do this?" Gunn asked Angel when they arrived at the shopping center 20 minutes later. "There's a lot of stores here."
"I'm not sure," Angel admitted, rubbing a hand over his face.
"Well, we could either stick together or split up," Gunn mused thoughtfully.
Angel nodded his head in agreement. "Yeah. We could cover more ground if we split up."
"True," Gunn agreed.
"Let's go," Angel told him, opening the passenger side door and heading in the direction of the front entrance. Gunn followed.
Inside, Gunn let out a low whistle when he saw the size of the building. "You take the north end and I'll take the south end?" he asked.
"Yeah," Angel acknowledged. "We'll meet back here when we're done."
Gunn nodded and walked off in the direction of the south end. Angel watched him go for a moment before heading into the first store, a bookstore. Maybe Cordy was buying another Jane Austen novel. She had mentioned wanting to read Sense and Sensibility yesterday. Either that or she could be picking up the latest James Patterson mystery.
Angel scanned the mystery section for any sign of Cordy. When there was none, he moved in the direction of the classics, hoping he'd find her there, but the only thing he found was a teenage girl reading the back cover of Emma. He sighed and quickly looked over the rest of the store. When he found no sign of her anywhere, he walked out, hoping Gunn was having more luck than he was.
On the south end of the mall, Gunn entered the Suncoast movie store. He knew Angel's birthday was coming up so maybe she had gone in there to find a classic movie for him like Omega Man or Touch of Evil. Gunn shook his head as he walked in the direction of the classics. The man loved Charlton Heston. There was no one in the classic section, though.
Hmm, Gunn thought. Maybe she was finally going to break down and buy that Complete Collection and Then Some box set of Barry Manilow she kept talking about. The aisle with the box sets had just one middle-aged man in it, however. There was no sign of Cordy anywhere in Suncoast. He sighed as he left the store.
Angel's mind took him back to the last time he'd been at this mall. Cordy had dragged him here because she needed his opinion, she'd claimed. On what, he hadn't known, but he'd let her convince him to come anyway. When he'd seen the size of the building, he wished he hadn't. She'd then proceeded to pull him into every one of her favorite stores. He'd ended up carrying her bags--and paying for a good portion of her purchases. He shook his head at the memory. Truth was, he'd had a wonderful time. Not that he'd tell her, of course.
Gunn stood outside the next store he knew he had to go into, trying to work up the courage to enter. He looked through the glass window, hoping to see Cordy without actually having to go inside. He sighed as he stepped within the interior of his worst nightmare. He had arrived at the inner sanctum, a place that clearly said 'no men allowed, unless expressly invited'. He'd just entered Victoria's Secret.
"Can I help you?" a middle-aged brunette asked him, an amused smile on her face.
"No. I'm just looking for someone," he managed to croak out. Was that his voice?
The woman just nodded, her smile becoming even wider, if that was possible. "Let me know if you change your mind," she told him.
Gunn nodded and walked away from her as quickly as he possibly could. He looked around, deciding to look at whatever was in the very back of the store. When he got there, however, he regretted that decision immensely. The back of the store contained all the sexy lingerie. Cordy wasn't there, only a couple of young twenty-somethings. They were admiring the lingerie and giggled about something when they saw him. He quickly made his way past the lounge pants, sleepshirts and slippers as he headed to the front of the store again. He also checked the beauty products, all the lipstick, fragrance and skin care items. Cordy was nowhere to be found. He practically ran out of the store.
Angel sat down on a bench by the front entrance while he waited for Gunn. He'd been unable to find Cordy anywhere in any of the stores he'd been in. And he'd tried them all, even the ones he knew she never shopped at. He sighed and hung his head in frustration.
"No luck?" Charles Gunn asked as he came walking up next to his friend.
Angel looked up, worry etched across his face. "No. You either?"
Angel nodded. "Let's go," he said, opening the door and stepping out into the night.
"Now what?" Gunn asked as they sped down the highway.
"It's time to check her apartment," Angel answered, his brow furrowed with worry.
Gunn pressed down on the gas petal to speed them up, knowing Angel had just about reached his limit. The only thing that would calm him was to find Cordy safe and sound. They rode the rest of the way to Cordy's apartment in silence, both men lost in their own thoughts.
When they pulled in up in front of Cordy's apartment building fifteen minutes later, Angel jumped out of the convertible before Gunn had even put it into park. Gunn watched him sprint inside, praying that when he went inside himself, he'd find Cordy giving Angel the third degree for waking her up and worrying for nothing.
When Angel reached her door, he was immediately alarmed. The door was ajar. Cordy never left her door unlocked, much less open. He pushed it open and stepped inside, looking around. "Cordy?" he called, glancing around and noting the pizza delivery box on the table. He was becoming more concerned by the minute. Where was she? "Cordy?" he called again, his voice taking on a tone of desperation.
Outside, Gunn pulled the convertible into a parking space beside a white sports car, putting it into park. He turned off the engine and pulled the key out of the ignition. He opened the door, stepped out and slammed the door, where he pocketed the key. He saw Cordy's yellow SUV parked just three cars down. Had she been home all this time? If she had, why hadn't she answered the phone when Angel had called?
Gunn stepped inside the apartment a minute later. "Did you find her?"
Angel shook his head. "Not yet. Check the kitchen." Gunn nodded and headed in that direction while Angel went to her bedroom, praying she was sleeping. He knocked gently on the door and quietly eased it open. "Cordy, it's me."