Angel unfastens the top buttons of his shirt and the same exhaustion overcomes him that always does after a battle. It’s accompanied by a sense of relief and impending doom. After all, Lindsey may be gone and in the hands of the Senior Partners, but the fight isn’t over. It never is.
Angel’s thoughts are interrupted by Cordelia. He senses her presence before she speaks.
“So...you feel good?” she asks.
He turns to face her and smiles. “I do. I just...I kind of feel bad about it.
“My God, you are a piece of work,” she chuckles.
“I just don't feel like I deserve-- I mean, all I did was beat up a tiny Texan. It's not like I helped anyone.” Angel perches himself on the edge of his desk.
“Sure you did,” Cordelia reassures him.
“Boy, I really do fall for the dumb ones,” she smiles. Hearing Cordelia speak of him that way still takes him by surprise. He hasn’t seen her in so long and so much has remained unsaid between them. He never truly knew how she felt about him. He still doesn’t.
“You know how you're always trying to save, oh, every single person in the world? Did it ever occur to you you were one of them?” she asks.
Angel ponders on that for a moment. “No, it never did.”
“Well, you made the list, gorgeous. And you needed some help.”
“And you were the one that helped me.”
“Oh, I did my part.” Cordelia sits beside him on the desk.
“Lindsey wasted a lot of energy trying to make me doubt myself. I know it's not even close to over, but I do feel like I can do this. Wolfram and Hart, whatever's coming, I feel like we can beat it.” It’s the first time in a long time that Angel has had faith in himself, but having Cordelia back has changed everything.
“I always did. I just needed you to know it, too.”
“So all that stuff about the deals with the devil...”
“Was God's honest truth. But you're bigger than that. You'll win this in the end.”
Angel looks to her and smiles, his heart full of joy. Even now he can scarcely believe she’s really here, that she’s returned to him. It means more than he could ever begin to explain.
“We’ll win this in the end,” he corrects.
She bows her head and smiles, tears filling her eyes.
“With everything that’s happened today with Lindsey and...I never got the chance...I mean, I didn’t tell you...” Angel searches for the right words, but can’t seem to find them.
“Angel...” She reaches up and places her hand on his cheek. “I know.”
“I’m sorry about everything that happened with Jasmine.”
“It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t anybody’s fault.”
“No, but I should’ve realised sooner. Maybe I could’ve done something, maybe I could’ve stopped--”
“You can’t save everyone, Angel. And anyway, look at me. I’m fine.”
“Do you...Do you remember? Do you remember what happened when Jasmine, you know...?” Angel has been desperate to ask her this question since the moment she awoke from the coma, but it was never the right time. Perhaps it still isn’t the right time, but he needs to know.
“I do,” Cordelia replies. “I’m sorry for what I did to you... to Connor. To all of you.”
Angel shakes his head firmly and takes her hands in his. “It wasn’t you, Cordy. It wasn’t you.”
“Maybe not, but it was my body,” she says, her voice cracked with emotion.
“But you weren’t in control. Nothing that happened was you fault. None of it.”
“I wish I could go back and do it differently. Make a different choice and stop it all from happening.”
“It all worked out.”
“He’s happy, he’s healthy and he’s with a family that loves him.”
“He already had a family that loves him,” Cordelia says.
His son never leaves Angel’s mind or his heart and as much as he would give anything to have him home with him where he belongs, he can accept his absence because he is happy. And Connor’s happiness is more important than Angel’s selfish want to have his son in his life. He couldn’t stop Holtz from taking him away or save him from Jasmine’s manipulation, but by giving him a normal, happy life perhaps that is enough to make up for all of his failings as a father.
“It is what it is,” Angel states, unable to talk about Connor any longer. It’s still too painful.
“So...what happens next?” Cordelia asks.
Angel shrugs. “I don’t know.”
Cordelia gets up from the desk and goes over to the couch, sinking into it and making herself comfortable. She pats the empty space next to her and Angel joins her.
“Did you mean what you said earlier?”
“What?” Angel questions.
“About people like us never having a chance to...you know.”
Angel sighs. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
“But what if they do? What if we do?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, maybe this - me being here - is our second chance.”
Angel looks to her, his face soft. “Do you know I’ve spent every night since you’ve been gone wishing you would wake up? Everything that’s happened...I needed you more than I ever have.”
“Now that you’re here...I...I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you again.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she whispers. “No matter what happens, I’m going to be by your side. Wild horses couldn’t stop me.”
He turns his body towards her and his eyes find hers immediately. Slowly, he leans forward and although he has no breath, Angel feels like he cannot breathe. She’s so beautiful, so beautiful... He reaches up and sweeps a chocolate curl from her face and gently brushes his lips against hers.
“I missed you so much, Cordy,” he whispers against her mouth.
The pair fall together, their lips catching in a desperate and passionate kiss. Cordelia’s fingers slide through his hair as Angel wraps his hands around her back to pull her closer to him. Her body is so warm and soft, and he yearns for her so deeply that he feels he’s going to burst into flames.
All of the emotion he has been bottling inside and the endless months of separation rush to the surface, and it as though his body is attempting to communicate all of the emotions he is unable to express verbally. Their mouths move in rhythm and Cordelia collapses back onto the couch, Angel on top of her.
The sounds of her groans bring him more pleasure than he could’ve ever imagined as he traces a trail of kisses down her neck and across her collarbone. He feels her pulse through her skin, senses the liquid lava of luscious blood that is pumping forcefully around her veins. His passion for her awakens his want for her blood, but he knows he cannot cross that line with her. Not even if she wanted him to. It would be too euphoric, too orgasmic for him to risk.
Cordelia throws her head back as he continues to kiss her neck and wraps her legs around him. Her hands scramble for the buttons of his shirt and she glides her palms across his chest, where his heart would be pounding in his chest if he had a heart beat.
“Oh, Angel... Angel...” she moans.
The sound of her voice humming his name is like music to his ears. He can’t get enough of it. He’s becoming so lost in the moment, so lost in her, but suddenly his consciousness catches up to him and he jumps up from the couch. Dazed and confused, Cordelia looks up at him, her lips swollen and red from the fervidness of his kiss and her hair tousled from where he has run his hands through her locks. She is a sight to behold and Angel would love nothing more than to ravage her, but he knows he can’t.
“I...I’m sorry,” he mumbles. “I...I...I can’t. Sorry.”
She inhales deeply and gets up from the couch to go to him. He has his head bent with shame and embarrassment. Cordelia places her hand on his face and beckons him to look at her.
“Angel...it’s okay. It’s okay.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is. I don’t care about the Curse.”
“But I do.”
“Well, I don’t. Okay? I don’t,” she insists, firmly. “I love you for the man that you are, warts and all.”
“Evil soulless vampire and all?” he questions.
She smiles. “That too.”
“But we know how it goes. One moment of true happiness and--”
“We won’t let that happen,” she reassures him. “Angel, we’ve already wasted so much time, missed our chance time and time again. I won’t miss it again. I’d rather have some of you than none of you at all.”
“But if I were to lose my soul--”
“We won’t let that happen,” she insists again, more firmly.
“I have nothing to offer you. Cordelia, I can’t give you what you want, what you--”
She places her finger over his lips to silence him. “You don’t get to make that decision for me. Okay? All I want is you.”
He bows his head and says, desperately, “You have no idea how much I want this, how long I’ve...” he trails off, unable to express himself the way he wants. “But I can’t risk what happened before with--with Buffy.”
"I’m not Buffy,” she says her voice sharp. “I’m me, Cordelia Chase, and you’re you. We’re different. There’s no one like us. We can do this. This is it, Angel. This is our chance. The Powers That Be knew that my only place is by your side and you know it too. After everything we’ve been through you and I...I have to believe that this was meant to be and that--”
“It’s in the stars?”
Cordelia chuckles lightly. “The stars? Where’d you get that from?”
Angel shrugs. “Something Lorne said.”
“Lorne, huh?” Cordelia smiles, fondly. “Well, I don’t know about the stars, but what I do know is that when I know what I want, I go for it. It’s kinda my way.”
“I know, it’s what I lo--” Angel stops himself from saying it before it’s left his lips. Despite making a promise to himself that if he ever had a moment with Cordelia he would tell her how he felt, he is still unable to bring himself to say that four letter word, terrified of what it’ll change and what it’ll mean. “It’s what I like about you.”
“You know, Angel, you don’t always have to sacrifice yourself to be the hero. It isn’t a choice between love and being a hero. It doesn’t work that way.”
“It kind of does.”
Cordelia smooths her hands across his shirt and begins to fasten his buttons back up. “You’re a good man. I think perhaps I forgot just how good. It’s okay. I understand. We’re friends. We’ll always be friends, nothing will ever change that. So, I’ll see you in the morning? We’ve got a lot of work to do around here, champ.” She places a soft kiss on his cheek and goes towards the door.
“Cordelia...” Angel calls after her, unable to stand by and watch her leave. She stops in the doorway, but doesn’t turn back around. “I’m glad you’re back.”
“Me too,” she says. With that she leaves and Angel is left standing alone, filled with regret and self-loathing.
In battle strength comes easily to him, but when it comes to matters of the heart it is never as simple. He’s aware that he’s a walking talking cliche - a man that has been burned by love in the past and so is terrified of opening himself up to it again - but he doesn’t know how to pull himself out of it and take what he wants. He wishes he could be more like Cordelia, but she has always been stronger than he could ever be, it’s one of the many reasons he fell in love with her.
“Hey, munchkin,” Lorne calls. “Mind if I come in?”
Lorne strides in and takes a seat. “I saw Cordelia on my way in. Let her get away again, huh?”
“I’m really not in the mood for this right now, Lorne,” Angel says, impatiently.
“When are you gonna wake up and smell the coffee? Angel, the woman you love nearly died and was in a coma for 6 months. By some miracle she wakes up and you still can’t admit how you truly feel?”
“This isn’t some goddamn fairy tale, Lorne,” Angel says, louder and more angrily than he intended. “There is no happily ever after for me and there’s no happily ever after for Cordelia if she’s with me. Did you forget that?”
“Oh, I remember. The dreaded Curse. But when it comes to love, Angel, there’s always a way.”
Angel scoffs. “That’s just what people say. It’s not true.”
“Maybe, maybe not. But isn’t it worth a shot? I know you, Angel. You sit up here in the darkness alone, hating yourself for the things you’ve done, the things you haven’t done, wondering what might have changed if you made a different choice, always torn between right and wrong. Do you want this to be another regret you carry with you for the rest of your immortal life?”
“You don’t understand.”
“I understand enough to know that you love that girl. Maybe more than you’ve even allowed yourself to admit.”
Angel lowers his head and closes his eyes. If he were still human, he’d have a migraine right about now.
“I don’t mean to pry, sugar, I just want to see you happy.”
“That’s just the problem. I can’t be happy. Ever.”
Lorne sighs. “There’s not many heroes in this world, not true heroes, at least. But you Angel... you are a hero. And you deserve to have a slice of that good stuff. So does Cordelia. If you’re making this choice because you think it’s the right thing--”
“It is the right thing.”
“It’s never right for two people that love each other not to be together.”
“Me and Buffy did it. I loved her, she loved me, but I left her and came to L.A. because it was the right thing. She knew it and I knew it.”
“But you’re forgetting one thing, sweetness. Cordelia isn’t Buffy.”
“I don’t need to be reminded of that.”
“History isn’t doomed to repeat itself, Angel.”
“It is where the curse is concerned. There’s a lot of costs to having a soul, and never having love is one of them. I wasn’t cursed by those Gypsies so I could find love and happiness, it was meant to make me suffer. It’s called a curse for a reason.”
“And it has been a curse, it will always be a curse. You’ll never stop suffering for all the bad that you’ve done, but maybe the rules aren’t set in stone.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Angel says, sceptically.
“Just think about what I said. Cordelia is back here for a reason. She’s here because we need her to fight the good fight, but maybe there’s another reason too.”
“Is this where you give that spiel about kyrumption?”
Lorne chuckles. “Only if you want me to. Look, I just call ‘em as I see ‘em, honey. You’re the only one that has to live with the choices you make. All you can do is make choices that you can leave with.”
Lorne gets up from his seat, goes over and pats Angel’s shoulder affectionately, before bidding him goodnight. Angel switches off the lights in his penthouse and retires to bed, his mind replaying his conversation with Lorne. He wonders whether Lorne is right. Could it be different with Cordy? Is there a way for them to be together without the risk of Angelus? And even if there is, what future could he and Cordelia have as human and vampire?
Oh, Cordelia.... Angel ponders over the many scenarios that could have played out this evening if he had said or done something different. He lies in the darkness, as he has many times over the decades, and broods. It’s what he’s good at, what he’s always been good at. He thinks back on the months that Cordelia was absent and how every hour of every day he wished with every bone in his body that he could have just one last chance to speak with her. He imagined over and over all of the things he would say to her, yet tonight when his wish was granted he wasted it. The memory of how it felt to kiss her remains with him, that is something he will not forget even if he lives for the rest of eternity.
Kyrumption. Lorne told him long ago that his feelings for Cordelia were true and that the two of them were destined to be together. Is that why it has been so impossibly difficult to suppress his feelings for her? Because it’s fated? Lorne also told him he couldn’t fight kryumption, but Angel has no choice but to fight it. For his sake, for Cordelia’s sake and for the sake of the universe. Unleashing Angelus on the world is a risk he cannot take, not even for love. Oh, but he wants to. He wants to so badly. He ponders over the many ways he and Cordelia could be together whilst the Curse is still in place, desperately searching for a justification. He thinks on the Shanshu prophecy too. What if it is true and one day he becomes human? What if he could be with Cordelia as an ordinary human man and give her everything he longs to give her? Perhaps there is a magical loophole to be found that can undo the Curse. Maybe he didn’t search hard enough in the past. He endlessly searches his brain for some way he can be with Cordelia, but cannot fully allow himself to linger in the fantasy because he knows it can’t be. He fooled himself into believing he could be with Buffy and look at how that ended. Angel wouldn’t survive that kind of heartbreak again and he certainly wouldn’t be able to withstand losing Cordelia. She’s too precious. She means too much.
Rain falls heavily outside and thunder rumbles, matching Angel’s dark mood. As the storm swells, lightning flashes and his thoughts grow more frantic. Suddenly, as the third lightning bolt strikes, he is hit with an epiphany. In a moment he realises that none of it matters. The risk, the curse, the potential for heartbreak. None of it matters, because it’s Cordelia. She will find a way, they will find a way. Together. He can’t spend his life denying himself and closing himself off from happiness for the fear of unleashing Angelus. It’s that fear which gives Angelus his power. Angel throws the covers off and runs from his penthouse, wearing only his pants. He arrives at Cordelia’s room in less than 5 minutes and bangs on the door, not giving any thought to whether she is sleeping.
When Cordelia answers, her face is red and her eyes swollen. She’s been crying. It makes Angel ache to know she’s in pain and that he’s the cause.
“Angel. What are you doing here?” she asks, confused. “Is everything okay? And why do you only have your pants on?”
He barges in and she closes the door behind him. “Okay, you’re scaring me now. What’s going on?”
“I’m an idiot is what’s going on.”
“I don’t want to be friends.”
“You don’t?” she asks, her lip trembling.
He strides towards her and takes her hands in his. “No, I don’t, I want to be more than friends.”
“I love you, Cordelia. I’m in love with you.”
Tears immediately begin to stream down her face at finally hearing him say the words she’s so desperately longed to hear.
“I realised it a long time ago, but I didn’t want to admit it because you were my friend and well, you’re Cordelia and I’m me, and the curse, and helping the helpless and Wolfram and Hart, and--and Darla and then Jasmine, Connor and--and everything else,” he blathers, all of his emotions tumbling out at once in an incoherent mess. “I walked away from Buffy because of the Curse, but you were right. We’re different and maybe we can make it work. This is our chance, Cordy, and I don’t want to miss it. Not again.” He takes her hand and presses it to his lips. “I spent 6 months without you and that was too long. It was long enough for me to know how I feel about you. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week or next year, I don’t know if we really will win in the end, but I know that I love you, Cordy. I’m saying it again, okay? I’m saying it because I didn’t before and you need to know now. You need to know. I love you.” Now that he’s said it once, he can’t seem to stop saying it. It’s so freeing, so exhilarating. “I love you.”
Angel exhales deeply and silence befalls them. “You can--You can say something now...I mean...if you...want to,” he stammers, awkwardly.
Cordelia begins to laugh, quietly at first and then louder and louder, until she’s chuckling so hard her face turns red. Angel stands by, uncertain what her laughter means. Is she mocking him? Has he just made a complete fool of himself?
When her laughter finally subsides Cordelia throws herself into his arms and Angel catches her. Her legs wrap around his waste and her arms wind around his neck. She’s gazing at him, a beaming grin on her face from ear to ear, her pearly white teeth shining.
“Say it again.”
“What?” Angel asks.
“That you love me.”
He smiles. “I love you, Cordelia.”
“I love you too, Big Guy.”
Cordelia kisses him with such force that they collapse backwards onto the ground, laughter escaping them as they roll around the floor and continue to kiss passionately.
Kyrumption. Lorne was right all along. You can’t fight fate or the stars, and you certainly can’t fight love.