Author: Kat Lee
Challenge/Prompt: nekid_spike Halloween Fancy Dress Party & Mini Guest Cordelia
Word Count: 2,196
Date Written: 11 October 2016
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
He would know her scent anywhere, and although he knows it's not possible, the moment he enters the new Caritas that fateful Samhain night, Angel knows he smells her. The scent of the perfume she used to wear wraps around his senses and leads him through the crowd. People dance out of the line of his vision. There are no couples waltzing this evening, but what they're doing as they pass by them is what passes for dancing these days.
Somebody calls his name. He doesn't even turn around. All he can think is of her, his one clear thought being wondering why he smells her now. He continues pass Vampires and humans, Demons and Werewolves, even old flames all while searching for her. Laughter buzzes in the air. They're not laughing at him, but tonight, he wouldn't care if they were. All of his attention is focused on the aroma touched with cinnamon and vanilla that always used to mean his Cordelia was near.
Except that she never actually got to be his Cordelia. They danced back and forth, constantly avoiding the truth of their feelings for each other for so long, for too long. He never got to tell her he truly loved her until she had been taken from him, and even then, he had remained unable to say the words to her beautiful face.
He'd had no right to love her or to keep her for himself. If he hadn't been so intent on forcing her to help him, she might have lived a better life. She surely would have had more freedom and peace. She might even still be alive. She probably would be alive, he thinks, finally pausing and scanning the crowd of Wolfram and Hart employees and their various alliances. But she's not.
He doesn't know why he smells her, but she's not here. She can't be here. He laid her cold, still body into the ground so long ago. She's come to visit him once since then, once to tell him yet again to get his crap together. A wry smile twists his dark lips at the memory. She was always so adept at telling him to get himself together, and yet, he never did quite manage to listen to her.
But it wouldn't have done him, or her more aptly, any good for him to try to chase her out of his life. He attempted that once. He shut her out twice actually, both times over Darla of all creatures. The first time she continued to fight evil without him but still with the boys, Charles and Wesley, making herself an even bigger and easier target. She refused to take his withdrawal the second time.
His smile loses its wryness as he continues to remember. Nobody ever told Cordelia Chase what to do, including himself. She had always been as determined and spunky as she was beautiful. He'd noticed all of that the very first time he'd set eyes on her in Sunnydale. Even though he'd been with Buffy at the time, he had seen her beauty and acknowledged her fire. He had known then that she had too strong a spirit to be overpowered by the Hellmouth, but he could have never guessed then what she would come to mean to him.
She had been much more than his link to humanity, a position she'd used often to make him back down from shutting her out or otherwise keeping her safe. She had been more than his Seer and even more than his best friend. Even if Doyle hadn't died so early and given her his visions, she would have still became an important part of Angel's life. It wasn't just her visions that kept him linked to humanity. It was the woman herself, and he's felt adrift, a part of him lost, ever since he lost her.
He can surround himself with humans, but it's not the same. It's never going to be the same. Befriending a hundred people couldn't take the toll on the emotions he'd once thought gone from him forever as being in the same room with the Princess, as Doyle had aptly called her, for five minutes. The woman had pulled every string on his heart, from the first tugs of friendship to his desire to protect her to his secret and unyielding love for her. Love, sorrow, desire, regret, laughter, relief, grief, despair, and utter joy, that remarkable woman had made him feel it all.
He'd been happier with her during the short time they had had to care together for Conner as a baby than he'd ever been with Buffy, and yet his monster had not been freed. Not for the first time, Angel debates that fact as he stands in the middle of a night club that's been turned into a ball room for one night. He'd always believed the curse that kept Angelus trapped inside of him would be broken with a single moment of pure happiness, but she'd brought him many such moments. Still, he'd never acted on the love that he'd felt for her, and perhaps that was what had kept his monster at bay.
She'd made him happier than he now knows Buffy ever could, but he'd never dared to admit his feelings for her. They'd been a constant pressure in his mind whenever she'd been near, but he'd never once spoken of them to her. He'd tried to once in Pylea. That had had such disastrous effects that he'd never dared speak of his love for her again until right close to the end. Even then, he hadn't told her. He wonders now, feeling alone yet again in a sea of people, if that could have made a difference.
He knows better, just as he knows he can not truly be smelling her, and tries to push both thoughts aside. His love for her was what had made her a target for Jasmine to possess, and not just Jasmine but every evil creature they fought in this world and beyond. His love couldn't have saved her, or him. It could have only led to worse things or an earlier death. It condemned her --
The quiet voice spins him instantly around. Every one else has worn costumes tonight, but he refused. He doesn't do the whole Halloween thing. He never has, and he only came here tonight because Lorne practically begged him to come to the fancy shindig he's been planning for months. But suddenly, looking into a pair of beautiful, hazel eyes he knows far better than his own reflection, Angel's glad he came.
Still, he doesn't believe what appears to be happening. "C-C-Cordy?" he stammers, blinking fast and hard. This can't be real! She can't be here! He buried her! He has to be dreaming. She's dead, and although he didn't actually kill her, he might as well have done the deed himself --
"You're wrong about that, too."
He stares at her, mouth agape, surprise and disbelief clear on his face and in his own dark eyes. "Cordelia?" That tone the creature before him is using -- so confident, so snappy -- sounds just like her. The scent he's been smelling ever since he walked through Lorne's protected, double doors is also wrapped around her. Every one of his senses is screaming at him that this is indeed her, but at the same time, his mind is warning him that this being before him, whoever or whatever it is, can not possibly be his Cordelia Chase.
"It's me, dumb ass," she says, stepping up to him, and for a moment that painfully tightens the place in his chest where his heart should be beating but hasn't in such a very long time, he thinks she might be about to kiss him. She lays her hand on his cheek. He trembles inside from her touch even as he wonders how this Demon or whatever it is in front of him can do such a remarkable job of replicating his Cordelia.
She spreads her palm and fingers against his cold cheek and presses harder as though he can't already feel her. Her eyes search his. "It's me," she repeats, her voice softer this time. Then she steps up to him, wraps her arms around him, and holds him tight.
Her scent wraps around him. Hesitantly, he puts his arms around her light waist. She tightens her grip on him and repeats yet again, "It's me." He holds her tighter, smoothes a hand down her long, silky hair, and breathes in her delicious aroma. And suddenly, he knows. Suddenly, his senses over power the lies and fears his own mind has been feeding him. They tell him he's right. They tell him this is her, and tears drop from his eyes.
She pulls back, gazes up into his eyes, and catches his tears with her fingers. "Not tonight," she tells him forcibly.
"Wh-What? I . . . I don't understand."
She smiles. "You never have been that good with words, you know," she tells him with that same cocky, self-assured smile she used to wear so easily every night of their lives.
Lorne shimmies close with his partner and waves a little, black book at Angel. "One of the benefits of having the entire Wolfram and Hart address book," he calls to Angel. "I can bring anybody I want to to this Halloween party!"
"The worlds cross over," Angel murmurs, remembering the legends of old. "Ghosts can . . . "
"I can be real," Cordelia finishes for him as Lorne dances away. "I can be alive again, not just in your dreams, but only for tonight, so let's make the most of it. Dance with me, Angel."
"I -- I will," he vows, "but first . . . " His hands cup her face as gently as though he's afraid of breaking her. In truth, a part of him is afraid of doing much more than breaking her. He's afraid she'll disappear on him again before daylight. He's afraid this will still prove to be a dream, but there's one way to find out for certain.
She beams up at him and tilts her head back slightly in his hands. "It's about time," she tells him knowingly, still cocky, still confident of herself.
But he's not one to argue. Cordelia Chase called herself the Slayer of dating long ago. Perhaps there is something to that. She does have a way of eventually bending every man to her will after a while, just as every man in the club tonight is watching her steadfastly. He's not every man. He's not even a man, but she's always made him feel like he could be not only that but much, much more. Even now, he feels like he's got everything good in the world in his hands simply because he has her.
He lowers his head, gazing into her eyes, and finally touches his lips to hers. They both moan with the passion that's been building between them for so long. His fingers thread her hair. Her head tilts back further, her mouth opening readily underneath his. Their tongues dance, and soon their bodies begin to sway together too.
And he knows. He knows she's real and not just a figment of his imagination. He knows she loves him and she always has just as he has always loved her. He knows for the next few hours, he's going to feel complete for the first time ever in his whole life, even before he was turned. He knows again what complete, pure joy is, but he knows, too, Angelus isn't coming out.
Angelus isn't going to escape through happiness not tonight or any time in the future, because even now, there's a whisper of warning running through the furthest recesses of Angel's mind. He has his soul mate for now. He has his Princess and her love and is complete, but the sun will come. He doesn't have to shy away from it -- a part of him may well want to walk out into it again --, but it is coming and with its arrival, she will go. She will fade once more from his arms and from his life but never again from his mind or from his heart.
Cordelia break their kiss. He almost whimpers in protest. She caresses his cheek as she whispers, "Hush."
He looks at her in confusion. "I wasn't saying anything."
"No, but your mind was. Now dance with me, Angel. Love me like you should have before."
"I always will," he vows, and he knows that even long after she's gone again, and he's left alone in the bright, harsh knowledge of the day, he'll still love her. He'll always love her. She's so much more than his link to humanity. She's everything good in his world, and he holds it all close as he dances with her and kisses her again and again in a time between realms, a time beyond dreams, a time he wishes will never end, and a love he knows will last forever.