Author: Kat Lee
Warning(s): Cannon Character Death
Word Count: 2,690
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
He's staring out into the night, knowing the sun will rise soon and Christmas will continue for many all because of him. He saved the world again just a few hours ago. His team made the impossible happen again. They saved countless lives. He's been trying to focus on those they saved, but as with every Christmas, Angel finds that task almost impossible for his mind keeps being tugged back to the past.
He remembers those he killed instead of those he saved. He recalls the way his hands crushed the life out of his little sister and how he drank the blood of all his family. He remembers every life he's taken, every family he's slaughtered not just his own, and he recalls, too, the heroes who tried to stop him and failed and later, the heroes who fell fighting by his side. He raises his cup in a silent salute and sips his whisky tainted with blood. Doyle would appreciate the notion, he knows even as the whisky burns and curls with a strange sensation in his gut.
The scent of cinnamon drifts to him through his open window, reminding him of another who fought beside him and died. She was the first person to mix something into his blood without ill intention. She was also the only one he's ever truly loved beside Buffy, and what he felt for her -- what he still feels for her now, even long after her death -- went way beyond the feelings he once held for the Slayer. He never knew he could feel such a humanized love until he fell for Cordelia and she broke his heart, until Jasmine broke both their hearts. They saved the world again from that mess, but they weren't able to save his world. Now she lays cold and dead six feet under the hard ground, and yet sometimes . . .
Sometimes, he can almost feel her. Sometimes, he can shut his eyes and picture his smile every bit as radiant and alluring as it ever was. Sometimes, on the night wind, he thinks he hears her name. He always turns toward the sound, and though the wind caresses his cold, cold cheek, it's never with her touch. She's gone from him, taken forever, and there's no power in Heaven or Hell that can return her to him.
He knows, because he's searched through every realm he can access for any way to restore her, all for naught. He can't bring her back. He can't even restore her body but leave her memory gone or give her other memories. He can't give her a new life as he did for his son -- their son --, who is now celebrating another Christmas with a family that isn't his. Tears prick Angel's dark eyes as he turns from his window.
He's tried everything, and he's willing to give anything, but there's nothing any one can do. She's gone, and perhaps as Willow warned him once after resurrecting Buffy, it's better that way. She is at last receiving the rest and reward she deserves. She's happy wherever she is. She's with Doyle, he thinks, and Fred now, too. Maybe even Dennis, Joyce, or Jenny, another bright life he snuffed out with nothing but cruelty and hatred.
But the thing is, she's happy. Her body may be rotting with worms wriggling along her bones where once her sweet, tender skin was, but her soul isn't there. It isn't buried in the cold, hard ground. It isn't caught on this earth. It's up there somewhere pass the clouds, somewhere pass where any one can see even with all the new inventions mankind has made. It's up there somewhere walking streets of gold, talking and laughing and continuing on not with her life but with her existence with those who have also gone on ahead.
She's not sad. She's not full of sorrow and regret as he is. She has nothing to regret, no guilt for which to atone. He knows she made it to the right place. She's happy. Lorne's tried to tell him to be happy for her and that he got to know her and be a part of her bright, shining life while she was still here on Earth. They've all tried to tell him that really, each in their own way, except for Illyria, who says grief is a human notion.
He knows she's wrong. Grief isn't just a human notion. It's almost a universal language. He read about elephants mourning for years after they lose one of their herd, about wolves who become loners not because they are wolves but because wolves mate for life and they've lost their soul mate much as he has lost his, and even about pets who mourn themselves into early graves after losing their masters. Cordelia wasn't his master. She was his best friend, his connection to humanity, his "Vision Girl" as she so often said herself, the real, true love of his life.
Vampires hurt. Even Demons mourn. He's read about tribes who kill themselves after their masters are gone and once saw some one literally walk into the fires of Hell after losing his wife. Grief isn't just something humans experience. They all feel it, and Angel knows Illyria will, too, one day. He wonders who they'll lose that will finally get through to her. They've lost too many already.
He should be retiring. He's got weaponry to clean and put up and a few more papers to sign that Harmony left stacked on his desk before running off for the weekend with Spike. Now there's a bloke who knows how to grieve, Angel thinks. He throws himself into whatever action he can get, rather it's shagging or fighting, and lets the movements block out his thoughts. That's exactly why Angel enjoys fighting so much, but there's nothing to fight now.
The city is quiet. He opened the window to listen for sirens, but nothing is stirring out there, not human or Demon or Vampire or anything else in between. It's Christmas, and people have gathered with their families. He used to think he had a family again. Lorne and Wesley were both disappointed when he declined to go with them to the office Christmas party, but he's not in the mood to celebrate. He told Gunn as much when he invited him. His friend tried again to tell him that he needs to celebrate Cordy. Perhaps Angel went too far when he asked him, point blank, if he was celebrating Fred's death. Gunn looked like he could attack him, but he only hit his wall when he stormed out of his office.
Angel sinks into his chair. He's not going anywhere tonight. He just doesn't feel like it. The world is continuing again without his beautiful, cherished Cordelia in it, and it just doesn't feel right. He hides his face, not because the dawn is coming -- the sun proof windows will keep him safe from its ray -- but because, as much as he hates to admit it, he's crying again. He's crying for her. He's probably cried enough tears to fill a thousand oceans since he lost her, but somehow he always has more tears when the world is calm and he's left alone without another battle to fight.
This is one battle, he knows, that he can't win. He'll never win it. He'll never be able to just celebrate Cordelia's sparkling life without aching for her. He'll never be able to stop wishing that things had been different and yearning with a burning need unlike anything he's ever felt for any one else to have her back at his side. He'd do anything just to see her smile again, just to hear her voice truly call his name, to taste her salty sweetness one more time . . .
Sudden noises from down below send Angel leaping to his feet. He looks down just in time to see the reflection of one of Wolfram and Hart's front doors slamming shut. He recognizes Wesley's and Lorne's cars and Gunn's bike and sighs, knowing what's coming next. He tries to wipe the tears from his eyes, but more fall in their place. He really doesn't feel like company tonight.
You should let them in.
The easy advice sends Angel whirling around, his startled eyes turning wild and yellow. He's still alone in his office, but that wasn't his thought. It sounded like -- His throat clogs. It sounded like his Cordy, but he knows it can not be. She's dead, taken from him forever.
Not forever. A fond memory of Cordelia's bright smile swells in his mind's eye. Just until we meet again.
The wind calls his name as it's done so many times. Angel whips toward it, but he still doesn't see anything. His nose again catches the scent of cinnamon, then of roses, and of something else. His eyes widen as he recognizes the scent of his beloved Cordelia's perfume. She always used to claim it was Chanel Number Five. He knew better -- he knew she couldn't afford such a brand any longer, not on what he paid her --, but most of the people who traveled in their circles had no clue. Whatever it was, he'd always found the scent absolutely delicious and alluring.
But what is he doing, smelling it now far past midnight on Christmas morning? His Cordy isn't here, so why is he smelling her scent? And it is her scent filling his senses. He's not just smelling her perfume; there's also the unmistakable, sweet aroma that was always his Cordy's own personal scent. If she'd had any idea how sweet she'd smelled naturally, she would have known that perfume wasn't necessary for a Goddess on Earth like she was.
But he had never dared to tell her that. He had never even gotten to tell her how much he loved her. Jasmine had taken all of that from him. She had taken her, and although Angel had finally killed the bitch, he could have killed her a thousand times over and never received satisfaction. Nothing would ever make his Cordy being killed okay. Nothing could.
Yet it isn't just the wind stroking his cheek now. There's something strange and tingling in the air's caress of his cold skin, and as Cordelia's aroma wraps around him, Angel knows what it feels like. It feels like his Cordy is touching him again after all this time. His eyes drift closed. His lips part and then start to tingle.
His door opens, but Angel doesn't hear it. He's far too lost in the moment of feeling Cordelia's fingers splayed gently across his cheek, her lips touching his, and her tongue slipping like smooth silk into his hot and eager mouth. He moans aloud, and as if from afar, he hears somebody saying something he can't quite make out. Somebody else snaps at the first speaker, and Angel's left in quietness again.
The kiss he's imagining seems to deepen. He opens his mouth wider with another moan. With his eyes closed, he can almost feel Cordelia's lithe, supple body against his own. He still smells her, still feels her tongue against his, her lips against his, her skin that no longer even exists against his. Merry Christmas, my Angel, he hears, and his eyes snap open once again.
Slow applause starts in his doorway, startling Angel even more. His fangs are out when his yellowed eyes cast a glance among his friends standing in the doorway. Illyria looks pale while Gunn and Wesley both seem confused. It's Lorne who's clapping. The green Demon grins at Angel and winks. "Princess always did know how to make an appearance."
Angel frowns. "What are you talking about?" he asks, but he can feel his face flushing despite the fact he doesn't need to breathe.
Lorne's grin widens. "You old dog, you! You know exactly what I'm talking about! Don't try to hold out on me, sugar. I saw her!"
Angel's mouth opens, but at first, no sound comes out. Then, slowly, he manages to repeat in doubt, "You saw her?"
Lorne winks again. "I sure did, sweetie. Come on now. Don't play with a player. You know you two were just making out."
Gunn's and Wesley's heads swivel back and forth between Lorne and Angel.
"You saw her," Angel repeats again, but this time, he sounds more confident.
Illyria nods decisively. "There was a woman kissing you," she confirms. Wesley and Gunn look at her and then slowly start to grin.
"She was here," Angel breathes, and then, more excitedly, he cries out, "She was here!"
"She sure was, sugar," Lorne confirms. "I told you she loves you."
"We all know that," Gunn adds.
"I tried to tell you," says Wesley, "she misses you as much as you miss her."
"And you will see her again," Lorne insists, "even if you didn't see her that time. You did feel her, though, didn't you?"
"I -- I -- "
"Don't try to lie, sweetie," Lorne warns, sashaying into his office. "We all know when you do."
"I did," Angel admits, once more hanging his head, but as the realization swirls around him, he lifts his head again. He starts to positively beam. "I did feel her!" And she does love him, he thinks. She loves him! Death hasn't changed that. It may have taken her from him, but nothing will change the way she feels about him.
"That's better, honey," Lorne approves as Angel's happiness glows on his handsome face. "Much better." He winks at him again.
"Is she still here?" Angel asks, looking around the office as though he might be able to spy her although he didn't see her even when she was kissed him.
Lorne and Illyria both shake their heads. "I'm afraid not, pumpkin, but you gotta remember," Lorne advises, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder, "you will see her again. Maybe not this Christmas or next Christmas and maybe not even ten or fifty years from now, but one day, you will see her again."
He nods again. He will see her again. He knows Lorne is right about that, but what he also recognizes now is that she is waiting for him. She hasn't moved on in the afterlife any more than he can move on in life without her.
"You okay, man?" Gunn asks.
Angel looks up with a smile. Only now does he realize that his friends are carrying food and brightly wrapped packages. "I am," he says and grins. "Merry Christmas." And perhaps it will be a merry one after all, he thinks. Regardless, life isn't quite as sorrowful as he'd thought it just a little while ago. As long as his Cordelia is waiting for him, Angel can do whatever else is needed of him. He can save however many lives he has to until he can graduate from this world, and death, for him this next time, will be a graduation. And his Cordy will be waiting for him!
Angel's grin widens as his friends echo his salutations. Their fights aren't over yet. The war to save humanity is far from over. Tonight's save was just another victory, but not of the war. There's a lot more fighting to be done, but one day, it will be over. One day, he'll be the one going to the next realm. One day, he will feel his Cordy's arms around him again and her lips pressed to his once more. One day, he vows, he'll still get to tell her how infinitely much he loves her. One day, they'll still get to be happy together, and in the mean time, every day that passes, every Christmas too, every battle they win is just another step that brings them closer together and another victory made easier by the presence of the people who are exactly what she told him: not his team or merely his friends but his family.
Angel beams. "Merry Christmas."