He wasn't surprised to find the apartment vacant. He smiled a little, wondering about the tactics Dennis had resorted to in order to keep it unoccupied. Angel recalled the spirit could be pretty creative. No one had come back to tell him she wasn't coming back. He wasn't even sure anyone had come to tell him she'd come back after she'd gone missing before. He felt bad for that, which was why he was here now.
He pushed open the door, uncertainty as to whether he'd be able to enter had him remaining at the threshold.
"Dennis? It's me, Angel. Can I come in?"
There was no response, but whatever power it was that kept the invitation-only barriers erect went away. Angel knew he could walk in and he did. He set the dozen roses on a table, one of the only pieces of furniture in the place. The roses were more for him, it seemed appropriate to bring them here since she had no final resting place.
"She's gone, Dennis."
"I just wanted you to know. You deserved to know. She died. Honorably. There were some questionable moments there, but it wasn't her. You probably knew that, though, didn't you? Or you would have if she was still living here. I sometimes wonder if her not coming back here was wise for that very reason. You knew her, could have picked up on the fact something was wrong. Different. That the woman who'd come back to us was not Cordelia."
Angel mulled that over, hoping Dennis would give some sign that he was there. That he heard Angel. That he understood. Angel couldn't come earlier as much as he might have wanted to. Not that he'd thought about it until recently, but still. His plan called for total seclusion, coming here could have tipped the Senior Partners off.
There. In Cordelia's bedroom, the drapes moved. Angel went into the room and verified the window was closed.
"I'm sorry I couldn't save her, that the last real time we spent together was surrounded by bitterness and distrust. She was better than that, deserved better than that."
He spun around at a familiar scent. Perfume. Hers. She wasn't there. Not physically. He felt her, though. He smiled as he returned to the living room. She'd come home. He lifted the bouquet of roses and breathed in their sweet scent, hoping she and Dennis could smell them.
"These are for you, Cordelia," he whispered. She was there he could feel it now. So was Dennis, though Angel couldn't feel him. They were together. He took comfort in that, that she wasn't alone. "It's not much, less than you deserve. You kept me going, kept me in the fight."
He set them down again, took one final glance at the vacant apartment. Good and bad memories here. Times of joy and times of tears. But this had been Cordelia's first place. She'd been so brave leaving Sunnydale and coming here on her own like she had. He could barely remember that Cordelia any longer. She had become something different. Strong, confident, a defender of good.
"Thank you," he whispered finally walking to the door. His hand on the knob, he looked over his shoulder. There, shimmering ever so slightly in the sunlight cast through the window was Cordelia. He wasn't sure how he knew to look, but he was glad he had. Her smile was wide, she was Cordelia again. Whatever had possessed her was gone.
She blew him a kiss and turned away, as if to listen to someone else talking to her. And just like that she was gone. If it wasn't for the visible particles of dust settling to the floor he'd wonder if it had been real.
"Take care of her, Dennis, she was some woman."
Still bruised, but far from beaten and very much whole, the vampire set out into the night. The Senior Partners had been defeated. For now. He knew they'd come at him again. Until then, there'd be something new lurking around the corner. Somehow he didn't mind that so much, knowing that after years of isolation and not quite fitting in in the world, Dennis and Cordelia had gotten to be where they were supposed to be.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com