Escape This Desire
by Sing To Angels

"Well, I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again," Angel quoted when he caught sight of Cordelia's lithe and solid form prowling around his office.

It wasn't as if he wouldn't know she'd been there when he came to work in the morning; his leather chair shrouded in a web of her Chanel No 5, and the lingering aria of her voice imprinted like a watermark on the papers on his desk.

"How am I supposed to move on if you're still here, Cordy?"

She didn't turn, but continued to glide her fingers over crop reports from the Zoeng dimension and his memos from Wesley about starting an inter-office bowling night to boost flagging morale.

"I'll always be here, Angel," she said, sotto voce. "I can't help but . . ." Cordelia spread her hands wide, from behind it seemed as if she was at a loss for words. "Linger."

He nodded to himself and picked up a paperweight from his desk, rotating it between his fingers. Angel liked the mass and feel of it, pressing his senses hard to imagine that it was her flesh, warm and soft, in his hands instead of cold steel that made a clanging noise as he rolled it from palm to palm. But the scent of stale hospital rooms and Conner loitered - even in his fantasies - so he set it back down.

"I wish you would leave."

Cordelia turned, her eagle eyes seeming to draw his soul gasping to the surface like they always did. "Maybe you do, but I'm not ready yet."

Angel slammed his fist on the desk, not caring about the indention he'd just left on irreplaceable Yambhian marble. He felt shattered, it was only fair that his surroundings be just as broken. "I'm ready, damn it!"

He paced in front of his desk, raking his fingers through his hair and feeling sticky hair gel cling to his skin. Angel met Cordelia's eye. "You think I haven't been haunted before? You think that seeing you here everyday bothers me?"

Angel tried to laugh harshly, but it sounded fake and forced even in his own ears, so he could imagine how it sounded to the woman who knew him better than he knew himself. Still, he tried. "You being here doesn't bother me."

"It does," Cordelia said.

Angel sighed wearily and pinched the bridge of his nose, admitting defeat and admitting that she was always and forever right. "Yeah, it does."

"We're still hanging, Angel. We never got our happy ending."

"We never got an ending at all!" He threw his hands in the air, disturbed by how Cordelia could be so calm about this when it was killing him. A little voice in the back of his head told him that she wasn't calm, but Angel told it to shut up. "You died and I'm . . . still here and don`t know how to let you go. I'll always be here, too. Only you're on the wrong side of the looking glass. It's never the right time. Either I'm soulless, or you're dead, or I'm dead, or Buffy -- "

"Hey, let's not mention the `B' word, okay?" There was some spark in Cordelia's eyes finally, telling him that even though she was dead, she wasn't without personality. They never were. "I'm in your dreams. You're dreaming right now."

"I know." He reached for her wrist, dragging it into his personal space. It was hot and pulsing with life, even if it was only an echo of the person she used to be, she felt real. "When I wake up, your scent and warmth and -- and life won't be here. It never is."

Cordy nodded. "I'll stop coming, if you want. I mean . . ." Cordelia inhaled deeply and forced a mega-watt smile on him. "I have so much to do now that I'm, you know, dead and everything. God!" She rolled her eyes. "I thought filing was bad, but the Powers -- "

"Can you be here when I wake up?" Angel asked, allowing his eyes to beg his cause, to make her feel something other than this fake Cordelia act she was putting on.

She shook her head ruefully, her gaze soft and kind, reaching into his heart and tearing it asunder. "No, Sweetie, I can't."

"Then, this can be our place," Angel said hopefully. "Just until . . ." He furrowed his brow in anticipation, remembering she had a difficult time resisting his entreaties when he gave her his sad eyes. "Just until I'm ready."

Cordy lifted her hand and stroked his forehead. The touch of her fingers zinged across his flesh like lightening bolts. He squinted at Cordelia, her face was getting blurry as his eyes watered.

"Can I go with you?" He cleared his throat. "Please? I'm so tired, Cordy."

She leant up to kiss him lightly on the cheek. "It's time for you to wake up, Angel."

Angel opened his eyes and glanced at the flashing alarm clock, the red light from the digital numbers igniting the cool black silk of his sheets like glowing embers as they twined around his sweaty body. He rolled over and buried his nose in his pillow.

Chanel No 5 and the oceanic tang of human tears hit his nose and rifled the fine hairs on the backs of his arms. He knew that Cordelia wasn't going to come back this time.


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