"So, you wanna know what the higher plane is like?" Cordy asks. Angel looks at her evenly, one eyebrow raised. "Because it looks a lot like Vegas. I kept thinking that you would really like it."
"You've been to Vegas?" Angel asks skeptically.
Cordy frowns, offended. "Excuse you, yes I have. My parents used to take me there for my birthday every year. The under-eighteen buffet at the Bellagio is to die for."
Right. Angel forgets, sometimes, that before Cordy came to LA and accidentally became the most important half-woman half-demon in the world, she was a prom queen from Sunnydale with nouveau riche parents. "I haven't been since the fifties. Didn't like it much - too many gangsters. Hard to get a decent table anywhere."
Cordy snorts a little, leaning her cheek against the bare point of his shoulder, where his shirt got ripped by the dragon. There's still blood everywhere; they hadn't quite made it to the shower, but she doesn't seem to mind that much. "Only you would go to Vegas during its most exciting time ever and then complain about the service."
"Soul-ed me," Angel corrects. "Soul-less me would've loved it. Which is why I hated it."
"Right, I know, that's why I was making fun of you." She readjusts slightly in the bed, propping her calf up against his folded ankles. Above their head, the ceiling of the Hyperion is wide-open to the blood-red sky, the hell portal-in-progress still swirling menacingly, blocking out the moon. Angel squints at it briefly, wondering if those are more winged demons coming out of it, or just debris getting sucked back in. The tornado earlier today really did a number on the Walt Disney Concert Hall. "Where are we at, with time?"
Angel shakes out his sleeve - half of it flops right off his arm, barely hanging on by threads - and checks his watch, which is somehow, miraculously, still intact. "Five to eight."
"Good," Cordy says, with satisfaction. "Plenty of time for a quickie."
Angel snorts with surprised laughter. "Cor - "
"Well, why else did you bring me here?" Cordy waves one arm at his old bedroom incredulously. During their stint at Wolfram and Hart, the hotel had stayed empty - on Angel's orders, of course - and the room looks eerily frozen in time, with dirty clothes and half-read books left right where they'd been left on that night they'd accepted Lilah's offer. Other than the torn-open roof, in fact, it looks exactly the same as the last time Cordy had been alive. Actually alive, that is. "Don't tell me this is actually where you wanted to be when we died. God, Angel, it smells like dirty socks and mothballs in here."
"Sorry I wasn't keeping up on housekeeping while you were dead," Angel quips. "I was a little distracted, you know."
"Jeez, a girl gets temporarily detained from the mortal plane and you just fall to pieces," Cordy replies, her flippancy tempered by the soft look on her face, the gentle way she's touching his chest. "Angel."
"Hm." Angel ducks his head, closing his eyes until the wave of emotion passes. No use dwelling now. Better to keep his heart in the moment - right here, with his best friend, this parting gift from the cosmos.
"What's to lose?" she asks softly, leaning in to kiss his cheek. Being outside the grim reality, at least in some sense, she looks as pristine and lovely as she had when she'd first appeared at his elbow - her hair perfectly curled, makeup TV-ready perfect, smelling like the same perfume she's been dousing herself in for years. Many times, in the two years since her death, Angel has found himself frozen on the spot in department stores and shopping malls when someone wearing the same brand had walked past. (It wasn't like it was an obscure scent - pretty inconvenient, to be honest. She couldn't have picked something more unique?) "We're gonna be dead in about an hour. And then when we wake up again, we won't know each other. Who knows how long it'll take for you to wise up and realize I'm the woman of your dreams? This time it took you years!"
"Cordelia," Angel says, laughing a little helplessly. "I don't think I want to spend the last hour in this timeline as a soulless monster. And there are still people out there I could eat, even if you're technically immune - "
"I won't let that happen," Cordy says, nudging in close. Laying like they are, prone on the bed, Angel can already feel her entire body pressed up against his side, appealingly warm and deceptively alive. But in that moment, somehow, her warmth seems to pulse, like she can entice him without doing anything at all. Must be a higher being thing.
"What?! Don't look at me like that, I'm just being practical," she says, pulling him down into a kiss. Angel laughs again, into her mouth, reaching up to pull her hair out of the way. "I love you."
"I love you too," Angel says, almost giddy with the truth of it. The reality of what's about to happen feels far away; instead Angel feels relieved, like he can finally relax a little, for once. And really, why shouldn't he? Everyone he loves is dead. Wesley, Gunn, Illyria, Lorne, Spike - all fallen, one by one - and Fred and Connor have been lost for a long time already, of course. Who knows how Buffy and her friends have fared, over in Europe - not well, Angel's guessing. It's a blessing, is how Angel sees it, to sacrifice this world to the fires descending from above. It's a wretched place, after all, and they haven't managed to make it any better. At least this way, they have shot at a second try, on their next ride on the merry-go-round. "I'll love you even when I don't remember you. I promise."
"I don't think it works like that," Cordy says, the first hint of emotion leaking through on her face. Since the moment she'd appeared - "chop chop! No time to waste! We've got a timeline to reset!" - she'd been relentlessly cheerful, no patience whatsoever for Angel's shock or sadness. "You didn't even like me when we first met. Remember?"
"I liked you!" Angel protests. Above them, something crashes hard against the open roof of the Hyperion, sending wooden splinters and a brown wave of sawdust falling into the corner of the room. Both of them ignore it. "I liked you a lot, actually. If I hadn't been in love with Buffy, I probably would've liked you even more."
"Liar. You don't have to flatter me, you know, you've already got a free invitation into my pants, you dork."
"I'm not lying! I really did," Angel says, laughing again. "You were gorgeous and mean. Just my type." He reaches down to take her hand, folding their fingers together. He's smearing blood all over her skin, with each touch, but of course she doesn't care. She's beautiful like this - surrounded by chaos, untouched by the pain, but still part of it - the calm eye of the apocalypse. If William were here, he could write a poem about it. "You said we'd remember a little, just unconsciously. Whatever you did when we were up there - whatever you did to our souls - it'll be enough to 'nudge us,' that's what you said. Maybe we can't rearrange everything the way we want, but if you put some kind of - of poison pill inside of us, then how do you know we won't - "
"I'm sorry, did you just refer to our relationship as a poison pill?" Cordy interrupts flatly.
"A bad analogy, but you know what I mean," Angel says. Both of them pause as another earthquake rattles the bed, and the hotel's walls shake violently around them. Cordy flinches slightly, scooting closer on the bed to avoid the lamp, rattling its way towards the edge, falling onto the floor just as the quake subsides. "That was a bad one."
"Won't be long now," Cordy says, eyes strangely distant. "Once the portal touches ground, it'll happen quickly. Nobody will feel any pain." She blinks, coming out of her half-stupor, tears in her eyes that she blinks back stubbornly. "I was pretty adamant about that. The Powers - bloodthirsty assholes - fought me on that one."
"They're all about that balance, huh," Angel says darkly, squeezing her hand. "Won't do much for those who are already dead, though."
"Right, well that's what this is all about, isn't it? A second chance." Cordy's smile is tremulous, a bit of her fear finally leaking through. His shoulders relax even more at the sight of it; he hadn't wanted to admit how intimidating it was, to see her acting like one of them. The glimpses of her humanity are comforting. "We'll do better next time."
"Even if we don't remember each other, we'll still be different people, which should be enough. At least to shake up the party, you know what I mean." She smiles through her tears. "You're sure you don't wanna have sex? I mean, not even a blowjob?"
Angel laughs again, for maybe the last time. It feels good. "Cor, sweetheart. I appreciate the offer, but - "
"Can't lose your soul when you're with the girl who just fixed it," Cordy interrupts sweetly. "Loophole. Aren't you glad you met me?"
"Every day," Angel says earnestly, and kisses her smirking mouth. Above their heads, hell is crawling closer, the screams of their city faint but distinct in the distance. He hopes he remembers this, at least on some level: what it feels like to know that you failed, but with the knowledge that at least he'd tried, that he'd given everything he'd had to the fight. Sacrificed everything he'd ever loved and wanted: his son, his family, his friends - not to mention the two great loves of his life. Sometimes, you can do everything you can, try with your whole heart, and still end up locked in a coffin at the bottom of the ocean. It's just the way the cards are cut - sometimes you're the hero, but really most of the time you're just the schmuck.
That's comforting too, in a way, to know that the whole thing really is just a big dogfight - no noble God, doling out blessings, no divine plan to live up to. Just a bunch of glowy assholes catfighting with each other, and that's a dynamic Angel can navigate - especially now that they've got one of those higher powers really on their side, for once. Cordelia, the ace up everyone's sleeve, sweeping in at the last minute to kick the universe off its course with one pointy high heel - sweet Jesus, Angel loves her so much.
"Seems unfair," Cordy murmurs, her otherwordly throat choked with emotion, "that we've done all we've done, gotten this far, and I've still never seen your dick. Like, I feel like I got cheated, for real, here."
"I mean, if all you want is a peek, I think we can arrange that," Angel says, hearing his old brogue come out, as it always does in moments of absurd sexual tension. Liam always did have the worst timing.
"Doesn't seem worth it if you're not gonna introduce me properly," Cordy says, still choking on tears. The room feels much warmer now, the glow of the portal much closer. If either of them could sweat, they'd be pouring buckets by now. "Might as well save it for the next life. Maybe those two - whoever we end up as - will figure it out faster than we think."
"Did you make us smarter? When you fucked with our souls?"
"I tried," Cordy says, with an incredulous laugh. She pulls his face close, kisses his eyes one by one. "God, Angel, I tried. I tried."
Angel keeps his eyes closed and holds her, thinking dimly of the people that died to bring them here, to this moment. Wesley, the only friend he's ever had who truly understood him - and Charles Gunn, the man Angel respected above all others. Lorne, who only ever wanted to room of his own to keep. And William - no, Spike, who only ever wanted to be loved. Illyria, proud and deadly, and her shadow, Fred - oh, Fred. Even Doyle pushed him here, his first friend - and his boy, his beautiful, lost baby boy - Angel can't even bring himself to think his name. He hopes to see them again, on the other side. He can't imagine that Cordy can't make it happen, somehow - can't ensure the happiness of a mere handful of people, in the midst of a giant world of billions. Isn't that what a higher being does? Stacks the deck in favor of the ones she likes?
Angel hopes so. Where will they wake up - in Los Angeles, again? Sunnydale? Or even before that - will Angel open his eyes to the blue skies of Galway, with breath in his chest and warm blood in his broken heart? Doesn't really matter now, he figures, since he won't remember not having it. But his soul will - and isn't that what matters in the end? Maybe. Maybe.
"So, Vegas, huh?" Angel murmurs, speaking the words close to her ear, so she can hear. The edges of the roof are on fire now, the wind so loud he can barely make out her heartbeat. "Were there casinos up there?"
"No," Cordy says, her voice coming from all around him. "No. Just light. Lots of bright lights, Angel." She kisses him one last time, as his vision starts to seep into blackness. "Catch ya on the flipside, honey."
The flipside of what? Angel wants to joke, but it all slips away before he can form the words. Bright lights on the strip of heaven - sounds kinda nice. Hopefully that fucker Sinatra's not there - a dead man couldn't order a goddamn martini in that town without one of his goons showing up. If there was any justice at all to the universe, old Frank's chilling his lapels in a Hell dimension and keeping his business out of Angel's plane of reality.
Well, Angel figures, as he slips away into another life - not his first time doing so, but definitely the most dramatic: Cordy would've warned him. She knows his opinions on all the crooners.