Cordelia had had her fair share of nightmares in life. Growing up on a Hellmouth did that to you even if you weren't aware of it.
There was something in the Sunnydale air that just crept in through bedroom windows and slithered in ears and up noses and into open mouths.
Call it radiation from hell or whatever you want.
She had slept only marginally better since arriving in L.A.. She wasn't over top of a Hellmouth any more but life was hardly demon free.
Since teaming up with Angel and the others she had come to find herself in the kinds of situations she had once tried to avoid. The stuff she had once been so sure came only with Buffy Summers and their weird town.
She regretted some of that now. She had not been understanding or incredibly kind but she had been young and she had aged a lot since high school. Seeing your principal eaten by a demon worm had that kind of an effect and so too did losing all of your safety and inheritance.
College had once seemed natural for her.
She'd go and see some parties, snag a hunk and maybe walk away with a doctor or a lawyer for a husband.
Of course none of that had ever happened and a small part of her was glad about it. As hard as it was she liked the life she had now. She was doing something important and for the first time in her life she had come to really care about that.
Whatever she had had to give up. . . it was a world away now as she finished cleaning up around the hotel.
Angel was off patrolling with Gunn and she and Wesley had stayed to work only now at nearly three in the morning even he had put his head down, an ancient tome his pillow.
He'd probably kill himself if he drooled on it and as she cleared some of the mess of research books away she glanced at him.
He looked unhappy in his sleep and she paused for a moment, knowing he kept so very much to himself, knowing that Wesley was not always a happy person.
He shifted, smearing his face on the page slightly and making a noise.
"Oh Wesley. . ." She said, setting the book she had been holding aside and going to him.
To her surprise he was shaking slightly.
She hesitated and put a hand on his back. "Wes? Wake up." She said.
He shifted and fought it but then after a moment finally opened his eyes and she saw something pained and confused in them.
"Cordelia. . ." He whispered, lifting his head which was sticking to the page.
It tore and he froze.
"You looked like you weren't having a great dream." She said as he looked down in dismay.
He smoothed the page over. "I-I didn't mean to-" He seemed distracted and she felt for him.
"It's okay Wes, I think we've all had our fair share of nightmares."
"It wasn't a nightmare." He said rather abruptly, hands still trying to smooth the torn page out.
She watched him piteously and sighed, taking the book from him and getting the tape dispenser. "Whatever you call it." She said.
She had seen him after torture and pain, seen him probably the weakest next to Angel still holding his own. Whatever he dreamed she knew he was stronger than it. Even she was stronger than her dreams.
She always had been the strongest woman she knew.
He was quiet for a moment before straightening his glasses and looking at her. "I didn't. . . I didn't say anything did I?"
"You? No." She said, handing back the taped page. It wasn't perfect but at least he couldn't paw at it and make it any worse.
He nodded, still looking shaky.
"Hey, we see a lot of ugly stuff Wes. Don't beat yourself up."
In the dark he looked almost ashamed but that was Wesley, forever beating himself up over something small. Something he couldn't help.
"Cordelia. . ." He said as if he were about to explain something but his voice stopped in his throat and he just hung his head instead.
"You remember the sludge demon we took down last month? I dreamed about that thing for weeks." She said. "The smell alone."
He looked at her weakly then. "I didn't dream of a demon." He whispered softly, eyes returning to the now taped page of his book. He ran his fingers over her tape-job carefully this time and she didn't really know what to say. Wesley had always tried to keep his problems to himself. This admittance was out of the ordinary.
She nodded, remembering him after Faith had tortured him.
"Sometimes the worst things aren't demons, I guess." She said softly, the room too dark around them.
He nodded, not meeting her eyes. He looked miserable and trapped in himself, he looked like someone lost.
"You should go home, we both should." She said, trying to stay kind despite the world they lived in.
"I don't. . ." He was quiet. "I'm sorry."
She didn't understand and yet doubted very much he was going to open up to her. That wasn't his way. "It's okay Wes. You just had a bad dream."
He nodded yet again and sat in defeat. "Cordelia. . . do you ever go to visit your father?" He asked. He sounded uncharactaristically small and she was thrown by the question.
"No, not really I mean he's the one that lost everything we had and turned us into the public laughing stock in Sunnydale right before my graduation."
He looked at her strangely. "But he is incarcerated here- in Los Angeles?"
She shrugged, not about to feel guilt or at least determined to try not to. "I'll see him eventually. Anyway mom made me go and see him after he first got arrested so it isn't like I haven't been." She felt a little flinty. Even now her mother had a hard time seeing past the vapid, cruel girl she had been and the further she got from that girl the harder it had become to relate to her mother.
He nodded. "I haven't been home since before I came to Sunnydale." He said, voice soft in the darkness.
She frowned. "Hell of a severance package." She said.
He nodded and swallowed. "Some part of me never wants to go back." He looked at her as if he'd just revealed something horrid about himself and was waiting for her judgement.
She didn't have any to give.
"Then don't." She said. "I don't have a reason to go back to Sunnydale."
"I made such a mess of things." He said, shaking his head miserably.
"Wes, you're feeling sorry for yourself. You messed up in Sunnydale but it's not like Buffy or Faith tried to make it easy for you. Even Giles didn't."
He looked at her.
"What? You think I didn't notice? Please Mister, I had my eye on you back then. I saw."
A faint ghost of a smile crossed his lips. "I was rather enamored with you."
"Of course you were." She winked. "But we're not there anymore Wes. We have our own lives here. I don't even know if we're the same people."
"We're the same people." He said softly. "Just little wiser."
"And a lot older." She said, feeling far away.
He nodded again and they were silent.
It was past three in the morning now and Angel would be back in a few hours' time. They needed to be home and in their beds, ready to do the daylight work their boss couldn't.
"Come on, pack up. We'll walk home together."
He nodded and closed the book, torn page and tape disappearing among it's siblings and after a last lingering touch, he put it aside and followed her out.