Unfinished Business

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I don't want to talk about it.

I keep saying it again and again to everyone. You'd think they would just pass it along to one another instead of asking me every ten minutes if I want to talk about it. Maybe I should paint a sign on my wall in blood that says it in bold letters.

I don't want to talk about it.

I'm thinking about it so much that if I had to talk everything would just run on and on and I'd cry and cry until my body dried up and disappeared.

Like yours.

How could you!? How could you leave me? How could you kiss me with such passion and promise for the future and then just go away? I hate you for what you did. And I love you for what you did. I loved you all along and you never got to hear me say it. I loved the way you tolerated me even though I made it hard on you. I loved the way you smiled and called me, "Princess". I loved the way you smelled and I loved the way you looked at me. God, you made me feel so alive.

It's been two days. Two long days, and here I am in my apartment. The one you found for me. People are converging in the living room and trying to elect who comes in to check on me next. I think it's going to be Buffy this time. She hasn't come yet. I hear her heels clicking on the hardwood and now she's knocking.

"Go away," I manage to say audibly and with something that resembles composure. I want to blame her. I want to scream at her for bringing demons with her to Sunnydale and blame her for coming and getting Angel so upset just last week. Maybe if she hadn't come, then ...

"Cordy." Buffy just now opened the door like she didn't even hear me.

I want to throw the vase on the nightstand at her, but instead I roll away and stare at the wall. She never was good with hints, though, and she walks further into the room. "You heard me. Go away."

She's sitting on the edge of the bed now and I can smell her perfume. Perfume that makes me think of Sunnydale and Xander and home. I choke a little. "Cordelia, I know it's hard but-."

"What do you know?" I spin quickly and sit up. She flinches, almost like she can tell that I'm going to slap her. I don't though. I'm too weak. I'm weak and miserable and want to die. "Why are you here? Didn't you upset Angel enough last time? You came back to watch his misery?"

"When we heard what happened we thought that you both could use some friendly-."

"Well, go back into the other damn room and tell them all that I don't need anyone. Go tell them that the only thing I need is to be left alone."

"Doyle wouldn't have wanted it this way. He wouldn't have."

The thought of her knowing anything about you makes me so mad. She didn't know you. She didn't know how you leaned against the doorways or always brought me fresh fruit when you went past the market. She doesn't know that you liked to watch Roseanne, or that you liked to draw. I knew you! "You met him once! For three seconds, Buffy. You don't know what he would have wanted. You don't know what he would have thought, or said, or done."

"It only took me three seconds to see that he wanted you to be happy. Any fool could see that he cared about you."

"I didn't see it." I hate myself for the fact that I can't stop the sobs that are coming. I should have seen it. I should have seen it and let you know how much I cared too. I try to muster anger to cover the pain. "If he cared he would not have left me the way he did."

"Cordelia, listen."

"No, you listen." My hands are somehow now on her shoulders and I'm shaking her. I'm vaguely aware of the fact that she isn't stopping me. Self serving bitch that she is, she probably wants to be able to brag that she got a reaction out of me. I don't care. I react. "I had a chance with him and he took the decision away from me. He decided to play hero and leave me and die. He died, Buffy. On purpose."

"He died for you, Cordelia. He died so you could have a chance."

"I want my chance to be with him." I don't know how it happens but I collapse forward, against her. Her perfume is stronger here, and for the briefest moment I'm taken back to a time when I had money and Xander and my biggest worry was homework. For a split second, I'm back in the high school library listening to Giles talk about demons but still feeling like the little girl I was. For just a second I feel like I can go back to that time and do it all again.

"Shhh." Buffy's smoothing my hair with one hand and rubbing my back with the other. I never thought that I could find comfort with the bane of my existence.

"Can't we take it back, Buffy? Can't we bring him back? Angel went to hell and came back. Can't we?"

She shakes her head slowly and mumbles something about him being dead and not trapped in hell. I want to go scream at Giles, Mr. Demon Know It All, to find him. All the books he has must have a way out hidden somewhere in their pages. Willow could do a spell or a magick chant, right?

"There has to be a way," I sob. She mumbles a few more things, but I don't pay attention. I pull away and get under the cover, hoping that it can warm me inside, instead of out. I'm hot and cold and hollow and chilled. I don't know what to do with myself. I want to run out on the street and see if the world has stopped for me and yell at people who are acting like nothing is wrong. I want to go to the agency and see if there are any reminders of you and shove them in my pocket. I want to walk in the rain and cry. I want to not need to cover myself and hide. But that's all I can do.

Buffy stands up and asks if I need anything, but I don't reply. I should probably thank her, but I just close my eyes. I can hear her leave slowly and click-clack back up the hallway. I can tell by her footsteps that she pauses just before she enters the room. It's probably so she can gaze adoringly at Angel and let him look at her with pain and remorse before she tells them all how ridiculous I am. Hushed voices start to talk again, and my skin tingles. They're all worried about me. I guess I should be touched but instead it hurts more.

I was never a friend to any of them either.

I think I've slept at some point. The clock is saying it's two a.m. now and Buffy was here at ten. Wasn't she? Has it been hours or has it been years since I saw your face for the last time? How long before I forget the twinkle in your eyes and the small dimple you had when you laughed? Do I have any pictures of you? In ten years will I be able to replay your voice in my head or will I forget the small details of your accent and have to try harder? In ten years will it still be a searing pain to think your name?

There's a noise in the corner, a scraping sound and I sit up in bed. I can see from the streetlamp that there is no one here with me so it must just be Dennis, the ghost who lives in my apartment with me. I start to speak and tell him to go to the other room, but I don't. There's something else. Something familiar.

"Hello? Angel, is that you?"

"No. But I wouldn't mind seein' him once more before I have to get back."

I'd know your voice anywhere. The thick Irish brogue,the tone that you always used. "D-D-Doyle?"

I reach for the lamp but you're there, suddenly kneeling beside me, and I gasp. You're all smiles and you nod at me. "Hello, Princess."

"What? How?" My chin starts to tremble and I look away. I start to silently pray. Oh please God, let him be real. Let him be real and let him stay. Don't do this to me, God. I know I've been bad before but if you want me to be good then leave him here so I have a reason. And the inspiration. Please ... please ... please.

"I was told that I had some unfinished business. Someone needed a proper goodbye. Would that happen to be you?" There is a softness in your voice and I can't bring myself to look at you. You're going to say goodbye to me. I feel something cold touch my face as you lift my chin. "Don't, Cordelia."

"Don't leave me, Doyle. Please stay." I don't care that I'm begging. I don't care that I'm crying and I don't care that I'm pathetic. I care about making you hear me and do what I'm asking. "I can't let you go when there's so much left that needs to be finished."

"I wish I could stay too, but I don't make the rules. What's done is done." There's a tearing sound and a small light begins to peek through my wall. It's small now but I can see it getting bigger. You notice it too. "I don't have much time."

I want to throw myself into your arms and see if you're real or if you're a dream, but you're holding me at bay. Maybe you can't stand the thought of how good it would feel. "Doyle, it's not fair."

"Nothing is. Cordelia, life isn't fair and death certainly isn't, but we have to accept it and move on."

"I don't want to move on if I'm not moving with you!"

"I'll be here." You let your fingertips touch my temple and trace across my face and I ache to hold your hand. Now you're watching me so intently that it cuts me to the quick when you say, "I'll be in your thoughts."

I grab your hand and pull it to my chest, trying not to break down. Time is so short and I am afraid you're going to vanish again. "And you're here, Doyle. Forever. You'll be in my heart."

"Oh, Cordelia. There was so much I felt and so much I wanted to say."

"Me-me too." The light is about a foot long now and I can see you watching it anxiously. "Doyle, I wish I could tell you what you meant to me."

"I felt it. I felt it in the moments before I died and I felt it when I walked into this room." Your thumb trails over my lips and I close my eyes. Your mouth brushes across mine- it almost feels like someone slides a rose petal across it and I whimper against it. When I open my eyes again, the light is so bright it blinds me. I hear you say, "I have to go."

"No!" I rise from the bed, defiant and strong. If it's God in the light then I am willing to tell him that my life has had far too many injustices and I won't let you go. I'll stand up to him and not be afraid to be tactless. If I can just keep you. "Please, Doyle. Say no."

"They're not offering me drugs, Cordelia." You chuckle, and I see your silhouette move toward me again. I can't see you clearly anymore. It's too bright and that's wrong. If you're leaving me then they should have made sure I could see you go. "For as much as I want to stay with you forever ... I can't. I've seen what's on the other side."

"Then take me, Doyle. Take me to the other side with you. Please? PLEASE?" I sound like a little girl begging for a doll. I'm hysterical and I wonder if you'll have to slap me to calm me down.

"Shhh." You pull me into your arms and stroke my hair, twirling it in your fingertips, and I feel like I'll die if you ever stop. I feel like I have died and gone to heaven in your grip. "I take your pain, Cordelia. When you wake up, you'll feel better, and you'll feel everything I felt for you. You'll know."

"Take me," I keep pleading, even as you let me go. I mean it when I keep saying that I'd rather go with you. What do I have left if you aren't there everyday to make me laugh or listen to me talk? Who is going to notice my shoes now? The thought of facing the detective agency without you is something that makes my stomach churn and my knees go weak. "I miss you so much already."

"I miss you, Delia. I'll miss what could have been."

I watch you put one leg into the light and scream, "Doyle?"

You turn toward me for what I know will be the last time and I smile for you. I let my face light up for your benefit even though I want to crumple to the floor and scream until someone takes pity on me and kills me. I take a deep breath and compose myself, wanting my final words to sound as true as they are. "Your true face? The prickly one? It isn't a face I could have grown to love. It's a face I loved the minute I saw it."

And it was.

~The End

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