Older and Wiser
By Torra

        Angel looked around the room, the whurr and wush and beeps of all the masheens making him uneasy.  Over the past years, he had spent far too much time in hosptial rooms like this.  Too many friend had been hurt.  Too many times he'd been forced to wait and watch them die or heal.  When he took a deep breath, he could smell sickness and death in the air.  All hospitals, no matter how new or old, or where they were, had this smell.  It was inexcapabul.

        Angel was long fermiler with this smell, and it too made him uneasy.

        A movement from the bed drew his attention away from his lonely musings.

        "Hum…Angel." Cordelia gave him a small smile as she woke up, "How long was I asleep?" she tried to sit up, but her body was much too week.

        "Only a few hours, this time," he said, as he pressed the buttons to raise the head of the bed.

        "Buffy?" she asked, setteling back.

        "She's back at the offace.  She needed some rest."

        Cordelia frowned, "She's been spending too much time here," she finaly desided, "I meen, it's not that I don't love having my fans flocking to my bedside," she tried to joke, "But she should be off fighting evil, or whatever it is she does…" again she frowed, as if something she had said did not quite make sence to her.

        "Everyone's been spending a lot of time here." She looked up at him, "Why?" her eyes got wide, "Did someone get hurt?  Are they in the hospital?  Who was it?" again she tried to sit up, but with no more luck then before.

        Angel gently pressed her sholders back into the pillows, "It's okay, the gang is all fine.  It's that they've all been wanting to spend time with you." He asured her.

        She scowled, "Why, they never wanted to spend time with me before.  Even Xander didn't want to spend time with me after we stoped making out.  Couldn't wait for me to leave town."

        He sighed deeply, "That was a long time ago, Cordelia.  They've changed…and so have you."

        She looked up, "How long ago?"

        He tried not to let his exaustion grow, "It's been eight years sence you came to LA and we started working together."

        She smiled, remembering, "Eight years?  Feels more like a life time!  I can feel every ache and pain from every damn demon we fought!"

        They both paused, the tencion in the air growing.  Finaly, Cordelia broke it, "Angel…why can I feel every ache?  I shoudltn be able to feel them all.  I'm only 27!  I shouldn't be here!" she beguan to panic as she looked around the room, "Why am I in the hospital, Angel?  Why am I here?  What happened?  What's going on!  Angel?!"

        Angel sat on the bed's edge and held her arms in place, "It's okay, Cordy, it's okay.  Just
calm down.  There's no reason to panic.  You've been staying here for the past few days.  I've been right here beside you the entire time.  Nothing is going to happen to you." Angel couldn't stop the lie before he said it, but it seemd to calm her down.  As she beguan to relax again, he slowly releced his grip, instead gently taking one of her hands in both of his to keep reasuring her of his presence.

        She looked up at him with impoosibaly young, imposibly scared eyes, "What's going on Angel?"  The catch in her voice made him feel even worse for haing to explain it again.

        "We were fighting some of Wolfram and Heart's goons.  They sent a hitman out after us, do you remember?"  she frowed, but after she nodded once, slowly, he contenued, "He was powerful.  He had a spell he was trying to cast, do you remember that?" she shook her head no. "It was a spell ment for me.  To 'age me as old as I am.'  You steped in the way.  You took the spell ment for me."

        "Is…is that why I feel so tired, Angel?" she asked in a hushed wisper.

        He nodded, "Yes, that's why you're so tired." He brushed her hair out of her face with his free hand, "Why don't you try to sleep for a while."

        She nodded, still looking confused, "Yah…so tired.  Maybe I'll feel better when I wake up."

        Angel was never very good ad lying to Cordelia, she had always maniged to see though him easly, but she was too tired this time, and she didn't think to look past his calm smile.

        Almost as soon as she closed her eyes she was asleep, but Angel kept beside her, not moving, no relceing her hand.  He looked down on her old and wrinkled face and felt a great preshure on his chest, "I owe you my life.  Again." He brushed his hand across her closed eyes, "That spell would have killed me.  And now it's killing you."

        Angel pushed away from the bed and stood infront of the large window, angry with the world, angry with Wolfram and Heart, angry with himself.  Finaly he turned back to look at Cordelia.

        Her skin was pale white, her hair a lifeless gray tangel.  Although she wasn't even 30 yet, she was trapped inside the body of a woman three times that.  The spell had drained all of her life energy, sapping away everything that made her young, and over the next few days, it had replaced her young, healthy body with this wizzened husk now lying in a bed of one of LA's upscale hospitals.

        They doctors couldn't explain it, Willow coudlnt revirce it, and Angel couldn't stop it.  But everyone who saw her could agree on one thing.  She wouldn't live past tonight.

        At first they couldn't tell anything had happened to her as a consiquance of the spell, but only hours later Angel had come running into her bathroom as she screamed.  She'd found her first gray hair.  She had dyed it twice that day before she would admit that all of her hair would soon be as gray as that first one.  But by the time that happened, her memory was already beoming patchy and her body was becoming very week.

        After waking up from her frequient naps she would be sometimes be lusicd, like this last time, but other times she would wake up trapped in some memory.  Angel felt apart of his soul dying as he realised how many horros she had been forced to face in the time they had known eachother.

        All of Cordelia's high school friends had come to visate her, though she could only remember some of them some of the time.  Buffy had stayed to keep her company, but everyone knew it was to keep Angel strong.  They all knew how hard he would take her death, and Angel had to admit, if Buffy wasn't with him though this, he may not have made this far.  Over the past eight years he and Cordelia they had become faimly.  Angel had lost his own little sister by his own hands, and now he was loosing this new sister, and it was tearing him apart.

        Angel turned to look out the window once again and let himself be lost in the expace of stars and building lights.  He didn't know how long he'd been standing there when he heard Cordelia wake up again.

        She was smiling, "Angel, what's wrong?  You've got that 'woh is me, everything's my fualt' brooding face on."

        He couldn't bring himself to tell her the truth over again.  She was fixacted on one of her happy memories and he didn't want to spoil it for her.

        She rolled her eyes, "Really, you're as bad as  Doyle sometimes." She thought for a moment, "Maybe we could have some kind of all state brood-a-thon.  Raise some money for the bussness?  Good publicity!" she pointed out.

        At the mention of Doyle's name the presure on Angel's chest increced expanchualy.  That was why she was happy.  She was remembering Doyle.

        "I'll tell him hello for you."

        He looked up at her confused, "Tell who?"

        "Doyle.  I'll tell him hello for you.  I'm sure he already knows how much you miss him, but I'll say it just the same."

        Angel forced a smile as Cordelia yawned widly, "Thanks.  I'd apreshate it."

        She yawned again, "No--aahyh, No problem." She smiled as her eyes sliped shut.

        Angel needed to excape.  He needed some time by himself.  Xander would be here soon to take up watch, Angel could take a brake then.
 
 

        The room was empty the next time Cordelia woke up, except for Doyle who was pirtched on the edge of her bed again, just has he had so many times sence the effects of the spell had begun less then a week ago.

        " 'Bout time ya woke up, ya lazy bug." He grined.

        She rolled her eyes, "Well I was tired." She yawned again to prove her point before going on, "So where is everybody?"

        "Well, Xander, Willow, Giles and the rest of your friends are out in the waiting room after the nurse found them all arguing over wether or not to keep trying that last spell to cure you." He paused to think, "Oh, Looks like Wesley is in jail!"

        Cordelia raised the back of the bed up slightly at this, "He's what?"

        Doyle grinned widly, "Yep, apperently he punched out a cuple of his bosses when they wouldn't let 'im come back ta the states ta see ya."

        She couldn't help rolling her eyes again, "He never could stay outta trubble.  He always needed someone there to keep an eye on him, just like you and Angel." She paused, "Where is Angel, anyhow?"

        Doyle got a solum look on his face, "He 'n Buffy are try'n ta chase down a doctor.  Your
heart start'td hav'n trubble back there.  I'm...I'm fraid it's near the end, Princess."

        Cordelia reached out a hand to touch him, but it passed though him like air.  Instead she summoned up the strongest, brightest smile she could, "It's okay.  Just meens I wont find out wether or not I got tha last part in that Young Loves of The Old soap."

        "Cordelia?" she looked up to see Angel, Buffy, and a consirned looking doctor entering the room. "Who were you talking to, Cordy?" Buffy asked.

        She smiled, "Oh, just Doyle.  Wes is in jail, did ya know that?"

        Buffy and Angel exchanged looks, "He's back in England, Cordy," Buffy finaly said, "He's still trying to get here before...I mean...before you...oh man, smooth one, Buffster."

        Cordelia yawnd widly as the doctor picked up her wrist and checked her pulse.  Angel took up his usual spot in the char becide Cordelia's head, and Buffy leaned against it's arm.

        Cordelia started coughing and found she couldn't stop.  Paniced, she looked up to Angel.  He put his arms around her and held her, but he couldn't stop the painful spassiams.

        After an eternity they passed.  Angel remained holding her, but Buffy and the doctor went to the other end of the room.

        "They're saying your lungs are giving out," Doyle translated, "They..." he sighed and walked over to stand across from Angel, "It's not much longer here, 'Delia.  Even I can see the change start'n."

        Cordelia nodded, "S'ok, I know."

        "Know what?" Angel pulled back to look at her.

        "I know I'm dieing." She coughed again, her voice becoming harsher, "It's okay.  Doyle's here to keep me companey."

        Angel looked over to Buffy and the doctor who were walking towrods them again.  The doctor shook his head.  Angel raised Cordelia's head more to ease her breathing, "It's okay, Cordy, I'll take care of everything."

        Cordelia smiled and abrushed a hand over his cheekbones, "Angel, you can stop playing Brave Hero.  I know I'm dying." Despite her words, her voice cought on the last word, making her wince, "I'm okay with it.  Doyle's been telling me all about the other side.  About what there is to do, about who's there.  Even about all the cloathing they have!" she gave Angel a week smile, "He says I can wair any dress ever made on the other side."

        " 'N You'll look great 'n every one a'em, too." Doyle piped in.

        Angel just shook his head, and started to say something, but Buffy's hand on his sholder stoped him.  She leand in close, "If she wants to believe Doyle is here," she wispered, "Let her.  If I was dying, I'd want to think you were there too."

        Angel nodded and turned back to Cordelia, not knowing she had heard.

        Cordelia rolld her eyes, but was to tired to give a scathing retort.  Yawning again, she let her eyes slip closed for a minute.  When she opend them again, Doyle was standing directly beside her, "Come on, Luv.  It's okay."

        Cordy tried to blink again, but Angel, Buffy, and the others who had now enterd the room were fading, becoming harder to focus on.  And her lungs, they felt heavy, week.  She wanted to cough, but she didn't have enough energy.

        She looked up and mainged to wisper Doyle's name.

        She felt Angel squeese her hand, "Take care of her, Doyle.  Whever you are."

        Cordelia let her eyes slip closed once again, but this time when she opend them, everythig in the room was clear, far more clear then it had ever been before.  She could see the light coming from buffy, the sadness from Xander, Ayna's bordem (Cordelia still didn't like the Ex-demon much), the anger from the Doctor who had not been able to help.  She could see color, and the blood rushing though the vains of all her friends huddled in the room.  Angel, she could see his soul, and she could see his heart which, even after all these years, watned to contenue beating.

        She could see everything and everyone in the room far more clearly then she had thought posibul.

        And Doyle. He stood beside her smiling his wide smile, "Come on, Prinsess.  I've missed'ya."  Reaching out, Cordelia was extatic to find their hands touched this time, grasping eachother as they never had before.  Strong.  Scaure.  Safe.

        With one last look to Angel and her family of friends, Cordelia got up from the bed, leaving her old life behind once again, and with Doyle, starting on a new one.

        "I missed you too, Doyle."

        Angel's last wisper eccoed behind her as she walked out of the window into the vastness byond, "Goodnight, Cordelia.  Sleep Sweet."
 

FIN

Authors Notes: This Cordy Death Fic is deticated to Selynne, who has so wished for it since episode one.  And to all the other fanfic writers out there, just remember: If Joss can create 'em, WE CAN KILL 'EM!  BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


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