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L O S T and F O U N D (part two)

Cordelia woke early in the morning, half expecting to find the dog panting and fussing to go outside. She had taken the bedroom just across from Angel's so that the dog could easily find one of them.

Leaving her room she noticed that Angel's door was slightly opened. The Dalmatian spotted dog bed was on the floor beside Angel's bed. As she moved the door aside, the urge to find a camera was unbearable.

The dog was sleeping with him. Not underneath the blankets, but resting comfortably on top in line with his body. She looked content and happy and lifted her head once she sensed Cordelia's presence.

'Okay, not calling her Buffy anymore....', she thought, smiling at the dog.

But the dog didn't move; she chose to stay on her half of that 60- year-old mattress than sleep in her new bed with the price tag still on the back.

"Come on sweetie...."

Just then Angel's eyes opened and for a moment, he thought she was talking to him.

"Well congratulations..... finally found a girl you can sleep with."

"She's okay, Cordelia. She just went outside an hour ago."

"Well go back to sleep. I can take her."

"I wasn't even asleep yet. No, leave her in here. She's fine. I don't mind."

"But she stinks. And now you stink. Why don't you take her in the shower with you. At this point you could use any shampoo; you have to do something. Just don't let her lick anything while you have her in there."

"I sort of like the way she stinks. But, I'll try and give her a bath later, if it will make you happy."

Cordelia sat on the edge of the bed just beside Angel's covered feet. "I'm going to go and visit some pet stores today. Thought I could check any postings about a missing female Lab. Maybe look in the paper, too." She waited and watched for the hesitant nod that she was sure would come from him eventually.

"Angel, is that okay with you?"

"Yea. We have to, right?"

"We should. Before either one of us gets any more attached. You don't need any additional grief and sorrow in your life. The sooner we find her owners, the easier it will be."

"What if we don't find them? We can keep her... We're not taking her to the pound."

"Yes Timmy, Lassie can stay." She squeezed his foot while he looked completely confused. Angel didn't get the joke, but it was funny to her, regardless.

"Go to sleep and let someone else watch over you, for a change. I'll wake you if I find anything."

~~~~~~~~~~

"Too big. Too small. White feet. She doesn't have white feet, does she?"

Angel put the phone to his shoulder and stretched across his desk. "No. Just a little white on her chest. So.... nothing, huh?"

"Don't get excited. I've only been to three places. Did you take her in the shower with you?"

"Yes. And I'm not talking about it."

"I'm getting a mental picture! A very disturbing mental picture. So, was it good for you, too?"

"Stop with the sex jokes, Cordy. She made me fall out. The whole bathroom is covered in dog hairs. But she doesn't smell too bad anymore. I used your shampoo since you made me bathe her."

"Nexus. My Nexus Humectress? On that dog! Oh, petty cash owes me....."

"And about your shoes that you had on yesterday.... I think she`s bored with our socks...."

"Don't even tell me, I don't want to know. So everything else okay? Hasn't figured out that you're a baddy vampire, yet?"

"No. She looks at me strangely sometimes. But I don't think she cares."

"Well we all look at you strangely, Angel. So.... she still loves you?"

"Yes", looking back over his desk at her ripping apart the sock toy. "She still loves me."

Cordelia pressed the END button on her cell phone. Why did she have to ask him that? It only made the feelings of guilt grow stronger. Getting to know Angel had always been difficult. He never opened up; never discussed his true feelings about anything, regardless of how insignificant it may have seemed. How Buffy managed the years and all the heartache would always remain a mystery to Cordelia.

But in one day, one day, Angel had changed for the better. In several fleeting moments, Cordelia could have easily mistaken him for a happy human dog owner. For the first time, he wanted to wake up and face yet another day in his endless life. It was because something was new. And even after one day, it was terribly clear; this wasn't going to be easy.

LOST. Female Labrador. 2 years old. Friendly Family Dog. Slipped collar while rollerblading near Venice Beach. Answers to Gypsy. REWARD.

'Gypsy. How ironic is that?', Cordelia thought as another pang of sorrow rang through her heart as her eyes reread the lost poster with the perfectly clear picture of the dog Angel was now calling Blackie.

Family Dog.

"This so unfair! He loses everything he ever loves." she yelled at her reflection in the rearview mirror.

"You could always decide not to tell him. I hate seeing him sad..... he gets all cranky when he`s sad."

Cordelia`s eyes fixed on the poster again. "No. I'd never forgive myself. I have to tell him. But, I won't push the issue. I'll let him decide. If he keeps her, he keeps her."

~~~~~~~~~~

Before Angel saw her facial expressions and before anything could be said, he took her hand and pulled her quickly into the kitchen. The dog's big brown eyes smiled at Cordelia in a warm welcomed hello.

"She didn't care! I changed right in front of her, Cordy, and she didn't care."

"You got dressed in front of her? Why would she care, I mean, you had her in the shower?"

"No. Not that change. The other change."

"You went grrrrr, as in.... GRRRR? You didn't scare her? Did she even notice?"

"Oh, she noticed; she stopped eating. I just wanted to see what she would do. If she would care."

So much for letting him decide. His decision was made. There weren't enough dog treats in the world to thank this little canine enough. After all, the little dog did the impossible. She made Angel happy. Well, this definitely wasn't going to be easy.

"About the postings at the pet store..."

"I'm taking back the dog bed, I don't think she likes the spots."

"You think she noticed the spots? Body heat or not, she just wanted to stay close to you. Course, if she crawled up in bed with me, I`d have to switch rooms. Does she still stink? Can`t believe you used my shampoo!"

Angel tossed the wet toy across the room and the dog's flailing legs chased after it. She concentrated on nothing else besides retrieving the item and returning it to her teammate. The faster she tossed it to his waiting hands, the faster this game would progress. The dog would not abide by distracting conversations; she wanted Angel's undivided attention.

"So does she still stink?" Cordelia repeated.

".............No. Don't think so."

"Again.... about the pet store....."

"Well since I have to pay you back for the shampoo, I better return that bed."

Just when Cordelia was going to break the hard news, she changed her mind. It was probably the look on his face that did it. Nothing else would ever make him smile quite that way again. He wasn't thinking about demons or fighting. He wasn't thinking about Darla or Buffy; about redemption or curses.

Everything else just seemed distant and petty, including Cordelia.

"Good idea, Angel...... She's not a Dalmatian."

~~~~~~~~~~

"Cordelia, you have to tell him! That beast ripped my sleeve. She spilled her water bucket and was lying in the water. Tracked muddy footprints all over the marble floor. That dog belongs to someone and you have an obligation to do what is right."

"Shut up Wesley! I know that just keep your voice down. Angel's out in the courtyard fixing the hole in the fence so she doesn't get back out. He wants to leave the dog run loose so she can go in and out whenever she wants. Good idea, really. Could hardly wait until the sun went down. Think he's regressing back to his teen years."

"Wish he'd let her wonder right back out that fence. At least then he could pay closer attentions to the matters at hand."

"Please! He pays too much attention as it is; that's his biggest problem..... well.... one of them. I'm glad he's distracted, even if it's only been for a few days. That dog`s hardly left his side; and has he been Mr. Grumpy Vampire Man lately? NO."

"Keeping that mutt isn't the solution to his problems. Talk some sense into him; he listens to you."

"I know but I just can`t do it. Not yet anyway. Maybe we can get him another dog. A puppy. It can grow up thinking everyone is a vampire."

"Why have him get attached to something that will die in 8 or 10 years? He's lost enough as it is, Cordelia. Let him be."

"No, Wesley, I won't let him be! Angel's been 'left be' for over a 100 years. Maybe Gypsy's owners will want her to stay here. Maybe they gave up looking and bought another dog. If I tell them...."

"Tell whom, Cordelia?"

Angel stood in back of the lobby. He heard Cordelia say his name. He heard her call the dog Gypsy. and he heard her say.... owner.

Instead of offering up her well-rehearsed explanation, Cordelia simply unfolded the lost poster, walked slowly towards him and placed the paper in his hand. A clearly identifiable look of disappointment filled his eyes.

"I'm sorry. I didn't call them, but I should have. And, I should have told you before. I am so sorry."

~~~~~~~~~~

The big front doors opened and children's screaming laughter filled the hotel.

Gypsy's name was called over and over by the little girl dressed in a red jumpsuit. A young boy, about the age of nine, was overcome with relief and joy. In his hand, he clutched a leather collar with a matching leash. Again and again, the young boy apologized for making her pull him so fast on his roller blades. He was certain that Gypsy's disappearance and near starvation was all his fault.

The praises and sincere thank yous were exchanged. Cordelia offered the bags of dog food, minus the hidden bag of Puppy Chow, just in case someone decided to change his mind.

The family handed Cordelia an envelope of money. Much to Wesley's surprise, she turned it down. But when the little girl in the red jumpsuit took the envelope from her mother's hand and stated a demanding "you have to!", Cordelia graciously took the envelope, and simply said "thank you".

With the petting of small hands and the faces she had so hoped to find again, Gypsy now no longer felt lost. It was time to return to her family and it was time for goodbyes.

The dog reclaimed her only toy and insisted on playing one more round of tug-of-war. Nothing beats a sock toy to a dog, not even a knotted up towel. But it was clear to Cordelia; the skinny black dog was waiting. Waiting for someone else to come and say goodbye.

Even with all the excitement, the dog was distracted. Her tail would rest still as her eyes and ears went searching for that kind man who had also seemed lost.

Cordelia knelt down to the dog, much like the night in the courtyard. "It's okay, little one, Angel can't say goodbye right now. But he thanks you. And I thank you too."

Angel watched from outside the large glass doors leading to the courtyard. Goodbyes were never his thing. It was better left this way.

Gypsy hesitated for a moment as her eyes fixed on that darkened glass of the courtyard doors. Even without seeing him, the dog knew he was out there, alone in the night.

Then as the leash tightened, she followed her family out the front door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You did a good thing tonight, Angel."

"I know." He walked back over to his new favorite stone bench positioned perfectly in the darkened garden and sat down. "I've spent a couple hundred years following Darla. Obsessed with her. I spend years with Buffy, tearing myself up inside. Trying to make everything work. But it doesn't because it's all too hard. I lose it all. Every time, I lose it all."

He paused, collecting his thoughts and turned his eyes to meet hers. "But I have this stray dog for four days....and now she's gone too.... and yet, I miss her the most. How can that be?"

"Cause she didn't want anything from you. Didn't want you to change. She just wanted you. Here you are, lonely and brooding, and she could relate. I think she understood you better than anyone." Cordelia touched his shoulder and then sat down beside him.

"No. You understand me. That's why you didn't tell me right away. Afraid I might lose it."

"I am sorry. I should have told you sooner. But you looked so happy; for once you actually acted normal........ relatively speaking."

"We weren't suppose to keep secrets, remember? Thought that was your idea. Cordy, if you have something to tell me, just tell me. I'll survive. Always do."

"Well, I think you should have a puppy for a stocking stuffer. Just think about it. Promise me you'll think about it? Name it whatever you want. I'll even do the paper training. Hey we could get some ugly little pug puppy.... you know... the ones with the pushed in face.... and we could name it Wesley!"

"No. If a dog wants to be here, they'll find their way. There are lots of stray dogs out there, I'm sure. I even 'unfixed' the broken fence, just in case. We help the hopeless, don't we?"

"We do. You know, Angel, I'm starting to think that the rocky road to your redemption might not be all about killing demons and stopping the apocalypse. Maybe its about saving lives in another way. That little boy was guilt stricken over Gypsy's disappearance. He would have grown up always wondering if she had suffered over something that he could have prevented. Always thinking if he would have done something differently, she wouldn't have run away."

Cordelia leaned into Angel, pushing him affectionately, "But yet, we managed to fix it."

Angel leaned back, "I guess we did."

"Those kids are going to have their happiest Christmas ever." Cordelia stood up and left his side, turning around only to add, "Ho Ho Ho, Angel."

A smile spread across his face. Pausing momentarily, Angel got up and followed her inside.

"Hey Cordy, what kind of name is Gypsy anyway?........"

~~~~~~~~~~

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