Story Notes: Canon up to The Kiss in AtS 3.11, then goes off into Cordy!verse.
Author’s Note: Inspired by Dazzle’s story ‘Thaw’ over at Volition. Thanks to Astrid, Laura, Annabelle, Vicky, and Sally at Angel Fanfiction Workshop for numerous suggestions. Written 9/03, substantially revised 3/04.
Disclaimer: Angel the Series and all associated characters are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, and Warner Brothers. This work is not for profit and no ownership of aforementioned copyrighted material is implied, nor any infringement intended.
* * *
Cordelia kneels next to Angel in a dingy hotel room. The vampire looks tormented—his sanity stretched thin by the burden of his visions. Wesley and Gunn watch from the doorway, concerned. Wesley’s left sleeve hangs empty, while Gunn is still in amazement that a famous actress is in their building.
Cordelia speaks softly to Angel. "Everything is gonna be okay." She leans in and softly kisses the vampire on the mouth. After a second she moves back, breaking the kiss. Angel still looks haunted, and resumes muttering. Nothing has changed.
Skip, Cordelia’s demonic guide, watches unseen from the side of the room. He shakes his head sadly. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
* * *
Wes set a cup of coffee on the table in front of me. He turned and walked to the worn couch that graced the “main office” of the duplex that served as demon-hunter central. My thoughts are interrupted by said Englishman. “Really, Cordelia, I’m not sure I understand why you’re here.”
I pick up my coffee and sip to gain a moment. I meet Wesley’s eyes so that I don’t stare at his missing arm. I glance at Gunn, who looks a little annoyed, then back at Wesley. “Look, Wes, I told you. I get the feeling that this...situation...isn’t right. That things aren’t supposed to be like this.”
“How do ya’ mean, Barb-?” Gunn’s question was bitten off as I turned The Look on him. “Sorry. Cordy.” Gunn looked embarrassed.
I continued as though I hadn’t been interrupted, “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but things keep nagging at the back of my mind.”
Wesley played the part of the attentive investigator. “For instance?”
“Names. The Hyperion, for one.”
“I say, that’s such a lovely-“ This time it was Wesley who was stopped by my patented Look before he could get too far off topic.
“Like I mentioned earlier,”--I arch my eyebrow, daring either of them to interrupt again--“I went to a room in the Hyperion, and the address of the house in Reseda was on the wall underneath the wallpaper.”
Wesley removed his glasses. “Intriguing.”
Gunn grimaced. “And here I was just gonna say spooky.”
I nodded. “And there’s this feeling that Angel wasn’t supposed to be crazy. Not like this.” It bugged me that I couldn’t explain it to them better.
“That’s it?” Wesley was skeptical. “Just vague feelings and cryptic clues?”
I let a little irritation slip out. “Well, I personally think that it’s Sunnydale freakshow time again, what with mystic visions and slaying demons and all.”
“Perhaps. If you don’t mind, I’d like to examine the matter further. Would you care to come by and discuss this tomorrow? I really must consult my texts.”
“Umm, I’ve got rehearsal for the show, but I can come by afterwards.”
Wesley nodded. “Of course. That would be lovely.”
“Nice to finally meet you, Cordy.”
I flashed my 100-watt smile at him. “My pleasure, Gunn.”
I dug my phone out of my purse and walked out of the dilapidated duplex. My Mercedes is still there, thank God. Maybe there’s no demand for bright red 500s with a license plate that says “Cordy.” I punched the well-worn speed-dial/1 buttons of the phone as I got into the car.
After a single ring the line was answered at the other end. “This is Nev. Go.”
“Nev, cancel all my appointments after rehearsal tomorrow.”
“Okay, you’re the boss.” Darn right I am.
* * *
Wesley had several volumes open on the table when I walked in the next afternoon. “Cordelia, welcome.”
“Hi, Wes. What’s the news? Am I crazy or is there something weird going on?”
“I’m afraid I haven’t found anything useful, as of yet. What about you?”
“I, um, had a dream.” I winced as I heard myself.
Wesley’s mouth twitched towards a smile. “I presume you are not channeling Dr. King?”
“Ha ha. No. I dreamed we were fighting demons. You, Gunn, Angel, and I. And some scrawny girl with a southern drawl.”
“I venture to say that does sound a bit odd. Do you think it’s prophetic?”
I shrugged. “How is he?”
“Angel? He was fine when I last checked.”
“I’m going up to see him.” I tossed my purse and phone on the couch and moved towards the stairs.
“Do make yourself at home.” Wesley’s tone was polite, but I could feel concerned eyes follow me up the stairs.
I took the key off the wall and unlocked the door into the barren room. Angel, sleeping, moaned and began to mumble. I closed the door silently. Angel thrashed on the floor and cried out in his sleep.
“No! No. Sorry.”
I watched Angel’s fitful sleep. His suffering tugged at something deep in my chest. He had gone to L.A. to help people, to make the world better. And this was the price he paid: to be tormented by visions and reduced to living in his own private asylum. L.A. really sucks sometimes.
Standing in the dimly lit room I recalled bits of my dreams from last night. Angel on a rooftop, smiling while the L.A. skyline twinkled in the night. Me, PREGNANT, having an ultrasound. Angel smiling as he cradled a new baby in his arms. I know I was scrunching my eyebrows while I tried to recall more of the dreams. Angel tossed in his sleep again, disrupting my train of thought. I looked down at the vampire for a moment, considering.
I eased down carefully next to Angel. God, he was trembling! It was so unfair, him being reduced to this. I wrapped an arm around him, trying to calm him. “Shhh. It’ll be all right. I’m here.” His shaking subsided and he gradually returned to a deeper sleep.
It felt as if I’d just closed my eyes when I was woken suddenly. My heart thudded before I realized that it was Wesley tapping my arm.
“Cordelia!” The whisper was loud and harsh.
“Jeez, Wes! Lurk much?” Our conversation was whispered and so Angel continued to sleep.
“I’m sorry, it’s just that your phone rang, and I answered it. Dev called.”
“Dev?” Oh, Nev, my assistant. “No big.”
“Cordelia!” Wesley made an exaggerated motion towards the door.
I rolled my eyes and carefully scooted away from Angel. I followed the former Watcher from the room, pausing to glance back at Angel before Wesley closed and locked the door. He turned to face me, and boy did he look pissed.
“Dammit Wes, what’s your malfunction?”
“What are you doing, Cordelia?”
Oh crap. His tone told me where his train of thought was heading. I could still smooth this out. “Sleeping?”
“With Angel? Are you aware of the risks? My God, woman, one moment of pure happiness—”
“Are you a thundering loony? I remember Sunnydale; I know what it takes for him to go all ‘Grrr.’ And what the hell makes you think I’d do that after seeing the crap we suffered because of her blonde slayerness?”
Wesley colored. “Ah, well, I...”
“That’s what I thought. Get your mind out of the freakin’ gutter. I stopped to check in on him, and he was restless. I just lay down next to him for a few minutes. That’s all.”
“I sincerely apologize. I had no right to impugn your honor-“
“Give it a rest, Wes. I’m not offended.” Not much, anyway. Wesley quickly made himself scarce and I smiled. It was sort of like having the old, familiar Wesley back. Not quite so dark and bitter.
* * *
Gunn was watching a game on T.V. when I stopped by the next weekend. “Hey Cordy! Nice to see you again.”
“It’s nice to have someone else around once in a while. English’s been less uptight since you started coming by. I think I saw the brother crack a smile this morning.”
That made me feel good. It had been awkward to see Wesley at first, with that awful kiss in Sunnydale, his amputation, me being a star now. “Gunn—Charles—I have a question for you.”
“Well, I was hoping to speak to Wesley first, but seeing as you’re an employee here, how would you feel about getting a regular salary?”
“Tell me you don’t want a chauffer. I don’t do none of that ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ crap!”
“No!” I felt my face starting to flush, and bit back a rude response. “No, nothing like that. What if you got paid to do what you’re doing now?”
“What’s the catch?”
“No catch. What if someone was willing to help support the business, just kick in enough to cover in-between paying jobs? And maybe wanted to help out in person.”
Gunn started laughing, then stopped when I gave him The Look. His eyes bugged out as he spoke, “You’re not kidding!”
“Nope. Think Wes’ll go for it?”
“Sister, if he don’t I’ll beat some sense into his one-armed, funny-English-speaking ass myself!”
“Glad to hear it.”
* * *
“Hey, Angel.” I stood in the doorway of his room.
He blinked at me, looking confused. “Cordelia?”
“Yeah, it’s me. How’re you doing?” He didn’t look great, but at least he was lucid.
“Okay. Now. I...dreamt of you.” Angel sounded uncertain.
“No dream, I was here. I’m going to help out around the place. Do you mind?”
“Dangerous. Too dangerous. You shouldn’t.”
“Angel, I want to. I’m going to try and get you guys a better place, okay?”
“Ok, o-arrh!” The vampire fell to his knees as tremors wracked his body.
“Wesley!” That brought the Englishman up the stairs at a run, pen and notepad in hand.
* * *
Gunn slowed his truck at the mouth of an alley between two rows of warehouses. I sat on the bench seat in between Wes and Gunn. Next time I’ll drive, and one of them can cram into my backseat. It wasn’t just sitting in the middle that pissed me off. I would rather have stayed with Angel. But no, the big, crazy jerk vampire flipped out and said I HAD to go with these two. Fine.
Wesley looked at the warehouses doubtfully. “Is this the place?”
I double-checked the directions Wesley had scribbled. Why did I have to be directions-girl, too? “It’s what you wrote.”
Gunn shook his head. “Yeah, and Angel never sends our asses on wild goose chases.” There was a momentary pauses as we all let that sink in. Then the moment was passed, and we slid out to get our gear from the bed of the pickup. I grabbed my Coach golf bag. Have I said how much I like the perks of having money again?
“Gonna beat ‘em with a nine-iron Cordy?” Gunn grinned as he strapped on his own gear and hefted an axe.
“Practical doesn’t have to mean tacky.” I slid the cover off the bag to reveal my katana, a disassembled crossbow, and a quiver of bolts. Have I mentioned how much I love neat toys? I pulled the sheathed sword from the golf bag, then checked the fit of the blade collar by drawing the sword a finger’s breadth out of the scabbard just like you’re supposed to. You can make sure the sword doesn’t bind without even exposing the blade.
Gunn raised his eyebrows. “Go shopping online?”
I resisted the urge to smile. “Actually, it’s a Masamune.”
Wesley’s jaw dropped. “Good lord! That’s a historical treasure--it belongs in a museum.”
“Yeah, someone mentioned that to me.”
Gunn leaned closer for a look. Like he could tell the quality of the blade from the scabbard. “Didja spend all your allowance on the pretty sword, Cordy?”
“No, it was a gift from a fan.”
Wesley’s eyebrows rose spectacularly. “Cordelia, that blade is worth what you make in a year.”
“Oh.” I tried not to look impressed, and played it off. “I guess my show’s even bigger overseas than I thought.” Gunn rolled his eyes while Wes did that lofty disapproval thing with his face.
“Fine, fine! I’ll buy a new one after tonight. Happy?” I’ll save this one for fighting demons that’ll be impressed.
Wesley still didn’t look pleased. “Just don’t damage the Masamune.”
I walked off in the direction of the supposed demon-infested warehouse. Okay, I stomped. And I couldn’t resist a jibe at Wesley. “God, you sound like Giles.” Now I feel better.
* * *
A green glare from a magic ritual flickered against the skylights of one warehouse. It was pretty cool the way the door burst inwards when Gunn and Wes kicked it in unison. Towards the far end of the building a bunch of demons that looked like skeletons covered in modeling clay stood around a little kid. The sacrifice, no doubt.
There was a pause while we looked at them and they looked at us. After the initial hesitation most of the nasty things started moving towards us. All except the one in robes still doing a chanty-thing. It was like something out of a cheesy sci-fi movie in the green strobe effect.
On our side Gunn charged first, screaming some crazy battle cry. I sprinted to keep up, just far enough back and to the side so as not cut him with my katana if he stopped quickly. Wesley was behind me. I hope he’s careful not to skewer me with that sword he likes so much.
Then we were up close and personal with the demons, all of which had big, scary-looking knives. I took position covering Gunn’s left side, and Wes had our backs. As the demons surrounded us, we ended up in a triangle, facing outwards at some very ugly monsters.
Then it was block and cut, step back then lunge, and try not to foul Wes or Gunn as they fought their own demons. Literally. I felt okay; I mean during the moments that I wasn’t in sheer terror of being shish-kebobbed like back in high school. But I managed to hold my own.
It seemed like the fight went for hours, but I remembered from Sunnydale that fights always seemed longer than they were. But at the end the demons were all dead or dying. The green flickering had stopped when Gunn put his axe in the head of the robed demon witch-doctor. Wesley had a nasty gash on his head and Gunn had cracked a few ribs. I was huffing and puffing, but I don’t think I got hurt.
“I say, Cordelia, you were amazing!”
“Have you been training?”
“Just taking kendo the last month.”
The Englishman’s jaw dropped. “One...month?”
“Since just after the time we met at the house in Reseda. I know I’m not that good.”
“On the contrary. I thought you’d been training for years.”
I smiled tiredly. “Yeah, that’s what my sensei told me. He said I must’ve been a warrior in another life.”
Wesley’s gaze became distant as he considered what I said. “Perhaps, Cordy. Perhaps.”
We walked slowly back to the truck. Gunn carried the whimpering kid in his arms. Wes and I just carried our weapons, and that was enough.
* * *
The mid-morning light created a pattern on the carpet where it filtered through the wood blinds in my home office. Sometimes I think that if I try hard enough, I can see it move across the floor. I took another sip of Jamaican Blue Mountain and tilted back in the chair. I’ve been going over some job possibilities, and figured that there were some changes I could make. And this one... Well, there was just something about it that felt right. I picked up the phone and hit speed dial.
“Nev speaking. Go.”
My, someone sounded a little snippy this morning. Even if it was Saturday, that’s what I pay him for. “It’s Cordelia.”
“Oh! Sorry boss.”
“’S’okay. Look, remember the offer that came across the table last week?”
“What, the one for that made-for-T.V. crap movie?”
“Well, the script wasn’t THAT awful.”
“But Cordy, you said it was small-time, that it wasn’t worth the trouble.”
“I changed my mind.”
“Call ’em. Tell them I’d like to come in for a reading.”
“Cordy! You shouldn’t even have to read for that part--it’s beneath you. You’d be doing them a favor by taking it!”
“Then consider it a good deed. Besides, it’ll be nice.”
“You’re a star! You don’t have to do nice.”
“Well, I think I’ll start.” I felt good inside, as I had not for a while. But the feeling damped a little as I thought of Angel, and the problems he faced.
* * *
It was late in the evening when I walked back into the newly refurbished offices of Angel Investigations. I smiled slightly at the logo on the outer door. I know Wesley dislikes it and that Gunn doesn’t give a damn, but if they’re using my money to redo the office, they can damn well use the logo I designed. Besides, it’s not that bad. I walked past Wesley, asleep, face-down in a text of demonology that had cost me a month’s salary. I walked up the stairs and took the key off the hook beside Angel’s door.
The lock clicked and I quietly slipped into the room. “Hey, baby. I’m back.” The room still seemed empty, from more than just the near absence of furniture.
Angel said nothing as he sat against the wall, eyes fixed in a thousand yard stare. I slowly walked across the room and sat next to him, carefully hitching up my Versace dress. When I ran a fingertip across Angel’s cheek he didn’t even blink.
I slipped an arm around Angel’s neck, and carefully pulled his head over until it rested on my shoulder. “There, isn’t that better?” Angel continued to stare at the opposite wall. After several minutes he began to whimper.
“Shhhh, shhh. It’ll be okay. It’ll be fine.” I eased the vampire down until he lay sideways on the plush carpet, his head cradled in my lap. “It’ll get better baby, you’ll see.” I could feel a tear run down my cheek as I combed my fingers through Angel’s hair. He continued to stare into nothingness.
* * *
Somewhere in the predawn city a dog barked. In the offices of one particular detective agency all was silent. A former watcher slept at a desk, his face in a text written on the skin of human sacrifices. In the morning he would have to face a lecture on taking care of the company’s expanding occult library. In an apartment next door a reformed gang member dreamt of a girl with a southern accent and an amazing metabolism. By daybreak only the pleasant warmth of the dream would remain. In a room upstairs the warrior and her vampire seer slept, both dreaming of a ballet and formal-wear and the intimate touch of a their soul-mate. But that was only a dream, and tomorrow they would both wake to face reality again.
* * *
The fanvid Pieces of a Dream
by 1SnoWhiteQueen1 goes well with this fic.