A/N: This story was written for Malana as part of the TTH Ficathon. I hope she and all the rest of you lovely readers enjoy it!
A/N 2: If Cordy doesn’t seem as Valley Girl-esque in this story, just remember that these are her internal thoughts and feelings, those of a more mature woman than we met during Buffy’s first days at Sunnydale High.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with Angel: The Series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, or any of the movies alluded to in this story. This is purely for entertainment and no money is being made off of these writings!
It was just another journey. She’d said so herself. And with a steady voice, and then an impulsive kiss, she’d left the man- well, demon really- who had successfully wormed his way through the cracks, past the perfectly perfected party girl image and Rodeo Drive quip queen to the heart of a woman.
Damn if walking away from that didn’t leave a mark.
Ok, maybe if she was honest with herself she’d realize that it had left quite a bit more than that. But that didn’t matter now. She couldn’t worry about lost opportunities…or a broken heart…or the chilling fear of exactly what the afterlife would entail. That was because she was smack dab in the middle of that journey she’d so philosophically discussed.
It certainly wasn’t what she had expected.
It certainly wasn’t the movie sort of heaven she’d imagined after too many quarts of Ben and Jerry’s during a hormone addled sugar and chick flick binge. When she’d walked through the gates, it hadn’t been a celluloid God who had greeted her. Not George Burns, cigar puffing, off-the-rack ensemble drooping from his lanky form. And it hadn’t been an angel either, no John Travolta in his multiple burrito eating era, smoothing back his wings to do a geeky-yet-sexy hustle. Fine, maybe it had been a bit too much to expect even Ben Affleck/Matt Damon fallen-angel-Loki-yummy-goodness when she reached the pearly gates. She could admit that maybe she’d set the bar a bit too high.
Even in the afterlife, the social butterfly turned demon hunter hadn’t expected luck to be on her side- she’d seen too much and lost too many to be that naïve. But she certainly hadn’t expected to see what was now right into front of her face during her first few moments in the afterlife.
Was this payback? Had she really been that much of a bitch?
Well, she certainly hadn’t been perfect up until the point when her body had been taken over and she’d been left in a coma. But she’d grown a lot since her backstabbing, twofaced, superficial days of Sunnydale High, hadn’t she? She was no longer the girl who maliciously disdained geeks, flirted just for the effect, and used money for credit toward love, respect and affection.
Gone were the Valley Girl ethics, materialism, and avaricious gleam in the eye. She’d balanced a misspent, idle youth with at least seven or so years of do-gooding and positive actions. And if the change in M.O. hadn’t been enough, hadn’t the transformation into a being on a higher plane and subsequent body-snatch been enough of a payback for freezing Vicky’s bra in seventh grade and spreading the herpes rumor about Harmony in Sunnydale? (And really, considering what a skank-ho-demon that one had turned into, was that such a crime at all?)
As far as she was concerned, at the moment her body had slipped from coma to eternal rest, her karma checkbook had been balanced.
(Ok, ok, maybe her Neiman Marcus card had been maxed out at the time of transcendence, but did credit history really count in the grand scheme of things?)
So, she hadn’t been perfect, but debts had been paid, friends had perished, and love had been sacrificed. Didn’t that at the bare minimum guarantee her a trip to a marginally better place with at least The Great Pumpkin as a host?
She’d thought so, but that didn’t explain why right after she’d floated away from the offices of Wolfram and Hart she’d immediately been given an audience with someone who must surely be the devil.
Cordelia Chase watched from the corner of the room, where shadows allowed her to rout through the jumble of her thoughts, the figure sitting behind the mesh and metal fence. He sat perfectly erect, his prison-like jumpsuit and noticeably newly shaven head not taking away a single iota of power that lapped off of him in waves, ebbing dark and sinuous. Tendrils so dark and twisting that they seemed to reach inside the shadow in which she was hidden and curl about her feet.
Cordy shivered. She couldn’t help it. Her years with the Scoobies and Angel Investigations had trained her to sense evil from miles away. That was easy. Power and evil went so comfortably hand in hand that it was more surprising to find one without the other than together. So the figure in the cage hadn’t shocked her there. But there was more. Something was different about this man-like creature in the sterile enclosure. Something that separated him from the demons and hell-gods she had faced in the past.
He was evil, that was clear, but there was something that set him apart from the rest that made her skin crawl and her heart clench in pity at the same time.
From the sudden ringing in her ears, it seemed that The Powers That Be were about to give her an answer.
Well, at least there were no more brain-wracking-migraines in this new plane of existence, she thought dumbly as the images began to seep into her mind. There was only a fleeting moment to reflect on the change and then she was sucked into memories of a life she had never lived.There were games of stickball in a slum named Suicide that turned into games of beating boys who were weaker. There was the smell of incendiaries and screams and an absence of guilt as a man and woman burned in their beds, the ties of blood still serving to make them little more than strangers. Then there were years of Three Card Monty, cons, and growing capital, turning to investments and deals, payoffs, stock options, and shareholders’ meetings. There was a woman, red hair gleaming, body opening in passion, then falling into madness, turning dull, murky-copper-brown. A new life was created. Hope. Then crumbling to disgust as the sky fell and the lion cub’s mane was reduced to the helpless skin of a babe. One child’s failings were pushed aside in the hope of another’s, then dashed in was seemed like fratricide, but eventually revealed more hopelessly as the sickening desperation of a mother. Then sickness…and death…and years of disappointment from a freak who would never be able to lock up his fears and slay the dragon.
A dance club death…a speeding car…maniacs and concussions…a litany of reports crossing a cherry wood desk before cold dead eyes at the top of a silver tower. Lies, truth, acceptance, a game of flashing lights in too many colors and variations to be counted. Pride occasionally, but always disappointment, and then the moment when truths were known. A surge of respect and anger to accompany a surge of electricity through a baby smooth scalp and body full of unfulfilled expectations. A surprising spark of love and pain ruthlessly squelched by self preservation and surging power.
The months of bliss…then nervousness that faded to pride. But then the slap, the horrible, resounding sound of Judas whispering in microphones and the metallic taste of handcuffs and 25 to life in the back of the throat.
Then ire…anger…cold seeping into that tiny spot of filial love till all was rage…rage…rage. And as quick as it built, it was gone, replaced by careful planning and sickeningly sweet dreams of retribution. A dead calm.
Finally the moment when Samson’s fate was reversed. A flash of heat…a sip of amber fire…and all the remnants of betrayal and loss consumed by the cleansing conflagration.
Cordy stumbled back, convulsing from the strain of someone else’s thoughts, feelings, and utter wretchedness. Shivers of revulsion and despair coursed through her, the creature in the chair oblivious to her distress.
Or was he?
She’d shifted slightly out of the shadows and in that moment his eyes had caught hers. And that’s when she realized the truth.
All this hate, all this anger, all this rage…was locked in a human being
It was like the floor had been dropped out from under her. Ten millions times worse than walking in on Xander and Willow in their clandestine bonne-bell-liplock.
This thing…this vessel of evil…was human
And what the hell was she supposed to do about it?
The second vision smacked into her, again different from the messages of TPTB in the past. As the haze cleared and she straightened back up from the onslaught, all she could think of was what
She was supposed to do what
Cordy wasn’t stupid. She’d known from the moment she’d recognized him as human that this horrible man in front of her was her new pet project. TPTB just loved to throw the tough ones her way and it seemed that dying hadn’t made her situation any different. She’d been given yet another job to do.
But at least in her former life she’d been given some hints, a glimpse into the future, into the possibilities of what she, Angel…then Fred, Wesley, and Gunn could prevent. Her path had never been so clear cut before. There was always interpretation, haziness that faded to eventual understanding in those adrenaline filled moments of saving the day.
But all they’d given her this time was a simple direction, a simple action to get the ball rolling.
And she had no clue where doing what they asked would lead her.
Cordelia Chase had two choices at this moment:
One- She could turn around and walk away. Surely there was something beyond this sterile room, these four white walls illuminated by floodlights that did nothing to dispel the chill. She might walk out the door and find herself in a different dimension, another earth where she could just be Cordelia Chase, twenty-something actress, energetic, eager, and on the prowl. She might walk out that door and find nothing but the blank space of endlessness with just her thoughts to keep her company.
She could even go out that door and walk straight into Angel’s arms.
Two- Or, she could do what TPTB asked. It was crazy, insane. The last thing she wanted to do was continue to be alone in the same room as this man, let alone touch him. Just the thought of what they wanted made her lips shrivel in desperate need of Blistex.
It seemed that this man had the ability to reverse the polarity of myths and legends.
First Samson…why not Judas as well?
Taking a fortifying breath, Cordy walked to the heavily locked gate that kept the sick excuse for a human being in his cage. His eyes followed her, glued as they had been to her since the moment they had locked gazes. He showed no surprise when the locks fell away of their own accord, no fear or confusion when his restraints melted from his arms and ankles.
Still he sat, making no move to escape or fight as she approached.
Kneeling before him, Cordy’s pulse flip-flopped, her heart stuttering in her chest under the vicious silver chill of his regard. As they moved closer, her head tilting toward his own, his eyes were clear and full of malice, power, and vicious content.
Her lips touched his.
The jumble of images came as they had before, the children, the women, the skyscrapers and meteors and death. But there was something else there. Something Cordy hadn’t seen before. A little patch of something behind the power plays and vicious recriminations. Almost…a sliver of warmth within the cold black.
It seemed a little bit like hope.
As his lips opened to hers, his eyes still linked to her own, that sliver grew to something more tangible, alive, a concrete example of the humanity she’d realized only moments before.
Cordelia broke the kiss, backing away slowly, standing without a single bobble or uncertainty. She knew what she had to do now, why The Powers had given her this quest.
It seemed the outcome of yet another mythic fable would begin to be reversed this day.
Holding her hand out to him, she spoke surely.
“Lionel. It’s time to go.”
He looked at her without confusion, his eyes holding a tiny glint of promise she’d foreseen and something else as well. Two words said before in malice and revenge, but were now simply thought
in a shaky, revelatory sort of truth.
For the second time her life, she responded with the following words and truly understood them.