SUMMARY: Angel, trapped in a dark emotional place, doesn’t know how to fight his way out & isn’t sure he wants to. Darla, a woman scorned, exacts her revenge. Gunn out of town & Wesley recuperating, Cordelia finds herself at a crossroad and is forced to make a life-changing decision.
POSTED: 11 July 2010
CATEGORY: Drama, Suspense, Possibly Romance, just not warm & fluffy
CONTENTS/PAIRINGS: A/C Romance, A/C/W Friendship, References to Buffy/Angel and Angel/Darla
WARNINGS: Sexula Content
FICPIC CREDIT: CydneStorm
1) Canon is intact through ‘Reprise’. Angel & Darla happened (with a little added twist) but Angel’s epiphany didn’t. Instead he’s stuck in an emotional duel – disgusted with how far he’s fallen while equally disappointed & angry he didn’t lose his soul. Darla wanted her boy back & has reason to believe Cordelia is responsible for that not happening. After Angel barged into their office, Cordelia & Wesley were ready to let go & move on, but Darla’s scheme forces an untrusting re-alliance with the menacing vampire & an even more frightening realization of just how far they’ll go to survive.
2) Mel’s ‘Martial Law’ vid was so awe inspiring I just couldn’t get it out of my head. So this is dedicated to MelBelle, who can curl my toes, chill my bones and make me melt in twenty seconds.
The kiss was soft and sweet, and ended too soon. Angel wanted to get lost in the innocence of it and dim the haunting thoughts gnawing the last threads of his sanity.
Buffy pulled away first. She always did. If his foggy memory could be trusted.
“It’s gonna be light soon.”
“I can stay in town as long as you want me.” Focusing on her pain helped dull his own.
“Does forever work for you?”
He choked back a laugh for the sake of the heartbroken girl nestled next to him. It wasn’t her fault his life was in shambles.
Buffy moving closer to rest her head against his chest, Angel slipped his arm around her taking whatever undeserved warmth he could get.
He had no where else to be. No one else to want him.
Cordelia did the math again, cursing the calculator when it spit out the same result. More minuses than pluses totaled trouble. Deep in the red, they needed a paying client soon — like in the next fifteen minutes.
A case. A hopeless victim. What difference would it make. Angel Investigations was a shell of its former self. Instead of a formidable force, they now stumbled, fell, missed the mark, barely survived by the skin of their teeth.
Wesley still recuperating from his gunshot wound, Gunn in Chicago helping an old friend with ethereal issues, her soldiers were dropping like flies, and the queen was battered and bruised from the lack of attention.
Don’t make me move you.
The recollection so hauntingly real, she visibly shuddered before gaining control of runaway emotions.
Whatever they once were, they weren’t now. Even The Powers recognized it from their perch on high. What good was a seer without a champion. Her last vision was more than a week ago. Before her former friend barged in to express just how much he didn’t care about them.
Cordelia glanced over her shoulder, hopeful eyes peering into the back room and willing Wesley to heal faster and get back on his feet. He was all she had left.
She had nowhere else to be. No one else to want her.
“Yes, Mr. Peters, I know the rent is late. Do you know the nasty water isn’t supposed to swirl up when you flush the toilet?”
Cordelia contemplated her next move, sucking up or another acrid retort, then the little bell jingled signaling a possible third option — revenue.
Anticipation turned to shock then morphed into fear.
“The check’s in mail,” Cordelia muttered and hung up the phone.
It seemed a proper ending. Considering hers.
She glanced over her shoulder but decided against calling out. Why make the poor man get up just to meet death head on.
If this was her end, Cordelia was determined to go out in a blaze of glory. And it would take more than frick and frack to deny her at least that.
“Sorry. We have a no pets rule. Tell Angel to tie his bitches to the lamp post next time.”
“Should I bite off the mean girl’s tongue and give it to daddy?” Drusilla sang dreamily.
“Patience, my sweet. The party’s just getting started.”
What makes this one special, Darla wondered, eyeing Cordelia hungrily and stalking closer when she backed away.
“Looks like our Ménage à trois just became a foursome,” Darla cooed when squeaky wheels announced Wesley’s arrival.
“God help us.” Wesley whispered, sharing a desperate glance with Cordelia.
They looked at each other, their faces contorted with horror and desperation, then back to their uninvited guests. The place didn’t have a back door. And even if it did…
“Oh goodie. Party favors.” Drusilla singsonged, slender fingers pinching the flair of her dress and pulling it away from her body as she danced around the room. She stopped behind Wesley long enough to nuzzle his throat. “Yum. Smells like strawberries.”
Wesley cursed his physical impairment, and the shotgun woefully out of reach.
Cordelia was bone tired and scared out of her wits, and she’d taken all the crap she could stomach. It was one thing to die a gruesome death. It was another to be a chew toy for two alley cats that liked to play with their food.
“As much fun as this isn’t, our social calendar’s full. So if you don’t mind.” Cordelia motioned toward the door as though they might actually get the hint and leave. Adding, “I guess you do,” when the pair didn’t budge. Just stood there gawking with those unnerving grins.
Drusilla leaped back into her dance, grabbing Wesley’s wheelchair and twirling him around the room.
“Ring around the rosies. Pocket full of posies.”
“That’s quite enough of that.”
But the more her bewildered dance partner protested the louder she sang.
“I must warn you, I’m feeling a bit queasy.”
“We all fall down.”
The wheelchair toppled over spilling Wesley onto the floor with a gah-fump. Drusilla threw back her head, a maniacal laughter spewing from her blood-
red lips. Her cackling stopped as abruptly as it started and she brought her head upright revealing crazed eyes that didn’t appear to focus on anything.
“Time to play, Mummy?” With that the laughter started again and Drusilla dived on top of Wesley.
Cordelia hadn’t dare move since their nightmare began, but Wesley’s yelp spurred her into action. “Back off ditzybitch. That drumstick you’re munching on belongs to me.”
Grabbing the paperweight off her desk, Cordelia barely managed to break into a sprint before Darla whipped her around and slammed her into the wall. The heavy jolt sent the glass orb flying, hitting against the far wall and shattering into a million pieces.
“My you’re a rowdy one.” Darla eyed her hostage searchingly as though trying to solve a puzzle and Cordelia was the last piece. “Is that why my boy likes you so?”
Darla’s breath was cold and damp against Cordelia’s face. Rancid. It smelled like…
“Did you have hobo for dinner?”
“Close. I picked up something off the dock.”
She would have to settle for only a taste or two, or three, for now. Because Darla wanted that pathetic soul painfully aware of how cold and alone he was when she unveiled the newest addition to their little family.
Her girlish face rippled, perfect teeth distorted into dingy snaggletooth points. “And now I’m craving a little something sweet.”
This was it and Cordelia didn’t want Darla’s face to be her last image. She scrunched her eyes shut and waited for the inevitable only to frown in confusion when an unexpected, “Dessert will have to wait,” whispered in her ear.
Darla’s awareness of Angel came a mere second before the sound of glass shattering and wood splintering from its hinges. And with Drusilla already fighting tooth and nail, she abandoned her quarry and jumped into the fray.
Cordelia’s knees buckled without the bone-crushing grip to hold her up. And too sapped of energy for anything else, she let her body slide down the wall then crawled to Wesley.
The two against one odds seemed to rev Angel up. Punches flew, along with broken furniture and what little office equipment they could afford.
Lack of insurance flitted through racing thoughts as their only coffee pot smashed against the ramshackled bookshelf. Too late to worry about that now. Cordelia hovered over Wesley’s prone body, protecting him from flying debris as best she could.
Double teaming Angel, Darla and Drusilla managed to get the upper hand and made a mad dash out of what was left of their office, quickly disappearing into the night.
Angel immediately took off after them putting to rest any doubt concerning his intentions — not saving, just working up a sweat.
Shaking off the temporary disappointment, Cordelia frantically ran her hands over Wesley looking for injuries, both relieved and confused when she didn’t find any. Except for a little seepage around his stitches there wasn’t even any blood.
“Where are the bite marks? I can’t find even a nibble.”
Wesley didn’t answer. Hoped he’d never have to. “Quick. Help me into my chair. We have to get out of here before they come back.”
It sounded like a plan. A good plan. Getting the wheelchair turned upright was easy. Getting Wesley off the floor and into it took a little more effort.
Cordelia grunted from the strain. Wesley grunted from the pain. They were almost home free. Slap the foot rest into position and…
Two familiar boots partially obscured Cordelia’s view of the floor, twisting another knot in her stomach. The meager contents she’d forced down at dinner were threatening to hurl a big nasty all over Angel’s shoes. And everyone knew how picky the vampire was about his appearance.
“Uh, we were just heading out. Maybe you could lock up before you lea-” Cordelia stared at the woodpile that used to be their door, tensing against the dark eyes following her gaze. For all the good it did them, the metal lock was the only part still in one piece.
“You’ll go to the hotel with me.”
His tone was so matter of fact it was deafening. Even for Angel — the coldhearted bastard that didn’t give a damn.
Cordelia had three or four snappy comebacks, but not enough courage at the moment to use any of them. And wasn’t that a cold slap of clarity. She feared Angel more than his fangy gal pals.
Fisting the hem of Cordelia’s shirt, Wesley pulled her toward the back of his chair and away from their less than trustworthy savior.
“We’re leaving now.” Tilting his head back until his neck cracked from the strain, he met Angel eye to eye. “But not with you.”
“That would be a mistake.”
There it was again. Sandpaper scraping against metal. His words rang of finality, penetrating her flesh and chilling her to the bone. Wesley was lucky he was already sitting down.
Cordelia and Wesley looked at each other, their faces contorted with dread and desperation much like before. Removing Angel would require more brute force than they could muster under the best circumstances. Angel moving them however…
The hotel was pitch black except for a few streaks of pale moonlight. Angel didn’t seem bothered by it. Hell, it didn’t seem to matter that they were bothered by it.
He scooped Wesley up like a child, ordering Cordelia to leave it when she attempted to drag the wheelchair up the stairs.
Smart enough to know better than argue with a vampire that fell off his rocker weeks ago, she left it and followed them upstairs. Praying she wouldn’t stumble. Praying harder she wouldn’t vomit then stumble.
Angel kicked a door open and deposited Wesley on the bed.
“You’re next door. Let’s go.”
Right. A better chance of hell freezing over. “I’m staying here. With Wesley.” Well, at least Cordelia knew she still had a voice. Maybe if she looked hard enough she’d run across her gumption.
Another monotone bark, “The door stays open,” and he was gone.
At least Cordelia thought he’d left. Angel could be hovering right next to her for all she knew. There wasn’t enough light to tell.
A sliver of moonlight peaked between the curtain panels, and Cordelia dove for it like a lifeline. Yanking the fabric out the way allowed her to find the switch and flood the room with manmade light.
Step one complete, she marched to the door, pushed it shut and turned the lock. “There it is. Hellooo gumption.” Cordelia crooned. It felt good to be back. Even if just a little bit.
Wesley blinked, shielding his eyes until they adjusted to the sudden brightness.
“Quite all right.”
He blinked again, bringing his surroundings and Cordelia’s worried face into focus. “If Angel intended to harm us he would have done so by now.”
“Unless he’s saving us for when he’s bored.”
And wasn’t that a kick in the teeth. She’d worked by his side for over a year. Kept blood in her fridge. Slept in his bed. Hell he’d slept in hers. And considering how their night had gone so far, being on the breakfast menu wasn’t a stretch of the imagination.
“Lie down.” Wesley patted the bed, indicating the space next to him. “There’s nothing we can do tonight except get some rest.”
Her head was throbbing and her body was bruised and sore. Staying up all night wouldn’t make them any safer. And with options too far away for her to see, Cordelia gave in and stretched out next to Wesley.
Once satisfied the cover to the sewer entrance could withstand demon force, Angel returned upstairs to his…
Considering themselves prisoners was more like it. Angel wasn’t sure how he saw it, and didn’t really give a rat’s ass one way or the other.
The door he’d ordered them to leave open was closed and locked. Cordelia rarely did what she was told. Even if her life depended on it.
An inkling of a grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. He wiped it off and pushed out anything that resembled familiarity.
He should take the door down just to prove a point — it was his way or no way.
Instead he camped out in the hallway, stayed alert for intruders, and listened to the conversation on the other side of the door.
“If Angel intended to harm us he would have done so by now.”
“Unless he’s saving us for when he’s bored.”
The revelation would gut him if he let it. He wouldn’t.
Angel figured he’d been a friend when it counted. Warned them he was dangerous. Encouraged them to keep their guard up. If they were too naïve or too stupid to believe him, it wasn’t his problem.
But they got it now. At least Cordelia did. She finally saw the dark, ugly truth of what he is. And as strange and gutting as it was, Angel welcomed her realization
Too bad Buffy didn’t reach that conclusion when it would have made a difference. But the Slayer would never see him with clear eyes. So determinedly convinced the demon was responsible for their tragic fate, discovering his precious soul was anything less than perfect would devastate her.
Angel winced at how close he’d come to destroying Buffy’s fairytale memory of them. Wanting to take comfort in her, replace Darla’s cold with her warmth, knowing there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of losing his soul.
In the end he couldn’t use her. At least that’s what he tells himself. It was for Buffy’s sake.
But shifting to a less uncomfortable position on the dark and lonely hallway floor, and listening to the conversation on the other side of the door, Angel wasn’t as sure of his motivation.
Maybe he just wanted to give his soul a fighting chance at freedom, a chance to finally escape to the netherworld the gypsies snatched it from.
“Lie down. There’s nothing we can do tonight except get some rest.”
The decades old mattress squeaked under the weight of two bodies. The bed creaked at the slightest movement. The noise would make a sound sleep impossible unless you were dead tired.
Angel was dead tired. But he heard every squeak. Every creak. Wanted to know if the friendly pair shared a bed out of necessity. Or if relationships had changed.
The prospect riled him. Unexpected? Maybe. But as far back as he could remember, even when human, he’d been possessive — sometimes obsessive. The reaction was instinctive. Nothing more. Nothing less. It didn’t mean anything.
So he ignored all if it. The itch festering under his skin. The swell of blood in his veins. The restlessness edging up his spine pulling it taut and achingly rigid.
It didn’t mean anything. And even if it did…
…TO BE CONTINUED…
THIS FIC IS UNFINISHED