Absence

AUTHOR: VISION GIRL (aka CHRISSY)
SUMMARY: Sequel to “Immorally Impregnated” Takes place a week after the ending of II (therefore three and half years after Angel’s death)
RATING: PG13
POSTED: 7 Feb 2004
CATEGORY: ANGST
CONTENT/PAIRING: Cordelia/Angel implied, Breanna/Gunn, Wes/Fred
WARNINGS: None listed
FICPIC CREDIT: None
AUTHOR NOTES: This is a teaser, a long one. I hope you like. I tried to make Cordelia’s pain and confusion of that pain as real as possible.
STATUS: Incomplete


Leading a group of five dozen recruits into combat over the canyon-scarred city, Cordelia Chase studied the enemy forces aligned against her: sleek and pale.

Their efficient, over-confident dedication to their Master gave them the inadvertent grace of razor-sharp blades. Monstrosities in the eyes of those who sustain all that is good, the Vampires stood, unfazed by the daring look in Cordelia’s eyes.

Although her and the human defenders simply did not have the necessary firepower to crush the machine forces or even repel them, they still fought and would continue until every one was dead. Which was practically going to happen sooner or later anyways.

It was a clash, humans and demons facing each other. In the past three years, Cordelia Chase and her battalion had secured many victories, conquering small aspirant colonies of Vampire’s who were not strong enough or powerful enough to be a true follower of the Master, the Confector.

After each victory, they’d establish an outpost, under the command of several appointed makeshift officers, in Wesley’s mind, it seemed the perfect way to further their fight against the Confector.

It didn’t work.

Once the Confector came out of hibernation, it would destroy anything in its path, much to the bad luck of everyone who worked so hard on the opposing side.

Diplomatically, Wesley was the stronger one. Physically and ruthlessly, Cordelia came out on top. She had the scars to prove it, the icy stare with no emotion whatsoever appearing in neither those empty brown eyes or on her worn, pale skin.

Her beauty was hidden beneath the dirt, the blood, and the pain. She was no longer the Cordelia Chase of old. She was too inflexible to be a good negotiator: her sense of duty and strict adherence to a ghost that lingered in her dreams were always paramount in her mind.

Besides the fact of previous association with one certain Vampire with a soul, Cordelia Chase was biased against the monsters that notoriously ruled the city…and they undoubtedly realized it by now. As if each Vampire she staked and beheaded had some personal connection to her, like they had betrayed her once in her lifetime.

According to reports from Headquarters, the religiously dedicated followers had shown themselves to be just as stubborn in their battles as the Confector.

Cordelia thought to herself before jumping into action, Out here in the depths of despair, the Followers would never retreat unless they were convinced, wholly and completely, that they could not possibly win. “This is the world we live in,” she heard one of the underling recruits say to his fellow comrades. “Let’s put up a fight for it, alright?”

As she had done before, Cordelia gazed at him with stony eyes and implacable refusal. With a natural impulse, Cordelia kept her voice even. “We’re protecting the world.”

* * *

Cordelia stared out across the soothing waves of darkness that spread across the ruins of Los Angeles, waiting for the small moment where a glimpse of heaven could be seen when the first flicker of light could be seen on the horizon from the rising sun. She waited, then felt her pulse quicken as golden light poured like liquefied metal across the shambles of the city, purifying and inevitable – like her long-ago lost visions, like her old mission in life.

It’s different now.

She greeted the day with a groan before taking a deep breath of air so dry and thick that it impaired her lungs for a moment. Just a moment.

Dawn was her favorite time, after just waking from incessant slumbers filled with inexplicable dreams and portents. It was the best time to catch that rare glimpse into bliss, rapture…into heaven; where Angel was.

As she stood there, she reminded herself that he was a demon nonetheless and he did extremely bad things, but her heart, cold and frozen, hidden in the depths of her empty soul, created a soft contradiction, a remote humming off in the distance that she could only hear if she focused all of her attention on it. The man, the Vampire and every part of Angel that she loved was in a good place. Watching over her.

Wesley came up beside her, always knowing where to find his leader, his friend, at daybreak. Loyal Wesley slouched in bliss at the sight of the sunrise, his worn, sunken features shining admirably for a quick instant, his brighter-than-the-sky blue eyes glimmering for even a shorter moment.

The man waited in silence, knowing Cordelia was aware of his presence. Finally, Cordelia turned from the rising sun and looked up at her most respected friend and follower. Wesley extended a clay plate, “I brought you some breakfast, eggs and bacon, maybe rejuvenate you from our earlier escapades.”

“Thanks…” Cordelia took one look at the yellow eggs, spice mixed within them. Her eyes reflected the brown quality and texture of the bacon pieces before turning back to the sight before her. “But no thanks.”

The newborn sun exposed secret foot trails made during the night, easily seen through the thick soot.

“Today we should calculate the results of the past week.”

Cordelia frowned. “I have to go see my son.”

“He’s fine.”

“He’s my son, Wesley. Of all people, you should understand my need to see my own son.”

Wesley shrugged. “He’ll be there when you wake up, when you go to sleep…hopefully.” He bit the urge to show any regret for blurting out that last word. It isn’t the time. It won’t ever be a good time to tell her…

Cordelia, not hearing the last words, emitted a resigned sigh. “Did you debrief Breanna?”

Cordelia was fond of Breanna, the young woman’s brash impatience was better suited to the life of an assassin or perhaps a bounty hunter, rather than the unchanging existence that was Cordelia’s personally built battalion. Breanna might even eventually become a valuable contributor to Cordelia’s band, but if the young woman could not live up to her own abilities, she would be a danger to the others. It was better off to discover such a weakness now than to risk the lives of anyone.

Don’t forget, Cor. You’ve openly risked lives of others before. Most recently, too. Don’t be quick to judge someone who is so similar to yourself. All of those previous years of Wesley lecturing her were paying off; her thoughts were deeper, more mature, educated perhaps.

As a young woman, Cordelia had never wanted to be a leader. But now, after years of living with the people that still surrounded her, Cordelia was a confident guide.

Unexpectedly, Wesley changed the subject. “Fred would love to have positive feedback on her meal.”

Cordelia was forced to look away from the wondrous sight when such commotion occurred behind her. When her russet, empty eyes finally scanned the room to discover a new person in the room, the woman pondered why she hadn’t sensed a new presence, a change in the wind. As much as I have tried, I guess I won’t ever have as good reflexes and senses as Vampires do.

Fred stood in the doorway with a small smile, a rare one. She looked dirty and lean, but her dark eyes shone with underlying, deep confidence. Her equally dark hair had been cropped short. Her cheeks had a soft residue, or stain perhaps, of blood from the previous events, but the rest of her seemed intact. A curved white scar like a crescent moon rode above her left eyebrow, an exotic punctuation to her innocent beauty.

Thank god for her, or else we wouldn’t have had such a good decoy on our hands, Cordelia thought to herself, not surprised by the small twitch at the corner of her mouth signaling a pathetic attempt to bring a small smile to her wooden expression.

Too bad she became too good for that job.

“I know you probably aren’t in the mood, but considering that I never really cooked before, I thought I’d use you as a guinea pig. Since nothing really seems to be able to kill you.” Fred stood tall and stoic, unflappable, but Cordelia caught a hint of humorous gleam behind her deep brown eyes.

Stepping away from Wesley, to prove that she not need his protection, Fred offered a sympathetic nod. “We have several injured downstairs, but nothing compared to the loss we experienced…” Then her face flickered with uncertainty and awe, making her look unexpectedly young. “I just…thought that you would…you know, like to…know.”

Cordelia surprisingly reached out and held her chin, turning her face up to look at her in a more direct way. Lean and dirty, but with large eyes and strong features. Deep down, she was the Fred of old, that blathering little crazy physicist who was obsessed with tacos. “You look like hell…”

“Thanks,” Fred snapped sarcastically, not entirely intending to sound so rude.

Cordelia remained unfazed. “Take a few days, don’t worry about what you have to do. Just…rest.”

“But I owe it to you, we all do. After all you’ve done. After all that’s happened to us…you’ve remained the strongest, especially ever since Angel-” Fred took the liberty of shutting herself up.

Cordelia raised her eyebrows, a small inclination of amusement being forced onto her façade to convince Fred to agree, even if, deep down, the mention of Angel hurt her profoundly. “It’s an order.”

“You sure?” Fred insisted.

Though touched, Cordelia did not show it. “Have some fun with Wesley. You two seriously need to have some…fun.”

Fred’s eyes flashed, “Cordelia, out of all of us. You should be the one taking a break. If you’re going to give me leave for a day, I’m going to do it too.”

Cordelia stiffened and studied her. “Fred, don’t.”

“Why not?”

Cordelia’s chuckle was dry and humorless, forced even. “Because I’m not in the mood to be in a bad mood. I’m just not feeling anything. And that’s what I want right now. To go see my son to make sure he is alright then to return here and plan our next attack.”

Fred looked tired and thirsty, but made no complaint, no request for hospitality. She fumbled at her throat and pulled out a wire loop that held a collection of metal tallies. “These are small pieces of debris from each of the locations we’ve been to. Each one symbolizes 30 deaths. I have quite a few…”

Cordelia scowled, delicately touched the slips with her fingertip, then in disgust tucked them back into her collar. “Why the hell would you wear something like that? It’s not exactly the Ralph Lauren of metal.” Her old self, how refreshing.

She turned away and stared out into the ruined city. Squinting into the now brighter morning light, she watched a few figures emerge from hidden locations. They walked toward the Hotel, worn and defeated expressions on their dirty skin. “Our spies are coming back, go meet them in the Lobby.”

Defiant, the young woman shook her head. “We need to talk about this, Cordy. You’re not who you used to be.”

Cordelia turned back to Fred, looking from her crescent-moon scar to her rapt eyes. She saw determination there, but could not be sure of her true motives. Fix other’s problems to fix your own, Cordelia thought. Fred, don’t do this. If you have guilt over something, fix it on your own time. “Go.”

Fred didn’t seemed surprised by the order, in fact, she didn’t seem to notice Cordelia speaking, even if her eyes were still on her.

Wesley placed his hand on Fred’s shoulder and gave her a look, even if the woman didn’t glance over at him, or even acknowledge his presence. All of a sudden, Fred’s eyes were filled with tears, her desperation bubbling to the surface. “Cordelia…”

When Cordelia looked at her more thoroughly, a small tinge of reverence in her gaze, the Texan swallowed hard to dispense of the lump forming in her throat.

“We need you,” she explained in a throaty voice, forcing her eyes to look at Cordelia with a fierce stare. “As much as you want to hide, we’ll always need you. Just as much as you still need Angel.”

Finally, she turned and left, leaving Wesley to let his head fall in quiet melancholy and Cordelia to turn back to be enveloped in the beauty of the sunrise, even if all she saw was light at the end of the dark tunnel she was trapped in.

* * *

The extravagant but pointless decorations of the Hyperion Lobby were barely seen through the spattered blood, soot and aged dust smeared across its surface. It required extraordinary abilities and strong willpower to see any of the beauty that was left in the semi-ancient Hotel.

Semblances of sparks and heated fumes seethed from Breanna’s aura as she stood in the cold, stale air, surrounded by the clattering of dishes and moans of injured recruits. Firming her jaw, she wiped the sweat that drenched her and smeared the soot and greasy dust from her façade in a small attempt at looking somewhat better than how she felt.

Breanna performed her work beside the other personnel, calling no attention to herself. It was her way of survival, to achieve a relatively unknown life, within the constraints of her duty imposed by Cordelia Chase.

She felt a small loss as she lifted her hands from the bloody wound to receive bad news, the man she was so desiring to help would not heal under her powers. Her power wasn’t strong enough to hear inevitably mortal wounds, she hadn’t honed her skills as a Healer much in the past year, and this was the consequence of her laziness.

Breanna knew in her heart that soon, the man’s pain would end, but she was no longer certain if her own personal turmoil would finish off in her own lifetime. She had already reached the age of twenty-two. How much longer could she wait for that confidence her parents had assured her a decade ago she would come across?

Perhaps Cordelia was right after all…

Closing her eyes, Breanna muttered a quick reassuring comment to the man before getting back to work on others that were injured.

In the past six months, expanding their small regime was simply standard routine that failed in every attempt at the suggestion of second-in-command Wesley Wyndam Pryce.

No one had bothered to explain to Breanna his or her long-term plans, and it was simply her fault for not bothering to ask. When Cordelia came to her two years previous, she offered very little information on the long-standing tactics, and only presented a promise for justice, fore revenge; and with what had happened to her parents before the approach, Breanna had openly welcomed the offer and joined the ranks below Cordelia.

Now, in the bleak surroundings, crimson liquids spilt across the ground and the splashing of water jugs being dragged to victims of dehydration, Breanna felt empty, unfulfilled.

Beside her, she saw the sweaty, perpetually pained visage of her partner Gunn, whom Breanna had only discovered a physical attraction merely five months former. Although the man’s coiled brashness made others feel threatened and uncomfortable, Breanna saw such loyalty below the surface that he only reserved for Cordelia, Fred, Wesley, the green-skinned demon Lorne and Breanna. Their relationship was one of the few threads to which they could hold.

Even when they first met, Breanna had been trouble, willing to break rules to get what she saw as justice. Yet Gunn understood her predicament, the vengeance churning deep within her as such the boiling liquid of revenge he so desired to rid of whenever the thought of his sister, or even his former comrade Vampire came to mind.

Breanna climbed up beside Gunn, helping him wrestle a struggling victim into place on a gurney. When their hands touched, they sparked, but the pain the victim they were struggling to save soon overcame it. “You know what to do,” Gunn grumbled under his breath as he put pressure to where the already removed arrow had punctured the man’s wound.

Once her hand was on the wound, and nothing happened, Gunn placed his dark-skinned, large hand on hers, closing his eyes and praying that somehow he could be of help. But when the breathing stopped, the rapid rising and falling of the man’s chest ceasing, and the blood stopped pouring, color leaving his face, the man let his head fall and Breanna took a step back.

After a moment, Gunn continued his work on others as if he didn’t seem bothered by the death. He yanked a greasy cloth and wiped the blood from his face in a poor attempt. Looking to Breanna, he paused in his tracks, seeing a tear falling down her face as she struggled for control.

While he kept a relatively stable façade and posture, Gunn walked over to the deeply troubled woman and wrapped his strong arms around her. “Hey…it’s not your fault.” He offered a kiss to her temple, closing his eyes and praying once again that the woman would recover. But praying in the world they lived in seemed futile.

Breanna responded by pulling away, wiping the tears from her face with a dirty hand. She took a deep breath and nodded, “I guess so. Let’s get back to work.”

* * *

Lorne came up beside Fred, putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder and squeezing it in comfort. He fidgeted whenever the distant moaning and screams reverberated through the closed doors of the kitchen. After that, he forced himself to ignore the ghostly sounds. Finally, using the words he had repeated often – too often – Lorne said to the woman, “I promise this’ll all end. One day.”

Fred’s dark brown eyes reflected the glow of the fire on the stoves. Her voice was low, but clear, making Lorne uneasy with the simmering threat: “I promise, one day, we’ll get revenge.”

* * *

Through unknown barriers, Cordelia watched her son’s every move as she muttered Latin words under her breath and sprinkled dust to drop the barriers protecting her son. At least Lorne didn’t forget to lock up when he went upstairs.

A silver sphere of light floated in front of her, glistening as it spun in the air within the invisible field it was allowed to be in. This incarnation of a security device was completely under her power, reassuring her all security measures were up and that it recognized her, allowing her to pass when it disappeared into thin air with a small puff!

By now, after displaying infinite patience, Cordelia had become disenchanted by the wonderful magic. With little choice in the matter she had gradually it off from her emotions, her pleasures; anything that ever brought a smile to face in the past hardly registered in her innermost vision.

From her alcove, she caught sight of such an innocent scene, her young child, three years of age, was playing with toys everyone had so selflessly provided him with. If her heart were somehow useful in her life, it would have skipped a beat. But even her son couldn’t evoke such, or any for that matter, emotions in her soul.

What kind of a mother sees her son as just another breathing human being that needs to be protected? Not a good one. She ambled over to her son and offered a strained smile as she patted his head. She didn’t notice that even if she had slept in her room, she was still dirty and hardly recognizable.

How can I not wake up in the morning and want to see my son, to see his smile? All I think of is if he is still alive. I should wonder what his favorite color is, his favorite game to play on rainy days. Whether or not he has dimples…

“Hey, Aiden. Mommy’s back.” Her voice was hoarse, and unrecognizable. Unintentionally, Cordelia had come off as impassionate to her son and the boy noticed, recoiling in slight fear when he looked up to the unknown face that wasn’t his mother.

Ouch, Cordelia thought to herself as calmly as possible, screaming it internally over the crowding thoughts in her mind desperately searching for possibilities and reasons why her son was so afraid of her. It’s only been a week.

Then again, Cordelia remembered that she hadn’t really made it a top priority to become so acquainted with her son. She had to think hard just to remember what his hand preference was. He’s a lefty, she finally remembered, her brain clicking at the faint memory of when he was a baby, his grip was a little stronger on his left hand.

Standing up, she let out a shaky sigh. No emotions, it’s a weakness, Cor. Emotions get you dead. But even as she said it, in that moment, she wanted to cry…she wanted to show emotion, she wanted to feel the warmth of her son, she wanted to feel…alive. She wanted to feel human.

What I want is not important. Confidence in one’s self isn’t a priority in Los Angeles, and as the woman took one last look at her lone son, she understood it. She didn’t accept it, but no one had to know that.

Once she was in the doorway, she paused, placing her hands on the wooden outlining of the entry. Her voice shaking as she struggled to say the words that so pained her, she felt ashamed that it took such work to say it to her own son. “I…I love you.”

Once the spells were enchanted, the doors locked and Cordelia was outside in the hallway, she let her knees buckle beneath her as she leaned against the wall and slid down the wall, the cheap wallpaper rolling down beneath her weight. Her vision was blurry as the pain overcame her. This isn’t who I used to be.

Her head became heavy, her neck not strong enough to support it, too weak from the weeklong battle she had just escaped from the previous day.

No emotions, just pain.

And for the fourth consecutive time, Cordelia passed out, her body going limp as it fell to the ground in a span of time that seemed to last eternity. Her world went black in the utter, disgusting dissapointment in herself that she couldn’t even feel the joy of seeing her son, the rewarding sense of accomplishment of knowing she had friends surrounding her, the thankfulness she should feel for her love sacrificing himself for her.

Nothing. She was empty. She was alone. And that’s how people like me end up in this world, she thought to herself. And the sad thing is, there are no people like me. So even in my deepest pain, I’m still alone.

Exhaustion overcame her and finally, she was passed out, distancing herself even further from the world she long ago built for herself. No one was around to find her slumber body, the hall was empty and the only sound was the distant moans of pain from the dying victims of the Confector’s wrath.


…TO BE CONTINUED…

THIS APPEARS TO BE AN UNFINISHED STORY


 

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