run [run] verb
(past ran [ran], past participle run, present participle run·ning,
3rd person present singular runs) intransitive verb go at fast pace:
to move rapidly on foot so that both feet are momentarily off the
ground in each step
Which is what
I'm doing, headlong down an unlit sewer tunnel. Granted, at this point
I can hardly be said to 'go at fast pace'. My legs feel like they've
been replaced by overcooked pasta, and the sound of my pounding heart
seals me off from all other sounds. It's been a long time since...
well, actually I don't believe I've ever run this long or this hard
and if I survive this I never will again. It feels as though I've
been running forever, even though objectively it can't have been more
than 10 minutes, but terror and exhaustion have a way of stretching
time. Under no circumstances look back to see how close behind my
pursuer is. Keep moving, concentrate on putting one foot in front
of the other as quickly as possible. Look for the marks.
I'm almost abjectly
grateful when I see the glowing number 17 on the wall with its arrow
pointing the way. I feel a burst of energy and manage to pick up my
pace a little -- and tread on something soft and unspeakable. I fall,
not for the first time, scraping my knee painfully the concrete hidden
under the slime. For a moment I'm unable to do anything but crouch
there, panting. It hurts to breathe and I'm so damned tired, all I
want to do is stay there and rest. Suddenly there's a hiss and the
clatter of claws behind me and I'm up again, running for my life.
Amazing how motivating having a gigantic and ravenous demon on one's
heels can be.
I had a plan,
and when I conceived it I though it an excellent, dare I say, a cunning
plan. One of us would need to lure the demon back down into the sewers
and away from the club it was about to turn into an abattoir to some
place where Angel could conveniently cut it into small bits. As it
was my plan it seemed only fair that I be the one to play hare. Gunn
offered to do it, but despite his long legs he's not really a runner.
I, on the other hand excelled at running. It was the only sport I
was any good at. I was hopeless at cricket and absolutely pathetic
at rugby, but I could at least run.
The best laid
plans... in the event there were a few factors I'd failed to take
into consideration: Firstly, that while I am quite a creditable sprinter,
distance running has never been one of my strengths. Secondly, although
the esoterica demonalis did inform me that the demon was large, carnivorous,
and semi-sentient, it failed to mention how impossibly quick the damned
thing was. It very nearly had me in the first rush, before terror
lent wings to my feet.
Feels like I'm
wading through treacle as I lurch and limp down the endless fucking
tunnel. The unpleasantly familiar sensation of terror rises at the
back of my throat and I wish I still had the freedom to scream like
a girl and demand rescue from a tiny blond Slayer. It's closing in
on me. I can feel my pursuer's brimstone breath on the back of my
neck. Then I see it, glowing faintly in the gloom, lucky number 18.
Blessed proof that I'm not lost, that I'm within reach of salvation.
God be there, and be ready.
I sigh and shift
my stance restlessly. I hate this, all of it: the waiting, being underground.
Wish to hell I never had to spend another minute down here with the
damp cold, the moisture dripping down the clammy walls, the filth
sliding greasily underfoot. I've spent too much time below. I'm tired
of the cold. Tired of the dark.
I reach out again
with my senses through the confusing miasma of sewage and vermin,
searching for signs that my vigil is nearly done. And this time it's
there, finally: the smell of human sweat sharp with fear, nearly overwhelmed
by demon musk; the fast double beat of footsteps and clawed feet coming
I'm ready when
Wesley staggers out of the tunnel wide-eyed and obviously exhausted.
His pounding heartbeat and the stink of his fear tug at my senses
as he brushes past. I turn to make sure he's safe in the service niche,
then face forward with my sword out, more than ready.
The demon fills
the tunnel mouth as it scans hungrily for its prey. Spots Wes and
hulks forward forced to crouch slightly even though high vault of
the sewer intersection. Tonight's demon comes fully loaded with deadly
claws, sharp teeth, scales, and irritant slime according to our hasty
research, but only a very rudimentary intelligence. It skids to a
startled halt when I move to block its path. When I don't move, it
bellows a challenge at what it probably figures is competition for
its meal. Looks puzzled when I don't run or piss myself.
C'mon fella, don't
make me wait here all night.
I shout. Not exactly original, but it does the trick: here it comes.
No finesse, full frontal assault but it's damned quick for something
the size of a bus and it nearly gets me with a paw the size of a truck
tire. In riposte I lash out. The blade skitters along its scaly arm
before digging in and drawing blood. Screeching, it turns on a much
smaller radius than I figured possible and I have to throw myself
backwards to avoid the claws. I'm not quite quick enough and I feel
a claw snag the shoulder of my coat. Wes gasps, worried and the sound
of leather ripping makes me wince as I pull free... Damn. I like this
coat. I drive the sword into its ribs two-handed and smile at the
satisfying crunch of bone.
The demon howls
and backs away as Gunn comes up behind it, right on schedule. He hovers
in the archway, eyes glittering with anticipation as he waits for
my signal. He's the very picture of reckless youth, hefting one of
my morningstars with impressive ease. Charles has grown wider in the
shoulders over the summer and put on quite a bit of muscle as he closes
the final distance between adolescence and adulthood. He grins at
me, gives me a thumbs-up reminding me how much I really want to be
the brother, father, friend, whatever it is he needs. This business
of friendship, like love, is new to me but I'm trying, I really am.
I put on my game
face and feint at the demon, trying to hold its attention and keep
it from noticing the brave but fragile human standing behind it. Big
and scaly is just smart enough not to rush in again; it circles sideways,
looking for a chance to attack this unexpectedly dangerous interloper.
Hunger and anger burn in its tiny black eyes. Not much more than an
animal, just one more in a series of pests that the PTB want removed.
I don't bother keeping count anymore.
Fighting the good
fight every day, like the champion I'm meant to be. Helping people,
killing things, doing what I can to make the world a little bit better.
Keeping busy. Busy is good. It keeps me from going into what Cordy
used to call my brood mode. Because when I'm not busy, not fighting
or killing or pretending to be human I feel the cold creeping into
Gunn gets tired
of waiting and attacks. He swings at the demon's back with the morningstar
and lands a solid blow before it spins round with that unexpected
speed and sends him flying through the air; he lands with a thud and
a splash and lies still against the far wall. Not dead, but the smell
of his blood blossoms in the moist air, and my vision narrows and
reddens. Now it's my turn to forget about strategy. I fake left, go
right, but unfortunately Godzilla Jr. isn't falling for that one;
it steps inside my guard and I feel sharp silver pain as claws slice
through my flesh. Cordy would have her work cut out patching me up,
if she'd touch me, or look at me...
I throw myself
into a roll, barely managing to evade its next strike as it comes
after me sensing an easy kill. Its shadow passes overhead as I reverse
direction, come up under the beast and ram my sword to the hilt into
the soft underbelly. I get up onto my knees and pull the blade upwards.
The tunnel echoes with the demon's dying howls as its innards spill
slippery and warm onto my hands and my ridged face. Wes shouts a warning
just before it collapses on top of me.
I lie there, a
little stunned with a couple of tons of dead demon pressing me into
the concrete. There's warm ichor soaking into me from above, cold
water seeping in from below. What with one thing and another I figure
this outfit's a write-off. Kinda hard to think with the demon's blood
coating my skin and filling my senses; it's rank stuff but red and
warm for all that. What the hell: I open my mouth and steal a few
quick swallows. I need it. I'm so cold all the time. It's been a long
time since I've felt warm.
Not since the
night we got back from Pylea.
The moment I relive
over and over, is that moment of cold clarity when I touched her and
realized I could do anything I wanted to her because nothing mattered
anymore. And then the wonder when instead of pulling away, she melted
into me. Accepted me and saved me from the cold, saved me from the
My sweet Cordy.
But when I woke
it was day and she had gone. I waited for her until sundown released
me, then made my way back to the Hyperion. The joy I felt hearing
her voice as she sat behind her desk, talking casually with Wes and
Gunn. As though nothing had happened. She'd glanced over at me and
given me an empty smile, and turned away.
She's made sure
she hasn't been alone with me in the weeks since. It's been weeks
of slow torture, seeing her every day, so close, but untouchable.
We really need
Think it's time I ought to get up now, the carcass is cooling, and
while I don't need to breathe this isn't exactly a comfortable position.
Besides, Gunn and Wes are probably starting to worry. It's time we
Got thrown into
that wall hard enough that things got kinda fuzzy for awhile there.
So I missed out on seeing Angel do his thing, which was a damned shame
cause dog can truly kick some demon ass. I heard something screamin'
and an almighty thud, but by the time both my eyes were working together
it was all over and my man Wes is doing his best to help me up. Truth
is he's pretty worn out himself, and even once I'm up my legs still
ain't workin' right so the two of us end up proppin' each other up.
I don't see Angel anywhere, just a big heap of demon. I'm really hopin'
that thing is as dead as it looks since right then I figure that between
the two of us we could just about take on a 3-legged kitten or maybe
a cockroach with a bad attitude.
I'm about to ask
Wes where Angel is when the demon's carcass starts to quiver, then
it rolls to one side as Angel heaves it off him. He stands smiling
at us with that goofy grin of his and this is some seriously scary
shit. He looks like Carrie on prom night, all soaked in blood, clothes
drippin', hair slicked flat with it, I swear there's blood on his
teeth too, and I ain't going there. At the very least, dog should
definitely stop smiling.
All leaned up
against Wes like I am no way I can miss the shudder that goes through
him. English is not good with vampy Angel. He's worse than I am with
it, which is weird cause when you get right down to it he's a whole
lot closer to Angel than I am or ever have plans to be. There's a
limit to how close I'm ever gonna get with the undead even if we're
fighting on the same side.
Don't get me wrong,
I like Angel and I respect him and his dedication to the fight, but
we ain't ever going to be best buds. I don't ever forget *what* Angel
is, which is probably why I don't get freaked like Wes does when he
gets it shoved in his face, like now.
squish as he walks toward us. Helps some when he remembers to shake
off his fangface, but not that much. Wes stands up straighter, trying
to pull himself together but Angel must have seen in his face what
he looks like so he tries wiping his face with his sleeve. Don't help
that much, he still looks like something would clear a biker bar in
5 minutes but I can tell Wes appreciates the gesture cause he goes
a little less tense.
a mess," I tell him 'cause hey like my granny always said, tell
the truth and shame the devil. He nods, looking tired.
could use a shower." Which is damn sure the best idea I've heard
"I'm up with
Wes says doing the boss thing.
So off we go,
headed home. Or anyway, back to the hotel. I know I'm looking forward
to getting' cleaned up and being warm and dry; even kinda looking
forward to havin' Cordelia tear a strip off us like she will for being
dumb and careless enough to get ourselves banged up an' makin' her
risk her wraps having to patch us up.
Though it is kinda
sad that the whole post-fight thing ain't nearly as much fun as it
used to be. No way to miss that there's something wrong between Cordelia
and Angel. Ever since we came back from Pylea struttin', only to be
whacked by the bad news about his girl, Buffy. Don't know exactly
what's going on with the two of them, because nobody's talking. At
first I thought that maybe she was just being respectful of Angel's
grief, but that ain't it. It's not just that she doesn't tease him
like she used to, she barely talks to him and when she does it's strictly
business, you know: you need to sign this, talk to this guy, go kill
These days she
doesn't even want Angel catching her anymore when she has one of her
visions. Last time he tried she gave him a look damn near burned a
hole through him and he backed off real quick. So mostly I'm the one
makin' dashes across the lobby to make sure Barbie don't bounce her
head off the marble. Mostly I make it in time.
I know Wes has
to have noticed, he's known them a lot longer and better than I have
so no way he's missed it. Too bad English is the last guy who's ever
going to call them on it. Hell, tight as me and Cordelia have gotten
to be there's no way I'm going to ask her what's up with her and Angel.
Cause I'm man enough to admit I really don't want to know. There ain't
no doubt in my mind that all this tension and weirdness has boy/girl
trouble written all over it and I don't want to go there. Thought
with the curse and all that Angel wasn't supposed to go there either,
but the way they're acting I don't think perfect happiness is likely
to be a problem anytime soon.
No matter how
many times I go through this it doesn't get any easier.
There I am, in
the middle of whatever, minding my own business when the vision hits,
flash of black lightning through my brain and I'm gone, lost in the
vision. Tonight, I got lucky -- I was sitting down when it hit, so
no bruises. Yay me.
agony, the ugly pictures/feelings/smells/sounds and no matter how
much I want to look away I can't because people might die if I miss
some important detail. This one's not too bad. No kids and the demon's
pretty conventional, no slime or extra appendages. It still goes on
for a month past too long. And, again, not forgetting the pain part
of this, which I think is getting worse, something I wouldn't have
thought was possible a year ago, but hey, live and learn.
I open my eyes
to find myself the center of attention. Closest I'm getting to stardom
I guess. I take the aspirins Wesley has for me and wash them down
with the water he also has ready. Vodka would be better, or tequila.
Maybe later. Right now Wes, Gunn and the big undead bastard are looking
at me expectantly. Right.
ugly, hanging out underneath a nightclub. It's going to break into
the basement and start a all-you-can-eat with the patrons. Saw a sign
While they do
some quick and dirty researching I head off to the little girls' room
to wash my face, fix my hair, and pull out the real drugs. I doubled
up on the dose of Seltrax weeks ago, but it's not helping much. Maybe
it's really just sugar pills. Really expensive sugar pills. I hear
heroin is supposed to be an excellent painkiller, maybe Gunn's pal
Rondell could hook me up…joking.
When I come back
out, they're discussing the creature Wesley has found in his field
guide to Northern American Demons, volume 86. He points to the illustration.
the one," I confirm.
prefers to feed on human flesh but not exclusively," Wes reads,
not that I asked.
feed on a vamp?" Gunn just had to ask.
No reaction from Angel. Who I am not looking at from the corner of
my eye, nope.
A couple of phone
calls and we know that Carlie's is one of those semi-legal clubs located
in a warehouse at the edge of downtown. Wes has come up with a plan
that I think is a) dangerous and b) stupid. But the guys ignore my
opinion, big surprise there. They load up from the weapons cabinet,
and then they're gone.
So it's just me
-- and I guess technically, Fred. But since Fred leaves her room about
as often as Wes gets laid now that Virginia's bailed, it's really
just me. Left all alone in the big shadowy hotel with my head throbbing
and all the things that could go wrong mamboing through my brain.
Trying not to think about a pink elephant, or Wes tripping and falling
into that big fangy mouth, or Gunn with his face missing, or even
Angel except that Angel never loses a fight. His mind maybe, his good
sense and occasionally his soul (especially if tiny blondes are involved),
but not a plain old violence type fight. And besides, I'm not thinking
So begone morbid
thoughts, while I wait some more, maybe go over the accounts, only
that makes my headache worse. So log onto the internet, check out
Variety online, see what's up with the Paris shows, maybe drop a line
to Willow, though she hasn't answered my last 2 messages, and I don't
want to come off needy so skip that.
Wonder where Harmony
is right now?
more tapping my pencil against the desk. Flicking through the pages
of the latest Vogue taking notes on the Spring collection, because
despite my limited funds and even more limited opportunities to wear
clothes that can't stand up to demon slime and worse, I do still care.
Don't think about
pink elephants or big mean scaly demons.
Put forehead on
desk, nice cool desk, almost as good as an ice pack, helps with the
throbbing, or maybe the drugs are finally kicking in, please God.
I could go upstairs, try and talk to Fred. Get a different kind of
Long time before
I finally hear the elevator and familiar voices. Wesley, Gunn and
I'm on my feet
ready with the first-aid box when they straggle in. I know they didn't
lose, because they're all present and accounted for but this obviously
hasn't been an easy one. Wesley and Gunn support each other over to
a couch and collapse onto it. Luckily it's naughahyde, so a little
Simple Green and the sewer slime, etc., will come right off.
Looking at Angel...shit.
That can't be all his blood. No way, even stoic boy would be showing
signs if it was and his expression is as blank as ever. I realize
I've been looking at him for way too long and shift my eyes away before
he tries for eye contact. I'm not looking at him when he mumbles something
about needing a shower. Then he heads up the stairs fast enough to
relieve my fears. He can't be too badly hurt if he can move like that.
I turn my attention
to Gunn, since he's the one most obviously in need of my services.
"Forgot to duck again, huh Charles?"
She doesn't look
at me after that one unguarded glance. That's OK, I'm just as glad
for the chance to slip away. Really need to be away from them because
Gunn's bleeding back and Wes' scraped knee are a little more than
I can deal with right now. It had been a long walk back. Would have
been quicker if I just carried Gunn, but he wasn't bad off enough
to let me, and probably not a good idea anyway. My body was screaming
for blood to help it heal, and old instincts made me hyperaware of
them stumbling in my wake. Wounded mortals, delectably vulnerable.
Gunn was in the worst shape, so I'd have gone for Wes first, and taken
the weaker at my leisure. Easy.
I'd stayed as
far from them as I could without being obvious about it.
in my room, I gulped down two units of blood straight from the fridge.
It's old dead stuff, tainted with anticoagulant but it's blood and
it does the job, makes me feel a little less like a frozen leaf in
danger of being blown away by the chill breeze.
I'm about to sit
down on the bed when I remember that I'm still covered in half-dried
blood. I can imagine what Cordy would say about me getting it all
over the bedspread. I strip where I stand. I don't like getting dressed
or undressed in the bathroom in front of that big mirror, the whole
floating clothes effect lost its entertainment value a long time ago.
The shirt's definitely trashed, and it hurts when I pull the fabric
out of some of the deeper gashes. My flesh is already starting to
mend, don't think I'll end up with any scars. I drop the last of my
clothes onto the pile and head for the shower. I need to get cleaned
up, get ready.
me of my Momma the way she scolds us non-stop while takin' care of
our boo-boos. The couple of times she has had to patch Angel up since
they fell out she was real professional. Like the chief embalmer at
Forest Lawn. Don't surprise me at all that he decided to pass on the
happened to Angel?" she says casually, handing me a clean shirt
to put on over my nice new bandages. "I mean, ewwwh."
fell on top of him after he disemboweled it," Wes says. Cordelia
makes the ewwwh face again.
asked. So he's OK, right?" Real offhand, like she don't really
care. Nuh-uh, not catching me that easy. Wes, on the other hand, is
Angel's fine... why don't I just go and check."
I just shake my head as
Wes goes upstairs. Whipped, and isn't even getting any.
Of course the
very last thing I feel like doing right now is dealing with Angel.
I'm exhausted, and I can hear my bed and the bottle of scotch in the
table next to it calling to me. Granted I'm the head of Angel Investigations
and therefore employee welfare is one of my concerns. Expecting me
to try and determine whether Angel needs help, and then trying to
persuade Mr. Invincible to take it is simply too much to deal with
at 2 in the morning. On the other hand I am under no illusions that
Cordelia will leave me alone until I do what she wants.
Perish the thought
that she should go up herself. She won't of course. I don't know exactly
what happened between the two of them the night we came back, although
I have my suspicions. All I know is that after Cordelia left I sat
with Angel until I found myself yawning and on the edge of drifting
off. He was as unresponsive as before, so I carefully placed a blanket
around his shoulders and went for a brief lie down. When I woke up
a few hours later and came to check on Angel, he wasn't there. I didn't
know what to do. There seemed to be no point in raising an alarm so
I simply waited, and prayed.
in at the usual time the next morning looking, unsurprisingly, as
though she hadn't slept well. I told her Angel was missing, but she
seemed strangely unconcerned. "Angel will be OK Wes, he's 247
years old, he can take care of himself," she told me with what
I thought was a certain bitterness in her voice. Gunn essentially
agreed with her, "Calm down man, he probably just needs some
So we waited,
pretending to work, until he finally appeared early that evening.
I was shocked when she barely bothered to acknowledge his presence.
Things have all been downhill since, the chill between them is almost
palpable and there's no sign of a thaw. It's a bad situation, and
one that I'm ill-equipped to deal with. Even if I were willing to
attempt to pry into their personal business Cordelia would tear me
to shreds and Angel would simply ignore me.
I knock at Angel's
door and enter when he says come in. He's standing with his back to
me with a towel wrapped around his waist, obviously just out of the
shower. The dragon and stylized A on his shoulder ripples as he rubs
his hair dry.
just wanted to make sure...oh." My words die away when he turns
and I see the damage the demon did to him. The gaping wounds marring
his upper torso and side would put him in hospital if he were human,
and very lucky. More likely he'd be dead. But of course he's not human.
Reacting to my expression, he starts to cover them, almost coyly,
then changes his mind and lets me look my fill. "Dear God, Angel..."
There's no expression on what I now see is his unusually pale face.
"I need blood," he says.
I take a step
back as my subconscious effortlessly sidesteps my reason. Angel's
lips quirk as he finishes his sentence and I know that his demon didn't
miss that little spritz of blind terror.
a supply on hand at Caritas. I called Lorne, he'll be expecting you."
"Yes of course.
I'll be as quick as I can," I promise, and flee.
I retreat to the
lobby where I reassure Cordelia that Angel is fine and inform Gunn
that I need to run an errand. In the end we both go as I don't have
my bike and Gunn's still a bit too wobbly to go on his own but unwilling
to let anyone else drive his precious truck.
you a ride home when we get back," Gunn promises Cordelia as
She yawns. "OK.
Try and hurry though, I need my beauty sleep." I can't help noticing
again just how tired she looks. Perhaps she should take a few days
off, Powers permitting.
As we step outside
into the humid LA night and the big doors shut heavily behind us,
I feel a premonitory chill run down my spine.
Gunn looks at
me oddly. "What's up?"
I'm forced to say, because it almost certainly is nothing. Only my
overactive imagination again. Whatever problems Angel and Cordelia
may be having with each other, he would never hurt her. That's one
thing I'm certain hasn't changed.
Alone at last.
I wait until the
uneven firing of Gunn's truck fades into the distance before coming
slowly down the stairs, tracking her scent. Expensive perfume interlaced
with her personal musk. Cordy. My Cordy.
I think I've been
patient, willing to wait for her to catch on, to come to terms with
what happened between us. She's young after all, and God knows I have
the time. But days have turned into weeks and her eyes when she looks
at me remain unrelentingly cold and I'm done with waiting. We are
going to deal with this because I can't go on like this.
I won't go on
I remember standing
there as Willow stammered out the bad news. As my mind made reluctant
sense of her words I felt my life draining away and the cold creeping
in. Buffy was dead. My true love. Dead.
crying. "Oh Angel, I'm so sorry!"
I hated Willow,
hated her dough-pale face, her weepy green eyes, and her beating heart.
I trembled with the desire to snap her neck and when Cordelia put
a comforting hand on my shoulder I nearly turned on her. I hated all
of them for breathing, for still being alive.
Above all I hated
the Powers for the liars and cheats that they were. Dangling the hope
of Shanshu before me, knowing it was an empty promise without Buffy.
I tore myself
free of them and fled into the dark.
I sat silent in
the dark, bracketed by the two of them: the soft and smooth of Cordelia
on one side, her small hand laid over my clenched fist and Wesley's
ribby chest pressed against my other side with his thin arm draped
awkwardly over my shoulders. I was dying again and it felt much like
the first time. The ice creeping through my veins as the last of my
blood trickled onto the dirty cobblestones of that alley as Darla's
glassy laughter grated in my dying ears. Feeling my humanity ebbing
away as the demon took up residence. Losing the reasons why I shouldn't
take them up on their inadvertent offer and spill the sweetness and
heat of their lives to salve my pain. After all, they were only human
and doomed to die anyway (God, Buffy) so what difference did it really
make if I brought the inevitable forward a few years? What did anything
matter in a universe ruled by chaos? In this hell where my one dream
could be reduced to broken meat rotting in the ground.
It wasn't my soul,
or my will, but simple entropy that saved them, saved us all. In the
end I was too weary and frozen to act on my murky desires and I let
myself sink without trace into the black pool of my grief.
When I surfaced
again the room was dark and I was alone. No Cordy, no Wes. They'd
left me with a blanket spread uselessly over my heatless form. Left
I moved angrily
through the darkened suite tracking faint traces of breath and pulse
until I found Wesley sprawled across my neatly made bed. He lay unconscious,
skin spilling heat into the air, a promise of the red warmth inside.
My fingertips hovered just above his closed, unguarded, eyes. So easy.
But, no. Because he wasn't the one I really wanted.
I kept searching.
Fred was curled up in a nearby room, fast asleep in a huddle of blankets.
Gunn was in the next room, snug in his sleeping bag, ax to hand. Willow
blessedly was gone, probably on her way back to Sunnydale. The only
one missing, the only one I wanted, was Cordelia.
window listening to her heartbeat through the pounding of the water.
The steam carries the essence of her through the screen as she scrubs
away the last traces of Pylea. She smells of pain and weariness, leavened
with a thin trace of anger. I listen as she shuts off the water and
dries herself. Shivering at the images my mind creates from the soft
whisper of fabric against skin. Wanting, needing...
She needs a better
lock on her front door: one quick shove and I'm in. I can feel Phantom
Dennis' futile anger running over my skin like static electricity
as I sit down. The lights go on, but I'm content for the moment to
simply wait, cradled in the scent she's left entangled in the fabric
of the couch. I know she'll come. I wonder what I'll do when she does.
She sounds angry, but her tone covers a deeper unease. She knows me
better than any of them. Still, when I don't respond she comes closer,
touches me gently. "What are you doing here? Does Wesley know
She gasps as I
grab her and pull her close, pressing my face against her belly, sucking
her in. So sweet. She tries to pull away but my hands still hold her.
I whisper, looking up into her face. Her eyes are clouded and confused.
"I was coming
back," she says.
leave me," I whisper. She'd made me a promise once, and I mean
to hold her to it. She stares into my face, searching for something.
"No, I won't,"
"I just want
to hold you," I say, and move my hands higher on her back. I
feel her tense, ready to pull away and it frightens me, I want to
warn her against that kind of provocation. Then, unexpectedly, wonderfully,
she moves towards me. Lets me warm my hands on her skin. Lets me kiss
her. Opens her mouth to me and her body and when I pour myself into
the furnace of her core her I'm smelted and remade.
Afterwards I lay
with her in the solace of her bed. My body warmed by hers, my senses
soothed by the solid reliability of her heartbeat and I could almost
stand to think about Buffy.
Now, she's sitting
at her desk reading, unaware as I quietly move to the main doors and
lock them. I don't want any interruptions.
I look up from my magazine that I'm finally calm enough to actually
read and Angel's standing there. Slime and blood all gone, hair gelled,
dressed in another of his basic black outfits. He's looking at me
with that damned deeply meaningful stare and I'm suddenly very aware
that we're alone. It's been awhile since we've been alone together.
I've made real sure of that. No way do I believe this is coincidence.
Goddamn Wes anyway for being such a maroon.
he says. Big black-hole eyes trying to suck me in. Nope, not this
time buddy. I ignore him, drop my eyes back to the page. So, according
to Ralph, Calvin, Donna and Zac, black is this year's black. Good
can't keep avoiding me. We need to talk."
He is so wrong
about that I can't even be bothered to explain it to him. La-la-la-la
I can't hear you. Turn the page, oooh, look, bigger and better flares,
and I can definitely carry off that look, but the platform heels are
not really practical for the running away from demons part of my job.
I'm not really
surprised when the magazine is snatched away but that doesn't mean
it doesn't piss me off. Why can't he just leave bad enough alone?
hell do you think you're doing?" He doesn't look impressed by
the deathbeams shooting out of my eyes, he's gone all serious. And
maybe just starting to get pissed off, and if I weren't so pissed
off myself I might be a little worried about that, but my adrenaline's
pumping so, pffft.
He's touching my hand. I know he's not touching my hand! "We
have to face what happened between us." Sounding so solemn and
so goddamn condescending. What's left of my temper packs up and heads
for the airport as I snatch my hand back and stand up.
fucking wrong, Angel, we don't need to talk. Not talking is working
just fine for me. Not talking is why I'm still coming into this office
every day. And you know what? If we can keep the not-talking thing
going, maybe in a couple of years you and me will be O.K. again."
Not quite the talk he wanted I guess. Kinda sets him back, I can almost
hear the gears shifting inside his big blockhead.
" I know
it's hard for you," he says trying the soothing voice. "I
don't think you understand what happened that night, what it meant.
You saved me Cordy."
"Glad I was
able to help." Can you say sarcasm boys and girls? I knew you
could! Been awhile since I felt this kind of nasty little pleasure
as I see Angel having to reach deeeep for his inner serenity.
I know it was pretty overwhelming, it was so wonderful, and..."
My brain shuts
down. Wonderful? What? Rewind that. Wonderful!
I'm up in his face now, screaming. "Ever hear about good touch/bad
touch? What happened that night, that was definitely bad touch."
touches a nerve, because the next thing I know he's moved in on me
and I'm being backed into the desk. From the yellowish flicker in
his eyes his temper has just caught the LAX shuttle and may be gone
you so angry? Did I hurt you Cordy?" He invades what's left of
my personal space putting his arms on either side of me and rubs his
leg deliberately against mine. Whoops.
But even the thought
of Angelus being back in town can't keep me from being hit hard by
his question, because, suddenly I'm not sure. He hurt my feelings,
used me, made me feel like a fool for letting him use me, but he didn't
force me and I never said no.
she says. I hear her heartbeat race and taste the delicious aroma
never want to hurt you. Never." Lying, because right now I do
want to hurt her. Just a little. I want to make her feel some of the
sick confusion of emptiness and loss and craving that have been my
world for weeks. Reverently I trace the perfect curve of her cheek
with my finger. She recoils shaking with anger and fear.
hell do you want from me Angel? Sex? Blood? What!" There's no
good answer to that. If I tell her that I want all of that and more
I'm afraid she'll run, but I'm fresh out of easy lies.
"I want you.
I love you. Don't you see, we're soul mates. We're fated to be together."
I haven't seen
this one before: Cordelia, speechless. She stares at me like I've
grown a new head. Then she laughs and I'm so startled I let her push
me away. Now she's the one on the attack, poking me angrily in the
we're really not. Just because we did the whole knowing in a biblical
sense thing doesn't mean we're soul-mates. What happened was a one-time
big huge mistake. Which will not be repeated."
I catch her eyes with mine, willing her to remember how she'd screamed
for me, her body lost in ecstasy. I can see she remembers, but she
shakes it off, and shrugs.
sex, Angel. Just sex. Not love. You ought to be old enough to tell
just sex. You know it wasn't."
"No I don't
know that. Just let it go Angel. Please."
I don't understand
how she can be so cruel, so cold. There must be some way I can make
her see the truth. I move forward again, till we're almost but not
I murmur, but she raises her hand and cuts me off.
"If you can't
do that Angel, then maybe I should leave."
Leave? I stare
at her, feeling a hole open up in my chest at the idea of losing her.
leave. You promised."
"Let go of
leave. Ever." My voice saying that and my hands holding her arms
far too tightly but I can't make myself let go and something in my
face is making the anger in her bleed away to fear again. "I
won't let you go."
I'm scared, and fighting not to show it because I know that would
be a bad move right now. I almost wish it was Angelus bruising my
arms as he pulls me into an unwanted clinch. Right now Angelus would
almost be a relief because at least I'd know what he wanted and how
to react. At least he'd know what he wanted. Give me sociopathic over
psychopathic any day.
He drops his head
onto my shoulder, holding me so tightly I can barely breathe. Dampness
on my skin, which is not blood. His whole body shaking as he leans
on me. Shit, he's crying. Angel's crying, again. I hate him, and I
hate myself when I stop trying to pull away and put my arms around
OK, I'm not leaving…" And I know we've done this before, and
I know where it's leading but I don't seem to be able to pull free
of the undertow that's sweeping both of us out to sea.
Everyone does." His voice drops. "She left me, and so will
That easily I'm
out of the current and swimming back to the beach.
He's still and
silent in my arms as a dead man can be and I feel so damn sorry for
him, but that's not going to stop me this time from doing what needs
to be done.
my voice is gentle anyway. "Buffy didn't leave you, she died."
He jerks as though
I'd stabbed him, and makes a pitiful noise, but goddammit we're going
to do this now. Like I should have done it before. "Angel, listen,
Buffy's gone and it wasn't your fault, it didn't really have anything
to do with you. It's not always about you, Angel." He's shaking
and I can't tell if he's still crying or getting ready to rip out
my throat. Doesn't matter.
saving the world, that was her job, that's why she did it and you've
got to move the fuck on 'cause I don't think she'd want you mooning
over her and making up weird-ass scenarios where we're in love."
He makes a sound
then that sounds like denial. Nuh-uh, I'm not letting that go.
love me Angel, and I don't love you. Not like that anyway. We're like
garlic and ice cream - two great things that should never, ever, be
mixed. You know it too, when you're not crazed."
Finally I get tired of waiting, let him go and step free of his arms,
he stands there, head hanging eyes squeezed shut.
Shake your head or nod or something."
He opens his eyes,
and it scares me that I can't read his dark, dark, eyes, still shining
with tears. He opens his mouth and I'm scared too of what he might
say or do, because not like there's a Plan B.
wrong with the door?" Gunn says banging on it.
appears to have locked it." Yeah, someone must have.
Angel! Everything OK?"
Suddenly the presence
looming over me, vanishes. I turn and catch a glimpse of him disappearing
into the shadows and then he's gone.
I think what I'm
feeling is relief as I head for the door. Wes and Gunn are starting
to sound really worried.
horses!" I shout. Sheesh, what a bunch of drama queens.
There is a letter
addressed to me sitting on my desk when I come into work the next
morning. I recognize Angel's handwriting, and open it with a certain
I realize I haven't been easy to be around
lately. Sorry. I've decided I need some time to myself. The
Lhasa Arpet monastery in Tibet has a good reputation. I'm
hoping a month or so of meditation will help me sort things
Wes, you're the boss now. Take care of Fred.
Try and get her out of her room occasionally, O.K?
Gunn -- be careful out there.
Cordy -- you were right. Sorry.
See you all in September.
"Tibet? Vegas is a
whole lot closer, and way more fun." Gunn says later after reading
it for himself.
I don't think this trip is about fun," I point out. "It's
about Angel coming to terms with his loss." Gunn shrugs.
"I know what
it's about, I'm just sayin', if he's trying to forget an' all, Vegas
has plenty of stuff to help him do that with."
I've been watching
Cordelia. She's smiling. "I think Angel knows what's best for
Angel. He'll be fine."