Title: Everybody Hurts
Rating: R/NC 17 (READ WARNING before continuing to fic)
Category: Very, very sad. Hopefully any future parts will lead our sad duo to happier times. But for now BE WARNED non-consensual sex contained in first part.
Summary: This is Cali’s challenge and I know she wants a happy ending, but the initial event is too devastating for any thoughts of better times to come into play. So for now we have only the aftermath of Angel’s hard learned revelation…a seemingly door-closing epiphany you might say, but only time will tell what the heart already knows.
Spoilers: S2 Reprise
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made. Title inspired by the song ‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M.
Distribution: Please ask
Notes: the result of Angel’s bleak revelation after Holland Manners showed him the scope of The Senior Partners’ never ending plans for the world. Cali and I briefly discussed the possible conclusions such a story could have…happy endings come in many forms.
Thanks/Dedication:A big thank you to Cali for such a thought provoking challenge, I hope you’re not disappointed. And the beautiful picfic.
The almost silent screech of the elevator bombarded his over-sensitized hearing; steel grinding against steel as the private conveyance arrived at its destination. The doors slid open in a sibilating swoosh and Angel stood, frozen rigid in confusion as a homeless person pushing a loaded shopping cart across the plaza crossed the narrow path of his view.
“Welcome to the home office.”
“You know it is; you know that better than anyone. The things you’ve seen, the things you’ve done. If there wasn’t evil in every single person out there, they’d all be angels. And you and I know…it’s just a word…a name to deceive those few humans that believe in you. Well…used to believe in you. They have a pretty good understanding now…of what you are exactly.”
Angel took a hesitate step from the elevator, stumbling forward under the weight of Holland Manner’s departing acclamation.
“Congratulations Angel, great victory; you should be proud. Shame you don’t have anyone to share the celebration.”
He heard the faint chime of the elevator doors closing but didn’t bother to look back; knowing the mystical transport along with its emissary would no longer be visible. Dumbfounded, he gazed at the unchanged landscape, eyes traveling the towering stretch of the Wolfram and Hart Building. Everything was just as he had left it.
Angel walked the dark streets of LA, his downtrodden steps slow and devoid of purpose. A prostitute and potential client shouted in disagreement. Two men huddled around a small flame housed in a rusted, metal container, one shoving the other against the invasion of his space.
“So, what’s the big plan, Angel? Destroy the Senior Partners, smash Wolfram and Hart once and for all? Now tell me just what do you think that would accomplish? In the end, I mean.”
“It’ll be the end.”
“Well, the end of you certainly, but I meant in the larger sense.”
“In the larger sense, I really don’t give a crap.”
“Now let me see, there was something…in a sacred prophecy, some oblique reference to you. Something you’re supposed to prevent. Now what was that?”
“Of course, all those people you save from that apocalypse would then have the next one to look forward to, but hey, it’s always something; isn’t it?”
“You’re not gonna win.”
“We have no intention of doing anything so prosaic as winning.”
“Then why fight?”
“That’s really the question you should be asking yourself; isn’t it? For us, winning doesn’t enter into it. The world doesn’t work in spite of evil. It works with evil. It works because of evil. Congratulations Angel, great victory; you should be proud. Shame you don’t have anyone to share the celebration.”
Nothing had been accomplished tonight. Nothing he had done these past months made a difference. That wasn’t exactly true, Angel hopelessly conceded. He had accomplished one goal, only it wasn’t his. “You need the words of Anatole to cure your friend. She’s your connection to the Powers That Be. And since it is foretold that we sever all your connections, well…”
Angel considered the irony of his current paradox. “You don’t see anything. You don’t know what faith is.” Should he one day find the strength, Angel mused; he would laugh at that irony. Lindsey MacDonald was not the victim of recreant faith. That epithet he had salvaged from the wreckage and held to it with indomitable resolve. He had been a willing pawn in Wolfram and Hart’s quest; had presented Darla, again, with a vacuous clump of clay to mold into evil perfection.
The cold rain pelted against his face, its intensity fueled by the sharp whirl of icy wind that sliced into his dead soul. Looking up, the clear sky dense with twinkling stars rattled the small measure of sanity he struggled to hold onto. Angel observed the people around him. No one was seeking shelter from the frigid rain and the air was nothing more than a soft, warm breeze. He pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head in acceptance. The layers of fabric could not protect him from the rising tempest that would freeze him from the inside out.
Cordelia hesitantly stepped from the cab, turning back to extend an anxious, “wait here for a minute,” as the cab driver peeled from the curve. “Or if you can’t wait, just keep the change cause I’m rolling in unneeded twenties dumbass.”
The cab turned at the light, disappearing between the rows of buildings emptied by the late hour. Focus shifting to her purpose for being there, Cordelia turned to face forbidden territory. The hotel seemed mammoth in size, looming over the narrow sidewalk that led to its large double doors. She felt her body shiver, noting that the night wasn’t cold.
Taking a deep breath and releasing it with a sigh when she realized the air around her could not supply the courage needed, Cordelia stepped forward, determined but no less afraid. She was on a mission; The Powers had sent her a vision. The band of Blacknil, a ring, plain and simplistic in its design; something Cordelia would browse over if spied in a jewelry case. But the ring wielded a power to move its possessor between dimensions and the vision was crystal clear; Angel was not trusted to possess it.
Halfway up the stairs before realizing she couldn’t recall taking the necessary steps, Cordelia halted, once again rethinking her decision to do this on her own. Wesley was still too weak, lucky to roll around in his wheelchair without sprouting a blood spurt. Gunn, what could she say about her newest friend and ally? Gunn was angry and disillusioned by Angel’s unexpected descent into the dark side. He had only just begun to believe Angel was different, that a demon could be one of the good guys simply by virtue of a soul. Angel had pushed his way into Gunn’s life, but that was the way Angel did most things. Outrage or goodwill, his answer was always the same, high on action and low on forethought.
No, Cordelia shook her head as she continued her upward trek. It was best not to ask for Gunn’s help regardless of the peril her solitary quest presented. Gunn would have wanted to torch the hotel and its contents and for a brief moment, any argument against that particular idea escaped her.
Though absent longer than Angel cared to remember, the sweet aroma was immediately familiar. His back stiffened at the thought of her being there; he considered the possibilities, quietly pushing the door shut and turning the bolt of the latch. Head cocked, he ascended the stairway; each silent step inspired by the unique redolence of her presence.
Muffled mutterings drifted from his room, her spicy scent swirling around him as he stalked closer. Pushing the door open, Angel watched as Cordelia carefully plundered his privacy, mindful to return each item to its exact location. He pondered the purpose of her search, deciding quickly the motivation to be in his territory irrelevant. Angel’s brief reunion with Darla had taught him there was either darkness or sunlight, and their thresholds unforgiving of foolish trespassers. Cordelia should learn that lesson, he surmised, if determined to continue the mission.
Angel stripped off his sweatshirt, a strategic toss sending it to land at her feet. Alarm prickled up her spine, and inwardly cursing the too late warning, Cordelia cautiously straightened from her stoop, sliding the drawer shut.
“You shouldn’t have come here.”
Another prickle, this one reaching her neck as the graveled husk scraped across her skin. “I had a vision.”
“That means nothing to me.” Cordelia would only seek him out for the sake of the mission. The testament slapped across his face, and anger spewed up in searing ferocity. Horrified that the miniscule remnants of the man lingering within wanted to hurt her, Angel half-turned cloaking his view.
Realizing Angel had misunderstood, Cordelia quickly spun around to set straight his confusion; but faltered when thoughts were momentarily purged by the angled view of his naked torso. She had seen most of his body dozens of times, touching him had been innocent and natural; but now the intimacy of friendship and familiarity eluded her.
“The band of Blacknil…the ring,” she added with an insistent lift of a brow. “The Powers don’t want you to have it; they sent me to ask you for it.” Trying to mask the hitch in her breath was a waste of energy Cordelia couldn’t afford; she was afraid of Angel and he knew it. Better to ask him to give the ring freely than antagonize him with empty threats of taking it.
Angel turned towards the sound of her voice, but spoke not word. He guilelessly studied her, his penetrating gaze compelling Cordelia to search out a path of escape. It was almost impersonal, the casual way he looked at her. Long minutes of frigid silence passed, their only exchange the seething disapproval in his scowl and her revealing awareness of its instigator.
The words finally came, but only served to slice deeper into her faltering fortitude. “The mission; always the fucking mission.” The sardonic guff hissed through tight-pressed lips. “Don’t you ever need something besides the mission?”
“I need the ring.” Cordelia answered daring to hope if presented correctly her plea would open an avenue for a safe getaway. “If you’ll give it to me, then I’ll go and hopefully…for both of us, I won’t ever bother you again.” There, she’d said it; assured him that she wasn’t there of her own accord and would never willingly invade his personal sanctuary.
His slight nod garnered a relieved sigh, which transformed into a wrenching gasp as Angel’s hand drifted open. The ring slid from his palm, slipping down fingers dangling toward the floor and Cordelia watched as her hope spiraled down along side the shiny, silver hoop.
It landed with a clank, bouncing against the wooden floor before rolling to settle next to a heavy, black boot. Cordelia contemplated the possibility of Angel allowing her to scoop up the ring on her dash out the door, the echoes of their last confrontation battling against the urgency imploring her feet to move. “Don’t make me move you…I’m a vampire…Look it up.”
Calm, stay calm, no sudden moves; the incessant chant serenaded Cordelia’s ragged nerves as she took a tentative step, followed by a second. Angel’s rigid stance unmoving, she risked the few remaining footfalls spanning between her and freedom. Swooping down to snatch the prized target Cordelia flinched feeling the strike; grateful to realize it was her own heart billowing inside her chest.
She pinched the circle of metal between two fingers; ready to rise and make her escape when a heavy grip intervened, fingers tightened enclosing her upper arm. Cordelia looked up meeting Angel’s downcast gaze and laid a tentative hand on his arm. His eyes dark, pain hidden by the murky swirl of black clouds, he slapped her hand away and was on her in an instant.
In a fluid sling, Cordelia left the floor landing on the table, Angel’s weight following her down and stifling the completion of her terror-stricken scream. His fingers threading the soft, silky strands of dark hair, Angel agonized over the loss of long, sable tresses. Fisting the short locks, he jerked her head back exposing the flawless skin of her throat. His cool tongue slithered up her throat, stopping briefly to indulge on the tender, blood-swollen vein.
Cordelia’s larynx constricted, satisfied with the gush of a strangled gasp. “Angel…please don’t do this.”
“Stop pretending Cordelia. You’ve been begging me for years.” Angel purred, blunt teeth biting down on the soft flesh under her chin.
Fear struck, timed with concession. The man Cordelia loved and trusted was lost to her, and this monster would find no reason to resist its hunger. Survival instinct surged forward, but Cordelia naïve of its existence, gave a short-lived pause to the innate reflex, feral and primitive. Determined defiance quickly renewed, she fought back with an eruption of tumultuous passion. Impeccably filed nails, polished and buffed scraped across Angel’s upper arms stabbing with all their might into roughened flesh. Her body twisted and squirmed bucking against his weight. The spirited exertion unwittingly encouraging his heightening arousal, Angel pushed his hips down until Cordelia felt the hard proof of her encouragement.
A bewildered gasp, followed by a teary whimper and Angel stilled his movements except for gentle strokes of tear-moistened cheeks. “Don’t cry Cordelia, it won’t change anything. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters.”
Cordelia felt the shift of Angel’s weight as his feet returned to the floor, but remained perfectly still, wary that any movement might again be misinterpreted. Angel hung his head, regret and shame beating against the gelid walls erected in defeated rage.
Reflecting on the influence of her panicked whimper, the power of a single tear, his anger swelled rising up from his chest in a guttural groan. “No,” Angel snarled, glaring down at the frightened young woman frozen against the table’s surface. Grabbing Cordelia’s wrists in a crushing clinch, Angel yanked stretching her up to meet his hovering face. “Nothing we do matters; why can’t you see that?”
Cordelia’s mouth fell open, heedless that she had no answer. But it didn’t matter because only seconds had ticked before her body was flung across the room. Landing in a crumpled heap, Cordelia scrambled to find her footing, tripping over her anxious movements as she scuttled toward the far wall.
In an effortless move, his body curled down, limber hands swiftly removing his boots before his spine straightened with an agile snap.
“You need to wake up, get your head clear. You might still be enjoying fantasies of Darla and the good ole days, but you’ve stumbled across the wrong girl.” Angel had plunged head first into his dark past without a life preserver and now he was drowning. Cordelia struggled to work her way past those drowning waves of emotions certain that Angel intended to take her with him. “I don’t want to play in your games. If you think I’m going to be the good little victim, help you out during your dark time, you’re wrong…the wrongest you’ve ever been.”
The heady blend of fear and defiance, and warm pulsing blood overpowering his senses, Angel’s chest rose and fell in heaving pants. Shutting out the hurt of Cordelia’s mordant accusations, he responded demanding the warmth and passion long denied. “Make me warm.”
Cordelia continued to retreat until backed into a corner; she didn’t reach him and her head slowly shook from side to side as reality etched its way through her denial. “I can’t…I don’t know how.”
“Yes you do.” He whispered, dark piercing eyes that had captured her own refusing to release her from their hold. “I’ve fought what I am for so long, but the sliver of sunlight that made it worthwhile is gone. I’ve lost everything…I accept that.”
The thaw of black ice, a flash of eyes tender and sincere ushered a glimmer of hope. Cordelia saw her friend for the first time tonight; fleeting, but an offer of hope they would survive the night.
“But I won’t be denied this.” In an instant, the dark cold resurfaced freezing out the recognition of her friend. “Take your clothes off.” And Cordelia trembled as hope crashed against the ragged rocks, the shattered pieces of their life together swept away in the raging storm.
Nimble fingers worked his belt buckle, dipping to lead the slow slide of the zipper. The wispy sound followed by the even slower stride of a predator’s walk, the gape of his pants offering a hint of masculine hair provocative and dangerous.
He didn’t stop until pressed against her, large, muscular legs trapping long, slender ones inside their stance. His hands lifted toward her face but brushed past cheeks glistening with nervous perspiration to rest spread palms against the wall. Angel’s head dropped; his face nestled in her hair inhaling the alluring fragrance, sweet and spicy. Still lost in a world that didn’t want him, but this moment no one could take from him and he would hold her warmth inside until he found the courage to let go. “I just want to feel something besides the cold.”
“I know.” Cordelia whispered, the hot breath of his words still fluttering across her neck. She pushed her hands against his chest; but broad, taught muscles stood unmoving, harder than the wall against her back.
Angel slid down her body, his knees bending to kneel at her feet. He lifted his hands to her waist, expert fingers flicking the button on her jeans…and another cringing wisp of a zipper. Her jeans swooshed down her legs, skill and practice taking shoes and socks in its sweep. His face nuzzled against the dark patch easily visible through the lacy cover and Cordelia wrapped her arms snug across her chest cursing her silly, romantic choice of undergarments.
Inhaling deep, he savored the musky aroma, feminine and ripe. His mouth opened wide, ragged breaths dragging the mesmerizing flavors across his tongue. Arousal, the ingredient needed to complete his divine feast was missing. But his mastery of the female form, its tutelage started long before Darla lured him into her nebulous world, would seduce the shy spice to flow like a slow drip of honey. Fingers clutching around firm, round hips, his tongue licked a cool, moist trail up her lacy covered mound, a startle gasp enticing a wicked grin.
Angel lifted his gaze to her face, its expression blank and abandoned. Cordelia’s compliance wasn’t required, but Angel wanted to feel the complete surrender of her warmth flow into his soul. He reached up unfolding resistant arms, bringing her hands to rest at the hem of her sweatshirt.
“Take it off.” Cordelia shook her head in protest, thinking the movement passive and frail, and ridiculously delusive. Gentle pressure curled her fingers over the loose band pushing the fabric up until it bunched under her breasts. “Take it off, Cordelia.” Angel’s demand scraped across her bare stomach reminding Cordelia of his last implied threat when pride and anger made her foolishly deny him a book.
Arms crossed lifting over her head, the jerky sweep yanking the bundled fleece against the scrap of lavender lace incapable of covering full, round breasts. Rising up from his kneel, Angel gently took hold the coveted fabric and with a gentle tug pulled it from her grip, allowing it to fall to the floor. For long seconds he simply looked at her, her essence burning into every crevice of his memory.
His fingers lightly brushed across her nipples, but when her response pressed her further against the wall and away from his touch, hands boldly opened cupping her breasts and following her retreat. He leaned into her, the shift of his weight lifting her breasts and pushing up against the cleavage already spilling over the strained lace.
Cordelia gasped, renewing her struggle when fingers flicked open the tiny clasp between her breasts. Her arms pushed between them but were quickly taken away as the flimsy garment was ripped away and wrapped around the wrists now firmly held at the small of her back.
“Don’t do this. Ang-” His mouth captured hers, lips parted by a plea cut short, giving his tongue access to plunge inside.
Releasing her wrists, Angel tightened the wrap of his arms crushing Cordelia against him. He plundered her mouth, his hunger for her warmth and innocence making it impossible for him to pull away. Cordelia felt the rising burn and uselessly pulled from the hard clamp of his mouth struggling to draw air into her lungs.
Finally freeing her mouth, Angel’s hand snaked up catching her head as it dropped back. Desperate for air her lungs convulsed, sucking panted breaths through swollen lips already showing signs of the hard, bruising kiss. Suffocation avoided, Cordelia mulled over her next move immediately discarding any attempt to fight him off as a viable option.
Thoughts of a more practical plan were abruptly interrupted when she lifted from the floor, and her body tensed then quickly relaxed preparing for another angry toss. Instead of the hard floor, she felt the soft dip of the mattress against her back, and unhinged by the emotional roller coaster Cordelia screamed out the emotional torture and frustration she could no longer contain.
His large frame covered her instantly, its weight pressing her further into the mattress; cool lips descended attacking her mouth again, effectively squelching her screams. His hands roamed her body, rubbing and squeezing the hot flesh, touches urgent and rough, and uncaringly bruising.
Cordelia surrendered to the reality of their situation; sex, whether forced or consented was merely a by-product of Angel’s actions. He needed her to feel the soul wrenching pain of his desolation.
Eyes cinched shut, instinct pushed her emotions deep; what Angel couldn’t reach he couldn’t destroy. Thoughts concentrated on survival, Cordelia was barely aware of the last piece of lacy cover being ripped from her body or of his pants’ swift departure. His mouth continuing its assault, breaking for only fleeting seconds of gulped air, heavy knees pushed against her thighs. Cordelia twisted free of his mouth, turning her face away as her body tensed preparing for the brutal invasion.
Poised at her center, the absence of physical arousal weakening his resolve, Angel stilled. A gentle hand turned her face to him, and relieved but equally confused, Cordelia flinched when she felt the soft brush of his lips. The kiss remained tender, his tongue swiping across swollen lips. Her bottom lip quivered and Angel sucked it between his lips with a gentle tug, nibbling the abused flesh until he felt her body began to relax.
Easing his weight off her, a hand slipped between her legs, teasing her feminine lips with feathery strokes. A slight whiff of a spark and he eased a finger inside the soft folds seeking the trickle of moisture, his thumb stroking against the tiny nub enticing it to respond. The tickle grew to a reluctant flow allowing the entry of a second finger to massage the inner walls of her core. Cordelia’s body responded but her mind silently resisted, bewildered by the power of Angel’s touch.
Properly prepared, pain would not discourage her body from accepting his invasion; discomfort, Angel conceded, was unavoidable. He positioned the head of his shaft, now aching from its forced concession of her body’s needs, against her center and a slight push separated the moist folds.
Cordelia tensed feeling the pressure, her hands pushing against the hunch of his shoulders. “Don’t fight it Cordelia. It’ll only prevent pleasure for one of us.”
Not wanting to see her eyes when he committed his final violation, Angel lowered his face to rest against the side of her neck as he pushed his hips forward in a slow but steady thrust. Halfway inside the tight clinch of her heat he stilled, fighting back the urge to plunge into the hot core. Control momentarily regained, he gently rotated his hips enticing her body to relax against the stretching intrusion. Another thrust and he buried his shaft inside her warm depth.
They both panted, ragged breaths dispelled against fear and need, and the devastating revelation that going back to what they once were ended with one fateful decision.
He wrapped his arms around her holding Cordelia in place as his hips flexed uncontrollably driving his shaft in and out of her core. “Please make me warm Cordy, I’m so cold.”
Angel’s sobbed plea sliced into Cordelia’s heart, stripping away her frail detachment just as his carnal knowledge had stripped away her body’s reluctance. Fighting back her own sobs, she wrapped her arms around Angel’s shoulders pressing her fingers into the back of his neck. “I know.” Cordelia whispered into his ear needing to soothe the torment twisting his beautiful face.
His embraced tightened crushing her body to his, and with the release of a surrendering sigh his hips slowed, content to move in calm, rhythmic thrusts.
Their bodies moved in a harmonious dance, time seemingly endless. Thoughts of long awaited deliverance, of assurance for another tomorrow appeased, words gave way to languid moans and contented sighs.
Bodies entwined in a peaceful tempo, flesh enflamed by its sensual pulse incited the surge of carnal hunger. Thirsty groans rasping past parched lips, the slow slide of sweat-slick skin hastened, compelled to feed the earthy cravings.
Cordelia felt the raw burn rise from her center and spread across her belly fusing modesty and passion. Her hips flexed up taking the urgent thrusts deeper and faster.
Vaginal muscles contracted around his shaft and Angel growled both wanting and dreading the approaching flood tide that would too quickly ebb. His mouth slanted over parted lips, his tongue sweeping inside to tangle with hers. Angel groaned into her mouth, pressing Cordelia deeper into the mattress as his knees spread her thighs further apart. He pushed against bended elbows; the slight shift causing the slide of his shaft to rub across her enflamed nub, and he sucked in the warm breath of her mewls.
Cordelia opened herself to his driving propulsion, knees bending and legs lifting of their own volition. A scream choked within the constriction of her parched throat as inner muscles spasmed, clinching tight to hold inside the hard length penetrating her.
Arms and legs wrapped tight holding their bodies close, their hips flexed and bucked joining in a fiery union. Cordelia’s body convulsed from the inside out, the rapid gush of heat forcing its way up the dry path of her throat as it sought release. Angel followed the rush of heat pushing further into the flames that could burn him into oblivion; one last frenzied plunge and he erupted, the cool release coating the scalding walls of her womb.
Their bodies collapsed, limbs fought against exhaustion refusing to release their hold. Cordelia gasped for breath, trapped beneath the body still crushing her into the sweat soaked mattress. Cold awareness seeping into the fantasy of everlasting warmth, Angel struggled to lift his limp weight only managing to roll halfway off her trembling form.
“Cordelia.” Hearing Angel’s intimate murmur of her name her eyes lowered unable to meet his needful gaze.
Angel had challenged Cordelia’s body respond to his and he had won, but in the dark aftermath, the heart and soul would pay the price for that hollow victory.
“Stay with me until sunrise.” Angel whispered as he moved off her rolling onto his side.
Cordelia wasn’t sure if the request was one of hope offering her a choice, but as Angel wrapped her in his arms, she realized the answer didn’t matter and snuggled into his embrace.
“We can pretend we made love.” A gentle tug rolled Cordelia onto her side and Angel eased her closer to rest against his chest. “We can pretend you still love me.”
The turmoil of the last hour, the raw emotions clawing their way to the surface was too much; and Cordelia gave into the heartbreaking sobs she no longer had the strength to contain. Sliding an arm underneath the stronger one holding her, she allowed herself to cry.
Tightening his embrace and draping a heavy leg to completely envelope her, Angel buried his face in the crook of her neck and joined Cordelia in his own release of retching sobs. Their bodies heaved, rocking back and forth; heart and soul forever entwined, they mourned.
Cordelia drifted up from her hazy sleep; safe and contented until the cold knock of reality intruded. Her sleep-heavy lids fluttered open meeting deep brown eyes narrowed in pain and regret. The anger was gone but the chilling hold of darkness remained untouched. She shifted her gaze toward the densely covered window seeking evidence of the promised sunrise.
Sensing her anticipation, Angel reluctantly unlaced Cordelia from his embrace. “I asked you to stay with me until sunrise…and you did.” Cordelia simply nodded knowing words couldn’t change this moment and eased up from the bed clutching the smooth, red silk to her naked form. Not sure when her body had been covered but no less grateful for its veiling, she wrapped the sheet around her as she attempted to gather her scattered clothing.
Feeling the burn of his gaze, Cordelia risked a glance over a hunched shoulder meeting piercing eyes that quickly diverted to the ceiling. Spying the last piece, the ripped scrap of lace she had foolishly considered underwear, she snatched it up and hurried into the bathroom.
The door quietly closed and Angel’s heart flinched against the muted slide of the latch knowing no ordinary bolt could lock him out, but the symbolic gesture offered Cordelia a familiar comfort.
Only minutes passed before the door eased open and Cordelia returned to find Angel still in the bed, still naked. Ignoring her confusion, Angel eyed her intently, committing the view to memory. The woman wrapped in red silk, the one he had ravished in the throes of unrestrained passion was gone. This was Cordelia Chase, her body battered and bruised from the night’s events, but her resolve and determination had undeniably survived.
Cordelia slowly walked around the bed, edging closer to the now unblocked door that would allow her to leave. She froze mid step spying the ring, the catalyst that lead them to this juncture. What could The Powers had been thinking, they must have known, she wondered briefly before redirecting her thoughts to the task that had brought her here.
Angel watched as Cordelia pinched the metal between her fingers, his heart caught in another crushing clinch as she slipped it into her pocket. He had foolishly believed the band of Blacknil would guide him to the end of his quest…and it had, it had aided him in destroying the only light his lonely existence would ever know, sealed him inside a darkness that would never end.
Unable to watch her leave Angel turned away, his limbs drawing up against his shivering body as his head bowed in defeat. He waited for the sound of movement that would take her from him, his soul in agony wanting to look at her face again, hold her one last time.
“Cordelia,” he managed to choke out. “You don’t have to be afraid, I’ll leave at dusk…you won’t ever have to see me again.”
Cordelia nodded at the back of his head, her eyes glued to the quivering mass crumpled and curled on the bed. She took a tentative step toward him, her hand reaching out for a mere second before pulling back to her side. Her head dropped in acceptance and she turned for the door. They had helped each other survive the night, but in the light of day, their wounds were too deep; remain any longer and they would bleed to death.
Exhausted legs tackled the stairs; sweat slick hands trembled, grappling to hold onto the railing. The air, thick and suffocating, suddenly dispelled in an agonizing wail; and faltering under her weight, Cordelia stumbled forward grabbing at the slippery handrail to brace against the impending fall. She shuffled down the remaining steps, crawling toward the door, desperate to escape the pleas of Angel’s tormenting sobs.
She was almost there, only a little further and she would know if a future was possible when the past refused to let her go. Cordelia battled with the lock and then the handle swinging the door open.
Fear of the answer would always prevent her from questioning The Powers, but stepping outside the hotel, most likely for the last time, Cordelia couldn’t help but wonder…
The light at the end of the tunnel may exist, but if their journeys remained separate would either have any hope of ever finding it?