Title: A Second Chance
Posted here: 08/05
Category: Angst. Crossover with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Somewhat AU.
Content: A/C, with hints of C/X and BA.
Summary: Angel goes to desperate lengths to get Cordy back.
Spoilers: General Angel spoilers up to “Sleep Tight”. General Buffy the Vampire Slayer spoilers up to season 3.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Notes: While this is a time travel story, it is not part of the “Time Trip” series…
Sometime before “Birthday”.
There was so much blood.
It spread across the cement, an ever-widening pool made black by the darkness of the alley.
The sticky warmth of it soaked through his clothes. Coated his hands crimson.
For the first time in his un-life, the vampire hated the blood.
“Cordy,” Angel whispered, cradling her limp body closer to his own. His right hand was pressed against the gaping wound in her chest.a futile attempt to stop the blood. He could feel her heart still beating. Could feel her struggle to take another breath. And another. “Hang on, Cordy,” he pleaded.
Her eyes fluttered open, distant and unfocused as they tried to find his face in the darkness. “Angel,” she gasped, voice faint, hoarse. “Hurts. H-hurts.”
Angel’s eyes flooded with tears. A fist ceased his quiet heart. Begged him to take her pain and make it his own.
From far away, he could her Fred weeping softly.
Wesley yelled into the cell phone. Frantic as he demanded an ambulance be sent immediately.
Gunn said every foul, profane word he knew, over and over again, an unceasing litany. Vaguely, Angel wondered who he was cursing. The demons that did this, and were now just dismembered parts scattered across the alley floor? The Powers that let it happen?
Cordy’s breathing faltered. As if, for an instant, her body forgot how.
“Cordy,” he pleaded. He pressed his hand harder to the wound. He had to stop the blood. “Please.”
“Angel,” she interrupted. Slowly, with great effort, she lifted her arm. Pressed her blood-wet fingers to his cheek. “Angel. Tell.tell Connor about m-me. ‘Kay?” Her eyes begged.
Angel’s panic sharpened to a razor’s edge. A knot lodged in his throat and, for a moment, he couldn’t speak.
“You can’t.” he choked, voice trembling with desperation. “You won’t leave me. Cordy, please.” His voice broke, and he had to pause to swallow. “I love you.”
For a moment, the haze lifted from her gaze. Her beautiful, hazel eyes focused on his tortured face.
Angel held her closer, until their faces were only inches apart. He let the full the depth of his love, the beauty and terror of it, shine from his eyes. “I love you, Cordy.”
And despite her pain, Cordy smiled. A small, serene smile, filled with joy and wonder.
“I l-love you, too,” she said.
And Angel’s heart broke. He’d loved her for so long. Longer than he even realized. Then, when he finally admitted the truth to himself, he was too afraid to act. Afraid his love would scare her away. That he’d lose her.
All that time, wasted.
No! his mind cried. What the hell are you thinking? It’s not too late! There’s still plenty of time. Plenty.
Suddenly, Cordy gasped. Her eyes widened. As if she’d just seen something startling. Terrifying. Or wonderful.
Blood gushed from her wound, coated Angel’s hand with more thick red.
“Cordy?” Angel demanded, shaking her a little in his desperation. “Cordy!”
He tried looking into her eyes. To hold her to him that way.
But she was beyond seeing him anymore.
Cordelia’s eyes fluttered shut. Her hand slid from his cheek, left blood tracks behind. As her head sagged against his arm, the air left her lungs in one long, last exhalation.
And, beneath his fingertips, her heart stilled.
For one moment, Angel’s mind refused to absorb what it meant. Then, the pain of the truth sliced through him.
“No!” he groaned. He crushed his face to her neck. And the tears came.
In the background, Fred’s weeping became hysterical.
“Dear Lord,” Wesley whispered, voice thick with emotion.
Gunn sobbed through his curses.
For a moment, except for the sounds of their tears, all was still in the alley.
Then, Angel threw his head back.
In it was the growl of the beast. Fierce and angry. Murderous. Enraged.
In it was a scream of human torment. Lost and hollow. Soul shredding. Heart ripping itself apart.
The vampire’s cry of grief was heard as far as 10 miles away. And even some too far away to hear it felt it.
At that moment, everyone and everything-man, woman, child, demon, animal-froze. And, in every one of them, something deep and primal shivered.
Sometime after “Sleep Tight” in the original timeline.
Angel heard Gunn enter his suite, but didn’t bother to look back. He was too busy trying to find an empty space on his bedroom wall.
True, it looked like sketches covered every inch, from floor to ceiling. But Angel knew there was an empty space there somewhere. There was always an empty space.
He listened as Gunn paused in the doorway. No doubt taking in the scene.
The vampire allowed himself a humorless smile. He remembered walking into Fred’s room that first time. Seeing the tight, multi-colored scribbles all over her walls. He’d felt the way Gunn probably felt right now.
Behind him, Gunn sighed. “Wes just called, man,” he said.
Ah, there it is, Angel thought. Golden tacks (the kind Cordy had preferred) in hand, he started to affix the sketch to the wall.
“Fred tried to keep him on the line, so you could talk to him maybe. But he was real quick hanging up. Probably thinkin’ we’d try to trace the call.”
“Probably,” Angel absently agreed. He stepped back, eyed his handiwork. Was it straight? It had to be straight.
“He said Connor’s okay. And he’d be sending stuff about once a month. You know? Pictures. Letters.” Gunn paused before adding. “And he hopes you understand.”
“I do,” Angel said. The prophecy. The father will devour the son. Wesley thinking Connor needed to be protected.
Before.Well, before, he wouldn’t have believed he could hurt Connor, no matter what some damned prophesy said.
Oh, he missed son. The missing had lodged, like a black ache, deep in his soul. A perfect twin to the other ache that ate away another piece every day. And, if he ever saw Wesley again, he’d snap him in half.
But he also knew he hadn’t been much of a father to his son since.
And, no matter how much he hated the former Watcher right now, he knew Wesley would do everything in his power to make sure Connor was safe. And happy.
After a long silence, Gunn sighed again. “Just thought you should know,” he said before he left the suite.
Angel glanced at the empty doorway. They were worried about him. Fred and Gunn. Even Lorne probably couldn’t read his murky aura. They all wondered, was this some extreme form of grief? Something he’d eventually snap out of? Or was he losing his mind?
And he could have told them. His mind started to unravel that night in the alley. And he knew it wasn’t going to stop.
It was strange how calm he was, Angel knew. This wasn’t the first time his mental health had gone on vacation (as Cordy would say). In the past, he would fight against it. Or deny it. But, this time, he just.accepted it.
But even he hadn’t known how far gone he was until last week. While on patrol, he followed a youngish vampire, the scent of a kill still fresh on it, into a warehouse.
It seemed like only moments had past. It wasn’t until Angel left the warehouse that he realized he’d been inside for over an hour. He had to concentrate to remember how he spent the time.
Torturing the fledgling. Asking it questions it couldn’t answer. (“Why did they take her from me?” “Are they that determined to make sure I’m never happy again?” “Why not me? Why her?”)
He finally dusted the young vampire out of its misery.
Angel still found it hard to remember that hour. Which was why he was almost grateful Wesley took Connor away.
Angel stared at the latest sketch. In this one, Cordy was dressed the way the women in his time dressed. Long, flowing dress. Hair swept up. Smiling coyly from behind a fan.
Next to it was a sketch of the first time he met her. In Sunnydale. Before he realized how important she would become to him.
The next was pure imagination. Cordy, lying naked in his bed, the blankets draped across her body. Her face lost in the throes of passion.
Hundreds of sketches. Floor to ceiling. All of her.
The pain of her loss struck him like a fresh blow. And he realized for the thousandth time-almost as bad as the first-that she was gone. He’d never see her smile again. Hear her voice.
Angel stumbled backwards, sat heavily on the edge of the bed. Closed his eyes and let the pain of it crash over him. Strip him to the bone.
These were the moments when wanted to end it. Plunge a stake into his own heart. Walk out into the morning sun.
But he wouldn’t. Because, if there was any justice in the universe, his Cordy was in heaven. A paradise that wouldn’t take a soul as soiled as his.
He couldn’t even be with her in death.
The demon bar was far removed from Caritas. The wood floor was scarred, the ceiling fans covered with dust. The mirror behind the bar was covered with cracks, one of which looked a great deal like a bullet hole.
Angel sat in a booth, a watered down beer untouched on the table in front of him. Scoggs was late. Again.
Angel closed his eyes, rubbed his aching forehead. Frustration sat like a weight between his eyes. He was tired of patience.
As his eyes drifted open, they fell on the two human women who’d been watching him for the past half hour. Women who came to places like this for the dangerous thrill of it all. Whose smiles were brittle, cynical invitations.
They stared, whispered. Wondered if they should approach him.
But it seemed he was too dangerous a thrill even for them.
“Hey, Angel, man,” a jovial voice said from behind him.
Angel turned to glare at the owner of that voice. “You’re late, Scoggs.”
“Traffic.” The v’kor demon shrugged.
Impatient, Angel stood. “Do you have it?”
“Hey, not here,” Scoggs whispered. The creature’s suspicious, orange eyes darted around the bar. “Outside.”
Sighing, Angel followed the v’kor to the exit. At times like this, he missed Merl.
Scoggs lead Angel out to the alley.
Of course, the vampire thought. If my life isn’t ending in an alley, it’s beginning in one.
Angel reached into his duster’s inner pocket. Pulled out a manila envelope thick with hundred dollar bills. “Here’s the money.”
“Good,” Scoggs said. He held out one scaly, four-fingered hand. “Consider it a down payment.”
Angel froze, every inch of him as still as stone. His eyes grew as cold as black ice. As empty as a well. “What?” he said, that one word devoid of any emotion.
Scoggs took one quick, nervous step back. But the little demon was determined.
“See, here’s how it is. I recently found out how rare and valuable the item you wanted me to.acquire really is. And the way you were jonesing to get your hands on it.” Scoggs’s smile was sly. “Well, it occurred to me. Someone who wants something as much as you want this shouldn’t mind payin’ an extra.5 thou?”
Still. Eyes cold and empty. “Where is it?”
“Like I’d bring it with me!” Scoggs scoffed. “It’s somewhere safe. And you’ll get it, as soon as you come up with the extra cash.”
For one long moment, Angel studied the demon. His eyes traveled from the top of Scoggs’s head, to his worn shoes, and back again.
Scoggs started to fidget. For a second, he almost backed down. But he reminded himself he had the upper hand. He had what Angel wanted. Besides, everyone knew the vamp with a soul didn’t go around beating on just anybody. Only dumb asses who tried to fight him. Or threatened some weakling human.
Confidence restored, Scoggs held his ground.
“Fine,” the vamp said. And he held out the envelope.
Scoggs was a little startled. Most of the marks he tried this on argued a little before giving in. Then again, Angel was different from most of his clients.
The demon stepped forward to take the money.
In a blur of motion, Angel was right there, less than an inch away. Powerful hands grabbed the sides of the demon’s head. Twisted sharp and quick.
A sickening CRACK shattered the relative quiet of the alley.
As Scoggs’s body dropped to the ground, Angel put the envelope back in his pocket. Then, he knelt down and searched the demon’s clothes. It didn’t take long to find what he was after. The v’kor was an excellent thief, but a terrible liar.
Angel held his prize up to the light. Head tilted to one side, he studied the amulet as it swung at the end of its chain. Polished silver glowed in the moonlight. The crystal jewel in the center sparkled with red fire.
Angel nodded. “Cordy would’ve liked this,” he decided.
The house seemed so average. A house where papers were tossed on the front porch every morning, and Girl Scouts came to sell cookies. Where teen-aged boys mowed the lawn every Sunday afternoon.
But Angel’s vampire senses knew there was nothing normal about this place. The mortar between the bricks glowed with a faint, preternatural light. The tint of magic danced in the air from the mailbox at the front to the fence at the back. And a smell, mostly neutral, but with a touch of malevolence, drifted from the windows.
Angel rang the doorbell, and expected to wait. She enjoyed doing things like that when she sensed impatience. Frustration.
But the door was answered almost immediately.
“Angel!” Rita exclaimed, smile wide and welcoming. Rita seemed to fit the neighborhood perfectly. She looked like a retiree, gray and wrinkled, but still fit and active. All that was good and kind.
You had to look close to see the hint of malice in her eyes.
“What a surprise it is to see you so soon,” she continued. Then, she cocked her head. Listened to a voice only she could hear. “Only it isn’t, is it?”
Angel held up the amulet. “I have it,” he said instead.
“Of course you do,” Rita nodded. And there was a touch of greed in her smile. She took a step back. “Come in.”
Angel felt a slight tingle as he passed through the doorway.
“Would you like something?” she asked as she led him to the living room. “Coffee? Tea? Pig’s blood?”
“No,” Angel said. He just wanted to get this done.
“Very well,” Rita said. She sat down on a sofa that had a quilt tossed over the back. “Have a seat, and we’ll go over the particulars.”
“I know the particulars,” Angel interrupted, his impatience rising now that he was so close.
“Let’s go over them again,” she snapped, her eyes as hard as steel. Then, she smirked. “Unless you want to try to find the only other sorcerer on this continent who can make your little bauble work.”
With a sigh, Angel sat.
“Okay, then. As you know, I expect payment before I render my services.”
Angel tossed the second envelope he’d brought with him tonight, this one white, on the coffee table.
“Good. Now, there’s only about a fifty percent chance of this working at all. This is some tricky magic you’re dealing. Which is why smart magic wielders steer clear.” She shrugged. “Usually.’
“It’ll work,” Angel said. It had to. That hope was the only thing holding him together. If he failed, he’d be even more lost than he was now. And he didn’t know what he would do.
“And this isn’t an exact science,” Rita continued. “Not with the farjahn. I know you’re only hoping to go back a few months. But you could end up as much as 25 years before you wanted.”
“I’ll wait,” Angel said.
Rita cocked a brow at the certainty in his voice. “Lucky girl.” She said with a nod. “Last, but not least, I’m not perfect. The tiniest mistake, and you could end up stuck between times. Neither here nor there, but somewhere in between. For the rest of your very long life. Which will seem like a second and forever all at the same time. Your being so scattered, you won’t be you anymore. Just random feelings and memories and thoughts.” The suburban sorceress shivered. “Not a nice place to be.”
Angel tried to decide if the prospect of being stuck in unending limbo bothered him. Where he wasn’t him anymore. Every thought so disconnected from the rest, it didn’t make sense or have meaning.
He knew it should bother him. Fill him with uncertainty. But he felt no fear. No doubt. Just pain. An ache that burned and throbbed.and never stopped.
“I can’t live in a world without her in it,” he finally said. It was as simple as that.
And Rita’s eyes softened. The malice dimmed. For an instant. “Then let’s begin.”
The basement was proof that this was the home of a sorcerer.
The black walls drank in every drop of light, turned them into shadows. Bones countless creatures, from this dimension and others, hung from the ceiling.
Angel stood in the center of a red pentagram. He could smell the blood in the paint.
Rita was holding the farjahn over a cauldron that burned with lavender fire. Chanting in a language he couldn’t hope to understand.
Jaw clenched tight, Angel waited. Just as he’d been waiting since that night.
Finally, Rita approached him.
“This will go back with you.” She handed the amulet to him. “You don’t have to have it with you at all times. But keep it in a safe place. If, somehow, the crystal is damaged, the mind you’ve displaced-the you that belongs in whenever you end up-will reassert itself. The now you”-she grinned-“will be cast out. And have to go through all the stuck-between-times nastiness.”
“Got it,” Angel said. He wrapped the chain around his left hand, until the pendent was tucked into his fist.
“Then let’s get started.” She took the hand that held the pendent. And her eyes began to glow. “Through the gate. Across the spans of time. Find the one you seek. Through the void. Across the bridge between forevers. Find the one you seek.“
Bursts of electric blue exploded from his left hand.
Rita dropped his hand. Took a quick step back.
The energy engulfed his fist. Shot up his arm. Crawled around his body. Skimmed his flesh like a neon snake. An endless spiral of living energy.
Angel cried out. It was like a million electric shocks, striking his skin all at once. He could see the smoke rising from his clothes. Could hear his borrowed blood sizzle.
Lungs that didn’t need air tried to breathe. A still heart tried to beat.
The buzz of electric current filled the basement.
“Through the mists!” Rita called over the noise. “Across the path of your yesterdays. Find the one you seek.“
Angel collapsed onto the cement floor, in the center of the pentagram.
Rita barely had time to notice that the amulet was gone from his hand.
.Before the vampire turned to dust.
As silence descended over the basement, she stared sorrowfully at the remains of the first client she’d liked in far too long.
“Good luck,” she said.
Angel crashed to the ground.
“Angel!” a young, feminine voice cried. “Oh, my God! Are you okay?”
Gasping for air he didn’t need, Angel pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. The pain was gone. But the memory was still there, still sharp. Of the energy, clawing at his eyes. Trying to dig into his bones.
“Angel?” A pair of hands came to rest on his shoulders.
The amulet clutched in his left hand, Angel forced his head up. And stared into a pair of green eyes.
“Buffy?” he asked, confused.
“Are you okay?” the Slayer repeated. “Because, one minute, you were walking. And, the next, you just, sort of.collapsed.” She frowned. “Do vampires faint?”
Still disoriented, Angel gave his head a hard shake.
Where was he?
Before he could begin to answer his own question, he heard a scream.
His head whipped towards the sound. “Cordy?” he whispered. And the ache that pounded through him was more powerful than any heartbeat.
In an instant, he was up and running. Barely aware that Buffy was right behind him.
In what felt like forever, but was only a few seconds, he burst through the stand of trees, and into a clearing.
In time to see a vampire, fangs bared, grabbing Cordelia.