Rating: PG-13 for language
Content: C/A/W Friendship
Summary: Ignited’s Theme: Cordy has a fear of water. .” I’ve set this early season three, prior to demon Cordy. The golden days.
Disclaimer: I own squat. Hell, JW probably owns my squat, too.
Distribution: JF, AO, GT and all places universally as long as you let me know.
Notes: Ignited’s Halloween Treat .Trick or Treat, Ignited. I hope it chills ya to the bone (treat) or makes you puke (trick). Either way sounds pretty Halloweeny.
Thanks/Dedication: Special thanks to Helen for the plot help and encouragement and Califi for the help with British slang. You girls are faboolicious.
Feedback: Need it like air.
The vapor coiled in wispy waves in her wake as the earth pounded beneath her feet and in her ears like a sledgehammer. Damp leaves and broken twigs scraped her face. Formerly flawless nails clawed at the massive, black timber grasping for any strength to stand. To move. She had to move. Now.
Moonlight ebbed here and there bravely lighting a path in the pitch for her stumbling feet to navigate. Don’t look back. Run. Breathe. Never look back. Rough bark tore at her shoulder. Scraggly branches reached through the hazy night and ripped strands of dark silk from her scalp. There was no time to scream.
Pushing her palms into her aching thighs, she forced them to keep working past their limit. Every wet gulp was fire scorching her lungs. It was so fucking cold her bowels trembled adding to her unsteadiness. She could see her breath hanging in the air like the steam from an old locomotive.
Locking on the image, she pictured her legs as iron wheels, pumping, pumping, pumping. The sweat dripping down her face was the result of shoveling coal not panic. Her ears were full of the rhythmic pounding of wheels on measured track not the wild thubbing of her bursting heart.
A feral snarl broke her concentration. Don’t look. Not close. Can’t be close. She desperately wanted to look behind her. To measure the time she had left to live. To be prepared for death. But she wanted to live more.
A burst of adrenalin speared through her chest. Her arms flailed in the air, swimming on the mist. Perspiration stung her eyes. No time to wipe. She shook her head to fling off the tingling drops. She blinked. And blinked again.
Her vision cleared a second before she ran into the void. Teetering on the edge of the precipice, her mind quickly assessed her fate. With no escape she suddenly calmed. Death waited before her and death chased from behind. Certainty brought a peaceful warmth that spread through her body as the talons dug into her back and carried her over the edge.
Cordy jolted awake. A trembling hand covered her racing heart and her parted lips dried from the excessive panting.
“Huh? What?” Looking around frantically for the source of the voice, she stood on quivering muscles and clamped onto the desk edge to keep upright.
“Cordelia? Are you all right?” Wesley hurried his steps toward her sensing her distress.
Finally recognizing the voice, her eyes focused on the concerned face of her boss and friend. “Wesley. Sheesh, you scared me. Don’t tell me I’m going to have to get a bell for you, too.”
“I apologize if I startled you, but perhaps if you rested in your home rather than at your desk, you’d be more alert, and warning devices of any kind would not be necessary.” His rebuke was couched in a bit of humor but mostly not.
“If I worked at a place that didn’t keep me up all night chasing hobbit-sized demon tribbles in stinky sewers, perhaps I’d be able to.” Luckily the desk chair was beneath her when her knees finally buckled. Sitting heavily, she rubbed her eyes and let out a relieved breath.
“Point taken, although I doubt a F’har Stinbrahl demon would appreciate being compared to a warm and cuddly Star Trek nemesis, even if they were perhaps the most wonderful creatures. I often wonder if such an animal truly exists in the universe. Imagine what fun it would be to…”
“Wesley, can you tone down the nerd and amp up the testosterone? I’m really not in the mood for Watcher Fest ’98.” Rising slowly, she headed for the fridge and a bottled water. “Man, I hate those dreams.” She popped the twist top and slugged back a cool stream. Her nose scrunched at the unexpected odd taste.
“Oh? What dreams? Are you having recurring nightmares? You shouldn’t ignore them if you are. Dreams are a very important message…”
“Don’t get excited, Freud Jr. Not that kind of dream and not recurring. Just your typical chase dream. Big bad wolf snapping at your heels, dark forest, cliff edge. Chomp, fall…kerplunk. Guess I’m anxious about something. Maybe all this friggin’ rain is getting to me.” The gloom and patter of fat raindrops drew her to the garden doors, her hands chasing the goose bumps up and down her arms.
“Yes, well, we have had enough rain to depress even the hardiest of ducks.” Pulling out his handkerchief, he absentmindedly cleaned his spectacles.
“I’m past depressed and rolling downhill toward suicidal. I think I’m just going to head home and crawl under the covers ’til…June.” Kitten heels squeaked on cold waxed floors as she turned to grab her purse and umbrella.
Wesley pointedly put on his glasses and pushed the bridge snugly in place. A slight whine laced his voice as he followed her saying, “Why, yes, Cordelia, you may have the afternoon off since you asked so nicely.”
“Oh, you know I respect your bossissity and all. But, I mean, get a clue! Sleeping at my desk is the first sign of employee dissatisfaction. You need to boost morale around here. Maybe you should hand out company credit cards and coupons for free massages!”
He reeled at her sudden brilliant smile. It had been sorely missing of late, and the contrast between that and the murky day made his head spin. But as quickly as it rose, it turned down in a scream as she spasmed in the throes of a vision.
The flash of white faded to a pinpoint and spun into dark, writhing hues as something recognizable began to form. A woman’s face. Just a face and complete stillness. Another flash and panicked eyes opened wide, green and terror filled. Long red hair swirled and cascaded around her unnaturally pale face. A blinding flash faded and indigo shadows split by slivers of bent gray light enveloped her. Her image floated and distorted. Her mouth moved to speak leaking bubbles.
Flash. A suffocating weight crushed her chest, her lungs aflame. Disoriented and confused her eyes turned emerald cold searching for the surface. Can’t…breathe…must…breathe… Her lips stretched in a last gasp and her body filled with cold, wet death.
Cordy arched and stiffened in Wesley’s arms. Ragged breaths filled the office and thick nails dug into his thigh as she gradually shifted from future to present. Her eyes opened still focused on the victim. Her dense lungs exploded into furious coughs in an empathetic attempt to expel the water and make room for air.
“What? Cordelia, what is it?”
Sucking in short, shallow gulps of air mingled with great gasps, her frantic heart began to slow to a more normal pace. As she grounded herself in the reality of the Hyperion and Wesley’s touch, the terror slowly faded. Oddly, she realized, there was some growing disappointment that it wasn’t Angel’s arms holding her.
Shrugging off her silliness, she patted Wesley’s hand signaling her readiness to leave the floor. “Help me up and then dump me in a tub of aspirin.”
He made sure she was steady in her chair before he headed for the bathroom. Returning with the aspirin and a glass of water, his foot slipped on the spilled contents of Cordy’s water bottle. Righting himself quickly, he mumbled a quiet expletive before reaching her side.
Taking two aspirin out, he handed them with the glass to Cordy. “Here. Can you tell me what happened?”
Cordy popped the tablets in her mouth and eyed the water. The sensation of the liquid turning to fire in her lungs was too recent. Tilting her head back, she swallowed the medicine dry and put the water on her desk turning her attention to Wesley’s question.
“A woman. Drowning. Long red hair, green eyes. That’s all I’ve got so far. I didn’t sense any demony danger, and it felt like it wouldn’t happen for a few days.”
“Do you know where?” Wes penned the details as she spoke.
“No, nothing. Really, that’s all I saw. Sorry.” Her fingers massaged her temples and her eyes closed tightly willing the aspirin to kick in.
“That’s all right. I’m sure you’ll experience another vision with more details as the event nears.”
“Yes, and I’m not at all unhappy about that thought. I’m really going home now. Any objections, boss?”
Wesley helped her up, handed the umbrella to her and assisted her to the door. “Of course not. Go home and get some rest. Just do call should you remember any further details or if another…”
“Yeah, Wes, like I don’t know the drill. I’ll give you a call tomorrow if I’m still wiped out. Thanks,” she said as he opened the door for her. Wesley watched as her totally inappropriate shoes splashed through the sidewalk puddles and disappeared around the corner.
Clutching the lapels of her jacket together, Cordy shivered in the downpour. Dodging scurrying pedestrians intent on playing dueling bumbershoots, she set her mind on the mundane task of her grocery list. The thought of having to stop at the store before reaching the warm, dry hearth of home bugged her. Why am I always out of food when I feel like shit?
“Damn it.” She just missed the crosswalk light and stood perched on the curb like a runner poised for the gun. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon. Change light! Can’t you see I’m freezing wet here?
And, just to make sure her life didn’t get too good, a car whooshed by splashing most of the pooled corner rainwater on her body. “Hey, you creep! Damn it!” She frantically swiped at the excess moisture on her skirt mumbling feeble curses in the wind.
The corner of her eye glimpsed green specks in the small pond at her feet. Her hand stilled its brushing as she concentrated on the shimmering jewels dancing in the muddy depths. The individual drops of rain falling on her umbrella beat in rhythm with the prancing lights.
Sight and sound soothed her aching head and swayed her weakened body. In mere moments she was entranced and peaceful, her eyelids fluttering to fight sleep.
Angel bounced down the staircase. The rainy season was now his favorite time of the year in LA. It was the only time when the limits of his vampire status were almost completely revoked, and he could mingle with the human folk in their daily, human tasks.
The irony of his new attitude toward socializing didn’t escape him. Three years ago this wet day would have been like any other that he slept through, and he would’ve been glad for the solitude. But, as he stared into the garden and looked at the sunless sky, being alone while sleeping was the last thing on his mind.
His mouth widened into a lusty grin when he revised that thought to sleeping alone. Sleeping with someone on a day like this wouldn’t be bad at all. Speaking of that…
Cordelia’s scent was faint. The object of his recent obsessive thoughts wasn’t in the room. He’d hoped he could convince her to run some errands with him to the bookstore, the herbalist, and a few other unnecessary places so he could spend some normal time alone with her. Now that his big plans might not happen, his good mood suddenly soured.
He stepped down into the lobby and moved toward the office and Wesley. “Hey, Wes. Where’s Cordy?” Angel’s feet slipped out from under him, his arms windmilled and in an instant he was on his back beside Cordy’s desk. “What the hell? What is this stuff all over the floor?” He felt wetness seeping through his shirt and pants and began to squirm at the icky sensation.
“Oh, I meant to soak that up. Cordelia spilled her water during her vision. I told her to go home and get some rest.”
“Why didn’t you get me? Is she okay?” Angel was up, his hand on the phone punching buttons before Wesley could stop him.
With the last number dialed, he tugged at the wet fabric creeping up his spine.
Gentle, relaxing waves rocked her floating body, pushing her softly toward the sparkling lights. Cordy felt light, a feather buoyed by the tensile strength of salt water. Suddenly she was yanked under the surface. Cold, clammy hands clasped her ankles tugging her deeper and deeper. Her lungs ached as she expelled more and more oxygen under the water’s pressure.
Green eyes and red hair burst from behind the black depths stopping an inch from her face. A frightened scream cleaved between the woman’s pale, stretched mouth at the same moment Cordy’s terrified wail exploded from her frenzied chest.
A horn blasted and Cordy jumped back staring down the white headlights of a Riviera. Her umbrella was nowhere in sight leaving her unprotected from the deluge in the middle of the street.
Gasping in confusion, she pushed back clumps of drenched hair from her eyes as they tried to focus on metal and concrete. Rain flooded down her cheeks, pooled on her top lip and tumbled like a waterfall over her mouth. She sucked in streams of water and air, the combination choking her and prompting waves of nausea at her core.
Another blast from the impatient driver finally got her feet moving. Weak-kneed, coughing up rain, and stomach churning, she stumbled over the curb fleeing toward home, all thoughts of food washed away with her umbrella.
“Cordelia is fine. Hang up.” Angel’s overprotective behavior regarding Cordelia lately had not gone unnoticed. Wesley feared both his friends were facing important and difficult decisions in the near future, and he didn’t envy them. He pressed the button cutting off the call earning a surprised look and threatening growl from Angel.
“She’s fine. Really.” Wesley donned his soothing voice. “At least she’s as well as she usually is after a vision.” Using any excuse to escape the tensed man’s company, he went to the bathroom to gather some towels, talking over his shoulder.
“But, she’s also exhausted after last night’s confrontation, so please don’t disturb her. She’ll call if she needs anything.” He returned tossing one towel to Angel and floating the other to the floor to soak up the spill.
Not for one second did Angel believe Cordy would call if she needed anything. She never asked for help, and trying to give it to her was like attempting to give an abortion to a nun. But, he relented, finally replacing the headset hoping she was, indeed, sleeping.
“So, what was the vision? How much time do we have?” Angel asked as he began to towel off like he’d just stepped out of the shower.
“Not much information on that as yet.” Wesley kneeled to mop up the spill. “A drowning victim it seems. Female, green eyes, red hair. She felt it wouldn’t happen for several days, so now we’re on standby for more details.”
He hoped Angel would just take his word for it for once, but he knew the vampire too well. As his mouth began to open with more questions, Wesley’s frustration at being doubted yet again got the best of him. He threw down the sopping towel and stopped Angel before the words left his mouth.
“No, we don’t know where, who or even if there is any outside evil involved. For all we know at this point, she is merely a woman who forgot everything her mother ever taught her and went swimming too soon after a meal.”
Angel’s eyes squinted questioningly and his drying off motion stopped at Wesley’s clipped tone. “Ooookay. Thanks, I guess. But, I was just going to say I’m going upstairs to change. Get me if Cordy calls.” He left Wesley on the floor, deciding his strange outburst must be due to the foul weather.
Feeling the sting of embarrassment on his cheeks, Wesley picked up the sopping fabric and carried it dripping into the bathroom.
“Damn, bloody water. Next time do a better job, why don’t you, and make sure he falls squarely on his fat head.”