Title: In the Gloaming
Category: Angst – OMG there’s so much angst it’s disgusting
Summary: After Angel and Cordy realize their love for each other, it’s up to one of them to be mature. Sequel to Shimmer.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss “The Ass” Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Justfic, AO Archive, Oasian EFiction, and anywhere else but please let me know
Notes: This is for Califi who has begged for a sequel to “Shimmer…” Be careful what you wish for, because I’m pretty sure this is not what she had in mind. But this is what came to me as I trudged through the mud to my car after work today with the smell of fresh bread teasing me, so I’m guessing this is what my muse wants.
Feedback: If you don’t give it to me, I’ll die.
I don’t know why I’m here.
Or even how I got here. I was home watching something on television. That’s strange; I don’t even remember what it was. A movie, I think, about a man and a woman. She was sad and he was just staring at her. She was telling him they couldn’t be together or maybe he was – whatever. Oh, I remember. It was that horrible movie with Harrison Ford about the plane crash and his wife dying and he found out she’d been cheating on him and – man was that a long boring movie. No wonder I zoned out.
Anyway, I was there barely paying attention to the television because my mind was where it had been all week. Ever since…you know.
The day that my whole life changed.
Come to think of it, I was here that day because of a movie, too. I really have to stop watching movies. They’re evil or Hollywood’s evil. Oh, God, I’m becoming a Republican.
Why can’t I focus? Everything just seems to be moving around me in a blur and my mind keeps racing along with it but I’m standing still. I’ve been standing still for a week. I haven’t been here for seven days.
The world was created in seven days. Seven come eleven. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Seven. Man, that was a creepy movie. Back to movies again. Damn! Evil, evil, evil.
Where was I? Seven days since I’ve been here, right. Well, not here specifically, but upstairs in that room with Angel. Not *that* room where Angel probably is right now. In bed. Asleep. Alone. Without me.
God! Get a frickin’ grip. Not in *that* room but the room that changed my life. Remember? The room that crashed on top of me and then I crashed and burned kinda like that stupid plane in that horrid, boring, movie that would never end just like this thought which keeps going round in circles and keeps coming back to…nothing.
Jesus, why am I here?
To find the answer! That’s why I’m here. Angel must have the answer by now. It’s been seven days and he must have the answer by now.
Seven full days and nights. I know because for the life of me I can’t remember sleeping during any of them. Ever since that day when the air was so thick with sweat and blood that even I could taste it on the back of my throat, there’s been this question stuck there without an answer. I’ve tried hacking it up, but the only thing that came out was dusty phlegm.
So that’s why I’m here. To put an end to the phlegm and the hacking and the not sleeping and the constant buzzing in my head and the blurring of my vision. Speaking of vision-s…haven’t had one all week. Maybe I should have buildings fall on me and get my breast almost amputated more often.
Of course, then I’d have to have Angel do his saliva mojo again to save my life. And maybe this time I’d be awake for it.
If only I’d known it would be the one time, the only time…if only I’d known then how I felt about him… Oh, God, I would have fought like hell to stay conscious. To feel it. To savor every second of his mouth on my flesh, his skin against mine, his full palm on my full breast.
How would it have felt? Would it have been like falling into a cool brook, every nerve suddenly pricked with pins? Would I have shivered and gasped and clung to his arms to keep my head above the icy waves? Or is that moist cavern just as warm as Angel the man? Would his tongue have burned on contact and left me melting, my being disintegrating into a lather of blood, bone and grime?
So many of those in my life. If only Angel wasn’t a vampire, if only there wasn’t a curse, if only I’d never seen him at that party, if only I didn’t have the visions that keep me here, if only he didn’t love me.
And there’s the real problem. He loves me and it doesn’t matter how much I do or don’t love him. The mere fact that he knows how he feels about me puts us all in terrible danger. Not just me, and trust me, I care a big goddamn about how much danger I’m in. But every person in LA, the greater metropolitan area and most of Tijuana should be very worried or very drunk right now.
I can’t think about how I can never know what it’s like to kiss him. I can’t feel sorry for myself because the one person in the world I want to caress and show how much I love is the one person I shouldn’t even talk to. I can’t worry about the rest of my life alone because I’ll never be able to love anyone but this man. I’m not allowed those luxuries because he loves me, and I have to think about not destroying goddamn Encino. Would anyone really miss it?
Shit, when did I become a martyr? I know I didn’t sign up for it. Was there some really fine print on that organ donor form because I’ll tear that sucker up and selfishly keep all my tasty organs when I go if that’s the case. Screw Aunt Polly and her need for a new liver; she should’ve cut back on the Hot Toddies. I want my life! Mine! The one I deserve just because I’m nobody special.
Did I just channel Buffy? That’s the real curse, isn’t it? Fall in love with Angel and become a whiny, sniveling, wannabe normal girl. Weird. God, I’d laugh if I weren’t so tired.
I need to sit down. How long have I been standing in this one spot and why am I here again?
Jesus F. Christ, for the answer, Cordy, remember?
And Angel will have an answer. He’s very smart and so am I, but maybe he’s just that little bit smarter; maybe he has just that miniscule percentage of brain cells more than me that will chug and spark and align to form the answer.
The answer to the question: what are we going to do now?
And like an answer from God, there he is. I lift my eyes from that patch of floor that has a design that looks like West Virginia – and I don’t even want to know how I know that – because I know he’s there. Or maybe I heard the floorboard creak. Either way, it’s spooky.
He’s standing above me looking over the railing right at the spot where he said they hung him in 19 aught before I gave a crap. Why does the word apropos come to mind? I never say apropos. I didn’t even know I knew the word.
And why am I thinking of words when he’s staring at me like that? Like he’s never seen me before or maybe like he’ll never see me again. He looks as desperate as I feel and that’s not good. We can’t both be desperate here. I know I’m desperate and he can’t be. It’s not fair.
Get out of my head, Buffy!
Oh, God, now he’s moving. I couldn’t be lucky enough that he’d just go back to his room and forget I ever existed. Of course not, because – hey – I’m unforgettable, right? Lucky me, lucky you, lucky us.
And the luck just keeps on coming as his foot steps down one stair, then two, and he’s suddenly graceful Angel making it all the way to the landing instead of can’t-walk-without-tripping-over-himself Angel because I just can’t catch a break. WE can’t catch a break. You’re in this mess with me. All of you.
Damn, he’s fine. His hair is tousled but flat on the right side because he was sleeping on that side. He would have had his arms around me, spooning me in the cradle of that chest that goes on for days because I sleep on my right side, too. And why couldn’t he have taken a second to put on a shirt? Did I mention the complete non-catching of breaks tonight?
The pants he must have slipped on hurriedly because, as Wesley so kindly informed me Angel sleeps in the nude, are barely clinging to his hips. My eyes can’t seem to move from that temptingly low V shape formed by those strong obliques. Then I notice the muscles of his thighs ripple beneath the drape of his sheer pants as he steps down the last few steps to the lobby floor. And just as he makes it to the level I’m on, I’m drawn to the slap of his bare feet on the cold granite.
Oh, my God, his feet are huge and they’re becoming bigger the closer he gets. Why lord? Lord? Anyone home? Yeah, like that’s a big surprise. One of these days…pow…right in the kisser. Trust me, you don’t want me in heaven any time soon.
And then he’s there. While I was threatening the Lord God Almighty, an Angel appeared before me. Mysterious ways and all, I guess.
I’m just about to say something because that’s what I do when Angel’s hand moves, and I suddenly freeze. He can’t touch me because I know if he touches me I’m lost – we’re lost – because I know him and in this case he’s the weak one. Let’s face it, if he couldn’t resist the skank that was Darla, how is he going to keep away from this? No, Angel is all man when it comes to his libido and I’m all woman when it comes to Angel.
There can be no touching.
I guess I got that message through loud and clear because his hand stops coming toward me and moves to the right, gesturing toward the couch. So we’re sitting now? Okay. I can sit. No harm in sitting, and I really wanted to sit earlier because I’m so tired I’m about to implode with the weight of it.
He sits on the couch and looks at me like I’m supposed to actually join him there. Like right next to him where I could smell that unscented soap he used in the shower before he went to bed, and the rain fresh fabric softener he used on the sheets that he slipped his naked body between, and the musty dust particles that settled on him while he slept from the air in this decrepit hotel. And if I can smell all that, I know I can’t put temptation so close to him.
From the corner of my eye, I see his head dip sadly as I move to the chair across from him, the wide expanse of coffee table wood separating us. It’s dark and it’s cold and it’s not enough distance. There will never be enough space between us.
I lower my body into the cushion and let out a breath, and the sound is one of sheer and utter relief. It dawns on me that I must have been holding that breath for a week because all doubts leave with that thin wisp of nothing.
I realize now, looking at my hands as they twist and gnarl around each other trying to end this endless trembling, that the answer was in me all along held captive by hope. Hope that it would all work out. Hope that a miracle would happen and Angel’s curse would be no more or he would Shanshu. Hope that the visions would stop so I could leave without the guilt of thousands of innocents on my soul.
My hands still and they lie lifeless now in my lap as the last of all hope flees: the hope that Angel and I can love – anyone. I know the answer and my freezing and quiet hands express exactly how numb it makes me feel.
Without hope, there is no love and without love, no hope. Someone famous must have said that because I’m not that bright.
That thought makes me smile just a little and I glance up and see my lost hope flicker in Angel’s eyes. I watch as he searches my face. What he’s looking for I’m not sure; but if it were me looking at him like that, I would want to see love and acceptance. I would want to see a future somewhere down the road. I would want everything from him.
So I give him none of those things. I steel my spine and set my jaw. I don’t blink, and I have no idea how I do that because my eyes are burning from the tears that pressure to gush from them. I feel my heart racing so I take my time, breathe deeply three, four, now eight times and wrestle the rate to a gallop. My throat is scratchy from crying and screaming and just not talking for a week so I swallow several times and as quietly as possible clear it.
The sudden noise disturbs him and he blinks, and I thank God that he isn’t fondling me with those eyes anymore. He licks his lips, and I know he is about to say something, but I can’t let him. No eyes, no hands, no mouth. I can take nothing from him or I won’t make it. I have to be barren.
So I stop him from filling me with everything he has to give with my words. The only words I will say and the only words that he has to hear.
“I’m not in love with you.”
Now we’re both barren and the world is safe. You are safe.
We, on the other hand, are dead.
Wow, I never thought I’d be the broody one. I almost laugh out loud at the irony but catch myself. That’s good, I need the practice. I’m going to have to catch myself a lot from now on.
But I can see the broody thing happening so clearly. As I sit and watch the desolate look in Angel’s eyes, the way his entire body sinks into itself and hear the slight whimper that escapes his lips as his chest caves, I see my future.
I see choked back tears, silent wishes, and pulled back touches. I see longing glances and held breaths each time he leaves to fight – each time he leaves. I see him taking comfort in the arms of someone else because he needs it, and it can’t hurt anyone except me. I see me stoic and smiling but in pain. God, there’s so much pain that the visions seem like slight muscle twinges.
I see me becoming Angel, and I can’t let that happen.
I can’t become Angel because Angel needs me to be Cordy. He needs to know that tomorrow I will be in the office smiling, we’ll have coffee together, and we’ll talk just as we always have. He needs the jokes and the laughter and the teasing we’ve always shared because without it, he’ll never learn that’s what humans do.
We go on.
It’s my job you see – to teach him what humans do. How we survive and why. The why’s the tricky part because it’s because of hope and love that we do and those are the two things I just took from him that I now have to give back. At least a little piece of them.
God, I want to run as far away as possible so I can scream my lungs out. My rubber legs somehow support me as I stand and walk to the side of the couch on my way out. Just as I pass him, I stop and let the back of my hand brush the side of his face.
I know, I know – no touching. But this is the hope and love I have to give him. This is my promise that he needs, and I know he gets it because he leans into my touch and for a second I let him. I let him say thank you and I love you with that simple gesture, and I know when I caress him in return that he feels that from me.
The moment is so brief and I want to stay there forever just like this, but that whole going on thing tells me it’s time. I take my hand away but leave a promise on his skin. The skin that I can never touch again but will remember the feel of for eternity.
I hope that’s enough.
In the gloaming, oh my darling
Think not bitterly of me
Though I passed away in silence
Left you lonely, set you free
For my heart was tossed with longing
What had been could never be
It was best to leave you thus, dear,
Best for you, and best for me
In the Gloaming
by A. F. Harrison & M. Orred