Title: Sky Blue and Black
Summary: What if Angel had made another choice at the end of S4?
Spoilers: Everything in Angel, except I twisted it pretty much all. Major spoilers for Origin and Not Fade Away. You have been warned.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Anywhere, just ask.
Notes: This is what comes of watching See Jane Date (again), wishing things had been different on Angel, listening to Jackson Browne and putting the three together. In this fic I abuse the right to twist things because I’m not Joss and therefore crap. There is NO Nina, whatsoever. Sorry, but nuh. There is no fur-flying or full moon-loving. Just… No. *shudders*. This was just one of those things where I just kept writing. It’s not beta-ed, so any mistakes are mine.
Thanks/Dedication: To Lisa. Just ’cause.
Feedback: Yes, please!
“I’m sorry,” He’d told her softly, gently. “I just wanted… I tried to… I made a mistake.”
“Well, you’re not totally brain-dead.” She’d said, “That’s a start.”
He’d waited for almost a full moment before speaking again, looking at the fall of her dark hair against her shoulders, the hollow of her throat, the determined look in her eyes. He’d memorised this moment as if it were his last and when Angel spoke again, he wished he could take the words back. “I don’t know what to do to make this right again.”
“Join the club,” She looked up at him, “Because I don’t either.”
That comment had brought shock. Cordelia always knew what to do, what to say to make things right. It was like a thing with them, he screwed up and she brought him back to the right path, back to the land of the living. His mouth worked open and closed for a moment, his jaw tensing. “But…”
“No buts, Angel.” She held up a hand, “You made your manpire bed, you can just go ahead and lie in it.”
It was a nightmare, Angel reminded himself again, another version of Hell, something he was at least marginally used to. The demon that he’d signed his life over to had given him the one thing he wanted, Cordelia, in the way that he wanted. With everything in between them and the ability to work through it.
It had been perfect at first.
And then, his deal wasn’t so much perfect as it was… Draining. His deal wasn’t so much heaven as it was hell, and that was when Angel realised he’d signed himself over to his own version of hell. Cordelia, in his life, with everything in between them and unable to work it out.
His friends had pulled him out. It had just been a nightmare… A hellish, very real nightmare…
“Okay, I moved your appointment with the Krellner demons back to 3.30,” Said Harmony, interrupting his thoughts, “Mr. Franklin cancelled your 4.15 appointment and I’ve managed to reschedule with the Drakeson twins, though I had to promise, like, a years supply of blood free of charge and– Are you okay, bossy?” Harmony stopped in her rambling, dropping her clipboard to her side.
She had an annoying way of reminding him of Cordelia when she did that, so Angel looked away. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine,” Said Harmony, blustering forward without a second thought to what she was actually saying, “You look like Hell, which, considering you were there less than a week ago is really, like, no surprise!”
Angel gritted his teeth. He seemed to do that a lot when Harmony was around, she just had this way of making him want to hit things. Hard. “I told you, I’m fine,” He ground out, “Was that all?”
She huffed (and even reminded him of Cordelia at her most pissed when she did that, too), “That’s all, Bossy. Can I knock off early? I’m almost 99.9% sure that that hot lawyer guy from purchasing is gonna ask me out and I need to make myself look even more beautiful.”
“Whatever,” Angel said, turning to look out the window and over the buildings at that view he was supposed to want to see. Somehow, the sunset just didn’t seem to matter without the people that mattered most here to share it with him.
“Just… Close the door on your way out?”
“Sure thing,” Said Harmony, her sigh even more deepset than Angel’s. He knew she was trying. Knew that, even at the expense of pissing some important people off, she’d rescheduled his meetings with minimal question. She knew better to ask him outright what had happened in that hell dimension and for that, Angel was marginally grateful. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Where else would I be?” He asked, darkly, watching the sun slip between the buildings. A moment later, when the door closed behind Harmony and all was silent, Angel closed his eyes.
Truth was? He didn’t want to watch the sunset.
Strong, masculine hands kneaded at her flesh, working out knots and balls of tension that had been building for weeks. Michelle felt boneless, her body limp as a noodle on one of those fold-away bed things that home-visiting masseurs carried with them everywhere.
The massage had been paid for by her colleages at the Beverly Hills Hotel, along with the assurances that Paulo (and she was sure that wasn’t his real name) was the best masseuse in town.
“So, you’re getting married in two weeks?”
That’s the point of the massage, dumbass, thought Michelle, officially broken away from her fluffy cloud state of mind with his voice. I’m supposed to forget.
It wasn’t that she was supposed to forget the marriage. It was the whole planning thing that her mother had been insisting on since Jaydn Hunter had popped the question.
You’ve got to worry about the little things, Michelle, then the big things will all just fall into place.
She was marrying a man on the verge of discovering his millions, for God’s sake, who needed to worry about the little things?
It was something Michelle had suspected of her mother all along. She liked Jaydn, made a big show of how nice a guy he was and how generous he was with ‘all that money’ (three words she never tired of saying) but… Behind his back, her mother’s demeanour was a little more sour.
Was she happy? She kept asking Michelle. Was Jaydn really the right man for her? Wasn’t he a little… Well, too into his work?
Every time the conversation came up, Michelle snarled at her mother. Jaydn did spend a lot of time at the office, had even let her do much of the planning for their wedding alone (or as alone as one annoyed girl could be with Clara Grant hanging over her at, like, EVERY opportunity) but… He loved her, of that Michelle was sure.
And she loved him right back, from the way he used to smile when he thought no one was watching to the crooked way he used to fasten his tie every morning, just so she’d straighten it before he headed off to work.
Realising she hadn’t answered for almost a full moment, Michelle forced her mouth to form words in light of the oh-so-wonderful floaty feeling that was threatening to send her to sleep right now.
“Yup,” She answered, her head moving just a little in the head-rest, “Two weeks.”
“You got everything sorted?”
“Pffft,” Michelle almost laughed, “Why do you think they sent me to you?”
“This great honking ball of tension right,” He placed his fingers in between her shoulder blades and pressed firmly, until she felt like she was going to slide off the table, “here?”
“Yup, that one.” Michelle agreed with him, sighing. She’d have agreed with anything right then. Minions from hell asking for an invite to her wedding? Sure! Why not! Bring a date! Bring two, if that’s what floats your boat and–
“Ohhhh, God…” Was there such a thing as being too relaxed? She wondered, belatedly, Paulo’s hands feeling wickedly soft against her skin.
She swore right there and then that if she didn’t love Jaydn so much that it made her throat hurt sometimes? She’d have considered propositioning this hunk of manly masseuse person.
Damn, what he can do with his hands… It should be illegal! Thought Michelle, smiling to herself as she started to doze happily, right there on his table.
This is so the life…
I’m losing, thought Angel sourly, as he sat in that same spot he had three weeks ago, looking out the window at the sunset through the magically enhanced glass that meant he wasn’t bursting into flames.
I started this fight thinking I could win and now, I’m starting to lose everything that matters.
There was no ‘starting to’ about it. It had begun with Doyle, back four years ago, when the Irish half-demon that Angel had called his friend had sacrificed his life for the mission. Then, there’d been Connor – way back when he was just a baby – being shunted through that portal with Holtz and forced to grow up in the darkest, most oppressive way Angel had ever known.
Then, there was Connor all over again. Older, this time. More cynical. And following him, Cordelia.
It had been Angel’s choice to change their lives, make right all the wrongs he’d committed to them both. It had been Angel’s choice to send them away with no recollection of what had happened, no memory of the things that had been done to them, to get them where they were.
It had been his choice.
And sitting, weeks later, when another of his choices had brought so much death and pain to his world was hard to take.
Fred had been dead a week.
In that week, they’d tried everything, every cure they could think of, every Shaman, every Warlock, desperate to bring back the once crazy yet completely loveable scientist that had tried so hard since they’d started at Wolfram and Hart to bring them all together, to make them be a family again.
Angel had tried, really he had. He’d called in a thousand favours, offered to sell his soul if that’s what it would take but… Fred was gone.
Wesley was a shell of a man, forced to sit there with Illyria, honor a promise he’d made of showing her this world. Whether he clung to the ideal that one day Fred would come back, Angel didn’t know, but it was something he allowed the watcher to have, believing that if they studied Illyria, they might one day understand why Fred had been taken.
Gunn hadn’t said much about it all. He was quiet, which was to be expected, subdued into silence, most of the time. Even Spike had noticed the guarded expression he carried around Wolfram and Hart moreso than normal these days.
And Lorne. Lorne who’d said repeatedly this week that he was starting to question why they fought when everything they were fighting for seemed to slip through their fingers like sand.
Angel was starting to think he was right.
On the eighth day after Fred had gone and they’d exhausted more avenues trying to find a way to bring her back, Angel began to notice a change. The most surprising source of all, perhaps – one he looked at every day but never really saw – was even more subdued than all the others.
She was quiet where usually, even at the most inopportune moments, she’d be bouncing through the door with a bright smile.
(The eighth day and nobody had asked her how she felt. Nobody had asked her, and Harmony had been reluctant to divulge the information, how much she missed Fred. How much she wanted to bring her back.)
Her voice lacked the same lust for life (or unlife, whichever way you wanted to paint that picture) she’d had every day in this office for eight months. Her step lacked its bounce, her eyes lacked their usual vigour.
She looked up at Angel from her desk, eyebrows raised, ready for the telling off of a lifetime for not sending those files out last week.
“Are you okay?”
His question startled her, caught her off guard. Harmony looked at him and all of a sudden, big fat tears with the ability to make her Lush-Lash mascara run were welling up in her eyes. She shook her head and bit down so hard on her lip that she drew blood.
“No,” She said, quietly, letting her perfectly manicured hands fall to her sides, “I’m totally not okay. All week, everyone’s been all, ‘Harmony, find this file, Harmony find that file’ and… I miss her too and nobody gets that…” She paused, her breath hitching slightly,
“And, like, I tried to cheer myself up with pictures from the socialite pages and I ended up getting more bummed…”
Trust Harmony to turn every crisis into another one, thought Angel, dourly, though he was still surprised that she’d shown so much emotion over Fred.
“Why?” He didn’t care, not really. Harmony’s crises over the hack magazines she read came thick and fast, no longer a novelty to Angel.
“Remember Jaydn Hunter?” Harmony frowned, folding her arms across her ample chest.
She looked pissed off, Angel noted, before shaking his head. The name sounded somewhat familiar, though he couldn’t place from where.
“You’re so out of the loop sometimes,” She told him, rolling her eyes skyward, “Jaydn Hunter?”
Saying it twice seemed to make it sink in more and Angel nodded, feeling like a lightbulb had gone on over his head all of a sudden. “The guy who almost took a restraining order out on you?”
“That was like a total misunderstanding!” Harmony gasped, indignantly,flicking her hair out behind her, “I apologised to his girlfriend about the spaghetti thing and everything!”
“What about him?” Asked Angel, through gritted teeth.
“He’s getting married.” She sighed, “To a totally different girl. She seems nice enough, pretty… But she’s only with him for his money. And I’m way prettier. Look.” She held up the magazine for Angel to see, jabbing one perfectly manicured fingernail into the face of someone Angel knew only too well.
Suddenly struck by a cold dead weight in the pit of his stomach, Angel stared at the magazine. Harmony started talking again, but Angel paid no attention. He stood there for what felt like a lifetime, an icy fist closing its grip around his heart.
With every moment, she seemed to get further away, seemed to slip further out of his grasp. Cordelia, his Cordelia, was getting married. And that thought startled him, because Cordelia had never really been his, not really.
Not even when Angel had agreed to change her life had he thought of her as his.
He’d made a decision. The best he could, with what he had. They’d taken them both and given them a new life, a normal life. One without vampires and demons and heartbreaks.
“Angel? Are you okay? You look kinda… Pale.”
Angel glared at her. “I’m fine.” And as quickly as his concern for Harmony had begun it was over, because he was striding into the office, slamming the door behind him.
Out in the reception, Harmony just sighed. Sometimes, she thought Angel just needed to get a good… Well, boning. Maybe then he’d be a little happier.
“Mom, for the last time,” Michelle groaned, “I don’t care what color plates we get. I don’t care if the green doesn’t match the fondue, I don’t care if the blues don’t match the tuna or whatever, just… Just *pick* one.”
Michelle was officially at the end of her tether. She’d been shopping with her mother all week, hadn’t had time to get anything else done like bridesmaid fittings or whatever, and so far, her mother was only serving to annoy her even more.
She didn’t care what colour the patterns on the plates were. She didn’t care if the napkins were folded into swans.
All she wanted was to get married to the guy she loved. Was that too much to ask?
“But Michelle,” Her mother whined, drawing out the end of her name in that way that she hated, “If things don’t match then–“
“Then it’s not the end of the world!” She snapped, placing back a rather expensive gold napkin holder, “It’s just a wedding.”
Her mother looked like she’d been slapped. Michelle gritted her teeth, waiting for the explosion to begin. To her mother, this was not just a wedding. To her mother, this was the most important day of her baby’s life and if she didn’t realise the important of that, then…
“…then maybe I just didn’t raise you the way I ought have.” Her mother continued her rant, not caring that the nervous coughs and wary eyes cast her way were actually for her and not her daughter.
“Really, Michelle, look at all these other couples. Happy. Together. Picking out their wedding things because it’s important…” And, she just couldn’t stress this point enough, “Perhaps if Jaydn cared about this wedding he’d be here too.”
Michelle looked at the other couples, her mood darkening by the second. Jaydn had promised he’d be here this afternoon, rescue her from her mother. Was he here? Was he hell. He’d called with another crisis at work, saying that he was sorry but he really couldn’t leave.
Michelle had told him it was fine, even found herself defending him to her mother… And then cursing him, inwardly, when she realised she’d have to spend the day alone with said mother.
“I see them, Mom,” Said Michelle, biting her lip to not scream in frustration, “Look, can we just…” Michelle stopped as a wave of nausea washed over her, reaching out a hand to steady herself.
It had happened more and more lately, a wave of nausea here, bout of dizziness there… Weird dreams, every single night. Whether they were connected or not, Michelle didn’t know, they’d started months ago – ever since Jaydn had proposed, ironically.
(“Too bad we’ll never know… If this is a face you could learn to love…”)
“What?” Michelle looked up sharply, her gaze pinning her mother’s. Crystal glasses and trinkets refracted a thousand different colours off the walls.
Michelle, leaning heavily against a table with cutlery sets, took a moment to regain her breath, aware that the looks shot towards her mother had shifted towards her. “I’m fine.” She muttered, looking down at her hands to see she was shaking.
“Well you don’t look fine…”
If she’d had the strength to glare at her mother, Michelle would have. Not that there was anything new about the way her mother was behaving (of course not) it was just… This week, her mother seemed to be worse than usual.
Michelle knew that it was mostly her wedding but… God, did she have to be so… So… Mother-like?
“Can we just go?” Asked Michelle, feeling bone-weary. She didn’t know what the hell was going on. Who was that Irish guy? And why did she feel all of a sudden like she should know that? That there was more to this life than she knew?
Her mother sighed, about to remind her that they only had a few days left before her wedding until Michelle glared again. She needed to go home. And find some Tylenol. Preferably now.
“We are more than just memories.”
Wesley blinked, staring down at the small box in his hand. In the other room, he could hear Angel’s shouts, directed towards Connor as he indulged in the biggest fight of his life, presumably.
He hadn’t understood Angel’s offhandedness at first. Had simply thought his friend was uncomfortable with taking on a case as seemingly small as that of the Reilly family, especially when they had bigger concerns.
It had run deeper than that.
All too suddenly Angel had seemed hellbent on stopping Vail, despite the fact that they couldn’t trust him one little bit. Alarm bells had started ringing in Wesley’s head. Huge alarm bells that didn’t seem to quieten when he asked for information on Vail.
Wesley had researched, looked up dates and timeframes and files that should have been hidden from view.
When he’d found out what Angel had done, Wesley had been shocked… Appalled. He’d taken away their memories, memories of God only knew what, for what Wesley could only assume was thirty pieces of silver and now?
Now, he stood behind Angel in Vail’s stately-like home, holding in his hand a box.
As boxes went, it was pretty normal. A glass cube with pretty colors that glowed – nothing remotely special about it. In it, held a world of memories that Wesley wasn’t sure were good or bad… He just knew that whatever Angel had took from them, he was getting back.
In front of him, Angel was practically chomping at the bit to get through the mystical barrier that prevented him from reaching his son. Wesley could feel the disgust rolling from Illyria in waves.
He’d trusted Angel, would have given up his life… And this was how he repaid him?
“Open it now–” Angel turned towards Vail, a snarl on his lips. He didn’t get much more of the sentence out, stunned into shock by Wesley’s appearance.
“You changed the world.” Said Wesley, frowning, daring Angel to just argue back. He felt justified on this – more than he had with a lot of things since starting work for Wolfram and Hart.
“Wes,” Angel sounded uncertain, “What are you doing?”
“You sold us out to Wolfram and Hart.” He never thought he’d be standing here saying those words, not to Angel, not after everything they’d been through together.
“Be careful…” Angel warned, still concerned with the sounds of the fight behind him, but more concentrated on the glowing yellow box in Wesley’s hand.
Wesley tilted his head, staring first at the box and then at Angel, feeling a rush of anger. “Is this your thirty pieces of silver?” Or was it the cushy apartment, the expensive decoration in the office? Honestly, Wesley wasn’t sure, but he was determined to find out.
“Wes, give me that…” Said Angel, moving towards him.
Wesley watched, not even having to give the signal, as Illyria backhanded his friend across the room.
“He doesn’t follow you any longer.” She said in that halting yet certain way of hers, watching as the vampire hit the wall.
Angel was on his feet again in seconds, his gaze torn between the glowing box in Wesley’s hand and the ex-watcher himself. “Wesley…”
“You changed the world.” Wesley repeated, wondering when he was going to get some answers. Angel could no longer stand there and offer the moral high ground, not over this.
“He’s my son, Wesley. Connor’s my son.”
He couldn’t have been lying. The look on his face told Wesley that that, at least, was the truth. “Did you trade her?” Wesley’s voice almost broke on that question alone.
Even contemplating the thought that Angel would do such a thing was almost too much to bear, “Did you trade Fred for your son?”
For a moment, all was still.
Wesley took a breath and met Angel’s eyes, “Everything that’s happened since we took over Wolfram & Hart, everything that’s happened to—” He looked at Illyria, once, then looked down. “–her… Did you know? Was Fred the price?”
The idea was almost too much to contemplate. Wesley could feel his chest tightening, his throat constricting to the point where it was hard to breathe. What would he do if Angel’s answer was yes? What would he do if this, possibly his worst nightmare other than losing Fred, came true?
“No, Wes,” Said Angel, obviously desperate to make this right again, “I can explain… Just put that down.”
“Why are you so afraid of this?” Wesley asked, regarding Angel curiously, “He said it would bring back the past. Will it undo what you’ve done?” And oh Lord, how he hoped. He hoped that if that were the case, he could go back to being with Fred, even looking at her from afar and wishing. How he hoped that this would all be over, this grief and suffering, this missing her.
“No.” Said Angel, softly, so soft Wesley wasn’t sure he’d spoken at all. “It won’t bring her back.”
Wesley’s face hardened slightly. “Let’s find out.” He lifted his arm, raising his hand above his head as if to smash the box.
Angel rushed forward, panic instantly recognisable in his eyes. “No! Please, you have to trust me.”
Not once in his whole time of working with Angel had Wesley thought he’d say these words to him. He cocked his head slightly, letting out an inaudible sigh.
“I can’t. Not any more.”