PART THREE- The Living
“Come in, don’t just stand there like two lost puppies.”
Lorne didn’t glance up as Angel and Wesley entered the club. His gaze remained fixed on the amber liquid that was swirling against the glass in his hand. The green demon shrugged and put the glass to his lips.
He swallowed then sighed. “You know things are bad, when the good stuff just doesn’t light my fire. Come on baby,” he said as he brought the drink again to his lips. “ Nope, things are not good. Sit down, give a rest to your weary woes, and let me tell you how bad it really is.”
“Lorne?” Wesley looked around at the empty club, then at the table where the green host was sitting. Two empty shot glasses were placed near a large bottle of whiskey. “You expected us?”
“Sent the merry folk on their way.” The demon said not answering Wesley’s question. “No need to wallow in others off key blues. I have my own and it seems so do you. Sit down, have a drink. It won’t help, but it keeps the hands busy.” Lorne looked at Angel.
“What? Being human wasn’t all that the storybooks made it out to be- the grass wasn’t so green. Sit, big guy, you seem to make a habit of playing chicken with the fates. You’re good, but you better be careful, someday, they won’t blink and you will be truly damned.”
“There is still a chance for Angel to…”
“I don’t care about me, we’re here about Cordy. The prophecy doesn’t matter.” Angel growled. “If you can’t tell me how to save her then….”
“Then what?” Lorne scooted his chair back and stared at the vampire. “What, Angel? What can you possibly do? You played the hero/martyr and what does it get Cordelia, a big fat nothing. Cool your angry obsessive jets. Sit down, have a drink.”
Angel growled in response.
“Sit down, Angel.” Wesley said as he took a seat. Wesley looked at the green demon. Lorne was frustrated, more than frustrated, he was angry. And that was not usual. It made Wesley apprehensive. Lorne knew something and Wesley was sure he wouldn’t like it.
“Always the voice of reason, aren’t you Muffin. People do underestimate your talents, don’t they?”
“You just missed her.”
“Cordy?” Angel jerked to the door, his feet already moving.
“Angel, if you care at all about the seer, sit down.” Lorne shook his head.
“Angel, we came here to find out what to do next. Obviously, Lorne knows something. So, lets listen. We should not act impulsively right now.” The rebuke was clear in Wesley’s voice.
“Tell us,” Angel growled, slamming his body into the nearest chair.
“Hats off to you Muffin, you do that well.”
“I may be the voice of reason, but even I have my limits.” Wesley warned gently.
“Of course, don’t we all. That’s just it. The beautiful kitten has reached hers, or will soon be there.” Lorne reached for the bottle. “I really think you should have a drink.” He filled his glass to the brim.
“You saw her, what did she say.” Angel said, brushing aside Lorne’s attempt to fill the glass that was before him.
“Not much, she didn’t have to, it was as clear as a rainbow. A broken, shattered rainbow, but clear, not a hint of gray on the horizon.”
“Don’t start with the riddles.” Angel growled.
“Riddle me this,” Lorne turned and met Angel’s yellow glare. “What’s beautiful, bright, and can’t be fixed, not with all the king’s horses or all the king’s men. Give up?”
“I won’t let Cordelia die.” Angel’s glare became deadly.
“I guess, I should have included that part where it says ‘not with all the warrior’s might can he save the Princess’ from her plight.”
“Lorne, enough. Obviously, you are angry but tell us what you know and how can we help Cordelia?”
Lorne blinked his red eyes towards Wesley. “That’s just it you can’t, he can’t, I can’t, and no one can. Cordelia is dying, she will die, and there is nothing we can do to prevent it. I am not one happy demon right now.” Lorne slammed his drink on to the table.
“Saying it over and over again won’t prevent it.”
“What about Groo. The prophecy. You said….”
“I know what I said. I was wrong, okay. I was wrong. The prophecy…do you know how many prophecies there are out there waiting to be uncovered, waiting to be labeled as the ‘one’, but they mean nothing, but whatever the Powers want them to. And the Powers only wanted that particular one to work for a limited time. It seems that it had an expiration date hidden in the fine print. No, that window closed when the Princess chose to remain Angel’s seer.”
“But, you said that it was something to do with Cordelia being human and demon’s blood…”
“What are you, some sort of back up singer, repeating everything I ever said? I was wrong. Or at least about the blood part. It has everything to do with the Princess being human, but nothing about demon’s blood. Nothing.” Lorne turned to Angel. “Really loving the fact that you re-turned now, aren’t you. I’m saying the grass may have been just a tad greener on the other side.”
Angel remained still as he had during all of Wesley and Lorne’s conversation. Every un-dead cell in his body was about to erupt. If Lorne didn’t start to make some sense soon, the green lounge singer would die, that was all there was to it. Because someone would die, it just wouldn’t be Cordelia, it would never be Cordelia.
Lorne’s orange clad shoulder fell into his body. “I’ll try to explain it…with out metaphors, rhymes or songs, will that keep you from killing me in the next few minutes.”
Lorne nodded. “Humans cannot be seer’s. The Princess is an anomaly, one that shouldn’t have happened. She has the heart and will to be a seer, but not the soul or rather she has a soul and therefore not the ability to be a seer.”
“Seer’s don’t have souls? How can that be?”
“Doyle had a soul.”
Angel and Wesley both spoke at once.
“Whoa, one at a time. The easy one first. Doyle, I assume that we are talking about your former seer, the half-demon, half- human.”
“Yes, he had a soul.”
“I wouldn’t know, never met him. But, if he did and you say he did, then that was because he was half-human. Just like the Pylean beefcake, half demon, half cow. Which makes sense, in that Groo could have accepted the visions. As to your non PC attitude,” Lorne turned to Wesley. “Soul’s do not goodness make. There are good non-souled beings, just as there are evil souled beings. I don’t have a ‘soul’ but you don’t see me luring young men into my abode, cutting them up and stuffing their entails in my refrigerator and snacking on them when the urge hits, now do you?”
“I just thought..”
“That you needed a soul to work for the Powers, nope, just dedication and wiliness to work under bad conditions and for low wages.” Lorne used the opportunity of Angel and Wesley’s silence to grab another drink and take a deep breath.
“The soul is a human commodity, it’s the whole humanity gig. The big lug has one because, well…the prophecy and because vampires as odd as it seems are the demons that are the closest on the evolution chain to humans. After all, most of the vampires wandering around the world today were once human.”
“Let’s not go into that demon lore right now, okay. There is still some debate in the demon ivory towers as to where vampires actually came from. I say who cares, they’re here, just deal with it. But there are some that think that vampires were originated from humans and therefore lesser. It’s a whole I’m better than you attitude that I just can’t abide.” Lorne shivered. “My point is – soul’s, except for the brown-eyed wonder here, – are exclusive to humans. And the visions are or should be exclusive to demons or certain other supernatural types.”
“Why?” Wesley’s intellectual curiosity was getting the best of him. He loved new knowledge.
“It’s amazing, I without a soul, know more about them than you two. Amazing. Talk about taking something for granted. All right, I can see that I touched on some sore spots. Anyway, the soul is a human’s connection to humanity, life, the universe, and everything, including the restaurant at the end of it all. Never mind. A seer is able to tap into that connection from the visions. They feel, they see it.
Unfortunately, the part they get is the bad part, the terror, the evil, the sorrow, and the helplessness. But, because they don’t have the whole connection they are able to separate, to distance what they see from their being, which allows them to survive, to live. Humans don’t have that distance. They already get that the world sucks, they don’t need, can’t handle that fact in techno color. Your former seer, Groo, were and could have been the perfect seers because their humanity, their souls gave them the apathy, the insight that is within a soul and the protection that their demon inheritance gave them.
Because, demons are not connected to humanity. We walk, we talk, we mingle and obviously when biology and the spark hits co-mingle. But we aren’t human. Which is why most seers are demons; half-demons are rare and humans are not able. Granted a pure demon doesn’t have that extra special something that humans have but seers don’t really need that, it’s a bonus, but not needed, all that is really needed is the ability to recall and to survive the visions.”
“Then why would the Power’s allow Cordelia to receive the visions from Doyle? Why would they want a seer that would just die?”
“They wouldn’t. And if the Princess’ soul had been…” Lorne took another drink. “How well do you know, the lovely lady, either of you? I know that you both love her, but how well do you know her.”
“I know Cordy.”
“Of course, we all do.”
Angel growled and Wesley gasped in agreement.
“Really? What do you know about her?”
“This is insane. I know Cordelia. You’re babbling on and on. You have told us nothing.” Angel growled.
“Sit down. I like you, thought I knew the Princess, knew who she was. I thought I had the answers. Remember, I had the advantage of seeing her aura, her soul. The girl is good.”
“What are you implying?” Wesley sat up tersely in his chair.
Angel’s growls began to vibrate off the walls of the empty club.
“I’m implying nothing, I’m telling you what I know. Now, tell the big handsome lug to sit down. He is giving me the quivers.”
Wesley just glared.
“Look, I’m not saying the Princess isn’t human or evil or bizarre in anyway. I’m just saying that you think you know her, but you don’t. I didn’t and I’ve read the before and after shots. And what I saw explains how she became a seer, when she shouldn’t have and why she will die. So peace and long life, for me especially.”
“Explain.” Angel’s coiled body sat on the edge of the chair.
Lorne bit back his comment and took another drink. He wasn’t really frightened of the vampire and Lorne understood Angel’s anger. If Lorne had been a different type of demon, he too would be ready to throttle anyone and everyone. He took a deep breath. “Humans can’t be seers, because of their souls, their connection to humanity, demons can because they don’t have that connection.”
“You said that already.”
“Yes, but you need to hear me this time. Cordelia was able to accept the visions because at the time of the transference she did NOT have the connection to humanity that she, as a human, should have had. She..”
Lorne glared at the two stuttering males in front of him. “You wanted me to explain, I am. So, stop interrupting. Thank you.” He said at their silence.
“But how to, that’s the quandary, I’ll try to reduce it so that lay persons or demons with a soul can understand. A human soul, when seen is so many things, its Monet, Renoir, when things are truly crazy Jackson Pollock, when a tad dark, William Blake, just to name a few. The point is the soul is colors, sometimes making up beautiful landscapes, sometime just spattered splotches or others times they are rich, disturbing, but comprising the most meaningful thoughts and feelings. Good, bad, or ugly, that’s the human soul. Always colors. Evil- they maybe a bit darker and bit, well a lot more disturbing, but colors just the same. Sad- dimmer, slower, less blinding, but there. Demons, while they don’t have souls, also have color, but it’s more of the minimalist type. Bright strokes in a background of gray, sometimes black, sometimes white, but mostly gray. Not any less awe-inspiring, just not the same.”
“This is….” Angel started to get up his hands clenched against the table ready to crush it with his strength.
“Is what you need to understand. This is why Cordelia is going to die. So, sit down.” Lorne shot at the angry vampire.
“Gray, the predominate color of demons. All demons have it, no matter how bright the strokes that splash through it. The background is always gray or it is when that demon is a seer. Because the gray is the separation, the block to humanity. You,” Lorne pointed to Angel. “Are gray.”
“You are that awful color when you decide to ignore you humanity and dance with the devil, so to speak. But, mainly you are gray. You could have taken on the visions, if that’s what the Powers wanted. But, it’s not and you wouldn’t have wanted them.”
“Would do anything for Cordelia, but if you took on the visions, then you would have never become human. Because the gray that would allow you to take on the visions would prevent the colors of your soul from expanding, developing, becoming the connection you would need to be human. You see, a seer can’t have both; the closest is the half demon, half human kind. But even they aren’t completely connected to humanity; the gray that they inherit prevents them. And while it prevents them from being truly human it keeps them safe from the traumas of the vision.”
“Cordelia is not a demon.”
“Yes, but she had the gray in her soul at the time of the transference. The Power settled into a compatible host. It didn’t matter that the gray of Cordelia’s soul was not natural but manufactured.”
”Grey is the predominant color of demons, but human’s also have it. But, in a demon, it’s natural, part of their being. In a human, the gray is produced, by the human’s need to separate himself or herself from life, humanity. It’s normal, not unusual; so don’t get shocked about that little tidbit of information. Typically, in my limited bar experience, humans that have gray in their aura are blocking out or hiding from pain- emotional, mental pain. It’s a human’s self-protection kicking in. Can’t deal with something, shove it aside, shove it behind those convenient, ugly gray walls.
Because it is ugly on a human, but sometimes necessary for their well-being. But the gray, is supposed to be only temporary, it’s suppose to go bye, bye, if the soul is to develop and remain healthy. In other words, the human needs to get some therapy, relaxation, or some quick fix, which most do. The gray goes away, the color that it was blocking brightens, blossoms. The Princess had that gray when I first read her, I noticed, but…” Lorne took another large gulp of his drink.
“I chalked it up to the usual, and it wasn’t like she didn’t need that whole self-protection gig, hells bells, you all were a little bit gray,” he shot to Wesley. “The whole off-tune trio. I mean Angel just went all beige, you humans were feeling a bit lost, it wasn’t so out of the ordinary that you all would get some gray. The big guy threw you all for a whirly loop. Okay, so, Cordy’s was a little darker, intense than the norm, but I just figured that was because she loved him. How was I supposed to know.”? Lorne pleaded with Wesley.
“Know what?” Wesley said quietly, ignoring Angel’s sudden jerk at Lorne’s declaration that Cordelia loved Angel.
“Honestly, I didn’t know until now.”
“Know what?” Wesley repeated.
“The gray. I should have known, should have realized, especially after Angel left. You saw how she was so cold, aloof cut off” Lorne’s attention was focused totally on Wesley.
“The gray was back, but …I should have realized.”
“Realized what?” Wesley said softly.
Angel wanted to throttle the green demon. Okay, for a brief moment his undead heart leaped. Both Wesley and Lorne seemed to think that Cordelia loved him, so maybe it was true. And that possibility created a warmth and joy in his soul that pulled to him beckoned him to get lost in. But they still hadn’t heard anything that told him how to save Cordelia.
So, the possibility of his joy would have to wait. Cordelia’s well-being safety was more important. He choked the growl in his throat. He would give Wesley a little more time to get the demon to say something useful, and then he would act.
“That those walls weren’t recently made, not even in the last year recently made. The way they surrounded her soul, blocking out all colors. Somehow, somewhere, the Princess has gained the ability to manufacture those walls at a moment’s notice, and not just a little barrier, but a whole blasted cathedral of gray stone walls. I didn’t see it, because she didn’t have it when I read her the first time. Sure there was gray, but you see I assumed that it was the start, not remnants. What do they say, to assume is to make an ass of me, a sad tired angry green ass.”?
“Why is that important?”
“You mean other than the whole sadness of it, well I guess there is the whole her dying bit.”
“Why is it relevant that Cordelia had built up those..gray walls. You said that was not unusual.”
“It’s not if it’s a little bit, or hell, maybe it is usual, even with the beauty of their souls, humans can be evil or just plain mean.”
“It wasn’t a fluke or sick moment of humor on the Powers part that allowed Cordelia to receive Doyle’s visions, it was because she, at that time was predisposed to them. She had for whatever reason, cut herself off from humanity, from life, she had erected enough gray walls, that the visions thought, if they had a thought, found a home.”
“No, I was there, Cordy has always been life, my life she has….”
“Been your life…what about hers? “
Angel just stared.
“What do you mean?” Wesley asked softly.
“That’s why I asked you if you really knew her, really knew her. Not just what she shows you. Haven’t you ever wondered how a girl, a girl of what twenty-one, is she even that old, one forgets, could not go stark raving mad at all that she has been through. What, she been impregnated forcibly twice by demons, she has been kidnapped, tortured, faced the possibly of Muffin’s death, faced Doyle’s death, been betrayed more than once by Angel, and still makes you both coffee in the morning, I’m of course leaving out the total number that the visions do to her. Get a clue, folks.”
Wesley and Angel stood slack jawed. They hadn’t wondered. They just knew that Cordelia was strong.
“She is strong…” Wesley ventured.
“Strong, but not a robot. Well, actually in a weird way she is just that. She has managed to stay sane and alive this long, because of that grayness, because she has had the ability to shove her feelings aside, to allow none of her own feelings to touch her being.” Lorne shook his head. “Ironic, we have some sick bastard to thank for that”
“What do you mean?”
“The walls didn’t just magically appear, something, most likely someone forced her to build those walls. And before you get all vamp-a-centric, she must have had that ability before she met you.” Lorne said at Angel’s unneeded intake of breath.
Angel turned and paced. What he was hearing didn’t make any sense and the implications inflamed the rage that was already simmering within him.
“If she has this protection, then why is she dying?” Wesley refused to think about how Cordelia must have originally formed those walls.
“Your gray, is showing Muffin man,” Lorne shook his head. “ Cordelia is dying because she no longer has that protection.”
“You wont’ trip me up again, I said she had them. I said that they showed back up when Angel left. But, not to the extent that they need to be for her to remain alive and handle the visions. The Princess somewhere from when she received the visions to when I first read her, dissolved those walls on her own. She obviously began to feel something that she couldn’t lock away or hide from or didn’t want to. Three guesses as to what that was or do you need another riddle.” Lorne stared at Angel.
“Obviously, you need a brick dropped on your dense skull. Cordelia fell in love, a love so strong that it broke through those walls that she erected. Again, can we guess with who?”
Wesley flopped back in his chair, his mouth wide open. Angel stopped his pacing and stared.
“Her love for Angel is killing her?” Wesley said.
“Bingo. Give the Englishman a scone.”
“No.” Angel tensed, the guilt filling his soul.
“Yep, but don’t feel so important, Muffin here is also to blame as is the Macho Guy, even the new kitten and me. It seems that the Princess loves us all. Cool, uh. “ Lorne blinked at the water that was involuntarily forming in his eyes. “ Strange, uh, it seems every time we tried to reach her when she went all stealth on us, we were just making it worse.” Lorne blinked at Wesley.
This time Wesley said, No, loudly and firmly.
Lorne nodded. “That’s why we can’t help her, we are what makes her weak in the Powers eyes, especially the lug here. That’s why they shansued him early. He wasn’t ready…”
”That last battle, he was human…”
“Muffin, how many Armageddons have you managed to live through, that was just another one. Armageddons are like prophecies, a dime a dozen. That wasn’t the one.”
“Then why, “ Angel asked quietly.
“To get you out of town, of course. Somehow, they knew that you would take your newfound humaneness and go running to Buffyland and that the Princess would start reconstructing her walls. Like, I might have mentioned good seers are hard to find, warriors on the other hand…well look at replacement beefcake, enough said.”
“But, what? You screwed up again. Turning all-fanged again, ignoring the path that the Powers set you on. Speaking as an employee of the high and mighties, I think that they have been pretty darn lenient about your side trips away from the agenda. And, truth be known, they have been pretty good to the Princess..”
“Cordelia is going to die.” Wesley said.
“Yes, but she was a mistake that shouldn’t have happened. But it did, the Highers didn’t just toss her aside, no, they waited and watched. And what they saw was a human that could be a pretty damn good seer. So, they let her be, until she reached the point of no return. She became more than a good seer, but a very good seer, the type that prophecies were written about.
But still, they gave her the chance to give it all up. The Princess didn’t take it….Tell me Muffin, if you had known, would you’ve forced her to do the comy thing with Groo, I would have. Cordelia chose, sealing her fate. But the Powers still tried to make it viable, by granting Angel his deep breathing skills. But, unfortunately, omniscient they may be, Oprah they’re not, they had no concept the havoc that love can do to a finely tuned plan.”
“What are you saying.”?
“What part do you want me to repeat.”?
“None just tell us how to save Cordelia.”
“Oh, that part. You can’t.”
“But if she has the walls…”
“That part also, she doesn’t. Angel’s last stunt fixed that. The vision of Angelus was too much. You see, the pain, the terror, the sorrow, the despair, the hopelessness of that vision wasn’t some stranger’s feelings; they were hers. Angel lost his humanity, and his soul. Hell, guys, that’s all she has been living for since she has finally let the colors in. Of course, it destroyed her.”
“I killed her.”
“That’s was the shorter version that I was trying to avoid. But, yes, I think finally now you understand. Now leave, I have no more answers, I have no more hope, the 100 year bottle of whiskey is doing nothing for me, and neither are your spectacular brown peepers.” Lorne struggled to his feet. “It’s a real shame, I really…hells bells maybe she can do it, she says she can.”
Angel’s arm shot out and jerked the green demon off the ground. “Do what? What haven’t you told us?”
“Ouch” Lorne cried as his hand struck against the steel band that was Angel’s arm. “Yoa, Muffin, do something.”
“I’m afraid, I have to agree with Angel. I too would like to know what Cordelia must do.” Wesley stood still, watching the green demon’s face turn blue.
“Jeez, all right,” Lorne choked as Angel dropped him to the floor. “It’s not like I was trying to hide anything. It’s just that it…well, I don’t think it will work and you can’t help it work…”
“Lorne,” Wesley said still standing back. “You are making Angel very angry.”
“The Princess thinks that she can rebuild the walls, she thinks that she will be able to shut out her every feeling, ignore them, push them aside, that’s all. I don’t have high hopes. But she said she has had practice. Bastard. That’s who you need to manhandle, who ever did this to her, who ever made her even capable of shutting her self off from her soul. Who ever brought the ugly gray to her, that’s who. Not me.”
“That won’t help her though will it,” Wesley asked quietly.
“No, she doesn’t need revenge or therapy, she only needs to experience enough to get her running back behind her walls. After all, we want her to remain alive, not to be able to truly live. That’s no longer an option.”