Title: Too Little, Too Late
Posted Here: 20 Sept 06
Rating: NC-17 (eventually)
Category: Angst, romance
Summary: This is based on a challenge by Impress which is included …Like most of the fics I have in the works.TPTB get tired of Angel’s fickle commitment to duty and send Cordelia a new champion (not Groo). Impress’ imagination totally rocks!
Spoilers: A bunch. Good Lord, AtS isn’t even on the air anymore. Is it really still spoiling anything?
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Please ask first.
Notes: This fic is to promote the FSB archive. Pylea didn’t happen. I reject Whedon’s reality as I find my own vastly superior. The reason Angel didn’t run off to help Buffy with Glory is ‘cause they were out of town, not out of the dimension, on a case. Therefore there is no Groo, and by extension no Fred. Sorry, but it has to be.Note #2: This part is reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally angst ridden. My life sucks so everyone else has to suffer. Bwahahahahahahahahaha…it’s really kinda sad. Note #3: This was a great challenge by Impress, so if the story sucks it’s all in the execution and not in the conception.
Challenge by Impress:
Angel loses/endangers/abandons his seer one too many times. As punishment, The PTB assign Cordelia to a new warrior (not Groo). Angel is now forced to earn/win back his seer.
Feedback:Always appreciated, never discouraged.
“You understand why I have to go, right?” The plea in Angel’s voice was unmistakable.
Letting out a small sigh Cordelia pinned a smile on her face and faced the inevitable head on.
“Of course I do, Angel. Coming back from the dead doesn’t sound too pleasant. Buffy needs you. You need to go. I get that. And we’ll be okay; we’ll call if anything comes up. It’s only a couple of hours away and it’s only for a couple of weeks. Go Angel; we’ve got things covered here.”
That had been almost a week ago. One slow, boring week. It was a small favor from TPTB that Cordelia greatly appreciated.
Alas, fate never being a friend of the young seer, it chose that moment of thanks to interfere and her brain was speared by the white hot pain that always accompanied her visions.
“Well that was ick.” Thought Cordelia from her position on the floor. Both Wesley and Gunn had come running when they’d heard the commotion. They tried their best to stay alert, but it seemed that no one but Angel had both the speed and the eerie ability to sense an oncoming vision that kept her from landing on the floor every time the Powers called.
Handing her some aspirin and water Wesley waited until she’d swallowed both before beginning the familiar routine of unraveling the message she’d so painfully received.
“What did you see, Cordelia?”
“Nothing too awful tonight. 3 vamps at the Star Cinema on Spring St. They were picking off the audience one by one. You know, I miss the old days when the bad guys were just about mindless violence. Now they’re all making with the plans – Pyramid schemes, sneak attacks; what’s next – telemarketing? Geez!”
Wesley smiled at the brave front Cordelia put on to disguise her pain; to save them distress. Sometimes he thought about telling her that it didn’t work – that they all still worried every time. But he had a feeling that protecting them actually made her feel better and he wouldn’t take that away from her for the world.
While Wesley had been contemplating the impact of the visions Cordelia had already forced herself to rise from her place on the floor, grab a stake and a crossbow and was waiting impatiently at the door.
Wes didn’t get any further before he was cut off.
“Can it, Wes. I’m going and any time that we waste arguing about that fact puts lives in danger. I may not be a great fighter, but I grew up on the Hellmouth. Believe me, I get the concept of staking.”
Cordelia’s declaration was followed by a small demonstration as she raised her sharpened wood into the air and brought it down repeatedly in a pantomime of vampire dusting.
“Yes, well, conceptualization is far different than –”
He was again cut off as Cordelia simply rolled her eyes at what was sure to be an untimely and long winded lecture and walked out the door.
“Hold up, girl.” Gunn called as he rushed out the door behind Cordelia. He hadn’t known her all that long but with her it was quality not quantity that counted, and he knew her well enough to know that once she set her mind on something there was no changing it. He’d certainly tried when she’d made him her mission.
But still, his genuine concern and the despondent look on Wesley’s face demanded that he try.
“We ain’t taking you with us.”
Pausing, Cordelia turned with a smug look on her face that encompassed both Gunn and Wesley who had just come barreling out the door loaded down with weapons.
“That’s fine. If you don’t want to take me with you I understand. Honestly.”
Both the look on her face and their knowledge of her nature told them that although she said what they wanted to hear they still weren’t going to be happy with the outcome.
They were right.
“Hello. Vision girl here. You know, the one who tells you guys where to go and make with the fighting. I don’t need you to take me anywhere. I can get to there just fine by myself.”
Wesley knew that Cordelia wasn’t bluffing and he knew when he was beat. With a long-suffering sigh he admitted defeat.
“Get in the truck, Cordelia.”
Shooting them a bright smile Cordelia let out a squeal of excitement for winning the argument as she climbed into the truck.
“Come on boys. Time’s a wastin’. We have people to save and vamps to dust.”
This time it was Gunn who rolled his eyes. They were so whipped. On the bright side at least they weren’t as pathetic as Angel…yet.
Apprehensive, the two men nonetheless piled into the truck; worried for the victims, each other, and most importantly the young woman sandwiched between them.
The theater was dark as the trio of do-gooders rushed in. One would think that the yelling, shrieking, and general sounds of mayhem would have attracted the attention of the employees or, at the very least ensured the raising of the lights. But no, they seemed oblivious to the deadly commotion. It could have been a theater in Sunnydale for all the notice they gave it.
Wesley knew that they had the element of surprise on their side, but he acknowledged that the continued darkness certainly favored their foes. They’d been able to stake one before the other two became alert to their presence, but once they had noticed their companion was nothing more than a gray paste on the sticky theater floor the fight began in earnest.
“Cordelia; get those people out of here” Wesley ordered as his sword arced out, catching the vampire’s shoulder and sending him stumbling back. These were no mere fledglings and the combat was brutal and vicious. He just hoped that they could end it before Cordelia had completed the evacuation and waded back into the battle.
At first Cordelia’s efforts to help the hopeless were met with boos and calls to sit down. But as the people became aware of the struggle that was occurring in the aisles a huge wave of humanity rose up and raced past her, jarring her from all sides. She barely managed to keep hold of her stake, but her grip on the larger crossbow was impossible to maintain and was jerked from her hand in the crush of the fleeing audience.
All of a sudden Cordelia became aware of a new danger as people began pushing and shoving each other trying to get out the emergency exit.
“Stupid hopeless.” Cordelia muttered as she thrust her way to the front of the crowd.
“Enough!” She bellowed to the panicked throng and despite their obvious fear they, remarkably, stopped. Looking them over with a glare that had made both vampires and their slayers tremble Cordelia calmly issued her instructions.
“One at a time.”
And bowing to her apparent authority they began to file out in a hurried, but much more orderly fashion.
Seeing a redheaded girl of about 16 crying on the floor, grasping her ankle in pain, Cordelia rushed over, pulling her up and supporting her weight as she practically dragged her to the exit as quickly as possible.
Looking back to check on her guys she saw that the fight had moved to the front of the theater where both Wesley and Gunn were struggling with the last of the vamps.
Wesley was beginning to worry. As well as he and Gunn were doing they were both still human and were starting to feel a sense of fatigue that wouldn’t plague the vampire for some time yet. Knowing that the fight had to end soon he waited for Gunn to swing out with his axe. As the vampire leapt back to avoid the blow Wesley rushed him knocking them both to the ground and embedding his stake in the demon’s abdomen. Flipping adroitly to the side, Wesley cleared the path so that Gunn could deliver the final blow.
Sprawled on the ground, the vampire read his death in the eyes of the young man above him. As he moved his hands to offer himself what feeble protection he could, his fingers collided with something solid. Turning his head he saw that it was the abandoned crossbow. Knowing he’d never be able to raise it, aim, and shoot either of the men before they were upon him he resigned himself to a final death and one last malevolent act. Using the last of his energy he rolled onto his injured stomach and took aim at the retreating girls.
Both voices were frantic in their warnings and she swung around to assure herself of the safety of her friends. Seeing the vampire armed with her crossbow and poised to shoot, she realized that the danger was not to them but to herself and the petrified girl beside her.
As the bolt entered the air it was clear that the cowering teen was the target of choice. Cordelia wondered at the lack of intelligence found in so many vampires. Angel wasn’t stupid, but maybe that was just the soul ‘cause Angelus wasn’t too bright with his whole “send the world to Hell” plan. But this vampire seemed dumber than most. Didn’t he understand that she was the reason he was going to die tonight? She supposed that he didn’t otherwise he would have been aiming at her instead of the whimpering girl next to her. Not that it mattered as Cordelia hurled her body into the redhead’s, knocking her aside.
At first she thought that she’d been fast enough and they’d both escaped injury. But as she hit the floor a wave of pain burst through her radiating from her chest outwards. She recognized the feeling – impalement. Mercifully she didn’t feel it for long as darkness reached up to embrace her.
Angel glanced over at the blonde walking at his side. They’d just finished their midnight patrol and were within sight of the quaint and cozy home on Revello Drive.
For the thousandth time he wondered what he was doing there. Sure, Buffy was having a hard time adjusting to being back, but she had a strong support system of family and friends and he was simply on the fringes of her life – like he’d always been.
After yet another awkward night of hoping to be attacked if only to break up the strained silence, Angel faced the fact that he didn’t belong there. He missed his home, he missed his mission, but most of all he missed his family.
He wasn’t surprised that back in Sunnydale he’d been relegated, once again, to the shadows. No, what startled him was how much he hated it there. He hadn’t realized how much he valued his new life until he’d tried the old one back on for size.
Angel was shaken out of his thoughts by the electrical strains of ‘Mandy’ emanating from his inside coat pocket. Seeing Buffy’s raised brows he shot her a sheepish smile explaining, “Cordy programmed the phone.” Recognizing Wesley’s cell phone number he flipped open the small device. Before the phone even reached his ear he could hear the loud crackle of static.
“Wes? Wesley?” Angel attempted to hear his friend’s voice among the grating noise.
“Angel?” A faint voice replied.
“Yeah, Wes. I can barely hear you.”
“Hold on.” Wesley’s request swam through the fuzz.
Even with his enhanced hearing he could barely make out the Englishman’s words.
The static was still present but had eased some allowing him to distinguish the odd tone in his friend’s voice.
“Wesley, is everything alright?” Unease was beginning to push itself to the forefront of his mind.
“No Angel; it’s not.”
The static poured forth from the phone once more and Angel paced restlessly, hoping to strengthen the connection as his concern was fast transforming to worry.
“Angel?” The anxious voice surfaced again.
“Wesley, what’s wrong?” His voice growled down the line though he wondered if Wesley would be able to hear the dangerous sound in the midst of the din.
And everything stopped. The cars passing by, the people in their yards, the very air itself stilled as the world seemed to fracture around him. This time his voice was hesitant; needing to ask the question but so scared to hear the answer.
It was funny; the static which had been so annoying before was still present and yet he heard every word as if they were separated by inches and not miles.
“We’re at Memorial General…It’s bad Angel. You need to get here now.”
The crackling spiked and the call was lost, but that didn’t register with the vampire as his phone slipped from nerveless fingers.
“Angel?” Buffy reached forward, gathering something was terribly wrong but not knowing what. She had been deeply entrenched in misery recently, but even she wasn’t so disconnected that she couldn’t feel the waves of pain rolling off his still figure.
As she touched his shoulder it was as if she’d shocked him into action and she jumped back in surprise as he spun around, and with a burst of speed that left him nothing but a dark blur, crossed the distance to his car and vaulted himself into position behind the wheel.
Watching the car move at nearly the same speed the vampire had, the slayer could only stare and hope that things would work out well for someone in this cold, sharp world.
Were it not for a vampire’s lightning quick reflexes the black Plymouth convertible would have cause an endless array of accidents as it careened down the road at breakneck speeds. The driver, however, didn’t care. He’d survive most crashes and as for the humans around him – well there was only one human’s well being that concerned him right now.
Angel cursed again for leaving his phone behind. He wanted to call Wesley; he wanted to demand that he tell him it was all a mistake, a sick joke they were playing on him for being away. Anything but that it was true.
“It’s bad Angel. You need to get here now.”
Wesley’s words pounded in his head ‘til he was sure the force of them would shatter his skull.
Bad. What did bad mean? To Angel any pain Cordelia was in was bad. Was this vision pain bad? Broken bone bad? Vocah bad?
The car veered briefly off course as Angel contemplated and catalogued all of the possible harm that could have befallen his beautiful seer. What had he been thinking – leaving her to face the monsters in her visions alone?
Sure, Wes and Gunn were there and while they could each hold their own in a fight they wouldn’t be able to do that and adequately protect Cordelia. They didn’t have his strength, his speed; they didn’t care about her like he did. To them she was a sister, a friend. But to him she was the entire world. She was his light, his humanity, and no matter how far off atonement was he knew that Cordelia helped him find a sense of redemption everyday.
His hands tightened painfully on the steering wheel as he weaved in and out of traffic conscious of nothing but the driving need to be with Cordelia and the frantic feeling that he was in a race against a clock that he couldn’t afford to lose. He just needed to get there; he needed to see her. Once he was with her it would be okay; he could make things better, make her better. He could talk to her, tell her how much he needed her, how he couldn’t do this without her. Cordelia always took care of him, this wouldn’t be any different; she’d hear his words, the desperation in his voice and she’d come back to him. It had worked before when the endless visions had wracked her body and raped her mind, it would work now.
It’s bad Angel. You need to get here now.”
Get there now. Get there now. Angel’s hand slammed against the wheel. He shouldn’t have to “get there” he thought bitterly. He should never have been anywhere else. What the hell had he been thinking running off to Sunnydale as if he didn’t have responsibilities, people who counted on him, depended on him? And what had it all been for? He hadn’t helped Buffy. If anything, all the exercise in futility had shown him was that while he’d always care for Buffy whatever they’d had was long past. But if trying to recapture that past had cost him his future…
No! He couldn’t think like that. Cordelia was okay. Wesley was just being dramatic. There was never a simple problem that Wes couldn’t magnify into something requiring days of research followed by endless hours of lectures.
Angel took a steadying breath. He’d be there soon. He’d walk into Cordelia’s room just in time to hear her browbeating the doctors into releasing her. She’d turn to him with that bright smile that meant she wanted something that he knew he’d do anything to give her and she’d start whining in her adorable way about going home, and even though he would know that she should probably stay he’d end up taking her back to the hotel where he would watch over her, soothing his terror with the rhythmic beats of her heart and the steady sounds of her breathing.
So lost was he in his fantasy world that he almost missed the large medical edifice looming before him. Pulling the wheel hard to the left the car shot across oncoming traffic accompanied by the squeal of tires and the blare of horns. The noises went unnoticed by the frenzied figure in black as his car screeched to a halt in front of the emergency room entrance and flung himself over the car door, not bothering to open it.
With no regard for the injured crowding the room, Angel reached the desk commanding the instant attention of the triage nurse behind it.
The harsh growl scraped like broken glass along the nerves of all who heard it. The nurse’s face softened as the danger of the man before her was overwhelmed by the agony in his voice. She remembered clearly the patient to whom he was referring.
Even if she didn’t recall the brunette that had been brought in with, of all thing, an arrow lodged in her chest, she certainly wouldn’t forget the two men who accompanied her, mad with worry much like the one standing before her now. She wondered what it was about the young woman that inspired this level of panic in the men around her.
While it had been clear that, even covered in blood, the young woman was a beauty she knew that alone wouldn’t explain the near hysteria of her companions. Knowing the condition in which the patient arrived she didn’t even need to check the computer.
“She’s in ICU. 4th flo-“
A dark blur streaked across the room and the man was gone before she could even finish.