A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Angel: the Series" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
Cordelia slowly sank into the downy coverlet that was smoothed across the bed, her legs crossed and her arms loosely resting against her knees. Closed lids blinded her eyes to the extravagant display of colors that painted the clouds in ever-changing pinks and purples just beyond the bedroom window. Silently, her lips moved, forming a repeated succession of words, a voiceless mantra that stalked in syncopated rhythm through her tumultuous thoughts.
An evening alone.
It had been such a long time since she had been able to indulge in the relative emptiness of her apartment, too long in fact. She had very nearly forgotten she had an apartment of her own, a living space removed from the hotel but with Lorne out on a house call for the evening, Fred and Gunn on their way to retrieve a package from Topanga, and Angel and Wesley with their noses buried deep in the books trying to research a new case, Cordelia had managed to slip out of the over stimulated confines of the Hyperion undetected.
A long hot bubble bath that had filled the small bathroom with the scents of lavender and rosemary helped her find the first stirrings of peaceful relaxation and she had luxuriated in the complete lack of noise, allowing its calming effects to wash over her slowly. She had continued her course of leisure afterward with a favorite pair of soft fleece shorts and a well-worn T-shirt left over from her cheerleading days. It had been a long time since she had tried her hand at meditation.
Complete and total nothingness. No sounds of computer modems or the dry rasp of ancient scrolls unrolling, no pointless chatter or brooding grunts. No sound at all save the gentle hum of the electric lights and her own soft breathing. She could almost hear the beating of her own heart as it pumped blood through her body.
She hadn’t realized how much she had needed the break from the stresses of their everyday lives until the opportunity had presented itself and she had jumped at it like drowning man, not even pausing long enough to leave a note for those who might worry about her sudden disappearance.
A small smile played at the edges of her lips, disturbing her attempt at meditation. How was she supposed to cleanse her soul if she was just sitting there grinning like a loon? Shaking the thought from her head, she took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. She could feel the tension melting away, falling from her muscles to slide into the bed and sink to the floor below.
Meditation was good.
Visions, on the other hand…
She felt the force of it even before the pain hit, blinding and treacherous upon its arrival. With no arms to catch her, she fell back against the bed, landing among the pillows and slamming her head into the wall.
A table at the end of a blue cobbled road. A brief flash of shattered crystal and scattered silver. Disjointed and unfamiliar emotions and images washed through her mind in a viscous and unrelenting tide of pain and agony.
A long scream ricocheted through the apartment, echoing off the elegant furnishings and designer décor. Suddenly the cordless phone was airborne, hovering just beside her as an invisible finger pressed the appropriate speed dial number.
** *** **
Wesley peered at the thick and crumbling paper, straining to decipher the faded ink characters. He had been slumped over the scrolls in the same position for hours although his back would have argued that he had been there for days. He was so involved in his translations that when the phone rang, he nearly jumped out of his chair.
His bobble drew Angel’s attention more readily than the ringing of the phone had and he quickly stood in an attempt to cover his initial fright. “We should answer the call, Angel. Perhaps it’s a potential client.” He nodded toward the piece of machinery that was perched on the far end of the counter.
“Cordelia didn’t turn the answering machine off this morning. If it’s a client they’ll leave a message,” Angel replied, returning his attention to the books spread before him.
Wesley glanced at the contraption that had started him. Angel was right, they would leave a message. He didn’t feel up to chatting with the poor and defenseless regardless of their plummeting financial situation. He glanced around the lobby, noticing Cordelia’s absence for the first time. “Where is Cordelia?”
Before he had even completed forming the question, the sounds of Cordelia’s torment filled the lower rooms of the hotel. Both men turned toward the answering machine, half expecting the woman in question to miraculously materialize there on the desk.
A hurried look at the call box answered Wesley’s query.
“She’s at home.” Angel was through the basement door on his was to the sewers before Wesley caught his breath.
** *** **
Angel reached Cordelia’s front door in a mere twenty minutes, his deepening concern for his young friend adding wings to his heels as he quickly navigated the twists and turns of LA’s sewer system. The door swung open soundlessly on well-oiled hinges before his fist had completed its first contact with the painted wood.
A single lamp burned brightly on the end table farthest from where Cordelia sat on the couch. Her shoulders were hunched and her entire body was curled around the decorative throw pillow she clutched to her chest, arms folded against the deep velvet pile and her hands in a white-knuckled grip on the gold-corded edges.
Angel approached the silent and motionless girl, his attentive gaze drinking in the details of the scene. A pen and pad of paper lay discarded on the sofa cushion next to his friend and an empty water glass lay on its side on the coffee table amid dozens of scattered pills and capsules. He hoped her current state was due to the after-effects of the vision itself and not an unintentional overdose.
His fears were relieved when she raised her head slightly when he drew closer to the couch. Sorrowful eyes bored into his, driving home the fact that her suffering was yet another strike against his conscience.
“Cordelia?” Angel’s attention was temporarily diverted by the pad of paper that was lifted by an unseen hand, accepting the clue to Cordelia’s condition. There were only a few lines of scrawled words on the page, the handwriting jerky and tortured, a far cry from the flowing loops and peaks he had become accustomed to deciphering.
table… blue stones… road… crystal… silver… broken… pain… anger… coming
His head jerked back toward Cordelia. “What’s coming, Cordy? Where?”
She shook her head miserably. “I don’t know,” she admitted in a hoarse half-whisper.
Angel discarded the paper and crouched down next to his ill prepared seer. “It’s okay, Wes will figure it out.” He brushed his fingers across her tear-damp cheeks. “He’s good at that kind of thing.”
She nodded wordlessly, allowing her body to accept the comfort Angel offered.
** *** **
Wesley finished scrawling a note for anyone who might return to the Hyperion before he and Angel made it back to the hotel and placed it on the counter, held in place with one of Cordelia’s bottles of nail lacquer. He only paused long enough to retrieve his keys from his office before he dashed through the lobby and hurried to his car where it was parked a block away.
He was in such a rush that he didn’t notice the roiling black thunderheads that soared across the once clear skies, he paid no attention to the heightened feel of electricity in the air as he finally approached his car, keys in hand.
What did finally snag his attention away from his single-minded mission of arriving at Cordelia’s apartment in all due haste was the crash of deafening thunder and simultaneous blinding lightening strike that crashed into the transformer across the street from his parking place. He watched as white sparks streaked along the power lines on either side of the large metal box, crackles and pops echoing in the sudden silence.
He shielded his eyes from the rising wind as it tossed dust and dirt into the air. He had never seen a storm begin so quickly.
Remembering his reason for being outside to begin with, he turned back to his car. Just as his key slid home in the lock, another crash sounded behind him, accompanied by another bright flash of light. When the rumble died down, the street was empty, Wesley’s keys still swayed in the door of his car but he had disappeared.
** *** **
“Come on, Wes, answer the phone,” Angel muttered softly. He had managed to bundle Cordelia into bed but Wesley was still nowhere to be found. He’d called both his apartment and the Hyperion but hadn’t been able to track down the elusive ex-watcher.
“He’s still not answering?”
Cordelia’s voice startled him, his concentration had been so focused on the fruitless phone call that he hadn’t heard her leave the bedroom. “No, he isn’t. You should be lying down.”
She shrugged delicately and sunk into a corner of the couch. “I’m feeling a little better,” she told him. “Besides, the thunderstorm woke me up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one this violent.”
Angel looked past Cordelia to the window, watching the rain sheet down the glass. Lightening gave a staccatoed effect on the street below, strobing across the few frantic pedestrians who had been surprised by the sudden downpour.
“Maybe he’s stuck somewhere because of all this rain,” she suggested.
“Maybe.” Angel crossed the room to sit next to her. “Are you sure you’re feeling up to being… up?”
“Yeah, I’ll be okay. Actually, I a little worried about Fred and Gunn, those roads out in Topanga can get pretty slick when it just sprinkles.”
“Gunn called half an hour ago, when it first started raining, he and Fred are at a diner. They’re going to wait out the storm there and head back when they’re able.”
Relief sloped Cordelia’s shoulders. “Oh good, at least they have some sense.”
Angel nodded. “I just wish I could get a hold of Wesley.”
“Did you try his cell phone?” Cordelia tucked her feet up underneath her, leaning against the arm of the sofa.
“Yeah, I got that message that says he’s out of range.”
“It’s probably just the storm. He’ll probably be an idiot and try to drive over here.” She smiled at the mention of Wesley’s probable course of action. She shifted so that her head rested against his shoulder. Soon her eyelids had fluttered shut as she slipped back to sleep.
** *** **
“How romantic,” Fred giggled as Gunn set a single candle on the table between them. They had gotten to the diner just as the rain had started, and having called Angel to explain their delay, decided to stay for a while and have dinner. That was when the cozy little roadside diner lost its electricity.
“Don’t-a worry, don’t-a worry,” the chef called as he walked through the tables. “You all get-a your food. De’ stove, she is gas!”
Gunn chuckled at the rotund man, and snaked his hands across the tabletop to clasp Fred’s chilly fingers. “I can’t imagine a better way to spend the afternoon that stuck in a room with you by candlelight.”
Fred smiled. “It would be even better if there weren’t twenty other people in here with us.”
“So we’ll give ‘em a show they’ll never forget,” Gunn promised lowly.
“Charles!” Fred’s outraged gasp was spoiled by the fit of giggles that followed it.
They ate their meal in quiet contemplation when it arrived, sharing looks and smiles across the plates of spaghetti. Even the worsening storm didn’t seem to affect the lovebirds as they lost themselves in one another, until a bolt of lightening struck close enough tot the diner that the resounding thunder rattled the glasses on the table.
“This storm is really bad,” Fred said, worry coloring her voice.
“Yeah, I know. It’s weird though, I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never seen anything like it. You?”
“Well, in Texas you get a lot of storms… and tornadic thunderstorms, and tornadoes, and hurricanes…”
Gunn rested a finger against her lips to cease the list of catastrophic weather conditions. “You ever seen anything like this?”
Fred turned her head toward the front of the store and the windows there, shaking her head slowly. “No, never.”
** *** **
The storm was relentless in its ferocity, its uncharacteristic violence keeping the Pacific coast’s pedestrians and commuters to a bare minimum along the rain slicked streets and sidewalks of the city. Only the most die-hard dared to venture out into the torrents of icy rain and blinding lightning, battling flooded streets and darkened traffic lights in their bid to find themselves safely at home.
Angel stood in front of the window in Cordelia’s living room, the curtains pushed aside despite the early hour. There would be no sunset that evening, no burning rays to hide from. The thick, heavy storm clouds had shrouded the city in an early starless night with not even the barest hint of daylight allowed to peek between the thunderheads.
Cordelia busied herself in her kitchen, trying to keep her mind off Wesley and Lorne, neither of whom had called to check in, and trying to sort through the irritatingly obscure images from the vision. Her apartment had lost power shortly after she’d awoken from her evening nap and she was again reminded how pleasant it was to have a resident ghost when she’d discovered candles and matches floating just in front of her. The candlelight bathed her counters in soft light, illuminating the soapy path of her sponge as she swabbed the Formica and tile.
“Maybe… no, no, that’s not it…” her voice trailed off again as she discarded yet another explanation and scrubbed at an invisible blemish on the countertop. Her hands were red and raw from her ministrations with the cleanser and she finally tossed the dishrag into the spotless sink, all she needed was to destroy her new manicure on top of everything else, just throw away thirty dollars she couldn’t really afford to spend in the first place.
She rounded the end of the counter, headed toward her bedroom. She needed to keep busy, to be doing something, anything. She had made it halfway to her opened door when the blinding flash of light halted her stride. At first, she thought it was just another streak of lightening, she changed her opinion when the disjointed images once again paraded across her inner eye, stomping their heavy feet through her brain.
When she could finally see the reality of her softly illuminated apartment again, she had never been so glad the lights were out, even the pale candlelight threatened to burn holes through her head. She could feel Angel’s arms supporting her and she glanced around experimentally to discern where she had landed. Her bedroom door was two feet away, had she been alone, she would have had a concussion to accompany the post-vision headache.
“Yeah, ’m back,” she muttered, her tongue slurring the sounds together into a whirl of soft vowels. “I wish the PTB would start paying attention to when they’re sending these things.” The tears that brightened her eyes belied the humor she tried to force into her tone.
“What did you see?” Angel tried to help her stand but had to give up when she struggled to regain her feet on her own. He stepped aside, allowing her to straighten slowly and walk to the sofa.
“I don’t… It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe they’ve got their wires crossed,” she murmured. She rubbed vainly at her temples in an attempt to clear her roiling thoughts. Her brain was filled with flashes very like the lightening that danced outside her window, choppy and bright and not lasting long enough to discern if there were any real meaning behind it.
“Just tell me what you can,” Angel prompted.
“I’m not even sure I can do that,” she sobbed quietly, sinking slowly onto her couch.
Angel joined her, gently easing his arm around her shoulders. Since he wouldn’t be able to do anything due to the tumultuous storm, staying at Cordelia’s side had become his first priority. “Shh,” he whispered into her hair, “it’s okay. Just relax, rest for a minute.”
Cordelia leaned her head against her friend’s and sucked in a deep breath, trying to make sense of the things she’s seen splashed across her thoughts.
** *** **
“Still can’t get ‘im?” Gunn took in Fred’s concerned expression as she jabbed a button on the cell phone, ending her call.
She shook her head miserably. “I just wish we knew he was safe.”
“Tell you what,” he said, stretching his hand across the table to clasp Fred’s cool fingers. “We don’t get word from him in twenty minutes, we’ll drive back to the hotel and see what’s up.” He paused at her wide-eyed glance at the restaurant’s windows. “Don’t tell me you’re doubting my truck.”
“Oh no,” she quickly assured him. “But I am doubting the current of that river.”
Gunn followed her concerned gaze to the street outside. Water lapped the tops of the curb as it flowed steadily in the opposite direction they needed to travel. “Damn.” He refocused on Fred as she sat worrying over the water outside.
Lorne brushed the heavy curtains aside and peered through the window into the oppressive evening. The rain sheeted so heavily that he had difficulty seeing the sidewalk that bordered the front yard, much less the street beyond. Yes, ominous undertones rang loud and clear despite the clamorous thunder that rumbled loudly enough to rattle the windowpanes.
“My goodness, I don’t believe I’ve seen such a violent storm before.”
He turned toward the elderly lady who sat perched on the edge of lush overstuffed chair, her eyes bright and locked on him in anticipation of their appointed reading. Mrs. Harding was, by far, his most frequent client as well as his most eccentric.
“Janice is bringing us a spot of tea to warm us up a bit. Nasty weather out there tonight, isn’t it?”
“You said it, sugar cake. I hope my friends don’t go and forget all their good sense and try to go out into it.” He shook the thoughts from his head and flashed a bright smile at the elderly lady. “Now what did you have in mind for today’s reading, honey? Another glimpse into that torrid affair you’ve been thinking of having with Mr. Carney at the bridge club?”
Distracted by her twittering blush, Mrs. Harding never noticed the heavy worry that settled in Lorne’s eyes.
** *** **
Fred grinned across the table as Gunn spun spaghetti on his fork. Her rapt attention paused his fork half way to his mouth.
She blushed and lifted her own fork. “Oh, it’s nothing, it’s silly.”
“Come on now,” he urged. “What’s goin’ on in that brain o’ yours?” He chewed slowly, waiting for Fred to speak.
“Well, when I was a little girl, I used to love Lady and the Tramp…”
Gunn smiled. “Spaghetti dinner by candle light.” He eyed his nearly empty plate and speared the last meatball, making a beeline for Fred’s mouth.
** *** **
The truck navigated the waterlogged streets with little problem and rolled to a soggy stop in front of the Hyperion. Dashing out the door and toward the hotel’s front entrance, Fred’s eye was drawn to a familiar vehicle parked further along the street. She tugged at the sleeve of Gunn’s jacket and slowed to a stop despite the stinging rain.
“If Wesley’s still here, why didn’t he answer the phone?” she asked, raising her voice to be heard above the pitch of the storm.
Gunn shrugged, ready to write off their unanswered calls to the distraction of the storm when another frighteningly close flash of lightning blinded them both.
Fred stood in the pouring rain, rushing water tugging at her ankles as she tried to rid her eyes of the aftereffects of the bright flash of light when she realized she was suddenly alone on the sidewalk.
“Charles?” She spun her head around, forcing her eyes to stay open despite the biting raindrops.
He was gone. With sheer panic egging her on, Fred dashed up the steps of the Hyperion and threw open the door. The floor was dry. No tell-tale footprints marred the gleaming tiles.
“Charles!” Her voice echoed in the cavernous room but no reply was forthcoming. “Wesley!”
Returning to the sidewalk, she jumped as another deafening crack of thunder crashed overhead. It had been a long time since she had been afraid of storms but she could feel the old emotion returning with a vengeance.
Wesley’s car appeared to be empty and as she neared it she saw a set of keys laying in the street among the leaves and debris the rain water sent rushing along the pavement. She clutched them in her hand, her tight grip causing the metal to dig into the soft flesh of her palm.
She was alone again, just like she had been in Pylea.
** *** **
“I’m sure they’re fine.”
Cordelia cut her eyes at Angel and flicked wet hair out of her face. He had put up a valiant fight against returning to the hotel, but as always, she had won in the end.
When they did finally makle it back, they had found Gunn’s truck and Wesley’s SUV parked nearby but Cordelia’s nerves wouldn’t be calmed down until she could see her friends with her own two eyes.
The lobby was dark when they entered and Cordelia wondered if the building’s old wiring was to blame more so than the storm until she spied her computer monitor glowing dimly on her desk. Sweeping her eyes across the room, she tried vainly to see into the dusky shadows for some sign of life.
Cordelia jumped at the sound of Angel’s voice. Her eyes followed his hand to the soggy footprints that led from the front door across the lobby and to the stairwell.
“I told you they were fine.”
She glowered. “Three missing people, two empty cars, and a single set of footprints does not make for a happy ending, Angel.”
“Maybe Gunn carried Fred inside,” he offered feebly.
“Not unless he’s started borrowing Fred’s shoes.” She pointed to a clear print with her toe. “Heels.”
Angel took the stairs two at a time in his haste to locate the young woman, leaving Cordelia to slowly maneuver the steps in his wake. He slowed his steps as he neared the door to her room and forced his hand to open the door slowly.
“Oh my god…”
He hadn’t heard Cordelia join him as he stood transfixed in the doorway to Fred’s bedroom.
The walls, recently painted, were covered with more mathematical equations and highly complex formulas. In the midst of it all stood Fred, a magic marker clutched in her fist as she struggled to complete what she had begun.
“Fred? Fred, where are Gunn and Wes?”
Angel glanced at Cordelia, noting the same worry that lay in the depths of her eyes.
“Gone… gone… all gone…”
The hushed words filled the room, their repetition grating against the senses as Fred moved the tip of the marker back to the cream colored wall.
** *** **
It was dark. Gunn tried to peer through the inky blackness that surrounded him but it was useless. He wiggled his fingers in front of his face. At least he hoped they were in front of his face, it was far too dark to tell.
He struggled to stand but thought better of it when his hand brushed something soggy and soft and decidedly unknown. With no light to guide him, the roof of where ever it was that he was could be inches or yards from his head and a concussion was not exactly how he wanted to top off his day.
The one positive thing he could determine was that wherever he was, it was dry. For the first time in at least a day there was no reverberating thunder, no blinding flashes of lightning, and best of all no cold piercing and downright wet rain. His clothes were still wet though, which led him to believe that how ever long he had been out, it had not been terribly long. He could feel the puddle of wetness he lay in and fervently hoped it was water rather than blood.
So, he thought as he tried to piece it all together, the place was dry, he was still wet and relatively unharmed, and the only other object in his vicinity was wet and unmoving. He rested his head against the cold stone of the floor and tried to gather what few facts he had together into some semblance of a plan of action.
The last he could remember was standing in the rain with Fred outside the Hyperion. Yeah, she’d been worried because of the storm and they’d driven through the torrential downpour to relieve her fears. They’d been on their way to the hotel when something knocked him flat and turned out the lights.
If it had sucked him into where he found himself, then it would only stand to reason that it would have snagged Fred too. And there was the soggy soft something near him… Worry for his girlfriend shoved aside any qualms he might have had about the unknown while he felt along the floor for the object he had touched.
“Fred?” His voice sounded harsh in the void and the concerned tones echoed back at him until they rang too loudly in his ears. “Fred?” He dropped his voice to a bare whisper. “Is that you, Fred?”
His fingers brushed against what could only be sodden fabric and he tried to recall what it was that Fred had been wearing. He could almost picture her as she had been in the restaurant, sitting in the warm circle of candlelight with a smile in her eyes.
“Come on, Fred. Talk to me now…”
His fingers crept along the fabric, trying to distinguish the form it covered. As he blindly tested the figure that unmistakably lay next to him, he became less convinced that it was Fred after all. It was much too large, for one thing. For another, he found a soggy loafer attached to one of its feet. A ragged groan from the object beneath his tactile scrutiny stilled his fingers.
“Please, just be somethin’ without horns or fangs,” Gunn muttered as he slowly pulled away from the mystery form.
“English?” Gunn scooted back toward the body. “What’re you doin’ here, man?”
“I would imagine the same thing you are.” Wesley’s voice was harsh in the darkness. “Where are we?”
“Dunno. One second I’m standing in the rain with Fred, the next… Wham! I wake up here.”
“Where is Winifred?”
“Not here that I can tell. With any luck she’s still at the hotel.”
** *** **
“Fred,” Angel softly called her name for what seemed to be the hundredth time. He watched as she gave no indication that she had heard his voice.
The only words she had spoken since he and Cordelia had arrived at her bedroom door had been to solidify their fears that Gunn and Wesley were indeed missing. Any attempt since those utterances to provoke her to speak had been met with stony silence. The only sound besides his own voice was the light squeak of the magic marker’s tip as it was drug against the wall.
His concerns grew exponentially with every stroke of the marker, every minute that passed. He was at a loss. Fred’s withdrawal was no easier for him to deal with than Cordelia’s pain. To make matters worse, he found himself in the position of having to deal with them both simultaneously. The fact that Cordelia had returned downstairs to begin a pain induced cleaning fit did not ease his mind any more than Fred’s eerie calculations.
The cry jolted him from his crouched position near Fred. A sudden searing worry dashed through his head as he fled the room and descended the stairs. His eyes swept through the lobby but found nothing that would lead him to Cordelia.
He continued to walk through the entry until he came to her crumpled form. Another vision had hit her with the force of a freight train. Something had to give soon. The visions were coming almost on top of one another, seeming to build with the severity of the storm that pounded the city outside. And with Fred regressing…
Something had to give.
** *** **
Lorne trudged up the steps of the hotel, water sloshing over his shoes and unseen bits of debris trying to trip him as he made his way inside. What a day to find himself walking back from an appointment. Public and private transportation had both been an impossibility and although sweet Mrs. Harding had tried to insist that he remain at her home, Lorne had found himself worrying more and more about the rest of the team.
By the time he reached the hotel, the city was a black hole devoid of electricity save for the bolts of lightning that flashed overhead. Within the confines of the Hyperion, Lorne found the same lack of electricity as he had witnessed throughout his walk. While the darkness had made it easier to hide his differences from passersby, had there been any passersby out on such a night, it also made it more difficult to judge the terrain.
Candlelight cut through the darkness but did not manage to chase it completely away. Lorne glanced around the lower rooms, watching for a familiar figure to appear in a doorway but none were forthcoming. Resigned to tend to himself before he went traipsing off in search of whoever had light the candles, he sat heavily on the sofa.
Water poured from his shoes as he pried them from his feet and large slick puddles spread across the glistening floor. Although his toes were soggy, they were unbruised, something that could not be said for his shins and ankles. Little aches and pains shot up his legs as he stood. It was a nuisance but he would undoubtedly live. He was more concerned about the fate of his friends.
a work in progress