Summary: Angel tries to be merciful.
On the day he did it, the day that now felt like an eternity ago, the air had been brimming with redemption. It was visible in everyone’s face, in the way they did their work with just a little more joy. The only thing that had held them back was the cost of Angel’s redemption.
The price was so damned high, and even as he felt the burden lifting, every good thing he did seemed tainted by the blood. How could it be redemption–how? Why did all of these people matter more than his friend, who had never done anything truly horrible in her life?
On that day, he’d walked into her bedroom and he could almost see death sitting next to her. He took matters into his hands, because he couldn’t see any other way.
He had meant to be merciful.
“Angel, I’m really hungry,” Cordelia said, slumped against the hunter green chaise like an old movie star. He couldn’t explain it. The weariness had given her face a dark, striking beauty, and the blood had–the blood had–
“Angel!” she snapped. “I said I’m hungry. I’m bored, too. Can’t we go outside?”
She was wearing a black satin nightgown from Victoria’s Secret and a lipstick that he swore he’d seen on that woman lawyer from Wolfram and Hart. He looked at her, feeling sick to his stomach. How could she still be so much like herself? How could she be so beautiful?
He had only meant to take the pain away.
They knew it was getting worse all the time. Cordy would take five Alleve at a time, telling them crossly that all of her doctors had said it was all right and she couldn’t afford the prescriptions anyway. The medicine never really helped anyway. Her eyes were the first things to give her away. They were always bloodshot and swollen, and so sensitive to light that he and Wesley had dug up a thousand candles to light the hotel with so that she wouldn’t get the headaches so often.
“Cordy, I brought you lunch. And we can’t go outside now, it’s day,” he said. He watched her looking at him, unconsciously running her tongue over her lower lip. Otherwise, she wasn’t moving at all.
“You know I have a hard time telling,” she said languidly, her eyes fixed on his neck. “You keep it dark in here all the time and all the clocks are broken. What time is it, anyway?”
“Two-thirty in the afternoon,” he lied. “And you know I keep it dark in here because you’re sick. Don’t you want to get better?”
Wesley had insisted on doctors. There had been a seizure at a mall in front of a crowd of people. She had been so embarrassed at the way she’d screamed and kicked and cried in front of all those strangers. After the seizure, they’d taken her home and Wes had taken her into her bedroom, because there was something between them, a mutual parenting agreement or something. When the rest of them in finally got to come in, she was curled up on her bed and Wes was wiping her head with a cool washcloth.
“We’re taking her to the doctor,” Wes had said in a steely voice. “No discussion. Cordelia has agreed that she needs a CAT scan and we’ll tell them what we have to. If we have to force them to believe in demons and visions, we will. This has to stop.”
He had been sure that there was nothing doctors could do. That wasn’t the way the Powers worked. He knew the only way to get the visions to stop was to work harder, faster, better. He had to redeem himself to save her, because once he’d earned his redemption, wouldn’t the Powers stop torturing her with the visions? Wasn’t that fair?
“I miss outside,” Cordy said, dragging him back to where he was. “Why don’t we ever go outside? I’d feel a lot better if I could go outside more.”
She was probably right. But the last thing he wanted was for Cordelia to feel better.
“We go outside sometimes,” he said mildly. “Would you like lunch now?”
She looked at him with glittering eyes. She’d looked like that when she was dying, too. The fever had been bad and the air had been hot and stale, even in the early evening when it should have been cooler, less charged with dead energy.
The air in her room now was the same temperature and consistency as the air in a mausoleum.
“Angel, what day is it today?” she asked, sitting up. “Is it a Wednesday or a Friday? Is it summer? I don’t even know what year it is.”
The she looked at him and it seemed like every glass of drugged blood he’d fed her wore off all at once.
“Angel, how long has it been since I died?” she asked in a whisper.
“I don’t remember,” he lied.
It would be ten years in June.
He can’t talk about it. She’s wanted to, but it wasn’t hard to distract Cordelia even when she wasn’t a doped-up alcoholic vampire who consumed Bloody Marys and blood at the same rate. He can’t imagine the words to explain how he condemned them both to hell out of love and mercy.
“You still haven’t told me what today is,” she said. “I want to know.”
“It’s April,” he said. “Today is Sunday. I think it’s the 11th or something today.”
Her eyes darkened.
“So late already?” she asked. “I swear, it should be much, much earlier. Maybe December. The last I remember, it was December. Don’t you think it should be?”
He thinks it should be the end of the world already. But that’s the day that will never come for him.
Cordelia thought it should be December because she slept through most of January, February, and March. The only time she was awake for any significant amounts of time was when he was coaxing the visions out of her.
“Actually, I think it’s a very April time to be,” he said, trying to give her the blood and get out of there. But she was not ready to be denied.
“I feel sick again,” she said, grabbing his arm. “Are you putting something in the blood? I’m always sleepy. Why don’t we ever go outside? I want to go to the movies. I want to do something. Isn’t there a new Gwyneth Paltrow movie out or something?”
Her lips had gotten darker and redder after she died. She didn’t really need to wear lipstick at all. Instead of looking like a suburban princess with attitude, she had an aura of menace around her. She was fatally beautiful and looking at her, he understood how you could just give in to that beauty.
But it wasn’t the beauty that kept her alive. It was the face. She was still Cordelia and because of that, he couldn’t take that can of gasoline he’d bought, what, five years back, and–
The last month of her life (and his, really), she’d cried all the time because the pain never stopped. He would visit her in the hospital when he could, and every time, the shadows under her eyes would get darker and eat up more of her face. They thought he was her brother, and so he was the first one to know that there was nothing the doctors could do. If they couldn’t find a miracle, she would die. One of the visions would burst something in her brain and she’d fall over dead before she could scream.
He had decided right then and there what he would do.
“Nah,” he said, trying to get his arm free. “All the movies out right now suck. Unless you want to see the Olson twins take on Chris Rock.”
She knew not to trust him. Her laughter was fake, calculated, meant to sound amused.
“I’m really bored. Can’t we go somewhere? We don’t have to go to the movies. We could go to the Pier. Or maybe we could get crazy and go dancing. Angel, I’m so bored.”
The last time Cordelia had been really bored, an entire floor in the hotel had been ruined forever. He could still smell the stink of the blood when he walked past the elevator.
Of course, an entire floor was nothing. He didn’t care about the hotel. Everything about his life had changed in those two days in June. Those were the two days he wanted back.
Her eyes were perfect blanks as he decided what to do next.
On the day he did it, she had been back home for two weeks, and seemed to be doing a little better. He hadn’t told anyone, not Gunn, not Fred, and definitely not Wesley, about what the doctors had said. It would only have made things worse.
There wasn’t any way to make the visions stop hurting so damn much. They had looked over and over again. They were looking every day, and he had known the same way he knew the doctors weren’t going to help.
It was almost too clear and too harsh. Cordelia’s life was the price with which he would purchase his own salvation.
And he refused to pay that price.
“Angel,” her voice called out to him, trying to warn him away. Ten years later, he still can’t understand why he didn’t listen. “What are you doing here?”
Dying, she was dying, and it was all his fault, she was only twenty-one years old, she was dying for him and he wasn’t worth dying for–
The Orb of Thessulah had glowed in his hand like a beacon. He was going to make it all right. Cordelia had done a few bad things, but she didn’t have blood on her hands and the soul wouldn’t ache like his–she would be all right, they’d all be all right–
“Angel, I asked you why you’re in my bedroom when I’m trying to take a nap?”
The sirens had started wailing two blocks from the hotel and his hope had sunk into the pit of his stomach.
He had taken her hand into his, and her wrist had been so pale, he could see all the blood vessels under the skin, pumping so hard to stay alive
He was running toward the hotel, clutching the Orb. Every possible disaster flashed through his mind. Had she tried to kill herself? Had she realized what she was already?
Blood, always so much blood in his life–why did it always have to be the blood?
The sirens were screaming and he knocked over five or six people to get to the police line, that ugly yellow tape that told the world that evil was alive and well in the human heart
His other hand was clamped over her mouth as he drank so she wouldn’t talk him out of it. It took all of his strength to do it, telling himself that this was an act of mercy and that he was doing what he had to do.
And when he saw the first dead body, the familiar slacks, the familiar glasses–
She wouldn’t drink. He had to make her drink.
“Cordelia, you have to do this. I can’t let you die, Cordelia, we love you, I love you, Cordelia, I promise it’ll be okay, I’ll make sure nothing bad happens, Cordelia, you have to do this, we have to do this and I promise I won’t let you down–”
She had almost bit through his finger before moving to his wrist, staring at him with angry, brokenhearted eyes. Her teeth had clamped to his arm and she’d drunk, she would live, it would be okay–
“Sir, I’m sorry, there’s nothing you can do.”
They had all been drained and left in the courtyard for him to see. And like an innocent victim, she was waiting for him in the ambulance that would take all the people he loved to the morgue.
She arched her back and screamed as the change hit her.
Those eyes had stared out at him and for the first time, her tongue had scraped over her lower lip before her mouth arched up in a smile just for him.
A throaty whisper broke the silence.
Time stopped and it was that whisper and those eyes in every last memory in his mind.
It would be ten years in June.
“Angel, do you love me?”
Or does he hate her so much that he’d keep her next to him so that they can both suffer?
He leaned down and kissed her.
She was cold.
“You know what you mean to me,” he said. “Come on, Cordelia. I’ll make you a Bloody Mary, just the way you like it–”
She kissed his hand with her cold, wet mouth. He tried not to scream.
He had only meant to be merciful.