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Center Cannot Hold, The

by starlet2367

SPOILERS: Through Rain of Fire/Apocalypse Nowish

PAIRING: Cordy/Connor, if you can call it that.

DISCLAIMER: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.

DISTRIBUTION: Let me know if you'd like a copy. I'll happily oblige.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: The title is from Yeats's poem, "Second Coming." Thanks to Queen Mab for the butt-kicking and pictures of Willow in black bras. And to Anni for the beta that dressed this one up and took it out to dinner at Spago.

"But understand there is a difference between wishing vengeance on someone - and taking it." - Angel, Deep Down

He remembers snow. Not just from that one, oddly-fated night in Sunnydale, but from Ireland as a child. Drifts of white; expanding silence. The sudden, startling crack of bird wings in the hard, winter air.

There was a time when he was innocent. When he was alive. But that was so long ago he's nearly forgotten.

Now there's only the lifeless sound of false cheer coming from the TV in Fred's room, as Dick Clark rings in another New Year.

He can hear Fred and Gunn arguing, voices low and grim. The little ship of the happy couple, tossed onto the rocks.

It's hardly a surprise. Love is a lying bitch, stroking your face with one hand and fucking your son with the other. The real surprise is that anyone bothers trying anymore.

He lumbers to his feet, kicks the ottoman aside, and goes to the kitchen. There, he pulls a bag of blood from the fridge. His stomach growls; he can't remember when he last ate.

He thumbs the plastic, finding it cold and humid. Even hungry, it isn't tempting. If he closes his eyes he can remember the rough-velvet feel of her tongue, imagine the soft heat of her skin opening with the slice of his teeth. He wants to feel her shoulders tense, to press his chest against her racing heart. He wants to swallow her blood in great hungry gulps--

The bag explodes, spraying its sticky syrup on his hands and face. He stands, trembling, as the faint, copper odor of stale blood engulfs him. Then he turns, grabs his coat, and walks out of the apartment.

He doesn't bother wiping his face or closing the door behind him. Instead, he walks through the damp, Los Angeles night, feeling as dead as the blood in that bag.

His boots crunch leaves on the sidewalk, and that hot, itchy feeling is back. He runs, feet pounding the pavement, fists pumping at his sides. In the crackle of the leaves he can hear her wrists snap. Feel her lips open for him, open on him, as he shoves her head-- Instead of the moon, he sees her eyes, pleading for death.

He stumbles to a halt, breathing hard, and stares at the windows of Connor's crappy little flat. The sea breeze punches him in the face, carrying the city's odors to him. He smells garbage, gasoline, cooking meat.


Humans are prey. Food. Pathetic and weak, they believe in lies like love and family. But the problem isn't that they believe it. It's that he let them make him believe it, too.

The burnt-out shell of the neighboring building has wooden staircases that wind and wind, until he's tiptoeing over charred remnants of walls and skirting piles of rags and newspapers redolent with piss and worse.

His feet meet roof and now he can see them, going about their happy little New Year's celebration. They look like the TV image of the warm, golden family, and for a minute, he wants to touch them, to be there with them.

He had that once and now he hates them for it. Hates how human, how needy, they've made him.

For that, he wants to slice his bastard son with the edge of a thin, glinting knife. Smell the stench of his fear, see his blood pulse out; hear him whimper with pain.

Cordy, well, she deserves her own, perfect revenge.

And then he blinks and realizes that he must have imagined the whole thing. They're not there, at all. Only Cordy, alone in the shadows, so dim that he can barely make her out. She is pale as bone in the moonlight, and she sits quietly, like something used up and discarded. She looks down at her hands, twisted in her lap, or at her feet, bare on the wood floor.

Where are her slippers? Where is his son? If he's going to fuck the woman his father loves, he should at least make sure her feet are warm.

Connor appears in the doorway, arms full of vending machine food. He watches as Cordy takes a package from him. Her lips twist, not in her bright, beautiful grin, but the other one. The one that says, "Thank you for your help, now please go away."

Angel once knew how to heat up that smile. How to make her happy in an out-of-control world. He's not a complete dumbass, though he knows she thinks he is. She thinks he's a lot of things, and most of them are wrong. And her stupidity, her ignorance, they've cost her more than she knows.

They've cost him everything.

Connor, the boy whose soul once smelled like hyacinths, kneels at her feet and takes her hands. The gesture is so intimate that Angel turns away, unable to watch.

The white glitter of light reminds him of the snow of his homeland. Of the hunter, startling wild birds and shooting them down one by one.

He can feel the bird in his hand; see its blood on his brown, leather glove. Feel the thrill of death, of knowing there's a good meal to be had once the feathers are plucked and the meat stripped off the bones.

His empty hands clench and he wants that simple life again. Not this parody, where everything he loves, everything he touches, burns away and turns to ash.

He has a sense of snow and it's telling him now, even when the sky is clear and the air is warm for a California December, to walk away and keep on walking.

If he stays, he'll shoot these two birds out of their aerie and watch them land, black splatters on winter's white, white skin. And he hates--and loves-- them too much for that.

Instead he picks his way through the rubble to the street below, resigned to facing his personal apocalypse the same way he's faced everything else since his soul returned. Alone.


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