A Clumsy Waltz In Limbo by Babs


Summary: Follow up to Slow Road to Nowhere; Cordelia slips deeper between two worlds. She has company.


Spoilers: Birthday, Season Three.


Notes: AN1: 1) When it was first introduced, the waltz was criticized on moral grounds. Religious figures found it vulgar and sinful because of its closer hold and rapid turns. Musically, its defining characteristic is that it's in 3/4 time. (I'm simplifying here folks.) 2) Limbo is defined as: an abode of souls that are according to Roman Catholic theology barred from heaven because of not having received Christian baptism; ALSO an intermediate or transitional place or state. 3) Amen is a term of concurrence that means "so be it" or "so shall it be." Yes, all of that really is important. And so ends my little education session.

AN2: Uh yeah. I realize that I have done a smooshing of the Hail Mary and the Lord's Prayer. It's intentional. I'm not Catholic so I don't know if chopping up the Hail Mary is offensive. It if it is, sorry. I am Protestant, however, and am completely comfortable using the Lord's Prayer as I please. It's just some Bible verses after all. Oh and my very basic description of the waltz steps may be way off. I can waltz, I really can. It's just that being a girl, I just follow the lead. Okay. Really done talking now.



She sleeps in shadows, buried deep beneath her blankets. It's a restless sleep filled with kicks and moans. She curls deeper into the bed and wakes with a start when the alarm buzzes. The untrained eye would think she's been pulled from a nightmare.

I know the truth. I know what she hides from in her dreams. What was, what is, what will be, and what will never be.

When she scurries out of bed with a blanket wrapped around her, I see the relief wash over her features. When the sun rises, it is harder for her demon to haunt her.

On her way to the bathroom, she mutters a soft, "Good morning Dennis," and I flicker the lights in reply.

In the bathroom, she turns the knobs on the bathtub and closes the door behind us. She waits until the steam clouds the air, lets her blanket and sleep clothes fall to the floor and climbs into the waiting water. She pulls the curtain around the tub, and I hear the knob turn once more as the gushing sounds of the water are replaced by the whizzing of the shower. If I were to look beyond the curtain, I know what I would see. She is balled up in the tub while the scalding water streams around her. Soon her flesh will be pink from the heat and rubbed raw from the force that she uses when she tries to scrub herself clean.

I open the door and flutter into the kitchen, measure water and coffee grounds, flick on the lights, place bread in the toaster. I water her plants, trying to make myself useful in a world that I no longer belong.

The water from the bathroom is quieted and as I meander to the bathroom I hear it gurgling down the drain. Stopping at the closet, I grab a big, fluffy towel and hold it open for her as she steps out of the shower.

She sighs as I wrap it tightly around her, shivers before she burrows deeper in. "Oh Dennis. What would I do without you?"

She stands in front of the mirror; brings her finger to the glass and slowly traces the shape of her face in the fog the steam has left behind. She steps back for a moment, observes the figure that she has drawn. Then she grabs a hand towel from the rack, steps forward and methodically begins to wipe away the steam. She continues to rub the mirror long after the fog has gone, trying to make clear the blurry reflection before her.

I know what it is to slowly fade away. I can't remember what color my eyes were. My hair or how tall I was. I don't even know my last name.

She wanders back to her bedroom and rummages through her closet for something to wear. When she emerges, she is wearing a long wool sweater over heavy jeans- despite the unseasonably warm weather.

She sprays herself with perfume in an attempt to mask her changing scent. I'm sure she wears a floral scent, or perhaps something flirty, but the aroma that floods my senses is a heavy musk. The kind my mother wore.

I don't remember the name of the girl I loved. Her name is why my mother killed me.

In the kitchen, she pours herself a mug of my freshly brewed coffee and then pulls a bag of thick, red liquid from the fridge. She glances around before she pours some into her mug. She sighs with relief, thinking I didn't see her. She forgets that I see everything. Even her descent into darkness.

She leaves just after sunrise, scurries out the door with her jacket pulled tight around her.

It's lonely while she's gone, but I try to make do. I clean the kitchen and vacuum the floors. She has been gone three hours when the phone rings.

"Hey," the machine answers. "This is Cordelia. You know what to do."

"Cordy, it's me." Angel's voice is agitated and marked with worry. "Where are you? You're normally in an hour ago.

These phone calls come more often lately; these gaps in time grow longer. I want to pick up the phone and tell him to find her, tell him that nothing is right with her anymore. But I don't. I can't. You can't talk when you're trapped between two worlds.

I have one last chore to do before I can settle down for the day. In her bedroom, I remake her bed and then move to pick up her discarded towel. When I hold it, I see that it is stained with blood. I fill the sink with water and add a cup of bleach. I drop the towel into the water and hope that it will come clean.

She returns long after sunset and immediately goes into the kitchen. She makes herself a Bloody Mary and adds the same liquid from this morning. When she drinks it, I see her muscles sigh.

She sets the tumbler down and I see that she is crying.

"Dennis," she whispers. "Did you know that Angel waltzes? He does, told me today that he used to love to waltz. He said that he loved to dance to the melancholy waltzes. He promised he'd teach me someday. He said that when Connor is older, he'd teach us both to waltz."

She is broken now. I don't know what to do for her anymore. Before her transformation when the visions came and she returned to me wounded, I always knew what to do. Now I cannot help her.

She returns to the fridge and pulls out a fresh bag of blood. She doesn't even pretend that it's anything else, just pours it into a mug and sets it in the microwave to heat. While she waits, she digs a cd out of a case and places it in the stereo. The music that fills the apartment is a slow, sad three-count song.

The beep of the microwave resonates in the air and she pulls the mug out and sits down at the table. She sits briefly watching as her tears mix with the blood before she downs it quickly in three gulps.

"Can dead men pray Dennis? I need someone to pray for me." Her voice is hushed and desperate. "Please pray for me."

I'm not sure if God listens to dead men; not sure if the reason I'm held in this world will keep God from hearing my voice. I'm not sure I even remember how to pray, but I suppose it can't hurt to try.

{Hail Mary, full of grace}

A grace note fills the silence as the music switches keys and changes tempo. She rises from her seat and lifts her hands. She wraps her left hand around an invisible shoulder and places her right hand in the imaginary hand before her. When she closes her eyes, she begins to dance.

Back, two, three. Side, two, three. Front, two, three. Back, two, three. Turn, two, three.

{Blessed art thou amongst women}

She is beautiful, even in her sadness.

I slip the shadow of myself into her hold and slowly glide with her. She opens her eyes and I think that she sees me standing before her, if only for a moment. Then she closes her eyes again and rests her head against a body that isn't there. I know that in her mind's eye, I am not the man she dances with. She dances with a different dead man as I dance with a girl whose name I have forgotten.

The music ends and she drops her head. Fresh tears fall down her face and she shivers once again.

"Turn up the heat Dennis. It's cold, so very cold."

I oblige but can't help but notice that the thermostat already sits at 82.

She turns off the lights and heads into her bedroom. She pulls on her flannel pants and thick sweatshirt and crawls into her covers. When the light flickers off, I see her shudder in fear as she waits for sleep to catch her. And there she will be haunted.

{Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those whose trespass against us}

She sleeps past sunrise and wakes with a start when she feels the sun shine brightly on her. I rush to draw the curtains, afraid the sun will char her.

She calls the office to tell them she won't be in today. She can't take the chance of sunlight. She's not sure what would happen.

"Hi guys," she says into the phone, grateful that she got the voice mail. Her voice is thick with fake cheer. "I won't be in today. I forgot that I had an audition. Yeah, yeah. I know I said I was giving it up but I thought one more audition couldn't hurt. I'll call if I have any visions, otherwise I'll see you tomorrow."

She drops the phone and walks into the kitchen. She pours a mug of coffee and butters a piece of toast. She eats it while she stands, staring, in front of the refrigerator.

{Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil}

Three minutes later she pours the blood into her coffee and drinks.

She sits on the couch with the curtains drawn and lights off and stares into the darkness.

The phone rings and I bring it to her, but she doesn't answer it. It drops from her hand and onto the floor.

"Hey. This is Cordelia. You know what to do."

"Cordy it's Angel. Where are you? You said an audition, but that just doesn't seem right. Call me when you get this. I'm worried."

I float the phone back to her, but she throws it across the room. "No Dennis," she hisses. "Just leave it be. I'll talk to him tomorrow and everything will be fine."

{Pray for us, sinners}

She still sits in the dark when the phone rings three hours later. Once again, she ignores it.

"Hey. This is Cordelia. You know what to do."

"Cordy!" Angel's voice is uncharacteristically cheerful. "Where are you? You need to be here. Connor just took his first steps and you missed it. You need to be here Cordy. I want you to be here. Connor misses you. We all miss you. *I* miss you. Please call me?"

The sounds of her sobbing drown out the beep as she watches the life she will never have slip through her fingers.

At dark, she wakes from her sleep on the couch. There is a pounding at the door.

"Cordy!" Angel shouts. "Cordelia! Open the door."

She walks to the door and says, "Angel?" Her arms hang limply at her sides.

"Cordelia open the door."

"Angel," she answers, choking back a sob. "Go home. I'm tired. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Cordy, open up. I want to talk to you. I need to know what's going on with you."

"I had an audition and it didn't go well. I want to be alone." She slumps to the floor and sits curled up against the door. Her head rests against the woodwork.

"I know you're lying to me Cordelia. I called your agent and she said that you didn't have any auditions. She told me that you told her you'd given up acting. Open the door Cordelia."

"No. Go away."


I reach to undo the locks, but she must have felt me moving. "No Dennis. Don't you dare."

"I'll just break down the door."

"Angel." Her voice is flat. "Here's the thing. I just needed some time to myself today. I'm crampy and cranky and just plain feeling icky."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Concern has replaced what was earlier anger.

"Because Angel. I didn't want you to hover like I knew you would. I'll be fine. I just need some sleep." I sense the fear in her voice. The fear that he won't believe her.

"Please Cordy, open up. I need to see you and then I'll go away." I've never heard him plead before.

"Angel," she whines. "I look gross and I feel gross. I don't want anyone to see me like this. Not even you. Please just go away. I promise I'll see you in the morning."

In defeat, he sighs. "Fine, I'll leave. But if you're not at the hotel first thing in the morning, I'm breaking this door down."

"I will be. I promise." She worries that she is making a promise that she cannot keep.

"Good night then Cordy. Feel better."

"Night Angel. And thanks."

She splays her hand against the door and curls her fingertips into the wood. She waits until his footsteps have faded into the distance before she finally lets herself cry.

I know what it is to not let go of a world that won't let go of you.

The three-count music plays on.

Do you want to dance with a dead man?

{Now and in the hour of our death}



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