Break The Sky by Abby Cadabra
in the Supernova Series.
Summary: She just kept falling and falling and falling.
Spoilers: TVT (general), The Gift (BTVS), and Carpe Noctem (specifics).
Notes: This is set immediately after the case in Carpe Noctem, not the end of the episode.
Kelley and Katy are beautiful. I love them both. 'Tis all.
Who has paced the
So a spirit has to fly
As the heavens seem so far
Now who will paint the midnight star?
Hell-o? Is anybody there?” Cordelia’s voice traveled through the
shadowed hallways of her apartment. Laughter suddenly erupted, lost in the dark,
ricocheting over pale yellow plaster. “Don’t you just hate it when people
leave answering machine messages like that? It’s so rude. At the beep, you
know what to do. And have a nice day.”
“Cordy? Are you there? It’s me, pick up.”
Nothing stirred, still as death.
“I guess you’re still not there. Or not answering. Call me. You were supposed to be here over two hours ago.” Angel sighed. “We’re worried.”
He hung the phone up softly, an almost inaudible click on the other line. The dial tone rang out over the speakers of Cordelia’s answering machine, blaring and uniform, through empty corridors and open doors, settling on deaf ears. The line finally went dead, silence draping the darkness like cheap curtains, thin and incapable of hiding what lie beneath.
Emptiness. It was in the shadows, thickest where it was blackest. It settled on top of the air, more and more of it swallowed with every breath she took. It was inside of her, growing and spreading, not quite like a disease or infection, but spilled water, flowing everywhere so slowly. So peacefully.
Cordelia lay in her bed, sheets a rumpled mess at her feet, motionless. Arms stretched above her head, folded on top of each other at the headboard. Her left arm was asleep, numb in an almost delicious way. One leg was stretched straight, the other bent at the knee. Pillows were scattered on the floor.
She hadn’t moved since that morning, when her knees had hit the bed and buckled from fatigue, and she had collapsed on top of the washing machine-softened quilt, it’s flower and plaid pattern almost as loud as the silence. She had been so tired, so very, very over all of it. Of the visions. Of her visions. Of demons and vampires and old, perverted men who switched bodies with Angel and then molested brunettes on Wesley’s desk.
She thought she had reached that point, that final notch. The bottom of the chasm—where there was nowhere else to go but up. And then something would happen. Something that would knock her further down, deepen the hole. And she was tired of that, too.
With all of this tiredness, with all of this goddamn emptiness, she had thought sleep would come fast and easy, and take her some place far away where everything was happy and cheerful and just fucking perfect. But she couldn’t sleep. All day, when she should have slept, she had watched as the shadows came to life with the sun. And she watched as they slowly died, growing longer as the sun grew older, perishing when the stars came out.
The phone was ringing again. She could hear it dimly. Distantly. It would be Angel. He would say the same thing, wonder if she was perhaps there now, and then maybe insert a little more concern into the, “We’re worried,” than last time. Maybe two sighs.
She rolled over on her side, tucking one arm under her chin, leaving the other, now tingling in the extreme, splayed on top of the crumpled sheets. She rubbed her legs together, cold. She thought about how her walls looked almost navy in the dark. Wondered where the cheerful yellow went during the night.
“Not going in today? They don’t need you anyway,” a voice said into her ear, warm like the breath on the back of her neck. Cordelia shivered as an arm slipped around her waist.
“What are you doing?” she asked sharply.
“You are cold, aren’t you?” There was no answer. “Well, so am I.” Buffy stiffened behind her, the slayer’s smaller body no longer molding to Cordelia’s. But her arm didn’t leave her waist, holding Cordelia in an embrace without feeling or meaning or comfort. And yet, it was something.
Cordelia wondered if, were she to accumulate enough emptiness, enough tiredness, would it all amount to something? Something that wasn’t empty, wasn’t exhausting. She’d already collected so much; it couldn’t be long until it added up to something different, something whole and exhilarating and sincere—she hoped.
Buffy shifted behind her, the bed dipping with her movements. Her arm no longer rested in the hollow of Cordelia’s waist, but higher, on her ribs, awkwardly.
“I’m going,” Cordelia admitted, throat suddenly going tight.
“About time.” Her hair muffled Buffy’s voice, stealing away the tone in her voice. To Cordelia, she sounded numb, lifeless. “You’ve been suffering too long.”
“To work,” she clarified.
“Oh,” Buffy said, the amusement in her tone emerging as she spoke louder. “When?”
Thinking for a moment, “Eventually.”
She imagined a smile on Buffy’s lips, and could almost hear it in her words, “When?”
Cordelia hesitated. Her eyes swept over the dark blue wall once more, resting on a shadowed corner where the black crept lazily into the blue, blending perfectly. “As soon as I feel something.”
“…other day. And today, at around 11:13 I think it was,
before you came in, I was standing right over there.” Cordelia shivered as a
flush of air scraped across her bare shoulders, following Fred’s index finger
with her eyes as she pointed to a darkened corner, “Minding my own business
“He?” Cordelia interrupted. She’d learned that the only way to keep Fred on track was by interrupting.
“Angel of course. He,” she said the word with a smile and overtly Texan drawl, “Came over, walking all hunched and hand-pocketed, and asked me if I wanted to maybe—he said maybe, not me—isn’t that cute?—go into the kitchen with him, and he’d make me something to eat. Said I looked too skinny—”
“You are too skinny,” Cordelia said dazedly.
She cast a hazy glance at the girl beside her, the small, knobbed bones of Fred’s elbow catching her eye. She moved her gaze to Fred’s knees, poking girlishly out from the bottom of a navy pleated skirt. She could make out the shape of each bone, the length of each ligament. Fred’s knees were bigger than her thighs.
She was suddenly hungry.
“C’mon,” Cordelia said as she stretched off of the settee, one arm high in the air and one leg extended behind, reaching for the ceiling. “I need something to eat. You’re making me hungry.”
“I’m always up for food,” Fred said with a wide smile as she followed Cordelia into the Hyperion’s grand kitchen.
Fred was always so happy. Always finding the good in something, the joy in small things. Like a trip to the kitchen with a friend. Fred was just like that, Cordelia decided. Some people weren’t.
Cordelia’s steps faltered when she swung open the door, a familiar bulk coming into view unexpectedly. Angel’s eyes flickered over her quickly, questioningly, and then to the side, where Fred stood. His gaze returned to Cordelia, still in the doorway, fingers keeping the door from shutting on them.
In his eyes she could see an uncertainty. It went unmasked or unnoticed on his part, slight but undeniable, like a brewing storm, graying the sky ever so slowly. She thought he was probably thinking about those fifteen or so messages he had left on her machine earlier. He was maybe wondering if he had left too many, or had sounded too desperate. She felt the need to reassure him, to smile warmly, and talk loudly and about something stupid. To comfort him and make his doubts disappear.
But it seemed like too much. A smile. A few funny words. It had all become too much of an effort for Cordelia, who could never quite find anything in the emptiness to motivate her. Who was always so tired. Who was always so ready to collapse.
“Angel!” Fred said excitedly, smiling, and Cordelia felt a flash of contempt for the younger woman. Hated her for her bony knees and easy-come light heartedness and it was only there for a second before she caught herself and pushed it down. “What’re you doing here?” Fred asked despite the coffee mug of blood in his hands. Cordelia moved out of the threshold and to the refrigerator, away from Fred.
Angel raised the cup as his only answer, returning Fred’s smile with his own much smaller one. He turned to Cordelia, taking a sip from his mug. “Hi,” he said softly, reminding her of the pillows that had been thrown off of her bed hours before.
“Hey,” she said without turning around, pulling the lettuce, tomato, and other sandwich ingredients from their shelves.
“So, um, rough night?” He acted as if he didn’t know Fred had sidled up right beside him, her hip almost against his. “Or day. Technically.” He attempted a laugh, but it came out more as a gasp, she thought, like he had choked on a breath of air. Which, she knew, he hadn’t.
She shrugged as she placed the various items on the island, her body facing him, but her eyes still avoiding his. She concentrated on the bread, reaching inside the bag towards the middle of a full loaf for the softest two pieces. He approached her slowly, the material of his pants sliding with every step, scrunching then swooshing. His hands rested on the counter, visible in corner of her eye.
“I- I just wanted to say that I’m sorry about yesterday,” he said, voice so soft, so gentle. She openly looked at his hands, and wondered if they would be so gentle. So loving. “The whole body switching fiasco and dirty-old-man-in-my-body… thing. Whatever he said or did, I’m sorry for that.”
“Angel,” she glanced at him quickly, lips barely quirking, “You are a dirty old man,” Cordelia said, her smile filling as she spread mayonnaise on the bread. “So stop apologizing just ‘cause another dirty old man took over your body for a while.”
He didn’t say anything, and she wasn’t looking, but she knew he was smiling. She could almost feel it.
“Angel,” Fred said, voice too loud, drawing the attention of both he and Cordelia. “Are there anymore Charlton Heston movies playing? I’d love to see another one. And hopefully you won’t turn into somebody else this time…”
Cordelia lowered her eyes as Fred went on and on, another stab of disdain for Fred aching in her gut. But this one lingered, feeling so much like the pain of a real knife, sharp blade and cold metal and all. She felt—irrationally, she knew—as if Fred had intruded on a moment between she and Angel. As if Fred had trampled on their connection with her too-loud voice and puppy love obsessions purposefully.
“You’re completely justified in feeling that way," came a fourth voice, heard only to Cordelia’s ears. "She is pathetic to no end. I mean that is so not how you get a guy. Especially Angel.”
The slender hand and forearm in Cordelia’s peripheral vision were oh-so familiar, oh-so disturbing. She suddenly wasn’t hungry anymore.
“She isn’t even cute,” Buffy said.
“Fred,” Cordelia croaked. “Do you want this sandwich?”
Fred looked at the sandwich, then Cordelia. “I thought you were hungry.”
“I’m suddenly not.” She slid the plate in Fred’s direction. “Besides, you need it more than I do.” She could feel Angel’s gaze burning into her, could picture the crease of concern in his brow, but kept her eyes on Fred, who gratefully picked up the plate and made her way for the door.
“Angel, are you coming?” Fred asked, stopping with her back to the door.
Cordelia’s gaze flickered to his, hazel colliding with almost-black in a messy rendezvous, too short and too unprepared. A feeling slithered over her, slow and cold as the formation of ice, freezing that ever-present emptiness for just a moment. It made the tattoo on her back tingle and her heart hum and her skin shiver. She wondered what he felt when they looked at each other like that.
“Angel?” Fred asked, snagging his attention.
“Yeah,” he said softly, blinking his gaze from Cordelia’s. Her face didn’t change as the emptiness spilled again, going everywhere. “Yeah.” He followed her out of the kitchen, eyes glancing back just once as the door swung closed.
“You wasted a perfectly good sandwich on that flake,” Buffy whined.
“Buffy, please, just-” Cordelia stopped, ran a hand through her hair, and sighed.
“Leave?” she asked, pulling herself onto the counter. Her legs dangled over the sides, swinging around carelessly like a child’s. “Negative.”
Cordelia said, her voice small and hushed, “Please.”
“So,” Buffy said, ignoring the plea, “How’s the head? You haven’t had a vision in a while, right?”
Cordelia ignored her, her eyes avoiding the harassing green of Buffy’s.
“But I don’t guess that matters. You’ve got, like, constant migraines. Aren’t you afraid your head’s just gonna… explode one day?”
“I bet it’ll be messy when it happens. Real gross. And not ER gross. But real blood-and-brain stuff, like on that Trauma show, only more not-in-your-head.”
“Stop it,” she said loudly, her eyes flashing to the door to see if she’d been heard.
“And, oh, I just thought of this. The visions are obviously going to kill you, so what do you think the last vision is going to be about? A rape or burning orphanage or murder? Or worse? That’s seriously going to suck, having your last memory be of someone else’s death.”
“Stop,” she repeated in a dry whisper, her lower lip trembling.
“Or do you think you’ll get a vision of yourself, that way you’ll see your head exploding?”
She felt like she was about to cry, throat aching and heart pounding. Felt like she was about to let it all break open, which was so not option. Because once it all came loose, she didn’t think she would ever be able to get it back.
“Cordy’s gonna collapse. Cordy’s gonna die,” Buffy sang cheerfully. “And nobody’s gonna care. Cordy’s gonna die, die, die.”
Cordelia choked on the tears she fought to keep down, one slipping from the tight seal of her eyelids, caressing her lashes before falling like high hopes down her cheek.
“And nobody’s gonna care. No, no, nobody’s gonna care.”
Cordelia suddenly heard laughter in the other room, and knew she had to find control. She gripped the cold metal sides of the counter and fought for it. She tried breathing deeply, but the air hitched in her throat when she did, so she tried short, shallow breaths. Her hands hurt and felt like they were ready to snap off, so she focused on the pain, let the sound of it buzz loudly in her ears and drown out Buffy’s song. She gulped for air, and it finally came easily. She tightened her hands once, fast, and then let go, fingers uncurling painfully. Her breathing became regular, and she allowed her eyes to flicker open slowly and heavily, as if she had just emerged from under water.
Her gaze traveled over the kitchen’s interior, Buffy nowhere in sight. She wouldn’t allow herself a sigh of relief, because she had learned that those were just invitations for something else that would sink her even deeper.
She heard the laughter again, coming through the walls slowly, seeping like molasses, and sounding so far away. Like it had come through a thousand walls rather than just one. But the distance didn’t matter. The laughter came from someplace else, and there was none here, in this sterile, industrial kitchen.
There was laughter in the other room, loud and uninhibited and God, she remember what that felt like. She remembered it as something so real and contagious and powerful, yet so weightless. So easy.
Cordelia wanted to laugh, felt the need to laugh, at what or who, it didn’t matter. Just to forget about everything for one fucking second, to let nothing matter. She wanted that so badly.
And it was supposed to be easy, wasn’t it? Why couldn’t she just laugh? Just feel the weightlessness and easiness? Just feel?
God knows she wanted to.
Brushing the soft pads of her fingertips over the edge of the counter, the metal smooth and cold to her touch—like Angel?— she tried to think of something. To recall some absolutely hilarious moment in her life, some humiliating loss of footing or a perverted joke—she never found those very funny in the first place, but she was reaching—or a horrendous fashion mistake.
Instead, Susan Kirk came to mind. Vision number sixteen. A forty-something divorcee with two grown children and no one to share a bed with. Mauled by something that felt like barbed wire on her way to her car after work. And then she remembered Janis. Vision number twenty-two. Singer, dancer, lover. Gutted. And then came the others. Christina and Bailey and Maurice and Paulette and Courtney and Joseph…
There was laughter in the other room, but there was none left in Cordelia.
“Cordy. Hey.” His face lit up when he saw her, shoulder leaning against the frame of his bedroom door, and she almost felt like smiling with him. “Come in,” he said, straightening away from the shadow he sat in and into the light.
She moved slowly, steps long and quiet. She took a seat on his bed, near the chair he sat in. It was dark in his room; curtains open to the night sky. The only light came from the small lamp beside him, shadows splashing over the walls. She liked that.
He was smiling at her. She didn’t smile back.
“If you apologize again, I’ll jump out the window screaming.” Was she kidding? Wasn’t she? Thank God he found it funny.
“Sorry—er,” he smirked, “For that, too.”
She nodded. “I’m sorry I was late,” she said, taking the conversation straight to the point.
He shook his head and laid his book on his lap. “Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m not. Much, I mean.” He looked confused. “What I mean is, I’m sorry for making you worry.”
His face cleared and he nodded. The silence in the air felt swollen, filled with something peaceful and tender. She liked that, too. Her eyes drifted to the shadows as he said, “I’m just glad nothing happened.”
She nodded, hazel eyes focused on a corner that had turned navy in the shadows and moonlight.
“Cordy,” he said, the nickname grabbing her attention. “If something was ever … to happen,” he paused, a hand running through his hair, leaving her wondering what he would do if that hand had been hers. “I just want you to know that I- I—”
“Love me?” she offered, voice more hopeful than she felt.
“Well, yeah.” His eyes caught hers, and she felt out of control for a second. Plummeting, but to a good place. “But can I at least… say it, myself?”
She looked down, breaking that feeling off at its root. Earlier, lying in her bed and standing in an empty kitchen, she had wanted to feel something. Oh God, she had wanted to feel something exactly like this. But now that it was here, offered so plainly and openly, it scared her. She had become accustomed to the emptiness, used to wanting something and not having it.
The prospect of having something, of having what she had wanted all along, all of it, and then losing it scared her more than the emptiness ever could.
She thought about the pain. She thought about the medications, and the box under her bed. She thought about her last trip to the doctor’s, about the CAT scan that had dangled so limply from his fingertips as he told her this would probably be her last visit.
She saw her hands, and they were trembling. “Please don’t.”
He nodded numbly, leaning back into the shadows.
It was bright in the lobby, and the shadows were darker than
they had been in Angel’s room, something Cordelia had become fascinated with,
watching them closely.
The phone rang suddenly, once, twice, and she looked over at Gunn, playing his beeping video game and paying no attention. The phone rang again, and Cordelia moved to it slowly, the sound of her heels clicking on the floor. She squinted the light out of her eyes as she reached under a lamp for the cordless handset, almost twinkling under the direct light. She answered in the middle of the fifth ring.
“Willow. Hey. What’s up?”
Her eyes darted straight up, straight into the light, hurting and blinding, but she didn’t notice, because she already knew what Willow was going to say. She didn’t notice the sudden chill on her thighs, the floor coming up under her so immediately when her knees buckled for not the first time that day. She didn’t notice the arms that wrapped around her waist, in the very same place as those that had held her earlier, in her bedroom.
All she could see was the white of the lamp. All she heard was her own breathing, thin and fast and so very, very loud in her head. All she felt was nothing, the air suddenly gone and space suddenly all there was.
“Cordelia? Are you there?”
And then she felt something shift inside of her, and oh god she felt like she was caving in. She felt like her soul was collapsing in on itself, bending impossibly over her entire world. Over a life that had been given too many second chances. Over her own, seeing its last days, and never seeing another chance.
She was sliding, notch after notch passing her by as she slipped further, farther. She was a star, and the sky was breaking all around her, and she was free falling back to Earth. She just kept falling and falling and falling.