But A Whimper by Queen Mab
Summary: This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
Spoilers: Early Season Three.
Notes: This is a heavily revised version of “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” a story I wrote for Psychofilly for the Stranger Things 2003 Halloween Fic Exchange. Becky requested a story about Angel being afraid of growing old. I’ve always been pretty unhappy with this story, feeling like the plot didn’t get the attention from me that it deserved. And Becky deserves the best. Title and chapter headings are from T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.”
“Fred, c’mon now.
We have to go.” Angel’s voice was soft, but insistent as he held out a hand
to help her up.
She ignored his hand looked up at him with empty eyes. “Go?” She shook her head, “No, I’m not leaving them, Angel. I won’t.” Reaching down with a pale, shaky hand, she softly petted Gunn's head. He shuddered and looked away, his eyes meeting Cordelia's. Her lips tightened and she nodded jerkily.
She crouched down in front of Fred, brushing hair out of the older girl’s eyes, her own hands shaking. “You don’t have to, Fred; we’ll take them with us. Won’t we?” she asked, looking at Angel. He looked away again, unable to meet her eyes. He had faced death hundreds, make that thousands of times before, but he couldn't look this version of it in the eyes. Looking into the eyes of his victims was one thing; looking into the eyes of the bereaved was another. He was truly a coward in that respect.
"Them," Cordelia had said. Wes. Gunn. Dead. Killed trying to save the world…again, He glanced down at their bodies; blood-stained and lifeless. Angel found it almost impossible to digest. It had all happened so fast. As usual, they were grossly unprepared, but this time it was more costly than a few superficial wounds that could be patched up by Cordelia.
“Angel?” Cordelia’s voice brought him back to harsh reality. “We’ll take them with us.” This time it wasn’t a question, and truth be told he wasn’t up to arguing with her, so he just nodded. With her help, he loaded the bodies and themselves into the car.
The ride home was nothing short of surreal. Fred was wedged between him and Cordy in the front seat, practically in Cordy’s lap. And in the back were the bloodied corpses of Wesley and Gunn. Angel did everything he could to prevent having to use the rearview mirror. Safety be damned, he couldn’t handle the constant vision of his closest friends’ ravaged bodies. In his mind, they were alive and arguing over who would get to sit in the front seat. “Shotgun!” Wes would call, knowing all the while that if Cordelia were present, she would be the one sitting up front. Only in limousines, would Cordelia deign to sit in the back seat. Gone. All of that gone. My God, was it just yesterday that Lilah had approached him?
“Here’s the deal,” Lilah had explained. “Evil scientist created an evil virus. If he’s not stopped, the world’s human population will be nil in about two, maybe three months, tops.”
Angel was almost amused. “And you’ve come to me, why exactly? I thought the whole evil thing was your kind of party.”
She shook her head. “Not this, Angel. This virus causes aging in humans. Rapid aging. Can’t be stopped, can’t be slowed down. Believe me, we’ve tried. As soon as we found out about it, we started working on an anti-virus. No luck, it’s unstoppable.”
“Does the firm know you’ve come to me?” Angel couldn’t believe that they would have allowed her to give him this information.
“Probably," she admitted. “I don’t really care. I’ve seen old on a Morgan and it ain’t pretty.”
But they were too late. In a matter of days, the virus would spread all over LA and in a matter of weeks, the world.
“Angel!” Cordelia shouted.
“What?” he snapped, slamming on the brakes. "What is it?"
She braced herself on the dashboard. “Where are you going?”
“Home," he said, tightening his hands around the steering wheel.
Cordelia was incredulous. “No way. No way are we going back to LA. It's a tomb. We can’t go home. We need to get out of here, far from LA.”
He sighed and tilted his head back against the seat. “Cordy, we lost," he said, running a hand through his hair. "We can't outrun this; there's no spell, no magic potion. It's spreading as we speak and there's not a damn thing we can do about it."
“We are not staying in LA.” Her jaw was set, as was her mind.
He shook his head. “Cordy, I don’t see the point…”
Cordelia snapped. “You don’t see the point? You don’t see the point?” She turned in her seat to face him and took a deep breath.
“Listen, mister, you’re not the one who’s gonna die an old lady in just a few days. I am. We are," she said, pointing at the silent girl beside her. "Fred and me. So you let us decide where we want to die. And I say that we’re not going to stick around LA.”
Angel sighed. “Where do you want to go?”
“Just drive,” she said, her eyes fixed on the road ahead. Maybe she saw something he didn't; all he saw were his friends' ravaged bodies and a wave of pestilence creeping up behind them. So he drove from Los Angeles, stopping only for gas and then to Phoenix; stopping there because they needed to bury the bodies. They buried Gunn and Wes on a Friday. Cordelia sang “Amazing Grace” and Fred threw up.
Cordelia Chase looked dispassionately at her reflection in the motel’s cracked and clouded mirror. Were those crows feet finely etched beside her eyes? She couldn’t get close enough to the mirror because the sink was in the way. Without thinking twice, she grabbed her hairbrush and broke the mirror with its hilt. Shards fell into the sink and she grabbed the biggest piece, holding it in front of her, her eyes now desperate as they searched her face in the reflection. She sighed shakily at the mirrors confirmation.
She’d just have to give Dr. Brendle a call; a shot of Botox was just what she needed. She giggled and quickly covered her mouth with her hand to muffle the sound lest Angel and Fred should hear.
A soft knock at the door startled her, causing her to drop the scrap of mirror back into the sink.
“Cordy?” Asked a soft voice outside the door. Fred.
“Yeah?” she answered.
“I have to, um, I have to pee,” Fred replied nervously.
She opened the door and Fred hesitantly made her way into the room. When she turned to leave, Fred stopped her.
“Please stay. I don’t want to be left alone.” Her voice was soft, but her eyes were begging.
“Sure, Fred. Sure, I’ll stay.” She turned around to give her some privacy. With her toe, she traced a crack in the floor, knowing that her face would become just as lined, just as brittle.
Suddenly, Fred began to talk and Cordelia felt a tingle sparking at her spine. She listened, but did not turn around.
“What happens is that the disease targets the Lamin A gene, causing it to mutate. When it mutates, it produces a protein, a protein that accumulates abnormally in cell nuclei, causing rapid aging. First, our skin will start to wrinkle, our vision will decline, then our blood vessels will harden, and then,” she paused. “And then…”
“Stop,” Cordelia said softly.
But Fred either didn’t hear her, or was ignoring her. “Then our cardiovascular system will be affected. We might get diabetes or cancer, and our chances for a stroke are greatly enhanced."
“Stop,” she asked again; this time louder.
“We’re going to rot, Cordelia. Rot. Rot in our own skin before we die.”
“Stop it!” Cordelia screamed, turning around to face Fred, sitting still as could be on the toilet. She gripped Fred’s shoulders and shook her hard and Fred began to cry. She had barely touched Fred when Angel busted through the door.
“What’s going on?” he demanded to know. “Why is Fred crying?”
“Why is Fred crying? That’s rich," she said laughing. "Fred, honey, you go ahead and tell him. Go ahead and tell him how we’re going to wrinkle and rot, you just go ahead and--"
The vision hit her hard and fast, leaving her breathless and in pain. She scrambled out of Angel's arms, across the floor to the toilet, pushing Fred out of her way. She emptied what little food she had into the cracked toilet, finishing with a series of dry heaves, before reaching up a shaking hand to flush.
Angel crouched down next to her, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear.
"What was it?" he asked in his gentle post-vision voice.
"Does it matter?" she answered, putting her hands on either side of the toilet seat to prop herself up. She stood, looking at Fred for a long moment before leaving to go lie down.
Cordelia found Fred in the bathroom the next morning. Her wrists had been slashed with pieces of the mirror that Cordy had broken last night.
They buried Fred in between Wesley and Gunn, under the full moon. It was Saturday and Cordelia placed wilted cactus lilies on her grave.
“I knew she was going to do this,” Cordelia told Angel as they stood at the graves of their dearest friends.
He rested his hand on her shoulder, lightly squeezing, a gesture that was meant to be comforting, but felt like an accusation. “You couldn’t have known."
“No,” she shook her head, “You don’t understand. I knew she was going to do this. The vision I had last night."
Angel looked appalled. He took a step back from her; Cordelia didn’t blame him. “Then why…?”
She shrugged. “What was the point? Really, what was the point? She was already dead.”
She turned and walked to the car. It was a long while before Angel joined her and when he finally did, he didn't speak to her and barely looked at her. The ride back to the motel was silent, but thankfully short. He stopped the car to let her out, but did not get out with her. He drove away and her eyes followed the lights of his car as long as they could.
She wondered if he would come back.
When he got back to the motel the following evening, he found her packed and ready to go. He said nothing about his absence or his whereabouts, instead loaded up the car.
“Texas,” she told him. “I want to die in Texas.”
He blanched at her matter-of-factness, but she was nonplussed. Admittedly, the time for mincing words had long passed. He nodded. “Texas, it is.” For Fred.
They drove for a while, mostly in silence as no stations were broadcasting music now and neither one of them wanted to listen to news. For the first time Angel wished that he had let Cordelia talk him into installing a CD player. Even the crap that she liked to listen to would have been better than this awful silence.
"Did you see her?" Cordelia asked. Her voice surprised him; he thought she’d fallen asleep.
His fingers clenched around the steering wheel. "No." He hadn't gone to see Buffy; hadn't seen nor heard from her since the outbreak.
"She's strong, Angel.
"Yes, she is," he replied and started the car.
"I'm sure…" her voice trailed off.
"Yeah." He knew she was alive. Just like he could sense without seeing her that she was in the same room, he knew she was alive. She was alive watching her family wither and die just like he was. We are the hollow men.
He felt Cordelia's hand cover his and he in turn grasped it firmly. When he looked at her, she was smiling sadly; he smiled in return.
Neither one of them said anything about the new gray hairs she was sporting.
She took over driving duty at dawn, while he napped in the back seat covered with a blanket.
When he woke it was dusk, and they were pulled over on the side of the road.
“Cordy?” he called from the back seat, not understanding why they had stopped.
“You're going to have to drive from here on out, Angel.” She turned to face him.
The reality of their situation was etched in new lines on her face. Her eyes, once a sparkling hazel, were now softened by a layer of hazy blue. He tried to keep the pity from his eyes, but when he saw her chin lift, he knew he must have failed.
He got out of the backseat and slid into the driver’s seat without a sound. He stopped at a hardware store to get some black paint to cover the windows of the car, because there would be no more driving for Cordelia. And if they wanted to make it to Texas, before Cordelia…then they couldn’t afford to only travel at night.
They finally made it to El Paso at the end of the third day. They went no further because Cordelia’s aging body was suffering the consequences of sitting in the same position for hours on end.
Across from the motel that they stopped at was a large Victorian house. It shone white in the night and Cordelia couldn't keep her eyes off it.
"I wonder..." Angel said, and drove across the street.
"Wait here," he said getting out of the car.
The wear and tear of the house was more visible close up than it had been from across the way. He easily broke the door in and went in to investigate.
Empty. The great room was full of antiques and family pictures, all covered with a thin layer of dust. The house had been abandoned, though not for long. He switched on a lamp; they had electricity, at least for now. He wandered into the kitchen and tested the faucet. Water. He smiled; Cordelia would be pleased.
He went back out to the car to tell Cordelia about the house.
“Well, it looks abandoned. The owners probably left, trying to outrun the virus."
"What if they come home?"
"We'll deal with it if they do, but I doubt they'll be coming back."
Cordy frowned, her eyes lingering on the house. "I don't know, Angel."
But he knew her too well. "There’s electricity and running water.”
The corners of her mouth turned up in a half-smile and he felt like he'd been handed the moon. “Sounds heavenly,” she replied.
Cordelia had to be helped out of the car. Her wrists felt like birds bones under his hand and he was startled by her sudden fragility.
She quietly roamed the large house, eyeing the antiques appreciatively.
"This is a good house," she said at last, nodding her approval.
He knew that she was really saying that it was a good place to die. She gave him a crooked smile and brushed his cheek with the back of her fingers. He caught her hand in his and kissed it. She withdrew, smiling and continued exploring.
Angel watched as she ran her fingers lightly over a piece of lace draped over the back of the sofa and knew she was thinking of Fred. While Cordelia was the finest cashmere, Fred had been delicate Chantilly lace.
He silently swore to himself that Cordelia would not die alone and afraid like Fred had. Not too long ago Cordelia had made him a promise – a promise to stay with him until his destiny was fulfilled; he owed it to her to do the same.
Such Deliberate Disguises
Cordelia could tell that the house hadn't been empty for long; the refrigerator was well-stocked with food and there was hardly any dust on the many fine pieces of furniture on display in each room. Despite all the finery, this house wasn't cold like the one she grew up in. No, there had been much love and life in this house.
She slowly walked up the stairs, her weary bones protesting mightily. She wished she could blame the long car ride, but new better. She made her way to a large room in the left corner of the house. It had to be the master bedroom, with its large four-poster bed and ample floor space.
She peeked in the bathroom and saw an old fashioned claw-footed tub; her mouth nearly watered. A hot bath was definitely in her very near future. But she was too tired to indulge herself just yet. She yawned and made her way over to the gorgeous cherry-stained bed.
She sat down on the bed gingerly, testing its firmness and sighed. Not bad at all. The bed linens were a little musty, but beggars really couldn’t be choosers. She lay back and closed her eyes.
She opened her eyes to the sound of muffled voices. Turning her head she was shocked to see that she wasn’t alone in the bed. She tried to say something, but nothing would come out. She tried to get up, but her body wouldn’t obey her mind – she felt heavy, weighted down.
Buffy and Angel were in the bed with her. Making love. And try as she might, she couldn’t look away. This isn’t right. She tried desperately to speak, to move, anything to alert them to her presence.
“Angel, I think we have a visitor,” Buffy said breathlessly.
Angel turned and smiled, steadily thrusting into Buffy. “Hey, Cordy. I’ll be with you in a second.”
Buffy giggled. “Oh my God, Angel. You can’t be serious.”
He stopped moving. “Why not?” he asked. “Cordy deserves a turn, doesn’t she?”
“Angel,” Buffy said, her tone serious, “have you looked at her? She’s all…wrinkled and gross. She looks older than my mom.”
Cordelia felt her skin flush as Angel turned his head and gave her the once-over. She was horrified as his features formed a grimace.
“You’re right,” he said to Buffy, “she’s pretty gross. But you, now. You’re beautiful,” he said and resumed thrusting.
“Angel, I can’t. Not with that in the room,” Buffy admonished.
To Cordelia’s horror, Angel reached over and pulled the sheet over her head. She fought to free herself, but was still unable to move at all.
“Is that better?” Cordelia heard Angel ask.
Buffy giggled. “Much.”
As the bed began to squeak, Cordelia felt the sheet adhere to her skin, making it almost impossible to breathe. She gasped and struggled for air, the feeling of being weighted down getting heavier and heavier. Just as her world went dark, she felt herself jerk up and gasp for air.
Her heart was pounding. She didn’t know what was worse – dreaming about being in bed with Buffy and Angel while they were having sex or being suffocated. But her train of thought was interrupted as she spied herself in the mirror on the bureau across from the bed.
No,she thought to herself, there were things worse than that. Much worse.
Two days after settling into the house, when Cordelia broke a tooth after biting into an apple, they both pretended that nothing had happened, although later he heard her sobbing in the bathroom. He went into the bathroom, wiped her tears and carried her to bed. He waited until she was asleep and then quietly made his way to his own bed, where his dreams were troubled, full of shadows and the sense of being followed.
However, his dreams were soon interrupted by horrific screams coming from Cordelia’s room. His feet hit the hardwood floor with a smack and he rushed to her room, making it to her bedside in mere seconds.
Moonlight filtered into the room through the blinds, bathing the room in soft light. Cordy’s eyes were squeezed shut and she was clutching her stomach. He did a double-take when he got a good look at her face. She had changed so much in just a matter of hours. Most of her hair was gray now and her skin blotched with age spots.
“Angel, oh God, make it stop, make it stop!” She was screaming, tears pouring down her face.
He placed his hand over her belly and could practically feel what was going on inside of her. The virus caused rapid aging of the human body and Cordelia was feeling first-hand what menopause on a ramped-up schedule felt like. Her ovaries being drained of their last drop of life must have been excruciating. And he could do nothing, nothing but hold her hand and whisper meaningless assurances. He held her tightly and they both drifted off to sleep.
This time he dreamed that he and Cordelia were on the subway; she was still young and beautiful. The musty smell permeated his senses as his body jerked slightly to-and-fro from the motion. Cordelia sat shivering beside him, her eyes fixed on a clock mounted on the grungy ceiling. He opened his leather jacket and drew Cordelia’s body flush with his, his arm going around her. She readily accepted his embrace and scooted close, almost burrowing herself into his body. She turned her head so that her nose nuzzled his neck, her breath hot and moist. He shifted, pulling her even closer.
His hand clenched on her shoulder as he felt her tongue on his neck, licking her way up to his ear. With his free hand he reached over and traced the line of her jaw, before moving on to her face. That they were lovers seemed flawless; only natural. Wordlessly he began to unbutton her shirt. He hesitated for just a second, before unfastening her front clasped bra and revealing her breasts.
Her eyes closed and she released a ragged sigh as his hand covered her, molding her. His thumb brushed a dusky peak and she arched slightly, silently begging him for more contact. He raised his thumb to her mouth and she eagerly drew it in, dampening it with her tongue, wet and hot around his finger. He traded his thumb for his index finger and she gave it the same attention. He removed his finger from the warm cavern of her mouth and returned to her breast.
He plucked and twisted her nipple with his wet fingers and she whimpered. His moan echoed her whimper and his mouth swooped down to claim hers.
His lips devoured hers, his tongue sweeping through her mouth, tasting her, scenting her. Her hands wound through his hair and his hands drifted from her breasts to her waist, gripping her tightly. Without stopping the kiss, he lifted her onto his lap, heat against hardness. She grunted her approval and rocked against him. He reached under her long skirt slid his hand under the elastic of her panties and pushed them down.
He ended the kiss to completely remove her panties and glanced up at her. His body froze.
Cataract-glazed eyes and wrinkled skin stared down at him.
“Angel?” Cordy panted in his ear.
He realized then that his eyes were squeezed shut. He opened them and to his relief it was hazel eyes staring down at him.
His vision forgotten, he began removing her panties. She wriggled in his lap to make his job easier and raked a nail down the length of his hardness before moving on to his zipper. She reached in and grasped him with her hand, releasing him from the confines of his pants. He hissed at the feel of her soft hand surrounding him.
She rose up and slowly lowered herself onto him, her tongue darting out to lick her lips. His eyes drank her in, and he found himself wanting to suspend time, to stretch out this moment. His eyes shut involuntarily as he felt her hot warmth surround him, stretching to accommodate him. He heard her swift intake of breath and smiled, opening his eyes. She began to move, slowly, her hands above her head holding onto the handrail.
"Angel...so good," she moaned, her head falling back, as she moved faster. Cordelia brought her hand down from the rail and pushed her fingers into his mouth. He sucked on them greedily, bringing a seductive smile to her face.
He watched, fascinated, as she removed her fingers and brought them to her breast, circling, wetting and finally pinching her nipples.
A guttural moan wrenched out of his chest as he struggled for control. He stilled her motions with a firm hand on each side of her waist.
"Angel?" More of a whimper than a question. He smiled, leaning forward to take a nipple into his mouth, worrying it with his tongue. He felt her hand snake up to cradle his head to her breast, and felt the frantic beating of her heart. He wedged a hand between them and rested the pad of his thumb against her clit, laughing softly as he felt her hips thrust against him.
He bit down on her nipple just as his thumb began to move, swirling and pressing on her clit.
"God, Angel. More." She moaned, her fingers plucking at her other nipple. He increased the pressure of his thumb and moved to her other breast, nudging her dancing fingers out of the way. She began to softly keen in response.
Angel stood up, still inside of her, and backed her against the door of the car. Her legs wound around him, squeezing tightly. Her back slammed against the door of the train. He pumped against her in slow, measured thrusts and she met them eagerly.
Over her shoulder and out the subway car window, he glimpsed other travelers waiting for their train. He saw Wesley, Fred, and Gunn on the platform, waving and smiling, completely covered in sand.
On the ceiling, the clock was still ticking. And then it all seemed to rewind, going backwards faster and faster until there was nothing. No train, no clock. Just her.
He narrowed his focus and pounded into her, giving her no respite. Her keening turned into a wail and he felt her body clench around him tightly and heard her shout his name. He was only a step behind her, heat spreading from his groin to the rest of his body as he came.
He slumped against her, his face buried in the crook of her neck, legs shaking from his release. She panted in his ear, softly stroking the hair at the nape of his neck. He no longer heard the clock ticking.
Her soft pants turned louder, courser, and finally into a cackle. He drew his head back to look at her and gasped at what he saw. She was old, wrinkled. She smiled at him with rotted teeth and he tried to pull away from her. But the harder he tried, the tighter she held him, still cackling. She smelled of death and decay. Her skin began to shift, sliding off her face to reveal rotted flesh, melting away until there was nothing left but bones.
He woke up, a scream lodged in his throat. He thought he heard heavy breathing, someone gasping for air, and for a moment was sure he was still in the dream. No, he was awake, and Cordelia was sleeping soundly, her breathing soft and even. He tried to shake off the nightmare, but soon realized that his reality was far more frightening than any dream.
This is the Dead Land
In the short time they'd had, Angel developed a routine. He would wake her up at dawn, bathe her and feed her. Then they would settle in the family room and Angel would read to her, often interrupted by Cordelia’s memories.
“Remember the time we went on the moonlit picnic? Gunn ate too much and threw up in the bushes? Remember that?
Her mouth slightly opened and widened as she smiled, a gruesome caricature of what had once been sunlight itself. She was rotting on the inside and her teeth proved it. He shivered slightly at the sight.
“Those were good times.”
“Yes, Cordelia,” he replied, returning to his book.
He didn’t know when his love for her had started to turn to repulsion, but he hated himself for it. For all the living he’d done, he’d never seen anyone grow old and die. And it was certainly not something that he had thought about. He went to bed each night with the knowledge that he would die a violent death; there was no gentle death for a vampire. Soul or not. For the first time since he was turned, he was comforted by that fact and for once he and his demon agreed on something - immortality wasn’t so bad after all. Growing old was a natural human process, except Angel didn’t think that there was anything natural about it; it was an obscene way to die.
“Do you think we buried them deep enough?”
“Yes, Cordelia.” Had this been the first time she’d asked him that, he might’ve been shocked, but since she asked him at least twice a day, he’d become used to it and didn’t even bother to stop reading his book.
“Fred was smart, wasn’t she, Angel?”
“Yes, Cordelia,” he answered automatically, before realizing just what she was really implying. She was referring to Fred’s suicide and not her book smarts.
He stopped reading and looked at her. She had a far-off look on her face and was humming to herself.
Not all nights were peaceful; some were downright horrifying. Cordelia’s mood changes were swift and all too often. Her mind was deteriorating quickly. He awoke one night to find Cordelia beside him in his bed.
“Cordelia, what…?” he mumbled sleepily.
“You think I don’t know? Huh? You think I don’t know what you think about me? Well, I do, Angel. I do. I know what you’re thinking. You’re disgusted by me,” she continued. “You wish I would hurry up and die.”
“Cordelia…” Angel pleaded, finding it difficult to meet her eyes. “Don’t do this. Of course I don’t want you to die.”
She started to sob. “Well, maybe I want to die. Maybe I don’t want to be old and gross and helpless.”
As much as he knew that it was the right thing to do, he couldn’t bring himself to go to her and comfort her. Not when the demon inside of him was screaming for him to leave her. Kill her and leave her. Get rid of her rotting stench and leave her.
That night he dreamed of Buffy and Cordelia, laughing and chasing each other in a field covered with sunflowers. His heart swelled with love. The sun was bright and high in the sky. He was in a small room, a loudly ticking clock his only companion. He was watching the women through a window and wanted desperately to join them, but there was no latch, nothing to open the window. He pulled the clock from the wall and threw it at the pane, shattering the glass, and stepped out onto the sun soaked field.
The sun did not harm him, only warmed him. He ran to join Buffy and Cordelia in their play, but they screamed in terror at the sight of him. He looked down at his hands. They were dark, weathered by sun and age, giving way to rotted, maggot-covered flesh.
He woke with a start, blindly reaching for the lamp at his bedside, his eyes taking longer than usual to adjust to the dark. He could still hear the ticking of the clock along with the sound of heavy breathing. Eventually they diminished and he was able to calm himself and get back to sleep. This time he did not dream.
Like his nights, his waking hours were gradually becoming a nightmare; a grim reality filled with gruesome duties. Wash Cordelia’s hair, feed her, wipe her ass, clean up her vomit, change her piss soaked sheets, it just went on and on and on.
He was beginning to feel trapped. Sometimes he felt that Cordy’s dementia was rubbing off on him. He was stalked by shadows that he swore he could see when passing mirrors and the deep, heavy breathing that often woke him up gave him chills.
His demon taunted him endlessly, relentlessly. Leave her. Kill her. He ignored the voices and continued to care for her. He loved her as much as he feared her, but prayed for her death more than he prayed for her life. Her death would be a kindness, of that he was sure, and he would welcome the reaper when he came for her. Death from old age was a cruel business, and though he was loathe to admit it, he was glad he had been turned so this would never happen to him.
In the end, Cordelia’s passing wasn’t peaceful, it wasn’t gentle, and for that he wanted to rage at God. But he was more fearful of God now than he ever was, if this was his work, and he really didn’t want to piss God off. Complete loss of control. Pain. Suffering. This natural death was not pretty and not something he would wish on his worst enemy.
Her breathing was harsh and uneven, broken by gasps of pain. She was in so much pain and there was nothing he could do. Age was a demon he could not defeat. He tried to shove his revulsion aside, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t go to her and for that he was as angry at himself as he was disgusted by her. Not for the first time he wished that he had turned her. A soulless demon he could stomach, this perversion of what had once been Cordelia Chase he couldn’t.
He could only watch as her body tensed and relaxed, letting out a long and final breath. She was gone, death had finally taken her. His shoulders slumped and he began to weep, grief and relief flooding through him at the same time.
He buried Cordelia under a willow tree behind the house at sundown. He wrapped her in chantilly lace and covered her grave with wild flowers. He couldn’t think of anything to say that would sum up what she meant to him, so he bid her good journey and promised to remember her always. Afterwards, he went inside to collect his things; he couldn’t bear to spend another night in the house where so much suffering had taken place. He ignored the guilt that was slowly beginning to gnaw on his soul.
He had no idea where he was going; just that he had to leave that house. On his way out to the car he passed the mirror, and something caught his eye. He slowly walked in front of the mirror and saw a shadowy shape. He got chills as the shape came into focus. He was paralyzed. Never, in a million years would he have ever been prepared for what he saw in the mirror.
He saw himself. Himself. In a mirror. He placed his hand over his heart and felt its steady beat. The shadows stalking him had been himself. The ticking was that of his heart and the heavy breathing was his own.
He was alive. Alive. A living, breathing human being. A smile spread over his face and he was filled with elation, his heart hammering in his chest. He peered closer, wanting a better look. Laughter bubbled up out of him and then he noticed…
Faint lines around his eyes, tiny gray hairs around his temple. His breathing, though real and true, was raspy. He stared at his reflection while he slowly digested the dark, bitter taste of irony.
He would waste away painfully. Like she had.
He would die with no one to care for him. Like she had.
No one would be there to hear his final confession and assure him that his life had been well-lived and his time well-spent. There would be no absolution, no repose. Not for him.
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
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