Fall On Your Knees by Ignited
Summary: Caught up in the tumultuous tide of Christmas shoppers, Angel wonders about his view on life and most importantly, Cordelia.
Spoilers: Up to "Rain Of Fire," Season Four.
Notes: Answer to the Stranger Things Secret Santa 2002 Challenge.
his body twisted until it slammed face first on the ground, fireworks and
funnels of ice in his wake. Angel, vampire, broken, angry-FUCKING pissed, damn
thing ripped a seam-rolled, but in the nick of time as a pillar of ice lodged
three inches from where the gelled construct of the top of his head was. Feeling
the wind of the Iguion’s claws rake by his face, impossibly cold. The air
seemed to crystallize around it, sending chills and broken shards of ice down
to the ground, it’s back shaking as if it were a dog.
“Puppy’s gonna get the newspaper,” Angel gritted, nothing but anger furrowing that ridged brow. Anger that fueled him, more than the usual, to shoot a hand up while jumping on his heels, cracking and snapping bone. The thing howled, lurching back and hissing. It was quite comical to Angel’s eyes, fingers long and spread out for maximum coverage of the ground, a thin layer of water on it. The cobalt-tinged creature, half lizard, half lion, raised its hind legs, forelegs down and ready to pounce.
It wasn’t like the thing knew Angel’s agenda. No one ever did, really.
Though it did rip through his bag of Christmas gifts-buying for women, something that took a long, LONG time-leaving Angel more than a little ticked off.
Little. Just a little.
The screech fell on dead ears, the air thick with cold moisture. Vampires didn’t need to breathe, or care much for temperature, but even the moisture in the area growing made Angel blink his eyes in consternation once or twice. Three, maybe. For the wind whipped up again, lashing and digging furrows into cold flesh like needles, scraping. His arm rose up, a shield, boot crunching something sound and-
He always wondered if there would be snow in California again. Minus the tragedy aspect.
Angel stopped, seeing the lumbering ice creature come thundering towards him. Snow kicked up by furry hind legs sprayed all around. Ice and snow spattered on Angel’s face as it approached, lurching up fluidly like a snake. A second, and his fingers closed firmly on a shaft of wood he snatched up near a garbage can. It penetrated the creature’s back, but not before the Iguion reached out and batted him away, the frozen skewers on its knuckles tearing into his brow, making him cry out in pain and fury.
Blood spattered, but only less than five bloody rubies touched the ground, their master lunging up and grabbing hold of the last rung of the fire escape above. Angel kicked back from the wall, the snow demon’s muscles like coils of a spring. It jumped up, good and worn leather boots plowing into it with force. Falling, Angel looked up from a crouched position to see the improvised stake dig deeper into the Iguion’s flesh after hitting the wall with its back. A rag doll flopping harmlessly to the ground, the creature issued a final mewl-soft like a kitten, though far from the truth-before taking its last breath.
Pause. Breathe. Not over.
It’s never over, Angel thought, picking up the disheveled bag of gifts and straightening his clothing. An actual gaze of the alley, narrow, garbage cans in brown and black, the soft blue glow of light falling on bricks. He crossed the alley, ignoring the soft spurts and splashes of his boots meeting the remaining water and slush of the Iguion demon, instead heading out into the chilly and yet warmer night air.
“O, holy night The stars are brightly shining It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth...”
Carolers. What luck.
No worries. Should be home early. It was only half past eleven. Okay, real terms, not that early, but in Vampire Savings Time, bright and early as a Sunday morning. On second thought, did it matter if he got there early? Living alone-well, with Fred and Lorne-something that suited Angel perfectly. Alone. Alone, alone.
He could lie awake a thousand nights, back making an indentation on the wall, and still he’d feel her voice and the hole she’d driven into his heart. Still his bed would be empty.
Digging his hands further into his pockets, Angel buttoned up his duster to block the wind. He’d taken up wearing it again, a flowing sheet of black, warm, and for December, a shield for gifts. Fred, Gunn, and Lorne. That-that was it.
Angel checked his bag. Grand Theft Auto for Gunn’s PlayStation, a journal set for Fred, and cuff links for Lorne. Dice. He’d love it or get all whiny about Vegas again.
That was it. That was all. He would *not* go through it again. He wouldn’t. No. No. Safe, tucked away, AWAY from him. Bought, useless, not needed. She wasn’t there. Nor would she be for a long while. No, it was only the allusion, the allusion of brown and blonde tucked away under silk and satin gauze trimmed with golden thread. Wrapped up in tissue paper, thrown into the bag that was now ripped, the crevasse growing wider. He noticed this time, for once, having been oblivious to the shoppers doing their last minute dashes for trinkets and baubles.
It was this time that Angel paused at a red light, dark brown eyes looking up at the soft glow, cars sloshing by on streets slick with rain, that he realized he hated Christmas.
Everything I touch turns to ashes...
Slipping through fingers, burning down, the feeling assaulted his senses, making him almost stagger to the other side of the street. Walking by the haunted ringing of bells, pots cold and gleaming, Santas eager to reach home and spend time with their families.
Families, huh? I had that once...
I remember. I remember her touch him-nicely, not... not further-lift him up, put him on the bed... Between us. And she nursed and coddled him, cooing, singing a lullaby.
Before she comforted him with flesh and sorrow-
Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Angel continued walking. He’d decided to walk, to drive through the night and grimy streets, to clear his mind. Devoid, ignoring the bright golden orbs blinking on storefronts, those Christmas ornaments. A watered down quality to it all, red, pink, blue, and green lights casting reflections back up at him. Trees for Sale, 25% off. Christmas Ornaments: $5. Wreaths and Stands.
Mundane, trivial, black boots carried him, darkness and wind ruffling his duster.
Tired as he was, Angel could take no joy in the sights. No joy to see the absence of puffs of smoke coming from his lips-it scarily felt that cold-nor even pulling the corners of his mouth into a small smile so as to not put off the atmosphere. The jingle, the jangle, the damn caffeinated carolers kept on with their constant singing, and if they let ONE more word out, he’d-
Bowing his head, Angel paused the thoughts tossing and rolling around his mind, wild dogs snapping for a solution. He shuddered, the flash of red painted on eyelids, the taste of crimson in the air. Eyes looked up, and he could see quite clearly someone struggling on the roof two stories above. A scream, grunting, another roar. Vampire. The stench was unmistakable. He wished it was...
No, no matter. A brief look cast at his surroundings-the street devoid of vehicles, the drunk on the corner, the warm glowing lights of a coffee shop opened late-and he vaulted, a strong hand grabbing the bottom rung of a fire escape before he clambered his way onto it. Angel ran, ran as fast as his legs could carry him-from the roof, away, far away from his loft- up the slippery walkway, so many steps towards the sky. It was then that he came crashing down onto the roof, letting his bag of gifts fall near him not unlike a familiar red suited gentleman known by all.
Her scent struck him blind for moments, eternities, enough for him to hesitate before vamping out.
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth...”
Fingernails dug into flesh, wrenching hard and clawing the vampire off. Cordelia staggered to her feet, mouth set in a grim line, avoiding the sexual advances of the grungy vampire on her. The small little trench coat he’d given her so long before, gave her money, told her he had liked it- which, by the way, not so big a surprise-was open, expose the flesh, pull away from the nicety of lace and silk.
Orbs lift, avoid, and keep away, as the forehead changes, and he lunges.
Angel pummeled the vampire with a couple of blows, both fast and slow motion making them hurt more, more, the thing crying out and roaring. He grabbed its jacket, pulling it up while sending a knee crashing into its midsection. Disoriented, it could only stumble before Angel plucked a stake from his coat and dusted the cold demon with an equally horrible face.
He imagined her coming to him, asking if he was all right. Watched her touch his brow with her fingertips, vampire face be damned, and tell him she was worried. The ministrations of her hands kneading the flesh of his back, reassuring him, wiping his brow, patching him up.
Those flashes never, ever happened.
“Are you all right?” Angel asked, looking down, right. Avoiding. Avoiding speaking and letting ‘it’ out. It, the horrible little creature clawing his innards, scooping the meat from his cold and unbeating heart.
“Guess so. Can’t even buy a decent handbag for Christmas without running into a couple of weirdos. Jeez. What is the world coming to?”
Answer her. Answer HER.
The demon rose, teetering on the edge of glory and madness. Egging him on, telling him, damn well explaining that Cordelia, having chosen to live with Connor, does not care for him. No. She doesn’t. And who could, honestly? He’d have his heart torn and ripped up more than she could ever mend it. Live longer than she could ever hope to dream. Did she think about that? Did she ever think about that? Did she?
He did, sometimes, to drive thoughts away from flesh and bone...
“We need to get off this roof,” Angel responded flatly.
“Whoa,” Cordy blurted, taking a glance left and right before moving to him. She pulled her coat closer around her, covering the white blouse, a shaky and cold hand pushing a dark lock of hair behind her ear. “No. You’re not leaving that easy.”
“...You’re one to talk.”
Her eyes widened, stopping from gazing far off, to look at him, nostrils flaring.
“I left the hotel by my own will.”
And moved in with my son. “I know.”
“And remember, wasn’t like you were so eager to protest that decision.”
“I know,” Angel repeated tiredly.
Eyes at half-mast, looked down at her shoes, Cordy continued, “...I just couldn’t stand the way you kept looking at Connor after-”
“Yeah, well, I couldn’t stand seeing you have sex with my son. Didn’t leave because of it,” Angel bit off. The dagger cut through cleanly, as he loathed and wished for, the glimmer of hope and familiarity on Cordelia’s eyes gone, replaced by a deep aching sadness.
...It’s all my fault...
“You wanna be like that? Fine. I’ll play,” Cordelia retorted, regaining the cruel exterior seen previously in Sunnydale. She was hurt, Angel knew, and all the more felt worse. What little of her Christmas shopping that remained had been shot to hell, her trip cut short by a fangy felon. A little Christmas, he could see in his mind’s eye, the loft decorated with sparse lights, Connor staring blankly at a small, twelve inch tree Cordelia bought. He did that a lot sometimes. Stared, and looked at her, her skin, the softness of it under his fingers.
Skin I knew, tainted and touched...
“You know me, Cordelia. I could-Just that-You-” Angel fumbled for words to conveyed something, something human and warm and alive. “...The world was ending. Couldn’t you have given him a hug instead?”
The stare. The storm brewing. Wait for it, wait for it...
“I wanted him to feel something-REAL, okay? Something outside of the pain and suffering that poor little boy had to go through, all for nothing. No one deserves that, Angel. No. One. Being whisked away and raised in a hell dimension by a psychopath? Not too keen on the sanity, got that?” Cordy snapped, crossing her arms in front of her, looking up at him.
“That still doesn’t mean you had to go and FUCK Connor!” he growled.
She faltered, but lo and behold, for after that, her mind made up, Cordelia went over to Angel and smacked him hard across the face.
“Shut up. Just shut up.”
Angel turned away from her, flicking her arm away when she touched his arm. Her posture relaxed, a soothing quality to her eyes and voice when she nodded, clearing her throat. “I know I can’t say anything to make it better this time. Because it won’t. It’ll keep hurting you. Always. Until-”
He looked at her, jaw set, eyes glancing briefly at the bag he had dropped. Presents. For friends. For those he loved and cared about. Would she be on his Christmas list? Would Connor be there?
“Take your new boyfriend and get the hell out.”
Cordelia let her body relax further, slowly, her hand reaching out to stroke his back. “Until-”
He raised a hand, indicating for her to be silent. Confused at this, Angel nodded his head in the direction of the side of the roof, towards south, dark sky reddened with ominous storm clouds. Red. Red like- Wait. Wait. There was a sound, skittering, claws scratching stone, sparks sent down. Suction, brief, skittering, clambering. Fire escape, hollow, melodic sounds of metal and ice. More, and more, and more-
A hollow scream cut through the night, a lumbering shadow jumping from the side of the building only to fall hard onto the roof on all fours. A slam, solid. Then another, and another. Three. Three echoes into the night. A triad of demons shaking snow and moisture from their backs, like dogs stretching and mewling. On their haunches, eyes thin as slits, glaring deeply into the vampire’s soul. Cutting, digging. They were pretty pissed off.
Great. Just great.
“What are they?” Cordelia asked, Angel pulling her to stand behind him. She grunted, pushing his arm away hard to stand near him. A glance at her, then the creatures, before he took a step back with her, the shopping bag now firm in his hand again.
“Brothers and sisters. Not so...good,” Angel answered, looking cautiously around the roof. General debris near the air conditioner vents, boxes, chicken wire. Pipes, papers flown up, screws, shards of metal. All the aforementioned lay near the edges of the roof, tucked and discarded away. He left her side to pick up a rebar ten feet away, a small twirl before grasping it.
“Cordelia, when I tell you, get to the edge near the front. Okay?”
“Do as I say,” Angel snapped, all the while taking quick, fluid steps forward. A low sweep up, catching one Iguion by the chin. The other two leaped as the stricken one fell, trying to tear a piece out of Angel. He struggled, seeing Cordelia out of the corner of his eye grab a shaft of wood, smaller than a two-by-four, but larger than a stake, to slam one of the Iguions in the head.
Fists clenched, grabbing skin before the other would punch, and she was there, smacking, slamming, kicking, and yelling. Side by side they fought again, and the world fell to black, their zone. Ignoring the chills of ice seeping down her spine, Cordelia shouted, indicating for Angel to duck before slamming another demon right in the face. She was slowing down, Angel knew, due to the proximity of these frigid creatures, and soon she would not be able to fight. Every passing second, and soon they could take her. Take her away.
He couldn’t have that.
Staggering for a moment, he pulled away from the scuffle after slamming one down to the ground, insuring it was out cold. Angel dug into his jacket, pulling out a book of matches. The flame was small, but soon grew quickly when he called Cordelia over, fending the demons off to light the plank of wood, a makeshift torch. Pulling back, the girl winced, seeing the fire catch on, Angel having smacked the trembling and slathering creatures away.
“Get to the edge, Cordy!”
Her nickname, so sweet and caring, sprang from those lips she knew-
Cordelia complied with Angel’s wish, swiftly grabbing the bag of gifts he had left. An afterthought. A silly little thing, in comparison with his life, or even hers, dark and death-
The vampire plowed into her, startling her, but not before those hazel eyes took in the sight of bodies twisting from flames. Her nose told her of the smell of gasoline, cans found amongst the debris. And although he did not ask her, she felt calm and serene. For he had taken her into his arms-loved her? Was it ready yet? Ever again?-instructed her to hold onto his neck, and he made a crude handle from shucking off his duster. Angel grabbed her, a nod of his head and that... there it was! There it was again! The crooked little smile of his, carefree, reckless, now daunting.
He jumped over the side of the roof with her.
The ground rushed up to meet them, for a fraction of a second, air under her feet, but then a sharp tug brought her back. Back from the fall, her whole body spasming tight, to lock her arms ‘round Angel’s neck as he grasped each end of his duster. The two sailed down the suspended line very quickly, away from the screeching demons. Cordelia glanced down for a moment before burying her head in Angel’s neck, fingers gripping the shopping bag on his back. Weightless, the air beneath her feet, they sailed down the line to the other building it was connected to. All seemed perfect, exciting, thrilling, air rushing, adrenaline pumping, but the wall.... The abandoned building’s wall grew closer, detailed, ominous and unstoppable.
Breath caught in her throat, hazel orbs snapped shut for impact-
Angel let one hand loose so as to fall, the other gripping his duster, having gained enough momentum to carry himself and Cordelia through the gutted window, rolling and crashing down. Leather providing a shield from debris, he could feel himself falling and rolling down a couple of steps to land on a mattress, alone and abandoned.
Dust flew up from the crash, a thermal of air sending papers, bits and chunks of wood up and from their setting. Particles of dust hung in the air after the entire racket grew silent. The tableau was finally set; a burning effigy sending a funnel of smoke into the sky, never getting other floors, the sky reddened, tinged with blue for sawn, the abandoned room, a loft once used by vagrants with its mattress, dust, stray candles here or there.
They never needed the light. The flames provided enough.
The fall had caused Angel to land on top of Cordelia, bracing himself with an arm. His eyes searched her face, and with a gash on his ridged forehead, asked, “Are you okay?”
He asked her...
Before she knew, before she could scream and shout and yell at herself, never, ever, her mouth was on his lips. Her hands were digging into his scalp, pulling him to her mouth, fingers looping ‘round those ambitious, soft strands. Rough, violent, her mouth engulfed his own and he responded fervently, almost tearing from the sheer passionate intensity. He breathed her breath and she stole a sliver of his soul away.
It was bliss, it was hell, for a minute.
A lick of elongated canines-
Angel pulled away, his human face on, staring at her open mouthed. He stared, getting a good, long and hard look at her, before proceeding to unbutton her miniature trench coat. So slowly worked his fingers, so quickly worked her own, walking down the chest above her, to stop at his waist. To have him reach down, grab her fingers, her, apprehensive, and all Angel did was kiss them softly, the same spot again, guiding her there. Cordelia continued to unbuckle his belt, pull on his zipper, while Angel lifted her up, one hand behind her back to view the growing expanse of her neck and chest as she leaned her head back.
He kissed her chest, her neck, then down again, his mind made up while doing so. There went the tight sweater over his head-gel be damned-there went his trousers, his boxers, there went sanity and logic out the window.
A kiss deserved another, and it wasn’t until a minute or two later that Cordelia found herself wearing nothing but her bra and underwear. Even then, soon those would be off if the vampire could contain himself...
Those fingers trailed along her skin, along her thigh. Over her, condescending was it? Overbearing? Watchful? Protecting? Angel, a champion, had many names and many attributes, but she’d rather have him known as Best Fucking Masseuse in the World, as he pulled her up to sit on his lap, kissing her shoulders before kneading the flesh of her back tenderly. Her own head lolled like a doll, brown and rare strands of short blonde in her eyes, sucking on his lip for a second or two. Head turned down, those two hundred and forty something years of experience giving way to new techniques, new spots she’d never felt this... way...
Angel couldn’t have perfect happiness but that did not stop him from giving HER perfection.
When called into the matter, one could wonder if she deserved this. If she deserved the tender way he let her lie down on the bed, so gentle, enjoying the soft strands of hair under his fingers. Or how he mischievously took her underwear off, there, that crooked grin, only to drape them on the mattress. How he guided himself into her carefully, so as to not upset her, a woman who proclaimed her love then slept with someone else. Family. Blood.
Blood didn’t matter when two people were in love.
Crashed into her again, he did, enough to make her say something unintelligible, something raw and fierce, feeling his hands over her breasts. Caress, pause, caress, leaning down. Kissing every inch of her collarbone while studying her skin, setting up a thrusting rhythm inside of her that made her twist fingers around handfuls of bed sheets.
Ignore the idea crawling in the back of the mind. Ignore the yelling, harsh, deliberate, malice. Her face, crestfallen, his face smug and confident at seeing Angel react so... Angel-y. Heck, even Connor had picked up on some of Cordy’s vocabulary.
Angel didn’t like that much.
Small, with the quality of a little girl, Cordy gasped. So tiny, delicate, her eyes rapid and rolling back, forward, closing.
It was at this moment that Angel came at a crossroads. Contrary to her looks, so sweet, innocent even, he could not help but feel a bubble of rage seep up in him. The demon from a place deep down did not care for lights or trees or gifts. It cared for slitting Angel’s stomach with knives, twisting it enough to make him sick and wanting to hurt her. And he did. Wanted to hurt her. To use her, to pour all his grief and sorrow into her, to drive her into the mattress until there was nothing left but a shivering young woman.
A feeling of loathing came over him, enough to make Angel shudder-another thrust, areas uncharted-with disgust.
Day-by-day, clawing at his innards, the demon did its work, remorse and sadness filling Angel’s heart. It was ironic that such a dark thing could see its demands met without ever acting out. How many times had he-deeper, down, she bit a scream in-nearly fallen? Too many now, and being here worried him. Those many long days, weeks he ignored her, unable to look at Cordelia. To feel that burning skin and piercing hazel on his back, watching him turn away.
To feel her pluck his heartstrings, one by one, only to slowly peel and tear each in half.
Angel wouldn’t let her hurt him again, not if it meant being away from-his hand moved past her thigh, took hold of her buttocks to pull her up and sitting-Cordelia.
Up he pulled her, in her, Angel, shoving himself into her, one hand on her back and the other on her ass, pulling her to him, up and up...
“A thrill of Hope The weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn...”
Cordelia arched back, giving Angel a good view of her breasts, only to have him bury his face in her cleavage, nuzzling and he pulled away, still thrusting. Arms wrapped around his neck, holding him tight-let him go and your fall from grace will be complete-only to view a streak of gold on the floor. Another, another, the window reddened, and soon there it was, a semi-circle of pure, blinding golden light, soft against the red background. The sun rose, unrelenting, casting its light upon a tired city and equally tired residents. Home from parties, work, and one would roll over and pull the shades down, pull the blanket over, ignoring it. But how could you, Cordelia wondered, ignore such a beautiful thing?
The answer came to her in the form of Angel’s thrusting deep within her, again and again, and another rhythm bubbled up into the form of gasps issuing from her lips, her mind a million miles and crashing down to earth.
How could you ignore such a beautiful thing? He’d done it for weeks...
The crescendo rose, his grip on her thighs firm enough to pick her up, to literally pull her up and him in deeper. Mouths kissed feverishly, painfully, bittersweet fire and brimstone. Taking her away from the sunlight, almost reaching, but their place a few steps down-from grace-prevented him from getting burned.
Not that way, at least...
He groans, his pleasure evident, previously serious and stoic. Now only restraining the urge to tear her up, so loving, so hateful-calm, ignore it, push it down-all at once. Only to view that neck, Cordelia’s head rolling back, her motions building, his thrusts mounting, fire, metal, bullets, wood, flash, water, blood, so much blood...
Cries were muffled against his mouth, lost, everything fragmented and shifting. Desperate, lonely even, lips bitten as if anchors to cling to this mortal world, anything, something real. Something beyond the fights, the arguments, the blood and pain and glory. He pushed in deeper, and she responded back, just enough to keep her sane. Just enough to break her heart, and love him, hate him, all in one.
To cling to a shred of normality, to ignore his snapped comments, to love him desperately and truthfully, for he was always there, always.
She shuddered, trembled, and he fell-
“Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices O night divine O night when Christ was born.”
An explosion within her, through her, scintillating. Scorching every cell of her body, making her cave in, arch back, in and out, and from her mouth the most heavenly sound issued forth. The vampire could only moan in response, eyes rolled back, and he collapsed, falling, falling so fast... From grace, from living, from pleasure and pain. Two sides of a coin, the soul yearning to bestow its soft embrace on her, the demon willing to tear into her, rip her up deep and drink her dry. However, there was no time, no time, to go over such notions, having fallen onto his back on the mattress. The dangerous prickling along his skin didn’t matter. He’d only pull away from her sweet and soft, deep embrace to stare, to glare at the malicious ball of fire rising into the sky.
Oh, how it caressed her lovingly and cast him down into the shadows.
Dark orbs lifted to view her, her own eyes widening as if realizing the impact of what she had done. The ferocity of kissing him melted away the pain of losing him, so close. From her own doing. Her damn decisions based on insecurity and the end of the world, and god, did he HAVE to keep STARING at her like that?
Angel nodded to the dilapidated shopping bag. “Open it.”
“You...” A breathy sigh and she rose from her position, legs this way and that like a marionette. Soft steps took her to the bag from which she dragged over to the mattress. Clutching the trench coat to her breast, she pushed away the other miscellaneous items before stopping at a small box. Perhaps for jewelry, perhaps not, for it wasn’t covered in velvet nor shaped as that of one for a necklace, or even a ring. It was square, the size of her fist, glass and gold, opaque, with antique hinges.
Quietly, Cordelia opened it, and slowly her eyes widened, disbelieving. Struck blind by such a sight, she could only let her soft touch fall upon his abdomen, and he rose to greet her. She would have none of it, instead pushing him down gently to kiss a trail up his stomach. Ignoring the dread that filled her. Ignoring logic or reason, or any shred of normality. She kissed a corpse quite truthfully, lovingly, his touch falling as hard upon her as the compassion in his eyes.
Cordy would push away those other thoughts. Connor, the world ending, all didn’t matter. Only watching the building moisture on his chest-tears-and the building moisture, coldness of the room. For even if Angel didn’t say anything, anything at all, she knew his thoughts, read them clearly. It would take time, Cordelia knew, for old wounds to heal, but he didn’t need to love her again.
He always had and always will. So for now, she settled for him brushing away her tears, to pull him to his chest, feel her skin.
It kept away the coldness building just as one of the figures in the shadows lunged to strike.
Thunder crashed, a shattered piece of glass met her skin, and all the world fell to black.