Landslide by Misty Flores
Summary: "I liked it a lot better when I thought I was a spy. At least that almost made sense."
Spoilers: Supersymmetry, Season Four.
Notes: Special Dedication to Ness for the beta read.
took my love and I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in a snow covered hill
Well the landslide brought me down
I don't think I liked to have my nails chipped.
It's taken me about ten minutes to really decide that. A lot of staring, standing naked while the hot, scalding water drips over me, dripping around my face, down my cheeks. Droplets sting my eyes, but I'm still staring.
I was a demon hunter, that's what Connor says. And the sidekicks, they said I was a princess, and that green demon guy who freaked said something about having a little demon blood (can I say `eww') in me too.
Funny. I don't feel any of that. I should, right? Feel it? I mean, feel princess-y and demon-y and maybe even a little demon fighter-y?
I liked it a lot better when I thought I was a spy. At least that almost made sense. I mean, I don't get it. I don't understand how I can be a demon fighter and be a demon and how I can beat the crap out of hideous bumpy faced guys and have issues with a chipped nail.
But I do. Have major issues. With my nails. I mean, I have really nice hands. Sure, you wouldn't see it right away if you weren't looking but I've looked for about ten minutes, and they're seriously nice. No noticeable callouses anywhere. The skin's soft. No hangnails to speak off. I mean, wherever I was, I obviously had access to a manicurist. Perfectly rounded nails, beautifully kept nails, except for the left hand, third finger. It's chipped. It's glaring at me with its uneven grotesque dent and I am having serious issues with it.
Still, obsessing over it, almost tempted enough to bite at it with my teeth (and yes, I don't think I liked to do that either) won't do much either, and instead of trying to find a nice rub place to rub at my finger (I just know I'll make it uneven and then just start hacking at the other ones and ruin them all), I just lean my head back and close my eyes.
"My name is Cordelia Chase," I mumble softly, mulling the words, humidity of the shower damp on my skin, "I'm a demon fighter, with really cute hands. I like doughnuts, and shoes… and I have a chip on my nail that I hate."
The water turns cold and I shiver, eyes opening and glaring at the screwy faucet. I don't think I like ghetto showers, either. Call that a given. Even now I'm imagining a huge bathtub, porcelain maybe, with those clawed feet – do they have clawed feet?
Yes, Cordy. That's it. Concentrate on the IMPORTANT stuff like BATHTUBS when you can't even remember WHO THE HELL YOU ARE.
God. I must be a moron.
And I'm living in an Oedipal nightmare. Don't even ASK me how I remember Oedipus when I don't remember – other stuff, but considering the fact that I've almost crossed lips with a father and son within the space of two days –
I'm either a slut, a freak – or I can blame the Greeks.
Fragile ego and non-freakiness aside, I'm sticking with the Greeks.
The water's getting cold. I'm starting to shiver. Hands nearly slip on the metal as I shut off the current, grimacing slightly as I step gingerly away. Connor's plain outta luck if he wants to shower again today.
And again with the deep knot that twists like a knife. This is just peachy. I'm just… PEACHY KEEN.
"Good one, Cordelia," I mumble, still getting used to the words as they slide off my tongue. Cordelia. Wasn't Cordelia some chick in a Shakespearean play that like, DIED or something?
Or am I getting my tragedies all mixed up?
"Crap," I mutter, and at least that comes out natural. I think I must have said `crap' a lot, because it comes out and I feel the urge to say it again. "Crap. Crap. Crap."
Crap, because I can't remember squat. Crap, because I'm still so scared I think I'm going crazy. Crap, because I almost kissed a guy and then I kissed his son and CRAP because I never meant to let anything get that far.
God. I don't need this. Connor's towels are scratchy on my skin, and for once I like it, as I scrub at my legs, and I scrub at my arms until they're red and raw and I don't remember that I'm supposed to be drying not scrubbing-
But who cares? Not like I remember ANYTHING.
Connor's got a small mirror in the bathroom. Nothing big, but… I suddenly find myself wishing for the full length mirror in my room- okay, correction- NOT my room – at Angel's big dump. I'm naked, and I don't know what I look like naked.
I'm a woman and I've never seen myself naked, and I have absolutely no CLUE why it's this important but it IS. Connor's mirror is just so damned small and round and so much is MISSING FROM IT-
I can't see a damned thing. I can't see it and I can't see ME, and it's just Connor's stupid small mirror that's the reason-
God. Oh, God. One breath, two. And the mirror goes back on its hook on the peeling paint, fingers shaking and palms careful not to break it.
Hazel eyes stare back at me. I think that's what they are. I thought they might have been brown, then blue, and finally I had to settle for hazel. Tired eyes, and black roots and blonde hair, and it's wet and stringy because I haven't blow-dried.
Wow. That's how I would do it, then. Blow-dried. Right? Maybe?
I can't tell… the mirror is so small, and I've got no instinct to go on. I'm living with a boy who's a man, and I kissed him, and his father…
"Angel." Girly name. Definitely not a girlie man. And I think I have a sense of humor, because a smirk slides across my lips and I smile at myself. "I bet HE saw me naked."
And then I remember I kissed his kid and it's not so funny anymore.
I look away from the mirror and I get dressed. Quickly.
He's out, and for the first time since I've pushed myself into Connor's world, I feel a sigh of relief slip through me at the realization.
This isn't safe anymore. And I don't trust him anymore. Oh, crap. Maybe I just don't trust myself.
And who the hell am I anyway? Maybe I'm not even trust worthy! I'm just some girl who gave someone flamethrowers and was a princess and kissed a kid who kissed back-
And Angel is his father.
He hates Angel.
And Angel and me…
I'm getting a headache.
There's clothes still in a big pile on the floor. The clothes Connor brought? Kinda musty. They must have been sitting in the dusty bunny pile for a while. Not that I don't mind washing them. I mean, hey- I can't believe that `peasant grunge chic' was actually a STYLE, but you know – maybe it was the princess thing.
They're waiting to be folded, and they're going to wait a little longer, because I know Connor brought a blow drier back with him.
My hands skim through my wet hair as I cross the loft, taking in the bed, the table cloths, the clothes, all so different in just a couple days. Connor was happy with the change. I saw it, I think. Smiles and grins, and it was so different from the scowl on his face when Angel was here.
Because he hates his father.
Does Angel hate Connor? I don't think so, I mean, the look he gave me when I handed him that picture of Connor as a baby…
The pictures. None of Angel, but I can remember HIM. The face, growly and not so growly. Kinda goofy. Kinda broody.
It's getting chilly in here. My shirt is clinging to me, and I have to cross my arms to try to rub out the goosebumps on my skin as I cross the room, suddenly staring at those pictures. I'm in some, others are just strangers that are supposed to mean something to me.
I tacked them up with names, and once again I repeat them, like sounding out those syllables will help like it hasn't for the last thirty times I've done it.
"Gunn… and Fred…" I blink. "Who the hell named these guys? Thugs?" Shrugging, I move on to a guy I don't know, with a kind face and a grin on him and his glasses. Bookish. "Wesley." No one will really tell me what happened to him, only that he's still around but not in a working capacity. We seem close though, and I make a note to ask Angel next time I see him…
My eyes narrow and I lean closer. The picture looks cropped, like someone was in it and I or … whoever cut that out.
My parents. I linger on that. My parents, who according to Angel, are in jail for tax evasion. We're not close, he told me. Gently, like a band-aid.
But how do I know that?
Well, the fact that they didn't wonder where the hell I went for three months would probably be a likely indication.
I bite my lip in morose contemplation. "Score one for Bumpy Face," I whisper. "Got one thing right."
And right here- a little down and a little to the left, is a baby with `Connor' on it. A baby. And I'm holding him. That's me all right. With scruffy brown hair, I look like a reject from Annie, but I'm there, smiling a full on Kool-Aid grin with this arm full of baby with a big forehead and happy eyes.
How is that POSSIBLE?!
Moving forward, I yank the picture from the wall, smoothing a finger over the edge and turning it over. February 22th, 2002.
The math isn't that hard to figure out. There was a calendar I found stuffed underneath some books, and Angel told me what the date was, and that meant-
Eight months. Eight months ago I was holding baby Connor in my arms and smiling at the person taking this picture, and now Connor's BIG and he's definitely not thinking of me as the girl who held him like THAT-
I'm shaking, because the picture's starting to cloud and my eyes are starting to water, and it falls.
I don't know who I am.
I mean… I really don't know. I don't know anything, and I'm trying to think of it as hard as I can and NOTHING IS COMING-
I'm Cordelia Chase. I used to work at a place called Angel Investigations, and I knew people with names like Gunn and Fred, and there was once a baby called Connor who was Angel's son, and Angel and I-
Was I with Angel? I… He LOOKS at me like there was something…
Then again Connor's looking at me like there's something…
I don't know who the hell I am. I don't know how to deal with this. I don't know how I WOULD deal with this and-
My hand stops at my hair. It's damp and getting coarse and I haven't even run a comb through it.
Yeah. I really need to blow dry.
Okay, when I get my memories back, I'm going to seriously question myself on my choice of peasant blouses.
I look pregnant in this.
It takes a while for me to get that I should probably move from the small mirror set up in the corner next to the bed. Instead, I only stare at myself, in my long shirt, my tan skin, my dirty blonde bangs.
I don't look twenty-two. I don't feel twenty-two. And there's a picture next to the dresser where Connor's a baby and I'm holding him and I just…
That's ANGEL's baby. And I get the distinct perception in the way he looks at me and the way that everyone else LETS him, that he must have seriously had an idea of what I look like naked.
WAS I a nun? I mean, I wasn't a spy, but maybe I had taken some sort of crazy ass vow in that `higher being' kick that I apparently got on. How full of myself was I, anyway? HIGHER BEING?
My lips quirked, expression comical in the foggy scratches of the mirror. Maybe I should try to turn the Gunn guy into a rat. You know. Just for fun.
Then again, Angel wouldn't probably like that.
It's a funny thing with amnesia, with not knowing who the hell you are and trying to figure it out and reaching to the guy who looks like all he wants to do is let you. You want to reach for the familiar. You look for things and I'm not sure if they're there or not, but… I felt something.
Enough to want to kiss him, enough to want to try. To want to trust him, and believe him when he said I was comfortable, happy there.
Happy. God. The last time I felt pure happiness was the moment I had staked that damned vampire. Stake in my hand, I was suddenly Cordelia Fucking Chase, Vampire Slayer, and my world lit up and it all became so clear- maybe THIS IS who I am.
And then of course I screwed it up and the world tilted and I ended up with Connor's kisses on my lips and my heart lurching to my stomach, and I don't know anymore.
I don't know any more than I did two days ago, and I'm scared. God, I'm so… damned… SCARED.
Enough to believe that maybe even the truth can't save me from what's coming.
I ran to protect myself from Angel. From all the lies and all the deception, and I'm starting to realize that the truth, radiating in Connor's dark, intense stare, is not any more comforting. Not in the way he smiles, aching and sweet. Not in his smoldering glances, and little boy grin. There's a tight knot in my stomach now, a pull that's uncomfortable and almost painful. It hasn't really left, from the moment I woke up in a hotel with three strangers telling me who I was and what I meant to them-
What I meant to him.
"I'm not a spy," I whispered, pushing away from the mirror and looking at the clothes, strewn in an untidy pile on the bed. "I'm not a demon, not a warrior, or a princess, or a lover, or a higher being. I'm a woman who's been seriously screwed with, and if I ever find out who did this to me…"
My hands bury themselves into the clothes, more questions than answers flooding through me, and in this place, in this haven, there are no answers. The questions just keep flooding, with new complications, and it's just…
"Suffocating…" With a hard swallow, I glance at the bed, suddenly too small. I glance at the room, with no curtains and no decency, and I stare once again at the picture of the baby and me.
Something strikes me… a thought that makes me pause. I had left a picture of Angel. With his child. With me. And Connor had left it behind. He must have seen it. If he had managed to grab the bras, under five boxes and in the back, he had to have seen the picture.
But according to Connor, there weren't any.
It's disturbing. It's lies and disturbing, and I'm just…
I don't know who I am. I don't know anything. I'm not getting answers here.
In my two days of reality, my world of memories that are hazy at best, I remember what it feels like to have your heart skip twice, what it feels like to suck in your breath in a hasty quest to stave off the panic, and a wrench in your throat that makes you realize nothing will be how it was…
And you want it so badly. I want it so badly. I want to smile like I did in those pictures, and I want to …
"Not exactly," he had answered. Not exactly.
There's something that no one's telling me, and suddenly I'm just so fucking TIRED of being protected, of being lied to. Twisted and pulled and too tired and scared to care because it doesn't matter- something WORSE is coming and I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS.
But I'm folding. I'm okay, because I'm folding.
Maybe, I can just push this back, you know? Maybe I can give myself a rest, and I can just… fold these clothes like I probably did every day of my life and not THINK about anything except this spiffy looking wannabe dresser in the set of a couple of slabs of wood. Take a deep breath and focus on pleats, on memorizing patterns and colors and trying to decide what can go with what-
Until the touch of warmth, the slide of thin arms and strong hands creeps around me and there's hard, lean flesh pressing into me from behind.
It makes me freeze for a second, a shiver of… I don't know… anxiety, maybe? Coursing through me before I do that thing where I pretend to push it away. `Cause, hey! I'm folding!
There's a whisper of breath on my throat, an almost caress as he pulls me tighter against him, a lover's embrace, and with a voice that's just… Connor, he breathes against me, "How about some more training? "
There's an instant, just an instant, where I don't want to believe it. Believe that I can get away with not dealing with it. It's gone just as quickly, as his fingers gently begin to massage into my stomach, and he pressed into me-
"Then tomorrow we can-"
Sighing or gasping, or … something, I finally stop folding. The clothes drop, and my hands push, and my heart thumps as I chuckle grimly, his name tapered at the end of my sigh. "Connor…" His hands stay tangled in mine, and when I step away, I see something in the way he looks at me. It's more than lust. Shit. "We need to talk."
It's absolutely amazing how this little man, who dreams of killing and murdering, can look so young. "Okay," he answers, and it's so agreeable, hand clutched in mine, almost smiling-
"Okay," I answer back, unsteady, and unsure why.
I think I've done this a lot of times. Psuedo-break-ups or easy let downs or whatever they're called. I had to have, because my hands are steady and firm, and when I lead him to the bed, it's almost instinctive the way I smile gently, crookedly. "Sit down."
And he sits, so obediently. Connor… Damn. Two days, and a kiss and the kid would roll over and play dead if I asked him to. This much power in so little time. What does it say about him? What does it say about me?
Sinking down next to him is almost surreal. It's uncomfortable, and I don't want to be doing it. Stiff, and unnatural, I feel like I'm at a damned interview.
What the hell do I say? Connor, about before- don't ever do it again?
It takes a deep, unsteady breath, and I can't look at Mr. Earnest.
"About what happened earlier…" I look, and he's not getting it. There's still the `blank but trying to listen' face. "The…" Okay… NOT kissing because… you're Angel's son, and to say I kissed you would make it sexual, and even if it WAS for about a second that would just be weird, and I don't want to say it- "Non-CPR mouth-to-mouth-"
"When you kissed me."
Oh-kay. Great. You caught that, didn't you?
"Right." Okay, then. We'll just skip around the skipping around. "I shouldn't have."
And now, his face changes. The confident, happy smile drops in an instant, and all that's left is confusion. Things are so black and white to him. How can that be if his father is a vampire?
"Connor." Honesty is a big thing with me. I kinda… figured that out. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who needs it, and God help me, I like Connor. I like him a lot, and the last thing I want to do is hurt this little man. But… "I don't know who I am," I finally manage. I'm firm, and I'm steady, and it's true. "Much less where I belong, or who with." My eyes flicker once again to the blue, blue eyes of Connor, familiar from when he was a baby, a child that even now I think I knew… really well. "And there's a picture there, when you're a baby. It's only eight months old. There's a lot I need to figure out." Not so much a `I'm dumping you', as an `It's not you, it's me'. And it's uncomfortable, because I can see his face. He's hearing `I'm dumping you'. "I'm sorry," I finally whisper, gentle as I squeeze his hand, letting go just as quickly.
It's quiet, and he's silent, turmoil settling into a maelstrom that suddenly seems just a little too much for me to handle.
"So, I'm gonna-"
He's up in a flash, and eyes sparkle with unshed tears, body tense with fierce anger. It's a Connor I've never seen, and for a moment, it scares me.
"You're going back to HIM, aren't you?"
Him. Words mouthed in disgust and accusation. Anger and hate, and it's just… ugly.
Strangely, its resignation that courses through me as I finally stand, tired, and hollow and empty. Yes, I'm going to him, I guess. Because I need to be filled, and I think that maybe… just maybe… it's a good place to find a piece of me that just might put another chink in my puzzle.
It's what poor Connor can't give me, as much as he tries, and I finally don't have the heart to tell him so. I lie to him, to protect him.
"I just need some time to think, okay?"
As I leave, move past him, and walk toward the door, telling myself not to look back, I leave behind a hard and angry young man, seething and bitter, and hurting.
I don't think I've ever truly understood why Angel did what he did until this moment.
When the flesh pounds into the wood, I jump slightly, pause once, close my eyes for a second and keep walking.
I lied, to protect him. But the lies don't make it easier.
Finding the Hyperion again, walking through unfamiliar streets, and past people I don't know, through a city that I guess is home, and strangely enough, that's the easy part.
My steps slow, and I stare up at that big hotel and I realize that actually finding the courage to push inside… it's harder.
I'm tense, and there's something inside me that feels like nervous anticipation, a reaction that has started getting me suspicious as I linger on thoughts of who's inside, why I'm feeling the way I do… and I need to know. I need to know, because maybe that will fill in one chink, put me in a place where I can come home to Connor and Angel and define one from the other. Push them both away from me long enough to not be scared and figure out what's coming-
What it has to do with me.
And I want to know. I want to understand what makes this complicated, why my hands sweat, and why we were a `not exactly' if I wasn't a nun, and why Connor won't bring me pictures of him.
I came in through the garden, and the air is alive with beautiful scent of iris and hortencias and roses. I remember the names as my fingers brush past the petals of one hortencia, the big, beautiful flower made up of hundreds of little ones. Like a puzzle. Each little flower, each petal etched together certain ways to make up the whole, beautiful flower.
Little flowers that complete the big ones.
And I know its name. I recognize the feel, the soft velvet touch, and I love the smell as it seeps through me. I think I loved it out here.
There's no activity in the Hyperion. I don't have the courage to go in, not yet, and I like it here. There's a stone bench in the center, and even though it's cold, I sink into the seat, glancing at the garden, over grown, and wild, and uncared for. I wonder, if I took care of it. Did I cut the flowers? Someone had to, and it was obvious here that no one really had.
There's a breeze in the courtyard, and a slow, soft smile slips onto my face as I suddenly imagine conversations that I don't remember having, laughter that maybe slipped into this courtyard, sweetness in a family that I never knew.
This courtyard, I figure, this had to have been mine, with it's beautiful flowers, and stone bench, soft and secluded and MINE.
I'm once again staring at the hortencia when a door is pushed open, and I hear a voice seeping from inside the big, empty lobby. There's a skip in my heart, and an unsteady intake of breath.
It's different from before as I walk up the steps, slowly and carefully. I notice it. I'm not scared, but I'm anxious. I'm nervous, but I'm hopeful, and when I push open the hotel doors to find Angel standing, almost like a lost little boy staring up at the stairs, I can't help but smile.
The door slams behind me, and he swivels, processes me, and suddenly, it's there. A grin that's just wide and beautiful, and it must not be one he does often, because this man tries to catch it, seems embarrassed, and yet, he still smiles.
It makes my breath catch, and I feel a little like a dork.
"Hi." `Cause you know… that's what ALL the smart people say when they want to start a very important conversation.
And it's weird, with me looking down at him, and him standing in the middle of the lobby. I remember the serenity of my garden, and I gesture behind me. "Can we?"
There's dark softness, where Connor must get it from, in his orbs as he stares at me for a moment, just a moment. When I step back, he takes the step with me, and it strikes me, how… tired he looks. His body seems weighted, and it seems like there's actual effort when he reaches the stairs.
But I need my garden, so I'm already moving, into it's heady scent of flowers and weeds.
The stone bench is right where I left it, and when I settle down, he sinks down with me, uttering this tired, long sigh that tells me… he's in pain.
It strikes me a little harder than I want to admit, because I don't know Angel, and yet… there's this gash on the side of his face.
My fingers slide toward it involuntarily, instinct removing methodical conversation from me when I try to assess the damage. "You should have someone look at that."
When he nearly flinches, I pause, pulling back when he offers me an uncomfortable smile and the weirdest explanation I ever heard. "It'll be okay. Run-in with a Voinok demon." Oh… so … a bad demon. "Turns out they have nine lives."
There's a chuckle at the end of his voice, and lost in my weird reaction, I can only chuckle back, just as irrationally, sitting side by side. "Like a cat?" I joke.
"Only less stand-off-ish," he quips.
My hands fold into my lap as I offer a quick smile, and the small talk descends into silence. It's not uncomfortable… not what I felt with Connor this afternoon but more… anticipation…
It's a little scary, what I'm starting to want to think to be true.
I need the truth, and so I decide, enough with the small talk. It takes a drawn-in breath, but I find the words I almost memorized coming from me. It's a speech, almost, but that's okay, because I need the answer. "We were friends." He glances at me, a searching gaze. For one second our eyes lock, and he gives me that look, the one that makes me think that `friends' isn't what he wants to hear. As if he's holding back words that he so badly wants to tell me, but keeps them bitten in his mouth. Hidden from me. "I know that. Not just from the pictures, but…" I can't finish the sentence… I don't know how. Because I feel something? Because of how he looks at me? It's just too… complicated. But it's there, and he knows, because he gives me that look again, and doesn't say a word. Laconic. How am I not surprised. And I had a point. "And I know that's why you lied before. To protect me." Like I lied to Connor. Little Connor who tried to help me find out who I was, and the memory brings a smile, a swell of pride. "Well, I – I staked a vamp today."
"Connor took you-"
NOT the point, Angel- It takes a light smack on his arm to shut him up as I jumpstart my sentence, cutting him off. "And what I realized is whoever I was before, I'm still her. She didn't need protecting. And neither do I." There's a conviction there, now. A belief that I didn't have before, that I do now. And I'm at the precipice of a landslide, teetering and unsure. I know what I'm going to say now. I know what I'll mean, and I know that what he answers, it might change everything. It already has, because I need to believe it. And whatever he answers… My gaze is steady, my tone firm as I spell it out for him. "So no more lies. "
He's definitely learning. The look he gives me is almost sad, gentle, and he repeats my words back to me, confirming them in a promise of his own. "No more lies."
There's a small bit of relief in me, and I think I smile just a little as I stare at him. "Good," and suddenly I can't look at him. My peasant `make me look pregnant' blouse is suddenly infinitely fascinating, as I sound out my next sentence. "Because there's something I need to know."
My name is Cordelia Chase, and I'm at the edge of a precipice. In his eyes is my reflection, and how he sees me, what he sees, is something I so desperately need to believe in. I don't know what I see when I see me. I only know that I am who he thought I was. I'm still that Cordelia. That Cordelia, who trusted him, and cared for him and his child.
And that Cordelia needs to know. THIS Cordelia needs to trust.
So I take a breath, stare at him evenly, and state the words that will spark the landslide and bury me in its wake.
"Were we in love?"
-- So, take this love and take it down. And if you climb a mountain and you turn around And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills Well the landslide brought me down.