Pain And Ashes by Lara
Summary: A post-Rain Of Fire fic.
Spoilers: Rain Of Fire, Season Four.
Notes: Parts in // are flashbacks. Parts in * are italics. It's angsty. You've been warned.
Champion was furious.
The Fighter for Good was stunned.
The Souled Vampire was shaking.
The Scourge of Europe was crying like a baby.
His black boots hit the cement heavily as he rushed down the dark street, which was nearly empty. He ignored the smothering smoke billowing off cars and cement. He ignored the car alarms going off, their loud screams and yells echoing through the almost vacant street. He ignored the hydrant on the corner, spraying water straight into the sky. The water added to the intense red and black in the sky, giving it an almost artistic beauty.
//I wish we couldómore than anythingóbut I can't.//
The tears ran down his face. Tears he couldn't stop. They started sometime after he had climbed off the roof. They burned his eyes and stained his cold face. The tears distorted his vision greatly, and maybe it was for the better.
He felt like poking his own eyes out.
Angel couldn't speak. The cavernous hole in his neck ached terribly. The pain had nearly blinded him earlier. He wasn't able to move or react. A stake rammed into one's skin would definitely leave some sort of painful reminder.
So would other things.
His own son. His future. Together. He was on top of her.
She did nothing but lay there.
He hated them just thinking about it.
//Knowing's different than living it.//
Dried blood caked his chin and neck. The smell of copper filled his nose and ran through his body. So did bile. He felt himself bump into a random, faceless individual. He ignored them.
He tripped. Tripped over a small crack in the ground. He silently cursed, lifting his head up after walking blocks staring at the ground.
He was staring at the hotel. He had walked the entire way without even thinking about it. A few minutes of muddled debate followed. He could walk in with the hope that everyone was okay and alive. Or he could remember that in the end- everything he loves turns to ashes. They wither and die. He needed to see.
Up the path. Hand on the door. Open. Walk in. The same routine over and over.
"Oh my God- Angel!"
Angel searched for the voice. There was Gunn on the couch, holding an ice pack against his bruised head lightly. Fred stiffly seated across from him, not touching. Lorne was seated on the stairs, anxiously sipping a Seabreeze. And Wesley. The voice.
Angel opened his mouth to speak, and a rasp came out. It hurt just to try. The man rushed forward and stopped just a foot from him. He lifted his hands towards the vampire then hesitated, as if uncertain of what to do. Finally, he touched his arm. "We were worried." He said simply.
The girl stood, walking towards the two men. "You were gone for a few hours." She said quietly. "We were getting ready to look for you. When the fire stopped." Her eyes drifted to the window, staring at the red and black stained sky. No more fire. "We were going to go now."
The Watcher touched Angel's face lightly, literally wincing at the sight of his wound. "My God, Angel...how did you..."
Fred peered up at him, inspecting his face. Not his face. His eyes. He looked into hers, motionless. The Fred he knew was dead. Withered and died. She wasn't the same. Her eyes were hardened. Dark. Just like Cordelia's. Just like Connor's. And Wesley. Gunn. They were all dead.
"A-Angel, were you crying?"
//I felt it. Not just their fear and pain.//
He shook his head and walked past the two, straight into the office. He moved in, and the door was shut behind him.
Wesley turned to Fred, sighing deeply. "We should get in touch with Cordelia."
"She doesn't have her cell phone." Gunn spoke up curtly, painfully sitting up. "She didn't take it with her when she ditched us."
"Charles." Fred replied tersely. The two stared at each other before she looked away.
Lorne cleared his throat, standing. "Now, I don't want to be a Negative Nancy, but shouldn't we look for Cordelia and the little nipper? They could be anywhere."
The door slammed open. Cordelia rushed in, flushed. She glanced around at everyone, her body lingering on the stairs. Connor appeared behind her, looking over her shoulder. She moved forward almost immediately.
"Cordelia." Wesley muttered.
Her gaze rested on the Watcher. The two looked at each other wordlessly. The ticking of the clock was the only sound in the silent lobby.
Finally, Cordelia gave him a short smile. "Hi."
He smiled slightly. "Hi. We were worried."
Her hand rose and laid his arm. Concern slowly filled her eyes as she examined his slightly battered face. "You're hurt."
He brushed her hand away. "I'm alright. We're all alright- in theory. It's Angel we're-"
"Angel. Why Angel. What happened, Wes?"
"He got a stake jammed into his throat, that's what happened." Gunn snapped. Cordelia stared at him almost fearfully. "Boy got stabbed and thrown over a roof. That happened like three hours ago."
She shook her head slowly, already expecting the worse. "Is he..."
"He's fine." Fred mumbled.
"Where is he?" Connor silently stepped into the hotel, moving next to the Seer. She barely glanced at him, shifting to the side. "*Where* is he?" Lorne pointed at the closed office door. She nodded and walked towards the door.
Connor stared at the ground, playing with his shirt. Gunn focused on the boy, watching him wearily. "Where the hell were you, boy?"
His head jerked up. "With Cordy."
His eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"
Gunn shrugged. "Gee, I don't know, Connor. What with the hellfire and burning, I woulda thought you would've been standing by your old man fighting the big fight."
"I was hurt."
"Sure you were."
"What the hell do you know?!"
"*ENOUGH*." Cordelia snapped loudly, silencing the two. Her glare softened as she turned the doorknob and opened the office door. She walked inside the room, closing the door behind her. The room was black. She held her hands out in front of her, slowly and cautiously walking toward the light switch. Or where she thought was the light switch. Suddenly, a small light filled the room. She jumped and turned towards it. A sigh of relief escaped her lips, seeing the familiar frame seated at the desk. "Angel..."
He kept his back to her, standing. "What do you want." He voice was raspy. It hurt. It hurt so much. He imagined that's what his victims might have sounded if he had let them lived. A gaping hole in their throats, trying to speak. Struggling to keep the blood from rising and falling.
The reassured smile faded, replaced by a confused look. "What? I-I heard you were hurt..."
He turned around, and she gasped at the sight. His face remained blank. "I am fine, Cordelia." His throat burned.
"But- my God, Angel...your neck! Your- you're hurt. Oh my God..." She walked towards him, and he backed up. "Let me patch you up. At least."
At least. He had to smirk at that. At least. There had to be a double meaning to that somewhere. Maybe not. He hated thinking like that about her. He couldn't stop. He couldn't stop the pain. The hurt.
//I felt you and how much you enjoyed making them suffer.//
She was making him suffer now.
Just by looking at him with concern.
She had changed so much in so little time. That light in her eyes that he had looked forward to every single day was gone. She was so different. The way she moved. The way she talked.
But her voice still did something to him. Before, it was dizziness and elevated happiness to the highest level.
Now it was nausea and pain.
"Let me patch you up." He shook his head, trying to walk past her. Without touching her. He could smell him on her. She grabbed his arm. "Angel-"
Angel jerked his arm away roughly, nearly sending Cordelia into the desk. "I am *FINE*." That shout was going to cost him. The pain hit hard.
She stared up at him in shock, pushing her hair out of her eyes. "What's wrong?"
He remembered everything at that moment. Connor calling her beautiful. Cordelia holding his hand. Connor taking her photos of the group and leaving his behind.
She stole the covers.
He was so stupid.
And he could kill them both.
"Angel- Connor and I were worried."
Connor. He fought the urge to shove Cordelia across the room, rush into the lobby, and smash his fist into that boy's face.
She sighed, trying again. "What's wrong?"
"Wrong? Nothing. Absolutely nothing." Their eyes met. "Nothing."
Cordelia frowned. "A-Angel, I just..." She stopped, her face suddenly growing pale. She looked into his eyes and saw the hurt. The pain. The red. He had been crying. And she knew. She knew he knew. "Oh my God..."
"God can't help me."
Her eyes began to well up with tears. "Angel..."
He sighed, closing his eyes to hide the pain. "Don't."
//I love you, Angel...//
"I love you, Cordelia..."
//But I can't be with you.//
She nodded, tears slowly running down her face. The guilt was overwhelming. She hated herself. But she would never have thought he would find out. She told Connor... "Angel- I'm so-"
"I want you and my son to leave this hotel. Right now."
//It's just too soon.//
"W-What?" Surprise began to mix with the guilt and fear. It all molded into an expression that Angel could only think of as pitiful. "Angel...please- I want to help. We want to help. You can't do it on your own."
Angel shook his head, trying to muster up all the strength he could. "I can do it on my own. I don't need you."
Cordelia wiped her face roughly, trying to stop the tears. They kept coming. "God- Angel...please, don't- I- I want-"
A sob escaped her lips, and she wiped her face desperately. He stood, watching her. Watching her try to put herself together. Like she always did. He was giving her time.
She started to back towards the door. "I-If you change your mind, y- you know where I-"
She nodded, still backing away. Slowly. She was taking her time. Trying to stall. She could. He was stalling as well. He wanted her there badly. But she couldn't. He would kill her first.
"I love you, Angel." She whispered. "I always will."
"I know that." He whispered back.
She nodded once last time, glancing into his eyes before escaping the office. She kept her head down, walking past the others and out the door. Connor, without hesitation, followed her.
Angel finally collapsed into the nearest chair. Wesley and Fred looked into the office at him, that familiar concern etched on their faces.
Everything he loved turned into ashes.
She was gone.
The vampire closed his eyes slowly, a trembling sigh escaping his lips. It hurt. But not as bad as what was going on in his heart.
//Maybe if we just give it a little time...//
The pain will fade.