Seven People In Search Of Dreamland by Jennifer-Oksana
Summary: Four bedtime stories set at the end of a very long night for Angel Investigations and their assorted friends, lovers, and hangers-on.
Spoilers: Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Season Four.
Notes: Thanks to Kate, Scy, and Zara for the beta and the C/C people for their begging.
Connor and Cordelia
"You don't look at all like your father," is the last thing Cordelia tells him before drifting off into a dreamworld where he cannot follow. Connor wishes he could get out of the room, go somewhere, but it's sunrise now and he can't leave her alone. Though he wishes he could.
Every time Connor looks at Cordelia, his eyes stray to her breasts rising and falling in a slightly irregular rhythm, and all he can hear is the blood rushing in his ears. He'd known before that she was lovely, but now he wishes he had his father's Bible nearby, because the only verses he can remember aren't helping his incontinence.
*Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.*
He hadn't meant to touch her breast like that, and now his hand burns with the sense-memory of it. It had been soft, but not a bad soft, the kind of soft that seemed to be made to feel and the way her breath caught when she realized! It was a revelation to Connor, the way women make tiny noises that in men would be unexceptional, but that in women are heart-wrenching things.
He doesn't have many memories of women. Sunny, when he remembers her, is a dream as tangy as orange juice and bittersweet like the food that's slightly gone in the dumpsters. Fred was brittle and kind, not sure if she was supposed to be mother, sister, or friend. He can't help but wonder if she hates him now, and that stings a bit. But Cordelia makes him prickle like he prickles at the sight of the beast in the warehouse, or the feeling of a battle victory, but not exactly. The blood feels the same, rushing through him like a river, or a particularly good kill. Still. It's different.
Connor doesn't have the words, just the hazy memories of Canticles, and his father hadn't completely approved of the Songs of Songs.
"Those are words for a proper season," had been Captain Holtz's edict on the matter, choosing instead to dwell upon Isaiah and Jeremiah. Connor knows his father was right; his father was almost always right, but now seems to be a proper season and he can't think of anything except how perfect Cordelia is, laying in his bed with her breasts rising up and down.
Well. Perhaps not. Connor grits his teeth. He has dealt with morning inconvenience before, and fortunately for him, his father had been relatively unopposed to onanism in the case of morning necessity (better a brief sin than to be unable to function on Quortoth for an hour or two), but this is different. Firstly, it would be impolite to find release with Cordelia in the room. There's the mess and the possibility she'd wake up and it's completely out of the question.
Secondly, Connor is quite certain that the cause of his difficulty is his inability to look away from her form. His father had not believed in committing lustful acts, and to touch himself over Cordelia's breasts would be a filthy sin.
There's no way around it. He is as tired as anyone else after the night he's had and he doesn't have anywhere else to sleep. Gingerly, very gingerly, Connor lies beside her, praying she doesn't move and discover that he's an uncouth sinner. Because she's perfect and beautiful and shouldn't be subjected to his carnal weakness.
*Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.*
No spot at all now. Cordelia's reaction to Angelus just proved what Connor still knows to be true: there's no lasting good in the man who fathered him. He can play at champion all he wants and save a thousand families on the roadside, but at the critical moment, true good recognizes Angelus as true evil.
The devil can be as an angel of light, Connor thinks sleepily, sinking into half-dreams that he can never differentiate from waking reality. Sometimes his father--his real father, not Angelus--talks to him in these dreams. Sometimes he's seen a beautiful blonde woman, tarted up in whore's garb and unable to speak because Angelus has cut out her tongue. Sometimes there is a man, a sad dark man with glasses, and Justine cuts his throat.
Connor rarely remembers these dreams, so he hasn't bothered to ask who the sad man and the blonde woman are. He wouldn't think to ask even if he remembered.
He can smell Cordelia as he drifts out of wakefulness and into the haunted landscapes where he usually hunts and expunges most of his psychosis. Tonight, there are no wild beasts, no lakes of acid, no bleeding ghosts who Connor has rendered voiceless.
Cordelia sits in the garden at Angelus' hotel. She smiles at him, the same smile from when she admitted her gratitude at Connor's honesty, except now Cordelia isn't wearing a shirt at all.
"Be straight with me," she says, and her teeth are so white and perfect that Connor admires them for a second before his eyes stop on her breasts. "Do you like them?"
"I like them. I like them very much," Connor says, unable to move. "But I don't know what to do. It wasn't time to learn when my father was with me, and all the rules are different now that he's gone. I don't know what you want me to do."
She stands up and walks toward him and Connor's heart is beating as fast as the little reptile-beasts he would catch and feed to the flying dragons. He can't do anything. If she looks, she'll know he's lusting after his father's woman.
A little voice whispers: but she's not his woman. She never was, and this Cordelia doesn't even remember wanting to be. The little voice, if Connor only knew it, is very much like the blonde whore's voice. But he doesn't know and Cordelia is standing there, naked to the waist, with lips as soft and wet as cherry popsicles.
Connor spent a week in July addicted to popsicles, thanks to Fred and Gunn. When he realized that the grape ones turned his tongue purple, he'd stopped cold, though not without a few pangs of longing. Now he thinks that kissing Cordelia will be better than cherry popsicles, better than honeycomb, and he hasn't even gotten to the part where his hand might end up on her naked figure.
When he looks up, Cordelia is looking at his erection with a lifted eyebrow and a near smile.
"I'm sorry," he gasps. "You're so pretty. I can't help it."
"It's okay," she replies. "I can make it go away."
Her lips touch his and they are as sweet as popsicles, as warm as cider, and as soft as her breasts and Connor's brain is suddenly full of thoughts that he didn't realize he could think. He wants her to touch him, to make the ache of his shame go away, to hear her make noises while he touches those naked breasts again and again and again.
He kisses her, trying to remember all the ways he's seen Fred and Gunn do their kisses, with tongues, with teeth, with fancy moves. But her lips don't part when he tries to open them with his tongue, and he realizes belatedly that his hands are frozen to his sides.
Her lips touch his again, and it burns, burns like the fire of God is supposed to burn, and Connor might as well be a statue for all that he can move. He knows now that he's trapped.
"What are you doing to me?" Connor asks. She's not glowing; no, she's not glowing. But she's still got a power over him that might as well be divine. "Cordelia, what--"
"I'm making it stop," she says and the smile on her face is beatific, pure, and Connor realizes he's had it all wrong. She isn't going to sin with him, because she's a goddess, she's a saint, and what she's not is a fallen woman in this city where everyone's fallen.
She's going to make him pure, and it hurts. He can't move, he can't even squeak, and it feels like his body is on fire. Sweat is starting to drip into Connor's eyes but he can't take them off her.
"Cordelia," he whimpers through a locked jaw.
"Shh," she says, and the third kiss will kill him, turn him to stone and then to ash and brimstone, but her lips are against his and he screams because it feels like fire and it feels like heaven and oh, God. She's drawing it out of him, bit by agonizing bit and he doesn't ever want her to stop. "See?"
And he does. She's purified him, drawn the carnality out of his soul so that he doesn't stain her with his lusts.
"You're amazing," he says, and this time she does start to glow...
Somewhere outside of his visions, Connor turns over, away from Cordelia, and sinks into dreamless sleep. And what Cordelia dreams of, neither of them knows or knows to care about.
Fred and Gunn
"We need to get unionized or something," Charles complains, only half-joking as he shucks off his clothes. "I know we got the night shift and all, but that was, bar none, the longest day of my life."
"And you're not even Jack Bauer," Fred jokes, hunkered down in bed in her favorite sleepwear--the tank-top/short combo--without even the energy to yawn. "But just as badass."
He's such a sweetheart at the core of him, she thinks, drifting in and out of consciousness. It's not that he's a little boy pretending to be a man, because he's a man and not a little boy, but it's something else. Like he's good down to the center and doesn't know how to handle the strange and terrible world that belongs to Angel and his people.
She's stopped thinking of them as theirs. Because Angel and Cordelia and Wesley and Connor aren't their people, not the way that they are to each other. And that aches a little, the way it always aches to think you're not as close as you thought you were, but it's the truth.
Fred is actually rather glad of that, come down to it. Not glad, that's inaccurate, but it's not as bad as it should be. People like Angel can get you killed if you're not careful, and they go away on journeys and to the bottom of the ocean and leave you with all the work and none of the glory.
"Man, I don't know what Angel's deal is about Wes, but if I were him," and there he goes again. Charles has gone a little nutty on the topic of Wesley, and it's getting very, very old.
"Charles," she says to stop the flow of anger that pours from her lover every time that particular shadow appears on the horizon. It works again, and Fred's glad of that. "Sweetie, it's late."
He smiles at her, the most beautiful smile in the world. Fred hasn't ever seen a better one. Charles Gunn has the kind of smile that makes yearbook pages, that works better than any pick-up line in the world. When he smiles, it's like she can see right into his soul and it's a safe and kind place to be.
"Girl, you aren't joking about that," he says, crawling into bed next to her. She sneaks into his arms, snuggling up close and marveling at how pretty they look together. Though she'd never tell him she thinks they're pretty. It would wound his manly pride. "I'm about to pass out in mid-sentence."
"Me too," she says, tickling his upper arm and feeling her eyelids fluttering closed. "But I want g'night kisses."
"Mmm," he grumbles, but he's only playing. "How many?"
"A hundred," she says, blinking rapidly to keep herself awake. "Ten for my fingers, ten for my toes, twenty for my shoulders, and the other fifty for surprises."
He kisses her on the top of her head. "You and surprises," he teases, rolling them over carefully.
"I like surprises," she says, grinning through eyes full of eyelash. She's so sleepy, but there must be good night kisses. His lips need to press against her skin and make everything all better. It centers her on days when she's out of balance. "Kisses!"
"You are *greedy,* girl," he disclaims before kissing her forehead, the tip of her nose, and a long, warm smack on her lips before littering three or four on her cheeks.
"Mm-hm," she says, giggling a little because his nose is tickling her collarbone and he's giving her fish-mouth kisses on the outside curve of her right breast. Pop, pop, pop, and that's ten.
She keeps careful count of these things, because if she forgets, it would be a disaster. They'd have to start all over again or the shadows would creep into their thoughts, into the dreams, and make things unpleasant.
Of course she doesn't tell Charles this. He would worry and they have so much to worry about.
He has kissed his way across her fingers, onetwothreefourfivesixseven eightnineten and that's twenty kisses, twenty of one hundred, and she wonders if Catullus kept count of his kisses, the ones he gave his girl, his Lesbia.
"Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred, then a thousand more," Fred remembers as Charles kisses a cross on her skin, shoulder to shoulder and from the hollow of her neck to her belly button. Twenty more kisses, and they can fall asleep without worry.
"Baby?" he asks, looking up at her.
"S'okay," she says, blowing him another kiss, one that she hopes doesn't mess with her totals. "It's a poem I used to know in Latin. Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus. And more stuff I don't remember."
The point was Catullus wanted so many kisses that they couldn't be counted, she remembers as Charles carefully places butterfly kisses on the tops of her thighs, ticklish little things that make her giggle. She can understand why, but it's imperative that she have precisely counted kisses. A hundred kisses goodnight and she sleeps like a baby, no matter how much Mr. Sun says it's waking time, not sleeping time.
"Latin," he says with a grin. "I ever tell you how sexy it is to have a girlfriend who knows Latin?"
"No, but you can tell me whenever you want," Fred teases. "I won't mind."
Only eleven kisses left, but he doesn't really have to kiss her toes. That's a joke between them. Usually what happens is that he presses his fingertip to his mouth and puts each proxy kiss on her elbows or eyelids or something. This time, he's sort of on pause, looking at her with big, tired eyes. It slowly occurs to her that he's sad and that he needs the rest of those kisses more than she does.
Fred reaches up to him, cupping his face with her hand and easing him down into the mattress.
"I love you," she says. "Let me--"
She clambers on top of him, her hair falling into her face, over his chest and torso.
One kiss for his forehead, to smooth away any worry lines. Two for his eyes, and one nibbly kiss for his left earlobe, her favorite kissable spot. Yes, one for his earlobe.
Three for his jawline, rough and scratchy with the stubble he usually kept smooth. That makes seven, she thinks, remembering to keep the last for his lips.
One for the spot where his shoulder knots up, the place that isn't quite neck or shoulder. One over his heart, with a pause long enough to hear it beat, thump thump thump. Then one for the palm of his hand, a big sloppy wet-mouthed kiss.
"Ninety-nine," he says, and she realizes with a jolt that he's been keeping count with her. Oh! How long has he counted their kisses, and how many kisses have they counted since she started keeping track? (Two thousand, two hundred, and eighty-nine, not counting the last kiss she hasn't given yet.)
Fred leans in close, her entire heart in her eyes.
"One--" and her upper lip crosses his lower lip for a millisecond-- "Hun--" and both of her lips touch his, molding to the contours of his mouth. "Dred."
She whispers the last into his mouth before they share the end of the last kiss, the kiss that will last them through sleeping and into waking again. It takes a while; these things often do.
"Bedtime now," she murmurs blissfully, rolling to her left and checking the advance of morning out of the corner of her eye.
"Bedtime now," he agrees, closing his eyes. Fred is about to join him in the land of Nod, but she chances to see something lovely and amazing in her sidewise glance of dawn.
"Ooh," she whispers.
"What?" asks Charles, firmly in favor of sleep.
"The morning star," Fred says, looking at it wobbling in the early-early-morning sky. It's alone; the last guest at the celestial party who isn't taking the hint that it's time to find a cab home and let the sun get on with the sober work of every day. She knows how it feels.
"Mm," Charles says. "Good for it." But Fred is so happy to see it there, even if it's just a planet and not a star or a mystical totem, that she can't help but watch it.
"I've got to wish on it," she insists. "It's necessary."
And it is necessary, she thinks as focuses on it, it's necessary that she stop the despair and tragedy and pain that comes with being a hero, a champion, or a sidekick of the forces of good. She has to make inroads against everyone being eaten up by the sadness, or she'll just go.
Go something. Maybe not crazy. Maybe just a flavor thereof.
"What do you wish?" Charles asks in a voice that's begging her to come to dreamland with him, and Fred is ready to go, she's about to go with him, but she has to make a wish before the morning star goes out...
"I wish that all our friends can go to sleep happy tonight," she murmurs, sinking deep into the pillows and blankets of their shared bed.
Even friends who we can't trust now, she adds silently before falling into REM cycles and unconsciousness. Even the friends who we know aren't sleeping in their own beds tonight.
Wesley and Lilah
He wonders if he'd forgive her at all if she weren't beautiful.
If she didn't have eyes that lit up like a six-year-old's on Christmas morning while hiding a thousand secrets and lies. If she didn't have this smile for him and only him that was half grin, half leer, and a dash of shy smile. If she didn't wear Coco Chanel instead of Number Five behind her ears because she knows that's where he likes to nuzzle and kiss.
If none of these things were true, would he be stretched out on her bed watching High Fidelity, resolutely not talking about the part where she played him and he bitched her out like this was a normal urban romance and not two people blindly fumbling with razor blades?
The question answers itself, really.
It's how his hand looks against the curve of her neck where it meets her shoulder.
It's the way she can practically sing his name in the throes of a third orgasm.
It's the feel of her silk blouses, how they slide underneath his hand before he undoes the buttons and kisses skin that's almost as soft. She always tastes sweet, even after a long day among the evil and poisonous. It's not a flavor he can place--he's not naive enough to say she tastes like vanilla or green tea or flowers--but he likes her skin well enough to survey every square inch of it with his tongue.
And Lilah is ignoring him in favor of the movie.
"How many times have you seen this?" he asks her petulantly. She's placidly munching popcorn--Wesley and Lilah do domestic, with the folded laundry, microwave popcorn, and four remotes to prove it--and she holds up six fingers silently in response. Lilah doesn't like to talk during movies and this might be her favorite. He doesn't know. "Isn't that a *bit* obsessive?"
"Shut up," she says amiably. "It could be Bridget Jones' Diary. I'm in that sort of mood."
Wesley idly notices that her nails are starting to fray around the edges. Without even bothering to speak to her, he takes her left hand and scrutinizes the manicure's decay.
Interesting. Very unlike Lilah. Two hangnails on this hand alone. The thumbnail is ragged, as if it's been bitten or broken off, and remains defiantly unfiled, as if she doesn't care or hasn't had time to notice. It's a message, it's a warning, and it's driving Wesley mad.
Something's getting to her. He wants it to be him.
"Stop it, Wes," she says, slightly annoyed. "You're getting in the way of movie time."
"Which precedes apocalypse time and follows betrayal time, I suppose," he replies glibly, not letting go. "I still don't know why I'm here."
"Liar," she says, wavering between affectionate and annoyed. "You're here because you don't know how you feel about anything, least of all me."
Lilah has a point. It's become habit over the past four or five months to end up in bed with her at the end of every day. When he doesn't know what else to do, he goes to her for the kind of kisses that melt polar ice caps and corrupt innocents--to say nothing of the sex.
His zero point is her body and that's too disturbing to think of.
"What if I'm here because you're beautiful?" he asks, kissing a knuckle gently.
That little comment earns him a brief smile and a little shiver, though John Cusack gets more of a response screaming to Catherine Zeta-Jones on the television.
"Charlie, you fucking bitch! Let's work it out!" he screams in the pouring rain. Wesley's been that guy, has a feeling he's going to be that guy again, and is grateful it never rains in Los Angeles. Also, no one would blame Wesley if he called Lilah a fucking bitch, not even Lilah herself. She prides herself on it, after all.
"It's better than you being here because you love me," she says, apparently resigned to her late-night/early-morning movie being marred by the chattering moron. Wesley appreciates that.
"What if," he murmurs, leaning in to smell her skin and Chanel and hair. "What if I come back because I don't want you to look at anyone else the way you look at me?"
Lilah arches against him, a bitter little smile on her face that he can't quite see but imagines is firmly in place. And then she yawns.
"Then you're just fooling yourself with insane man logic," she murmurs sleepily. "But that's okay. Wouldn't be the first time."
And is that part of her beauty? that she can make him furious and ashamed and desperate with sleepy wit? That after being on her feet in high heels for eighteen hours, she can aim and hit the target dead center? Or is it part of something in him, the angry dark thing in him that can't just accept Angel's half-assed apology and go home, that feeds on the anger she breeds in him?
How can she do what she does to him, the anger and the tenderness and it must be the beauty, because there's nothing else, no great hidden depths to uncover in this? How?
"Look at me," he whispers. "Lilah?"
She's asleep. He didn't even get in a retort to the insane man logic comment and now he's stuck watching John Cusack mope in the Americanized version of a Hornby novel. Wesley supposes it could be worse, in an objective sense. Plenty of men would be delighted to be watching the telly at dawn with a beautiful woman asleep in their arms and on that level, Wesley is perfectly content.
If it were only that level he had to worry about, though at six-thirty in the bloody morning, he's about to give up worry and follow his lover's practical example and fall asleep. But it gnaws at him, the stupid questions, the doubt, and especially the creeping knowledge this is going to kill them both.
What's her angle? Did she mean it about not playing him if he trusted her? Does he even want to trust her? Hell, why *is* he here? Angel's on dry land, Cordelia's in the proper dimension again, everything's good, and he should get the hell out of--
"Go to sleep," Lilah moan-growls-orders out of a half-opened eye. "Six forty-five in the goddamn morning, Wes."
He looks down and the simple part of it takes over. Beautiful woman in arms, big comfortable bed in a posh LA loft, and complete exhaustion. This is as good as it gets for the Wesley of today. He can always sleep now and think later.
It's not as if the end will happen between now and when they wake up.