Star Light, Star Bright by Abby Cadabra
in the Supernova Series.
night was hers, and tonight she was a fucking star.
Spoilers: TVT (general), set in season three sometime before That Old Gang of Mine and after That Vision Thing.
Notes: Not enough thanks go out to Kelley (starlet) for her beta. She’s amazing, and there really isn’t anything else I can say.
su.per.no.va [sooper nov e] (pl. su.per.no.vae, su.per.no.vas): n. a catastrophic explosion that occurs when a large star uses up its supply of fuel, collapses under its own weight, and explodes, with a consequential short-lived luminosity from 10 to 100 million times that of the Sun. This celestial explosion results in a black hole where the original star had been.
“Some by virtue fall.”
-Measure for Measure, Shakespeare
“A toast! To many more years of demon, vampire, and
all around baddie slaying!”
“Here’s hoping that POS truck of yours starts tomorrow,
Gunn, ‘cause with that thing you don’t never know.”
“To playing your cards right… And only losing when
you can kick the other guy’s ass.”
The raised champagne glasses, sparkling and twinkling ever so
prettily in the bright light of Caritas, teetered and then sank. The air
of celebration was thick in her throat and blocked her words. She felt
like all of the eyes in the room were focused solely on her, staring at her
choked silence and the champagne glass she still held high.
“To…” Cordelia started again and then stopped.
There was nothing left for her to say. Her mind was a blank of well wishes
and jesting teases and god knows what else people were supposed to toast to
these days. She didn’t know, couldn’t have bought herself a clue with
all the money her daddy used to not-really-have, so she leapt at the first thing
that popped out of the white expanse that had become her brain.
“To happiness.” Her voice was bashful, a little
stern, and a lot loud. She remembered, offhandedly, that she had always
been the best in her acting classes at projection.
The room suddenly turned quiet, mouths shutting and grins
fading and, oh yeah, she so did that. A throat cleared somewhere near the
back, along the wall, and Cordelia fidgeted. Hand to hair, other to hem of
shirt, feet up and then to the side and then down. She felt uncomfortable,
corny as all hell.
Have too much fun lately? Need someone to kill your
buzz? Just call Death-of-the-Party Cordy.
Cordelia wanted to hack at the awkwardness with an ice pick
or ancient blade or, better yet, something witty and charming enough to knock
Prince Charming himself on his fat, royal ass. But nothing came to her,
and she could feel eyes, Angel’s and Gunn’s and everyone else’s, on
her. And then there was that feeling of heat, the one that crept along her
cheeks and up her neck, hot and horrible and very fucking obvious.
Pretending that there was something in her eye, she dipped her head to the side
so that her hair fell like a thick, split-end-free curtain over her deepening
blush, and she began to quietly count away the seconds of humiliating silence.
“You can never have too much of that,” a voice said on
the fifth second, soft and cool and so very, very uneasy that it brought a smile
to Cordelia’s face.
She lifted her head in a flourish of near ebony shine, a
smile of dangerous voltage flashing on like a light bulb, and beamed at
Angel. He returned her smile, a small gesture when compared to the one
that she sent to him in waves, all uncertainty and reservation, but still a
Cordelia could literally feel the awkwardness evaporate from
the drunken atmosphere of Caritas in the way the sting of hot water on a fresh
wound turns cold almost instantly. The sounds of laughter and glasses
clinking buzzed through the air again until it reached the highest point of the
ceiling, filling Caritas to the brim with delight.
“True that,” Gunn said, the night’s prior tequila shots
and pitchers of beer slurring his speech. “Well, not unless you’re
you, ‘ngel, because happiness and you don’t mix, bro.”
Cordelia missed the slump of Angel’s proud shoulders at the
mention of his curse. She didn’t see the brief shift of light when the
shadow he had tucked himself into darkened, a black hole in a field of stellar
brilliance. She wasn’t looking hard enough to see it.
“But that,” Gunn continued, pointing to Cordelia
as golden bubbles sloshed over the edge of his champagne glass, “is the best
damn toast I’ve ever been toasted at. Ganks, thirl.”
Cordelia turned her smile to Gunn. “You’re
welcome.” Her arms fit around his wide shoulders easily, his own
wrapping around her waist with some alcohol induced difficulty. “Happy
birthday, Charles,” she whispered warmly into his ear, tightening her hold
briefly before releasing him.
“You too,” he said, the skin around his eyes crinkling
with the force of his grin.
“This is a happy birthday, isn’t it?” Cordelia asked,
meaning every word like she never thought she could.
She felt happy. Like she could inhale the
happiness with every breath she didn’t have to think about taking and drink
the happiness from her champagne glass and live within the happiness and die
there too. The joy enclosed by the magical boundaries of Caritas was
almost tangible in its entirety, like she could just collapse at any moment and
land safely on a cloud-like mass of happiness, soft and fluffy like the clouds
on diaper commercials.
And she loved every second of it like she loved nothing else.
“Well, there is one thing that could make me happier, sugar
plum,” Lorne said, his voice silver-tongued as ever.
“What would that be?” she asked, the champagne bubbles
fizzling in her stomach fueling her bravado. She dared him with her eyes,
waiting to see if he would pick up on the curious light she felt.
He motioned to the empty stage, the spotlight shining on a
bare wooden stool and microphone. “To hear your surely marvelous
rendition of Mrs. Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive.’”
She wrinkled her nose at his suggestion. “Ah, I
don’t think so, Lorne. No karaoke tonight, okay?”
“Yes, karaoke tonight. You, sugarplum, are the only
one who has yet to sing from my gathered collection of Angel Investigations
employees, and I need the complete set.”
“And it’s going to stay that way.”
Her words were stern, but her manner spoke otherwise.
The bold gleam in her eyes, the curiously quirked corners of her lips, the empty
champagne glass hanging from her swaying fingers, begging to be filled.
All so daring. All just waiting for the right challenge.
The Host sighed deeply. “Yeah, you’re probably
right, cupcake. I really don’t think this group is that rude, but I
don’t want people walking out. Makes for bad business. You
She smiled and nodded, her eyes rolling knowingly.
“Reverse psychology. Not going to work.”
“I’m not trying to reverse your psychology, hun. I
like you and I think it’s an absolutely conniving thing to do to someone who
you respect.” He looked at the stage, vacant and uninviting and exposed
in all the worst ways. “Some people just don’t have the courage to
take on the mike. It’s something you learn in my business.”
Cordelia half scoffed, half snorted, a sound that prompted
her into checking her surroundings to be sure that it hadn’t traveled too far
on the sound waves. “Lorne, it’s the fact that I can’t sing that’s
keeping me from going up there, not stage fright. Or rather, my lack
“I see what you’re saying, dumplin’, but the aura
doesn’t lie, and I’m detecting some serious wiggage in your stage fright
“You are not!”
Lorne patted her on the back gently. “Don’t kill
“Message this,” she declared, standing away from the
booth she and Lorne had shared, strutting to the stage.
The spotlight was brighter than she had expected, shining and
blinding and much, much more welcoming than she had remembered. Heat
borrowed from the steady stream of light pounded her skin in rivulets.
Small. Quick. Enthralling. Like a precious drug that was only
legal because no one fucking knew about it yet. The microphone was cold to
her touch, heavy in her hand, a sum that came to nothing when compared to the
marvel of a shining spotlight in her eyes.
“Gunn, you pick,” she said into the mike, smiling down on
the table he was seated at.
She laughed as he stumbled to the stage, uninhibited and full
and like she hadn’t done in what seemed ages ago. She scanned the crowd
flippantly, a blur of people and demons, stopping on Angel. Her gaze was
stuck on his like feathers to honey, lassoed in and then secured with rope and
Another roar of applause for Gunn erupted as he fell
awkwardly into his chair, ripping her eyes from Angel’s. “What’d ya
“Is a surprise,” Gunn said.
Cordelia thought that maybe he had tried to wink at her, the
way someone might do when referring to an inside joke, but it came out as more
of a wince of pain than anything else, and she had to stifle back the laughter
bubbling in her throat.
The wide grin on Gunn’s face was unsettling. It was
too wide, too cheerful, and she began to worry. She tried convincing
herself that Gunn was a good guy, a great friend, not the kind of person who
would take pleasure in the embarrassment of their friends. But as the beat
began, loud and obnoxious and ever so familiar, she knew that that was exactly
the type of person Gunn was.
“I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world,” she sang
reluctantly, her voice low, quiet, horrendously bad. “Life in plastic,
She wanted to get off the stage and drink herself into
forgetting this ever happened and to wring Gunn’s neck and to go home, pull
this CD down from her secret stash on her closet’s highest shelf, and stomp on
it until the pieces were so little that she would have to clean them up with the
“You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere.
Imagination, life is your creation…”
And then she suddenly realized somewhere around the first
verse, something about blondes and making it tight, that she didn’t have to
treat this moment as if it was a cold metal rebar through her gut.
Didn’t have to be something that would be remembered only because of its sheer
terribleness. Didn’t have to fucking make her feel like she was God’s
gift to MTV’s box set collection of The World’s Worst Karaoke Singers
Ever. She couldn’t make herself sing like Whitney, but she could
have fun with this, dammit.
And that was just what she intended to do.
“You can touch, you can play. If you say I’m always
yours!” she sang into the mike, her voice loud and commanding and damn high,
her best imitation of the squeaky voice she remembered so well. “I’m a
Barbie girl in a Barbie woooorld. Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.
You can brush my hair, undress me everywheeeere. Imagination, life is your
Cordelia flipped her hair and giggled in a way she would
never do again, sashaying from one side of the stage to the other like a
supermodel, trying her hardest to make Barbie proud. She worked the crowd
and worked her ass and worked Angel into a jealous fit.
“Come on, Barbie, let’s go party! Ah, ah, ah,
yeah! Come on, Barbie, let’s go party! Uuoooh, uuoooh…”
She shone on the stage like a nearby star, the closest and
the brightest in the sky. The one that people always pointed to and said,
‘Look at that one, it’s so pretty.’
As the spotlight beamed down on her, Cordelia felt worshiped
by its light, as if it adored every inch of her skin and begged for its love to
be returned. Light reflected off of the fallen gold confetti and echoed
around the stage, scraps of flickering gold dancing over her eyes and toes and
everywhere in between.
It was like a movie set, so perfectly arranged. The
careful and accidental perfection of the lighting, the almost tangible
atmosphere, the girl. A scene so perfect it could only be a dream or
something scripted and rehearsed from a high budget, A-list movie. And she
was living it.
“I’m a Barbie girl in a Barbie woooorld! Life in
plastic, it’s fantastic! You can brush my hair, undress me everywheeeere!
Imagination, life is your creation!”
When she finished she was short on breath, her cheeks
flushing a flattering crimson, and smiling an ear-to-ear grin that hadn’t
scene the light of day in far too long. On stage she blinked the light out
of her eyes, listening to the silence of Caritas, and expected nothing.
She expected looks. She expected crickets to chirp and a long, long
cane—the ones with the curved handle—to come out, snag her by the neck, and
drag her out the nearest exit. What she hadn’t expected was applause,
and would have never dreamt of expecting a downright rowdy standing
ovation. So she just stood there, speechless and awestruck and ec-fucking-static,
when exactly that happened.
She couldn’t see the crowd, didn’t know if she really
wanted to, and didn’t care. This was her moment. She wanted
to possess everything in that second, take it home with her and put it on her
mantle so people could ask about it later, and then she could relive it for
them. She wanted it to never end, to last as long as time and temptation
and death. She wanted nothing else.
The night was hers and tonight she was a fucking star.
Acknowledging her ovation, Cordelia bent at her waist.
Her hair flung over her head, one hand curled around her stomach and the other
daintily in the air, her legs crossed at the knees, bowing as if she was
accustomed to doing so, and the cheers became louder and louder. And that
moment, when the clapping and whooping and hooting was at its absolute peak, and
her heart had swelled into a mess of sweet, saccharine happiness, a vision
rolled over her, whole and violent and unrelenting as a vampire’s teeth in her
neck, draining and taking.
With the spotlight following her every move, she stumbled
backwards, still crouched, causing her hair to flutter with each long step she
took in a panic. Her hands flew to her head, grasping and pulling and
hurting like hell. The mike fell to the floor with a deafening boom that
played out over the speakers, and a collective gasp seemed to ripple through the
crowd. Some were too drunk or too evil to do anything other than laugh and
clap some more, some ignored her, but most stared on in horror, their mouths
hanging open and splashes of confusion painted across their faces. One
raced to her.
Cordelia cried out in pain, her scream piercing the shocked
silence of Caritas like a knife blade dragging over skin, long and
agonizing. A woman screamed with her, Cordelia’s pain so affecting that
the woman thought she could feel it herself. The pain in Cordelia’s head
traveled like a shiver over her entire body again and again until her knees
buckled and her legs gave out from under her and she was on the ground—no such
soft and fluffy cloud of happiness there to catch her—crying and screaming and
pleading for it to stop, to “Please! Make it stop! Make it
“Easy, Cor. I’ve got you,” a voice said in her
ear, distinctly cold and warm at the same time, distinctly Angel. She felt
his arms wrap around her like a steel clamp, cold and immobile, drawing her into
his arms. “I’m here.”
Cordelia’s body heaved with sobs and jerked unpredictably,
making if difficult for him to keep her still within his hold.
She wailed again, a sound that was dyed black with pain, and
tears slipped from her tightly shut eyes in a brook of pain. Her hands
balled into too tight fists, droplets of blood trickling from the coiled flesh
of her hands and down her wrists. She twisted in his arms, wanting to be
free and embraced all at the same time, but mostly wanting for it all to just
“Make it stop! Please…”
Angel held her closer, steadying her head against his chest
gently with his hands. “I wish I could, baby,” he whispered.
Cordelia could still feel the hot radiance of the spotlight
shining down on her as she lay, tangled like a broken rag doll, in Angel’s
arms. It’s dazzling light had been transformed into something else,
something ugly. It took no pity and had no decency, shining its perverted
light on her so all the rest could witness her suffering. And witness they
“I wish I could.”
The night was beautiful. The sort of navy that Crayola
could never quite mimic perfectly, deep and mesmerizing and unbroken.
It reminded Cordelia of being on her father’s yacht, no more than
ten years old, looking over the railing and trying to see the bottom of the
ocean. She never was able to, but she remembered thinking that maybe, if
they kept moving and she kept looking, that there would be this one
spot. Just one pocket in the ocean that would allow her to see straight to
As she lay on her back, arms spread wide at her sides,
Cordelia searched the night sky, scanning the stars for that one, extra bright
and extra special star that would hold its hand out to her and pull her into
heaven. But there were so many stars. So many hiccups of hope in the
dense blanket of the night who all held their white-light hands out to
her. So many choices and so many wrong ones and only one that was right.
She wondered if, were she to pick that one star and take its
offered hand and allow herself to be lifted into the sky, would she become a
star herself? Would she be another star or another sun or another
moon? Gazing at the stars, so massive and fiery and so very, very
beautiful it could make her weep, she decided that she would very much like to
But stars told the story of a tragic splendor. They all
held a death sentence in their shining fingers, twinkling brilliantly in the sky
for so many years you would almost call them eternal. But one day the star
will explode. And the explosion will be visible from galaxies far, far
away and it will be the most beautiful thing to come along in centuries, and
people will etch it onto blessed slabs of gray stone and handwrite epic stories
about it on parchment and they will call it a supernova. People will
remember the star’s death as bewitching and catastrophic, and it will affect
the way they all lived their lives afterwards, because supernovas leave black
holes in their wake.
Cordelia found the life and death of a star alluring in its
glamour. She held her hand out to no one star in particular, beckoning
them to her. She wanted to have them all and she wanted to be a star and
she wanted the sun to stay set forever because the stars were too beautiful to
be drowned out by its powerful rays.
She started when her hand was grasped, gently but
unexpectedly. Her gaze broke away from the stars quickly, searching the
“Shh, It’s just me.”
Cordelia sighed with relief. “Angel.”
He placed a quick kiss on the back of her hand, letting the
sweet taste of her skin graze across his lips. “How are you feeling?”
“Lie down with me, Angel,” she said, ignoring his
Her voice was so soft, so utterly gentle and stripped, that
Angel wasn’t able to stop before he found himself on his back beside Cordelia,
her hand still fastened in his. He looked at her carefully.
“How do you feel?” he asked again.
“Fine, fine,” she said distractedly. Her mind was
somewhere else, and he wished he could go there with her. “Angel,
aren’t the stars beautiful?”
He answered her without looking away. “Yes.”
She laughed quietly, entirely, in the special way she did
only around him, and said, “You didn’t even look, Angel.” She raised
the their joined hands, pointing them at the sky. “There.”
He looked up; taking in the sight of their clasped hands,
following the imaginary path they formed, and swallowed down the sudden ache in
his throat. “Yeah. They’re amazing,” Angel said, his voice
thick and sad.
He watched her, waiting for her to say or do something.
When she didn’t, only continued staring upward, a barely-there smile playing
the corner of her lips, he spoke again.
“Don’t you want to know how it went?”
“How what went?” she asked, looking back to him.
“You’re here. It went well.”
“But you didn’t ask.”
“I didn’t need to.”
“You should have.”
“I didn’t want to.”
Silence overcame them, solid and static and stubborn.
Angel liked silent. Liked the way her hand felt enclosed by his.
Liked the way she looked at him, open and trusting. Liked the moment.
“They’re dying, you know,” she said suddenly,
intrusively, shattering his moment.
Caught off guard, he could only manage, “Who?”
“The stars. They’re dying. Every second that
ticks by they come closer and closer to their death.”
“That’s true with everything.”
She considered this, thinking. “Not you.”
“Right. You’re going to live forever.”
“Not forever,” he said, referring to his shanshu.
She beamed at him. “Someday you’ll be a star,
He smiled. “Like you?”
“Like me.” Her voice was plain, the smile suddenly
A beat. “Cordelia, these stars…”
“Are beautiful. Aren’t they beautiful, Angel?”
“I’m sure they are, but—“
He didn’t answer, just slipped an arm around her slender
form and softly pulled her to him. She curled around his body, laying an
arm over his chest and resting her head on his shoulder, the crown of her head
brushing against his chin. Innocent and intimate.
She sighed heavily, a painful whisper sweeping over Angel’s
skin so softly he knew it must have slipped. A private, fugitive thought
of Cordelia’s that had escaped on the wings of her breath. Something he
wasn’t meant to hear.
“I’m so tired, Angel.”
And it was in this moment of contentedness, of overwhelming
serenity, that sleep gently claimed her. It crawled over her, slow and
certain, like the transition from day to night. It stole her thoughts and
brought colorful dreams wrapped in stars and fairy tale rhymes. It brought
peace from a demon that disrupted her grasp on sanity.
His smile faded ever so slowly. Ever so
completely. He broke his gaze away from her sleeping figure and stared
upwards. He stared at nothing and he stared at everything and he stared at
the ceiling of suite 217. He wished with everything in him that there were
stars there to meet his gaze, the very ones that Cordelia said she had seen, but
there was only white plaster, an endless amount of plaster, and no stars.
Angel stared and hoped and wished for the sake of his best
friend, for himself, throughout the better half of the night, waiting for
Cordelia’s stars. But the ceiling never diminished, and the stars never