Author: Kat Lee
Challenge/Prompt: beattheblackdog 100: Shine
Warning(s): Cannon Character Death, Future Fic, Character Death
Word Count: 1,770
Date Written: 24 February 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
He tried not to think these days, but that was one of many things he found increasingly difficult not to do. Cordy, Buffy, and the friends he had cherished over his years of fighting the good fight were right: he was a brooder. It seemed like he couldn’t help but to dwell on the past. Even when he got through a night without brooding, he’d wake sometime in the broad daylight the next day, his eyes widened and his skin sweating with memories he’d managed to keep at bay until his dreams had began. No matter how hard he worked at keeping himself from remembering, they would always come out in his dreams, which was exactly why he tried to rest so little these days. It was just so much easier to keep going until he pushed himself so far beyond exhaustion that when rest did come, it came in a sort of catatonic state, where he slept but his dreams were blissfully absent.
Then, too, there were nights like tonight where he couldn’t help but to let his memories come and invade his mind, where the slightest scent on the breeze ruffling his spiked hair as he sped down the open highway brought him back to another memory and another face of someone he had loved but, ultimately, lost. He’d known since the very beginning that being a Vampire made get close to humans dangerous. It was always only a matter of time before they died or were killed while he lived on and on and on. There was no longer any days when Angel didn’t consider just walking out into the sunlight to end it all. He’d once been able to feel the sunshine on his skin and not have to worry about being burned alive, but he’d since put that technology, and all else Wolfram and Hart had had to offer, far behind him.
But he couldn’t put the memories behind him. He could practically see Harmony sitting in the seat beside him, her long, blonde hair blowing out behind her as she applied her makeup. She’d shut her compact disc with a snap or just look at him over its lense, not that she used the mirror anyway but it was hard to put away the habits they’d had as humans, and ask, “Where we going tonight, boss?”
It was a good thing she wasn’t there to ask him tonight. He didn’t know where he was headed, nor did he care. He was going where the wind took him, as Lorne and Doyle might have said. He was looking for the nearest trouble, as Gunn would have put it. He was running, as Cordelia would have said point blank -- but as Wes would have reminded him, he had nowhere left to run. He could travel the whole world and still not find that for which he was searching, because that for which he longed was no longer here to be found.
He kept driving but let his gaze wander to the rich, black blanket of stars laid out far above his head. He thought of the friends he’d loved and lost. He thought of the women he’d loved and lost, one more so by far than any other. The radio cranked on suddenly, and Angel glanced down at it, slowing his pace a little. It had been a while since old car’s radio had simply flipped itself on, but it did happen on occasion. In his better moods, he liked to think of it as those he’d lost reaching back out to him especially when it played a song that reminded him of Cordy or a rare, high-stepping Irish number. Even the old country songs about getting drunk reminded him of Doyle, and there were a few songs to which he could still remember dancing with Buffy or Darla, one to which he had danced with the true love of his life, his precious Cordelia.
Yet tonight it wasn’t the crackle of old music that came across his convertible’s speakers but voices made crackly by the lack of a good, sharp signal. He vaguely recognized the female as she laughed. “Oh, yeah, Andy,” she said to her interviewer, “I definitely remember that old quote, and it’s true you know. Some women were born with glitter in their veins. I’m one of them, and I’ve known others who were too. Britney Spears was once the Princess of Pop, and although I’ll miss her -- somebody should have turned her long ago, you know all the best singers really are Demons -- she wasn’t a Glitter Queen. I am. Tisdale was. And I’m reminded of another girl I knew years and years ago who was.
“She wasn’t one of us, mind you. She was still mortal when I met her, but she hung out with the first Vampire with a soul. That’s how we met. He happened to be in a bar one night working on a case, and I was there spending time with my fabulous friends. Lorne introduced us. It was a match made in Heaven, and I’m sure I could have made her happy if she’d came over to my camp. You know, it’s funny how easy it is to say things like these days as opposed to, say, only fifty years ago. But Cordelia was totally in love with that Vampire who was too dumb to see the beauty underneath his own nose.”
Angel glared at the radio, his fangs setting against his lips. A deep growl started low in his throat.
“You sound like you’re not concerned others of Cordelia’s friends might hear you?” the interviewer asked.
She laughed again, and Angel gripped his steering wheel harder. “I’m not. She was mortal. All her friends are either dead or in nursing homes now except for that one Vamp. He was a hunk, but he’s been gone from the headlines so long I’m sure somebody somewhere must have dusted him.”
Angel unleashed his growl. He roared out into the night as the girl just kept talking and laughing, but suddenly she grew serious. “I remember one thing Lorne did,” she shared with her listeners and interviewer. “He was also so very sweet. That’s why Caritas was such a hit. He saw the way Cordelia shined. We all did. I’m telling you, Andy, noone ever shined more beautifully -- except for me of course -- and especially no mortals. It’s hard to believe she was mortal, but she was. I still visit her grave every time I’m in LA. But adopting stars was real popular during the time she lived. Lorne adopted one, named it after Cordelia, and said that even the star, which was the brightest one in the sky at the time, couldn’t compare to her natural shine. He was so right. I’m going to miss Britney, but I’ll still miss Cordelia more.”
The radio announcer came away from the interview, talking about how it had taken place fifteen years ago on the day Britney Spears died and how much it was like the controlling Taylor Swift to discredit Britney’s death to focus on her own friends instead. He went on to say that he didn’t know who that Cordelia was but she must have really been something. The radio flicked itself off as suddenly as it had turned on. Everything became so quiet in that precise moment that Angel suddenly realized he’d driven all the way out into the country. He could hear the crickets chirping as his dark, soulful eyes looked back up at the night sky.
“You have no idea,” he murmured. Cordelia Chase had been far more than “something”. She had been the best thing that had ever happened to him and that had ever happened to many people, Demons and human alike. She had outshone every star in the sky, even the truly brightest “star” of them all that was in fact Earth’s sister planet, Venus. Nobody, mortal or otherwise, could touch Cordelia’s beauty, not just her outward look on which she’d spent hours every day but the soul that had shone so beautifully from deep within the infamous Queen C. And she had been a Queen. She had been the Queen of all she surveyed, and most especially, she had been his Queen.
“When’s it gonna happen?” Harmony’s image asked in Angel’s mind. “When are you going to shanshu, boss? I’m tired of waiting.”
“So am I, Harm,” Angel whispered, choked by his own emotions. He hit his steering wheel; his horn blared solo in the lonely night. “So am I.” Sitting there in the middle of the highway, his eyes focused on the stars, he began to cry. He didn’t care about shanshuing for himself any longer. He didn’t even care about what he could do for the world around him or for the people who came and went. All he cared about was when he was going to survive to get to that next level, when he was going to be freed from this Hell on Earth so he could reach his Queen again, take her in his arms, and declare his love for her that had never and would never die.
All he cared about was when he could reach his beloved, beautiful, precious Cordelia again. But even as he cried, he could hear her in his head. She’d tell him to stop brooding if she was here, and she’d remind him that he still had a job to do. The Powers That Be had not released him from this Earth, because they weren’t done with him. He still had work to do, and just as she had once sacrificed everything to become a better person and be able to better help him in his fight to save the helpless, he had to keep going. He had to keep fighting.
Perhaps his reasons for doing so now were purely selfish. Perhaps he had nothing more to look forward to than death and the final, ultimate release from this life. But he had to keep going. He had to keep helping those who needed him. He had to keep fighting. For her, for himself, so that he could finally be with her again. Angel pressed his foot against the adrenaline pedal and moved on, still sobbing, still aching, still yearning for the moment when he finally be released from his Hellish atonement and be freed to be with the woman he loved, the woman who had shone more beautifully than any star or woman who had come before or after her and who always would, his beloved Queen C.