Dreams and Nightmares
Dreams and Nightmares
Email Address: CobraGirl2002@yahoo.com
Summary: Eight years down the road, Cordelia is trapped in a terrifying marriage. Then a familiar face returns....
Spoiler Warnings: "Hero" and "Parting Gifts"
Disclaimer: If they're familiar to you, they belong to Joss, David, and Mutant Enemy. If you don't recognize them, they're mine. No copyright infringement intended.
Distribution: Ask and ye shall receive.
Author's Notes: This fic was heavily inspired by "Two Beds and a Coffee Machine" by Savage Garden. The song nearly moved me to tears - something music has never done to me - and I didn't want to waste such a wonderful source of inspiration. This is also my first real attempt at an Angel fic....Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated, so send it over!
Date Completed: 12-30-99
A single candle flared up in the darkened room, the light of the flame skittering across the floor and tracing ever-changing patterns on the wall. In the dim light, a figure clothed in a black cloak could be seen kneeling on the floor, sketching shapes on the wooden boards with the blood that leaked from one fingertip. Runes assembled themselves under her touch, arranged around the pure white candle in its crimson holder.
Her hand traveled to a bowl of water sitting nearby, one with mysterious herbs floating on its surface. Incantations were mumbled; a drop of blood joined the leaves, causing the water to boil in a violent reaction. The same hand scooped some of the water up and dribbled it around her, circling her body in an effort to protect herself from harm. The athame traced over the circle, a sharp hiss filling the air as metal struck water.
Consulting a leather-bound book by her side, she underlined a passage with one finger and began to speak aloud."As darkness is banished with the coming of light,
Outside of the circle, faint wisps of smoke began to seep upwards from the floor, swirling into a column. Some sections narrowed, others fattened out, until a vaguely human shape was formed. Alarmed, but curious, she continued with the spell."Mere words alone can cause one to rejoice,
Whispered voices began to emanate from the pillar, barely noticeable at first, but gradually gathering in intensity until she was nearly overpowered by the sound. Taking in a deep breath, she pitched his voice above the noise and finished with:"Ashes to ashes, flesh rots in the grave,
The smoke abruptly snapped together, features emerging like lightning. Hair, eyes, and skin formed, topped off by a hideous clothing ensemble. The dark gray of the fog remained, then parted, colors appearing in fast motion as if applied by an artist's brush. Black graced the hair, blue filled the eyes, the skin lightened to a pale color. Three seconds, three ticks of the clock, and the transformation from smoke to human was complete.
The newcomer remained motionless at first, then blinked. He brought his hands into his line of sight, staring at them in amazement, turning them over in the small bit of light. Opening his mouth, he started to speak, but words escaped him.
"Allen, I presume," the first spoke, rising from her crouch on the floor. The other nodded mutely, raising one hand to his forehead, still disorientated from his recent return to the world of the living.
"Remember," she continued, raising one finger. "You have one day. Twenty-four hours, then the spell will wear off and render you as a mere spirit again. You must work quickly if you wish to find her."
"Do ya...." The second coughed, his voice rusty from disuse, and tried again. "Do ya know where she is?"
"No. I know that she is somewhere in the San Francisco area under the surname Reynolds, but nothing more."
The newcomer took a tentative step and nearly collapsed, unaccustomed to actually using his legs to move. He caught himself quickly before falling to the floor. A shaky breath was drawn in, another hesitant step taken. This time he remained stable. The space between the steps gradually grew shorter, and it wasn't long before Doyle was sprinting for the stairs that led upward into the skyscrapers and concrete of L.A.
The witch smiled as she watched him go, then picked up the candle and extinguished the flame with one sharp, quick exhalation.
The door opened, spilling a shaft of light across the tan carpet. It glinted off of the jagged shards of a broken mirror, dashed upon the floor mere hours earlier. Splinters of a former chair intermingled with the glass, a wooden antique that had been surprisingly brittle. The sounds of gentle snoring and the reek of alcohol permeated the room.
Cordelia Reynolds peeked her head in, a large bruise visible on her left cheek. After making sure her husband was asleep, she padded into the room. Carefully, so as not to disturb him, she gathered up the mirror from the floor. A few of the pieces sliced her hands, but she paid no attention. The pain from the cuts was just a background noise, meaningless, something that should be ignored. The glass was quietly placed in the trash can, the splinters swept up underneath the bed. She stood up, looking down at him with an impassive gaze, then turned to go.
For the first time she seemed to notice that her hands were cut to ribbons. She pressed her palms together to try and stem the flow of blood and moved on to the bathroom. Blood intermingled with water as the cuts were washed clean, the red stains on the sides of the sink scrubbed into oblivion. Taking a roll of gauze from the medicine cabinet, Cordelia wrapped both hands and taped it in place. It would be obvious, she knew...too obvious. But it was all she could do for the time being. She replaced the gauze and switched off the bathroom light.
The next stop was Kent's bedroom. She pushed open the door and made her way to his bed, the glow of his nightlight illuminating her path. Sitting down at the end of his bed, she reached out and tapped his shoulder.
"Kent," she called softly. "Wake up, sweetie."
Kent rolled over and opened his eyes. Blinking sleepily, he attempted to bring Cordelia's frame into focus.
"Mommy?" he mumbled.
"Yes, Kent. Mommy's taking a trip, and she wants you to come with her."
"I don' wanna." He buried himself in his blanket, face pressed into the pillow.
"Kent," she pleaded. "Please. Will you do this for Mommy?"
"I'm tired," he complained. "I don't wanna go."
"You can sleep in the car, honey." She thought of something. "I'll buy you a new toy...." she offered.
That clinched it. Kent sat up, a broad grin sweeping over his face. "A new toy?" he all but shouted.
"Shhh." She laid a finger over his lips. "Keep your voice down. Daddy's sleeping. And yes, I'll give you a new toy if you come. Go ahead and get dressed."
He immediately swung his legs over the side of his bed and skipped across the floor to his chest of drawers. Cordelia smiled and got up, preparing to continue on to Brittany's room.
She turned back. Kent cocked his head to one side, an inquisitive look on his face.
"Is Daddy coming with us?"
She swallowed hard. "No," she whispered. "Daddy's not coming."
"I'm going to wake up your sister now," was her evasive reply. She exited the room, shutting the door behind her, and started down the hall.
"Reynolds...Reynolds...." Doyle dragged his finger over the thin pages of the telephone book, scanning the tiny print. Finding nothing, he licked his finger and turned the page so quickly he almost tore it from the binding. "Razu, Reading, Reos, Rex...Reynolds." He grinned, but the grin immediately shifted to a scowl upon seeing that the entries for Reynolds topped thirty. Running his gaze down the page, he also realized that there was no entry for a Cordelia Reynolds. In fact, there wasn't even an entry for a C. Reynolds.
"Dammit," he cursed under his breath. She was listed under her husband's name. Had to be. He closed his eyes, lifted his finger up, and brought it down on a random location. Opening his eyes a crack, he saw that he had picked E. Richards.
"Of all the times ta have no contact wi' the Powers That Be," he muttered. In frustration, he ripped the page from the phone book and shoved it in his pocket. He didn't want to spend his remaining hours checking every single entry in order to track her down, but if he had to, then so be it. He began to take off at a brisk pace, then stopped.
"Unlisted." He smacked his forehead with a groan. "Ya idiot, she might have an unlisted number." Slumping against the side of a nearby building, he buried his face in his hands.
It was hopeless. He had thirty people to check on in less than a day, all of who were stationed in various locations throughout San Francisco, and even then he might not locate her. And when his time was up, he'd revert to being a ghost, an unseen spirit trapped in a universe without sound or light, forced back into Limbo along with the other half-demons that had died over the centuries.
Could another spell locate her? It was a possibility, but he had no materials on hand, not to mention his nonexistent Wiccan skills. It was a fluke that he had been able to break through Limbo's barrier and contact the witch who had helped him temporarily regain his humanity.
His thoughts were interrupted as a blinding pain struck him down, seeming to rip his skull apart.
"Wha' the - "
He convulsed and grabbed the sides of his head in agony. It felt as if red-hot spikes were being driven directly into his brain, twisting as they went, tearing his head to bits. Images began to flash in front of his eyes, darting across his field of vision for a split second before departing again.
*a woman with dulled eyes and brown hair driving a car with two kids in the backseat heading to a hotel where was the hotel what was its name?*
The information was immediately relayed to him as soon as the question crossed his mind.
*crowne inn south san francisco room 211*
The images faded. The pain subsided.
Doyle drew in a shaky breath. His vision cleared, allowing him to see the nighttime scenery of San Francisco. His hands fell away, the pain dissolving until only a dull ache remained. Another deep breath was taken, as if breathing in large quantities of the air would cleanse the lingering effects of the migraine.
"A vision," he mumbled. "How in hell...."
This wasn't supposed to be happening. He had given his gift to Cordelia. He shouldn't be getting the visions again. But....
He jumped to his feet, forgetting the pain that even now engulfed his being, forgetting his confusion, pausing only to yank the page of the phone book from his pocket and crumple it into a ball. It found a new home in a nearby trash can as he darted down the sidewalk towards the southern part of the city.
The cashier looked up as Cordelia entered the convenience store, Kent and Brittany in tow. Kent dislodged himself from her grip and made a beeline for the cheap toys that lined one wall of the store. Brittany was scooped up in Cordelia's arms, and she headed over to the cereals and other groceries. As long as she was here, she might as well pick up some food for tomorrow.
Shifting Brittany to her right arm, she picked up a red basket and began loading food into it. Milk. Lucky Charms. Instant coffee. Bread. Cheese.
Kent came bouncing over, clutching an action figure of some sort in his hand. He tugged on Cordelia's shirt.
"Mommy! Can I get this?" He showed it to her.
"Sure, Kent," she said, adding a box of Corn Flakes to her growing collection. It was impossible for her to stomach the two-pounds-of-sugar-per-square-inch contents of the Lucky Charms.
"Brittany? Can you get down? Mommy...." She trailed off upon seeing that she had fallen fast asleep. Sighing, she set down the basket, switched her to her left arm, and uncurled her stiff right arm. She then picked up the food and started towards the cash register.
The basket was placed on the counter, the purchases unloaded and rung up by the cashier. It was impossible for Cordelia not to notice his wary glances towards her bandaged hands, but she ignored it as best she could.
"Nineteen and forty-eight cents," he said to her. She fished out her wallet and handed him a twenty. He began to count out the change, but his curiosity got the best of him.
"Are you all right, lady?" he blurted out. "You've got a big bruise on the side of your face, you know."
She immediately unhooked a few strands of limp hair from behind her ear and let them fall on her wounded cheek, obscuring the ugly purple mark from view. "It's nothing," she mumbled. "I...I hit my head on one of the cabinets at my house."
"Your hands - "
"Broken mirror I had to clean up." At least she didn't have to concoct a lie to cover the source of one of her injuries. She then continued, irritation welling up in her voice, "Would you like to ask me about how I broke one of my nails, too?"
"Sorry," he apologized hurriedly, the tips of his ears turning red. He bundled up her purchases and fumbled to give her the fifty-two cents in change, but she waved it aside.
"Keep it," she told him. "Come on, Kent." She hooked the bag over her arm and stretched a hand towards her son. He took it obediently, and they left, leaving the embarrassed cashier behind.
10:29 PM. Two hours left.
Doyle ran a hand over the glittering golden numbers on the door of the hotel room, his fingers trembling ever so slightly. He had made it. Just beyond the thick wooden barrier was the woman he had left behind nearly eight years ago, the one he had fallen in love with from the moment he had locked eyes with her, the girl who had filled his thoughts in the seeming eternity he had been trapped in Limbo. Finally, finally, he would see her again.
"Cordelia." Her name escaped from his lips without thought. Would she remember him? Would she even care? He pressed his hand against the numbers in an effort to steady it as an irrational fear washed over him.
"Chill, man," he muttered. "It's not like ya're askin' her ta marry ya. Ya're just gonna say hello, see how things are, an' get out."
But if she rejected him, it would cut him so deeply that not even an eternity in Limbo would heal the wound.
He lifted his hand off the door, the numbers leaving behind red marks on his palms, and rapped on its surface.
Cordelia froze, her cheese sandwich halfway to her mouth, upon hearing the knock that filtered through the door. "Oh, God," she whispered. Dropping the sandwich, she shoved her chair back so forcefully that it nearly toppled over and strode over to where Kent was playing on the floor with his action figure.
"Kent, I want you to take Brittany, go to the bathroom, and lock the door," she told him in hushed tones. "And don't come out, okay? No matter what you hear, stay there and keep quiet."
He turned his attention away from the toy and looked up at her with wide eyes. "Mommy, what's wrong?"
"Shhh!" She pulled him to his feet and practically dragged him to the bedroom. Her fight-or-flight response was in full effect now, causing her breath to come in short gasps as she scooped Brittany off the floor and jogged to the bathroom.
"Remember," she repeated, "lock the door, be quiet, and don't come out until Mommy tells you to. No matter what you hear." She shut the door firmly and pressed her ear against it, listening. After a few seconds of fumbling, she was rewarded with a quiet click as the lock was engaged.
Her legs began to shake, weak from terror. He was here. He had tracked her down. He had found out that she had tried to leave, he would kill her now, she would become nothing but a statistic, oh God oh God oh God please don't let him come in please don't let him touch the kids....
The knocking began again, more insistent this time. And then, a voice. A voice colored by an Irish accent that transcended the barriers of time and called on a memory from so many years ago.
It couldn't be. She stabilized herself against the door.
"Is anybody home?"
Slinking along the wall, she crept to the door. It wasn't him. How could it be? He was gone. Dead. She had seen him die, so how could he -
Again, as the sound of her name was laid on her ears, she was rendered motionless. Again, she overthrew the paralysis and continued sliding towards the door.
Closer, closer, closer - there! She was at the door. Keeping as much of her body pressed against the wall as possible, she leaned over and squinted through the peephole.
A pair of familiar blue eyes stared back at her. She let out an involuntary gasp and withdrew to the safety of the tacky, peeling wallpaper.
His ears picked up her exclamation of fright. "Please let me in," he said desperately. "I'm not here ta hurt ya or anything. I just...please." Another glance showed him leaning against the door, cradling his head in the crook of his arm.
Slowly she inched closer and unfastened the deadbolt. The knob was turned, releasing the catch. Doyle, still leaning against the door, had little precious time to catch himself as Cordelia swung it inwards. He made no use of this time whatsoever and instead stumbled directly into her arms.
He looked up at her, a faint grin etching itself on his mouth. "Hey, Princes - "
His words were abruptly cut off as Cordelia hauled him to his feet and pressed her lips against his passionately. He couldn't stop himself from wrapping his arms around her and pulling her closer, returning the kiss with just as much intensity. As abruptly as she started it, she ended it, disengaging herself from his arms and turning away.
"I shouldn't," she mumbled, rubbing her arms as if she were cold. She then twisted her head around, gazing at a bewildered Doyle. Her slight shield of hair fell away as she did, revealing the bruise, and his eyes alighted on it immediately.
"Wha' happened?" he asked, starting towards her. She made no motion to go. He brushed a few errant strands of hair away and gently ran his fingers over the swollen discoloration, eliciting an audible wince from Cordelia. "Sorry," was his hurried apology.
"It's okay." She moved his hand away. "It doesn't hurt as bad as it did, anyway."
"Where did ya get such a big bruise from?"
She stayed silent, casting her eyes at the linoleum floor.
"Well?" he prompted, grasping her shoulders. She turned her attention back to him, and he was surprised to find her eyes sparkling with unshed tears.
"Did somebody do this to ya?" He clenched his jaw. If somebody had laid a hand on her....
She nodded, looking back down at the floor.
"My husband." The words were so soft that Doyle thought he had imagined them at first. The dam crumbled, releasing tears down her cheeks. "He...we got in an argument last night. It was over something stupid, I-I don't even remember what now. He was drunk, and he got so angry that he...hit me."
"That son of a - " Doyle checked himself before continuing with the insult that had slipped off his tongue. Cordelia raised a hand and pushed him away.
"It's not the first time. He's hit me before, thrown things at me, he even scalded me once. It's the way he is. I run away each time, but he always finds me and hurts me even worse than before."
Again he took her by the shoulders. "How can ya let this happen to ya?" he demanded. "Why don't ya fight back? What happened ta the Cordelia Chase I knew, the...the self-proclaimed bitch of Sunnydale, the one who fought against anything?"
Again she squirmed from his grasp, scattering her tears with the back of her hand as she did. "It's been eight years, Doyle," she said softly. "Times change. Things happen." A bitter laugh escaped her. "Did you know that I had to watch two people that I cared about die? You, of course you know about that. You, then Angel only three years later. I had to - " She stopped in an effort to steady her voice. "I had to watch him be staked. They held me back, they stopped me from helping him, as they lashed him down and impaled him. I wasn't more than three feet away, and I couldn't do a damn thing." She stepped closer. "Do you have any idea what that can do to someone, losing two people in the span of three years?"
"N-no," Doyle managed to stammer.
"I'll tell you what it does." Her voice started to rise. "It rips you apart, Doyle. You're reduced to absolutely nothing. Even when you think you're strong, you're not. You're weak beyond all belief. You long so much to have someone else in your life that you're willing to do anything to get that someone else."
"Ya can't seriously mean that ya put up wi' this just ta...just ta have someone," he stuttered, dumbstruck by her words.
"I didn't think so at first either. But you would be surprised what loss can do to you." Cordelia sighed, wiping away a fresh set of tears. "I know it's wrong, and I want so badly to leave, but...I can't. I'm too beaten down, and I need someone so horribly that....
"And then there's the kids," she continued, abruptly changing her train of thought. "I tried so hard to succeed as an actress, but I couldn't. If I divorced him, I wouldn't have any money. I wouldn't be able to support the two of them."
"Couldn't ya do somethin' like...I don't know, work at a fast-food place?" He couldn't repress a grin at the sight of her horrified expression. "Nice ta see that there's still a bit o' the old Cordy in there," he joked. Then, reverting to seriousness, "I know it's kinda demeanin', but if ya really care about the kids, it's better than nothin'."
"Better than nothing," she echoed softly.
"Yeah." He nodded encouragingly.
"Like having Mark is better than nothing."
Mark. Her husband, he reasoned. "No, no, o' course not." For the third time, he pulled her close. "Princess, ya're worth so much more than the way ya're bein' treated. Ya don't deserve him. Ya have ta do somethin'. Ya can't just take it lyin' down."
Something nudged at the back of his mind, prompting him to look at the kitchen clock. 10:44.
"I can't stay much longer," he said. "The spell's gonna wear off soon. Please, ya have ta - "
"Spell?" she questioned, ignoring his last few words.
"Yeah. A witch cast a spell on me that brought me back to life for twenty-four hours about - " here he checked the clock again, " - twenty-two hours an' forty-five minutes ago."
"You're going to leave." She seemed dazed. "You're going to leave me again."
Before Doyle could say anything, she fell into his arms again, her face buried in his worn leather jacket. "Don't leave me," she whimpered, much like a young child would. "Don't leave me again...." Her words dissolved into another round of sobs. He tentatively embraced her, planting a soft kiss on her head as he did.
"Shh, shh," he whispered. "I'm not leavin' right now. I've still got some time."
This was met with another tearful proclamation about how she didn't want to be abandoned. He began rocking her slowly, all while trying to quiet her down a bit. Eventually her body stopped shaking; she raised her face to his.
"I should, uh, put Kent and Brittany to sleep," she mumbled, her cheeks flushing imperceptibly. He loosened his grasp and allowed her to leave. Upon hearing a series of faint murmurings that seemed to be coming from the bathroom, he sighed and plopped down on one of the beds.
No sooner had she sat down than she returned, bringing a two-year-old girl and a five- or six-year-old boy with her. He immediately jumped to his feet and switched over to the other bed.
"Who's that man?" the boy inquired sleepily as he got up onto the bed and began to burrow underneath the covers. The girl did the same, though she required some assistance in making it up onto the mattress.
"That's a friend of Mommy's." Just those few words, nothing more. Once they were secure in bed, she switched off the light and sat down next to Doyle.
They spent a few minutes in silence, just watching as her son and daughter gradually slipped into Dreamland. Then Cordelia got up and, after prompting him to do the same, flipped back the covers and climbed into her own bed. Doyle started to stretch out on the small space between the beds, but she stopped him.
"You can sleep up here, if you want."
"Nah, I'm fine wi' the floor. Just need a pillow or somethin'. Thanks for askin', though."
"No," she said, her voice unusually forceful. "If you're going to die a second time, you're going to die warm and happy."
He raised his eyebrows at her remark. "Wi' the kids three feet away?"
"Oh, get your mind out of the gutter." She slapped his arm playfully, showing another glint of her old self. "It's just too cold for you to be sleeping on the floor." He shrugged, clambered to his feet, and nestled under the covers next to her.
"But if you don't mind," she continued, her voice dropping in volume, "could you hold me for a while? Mark never did that...."
He drew her close, arms encircling her protectively, and listened as her breathing slowed to the regular rhythm of sleep.
The voice awoke Doyle with a start.
You must return. Your spell will not sustain for much longer.
No. No. The spell couldn't be wearing off this soon. It couldn't have been twenty-four hours already.
Twenty-three and fifty-five minutes, actually, the voice answered, reading his thoughts. But it's much easier to return if it is done before the spell wears off entirely. Less painful.
Less painful? Leaving Cordelia alone without so much as a good-bye was considered less painful?
You still have time to say good-bye, if you wish.
He withdrew his arms and pushed himself up, looking down at her sleeping form. She looked so...peaceful. So unworried. So unlike the tearful woman she had been mere hours earlier. Even her bruise, the horrible angry blemish, seemed to have faded slightly.
I can't disturb her, he thought.
Then don't, replied...whatever it was.
His eyes fell upon pad of paper and a pen on the nightstand, almost as if they were guided by another force. It was one of the complimentary things so many hotels provided, along with the shampoo and travel-sized soap. Barely even registering his own actions, he grabbed the two objects and scribbled out a short note. The paper and pen were returned to the nightstand, while his message was folded and gently placed in Cordelia's hand.
A lump suddenly rose in his throat, making it difficult to breathe, as he unwrapped himself from the blankets and emerged into the frigid air of the hotel room.
Are you ready?
Was he ready? Of course not. He would never be ready. He would never be able to leave.
Reaching back to run his fingers lightly over her cheek, he lied, Yes.
A ball of light appeared at the foot of her bed, drawing his gaze. It grew and coalesced, forming a human persona that was shrouded in white. The figure smiled at him, raising a hand towards him.
Take my hand.
The same hand that had last touched Cordelia was now laid upon the hand of the new presence. She drew his gaze again, for the last time.
A bright light flashed, then all was darkness.
Cordelia's eyes fluttered as she stirred, finally opening as her senses registered just how cold she was. Shivering, she pulled the sheets closer and curled up to conserve her warmth. As she regained feeling, she felt something scratchy in her hand.
What was this?
She frowned and held her hand in front of her. A folded and slightly crumpled piece of paper fluttered to the floor as if it were a dying bird. Swinging her legs around, she scooped it up and unfolded it. Three lines, etched in black, stared up at her."I know that I can't force you to change your mind, Princess.
The ink began to blur as her tears fell upon the page.