Eye of the Storm

Here is the next part of the story. Obviously it has been a long while since I have last updated, too long, and for that, I am sorry. However, for those of you who have stuck with the story, I am ahead now, and I promise you that I will never take as long as this to update again. The next part to this chapter has been written and will be posted in about a week.

Thank you, and sorry.

Eye of the Storm

Part 1.

The Hyperion door drifted wide open, as though pushed dejectedly by a defeated wind, and a tired company walked through, into the spacious lobby. Angel entered the room first, an air of darkness trailing behind him, his expression focused on a single thought. He noticed that, of the slaughter just an hour or so earlier, not even a drop of blood stained the warm sandstone-coloured walls, but was impartial to it, no surprise, nothing. He could still see Cordelia in the hands of that man, his expression one of cruel delight, hers, in the purest form of contrast, one of despair, and pain. The image would never lose its vicious clarity, despite it having been seen through a mirror, littered with distorting trails of fallen rain. He stood to the side, leaning against the pillar, at the foot of the long staircase, waiting patiently for the others to make their way in.

He had plenty to think about, and soon he would have plenty to do.

Angel had every intention of wiping the grin off that bastard's face, and shattering the picture and the thought that plagued his every waking second, possibly beyond. He could not predict the darkness, the terror, of bitter, twisted dreams that may come to him during the night, but he feared experiencing them. Because, alone, cold in the icy palm of night, the rain pounding at his window, he would hate, and envision deeds even his evil counterpart would not conceive. Revenge is a destructive thing.

It didn't really matter if it was night or day, they were both just as dark now. Even inside he could feel the clouds watching, waiting. They gave him the feeling that there was more to come, something bigger and more certain than anything he'd ever faced in his life.

Where was that star he had seen, that sudden presence of hope he had felt, even in his agony and weakness, the indeterminable feeling that the clouds, the darkness had been punctured, wounded?

It didn't really matter now, as evil had attacked his family, and he would snap its neck, just as he would snap Holtz's neck had he the chance.

The rest of the gang, plus Dylan, and minus Cordy, filed in, and spread themselves out across the various couches, and chairs in the lobby, avoiding the scattered rubble that had showered the rich green floor during the Earthquake, few of them even bothering to ask themselves why all of the bodies were gone. It didn't matter, though at least now they could get a good night's sleep, without having to dispose of a layer of corpses. Angel didn't look at any of them as they entered, didn't try to see their expressions, to see how they felt, because, somehow, he already knew. He knew they had all seen it; Lorne had shouted it out, but, there was an almost tangible air of gloom, and all of them were on the same frequency at that moment and even now, Angel being the only exception. None of the others knew that she was still alive, and none of the others envisioned their own hands painted thickly with the striking, red blood of the identicals, and their eyes, seen in those of their foes, burning with life, and intense satisfaction.

They were all soaked through to their skin, and cold, even in the warm glow of the hotel. It seemed as if they weren't really there, as if they weren't really home. The wind outside was bitter and harsh, and the rain viciously attacked the windows, creating a constant roar. In the corner of Angel's eye, every trail left in the wake of diving tears upon the glass, was a scar, left in mockery of his failure.

"Damn!" Gunn exclaimed, in anger, ripping off his jacket and tossing it to the side of the couch, which he then feel onto. His jacket hit the ground with a sharp, wet smack, and he leaned back into the soft fabric of the couch, letting his tired body fall into slumber, his mind remaining torturously awake.

Dylan lingered at the open doors, keeping himself politely distanced, and disconnected from the group, which, aside from Wesley, who seemed to be forcing himself not to take any of the rest and comfort that was on offer, out of guilt, occupied the various couches on the expansive lobby's floor. He was cold, and wet, shivering slightly as the wind continued to penetrate the entrance to the Hyperion. He wiped the water from his face with the sleeve of his white shirt, the cuffs of which were split, but it turned out to be a pointless endeavor as the fabric was just as wet as his face. The water was at least temporarily out of his eyes, although soon torrents more would rush down his forehead from his deeply drenched black hair. He took a step towards the doorway, his contemplative gaze fixed on the grey, scarred city through the rain, which had not lost any of its fierceness. In fact, strangely, it occurred to him that it was angry now.

Yes, this place was different now; LA was darker. It had always been a dark place, to him at least, but it was a hidden, restrained darkness, kept to the shadows by bright lights, whereas now the light, like the one behind him, in the lobby, was hiding from the darkness. He sighed solemnly, shaking his head. He knew that something was going on, something crucial, an apocalypse, as he'd heard it unprofoundly uttered.

Angel's announcement of Cordy's condition, and the hearty expressions of relief from the room behind him, barely reached his senses. He looked down at the stone floor at his feet. He was outside the door, and although he could take a few steps and be in the light, in the warmth, he would still be outside, alone. He had no place in these epic events, in these battles, and in this war, nor did he have a place among the rest of the blissfully unaware population.

"Not Dead! You're sure of this?" Fred asked cautiously, guarding her hopes from shattering blows. Connor, sitting on the opposite side of the couch to Gunn, glanced over to her, a glint of knowledge in his eyes. 'He saw it too,' Angel thought to himself, 'I wonder if he even cares.' Angel remembered the warmth in Connor's eyes whilst they were fighting together, just minutes ago, and the time before he'd been banished to the bottom of the sea, and all though that cordiality remained in him, when he spoke to others his expression was uncaring, and cold. Connor seemed to have trouble being empathetic to humans. He was to hardened by his years in Quotorth, and by his own emotional experiences, and it made Angel uneasy whenever he saw his son take a fact, but not perceive it through human eyes. Right now Connor cared that Cordelia had been taken, but he did not care for the fear, anguish and angst of the rest of the gang. He had the mind of a warrior, just like Angelus, focused on the moment, and on the tangible outcome of events. That is what made Angel truly separate from Angelus, the ability to understand and connect with humanity.

"I'm positive, Fred." He replied definitively.

"I saw it too, the Risen had her by the throat." Connor announced, making it clear that he thought the others should have more trust for Angel, and then quickly feeling contrite and foolish. He realised that he wouldn't have the right to make such judgments for quite a while, for none of others had been as stubborn and spiteful as he. Angel had invested faith in him once more, but he would have to win back the rest of the gang, except Wesley. He couldn't yet put his finger on why, but he believed that Wesley would forgive him instantly if he asked for it, as though he were trying to make up for some untold debt.

"The Risen?" Wesley looked up from the debri-blanketed floor, and straight at Connor with an intense curiosity. Connor quickly dropped his previous thoughts, seeing that Wesley had taken this whole affair more personally than anyone else. His mind reached back to the buried memory of his conversation with the reason. The event was fragmented in his head, as though he had never wanted to retrieve it, and he soon realised that he did not want anyone to know about it.

Brother

That they were born to the same parent was explicitly implied, but Connor still fought to understand what it really meant. They couldn't be brothers! Connor quickly convinced himself that those comments made to him back in Wolfram and Hart meant nothing, or at least forgot that they were of importance.

They can't know

The last thing he wanted, or needed, was the mistrust that would arise if he told them.

"That's what he called himself," Connor replied, effectively concealing his nervousness, "when I fought him in Wolfram and Hart.

"Before we got there?" Wesley pursued, his words direct and forceful, as though he didn't have time to be polite and calm, so he instead resorted to interrogation.

"Of course." Connor replied, frustratedly.

"And what else did he say?" Wesley continues, disregarding Connor's subtle defensiveness.

"Not much. He just found me in one of the hallways, killed Gavin and Lynwood, threatened to kill me, told me that he would end the world, adding that this could not be prevented, and started to beat me. Then you came.

"The usual threat, self indulgence, and run. I mean we get lines like "Édestroyer of cities", and "you will all perish", every second Tuesday, and we're allÉwell, half of us, are still here, in a cityÉ which, when you consider it, is moderately ruined. Sorry, that wouldn't have been a bad example yesterday. All I'm trying to say, kiddos, is that we've averted plenty of these before, and killed plenty of those before, and the word inevitable is but a fading memory, to me at least." Lorne supplied, leaving the room in a collective frown.

He grinned slightly then, as a memory briefly came to him. When he had first been introduced to Fred, they had been talking about much the same thing as was being deliberated currently.

nothing's inevitable as long as you stand up, look it in the eye, and say 'your evitable!

He was momentarily filled with an unexplainable sense of joy, realizing that, even in these dark times, the memories he and the gang shared was part of what made their little candle continue to burn, even in the harshest of winds.

Before he managed to restart, Gunn said earnestly, sitting forward, "I think I actually took home a point from that. Maybe we shouldn't worry too much about this yetÉ and especially if Cordelia's

"You know," Angel suddenly interrupted, "I think I'll just leave you guys to debate as to whether or not we should worry, and go grab some sleep. Then tomorrow I'm going to grab my sword, and kill things." His tone was blunt, and ill-mannered.

"ButÉ" Began Fred, as Angel began to ascend the wide, neatly curved staircase, stopping herself when she saw that he wasn't going to stop, and turn to face her with a earnestly interested expression. 'I guess he does deserve some sleep, in fact we all do.' She thought soothingly. 'But how can we let ourselves relax when we know that Cordelia is out there, and that she most certainly isn't relaxed?' It felt wrong to her to even consider lying down in a comforting bed at a time like this. Maybe Angel knew what he was doing, as he usually did, but if he was wrong the price might just be too hard to pay. She glanced over to the open doors, which swung slightly open, and then back to the wall unrythmically and indelicately. The wind outside could almost be seen, it was so unnatural. The whole storm around them was unnatural, and its existence made her consider the possibility, however frightening it was, that Lorne's view on the situation was incorrect. This was not like anything they'd seen before. Dylan stood to one side of the doorway, at the foot of the stairs, which Angel had disappeared up. Whoever he was, and despite the fact that he came from Wolfram and Hart, she had seen enough of him to know that he had a good character. Unlike Lilah, he had a soul. She watched as he stood, unmoving, contemplating the ruined city before him. He seemed further away than he actually was, as though, if she walked up to him, he would still be a mile away from her.

"Connor," continued Wesley, taking little notice of Angel's unenthusiastic exit, "you know that whatever is going on outside is extremely important, then you must know that it is of the utmost importance that we can comprehend it, understand it. Please, was there anything else of importance that he might of said to you?

"He talked less with words and more with his fists." Connor answered, trying not to let Wesley pick up on anything that might allow him to consider Connor a liar. "Alright," Wesley sighed, "I almost thought we might have had something to go on. Damn!" A fitting silence followed his words, a silence in which time seemed to, in an unexpected and unusual gesture of benevolence, decelerate to allow them time to think, and gather their wandering thoughts.

Connor looked away from a defeated Wesley, and focused his eyes on the marble floor, which was scattered with drops and puddles of water, and small chunks of material, which had obviously fallen from the roof. The building had clearly suffered by the hands of the Earthquake, earlier, as the debri was of a large quantity, and the walls were victim to jagged, creeping cracks, that climbed towards the ceiling, desperately trying to ruin what beauty remained of the room. He looked over to the wall beside him, and fixed his tired eyes on a particularly thick crack, which scaled the wall malevolently. Sliding his hand through his dark, unkempt hair, in order to prevent sly and stealthy rivulets of liquid from devouring his face, he shivered as he kept his sight firmly on the broken surface. The depth of the crack caused it to appear dark, and it's apparent hatred of what had been built, by the hands of others, was suddenly, to him, a disturbing sight. Maybe everything was meant to be destroyed, and maybe for everything of beauty, there was a hatred of it, a hatred that would scar that beauty forever- tarnish it.

Wesley might not care much about Angel, but to Connor, right now, it mattered more than anything else could. What was he feeling? Despair? Weariness? Every time he considered Angel, his heart was grasped tightly, and his mind picturing a resounding image of his father, whom he had only just got to know, lying on the floor, beaten bruised, and alone. Connor tried to gain control over his searing angst, hating the way it threatened to force water from his eyes, and weakness onto his face.

"So, Angel's retreated to out-of-office brood modeÉ" Lorne began, trying to make the situation sound as pleasant as possible, by, as he typically did, adorning it with a playful spirit.

"He's always been a sucker for home-brood" Gunn interrupted, leaning forward from the damp patch he'd inflicted upon the back wall of the couch. Fred beheld him, and, despite knowing his beneficent intentions, couldn't help but let a displeased expression sneak onto her face. She watched a lone drop of water from the tip of her long hair, hanging loose to the side of her neck, fall to the ground, and feed the growing pool at her feet. It seemed to her that it was an empty shell hitting the ground, not discarded and defeated, but content with the fact that it had done it's damage. She blinked as she was assaulted far too suddenly by a clear image of the battle from which she had just fled, hastily opening her eyes to a room of stark contrast to the banished memory. Whatever she had seen was of little relevance, for just recalling the intensity of that fight was enough to leave a sting in the back of her mind.

"He's earned it, don't forget that. Not only has he taken a hell of a lot of damage recently, but a certain person in this room shoved him to the bottom of the ocean!

At this Connor abruptly rose to his feet, a fierce and piercing expression slung towards Fred. Connor, trying desperately not loose his composure, with a mixture of anger and sadness, exited the room, silently, and profoundly. He was hanging on to sanity by a thinning thread, his joy in connecting with his father, and being able to discard his old life. He almost stopped as the room faded out of site. He had done it; whatever the consequences, he had lied. He was free from having to worry about it now, his mind soothing him with the belief that the Risen had only been trying to stretch his brain. Yes, it was but a cunning battle tactic. Some part of him knew that this was not the case, but he didn't want to recognise that voice.

"Fred, don't scare the kid away, I have a vague idea that Angel doesn't want him running off right now.

"Don't get me wrong, Charles, I am of the profuse opinion that we are no better than him. We left Cordelia, and, even though we thought she was dead, you, Lorne, and I abandoned her. And now, why she is apparently alive and unwell, we sit about moping, apprehensive toward every possible action.

"Hey don't go comparing me to Connor. I have way better hair.

"It's the minimalist approach. I like it." Lorne quipped, with a skin deep joviality.

"Fred's right," said Wesley drawing glances from everyone in the room, bar Dylan, "we have to act now. We don't know what's going on, but we all know for certain that something is going on, and it's not going on quietly. Not to mention, we're completely open to attack. Don't forget we were in here like this when they attacked before, and the fact that we are currently more vulnerable than ever before certainly won't discourage them.

"If we're going to do anything drastic, shouldn't we at least involve Angel?" Asked Lorne.

"Given his present atrabilious mood, and enervated condition I doubt his ability to make a clear decision. For now he is defeated, physically and mentally, so, no, I believe we should act now, regardless of Angel

"And who made you in charge?" Gunn inquired forcefully.

"At least he's sharing his mistrust of Angel this time." Fred added, harshly, looking over to him from the centre of the room where she now stood.

Wesley, who stood behind the reception desk, frowned grimly, and could not help but retreat his sight from Fred, temporarily stunned by the comment. "Now is not the time to be 'in charge', or, for that matter, distance ourselves. We have to act as efficiently as possible, and therefore, as a unit, a group. I'm sure no one in this room is perfectly happy with our short history together, but, for now, can we try to refrain from falling prey to our emotions, at least until this is over?" He looked back up from the surface of the desk and took in the room's reaction to his words. They all seemed to understand the guilessness behind his plea; it was not doubtful, they had to function together, and support each other, or the darkness would consume their solitary souls. Wesley had offered his hand to Gunn not long ago, and Gunn fully intended to return the gesture of friendship. Lorne was still trying to grasp the group dynamic, which had been entirely altered since Connor, and although he found it hard to see Wesley in the same light again, he knew what had to be done, and the only way in which to do it. It was against his nature to hate, and he was all for keeping the group strong, even if it was feigned.

Lastly, Wesley's eyes connected with Fred's, and they gazed at each other for an intense moment, until Fred finally saw past her anger, which was like a great wall between them, and realised his sincere, and clear intentions. She nodded, with a slight hint of respect.

"Only problem is, the end might be closer than you'd think." Lorne remarked, expressing his doubt.

"Take a look out there, this is beyond what we've faced before. The end is already here, it's at the door right now, but the only thing that that means to me, is it's easier to hit. We have to be ready to cut it down when it comes through the gate. Let's stand to our feet, forget fear and doubt, and actually do something to ensure that this is the end of death and destruction, not the end of us." Wesley's passion to fight whatever was here seeped into his words, flickers from his enraged flame, catching alight the dampened kindling in the hearts of the others in the room.

"Riding that ebb of inspiration, I'm going to lock the door, and, for the sake of irony, watch Apocalypse Now, and possibly listen to the Doors.

"What did you have in mind?" Wesley asked, encouraging the increasing level of energy coming from the denizens of the lobby. He could almost see them waking up, emerging from a dark chamber, in which they had lived for an eternity, their eyes sore in the light. It's amazing what you can achieve when your mind isn't hagridden, or plagued by a single, clinging, vicious thought, as Wesley's had been only yesterday. He felt relieved that this apocalypse had erupted, being something tangible that he could focus on.

"Well, I was thinking "The End", purely for relevance." Lorne replied, frankly.

"Expand on the "door locking" part.

"Oh, right. Sanctuary Spell.

"You mean like the one you had going at Caritas?" Fred inquired.

"Bingo! Fred: 1, the unexplainable: 0.

"You sure you can do that?" Wesley investigated.

"I'm relying on some old acquaintances, but right now I'd say, as sure as the sky is black. Something tells me that previous 'sure' would be a 'certain', were Angel to tag along, but I'll settle with 'sure', and Fred." Lorne stated eagerly, and comfortably.

"Looks like I'm going, although to be honest the last thing I want to do is face the wind and the rain again." Fred returned, making her willingness to come expressed more strongly than her reluctance. She really didn't want to go, but forced herself to forsake grief, and actually achieve a sense of purpose. She had to bear the cruel darkness, because Cordy was still out there, and Fred promised herself that she would not rest until, her friend was safe behind the Hyperion doors. "Although, if you don't mind, I'm going to pop upstairs and rub myself against a towel before we leave.

"No problem. Give us and hour and we'll have baked ourselves a pleasant sanctum," Lorne said, turning to Wesley, "any demon tries something in here after then, he'll be picking himself up off the floor, bemused and confused.

"Excellent. So we can't be hurt by demons, right?

"Right.

"Well," Gunn interjected, groaning as he raised himself to his feet, "before I get too carried away I'd better take our lawyer-friend home.

Dylan immediately swiveled around, turning his back to the dark void beyond the walls of the hotel, strangely thankful for the distraction. Although he faced Gunn and Wesley now, who were bathed in an ambient orange glow, pictured cruelly in his mind was still the dark world outside, lingering, haunting him. Facing that charcoal sketch of death and destruction, he had eventually began to feel as though he were falling into it. Yes, his feet had been on the ground the whole time, but he, his soul, was being enveloped by the clouds, and drawn into the storm.

Wesley looked over to him, grimly. "It's inadvisable," he said, candidly.

Dylan acknowledged the comment with a grateful smile, and replied, "Oddly enough, the more inadvisable it gets, the more I want to be under my own roof.

"You can stay here." Gunn pressed the suggestion.

"No, thanks, but I'll take your other offer. I'll probably just pack up my shameless collection of valued materials and get out of here." Dylan told them, the last sentence as much a suggestion to himself as it was a statement to them. He tried, but quickly realised that, for one reason or another he could not picture himself leaving.