Title: Not Quite a Fairy Tale

Author: Evan Como [evan_como@yahoo.com]

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Angel. Seasons 4 & 5, up through "Harm's Way".

Improv: sparkle – gleam –- shine -- glow

Disclaimer: the author does not claim ownership to the characters or plot development mentioned from "Angel". These properties expressly belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Greenwolf Corporation, 20th Century Fox Television, WB Network, Dark Horse Comics, etc. Any other characters contained in the original story are the author's.

Author's Notes: Been a long time. Felt good to write this one. e.c. 1/18/04

Angel never thought of himself as a knight in shining armour, but at some point he'd been deemed a Champion. Most waking days he didn't feel much like one, not like he was being reminded while rebandaging some suppurating wound after an especially nasty challenge of physically saving humanity. It was easier to wield a sword, swing it mightily and vanquish some accursed beast. It was far more difficult to heft destiny sitting still, especially when that destiny was comprised of events that no one was allowed to remember.

Not fair, given that one couldn't be allowed to forget Spike's coup de grace. Saving Los Angeles, then the world from the evil of Jasmine was equal to saving Sunnydale, then the world from the evil of The First. Angel had done the math. He and Spike were even: a soul vs a soul, a death and resurrection vs a death and resurrection, the heart of a Slayer, yada yada yada.

Perfect recall was kicking Angel's ass. He heard the thump of his beating heart, felt the silky strands of blond hair wrapped around his fingers. Together, laughing with impatience, they'd quickly wiped at the foggy bathroom mirror with their rosy fists after they'd showered. Wet hair, dripping skin, big toothy grins. They'd become the Sparkle Twins.

Resplendent with love.

Seated behind his vessel of a desk inside the cavern that Wolfram & Hart designated as his office, Angel cocked his head, dropped it to his fist. Irritated, he waited for the reminiscence to subside. One missing day was nothing compared to over 365 of them.

He had to fight the urge to prompt Fred, Gunn, Lorne, and Wesley. He wanted to pepper his conversations with arcane statements like "I still think that watching fireballs rain down from heaven qualifies as being much worse than seeing all the foothills on fire" or "Well, at least that Ru'ung Demon didn't have Jasmine's appetite or Buena Park would be hist'".

"The father did kill his son, Wes," Angel wanted to confess, over and over because Wesley was in a similar predicament. Unfortunately, the matters at hand were usually so pressing that Wesley's natural inquisitiveness never had the chance to kick in. "You killed your dad but you didn't but, still, you can't stop thinking about it. Just because it seems like it didn't happen doesn't mean that it didn't happen. You *know*."

He imagined that Wesley, feigning understanding, would nod politely and remark, "You're working too hard, Angel. Perhaps you should take the afternoon off, maybe take the 'Vette up the coast."

Where was the blood of a megalomaniac higher being when you needed it?

Angel conceded to the fate of his deal. By allowing him to rescue his son's, Connor's, life, he doubted that Wolfram & Hart could have planned a better outcome. The vampire's family life had devolved into one of self-imposed solitary confinement, of remastering the one-word response. Sometimes it was better not to talk than to risk saying too much. For his four friends the initial gleam of the law firm's resources had yet to diminish; they all enjoyed focusing their talents and had done so more effectively in the last six months than since enlisting with Angel.

The sun lowered outside of the Vamp-tempered window. Sunsets had become routine.

Rising from his ergonomic chair and striding into the foyer, he ignored a constant nagging. There was a road Angel vaguely remembered trying to trod – one that he wasn't anywhere near anymore.

-0-

Angel appreciated the silence of this place. He enjoyed the climate -- warm, but not too too. He considered it sanctuary. No one else came here and the new-and-improved Spike was too respectful to poke around inside.

Diffused light drifted over Cordelia's prone form, almost not touching. Whatever life she possessed emitted a dull glow on the apexes of both cheeks. She'd become a princess in a palace of amber glass. There were attendants galore, no worry about where the funds were coming from to pay for it all.

The catch was – because there was always a catch – that she wasn't awake to experience it this time. Her chest barely lifted and dropped. A trio of blips racing across a monitor signified that there was still someone inside to revive.

Angel shuddered and wished her mercy. Mercy in the same form of amnesia the others had been given.

A nurse paid no attention to him as she removed a spent bag from the IV stand. Replacing it with a full one, she flicked at the thin leader hose until clear liquid began dripping down. She double-checked the shunt secured to the back of Cordelia's hand.

Avoiding eye-contact, she whispered, "Excuse me," as she slipped past.

"I half-expected her to feather dust you," Angel joked out of earshot. One corner of his mouth hiked up hopefully.

Cordelia did not stir, nor did her vital signs.

After pushing off his seat on the edge of her mattress, Angel leaned over and kissed his best friend's brow. He inhaled and, in lieu of her sterile body odor, peach and jasmine notes from the perfume he'd bought her as a peace offering once-upon-a-time overtook his senses. Everything about her since their run-in with Russell Winters five years prior rushed to fill his consciousness. What he missed most about Cordelia was her effervescent spirit, the one that was just as gone as the moist shine he'd placed on her skin.

-0-

Angel surveyed The City Of from the glass tower he called home. Century City's buildings, swamped in by a heavy marine layer, left geometric dots of light glinting ethereally in the distance. He'd gotten so used to pale aqua skies and shimmering chrome traffic that the nightscape was nearly unrecognizable.

He set the blood-drained Baccarat glass on top of the bar counter. High-gloss marble reflected the old-fashioned's perfect square cuts; halogen lighting spilt into prismatic colors all over the surface. Angel flexed his grip, but it didn't magically mirror. So far L.A.'s laws of physics still worked, making him ponder if they also applied to Spike.

Completing his routine, he climbed into bed; Frette linens, as exquisite as they were 150 years prior, enveloped his weary body. Forearms tucked behind his head, he closed his eyes to the ceiling and assessed what he was really suffering from. He had carpel tunnel syndrome of an existence: severe butt fatigue – from sitting all day, and writer's cramp – from applying his signature to a gadzillion different documents.

Repetition, repetition. Like riding in an elevator for only one floor.

- end -