Chapter 6: Anita

Chapter 6: Anita

This time when their guide left, there was no sense of renewal for Angel and Cordelia like there had been before. The dreamwalk continued seamlessly.

"Manda tus angeles para que me protejan." The words were whispered softly by the tormented woman standing in front of Angel and Cordelia.

"She's asking God to send angels to protect her," Angel translated.

"God's getting help today." Cordelia stepped forward, addressing the woman. "Anita?"

Anita Martinez looked at them as if she hadn't seen them standing there before. "Wh-who are you?"

Angel stepped forward. "We've come to help you, Anita. You and all the others."

She blinked. "Are you an angel?"

"Not exactly. But I can help."

"We need you to show us where the demon is, Anita," put in Cordelia. "Can you do that?"

"N-no." Anita backed away fearfully. "I can't. If I do that, he'll punish me. He'll hurt me."

"And that's different from what's happening now how?" Cordelia's voice was gentle, with iron underneath. "Look, Anita, I know you're scared. But we were sent to you for a reason. You're strong enough to take us to him. You're the only one who can do that." The Seeress took Anita's hand and placed Kathy's rosary in it. "Help us stop him."

Anita looked from the rosary to Cordelia's face, then to Angel's. She pressed the crucifix to her heart. Finally, she was decided.

"I'll show you."

The walls of the hospital seemed to dissolve, and Anita turned and began leading Angel and Cordelia away from her unconscious body. The light dimmed, taking on a strange, unreal quality.

Then they were in a room, a cavernous, empty space much like the one they'd found themselves in at the beginning of the dreamwalk. As they looked, though, they realized the room wasn't empty. Shades of people in varying states of distress, all with shadowy claws buried in the backs of their heads, crowded the room. And at the center—

Angel and Cordelia got their first look at Agragon, and he was nothing. And everything. His form seemed to change shape every moment, growing, shrinking, billowing outward, then pulling back in. Cold, icy fear emanated from him. Angel pulled the battle-axe Buffy had given him from underneath his coat.

"Be careful," Cordelia whispered. Beside her, Anita gasped in fear and pain, dropping to her knees. Cordelia put an arm around the woman's shoulders as she began to pray again, holding the rosary.

As Angel approached Agragon, the demon lord solidified into a black-draped form. He produced a battle-axe not unlike the one Angel was wielding. The battle was joined.

Cordelia stood watching, her mind racing over what they'd gone through. She felt the fear the demon exuded, felt it trying to work its way into her heart and mind. It whispered of worries and pains, anxieties and embarrassments. She rebuffed them all. It was almost easy to do so—her biggest fears had been faced. She concentrated on the battle.

Angel was fighting, and he was beautiful to watch. His preternatural grace and strength was evident in every move. He was vamped out now, and Cordelia realized he was most likely experiencing the same fear-attack she was. But he would win, he had to . . .

But the demon lord was his match, move for move. They fought on and on. Each move Angel made was showing more effort now as he battled on against the demon lord's attack.

And then, so suddenly Cordelia didn't even have time to cry out, Agragon won. His axe ripped down, slicing across Angel's chest, and the vampire fell.

Dead.

"No," whispered Cordelia. Doyle had said they'd win. He said they had everything they needed, all the weapons, all the keys, everything. They couldn't lose.

Could they?

"It's all dreams in here. You can change most things. Remember that," said Oz.

That was the first key.

"Both of you have to face your greatest fears and regrets before you get to Agragon," said Angelus.

Second key.

"It's only together that you have the strength to face what is to come," said Spike.

Third key.

And Cordelia put them together.

"No," she repeated, quite calmly, and stood. "No, this isn't happening. This is my dream, pal, and you and your shadowy little butt are not going to kill my best friend!" The last words were shouted.

Angel was suddenly back on his feet and fighting again. In one moment, they had decided together that the dream was theirs. And in that moment, Agragon had lost. Angel's axe swished through the air, cutting deep into the demon lord's robes . . . and those robes crumpled to the ground, empty.

Something was shattering. The air itself seemed to be breaking up, starting where Agragon had been and going outward. It swept over the dreamers the demon held in his grasp, freeing them, and continued outward as the entire poisoned dreamscape was utterly destroyed. Cordelia ducked, protecting her eyes . . .

And when she opened them again, she and Angel were back on Liam and Kathy's beach. It was over. Somewhere, Kathy was singing again, and the song was triumphant:

"High King of Heaven, my victory won,

May I reach Heaven's joys, bright Heaven's sun!

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,

Still be my vision, O Ruler of all!"

The song faded, leaving no regrets behind.

Angel helped Cordelia to her feet. "That was . . ."

". . . really interesting," Cordelia finished. "Did what I think happened happen?"

"You took possession," Angel surmised. "Agragon only had power as long as no one understood that they could take it from him. When you took control, you started to unravel his entire power structure, and I could defeat him." He looked at her and smiled. "You did it, Cordelia. You were the one."

"We did it," she corrected. She looked around. "So what now?"

Angel's attention was caught by something else, though. Sitting against a piece of driftwood not far away was Liam. Curled up against his side, warmed and protected by his arms, was Kathy, asleep. The young man was toying absently with a lock of her hair as he watched the sunset.

"Those are her memories, Angel, if she still has them," Cordelia said. "She had a big brother who loved her with all his soul. And he still does."

"Still," Angel murmured.

They watched as the sun set. Liam stood, scooping up Kathy as he did so. She muttered something, then rested her head against his shoulder as he carried her over to his waiting horse. He woke her enough to settle her on it, then mounted behind her, and brother and sister cantered off up the beach trail.

Angel reached out, taking Cordelia's hand. Then, almost as an afterthought, he drew her in and kissed her forehead gently.

She looked at him askance. "Are you being all scary creepy sensitive guy again?"

Angel laughed at that memory. "So. Where do we go now?" he asked.

"They seemed to know where they were going," Cordelia told him. "How about we follow?"

They walked in the direction Liam and Kathy had taken, ambling now, in no great hurry to get anywhere. Mist rolled in off the ocean and billowed around them, wrapping them in layers of soft brightness.

***

They awoke together, laying side by side on Cordelia's bed. For a moment, both were disoriented.

"Welcome back," said a faint, exhausted voice. Wesley stood at the foot of the bed, looking like he'd been through Hell himself. "I take it you two were successful?"

"We were," answered Angel. He propped himself on his elbow and reached over to brush a few strands of hair off Cordelia's face. "You all right?"

Cordelia blinked, looking a bit stunned. "Um, yeah, maybe . . . I think it's a yes. Ask me again in an hour."

Angel scrubbed a hand through his hair. "I know exactly how you feel." He lifted his left hand then, which he found was still fastened to hers.

"Allow me to help with that." Wesley sat on the bed and started to untie the knots that bound them.

"I don't think I want to do that again anytime soon," murmured Cordelia.

"I'll second that," concurred Angel with some feeling.

Wesley finished with the last knot and removed the scarlet cord. It took several minutes for Angel and Cordelia to force their hands apart, though.

"Ow. I think you broke my hand, Mr. Vampire-Strength."

"Well, you left fingernail tracks on mine. I don't think any of your bones are broken, though."

"There is an ick factor, though." Cordelia looked at the dried blood on her palm with great disgust. A moment later, curiosity filled her face. "Hey, there's no more cut on my hand."

"Fascinating," remarked Wesley, still sounding less-than-solid. "Perhaps vampire's blood has regenerative properties. Or perhaps it does only when mixed with live human blood. That would account for the process of becoming a vampire, actually. And, you know, vampire's blood is used for several healing rituals, particularly that of . . ."

Cordelia cut him off. "Wesley. You're babbling."

"Oh. Right. Sorry."

"Ready to get up?" Angel asked her.

"I'm thinking breakfast." Cordelia looked at her hand again. "After a shower."

"I'll cook," volunteered Angel.

"Well, then," said Wesley, removing his glasses, "if you two are quite finished with the bed . . ."

Cordelia hopped off. "Oh, be my guest."

Angel, too, vacated the bed. Wesley promptly fell face-first into the pillows. His glasses were still in his hand, but they were quickly removed and set on Cordelia's nightstand by his unseen partner in the vigil—Dennis. Angel and Cordelia traded a grin over the ex-Watcher's inert body, and while Cordelia pulled an afghan over him, Angel snuffed the candles. After a moment's reflection, the vampire took the lighter and lit the candle for warding off evil dreams. Then they left the room.

"Sweet dreams, Wesley," said Cordelia as she turned off the light.

***

"It's weird. I don't know how much I remember of it." Cordelia ate another bite of her eggs. "It's almost like trying to remember a dream but not being sure how much was a dream and how much was reality. Did that make any kind of sense?"

Angel sipped at a mug of coffee. "I know what you mean. I remember our guides and some of what they said, and I remember the last fight. Other than that, it's kind of . . . a blur."

Cordelia thought on that, taking a drink of orange juice as she did so. "I remember Kathy."

A soft, regretful smile creased Angel's features. "I'm glad. Her memory shouldn't be mind alone." He played with his coffee mug. "I like to think that had she grown up, she'd have been something like you."

"Well, if she had been like me, she wouldn't have wanted you to be all Broody-Boy forever." Cordelia raised her eyebrows, looking pointedly at the vampire. "Like Doyle said, you can't change the past."

"No, you can't," Angel agreed. "Besides, as much as it hurts sometimes, I wouldn't give up my memory of her for the world. She was the best part of me back then."

Cordelia decided to change the subject. "Wonder how Anita's doing?"

"Good question. Maybe we should drop by the hospital."

"Yeah. We could say something like, 'Hi, Anita. Remember us? You led us to a demon while you were dreaming. Oh, and you thought he was an angel. There's irony there.'"

Angel gave her a baleful look. "Point taken. At the very least, you might want to get in touch with your nurse friend at City General and see if the sleepers have awakened."

"I could do that." Cordelia finished her eggs. "You know, I do kinda wish we could do something for Anita. She was the reason we got involved, after all."

Angel was silent for a moment. Then he grinned. "You know, there may be something . . ."

***

Anita Martinez was glad to be home. Two days ago, she'd awakened in the hospital with little memory of what had happened. The doctors had subjected her to a battery of tests, physical and psychological, then had finally given up and sent her home when they could find nothing wrong except a little lingering weakness.

She puzzled over what memories she did have. Fear, pain, and a sense of a terrible evil, but nothing solid. One other thing surfaced, though: a man and a woman, both of them beautiful and strong. During her first night home, she'd been a little afraid to go to sleep, but the memory of the two of them had been a strange comfort, although she had no idea of who or what they were.

"Anita!" Her roommate, Ellen, was calling. "There's a package for you."

"Coming." Anita made her way into the living room, where she accepted a small box from Ellen. "Hm. That's strange. No return address."

"What is it?" Ellen asked.

Carefully, Anita unwrapped the brown paper, then opened the box. "It's a candle," she said, puzzled, and lifted it from the box. The candle was speckled blue and gray and had a pleasant, herbal scent.

"That a card?" Ellen indicated a folded-over piece of art paper tied to the candle with a hemp strand. "Who's it from?"

Anita shook her head as she read the card. "It doesn't say. It just says, 'Burn the candle for sweet dreams, and thanks for the prayers.' Then there's a little sketch of an angel."

Ellen raised her eyebrows. "Must be somebody from Church."

"Guess so." Anita smelled the candle again and found it soothing. She shrugged and carried it to her bedroom. Sweet dreams were always welcome.

***

Yes, that's really the end. Thanks for sticking with the story. If you liked it, please let me know. If you didn't—why the heck did you read all six chapters? A few notes, which you may or may not want to read:

Note 1: Kathy's song is "Be Thou My Vision," an Irish hymn dating from the 8th century. For an absolutely beautiful rendition, find the 4Him album "Hymns: A Place of Worship."

Note 2: Thanks to Tuna for the Spanish translation.

Note 3: Thanks to Tanja for the idea that Liam used his sister's window to enter the house.