A Split Moment

Fandom: Ats
Genre: Angst
Rating: G
Spoilers: To Shanshu in L.A.
Thank to my beta Pat

AN: the first half of the story is written in first person, the rest in third person.

Summary: Alternate ending to "To Shanshu in L.A." where Angel fails to retrieve the Scroll. Inspire by a quote from "Hypnos Visit" by A9kf0.

- the quote: "Like Buffy, I wouldn't let her suffer forever. Giles had spoken about another, locked away, driven mad by the relentless torment. If I had failed, if the scroll had been destroyed, I would have destroyed Cordelia rather than condemn her to this living death. I might have been damned in doing so, another death on my head would not make a difference. Besides, I've been to hell and would go in her place any day."

The story can be found here: http:
E-mail: Angel kills Cordelia due to the fact that the Scroll of Abergian had been destroyed. She sticks around.


A split moment was all it took. That I remember. A split moment…So what happened? I´ll tell you…

The words of the female oracle echoes in my mind in a continuing loop and they have stricken fear in my heart. A part of me laughs incredulously and if anyone would have heard me and said that there was a touch of hysteria in my voice, they wouldn't have been wrong.

She thought I needed something to make me want things from life – that I had nothing. I, as they, believed that there was nothing – my life had gone into a rut with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Well my entire being is showing me how wrong we were. All three of us. There is someone in my life I can't lose. Two someones, and I know just where to go to make it end. They have put not one but two of my people in the hospital tonight and there is a growing part of me that is beginning to feel rage. The rest is pain and fear at the realization of how vulnerable they are. Within just of a blink of an eye I could have lost him. Sometimes I'm convinced that the real monsters are not the ones with horns or rough skin – not the demons, but the humans…

Soon I'm at the place where they are performing the ritual and I have a feeling that they have already begun. Using the scroll. A scroll that I need. As I step out of the car I can feel the gathering energy. Part of me senses the powerful magic at work here and I know that I should be wary of what they are raising but I have only one thing on my mind. I take the scythe out from the back of the car where it has been lying on the leather seats. I've never used one before but I know I will be able to make due.

I run around the building and looking for the best place to make an entrance. Closing my eyes for a moment I let the power in my veins flow through me, harvesting the strength that lies within my blood and as I open my eyes I crouch down before jumping up and through the window heedless of the sharp, breaking glass. Only one thing is on my mind and that is – get the scroll, destroy whatever gets in my path.

The masked demon – he is powerful but in the end it did not aid him as I tore his mask away and slashed him open. I know that I was too late to stop the raising but since that was not my major goal I don't feel that bad about it – I will handle whatever they conjured.

As I turn around my vision zeros in on the scroll in Lindsey's hand. It's buzzing in my ears so I can't hear what his saying after I demand the scroll but I do see what he's doing and for a moment I can feel only horror as I stand on the other side of the room.

A split moment. That's all it was but it was enough. I move but I'm too late. He tore the old fragile parchment in two and threw it into the flames of the torch. The yellow orange tongues lick and devour the ancient text too quickly for me to save it. Nevertheless I throw myself at him, batting the pieces out of the fire.

I know blister appears on my skin as I bat the flames down but as I look down there are only tiny pieces left and I feel like I'm falling. Suddenly a movement alerts me and slowly I move my head to where Lindsey is standing up dusting himself off. My eyes narrow as I pierce him with my eyes. He is smirking, chuckling and I think he's also boasting but I can't hear him, I can't see anything apart from him and his smirk, it's deathly silent in my head and all I know is, as everything turns blurry – wrong move Linds…

There is blood on my hands and I can also taste it at the back of my throat. I wipe them clean before I look up and see I'm standing before the entrance of the hospital where they are. I have a hard time remembering what happened from the moment I saw the worthless pieces of parchment on the floor and to this moment, just flickering images, sensations and sound… there is screaming, a blood streak splattered on a wall. I know that he is alive and that I didn't do enough to him, I just couldn't, I had to get back to them…

With heavy steps I walk into the hospital, I'm starting to hate its smell. I can't save her. Suddenly the thought struck me and I freeze. I didn't get the scroll, I can't save her. My G- it feels like I'm back in Hell.

I go first to Wesley and I smile weakly at him as I see that he is awake. He looks bad but he is going to live. He was lucky surviving that blast. Heck it threw me a few feet back and I wasn't even all that close to the building. What he was doing in that part of the building, I have no idea.

He knew where I had been and I see his eyes light up as he searches on my person to see if I have it. The look on his face when he sees I'm empty handed makes my heart constrict even further. I wonder why I'm not dust yet – it feels like my heart is on a steed where someone is slowly turning the wheel crushing it, by now there should be nothing left…

"I failed…" I croak out.

He whispers something to me and it takes a moment before it registrate in my mind, "oh, it's ok…we'll find another way…"

I shake my head, "There isn't one." I turn around and walk out to go see her. I can't delay any more. Just as I reach the door I hear Wes whimper and I hear him calling out for me but I just make a gesture with my hand and leave. I think I hear him say something – Don't do it… or Come b- never mind…

I thought I had gone through everything there is but I'm proven wrong as I stand by her bed and watch her. Nothing of her liveliness is there; the light is gone. She looks so broken. It's because of me she lies there pale, colourless. She looks comatose if not for the fact that her eyes are open and I can smell the stinking agony thick in the air around her. Makes me want to vomit, scrub my tongue or amputate my friggin nose. The doctors thinks that she is unresponsive, doesn't know what's going on, a veg perhaps, but they are oh so wrong. Her eyes, the terror in them it matches her smell. Not even as Angelus would I have enjoyed such level of terror that she is projecting. There is no rhyme or reason, there is only the terror and the pain in her face.

She is 19 freaking years old! She shouldn't be here! Like this!

They can't get her better, the doctors, I've heard them talk as I was heading to her that there is nothing else they can do but hope. Hope. What a useless thing that is. There is none.

I can't …she mustn't…I can't let her suffer; she has done nothing to deserve this. Who the fuck deserves to take on the world's pain!

There is no other- I have to…

I shut my mind down as I realize there is only one thing I can do for her now since I failed her. Sitting on the edge of the bed I slip my hand under her neck and lift her up. I bury my face in her hair trying to catch her smell, the smell that makes up Cordelia Chase and not the almost overwhelming pain that surrounds her, it is not the smell I want to take with me. I can feel some tear leak from my eyes and fall into her hair. Why do you cry you useless son of a bitch! You don't deserve this! This release. You fail to retrieve a simple scroll! Worthless, they should never have let you out of Hell! The moment you let her into your life you condemned her! I hear my mind scream at me. And I feel the truth of the words. Everything I touch, I burn.

I want to keen with the pain but I won't let myself. Looking into her dark empty eyes I caress her cheek. Her soul is so buried under all that she sees that nothing reflects in her orbs. I remember just this morning them laughing at me, trying to perk me up, always trying to get rid of the rain cloud over my head, and I just walked out.

I lean my forehead against hers and close my eyes a tear slipping past landing on her cheek. Futilely hoping that she may still hear me I whisper to her how sorry I am for dragging her down into my world, how sorry I am for realizing to late what I had right in front of me, how really precious she is and I beg her for her forgiveness knowing that I don't deserve it. How much her friendship meant to me, her frankness. I stop as I choke and I can't tell her more.

I rub my cheek against hers and as I slip one hand out towards the machines I lift her limp body and draw her closer to me. Quietly and swiftly I turn them off and at the same time sink my canines into her feeling her essence flood into my mouth. The level of her pain has made the blood almost too sweet and I have to fight the urge to gag. I force myself to swallow her down and I can feel my demon cowering inside me – it's too much for it. This is what I ´ve made her go through so I will damn should take it inside me!

Within minutes it's done and I let her gently back onto the bed and close her eyes. My soul is crying from the tearing agony.

I turn and as I'm about to stand I feel a terrible pain shoot from my belly and I double over clutching my stomach. I can feel the blood push up to my throat as the demon is trying to force it out of my body. I clam my teeth together and press my hand over it. I will not lose it. I am shaken by the internal fight but after a while the demon accepts its defeat and I can safely stand up without the risk of making a mess on the floor.

I wipe my face from any evidence of my crying and with a last gentle caress to her cooling flesh and a brief kiss on her forehead I leave. I know that by this act I may have lost my one chance at redemption but I can't make myself feel anything but the numbness that is starting to spread in my body. If killing her meant sparing her from the Hell she was living then I would do it happily and give up my redemption without question or doubt.

I go past Wesley and while I don't say anything he must have read something on my face as his eyes widen and I can see anger in his blue eyes but also betrayal. I don't enter, just stand there looking at him until he distinctly lies down and turns his back curling on his side. Without a sound I turn and leave. We are both hurting and we both need to deal with this on our own. Or not dealing…

I doubt we'll be able to move on from this. I saw his eyes and like me he won't be able to forgive me for what I have done.

Tired beyond belief, weary, heavy and empty inside I return home only to realize as I stand there that most of the building is closed off with those yellow police bands due to the explosion earlier tonight. Rubbing my eyes I shrug and walk around, a small part of me glad that my side of the building was spared.

I get in and divest myself from my clothing wanting nothing else than to curl up in my bed, close my eyes and wake up tomorrow to find that this has all been a really bad dream, and I will find her upstairs reading a magazine. Wes buried in some old tome trying to get me interested in whatnot.

A whimper escapes me before I manage to control myself again. I bury myself under the bed and like Wesley curl up into a tight ball on my side. If it weren't for the fact that I can feel her flowing through my veins I would have been able to tell myself that nothing of this has been real. It takes awhile but finally my mind, too tire after all that has happened, shuts down and my body follows soon after.

In third person

The apartment is quiet as the single resident finally wakes up in the late afternoon. He stands up and goes about his routine when suddenly the events from the day before crashes in on him and he collapse with a cry to the floor. His broken "Cordy…" the only sound as he rocks back and forth and taken by surprise the body manages to finally reject the offensive blood and it splashes onto the floor. His tears line down his face as he tries to hold it all in and stop his convulsions, his hands and face becoming a mess.

The hours pass and the dark figure can still be seen curled up on the floor of the kitchen. It takes awhile but eventually, numbly he moves, standing up and walking to the sink. Turning the faucet on, he begins to scrub his hands and face clean. If it weren't for the slight shake of his shoulders from time to time one wouldn't be able to tell that he is everything but ok as his face is blank. Mechanically he cleans the floor up and retreats to his bedroom to get some clothes and takes a quick shower before heading up to the office.

A fast phone call alerts him to the fact that Wesley does not wish to speak to him at the moment. He walks to his office and sits in his chair looking out to where Cordelia should be sitting if this was any other day. Eventually it gets too much and he closes his dark eyes and tips his head up resting against the back of the chair. Nothing gets done and eventually in the small hours he returns back downstairs and slips back into bed not feeling anything but the numbness. It shields him from the pain and for now the hunger.

Until the nightmares begin…the greatest weapon against him is his own guilt and there is no one fiercer torturer for him then himself. What he can do awake he can't escape from in sleep.

The days pass repeating the same dance of going up to his office not hearing the few phone calls that seek the aid of the agency or he just ignores them.

The only thing breaking the monotony is the one message from Wesley that he wouldn't be able to come in. He understands why he did it, wasn't really that surprise about it, but he just couldn't…you understand right?

Yeah I understand.

So he wasn't able to take him out of the hospital. The part of him that can still think beyond the guilt and pain acknowledge the fact that he has lost him too. There was another brief message from Gunn saying he was sorry about hearing what happened to the girl. 'Hope you got the bastard that did it.'

Humph.

He hasn't been outside but if he had he would have noticed how strangely calm things have been…or maybe he wouldn't…It was the calm before the storm some said. Something was bound to happen to break the stale mate. If it wasn't evil then perhaps…the Powers…or maybe something else?

Unknown amount of time later.

Blearily opening his eyes it takes a few moments to actually register what it is he is seeing and when he does he feels like he's been punched in his stomach and the sudden pain in his heart is almost all consuming.

His eyes travel unbelievingly over the form sitting in the chair by the corner of his bedroom not more then a few feet from him. Her long dark mane of hair cascading down her back, her green-clad legs and the blue jumper. She is leaning forwards her elbows resting on her knees as she picks her nails her big brown eyes on him.

Swallowing convulsively he croaks out, "Co-Cordelia?"

She gives him a small smile and softly says, "Yeah Angel, it´s me."

"How-why? I´m so soorryyy!" His pitiful sub whine erupting from his chest, the sound so un-human in it´s simplicity and all around sound that it made her slightly wince. The pain is evident on his every feature.

He thinks that she is here to haunt him, accuse him and blame him for what he did. It´s what he deserves after all. So it takes him a while to wrap his mind around her words.

"Angel I- I´m not here to hurt you. I – I´m glad for what you did. There was no other way. I –I wanted to thank you."

Standing up and kneeling on the floor beside his bed she leans forward and caress his frozen face. She silently chuckles inside her as she watches his unbelieving expression. She knew him. She really did and she knows the hell he puts himself every night since that night.

Shaking his head he pushes himself onto an elbow still unaware of her hand against his cheek.

"How- you can´t- I killed you Cordy!"

She tries, she really does but it still escapes her mouth together with a slight amused smirk.

"Err, I knooow, hello me being a ghost and all." She pinches his cheek making him aware of it and he jerks startle.

"I don´t understand."

Chuckling Cordelia shakes her head. "No you don´t. Angel I would have died anyway. What you did…you spared me from more pain." Biting her lower lip she leans forward and pushes her forehead against his holding his head against her.

Angel tries to resist a little at first but to feel her, to sense that she is really there, it becomes too much and he sags against her gazing into her eyes so close to his that they almost cross but he wouldn´t lean back for all the world. In the back of his mind he wonders how come he can feel her.

"I´m glad, I really am for what you did, sure I would have liked not to have died by the age of 19 but considering where I come from I think I can actually count myself lucky that I even reached this age. I know what this meant for you. You were a true friend, something I haven´t had ever. You gave me release from a never ending pain, because we both know it wouldn´t have ended.

Brushing away the silent tears that were pouring down his face she pecks him on the cheek. Her smile sincere and beautiful making him feel that he is in the presence of an angel.

Shacking her head she chuckles, "No Angel I´m just a ghost, nothing more."

"How can you forgive me?"

"Forgive you? There is nothing to forgive? Get that into your thick skull!" she said, exasperated, knocking him on his head clearly showing that she may be dead but she is still the same girl.

Pulling him up into a sitting position on the bed she joins him. Sitting beside him she grabs his hand and squeezes it. They sit there for a long time both watching the hands clasped together on the bed until having had enough Cordelia rolls her eyes and bumps him.

"Angel." She says drawing out his name.

"Hmm." His still doesn´t look from where he is playing with her fingers.

"You are suppose to say, Thank you Cordy.´´"

As he looks up her heart tightens in her chest as she sees his lost boy expression. He hurriedly scrubs his tear from his face with his closed fist making him resemble more a small child to her then ever. On an impulse she leans forwards and wraps her arms around him hugging him tight.

As his big frame shakes within her embrace she whispers into his hair, "It will be OK Angel. I promise."

She rubs his back in soothing circles as she feels his arm wrap around her waist. After a while when his trembles subsides she hears him whisper back "Thank you."

"Anytime."

Leaning back against the headboard she makes herself comfortable on the bed, his eyes following her every move.

"You ´re really here, aren´t you?"

"Well duh? Of course. Thought we had that out of the way." She says her eyes twinkling. She really didn´t hold any hard feeling towards him.

"This isn´t a dream?" really looking at him her head tilted to the side she sighs and says seriously, "no Angel, this isn´t a dream. I´m really here."

The smile he gives her is small but heartfelt and she begins to believe that he really believes her forgiveness. Something he really doesn´t need but oh well, every one has their faults, lord know she does, or did? Did being dead change that? Hmm food for thoughts, later.

"What now?" his question takes her slightly of guard. Shaking her head she returns her attention to him.

"Well I thought, I'd go upstairs, let you sleep a few hours more and wait to see if book boy has gotten his act together and actually show up here?"

"Wesley? He is not- why would he- does he know?"

"Geez Angel can´t you get one sentence finished?" she smiles at him taking off the edge of her words as she swings her legs over the edge and stands up.

"I´ve already talked to him, well more like chewed his head off, but anyway I put things straight. If he is at all in anyway like the man I know then he should come by."

Blinking up at her he shakes his head to clear out the confusion that's been clogging his mind.

"You´re going to stay?" she eyes him weirdly as she can´t decipher the tone he used. Pushing it out of her head she says, "I made you a promise didn´t I?"

She watches his eyes grow wide as he recalls the moment and as his eyes lock with her an understanding pass between them. Satisfied with it she caresses his face before turning around and throwing over her shoulder she says, "Go to sleep Angel, rest I´ll be here when you wake up."

He smiles at that and then stares at her as she suddenly drifts up and through the wall and once again he gets that feeling of being punched as he for the first time really understand that she is a ghost. It hadn´t really penetrate his mind as he could smell her and feel her – what was up with that anyway?

He hears her yelling to him from above," You know I don´t think this whole getting used to the ghost thing will be all that hard! I can walk through walls…" he can´t help but smirk a little at her theatrical evil laugh. Suddenly he hears a sound and looking up he is slightly unnerved to she her face peer out of the ceiling.

Smirking at his jumpiness she has a glint in her eyes as she says, "You know, there is no safe place for you now." And she deliberately lets her eyes stray to the bathroom before chuckling, and pulls pulls up. Her face sinks seemingly into the ceiling.

Gulping he eyes the door to the bathroom knowing exactly what she meant and he wonders what the hell he has gotten himself into now. Laying back down he drags the sheets over his body trying to shake off the image of her face peering down from the ceiling. Turning to the side he closes his eyes a small smile forming on his lips as the thought – he couldn´t wait to find out – drifts through his head.

And for the first night since that night he sleeps without nightmares and pain wracking his unconsciousness.

He has his friend back. Granted not the way he would have preferred – alive and healthy – but with him nevertheless and in some part deep within him where most would think his demon lays, plans for vengeance is slowly taking form.

He has been out of the game but he has found his ground again thanks to a girl and they really shouldn´t have burned that scroll. The image of the flames licking the fragile parchment forever burned into his retina of his being – soul, man and demon.

The End for Now…


AN: I intend to turn this into a series of ficletts perhaps longer stories with chap in them and if you have suggestion I am more the willing to hear. There will be no more angst or at least a minimum of it if I know myself at all in the next ones.