Title: Slow Road to Nowhere

Author: Babs

E-mail: shifty77@hotmail.com

Rating: PG-13

Summmary: An AU look into what might have been for Cordelia. If you want to try, you can squeeze it into canon starting right after Birthday but it kind of veers off from there.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Not now. Not ever. I used to think they belonged to me, but the doctors made the voices stop. That's good right?

Distribution: It's all yours if you want it, just let me know the site addy so I can come visit.

Feedback: Pretty please? I'm not so sure about this one.

Special thanks go out to Soleil, the bestest beta ever who read despite the fact that C/A references make her cringe. Big hug to you.



She'd made the decision without really thinking about it. It had come to her as easy as breathing and there had been no need to think. Sure, she'd hesitated for a second or two but that was more like a hiccup, her mental diaphragm's way of adjusting itself to the new pattern of things. In that moment, as she faced an Angel so far from the man that she knows, the decision made itself. Consequences be damned.

She loves Angel. She figured it out when she was thinking about how easy it had been for her to decide to become, even just a little bit, of something she has always hated; the disdain for most demons has always lingered in the back of her mind. The realization came to her as she sat in the courtyard, watching the sunset and the sky go from blue to orange to pink to purple. Angel was in the lobby telling Connor some inane story and she remembers thinking, God, I love him. The thought ran through her mind like an echo and when she finally processed it she dropped her coffee mug, wintessed the hot brown liquid splatter through the air, the mug shatter, and the ceramic shards scatter across the ground. It was almost as if she were casting lots. Then she threw up her Krispy Kreme donut next to the shrub that Fred used to talk to. There is no moment to pinpoint when exactly she fell in love with him, she just has the moment when she realized that she loved him. If she could take back that moment, she would. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

Her grandmother used to tell her how, if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it'll just jump out. The heat is too much for it to handle and it gets as far away from it as fast as it can. Interesting thing though, if you put a frog in room temperature water and light a fire beneath the pot, the frog will assimilate itself to the rising temperature and let itself be boiled to death. She figures that's what happened to her-- except in her case the frog's her heart. It's slowly getting burned, but she refuses to get out of the water. Not now. She likes the temperature; likes how the warm water seeps between her toes and fills the crevices in her skin.

There is no way she could (or would) have just jumped into the boiling pot. Angel has changed in the years that she's known him, but he's still strictly a no-bone and there is always Buffy to think about. Doesn't matter. She doesn't plan on taking any action. Cordelia Chase can't risk getting burned any faster than she already is. But still she'd like, for just a little bit, to enjoy the ride.

The guys and Fred accepted her transformation much more readily than she'd imagined. As she'd told her the story, fairy tale as she likes to think of it, that day she'd waited for the tirade, waited for someone, anyone, to question her judgment. But they hadn't. Nobody said a word. Instead they'd settled into it like she'd just told them that she was dying her hair or buying a car. When she thinks about it, she knows that they accepted her choice because they love her. She thinks they know that if she hadn't agreed to the change, she would be dead. No one wants that. Angel has enough guilt to deal with, so they take the lesser of two evils. None of them were too worried anyway. She'd transformed for the cause; the Powers wouldn't damn her. Right?

She's become a master of hiding things, emotions and demons (sometimes they are one in the same.) It's best that the visions don't wrack her brain anymore, best that she doesn't collapse to the floor and convulse in agony. She sure as hell doesn't miss that, no siree, but she misses the way he used to hold her in the aftermath. Nobody holds her anymore. Still, it's best that way. She lives every day in fear that the people she loves will find out what she is becoming, or maybe what she already is.

It's a dance of some sort, more like a tragic ballet. Maybe Romeo and Juliet. Her parents used to drag her to the ballet as a child and it was never where she wanted to be. Her friends were all at the park or the pool, and she was afraid they'd forget her if she wasn't there. Please don't forget. Dancers would twirl on stage and the drama would unfold, but instead of wanting to learn to dance like most little girls do, she'd hope to heaven that she could be anywhere but there. The ballet still makes her stomach churn, but it taught her a valuable lesson. She watched tragedy after tragedy play out before her eyes as the dancers told their stories. She'd sit in her seat and expect a happy ending but it usually didn't come. Life never hands you what you expect, and there are no happy endings. Not for her. Never for Cordelia Chase.

Her father grew up poor, not dirt poor but pretty close. On the occasions when he'd had too much to drink, he used to tell her stories. He'd pat the chair next to him and say, "Sit on down CC. Let me tell you a story." She would of course. Sometimes she'd roll her eyes and heave her shoulders but she'd always sit down next to him and listen, wishing that her father wanted to talk to her more than just when he was drunk. But you take what you get, she supposed. Her favorite story was when he told her about the long, lazy summer drives to nowhere. They couldn't afford much in the way of entertainment so, in her own words, they had to make their own fun. Days when it was hot, the kind of hot when the air stands still and when you breathe the air sticks inside your chest, his parents would gather him and his sister into the car and they'd just drive. Windows rolled down in the old beat up car, they'd pick a direction and just drive while Elvis sang on the radio. Sometimes, his parents would pull together twenty cents and they'd stop at a roadside stand and pick up two bottles of Coke to pass between them. Those were the best times, her dad would always say, when the wind flew across his face, the soda passed between them and the vinyl seats stuck to his legs. His heart always sank some when his father turned the car around and they headed back home. She thinks maybe that is what her life has come to, a slow trip to nowhere. Except for her, there's no turning back.

Gunn and Fred have fallen in love, or at least they're on their way. They walk around the hotel holding hands and just watching each other. It's a saccharine kind of thing, but it's what is to be expected. Both of them are new at this kind of thing. Angel is glad; glad that they are happy and glad that he doesn't have to be as careful with Fred's heart. Cordy hasn't really noticed them, doesn't know that they have found some happiness with each other. She hasn't been paying attention to a lot of things. Wesley has pulled away from all of them, has drawn himself tightly in. Angel, Fred and Gunn have all seen it, are all powerless to do anything about it. Except for Cordelia. She could have made a difference. Out of all of them, Cordelia is the one who might be able to make a difference. But she's too caught up in what's happening to her to notice anything else. To this, she must confess.

While making dinner one night, she'd cut herself. She hadn't been paying attention and mistook her finger for one of the vegetable she was chopping. It wasn't a bad cut, didn't need stitches, just a little antiseptic and a bandage. In reflex, she brought the cut to her mouth and suckled. Nothing new, just what she always did to try to stop the trickle of blood flowing from the wound. This time her nose didn't curl at the metallic taste of the blood in her mouth. Instead of pulling her finger out of her mouth to rinse it under the running water, she let it linger and sucked just a little harder. The tiny bit of blood was sweet as it sat on her taste buds. When she realized what she was doing, she yanked her hand away in horror. Now, she thought she might know what is inside her.

She tells no one, crosses her fingers that what happened that night had been a fluke, but is still somewhat shocked that she still has a reflection in the mirror. Angel hasn't noticed. She is surprised that he hasn't sensed it because she lived under the assumption that vampires notice these things. Then again, Angel has to shut of his radar around her and Fred for five to seven days a month (an eeww factor when she thinks about it.) Maybe he's turned off his senses completely. He certainly doesn't notice the way her pulse speeds up whenever she's around him. All the more reason to avoid him, dart down the hallway as he comes up the stairs and duck into the bathroom as Angel passes by.

The cravings start to come. She dreams one night of a fountain filled with thick, red liquid that's sweet when she tastes it and dances on her tongue. When she wakes up, she finds a razor and draws a small line on the inside of her elbow. Watching the blood seep from the cut is intoxicating; when she puts her lips to her arm, it is heaven. This happens once a week and soon she wears only long sleeved shirts to the office. Once a week, and she hope that will be enough.

She misses her conversations with Angel. They used to talk about nothing at all for hours and she always found that comforting. Now they hardly speak at all. She can't risk it, can't risk him finding out. She's not sure what would happen if he knew. He misses her too. She can tell from the way her looks at her with confusion, but knows that he'll never truly approach her about it. Angel's not really a talkie, not unless you talk first. This is what she has counted on. When they do talk, it's always variations of the same conversation. Variations on the same theme.

This time, when he finds her, she's sitting on the back steps trying to find a star in the sky. It's hopeless, she knows, but sometimes she likes to take a shot at lost causes. Angel stands in the doorway and clears his throat, "What are you thinking about?"

"Oh nothing," she answers without turning to face him. "Just thinking."

"Okay." He says it like he always does, like he's disappointed that she didn't respond to his attempt at reaching out. Then he turns and walks away.

Her own blood stopped being enough three weeks ago and she's started pilfering blood from Angel's supply. At the end of the day, she may grab a container from the refrigerator and shove it into her handbag. It doesn't taste the same as the blood from her body, but she's pretty sure her body can't take being cut twice a week. And that's what it takes now to satiate the hunger. So she settles for the bitter aftertaste of pig's blood, even after it's been heated, and wonders how Angel can live like this.

She gave blood one day and noticed how the nurses who oversee the sight leave the cooler of blood unguarded. Three months later, she returns and manages to a steal a bag from their supply. The nurses were busy tending their charges and hadn't thought anything of leaving the cooler untended. Nobody would steal blood after all. The bag of blood sits in the back of her refrigerator buried behind a loaf of bread, some oranges and a bottle of wine. She can't drink it yet, but leaves it there as a kind of safety net or security blanket.

When she wakes one night in a cold sweat, she half crawls to the kitchen. Shoving her hand to the back of the fridge, she pulls out the blood and sets it on the counter. For awhile she just stares at it, hopes that looking will be enough to make the cravings stop. Her jaw is clenched, her hands shaking as she pours the liquid into a mug and waits for it to heat up, but as the warm fluid trickles down her throat, she feels her muscles sigh.

She's surprised that she doesn't turn to dust when she walks in the sunlight. Maybe because she waits for the day when she can't, she's begun to take long strolls in the city, to nowhere in particular, in the harsh light of day. The sun feels lovely on her skin and the people are so much fun to watch. She sees a homeless man huddled in an alley and thinks about how easy it would be to slit his throat and how much blood runs through his veins. Nobody would miss him either, nobody at all. When she gets home, she heads straight to the shower and spends an hour under the scorching water trying to wash herself clean.

A Bible lays on her night stand. She likes to read from it before she goes to sleep, hopes that reading from it might chase her demon away, if only for one night. She likes Daniel and Revelations and their talk of horned beasts because she can relate to all of that. She has a fondness for the books of poetry too because she finds them soothing. She's not sure if she believes in God, but she takes comfort in reading from a book that some consider holy. There's a verse in Psalms, the twenty-third verse of the fifty-fifth chapter. It says, "But you, O God, will bring down the wicked into a pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out half their days." She wonders if it applies to her.

She wonders if a time will come when the demon will consume even her soul and she'll become a shell of the person she once was. She's not sure that she even cares.

FINE