Author's Note: Slightly AU where Cassidy stops working for Ricky after the Obliteratrix incident and Ed Machine doesn't die.
Part I: Fall
He has found a way to watch videos in his head. High definition, with instant replay, and no fast forward. Mr. E sees them—the old Mystery Incorporated – in those videos. Pericles. Brad. Judy. But mostly, he sees her.
He tells himself that it's just him being old and sentimental.
The sane part of him knows it's called having regrets.
He told her when they reunited that Ricky Owens had died. He was Mr. E now and no one else, but they both know that's not true. Their new names are a testament to each other, memories of the past ensnaring the present in a vicious cycle that doesn't seem to want to end.
"I don't love you anymore," he states plainly.
(Both of them know that he was lying.)
Her eyes are sad and laced with another emotion he can't read. "I know."
(And he was.)
Ricky used to call her his angel dynamite.
(Because she used to be his personal guardian angel and the dynamite part just sounded cool.)
She used to call him her favorite mystery.
(Now he's just another Mr. E. He's no longer hers, and he's no longer a mystery – to her at least.)
That was Then. This is Now.
Now they're permanently calling each other by their pet names, but they aren't the people they used to be anymore, or at least that's what Mr. E thinks. She went away from Crystal Cove an innocent girl and came back a badass. He used to be somewhat attractive; now, he's just fat.
But when she gives him a bone crushing hug when they reunite, he still sees the Cassidy Williams he fell in love with. His arms instinctively wrap around her, pulling her close, before he remembers himself and pushes Cassidy away.
This terrifies him – this idea that the girl he loves isn't dead – because he doesn't know if he can go through any of what needs to be done if she's around.
Cassi—no—Angel hates his name almost as much as what he has become. As his name – his new name – rolls off her tongue, her beautiful ruby lips curl into a snarl. He would always be Ricky Owens in her eyes, even though Mr. E has managed to kill most of Ricky and keep the rest of him at bay.
"Is the Disk really worth it?" she asks late one night. "Is this worth it?"
"It will be," he hisses.
"It won't be, E." Angel turns on her heel, her brown eyes melting into a liquid black. Ricky used to get lost in those angry eyes, but now Mr. E just feels irritable when they seek to defy him.
He instinctively calls out to her. "Angel. Wait."
His voice makes her pause, and he turns around to see the angelic face of Cassidy Williams staring back at her. She's no angel, though (she hasn't been one since they reunited), but she's still the same Cassidy Williams, the same angel dynamite, he fell in love with so long ago.
But that doesn't matter anymore, does it? Ricky Williams might have cared, might have said something more (which was probably why he had called out in the first place), but Mr. E views her merely as a pawn to manipulate, use, and dispose of.
"Stay out of my way or I'll kill you."
The nasty glare he receives in turn haunts him for days.
He convinces himself that it's from the bad clams he ate the other day.
They fight all the time now, raking their finely lacquered claws into each other in half-hearted attempts to rip their respective masks to shreds. He tries to destroy the Cassidy Williams he knew every time he sees her. Mr. E, on the other hand, has to do his utmost best to ignore the way her pointed comments penetrate his armor and punctuate his heart in a way Pericles never could.
"I hate you," Mr. E groans after a particularly harsh verbal spar as he goes back to his computer.
"Really?" Angel's face is expressionless, but he thinks Cassidy, or what's left of her, has a heart that's breaking.
Mr. E wouldn't have said anything. Ricky Owens' half dead soul is the one who speaks.
"I hate you," he amends, "sometimes."
(It's not much, but it's a start)
(He supposes she'll take what she can get.)
Sometimes in the dead of night when some part of him worries about her, Mr. E switches his screens from whatever he's working on to the hidden cameras her radio station and watches her for a few moments before returning to his work. It's not characteristic of the borderline-psychopathic, manipulative Mr. E to do this, but it's something that the loving boyfriend Ricky Owens would have done.
Ed Machine once raised his eyebrows slightly when he saw Mr. E change his view screen. "Doing something important, sir?"
Mr. E immediately focuses on whatever formula is running on his computer: back to work, back to plans of power and the Planispheric Disk. Ricky Owens, or what's left of him, goes back to sleep. "No."
Ed offers no comment, but Mr. E finds tabs on Cassidy regularly on his desk. He is grateful for Ed's thoughtfulness, wondering if he should give the poor man a raise. Maybe a very, very long vacation once the treasure's found, Pericles is out of the picture, and (maybe?!) Angel can become Cassidy and his again.
(Ricky Owens is only dying—he's not dead yet.)
"What were you trying to do to those kids?" she seethes, throwing her hands up in a fury. Angel is beautiful, even when she's angry, and Ed carefully takes a couple steps back. Mr. E barely manages to stand his ground – if only to keep up the necessary appearances. "Sending the Obliteratrix after them? They're lucky they didn't get killed!"
"And you think what you did was any better?" Mr. E laughs, acting awfully braver than he's feeling. Pericles was always the one for courage—not him. "Hardly! Your little reveal's splitting up those kids. I'm awfully surprised at your blatant honesty, little Angel. You were always good at lying; I'm shocked you didn't do a better job covering it all up."
"And I'm shocked at what you did!" Angel icily retorts. "What kind of gambit was that? It was sloppy! You knew I would come running if I thought those kids were in danger!"
"And what do you propose to do about our bird problem, then?" he demands.
"Something a helluva lot more intelligent than giving a blonde psychopath deadly weapons!" She grips the front of his shirt and stares at him: long and hard. Her voice is soft, laced with something innately deadly, and Ricky and Mr. E don't want to cross her in a dark alleyway late at night– hell, they don't want to cross her now.
"Next time, E," she whispers (in another time, this might have been highly erotic), "don't ever try something that stupid again or else."
He's vaguely amused. "Is that a death threat, Angel?"
"No. It's a warning." She adds quietly, softly, in the voice of Cassidy Williams, "And it's a goodbye."
And she walks out of his life for the second time.
He thinks it's goodbye but not really.
(Fate has a strange way of making sure she always returns to him.)