Faded Prayers
by Syrenslure

"Layers. That's what it is all about," Cordelia mused. "One thing after another, piled high, rolled together for one tasty bite."

She sat cross-legged on the bare floor, eating sushi from the black plastic container that she had picked up at the health food store on the corner. She maneuvered the cheap wooden chopsticks to pick up another slice of the sushi roll and looked at it carefully. Sesame seeds, shiny, sticky rice and seaweed going round and round. Carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, takuan and salmon. Layers.

Each was hand rolled, shaped by an expert with quick hands and a quicker knife. It was beyond her control and no two bites were alike. You could see it all, but you never knew for sure what it would be like until you sank your teeth into the tender flesh.

She pressed the sushi into the wasabi and brought it to her lips. She bit deeply and immediately hissed, breathing quickly through her mouth as the fire burned hotly through the roof of her mouth, all the way through her nasal passages. That was part of it, too - getting burned. Another layer.

She had misjudged the amount of the spicy condiment in the dim room. She hadn't turned on the lights and she had left the heavy drapes drawn tightly over the picture window. The only light was the eerie glow from the globe that sat across the room, where her television had once been. It was her hope and her curse. It was Angel's soul. Layers.


The only other thing in the room, in the whole apartment, was a small end table with a telephone. She knew that she should make the call. That was the reason she had the phone installed, after all. Even if she hadn't known it, she knew.

It was that instinct that had made her come back here to start with. She had wandered back here a couple of weeks ago, just after she had returned, right after she had regained her memory, when she was still trying to come to terms with who she was now, what it all meant, why she was back. She was searching, and this is what she had found.

She couldn't think when she was around Connor, in his space. Sometimes, that's why she stayed. He consumed her, smothered her. She was Queen C, the prize in the chess game between father and son. Two men who loved her. One she couldn't love, the other she shouldn't, but did.

She had walked till her feet hurt almost as much as her heart and her mind was almost as numb. It had brought her here.

The only things here were the memories, like shadows fading as she walked down the hall, seeing things as they were, as they are. Layer upon layer, all jumbled and mixed and juxtaposed, they were like her memories of Angel, Angelus...

Photographs in her mind, wispy shadows and faded prayers. The hottie who was Buffy's boyfriend ... the elusive brooding vamp ... Angelus in Sunnydale ... the man who saved her and became her friend ... the man she fell in love with ... the monster who had wrecked havoc for almost two centuries ... the man she gave up paradise for ... the man she couldn't have ... the man she betrayed ... the man she loved ... the monster he became ... the monster, the man. The past, the present. No future.

Apparently Dennis was up to his ghostly tricks, scaring off prospective tenants, because the apartment was still empty, but for her memories. She had barely laid her hand upon the door when it had swung open for her.

"Hello, Dennis," were the first words she had spoken since leaving the hotel and the last she had spoken all that night. She slept on the cold floor, no pillows, no blankets, and no comfort.

The landlord had seemed relieved the next morning when she had explained her the family emergency that had kept her away and asked to re-rent the apartment. She was the only one who had ever managed to live there for any length of time.

She had a little bit of money saved from before she left. She had learned to live frugally. It was her salvation, her security. If her parents losing everything hadn't taught her that lesson, getting fired by Angel had. She scrimped and saved, putting everything she could in her small account. She kept up the facade and learned how to keep up her image, while planning for the future, whatever it held.

Apparently, this was it - the moment of her own making. Forever and ever, amen. Nothing to do, but to sit and wait. Wait for him to come for her.


Angelus had bided his time, playing, toying with them. He would drop cryptic hints and watch them scurry like rats in a maze to figure them out. It turned out that Angelus had helped to slaughter the Bosh M'ad all those years ago. That had been the massacre she had seen.

He hadn't been an ally of The Beast, not really. Though he had been intrigued by the idea of apocalyptic perpetual darkness, he wasn't going to be second to anyone, not even a demon who could blot out the sun. Angelus had led them to the sword, but they had been unsure of what to do next. Angel was the only one among them who stood a chance, and he was gone. Connor hated being told he was second to Angel in anything and had stormed out when they wouldn't give him the sword.

They had learned eventually, that during the massacre, one of the priests had survived long enough to open a portal while the demon battled with Angelus. Angelus had pierced The Beast with a sword and pushed him through the portal. The sword had been coated with blood from Angelus' own wounds, forming a bond with the demon.

The beast had grown strong and the blood of Connor's birth, supernatural and strong, containing part of Angel's own had been the catalyst to allow him to return to this world. It also explained Conner's connection to the beast. Part of his father flowed through his veins. Another layer.

Angelus was more open to this connection than his souled alter-ego. It allowed him to track The Beast, even as it tracked him. It was probably what had allowed him to defeat it as well. The sun had risen brightly this morning, signalling that daylight had returned, and she knew that it meant that her own time was running out.

She rose and took the remains of her lunch into the kitchen, her appetite faded by the knowledge. She opened the refrigerator and pushed aside the bottled water to reach for the only other thing in the fridge, a half empty bottle of cheap wine.

She dumped the crushed ice and syrupy remains of her diet soda down the drain and rinsed out the styrofoam cup she had bought with her lunch. She added fresh ice from the automatic icemaker in the otherwise empty freezer and poured the deep red wine over it. It was a far cry from the elegant stemware and expensive libations of her upbringing. It had neither culture, nor class, but it was tolerably palatable when it was cold.

"Dutch courage," as the acrid crimson liquid slipped past her tongue. She licked a few stray drops from her lips as another memory swelled up from her childhood. Little girls in frilly white dresses and diaphanous wedding veils. "This is my body. This is my blood."

A trembling bride as she waited for her bridegroom to join her in unholy matrimony. She knew her would come. Her body. Her blood. Her time running out as the sun slipped beneath the silk sheets of night.

She was no blushing virgin, a fact that Angelus knew too well. She had seen it in his eyes as he held Fred's life in his hands. He had looked into her eyes and sniffed deeply of the young physicist. He had smiled at her, not Gunn, as he had snapped Fred's delicate neck.

He laughed, as Gunn rushed him with the axe to avenge his lover, and sidestepped the blade. It fell between the bars harmlessly. Angelus reached for the shaft and pulled Gunn off-balance toward the cage. She remembered that Gunn still had the keys in his pocket from when he had fed Angelus earlier that day. She grabbed the globe and left as quickly as she could. Angelus' laughter rang in her ears, as she left her friend to his fate.

She could have stayed and fought, tried to save him, but they didn't understand. None of them did. She was what stood between Angelus and the rest of the world. He would come for her, and if she couldn't stop him, then nothing could. She had promised him long ago, on the rooftop of Angel Investigations, not to let that happen.

That was why she should be making her phone call, why she should be warning Giles and Buffy and Willow, and it was why she didn't. This was her job, her mission and God help them all if she failed.

She didn't pray anymore. She had stopped going to church a long time ago and wasn't even sure if she believed in God. How could she, a demon, a former higher being herself, who fought evil on a daily basis? But, as she closed her eyes and remembered the pleading look Fred had given her right before the light faded from her eyes, another remnant of her childhood formed on her lips, mixed with the bitter wine.

"Holy Mary, Mother of God..."

She wondered if there was anyone to hear her prayer. Maybe she was cursed. She had seen an episode of the X-Files once where this guy had incredibly good luck, but all around him people died in horrible freak accidents, their luck run out. Her luck seemed nothing but bad, but the rest was true enough. Or maybe when Angel had saved her, so long ago, she took someone else's portion of luck. Maybe Fred's.

There was such innocence in Fred's soul, a soul that was now gone to wherever it would go, freed by Angelus' hands in the moment he broke her neck. She knew because she had touched it once. Connor wasn't the first she had reached out to for comfort, to make sense of a world in which there seemed no reason, an anchor in storm-tossed seas. That was her weakness. This was her penance.

Two years ago when they had returned from Pylea, she had come home to the news of Buffy's death and the knowledge that her visions, her connection to The Powers that Be, her purpose, could be taken away from her. All that she fought for, had become, could be lost to her and when it was gone, her life, her death would be meaningless. Buffy had died, once again saving the world, but what had she done? What affect had she truly had on all the pain and suffering and evil she had felt in her non-stop vision the year before?

The shy, young girl who had suffered for years in Pylea, who had risked everything to save her, was even more lost than she. Their captors had made her a princess, royalty, but had tortured and treated the other girl worse than an animal. She would have liked to believe that it was kindness that caused her to turn to Fred, but even that was selfishness. She needed to feel connected, to feel something real. Maybe if she could give comfort and kindness to the other woman, then she could find it for herself.

She had reached out to brush taco sauce from the shy brunette's cheek and heard the sharp intake of breath, saw the wild eyes that darted, looking for escape, even as they begged for comfort. She had answered by leaning over the food on the floor between them and gently pressed her lips to Fred's. She leaned back and looked at her skittish companion, watching, waiting. When Fred had tentatively raised her hand to Cordelia's face, the seer smiled reassuringly and placed her hand over Fred's. She stood and led the other girl over to the bed.

She had experimented a bit in high school, but had never really made love to another woman. Still, she figured that she had more experience than Fred, who sat stiffly on the side of the bed. She took the lead.

Cordelia continued to hold Fred's hand and used her other to brush the wispy curtain of hair back from the other girl's face, coming to rest on the back of her head. Fred smiled and Cordelia gently pulled the other girl forward and kissed her again. This time, Fred's lips parted under hers and their tongues met. One shy, one bold, they explored.

Fred began to relax and reached out to tentatively caress Cordelia's flat stomach and cup her full breast. Cordelia took this as invitation to continue and slid her hand under Fred's blouse. The smaller girl wore no bra and Cordelia brushed her thumb over a semi-erect nipple. It hardened at her touch and Fred arched into her touch.

They finally released each other's hand and Cordelia pulled her lover's shirt up over her head. Fred tried to cover her naked chest, folding her arms around herself and ducking her head down, shyly. Cordelia reached out and lifted the other girl's chin, smiling reassuringly at her. She lifted Fred's hands from around her and brought them to her lips. Smooth as silk, with the scent of baby powder and anti-bacterial soap, she brought them to her lips, never breaking eye contact with the timid, young woman as she placed the softest of kisses across her knuckles. She kept their hands entwined and lowered them to the bed. She gazed upon the woman who sat so close and whispered reverently, "You're beautiful."

Fred blushed and lifted her hands. Cordelia let her go and was rewarded when Fred reached for her shirt, baring her, as she herself was bared. They kissed and explored for what seemed like hours. They were wrapped around each other on the bed, legs entwined, hands and lips a blur of sensation, when Cordelia decided to up the ante. She lifted her thigh between Fred's legs and pressed it into her sex. She flexed and released the muscles of her leg in a rhythmic massage until Fred was writhing against her, bucking her hips and humping her leg.

Then she reached for the waistband of Fred's shorts, the heat flowing between them like a brand as she pulled them down, panties and all. She didn't let up, giving the serious young woman no time to think as she pushed her fingers into her damp, dark curls. She rubbed against Fred's swollen clit and pressed against her, capturing gasps and moans with her lips, absorbing them into herself.

She slid her fingers down Fred's damp slit and plunged two of them inside her tight passage. She curved them upwards and brushed her thumb back over her clit. Cordelia felt her climax against her hand, clamping down rhythmically against her fingers, crying out in bliss. The sights, sounds and scents of pleasure filled the air. Cordelia coaxed her over the waves of bliss, and then sat up to remove the rest of her own clothing.

Fred reached for her and began to suckle her breast. She sucked deeply and ran her tongue in circles around the hardened nub, while her hand massaged the other. Cordelia moaned and pressed against her. Fred bit down gently and felt Cordy arch her hips in need. Seeing and hearing the other woman's response allowed her to grow bolder, and she reached for Cordelia's mound. She pressed against it with the palm of her hand while continuing to tease her breasts.

She parted the lips of Cordelia's sex with the tip of her finger, while raising her head to meet Cordy's eyes. Fred watched, entranced and began to stroke her, moving her finger round and round in the wetness, circling Cordelia's clit. She added another finger and used the pads of her slick fingers to press against the little bundle of nerves in tight circles, like she sometimes did when she touched herself. Cordelia reached for her. With one hand she pulled Fred to her for a deep kiss; with the other, she guided Fred's fingers down and roughly pushed them inside of her. She cried out against Fred's lips, grasping at her, as she rode out her climax.

Slowly, she released her, but kept her close, knowing instinctively that the contact was important. Fred fell asleep in her arms. Cordelia held her, drifting in and out herself, until the young physicist awoke. She brushed the girl's hair back from her face, placed a chaste kiss on her forehead and then got up and dressed.

She smiled at Fred, who held the sheet modestly against her thin body. "I'll see you tomorrow. Maybe we can play chess again." Fred smiled nervously and Cordelia shut the door behind her.

They had never talked about what happened, and Cordelia had felt a little guilty, but Fred began to open up a bit more and even ventured out of her room soon after. Fred trusted her. Or at least she had, right up to the moment that she had let Angelus kill her.

"Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."


It was sunset. She could feel it; it was almost time. She wondered for a moment if he would need an invitation, but no one else had lived here since her, and he had previously been invited. She was also a demon now, and she knew that Angel could freely enter the homes of other demons. She hoped that she would be strong enough to issue the invite if needed.

She sat back down on the floor with her wine and waited, giving passing thought to Connor, Wesley and Lorne. She hoped Connor had been smart enough to hide and Lorne's precognitive talents had led him to do the same, but somehow she doubted it. As for Wesley... Well, she hoped the end was quick for him.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

The door swung off its hinges and came crashing in. Angelus stepped through. "Honey, I'm home!" he said in a singsong voice.

"Well, that answers that question," she mumbled under her breath.

He came after her and the phone went flying upside his head, as Dennis tried to defend her. He growled and his face shifted to that of his demon.

"Now, is that anyway to say hello?" he ranted as he continued to stalk her around the living room. He cut off any escape she tried to make, toying with her. "You work hard all day, and just want to come home to a nice, hot meal. Is that too much to ask?"

He finally grabbed for her, and she fought back with all of her strength, but a strong backhand sent her sprawling across the floor. He pinned her there, lying on top of her, his thighs across hers and her hands grasped in one of his over her head. They were pressed intimately together. He caressed her face like a love, but the sneering smile on his face belied his tenderness.

The swirling light across the room drew his attention. "Is that the soul? Now, what did you think you were going to do with that?"

I shall fear no evil.

"Well, that's ok. I'll take care of that for you, later. In the meantime... " He looked down at the brunette beauty below him and smiled wickedly.

He leaned in and sniffed her deeply, just like he had Fred. She knew that he could smell her arousal and her fear.

He jerked on the front of her shirt and ripped it open. He squeezed her breast roughly, and she responded, despite her fear, to the monster that wore her lover's face.

"You'll give it up for anyone, won't you? Connor, Fred, anyone except the man you love," he drawled the last word sarcastically and then laughed. "Kind of ironic, though, how that is the one thing that set me free. He got all happy thinking about finally getting into your pants. He always was a sucker for a good fuck. Maybe I should do you both a favor and find out what he was missing before I kill you. It's only fair, don't you think?"

She could only whimper, not sure if she wanted him to fulfill his threat or not. Confusion, fear, need... her angel with the face of a devil.

He laughed again and leaned down to run his tongue roughly from between her breasts, over her collarbone, up her neck. He spoke softly, directly into her ear. "Then again, maybe not. After all, I've seen you in action... Places to go, people to kill and all that. You understand."

Deliver us from evil.

He sunk his fangs into her neck. Cordelia could feel him draining her life from her. She closed her eyes and remembered: her life; his life; everything that brought them to this point; everything that she had learned. She began to glow.

Light spread out from her body, enveloping them both. It spread out, illuminating the whole room. He held on, his hands digging painfully into her arms as he fought the pain, drinking through it, trying to drain her. He still fed as the light extended further, until it reached the globe across the room, the one that held his soul. There was a bright flash and Angelus lifted up his head and screamed.

One thing after another, layer upon layer.

Forever and ever, Amen.