They sat in silence for the half hour journey back to the Hyperion. Finally, he could not stand it anymore. "I'm sorry, okay?" he mumbled, looking at her sideways.
Fred gave him a brief look before focusing on the road. "You lied to me. You told me that he didn't want to talk to you. That you figured out the cure yourself!"
Gunn clenched his jaw. "I didn't lie to you. He didn't want to talk to me. And I didn't say that I figured out the cure."
Fred glared at that. "It was implied," she said, her voice brittle.
"Look -- it was complicated, okay?" Gunn said desperately, back pedalling. "I went behind Angel's back to get help-"
"From Wesley," he agreed, nodding. "It was like reopening a wound, Fred. I want to leave it be. Forget about it. Don't wanna dig up any bad stuff, things being shitty as it was," Gunn muttered.
"It doesn't make things better, Charles. Why do you keep thinking that forgetting about stuff, pretending that it didn't happen would fix things?" Fred demanded.
"Because that's how I deal with things, Fred!" he said, his voice rising. "It's the only thing you can do where I came from! When my sister was vamped -- I had to forget that it ever happened. She died in that alley that night. She wasn't vamped! That's the only way I could deal with the shit in my life!" he yelled.
Gunn wanted to hit something then. He didn't want to loose his cool like that before Fred but he didn't know how to explain to her why he did what he did. Hell, sometimes he didn't understand why he behaved the way he did towards Wesley. He had always been black and white with his emotions. Wesley betrayed them. That meant he hated Wesley. End of story.
They finally reached the Hyperion. Gunn parked the car by the curb, but neither of them made the first move to get out. They ended up sitting in silence in the vehicle. The silence was deafening.
This time it was Fred who broke the silence. "Wesley did something to himself," she said.
"Did something?" he snorted. "I would say he did something," he muttered.
"I have not seen him like this before. I'm worried for him, Charles. I think he's using dark magic."
"Or he's been lying to us again. Maybe he's been a warlock all along."
"Stop it, Charles!" Fred snapped.
Gunn bit his lip at that. He avoided her intense stare and kept his eyes on the road before him.
Fred frowned heavily. "Are you jealous of him, Charles?"
That startled him. "W-what?" he looked at her nervously.
"If that's the reason why you're doing all this-"
"Don't be stu ... don't talk like that, Fred," he snapped. He opened his side door and made a move to get out, but Fred caught his hand, stopping him.
"I'm right, aren't I? You want to make sure he stays away. From me," she accused.
Gunn sat back into his seat and gave her a firm look. "I want him to stay the hell away from us because he stole Connor away and gave him to Holtz. Who knows what else he's capable of? He doesn't care about us! He only cares about his moldy prophecies!"
Fred released her grip on his hand. "You know what I realised this long summer? What I finally realised when I saw Wesley tonight? We are no better than the vampires he burnt. We have souls, Charles. But we don't know how to forgive. We don't even know what forgiveness is. It would have been better if we had no souls. At least then we'd have an excuse!"
At that she got of the car and slammed the door shut. Gunn stared at his knuckles, thinking furiously. Jealous? Him? As if Wesley had any chance with Fred!
Gunn frowned. He knew that he was lying to himself. At the bottom of his primal heart -- the one that had everything to do with Fred -- he did feel threatened by Wesley. Especially after that night when Wesley made him promise to take care of Fred.
He knew then that Wesley had felt the same away about Fred. Gunn had felt confused then. On one hand, he was delirious with joy that Fred loved him. On the other hand, he felt crushed that he was the cause of Wesley's misery. Another side of him, however, was wary. Another side of him was sharpening knives at the thought of Wesley coming near Fred. That side of him secretly planned ways to ensure that Wesley stayed away. It was the same side that secretly rejoiced when Wesley was estranged from them. How convenient. How easy. Finally he and Fred could be together without Wesley around to threaten Gunn's claim on Fred.
Gunn sighed. Was he angry at Wesley because he betrayed them...or was he angry that he was a threat to his relationship with Fred?
He didn't have time to think of the answer because someone screamed then.
They were in a meadow full of yellow flowers. He could see snow-capped mountains in the distance and hear the sounds of a bubbling brook nearby. The meadow reminded him of his village in Ireland, and he felt peaceful, despite the bright sun on him.
Cordelia gave him a small, sad smile when he said her name. Her hair was long and dark again and she wore a white, gauzy dress with long sleeves that seem to be made out of the softest of silk. It fluttered around her like wisps of cotton. Her eyes, always full of mischief and humour before, were subdued.
"Angel," she acknowledged.
He looked around. The world felt real; he could feel the soft texture of the daisies; could smell the cold, sharp air and feel the heat of the sun. He knew he was dreaming, and yet he knew that Cordelia was real. What was happening? Was he finally really dead?
Cordelia shrugged. "I thought you'd be more comfortable here," she said, as if she just read his mind -- which she probably did.
He had thought of her so much during the hellish long months imprisoned in the box. How he had regretted not telling her what he felt.
"I miss you," he murmured.
Cordelia looked down. "Me too."
He had to say it now, before the dream ended and he's back in that horrible prison. "Cordelia, I lo-"
"No, don't," she said abruptly and reached out to touch his hand. It felt warm, real. Alive. "Things are different now, Angel. I'm different now. I-"
"You don't love me," he muttered, looking down. He sounded like a little kid denied of his favourite toy, but he didn't care how he sounded.
Cordelia lifted his chin with a gentle brush of her hand. "Not that. I can't love you."
"The curse," he said, and felt his hopes dying with him.
She shook her head. "Not the curse. I'm somewhere else now, Angel. I'm not even human anymore."
"You're a demon. I know that."
"No..." she blinked away sudden tears. "I'm not even that anymore. I'm not even supposed to be here, talking to you. They wouldn't be happy if they found out."
"They?" he frowned. "The Powers That Be?"
He grew alarmed. "What did they do to you? Where did they take you?"
Cordelia brushed his face gently with her hand. "Shh," she whispered. "It's okay. I have things to do now. And you have things to do as well. I know what Connor did to you," she frowned heavily.
He winced, trying not to remember his dank, dark cell.
"I'm going to help you get free, but I want you to promise me something."
Angel merely stared into her eyes. They seemed to glow.
"Don't look for me, okay?"
He felt a dull pain in his chest -- which seemed strange since he didn't have a beating heart.
"Cordelia, no..." he shook his head and grabbed her shoulders. "I don't want to loose you too. We're a family!"
She gave him a small smile. "I know. But I'll always be watching you."
"I want you by my side!" he demanded.
"You have people down there. People like Fred, Gunn, Connor and ... Wesley."
"I don't want to have anything to do with him!" he growled.
"You have to forgive him, Angel. I don't know what The Powers That Be intend, I don't know what the future holds, but I can sense what's going to happen. If you don't forgive him, there will be a terrible price to pay," she trailed off, shaking her head. "I'm saying too much already."
"Please. Come back," he begged, clutching her hand.
Cordelia looked stricken. "Please don't make it any more difficult than it is. Just remember what I said, Angel."
Then the sunlight disappeared, and with that so did the meadow, the snow-capped mountains and Cordelia.
"Cordelia!" he screamed.
Then he felt water rushing into his mouth and when he opened his eyes, he saw blue light around him. His body was rushing to the surface, pushed by some supernatural power. And then cold air slapped him in the face.
Sound returned. He heard the crashing waves, the cry of a lone seagull. The full moon stared down at him.
Angel was free.
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