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AtS Fic: "Undrowning" [1/1]

This is something I wrote as a sort of writing exercise, experimenting with style and mood and trying to practice writing shorter pieces, telling stories with fewer words. It's really just a series of snapshots, tied together by the words of a poem. Don't know why my writing's been so melancholy lately, though. Guess angst is just fun to do.

Title: "Undrowning"
Fandom: Angel
Summary: How was one supposed go about comparison shopping for funeral homes, anyway?
Rating: PG
Author's Note: Post "You're Welcome." The poem, "Dirge Without Music," is by Edna St. Vincent Millay.



Undrowning


The elevator was coffin-shaped.

He'd chosen the funeral home out of the yellow pages at random. How was one supposed go about comparison shopping for funeral homes, anyway?

It had seemed so important, before, to take care of everything himself. But now that he was here in this soothingly decorated office talking to this woman with the sensible shoes and plastic name tag, it wasn't anything like he'd thought it would be. Nothing about this was personal or meaningful. It was a business transaction. Like closing on a house, only instead of purchasing your dream home you were burying a loved one.

And then the woman--saleswoman, that's what she really was--suggested they go downstairs to choose the casket. And they followed her into an old-fashioned elevator with a brass gate. It reminded him of the one at the Hyperion, except that this elevator was coffin-shaped, because of course that's what it had been built for. Transporting the dearly departed from the basement mortuary up to the viewing rooms.

On the elevator ride he wondered if Cordy was down there already, or if she was still in the hospital morgue.

Now Angel stood in a display room filled with coffins of all colors, styles and sizes, and he had no idea what to do. Style had always been so important to Cordelia. (You didn't just hurt me, you gave away my clothes.) He was suddenly, desperately afraid of making the wrong choice. They were all so... awful. Every time he tried to picture Cordy's skin against one of these lace-trimmed satin cushions he felt like he was going to vomit.

He looked over at Wes. Their eyes met and he saw his own revulsion and helplessness mirrored in his friend's expression.

"I think perhaps we should revisit the option of cremation," said Wesley to the saleswoman in his smooth, gentle voice.

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Orange light slanted in through the windows as Angel fumbled with the buttons on his shirt. His fingers felt thick and unwieldy as they attempted to maneuver the tiny plastic discs through the narrow holes in the fabric.

He'd spent an hour choosing what to wear. Such a simple decision to make, yet he had agonized over it, riddled with self-doubt.

He wished he could remember her favorite color, or whether she'd ever seen him in a tie. (You might want to think about mixing up the black-on-black look.) In the end he had gone with an old, burgundy silk shirt he'd found at the back of his closet. She'd complimented it once, a long time ago, when life had been simpler and full of small joys. He hadn't properly appreciated it at the time.

There was a knock and the door opened. Four sets of familiar footsteps filed in behind him. "It's time," said Wes quietly.

He finished the last button and turned to face the others. The sight of them brought to mind another night when they'd all gotten dressed up to go out together. Memories washed over him: silk sliding over sweat-dampened skin; pent-up desires unshackled. Firmly, he pushed them all away--they would drown him if he let them.

"I'm ready," said Angel, though he didn't feel anything like it.

"Angel--" said Fred hesitantly.

"What?"

"Your shirt."

He looked down, wondering what was wrong with it. "Oh." He'd missed a button. Ten minutes just to button his shirt and he'd done it all wrong. (I naturally assumed you'd be lost without me, but this?)

Fred stepped forward and methodically unbuttoned and re-buttoned it for him. "There," she said, smoothing the fabric when she was done. "All better."

She looked up at him, her eyes soft and sympathetic. It was too much. (I am lost without you.) He stepped away from her, a little more brusquely than he'd meant to, and silently cursed his own awkwardness.

"Let's go," he said, heading for the door before anyone tried to say anything else.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

They took the Plymouth, for old times sake. It was Gunn who found it, neglected and nearly forgotten, in a far corner of the Wolfram & Hart garage, under a dusty drop cloth.

Angel drove, hands gripping the wheel tightly, trying not to look at the passenger seat. He didn't want to see that Wesley sat there now, silent and grim, not Cordelia, bright and brassy. (Get over it. I mean that in a sensitive way.)

The night was cold; the silver moon preceding them even colder.

A glance in the rear view mirror brought an image of Fred shivering in the back seat between Gunn and Lorne, and a memory of slender, tanned fingers hijacking his mirror to apply bright pink lipstick.

At the next red light Angel leaned over a vaguely surprised Wesley and snapped open the glove compartment. He rummaged around in the clutter of maps and old receipts until his fingers closed on a small plastic tube. He pulled it out and turned it over in his hand.

"Heart's Desire," the color was called. (Are you gonna become loser pining guy, like, full time?) He put it back in the glove compartment.

The light turned green and Angel drove on.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Cordelia's parents had sent a large funeral wreath to the office rather than risk re-entering the country. The smell of the gardenias had given Angel a headache and he'd made Harmony toss it into the incinerator.

There were only seven people at the service. All the lives Cordelia had touched, and only seven had been moved to pay their last respects. (Oh, and you're welcome.) He might have been surprised, but he wasn't.

Wesley was. Angel watched him pacing back and forth, his footsteps leaving ever deepening imprints in the sand.

"Maybe they didn't get the message," said Fred.

"They got it," said Wes darkly. "They just didn't care."

Uncharitable, perhaps, but not necessarily untrue, thought Angel.

He hadn't even allowed himself to wonder if Buffy would come. She'd never been close to Cordelia herself, didn't understand what Cordy had come to mean to him. Couldn't understand. If she had--well, Buffy certainly wouldn't have come then, would she? (I’m not a sniveling, whiny little Cry-Buffy, I’m the nastiest girl in Sunnydale history.)

The same went for the others, he supposed. Sunnydale was nothing but a ragged hole in the ground, now. The people who had lived there were scattered to the four winds, the bonds that once held them together irreversibly broken.

He had thought perhaps Xander, at least, might come, but then Angel vaguely remembered something about Xander getting engaged.

Obla dee, obla da. Life goes on.

For some, anyway.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave. I know.
But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

"A butterfly lands beside us like a sunbeam," said Lorne, the waves crashing behind him like a symphony. "And for a brief moment its glory and beauty belong to our world. But then it flies away..." Borrowed words. Borrowed time.

Angel had asked Lorne to lead the service, such as it was. Seven people on a beach with a cardboard box of ashes. (Nothing's going to happen to Cordelia. I won't allow it.)

Harmony cried when Lorne sang "Over the Rainbow." Spike stood beside her, flicking cigarette ash into the sand.

When Wes stepped forward to speak Angel averted his eyes and tuned out the words, letting them float away from him like smoke on the wind. Lorne had to nudge him when it was time.

He gripped the box tightly as he stepped into the water. The waves lapped against his legs and the sand sucked at his shoes, threatening to pull him down. He'd been down there once before. There were no seasons at the bottom of those depths, and no death. There was nothing down there but dreams and madness.

"Angel, you need help?" he heard Gunn say, and realized that he'd just been standing there, frozen. They were all waiting on him. (I am lost without you.)

He opened the box and turned it upside down. Cordelia's earthly remains--that was the funeral home's tasteful euphemism--fell into the ocean with a plop. It was less poetic than he had imagined it would be.

Angel stared at the water, watching as the ashes swirled in the surf, dissolving into the sea like sugar.

For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem. Amen.

The waves washed in and then out again, bearing her away with the tide. Away from her home. Away from her friends. Away from him.

In the sky overhead, unseen, a lone star plunged through the cold heavens.

(I'll be seeing you.)


THE END

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Comments

( 110 comments — Leave a comment )
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kcarolj65
Jan. 30th, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC)
You call this spam? It's gorgeous. Heartbreaking, a fitting tribute to Cordelia and her place in Angel's life. Beautifully done.
hannasus
Jan. 30th, 2006 11:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
a2zmom
Jan. 30th, 2006 09:32 pm (UTC)
beautiful and painful and perfect. I would quote lines but then I'd quote the whole thing.
hannasus
Jan. 30th, 2006 11:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it.
helygen
Jan. 30th, 2006 10:01 pm (UTC)
Oh dear god this is beautiful, so poignant and eloquent and heartbreaking. Wonderful work!
hannasus
Jan. 30th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
lostakasha
Jan. 31st, 2006 12:21 am (UTC)
This was so painfully lovely...it brought tears to my eyes. This rings so terribly true, and is so beautifully written that I can't wait to pimp you all over the place! Hope you don't mind, but I've added you to my Flist -- don't want to miss a word of your AtS fic.
hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 02:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the FB and for the rec'ing! New friends are always a good thing! *friends you back*
chrisleeoctaves
Jan. 31st, 2006 12:52 am (UTC)
lostakasha recced this in her LJ...and deservedly so. This was spare and elegant and a fitting tribute to the important place Cordy had in Angel's life. Really lovely.
hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
damnskippytoo
Jan. 31st, 2006 02:06 am (UTC)
OMG, I can't stop crying. That is gorgeous. I wish we'd been allowed to see a little bit of this grieving on screen. Cordy deserved so much better than she got. Thanks for this beautiful look into the heart of Angel that seemed to have disappeared in S5. Thanks to lostakasha for reccing this at ST and thank you for writing it!
hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 03:01 pm (UTC)
*passes you a tissue* Is it wrong that it makes me happy when my fics make people cry? Cordy really did deserve better--it's always bothered me that we never saw any grieving for her onscreen at all. I think it's why so many of my Angel fics tend to dwell on her absence.
samsom
Jan. 31st, 2006 02:31 am (UTC)
Thank you for writing this, it was so beautiful. You really captured Angel's hopelessness and sense of being lost without her, and the poem was so fitting for his mood.
Just lovely.
Now I want to cry for my Cordy all over again.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 31st, 2006 02:57 am (UTC)
Undrowning
Beautiful.

You have a gift Hannasus, thank you for sharing.

take care, sarahk_4005
(no subject) - hannasus - Jan. 31st, 2006 03:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!
seekingwords
Jan. 31st, 2006 03:11 am (UTC)
I also got the link from lostakasha, who recced it at ST.

Your story makes me feel a little better about the big nothing they gave us after You're Welcome. Really beautiful!

hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 03:08 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it! Thanks!
makd
Jan. 31st, 2006 04:36 am (UTC)
breathtaking. I felt as though I was there. thank you; I wish we'd seen this in the following episode after YW.
hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 03:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!
adoxerella
Jan. 31st, 2006 06:16 am (UTC)
Beautiful. You did a great job of capturing Cordy's place in Angel's life, as well as capturing the grief of the whole group. The whole tone seemed to so true to the characters that it hurt (the good kind) to read. This was a wonderful story.
hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much.
lillianmorgan
Jan. 31st, 2006 08:19 am (UTC)
I, too, am over from lostakasha's rec and just wanted to add how beautiful and heartbreaking I found this. I'm a great fan of ESVM and her sonnets of love lost do fit so well into this moment.
I particularly enjoyed Angel's aparent dearth of emotion as he went moved from moment to moment, yet you could see how much he missed her in the parenthical outbursts. Particularly liked the placement of the 'You're Welcome'.
Would you mind if I friended you? I'd love to read more of what you're writing.
hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And new friends are always a treat. *goes to friend you back* You can find my other fics linked in my memories or tags. I'm about to overhaul my fic archive, so that site's not 100% up to date.
girlpire
Jan. 31st, 2006 05:17 pm (UTC)
damn you, hannasus. you made me cry. *sniff*
hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
Aw, sorry. Except not really. :) Thanks for reading!
altyronsmaker
Jan. 31st, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
I'm sittin here crying, literally crying, sniffling and rying to be quiet so no one hears me. This was just perfect.

I think my favorite parts are when Angel reaches into the glove box and pull out Cordy's lipstick, then just as matter of factly, puts it back. And when he drops her ashes into the ocean, they don't scatter on a wind, but just plop down onto the water, just like she plopped down into his life, then they disintegrate into the ocean, like she integrated herself into his world. Beautiful.

And her parenthetical comments, "Oh, and you're welcome." and "I'll be seeing you." Perfect.
hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 10:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I really struggled with the parentheticals, trying to pick just the right ones and using them sparingly so it wasn't overdone.
effulgentnida
Jan. 31st, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
that was lovely and heartbreaking, it brought a tear to my eye, I was bothered too about the fact that we never got to see anyone grieve after YW, it would of been nice if there was a mention in the next episode, I think the only time Cordy was mentioned was when Spike and Angel were trying to save Fred and Angel said that he lost he lost cordy and He didn't want to loose anyone else, but still lovely fic, good work.
hannasus
Jan. 31st, 2006 10:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
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( 110 comments — Leave a comment )

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