To Have And To Hold


AUTHOR: CALIFI (aka Sachi)
SUMMARY: An oath made comes back to haunt.
RATING: R/NC17
POSTED: 24 Feb 2004
CATEGORY: Angst / Friendship / Romance
CONTENT/PAIRING: Buffy/Angel Friendship, Eventual Cordelia/Angel Romance – Set BTVS Season 3 – Totally AU
WARNINGS: Sexual Content
FICPIC CREDIT: CALIFI
AUTHOR NOTES: I actually dreamed this, and it was still with me when I woke up, so bear with me, okay?


ficpic_califi_THATH


Prologue
“Take her now- we are running out of time” The well-dressed old Sage held out the heavily-swathed babe desperately; impatience temporarily melting away the weariness in his watery blue eyes for a moment. “Remember your oath, vampire.”

“An oath given under duress, if I recall, old man,” Gold eyes raked the slight form with disdain, only briefly resting on the bundle held in his shaking arms.

“Let us not argue semantics.” Anxiety choked his surprisingly strong voice as the Sage again held out the baby. The sound of intense battle became louder by the second; time was running out.

With a low growl, the vampire snatched the bundle, his gentle grip at odds with the savagery on his dark face. Relief flooded the old man’s face, then he fumbled under his robes quickly, hand emerging seconds later with a small blue orb.

“This will take you to a random place in time- most likely some point in the future,” he explained hurriedly, as he held it out. “ Once there, you can again use the orb to return approximately a month from now- more than enough time for them to have given up.” With a reluctant sigh, the vampire snatched the orb and turned to go- halted abruptly by the Sage, who uncharacteristically begged: “Keep her safe. She is precious to us all.”

Not deigning to reply, the dark demon continued his flight, the babe held close to his powerful chest. He didn’t stop until her reached the battlements; the smell of death now hung heavily in the air. Taking a deep, uneeded breath, he held out the orb, which began to glow eerily- then bright light seared his eyes.

Once dimmed, he found himself in a secluded street.

“What the…” he dove out of the way as a fast moving object of light and metal streaked towards him, a loud deep screeching emitting from the strange carriage almost piercing his ear drums.

As it disappeared into the distance, his eyes were drawn to his arms by a startled cry. Gold eyes met with the wide dark blue of a newborn, tinged with the colours of autumn. Without thinking, the demon rocked the little bundle and soothed the distressed babe, then jerked his head up to look around, relieved that no one had witnessed his momentary gentleness. He was a feared soulless vampire for Christ sakes!

Inwardly cursing the day he’d ever crossed paths with the powerful Sage and his reckless agreement of ‘body guard’- well, he hadn’t had much choice at the time; he lifted sharp eyes to assess his whereabouts. After several minutes of checking out the few abodes in the quiet street, the vampire headed towards the only one with lights burning within. Clearing the imposing gates effortlessly, he soundlessly approached the equally imposing manor.

After eyeing the couple in one of the downstairs rooms, he made his decision. Making his way to the front entrance, he gently laid his bundle at the large door, rapped the heavy wood and melted into the shadows to wait. Within minutes the door opened and the young man, closely followed by the pretty woman looked around enquiringly. The sound of a weak whimper drew their eyes to the ground, and with a gasp of surprise, the young woman stepped past the man, stooped down and swept up the bundle of living flesh and blood.

“Oh my God, Matthew, look- it’s a baby!” checking the darkened grounds one more time, the couple retreated back into their home and closed the door firmly behind them.

Satisfied he’d kept his end of the bargain- somewhat, the demon retreated further away, shrugging off the sweet scent of the babe that clung to his clothes and extracted the orb holding it out carefully.

“Their precious little bundle is safe- she doesn’t need me around.” he reasoned; he’d probably end up eating the little morsel anyway. After all, Angelus, the Scourge of Europe wasn’t known for his philanthropy. The blinding light that engulfed him once again hid his careless shrug…
*****
That scent he’d all but forgotten teased his sensitive nostrils, and for a moment, his mind went back to a much darker time. His recollection was impaired by memories that had changed his fate around the same time, and after several moments of struggling to remember why that unique scent teased him so, he gave up trying.

“Angel? Are you okay?” the uncertain tone of his ex-girlfriend’s voice brought him back to the present abruptly and he turned to give a faint reassuring nod in reply.

Satisfied, the blonde Slayer again turned to the young boy and accompanying red head and picked up where she’d left off.

Angel sat back in his seat in the Bronze and slipped into his role of seen and not heard- but his dark brown eyes kept being drawn to the beautiful brunette who sat a few tables away talking animatedly to the tweed- clad young British Watcher who’d recently arrived to take over Rupert Giles’ position in Buffy Summers’ life.

When the vampire had brushed past her half an hour ago, the scent that had emanated from her had stirred something within him. Shrugging his broad shoulders again, he pushed it from his mind. No doubt it would come to him later.

But his eyes still drifted towards her for the rest of the night…
Part 1
Wesley Wyndham Pryce had left after a short chat, and Cordelia again cleared her face of all expression except a ‘keep away’ iciness that surrounded her like an invisible cloak.

She rubbed the back of her nape for the hundredth time that night, and finally turned around to check out the crowd behind her.

Amber-lit eyes ran over the back of the Bronze, flitting from table to table restlessly; pausing when her ex boyfriend’s hunched body caught her eye. Her full mouth tightened with bitterness as she took in his stupid grin and adoring eyes…. aimed towards the blonde powerhouse. bastard!

Her gaze rested momentarily on the little redhead, who sat staring at the stage with wide eyes. Oz’ band was up as usual, and a part of Cordelia was pissed that the witch had been forgiven so quickly. Oz was too nice for his own good; something she herself would *never* be where her cheating ex was concerned. Bastard!

Her eyes dismissed him and flickered back to the blonde.

Buffy Summers looked like someone had stolen her puppy. Not surprising though. Nothing had been the same since her vampire had returned from hell. Even *she* could read the ‘hands off’ vibe coming from him. To say that Angel must be pissed at being sent to hell for, what? A century? – With a soul, must’ve hurt like a bitch.

She’d been in the library and overheard him tell the slayer that spilled blood would have been enough to stop Acathla… Seeing Buffy run out of the stacks in tears. At the time, things were okay between herself and that bastard, Xander Harris, so she’d been more than willing to feel sorry for the girl.

So Buffy Summers had lost her little puppy, and right now, Cordelia Chase couldn’t give a damn. Though she did wonder why the vampire still hung around; still fought by her side. Cordelia shrugged her shoulders. What else could he do? Brood and mope in the shadows?

Like she had done the first week or so after The Betrayal?

Kudos for him for having more backbone than she ever rated him with. But if it had been her, she’d have left Sunnyhell wayyyy behind her never to look back.

Her time would come.

She blinked, suddenly realising her gaze had moved to the aforementioned vampire…chocolate brown irises stared unblinkingly back at her. Cordelia shook off the shiver that ran down her spine at such an open look and then lifted a regal brow.

His eyes remained locked to hers, and she could have sworn through all the intensity of his stare, a glint of humour shone. Tilting her chin and scowling, she attempted to outstare him…. but lost after several long seconds.

With a pfft she finally turned her back on him, forcing her eyes back to the stage, and ignoring the continued tingle running along her nape. Stupid vampire!

*~

Angel couldn’t hold back the grin as the brunette failed in the staring contest and huffily showed him her back… the smirk faded away. He hadn’t missed the bitter pain in her expressive face when those lovely eyes had rested on her ex-boyfriend.

Good riddance the words flashed through his mind, but he felt no guilt at thinking them. Angel had always been aware of the worshipping way the boys eyes would rest on Buffy- hell, he’d been just as sappy once. He cringed as he recalled just *how* he’d subjugated his own personality to fit into her innocent view of the world…

Back to the boy; not satisfied with hanging on every word the slayer uttered, a beautiful girl on his arm; no…Harris had to compound it all by ‘sucking face’, as Buffy put it, with his supposed best friend, Willow.

That was a surprise…. or was it? As sweet as the little witch seemed, he’d often picked up on the odd acid coated comments with regards to Cordelia Chase; the sugary innocence not always covering spite as well as she thought.

You had to watch out for the quiet ones… they usually packed quite a shocking punch.

He watched the brunette rub her nape yet again and fidget in her seat, but he couldn’t keep his eyes off her. That feeling just wouldn’t go away.

As he continued to stare, it slowly dawned on him that the former Queen C sat alone; an unheard of situation where the girl was concerned.

Apparently, she’d lost more than an undeserving boyfriend.

But the outwardly confident set of her figure sitting in that chair, at the table alone, shouted out to the club that she, Cordelia Chase, didn’t need people around her to be complete. Angel admired that in her.

It must have taken a lot of nerve to waltz into the Bronze knowing she was excluded from the lifestyle she’d once reigned over, and take a seat centre-stage seemingly without a care in the world.

‘Regal’… that word rang bells, but not loud enough to give clarity so desperately needed….
~*~*~*~*~*

He shot upright, clenching the sheets in grasping fingers; eyes wide and dilated.

Angel could still feel the warmth of the babe cradled in his once-soulless arms, and hear the soft wails. The words of the Mage filtered through his mind: “Take her now- we are running out of time” … “Remember your oath, vampire.”

Memories of that time rushed in with a vengeance…. The angry mob surrounding him that would surely have dusted him – the timely intervention of the powerful old man… Angelus had no feelings of loyalty towards him, and only fleeting gratefulness.

If not for the man’s power, his soulless counterpart would have turned on him after laughing derisively at the demands of his services.

Bodyguard of a human newborn *was* laughable to a demon such as himself, but given no choice, he did so reluctantly. Traitors had slaughtered the babies’ parents in their beds. After that the castle had been fortified for several months…

Then the fortifications were breached as the enemies increased their efforts to get to the one they needed and kill her.

That memory of that night had rushed through his sleeping mind like a Tsunami: his travel into the future, and his return.

Surprisingly, the mage hadn’t seemed angry that Angelus had returned empty handed- merely stepped back, relief flowing through his old body.

“You may leave, vampire.” For a moment, Angelus just stood staring at him in surprise. That’s it?.

Taking a cursory look around, he realised time had passed and the once magnificent castle now lay in smouldering ruins. The only sign of life the old man in front of him. Shrugging his broad shoulders carelessly, he turned and melted into the shadows.

When had Angel forgotten? Then he recalled reaching into his pocket once far enough away from the shadowed remains of the castle.

The orb still nestled within, but as he pulled it out, it crumbled to fine dust…. and that was when all memory of his brief sojourn as a bodyguard melted away.

~*~*~*~*
Pacing along the quiet road outside the mansion, Angel let déjà vu slide over him; he remembered this very place.

Being the first time he’d ventured to this side of Sunnydale was probably why he’d never felt the connection. Movement across the wide road caught his sharp eyes and he glanced up.

Except for ivy trailing up along the facade, the mansion was as he remembered. His brow furrowed into a deep V as he watched a young woman reach out to clasp the drapes, slowly drawing them closed.

His eyes traced the smooth lines of her softly bronzed skin, the full generous tilt of her mouth, and the almond eyes with colours of autumn held within. Angel swallowed thickly and kept his eyes trained on her face… until the drapes drew fully to hide the figure that was the one and only Cordelia Chase.
Part 2

Cordelia hesitated outside the library, now she was here, the idea of entering a place chock full of memories seemed daunting, especially since most of them were bad she added bitterly.

But she needed the text book for class, already putting it off for God knows how long, and her teacher was already hinting at detention for a very long time if her assignment wasn’t completed…. which brought her back to where she was now.

“God, why the hell do they have to have books in that place,” she hissed almost inaudibly.

“Probably because it’s the library,” the deep voice came from directly behind her nearly giving her a heart attack. She let out a startled yelp.

Pulling open the door, Cordelia walked in tossing over her shoulder frostily, “Jeeze, get a bell, Deadboy.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she felt ashamed for taking her bad temper out on the vampire, but what the hell; he was one of them.

Mentally shrugging she continued across the gleaming wooden floor, keeping her eyes trained on the checkout desk. If she closed down her brain enough, the soft hum of voices that had halted abruptly and then began again as she entered, would be filtered out.

“No need to take out your inner bitch on Angel, Cordelia.” Cool hazel eyes collided with indignant blue; one fine dark brow arched haughtily.

“Inner?” Xander glanced furtively over to the checkout counter before adding snarkily, “Don’t forget the outer one to.”

For a split second, her eyes, dripping with ice turned his way, before the brunette pffted and promptly presented him with her back. Bastard! He wasn’t worth her time or acid replies.

Giles rose from the long table and left the others to approach the counter. “How can I help you, Cordelia?” She wordlessly held out a slip of paper and, after a pause, he took it, glancing down at the neat writing. “Ah, King Lear; …I think we have one or two of those left.” He nodded to himself. Then looked back up. “Up the stairs, third stack on the right.”

Handing back the slip, he cleared his throat, readying himself to ask the girl how she was, but before he could open his mouth, she’d turned and click-clacked away.

Heaving a weary sigh; a part of him not surprised at her dismissive attitude, he made his way back to the others, throwing a warning glance towards Xander who was watching his ex-girlfriend stride gracefully across the room. Seeing the reprimand, Xander instantly dropped his eyes back to the crabby old book he was supposed to be reading.

“Can you please let me through?” Cordelia glared down at the vampire who reclined on the bottom steps, annoyance dripping from every word. He’d seen her coming and just continued to sit there.

Angel hesitated deliberately before lithely rising to his feet and then simply stood staring down at her silently. Her earlier comment had, surprisingly, stung. Even at her worst, Cordelia Chase had never intentionally insulted him. Although used to her blunt openness, malice had always been absent.

“Could you like, move- or are vampire’s also easy to walk through and no one ever bothered to tell me?” his pale mouth twitched suspiciously causing her to glare even more.

“Nope; solid just like you,” Angel folded his powerful arms across his chest and continued to stare down at her. She hmphed and then walked a step forward reaching out to push him out of the way.

“Well, unlike you, I have a life, and this detour is seriously eating into it- so move your undead ass,” when a large hand grabbed her wrist, Cordelia gulped and rethought her aggressive attitude. Not a good idea with the former Scourge of Europe, with or without a soul. “Let go,” her demand sounded out suspiciously like a plea to her ears, which annoyed her all over again.

She tugged at her captured wrist, the hint of fear in her expressive eyes dissolving into anger as she looked up into the vampire’s face. “I *said*, let go, mister grabby hands!” Angel tugged her slightly, pulling her off balance, her chest hitting his abruptly, before dipping his head to hers.

“Don’t push it, little girl,” he purred softly in her ear, all the while keeping an eye on the group around the table several yards away. No one had noticed the little scene, luckily. Taking a moment to breathe in that so familiar scent, he gently released her wrist and stepped back.

Cordelia rubbed her wrist, not that he’d hurt her, but she needed something to occupy her nervous eyes whilst she walked shakily past him. What was his problem? she wondered, surprised. The vampire didn’t usually react to snide remarks…okay, hers weren’t exactly ‘snide’, but… Maybe he’d changed a lot more than she’d originally assumed. In future, acid barbs would be saved for the ones who deserved them.

Angel watched her ascend the stairs silently, waiting until she was out of sight before leaning against the side rather than sitting back down.

There were subtle differences in her scent, he mused. Rich and ripe came to mind. The delicate fragrance of baby had matured into something more… addictive. A frown marred his pale brow for a moment, wondering where that had come from, and then shook it off.

He barely knew her, he realised with a touch of shame. ‘Bait girl’ and ‘Sporedelia’ the only descriptors ever used where Cordelia Chase was concerned in the past. He’d made no attempt to ever get to know her- too absorbed in his then new feelings towards the Slayer… his dark eyes lifted from the contemplation of his boot-shod feet and rested on the blonde in question for a moment. His mouth twisted wryly.

Those feelings had died a death pretty much soon after he arrived in the hell dimension. Just a few weeks in that place was enough that at one stage he wanted to get his hands on her for all the wrong reasons, making him wonder sometimes if he’d had a soul at all. It had been difficult to keep quiet once back and sane enough to be aware of his surroundings, but he’d done it… letting her still believe repeating old mistakes was too risky.

The night Spike kidnapped the little witch and Harris, Angel had watched silently as tears filled her big, tortured blue eyes; half wondering at the time if her tune would have changed if he’d made her aware of the now permanent state of his soul. Given a second chance by unknown forces, with no clause to risk the return of Angelus… but it suited him to keep that to himself and agree with Buffy’s decision.

Angel had changed- and not all for the better, he realised, still wondering why he remained in this place; maybe it was time to move on- for the good of them all… but even as his eyes flickered towards the stacks above, he knew leaving wasn’t an option right now. The need to find out what it was that drove that old man to such lengths as to hide the babe in the future was too strong.

Although the reluctant oath had been dragged out of his alter ego, Angel couldn’t shake off the sense of responsibility that ate into him on finding her once again- it also got him wondering if there was more to him coming to Sunnydale than just to cross paths with the Slayer.

Whistler hadn’t done more than show him Buffy Summers and get him to take a long, hard look at himself. There had been no hints as to any other reason for his presence at the Hellmouth… Where were these guys when you needed answers? The vampire didn’t like having his strings yanked by unknown hands, and in his mind, there was no such thing as coincidence.

“Angel? Wanna patrol with us?” The blonde’s high voice stirred him out of his thoughts, and with one last glance up the stairs, the vampire nodded and followed the Slayer, Harris and Willow out of the library.
~*~*~*~*~
“Stupid, stupid car!” Cordelia slammed her hands on the steering wheel in temper after her fourth attempt to start the Corvette failed.

The Bronze had closed its doors and stragglers out of earshot; all other cars having left by the time she realised the motor refused point blank to turn over. Looking around, a half stifled growl of rage left her mouth when realising the only way home was by foot.

After stupidly leaving her cell at school, and only having a credit card on her, cabs were out; not like she could grab some change from her parents when she got home, them being in Europe on a business trip.

“Just great!” hitting the steering wheel one last time, Cordelia gathered her bag and denim jacket and climbed out of her ‘dumb car!’ slamming the door and kicking the paintwork angrily; belatedly regretting it when she stubbed her sandal-clad toes.

This was that stupid vampire’s entire fault, her mouth tightened into a thin line as she recalled their earlier confrontation. He’d rattled her with his Cro Magno display, and on finding him gone when she’d returned below, her only thought had been to get the hell out of there, forgetting all about her cell in the process.

Taking one last look around and at the same time shrugging on her jacket, she walked hurriedly away from the club, wincing as her wooden kitten heels rang hollowly into the night. “Might as well be wearing a sign round my neck saying, “Buffet free-for-all,” she muttered under her breath as she turned into the high street.

Except for the odd ‘creepzoid’ hanging about- whom she’d succeeded in putting off by glaring frostily, Cordelia managed to walk at least half a mile; although it had felt a hell of a lot longer in her high heels! The further she walked from town, the quieter it became, and the sweat trickling between her breasts wasn’t merely from exertion.

Her wide eyes darted anxiously around as she hugged her thin jacket around her body- when a large cool hand suddenly tapped her on the shoulder. A strangled scream tore from her mouth even as she whirled around- so rapidly one of her heels twisted and snapped.

Her arms wind-milled for a moment before her body began to fall to the side- caught in powerful arms. Gasping with fear she looked up…into concerned brown eyes.

“Angel! What the hell is your damage, huh?” Anger escalated even as blind relief flooded her. Pulling against the firm hold on her waist.

The vampire loosened his grip, instead latching onto her arms to steady her as she wobbled precariously on one foot. This was all she needed; not only was it *his* fault she was in this mess, now he’d succeeded in nearly giving her a heart attack with his creepy stealth- *and* broke the heel on her favourite pair of sandals!

Angel looked down at the brunette, noting the tremble of reaction on her full mouth, which was at odds with the fire of resentment and anger in her glittering eyes. She pulled away again with gritted teeth until, reluctantly, he released her.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you-“ he began softly, only to be interrupted by a ‘pfft’

“Since when has creeping up on unsuspecting girls at the dead of night *not* intended to scare the bejeebers out of someone?” she retorted sharply. Stooping to remove her broken shoe and resting her bare foot gingerly on the ground. She hissed with pain, realising her ankle had sprained when her sandal had twisted beneath her.

When he stepped forward again, Cordelia waved the broken sandal in his face, “Back off, dumbass; I have wood and I’m not afraid to use it,” she threatened angrily.

A dark brow rose as he eyed the ‘weapon’. “Wood?” the word sounded totally different when Angel said it; making her threatening words seem somehow provocative and a light flush tinted her skin, the hand holding the sandal aloft dropping to her side.

A light shiver ran down her spine. This was no time to recall her earlier- and-now-dead crush on him, she thought, her colour heightening. That had been quickly quashed the moment she’d found out what he was.

“Hello? SunnyHell here; what did you expect? I’m not totally dense, regardless of what some think.” Angel folded his heavy arms across his chest and regarded the little spitfire, and then shoved his hands in his pockets. The soft tint of rose accentuated her natural beauty; calling out to the man he’d pushed deep after his doomed relationship with Buffy.

“So the whole walking-through-Sunnyhell at the dead of night isn’t dense?” he threw her own words back at her and she deflated somewhat. He had a point.

“Yeah, well… not expecting my stupid car to play dead on me- *or* forgetting my stupid cell in my stupid locker at that stupid school…” she blew out a breath and attempted to put her weight on her foot and yelped- then yelped again when both feet left the ground.

The world spun dizzily and she reached out in panic, grabbing onto the nearest solid thing…that happened to be the thick neck of a certain vampire. “Put me down! –I can walk okay without your help.” Glaring into chocolate brown eyes that were suddenly too close for her liking, Cordelia thinned her lips and wriggled in his grasp, but he was unmovable.

Angel settled her more comfortably in his arms and continued along the highway. “I’ll take you home- just suck it up, Chase,” he stared her down as her mouth opened yet again to argue until it snapped shut audibly, her dark head turning angrily away.

His build dwarfed hers, and she wasn’t as petite as some girls she could, but wouldn’t mention. Her breasts crushed against his chest, and uncomfortably, Cordelia edged back as much as possible, but he only pulled her closer, aiming an irritated look down at her.

“Keep still, or I might drop you,” he warned, even knowing her fidgeting wouldn’t unbalance him. Her body plastered against his was more than pleasant; the heat emanating from her was quickly absorbed into his cool flesh greedily.

Returning the light censure with a half-hearted glare, Cordelia settled, gripping his neck that little bit tighter. For all she knew, he might just drop her to make a point, she hmphed again and turned her face away from his.

For several long minutes, total silence enveloped them, until the vampire abruptly turned and walked towards the trees. Cordelia instantly froze in his arms. “Wha- hey! Where are you going?” her voice rose with each word and her arms tightened painfully around his neck as she eyed him anxiously.

“Shortcut.” brief and to the point, his reply hinted he’d done talking. She chewed nervously on her bottom lip and contented herself with looking around, wide eyes searching every dark crevice as they went along.

Angel could not believe the girl had made it this far without being attacked- or killed. He resisted the urge to shake the bundle in his arms, railing her for her stupidity. Surely she had some type of vehicle recovery insurance? -Okay, no cell, but it wasn’t as if the staff at the Bronze would have left so quickly. Considering the brunette was more than aware of the demon activity in the world, she was a hazard to her own health- or had a death wish!

Cordelia Chase was successful as ‘Bait girl’ for a reason. Youth, beauty and confidence bordering on arrogance was a combination that tempted both humans and demons alike… Angel himself had noticed; his baser side drawn to it. Angelus had been a little more obvious in his interest, and had temporarily considered taking it further before being thwarted and then distracted again with his campaign to break and then destroy the Slayer.

It had been lucky for her that Angel had decided to acquiesce to walking Buffy home, otherwise he would already have arrived at the mansion; unknowingly leaving Cordelia to any vampire or Demon that most likely would have crossed her thoughtless path. Annoyance grew with every step he took, until a low growl rumbling through his chest had her slim arms instantly tightened around his neck.

“What? What is it? Can you see something?” her head twisted and turned attempting to look around and over his shoulder. If he’d been human, her arms would have asphyxiated him by now.

“Just a fox,” he lied effortlessly, and instantly her grip loosened, her face turning to his.

“A growl like that just for a tiny little predator?” a fine brow arched in dry amusement. Angel ignored the slight and continued walking. “Exactly how weak are you now?” she’d heard Buffy talking about his loss of strength shortly after his return- though he didn’t seem to have a problem carrying her all the way home, for which she was grudgingly, grateful!

The vampire hadn’t bothered to correct Buffy at the time. Although a little out of it and slight difficulty acclimatising back to his own dimension, he hadn’t been ‘weak’ at all, but he’d let the Slayer assume, not in the mood to put her straight- or indeed talk about his time in hell at all. As per usual, Buffy had done all the talking; the only difference being he hadn’t hung onto every word she’d uttered as he had once.

Silence again blanketed the couple, and after a while, Cordelia’s head gravitated towards his shoulder, the long walk earlier and the fear finally taking its toll. Her eyes closed with a tired sigh, her warm face nuzzling into his neck unconsciously. Angel’s own eyes closed briefly at the moist heat of her breath against his cool skin, before forcing them open, shaking his head imperceptibly, and walking in a more measured pace in the hopes of not disturbing his burden.

As the gates of her home eventually came in sight, Angel wasn’t unaware of the deja vu feeling of carrying Cordelia to this place… centuries later, but still he couldn’t keep the shiver of reaction sliding along his spine.

It seemed his brief sojourn, as a bodyguard to the girl hadn’t ended after all…
Part 3

“Sleep serenely, baby, slumber,
Lovely baby, gently sleep;
Tell me wherefore art thou smiling,
Smiling sweetly in thy sleep?
Do the angels smile in heaven?
When thy happy smile they see?
Dost thou on them smile while slum’bring
On my bosom peacefully.”

The warm lilting female voice surrounded and soothed almost as much as the warm arms that cradled her. The gentle rhythm of both words and rocking hypnotized her senses and she’d never felt more secure. Contentedly she snuggled deeper into the warm and soft embrace…. And then frowned a little as the plush cushion of feminine warmth melted away to be replaced by the hard inflexible plains of a muscular chest; the heat cooling quickly and her mouth turned down in a soft moue at the loss.

“An oath given under duress, if I recall, old man,” the unmistakable male voice harsh and angry, but his gentle grip around her strangely at odds with the savagery she then glimpsed on his dark face as she hazily peered up. A gasp of fear tore from her throat, as strangely empty eyes the color of burnished gold flicked briefly to her face before lifting to look straight ahead, disdain twisting his darkly handsome face. Thick, untidy strands of hair fell across his forehead and trailed over a sharp cheekbone and clenched jaw…

“Cordelia?” The same voice but softly spoken and almost tender caused her wide, fearful eyes to blink rapidly and the cold features shifted subtly to that of concerned lines and hesitating brown eyes. “ We’re here.”

Dazedly Cordelia stared up in confusion before turning away to take in her surroundings and jolted in surprise to find she was outside the locked gates of her home. A brief image of roughened stone walls draped with rich tapestries flashed across her inner vision, accompanied by the unpleasant scent of acrid smoke, but it faded too quickly and all haziness cleared as the man holding her close to his chest spoke again.

“Are you okay?” Right. Flat tire, a walk on the wild and stupidly insane side; a broken heel and a very unexpected savior. Reality clicked and Cordelia’s mind cleared. Releasing her death grip from his thick neck, she nodded irritable and wriggled until Angel set her on back her feet carefully. As she gingerly tested out her sore ankle her mind was doing cartwheels. The feeling that she was missing something really important nagged at her, but decided that now was not the time to look too deeply into it. Maybe later – when alone and safely tucked up in her bed.

“You fell asleep,” he explained unnecessarily reaching out a steadying hand as she took an unthinking step back, winced and lost her balance as her bare foot made contact with the cold ground.

Angel stared down at Cordelia silently as she attempted to ease her arm out of his grip in a way he figured that she’d hoped wouldn’t look too obvious that it was far from welcome. It only made him want to tighten his hold, so he did.

“I can walk okay, jeeze. Bruise much,” she grouched out the little fib and then felt mean when he instantly eased his grip with an apologetic look on his face, but still he kept hold of her. Puffing out a resigned breath she stopped pulling at her captured arm and forced a bright smile onto her face. “Thanks for the ride.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, a flood of soft color rushed into her cheeks and burned at the brief quirk of his dark brow. For a moment, she could have sworn a gleam of wicked amusement flickered in his dark eyes and it unsettled her enough to make her drop her eyes uncomfortably. “You’re welcome.” His tone low and tinged with a hint of sensuality that made her belly tingle.

Hold it right there, Chase! The last thing she needed on top of all the crap going on in her life was even a tiny reminder of the crush she’d once had on the guy. – vampire. Correcting herself mentally, adding Buffy’s vampire. It did the trick and composure quickly returned.

Digging into the recesses of her purse, she found and brought out her car key fob, pressing one of the two buttons on it and moved out of the way of the gates as they slid open almost silently. “I’ll walk you to your door,” Angel moved forward to walk through the opened gates only to stop when Cordelia refused to budge. Looking back a slight furrow marred his brow as he belatedly recalled her injured ankle.

Cordelia edged away on seeing the intent in his eyes. After that weird dream, the last thing she wanted right now was to be in his arms again. “It doesn’t hurt now -see?” wriggling her toes carefully. “Anyway,I can manage from here.” She shrugged as the furrows deepened. “You‘ve done enough for one night.” His big body stiffened at the same time as it occurred to her how ungrateful she sounded and instantly flashed another bright grin his way. “And thanks for that, by the way.” She added, her light tone almost as fake as the smile.

Angel’s thoughts briefly went back to just before she woke up, her dilated eyes locking with his; strangely unfocussed yet obviously ‘seeing’ something that had caused her body to stiffen and drench the air with pure fear. When he’d spoken, her eyes had cleared, the fear fading, and he was left wondering what could have frightened her so badly that the taste of it was still clinging to the back of his throat.

Right now, though, all traces were hidden behind a cool expression and a wide smile that didn’t reach her eyes. His own narrowed darkly, familiar irritation flaring as Cordelia’s ‘Queen C’ Armour slid as effortlessly back into place as the gates did now behind them.

Shrugging off the sudden desire to make more than a few dents in that veneer, and not understanding why he’d want to bother in the first place, Angel instead abruptly leaned down to scoop her into his arms, tightening his grip warningly when she immediately began to protest.

“I’ll walk you to your door,” he repeated firmly, ignoring her mumbled complaints as he made his way up the long, dark tree-lined drive.
*~*~*~*~
With a groan, Cordelia pulled the covers off her head and rolled over.

Another sucky day in this town. Just the thought made her groan again; and then frown, perplexed. Since when had Cordelia Chase not wanted to face the day?

Oh yeah. After the night Xander The Betrayer had put her heart in a meat grinder and turned the handle without another thought

But then again, was he really any different from some of the others she had the misfortune to know in SunnyHell? Jumping to conclusions…assuming she didn’t have feelings – a heart, to hurt. Difference was, Cordelia had thought Xander Crappy Harris knew her enough not to believe that. Projecting a cool, uncaring veneer had its disadvantages too. Trouble was, it had never bothered her before.

Fair enough, not that surprised his totally unexpected infidelity would involve one of the Scoobies. Not like she’d been unaware his feelings for her came a third in his list of Important People in his life. But to be honest, it would have been less of a surprise if she’d walked in on him and Buffy. Less of a surprise, yeah, but it would have still hurt. Willow Rosenburg. Who’d athunk it? Not only does her so-called boyfriend cheat on her, but also he cheats on her with the least likely suspect.

A weary sigh dragged out of her throat and drowsy eyes stared vacantly at the ceiling above. Lately it seemed the only one to seem to give a crap was a certain vampire. Like she needed that right now. “How low can ya get?” she wondered out loud. “First my heart is trodden on and ground down like a coat stupidly covering a puddle, and then the last person I’d *ever* think would look at me twice with Buffy Summers around, decides to turn his attention to me.”

What was with that, anyway? Two days ago, the vampire didn’t even care that she existed, and now? He wouldn’t leave her alone to drown in her own puddle. And right now, self-pity was a good place to be. Whether or not that made her a bad person; tough noogies. Everyone was entitled to wallow now and then- and she still had at least a week to go, according to her calendar.

She thought about last night and shifted uncomfortably between the soft 500-count Egyptian sheets. Was it wrong to enjoy being held in someone else’s boyfriend’s arms? Had she sunk that low? But he isn’t Buffy’s boyfriend any more, the insidious voice whispered through her rapidly waking mind, and she pfft. Like that mattered.

“Cordelia Chase is no one’s rebound, nuh, huh.” She muttered under her breath, finally sitting up and dragging the sheets away. But you can’t deny he’s hot. the little voice poked at her remorselessly, causing a scowl to twist her lovely features. Yeah, like an undead guy can be hot. Get real. Semantics, shemantics… With a grr argh Cordelia dragged her long legs off the bed and got to her feet.

“Not listening” the two words repeated through her mind like a mantra as drapes were pulled back, letting in the early morning sun and bathroom ablutions were done with the efficiency of a robot.

Then there was that dream. The song still lingered in her head, along with the gentle voice that had made her feel.. Shrugging off the feeling, Cordelia absently hummed the tune as she chose her clothes for the day. The weird and creepy familiarity of the man’s face she’d hazily looked upon still lingered, but right now, working it out seemed both too much trouble and rather stupid. It was just a dream, jeeze.

Angel has made short work of the long and winding drive, and thinking about it now, she was more than glad not to have traversed it alone. Hanging on to his broad shoulders and refusing to speak her face had remained determinedly turned away from his, and the occasional burn of his eyes on the soft flesh of her cheek had reminded her just how bitchy she was being.

God, he’d surrounded her. Those arms could have held the world up effortlessly. She could easily get used to it- and that made her feel needy- which in turn annoyed the hell out of her, and it was with a sigh of relief, on arriving outside her front door that her arms released their tight hold and pushed at his broad chest. For a moment, Cordelia could have sworn Angel’s arms had tightened, his pale face reflecting annoyance- just for a brief moment, and then he’d set her down on her feet.

After regarding the darkened windows, he’d finally spoken, quietly asking if her parents were home, but she’d deliberately ignored his query. Their frequent absences was something Cordelia was unwilling to share with others, and now wasn’t any different. Instead, she turned her back on him on the pretext of fishing out her keys.

Finding them Cordelia glanced up before sliding the key into the lock, and she could have sworn a soft flicker of pity had darkened his eyes and her back had stiffened defensively. An unexpected rush of hot anger had shot through her. Her own self-pity right now was more than enough; she didn’t need or want his concern. Opening the heavy paneled door, she’d walked in the turned to face him, a tense smile stretching her lips as she again stiltedly thanked him for seeing her home. His eyes had searched hers, though God knows what he was looking for, and after a hurried goodnight she closed the wooden barrier between them.

As soon as the door clicked shut, shame had curled in Cordelia’s gut as it occurred to her she’d more or less slammed the door in his face; that thought causing her to re-open it. Finding him gone, she quickly closed it and shot the bolts.

Her conscience still bugged her even now though. He’d been good enough to go out of his way and make sure she got home in one piece, and Cordelia knew she’d been bitchy and ungrateful. Was there a way to make amends without it being too obvious? She wondered. The little voice whispered again, putting ideas into her head that made her blush and dismissing it doggedly, she instead continued with her new mantra. notlisteningnotlistening… By the time Cordelia had left her bedroom and descended the impressive staircase, the words had lost all meaning.

Cordelia paused in the foyer, cocking her head for a moment and listened intently.

As usual, silence greeted her. Most of the time, she was so used to being left to her own devices that she didn’t dwell too much on her loneliness. But today, for some reason, her heart ached. Leaving the empty house a grimace twisted her mouth recalling her lack of transport. With a heavy sigh, she made her way down the driveway, adding no wheels to her growing list of suckage…


…THE END…

THIS APPEARS TO BE AN UNFINISHED FANFIC


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