Sex and the City of Angels


AUTHOR: CORDELIA’S DESTINY (aka Jules)
SUMMARY: Four friends try their best to deal with love and life.
RATING: R
POSTED: 29 Aug 2004
CATEGORY: Humor / Romance / Mild Angst
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A, B/S, Anya/various, F/W & a few other pairings are short-lived including OCs. S7Buffy, S4 Angel, AU after each.
WARNINGS: Sexual Content
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) This is the beginning of a twelve part series in the spirit of the show “Sex and the City.” It isn’t a crossover, just based on the idea. Even if you aren’t familiar with it, you should be able to follow this series with no problem. If you have seen it, I’m sure you’ll notice the parallels. Happy reading!
2) Each of these read like a standalone, but they’re definitely a series with an A/C resolution.


Prologue
Los Angeles is a city filled with thousands of opportunities for wealth, fame, and fortune. And it is, by far, stacked to capacity with available men. For a single gal looking for love, it’s a male harem waiting to happen. But for a girl with supernatural abilities, it can be a tad tricky.

Ask Buffy Summers, for example. A Vampire Slayer by destiny, single girl by unfortunate life circumstances.

“There just aren’t any guys out there who can handle a woman like me,” she tells me, shrugging her shoulders in a motion with resignation written all over it. Her hazel eyes are wry with the reality she faces every time she gets serious with a guy: if she wanted to, she could turn him into a pretzel, no problem.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told a guy what my life is like, only to have him get that glazed look and say, ‘Gee, Buffy, I don’t think I’m ready for a serious relationship right now.’” She frowns, rolling her eyes and tossing her hair over her shoulder. “And then I see him down at Starbucks making goo-goo eyes at Debbie. Or Jenna. Or Brittany. Take your pick.”

My friend Buffy could regale you with story after story of dates gone bad, all traceable to her profession, one she didn’t even choose in the first place.

And then there are those women with the added complication of not being human at all. Take Anya, also known as Anyanka, a vengeance demon.

“I have no problem getting guys to give me orgasms,” she says truthfully while sipping her decaf mocha frappuccino. “But one word about last week when I made a cheating husband’s testicles shrivel up and fall off, just doing my job, mind you, and they run screaming in the other direction.”

Anya shakes her head. “Men. You’d think I’d be able to find one who would stick around for awhile, but no. They tell me I have ‘issues’,” she air quotes, rolling her eyes in exasperation. “They say I have no tact. That I talk about sex too much. That I hurt people’s feelings because I’m just being honest. Jeez, what does it take? Do I have to be freaking Kathy Lee Gifford?”

Unfortunately, Anya and Buffy aren’t the only women in this unenviable situation. I’ve had to deal with the same bad luck for the past five years, and even a little bit before that. Psychic visions from the Powers that Be don’t exactly put me up there in the running for the “Most Normal Girl” award. Just the other day, I discussed it with my friend Fred Burkle, who, while not supernatural, has enough brains to make her life just as difficult.

“It’s just getting worse, Fred,” I told her as we sat across from each other at a coffee shop. “Every guy I go out with gets scared off. Either I get a vision and start floating like a freak, or they meet Angel and he growls at them loudly enough to make their teeth rattle.”

“Angel just wants you to be safe,” Fred defended him, and I gritted my teeth. She’s not as bad as she used to be when it comes to standing up for her favorite vampire, but she still takes his side way too often.

“He wants me to be a nun, Fred, and that ain’t gonna happen.”

Angel is my boss and my best friend. At least he was until I got body-jacked by an evil being who totally screwed my life up with her squicky path to world domination. Left me in a coma and my relationship with Angel in ruins. I woke up about three months ago, only to find him more distant than ever, and I can’t say it didn’t hurt.

It was weirder to find Buffy in my hospital room trying to cheer me up. I never thought we’d be best friends, but fate has a crazy way of turning my life upside down and shaking the hell out of it. Buff and I have found a common ground and before I knew it, I was closer to her than I had been to any other woman in my life. I guess we just had to find some common ground.

“But Angel cares about you,” Fred argued, bringing my thoughts back to our conversation and my irritation to a boil.

“I know he does,” I groused. “But he doesn’t control my love life. If he wants to have a say in it, he’ll have to ask me out himself.”

Fred looked a little too excited at that idea, so I put a stop to it before she could squeal in that maddening way of hers. “But we both know that Mr. My-Life-Is-A-Shakespearean-Tragedy wouldn’t dream of ever letting that happen.”

She sighed. “I guess you’re right. And I understand, Cordy. I can’t seem to find a good guy, either.”

“Why do you have a problem? You don’t go all Exorcist on them or anything.”

“No,” she said, her eyes sad. “But I can’t have a decent conversation with them, either. I like to talk about my theories, you know? That’s what really excites me. And they just aren’t interested.”

“Even Knox?” I ask, knowing that her lab manager friend shares some of her interests, not to mention being a total hottie.

“Even Knox,” she says. “He stares at me too much and it gives me the heebie jeebies. Besides, I don’t think he’s really all that smart, anyway. I tried to talk to him the other day about my new theory on quantum mechanics and he didn’t know what I was talking about. He tried to fake it, but I could tell.”

I shake my head in sympathy. “We’re pretty sad, aren’t we? Couldn’t get some nookie if our lives depended on it.”

Fred giggled. “And knowing our line of work, someday our lives might depend on it.”

I snorted at that. “Just my luck: to be bitten by some random demon that makes me horny. Like I need any more hormones running through my system.”

Fred, Anya, Buffy, and I are bound in a sisterhood that is understood by very few people, even other women. We want what every woman wants: a happy life and someone to share it with. But is it really too much to ask to find a guy that can put up with our unusual lives and doesn’t turn into a monster on a regular basis?

But nobody really understands. Men least of all.

Take Angel, aforementioned uptight vampire boss. Ask him about dating, and what will he tell you? He’ll look at you with those bottomless brown eyes of his and say, “Love is pain. And you don’t need pain, baby, you’ve had enough of it. Don’t go out on dates, you’ll only get hurt.”

‘Stay here with me,’ is what he’s asking, but I’ll be damned if I’ll sit around and coddle his broody butt just to make him feel better.

His fellow vampire Spike isn’t much better. Ask him about relationships, and he’ll give you a leer and a wiggle of his luscious ass, winking all the while. “Spend a night with me, Pet, and I’ll prove to you that everything you’ve ever read about vampires and sex is the delicious, naughty truth.”

But there’s a glint in his eyes, one that tells a girl that it won’t be anything more than sex. In the end, he’s not any different. His heart has been broken just as many times, maybe more because of his long life, and he can’t be the giving partner girls like us need.

Even the seemingly normal human guys I know are off the list.

Gunn, a great friend and world-wise guy, may seem like a candidate for love with his easy grin and sexy confidence. But as soon as he opens his mouth, you know that something doesn’t add up. “Barbie,” he’ll tell me, “life isn’t about love. It isn’t even about money. It’s about power, and that’s the most important thing. You need to be the one in control of the relationship. I won’t ever let any woman control me again. Besides, I can give a woman everything she needs and then some.” He smirks confidently, and I wonder what happened to the friend I used to have. He’s let the prestige and power of his new intellect change him, and now he isn’t even close to making my list.

Super-smart Wesley might be a good choice, but I’d never consider him for myself, the brother vibes being way too strong. Even for another girl, his own issues make him a less than stellar choice.

“It isn’t worth it,” he’d say if I asked him. “If you love someone with everything you have, the fates will just come and yank it away from you, smashing your heart into smithereens. It’s a bloody awful mess, love is, and I don’t want anything to do with it.” I would see in his eyes that he’s lying, that he wants to be loved just as much as anyone else, but he’s scared. And that fear makes him even more dangerous than the rest. Because men like him can’t commit, and then where are we?

Spike, Angel, Gunn, and Wesley: all men with widely different philosophies and techniques. But what it comes down to is that they sound good at first, like they’ll be a friend, a lover, a confidante, but in the end, they can’t deal any better than the regular guys can, despite their first-hand knowledge of the supernatural world.

So what’s a girl like me to do?

Struggle on in the best way I can. And maybe someday, the perfect imperfect guy will come around and I’ll get to cross over to the other side, where his problems might become my problems, but I’ll never have to wonder where my next orgasm is coming from.

Sex in the City of Angels is a dangerous game, but the thrill of the chase and the promise of finding that special someone keeps us in the game. We hope for the best and pray to every deity we can think of that our hearts will remain intact until he walks around the corner and into our lives.
Episode 1: More Than Words

Conversation is something that has always come easy for me. When I’m with my girlfriends, it’s even easier. But sometimes, talking with a guy can be like talking to a brick wall. They don’t listen and they sure as hell don’t give anything constructive back.

* * * * * * * *

“Angel! Pay attention!”

Cordelia Chase tapped her expensively clad foot impatiently against the leg of her chair, glaring at her boss. She held a notepad full of her own scribbled writing, the details of her last vision. This one had been a doozy, and it was paramount that Angel actually listen this time.

He had an annoying way of staring at her like he was paying attention when he was doing the exact opposite.

Angel sat up in his desk chair, straightening the already neat stack of papers in front of him.

“I was paying attention.”

Cordy rolled her eyes. “You were not. You were staring at my mouth.”

Suddenly, Angel looked flustered. “I was not.”

“Were too.”

“Was not!”

“Were too!”

“Was—” Angel stopped mid-sentence, exasperated. “I’m not going to play this game with you, Cordy. Say what you came to say.”

A sigh of irritation escaped her lips. “Okay, let me put it in the simplest terms possible so your two-second concentration span won’t be stretched too far. Big bad demons. Docks. Midnight.”

She could practically see the growl bubbling up in his throat as he glared at her. “More info would be good, Cor. Stop being such a brat and tell me what kind of demon it was.”

“How am I supposed to know? Wesley does the researchy bit. It was big. Fuzzy. Puke green. Lots of teeth, and two horns on the top of his head like a Mohawk. That’s all I got, big guy.”

“Fine,” Angel said, clenching his teeth. “I’ll ask the research department to get on it and then send out an extraction team.”

Suddenly, Cordy was struck by a wave of nostalgia for the days when Angel would’ve just plucked a sword off the wall behind him and gone out himself. But Angel was different now. So different that she wondered if she knew him anymore. Heaven only knew how strained their relationship had been of late.

“Great!” Cordy said, forcing cheerfulness as she stood up. “Then I’ll just be on my way.”

She made it halfway across the room before Angel stopped her with a hand on her arm. Cordy jumped, turning to glare at him.

“Geez, Angel! How many times do I have to tell you not to sneak up on me like that!”

He wasn’t listening, just pinned her with a stare full of unreadable emotions. “Cor—” he began, then stopped and cleared his throat.

“What?”

“I was wondering if, well, if you aren’t busy or anything, if you might want to—but I totally understand if you wouldn’t—”

A huff of exasperation made her hair flutter. “All right, already! Spit it out, Angel.”

“You wanna go out to dinner with me tonight?”

It was Cordy’s turn to stare in disbelief. “You want to go out? With me? Like on a date?”

Angel shifted uncomfortably, his eyes darting away. “No, no date, just dinner. To talk.”

“But you don’t eat,” she said, nonplussed.

He shrugged. “I can, I just don’t very often.” His eyes turned to hers. “I just thought we could, you know, hang.” He gestured haphazardly.

Cordy raised her eyebrows. “Way to get into the 21st century slang, Angel. Wanna bust a move, too?”

A stare was her answer.

“Fine,” she said, sighing. “I’m all for the bonding. But will you actually talk? Or will we just stare at each other and bask in the awkward silence like we did the last time we tried this?”

“When did we try it?”

Boy, did the guy have a way of avoiding the real question. “We went out once after I woke up. You called it a ‘celebration dinner.’ As I recall, we didn’t do much celebrating. We were big with the avoiding eye contact thing.”

“I don’t remember it like that,” he argued, frowning. “I thought we had a nice time.”

Cordy could see that Angel’s rose-colored glasses were firmly in place. Any one-on-one time they’d had together since she’d come back had been tense at best, at least in her estimation. Why he couldn’t see that, she didn’t know.

“So do you want to?” Angel asked, his frown deepening as if he sensed her impending rejection.

Crossing her arms over her chest, she shrugged. “I guess. What time?”

“Seven?”

“Okay. I’ll meet you here.” She didn’t give him time to answer, just waved and started toward the door. “I’d love to chat, but I’ve got lunch with the girls,” she threw over her shoulder, complete with too-bright smile. “Bye!”

As Cordy exited, she sternly forced herself to deposit her anxiety at the door. But she couldn’t quite escape the bad feeling she had about this whole thing. Damn, if those brown eyes didn’t suck her in every time and get her to agree to things she never would’ve considered in anyone else’s presence.

Now if she could just get him to actually talk to her tonight, then they might actually get somewhere.

In an imperfect world filled with faulty communication between the sexes, women have one last place of refuge. When men fail to listen, there’s always a place to turn: the open ears and open minds of one’s best girlfriends.
“I’ll have the bacon cheeseburger with lots of ketchup, a large order of fries, and a chocolate milkshake.” Buffy pursed her lips as she scanned the menu once more. “Actually, make that a double cheeseburger. With extra cheese.” With that, she grinned at the astonished waitress and flipped her menu shut with a snap.

Cordelia Chase glared at Buffy from her seat across the table. “I hate you,” she said enviously. To the waitress, she added, “I’ll have a chicken Caesar salad, dressing on the side, and a glass of ice water.”

Buffy grinned and shrugged. “I can’t help it if high metabolism is a perk of the job.”

“I’ll have the chicken tacos with extra rice on the side, and a soda.” Fred Burkle handed her menu to the waitress and watched the exchange between the other two women, shaking her head in bewilderment. “I eat like that, too. And I’m not a Slayer.”

Cordy took in Fred’s slim figure with an equal dose of envy, raising an eyebrow at the younger girl. “But you’ve got the energy for three people, Fred. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out how you stay so skinny.” Cordy shook her head. “Me, on the other hand. . . I eat one lousy French fry and my hips get two inches bigger.”

Anya laughed in commiseration as she sat next to Buffy. “You and me both, Cor. You’d think being a vengeance demon would get rid of that kinda stuff, but I guess not. At least I get stamina if I don’t get the metabolism. And I’ll have the club sandwich, hold the mayo,” she told the waitress, who picked up their menus and left.

“Speaking of stamina,” Buffy began, her nose wrinkled in disgust. “He’s at it again.”

“Who?” Cordy looked intrigued. “The new boy toy?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Hardly a toy.”

Anya snorted. “I hope you have enough sense to play with an ass like that.”

“Blake is pretty cute, Buffy,” Fred said, smiling dreamily at her newest friend.

“Cute doesn’t make up for all the other flaws, I’m sorry to say,” Buffy sighed, shaking her head sadly. She’d really liked this one this time.

The Slayer had begun dating again after coming to live in L.A. at the end of the summer. Europe hadn’t worked out very well for her, the close proximity to all the other slayers getting really old, really fast. She’d intended to come here to work with Angel and train local new slayers, bringing Dawn with her, but it hadn’t quite worked out that way. Dawn had really wanted to stay in England and Buffy had finally relented, leaving her in the care of Giles and Willow under the stipulation that Dawn had to move back to the States by Christmas if Buffy hadn’t already returned to Europe.

As fate would have it, Buffy had landed in L.A. just in time for Cordy’s recovery from the Jasmine-induced coma. Bored, Buffy had visited Cordelia in the hospital and seen the lonely expression on the face of her one-time nemesis. She’d had taken it upon herself to see that Cordy’s road to restored health was paved with good times. The two girls had formed an unlikely friendship that had flourished as they bonded over old boyfriends, broken hearts, and female solidarity.

“So what’s wrong with Blake?” Anya asked Buffy, taking a big swig of her mineral water. “Is he a one-minute man?”

Cordy snickered. Anya had joined their little circle just weeks after Buffy did. They’d all been floored when she’d appeared in the middle of Wolfram & Hart one afternoon with virtually no explanation at all. When Buffy had stuttered that Anya was supposed to be dead, Anya looked at her strangely and then shrugged, saying, “Vengeance Demons aren’t that easy to kill. Just thought it was time I left, that’s all.”

Fred’s established friendship with Cordy rounded out their little group and they’d begun meeting for lunch and girl talk a few times a week. Quickly, it became their favorite place to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of their dating relationships. None of them had a serious thing going on right now, but each of them was definitely on the market.

“Blake’s a great guy,” Buffy defended him. “I really like him. He doesn’t have a problem with me being stronger than him. He takes the vampire thing in stride, and he’s really supportive about my less than serious plans for the future. And he tries really, really hard.”

“That’s code for ‘he can’t get me off,’” Anya said in a stage whisper, winking at Cordelia, who laughed.

“No!” Buffy frowned. “He can. He’s just, oh God, it’s too weird. I’m just putting too much into this.”

“You’re not, Buffy,” Cordy said comfortingly. “If there’s something wrong, maybe we can help you fix it.”

Buffy looked at each of them in turn, then frowned again. “He’s just too quiet.”

Fred looked at her strangely. “He seemed okay when I met him.”

“That’s not it. He’s silent when we have sex. Completely silent. I even checked to see if he was breathing the last time.”

The table was suddenly as silent as Blake apparently had been as they all tried to imagine that.

“That’s just . . . weird,” Cordy said, struggling for a good term.

“I had a man once who howled every time we had sex. He sounded like a coyote with its ass caught in a trap. Such a turn off.”

Anya’s comment was accompanied by a roll of her eyes as she lifted her Long Island Iced Tea up to her lips and took a healthy gulp. She seemed oblivious to the stares of the other restaurant patrons at her ribald comment and stared down Fred when she shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

“Anya!” Fred’s voice was strained. “We’re in a public place! Can’t you stop it, just for once?”

Anya pinned her with a stubborn glare. “Why should I? These people have sex. If they didn’t, all these little brats wouldn’t be running around here ruining my lunch.”

“So anyway,” Buffy said, getting their attention back to her. “Don’t you think that’s nuts?”

Cordy shrugged. “Maybe he’s just shy.”

Buffy nodded her head, sighing as she perused her menu and thought about the strangeness of her newest boyfriend. “Maybe. But even if that’s it, I can’t take it. Last night I could hear the garbage truck picking up the dumpster in the alley behind my apartment.” she scrunched up her face. “I didn’t even know there was a dumpster there, and I’ve lived in that apartment for two months.”

Anya shook her head in companionable disgust. “Good sex should put your brain on autopilot and make your ears turn off to everything except the grunts and groans. Without it, it’s wiggy. Like watching porn with the mute on.”

Cordy nodded in solidarity. “Talk to him about it. Or dump him. Do you even really like him that much anyway?”

Buffy scrunched up her nose. “I guess. Maybe. I don’t know!”

“Did you try talking dirty to him?” Anya suggested. “That always works for me.”

“I can’t be the first one to break the silence,” Buffy argued. “It would be like shouting in a library. Just wrong.”

“Trust me,” Anya said with a certainty that commanded notice. “It works. A few well placed phrases like ‘oh, yeah, baby, do me harder!’ will have him shouting back in no time.” She pinned Buffy with a pointed stare. “You should know. You’ve had two vampires.”

Buffy blushed and squirmed in her seat. The last thing she wanted was to be reminded of what it sounded like to make love to Spike. Her heart couldn’t take another trip down that memory lane.

Shoving her embarrassment away, Buffy took drink of her ice water. “I guess I’ll try it. I’m at the end of my rope.”

Sensing the end of the Buffy-centric thread of the conversation, Fred straightened up in her seat and waited for everyone’s attention to be free. When it was, she blessed them all with one of her sweetest smiles.

“Oh, God, what is it now?” Anya said, grimacing.

Fred’s smile immediately fell. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Anya,” Cordy said in a warning tone. “Fred’s probably got some news. Don’t spoil it for her.”

“I’m not,” Anya whined. “It’s just that sometimes she gives me an overdose of the sweet Susie homemaker thing. I’m already at my quota today. I had to spend an hour with Annette in Accounting this morning.”

Even Fred shuddered at that. Annette had been dropped right out of the Martha Stewart mould directly into Wolfram & Hart. Her annoying sense of hospitality was legendary, and everyone who knew better avoided her at all costs.

“It’s not that bad,” Fred said, toning down the saccharine quotient a notch or two. “I promise.”

“Girl Scouts’ honor?” Anya said sarcastically.

“I was a Brownie,” Fred corrected innocently.

“Whatever,” Anya said, sighing. “Lay it on me.”

“I think I met someone,” Fred said, barely holding back the squeal as she bounced in her seat.

“That’s great, Fred!” Buffy said, a genuine smile crossing her face. “Who?”

Fred’s smile faltered just a tad. She glanced over at Cordelia, then Anya, before looking down at her clasped hands. “Well, I don’t know for sure.”

Silence reigned as they processed that. “Come again?” Cordy finally asked for the others.

“Well, I met him on the internet.”

“Oh, God. I knew it.” Anya sat back with a huff. “Take some advice from a world-wise woman, Freddie. Internet dating is only for pedophiles and geeky losers.”

“That’s not true!” Fred shot back, frowning. “My cousin’s best friend’s kid’s baby sitter met her husband on an internet dating site!”

“Well that’s encouraging,” Cordy said sarcastically, but Fred only frowned at her.

“He’s perfect!” she argued. “His name is Allen. He’s extremely intelligent. He’s gorgeous, he sent me his picture. And he isn’t a freak!”

“You aren’t going to meet him, are you?” Buffy asked skeptically.

“Yeah, I am!” Fred squealed for real this time. “Tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to meet him at the coffee shop around the corner from the office. I’m going to carry Pride and Predjudice and a white rose, just like in that movie!”

“What movie?” Anya wasn’t exactly up on her chick flicks.

“You’ve Got Mail,” Cordy answered, then turned to Fred. “Well, just be careful.”

“Oh, I will be,” Fred said, nodding vigorously. “Gunn said he’d check him out for me and signal me if I should leave.”

Cordy sat back and sighed. “Maybe he’d do that for me tonight.”

“Blind date?” Buffy asked.

“Pfft,” Cordy huffed. “I wish it were that simple. But he might as well be blind. And deaf. The damn vamp doesn’t listen to a thing I say anymore.”

“You’re going out with Angel?” Fred asked incredulously. “But I thought you said—”

“I know, I know,” Cordy said her hand up to stop Fred from continuing. “I know I said that I would never go there, but it’s just dinner. And he asked.”

Buffy searched her face. “Are you sure you want to start something with him?”

Cordy looked up at her. She and Buffy had hashed through their Angel conflict while she was still in the hospital. Bottom line was that Buffy wasn’t in love with Angel anymore. Cordy was, or at least she had been before her body-jacking, but she’d realized that the road to Angel was paved with heartbreak and she didn’t want to go there. Fibbing a little, she’d told Buffy that she wasn’t in love with him anymore, but it still hurt to see him. Buffy had felt her pain, being in the same situation with Spike in the aftermath of their relationship.

In answer to Buffy’s question, Cordy said, “I’m not starting anything. It’s just dinner. Besides,” she sighed, “it’ll be awkward. He won’t talk enough. I’ll talk too much. And we’ll both wish we hadn’t even tried. We’re better when we stick to business.”

“Well, good luck with that,” Anya said, raising her glass in salute. “I won’t be thinking of you. I’ll be too busy screwing Joe from Accounting.”

Buffy raised her eyebrows. “He’s got quite the reputation, Anya.”

“I know,” she said, smirking. “And he damn well better live up to it. I saved him from Annoying Annette this morning and I’m going to have a lot of fun extracting the fee for my services.”
As I left lunch, I got to thinking. Women always complained that relationships with men lacked meaningful communication, and usually, men get the blame. But are they really at fault? Or are women the ones to blame? In relationships, are women their own worst enemy?
“Oh. Damn! Yes! Right. There. Harder! AHH!!”

Anya’s scream echoed off the concrete walls of Joe’s basement apartment. It was a satisfying reverberation. Too bad it was ruined by the sweaty body plastered on top of her.

“Is my baby-waby a happy wittle girl now?” Hot breath accompanied Joe’s scratchy voice against her ear, and Anya screwed her face up in disgust.

Okay, scratch that earlier thought. It wasn’t the sweatiness that was ruining this. It was Joe’s weird idea of pillow talk.

“Uh, what?” Anya asked purposefully, hoping that he’d get the hint that normal adult conversation would be much appreciated right now.

“Awww,” Joe pulled back, smirking down at her and then leaning down to rub his nose against her in the most irritating of Eskimo kisses. “Anya-wanya’s all tired out. The big man musta rode her a little too hard, huh, sweetie-kins?”

“Gah!”

Anya used her demon-given strength and shoved Joe off her. “Gee, Joe, it’s been great ‘n’ all, but I gotta go.”

Joe frowned. “Already?”

“Um, yeah,” Anya nodded distractedly, searching for her clothes on the darkened bedroom floor. “I’ve got this thing where I’ve, um, and this other thing, later, that I just have to do, you know? Buisness and stuff. So I gotta go.”

“Okay,” he said slowly, still not getting the picture. “Wanna get together later?”

Anya looked at him incredulously, taking in the satisfyingly muscled physique and handsome features that stared back at her. Okay, so the guy might have a weird way of talking to her during sex. But wow, did he know what he was doing otherwise. Damn, why did there have to be something wrong with him? He was so perfect in so many ways, but the baby talk…she shuddered.

“Call me,” she finally said, flashing him a strained smile as she jerked on her pants.

“Oh, I will,” he said in a low voice, then smirked. “You’re one hell cat in bed, doll,” he drawled.

“Thanks,” she said dryly. “You, too.”

He frowned but stayed silent and watched her get dressed.

Anya flashed him a little smile and waved as she picked up her purse. “Bye!”

“Bye, baby-waby,” he said, trying to sound sexy, but it was all she could do not to roll her eyes.

Anya hurried out the door with the rapidity of car thief escaping detection. She refused to give into the little part of her mind that was shaking its head in self-disgust. This was her fault, and she knew it. Joe might be a dynamite lover, but the rumors she’d heard about his prowess had equally warned her of his kinky bedroom talk. She hadn’t quite anticipated his particular brand of it, though.

As she left, her mind buzzed with one important mission. Never one to let good nookie go when the kinks could be smoothed out, she wondered: where could she find some ear plugs at midnight?
While Anya was discovering that some words are a mood-killer, I was across town just begging for words. Any words at all.
“So,” Cordy said, pursing her lips as she swung her purse at her side.

“So,” Angel echoed, equally at a loss for something to say. Hands deep in his pockets, he gave her a sideways glance as they walked down the street, searching her profile as if he’d find the keys to unlock his recalcitrant conversational skills on the planes of her face.

It had been the same all night long. Angel had taken her to a restaurant she loved, and despite the fact that the food was divine, Cordy had felt herself extremely uncomfortable, just as she’d predicted. They’d run out of conversation topics about fifteen minutes after they arrived, and the rest of the evening had been filled with a staccato rhythm of false starts and short stops in their poor attempts to keep conversation alive.

Taking a glance around the street crowded with evening pedestrian traffic, Cordy was suddenly struck by the fact that the only silent oasis on the entire block was with them. Everywhere she looked, couples were engaged in some type of conversation. Men all around her were more than capable of maintaining verbal discourse with absolutely no problem. So why wasn’t her vampire up to snuff?

Sighing, Cordelia gave in to the inevitable. Looks like she’d have to wear the pants in this relationship, after all.

“So what did the research department say?” she finally asked, dredging up her only-use-in-case-of-emergencies conversation topic. She looked at him askance as she kicked a wad of paper to the side on the sidewalk in front of her.

“Huh?” Angel seemed to shake his head slightly as he dragged his mind away from his thoughts. “Research?”

Cordy gritted her teeth. “Yes. The vision? Pukey demon? Docks? Remember?”

“Of course I remember,” Angel said shortly. “They’re working on it.”

“Oh,” Cordy said, disappointed that the topic was over so quickly. Another one bit the dust. “Well, good.”

Silence descended again and Cordy frantically searched her mind for something to talk about, but she was out of luck. That had been her last semi-worthwhile idea.

Angel scuffed the toe of his shoe on the sidewalk as he walked, obviously deep in thought.

“Look, Cor, this isn’t what I had in mind,” he finally said, grimacing.

Affront flooded her. “No kidding,” she said sarcastically. “But what did you think we’d do? Laugh and joke like we used to?”

He shrugged, and she was suddenly filled with the urge to grab him and shake him, force him to open up to her. Why had she once thought his stoicism was so sexy? That trait she so admired had come back to bite her in the ass.

“Well, this is me.”

They’d walked all the way to her building by now and were standing in front of the entrance, her doorman inconspicuous nearby. When Angel had offered her an apartment in the Wolfram & Hart building, she’d adamantly refused. But he’d insisted on a secure apartment building and since it was included in her salary, Cordy had complied. Truth be told, she liked the added protection. Heaven knew she didn’t have her ever-present vampire body guard slash best friend with her all the time like she used to.

“Cordy,” he started again, but she shook her head and laid a hand on his arm.

“Don’t,” she whispered. “We just can’t do this. There’s too much between us now, too much—“

“Cordy,” he said again, his finger over her mouth to stop her words.

“What?” she said against his hand.

“Just shut up.”

In one swift move, Angel pulled her tight into his body before she had a chance to read his intent in his eyes. His mouth covered hers instantly, and she was reduced to a shocked lump within a matter of seconds. He kissed her intensely, like she was ice cream and he was trying to gobble her up before she melted. It was that intensity that finally elicited a whimper of compliance from her and she molded her frame to his, throwing her arms around his neck, kissing him back with all the pent-up attraction she’d been sitting on for almost two years.

They devoured each other, oblivious to the barely concealed snickers of passers-by and the disapproving frown of her doorman as he witnessed their flagrant disregard for the usual social niceties. Their kiss was passionate, the kind that held nothing back, certainly not for the sake of decorum. Every emotion they felt was brought out in physical form, in the connection of one mere kiss, the continuation of which only serving to fuel and strengthen the fire.

Everything negative between them disappeared in that instant, and Cordelia shoved away the logic that told her it was only temporary. What mattered now was the glorious feel of Angel’s mouth on hers, his tongue rubbing against her own, the hard length of his arousal pressed intimately against her stomach. She wanted him, needed him, in a desperate way that both thrilled and terrified.

Pulling away, she stared breathlessly into his eyes as she leaned her forehead against his. Making a move as if to speak, Cordy was stopped as Angel shook his head, brushing his forehead against hers. He held her close, kissing one eyebrow and tightening his grip around her waist. Wordlessly, he pulled her against his side and walked to the door, barely sparing the doorman a backward glance as he determinedly pulled her into the building, up the stairs, inter her apartment, and into her bedroom.

Cordelia didn’t argue.
That night, I thought I’d found the answer: sometimes, no words are the best words. When we just shut up and go with it, everyone gets to have fun. But at times, a few words are truly necessary. In Buffy’s case, though, only a few well-delivered lines were needed to get the job done.
“Hi, Blake.”

Buffy’s breathless voice rang through the receiver on Blake Thompson’s phone, and he was mildly shocked to hear the sultriness in it. Always having been somewhat of a traditionalist in their relationship, Buffy had never been one to call him at work, much less one to call him as if she were auditioning for 1-900-sexy-grl.

“B-Buffy?” he said, loosening his tie and glancing nervously across his desk at his boss, Mr. Iverson, who looked at him sternly. Iverson didn’t like personal calls on company time, and taking one during a meeting was jumping on the fast track to career suicide. Blake would have to make this quick.

“Yeah, big daddy, it’s me. Guess what I’m wearing.”

“Oh, God,” he said, his voice cracking. His eyes widened and he chanced another glance at his boss. Relief flooded him when he saw the concern etched on Iverson’s face. Good. Maybe the old despot would think there’d been a death in the family.

“Oh, God, is right,” Buffy said, trying hard not to giggle. Anya had nailed this one on the head. Who knew a little dirty talk could stretch so far? “At least that’s what you’ll be screaming when I’m riding you tonight.”

Blake gulped. Iverson started to look suspicious.

“Aren’t you curious, Blake? About what I’m wearing?”

“Yeah,” he whispered.

“Leather,” she whispered back. “Red leather. A corset and a skirt. I look hot, Blake. You should come over. Now.”

“N-Now?” he stuttered, loosening his tie even further. “B-But I’m in a meeting.”

“Oh, you naughty boy, Blake. Fantasizing about your girlfriend when your boss is in the room.”

“I gotta go,” he finally squeaked. “I’ll get home when I can.”

“OH, God, Blake. Just blow off the old guy. Tell him somebody died.”

Blake jerked upright at that comment, realizing how much it echoed his own thoughts. God, just the thought of Buffy in an outfit like that. . . he shuddered involuntarily. He’d tell Iverson his own mother died if he could leave right now to go to Buffy’s.

“Okay. Bye,” he said abruptly, and hung up the phone.

Iverson’s shrewd eyes pinned him. “Is everything all right?”

“No, sir,” Blake said gravely. “There’s been a family emergency. I need to leave.”

Iverson frowned, but nodded. “Of course. Is there anything I can do to help?”

A strange look passed over Blake’s face. “No, sir, thank you.”

“Then we’ll finish this meeting later.” Iverson stood, waiting for Blake to do the same. When he didn’t, Iverson’s frowned deepened, but he didn’t press the issue, leaving abruptly.

If he could just stop thinking about Buffy long enough to get his body from visibly reacting, maybe he could actually get out of here and do something about it.
With a few well-placed words, Buffy thought she had her man back in line. I, on the other hand, was about to learn a real-life definition of the word ‘miscommunication.’
Cordelia stretched, her arms coming up over her head and fisting against the headboard. Her back arched, cloth-covered breasts pushing toward the ceiling, her mouth opening in a yawn and squeal as she curled her toes and reveled in the glorious feeling of sleeping in, the warm morning sunlight warming her skin.

Hazel eyes popped open in alarm at that last thought. Frantically, her head whipped toward the other side of the bed, dreading the pile of dust she was sure to see on the sheets next to her. Her fingers touched the sheets, finding nothing but clean cotton, and she quickly breathed a sigh of relief. Angel must be in the other room, away from her inadequately covered windows.

Listening carefully, dismay accumulated as she realized she was being met with the sound of nearly complete silence. Tiptoeing out of her bedroom, she checked her living room, only to discover that Angel wasn’t there. A quick check of the bathroom and kitchen confirmed her worst suspicions.

Angel was gone.

~*~

A rapid knock on Buffy’s front door startled her enough to make her jump. Quickly checking herself out in the full-length mirror, she adjusted her corset, straightened her skirt, and strolled over to the door, a smile of satisfaction curving her lips.

A last-minute burst of apprehension grabbing her, Buffy checked her visitor’s identity through the peephole. Her smile grew wider as she saw the flustered look on Blake’s face as he fidgeted in the hallway.

Right on time.

With a flourish, she opened the door, then leaned against it’s edge, her arm raised along the top so that her breasts pushed up, indecently spilling over the top edge of the corset.

“Hey, baby,” she said softly, her eyes twinkling.

Gulping, Blake gave her a long, slow once-over, the kind of heated look that made Buffy’s stomach unfurl with warmth.

“Hey,” he finally said back, his voice cracking slightly. He edged into the apartment, grabbing her around the waist and pulling her to him, kissing her passionately as he kicked the door shut.

From that point on, no words were necessary.

At least in Blake’s opinion.

True to form, he turned completely, utterly silent. His breathing was even, regular, no harsh panting or frantic gulps of air that signaled his unbridled passion. He kissed her slowly, deliberately, the smacking sounds so soft as to be nonexistent. Buffy tried to lose herself in the firestorm he was unleashing on her, but the silence was ringing in her ears, making it difficult to think, difficult to get lost in the moment.

Pulling him with her, she managed to back against her stereo and hit the power button without breaking their kiss, the soft sounds of jazz filling her ears and drowning out the silence that so annoyed her. As soon as the music began, though, Blake pulled back abruptly, frowning.

“Uh-oh, sorry, babe. Guess I’m getting a little too carried away, bumping you into the furniture,” he said with a chagrined look, then reached down and flicked the switch off, pulling her away and toward the bedroom.

Buffy tried valiantly not to sigh in frustration. Time to implement Plan B.

Blake pushed Buffy back onto the bed, then crawled in above her, trailing soft kisses down the column of her throat, her upper chest, stopping only to cruise along the edge of her corset top, his mouth enjoying the barely-concealed softness of her breasts. Buffy breathed deeply, her position and the inadequate covering of the top allowing the breath to pull her breasts free of the garment, her nipples coming into view. Blake pulled away and looked down at her breasts, grinning.

Trying not to sound like a porn star, Buffy gave him a sultry smirk and brought a hand up, cupping her breast and raising it toward him.

“Suck it, baby,” she said softly, the words sounding oh-so-naughty coming from her mouth. “I love it when you use your tongue on my nipples.”

Blake froze, staring at her wide-eyed as if she’d just committed a huge faux pas, but he seemed to shake it off and smiled tentatively again, leaning down to fulfill her request. Going with her success, Buffy began to urge him on with little phrases, little endearments, small directions that he sought to fulfill.

“Oh, yeah, Blake,” Buffy whispered breathlessly, “Please. Touch me.” She reached for his wrist, guiding his hand down between her legs and under her skirt. “R-right there,” she whimpered, her eyes crossing as his fingers slid over just the right spot. “Right. Freakin. There! Oh, God! Harder!”

Her voice raised to a fevered pitch, her own words turning her on just as much as she hoped they would him. But as she screamed that last word, Blake’s hand on her froze and was suddenly gone. Buffy felt the weight shift on the bed and opened confused eyes to see him standing near the bed, shaking his head with a look of bewilderment on his face.

“Buffy, what the hell has gotten into you?”

Buffy sat up on her elbows. “What do you mean?”

“You’re—you’re,” he stopped, his mouth opening and closing as he tried find the words he wanted. “You’re turning into a—” Blake stopped again.

Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “A what? What were you going to call me, Blake?”

Standing up, Buffy moved until she was inches from him, glaring up at him. “What?”

Blake jerked back, the fury in the Slayer’s eyes making him think twice. Suddenly he wished he didn’t know just how much stronger she was than him.

Following him, Buffy’s eyes flashed. “Tell me, Blake. What were you going to call me. A whore? A slut? What?”

Eyes widening hugely, Blake stammered, “N-no! I wasn’t going to say that. It’s just that you’re scaring me, Buffy. You aren’t like this. You don’t do,” he gestured wildly, searching for the word, “you don’t do vixen.”

A huff of incredulity escaped her. “I’ll have you know that I do vixen very well, Mister. I have muscles you’ve only dreamed about. I can ride you until you pop like warm champagne, and you’ll only be begging for more.” Her chin raised at his look of disbelief. “I’ve slept with an insatiable vampire, Blake. I think I can handle you.”

Blake shook his head, not wanting to believe his ears. “No, Buffy. You’re a good girl. Gentle. You like sweet, slow lovemaking, not this animalistic stuff.”

“Is that what you called the sex we had? Sweet, slow lovemaking?” Buffy laughed incredulously. “It was uncomfortable, Blake. And I didn’t like it. You weren’t very good at it.”

Buffy wished she could take the words back almost before she said them. She wasn’t being fair. Except for the silence, Blake had been an adequate lover. He’d gotten the job done, at least.

At Buffy’s words, Blake’s face took on a closed expression. “Fine. I guess we’re just not cut out to be together.”

Sighing, Buffy gave in to the inevitable. “I guess we’re not.”

Blake grabbed up his shirt and threw it on, buttoning it haphazardly as he walked toward the door. Just before he exited, Buffy stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“I’m sorry, Blake. I shouldn’t have said that about you—you’re skills, I guess. You were good, but you’re right. We aren’t supposed to be together.”

He wouldn’t look at her. A nod of his head was her only answer, and then he was gone.

Buffy leaned her forehead against the door and sighed. She guessed communication hadn’t been their only problem after all.
As Buffy was learning, sometimes there are no ‘right words’ to fix the problems with your man. But what if you need to talk to your man and can’t find him? Or he won’t let you?
Cordy pursed her lips, studying the menu at the ice cream shop like she was deciding the fate of humankind. After much consideration, she finally ordered.

“I’ll have double fudge brownie, with pecans and caramel on top.”

The kid behind the counter just blinked, his ice cream scoop poised over the bucket in the case. “Waffle cone or bowl?”

She thought about it. “Chocolate dipped waffle bowl with sprinkles.”

The kid nodded, then began scooping. Cordy sighed, her mouth watering in anticipation.

Beside her, Buffy stared at her in disbelief. “What happened to the ‘I can’t eat anything but salad’ routine?”

Cordy shrugged. “Just felt like a change, that’s all.”

“Uh-huh,” Buffy said, shaking her head. Some girl talk was definitely on their menu.

Paying for her ice cream, Cordy waited for Buffy’s order to be filled and then led the two of them over to a high table in the back corner, well away from the door and in a relatively empty part of the shop. Dipping her spoon into her ice cream, Cordy took a huge bite and groaned in satisfaction as the chocolatey goodness melted on her tongue.

Buffy scrutinized her carefully. “Okay, Cor, spill. What’s the deal?”

Cordy just shrugged again. “I just made a bad decision, that’s all. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay,” Buffy said, deciding to try another tack. “So how was the date with Angel last night?”

Cordy’s hand froze, the spoon halfway to her mouth. Slowly, she lowered it back to the bowl. “Fine,” she said tersely, refusing to look at Buffy.

“Uh-uh,” Buffy shook her head. “Not gonna work. Something happened and you need to talk about it. What, did he kiss you?”

A mirthless laugh escaped Cordy’s lips. “I wish it was only that. It’s worse.”

Buffy saw the writing on the wall, her eyes growing huge. “Oh God, you slept with him?”

Cordy nodded, then buried her head in her hands and groaned.

“But what about the curse?”

Eyes popping up to Buffy’s, Cordy frowned. “The curse is kind of not a problem right now.”

Buffy raised an eyebrow. “Uh, okay. Care to explain?”

Cordy thought it over. Everybody’s memory on this particular subject had been altered, including Buffy’s. She’d been the only one to escape reprogramming, and she wasn’t sure just how much she should reveal to Buffy.

After a long silence, Cordy sighed and spoke. “I can’t say much, but the deal Angel made to take over Wolfram & Hart had some stipulations to it that will keep him relatively unhappy for years to come. That doesn’t mean he can’t find some happiness, he just won’t be able to experience perfect happiness anytime soon. Until that point, Wesley’s still working on a cure for his curse in his spare time. But for now, Angel’s safe.”

Seeming satisfied with that explanation, if only partially, Buffy nodded. “So why did you sleep with him? I thought you said you weren’t in love with him anymore.”

“I lied.”

“Oh.” Buffy didn’t have anything to say to that.

“I told you I was in love with him but I couldn’t go down that road and I wouldn’t. Ever. That I was getting over him. But all it took was one amazing kiss and I was Jell-o. I couldn’t resist, Buffy.”

Buffy smiled softly in sympathy. “I know where you’re coming from,” she said, remembering all the times she’d been resolved to avoid Spike, but his kisses had pulled her in anyway. “So what happened after?”

“I woke up, and he was gone. No note. No kiss goodbye. No nothing. And he hasn’t called me.”

“When did he leave?”

Cordy shrugged. “Before dawn, I guess. And it’s mid-afternoon now. I’ve been to the office. He could’ve made an attempt. Why the hell would he initiate this and then just act like it never happened?”

“Maybe he freaked out.”

“Obviously.” Cordy snorted. “Jerk,” she said, but it was filled with more pain than malice. “It just hurts, and I don’t know how to fix it.”

Buffy’s eyes were sad. “I wish I could give you an answer, Cor, but I can’t.”

“I know. But it does help to talk about it, so thanks for dragging it out of me.”

Grinning, Buffy winked at her. “No problem. That’s what friends are for: to drag the big, ugly, painful stuff of life out into the open where we can stomp all over it.”

Cordy cracked a smile. “Sounds good.” They fell silent, Cordy straightening in her seat after a moment, her eyes widening. “Hey! What happened with Blake?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Not good. I tried the Anya’s dirty talk play-by-play and he went ballistic. Thought I was acting like a hooker.”

Aghast, Cordy gaped at her. “He actually said that?”

“No,” Buffy laughed. “He said I ‘don’t do vixen.’ Can you believe that?”

“Vixen?” Cordy laughed. “That’s pretty lame.”

“I know,” Buffy said, rolling her eyes. “But in hindsight, he was kinda lame, too.” She sighed. “I guess I struck out again.”

“You’ll find somebody, Buff,” Cordy said consolingly, trying to cheer her up. “Hey! I know this guy who—”

“Wait!” Buffy held out her hand, shaking her head furiously. “No blind dates, please! I’ve had enough bad ones to know that I do just fine picking my own losers without any help, thank you very much.”

“Okay.” Cordy sounded disappointed. “Speaking of blind dates, I wonder how Fred’s is going? What was his name again? Arlen? Allen?”

“Allen,” Buffy remembered. She looked at her watch. “What time were they supposed to meet?”

“Three, I think. I talked to Gunn this morning. He told me he was trying to talk her out of it, but Fred was pretty insistent.”

“She’s kinda stubborn.”

Cordy grinned. “You get that, too? You’d never know it when you first meet her, but she can cling to an idea for dear life if she believes in it.”

“I know. I just hope she doesn’t get her heart broken,” Buffy said warily.

Sighing, Cordy twirled her spoon in her ice cream. “Yeah, me too.”
~*~
Fred Burkle was nervous.

This condition wasn’t unusual; Fred had spent a majority of her adolescent and adult life impersonating a wiggle worm, but she couldn’t quite recall being this agitated in her recent past. Her involvement with Angel Investigations and its employees had given her some stability, curbing her natural tendency towards jitters.

Today, though, she wasn’t sure she could keep her insides from bursting out through her skin.

Tapping her foot in a continuous but unpatterned rhythm, she played with the pages of her paperback edition of Pride & Predudice and waited. Her location in the small coffee shop gave her a good view of the door and of Gunn, who waited a few tables over, hiding behind the crammed, tiny-print-filled pages of the Wall Street Journal. Eyes flitting toward the door every three seconds or so, she wondered if he was actually going to show. One minute she wanted him to, the next minute she didn’t.

Fred didn’t know why this was so important to her, but it was. Over the last several months, she’d felt a hole in her life begin to grow bigger. She wasn’t getting any younger. While by today’s standards she was hardly a spinster, she couldn’t help but feel that as every birthday passed, her dream of a white-picket future was slowly slipping through her fingers.

Never having been one to like blind dates, Fred had at first been reluctant about the idea of internet dating. But one of her friends from Texas, Kayla, had sent her an e-mail gushing about a dating site she’d joined called HeartsEntwined.com. Kayla had found her ‘soulmate’ through this dating service and she was telling everyone she could think of about it. Fred had been intrigued and on a whim, had signed up for the first free month.

After that, she was hooked.

It had taken her two more months to weed through all the losers and actually find a few guys to talk to. Slowly, those prospects had washed away like so much silt, leaving the gleaming gold of Allen, the man she was convinced was her soulmate.

Just then, the bell on the door jangled and Fred’s eyes whipped toward it, her breath hitching in anticipation. She gulped furiously when an extremely handsome man walked through the door, his white-toothed grin flashing as his eyes searched the room. When they landed on Fred, she nearly choked.

Her fingers flew to her hair, smoothing slightly, then down her clothes to press out non-existent wrinkles. She looked down at the table, not wanting to be caught staring, waiting until his long legs moved into view before turning her head up and flashing a huge smile at him.

“Hi, you must b—”

She was left with her mouth hanging open mid-sentence as he sailed on past her. Swiveling, she turned to find him planting a long, passionate kiss on the woman behind her. Fred’s face turned an embarrassing shade of pink and she whipped around, staring down at her hands and trying to calm her racing heart.

“Dude! You’re such a hottie!”

The high-pitched voice came from across the table and Fred’s head jerked up, her eyes widening as she took in her visitor.

“E-excuse me?” She whispered, trying not to gape.

“You’re Fred, right?” he asked.

Oh, God. Please no. Not this one! Never had she wanted to lie more in her life. But it wasn’t like he couldn’t tell, what with the book, the white rose, the anxious expression.

“Y-yes,” she finally squeaked out.

“I knew it! Score! Your boobs are kinda small, but you’re still way freakin’ hot! This rocks!”

Fred almost forgot to breathe as the skinny, red-headed kid, all of thirteen, slid out the seat across from her and slouched into it, a grin stretching across his braces-bedecked mouth.
~*~
“That’s it, little lady. Big daddy’s here to fill your every naughty-waughty desire.”

Anya gritted her teeth, wishing she’d had the guts to wear the ear plugs that were now inconveniently stashed in her purse. She could’ve come up with a good explanation. A kinky one that even he would accept. But had she? Nooooo!

Across from her, Joe swiveled his hips like a drunken Elvis impersonator, his leer just as cheesy. “Oo, that’s right, kitty cat. Betcha can’t wait to get some of this prime cut, can ya? Huh? Huh?” He grabbed his crotch obscenely and staggered over to her.

Steeling herself, Anya leaned back and closed her eyes, raising her arms above her head in a blatant invitation. She desperately hoped he’d take the hint and start kissing her, putting an end to his talking. A sigh of relief escaped her when she felt the bed shift and his mouth descend on her neck.

Finally getting turned on at the feel of his mouth as it traveled down to her breast, Anya relaxed a little and wrapped her legs around him, rubbing her sex against his. He gasped, his mouth falling away from her.

Leaning down against her ear, he whispered, “Ooo, baby’s bein’ bad. Do you need a spanky-wanky?”

Oh, God! Why had she tried this again? He’d been fantastic the first time, Anya’s multiple orgasms attesting to that, but he’d kept his mouth shut for the most part until afterward. Now, though, his foreplay commentary was turning her off more effectively than an episode of Meet the Press.

Shoving him aside and wiggling out from under him, Anya flew off the bed and stood beside it. “That’s it, you freak! I can’t take this! Your baby talk is such a freakin’ turn-off! Not to mention really, really creepy.”

Joe looked shocked. “But you’re a demon, Anya. You of all people should like the kinky stuff.”

Anya raised an eyebrow. “I might be a demon, but I do have taste. Give me the sting of a nipple clamp any day, sure, but your Romper Room crap is just indecent.”

“C’mon, baby!” Joe whined, seeing his sure thing begin to pull on her clothes faster than was humanly possible. “You’re just over reacting!”

“Don’t you mean ‘baby-waby’?” she said sarcastically, slipping the last button into place. “Piece of advice, Joe. Grow up!”

With that, she stormed out the door, swearing she’d do a full background check on her next one-night stand.
~*~
“Oh, God. It was horrible! I was so freaked out,” Fred just shook her head, a blush covering her cheeks as she squirmed uncomfortably in her seat.

Anya couldn’t stifle her laugh. “I told you it was a mistake.”

“Pfft,” Cordy huffed. “None of us could’ve predicted an adolescent gigolo, Anya, not even you.”

“How is it even possible?” Buffy asked, still incredulous. “I thought you said he was really smart. Like your kind of smart.”

“He is!” Fred said, rolling her eyes. “The kids a genius. Some kind of savant. He’s already graduated college and he’s only thirteen. It was definitely him e-mailing me.”

“And the picture?” Cordy said. “I saw it. Cute guy, whoever he was.”

Fred sighed. “He found the picture in a magazine and altered it on his computer to look like a regular photo instead of an ad for business suits.”

This time, they all laughed, even Fred.

“So how did you end up scaring him off? Sounds like he was pretty tenacious,” Anya asked, her eyes twinkling. “Did Gunn play the knight to your damsel?”

Fred blushed again. “Yeah, he was pretty fantastic. He came over and pulled his tough-guy act on the kid. Even without his street clothes he scared him pretty good. I had a hard time not laughing.”

“Well, I’m glad you weren’t hurt,” Cordy said. “But I hope you think twice about internet dating the next time.”

“Oh, definitely,” Fred nodded. “I’m meeting this other guy tomorrow, but I’m going to make Gunn check him out before I even get inside. That way, I can be the one to leave.”

The other three women gaped at her.

“I’m just kiddin’,” Fred said, rolling her eyes. “Sometimes y’all are so gullible.”

“I guess this just wasn’t our week, girls.” Cordy shook her head. “We all struck out.”

“Angel’s still not talking, huh?” Anya asked.

A sad expression crossed Cordelia’s face. “Nope. Haven’t seen him since two days ago.”

“And Blake and Joe are losers,” Buffy added. “So you’re not alone, Cor.”

“You think we’ll ever find someone?” Fred asked wistfully.

“Sure,” Anya said. “And the more someones the better, in my opinion.”

The others grinned.

Buffy raised her glass in a toast. “To us: may we find unlosery guys, great sex, and maybe even great love.”

“Cheers!” The girls clinked their glasses and downed their drinks, determined that their lives would only get better from here on out.
~*~
Cordy tapped her foot on the leg of her chair, checking her watch for the umpteenth time since she’d stepped into Angel’s office. He wasn’t there; Harmony said he was out talking to one of his contacts and would be back any minute. Cordy desperately wanted to just leave him a note, but he hated that and she knew that this talk needed to be made in person.

But damn the vampire for making her so nervous while she sat here and waited.

Finally, the door behind her swung open and she fought to keep her head facing his desk, her body relaxed and comfortable as if she’d just been enjoying the peace and quiet.

Angel strode over to her, sitting on the edge of the desk opposite her, his dark eyes searching her face.

“Hi, Cordy,” he said softly, and she felt her heart begin to crumble.

“Hi,” she said, cursing herself as she heard her breathless voice. She cleared her throat. “Um, had a vision again. You need to know about it.”

“Okay, fine,” he said, but he wouldn’t take his eyes off her face.

“It’s going to happen tomorrow, but—”

“Cordy, wait,” Angel said, standing, then reaching down to pull her to her feet. “Forget the stupid vision for a second. I have to talk to you.”

She raised her eyebrows. “What is there to talk about?”

He gaped at her. “What is there to talk about?” he repeated. “We slept together, Cordy. I think there’s a lot to talk about.”

“Well you haven’t seemed very conversational in the past couple of days,” she countered, unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice.

“I’m sorry, Cordy,” he said softly, his thumbs rubbing her upper arms. “I was an ass. I should’ve called you or talked to you. Will you forgive me?”

“Why did you run off, Angel?” she asked, not answering his question.

He shrugged and remained silent. Suddenly, in a burst of clarity, Cordelia realized that “I was an ass” was all the explanation she was going to get. No grandiose apologies, no romantic gestures, no clear explanations. This was it.

This was Angel, and if she wanted him, she had to take the whole, flawed deal. Apparently that came with a non-communicative clause in the fine print.

She sighed, giving in to her weakness. “Okay, I forgive you.”

His shoulders sagged in relief. “Good. I won’t do it again, I promise.”

All she could do was nod.

“I missed you,” he whispered, pulling her close. Tilting her chin up, his eyes bored into hers. “Want to have dinner with me tonight? In my apartment?”

Cordy recognized the invitation for what it was, an invitation into his bed. She felt as though she were settling, and she didn’t want to, not with Angel. She wanted all of him. His bare, whole heart, flayed open and exposed to her in total trust. What she was getting was Angel heart inside a glass display case, there to tempt her, but not to touch.

As if sensing her hesitation, Angel curled his arms around her back and pulled her to him, bringing his lips down for a long, slow, infinitely sweet kiss. Cordy tasted the potential in that kiss, the potential for a greater love than she’d ever known. The problem was it was of equal parts disaster. It was a fine line she was walking, and she knew it.

But in the end, she couldn’t resist. This was the man who held her heart, after all, and she had no way to take it back.

“Dinner would be great.”

I guess women really are their own worst enemy. As much as we bitch and moan about a guy’s lack of communication, if we really want him, we’ll put up with near silence if we have to. We’ll throw all our ideals to the wind if there’s a slight flicker of hope that he’ll love us back. And in putting up with it, we shortchange ourselves, setting ourselves up for disaster. In the end, a path like this will only lead to one of two options: unparalleled happiness or devastating heartbreak.

But it’s a gamble I’m willing to take.
Episode 2: The Essence of Competition

Someone once said that all is fair in love and war.

Pffft. “All’s fair” my ass. Whoever said that must be totally naive, and there’s no way in hell he’s ever had his heart torn in half because of a broken relationship.

Even though the fair part’s a load of crap, the guy did get one thing right. There is definitely a warlike aspect to the game of love. The competition is fierce, and it has this really nasty way of popping up when we least expect it. Unfortunately, I had to learn that lesson the hard way.
“Oh, damn!”

Hot puffs of breath escaped Cordelia’s mouth in gasps as she flung herself onto her back and spread her arms wide. Perspiration shone on her skin like glitter, her face flushed rosy. “God,” she moaned, eyes closing shut in ecstasy, “that was incredible.”

At her side, Angel groaned, bone-tingling satisfaction coursing through him.

Turning her head, Cordy looked over at him with a lazy smile on her face. “Wasn’t that amazing, baby?”

Angel grunted, eyes still shut.

Frowning at his half-answer, Cordelia rolled back over and curled her sweaty body into his cool side, laying her flushed cheek on his chest. Fingers stroking his skin absently, she listened to the peculiar silence of his body, frown deepening as the silence lengthened, and it struck her that lately, everything about Angel was silent.

They’d been together for over three weeks now, twenty-four days and nights of hot, glorious sex. Every time Cordy thought of what they’d done together, not to mention how often, she blushed all the way to her toes. The things that vampire could do with his tongue should be outlawed. Somewhere, they probably were.

For now, Cordelia pushed away her irritation at Angel’s silence and forced herself to enjoy his commanding presence. They lay there, recovering, and Cordy felt herself getting sleepier. Just as she was about to drift off, Angel pulled away from her and turned on his side, back facing her, unceremoniously dumping her face-first onto the sheets.

A dark look passed over her face. “Hey!”

“What?” Angel mumbled sleepily, and as Cordelia stared at the back of his head, she decided she didn’t want to pick this fight. She wouldn’t win.

Settling back down on her own side of the bed, Cordelia glanced over at the clock. It was only 5:00 in the evening, barely dusk, and they still had the whole evening together. She’d better cement their plans before he fell asleep completely.

“So what are we going to do tonight?”

He shrugged, an awkward gesture considering his position.

Cordelia glared at the back of Angel’s head, telepathically sending him her irritation.

He didn’t get the message.

Rolling her eyes as she stared up at the ceiling, Cordy sighed long-sufferingly. “Some input would be nice. It’s not like we can have sex all the time.”

“We can’t?” he mumbled.

“No,” she growled emphatically. “Occasionally, we should have interaction outside of a bed.”

Now she had his attention. Angel rolled over onto his back and joined her in staring at the ceiling. A self-satisfied smile stretched his mouth. “There was that interaction the other day in the elevator,” he reminded her. “And in my office.”

“That doesn’t count!”

“And the copy room, and the Plymouth, and in the bathroom at the restaurant last night,” he ticked off each one on his fingers, acting as if he hadn’t heard her.

Cordy blushed furiously. She hadn’t planned that last one, it had just happened. Damn sexy vampire.

“Angel!” she said irritably, “Our relationship isn’t all about sex!”

Angel grunted, a patronizing sound of agreement.

A scream of frustration bubbled up inside of Cordelia but she resolutely tamped it down.

Glaring at his profile, she tried again. “So what’ll it be? It should be some old-fashioned date type activity. Movie? Dinner? Both?” She waited, but Angel remained silent, as if uninterested. Finally, he shrugged again, inciting her anger.

“Damn it! C’mon! I don’t want to make this decision all by myself.”

Angel turned to look at her. “Why not? We always do what you want, anyway. So why not cut to the chase? You plan the evening, and I’ll go along and pay for it.”

Gaping, Cordelia could only blink. When Angel turned back to the ceiling again, effectively dismissing her, Cordelia’s eyes narrowed to slits in her anger.

“Well, if you’re going to be that way about it, I can run this whole relationship all by myself.” She got up, snatched his shirt off the floor and stalked over to the window, pulling the shirt on and staring through red-veiled eyes at the L.A. nightscape. “I’m practically already talking to myself, since you’re all mono-syllable guy. And since I’m going to plan all the dates now, I might as well start having sex with myself, too. I don’t have to have you for that.” Her last words trailed away in a palpable wave of bitterness.

In the bed, Angel clenched his teeth and rolled his eyes. Fisting his hands in the sheets for a few seconds in a gesture that served to calm his temper, he got up and walked over to stand behind her at the window, not bothering to put anything on.

Cordy felt his approach and stiffened. If he laid one patronizing hand on her. . .

But Angel knew better, letting his imposing presence speak for him. A bright pink neon sign would’ve been more subtle than the hands-off vibes Cordelia was sporting at the moment.

“Baby,” he said, his voice gentle, comforting. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Cordelia’s shoulders wilted a little. “I know.” Turning to face him, she looked up at him, sadness in her eyes. “We’ve only been together for a month and we’re already having problems.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that normal?”

She shrugged. “Little problems, maybe, but this is different.” She frowned, trying to find the right words. “I just feel like you just don’t care about us.”

A wounded look covered Angel’s face and he closed the small distance between them, grasping her shoulders. “How can you say that? We’ve spent practically every night together in the past few weeks.

Cordelia hesitated, not sure if she should say what she really thought. “It’s all sex, Angel,” she finally said softly.

He blinked at her, nonplussed. “I wasn’t serious. It’s not all sex; I was just kidding.”

“Yes, it is,” she argued. “We never talk. We don’t communicate. I don’t know what you’re feeling half the time unless it’s lust or irritation directed at me. You don’t open up.”

Stepping back, Angel’s face grew stormy as he crossed his arms over his chest. His state of undress seemed to just add to the sense of power he exuded.

“This is ridiculous,” Angel admonished. “Our relationship is fine. We have sex. We like it. What the hell is wrong with that?”

Opening her mouth to shoot back a scathing comeback, Cordelia suddenly found that her thoughts were empty. She had nothing. Absolutely nothing. At least nothing that would make Angel’s thoughts change into something more to her liking.

Sighing, Cordelia turned back to the window and stared out again at the skyline, the lights blurring as her eyes filled with tears. “Nothing,” she finally said softly, answering his angry question. “I guess there’s nothing wrong with it.”

Shoulders slumping with relief at Cordelia’s acceptance of the situation, Angel moved forward and wrapped his arms around her, hugging her to him. “We’re fine, Cor,” he reassured her, kissing her hair. “We’re amazing together.”

She nodded, if only to placate him, and when he began kissing her neck, she pushed her insecurity away and gave herself up to the sensations. If Angel didn’t care about her, he wouldn’t be here, right?

Angel’s kisses turned sultry. Tongue lapping at her skin, its roughness sending tingles like sparks throughout her body, Angel explored her with his mouth and hands, effectively cutting off any conscious thought. One big hand spread wide over her stomach, stroking her soft skin and sliding down to delve between her legs. Gasping, Cordelia reached back and grabbed the back of his neck to steady herself, sliding her feet farther apart and opening herself up to him.

Dangerous couldn’t begin to describe his hands and fingers. With a rhythm that made her gasp, rapidly bring her closer to climax, Angel played her body so sweetly that Cordy moaned with ecstasy.

“Yes! Oh, Angel! Faster! Please!” Her last word was a thin, long wail that turned into a scream.

A scream that coincided with the shrill ring of the telephone.

With legs that felt like spaghetti, Cordy leaned against Angel as he deftly picked her up and slid her back onto the bed with an efficiency that left her cold. Spasms still clenching within her, Cordy watched in dismay as Angel picked up the receiver and barked into it, one hand on his hip as if he were standing in his office clothed in Armani, not standing in his bedroom wearing only a scowl.

Her apprehension thickened as she watched his eyes soften and his mouth curve up into a barely-there smile. One of his dangerous smiles, the kind she could never figure out and inevitably spelled trouble of the relationship kind.

“Hey,” he said softly. “How are you?”

As his caller answered, Angel’s eyes flicked over to Cordelia and then flicked away, as if she were part of the bedclothes, unworthy of notice. Anxiety bloomed in Cordelia’s mind.

Angel’s caller obviously said something distressing, because he immediately frowned and clutched the phone tighter, leaning one shoulder against the wall.

“Are you okay?”

The caller’s explanation took a minute or two, during which Angel’s face was more expressive than Cordelia had seen in a long while, and there was a glitter in his eye, one that scared her. One that spoke of secrets she was quite certain he wasn’t about to explain to her. His next words made her breath catch in fear.

“Do you need me to come over?”

She—and of course it had to be a she, because Angel wouldn’t be playing the knight-in-shining-armor if it wasn’t—must’ve issued a swift denial because Angel’s frown grew deeper.

“Are you sure, Nina? I think I should come. You’re not safe.”

Nina? Who the hell was Nina?

Angel continued after a moment. “I’m coming over. No discussion.” He paused again. “No, don’t worry about it. I wasn’t doing anything. You’re not bothering me, I swear.”

Jerking upright in shock, Cordelia could only stare at him. He wasn’t doing anything? He was calling sex with his girlfriend nothing??

The writing on the wall was invisible to Angel. He smiled and laughed softly at something Nina said, then added, “I’ll be there in a half an hour. Don’t worry, Nina, everything will be fine. I’ll see you in a bit.” Sliding the phone into its cradle, Angel strode over to his bathroom and disappeared inside, not even sparing Cordelia a backward glance. Moments later, Cordy heard water running, and her temper reached its boiling point.

Seconds later she was in his bathroom, certain that the steam in the room must be coming from her, not the water.

“Who was on the phone?” Her voice was deceptively neutral, despite her shaking hands.

“Huh?” Angel said, voice echoing against the tile.

Cordy repeated the question a little more forcefully.

“Nina.”

When he didn’t elaborate, Cordelia breathed deeply, counted to ten and unclenched her fists before asking, “I got that. Who is Nina?”

The water shut off with a squeak of the faucets. Angel pulled his towel from where it hung over the shower door and stepped out, drying himself off with an absentminded efficiency. “Nina’s just a friend. She’s having a rough time right now.”

Even though she was afraid to ask, Cordelia couldn’t help herself. “What kind of rough time?”

“When you were in Europe with Buffy last month, Nina found out she was a werewolf and came to us for help. We’ve kept in contact since then.”

Cordy remembered that trip. She’d accompanied Buffy to Europe to see Dawn for a long weekend, and when she got back, Angel was different. Only slightly, but enough that she noticed. At the time, she’d thought she’d just imagined it.

“So you’re best buddies now?” Cordy asked, trying to keep the sarcasm out of her voice and failing miserably.

Angel looked at her sharply before turning and disappearing into his closet, voice muffled as he answered. “Nina and I are just friends so there’s no need to be nasty.”

She gaped at the open doorway. “Nasty? Who’s being nasty? I think I have a right to know when my boyfriend practically drops me in the middle of sex to go running off with another woman!”

His silence attested to his exasperation. After a moment, he said irritably, “We’ve had sex four times tonight. I think we can take a break for awhile.”

Popping out of the closet, fully clothed in his trademark black and looking like sin personified, Angel added, “Nina needs my help. That’s what I do. I help people.”

Striding over to her, he kissed her briefly on her forehead in the way a parent might placate an unruly child. Striding out of the room, he called over his shoulder, “I probably won’t be back before morning. You should go home and get some rest. I’ll see you later.”

And with a slam of the front door, he was gone, leaving a flummoxed and fuming Cordelia standing in the damp, exotic heat of his bathroom.

~*~

Sometimes, men can be absolute pricks. Even so, I shouldn’t have been surprised that there was someone else out there trying to get Angel’s attention. Women and competition go together like a Cosmopolitan and a good time. Before we even date a guy, we have to put up with other women’s underhanded tactics to get his attention. And then when he’s finally ours, we have to be on the lookout for backstabbers at every corner. But is it something we women bring on ourselves? Are we asking for it by overanalyzing everything and being insecure about our man’s love for us? If he says he’s really committed, is competition with other women just a figment of our imaginations?

The next day, Anya was in the thick of a competition of her own with Annoying Annette, the scourge of Wolfram & Hart’s accounting department. While love wasn’t at stake, Anya risked something much more precious to her: her reputation as a sex goddess.
“In the back of a crowded movie theater.”

“What movie?”

The look Anya received was one of disdain. “Hello? Kinky, remember? ET: The Extra Terrestrial. The re-release.”

“Pfft, amateur,” Anya muttered, and Annoying Annette glared at her.

Annette’s glare turned catty when Anya remained silent. “Well? Your turn, Anyanka.”

Anya cocked her head to the side and thought about her answer.

She and Annette had been holed up in the break room near Accounting at Wolfram & Hart for nearly two hours. Their competition had gathered quite a crowd of spectators, so many that the few chairs in the room had long been occupied and now there was a fight for a place to stand. Their little contest had the tantalizing aroma of a Jr. High girl fight, absent the hair-pulling and scratching nails. So far.

A burst of creativity sparked Anya’s memory, and she said triumphantly, “In a dressing room at Bloomingdales!”

Eyeing her suspiciously, Annette asked, “What time of day?”

“Late afternoon. In the middle of the Christmas rush!” she added to up the ante.

“Handicapped room or single?”

“Single. Right by the entrance.”

Their audience murmured, impressed.

Annette’s eye roll was a testament to her blasé opinion, and it was Anya’s turn to glare.

The fight had started out simply enough. One off-hand comment Annette had made about Anya’s sexual prowess and inability to hold on to Joe, the baby-talking freak, had led to a one-upmanship contest as to which woman had the most varied sexual experience. Anya had started off strong, thanking Xander’s willingness for anything remotely sexual during their relationship, but for the last few rounds, her ideas had dwindled until she’d run out of really, truly kinky places she’d had sex. This last attempt had been feeble at best, but half of this competition was posturing, anyway, and Anya had that one in the bag. But who knew Annette was such a skank? Underneath that deceptive Susie Homemaker exterior lay a cat of the nastiest nature, and today, her claws were sharp.

“In the showers at the gym,” Annette began again.

Anya made a face. “That’s not kinky, that’s disgusting. Not to mention unsanitary. All of those sweaty human germs?”

“Fine,” Annette said with a huff. “Your turn again.”

“In the high school parking lot.”

“In a church parking lot,” Annette shot back.

“Huh,” Anya snorted. “Never would’ve taken you for a church-goer.”

Annette ignored her. “In the middle of a Van Halen concert.”

“Pfft. Who hasn’t had sex at a Van Halen concert?” Anya said, and added, “In my boyfriend’s parents’ basement.”

“In my boyfriend’s parents’ bed,” Annette shot back, and Anya growled, irritated to be one-upped again.

“On a city bus in rush hour,” Anya finally said after thinking for a minute.

“On the subway,” Annette said, and Anya frowned at her.

“That’s not any kinkier than on the bus.”

“I’m not finished with that one.”

A gleam entered Annette’s eye as she leaned back against the break room counter, peering at her nails as if completely bored and uninterested. Finally, she flicked her eyes back up to Anya’s and said triumphantly, “On the subway,” she paused dramatically, “with two guys.”

The crowed murmured again.

Anya’s mouth opened for a comeback, but she realized she didn’t have one. Annette had won. The little bitch had won! Of all the things Anya thought she would excel at, it was a competition about sex. Anya was a sex connoisseur. Okay, so 1,000 years as a vengeance demon had given her surprisingly little material to work with. She’d been in the business of vindicating wronged women, and by extension hating men, not seducing them. When a girl goes around eviscerating and emasculating, she doesn’t exactly have a line of beaus on a string. Still, a girl has needs, and Anya had managed to get them taken care of quite pleasurably in the last millennia.

But never in a threesome.

Come to think of it, why hadn’t she ever done it? She definitely wasn’t repulsed by the idea; in fact, it sounded exciting and definitely hot. But did that help her now? No. She had to admit to Annoying Annette that she hadn’t ever been in a threesome. Damn it!

“Whoa, who decided to have a meeting and forgot to tell me?”

Never was Anya more glad to hear the sound of Gunn’s voice.

“Gunn! What are you doing up here?”

“Angel sent me to get you for the meeting at two,” he added pointing meaningfully to his wristwatch, which showed the time at fifteen minutes past.

“Oh, silly me, here chatting it up with Annette instead of doing my job.” Turning to Annette, she smirked and said, “Guess we’ll have to continue this later, hun. I haven’t even gotten to my best stuff yet,” she lied, and was comforted when Annette’s eyes flashed in irritation.

Sailing past her, Anya left the break room and the crowd of disappointed onlookers, following Gunn to the elevator and down to Angel’s office. All the while, Anya’s head was spinning, trying to figure out how to fix this problem of hers before Annette pounced on her again. Because she would, and Anya needed to be able to out-do her.

That annoying little twit needed to be stomped into the ground, and if Anya had to yank two people off the street to have sex with, she would. There was no way Annette was going to win.
~*~

I guess even 1,000 years isn’t enough to learn how to compete with the slyest of competitive women. Anya had learned her lesson: never underestimate your opponent. In competition’s arsenal, Anya’s butter knife was no competition for Annette’s axe, and next time, she’d better come armed with a rocket propelled grenade.

Across town later that night, competition didn’t really seem to be a problem for Buffy. At least it wasn’t until her boyfriend decided to create some for her.
“Zane?” Buffy’s voice was soft as she snuggled up against her newest boyfriend’s side, intending to avoid disturbing him if he was truly asleep.

“Hmmm?” he said sleepily. Long fingers reached up to stroke her hair and he shifted slightly, turning toward her and pulling her closer.

“You awake?”

“Hmm-hmm,” he hummed again, and the rumble in his chest at the sound was comforting, almost like a purr.

Buffy didn’t even want to think about why that was so sexy to her. It had to be her naughty vampire connection. There were a plethora of reasons why sleeping with vampires was a bad practice, but over the last few months, Buffy had decided that there was another item to add to her list: vampiric sexual creativity was hard to beat.

Buffy had tried to be impressed with Zane’s skills. Zane was sweet, and if sex were ice cream flavors, he had classic vanilla down to an art. It was a perfect blend of smooth, creamy sweetness that truly did satisfy her. But there was something missing. Zane, along with every other human lover she’d ever had, hadn’t been able to push her limits in just the right way. To find a way to surprise her every time they made love, to conjure up ways that tricked her body into delivering the mind-blowing orgasms she craved.

Only Spike had been able to do that, but he was a chapter in her life that was firmly closed and back on the shelf. Where he would stay. Forever.

Frowning against Zane’s chest, Buffy traced a random pattern on his skin while she tried to figure out where to begin. His chest rose and fell in an even rhythm that should’ve been soothing, but as in so many other ways, she found herself continually surprised by the fact that he breathed at all. The fact was, she’d been ruined by Angel and Spike for anyone else, and it was going to be difficult to find a man who could compete with her past. If only Zane could inject a little more creativity into his lovemaking, it would be great. Spectacular even.

But trying to fix her last boyfriend had been a train wreck of epic proportions. Maybe she’d have to find a way to make him think it was all his idea.

“Are you—” she stopped, uncertain if she should broach this subject with him.

“Am I what?” he asked, voice gravelly.

“Are you happy? With us, I mean?”

Zane was silent for a moment and she could sense his confusion. “Yeah, sure I am,” he finally answered. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

She shrugged against his shoulder. “I dunno.”

“You’re beautiful,” he said, kissing her head. “You’re sexy, and damn smart. What else could I want?”

Buffy hesitated a moment before answering. “You don’t—you don’t think we’re missing something, do you?”

“What are you talking about?”

“In bed, I mean.”

“Oh,” he said, and his silence made Buffy nervous that she’d offended him. Sitting up slightly, Buffy looked into his eyes and found only thoughtfulness in his expression.

“Well,” Zane said, frowning. “If you really want to know,” he trailed off.

“I do.” She sat up straighter.

“Well, I’ve never been with a girl quite like you, Buffy.” His face suddenly lit up. “But I think you could be totally into this.”

“Into what?”

“Well, I’ve always wanted to try it.”

She waited.

“It’s kind of naughty.”

“Okay,” Buffy said, eyebrows raised. “I can do naughty. I think.”

“You sure?”

“Kinda need to know what you’re talking about, first,” she said, shaking her head in confusion.

Zane took a deep breath as if to fortify himself. “A threesome.”

“A threesome,” she repeated, bewildered. Creativity was one thing, but this? This was not what she’d expected. They were going from vanilla to rainbow sherbet and Buffy wasn’t sure if she wanted to be along for the ride.

“Yeah,” Zane said, excited. “That would be so sexy, Buffy. You, me, a really hot chick.” His eyes glazed as the porno of his own making flashed in his head. “And I know the perfect girl to ask,” he added.

“You do,” Buffy said, still shell-shocked.

“Hmm-hmm,” Zane answered, still stuck in his daydream. Shaking himself out of the fog, he smiled as he looked hopefully into her eyes.

“Your friend Anya is really hot. Can you ask her for me?”

~*~

Geez. Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, the men step in and screw everything up with their predilection for girl-on-girl action. Buffy was going to have her hands full trying to keep her man happy and her sanity intact.

Fortunately, she and I weren’t the only ones practicing the fine art of war among women.
“There are way too many Dannys here,” Buffy groused, taking a gulp of her margarita and grimacing.

“Seriously,” Cordy agreed, a shake of her head indicating her irritation. “Where the hell are all the Mels? I thought this place was supposed to be full of hot guys.”

It was a game the girls had invented during the first of many forays into Los Angeles night life. Anya had been using a simple scale of one to ten, a method that had stood well for centuries. It was Buffy’s suggestion to change their rating system to something slightly more entertaining, and Cordy had suggested movie stars’ names. From there, it spiraled into a concrete, rather simple system that worked surprisingly well.

“It’s all the cheap perfume mixed with husband-hunting sweat in the air,” Anya stated, frowning as she glanced around the room at the abundance of expensive coifs, strappy sandals, and glittery halter-tops. “Most worthwhile guys I know run for the hills at Eau de Gold-digger.”

“Oo, I see one!” Fred whispered, bouncing a little in her seat. “Two o’clock. Blue shirt.”

“Yeah,” Buffy said, eyes lighting up. “That’s more like it. Write ‘im down, Fred.”

Fred carried the particulars in her little black book. The Dannys, as in Danny DeVito, were the ones who weren’t worth a second glance. They weren’t much to look at and they didn’t have anything else going for them. The Toms, as in Tom Hanks, were slightly better: more attractive, but usually someone you wouldn’t go out with unless there were mitigating circumstances, such as side-splitting humor or a fat bank account. The Colins were named after Colin Farrell: very cute but with at least one major character flaw. And the epitome? Mel Gibson: a dedicated family man who still looked damn sexy, even as he aged. Classically gorgeous, like Michelangelo’s David.

The girls kept a tally for each night they were out together playing the game, and tonight had been rather dry. Even so, it was a system that had entertained them for hours on end, warming them up for the marathon sessions of rehashing and dissecting their own lives.

“Okay face,” Anya decided, coldly assessing the man at the bar as she would a prime cut of beef. “Decent shoulders. Very nice arms. A Tom. Or maybe a Colin, since I’m feeling charitable tonight.”

“A Tom?” Cordy frowned as she looked across the room at the object of their scrutiny. “What about his ass?”

Anya’s eyes narrowed slightly as she gazed over the rim of her cosmopolitan. “Eh,” she decided after a moment, pursing her lips in apathy, “Kind of hard to tell from this angle, and his pants are baggy. I’d say he’s overcompensating. Definitely a Tom.”

Across from her, Fred peered down at her notes. “That’s the fourth Tom tonight.”

All four women turned to look at the god-like man who casually leaned against the bar. Impeccably dressed, he exuded an air of intense sensuality, his dark hair shining in the dim lighting of the club. Several women flocked around him, their flirtatious giggles easily carrying across the room.

“A Tom?” Buffy said, disbelief written all over her face. “If he’s a Tom, then who the hell’s a Mel?”

“Brad Pitt,” Cordy answered succinctly.

“No.” Anya’s swift denial was emphatic. “Brad’s actually a Tom.”

The other three women looked at her incredulously. “With that face and body? You’ve got to be kidding me,” Cordelia muttered.

“It’s the ‘package’ factor,” Anya stage-whispered, holding her finger and thumb up about three inches apart, and they burst into raucous laughter before sipping their drinks and perusing the crowd for another victim.

“Speaking of packages,” Buffy said to Fred after a moment of silence, “what was up with you and Gunn this morning? I could practically see the flirty vibes floating around you two in the lobby.”

Fred blinked at Buffy’s odd segue, idly wondering how Buffy had ever become acquainted with Gunn’s package, but she managed to answer anyway. “We had coffee.”

Cordy leaned forward, eyes sparkling. “Are you two starting up again?”

“No,” Fred said emphatically, hair swinging as her head shook. “Definitely not.”

“Oh, please,” Anya said, rolling her eyes. “You don’t have nasty, sweaty sex with a Mel like Gunn and get over it. You’re still hot for him. Admit it.”

“No! Honest!”

Looks of disbelief made her crack. “Okay, so maybe there are little sparks there. Tiny ones. Like not enough to light a match.”

An unladylike “pfft” was Cordy’s answer to that fabrication.

“So? How was it?” Anya’s impatience was apparent.

Fred frowned. “Good. I guess. It was very sweet how he asked me, all spontaneous, and he was so much like the Gunn I first met that he was making me smile. But then this bimbo waitress, with boobs out to here,” she gestured two feet in front of her chest, “was all over him and it made me sick.”

“Jealous?”

“Ha!” Derision colored her tone. “Hardly. But he was there with me, and I was irritated. All I could think was, ‘I have to compete with the waitress?’ and Gunn was just eating it up, watching me get all worked up over it.”

“So then what was good about it?” Buffy asked, referencing Fred’s earlier comment.

Fred’s squirm spoke volumes. “I kinda have a date with him on Friday night.”

Cordy raised her eyebrows. “How did that happen?”

“Well, the waitress finally left us alone and I was still in super-flirty mode, and Gunn was being all cute and flirty back, and I kinda challenged him into it. But he didn’t seem disappointed.”

“He wouldn’t be,” Anya said, sliding her now-empty glass onto the table and signaling a passing waiter to bring her another cosmopolitan. “Not when he’s got his booty call lined up with little or no effort.”

Buffy and Cordy snickered at Fred’s blush and abrupt, “Hey!”

Anya shrugged. “I tell it like I see it.”

“So, um,” Buffy began, lips scrunched up in discomfort, “Can I ask you guys a question?”

“Shoot,” Anya said, waiving her hand breezily.

There was a pause as Buffy worked up the nerve. “Have any of you ever been in a threesome?”

Swiping her new glass away from the waiter, Anya set it down on the table with an audible clunk, muttering, “What the hell is it with this week?”

After looking at Anya strangely, Cordy turned to Buffy. “What brought this up?”

“Zane wants to have one.”

“A threesome.”

“Uh-huh.”

“It’s a proven fact that threesomes are a relationship killer,” Fred said primly, pushing her glasses up on her nose.

“And where did these hallowed words come from?” Anya asked, her sarcasm thick.

“Cosmo.”

The girls raised their glasses in deference to the holy wisdom of their favorite magazine.

“I’ve never been in one,” Cordy said, taking a sip of her drink, “but I’ve fantasized about it.”

Anya looked intrigued. “With who?”

Cordy got a cat-ate-the-cream look and winked. “Now that would be telling.”

“So are you going to do it?” Fred asked, concerned.

Buffy shrugged. “I dunno. He seems to have it all planned out.”

“Another guy or another girl?”

“Girl.”

Anya sat up abruptly. “I’ll do it.”

“W-what?” Buffy choked on her drink, caught off-guard by Anya’s voluntary statement, and even more so by the irony of it. Cordy and Fred stared at Anya, jaws dropped.

“Oh, don’t be such prudes,” Anya groused, rolling her eyes. “It’s just sex. I said I’ll do it. Name the time and the place and I’ll be there.”

“I don’t think—” Cordy began, trying to talk her out of it, but Buffy stopped her.

“Tomorrow night. six p.m., my apartment.”

Nodding, Anya swallowed the last of her second drink in a gulp.

“Okay.” Cordy’s eyes darted from Buffy to Anya and back again. “Did you guys just agree to have sex with each other?”

A look of distaste passed over both women’s faces. “Let’s change the subject,” Buffy suggested, and Anya was quick to add her agreement.

“I’ve got one.” Cordy stared over at the bar, eyes narrowed as she caught sight of a guy who slightly resembled Angel. “Anybody know some werewolf girl named Nina?”

The other three women exchanged glances. “I’ve met her,” Fred said quietly. “Why do you ask?”

Cordy’s eyes flashed. “She called last night while Angel and I were busy. He dropped me like a hot potato to go ‘help’ her,” she said, air quoting.

After a moment of charged silence, Buffy asked, “Does he do this a lot?”

“No,” Cordy answered but wouldn’t look at them.

“So then what’s the problem?”

Shrugging, Cordy wouldn’t meet their eyes. “I don’t know. The sex is fabulous and we spend almost every night together. But we almost never talk, and I’m starting to think it’s just physical. At least on his part.”

“And on yours?” Fred asked tentatively.

“She’s in love with him,” Anya surmised, and the forlorn look on Cordelia’s face confirmed it.

Buffy searched Cordy’s face before asking, “Do you think he’s cheating on you?”

After a moment, Cordy shook her head. “But I don’t want to lose him. I hate it that I’m such a paranoid freak, but I’m worried. He doesn’t do the pathetic puppy thing with me like he did with you, Buffy.” Ignoring the Slayer’s indignant frown, Cordy continued. “I know he likes me, but I doubt he loves me. He’s never said it.”

“Bottom line,” Anya said, catching Cordy’s gaze and holding it. “Break up or suck it up. Or I guess you could lay it on the line and tell him you’ll leave him if he doesn’t shape up.”

Cordy snorted in irritation. “Those are fantastic choices.”

Anya shrugged. “Life’s a bitch.”

“She’s right,” Fred said, her face wreathed in compassion. “If you don’t like his behavior, you can leave.”

“I don’t think you want to force him to stop helping Nina,” Buffy added, her words tinted with a hint of hard-won experience. “Angel doesn’t respond well to ultimatums.”

“So I guess I don’t have a choice.” Cordy sounded sad, and her friends bathed her in their sympathetic silence.

“God,” Anya sighed, suddenly disheartened. “When the hell did girls’ night get so damn depressing?”

“I dunno,” Cordy said, irritated with her sucky relationship options. “But I could really use a good ogle right now to lift my spirits.”

“Yeah,” Buffy chimed in, warmed by the suggestion. “Any Mels come in in the last few minutes?”

“There’s one,” Fred whispered, and the other three turned to look. “Blonde hair. By the bar.”

“Oh, yeah,” Buffy said, voice husky. The man was partially hidden in the crowd at the bar, and all they could really see was the back side of his profile. “Great ass.”

“Sex on a stick,” Cordy agreed.

A hush fell across their table as the man’s body moved into plain view.

“T-That’s Spike!” Buffy sputtered, shell-shocked.

Anya sat back in her chair. “Now, Spike? He’s a Mel. Definitely.”

Fred turned to look at her. “I thought he’d be a Colin. Spike’s got danger written all over him.”

“He’s a softie,” Anya said, shrugging. “But definitely has one of the best bodies I’ve ever seen.”

“How do you know?” Fred asked.

“Don’t ask,” Cordelia cautioned as she watched the shadow cross Buffy’s face.

Anya frowned. “Long story. Suffice it to say that Spike and I once had a very bad day in common, during which we made an even worse decision to work out our frustrations together.”

Fred blinked at her cryptic answer. “Oh.”

“’Oh’ is right,” Anya said, eyes sweeping over Spike’s compactly muscled form. “Despite the total stupidity of that decision, I can’t argue the fact that Spike is built. The package quotient definitely wouldn’t be a problem for him. We’re talking bonus point territory.”

“No kidding,” Buffy added, swallowing hard, suddenly wishing the threesome Zane wanted included a male vampire, not a female vengeance demon. Sighing, she turned back to her drink. “Suddenly I’ve lost interest in the Mels in the room.”

~*~

So what’s a girl to do when she’s being challenged by another woman? The only thing she can do: fight back with whatever weapons are necessary. Even if that means doing everything short of putting a sign on your boyfriend’s forehead that says “He’s taken! So back the hell off!”

It was early for Angel to be at the office, just after 9:30 a.m., but fortuitous for Cordelia. A vision had struck her in the shower this morning and she was anxious to relay the message and get on with her life.

Smiling at the low rumble of his voice behind his office door, she knocked once and sailed into the room. “Hey, Brood Boy. Got a message from the PTB’s this morning that—”

Her speech came to an abrupt halt as Angel literally leapt off the arm of the sofa, away from a blonde sitting nearby. Cordelia stared, her smile falling off her face like ice cream melting.

The blonde interloper turned and had the gall to smile sweetly at Cordelia. Obviously she was missing the lightning bolts flashing from the seer’s eyes.

Sparing a piercing glance at Angel, Cordelia gracefully recovered and stepped forward, a stiff smile on her lips. “Hi. You must be Nina.”

The blonde’s smile grew wider as she stood, nodding. “I am. Angel’s told you about me?”

“Briefly,” Cordelia admitted. “It seems I was out of the country when you hired him.”

Nina turned soft eyes on Angel, her smile angelic. “He’s a great guy. I would be dead if it weren’t for him.”

“Please, Nina,” Angel said, embarrassed. “You can take care of yourself. You just need a little confidence.”

“You’re amazing, Angel,” Nina said, shaking her head. “I owe my life to you.”

Geez, gag me with a spoon,Cordelia thought, trying not to roll her eyes.

She was totally unprepared for Nina’s next question.

“And what is your name?” Nina’s smile was all innocence, and as Cordy gaped in disbelief, Angel shuffled uncomfortably on his feet.

“Cordelia Chase,” she answered tightly. “Seer extraordinaire. I get visions of people in distress, and Angel helps them.” She glanced over at the silent vampire.

Nina was nodding politely. “Oh, that makes sense. I thought people just hired him when they have a problem. He’s never mentioned you.”

Cordelia took a deep breath to calm her irritation before answering. Moving closer to Angel, she slipped her arm around his waist and looked up into his wary face. “I’m also his girlfriend,” she added, then looked back at Nina, daring her to challenge the fact.

It was Nina’s smile that was stiff this time. “You must be good together, having so much in common,” she said diplomatically.

Cordy murmured a sound of agreement. Angel wisely remained silent, his own version of staying out of the crossfire.

“Well,” Nina said after an awkward silence. “I’d better go.”

Angel pulled away from Cordelia, walking Nina to the door.

“So you’ll think about what I said?” Angel asked, his voice determined.

Nina nodded, and Cordelia looked on, feeling like a voyeur. “Of course I will, Angel. You know, a girl’s best friend and all.”

“Batteries?” Angel said, smiling.

“Exactly,” Nina agreed, and she and Angel laughed quietly.

Batteries? Cordelia thought, completely lost. What the hell? They have inside jokes now, too?

Nina said goodbye and Angel opened the door, closing it softly behind her. He stood there for a few minutes, staring at the light wood panel, hands in his pockets as he was lost in his thoughts. Cordy stood behind him, at a loss for words. What in the world was going on around here? Was she being two-timed? Right under her nose?

So abruptly that Cordelia nearly missed it, Angel turned around and walked over to her, putting his arms around her and pulling her forward into his embrace.

“So,” he said, kissing her forehead. “What are we doing today?”

Cordelia stood there, stiff in his arms, completely at sea. Was there going to be no explanation? No words explaining why Nina ‘the werewolf ho’ had been lounging around in his office? Why Angel was sitting so cozily with her and then jumped away like a cheating husband when Cordelia came in? Why the freakin’ hell he was acting like he was closer with a stranger than he was with Cordelia, his supposed best friend and girlfriend?

It took a moment for the answer to sink in. He wasn’t going to explain himself. In his mind, there was no explanation to be made. He was friends with Nina, and Cordelia was going to have to accept it. But what he didn’t understand was that the friendship worried her more than anything else. He and Cordy had begun as friends, and look where they were now.

Nina was dangerous. It couldn’t get any simpler than that.

“I don’t know,” Cordelia said in answer to his question, then mustered up the only foolproof weapon she had left. “But I think there’s a room or two upstairs that we haven’t christened yet.”

Angel’s eyes turned dark, and Cordelia knew she had succeeded in taking his thoughts away from Nina.

For now, at least.

~*~

Okay, so we’ve established that competition is a shitty part of life. It’s bad enough that we face it from countless other women every day as we all swim in the same pool of possibilities. But sweet Fred was about to get a wake-up call that would shake her up.
She was about to learn that not only does competition for a man’s attention come from other women, it also comes from something undeniably more frustrating, something that doesn’t have a face to scratch or hair to pull: his work.

To say that Fred was shocked speechless would be an understatement. More accurately, she was shocked motionless. Not even a blink marred her features as she stared at Gunn with incredulity she’d never felt before.

Gunn had just given her an ultimatum.

After a half-hour of light conversation over salad and then some exquisite filet mignon, Gunn had set down his fork, leaned back in his chair, and laid all his cards out on the table. Every single card in the deck. Even the jokers and those strange UPC coded fillers that aren’t really cards at all.

“So what is this between us?” he’d asked, gesturing from his chest to hers. “Are we together again, or not?”

At her shrug of confusion, he’d shaken his head, frustrated. “Because, you know, I’d like to know. I don’t want to dick around like this forever until you can figure out what you want, Fred. I’ve got too many irons in the fire already at the office and I don’t need a woman screwing up my life.”

Her disbelieving immobilization had begun to set in as his words penetrated.

“Besides,” he’d added, eyes trailing over her body, “If all you want is to scratch that itch you’ve so obviously got, you could’ve just said so. I’ve got a long list of things that need my attention, and I need to know if you wanna be at the top.”

As his words rang in her ears, the present snapped back with a vengeance.

“Fred?” Gunn snapped his fingers in her face, a slightly worried expression covering his features. “Hello? You still here?”

Starting, Fred blinked, swallowed, and blinked again. His words echoed in her mind with a reverberation that only underscored their reality. He’d really said it.

Where was the Gunn she’d fallen in love with? She’d seen a glimpse of him when he’d saved her from the geeky teenage internet guy, but this stranger was so different she wasn’t sure the old Gunn had ever existed.

Finally shaking her head, Fred attempted a smile, but it fell flat. “I wasn’t expecting this,” she said inanely. “I thought we were just out having dinner. For fun. No strings.”

He raised his eyebrows, a twinkle entering them. “Well, then, that’s more like it. No strings. I can deal with that.”

Fred’s breath left in a slow, relieved release. It was short lived.

“Then let’s pay the bill and go back to my place,” Gunn said, reaching his foot across underneath the table and stroking her calf with it. “I’ve missed you, Fred,” he said, and his eyes raked over her slender body.

“I’ve missed you, too,” she said, and meant it, but she couldn’t help the cold feeling that swept through her.

Her confusion mounted when Gunn suddenly pulled back, a frown crossing his face. Reaching to his belt, he pulled off his vibrating pager and glanced at it. Contrite, he turned to her and said, “I gotta take a rain check.”

Her disbelief returned. He was going back to the office? On a Friday night?

He stood, pulling a wad of cash out of his wallet and laying it on the table. Reaching for her, Gunn brought her to her feet and slid his arm around her waist, planting a kiss on her lips that left Fred breathless and yearning for more.

“I’ll see you later, baby.” Gunn’s voice was low in her ear and Fred shivered.

Seconds later, he was gone.

~*~

Usually, when we women face rivalry, it’s in the form of a barely-known woman we can vilify to our heart’s content. Occasionally, though, we find ourselves in competition with a close friend, and all the rules change .

Buffy and Anya sat on the bed in Buffy’s apartment, dressed to the nines and waiting. Impatiently.

Zane was late.

“So when the hell is he supposed to get here?” Anya said irritably, glancing at the clock. “I’ve got other plans tonight.”

Buffy shrugged and sighed, a puff of air that fluttered her sex-kitten coif. “Hell if I know. He said six. He’s kinda late.”

“Yeah, well, I can’t hold this pose forever.”

She was sitting back, resting on her hands, chest thrust out to display her cleavage to its best advantage. Her leather bustier pushed her breasts up to spill over the scalloped edge, and her matching leather miniskirt rode dangerously high on her thighs.

Beside her, Buffy lay on her stomach, breasts spilling from a light pink baby-doll nightie, her hair curly and piled up on top of her head for a 1960’s Bond girl look.

Even if Zane didn’t show up, the two of them looked damn fine.

“While we wait, maybe we should set some rules,” Buffy suggested, and Anya released a sigh of relief.

“Good. Because I’m sorry, but I’m not sticking my tongue down your throat. I don’t care about your boyfriend’s dirty fantasies.”

Buffy laughed. “Okay, so no kissing between us. But we can both kiss Zane.”

“Is there anything you don’t want me to do with him?” Anya asked, looking at her sideways.

Buffy thought for a moment before answering, “I guess it’s up to him. If I wasn’t okay with him having sex with another woman, I wouldn’t have agreed to this.”

“Why did you agree?”

A shrug was the only answer Buffy gave for a moment. When she would’ve added more, there was a knock at the door.

The girls looked at each other and took deep breaths.

“Showtime,” Anya muttered under her breath, and Buffy got up to answer the door.

It took a few minutes for Zane to pick his jaw up off the floor, and it was apparent that he didn’t want any talking to ruin the mood. After undressing Anya with his eyes, he turned back to Buffy, grabbed her, and kissed her thoroughly. Buffy melted against him, standing on her tiptoes to accommodate his height.

Pulling his mouth away from Buffy’s, Zane looked at Anya with glazed eyes and reached a hand out to her. Stifling the urge to roll her eyes, Anya got up, affected a sultry look, and strode toward them.

Disaster started out innocently enough. Buffy was kissing Zane’s neck, running her fingers over his chest and rubbing his nipples through the cloth of his shirt. Anya was making out with him, mouths fused, tongues tangled, and it got deeper when Anya realized that the reason Zane tasted so good was that he tasted like Xander. She usually stayed away from men like him, but today, she let herself relive the fantasy, just for a moment.

The problem was, her fantasy of Xander didn’t include Buffy. Pushing the blonde out of the way, Anya wrapped her arms around Zane’s neck and deepened the kiss, pulling one leg up to wrap around his hip.

Buffy’s face darkened as she was effectively shoved out of her boyfriend’s arms. Irritated, she wedged her hands in between their bodies and pried them apart, claiming Zane’s mouth for her own. Practically crawling up his body, she wrapped both legs around his waist, holding so tightly that Zane grunted from the strength of her grip.

“So, big boy, do you like that?” Buffy’s voice was husky, a whisper in Zane’s ear, as she ground her pelvis against his.

“Y-yeah,” Zane said, eyes wide, breathing fast.

Not to be outdone, Anya moved behind him and pressed her body up against his back, reaching her hands down to grip his ass.

“How about that?” Anya’s voice was a purr in his other ear.

“Hell yeah.” Zane sounded like someone was strangling him.

Everything fell apart when they both reached for his fly at the same time. Glaring at Anya, Buffy shoved her hands out of the way and unzipped him, but Anya reached inside the opening and grasped the prize. Buffy yanked her hands away and took over, but Anya bumped Buffy’s hip with hers, and, adding a little demon strength, sent Buffy flying across the room.

Anya smirked back at Buffy before taking over with her hands where Buffy had left off. But just as she was about to kiss Zane again, she saw his eyes glaze as he looked over her shoulder. One look back saw Buffy doing a little strip tease act, and Anya realized she’d lost control again.

In a second, she was beside Buffy, taking her clothes off, too.

Buffy pulled her top off, and Anya’s wasn’t far behind. When Anya held her bra up triumphantly, having gotten it off first, Buffy narrowed her eyes and, having trouble with the clasp on her own bra, shoved Anya back against the sofa with her elbow.

It didn’t take long for all hell to break lose. Anya jumped up and shoved Buffy across the room where she bounced off the bed and shoved Zane out of the way before jumping Anya.

“Damn it, Buffy!” Anya yelled when Buffy grabbed a hold of her hair and pulled. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Me?” Buffy’s voice was indignant as her eyes flashed her irritation. She jumped onto Anya’s back and threw her arms around Anya’s neck, squeezing. “I’m not the one trying to throw herself at another woman’s boyfriend!”

Anya succeeded in prying Buffy’s arms from around her neck long enough to gasp, “You invited me here! How was I supposed to know you were going to go all Amy Fisher on me?”

Zane had been watching, mouth hanging open in shock, as he was treated to a topless wrestling match that any man would kill to see. The only problem was, he was standing there, pants open, with no women at his beck-and-call. They were too busy trying to kill each other. Taking a deep breath, he waded in the fray, pushing his way between them.

“C’mon, girls, this is no fun. Why don’t we—” A fist to his mouth cut off his words, knocking him out cold. When he came to, the sight that greeted him lit a fuse to his anger. The girls were trading punches, remaining clothes hanging off, and the words that were coming from their mouths were far from seductive.

“He’s your skeezy boyfriend!” Anya shouted, ducking as Buffy threw a punch at her jaw. “Can I help it if he likes me? You don’t even want him anymore!”

Buffy leapt at her again but Anya dived out of the way. “I do too want him!”

“Only because Spike’s not available,” Anya retorted, and was treated to a roundhouse kick to her head for her efforts.

“Yeah?” Buffy had Anya pinned down to the floor by now, yanking her head back by her hair. “And who was it ogling Spike the other night like he was a gallon of fudge mint chip? I think you’re jealous because Spike is still in love with me and you were just a cheap, one-night stand.”

“Ha!” Anya laughed despite the pain in her scalp. “Please! Like I care. You’re the one who can’t hold onto men. Even this boyfriend took off!”

Buffy looked up, surprised, only to see her front door wide open and two of her neighbors peering curiously through the doorway. Zane was nowhere in sight.

“Um, hi!” Buffy said, smiling and giving an embarrassed wave to her neighbors before she jumped up and slammed the door shut. Leaning against it, she let her head fall back with a bang and groaned her frustration. Opening her eyes, she took in Anya’s disheveled hair and haphazard clothing, and suddenly it all seemed so ridiculous.

At Buffy’s uncontrollable giggles, Anya felt a smile tug at her mouth as she thought about how the two of them must look.

“Guess Zane didn’t like our little show,” Buffy finally gasped out as she caught her breath.

Anya smirked. “He should thank us. Anybody else would’ve charged him by the minute.”

~*~

I guess sometimes we do bring competition on ourselves. The problem is that we tend to forget that with best friends, competition can be hell. But even so, best friends are still the best shoulder to cry on when the battle for love is at it’s fiercest.

“So which one just screams, ‘I love you but I think you’re an insensitive prick’? The blue, or the yellow?” Cordy held up two blouses for Buffy’s inspection.

“Oh, the blue,” Buffy said dryly. “Definitely.”

Cordy shoved both blouses back on the rack and moved to another one. “I think I need something sexier.”

“Is it really that bad, Cor?”

Cordelia paused, her hand on a stack of V-necked shirts, and looked at Buffy with eyes that overflowed with frustration. “I don’t know,” she finally said, shaking her head. “He doesn’t treat me any differently than he did before I knew about Nina. But now that I know about her, I’m second-guessing everything.”

“So what are you going to do about it?”

Cordy thought about it for a moment, then got a determined glint in her eye as she shoved hangers aside with a viciousness that rattled the entire rack.

“The hell with him. I’m tired of putting up with his bullshit. I’m going to call it off.”

Buffy stared at her. “Are you sure?”

“Yup.” The tears shining in her eyes gave her away, but Buffy didn’t call her on it. “But let’s talk about something else, okay?”

Buffy nodded, and the girls moved further into the jungle of clothing racks.

“I talked to Fred last night,” Cordy said after a moment of rifling through a display of khaki skirts.

A small smile lit Buffy’s face. “How was the date with Gunn?”

“They’re official now, I think.”

“You think?”

Cordy shrugged and shook her head. “Fred sounded kind of weird about it. She said something about Gunn and a list or something, and that she wanted to be on top.”

Buffy’s eyebrows raised. “If that’s what she wants.”

“Eh, I give ‘em a few weeks. I don’t think Gunn’s a long-haul kinda guy lately.”

They moved from clothing into shoes. Buffy found some espadrilles to try on, and the girls settled into a pair of chairs with their multi-colored shopping bags strewn like petals around them.

“So how was the threesome last night?”

Buffy’s laugh echoed off the glass walls lining the shoe department. “I got a good work out.”

Cordy stared at her and raised her eyebrows. “Really. That sounds interesting.”

“Not like you’d think. Anya and I got into a knock-down-drag-out over Zane. Turns out we’re both powerful women who like to be in control.”

“No!” Cordy exaggerated her expression of disbelief. “You’re kidding me!”

Buffy rolled her eyes at Cordelia’s playacting. “Doesn’t really matter, anyway. Turns out Anya was trying to win a contest.”

“A what?”

“A contest. With Annoying Annette in Accounting.” Buffy explained the particulars.

“So did she get her story?”

“I think she’s going to use some creative license.”

Cordy shook her head and smiled. “I can just imagine that. What did Zane think?”

Buffy made a face. “He called later and wanted to know what the hell happened and wanted to know why I punched him, but I think I explained it well enough. He didn’t break up with me.”

“Yet.”

“Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence,” Buffy complained, but smiled anyway. Putting away the shoes that didn’t fit, she stood up, gathering her purchases. “I’m shopped out. You ready to go?”

“Yep,” Cordy nodded, getting to her feet. “And let’s hurry it up. I’ve got things to do and a vampire to dump.”

~*~

When I returned to my apartment that night, I discovered that, as the old song says, breaking up is hard to do. And for me? Damn near impossible when faced with eyes I could drown in, a body Adonis would envy, and 200 years worth of smooth, subtle charm.

Heavy footfalls betrayed Cordelia’s reluctance to enter her apartment, the knowledge that her impending breakup was hovering on the horizon being too much to bear. Angel was scheduled to come by tonight, and Cordy knew it would be the perfect time to break it off. But knowing that didn’t make it any easier.

Waving half-heartedly at her doorman, Cordelia trudged up the stairs to her second floor apartment and sighed as she slid her key into the lock. A glance at her watch as she turned the doorknob told her that in approximately fifteen minutes, her relationship would be over. With another sigh, she pushed open the door.

She was completely unprepared for the sight that greeted her.

At least a hundred candles of every shape and size were strewn on every flat surface of her living room, their soft light creating a golden glow that made the shadows flicker and dance. Soft strains of Mozart swirled in the air, and the heady aroma of lavender wafted around her, immediately soothing and relaxing her.

Like a somnambulist, Cordelia slowly walked into the room, blinking her eyes rapidly as if to wipe away the beautiful apparition of her apartment. Feeling the faint heat of the candles on her skin as she walked past them, the reality of this fairy land set in, and she gaped in wonder at it.

It took a few moments for her shock to wear off and her eyes to catch sight of a small ivory square of paper that sat folded, like a tent, on a table near the front door. The bold scrawl of Angel’s handwriting drew her to it, and when she picked it up and read it, she smiled. “Cordelia—Follow the rose petals. There’s a surprise waiting.”

Leave it to Angel to be so unpoetically romantic.

Gazing downward, Cordelia saw a trail of white rose petals leading from the front door and disappearing around the corner toward her bedroom. Clutching the small note in her hand, she followed the trail down her hallway to her half-open bedroom door, candle light spilling from the room and the scent of lavender becoming even stronger. Opening her bedroom door, she saw her bed made up with satin sheets, the comforter turned back, a scrap of red lace laid out on the end of the bed, but the trail of rose petals didn’t lead there. Instead, they wrapped around the corner and into her bathroom, where she found Angel, lounging on the edge of a steaming bath clad only in a towel.

Sultry eyes met hers. Slowly uncoiling from his perch on the edge of the jacuzzi tub, Angel walked over to her with predatory grace, and Cordelia felt her heart sink as she realized that she wasn’t going to be able to go through with it. Bullshit or not, Angel wasn’t someone she could cut out of her life so easily.

“Hey,” Angel whispered as he gathered her into his arms. He kissed her forehead, his mouth cool against her flushed skin. “I missed you today.”

She swallowed, eyes closing against tears. She was so weak. He was bad for her, but she loved him. Oh, god, how she loved him. “I missed you, too,” she whispered, and wrapped her arms around his back.

He kissed her then, a deep, slow, intense melding of their mouths that liquefied Cordelia’s bones until she clung to him for her very survival. His tongue claimed her mouth, it’s cool surface teasing her, his hands roving her body until her clothes all but disappeared. When he pulled away, she was surprised to find herself naked, his towel dropped to the floor, their bodies pressed up against each other in a way that was bound to create bliss in physical form.

Taking a deep breath to steady herself, Cordelia finally looked up into Angel’s eyes, catching them with her own and desperately trying to negotiate their swirling depths.

“What’s all this for?” She asked, her voice barely a whisper.

He smiled, a slow, sweet smile that made his eyes the color of melted chocolate. “I realized today that I hadn’t shown you lately how important you are to me.”

Some of the glamour of the evening was tarnished by his words, so obviously not a declaration of love. Desperate not to ruin the magic of the moment, Cordelia smiled up at him, wrapped her arms around his neck, and showed him the love she felt with the touch of her lips on his.

As Angel swept me up and into the bliss of his embrace, I realized that competition with Nina was the least of my worries. Angel cared about me; that much was obvious. But would he ever say it? Would he ever put words to the feelings he seemed to express with every kiss, every caress? If I could translate each of his actions into words, I could convince myself that Angel loved me more than anything in this world or beyond.

But I needed to hear those three little words, and until Angel told me, “I love you,” I would forever face the harshest competition imaginable: my greatest fears.


…TO BE CONTINUED…

THIS FIC APPEARS TO BE UNFINISHED


 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s