In the Dark


AUTHOR: NICKLE (aka BRENDA)
SUMMARY: Set during Angel’s Beige period. Kind of an AU take up to Epiphany.
RATING: R/NC17
POSTED: 26 Mar 2004
CATEGORY: SMUT / ANGST
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A
WARNINGS: Explicit Sexual Content and Language Use
FICPIC CREDIT: Califi
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) My first ever on the planet earth C/A story. Be gentle with me.
2) The song in Chp10 is Julie Brown’s Homecoming Queen’s got a Gun. I don’t mean to offend anyone; I know every school idiot seems to be toting heat lately and I certainly don’t want to be dismissive of that, but this song, written in the ‘80’s, is a stitch.
STATUS: Complete


ficpic_inthedark


CHAPTER 1

Fuck. Fuckity fuck. Cordelia sighed, blowing hair out of her face as she looked at the crumpled up paper in her hand once more. She tried to make out Wesley’s handwriting by the dim light of the desk lamp. “Beterhon…no Peterson’s book…..” Jeeze. She knew if a handwriting expert got a look at this chickenscratch, Wesley’d be pegged for a serial killer. She held up the penlight and moved its beam slowly over the dusty leatherbound spines lined up neatly along the wall. Wesley had been uneasy about Cordelia retrieving the book from the Hyperion, but he was still weak and wheelchair bound, and Gunn didn’t know the books as well as Cordy did. She figured it’d be a piece of cake to blow in, grab the book and blow out, all without ever seeing His Assholiness.

Cordy sighed and pressed her forehead to the cool leather of the books, closing her eyes. God, how had this happened? How had they all come so low? She hated feeling like this, all helpless and unsure. Angel investigations was up and running, but it wasn’t the same. There wasn’t enough tequila in the world to numb her mind to the truth; they had lost their fiercest Warrior. They were fighting a battle they couldn’t hope to win. She sighed, and opened her eyes, spotting the book she was looking for. One of the few they hadn’t carted out when they left. She grabbed it and turned to walk out of the office and shrieked, seeing the hulking shadow leaning casually against the doorframe. His face was hidden in the dark, but Cordy didn’t want to see it; didn’t want to see that controlled, uncaring expression she knew was there. She turned off the pen light and pocketed it.

“Damn, Angel. Lurk much?” Cordy took in a deep breath, hoping the thunder of her heart wasn’t as loud as she thought it was.

“Looking for something…oh….I see you found it.” Angel’s voice was casual; he may have been asking about the weather. He could see her perfectly in the soft glow of the lamp. Her eyes were wide and determined, but he could see the shadow of fear in the depths. He wallowed in that fear; it kept her at bay. He breathed in once, shallowly, taking in her antagonism….her fear…..her anger……and the faint musk of arousal.

Cordy held the book protectively to her chest. “Yeah, I did.” She took one step towards the door and stopped; he didn’t move. “Wesley needed this book for a case.”

Angel watched her, looking almost bored. “That’s mine.”

Cordy clutched the book tighter. “No. It was ours. There never was a “yours.” Wes built up this collection. It’s ours.” He remained still, his eyes flashing a brief molten gold. She looked up at him. “Move.”

He straightened up, seeming to gain bulk as he did. Her eyes grew even wider and she wanted to step back. Stupid vampire. He held still, looking down at her, then stepped aside enough for her to squeeze by, brushing against him as she pushed past. She felt a shimmer of heat slide through her body as it touched his. She hurried to the front door, pausing to turn to face him.

“Hey, did what you suggested. Looked up vampire. I think the exact phrase was ‘predatory bloodsucking evil demon.’ Wow, they got that right. Except for the part where they left out ‘worthless’ ‘cowardly’ and ‘quitter’…..” she ended in a yelp as she was grabbed suddenly and pushed roughly against the wall by the door. She caught her breath, looking up at the vampire in question, towering over her, holding her body prisoner to his.

The book in her hand dropped to the floor with a solid thud and she pushed against his chest. He lowered his face, intent and dark, to hers.

“You never know when to shut the fuck up, do you, Cordy?” She wriggled, trying to get her knee bent so she could teach Mr. Happy a little lesson about pain. Angel maneuvered his leg between hers, pressing his leg up so she had to rise onto her toes. His hands grabbed at her wrists and he slammed them back against the wall on either side of her head.

“I only let my friends call me Cordy, Dorkula, get off me.” Cordy tried to keep her voice even, feeling his body pressed to hers from her chest down. She danced slightly on her toes, trying to keep from riding his thigh as it pressed between her legs.

“Mmmmm…and we’re not friends?” Angel breathed into her ear.

Cordy shivered at the dark intent in his voice. “GET OFF!”

He held perfectly still for a moment; all her jumbled emotions feeding him almost as well as a fresh kill. He pressed his forehead to the wall beside her head, and whispered into her ear, all menace and silky heat, “Get your book. Get out. Don’t come back.” He straightened and looked down into her eyes, wide and cloudy with fear, and with want. His hands let go of her wrists and he stepped back, giving her an expectant stare. Cordy stared back, the want in her eyes slowly replaced with hate. She kneeled and scooped up the book and turned to the door, pulling at the handle. She opened the door and paused as he spoke.

“And Cordy…” She held still, her back to him, the door open. “Don’t come back. I find you here again, you come here for anything else….” She felt her back go rigid. “I catch you here, for any reason……I’m going to give you just the fucking you’re wanting.” Cordy held, gripped in shock, then ran out the front door, not caring that it wasn’t the most dignified exit she ever made.

Angel remained there a good 10 minutes, letting her scent fill him as he thought of the inevitable that would happen, and let his body tighten at the thought.


CHAPTER 2

She tried. Cordy really tried. She tried closing her eyes, breathing in and out deeply, imagining their office an older, shabby chic version of some ‘40’s Dashell Hammett throwback, all sleek lines and horizontal shadows of blinds lining one wall. She’d be Doll-Face, the intrepid and leggy secretary. She tried to envision it, she really did. But when she opened her eyes, shabby chic just became shabby crap.

The paneling on the walls, cheap to begin with when it was new back in the stone age, was chipped and splintered in several places. The furniture was a mishmash of dented metal chairs and desks. The one upholstered chair had a spring poking out of the seat cushion. And the smell….oh God, the smell. It was that “eau de used gym socks” scent so often found in old moldy buildings. Cordy looked up at the front door and smiled slightly, seeing the backward white lettering that spelled Angel Investigations to the outside world. It was dank and stinky and crappy, but it was theirs. A little paint…a dehumidifier….some judiciously placed duct tape, and…it would still be dank and stinky and crappy. She sighed. Maybe in a year or so…after they had built up a good client base and had racked up some cash, they could move. Maybe.

It was dark outside and she leaned back in her chair, staring out into the night visible through the glass of the front door. Three days ago, her world had tilted when the King of Brood calmly threatened to set sheets on fire with her. No, she told herself….it wasn’t really a threat. He had sounded…absolute. Almost as if he expected her to….well, she didn’t know what. Throw down and drop trow? Scream? Slap him? She had no idea what he thought he was saying. Because Cordy had never wanted….ok, she had thought about it, in her more kamikaze influenced moments, but she had never imagined it to be a certainty, or even a possibility. And she had never, ever, thought that Angel’s soul would be so empty. Ever. She had never thought it at all. And now, because Angel was getting in touch with his inner asshole, it was all she had thought about for three solid days.

The phone rang and she leaned over to pick it up. “Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless.” Silence. “Hello?” Frowning, she hung the phone up. Usually, wrong numbers didn’t bother her, but here, alone in office after dark, little frissions of worry ran up her spine. The phone rang again and she stared at it a moment before picking it up.

“Hello?”

“Cordelia.” There was a wealth of disapproval in Wesley’s voice. “I applaud your commitment, Cordy, but it’s past six.”

Cordy grinned to herself. Ah, here was the light. “Just wanted to wrap up the Connard file, Wes. I’m going to deposit the check on my way home. I was just….” She rose and stretched, reaching for her purse and stuffing the check into a side pocket “ getting ready to go. Really, out the door here. Stop being such a guy.”

“Do you want me to send Gunn to see you home?”

“Nope. I’m armed and dangerous, Wes. Got my mace. Got my whistle. And hey, I have it on good authority that I never shut up so I could just annoy someone to death.” The last came out in a bitter breath she didn’t even realize she had been holding. There was a startled silence on the other end of the phone.

“Cordelia, you’ve never….I mean, your natural bubbly personality…”

“Wes, it’s ok. Just having a pity party here, need to back off.” She smiled slightly. “I’m good. Now, let me go here and I’ll see you tomorrow.” After hanging up, she turned off the last light and walked to the door, leaving and shutting it behind her as she turned to lock it. She felt a cool whoosh of air and turned, startled, to run into a solid chest wrapped in black. She squealed, leaping back, and dropped her bag, spilling stuff everywhere. She slammed back against the wall and raised wide eyes to the Vampire who watched her with a cool detachment.

“Cordy.”

“Dumbass.”

Angel smiled slightly and leaned in to whisper, “That’s right, Cordy. Go down fighting.”

Cordy pushed him away and knelt to gather up the spilled contents of her bag. “What the hell do you want, Angel?”

He leaned against the wall, hands in pockets, watching her. “Trowhurst’s Demonology. That one is mine. I want it back.”

Cordelia fingered her keys for a silent moment, then rose and unlocked the door to the office. Swinging the door open, she stood aside, a small grin tilting her lips. Angel smirked at her and walked to the door, moving to enter. He bounced back, unable to enter, and tried again, sighing and shaking his head. “An uninvite, Cordy? That’ll cost ya.”

Cordelia reached past him to pull the door shut again and quickly locked it, stuffing her keys in her bag and walking down the sidewalk, flipping a little wave at him as she went without a word. He watched her, not moving for the longest time, finally fading into the darkness as he planned his next move.

The next morning, Cordelia trotted down the sidewalk, jostling the carry tray holding three coffees as she juggled her bag looking for her keys. Finding them, she unlocked the door and swung into the office, stopping short as she looked at the bare bookshelves lining the back wall. Not a book remained. Her mouth fell open as she looked all around the office. Nothing else was disturbed; her desk was exactly as she left it. The same spring poked out of the same chair in the exact same spot, the memo pad still rested square in the middle of Wes’ desk. But every book in the archive was gone. She moved to her desk and plopped down in her chair, total disbelief on her face. She put the coffee carrier on her desk and noticed a small white card, one of their old business cards. She turned it over. On the back, in a sure hand, was written “Come and get ‘em.”


CHAPTER 3

“Come and get ‘em.” Cordelia stared at the card in shock, then up at the empty shelves. How the hell had he done that? She had Minerva from down the street pull an uninvite spell over the office; no way had he broken that. How had he gotten in? Her heart raced as she tried to think what to do. He had the books. And that note was meant for her. And the last time she was there, he said…

The phone rang, startling her. She reached over and picked it up, still a little dazed. “Hello?”

“Cordy, it’s me.”

Cordy panicked. “Mmmm…hey Wes. How’s the gut?” She closed her eyes and winced.

“Well, actually, I’m feeling a little peaked today. I think I may just have a lie-in, if you think you can cover the office yourself.”

Cordelia waved a hand in the air, thinking fast. “No, I think that’s a good idea. Rest. Rest is what you need, and plenty of it. You just…lie-in.” She paused. “Unless that’s like some British thing for not going to work so you can stay home and boink.”

There was a silence. “I’m going to ignore that, Cordelia. Call me if anything comes up. And don’t stay late. Go home, relax.”

Cordy smiled sadly as he spoke. “Yeah, that’s the ticket. Rest, Wesley. I want you better.”

Silence. “Because you need me there?”

“No, Fauntleroy. Because I’m tired of you hurting, and I’d rather have you happy.”

“Well, then, I’ll get to it.” Cordy could hear the smile in his voice. “Call…”

“…if anything comes up. Yeah, got it. Go rest.” And smiling, Cordy hung up, only to feel the smile drain from her face as she looked up at the shelves. The empty, mocking shelves. Dammit.

The door opened and Gunn came strolling in, leafing through the mail. “Yo, Barbie. Where’s…..” his voice trailed off as he looked up at the shelves. “Shit. Where’s the books?”

“Mmmmm….uhhhh…..” Cordy drew a blank. She finally worked up a cheery smile and chirped. “Reorganizing. I’m reorganizing. I packed them in the….back…..and….I’m going to dust the shelves because, you know…” she waved a hand in the air “dust. Lots of dust. I’m just going to do some cleaning because….well….Wesley!”

Gunn looked at her as if she had spoken in another language. “OK. I got the cleaning part. What about Wesley?”

“He just called. He feels pretty crappy so he’s staying home. Told him I could handle it here, but you know…it’s kind of slow. Thinking I’d clean a little….”

“Great. I’ll help.”

“NO! I mean…this is boring, and dirty, and….” Her mind raced “I’m all BLOATY and cranky because, you know, PMS..”

Gunn threw up his hands and backed slowly away. “Hey, I’ll leave you to it. I have some things…oh…somewhere…I need to …call if you need help.” And he was gone. Cordelia shook her head. There was no uninvite spell that worked better on the average Joe than the threat of dealing with PMS.

Slumping back in her chair, she tried to come up with a plan. And realized that short of hauling Gunn and rolling Wesley over to the Hyperion, there was no plan except for her to go alone. If she took Gunn, there might be blood spilled, and it would be Gunn’s. She had no faith in Angel’s sense of right and wrong anymore. She thought for a moment, then stood up, reaching for what she thought she might need.

An hour later, she stood across the street from the Hyperion, letting traffic whiz by as she faced the once elegant building, a large tote bag slung over one shoulder. She had hopes, here. It was only 10:30 in the morning; with any luck, Angel would have gone to bed and not be expecting her this early. She could cruise in, find the books, load some….a few…..

She sighed. She was so screwed. In more ways than one. She took a deep breath and crossed the street, her heels tapping on the pavement as she walked. She could have gone with the docs, but noooooo……Barbie had to have her stilts today. Cordy pushed the front door open quietly and leaned down to pull her shoes gently off, setting them aside. Silence hung like a pall over the lobby. She straightened up and entered, letting the door fall shut behind her. She looked down into the lobby and let out a huge sigh. Stacked neatly in the middle of the lobby was the old, musty library collection of Angel Investigations. Cordy trudged down the stairs, quietly circling the pile. No way was she gonna be able to haul these out alone. She raised her hands to run them through her hair, trying to think, when an arm, thick and strong and muscled, appeared from behind her and wrapped around her middle, yanking her back against a solid wall of chest.

Her heart beat a tattoo that could be heard out in the street. She reached to grasp the arm, anchored under her breasts, just as she felt a cool set of lips brush against her ear.

“Didn’t I tell you what would happen if you came back here?”


CHAPTER 4

It was like embracing the sun. Angel pressed the warm flesh to his body, taut with need. For all his apparent languor, he felt tense and cold, like he was at a precipice staring down into a frozen, jagged chasm. He had wanted her. He had thought of nothing else since he had caught Cordy prowling around in his office. Her heat….her blood…..her beating, throbbing heart. He needed to crawl into her heat and drink at her light. He needed……her. He needed her. His arm clamped around her slight frame, just under her breasts. He took in her scent, a heady mix of fear, and anger….and want. He could almost taste her want. He grinned to himself as he felt her struggle. God, this was going to be good.

Cordelia felt her body being lifted back against Angel, her legs flailing about as she clawed at the arm that gripped her midsection like a vise. She felt dwarfed by the bulk strength of his body, almost enveloping hers in power and size. Fear shot through her as she realized that this wasn’t Angel…not the one she knew. And he wasn’t Angelus, because Angelus would have strung this out far more…would have taunted and teased until she and Gunn and Wes were lathered into rabid fear. This was….somebody she didn’t know. She didn’t know what to do. And God…that made her so much more afraid.

Cool lips pressed to the skin of her ear. “Warm….so so warm.” He murmured softly, his free hand running down her thigh, stroking it with a strange lack of gentleness. Almost as if it moved against his wishes. Cordy held still, trying to think. Her eyes closed as his lips trailed roughly down the side of her throat, and she felt a sudder work through her as he whispered, “Knew you’d come.”

She kicked out suddenly and caught him off guard. Pushing away from him, she spun around and backed up, her eyes wide. He slowly stalked towards her, all lazy grace. She straightened up and stood firm, holding her hand up.

“STOP!” Angel stopped, his face impassive. Shocked that it worked, Cordelia worked her bag around slowly, off her shoulder. She wished that whoever was chattering like a hysterical monkey on steroids would just shut up; then she realized it was her.

“OK. We got a thing here. A wanna make with the happy thing. I mean, you know, a….feeling……” Angel rolled his neck and stepped forward. “WAIT!” he stopped again, looking almost bored. “I mean, I’m just wondering….ohogod….mmm….why don’t we just…..” she slowly fumbled around in her bag and felt excitement shoot through her as she found the gun and snapped it out, gripping it with both hands and pointing it squarely at his chest.

Angel held stock-still, looking at the small compact gun, then up at her face. Gold flashed around the rims the chocolate of his eyes and his voice was darkly amused. He felt a lick of heat at his soul. Good for her. Fighting till the fucking end. “A gun? I’m all offended. Except for the part where I’m….disappointed.” The last part was spoken in a low growl. Cordelia shook her head; he seemed to be almost on remote control.

“Stay back. You won’t like this.”

He stood still but leaned in a little and whispered, “Vampire, Cordy.”

She let a small smirk lift her lips. “Bitch with a gun, Angel” and she fired, point-blank at his chest. He was a blur as he stepped aside in time to hear a small whistle streak past his shoulder. He looked at Cordy, who stood still with shock, the gun still pointed. Turning to look over his shoulder, he saw the small feathered dart embedded in the wall across the lobby. He sighed and looked back as she slowly lowered her hands, the gun dangling loosely from lifeless fingers.

“Mmmm. You missed.”

Oh God. Shit. Shit. Her mind raced frantically. The door. Get to the door. She pasted a huge, cherry smile on her face as she inched back slightly. “Wow. Boy. Is my face red or what?”

Angel stood watching her, rigid and still. She heard a thundering, a roaring, and realized it was her heart, pounding a rushing tattoo. His eyes flared gold again, and she knew he heard it, too.

And he did. He heard her heart thumping, pumping all that sweet honeyed blood through her body. He heard her soft panting. He felt her fear. And he inhaled a scent….musk and spice and wet and hot. He watched her, his eyes intent, as she inched her way to the door. They stared at each other for what seemed like eons. Suddenly, she spun around and dropped the gun, raced to the door, leaped up the steps and grabbed at the handle, forgetting completely about her shoes. She breathed in the rush of air as she pulled the door open two inches before a large hand reached over her shoulder and slapped the door closed in her face while his other hand yanked her bag off her shoulder.

She ducked under his arm and backed away from him….slowly down the steps into the lobby. She tried to hold his gaze and look for escape at the same time.

“Angel. Please. You’ve been….well….upset….” And amazingly, anger began to flood through her. “Actually, I don’t know what the hell you’ve been, do I? You shut down. You went on some kind of e-ticket ride to hell and decided you didn’t need that pesky friend baggage weighing you down.” She stopped backing up, staring up at him. “God, Angel. Where are you?”

“Right here.” Damn. Didn’t she know? If she only stayed frightened, he may have given up. He didn’t want frightened. Well, yeah, he did, but not frightened to the hilt. A scared little rabbit, he could shove her off and sink further into the dark. Alone and cold. But to stand there, and work that mouth, and let her anger show…..it was a done deal. She wore battle like other women wore perfume, and it swamped him.

She charged on, oblivious. “We tried…and you shut us out. You fired us. You try to erase what we all were together. You go off on this solo hell trip. You steal our books….” She blinked a moment. “How did you get our books? Don’t even try to tell me it was a weak spell.”

“I have friends in low places.”

“Well, yeah, I buy the low places part. The friends part is bogus.” They stared at each other for a moment. Cordy sighed, feeling sad and defeated. “Angel, we can’t. You have to let us back in before you and I could ever…..” She bit her lip. Damn. When had she ever wanted him more than right now? Now, when she was trapped, and he was clever, and he wanted her, and he was so, so empty. God, Cordy. You can pick ‘em. “Listen. You need…something. I get that. I want to be there, Angel, I want to be your friend. But this…” she waved a hand “this…this us. We shouldn’t. Not like this.”

“Yeah.” He seemed to shudder a bit then he stepped back. His head hung down and he seemed to be staring at the floor. “We shouldn’t.” Her heart gave a funny twinge. She shifted, feeling the wet heat between her legs. He lifted his gaze to hers and her breath caught in her throat. His gaze was molten and feral. “We shouldn’t. But we’re going to.” He crossed down the steps and bent, not slowing as he scooped her up and threw her over his shoulder, clamping an arm around her legs to anchor her to him as he began climbing the stairs with a slow, measured tread.

There was finality in every step. Cordy tried to wriggle off his shoulder, but his free hand casually reached up and swatted at the curve of her ass. She shrieked angrily and smacked at his butt as he walked.

“Cordy, Cordy…so quick with the foreplay.” His voice was casual but she could hear the underlying steel in his voice. He climbed the stairs and stalked down the carpeted hall, his footsteps solid muffled thuds.

“Put me down, you asshole. You prick. You fucking stupid…..dumb….” Her voice echoed down the hallway. He listened with detachment as he walked and finally raised a hand and swatted her ass again, harder this time.

Seething, she stopped hitting at him and shut up. She was livid. Angry because she wasn’t prepared for this. Angry because she felt helpless. And jeeze. Angry because her body was at a fevered pitch, and she had never felt so needy in her life.

She started as Angel kicked the door to his suite open and crossed to the bed. The room spun around her as he threw her off his shoulder and she bounced on her back on the bed. She tried to scoot over to the other side but he reached down and grabbed at her ankle, hauling her back to the center of the bed. She kicked out at him and he grinned slightly, reaching to unfasten his belt and slip it out of his pants. She stilled in a panic, and the air became thick with tension.

“No…” her voice was a begging whisper. Angel ignored it and looped one end of the belt around the bedpost, tying the other end around her ankle. He straightened up and watched her frantically claw at it, trying to untie the knot, as he unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged it off. She stopped, her lips parted and shallow pants puffing out as her wide eyes took in the muscled planes of his chest. She stared, almost in a trance, as his hands reached to unfasten and unzip his jeans, kicking his shoes off before tugging the denim down over his hips and down his legs.

Cordelia felt her mouth go dry. Well, that answered the boxers versus briefs question. She lost either way, since “commando” hadn’t been one of the choices. The jeans were kicked off and he climbed over her, stalking her as she scooted back on the bed. She raised her eyes to meet his, trying to hold his gaze so she wouldn’t look down….down below his waist.

His hands reached for her top and he tried to raise it over her head, but she kept her arms clamped to her sides. He grinned at her and shrugged slightly before reaching for the crew neck and tugging at it with both hands, ripping it down the middle. He paused, pulling the tattered shirt aside. He straddled her hips, staring down at the mounds of flesh that spilled from the thin, sheer bra. In the shadowed valley between her breasts, indiscernible to human eye, was the small, steady twitch of skin with each pump of her heart. It was her siren song to him, and he was entranced. Her hands had gripped at his forearms as he ripped at her shirt, and he felt them flex as he leaned down and licked at that spot.

He licked at the skin, and inhaled her musk, and his hands reached to cup her breasts, plumping them as he pushed them together. Cordelia lay still, looking up at him, her eyes wide….and….heated. He was grimly amused at the anger he could see, burning in the hazel depths. He scooted down her legs a bit and unsnapped the waist of her cropped pants. He scooted further down to her feet, and yanked at the belt, breaking the knot. Her hands shot down and grabbed at the waistband of her loosened slacks and held on with a grip of iron. He tugged half-heartedly at the cuffs before whispering, “Let go. Now.”

Cordelia drew in breath shallowly, knowing what he wanted, and what it meant. Watching him, she slowly shook her head. She lay there, hands clutching at the gaping waistband of the cotton capris, the ripped edges of her top splayed open. He grinned up at her, dark and wicked, and suddenly leapt up to nip at the tip of her breast through her bra. Cordelia shrieked and her hands batted at his head, shoving him away. Quick as a flash, he leaned back down and yanked her slacks down her body and off.

His eyes seemed to darken as a satisfied rumble shivered up his spine. He held her gaze steady as he reached for the silken panties that rode low on her hips, trailing his fingers over the damp fabric that covered dark, dewy curls. She tensed as she felt little flicks of sharp need shoot through her body at the touch. He leaned in and pressed his face to the silk, taking in her scent like a man desperate for oxygen. His lips pressed to her briefly before rising over her. He braced himself over her and looked down into her eyes.

“Give it to me, Cordy. C’mon.” He leaned in and whispered in her ear “Aren’t you tired of having all the heat? Don’t you wanna share?” Her head shook slightly, her eyes closed. He laughed against her, a low rumble. “Sure you do. You want to take my empty soul and fill it up….you want all my cold and ice, and you want to melt it. You want to save me. C’mon, Cordy….” He didn’t realize how desperate he was becoming….how his voice had started begging. “C’mon, save me.”

She felt a tear slide down her cheek as she looked into his blank eyes. “God. Angel. Don’t do this. I don’t want this….not…..not without you. The you I know. Please…”

He blinked. “Oh, I fucking think you do want this. I can smell it on you. God, Cordy, it’s ambrosia.” One hand trailed down to the juncture of her thighs and he laughed softly as she clamped her thighs together. “Coorrrrdddyyyy….let me in….” His fingers tugged at the elastic of her panties. She held her body rigid and he sighed, rising so he straddled her thighs. She finally looked down and her mouth opened to a small O as she saw the thick muscle jutting out from the dark nest of hair between his legs. Ohgod….and she called him a eunuch? She looked up at him feeling ice creeping through her.

“Angel….” Her eyes raised to his. He stared back, impassively. His body loomed over her prone form, both bodies taut and still. “Angel…..you won’t get warm. I’ll just get cold. Like you. I can’t…….not this way. I’ll be empty. Like you. Is that what you want?” A bleak shadow crept into his eyes. “You’re in a place….I can’t find you. I can’t reach you. You’re taking me there, too. God, Angel, please don’t.”

He remained still, staring at a point deep in her soul for the longest time. Slowly, his head lowered and his eyes closed. A great tremor seemed to shimmy through his body. He climbed off of her, and sat on the edge of the bed, his back to her. She lay, flat on her back, one hand raising to cover her eyes as she took in gulping breaths, trying to stave off the sobs she felt gathering deep in her throat. After a bit, she slowly slid off the other side of the bed, reaching for her slacks and tugging them on. She looked down at the tatters of her top and shrugged it off, and looked around, grabbing at a black shirt of Angel’s that had been worn and tossed over a chair. She yanked it on her body and walked to the door, fastening the shirt that hung off her small frame like a tent.

Her hand pushed at the door and she paused. Turning, she looked at him, still on the bed, head down. The air was filled with…..empty. Sad, cold empty. She took a quick breath to speak, then closed her mouth and walked out the door.

Angel sat, almost a statue in the room. He heard her footsteps down the hall…..down the stairs….across the lobby. A little rustling, small noises. Then the slam of the front door. He sucked in the loss. His heart, dead and useless, ached as if shards of glass had shattered it.

He couldn’t be saved.


CHAPTER 5

Who ever first coined the phrase “drowning their sorrows in a bottle” must have, at one time, worked for a Vampire with a soul, learning the paranormal investagory process. Then they must have been granted, against their will, some kind of visionary power that wracked them, body and soul, with hell-hot pain. Then, there was probably a completely predictable and pedestrian series of events: the usual ex-girlfriends stirring up trouble, the unstopped massacre of the entire upper staff of a large law firm, being fired, having a third eye impregnated in the back of your head….

Yeah, Cordelia thought, sprinkling salt on her damp fist, that guy must have had the same life as her. Because that’s what she felt like. Shrinking and climbing into the lovely bottle of tequila and swimming with the worm before lapsing into salty oblivion. She raised her fist to her mouth and licked, following it with a shot of tequila and a quick suck of freshly sliced lemon. Wesley watched her out of the corner of his eye and leaned towards her. “Um…Cordelia.” His voice was a low murmur. “Of course, it’s your decision….” Cordelia snorted. “but perhaps you should…delay this form of relaxation until you’re home.”

Gunn slumped back in his seat across the table, loosely holding a chilled longneck. He took a long draw and set the bottle back on the table with a snap. “Wes is right. Let’s deal on this and move on to the serious mind-numbing.” Cordelia sighed and wiped her fist off, letting the tequila burn down her throat. “Angel wants to regroup.”

“Angel wants to come work for US.” Wesley corrected, still sounding shocked. “If I’m reading him right, he wants to….attone…..for his lapse.” He fell silent and they all thought about the events of the last two days. Angel’s 11th hour rescue of them from the Skilosh. Cordy having that freakin’ third eye in her head. They had stumbled back to their homes and slept, rising this morning feeling, for once, as if they had a chance at this battle. No one had said it out loud, but that was it. Angel wanted to be back. He was sorry. He wanted to move on. With Wesley, and Gunn. And with Cordelia.

After Angel had shown up earlier in their office and made jaws drop with his proposal, Wesley had politely shooed him out, telling him that Angel Investigations would discuss it and get back to him. Gunn and been tense with anticipation; he was clearly torn between being pissed and being excited. Only Cordelia had remained silent and still. Wesley had suggested that they have a drink together at Caritas and talk it over, the three of them. And now here they were.

Gunn looked at Wesley. “He tell you what caused this….epiphany…he kept going on about?

“No. I gather it involved Darla.” Cordelia stiffened slightly; no one noticed. “Unless I misunderstood, I believe he said Darla stabbed him with a sword. Perhaps that was it.”

Gunn’s eyes widened. “Wow. The man has a jones for the killers. Or the wack jobs.”

Cordelia wondered which category she fit into . She hadn’t said a word about her walk on the dark side to either Gunn or Wesley. For all she knew, they would streak straight over to the Hyperion and confront Angel and she had no clue how that would play out. She had gone home that day, spent all afternoon crying, and had finally gathered herself by nightfall enough to go back to the office, trying to think of a way to explain the book loss to Wesley.

When she had opened the door, the familiar smell of old leather had greeted her before she saw the books, all neatly lined back up on the shelves. She had stood in the doorway, speechless and tired and pained. She had walked to her desk and sat behind it, staring into the moon-lit darkness before looking down and seeing the flash of white on her desk. Picking it up, she turned on her desk lamp and saw the swoosh of the angel on the front of the card. She turned it over. The other side was blank and unmarked. As blank as she felt at that moment. Then the phone rang. And her simple little side trip to get their fee from the Sharps had turned into a freakin’ all expense paid trip to hell.

And then he was there, in his dark, dorky car, grinning like a little boy hoping mom would buy his suckup and let him out of timeout. Like he hadn’t set her up to be….she closed her eyes. Don’t go there. Don’t go there. She stood up, agitated, and announced, “gotta go….” She gestured towards the girl’s room and took off. The club was packed tonight, and she wandered through various couples and groups before getting near the women’s restroom door.

“Hey, muffin” Cordelia turned to look at Lorne and held his gaze for a moment before humming the first few bars of Mary Had a Little Lamb. Lorne’s eyes widened and he straightened up, anger flashing through his expression. “Okiedokie. I can see you’re busy.” Cordelia stared at him blankly and wandered into the bathroom, closing the door.

Lorne stared at the closed door a moment before working his way back to a secluded table back in a corner, standing casually at the table before sitting. His voice was controlled as he looked over the crowd. “Yeah, snookums, got the rest of the story. Gotta tell ya, not so much into the reunion thing right now, but that’s just the part of me talkin’ that doesn’t really like it when Cordelia is nearly raped.” His gaze settled on Angel, who sat slumped back in the shadowed corner, watching the AI gang at their table from a safe distance.

Angel’s gaze didn’t waver. “Yeah. You and me both.” He sighed. “Ya know, I’ve been to hell, Lorne. THE hell. Hung out, got tortured beyond the telling. Bought the t-shirt and the friggin’souvenir photo. But that was a day at the beach compared to this. If I can’t get them back…..” He was silent for a long moment, watching Wesley and Gunn talk. “Wes I think I got, just because I think he wants to torture me. Gunn, I got, because he wants some brute strength standing beside him. Cordy…” His voice trailed off a bit. He honest to God didn’t know what to say.

“Cordy says ok.” Angel’s head whipped around as Cordy spoke. She stood there, looking down at him, her face raised so that her chin pointed out at him. “What’d ya think, you’d come here and listen in?” He squirmed a bit. “That’s gonna stop. Trust me, I have no problem sharing my feelings. You really just don’t want to know about them right now. So quit with the vamp hearing. It’s….” She met his eyes. “It’s an intrusion.”

She started to walk away then spun around and leaned over the table. “This is it. This is the do-over, and there won’t be another. I don’t know what the hell the last few months have been all about for you, but it was enough for us to know that we can’t do this alone.”

“Neither can I.” His voice was quiet and low.

She blinked. “Yeah. Well. Anyway. Get this. We start from new. We go on. No one mentions…what happened. No one, got it?” She shot a look at Lorne. He nodded and sipped at his drink. “Wesley and Gunn already think I’m some kind of….girl. They don’t need to know about the books….or…how they got back. Or what happened in between.”

“Cordy…”

“Shut up. Don’t want to hear it.” And she turned and walked back to the table, plopping down in her chair, waving to Wesley and Gunn. “No, no, don’t get up.”

Wesley paused, his drink at his lips. He looked at Gunn, confused. “Um, we weren’t.” Cordelia snorted and motioned to their waiter for another shot and leaned forward.

“Here’s the deal, guys of mine. First of all….we suck at this.” Wesley slapped his drink down on the table with a disgruntled expression. Cordelia waved off his ‘I beg your pardon’ with a languid hand. “We do. Finding Aunt Bessie’s long lost pearls, yeah, maybe we can solve the caper. But guys, c’mon. We need him. Second of all…the Hyperion. Nicer, better part of town….no gym socks smell.” Wesley nodded, still looking put out. “Third….we get it. We get the mission. And if he wants to finally get back to his roots and be in on it, let’s just….let him.”

Wesley listened as she wound down and finally spoke. “I’m somewhat nonplussed at his sudden reversal of attitude. You know what really bothers me?”

“That you don’t get why using “nonplussed” in normal conversation isn’t a babe magnet?” Gunn laughed at Cordy’s dry response.

“No, Cordelia. I want to know….” He played softly with the rim of his drink. “I want to know what happened to you.” He raised gentle eyes to hers. “Something happened. You’ve been…shell-shocked. You tried to hide it, but….” He shrugged. “We know you.”

Cordy took in a panicky breath, trying to think fast. “Nothing. Just the stuff, you know….oohhhh…give me that book, don’t make me move you. Jeeze, Wesley, you were there….got a memory of pulled stitches?”

Wesely held her gaze for a moment and Cordelia got the feeling he could somehow see into her mind. “All right. I don’t buy it, but….you’ll tell me if you want to. I’m here.”

Cordelia felt tears well up in her eyes. “And I said I had no friends….” She wiped her eyes quickly as the waiter sat another shot in front of her. Gunn made a suspicious sniffle and Cordy laughed a humorless laugh before loading up her fist with salt again. “Ok. Our Little Women moment is over. We’re agreed. He’s back. We’re back.” Wesley raised his glass and Gunn raised his beer. Cordy raised her shot and they clinked together before she licked at the salt and downed the shot. Raising the lemon wedge to her lips, she sucked, making a face as it burned down her throat.

“Well, I suppose all we need to do now is telephone Angel and tell him our decision.” Wesley sounded relieved. “We accept his proposal, on our terms. He will, of course, need to work at rebuilding trust. No surprises.”

Cordy waved a hand over her shoulder. “No need to call. He’s back in the corner, watching us. Maybe listening.” Gunn and Wesley craned their necks to peer into the corner before looking back at Cordelia.

Wesely leaned across the table and whispered, “How long has he been there?”

“Apparently all this time. Surprise.” And Cordeila motioned for another shot.


CHAPTER 6

Cordelia stalked into the lobby of the Hyperion, sweaty, grimy, and really pissed. Gunn looked up, ready to tease her about being so late, but quickly looked down when he saw the expression on her face as she trudged to the small restroom in the corner. He’d learned a long, painful time ago a valuable lesson. If Cordy was in a mood, don’t make eye contact and draw her fire.

Wesley poked his head out of his office. “Was that Cordelia?”

“Yeah.” Gunn leaned forward. “She’s…..cranky” he whispered.

Wesley made a face and yanked his head back into the office, sliding the door shut. Gunn slumped back into the chair and carefully made notations into a file. After a while, the door opened and Cordelia walked out. She walked with an odd gait till Gunn realized she had on one shoe. She walked over to where he sat and leaned on the desk.

“Sorry I’m late. Crappy, crappy, no good morning. Had a flat on the way here.”

Gunn sat up, startled. “You had a flat? Why didn’t you call?”

“Because I’m not helpless. I can handle these things. Little women don’t need to call the menfolk all the time. I can certainly take care of a tire.”

“You changed a tire?”

“No, dumbass. I called Triple AAA. Like I’d really change a tire. Do I look like Mr. Goodwrench? Sheese.” Cordy looked down. “And the heel broke on my favorite shoe.” She held up one heel-less shoe, sadly regarding it. “This day sucks.”

Gunn grinned, patting her on the knee. “C’mon, Barbie. We’re back in the game here, it’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood. Little thing like a flat tire and a flat shoe ain’t gonna get your day.”

They heard a small shuffle and looked up to see Angel coming down the stairs with an unsure expression on his face.

Cordelia sighed. “No, that’s what he’s here for.” She tossed her shoe in the trash and pulled off the other one, tossing it in, too. Rising, she walked to her desk and sat down, reaching for a stack of files she had been working on replacing last night when they all finally called a halt to moving day. Tired, sweaty, dirty, and flat out weary, Cordelia had fallen asleep at her desk in the middle of sorting files when Wesley had shaken her gently awake and suggested that she simply go upstairs and go to sleep. Like a bucket of cold water, that had awakened her in a panic, and she had blustered her way out the front door, all without ever looking at Angel. And she knew he was watching her quietly. He had been all day. Just like he was now, as he crossed the lobby and sat at the smaller desk she had smirkingly pointed him to yesterday morning.

It was small, dingy, and grey, and his knees didn’t quite fit under the leg space. Cordelia suspected it was a student desk, and had seized on the opportunity to present it to Angel complete with an orange juice can of pencils and a memo pad. He had watched her levelly and she had turned her back and walked back to her desk, feeling his gaze on her back. She had managed to say not one word to him from then on, and planned on doing the same today.

Angel watched her from his small, tiny desk. As he understood them, his duties consisted of answering the phone, supplying his vampire strength when needed, and being an ongoing target of Cordelia’s disdain. The first two were easy; the third was getting on his last nerve. He had taken insults from the best and the worst; he’d put up with Spike’s snarks, Xander Harris’ hatred, Rupert Gile’s complete distrust and anger, and those three men paled in comparison to Ms. Cordelia Chase. Slap a breastplate on her and send her back in time and she would have frightened the Amazon Warriors.

Funny thing was, all that time he’d been wishing she’d just shut up when her mouth would flap; all that time she complained or whined or spit out whatever thought was churning in her head….that was so much better than this tense, angry silence. He grinned at the irony. He had wanted Cordy to just shut up when nine times out of ten, she said the very thing that needed to be said. The thing no one else would say. Her voice sometimes led them down the right path. He knew that was true; just like he knew her voice had saved him.

He looked up as Wesley came out of his office and handed him a file. “I see you moved several pieces of weaponry downstairs during….well….recently. Would it be possible to bring them back up so we can adjust our inventory?”

“Sure.” He rose, glad to have anything to do that would remove him from Cordy’s deliberate silence. He walked to the basement and went down the steps, pausing to take in the damp must. Flicking on a light, he looked around at what had become his workout room. It was dark and silent and oppressive and for the last few months, he had hid here from life. Had hid here, uncaring, except for when he frantically tooled around town playing Darla’s games.

Fuck. He leaned his head against the punching bag. Cordy could never know about Darla and the little interlude up in his bedroom. She would never forgive that. Angel didn’t know that he could forgive himself for it, and had trouble believing it had ever happened; it was so surreal.

He had had, for the first time in months, light all around him. He had gotten Cordy right there, right in his bed, he was going to take her to him…all the way….no matter what. He had needed her to surround and fill him so somehow, he could feel again. He closed his eyes, remembering her voice, desperate and begging…..

“Angel….” Her eyes raised to his. He stared back, impassively. His body loomed over her prone form, both bodies taut and still. “Angel…..you won’t get warm. I’ll just get cold. Like you. I can’t…….not this way. I’ll be empty. Like you. Is that what you want?” A bleak shadow crept into his eyes. “You’re in a place….I can’t find you. I can’t reach you. You’re taking me there, too. God, Angel, please don’t.”

He shivered, even now. At that moment, all he had wanted was to take her, with or without her permission. And then she spoke. And the thought of Cordelia Chase feeling the dark emptiness that he felt shut him down. She had somehow touched him, had reached him, although she didn’t know it. He had begged her to save him, and she had.

He had sat there on the edge of the bed for the longest time, and had finally risen, almost sleepwalking. He had dressed, and he had busted in on Wolfram and Hart’s little ceremony of the newly unemployed and discovered that the gold ring was actually a cheap crackerjack prize. So he had trudged home. And there was Darla. Perfect end to a perfect day. All his rage, all his hatred, all his bleak emptiness had boiled over at that moment and he had exploded, using her body so desperately no human could have withstood it.

And Cordelia’s voice had reached him. “I can’t find you. I can’t reach you.” And she did. All his misery seemed to melt out of him, and the demon struggling to break free had screamed in anguish, because his soul had triumphed, and his humanity soared. Every gram of pain had seemed to leave with Darla, and his life, or lack thereof, was back on track.
He puffed a little sigh as he gathered up an armful of weapons and began walking up the stairs. Back up to Cordy and the Great Wall of Silence. He was glad to be back, and ready to fall on his knees in gratitude that his family was back, but shit. Attonement sucked.

Cordy watched as Wesley handed Angel the weapon list and had watched Angel go to the basement. After hearing the door close, she hopped up and grabbed at the bag she had under her desk and quietly went up the stairs to his room. She pushed open the door to his suite and walked into the bedroom, stopping at the sight of the broken French door and the glass swept into a small pile against the wall. She looked at the door, puzzled, then shrugged and opened the bag and took out the shirt she had taken from Angel, laundered and folded. She walked to the closet and was hanging it up when the hair stood up on the nape of her neck. Turning to the door, she saw Angel, standing in the doorway, watching her.

She froze a moment. His gaze was level on hers. “Can I help you with something?”

“Um…no, no…just returning your shirt.”

“Could have given it to me downstairs.”

“Well, first of all, I didn’t want Wesley or Gunn wondering why I had a shirt of yours….” She broke off, biting her lip.

He finished for her. “and second of all…this way you could miss talking to me.”

“Yeah, well, that one didn’t pan out quite the way I planned.” They both stood there a moment, awkwardly. Cordelia looked at the broken door. “That door finally get on your nerves one too many times and you had to take it out?”

Angel’s face remained impassive. “I tripped.”

Cordelia looked at him, thinking “God what a dork.” Angel’s lips twisted slightly, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. She waved her hand a bit towards the closet. “Well, anyhoo, there’s your shirt.” He stepped aside as she walked to the door and out, her footsteps muffled as she walked down the hallway. He listened till she was downstairs at her desk again.

Crossing to his dresser, he opened a drawer and dug through until he found and pulled out a scrap of cloth. He sat on his bed and lifted it to his face, taking in Cordelia’s faint spice. He lowered the remains of her tattered top and smiled slightly. He was back. He was all about the mission. Plus he had a new personal mission of his own to complete.

She had reached him. Now he was going to reach her.


CHAPTER 7

Wesley gritted his teeth and yelped, the fiery pain lancing through his body with all the fury of…

“Oh, for God’s sake, Wesley. I haven’t even touched it yet.” Cordy’s voice was exasperated. He opened his eyes and looked down to where she held the cotton ball over the shallow gash in his arm. He raised sheepish eyes to hers.

“Ah. Just practicing.” He looked away and braced himself for the fiery agony of pain.

“I keep telling you, the hydrogen peroxide doesn’t hurt. It’s all in your imagination.” Cordry dabbed at the cut, making sure it was cleaned out. “It’s the alcohol that’ll sting like hell.” She finished dabbing at it and inspected it closer. Wesley held stoically motionless. Cordy lowered her head and blew on it softly. “That’s a good boy.” Wesley rolled his eyes. She grinned, reaching for the gauze and covering the cut before taping it.

They had just cleaned out a nest of shoklar demons down by the piers. Easy kills, but a couple were pretty feisty. They had all stumbled back to the Hyperion slightly damaged and covered with demon goo. Cordy had tended Gunn and Wesley….and that left….

Angel grinned, pulling his shirt off and pointing to the claw marks on his chest. Cordy sighed, not really seeing a way around this without making a scene. Keeping her face expressionless, she walked to him and sat down, looking closer at the wound. “Yikes…one of ‘em got ya good.” Angel nodded, leaning back and closing his eyes. He had always lapped up being tended after battle; the knight templar accepting his accolades. Cordy smiled to herself. He really was a dork. With a really well-sculpted chest. Cordy caught herself. Whoa. Do not go there.

Angle watched her from beneath lowered lids. He could hear her heartrate increase. It hadn’t done that when she tended Gunn or Wesley. Nope, it was him. Dorky him. Over the last several days she had softened in her attitude towards him. He had been careful and considerate and sensitive, and she was beginning to warm to him. Yep. Just a matter of time and careful hunting, and she’d be practically climbing over him, just begging to….

“Hey, Dumbass. Still with us?” Cordelia smacked him on the shoulder. He opened his eyes, glaring up at her. She looked down at him calmly. “All done.” She began gathering up the first aid supplies and walked to the office to put them away. He watched her hips gently sway as she moved and grinned to himself. It was all about strategy.

Wesley sighed, gingerly picking up his jacket and looking about for a moment. “I believe I’ll shuffle off for now….good work, Angel, Gunn.” He looked around for a moment more before sighing. “What a bloody strange life we lead.” And he walked out the door. Gunn nodded his head, his eyes tired.

“The man speaks the truth. And so do I when I say I’m beat. I’m gone.” And he was out the door, letting it swing closed behind him. Angel looked at the door a moment, then grinned to himself, rising and beginning to put his shirt on. Then, remembering Cordy’s touch and her attention to his chest, he shrugged it back off, leaving it on the chair. Cordy walked back out of the office.

“Wesley, you better…” she looked around at the deserted lobby before looking questioningly at Angel.

“Went home.”

“Oh.” Silence. “Gunn?”

“Home.”

“Oh.” She looked around a little nervously and then smiled brightly and trotted over to pick up her duffle bag and sling it over her shoulder. “Well….busy day, busy, busy, busy….” She trailed off, puffing a small breath out. “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” And she was out the door before he could respond. He sat back, scratching absently at the freshly tended wound as he listened and waited patiently. In the distance, he could hear her footfalls as she clicked her way to her car, parked in the back. He heard the tired sigh as she fumbled with the key to unlock the door; he heard the silent pause and pictured her, sitting there, lost in thought. He heard the soft clink of the key as it entered the igniton. And then he grinned as he heard the soft cough of the car engine, sputtering as it tried to turn over.

There was a silence and then several muffled thuds accompanied by vicious cursing. Angel’s grin grew wider. His Cordy could embarrass a sailor.

His Cordy. He looked around, startled, as if someone else had voiced it and brought it to his attention. When had that happened? When had he made the leap from wanting her goodness to wanting her, parcel and package? And he knew he did, with a certainty beyond any he had ever known. She had bitten off more than she knew when she had saved him; when her voice had brought him back. She had chosen him. He was taking her up on the offer.

He knew it wouldn’t be that easy. There was that whole thing where she loathed him, but he didn’t see that as insurmountable. He liked a challenge. And he had a feeling Cordelia Chase was worth the effort. Gold flashed in his eyes briefly. And he did so enjoy a good chase. He had a feeling that with Cordelia, the hunter could easily become prey if he wasn’t careful. A good hunter stacked the odds in his favor. He used all the weapons at his disposal. He used the element of surprise. He always controlled the circumstances. And it helped if he knew how to disconnect the starter to a car so it wouldn’t run.

Cordelia slammed her fist against the steering wheel. Fuck. Fuckity fuck. Shit. Shit shit shit. Damn. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the steering wheel, sighing. Stupid car. Stupid life. She couldn’t call Triple A; she had already exceeded her allotted roadside assistance calls. She reached for her cellphone and paused; Gunn had been so tired. She couldn’t call him. He had put in a rough couple of days. Wesley knew how to turn the ignition and that was about it. She looked out the window and glared at the hotel. The last cookie in the jar was in there. She climbed out of the car and slammed the door, pausing long enough to kick it before turning to stalk back around the corner into the front entrance.

She looked around, spotting Angel seated at his small desk, legs crammed into the tight leg space as he studied a file. She walked across the lobby and he looked up, surprised.

“Cordy. Forget something?” Mel and Denzel had nothing on him.

“No…no….” she broke off, hating every moment of this. “My car won’t start.”

Angel popped up. “What’d you do to it?”

Cordy gaped at him. “I tried to START IT, dorkhead. I put the key in and turned it.”

“Ok…ok…tell you what.” Cordelia glared at him as he rounded the counter and walked to her, his shirt still unbuttoned. “I’ll give you a ride home and then I’ll come back and take a look at it. It’s probably some small problem that I can take care of.” He gave her his most winning smile. She squinted back, her brow furrowed, as if wondering who she was speaking to.

“Ok.” She seemed hesitant. “That’d be….ok.”

He dialed the smile down a notch. “I’ll take care of it, Cordy. I know cars.” He casually checked his pocket for his keys and took her arm, walking her to the door. He ignored the way she jerked her arm back as she huffed a bit. They walked out into the night and she turned to him.

“Listen, the offer is nice; why don’t I just take the bus…”

“I’ll give you a ride.”

“Angel…”

“Cordelia.” There was such implacable steel in his voice she gave up. It wasn’t the first time she’d heard it. Angel often became so exasperated with her, she heard “Cordelia” uttered in just that tone, and she knew he was immovable. Pick your battles, Cordy. She grimaced. God knew there were probably plenty ahead.

If she hadn’t been so wary of being in the car with him, she would have enjoyed the ride. She loved riding around in his huge old dorkmobile, with the top down. On a beautiful night like this she would have enjoyed having her hair lifted and tossed by the wind. But she sat tensely glued to the passenger door, silent all the way to her apartment. Angel pulled into an empty space in front of her building and turned the engine off. He had been silent all the way, feeling her tension seep through him. He glanced over at her as she reached for the handle.

“Cordy?” Her hand froze on the handle as she turned to look at him. He paused a moment, thinking. Finally, he spoke; his voice low and even. “Grace period is over, Cordy.” She looked at him blankly. “I mean it. I gave you the space, and the target, and I’m done. I put up with your crap and your anger, and it’s over. We’re moving on.” He looked at her levelly.

She stared at him, feeing anger beginning to stir. “Just like that. I had my cut of the anger pie and now I’m supposed to be full up?” His gaze remained level. “It really doesn’t work that way, Angel. You almost did Angelus proud, there. Set a trap, baited it well, caught me. You don’t think I was terrified?”

“I know you were. I’ll have that face….those eyes….God, that’ll haunt me forever.” Angel’s voice was low. “But it was wrong, and I pulled back. Because it was you.”

“You pulled back because somehow, you tapped into the know that you were about to rape someone.”

Angel glared at her before pushing his car door open and climbing out. Cordy quickly unlocked her door and leapt out before he could come around to tower over her. He walked casually around to her side and motioned her to walk.

“You don’t have to come up, I can walk from here.”

“It’s dark, Cordy. I’ll see you to the door.”

She sighed. They walked silently up the outside stairs to her doorway. She turned to him at the door. The light over her door was broken, and the only light was the silvery shine of the moon. His body was outlined solid and huge, and she looked up into the shadowed planes of his face, trying to see his eyes.

“Let me fill you in on something Cordy, give you a little something to go to sleep by. There wouldn’t have been another “someone.” There was you. I wanted you. I needed you, and somehow, you gave me what I needed. I’m sorry I frightened you; hell, I frightened myself. But that’s the last fucking time I’m apologizing. We’re moving on from here. Get on the same page because I’m going ahead.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

He looked down at her, silent and dark. A shiver ran down her spine, as if something important had just happened and snuck by her without her actually seeing it. He nodded towards her door. “Go on in.” she just stood, looking up at him. Her face glowed in the moonlight and her huge hazel eyes seemed to burrow into him, giving warmth to his cold heart. He grinned slightly. “I bet you put an uninvite on your apartment, didn’t you?” She nodded, still not saying a word. He leaned down close to her ear and whispered “That’s ok, Cordy. We’ll take care of that another time.” Then he turned and swept down the stairs silently.

Cordelia remained still for the longest time before turning to her door, absently thanking Dennis as he opened it for her and closed it behind her. She walked slowly into her bedroom, dropping her bag on the floor before flopping face down on her bed. Oh god. She felt as if she was in the dark, looking for something floating just out of range. And somehow, Angel was pulling all the strings.

Angel drove back towards the Hyperion, enjoying the breeze of the warm evening. His eyes were shadowed with intent and purpose. Soon enough. Cordy’s path home would be the steps to his bed. And they’d both burn from the heat.


CHAPTER 8

She slowly stalked across the lobby towards him, feline grace and leggy charm. Her hazel eyes locked onto his, sending tremors of heat through his body. He watched her, lazily reclining in his leather office chair, feeling his body harden as she stopped to face him across the huge walnut desk. Cordelia’s face glowed in the soft light.

“Angel….I….I just can’t do this anymore. This pretence…this sham. I tried to stay angry at you, but I know I’m just trying to hide my true feelings.” She stroked at her collarbone listlessly. “I…..I want you, Angel. I burn for you.” Her hands both rose to tangle in her hair, her lush body slowly undulating as her hands slid down her face, down her throat, down over her breasts. He watched, impassively, feeling his cock swelling as she touched herself, caressing her ripe, full breasts.

“God, please, tell me you feel it, too….I know you do. I know you want me.” She climbed up on his desk, sweeping the papers and files away. She crawled across the desk, the scent of her arousal filling his senses. She leaned to lick at his lips, biting his lower lip before pulling back and staring into his eyes. “Take me, Angel. Take me now.”

“Bite me, Gunn.” Angel was startled out of his daydream as Cordelia’s less than loving voice bit across the lobby. He jarred his knees against the too small legspace beneath his desk as he jumped in his chair. Looking around to see if anyone had noticed, he shifted a bit, leaning forward to hide the thick bulge beneath his jeans.

Gunn leaned against the counter, glaring at Cordy. “I’ll slay the demons, I’ll bury the pieces, I’ll wash your car, I’ll watch Oprah. Just don’t make me deal with those beady-eyed little critters. Ugh.” He shivered.

Cordelia, arms full of rat traps, turned to Wesley, who slowly lifted the newspaper he was reading till he was completely hidden behind it. She stared at him a moment, then trudged to the basement door. “Be back in a moment. Maybe you can both pass the time looking for your balls and go online to ebay and buy a spine.” They both breathed a sigh of relief as they heard the door slam and her footsteps echoing down the stairs. Angel sat still, waiting for his body to calm, then casually rose and walked to the basement.

“Better go help her. We really don’t want the wrath of Cordelia on us all day.” Gunn grinned and nodded in agreement. Angel opened the door and slowly walked down the stairs, not making a sound. He paused at the bottom of the steps, grinning to himself at the view. Cordelia, down on her hands and knees, faced away from him, trying to push the trap between a set of shelves. Her top had ridden up over her back, giving him a perfect view of the delicately traced tattoo on the small of her back . Her ass, round and firm, wiggled a bit as she worked the trap back into the furthest reach. She crawled backwards and stood, huffing at the dust in the air.

He wiped the grin off his face as she turned and shrieked, startled to see him standing there.

“Dammit, Angel! Wear a bell or something. Jeeze. What is your deal?”

His voice was calm. “Came to help you. I know this isn’t fun.”

“Oh. OK.” She seemed to be a little off center, not sure of him at the moment. He walked, stopping a few inches from her. She fought the urge to back up. Looking around, she picked up two traps and shoved them at him. “Here. I haven’t done that corner yet.” She pointed across the room before picking up another trap and walking in the opposite direction. Angel watched her a moment before setting the two traps. Then he walked to the stairs and waited for her. She took a step up, ignoring him.

His voice was calm. “Gonna thank me?”

Her back stiffened and she turned around to face him. “OK. Thanks for earning your paycheck, Angel. I really appreciate your being able to work at your job.” She turned and started up the stairs. So quick he was a blur, he shot in front of her and blocked her way up the steps. She backed down one step, her eyes raised to him.

He sat on the higher stair, trying to be not intimidating while being, well, intimidating. He sighed. She needed to hear this, and this was the only way he was going to get her to listen.

“Move.” Her voice was quiet and low. “I mean it. Move or I’ll call Wes and Gunn.”

“Just want to talk.”

Silence. Her gaze was thunderous. “Fine. Talk. Then move.”

He stared at her for a minute; she finally looked away. His face was unreadable, his voice was calm. “Maybe you didn’t understand me last night. The punishment portion of the entertainment is over, Cordy. I was wrong, and I know that, and I’m back. You’re angry, and you don’t trust me, and I get that. But this queen bitch thing, it’s done. I let you get away with it…”

“You LET me…..arrogant much? You don’t LET me do anything.”

He stared down at her, deciding to let that pass. “All I’m saying is….let’s go on. All of us. Let’s try…” he paused. “Let’s try to be better than this.”

Cordy stared back, fire lighting the hazel in her eyes to a fine blaze. “Fine.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.” Cordy let out a sigh, feeling some of her anger draining out with it. She looked up at him, feeling the words tumble out before she even knew they were being formed. “I’m tired of being mad. It’s too much work.” He nodded, looking down. “Is this what it was like for you? Did you just…..get tired?”

“No.” He looked back up at her. “I got awake.” He held her gaze calmly. “You asked where I was. You said you couldn’t find me. You did. I’m right here.”

Cordy felt warmth creep through her heart, flowing through her blood and coursing thorough her body. She couldn’t have moved if her life depended on it. He slowly raised one hand and stroked along her cheek, relieved when she didn’t jerk away. She watched him, almost hypnotized as he slowly pulled his hand away. He rose, stepping aside.

She climbed the stairs past him and opened the door, stepping out into the hallway. He followed behind her and was turning to close the door when she shrieked and flung herself backwards, into him. He grabbed her shoulders and held her close, holdling her arms as she writhed, screaming. God, he hated this. She seemed to fold into herself, inching towards a place dark and painful whenever she got a little gift from the fucking PTB.

Footsteps pounded as Wesley and Gunn came pounding from the lobby. Angel held Cordy to his chest as she gasped, coming out of her vision. She clutched at his arms, hanging on as her eyes pressed shut against the light.

“Oh god….” Angel looked at Wesley, who trotted to the restroom to get asprin and water. Cordy shuddered a bit before taking a deep breath. “Um….samo samo….demon…two big horns…” her brow crinkled. “Ewww. Pus oozing scales. Corner of 31st and Hanthorne. He’s…..he’s….” She looked up at Angel. “He’s….eating a dog?”

Gunn hovered over her, confused. “He’s having a hotdog?”

“No…” Cordy looked up at Gunn. “A dog. Bowwow. He’s eating a DOG.” She looked up at Angel. “We’re supposed to help the helpless dogs now?”

He looked down at her, equally confused. “Maybe the dog is an appetizer.”

“EWWWWW.” Cordy rose, flushed from her vision and a bit wobbly on her feet. Angel reached to steady her, his eyes dark with concern. She leaned into him for a moment, sighing, before her inner voices kicked in and she shoved him away, grumbling as she reached for the asprin and water from Wesley.

Angel watched her a moment, his brows furrowed in a frown, before looking to Wesley and Gunn. “Ok. I guess we go check it out before he moves on to the main course.” He glanced at Cordelia as she ewwed again. “Stay here and rest, Cordy. We got this.” She lowered her head, her eyes closed. Angel looked at Wesley, who looked back, sharing a look of worry. Wesley spoke up.

“Angel’s right, Cordelia. We’ll go make the world a safe place for Lassie. You rest.” His voice was gentle as he put his arm around her, guiding her to a chair and sitting her down. Squatting down beside her, he looked up into her face, willing her eyes to meet his. Cordy sighed, meeting his gaze as he continued, “They’re getting worse, aren’t they?” Cordelia nodded, tears filling her eyes. Wesley kissed her forehead. “Rest. No phone. No work. No going online and ordering shoes.” Cordy’s lips lifted in a small smile. “Rest.”

She nodded.

Gunn walked back from the weapons cabinet. “Barbie, just get your z’s on and when we’re back, I’ll take ya home. Be good and I might spring for a concrete at Custer’s.”

Cordy grinned tiredly. “Passionfruit mango kiwi. Double.” Gunn grinned and headed to the door, followed by Wesley. Angel stopped beside her chair, stooping down beside her.

“Cordy….” She looked up at him, pain still burning in her eyes. “Baby….go lie down. Let the asprin kick in.” She sighed, nodding miserably. He looked at her a moment before rising and stalking to the front door, charging out thinking that someday, he’d track down the fucking powers that be and show them a little of his own powers that be.

Cordelia sighed as she heard the door slam. Tiredly, she rose and walked to the phone, making sure the answering machine was on. She looked around before walking to the stairs, climbing them with her mind numb and her head churning with pain. Stopping in the hallway, she looked around, realizing that none of the rooms were really habitable, except Angel’s. She stood there, letting the thought of a soft bed carry her feet to his door. Opening it, she staggered across the room to the bed, dropping down onto the smooth, cool surface. A dog. Jeeze. A huge, fluffy, shrubby-clipped poodle. She frowned to herself as she began to drift off, clutching a piece of fabric to her face as her mind began to ease. Had she told them that…to look for a poodle cut like hedges? She smiled sleepily as she fell asleep. She smelled Angel. Was he here? Her last thought was….something was different…..something was new.

Later that evening, she slept blissfully on, clutching Angel’s discarded shirt still to her face. Angel rested in a chair beside the bed, his feet up on the edge, chin rested on steepled fingers as he watched her sleep. Watched her sleep in the new bed that had been delivered yesterday, on top of a new bedspread that covered new sheets on new mattresses. He had tainted the old bed with his hatred and his anger. This bed….he watched her, intent. This bed would be christened a hell of a lot differently.


CHAPTER 9

Cordelia breezed into the Hyperion, heels clicking across the lobby as she walked into the office. She set the drink carrier on her desk and reached to push the message button on the answering machine. She sipped at her latte and listened, writing down two messages to get back to later. Later…when Wesley and Gunn were here….and Angel. Later meant Angel. Angel up at the crack of noon, sauntering downstairs, wandering into her line of vision. Staying in her thoughts.

Cordelia sipped absently and leaned back in her chair. Angel in her thoughts had changed from fantasies of torturing and staking him to….she didn’t know. She had several scenarios all lined up. They differed in style, and atmosphere, but all ended with him begging for forgiveness and her holding his life in her hands. She loved those fantasies. Especially the begging. She had loved the begging in high school…..please, Cordelia, c’mon….go out with me. Now it was….please, Cordelia….I am the wrongest of wrong….the deepest of the low…forgive me or just kill me….I’m so unworthy…..I am shamed at the total wrongness of me.

Cordelia smiled to herself. Men, they fantasized about nude supermodels on beaches asking for help with suntan oil. Women, they fantasized about the men in their lives uttering the magic phrase….I was wrong.

And god, she bet she didn’t even know just how wrong he was. She knew there were three months of not knowing whatever the hell he did to get himself through the day, and the night. What had happened, or almost happened, between them was just the tip of the iceberg, and she was chilly enough. She didn’t want to know anymore. She shivered a bit and sipped at her latte again.

“Cold?”

Cordy jumped in her seat, sloshing latte on her top. She spun around to glare at Angel, lounging in the doorway. He looked down at the spatters on her top and frowned.

“Jeeze louise, Angel…..get a freakin’ bell…learn to clear your throat…whatever.”

“Sorry. You seemed…preoccupied.” His eyes raked over her top; she shifted a bit. “I’ll get that cleaned…”

“No. Never mind…I’ll fix it…” She frowned, getting up and walking past him to go to the restroom and sponge at the damp spots on her shirt. As she walked past, he met her gaze.

“Good morning, Cordy.”

His brown eyes held hers levelly. “Um…morning. ‘Scuse me.” And she walked on, shaking her head. Good morning? When the hell had he said good morning to her before. He hadn’t. Not even three days ago, when she had awakened alone in his bed and had come charging downstairs, rumpled and touseled, shaken that she had spent the night. Wes and Gunn had looked up, surprised at her mood, and Wes had explained that they decided the night before to let her sleep. He wondered if she had a bad dream or something. Cordelia had looked at them, equally surprised at herself. She had slept all night in Angel’s bed. All night. She hadn’t slept all through the night, even in her own bed, since the night Angel had fired them. And she had done just that here. In his bed. Alone. In his….she frowned. In his different bed. That wasn’t the same bed. It was different…..maybe new?

She snuck a look over at Angel, hidden behind the newspaper. After a bit, he lowered the paper, frowning at her. “OK…I get Doonesbury…I finally get Non Sequitor…but Zippy…..completely over my head.” Wesley chuckled. Cordelia stared at him, suspiciously.

“Um…no one gets Zippy, Angel. It’s there to taunt us.” And she had turned and gone on out the door to go to her apartment, missing the grin on Angel’s face as he lifted the paper back up and mentally patted himself on the back for his display of clueless dork.

So mark today on the Cordelia Chase calendar of cataclysmic events. Angel said good morning. She sponged at her top uselessly, sighing. The days of boutique shopping were over. If it didn’t come from Target or Walmart and cost less than 12 bucks, she didn’t want to know about it. She gave up on the spots and opened the door to walk back to the office, colliding with Angel, who stood right on the other side of the restroom door.

“Holy fucking hell, Angel. What is your deal?”

Angel rocked back on his heels a bit, hands in his pockets. “Well, sailor, I just wanted to say I was sorry again….for the top thing…..”

Cordelia snorted and brushed past him, stalking back to the office. Angel followed slowly, appreciating the sway of her hips as she walked on those stilts she called shoes. Cordy sat back down at her desk and looked around.

“Quiet day. We don’t get a few cases soon, I’m going to have to take drastic measures.” She chattered on, trying to fill the oppressive slience.

“You ok?” Angel’s voice was calm. She looked up at him. “Moneywise.”

“Oh…yeah….I always get by.” For some reason, his question discomfited her. They might have been two friends…one concerned about the other….like they used to be. She met his gaze. She didn’t snipe at him anymore; he thought he’d laid the law down on her, but the truth was, it was getting harder and harder to maintain such ongoing venom. So….the Queen had settled in her throne a bit and scaled back her full frontal attacks. The air of antagonism had been replaced by a civil air of tolerance. Very proper. Very controlled. She was so bored with civility she was about to lose her mind. She wanted the old days, when she would snark for a raise and gripe about money and he’d ignore her.

But things had changed. More and more lately, the Angel/Cordelia show had flipflopped, and now it seemed…..he was snarking and she was ignoring. Or trying to. And his snarks weren’t really snarks…they were more….Cordelia sat back, stunned. Angel wasn’t snarking. He was….

“Hey. You’re FLIRTING with me.” She paled, hearing the words screech out before she could stop them. She clapped a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide as she stared at him in horrer. Maybe he hadn’t heard her correctly. Maybe he thought she said…

“Flirting with you?” He seemed genuinely amused. “Now, there’s a thought.”

”OKAY…yes….a silly, nonsense, whoa, went to the Bahamas for a moment brain freeze thought. Boy, where did THAT come from?” Cordelia laughed loudly, a little hysterically. “Because of course….there is no…flirting. None.” She rose, agitated, and skittered around the desk so it separated them. “Don’t know what I was thinking….” Her voice trailed off as she met his gaze. He hadn’t moved. He stood there, arms folded over his chest, his expression unreadable. “It’s just not…..” He didn’t move. Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Angel…..” Silence. “Were you….flirting? With me?” Ohgodohgodohgod.

Angel stared at her across the desk, not moving. Finally, he spoke in a low voice as he slowly walked around to her. “Cordy…I’m surprised at you. You’re a pretty accomplished flirt. You know how it’s done. That wasn’t flirting. That was….” He stopped several inches from her, not crowding her. Her heart raced and she felt frozen. “That was one friend caring about another. Making sure that friend is ok.” He held her gaze. “We’re friends, right?”

Cordy stiffened, remembering a heated voice whispering in her ear…”And we’re not friends?” as he held her body flat against a wall. She stood still, and watched the memory flood into Angel. He straightened and pushed his hands into his pockets, and his gaze seemed to shutter over.

He’d been trying. She knew that. He’d come in out of the dark, little baby steps, and maybe he needed…..

“Yes, we’re friends, Angel.” He seemed to freeze. “Truth is, we always were. We just got a little lost from each other, all of us. This friend is ok.” She walked to him and rose to her tiptoes and briefly kissed his cheek. “And this friend…” she poked him softly in the chest. “This friend is good to care.”

Angel felt heat and want and need pour through him all at once…and something else. Something light and….joyful. Joy. It was going to be ok. He felt the space where his heart lay contract briefly. It was going to be better than ok.

Cordy grinned at him, her first genuine grin in a long, long time. She walked back around the desk and sat, pleased that the air seemed lighter, and that her little faux pas was going to slide on by unacknowledged. Angel watched her, knowing exactly what she was thinking, and then leaned on her desk.

“Just one thing, Cordy. Hey, how ya doing? Everything ok?” Cordy looked up at him, a little confused. “That was me being a friend.” A wicked grin tilted his lips. “Hey cute thing…you look good enough to eat. That….” He rose, walking to her side. “That was flirting. “Now this….” Suddenly, he leaned over and yanked her up, pulling her to him and pressed mouth to hers before she knew what was happening. His mouth moulded to hers, slanting over hers with firm grace and strength. His hands wrapped gently around her wrists, holding her lightly still.

Cordy was too shocked to move. She held still, her senses swimming. Had she been able to think, she would have pushed Angel away and whacked him upside his gelled head. But she couldn’t think, because her mind was completely clouded over. He tasted so good…and his mouth…ohgod his mouth. All over hers. He pulled back a bit and rested his forehead against hers.

“That was…” He closed his eyes and fell silent. “We’ll figure that out as we go along.”

Cordelia breathed in deeply as if she had run far….she didn’t move at all. His hands still held her wrists softly and his fingers traced light patterns over the pulse he felt beating a rapid tattoo. Her eyes opened and she pulled back slightly to look into his face….to see his eyes. His eyes settled on hers, and she could see gold flecks flaring in the chocolate depths. He slowly released her wrists and stepped back, turning to walk out of the office without another word. Cordelia plopped back down into her chair, a dazed expression on her face.

“Holy cow. I mean…..yowsa. I just…….we…..I mean…and I really really mean…..” She gave up trying to think coherently and dropped her head to her desk with a thud. That was just…..something. She didn’t even realize she was speaking out loud. “That was really hot.”

Around the corner, Angel grinned, pretty happy with life at the moment. Get used to it, Cordy. Because things were going to get a lot hotter.


CHAPTER 10

Lorne grinned down at Cordelia. “S’matter, sweets? Tequila not on the menu tonight?” Cordelia shuddered, ignoring Wesley’s chuckle.

“No, no, no. And more no. Been there, done that, upchucked bunches.”

“On my shoes.” Gunn muttered.

“Yes, and I said I’d get you a new pair.”

“They were vapor trainers, Barbs. You can’t afford ‘em.”

“Neither can you.”

Gunn finally grinned at her. “Don’t sweat the small stuff….and compared to what we do, you’re ralphing on my shoes is small stuff. Forget it.”

Cordelia grinned back and leaned over to kiss his cheek. “I love you.”

“Back at ya. Can we be done with the Oprah moment now?”

Cordy laughed and looked back up at Lorne. “How ‘bout a raspberry tea?” Lorne shook his head.

“Such a waste, Cordycakes, but you got it.” He sauntered off to the bar and Cordy grinned at Wesley and Gunn.

“Wow. We’re out on the town. For fun. No drowning of the sorrows, no Lifetime channel movie of the week drama, no angst….we’re just, for once, normal friends out for a drink, like normal people, in a normal place…” She trailed off as a green, scaly hand set her tea down in front of her on the table. She looked up into the demon server’s one eye and smiled. “Thanks.” The server shuffled off, and Cordelia sighed. “Ok, not so normal.”

“Maybe its our normal.” Wesley’s voice was thoughtful. “Maybe people like us have a different normal than other people.”

“People like us?” Cordelia thought a moment. “You mean, all the other people wandering around who slay bad evil demons, have head-splitting inducing visions and have bloodsucking nonliving friends? People like that? ‘Cuz I kind of like thinking we’re in a minority here. Nine to five burbsville, that’s normal.”

Gunn snorted. “I’ll take this life, thanks.” Wesley glanced at him. “I will. Flexible schedule….casual Friday every freakin’ day…” their server set a new longneck down in front of Gunn; he sighed, staring at the scales stacked on its hand. “Ya meet lots of interesting people…and nonpeople.”

They all three sat there, drinking, lost in thought. Cordy trailed her fingertip listlessly around the rim of her glass. Looking at Wesley, she took in a deep breath. “So, Wes…how’s it going?”

Wesley paused, his hand gripping his drink halfway to his mouth. “Um…alright.” He looked at Cordy, then at Gunn. Gunn looked back, a little confused. “I suppose one could say I’m doing pretty well. Back in the saddle, so to speak.” Cordy nodded, impatiently.

“Yeah, great, whatever. The thing is….how’re we doing? The team?”

“Oh. Fine, I suppose. Business is a little down, but that’s only to be expected, what with the reorganization, and all.”

Gunn spoke up, “Yeah, and I personally think a downturn in demon happymaking is a good thing. Call me crazy, but a little break from snapping necks and being sprayed in goo….I’m tight with that.”

Cordy sighed. “Yeah, I just meant…..Angel. We doing ok with Angel? You both good with him?”

Wesley and Gunn exchanged glances. Wesley seemed to gather his thoughts before he spoke. “Yes, Cordelia, we’re fine. The transition has had its bumpy moments…his tendency to take control for example…but overall, I’m quite satisfied….”

“Satisfied…yeah, that’s it.” Cordelia broke in, lost in thought. “I’m satisfied. I mean, there was the thing, and I had the fear, and then there was the other thing, and the whole silence, and then that thing with the voice, that low one, ya know….” She trailed off and came back to the present, seeing Wesley and Gunn staring at her. She smiled brightly. “Yeah, it’s good.”

Her friends looked at each other and seemed to reach some conclusion, nodding to each other. Gunn leaned forward. “Cordelia, you know we love you.”

“OK, yeah, I love you two, too.”

Wesley spoke up, “But we’re concerned that your anger with Angel….well….it has been a little distracting.”

“Yeah. I know.” She met each gaze. “It has been with me, too. Really distracting. Kind of….all involving, you might say.”

“We do say.” Cordy shot Gunn a disgruntled glance.

“Got it. I’m over it. I’m moving on.” She was quiet a moment. “It’s good.” Wesley smiled at her and Gunn leaned back in his chair, drawing a long pull of beer. “It’s just….does he seem different?”

“Angel?”

“Yes, Kojak, Angel. Does he seem a little different to you guys?”

Gunn thought a moment. “Well, he seems a little more…relaxed. He seems happy. But aren’t we supposed to ixnay the appyhay?”

Cordelia started. “Well, yeah, he can be, you know….oh, I love the rain happy, just not, why thank you, I’ll be glad to play hide the salami with you.happy.” Wesley grimaced.

“Well put, Cordelia. You’re almost ready for tea with the Queen.” Cordelia rolled her eyes and sat back, thinking.

“So…he’s in a better place, wouldn’t you both say?”

“Uh, news flash…we all are, Barbs.” Gunn raised his beer in a toast. “A better place in which we can buy cool beer instead of cheap beer.”

Cordy spotted Lorne chatting up a customer in the corner. Rising, she made vague ‘I’ll be right back’ motions with her hands as she walked to him.

“Well, no, can’t say that happiness waits just around the corner, pal, more like down the block, through the town, on the train, across the country, but hey, hang in there!” Lorne smacked the demon on the back and chortled, turning and grinning as Cordelia stepped to his side. “Cordycakes! Light of my life, sea in my breeze, what can I do for you?”

Cordy shifted nervously from one foot to another. “Oh, you know. MOTS, Lorne. I just wanted….I have this teeny little thing….on my mind…kinda….hooookay……” She set her jaw and her brows drew together as she suddenly opened her mouth and belted out “Everybody run….Homecoming Queen’s got a gun…Everybody run….Hooommmmeecoming Queen’s got a gun….” Her voice trailed off as she looked around, noting the appalled stares. “Hey, it’s a comedy classic. Cut me some slack.” She looked back at Lorne. “So?” Lorne stared at her a moment. “OK…the song is goofy….” He remained silent. She began to fidget. “And my singing isn’t great..ok…good….” she sighed. “I suck. I know.”

Lorne shook his head. “No, no, sweetie…well, yeah, but more to the point….YEAH.” He laughed and threw his head back. “It’s about time.”

“What?!!! What’s about time?” Cordelia waved her hands in the air. “Kinda a need to know basis here.”

“Yeah. What’s about time?” That low, quiet voice, there it was. Just behind and above her ear. Cordelia stilled, and slowly tilted her head back to look over her shoulder at Angel. He grinned down at her. “Kinda funny. You singing a song about a homecoming queen. One with a gun yet.”

“Yeah, well, it was Sunnydale. What Can I say?”

Lorne chuckled. “Gotta mingle. You two crazy kids mingle, too.” His eyes met Angel’s over Cordy’s head. “Mingle away, the night is young.” Cordy’s gaze went back and forth between the two before Lorne walked away, whistling. Cordy looked back up at Angel.

“I think he wants us to mingle.” Angel said down to her, deadpan.

Cordy looked back at Lorne’s back as he walked away. What the hell was it about time for? She sighed, and motioned with her head for Angel to follow as she went back to the table.

“Angel.” Wesley’s signaled to the server and pointed at Angel. Gunn tipped back in his chair and sipped more at his beer. He looked at Angel for a moment.

“So, I hear you’re distracting Cordy.” Cordy choked on the sip of tea she had just taken and Angel leaned over and helpfully whacked her on the back. She glared at him and swatted his hand away.

“Really? I had no idea I had…distracted her.” Angel sat back in his seat and looked seriously at Cordelia.

“You know, with the Queen C, time has to heal the wounds. But she’s back.” Gunn grinned. “Long live the Queen.”

Cordelia sent him a withering glance and frantically tried to think of a way to change the subject. Wesley watched her a moment before speaking.

“So….Angel. Patrolling?”

“Yeah. Walked the docks and came by to see if you all were here. Kind of quiet lately.” He smiled slightly. “It’s kind of nice.”

“Hey, I’m on the same page.” Gunn grinned and clinked his beer against Angel’s. “Quiet and tame is good.”

Cordy played with the rim of her glass. Angel watched her quietly, drawing on his beer. Wesley and Gunn began telling Angel stories about Angel Investigations, the Lost Months.

“So then, Wesley jumps up all Lord of the Manor and begins wailin’ on this poor schmoo. I’m trying to not let my buggin’ eyes rest on his trophy wife’s massive cleavage, and Cordy…” Gunn let out a snort. “Cordy finally loses it and stands up, telling everyone to shut the hell up and then she just marches over to Miss Clevage 2004 and yanks the icon right out of her purse. It was priceless. I thought Wesley was going to have a stroke.”

“Yes, well, Cordelia didn’t follow the plan.” Wesley muttered.

Angel grinned. “Does she ever?”

“Hey.” Cordelia managed a frown. “I can follow the plan plenty well, when it doesn’t involve my evening turning into a bad episode of Masterpiece Theatre.”

Wesley pretented to ignore that and continued on, “That was a good case, yes. It reminds me of….” He droned on and Cordelia listened halfheartedly. Angel was nodding and laughing along with Wes and Gunn, but he seemed a little fidgety. His knee kept brushing up against her leg. It was…..distracting. She started, sending him a look. He wasn’t fidgety. He was flirting again. He suddenly looked at her and winked. She sat back, eyes wide, and looked at Wesley and Gunn to see if they had noticed. They hadn’t. She snuck a look back at Angel and he was once again looking at Wesley, nodding as Wesley talked. Okay. She looked around and spotted Lorne, leaning against the bar. He was watching her. She looked at him, a question on her face and he grinned and waved.

Either she had something slipped into her tea causing some kind of funky dreamtrip, or…..she took in a breath. Or Angel was hunting. Angel was hunting her. She popped up from her seat and yanked at Angel’s arm. “Hey. I need to talk to you.”

All three men stopped talking and stared up at her. She ignored Wesley and Gunn. “C’mon. I need to talk to you now. About….” She glanced at the other two. “Um. “Filing. I need to speak to Angel about filing, because, it’s….um….” She looked at Angel, hoping for a save.

“It’s all filey?” Angel offered, helpfully. She glared at him and dragged him off, leaving Gunn looking confused, and Wesley looking thoughtful.

Cordy stalked through the crowd and down the back hall, stopping outside of the door to Lorne’s apartment. Turning around, she blew her hair out of her eyes and glared up at Angel. He grinned down at her.

“Look, muffin. I think there’s been a misunderstanding, here. What with the thing and all, and the, you know, the thing, and you kissing me….”

“It was mutual, Cordy.”

“Ok, but I was surprised…so really that doesn’t count as kissing you back. I was….taken aback.”

“Yeah. Taken aback for 5 minutes.”

“Shut up. I’m onto you. You want…..you want…..” She blew out a breath, exasperated. “Just what the hell do you want?”

Angel stared down at her for a long moment. “So so many things, Cordy. Right now I want to grab you up and hold you close and kiss you stupid, but I think that would make you mad. I want….” He paused, thinking. “I want a lot, a fucking lot. And I’m going to get it. But it’s going to be mutual. You’re not going to be able to play that ‘I was taken by surprise’ card.” He leaned down so that his lips brushed against hers. “I want the whole package.”

She held still. He raised his head and smiled down at her. “I’m walking towards the light, Cordy. Deal with it.” And he turned and walked back to the club. Cordy leaned against the wall, stunned. Deal with it. Deal with…what? What did he want? OK, she had the general picture of what he wanted, but….really….what did he want? She looked down at the floor, lost in thought. A pair of yellow patent leather shoes came into her view. She sighed.

“Hey, Lorne.” She looked up at his green, grinning face.

“Sweetiebabyhoneycookie, I hear your song without you singing a note. Loud and clear.”

“Yeah? Is the song you’re hearing called ‘what the hell is going on here because I am totally lost and confused’?”

“Cordy, they’re playing your song. Well, the song you’re heart’s singing but you’re not seeming to hear.” Cordy looked at him blankly. “It’s a little ditty called ‘c’mon, Angel, how about a little hot monkey love?’ I think it’s destined to be on your top ten list.”

“Are you crazy? I can’t….we don’t…..” She broke off. “He doesn’t…”

“Yeah, he does. He does really really mucho.”

“We can’t. I’m mad at him.”

“No you’re not.”

“Yes I am.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Oh for gods sake. We can’t. The curse. The not making with the happy thing. How fun would that be? Do I look like a character from some fifties soap? Oh jeeze.” She covered her face with her hands. Tears filled her eyes. “Oh jeeze.” Lorne patted her back softly. “Oh jeeze.”

“Yeah, I got that one, poopsie. You know, I think you better go to the source for this one. Something tells me this is a situation best sorted out in the 1st and 2nd person, leaving the 3rd person out altogether.” He leaned over to kiss Cordy’s forehead. “Don’t fret, Cordelia Gertrude Chase.”

Cordy buried her face against his shoulder, giggling through the tears. “Gertrude?”

“Yeah, I figure the ‘rents that tortured you with ‘Cordelia’ followed it up appropriately.”

Cordy wiped her tears away, smiling up at him. “What’s wrong with Cordelia?”

“Oh, bonbon, if only we had time to answer that.”

Cordy swatted Lorne on the arm and took in a deep breath. “OK. I wanna go home. Tell the guys I left, but give me a few minutes, ok? I don’t want company. From any of them.” She looked at him. “Any of them at all. I need to think.”

“Princess, you got it. Anything at all.” Lorne’s voice turned serious. “Anything, Cordelia Chase. You’re a special girl. I’d do anything for you.”

“Oh, Lorne. Marry me.”

Lorne laughed and backed away, hands in the air. “No. Numero uno, don’t want to burden you. Once you go green, nothing’s as keen.” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “And B, C, and 4, you are so taken you’re never coming back. Even if you don’t know it yet.”

Cordelia held his gaze and nodded, walking to the back door and leaving to go home alone.

Lorne stared at the closed door a moment and shook his head. Better get the popcorn; the show was about to start.


CHAPTER 11

Angel strolled downstairs Friday afternoon, his eyes looking about for Cordy before his foot even hit the bottom stair. The lobby was silent and still. Angel grinned to himself; Friday always felt different from other days. Friday meant two days off. Friday meant Gunn bringing in donuts and spending the afternoon on the phone, hooking up with friends for Friday night plans. It meant Wesley mentally girding himself for his weekly phone call with his parents, and the quiet slam bam affair with a whiskey bottle that inevitably followed. Fridays meant two days of a quiet, still Hyperion. Fridays meant Cordelia…..

Angel frowned. He didn’t know what Cordy did on the weekends. He didn’t think she dated, because God knows she’d be babbling on about it all through the week. If there was trouble and he called, she came without question. Then she went home. Wesley sometimes talked about the movie he and Cordy went to see on Saturday nights, or the art air she had dragged him to and the snacks she made him buy her, but other than that, Angel was clueless about Cordy’s weekends.

Angel had fallen into a nice compromise routine. He no longer spent every moment alone in the dark. He had friends now…a family. He wanted the human contact and the camaraderie….to an extent. It was still nice, on the weekends, to be alone in the stillness. He was satisfied, or had been up until recently. A restlessness had set in and taken over. He had spent the last few weekends wandering around the huge empty building, not content to sit and read or watch baseball. There was a hole in his life now, and he knew how to fill it.

He sighed. Knowing and getting….two different things. Back in the day, he wanted something, he took it. Or ate it. Life was simple. What he wanted now….simple did not apply. Well, yeah, he simply wanted it. He simply wanted her. She was the goal. But this was different from anything he’d ever felt or wanted. He was having to dredge up more patience than he ever knew he had. He’d made his intentions known; he’d provided the small sample; he’d piqued her interest. Now he had to wait. She had to make the next move. He had to be a gentleman….he had to take a more gentle, civil approach. He had to show tenderness, patience, and self-restraint. And if that didn’t work, he’d get to move on to plan B, which was to rip her clothes off her body, lick her from head to toe, make her beg, and then spread her legs and dive in, over and over, till she couldn’t think straight or speak coherently.

All in all, it was a win-win situation.

He grinned to himself as he stepped into the office and stopped. Wesley was sitting at Cordelia’s desk, his hands folded together upon the desktop. He looked up at Angel evenly. “Good afternoon, Angel.”

“Wes.”

“Sleep well?”

“Um. Yeah.” They stared at each other a moment. Angel looked around. “Where is everyone?”

“Gunn took off early. He’s apparently got…” Wesley thought a moment. “The low down on the fly about a fat do that’s on the up.” He sighed. “I have no clue what I just said.”

Angel nodded. “Yeah, I get that, too.” He sat on the corner of his desk and looked around a bit. “Cordy?”

There was a small silence. “Cordelia…yes…..I told her to go ahead and take the rest of the day off. She seems a little….preoccupied….lately, and tired. I thought a little off time would benefit her.”

Angel nodded. “Yeah. The visions….they’re hard on her.”

“Yes. They are. Cordelia, though, she takes it in stride.” Wes grinned briefly. “Being Cordy, she’s vocal about the pain, but always after fulfilling her duty with the information. She’s…” he paused. “Cordelia is extraordinary.”

“Yes she is.” Angel’s voice was quiet. Wesley looked at him a moment and then rose and walked into his own office.

“Come in, Angel. Have a seat.” Angel felt a shiver run through him, unfamiliar and alien. He rose and walked into Wesley’s office, sitting in the chair opposite Wes’ desk. Wesley sat in his chair and leaned back slightly, his face solemn. “Angel….I believe we need to talk.”

Angel shifted in his seat; he hated these moments. Wesley would drone, Angel would listen, apologize, nod, and practically run out of the room when they were done. Lower management sucked.

Wesley continued. “I’ve noticed a….tension….a distinct pressure, if you will, between you and Cordelia.”

Angel shifted again. Shit. This was so much worse than a simple employer-employee job review. This was about Cordelia.

“Yeah, we had a…thing…a struggle. But I think we’re good. I mean, she stopped kicking me every time she walked by the day you guys moved back in; she stopped calling me names….glaring at me….denigrating my parentage….” He trailed off, frowning. “Wow, she was really pissed.”

“Yes, indeed. While the kicking and name calling was certainly entertaining for Gunn and me, I am glad we have moved beyond that. It interfered with business. We’re up and running now; we’re back at a good clip. My concerns have moved beyond the professional, however…” he paused. “And into the area of the personal.” He fell silent. He seemed to draw into himself for a moment, eyes closed, and thinking. Angel watched him and shifted again. Wesley opened his eyes and met Angel’s gaze levelly. “You have always been somewhat of a mystery, Angel. You know that. To say you’re complicated would be….well, simplistic. Be that as it may, I’ve spent the last two years at your side, in circumstances most could never even imagine. I feel I probably know you as well as anyone who’s ever stood beside you. Truth to tell…” He sighed. “I consider you the best of friends.”

Angel looked surprised. “Wes…I don’t know…”

“Yes. I know. It’s unfamiliar for both of us, but there you are. You and I…and Gunn…we’ve formed a bond. One of good faith. We’re family here. Our circumstances dictate that we all share a bond no one else can understand.” Angel nodded, listening.

Wesley sighed. “And then there’s Cordelia.” He grinned slightly. Cordelia….I get.” He grinned briefly. “She’s quite complex, and really quite simple.”

Angel snorted. “Trust me, there’s nothing simple about Cordelia Chase.”

“Maybe simple wasn’t the right word.” Wesley leaned back. “Perhaps…..easy.” Angel snorted again. “Easy, that’s it. Easy to know. Easy to look at, certainly. Easy to trust. Easy to respect.” He paused. “Easy to love.” Angel started slightly. Wesley watched him for a moment. “Very, very easy to love. I must say, having Cordelia at my side, giving me her own brand of world view, her own way of care….that’s what I always imagined having a sister would be like. I would imagine that a brother would tolerate a sister….bedevil a sister. I think a brother would care for a sister, and occasionally… take a stand when it was warranted.”

Angel leaned forward. “Just say it, Wes.”

Wesley blinked. “Oh. I had some more carefully constructed observations; perhaps I should cut to the meat of the….” He broke off at Angel’s impatient expression. “Yes.” He paused a bit. “Angel….you seem….intent upon her. You seem to….” He paused again and Angel wiggled in his seat a bit. Wesley glared at him briefly. “Oh, hold still, I hate this as much as you do. You….you want Cordelia.”

Silence fell between the two men. They stared at each other, the words hanging in the air like smoke.

“You do, don’t you? You want her.”

Angel nodded. “Yep.”

Wesley closed his eyes briefly and took in a deep breath. “May I ask in what capacity?”

Angel suddenly felt an alien nervousness run through him. He felt cornered….trapped. His eyes widened as he realized what was going on. This was the equivalent of the girl’s father grilling the suitor about his intentions. Yes, sir, I receive a fund of 10,000 pounds a year. The estate is not entailed; I inherit. I am a gentleman, sir, I plan on receiving the seat in the peerage. Your daughter will not want for a thing. Indeed, sir, we shall summer in the country and enjoy the season in town.

Shit. This was two centuries later, and his end would be more…why yes, I do largely probono work ridding the world of demons and evildoers with the aid of a seer, a bald street urchin, and a James Bond wannabe with a huge brain. I live in an abandoned hotel, but I’ll make sure the rats don’t hurt her. We’ll vacation in Alaska in the winter so I can wander around 24/7 outside and not turn into dust. And as the girl in question has the biggest fucking shoe jones I’ve ever seen, she’s probably going to want for a lot. Shit. He was screwed.

“Wes….I want her. I don’t want just anyone…I don’t want just to not be alone. I want her.”

“In what capacity?”

“Fuck. I’m just figuring that out, Wes. I gotta share with you?”

“Yes, you fucking do.” Angel looked at Wes, startled. Wes almost never cursed. “This isn’t a new sword or a good vintage bottle of o positive. This is Cordelia.”

Silence. Angel sighed. “I don’t know just when it happened. There was something..always….something even before I….well, before. But Wesley…” his voice was firm. “I have her back. She’s back, and I’m back, and we’re staying.”

Wesley regarded him for a moment. “You’ve thought of the ramifications?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I doubt that one.” Wesley looked down at his hands. “And Cordelia….?”

Angel’s voice was firm. “I’m pretty sure she feels it, too….an attraction…more than just an attraction…she feels….”

“Ownership?”

Angel was silent a moment. “Yeah. That’s what we feel. Us vampires. We feel ownership.”

“Cordelia’s not a vampire.” Wesley opened his eyes. “And there are no plans to make her one, correct?” An underlying steel laced his voice. Angel nodded.

“I wouldn’t do that to her. C’mon Wes. I don’t want to hurt her…”

“No, you want to own her.”

“I want us to own each other.”

“I see.” Wesley sounded resigned. “Have you discussed this with Cordelia?”

Angel grinned briefly. “I’m still alive.”

“Indeed. So the answer is no.”

“The answer is hell no.”

Wesley closed his eyes briefly. He shook his head. “She seems skittish. She has to be aware that you feel something…”

“Well, yeah, she knows I want her. You know…want her. She just doesn’t know the full plan.”

Wesley’s eyes popped open and he fixed a baleful glare at Angel. “Ah. There’s a plan. Yes, there would be, because those are always so successful for us. Do tell me of the plan.”

Angel nodded. “Yes. The plan is to charge ahead and take her before she knows what’s happening and make it a done deal. By the time her head clears, she and I will be an us and we can go on.”

Wesley looked at him incredulously before giggling a little hysterically. “Oh my. Yes, that’s quite a plan.”

Angel nodded. “That’s the way to deal with Cordelia.. Just take charge.”

“Yes. Cordelia being so biddable and all.”

“It’s a plan.”

“A bad one.”

“Still a plan.”

There was silence for a moment, then Wesley rose and walked to a side table, reaching for a tumbler and the decanter of scotch he kept there. He no longer disguised its presence with an airy wave and the “for medicinal purposes” excuse. He now responded to Cordelia’s teasing with a “mind-numbing to do the job” excuse. He poured a measure into the glass and knocked it back, breathing in as the delicate fire poured down his throat. Angel watched him, stoic and still. Finally, Wesley spoke.

“So….you are taking Cordelia as your….”

“Mate. Consort. Permanent pain in the ass.”

Wesely grinned, briefly. “The rest of us should be so lucky to find a pain like that.” He poured another measure of scotch, then reached for another tumbler, pouring some for Angel. Walking to him, Wesley handed Angel the glass and paused, looking steadily at him. “This will be interesting. I certainly wish you luck.” Another giggle escaped. “Lots of luck.” Wesley shook his head, the amusement slowly fading from his face. “But know this, Angel. I stand by you both, I support you both. Don’t ask me how, but somehow, I want to think that this can be…right. But hurt her in any way….make her regret this life….make her wish for a happier circumstance…..I will destroy you. I won’t think twice.” His gaze was somber, and Angel could hear the resolve in his voice…see the commitment in his eyes.

“Wesley…I hurt her in any way….I’ll hold still for you to do it.” They regarded each other silently before clinking glasses and downing the scotch.


CHAPTER 12

The phone rang. And rang. And rang. It rang 27 times before it stopped. Cordy knew, because she counted. She sat on the sofa and stared at the cordless receiver laying on the coffee table and counted each ring. She didn’t answer it because the caller ID said Angel Investigations. It had said that for each and every phone call all last night and all day into this afternoon. She had finally turned her answering machine off after hearing Angel asking her nicely to pick up…..telling her less nicely to pick up….telling her to pick up, dammit….and finally telling her to pick up or he’d be right over. She had snatched the phone up, said she was fine, quit calling, she needed a break and hung the phone up before he could get a word in edgewise. Then she turned the answering machine off. And now she sat like some stupid girl….who was a seer….and was having conflicted thoughts about her friend/former boss/vampire who wanted to further their relationship. Into the bedroom, apparently. She shook her head. Jerry Springer wouldn’t even buy into this one.

The phone began ringing again and she sighed, laying down and pulling a pillow over her head. No, no, no. Go away. She had to think. God please just let her think. Think about her life. Her freaky, wacky life. She heard the muffled ringing stop and she lowered the pillow, slowly reaching over to turn the ringer on the phone off. Nothing like a little passive aggressive action to show ‘em what’s what. That was her. Cordelia Chase, Queen C if you’re asking. Queen of the passive aggressive tango. She breathed deeply. That was so not her. There wasn’t a passive bone in her body. She wasn’t passive when she asked for her first bra at the age of 8. She wasn’t passive when she was 15 and she told Derrick Watson that kissing him was like kissing a wet squeegee and to call her when he had improved. She wasn’t passive when she was 18 and more or less wormed her way into a job with Angel Investigations. She wasn’t passive when she dealt with Angel at all….till now.

Now she hid in her apartment with only Dennis for company and pretended that by not picking up the phone, she was avoiding dealing with the problem of What To Do When You Were Caught In Between Doing a Vampire and Being Celibate Girl Forever. Hmmmmm. What to do…what to do. She had called Aurora, now at USC, hoping for clarity, but realized that sharing your Vampire dilemma with a girl whose biggest worry was discovering her true color palate before Spring Formal really wasn’t going to provide any kind of insight. Her life had taken some really strange turns, and she realized sadly that the pool of people she could turn to who would understand was really, really small. A wading pool, actually.

So here she was, alone with a ghost, contemplating the hotness quotient of a souled Vampire and wondering what would happen during intercourse if Angelus appeared, or if she had a pesky vision. Would that count as visionous interruptus? Was there anyone else on the planet who had this problem? Because she needed a little coffee chat with them. She needed to know….what to do. What to do if she was more than friends with Angel. What to do if she just closed her eyes and leaped.

She rose and wandered into the kitchen, absently thanking Dennis when a glass floated to her out of the cupboard. She filled it with water and wandered back into the living room. It would be nice to have some kind of template for organizing her life. But truth be told, her life was more beyond the edge than anyone she knew.

God. Torn up over Angel. Dorky, snarky, monochromatic Angel. He of the broody silences. King of solitude. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound but unable to share a single thought or feeling that wasn’t a command. She sighed. Maybe Derrick Watson had improved his kissing technique. And had grown past 5’3”. Maybe she should give him a call.

Because, a little corner of her mind mocked, that would the wrong number to be dialing. You want to dial it up, not down.

Yeah, Cordelia thought. Dial it up to what?

There was the question. Suppose she and Angel….hooked up. She grimaced. Dated? Courted? Pitched woo? She couldn’t think of the euphemism for a contained relationship with a two hundred year old vampire who was possibly bipolar and had a double personality thing going. Suppose she and Angel got together. Was he just lonely? Desperate? Oh, please, she smacked her head. No one settled for Cordelia Chase. They hit the lottery just right if they got her attention. She giggled. Right. The lottery in hell, maybe.

Maybe Angel had glommed onto her because who the hell else would get him…would understand his life? Maybe she was convenient. She didn’t realize she had spoken aloud till a piece of paper floated down and rested on her knee. She picked it up. “Books not convenient” was scribbled on the scrap. She looked up. “Dennis…what do you……oh…..” she frowned a bit. “The whole books thing wasn’t convenient…to me?” A large sofa pillow rose and smacked her on the head. “Um. OK. It wasn’t convenient to Angel?” she felt a soft whisper of caress against her cheek. “Well, yeah, that little incident took some planning and daring do. He just wanted to irritate me.” She sighed. “And boy, did he. He just wanted me there…he wanted me….” Her voice trailed off as she remembered. She remembered feeling the determination in him. She remembered the way his eyes had held hers as he removed his shirt. And oh god…she remembered the way he felt stretched out over her, taunting her, teasing her into a frenzy.

He had wanted her that day, beyond just wanting a sheet tango. He had wanted something from her soul….she closed her eyes, remembering the begging husky voice….
You want to take my empty soul and fill it up….you want to save me. C’mon, Cordy, save me.

Was that it? He wanted her for…..for her. Because she was Cordy and he was Angel and somehow he started writing Cordy hearts Angel in the little notebook in his mind and now….her eyes flew open. And now he was making it real. He didn’t want to get laid. He wanted her heart. She clapped a hand over her mouth. And ohgodhowdidithappen….she wanted his. His little, dried up, unbeating heart. OK, dead guy, but she could deal with that.

She looked down at the silent phone, lit up with “Angel Investigations” in the caller ID readout. The man had patience, she had to give him that. She took a breath and reached for the phone, hesitating before answering it.

“Hello.”

Silence.

“Um. Hey. Sorry. Didn’t think you were going to answer.”

“But you called anyway.”

“Yeah. Thought there was a chance…..” His voice trailed off. “So…what’s up?”

Cordelia grinned to herself. “Nothing. Hanging out. Chatting with Dennis.”

“Kind of a one-sided conversation, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, well, that’s the way I seem to like my men. Strong and silent.”

And she got a strong silence from the other end of the line.

“Angel? You there?”

“Yeah. Listen…” there was a pause. “Um. I want to apologize…”

Cordy sat back on the sofa. “Yeah? For what?”

“I’ve been a little….”

“Demented?”

“Um, I was going to say overbearing, but…”

“OK…I completely buy overbearing. So…you’ve been overbearing…..”

“Yeah. I just came to some realizations, and I think I may have come across too strong….”

“Noooooo….” Cordelia drawled out.

“Really. I know. I’ve been a lot. I saw a need in my life and I didn’t consider your feelings at all. I just….” He seemed to fumble for a moment. “I feel like I know what I want, and I just want it to happen.”

Cordelia was silent. This was good. Way better than she expected of him. He went on. “I think…..I think about you all the time. We’ve been through so much, Cordy…so much. I think our experiences…our life in the past…has….laid the groundwork for a future. I think we have a future. At least I want to try and see if maybe…..” His voice trailed off, unsure….a little lost. “Say something.”

Cordelia was silent, feeling a lump in her throat. This man…..this man, for having a nonfunctioning heart, had the best heart in the world. Her voice came out husky when she finally spoke. “Angel. God. I…..I….I don’t know what to say. This is…this is new for us. I mean…shit.” She felt tears in her eyes. “I just assumed when I fell in love, it would be with someone who, you know, was studly and handsome and funny and rich. With a tight sixpack. I didn’t think about how great it would be….” She broke off.

“Cordy?” His voice was a whisper.

“How great it would be if I fell in love with a friend. Someone who was a FRIEND. I mean, how great is that?”

Angel was quiet for a moment. “I’m coming over.”

“No.” Cordelia thought a moment. “This is too fast. Too much. I want to do this right. I want to be sure….” She closed her eyes. “Ok. I know. Meet me at Patricios…you know, the Mexican food place with the little courtyard out back? Meet me there tonight and we’ll talk.” Angel was silent. “C’mon, Angel. Let’s do this right.”

“Alright. Patricio’s. 8:00 ok?”

She smiled softly. “Perfect.”

“Cordy…” She waited, holding her breath. “You’re not just my friend. You’re my best friend.”

Oh, jeeze, it would be hard to get up off the sofa if she completely melted into a puddle of goo. She muttered a goodbye and hung up, taking in a deep breath. Looking at the clock, she saw that it was 3:30. She rose and wandered into her bedroom, deep in thought. He’d called. And said just the right things. He cared. He cared about her, not just for her.

She was his best friend. Oh god, how many women heard that? He was Angel, champion to the world, and he wanted her. She felt her heart racing as she paced impatiently across her room. Screw doing it right. Screw Patricio’s. Screw 8:00. This was the real deal, and she didn’t want to wait any longer. She slipped her feet into her skeechers and trotted to the front door, snagging her car keys on the way. Turning to the empty room, she called out, “It wasn’t convenient at all, Dennis. And I don’t think this will be, either. But I gotta know instead of just wondering.” And she was out the door.

35 minutes later, she was standing in the silent lobby of the Hyperion. The office lights were out and all was still. She looked at the stairs. The long flight of stairs. That went up. To a hallway. That led to his door. She slowly gripped the rail and climbed the stairs, her feet silent on the padded floor. Up the stairs…down the hall. Outside the door. She paused, her hand on the knob. This was it. Go on in. So she did.

Angel’s suite was softly lit, and fresh clothes lay on the bed, ready to be put on. She paused, hearing the shower running in the bathroom. Oh jeeze, this was a little more than she had planned on. She sat down on the bed, thinking. Maybe she should go back downstairs and wait. Because sitting here while he scrubbed up and then trotted out naked…..she frowned, seeing some index cards next to the phone with Angel’s scribble all over them. She picked them up and thumbed through them curiously.

‘Say hello. CONTRITE’ Cordy frowned. What the hell?

‘OVERBEARING. INCONSIDERATE. Pause for Cordy to get in her digs.’

‘IT’S YOUR FAULT. Try to sound sincere.’

‘do not push. Make her come to you.’

‘life experiences…common ground’

‘try to get a commitment for drinks tonight. Be charming. Agree to meeting….get to her place after. Get the invite.’

A slow rage had begun to build in Cordelia. Angel had used fucking CRIBNOTES? He had to remind himself to be contrite? TRY TO SOUND SINCERE? Fuck. Fuck a duck.
Oh, yeah, she had an invite for him. An invitation to go to hell. Fuming, she turned the card over. Suddenly, a red haze covered her vision as she read the back.

‘Make her think she’s in control. Drinks, charm, invite, and BINGO. She’s all mine.’ Followed by several doodles of Spongebob Squarepants.

Sonofabitch. Asshole. Bingo? She was a bingo? He had planned that conversation? His little off the cuff agreement to meet for drinks was planned? So he could get her home? So he could get the invite? So he could…..oh dammit. She took in a deep breath, trying to keep herself from grabbing up a stake and dusting his pasty ass. But she wasn’t going to do that. She was in control. She didn’t just think it, Dracula, she knew it.

She glared at the bathroom door before rising, her mind made up. Carefully placing the cards back on the table by the phone, she thought a moment. She didn’t have much time.

Angel leaned into the warm spray of the shower, letting water sluice down his cool body. Tonight. Tonight, tonight, tonight. Suddenly his favorite word. Tonight, he’d have Cordy at his side, in his bed, under his body…..he frowned as his body stirred at the thought. Okay, hold that thought. He grinned as he stepped out of the shower and toweled off. Not a problem. Cordelia had held all his thoughts for weeks now. He grinned into the empty mirror above the sink. Ah, the blank look of a man in want. He walked out into his bedroom and towards the bed, frowning at the space where his clothes should be. Maybe he forgot to set them out. He turned to his dresser and pulled a drawer open. Empty. As was the next drawer and the next and the next. He furiously yanked open the last drawer quickly and slammed it shut, turning to the closet. Pulling the door open, he stared into the empty space. A couple of empty hangers were scattered on the floor, and there was one hanger hanging off the rod with a card taped to it. He frowned, pulling the card off. It was his phone call notes. Written across the back in black marker were the words ‘come and get ‘em.’

Fuck. He was so screwed.


CHAPTER 13

Cordelia stood in front of her dresser, staring at her reflection. Her hair was a tangle from her bat out of hell ride through town and her Olympian sprint up the stairs to her apartment. She looked down at Angel’s shirt, hanging off her body, the top three buttons left undone. Shadowy cleavage showed slightly when she moved, hinting at ripe curves beneath the black silk. She smiled without humor, remembering a chant she and Harmony found hilarious at slumber parties……

I hear ya knockin’ but ya can’t come in…I’m in my nighty and it’s oh so thin….I need the money but it’s such a sin…forget the money honey come on in….

Wow. Saying it was a lot funnier than living it. She fiddled with the buttons on the shirt a bit, then grinned darkly and unbuttoned a fourth button. He was so toast. He was beyond toast. He was the piece of charcoal that had been left in the toaster too long. Oh god. She had sat there and fallen like some stupid lovesick girl…because he was freakin’ faking sincerity. He was conning her completely. He thought all he had to do was say some nice in touch with his feminine side things and she’d just fly right over there. Kind of like she really did, actually. She sighed. This sucked. He had made her feel so good….so wanted. And he was lying. He really did just want to screw her. She closed her eyes. They were done. So, so done. And she was done. Her career as a seer/demon target/paranormal ick fighter was over. She was going to pack up the jeep, figure out how to pack up Dennis, and she was just going to…..

The solid knock at her door startled her out of her thoughts. She took a breath to compose herself and looked at the clock. 47 minutes. Wow. Took longer than she thought he would. She strolled down the short hall and stood 6 feet back from the door. She waited until the second, harder knock sounded before calmly saying, “Dennis. The door, please.”

The door slowly swung open. If Cordy didn’t know better, she would have sworn there was almost an air of amusement hovering over the apartment, as if Dennis were highly entertained by those wacky corporeal beings. She leaned a little, resting one hand on her hip, and watched as the door slowly opened, revealing Angel, standing outside, looking angry. Angry as he could, considering he was wearing a pair of Wesley’s lycra bike shorts that Cordelia had laughed so hard at Wesley had never worn them again, topped with an ancient and ragged Barry Manilow concert tshirt. Cordy closed her eyes, trying to not laugh.

Angel glared at her. He felt completely stupid and he wanted his clothes back. And these shorts itched. He wanted his slacks. And he wanted his shirts. Like the one Cordy was wearing. The one she was wearing….over….he blinked. Over apparently nothing.

The lights in the apartment were dimmed just enough to glow around her, over the long, sleek length of her bare legs….bare, smooth, tanned legs that seemed to go on forever. The shirttails rounded out midthigh on her, and the black silk draped loosely around her body, hinting at the firm curves beneath. His gaze stopped at the vee between her breasts…just under them, actually. He could see the slope of a curved mound…the tempting shadow between…..his eyes raised to hers. Cool. Soo soooooo cool. Beyond cool. The daggers shooting out at him from the hazel depths were icicle shards, my friend, and Angel knew that tonight was no longer his favorite word. Because tonight sucked.

“Cordy…..fuck.”

“No, thank you.” He glared at her a bit.

“I…..didn’t know what to say. I wanted it to be right….”

She held up a small index card and looked down at it. “I know you’re sorry, Angel, and I know you had the best of intentions…” She read in a flat monotone. “But I feel, and I’m sure you agree, that faking sincerity puts a damper on relationship honesty.” She tossed the card at him and he caught it, glancing down and frowning at the highlighted note at the end…’inject venom here’.”

“C’mon, Cordelia. This is new for me. I’m completely in the dark with this. I…”

Cordelia glanced down at the next card in her hand. “Yes, Angel, I know that even for being a worldly and well traveled Man of 250 plus years you are still strangely emotionally crippled and completely clueless when it comes to women and you do not have the mental capability necessary to have a meaningful conversation, let alone an ongoing relationship.” And she tossed that one at him, too. He sighed.

“Cordy…”

“I am so tired of this.” She dropped her hand and the rest of the cards fluttered to the floor. “I am so tired of the two steps forward, three steps back. I was honest, and open, and bared my freakin’ heart to you, dickhead, and you turned it into a joke. Were you just sitting there, rubbing your hands together in glee as Cordy the Brainless fell into your trap? Did you take the time to call some of your friends in low places and gloat at the bimbo you had reeled in?”

Angel looked shocked. “God, Cordy, that wasn’t at all….”

“Shut up.” Angrily, she felt tears gathering in her eyes. “Shut up shut up shut up. Do you think I’d care about anything you said right now? Oh, you can’t…you don’t have your fucking cheat sheet.”

“Cordy…” He fell silent. He looked down for the longest time, feeling his chances all slipping away. “Cordy, you’re right. I’m emotionally unable to do this…at least do it well. The only major relationships I’ve had have been with a bitter, sadistic vampire bitch, another with a deranged psychopath vampire, and an 18 year old slayer who sent me to hell for 100 years. My record’s not that good.” Silence. “Now here I am. Trying to court a woman whose queen of all she sees, doesn’t take my crap, and has somehow managed to become more important to me than breathing is to her. And I have to do it with her two big brothers watching over me and a green Pylean ready to slice and dice me if I screw it up. You don’t think I want it perfect? Shit.” He shook his head.

She looked at him steadily. He sighed. “Give me my clothes, Cordy, and we’ll call it a day. “

She held still, not moving for the longest time. Finally, she spoke, her voice a little husky. “I’m good, but I’m not that good. Your clothes are all over the floor in the room across the hall from yours.” Angel gave a mirthless snort and shook his head, turning to go. “Angel…..”

He turned to face her, a bleakness settling in the depths of his eyes. She stood in the same place, her eyes fixed fiercely on his face.

“Don’t you want this shirt?”

“Oh. Yeah. Just bring it with you when….” His voice broke off as she slowly reached up and unfastened the button just under her breasts….then the one under that…then the next…and finally the last button. Her hands slowly trailed back up to the parted panels of the shirt and she shrugged it off, feeling it slide down her arms. She stood there, nude, and gripped his shirt in one hand. He felt all sensation in his body pool between his legs. He heard her heart thumping faster and faster as he stood there and stared at her body, taut and sleek and elegant. She tossed the shirt across the small distance and he absently caught it in his nerveless fingers, holding it loosely as he drank in the sight of Queen Cordelia in all her glory. Maybe his only glance at paradise…he better commit it to memory.

Cordelia stood there, her heart racing, as she felt Angel’s gaze caress her body…felt despair begin to blanket his body. Her soul tugged a bit as she saw him, really saw him, trying to live a life foreign and different than any he’d known. She didn’t have to take his crap, and she didn’t have to be a complete idiot, either. He’d been in the dark for so so long. Maybe it was time she led him into the light.

“Angel…”

They both stood there, transfixed by the moment. Cordelia gave a small smile and turned towards the hallway. Strolling a couple of steps, she tossed back over her shoulder in a soft and husky whisper…

“Come on in, Angel….”


CHAPTER 14

All time stopped. The air was thick and silent, and Angel felt his chest constrict as the silken shirt slipped from suddenly nerveless fingers and pooled gently on the ground. All he knew and wanted, and it came alive with four little words.

Come on in, Angel.

Like a man in a trance, Angel slowly stepped easily into the apartment, stopping at the threshold until he felt Dennis’ gentle shove. He stumbled slightly as the door closed behind him quietly, closing and leaving him standing in paradise. Actually, paradise was strolling down the short hall, firm and supple and olive-skin damp and dewey. Musky vanilla that mixed with the ambrosia of Cordelia’s arousal wafted to his senses, overpowering him. He stood uncertainly, not sure what to do.

Cordelia’s heart thudded in her chest….solid and rapid. She felt his gaze on her back…on her legs….her ass….a tingle at the base of her spine. She stopped moving and turned to face him, a flush heating her skin as she met his gaze evenly, her body on display for him to see.

And he did see. He saw sensuous curves, taut curves, and soft skin. And more than that. His gaze slid from her slender feet up her long legs…up up up….over the shadowed juncture of her thighs…the lines of her tightly sloped abdomen…up over the generous swell of her breasts, tipped with coral satin…up the graceful length of her throat, and finally his eyes rested on the gentle determination in her eyes.

“Change your mind?” Her voice was a husky tease. “I thought this was the plan.”

Angel opened his mouth and tried to speak, but all he could manage was a garbled cough. Cordelia grinned slightly. “Thanks. That’s the nicest thing anyone’s not said to me.” Angel’s eyes flared with fiery gold flecks as his hands clenched. “I don’t know if this is really smart, Angel. But I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering. I wanna know. I wanna know you. What do you want?”

Angel suddenly felt his feet unstick, and he covered the distance between them in three large steps. He cradled her face in his hands and kissed her, devouring her mouth with his hungrily. Cordy moaned and rose onto her toes, leaning into him as her hands rose and gripped his shoulders, flexing against his skin as his tongue stroked hers….stroked the heat of her mouth. His lips gentled, nipping at hers as he leaned his forehead against hers. His hands slid down over her face gently, before his arms wrapped around her body, holding her close. Cordy lowered her head and pressed her face to his chest. He felt her heart thudding against him, seducing him with the soft muffled noise as her blood pumped through her body, calling to him with a siren’s voice. He pulled back slightly and looked down at the top of her head.

Cordy drew a deep breath and looked up at him. He kissed her forehead. “Last chance to bail, sweets. Once we do this, there’s no going back. Only forward.”

“Yeah. Forward. I got that. Forward means…no more games. No more plans.” Angel nodded. “No more secrets. No more hidden agendas. No more withholding of the news that ye olde gypsy curse no longer applies, for example.” Her eyebrows rose. “Had to get that piece of news from Wesley. Who pretty much knows that you’re out on a bootie call.” Angel shifted, nodding.

“Yeah. No more….” His mind searched for the right phrase. “Broodmeister.” Cordy smiled. “It’s….all new from here. I just don’t want you to wake up tomorrow and wish you could take it back.”

Cordy sighed. “Yeah, like I’ve pretty much always known you can’t take back sex, Angel.” Angel started to speak and she placed two fingers over his mouth. “Nope. I know what I’m doing. I want to make love to you, and with you. A lot. I want you over me, and under me, and around me, and in me till I don’t know where you end and I begin, and I want it over and over and over. And I want it now. C’mon, Angel….” Her voice lowered to a whisper…”Don’t you still want my heat?” And she stretched up to bite gently at his lip, tugging it out before licking it.

With a fierce rumble, Angel swept her up and stalked down the hall into her room, dimly lit by the full moon shining through the open blind slats. He lay her gently on the bed and leaned down to kiss her softly, feeling her tremble as he kissed her lips….her throat….the soft tip of a plumped breast. He straightened at her soft groan and stripped the t-shirt off over his head, kicked his shoes off, and shoved the shorts down his body in quick, succinct movements.

Cordy rose onto her elbows and looked down his body, muscled and strong. Her eyes widened as she saw his cock, thick and fully erect. She raised her hazel eyes to his and solemnly said, “Angel, you completely have my respect.”

Angel groaned a chuckle as he climbed onto the bed, covering her body completely with his. They both pressed into the bed, skin to skin. Angel’s hands slid up her sides and stretched her arms over her head, his arms stretching and his hands gliding over hers, his fingers locking with hers. He looked down at her, intent. The clearest, most honest eyes he’d ever seen stared back up, filled with want and need and something…..something he didn’t know that he’d ever seen from a woman before. Something…giving….something that was…..trusting. That was it. Trust. Cordy’s fingers tightened between his slightly.

“What is it?”

“You. It’s just you. Wanting this.” They both spoke in hushed whispers. Angel looked over her face, memorizing each line and curve, committing this moment to his memory. “All this time….I thought about…”

“Naked me?”

Angel grinned. “Naked us.” He leaned down and softly kissed her lips, trailing lips over her cheek and along her jaw line. Cordy tilted her head slightly and he licked down the length of her throat, pressing his lips to the steady muted thump of her pulse. “So, so sweet…” He murmured, kissing the pulsepoint gently. “So warm….” Cordy shifted her body under him, feeling the thick ridge of his cock pressing against her lower abdomen.

His fingers untangled from hers and his legs shifted as he scooted down a bit, gently nipping and tugging at her skin as his mouth traced a path down her shoulder and over the ridge of her collarbone. She held still, feeling his mouth, firm and wet, as he softly kissed the upper swells of her breasts, his hands cupping the mounds and pushing them together.

“God, Cordy…” His voice was rough. “All a man could need….so perfect……” He flicked his tongue at one distended nipple, savoring the taste of the satiny skin. Cordy whimpered and he grinned up at her briefly. “Like that? How ‘bout this?” And his mouth opened, taking the tip completely into his mouth, sucking and taunting the pebbled peak with his teeth.

Cordy’s breath caught in her throat and she reached down to run her fingers through his hair, holding his head gently to her. “Angel….”

Her voice was a whisper of heat that floated down to him. He nipped at her again before releasing her breast and moving to the other one. He sucked and bit softly while his hand tugged at the other nipple. Cordy’s breath came faster as her body arched into him. Fire seemed to pour through her body, pooling between her legs. She wanted more…wanted all of it…..she grabbed at his head.

“Angel” her voice was urgent. He looked up at her and saw the fierce need in her eyes. “Now. I want you now.”

He didn’t think he could possibly be harder, but at her demanding voice sent tremors through him, his cock seeming to swell even more at her words. “Cordy…” thinking was becoming more difficult. “Foreplay….”

She stroked his arms, her nails raking gently over his skin. Her voice was husky and almost desperate sounding. “Later. After. We’ll have….afterplay. You’ll see. It’ll be fun.”

He choked off a laugh as he reared up and kissed her hungrily, sucking on her tongue as his mouth ravaged hers. Her legs parted and he settled between them, feeling the sleek limbs brushing against him as his hips met hers. He reached down between them and gently stroked the slick hot flesh between her legs. God, she was wet and ready….and sooo needy. But he needed, too, and his cock was straining as he shifted, pressing the blunt tip into the wet heat of her center. He raised his head and looked down at her his eyes fierce…..his own demon shining out in golden glory.

“Who am I?” His voice was a ragged demand. He held his body still, his cock pressing just into her entrance. She looked up at him, trying to wiggle her body so that she took him deeper. “Say it. Who am I?”

“Angel…you’re Angel.” Her voice was a whimper.

He pushed in a little deeper and pulled out again. “Who belongs to me?” She looked up at him, biting her lip. He rocked his hips a bit, pushing into her body and pulling out again. “Say it, Cordy. Take it all. Who do you belong to?” She gasped as his cock stretched her as it pushed in a little further. He held his body still. “Say it.”

She groaned, spreading her thighs wider and raising her knees as she tried to pull him in more. He shook his head, lifting his hips a bit. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, “You want my cock…you take all of me. Who do you belong to?”

“Oh god…you. You. I want you….please…..ohgod….” Angel reared his head back and growled, a guttural, animal sound, as his face slid into the harsh lines of his demon. His eyes glowed yellow as he seemed to flow over her body. His hands gripped hers as he leaned down to nuzzle into her neck. His body tightened as he plunged into her wet clenched heat, pumping into her body with a force that shot through every nerve in her body. Cordy cried out, wrapping her legs around his hips and they both held still, suspended in time for a moment. He groaned again as his hips rocked, pushing in…pulling out….god she was tight. She clenched around him, caressing his cock with each stroke.

He felt his body, straining, reaching….he listened to the muted roar of her blood, racing through her body…her heart, pumping faster and faster. Her legs tightened around him and her hips slammed into his with each thrust. Her skin was flushed and damp, her fingers stiff as they flexed in-between his.

“Harder….god…..harder….” her voice was almost tortured sounding as he rammed into her. She felt a wave of heat begin to pour through her….an icy fire that gripped her body….”Angel….ohgodplease…….” Her body clenched around him and she threw her head back as her body arched, taking him in deep, against her womb. Angel roared as her body milked his…his senses overrun as he felt the cold seed pour out of his body and fill hers. He pressed his face deeper into her throat and sank his fangs into the succulent flesh offered to him, gulping the honeyed, coppery blood that filled his mouth and coated his tongue with its spice. One swallow….two…..three…..he sighed lustily, slowly pulling his teeth from her flesh and licking at the punctures to seal them.

Cordelia lay beneath him, her body floating back to her. She felt boneless, and her legs unclenched from around Angel’s hips and dropped down to the bed. Angel lie on top of her body, still, propped up on his elbows. Cordelia’s breath came in short pants as her heart calmed, and she pressed gentle kisses into Angel’s shoulder. His face slowly slid back into human visage, and she stroked at his cheeks and forehead as it did.

“You’re Angel.” And she pressed a kiss softly onto his lips.

“Yeah. And you’re mine.”

Cordy smiled up at him. “Wow. I have never….I mean….it’s always….not like….” She broke off. “Wow.”

“Right there with you.” They both grinned at each other and Angel kissed her before rolling off and settling on his back, pulling Cordy to his side and anchoring her there with a firm hold. She rested her head on his shoulder and stroked the sculpted plains of his chest as they both calmed. They were silent for a moment, and Angel was content. A silent Cordy could be a good Cordy. It meant her mind wasn’t turning down all the roads he didn’t want to go.

Cordy giggled a bit. “Who’d a thought that the man I can never get to talk would be so chatty during sex? Is that a vampire thing?” And the content feeling was gone.

“Oh, couldn’t help myself. It’s a thing.”

“Ahhh…an Angel thing.”

He thought a moment, choosing his words carefully. “No…you were right the first time…a vampire thing.”

She raised her head and looked down at him. “You mean each time we do the horizontal hula you bite me? Not an endless supply of plasma here, bucko.”

“No, no, it’s a sometimes thing. It’s a first time thing. It….” He sifted uncomfortably. “It kind of seals the deal.”

“Seals the deal.” She repeated, her eyebrows raising. “OK. Spill it.”

Shit. He’d been hoping to put this off. Kind of sad if they ended the evening by Cordelia cutting off his balls in anger, it having been such a nice night so far and all. He needed to be very careful here. Veeewwwwyyyy careful….he was hunting wabbit. What he said next would be the most important words he had ever said to a woman. He’d never said them before, to anyone. They had to be perfect. They had to be gentle, and sweet, and loving.

“I own you.”

Silence. “I’m sorry, what was that?”

He mentally said goodbye to his balls. “I kind of claimed you a while ago, you know, while we were….”

“Coming like a freight train? That was the bite? You were claiming me?”

“Yeah.”

Cordelia stared down at him. “Is that some kind of vampire sex ritual?”

“Sort of. Yes. It is.” He held her to him more firmly to stave off the inevitable slapping and whacking. “Cordelia, the thing is, I claimed you to be mine. In vampire vernacular, I own you.”

Cordelia was silent. “In Cordelia vernacular, fuck that.” She was silent again, thinking. “Did you know you were going to do this?”

His eyes met hers. “Yeah. I knew. I knew back when you came for the books. I think I knew it then.”

She stared into his eyes. “Ok. Ok. We’ll deal with that later.” She pushed away from him, sitting up. Her body was still damp, and his eyes traveled lazily over the taut line of her back as she pulled the sheet up to cover her breasts. She leaned back against the headboard and looked back down at him. “What, exactly, is claiming?”

“It’s…a taking. It’s establishing…” he tried to think of how to put it so she’d get it. Without getting it. “…a relationship. I’m telling others…you know…hands off.”

“So, it’s kind of a protection?”

“Exactly!” Angel grinned up at her. “Our business and all, you know. We have the fun, you have the protection.”

“OK. I get that. Not happy, but I get it.” She looked down at him suspiciously. “Is that it? Is there more to this?”

“Um…no. That’s pretty much it.” He looked up at her. “I didn’t hurt you, did I…”

“No, no. It was….” Cordelia’s hand slowly raised and her fingers traced over the healing puncture marks. A shimmer ran through her body at the touch, and she lifted her fingers as though she had received a small static shock. “It was actually….” She sighed. “Wow. It was completely wow, Angel.” She looked down at him. “Like you haven’t heard that before.” He grinned up at her.

“Not from anyone who mattered. Not from you.” She looked down at him and lay back down, her head on his chest.

“So….you’ve claimed me.”

“I own you.”

“Right. That will so happen.” Angel closed his eyes. They’d fine tune this later. “Anyways. Here we are.” She stroked his chest softly. “One thing has gotta change. I meant it. No more secrets, no more brooding, no more in the dark alone.”

Angel was silent for a moment. “You don’t get it, Cordy. That day…” He trailed off. Her hands patted him reassuringly. “that day, I think you chased some of the dark away. You didn’t know it, but you did. You reached me, and whatever part of me wasn’t locked away in nothingness heard you. No one else could have done that. Just you. This is right for us because you’re right for me.” Cordelia sighed against him. “You…you pull me into the light. It’s you.”

Tears rolled out of Cordy’s eyes and she impatiently brushed them away. “I hate it when you do that.”

“What?”

“Become all gooey on me. Now I have to just….” She broke off. “I just have to like you.”

She raised her head and smiled down at him. “Welcome to the light, baby. I’ll see to it that you enjoy your stay.”

He grinned up at her, feeling her pressed to his side. Warm, thick blooded, smartmouthed, curvy, loving Cordy.

“You said something about afterplay……..”


…THE END…


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