To Save a Soul

AUTHOR: RUNEKNIGHT (aka ANDREW)
SUMMARY: Angel and Cordelia put themselves in the path of an angry slayer in an attempt to save the soul of a demon.
RATING: R/NC17
POSTED: 19 May 2009
CATEGORY: BtVS/AtS Crossover
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A Eventually
WARNINGS: None Listed
FICPIC CREDIT: Cydnestorm
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) Took a few liberties here and there so fair warning to all. Angel didn’t run off to Sunnydale after the episode sanctuary and during To Shanshu in LA Darla is not what was raised in the box for my story purposes.
2) Many thanks to Cydnestorm for putting up with my rusty writing and keeping me going with her encouragement and ideas.
STATUS: Incomplete


ficpic_tosaveasoul


Chapter 1

Pastel streams of moonlight trickled in through the large window in Cordelia’s lounge bathing her burgundy couch in a pale glow, the echo of the television playing in the background.

The scent of a freshly showered Cordelia filled his senses along with the foul tang of nail polish. She shifted around, her back pressed firmly against his shoulder as she switched what toe she was painting.

Angel’s eyes shifted to the brunette sitting up against him as the silver blue light of the television danced across the page of his book.

Every night this little event seemed to be occurring. He and Cordelia would sit down after the rush of the work day ended, each on opposite ends of the couch. By the end of the night both of them had gravitated toward the center like two magnets drawn together, as though need to touch each other was ingrained into their subconscious.

A low growl emanated from his chest as he thought about the consequences.

This constant need to touch and be near his seer was stirring up feelings he thought buried with Buffy. Feelings best left in the past.

Feelings were dangerous, not only to him but to those he cared the most about. Damn gypsies, he silently groused.

The curse would always be the bane of his existence never allowing him to get too close. If he could just get rid of the damn thing…

Those thoughts were quickly shaken off as he realized if he got rid of the curse, he got rid of his soul and that was not an acceptable outcome.

Now if he could get rid of that happiness clause it would be a different story all together. Angel’s eyes brightened at that prospect.

Angel reminded himself to dig Wesley out of the Scrolls of Aberjian for a few days to check into the idea of making his soul a permanent resident in his body. Getting rid of the chance of him going evil was a bonus to all parties involved.

Angel attempted to refocus his thoughts to the book he was reading trying to take his mind off gypsies, curses, and beautiful brunettes who tantalized his senses.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a great author in his opinion. Angel’s thumb ran along the binding of the book as he reminded himself of the title, ‘The Scarlet Letter.’

It was a story of sin, guilt, and revenge easily something he could relate to.

“Umph.” Angel’s thoughts were disturbed again by Cordelia’s little sigh.

“I’m bored Angel. No visions, no nasty evil doers to pummel.” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe that I want some death and destruction, well actually not like real world ending death and destruction, but maybe a little slime demon type action, or vamp nest even.”

“Cordy, you should take advantage of the peace and calm. It won’t last,” Angel commented closing his book. Hoping the relative peace of the summer would continue was too much to ask and he knew it.

“Right,” Cordelia sighed. “But it’s not just calm, it’s boring. No visions, no clients. You don’t think that the world’s become full of shiny happy people do you,” she asked shaking her head.

“Never mind don’t…!” Cordelia’s body tensed in preparation for the oncoming pain that accompanied a vision her bottle of deep red nail polish dropping to the floor.

Angel had the young girl in his arms before she had time to cry out in agony, his book and thoughts immediately forgotten.

Cordelia’s body attempted to thrash and convulse as her features contorted in pain, Angel’s strong embrace keeping her movement to a minimum.

The psychic onslaught invaded her mind, images of blood, death and fear dancing in rapid succession, showing her blurry images of a place and victim.

Angel continued to hold his seer, his eyes wide in fear, jaw tense as he hovered over Cordelia, his feeling of helplessness causing him to hold tighter than needed.

Cordelia reluctantly pulled away from Angel’s embrace quickly turning her hazel eyes away from her friend not wanting to see the look of fear that filled his eyes.

Cordelia couldn’t blame Angel for being scared, she saw how he looked after she came out of her vision coma the fear and relief that filled his eyes.

Somewhere deep inside she felt pleasure and warmth that Angel cared about her. She also knew now was not the time to dwell on such matters as she focused on the images that The Powers had sent her.

What seemed like an eternity in her mind’s eye was in reality only a matter of seconds.

“Owww, that hurt. The next time I start complaining about NOT having these mind numbing freak shows, send back me to the psych ward.” Cordelia complained bringing herself back to reality, her fingers pressed against her temple in an attempt to ease the throbbing.

Angel grimaced as Cordelia mentioned the psyche ward. He knew she was trying to lighten the mood but the image of her strapped to a hospital bed did nothing to ease his tension.

“Cordy, the vision?” Angel asked gently, his hand absently caressing her back in silent comfort.

“Right. Girl. Red hair. About to be attacked by-I don’t know what. Near Wilshire and Santa Monica.”

Cordelia squeezed her eyes tightly trying to shut out the pain as the assault of mental flashes continued. “Oh God. We have to hurry.”

Angel already grabbing his coat, she pushed past the pain and went after him. “I’m going with you.”

“I’m on it,” Angel assured her, pushing Cordelia back toward the sofa. “You stay put.”

“No, Angel, you don’t understand. It’s Willow.”

“Willow? Why is…never mind?” Angel dropped the subject, and accepting that Cordelia wasn’t about to stay behind simply to pacify his concern for her safety, he stepped aside and motioned her out the door. “Let’s go.”

***

Angel would have loved to sit in silence as his car barreled down the road as fast as he could safely drive with his Vampire reflexes.

Knowing Cordelia as well as he did Angel knew it wouldn’t last so he decided to break the prolonged silence first. “Do think we should call Wes?”

“Already tried, no answer.”

Cordelia assumed Wesley had his head buried in that musty old scroll he’d been hounding over all summer. That or he was out looking for a musty old book so he could bury his head in said musty old scroll.

Angel’s attempt to break the silence was quickly forgotten as his mind began to wonder aimlessly.

Whether it was worry over Willow’s safety or something else entirely Angel couldn’t be certain. All he knew was that thoughts of Willow brought thoughts of Buffy.

Memories danced and weaved through the shadows of his mind as Buffy’s last visit to L.A. played at the forefront.

He’d wanted to run off to Sunnydale after their argument at the police station and apologize for every wrong thing he’d done just to get back in her good graces, but his anger wouldn’t allow it.

Wanting to hurt him, Buffy had thrown her new relationship in his face for spite. And while the blow stung, it didn’t last long, Angel quickly reminded himself despite the knot tightening in his gut.

“Angel! Stop! We’re here.”

Cordelia’s voice echoed in his ears jolting him to alertness. His foot slammed the brakes to floorboard, tires screeching as the car swerved into an odd angle before coming to a complete stop.

Cordelia watched as Angel leapt out of the car and headed down the street using every ounce of his vampire speed in an effort to reach Willow in time.

Angel hit the demon at full vampire speed knocking it off Willow and tackling it to the ground. But when razor sharp talons ripped into his gut, any upper hand he had gained by catching the demon off guard quickly dwindled.

A heavy grunt pushing past gritted teeth, Angel kicked out while spinning around and away from his attacker.

Dark scales covered most of its body, leaving unprotected its upper arms and a rather human looking face framed by short brown hair. Sucking hot air into his nostrils, Angel could have sworn he detected the scent of a female, but the crushing jab to his face was pure demon force.

The slice across his cheek sent him reeling backwards, an instinctive tuck and roll lunging him back to his feet.

Cordelia’s rush to Willow catching his eye, he barely had time to take in their mingled scents of blood and fear before blocking the next blow.

Time not on their side, bone quickly shifted rumpling across his forehead as blunt teeth elongated into sharp pointed fangs, and Angel moved in for the kill.

With two quick bounces, he sprung forward, lunging onto the demon. But his opponent ready for the next attack, he’d lost the element of surprise. Fists pounded in rapid succession blurring the distinction between the two.

Their strengths equally matched, they punched and kicked, clawing and biting at every opportunity. Whatever ground either gained was just as quickly lost, until without warning, the demon retreated. Angel doubted a few onlookers scared it off, but whatever the reason, he was grateful it had fled.

Before he could enjoy his hollow victory, the creature’s scales rapidly multiplied obliterating any hint of human features. Wings sprouted from its back carrying it up into the air as it let loose an eerie screech.

“Angel, we need to get Willow to the hospital,” Cordelia called out pulling his thoughts from the strange creature.

Both women were covered in blood, fear and urgency ringing in Cordelia’s voice.

Shifting back to his human guise, Angel scooped Willow into his arms while Cordelia kept her hand firmly pressed against the gash in her throat.
Chapter 2

Angel burst through the emergency room of St. Mathew’s hospital with an unconscious Willow in his arms and Cordelia right next to him, her hands staunching the flow of blood coming from Willow’s neck.

“I need a doctor now!” Angel hissed at the nearest hospital attendant his voice filed with urgency and a bit of fear.

Noticing the two individuals covered in blood, the emergency room staff bustled into action, doctors assessing Willow’s injuries while orderlies rapidly pulled a gurney to take her into the operating room.

Angel placed Willow on the gurney that two men in white hospital coats wheeled in front of him. Angel watched as the gurney carrying Willow disappeared through the OR doors.

Cordelia stood beside Angel and watched as her friend was wheeled into the operating room. Pulling out her cell phone to make a much-needed phone call, Cordelia noticed the multiple slashes and holes marring Angel’s body.

Cordy’s first instinct was too reach out and treat Angel’s injuries. Immediately reaching out and closing Angel’s coat, Cordy looked around the emergency room nervously hoping no one noticed Angel’s wounds and started asking questions. Judging by the activity in the emergency room Cordelia figured no one had noticed or if they did they chalked up all the blood decorating Angel’s body was from Willow.

Angel looked down at his jacket as Cordy closed it covering up his wounds from the night’s battle. He gave a slight nod silently thanking his friend and seer as she smiled at him.

Cordelia walked away from the urgency of the emergency room as she resumed making her phone call before Angel’s wounds distracted her. Dialing a familiar number Cordy waited for someone on the other end to pick up.

“Xander…no, no…its Cordelia Xander…this isn’t a social call Xander…it’s Willow she’s hurt, bad…right see you when you get here…St. Mathews hospital.”

Angel listened to Cordelia make the phone call to Sunnydale, and after a few minutes of listening her voice began to fade as his injuries began to take their toll and he slid wearily into a chair near the room Willow was taken into to.

***

Holland Manners stood in his high-rise office looking out his office window watching all the little people of LA scurry about their mundane lives.

A creak alerted him that another presence had entered is office. He knew immediately who it was without having to turn around.

“What have you got for me Lindsey?” Asked the director of special projects at Wolfram & Hart. Not that he needed Lindsey to tell him since he already knew.

“She’s broken through the spell again sir.” Lindsey spoke his left hand absently touching his plastic one.

“I see the senior partners thought it would come to this. Controlling a being of her caliber is simply too much to ask.”

“What now sir?”

“As of this moment Project Lilith is terminated.” Ordered Holland no emotion in his voice as he nonchalantly ordered her death.

“Sir are you…”

“Lindsey take care of it…She’s already filled her purpose.” Holland interrupted the junior partner as he examined a vile of a glowing silver substance.

“Yes sir” Lindsey answered as he turned to exit the office.

“And Lindsey?” Holland waited till the young lawyer turned and looked at him “Don’t disappoint me.”

***

Cordelia continued to pace the same path between the water fountain and the nurse’s desk. The same path she’d been pacing since Willow had been moved from surgery to ICU for observation.

Cordelia had reached the water fountain once again when she heard the door to ICU ward open. It wasn’t the first time the doors had opened since they had arrived here but it didn’t stop her from looking.

The first thing she saw was Xander Harris and Buffy Summers making a bee line straight for her as if their life depended on it. She could make out Giles in the background walking at a brisk pace but not the desperation that poured off the other two.

“Where is she, is she ok?” Buffy and Xander both asked at the same time. Cordelia’s appearance was not lost on them and it only increased their worry. It wasn’t everyday you saw Cordelia Chase in sweats and a sweater. The sweater is what increased their worry Cordelia’s light blue knit sweater was half dyed red and they were fairly certain it wasn’t paint.

“Slow down there turbo,” Cordelia called out to Buffy and Xander as she took a step back from the rushing couple. “Doctor said she’s going to be fine she just needs some rest to replace blood loss.”

Xander’s eyes perused the hallway before stopping on a bench outside the room where Willow was in.

“What the hell does deadboy think he’s doing this isn’t the time to be taking a nap?” Xander’s outburst interrupted Cordy’s explanation of events.

Cordelia stopped her explanation at Xander’s outcry to look in the direction of her friend. Worry beginning to creep in she chalked up Angel’s silence to his patented lack of social skills. Now noticing that he hadn’t moved from his chair since they moved to the ICU ward concern was quickly overwhelming her.

Cordelia’s concern only intensified realizing that Angel had yet to acknowledge Buffy’s presence. The fact that Angel had yet say anything to his ex-girlfriend was not of the norm, which immediately spurred Cordy into action.

“Xander what do you think you’re doing? Now’s not the time for this.” Cordy calmly explained as she began to make her way over to where Angel was sitting.

Xander was stumped by Cordelia’s lack of snark in her reply but didn’t stop him from continuing his rant. “What does it look like I’m doing? Will’s hurt and he’s here taking,” his hands gesturing toward the vampire, “taking a nap.”

Xander knew his outburst about Angel was unwarranted but Angel wasn’t exactly his favorite person and lashing out at the vampire gave him something to do other than dwell on his fear for Willow’s safety.

“Xander that’s enough.”

“Sorry it’s just I’m…”

“I get it you’re scared…I am too.” Cordy cut Xander off mid sentence. Her words of fear having a double meaning.

Cordelia had seen Angel beaten, broken and Lord knows how many other kinds of injuries, but his healing capabilities always had him able to function somewhat normally after a half-hour or so.

The fact that he was unconscious and still slumped over in the chair outside Willow’s room was not normal and made her extremely concerned.

Angel?” Cordelia called out to her friend tentatively.

Hearing the concern and slight fear in Cordelia’s voice drew her attention towards Angel. When Angel hardly stirred and didn’t acknowledged Cordy’s inquiry, Buffy was spurred into action.

“Oh god, Angel?” Buffy jumped in worriedly.

Angel groggily stirred, voices calling out his name pulling him from the realm of unconsciousness.

Angel knew he was no longer in the emergency room, he vaguely remembered making his way to the ICU ward after the hospital staff moved Willow.

Realizing his injuries were more severe than he first acknowledged, Angel was tempted to doze back off and allow his body to resume its healing process.

Angel had no idea how long he had been out. Judging from the fact that he could sense Buffy nearby meant it had been at least two hours.

The fact that he was fairly certain he could go maybe three maybe four steps before falling flat on his face only confirmed the seriousness of his injuries.

Deciding to worry about his injuries later and ignoring the temptation to doze off again Angel responded to the voices calling out to him.

“Cordy?”

“Are you alright?” Cordy asked fighting the urge to comfort her friend.

“Is Willow alright?” Angel ignored Cordy’s question by asking one of his own.

A slight smile formed on Cordy’s face despite the fact that Angel had ignored her question. Beaten, broken, and obviously injured more than she thought and his first concern was for other people, that was her champion.

“Willow will be fine.”

“That’s good” Angel whispered drifting off into unconsciousness again.

Buffy watched the conversation between Angel and Cordelia, jealously creeping into her eyes as she saw the casual way they interacted and was slightly taken aback by the genuine concern Cordelia seemed to have for Angel’s well being.

***

Wes walked through the doors of the hospital immediately asking the nurse for the room number of Willow Rosenburg.

Wes rounded the corner and saw Cordelia, Buffy, Xander, and Giles all at huddled together at the end of the hall, which caused him to quicken his pace and find out what was going on.

“Good Lord Cordy are you alright,” Wesley’s words sprang out immediately seeing all the blood covering Cordelia’s shirt.

“I’m fine Wes,” Cordy answered Wes’s inquiry.

“And Willow?”

“Miss Rosenburg will be fine and should be able to be released in a couple hours,” A doctor answered, coming out of Willow’s hospital room.”

“Oh thank God,” Buffy said out loud as audible sighs of relief escaped from everyone else present outside the hospital room.

“Well,” Cordelia looked over the haggled group of friends and champions. “I bet you all rushed here in such a hurry that you probably didn’t get a hotel did you.”

Cordelia got her answer when a look of shock and shame washed over the features of the group.

“I guess you guys could stay with me as long as you don’t mind the floor,” Cordy offered in earnest. She may not be close with the scoobies but they were the closest things she had to friends besides Angel and Wes. Then again Angel and Wes didn’t count they weren’t mere friends they were family.

“As long as you don’t mind Cordelia,” Giles spoke for the first time since arriving at the hospital, ashamed that he didn’t think of getting them a room before rushing of to LA.

“Not at all, as soon as Willow’s released you all come on over, but me I’m gonna go now, I defiantly need a shower and a change of clothes.” Cordelia grimaced looking at her blood-soaked clothes, before walking over to Angel and attempting to get him on his feet.

“Wes a little help here,” Cordelia stared expectantly at her friend.

“Oh right of course,” Wes rushed over to the other side of Angel and helped Cordy heft him on to his feet.

“Dweeb,” Cordelia smiled playfully.

They were halfway down the hall when Wes noticed Cordelia’s hand digging in Angel’s pocket. “Cordy what in the world are you doing?” Wes asked aghast and embarrassed.

“Geez Wes freak out why don’t ya…I’m just getting Angel’s car keys its not like he’s in any condition to drive.”

“Right car keys.” Wes sighed.

“So you coming over or going home.” Cordy spoke as she settled Angel into the passenger seat of the Plymouth.

Wes looked between Cordy and Angel, and figuring Angel should have enough strength to make from the Plymouth to Cordy’s apartment he answered. “I think I’ll head home you know all those books to read and stuff.”

“Well then I’ll see you tomorrow Wes.” Cordy smiled as she started the car and headed towards home.
Leaning back on the heels of her feet, Buffy’s eyes traveled up and across the expanse of the old art deco building with feigned curiosity. Her casual demeanor successfully covering the growing apprehension rattling her nerves.

Willow’s injuries, Angel too battled-worn for conversation, there hadn’t been time to dwell in the past. But now thoughts wandered to her last visit and the harsh accusations that spewed between them.

She had hurt Angel to soothe her own pain, and he retaliated by ordering her to go home. She left and he let her. And now, ready or not the dreaded ‘talk’ was coming.

“You guys ready?” Buffy called out glancing over her shoulder then quickly turned to lead the way inside.

***

With the threat of Wolfram and Hart looming at every turn, Buffy’s arrival couldn’t have come at a worst time. Not that Angel could think of a good time for a visit from his ex.

Ex. The word lingered, softly resonating in the background of his thoughts. Whatever he and Buffy once were, they weren’t now. They had both moved on, and as much as he dreaded the conversation, it was time they finally said their goodbyes.

Gulping down his second cup of blood, Angel felt the warm liquid stream through his veins and slowly revitalize his strength.

“Have you heard from Wesley?”

“Leave the researching to Wesley,” Cordelia quipped. “Because as soon as I’m finished here it’s bed for you, Buster.”

“Funny,” Angel challenged, “last time I checked I was boss.”

“That was before a bird demon kicked your wimpy butt. Guess I’m in charge now.”

Playing resident nurse normally at the bottom of her list of fun, tonight it provided Cordelia a much-needed distraction from the coming assault on her home.

Angel hadn’t mentioned Buffy since their big blow up over Faith, but then, he never talked about the love of his life. Their office and Angel’s home blown to smithereens, they had more than their fair share to deal with, Cordelia reasoned. The last thing they needed was Buffy throwing the brood-meister into high gear.

But needed or not, Buffy would arrive any minute and the inevitable make-up would soon follow. Cordelia only hoped the two love birds remembered to keep their hormones in check during all that making up. It wouldn’t do to have her best friend turning into a homicidal maniac.

Jerky fingers repositioned the strip of gauge, eliciting an irritated grunt from her patient when the tape stubbornly pulled at his skin.

“Did you just growl at me?” Cordy’s eyebrow arched in that accusing way only she could do so well.

“It hurt,” Angel defended.

“Big baby,” she teased flashing a mischief grin as she added the last bandage to his chest.

Angel could feel the tension oozing from Cordelia. She was as apprehensive over their unexpected guests as he was, and if playful idle banter eased their tension he was willing to go along.

“When you get a gaping wound I’ll poke your chest and see how you like it.”

Any possibility of lightening the mood quickly vanished as mental images of his skillful hands tending Cordelia’s naked chest played between them. Their bodies stiffened, frozen in place as the air crackled with renewed tension until Dennis, ever the faithful servant, swung the door open just as bare knuckles struck against wood.

His curled hand still hanging in the air, Giles stood rigid as his body titled toward the suddenly unobstructed threshold. And Cordelia, uncannily at a loss for words, grasped the opportunity for escape.

“What took you so long-did you have trouble with the directions,” Cordelia asked springing up from between Angel’s legs and continuing her nervous prattle. “Injured girl in tow people, come in already.”

Following a befuddled Giles, Xander escorted Willow inside while Buffy hesitantly lagged behind.

“Cordelia, who opened the…” Giles began, his question falling silent as the door drifted shut.

“Oh that’s my roommate, Dennis. He’s a ghost.” Cordelia answered as casually as one might comment on the weather.

Working side by side with Angel, becoming a seer and now cohabitating with a disembodied soul, that Cordelia’s life had radically changed was a gross understatement and a distortion of reality Giles couldn’t even begin to understand. “Ah, of course.”

“Everybody sit down and make yourselves comfortable.” Cordelia added, her tone ringing with just the right amount of hospitality to belie her dread of the long night ahead of them.

Settling Willow on the sofa, Xander perused the chic surroundings. Cordelia’s apartment with it’s vintage furniture and wall art looked like a room in one of those architectural magazines, he noted with heightened curiosity and just a tad of envy. The hand-me-downs crowding his basement dwelling weren’t nearly as nice and never glistened with this level of cleanliness.

“Nice place, Cordy,” he offered with an equal mix of sincerity and obligatory courtesy. But his grin drew into a frown when the scowl wrinkling Cordelia’s forehead insisted he’d lost the right to call her by the pet name while cold eyes reminded him it was only one of the intimacies his bad judgment had cost him.

A gurgled noise broke the uncomfortable silence as Xander swallowed hard, followed by a squeaky, “thanks for letting us stay here, Cordelia.”

Buffy felt bad for her friend and his awkward attempt to break the ice, but she had her own problems. She had thought once standing face to face, the rift between her and Angel would magically disappear. But Angel hadn’t budged from his place at the table, and Buffy was worriedly rethinking her assumption.

If completely honest, most of the blame laid at her feet. Not that her secret admission helped making the first move any easier. Buffy took a deep, calming breath and marched straight ahead refusing to stop until reaching her destination.

“Angel.”

The air that had crackled with sexual tension only minutes before dropped with a dull thud. The narrowed space between them as dead as the relationship they’d worked feverously to keep alive.

“Buffy.”

Their strained greeting failing even her smallest expectations, Buffy mentally stepped back to calculate her next move.

Xander was helping fuss over Willow, no doubt weaseling his way back into Cordelia’s good graces. Giles, ever the geek, had gravitated to the table cluttered with research books. Neither man was coming to her rescue, and since she’d avoided sharing the details of her last trip to LA that could be the only thing working in her favor at the moment.

Cordelia had braced herself for the big Buffy and Angel reunion, but not for this. You could cut the tension with a knife, and if she waited for those two to decide who should give in first, no one would be getting any sleep tonight.

“Okay, great. Looks like we’re all caught up here.” Cordelia interjected with all the enthusiasm she could muster.

“Willow needs the bed so how about girls in the bedroom and the guys sleep out here?”

“Cordelia’s right. We could all use a good night’s sleep,” Giles instructed with an air of authority. “Buffy, perhaps you should assist Willow.”

Extending Giles a grateful nod, Cordelia muttered a quick, “goodnight, don’t let the bedbugs bite,” and made a beeline for the bedroom, motioning for Buffy to hurry with Willow.

Pillows and blankets flying out of the closet, Xander and Giles exchanged questioning looks then quickly decided there were worst predicaments than sleeping in a haunted house.

Hospitality the last thing on his mind, Angel plopped down on the sofa grunting a barely audible, “thanks,” as a blanket slid over him.

***

The load of books making his arms ache and back hunch, Wesley groaned a strained, “thank you, Dennis,” when the books began to lift up and float to the table where Giles was studiously pouring over his material.

Although he appreciated the helping hand of an experienced watcher, his former associate analyzing weeks of painstaking translations felt intrusive, mentally catapulting him back to a time when his every move was unmercifully scrutinized. It was, Wesley reluctantly acknowledged, a pain from his past he had yet to overcome.

“Morning Rupert.” He tipped his head respectfully while the use of the man’s given name offered a morsel of confirmation that they stood on equal ground.

“Morning all,” he bid to their other visitors lined up on the sofa in a disheveled row, Willow’s surprisingly healthy glow instantly drawing his attention. “Willow, you look rather well considering your harrowing event.”

“Healing talisman,” Willow announced as she pulled the necklace from beneath her blouse. “Tara gave it to me.”

“Quite unique actually. It-”

Giles began until Cordelia poked her head from the kitchen, chiming in a much more direct explanation. “Nothing says love like ugly jewelry with a kick.”

“It just works the one time,” Willow politely insisted waving Wesley away when he moved in for an inappropriate closer inspection.

“Oh well.” Taking his cue, Wesley backed off and making a mental note to add healing talismans to his growing list of research, headed to the kitchen.

“Is Angel still sleeping?”

“Hiding in the bathroom.” Cordelia filled Wesley’s cup with hot water and tossed a teabag onto the counter. “Which begs the question, who’s going to make breakfast?

“Scrambled or poached?”

Cordelia jumped, swatting Angel’s shoulder before her feet were back on the floor. “Stop sneaking up on people. What if we’d been talking about you?”

“You were talking about me,” Angel deadpanned.

“Yea, but it’s only fun if we do it behind your back.” Cordelia grinned kittenishly and coyly suggested, “So about breakfast?”

His smirk belying the grin tugging at his mouth, Angel searched high then low and coming up empty stared up at Cordelia, an inquisitively arched brow wrinkling his forehead. “I thought we agreed to keep pots and pans next to the stove.”

“Don’t look at me.” Cordelia threw her hands up, and not wanting to get stuck in the middle of another turf war, made a beeline out of the kitchen. “I’m going to go reclaim my shower.”

“Talk to Dennis,” she yelled over her shoulder, “until you moved in the kitchen was his territory.”

“You don’t know me anymore.” Buffy had thought, like her, Angel’s cruel accusations were spoken out of anger. The cozy teasing in the kitchen. Cordelia’s mind-blowing revelation. The last few minutes replayed in her head achingly slow. Angel had meant it. He had moved on… to a new life and to someone else. But Cordelia?

Xander and Willow stared wide-eyed and slack-jawed, barely containing their astonishment until the bedroom door closed behind Cordelia.

But needing a moment to get her head together, Buffy motioned for them to zip it before their barrage of questions could erupt.

“I’m going to talk to Angel,” she whispered while carefully avoiding eye contact with her friends.

Reasoning warned him to wait until alone and not turn Cordelia’s home into an arena surrounded by well-meaning but curious spectators. But Buffy’s anger reaching the kitchen two feet ahead of her, Angel instead braced himself for the onslaught of emotion.

“Wes, give us a minute.”

“Of course,” Wesley agreed. Considering the scowl distorting Buffy’s face, he was anxious to escape the brewing storm. “I’ll assist Mr. Giles with my research.”

Demon, Angel bemoaned. His butt kicked, Buffy’s arrival… Cordelia. His brain was lost in fog. “I sketched this last night.” He pulled the neatly folded paper from his pocket and handed it to Wesley.

“Excellent,” Wesley hummed marveling at the expertly detailed drawing as he absently made his way to the living room. “I’ll get on this straight away.”

Arms crossed and feet firmly planted, Buffy glared at Angel’s backside willing him to turn around and face her.

“This is what you meant by moving on? You and Cordelia,” she demanded when Angel refused to acknowledge her.

“No, not me and Cordelia.”

His denial ringing with indisputable finality instead of the terse warning he had intended, Angel couldn’t help but question if common sense was cautioning him against traveling the same hopeless path with Cordelia.

Buffy felt her resolve buckle against the sadness clouding Angel’s eyes. He was clearly hurting and needed her understanding. But despite knowing that wanting to be the reason for his heartache was a childish desire, her girlish heart mourned the death of its forever love.

“Angel, we said really mean things and I don’t know how to get past that.”

“We could start with a peace offering.”

“A peace offering?” Buffy asked, confused by the suggestion.

“Your stomach’s growling and I need a platter.” Angel hesitantly smiled, lifting the egg-filled pan from the hot burner.

Angel making a joke was even more surprising than his relaxed demeanor around Cordelia and Wesley, and definitely more exasperatingly. But accepting his olive branch meant a chance at the friendship that had always eluded them.

“One platter coming up,” Buffy announced with all the lightheartedness she could manage.

“Not that one,” Angel interjected when Buffy reached for the coveted Wedgwood serving platter, “that belonged to Cordelia’s grandmother.”

Stopping mid grasp, Buffy cringed at the weirdness of it all. Angel doesn’t just live with Cordelia, he knows personal details. Not her Angel, Buffy reminded herself, and the sooner she accepted that the easier it would be to let go.

“So only special occasions,” Buffy wisecracked grabbing the chipped bowl instead.

“Pretty much.” Angel spooned the eggs into the bowl, taking hold of its edge to steady Buffy’s wobbly grip. “As soon as the toast is up, we can eat.”

And the weirdness just keeps coming, Buffy silently bemoaned while managing to keep a good-natured smile firmly plastered on her face.

“So,” she began carefully choosing each word. “You. Living here. With Cordelia. And a ghost!” That last part chiming with more excitement than necessary, Buffy chastised herself for not reigning in her feigned exuberance. She wanted to imply she was okay with Angel’s choices, not cheer him on.

“Yep.”

And suddenly her ex-boyfriend’s limited verbiage wasn’t as attractive as Buffy remembered. “Does Wesley live here too?”

It was a reasonable assumption; Buffy defended to the little voice in her head, and had nothing to do with her hoping Angel was the third wheel horning in on Cordelia and Wesley’s happy home.

“No, Wes has his own place,” Angel replied offhandedly. Then holding up the tub of butter and pointing to the high stack of toast, just as casually asked, “Want to help?”

The pair buttering in uncomfortable silence, Angel’s conscious began to get the better of him. He was punishing Buffy and enjoying that he could make her squirm with the same power she once held over him. His behavior was callous, Angel reasoned, and Buffy deserved better despite the amusement this rare opportunity afforded him. Besides, if he didn’t soon throw the girl a bone, taut fingers would reduce their toast to inedible crumbs.

“I’ve been staying here since our office blew up,” Angel quietly announced, his voice maintaining a more subdued tone.

Shock reeled through Buffy. “Why didn’t you call me?” She practically demanded an explanation before quickly averting the barely-hidden accusation in Angel’s gaze. “Right. Things didn’t exactly end well; did they?”

“No,” Angel agreed, “but we’re both to blame for that.”

“Really?” Buffy asked, grateful for the shared concession.

“We need to forgive ourselves. No one could have tried harder, but we don’t…” The sweet smell of cherry blossoms disrupted his thoughts, steering Angel in a completely different and inappropriate direction. “…work, telling ourselves that it does is nothing more than selling make believe,” he continued keeping his back to Cordelia to make staying focused easier. “We can’t pretend anymore, Buffy.”

“I know.”

“You do?” Angel had hoped for an amicable resolution, assumed Buffy wouldn’t make a scene in front of her friends, but either of them reaching this level of maturity was totally unexpected.

“Yea. I’ve probably known for a while. Just didn’t want to admit it,” Buffy confessed.

“Then we’re good.”

“We’re good,” Buffy mimicked. “So how about we feed this hungry crowd,” she added feeling the heat of Cordelia’s glare.

Relieved beyond his wildest expectations, Angel pushed the toast toward Buffy then scooping up the plate of eggs, swept out his arm motioning for her to take the lead. “After you.”

Cordelia was angry with no one and everyone, irritated by nothing and everything. Her emotions were running amuck and she had no idea why. That wasn’t exactly true. Angel and Buffy had cooked breakfast. Together. In her kitchen. And now they stood so close there wasn’t room for air to slip between them.

So the love birds made up. It’s not like she wasn’t expecting it. Besides, this wasn’t about her, Cordelia reasoned against that little part of her insisting it should be. Angel was her friend and she wouldn’t begrudge him the rare opportunity to share a part of his new life with Buffy. She could do this, Cordelia mentally asserted, reeling at the insanity that not a single casting director believed her Oscar-worthy.

“Wesley, stomachs are growling loud enough to wake the dead. Get your crap off the table so we can eat.”

Angel’s shoulders visibly relaxed, the tight line of tension melted from her face. Whatever had upset Cordelia seemed to dissipate as suddenly as it came. He chalked it up to an overcrowded apartment and old friends she’d rather remember fondly from a distance. And making a mental note to grab a little alone time with her later, decided to let it go for the moment.

***

Breakfast was followed by a brief controversy over cleanup duties, eventually allowing research to resume full force.

Buffy, Xander and Willow reclaimed the sofa, quickly settling into their familiar niche. Willow took up the study reins while the latest gossip whispered between Buffy and Xander.

Giles and Wesley huddled at the table, reading passages then sharing worried glances followed by hushed conversations.

Settled comfortably on the floor with their texts resting on their laps, Angel and Cordelia researched quietly.

Too quietly, Angel suspected as he peeked over Cordelia’s shoulder. She hadn’t complained about her book of pig Latin for at least fifteen minutes, which could only mean one thing, Cordelia wasn’t reading Wesley’s lesson plan.

“Finding any good fashion tips?”

“No, but there’s a great article on how to save money by moisturizing your skin with hair mousse instead of moisturizing cream.”

“You don’t say.” Angel lips tilted in a light smirk.

“Oh yeah it costs less than ten doll-Hey!” Cordelia squawked, realizing she’d been caught goofing off.

“It’s okay, I won’t-”

“Eureka,” Wesley shouted jumping up from the table.

“Yea, the man really says that,” Cordelia announced to the trio’s questioning looks. “Just go with it or you’ll hurt his feelings.”

Angel had hoped to steal a little alone time with Cordelia, but with the new demon threat looming and Wesley’s excited utterance; he instead led the way to the kitchen.

“Find something Wes?”

“I believe so,” Wesley answered sharing another worried glance with Giles. “There’s a passage in the Scroll of Aberjian that I hadn’t yet translated, but I believe… and Mr. Giles agrees-”

“Spit it out,” Angel encouraged, “whatever it is we’ll deal with it.”

“The recorded history on this creature is scarce at best,” Giles attempted to explain. “What little we’ve managed to uncover dates back four thousand years and has been rewritten in at least a dozen different languages and dialects.”

“So do we know what this demon is or not?” Buffy asked impatiently. “It almost killed Willow and I’m in the mood for a little payback.”

“Not exactly,” Giles answered, despite his growing suspicions. “If our translations are correct, this creature was banished from this dimension over a millennia ago.”

“Then how the heck did it beat the crap out of Willow and Angel yesterday?” Cordelia asked, pressing her hands to hip and delivering an exasperated glare.

Angel huffed at Cordelia’s dig to his manliness, but set aside plans of retaliation until he could figure out exactly what they were up against.

“Can either of you tell me what this demon is?” He asked, an agitated scowl wrinkling his brow. “Wesley?”

“Working off your sketch, I’m relatively certain her name is Lilith.”

“Who cares if the demon is a girl,” Xander interjected, “Buffy’s an equal opportunity slayer.”

“Yea.” Willow added, vengeance coloring her tone. “We’ve staked plenty of female vampires.”

“I’m afraid there’s more to it than that, Angel,” Wesley tentatively began. “If we’re correct, Lilith isn’t a demon.”

“Not a demon,” Angel slowly repeated.

“Oh my God,” Cordelia gasped, “Angel was beat up by a girl.”
Cordelia’s dig at his manliness aside, Angel was confident the creature he had fought wasn’t human. And he had the sore jaw to prove it.

“Willow,” Angel asked expectantly, “you got an up close and personal look. Do you think it was a human that attacked you?”

“Not human, Angel.” Wesley interrupted before Willow could answer.

“But you said she wasn’t a demon,” Buffy interjected puzzled by the conflicting information.

“And she’s not,” Wesley clarified, “Lilith is an angel.”

“A fallen angel to be precise,” Giles added, “her soul was corrupted.”

“Well that explains dark and scaly instead of wings and shiny halo,” Cordelia quipped, “and explains why she could toss Angel around like a rag doll.”

“She didn’t toss me around,” Angel groused.

Catching the mischief glint in Cordelia’s eyes, Angel squeezed her arm playfully and whispered in ear. “I’ll get you for that.”

“Wes, you said something about banishment?”

“Yes, from what we’ve ascertained there was a battle of great importance approximately a thousand years ago. I’m afraid,” he added a disappointed frown pulling at his mouth, “that’s all we’ve been able to translate so far.”

“But why would a fallen angel attack Willow? And how do we find her?” Buffy asked, instinctively looking to Giles for answers.

“I’m not sure,” Giles admitted. “The Basaa priests went to great lengths to ensure Lilith would never return to this dimension. Circumventing that effort would require an equal resource of power.”

“Of course,” Wesley murmured meeting Angel’s stare expectantly.

“Wolfram and Hart,” echoed between them.

“Who’s Wolfram and Hart?” Xander asked.

“Satan’s toady,” Cordelia quickly answered shushing Xander with a staunch wave of her hand.
Wesley’s brain was in puzzle-solving mode and it doesn’t like interruptions.

“It makes perfect sense,” Wesley mused rubbing his chin while mulling over the last few weeks. “Wolfram and Hart raised Lilith in that box.”

“Box?” Giles asked inquisitively.

***

Deep in the bowels of Wolfram & Hart an ancient sarcophagus had sat undisturbed for as long as anyone could remember, undisturbed until today.

Holland Manners nodded at the white-coated lab technician signaling him to proceed.

Nervous anticipation stirred throughout the room as the silver white liquid that had been drawn from Lilith was poured into the crevice on the sarcophagus lid.

Holland felt his young protégé shift beside him as the lid of the ancient coffin began to dislodge and open.

“What is it Lindsey” Questioned Holland his grandfatherly tone echoing throughout the room.

“It’s nothing.” Lindsey again shifted unconsciously the power reaming in the room making him uncomfortable.

“Lindsey?” Holland’s tone was disbelieving,”I don’t understand why the Senior Partners would go to such lengths for just one client.”

“Some contracts are non-negotiable.” Holland stated matter-of-factly, scrutinizing the technician’s progress before turning his attention to Lindsey. “Now about that other matter I asked you to take care of.”

“A team’s being put together as we speak. It should be taken care of by the end of the week.”

“Good. That’s good. We can’t have her interfering with our plans.”

“Sir if I may ask why is Lilith important?” Lindsey questioned.

“Not everyone is happily married Lindsey,” Holland riddled as he approached the now fully open sarcophagus and prepared to greet Wolfram & Harts newest client.

***

“Alright I’m done, finished, finito, I’m not reading another word.” Xander defiantly announced. If he read one more word about demons, angels, or any otherworldly beings his head was going to explode.

“What?” His rebellious timbre was reduced to a high-pitched squeak as he squirmed against Buffy and Willow’s disgruntled looks.

“Giles and Wesley won’t be back for hours. And that means…” His brow lifted into a wicked arch until Cordelia’s deadly eye roll scrunched it into a timid pucker.

“Am I the only one that thinks a Friday night in LA shouldn’t be wasted?” He asked hopefully.

If Cordelia could afford it she’d spring for a hooker. Anything to get the loudmouth out of her apartment. Good Grief. When did she become a brooding seer? It made sense she supposed. Spend enough time with the king of brood and some of the funk was bound to rub off.

Despite Willow’s better judgment, Xander’s enthusiasm was infectious. There was no telling how long it would take Giles and Wesley to track down the codex. Which meant Giles wouldn’t even know they’d gone out.

Buffy read the passage again, her frustration revving when the words didn’t make any more sense than they did the first two times. Too distracted to concentrate on research, she allowed herself to consider Xander’s idea.

This would be their only chance to enjoy LA’s nightlife. Her friends would return home tomorrow leaving her with… God, she couldn’t stand to even think about it.

It wasn’t that Buffy regretted her friendship pact with Angel, but acclimation would definitely be easier if she wasn’t sitting next to her ex while he did a lousy job of secretly ogling another girl.

Exchanging a knowing look with Willow Buffy made her decision. “I’m in. Where should we go?”

“Cordelia and Angel have lived here the longest,” Willow piped in excitedly. “Cordelia what do you do on Friday nights.”

“Hot bubble bath and a half pint of Chunky Monkey.” Focused on her reading assignment, she’d answered truthfully, which was way too much sharing as far as Cordelia was concerned.

Queen C, the boy slayer of Sunnydale had announced that her life was simple and boring with no prospects in sight.

Unsure how to backtrack out of her embarrassing slip, Cordelia turned to Angel for help. “Angel?”

Not every rescue had to be a death-defying swoop. Or so Cordelia thought.

Angel was suddenly the center of attention, the man with answers. The only problem was, any mention of a trendy hotspot and Cordelia would want to join them.

“Uh… What Cordy said.”

Cordelia felt the heat of their incredulous glares boring down on her. Angel had just unwittingly implied they shared bubble baths and fatty treats.

What the hell had she been thinking? Monsters running rampant, call Angel. Social faux pas, gag the man before he says something stupid.

“Not together. Dumbasses.” Cordelia vehemently proclaimed. “There’s the visions and the mission.” She attempted to explain, purposely leaving out her quiet evenings at home with Angel.

No need to help the gawkers picture the two of them going at it like horny toads in the bathtub.

“Besides, some of us have responsibilities now,” Cordelia snapped then delivered Angel a death glare before making a quick exit to her bedroom.

“The Element. 1642 Los Palmas in Hollywood. I’ll call Marcus and let him know you’re coming.”

“Marcus?” Buffy rasped, still reeling from the image of Angel and Cordelia up to their chins in bubbles and feeding each other ice cream.

“A friend of mine. Owes me a favor. You should go before Giles and Wes get back.”

Angel urged, the look on Buffy’s face indicating that he sounded as desperate as he felt.

***

Angel paced while calculating his move. Getting rid of Buffy and the others had been easier than expected. He had picked the perfect setting for his first date with Cordelia… romantic candlelight, soft music and quiet conversation. Now he needed to get her to the restaurant without a drawn-out question and answer session.

The swoosh of running water caught his attention. Cordelia was in the shower, and despite his best effort to concentrate, thoughts wandered far from his immediate goal. Plans of carefully chosen admissions and easing Cordelia into his way of thinking quickly faded into the background.

In his mind’s eye, Cordelia’s naked body leaned into the shower spray. The water hot and steamy, sun kissed skin flushed pale pink. A single droplet slid down her throat ever so slowly winding its way into the valley of her breasts. It slipped down her belly and pooled briefly at her navel before continuing its agonizing slow descent. Crawling lower and lower until reaching the dark patch between her legs.

His tongue snaking across his lips, Angel groaned as the image became more vivid. His large, soapy hands kneaded her breasts while his mouth devoured her heady moans. He lifter her up and she greedily wrapped her legs around his waist. He was inside her, his hips flexing slowly, deliberately, driving Cordelia to the edge of her first orgasm.

“Where’d everybody go?”

Lover’s music playing in the background of his fantasy screeched to a grinding halt causing teeth that had been gently nibbling Cordelia’s lips to bite down hard on his own.

“Why are you flushed?” Cordelia asked in a dual of worry and confusion. “Not that I’m complaining. I just didn’t know vampires could-are you sick?”

Angel blinked repeatedly realizing he’d almost been caught with his pants down. Literally. Jaw tense, he rasped an emphatic, “No,” followed by a much less assertive, “They went out.”

“Went out? Where?”

“The Element.”

“The club I’ve been dying to go to for months?” Cordelia clarified as she attempted to sift any usable details from Angel’s limited verbiage. There wasn’t any. They had taken off without her and Angel had let them. “Excuse me!”

“What?”

“You let them go.” Cordelia’s tone half accusatory, half whine. “Without me.”

Angel attempted to feign disappointment for Cordy’s sake but seeing how he wanted some alone time with her it was harder than he thought.

Ignoring the strange look on Angel’s face Cordelia continued “I can understand why they didn’t invite you, Mr. King of Brood, but why not me? I’m still fun, right?

Angel’s mouth gaped with his ill-prepared answer; Cordelia waved him off before he could respond. “Oh of course I am.”

“I’ll take you out” Angel attempt at asking coming across more like a demand.

“You’ll what?” Cordelia was intrigued. It wasn’t like Angel to want to go out she usually had to beg and threaten to get him to do anything.

“I’ll take you out.”

“Where?”

“How about that new Italian place you’ve been nagging me about my treat.”

“Fine it’s a date and I don’t nag.” Cordelia pushed off her disappointment at not being asked out to the nightclub and decided to milk this evening with Angel for all it worth. After all nights out with Angel were far and few between.

***

A violin serenade, a chance to wear the new dress she couldn’t afford and the perfect date… Cordelia was living a fairytale, even if her prince charming was in love with someone else.

“Everything is beautiful, Angel. Thank you.”

The candlelight paled to a dull flicker against the bright beam of Cordelia’s smile, and Angel thought his heart would melt in the warmth of her eyes.

“I wanted tonight to be special,” he managed to say without his voice cracking. “Do you like the wine?”

“It’s fantastic.” The aroma of her Chicken Marsala too mouth-watering to resist, Cordelia took a quick taste holding her hand over her mouth as she spoke. “Especially considering your limited appetite.”

Angel returned her teasing smile with ease. The evening was going even better than he’d hoped.

“I’m a diverse vampire, Cordelia,” he teased and leaned closer as though to whisper a secret. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me. Yet.”

“Oh really Mr. Tall Dark and Mysterious.”

“Uhummm…”

“So tell me something I don’t know,” Cordelia mumbled in between delicious bites of chicken and roasted potatoes.

“Chianti.” Settling back in his chair, Angel swished the wine inside his glass letting the candlelight’s flame illuminate the red swirl. “It has a multifarious nature that is quintessentially Italian with a personality that can’t be pinned down.”

“Okay, I’m officially impressed. My date’s not only the strongest man in the room, he’s a wine connoisseur.”

Date. Cordelia had just called him her date making the night almost perfect. “So I’m forgiven?”

“Forgiven? For what?”

“The Element.”

Lingering regrets over the nightclub fading, Cordelia beamed a bright smile.

“Well, I really wanted to go, but,” Cordelia tilted her head and poised her finger against her chin as though she were contemplating her decision. “There isn’t anywhere I’d rather be than here with you. Except maybe-oh wait,” she gasped, pressing her fingers to her temples and squeezing her eyes tight. “I’m having a vision.”

“A vision?” Angel asked, pushing his resentment of the intrusion aside as he moved closer to hold onto Cordelia.

“Yea, but it’s not until next weekend. So you have time to prepare.”

“Prepare? Cordelia, what did you see? Angel coaxed, worry tingeing his tone.

“You. Me. Saturday night. Dancing at The Element.” Cordelia looked up, eyes twinkling and lips curled into a mischief grin.

“Minx,” Angel rasped pressing his forehead against Cordelia’s. “Cordelia, do you want to dance?”

“Not if I have to fake a vision just so you’ll ask.”

“Cordelia,” Angel whispered cupping her face in his hands, “there’s nothing I’d rather do than dance with you.”

***

Wall to wall people, some dancing, others shouting over loud music, everyone drinking. It was The Bronze times ten. Only easier to get lost and pretend you’re a normal girl having a normal night out, Buffy noted as he sipped from her third apple martini.

“Whoever invented these is an underage drinker’s alcohol god,” Xander shouted above the noise holding up his green drink.

Buffy nodded and returned a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. It would be easier to enjoy their night on the town if she could just stopping thinking about the all the what ifs.

If Angel hadn’t left Sunnydale. If they hadn’t taken the mature route and chosen friendship over denied passion. If he wasn’t falling in love with Cordelia. If she could just stop feeling that the best part of her high school years had been reduced to a series of make-out sessions.

“Want to dance?”

Expecting to see Xander, Buffy spun around with an appreciative no already poised on her lips. But to her surprise tall and lean with sandy brown hair and steel blue eye filled her span of vision.

“Yes,” came without thought. Riley wouldn’t know. Angel wouldn’t care. It felt good not to think and just do. And downing the last of her third drink, Buffy followed the handsome stranger to the dance floor.

***

Angel had held Cordelia many times over the past year. Catching her when a vision hit, comforting her fears. But tonight was different. He held her simply to be close, to feel her body pressed against his.

His hands slid over her back, the warmth of her bare flesh seeping into him. Cordelia responded to his touch, her body instinctively melding further into his and Angel let his fingers drift down to lightly brush against the round of her bottom.

A cool flutter tickled her skin when Angel’s cheek touched her forehead. Strong hands roaming over her back heated and cooled her skin making it difficult to think until losing Cordelia in cloud of euphoria.

Their bodies fit perfectly, swaying in unison to the soft rhythm of the music strumming in the background.

Cordelia peered into hooded eyes. Dark and deep they drew her in. Their lips touched, tentatively nibbling before pulling away.

Lost in this magical moment, uncertainty easily gave way to want and need. Cordelia tilted her head up, tightening her arms around his neck as Angel leaned down capturing her lips in a slow, soft kiss.

Their eyes closed shutting out reality, Angel wrapped his arms tighter around her pulling Cordelia up on her toes and deepening the kiss. Their mouths parted, tongues sliding and tasting.

Breathless, Cordelia pressed her hands against Angel’s chest. He didn’t budge. Her lungs burning for air, she pulled her mouth free. And in that moment of separation, the world came crashing in.

Angel found himself reluctant to let her go even when she attempted to escape his grasp. Their eyes connected, and Cordelia merely blinked, brought a hand up to her lips and touched them, as if wondering if what had just happened had really just happened.
Kissing Angel was wrong on so many levels. Enjoying it with abandonment was inviting heartache and possibly death. But even as common sense whispered these warnings Cordelia could feel her carefully constructed wall crumble.

“Angel?” The whisper scraped against her parched throat

Angel didn’t say anything, simply kept her gaze and refused to look away, refused to look ashamed or sorry for something about which he was neither. Cordelia blinked again, drew her lower lip in between her teeth and released it slowly.

He wouldn’t regret kissing her, wouldn’t let Cordelia regret it. She wanted him, her body still hummed with desire.

“Cordy.” Her name rasped a desperate plea, but the confusion clouding her eyes outweighed the skill of his feral senses and Angel reluctantly let her pull away.

“I… I think we should go.”

Angel nodded, diverting his eyes from her questioning glare. Cordelia’s body wanted him, but her heart didn’t.

“Wait in the car. I’ll take care of the bill.”

Cordelia slipped outside, the cool ocean breeze a welcomed relief to her flushed skin and bewildered thoughts.

She knew the blurry line at which she was treading. Deep down, she knew she was allowing herself to care a little too deeply, to fall a little too hard. But if someone had the secret to not falling for someone when you knew it was doomed, no one had bothered to tell her about it and what the hell was she thinking? She’d seen this all before. Knew how it would play out. As Angel’s friend she could help him, be a part of his life. As his lover she was condemning them to heartbreak and despair.


…To Be Continued…
This Appears to be an Unfinished Story


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