Archive for June 23, 2015

A Crisis of Faith. 20   1 comment

Part 20

While Faith proceeded to pound the hell out of it, Angel held onto the old leather punch bag, his booted feet braced against the wooden floor to stop himself from being catapulted across the room.

He ignored the fact that it took every ounce of his considerable strength to hold the thing steady, knowing that the slayer probably needed this physical outlet for her confused feelings. His arms and legs did start to ache after a while however, his calf muscles threatening to cramp and seize up in painful spasm.

Noticing the faint grimace that crossed the vampire’s face as she let fly with another powerful right hook, the slayer paused to take a breather, lowering her fisted hands to her sides. Blowing a few loose strands of dark hair off her face, she rubbed the back of her hand over her sweaty forehead.

“I’m sorry,” she apologised. “I just needed to… you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” Angel replied, stretching out his legs to ease the throbbing ache in his muscles. “How about we move onto something else though?” he suggested.

Crossing the attic room in a few, short strides, the vampire tugged open the heavy lid of the weapons box that he had brought with him to Caritas, and bent over to rummage around inside. He pulled out two swords of similar design, and offered the slightly smaller one to Faith.

“What’s the matter?” he queried when she took it from him with a visible degree of hesitancy.

“Nothing. I just…” the slayer broke off and looked down at her feet, agitatedly twisting the hilt of the weapon between her hands.

After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, she lifted her head and looked him in the eye, her wide brown orbs rife with powerful emotion. “I wanted to kill you,” she told him with blunt directness.

“No, the Orb wanted to kill me,” Angel immediately responded, understanding at once why she was reluctant to spar with him.

“I guess so, but it felt like that desire came from me.”

“That’s because the Orb’s essence took over every bit of your consciousness. That’s what it does – it completely infiltrates its Host and subjugates the mind and body to its will. It is a testament to your strength of character that you were able to overcome that control, even if it was only for a brief moment. There are not many who could have done what you did, Faith.”

Swallowing the lump in her throat, the slayer nodded, although the feeling of unease remained. “I’m scared, Angel,” she confessed. “This potential for evil inside of me – its there now, in a way it never was before. What if I step over the line in the heat of a battle? What if I can’t control it?”

“The capacity for doing wrong exists in everyone, Faith. It’s our strength of conviction that keeps it at bay. Your experience with the Orb has unfortunately brought that potential closer to the surface, just like my years without a soul did with me. But, if I can keep it in check, you certainly can. A slayer is a true force for good, while a vampire is an inherently evil creature. I have to go against my nature, whereas all you need to do is trust in yours.”

“You make it sound so simple,” Faith replied.

“I don’t think it’s ever that, but it does get easier with time. Try to focus on what matters most to you in life; having something worth fighting for reduces the seductive power of your darker side, believe me. Five years ago, there were so many shades of grey to my existence, but falling in love with first Buffy, and then Cordelia, changed things in ways I never could have imagined. Nowadays, the thought of what my backsliding would do to Cordy keeps me on the straight and narrow. It’s so much simpler than it used to be.”

The vampire’s wise words made Faith feel somewhat better about herself, and the more playful side of her character emerged once more. “Okaay,” she drawled, her lips curling up into a quirky grin. “I think I’ve got that. Go out and get laid, check.”

Angel laughed. “That’s not what I meant!” he protested.

“I know,” the slayer replied with an impudent smile. “I was just joking around.”

She reached up and gave him a quick, affectionate hug. “Thanks,” she murmured as she stepped back.

“No problem – I’m here if you ever need to talk, okay?”

“Okay.”

Taking a calming breath, Faith swallowed her apprehension and raised her sword, using a two handed grip to hold it out in front of her. “So are we going to do this?” she asked.

Angel nodded and took up a similar stance opposite her, touching his sword lightly to hers in a typical gesture of sportsmanship.

“Promise you’ll call me on it if you ever see me get too close to the edge,” the slayer demanded, totally serious now.

“I promise,” the vampire replied with conviction. “Just as long as you agree to return the favour.”

“You’ve got yourself a deal, vamp-man.”

“Glad to hear it, slayer-woman.”

The next few minutes passed without further discussion, as the two fenced with each other, their swords catching the light as they danced through the air with consummate skill. The slayer and vampire were evenly matched in most respects, but Faith’s lack of practise gave Angel a slight edge. Pressing his advantage, he brought his sword down on top of hers and disarmed her with a skilful flick of his wrist.

“You’re dropping your line on your right side,” he advised as the slayer’s sword went skittering across the floor.

“Guess I’m kind of rusty,” Faith said ruefully, exasperated with herself for letting him overcome her so easily.

“That’s understandable. I shouldn’t worry too much; you’ll be back on form in no time.”

“Yeah, and then you’re toast,” the slayer vowed as she bent to retrieve her weapon.

“Oh, is that right?”

“Count on it, soul-boy.”

“Care to put your money where your mouth is, Miss Seriously-Overconfident?”

“Hi!”

Faith and Angel abruptly broke off their friendly bantering at the bright greeting. Turning towards the attic entrance, they saw Buffy standing framed in the doorway.

The blond slayer glanced about the room, taking in the weapons and training equipment scattered about. “I missed this,” she said wistfully. “Training together, I mean.”

“I tell you what, B, we’ll have a nostalgia fest before you go back to Sunnydale,” Faith said with a smile, despite knowing the comment wasn’t particularly aimed at her.

Realising this was the perfect opportunity to talk frankly with his ex; Angel shot the brunette slayer a pointed look, silently asking her to leave them alone. Taking the hint, Faith laced her fingers together and cracked her knuckles, stretching out her arms above her head as she did so.

“I’m thinking that might be enough training for today,” she said with an exaggerated grimace. “Talk about being seriously out of shape – I swear I can feel muscles, I haven’t felt in years. I’ll leave you two to it, if you don’t mind. A long, hot soak in the tub sounds like pure heaven right about now.”

“Wesley sent me to fetch you both – well, just Angel really, I suppose.”

“Why?” the vampire demanded sharply.

“Cordelia…” Buffy started to explain, but had to direct the rest of her sentence at Angel’s back, because he raced from the room the moment his girlfriend’s name left her lips. “She had a vision,” she called after his retreating form.

“Was it bad?” Faith asked, as the two slayers followed at a slower pace. “Wes said they can be really painful.”

“It looked pretty bad,” Buffy admitted, reluctant to feel sympathy for her rival, but unable to deny the severity of the vision that she had just witnessed.

Never one to shy away from saying what needed to be said, Faith jumped in with both feet, getting straight to the point. “I don’t know what your game is, B, but if you do anything to hurt Angel and C, you’ll have me to answer to.”

Buffy started guiltily at that; deep inside, she knew she was over-stepping the line of right and wrong with her behaviour, but she had convinced herself that it was ultimately for the best. “Angel…”

“Loves C more than ever from what I can see,” Faith interrupted the blond slayer’s attempted rationalisation of her actions.

The mask of denial immediately settled back over Buffy’s features at this. “You’re wrong,” she began, but Faith interjected again.

“No, B, I’m not. I don’t get it; I thought you came to terms with the fact that you and Angel were over last year. What happened to change that?”

“I gave up too easily.”

“Sorry girl, so not buying it. I know there’s more to it than you’re letting on. You can be stubborn, but you’re not usually this blind to the realities of a situation.”

“I just know in my heart of hearts that Angel and I are meant to be together, all right? What’s wrong with fighting for that?”

“Hiding behind a fantasy won’t solve the real problem, B,” Faith advised, as they reached the bottom of the staircase. “Just think carefully about what you’re doing, okay? Take it from me – you’re only going to get hurt if you carry on like this.”

Downstairs at Caritas, a few minutes earlier…

The blue-painted door crashed in on its hinges as a frantic Angel burst into the room. He was by Cordelia’s side in an instant, taking her out of Wesley’s comforting embrace and into his own. The seer clung to him, her sobs heart-wrenchingly loud and filled with distress.

“Poor little baby, got to stop it, have to. Oh God! Oh please!”

Holding her close and stroking a soothing hand through her hair, Angel looked up at Wesley, a silent question in his worried gaze.

The ex-watcher shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said quietly. “She had a vision, but I can’t get any sense out of her.”

The vampire detached himself from his girlfriend’s tight embrace and took her tear-stained face between his hands. “Talk to me, baby,” he urged, kissing her softly on the forehead.

“Oh God! I’m gonna be sick,” Cordelia suddenly gasped out, wrenching herself out of his grasp and bolting for the Ladies washroom.

Angel followed in her wake and knelt down beside her, solicitously holding her hair out of the way, as she emptied the contents of her stomach into the toilet bowl.

“Ssh baby, Ssh,” he whispered soothingly, not really knowing what else to do when she curled up into a ball, and began to cry again, her face buried in her shaking hands.

“Here.” Wesley’s quiet voice sounded from the cubicle doorway; he was holding out a damp cloth and a glass of water.

“Thanks,” the vampire took the items from his friend and gently pulled Cordelia’s hands away from her face. He tenderly wiped her mouth clean with the corner of the cloth, and handed her the glass of water to drink, his overwhelming concern palpable in the air between them.

The seer’s teeth chattered against the glass as she took small sips of the cool liquid, prompting Angel to re-fold the cloth and press it against her clammy forehead. Cordelia’s traumatised sobs finally faded to faint hiccups of distress, but her face was still deathly pale and she was visibly shaking with shock. The vampire scooped her up off the dusty floor into his arms, and went through into the bar area, cradling her trembling form protectively against his chest.

“She needs to lie down,” he informed the others, absently noting that Buffy and Faith had joined the small group congregated in the bar. “Can someone make her a hot drink? Maybe put a bit of brandy in it?”

“Umm, Angel?” Wesley diffidently interrupted, as the vampire strode towards the door that led to the private quarters.

“Can we talk for a moment?” he asked, when Angel irritably turned back to look at him.

“Can’t it wait?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Faith stepped forward and gently laid a warm hand on Cordelia’s bare arm. “I’ll keep an eye on her,” she assured the worried vampire. “And Lorne’ll get her that drink, won’t you?”

“Of course, anything for the princess,” the green-demon replied with sincerity.

Angel reluctantly set Cordelia down on one of the chairs, and hovered anxiously while Faith slipped into the seat next to her friend. In an attempt to raise the shivering seer’s body temperature back to normal, the slayer took hold of her ice-cold fingers and briskly began to rub them between her palms. Angel moved to the other side of the room to speak to Wesley.

“This better be good,” he said fiercely.

“I know you’re concerned, Angel, but we need to find out what she saw.”

The vampire shook his head. “No way! Look at the state she’s in, Wes. I don’t want to push it right now.”

“I’m sorry, but I think you’re going to have to.”

“I said no!” Angel grated from between clenched teeth, trying to keep his spiralling anger in check.

Squaring his shoulders, Wesley boldly stood his ground against the suddenly irate vampire, positive that he was doing the right thing in forcing the issue.

“You said it yourself, Angel, she doesn’t get any respite until the vision quest is over. Whatever she saw in her premonition was clearly horrific. How is she going to feel if we don’t prevent whatever it is from happening? You need to get her to talk before it’s too late for us to do that.”

Resisting the urge to take his impotent rage out on the objects around him, Angel closed his eyes and willed himself to calm down. As much as he hated to admit it, Wesley was right – it would be so much worse for Cordy if he didn’t stop her vision from becoming reality. Opening his eyes, he nodded at the ex-watcher, silently signalling his reluctant agreement.

“I’m sorry, Angel. No-one wants to see her suffer in this way, but…”

“It’s okay, Wes,” the vampire quietly interrupted, giving his friend’s shoulder an appeasing squeeze. “You’re right – I just wasn’t thinking straight.”

Returning to his girlfriend’s side, Angel sat down next to her, and pulled her chair around to face his. Closing his big hands around her smaller ones, he lifted them to his lips and kissed the ends of her fingers, before lowering them back into her lap. “Cordy, you need to tell us what you saw,” he told her softly.

The seer immediately tensed and raised her water-filled gaze to her boyfriend’s sympathetic one. “I… I can’t.”

“Yes, baby, you can. You want to stop whatever it is from happening, don’t you?”

Cordelia nodded miserably, a steady stream of tears leaking from the corners of her swollen eyes to run down her pasty cheeks.

“I know it’s difficult, but you have to try, okay?”

“Okay,” the seer agreed in a small voice. “C-Can you hold me?”

Responding to his girlfriend’s heart-rending plea, Angel drew her onto his lap and wrapped her in his solid embrace. Cordelia nestled close, resting her head against his chest, and curling her hands around one of the strong arms that enveloped her.

“I-It’s a-a girl,” she began hesitantly. “About my age I think, maybe a little older. She’s heavily pregnant, and i-it’s stalking her – oh god!”

“What’s stalking her?”

“I-I don’t know, some kind of demon, I think. I couldn’t see, it was too dark. It wants the baby – it’s been watching her for a long time, waiting for the right moment to… Oh God, Angel. There was so much blood, and she was alive and screaming and there was blood, lots and lots of blood. Poor little defenceless baby, can’t let it happen, can’t, all that blood, so much pain, can’t let it happen.”

“Cordelia!” Angel said sharply, using her full name to cut through the hysteria that was threatening to overwhelm her as she was drawn back down into the horror of her vision. “Try to focus on something other than the actual attack. Like where the girl was, or maybe her name? We need to know who she is, so we can help her.”

“You’ll stop it from taking the baby?” Cordelia snapped her head up to look into his face, and she inadvertently dug her fingernails into his forearm in the process.

“I’ll stop it, I promise, but I need your help to do that.”

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about that now,” the vampire soothed, pressing his cool lips to her temple and stroking the side of her face with the backs of his fingers. “Just try and figure out where she was.”

Cordelia nodded and closed her eyes, forcing herself to go back into her vision. “It’s some sort of warehouse, no, a packing plant. I think she works there. She’s walking back to her car, it’s dark and she’s carrying something – a baby bathtub with toys and baby clothes inside. It’s her last day, she’s going on maternity leave, and she’s happy and also a little scared. She’s worried about how she’s going to cope raising this baby alone. She hears something behind her and a shiver goes down her spine – something is watching her, she can feel it.”

“Cordy – this packing plant – where is it? What’s it called? Can you see a sign around anywhere?”

“Yes, on the wall, but half of it is in darkness.”

“That’s okay. Just tell us about what you can see.”

“A white background and blue lettering, inside a red diamond shape. It says… umm… Wright’s? Something I can’t read, and then underneath just one word, but I can’t make all of it out – C-O-N-F-E – is all I can see.”

“That’s good, baby. That gives us something to go on,” Angel murmured encouragingly, tightening his arms around her. Cordelia opened her eyes and looked up at him, a wane little smile on her face, and he bent to kiss her softly on the lips.

“Cordelia?”

The emotionally exhausted seer turned to regard Wesley with glassy eyes, as he hesitantly spoke her name. “Yes?”

“This demon – you said it was after the child. Have you any idea why?”

“Not really, no.”

“Okay and how did it… umm… retrieve the baby from its mother?”

“I don’t think we need to go into that again,” Angel said, throwing a warning glance at the ex-watcher.

Wesley ignored him. “It might be pertinent,” he insisted. “It could help us identify the species – most demons of this type have very distinctive MO’s. I’m sorry, Cordelia, I know this is difficult, but it could be important.”

Cordelia nodded and shuddered, trying to shut out the terrible images in her brain and vocalise the gruesome method of attack.

“It just took it out,” she said, the stark simplicity of her words making the whole thing seem even more horrifying.

“Jesus Christ!” Faith exclaimed.

“Thank-you,” Wesley said to the pale-faced seer, reaching out and giving her hand a reassuring squeeze. “Okay, I think that gives us enough to go on.”

“I’ll set up my lap-top and look into that packing plant,” Willow offered immediately.

Wesley nodded gratefully at the redheaded witch, and then looked over at Lorne, who had just re-entered the room, with a steaming mug in one hand and a thick blanket tucked under his other arm.

“Where did you put the books we brought with us?” he asked.

In answer, the Host set aside the items he was carrying, and retrieved the box of books from where it was stored under the bar. He hefted it onto the counter-top, and Faith smoothly transferred it to the table that Wesley was sitting at.

While the ex-watcher commenced with his research, Lorne added a generous shot of brandy to the drink that he’d made, and crossed the room to hand it to Cordelia. “There you go, princess. It’ll make you feel better in no time.”

As the seer sipped at the hot, fiery liquid, Angel took the blanket from Lorne with a brief nod of thanks, and tucked it around the young woman in his lap. Hugging her close, he rocked her gently in his arms, a wave of relief running through him as he felt her slowly start to relax in his embrace.

Faith walked over to where Buffy stood observing the openly cuddling couple, her arms stiffly folded across her chest, and bent to murmur in her blond counterpart’s ear.

“So, tell me, B,” she said pointedly. “If that’s not love, then what is?”

“Angel’s like that with anyone in distress.” Buffy said in a sullen tone.

“That’s complete BS and you know it.”

“All right, so he genuinely cares about Cordelia,” the petite slayer was forced to admit. “But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t…”

“Yes *it* does, B. Come on.”

“It’s not fair!” Buffy burst out in frustration as she felt her safety net start to slip away from her, despite her desperate attempts to hold onto it. “I need him, Faith. Everything’s all wrong back home without him there.”

“Right, so what? Angel comes back to Sunnydale and suddenly everything’s miraculously okay again?”

“Why not?”

“Because nothing in life is ever that simple. Stop focusing on Angel as the solution to all your problems, B; he isn’t, he never was.”

Seeing that beginning to penetrate the thick cloud of denial that hung over the blond slayer, Faith backed off and left her alone with her thoughts. Try as she might, Buffy couldn’t continue to reject what her own eyes were telling her, and she deliberately looked away, unable to tolerate seeing Angel’s overt tenderness towards Cordelia any longer.

Her troubled gaze fell on Riley as he descended the steps into the Club, and her stomach lurched with anxiety. Whatever happened with Angel, her relationship with her current boyfriend was over, meaning that she still had to get the unpleasant task of breaking up with him out of the way.

“What’s going on?” the soldier asked, as he joined her by the bar.

“Cordelia had one of her premonitions – some kind of demon is planning on attacking a pregnant woman to steal her baby. Wesley and Willow are looking into the clues that we gained from Cordelia’s vision, and then we are going to track this thing down and kill it before anything happens.”

“I guess that means we’re not going home today,” Riley correctly surmised.

“Doesn’t look like it,” the slayer concurred with his assessment.

Riley noticed her shiny eyes and unhappy countenance then. “Are you all right?” he queried with gentle concern.

“I… I’m fine,” Buffy lied.

She felt guilty about doing so, but knew that, given the circumstances, now was not the time to raise the delicate issue of their forthcoming break-up. She would just have to pretend that everything was fine and dandy for the time being – and hope that all hell didn’t break loose when she did eventually tell him the truth…

Part 21

Posted June 23, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Crisis of Faith. 18   1 comment

Part 18

Not even aware that he had fallen asleep, Angel jerked into wakefulness, unsure of what had disturbed him. The almost imperceptible shaking of the bed and the salty smell of tears quickly clued him in however, and he rolled over onto his side, hooking his right arm around his crying girlfriend’s waist. Drawing her back against his broad chest, he wrapped his other arm around her upper body, enveloping her completely in his solid, comforting embrace.

“Ssh baby – it’s okay,” he whispered soothingly, tucking his face into the crook of her neck as he held her close.

“I’m sorry!” Cordelia hiccupped, twisting around to face him and looping her arms around his neck. “I hate it when we fight,” she sobbed, burying her face against his throat, her tears warming his skin with their wetness.

“I know baby, me too, me too,” he murmured into her hair, his voice cracking with emotion.

“Why do we keep doing this to each other?” she asked plaintively.

“Hey – come on,” Angel said softly, reaching out to flip on the light. Slipping a crooked finger under her chin, he lifted her tear-stained face to his. “We had a dumb argument, that’s all.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Angel. Something like this – it never would have affected me this way before, but now, after…”

Cordelia trailed off, her expression miserable as she looked up at him with sad, liquid-filled, brown eyes. Angel touched his forehead to hers and stroked his hands up and down the length of her spine, wanting to console her in her distress.

“There is nothing wrong with you,” he assured her. “We’ve been through a tough time recently, and that’s bound to take its toll for a while. We’re gonna be fine, I promise.”

“I hope so.”

“Well, I know so,” the vampire said, trailing his fingers over the nape of her neck and threading them through the silky strands of her hair. Holding her head firmly in his hands, he settled his lips over hers, determined to show the strength of his devotion through his kiss.

Cordelia murmured contentedly in the back of her throat, her arms rising to encircle his back as she opened her mouth under his. His lips moved confidently over hers, his exploring tongue seeking out every secret crevice in her mouth, the embrace filling her with the sense of being both completely protected and utterly loved.

Long minutes later, Angel finally released her and rolled over onto his back, gently tugging her with him. Curling into his side, the seer laid her head down on his bare chest and wrapped her arm around his midriff, sighing deeply when his fingers rose to play in her hair. They lay quietly together, each mulling over the previous few hours’ events in their minds, until Cordelia finally broke the contemplative silence.

“I’m sorry I accused you of wanting to be unfaithful,” she said. “I do trust you; it’s just that Buffy has the ability to get under my skin like no-one else. No matter how hard I try, I can’t shake this fear that you’ll wake up someday soon, and realise you’ve made a big mistake choosing to be with me, rather than her.”

“But I didn’t ever make a choice, it just wasn’t like that. I broke up with Buffy, and then I fell in love with you, simple as that.”

Cordelia turned her head and rested her chin on the back of her hand. “It’s just… I was there, Angel, remember?” she said, looking up at her boyfriend with fear and apprehension swimming in her hazel-eyed gaze. “I saw what you were like with Buffy, how your love for her was so intense and all-consuming.”

“But with me…,” the seer broke off, her words failing her for a second as she struggled to give voice to her deepest fears. “What I’m trying to say is you don’t seem to love me as intensely, and that scares the hell out of me. I don’t know what I’d do if I ever lost you – you’re my whole life.”

Angel stared her disbelievingly, shocked that she didn’t realise that his more relaxed attitude towards their relationship was a mark of his unshakable faith in the rightness of it.

“Listen to me,” he said, closing his hands around her upper arms and pulling her up the length of his body, so that her face was almost level with his. “You have to understand – when I met Buffy, I’d been devoid of any kind of human contact for decades. Being with her, it completely overwhelmed me. There isn’t the same kind of intensity between the two of us, I know, but that doesn’t mean my feelings for you aren’t as strong, not by any stretch of the imagination.”

“Are you sure of that?”

“Baby, of *course* I am. Love is more than just red roses and candlelight, you know. With Buffy, I constantly felt like I had to live up to this image of a perfect lover, but that just got too hard for me to maintain. After that, there was no place else for our relationship to go. I can be myself when I’m with you though, and that makes a huge difference.”

Angel paused and tucked a few wayward strands of hair behind her ears. “Am I making any sense here?” he queried, cupping her chin in his hand.

Finally beginning to grasp what he was getting at, Cordelia reached out to trace the outline of his mouth with one of her forefingers. “You’re saying that it’s not a bad thing that you don’t worship the ground that I walk on,” she ventured, a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips.

The vampire chuckled and kissed the pad of her finger. “Yes, I guess I’m saying exactly that. You see, my relationship with Buffy failed because we couldn’t be open about what we wanted from each other. You and I though – we’re best friends as well as lovers, and that gives me confidence that our relationship has the ability to stand the test of time. I’m sorry I’ve not made that clear before now, I didn’t realise it was such an issue for you.”

“It didn’t used to be, I guess. Not in the way that it is now anyway,” Cordelia admitted, wanting to explain why she felt so unsettled by Buffy’s intrusive presence. “Everything that’s happened since Doyle’s death has kind of knocked me for six though, and I really need your support to help me get back on an even keel. That means having you demonstrably by my side, not sitting on the fence as you have been. It’s not so much about trust, more about our solidarity as a couple.”

Angel nodded solemnly as he took this in. “I suppose I have been trying too hard to keep everyone happy,” he conceded. “But you’re what matters most to me, Cordy, so if that’s what you need, then that’s what I’ll give.”

Buoyed by the conviction she could hear in his voice, the seer leaned down and pressed her lips gratefully to his. “Thank-you,” she whispered when their mouths parted, a single tear escaping to run down her cheek.

“No problem,” Angel replied, wiping the salty droplet away with the pad of his thumb. “You come first, okay?”

Cordelia nodded, and then tucked her head under his chin and exhaled deeply, glad that they had reached an understanding.

“You can forget most of what I said last night,” she said, a brief moment later. “There’s no need for you to publicly humiliate Buffy in that way – that’s my battle to fight. All I need you to do, is to make it clear to her that you’re not interested, okay? At the first chance you get mind, no more stalling, understand?”

“Yes ma’am,” the vampire responded, tightening his arms around her to reinforce his already verbalised promise. “Just do me a favour and hold off on the inevitable cat-fight until I’ve had a chance to speak to her, will you? She’s not going to listen otherwise – she’ll just think I’m trying to placate you.”

“Who says a catfight’s inevitable?” Cordelia asked indignantly. “I can be mature about this.”

The steady look and amused silence from her boyfriend said it all.

“All right, so maybe not,” she acknowledged. “I guess I do have this tendency to go off like firecracker, when someone steps on my territory.”

“Really? I’ve never noticed that before.”

“You’re not funny,” the seer said, slapping the grinning vampire lightly on the chest before her expression turned serious again. “That’s a big failing of mine, I suppose. I always react before I’ve had a chance to think things through properly. That’s gotta really irritate you sometimes.”

“Not so much, not enough to cause a problem anyway; I love that you’re so fiery and passionate. Maybe it would be a different story if you refused to talk about things once you’d calmed down, but, as it happens, the added benefits more than make up for the occasional downside.”

“And what benefits would those be?”

“Well, for one, that side of your nature has this delightful habit of asserting itself in other areas of our relationship,” the vampire replied, his voice dropping in both pitch and volume. “I wouldn’t dream of trying to stifle it, believe me. I maybe clueless sometimes, but I’m not *that* stupid.”

“Angel!” Cordelia protested, her cheeks tingeing pink when she realised what ‘other areas’ he was referring to.

Angel smiled as he felt the warmth of her blush against his skin, and dropped an affectionate kiss on the top of her head.

“Come on – we should get back to sleep,” he said, yawning as a wave of exhaustion came over him. “I have a feeling it’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”

By unspoken agreement, the two of them shifted position until they were lying face-to-face, their arms about each other and just inches separating them.

“Maybe we’ll explore some of those other areas in the morning,” Cordelia murmured, her eyes flickering closed as the potent pull of sleep started to overtake her.

“I’ll hold you to that you know,” the vampire warned, switching off the light and returning the room to its previous darkness.

“I know – I’m counting on it.”

“Well, I guess that’s all right then.”

***

It was approximately an hour past dawn when Angel woke again. The room was sufficiently light for the human eye to see, although the sun’s deadly rays were luckily filtered out by the blue drapes hanging at the windows. Propping his head up on his hand, he trailed his finger up and down Cordelia’s bare arm, watching as she slowly came awake in response to his soft caress. Her eyes opened and their gaze locked, the atmosphere between them instantly becoming charged with sexual energy.

Cordelia shivered under Angel’s intense scrutiny of her, her heart racing in anticipatory excitement as her nipples tightened to hard points. Held in thrall by her boyfriend’s dark-eyed gaze, a soft whimper escaped her lips when she saw him draw in an unneeded lungful of air, obviously savouring the scent of her budding arousal.

Cordelia Chase was not about to be undone by this potent display of male sexuality from him though, she was not a woman so easily subdued. With a great deal of effort, she pulled her scattered wits back into order and turned on her lethal feminine charm – to devastating effect.

“So – you like the fact that I’m fiery and passionate, do you?” she purred throatily, placing her palm over the vampire’s un-beating heart, her loaded question referring back to their conversation of a few hours before.

“Oh definitely,” was Angel’s emphatic response.

For a brief instant, the seer and vampire remained frozen in place before they simultaneously moved towards each other, meeting in the middle with a hard, almost brutal, kiss. Promptly seizing control, Angel forced Cordelia’s lips open with the insistent pressure of his mouth on hers, temporarily blindsiding her with the ferocity of his sensual onslaught.

As he tunnelled his fingers through her hair and pressed her down into the mattress with the heavy weight of his upper body, the seer clutched at his arms and curled her tongue enthusiastically around his, determined not to let him have full dominance of the heated embrace.

Long passion-filled minutes later, Angel felt the pressure of Cordelia’s hands against his chest and he reluctantly tore his mouth away from hers, responding to her unspoken demand to stop. Shoving him roughly backwards, the seer paused briefly to rip her top off over her head, and then fell on him again, peppering his eyes, nose and lips with nipping little kisses, her breath coming in sharp, frantic gasps.

Cordelia was overwhelmed by the need to claim Angel as hers, to send out a silent message to Buffy to keep her hands off what didn’t belong to her. To that effect, she slipped her hand down the back of his boxers and ran her palm possessively over the toned curve of his ass, her rising passion fuelled by the residual effects of their earlier argument.

She then moved her exploring hand around to the front and closed her fingers around his throbbing erection, prompting a low groan of pleasure to escape the vampire’s throat. Unimaginably pleased by this vocal response to her touch, the tempestuous seer began to stroke his hard flesh with a firm, fast rhythm, building up his arousal at a rapid pace.

“Jesus Cordy – slow down!” Angel hissed, grabbing hold of her wrist to curtail her actions.

With a whine of complaint, Cordelia tried to throw off his insistent grasp, wholly intent on her goal to have him at her mercy. This left her boyfriend no other choice but to use the advantage of his greater strength to restrain her, so he flipped her over onto her back and straddled her thrashing body with his much larger one.

“Cordelia!” he remonstrated sharply, forcibly pinning her hands down on the pillow as he held her captive between his powerfully built thighs.

Breathing heavily with exertion, Cordelia arched her back and provocatively thrust her exposed breasts out at him, her eyes glittering with an almost feral possessiveness as she strained against his hold. All the borrowed blood in Angel’s body rushed south with a vengeance, as he took in the highly erotic picture she presented. With her womanly curves, rosebud nipples and flawless golden skin, she was Aphrodite incarnate, and she roused his carnal impulses beyond measure.

With an almost predatory growl, he swooped down to take the tightly puckered peak of her left breast into his mouth, eliciting a sharp cry of pleasure from the writhing female beneath him. The pull of his mouth on her engorged nipple triggered a rush of moisture at the juncture of her thighs, and the air swiftly became saturated with the delicious aroma of feminine arousal, a happenstance that only served to aggravate the vampire’s, by now painfully erect, condition.

Despite her loudly vocal enjoyment of his attentions, Cordelia continued to resist against his restraint of her, relentlessly twisting and bucking her body under his. Her struggles were so convincing that Angel was finally forced to raise his head, needing to reassure himself that her performance was only intended to stir up his – and her – ardour further.

Seeing the concerned question in her boyfriend’s eyes, Cordelia temporarily reigned in her runaway passion to set his mind at rest. “And the Oscar goes to…” she murmured, an impish twinkle sparkling in her eye.

Angel relaxed. “You’re a wicked woman, Cordelia Chase,” he declared.

Drawing her hands together above her head, he wrapped the fingers of his left hand around both her wrists, purposely freeing up his right hand for other activities. Starting at the hollow of her throat, he trailed a meandering path down through the valley of her breasts to the slight swell of her lower abdomen. Then, turning his hand around, he slowly slid it under the waistband of her shorts, combed down through the damp curls guarding her apex with the tips of his fingers.

Her breath coming in heavy gasps, Cordelia tensed under him, waiting on tenterhooks for his next move. When it came, a few seconds later, she uttered a low breathless moan, her eyes fluttering closed as he delicately traced out the moist entrance to her body with his middle finger. “Oh God!”

His forefinger then sought out the throbbing nub of her clitoris and circled it several times with a light touch, causing her hips to jerk upwards in reaction to the stimulus. The maddening lack of pressure from the barely there caress triggered a wail of frustration from her as well. “Angel please!”

Satisfied with the reaction he’d provoked, the vampire removed his hand from between her thighs and put his fingers into his mouth, sucking her creamy essence from the digits with a low hum of appreciation.

“You’re doing this on purpose,” Cordelia accused, her mouth settling into a dramatic pout.

Angel leaned down and planted a sound kiss on her pursed lips. “That’s right. Now stay where you are.”

“What if I don’t want to?” she asked petulantly.

In answer, the vampire momentarily released one of her wrists from his grip, and then re-captured her briefly liberated fingers with his free hand. Easily winning the battle against her token resistance, he forcibly lowered their joined hands to cup the prominent bulge tenting his navy blue boxers.

“You want this, don’t you?” he asked, his tone darkly sensual.

“Don’t you?” he demanded again, when she stubbornly refused to reply.

“Oh god yes!” Cordelia cried out fervently, her efforts at defiance crumbling to dust in the face of her mounting passion for him.

A flash of triumph crossed Angel’s handsome face at her ardent exclamation. “So stay,” he instructed, returning her hand to join its partner above her head.

Allowing him to win this round, Cordelia docilely remained as directed, forcing herself to lie still as he mapped out the contours of her body with his cool hands, leaving a trail of goosebumps in his wake. Reaching his intended destination, the vampire hooked his fingers into the waistband of her shorts and tugged them down and off her slim legs, revealing her in all her naked glory.

Rising up on his knees, Angel separated her tanned limbs with his hands, and then stroked the backs of his fingers up and down her inner thighs, mercilessly teasing her with a deliberately light touch. Cordelia started to undulate her hips against the mattress in response, her pupils dilating to almost black as she wordlessly begged for more.

The vampire waited until she was about ready to slap him, and then ceased his infuriating caress and dipped his head to place a stream of nipping kisses along the soft skin of her inner thigh. Starting his exploratory journey at the inside of her knee, his lips travelled slowly downwards to where her thigh met the outside edge of her sex, where he sat back on his heels and watched, as her inner core contracted and expelled a wave of creamy arousal in anticipation of what was to follow.

“You’re always so wet for me,” he noted with satisfaction.

“Geez! Save all the commentary, will ya? Just hurry up and go down on me already!”

Angel grinned at her outburst, but obediently complied with her impatient request, eagerly lowering his mouth to her slick folds. As his probing tongue began to lap hungrily at her centre, Cordelia moaned in delight at the exquisite sensations this engendered within her, and reached down with one hand to clutch at his hair, firmly holding him to her to prevent any escape.

Spurred on by her response, the vampire relentlessly kept up his sensual assault, enthusiastically gathering up her sweet feminine juices on his tongue, while he lightly stroked her sensitive clitoris with the tip of his finger. His ministrations continued without respite, ultimately tipping his girlfriend over the edge into pure sensory overload.

Cordelia’s breathless moans turned into sobs of frustration, as his cool tongue stroked incessantly over her most intimate parts, keeping her endlessly teetering on the knife-edge of oblivion. Desperately needed the balm of orgasm to soothe the agony of unfulfilled ecstasy assailing her body, she bucked her hips strongly up into his mouth, demanding that he give it to her.

Angel could tell that she was rapidly approaching the limit of her endurance, so he took pity on her and deftly circled his tongue around the swollen bud of her clitoris, causing a powerful and instantaneous reaction from the over-stimulated seer.

“Oh! Oh God! Oh please!” Cordelia cried out loudly, throwing back her head and arching her lower spine as her muscles tensed in readiness for much needed release.

The vampire drew her hypersensitive nodule into his mouth and suckled hard, finally giving the incoherent seer what she wanted. As a direct result, she splintered apart under his lips with an impassioned scream of his name. “Angel!”

He loved it when she lost control in this way – she always surrendered herself to the moment so completely, holding nothing back from him. Thus, he felt a deep responsibility to protect her while her emotional defences were down. Crawling up the mattress, he lay alongside her, and gently brought her down from her high with whispered words of love and devotion.

While she recovered her senses, he kissed away the tears that she had involuntarily shed during her orgasm, and ran his hand up and down her spine to instil calm back into her trembling body. Cordelia gradually became aware of more than just the rapid thud thudding of her heart, and she opened her eyes, smiling her trademark cat-got-the-cream smile.

“Okay?” Angel asked quietly, tenderly cupping the side of her face in his hand.

“Yeah, I think so,” she whispered in reply, her hazel orbs still a little dazed from her earth-shattering climax.

The vampire kissed her softly on the lips, before his hand left her face and ran down the side of her neck. His fingers swept a path over her collarbone and down towards her cleavage, where he cupped the heavy weight of her full breast in his palm. Cordelia smiled inwardly as his fingers gently kneaded the softly rounded flesh, his thumb brushing back and forth over the puckered pink tip.

Covering his hand with one of hers to encourage his attentions, the seer shifted into a sitting position and pushed her boyfriend over onto his back, straddling his big, muscular body with her slighter form. Sitting astride his lower abdomen, she ran her fingers through her hair and locked her hands together high above her head, stretching out her muscles with a sensual shudder.

This action pressed the folds of her sex firmly against the vampire’s belly, and his stomach muscles quivered as the warm dampness from her recent climax moistened his sensitive flesh. Cordelia’s look turned distinctly predatory at his reaction, and she bent to nuzzle at his neck, her lips seeking out, and finding, one of his most responsive erogenous zones.

“Ahh!”

Angel groaned long and low, crushing her to him as her mouth latched onto his inactive pulse point and suckled hard. With one hand flat against in the small of her back, and the other cupping the nape of her neck, he held her tightly against him, until she finally lifted her mouth from his pale skin and circled her finger around the purple mark she’d made.

“Marking your property?” Angel asked, running his hands over curvy bottom and down the backs of her thighs, as she kissed up the column of his throat and over his chiselled jaw.

“Of course,” Cordelia replied unashamedly, not caring how possessive she appeared. “It’s about time a certain someone learned just who belongs to who around here. You’re mine and I want everyone to know it.”

She reiterated her passionate declaration with a hot, consuming kiss that heated the vampire’s blood with its wanton possessiveness. His inner demon stirred by the fiery embrace, Angel responded in kind, countering her claim of ownership with one of his own. His fingers slipped down between her thighs to probe at slick wetness, while he kissed her back with equal fervour.

Cordelia was breathing heavily when they eventually broke apart, her skin damp with beads of perspiration and her eyes gleaming bright with heady desire. “My turn,” she said resolutely, firmly removing his hand from between her legs, and smoothing the flat of her palms over the hard, muscular expanse of his chest with obvious relish.

Giving into the urge to taste the salty flavour of his skin, the seer bent to circle each of his flat male nipples with the tip of her tongue, her fingers lightly tracing out the outline of his ribs as she breathed deeply of his masculine scent. She then dragged her mouth down the length of his torso, causing the toned muscles of his stomach jump under her lips’ wet, tickling caress. Reaching his groin area, she looked up at him with decidedly wicked twinkle in her eye.

“My, oh my, now what do we have here?”

Angel still wore his underwear, but the cotton material did absolutely nothing to conceal the hard evidence of his desire for her. Cordelia teasingly ran her finger over the tent in his boxers, and his erection twitched under her touch, producing an answering throb between her own thighs.

“Mmm, I think I want me some of that. Get ’em off so I can get a proper look at you, big guy.”

Sitting up, the vampire dutifully shrugged off the dark blue garment, and offered it to her on the ends of his fingers. With a testy ‘humph,’ Cordelia snatched the pair of boxers from him and tossed them over her shoulder onto the floor, then moved to kneel between his bent legs as he reclined back onto the bed and nonchalantly folded his arms under his head.

Piqued by his blasé attitude, she purposely danced her fingertips up and down his inner thighs, mimicking his earlier actions, until he growled out her name in annoyance. “Cordelia!”

“Turnabout is fair play,” his girlfriend loftily informed him, her eyes sparkling with glee at his unmistakable frustration.

Angel couldn’t dispute that, so reluctantly remained silent, knowing that she would deliberately make him wait if he argued with her. Not quite finished teasing him, Cordelia mischievously blew a steady stream of warm air over his twitching sex, giggling as he bit his bottom lip to hold back the inevitable protest. Moments later – and much to vampire’s relief – she finally took the weeping tip of his erection into her warm mouth.

While she skilfully stroked her tongue over his penis’ sensitive underside, Angel closed his eyes and let out a strangled moan, fisting the sheets in his hands to stop himself from thrusting up hard into her mouth. Cordelia wasn’t shy or tentative in this regard, and her belief in her ability to please him, always added an extra level to his enjoyment of the act. Taking more of him in, she purposely added suction and pulled her lips back up his length, knowing that this action, performed repeatedly, was what gave him the most pleasure.

“Oh, so good! That’s it, keep going baby!” the vampire chanted mindlessly as her talented mouth moved up and down his hard shaft with increasing confidence.

After a minute or so of this though, his self-control was about ready to breach its confines, forcing him to reach down and tug lightly on her hair; indicating that, if she didn’t want things to end prematurely, it was time to call a halt to her torturously pleasurable attentions.

Cordelia released him from her mouth, but then shifted position and lowered herself down over his straining erection without any preamble. The move took Angel completely unawares, and he gasped as her inner walls unexpectedly surrounded his hard length with their deliciously tight-fitting embrace.

“Oh Jesus! Don’t move!” he hissed warningly, grasping hold of her hips to hold her still.

Screwing his eyes shut and gritting his teeth, he struggled valiantly to ignore the clamouring demands of his lower body, and eventually succeeded in getting his arousal back under control. Opening his eyes, he looked up at his contrite girlfriend with mild censure in his gaze.

“Sorry,” Cordelia said apologetically. “I had this desperate urge to feel you inside me, all of a sudden.”

“Waiting might have avoided the ‘Oh Shit!’ moment,” the vampire softly rebuked.

Cordelia’s mouth curled up at the corners at his ruefulness. “It was fun though,” she commented with cheeky wink.

“Cor-dee-le-ahh!”

“Shut up, Angel. I’m busy.”

With that playful admonishment, the seer leaned forward and braced her hands against his chest, rising up on her knees until only the tip of him remained inside her. She paused there for a moment, and then flexed her thighs and slowly began to ride him, her pace leisurely as she savoured the feeling of his thick length embedded deep within her core.

“Feel good?” Angel asked, watching her beautiful face suffuse with bliss as she revelled in the internal stimulation, caused by her slow, steady movements atop of him.

“Oh yeah! I love having you inside me, baby.”

Encouraged by her overwhelmingly positive response, the vampire moved his hand around from her hip and sought out the small erect nub at the joining of their bodies.

“What about now? Does that feel good too?” he queried, rhythmically stroking the pad of his thumb over her distended clitoris.

“Oh yes! Oh Angel! So good!” Giving vent to this low cry of pleasure, Cordelia arched her neck and thrust her breasts forward, little mewling sounds tumbling forth from her lips as she willingly cast herself adrift on a sea of pure erotic sensation.

“You are so beautiful,” Angel informed her hoarsely, moved – and immensely turned on – by her open responsiveness to their lovemaking.

Digging his heels into the mattress, he began to lift his hips in strong counterpoint to hers, relishing the exquisite feel of her hot channel sliding up and down his throbbing sex. The seer’s pace increased in tempo as her passion intensified, adding extra resistance to his penetration, and he groaned at the sheer pleasure of being at one with her. “Oh Cordy!”

As Cordelia hurtled towards her climax, she was inundated, once again, by the strong need to claim Angel as hers. “Tell me you’re mine,” she demanded harshly, opening her eyes and looking down into his face.

The fierce possessiveness in her gaze fired the vampire’s ardour to new heights, and he thrust hard and deep into her tight wet heat, yielding at last to the overpowering demands of his body.

“Tell me!”

Totally beside herself, the seer dug her fingers into his chest, insisting on an answer. Her manicured nails pierced his skin and Angel reared up to a sitting position in protest. Unintentionally vamping out, he roughly grabbed her face between his hands and crushed his lips to hers, kissing her hard.

“I’m yours,” he swore, his golden eyes boring deep into her hazel orbs as she rode him hard, her movements becoming increasingly frantic as she neared her release.

With a cry of satisfaction, Cordelia threw back her head and came apart in the vampire’s arms, clawing at his shoulders and drawing blood with her fingernails as she lost all control of her senses. “Oh yes! Mine!”

Angel cupped her shoulders in his hands and dropped his ridged face into the soft pillow of her cleavage, finally surrendering what was left of his self-control. Letting loose with a long drawn out groan of completion, he rode out the violent storm of her orgasm with her, emptying his cool seed inside her milking body until he had no more to give.

For long minutes afterwards, the couple stayed wrapped around each other, their bodies shuddering and quaking in the wake of their explosive climaxes. Angel was the first to recover and he raised his head and looked down into his girlfriend’s face, gently stroking his fingers over her rosy cheek to rouse her from her glassy-eyed reverie. The seer’s colour was still high, her flushed face framed by damp tendrils of chin-length dark hair.

“Whoa!” Cordelia exclaimed, as she came back to herself with a jolt.

“Whoa about covers it.”

“Sorry – had a seriously scary girlfriend moment there.”

“Tell me about it,” Angel agreed with a smile, his voice devoid of anything resembling reproach.

Despite this lack of censure from him, the seer’s face clouded over as the reality of her passion-fuelled actions hit home. “I hurt you,” she said regretfully, running her fingers over the scratch marks on his shoulder blades

“It’s nothing, they’ll heal,” the vampire replied, casually dismissing her worries. “Hey, come on, I told you – I like you fiery, remember?”

“But…”

“No buts,” Angel said firmly, silencing her with a finger over her lips. “I’ve been known on occasion to have similarly possessive moments myself. Just as long as that sort of thing stays in the bedroom, then we don’t have a problem. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Stop worrying about it then.”

“I’m not, not really – it’s just kind of scary to lose control like that.”

Angel lay back down on the bed and pulled her down on top of him, trailing his fingertips up and down the bare flesh of her back in a soothing caress. “I will always be there to catch you, sweetheart, I promise,” he vowed quietly.

Cordelia pressed her warm lips into the hollow of his throat. “Tell me you love me,” she murmured against his skin.

“I love you.”

“Forever?”

“To forever and back again.”

“Can you come back from forever?” she asked curiously.

Angel laughed and hugged her close. “I’ll tell you what – how about we find that out together?”

“I’m up for that,” Cordelia said, snuggling down with a contented sigh. “I love you too, you know.”

“Yeah baby, I know.”

Part 19

Posted June 23, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Crisis of Faith. 16   1 comment

 Part 16

Wesley winced as the Plymouth unavoidably hit another rut. The street alongside Caritas was pitted worse than a teenager’s acne scarred skin, and every jolt sent shooting pains through his stiff and aching muscles.

“Sorry,” Angel apologised for the umpteenth time.

The vampire was carefully manoeuvring his vehicle through the minefield of potholes decorating the road, but it would take the car metamorphosing into a hovercraft to avoid all the bumps. Therefore, when the shiny black Plymouth finally drew to a stop directly opposite the private side entrance to Caritas, Wesley breathed a grateful sigh of relief.

The muffled boom-boom sound of the bass from the Karaoke machine could be heard outside in the alleyway, mixed together with, what could only be described as caterwauling from someone – or something – murdering Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer.’

“I guess Lorne decided to open up the Club tonight,” Angel said, as he walked around to the passenger side to help his injured friend out of the car. “I thought he might shut up shop for another day after everything that has happened.”

Cordelia huffed disapprovingly at his comment. “Given that attitude, it’s hardly a surprise that Angel Investigations isn’t what you’d call a profit-making venture, now is it?” she said, caustically remarking on the vampire’s total lack of business acumen. “Do you have any idea what a place like this can make in one night?”

“Not really.” Angel casually shrugged off her insult. To be honest, as long as it paid the rent, he wasn’t particularly bothered about his company’s overall turnover. Ultimately, it wasn’t what his un-life was about.

The young seer rolled her eyes in despair at her boyfriend’s complacent attitude. She was not the materialistic creature she once was, but the waste of a commercial opportunity still irked her. She had learned the hard way the truth of the cliché: ‘Money can’t buy you love,’ however. Having lived in the lap of luxury for almost eighteen of her nineteen years, this past year of relative poverty with Angel had easily been the happiest time in her life, in spite of their ups and downs.

Clutching a bag of medicinal provisions in her right hand, Cordelia slipped her other arm around Wesley’s waist, and Angel supported him from the other side as the three friends slowly made their way over to the blue-painted door.

Cordelia unlocked the door, and with the ex-watcher leaning heavily on the vampire for support, they awkwardly navigated the way up the narrow staircase to the private quarters above.They did eventually make it to the sanctuary of the bedroom however, and Wesley sank down on the edge of the bed, completely drained of energy by the short, painful walk from the car.

Glancing around, he noticed that every surface was positively gleaming, clearly polished with a vigorous hand. Two vases of pleasantly smelling flowers sat on the dresser, while fresh linen and extra pillows swathed the big double bed.

“Somebody’s been busy,” he remarked to his companions.

Cordelia and Angel exchanged an uncomfortable glance, and he was quick to decipher the identity of his chambermaid.

“I don’t want her doing penitence,” he said gravely, his forehead creasing with concern.

“I know, and nor should she,” Angel agreed. “But you have to let her express her remorse somehow, Wes.”

“But…”

“I know none of what happened was Faith’s fault,” the vampire quickly interrupted, holding up his hand to halt the ex-watcher’s protest. “But she’s not thinking straight right now. I’m not suggesting we reinforce her opinion in any way, but she needs some sort of outlet for her mixed-up feelings. You reject her apology and she’ll only retreat back into herself.”

“Alright,” Wesley reluctantly concurred with Angel’s logical assessment of the situation. “I’m not having her waiting on me hand and foot though.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll make sure things don’t get out of hand,” the vampire reassured the Englishman. “Just allow her to help you out a bit, okay?”

“Okay,” Wesley nodded and closed his eyes, too tired to argue any further.

“You need to get some rest,” Cordelia said, noticing her friend’s obvious fatigue.

“Do you want a drink or something?” Angel asked solicitously, as his girlfriend moved to help Wesley out of his jacket.

“Yeah – a hot chocolate would be good,” the ex-watcher replied, his speech slurring a little as a wave of exhaustion washed over him. When Cordelia knelt down and started to unbutton his shirt however, he jerked himself awake again.

“I can do that myself!” he protested, hurriedly grabbing hold of her wrists to stop her nimble fingers in their tracks.

The seer insistently swatted away his hands away. “Pfft! Look at you – you can hardly move. What’s the problem? You’re not going commando, are you?”

“Certainly not!” Wesley replied, his blue eyes wide with outrage behind his wire-rimmed glasses.

“Well, stop being such a stuffy prude then. What do you think I’m gonna do? Point and say ‘Oo look, Wesley’s got man parts under his boxers’.”

“Angel!” Wesley made an appeal to the grinning vampire for moral support.

It was then that Cordelia chose to play her trump card. “Of course, if you’d rather Angel helped you…” she slyly suggested.

It got the desired effect; the two male friends immediately broke eye contact, shifting uncomfortably and awkwardly clearing their throats. The seer rolled her eyes in amusement, her hazel orbs sparkling with silent laughter. Men!

“Didn’t think so,” she commented with a wide grin, and resumed helping Wesley change into his striped pyjamas.

Shaking his head at his girlfriend’s impudence, Angel chuckled as he left the room to make the hot drinks. If it were anyone else, his possessive vampiric nature would have kicked in straightaway. This was Wesley though, and he trusted the man completely, which was not something he could say of many people in his life. The ex-watcher was one of the privileged few, however.

As he trudged down the stairs, it occurred to Angel that he probably should let the others know they were back, so he went through into the noisy bar to seek them out. Immediately spying Buffy, Willow and Riley seated at a table in the middle of the heaving club, he quickly headed over towards them.

“You’re back!” Buffy twisted round in her seat, her face lighting up with a wide smile, as her slayer senses informed her of the vampire’s quiet approach.

As he observed the vacant look of adoration that crossed his ex-girlfriend’s pretty face, Angel felt a distinct uneasiness. He was no stranger to obsession, and the sight of it shining brightly in Buffy’s blue eyes filled him with untold alarm. He really had to talk to her before this situation got out of hand, he knew, but had no real wish to humiliate her in front of her friends. He decided, therefore, to hold his tongue until he got the chance to speak to her privately.

“Hi Angel!” Willow greeted the disconcerted vampire with a bright smile. “This place is so cool – so much better than the Bronze!”

The witch was gazing around the Karaoke Club, a look of rapt fascination on her face, and Angel had to smile at her child-like wonderment – she was like a kid in a candy store.

“I’m sure Lorne’ll be delighted with that seal of approval,” he told her.

“How’s your friend? Was he well enough to be discharged from the hospital?”

The vampire’s gaze settled on Riley as he politely enquired after Wesley’s health. The soldier sat next Buffy, with his fingers curled around hers and their joined hands resting on the tabletop. The past few days’ events had severely challenged Riley’s black and white view of demon world, and a troubled expression marred his handsome face as he reluctantly absorbed the in-your-face reality of Caritas.

The soldier’s confrontational attitude towards Angel did seem to have died down though – perhaps because he’d satisfied himself that the vampire had no residual romantic interest in Buffy. He also seemed oblivious to the slayer’s growing fixation on her ex, and for that, Angel was profoundly grateful – a physical altercation with her boyfriend was something he could definitely do without.

“He seems okay, considering. Cordy is helping him get settled upstairs,” he said in answer to Riley’s question before he asked one of his own. “Where’s Faith?”

“Umm – I think she might have gone upstairs, I don’t know,” Buffy replied.

“You think she might have?” Angel’s voice held a slight note of accusation in it.

“I asked her to go out patrolling with me, but she wasn’t up for it,” the slayer said defensively. “You know how she gets when she doesn’t want to do something.”

“Yes but… Never mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Shaking his head in exasperation, Angel turned on his heel and strode purposefully across the room towards the door, through which he’d entered a few minutes earlier.

“Angel…” Willow ran after him and caught hold of his arm to halt his determined progress.

“Faith went for a walk,” she continued off the vampire’s enquiring look. “I offered to go with her, but she said she needed some time alone to clear her head. I think she was trying to psyche herself up to face Wesley.”

Angel nodded, grateful for the information. “Thanks Will.”

“Try not to be too hard on Buffy, okay Angel? Faith has always been so mentally strong, and now… just because she doesn’t know how to deal with it, doesn’t mean she doesn’t care.”

“I know,” Angel sighed, running his fingers through his short, spiky hair. “My patience with her is starting to wear a bit thin, I guess. It’s been seven months since I left Sunnydale, even longer since we split up – I just wish she’d move on already.”

Willow experienced a sinking feeling in her chest on hearing this. She’d hoped that Buffy would have realised the futility of her romantic notions of a reunion with her former love by now. The strength of Angel and Cordy’s bond was plain for all to see, but the slayer obstinately continued to be blind to it, or – to be more accurate – deliberately chose to ignore what was right in front of her face.

“Why, what’s she said?” the witch asked the visibly irritated vampire, with a heavy sigh of resignation.

“Nothing directly – it’s just a feeling I get, that’s all. I could be imagining it, I suppose, but I don’t think so. I do not need this right now, Willow. Cordy and I…”

Angel broke off and shook his head. “Things have been difficult between us lately,” he quietly admitted. “We’re working it out, but I don’t want anything to rock the boat.”

“Look, I’ll try and talk to her, okay?” Willow offered. “I’m not sure she’ll listen though.”

“No, I’m not sure she will either. I just don’t get why she’s acting this way – she has a boyfriend for god’s sake. Why is she coming on to me?”

“Maybe because of what you represent to her,” Willow suggested. “You were the big forbidden love, you know? And I think, in some crazy way, she feels safe playing that tragic Juliet role. It’s easier than coping with the realities of adult life and her slayer duties, I guess.”

Angel frowned as the witch’s words struck home. Buffy was a girl, who’d had a great deal of responsibility thrust upon her at a very young age. Having watched over her since she’d first learned of her destiny – he knew, better than anyone else, the comfort that she’d taken from the sheltered cocoon of her High School life. With that security blanket gone, and Faith and himself no longer backing her up, was it really that surprising that she was clinging desperately to the past?

“She’s gonna have it tough, that slayer. She’s just a kid. The world’s full of big, bad things,” Whistler had said to the vampire, after giving him the first glimpse of the mission that had so significantly altered the direction of his life.

“I wanna help her,” he’d replied earnestly. “I want… I wanna become someone.”

Angel had not really understood at the time who Whistler was, but with everything that had happened since, he now recognised the hand of the Powers That Be in his meeting with the immortal demon. The encounter had started him out along the long road towards his redemption, and it also meant that Buffy was the subject of his first assignment. That gave him pause for thought – had he completed that original mission satisfactorily?

While he’d stood steadfastly by the young slayer’s side throughout those difficult first years, he had effectively abandoned her once their entwined lives had gone in different directions. He did not feel guilty about that though – at the time, it had been the right thing to do, for all concerned. Now that she was a grown woman, it was important that Buffy took full responsibility for her prophesised destiny. He could not be her crutch forever; she had to learn to stand on her own two feet at some point.

He freely admitted that he could have offered her significantly more moral support in recent months, than he had though, but their personal situation had made that extremely difficult. Angel had deliberately distanced himself from his former girlfriend since he and Cordy had moved to LA, and there was no denying that there had been selfish reasons behind those actions. He had wanted his new relationship to develop without the spectre of his doomed liaison with Buffy hanging over it at every juncture.

The vampire let out a heavy sigh, torn between the need to live his own life, and the pull of his responsibilities as a warrior for the greater good. Severing all ties with Buffy just wasn’t an option for him – both on a professional, and a personal, level. He could never dismiss the significant role that the slayer had played in bringing him to this point in his life – she had been the one to open up his deadened heart to the power of love, and without that, he would still be the empty shell of a person that he used to be.

They were in this fight together, come what may, and he honestly wanted her as his friend, as well as his comrade-in-arms. Until she accepted that their romantic relationship was well and truly over though, he couldn’t see how that could happen. If it came down to a choice, then Cordelia would win every time.

“Are you okay? You’ve gone all Mr Broody-Face.”

Willow’s perpetually cheerful voice broke into Angel’s reverie, prompting him to shake himself out of his blue funk.

“I’m fine – just thinking too much, I guess,” he said, a rueful smile hovering on his lips.

“I should go and make Wes his hot chocolate, and then go and look for Faith,” he added, purposely changing the subject.

“She’s not your responsibility anymore, you know,” Willow said quietly as the vampire started to turn away from her.

“Buffy, I mean,” she clarified off his quizzical look. “Don’t let her cause problems for you and Cordy.”

“There’s no fear of that,” Angel said. “But I still care about her, and I want to help her if I can. Her behaviour is not exactly normal, Willow. A little harmless flirting is one thing, but this… it seems to be hovering on the verge of obsession, and that worries me.”

Willow nodded solemnly, feeling a bit guilty. She had been so wrapped up in her own life since starting college and meeting Tara, that she hadn’t had much time for her best friend.

“I’ll talk to her,” she reiterated her earlier promise to the vampire.

Angel reached out to squeeze the witch’s shoulder in silent gratitude, and then turned and retreated into Caritas’ living quarters. Pushing open the kitchen door, he flipped on the light and promptly jumped out of his skin, when he illuminated a still figure sitting at the small table in the centre of room.

Faith lifted her head out of her cupped hands, and gave him a watery smile of greeting. The slayer’s face was pale, and she had dark bruise-like shadows under her red-rimmed eyes.

“Hey,” she said, her voice barely audible.

“Hey yourself,” Angel replied calmly, choosing not to comment on the fact that she had been sitting in the pitch dark. “Didn’t you hear us come in?”

“Yes” came the brutally honest reply.

“I’m making hot chocolate – you want some?” Angel asked, as he filled the kettle with water and put it onto boil.

“I guess,” Faith replied, her tone of voice flat and dull.

Pulling out a jar of instant hot chocolate from the cupboard, the vampire twisted open the lid and cautiously sniffed at the contents. Grimacing, he promptly replaced the container on the shelf, then continued his search through the cupboards, pleasantly surprised to find the kitchen well stocked.

“What are you doing?” Faith’s innate curiosity got the better of her, as she watched him assemble a small collection of ingredients on the counter-top.

“Making hot chocolate – the proper stuff. Cordy reckons it’s the ultimate comfort food,” Angel answered. “Here – make yourself useful and put four mugs of milk into that saucepan, and then you can chop that chocolate into small pieces.”

The slayer got up and did as she was asked, watching fascinated as the vampire vigorously boiled a chile pepper in a small amount of hot water, then strained the result liquid into a cup and set it aside. He then threw a split vanilla bean and cinnamon stick into the pan of milk, and heated the concoction until it was just starting to bubble.

Turning down the heat, Angel added the chopped-up chocolate, and a spoonful of honey, to the pan, and whisked the mixture until the chocolate dissolved. He then turned off the flame and carefully removing the spices. Finally, he stirred in a small amount of the chile-infused water, and poured the finished drink into four mugs with a dramatic flourish.

“You’re going to make someone a great wife someday,” Faith teased, as she took a small sip of the hot chocolate from the cup that Angel handed to her.

The drink was sweet and creamy in flavour with an added kick of spice – definitely the ultimate comfort food. Closing her eyes, she breathed in the wonderful aroma of the thick, chocolate-y beverage, letting the delectable smell calm her overwrought senses.

“Come on – we should take this upstairs before it gets cold.”

Faith’s whole body tensed, and her eyes snapped open in sudden panic, “I can’t!”

“Yes, you can,” Angel told her in a firm but gentle tone. “It’s not going to be as bad as you think, I promise.”

Handing her another steaming mug, he picked up the other two drinks in one hand, and then ushered the stressed slayer out of the kitchen, a reassuring hand against the small of her back.

Knowing she couldn’t avoid the dreaded reunion with Wesley for much longer, Faith reluctantly ascended the stairs in front of the quietly insistent vampire. She was sick to the stomach with nerves though, her hands shaking so much that she was forced to tighten her grip on the cups, to avoid spilling the hot drink all over herself.

“Wes does look a complete mess, but the doctor said he would make a full recovery,” Angel said, deciding it was probably best to prepare her a bit before she faced her watcher. “And he doesn’t blame you for what happened, so stop worrying about it, okay?”

“I still feel responsible, Angel.”

“I know, but you shouldn’t. I understand that it’s hard to separate yourself right now, but it’ll get easier with time.”

Faith failed to make a response to that, having stopped in her tracks when faced with the closed door of the bedroom. Behind that simple wooden panel lay what she had worked herself up into such a frenzy of worry over. Taking charge of the awkward situation, Angel stepped around the slayer’s frozen form, and entered the bedroom ahead of her.

“What took you so long?” Cordelia asked from where she sat, perched on the edge of the bed.

“I got a bit distracted,” Angel said shortly, choosing not to elaborate further on the reason for the delay. He was undecided on whether he should tell her about what was going on with Buffy. He had an inkling that it would make the situation infinitely worse.

Frowning at her boyfriend’s sharp tone, Cordelia felt a frisson of fear run through her in response to the torn look she could see in his darkly expressive eyes. Her gaze moved past him to where Faith was standing framed in the doorway, her face pasty-white with fear, and the seer quickly set aside her own concerns to aid her friend.

Rising to her feet, Cordelia gently drew the trembling slayer into the room. “Hey, is that Angel’s scrumptious hot chocolate, I can smell?” she asked, keeping her voice deliberately cheery. “Oo Wes – you are honoured.”

“Yeah, I only make it for a very select few,” Angel interjected with a grin.

“I helped,” Faith blurted out, and then immediately wished the ground would open up under her. Geez! I sound like that ditzy chick in Dirty Dancing – ‘I carried a water-melon.’

“Thanks,” Wesley said steadily, from where he was propped up against a mini-mountain of pillows. He held out his hand for the drink, his concerned blue eyes never leaving the slayer’s drawn features.

Faith hesitated for a moment, and then lurched forward and placed the mug into his outstretched hand. Taking in the black and blue welts and scabbed-over cuts marking Wesley’s face, her eyes immediately filled with tears of remorse, and she broke down, unable to hold things together any longer.

“Oh God! I’m so sorry,” she sobbed, sinking to her knees and burying her face in her hands. “I should have done something, I should have!”

Setting his drink on the bedside cabinet, Wesley reached out and soothingly stroked his fingers through the messy waves of his slayer’s dark hair. “You did the right thing,” he assured her. “What happened wasn’t your fault – it was all the Orb’s doing.”

“But I could have stopped it.” Faith said, her anguished words muffled by her fingers.

“And you did – when the time was right for you to do so.”

“But you… I tortured you, Wes.”

“No, the Orb did,” he quickly refuted her statement. “Besides, I’ll live so there’s no real damage done, now is there?”

“How can you say that?” Faith raised her tear-streaked face, aghast at his calmly accepting attitude towards his suffering.

Wesley shrugged, “Because it’s true.”

The slayer wished she could accept this at face value, but she simply could not. What Wesley had been through, there was no way that he would be able to brush it under the carpet so easily – she knew it and so did he.

Seeing the war of emotions playing over her features, Wesley sighed. “All right so it’s not, but I know you’re sorry, and I absolutely refuse to lay any blame for what happened at your door. Without what you did seven months ago – and last night for that matter – we would all be under the control of the Orb right now.”

“Wes is right, Faith,” Angel said. “Sometimes being what we are means that we have to make hard choices. It’s tough, I know, but necessary all the same.”

“You would all have to be annoying reasonable, wouldn’t you?” Faith griped good-naturedly, her voice still thick with tears.

“I believe that’s what us watchers are for – to temper our slayer’s rampant over enthusiasm,” Wesley gently teased, trying to lighten the mood a little. He was simply too tired and emotionally exhausted to deal with the lingering after-effects of his – and Faith’s – ordeal, at present.

The slayer’s tears overflowed again at his words, and she automatically leaned over to give him a hug, mindful of his painful injuries.

“I just remembered – I don’t do hugs,” she mumbled against Wesley’s neck moments later, as he rubbed his hand soothingly up and down her shuddering back.

“So I see,” came the soft reply from her watcher. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone – your reputation is still intact.”

Angel and Cordelia smiled at each other at this, and then sensing that their presence was no longer needed, they quietly left the room, closing the door behind them.

“They are going to be okay, aren’t they?” Cordelia asked for some reassurance from her boyfriend.

“It’ll take time, but they’re gonna make it through, I’m certain of it,” he replied, drawing her close and placing a gentle kiss in the centre of her forehead.

They stood in silence for a few moments, and then the seer tipped her head back to look up into her boyfriend’s handsome face, as she slowly became aware of the underlying tension in his stance.

“So, what’s going on?” she demanded. “And don’t even think of saying ‘nothing’, because I know you.”

Angel briefly closed his eyes, and then opened them again to look down into Cordelia’s upturned face.

“All right, I tell you. Just don’t freak out, okay?”

Part 17

Posted June 23, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Crisis of Faith. 14   1 comment

Part 14

“We haven’t done this in a while,” Cordelia murmured, her voice taking on a dream-like quality.

Angel was moving a soapy sponge in long smooth strokes over the golden expanse of her back, and her eyes were closed, her chin dipped down towards her chest. The seer could feel the tension draining from her muscles as her body slowly relaxed under his tender touch, the effect of his ministrations utterly hypnotic.

“No – I don’t suppose we have,” Angel concurred quietly, taking down the showerhead and rinsing away the surplus suds with the warm jets of water.

“I missed it.”

“Yeah, me too baby.”

Showering or bathing together had become a regular ritual for the couple during the months that they’d been together. They used it as a way of reaffirming their emotional closeness and, while the habit often led to lovemaking, it sometimes did not. This private pastime had fallen by the wayside during their estrangement, and they both were keen to re-establish it in the wake of their longed-for reconciliation.

As the vampire leaned over and replaced the showerhead on its hook, Cordelia twisted around to face him, tilting her head back to look up into his deep brown eyes. Angel smiled down into her honeyed gaze, stroking the pads of his fingers over the dewy skin of her back until his hands came to rest in the hollow at the base of her spine.

“I love you,” he whispered, bending to capture her upturned mouth in a sweet kiss.

The seer and vampire’s lips moved harmoniously together in a slow, sensual glide, their tongues slipping out to curl possessively around each other as their embrace deepened in its loving intensity.

Cordelia’s need to breathe eventually overrode the magnetic draw of their kiss however, and the two reluctantly pulled apart, releasing twin sighs of regret. Standing with their arms loosely around each other and their foreheads touching, they smiled goofily at one another, looking deep into each other’s eyes.

Cordelia finally lowered her gaze and leaned forward to kiss the hard muscle of her boyfriend’s breastbone, her soft lips caressing the healing wound marring the pale skin of his chest.

“You’re not even going to have a scar,” she groused, circling the tip of her finger around the swollen and reddened flesh.

“It’s not fair; I got stuck with this eye-sore,” she added, wrinkling her nose in distaste as she indicated the silvery rebar scar on her lower abdomen.

“Cordy, it’s hardly even noticeable,” Angel reassured her, dropping to his knees and pressing his mouth to the circular mark on her belly to emphasise his point. He lightly circled the small scar with the tip of his tongue, cupping her round bottom in his big hands to hold her still.

Lifting his lips away from her silky skin, the vampire mapped out her hourglass shape with his hands, slowly rising to his feet as he did so. His cool palms skimmed over her shapely thighs and curvy hips, lingering briefly in the dip of her waist before continuing onwards on their voyage of discovery.

As his thumbs teased the sides of her full breasts, Cordelia sighed in pleasure, her nipples tightening to hard peaks in response to his soft caresses. His gentle fingers delicately traced out the vertebrae in her back, danced down the length of her spine, then swept over the smooth curve of her bottom before finally settling on the tops of her hips.

“You’re the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen,” he huskily remarked, once his tender exploration of her body was complete.

“Flattery will get you everywhere, big guy.”

“I certainly hope so,” Angel replied in jest, his chocolate eyes sparkling merrily at her.

He was rewarded with a light slap to the buttocks for his trouble. “Hey – I’m more than just your sex toy, you know.”

“You are?” he asked, all wide-eyed and innocent. “Damn – where did I go wrong?”

“You are *so* not funny.” Cordelia rolled her eyes in a long-suffering gesture before playfully sticking her tongue out at the smirking vampire.

Angel chuckled and engulfed her in a big bear-hug, affectionately nuzzling at her neck with teasing lips. “I love you,” he murmured against her skin.

“I love you too,” the seer returned sincerely.

When he released her, Cordelia stretched up on her tiptoes and pressed a soft kiss to his mouth, then reached out to retrieve the discarded sponge. Lathering it up with fresh shower-gel, she ducked under her boyfriend’s arm, shifting position so that she could wash his back as he had hers.

As she moved the sponge, in small circular motions, over the muscular planes of his shoulders and upper back, Angel sighed – he had missed this ease of intimacy. Shutting Cordelia out had been a defensive mechanism, an automatic response to his fear of losing her. In the end though, it had only caused him – and her – further heartache; he couldn’t believe he’d been so stupid.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted out, all of a sudden.

“It’s okay – I know you were only kidding about the sex toy thing.”

“No – I didn’t mean that.”

“Oh.”

Cordelia looked down at her feet, shifting uncomfortably – she wasn’t sure she was ready for the big talk just yet. Forcibly swallowing her apprehension, she resumed her washing of the vampire’s broad back, steeling herself for the conversation that was to come.

“You really want to do this now?”

“It’ll be much easier once we make it over this first hurdle, I promise. We have to start talking about the reasons why we let what happened come between us, Cor. If we keep putting it off because it’s ‘not the right time’ or whatever, we may never get round to it, and letting things drift would be a serious mistake.”

The seer nodded, then realising he couldn’t see her acquiescence in their current positions, voiced her agreement instead. “Alright – so start by telling me what you’re sorry for.”

“For being such a complete idiot and taking out all my internal frustrations on you. For shutting you out when things got rough – you tried so hard to connect with me and I wouldn’t let you in.”

“Okay, so pushing me away was a big ol’ dumbass thing to do, but you did have a right to be angry with me. I should have told you about Styjasimok’s prediction, and I didn’t.” Cordelia sighed and wrapped her arms around his middle, laying her cheek against the tattoo on his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

Angel covered her hands with his, squeezing her fingers gently. “I know you are, baby. I was very angry with you for a while, but it honestly didn’t last very long. After a few days, all the pent-up fury, that I directed your way, didn’t really have anything to do with you personally.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I think it’s the total injustice of the situation that really gets to me. The pain you go through because of the visions – it’s not right. You don’t deserve to suffer like that.”

“I thought we agreed we would be completely honest with each other from now on,” Cordelia gently chided him, knowing there was significantly more to it than simple anger at the unfairness of her vision headaches.

Angel immediately tensed up at her quiet reproach, so she switched tactics, deciding to approach the issue from a more oblique angle.

“That test in the Gauntlet – the one with my double – why did you have to face that?” she asked, deliberately softening her tone, since she knew that acknowledging his fears was extremely difficult for the naturally reticent vampire.

Angel tightened his grip on her hands before eventually answering her query in a low hesitant voice. “You don’t know Cordy – you can’t see,” he choked out painfully. “The visions have a much worse effect on you than they ever did on Doyle. He was half-demon, he could handle the pain, but you…”

The vampire broke off and shook his head before continuing. “I’m so scared that being human makes you vulnerable to physical effects from the visions. The inevitability of losing you is something that I’m going to have to face sooner or later, but I want it to be much, much later. It’s way too soon right now.”

“The PTB’s wouldn’t have let Doyle pass the visions on to me if they were going to hurt me,” Cordelia told him assuredly. “Styjasimok said it was my destiny to become your seer, and I truly believe he was telling the truth. What we’re doing – Angel Investigations, your mission – it feels so right inside; I can’t explain why, it just does.”

The vampire let out a short laugh, “I wish I could be that trusting Cordy, I really do.”

“If you can’t trust your own instincts, then try to trust in mine Angel, please. Maybe the visions are more painful for me, but I can handle them, so quit worrying so much. And what makes you think that losing me is inevitable? I plan on sticking around for a *very* long time, broody boy.”

Angel turned around and drew her close, burying his face in the wet, silken strands of her hair. “Time is relative when you’re immortal and over two hundred years old,” he explained quietly. “You’re not going to live forever. You’re human so you will die eventually – there is no escaping from that fact.”

“Life without you is something that I’m going to have to prepare myself for, but I don’t want to ruin what we have by dwelling on it right now. If I seem over-protective sometimes though, that’s the reason – I have to do my utmost to keep you safe from harm; I need you in my life too much to lose you prematurely for no good reason.”

Cordelia tightened her arms around him; wishing she could ease his angst over her eventual death, but knowing it wasn’t possible. He was right, someday she would leave him; that was a certainty that she could do nothing about. Since there wasn’t anything she could say to make things better, she held her peace on the heart-rending subject.

“I thought you didn’t want me to be your seer, cus you thought I wasn’t good enough for the job,” she admitted to him instead.

Angel was silent for a moment as he absorbed this information. “So that’s what Wesley was getting at,” he eventually replied.

“Huh?”

“He told me that you were making all sorts of wrong assumptions, but he never got round to filling me in on what they all were. I guess I can see how you could construe that from my behaviour – it couldn’t be further from the truth, mind.”

“Yeah well, I get that *now*” Cordelia mumbled into his chest, sighing as she ran her hands up and down his bare back. Pulling out of his embrace slightly, she tipped her head back to look up at him.

“I think that’s enough heavy talk for the time being,” she decided. “First hurdle is over with – we should take a break before we face the second one.”

“Alright,” the vampire agreed softly, tenderly brushing a few damp strands of dark hair out her eyes. “We’ll talk some more tomorrow, okay?”

“It is tomorrow,” Cordelia reminded him with a teasing grin.

“Well the day after tomorrow then,” Angel said, crossing his eyes in mock irritation at her nit-picking.

They both laughed, each grateful to release the tension that their emotive conversation had built-up inside. As their merriment died down, they instinctively leaned in to share another kiss, drawn together like opposing poles on a pair of magnets.

This second kiss turned out to be more passionate than the first, and Cordelia smiled when she felt Angel stir against her belly in involuntary response. Moving her hand downwards, the seer actively encouraged her boyfriend’s lower body reaction to their embrace, and was exorbitantly pleased when his sex twitched and swelled in her teasing grasp.

My gorgeous vamp is so easy sometimes, she laughingly observed to herself.

The aroused vampire let out a tortured groan, and firmly removed her playful hand from his raging hard-on, anxious to stop himself from erupting all over her fingers like a pubescent teenager.

A second later, Cordelia felt her back flush against the shower wall, and her eyes shot open when her warm flesh collided with the disparate temperature of the cool tiles behind her. A wave of goose bumps travelled the length and breadth of her body, pleasantly prickling at her skin.

“Can you be quiet?” Angel asked, bending low to whisper in her ear, sending shivers down her spine with the seductive tone of his voice.

The seer grew hot, his words reminding her that Faith was asleep in the other room, literally a few metres away. Making love with the possibility of discovery excited Cordelia more than she cared to admit, and she nodded her consent before the more conservative side of her nature could put the kibosh on the naughty idea.

Insistent fingers immediately slipped up between her thighs to trace out the moist opening to her body with a light touch, and she gasped at the deeply erotic sensation. Biting her lower lip to hold back the loud moan that threatened to escape her throat, she squeezed her thighs around the probing hand between her legs, silently begging for more.

Angel duly obliged, pushing two fingers up into her slick core while he expertly circled her throbbing clitoris with his thumb. With his free hand, he cupped the heavy weight of her right breast in his palm and bent to draw the distended rosebud nipple into his mouth.

Pressing her palms flat against the tiled wall, Cordelia arched up into his touch with a breathless moan, her body in sensory overload from the twin sensations of his suckling lips on her breast, and his fingers and thumb stroking at the juncture of her thighs.

Unable to help herself, she began to gyrate against his stroking fingers, hooking her tanned leg over his hip to aid her wanton movements. While his mouth suckled hard at her turgid nipple, Angel instinctively swept his hand around to her back, pressing firmly between her shoulder blades to help her to maintain her balance.

Now their naked bodies were in much closer proximity, Cordelia could feel the cool steel of his erection digging urgently into the soft flesh of her belly, and she purposely rubbed herself against him, the friction triggering a ten-fold increase in the vampire’s ardour.

His self-control pretty much deserting him, Angel released her breast with a wet pop and buried his face in the warm valley of her cleavage, letting loose with a groan of frustration. The guttural sound buzzed against the seer’s hypersensitive nerve endings, sending shooting sparks of desire down towards her moist centre.

“I need to be in you,” he demanded in a gruff tone.

“Yes,” Cordelia agreed, her breath coming in sharp pants. She was more than ready to have him inside her, regardless of the brief amount of foreplay.

The instant her breathless consent left her lips, Angel gripped her around the waist and effortlessly lifted her up against the shower wall. Caught off guard by his sudden actions, Cordelia wound her long legs around his hips for balance and clutched frantically at his shoulders, her fingers digging into the ropy tendons there.

“Angel…” she gasped nervously, conscious of the jets of water raining down over them, making the shower surface slippery underfoot.

“It’s okay, I’ve got you,” the vampire grunted in reassurance.

Wrapping one arm firmly around lower back, he placed his other hand flat against the tiled wall for leverage, and then slowly lowered her down over his thick length, groaning as her hot channel enclosed him in its familiar tight-fitting embrace.

He couldn’t quite believe how well their bodies fit together sometimes – his full length filled her to the edge of discomfort, but not beyond. This meant that he didn’t have to temper his penetration for fear of hurting her, and he delighted in his freedom to savour their bodies’ exquisite fit with a gratifying lack of inhibition.

As Angel began to thrust into her, his hips pumping in a steady rhythm, Cordelia looped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder, trying to stifle her fervent cries. The delicious friction from his deep, hard strokes, made her toes curl and her eyes roll into the back of her head, and she had to fight the desperate urge to scream out her spiralling pleasure at the top of her lungs.

Angel’s mouth latched onto her throat and suckled hard at her pulse-point, his lips drawing her sweet blood to the surface and marking the skin. The vampire’s fascination with her neck didn’t scare the seer in the slightest though – he had never bitten her, not once, not even when his demon came out to play during some of their more passionate lovemaking sessions.

In an attempt to better understand the man that she shared her life with, Cordelia had done some reading up on vampire-lore, and was aware that if Angel marked her as his human mate, it would be different to a normal type of vampire bite. She wasn’t quite ready to make the commitment his claiming of her would entail however, so she had yet to broach the delicate subject with him.

The seer knew she would have to be the one to ‘propose’ – Angel would never ask her; not because he didn’t want to, but because he probably thought she’d find the whole idea repulsive. She didn’t though – he was a vampire and she loved him, period. She just hoped he could do it in a way that didn’t leave a too visible scar on her neck.

Cordelia gave only scant thought to the subject of his claiming of her now however. Her present focus was entirely on her boyfriend’s rigid sex, and the way in which it was driving deep into her molten core, stretching her vaginal walls to maximum pleasurable effect. His hard thrusts were growing more erratic in nature, and she realised that he was getting close to the brink.

“Touch yourself, baby,” Angel suddenly growled in her ear.

Responding to the vampire’s hoarse demand, the seer slipped her hand between their bodies and sought out her throbbing nub, stroking it with two fingers and coaxing her spiralling arousal to match her lover’s in intensity. As he continued to plunge into her with reckless abandonment, her circling fingers brushed against his swollen shaft, and she could feel the wetness of her feminine juices easing his passage into, and out of, her welcoming body.

“Oh Shit – I’m gonna cum!” Angel warned harshly, ploughing into her at an increasingly frantic pace, his self-restraint vanishing into thin air. “Oh yeah – here it comes baby!”

The incoherent vampire slammed into her one last time, and then his body stiffened, the chords in his neck straining, as he exploded with strangled moan. “Cordy! Oh yeah! Oh, feels so good!”

Cordelia felt his sex pulsating rhythmically inside of her as he ejaculated hard and repeatedly, bathing her hot core in his cool essence. She was skirting on the periphery of ecstasy herself, but needed something more from her partner before she tumbled over the edge.

Completely spent, Angel forced his hips to move in a few clumsy thrusts, but it was enough, and the seer finally splintered apart in his arms, crying out her pleasure while her inner walls fluttered blissfully around his softening erection.

“Oh Angel! Oh God, I love you!”

When his girlfriend sagged in his hold, Angel gently pulled out, supporting her as she lowered her trembling legs back down to the floor. With their arms wrapped tightly around each other, they rocked together under the luke-warm spray of the shower, slowing recovering from their emotional and physical high.

“I’m gonna need another shower now,” Cordelia grumbled, once she’d caught her breath enough to speak. “You’ve made me all hot and sweaty again.”

“And I should feel bad about this, why? Really not gonna complain about having to wash that gorgeous naked body of yours again, you know.” Angel replied, with a suggestive wiggle of his eyebrows.

“Pervert much!”

“Raging nympho much!” the vampire laughingly countered his girlfriend’s semi-indignant exclamation.

“Hey!”

The sharp resonance of a slap sounded first, and then peels of tinkling feminine and deep masculine laughter rang out, setting up a joyous echo that bounced off the four walls and reverberated endlessly around the small room.

***

“Buffy?”

Riley rolled onto his side and propped up his head on his good hand, keeping his injured arm tucked close to his bare chest. Buffy sat on the windowsill, gazing unseeing out into the early morning sunlight, her thoughts obviously elsewhere. The warm yellow glow shone through the slightly grubby window, allowing him to see the silhouette of her nude form through the thin cream robe that she wore.

At the sound of her boyfriend’s voice, the petite slayer turned to regard him with wide, glassy eyes, their azure hue seemingly rimmed with a violet melancholy. Riley wasn’t stupid; even though she had participated enthusiastically in their lovemaking, he had sensed her emotional detachment. He needed to know what was going on with her.

“Are you all right?” he asked quietly.

“I’m fine,” Buffy replied, her strong, sure tone giving no hint of the conflicting emotions that churned inside. “Just too tired to sleep, I guess.”

Riley relaxed a little when her lips curved up into a faint smile – maybe he was imagining things; maybe this wasn’t about him at all. He didn’t know Faith, but he understood that Buffy shared a deep affinity with the girl. They were both slayers, the only two of their kind in the world. If things had not gone according to plan, Buffy would have been forced to kill her friend tonight. No wonder she seemed so psychologically off balance.

“Come back to bed,” he encouraged in a soft mellow tone. “You should try to rest up a bit, even if you can’t go to sleep.”

Buffy sighed and hopped down from her perch, crossing the room on silent feet to stand by the king-size bed. She untied her robe and pushed the satiny material off her shoulders, letting the thin garment slither over the smooth contours of her body to pool about her feet on the floor.

Climbing onto the mattress, she turned her back to him and lay down on her side, her cheek resting in her upturned palm. Riley inched forward and spooned his muscular body around hers, placing a hand flat on her toned belly and drawing her back into his embrace.

He could feel the slayer’s underlying stress in the way that she held herself, her muscles still taut and her body tensed up. Trying to relax her, he dropped a gentle kiss on her bare shoulder and another in the crook of her neck, as he trailed his fingers up and down the pale golden skin of her arm in a calming gesture.

They lay still together like this for a long time, neither saying a word as they watched the fiery golden ball of the sun rise higher and higher into the bright blue sky. Riley savoured the contented feeling that came from holding his beautiful lover within the circle of his arms, whilst his girlfriend desperately tried to convince herself that it was in his arms that she truly wanted to be.

Buffy’s unrequited love for Angel was turning into an out-and-out obsession that was gradually consuming her from the inside out. Denial didn’t work; her heart and soul yearned for the dark, mysterious vampire with an intensity that would not be ignored.

Unbeknownst to the oblivious couple, who were enthusiastically making love in the small room across the way, the young slayer’s inability to let go was starting to pose an insidious threat to their renewed happiness. Buffy’s blind fixation was a silent peril that neither Angel, nor Cordelia, were fully aware of.

***

The door creaked open and two figures tiptoed into the shadowy dimness of the bedroom. The heavy drapes were thick enough to block out the daylight from the outside, so that the only illumination came from a small night-light that stood on the dresser.

Faith had rolled over onto her side, curling her lanky frame into a foetal position, the self-protective pose indicative of her fragile state of mind. She was still fast asleep though, undisturbed by the sounds of pleasure that had filtered through the bathroom door, despite the vampire and his seer’s efforts to hold them in.

Angel steered Cordelia gently over towards the couch, a guiding hand on the small of her back, while she rested her head wearily against his supportive shoulder. Once she had settled back against the blue sofa cushions, he tucked a spare quilt around her exhausted body, and then brushed the backs of his fingers over her cheek in a warm, loving gesture. The seer made a discontented sighing sound when he bent to kiss her forehead though, and he pulled back, an expression of concern crossing his handsome features.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, keeping his voice low to avoid waking Faith.

“I want you to sleep here with me,” Cordelia demanded, her tiredness making her petulant.

The vampire scanned the couch – the piece of furniture was long, so at least his feet wouldn’t hang off the end, but it was also very narrow. “There’s not enough room for two,” he pointed out.

“There is if you be my Angel mattress.”

Angel smiled – he didn’t want to sleep alone either. Thanks to his insomnia, combined with his deliberate avoidance tactics, they’d spent far too many nights apart in the past few weeks.

“Okay,” he quietly agreed.

Cordelia pulled back the quilt, shifting to allow him to slip under the covers. Once he was comfortable, she settled herself on top of him, her head tucked under his chin and her warm legs tangled up with his. Angel arranged the quilt over them, and then wrapped his arms around her slim waist, resting the tips of his fingers on the curve of her butt.

“I guess I could get used to having a Cordy blanket,” he remarked drowsily, dropping a kiss on the top of her head.

The vampire felt his girlfriend’s warm, wet lips caress the skin of his throat in response, and then her breathing lengthened as she finally succumbed to the potent pull of the Sandman. Sighing contentedly, Angel gathered her closer in his arms, drifting off into the land of nod himself, a few short minutes later.

Part 15

Posted June 23, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Crisis of Faith. 12   1 comment

Part 12

Wesley was confused – something was wrong with this picture. Angel was remarkably composed for a man who had just lost the love of his life, especially considering the fact that he was standing directly in front of her killer.

The vampire’s eyes shifted towards him then, and the puzzled Englishman was witness to the gamut of emotions swarming in those deep brown orbs. Steady resolve was the dominant trait, with implacable anger running a close second, but Wesley saw no grief in that unwavering gaze and that completely mystified him.

“Cordelia?” he forced the name past his split lips, his voice thin and reedy in quality.

“She’s fine,” Angel quickly assured his friend.

“Angelus! You’ve gone and spoiled mine an’ Wesley’s little joke now. How very unsporting of you,” the Orb-possessed slayer pouted, and then began to laugh.

“What joke?” the vampire demanded, his tone hardening as he turned his attention back to his adversary.

“Me an’ watcher-boy have been having so much fun while we’ve been waiting for you to show, haven’t we darlin’?”
The Orb bent down and deliberately pushed the blade of her knife into the ex-watcher’s throat, puncturing the skin and drawing fresh blood to emphasise her point.

“You didn’t kill her,” Wesley stated the obvious, white-hot anger boiling up inside of him.

“No, I didn’t – not yet anyway. Your pathetic reaction to the news of her demise was highly amusing though. You ought to keep an eye on this one, Angelus – I think he has the hots for your mate.”

Angel ignored the Orb’s taunting, and instead got ready to strike at their enemy, his dark eyes darting about the apartment as he assessed the battleground. Wesley was currently being used as a human shield, so the vampire slowly began to walk across the room, forcing the Orb to move round to the side of the chair to keep him within her line of sight.

“What’s the matter, vampire? Cat got your tongue?”

“No – just waiting for you to say something that’s actually worth responding to.”

Having cottoned on to Angel’s tactics, Wesley chose that moment to throw himself backwards, tipping his chair over with a loud crash. The vampire reacted instantly, kicking the slayer hard in the midriff to knock her away from her fallen hostage. The Orb/Faith landed heavily on her backside and slid a short way across the polished wooden floor, before rolling over and springing agilely to her feet. Seizing a makeshift stake from the kitchen counter, she rushed at Angel with her weapon held aloft, a low battle cry erupting from the back of her throat.

The momentum of her charge drove him backwards into a supporting pillar, but the vampire caught her up-raised arm and wrestled the stake from her tightly clenched fingers. The grappling pair crashed into the structure with such force that the plaster cracked and came loose, raining down over them in a shower of dust and white hailstones.

As the apartment shook with the power of the vampire and slayer’s violent skirmish, Wesley ceased his desperate efforts to get loose of his bindings and, using his hands against the floor, painfully levered his chair around to call out to his friend.

“Angel – Faith, she…”

Unfortunately, the rest of the ex-watcher’s words were drowned out by the vampire’s hoarse yell of pain as the Orb drove her knee up into his torso, hitting his stab injury dead-on and opening up the healing wound again. Clutching at his chest, Angel doubled-over, and the Orb took the opportunity to stalk back towards Wesley, determined to shut him up before he gave too much away.

Sensing the Orb’s murderous intent, Faith tensed in preparation to do everything in her – albeit limited – power to save her watcher’s life. Her planned intervention wasn’t necessary though – the Powers That Be’s Champion was not so easily beaten.

Sucking in an unneeded breath, Angel straightened and moved with super-human speed to grab hold of the slayer’s upper arms. Effortlessly lifting the struggling woman off her feet, he tossed her to the other side of the room as if she was nothing more than a rag-doll. She ended up sprawled facedown on the plush sofa, where she lay dazed, stunned into momentary inaction by her crash landing.

“Faith – she’s awake in there. She doesn’t have much control, but she can help you. You just have to tell her when,” Wesley gasped out in a rush, as Angel bent down and ripped the rope bindings away, freeing his friend in one fell swoop.

The vampire nodded in understanding, and then helped him to his feet, “Go – get out of here.”

“But…”

“Wes, don’t argue, just go!” Angel ordered, pushing the ex-watcher towards the door as he turned back to confront the Orb.

Brushing the messy tangles of long hair out of her red glowing eyes, the enraged brunette rolled onto her back as the vampire cautiously approached.

“Is that all you got, Angelus?” she goaded, hooking her booted feet under the rim of the glass-topped coffee table that stood in front of the couch. “Time to get in the game, vampire.”

With that, the possessed slayer kicked the table up into Angel’s face, shattering the glass-top and sending shards of broken glass flying in all directions. As he lifted his hands to protect his eyes from the sharp missiles, she launched herself at him, wrapping her legs around his waist and slamming him into the opposite wall.

Grunting as her strong thighs tightened painfully around his ribs, Angel immediately reversed their positions so that it was her back, and not his, that was now against the wall. Vamping out with a low growl, he grabbed her chin between his fingers and deliberately head-butted her in the centre of her forehead. The force of the blow caused the back of the slayer’s skull to strike the solid brick behind her, and her grip on him loosened a little, enabling him to rip himself free from her vice-like hold.

While she regained her footing, the vampire strategically backed away, his stance still poised to counter anything that she might throw at him. The Orb blew a stray strand of Faith’s dark wavy hair off her face as the two circled each other, each waiting for the other to pounce, their predatory eyes locked together in a silent battle of wills.

“You won’t kill me – you can’t,” the Orb stated with an air of supreme confidence.

“And what makes you think that?”

“If you kill me, then it’ll mean ending your precious slayer’s life too. Your soul won’t let you do that.”

“You *really* don’t know me at all, do you? I’ll do what must be done – just like Faith did when she tricked your sorry ass into infecting her seven months ago.”

“You’re bluffing!”

“Just try me, Ravaclesh,” Angel deliberately taunted.

“Come on – I’m waiting,” he added in a condescending tone, crooking his fingers at her in an arrogant come-hither gesture.

Whoa! Way to push those buttons, Angel! Faith observed as a red mist of pure unadulterated rage descended over her and the Orb’s combined mind.

“You can’t take me! No one can take me!”

Screeching like a banshee, the Orb threw a clumsy punch at Angel’s jaw, which he easily dodged before expertly kicking her legs out from under her, toppling her over onto her back. As he reached down to haul her upright, the possessed slayer tucked her knees into her chest, and thrust out hard with her feet, catapulting the vampire over the top of her head and into the glass display cabinet behind her.

Shaking broken glass from his clothing, Angel scrambled to his feet, but stumbled back when the Orb swung a wooden chair at him. The piece of furniture splintered apart as it connected with the solid muscle of his chest, and the vampire roared as the throbbing pain from his stake wound flared up again.

Breathing heavily with the exertion of their fight, the Orb bent and picked up a shattered chair leg from the floor, breaking it in half over her knee. Having created a new weapon for herself, she advanced on Angel, the impromptu stake clutched tightly in her right hand.

“You’re gonna die!” she spat out in fury, her eyes burning hot with the Orb’s red fire.

The vampire quickly grabbed a standard lamp that stood nearby and fended off her attack, shoving the circular base into her abdomen. Knocking the stake out of her hand with a well-aimed kick, he finished off the combination of moves with a spinning kick, which projected her up over the sofa so that she landed, with a dull thud, in front of the double window.

Angel immediately vaulted over the couch after her, determined to keep the upper hand now that he had finally manoeuvred the Orb/Faith into the position that he wanted them in. Oblivious to the vampire’s plans, the possessed slayer flipped her body upright using the heel of her hands, landing lightly on her feet with the nimbleness of a cat.

“Come on!” she encouraged, a hint of psychotic madness creeping into her shrill voice.

“Okay honey – seeing as you asked so nicely,” Angel replied, barrelling into her, his broad shoulders leading the way.

Banding an arm about her waist, he lifted her off the floor, keeping their forward momentum going until they burst out through the window, and plummeted headfirst to the street two storeys below…

A short while earlier…

After Angel had left them to go and confront the Orb, Buffy paced in tight circles in the alleyway outside, her body tense and her slayer senses on high alert. Although she could see the logic in her ex-boyfriend’s two-phased plan of attack, sitting on the sidelines and waiting for something to happen just wasn’t part of her genetic make-up.

As the crash, bang, and wallop sounds of Angel and the Orb’s ferocious duel drifted down from the apartment above, the instinctive need to be in the thick of things niggled constantly at the slayer, and she literally had to force herself to remain where she was.

“Maybe I should go and…”

“No!” Cordelia stepped in front of the on-edge Buffy, barring her path. “Angel said to stay here. If you go charging in there, all guns blazing, you might knock him off balance. That could get both him, and Faith, killed.”

“Cordy’s right, Buffy,” Willow chipped in, placing a calming hand on her friend’s shoulder. “Angel’s plan makes sense. The binding spell will open up a crack in the ground, so we have to force the Orb out of the apartment. We need to end this out here – unless we want that building to cave in on top of us, and everyone inside, of course.”

“I know Will, I know. I just can’t stand this enforced inactivity – it’s driving me crazy. Angel should have let me go up there; he’s still injured from the Gauntlet for god’s sake.”

“Pfft! Like a measly little stab wound has ever stopped him before,” Cordelia commented scathingly, “And, besides, the Orb wants him, not you. Funny – why do I get the impression that’s what’s really bothering you, Little Miss I’m-the-Slayer-so-everyone-must worship-me?”

Buffy’s anger flared at that, but Cordelia pushed past her before a hot-tempered retort could escape her lips.
“Oh my God, Wesley!”

As he staggered drunkenly out of the apartment block’s side entrance, the seer crossed to her friend’s side with a small cry of alarm. Every inch of Wesley’s exposed skin appeared to be either cut or bruised, and his torn shirt was soaked through with so much blood that its original pale blue colour was barely evident amidst the patches of red.

“Oh God! What did she do to you?” Cordelia whispered, touching his swollen and lacerated face with gentle fingers.

“I’m fine,” the ex-watcher reassured her, leaning heavily against the wall to stop his weak, jelly-like, legs from buckling under him. “The potion, did you…?”

“Yes, Willow and Lorne made five bottles worth – Angel’s got two, Buffy’s got one, and the rest are in here for safe keeping,” the seer answered, holding up her shoulder bag to indicate the location of the final two bottles of potion.

“Good, good,” Wesley said, nodding in approval. “What about Willow? The spell?”

“All up here, don’t worry,” Willow said, tapping her temple with two curled fingers.

“Everyone get back!”

Buffy shouted out a quick warning, just as the window above shattered and blew outwards, sending a shower of glass cascading down over them.

Angel and Faith hit a dumpster with a deafening crash, and then rolled off the dented metal in unison, both of them coming to their feet in one continuous motion.

“Oo! Now it’s a party! Cool!” the possessed slayer commented sarcastically, casting a quick glance about her before she jumped for a length of drainage pipe, which was sticking out of the wall a metre or so above her head.

Using the metallic pipe as a parallel bar, she circled it once and drove the balls of her feet into Angel’s sternum, sending the vampire flying across the alleyway to smash into the opposite wall. Dismounting her improvised gymnastic apparatus with a perfect somersault, she then twisted around to confront an advancing Buffy.

“You wanna take me on then, slayer-girl? Come on, sweetheart – make my day.”

The petite slayer took the bait and swung a clenched fist at her fellow slayer’s face. The Orb easily blocked the blow with her left forearm, and countered with a punch of her own. That blow glanced off Buffy’s left cheekbone as she twisted her face away to avoid the strike. Pivoting around on one foot, the blonde slayer kicked her opponent in the ribs, causing the Orb to double-over as the air rushed from Faith’s lungs with a whoosh.

While the two slayers continued to trade kicks, punches, and insults; Angel pulled himself to his feet and beckoned Willow over towards him.

“You ready?” he asked her.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” the redheaded witch replied, her eyes wide and apprehensive.

“Okay then – let’s get this done,” the vampire declared, reaching into his inner pocket to retrieve a bottle of the orange-coloured exorcising potion.

Twisting off the cap, he placed his thumb over the neck of the plastic container, and moved into position behind the fiercely battling slayers.

“Buffy,” he called out, holding up and showing her the item in his hand.

The blonde slayer acknowledged him with a slight nod and danced back a few steps, forcing the Orb to close the gap between them. Her blue eyes carefully judging the correct distance, she waited until the possessed slayer came back within range, and then launched herself high into the air, folding her knees up into her chest in a tucked position. Whipping her legs out straight as she back-flipped out of the move, Buffy skilfully kicked the Orb/Faith directly into Angel’s waiting embrace.

The vampire immediately slammed his captive face-first into the side of the building, digging his knee against the small of her back and holding her immobile against the wall with the heavy weight of his muscular body.

“Faith – you have to drink,” he said urgently in the slayer’s ear, as he brought the bottle of orange liquid to the hissing woman’s lips.

You are so going down, bitch! Faith vowed vehemently to her hated body-jacker, once more wresting control of her mental and physical faculties away from the evil stone.

The slayer coughed and spluttered a little as the thick bitter liquid hit the back of her throat, but she determinedly swallowed it all down, ignoring the howls of rage that reverberated around inside her head, as the Orb sensed its grasp on her mind slipping away.

Welcome warmth spread through Faith’s veins as the exorcising potion latched onto the Orb’s nefarious presence in her bloodstream and removed its chilling influence, allowing her body temperature to return to its normal 37 °C. The magical concoction began to react violently with the stone’s liquid essence, sending electrical bolts of energy sizzling through every nerve ending in her body.

Luckily, she didn’t have to endure the shooting pains for very long, because her vision quickly turned to grey and she slipped into unconsciousness, becoming blissfully unaware of what was happening to her.

Angel hurriedly stepped back as Faith began to convulse, her limbs flailing about, and her head jerking on her neck like a puppet on a string. Catching her in his arms as she toppled backwards, he sank to the ground, cradling her head in his lap to prevent her from splitting it open on the hard cobblestones. He gasped as deep lesions suddenly appeared on the slayer’s face and neck, her flesh cracking open in order to expel the unwanted parasite that was infecting her body.

The vampire watched in horrified fascination as a stream of minute red particles burst forth from the openings in the slayer’s skin, and began to swirl in a mini-whirlwind above their heads. The rotating dust-cloud emitted a high-pitched whine as the grains coagulated together and reconstituted themselves into the solid form of the Orb of Ravaclesh.

Risking taking his eyes off the hovering stone for a moment, Angel glanced down into Faith’s pale face, and saw that the open and weeping wounds on her body had vanished. The slayer’s eyelids flickered and opened, and she stared up at him, her brown eyes dazed and confused.

“It’s okay – you’re alright,” he whispered reassuringly, brushing her hair out of her eyes and lightly stroking her cheek.

The ruddy glow from the Orb, illuminated the dark alleyway with its dirty red light, and even Angel shivered as the temperature plummeted several degrees in direct response to the evil presence in the air. The stone hung like a miniature fireball above them for a few moments, and then began to float with purpose towards the small group huddled together in the building’s entranceway, obviously searching for another warm body to inhabit.

“Willow!” Angel called out sharply.

“Stop!” the witch demanded, as she leapt out in front of the Orb, her titian hair all aglow with the stone’s crimson fire.

The Orb came to an abrupt standstill in response to Willow’s command and she raised her hands towards it, her palms facing outwards. The air around the stone shimmered with a bluish light and a snarl of rage emanated from the Orb as it fought against the magical restraints that she had imposed upon it.

While the convoluted Latin phrases of the binding spell began to trip off the young witch’s tongue, the rock’s light flickered and waned and a shrill shrieking began to echo around the alleyway, forcing them all to cover their ears to block out the awful sound.

Willow’s slender shoulders heaved with the effort of having to hold the Orb in check behind her hastily erected force field, as she struggled to concentrate on the difficult incantation that she was reciting. However, her confidence grew with every word, and the witch’s voice slowly increased in volume. When her spell finally reached its climax, she raised her face to the night sky and cried out loudly – in English this time – to the heavens above:

“Let the earth be torn asunder, and that which was unlawfully rent from its grasp, be once again returned to its rightful resting place.”

A deep groaning rumble started from somewhere far below, and the ground began to shudder and shake as the resonant sound spiralled to a deafening crescendo. Hooking both arms under Faith’s shoulders, Angel scrambled backwards, as the earth began to crack and buckle upwards, near to where the two of them sat. The jagged fissure widened and extended lengthways until it ran from one side of the backstreet to the other.

In order to prevent the violent earthquake from unbalancing her and breaking her vital concentration, Willow levitated her slim form half a metre off the ground. With her arms held up in supplication towards the angry stone above her head, she blinked and her eyes turned white as the powerful magic flowed through every cell in her body.

Bringing her outstretched arms down to her sides with a swift cutting gesture, the young witch finally let her force-field drop, and the bluish light surrounding the Orb disappeared into the ether. Before the stone had the chance to react however, Willow’s voice rang out loudly, bringing the binding spell to its conclusion.

“I command thee to return from whence thou came. Begone, I command thee. Begone!”

A column of brilliant white light shot up from the fissure in the ground, encapsulating the Orb within its bright radiance, before it retracted back into the earth as rapidly as it had emerged. The crack in street snapped shut with a thunderous boom, and then absolute silence descended like thick woollen blanket over the darkened alleyway.

Her iris’s returning to their natural hue, Willow sank wearily to her knees as she let go of the iron self-control that had been required to keep the potent white magic in check. Hanging her head so that her red hair curtained her face, she drew in deep calming breaths attempting to instil peace back into her drained mind and body.

Angel could feel Faith shaking like a leaf in his arms, so he ran his fingers gently through her hair trying to calm her down. “Ssh – it’s all right, you’re safe now.”

“Oh God!” the slayer suddenly lurched upright, tearing herself out of the concerned vampire’s embrace. Doubling-over on her hands and knees, she vomited the contents of her stomach onto the ground, and then began to sob, wrapping her arms around her head and curling up into a tight ball of anguish.

“Is everyone okay?” Angel called out, as he knelt next to the weeping Faith, softly rubbing her back with long soothing strokes.

The others gathered around as, one by one, they answered in the affirmative.

“Is that it? Is it all over?” Cordelia asked Willow, her hazel eyes questioning.

The exhausted witch gave the anxious seer a faint smile and then gasped out in horror, when Wesley suddenly slumped heavily against her. Buffy and Riley rushed forward to help support the ex-watcher, and together they carefully lowered him to the ground.

Wesley was unconscious, his eyes closed and his face a pasty white colour. Cordelia dropped to her knees beside her friend and took his hand in hers, shocked to find his skin cold and clammy to the touch.

“Wake up Wesley,” she whispered urgently to him, shaking him gently with her free hand. “Come on Wesley. Please – you have to wake up!”

Part 13

Posted June 23, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Crisis of Faith. 10   1 comment

Part 10

“This small talk is all very entertaining, but I think it’s about time we got down to business, don’t you?”

Immediately noticing the subtle shift in Angel’s demeanour, Lilah Morgan gathered her frayed wits about her and forcibly pushed down the hot arousal stirred up by his close proximity.

“We’ve been instructed to offer you a deal,” she told him, shooting a quick glance at Lindsey. “The Senior Partners are willing to hand over details of the slayer’s whereabouts in exchange for your discretion on certain matters.”

“Discretion?”

“They want you to look the other way where a number of future projects are concerned,” Lindsey spelled out the terms in black and white for the vampire.

“Thought as much – and if I don’t agree?”

“Then you’ll pay the price that the Orb has set instead.”

“Which is what?” Buffy moved forward a step, her hands automatically going to her waist in a stance that, despite her slight stature, was full of power and intimidation. Unimpressed, Lindsey simply smiled congenially back at the petite slayer.

“Don’t bother, Buffy,” Angel cut in when he saw her start to shift into aggressive mode, infuriated by the lawyer’s blasé response to her deliberately threatening body language. “They’re not going to tell us – this is Hell’s Law Firm, remember? They don’t know what the word ‘honour’ means.”

Buffy reluctantly backed down. “The clock is ticking, Angel. We’re rapidly running out of time to rescue Wesley; maybe you should think about…”

“No!”

“What?” the slayer swung around to look at an appalled Cordelia.

“No Angel, you can’t,” the young seer implored, moving to stand in front of her boyfriend. Reaching out and taking his forearms in her hands, she looked up at him, her hazel eyes beseeching.

“This is your mission; you can’t turn a blind eye to their evil activities simply to save a bit of time. Wes and Faith, they wouldn’t want that – you know they wouldn’t. You said it yourself – the Orb is testing us, so play its game and play it to win. Don’t try to fix the contest – it’ll only come back to bite you on the ass later on.”

“Relax baby, okay?” Angel murmured quietly, palming Cordelia’s earnest face in his hands and dropping a soft kiss on her upturned lips. “I don’t have any intention of dancing to their tune. The Orb may be evil, but it’s playing by the old rules and I have a certain amount of respect for that.”

He brushed the backs of his fingers gently over the soft skin of his girlfriend’s unblemished cheek, then straightened and turned to face their enemies, “Forget it. No deal.”

Lindsey shrugged, “Fair enough,” he agreed nonchalantly. “I never believed you’d go for it anyway. You’re so noble it makes my teeth ache.”

Ignoring the pointed little dig from his nemesis, Angel chose to remain focused on their objective, rather than getting sidetracked by Wolfram and Hart’s petty mind games. “Let’s get on with this – what does the Orb want?”

“It wants you and the slayer to ‘Run the Gauntlet’ and obtain the information for yourselves.”

“How very trite,” the vampire shook his head in sardonic amusement.

“Well, what did you expect? The stone has been trapped in the Hellmouth for centuries, it hasn’t exactly moved with the times. We did suggest a few adjustments to spice things up however, which the Orb agreed to.”

Angel’s brow furrowed at that, his chocolate eyes narrowing with mistrust. “What does that mean?”

“If you and the slayer want your friends to leave with you, then they’ll have to ‘Run the Gauntlet’ too. Otherwise they stay here at Wolfram and Hart,” Lilah gleefully informed the coldly furious vampire. “I’m not sure what use we have for Ken over there, but the eyes of a seer we can definitely exploit to our advantage. Such a shame you’re so overprotective – you really should have left your little playmate at home, you know.”

Angel immediately erupted into game face at Lilah’s taunting, and grabbed her by the throat, slamming her up against the wall. Incensed, he thrust his ridged face into her line of sight, tightening his fingers around the lily-white skin of her neck.

“Like to play games, do you Lilah?” he growled threateningly from between clenched teeth, his golden eyes burning with rage.

Smelling the fear – and arousal – coming off the woman that he held in his iron grip, Angel bent to speak in her ear, his voice so low that no one in the else in the room could hear his murmured words.

“You know that thing about me that has you creaming your panties in my presence, Lilah? It ain’t *never* gonna happen, sweetheart; I’m really not that desperate.”

“But Angelus…”

“Angelus is effectively me, or hadn’t you worked that one out yet? Tsk, tsk – I thought you lawyers were supposed to be smart. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you could ever replace Cordelia. Why would we bother with a cold bitch like you, when we can have that warm, sexy and – let’s face it, honey – much younger siren in our bed every night?”

Feeling his captive stiffen in anger at the callous and insulting rejection, Angel laughed mirthlessly. “Oh dear – have I hurt poor old Lilah’s feelings?”

Running the forefinger of his free hand over the rapidly thrumming pulse-point on her neck, he continued to talk to his hostage in a cold menacing tone.

“You seem like an ambitious woman, so I’ve no doubt that you and I will cross paths again. One word of advice though – don’t try to come at me through Cordelia. It would be a *very* bad move career-wise, because I will bring you – and the rest of Wolfram and Hart – down, if you even think of trying that again.”

Finally releasing the stunned female from his hold, Angel turned towards Lindsey, who was still leaning casually against the desk, not having made – nor intending to make – any move to help his colleague.

“Point us in the right direction,” the vampire demanded tersely, impatient to get things moving.

“Go to the end of the hall and take the elevator to Level Zero.” Lindsey replied. “Have a nice day, won’t you?”

“Come on,” the vampire said to his friends, inclining his head towards the still open door. He frowned when Cordelia strode boldly across the room to confront Lilah instead.

“I think we should get one thing straight, lady,” the seer declared hotly, her hazel eyes blazing with anger and her hands spanning her curvy hips. “He’s mine, so keep your evil skanky ho hands to yourself, got it?”

“And what are you going to do about it if I don’t?” Lilah asked contemptuously, looking down her nose at the furious brunette. “I don’t really think you’ve got what it takes to hold onto an experienced vampire like Angelus, little girl.”

Cordelia’s clenched fist whipped out to connect with the corner of the smug lawyer’s jaw, and Lilah reeled back, lifting her fingers to her split lip in open-mouthed shock.

“You’ve got yourself one hell of a fire-cat there, Angel,” Lindsey commented jovially as the vampire wrapped an arm firmly around his seething girlfriend’s waist and dragged her out of the room.

“Tell me about it.” Angel replied, rolling his eyes comically before he firmly shut the door behind them.

Once they were alone, the vampire span Cordelia around to face him, taking her shoulders in his hands. “What happened to the count to ten rule?” he demanded.

This sort of thing had happened before, when several damsels in distress had shown him a little too much gratitude for Cordelia’s liking. Her over-the-top reaction had cost them several pay cheques until, after one particular case in point, Doyle had slyly pointed this out to the excessively possessive brunette.

Cordelia hated to lose money of any kind so had imposed the ‘count to ten’ rule on herself. Now, if she felt that any woman overstepped the mark with Angel, she got up and left the room, slowly counting to ten. That was the vampire’s cue to get rid of their client as quickly as possible, before his irate girlfriend took the situation into her own hands and ejected them herself.

Angel was at a loss to explain this somewhat annoying, yet endearing, facet to Cordelia’s character – he knew her behaviour wasn’t because she didn’t trust him to remain faithful to her. The first time her temper got the better of her, he had gotten extremely angry at her apparent lack of trust in him, and his umbrage had thrown a bucket of ice water over her fit of pique.

As he waited for a response from his fuming girlfriend, he absently brought to mind a conversation they’d had after a previous display of similarly possessive behaviour…

***

“I’m sorry Angel – it’s not that I don’t trust you. It’s just when I see women eyeing you up like you’re a bowl of chocolate fudge brownie ice-cream, it makes me go all *grr*” Cordelia screwed up her nose and crooked her fingers in the gesture that she usually used to illustrate his game-face.

“It’s hardly appropriate behaviour in front of clients though, Cordelia,” he reproved, trying not to smile at her shame-faced embarrassment.

“I know, I know – I just can’t help myself; something inside me goes pop and I react without thinking. Besides bucko,” she continued defensively, “It’s not like you’re Mr Whiter-than-White where that kind of thing is concerned. Last week when that guy kept talking to my chest, instead of my face, you were all growly vamp – this is just the same.”

“Maybe so – but I’m a demon; one with a soul, of course, but a demon all the same.”

“And that makes a difference how?”

“Well … umm… vampires are possessive by nature, so… err…” Angel stopped when the atmosphere turned distinctly frosty.

“I’m digging myself into a hole here, aren’t I? Yep – think so,” he quipped, asking and answering his own question with a self-depreciating grimace.

“Wow – you’re such a smart boy,” Cordelia commented mockingly, patting her chagrined boyfriend on the upper arm.
“Okay – I’m willing to accept that I’m no saint in that regard either,” he continued, “But you’ve got to learn to keep a lid on your temper, Cor. I may have been all ‘growly’ as you say, but I didn’t remove the perverted jerk’s eye-balls with my fingers like I wanted to, now did I?”

“Eew – that’s so gross!” Cordelia exclaimed, wrinkling her nose in distaste.

“Admittedly, it is kind of appropriate where some men are concerned, but that guy was just your average testosterone-fuelled male. You should watch whom you brand a pervert as well. Can I say pot and kettle? You stare at my breasts all the time.”

Not attempting to refute her teasing accusation, Angel stepped closer and deliberately began to un-button her flimsy blouse, a mischievous smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

“Difference is – they’re mine to look at,” he said finally, dipping his hand into the shadowy cleft of her cleavage and twisting open the front clasp of her bra.

He pushed her blouse and lacy underwear off her shoulders and down her arms, and bared her firmly rounded femininity to his avid scrutiny. As Angel’s gleaming eyes roamed hungrily over her creamy pink-tipped cleavage, Cordelia’s face split into a cat-got-the-cream smile when she saw his expression darken with undisguised lust.
“You’re trying to change the subject,” the vampire accused in a low and gravely voice, as he traced his cool fingertips up and down her sides in an intentionally stimulating gesture.

“Yeah and it’s working.” Cordelia concurred unrepentantly, raising one eyebrow as he slid his hands around to cup and knead the heavy weight of her breasts in his palms.

In retaliation, the intent vampire purposely circled her hardening nipples with his callused thumbs, and she arched up into his touch with a breathless moan, unable to prevent herself from vocalising the pleasure he was affording her. “Oh God!”

“You’re a very naughty girl, Miss Chase,” Angel drawled seductively, bending low to whisper in her ear. His honeyed words sent shivers down the length of her spine and prompted a rush of moisture to gather at the apex of her thighs.

“I thought big badass vamps like you, got off on naughty girls like me,” Cordelia murmured silkily in response, turning her face into the hollow of his throat so that her warm, moist breath kissed the sensitive skin there…

***

“Angel!”

“Huh?” the vampire snapped out of his hazy reverie, and refocused his attention on the beautiful seer in front of him. That lovemaking session had been particularly hot and heavy, he recalled with an inward smile. Hopefully, there would be time for reminiscing – and possibly even a little reliving – later.

“I bet I know what you’re thinking about,” Cordelia said coyly. Her jealous anger had dissipated the moment she’d seen that familiar look of glazed arousal crossing her boyfriend’s handsome features.

“I was thinking how you always manage to change the subject when we discuss the count to ten rule actually.” Angel replied smoothly, leaning down and invading her personal space so that the two of them stood almost nose-to-nose.

His deep brown eyes danced with amused delight when Cordelia’s cheeks flushed pink as it dawned on her what his deceptively innocuous words were in reference to.

“Angel!” she protested, slapping lightly at his chest.

The vampire chuckled at his seer’s discomfiture, and fondly wrapped his arm around her slender shoulders as they turned to follow their two companions down the carpeted corridor.

“So, is ‘Running the Gauntlet’ what it sounds like?” Buffy asked her ex-boyfriend, her voice haughty in tone.

The slayer did not like the air of effortless affection that plainly existed between Angel and Cordelia, and the fact that their light-hearted banter was clearly some thinly veiled in-joke about their sex life, only served to aggravate her even further.

Angel nodded, “It’s a variation on that theme. To discover that which you seek – in our case Faith’s location – you have to fight your way from one end of the Gauntlet corridor to the other.”

“Doesn’t sound too bad – Riley can come through with me, and you can protect Cordelia.”

“Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that – the Gauntlet is supposed to be a test of a warrior’s prowess. It has to be run individually – the level of difficulty adjusts to suit the relative skill of the competitor.”

“Sounds like we’re gonna get dropped into the middle of an Indiana Jones movie,” Cordelia commented wryly.

Angel laughed, “I guess that’s one way to describe it. You need to be prepared for anything though,” he said, his voice turning serious. “It’s designed as a psychological test as well as a physical one, which means you may have to do something that you might normally consider abhorrent.”

“Like what?”

“I had to kill a kid last time,” the vampire told them matter-of-factly.

“You didn’t actually do it?” Buffy stared at Angel, her blue eyes wide with horror.

“Yes and no,” was the cryptic reply.

“Well, which one was it? You either murdered a child, or you didn’t; there’s no middle ground.” Riley demanded, his voice throbbing with barely suppressed revulsion.

“There is in this case. Anything you face in the Gauntlet has corporeal mass, but it doesn’t actually exist in this reality, or any other for that matter. So yes, I ran my sword through what appeared to be a twelve/thirteen year old boy, but I didn’t kill one – he disappeared from the arena as soon as I’d defeated him.”

“It’s like an advanced Virtual Reality game then,” Cordelia ascertained, catching on to what her boyfriend was driving at. “You’re in this world and these things can hurt you, but none of it is actually real, it only seems like it is.”

“Exactly – the Gauntlet is effectively a simulation; just one that’s created and sustained by ancient magic rather than microchips.” Angel replied.

As the four of them reached the end of the hallway, the doors of the last elevator slid open of their own accord. Peering inside, they saw that this lift was different to all the rest. Instead of a lushly carpeted and mirrored interior, the elevator was lit by a dim bluish-white light, and the floor, ceiling and walls were constructed of what appeared to be burnished aluminium.

The doors glided shut the moment they entered, leaving them trapped in the confined space with no visible control panel to control the elevator’s descent.

“Which Level do you require?” a throaty female voice asked out of nowhere, making them all start in surprise.

“Level Zero,” Angel replied, his voice strong and steady.

“And what do you seek to discover from the Gauntlet?”

“The location of the Orb of Ravaclesh.”

“As you wish. You may each select two weapons from the armoury to aid your passage, but you must Run the Gauntlet one at a time. These are the rules – do not break them, understand?”

“Yes.”

“Prepare to meet your Fates then. Goodbye and Good Luck.”

The metallic structure of elevator immediately started to disintegrate around them and Cordelia gasped, grabbing at Angel’s arm in panic.

“Geez!” she exclaimed, relieved to find her feet on solid ground a few seconds later; she’d expected to be free-falling into black empty nothingness.

Her heart slowly returning to its normal beat, the curious seer looked around and discovered that they were standing in the middle of a semi-circular courtyard. Flickering orange torches lighted the stone enclave and a wide variety of weaponry was fixed to the walls with blackened iron brackets.

Whirling around in a 360° circle, Cordelia’s heart rate started to pick up again when she realised that solid stone surrounded them on all sides. “There’s no way out!”

“Yes, there is; don’t worry,” Angel said soothingly, touching a gentling hand to the small of her back. “The Gauntlet will open up once we’ve chosen our weapons,” he explained.

Enclosing her trembling hand within his, the vampire crossed to the far wall and reached up to pull down a short sword. He tested the weight and feel of it in his hands, and then passed it over to Cordelia.

“Here – I think you should use this; it’s similar to the one you’ve been training with.”

Cordelia reluctantly took the steel weapon from him, her stomach churning with nausea and her palms sweaty and clammy with dread. Although she wasn’t one to back down from a fight, far from it, she privately admitted to herself that she was scared witless.

When she’d insisted that Angel train her, she hadn’t envisioned that she would have to fight alone with no one there to back her up. Watching as the dark-haired vampire continued to survey the armoury for a second suitable weapon for her, her terror began to increase at an exponential rate, in spite of her endeavours to stifle it.

Angel tried to ignore his own worries and remain calm for Cordelia’s sake. It wouldn’t do to show his unease over what she was about to face, she had to believe that he was completely confident in her ability to make it through. If the seer sensed any doubt from him, then it would only add fuel to the fire of her uncertainty – which could have potentially disastrous consequences.

Cordelia certainly wasn’t without skill; her proficiency with a sword, after only a few months training, was nothing short of outstanding, and her hand-to-hand combat work ranked above average too. Years of cheerleading and regular workouts at the Gym had made her curvy body lithe and strong and, because she was able to think quickly on her feet, she adapted her technique extremely well to whatever he threw at her during their training sessions.

None of this alleviated Angel’s anxieties in the slightest though – he didn’t lack faith in her capabilities to pass this test of combat; it was simply that the overwhelming need to protect her overrode all semblance of rational thought. Looking over at his treasured girlfriend now, he was struck by how small and vulnerable she seemed standing there, alone, in the centre of the courtyard.

The point of her sword rested lightly on the cobbled ground as she clutched the hilt tightly between her fingers, her knuckles turning white from the effort. She reminded him of the frightened teenage girl that she had once been – the one that had turned her back on everything familiar in her life, and placed all her trust in a two hundred and forty year old vampire who she barely even knew.

Sighing deeply, Angel chose a broadsword and axe for his own use, before settling on a small scythe as a second weapon for Cordelia. After he’d helped her secure the holstered weapon to the waistband of her jeans, he crooked a finger under her chin and lifted her heart-shaped face to his.

“You can do it,” he told her with complete conviction, gazing down into the caramel whirlpools of her fearful eyes. “Just try to relax and stay focused, okay? If you keep in mind everything I’ve taught you, you’ll be just fine; I promise.”

“Aren’t you going to tell me that the force will be with me?” Cordelia joked with a nervous smile, injecting a note of light-heartedness into her speech that she didn’t really feel.

Their quiet conversation was interrupted by the rasping sound of stone grating against stone, and they turned to watch as one wall of the semicircular enclave opened up to reveal a long, passageway about three metres wide. A cylindrical podium of smooth granite stood at the far end of the corridor, with a cracked parchment scroll positioned carefully atop of it.

“I’ll go first so you’ll see how it works,” Angel told them as they gathered around the narrow entranceway to the Gauntlet. “Cordy – you follow next, and then Buffy and Riley can bring up the rear.”

He squared his shoulders and prepared to face the Gauntlet, but was distracted when Cordelia spoke his name in a soft hesitant voice. “Angel?”

“C’mere baby,” he murmured, his voice gruff with emotion.

Reaching out to draw the beautiful seer into the circle of his embrace, the vampire’s hands settled on the tops of her hips as he dipped his head to capture her mouth in a fiery kiss. As she opened her mouth under his questing lips with a responsive moan, Cordelia’s fingers skimmed up the length of his arms and encircled his neck. Angel snaked out his tongue to tangle ardently with hers, grunting low in the back of his throat, when the seer purposely pressed her soft womanly figure firmly against his toned muscular form in an attempt to mould their two bodies into one existence.

With their clinch increasing in fervent intensity, their gobsmacked companions could only stand awkwardly by while the vampire and seer surrendered to the power and passion of their shared love, oblivious to everything, and everyone, else around them.

Riley didn’t have a clue what to think or feel. On the one hand, he was relieved that Angel’s sexual urges seemed confined to Cordelia and not focused on Buffy as if he’d originally feared. On the other hand, though, the vampire’s unhealthy pursuit of human women, rather than those of his own kind, left the soldier sickened and repulsed.

Besides him, Buffy was struggling to contain the slow-burning rage that was threatening to erupt from her with all the force of a long-time dormant volcano. She simply couldn’t believe the total lack of consideration being shown towards her. When had Angel gotten so selfish?

Back when he lived in Sunnydale, he had rarely shown any overtly physical affection towards Cordelia in front of her, always mindful of her feelings. Now though, it seemed as if he couldn’t care less what witnessing this disgusting suck-face display was doing to her.

Just as the slayer’s tolerance was reaching breaking point, Angel reluctantly disentangled himself from Cordelia, and so Buffy narrowly avoided the added humiliation of losing her dignity by forcibly separating the embracing pair herself.

Gently wiping away the tears that had escaped to run down Cordelia’s cheeks whilst they’d kissed, Angel touched his forehead to hers. “Everything will be okay,” he soothed softly. “I’ll try to help you in any way I can, you know that.”

“Yeah, I know,” Cordelia whispered brokenly. “I just wanted you to know that I love you, so so much. Don’t forget that, not ever.”

Angel felt his own apprehension striving to break free at this tearful declaration – she was speaking as if she might never see him again. If Cordelia were lost to him because of this, then the Orb and all the employees at Wolfram and Hart would forfeit their lives to compensate for his bereavement; of that, he was undeniably certain. It could never be enough, but he would not stop until he had hunted each and every last one of them down, and made them pay for their transgressions a thousand times over.

Shaking himself out of the dark tunnel of despondency that his imagination had dragged him down, Angel bent to place another brief kiss against his girlfriend’s lips, then turned and entered the Gauntlet with a quiet, “I love you too.”

He hadn’t walked more than three or four steps down the corridor, before the air shimmered and a bellowing demon emerged in front of him, wielding a heavy chain with a spiked sphere attached to the end of it. Not even pausing to think, Angel launched an immediate counter-attack and succeeded in inflicting a debilitating wound to the creature’s left side. Its movements hampered by the haemorrhaging injury, the demon proved to be no match for the on form vampire, who smoothly disposed of his opponent in less than a minute.

The fallen creature flickered and disappeared as Angel stepped carefully over its broken and bleeding form, his eyes and ears open and alert for what was to come next. Not stupid enough to be lulled into a false sense of security by this first, too easy conquest, the vampire kept his body tensed and ready for action.

A faint grating sound warned him of the impending danger, mere moments before a handful of stakes shot out of two horizontal gaps that had opened up in each wall. Angel cleverly avoided them by launching himself high into the air and somersaulting over the top of the flying missiles.

Split seconds after his feet touched the ground, a second wave of the wooden objects were fired at him from every conceivable angle. What followed next was a breathtaking display of agility as the vampire ducked and dived, twisted and turned, successfully evading all the airborne stakes. He came away with just a few nicks and cuts, miraculously making it through the ordeal relatively unharmed.

He was about three quarters of the way along the Gauntlet now, but Angel took a firmer grip on his weapons, a gut feeling telling him that the toughest test was yet to come. Sure enough, the atmosphere shimmered for the second time and a familiar form materialized directly in front of him.

Barring his path was an incredibly realistic clone of Cordelia Chase, and the resulting jolt of surprise caused his concentration to waver for brief second – now *this* he had not expected.

Taking advantage of his momentary distraction, the Doppelganger swung her heavy sword directly at the shocked vampire’s head, forcing him to raise his broadsword to stave off the attack. There was a shower of sparks as the two weapons crashed together with incredible force, and then Angel jumped back, shifting his fighting stance from the defensive to the offensive in an instant.

The Double was much too strong to actually be the seer, of course; his Cordy wouldn’t even have the strength to lift that sword off the ground, never mind wield it with the kind of dexterity that this thing was managing. This was going to be the ultimate test of his psychological tolerance however – it was extremely difficult to ignore what his eyes were telling him. Could he really kill something that looked – and smelled – so much like the woman he loved with such passionate intensity? He knew he had to – there was no other choice. It was do or die.

Steadying his resolve, Angel shut down the more emotional parts of his psyche and stepped up the aggressiveness of his attack, constantly chopping and changing the direction and angle of his sword thrusts to keep his adversary off balance. The Clone finally miss-timed one of her counterattacks, and he brought his axe down on the blade of her sword, disarming her in one fell swoop. The weapon skittered across the floor as he charged into the Doppelganger, backing her up against the wall and setting the edge of his axe against her throat.

“Angel please don’t,” Cordelia’s twin pleaded in a breathless tone and he faltered, making the fatal mistake of looking directly into her liquid brown orbs.

That familiar pain-filled gaze tugged at the vampire’s heartstrings, even though the more logical part of his brain told him that the woman who occupied every part of his heart and soul, was not the person standing in front of him.

As he desperately tried to pull his wits into some kind of order, the Clone’s eyes suddenly rolled into the back of her head and she cried out in pain, clutching at her head in a grotesque re-enactment of one of Cordelia’s visions. The premonition went on and on, and Angel froze in horror as his worst nightmare began to play out in front of his stunned gaze.

Her screams of agony increasing in volume, the Clone began to convulse violently, thick red blood starting to leak from her nose and ears. After what seemed like forever to the shaken vampire, Cordelia’s double finally went limp and slumped to the ground, pale and still as death. Angel vaguely heard someone call his name, but he could not stop his instinctive reaction and reached out blindly towards the fallen replica of his beloved girlfriend.

As he moved closer, her eyes unexpectedly snapped open and he jerked back in shock. The suddenly revitalised Clone leapt to her feet and kicked him in the stomach, propelling him into the opposite wall with the force of the blow.

Realising his reaction was too little too late, the stunned vampire dimly registered Cordelia’s anguished screams as the Doppelganger drove a wooden stake through his ribs and into his chest.

Part 11

Posted June 23, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Crisis of Faith 8   2 comments

Part 8

“So, how you going?” Angel asked, squatting down next to the table that Willow was working at, with Wesley’s meticulous research spread out on the flat surface in front of her.

“Oh – umm good.” The red-headed witch looked up from her studies. “Wesley’s notes are pretty comprehensive – they’re cross-referenced and everything! I thought Giles was super-organised, but Mr Wyndam-Pryce is in a league of his own.”

Angel chuckled. “Sounds like Wes. So you think you can whip up a batch of the exorcising potion without too much trouble?”

“Yeah boss – shouldn’t be a problem. From what I can figure, the hardest part is finding and weighing out all the ingredients accurately, and Wesley already did that.”

“What about the binding spell?”

“Well that one’s a bit trickier, but I reckon I can handle it. My success rate with the magic has risen by several percent in the last year or so.”

“That doesn’t exactly inspire a great deal of confidence, Will.”

“Don’t worry, it should be fine. After all, when it comes to dangerous, saving-the-world spells, I’m a pro – it’s just the normal everyday stuff that I have problems with. Like this one time – I was trying to help these plants in our dorm room along a bit; because it was Buffy’s turn to water them and she’d so totally forgotten what with her slayer duties and everything. Anyhow, they were all wilted and droopy, so I thought I’d give them a little magical encouragement to wake them up again, but it sorta got a teensy bit out of hand.”

“I’m not sure I even want to ask.” the vampire commented, his deep brown eyes twinkling merrily.

“The Professor of Botany at College was fascinated by the eight foot high pot plants that punched a hole through the ceiling into the dorm room above – he’s writing a paper on them, I believe.” Willow told the vampire with a sheepish grin.

Angel laughed, tickled pink by the consequences of her blunder. His amusement quickly died down however, when he glanced over to where Buffy and Riley were deep in conversation on the other side of the room.

“Do you reckon I’d be able to persuade Buffy to stay behind while I go to Wolfram and Hart?” he queried, his mind returning to the task at hand. He already knew the answer to the question, but asked it anyway.

“Nada – not a hope in hell. You don’t honestly believe she’d sit here twiddling her thumbs when she could be in the thick of the action, do you?”

“Not really, no.” Angel replied. “I suppose if she goes, Jungle Jim will have to tag along too.”

“Riley Finn.” Willow corrected, struggling not to giggle at the vampire’s rather apt nickname for the Initiative soldier.

“Whatever – I don’t like it; he’s too much of a loose cannon in my opinion. Lorne could have been our only witness to what happened here earlier, and what does Smiley Finn over there try and do – drug him into insensibility for several hours – how *so* not smart was that.”

Willow smiled at Angel’s last comment, thinking how cute it was that he had unconsciously taken on some of Cordelia’s mannerisms.

“I know it probably doesn’t seem like it Angel, but compared to the other soldiers in his unit, Riley is actually pretty open-minded. He’s just having trouble coming to terms with the whole ‘my girlfriend lost her virginity to a vampire’ thing, that’s all. Buffy only told him about you a couple of days ago – cut the guy some slack, okay?”

“Humph.” The sceptical vampire tactfully decided not to pursue the subject any further; he still wasn’t entirely happy with the situation, just hoped that the slayer had the sense to keep her idiot boyfriend under control.

“When are you leaving?” Willow asked.

“As soon as Cordy’s ready.”

“You’re taking her with you? Is that a good idea?”

“Probably not,” the vampire replied sagely. “But until Faith is rid of the Orb and it’s sealed back in the ground where it belongs, I’m not letting her out of my sight. I can’t risk anything else happening to her, Willow – she means far too much to me.”

The strength of feeling that infused Angel’s heartfelt words made Willow realise just how pointless Riley’s unreasoning jealousy of him was – not to mention how futile Buffy’s lingering hopes of reconciliation with the vampire were. Time had obviously only served to deepen the love that Angel and Cordelia held for each other – they appeared closer than ever, despite the slight undercurrent of tension that she had detected between them a short while earlier.

“I should probably go and check on her actually – she’s been up there on her own for a while now.” Angel said, voicing his anxious concern as he rose gracefully to his feet. Lifting his arms over his head, he cracked his knuckles before turning towards the door that led through into Caritas’s private quarters.

As she watched Angel retreat upstairs, Willow reflected on the mild friction that she’d observed between the couple forty-five minutes previously. It wasn’t anything particularly noticeable, but the rather snappy way in which Cordelia had brushed off her anxiously hovering boyfriend had set alarm bells ringing in the observant witch’s head.

Willow had put the subdued tone of her friend’s recent emails down to her sadness over her fallen comrade, but now realised that there may have been more to it than that. The seer had rarely mentioned Angel in any of her correspondence over the last few weeks – not in any kind of personal capacity at any rate, and that was strange, considering the brunette usually couldn’t type more than two paragraphs without finding some way to bring her boyfriend into the subject matter.

It all kind of took its toll on us for a while, but I think we’re coming out of the other side of it now.

The cogs gathering speed in her quick brain, the young witch recalled what Angel had said about Doyle’s death in the car on the way to Caritas. It had seemed a fairly innocuous statement at the time, but took on a much greater significance in light of what she’d just witnessed.

Suddenly ashamed of her internal gossip mongering, Willow made a conscious effort to empty her mind of her speculative thoughts regarding the state of her friend’s relationship. Their personal problems – if they existed at all – were none of her concern, and besides, Angel’s words had suggested that he and Cordelia were patching things up, so she really ought to mind her own business and let them get on with it.

Tucking her titian hair behind her ears, the witch returned her attention to her studies, bending her head over the piece of paper that had the Orb binding spell written on it in Wesley’s carefully precise handwriting. Although it wasn’t strictly necessary for her to learn the enchantment off by heart, Willow always found that her magic flowed better if she was at least vaguely familiar with the convoluted phrases that she was reciting.

She was all too aware that she couldn’t afford to make a mistake with this one – Faith’s well-being and the Fate of the World depended on it.

***

Regaining consciousness with a painful jerk, Wesley gagged in reaction to the copper taste of his own blood in his mouth, and winced as zigzags of white light flashed before his eyes while his head throbbed in unceasing agony.

Forcibly swallowing his churning nausea, the ex-watcher struggled to clear his foggy brain, trying to make sense of his unfamiliar surroundings. It was as black as midnight and he couldn’t see anything, apart from a tiny pinprick of light that illuminated almost nothing and provided no clue whatsoever to his current location. He could hear the muffled sound of loud rock music however – the relentless noise tormented his sensitive eardrums, and set the walls of his metallic prison to a continual vibrating.

I’m in the trunk of a car, Wesley finally realised, when the speeding vehicle suddenly executed a sharp corner to the left, causing his bruised and battered body to be indiscriminately tossed about inside the claustrophobic enclosure. His hands were tied behind his back and his feet bound tightly together, the abrasive rope cutting deeply into his tender skin, and preventing him from stabilizing himself as he unceremoniously pitched about in the back of the moving car.

With a high-pitched squeal of tyres, the vehicle swung violently to the right, and the ex-watcher’s head cracked hard against the side of the trunk. As darkness descended once more over Wesley’s world, he vaguely heard the sound of car horns blaring out into the night, loudly protesting at the hazardous manoeuvres of the erratic driver at the wheel.

***

Angel hesitated outside the door of the room that he and his girlfriend were sharing while they stayed at Caritas – Cordelia had tersely rejected his offer of comfort downstairs, and he was cut to the quick by her brusque withdrawal.

It seemed to Angel that whenever they made progress towards reconciliation, something always happened to cause one of them to retreat behind the self-protective walls that they’d built up in the tumultuous weeks since Doyle’s death.

The vampire was altogether sick of the situation though – if it wasn’t for the fact that Wesley and Faith ran a close second in his life, he would have left Buffy to deal with the Big Bad and spirited his treasured girlfriend off to a private retreat ages ago.

Angel was anchored by the deep ties of affection that he held for his closest friends however, and he simply couldn’t contemplate abandoning them in their time of need. He was therefore forced to endure this undesirable delay, while he selflessly devoted himself to his role as the Powers-That-Be’s favoured champion.

Angel sighed heavily; he shouldn’t be procrastinating about this, Wesley was at the mercy of the Orb’s malevolent whims and time was rapidly running out for his friend. Twisting the door handle, the vampire quietly entered the darkened bedroom, and his stomach burned with self-reproach when his ears picked up the sound of anguished sobs emanating from the on-suite bathroom.

Silently chastising himself for leaving Cordelia up here alone for so long, Angel hastily crossed the room and pushed open the bathroom door, unintentionally startling his weeping girlfriend who jumped as if she’d been bitten. Swathed in a pale blue bathrobe, the seer stood in front of the circular mirror, gazing tearfully at her transformed reflection in the shiny glass.

Her heart leaping into her throat, Cordelia swung round to see who the intruder was, immediately relaxing when confronted by the worried vampire. She had been struggling to hold back her sobs, but dissolved into tears again under the onslaught of her boyfriend’s compassionate gaze. Reluctant to show any outward emotion in front of Buffy, the distraught young woman had been waiting for Angel to come to her, desperately craving the comfort of being enveloped in his supportive embrace.

“Ssh baby, ssh.” Angel quickly moved to bridge the gap between them, wrapping one strong arm around her waist and cupping the back of her head in his other hand. He gently kissed her forehead before bending his head to murmur soft consoling words into her ear, cuddling her close against his solid muscular chest as he did so.

“Why didn’t you come upstairs after me?” Cordelia sobbed out in distress, burying her tear-wet face into the hollow of his throat, and clinging to him like her life depended on it.

As it slowly dawned on him that he had completely misinterpreted her earlier behaviour, Angel was consumed with a familiar sense of remorse. “I’m sorry – you pushed me away and I thought… God, I’m so sorry.”

“Geez – we’re a right pair, aren’t we?” Cordelia laughed shakily, hiccupping with a mixture of emotional sobs and giggles.

She ran her hands up and down the smooth planes of her boyfriend’s shirt-covered back, silently communicating her acceptance of his choked-out apology.

“Tell me about it.” Angel agreed wholeheartedly, his guilt rapidly diminishing at her softly-spoken words and reassuring gesture.

Slowly rocking his girlfriend in his arms, the vampire turned his head to press a soft kiss against her temple, and soothingly stroked his fingers through the dark strands of her now chin-length hair. The cruelly shorn locks, still wet from her shower, were mussed by her increasingly fraught attempts to style them into some semblance of order.

Pulling back slightly, Angel cupped her chin in his hand and looked down into her red-rimmed and puffy eyes, tenderly brushing the damp strands off her tear-stained cheeks.

“It’s no use!” Cordelia wailed, as he tucked the dark tendrils behind her ears and smoothed down the spilt-ends. “Look at me – I’m ugly!” she exclaimed, spinning around to stare at her reflection in the mirror again.

Despite knowing it was wholly inappropriate under the circumstances, Angel couldn’t stop himself from laughing at the ridiculousness of her self-pitying statement.

“Cordy – it wouldn’t have mattered if she’d shaved your whole head, you could never be anything but stunningly beautiful.” he told her assuredly, placing his hands on her shoulders and gently massaged the tense muscles at the nape of her neck with his callused thumbs.

“I’m sorry.” Cordelia whispered softly, looking down at her hands and studying her fingernails. “It’s only that Little Miss All-American downstairs is looking so gorgeously proper and perfectly made-up, while I resemble a scarecrow on a bad hair day! I bet she just loves this.”

Angel sighed at his girlfriend’s insecurity, recognising that their estrangement had a lot to do with her current lack of self-esteem. As he absently curled her silky locks around his fingers, a germ of an idea came to mind.

“Do you have any scissors?” he asked.

“Yeah – there’s some in my vanity case – why?”

“Come with me.” Angel stepped away from the seer and, taking her hand in his, tugged her through into the bedroom. Leading her over to the dresser, he pulled out the plush velvet stool, and indicated that she should sit down on it, facing out towards the centre of the room rather than towards the wall though.

Cordelia did as he asked; watching as he retrieved the pair of scissors and picked up a comb from the dresser surface. Running the plastic implement gently through her dark hair, the vampire deftly separated and untangled the delicate strands, combing them straight so that they hung in a vertical curtain around her heart-shaped face.

Biting his lower lip in concentration, Angel knelt down on the floor and proceeded to snip carefully around the bottom of her hair; evening out the length, and removing the damaged ends in attempt to tidy up Faith’s earlier hatchet job.

Finally satisfied with his efforts, the vampire set the scissors to one side and reached for the hair-dryer, turning it on full-blast. He made short work of drying his girlfriend’s hair, using his fingers to curl the dark locks under, his higher than normal pain threshold making him oblivious to the scalding heat coming from the dryer’s vent.

Once finished, he bent, lifted the stool – with Cordelia still perched upon it – and turned the seat around to face the dresser mirror, the muscles in his upper arms rippling with effort. “So what do you think?”

Pursing her lips, Cordelia critically surveyed her reflection in the glass – Angel had shaped her hair into a blunt jaw-length bob, and it actually didn’t look that bad. The cut was overly severe, but she could easily remedy that with a trip to the hairdresser’s in a few days time – at least she no longer looked like a reject from Scarecrows-R-Us. With the right clothes and some judiciously applied make-up, she would still give the blonde perfecto-slayer a run for her money.

Watching as all manner of unreadable emotions crossed Cordelia’s expressive features, Angel waited on tenterhooks for her verdict. He wouldn’t win any hairdresser-of-the-year awards he knew, but he thought his efforts weren’t half bad for a total amateur. The seer’s face suddenly split into a beautiful wide smile, and he sighed in relief as she sprang up from her seat, and flung her arms around his neck, hugging him in gratitude.

“Thank you.”

“Any time.” The vampire said softly, returning her hug before releasing her from his embrace.

As Cordelia stepped back, Angel noticed that her towelling robe had come loose with her movements, and he felt a rush of unexpected desire as her garment gaped open and revealed a tantalising hint of creamy cleavage and one rosy pink nipple to his perusal.

“Jesus – keep your mind out of your pants for once, man!” he muttered under his breath, his groin tightening in response to all that delicious feminine flesh on display.

Completely unaware of his predicament, Cordelia proceeded to make his escalating condition infinitely worse by she shrugging out of her robe, and padding naked across the lush carpet to retrieve some clean clothes from the chest of drawers that stood against the far wall.

“Is something wrong?” she asked, as a low groan of frustration escaped the aroused vampire when she bent over to rummage through the bottom drawer.

“No… I …” Angel deliberately cleared his throat when his voice came out hoarse and raspy. “Umm, I mean – I’m fine.”

Cordelia suppressed a smile as her boyfriend shifted uncomfortably, sticking his hands in his pockets and adjusting his pants over his straining erection. The fact that she possessed the ability to turn him on in the most inappropriate of circumstances filled her with delighted satisfaction.

“Got a little problem have we?” she queried, turning around to face him, one eyebrow raised in jest.

The seer was aware that this wasn’t exactly the right time for starting anything, but she desperately needed to feel like a sexy, attractive woman again. Her earlier ordeal had stripped her of her dignity, and robbed her of one of the chief elements that made up her female identity so, a determined look crossing her attractive features, she slowly began to approach the target of her affection.

“Scratch that – make that a big problem.” she continued, eyeing the impressive bulge that was clearly visible in the crotch of the vampire’s pants.

“Cor-dee-lee-yah.” Angel protested, dragging out the syllables of her name as her curvy hips swayed seductively from side to side, and her full breasts bounced slightly with her movements. “We don’t have time for this – Wesley’s in trouble and…”

“We’ve got ten minutes.” Cordelia replied, cutting off his objections by placing two fingers over his moving mouth.

Powerless to contain himself, the vampire opened his lips and slowly drew her forefinger into his mouth, curling his tongue around the digit and sucking lightly, before taking hold of her wrist and pulling her hand away from his face.

“I don’t do ten minutes.” he growled throatily.

“I know.” the seer said, placing her hands on her hips. “That’s really very remiss of you, you know.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Well – you’re the first man that I ever slept with…”

“And the last.” Angel reminded her possessively.

“Uh-huh – so that means that my sexual education is your responsibility.” Cordelia continued with a come-hither look sparkling in her hazel eyes. “I only ever remember ‘quickies’ being on the lesson plan once. How am I supposed to graduate if my teacher doesn’t give me any suitable practise?”

Angel knew he shouldn’t be capitulating to her beguiling efforts at persuasion, but this playful banter had been missing from their relationship for so long that he just wanted to gobble it up and savour every last second of it.

The vampire also recognised his girlfriend’s intrinsic need to reaffirm her femininity in the wake of the possessed Faith’s casual decimation of her glorious mane of dark wavy hair. Hell, it was only ten – well maybe fifteen – minutes of their time; Wes and the real Faith wouldn’t mind, would they?

Sensing her vampire’s wavering resolve, Cordelia decided she’d help things along a little, so stepped forward and purposely began to unbuckle his belt, her fingers oh-so-accidentally brushing against his rapidly hardening shaft as she pulled the soft leather through the fabric loops on his pants.

Angel grinned at her audacity; she really could be a little vixen when she put her mind to it. Not that he was complaining of course – he loved that his seer regularly pampered her lush sensuality; he would certainly never say no to the – not so inconsiderable – rewards that he reaped from her frequent self-indulgence.

Her bewitching hands started to reach for his zipper, but Angel quickly halted their progress, and pulled her flush against his hard muscular body instead, lowering their joined fingers to the small of her back.

“Lesson number one.” he said, his voice low and seductive as he bent to nuzzle behind her left ear. “A man can be ready for sex in an instant – it takes a woman a bit longer so with quickies, foreplay has to be all about her.”

“Okay teacher – guess I can live with that.” Cordelia agreed breathlessly as the vampire’s hands wandered downwards to cup and squeeze the twin globes of her bare bottom in his cool palms.

“Thought you might.” Angel replied, nipping at the soft skin of her neck with blunt teeth before stepping away from her to undress.

Cordelia raised her arm and showed him her digital wrist-watch, setting the stop-watch and pushing the start button.

Angel laughed as he lifted his feet in turn, and quickly pulled off his boots and socks, before divesting himself of the rest of his clothes in record time. He then sank to his knees in front of the woman that he was fully intent on worshipping like the goddess she was.

Picking up the seer’s right foot in his hands, Angel softly traced the delicate arch of her instep with his finger, and kissed the end of each toe before placing her foot flat on his shoulder, and opening up the pink flesh of her womanhood to the talented manipulations of his fingers and tongue.

“Lesson number two.” the vampire continued conversationally, slipping a hand between her thighs and slowly running his fingers up the length of her sex, delighted to find her already moist with desire for him. “This isn’t about gradual build-up – it’s about lighting the blue touch-paper and counting down from ten to blast-off. Therefore, it’s best to go for the most sensitive spots first – because that’s where the rocket fuel is located.”

Cordelia wanted to laugh at his terminology, but found that she could only moan with spiralling pleasure as Angel expertly coaxed her body to soften in readiness for what was to come, and deliberately circled his thumb around the sensitive nub that guarded the entrance to her femininity like a sentry.

“Angel – Oh God!” A sharp cry of passion involuntarily tumbled from her lips and her inner muscles clenched, as the vampire suddenly pushed two fingers up inside her and bent to draw her throbbing clitoris between his cool lips.

Her breath heaving in sharp gasps, the incoherent seer reached down and clutched at Angel’s spiky hair, holding him to her whilst he sucked and licked at her responsive bud. Curling his long fingers inside her hot channel, he searched for the spot that would prompt a further flood of liquid arousal to gather at her already slick centre.

“Oh fuck!” the curse erupted unbidden from Cordelia’s mouth as her boyfriend’s probing fingers finally found what they were looking for, and her body spasmed in mini-orgasm in response to the erotic stimulation.

Angel smiled in triumph, lifting his mouth away from her pulsating clit and extracting his fingers from her wet core. He sucked her creamy essence from his hand and licked his lips to savour her sweet taste before speaking.

“See, I told you that’s where the rocket fuel was located.” he commented slyly, pushing himself up into a standing position.

Cordelia blushed a rosy pink, as the vampire took her hands in his and drew her over towards the bed. She rarely cussed, but sometimes Angel had her swearing like a trooper as he set her body alight with fiery passion, and released her darkest desires from deep within.

Releasing her fingers, Angel sat down on the edge of the bed, his feet flat on the floor and his rigid member jutting out proudly from the cradle of his thighs.

“Come here.” he said, crooking his finger at her in invitation, as he languidly pumped his straining erection with his other hand.

Her whole body throbbing in sensory anticipation, Cordelia obediently straddled his lap, looping her arms around his neck, and leaning in to kiss him. Angel’s hands swept up over her round buttocks to trace a path up and down the curve of her spine, as their mouths fused together and their tongues played a spirited game of thrust and parry.

“Lesson number three.” Angel said with a gentle smile, when he eventually had to lift his lips from hers to allow her to breathe. “Quickies can sometimes be about pure physical release, but at other times it’s essential to find a way to communicate the love that exists between consenting partners.”

The vampire paused, fingering the dark strands of Cordelia’s hair and softly brushing his thumb over the purple bruise on her cheek. “This is one of those times.” he continued gravely, gazing deep into her wide hazel orbs. “That’s why it’s important to adopt a face-to-face position, so that you can look into each other’s eyes and see the love and devotion shining there.”

“Angel…” the seer whispered brokenly, her eyes filling with tears of emotion at his words.

The vampire pressed a sweet kiss to her lips, and then gripped her hips in his hands, positioning her so that the tip of his erection slipped an inch or so inside her waiting warmth.

A soft soughing sound escaped Cordelia’s throat as she lowered herself down over her lover, slowly taking his body into hers. She wasn’t as open and ready as she normally was when they made love and, because of this, his hardened sex stretched her vaginal muscles to the edge of discomfort as she leisurely began to ride him, holding onto his broad shoulders for purchase.

“Are you okay?” Angel asked, savouring the exquisite sensation of his girlfriend’s hot walls gripping his rigid shaft in their unyielding embrace.

“Yes – feels good.” Cordelia gasped out, her body continuing to rise and fall over his thick length, the slight pain from his initial penetration dissolving into a sea of overwhelming pleasure.

Satisfied that he wasn’t hurting her, the vampire wrapped one arm around her waist to support her movements, and then lifted his other hand to cup her right breast in his palm, teasing the dusky pink tip with his thumb.

Really wanting to make this last for as long as possible, but knowing that time was of the essence, he lowered his head and latched his mouth around her swollen nipple, suckling hard and eliciting mewling gasps of pleasure from the woman atop of him.

“Oh yes! Oh Angel!” Cordelia cried out, her movements becoming frenzied as the strong pulling sensation of his cool lips on her breast sent shockwaves straight to her core.

Angel’s body had begun to call for blessed release, provoking him into lifting his hips and pushing up into her tight wet heat in earnest.

“Open your eyes.” he demanded harshly.

The seer did as instructed and, with their eyes locked together, they hurtled in unison towards the ultimate culmination of their passion.

Angel, sensing his climax fast approaching, reached down and rapidly circled the seer’s swollen clitoris with his thumb, and Cordelia cried out as she felt her body begin to convulse in the ecstasy of release. “Oh Angel! Oh Yes! Oh, I love you!”

“Oh Jesus – that feels so good.” her vampire lover groaned, as her grasping inner muscles tightened around his painfully hard shaft, and milked him of his essence as he erupted into mind-numbing bliss shortly after her.

“Lesson number four.” Angel said, as he collapsed back onto the cool bedspread, pulling the exhausted seer down on top of him. “Never give in to your girlfriend’s demands for a ‘quickie’ when you’re supposed to be ridding the world of an evil presence!”

Cordelia giggled against his neck, her breath warm against his rapidly cooling skin. “Only nine minutes.” she said, glancing at her watch, before lifting it to his face to show him the clock ticking over from 8:59 to 9:00.

“I guess I do, do ten minutes then.” her boyfriend replied, running his hands soothingly up and down her sweat-covered back.

***

“What’s taking so long? I suppose Cordelia’s acting like she’s getting ready for Prom night or something.” Buffy said, stopping her relentless pacing for a brief moment.

Willow sighed; disappointed at the slayer’s lack of compassion over the seer’s recent ordeal, but not really surprised by it. Buffy still insisted on treating the former cheerleader as if she was the vain and insensitive Queen C of their early High School years, but how the slayer could fail to take note of the obvious character development that Cordelia had gone through since they were all naïve sixteen year olds, just beggared belief.

Anyone who knew Cordelia Chase back then and observed the poised young woman that she was now, and yet still couldn’t see the transformation, was either blind or stupid, but Willow knew that Buffy was neither. It was simply that if the petite slayer accepted that the seer possessed more than a shallow shell of a personality, then she could no longer blame the pretty brunette for the breakdown of her relationship with Angel. While Buffy acknowledged that her partnership with the vampire had had its problems, she still believed that they could have worked them through, if Cordelia hadn’t muscled in and garnered all of Angel’s attention.

“I’m going up there to find out what’s going on.”

“Err – I don’t think that’s necessary, oh mighty one; I’m sure Angelcakes and the princess will be down shortly.” Lorne hastily stepped in front of the determined slayer, barring her path upstairs.

“See – there they are now.” he continued brightly as the sound of a door opening and closing, followed by footsteps descending the stairs, could be heard from above.

Willow suppressed a smile, noting the green-skinned demon’s obvious relief at the couple’s timely re-emergence.

“You’re an empathic demon, right?” she asked, directing her question towards the unusual proprietor of this strange establishment.

“Yes – of sorts anyway, little chica.” Lorne replied, nodding affably at the curious red-head – Willow was the only Sunnydale resident to have spoken directly to him since their arrival a couple of hours ago.

“My witchy senses have really been developing this last year – I’m much more in tune with Mother Nature now. I can sometimes feel vague vibes from people’s auras too – it must be *very* interesting to experience that on a more intense level.” Willow observed, her brown eyes twinkling at the green-skinned demon in crafty amusement.

So, I’m not the only one who’s picked up on the hot and smoochy vibes coming from the boudoir upstairs then. I think I could get to like this girl.

“Oh yes, sweet-cheeks – it’s an experience and a half, that’s for sure.” Lorne replied, slyly winking at the young witch.

Their attention was diverted when the door marked ‘PRIVATE’ opened and Angel and Cordelia emerged through it, their hands clasped together. Apart from the fact that his dark hair wasn’t quite so immaculately styled, the vampire showed no outward sign of their recent sexual activity. Cordelia, however, was a different story – her colour was heightened, two bright pink spots clearly visible in the centre of her cheeks, and she seemed to glow from the inside out with sensual fulfilment.

The seer wore a pair of low-slung navy blue hipster jeans, a mint-green v-neck t-shirt, and fashionable, but low-heeled boots. The soft cotton material of her top clung to her voluptuous upper body like a second skin, and exposed a two inch strip of toned golden flesh where it ended just above the waistband of her jeans. Although Cordelia was dressed relatively casually, the outfit had obviously been selected to highlight her curvy femininity to the maximum, and sent a subtle ‘screw you’ message to her blonde rival on the other side of the room.

“Finally.” Buffy huffed impatiently, a scowl threatening to mar her pretty features, as the two lovers walked across the room with their fingers still tightly entwined. “Are we going then?”

Angel retrieved his car keys from the bar and tucked a wicked-looking knife into his leather jacket’s inner pocket, before replying.

“Yeah – let’s go sample the dubious pleasures of Wolfram and Hart.” he said, and then led Cordelia up the stairs and out of the club, leaving Buffy and Riley to follow in their wake.

***

This time when Wesley emerged from unconsciousness, he did so gradually, regaining his senses one by one. The pounding rock music could still be heard, but the volume had been reduced to a background hum. His ears also told him that he was no longer moving, because a sense of balance had been restored to his confused brain.

The throbbing pain was still very much in evidence, but at least it didn’t feel like someone was playing a staccato drumbeat inside his skull anymore. The area around his collarbones ached painfully, telling him that his hands were still tied behind his back, his shoulder muscles pulled into an unnatural position.

As awareness of his surroundings slowly seeped back, Wesley finally forced his eyes to open and found himself looking at a beech-coloured laminate floor. He could sense the oppressive presence of another person in the room, and defiantly raised his head to look directly into his captor’s glowing red eyes.

Faith was seated opposite him, straddling a plain wooden chair, and sitting backwards so that her forearms were resting casually on the polished edge of the back-rest. She had changed clothes and now wore a pair of shiny black leather pants and a red Lycra tie-dyed top. A slow smile spread across her face as she became aware of the ex-watcher’s bold scrutiny.

“Hey baby – you’re back. That’s so great – torture is always better with audience participation.”

Part 9

Posted June 23, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Crisis of Faith. 6   1 comment

Part 6

Knowing that she couldn’t really avoid being alone with Angel for much longer, Cordelia sighed and reached out a hand to shut off the hot water flow. The last few weeks of estrangement had changed the easy-going nature of their relationship and the confused seer didn’t how to deal with the sudden awkwardness that had sprung up between them.

Her stomach fluttering with inexplicable butterflies, Cordelia stepped carefully over the side of the tub onto the fluffy cream bathmat, taking a towel from the heated rail and securing it firmly over her full breasts. Struggling to get her topsy-turvy emotions back under control, she tugged off her shower cap and shook out her wealth of dark hair, letting it tumble in a mass of waves down her back.

A light tapping on the bathroom door made her jump out of her skin and her heart leapt into her throat. “Yes?”

“It’s me.” Angel’s familiar voice sounded through the thick wood. “May I come in?”

“Of course.”

The vampire’s head and shoulders came into view around the door, and he smiled tentatively at her before the rest of his tall muscular body followed his upper half into the steamed-up room.

“I thought you might want something to wear.” he said quietly, offering her the purple nightclothes that he held in his hands.

“Thanks.” Cordelia quickly took the garments from him, clutched them to her chest and stood uneasily in the centre of the bathroom, her sudden shyness rooting her to the spot.

“Umm – you don’t mind if I stay do you?” Angel asked, noting her self-protecting stance. “I could use a shower myself.”

“No… I … go ahead.”

Cordelia averted her eyes as Angel shed his clothes, stepped into the shower and turned on the hot water full blast. Keeping her back to him, she hurriedly dried herself off and slipped her negligee on over her head, letting it settle naturally over her curves.

Knowing she was being ridiculous – it was just Angel for god’s sake – the seer closed her eyes and took a few calming breaths to steady her shaky nerves. She pulled on her robe and tied it firmly around her slim waist, then forced herself to look back over her shoulder at her boyfriend rather than escaping into the safety of the bedroom.

Angel stood buck-naked in the shower, repeatedly lathering up a sponge and washing himself down with the resultant soap suds. The vision of unadulterated masculinity that he presented made her breath catch in her throat and a rush of moisture gather at her apex.

Her heartbeat quickening, Cordelia turned around to get a better view of her pale-skinned, dark-haired Adonis so that her hungry eyes could feast with appreciation on the hard, muscular planes of his back and the firm, toned curves of his ass.

Her uneasiness all but forgotten, her traitorous body began to thrum with overpowering need, even as the more rational part of her brain questioned whether giving into her baser desires was the right thing to do. She and Angel still had a great deal of emotional baggage to work through and, the strength of her arousal notwithstanding, she didn’t want to give him the impression that everything was suddenly all right between them again.

As Angel stood under the spray, rinsing the soap bubbles from his body, his vampiric senses tingled, alerting him to his girlfriend’s intense scrutiny. The sweet and spicy smell of her arousal wafted over him a few moments later, and his groin swiftly became engorged with blood in reaction to that familiar and intoxicating scent.

He leaned forward and turned off the shower and then slowly turned to face his mesmerised seer, a deep thrill of satisfaction burning in his belly when her eyes grew wide in response to the further wave of desire that flooded through her.

Stepping out of the bath, the vampire padded across the floor to stand in front of the captivated young woman, frowning when he noticed the conflicting emotions swimming in her beautiful caramel eyes. “Cordy?”

“I want to Angel, I do. It’s just …” Cordelia broke off, struggling to find the right words to describe her hesitancy. Agitatedly twisting the silk tie of her robe around her fingers, she tried to explain. “We still need to talk.”

Ah, so *that* was the problem.

“I know Cor, and we will – I *promise*” Angel vowed, slipping a crooked finger under her chin and raising her gaze to his. “I know that making love won’t solve all our problems, but I think we need this.”

“I feel so separate from you and I’m scared that if we wait too long to reconnect, we’re going to grow further apart.” he continued quietly, looking longingly into the depths of her hazel orbs

Relief flooded through Cordelia’s veins at his earnest assurances and her previous reluctance disappeared into the ether. Demonstrating her willingness with actions rather than words, she carefully untied her robe and shrugged it off her shoulders, letting it drop to the floor and pool about her bare feet.

Angel stepped closer and cupped her face between his palms, his skin temporarily heated by the hot shower he’d just taken. “I love you.” he proclaimed softly before dipping his head to capture her lips in a deep fiery kiss.

Caught slightly off-guard by her boyfriend’s bold move, Cordelia gasped in surprise, but quickly recovered her wits to respond in kind to the passionate clinch. She stroked her fingers lightly up and down the contours of his back as his cool tongue swept a broad path over her full bottom lip, and then plunged into the hot cavern of her waiting mouth.

Angel curled her dark tresses around his fingers as their respective tongues tangled enthusiastically together, each fighting for dominance of the kiss. When the seer’s need for oxygen forced him to lift his mouth away from her inviting lips, the vampire dropped his head to nuzzle at her neck.

Gasping for breath, Cordelia arched her throat into Angel’s exploring lips, spearing her fingers through his spiky hair to hold him to her. She could feel his erection nudging against her silk-covered belly as his cool mouth began to travel across the ridge of her collarbone and she brazenly pushed her hips forward to increase the contact.

Consumed by the sudden desire to turn the tables and become the one in control of their love-making, Cordelia twisted her head away from his tender caress and gently pushed him back a step.

“What’s wr-?” Angel started to ask, but was silenced by the two fingers that she placed directly over his mobile mouth.

She delicately traced the shape of his lips with one finger, before lifting herself up on her tiptoes to press her mouth into the hollow of his throat. Her tongue darted out to savour the salt of his skin as she breathed deeply of his dark musky scent.

The vampire’s unique taste and smell triggered off a throbbing sensation between the seer’s thighs, as she trailed a meandering path of wet kisses down his hard muscular torso until she was kneeling in front of him on the bathroom floor, her face level with his bobbing erection.

“Cordelia …”

Guessing her intentions, Angel started to half-heartedly protest, but broke off with a low moan the moment her hot mouth surrounded the tip of his throbbing shaft. “Oh God!”

Continuing with her gentle oral stimulation, the seer touched her tongue to the tip of his hardened sex and lapped up the drop of fluid that had formed there, humming contentedly when the sharp tang of it stimulated her taste buds.

“Oh Jesus Christ!” Angel exclaimed; the vibrations from that low sound sending his arousal sky-rocketing. He reached down and fisted his hands into the cool silk of her hair, holding her to him, but not attempting to control her movements.

Suckling lightly, the seer playfully ran the flat of her tongue along his penis’s sensitive underside and was rewarded with another series of semi-tortured groans from the aroused vampire. “Oh yeah! So good! Oh keep going baby!”

Responding to his low moans of encouragement, Cordelia braced her hands against his upper thighs and took as much of him into her mouth as she could manage. Increasing the suction, she dragged her lips back up his length, before repeating the action to set up the slow steady rhythm that she knew drove him wild.

Sucking in heavy unneeded breaths, Angel briefly glanced down and nearly came at the sight of her full lips sliding up and down his sensitised shaft. He closed his eyes and gave himself over to the overpowering pleasure she was affording him, rocking his hips back and forth in shallow thrusting movements.

A few minutes more and he was teetering on the precipice of oblivion, ready to explode. “Oh God Cor! Stop – I’m going to come.” he warned hoarsely, tugging frantically on her hair.

Cordelia ignored him and instead increased her ministrations, lifting her bottom off her heels to aid her efforts. Warm gentle fingers cupped and gently squeezed his heavy balls and the action sent the over-stimulated vampire spiralling into ecstasy. He threw back his head, the chords of his neck straining with effort, and let out a strangled groan as he erupted into her mouth with long cool spurts. “Oh Fuck! Oh yes!”

Utterly sated, Angel slowly regained his senses and looked down to find Cordelia still kneeling like a Geisha at his feet. She was smiling up at him with a self-satisfied smirk on her flushed face and a mischievous glint twinkling in her brown eyes.

The shell-shocked vampire shook his head with a rueful smile. “You are a very wicked woman Cordelia Chase. I wanted to be the one who made you lose control.”

“I know, but I love it when you surrender yourself to me in that way; I really wanted to have that tonight.”

“Why?”

When the seer hesitated in replying to his question, dropping her gaze to her hands in her lap; Angel squatted down in front of her and took her chin in his hand, lifting her heart-shaped face to his.

“If we’re going to get through this, then we have to be honest with each other,” he told her quietly. “Even if we think what we’re going to say is something that the other one might not want to hear.”

Cordelia nodded, and then blurted out her motives before she lost her nerve. “You cut yourself off from me,” she explained. “I wanted you back; wanted you to completely give yourself to me again – just like you used to.”

Angel sighed; he hadn’t really appreciated just how much his emotional withdrawal had affected her.

“Besides,” Cordelia continued, injecting a cheerier note into her voice. “With your vampire stamina, you’re a fast re-load so I thought what the hell?”

The tension broken, Angel laughed his rich deep laugh as Cordelia rose to her feet and took a few steps backwards. Gracing her expectant boyfriend with a shy smile, she hooked her fingers into the thin straps of her purple negligee and slowly slid them down her arms, baring herself to the waist. She lifted her arms out to the sides and, with a sexy wiggle of her curvaceous hips, the silk nightdress fell to the floor leaving her standing completely nude before him.

The vampire’s deep brown eyes swept the length of her shapely body – from her passion-flushed cheeks, over her round pink-tipped breasts, and down to the dark thatch of curls that guarded the entrance to her sweet centre. Although she was still the epitome of womanhood as far as he was concerned, he couldn’t help noticing that her body had gone through some changes in the past few weeks – changes that were not for the better. Stepping nearer, he ran his cool fingers along the length of her too prominent ribs.

“I ate breakfast this morning.” Cordelia told him conversationally, sensing the direction his thoughts were taking. “Blueberry pancakes and maple syrup – Wesley forced two lots down me. I reckon he’s appointed himself as my personal dietician – I’ll be back to normal in no time with him on the case.”

Angel smiled, cupped the back of her head in his large palm and pressed a gentle kiss to the centre of her forehead.

“Wesley’s a good friend.” he commented when he released her, not just referring to the ex-watcher’s attempt to feed her up. They owed the man a lot; if it hadn’t been for him, then they would still be avoiding their problems rather than facing up to them.

“Yeah, he’s da bomb; even if he doesn’t know what that means.” Cordelia replied with a smile.

“Never mind.” she shook her head at her boyfriend’s puzzled look. “Just kiss me big guy.”

Angel duly complied with his girlfriend’s husky demand, treating her to a long drugging kiss that had her head spinning and her knees buckling. Strong hands encircled Cordelia’s waist, steadying her, and she squeaked in surprise when the vampire lifted her effortlessly off the ground and up into his arms.

She wound her long tanned legs around his waist and encircled his head with her arms, peppering his face with sweet kisses and pressing the damp heat of her centre against his taut belly.

“I love you.” She bent to whisper softly in his ear, nuzzling at his neck as he carried her through into the dimly lit bedroom.

Angel gently lowered his precious cargo down on to the mattress, then stepped back to look his fill. As his desire-laden eyes travelled over his girlfriend’s exposed golden skin, he was suddenly glad that she had taken the edge off his arousal with the impromptu bout of oral sex in the bathroom. Now he would be able to take the time to worship every inch of her voluptuous body and really show her just how much he loved her.

Oh Boy! I know *that* look.

Cordelia unconsciously let her legs drop open in silent invitation, and shivered in helpless anticipation at the familiar intent that she saw gleaming in her vampire’s chocolate eyes.

Angel climbed onto the bed and knelt between her spread thighs, preparing to incite the woman he loved to the pinnacle of sensual delight. He started off his campaign of seduction by running one finger lightly across the soft skin of her lower abdomen, smiling in satisfaction when her stomach muscles jumped and she gasped in response to his expert stimulation of one of her secret erogenous zones.

Cordelia closed her eyes and moaned breathlessly as the vampire’s talented hands began to draw swirly patterns on her tingling flesh. He began his voyage of discovery just above the dark curls that hid the entrance to her body, and then slowly moved on upwards until he was tracing ever decreasing circles around her full breasts.

Her dusky pink nipples were standing to attention, literally begging for his skilful touch and Cordelia sucked in a deep breath waiting for the pleasurable sensations that were sure to follow. When the vampire’s adept fingers suddenly left her body without satisfying her need however, the seer wailed in frustration. “Angel! Oh God! Oh please!”

“Patience baby, patience. All in good time.” he bent to murmur soothingly in her ear, his voice low and gravely as he suckled lightly at the pulse-point on her neck, savouring the rush of pumping blood under his exploring lips.

His cool mouth then placed a trail of biting kisses along the column of her throat, and down between the valley of her breasts, moving towards her lower abdomen. Holding his girlfriend’s undulating hips lightly in his big hands, Angel kissed the velvety skin of her slightly rounded belly and deftly circled her navel with his tongue, coaxing little mewling sounds of pleasure from the writhing woman beneath him.

Cordelia mindlessly tossed her head back and forth on the pillow, lost in the erotic sensations he was engendering within her. Angel hadn’t even touched her most intimate places yet, and it already felt like her whole body was on fire. A thin sheen of sweat broke out over her body and her damp hair stuck to her flushed cheeks as her sex became slick with creamy arousal.

She’d missed this so much; sex and making love appeared on the surface to be the same thing, but with Angel there was a world of difference. The physical intimacy that they had shared during their weeks of estrangement had only left the seer feeling more empty and alone, whereas now, as her beloved vampire tenderly made love to her once again, she felt like she was the most cherished woman alive.

A cool mouth unexpectedly latched onto her left breast and Cordelia couldn’t prevent the high impassioned cry that escaped her lips as a result. She arched into Angel’s touch, moaning helplessly as his hand moulded the soft flesh of her other breast in his palm, his thumb teasing the tightly puckered and sensitive peak.

Angel ground his burgeoning erection into the mattress, trying to relieve the aching pressure in his groin, as the thick heady scent of feminine arousal saturated the air around him. Drawn like a moth to a flame, he hunkered down between Cordelia’s spread thighs, eager to taste the sweet honey that he could see glistening on the pink folds of her womanhood.

As his tongue caressed the length of her sex and lightly circled her throbbing clit, Cordelia cried out at the sheer pleasure of the contact, but then clutched at his shoulders, trying to tug him back up the length of her body. “Oh God Angel – I need you in me. Please – it’s been so long.”

Unable to resist his lover’s soft plea, the vampire rose from between her legs and positioned himself at her entrance, the tip of his erection brushing against her wet and quivering opening. With a low groan, he sank inch by inch into her tight core, burying himself to the hilt inside her welcoming warmth.

A soft soughing sound tumbled from Cordelia’s lips as his thick length filled her and stretched her vaginal walls to the limit. “Oh Angel!” she breathed, completely overwhelmed by the exquisite sensation of their joining.

Angel held still and looked down into his girlfriend’s beautiful face, watching as her eyes closed and her features contorted with pleasure. Struck with a flash of inspiration, he dropped a kiss on the end of her pretty nose and then gently pulled out of her body, rolling them both onto their sides.

“Angel?” Cordelia’s eyes popped open and worriedly gazed up at him.

“Ssh, it’s okay,” the vampire soothed, running a cool hand slowly down the contours of her body and hooking it under her knee. He pulled her toned leg up over his hip, opening up to him, before repositioning himself at her entrance and slowly pushing back inside her warm depths.

With his big palms cupping her rounded bottom, he tugged her closer so that they lay skin to skin up the length of their torsos, their faces mere centimetres away from each other. The restricted position wouldn’t permit much more than a shallow rocking movement, but this night was aimed at re-affirming their love for each other, not satisfying sexual needs.

Bridging the small gap between their mouths, Angel settled his lips firmly over Cordelia’s and began to move within her, his pubic bone stimulating her throbbing clitoris with each steady stroke.

Everything else faded into insignificance for the couple as they continued to exchange tender kisses, their tongues sliding slowly and sensually over each other. Surrendering heart and soul to the power of their mutual devotion, they slow-danced together in the age-old rhythm of love, entwining their physical bodies even tighter around each other until it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.

Long blissful minutes later, Cordelia suddenly arched her back and dug her fingernails into boyfriend’s shoulders, crying out breathlessly as waves of pure joy crashed over her, flooding her entire body with sweet ecstasy. Angel immediately followed her over the edge into the abyss, releasing his seed deep inside her hot pulsating core with a long drawn-out groan of completion.

Disorientated and emotionally vulnerable in the wake of her climax, Cordelia burst into tears as a mixture of anguish and relief overwhelmed her. No longer able to control her reactions to recent pain-filled events, she buried her face into the curve of Angel’s neck and desperately tried to stifle her weeping.

“Ssh baby, Ssh. It’s going to be all right. I promise.” Angel murmured, gathering his girlfriend close in his arms, and whispering nonsensical words of comfort in her ear until her sobs diminished to the occasional hiccup.

“Come on – we should get some sleep.” he said gently, pulling back the covers so that they could snuggle down together under the warm and cosy quilt.

Shifting to get comfortable, Angel spooned his big body around the seer’s smaller frame, so that one arm cushioned her head and the palm of his other hand rested flat against her toned belly. The seer curled her fingers around his and nestled back into the circle of his arms, sighing contentedly.

Utterly drained, both mentally and physically, by the day’s emotional rollercoaster ride, they each succumbed to sleep a few minutes later.

***

“Eww! This is so gross.”

Wesley looked up at Cordelia’s muffled exclamation of disgust, smiling broadly as he took in her appearance – she was dressed as though she was about to handle high level chemical waste.

The young brunette wore a canary yellow plastic apron, that she’d discovered in Caritas’s kitchen, over her navy blue combat pants and turquoise t-shirt, while her hands were protected with a matching pair of thick rubber gloves. An anti-pollution mask concealed her nose and mouth, and her long dark hair was twisted into a top-knot under a transparent shower-cap.

With her arms sticking out straight in front of her, she gingerly carried a large mixing bowl into the room; the container full of the goat’s entrails that they’d purchased the previous evening.

The disgruntled seer crossed to where the ex-watcher was sitting and banged the bowl down on the table’s surface, causing the rank contents to slosh about inside. Wesley calmly continued to measure out precise quantities of herbs, spices, and multi-coloured powders into various specimen tubes, while Cordelia plonked herself down in the chair opposite.

“How come you get to do that and I have to cut up the yucky stuff?” she protested plaintively.

“Cordelia – this is a very delicate operation. If I’m even a quarter of a gram out with these measurements, then the exorcising potion could have a completely different effect to the one we want,” Wesley explained, stifling a grin. “We don’t need precise quantities of entrails; just cutting them up into small pieces will suffice.”

“Why are you doing so many?” Cordelia asked curiously, indicating the tidy groups of glass containers that covered the table’s surface.

“The potion only lasts an hour before it becomes ineffective. We need to be ready to whip up a new batch in case our time runs out.”

“Oh – I guess that makes sense,” the seer concurred with the ex-watcher’s logic. “Okay – give me the knife so I can get this over with.”

“I still reckon this is some sort of conspiracy,” she said a few silent minutes later; wrinkling her nose as chopped up the bloody mass and put it into her own supply of specimen tubes. “After he’s been all hero-ey, Angel always leaves me to do all the demon goo clean-up jobs. Doyle used to help me, so I guess you get that honour now.”

“Thanks a bunch.” Wesley said wryly. “Where is Angel anyway?”

“Still sleeping – it’s not vampire rise and shine time yet.” Cordelia replied. “I was going to let him sleep in; he’s not had much rest over the last few weeks and if he’s going to face Faith, then he needs to be fighting fit.”

Wesley nodded. “Did you two get chance to talk last night?”

Two bright pink spots appeared in the centre of the seer’s cheeks. “Err – not exactly talk, but let’s just say we communicated.”

“Oh … I see,” was the ex-watcher’s embarrassed reply after her meaning had sunk in.

“Do you think it was the wrong thing to do?” Cordelia asked, her hazel eyes peering worriedly at her friend over her white mask.

“No, I don’t think so,” Wesley answered; it had obviously been good for her – the seer seemed a lot happier and more at peace with herself this morning.

“Just as long as it wasn’t just an attempt to avoid your real issues of course,” he added after a brief pause.

“It wasn’t.” Cordelia assured him. “We agreed that we still needed to talk – it’s not a very good time for doing so right now though.”

They both turned their heads as their conversation was interrupted by someone singing in a loud and cheerful voice.

“Morning has broken, like the first morning; blackbird has spoken, like the first bird…”

Lorne entered the room, dressed in a dark gold dressing gown, a mug of coffee cupped in his green hands. “Good morning my lovelies. Sleep well?”

“Yes; thank you,” was Wesley’s polite response to the Host’s question.

“I trust the bed-springs survived intact?” the green demon asked Cordelia impertinently. “I couldn’t concentrate on my readings last night; the sizzling vibes radiating from your and the vamp detective’s bedroom kept distracting me.”

The seer was completely speechless, not quite able to get her head around the Host’s nonchalant boldness in relation to her – very personal – sex-life.

“Good thing this place has excellent sound-proofing, eh?” Lorne continued, winking at an amused Wesley. “It used to be a brothel in times gone by, or so I’ve heard anyway.”

“You shouldn’t be invading people’s privacy like that.” Cordelia accused weakly, her face scarlet.

“Kind of hard not to, princess – you and Angelcakes have some seriously hot chemistry going on. Where is my favourite brood-meister by the way?”

“Right behind you.” Angel appeared out of nowhere to answer the green demon’s query.

The vampire was dressed casually in black sweatpants and a white vest top, obviously stripped down and ready for action. He winked slyly at his blushing girlfriend. “Like the outfit gorgeous.”

“I’m starting a new fashion trend.” Cordelia shot back, striking an exaggerated pose. “You think it will catch on?”

Angel laughed. “Not so much.” he said, lifting the mask away from her face to softly kiss her good morning. “Whatcha doing?”

“Sorting out the ingredients for Faith’s potion,” Wesley answered. “And we really should be getting back to it – we don’t have time for idle chit-chat.”

The vampire nodded, his face turning serious. “I thought I’d get some training in. I need to be totally focused when we go up against Faith. The aim is to capture and restrain her long enough to get the potion into her; I don’t want to hurt her by mistake.”

Angel turned to Lorne. “You mind if I clear back the tables to create some space?” he asked, indicating the now uninhabited bar area and dance-floor.

“No – knock yourself out, pumpkin. Mi casa es su casa, amigo.”

“I spoke to Willow earlier.” Wesley called over to Angel as the seer, the ex-watcher and the vampire returned to their respective tasks. “Their bus gets in at nineteen-thirty.”

“Okay – I’ll pick them up. I think it’s best if you two stay here though. Let’s not give Faith too many targets to aim at.”

“And when you get back?” Cordelia asked fearfully.

“We get this done,” came the determined reply from the vampire.

***

Faith sat perched on the ledge, her legs and feet dangling precariously into empty air; her brown eyes were focused intently on the building opposite as the Orb within waited for the appropriate moment to strike at its enemies.

Twisting the slayer’s favourite hooked knife over and over in her unnaturally cold hands, she resisted the urge to drive the weapon into the quartet of black-robed priests behind her on the roof.

The four men stood in a tight circle, their low chanting voices harmonising into an irritating monotone that was setting her teeth on edge. One of their number broke rank to approach her, pressing his palms together and bowing so deeply that his prominent nose almost touched his knee-caps.

“Is it time yet, your holiness?” he asked.

“No – you moron. Did I say it was time?” Faith snapped, twisting around to glare at the sycophantic priest, her brown eyes flickering to red.

She desperately wanted to grind the pesky bug underfoot, but unfortunately needed the grovelling little idiot for her plan. Quick as a flash, she jumped down onto the concrete roof and had her knife at the man’s throat before he even had time to blink.

The priest’s green eyes bugged out of their sockets in terror. “I’m so terribly sorry, mistress. It was wrong of me to question your authority – I apologise profusely…”

“Shut up!” Faith applied pressure to the hilt of the knife and the sharp blade sliced cleanly into the man’s skin, making him squeal like a stuck pig.

Faith laughed and removed the weapon from his throat, tucking it into the waistband of her jeans. She ran her thumb along the shallow wound, smearing the blood over the priest’s neck, before holding her blood-stained thumb up in front of his terrified face to show him her handiwork.

“Relax – it’s just a small cut. See?” she said unsympathetically, shoving the dark-robed priest roughly away.

“Go back to your classmates and wait for my signal.” she instructed coldly, dismissing him with a regal wave of her hand.

The petrified man had the nous to use his pea-sized brain for once, and scuttled back over to his black-robed counterpart whilst the possessed woman turned back to her watch, using the slayer’s innate agility to vault back into position. She glanced up at the darkening sky and then down at the modern time-piece strapped to her wrist – sunset had nearly arrived, just five more minutes to go.

Faith had to admit retreating to a building protected by a sanctuary spell was very clever move on the vampire’s part – it was just too bad that she had friends in high places who could supply her with the means to break through the Furies magic.

A calculating smirk twisted her lips as she remembered how Lindsey and Lilah had fallen over themselves to assist her – it seemed they hated the vampire almost as much as she did. It was really quite amusing to watch them vying for her attention, both of them desperately trying to curry favour with their elusive bosses.

The Orb doubted that the Senior Partners were even remotely interested in their employees trite attempts to out-do one another; all they wanted was drones to do their bidding, and one lawyer was indistinguishable from the next in that respect. Humans did seem to respond to this kind of one-upmanship however, so she supposed cultivating an atmosphere of competitiveness in the devil’s workplace did serve some purpose.

The sound of voices floated up from the street below, and her attention was diverted back to the building that she’d been staking out for the better half of the day. Faith’s eyes narrowed with glee as Angel emerged alone onto the cobbled street, turning back to wave farewell to Cordelia and Wesley who stood within the dubious safety of Caritas.

“Stay here until I get back with Buffy and Willow.” she heard him instruct before he climbed into his vehicle, gunned the engine, and sped off down the alleyway towards the main highway.

Putting her hands underneath her, Faith slowly rose to her feet and stood on the ledge, her hands on her hips. She looked down on the Karaoke Club below and a malicious smile spread across her face.

“Showtime!”

Part 7

Posted June 23, 2015 by califi in Complete

A Crisis of Faith. 4   1 comment

Part 4

“She woke up.” Wesley sat down heavily on the brown leather couch as Angel, responding to Cordelia’s body language, enveloped his girlfriend in a comforting hug.

“I took too long to find a way to save her.” the ex-watcher reproached himself, absolutely devastated by his imagined failure.

Angel held Cordelia close for a few moments, then pressed a soft kiss to her temple before releasing her to sit down next to their dejected friend.

“Wes – this is not your fault.” he reassured the ex-watcher, patting him soothingly on the back.

“What else did the hospital tell you? How did she escape?” Wesley lifted his gaze to question Cordelia; his blue eyes filled with trepidation as he hoped for the best, but feared the worst.

“She attacked one of the nurses – stole her clothes and car.” the seer quietly informed him, seating herself besides Angel and threading her fingers through his; she was not quite ready to let go of the recently re-established bond between the two of them just yet.

“Dear God!” Wesley exclaimed in horror as he nervously removed his glasses to clean the lenses – the action a classic symptom of distress in the dark-haired Englishman.

Cordelia reached over Angel to lay a comforting hand on Wesley’s forearm. “She’s going to be all right.” she rushed to appease her stressed out friend. “Faith – I mean the Orb – broke her wrist, but otherwise she’ll be fine.”

“This doesn’t change anything.” Angel put in. “It’s a setback, but it’s not too late to help her. We’ll carry on as planned and free Faith from the Orb’s influence.”

“We’ve got to find her first.” Wesley glumly reminded the resolute vampire, his shoulders slumped in defeat.

“I don’t think that will be too much of a problem. If I know evil, and I do, then the Orb is going to try to eliminate anything or anyone it views as a threat – Faith is probably headed in our direction as we speak.”

“What if she’s not?” the ex-watcher continued to play devil’s advocate.

“Then she’s on her way to Sunnydale.”

Angel’s broad forehead creased into a thoughtful frown as he stood up and started to pace up and down like a general inspecting his troops. After a few moments of silent contemplation, he stopped his relentless to-ing and fro-ing and turned to face them, the expression on his handsome face suddenly all business.

“Listen to me guys – we are *not* going to give up just because things have taken an unprecedented turn, okay?” he told them with steely determination.

The ex-watcher and seer nodded in silent unison, staring wide-eyed at the vampire who loomed large over them, his posture brimming with an awe-inspiring level of self-confidence.

“Will you need Willow for the spell to re-seal the Orb?” Angel demanded of Wesley who instinctively sat up straighter at the vampire’s authoritative tone.

“I believe so yes. The spell is extremely dangerous if cast incorrectly – Willow is the only one with enough magical power to pull it off.”

Angel nodded, then turned to quiz his girlfriend. “Cordy – you keep in touch with her right?”

Cordelia, somewhat surprisingly, did. It had started with the occasional phone-call when the then secretary of Angel Investigations, had needed help with the computer. Slowly over time though, a tentative on-line friendship had developed between the two girls. They now regularly exchanged emails once or twice a week, keeping each other up-to-date with the respective happenings in LA and Sunnydale.

“Go and call her.” the vampire directed. “They need to be prepared if Faith shows up there.”

Buoyed up by Angel’s total belief in their ability to save Faith, Wesley determinedly sprang to his feet, his composure finally returning full force.

“I’ll go and sort through my notes – the potion to banish the Orb requires some special ingredients. We’ll need to locate the lines of supply for them in LA.” he murmured thoughtfully to himself, then industriously scurried out of the living area, once again intent on his self-imposed mission to save the brunette slayer.

With his inherent supernatural ability to sense another’s gaze on him, Angel gradually became aware that Cordelia had her hazel eyes carefully trained on him. He turned around to face her, taking note of the coy smile that hovered on her lips and tugged at the corners of her generous mouth.

“What?” he enquired, crossing his eyes impatiently at her.

The seer’s face split into a beaming smile at her boyfriend’s puzzled question, but she enigmatically didn’t reply to his query. Instead, she stood up and calmly walked towards him, a decidedly wicked twinkle gleaming in her caramel orbs. Angel’s pupils dilated with arousal and his nostrils flared, completely mesmerised by the intoxicating sway of her curvy hips as she first approached, then sexily sauntered by him on her way to the phone.

“I love it when you get all take chargey.” she purred throatily with a saucy wink in his direction. “It gets me all hot and bothered.”

All the borrowed blood in Angel’s body immediately rushed south at her subtle teasing, but he was astounded to discover that he was also highly shocked by her playful bantering. Their lives had been so full of angst recently that he’d virtually forgotten the easy-going and comfortable nature of their relationship prior to Doyle’s death.

Cordelia giggled at the stunned expression that washed over her boyfriend’s strikingly handsome features at her mischievous actions, but her laughter trailed off when Angel’s face fell and his forehead crinkled into a characteristic broody frown.

“What’s wrong?” she asked quietly, disappointed that her attempt to lighten the mood had fallen flat.

“Nothing.” Angel tersely replied, then groaned inwardly, quickly recognising his predictably defensive response to his girlfriend’s diffident question.

You have got to face up to your problems and talk them through with her, because sticking your head in the sand and hoping it will all go away isn’t going to make things right between you again.

Wesley’s earlier words came to mind, illuminating a light bulb of self-awareness in Angel’s brain. Instinctively pushing Cordelia away was par for the course just lately, but the vampire knew that he had to break that cycle if he and his seer were to ever find their way back to each other.

Heeding his friend’s sensible advice, Angel took a deep un-needed breath and tried again, making a conscious effort to explain his feelings rather than bottling them up inside.

“I mean … It’s just … well … I’ve missed this.” he stammered, gesturing between the two of them with a jerky wave of his hand.

Cordelia had grown quite adept at deciphering the meaning behind her boyfriend’s nervous stuttering, so she quickly cottoned on to what the tongue-tied vampire was trying to articulate to her.

“Yeah me too.” she softly confessed, her voice thick with unshed tears.

Relieved that he was finally starting to open up to her, Cordelia stepped forward and flung herself into Angel’s arms, locking her upper limbs tightly around his neck and burying her face into the hollow of his throat.

“Promise me we can make this right again.” she mumbled beseechingly against his cool skin as tears involuntarily escaped from the corner of her eyes to run down her cheeks.

As his arms closed around her trembling form, Angel felt the backs of his own eyes sting with moisture, her pleading words striking an emotional chord deep within his soul. They stood wrapped in each others arms, holding on for dear life, until Angel eventually pulled way.

The normally stoic vampire rested his forehead lightly against Cordelia’s and gazed down into her tearstained face, brushing a few damp strands of dark hair out of her eyes before opening his mouth to speak.

“We need to talk.” he choked out, his voice hoarse with suppressed emotion. “We’ve not been communicating properly lately, have we?”

Digging her fingers into the ropy muscles of Angel’s lower back, Cordelia stood on her tiptoes and bridged the small gap between them to press her warm lips against her boyfriend’s mobile mouth in a brief, but heartfelt, kiss.

“No we haven’t.” she tearfully concurred with his statement when they drew apart. “How about we remedy that?”

Angel cupped the side of her face in his hand, and stroked his thumb over her cheekbone in a gently rhythmic caress. “Cordy – I want to, I really do, but what with everything that’s going on, this isn’t the right time. There’s ….”

“Faith – I know.” Cordelia cut in, reaching up to curl her fingers around the hand that was tenderly cradling her cheek. She turned her face to kiss the hollow of his palm before stepping back out of his arms.

“I should go and call Willow.” she murmured, gesturing towards the phone on the other side of the room. “You promise we’ll talk soon?”

“Yeah – we’ll talk soon.” The vampire echoed her words back at her.

As Cordelia turned and walked away from him, Angel was suddenly reluctant to end the conversation without taking one more step towards reconciliation. He quickly reached out with one hand to prevent her from departing. “Cor?”

His seer turned back to face him and looked up into his face with questioning eyes. Angel took one of her hands in both of his and lifted their joined fingers to his mouth to press a sweet kiss to the backs of her knuckles.

“I just wanted to say – I’m not angry with you anymore over … well … you know what.” he whispered falteringly, obliquely referring to the cause of their destructive argument a few weeks ago.

“I really am sorry about not telling you Angel – you know that right?”

“Yeah, I know.” The vampire palmed her face in his hands and rubbed his nose against hers in a soft Eskimo kiss. “I love you – please don’t ever think that I don’t, okay?”

“Okay.” Cordelia nodded, a shy smile creeping over her features as his sincere words warmed her from the inside out.

Angel gently pushed her way, a rueful smile on his lips. “Go call Willow.” he instructed, desperately wanting to keep her close by his side, but knowing that they had to deal with the Faith situation before they took the time out to work through their problems.

“Yes sir.” Cordelia saluted him cheekily. She graced him with her wide beautiful smile for the first time in several weeks, much happier now that their relationship was on the road to recovery.

Angel felt himself return her sunny expression with a smile of his own, which broadened at the words that she affectionately threw back over her shoulder at him as she headed across the room.

“I love you too by the way broody boy, and don’t you *ever* forget it.”

***

Buffy smoothly ran through the series of Tai-Chi exercises that Angel had taught her several years ago, seeking to assuage the vague sense of unease that had been nagging constantly at her recently. Her new boyfriend sat on the bed in the college dorm that she shared with Willow, watching her graceful movements with quiet appreciation.

Riley’s silent scrutiny made the petite slayer feel warm and tingly inside, but the emotions he engendered within her seemed commonplace in comparison to the power and passion of her first love. Riley knew about her slayer status, but Buffy had yet to tell him about Angel, her gut instinct telling her that the soldier would never understand about her two year relationship with the souled vampire. The blond slayer knew that she would have to tell him soon, because one of her friends was bound to let the proverbial cat out the bag before long.

Buffy had heard on the grapevine that Angel’s relationship with Cordelia was still going strong which surprised her enormously. In the slayer’s opinion, they were complete polar opposites with nothing at all in common, so she had assumed that, once the physical attraction had died down, the two of them would fragment apart.

This hadn’t happened though and it appeared that Angel was carving out a new life for himself in LA, a life that didn’t include her. This state of affairs filled Buffy with sorry regret – she had tried so hard to forget about him but even now, seven months on, there was still a part of the slayer that hankered after the tall, dark vampire.

Buffy purposely shook off her unsettling thoughts and threw a bright smile in Riley’s direction, crossing the room to confidently straddle his strong thighs. She ran her fingers through his shock of sandy hair and bent her head to kiss him, attempting to banish the niggling memories of her ex with some hot smooches from her new boyfriend.

The shrill ring of the phone, a few seconds later, interrupted their passionate embrace; Buffy nimbly hopped off Riley’s lap, and quickly crossed the room to answer the call. “Hello?”

There was a brief pause on the other end of the line and then a familiar voice spoke. “Buffy?”

“Cordelia.” Buffy flatly acknowledged her rival and former classmate.

“Umm – is Willow there?”

“No, she’s still in Class.”

“Oh.” Cordelia momentarily fell silent, then took a deep breath and carried on speaking. “I guess I’d better fill you in on the situation instead then.” she decided.

“What situation?”

“We had a phone-call – Faith woke up and escaped from the rehabilitation centre this morning.”

“Oh God!” Buffy closed her eyes and sank down into the chair by the dressing table, completely stunned by this unexpected turn of events.

“Angel reckons she’s either heading our way, or to Sunnydale, so we rang to warn you.”

“Why did you ring Willow? Angel should have called me.” Buffy exclaimed, hurt that the witch had been their first port of call.

“Cus we need Willow to help Faith that’s why.” Cordelia impatiently explained to the petulant slayer. “Wesley is back from England and he’s found a way to free Faith from the Orb. He wants Will to cast the binding spell that will seal it back in the ground.”

“Is he there?”

“Who – Wesley?”

“No Angel!” Buffy burst out, annoyed by Cordelia’s apparently clueless response to her question.

“Oh right – yeah he’s here.”

“Put him on.” the slayer instructed imperiously.

For a second Buffy thought Cordelia was going to refuse, but then the former cheerleader let out a resigned sigh and the quiet murmur of voices could be heard in the background.

Moments later, the rich deep timbre of Angel’s voice vibrated over the phone line, sending shivers down the length of the blond slayer’s spine. “Hello Buffy.”

“Hi.” she replied, cringing in embarrassment when her voice came out all soft and breathy. The mortified slayer coughed and cleared her throat. “How ya doing?”

“I’m good.” was Angel’s short to the point response. “You?”

“Good – I’m good, we’re all good. So – about Faith?”

“Wes has found a way to save her, but we’re gonna need Willow’s help.”

“So Cordelia said.”

“My gut feeling is telling me that she’s either en route to LA or heading towards Sunnydale.”

“Again with the ‘so Cordelia said’ line.”

“I need you guys to sit tight until she shows up somewhere.” the vampire continued. “If that turns out to be Sunnydale, then give us a call and we’ll be there ASAP.”

“All right.” Buffy agreed. “So how are things going in LA? Willow says you’ve opened a detective agency” she continued conversationally.

“Look Buffy, I don’t have time to stay and chat.” Angel said. “Wes is chomping at the bit to get the ingredients we need for the exorcising potion. I can’t let him go out alone – not with Faith on the loose.”

“Oh. Okay then.” the slayer replied, disappointed. “Shall I tell Will to ring when she gets back?”

“Yep, that would be good. And Buffy?”

“Yes?”

“If she shows up, don’t do anything rash okay? We’re facing the essence of pure evil combined with Faith’s slayer strength – I don’t think that’s something you should, or even could, fight alone.”

“All right, I’ll be careful.” Buffy promised; butterflies starting to flutter in her tummy as his logical assumption about her fellow slayer’s present capabilities hit home.

“That cuts both ways Angel.” she pointedly reminded him, deliberately squelching the fear that was tying her stomach up in knots.

“I’ll speak to you later.” Angel replied and the line went dead before she could lodge a complaint about his avoidance tactics.

Buffy replaced the receiver in its cradle with a heavy sigh and nervously began to chew on her thumbnail, turning the potential nightmare that was about to descend over and over in her head.

She almost jumped out of her skin when Riley’s voice sounded from behind her – she’d totally forgotten that he was there.

“Who’s Angel?

***

The bell above the door tinkled as they entered the small shop that was tucked away down a rat-infested back-street in downtown LA. The three friends had spent the last four hours traversing the length and breadth of the city, gathering supplies for their impending confrontation with the Orb-possessed Faith.

Despite her protestations, Angel had refused point-blank to let Cordelia remain behind in the relative luxury of their apartment; declaring that until Faith showed, neither she, nor Wesley, were leaving his side for a minute. The vampire was not about to let another member of his surrogate family die because he had failed to protect them.

Logically Cordelia knew her boyfriend was right; he was the only one with a cat in hell’s chance of holding his own against Faith – she and Wesley were vulnerable by the simple virtue of their humanity. Understanding the necessity for them to stick together didn’t make this little trip around the seedy underbelly of LA any easier for the seer to stomach though.

Cordelia hoped to high heaven that this was their last stop – she was yearning for a long hot shower, desperately needing to wash off the corruptive stink of the demon underworld that she had just been subjected to a highlighted tour of.

With the sun still shining for the first couple of hours of their shopping trip, they had been forced to take the sewers to make their way around LA. The stench down there was gross – Cordelia felt the urge to hurl just thinking about it; not to mention the fact that her – very expensive designer – shoes were ruined from the stagnant water pools that she had been forced to step into. Sometimes working for the Powers That Be was a real bitch.

“Hullo?” Wesley called out into the seemingly empty shop interior. “Anyone home?”

A small figure suddenly materialised out of thin air in front of them, causing Cordelia to start with surprise and almost drop all the precious packages that she was holding.

The little man was about three feet high and was, for some unknown reason, dressed like a pantomime elf – he wore a pair of khaki lederhosen and a dark green hat with a brown feather sticking jauntily out of the top of it.

“Greigor – I presume?” Wesley asked, seemingly indifferent to the little fellow’s astonishing appearance.

“Aye – how may I help you?” Greigor’s voice was high-pitched and tinged with a vaguely Irish accent.

“We need some goat’s entrails please.”

Eww!!

“I don’t serve vampires.” Greigor replied, his face hardening as his eyes fell on Angel’s mid-section.

Great – another shop assistant who needs ‘persuading’ to part with the goods. Why can’t he be open to bribery like his more intelligent counterparts? Does he have his head screwed on backwards or what?

Cordelia slowly backed away towards the safety of the far wall as Angel regarded Greigor with a raised eyebrow, highly amused by the little guy’s frankly comical refusal to assist them. The stubborn elf had to know that he could separate his head from his body in seconds.

“He’s not a normal vampire.” Wesley explained. “This is Angel.”

“The vampire with a soul? The Power’s Champion?” Greigor stared up at Angel in awe, tilting his head so far back to observe the vampire’s face that he almost toppled over.

“The one and only.” Angel agreed solemnly, trying not to laugh at the wonderment shining in the elf’s bright green eyes.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise. I’ll go and get your entrails right away.” Greigor burst out frantically, almost genuflecting to the souled vampire and tripping over his tiny feet in his haste to serve them. He escaped into the back of the shop, searching for the items that they required.

“I see your reputation precedes you.” Wesley commented, tongue firmly in cheek and his blue eyes sparking with amusement at the elf’s hero worship.

“Looks like.” Angel replied, shooting a proud, shit-eating grin at the smiling ex-watcher.

“Pfft!” Cordelia crossed the room to join them. “They’ll be starting up their own fan website next – www hello I’m a sad loser dot com.”

“Hey!” Angel protested.

Wesley laughed and Cordelia grinned impudently up at her boyfriend as she slipped one hand through the crook of his arm and lightly squeezed the hard muscles in his upper arm.

The vampire shook his head and laughed. “I’m so glad I have you guys around to burst my bubble of self-importance.”

“I don’t think you need it.” Cordelia remarked. “You are the most modest dark avenger I know.”

“There are some people around who could do with a good dose of humility though.” she added under her breath, thinking back to Buffy’s arrogant demand to speak to Angel a few hours earlier.

Angel wisely let that pass, not wanting to bring the subject of his ex-girlfriend into the arena, especially as his relationship with the beautiful seer was still on somewhat shaky ground. They waited in silence for a few minutes until Greigor re-emerged from the store room, struggling to carry a large jar of body parts.

“You want it gift-wrapped?” he asked, overly eager to please his auspicious customer.

Cordelia wrinkled her pretty nose in distaste at the repugnant contents of the glass screw-top pot. “Excuse me while I barf – you do know those are the most disgusting things ever, don’t you?”

“My stock comes from the best suppliers, young lassie.” Greigor told her indignantly, frowning at the gagging brunette.

Wesley took the jar of entrails from the elf and stashed it in one of the sacks they had brought with them. “How much do we owe you?”

“It’s on the house – anything to help the Power’s Champion.” Greigor replied, beaming up at Angel.

“I think it’s time to leave before he asks for your autograph or starts kissing your feet.” Cordelia stood on her tiptoes to whisper in her boyfriend’s ear.

After bidding the ecstatic elf farewell, the three of them ventured back into the dirty, smelly, pitch-black alleyway outside.

“Can we go home now?” Cordelia asked plaintively, clinging to Angel’s hand as they quickly made their way towards the orange hue of the streetlamp ahead, all of them conscious of the faint skittering sounds that could be heard from all around.

The vampire nodded. “I think that’s everything – right Wes?”

“Yeah – we’re done. When we get back we’ll need to …” Wesley broke off and quickly span around as he heard the sharp twang of an arrow being released from a crossbow.

Cordelia’s world went into slow motion as she watched the steel-tipped dart head with unerring accuracy towards its intended target – Angel’s unprotected chest. To her intense relief, the vampire’s lightening reflexes enabled him to catch the wooden stake in one hand and he halted its progress mere millimetres away from his heart.

The seer gasped and her heart began to race in terror as a familiar figure emerged from behind a metal dumpster to block their path.

“That was so cool.” Faith commented, the streetlight illuminating the cruel smirk on her face and the fiery red glow of her Orb-possessed eyes.

“This is going to be fun.” she added and, with that, disappeared off into the night.

Part 5

Posted June 23, 2015 by califi in Complete