Archive for June 25, 2015

His Lady Lazerus. 16   1 comment

Part 16

Cordelia drifted in and out of the ephemeral state of not quite awake not quite asleep with the feeling that something wasn’t entirely as it should be. It wasn’t that there was something missing, exactly. No. More that something was there that wasn’t before. It wasn’t the same feeling she’d had the night after Wilson Christopher, when she’d woken up with heck of a lot more than aching thighs and stubble rash on her throat.

This was the opposite of that.

This was-

comforting, secure, peaceful, protected

-like finding something she didn’t know existed.

With that existential thought poking at her caffeine starved occipital lobe, Cordelia blinked once, twice, and forced her eyes to adjust to the low light that leaked through the drapes but didn’t quite make it to the bed. Dust motes were frozen in the still air and the low hum of traffic told Cordelia that LA was already awake and on the treadmill. Downstairs a filling cabinet slammed shut with more force than strictly necessary and like a single cartoon light bulb being switched on above her head, the who, why, when and how of where she was came tumbling over Cordelia.

An amused smile curled at her mouth as Angel muttered in his sleep, lips pressed against the back of her neck, and tightened the arm he’d lazily draped around Cordelia’s waist sometime during the night.

With all the stealth she could muster at seven in the morning, Cordelia levered Angel’s arm up a few inches and shuffled around in the tight cocoon of his arms until they were face to face. The T-shirt she’d scavenged from beneath the bed at sometime during the night twisted awkwardly around her like a straight jacket, rubbing against still sensitive skin. Angel frowned at the disruption of movement, his eyebrows drawing together unhappily until Cordelia ceased her fight with the T-shirt.

“Finished?” Angel muttered, voice raw with sleep.

“Mmm,” she hummed, eyes closed as she wriggled closer to the contact that was now second nature. She pressed her nose into the steel ridge of Angel’s collarbone and breathed in the musty scent of his skin. In turn, Angel’s hand crept beneath the hem of her top and splayed flat against the small of Cordelia’s back.

Her face was puffy from sleep and her mouth felt full of cotton, their legs were tangled awkwardly together and the arm she’d slept on was prickling to life with pins and needles.

“I don’t want to wake up yet,” Cordelia grumbled, the soundtrack of another day at the office gradually increasing in volume as Wesley cursed loudly at his computer.

Angel rubbed his jaw against the soft tangle on her hair. “Then don’t.”

Cordelia wondered if it were as simple as that. Her body was whispering to her to go back to sleep and she found she didn’t want to argue with it. “Wake me in half an hour, ‘kay?”

Angel grunted his agreement.

***

“But I know the file exists. I put it there myself, you lying servant of Lucifer!” Wesley smacked the side of the monitor, hoping that maybe a little brute force would help his cause.

This file does not exist blinked mockingly at him.

Rubbing his eyes, Wesley took a deep breath, grimacing when the lingering stench of last night’s battled reached his nose from his hands. It didn’t seem to matter how many times he showered, his fingers continued to reek of whatever it was the demons had excreted. Add to that the restless night of tossing and turning he’d had over thinking about Gunn, and Wesley Wyndam Pryce was on the verge of breaking out the not so secret bottle of Glen Fidditch from his desk draw.

Glancing at the clock, he decided that 8:30 am was still far too early for liquid courage. He pressed the tips of his fingers to the side of his steaming coffee cup, not moving them until the heat became too much and the desire for alcoholic sedation had passed. Cracking his neck from side to side, Wesley rebooted his computer and rested his elbows on the lobby countertop, waiting for the God of Lost Files to look down on him kindly. He propped his chin in hands as he watched his laptop buzz and groan back to life, eyes beginning to ache as he refused to give into the need to blink.

If he closed his eyes, Wesley wasn’t certain he had the strength to open them again.

The computer screen flickered blue ominously for a nervous heartbeat before it slowly, painfully, came back to life. Before Wesley could breathe a thankful sigh of relief, the Pop Up of Doom once again sprang to life.

An Internal Error Has Occured: Your computer will now shut down.

Of course, Wesley thought tiredly as he looked at the clock once more. Still too early.

The sound of approaching footsteps cut through the relative silence of the lobby as he let his head fall to the counter with a dull thud. The gurgle of the coffee machine stuttering to life, the high-pitched clink of china mugs being inspected and a low grunt of disgust told Wesley it was Angel who was, surprisingly, the first to rise.

“Tried hitting it?”

“Mnnph,” Wesley grunted.

Creek of wood, shuffle of papers, fingers tapping out an annoyingly cheerful beat on Cordelia’s desk top.

Wesley squeezed his eyes shut.

“Have you seen the Anderson file round here anywhere?”

“Under H.”

“Right.”

The shrill squeak of the filling cabinet opening, quiet muttering-Anderson, Anderson, Anderson, ah, there you are-and finally the clankslam of the draw rolling shut.

Blessed silence for one, two, three-

“Can you smell something?”

Wesley’s head sprang up from the counter, neck cracking painfully and the words I showered four times! on the tip of his tongue, but they were quickly swallowed down as the front door swung open, letting a short sharp burst of LA life into the Hotel before it was silenced just as swiftly by their early morning walk-in.

Six feet, give or take an inch, dirty blonde hair that needed to be cut, harried expression, ill-fitting suit, coffee stains on his lapel; Wesley had lived in America, and watched enough television, to recognise a cop when he saw one.
“I’m looking for a Mr. Angel?”

Angel unfolded himself from the edge of Cordelia’s desk and far too casually strolled out of the office and into the main lobby. “You’ve found him.”

“Detective Glass,” the Detective reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his badge with a practiced flick of his wrist, snapping it shut and depositing it back into its home before Wesley could even focus on the flash of silver. “You’re a tricky man to track down, Mr. Angel-”

“Angel. Just Angel. No mister.”

Detective Glass nodded and murmured, “Right.” He pulled out a small note pad and pencil and recorded the fact that Angel was certain he already knew. Glass looked up once he’d finished scribbling in his book and grinned, the skin around his eyes crinkling with what Wesley expected wasn’t laughter lines. “Kinda like Cher, huh?

“What can we do for you, Detective?” Angel asked, his jaw already tight with irritation.

“A few weeks ago you and a-” Glass scanned his notepad for the name he already had memorised, “-Miss Chase were present at the murder scene of Amy Morello?”

Angel’s stomach churned uncomfortably. “Amy was a client of ours.”

“You told one of our officers that she’d called you on her cell phone asking you to meet her, that she thought she was being followed?”

“That’s right,” Angel nodded, remembering the lie he’d hastily manufactured as the sirens had crept closer and all the colour had drained from Cordelia’s face.

“Huh,” Glass scribbled into his notepad again and Wesley felt the sudden urge to shove the Detective’s pen somewhere very uncomfortable. “Strange.”

Angel raised his eyebrows.

“There’s no record of that phone call on Ms Morello’s cell,” Glass said as he pocketed the notepad. He cocked his head to the left as he said, “Miss Chase’s neighbours were recently found deceased in their apartment. Did you know that? Maybe Miss Chase said something to you about it?”

The Detective didn’t blink as he waited for his question to be answered.

“Yes,” Angel said succinctly, arms folded across his chest.

“That’s a hell of a coincidence.”

“If you say so,” Angel said with a vague parody of a smile lifting the corners of his lips.

“Wouldn’t you? Say so, that is,” Glass narrowed his eyes as he watched the other man, searching for a tell that would give him away.

“I’d say you were the detective, Detective.” Angel let his mouth toy with the false politeness floating around his mouth to reveal a tiny glimpse of white teeth.

The office clock ticked loudly in the silence. Wesley cleared his throat to break the stalemate and slid off his stool to join the other too men.

“Was there anything else we can help you with, Detective?” he asked politely as he stood beside Angel.

“Actually, there is,” Glass nodded as he reached into the inside pocket of his jacket once more, his gaze never leaving Angel as he pulled out a slightly dog-eared photograph. “Where were you last night between one and four a.m.?”

“I was here. In bed. Asleep.”

“Can anyone confirm that?”

“Yes.” Angel’s jaw twitched, his eyes averted from Wesley’s questioning gaze. “Mind telling me why I need an alibi?”

“One of your business cards was found on the body of Anne Santos on Cahuenga Boulevard last night. Do either of you recognise her?”

Wesley frowned and took the proffered photograph from the Detective, slipping on his glasses so he could see more than just a mass of smudged colours. “No,” he said after moment. “She’s not a client of ours.”

“Huh,” Glass scratched the back of his neck thoughtfully. “Then why would she have your card on her?” the Detective watched them steadily, his eyes slowly moving between Angel and Wesley, waiting for the flicker-flash of guilt that he’d become an expert at rooting out. Nothing. “These coincidences just keep piling up, don’t they?” Glass raised his eyebrows. “Kinda like the bodies in this case.”

The blare of a car horn and its accompanying rush of angry curses infiltrated the lobby as Fred slipped in through the front door, mouth stretched wide open with a yawn and hair a mess of tangles. She rubbed her eyes tiredly as she walked, oblivious to the tension in the air, across the lobby with a muttered “Mornin’, boys,” before she disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.

“And that was?” Glass asked.

“Winifred Burkle. She’s an associate of ours. Are we under investigation, Detective?” Wesley frowned.

You gotta admit your connection to all three murders is suspicious,” Glass said carefully, aware of the waves of hostility that were vibrating off both men, but not swayed by it. “You have quite a file down at the station, Angel. Detective Lockley left some, er, interesting notes on you behind before she left.”

A disconcerting steel smile cracked at the corners of Angel’s mouth. “I guess I’m just an interesting guy.”

Glass had the feeling that Lockley might have been onto something.

The slap-slap of bare feet hurrying down the staircase put pay to any other observations the Detective was about to make about Angel being interesting. Hair still wet from the shower, dressed in sweat pants and Angel’s T-shirt, Cordelia jumped down the last three steps and came to an abrupt halt beside the three men.

“Hi. Excuse us,” she said quickly to the Detective, barely even acknowledging his existence as she grabbed Angel and Wesley by their sweaters. She tugged them forcefully across the lobby until she was happy with the distance.

“We have a problem,” Cordelia hiss-whispered without preamble.

Angel’s shoulders slumped and he could barely keep the whine out of his voice as he said, “Another one?”

Cordelia shot him an annoyed look. “My hair brush is missing.”

Wesley rubbed a hand over his face. “I hardly think-

She waved her hand sharply through the air. “As well as most of my underwear and jewelry, some photos of us all, the spare business cards I kept in a shoe box beneath the bed, my passport and for some reason that I don’t even want to contemplate, my diaphragm!”

“Are you sure?

“Yes, I’m sure! Trust me, Wes, a girl knows when someone’s been in her room, rifling through her stuff. That psycho-nut-case was here last night and he’s taken a few souvenirs!” Her voice gradually rose and rose until it echoed through the lobby.

Detective Glass cleared his throat. “Is there a problem?”

“Do you mind?” Cordelia dismissed him with the flat of her palm.

“He was in your room and you didn’t wake up?”

“Huh?” Cordelia blinked dumbly at Wesley’s hushed question.

“Daniel. He was in your room and you didn’t wake up. He didn’t wake you up. That doesn’t really fit with what we know about him,” Wesley said, a frown creasing a line between his eyebrows.

A flush of red began its way up Cordelia’s neck. “OK, not really the point here-”

“Cordelia stayed in my room last night,” Angel said smoothly, chin cocked, ready for a fight.

“Again,” the word fell out of Wesley’s mouth as a statement, not a question.

“Yes.”

“Hey!” Cordelia snapped her fingers to break the scowling contest. “Can we please concentrate on what’s important, here? Like, for example, the homicidal maniac that’s stolen my diaphragm.”

“Cordelia-”

“You’re Cordelia Chase?” Glass piped up at the mention of the name that seemed to link so many mysteries in this case together.

Cordelia finally turned her full attention to the stranger in the lobby. “And you are?”

“Detective Glass,” he said, pulling out his badge as he closed the few meters between them with long strides.

She narrowed her eyes at Angel and hissed, “What did you do this time?”

“Miss Chase, do you know this woman?” Glass handed her the picture.

Cordelia shook her head as she looked at the dead woman staring back at her. “What’s going on?”

“She was found murdered last night.”

“With one of our cards on her,” Angel explained under his breath.

“One of the business cards that was stolen from my room last night. Fantastic. That’s just fantastic,” Cordelia muttered as she handed the photograph back to Glass.

“I’d like to ask you a few questions, if that’s possible?” Glass asked, eyeing the two men that flanked Cordelia protectively.

“Sure, why not. I mean, a day without being questioned for murder by the LAPD is like a day without sunshine,” Cordelia said as she pulled her wet hair off her neck and twisted it up into a messy knot.

Time stuttered still as Wesley saw the reddish purple mark on Cordelia’s neck.

“You son of a bitch,” he ground out between clenched teeth as he lunged towards Angel, not caring that it was a vampire he planned on pummeling, certainly not concerned that said vampire was one of his closest friends.

Cordelia stepped between them quickly, her arms outstretched to stop Wesley’s imminent death.

“Do not do this now!” she shouted, her words made even louder by the ensuing silence.

Wesley’s mouth twitched as Angel’s hand settled possessively on Cordelia’s hip.

“I mean it, Wes,” she warned him.

Glass watched curiously as the tired looking Englishman, the ‘interesting’ murder suspect and the girl with a rather impressive hickey on her neck argued without saying a word. When the tension became too much for even Glass to tolerate, he said, “I think you better tell me exactly what is going on here.”

***

Blood beneath his nails, rusty brown stains that could have been easily washed away but aren’t.

A momento.

A reminder.

Not for him.

For her.

For his sweet, succulent Cordelia. For the woman she was before the vampire tried to turn her into some cheap, lying whore. But he could fix that. He could save her. If he sent her the right message, she would have to see the truth.

Who’s next?

Daniel flipped through the photographs and smiled.

He’d found his next messenger.

***

Twenty minutes and a pot of fresh coffee later, the clock in Wesley’s office ticked discreetly through the still lingering tension as they waited for the detective to digest a heavily edited version of recent events.

Glass threw the file he’d been reading on to Wesley’s desk amongst the other detritus. He rubbed his hands over his face. “Did it ever occur to you to hand this into us?”

“This guy is out of your league,” Angel said from where he was leaning against a filing cabinet, arms folded casually across his chest.

“Right, whereas you people are all trained professionals,” Glass said dryly. “I could have all of you charged with obstruction of justice. This isn’t a game. People are dying. You should have come forward with what you know.”

“What we know?” Cordelia scoffed, her bare foot tapping a nervous rhythm against the chair leg. “Unless you saw something in that file that I haven’t, we know less than nothing.”

“You know a name, you have a list of locations where he’s been spotted, you have a picture,” Glass waved the photograph Amy Morello had given them when she first went to Angel Investigations for help. “All of which would have been helpful to our investigation!”

Elbows on his desk, Wesley calmly steepled his fingers together. “How many people has he killed?”

“As of last night, we think seven women and two men. We’ve managed to keep most of it out of the papers, the last thing we need is to panic the public,” Glass said wearily. “All the women are aged between twenty and twenty-five, attractive, but that and the way they were killed are where the similarities end.”

Cordelia’s eyes widened at the number. “You think? Think?”

“There may be more,” Glass admitted.

Cordelia slumped down in her chair and put her head in her hands.

“Miss Chase needs to be put under protection-”

“No.” Angel straightened up, body tensing by almost invisible degrees. “Cordelia stays.” He cut a flicker of warning in Wesley’s direction on the outside chance that the former Watcher thought of using the detective’s offer as an excuse for putting some distance between him and Cordy.

“Clearly that’s not enough if this man was in your home last night,” the Detective carried on regardless of the withering look he was receiving. “Look, I understand that you want to be the one to look after your girlfriend, but this is police business. We have resources you don’t.”

“I’m going to ignore the whole being given orders like a dog for just a minute, because Angel’s got a point. This is the safest place I can be. Besides, I’m not leaving my home,” Cordelia said as she stood up. “Listen, Detective. We’ve learned our lesson. The first hint of newness about psycho-murder-guy and you’ll be the first to know. Promise. But I’m not leaving the hotel. So… are we done here?”

Glass frowned. “Well, no, not really-”

“Great,” Cordelia clapped her hands together and ignored him. “I’m gonna go have a bath.”

“Didn’t you just have a shower?” Wesley asked.

“And now I’m going to have a bath. Does anyone have a problem with that?” Cordelia raised her eyebrows haughtily. When she received no answer, she turned on her heel and left.

“She’s just a bit stressed right now,” Fred apologized as the sound of Cordelia’s bare feet stormed up the staircase. “Ya know, what with the whole stalker trying to pull out her intestines through her nose… thing.”

Glass nodded. “We need to dust for prints in Ms Chase’s room. Not that I’m expecting to find any,” he added sourly. Daniel was nothing if not meticulous at his crime scenes. “And I urge you to rethink Miss Chase’s protection. This is a pro we’re dealing with here.”

“We’re well aware of what we’re dealing with, Detective Glass. I just hope you do,” said Angel.

Glass knew a warning when he was given one.

***

Cordelia lodged her big toe into the cold tap to stop its drip drip dripping. The red of her toenails looked obscene against the virginal white of the porcelain bath tub, a slash of loud color amidst the relative calm.

The day had started with such promise. She’d woken sated and safe, with that after sex ache that made her cheeks tinge pink and her lips want to curl into a knowing smile.

Well, Cordelia thought grumpily, that’s all shot to hell now.

She didn’t have to strain to hear the raised voices that clashed downstairs, they wafted up through the pipes and open doorways like half formed memories.

Cordelia just hoped the Detective had left so he didn’t witness the carnage of Wesley and Angel’s ‘discussion’.

“Seven women and two men,” Cordelia murmured, but saying it out loud didn’t make it feel any less horrific.

“Knock knock?” Fred said as she poked her head around the bathroom door. Cordelia was sure she’d locked it.

“I’m kinda naked in here, Fred.”

“Oh, it’s nothing I haven’t already seen before,” she chirped as she barged into Cordelia’s hideout. “Although I’m feelin’ a bit inadequate now.” Fred looked from Cordelia’s chest to her own.

Was there something in particular you wanted, Fred? Or did you just come in here to ogle on me?”

“A bit of both,” Fred grinned and knelt down next to the tub, her chin resting on the edge like a child waiting to be told a story.

Cordelia groaned and sank down beneath the water.

Fred shimmered above her like a persistent mirage that couldn’t be vanquished by just blinking.

“You’ll have to come up for air sooner or later,” Fred shrugged and settled down to get comfortable, her back against the bath tub and long legs stretched out in front of her.

Sevenwomenandtwomensevenwomenandtwomensevenwomenandtwomen, the cold hard fact repeated itself over and over again in Cordelia’s mind as she held her breath and watched the ceiling swirl with scented bubbles. Beneath the protective wall of the water the noise downstairs was reduced to a barely audible hum, drowned out by the beating of her own heart and the sound of the ocean in her ears.

Cordelia drummed her fingers against the side of the tub and felt the vibrations rattled through her while her lungs began to burn for air and her eyes started to sting.

Sevenwomenandtwomensevenwomenandtwomensevenwomenan dtwomen.

Another women had died while she was arching her back beneath Angel to save her own life.

Cordelia wondered if there was only so much guilt a person could feel before they were numb to it.

The water sloshed violently when Cordelia sat up, gasping for air. Her hair was plastered across her face but she didn’t move to claw it out of her eyes. She slumped back down until the water lapped gently at her chin.

“Seven women and two men,” she said uselessly.

“I don’t understand why the PTB didn’t send you visions,” Fred voiced the thought that had been on Cordelia’s mind for a long time. Too long.

“Join the club,” Cordelia sighed, cupping the bath water in her hands then watching as it trickled through her fingers. “And when they do give me visions…”

“They’re all upside-down?”

“And inside out.”

Cordelia unplugged her now aching toe from the tap and the sound of water hitting water once again filled the foggy bathroom. Fred picked at the frayed edge of the bath-mat and clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth.

Cordelia rubbed her hand across her damp forehead and squeezed her eyes shut as she said, “Daniel’s going to kill me.”

“No. He won’t. Angel won’t let that happen. We won’t let that happen,” Fred said as though she already knew what was to come.

Lifting her right arm out of the steamy water, Cordelia patted the crown of Fred’s head before she wound a thick lock of the Texan’s hair around her finger.

Downstairs, the much abused filing cabinet was once again slammed shut.

“We’ve never kissed,” Cordelia said in a moment of honesty. It was easier to think about her and Angel than her probably imminent death.

“Who? You and me?”

Cordelia snorted and tugged Fred’s hair. “Me and Angel.”

Intrigued, Fred twisted her body round to face Cordelia and raised her eyebrows.

“Well, there was that time right after I got the visions, but that wasn’t so much a kiss as a desperate attempt to get my life back. Didn’t work out so well,” Cordelia screwed her face up at the memory, ignoring the lingering pain that still resided after that time in her life.

“You’ve never kissed but you-” Fred gestured suggestively with her hands.

“It’s complicated.”

Fred rolled her eyes. “You should get that printed on a T-shirt. It’d save you time saying it over and over again.”

“You don’t understand-”

“I don’t understand complicated? I’m dating a green, effeminate, anagogic demon from an alternative dimension that I was held prisoner in for five years. Where’s the simple in that?”

“It’s not the same,” Cordelia muttered petulantly, sinking down lower into the water. Her knees broke through the evaporating bubbles like two flushed icebergs.

“Right,” Fred snorted and laid her cheek against the lip of the tub. The heat of the room was making her feel drowsy and flushed, her T-shirt was damp and the backs of her knees where beginning to sweat.

“He’s not going to stop.” Water slipped past Cordelia’s lips as she spoke.

“Angel?”

“Daniel. He’s going to keep on killing until he gets what he wants.”

Fred shrugged. “Then we’ll just have to make him stop.” She pressed her bottom lip to the warm porcelain and crossed her eyes as her glasses began to slip down her nose.

“So, what’s it like? You and Angel, I mean. Apart from being complicated.”

Cordelia poked her toe at the cold water tap and frowned, unsure how to answer, uncertain that she should answer at all. Fred watched her closely, waiting for the other woman’s usual reply of we’re just friends.

“It’s…” Cordelia trailed off distractedly as she struggled to find the right words to describe exactly how it had been the night before. “Really damn good,” Cordelia laughed, surprised at how good it felt to share a secret, to gossip and act her age. “He makes me feel like….”

Fred grinned broadly and urge her to continue. “Like?”

“Like I’m everything,” Cordelia shrugged, disrupting the water around her.

“Wow.”

“Mmm.”

“But you’ve never kissed?”

Cordelia shook her head. “Nope.”

“You’re both crazy,” Fred said with authority.

Cordelia silently agreed. “So, you and Lorne are officially dating?”

Fred smiled and ducked her head.

Cordelia decided to pretend they were just two girlfriends talking about boys for a little while longer.

What harm could it do?

***

Gunn patted his pockets as he left his apartment, making sure he had his wallet, keys and cell phone on him. He’d overslept and woken with a crick in his neck and a dark cloud in the shape of Wesley hovering over his head.

They were going round in circles and Gunn had had enough. It just wasn’t worth the sleepless nights.

Hands dug deeply into his pockets, forehead creased in thought, Gunn strode towards his truck in the late morning sun with only one thing on his mind.

He didn’t feel the cold burn of the blade slicing through his skin until it was too late.

Part 17

Posted June 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

His Lady Lazerus. 15   1 comment

Part 15

The heat of the day had settled like a thick, sticky blanket over Los Angeles. The air was heavy with grimy pollution but a few hopeful clouds grumbled in the sky, rolling together with the threat of a summer storm. Lightening pierced in the distance, jagged forks of white that seared the atmosphere with a fresh burst of ozone.

Rancho Park Golf Course was a lot like every other golf course Cordelia had seen in her life.

Green and hilly.

Or at least it would be if it wasn’t stumbling towards one in the morning and the sky wasn’t a sheet of charcoal above them. So, it was possibly green but definitely hilly. The trek to the 16th hole had been an exercise in balance, Cordelia’s heels sinking into the soft earth with every step they took, leaving a trail of divots for the groundskeepers to scowl at in the morning. Sacrificing her shoes for the greater good, she’d waved away Angel’s offer of help, knowing that she needed to concentrate on the task at hand without the distraction of Angel playing on her mind.

One foot in front of the other and just walk, she’d told herself. Walk, don’t think about the vision, don’t think about the man in front of you, don’t think about the things you felt, the things you saw, the things you want. Who you want. Walk, dammit, walk.

So she walked, heels tearing up the perfect turf, ready to save the innocent without, she hoped, getting her hands dirty. How difficult could it be to rid the world of a few pygmies?

Easy.

“Easy, my ass,” Cordelia grunted as she struggled to shake the demon from her arm. It scrabbled frantically for purchase before losing the fight and dropping to the floor, but before she could deal the death blow it jumped back up like a jack in a box and tangled its small hands in her hair.

“OW! Why you little-”

Jaw clenched against the fire that erupted in her skull, Cordelia swung the pint-sized hell beast in a half circle until it faced her. She narrowed her eyes and brought her knee up to where she hoped was the demon’s groin.

Its hands loosened from her hair and, with a pained whimper, fell to the ground.

“What the hell are these things?” Angel shouted, raining blows down onto the head of the one that had attached itself to his leg.

“They’re bloody well not pygmies, that’s for sure,” Wesley panted, struggling beneath two of his own.

“They looked smaller in my vision!”

“Yes, well, that doesn’t exactly help us now, does it?”

“Gottcha!” Cordelia crowed as she sliced the head of off her own Frodo with an axe. She swayed dizzily as she levered herself off her knees and to her feet. “Will you two stop messing around and just kill them!”

“I’m trying,” Angel barked as he twisted the neck of the demon attached to him. It made a sickening crunch that Cordelia felt in her gut. She swallowed the bile that rose in her throat.

“A little help here would be nice,” Wesley muttered as he stretched for the sword that lay just out of reach. Angel grabbed the two demons by their necks and hauled them from Wesley. They spat and kicked in his restraint, yellow teeth gnashing in anger.

Angel brought their heads together with a loud crack. They twitched before finally going limp.

“Ugh,” Cordelia grimaced.

He let them drop from his grasp and wiped his hands on his pants with distaste. “Next time I say something’s going to be simple, stake me.”

“Will do,” Wesley nodded, accepting the hand that Angel offered and pulled himself to his feet. “Do you think that’s all of them?”

The ground was littered with two dozen unusually short corpses, limbs twisted and wounds trickling with blood. Dead, they looked almost harmless. If you hadn’t just spent the last twenty minutes trying stop one of them from humping your leg, that is. Their skin was dull and leathery in the moonlight, faces pitted with scars, their hands small. At least that much of the vision had been right.

“God, it better be. I’m about ready to throw up and pass out,” Cordelia said as she dusted herself off. Miraculously, she was demon-goo free, which sadly couldn’t be said the same of Wesley. “I’m not sitting in the same car as you.”

“Why not?”

“Because, ew.”

“It’s just a little, er, mucus,” he frowned, trying to wipe the slime from the front of his jacket, only for it to attach itself to his fingers in long shimmering trails.

“We’re hosing you down.”

A thick glob of goo slid down Wesley’s forehead and dangled precariously from the end of his nose. “That might be a good idea.”

Angel swung his sword over his shoulder and nudged the nearest corpse with the toe of his boot.

“Please please please say we’re not on burial duty?” Cordelia begged, tugging on the sleeve of his jacket.

“We’re not on burial duty.”

“Liar,” she huffed, slowly rolling her head to one side and then the other, carefully stretching the muscles of her neck beyond the brittle limits left in the wake of her latest vision. Her eyelids dropped briefly even as a voice at the back of her mind chided her to force them open before Wesley stopped trying to rid himself of demon ooze and noticed. In the meantime, she hoped the flickering shadows and light cast by the storm would help hide the toll, at least for another day.

“How’s your head?” Angel’s voice rumbled close beside her under the cloak of distant thunder.

“Still attached. Which is more than I can say for some of these guys.” Judging from his lack of response, Cordy decided her attempt at humorous deflection had fallen a little flat.

Another lie that her head didn’t hurt was on the tip of her tongue when his arm wound around her waist, fingers settling on the strip of skin where her pants rode low on her hips. The words dissolved at his touch and a shocking, slow burn crept up Cordelia’s spine instead, stirring the memory of the vision that she’d successfully ignored for the last hour. Her skin throbbed, prickly and sensitive to the hot air. Sweat settled coolly between her breasts, making her shiver, making her remember the wet slide of his tongue over her skin.

Angel’s grip on her hip tightened, the line of his body tense against her side. A signal, she supposed, for her to stop denying the toll the vision took on her body. It was an unnecessary reminder, given what the two of them had recently resorted to for that very reason. She lifted her chin to assure him that she was okay, relatively speaking, but the heavy set of his brow stilled the reply in her throat.

Lightening flashed erratically above them, too close for comfort, flooding the landscape with a moment of ivory white that seared away the mask of genuine concern to reveal open want on Angel’s face hidden beneath. He looked as surprised by the discovery as she was, and equally unable to cast it aside. Cordelia swallowed, knowing her face betrayed the same desire as she counted the seconds that would tell her how close the storm was.

One.

Two.

Thunder rumbled.

They needed to get out of there.

“Well, at least the night can’t get any worse,” Wesley said, unaware of anything but the pointless task of trying to flick the mucus from his fingers.

As soon as the words had left his mouth, the first drop of rain fell.

Cordelia pulled away from Angel, whose expression had returned to run-of-the-mill furrowed brow, and scowled at Wesley. “You just had to say it, didn’t you?”

***

Hurry hurry hurry, he had to be quick.

Remember how her jewelry box sat beside her moisturiser, her hair brush beside the small stack of CD’s. Replace everything as it was found. A place for everything and everything in its place.

Hurry. Hurry. They’d be back soon, his Cordelia and the vampire she spreads her legs for.

No. Don’t think about that. It’s not her fault. He seduces her. She’s young and naive, just needs someone to rescue her.

No. Whore. She’s a whore. Needs to be shown, needs to be told. She can’t keep doing this to him.

Her lingerie drawer screeched loudly, hinges old and rusting.

Pretty, pretty Cordelia, dressed up in silk and ribbons for him. One day. Soon. Everything will be different. Everything will be better. Not like last time. He can wait. She’ll be worth it.

Hurry hurry hurry-

The front door of the Hyperion creaked open.

-too late.

***

The bedroom door closed with a click behind Cordelia, she slumped against it with a tired groan as Angel tossed his keys on the chest of draws and walked quietly across the room, navigating the darkness with tense shoulders. He turned the small bedside lamp on, casting the room in a warm yellow glow before throwing open the balcony doors, beckoning the warm night inside. The quiet clatter of rain and the bass growl of distant thunder filled the still air.

“What an enormous waste of time,” Cordelia said, letting her muddy shoes fall to the floor.

“The kids we saved might disagree with you,” Angel said as he watched the night from the open balcony.

“You know what I mean,” she muttered, closing her eyes.

Puffing out her cheeks, Cordelia exhaled slowly. With Wesley safely at home, she could finally stop pretending that the vision hadn’t exhausted her, that her brain wasn’t still crackling with electricity and that her body wasn’t demanding
Angel’s touch.

She opened her eyes to find him watching her closely from across the room. The low lighting cast him in muted tones, his face swallowed by half shadows that hid his eyes and danced over the sharp angles of his cheekbones. Rivulets of water ran down his temples from his sodden hair, slowly disappearing into his sweater. The scent of rain and Angel filled the room, filled her senses, and Cordelia found she couldn’t stop looking.

She’d always known Angel was handsome. Salty goodness, even, but that had been six years and a lifetime ago. They were no longer the faces on the sidelines, to be picked up and put down when the situation called for it. She was no longer the spoilt rich bitch, the untouchable Princess, the secretary with questionable filing skills. He was no longer the property of Buffy Summers, her no-bone boss, her sexless best friend.

Standing before her, he was a new Angel.

Body tense, jaw clenched, eyes two pools of promising pitch that should frighten her, should make her run screaming from the room, but didn’t. Darkness and light, demon, man and soothing balm, this new sum of him had crept up on Cordelia unknowingly, making her fingertips tingle and her mouth go dry.

This is what kept Darla obsessed even with Angel’s soul and a river of blood-drenched guilt between them. This is what tempted Buffy despite a destiny she couldn’t deny and Angelus. This was the angelic face that could corrupt both sinners and saints. And Cordelia had somehow managed to live in blissful ignorance of the true lure a certain brooding vampire could pose until right this minute.

A revelation that might have come too little, too late for her own good.

She swallowed as she shrugged off Angel’s jacket, her throat clicking loudly. Though his jacket had shielded her from the worst of the rain, her skin still felt damp with the lingering humidity. Her palms were clammy, beads of rain and sweat clung to her hairline. She felt disheveled and on the verge of something she couldn’t rationalize away.

“You OK?” Angel asked her, his voice a rumble of thunder in the distance.

“Yeah,” Cordelia nodded and for once it was the truth. She laid Angel’s jacket over the back of a chair and slowly spanned the distance between them, her footsteps sure. She breathed in deeply when the gap became inches instead of miles, her nerves buzzing with left over adrenaline.

Angel shifted his weight from foot to foot and Cordelia wanted to tell him to relax, but couldn’t find the words as the drop of water that had settled in the dip of his clavicle stole her attention. It glittered like a pool at midnight, shimmering against his pale skin, vulnerable and seductive, making her think of the long summer nights in Sunnydale Lake before she’d learned the truth about the monster beneath her bed.

Cordelia brushed the back of her hand over the side of Angel’s neck. “You should get dry,” she said, her thumb ghosting over the pronounced bump of his Adams apple.

“It’s just a little rain, it won’t kill me,” he murmured, his gaze catching and holding hers.

“No, I guess it won’t,” she said thoughtfully. Cordelia stroked her thumb over his jaw and up to his temple, wiping the rain away carefully. He closed his eyes as she ran her fingers though his hair, combing the storm-flattened spikes until they stood proudly once again. A contented rumble vibrated through Angel’s chest when she scratched her nails gently over his scalp.

Four days of annoyance and restlessness slipped into nothing but a memory as Cordelia found the familiar comfort of Angel. She knew, deep down, that it was foolish to connect such a feeling of safety with this man, this vampire, but the pain was less when he was near, even if the vision she’d had earlier-

…wrists pinned above her head as he licks the sweat from between her breasts, mouth hot, stubble scratching against her sensitive skin. Thighs shaking with sweet desperation, she pulls him in to her, into her body, beneath her skin.

Back arching to the rhythm of his groans, harder and harder until the headboard rattles against the wall and the pillows are thrown from the bed. His lips bruise, their teeth clashing, blood in the corner of her mouth and she wants more, God, more Angel, more everything, and he gives it to her because there’s no need to refuse now…

-wasn’t reality. She blinked herself back into the room only to find her hands splayed against the hard wall of Angel’s chest and her lips pressed to his neck.

“Sorry,” Cordelia murmured, her hot breath seeping through the ice of his skin.

Angel cleared his throat but his voice wavered when he said, “s’OK.”

Cordelia meant to pull her hands away and take a step back. This was supposed to be about the vision. Clinical. Necessary. Detached. She shouldn’t even have to remind herself of that fact. But somehow, instead of dropping safely to her sides, her hands were slipping down his chest. His dark sweater was damp and smelled familiar; rain, sweat, soap and Angel. She breathed him in as her hands finally met the cold buckle of his belt, her fingers like thieves, sneaking beneath the hem of his sweater until they felt the tense plane of his abdomen. His muscles twitched beneath her fingertips. The urge to taste that skin welled up in Cordelia, to kiss the vulnerable path that began at his navel, to lick the rain from his flesh. A shiver like a thousand ants marching over her skin crawled up her spine when Angel’s hands settled on the small of her back.
“Your hands are cold.”

“Sorry,” Angel apologized as he spanned his palms over the landscape of skin that her top bared to the world, tracing invisible patterns with his fingers until her heat fused his pores.

“S’OK,” Cordelia murmured before a question filled silence slipped over them to the rhythm of the rain falling outside.

Are you sure you want to do this now?

Yes.

Angel opened his mouth to make the question real but the words became tangled on his lips as she curled her fingers around the hem of his sweater. He lifted his arms and let Cordelia rid him of the damp garment, unconcerned with the water stain it would inevitably leave on the carpet when it fell to the floor. Cordelia walked her fingers slowly up the ladder of Angel’s ribs, her hands wanted to learn his body, to trace the hard lines and soft dips, to give back to him what he had given to her in the past.

She wondered if he would let her.

A half-swallowed groan rumbled in his throat as she trailed her nails fleetingly over his flat nipples. A blush of mottled pink spread across Cordelia’s cheekbones at the noise, the sound terrifyingly intimate beneath the low lights and hushed city outside. She leaned her forehead against the sharp ridge of Angel’s collar bone. He was cool and familiar against her flushed face, and Cordelia realized it wasn’t embarrassment that had shocked a current of heat through her body.

It was the same crackle of electricity that she’d felt when he’d had looked at her as thunder had crashed above them on the golf course, poorly hidden desire and something darker, sharp like metal on her tongue and maybe just as dangerous.

Angel slid his hands up Cordelia’s back, following the line of her spine until his fingertips met the nape of her neck. Slowly, with more care than Cordelia knew possible in his large hands, Angel unpinned her hair, letting the small grips fall to the floor like the last of her reservations. Her hair tumbled down over her shoulders in humidity-kinked waves that smelt faintly of the smoke but mostly of fruity shampoo, bitter scented hair spray and just simply the woman herself.

Angel combed his fingers through the thick brown hair, untangling the small knots before massaging her scalp back to life. Cordelia sighed, the lingering tension slowly leaking out of her shoulders and the pressure in her skull beginning to ebb away. She rubbed the tip of her nose across Angel’s collarbone in silent thanks. Her warm breath tickled over his skin like a morning mist and Cordelia felt the shiver that ran through his body as he pulled her closer, his jaw brushing against her cheek for a heartbeat before he pressed wet lips to the crook of her neck.

Distracted, Cordelia’s hands fluttered back to his belt, fingertips drawing half-formed thoughts through the line of hair that peaked above the waist of his pants. The touch drew her name quietly from Angel’s lips as he trailed a line of kisses up her neck, tasting what he already knew so well. The quiet metallic clink and leathery hiss of Cordelia unbuckling Angel’s belt echoed inside the silent room, chasing a hot shiver over her skin that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Cordelia swallowed as the throb of her body demanded she not over-think what they were about to do, to just let it happen, to spread her arms and let the current drag her under.

Angel’s hands settled on the curve of her hips, his thumbs pressing sharply into the soft flesh as he pulled Cordelia flush against his body. A small “oh” fell from her parted lips when her abdomen settled firmly against his groin, hard and urgent, his body told her silently what he wouldn’t, couldn’t, put into words.

Cordelia held her breath and waited for reality to flood back into the room, for the awkwardness and stilted conversation to drown out the rain. She waited, the seconds ticking by like hours until Angel brushed her hair away from shoulder and ran his thumb along the curve of her jaw. In his eyes, such liquid pitch, Cordelia saw everything she needed to know, even if she didn’t understand it.

The current swirled around her feet.

“Sit,” she said, jerking her chin in the direction of the bed. Angel quirked an eyebrow at her as he walked them backwards until his legs hit the bed. Cordelia flattened her hands over his chest and pushed him gently down onto the mattress, smiling when the springs wheezed beneath his weight.

A faint feeling of deja vu whispered at the edges of Cordelia’s brain as she knelt on the floor between Angel’s legs. They’d been here before, four days ago, the same room, the same reasons why, when necessity and desire had blurred, leaving them gasping and lost for words. But four days ago it had been comfort and escape. This was something different. Something Cordelia didn’t dare put a name to as she pressed the palm of her hand to his chest, gesturing for him to lay down.

“Cor-”

“Shh,” she hushed him softly, running her hands from his sternum to flat plane of his stomach. Angel hummed low in his throat as Cordelia traced ephemeral circles around his navel, fingers dancing over ivory skin and tense muscles. Her hair fell like a caress over his chest as she finally sipped the rain from his skin, warm gloss-free lips butterflying delicately against centuries old flesh, learning the sharp lines of his body until the damp salty taste of Angel’s skin was imprinted into her memory.

Cordelia ran her tongue along the edge of his hip bone, making Angel twist his fingers into the heavy blanket he lay on, scared to touch her, to move at all in case she might stop and realize what the slick slide of her tongue roused in him. She shaped the thick muscles of his thighs beneath her palms as she dropped a path of kisses from his navel to the waist of his slacks, the line of hair tickling the end of her nose.

Angel twisted the blanket tighter in his fists to the rhythm of Cordelia’s breathing, her warm breath scattering goose-bumps over his skin until the possibility of what she might do next made him twitch. She smiled inwardly at his unconscious action, wondering what else she could do to make him breathe, make him shiver.

The zipper of his pants hissed as she drew it down carefully, her wrist pressing down unexpectedly on Angel’s cock. Cordelia stilled, her heart suddenly pounding in her temples. She flicked her gaze up to Angel’s face, but his eyes were closed, blind to her moment of discovery. Biting her bottom lip, Cordelia settled the palm of hand over the hardening length, curling her hand around him with a feeling of possession that shocked spider webs of want across her body. She pressed her lips against his abdomen, squeezing him teasingly as she let her teeth sink into his stomach.

Jesus,” Angel hissed, eyelids squeezing tightly together at the sudden sensations. She soothed the blunt bite with soft kitten licks of her tongue, inhaling the deep musk of his skin, letting it swirl through her senses until the desire for more made her cheeks flush apple red.

Peeling down the waist of Angel’s pants, Cordelia held her breath as inch by inch he was revealed. She shifted on her knees, wincing when her thighs threatened to cramp. The floor was uncomfortable but she didn’t want to move, didn’t want to shatter the atmosphere with practical words. Not now. Not tonight. So she ignored everything, the strain on her knees, the vision pain in her head, the whispering voice in her brain that said stop, this is too much, too intimate as she pulled off Angel’s boots, socks and pants, until he was naked before her.

Running her nails up the insides of his thighs, she led a trail of wet kisses from the inside of his left knee up up up across the hill of his thigh, tongue darting out to capture the taste, fingers climbing the granite ladder of his ribcage. Her hair brushed against his cock, forcing a groan to fall from his lips, a broken sound of pleasure that stoked the heat that crawled beneath Cordelia’s skin as she licked the crease of flesh that joined his hip and thigh.

“Cordelia,” Angel leant up on his elbow and cupped the side of her face, stilling her explorations. “You don’t have to-”

“I want to,” she smiled, hushing him with a quick kiss pressed into his palm. “But if you don’t want-”

“No, no. I do, I mean. It’s fine. I…don’t mind,” he grimaced at his choice of words.

“Try not to be too enthusiastic, Angel,” she rolled her eyes affectionately at him. “Lay down.”

“Whatever the lady wants-” he murmured, easing back down onto the bed.

“-the lady gets,” Cordelia finished for him, curling her hand around his cock, no longer quite so shocked that this was Angel she was touching like a lover. Maybe that was what he was now, what they were in technical black and white.

Lovers.

The word made her chest feel too tight so Cordelia pushed the thought away, momentarily disturbed by how easy it had become for her to repress and deny on demand. She closed her eyes and let herself remember the parts of her vision that didn’t turn her stomach with nausea.

A wicked smile crept over the corners of her lips.

So slowly that it made his thighs twitch, Cordelia ran her hand up the length of Angel’s cock, grazing her thumb lightly over the head.

“Don’t tease,” Angel grunted, more of a warning than a plea.

“M’not,” she said, her breath whispering through the dark, wiry hair. “I’m just-”

“Teasing.”

“Shut up, Angel.”

“Uhnnnnn…..” his retort dissolved into wordless noise as Cordelia dragged her tongue up the length of him, his hips still arching towards the slick slide once she’d pulled away.

“Now that was teasing,” she said.

“Shut up, Cordy,” Angel muttered, rubbing his hand over his face, trying to regain some of the control he knew he was edging closer and closer to losing. Cordelia didn’t want him to keep control, she realized. She didn’t want this to be clinical, emotionless, just a necessity. She wanted more, she wanted….

Cordelia wanted.

She covered her hand over the fist that still gripped the blanket, pinching it until he released his death hold and tangled his fingers through hers, their palms connecting tightly. With her other hand, Cordelia rubbed the base of Angel’s cock with her thumb, licking her lips and steadying her breathing. Angel squeezed her hand in his, a million words said in one simple gesture.

Pursing her lips, Cordelia kissed her way up the dark vein that spanned the length of his cock, letting her tongue sneak short, maddening touches that made Angel hold her hand tighter and hiss through his teeth. Her hair fell over his hips as she crossed another line and took him into her mouth, the almost bitter tang of his sex on her tongue.

A sharp startled breath filled the room, dissolving into a low, drawn out moan as Cordelia slid her mouth down him, stopping when the urge to gag was too much to ignore. Pulling back, Cordelia hollowed her cheeks and sucked lightly, letting her fingers ripple over the root of his cock.

Angel shuddered with tension, forcing himself to remain still even though the urge to thrust into the hot wet cavern of her mouth made his teeth itch and spine burn. He knew his grip on Cordelia’s hand would leave her bruised, but he couldn’t make himself let go, didn’t want to break that connection, scared that if he did he’d lose more than he could afford.

Hotwetslickslide, this was more than Angel could handle, his free hand tangled in her hair, fingers snaring like vines of ivy as he squeezed his eyes tighter and tighter shut. He couldn’t look, couldn’t watch her, his best friend, Cordelia, with her lips wrapped around his cock. Too much, too much, too much when until only recently he’d only had the company of his own hand and memories that made his soul cry out.

“Cordy, you have to st-” hissed words broken off with a grunt as Cordelia brushed her knuckles over his balls, an inquisitive finger skirting behind the heavy sacks to press against the impossibly soft stretch of skin that made supernovas ignite on the edges of his retina.

Cordelia breathed quickly through her nose as sweat beaded on her forehead, concentrating on Angel rather than how her jaw and neck were beginning to ache. She’d forgotten how much work this could be, but the no longer muffled noises that were escaping from Angel made it worth it, made very damn line disappear, made her thighs shiver and lips pulse. Opening her eyes and dragging her gaze upwards, the shiver turned into fire as Cordelia saw the taught lines of his body lit with yellow light, chest rising and falling impotently, bottom lip snagged between his teeth, hands anchored to her like she was gravity as he struggled to keep hold of his control.

The knowledge that she did that to him, that she had made Angel grunt her name as she gently scraped her bottom teeth over the head of his cock was intoxicating. She wanted to hear him say it again, say it a million times, say it like he did in her visions, it as though it were the only thing that mattered.

“Cor…you have to…I can’t….” Angel struggled with coherency, curling his hand around the nape of her neck, wanting more, wanting less, body straining closerclosercloser, oh God, as Cordelia attempted to swallow him whole, turn him inside out until his nerves were dead from too much, too much, too much-

“Cordy, please,” he begged, unsure of what he was actually pleading for as his hips began to rock with the motion of her mouth-slickwethot-now, now, now, she had to stop, she had to otherwise this was going to be over too quickly and it couldn’t be over yet, because this wasn’t about him, he tried to remind himself, for Cordy, Cordelia, this was for her, her, not…not him…God, yes, like that, don’t stop, no, stop, you have to-

“Stop!” Angel grunted so forcefully that Cordelia startled and pulled away.

Calm down, he told himself as he tried not to whimper at the loss. You have to calm down.

“Angel?” Cordelia whispered, squeezing his hand and nipping at his thigh with blunt teeth.

Angel groaned, body throbbing, and forced his eyes to open.

Hair tangled, lips pink and swollen, cheeks flushed and eyes two slashes of black that shone in the muted light, Cordelia watched him without reservation, letting him know wordlessly exactly what she wanted.

“You still with me?” she asked, resting her cheek on his thigh, a smug smile curling the corners of her mouth.

Angel narrowed his eyes at her mischievous tone and propped himself up on his elbows. With a quick tug on their joined hands, Cordelia found herself straddling him before she could blink.

“What do you think?” Angel smirked, gripping her waist so she settled firmly against the line of his cock.

“I think you are,” Cordelia grinned. She tilted her head to the side as Angel zeroed in on the curve of her neck, licking it like a big cat as she ground against him. “Why’d you make me stop?” she asked, voice a breathless rasp as her eyes fluttered shut.

“Felt good,” Angel mumbled into the crook of her neck, lips sucking a stain of red to the surface of her skin. He slid his hands from the curve of her hips to the small of her back, pressing his fingertips into the soft flesh, urging her closer, closer, closer until he could feel the hard points of her nipples pressing against his chest through her blouse.

“S’meant to,” she sighed, her hands finding purchase in his bed mussed hair. She tugged on the short strands until, with an annoyed grunt, Angel left the warm damp curve of her neck. Cordelia brushed her thumbs over the strong slope of his forehead as she said, “that’s kinda the point.”

“It felt really good,” he clarified, the shiny surface of Cordelia’s lips capturing his gaze.

“Oh,” she said, her mouth hanging in a perfect circle that Angel had to force himself not to lift his chin and steal from her, desperately quelling the need to covet the soft, plump cushions of flesh, the one part of her denied to him.

A rumble of frustration worked its way up his throat before he could stop it.

Cordelia raised her eyebrows. “Growly.”

“Sometimes,” Angel said, a shadow of the devil he once was passing across his eyes. At his dark tone, Cordelia ground the cradle of her thighs down harder against him, the warm buttery leather of her pants melting over his bare flesh, making him buck upwards, searching blindly for more.

A throaty moan trickled from Cordelia’s lips at the thick ridge of Angel’s erection pressing so sweetly against her. Her body was heavy with desire, muscles twitching with the need for release that had begun too many hours earlier at the club, the lingering pain of her vision nothing in comparison to the demanding beat that ran through her with every breath.

Hot.

She felt too hot, sweat settling on the small of her back, on the insides of her knees. The leather pants irritated her thighs and Cordelia wanted them gone, wanted to feel Angel’s cooler skin against the flush of her body so she could breath easily again.

“Need to….” she trailed of, unsure of what she was asking.

“I know.” Angel mouthed the line of her jaw, so close to the forbidden fruit of her lips. His tongue lapped at the smooth skin beneath her chin, hands two thieves stealing over her stomach, bunching up the material of her blouse to slide beneath and spread across her ribs. The tips of Angel’s fingers kissed the underside of Cordelia’s breasts as he laved the sweat from her hollow of her throat, making her hum and squirm, the smallest touch spreading a wild fire through her veins.

“Please,” she whispered, her hot breath curling around his ear.

Angel’s eyes slammed shut at the word, its cadence as heady as oleander and just as deadly, reminding him of a past that he would never escape, almost didn’t want to escape because the taste was as addictive as nicotine on his tongue.

Beg. He could make Cordelia beg if he wanted to. It would be so easy, to draw out what she wanted until she no longer knew her own name, until she was shaking and desperate. The demon in him crowed at the thought.

Cordelia bit the spongy flesh of his earlobe. “Please, Angel,” she repeated, unaware of the conflict crackling along his nerves.

“Christ, Cordelia,” Angel groaned, un-peeling his fingers from her ribcage and walking them slowly upwards until his palms were filled with her breasts. Cordelia let out a shuddering breath and leaned her forehead against Angel’s shoulder, her nails digging roughly into the nape of his neck when he rolled the hard pebbles of her nipples between his fingers.

Please,“ she hissed, the sibilant sound sliding through her teeth as she rocked against him, not caring how she sounded, what one simple word might do to their friendship.

Skimming his knuckles over the sensitive sides of her breasts, Angel let his hands roam until he found the chain that held the halter top around Cordelia’s neck. He grazed his thumb over the small clasp, wondering once again how such a fragile slip of chain could keep the piece of clothing fixed in place. Angel’s hands felt clumsy as he fumbled with the clasp, worried that the tiny link would snap between his fingers.

“Is there a password or something I need to get this thing open?” Angel muttered, his frustration making his fingers stutter. Cordelia laughed against his shoulder and lifted her arms to swat away his hands. With a flick of her wrist the clasp opened. Cordelia let her halter-top fall from neck and slide down her chest, finally pooling in a crumpled heap between them.

“One more,” she smiled, unlocking the second chain and clasp that ran along the small of her back.

Angel plucked the flimsy material out from between them and threw it across the room, unconcerned as it landed on a vase, making it wobble precariously, because he had a lap full of almost naked Cordelia and nothing else seemed as important as that.

She couldn’t help the two spots of pink that stained her cheeks as Angel looked at her, the wave of heat creeping down her neck, not ending even as her toes tingled with it. Resting her hands on Angel’s knees, Cordelia leaned back slightly, her hair falling down her back as she pushed her chest out. The night made her feel bold and she wanted to revel in it.

Angel laid his right hand between her breasts, counting the rapid beat of Cordelia’s heart as it vibrated through his palm. He threaded his other hand through her hair, stroking his thumb over her temple, desperate to ease the pain the visions induced anyway he could.

“I’m OK, Angel,” she said softly, seeing the concern in his eyes. “I’m OK now.”

“Cordy,” he said, just to feel the comfort of her name on his tongue. Palming the weight of her breast in his hand, Angel once again felt the desire for something more than what they had to be.

Angel grazed his thumb over her nipple. “You’re beautiful.”

Cordelia breathed sharply at the touch, nerves sensitive and screaming. She jumped when Angel dragged the flat of his tongue across her pebbled flesh, arching like a bow, searching for more of that, more of anything as long as it was Angel making her feel light headed and dizzy.

God,” she groaned to whatever deity it was that looked after mostly-reformed-bitch-seers as Angel snagged her nipple between his teeth, tugging at it lightly until a line of lightening connected from her breast down to her womb, a flood of heat connecting her to the earth, to the ebb and flow of the tide, to the rain that fell like a sweet release outside.

Cordelia felt taut, pulled too thin over desire dense bones. She licked the sweat from her top lip, breath a continuous tremor as Angel traveled the landscape of her breasts. She squeezed her eyes shut but that only made everything sharper; his tongue on the underside of her breasts, his hands molding the tense wings of her shoulder-blades, hard muscles beneath her fingertips, spiky hair against her jaw.

Angel between her thighs.

“Want….uhnn….” Her head flopped back on her neck a Angel rubbed the heel of his hand against her sex, the inside seem of her pants pressing maddeningly into her.

“Tell me,” Angel said, voice a rough rasp of desire as he kissed a line from the dip between her breasts to the sweat sticky skin on beneath her ear. She tasted of his undoing.

“This,” she panted, “you. Angel, want you.”

Want, not need. Want. Angel didn’t care if Cordelia knew what she’d said, the word scraped across his teeth and made his cock throb painfully. His hands trailed down the curve of her spine and finally settled on Cordelia’s waist. Angel gave her no warning before he rolled Cordelia beneath him, her eyes a hazy mix of arousal and annoyance at being manhandled like a doll.

It was so perfectly Cordelia that Angel found himself inching towards her lips with every intention of breaking all the rules they had made so responsibly.

Fuck responsible, Angel thought.

Cordelia’s eyes widened and she forgot how to breath. How was she meant to remember something so complex as that when Angel’s lips were a breath away from her own?

Just this once, Cordelia said to herself. It won’t change anything.

Except, she knew, it would. One kiss would pull down the flimsy wall they’d built, leaving it broken and irreparable.

One kiss would change everything.

She saw the realization in Angel’s eyes at the same moment the thought bubbled up through the humid fog of her mind. He closed his eyes and let out a breath that made Cordelia’s lips burn. Bridging the impossible gap between them, Angel kissed her jaw.

“You already have me.”

“Show me,” she said boldly, placing his hand on the waist of her pants.

“The hotel’s empty except for us—no one’s here who could find out or interrupt… there’s no rush,” Angel popped the button and slid the zipper down, watching her for any sign to slow but seeing only the flush of her cheeks, the pink of her tongue as it flicked at the corner of her lips and the wide dilation of her pupils that urged him for more.

“Speak for yourself,” Cordelia murmured as the sultry air hit her abdomen when he peeled back the waist of her pants, making her skin pepper with goose bumps. Angel ran his index finger along the thin elastic of her thong, tracing the dip and curve of her hipbone like it was something precious, something to look after and keep safe. He slid his hand beneath the elastic, flattening his palm against Cordelia’s hip, his thumb brushing the inside of her thigh.

Time became liquid, an immeasurable notion as Angel drew a broken figure of eight over the inside of her thigh, skirting ever closer to where she needed, where Cordelia wanted him the most. She sucked a long breath in through her teeth when his thumb stole beneath the lace panel of her thong.

Her hips left the bed at the first barely there touch of Angel’s fingers against her sensitive flesh. Cordelia snared a hand through his hair and gripped the bars of the headboard with the other, desperate to keep part of herself grounded.

Angel licked the sweat from between her breasts, running his finger through the wiry hair that shielded her sex. Her leather pants confined his explorations, teasing him with what was just beyond reach.

“Wanna lose the pants?” he asked her breastbone.

“Oh yeah,” Cordelia laughed, breathlessly.

Angel sat up between her legs and grasped the leather pants by her ankles. With a quirk of his wrists, he tugged on them, the humidity damp material peeling away from her skin like slow running honey. Cordelia breathed a sigh of relief as she kicked the pants away, swearing to herself that she’d never wear the damn things again.

Running his fingers over the slightly heat-reddened skin on her knees, Angel kissed the crease where hip met thigh, the exact same caress that Cordelia had teased him with. She squirmed beneath him, tugging on his hair to get his attention but Angel refused to be moved as he pressed his nose into her lacy thong, breathing in so deeply that it made Cordelia want to laugh and call him a dork.

When Angel dragged the flat of his tongue over the lace, it didn’t seem quite so funny anymore.

“Unhhh,” Cordelia grunted, her eyes rolling back as he teased her, the point of his tongue pressing through her panties and into her clitoris. Angel urged her thighs apart wider, almost obscenely so but Cordelia didn’t care because the damp lace and Angel’s tongue were a distracting combination, making her want to arch and cry out, beg him for more as the rough fabric sparked firecrackers between her legs.

Angel snagged his fingers through the elastic and pulled the thong down an inch, kissing the strip of skin he’d exposed. Cordelia whined and kicked her heels into the mattress with frustration.

“So impatient,” Angel chuckled.

“So not funny,” she muttered.

He dragged the scrap of lace down another inch, revealing the dark hair at the apex of Cordelia’s thighs. “You just don’t get my humour.”

The flimsy elastic snapped between his fingers.

“That’s because you don’t have a sense of humouruuhh,” the word was mangled on her lips as Angel finally decided to stop torturing her.

Cordelia arched her neck, hair sticking wetly to her temples as Angel buried his mouth between her thighs. Tongue a wicked promise that tickled over her sensitive flesh, fingers biting into her hips tightly. Cordelia’s breath stuttered in her lungs, too much sensation, the world tilting sideways, she parted her legs wider, needing Angel closer, closer, more, more, more, her heart thundering in her ears.

“Oh, God,” she groaned, eyes screwed shut against the onslaught, fingernails leaving four half moon dents in his left shoulder as he thrust one finger, then two inside her without warning, the sound of the wet suction of her body making her face burn as Angel brought her perilously close to the edge.

Cordelia pressed the side of her face into pillow, mouth open and panting, hissing disjointed words that made no sense as thunder rolled through her limbs. “Can’t…please, Angel…I…please….” her hands scrabbled at his shoulders, desperate and blind. One, two, three fingers and it was too much, she couldn’t stop the guttural cries that burst from her throat, straining towards the release that Angel kept just out of her reach. Smacking the palm of her hand against Angel’s shoulder, Cordelia drove her hips upwards, meeting the thrusts of his hand, caught between the moment of divine possibility and the end of all things.

“Have to…have you….” she tugged on the wayward spikes of Angel’s hair, making him grunt at the sudden sharp pain, lost in the taste that made his lips slick and teeth itch. “God dammit, Angel,” Cordelia yanked his hair, a few strands coming away in her fingers.

Angel bit the inside of her thigh in retaliation, blunt teeth leaving a ring of red that she’d feel for days before he grudgingly left the sweet taste of Cordelia cunt behind. Crawling up the landscape of her body slowly, he tongued the hollow of her navel, the curve of her ribs, the rise of her breasts until they were face to face.

Brown eyes half lidded, glinting with dangerous flecks of yellow, mouth hungry, chin shiny with the damp between her thighs – Cordelia swallowed, turned inside out by the dark desire written openly across Angel’s face.

Angel grasped her left thigh, smoothing his hand along it as he hooked her knee over his shoulder. He lowered himself against her, his cock nestling between the folds of Cordelia’s sex, a shudder rippling up his spine at the contact.

“C’mon, Angel,” she begged, impatience roughening her voice to a throaty growl.

Drawing his hips backwards, Angel’s cock nudged against her entrance, making them both still and shiver, drawing out the moment until it was unbearable, the sound of falling rain and panting breath filling the bedroom.

“Cordelia,” Angel groaned, lost in the woman beneath him as he thrust forward.

“Yesss,” Cordelia hissed, fingers clutching at his biceps, head straining backwards as though she were trying to escape her own skin. Angel clenched his jaw, counted backwards from fifty, thought about anything but the intoxicating heat clenching around his cock.

The sting of Cordelia’s nails digging into his skin made Angel’s hips jerk against her, the sound of her broken gasp echoing through the storm. Let go, let go, he needed to let go, to find himself in the soft canvas of her body, to make her scream, make her shake, to hell with their friendship and take what was his.

“Hold on to the headboard,” Angel growled, words pushed out from his chest. Cordelia lifted her arms and wrapped her hands around one of the iron posts, the metal warm beneath her fingers. Or maybe it was just her who was hot, burning up from the inside out, blood boiling in her veins with every touch.

Angel pinned her wrists with one hand, balancing most of his weight on the other. The muscles in his back twitched, tense with restraint as he moved within her. Cordelia panted beneath him, back arching from the bed, bottom lip caught between her teeth.

The sight could be enough to destroy him if he let it.

A part of him ached for that damnation.

“Cordy…open your…eyes,” Angel asked to the rhythm of their bodies.

Cordelia shook her head, unable to find enough air for her lungs let alone anything else.

Angel thrust harder, making the headboard bang loudly against the wall and the bed sheet rub a burn into Cordelia’s shoulder blades.

“….Cordelia….please…for me…..”

She groaned and opened her eyes, meeting his hooded gaze with the same intensity mirrored in his. Cordelia couldn’t look away, didn’t want to as he took her over, dismantling the pieces of herself until she was just a mass of shuddering molecules. Digging her heel into the mattress, Cordelia met each thrust with one of her own, not caring when her other leg tingled with cramp at the sharp angle it lay over his shoulder.

“God,” she breathed, body pulling tighter and tighter, waves of pleasure building with every demanding stroke of Angel inside her. Breathe, she needed to breathe but couldn’t, didn’t care, this was all she needed, Angel between her thighs, rhythm breaking into a staccato drumbeat as finesse was pushed aside by pure need, the mattress wheezing painfully beneath them.

Angel felt the stretch and ripple of his face shifting, brow deepening, teeth elongating. He tried to shake it off, push it down, hide it away but he was too far gone, Cordelia had stolen too much of his control and now his mask had crumbled, leaving him stripped open and raw.

“Don’t stop,” Cordelia cried out, seeing the conflict in Angel’s eyes. She didn’t care if they were brown or yellow, hell, they could be purple with green spots for all she cared, just as long as he didn’t stop. Wrapping her free leg around his thigh, Cordelia refused to let him leave her, pulling him even deeper inside her, almost to the edge of pain.

Angel dropped his forehead to Cordelia’s and let himself go, the whip-snap of his hips driving his cock inside her without mercy, part of him knowing he must be hurting her, part of him not caring because it was as close to heaven as he he’d ever get. Tightwetheat so good, too good, couldn’t stop, again and again, the headboard denting the wall, her scent coating his senses as they crashed together.

“Angel!” she cried out as the world fell down around her with a liquid rush. Her back arched sharply off the bed, light singeing the edges of her vision until she was blind. Sweet nothing, no pain, no worries, just the full thickness of Angel splintering apart the millimeters of being.

Gone. Angel was gone. The clenching of Cordelia’s body around his cock pushed Angel over the edge, his hips slamming into her, dark needful growls torn from his lips as he thrust once, twice, three times until he was shocked to stillness, bones shuddering and soul clinging on desperately as he came.

The air left Cordelia’s chest in a lazy whoosh as Angel collapsed heavily onto her, welcoming the comforting weight of him as she put back the little pieces of herself together again. Her brain was blessedly numb, the tiny aftershocks of her orgasm tingling in her womb. Slowly, because fast movement was a long lost friend, she untangled her wrists from Angel’s grasp and circled her arms around him, waiting for her breathing to return to normal and for feeling to come back to her limbs.

Angel buried his head into the crook of her neck and kissed her jaw, a poor substitute for what he really wanted. The sharp edge of his brow receded slowly, locked away once again.

“You OK?” Cordelia asked quietly, her voice a croak. She kneaded the muscles in his back, her fingers soothing, peaceful.

“S’meant to be my line,” he grunted, his lips tickling her neck, making her laugh.

When the bedroom finally stopped spinning around him, Angel levered himself up onto his elbows.

A sated smile had taken up residence on Cordelia’s face, cheeks stained with a pink afterglow that declared her youth and vitality. Her mascara was smudged in the corners of her eyes and her hair covered his pillows in a tangled mess.

It was with an uneasy sense of foreboding that Angel realized he was already addicted to that look, to the trust that glittered in Cordelia’s eyes, to the sound of her heart beating against his chest.

Grudgingly, Angel pulled out of her body, identical groans sounding at the movement of sensitive flesh. He flopped onto his back beside her, instantly missing the soft heat of Cordelia’s skin against his.

He turned his head to look at Cordelia. “Vision?”

The smile faltered at the corners of her mouth as Cordelia was reminded why they were here, why her muscles ached and her body was flushed. “All gone,” Cordelia nodded, reality flooding the air along with a silence that had been absent since they had entered the room. Cordelia knew she should be feeling awkward, uncomfortable lying beside Angel like this. But she didn’t. She knew she should get up, leave, remember the rules. But it seemed wrong somehow. Wrong to flee from the room after what they’d just done. What they’d just shared.

“What is it?”Angel asked, seeing the frown that scored a line between her eyebrows.

“Wet patch,” Cordelia wrinkled her nose with the half truth. Angel watched her for a moment before he jerked his chin, gesturing for her to move closer to him.

The words I should go, were on the tip of her tongue. Cordelia knew she had to remember the rules, but they were too easy to forget.

She turned onto her front and slowly spanned the gap between them, knowing the distance wasn’t just measured in simple inches. A moment of indecision caught in Cordelia’s chest before she laid her head on Angel’s chest, her hand finding a surprising home on his stomach.

“Cold?” Angel asked, struggling to keep the relief that she hadn’t yet left out of his voice.

“No,” she yawned, exhaustion silencing her better angels who told her they were on dangerous ground.

Angel ran his fingers through Cordelia’s hair, once again untangling the long locks. He could feel her heart slowing against him, finding its regular rhythm once more as they listened to the hotel settle around them. On the third floor, the broken shutters creaked in the breeze. The hot water pipers groaned like an old men in the walls. The refrigerator in the kitchen kicked in with a hum.

Stretching his free arm out beside him, Angel reached to turn of the bedside lamp, cloaking the room in a peaceful darkness. Cordelia’s breathing slowed, signalling her surrender to slumber.

Angel kissed the crown of her head.

It felt terrifyingly right.

***

Dirty. She was dirty. Calling someone else’s name. Not his. Should be his. Fuck her. Fuck her, Daniel raged silently, screwing up the lilac bra he held in his fist.

He pressed his forehead against the outer wall of the Hotel, its texture biting into his skin as the rain soaked through his clothes.

He looked up at the now dark room, the balcony doors still open as if inviting trouble inside.

She was still in there. With him. Naked.

I am going to destroy her, he promised himself as the rain blurred his vision. Tear her apart, make her scream, make her love me, why doesn’t she love me?

Bitch.

Fucking bitch!

Daniel pulled out a knife from the inside pocket of jacket. He thumbed the blade, careful not to cut himself, a thousand seductive ways in which he could make her bleed roaring through his veins.

He could go up there now, slip in unnoticed, the vampire wouldn’t know until it was too late. Until he’d torn her apart, taken what he was owed. What was his.

Stop. Think, the rational part of his brain struggled to regain some control. The vampire will know as soon as you step back into the hotel. You’re not strong enough to stay beneath his radar any longer. You have to wait.

Wait.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Daniel muttered, slamming his forehead against the wall with every word. He took a deep breath into his lungs, almost choking on the scent of sex that drifted down from the open doors.

She was meant to be with me.

He carefully replaced the knife back into his pocket, letting his fingers rest for a moment on his stolen bounty. The need for release still thundered in his ears but Daniel knew now wasn’t the time.

Soon.

Hunching his shoulders, he pulled his jacket tightly around his chest and quietly walked unseen from the Hyperion.

Someone else would have to pay for Cordelia’s sins tonight.

Part 16

Posted June 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

His Lady Lazerus. 14   1 comment

Part 14

Sunlight streamed through the single shuttered window, painting the floor with broken strips of yellow that did little to brighten the grim surroundings. The room was small and dusty, the hot air stifling without the ever present central air blasting the Californian heat away.

Daniel wiped the sweat away from the back of his neck with a towel and thought longingly of cool suites at the Plaza, mini bars stocked with thirst quenching refreshments, and a soft bed that didn’t smell faintly of urine.

A mouse skittered across the floor, pausing to stare curiously at the intruder that had taken over its home before it once again disappeared beneath one of the loose floorboards. The scuttling of tiny hidden claws blared like a fog horn in Daniel’s ears, making his jaw twitch with irritation.

He crumpled the empty Coke can in his hand and threw it into the overflowing trash on the other side of the room. Squinting his eyes against the bright glare, he watched the Hotel across the street with the same intensity he gave to everything in his life.

She was in there. His beautiful whore. His Cordelia Chase.

She thought she could run from him, run into the arms of another man and he wouldn’t follow. Stupid girl, didn’t she know he’d follow her to the end of the earth?

A flash of dirty grey moved across the floor in his peripheral vision, searching for scraps of discarded food.

The mouse, his only companion in the decaying squat, was flattened beneath his shoe with a sickening crunch of bone and blood.

***

If her life were a cartoon, a light bulb would have appeared above Fred’s head as she scribbled furiously on her notepad. She wasn’t entirely certain, but if her calculations were correct, if one were to use Einstein’s theory of relativity in conjunction with the Braginhuer’s Codex, during the new moon, while standing on one foot, the result would quite possibly be-

Fred squinted at what she’d written in the last half an hour.

-the most perfect cup of coffee ever made.

That can’t be right.

Fred let her head drop with a dull thump to the lobby counter.

Four days had passed since they’d realized that Cordelia was next on Daniel’s list, but since then, with exception of the death of Cordelia’s neighbours, all had been quiet at Angel Investigations.

Mostly quiet, Fred amended as she heard the now increasingly familiar sound of Angel and Cordelia arguing on the first floor.

Four days and they still had nothing. Zilch. Nada. Bupkiss. Wesley’s books, as invaluable as they were in their everyday fight against darkness, were useless for this. Especially as it was still unclear as to whether Daniel was demon or human. Or maybe he was a hybrid of the two, or possibly a shape shifter. That would explain why they hadn’t been able to get a clear tail on him yet.

Maybe Daniel was a human-demon hybrid that had the ability to shape shift and become invisible.

Fred yawned, her jaw cracking with the force of it.

She really needed a break.

Warm fingers brushed her lower back where her T-shirt had ridden up. Fred smiled into the counter and turned her head to face Lorne.

“I think I’ve found the formula for the perfect latte. It could change the face of coffee making forever.”

“Look out Starbucks, here comes Winifred Burkle,” Lorne chuckled. Fred sighed and felt herself begin to go boneless as he slid his hand up her back and kneaded the tight muscles in her neck.

“S’nice,” she murmured, her eyelids fluttering shut while a contented smile played at the corners of her lips.

Lorne let his fingers work out the tension that had found home between the delicate wings of Fred’s shoulder blades. Though he touched her like she was fragile Lorne knew she wasn’t. You had to be tough to the marrow to live even one day in Pylea, but to survive five long hellish years in his birthplace took more bravery and strength then Lorne could even comprehend.

He tugged gently on the long brunette braid that scaled down her back.

“You look very pretty today.”

The smile that lit up Fred’s face threatened to make Lorne’s heart explode out of his butt cheek.

“Thank you,” she grinned.

Fred sat up, ignoring the way her back protested at the movement, and pressed a kiss to the corner of Lorne’s elegant mouth. She straightened his open collar, her fingers brushing against the warm skin of his neck as Lorne wound the few silky curls of hair that had escaped the braid. Their eyes caught and Fred felt a blush of heat creeping over her chest and up her neck. It prickled her skin with something she didn’t know how to put into equations and theorems.

A muffled thump resonated from the first floor, followed by two pairs of irritated footsteps. With the moment shattered, Fred groaned and rested her forehead against Lorne’s.

“Those two are driving me crazy. I may have to kill them,” Fred muttered.

Lorne chuckled and kissed her forehead. “You won’t be short for volunteers to help, kitten.”

“Oy vey,” she sighed with resignation as Cordelia stomped down the lobby stair case, closely followed by Angel.

“Think of it as a free show. Like Cats but without the toe tapping soundtrack.” Lorne curled his arm around her waist as Fred laid her head on his shoulder, ready to witness their friends latest argument in comfort.

“Grow up, Cordelia.”

“Bite me, Angel!”

“I would if I thought it would make you stop acting like a child.”

“Try it and your vitals will have an appointment with the business end of my stake.”

“Ya know, you are really starting to piss me off.”

“The feeling’s mutual, Deadboy – only you’ve been pissing me off for days.”

The side of Angel’s jaw ticked ominously, his arms folded tightly across his chest.

Cordelia, her hands fused to her hips, tapped her foot furiously against the tiled floor until it looked like the vein in Angel’s head was about to explode.

“Ugh!” Cordelia threw her hands up and spun on her heel, marching to the kitchen with an air of determination that didn’t bode well for any of them.

Angel cursed under his breath and rubbed his face roughly before following after her.

“Yeesh,” Lorne let out a breath once he and Fred were once again alone.

“Their aura’s still funky?”

“Oh yeah,” he nodded, rubbing his temples. “The sooner that girl gets a vision, the happier we’ll all….” Lorne trailed off, realizing what he’d just said.

“Huh?” Fred frowned, her eyebrows meeting in confusion. “Why does Cordy need to get a vision?”

Lorne shifted in his seat and let out a truly unconvincing laugh. “Did I say vision? I meant, er…shoes?”

Fred scowled at him. “Spill it, Mister.”

Lorne sighed and laced his fingers through Fred’s on the counter top. He didn’t like keeping secrets from Fred, but this wasn’t his secret to tell. When Lorne opened his mouth to tell her that, hurricane Angel and Cordelia swept back into the lobby, bringing with them a tension that crackled the air like electricity.

“Three words Angel; I. Don’t. Know!” Cordelia punctuated each word with a sharp prod of her finger into his chest.

Angel scowled. “I know you had them, Cordelia. Just tell me where my keys are.”

“Why would I have your car keys, Angel? Why? I have my own car, not that I can go out in it!”

“You wanna go out, go out. But don’t come crying to me when Daniel has you hog-tied in his trunk. Keys, Cordelia. Where are they?”

“Why do you need them now anyway? Thinking about taking a nice open top drive in the afternoon sun? Cos right now, I’m not gonna stop ya!”

“If it meant five minutes of peace from you I would.”

“Well, I’m so sorry that my life being in danger is such a hassle for you, next time I’ll just let the crazy man kill me.”

Angel narrowed his eyes. “Give me back my car keys. Now.”

“You know what, Angel?” she huffed, flicking her hair over her shoulder.

“What?”

“You can shove your keys-”

“Ooo-kay,” Lorne clapped his hands together. “I think that’s enough Masterpiece Theatre for one day, don’t you children?”

Cordelia blinked. “How long have you guys been there?”

“Too long,” Lorne said as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

Frowning, Cordelia darted a glare at Angel then turned on her heel and marched back up the stairs. She paused on the third step as though she knew exactly what Angel was thinking.

“Stay,” Cordelia commanded like the vampire was a badly behaved puppy.

And then she was gone.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Queen has left the building,” Lorne murmured with amusement. Angel joined Fred and Lorne and laid his head down on the counter, his forehead pillowed in his arms.

Fred patted his head softly. “Poor Angel.”

***

Slamming her bedroom door didn’t induce the same rage releasing rush that it once did, mostly due to the fact that the hotel was so large she wasn’t sure anyone would actually hear the thud.

“I am calm. I am calm,” Cordelia told herself through clenched teeth. “I am making the best of the situation, and I am calm, damn it!”

She kicked the foot of her bed, yelping when she realized too late that she wasn’t wearing any shoes.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow,” Cordelia muttered as she hobbled around the room to walk off the pain. The mattress bounced beneath her as she flopped down bonelessly onto her bed. She scowled at the water marked ceiling until her face began to ache as much as her foot. The urge to scream slowly evaporated out of Cordelia’s body, leaving just the thick knot of tension in her chest that had been gradually growing like a tumour over the last few days.

Four days of looking over her shoulder at every strange noise. It didn’t sound like long, four simple days, but it felt like an eternity.

Cordelia felt trapped, claustrophobic inside the Hotel’s numerous rooms and winding corridors, waiting for the shadows to shift and grab her by the throat. She missed her apartment, missed being able to go out without one of the guys playing bodyguard. Missed slobbing around in her sweats, eating ice-cream and watching bad soaps with Dennis.

Dennis.

Angel and Wesley had returned to her apartment once since the discovery of Lucy and Bobby’s bodies, but the entire apartment complex had been swarming with police and Wesley had thought it unwise to draw any more attention to themselves. So the question of where her phantom house mate had disappeared to was still unanswered and laid heavily on her mind.

Cordelia levered herself off the bed with a sigh and wandered aimlessly around the room, trailing her fingers over the few possessions that Angel had brought back from her apartment.

He’d done his best to make her feel as though this was her home, but it wasn’t, and his constant need to make sure she was OK every five minutes had grown irritating quickly. Every time she turned around, there Angel skulked. In the kitchen, in the office, hovering outside her room, everywhere, like he was scared that if he let her out of his sight she might disappear for good.

So she’d ‘accidentally’ spilt bleach over his sweater. And ‘accidentally’ heated his blood up for too long.

And ‘accidentally’ hidden his keys on the fourth floor.

Cordelia knew she was being petty, but he was making her crazy and as long as they were snapping and bickering with each other, they didn’t have the chance to talk about what exactly had happened during their last encounter. Which was good, because Cordelia really didn’t want to talk about it. But that didn’t mean that she hadn’t thought about it again and again and again until her nails had dug half moons into the palms of her hands.

The dreams didn’t help.

Every morning for four days Cordelia had woken, her legs tangled in bed sheets, pillows knocked from their home, with an ache between her legs that her old friend the adjustable shower head did little to ease. She’d never been gifted with a photographic memory before, but now it seemed like every little detail of her visions and nights she spent with Angel had been burnt into her brain with a branding iron.

His hands griping her hips, cool lips whispering along her collar bone, muscled thighs pressing against her own, the need she saw etched in his so often unreadable gaze, the overwhelming comfort given with his touch, letting her forget, letting her breathe, making her want….

Cordelia groaned and forced her fingers to uncurl when they began to cramp painfully.

As regular as clock work, a wave of guilt washed over her like a cold shower. People were dead, people that she should have been able to save, and here she was thinking about Angel’s tasty man-thighs.

It was the waiting, Cordelia decided. That was really making her crazy. Her life seemed to be reduced to waiting for things. Waiting for Daniel to tear her apart, waiting for the PTB to strike her down with yet another vision, waiting for the next time that she and Angel would find themselves wrapped around each other like lovers.

She wasn’t going to spend the rest of her life waiting.

They needed to do something.

***

“We need to do something,” Cordelia declared, her arms folded defiantly across her chest.

Fours pairs of eyes blinked at her.

“And something that isn’t reading the same musty book again and again. We’re not going to find crazy psycho man hiding in one of them. We need to do something.”

“What do you suggest?” Wesley asked carefully, sure that he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“I’m thinking it’s about time we went after him.”

“That would make sense, if we knew where he was.”

“Well, we need to find him!” Cordelia gestured with her hands wildly. Fred ducked before she was smacked across the face.

“We’ve been trying-”

“No, Wes, we’ve been waiting. Since when do we wait for the homicidal maniac to creep up on me from behind and decapitate me before we can say whoops, there goes Cordy’s head?”

“That’s not going to happen,” Angel bristled at her words.

Cordelia dismissed his assurance with a flick of her wrist.

Wesley leaned back in his chair and rested his elbows on the desk. “So, what do you suggest?”

“Well,” Cordelia twisted her hands together nervously. “The club that-”

“No.”

Cordelia spun around to glare at Angel. “You don’t even know what I was going to say.”

“We’re not using you as bait in that place again. Or Fred. Or anyone. No more bait and catch. It never ends well.”

“OK, so maybe you did know,” Cordelia muttered, her shoulders slumping for a moment before she straightened her spine with determination. “So, anyone else got a better idea?” She raised an eyebrow and looked expectantly at each of her friends in turn.

Wesley rubbed his forehead.

Fred shrugged and chewed the end of her braid.

Lorne swirled his drink around idly.

Angel was staring at her like he had something to say.

“What?”

“We’re not putting you in danger again, Cordy. We’re just…we’re not,” he declared as though his word was law.

“I’m on board with the no danger,” Cordelia reassured him. “I am all over the no danger. I’m no danger’s biggest fan-”

“But?” Wesley asked.

“It’s been too quiet. He’s planning something.”

Wesley leaned forward in his chair. The leather squeaked but nobody laughed. “How do you know, did you have a vision?”

Out of the corner of her eye Cordelia saw Angel sit up a little straighter in his chair.

“No,” she shot a sharp glare at the vampire. “I don’t need a vision on this one. It’s like in the bad guy hand book, or something. Get the poor victim thinking the threat is gone, then-BAM!- you come home one day and all your hand towels are evenly spaced and all your food labels are facing front.”

Wesley looked at her for a long moment. “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Meh,” Cordelia waved a defeated hand and finally sat down on the arm of Angel’s chair.

“It’s a film,” Fred piped up.

“I don’t see what that has to do with Cordelia’s stalker,” Wesley frowned.

“I knew what you were talking about,” Angel said as Fred outlined the plot of Sleeping With The Enemy to an increasingly confused Wesley.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “That’s a first.”

She couldn’t help the startle of surprise that leapt through her body as a cool hand slipped around her waist.

“Are you going to be angry with me forever?” Angel asked quietly, tugging on the hem of her shirt like touching her was second nature.

“I’m not-” Cordelia paused. She was angry at him, but for reasons she wasn’t ready to think about just yet. “I’m just….” The sentence faded away to nothing when she realized she didn’t know how to answer it truthfully. “I’m feeling kinda crowded, is all,” Cordelia leaned back against Angel’s arm, contradicting her admission.

“Want me to tell the guys to back off?”

Cordelia raised an amused eyebrow at him. “It’s not the guys who are doing the crowding. It’s one guy. One vampire-guy. One vampire with a soul-guy.”

Angel scratched the back of his head guiltily. “Sorry.”

“Try that again, this time with a little feeling,” Cordelia’s lips twitched with a smile.

Wesley cleared his throat and glared at them over the top of his glasses. “If we could get back to the issue at hand, please?”

Chastised, Cordelia stood up and Angel’s hand fell away from her waist. It trailed over her ass in a way that may or may not have been an accident. She had a feeling it wasn’t.

“So, we’re all agreed then. We go back to the club tonight.”

Angel stood up to glare down at Wesley. “I don’t remember there being a vote.”

“That’s because there wasn’t one.”

“Interesting leadership method you got here, Wes.”

“It worked for you, didn’t it?”

“OK!” Cordelia clapped her hands together before the growling and eyeballing could begin. She still didn’t know what had caused the tension between Angel and Wesley, but it was far beyond beginning to annoy her. “As much fun as these little displays of testosterone aren’t, how about we do something crazy like, oh, I don’t know, behave like adults so we can catch the man that’s got a hard-on for cutting me into little pieces. Starting at the club tonight.”

Angel’s eyebrows knitted with a stubborn frown.

“You’ll all be there. I’ll be safe,” Cordelia attempted to reassure him.

He wasn’t swayed.

“Angel,” Cordelia sighed, stepping closer to him she placed her hands on his folded arms. They were like steel beneath her palms, corded metal that had seen the beginning and end of two centuries. “C’mon, big guy. I can’t sit around waiting to be found anymore. Please?”

Angel scowled down at her.

She tried a different approach.

“You know I’ll just annoy you till you say yes.”

He was wavering. She could see it in his eyes.

Cordelia tilted her head to the side and went in for the kill. “I’ll tell you where your car keys are,” she sing-songed.

That was the winner.

***

Angel didn’t like this.

The music was too loud and the club too crowded. The dance floor teemed with skinny boys and red-lipped girls grinding against each other, each one desperately searching for something real beneath the flashing yellow lights. Sweat and stagnant perfume clung to the air, choking the atmosphere like a cloud of poison.

Bodies, hot and rushing with blood, surrounded him. A century ago Angel would have revelled in the degradation while Darla seduced the black-eyed children to spread their legs or bare their necks. They would have bathed in the sticky red blood of the innocent with smiles on their faces and death in their hearts.

But now all Angel wanted was for someone to turn the music down.

“I don’t like this!” Angel shouted above disjointed bass beat.

“Really, I would never have guessed!” Cordelia grabbed his hand before he could completely become one with the shadows. “We need drinks!”

“I don’t think-”

“C’mon!” she tugged his hand and Angel had no choice but to follow her. It didn’t matter that he was stronger than her, or that he’d spent a good innings of his life making Europe quake with fear – when Cordelia Chase said jump, Angel had a tendency to find himself asking how high.

Cordelia weaved them through the crowd, moving with a confidence that drew appreciative stares.

Angel narrowed his eyes.

That was another thing he didn’t like. The staring. As soon as they’d stepped into the club and Cordelia had slipped out of her jacket, handing it to Angel like he was the coat check boy as she revealed the flimsy excuse of a top, he felt the urge to either press his lips to the bare skin of her back or ask her exactly what did she think she was doing going out dressed like that young lady?

From behind it looked like she wasn’t wearing a top at all. The only proof that she was were the two thin silver chains that somehow held the scrap of material together. It was a miracle of modern engineering. And one that Angel couldn’t seem to stood looking at. Which was good, because that meant he wasn’t watching the way her hips swayed from side to side as she walked, and he most certainly wasn’t looking at how her leather pants caressed her long legs like a second skin or how the tattoo on the small of her back was on display for the entire world to see.

Cordelia looked over her shoulder and smiled at him, squeezing his hand encouragingly. Angel managed to convince one side of his mouth to quirk upwards as she dragged him over to the bar. Mercifully the Spears woman wasn’t so loud at this end of the club.

“One drink,” Angel said decisively.

“Yeah, OK Dad.”

“We need to stay alert-”

“I had the pep talk from Wes already,” she cut him off with a wave of her hand.

“I know, but-”

“Stay alert. Stay with Angel. Do not leave his side, no matter what happens,” Cordelia ticked off the Englishman’s instructions on her fingers. “If the mission encounters difficulties assume crash positions and the exits are here, here, here and here. I know, OK? It’s my ass this creep has a yen for, I’m not about to hand it to him on a plate,” Cordelia cocked an eyebrow. “No matter how fine it looks in these pants.”

Busted.

“I’m not happy about this,” Angel said again, feigning ass-staring innocence.

“That’s a shocker,” Cordelia pfft’d. “We have everything covered. Fred is safely tucked up in bed with Lorne and lets not think about that too much because I don’t need the scary visual place. Wes is on the back exit, Gunn is round front. Daniel won’t be able to get in or out without one of us seeing him.”

“But-”

“And if he’s already here, we’ve got back up for that,” Cordelia waved at one of Gunn’s friends over Angel’s shoulder. “We’re good to go here, Champ. Now shut up and buy me a something incredibly alcoholic because I think I deserve it, don’t you?”

Cordelia spun on her heels and smacked her elbows on the counter top with a thud. By the way she was tapping her nails, Angel thought it best not to tell her that she’d just put her arm in something suspiciously sticky. Instead, he signalled to the barman the way only men seem to know how.

“I know the last few days haven’t been exactly easy for you,” Angel said as delicately as he could.

“Understatement much? I’ve had visions less painful than living with you, Angel.” Cordelia snapped. The barman arrived to take their order. “Hi, I’ll have a Martini-”

“She’ll have a Coke and I’ll have a beer,” Angel interrupted her. The barmen nodded and wandered away to get the drinks.

Angel could feel the heat of Cordelia’s glare burning into the side of his face.

“Shouldn’t have made the crack about living with me,” Angel shrugged, leaning his elbows on the bar as well.

Cordelia rolled her eyes and nudged her hip against his, a silent apology between friends. An easy silence slipped over them as they waited for the barman to return, Cordelia hummed along with the music under her breath while Angel memorized the faces milling behind them through the long mirror that spanned the bar. His reflection was nothing but a gaping chasm beside Cordelia and as though she could sense his unease, she leaned her shoulder against his. Forever his connection to the world.

“Fred thinks Daniel’s a shape shifting, invisible, human-demon hybrid,” Angel said, suddenly needing to fill the air with something.

Cordelia snorted. “Fred needs to lay off sniffing the Magic Markers.”

“She may have a point.”

“Seriously?”

“Well, the human-demon hybrid part, at least.”

“There isn’t a slither of humanity in that creep, Angel. You can trust me on that,” Cordelia shuddered, images of her last few visions flashing through her mind.

“I’m not human, does that make me a monster?” Angel asked quietly, unconsciously tearing a beer-mat into miss-shaped squares that fell onto the bar like confetti.

Cordelia tilted her head to the side and nudged their shoulders together. “You’re Angel,” she smiled, and the rest of the club disappeared for a moment as his world consisted entirely of Cordelia. The warmth of her arm against his, the curve of her mouth, the openness of her heart, they wrapped around him like a blanket. Something shifted inside his chest and Angel couldn’t stop looking at her. The air thickened around them like a breath held in anticipation. Cordelia’s heartbeat echoed in his ears, drowning out the heavy bass beat of the club as it quickened under his gaze.

Two spots of colour reddened Cordelia’s cheeks. Tearing her eyes away from him, Cordelia cleared her throat, breaking the moment as quickly it had happened. She straightened up and plastered a wide unconvincing smile onto her face when the barman returned with their drinks.

Angel pulled out the grainy photograph of Daniel from his jacket pocket. “Hey buddy, you seen this guy around lately?”

The barman barely glanced at it before shaking his head and turning to take another order.

“Here, let me have a go,” Cordelia snatched the picture out of Angel’s fingers and squeezed between the young couple that had finally caught the barman’s eye to relay their order.

“Hey, we were here first!” the woman spluttered.

Cordelia raised her eyebrow. “And now you’re here second. Deal with it and move on,” she dismissed them with a waggle of her fingers.

To Angel’s disbelief the couple did just that.

“Hi there, what’s your name?” Cordelia turned the full force of her smile onto the barman. Angel felt sorry for him fleetingly, he’d been on the receiving end of that smile more than once.

The barman blinked, appearing to have forgotten his own name for a second before he said, “Pete.”

“Hi Pete, I’m Cordelia. I was wondering if you could help me out with something?” she tilted her head innocently to the side and leaned over the bar.

Angel watched as the barman’s eyes zeroed in on Cordelia’s cleavage. He struggled to reign in the growl he felt itching at his chest.

“OK,” Pete agreed like a man hypnotised.

“Do you recognize this man?” Cordelia held the photograph in front of her chest.

Pete stared at the photograph like his life depended on it. “Yeah,” he said slowly. “He comes in every now and then. Quiet. Doesn’t cause any trouble,” he shrugged.

“Has he been in recently?”

“Not for a couple weeks, why?” Pete tossed his regulation dish rag over his shoulder and leaned forward onto the bar. He was smiling at Cordelia. Cordelia was smiling at him. Angel didn’t like this at all.

“Oh, he’s a friend,” Cordelia waved away the question idly. “Likes a bit of the old glug glug,” she made a drinking gesture with her hand and he nodded sagely.

“Yeah, we get a lot of that in here. This isn’t exactly a high class joint, ya know.”

“I noticed,” Cordelia grimaced, poking a dusty bowl of peanuts with her index finger.

“Maybe you could give me your number and if he comes in again I could call you?” Pete smiled and Angel wanted to push the barman’s head through the mirror behind him. But he restrained himself because he knew Cordelia wouldn’t say-

“Sounds like a plan,” she smiled coyly, twirling a loose wisp of hair around her finger.

OK. Now Angel had had enough.

“Any luck?” Angel asked as he joined them, wrapping an arm around Cordelia’s waist. When he smiled it didn’t reach his eyes. Pete pushed away from the bar, message received loud and clear.

Cordelia scowled at Angel when the barman wandered away to collect glasses. “I was getting information,” she hissed.

“Information wasn’t the only thing you were about to get.”

“Did I ask you to come rescue me? He was cute. Very cute. Thank you for ruining my potential love life once again,” she huffed, elbowing Angel sharply in the ribs.

He squinted at Pete’s retreating figure. “You think he’s cute? Really? But his hair’s all-” Angel flicked his fingers at his forehead, “-poofey.”

“First of all, have you seen your hair recently? People in glass houses shouldn’t use so much hair gel. Secondly, a little flirting goes a long way when you’re hunting a maniac, and thirdly…” she frowned. “Great, I’ve forgotten my thirdly!” Cordelia let out a grunt of annoyance and fisted the lapels of Angel’s jacket, trying to shake some sense into him but he was immovable granite and barely swayed against her meek assault.

Cordelia’s shoulders slumped in defeat.

“Finished?” Angel asked with amusement.

“You’re an overprotective Neanderthal,” Cordelia muttered, butting her forehead against his chest.

“Thank you.”

“It wasn’t a compliment,” she pulled away, the smile in her eyes telling Angel that she wasn’t really mad. “Any ideas what we do now?”

“Ask around, see if any one else has come into contact with Daniel?” he suggested.

“We could do that, or we could get drunk and reminisce about the good old Hellmouth-days when the bad guys wore flashing signs that said ‘here be evil’?” Cordelia asked, looking up at him hopefully.

“Maybe another time,” Angel said even though a part of him wanted to see if she was a giggly drunk.

“You’re just gonna spoil all my fun tonight, aren’t you? OK, fine, Captain Responsible. Let’s go be investigatey,” tangling her hand in his once again, Cordelia tugged him into the fray.

***

Gunn watched Wesley as the Englishman paced back and forth, his cell phone pressed tightly to his ear as he struggled to hear Angel over the din of the club.

“I can’t hear you, Angel, say again? OK. Uh huh. Right. What is that awful noise in the background? Music? That’s meant to be music? OK, now I feel old…yes, I imagine it’s much worse for you…uh huh…well, keep your eyes open and call me if anything happens.” Wesley flipped his cell phone shut with a click.

“No joy?”

Wesley startled at the other man’s voice. “I didn’t see you there.”

Gunn buried his hands in his pockets and walked the few steps over to Wesley. Somehow it felt a lot longer than just a few steps. “Rondell’s taken over out front, but so far we ain’t seen shit.”

“Same here. They spoke to the barman, apparently Daniel hasn’t been here for a while.”

“So we’re wasting our time?”

“It would seem so.”

Gunn leaned back against Wesley’s car and crossed his legs at the ankle. He tilted his head back and looked at the sky. The smog and lights of the city hid the stars, leaving just a cold sheet of black staring down at them. Gunn scuffed the toe of his sneaker against the pavement, displacing the cigarette butts and bottle caps that littered the sidewalk.

The silence made Wesley’s chest hurt, a deep bone ache that he knew he could cure if he only he were brave enough. But he was a coward, a joke, and the silence was going to ruin what little they had left if someone didn’t take the first step.

“How’ve you been?”

Gunn shrugged noncommittally.

A police siren wailed somewhere in the distance, probably heading their way. This wasn’t exactly the good part of town.

Wesley cleared his throat and pulled off his glasses, tempted to clean them with the front of his shirt. “We seem to keep missing each other at the hotel,” he said slowly, choosing his words carefully as though they might come back to haunt him one day.

Gunn laughed a rough bark of disbelief. “Cut the crap, Wes. We haven’t been ‘missing’ each other, we’ve been fuckin’ avoiding each other ever since….” he let the sentence trail off to nothing.

Since I said I love you.

Gunn rubbed his hand over the nape of his skull and spoke to the ground. “Look, man. Let’s just pretend this whole thing never happened-”

Gunn’s denial was lost as Wesley captured him in a sudden kiss, cradling the other man’s jaw in his hands as he tried absolve his mistakes. Gunn hesitated, frozen for a long second of uncertainty as Wesley’s breath ghosted his lips. He knew this would change nothing, just a little cold comfort for the soul, but god, Gunn had missed him.

Wesley felt the moment the other man’s internal struggle ended as a rough groan of acquiescence rumbled through Gunn’s chest. This was simple, easy. The heat of Gunn’s body pressing against his, strong fingers digging frantically into his hips, the taste of promises in his mouth, this made sense. Gunn’s fingers snared Wesley’s hair as though he were afraid he might disappear into vapour and memories. Their teeth clashed, tongues fighting a battle that had already been lost months ago as Wesley pressed Gunn up against the car door. Wesley hummed low in his throat, his lips and chin burning from the sweet friction of Gunn’s jaw. The sound of their ragged breathing filled the night, drowning out the muffled beat the music inside the club.

Why couldn’t everything be as simple as this? Wesley wondered as the space between them became nothing.

Because, a voice in his head reminded him, you won’t let it be simple.

As though he could read his thoughts, Gunn broke the kiss with a shuddering breath. He rested his forehead against Wesley’s and closed his eyes.

“You can’t keep doing this to me,” Gunn whispered.

Wesley swallowed, his throat and his chest painfully tight. He let his hands drop from Gunn’s waist and stepped away from the other man even though his body screamed at him to stay, to make a home within his arms.

“I’m sorry,” Wesley said, rubbing his jaw.

“Yeah,” Gunn grunted and pushed away from the car, his eyes resting everywhere but the Englishman. “Maybe we should call it a night. We’re wasting our time here.”

“I guess,” Wesley frowned, well aware that it wasn’t just the stakeout that he was talking about.

Gunn nodded and buried his hands into his pockets. His shoulders were slumped and misery etched the lines of his face, Wesley felt a deep bone guilt over the fact that he had been the one to cause Gunn such pain.

“I’ll see ya later, yeah?” Gunn said casually, as though they had never been anything but friends on the front line.

He didn’t wait for Wesley’s answer as he turned and walked away.

***

“Vocah,” Cordelia said decisively, gesturing with her now rum enhanced Coke. “Worst demon, ever.”

“Yeah,” Angel agreed, his forehead creased with thought. “That wasn’t fun.”

“Closely followed by those Skilosh butt-heads and that bleach blonde skank-ho Sire of yours.”

“You know, Darla’s actually a natural blonde,” Angel pointed out with the neck of his beer bottle.

“Shyeah,” Cordelia snorted and swallowed the last syrupy dregs of her drink. The alcohol warmed her nerves and loosened the knot of tension between her shoulders. It was the most relaxed she’d been in days and Cordelia planned on enjoying it while it lasted.

“Where’s Daniel on this list?” Angel changed the murky subject of his Sire before it could descend into name calling and beige period accusations.

“Oh, he’s on a whole other list of nasties along with Wilson Christopher and the snake worshipping fraternity creeps.”

Angel leaned back in his seat, stretching his body out like a lazy cat in the sun. His thigh settled against Cordelia’s but neither of them pulled away from the contact. After prowling the club until Cordelia began to complain about the fact that stilettos where not made for investigating, they had finally settled on a long cushioned bench in dark corner away from the dance floor.

A few meters to their left, a young couple were making out like it was the end of the world. Arms and mouths tangled together, nothing else existed to them, not the worn material of the bench, not the stale aroma of sweat. Just two people at the beginning of their lives, deliriously blind to the world around them.

Cordelia let her head lull against the back of the bench and wondered were the waitress had disappeared to.

“Why’d you think he picked me?” she asked absently, her eyes fixed to the hypnotic flashing lights that danced across the walls.

“You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Angel said as he picked at the label on his beer.

“Really? I mean, you don’t think I’m a magnet for crazy? ‘Cause let me tell ya, sometimes I seriously feel cursed with crappy luck.”

Angel tilted his head to look at Cordelia. She was chewing thoughtfully on her index finger and her eyes were beginning to glaze over from the rum. Her nose glistened with sweat and the deep red gloss she’d so carefully applied earlier that evening had worn away to revel the natural soft pink of her lips.

“Trust me, you’re not cursed,” he said quietly. “Unless you’ve pissed off some gypsies and don’t know about it.”

Cordelia laughed, a deep sardonic rumble that Angel felt rather than heard as she rested her head on his shoulder. “If I’ve learned anything from you, Angel, it’s to stay far far away from gypsies.”

“Better safe than sorry,” Angel nodded sagely.

“OK, I’m getting maudlin and you’re starting to sound like an old woman. We either need more drinks or should cut our losses and call it a night. Personally, I’m leaning towards some major sorrow drowning,” Cordelia yawned, the cocktail of rum and four tension filled days and nights catching up on her. A slow headache was forming between her temples, she closed her eyes but the clubs lights still flashed across her vision.

“One more drink and you’ll pass out,” Angel reasoned, resting his chin gently on top on Cordelia’s head. Her hair was soft against his jaw and still held the perfumed traces of her shampoo.

“I can handle my drink, thank you very much,” she murmured, enjoying the way Angel’s voice rumbled through her. She let out a sigh that tickled Angel’s skin beneath his sweater and made his stomach twitch with hungry butterflies.

“Sure you can,” Angel said, his voice a strangled mix of emotions that he couldn’t seem to keep hold off with Cordelia so close.

Both relief and annoyance flooded through him when he caught sight of Wesley weaving his way towards them, his shoulders set in a stiff line and brow wrinkled in thought.

Angel nodded to him curtly as Wesley pulled a seat up opposite them. “Nothing?”

“Nothing,” Wesley shook his head. “The chances of Daniel returning to a location that we already knew of were slim to none anyway.”

Angel valiantly fought the urge to say I told you so as Cordelia sat up and wiped her hand over his shoulder, removing either drool or lipstick. She blinked several times in succession as though she were having trouble focusing on Wesley.

“Where’s Gunn?” she asked.

“Gone.”

“Home gone, or gone gone?” Cordelia frowned, concerned.

Wesley rubbed a hand over his face and shrugged, stubbornly refusing a more precise answer.

“Wanna drink?” Cordelia offered. “I’ve heard that the answers to all life’s troubles can be found at the bottom of a tequila bottle.”

A small barely there smile twitched at the corners of Wesley’s mouth. “I thought we agreed no more tequila after last time?”

“We came, we saw, we resisted the urge to vomit? Ah, memories,” Cordelia smiled sadly and held Wesley’s gaze for a long moment before he chuckled and shook his head.

Angel frowned, feeling like an outsider intruding on a private moment. “When was this?”

“The night you fired us. It was quite an evening,” Wesley said coolly.

“Oh.”

“Of course, that’s all water under the bridge now.”

“Right.”

Silence settled between the two men, thick with tension and past resentments that should have been settled a long time ago. Angel knew the icy glare that he was receiving from the Englishman had little to do with him firing them the year before and everything to do with his current close proximity to Cordelia.

Angel clenched his jaw.

Wesley raised his eyebrows.

Cordelia darted her gaze back and forth between the two men, absently worrying the sleeve of Angel’s sweater.

She cleared her throat to break the staring contest. “So, what do we do now?”

When Wesley looked at her the ice in his eyes began to melt. “Go home and think of another plan in the morning, I guess.”

“Works for me,” Cordelia nodded and stood up. The sudden movement sent a rush of blood to her head and made Cordelia stumble, her legs wobbly. Both men reached out to steady her. “Woah,” she laughed, “head rush.”

“How much did she have to drink?” Wesley asked accusingly.

“Not much,” Angel grunted.

“She shouldn’t have been drinking at all, she’s underage.”

“A couple rum and Cokes aren’t going to hurt her. She’s not a child.”

“She’s also standing right here!” Cordelia snapped. She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes and waited for the floor to stop moving beneath her feet. Cordelia flinched when a strong hand curled around her shoulder, her skin suddenly feeling far too tight for her bones.

“You OK?” Angel asked, sounding far too far away.

“M’fine, just got up a little too quickly,” Cordelia muttered, trying and failing to bat away their concern.

“We should go.”

“Yeah,” she agreed, “right after I’ve had this-”

Cordelia’s neck snapped backwards like a bow, hands flailing as her body was assaulted by the Powers’ latest message. The two men watched impotently for a moment as her eyes rolled backwards and her mouth fell open into a silent ‘o’ of pain. When Cordelia’s knees buckled Angel caught her. Banding his arms tightly around her waist, he pulled her into his chest and turned them away from prying eyes.

The scent of fear radiated from Cordelia as she spasm, her spine jerking with unnatural force. Below the heady perfume of fear was something even sweeter to the vampire’s senses, something now familiar and consuming. Angel closed his eyes and held Cordelia tighter until the storm passed and her shudders ebbed away.

She groaned and fisted her hands into the front of his sweater. Her lips brushed against the side of Angel’s neck as she battled to find her equilibrium, the soft wet caress made every muscle in Angel’s body tighten in response, in a hum of anticipation that refused to be pushed aside by guilt.

“Gimme a second,” Cordelia said shakily, her warm breath fluttering over his jaw. Angel stroked the bare expanse of her back. Cordelia shivered.

“Bad?” Angel asked, the word almost lost beneath the erratic beat of the music that still vibrated through the walls.

“I’ve had worse,” she said honestly before forcing her fingers to uncurl and move away from the comforting embrace. When she smiled her thanks to Angel, two spots of red staining her cheeks. He snaked his fingers through Cordelia’s and squeezed her hand. Angel understood.

Wesley cleared his throat. “What did you see?”

Cordelia took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “There’s a group of…” she scrunched up her nose in thought, “…pygmy…type…things…about to make a midnight snack of a bunch of teenagers at….” Cordelia trailed off as she tried to pinpoint exactly where she’d seen. “It’s a golf course…Ran-something. Ranwood, Rancha….Rancho!” Cordelia yelped, then automatically pressed her hand to her forehead. “OK, ow.”

The couple that had been so thoroughly wrapped in each other were now looking at Cordelia like she was insane.

“What, like you’ve never seen a girl have a vision before?” she snapped. “Get a room, already.”

The couple moved away from them quickly.

“And use a condom!” she added for good measure. “Again, ow.”

“Rancho Park?” Wesley asked patiently.

“That’s the one,” she nodded carefully.

“Anything else?”

“Sharp teeth, weird little hands,” Cordelia shuddered. “Creepy ankle biters.”

“Sounds simple enough,” Angel shrugged.

Famous last words.

Part 15

Posted June 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

His Lady Lazerus. 13   1 comment

Part 13

Cloying tension wrapped like a steel cable around Angel’s shoulders as soon as he and Wesley had left the Hyperion. With every step they took the niggling thought that he should be back at the Hotel, with Cordelia, ate away at his mood and patience. The ride to Silverlake, which he’d spent hunkered down in the back seat hiding from the bright Californian sun while Wesley drove over every pot hole on the West Coast, hadn’t helped.

Straightening his spine, Angel rotated his neck until the sound of bones meeting and clicking made Wesley wince.

It made him feel a little better.

“How romantic,” said Wesley as he retrieved the beaten bouquet of roses that sat pathetically at the foot of Cordelia’s door. His lips curled with distaste at the sight of the dark, flaking blood that marred the silky yellow petals.

“I don’t think romance is high on this guy’s list of priorities,” Angel said, the now familiar scent of Amy’s blood mixing with the soft perfume of the roses. Memories of a hundred years spent spilling the blood of the innocent assaulted his senses, sweet, tempting ruination that made his eyes flicker to a dangerous yellow.

Pulling a long breath into his lungs, Angel realized that the scent was too strong to just be from one bouquet of flowers.

“What is it?” Wesley frowned.

“Blood.”

Wesley raised his eyebrows in an unasked question.

“Vampire, remember?” Angel grunted defensively.

“Anything else?”

“Cordy, fear,” his mouth, filled with teeth that had torn apart flesh and lives, twisted with disgust, “the bastard got off on it.”

“This just gets better and better,” said Wesley as he attempted to unlock the door with Cordelia’s keys. The lock held stubbornly fast, just as Cordelia had said. “Dennis?”

Thirty long second of silence ticked by.

And then another thirty seconds.

“Let me,” Angel brushed the Englishman aside.

Wesley gestured to the door. “Be my guest.”

“Dennis! Open. The. Damn. Door!” Angel hammered his fist against the door, making it rattle on its hinges.

Still, nothing.

“Fine,” he said as he took a step back.

His boot connected with the wood violently, splintering the lock from its home with a crack that echoed through the entryway.

“Well, I could have done that,” Wesley huffed indignantly as he followed Angel into the apartment.

“Sure, but we needed to get inside sometime today,” Angel muttered beneath his breath as he walked from room to room. “I don’t think Dennis is here anymore,” the vampire declared as he came out of the bathroom.

“He must be, where else is he going to go?”

“Dennis, Cordelia was hurt!” Angel called out.

Not a flash of overhead lights, a rattle of saucepans or even a whisper of air interrupted the stillness of the apartment.

“See, not here.”

“I don’t like this.”

“Lets just pack a bag and go, I don’t like leaving Cordy on her own.”

“She’s not on her own,” Wesley frowned.

“She may as well be,” Angel said as he made his way into the bedroom.

They worked in silence as Wesley pulled out the bag from where Cordelia had said it would be in the closet and placed it on the bed. Without discussion, Angel took control of the dresser while Wesley tackled the intimidating row of clothes that hung in the closet. With a shrug that only the male of the species were capable of, Wesley chose the random approach of pulling out whatever caught his eye.

Angel tugged open the top drawer in the wooden dresser and began to pull out handfuls of clothing. It wasn’t until his brain registered the delicate material that slid between his fingers that Angel stopped to see what it was he was unearthing. Soft silks, fragile lace and comfortable cottons were mingled together like an erotic salad, bright and muted colours cohabited happily side by side in the box of delights that was Cordelia’s underwear drawer.

Angel’s eyes widened as he looked at the plum coloured lace brassiere that dangled from his index finger.

“You and Cordelia seem very close at the moment,” said Wesley, his voice muffled from within the deep confines of the closet.

The hand that was holding Cordelia’s bra tightened on the delicate material as Angel tensed at Wesley’s unasked question.

“What of it?” Angel tilted his head so he could see the ex watcher out of the corner of his eye.

“I just hope it’s not too close,” Wesley said as he grabbed a pair of sneakers from the floor.

Angel slammed the dresser drawer shut, causing the collection of elegant perfume bottles to tumble over with a clatter that cut through the heavy silence. Folding his arms across his chest, Angel turned to face the ex watcher.

“Do you have something you want say to me, Wes?”

“You’re a vampire with a curse, Angel. I don’t need to remind you of that,” Wesley said calmly, so calmly that it made Angel’s jaw to clench and tick with anger. He didn’t need this, not when he was worried about Cordelia, not when there was a too tempting scent of blood clinging to the air, not when there was a killer on the loose that they should have already caught.

“And yet, for some reason, you are.”

Hearing the hard edge that laced Angel’s voice, Wesley battled his way out of the closet to face the vampire. He threw the sneakers on the bed and forced himself not to whither under Angel’s glare. “Cordelia is a young woman, with her whole future ahead of her.”

“I know, and I’ll do everything in my power to make sure she has that future,” Angel said through gritted teeth, “spit it out Wes, what do you really want to say to me?”

Wesley folded his arms over his chest, mirroring Angel’s defensive stance as he finally said what had worried him ever since he’d joined Angel Investigations.

“Falling in love with you wouldn’t be a smart thing for Cordelia to do.”

The words sliced through his stomach like a broadsword. Angel’s eyes narrowed dangerously, “Cordelia and I are just friends,” he lied.

“You may well be just friends now, Angel, but relationships change.”

“You’re right, they do,” Angel nodded, “tell me, how’s Gunn of late?” he asked silkily, raising his eyebrows and tilting his head to the left.

A burn of embarrassment declared itself on Wesley’s face and neck. “That’s none your business,” he pulled off his glasses with indignation.

“Just as Cordelia and I are none of your business,” Angel signalled the end of the conversation by turning back to the dresser, slamming open and shut the drawers with more force than necessary.

“If you hurt her….” Wesley began but seemed to think better of finishing whatever he was going to say.

“What?” Angel snapped over his shoulder.

Wesley pressed his lips into a thin line and took a moment to find the right words. “If you find happiness with Cordelia, true happiness, and Angelus touches a single hair on her head? There will be no orb of Thesula or resouling spells this time. I’ll kill you.”

The edge of the dresser crunched beneath Angel’s grip.

“Last time, Wes. There’s nothing going on. We’re friends. Nothing more.”

“Good,” Wesley nodded.

“Are we done here?”

“I’ll just grab her toiletries and then we can go.”

“Good.”

Once Wesley had left the room, Angel pried his hands off of the wooden dresser. He winced at the spike of wood that had embedded itself into his palm. Angel hoped, for his own sake, that the piece of furniture wasn’t an antique.

After one last silent, tension filled sweep was made of the apartment, where they could find no outward signs that Daniel had been there, or that Dennis was still currently there either, they finally exited the apartment. When they stepped out into the warm afternoon air, Angel stilled, every muscle and instinct in his body screaming at him.

“Wes, earlier, when I said I could smell blood?” he said as Wesley attempted to wedge the broken door shut.

“Yes?”

“I should have said I can smell a lot of blood.”

It surrounded Angel, invisible temptation permeating the air until he could taste its thickness on the back of his tongue. Dodging the occasional shard of razor sharp sunlight, the vampire followed his nose towards the source of the scent that was exciting his demon.

Apartment 211. Cordelia’s neighbours.

“Should we knock?” Wesley asked from behind him.

Angel kicked the door open with a splintering crunch.

“Apparently not,” Wesley muttered under his breath as Angel walked through the doorway uninvited. “Can we please not break anymore doors today, we can’t afford it,” Wesley rubbed his hands over his face, too many nights without sleep were quickly catching up with him and the desire to mainline a bottle of Scotch and pass out for a few years had begun to sound like heaven to him.

“Jesus,” Angel hissed as he was hit completely by the smell and sight of blood and death littering the apartment.

Long sprays of red marred the beige carpet and eggshell walls, once loved furniture was smeared with bloody hand prints, every surface soiled with one mans hate and obsession.

“Bloody hell,” Wesley grunted as he stepped around Angel, glass from broken picture frames crunching beneath his shoes. His stomach lurched painfully, vomit stinging the back of this throat as his eyes burnt the scene before them into his memory forever.

***

“Maybe I give off some kind of stalk me vibe?” Cordelia wondered out loud as she stared at the office ceiling. It needed a new coat of paint. “Is it the hair? Does it scream please try to kill me, I enjoy the adrenaline rush?”

“Uh huh,” Gunn nodded.

“You could at least pretend to listen,” Cordelia huffed, rolling up the sleeves of the sweater she’d ‘borrowed’ from Angel, it swallowed her smaller form, making her feel like she was drowning in it’s surprisingly soft material.

“M’listenin’,” Gunn murmured, engrossed in the rhythmically beeping world of his Gameboy.

“Shyeah,” she scoffed, jabbing her toe sharply into his thigh to get his attention.

It worked.

“Fine,” he tossed the Gameboy onto Wesley’s book cluttered desk, “you are one high maintenance woman, ya know that?” Gunn’s lips quirked with amusement.

“Yes, yes I am,” Cordelia nodded with a self satisfied smile as Gunn began to rub her feet. She let out a long, grateful sigh and felt herself begin to relax, her shoulders melting like butter into the back of her chair. Cordelia let her head flop loosely on her neck, enjoying the numbing effects of the Vicodin she’d swallowed. The world began to take on soft glow as the stabbing pain in the back her scalp began to recede and Cordelia thanked whatever God is was that had invented painkillers.

The office clock ticked its ever present chime, familiar and unchanging as they waited for Angel and Wesley to return, hopefully with a clue or two. After the initial spurt of fury and activity that had accompanied Cordelia’s arrival back at the Hotel, the slow grind of research induced boredom had quickly set in.

Fred, ever diligent and not as easily distracted as her friends, was the only one still trudging through the foot thick books that were scattered over the lobby floor. Sitting amongst them like a kid in a candy store while Lorne dozed on the one of the sofas. Cordelia gave the Texan ten more minute before she gave up. Or fell asleep too.

“How’s that feelin’?” Gunn nodded at the dark bruise that mottled the side of Cordelia’s jaw.

“Like a homicidal maniac backhanded me across the face,” Cordelia said lightly, brushing off the concern she saw in Gunn’s eyes with a sweep of her sleeve covered hand. “I’m fine, Gunn. Really. My week just doesn’t feel complete without some sort of psycho chasing after me. I’m used to it, I grew up on a Hellmouth, remember? This is nothing compared to the time I was kidnapped by a mad genius science geek,” she shrugged and pressed the melting ice pack to her face.

Gunn pinched her toe. “Liar.”

“Wesley needs to clean up in here,” Cordelia changed the subject quickly. It wasn’t that she felt she couldn’t talk to Gunn about how she felt, she just didn’t want to. She’d cried her eyes out of Angel’s shoulder. She didn’t need to do it again. Cordelia began to rifle through the books and paper that she could reach on Wesley’s desk, telling herself she wasn’t just being nosy because she was bored, but because she was concerned. “It kinda weird for Wes to-” Cordelia stopped when her eyes fixed onto a familiar notepad and book at the centre of the mess. “Is he still trying to figure out this prophecy that might not even be a prophecy?”

Gunn shrugged.

“A lot of help you are,” muttered Cordelia as she scanned the Englishman’s distinctive writing. It made about as much sense anything in her life did.

“I’ve given up trying to figure white boy out,” Gunn murmured mostly to himself.

Cordelia replaced the notepad amongst the debris on the desk. “You two still all pissy with each other?”

“No,” Gunn shook his head, a frown marring his handsome face, “we’re fine. S’all good.”

“Riiiight, and pretending there’s nothing wrong is working so well for both of you,” Cordelia rolled her eyes, “I don’t get you two. OK, fine, it’s no ones business but yours and it’s totally up to you if you don’t want to be marching in the Gay Pride Parade-”

“I’m not gay.”

“-but you’re making each other miserable. I can see it, hell, even Angel can see it and most of the time he doesn’t even know what day it is. No one’s gonna judge you, Charles. I mean, hello? Fred is getting cosy with Lorne-”

“What?”

“-and as physically terrifying as that relationship is, you don’t see anyone running after them with pitchforks and torches-”

“Fred and Lorne?”

“-so you should just be happy and not care what others think, because, lets be realistic here, happiness is kinda sparse in our line of work and I am totally about to have a vision!” Eyes wide, Cordelia jerked forward as her head snapped sharply backwards.

“Shit, a little help here, guys!” Gunn yelled as he caught the seer before she could tumble to the floor.

“What is it?” Fred asked breathlessly as she ran into the room, finding the answer to her question.

Blind from the images that tore through her body, Cordelia jerked and twisted in Gunn’s strong hold, her hands grasped madly at her hair, at the black man’s sweater, at anything that might somehow anchor her as the PTB sent yet another cerebral time bomb.

…cold metal slicing through too soft flesh, not enough time to scream, not enough time shout out a warning, just the burn of the blade, oily laugh in his fading hearing, a future with so much hope draining away…

…fingertips trail lazily over her collar bone, skin on skin with no secrets in between, a smile that says more than any words ever could, he doesn’t need to say it, she already knows…

…the coffee table, handmade by the man she loves, loved, dead now, his body sprawled on the kitchen floor-oh god, Bobby, too late, who, who, you, *him*, knocked to the ground, vision blurs, foot on her neck, no, please, please, don’t, please…

…yes, please, don’t stop, never stop, swollen lips and trembling hands, whispered words that would make her blush at any other time, but not now, not when the air shimmers with heat and the headboard rattles with the rhythm of their bodies…

…twist, snap, nothing. Another body falling impotently to the floor. Again and again until she belongs to him, when will she learn, when? He always gets what he wants in the end….

Gradually, Cordelia’s shaking began to subside to a continuous tremor that vibrated through Fred and Gunn as they softly spoke to her, trying to draw her out of the horrors she’d witnessed.

“Oh God,” Cordelia choked into her hand.

“What was it? Should we call Angel?”

Cordelia shook her and battled out of their protective circle, stumbling to her feet as the room spun around her. “No, there’s no point.”

“But-”

“It’s too late,” she snapped at Fred, as though it were the Physicist’s fault that people, people she knew, were already dead.

Lucy and Bobby. So young, filled with so much love and hope for the future. Necks broken, stomachs sliced open, blood flowing from their bodies like a river.

The seer swallowed the bile that rose in her throat. “It’s too damn late.”

***

Cordelia closed her eyes as the shower’s hot spray rained over her, the water pricked like needles at her overly sensitive skin, plucking at nerves that had been simultaneously bruised by the vision that had ripped through her brain.
Again and again the images of Lucy and Bobby’s lifeless bodies flashed before her minds eye, their blood, their terror, their pain and loss. It was too much, too much out of her control, too close, she’d known those people, passed them everyday, nodded and smiled hello but now they were dead and it was her fault.

Tears burned like acid behind her eyes as Cordelia struggled to swallow the sob that wanted to well up from her toes. She pressed her hands against the now warm white tiles of the shower wall and let the water beat down on her face, hoping it would wash away more than just dead skin and sweat.

“Get it together, Cor,” the brunette muttered, craning her neck from side to side, making the tense muscle and bone grind and click sharply. Steadying her breathing, Cordelia forced the pain and horrors that came with every vision to the far corners of her mind. Over the last three years it had become easier to repress the PTB’s messages, to bury them along with many of her memories of Sunnydale.

Cordelia concentrated on the rhythmic thrum of water hitting the shower floor to clear her mind, she let the pitter patter beat quieten the screams that echoed in her ears and the hot spray ease her muscles. The tension bled out of her body slowly as Cordelia forced a deep breath out of her mouth. She let the outside world drift away, leaving just the sound of the water, the beat of her heart and the lingering desire that had mixed confusingly with the flashes of death in her vision.

Cordelia lathered the soap between her hands as though the fate of the world depended on this small act being performed to perfection. Its foam slipped through her fingers while its soft, almost impercievable scent began to fill the room. It was a comforting smell, not sweet and flowery like the soaps she often used at home, this was clean and sharp, with a citrus edge.

It was Angel’s scent before nights spent saving lost souls stripped it away, replaced by blood sweat and leather.

A mercurial shiver raced across Cordelia’s nerves and her stomach crowded with hungry butterflies. The deep throb that had suffused her body along with the second hand pain of the vision, refused to be ignored. While the blood and broken bones could be suffocated in her mind, her body’s response to the way Angel touched her in the vision wasn’t as easy to chase away.

Cordelia didn’t have the strength or will to pretend that the ache between her thighs was caused by anything else than the way Angel had touched in the vision. Even if she did have the mental fortitude at this moment to ignore her body’s demands, her body didn’t.

Eyelids fluttering shut, Cordelia let the floodgates of her mind open with a trembling breath.

….lips, smooth as whiskey and just as intoxicating, trail a path of promises up Cordelia’s spine, fleeting kisses, a scrape of teeth, a thousand small earthquakes that splinter the universe from the inside out. Fight roughened hands own her hips as she fists the crumpled bed sheets in her grasp and presses her face into the thick pillows….

Cordelia’s mouth fell open into a silent ‘O’ as her fingers skittered across the hard peaks of her nipples.

….so good, so good, so good, her mantra as sweat slick flesh and demanding hands become lost in the roar of the storm. Stilted gasps of air caress the back of her neck, her name gasped like a prayer, again and again, possessed by the hard, relentless flesh buried so deeply inside her. Grunts of raw pleasure, torn from his chest, the animal so close, so close, oh god, oh god, meaningless words splinter the air as Angel shatters every wall she worked so hard to construct….

Steam coiled around her limbs, hazy hands of mist that tickled the small of her back and the insides of her thighs, a ghosts touch when what her body ached for was hard flesh and cool skin.

….sharp pain, teeth in her skin, blood on his tongue, no more barriers, no more half said words, just oh sweet God, yes, Angel, don’t stop, mine, yours, mine, again and again, his hips a whip-crack of need crashing into her, nothing better than this, nothing better than the stabbing pleasure that swells and builds towards the indefinable rush of *everything*, of sweet liquid perfection, the burn pulling tighter and tighter and tighter and so close, oh, so close Angel, edges blurring and eyes blind, nothing but him exists, nothing, nothing ….

Cordelia’s breath shuddered as image after image flowed through her brain, a fire storm of need electrified every cell until the throb turned to a burn that screamed to be sated.

Soapy fingers slid slowly over her stomach, abdominal muscles to jumped and twitched beneath the touch. In her minds eye it wasn’t her hand that danced through the wiry curls at the apex of her thighs, but Angel’s, the thick fingers and strong palms that teased and excited Cordelia in her visions, the sword callused flesh that made her hips jerk in his bed. It was her best friend who parted her desire slick folds and traced the swollen nub of her clit, the hot water hitting her breasts was his lips, teeth and tongue, the warm mist was his body enveloping, protecting, wanting her-

Cordelia’s eyes slammed open with shocked realization of what she was doing and who she was thinking about.

People were dead, because of her, and she was getting herself off by thinking of Angel.

She wrenched her hand away from herself, hating the ache that was left behind with her fingers absence and began to scrub her skin with the soft citrus soap that smelt like Angel until it hurt. With eyes wide and unblinking, Cordelia washed, shampooed and rinsed her hair twice, frantically thinking about everything and nothing that involved her best friend.

By the time she stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around her body and one around her hair, Cordelia’s heart was beginning to beat at its usual speed.

That was until she opened the bathroom door and walked straight into the solid wall of Angel’s chest.

***

His nostrils flared as he cloud of steam that followed Cordelia out of the bathroom assaulted his already overloaded senses. Angel could still feel the ghost of blood on the back of his tongue, whispering at his demon to take what he’d been denied for so long. The sweet perfume of arousal that swirled around them both threatened to push him tumbling over the edge.

He clenched his jaw and shoved his hands into his pockets.

“Jesus, Angel, you scared the crap out of me,” Cordelia snapped, swatting his chest as she willed her heart to remove itself from her throat, “how many times have we discussed you not lurking behind closed doors?”

Angel frowned, not hearing anything she said as his eyes were drawn to the trickle of water that slipped down the side of Cordelia’s neck like an invitation. He wanted to lean down and taste it, see if was as sweet as he imagined it would be. The desire to lap his tongue across the shallow dip of Cordelia’s clavicle made his hands fist tightly in his pockets.

“What wrong?” asked Cordelia as she watched the wince of pain that flashed across the vampire’s face.

“Nothing,” Angel shook his head to clear the red haze, “Cor, I have something I need to tell you, it’s about your neighbours-”

“I already know,” she stopped him, touching her fingertips to his chest for a fleeting moment, “I had one of those time delayed visions the PTB have recently decided to send my way. I gotta say, really not seeing the point of those,” Cordelia said wryly as she attempted to step around the immovable vampire.

Angel’s hand shot out to grasp her arm before she was able to take a step. Cordelia’s heart began to race in her chest once again as he stepped into her personal space. The look in his eyes made her swallow, loudly.

“Are you OK?” his voice was a low tremor that made goose bumps skip across her skin.

“Not really,” she admitted honestly with a shrug.

“I’ll find him,” Angel promised her, running his hand up and down the length of her shower damp arm.

“You damn well better, big guy,” Cordelia attempted to lighten the atmosphere that was quickly choking the air out of the room, “because if you don’t, you’re the first person I’m coming back to haunt,” she poked her finger into his chest, trying to make him smile or even frown, anything other than the unreadable mask he currently wore. Something sharp snagged at her skin beneath Angel’s palm, making her flinch at the slight sting.

“Sorry,” Angel frowned, letting go of her arm.

Cordelia reached for his hand but he alluded her grasp. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” he shrugged off his jacket and threw it over the back of his leather chair.

“Don’t ‘nothing’ me, there’s something in your hand, let me see.”

“Cor, really, it’s nothing, just a splinter-” Cordelia snatched his hand, effectively ignoring him.

“This isn’t just a splinter, this is an infection waiting to happen,” she grimaced at the shard of wood that had buried itself into the soft flesh of his palm.

“Vampires can’t get infections,” he reminded her.

“Which is a good thing, seeing as evil you shlup’d half of Europe back in the day. Because syphilis? It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Cordelia took advantage of his confused stare and nudged him until the back of his legs hit the side of his bed.

“Sit,” she pointed at the bed.

Angel sat.

“Good vampire,” she refrained from patting the top of his head. Barely. “So, where did this come from?” Cordelia nudged his thighs apart with her knees and knelt down between the V of his legs. She held his hand between her own and examined the small wound, tracing the reddened skin around the piece of wood gently with the pad of her index finger.

It was sore but Angel didn’t feel the slight discomfort of Cordelia’s ministrations as he found his eyes inexplicably drawn to the inviting slope of her breasts. Although mostly hidden by the white towel that was wrapped demurely around her torso, the luscious curve of cleavage hinted at what he knew lay behind the flimsy material. He wanted to run his knuckles over the skin there, still glistening with beads of water, flushed with the heat of the shower. She was Venus in a bath towel and Angel’s fingers itched to capture her in charcoal and light.

Cordelia’s voice broke through his silent desire. “You’re staring,” she said quietly, her tone light, without accusation.

“I am,” Angel nodded without apology, a smirk curling the sides of his angular mouth.

Cordelia rolled her eyes and poked her nail into the tender flesh. “Tell me how this happened.”

“I owe you a new dresser.”

Cordelia raised her eyebrows.

“Wes pissed me off, it was either your furniture or his neck,” Angel said with twisted rationality.

“Ever heard of just counting to ten?” asked Cordelia as she grasped the splinter between her nails.

“I’ll try that next time,” Angel hissed as the sharp shard of wood was pulled far too slowly out of his palm, a thick line of blood welled up out of the small gash, making the vampire twitch at the sight. Cordelia unravelled the towel from her head, letting her hair fall in un-brushed waves around her shoulders and pressed the damp material to his palm.

A soft blanket of quiet filtered through the bedroom, only the sound of Cordelia’s breathing interrupted the easy silence as she tended to the barely there injury. Angel touched the damp ends of her hair with his free hand, twirling the silky strands around his fingers while he watched a thousand unspoken thoughts flutter across Cordelia’s expressive face.

She sighed and leant against the inside of his leg. “They were good people.”

Angel tucked her hair behind her ear. “They were,” he nodded in agreement, even though he’d never spoken to Cordelia’s neighbours.

“I really don’t understand how the powers could just stand idly by and let them die like that, like they weren’t important enough to save. They were important. They were going to try for a baby, Angel. They were good, normal people. This shouldn’t have happened to them,” Cordelia let out in a rush, the ache of repressed tears burning at the back of her throat. The flood gates threatened to open again when Angel stroked his thumb gently over the line of her jaw, careful not to irritate the angry bruise.

Cordelia swallowed the lump in her throat and rubbed her hand over her face. Her head felt as though it was being continuously squeezed inside a vice, the lancing pain of the vision had developed into a monotonous ache that made her eyes sensitive to even the muted bedroom lights. She wanted to swallow a painkiller or ten, but knew it was to soon after the last ones she’d taken after the attack.

“Any sign of Dennis?” she changed the subject because thinking about Lucy and Bobby, their blood, their bodies, their future snuffed out like a candle, was too much to deal with along with the pounding in her head.

“Not that we could find.”

“He probably just got spooked, the big scaredy cat,” Cordelia snorted and rolled her eyes.

“Probably,” Angel agreed, though he wasn’t entirely sure that was true. Cordelia peeled the towel away to reveal his already healed palm and, without agonising whether or not she should, pressed a kiss to the unmarked skin.

“All better,” she smiled up at him, making Angel’s face light up with a smile of its own. Their eyes caught for a moment too long and Cordelia’s stomach flipped over as she remembered the way he looked at her in her dreams and visions.

“I see us in my visions,” she blurted out before her brain could filter out the thought.

Angel blinked. “You do?”

“Um, yeah,” Cordelia lowered her eyes in uncharacteristic shyness. Angel hooked his index finger beneath her chin and tilted her face up to meet his gaze.

“What do you see?”

“I should probably get dressed,” Cordelia smoothed her hands over the short hem of the towel that sat high up her thighs, suddenly feeling far too exposed.

“No, wait,” Angel stopped her from leaving the space between his legs, “Cordy, tell me. What do you see?”

Cordelia sighed and sat back down on her haunches, wishing she’d learn to think before she spoke.

“You, me, what we, ya know, do,” she waved her hand casually at the bed. Silent seconds ticked away as Cordelia waited for the awkward response she was sure would come from Angel. Unable to stand not knowing his reaction any longer, Cordelia dragged her gaze to meet his.

The hairs on the back of her neck stood to attention.

“Do you like it, what you see?” Angel asked, not sure why he needed to know, why he needed reassurance that not everything in his best friends life was tainted by his presence.

Cordelia felt a pink flush spreading across her shoulders and inching up her throat. “I….” she trailed off uncertainly.

Angel threaded his fingers through Cordelia’s. “No more secrets, remember?”

Cordelia sucked a deep breath into her lungs and nodded. No more secrets.

“Yeah, I do, I like it, a lot,” she nodded, her heart beating like a nervous butterfly in her chest. “I don’t understand why I see us, what we do, but the way you make me feel….” Cordelia closed her eyes and let the erotic slide show flash across her mind.

Angel tensed as the lingering scent of arousal that had settled around Cordelia like a shroud intensified.

“….s’pretty damn good,” she whispered. The slow honey of her words shot a bolt of heat through Angel’s body, hot, demanding nerves crackling and cock hardening. His hand tightened its hold on hers and Cordelia opened her eyes.

Maybe she should have kept it a secret.

“Cordy….” her name fell from his lips for no other reason than he wanted to feel its cadence in his mouth.

“We should go downstairs,” Cordelia said, but it sounded weak even to her own ears.

“But you had a vision,” Angel’s unspoken words said more than the words he did say.

“I did,” she agreed, freeing her hand from the vampire’s strong grip as she knelt up on her knees between his legs. His muscles twitched as she smoothed her palms over his thighs, chasing away the wrinkles in his pants. “But the guys are downstairs and-”

“They won’t hear,” he whispered.

It was dangerous, the need he knew Cordelia could see in his eyes. He knew she didn’t understand why his shoulders where tight with tension, why his teeth were itching, why there were still small flecks of yellow dotted in the brown of his eyes. She could see it but didn’t understand it and Angel would stake himself before he admitted that the scent and sight of so much blood, the blood of her friends, had made him ache with a hunger he couldn’t sate.

He couldn’t have that. Not anymore. Not for so long.

But he could have her.

Angel brushed Cordelia’s hair away from the slope of her shoulder, his thumb tracing lightly along her collarbone.

Cordelia’s breath caught sharply in her throat.

This is wrong, she panicked silently as she found her self trapped in his dark eyes, this so is wrong, he shouldn’t be looking at me like that, it’s wrong and oh god, I really don’t care right now.

Even if it were just for a little while, he could make Cordelia forget.

The material of Angel slacks bunched slightly as Cordelia ran her hands up the hard lines of his thighs, the quiet rasp of fabric sliding against skin echoed in the vampire’s sensitive ears. When her knuckles brushed against the tent at his groin, Angel couldn’t stifle the groan that rattled like a freight train through his chest.

“Shh, quiet, remember?” Cordelia whispered, nerves and amusement reduced her voice to a husky tremor.

“Kinda difficult when you do that,” Angel groaned again as her warm hand cupped him through his pants.

Biting the full flesh of her bottom lip, Cordelia unbuckled his belt and slid it out of its loops, letting the leather strip half to the floor with a thud.

“Cordy, what are you-”

The metallic grind of his zipper being pulled down killed Angel’s question in his mouth.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Cordelia admitted with a wry smile as her fingers followed the line of silky hair that crept down his abdomen, “I don’t know why we have to do this,” she scratched her nails gently over the sensitive skin, Angel grunted at the sweet torture, “or why I see us…I don’t understand most of what’s going on in my life right now,” Cordelia’s hand dipped inside his pants and wrapped around his cock, freeing it from the confines of his clothing, “but this…us…makes me feel good, makes me forget. Even if it’s just for a while.”

The slide of her hand over his hard flesh made the room spin around Angel, he knew he should stop her, he couldn’t quite remember why, but he knew he should. His eyelids wanted to close, his fingers wanted to bury themselves in her thick hair and his cock wanted to feel the hot wet heat of her lips.

Angel stilled Cordelia’s hand while he still had the will to do so.

“Stand up,” he murmured.

“Angel?”

“Shh,” Angel let one side of his mouth quirk into a half smile to reassure her, “just stand up.”

Once Cordelia was finally on her feet, Angel curled his hands around her slim waist and tugged her closer to him. He needed a moment to think, to remember why it was they did this, why they had to do this, for Cordelia, to keep her with him, no, he amended, to keep her alive.

It was so hard to when her scent, as dark as night blooming flowers, taunted his demon. Angel nuzzled his face into her belly, his cheek grazing across the worn fabric of the towel. He breathed her in deeply, his hands walking over the landscape of her hips until they found a home on the small of Cordelia’s back.

Cordelia ran her hand through the tough gelled spikes of Angel’s hair, unsure what was being hidden behind the midnight storm that swirled in his eyes. Unsure of all of this, of the intimacy that she wanted to wrap herself in, of the desire that radiated from her best friend, that throbbed between her legs.

Terrified of the line she suddenly longed to fall over, to melt into the embrace of her best friend, to close her eyes and let everything but the knowledge of what they could be drift away on the breeze.

“I want to make you feel better, feel good, help you to forget,” Angel said as his hands slid to the front of the towel, fingers dancing over the hem with a question, even though it could so easily be slipped from her body.

With more confidence than she felt in a long time, Cordelia unknotted the towel and let it fall to her feet. She didn’t blush or hide her eyes when Angel whispered that she was beautiful, didn’t flinch when his hands cupped her breasts, his thumbs pinching and pulling at the hard peaks of her nipples. She just breathed.

Angel buried his nose into the crease beneath her breast, her scent was deeper there, the musky aroma of woman that no amount of perfume or soap could ever disguise. He felt Cordelia shiver, her short, manicured nails scoring the back of his neck as he laid open mouthed kisses down the ladder of her ribs.

Cordelia gasped with surprise when Angel drove his fingers through the slick, full flesh between her legs. The urge to grind down against the touch, to ride the strong hand that teased her bloomed like a flower in her belly, liquid coils of heat flowing along with her blood, it was a drug, a drug to forget, to feel something else, anything else and she wanted to become addicted.

She didn’t resist as Angel pulled her onto his lap and rolled them onto the bed, the mattress wheezing beneath them like an old man. Cordelia snaked her hands under his sweater, fingertips learning the ropes of muscle and tendon that strained in his back, his cool flesh a balm to her beaten mind and body.

Angel pulled off his sweater with one hand, letting it pool on the bed beside them as he nipped at Cordelia’s collarbone with blunt teeth. The need to take, take something, anything, built and built in the small of his back, pressure borne of a day he just wanted to forget.

Wesley’s cold words, Cordelia’s painful tears, innocent blood that he longed to smear across his chin.

It was too much for the fragile leash he held on his demon.

His eyes burnt gold and his forehead ridged as Angel slid inside the tight wet glove of Cordelia’s body. She hissed at the invasion but didn’t push him away, she toed down his pants with her feet, binding her arms around his back as though she was scared he might stop, that she might be forced to think, to remember.

Angel hid his face into the curve of her neck, unneeded breath painting her moist skin as his hips, a whip crack of need, thrust in a jerky rhythm that felt so damn good that Cordelia could do nothing but go along with the ride. Didn’t want to do anything else, wasn’t sure there was anything else but this, this moment. No pain, guilt or secrets. No lies to the people she loved. No death stalking her with silent footsteps.

Just the overwhelming ache of being filled so sharply that her back arched and her thighs trembled.

“Cordy,” Angel grunted against her ear, his voice a whiskey thick purr that pulled tightly at her gut, “is this what you feel in your visions, is this how I make you feel?”

Eyes screwed shut, bottom lip bitten sharply between her teeth, Cordelia nodded. It was but it wasn’t and Cordelia didn’t know the words to tell him the about the love she felt amidst the pain, death and desire.

“Please, Angel, don’t stop.”

The vampire growled, his hands clutching her hips like an anchor as he crashed against Cordelia, animal instinct winning over friendship as he let loose a brutal riff that would leave her sore once the mist of need had cleared and reality once again returned. Cordelia keened like a bitch in heat, muscles tense as she strained towards the coldhot burn that rippled through her nerves and exploded sweet ambrosia inside her womb, pinpricks of light exploded on the edges of her vision as the world shattered with a rush and a cry. The clenching of her walls around his cock tore away the rest of Angel’s restraint, stripped him bare and broke his control, made his body buck, searching for a home, something, anything, Cordelia, his best friend’s name torn from his chest as he came with a roar that he managed to muffle into her shoulder.

Angel was shaking, or maybe it was Cordelia, he wasn’t sure, but the tremors that ripped through both of them in the growing silence felt like little earthquakes rattling his bones.

“Angel?” Cordelia asked quietly, voice unsure, forcing him back to the real world where they were just best friends who had sex because the powers had deemed it so.

Even though he knew he had to, Angel didn’t want to go, didn’t want to leave this moment. Angel tightened his arms around her back and kissed her shoulder, trying to urge the demon to loosen its grip on his body. Floating on a cloud of painless release, mind finally clear and body sated, Cordelia sighed, scratching her nails lightly over his scalp as she waited for Angel to come back to himself.

***

“I’ll tell the guys you’re sleeping,” Angel said, his eyes darting everywhere but at Cordelia as he buckled his belt.

Cordelia nodded, fiddling with the hem of the sweater she wore. Angel’s sweater. It could become a habit.

“You need anything?” he asked over his shoulder as he rifled through his closet, he pulled an innocuous black shirt out and shrugged it on.

“No, I’m good, might take another shower though,” she frowned, pulling her hand through her sex messed hair.

“OK,” Angel nodded, stuffing his hands firmly into the pockets, “Oh, I put your bag next door, but you can take any room you want-”

“Next door is fine,” she said quickly, picking invisible lint from the rumpled bedcovers that she was seated on.

Silence swept through the room with heavy footsteps, neither sure exactly what to say to the other.

Angel cleared his throat.

Cordelia tucked her hair behind her ears.

“You OK?” he asked, afraid of what her answer might be.

“I’m fine,” Cordelia replied automatically, forcing a smile to her mouth.

“Right then, I’ll, er, see you later,” Angel rocked on his heels and to Cordelia’s relief, finally left the bedroom.

Cordelia let out a tired, un-feminine grunt as she flopped back on to the bed, arms spread wide as she stared at the ceiling.

She pretty sure what they’d just done wasn’t part of the plan.

Part 14

Posted June 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

His Lady Lazerus. 12   1 comment

Part 12

Cordelia hummed under her breath as she locked her car, twirling the keys around in her hand as she enjoyed yet another day without the incapacitating vision pain that had become her life.

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, it would have been a perfect day if it weren’t for the possible serial killer on the loose. Her steps stuttered to a stop as the awful images of Amy’s bloody and broken body skittered through her brain.

Not my fault, she told herself, but something inside her whispered that that wasn’t entirely true. If she’d just let Angel go on his own, if they hadn’t argued, if, if, if….

Shaking her head with a sigh, Cordelia strolled towards her apartment, forcing down the if’s to the same quiet place where she’d hidden the fact that she was dying. Hindsight may very well be 20/20, but it wasn’t going to help them catch Daniel.

And they would catch him, they had to, because if they didn’t….

She couldn’t even bare to finish that thought.

They’d catch Daniel and make him pay for the lives he’d torn apart. It was as simple as that.

But first, Cordelia needed a shower.

“Oh yeah, I’ve got my priorities straight,” the brunette murmured wryly as she walked through the small entryway to her apartment. Cordelia frowned when her apartment key refused to turn in the lock. She jiggled it, hoping some divine force would strike down from the heavens, magically triggering the mechanism into working.

It didn’t, of course.

“Dennis, it’s me,” Cordelia whispered, her ear pressed to the door to see if she could hear any signs of unlife. She was greeted with nothing but silence.

“Quit playing around, Dennis.”

She tried to turn the key again, and failed.

“Dennis, open the damn door!” Cordelia hammered her fist against the door, an even thump thump thump that echoed between the walls as her patience quickly snapped like an old pair of shoelaces.

Nothing.

Cordelia sighed and leant her forehead against the door, “is this because I didn’t came home last night?” she asked her ghostly protector quietly, “look, we talked about this-” The sentence skidded to a stop in Cordelia’s mouth as her foot brushed against something hidden in the deep shadow that cloaked the small entryway.

“What the…?” she squinted at the blur of colour she could faintly make out and bent down to pick whatever it was up.

Roses. Someone had left her roses.

The smile that had threatened to light up her face died as she saw the dried, crusting blood that marred the sunshine yellow petals.

“Ew!” Cordelia exclaimed with disgust, throwing the parody of affection to the floor and wiping her hands on her pants.

“What kind of sicko would….”

A chill raced up and down her back, prickling goose bumps across her skin and making her stomach flip with dreadful understanding .

….this guy knows you now, if things go wrong you’ll be the one he goes after, I’m not willing to take that risk….

“Dennis! Open the damn door!” Cordelia banged both fists against the door, panic washing over her in stifling waves.

The unmistakable scuff of footsteps sounded behind her, making Cordelia freeze like a deer caught in headlights.

She didn’t need to turn around to know who it was.

“Hello, Cordelia,” the slick, oily voice she recognised from the stake out in the club was enough to confirm Angel’s fears.

***

Angel had tried to be civil, he really had. It just took too damn long.

“OK, OK!” Merle finally relented, his feet dangling impotently above the ground as Angel held him against the wall by his throat, “I’ll tell ya what I know!”

The demon snitch didn’t even have time to blink before an enormous fist barrelled into his nose, forcing the back of his skull to collide painfully with the wall with a satisfying crack.

“I said I’d tell ya!” Merle groused, even more nasally than usual.

“Sorry, habit,” Angel shrugged a vague apology as he let Merle slip to the ground. He didn’t like Merle, there was just something about him that grated on the vampire’s nerves, and he sure as hell didn’t trust him. The only reason they came to Merle for information was because he was so low down on the food chain that he was able to crawl through life without being noticed.

If you’re plotting the end of the world, are you going to worry about the ugly green demon stinking of Old Spice at the next table?

Exactly.

“I think you broke my nose,” muttered Merle as he gingerly fingered the mangled mess that was his face. Angel winced guiltily as the wet crack of broken bones being irritated resounded in disturbingly tidy apartment. But the guilt dissipated as Angel’s gaze fixed on a row of jars that sat atop a television that looked almost new. Each jar was adorned with a little white label, telling the world its content in suspiciously neat cursive.

“Baby’s livers, Merle?” the vampire growled with disgust as he picked one of the jars up, the small organ sloshed around in the clear fluid that contained it.

“A guy’s gotta pay the rent,” Merle shrugged, wiping the back of his hand across his face defensively, “we can’t all be big gay crime fighting super heroes.”

“Baby’s livers?” said Angel, again, as though he couldn’t quite believe the snitch had sunk so low. “Tell me again why it is that I haven’t killed you?”

Merle took a nervous step back as Angel took a threatening step forward.

“’Cos of my sparkling personality and my infectious sense of humour?”

“Merle….” Angel continued to stalk towards him.

“How about because I know something you need to know?” Merle said as his back bumped into a wall, he has nowhere else to crawl, so he may as well tell the big mosquito what he knew.

“I don’t have all day, Merle,” growled Angel.

“Yeah, yeah,” the snitch muttered under his breath as he spat out a thick glob of blood, “so what am I gonna get in return with for tellin’ ya what I know?”

“How about, you tell me and I won’t push my fist through your brain?” Angel raised an eyebrow, crossed his arms over his chest and stared the other demon down.

“Sounds like a deal,” Merle nodded. He patted his pockets, digging out a crumpled pack of cigarettes, he offered one to Angel who declined with an almost imperceptible shake of his head.

“You’re lookin’ for the guy that made chutney out of those three pretty little girls, huh?”

Angel’s only reply was a long, hard, silent stare. The one he used on Cordelia when she tried to make him eat her cooking.

Merle carried on regardless. “Rumour has it you were meant to be protecting the one that got her intestines wrapped around her neck last night.”

The vampire’s jaw twitched.

“Can’t save ’em all, huh?” Merle sneered gleefully.

“I’m gonna hang you by your own entrails, you pathetic excuse for a-”

“How’s that seer of yours?” he cut off Angel’s threats of evisceration with five simple words.

“What are you talking about?” Angel narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“Pretty girl, that Cordelia. If ya like that kinda thing,” Merle sniffed, dragging his sleeve across his still bleeding nose, “this guy you’re looking for? Likes ’em pretty and young, doesn’t care is they’ve got family, ain’t scared of nothing. Don’t know what kinda demon he is, heard he’s more human than demon, anyway,” Merle rattled off what little information he had.

He sucked deeply on his cigarette, his cheeks hollowing dramatically around the thin white stick as peels of blue smoke danced around him.

“That all you got?” Angel asked, his words dripping with annoyance.

“Your girl’s real pretty,” Merle nodded absently, ignoring the vampire’s unwavering glare, waiting to see if the bloodsucker would ever put two and two together, “need to look after a tasty little treat like that, don’t know what might be in the lurking in the shadows, waitin’ to take a bite out of her….”

Merle didn’t see Angel move, but he must have because one moment he was a great hulking mass of undead and the next there was nothing but the sound of his heavy boots thundering down the apartment corridor.

“Damn vampires,” grumbled Merle as he slammed the door shut, triple bolting it, just in case.

***

I’m going to die, was the only thought that existed in Cordelia’s panic seized mind.

A cold sweat of dread blanketed her body, she would have shivered if she weren’t so terrified.

I. Am. Going. To. Die.

Blood beat loudly in her ears, drowning out the birds song and distant thrum of traffic.

“Where’ve you been? I was worried about you,” Daniel crooned softly as he brushed a few stray strands of hair behind Cordelia’s ear. The brunette flinched at the contact, like his touch alone might contaminate her. Maybe it would.

There was blood on his clothes, she noticed absently. Long splatters of red covered his pants like a macabre Jackson Pollock, crimson smears that stood out like a scream against the crisp cream chinos.

Oh, shit, Cordelia’s brain woke up at the same time her body remembered how to move. She jerked backwards, moving as far away from Daniel as she could, until her back was pressed desperately against her apartment door.

“What’s wrong, baby? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Daniel frowned, stepping back into her personal space, his fingers, cold and as red as his pants, trailed along her jaw, his thumb tracing the curve of her bottom lip.

Cordelia swallowed heavily, silently screaming at Dennis to open the door.

“You’re so beautiful, Cordelia. Like the first flower of spring,” he whispered wistfully, his breath, horrifyingly peppermint fresh, licked over her cheek.

Cordelia shuddered with revulsion.

“Where were you all night, Cordelia? Where were you? Tell me baby, we shouldn’t keep secrets,” Daniel pressed his clean shaven cheek against Cordelia’s, “why’s you’re heart beating so fast? What’s wrong, tell me,” he brushed the tip of his nose across the slope of her cheekbone, inhaling her scent.

Cordelia’s heart dropped to her stomach when she felt him stiffen with tension against her.

“You stink of another man,” Daniel snarled, tender words so quickly replaced with the back of a hand crashing across Cordelia’s face. Her head snapped to the side, pain lancing through her jaw as a supernova of lights burst behind her eyelids.

“Fucking whore,” her attacker grunted, shoving her roughly until Cordelia stumbled to the ground.

“-trusted you, all the same, spread your legs for anyone, you bitch, you fucking bitch, would have given you anything-” Cordelia watched the man that had torn Amy to pieces pace like a mad man in front of her. He looked no different from the night they’d met at the club, bland and uninteresting, the kind of man you’d pass in the street and wouldn’t look twice at. Short, cropped light brown hair. A beaky nose. Thin, uninteresting lips. Eyes…his eyes weren’t…right.

“-did you think I wouldn’t find out? Wouldn’t smell it on you, wouldn’t smell him on you? I’m gonna tear him apart-” Daniel continued to mutter and pace.

Slowly, so slowly that she wasn’t even sure she was moving, Cordelia edged up off the floor, the pebbly wall scraped against her shoulder-blades and gave her something to think about that wasn’t the maniac in front of her.

I am NOT going to die, her brain informed her forcefully.

Adrenaline coursed through her body like a wild fire, sparking movement into her nerves, the sharp crackle of determination that had kept her alive whilst growing up on the mouth of hell.

Get up, get up, get up! Cordelia’s body screamed, run, get to the car, just get to the damn car!

The only problem with her body’s plan was the killer in front of her. She needed a weapon, something big and fatal, like, say, a broad sword.

But Cordelia wasn’t in the habit of carrying a handy broad sword around with her everywhere she went. All she had were the keys in her hand and her purse.
Cordelia’s eyes widened. Of course! Her purse! And inside her purse was the thing that would get her out of this!

“Hey, psycho boy!” Cordelia shouted before she could think better of it, Daniel’s attention snapped to her like a bolt of lightening.

She watched, like an outsider to the scene, as he turned and began to stalk towards her, mouth twisted and ready to spit vitriol.

Cordelia stood up, shoulders straight, chin raised and plunged her hand into her purse.

She was Cordelia Chase, dammit, and she wasn’t going to die.

***

The atmosphere in the Hyperion lobby was quietly subdued, the only noise to be heard were the soft swish of pages being turned and the occasional whispered thought.

Wesley sat the counter, hands cradling his head as he poured over the large tome in front of him. His hair had the kind of messed up quality that came with a sleepless night and too much strong coffee, like he’d pulled his hand through it too many times. The way Gunn had once said he liked.

Lorne was stretched casually on one of the small red sofas while he read. At his feet sat Fred, glasses occasionally slipping down her nose as she devoured the world of words in her book.

While they looked like the very picture of single minded concentration, the truth was they were getting nowhere with the research.

And getting nowhere slowly.

The Physicist grunted with annoyance as she reread the same paragraph about the mucus and mating habits of Fyarl demons. She didn’t need to know this, so why was she reading it? Her neck was starting to cramp and her eyes were hurting, she also had the feeling that Wesley was just pretending to read and was actually asleep.

The tension, and slight paranoia, seeped out of her body as a familiar hand settled at the base of her neck. Long, elegantly masculine fingers kneaded the tight muscles until they were soft beneath his fingers. Fred tilted her head back and smiled her thanks to Lorne.

“You’re welcome,” he whispered, so as not to break the heavy silence, and leant forward to press a quick kiss on her forehead. Fred felt something warm and wonderful spread through her chest, making her want to jump up and dance like a fool.

It was a feeling she was becoming addicted to.

“You wanna rent movie tonight?” Lorne asked her, running a hand through the thick waves of Fred’s chestnut hair.

“Can we make popcorn and order pizza and-”

The basement door crashed open with a dangerous thud, making the inhabitants of the lobby jump in their seats.

“Where is she?!” Angel bellowed as he strode towards the office, cell phone pressed tightly to his ear.

“Er, who?” Wesley asked, unsure if it were he that Angel was shouting at or some unfortunate person on the other end of the phone.

“She’s not answering her phone, why isn’t she answering her phone?!”

“I don’t know who-”

“Cordelia!” Angel snapped his best friends name as though they should have known without having to ask. He cursed under his breath when Cordelia’s answer phone picked up once again, snapping the phone shut like it was responsible for all this.

“She went back to her apartment, remember?” Fred frowned.

“Angel, what’s going on?” Wesley joined the vampire, who’d thrown open that doors of the weapons cabinet like he was about to go to war.

“He’s gonna go after Cordelia,” Angel growled as he snatched an axe and a sword out of the cabinet.

“Who….Daniel?” Fred felt her stomach fall to her knees as she scramble from the floor.

“Oh, Christ,” the Englishman grunted, picking out his own weapon of choice.

“Where’s Gunn?”

“He’s not back from talking with his source yet.”

“Shit. Fred, bring the car round the front, park in the shade,” Angel threw the Plymouth’s keys at the Texan, who caught them with ease, “Lorne, keep trying Cordy’s number, maybe she’s in the shower and can’t hear the phone.”

Lorne nodded without comment, the vampire’s deep set scowl and twitching jaw spoke silent volumes about his state of mind. He wasn’t a demon to mess this at the best of times, but if Cordelia was in danger then it was best to duck and cover until enough blood had been shed to quell Angel’s anger.

“If he hurts her….” Angel let the sentence fall away through gritted teeth. They all knew what would happen if Cordelia was hurt.

Fred was the only one that noticed the front door swing open. Her shoulders sagged with a relief so palpable she could almost taste it.

“Guys!” Fred called over her shoulder.

One by one, Angel, Wesley and Lorne turned their attention to the fifth person in the room.

Cordelia stood, the sleeve of her blouse ripped, broken shoe in hand, purpling bruise marring the left side of her face.

She swatted her hair out of her face, like she was shooing away mosquitoes.

“We so have a problem.”

***

Cordelia stood up, shoulders straight, chin raised and plunged her hand into her purse.

She was Cordelia Chase, dammit, and she *wasn’t* going to die.

“I would have given you everything!” spat Daniel as he lurched ever closer.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Cordelia smiled her head cheerleader smile, then sprayed an entire can of mace into his eyes. Daniel roared with pain and dropped to his knees, thin, pianist fingers clawed at his eyes, trying to gouge out the irritant.

Faster than she realized she could ever move, Cordelia ran. Her heart was lodged firmly in her throat as she dashed out of the apartment block, keys clasped so firmly in her hand she was sure they would leave their mark on her.

*Run, run, run, don’t look back, just keep-*

Cordelia yelped as she was tugged backwards sharply by her hair, she stumbled, scrabbled to get away, but his grip was strong, too strong.

“You’re not going anywhere,” Daniel hissed into her ear. Cordelia tried to jerk out of his grip, but it only caused her sleeve to tear at the seems where his free hand held her.

“Oh, I really am,” Cordelia gritted her teeth against the stinging pain in her scalp.

“I don’t think so, baby.”

“Well, think again, *baby*,” in a move that no one had taught her but herself, Cordelia snapped her leg up behind her, firmly imbedding the heel of her shoe into Daniel’s groin….

“And then he dropped to the ground, wailing like a great big baby woman while I got in the car and broke every speed limit in the State,” Cordelia finished, slumped slightly on one of the lobby’s sofas.

“Are you OK?” asked Wesley as he handed Cordelia an ice pack for her face.

“Do I look OK?”

“No, not particularly.”

“There’s your answer, then,” she muttered, exhaustion bleeding through her body like a drug.

“This is bad,” Fred chewed her bottom lip, “this is really bad.”

“Yeah, I kinda figured that out when I was running for my life!” Cordelia snapped, causing the Texan to flinch like she’d been slapped.

A tense silence swept over the lobby like a poisoned gas.

“This isn’t Fred’s fault,” Angel murmured from where he was sitting next to Cordelia, holding the ice pack gently against her face.

They were the first words the vampire had spoken since Cordelia had stepped into the lobby.

It wasn’t Cordelia’s fault, none of this was.

It was Angel’s. He should never have agreed to use her as bait, he shouldn’t have let her come with him the night Amy died, he shouldn’t have-

“It’s not your fault either, Angel,” Cordelia said gently, reading the thoughts that were so clearly etched across his face. She laced her fingers through his, squeezing his hand tightly.

“He’ll pay for this,” Angel swore.

“I know,” she nodded, unable to hide the wince that contorted her face as the movement irritated her aching scalp.

Angel put the ice pack down and ran his fingers through Cordelia’s hair, checking her head for bumps and cuts. He found none, but continued to trail his hands through the messy brown locks.

Angel had to keep touching her, had to make sure she was really here and relatively unhurt. Cordelia let her eyes slip shut and leant her head back against the comfort her best friend gave, concentrating on his touch rather than the what ifs that demanded to run through her brain.

Cordelia sighed.

Angel was really good at this comfort thing….

“Well,” Wesley coughed, feeling as though he were intruding on an intimate moment, which he didn’t like, at all. Angel and Cordelia shifted away from each other as though they’d been caught doing something wrong, which made the Englishman feel slightly more at ease.

“Angel, I suggest you and I go to Cordelia’s apartment, he’s probably still in the area.”

“Right,” Angel nodded, “we can grab a few things for Cordy too.”

“Wait a minute-”

“But what if he turns up here when you and Wes are gone?” Fred unknowingly cut Cordelia’s protest off, “I mean, he could, right? He knew where she lived, he’s probably gonna know where she works.”

“Hey, what do you mean lived-”

“Kitten’s right,” Lorne backed up Fred, “not that I’m not up for protecting the women folk all by lonesome, but if Ted Bundy junior shows up all slash happy, I doubt my noodle arms are going to be of much help.”

“You don’t have noodle arms,” Fred frowned.

“Ah, but you’re biased,” he winked.

“I’ll page Gunn, and then he can stop here with the girls while Angel and I check out Cordy’s apartment.”

“Works for me, although I do take offence at being labelled as one of the girls,” Lorne sniffed theatrically.

“Hey!” Cordelia stood up, tired of being talked about as if she weren’t there. “Would someone like to tell me why I’m having a bag packed for me?”

“You’re not going back to your apartment,” Angel read her mind.

“And where else am I meant to live?”

“Here, of course.”

Cordelia blinked at Angel slowly.

“Yeah, I don’t think so,” she shook her head.

“Why not?” Angel frowned, she couldn’t honestly think her apartment was safe, could she?

“Because…because….”

“Huh?”

Cordelia sighed. “Angel, can I speak to you in private, please?” Before he could respond, Cordelia dragged him manually from the lobby and into the office, kicking the door shut behind them with a slam.

“This is the dumbest idea you have ever had.”

Angel blinked. “Excuse me?”

“Us living together is not part of the plan!” she hissed, flailing her arms around with every word. Angel shuffled away so as not to be hit.

“What are you talking about?”

“Our little…arrangement? Remember? Staying the night was bad enough, but actually living together? Nuh huh, I don’t think so. That way will only lead to badness.”

Angel watched Cordelia pace the short width of the office, she bobbed up and down without one of her shoes on, it would have been an amusing sight if Angel weren’t so angry.

Which he was.

“Cordelia, shut up and sit down.”

The brunette froze in her pacing, she whirled around, fully intending to let loose on the vampire for talking to her like that, but the look on Angel’s face made the retorts dry up and die in her mouth. She dropped down into one of the office seats like a sack of potatoes.

“This plan you keep talking about? It doesn’t exist,” Angel held up his hand to silence her when he saw Cordelia about to argue.

“And it also doesn’t matter. You’re not going back to your apartment, Cordy. Not until this guy is dead. It’s not like we’ll be sharing a room, there are dozens of bedrooms to choose from. Where else are you gonna go? Do you really want to bunk up with Gunn or Wes? Those two are imploding right now, I can smell the misery on them. Lorne? All that colour will give you a headache. No. You’re staying here. Deal with it.”

Angel crossed his arms over his chest. He would not be swayed.

Cordelia swallowed and, to the vampire’s horror, buried her face in her hands as she began to cry.

For a horrible second Angel didn’t know what to do. Cordelia never cried, she just…didn’t. She was the strong one, the one that kept them all together. She laughed and bitched and whined but she never cried. But, now, she was. Cordelia was crying, crumpled in on herself, sobbing into her hands like a lost child.

Snapping himself out of his shock, Angel was kneeling in front of Cordelia in a non-existent heartbeat.

“Cordy?” he whispered, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you cry, you don’t have to stay here if you don’t want to, we’ll figure something else out,” Angel desperately trying to stop her sobs.

“He was at my home,” Cordelia whispered hoarsely, letting her hands fall into her lap as the tears still streamed down her cheeks.

Her hands were shaking, Angel noticed. In fact, all of Cordelia was shaking, like she was cold. Or in shock.

Angel swallowed her small hands in one of his.

“How did he know where I lived? How did he know so quickly, Angel?”

“I don’t know,” the vampire answered quietly, cupping the side of Cordelia’s face with his free hand, careful not to irritate the angry bruise.

“I don’t understand any of this,” Cordelia shook her head, “why wouldn’t Dennis let me open the door? It doesn’t make sense. Daniel was waiting for me, at my home, my home, Angel. I don’t….”  Angel listened as her words trailed off to nowhere. When her hazel eyes finally met his, the vampire decided he was going to cut Daniel to shreds before he killed him.

“He made me scared, really damn scared,” Cordelia admitted.

Angel didn’t care about plans or uncrossable lines. He didn’t care about what Wesley and the others might think. Angel didn’t care about anything else but the fear he saw in Cordelia’s eyes, and making sure that it would never have the chance to live there again.

Threading his hand through her hair, Angel pulled Cordelia to him, pressing a kiss that meant more than he realized against her forehead. He held Cordelia, her head tucked into the crook of his neck, her heart beating against his chest.

Slowly, Cordelia’s sobs eased to a shudder and then to a final, wet sniff. Angel crooked his fingers under her chin and wiped her tears away with the sleeve of his sweater.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall apart all over you,” Cordelia smiled weakly, embarrassment clouding her eyes as she struggled to regain her composure, searching desperately for her mask of Queen C just as she always did during times like this.

“S’OK, we all need to fall apart every now and then,” Angel shrugged.

“I guess,” Cordelia breathed deeply, fully intending on pulling out of Angel’s embrace but actually burrowing closer into the vampire’s side.

The office clock ticked the seconds away and Angel wanted to smash it beneath his boots just so the moment would never end.

“I broke my shoe,” the young woman sighed, her head resting on Angel’s shoulder as she dangled the strappy sandals from her index finger.

“How?”

“I tripped up the steps in the courtyard,” Cordelia admitted with a self deprecating snort. Angel hid his smile in the crown of her hair, tightening his arms around her as though she were a precious jewel.

To hell with the damn plan.

Part 13

Posted June 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

His Lady Lazerus. 11   1 comment

Part 11

Being the youngest of five children, all girls, Lucy had grown up in second hand clothes. As a child, she hadn’t minded, too busy gazing at the stars and talking to the moon to care about the holes in her sneakers. Her hair was dishwater blonde, her eyes an uninspiring green, fingernails short and chewed to the quick. They called her a tomboy, and that was fine, she had better things to do than read magazines that taught you how to kiss boys and curl your hair, anyway.

When puberty hit, the body that had once climbed trees and made mud pies in the back yard, suddenly had curves and dips that made her mother worry and her father frown. Yet, she was still little Lucy Marsh to the people in their small town, with her head in the clouds and feet in second hand sneakers.

And that was OK, too. Just because her socks were odd and her T-shirts were faded, didn’t mean that her dreams were second hand.

When she was eighteen, Lucy packed a bag and watched the sun rise up over the fields one last time. With a note left for her parents on the kitchen table, the small town girl left for the lights of the big city with Bobby Hopton’s hand clasped in her own.

No one had known about her and Bobby. Like the money saved in her jewellery box, they’d been a secret hidden from the world. She’d never had to lie because she was little Lucy Marsh with dishwater blond hair and holes in her shoes, reliable and unassuming, not the kind of girl who’d runaway with the boy next door.

It hadn’t been easy, they’d barely eaten a full meal that first year in LA. It wasn’t a fairy tale, money was short, tempers often shorter, they lived hand to mouth in apartments shared with cockroaches and damp.

With her first paycheque, Lucy bought a pair of shoes from a real shoe store.

When Bobby finally got the raise they’d been praying for, they moved out of their one room apartment and into an actual home in Silverlake. It wasn’t grand, no crystal chandeliers or gilded mirrors, just a bedroom, a bathroom, kitchen and lounge. It was small, but it was theirs, and they loved it.

Their first Christmas in the apartment Bobby had made her a coffee table. It had been the most beautiful thing she’d ever owned. More beautiful than the shoes in her closet or crisp white Gap T-shirts in her dresser, because like the life they had crafted together, it was simple and perfect.

It was the last thing Lucy saw before the intruder that had burst into their home twisted her neck sharply to the right.

The scream that filled her mouth at the sight of her sweet Bobby, laying bleeding and broken on the kitchen floor, was silenced before it could fill the room. Knocked down from behind, coffee table within reach of her desperate fingers, if she could just touch, feel the wood that was so lovingly shaped for her, everything would be all right.

Twist, snap, nothing.

“There, don’t you feel so much better now?” Daniel wiped his hands on his neatly pressed chinos, frowning at the sticky red splatters of blood that speckled his clothes.

***

“Dennis, open the drapes,” Cordelia murmured. Her bedroom was darker than it should have been at this hour in the morning. When the sun still didn’t shine through her closed eyelids, Cordelia forced her eyes to open and searched her bedside table for her alarm clock.

The alarm clock wasn’t there.

“Dennis?” she said a little louder this time.

Nothing.

Frowning with equal parts concern and annoyance, Cordelia rubbed her hands over her face, trying to chase away the soporific fuzziness from her brain. Something wasn’t right, her room was too dark and she didn’t remember moving her clock. Also, the mattress didn’t feel like it should and the bed sheets didn’t smell like her laundry detergent. In fact, they smelt like-

Cordelia’s eyes widened as understanding dawned.

-Angel.

As her eyes slowly adjusted to the gloom, the cause of which she realized were the heavy sunlight proof drapes, Cordelia let the pieces of the night before fall into place. Like drops of mercury, her memories fused together. The vision, seeing Amy’s brutalised body lying in a puddle of her own blood, vision sex with Angel.

Cordelia let her eyes drift over the sleeping form beside her. Angel lay on his front, his arms buried beneath his pillow and his jaw slack with slumber. Rolling carefully onto her side, Cordelia studied him. In sleep, the vampire’s face was free of the usual dark cloud he hid behind, there was no scowl, no forced blankness, just the smooth planes of a man born over two hundred years ago. Sometimes it was almost impossible for Cordelia to believe that her best friend was so old, that he’d witnessed two centuries of invention.

Before she knew what she was doing, Cordelia fingered the soft spikes of his dark hair. They were still slightly sticky with gel and prickled against her fingertips. Her thumb trailed lightly across the width of his forehead, his brow was smooth and unmarked without the sharp ridges of his game face and cool to the touch.

Not cold, but not particularly warm either.

Cordelia tensed, her fingers frozen in their exploration against his temple as Angel stirred, his face creasing with a frown. When an eternity ticked by and the vampire showed no further signs of waking, she brushed her thumb across his bottom lip.

It may have been a fleeting moment, and maybe she’d just imagined it, but Cordelia was almost sure Angel was going to kiss her last night. She’d felt so safe as he’d surrounded her, love and protection shining in his often unreadable eyes, the press of his thumb against her bottom lip. He was going to kiss her, she was sure of it.

And Cordelia had wanted him to, wanted Angel to kiss her like he did in her visions, like he burned for her, like he existed for her and her alone.

Like she was all Angel could see.

The realization terrified her. She closed her eyes and drew her hand back. Get a grip, Chase. Cordelia scolded herself, don’t start to think like that. It was just a moment, you were scared and Angel was worried.

Nothing more than that.

It can’t be anything more than that.

I don’t want anything more than that.

With her wayward emotions beaten into submission, Cordelia leant up on her elbow and looked at the alarm clock on Angel’s side of the bed. Eleven twenty three am blinked at her in a neon red glow.

“Damn.”

Maybe she could get out of bed without waking Angel, sneak downstairs, hopefully Fred would still in her room, or better yet, at Lorne’s. With any luck Wes and Gunn-

“Hey,” Angel’s sleep rough voice brought all her plans about stealing unseen out of the Hotel to an abrupt halt.

Cordelia startled at the sudden sound, quickly tugging the bedcovers over her chest. “How long have you been awake?” she asked, embarrassed that he might have not have been asleep while she’d been touching him.

“Since just now,” he lied.

“Oh,” Cordelia nodded, wondering why she was nodding and saying ‘oh’.

“So….” Angel trailed off. The conversation floundered as both Angel and Cordelia struggled to find the right thing to say. For all his years, the vampire hadn’t experienced that many morning afters with someone he actually cared about. Darla didn’t count, even if they spent a century in each others arms. He didn’t like to think about the morning after with Buffy. For obvious reasons. The last morning after Cordelia had experienced involved her waking up almost nine months pregnant, so she was doing no better.

“Sleep well?” Angel finally said after what had felt like hours but was only seconds.

“A little too well,” Cordelia smiled over her shoulder with uncharacteristic shyness as she pinned the bed sheet tightly beneath her arms, “we slept half the day away.”

“It was a long night,” he shrugged, his gaze drawn to the slender expanse her bare back.

Blood, so much blood. Lifeless eyes and torn flesh, too late, too damn late. Angel’s hands grazing over her breasts, the rasp of his jaw against the inside of her thighs, Cordy, come for me….

“Yeah,” Cordelia agreed, her mouth dry as flashes of the night before ricocheted through her mind. “Um, I should probably get going before the guys turn up.”

“They’re already here.”

Cordelia gave him a questioning look over her shoulder but he was busy staring at the intricate tattoo that painted the small of her back. The brunette cleared her throat and Angel snapped his gaze to hers like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

“How do you know?” the corners of her lips twitched with an amused smile.

“Super hearing,” Angel tapped a finger against his temple.

“Oh, right,” Cordelia nodded, feeling a little foolish that she’d forgotten such a thing, “still, I should….” she gestured to the bedroom door, wondering how on earth she was going to get out of the Hotel without being seen.

“I guess,” the vampire agreed, hoping the disappointment he felt wasn’t audible in his voice. Angel had woken to the feel of warm fingertips skating over his face, a soft female scent surrounding him and a heartbeat echoing in his ears. It had taken almost all of his control to keep his eyes shut and not nuzzle his face into the warm flesh.

He’d liked it.

A lot.

When Cordelia laid back down, the vampire blinked with surprise. Angel hadn’t expected her to stay, in fact he’d expected her to bolt out of the room as soon as she’d woken up. The smile that threatened to curl his lips disappeared though when he saw the frown that was shadowing Cordelia’s face.

“I spent the night,” she told the ceiling, her thoughts brought to life.

“You did,” Angel nodded.

“I’m not meant to spend the night,” Cordelia clarified in case he didn’t understand completely. The vampire didn’t know what to say to that so he said nothing at all.

Cordelia tore her eyes away from the ceiling and looked at Angel, “staying the night wasn’t part of the plan.”

“There was a plan?” Angel frowned, propping his head up on his hand so he could see her face better.

“Well…no, but if there was a plan, me spending the night wouldn’t be part of it,” the brunette smoothed her hands over the bed sheets, chasing away the wrinkles in the material.

“Why?” he asked, even though he already knew the answer.

“Because, because we’re not…this isn’t…it’s too..too….”

“Intimate?” Angel said the word Cordelia was struggling with.

“Exactly,” she agreed with a loud puff of air, but there was a small voice in the back of her mind that told her she was being ridiculous and that she and Angel had passed intimacy town a few miles back. The voice sounded a lot like Fred though, so Cordelia tried her best to ignore it.

Unfortunately, Angel appeared to be able to read her mind.

“But me spending most of the night with my head buried between your thighs isn’t?” he asked innocently.

The blush of embarrassment didn’t creep up Cordelia’s neck slowly like the sun slipping across the dessert landscape, no, instead it announced its presence across her face in an explosion of mortified pink.

“That’s, that’s different,” why didn’t the world ever open up and swallow you when you wanted it to? “It’s different and, and, not the same and I said you shouldn’t have done that again…” why was Angel smirking at her?

“It’s fun to watch the usually verbose Cordelia Chase struggling for words,” he teased her affectionately, laughter dancing in his eyes.

“Bastard,” Cordelia narrowed her eyes dangerously at him. The effect was somewhat undermined by the smile that slipped like honey across her lips.

The awkward tension that had been threatening to rear its ugly head and squeeze the air out of the room fizzled like a spluttering candle. Cordelia knew she should leave now, but her body was refusing to co-operate with her brain.

“A few more minutes, then I’ll get up,” Cordelia promised herself as she nestled deeper into the pillow, looking very much like she wouldn’t be leaving the warmth of the bed anytime soon.

And that was just fine with Angel.

The vampire let his unguarded gaze roam over her. She was beautiful in the morning, Angel realized. Of course, Cordelia was beautiful all the time, whether it was when she lit the room with a smile or was scrapping purple demon goo out of her hair or rolling her eyes at his poor attempt at humour. The kind of beauty that turned heads when she walked down the street. Had turned Angel’s head on more than one occasion.

But with her face free of make up and her hair an unbrushed mess of tangles, Cordelia had never looked more beautiful to Angel and it made his chest tighten with another growing realization that he had no choice but to ignore.

“Earth to staring guy?” Cordelia waved a hand in front of his face.

“Sorry,” Angel apologised.

“Brooding?”

“Thinking.”

“Careful, you might strain something,” Cordelia folded an arm behind her head, not noticing how the bedsheet slipped, revealing the supple rise of her breasts. Angel noticed, but managed not to stare like a slack jawed teenager. Mostly.

“Well?” two perfectly shaped eyebrows were raised in his direction and Angel realized Cordelia was waiting for him to tell her what was going through his mind.

The words left his mouth before Angel could stop them.

“I was thinking about how beautiful you are first thing in the morning.”

Cordelia’s eyes widened in surprise and Angel mentally kicked himself.
“Er, I mean-”

“I haven’t felt very beautiful lately,” Cordelia cut him off before he could make a mess of a perfectly good compliment, “what with the whole slowly dying from vision pain thing an’ all,” she shrugged and the sheet slipped a little more.

Angel was too busy frowning at her glib tone to notice though.

“You’re not going to die.”

“Maybe not today, but-”

“No,” Angel refused to let her finish the sentence. He ran his fingers through the wild tangles of Cordelia’s hair, smoothing it out against the deep crimson pillow. “You’re going to live a long, long, long life, Cordy,” his large hand cupped the side of her face, “I won’t let you die.”

Cordelia covered Angel’s hand with her own and pressed a kiss into his palm. “I’m not going anywhere,” she whispered a promise they both desperately wanted to believe.

Angel let out an unneeded breath that licked across Cordelia’s face, it made her lips tingle and she found herself licking them unconsciously. The vampire watched the slide of her tongue over the plump pink flesh like it was a particularly tasty morsel that he wanted to sink his teeth into.

Or kiss.

Cordelia could feel her heart beating in her ears. Angel had that look in his eyes again, like he was on the verge of doing something either incredibly stupid or incredibly brave, and usually with Angel they were one and the same. Thoughts of visions, friendship and uncrossable lines scattered away like confetti in the breeze, all that was left in Cordelia’s mind was that yes, she wanted him to kiss her.

She licked her lips again.

Angel suddenly understood why Cordelia spending the night probably wasn’t a good idea. Waking up next to her, feeling her warmth so close while the lingering scent of sex permeated the air, was too tempting. It made the vampire want to keep her.

But she wasn’t his to keep.

Not that that ever stopped me before, Angel thought as he traced the curve of her cheekbone with his thumb. But you never had a best friend before, his soul piped up like Jiminy Cricket.

Sometimes he really missed the clarity that came with not having a soul.

“We should probably get up,” Jiminy made him say as his gaze lingered tortuously on her lips.

“Oh, right,” Cordelia nodded, effortlessly hiding the disappointment that coursed through her body. She didn’t care what anyone else said, she was a damn good actress.

When long seconds passed and Angel was still half towering over her, his hand apparently glued to the side of her face, Cordelia said, “getting up kinda involves you moving,” she gestured to their position.

“Right,” he nodded slowly, he hadn’t realized just how close together they were, “there might be a problem with that, though.”

“Problem?” Cordelia frowned and Angel wanted to lick the small line that creased between her eyebrows.

“Yeah,” he sighed, “you see, I don’t think I want to move,” the vampire said honestly before his better angels could tell him not to.

“You’re such a putz,” Cordelia rolled her eyes, not letting herself listen to the voice in her head that told her that Angel was being serious. Easiness flooded the room as the tension dissipated like an early morning fog. Cordelia felt herself relax when Angel’s eyes crinkled with a smile.

“You dare to call one of the most feared vampires to ever walk the earth, a putz?” he raised an amused eyebrow at her.

“Yep,” Cordelia grinned, “I can think of a few other names too, if ya want.”

“I think I’ll pass for now.”

“Well, anytime you need that enormous ego of yours taken down a peg or two, you know who to call,” she patted him cheerily on the shoulder.

“I don’t not have an enormous ego.”

“Oh, you really do.”

“Do not.”

“What are we, in kindergarten now?”

“I know you are, but what am I?”

“And we’re back to you being a putz,” Cordelia rolled her eyes, “c’mon, shift your butt,” she nudged his shoulder until Angel reluctantly flopped onto his back. Sitting up, bed sheet once again pinned demurely beneath her arms, Cordelia voiced the problem that continued to nag at the corner of her brain.

“So, how am I gonna get out of the Hotel without being seen?”

“You could shimmy down the drain pipe,” Angel shrugged, folding his arms behind his head.

“As fun as that sounds, I don’t think so.”

“Well, there’s always-” the rest of his suggestion was cut off rudely by an insistent knocking at the bedroom door.

“Cordy, Angel, there’s something down here you need to see,” Fred’s harried voice filtered through the wood. “Now,” the Texan added before the almost imperceptible squeak of her sneakers announced her retreat down the corridor.

A minute ticked by as Cordelia and Angel realized their secret was, most likely, no longer secret.

“Oh crap.”

***

Dennis was a happy ghost, or as happy as a ghost could be at least. The moon waxed, the moon waned, life went on around him and that was just fine with him. As things went, Dennis knew he had a good afterlife. Cordelia was the best friend he’d ever had, dead or alive. She didn’t shout at him, didn’t listen to Mariah Carey and in return he looked after her as best he could.

He had been quietly worried about Cordelia recently, the visions were leaving their scars across her soul and he’d wondered if her other friends were aware of it. He’d contemplated hitting one of them across the head with a large book with a note attached to it, just to get their attention.

When the vampire stayed the night, Dennis had been on the verge of leaving the Englishman a silent message on his answer phone, but Cordelia had said she was fine, not to worry, and Dennis believed her.

But today, Dennis was beginning to realize that there really was something to be worried about. He was scared. It took a lot to make a ghost scared, what did they have to fear? Not death, pain or taxes.

There was evil floating on the air.

The sickly scent of blood and violence seeped from the next door apartment and it was making Dennis feel sick, even though he hadn’t eaten, or had a corporeal body, for decades.

Something was trying to get into his home and Dennis didn’t know if he could stop it.

***

“I came by last night but you were out,” Wesley said carefully as he rearranged the papers that were scattered over his desk.

“I was busy,” Gunn grunted, eyes focused everywhere but at the Englishman behind the desk.

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

Wesley laced his hands together so he wouldn’t be tempted to drum them on the desktop.

“Anything interesting?”

“Just the usual,” the black man shrugged.

The office clock ticked loudly in the silence. Wesley cleared his throat. Tick. Gunn stared steadily at a worn patch of carpet by his feet. Tock.

“Charles-”

“Don’t, man. Just…don’t.”

“You don’t even know what I was going to say,” Wesley sighed and took off his glasses.

“Doesn’t take a genius to figure it out,” Gunn forced his gaze to meet the ex watcher’s. The Englishman wished he had a glass of something strong in his hand.

Tick.

Tock.

The silence was a scream that echoed inside the office walls, unwise words filled the air like a poisoned gas, choking the life out of a relationship too fragile for the Englishman’s hands. In Gunn’s eyes, Wesley saw what he’d tried so hard to ignore, tried to pretend wasn’t there even when it had been made real with three small words.

Gunn loved him.

“I never meant….” he impotently struggled to find the right words. Words were usually Wesley’s comfort, their cadence soothed him, whether it were the Queen’s English or ancient Babylonian. Since the first day he’d walked into the council Library, words had been his strongest weapon. He wasn’t the best fighter or the best sorcerer, but he knew words.

Yet they failed him now.

“I’m sure they’ll be down any minute,” Fred said smugly as she barrelled into the office like the skinny Texan tornado she was, dropping down into a vacant chair with a quiet thud. “I told ya Cordy stayed the night, her car’s still parked outside too….” she trailed off as her gaze flicked back and forth between the two men.

Gunn stood, leaning casually against the wall, arms folded lazily over his chest, legs cross at the ankle. Wesley sat, cleaning his glasses with a handkerchief while he absently scanned the front page of the newspaper that sat on top of the open files that littered his desk.

Fred winced at the tension that radiated from both.

“I interrupted something, didn’t I?”

“Nothing to interrupt,” Gunn muttered, almost as though he wasn’t aware the words had actually left his mouth. Fred frowned at the bleak resignation that laced his tone but didn’t question him, she didn’t need to, the answers were in the lines of Wesley’s face.

The ex-watcher cleared his throat and slipped his glasses back on. Gunn stretched the muscles in his neck and studied the spot of ceiling above his head with as much intensity as he had the floor. Fred shifted uncomfortably in her chair and prayed that Cordelia and Angel would hurry up and get their butts downstairs.

Fortunately, someone seemed to be feeling sympathetic to the Physicist’s awkward plight as a hushed argument heralded the vampire and seer’s descent down the staircase.

Fred strained to hear their fervent muttering.

“Just let me handle it.”

“Oh, yeah, sure. ‘Cos you’re renowned for your conversations kills!”

“Will you calm down, please?”

“I am calm, I am so calm, if I were anymore calmer I’d be-Hi guys!” Cordelia squeaked as they stepped into the office, coming face to face with three pairs of curious eyes.

The vampire nodded his greeting with one sharp jerk of his head. Angel’s contented mood had left the building as soon as Cordelia scrambled out of bed like a woman possessed, dashing around the room in search of her clothes as though they’d been caught by her parents.

He scowled at Fred but the young brunette didn’t seem to notice or care.

“So, what’s up?” Cordelia asked with false brightness as she attempted to tame her hair into a something that resembled a ponytail.

“I wasn’t aware you’d stayed at the Hotel last night,” Wesley laced his hands together in front of him on the desk, happy that he had something that wasn’t his car crash of a relationship.

“She had a vision,” Angel answered shortly.

“Cordelia has a lot of visions, she doesn’t usually spend the night after them. Especially not in your room, Angel.”

“Well last night she did,” Angel crossed his arms defensively across his chest, his eyes boring unflinchingly into the ex-watcher’s.

“Is that so?” Wesley raised a suspicious eyebrow.

“Yeah. You got a problem with that, Wes?”

Cordelia’s gaze darted between the overprotective Englishman and the overprotective Irishman. Angel’s jaw ticked with annoyance while Wesley looked like he was about to embark on patronising lecture.

Just as he was silently reciting the reasons why he shouldn’t beat the holier than thou look from Wesley’s face, Angel felt a hand settle on the small of his back. “Down boy,” Cordelia ordered him quietly.

“Cordelia-” Wesley began but she didn’t give him the chance to finish.

“Fred said there was something we needed to see?”

“Right,” Wesley relented, much to her relief, “have you seen the newspaper this morning?” he slid the LA Times across the desk

“No, I haven’t had the….” Cordelia trailed off as she saw the heavy black headline.

Third woman found dead.

Beneath it, Amy’s smiling face stared out at her from beyond the grave. Cordelia didn’t read the article, she didn’t need to, she’d already seen it in her mind, with glorious Technicolor and surround sound.

“You don’t seem surprised?” Fred cocked her head to the side as she watched Cordelia pass the paper to Angel.

“That’s ’cause I’m not. The vision I had last night? It was of that,” she jerked a thumb at the newspaper.

“I don’t understand,” Wesley frowned.

“Join the club,” Cordelia muttered as she sat down next to Fred.

“Amy was already dead by the time Cor had the vision,” Angel said succinctly.

“Why would the Power’s send a vision when it was already too late?” Fred wondered, “it doesn’t make sense.”

“What did you see?” pressed Wesley.

“Blood, mostly,” Cordelia shuddered at the memory. “Blood and fear and the woman we were meant to be protecting being torn apart by a monster we know nothing about. Not that it mattered, by the time we got there most of her insides were outside and he was long gone. Go PTB!” Cordelia punched the air with fake zeal.

“Shit,” Gunn shook his head.

“That about sums it up,” the once Sunnydale May Queen nodded, burying her face into her hands.

“Was there anything else?”

“Wes, I really don’t want to think about it right now,” Cordelia pressed the heels of her palms into her eyes. She wished she and Angel had stayed in bed and pretended that it hadn’t happened for a little longer.

“I know, but there might have been a clue you missed last night, something that could help us catch this man,” Wesley urged her gently.

“Don’t you think I’ve already gone over and over it in my mind? That I haven’t dissected every single moment, every smell, every feeling? That maybe there was some teeny tiny little piece of information that slipped by me, something that could have saved her? Of course I have!” her voice rose, anger dripping from every word.

A sharp silence swept through the office like a tumbleweed, interrupted only by the clock ticking its intrusive song. Cordelia pressed her fingers against her temples, even though the vision pain was gone it didn’t mean the memory of it no longer lingered. All the sex in the world couldn’t erase the second hand fear she’d felt.

“The paper said third woman found dead, so this wasn’t his first?” Angel broke the tension as he stepped behind where Cordelia was seated, resting a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“And probably not his last,” Wesley surmised grimly, “we need to find out about the others. Gunn?”

“I’m on it,” Gunn nodded, personal problems put aside.

“It would help if we knew exactly what this guy is,” Cordelia added, distracted by the way Angel’s thumb occasionally swept along the back of her neck, leaving behind it a trail of goosebumps.

“Fred and I will take care of that,” Wesley looked at the Texan, who nodded her agreement.

“I’ll pay Merle a visit, see if he’s heard anything about this guy,” Angel declared instead of waiting for his orders from the Englishman. It wasn’t that he had a problem with Wesley being the boss, he just wasn’t very good at being told what to do.

“Do try not to threaten Merle too much, Angel. You catch more flies with honey,” Wesley voiced what they were all thinking.

“You have your ways, I have mine,” the vampire shrugged.

Cordelia deftly tuned out the discussion of Angel’s questionable people skills and let herself enjoy the soft kneading of her best friends fingers against the tense muscles in her neck. She wondered if he was aware of what he was doing and decided she didn’t care. Letting her eyes drift shut, Cordelia thought of nothing but the soothing massage that could easily turn her to jelly.

“Fine, I promise. No death threats or random acts of violence,” Angel relented after Wesley had listed the reasons why it was unwise to beat their best snitch to a bloody pulp.

“Cordelia, perhaps you might-” Wesley stopped as he realized she wasn’t paying any attention. “Cordelia?”

“Cordy, you OK?” Fred asked her friend quietly, shaking the ex cheerleader’s arm when she got no reply.

“I’m awake,” Cordelia’s head snapped up like it had been jerked on a rope.

“Maybe you should go home and get some sleep,” Wesley offered, believing she was suffering form a PTB induced hangover.

“I’m fine,” she replied automatically, this time truthfully, “but I think I might go back to my place and take a shower, if that’s cool with everyone?” Cordelia stood and Angel’s hand trailed down the path of her spine until it rested on the small of her back, over where they both knew her tattoo sat.

She couldn’t stop the shiver that raced through her body.

“Of course,” Wesley nodded, darting a question filled look at Angel, which the vampire ignored as he followed Cordelia out of the office. Leaving behind them the queries both would refuse to answer.

Angel caught her hand before she could leave the Hotel.

“Want me to come with?”

“Naw, you should stay here and not burst into flames,” Cordelia said dryly, a hint of a smile playing at her lips.

“Yeah, that’s probably the smart thing to do,” Angel bowed his head bashfully, running his free hand through his still bed mussed hair.

“I’ll be fine, Angel. I’m big girl, remember?” she squeezed his hand reassuringly before she slipped it out of his grasp. “And be nice to Merle!” Cordelia called over her shoulder as she walked out of the hotel and into the day.

“I’m perfectly civil to the little weasel,” he muttered as he ambled back across the lobby, careful to remove the smile from his face before he walked back into the lion’s den.

***

His patience was beginning to wear thin.

Daniel waited, picking dried blood from his fingernails with a toothpick. He kicked the lifeless body at his feet and contemplated dragging it into the kitchen with the other, but he didn’t want to leave his sentry position.

“This is a lovely home you have here,” he said conversationally to the dead body on the floor, “shame you had to leave it so abruptly.”

A slow smile crawl across his face as his patience was finally rewarded, “but you see, my dear, you have such a perfect view.”

Cordelia Chase stepped out of her car and was headed directly his way.

Part 12

Posted June 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

His Lady Lazerus. 10   1 comment

Part 10

“Cordelia-”

“Don’t,” she cut him off before he even begin the sentence.

Jaw clenched, Angel tightened his grip on the steering wheel as he took another corner faster than he should.

“Slow down,” Cordelia snapped as her hair whipped wildly around her head.

“It’s my car, I’ll drive as fast as I damn well please,” he muttered and pressed down harder on the accelerator.

“Fine, if you wanna wrap your beloved penis extension around a lamppost, be my guest.”

The vampire growled as his nerves were stretched to snapping point, he darted a warning glare at the young woman as he eased up on the pedal.

Cordelia gave him the finger and a saccharine sweet smile.

“Oh that’s very mature.”

“You are the last person to be talking about being mature,” she scoffed.

“Meaning?”

“Meaning the basement looks like a hurricane blew through it. Don’t take your pissy mood out on the Hotel, we can’t afford it.”

“It’s my-”

“It’s my Hotel, I’ll do what I want with it,” she mimicked in a high falsetto, “you know, on occasion you can be a complete ass.”

“Being an ass is better than being a-”

“If you call me a bitch I will beat you to death with your own arm.”

“Already dead.”

“See? Ass!”

The atmosphere was anything but comfortable, mutual anger choking the air between them. Cold neon lights bled together as they sped by strip joints and fetish stores, another night spent in the bad side of town was doing nothing for either the vampire’s or the seer’s moods.

“I could be all cosy watching George Clooney and Brad Pitt being all sexy and fine, but oh no, I have to fight the frikken good fight,” Cordelia muttered petulantly, “I so should have taken Gunn up on his offer.”

She cocked an eyebrow at the rough growl that echoed loudly through the vampire’s chest.

“Gunn,” she repeated the black man’s name just to see Angel’s reaction.

Again another growl than almost made the car vibrate.

“OK, what the hell is your problem?” Cordelia demanded, she hadn’t planned on bringing up Angel’s sudden ire with their friend but she needed to focus on something that wasn’t the confusing mix of terror and arousal that was stirred up inside her courtesy of the PTB.

“I don’t have a problem,” he bit out through clenched teeth.

“The basement begs to differ.”

“I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“That’s a surprise.”

The rest of the journey was suffered through in silence until the car lurched to a stop on the street opposite the club. Cordelia felt her stomach threaten to dispel the chicken salad she’d had for lunch, with a deep breath she closed her eyes but that only caused the vision to flash across the back of her eyelids and she really didn’t want to see or feel that again.

Especially the less bloody and more tender Angel parts of it.

Quickly opening her eyes again, Cordelia saw that the vampire in question was watching her with concern.

“I’m fine,” she snapped because she really wasn’t fine and knew he could tell. Angel grunted something about damn stubborn women that she didn’t quite hear then slammed the car door shut behind him as he climbed out of the vehicle. Cordelia grimaced at the sharp noise that agitated the pain in her brain, but slammed her own door just as loudly because she knew how much it pissed him off.

Angel scowled darkly as he swung his sword against his shoulder.

Cordelia twirled the small axe in her hand, eyebrows raised as she waited for the inevitable reprimand about hurting his precious Plymouth. She was a little disappointed when instead he said-

“When we get there, stay behind me.”

“Whatever,” Cordelia rolled her eyes, fully intending to ignore his order as she turned on her heel to cross the road.

“Just do as I say for once,” Angel growled as he strode along beside her, black coat billowing around his legs in the evening breeze.

“Batman wannabe,” she muttered under her breath, loud enough for the vampire to hear.

“I’m not….” his words trailed off to nothing as the coppery scent of blood prickled his senses, eyes flashing amber, forehead ridging, fangs lengthening, Angel knew what the scene ahead would look like before it even came into view.

“Cordy, wait,” he grasped her arm bringing her to a sudden stop.

“Will ya quit with the grabby hands already,” she jerked out of his grip and continued striding purposely into the alley, her stubbornness deafening her to the genuine caution in the vampire’s voice.

“Oh….” Cordelia gasped in horror at the carnage in front of her.

Neck twisted at an unnatural angle, intestines spilling out onto the dirty pavement, eyes fixed and unseeing, a dark pool of red forming a halo around the lifeless body.

Amy had changed her hair, the Seer thought vacantly as she stared at the blonde mane that was splattered with blood and dirt

***

The dark cranberry sheets were still unmade when Cordelia sat down on the edge of Angel’s bed, the squeak of the mattress springs punctuating the silence of the dimly lit room like an awkward cough. Cordelia toed off her shoes with a grimace, too many hours spent in too high heels made her feet cramp uncomfortably when she forced them flat against the plush carpet.

“Here,” the vampire handed her a glass of water and two aspirin, even though they both knew it would be of little help. Cordelia swallowed the pills and water then handed the glass back to Angel who set it down on the bedside table between a well worn book and an alarm clock that announced the late hour.

“You OK?” the vampire asked as he squatted down in front of her, he knew it was a stupid question but he didn’t know what else to say.

“There wasn’t that much blood in my vision,” the seer said instead of telling him she was fine like she’d meant to as she ran her hands, hands that for some reason wouldn’t stop shaking, over her thighs, smoothing out the small creases in her pants as though it were the most important task in the world. Angel watched the rhythmic action until he could stand it no longer and swallowed her small hands in his.

Cordelia didn’t know why she was so shocked, it wasn’t as if it were the first dead body she’d seen, she’d grown up in Sunnydale where a girl couldn’t get through the week without stumbling across a corpse or occasional severed limb. Even in her time in LA the young woman had seen things far worse than this, most of them in the private widescreen of her mind. But seeing Amy bleeding and broken had shaken her to the core so much so that it was the second night in a row that Cordelia had been sick in that very alley.

The police had been called, Cordelia didn’t know when or by whom, she couldn’t even remember if she’d spoken to them, but she knew they had been there because of the small rectangle of card in that sat in her purse with the name Detective Stevens printed on it in serious black script. Angel had tried to pull her away from the scene when he’d heard the police sirens in the near distance, he knew they would be instantly under suspicion and not just because of the weapons they were wielding, but Cordelia had refused.

Amy shouldn’t be on her own, she’d said.

Angel didn’t argue.

The scent of death and fear had been overwhelming for the vampire, Angel had revelled in that aroma for over a hundred years but as they stood in the artificial glow of a neon sign, their young client dead at their feet, he’d felt none of the vicious delight he once would have. Just guilt and anger and the overwhelming need to get Cordelia as far away from the carnage as possible.

Beneath the perfume of destruction Angel had picked up another scent.

Not human.

Daniel.

His first instinct had been to track it but Cordelia had turned worryingly pale and the sirens were getting closer and closer, so instead he quickly ran to the car to stash their weapons then wrapped an arm around Cordelia’s shoulders as they waited with for the police to arrive. When she’d buried her face into his chest, Angel realized he was the only thing keeping her standing.

Two hours, a million questions and one stern request not to leave town later, they’d finally returned back to the Hyperion, Cordelia hadn’t spoken during the drive back to the Hotel and it was starting to scare Angel, made him long for her acerbic taunts and petulant muttering.

“It’s my fault she’s dead,” she blurted out the thought that had been at the forefront of her mind ever since they’d arrived to find they were too late.

“No-”

“It is!” Cordelia leapt from the bed and began to pace back and forth, “if I’d just let you go instead of being stupid and starting an argument, you would have got there in time and Amy wouldn’t be dead. This is my fault!” her hazel eyes were her bright with threatened tears, the guilt Angel saw there was like a knife twisting in his stomach.

“Cordy, she was already dead by the time you had the vision,” Angel stopped her frantic movements with a hand on her shoulder.

“How do you know?”

“Vampire, remember? I have a nose for that kinda thing,” he told her gently, leaving out the details because he was sure if he informed Cordelia that the body smelt like it had been there for most of the day would be a little too much for her bare.

“Oh,” it should have been a relief but it wasn’t, not really. Someone they were trying to protect was still dead, a woman she had liked still laid lifeless on the cold metal of a morgue table, the monster that had done this was still on the loose.

“Don’t blame yourself for this, Cordy.”

“Kinda hard not to,” she sighed, sitting back down heavily on the bed again.

“Cor-”

“Why couldn’t I tell it was Amy?” she asked, not expecting an answer, which was just as well because Angel didn’t have one, “I should have known it was Amy. We didn’t take this guy seriously enough, we don’t even know what kind of demon he is Angel, how can we not know what kinda of demon he is?”
Because we’ve all been too caught up in our personal lives, Angel thought.

“We’ll find out and we’ll catch him, he won’t get away with this,” he said instead.

“Promise?” Cordelia asked, not caring how feeble she sounded because she felt feeble, she felt feeble and stupid and all she wanted was for Angel to make this all better, no matter what he had to do. The vampire sat down on the bed beside her and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, no longer flinching at the contact because this was Cordelia and that’s all that mattered.

“Promise,” he swore and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

“Why didn’t the powers send me the vision earlier?” she voiced the question that had been going through Angel’s mind ever since he realized Amy had been dead for hours, not minutes.

“I don’t know,” he said honestly, wishing he had a better answer for her.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much blood before, which is strange because I see blood all the time, but never that much at once.”

“Shh shh,” he tried to hush her.

“I mean, it’s just blood, right? No different from the red stuff in the refrigerator,” she tipped her face up to look at him, eyes wide with confusion, “so why can’t I stop seeing it?”

Angel frowned and tucked her hair behind ears, his thumbs brushing a delicate path over her cheekbones. When the tears finally threatened to fall, Cordelia squeezed her eyes firmly shut and buried her face into the comforting expanse of Angel’s shoulder. Crying wouldn’t make Amy not dead, it the wouldn’t find the evil bastard that had raped and murdered her, she doubted it would even make her feel better, so she swallowed the hot burn of sadness that stung at the back of her throat down and concentrated on the way Angel was rubbing her arm. Cordelia inhaled a long calming breath into the lungs and pushed the sight of blood and broken flesh to the back of memory with the rest of the horrors she’d been forced to see since that horrible night they’d lost Doyle.

Don’t think about it, deal with it another time, write it on a post it note and pray it doesn’t send me mad, Cordelia thought abstractly.

“You smell good,” the young woman murmured before she even realized she had been thinking about it.

Maybe she was already mad.

“New laundry detergent,” Angel said as his eyes slipped shut and he rested his chin on the top of her head.

“S’nice,” Cordelia inhaled the soft aroma again until it was all she knew.

Maybe insanity wasn’t so bad.

Slow minutes ticked by without a word spoken, so different from the tense silence that had encapsulated the majority of their day together. Cordelia couldn’t even remember why she’d been so angry with Angel before, it didn’t seem to matter now, wasn’t important in comparison to what she’d seen tonight.

“We should start the research,” Cordelia unwillingly broke the easy silence and comforting embrace, the movement made her head swim and she automatically pressed her fingers to her temples to try an quell the pain she’d barely thought about tonight, even though was always on the peripheries of her awareness.

“It can wait till morning,” Angel told her in a tone of voice that he hoped would brook no argument.

For once it worked.

“Sometimes I wish I could just have these damn visions sucked out of my head for good,” she sighed and rubbed her hands over her face, she didn’t see the guilt that flashed across the vampire’s face.

“You should try and get some sleep.”

“No, if I close my eyes I’ll just keep seeing…” she trailed off, “I don’t think sleep is going to help,” Cordelia smiled a wry smile that didn’t reach her eyes.

“Maybe you should eat something,” Angel said remembering the pitiful sound of his best friend spilling everything she’d eaten today onto the sidewalk, “I could make you an omelette? Or maybe some pasta, pasta might be better-”

“I’m not hungry Angel, really.”

“Sure? Because I don’t mind cooking if you’re hungry.”

“You know, on occasion, you can be very sweet,” Cordelia knitted her fingers through his as she repeated her earlier declaration, this time without the venomous ass calling.

“It’s not you’re fault, Cordy,” he repeated his early assurance.

“You being sweet?”

“What that monster did to Amy,” Angel clarified.

“She was so scared Angel, I felt…she knew what he was going to do…that there was nothing she could do to stop him. I felt it, saw it….” Cordelia shook her head trying to chase away both the vision and reality from her abused mind, “seriously, if I ever meet those damn powers that be, I’m gonna bitch slap their omnipotent butts into next week.”

Angel watched the almost physical change come over his best friend as she refused to be broken by the horrors of the night, Cordelia Chase was not the kind of woman that would let the world bring her to her knees, though she might stumble and fall she always found away to stand again.

She smoothed down her hair, straightened her spine, wiped away the invisible stain of tears that hadn’t fallen and looked very much like the carefree girl he’d first met so many years ago in Sunnydale.

The vampire knew it was just a mask to cover the frayed edges of hurt that dwelt inside her soul and wondered what the price would be the day she couldn’t pretend anymore, when one ill wind too many knocked her down and she didn’t have the energy to be what she thought they expected her to be.

“So, I guess we’d better have sex then.” Cordelia’s no-nonsense tone caused his head to jerk up with surprise.

“Excuse me?” Angel felt like he’d missed an entire conversation.

“Vision sex, remember? To get rid of the jack hammer in my head so I can think without wanting to throw up? Any of this sounding familiar?” Cordelia tapped a finger against his temple as she hid behind a smile that threatened to crack around the edges.

“Right,” he nodded with a frown, “I just thought….”

“What?”

“Well, you’re kinda shaken up, maybe we should just wait-”

“I’m fine, Angel. Really,” she smiled at him like he was being ridiculous. Cordelia began unbutton her blouse as if to prove to him she was OK.

It would have been quite convincing if it weren’t for the fact that her hands were trembling.

“Cordy, wait,” Angel stilled her hands.

The plastic smile faltered.

“We have to do this,” Cordelia’s voice was steady but her hazel eyes betrayed the turmoil of emotions that the day and evening had stirred inside her.

“I know,” he said carefully, “but not like that,” Angel cupped the side of her face as though she were made of the finest porcelain, and in that moment Cordelia felt like she was, like she would break into a million pieces in the softest of breezes. A breath caught sharply in her throat when the vampire’s hands brushed against her breasts as he unbuttoned her blouse, his fingers moving slowly as though he feared one wrong move might tear the material or break a delicate button.

“OK?” Angel asked when the last button had been released.

Cordelia nodded mutely.

Angel felt the urge to run his fingertips down the strip of amber flesh that had become visible to him, to trace a path from her clavicle, down the valley between her breasts to her navel, so he did exactly that before his brain could tell him that he shouldn’t.

Cordelia shivered at the touch.

“You cold?” Angel flicked his gaze to hers.

Cordelia bit her lip and shook her head, guiding his hands to her blouse as she did so. His eyes didn’t leave hers as he slowly slipped the garment from her shoulders.

While Angel had seen Cordelia naked before, and she he, they’d never undressed in front of each other, never indulged in the intimate ritual of disrobing before each others eyes like lovers.

It excited Cordelia just as much as it terrified her.

Angel trailed his fingers along the path of her collarbone, momentarily hypnotised by the beat of blood beneath her skin until he reached the strap of her practical white cotton bra, he hesitated for a second before he pushed the strap aside and pressed a chaste path of kisses from the thin line of flesh that it had hidden to the far too tempting curve of her neck.

Cordelia let her eyes slip shut as his lips moved over her skin, letting the guilt and fear ebb away under his feather light touch, even though her body still crackled with nerves because this was Angel and they didn’t do this kind of thing.

“Angel,” she whispered, threading her fingers through his hair, gently tugging at the gelled spikes to get his attention. The vampire tensed and pulled away, worried he’d stepped over the line.

“I’m sorry-”

Cordelia pressed a finger against his lips to stop his apology, a nervous smile and shake of her head told him that he hadn’t done anything wrong. When nimble fingers skirted to the hem of his sweater, then beneath it, Angel barely managed to stifle the groan that bubbled up in his throat. Tangling his hands through her hair, Angel leant his forehead against Cordelia’s as her nails grazed curiously over his chest, feminine fingers reading his chest like Braille, over the hard nubs of his nipples, down the ladder of his ribs and finally tracing maddening patterns through the trail of soft hair that began at his navel. Her fingers fluttered over the thick metal of his belt buckle for a timeless moment until they ventured further south down the line of his zipper.

A bolt of hard desire shot sharply to his groin.

“Cordy….” his voice was a whisper that cut through the silence, making her hands stutter in their explorations.

She blinked when Angel tugged off his sweater and let it crumple into an untidy pile at the foot of the bed.

“Sure?” Angel asked once again.

Through all the nerves, pain, guilt and arousal, Cordelia felt the sudden and all consuming desire to smack him around the head. Instead, the young woman scooted across the bed and let her head fall to the pillow as her answer.

Angel realized two things as he stood and unbuckled his belt, his eyes roaming over the woman laid invitingly across his bed.

Firstly, this wasn’t as awkward as it should be.

Secondly, as he toed off his boots, unbuttoned his fly and let his pants fall to a heap on the carpet, he kinda wanted to do this.

Cordelia watched as the vampire’s slacks hit the floor, colour rising to her cheeks when once again she was reminded that Angel and underwear would never exist in the same sentence. The flush of pink that prickled at her skin wasn’t borne of embarrassment though, and that surprised her.

Mmm, a salty goodness, fluttered through her brain without her consent.

“Salty what?” Angel frowned.

“Nothing,” Cordelia said quickly, horrified that the thought hadn’t been as silent as she’d meant it to be.

The vampire narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her, seemingly unconcerned with the fact that he was naked.

And hard.

“You planning on standing there all night?” she jerked her head in invitation to cover the nerves that were beginning to twist in her belly. Angel simply cocked an eyebrow in reply before he crawled onto the bed like a big, naked, cat. The demon in him delighted at the sudden increase of her heartbeat while his soul forced him to be gentle, to be cautious, because Cordelia was his best friend and even he could see that she wasn’t as OK as she insisted.

Cordelia felt every nerve ending in her body spark to attention when Angel pressed a kissed to the feminine curve of her stomach, the tongue that she’d so fervently decided would not being doing those wicked things he’d done the night before, now dipping into her navel as the vampire unbuttoned her pants, lifting her hips as he slipped them down her thighs.

Her eyes fluttered open, she couldn’t remember closing them, as the reverent kisses ended. Blinking to focus her gaze, Cordelia was greeted by the sight of Angel towering over her, uncertainty etching across his face.

“I’m OK, Angel,” she reassured him, or maybe it was herself she was trying to convince, she didn’t know, didn’t care, because when he was touching her the pain wasn’t so sharp, the guilt not so difficult to bare, the ghost of the woman they’d failed not so horrifying.

“I worry about you,” he murmured honestly.

“I know,” Cordelia cupped the side of his face, “if it helps, I worry about me too,” she smiled the first real smile of the evening.

“Not really, but that does,” Angel brushed his thumb across her curve of her bottom lip.

The atmosphere shifted and stilled in a quiet heartbeat as fingertips learnt the history of each others faces. In the shadowy room that housed its own ghosts of the past, the line of their friendship blurred even more, need, comfort and the first frightening sparks of real desire stirred together in the loud silence.

Cordelia’s eyes widened as Angel’s lips began to descend, the words no, we don’t kiss were stuck in her throat, her head frozen and refusing to turn away like her brain told it to as they inched closer and closer and-

Pressed a kiss to her forehead.

Cordelia didn’t know if she was relieved or disappointed. Thankfully, she didn’t have long to think about it as the vampire began to touch her with earnest, his hands had lost the awkwardness of their first time as they teased her nipples through the soft cotton of her bra, a mouth skilled with over two hundred years of experience quickly making her breath turn to silent pants of desire as his hands snaked behind her back.

“Where’s the damn clasp on this thing?” Angel muttered between blunt nips on the tantalising rise of her breasts.

“On the front,” Cordelia chuckled a little breathlessly.

“Of course,” the vampire said dryly, what was it about this woman that made him feel like a fumbling sixteen year old?

A one handed twist and snap unclasped the cotton bra and Angel felt his ego return with a knowing smirk.

“Yes, you’re very talented, well done,” Cordelia rolled her eyes and patted his shoulder as her breasts were bared to the cool air of the room and the even cooler caress of the vampire’s lips.

“Talented….” she sighed and arched into his mouth.

Angel didn’t even try to hide the wolfish smile that crept over his face.

“Like that?” he whispered huskily as he bit down gently on the pebbled flesh, he was rewarded with a gasped uh huh from hisbest friend.

The world began to swim around Cordelia as Angel’s lips, teeth and tongue travelled a maddening path over her breasts, her fingers kneading into the hard muscles of the vampires shoulders as she silently begged him not to stop, to not leave her, to make everything better.

To take the throbbing guilt that burnt in her chest and turn it into something she could understand.

“Angel,” Cordelia panted as she tangled her legs with his to bring him closer, not realizing that it was the first time his name had fallen from her lips in desire.

The vampire noticed though, it made the demon silently roar with possession and caused his hips to jerk into the cradle of her thighs with a groanedCordy rumbling through his chest. She hissed in pleasure when his cock ground against her clit through the cotton of her panties and Angel had to use all the willpower he could muster not to buck into her roughly.

Gently, slowly, became his mantra as he peppered her pink flushed skin with reverent kisses, his hips easing to a maddeningly slow rhythm that made Cordelia whine with annoyance.

“Shhh,” he trailed his lips down the valley of her breasts, fight roughened fingers twisting through the elastic of her panties, his mouth following their journey as he dragged them down her thighs.

The scent of her desire hit him like the finest perfume and beckoned to him.

“Wait!” Cordelia grabbed a handful spiky hair when she realized what he was about to do.

“What’s wrong?” Angel frowned, his tongue darting unconsciously over his bottom lip as though he were a starving man about to eat.

Cordelia’s face burnt crimson but she couldn’t seem to pull her gaze away from his mouth.

“Cordelia?”

“Hmm?”

“What’s wrong?” he gestured to the hand in his hair.

“Oh, er…” she tried to think of a way to say what she didn’t really want to say.

The way the vampire’s thumbs were tracing gossamer promises on the inside of her knees wasn’t helping her concentration.

“Cordy?” Angel repeated, starting to worry. He knew they should have waited a while, Cordelia was shaken by the events of the night, she’d needed time to calm down, he should have been more adamant instead of letting the desires of his demon rule his reactions. “We should have waited, it’s been a long night and-”

“I don’t think you should go down on me,” she blurted out in a rush.

“Why?” he asked, surprised and more than a little disappointed.

“Were you not aware of the weird mood you were in today?”

“That wasn’t because of last night.”

“Uh huh.”

“It wasn’t.”

“Fine, whatever, I still don’t think we should do that again.”

“Why not?”

“Can we not talk about this right now?” Cordelia muttered, starting to feel a little uncomfortable in having a conversation with Angel while his head was between her thighs

“What if I want to?” Angel nodded to the dark patch of soft curls.

“Do you?” she asked, surprised.

“Well…yeah,” the wolf smile was back again and the sight of it pooled molten desire into her womb.

The vampire watched the argument die in her eyes.

“If you wig out on me again….” Cordelia trailed off and flopped back onto the bed, her hands clasped firmly over her face as she grumbled about orally fixated vampire’s and their ridiculous mood swings.

Her hips shot off the bed at the touch of tongue against her most sensitive flesh.

“Jesus!” she quite happily took the Lords name in vain with a loud moan. When Angel laughed it vibrated through every nerve in her body but Cordelia was too far gone to do anything but grasp at the headboard and try not to think about fragile friendships, vision pain and clients being murdered in alleyways.

Which wasn’t really that difficult seeing as Cordelia was having problems remembering how to do the most basic of things, such as breathing, while Angel attempted to devour her.

Everything the vampire had felt the night before was once again ignited as Angel re-learnt the essence of his best friend, Cordelia’s soft bitten back mewls filled his ears as her scent took over the broken places inside him, a flame of possession burnt sharply up his spine and threatened to make his demon show itself across his face.

“Oh God….” Cordelia panted uselessly, eyes squeezed shut, fingers desperately grasping for purchase as the universe shrunk to a pin point between her thighs. She could feel the blood moving through her veins, every cell in her body throbbing with the drag of his tongue, too much, too good, too wonderful, the pain in her head was wrapped with a soothing balm with every nip of his teeth and thrust of his fingers, the cracks in her heart smoothed over, tired soul brought back to life by the once Scourge of Europe, “….Angel.”

Mine, his name once more on her lips was all the demon needed as a catalyst and before Cordelia could even whimper in annoyance at the loss of his lips, Angel was above and inside her with a sharp thrust of his hips.

“Oh!” Cordelia exclaimed in surprise as her body struggled to accommodate the sudden intrusion.

“God, Cordy, I’m sorry,” Angel apologised in a rush, horrified at the slip of his control. Even though demon victoriously roared it’s possession, Angel shifted to pull out of her the tight warmth he was enveloped in.

“No, wait,” she panted roughly, wrapping her legs around his hips to still his exit, forcing the vampire’s guilty eyes to meet hers.

“I’m sorry,” Angel repeated, his arms shaking with raw tension.

“S’OK,” Cordelia insisted, running her hands over the tight muscles of his shoulders, “was just a little unexpected, is all. But in a good way.” As if to prove her point, the young woman rolled her hips against his.

A mutual groan filled the air.

“Cor-” Angel felt what little control he’d struggle to regain begin to fray around the edges again.

“I’m OK,” she whispered again and again until his hips began to move against hers, slow, gentle thrusts in the rhythm of his silent mantra, an apology made physical by gentle kisses against her forehead.

Gentle, slow, gentle, slow, gentle, slow, repeated over and over in his mind, desperate to be what Cordelia needed, not a hard, fast fuck, gentle and slow, to take away the pain, not cause it, not to take, gentle, slow, gentle-

Cordelia’s nails bit sharply into his shoulders and his restraint was shot to hell.

Angel buried his face into Cordelia’s neck as he felt the skin and bones of his forehead began to shift, praying to a God that had deserted him centuries ago that she wouldn’t notice. The sudden stinging pain and low feminine moans of need was too much for the demon that had been denied for so long.

It was too much, everything he’d tried to deny or ignore all day bubbled to the surface, Cordelia’s hand on Gunn thigh, his arms around her waist, the way she laughed for the black man flashed through the fog of his memory and caused a low possessive growl to vibrate through his chest before he could stop it, he was dancing on the edge of control, so tempting to fall over the line, chain her wrists to his bed and fuck the jealousy he’d felt burning inside him into Cordelia’s body.

The vampire grappled madly at the end of that thought in horror.

No.

Cordy.

Won’t do that, not what this is about, for her, needs comfort, not possessiveness

He frantically tried to reign in the demon, forcing the return of his human face upon his features. Angel tore himself away the gossamer thin skin of her neck, there was too much temptation there, too much blood beating beneath the surface, just too much. But the sight of Cordelia’s cheeks mottled with a pink flush, the sheen of sweat at her temples, hazel eyes black with need, beneath him, he surrounded her, their difference in size barely noticed until now as Angel’s hips pumped inside her, rougher than he meant, meant to be gentle, for her, was worse. Too tempting to simply let go, steal those lips and leave possessive bruises on her breasts, mark her, parade his ownership.

Cordelia’s breath panted across his lips, so close, closer than they’d ever been before. Angel’s fingers itched to tangle themselves in her hair, to get lost in the thick mane that tumbled across his pillows. His pillows, his bed, his Cordelia-

Stop! Angel barked silently at the animal that threatened at take over, his body now still with tension.

He turned his head to the side and screwed his eyes shut as he fought for the control that seemed to allude him tonight, when he needed it the most.

“Angel?” Cordelia panted nervously when Angel hadn’t moved for a long moment.

“I….” he shook his head, the hard lines of his back twitched beneath her fingers, long steel coils of tension.

“What-”

Angel didn’t let her finish the question as he tumbled them so he was beneath her, her legs still wrapped tightly around his back as she straddled him.

He watched the surprise flash in her eyes at their sudden change of position, Cordelia felt the urge to cover herself with her arms, which she knew was ridiculous, but for some reason the young woman felt more naked sitting astride Angel than she did beneath him. She wanted to tell him this was too much but as she tried to find the words Angel’s hips bucked upwards, driving his cock inside her deeply.

Oh,” Cordelia’s eyes fluttered shut, “do that again.”

So he did.

“S’good….” she murmured thickly as her head rolled back, not caring about anything but the perfect place his cock hit with every movement, nothing else mattered, not the blood, the guilt, the fear, just this delicious rasp of skin against skin, body meeting body, hands that made her feel safe grasping her hips, she didn’t care that it was Angel that was making her feel like this, she needed it to be him, had to be him, his hands, his lips, his body that filled her dreams and visions.

Angel knew he wasn’t going to last much longer, his control had been shattered and reformed and shattered again too many times, the tight wet heat that enveloped him too good not to lose himself in, this golden goddess astride him too beautiful, his, riding him, his cock buried inside her, all his, all his all his….

“Cordy, come for me,” his words sent a tidal wave of liquid heat rolled through Cordelia’s womb, the press of his thumb against the swollen flesh of her clit flushed pleasure from her fingers to her toes, again and again, don’t stop, god, don’t stop, fell from her lips without her consent as the universe turned itself inside out behind her eyes, hips moving of their own volition, a staccato drum of pleasure beating through her blood, more and more and more until the world exploded with a climax that ripped through her body in shuddering ripples that clenched tightly around the vampire inside her, pulling his release from him in a silent cry

***

“I think we’re getting better at that,” Cordelia told the ceiling some time later when she’d regained the use of her voice.

“It was a definite improvement,” Angel agreed, body spent and demon quiet.

“Uh huh,” she nodded, no longer concerned or embarrassed about being sprawled naked beside Angel, she’d think about that in the morning because right now she was too tired and too relaxed to worry about modesty.

In fact, Cordelia had a lot to think about in the morning.

“Vision hangover?” the vampire shifted on his side, head propped up on his elbow.

“Gone,” she sleepily smiled her thanks and rolled onto her front to face him, “I should get going,” Cordelia yawned, “need to make an early start in the morning,” she buried the side of her face into the pillow, “lots of research to do,” her eyes slipped shut, “I should…go home….”

“Uh huh,” Angel agreed quietly as he pulled the rumpled bed sheet over them both.

“Just gimme a minute….”

“OK,” the vampire tucked the hair that had fallen across her face behind her ear and listened to her even breathing and steady heartbeat.

Angel had no intention of letting Cordelia leave his bed

***

Red roses are such a cliché, yellow are much more sincere, the man thought happily as he arranged the extravagant bouquet in front of him.

He’d been disappointed to discover that the young woman who’d charmed him so completely the night before was not home, he’d tried to gain entry to the small apartment but a cold unseen force had barred his way.

Maybe it was for the best.

He could wait a little while longer.

She would be worth it.

Even if she’d lied about her name. Did she not think he’d discover the lie?

“People in love shouldn’t lie to each other, Cordelia,” he tsk’d.

“There, that’s perfect,” he declared as he stood up and stepped back from his creation.

Twelve yellow roses, each one lovingly smeared with sticky red blood.

Part 11

Posted June 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

His Lady Lazerus. 9   1 comment

Part 9

The sharp clack of Cordelia’s heels hitting the lobby floor shattered the haze of calculations and theorems that swam through Fred’s brain, pulling her away from the safe haven of numbers that she still felt the need to return to every once in a while.

“Is he coming down?” the Physicist asked from where she still sat in the middle of the Hyperion lobby, proud that she hadn’t retreated to the comforting shadows beneath Wesley’s desk.

Cordelia stood staring with glazed eyes at the dark corridor she had just come from.

“Cordelia?”

“Huh?” the once Sunnydale head cheerleader blinked and dragged her gaze to the other woman.

“Angel? Is he coming downstairs?” Fred asked again, only to be rewarded with a blank look that soon flicked back to the top of the stairs, “Cordy?”

Cordelia chewed on her bottom lip, “hmm?”

“You OK?” the Texan asked her softly, her voice laced with genuine concern.

“Sure.”

“And Angel?”

“What about him?”

“Is he OK?”

“Just peachy,” Cordelia muttered with frown as she turned on her heel and walked to her desk.

Wiping her grease stained hands on an equally grease stained rag, Fred extracted herself from behind the small mountain of metal and wire that was her latest attempt to be of some use to Angel Investigations and made her way over to the lobby counter. Fred watched curiously as Cordelia fiddled with the flotsam and jetsam that had built up on her desk, usually animated hazel eyes glazed over with a thousand mile stare, the kind of stare that Wesley had made his own of late.

The physicist rested her elbows on the counter as she studied Cordelia as though she were the subject of her latest science project.

The dark circles beneath Cordelia’s eyes, which they’d all noticed but never seemed to speak about, were gone. Her hazel eyes were bright, if distracted, tanned skin no longer tired but glowing.

Cordelia looked…alive.

Which is a good thing, Fred thought as she watched the other woman while she repeatedly picked up and put down the various items in front of her, Cordelia looked young and healthy, exactly as it should be. Yet it nagged something in the corner of the Texan’s busy brain.

As the Physicist watched Cordelia straighten the cup of pencils and yellow notepad for the third time since she’d sat at her desk, the sound of the front door whooshing open and shut announced either a client or a member of AI had arrived at the Hotel.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a client. From the thump thump of heavy footfalls and the brush of what Fred guessed was denim, she knew it was Gunn without needing to turn around. In the short time she’d been here Fred had learnt all of their sounds, as she’d hidden in a room with nothing but a pen in her hand and the wall in front of her, the Texan had catalogued the noises that passed by her closed door. Cordelia’s clicking confident steps, Gunn’s easy amble, Wesley’s elegant stride. Angel was the only one she had trouble recognising, but she figured that was because he’d had a hundred and fifty odd years to practise not being seen or heard.

“Morning,” Fred quietly greeted the black man who now stood beside her, her eyes still glued to where Cordelia sat. The Seer had graduated from blindly tidying her desk to crossing and uncrossing her legs while manicured nails tapped a random beat against the arm of her chair.

“Whatcha doin?” Gunn asked, his gaze flickering between the brunette beside him and the brunette fidgeting like a nervous squirrel.

“Watching Cordelia,” Fred whispered theatrically out of the corner of her mouth.

“OK,” he nodded slowly, confused.

Slow seconds ticked by as the pair silently observed Cordelia.

She crossed her legs.

Uncrossed them.

Tapped her pen against the edge of the desk.

Quickly turned the pages of the magazine she’d been earlier been entranced with, glossy images that had almost hypnotised her now flashed by unnoticed.

“Why are we watching Cordy?” Gunn whispered as the woman in question began to chew her nails.

“Because.”

“O-K.”

“Shh.”

“What’s-” Gunn started to ask what the deal was with Barbie but the question became lost in his throat as Cordelia stood, her chair rolling behind her and colliding with a filing cabinet with a dull thud.

“Angel,” said Cordelia, noticing for the first time that she wasn’t alone.

“No,” Fred shook her head slowly, “Fred and Charles,” the Texan said their names slowly as though she were talking to a child.

“What?” Cordelia gave her the Fred’s acting weird again look that they all used at one time or another.

Fred frowned and tried again, “I’m Fred and this is-”

“Hey,” Angel spoke up from were he was standing behind them.

The vampire tried not to laugh at the way Fred and Gunn startled with surprise.
“You did that on purpose,” Gunn attempted to regain his cool calm exterior after having jumped what felt like a foot in the air.

“Maybe a little,” Angel shrugged, the corner of his mouth twitching into what may either have been a smile or the beginning of a nervous tick. “No Wes this morning?” he asked, the ex watcher’s scent was all over the black man.

Sex and misery. It was a potent aroma.

“How should I know?” grunted Gunn, he didn’t want to think about the man he had just walked away from, didn’t want to think about those three words he’d promised himself he’d never say. He didn’t want to think, period. Before Angel could ask him anything else that might make him think about confessions of love and damning silences, Gunn hustled his way around the counter and sat down heavily on the edge of Cordelia’s desk.

“OK then,” Angel muttered under his breath, his eyes purposely not meeting Cordelia’s. He could feel her eyes on him, confused about the scene upstairs.

The urge to look her way twisted in his gut, give her a reassuring smile, everything is fine, just in a weird mood. The vampire could smell her nervousness from where he stood, trepidation and confusion mixed with the lingering scent of sex.

Of him. Of them.

Together.

Angel swallowed and dug his hands into his pockets, if he looked at Cordelia right now he had a feeling he’d do something stupid.

“Sorry about not calling in last night,” he apologised to Fred because Fred was safe, he hadn’t seen her naked, hadn’t licked the curve of her hip bone, she didn’t smell of sex and need and….actually, she kinda smelt like Lorne. A whole lot of Lorne, in fact.

Angel tried not to think about that too much.

“Uh huh,” Fred cocked an eyebrow at him.

“I guess we forgot,” Angel answered contritely.

“So I heard,” the Texan nodded and returned to the dangerous heap of metal and wire that sat ignored on the lobby floor. Scratching the back of his head, Angel struggled to find the words to quell the skinny Physicists annoyance.

This would usually be where Cordelia stepped in.

With that thought Angel’s gaze finally locked onto his best friend, she sat once more at her desk, her face tilted upwards with concern as she quietly asked Gunn what was troubling him. The black man offered a weak smile and squeezed the feminine hand that rested on his thigh.

Cordelia’s hand.

Angel’s fists clenched as if to contain the violence that threatened to spill out of his fingertips as the demon rattled an angry howl of ownership through his skeleton, for a terrible moment the vampire saw himself ripping Gunn’s head from his shoulders in a bloody display of ownership…and enjoying it. The urge to take Cordelia away from the other man rose up overwhelmingly in his borrowed blood, to throw her over his shoulder or drag her upstairs by her hair and claim what was hi-

With a sharp shake of his head, Angel tried to dispel the primal whisperings of his demon.

The demon wanted and it terrified the soul.

The soul loved and it angered the demon.

All Angel could do was batten down his baser urges and wait for it to pass, if it ever would. He’d thought he’d accomplished that upstairs in his room, the ritual of sitting alone in the shadows until the whisperings went unnoticed had helped to quell the want but upon seeing Cordelia, the woman who’s scent still lingered on his tongue, his demon pulled sharply at it’s leash.

“Angel?” Fred’s voice sounded in the recesses of his brain, Angel struggled to tear his gaze away from where Cordelia was still affectionately stroking Gunn’s thigh, silently telling himself it was just a platonic gesture of comfort and even if it were anything else (and from the smell of Wesley and sex that shrouded the black man Angel was certain it wasn’t), it would be none of his business because he and Cordelia were nothing but friends.

Cordelia was just his friend, co-worker, seer, the woman who’d promised to be with him until he became human, no matter how long it took. Cordy, who tastes of equal parts night and day, of woman, of desire that-

“Angel!

OK, now Fred had his full attention.

“Yes?” Angel turned his back to Cordelia and Gunn so his eyes wouldn’t be tempted to drift back to them.

“This is the worst apology I’ve ever been part of,” the Texan told him dryly, but the amusement in her eyes belied her tone.

“Sorry,” he gave her his patented half smile and crouched down beside her even as every cell in Angel’s body told him go over to Cordelia’s desk, take her upstairs and-

“They’re just friends, Angel.”

“What?” the vampire blinked, frightened that Fred had somehow developed the ability to read minds.

“Cordelia and Charles, you shouldn’t be jealous, they’re just friends.”

“I’m not jealous,” Angel declared.

Fred looked at Angel evenly, her silence made him uncomfortable.

“I’m not jealous, why would I be jealous?”

Still he was answered with nothing but a knowing silence from the Physicist.

“Fred, for the last time, there’s nothing-”

“Going on between you and Cordy, yeah, that’s what she said. Just like there’s nothing going between Wesley and Charles,” Fred rolled her eyes, “y’all need to stop lying to yourselves and each other, it’ll just end badly.”

The sudden sweet sound of Cordelia laughing made whatever Angel was about to say die an instant death in his mouth. Usually, the sound of her laughter, which had been horribly infrequent since the visions had begun to take their toll, would bring a smile to the vampire’s face, whether he was aware of it or not. But this time, knowing it was Gunn that had caused that sweet sound, Gunn, whose thigh she had been touching, Angel scowled.

Fred noticed the vampire’s dark expression and felt a twist of fear in her belly, or maybe that was the cold pizza she’d had for breakfast. Whatever it was soon dissipated though as she watched his scowl turn into undisguided confusion. Fred reached out and patted his shoulder sympathetically, she of all people understood how confusing it was when you fell in love with someone you shouldn’t.

“So, what’s this do?” Angel asked her, changing the subject and hopefully putting a stop to the pitying way she was looking at him.

“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you,” Fred warned but it was too late, Angel had already pressed the red button that she hadn’t had time to mark with a caution label. The vampire ducked as a large throwing axe shot out from the middle of Fred’s waffle iron of death and whistled past his ear, wincing at the loud thud that resonated as it imbedded itself into the wall behind them.

“Cool.” Angel nodded, impressed.

“If you hurt her, Wesley Charles and Lorne will hunt you down and cut off your head,” Fred said before she could stop herself.

Angel blinked.

“Just thought I should let you know,” she smiled and nudged her glasses up her nose. Not waiting for his reply, not that he actually had one, Fred stood and ambled over to the other side of the lobby where she used both hands and all her strength to prise the axe from the wall.

Unfortunately it stuck firm.

“Um, a little help here?” Fred called over her shoulder.

***

“What’s up with the vampire?” Gunn nodded over to where they could hear the crunch of Angel pulling the something out of the wall.

“Why does everyone keep asking me that? I’m not his keeper,” Cordelia snapped, shifting irritably in her seat.

“No need to get your panties in a twist there, Barbie.”

“I don’t think Wes would be too happy hearing you talk about my delicates.”

Gunn’s only reply was a raised eyebrow.

Cordelia saw that eyebrow and raised one of her own.

They’d reached a stalemate.

“Wanna change the subject?” Gunn asked hopefully.

“Works for me,” nodded Cordelia, she didn’t want to talk about Angel’s testy mood and Gunn didn’t want to talk about whatever it was that had caused the hurt that was so plainly etched in his eyes. Cordelia had tried to wheedle the information out of him of course, but the men of Angel Inc. weren’t exactly know for being chatty Kathys about their love lives.

“So, what have we got on our favourite stalker?”

“Unsurprisingly, very little,” Cordelia sighed opening the case file that never seemed to leave her desk. “We really suck at the whole detecting gig, don’t we? Of course it didn’t help that the powers deemed it the perfect time to send me a vision just as creepy Dan was inviting me back to his place. Stupid PTB.”

“Or smart PTB,” Gunn shrugged, none of them had liked using Cordelia as the bait the night before, Cordelia least of all, but they’d had little choice. What little they did know about the thing that was stalking their client was that it was dangerous. Very dangerous. “Maybe they thought you were in over your head and sent a little divine intervention?”

“What, don’t you think I could have taken him?” she narrowed her eyes at him.

“No offence kid, but you’re not exactly known for your fighting skills.”

“Hey, I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself!”

“Sure you are,” Gunn nodded patronisingly.

“I’ll have you know one time I took on a whole bunch of demons armed with nothing but a spatula.” Cordelia stated proudly, but frowned when she remembered that wasn’t quite true. “The Slayer may have helped. A little.”

Gunn snorted with laughter and Cordelia felt the worry that had been growing inside her for her two friends ease a little. As long as the black man could laugh things couldn’t be that bad, right?

“Laugh it up chuckles,” Cordelia stood and poked a sharp finger into his chest, “have you forgotten the concussion I gave one of your boys? I bet I could kick your ass,” she crossed her arms over her chest with a smirk, a mischievous glint in her eye.

“Woman, you couldn’t even bruise this beautiful body,” Gunn spread his arms out by his sides, puffing out his chest like the alpha male he was.

“Is that so?” Cordelia unsuccessfully fought against the grin that was threatening to spread across her face.

“Hell yeah.”

“Come on then, lets see what you’ve got,” fists raised in front of her, Cordelia bounced on her toes in before him.

“Careful, you might break a nail.”

“Scared an itty bitty little woman might dent that enormous ego of yours?” Cordelia threw a couple playful punches at his shoulder.

“Move over Tyson, there’s a new slugger in town,” he laughed and wondered if Cordelia realised just how ridiculous she looked.

Theirs was a cherished friendship, no awkward silences or broken hearts, no shattered expectations or vision induced desire. It was simple, easy, and as Gunn barely even swayed against Cordelia’s playful punches, the black man ached to have simplicity with Wesley. They’d had it once, comrades in arms, unlikely best friends, but sex and love had torn apart the simplest parts of their relationship and Gunn knew nothing could ever bring them back. If only he hadn’t said it, felt it, if only Wesley wasn’t so terrified, if only-

“You could at least pay attention while I’m trying to kick your ass,” Cordelia ceased her attack and stepped into the gap between Gunn’s legs, her hands anchored onto his broad shoulders with a concerned squeeze, “Gunn, you know you can tell me anything, right?”

In that moment he wanted to tell Cordelia, wanted to share the burden of the three little words he shouldn’t have said, tell her how wonderful it had been at the beginning, let out all the emotions he’d so guardedly held within for so long.
Cordelia watched as Gunn opened and closed his mouth, silent words forming but losing the battle for life as they were once again swallowed down. He looked at her with apologetic eyes and a gentle moment of understanding blanketed the pair.

“OK, I’ll quit nagging,” Cordelia acquiesced with a kiss pressed to the top of his bald head. Gunn’s arms circled the her waist, accepting the comfort offered with a smile.

“Isn’t there work we should be doing?” the vampire’s bass timbre shattered their peaceful embrace.

Cordelia felt her stomach flip at the sound of Angel’s voice, oddly roughened with anger, the cause of which she knew not. Stepping out of the circle of Gunn’s arms, Cordelia turned to face Angel, arms folded across his chest, jaw visibly twitching with tension as he glared at the black man.

Angel finally met her gaze for the first time since he’d joined them downstairs.

It was there again, in his eyes, the same eyes she’d found herself lost in upstairs as his strong hand had possessed her wrist for that infinite moment, silent promises of nights filled with unquenchable desire, mouths gasping, hands claiming, flesh painted with sweat and moonlight as he gave her everything he had, his, she was his, no one elses, not anymore, the rasp of cotton sheets against her back, his lips anchored to the curve of her shoulder, brutal in his beauty, raw in his passion, and all of it for her….

The prickle of heat across her skin told Cordelia she was blushing.

The heat between her thighs told Cordelia she needed to get as far away from the vampire as she could.

She watched mutely as the vampire’s nostrils flared, the brunette didn’t even want to consider what it was he was scenting, but she had a good idea anyway and it made the light pink flush on Cordelia’s cheeks darken to crimson.

Then he was gone without another word, the door to the basement slamming in his wake.

“Is it just me or is Angel looking like he might be heading towards another epiphany? And not a good one,” Gunn wondered out loud.

A loud crash resonated from the basement.

They were going to need to buy a new punch bag.

***

Wesley sighed as he let himself slump against the back of the sofa, the dull throb of a headache forming behind his eyes. The coffee table in front of him was awash with books and weathered parchment, each passage contradicting the next, translations that refused to match no matter how many times he tried.

He slipped off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, the urge to reach for the bottle of Scotch that sat temptingly close was strong but he resisted. The ex watcher needed to concentrate and alcohol wasn’t going to help.

Wesley squinted at his watch with tired eyes, five o’clock, day was inching towards evening at a snails pace and the prophecy was still no clearer than the first time he’d stumbled across it weeks ago. The Englishman found himself wishing he hadn’t called the Hotel earlier to tell Cordelia that he wouldn’t be in today, using the excuse of a headache to explain his unusual absence, but he had and was now stuck with the pleasure of his own company for too many hours.

It wasn’t that he was avoiding Gunn, Wesley had convinced himself as he’d dialled the Hyperion’s phone number, he was just…taking a personal day. Yes, that was it. Taking a personal day to tackle the pile of laundry that had sat ignored in his bathroom, pick a few things up from the market, call some old friends in England to catch up.

Yet the laundry still sat unnoticed, cupboards were still bare, England went uncalled.

Too caught up in trying to translate the prophecy, Wesley argued with the guilty little voice that whispered in his head. I’m not avoiding Gunn, I simply need to make sense of this last passage, it’s important, well, it’s probably important, if it’s a prophecy at all and not just some mystical shopping list written in what is starting to resemble Sanskrit.

He wasn’t avoiding Gunn.

He wasn’t.

Slipping on his glasses with yet another sigh, Wesley picked up the large tome from the small table and resumed his reading.

Coward, his Father’s stern voice whispered in his brain.

Wesley was beginning to believe the old man was right.

***

The Hyperion was too quiet and it was giving Cordelia the weebies. The snap of the filing cabinet closing echoed around the vacant Hotel and the young woman found herself wincing at the sudden interruption to the silence, like she’d somehow offended it. Being alone in the imposingly large building wasn’t high up on her list of fun things to do of an evening, she should be out being young and carefree at some fabulous star studded party, not tiptoeing around the empty office waiting for the resident vampire to return from wherever it was he’d disappeared to for the entire day.

Hell, Fred had a better social life than she did, OK, it was only dinner with Lorne, but still, Cordelia silently grumbled to herself as she strolled into the lobby, even that’s better than attacking the solved case files just for something to do.

The only advantage of sitting amongst the sea of paper and post-it notes was that if she was thinking about why Mr Fowley was filed under G then she wasn’t thinking about Angel and the way he kept looking at her.

Because Cordelia really didn’t want to think about that.

So, Fowley was under G because….?

No, there was no logical reason for it. He hadn’t been German, he didn’t somewhat resemble a gerbil, he hadn’t groped her ass during any of the times he’d been in the office.

Oh, wait, maybe it was a K?

“Ugh,” she groaned and threw Mr Fowley onto the increasingly large, unstable pile of files. Cordelia’s back ached, her eyes were tired from reading in the dim light and her body was refusing to co-operate with her brain. Actually, her brain was refusing to co-operate with her brain.

All the case files in the world wouldn’t be enough to erase the dark gaze-

“No, I’m not thinking about it,” Cordelia declared, her voice ricocheting around the empty office, “very much with the not thinking about it. In fact, there’s nothing to think about. Uh huh, this is me not thinking about nothing,” she frowned, “or, you makes know, something that actually makes sense.”

Unable to force her concentration for a moment longer, Cordelia stood up and stretched her arms over her head with a satisfied groan as tense muscles were forced into movement for the first time in an hour.

“Why didn’t I take up Gunn’s offer of pizza and a movie?” the young woman asked the vacant air in front of her as she carefully stepped around the mountain of solved cases and made her way into the silent lobby.

But Cordelia knew why, it was just wrapped up in the quagmire of things she was very much not thinking about.

He seemed…jealous, the thought sprang up in her mind out of nowhere.

“Shut up brain,” she muttered as she began to pace the floor.

No, he didn’t seem jealous, he was jealous, her brain amended. It was there for all to see in the dark possession that simmered in his eyes, in the taught line of his jaw, in his tight, clipped words.

Jealous of Gunn.

“Which is ridiculous!” Cordelia exclaimed as she continued to wear a groove in the floor, “Angel has *no* reason to be jealous of Gunn, we’re friends, nothing more, not even friends that have sex, and hello? Gunn? Very much in love with Wesley, even if it is a great big stupid secret.”

Wait, Cordelia literally stopped in her tracks, that’s not the point here.

“Angel shouldn’t be jealous because he and I aren’t together like that…except,” she realised, “we kinda are. Even if it’s just so the visions won’t kill me and exactly how insane does that sound? Sex to stop dying? The PTB so need to get themselves a hobby.”

Going off topic again Cor, she reminded herself.

Cordelia sat down on the nearest sofa with a defeated ugh.

It was no good, she was thinking about it now and couldn’t stop.

“This is because of the oral sex,” Cordelia narrowed her eyes accusingly. “everything was fine before the oral sex.”

“Well then,” she stood up as she came to a decision, “we just won’t do that again and everything will be Jim Dandy. Easy. No harm, no foul, it’s not like it’s necessary or anything.”

But you liked it, a voice that sounded suspiciously like Faith murmured in her brain.

“That’s not the point, it was unnecessary-”

Who gives a crap if was necessary or not, it was *good*.

“Shut up.”

You enjoyed it.

“Well, duh.”

You want him to do it again.

“I really don’t.”

Liar.

“I’m not-”

The way the stubble on his jaw brushed against the inside of your thigh, the way his tongue-

“I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening!”

Cordelia covered her ears with her hand and screwed her eyes firmly shut, until the devil on her shoulder was drowned out by her loud denials.

Arguing with the voices in her head? It was official. She’d finally lost her mind.

“Ugh!” she stamped her foot against the tiled floor like a spoilt child.

When two strong, increasingly familiar, hands grasped her shoulders, Cordelia let out a yelp of surprise.

“Is it a vision?” Angel demanded, face taught with concern as he almost lifted her feet off the ground.

It took Cordelia exactly three cartoon blinks to figure out what Angel was saying.

“No,” she shrugged out of his grip, “eager, much?”

Angel opened his mouth to say something but quickly changed his mind, instead he opted to take a safe step away from her.

A full minute ticked by in nothing but silence.

One minute became two.

Two became three.

“Where have you been?” Cordelia broke the uncomfortable stand-off.

“Out,” the vampire shrugged.

“Still in a fabulous mood I see,” she arched an eyebrow at him.

“On your own?” the vampire ignored her comment.

“Yes.”

“No Gunn?” Angel said the black man’s name as though it left a bad taste in his mouth.

“No,” Cordelia crossed her arms over her chest and stood her ground.

“Thought the two of you might be….”

“What?”

Angel raised his eyebrows but didn’t answer her question.

“Look, I don’t know what bug has crawled up your butt today but I have a feeling it has to do with last nights….” Cordelia wiggled her hand and jiggled her eyebrows, ignoring the issues Angel suddenly seemed to have with Gunn.

Still she was answered with nothing but an impenetrable silence.

A furious flush of pink burst suddenly across her cheeks as Cordelia desperately struggled to find the words she needed to say, her eyes darted maniacally around the lobby, anywhere as long as it wasn’t Angel.

Why is this so difficult? she thought frantically, it hadn’t been this difficult last night, or even this morning for that matter, OK, it was a *little* awkward this morning but not like this. What changed? This is all his fault, his stupid, jealous, dumbass, socially inept, orally fixated fault!

And why isn’t he disputing the fact that his crappy mood is because he went down on me? He’s meant to be disputing!

“You know, it’s not like I made you do it,” Cordelia bit out defensively, now more angry than embarrassed.

A muscle twitched in Angel’s jaw.

“So,” she flicked her hair over her shoulder, trying for carefree but only managing jumpy, “I’m thinking that should go on the list of things we don’t do, cos it’s making you all-”

She felt it in the base of her skull first, a prickly tingle, like an army of spiders were crawling beneath her skin and into her brain.

“Oh you have GOT to be kidding me!” yelled Cordelia as the vision began to splinter through her brain.

An alley, familiar, the cold yellow lights of a club, footsteps behind her, getting closer, thick black dread in the pit of her stomach, he’s found her….

A cool finger trailing down the middle of back, a flush of goose bumps and desire as a kiss was stolen from the nape of her neck….

Hard pavement, cold metal, hot burn slicing through flesh….

Shuddering breath, rumpled sheets, soft laughter….

Blonde hair matted with blood and dirt, clothes ripped, thighs torn, hate staining the air….

His hands on her breasts, chin on her shoulder, safe, wanted, forever….

“Oh,” Cordelia blinked as the vision ebbed away and the world gradually came back into a fuzzy focus.

“You OK?” Angel asked her softly, the anger and jealousy he’d been battling with for most of the day now nowhere in sight in the face of what really mattered.

“I-” she trailed off as the emotions she’d felt just before the flashes ended continued to make her skin tingle and her heart beat just a little too fast. With unsure fingers, Angel smoothed down the few strands of hair that had tangled as Cordelia had convulsed in his arms on the lobby floor. Hazel eyes met his own brown orbs and Angel felt his arms tighten around her of their own volition.

“What did you see?” his voice was barely a whisper, scared that anything louder would shatter the way Cordelia was looking at him.

“Forever….” Cordelia murmured as her nails grazed gently across the back of his neck, Angel’s gaze became lost on the plump flesh of her bottom lip, the cadence of the word linger on the glistening pink.

He wanted to hear it again.

“Cor-”

“Shit!” Cordelia said instead as she bolted out of his arms as the important part of the vision suddenly burst to the forefront of her brain and how exactly had they end up so tangled around each other so quickly? the thought rose unbidden in her brain as she swayed slightly at the too fast movement.

“Huh?” Angel blinked.

“Vision, try to pay attention!” she snapped sharply, ignoring the way her skin felt as though it were humming from his embrace.

“Right,” he nodded, ignoring the way his fingers itched to touch her, “what did you see?” Angel repeated his earlier question, a large part of him hoping she’d repeat her earlier answer even though he knew she wouldn’t.

“Only our favourite stalker getting all homicidal with some poor clueless blonde!” she exclaimed, her eyes wide with shared terror.

“Not our client….um, Andie?” Angel asked, shamed that he couldn’t recall her name.

“No, Amy’s a brunette, this girl was definitely blonde,” Cordelia shuddered as flashes of blonde hair matted with blood assaulted her memory.

“Where and when?”

“Behind the club we were at last night and like, now.”

With that Angel strode over to the weapons cabinet.

“We should call the guys,” she trailed after him.

“I thought you said there wasn’t much time?”

“There isn’t.”

“Then we shouldn’t waste it.”

“Fine. Gimme an axe,” Cordelia relented, her hand outstretched as she waited to be passed a weapon.

“You’re staying here,” the vampire ordered as he plucked out a long broad sword.

“I’m really not,” she grasped a small throwing axe only to have it snatched back out of her hand.

“Cordelia,” he sighed, irritated.

“Angel,” the young woman mimicked his annoyed tone as she snagged the axe back.

“You’re not coming,” Angel reclaimed the weapon.

“Yes, I am,” Cordelia stole the axe once more but this time hid it behind her back before he could make a move for it. “Look, we can either spend the rest of the evening playing pass the parcel or we can go and save the very scared girl who’s about to have her intestines torn out and worn as a tiara. I know which one I’m gonna do,” with that she turned her back on him and made it exactly two steps towards the door before the vampire caught her arm, halting her dramatic exit.

“It’s not your decision to make.”

“Excuse me?” Cordelia instantly bristled.

“Warrior” Angel gestured to himself then pointed at Cordelia, “Seer. Do you need it spelt out for you?” he saw a flash of hurt pass over her face but it quickly turned to righteous anger.

“You know, you’re really starting to piss me off,” hands on her hips, foot tapping an irate rhythm.

“Look, just go upstairs and-”

“Wait for the big Warrior vampire to get home like a good little woman? Pfft!”

“I wasn’t going to say that!” Angel barked angrily, not that it had any effect on the young woman. With a deep breath the vampire tried to calm himself down, his entire body felt like it were on edge, his demon pulling roughly on it’s leash ever since the night before.

Angel knew from experience that ordering Cordelia didn’t work, so he tried a different tact.

“Cordy, listen to me, this guy knows you now, if things go wrong you’ll be the one he goes after, I’m not willing to take that risk.”

Cordelia knew he didn’t want her to be in any danger, that he was worried his best friend would somehow get hurt, that his ordering her to stay here was just his way of looking after her.

She understood, she really did.

“Tough,” Cordelia hissed furiously, turning on her heel and stomping out of the Hotel before Angel could stop her.

Cordelia understood.

She was just too pissed off to care.

Part 10

Posted June 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

His Lady Lazerus. 8   1 comment

Part 8

Sleep sat seductively behind Lorne’s eyelids, calling to him like a siren, the urge to let his body give into sweet slumber was almost too much for the prescient demon to resist.

Yet he did.

He steadfastly stayed awake, his red orbs fixed resolutely to the front door of the Hyperion as he absentmindedly wrapped an elegant finger around a thick strand of Fred’s hair. The young woman’s breathing was soft and even, the light hum of her existence filled the lobby and made the oppressive silence of such a large building bearable. For her part Fred simply slept, her head resting in Lorne’s lap, exhausted from an evening of worrying about her friends.

Lorne had been enjoying his fourth sea breeze of the night, soon to be fifth, when his telephone had pulled him from the comfort of his favourite chair, the harried twang of his dear Texan friend reverberated in his ear as Fred rambled almost incoherently, distress causing her words to run and crash into each other more than usual. Lorne told her to calm down and made his way across town to the hotel as quickly as he could. He’d arrived to find the brunette pacing back and forth across the quiet lobby, wringing her hands and chewing her bottom lip like a woman possessed.

“Why haven’t they called?!” Fred demanded as he’d made his way cautiously towards her. The ‘they’, Lorne somehow deduced from her agitated babbling, were Angel Cordelia Wesley and Gunn. The ‘why’ Lorne had no idea. All Lorne knew was what Fred told him, the four had set out to a club earlier that evening in hope of catching the stalker they were currently investigating. But that had been hours ago and Fred hadn’t heard from them since, the physicist had called Angel’s cell phone, Cordelia’s apartment, Gunn’s apartment, Wesley’s cell phone and apartment, each time with no answer.

To say that Fred was worried would have been an understatement, it had taken Lorne a long time to calm the young woman until she finally fell asleep.

That was two hours ago.

The sun would be shining it’s presence over the horizon soon, Lorne would be worried too if he weren’t so damn tired.

The young woman mumbled quietly, her body twitching as she battled whatever was troubling her in dream. Lorne wondered what creature she was running from in her sleep, was it one of his family, someone he’d grown up with that made her hands ball into tight fists and her face wince with remembered pain? Lorne hushed her softly, humming a nonsense tune as he stroked her hair behind her ear, feeling guilty that it was his people that had caused the deep seated terror in Fred soul. As Lorne felt her relax under his touch he found himself marvelling at what a curious creature Winifred Burkle is.

So often pushed to the sidelines without a thought or glance, left behind while cases were solved and relationships were kept hidden. Yet she didn’t complain, didn’t stamp her feet and demand attention, Fred was a quiet bundle of enthusiastic energy and too many thoughts that always brightened his day the way a perfect jazz riff did.

Sighing softly, Fred rubbed her cheek against Lorne’s thigh like a cat marking its territory. The demon smiled and rested his hand on the gentle curve of her hip, tracing invisible circles over of the soft material of her pale yellow pyjama pants as he tilted his head back against the top of the sofa, letting his eyes close for a few blissful moments. His back ached, his legs were numb from being crossed at the ankle on the edge of the small coffee table and his hand desperately needed a drink to occupy it but there was no way he was waking Fred up to move. He liked her where she was, his little bundle of enthusiastic energy and too many thoughts asleep against him, bestowing him with a trust that squeezed joy around his heart even though it was situated firmly in his ass.

That didn’t seem to matter to Fred though, as far as Lorne could tell. She didn’t care that his skin was green, his eyes red, his suits loud and unapologetic. He’d thought that the young woman would shy away from him, not just because of his appearance, but because of where he came from, who he was by birth. Lorne knew she still had nightmares of Pylea, hell, so did he, but Fred’s were so much worse than his, he’d seen her fight her way back to consciousness many a time, the cold fingers of a night terror clutching sharply at her ankles until she woke gasping, a silent scream caught painfully in her throat.

Lorne knew the horrors she fought at night but he wondered if their friends did. Did they take a moment out of their day to think about the strange girl that hid behind glasses she only needed for reading but wore like a security blanket? Did they ever stop for a second to think about something that wasn’t their own tangled lives, to care about the precious woman with a heart so beautiful and fragile that it scared Lorne that he held a place in it?

“I don’t want the pineapple,” Fred muttered in her sleep and Lorne realised she was probably dreaming of food and not the horrors of her past. With a quiet chuckle the prescient demon resumed tracing gossamer circles over her hip, skirting the tips of his fingers over the slip of pale skin where her vest ended and her pyjama bottoms began. Fred stilled once again, nestling herself closer to Lorne, searching for the comfort and warmth her friend gave.

Lorne and Fred were a strange duo, a demon with every colour in the rainbow dancing in his flamboyant soul and a quiet young girl that knew more about numbers and equations than life.

They were the best friends either of them had ever had.

The private moment was brought to a crashing halt as the front door, which Lorne had stopped staring at because everyone knows a watched door never boils, swung open with none of the vampire’s usual stealth.

The sound startled Fred from her slumber, she sat up sharply nearly cracking the back of her head against Lorne’s chin and blinding him with her hair as she went.

“Where have you been?” Fred asked as she rubbed a hand over her face. “Where are the others? Is anyone hurt?”

“Everyone’s fine,” grunted Angel as he stalked past them, barely registering their existence as he strode up the lobby stairs two at a time.

“What-”

“Fred.” Lorne stopped her with a restraining hand.

Angel was screaming, at least that was what it felt like to Lorne. Six foot two inches of pure anger, annoyance and confusion. Clenched fists, hunched shoulders, Lorne knew danger when he saw it. The only thing that stopped him from running to the weapons cabinet was the raw ache that spiralled from the core of the vampire’s aura. A sadness mixing and blurring with the flashes of colour that surrounded him. It wasn’t the dreadful beige that had blanketed Angel’s being during those dark days when Lorne feared he’d never find his way home again, no, this was different.

This was about a girl.

But not a blonde.

“But-” Fred blinked with confusion.

“Not now pumpkin,” he squeezed her shoulder as he watched as Angel disappear out of view. “It’s best not to prod an already angry bear.”

“What bear?” she frowned, still not completely lucid.

“Just trust me.” Lorne wrapped an arm around her shoulder and steered her towards the stairs. “You should scootch on up to bed and get some proper sleep sweetie, I don’t imagine my lap makes the most comfortable pillow.”

“I liked it,” Fred said from behind a wide yawn that made Lorne smile tenderly even as every nerve in his body felt raw from the tense aura that had radiated from the vampire in the few short seconds he was in their presence. “I wonder what happened tonight,” she said, her sleepy stare fixed to the dark corridor Angel had retreated to.

***

Angel could still smell Cordelia on his skin, her scent was imprinted into his every pore and tattooed along every line of his fingerprints. Her taste still lingered on his lips.

He wanted to stay.

Angel wanted to stay in the warm bed that smelt of sex and possibilities, watch Cordelia sleep and run his hand over the swell of her hip, a landscape of pure woman laid beside him. He wanted taste the salty sheen of sweat on her neck, fist his hands in her hair and make her call his name into the small apartment.

Angel wanted and it was for that reason the vampire had spent most of the night driving aimlessly around LA. With his hands on the steering wheel and the lights of down town blurring by, Angel replayed every murmur his best friend made as he moved within her. Her breathing, quiet pants of air that barely left her lips, the flush of pink that painted itself across her flesh, her flesh, so soft, so feminine, he wanted to sink his teeth into the supple slope of her breast, taste the coppery elixir of her life, roll it over his tongue until there were no difference left between them, until the vampire couldn’t tell where he ended and Cordelia began.

Groaning, Angel rubbed the heels of his palms into his eyes as his demon’s whispered longings of blood and desire continued to torment his body and shame his soul. The demon didn’t care that Cordelia Chase was his best friend, it just wanted to claim and mark, bury itself inside her warmth and write it’s ownership across every millimetre of her skin.

It’s just the demon, he tried to convince himself.

Just the demon that wants to howl it’s ownership, just the demon that wants her cries of pleasure, just the demon that needs to make Cordelia arch her back as his tongue learnt her past present and future.

Just the demon….

Of course, Angel knew deep down that he was the demon. He knew it just as he knew the sun would rise in less than hour, imprisoning him from doing the thousand small things humans took for granted.

He was his demon, they were the same, Angel and Angelus, same memories, same cravings for blood and chaos. The vampire separated himself and the animal inside because it was easier to get through the day that way. That way he could look his friends in the eye and not see fear.

Angel cracked the bones in his neck and cast a glance around his empty bedroom. A dark, empty space that felt as though it were filled with the souls of every innocent he had slain, their cries echoed in his ears at night, their terrified pleas so sweet to hear, he’d hungered for them almost as much as he had their blood.

Blood.

So hot, so alive, a stain of red against virginal skin, a landscape of strawberries and cream, just as sweet, just as wicked.

Angel inhaled a slow breath that he didn’t need into his lungs, a futile attempt to calm the battle that forever raged inside of him. It was stronger now because of the want, because of the soft yielding warmth of a woman’s body so recent in his memory. He stripped off his clothes because Cordelia’s perfume sat enticingly on them and it did nothing to abate the need that drummed through his silent veins. Her perfume, a light mist of green apples and sunlight with something deeper, something beneath the surface of her lotions and soap.

Woman.

So vital, so alive, sun kissed skin and warm succulent flesh, elemental creatures who dance to the rhythm of the moon. Sweet fertile blood flowing like champagne between their thighs and on to his tongue, the Scourge of Europe had feasted on the innocence of thousands and the memory alone made Angel hard, made his skin itch with dark hunger and fierce desire.

No, Angel battled against the need, not woman. Cordelia. His best friend. The rich girl from Sunnydale who fell down on her luck and ingratiated herself into every damn aspect of his life. The girl that forces him eat waffles with too much syrup even though he doesn’t need to eat and the sugar makes his teeth ache.

Just Cordelia.

The girl that makes him laugh and smile, the girl that by simply walking into the room brightened the shadows that blurred every corner of his existence.

Cordy.

Cordy with her long unmarked neck, lush thighs, full breasts and softly curved stomach that held inside it the secrets of the universe….

A low groan rumbled through the vampire’s chest as he sat down heavily on the corner of his bed, with his face buried in his hands Angel gave up trying to fight the want that coursed through his body. Closing his eyes he let his back fall bonelessly to the mattress, the tell tale burn of his true face rippled beneath the surface of his skin, muscles tense and body hard even though his earlier desire had been sated.

Sated but not extinguished. Not in the way his demon wanted, not in the way he wanted.

The demon had had a taste and now it wanted more.

It wanted everything.

***

Dawn crept its morning light slowly over the horizon, blanketing a faceless city with a golden hue that forced its night time evils to retreat back to the cold corners in which it dwelled in while every day life hummed and buzzed. The shadows were still there in the back alleys and dirty sewers, they were just harder to find while the brittle Californian sun bounced off the sidewalks. There was little difference between night and day in LA, not for the members of Angel’s investigations anyway, they worked and lived by their own clocks.

You had to when you worked fought side by side with a vampire.

So the difference between night and day meant very little to Wesley, whatever structure and order his father had beaten into him in his youth, while not forgotten and lord how the Englishman wished he could forget, had been pushed aside in favour of long nights spent fighting along side a vampire and days filled with the constant unexpected.

There were still books filled with the end of the world, musty tomes bursting with all the horrors of man and demon kind, but the ex watcher no longer simply watched as the council had taught him, as father had expected of him, no, now Wesley Wyndam Pryce was on the front line of the fight, every day, every night, with a purpose, a cause.

Yet it still wasn’t enough for his father.

Wesley wasn’t a child anymore, his father couldn’t throw him against the living room wall, he couldn’t crush him beneath a perfectly polished shoe, he wasn’t that frightened boy that had hid in the woods too scared to go home when he’d accidentally spilt orange juice on a scroll that was older than time. That voice, so full of bitterness and resentment, a tongue as sharp and quick as a serpent, biting words that stung worse than any belt buckle could.

Even though his youth was far behind Wesley his father’s voice still remained. A grating whisper in the corner of his brain, what are you doing boy, who do you think you are, you think you’re important, you’re not, you’re nothing, idiot, fool, a nancy child too scared to let go of your mother’s apron strings, sit up straight boy, do you want a beating, you’re disgusting-

“Hey, where’d you go?” Gunn brought him back to himself and away from a remembered voice that still haunted him.

“I’m here,” Wesley smiled reassuringly, his past present and possible future mixing and blurring in the dappled morning light.

“Didn’t feel like you were,” the black man fingered the messy locks of hair that stood at odd angles over Wesley’s head, chestnut strands that felt so good between his fingers.

“I was just thinking,” Wesley said by way of explanation.

“Always thinkin’,” the black man murmured pressing the tips of his fingers to Wesley’s forehead, his eyes brimming with an adoration that Wesley knew he didn’t deserve, a love that he wasn’t sure he could accept. “Wanna talk about it?”

“Not really,” the Englishman declined even though he knew it was that kind of response that kept such a gapping chasm between them even as they lay tangled in bed.

“It might-”

“It won’t.” The urge to close his eyes to shut out Gunn’s concerned gaze twisted thickly in Wesley’s gut.

“Fine,” sighed Gunn with a painful amount of dejection lacing his tone. “I should probably get going.”

“Stay,” Wesley grasped his arm before Gunn could roll away from him.

“Why?” Gunn asked, a simple question loaded with so much expectation.

“Because I want you to,” the ex watcher tightened his hold on the other man’s arm. A silent moment passed where Wesley could see the battle being waged in Gunn’s eyes, whether to stay or leave like he so often did of late. Gunn opened his mouth to say it wasn’t enough but the words were caught by Wesley’s lips before he could even form their cadence. Wesley stole away his arguments with the sweep of his tongue, silencing both their thoughts and re-igniting the fizz of desire that had kept them up through the night. Gunn’s resolve began to splinter around the edges, he’d promised himself he wouldn’t keep doing this, that he’d walk away from Wesley’s haunted blue eyes and distant heart. But he always came back, always fell back into this bed even though it broke the black man’s heart every time.

When Wesley kissed him nothing seemed to matter, when hands that where meant to hold books, not swords, circled around his neck to pull him closer Gunn needed nothing more than this, when thumbs that were so often smudged with ancient inks drew delicious patterns across his jaw, Gunn never wanted anything to change.

It was when the sun came up and real life flooded back into the Englishman’s bedroom that unspoken words and difficult decisions made their presence know.

“What about what I want?” Gunn asked as he reluctantly pulled away, his voice was a throaty whisper that licked warm breath across Wesley’s lips.

“Don’t you want this?” Wesley grazed his thumb over Gunn’s stubble rough jaw, his teeth nipping teasingly at the flesh of his bottom lip.

“You know I do,” his words left the black man’s chest in rumble of want as he rolled Wesley on to his back beneath him, his larger body pining the ex watcher to the mattress and god, it just felt so right to have their chests pressing together, skin against skin and who cared what other people thought, what their friends might say. Gunn didn’t care, had stopped caring or fearing societies reactions that first morning when Wesley had kissed him and everything had finally started to make sense.

“It’s you that isn’t sure,” Gunn leant his forehead against Wesley’s, his eyes slipping shut as lithe fingers massaged trails of fire over the now liquid muscles in his back.

“I want this,” Wesley said honestly, that much he was sure even though he knew it wasn’t enough for Gunn. “I want you, Charles,” he spoke his lover’s name and it meant more than any uncertain declarations of love could to the other man’s ears, it settled warmly over Gunn’s heart like soothing balm, not filling all the cracks but easing the ever present ache that hummed inside.

Gunn kissed Wesley so the words that were threatening to spill from his mouth wouldn’t break free, this was enough, it had to be. The low moan that sounded in the back of the Englishman’s throat as his tongue sought Wesley’s every secret thrummed along the millimetres of Gunn’s skin, raising goose bumps across his arms and pooling hard desire in his groin. To Gunn, Wesley tasted of sweet tea and British reserve, he’d wanted to drown in that feeling that first time, wrap it around himself until the world that had brought him to his knees too many times could no longer touch him.

Breaking the kiss, Wesley trailed a wet path across Gunn’s jaw and down his neck, his hands stroking equal amounts comfort and desire down his sides until they settled in the two small dimples of flesh at the small of his back, pressing down until nothing separated them but the beating of their hearts.

“Damn, Wes,” Gunn groaned into his neck, his hips grinding against Wesley’s in a rhythmic dance that drummed urgently through their veins. Even if nothing else did, this made sense to Wesley, to feel Gunn’s sweat slick skin moving against his own, to learn the hypnotic play of muscles beneath his fingertips, those were things Wesley could put a name to and understand.

Gunn wanted to hold this moment in his hands, the warm sun streaming through the window on to his back, Wesley’s panting breath in his ear, the scent of old books, clean soap and sex perfuming the air. It made Gunn feel dizzy and foolish, very much not the hardened street fighter that everyone believed him to be.

A hiss whistled from his lips as Wesley’s knowing hand slipped between them, grasping their cocks together in his fist, they both bucked sharply at the contact, so simple and intimate, bodies too tired from a night spent putting the karma sutra to shame for anything more than this deliciously slow grind. They felt equal this way, face to face, eyelids fluttering open and shut as the world belonged to them alone.

Usually the bedroom was filled with guttural shout and cries, a cacophony of pleasure filled curses that rattled the walls and made the neighbours tut and shift uncomfortably in their seats. But as LA woke up around them, while showers were taken and coffee was consumed in unhealthy amounts, the only sounds in the Englishman’s small apartment were murmured groans that hung heavily on the air and shuddering breaths that coated their skin in a fine mist of want.

“Oh, God….” Wesley groaned, the English reserve his friends so often teased him about didn’t exist here as his legs locked around Gunn’s and his free hand gripping bruisingly around the black man’s biceps, hot sparks of pleasure dancing like an electric storm between their bodies.

Time turned itself inside out as sharp coils of desire pooled thickly at the base of Gunn’s spine, he sucked roughly on Wesley’s bottom lip as their cocks jerked together, the Englishman’s blue eyes glazed and unseeing as he worked his hand over them both, sharp movements that pushed them both closer and closer to the edge. Everything Gunn felt shone brightly through his brown eyes, eyes that were so often bristling with rage or blank with sadness, now felt like deep endless pools of adoration to Wesley, it made him want to look away but it was too late, the burn in his groin tugged sharply through his cock and there was nothing but the rush of pleasure, his back straining towards that impossible nirvana and finally the white hot nothing where his father’s approval didn’t exist, societies expectations didn’t mean a thing because nothing ever felt this right, this good, so full of everything that he couldn’t bring himself to say he wanted.

When the world slowly slipped back into the almost silent bedroom Wesley’s arms were wrapped tightly around Gunn’s body, the sticky evidence of their orgasms sandwiched wetly between their bellies. He felt Gunn shift in his embrace and loosened his hold, smiling blissfully as they kissed with lazy abandon.

“I love you,” Gunn whispered into Wesley lips before he could stop himself.

Silence.

Complete and debilitating, it drowned out everything, the cars that passed by outside, the creaking of the hot water pipes, the chatter of the neighbours early morning tv. The bedroom turned into a black hole, sucking in every noise until nothing was left but the three words Gunn had promised himself he wouldn’t say again and the three words Wesley didn’t know whether he could say.

“Lets pretend I didn’t just say that,” Gunn grunted, untangling himself from Wesley and flopping his back heavily onto the mattress.

They stared at the ceiling, their chests rising and falling as three words that had the capacity to shatter everything they had stood in the room like an unwelcome guest.

“This is why I should have left,” muttered Gunn.

They both thanked God when the sound of a cell phone ringing broke through the deafening silence.

“S’mine,” Gunn lurched off the bed and dove for his pants, answering the call and wrestling with his jeans at the same time. “Yeah? Hey girl…calm down…he’s fine…didn’t Angel…damn child, you kiss your mama with that mouth?”

Wesley rubbed his hands over his face as he half listened to the one sided conversation, he still hadn’t shaved and the bristles on his jaw scratched against his palms. He dragged himself to sit up, his body tired and too relaxed even as his brain flipped over Gunn’s words until they lost all meaning.

“That was Fred, she’s pissed no one called in last night,” Gunn said casually as he slipped the small cell phone, compliments of Angel investigations, into his back pocket. His tone was deceptively even, as though he hadn’t just worn his heart on his sleeve only to be greeted with nothing.

“Oh dear,” Wesley frowned, he reached for his glasses from the bedside table and slipped them on.

“Yeah,” nodded Gunn as he sat down on the corner of the bed and pulled on his boots, his back to the ex watcher so that he didn’t have to look at him, so he could try to regain some of the dignity he had just lost.

“Are you leaving?” Wesley asked even though he already knew the answer.

“I’ve got stuff to do,” Gunn told him over his shoulder as he stood up and walked out of the bedroom.

“Gunn, wait,” the Englishman jogged after him, his feet getting tangled in the legs of his sweat pants as he hurried. Wesley found him in the kitchen pulling on his T-shirt. “Don’t leave like this, stay-”

“Why?” Gunn cut him off with the same simple question he’d asked Wesley in bed.

“I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“Ain’t that the truth.”

“Gunn-”

“Just leave it Wes,” Gunn said as he snatched his keys from the counter top, without saying another word, without even looking at the other man, he walked to the front door and let it slam behind him, leaving the Englishman alone with thoughts he’d been trying to ignore for too long.

“Shit,” Wesley grunted and tugged a hand through his hair.

He should go after Gunn, he knew that, he should drag him back into the apartment, kiss him and say I love you too. Pull them back into bed and not listen to all the doubts that whispered in the corner of his brain, whispers full of his father’s disapproving voice.

Wesley wasn’t a child anymore, but his father’s voice remained. He dropped down heavily onto his sofa and let his fears chase away the man that loved him.

***

Cordelia tapped the end of her pen against her teeth and turned the glossy page of the magazine she was reading. She sighed longingly at the sight of this season’s Manolos and cursed her father’s poor fiscal skills for the millionth time since that horrible day when the IRS knocked at their door.

Helping the helpless and saving the world was all well and good but nothing compared to the feeling that came with a shiny new pair of shoes.

“I miss pretty shoes.”

“Stop torturing yourself,” Fred looked up from behind her latest invention.

“Ha! You just spoke to me!” Cordelia quirked a satisfied eyebrow at the physicist.

“No I didn’t,” the Texan grumbled and ducked back behind the mountain of oddly shaped metal and wire. Cordelia rolled her eyes and closed her copy of Vogue, she slid off her stool and walked around the counter to where Fred was seated on the middle of the lobby floor.

“How long are you planning on being mad at everyone?” Cordelia squatted down next to Fred at a safe distance away from the deadly looking spear that jutted out of the back, or possibly front, of the waffle iron come torture device.
“I’m not mad at everyone,” Fred said as she attacked a tangle of wires with a pair of needle nose pliers.

“Fine, how long are you planning on being mad with everyone but Lorne?”

“Two, maybe three days,” she shrugged.

“So you’ve given it some thought?” Cordelia settled into a more comfortable position on the floor, she had a feeling this was going to take a while.

“Well yeah, I had plenty of time to think when I stayed up all night worrying that y’all were dead in a ditch somewhere,” Fred scowled, looking very much like a constipated kitten. Cordelia bit the inside of her cheek to stop the laugh that threatened to bubble out of her mouth. This was serious, Fred was angry, laughing at the way the physicists face squished up when she was mad wasn’t going to help the situation and it certainly wasn’t going to put a stop to Fred giving her the stink eye for the rest of the day.

“I’m sorry honey, everything was just so crazy with the stalker stalking and the vision,” and the sex Cordelia added silently, “I guess we all just kinda forgot.”

“All four of you, just forgot?”

“I guess,” Cordelia shrugged a shoulder and avoided making direct eye contact.

“Look, I know there’s stuff going on here that I don’t know about and that’s fine, I’ve got stuff going on that y’all don’t know about-”

“You do?”

“Well…yeah, but that’s not the point-”

“What stuff?” Cordelia seized upon the subject.

“I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours,” Fred arched her eyebrow and Cordelia regretted teaching the other girl that move.

“I don’t have stuff,” Cordelia shifted uncomfortably under the Texan’s inquisitive gaze.

“Uh huh,” Fred narrowed her eyes and attempted the glare that her Mama had used on her when she was keeping secrets.

“I don’t!”

“OK, then why did Angel come home just before sunrise looking like he was fixin’ to unleash all kindsa hell?”

“He did?” Cordelia snapped her eyes to Fred’s, kicking herself when she saw the smug grin on her face.

“Yep, looked real pissed off, d’ya know why?”

“No,” the PTB’s seer said honestly, letting her gaze drift to the dark corridor at the top of the stairs. When she’d arrived at the Hyperion for work that morning she’d paid little mind to the fact that Angel hadn’t yet surfaced from his room, more often than not the vampire didn’t join the land of the living until past noon.
He was a creature of the night after all.

Cordelia had been relieved that she wouldn’t have to see Angel for a few hours, although last night had been mostly empty of the usual awkwardness that accompanied the two of them sleeping together, she was in no rush to see her best friend.

Her best friend who’d gone down on her.

She’d recovered from the embarrassment quickly the night before, too occupied by the vision induced desire to spend too much time worrying about, well, anything, but the morning brought with it a clear head and very vivid memories of Angel’s face between her legs.

Not to mention the lingering heat of the naked Angel dreams that now haunted her every sleeping moment.

All in all it was a little too much for Cordelia to handle at once so she took the easy way out and convinced herself that Angel’s mouth, lips and tongue (oh God, his tongue) had been no where near that part of her. It had been working too until Fred stormed down the lobby stairs, a skinny tornado of questions and concern that had quickly turned into a stony silence when Cordelia informed her that all were alive and well, they were bad friends is all.

The scant remains of denial Cordelia had wrapped protectively around herself disintegrated into thin air with the news that Angel had returned to the Hotel from her apartment with a black cloud hanging over his head. Was it because of her? Had she done something wrong? Had she, she couldn’t believe she was actually thinking this, tasted…bad?

Squeezing her eyes shut to rid that particular thought from her head, Cordelia let the night before resurface from where she’d buried it in the far recesses of her brain, trying to recall anything that might have been the cause of Angel’s self imposed isolation.

Images rose up like smoke in Cordelia’s memory, desire fogged waves that made the tips of her fingers tingle with remembered caresses. She wasn’t sure if it had been Angel or the lingering vision that had made her blood thick with want to begin with, but when realisation dawned that it wasn’t vision Angel but Angel Angel that was kissing her so intimately, reality and vision had melted together and she’d flown apart with a muffled cry and it didn’t matter.

If she closed her eyes she could still feel it, the nip of his teeth and the drag of his tongue, her legs parting for the best friend she’d ever had, for the vampire that had terrorised entire continents for a hundred years.

Cordelia felt a deep red flush creeping up the back of her neck and she swallowed audibly, her eyes fixed unseeingly to the dark corridor that led to Angel’s suite.

Fred watched her with unreserved curiosity, her head tilted at an inquisitive angle and her brow creased in thought.

“Cordy?” she ventured softly, her earlier anger forgotten.

“I don’t know,” Cordelia said for no reason other than it was the first and only thing that popped into her head that didn’t involve the words Angel, tongue and orgasm. She forced her eyes to focus and dragged her gaze to meet Fred’s.

“You and Angel, you’re being, you know, careful, right?” Fred asked, not worrying about diseases or pregnancies but the simple fact that if Angel got too happy their world would be torn apart at the seems. Fred wasn’t stupid, she’d read the Sunnydale file, she knew what lurked beneath Angel’s soul filled eyes.

“There’s nothing going on between me and Angel, Fred. We’re friends, nothing more, nothing less,” Cordelia insisted even as memories, dreams and visions told her different, as her body continued to hum from the night before.

“Uh huh.”

“There’s nothing going on.”

“If you say so.”

“I think I preferred it when you weren’t speaking to me,” Cordelia muttered and stood up, the inside of her thighs pulling with that delicious after sex ache.

“Where are you going?”

“To find out what’s wrong with surly,” Cordelia told Fred over her shoulder as she made her way across the lobby towards the staircase.

***

Cordelia knocked sharply on the door to Angel’s suite, she counted to ten and when there was still no answer the brunette turned the handle and opened the door enough to poke her head through.

“Hey, can I come in?” Cordelia called out softly only to be greeted with silence, squinting into the shadowy room she could make out the vampire’s outline as he sat on the edge of the bed, his back hunched and facing her.

“Angel?” she tried again, when he still said nothing Cordelia stepped cautiously through the doorway.

“What is it Cordelia?” Angel said without turning to look at her, his voice made Cordelia’s steps falter as she walked over to where he sat, memories of a time when his words were empty of any humanity even though he still had a soul, people had died and their family torn apart with that voice, you’re all fired had echoed in her ears for days afterwards.

“Well aren’t we chirpy this morning?” Cordelia pushed down the spark of fear that blossomed in the base of her spine, there was no way she was going to let Angel drift into that cold nothing once again, especially when she had no idea what had triggered it.

“Fred said you were looking slightly beige when you got back last night,” the young woman crossed her arms over her chest and cocked an eyebrow at him, not that it did any good, Angel hadn’t looked at her once since she entered the suite.

“Wanna tell me why?” Cordelia asked when his only reply was to lean his elbows on his knees and thread his fingers together.

“…”

“Please tell me we’re not reverting back to those conversations where I talk and talk and you look at me blankly?”

Still Angel said nothing.

“Well, OK then.” she sighed with exasperation and sat down next to him on the bed, the mattress dipped slightly under her weight but the vampire didn’t appear to notice.

“Been a while since you’ve brooded in the dark,” Cordelia said thoughtfully as she realised this wasn’t lawyer killing Angel but the regular, if unusual of late, counting his sins and drowning in guilt Angel. She crossed her legs at the ankle and smoothed out the material of her skirt for something to do.

“I heard you didn’t get home til just before dawn?”

“…”

“Which is strange because I could have sworn you leave long before then.”

“I went for a drive.”

“So you can speak!” Cordelia gasped sarcastically which earned her a wry half smile from the vampire, “gonna tell me what’s wrong?” she asked softly, bumping her shoulder into his as if she could jostle the words out of him. Cordelia realised that every muscle in Angel’s body was pulled taught with tension, she hadn’t noticed it until she’d sat down beside him.

“OK, this is going to sound a little more Buffy than I like but, was it something I did?”

Angel snapped his gaze to hers so suddenly it made Cordelia startle.

“Of course not,” he told her fervently.

“If it’s because of the….” Cordelia trailed off, really not wanting to say the words oral and sex out loud.

Especially to the vampire that had been involved in said oral sex.

“Cordy, really, last night was…it has nothing to do with last night,” Angel lied.

“So you’re just sitting in the dark for the fun of it?” Cordelia narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him.

“Like you said, haven’t brooded in a while,” he shrugged.

“Buffy hasn’t died again, has she?”

Angel quirked an eyebrow at her.

What? It’s what she does,” Cordelia said, fluttering her eyelashes innocently which caused the corners of Angel’s mouth to twitch into a ghost of a smile.

“Well, as much fun as this has been I’m not really one for sitting in the dark, come down stairs so you can take your turn at Fred shouting at you,” Cordelia stood to leave only to be stopped by a cool hand snatching at her wrist, the sudden contact made her jump with surprise.

“Wait,” Angel whispered, Cordelia felt her heart leap into her throat.

“What is it?” she asked, unsure of why she too was whispering. Angel opened his mouth as if he were going to say something but closed it without saying a word. He brushed his thumb over the warm skin of her wrist, the beat of her blood vibrated through his skeleton. “Angel, what is it?” Cordelia repeated, her voice echoed loudly through the silence, silence that pulled the walls in too close and choked the air out of the room. Fingers that had gently coaxed pleasure from her the night before now gripped firmly around her wrist, hard enough to leave a bruise.

The vampire swept his gaze from the seductive contrast of his pale skin against young woman’s sun kissed sheen and up the elegant length of her arm, Cordelia’s face prickled with heat as Angel’s eyes flicked over her breasts for a long moment before he finally met her stare.

Cordelia felt the air leave her lungs when eyes that had only ever looked at her in friendship, confusion or exasperation became clouded with something she had only seen in her visions and dreams. They were an endless ocean of obsidian, filled with promises of long hot nights perfumed with sweat and desire, of tangled legs and panting lips, in Angel’s eyes Cordelia saw herself come undone.

“Angel?” Cordelia forced herself to say even though the word felt too big and complicated in her mouth.

The soft caress of his name on her lips made Angel close his eyes, Cordelia watched him with nervous anticipation but when he opened them again the intense pools of black had reverted back to the soft brown that she knew, that she trusted, that didn’t twist sharp desire through her body.

“I’ll be down in while,” Angel let go of his hard grip on Cordelia’s wrist but she caught his hand in hers before he could pull away.

“You sure you’re OK?” Cordelia asked him with concern even as her stomach continued to churn.

“Yeah,” he nodded, squeezing her hand affectionately before he let her slip out of his grasp.

When the click of the door closing signalled Cordelia’s departure from the room, Angel closed his eyes and inhaled a deep breath into his dead lungs.

In her absence Cordelia’s scent lingered on.

Green apples, soap and woman.

The demon rattled roughly at the shackles of his soul.

Part 9

Posted June 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

His Lady Lazerus. 7   1 comment

Part 7

Cordelia tapped her nails in an uneven drum against the tabletop, careful not to touch the dark sticky patch to the left of her elbow. Her gaze swept around the room with feigned disinterest.

Actually, it wasn’t all that feigned.

Once upon a time the brunette would have been enjoying herself along with the rest of the inhabitants of the club but tonight she felt older than her years and just wanted to crawl into her soft bed. Her heels felt too high, her dress too tight and her make up too false. A wave of claustrophobia wrapped itself tightly around her chest, the club was bulging with people, most enjoying themselves, some looking like herself, on the verge of mass homicide.

Determined that she wouldn’t spend another moment here Cordelia knocked back the rest of her drink in one gulp. She picked up her purse and slipped gracefully off her stool, running her hands over her dress to smooth out the non-existent wrinkles and stalked through the crowds of people until she found the target of her current wrath and annoyance.

“Cordelia-”

“He’s not going to show,” the brunette crossed her arms over her chest and pinned Angel with a withering stare.

“It’s still early,” the vampire informed his best friend evenly as his eyes scanned around the bustling night club for the star of their latest case.

“Maybe to you Mr I-don’t-need-beauty-sleep but for the rest of us it really is, I’m tired Angel, please, I just want to go home.”

“Cordy,” Angel said her name softly, apologetically, that sincere way only her best friend was to be capable of and it made the young woman want to smack him round the head with her purse because she knew he was going to say no, “we need to stay, you know we do. This is the best-”

“Lead we’ve had yet, I know,” she muttered through clenched teeth. “But
this Cinderella has had enough!
“ Cordelia’s irritation exploded in shout that made Angel wince and drew unwanted attention to them from the other people gathered at the bar.

“Cor-”

“Do you see this?” She raised her eyebrows and jabbed a finger at her forehead.

“What am I looking at?” the vampire frowned, his eyes sweeping over her annoyed forehead.

“Wrinkles Angel, I have wrinkles!” Cordelia ran her fingertips over the smooth expanse of skin.

“You don’t have wrinkles,” Angel told her evenly as his attention slipped away from her, his stare becoming fixed on the entrance opposite them for any sign of the man they were looking for. Cordelia grasped his chin between her finger and thumb and forced him to look at her, letting him know that this conversation was far from over.

“Why couldn’t Fred be the bait for once?”

“Can you really see Fred in a place like this?”

“What’s that suppose to mean?” Cordelia narrowed her eyes dangerously at him.

“It didn’t mean anything,” the vampire sighed dragging a hand through his hair and messing up the perfect spikes. This wasn’t exactly his idea of fun either but they had bills to pay and it was cases like this that put food on the table and blood in the refrigerator.

“I want to go home Angel. Please,” Cordelia whined with a pout, she slipped her hands into his as she bounced on her toes. “Pleeeeease,” her eyes were wide and doleful, the pleading little girl lost look she had cultivated during her teen years of sweet talking her father into extending her credit card limit, she knew it wasn’t just her Dad that it had an effect on, there wasn’t a man walking the planet that didn’t succumb to Cordelia Chase’s charm.

“It’s not gonna work Cor,” Angel said apologetically, he hated making her do something she quite clearly didn’t want to do but they had all agreed, even Cordelia.

“Dammit!” Cordelia stamped her foot like a petulant child, she jerked her hands out of the vampire’s just as he was beginning to enjoy the soft warmth of her skin against his. With defeated shoulders she snatched Angel’s drink off the bar and took a cautious sniff to see what it was, just as she was going to knock back the brown liquid Angel’s hand shot out and stole the drink from her.

The vampire was pretty sure he heard the young woman growl.

“Wasn’t it you that insisted we took this case in the first place?” Angel ignored the death glare she was currently throwing his way. “I seem to remember a couple renditions of Cordy’s got a brand new bag being sung around the hotel too.”

“Yeah, well, that was before I knew I’d be forced to spend a evening with the dregs of the gene pool,” Cordelia wrinkled her nose in distaste.

“It’s not so bad….” He trailed off unconvincingly as he watched the throngs of humans bumping and grinding against each other on the dance floor.

“You’re not the one being hit on by every knuckle dragging slime ball that walks in here,” she muttered testily.

“Maybe if you hadn’t worn-”

“Oh, I highly recommend you don’t finish that sentence,” Cordelia scowled and Angel swallowed the comment he was about to make about the lack of material in her dress. Not that the vampire noticed that sort of thing about his best friend. Especially not recently. And he certainly hadn’t almost tripped over his own feet when Cordelia had breezed into the Hotel earlier that evening in the scrap of midnight blue material that dipped low at her breasts and hung short against her tanned thighs. Thighs he’d had wrapped around his waist.

“You’re not the only one being pestered,” he said shaking the inappropriate thoughts about Cordelia’s thighs from his head.

It’s your own fault, standing there all dark and glowery. Of course women are going to be attracted to you, you’re the ultimate mysterious loner. You may as well be wearing a sign that says love me, I’m vulnerable.” The brunette rolled her eyes and straightened the lapel of his leather jacket apparently forgetting the fact that she was angry with Angel.

“I don’t think the woman with the…” he gestured wildly at his chest then the top of his head. “… was interested in my vulnerability.”

“Now that was funny,” Cordelia snorted, she’d watched as her best friend had squirmed uncomfortably when a large breasted, large haired red head had decided that Angel was the man of her dreams and had pulled out all the stops to make the vampire see that she was the woman of his dreams. It had been the high point of the evening so far.

“She was grabby,” Angel shuddered making Cordelia snort with laughter again.

“Aw, poor baby,” Cordelia cooed and patted his shoulder, any sympathy in her words was negated by her trademark Cordy eye roll.

“Thank you for your concern,” Angel said, his tone heavy with a sarcasm that he hadn’t known he was capable of until this woman had walked into his life.

“You’d get more sympathy if you let me go home.”

“We need you here.”

“I still don’t see why Fred couldn’t be the bait,” Cordelia muttered petulantly, her earlier grouchiness returning full force.

“Is there a problem?” Wesley appeared next to them as if out of no where making Cordelia startle for a moment before she turned her wrath to the Englishman.

“I want to go home.”

“But it’s still early,” frowned Wesley as he squinted as his watch in the dim light of the bar.

“That’s what I said,” Angel nodded in agreement but decided to stay out of the conversation when Cordelia glared sharply at him.

“This guy isn’t going to show,” she said knowingly, crossing her arms over her chest and daring Wesley to argue with her eyes.

“And you know this how? Did you have a vision?” The former Watcher pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes with an air of a man that already had much too much on his mind to be dealing with one of Cordelia’s tantrums.

“No, it’s more like woman’s intuition.”

“Well, as much as I trust your intuition Cordelia, I say we wait a while longer. Our client said this was a regular haunt of her stalker and as we’ve had no other luck tracking him down, this is the best chance we’ve had so far,” the former watcher said distractedly as his gaze sauntered around the room, stopping on Gunn who was in turn looking straight back at him.

“What if this weirdo shows up and you guys get distracted and don’t see him-”

“We’ll see him,” Wesley dismissed her concerns over his shoulder as he was already walking away from them.

“Oh no, he’s not distracted at all,“ Cordelia said as she watched his retreating back make its way over to Gunn. “Those two need to wake up and smell the love already.”

“Don’t meddle,” the vampire warned her as thought he could read her mind.

“As if I would,” she fluttered her eyelashes at him, daring Angel to contradict her.

“Cor-”

“I have to go try look seductive and enticing now,” Cordelia flicked her hair over her shoulder and walked away before Angel could say anything else. If she’d waited a moment longer she would have heard Angel mutter under his breath that she didn’t need to try at all.

But that was the demon in him talking.

Mostly.

***

Twenty slow, agonising minutes later Cordelia was still sitting on her own at the oddly sticky table. She leant her chin on her hand and blew a stray strand of hair out of her eyes.

Bait, Cordelia thought, always the damn bait.

This had seemed like easy money when they’d first accepted the case a week ago but the members of A.I weren’t exactly known for their investigative skills, give them a prophecy to thwart and they were like pigs in mud, give them an obsessive walking dead stalker with a penchant for brunettes and bad music and they couldn’t find their butts with both hands.

It should have been easy, tail the client for a couple days and grab the creep when he trips up, because they always trip up.

The problem was this one didn’t.

They always seemed to be five minutes too late or three steps behind, nothing they did, no matter how hard they tried, he was always just out of their reach. So they came up with a new plan, a plan that didn’t involve spending night after night hunched down in Angel’s car waiting for something to happen. Angel Investigations decided to go on offence, go to the night club the stalker had been seen in on numerous occasions, use Cordelia to lure him into a conversation and then knock him unconscious with something heavy, after that plan got murky.

OK, so, it wasn’t the best plan in the world but it was the only one they had.

It’s the worst plan in the world, Cordelia sighed swirling the rapidly melting ice around in her glass with disinterest and closing her eyes, tempted to fall asleep where she was sitting.

“A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be sitting on your own, can I buy you a drink? The name’s Tom.” A male voice made her eyes fly open, her heart beat rapidly for a moment she thought that it was finally the guy they had been looking for the past week. It wasn’t though, just another gold jewellery wearing sleaze with a paunch belly wading through the middle of a mid life crisis. Cordelia frowned and shifted away from his overpowering cologne.

“You see that angry looking guy over there Tom?” She jerked her thumb in the direction she knew Angel would be lurking.

“Er, yeah,” Tom nodded.

“Ex boyfriend. Very jealous. Big muscles. I’d run along before he does something violent,” the brunette made a dismissive shooing motion with her hands.

“I-”

“The last guy that tried to buy me a drink ‘accidentally’ swallowed his own tongue, that was after Brutus over there dislocated both his shoulders and broke all his fingers. It was very messy.” Cordelia shook her head solemnly. “Very, very messy.”

Cordelia’s would be suitor took in Angel’s hunched shoulders and scowl, a scowl that was currently being trained on him as if he were nothing but a bug to squash beneath his heavy boot. Tom shifted uncomfortably when the tall man with the intense forehead and leather jacket crossed his arms over his chest.

“Right,” he nodded and scurried away just like most of the men that had tried to chat her up this evening had.

It was a stupid plan and if Cordelia had thought about it for longer than the five seconds she had before she’d agreed to it she would have undoubtedly said no. Sitting in a two bit bar hoping to catch the eye of the maniac who’d been making their clients life a living hell for the last three months?

Make that a hell no.

***

Angel was well aware of the fact that he had the tendency to be possessive, it wasn’t a sudden realisation he had as he stood at the bar watching his best friend casually shoo away yet another eager male who was attempting to ingratiate themselves into her favour. It wasn’t a grand epiphany, there was no musical score swelling emotionally in the background, he didn’t clutch his chest and fall to his knees in comprehension.

Angel was possessive, everyone knew that. His friends, his family, they were his. Not that he felt he owned them, not really, it was just that after the bleakness of the year before he refused to let anything or anyone come between him and his people. He wouldn’t let that happen again.

So, Angel being possessive about the people he cared about was nothing new.

The growl that rumbled repeatedly through his chest whenever a man walked up to Cordelia Chase was though.

It was new and more than a little disturbing.

The vampire hadn’t realised he was doing it until he noticed there was a large semicircle of empty space around him, the invisible line that separated him from the rest of the world now clearly visible, it was reflected in the nervous looks that were being occasionally tossed his way.

It was the demon, not the man, it wanted to come out and play. It was itching beneath the surface of his skin, buzzing through his blood and tensing every muscle in his body. No matter how hard Angel tried to ignore it, the desire to tear the head off the next guy that smiled at his Cordelia coursed seductively through his veins.

He was also well aware of the fact that he was thinking of Cordelia as his property. Rationally Angel knew the young woman wasn’t his, they were co-workers, best friends, nothing more.

OK, best friends who occasionally had sex, but there were no romantic feelings on either side, he wasn’t in love with Cordelia and Cordelia wasn’t in love with him.

Angel knew that.

But the demon in him still wanted to shred every inch of skin from the next man that looked at her. Feeling unsettled the vampire turned his back to Cordelia and ordered another drink.

Or possibly three.

***

Typical, Cordelia thought anxiously, the boys spend three hours watching me like a hawk but as soon as the bad guy turns up they’re looking the other way. Why am I not surprised?

“That’s so interesting,” Cordelia turned on her one thousand watt smile and let her hair fall invitingly over her shoulder because she had no idea what the man opposite her had just said.

It was him, the guy they’d been looking for, the psychopath, the stalker, the not entirely human and possibly dangerous man that had terrified their client for the last three months of her life.

He looks taller than he did in the photograph, Cordelia thought randomly.

“Really? Would you like to see them?” He smiled toothily making Cordelia grimace internally.

“Er…sure, maybe.” She said noncommittally, darting a glance at Angel who still had his back turned to her then to Wesley and Gunn who were doing that non talking lustful stare thing they thought nobody noticed.

“Maybe we could go get a coffee?” He leant toward her in his seat

“But I don’t even know your name,” Cordelia smiled coyly as she mentally detached Angel’s testicles from his body.

“Dan,” he reached his hand out for her to shake, the brunette took it and struggled not to eww at the cold clamminess of his skin.

“Hello Dan, it’s nice to meet you,” she slipped her hand out of his and casually wiped it on her skirt. “I’m Charlie, Charlie Pryce.”

“Well Charlie Pryce, why don’t we get out of here and have that coffee now?” He stood up and gestured for her to do the same.

“Oh no, not now, please not now!” Cordelia groaned pitifully, she felt it in her fingertips first of all, a burning prickle that made every muscle in her body tense with expectation

“We could stay here for a while longer if that’s what you want,” Dan frowned, he’d thought this one would be easy.

Cordelia didn’t hear him, didn’t hear anything. Her eyesight blurred and she shook her head to clear her vision even though she knew from experience that it wouldn’t do a damn thing to help. Her head snapped back like a whip, bile burnt her throat and when the fire lanced through her synapses Cordelia felt herself falling and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.

An orange glow, forgotten alley, threatening footsteps echoing behind, closer, closer, always getting closer. Don’t panic, it’s probably nothing he tells himself. Heart beating, fear prickling the skin above his top lip. The crash of a trash can, startle with surprise, just keep walking, don’t look back, don’t look back. Humourless laughter reverberates behind him, no, don’t look back….

The raw tang of sweat on her lips, delicious and male, wrapping around her tongue. His need makes her feel seductive power in the ends of her fingertips, god, he wants her so much, nothing else matters but this, this sweet torture, furious release. Hands twisted in her messy hair, he moans begging for more, when did you become a tease…when I realised how hard it made you….

Trip, fall, a sharp crack to the forehead. Eighteen years of knowledge rattling around inside a cracked skull. Struggle, fight, no can’t fight, can’t run, a cold hand wrapped brutally around his throat, can’t breathe, can’t think, take my money, please don’t hurt me. Oh god what’s wrong with your face? Brittle death prickling the side of his throat…

Oh god baby don’t stop, polished marble against her tongue, whispered pleading licking at her nerves. Her hands, lips and tongue own him, as she travels his body she soothes his sins, nails raking red down the inside of his thighs, her ownership tattooed on his pale skin. Mine, she licks into his soul, yours he groans and the room hums with the possibilities….

The neon glow blurring, blood stinging his eyes, please don’t kill me. I love it when they beg, snap, a bone shatters like fragile porcelain, a broken cry muffled by hands heavy with death and destruction. Who’s hungry? His mother will cry, his father won’t understand, I’m sorry Dad, I should never have moved to this town, you told me it would be the end of me, you were always right. Fire in his neck, in his wrists, life dripping thickly out of a boy who’s future was meant to be so wonderful….

A growl that makes her skin prickle and thighs ache, slick heat and demanding steel crashing together again and again, never stop, god, please never stop. His face buried in tempting place where her neck meets her shoulder, he wants to, she wants him to, the fire blazing beneath her skin, beating like a siren song, to crawl into each others bodies and understand the riddle of their lives. Connected by more than necessity, more than need and desire. A moment of breath taking stillness, his lips whispering a secret into hers and finally the world becomes clear behind her eyes and everything makes glorious sense….

“Cordy?” Her name pulled her back to herself, Cordelia’s eyes fluttered open, she blinked in confusion as the face she’d seen in her vision hovered above hers.

“Angel?” She whispered barely able to hear her own voice above the beating of her heart. Her feminine fingers traced a path down the slope of his cheekbone and over his bottom lip, Cordelia’s breath hitched in her throat when the vampire’s tongue sneaked out and tasted her skin like a snake scenting its prey.

“What did you see?” Angel struggled to force the words out of his throat, Cordelia’s eyes were heavily lidded pools of obsidian boring into his own, the scent of sudden all consuming desire radiated off her body in waves that made the vampire’s mouth go dry and his body react in a way a best friend shouldn’t.

“You….” Cordelia murmured, her breath licked across his chin and made the vampire visibly shudder. Angel felt himself get lost in her gaze, hot and confused, his demon stirred his lifeless blood and screamed to be let free so it could take what was his. No, not mine, Angel tried to remind himself even as Cordelia’s lips threatened to touch against his. Yes, mine, the demon taunted as her fingers bit into the corded muscles of his arms and her hip pressed invitingly into his cock. You’ve had her, she laid down for you, smell her-it’s you she saw, you who’s made her wet with want-

A nervous cough snapped the moment into brittle pieces and Angel wrenched his gaze away from the young woman that was looking at him as though he could give her the world.

“You had a vision of Angel?” asked Wesley.

“Vision?” Cordelia frowned, her bewildered gaze drifting slowly back and forth between the vampire that was holding her and the man looking at her with brotherly concern.

“You OK Cor?” Gunn asked her in the same concerned tone of voice Wesley had used, the part of Cordelia’s brain that was still working on a cognitive level told her there was something she was meant to be doing and it wasn’t gripping onto Angel’s shoulders like the heroine on the front of some trashy romance novel.

“I….” Cordelia trailed off as reality returned and the noises of the club going on around them rattled through her ears and crashed thunder into her brain. “Vision,” she groaned and squeezed her eyes shut as every nerve in her body twisted and sparked painfully, the young woman leant her head against Angel’s shoulder for a moment before the full confusing extent of what she’d seen and felt hit her like a juggernaut.

“Of Angel?” The Englishman asked again.

“No!” Cordelia said quickly, unconvincingly, as she extracted herself out of Angel’s arms. The vampire came to his senses the same time his best friend did, he stepped away from Cordelia as though she were a leper, wrapping the sides of his leather jacket across his chest to hide the tent in his pants. Angel cleared his throat and stared down at his boots, rocking back and forth on his heels as he silently told his body to calm down.

The perfume of desire that still emanated from Cordelia wasn’t helping his situation.

Things began to make a sense that didn’t in Cordelia’s brain, images of pain and fear became mixed with passion and teasing hands, leaving the young woman unsure whether she wanted to throw up or do things to Angel that made him growl like he did in her vision. That thought alone crept a wave of crimson up her already flushed neck and forced her to groan audibly and rub the palms of her hands into her eyes.

“O-K,” Gunn said slowly narrowing his eyes at the pair before he silently asked Wesley what the hell was going on here with these two with a jerk of his head. The Englishman shrugged.

“We should go,” Cordelia said quickly, her eyes unable to meet Angel’s, not that it mattered, the vampire was still staring at his boots as though they were telling him the secrets of the universe.

“Er, where?” The black man rubbed a hand over his smooth scalp feeling like he’d missed a large part of this conversation

“To save the man in my vision,” she said while shouldering her purse.

“And he would be?” Wesley raised his eyebrows.

The…didn’t I tell you?”

“No, you were too busy cosying up with the vampire over there. Wanna let the little people in on what that was about?”

“We weren’t….” Cordelia felt the blush on her cheeks intensify, she shook her head, now wasn’t the time for this. “There’s a guy with a bright future ahead of him about meet the business end of a pair of fangs, now, we can all stand here looking at me like I’ve grown a two heads or we can go do our job,” she looked at them sternly.

“Sounds like a plan,” nodded Gunn, all business once again even though he had no idea what was going on. Sometimes it was best to just go with the flow.

“One more thing,” Cordelia stopped the men as they turned to leave.

“Yes?” Wesley stepped towards her thinking there was a an important part of the vision she needed to tell them.

“I’m gonna throw up,” the young woman turned an interesting shade of green and promptly dispelled every drink she’d had that evening on to the Englishman’s shoes.

***

An explosion of dust then nothing. That was all a vampire was at the end of the day, nothing but ashes blowing in the wind. All the death and destruction that raged through it’s veins, cold vengeance and animal instincts gone as though it never even existed, as though they hadn’t just fought like it was the end of the world.

Well, it wasn’t really the end of the world, but it could have been for the eighteen year old kid running down the alley like his life depended on it, which, five minutes ago, it had.

“Hey, no worries, you don’t need to thank us or anything!” Gunn called after kid as the last vestiges of the fight rained down on them, blanketing their clothes in a fine grey powder that they knew from experience would be found in the strangest of places for days to come.

“Manners have a tendency to be forgotten when the person in question is terrified beyond all rational thought,” said Wesley as he tucked his stake into the inside pocket of his jacket. “Although it would be nice to hear a ‘cheers’ every once in a while.”

“This is what I’m saying,” nodded Gunn as he reached his hand out to Angel who was still sitting on the pavement where he’d been for a large portion of the fight.

“You off your game tonight?” he asked the vampire bluntly as he tugged him to his feet.

“No,” Angel answered automatically, straightening his jacket as casually as he could.

“You don’t usually get knocked on your ass leaving me and English to do all the work, especially by a few dirty blood suckers, no offence.”

“None taken,” he scowled but his scowls had stopped having any effect on his friends a long time ago. Angel knew he was off his game, distracted, he was well aware of the reasons why but he had no intention of telling Wesley and Gunn that.

I got knocked on my ass by a vampire two hundred years younger than me because the scent of my best friend’s sudden arousal was making me want to press her up against the wall and fuck her still she screamed. Oh and by the way that whole arousal thing? Yeah, she was having a vision of the pair of us having sex, which we do now.

No way, no how.

“That could’ve turned real ugly,” Gunn crossed his arms over his chest, the tension that would forever simmer between the black man and the vampire threatened to boil to the surface as it did on numerous occasions.

“But it didn’t,” Angel mirrored his stance with defiance.

“But it could’ve.”

“Oh yes, lets do have an argument now,” Wesley rolled his eyes, Angel and Gunn ignored him.

“But it didn’t.”

“It could’ve.”

“Oh give me strength,” the Englishman muttered and left the two ‘alpha males’ to their post battle testosterone induced pissing contest. “Cordy?” The former watcher knelt down next to the young woman who sat on the pavement, touching her shoulder gently so as not to surprise her too much. When she turned her head to face him, leaning her chin on her knees, Wesley had to fight not to frown with concern because he knew how much she hated that, hated being pitied.

“Hey,” Cordelia blinked her eyes into focus, rubbing the palms of her hands over her face, not caring if her make up was ruined, she had a pretty good idea she already looked like crap. “Did you save the kid?”

“Of course,” Wesley nodded. “How are you feeling?”

“A hot bath and a couple painkillers and I’ll be good as new,” she reassured him.

“We ready to go?” Gunn’s asked as he and Angel finally gave up on their pathetic argument and joined their friends.

“Definitely,” Cordelia nodded, shooing away each man’s offer to help her to her feet, stubbornly doing it by herself only to sway dangerously to the left when she was upright.

“Woah there girl,” Gunn grasped her elbow before she could topple over.

“I’m good, I’m good,” Cordelia steadied herself even as a fresh wave of nausea churned her stomach and paled her skin.

“Barbie’s gonna hurl again,” Charles Gunn, street fighter, bad ass loner and alpha male let go of the brunettes arm like he’d been burnt and took a quick step away from her. Luckily Angel was there to catch her, just as he always was.

“I’m not gonna hurl….”

Wesley cautiously stepped back too this time.

“….OK, maybe I am,” Cordelia grimaced as the tell tale thickness in her throat told her she actually was, quickly turning her back to them she leant her hand against the dirty wall and wretched painfully making the three men wince in sympathy.

“Bring the car round,” Angel threw his car keys at Gunn and gestured for Wesley to go with him. With his friend’s footsteps fading down the street the vampire rubbed his hand over the small of Cordelia’s back, murmuring useless words of comfort to her as she coughed and gagged until her knees shook and her hands trembled.

“Shit,” she muttered dragging the back of her hand across her mouth.

“At least you missed your shoes,” Angel offered weakly, rewarded by a snort of laughter then a pained groan from Cordelia.

“Please don’t make me laugh.” She straightened up, the world still spinning around her.

“Sorry.” Angel tucked her now dishevelled hair behind her ears.

“What happened to creepy Dan?” Cordelia blinked her red puffy eyes as the random thought sped to the forefront of her brain.

“Creepy Dan?”

“The stalker.”

“I think the you scared him away.” Angel picked up Cordelia’s purse from the pavement and slung it over his shoulder, he could hear Spike telling him what a ponce he was in his head as he did it.

“Damn,” Cordelia frowned, a whole evening down the wasted just as it looked like they were making a breakthrough.

“It doesn’t matter, we’ll catch him next time. C’mon,” Angel wrapped an arm around her shoulders and quite literally swept Cordelia off her feet.

“What are you doing?” she gasped, desperately trying to control the churning of her stomach.

“Taking you home,” he said as casually as Cordelia snaked her arms around his neck.

“I can walk,” Cordelia said stubbornly even as she nestled her head into the crook of Angel’s neck.

“I know you can.” He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, his stride stuttering a little as he was assaulted by her natural scent. Through the fear and the pain arousal lingered.

He knew what that meant.

“Want to go back to the hotel or your place?” Angel whispered in her ear, he felt Cordelia go tense in his arms.

“I-”

“We don’t-”

“Mine,” Cordelia swallowed audibly, instantly remembering how she’d purred that word not long ago in her vision and her skin prickled at the memory. The vampire’s nostrils flared and the brunette felt a blush creeping up her neck. “My place, lets, lets go back to my place.”

***

Cordelia poured the boiling water into the small red teapot Wesley had given her last Christmas, her hands no longer shook as they had done when she and Angel first entered her apartment, it was mostly from nerves now, Cordelia realised. She didn’t know why she still felt nervous about having sex with Angel, they’d done it twice now.

Twice.

It seemed more than that somehow, in her head Cordelia had been touched by Angel what felt like a thousand times, whenever she closed her eyes there he was, taking over her dreams and leaving her to wake with an empty ache between her thighs. It was making her crazy, she was hesitant to sleep because in her dreams Angel looked at her as though he wanted to write his name across her heart, she was scared to close her eyes because she enjoyed it when he did.

In her dreams Angel touched her and Cordelia craved for more. His hands on her breasts, his lips on the small of her back, his name falling from her lips. When she woke the dreams would fade and she could go into work, hug her best friend like everything was normal and pretend that he hadn’t licked the inside of her thigh and made her moan in her slumber.

But now the powers had re-sent the original vision along side the latest innocent soul to save. Cordelia didn’t understand it, she didn’t understand why the powers were making her see and feel these things in both her sleeping and waking hours.

She squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to wipe the memories from her brain but it was of no use, when she closed her eyes it only intensified everything, his teeth gazing bluntly over her shoulder, his tongue swirling circles around her navel, her legs shaking and back arching, his eyes flashing amber as Angel whispered all the things he was going to do into her skin….

Cordelia dragged a deep shuddering breath into her lungs and forced her eyes to open, she touched her neck, her pulse was beating quickly beneath her fingertips. The young woman bit the soft flesh of her bottom lip between her teeth and gripped the countertop until her knuckles turned white. The former Sunnydale cheerleader forced her body and mind to calm down, stamping down the desire that coursed through her veins. The problem was without that to distract her the splintering ache that sparked pain into every corner of her skull returned and twisted her stomach with nausea. She really didn’t want to throw up again but the alternative was to let the vision replay over and over again in her brain in all it’s technicolor glory.

She didn’t know which one would send her mad first.

Cordelia stood vacantly stirring sugar into her tea, listening to the low hum of her shower running in the bathroom, desperately fighting the pain in her head and the need in her body. She rubbed her hand over her forehead, alarmed to find a light sheen of sweat coating her skin

“Get a grip Chase,” Cordelia scolded herself and wiped the cuff of her sleeve across her forehead. A gentle breeze fluttered through her hair and reminded Cordelia that she wasn’t alone

“I’m OK Dennis,” she smiled tenderly at her ghost’s show of concern, breathing through the pain and focusing all her concentration on the simple task of making tea.

The urge to close her eyes and listen to her best friend tell her how beautiful she was, how he needed her, how she made him crazy was so very strong. To listen to his voice and feel his hands on her body, forget about the splinters in her head and think of nothing but the ache between her thighs.

No, no, she couldn’t. It wouldn’t be right, friends, just friends. She had to remember that and ignore everything else, ignore the heat simmering in her belly, ignore the ache in her breasts and the tingle in her lips. Oh god it wouldn’t stop, the taste of his skin, the landscape of his hard lines and sculptured muscles, the rough scrape of his stubble between her breasts, her nails scratching marks into his shoulders as she forgot her own name, forgot everything but how he felt inside her, never ending, hard and gentle, making her head spin and her lungs cry out for more, now, oh god please, more-

“What happened?” Angel’s voice snapped her out of it before she got any more. Cordelia spun around on her heels to face him, her heart beating in her throat.

“Whu?” She blinked.

“There was a crash,” the vampire said slowly noticing her flushed skin and distracted demeanour.

“There was?” Cordelia’s eyes followed a single trickle of water as it made its way down Angel’s naked chest and slipped under the towel that he wore low on his hips.

“Cordy?”

“What?” Her eyes jerked back up to his, embarrassed that she was caught ogling her best friend.

“The crash?”

Oh, I, I…I must have knocked it over,” she stuttered frowning at the shattered mug that lay accusingly on the floor. Shaking her head in yet another futile attempt to clear it Cordelia bent down to pick up the broken pieces of china.

“Are you OK?” Angel asked already knowing what her answer would be.

“I’m fine,” smiled Cordelia a little too brightly. “Just a million miles away,” she shrugged. Angel nodded accepting her answer even though he knew it wasn’t the full truth, he wasn’t going to remind her how they’d agreed to know more secrets because he didn’t have to. The vampire knew what had made her skin flush pink and her lips swollen red, he could taste it on the air, sweet like red wine and whispered promises. Angel watched as Cordelia carefully collected the shattered shards in her hand, his feet rooted firmly to the ground by her scent and the seductive curve of flesh that had become exposed as the top of her robe slipped open like a flower tasting the first rays of spring light. Full flesh that he’d nervously held in his hands, soft but firm, a delicious weight pressing against his chest-

“Angel?”

“Yes?” He snapped his eyes away from his friend’s breast.

“I asked if you had good shower?” Cordelia stood up with a frown, unaware that she’d just flashed her best friend.

“Oh, yes, I er, no longer smell of alley and dust,” he nodded.

“Good,” she nodded in return, her brain felt like it was sloshing around in her skull at the movement. “Did you want something to eat?” Cordelia asked trying to distract herself from drumming in her head.

“No, I’m good.”

“OK.”

Cordelia ran her fingers through the ends of her damp hair for something to do while their old friend awkwardness stepped loudly in the room, Angel crossed his arms over his chest and rolled back and forth on the balls of his feet.

“So….”

“Yeah….”

“How’s your head feeling?” Angel asked, relieved that he’d thought of something to say before the silence swallowed the entire world.

“Like a jackhammer and jet engine got frisky one night and spawned lots of little hybrid jackhammer/jet engine babies and they’re all doing the cha cha in my head,” shrugged Cordelia.

“Ouch.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, maybe we should….” Angel nodded in the general direction of the bedroom.

“Yeah….” Cordelia nodded taking a deep shuddering breath, looking for the courage she knew was buried inside her somewhere. “I’ll just…er…go get ready then.”

“OK,” the vampire nodded. Again.

“Right.”

“I’ll let you go get ready.”

“Yeah.”

“OK.”

“I’ll…right.” Cordelia forced herself to move, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other and not how her face was burning scarlet she slipped passed the vampire and into the privacy of her bedroom, Cordelia let out a shuddering breath and let her mask slip a glorious moment, alone she didn’t need to pretend.

***

When Angel finished staring at the kitchen ceiling as he counted to twenty, the reason why he was doing this he wasn’t completely sure of , he walked silently through the apartment until he reached Cordelia’s bedroom door. Moving his head from side to side the vampire cracked the bones in his neck and shook his arms as though he were about to step up to the plate. His hand grasped the door handle and turned it slowly, his body and mind arguing wordlessly with each other just as they’d done ever since he’d stood in his shower a week ago as images of a dream fresh in his mind made his head spin and his body hard.

Angel pushed the door open just as Cordelia’s robe fell from her shoulders and into a puddle of silk on the floor. Shadows played across her naked back, moving over her skin like animated tattoos, his gaze swept predatorily from the damp chocolate waves that caresses her shoulders, down the line of her spine, over the intricate sun that sat above the curve of her ass…Angel swallowed heavily and stood frozen in the door way.

The vampire wished he were wearing more than just a towel.

The creak of his weight against the floorboards alerted Cordelia to his presence in the room, she glanced over her shoulder then slipped into bed as casually as she could manage. Angel cleared his throat for something to do as he walked to the opposite side of the bed, the mattress dipping as he climbed in next to her.

“Cor-”

A loud staccato banging erupted in the small apartment as the bedroom door repeatedly slammed shut, shaking the wood on it’s hinges.

“What the hell?” Angel exclaimed in surprise, his body instantly tense and alert for a fight, Cordelia gripped his shoulder to still him.

“Dennis! Stop it!” she shouted loudly but the ghost continued to make himself heard with a series of crashing slams that made the pain in Cordelia’s head increase tenfold. “I mean it, don’t make me get Whitney Houston out!”

There was silence, just a Cordelia knew there would be. One of her less favourite lipsticks floated up from her dressing table, the lid falling to the ground as an invisible hand wrote a shaky ‘WHAT’S GOING ON?’ across the mirror.

Cordelia groaned and rubbed her forehead.

“I’ll explain later,” she muttered feeling Angel’s concerned gaze boring into her.

NO, NOW! appeared on the mirror accompanied with another series of hard slams of the door.

“I said later Dennis!” Cordelia shouted furiously, regretting her tone when an icy breeze swept through the room signalling the ghosts angry departure.

“Sorry about that, he’s just….”

“Protective of you, like we all are.” Angel snaked his hand over hers and squeezed it affectionately, Cordelia smiled weakly, she didn’t have the energy for anything more. They sat side by side in her bed with nothing but a few inches of space separating them but a ocean of silence stretched out between them. It was in that latest moment of load quiet that Cordelia realised she couldn’t do this.

“Angel?”

“Yeah?”

“I can’t do it.”

“Do?”

“The awkward silence thing, not again…I just…I don’t have the energy for it Angel, my head is…I can’t…everything is so…I just can’t Angel….” Cordelia trailed off, her eyes wide with a vulnerability she very rarely let her friends see.

“Shhh, shhh, it’s OK,” the vampire murmured, twirling a strand of her hair around his finger then tucking it behind her ear.

“No, it’s not, the vision, it’s driving me crazy-”

“I know Cordy.”

“No you don’t,” she shook her head in exasperation.

“Cordelia, listen to me,” Angel cupped her chin in his hand and made the young woman look at him. “It’s OK.”

Cordelia searched his face for a long moment, unsure of what it was she was looking for, the truth maybe or perhaps just a simple reassurance.

“Close your eyes,” the vampire brushed his knuckles down the slope of her cheekbone, pressing his finger against her lips just as she was going to say she couldn’t, if she closed her eyes….

“Just trust me.” He reassured her, that was all it took because Cordelia did trust him, she might not trust her mind, her body, or herself right now, but she trusted Angel. With a short nod the brunette closed her eyes, letting out a jerky breath as her skin prickled to life under the images that flooded her system. Cordelia felt the ache in her brain begin to drift away on a sea of senses, letting everything she’d fought so hard to ignore in the last hour, the last week, soak into every nerve in her body until there was nothing but a desire she had never experienced before filling up every millimetre of her body.

Cordelia let herself sink down onto the mattress, feeling heavy and languid from an exhausting night that was far from over. She forgot about the horrors she’d seen, the stifling atmosphere of the club, the numerous desperate men who’d tried to crawl into her favour through a haze of after shave that she’d thought she’d smell for days…it all vanished until nothing else remained but the whisper soft caress of lips against her shoulder. She laid back, almost unable to move as her best friend trailed kisses down the valley of her breasts, his fingers twined through hers, keeping her safe, keeping her grounded, her body aching for something she was scared to put into words, scared to let herself acknowledge. Her best friend’s tongue dipping into her navel, licking her scent from her belly, inching lower and lower and lower.

Cordelia’s eyes flew open as she realised it wasn’t the vision that was making her breath leave her lungs in short erratic pants. It was Angel, not the vision she’d let herself succumb to. He was going to….

“Angel, what are you…oh my god….” She squeezed her eyes shut and bit her bottom lip as the vampire buried his face between her thighs. The brunette hadn’t even been aware that he’d been touching her, too wrapped up in the flashes in her mind, the way the vision made her feel to realise that it was Angel travelling her body and not just a message from the powers that be.

This was so incredibly beyond personal, beyond what they had to do, beyond the line they had wordlessly drawn when they’d began this weeks ago. But Cordelia didn’t stop him, she knew she should, but the words sat heavily in her throat and it just felt too damn good, his hands running up and down her sides, fingers brushing the underside of her breasts, his mouth devouring her like a starving man…he shouldn’t be doing this, she shouldn’t be enjoying it, she shouldn’t be moaning into her hand and lifting her hips off the bed like he was her lover and she desperately needed him.

She shouldn’t, but she was.

A fire inside her marrow and bone, nothing but liquid need arching her back off the bed, twisting her trembling fingers through his thick hair, Angel’s thick hair, her best friend’s thick hair. It had never been like this before, but then they’d never done this before, Angel had never given her such an intimate touch, his tongue travel over the most secrets parts of her, enjoying it, she knew he was enjoying it, it scared, thrilled and ashamed her, warring emotions boiling through her blood until she gasped and shuddered from her toes to the ends of her hair, wave after wave crashing against the shore until Cordelia moaned her release into her hands, it was too much, he shouldn’t have, they were friends, friends didn’t do this, oh god it had felt so good….

“Cordy?” Angel said as minutes ticked by without a word being uttered.

“Oh my god,” she mumbled breathlessly into the hands as the world slowly began to came back to her.

“Are you OK?”

“Oh. My. God.”

“You already said that.”

“Oh my-”

“Cordy, could you take your hands away from your face.”

“I don’t so,” Cordelia shook her head, embarrassment keeping her hands exactly where they were. Possibly forever.

“Cor…just….” Angel pried them away from her face.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Cordelia hissed, her hand shooting out and smacking his shoulder before he saw it coming. “Friends do not go down on their friends!”

“Didn’t you enjoy it?” Angel frowned, suddenly scared that he’d done the wrong thing.

“That’s not the point,” Cordelia muttered wanting to hide her face in a pillow and never look Angel in the eye again.

“You enjoy it in the vision, don’t you?”

“That’s not-”

“No, that’s exactly the point.”

“Angel-”

“Oh you enjoyed it,” Angel smirked knowingly.

“You’re an ass,” Cordelia rolled her eyes, the tension she that had suffused every molecule of her body since the vision had hit in the club no longer even registering on her radar.

“As long as you’re not telling me it was the n word or giving me the ‘it happens to all men’ speech, ass I can live with.”

“Well, there’s still a chance-” Cordelia’s words were cut short as a now familiar length of hard flesh was pressed against her hip. “OK, maybe not the ‘it happens to all men’ speech this time,” she bit the inside of her cheek to stifle a laugh, no longer mortified at the surrealness of the situation because her head no longer hurt, her body no longer ached and her fears were being chased away with every brush of Angel’s fingers through her hair.

Soft laughter and quiet conversation filled the room from then on, caresses that were no longer quite so tentative and nervous were shared between the two, they touched as lovers but talked as friends, it was strange and confusing but not as much as it had been before. When Angel moved slowly inside her he whispered nonsense into her ear to make her laugh as though they weren’t having sex to save her life, as though it were just another thing they did in their spare time like sparring or watching Leno. Cordelia kissed his shoulder, ran her fingers through his hair, called him a dork and smiled.

It still wasn’t the grand passion of her visions and dreams but Cordelia didn’t care because she felt light without the oppressive pain of another persons terror crowding her brain. Nothing else mattered but that

***

Angel quietly tugged on his boots as he sat on the end of Cordelia’s bed, the young woman’s breathing deep and even in her slumber, her hair a tangle of silk against her pillow, her skin still flushed pink.

A part of him wanted to stay in this bed and watch her sleep, wrap his arms around his best friend and make sure nothing ever harmed her again.

Yet he didn’t, that wasn’t part of the deal.

They were just friends.

He could still taste her on his lips, smell her scent on his skin, the ghost of her fingers gripping his shoulders.

Just friends.

The vampire pressed a kiss to the top of her head and pulled the sheet up to her shoulders, she shifted and sighed in her sleep but didn’t wake. Angel wondered what Cordelia would say in the morning if he did stay the night, what her reaction would be.

This time he wouldn’t find out.

Nothing but friends.

It was becoming harder for Angel to remember that.


Part 8

Posted June 25, 2015 by califi in TBC