Archive for December 2016

Faint Heart. 15-16   1 comment

Part 15

Cordy sniffled over a cup of coffee, feeling stupid for sniffling but unable to stop it as she drank her coffee out of ‘that stupid, arrogant vampire’s’ cup.

“Can anyone join in the pity party? I’m a newly paid up member!” Cordy swiveled round in her seat at the familiar yet quivery voice that came from the main entrance of the hotel. Taking in the tousled blond hair and tearstained face of the petite girl standing in the doorway, Cordy’s mouth dropped open.

“Buffy?”

***

They both sat nursing coffee, and lost in their own private hells, when Buffy finally broke the silence. “How’s life been treating you?”

Cordy pulled a face. “I can honestly say- like a major suck”

“Hmm” Buffy took a sip of her coffee.

“What about you?”

“Good…till I came to L.A.- I now join you in your major suckage. Cheers!” They clinked cups.

More silence, then Buffy glanced up briefly. “Had the mother of shocks today.”

“Oh. Just the one?” Cordy figured one wasn’t so bad. The blonde shook her head.

“Nope.”

Cordy rolled her eyes. “Right- cos there’s never just one!” she commented drolly.

“Nope, there never is.” Buffy stuck her finger in her rapidly cooling coffee, stirring it. “Angel told me about the whole turning evil gig- how did that work out?”

“The same old, same old; ya know: cackle loudly, betray your friends, carry evil spawn- kill, maim and basically try to take over the world.” Nonchalantly spoken; eyes deep wells of pain.

“Cool!” a pause “actually, I can see why that wouldn’t be much with the coolness.” She flicked the brunette a sympathetic glance.

“Yeah- kinda sucked- for them. Me? Thankfully blissfully ignorant of it; at the time, anyway” A long pause followed that, and then Buffy looked up.

“Found out Spike is alive; well, undead and kicking. – And, boy, was he kicking!”

“And that’s suckage for you?” Cordy frowned; the blonde nodded morosely.

“Yeah… no; well, it IS if you find him hanging all over some floozy.”

“Floozy?”

“Okay…that’s a bit dated- how about skank?”

“That works for me.” Cordy took a sip of her coffee, and then asked, “Has this skank got a name?

“Yeah… Fred I think” Cordy’s coffee shot out of her nose in a not very ladylike manner

“F-*cough*Fred? *Splutter* ” pulling herself together with the help of a-little-too-healthy back slapping from the visiting slayer, Cordelia wiped her eyes and finally made eye contact with her.

“I think our monosyllabic by-play should now evolve into real conversation, don’t you think?” the light fake tone now completely gone from the brunette’s voice. Buffy stared at the girl sitting opposite her across the counter for a long moment, then visibly sagged.

“Yeah; time to be all grown up and less BTVS-ey” She finally agreed equally lacking in forced lightness…

***

“I mean… when I was a lot younger, I used to think about the whole getting pregnant and having kids deal. The idea was all wrapped up in the excitement of carrying a new life and the joy of giving birth- me; I get impregnated THREE times, and every one of them fucked up my mind and was ultimately evil.” Cordy concentrated on the fingers that twined and twisted in her lap before continuing.

“I’ve always been a survivor; but now… I just can’t seem to deal with this crap. I don’t know where I’m going anymore” Cordelia rubbed her face wearily, “All I do know is here is so NOT where I wanna be right now.”

“What about Angel? – Yeah, I can see why you’re mad at him,” she caught the raised fine brow and grimaced. “Okay, pissed to high heaven with the sometimes totally clueless vampire- but he loves you.”

Cordy sighed. Great! He’d even told his ex-love…that should make her feel better, right? And it did, but that wasn’t the only area of conflict between her and Angel. Could they work through it? She honestly didn’t know.

“If love was the answer to everything, Buff, you two wouldn’t have split up- God! Sorry, that came out so totally different than I meant it.” Cordy grimaced and reached out a placatory hand.

Buffy felt strangely honored in a way to see the real Cordelia Chase; less the snark, arrogance and cold indifference that she still recalled acutely. It was a side she’d never seen…the woman she was looking at now, she could easily see herself making friends with her. Whoa!

“I get what your saying, no probs- but isn’t it worth fighting for? – and before you bring up the weird similarities again, let me tell you, and I never thought I’d say it, but we were never friends, and I think you need that as a real basis for love.” Cordelia stared at the blonde in a moment’s shock before dropping her eyes.

Angel was-is her best friend. For a few years, that’s what they were- at first . Regardless of other, deeper emotions that had crept in, at least there was that. Trouble is, was just friendship enough now?

“You know, if you really need to get away right now…” Buffy took a deep breath before continuing after getting the brunette’s attention.

“We could always use another pair of hands” Buffy grinned at the expression of shocked disbelief on Cordy’s face. “The pay kinda sucks big time,” she admitted.

“That’s one of the hazards of a career in Demon fighting”, Cordy finally spoke; forcing a lightness she didn’t feel into her tone. “Plus I had the advantage of working for a boss seriously tight with a buck: okay, not such an advantage.” Cordy smiled with genuine humor for the first time in a very long while, and her face transformed, giving Buffy yet another glimpse of the true beauty within- then it melted into an uncertain frown.

“Are you being serious here? –I’m not saying yay or nay right now, only I think you should be careful offering something that sounds pretty darn tempting to me right now.”

“Oh, I’m deadly serious- not quite sure how long it’d take Xander to get over the shock, though,” Cordelia rolled her eyes and snorted inelegantly, which caused Buffy to choke back a giggle.

“Can I…can I think about it?” the smile faded and the shadows slid back into the brunette’s eyes. “Cos you know, no matter how much I want to run away right now, a part of me doesn’t want to go out like that- a coward.” Buffy leaned forward and patted the other woman’s hand lightly.

“I can think of a lot of descriptors where you’re concerned; not all peachy, either” she grinned cheekily for a moment, and then her face turned quietly serious. “But ‘Coward’ isn’t one of them.”

A fresh flood of moisture threatened to fill Cordelia’s eyes, but she forced them down; she’d done way too much of that lately. Her eyes settled on the blonde’s looking past the light-hearted smile.

“What about you?” She asked, her voice serious. Buffy shrugged and grinned. “Oh, I’m sure I won’t get the urge to throttle you- not all the time anyway!” Cordy shook her head.

“Not that; this- Spike.” Instantly the grin melted away, leaving a pensive sorrow that tore into Cordy’s heart.

“Oh, I think he’s pretty happy where he is,” Buffy curled her lip. “I mean, he’s been here for months. He had plenty of chance to tell me he was around, but he didn’t- got himself another little pet by the look of it too.” She couldn’t keep the bitterness out of her voice.

“Fred? Seriously, Buffy, they’re just friends.” Cordy gave a grin, adding, “Her clothes may have upgraded to ladyvamp, but her head and body are still all romantic and dreamy- and she’s with Gunn as far as I know.” Cordy frowned. The last time she was here, they were together.

“Yeah? Who’s Gunn- you don’t mean some kinda fetish thing or anything do you?” they both laughed at the images that brought to mind, then Cordy told her about Charles Gunn.

“But I haven’t seen Gunn- or Wes since I woke up.” That was something she still couldn’t get her head around, thinking they’d at least make an appearance; surely they’d understand her reluctance to set foot in that place- and Angel hadn’t mentioned them at all so far.

“Plus I saw both Spike and Fred here, and all he talked about was you,” she added softly, not adding the rest he had to say; that was something she still needed to get her head around.

“Yeah, well, “Buffy shook her head and yawned. “I’m not in the awake enough mind to even think in a straight line right now, what with the traveling and seeing Spike – and did you see who Angel has for a secretary?” her eyes widened. “He wouldn’t even let me stake the bitch- and he said she was still evil!” She shook her head in disbelief.

“Welcome to Wolfram & Hart; Evil Incorporated.” Cordy’s lips twisted bitterly, then she rose to her feet with a strained smile. “God, look at the time! We girls need our beauty sleep; well, not exactly need, us being so darned gorgeous and all”

Buffy stood up and stretched like a feline, then struck a coy pose before they both giggled, heading for the stairs as soon as the main doors were locked and the lobby lights turned off…

Leaving a certain anxious dark vampire hovering outside and slamming his head off the wall.

Loves old and new having heart to heart talks. Could his unlife get any worse? As Angel slowly turned around to walk away, he paused.

“Leave it,” He ordered under his breath before continuing on towards his car. After several seconds, the bleached vampire also turned away and melted into the shadows.


Part 16

“Buffy’s getting ready to leave,” Cordelia informed Angel coolly, glancing at her watch as she did so. “In fact, her cab should be here soon. She’s asked me to go back with her,” she added, a thoughtful frown on her face.

Angel searched her eyes desperately trying to read her thoughts. Although he’d heard it mentioned the night before, up until this moment, he’d shrugged it off; Cordy wouldn’t- couldn’t leave…. could she?” “And?” he finally asked, his face tight with restrained emotions when she stared at him at him long and hard before replying.

“Truthfully? I think it would probably be the best for everyone.” He growled low in his throat and turned abruptly away, fighting for control over his primal urge to scoop her up and lock her away somewhere…somewhere she couldn’t escape and leave him. Again.

“Not for everyone,” he eventually replied, turning back to face her. Cordy frowned; dipping her head and fixing her unreadable gaze on invisible lint she plucked carefully from her skirt. “Things have changed- a lot.” Looking up, she continued more strongly. “I don’t like that you’re working for Evil Inc; you’ve no intention of stopping that and returning to the mission-” he cut her off angrily.

“One, I work for me; already told you that. Two: still helping the helpless.” Her lips wobbled for a second at his achingly familiar phrasing.

“The ‘helpless'” she air quoted, “being clients of Evil Inc who pay good money for bad deeds?”

“Stop calling it that- and no… not all of them are clients,” he raked his fingers through already disheveled hair then raised stormy eyes to hers. “I still go out there – alone, and help out where I can.” He revealed in a quieter voice.

“Okay…” Cordy conceded, and then looked around. “What about this place? This one suddenly not good enough for the big highflying vampire/CEO.” His teeth gritted at the snark lacing her light tone.

“I suppose you’d miss all the frills; like designer suits, fancy cars…” she continued blithely, pausing and then adding, “blonde assistants.” Before she could blink he was looming over her, hands gripping the arms of the chair and his face too close for comfort.

“That was a mistake,” Angel reminded her tightly. Cordy pursed her lips, hoping he couldn’t feel the fine tremble that shimmered through her body at his close proximity.

“A mistake.” A small smile touched her full mouth for a second; fading just as quickly. “You have a hell of a lot of those hanging from your belt, Angel- so do the others.” Looking him right in the eye, she added softly. “Are mine the only ones that are accountable?” Angel recoiled a little at the pure bitterness that clouded her lovely eyes, but still refused to move.

“Don’t do this to us, Cor.” His unneeded breath brushed across her mouth, and she licked them unconsciously, drawing his darkening eyes. “I’m trying here.”

“No kidding,” her quick comeback lifted his eyes back to hers. A faint smile whispered across his mouth, quickly erased by her next words. “And let’s be honest here. There is no ‘us,’” she added almost as an afterthought. “Maybe once I thought…” Cordy closed her eyes against the pain that flared in his, and then squeezed them tight before capturing his gaze once more, sadness tingeing her now clear expression. “A big part of me thinks it would be best if I left.”

Before he could respond, footsteps sounded on the stairs, drawing their attention. Buffy hopped down them, seemingly unaware of the tension- except for the wary expression in her eyes. They snapped from the vampire to the brunette.

“Sure you won’t change your mind, Cordy?” Angel’s narrowed gaze returned to the woman he still caged in the chair.

Keeping her eyes trained on the blonde, Cordy shook her head with a faint smile.

“I’m sure- but if I do, is the offer still open?” her voice sounded uncertain to Angel’s sharp ears, as if she were regretting refusing almost soon as she’d said it, which made his heart sink. Buffy nodded, cautiously watching Angel, her eyes narrowing in silent warning at his continued intimidating stance over the other girl.

Angel read the veiled warning clearly, and slowly straightened up, taking a reluctant step back as he did so. “Buffy.”

“Angel,” hazel eyes reflected mild amusement, but neither the vampire nor the Slayer noticed. The small scene strangely reminded her of a Xander/Angel moment of years past. Angel cleared his throat after an awkward silence.

“So… you’re going back today?” his eyes dropping to the heavy backpack she held easily in one hand. Buffy nodded, and then looked down at her feet as she read the silent question in his knowing gaze.

“Don’t.” She descended the rest of the steps before speaking again. “My head can’t fit in anymore angst right now.” Cordy’s expression empathized wholeheartedly. Been there, doing that… still.

Angel remained silent. The ‘relationship’, past and present, had nothing to do with him now- if at all, really. He’d lost the right to interfere in Buffy’s life the night he left. And to be honest with himself, he preferred it that way.

Anyway, this was something Spike and his ex had to figure out for themselves. Angel was far from blind- when it came to anything that didn’t involve him, and hadn’t missed the pure joy- quickly followed by an expression of betrayal and wrenching hurt when the blonde vampire had entered his office, draped all over Fred like an accessory. Spike always did have rotten timing.

“Fred is a friend, Buffy,” he felt the need to say something, though; as much as it pained him to do anything to help the irritating ass-thorn in his side of late. Buffy’s face closed off instantly.

“Just leave it, okay? Right, gotta go.” She threw the backpack over one shoulder before walking over to join them; her blue eyes locked with hazel for a moment before she spoke.

“You’ve got my number; call me if you change your mind, or… need anything else, okay?” Cordy smiled up at the girl she’d never have thought in a million years would end up being a friend and nodded, then followed the urge to rise and briefly hugged the blonde before pulling away awkwardly, both now with foolish grins on their faces. Angel looked on silently, shuffling his feet and feeling like he was intruding on a private moment.

“Safe journey,” Cordy’s grin widened into a genuine blinding smile. Buffy nodded and took a step back before turning her gaze to the silent vampire. “Good to see you, Angel.” Her eyes narrowed for a second as she added, “though not so great to see where you’re at right now. sort it out… or next time, maybe I’ll have to visit in an official Slayer capacity.” Angel stiffened at the not so subtle warning before relaxing enough to let a slight cool smile touch his mouth.

“Good to see you too. Safe journey.” Buffy returned an equally cool smile then turned and left, waving a casual hand just before she exited the hotel.

Silence again permeated the lobby until Cordy shifted her feet and turned to make her way to the coffee machine. “Want some?” she indicated the mug in her hand, and after a brief pause, Angel nodded.

He watched carefully as she pulled out another mug- his old one, and set them out before lifting the coffee jug and pouring the hot black liquid into them. If he hadn’t have been looking so closely, he would have missed the fine tremor of her hand.

Cordy was staying- or, not going to Italy anyway. Angel knew he should have been relieved, but the knowledge that his ex-seer had itchy feet kept him tense and ready.

But ready for what?

If she really wanted to leave, move on, could he stop her? Angel rolled his heavy shoulders. Oh, he could stop her if he let his demon have his way, but he’d pay for locking her away with him every single moment he looked into her lovely eyes.

She’d end up hating him- if she didn’t already. But looking at her now as she approached and handed him his mug, he knew that wasn’t true. Angry, frustrated; disappointed with him and decisions made when she was ‘absent’….

“I don’t want you to leave…us, Cordy.” It was out. He didn’t feel better for saying it though.

“What was that all about?” Cordy responded with a question, waving a hand towards the main door before one brow arched high knowingly. “Evil Inc getting a threatened kick up their collective Asses – or was that just for you?”

Angel’s jaw tightened at the faint gleam of dry amusement that touched her eyes. “Did you hear what I said?” He ignored her question doggedly. They’d been down that road too many times in the past few days, and the last thing he wanted was to rehash it- especially now.

Cordy pursed her lips and retreated, waiting until she sat on one of the couches before looking up at him. Angel paused, and then followed tentatively, easing down beside her and cradling the drink in his large hands.

She sighed, long and weary. Everything had changed. A year lost in between, and then waking up to a nightmare world- not a shred of the old left behind.

Wes and Gunn seemed to be two of the casualties. Cordy hadn’t seen either of them since waking up in that room. Lorne…. on the outside, just as flamboyant, but that special spark he’d once had was sadly lacking. Fred…now Fred was so unlike the way Cordy remembered she still couldn’t quite get her head around it. And Angel….

He’d changed. Oh, he’d deny it till he was blue in the face; but he had, and she didn’t like this new version…well, maybe not liking was a little harsh. Angel was an unknown quantity to her now.

Take-charge vampire who although had seemed to have gotten wise to the fact that stepping back got him nowhere seemed to have jumped to the far end of the spectrum without even taking a breath. The last few days, Cordy had seen sides of him she could never have imagined him having.

It worried her that some of those sides were too attractive for her own- or his health. This possessive thing he had going over her … Angel had always been protective – except when it counted drifted slyly through her mind, and she shrugged it off with a shudder that the vampire noted with mild confusion. Now it wasn’t so much protectiveness as… a determined brand of ownership. That was new and not just a little scary.

“There’s no real place for me in your world any more, Angel.” The tight set of his jaw and narrowing eyes told more than words could ever do.

It definitely wasn’t protectiveness she could feel rolling off him in waves. This was something…. Something she couldn’t put a name to right now; all that she did know was the feeling called out to a primal part buried deep inside, something that needed to stay buried.

“You’ve moved on- all of you.” Her eyes slid from his and rested on the mug she held tightly in her lap. “I…don’t fit your slice of the world anymore. And I certainly don’t recognize my old… friends,” her voice lowered bitterly as she once again thought of the two other men who’d once stood at her side through thick and thin. What was their deal now?

To be honest, Cordy really didn’t think she wanted to find out right now.

Angel sat back and remained silent. So many things he wanted to say, to refute, but at the same time, a lot of what she said rang true. He didn’t recognize them – or himself, either. Gunn in particular was a completely different animal. Whatever was going on in that head of his? Not that Angel had ever really taken the time to ask since that night that changed everything.

As for Cordelia; she’d been though so much, and the more he thought about it the more he wondered -what right had he to keep her here – when it seemed with every day since she’d awoken that it was purely to fulfill his own need for her to be so?

“You really wanted to go- to Italy?” he finally asked her. A small smile touched his pale mouth. “It’s really something over there at this time of the year.” Cordy stared into his eyes, not quite sure if he was saying what she thought he was.

“Yeah, it is. It was one of my parent’s favorite vacation countries.” A short and shaky breath puffed out before her darkening eyes met his somber ones. “You want me to go?”

Angel dropped his gaze and fiddled with the pressed crease of his pants “I want whatever makes you happy,” he replied simply, slowly raising resolute eyes to hers again.

His heart felt like someone had suddenly put it in a vice when uncertainty flickered; he could read her decision before she even spoke.

“Then…okay. I think I’ll go.” Cordy refused to cry as she waited fruitlessly for Angel to say something- anything. But he remained silent; his gaze now unreadable.

If she’d wanted to know of his feelings, there were no doubts now to what they were.

Him not fighting- actually encouraging her… it was completely at odds the way he’d been acting up until this moment that it threw Cordy completely. It crossed her mind that it all seemed to about-turn since his ex-love had arrived- then felt petty for bringing Buffy into this. It was obvious where Buffy’s heart lay.

No… this was purely about Angel. His seeing Buffy obviously made him rethink the whole in-love-with-Cordelia gig. If she’d had any lingering doubts, Angel has just quashed them as surely as he’d also just unknowingly crushed her heart.

“I guess I’d better pack then.” She finally spoke, breaking the strained silence. Angel instantly rose to his feet as she did.

“I’ll help you,” he began, only to be halted by an abruptly raised hand and frigid “no thanks, I think I can manage a few cases of belongings.” He nodded and swallowed hard as Cordy retreated, watching her climb slowly up the stairs until she disappeared from sight.

Then he let the tight hold on the back of the chair he’d been holding, crush the wood to tinder.

Part 17

Posted December 5, 2016 by califi in TBC

Faint Heart. 14   1 comment

Part 14

“Buffy?” Angel’s mouth gaped for a second before he added, “What are you doing here?” his brown eyes instantly reflected regret at his rather harsh tone; wincing at her offended expression.

“Wow! Way to feel welcome!” Buffy couldn’t keep the hurt from her tone even though she was inwardly relieved he hadn’t done what she feared most; pulling her into an overly-enthusiastic hug, and maybe, horror among horrors, more than friendly kissage. With that in mind, the hurt quickly dissolved.

“Buffy, I-“

“Hey, no big; that isn’t why I’m here anyway,” she hastily cut off both his apology and move to approach her, with a faint grin.

“So…this isn’t another cookie moment?” the blonde blushed at the light tone and teasingly raised brow. God, she still couldn’t believe she’d said that; a small scowl touched her face, before finding herself giggling sheepishly.

“God, no! – Umm, I’m actually here after receiving an SOS.” At his rapidly darkening face, Buffy moved forward and sat down to face him across his rather intimidating large mahogany desk. “And before you ask, the call was anonymous. Said you were in trouble- as in close to dusting and/or losing your soul trouble!” she clarified. Angel leaned back in his plush leather chair, his firm mouth pursing thoughtfully.

“As there is no hint of anything that bad on the horizon right now, I’m guessing someone wanted you here,” he surmised thoughtfully, then straightened to pin her with calculating eyes. “Was the caller female by any chance?” Angel could already feel his inner alarms going off as a suspicion entered his mind.

“Yeah; and I’m guessing you have an idea by that ‘gotcha’ look on your face?” Buffy nodded, watching as he reached for his phone and punched in a number.

“Harmony? Contact Eve and tell her to get her ass up here now.” Without waiting for a reply, he replaced the receiver and leaned back in his chair. “A lot has happened in my life since…” Angel paused, unsure as to how or where to start.

“Since the amulet bringing?” Buffy asked helpfully, surprised when the vampire instantly shook his head. Her green eyes narrowed slightly at the almost abashed expression that took over from the intensity of a few seconds before.

Rubbing his eyes tiredly, Angel almost slumped in his seat; he’d have had to be totally dense not to pick up on the Slayer’s less than romantic vibes since she’s entered his office, and that should have made it easier. But it didn’t. Taking a deep, unneeded breath, he dropped his hands into his lap and caught her mildly curious gaze.

“Truth time, Buffy- and I’m sorry, but you aren’t gonna like what I have to tell you,” he warned quietly.

“Gathered that; shoot.” Buffy sat back in her own chair and made herself comfortable; she had a feeling this was going to be quite a long soul-bearing-fest.

“I need to tell you about Cordy,” Angel began, a slight quaver in his normally firm tones…

***

“I can’t believe it.” Angel dipped his head uncomfortably.

“I know, but you-me…we kinda moved on and-” Buffy raised a silencing hand.

“No, I meant I couldn’t believe you didn’t mention it! – Angel! You came to Sunnydale acting like you wanted to pick up from where we left off,” her lips twisted for a second as she recalled her own behavior. “How could you do that?”

“I didn’t want to hurt you,” he weakly defended; “you had enough problems of your own right then.” He halted the flow of excuses at her rapidly shaking head.

“I don’t mean me you lughead!- I mean Cordy; how could you do that to the woman you claim to love? Hell, Angel, are you so fair-weather that you run away at the smallest obstacle that trips you up- no!” she raised her hand sharply. “Forget I asked that; we both know the answer to that one”. Angel rose to his feet abruptly.

“That was completely different!” he stalked round the desk, to tower over the now-standing blonde who refused to be daunted. “There was no future for us and you knew that.” He raked a rough hand through his immaculate short locks as he sought for the words to explain himself clearly. Buffy took the chance to interrupt.

“Yeah, I get that- but then again, what has really changed?” she asked, but ploughed on without waiting for a reply. “Curse: check- Cordy human, check…what?” her brow furrowed at the way his eyes slid away from hers. “Tell me, Angel.” She demanded quietly.
He drew in a breath, and then let it out sharply before meeting her waiting gaze.

“The…the Curse is still the same; well I figure it is, even though I doubt there’s any chance of it being triggered any time soon,” Angel’s mouth twisted with barely hidden bitterness. “And… Cordy- for a while, she wasn’t exactly what you’d call human. It’s a long story.” He added at the sight of her mouth dropping open.

“I bet,” she agreed, a lot overwhelmed, then said: “You mentioned for a while; what, was it a 30-day try-before-you-buy kinda thing?” Angel rolled his eyes in exasperation, and Buffy almost smiled at the familiar expression.

“As I said earlier, Cordy was…possessed by an renegade Power for a while- a lot longer than I first thought,” he added quietly, swallowing hard before continuing. “When Jasmine- the Power was finally strong enough to manifest her own form, she left Cordy human; but in a coma.” He turned away to hide the remembered pain in his eyes.

“They said Jasmine had sucked her dry and left her brain dead, Buffy. How could I have fought that?” He turned back, his face pleading for her to understand. The blonde took a step away, and then sat heavily into her chair.

“How long was that- before you came to Sunnydale?” was all she asked. Angel thought for a moment before replying.

“A week at the most; why are you asking,” his brows drew together in confusion. He’d expected shock, dismay, but not such an abrupt question.

“If I recall rightly, when I died, it took you three months to come to terms with it; tell me, how did cordy take the news of your brief grieving time before you turned to me?” Angel folded into himself as shame devoured him. Knowing what a bastard you were and then hearing it from an observer was totally different, and Angel felt like he’d been sucker punched.

“She didn’t.” he finally replied hoarsely. Buffy almost felt sorry for the stupid vampire- almost.

“So, where is she? Making you pay through the nose for that major insult? ‘Cause I’m just saying, there isn’t enough Gucci and Donna Karen originals in the world to make it all better.” Angel ducked his head and walked around his desk to sink heavily into the soft leather of his chair.

“Cordy left- almost as soon as she woke up- she’s staying at the hotel till she finds other accommodation.” Or so she thinks! he thought to himself possessively. No way was he going to lose her again.

He glanced furtively over towards the blonde and swallowed again, hating himself for wishing she was still in Europe- far away enough to be out of the brunette’s thoughts. Although he knew there was nothing there; that all his heart and soul were invested in Cordy, he also was aware of her suspicions, hurt and insecurity where his ex-love was concerned.

“It’s not only that, Buffy,” Angel became even more uncomfortable as he admitted that Cordy was less than impressed with their changes in fortune. Buffy raised her brow and took another good look around.

“I must admit; this is a lot different from the old place Will and Faith described to me.” Her green eyes pinned the vampire to his seat. “If Queen C of all people backed away from the opportunity, what’s the sitch with this place- and how did you get to be here?”

“It’s a long story,” Angel repeated, his degree of discomfort was growing by the second. Buffy folded her arms, once again getting comfortable. She absently wowed at the longevity of the verbal communication between herself and the usually stoic vampire, realizing belatedly that he had changed- mostly for the better.

“Give me the cliff notes then,” she replied in a no nonsense tone. Angel groaned inwardly, as he again set about explaining- this time, respecting her enough not to leave anything out- not even Connor.

***

“WOW! Never thought I’d be totally on Cordelia Chase’s side about something!” and I have to admit to being surprised she hung around after that Darla-fest that sound icky even now!” Angel cringed at her expression of amused incredulity.

“What- did you have brain altering surgery? Did you have your common sense and natural Vampy suspicion removed? Cause we all make mistakes, Angel; but wow, yours are pathetically repetitive and way off the scale of rank stupidity!”

“You sound just like Cordy”, Angel growled low, surprising her by pouting petulantly. Buffy rolled her eyes and a pang of hurt exploded in his chest:

Jeeezusss! At that moment, Buffy reminded him of CORDY! And his heart sank even lower as it again hit home that he’d almost definitely lost her for good; he had to think ‘almost’ otherwise he’d die of a broken, dusted heart. The only thing that gave him that tiny bit of hope was Cordy’s track record of always eventually forgiving him- and that thought made him feel even more of a total bastard.

“Can you get in touch with her? – Might as well see her now I’m here” Angel panicked; and she saw it in his darkening eyes. “Is there something else you aren’t telling me? She asked with a weary sigh of her own. God, they’d spent a good few hours reminiscing in a far from pleasant way- how could there possibly be more?

“We aren’t exactly- she’s not really talking to me. In fact, she most likely wants me only as a pile of dust on her mantelpiece right now,” Angel admitted with a groan.

“That’s understandable,” Buffy agreed softly. “Hurt feeling, betrayal, being dumped on your almost deathbed- I can relate” she thought for a moment before shaking her head; “Maybe not.” Angel took his turn in the head shaking, a rare show of faint color in his face even as he avoided her eyes.

“Not just that,” Angel admitted awkwardly, unconsciously licking his blunt teeth. The slayer in Buffy instantly made the connection and she rose to her feet in angry disbelief, momentarily distracted by the sound of raised voices in the reception area outside Angel’s office.

Then the door opened and in strolled Fred; with a bleached blonde alongside with his arm casually draped over her shoulder.

“Oh, my God- Spike?!”

Part 15

Posted December 5, 2016 by califi in TBC

Faint Heart. 13   1 comment

Part 13

For the first time in a very long while, Eve was afraid. One phone call had made her fear for her life. As she glared at the offending piece of plastic, her mind ran amok as various scenarios ran through her head; unfortunately for her, most of the scenarios involved her head- or impending loss of it. Immortal or not, head lossage was the one thing guaranteed to end her, hopefully, unnaturally long life.

According to her lackeys, the bugging equipment at the hotel had ceased working late last night- also, she’d had a call from the group keeping an eye on the current resident informing her that the vampire hadn’t left the building after turning up unexpectedly with his anagogic demon colleague who’d later exited alone.

She couldn’t understand it! From the transcripts of the past thirty-six hours, not only was Eve aware of their severely strained relationship, but also of his loss of control the night before. The blonde rubbed her eyes in frustration; she was so sure putting Spike in the mix would be the ultimate coup de grace- but even that seems to have failed abysmally.

Either she could continue to sit in her office waiting in dread for the inevitable- most likely bloody, confrontation with the current CEO, or come up with a plan that would not only divert his attention, but also drive Angel permanently away from the side of his ex-Seer; the brunette had shown no signs of retaining that particular gift, which was of the good, considering just what she may have ‘picked up’ about their real plans behind giving the dark vampire the reins to the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart.

“Think, think…” after a few moments a slow satisfied smile widened on her face as a solution to her worries came to her. Reaching for the offending phone, Eve dialed an extension and sat back in her seat.

“Claire? Listen; I need you to seek out an international number for me… well, last I heard, Rome would be a good place to start- oh, and Claire? Be a sweetie and make it snappy.” Placing the receiver down, Eve couldn’t help but gloat. The vampire wouldn’t know what hit him.

***

Angel paced outside his old room; absently surprised a trench hadn’t developed as he waited for the stubborn brunette within to acknowledge his gentle knocks, gradually followed by verbal requests. That was half an hour ago.

After a restless night where he doubted he’d got even ten minutes’ straight sleep, the vampire had waited until a fairly decent hour before attempting to confront Cordelia.

“This is stupid,” he growled impatiently. From the sounds of movement within, there was no mistaking she was up and about. The sound of the shower running increased his escalating bad mood.

It wasn’t a good idea to wind up a tired and hungry vampire. He hadn’t eaten since before arriving over 15 hours ago, and the logical part of his brain was telling him to just leave and sate that hunger before again approaching her- but the way things were going, the last thing Angel wanted to do was leave without at least trying to breach the slowly widening gap between them.

“Cordelia!” After calling out yet again on hearing her emerge from the bathroom, he finally relaxed when she called out for him to enter. Angel turned the handle until the door clicked open – then froze to the spot on the vision before him.

Cordelia had dropped the bath sheet and was in the process of rubbing the excess water out of her long hair; luckily for her, her back faced the door, and for a few minutes Angel had an unobstructed view of nude flesh from nape to heels.

His mesmerized dark eyes followed the path of a single droplet of water as it snaked from her hair and slithered down between her shoulder blades, then along her flawless skin until it slid over the blazing sun nestled at the dip in her spine; before finally disappearing between the full, firm globes of her butt. Saliva pooled in his mouth as his scrutiny continued down her long, still faintly tanned perfect legs.

Throwing the head towel aside, Cordelia turned around to grab her fresh underwear from the bedside chair- and became as still as the vampire stood just inside the open door. The Gods were being extremely generous to him today, was all he could think as he openly devoured every inch of her with bitter chocolate eyes ringed in amber. Her hand remained poised over her underwear as her brain struggled to catch up with her motor functions.

The shock of seeing the burgeoning arousal straining at the soft fabric of his pants did what her mind seemed incapable of, and she finally came to life, turning to grab the discarded towel, her hands shaking uncontrollably as she attempted to wrap it around her exposed flesh. When that small task seemed beyond her, Cordelia settled with just holding it tightly over her breasts until it covered her to the knees.

“I said don’t come in!” her voice came out too high, making her wince. Clearing her throat she tried again, but words failed her at the stunned awe on the vampire’s face- then he stepped forward.

“A-Angel?” instinctively stepping back, she came up against the side of the bed. Unable to retreat, Cordelia felt vulnerable- and aroused. The unnatural silence plus the intensely hungry expression on his face as he slowly advanced pushed all rational thought out of her head.

“God, Cordy; you are so beautiful,” his husked voice sent shudders of pleasure down her spine leaving her unable to do anything but look mutely into his face when he finally came to a halt directly in front of her.

Reaching up, Angel slid cool fingers into her damp mussed hair and cupped her nape, tilting her head back gently. His stormy eyes raked her features, dropping momentarily to rest on the still-pink scar on her throat before taking her lips with his own, his tongue sliding in deep and claiming her mouth just as deeply as his fangs had a few nights before.

For endless moments, Cordelia reveled in the pleasure of his mouth on hers, enjoying his unique taste as she tangled her tongue with his demanding one. All anger and problems faded away as she fell into his web of desire…when reality finally came crashing back, her hand rose to cup his cool cheek and exert pressure.

Initially, Angel ignored the telltale stiffening of her earlier pliant warm body, but then reluctantly lifted his head, their lips popping apart. Resting his forehead on hers, he sighed heavily with regret at the stormy conflict that warred in her beautiful autumn tinted eyes.

“I’m sorry, Cor; I just-” he let out another breath, this one harsh as he slowly released her; “I-I’ll just be downstairs,” Angel couldn’t resist one more sweep of her warm lips with his own before turning abruptly and quickly exiting his old suite.

Cordelia drew a deep shaky breath, running her free hand over her burning eyes several times before shaking her self abruptly; angry with herself for being mostly regretful that he’d left-Too much to deal with right now without throwing that dangerous activity into the mix too! but it hurt when all you wanted was for the man you loved to kiss away the pain and make it all better…

***

Two hours later and still they were no nearer to how they once were- hell, even their deep friendship would have been better than nothing right now. The good news was, she’d listened- really listened to his explanations of his crazy frame of mind at the time- the possession, followed by a coma all had confidently assured the vampire Cordelia would never recover from- and the loss of his son.

Although still a tinge of betrayal towards him in those hazel depths, Angel had also seen reluctant understanding. Reaching out for something familiar, and not really thinking beyond spouting half promises that were forgotten almost as soon as he’d left Sunnydale- then later, a pissing contest with Spike over the Slayer, which he admitted uncomfortably as acting like a five year old over a candy bar.

Neither mentioned the episode with the blonde link to the Senior Partners; not as if they both hadn’t experienced various possessions before – although both couldn’t regret one in particular. It had opened both of their eyes- even if it had taken them a long time to admit it.

As he walked through the sewers, Angel went over their final discussion- if it could be called that! His taking over a branch of one of their most dangerous enemies was still regarded as: ‘the dumbest, stupidest, totally brainless- did I mention dumbest? Thing you’ve ever done- and that’s including your flirty flirt with the beige side, buddy!’

Yes, Cordelia had made it clear that she wanted no part of the life he now had- almost going so far as to hint at moving on and starting fresh elsewhere. That had raised his fear and anger through the roof, and he’d had to leave before he’d been tempted to tie her up and secure her in some specially made ivory tower somewhere.

“I have the means to do it too,” he muttered lowly as he picked up his pace; cringing at the very thought of her reaction to that show of complete- and hazardous to his health, stupidity.

One step forward, only to go three steps back- was it wrong of him to want it easy for once in his life; was it too much to ask? Going by past experience, apparently it was.

***

Okay; so now she felt a little more at ease about the whole Buffy/Angel debacle, but there were still other things- much worse things, to consider; and those things weren’t so easy to accept.

Angel was convinced he was doing the right thing- the only thing he could have done, given the circumstances:

“It’s not as if I signed away my soul or anything stupid like that, Cordy,” his irritated, rather condescending tone had her back rising several feet.

“You may as well have done- God, Angel, these are the people who did everything- everything to destroy us! How can you stand there and say you are in control?- Hello? Tell me again what you had to do last night?” Angel had merely growled and started pacing.

“They made it possible for C-Connor to have a real life-“

“Real Samaritans, eh? Going from ‘ooh, let’s kidnap the miraculous result of two vampires and dissect him piece by piece- or better yet, help an evil demon attempt to kill him; hey, taken to a hell dimension by a total whacko: even better!” He hadn’t taken that too well.

“Oh, and The Powers are all things good? They nearly kill you with visions; taking you away from me then sending you back evil, ” striding up to her to glare in her face; “sleeping with my son- turning him against me…letting loose Angelus and killing people?” he’d ranted in a voice filled with a world of hurt. “Wolfram & Hart sure feel like a walk in the park compared to what they did, Cor.” she’d paled and flinched.

“That wasn’t me- you know that- you told me,” she’d whispered hoarsely. It had been Angel’s turn to flinch. Reaching out a hand he’d cupped her cheek gently. “I know that, baby- but they chose the one person who had the power to destroy me,”he’d whispered back painfully, then his face had slowly hardened and he’d taken a step back. “I won’t regret my decision- I can’t; I can make this work out. I’m in a position to make good out of this.”

“God, he really believes it.” Cordelia still couldn’t get over the conviction in his dark eyes as he talked about the advantages of ‘working from the inside’. Was he blind? She’d asked pole axed by his determination to convince her.

A burst of rage had made her thoughts at the time escape her lips: the complete stillness of his large body had actually frightened her, and her breath had caught in her throat when suddenly surrounded by the vampire; amber eyes and deadly fangs inches from her cringing face. “Don’t even say that in jest, Cordelia- if you try to leave me, I’ll…” he’d paused when her flinching expression had melted away to be replaced with cold curiosity.

“You’ll what?” she’d asked, her tone dripping with ice. Angel’s face had smoothed out, but the wild anger had still lingered in the depths of his dark eyes.

“I won’t let you go,” his equally dark tone had sent shivers of alarm along Cordelia’s nerve-endings, and she’d pulled back jerkily; relieved when he released her.

He’d left shortly after, snatching the keys of the Plymouth still parked outside, from the counter and sliding them into his pocket as he made his way to the basement.

That had pissed her off- would have been nice to have wheels again; speaking of which:

“What the hell happened to my Jeep?”

***

Angel was seriously pissed.

It was almost time for the sun to set and he’d yet to find Eve. She’d seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth-, which to his furious mind only compounded her guilt regarding the bugging of the hotel.

He wanted answers: why was it done- what was behind it- and more importantly; were they planning to do something to Cordelia? The fact he couldn’t ignore her valid point riled him too- he needed to be right about his decision, for his own piece of mind. But if hewas in charge, why were things like this happening behind his back? – that little voice inside his head was screaming that he was being played- but he had to think of his son too in all of this. All he could really do was make sure he was always one step ahead of them.

Glancing out of the windows, he tapped his fingers on the desk’s surface as he waited impatiently for the last rays of the sun to slide below the horizon- even though he wasn’t sure what his next move was regarding the stubborn brunette he’d left behind this morning. His gut had been in knots all day, worrying about what she was up to- or what she could possibly be planning in the angry head of hers. Cordelia was, at present, like an unstable-bomb ready to go off at any given time- he just had to make sure he was there if and when that happened.

So deep in thought, he missed the firm rap on the door of his office, and the consequent opening of it.

“Angel? Wanna tell me what’s going on?” his head jerked towards the door, eyes widening in shock as he took in the slight, fair-haired young woman framed in the opening.

“Buffy?!”

Part 14

Posted December 5, 2016 by califi in TBC

Faint Heart. 11-12   1 comment

Part 11

“Oh hell!” Fred muttered the rare oath under her breath as she hesitated in front of the door to her apartment that literally vibrated in its frame at the barrage of elephants’ feet hammering on it; feeling grateful that at least the angry vampire on the other side hadn’t just took the door off its hinges and stormed in like a tornado!

“Where is he?” barging past the flustered- and rather scared brunette, Angel didn’t bother waiting for a reply as he stalked from one room to another, his game face already firmly in place, finally appearing in front of the quivering young woman and gripping her upper arms a little too tightly for her liking. .

“Ouch!” the exclamation spilled from her grimacing mouth, and the gold eyes flickered briefly before he loosened his grip a little. Well, the ‘tornado’ bit was a fair simile, she thought, gulping hard

“Spike- where is he?” he elucidated tightly. Angel knew the blonde bastard spent a fair bit of time around the young physicist’s apartment, and assumed he’d be there after finding them both at the Hyperion.

“Sp-Spike went off right after we left Cordy” Fred attempted to keep the alarm out of her tone; she hadn’t seen him this riled since he’d arrived back at the hotel with herself, Gunn and Wes after spending three months at the bottom of the ocean and, once becoming aware of his surroundings finding Cordelia had also been missing the same amount of time.

He’d seemed less interested in finding out who had put him there, more angry and distressed that their ‘heart’ might have suffered a similar fate. They still didn’t know who was behind his watery imprisonment – and Angel, strangely enough, had never bothered to investigate it, seemingly just grateful that his family had managed to locate and rescue him.

“I’m sorry, Angel- I didn’t think-” she began, her voice wobbly, only to be cut off.

“No, you didn’t- God, Fred, you’re supposed to be the smart one; what the hell were you thinking taking that little prick with you?!” as soon as the words were out and the accompanying gasp of hurt feelings from the girl, Angel regretted them.

Pulling away, he half turned, raking a shaky hand through his dark hair; swallowing hard- grimacing when the faint trace of Cordelia’s blood could still be tasted.

“Fred, he’s not to be trusted; why the hell you’re spending so much time with him is beyond me!” his voice a little softer; “After everything he’s said regarding B- the Slayer” he stumbled a little over his words, “that at least should have given you some clue he had an ulterior motive.” Angel added, turning back to face her, his face smoothing to human, but his tone hard. Fred raised a brow at that.

“I hate to say it, Angel, but you kinda brought it on yourself.” Gulping at the instant black scowl he bestowed on her, Fred gathered all her bravado and continued: ” You were just as guilty of the Buffy-loves-me-not-you scenario that went on while Cordy was in that horrible coma.” She reminded him quietly.

Angel opened his mouth to defend himself, then snapped it shut, paling even more as the truth of her words slammed home.

She was right. Hell, he knew it himself- but it just drove yet another nail in the coffin having it thrown in his face by; what was it? – Three independent people so far? And that wasn’t counting the one that mattered. His head swung around at her next words, the scowl deepening.

“-And that Eve thing didn’t help much; it’s still being talked about – poor Cordy,” she murmured, shuddering openly when thinking what a sight that must have been for the newly awakened woman.

“That was out of my hands, Fred- and everyone knows it.” Angel defended roughly: ” Eve? Come on!” he curled his lip with distaste.” Could you honestly see me being interested in her?”

“Well, she’s blonde” Fred muttered, then flushed bright pink at the fulminous glare he gave her. “I’m just saying’ – Cordy always said-“

“Where did he go, Fred?” the vampire cut her off abruptly. Being reminded that his Seer had accused him of that after the Darla debacle caused his undead heart to twist in his chest.

“I don’t know- and I don’t think I’d tell you even if I did- he didn’t hurt her; well, not physically anyway.” Fred sent him an accusing glare; ” it wasn’t anything Cordy wouldn’t have found out about herself, Angel.” She chastised him softly.

Angel didn’t bother to reply- there was no point when he knew she was right. He stepped away, avoiding her knowing gaze and made his way to the still-open door and exited silently.

Fred rubbed her arms, remaining where she was for a long moment, before sighing heavily and walking over to close and lock the door.

She’d figured out for herself that Spike had used her to get to Cordelia, and although angry and not a little hurt, deep down she understood why he’d done it- and really hoped that Angel would come up empty handed- at least for a decade or so.


Part 12

Angel entered the poorly lit bar he’d ‘encouraged’ a few demons to reveal as a frequent drinking hole of the younger vampire; his nose wrinkling briefly as the stench of unwashed bodies hit him. Several of the clientele slid out as soon as they spotted the dark vampire, whilst others tensed expectantly, only relaxing when his unreadable gaze rested only long enough to check and dismiss.

The Bartender took one look at the newcomer and casually proceeded to move his stock below the bar out of harms way.

Angel spotted the bright blonde head within seconds of walking through the swing door, and like a switch being pulled his temper, already volatile now exploded sending him hurtling towards his target. Tables toppled and chairs flew as he surged through the crowded bar, letting nothing and no one impede him.

The underbelly of LA parted like a wave, content to watch or ignore and continued drinking; those were two demons’ they’d rather not get in the middle of.

Spike caught sight of the thundercloud racing towards him at the last moment and knowing evasive action was futile at this point, stepped into a clear space. The first flying punch only clipped his chin or it might have knocked his head clear off instead of just knocking him into the table behind him.

“Give me one good reason not to dust you, Spike?” Angel asked, teeth gritted and eyes colder than black ice, picking up the dazed blonde by the front of his shirt.

“My great sense of humor – no?” Angel hit him again, a backhanded blow this time that drove Spike’s head to the side with a sickening snap.

Grinning out of a bloodied lip, Spike jabbed up a hand between them to knock aside Angels hand, freeing himself and slipping agilely to the side when a boot came up in a snap kick, whistling past his ear.

“You’re puttin’ me on the spot ‘ere, mate- I know! My charm and sexy as hell body?” Spike never could resist taunting the older vampire, a trait that had got him pummeled many a time in the past. Not that it ever stopped him.

Too fast even for Spike to avoid, Angel whipped up a chair and slammed into that mockingly indifferent face. Stunned, Spike found himself pinned to the wall.

“Not enough to save you Spike. Say goodbye” As he raised a stake, Spike’s hand snapped up and gripped his wrist:

“As fun as this bonding is Peaches, I have one last go at getting the answer right – and I’ve got a real doozy this time” Spike realized time was running out- fast.

“Not interested” Angel twisted his wrist out of Spike’s desperate grip.

“My soul. I have a soul now” His final attempt to stay undead. Angel hesitated, conflicted, but he swallowed down his misgivings and retorted:

“That’s pretty much a moot point- having one hasn’t changed you”

“That’s rich comin’ from you” Spike shot back, bloodied lip curling in a sneer: “- I can smell the chits blood in your mouth- who are you tryin’ to kid? When it comes down to it, you’re no better than me.” Spike gave up struggling and dropped his restraining hands.

Angel loomed over him for long seconds, an internal battle evident in his gold-ringed yes, then he abruptly threw the stake and released the vampire.

“Cordelia is off limits,” he growled, adding warningly; “and keep out of my way, Spike or next time I won’t stop.” His voice deathly quiet, and turned away- only to be halted by Spike’s next words.

“Don’t know why I’m doin’ this, but… that place- your old digs? Stuffed full of little Lawyer gadgets, mate.” Spike straightened up and winced slightly as he strode over to his original table; lifting his chair up before sitting down and catching the barman’s eye, who nodded expressionlessly, and turned to pour him another drink.

Angel’s face smoothed out, hiding the fury that consumed him at Spike’s revelation. They were playing that card again; when he found out who was behind it, he’d have their guts for garters- literally.

***

To say she’d turned over and fell asleep as soon as the guilty vampire had left would have been an outright lie, Cordelia admitted to herself wearily. The events of the night continued to circle around and around her tired brain like a never-ending loop.

Angel had actually bitten her! Fair enough, there wasn’t exactly much of the Darla-draining of blood going on, but he had still pushed aside any concerns for her feelings on the matter and marked her in a fit of jealous rage. She honestly didn’t know whether to plan his premature demise or just figure out how she really felt about his actions.

Her recollection of the whole Buffy deal- the blonde trying to pretend that side of Angel didn’t exist, led the soulled vampire to stifling it…and his whole persona at that time was probably in most part, the result of that nigh-impossible task; he was then a shadow of the person he finally developed into after a year or so of living in LA.

Oh yeah, Cordelia was still furious with him, make no mistake – and furious with herself for understanding his motives- in an icked out kinda way . It wasn’t the actual claiming; just the way it came about, which then got her thinking- if all that crap hadn’t happened, and she’d confessed her feelings like she’d originally planned before everything went kaplooey …both possibly developing as a couple…?

The fact that he had claimed her, to her mind had to mean that no matter how he might have denied wanting to do so- if they’d have professed their feelings that night and developed as couple; would he once again have felt in a position where he had to stifle that side of him? – Basically, just how far would her acceptance of his Vampire side, in an honest to goodness relationship, have gone?

This long eke out of maybes eventually brought her to the conclusion that she just wouldn’t- couldn’t hate him for his demon instincts; only truly angry with the circumstances around his action- cos, after hashing it out for God knows how many long hours, Cordelia realized that, yes, she would have taken that step with him- and would have most likely felt even more secure in her place in his life because the demon also felt the need to cement their love.

Problem was- was this just a pissing contest between him and Spike, a display of the inherent possessive nature all vamps seemed to have in excess? – Or, was it; deep down, Angel’s way of making it clear that he loved her as both a man and a demon? Raking her hands through her hair in frustration, Cordelia growled low in her throat as her head whirled with so many thoughts.

With so much happening right now, and the terrible gut-wrenching events that occurred pre-coma, would they ever resolve their problems; and would she ever know for sure that he did, indeed love her as much as he claimed to?

“Should I be surprised that the Buffy-love just had to be involved in this somewhere- Cookie Dough-blech!?” Cordelia groaned, helpless to push aside the pain of that revelation- flushing hotly in belated guilt at the cavalier way she’d pushed aside his denials, refusing to listen; not letting him even attempt to explain what the hell had gone though his dumb head at the time.

Refusing to think about it any more, Cordelia instead strode out of the hotel into the bright sunshine for, hopefully, a long, relaxing, mind-cleansing walk…

***

“What the hell are you doing here?” Cordelia shot to her feet, throwing the books she’d been reading on the couch behind her as she approached the two males who’d just strode into the hotel. “I told you not to come back” she pinned Angel with a killing glare; he avoided her eyes and continued towards the stairs.

“Not now, Cor,” he responded a little too coolly, wincing at his tone even as the brunette and green demon did.

“Hey, sweetcheeks” Lorne gave a wink, opening his mouth to say more when the vampire grabbed his arm and pulled him along with him up the stairs.

“Just hold it right there!” Cordelia almost growled the demand as she pushed her way to the front, grabbing Angel’s leather clad arm, almost losing her momentum when he continued on as if she wasn’t hanging onto him in a death grip. “It may be your hotel, but while I’m living here, you can’t just barge in whenever you feel like it!”

By now they had left the stairs behind and were walking along the hallway of the first floor. Lorne trailed behind watching with amused interest as the brunette still held onto the leather and was worrying it like a little terrier trying out it’s tiny teeth on a big black wolf – stopping abruptly when said ‘wolf’ turned just as abruptly to sweep up the young woman and disappear into a linen closet. He stood there staring at the closed door before shrugging fatalistically, and wandering off into one of the many rooms.

“What the hell do you thiphh?” her raging hazel eyes widened in outrage, hands instantly rising to tug on the large cool hand clapped across her mouth.

“If you’d just shut up for a –” Angel sucked in a breath with a hiss as her sharp teeth sank into the flesh of his palm, actually drawing blood. He yanked his hand away looking down at the bloodied mark she’d left behind.

“See how you like it, buddy!” she snarled, her expression unrepentant. Angel flooded with guilt, his eyes drawn to the plaster covered wound on her throat for the first time since he’d arrived. He purposely shrugged it off; that would have to wait for now.

“Just listen to me for a minute” Cordelia opened her mouth to retort and he hurriedly cut in: “the hotel is bugged- again.” Her mouth snapped shut instantly, grievances put temporarily aside. “That’s why I brought Lorne” Angel explained softly, “He was able to sense them last time.” Cordelia frowned.

“Why would they bother doing that to an empty hotel? It isn’t as if they knew I would be moving in- and if they did it with me here- way to feel secure!” Cordelia shivered at the thought of W & H toadies creeping round the large building whilst she possibly slept totally unaware. “This is all your fault.” She poked him hard in the chest, her eyes narrowed into angry slits; “if you hadn’t ordered them to stake out the place, none of this would have happened.” She continued to poke him hard until he grabbed her hand.

Angel wasn’t too sure either, and was still looking into it himself. A certain blonde, he was sure, came into the equation somewhere. That would be his next port of call, he decided grimly. The thought of someone sneaking around the hotel for God knows how long again made him aware of just how vulnerable his seer was.

“I think you should stay with me, Cordy; I can’t always be around to protect you here.” As soon as the words were out, his whole body tensed at her inevitable response. He wasn’t wrong.

“Well, if you hadn’t been lured by fancy Penthouse suites and endless closets full of designer wear, you would have been around.” Her brow lifted in disdain at his instantly defensive expression, “What else did they tempt you with, hmmm? – A whole garage of sporty little numbers too?” she snorted inelegantly at the sheepish look he threw her.

“Not a whole garage-full” he replied defensively. His gaze again dropped to her throat when she turned her head away in disgust, fully exposing his reckless actions the night before. “About this” he began, running a long finger over the covering plaster; suppressing the demon’s urge to tear it off and check out his mark, “Cor; I’m so-“

“Don’t, Angel” she interrupted shortly; “I don’t want to talk about that right now- still pissed with you” she reminded, throwing him an angry glare- but he noted, with relief that the cold fury and betrayal of the night before was now absent. “Come on, let’s find out how your personal bug catcher is doing,” Reaching for the door handle and opening it, then glancing irritably at the hand that still held hers as Angel pulled her back abruptly.

For a second, their bodies brushed against each other, and she couldn’t suppress the hitch in her breath when his dark head dipped to hers, his cool lips skimming her ear as he spoke. “Remember; keep quiet about this, okay?” she stared at him, and then rolled her eyes with exasperation.

“I’m getting over a coma, not a lobotomy, jeez” pulling away, Cordelia was grateful when he let her go after an initial hesitation. With her frame of mind right now, dark closets and a certain vampire were not a good mix. Stepping into the hallway with relief, she didn’t wait for him to close the door and join her before going off to look for Lorne.

***

“Are you sure that’s all of them?” Angel asked as they did one more scout of the ground floor of the hotel.

“Pretty sure- though you’ll have to check the phones yourself; my abilities don’t stretch that far, Muffin.” Lorne finally turned his full attention to the brunette once Angel walked over to lift the receiver of the phone. “Maybe now I can get that hug my sad little arms need?” his lip pouting at her immediate step back. “Princess?”

“Oh, now you want huggage? What- was I unhuggable flat on my back and dead to the crappy world?” Tempted as she was, it still stung that none of them, as far as she knew, had visited her whilst stuck in that coma.

“Ah! But that’s where you’re wrong, pooch,” Lorne straightened to his full, imposing height with a triumphant grin on his face. “I visited you every week- hell, I even tried out all my new numbers out on your delicious unhearing bundle of covers; musical numbers, I hasten to add!” catching the faux suspicious look on Cordelia’s face, and the threatening glare of the vampire’s Cordelia relented, moving forward for an all-encompassing hug- jerking back as another thought occurred to her.

“So you knew I was stuck in a room full of strangers –and let’s not forget that sucky hospital reject gown they had me in; which they probably didn’t change once?” Lorne rolled his eyes.

“How they forget! Princess, I complained good and loud; but hey, who ever listens to the obligatory demon who only seems handy for the odd witty comment and good to try out every cell phone that was ever made?”

Cordelia snuck a narrow-eyed glance toward the vampire who she knew was eavesdropping just by the tension of his spine and shoulders and asked: “Angel didn’t listen? Hmph, figures.” The tension in those wide shoulders escalated noticeably at her snarky reply.

Lorne blushed a dark green as he admitted “Actually, I didn’t mention it to Angel cakes; he was kinda going through a river in Egypt at the time.” He lowered his voice conspiratorially, adding: “Sorry about those innocent little eyes getting a gander of a deliciously naked Vampire and the bitch from second-class hell; my fault entirely.” Cordelia shrugged in a show of indifference.

“Don’t worry about it, Lorne- what’s it to me who Angel gets groiny with?” Lorne’s eyes narrowed knowingly as her aura screamed anything but disinterest, letting out a sharp breath when her elbow connected painfully with his ribs. “Stop reading me!” Both pairs of eyes turned toward the check-in counter; Angel’s movements becoming savage with the bug he’d found in the receiver of the phone, ripping it out noisily after obviously still being able to overhear their whispering conversation.

Lorne moved away, grabbing the black bag they’d taken from the kitchen, opening it wide for Angel to throw in the last of the paraphernalia they’d removed from the hotel. Taking it as her cue, Cordelia straightened from her place by the stairs.

“I’m sure you guys can let yourself out; it’s late and I’m going to bed.” She turned to begin her ascent up the stairs, jumping a little when a cool hand appeared from nowhere and caught her wrist. Damn creepy vampire speed!

“Cor, we can’t leave it like this.” Angel refused to back down from the instant freezing glare aimed his way.

“Why not? It’s as good a place as any,” she returned, her voice as cold as her eyes. Lorne swept by, flicking them a ‘things to do’ look as he threw a brief farewell and left them to it. This was one discussion he in no way wanted to be dragged into.

“It’s pretty obvious you can’t stay here- you’re coming home with me.” Angel stiffened his spine as the black clouds gathered in her lovely eyes; the firm set of her mouth had him sighing inwardly.

‘Home’? Now I know you’re deranged! You want to call that place of serious badness ‘home’- that’s fine by me, buddy,” she poked him hard in the chest for emphasis “But like I already told you; I’d rather sleep in an alley than step foot in that place.”

“I could just take it out of your hands, Cordelia” he warned recklessly, swallowing down the trepidation as her features tightened in outrage.

“You really gonna go there?” she dared quietly. He dropped his eyes after long seconds of warring glares.

“No.” The word wrenched out; this was a dare he wasn’t willing to follow through. The way things were right now, it would be yet another stupid move- even though a part of him cursed the soul’s intervention. Having no ethics came in handy sometimes. “But if you won’t come with me, then I’m staying.” Angel waited for the inevitable argument- speechless when she merely turned away and made her way up the stairs.

“Fine- but you’ll have to find another room, ‘cos your old one is mine now.” Cordelia forced herself not to look back as she reached the top, stifling the urge to scuttle down the landing and lock herself in her room.

Once she was out of sight, Angel let his shoulders sag. The fact Cordelia hadn’t ranted and railed until he left was, to him, a good sign that maybe there was a chance to mend seriously compromised bridges. Going through the motions of locking up and then checking every access into the hotel, he wearily ascended the stairs, pausing momentarily outside his own door; his large hands pressed flat against the wood as he listened to the gradually slowing heartbeat on the other side.

With another heartfelt sigh, he walked over to the room Cordelia once thought of as hers and made do with the faint scent that still clung to her bed. At this moment, it was better than nothing.

Part 13

Posted December 5, 2016 by califi in TBC

Faint Heart. 10   1 comment

Part 10

“I can’t believe it! What the hell is he doing here- and why would you even bring him? – You did bring him, didn’t you?” As the thought that he may just have turned up entered her stunned mind, Cordelia shot forward and yanked the younger girl over the threshold and out of reach of the figure still standing in the cloak of shadows.

“It’s okay, Cordy- he’s a good guy now; well, a good vampire– he has a soul, just like Angel.” Fred rushed to explain, wincing at the painful grip Cordelia still had on her upper arm.

“Pft! Having a soul- if he has one, which I find hard to believe- doesn’t necessarily mean he’s suddenly all fluffy puppies and hero material” Cordelia released Fred and refolded her arms, her spine as tense as a bow.

“Hey! I know we didn’t hit it off last time, but there’s no need to bloody well insult me!” Her eyes pinned on the blonde vampire warily when as he finally spoke, stepping into the light, his face a picture of outrage.

He hadn’t changed- well, duh, Vampire! – except maybe for the barest tinge of something familiar she’d got so used to seeing in Angel’s eyes – but he hid it well.

“So you’re working for Angel now?” She asked a trace of incredulity in her voice, surprised the dark vampire hadn’t dusted Spike the instant he’d shown up.

“That coma must’ve rotted your little brain! I work for me– I only hang around that Wank to piss him off.” Cordelia blinked hard, her stance relaxing even as her expression melted to curiosity at the bitterness lacing the sarcasm in his tone.

“Take no notice, Cordy – Spike has been a real help to us since he came.” Fred cut in, surprising Cordelia with the easy smile she bestowed on the sullen faced vampire.

“Angel hasn’t mentioned him, Fred – why would he miss out something as- bizarre as that, hmmm?” Although still wary, Cordelia felt her initial fear and deep suspicion melting away.

Why wouldn’t Angel tell her- especially after what happened the last time she’d seen the bleached none-wonder. It must have occurred to him that they’d eventually cross paths! That then made her wonder what else he’d left out.

“Probably too busy sulking cos he’s not so ‘special’ any more” Spike snarked, then grinned wickedly: “could be worse, love- his new secretary is still a soulless little bitch.”

“He’s got an evil vampire as a secretary?” Cordelia’s mouth had dropped open in amazement- lips quickly drawing back to bare her teeth at his reply:

“Yeah, and you’ll never guess who it is!” his grin growing by the second; ignoring the look of dismay on Fred’s anxious face, “Harmony.

“Come in, Spike” the blonde hid his triumphant glee at getting his foot over the door, and strolled in following the brunette silently; both leaving Fred standing uncertainly just inside the door.

This was such a bad idea! she regretted asking him to come with her, at the time excited that his advice and gentle coaxing to contact Cordelia had worked out after all… her brow scrunched up as she trailed after him, trying to recall the precise moment she actually invited him ?

“Must have had more wine than I thought,” she mumbled under her breath; too late now- Angel was gonna have a cow!

***

Angel growled with irritation at the pile of paperwork that still seemed as high as when he’d started- two hours ago.

He leaned back in his chair, the end of the gold pen tapping against his tightly pursed mouth as he stared intently at his desk, hoping that if he glared long enough the paper would magically combust and turn into a pile of ashes by mind power alone.

“Fuck it!” throwing down the pen, he pushed back his chair and rose, stretching and popping his cramped spine therapeutically before walking over to grab his leather jacket and enter his private elevator.

As he left the building Angel debated whether or not to go to his usual hang-out and increase his self-inflicted torture- and maybe get as far as climbing out of his car this time. *Damnit, this time I’m gonna go in there and sort it out…won’t hurt to take some more food; Cordy must be running low by now his internal monologue continued on as he made his way to the all-night grocery store…

***

“Anyway, Spike kept walking through Angel, and Angel got so mad cos he couldn’t do anything about it- but then he – Spike; became corporeal again; the first thing Angel did was hit Spike up the-” Cordelia half listened to Fred’s verbal diarrhea whilst covertly watching the blonde vampire, who sat opposite them in the lobby seemingly lost in his own thoughts.

Not pretty ones judging by the sulky mouth and surprisingly poignant expression in his half lidded blue eyes. Cordelia’s curiosity grew by the second.

Spike was all too aware of her searching gaze, and played it for all it was worth, letting his deep-seated bitterness add to the mix; which wasn’t that difficult to do, considering he was bloody bitter!

Eve’s shrewd observance of the developing friendship between him and the physicist – and Fred’s almost worshipful fascination with him, had given her the idea of using that ‘bond’. Pop by for a few hours, her favorite tipple at the ready…. Before Fred knew it, she’d been talked into ringing the chit, invited herself over – and he’d wangled it so the tipsy physicist thought she’d asked him along.

“Okay, spit it out” His head jerked up, genuinely startled; his thoughts temporarily making him lose awareness of his surrounding, to find the chit eyeing him with a mixture of exasperation and peaked curiosity. He inwardly grinned. Gotcha!

“Sorry, love; you talkin’ to me?” his brow furrowed in mild confusion, shifting in his seat with deliberate discomfort. Cordelia leaned forward a little.

“No, that guy behind you by the wall- duh!” she rolled her eyes expressively as Spike actually glanced over his shoulder immediately. “Yes, you!– why the puppy-lost-his-bone face?” she asked bluntly.

Fred looked from one to the other, that anxious feeling creeping back into her gut.

“You got a thing for puppies- I’m sure Peaches’ll get you one if you ask him; being your Champion an’ all,” Spike hated the fact that he felt a little mean when she flinched at the descriptor he gave his Sire, but he had no intention of letting pangs of conscience get in the way.

“Forget I-“

“Did he tell you about Buffy and me?” Spike cut in before Cordelia could back off, and instantly got her undivided attention…

***

Fred truly wished she were somewhere else right at this moment- in fact, for the last forty minutes or so as Spike ‘opened his heart’ to his rapt audience.

Watching Cordelia’s expression melt from shocked disbelief, disgust…pity- empathy; gradually setting into cold hurt and betrayal as he recapped his life from the time of his second arrival to Sunnydale right up to the now, Fred knew she’d made a disastrous faux pas.

The sound of several heavy objects hitting the lobby floor had her and the others turning towards the entrance in startled surprise- and boy, was she in trouble, Fred thought sickly as she took in the sight of their unexpected visitor.

Game face to the fore and carelessly dropped grocery bags around his feet, Angel looked seriously pissed. Before the occupants could react, a black tornado had crossed the lobby and ploughed into the blonde vampire. The red couch tipped backward sharply at the impact and landed on the floor with a crash.

Both vampires were now a blur as fists and feet connected. For a stunned few minutes, both women remained in their seats. Fred was still frozen to the spot with her heart firmly wedged in her throat when Cordelia had finally shaken off the shock and rose to her feet. Without a word, she skirted around the lobby and headed towards the weapons cabinet, avoiding crashing furniture and battling flesh and blood.

Angel finally pinned Spike to the floor and proceeded to smash his bloodied fist repeatedly into the fanged face below him, completely oblivious to Fred’s belated high-pitched pleas to stop; then a loud and piercing whistle tore though the hotel and his fist froze mid-punch, his amber eyes lifting to rest, startled on the brunette who now stood a few feet away -an automatic loading crossbow in her experienced grasp pointed directly at their prone figures.

“Break up the playground shenanigans or forever be dust motes.” Her no- shit tone had both vampires scrambling to their feet in seconds.

“He started it” Spike grumbled, wiping his bloodied nose and sending death glares towards the other, equally bloodied vampire.

“What are you- five?” Cordelia barked at him; shooting an annihilating glare Angel’s way when he had the temerity to snort in glee at her words. He cleared his throat and shuffled his feet; “Cordy, I-” he began defensively, only to be cut off by the frighteningly still woman.

“Can it, Angel. I am so not in the mood to listen to you right now; get out.” Angel’s mouth gaped for a second, then snapped shut as he stepped forward pleadingly- freezing when the crossbow leveled directly at him.

Spike smirked and relaxed, moving closer to Cordelia, and Angel’s heart sunk to his feet when she merely flicked a glance at him and let it go.

“If I go he goes” The dark haired vampire replied firmly, folding his arms and attempting to stifle his hurt at her blatant siding with his nemesis.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but he wasn’t the one who came in all guns- or should I say fangs blazing,” she returned coldly, “From what I gather- thanks for letting me know, by the way; Spike is apparently a good guy now, so why the macho-protecto display?”

Whilst Angel struggled to think of an acceptable reply Spike stepped nearer to Cordelia with a repentant look on his face.

“It’s my fault, Cordy” he stifled the smirk that threatened to crack his face at the feral snarl that rumbled only enough for his ears to pick up at his familiarity with the brunette; “Peaches here warned me to keep away- don’t know why; mebbe it’s cos of my amazing charm and stunning good looks” he shrugged, his expression remorseful.

Both women’s eyes rolled at that; trust Spike to find some humor in a nasty situation. Eyeing Angel’s expression of barely hidden panic, fear…and guilt, Cordelia knew exactly why Spike had been warned off. She didn’t doubt that the blonde vampire had deliberately sought her out- hell, from what he’d told her, he had more reason than her to be bitter!

Although the last time she’d set eyes on him, she wouldn’t have trusted him as far as she could throw that two-faced bastard ex best friend, she instinctively sensed he’d been telling the truth.

“Please leave, Angel. You’ve gate crashed our little get together; Spike here is quite the little storyteller.” Her brow rose as her ice-cold gaze rested on the visibly tense vampire, who inwardly died a little as he realized all his nightmares had just come painfully true. He had to rescue this- though God only knew how! Straightening up, Angel refused point blank.

“I’m not going anywhere until we’ve talked; please, Cordy” he added softly, dark brown eyes pleading with her.

“Funny, but for once I actually have nothing to say.” Cordelia raised the crossbow again, her hands trembled slightly, but her face was firm- and completely closed off to him.

Noting the fine tremor, Angel hesitated. Now was not really the time for discussion; one, he didn’t want Spike around when he got his ass served to him on a plate- and two, he knew her well enough to know she wouldn’t listen to anything he had to say right now. Plus he wasn’t quite sure what he could say to make it all better. Casting a final, fulminating glower towards the other vampire, he backed off then turned to exit the building.

“He’s gone, love” Cordelia finally relaxed her tight grip on the weapon, letting it point to the floor at Spike’s quiet words but her shimmering gaze still lingered on the door Angel had minutes earlier exited.

Fred walked over and gently relieved the distraught woman of the crossbow, turning to place it on the counter behind them before turning back, hesitant to speak.

“Oh, Cordy, this is all my fault.” She finally said, regret lacing her softened tone. Cordelia seemed to give herself a little shake before turning her attention to the girl who now patted her arm consolingly.

“Don’t blame yourself, Fred. I would have found out sooner or later- though sooner than now would have been better in my book.” Less chance of me letting him back in to break my heart all over again. Her mouth twisted as she wondered if it was at all possible to break any more than it already was?

“Look, can we call it a night? I don’t think I’m fully over that whole coma thing yet- always tired. Pretty freaky when you think how long I slept before.” Fred nodded thoughtfully:

“Maybe- but it wasn’t exactly a normal sleep, was it? I mean, I bet you didn’t even have any REM cycles- and they say if you take sleeping pills, you don’t dream and therefore you don’t really get the benefit of the-“

“We know when we’re not wanted”, Spike cut in without heat, swallowing down the lump of unfamiliar guilt on taking in the quiet brunette’s unnatural pallor and deeply shadowed eyes. As far as he was concerned, he’d stuck the knife in –and-damned-if-he-didn’t-feel-bad-about-it; if only with regards to the chit. bloody interfering soul/

As if in retaliation, Spike had a brainwave and abruptly strode over, causing Cordelia to yelp in alarm and stiffen in his arms when he morphed into his natural face dipped his head and nipped her throat sharply.

“Not bad,” he released her just as swiftly, grinning wolfishly at the shocked fear and confusion on her lovely face as she instinctively reached up to check; and then even more confused and furious at the very slight tenderness of her flesh and tiny pinpricks of blood.

“Spike!” she practically growled at him, “What the hell-” He raised his hands in silent supplication, backing off until he again stood next to the younger girl, who glanced from one to the other with horrified eyes.

“I’m done.” He promised her- and he was. His final revenge; no matter how superficial the mark on the wank’s woman was, it would have his Sire spitting blood and nails- and knowing him as well as he did, Spike could guess at his reaction.

“Come on, pet, let’s go back to your place and finish that nice bottle of wine” He slung an arm over Fred’s shoulder; “Don’t worry about that invite- I won’t be back.” he winked saucily and turned, pulling Fred along with him.

“Goodnight Cordy- I’ll- I’ll call tomorrow- if that’s okay? Okay!” Fred repeated with a grin when Cordelia nodded with a faint smile, too drained to reply verbally.

As soon as they walked out of the door, she stepped over the abandoned grocery bags, ignoring the various tins and the broken eggs that spilled out of them and locked up.

Turning off the lights, she slowly retreated up the stairs, too numb to even cry.

***

Cordelia’s eyes shot open even as she rose to sit up. It hadn’t been a nightmare that woke her up- so what was it? Leaning over to switch on the bedside lamp, Cordelia shrieked sharply when the soft light revealed a dark figure sitting in the chair beside the bed.

“What the hell are you doing here? Christ, you nearly gave me a heart attack.” She scowled heavily at the dark vampire, drawing her knees up to her chin protectively.

“We need to talk- I already told you.” Angel’s dark eyes devoured the golden flesh of her shoulders left bare by the plain black chemise she wore; cursing the sheet now wrapped protectively up to her chest.

When he’d first entered his old room, that sheet had only partially covered her sleeping form, allowing his hot gaze free reign on the dips and curves barely covered by the scrap of silk laughingly called a nightgown. Angel hadn’t laughed at all. Resisting the urge to join her, he instead lowered himself into the nearby chair and unblinkingly watched her.

He’d had an hour to covet before she’d abruptly woken.

“You told me?” he pulled his attention to her still-scowling face with difficulty. God, he had it bad! “Don’t I get a choice in the matter?”

“About Spike-“

“You said that you were ‘in love’ with me; when did that supposedly happen?” Cordy cut in abruptly, causing Angel to frown in confusion.”

“Whe- y-you mean when I realized?” he hedged uncomfortably, thrown for a loop and suspicious of her reasons for suddenly asking.

“Yeah, that’ll do.” Cordelia held her breath as she closely watched his face but was unable to read his now closed expression.

“Well…. I realized when you went into that vision coma- on you’re Birthday – that I’d been in love with you from around my Epiphany,” he finally replied, stumbling a little over his words. His eyes lifted from their close scrutiny of his knees to meet hers.

First reading shock- rapidly followed by a chill that soaked into his very bones and he practically quailed went she drew breath to speak.

“Spike has a lot of grievances where you’re concerned- but then again, you two have a lot of history; Angelus must have been a real joy to hang around with!” Angel remained silent, the sinking feeling in his gut growing by the second as Cordelia paused for a long moment, picking invisible lint from the loosely held sheet covering her legs.

“You had quite the little reunion with Buffy; hearts, flowers – and lotsa spit-swapping,” She pinned him with overly bright eyes; “not to mention weird conversations about baking- and waiting forever.” Crap. Angel half rose from his seat, leaning forward, his expression desperately earnest.

“Cordy, it wasn’t-” he managed before silenced with a look that felt as palpable as a very sharp stake.

“What? So you didn’t go all smoochy and waxing lyrical; promising to wait till she was done baking her cookie-dough goodness?” her brows rose in expectation as Angel’s mouth worked soundlessly, unable to get past the large lump in his throat.

“In between all of that, did I happen to pop into your fair-weather brain – or *gasp* say to her ‘oh, by the way, I’m kinda in love with Cordelia – but she turned evil and is in a coma now; so forget I mentioned that little detail’?” She lay back abruptly and turned her back on him, not wanting to look at a face that screamed ‘guilty conscience’.

“Cordy, please” he whispered hoarsely, “a lot was going on in my life right then- things were said; done. Please don’t turn away from me.” The only outward sign that she’d heard him was the tensing of her spine.

Long minutes went by before she finally let out a harsh breath and rolled onto her back to stare at the ceiling.

“I didn’t meet you that night- I’m not exactly clear why I decided to leave everything behind, but that’s a whole other weird ass kettle of fish; the point I’m trying to make is- you owe me nothing, Angel- no explanations, no apologies- oh, well, except maybe one little thing,” she turned her head to look at him; “Honesty. You don’t need to feed my ego with pretty words and promises -I’m a big girl, and I don’t need lies from you.”

“I wasn’t lying to you. I made a mistake; hell…can’t I be allowed to do that?” Angel knew he sounded defensive, but Jesus; everything he held dear was on the line.

“Of course you can!” Cordelia sat up jerkily. “But, God, Angel- Spike’s known me; what- five minutes? And he was painfully honest-“

“Come on, Cor,! he hates my guts – it’s pretty obvious to anyone after two seconds of being in the same the same room with us!”

“So you’re saying he’s lying?” Angel raked a shaky hand through his dark hair, pushing past the chair to start pacing at the foot of the bed.

“No,” the word was thrown out grittily even as he continued to evade her narrowed eyes, and an awful, suffocating silence blanketed the dim room. Then she sighed, a small catch ruining the casual affect of it and her lovely mouth turning down at the sides in poignant sadness.

“I don’t suppose these little ‘aberrations’ really count for much – only minor stopgaps till Miss Slayhappy’s done baking.”

“You weren’t- aren’t a stopgap.” Angel insisted, his mouth snapping shut at the hard glare he got for his trouble.

“Well, we’ve had our little talk. Can I go back to sleep now?” Cordy finally spoke, her voice weary and drained. Angel halted his pacing and moved around the bed to perch on the edge.

“No, you can’t!” Although he could see it leading to even more unpleasantness- though how much more that it had been already, he couldn’t quite imagine, Angel couldn’t leave it like this. “Why would I lie to you, answer me that, Cordy?” She squeezed her eyes tight and wished him gone; this was getting them nowhere- just making it hurt even more than it already did.

“I don’t know; guilt- some twisted need in you to make me feel good about myself – or…” Cordelia sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees defensively, “…or maybe because you somehow got it into your head that I expected some kind of declaration- which I didn’t” she added, deliberately dismissive, making his hackles rise at the uncaring tone threading her voice.

“Don’t do this to us, Cordelia. Stop pushing me away.” She doggedly ignored the hint of warning in his velvet soft voice and shrugged carelessly.

“Can we not talk about ‘this’ right now? I wasn’t kidding about being tired, you know- Fred has an interesting theory on why-“

“I don’t think you should have given Spike an invite – I don’t trust him.” He cut in abruptly. Fine, if she wasn’t ready to talk about them, he’d drop it- for now; but Angel was damned if he was going to leave before Cordelia agreed to keep a wide berth from his troublemaking Childer.

He wouldn’t put it past him to make a move on her; she was, after all a very beautiful woman- and also it would be the perfect revenge. Just thinking about him laying a single finger on his woman made him burn up inside with raw jealousy- and if he wormed his way into her affections to the point of more…

“Oh, then I’d better un-invite him right away – got the stinky herbs and spell handy?” her false bright voice brought him sharply back to the present; flinching visibly at the matching stretched plastic smile and deliberately ingenuous expression in dramatically widened eyes.

“No- but I can get them” he offered tentatively; a low growl escaping his throat when she rolled her eyes and dropped the pretence.

“Don’t waste your precious time, he’s no bother ” sighing heavily, she hugged her knees tightly to her chest before relaxing her hold; “I don’t know what you’re getting all hyped up about; he’s got a soul now, remember?”

“I don’t want him near you- he’s dangerous” Angel retorted, the growl rising in volume which only caused her to let go of her knees and fold her arms across her chest in an achingly familiar show of defiance and stubbornness.

“To whom- me or you?” Before he could reply, Cordelia continued on: “Cos I personally found him rather…. entertaining- and pretty sweet.” The growl turned into a low snarl at her softened tone- especially at unholy gleam in her lovely eyes, and the jealousy increased in intensity; his ever-present insecurity where she was concerned returning with a vengeance.

“Spike’s nothing but an opportunist, you let him in and he’ll take advantage of it” he warned fiercely.

“Boy, you can say that again” the words slipped out before Cordelia even considered Angel’s possible reaction to them- the annoyed quirk of her mouth that accompanied her comment only compounding the error when he wrongly read it as secretive.

After days of heart-shredding arguments, going through every conceivable emotion to man and demon, Angel was near breaking point. His brown eyes flared amber even as he scowled darkly, suspicion in every line of his hard, handsome face as he aggressively crowded her against the headboard.

“What does that mean??” the barely hidden jealousy that Cordy mistook as menace caused her to press back, unconsciously touching her fingers to the faint tiny puncture marks on her throat. Immediately, his predatory eyes latched onto it and at the same time the faint yet uniquely-Spike scent touched his flaring nostrils.

Although it was obvious only the tips of Spike’s fangs had broken the skin, all rational thought went out of the window as Angel reacted to the blatant show of disregard to his property – not that, in a lucid moment, the soul would admit to thinking of her in terms of ownership. But the inner demon raged possessively, not caring about PC, or that the mark was superficial- only caring that it was done in the first place.

Angel!” One minute Cordelia was looking into furious gold eyes, the next her world shifted and she was flat on her back and pinned under a very angry vampire.

She couldn’t suppress a cry of fright when his large hand curled into her loose hair and none too gently yanked her head to the side.

“You let him touch you?” the rage almost made speech impossible and Angel couldn’t control the change in his face as he glared at the patch of broken blood vessels under her skin.

He didn’t give her a chance to reply- with a roar of possessiveness his head dipped and he replaced Spike’s playful nip with the real thing. As soon as his fangs pierced her flesh Cordelia’s whole body clenched in pain at the invasion. Squeezing her eyes shut she just clung onto him for dear life as he gulped a mouthful of blood before penetrating deeper into her throat.

Then just as quickly, his head jerked up, his fangs leaving her flesh just as abruptly as they’d entered. Ice-cold realization hit him between the eyes as he stared in horror at the deep twin puncture wounds that now graced her throat; and the blood that quickly filled them and overflowed. Shakily, Angel again dipped his head and lapped at the wounds, halting the flow and sealing them, hazily grateful that he hadn’t torn the surrounding skin. Then he then rolled off her rigidly held body.

Cordelia opened her eyes as soon as his heavy weight disappeared, turning her head to find his back now facing her at the end of the bed. Her hand tentatively went to her throat, surprised not to find a big gaping tear similar to the one Darla had doled out. The initial sharp pain of penetration had now dulled to a throbbing ache.

Cordelia Chase wasn’t stupid- and she instantly clicked onto why Angel had bitten her – he’d ‘claimed’ her in a fit of possessive rage; she could see no difference in his actions to that of his Sire- except his intent wasn’t to drain and kill her, but to make a primitive vampy ownership statement to Spike. And right at this moment she doubted she’d ever be able to forgive him.

“Get out.” Her voice was thready and trembled alarmingly, but Cordelia knew he’d heard her by the answering twitch of his back muscles. How many times had she said that particular sentence to him? She’d lost count; but not conviction that it was the right road to go.

Several long seconds went by before he moved, almost as if in physical pain, slowly turning to face her. His human features were once again in place, his natural pallor even more pronounced than usual. Darkly shadowed repentant brown eyes were compulsively drawn to the hand that now covered the wound.

“God, Cordy- I’m so so-“

“I don’t wanna hear it,” she cut in frostily, “Just get out” swallowing convulsively, Angel’s shadowed eyes sought hers briefly, still able to taste her rich blood in his mouth and his knees nearly buckled as the utter stupidity and wrongness of his actions hit home hard.

Cordelia’s pupils swallowed the hazel irises; her face a picture of betrayal and shock. He hesitated, unsure of what to do next, his shoulders hunched, and then he turned and walked shakily across the room to the door. As it closed softly behind him he heard her speak again:

“And this time, don’t come back.”

Part 11

Posted December 5, 2016 by califi in TBC

Faint Heart. 8-9   1 comment

Part 8

Spike was in a damned good mood! – Made a change to feeling inwardly insecure when thinking of, or being around his great miserable Wank of a Sire.

Some would say it was disturbing and strange in the extremes at how openly happy the blonde vampire seemed to be about the miraculous recovery of their new Boss’ Seer – especially as her so –called friends on the other hand, appeared almost morose and anxious about the very same fact.

Spike was far from altruistic in his joy – his reasons were pretty much clear to him: with the brunette awake and on her feet, Angel would be torn in his affections; especially where the Slayer was concerned. He’d heard all about the ex-cheerleader from little Fred who, on the odd occasion would join him and share a bottle of wine or two gradually becoming rather prolific where the ‘Seer and the champion’ were concerned. She was pretty sweet, spending a lot of time on him and his initial ‘ghostly’ problems – but it hadn’t stopped him pumping her for information on Angel’s love life ‘After-Buffy’.

He would tune out her maudlin whines of “I’m such a terrible friend to poor Cordy” and “I’m gonna visit her tomorrow”, and instead eke out of her the long pathetic story of the moron’s growing feelings for brunette “before she went all evil on us- and now he doesn’t even mention her”.

He’d kept a mental self-flagellating list of every taunt and put down his Sire had made since he’d arrived in L.A. – partly to inconceivably aid himself in his effort to put Buffy Summers behind him for good. It hadn’t so far worked. But now…

Grinning bitterly, the blonde vampire promised himself, that even if his feelings for the Slayer were left forever unrequited, that bastard would never get a foot in that particular door again!

Making his slow and meandering way towards Angel’s office, Spike whistled merrily the tune ‘Not Man Enough For Me‘ changing the words to suit in his head as he went along…

***

“Y’know, you can pretend I’m not here all you like, but who do you think you’re kiddin’?” Angel dipped his head lower and continued doggedly with the pretending.

Spike let out a dramatic sigh and strolled over to the larger vampire’s desk, perching on the edge directly opposite and leaning in.

“Have to admit being surprised; you and that delicious brunette – always were a sneaky bastard.” Spike paused; then went in for the kill.

“So…did this juicy little snippet come up in conversation when you bumped lips with the Slayer?” he grinned, satisfied when the dark vampire’s head finally snapped up. “I ‘m guessing Little Girl Friday didn’t take that oversight on your part too well; that is, if she knows-” his words were abruptly cut off by a large crushing hand wrapping around his throat, but the sneering grin remained.

“Stay out of my business.” Angel released and pushed at the same time, causing the blonde to sprawl backwards onto the floor.

Picking himself up and smoothing down his leather duster, Spike then planted his hands wide on the desk edge.

“It IS my business when you’re playin’ Buffy. You come waltzing in, pickin’ up from where you left off- mackin’ and spoutin’ puke-sick declarations… you’ve always been a selfish, petty bastard, Angelus” he growled, straightening up; “Just couldn’t stand the thought of me an’ ‘er together, could you?”

Angel rubbed his tired eyes, and then looked up, forcing a sneer onto his tight lips. ” You two together? If it wasn’t so hilarious I might just have pitied you, Spike – still always wanting what I have. You don’t seriously believe Buffy could ever love you? You’re pathetic.” Both heard the lack of conviction in his tone, but Angel couldn’t stop the flow of words; they’d become a bad habit.

“I might not be worth anything, but I was honest about my feelin’s – and I didn’t lie to her; not where it counted, anyway. Look at you – running around like a blue arsed fly trying to get back in the little chit’s good books,” Spike paced the floor in front of the desk, “then sitting there in all your reflected glory, spouting on about how you deserve the love of another woman!”

Throwing himself into a chair he checked his chipped black nail polish; keeping an eye on the silent vampire -then went for the jugular. “Can’t wait to meet up with ‘er again. Been a while… lot of catching up to do.”

Spike was out of the door before Angel, vaulting over his desk, could grab him, and he continued running until brought up abruptly and pinned to the wall in the relatively empty corridor.

“You go near her and I’ll fucking kill you!” Angel snarled, panic shooting through his head at the easily imagined ‘catching up’ Spike had in mind.

At best, Cordy would stake him; at worst, she’d never trust him again. Since that was already shaken to the core, Angel knew without a doubt that it would be over permanently.

“Oh, is she your property then?” Spike wheezed past the constriction on his windpipe; ” I figure the chit has summat to say about that- don’t look like the sharing kin- FUCK!” his face morphed in reaction to the pain of Angel’s knee connecting with his groin, and fell, curled up on the floor as soon as the pressure from his throat was released.

“Keep away from her, or I will kill you- eventually” Angel warned with a growl, turning away and pushing past his secretary, who’d stood watching, her mouth agape.

“Blondie bear!” Harmony rushed forward as soon as her boss had entered his office, dropping to her knees and grabbing Spike’s arm.

“Get off, you stupid bint” Spike snarled, yanking away from the concerned Vampire and staggered to his feet; groaning under his breath as hot pain streaked from his groin and down his shaky legs.

As he hobbled down the corridor, his mind was already planning his first ‘social call’ to the luscious brunette; the satisfied smile still hovering on his pain-filled face…This is gonna be so much fun!

***

“A CV?” Yeah, sure- I’ll get back to you real soon. Nice talking to you to, Jed, bye.” Cordelia couldn’t hold back the heavy sigh at yet another, though less unpleasant turn- down. At this rate, she’d never find employment! Way to feel valued!

Hi Angel, I know we really can’t stand to be even in the same city right now, but how about writing me a reference? You know, the usual stuff: Office skills, unusual ‘foresight’, a penchant for turning evil, seducing bosses sons and trying to take over the world…” “Yeah, right!” Cordelia mumbled sulkily as she rose from Angel’s old chair an exited the office.

She hadn’t seen the pain-in-the-ass vampire for two days now, and, after a sobfest that lasted way too long for her liking, Cordelia began her rounds of Job hunting by phone. After several wasted ‘discussions’ with a couple of Employment Agencies, Cordelia had braved the outside world and ventured out to grab some newspapers- who would have known the Petty Cash tin had been overlooked in their mass exodus?!

It pained her to realize that she was, indeed, destitute- which also brought home again the fact that she needed Angel’s help to survive right now. And it sucked- big time!

The ‘Hellhounds’ still lurked, and she also could have sworn she’d spotted Angel’s old black convertible lurking about on both nights- but having decided that as long as he wasn’t suicidal enough to enter the building the tongue would continue to be bitten down- and no; she wouldn’t lower herself by running outside screaming at him to stop and go stalk one of his chippies cos she so wasn’t impressed.

***

Angel hit his forehead off his desk one last time for good measure. He would never learn to keep his stupid big mouth shut.

Not only had he gone to town with every snide comment he could think of since Spike had appeared at Wolfram & Hart regarding the Slayer, he’d now compounded his stupidity by continuing with it. His pathetic need for one-upmanship made him wonder again at his decision to run this place since he was struggling to even get his personal life into any kind of order.

His skin broke into a cold sweat at the thought of Spike and Cordelia bumping into each other. For the first time, Angel was intensely relieved that Cordelia had refused point blank to step foot into the place since she’d left.

If he’d have had his way initially, she would now be ensconced in his penthouse apartment – but not, unfortunately, his bed. That wasn’t something he should think about at all- not that  it had entered his head the other night!

It was a good thing one of them had the sense to stop before it got out of hand, cos he’d been beyond caring – his groin hardened with the hot memory of those snatched moments of unbelievable pleasure…the warm soft weight of her breasts in his hands; the burning heat of her tight, lush body beneath his -he could still taste her in his mouth and…

Shrugging off a world of bitter frustration, Angel pulled his thoughts back to the newest worry that plagued his every waking moment: the incredible amount of crap the other vampire had on him.

Blackmail didn’t even enter Angel’s head- not Spike’s style. No, the bastard would relish telling Cordy every damning word.

Groaning aloud, he again slammed his forehead off the desktop: “stupid, stupid…

***

Eve took a deep breath, planted a soft smile on her face then opened Angel’s office door.

Angel didn’t bother to move his eyes from their broody contemplation from the view of Los Angeles. It still felt weird sitting in the full light of day- sometimes he worried that the initial crawl of sick fear that used to grow in his gut each time he entered a sunlit room in this building, had dissipated to such a degree that he’d forget what he was- he’d already began leaving his drapes open when he slept.

The first time he’d woken bathed in the rays of the midday sun, his panicked reaction sent him tumbling onto the floor beside his bed tangled in the covers; a film of fear-sweat coating his body. Now he wondered how long it would be before he forgot altogether and walked out into the sun like an idiot.

“So how’s the little woman?” Eve’s sickly sweet voice broke into his thoughts, and, stifling a sigh of annoyance, he swiveled his chair and face her.

“Eve.” The vampire’s abrupt response and the cool rake of brown eyes that she was sure held a tinge of distaste made her struggle not to squirm, then those eyes flickered, showing polite enquiry.

As Angel regarded her, he recalled the last time they’d crossed paths, and the queasy sensation that curled in his stomach sent his body forward until his forearms rested on his desk. First things first: Just get it over with, Dumb ass! his mouth quirked in irony as his inner monologue ended up sounding like a certain annoying brunette.

“We need to discuss the…. events that occurred during Lorne’s weird little party,” he began, ignoring her enquiry regarding Cordelia, groaning inwardly when a faint flush filled her face. Is she batting her eyes at me? his horror grew by the second as Eve attempted a sultry pose that left him feeling repulsed. “I just want to apologize for, you know- “

“Don’t apologize, Angel – it wouldn’t be the first time something like that’s happened to me.” Eve cut in, moving closer and hitching her skirt to perch on the edge of his desk. Angel instinctively sat back.

“What?” he couldn’t hide the shock at her almost casual dismissal of something that was, more or less rape. Hell, he definitely felt violated- and to top it all, she now sat there intimating that is wasn’t even a one off occurrence in her life – as if it was acceptable?!

“Its okay, really- “

“No- It really isn’t” Angel cut in abruptly, half wishing he hadn’t brought it up. Eve smiled coyly, leaning forward and making a point of reaching across him to retrieve a discarded pen.

“I didn’t mind, Angel; in fact…”Angel swallowed down the bile that rose to his throat at her openly hungry expression, ” It was something I kinda hoped we could…do again sometime?” Eve jumped, startled when the vampire shot to his feet and almost stumbled in his haste to put space between them.

“Look, Eve, I’m really- flattered and, well- it’s not something I-“

“The curse! I know that’s a problem” Eve cut in, straightening and taking a step towards him, “- but I’m sure with our resources we could-“

“No, we couldn’t.” Angel finally found his balance and was determined once and for all to make his feelings clear on the subject of any kind of relationship with the rather insipid woman. “The curse isn’t a problem in this instance- and I definitely have no interest in you that way; at all.”

Eve stiffened at the insult- he may not have meant it as one, but that’s the way she took it regardless. Bastard! pulling herself together with remarkable ease, she slid a knowing smile onto her still-flushed face.

“Oh god, silly me- I forgot all about your feelings for that little blonde Slayer.”

“Buffy?” Angel’s momentary confusion had Eve dipping her head. She smoothed down her skirt, her smile vanishing for a second before transforming into a soft, disappointed moue; obviously, his affections were centered entirely on the Seer now, which didn’t bode well for her OR the Senior Partners. ” Who else?” Noting the tight line of his mouth, she shrugged her shoulders lightly.

“Everyone here knows about your one True Love. How remiss of me. -Enough of that, anyway; I actually popped in to ask how you’re old Secretary is holding up?” Changing the subject brightly and enjoying the play of emotions that ran across his darkening face.

Angel’s eyes narrowed with the dawning realization he was being played. He instantly re-evaluated his earlier opinion of the woman and made a mental note to be more alert when she was around.

“Cordelia is a lot of things; ‘secretary’ doesn’t even begin to describe her place in my life. Plus, she’s none of your concern.” He didn’t bother to hide the menace in his voice and was satisfied when she swallowed hard, her plastic smile wavering slightly as she nodded and walked towards the door.

“I’d better get back to the grind. Angel.” Eve opened the door, nodded again and exited quietly.

Angel sagged, leaning heavily against his desk, Eve’s words ringing through his head: ” Everyone here knows about your one True Love… “Just great!”

***

As soon as the door closed behind her, Eve’s smile fled. She ignored the ‘hi’ thrown her way by the vacuous blonde vampire now sitting at her station; phone in one hand, lollipop in the other, and stalked down the otherwise empty corridor.

Something had to be done about that brunette fly in her ointment. Already the vampire seemed to be paying attention to things- and looked close to retrieving parts of his anatomy he’d seemingly lost at about the same time of his ‘precious’ Seer’s possession. Jabbing the call button of the elevator viciously, Eve fumed over the fact that the undead bastard had managed to make her feel humiliated.

No one did that and got away with it! All she had to do now was figure out a way to both get rid of that woman in a none-suspect way, and make the vampire eat his words.

With the real love of his life out of the picture- and the Slayer’s noticeable lack of communication, who would be most qualified to sooth his wounded heart? A small smile of anticipation crawled across her face, only dimmed by the fact that a way to do so evaded her right now. The doors to the elevator slid open, and her eyes lit up on seeing who slouched inside.

“Spike! What a coincidence- I was just looking for you; let’s talk revenge.” Stepping into the lift with the bleached blonde, she pressed the button and turned to face the openly suspicious vampire…


Part 9

Cordelia placed the receiver back in the cradle softly, biting her bottom lip; her lovely eyes turned inward with conflicted thoughts and emotions.

When the phone had rung, she’d been torn between answering it in the hope that one of the ‘we’ll be in touch’ companies hadn’t been fobbing her off after all. While a large part of her was both worried and annoyed that it might be Angel- either trying to make up, or, horror of horrors, asking her to clear out of the hotel.

After shuffling from one foot to the other, staring at the phone like it was a venomous snake, she’d growled and grabbed it before she could change her mind.

Hearing Fred’s nervous voice on the other end had left Cordelia speechless for a few seconds with shock, the renewed surge of betrayed anger – and, if she were completely honest, a little twinge of relief. Worrying and ranting about the inevitable confrontation with her former friends and colleagues was not really that productive, she knew; it really was time to either cut all links to her old life for good- or swallow some of that bitter bile and face the fallout.

After several long minutes where the younger brunette rambled almost incoherently, falling over her words as apologies and excuses fell from her lips, it crossed Cordelia’s mind that if she didn’t know better, young Fred had been at the happy juice.

Hell, if I’d known she’d be ringing, I’d have been tempted to chug down a Cosmo or ten myself she thought dryly realizing as Fred continued to ramble [more than usual], that she definitely had to thank prior ‘Dutch courage’ for the call.

By the time the call ended, she’d agreed to the girl coming over later that evening.

***

Fred sat looking at the phone pensively. She’d literally felt sheer terror on dialing the familiar number, and that fear had multiplied when her old friend had finally answered. With a little help from more than a few glasses of wine, along with a few wise, if blunt words from an unexpected ally, Fred had at last pushed aside her misgivings and made the call- after several hours pacing and staring at the darned thing.

And it had turned out way better than she thought it would- and not unlike one of those invasive enemas she’d read about- purging almost all the toxicity that had been eating away at her since the brunette had awoken. Her apologies had been, somewhat warily, accepted, and she’d even got an invite.

Okay…Fred herself had begged to visit and Cordelia had acquiesced- but still; bridges were hopefully well on their way to be mended and hopefully strengthened with a lot of help from better quality material which included those new carbonized girders that were favored nowadays and that also increased the safety levels by – she halted her inner rambling monologue and jumped out of her seat, already wondering what to wear:

“I wonder what Cordy’ll think of my new look?” No more jeans and Tees for her!

***

“Whisky?” Eve set up two tumblers and began to pour the rich amber liquid generously in each. “This bottle’s from a Limited edition of 600 bottles; each bottle is actually signed by Peter Gordon, the great-great-grandson of Scotland’s Glenfiddich distillery founder, William Grant- good stuff.”

Spike merely raised an unimpressed brow.”Forget the Hans Offringa review. Don’t need its bloody life story.” He snatched the glass from the blonde, throwing back the contents and then holding it out for more. “Not as good as GlenMorangie, but it quenches the thirst.” Eve couldn’t help but show her surprise.

First rule of the book: never underestimate the intelligence of the enemy.

He raked cold blue eyes down her too-thin frame, “What’s with the sudden interest in good ol’ Spikey, hmm? – cos I gotta tell you, love; you’re not exactly rise-worthy,” for the second time that day, Eve felt humiliated color flood into her face.

Biting her tongue hard, she instead forced a cool smile on her face, dropping her eyes briefly to hide the momentary venom. “That isn’t why I wanted to see you; this is purely business- that will, hopefully conclude things to both our satisfaction.”

“So you’ve got a bone to pick with the prick; can’t say I’m surprised.” Spike grinned openly; pleased she’d picked up on his turn of phrase. A bit of the old verbal riposte could be almost as fun as getting your knuckles bloodied.

“And you haven’t? He led me on- got what he wanted…” Eve couldn’t keep the genuine bitterness out of her tone as she gave the ‘woman scorned’ spiel; “and then I get thrown aside like so much trash whilst he’s sniffing around another piece of ass.”

“A bit of magic caused a lot of shagging- end of story. Angelus gets a break from his left ‘and for a bit, that’s all- back doorin’ usually comes a bit later in a budding relationship.” Spike turned to the mini bar and put down the empty glass, grabbing the bottle instead and taking a long swig. He was still smirking when he lowered the bottle.

He hated Angel with a vengeance- had done since he’d been turned- but he knew whose side he’s be on if it came to a smack down with the whiny little bitch and her corrupt company-from-Hell. But at the same time, he wanted payback, and he was curious as to what exactly Satan’s Toady wanted from him.

“So where do I fit into all this revenge gig? Want us to pretend I wanna shag you too- make him all jealous? – cos there are two little snags with that; lack of interest on the his side, and a matter of taste on mine.”

If a stake had been handy, Eve knew she’d have dusted him before he’d finished his scathing sentence; regardless of the consequences- but her real need for his interference right now was more important than her desire to kill him.

“Like I said- Angel is playing with the affections of quite a few women, and I don’t think that’s acceptable; me, the Seer…The Slayer-” she bit back the satisfied grin at the instant stiffening of his lean frame, finally feeling a modicum of control.

“I heard on the grapevine that you wanted to personally welcome Miss Chase to the land of the living- I think I could be of some service there.” Spike’s eyes narrowed astutely, pinning her with a deeply intent blue gaze, his interest finally peeked.

So that was her little game…! Spike shrugged and softened his features. As long as they weren’t talking about killing the chit, he was all for it-

“How? You’re not the only one with an ear to the door- Peaches had to beg his cutie for an invite into his old place after she’d moved in,” he smirked at the memory of hearing that one; “and you- well, the chit has every reason to hate your guts- more than she probably would’ve already done anyway” he added snidely, enjoying the small signs of hatred, anger and threatened violence in her insignificant little face and body since he’d entered her apartment.

“I’ve already discounted direct intervention” she returned coldly, inwardly wondering how the hell he’d managed to stay undead for so long; who could possibly like such a crass, sneering…. ” – And have an idea that might just work- if you don’t mess it up! You aren’t known for your subtlety” Eve dropped all pretence of friendliness and got down to business…

***

“What the hell is all this?” Angel just stared at the thick pile of papers in his secretary’s arms, figuring that if she hadn’t been a vampire, her legs would have buckled with the weight.

“Sorry, Boss, but what with that really wild party and Cordelia waking up – argh!” Harmony squealed in delight, then almost as quickly frowned, “even though she hasn’t been by to say hi yet- but I can deal…anyway,” she caught Angel’s impatient look and cleared her throat;

“We’ve got a backlog of stuff that needs checking over, signed, blah blah – hope ya didn’t have anything planned for tonight – or tomorrow either, cos you sure got your work cut out for ya!” Harmony plonked them directly in front of the glowering vampire and made her escape. “See you Monday, boss!” she threw back before ducking out of the door hurriedly.

Angel’s annoyed glare left the closed door and dropped back to the mountain of paperwork. After a few seconds, he blinked, a combined growl and grunt escaping him as he weighed his options.

Actually, he’d had plans; well, if you could call spending another fruitless night sitting in his furtively-hidden car arguing with himself about whether or not to enter the hotel… with a heavy sigh, he grabbed a pen and reached for the top file.

“Fight the good fight, help the helpless!” he muttered under his breath, scanning the first of many pages of neatly typed documents…

***

“Um, hi…” Cordelia looked up from her desk where she’d been sorting out the drawers; finding her stash of old Cosmopolitan magazines and an assortment of makeup. Her eyes bugged for a second as she took in the reed-thin figure hovering at the entrance.

“Fred! – What are you wearing?!” she attempted to soften her exclamation of horror with a smile as the young Texan’s cheeks flared with color.

“It’s kinda what I wear at the- um, place where I work now,” remembering belatedly that Cordelia hadn’t been too impressed with that particular bomb shell either.

“I didn’t feel comfortable in jeans in that place- but then again, I don’t feel that comfortable in these clothes either; but there ya go.” Fred tugged ineffectually at the thigh high skirt she wore, attempting to cover her gangly knees.

She’d always admired Cordelia’s taste in clothes…although after she came back with the Pylean Warrior, her outfits had changed from chic to rather dour in Fred’s rather limited view of fashion. Way too old for a girl not that much older than herself- but she had to admit that Angel’s Seer had been able to carry off the type of stuff she herself was wearing with a lot more finesse.

Cordelia had obviously dug out some of her ‘pre-vacation’ clothes and she looked a little more like her old self.

The low-riding jeans complimented by a sheer, feminine blouse over the top of a cotton thin-strapped tank top; her two-toned longer hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. Talking about loose: “You’ve lost weight,” Fred finally announced, after her very thorough inspection; making a mental note to bring a hair color with her next time she visited. wow! So much for the best care! Fred cringed as she recalled Lilah’s promise- and how they hadn’t even checked to see if she’d been sincere!.

“Coma’s and liquid diets must do that to you” Cordelia shrugged off-handedly and ignored the other girl’s small flinch, “- are you gonna stand out there all day” she added softly; her brow rising when instead of walking further in, she looked even more uncomfortable. “I get that you might be having second thoughts about coming, but I promise I’ve already eaten.” She joked lightly.

Out of all of them, Fred was most likely the only one Cordelia found hardest not to forgive. That could have been either because she hadn’t known the girl as long as the rest- even Gunn- and the thin edge of insanity that, to her, had never really completely left the Pylean refugee.

“No! It’s not that- and, ha! I know you wouldn’t really eat me, cos of you not being a Fred-eating Demon; or at least I don’t think anyone said anything about you being one-although we never did find out what kind of half demon you were; not that we actually researched it much; in fact, not at all, really, but I’m almost 100% sure- well as sure as I can be-and I know that’s not saying much really, because I’m just me; but I’m pretty sure that you’re not … I’m rambling again, aren’t I?” she blushed a fiery red and grinned shyly at the rather dumbfounded brunette.

“Anyway, that’s not why…” Fred bit her lip and looked furtively to her left, causing Cordelia’s sharp eyes to narrow suspiciously.

“Oh, God, don’t tell me you’ve brought that stupid, vampire with you?!” Her back straightening even as she folded her arms across her chest defensively. Fred blushed yet again and shifted uncomfortably.

“Angel? No- not exactly” she hedged.

“You got the ‘vampire’ bit right, love- but change ‘stupid’ to smart and sexy, and who do ya get?” a vaguely familiar cocky voice pierced the quiet outside; a rougher version of the English Wes spoke. Cordelia’s eyes and mouth widened in disbelief, and then her lips tightened into a thin line of fear and suspicion.

Spike?

Part 10

Posted December 5, 2016 by califi in TBC

Faint Heart. 6-7   1 comment

Part 6

Angel noticed two things when he opened the door of the Hyperion: Cordelia had been very busy with the cleaning- and he could no longer enter his old home.

The second thing was a more painful realization- and not just to his feelings. His nose still throbbed from where he’d strode through- or, attempted to stride through the portal, and some of the bags of groceries he’d held now rested on the floor at his feet.

“Cordelia? Cordy?” he could hear her heartbeat coming from somewhere in the lobby and the instant it’s pace tripled at his call; but it didn’t come any closer. Sighing heavily, Angel stooped down to rescue the bags; ” Could you invite me in, if it’s not too much trouble?” he called again, straightening up to find her a few feet in front of him with her arms folded.

“I’m not stopping you,” Cordy replied coolly, not moving any nearer.

“Actually, you kinda are – you’ve obviously made yourself at home; which is of the good” he added hastily as her spine immediate stiffened.

“I need you to invite me in – I have Rocky Road!” he attempted a light smile, and for a moment her face softened; then closed off again, but she did take a few steps nearer.

“What’s this? When all else fails, go with the bribing-shallow-Cordy-cos-that-SO-works!?” Cordelia was close enough for Angel to inhale her never-forgotten scent, and for a moment he missed her cutting words- for a moment! Then his own spine stiffened.

“You need to eat, Cordy,” he explained softly, “I just thought-“

“- You shouldn’t have done this,” she cut in tightly. “Now I’ll have to pay you back- out of that secret little nest egg I have ferreted away, won’t I?” Angel’s eyes squeezed shut for a second at the world of pain in her too-quiet voice.

He knew that would come back to bite him on the ass. It was times like this that he remembered why he wasn’t much for the whole talking deal. “Please invite me in,” Angel begged softly, and their eyes locked; his pleading, hers conflicted- then she let out a breath and turned away.

“Come in, Angel, after all, this is your property.” Cordelia could almost feel the moment he flinched at her scathing response, but she was, right now, beyond caring about his hurt feelings. She didn’t doubt that the annoying vampire would eventually find a way to enter her sanctuary; what with all Wolfram & Harts’ resources- better that she let him in now rather than waiting until then and being confronted with his inevitable anger.

Not that Cordelia was too worried about that; but right now, she couldn’t afford for him to maybe get so mad that he threw her out onto the street homeless. Even as her inner voice poo-poohed the idea of Angel doing that, a small, insecure part of her wasn’t so sure any more. He did it once when they were actually friends- or so she thought at the time.

Angel crossed the threshold, and, after a slight hesitation he strode purposefully towards the kitchen. Most of the food had been stowed away before she finally entered the room, and he continued to fill the fridge wordlessly as he listened to the sound of her pulling out a stool and plonking down on it heavily.

Finally finished, Angel closed the fridge door; keeping a hold on the ice cream and turned to the central table/work surface she now rested her elbows on. Placing the tub on the steel surface, he rummaged through cupboards and drawers, and then sat opposite her, serving the softened confectionary into the bowls he’d procured. Silence pervaded the room, only broken by the sound of clinking china and Cordelia’s shallow breathing.

“I’ve told the others,” Angel placed a half full bowl and spoon in front of the brunette, then served himself.

“Oh – so when’s the big party?” her brittle reply had his head shooting up to catch her darkened, unreadable eyes.

“Cordelia,” her brow rose at his pained tone.

“What? Aren’t I allowed to express even a little bitterness towards my ‘friends’ total lack of interest – or are you gonna tell me they were overcome with joy? I thought not.” She added shortly when his eyes flickered and briefly avoided her own.

The smile that stretched her full mouth looked just as brittle as the expression now in her eyes; taking him back to a much earlier time, and a completely different place. The expression that was pretty much a uniform for her beautiful face from the first moment he’d seen her in the Sunnydale High Library after her rebar accident.

“It was a…shock for them, finding out like that.” Was all he could think to say; her brow lifted.

“Yeah, I can imagine- so not the quickie phone call they most likely expected at my waking up – or demise; most likely the latter.” Not bothering to hide the bitterness.

What had she expected really? After finding out their last memories of her- and their subsequent lack of visits, she didn’t have to be Einstein to figure out her place in their hearts right now.

Angel went through the motions of scooping up the rapidly melting ice cream and placing it in his mouth numbly. At this moment, even if his taste buds had been human, he knew he still wouldn’t have been able to taste it.

“I’m sorry” her quiet voice broke the awful silence between them, and for a moment Angel wasn’t sure how to respond. He cleared his throat loudly and placed the spoon on the table, reaching out to place his large, cool hand on her, unsurprisingly icy cold one.

“It wasn’t you, Cordy- we know that…” he began soothingly, trailing off when she abruptly pulled her hand from under his and rolled her eyes in faux exasperation

“Not for that, dumb ass; and I wasn’t talking to you,” now he was confused. What else was there to be sorry about?

Cordelia took a deep breath. “I was just thinking how sorry I am that I asked Turncoat Skip to demonize me- at the same time, I couldn’t have lived with myself staying on in my new and wonderful ‘could have been’ life, cos that just…well, it wasn’t me, any more; so…” she paused for a moment and dropped her eyes to the hand resting on the steel table.

“I should just have let nature takes it’s course, and accepted the inevitable.” She ended quietly.

Angel was reeling at what she’d revealed. As awful as it sounded, he, or the others had never really pulled Cordy up and ‘interrogated her about the coma experience she’d gone through on her birthday. Yes: they knew she’d awakened part demon, and that she had had to accept that non-human condition to survive the visions…but the rest was an eye-opener.

Except, that wasn’t strictly true, Angel realized belatedly, when, on recalling the scene after she abruptly awoke that night. Cordelia had been rambling on about ‘the perfect life, but you were crazy-and-I-couldn’t-have-that’ and other little snippets that he’d bypassed with ease, being more locked onto her new and strange ability of levitating.

“The inevitable?” He finally asked, already having a good idea what she was about to say, judging by the ache that was rapidly building in his heart.

“Yeah, you know; vision-induced kaplooey to the synaptic neuron thingies,” Cordelia avoided his horrified gaze, ” just think how minute the clean up bill would have been compared to, like, now! – I doubt everyone would have had to climb on the Wolfram & Hart Wagon-of-Evil if all you’d had to deal with is scraping my brains off the floor.”

“Don’t.” Angel felt like he was talking through molasses; his entire body throbbing with pain at the images her words invoked, but she continued on doggedly.

“There would have been no ascending, no possession of the HB kind- definitely no boning minors and therefore no carrying the spawn of Ultimate Evil- or Good, depending on how you look at it; then having to go through the fallout with C-Connor…but then again, maybe it would have been Fred that was used instead-?”

“Stop this right now, Cordelia!” Angel finally managed to connect his brain to his reflexes and tongue, reaching over to grab her waving hand and loom growling over the almost incoherent Seer.

“Why? It makes perfect sense- and I’m sorry! Sorry that they used me to get to you, sorry I caused so much damage to an already half-crazed kid; sorry you didn’t know me well enough to buy a clue, sorry I hurt and killed people, sorry I gave birth to a Power, sorry you didn’t have a chance to kill me first, sorry I went into an inconvenient coma, sorry you had to make a deal with the scum of the earth just to give your son a better life- and sorry I ever MET YOU!” By the time Cordelia finished her tirade, she was screaming in Angel’s face; the tears flooding her eyes and pouring down her cheeks in heavy rivulets.

“No, don’t! Let me go – just leave me ALONE!” she screeched, as, unable to speak, the vampire hauled her into his arms and held her tightly against him, unconsciously rocking his body as he attempted to soothe the now hysterical brunette.

Cordelia strained away from him, screaming wordlessly into his tight, ashen face, blind to his distress, or the tears that flowed just as heavily from brown eyes darkened to black with emotional agony.


Part 7

The silence was only broken by the occasional whimper from the young woman he was cradling as tenderly as he could in his arms.

After long, excruciating minutes that dragged into almost an hour, Cordelia had finally fallen into an exhausted slumber. Angel had scooped her up and gently carried her up to his old room and settled on his bed, tucking her into his side and holding onto her for dear life; insanely afraid she’d just disappear like a torturous figment of his stressed imagination.

His eyes burned from too many tears, and still prickled with the threat of more each time he looked into the flushed, tear-streaked face inched from his own. They lay on their sides, face to face, his arms wrapped around her waist and his forehead resting against hers. He cursed himself inwardly for not even considering just how everything he’d told her, reeling off almost a year or hell she hadn’t even been aware of as if summarizing a report

Each time Cordelia jerked or whimpered in her fitful sleep, Angel would soothe her with circular sweeps of his large hands along her delicate spine, and was mollified that at least, he was able to comfort her in some way- even if only when she was sleep.

I should have seen it coming, he thought, condemning himself for not guessing her calm façade was just that; a front she’d been hiding her hurt behind. Hurt caused largely by him, a realization that ate at him.

Up until a few hours ago, Angel had been a little surprised at the way Cordelia had seemingly bounced back from not only a debilitating coma, but also more shocks and horrors than the average person had in a lifetime; not that Cordelia Chase had ever been what you could call ‘average’, he acknowledged, never had been, and never would be.

Dark eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling while he rested his chin on her silky hair. A heavy sigh pushed its way out of him as he uselessly wished he could turn back time and experience everything that had happened with that valuable commodity, foresight.

Looking back on everything, Angel could say now with utter certainty, that the changes had started more or less right after the demonization- subtle hints that he’d overlooked- either being too focused inwardly on the trials and tribulations of bringing up a human son, or wasting time and energy by being ‘stand-back-guy’ where his feelings for his Seer were concerned.

Then let’s not forget his jealousy over her feelings for the Pylean Champion, Angel winced at the memories. He’d let jealousy override all of his instincts regarding Cordy, when the Groosalug made his unwelcome appearance. Let the hurt blind him with self-pity so he missed the first signs that all was not well in Cordelia’s world.

Looking into her sleeping face, he recalled her almost lurid actions and words regarding the big slug; for a woman who rarely dated she’d seemed to become a sex-starved nymphomaniac overnight, and when she’d accepted his offer to pay for a holiday with Groo, aside from the very audible breaking of his undead heart, he realized now that his Cordy would never have even considered such a thing.

And, no, this wasn’t the inner rambling of a man scorned, either. Leaving behind her family with Holtz still looming sinisterly in the background, and the real threat to baby Connor just a whisper away… and now it also occurred to him that; in a world such as theirs, how Cordy could leave alone with a demon she’d barely known five minutes seemingly without hesitation or doubts to his true intentions. Again, His own judgments had been too clouded with despair and self-pity to question it himself.

Angel groaned aloud as his thoughts tripped over one another, justifying her abandoning him and the others for a sunny fling with a virtual stranger… which brought him back to the same conclusions: wasn’t this the first clue that her judgment was already in question- already being influenced by something that wanted to drive a wedge between them?

He didn’t blame Groo- hell; he’d just been in the right place at the right time – Not so ‘right’ for him though! If only I could have stopped stumbling over my words that night, long enough to make it clear how I felt about her. Why couldn’t I have taken a chance instead of giving up and stepping back? but even if that had happened, it still went back to the real suspicion that the tide was already changing for the worst.

Deeply affected by the happenings regarding Wes and his son, Angel hadn’t taken much notice of more unsubtle hints pointing to the changes in Cordelia when she finally returned. Too busy grieving and filled with hatred for a man he once considered a dear and loyal friend.

Wesley Wyndham Pryce.

Yes, the man had kidnapped his son, and he only now understood, to a degree, what that was all about : another man effected by bitterness due to a woman he loved choosing another over him, making him sink into himself, Allowing self-pity to overwhelm him, making him withdrawn and uncommunicative. With Cordelia out of the picture- the only other person the ex Watcher really had some kind of bond with, hadn’t helped matters. For all he knew, that could have been planned as coldly as Cordelia’s possession.

He still had difficulty completely forgiving Wes his ‘mistakes’, but this wasn’t about him or his son right now. This was about his Seer, and his blindness in not seeing an attack on their family happening under his nose.

Cordelia had been there for him 110% once she’d got back, her anger and betrayal towards the Watcher reflected his own in its ferocity – but, looking back, Angel realized that the old Cordelia wouldn’t have rested until she’d confronted the ‘traitor’ and gave him several pieces of her mind. He’d been too much of a wreck at the time to pick up on that telling testament to the evolving indifference of the most important person in his unlife. But knowing that didn’t ease the guilt at his unintentional part in all of it.

Hindsight was a true bitch.

Angel wondered if he’d ever verbalize his belated observations to her, then shook his head infinitesimally; no, if she still saw no particular wrong in that now she was fully herself, he would end up being chewed out for pointing out her-then ‘over-eager’ behavior towards the slug, as somehow cheap- and recalled with not a little jealousy. For all he knew, Cordy could have asked herself the same questions, but either way, it was a no-win situation.

He dragged his thoughts away from the slug and ran through every Cordy-related memory after that. And that is when something else occurred to him: Was her life-changing decision to ascend free of outside interference? That was the big question. Free Will. The PTB were all for that – and not helping when he or his family most needed it- not one vision warning of the betrayal by a member of his family or the attack of Sahjan and Holtz. Were her visions also being manipulated? He doubted they would ever know the full story. If the possession had indeed been a gradual thing from the day of her birthday, couldn’t that have effected the clarity of her own thoughts and desires that terrible night?

All rehashing flew from his head when the woman in his arms moved and slowly opened her reddened eyes.

“Angel?” for a moment, Cordelia forgot the why’s where’s and how’s, comforted by the heavy weight of powerful arms that held her to a broad, cool chest. The painfully familiar sensation of being physically cherished by her long-time friend, and the man she loved overwhelmed her senses.

When he slid a hand up to cup her face, she instinctively rubbed her hot cheek against it, unconsciously sensual. A soft moan escaped from Angel’s slightly parted mouth, his wanderings in their past temporarily forgotten as need took over and without pause for thought he gently pressed his cool lips against hers, gasping aloud at the heat that instantly soaked into his pores.

The gentle caress soon grew from soft sliding sips to open-mouthed, desperate devouring; both getting lost in the pleasure of intimate contact that for the first time wasn’t tainted by passing visions, possessions or spells.

Angel felt like he was drowning into a sea of electric sensation, and went with the flow, rolling over and sliding Cordelia under him. His hands slid from her back and ran along her sides, pausing to press and stroke pliant, fabric covered flesh before dipping under the hem of her loose blouse and reaching up to palm deliciously rounded breasts.

Cordelia’s head swam with helpless passion, mindlessly holding on as the vampire effortlessly plumbed into her well of emotional responses, almost moaning aloud when he pinned her boneless body beneath his own. The sweep of his cool tongue and hands did nothing to damp down the heat that swamped her; instead igniting flames of desire that pushed all coherent thought from her mind.

It took the knowing caress of his large hands cupping her breasts to pull her back to reality and she stiffened, sliding her hands from around his neck to latch onto the broad shoulders that caged her in, pushing against unyielding muscle frantically. Long, drugging seconds went by as Angel continued to kiss her deeply and mould her soft flesh in his grasp, only when he released her lips to let her breath did Cordelia finally manage to protest verbally.

“Don’t” she evaded his returning mouth with difficulty,”Angel!” her husked voice rose to a panicky level, finally alerting Angel to the change from the moments-before soft welcoming embrace of her arms to the pushing and struggling of her hands and rigidly held body beneath him.

“Cordy, please…” The palm of her hand abruptly stifled Angel’s hoarse and heated words as she reached up to cover his mouth and keep him from swallowing her protestations.

Parting his lips he laved her flesh greedily, selfishly attempting to push aside the growing coldness creeping across her flushed features. He suckled her palm sensually, assaulting her senses until her hazel eyes flickered with need; then she blinked and her gaze hardened in anger.

“Let me up – now” her tone brooked no argument, and after a slight hesitation Angel reluctantly released her, slipping his hands from under her top and rolling onto his side.

As soon as he’d moved, Cordelia shot up and slid shakily off the bed, backing away with her hands held in front of her in silent protest when he immediately followed her up.

“I don’t…I don’t know what game you’re playing, Angel, but I want no part of it.” His spine stiffened at the edge of distaste that once again colored her tone.

“I’m not playing any games; you know how I feel about you,” he responded tightly, resisting the urge to pull her back into his arms and show her in a way he was more comfortable with. Words tended to come out of his mouth twisted and open to question.

“Do I?” she returned outwardly cool whilst burning up on the inside with frustrated passion and not a little confusion. God knows how long ago it was, but Cordelia remembered vividly wishing him out of her life earlier- and yet now, her body and soul ached for him; and it scared the hell out of her. She needed her wits about her more than ever now, and realizing how close she’d been to surrendering to his needs made him very dangerous.

“The reason I agreed to meet you-“

“Just leave it, Angel; that should never have even-“

“NO!” he took a few steps forward, almost growling in frustration when she instantly retreated. “I am going to say this, and you are going to listen; it’s been a long time coming.” He continued to walk forward, deliberately herding Cordelia backwards until she ran out of floor, her back coming up abruptly against a wall.

Reaching out, he rested his hands, palm flat, either side of her head and leant forward until she couldn’t evade his steady, determined gaze. “I love you; I’m in love with you- have been for longer than you could possibly imagine.” Her immediate response was completely unexpected.

“God! Don’t insult my intelligence! I may have been- been possessed; but my brain wasn’t turned to mush in the process.” her heart felt like it was about to fracture and rend apart at his blatant lie.

“I’m beginning to wonder!” the words shot out before Angel could bite them back. “Can’t you see the truth when it’s directly in front of you?” for a moment, Cordelia just stared at him, her mouth agape, then a small, bitter smile curled her kiss-bruised mouth.

“Pot calling kettle black there, buddy.” The smile left her face almost as abruptly as he stepped back. “I’m tired and I want you to go.” Pushing past him, she stalked towards the door, her flight halted by the large hand that latched onto her upper arm and yanked her around to face the deeply infuriated vampire.

‘I’m tired; I’m fine’ – well, I’m sick and ‘tired’ of hearing the same words coming out of that beautiful yet annoying mouth! Can’t you, ya know, think of anything more…original than the same old party line?” Once again, Cordelia’s mouth dropped open in shocked outrage. The nerve of the- her free hand landed on her hip and her eyes narrowed dangerously.

“Maybe I use those two sentences so much cos I know you’ve never been able to deal with the truth!” she fired back heatedly. Angel took a step nearer, all guilt temporarily leaving the building.

“Since when did you ever give me that option, huh? Would you ever accept anything less than the ‘truth’ from me? I don’t think so- what the hell do you want from me?” his voice rose to a shout, but Cordelia was too worked up herself to be cowed by the almost unheard of reaction from the usually soft-spoken vampire.

“Nothing! Nothing. except maybe for you to leave me the hell alone! Go back to that-the latest in your never-ending line of blonde chippies!” the room instantly became shockingly quiet except for the harsh breathing of both ex-Champion and Seer.

The very sound of the vampire’s harsh panting; seemingly struggling for breath frightened her more than anything else, and she tugged unsuccessfully against the hard grip he still had on her arm – her breath catching in her throat when he finally responded by yanking her forward, slamming her chest against his.

“Then I guess I’ll just leave you the hell alone” he snarled gutturally; his natural vampiric visage taking over his softer, human face. For an endless tension-filled moment their eyes locked in a silent raging battle, noses almost touching- then he was gone.

After several deep breaths, Cordelia shakily made her way back to the bed and sank down on the edge; her mind numb with depleted anger and shock.

What happens now?

***

GodGodGodGODohGODJesusfuckingChrist– what the hell have I done!? the self-damning mantra rolled in a continuous loop through his brain all the way back to the Wolfram & Hart Building.

Angel shook internally as well as on the outside, and he couldn’t believe he hadn’t wrapped his car around a streetlight on the way back.

His amber eyes were slightly out of focus- most likely due to the sheen of moisture that refused to go away, and he’d bitten deep into his bottom lip with his fangs, completely unaware that his face still hadn’t shifted back to human, or that the blood that dripped from his chin compounded the visual effect of a psychotically crazed and intensely dangerous vampire.

Luckily for potential running-away-screaming witnesses to his ‘Vamp on a really bad day’ look, Angel so far had made it to his office without being seen.

The only other question that managed to creep into his mind was:

‘What the hell happens now?’

Part 8

Posted December 5, 2016 by califi in TBC

Faint Heart. 4-5   1 comment

Part 4

Angel shifted uncomfortably on the floor outside his old room.

After sorting out bedding, and hefting boxes of her clothes to his room for Cordelia [the fact that they’d been left behind had only chilled the cold in her eyes to ice] he’d originally sat in his leather chair, preparing to watch over the-again silent brunette. She’d soon made it perfectly clear that that plan was totally unacceptable and unwelcome :

“I don’t need you to watch over me while I sleep, Angel; I’m a big girl now.”

“I’m not leaving you on your own, Cordelia!” he returned with solid determination; a scowl creasing his face at her harsh bark of short laughter.

“So much concern- where did that come from? Been saving it up for a special occasion?” She sneered, and he had the grace to blush but he still refused to move.

“I’m not leaving.” He repeated – then shot to his feet when she turned towards the door.

Then I will” reaching out for the door handle, she almost growled in anger when Angel’s hand clamped over hers.

The staring competition lasted a few minutes before he finally stepped back and agreed to go – “But I’m not going far” he warned with a growl of his own…

***

That had been over two hours ago, and Angel knew Cordelia was aware of exactly where he was.

And in those two hours he’d done a lot of thinking- more than he’d done in the last six months.

Rehashing everything with Cordelia had put into question a lot of his actions and decisions over the past year, and he found most of what she’d picked up on left a lot to be desired where he was personally concerned.

His actions with Buffy for one. He still wasn’t sure why he’d said and done what he had. If he was honest with himself, it had been a form of desperate escapism; old town, old memories…yearning for a time when everything, though not pleasant; seemed easier to deal with. His deep feelings for Buffy had faded to something he had looked back on as a learning experience that wasn’t really regretted, but was also no longer part of the person he was now.

Falling back into that old pattern of maybes had been comforting at the time – pushing aside feelings he had for another woman… being disrespectful of Cordy for not having the decency to put Buffy into the picture about his love for her; acting jealous scenting Spike all over his past love. Kissing his ex and pretending to enjoy it as much as she seemed to…both lying to each other, he realized afterwards…

I’m a complete bastard! Angel dropped his head and stared unseeingly at the dusty carpet he now sat on. And to top it all, Cordelia walking in on him having sex in his office; his office in Wolfram & Hart!

That reminded him of something else that needed clearing up- why had he been having sex with Eve in the first place?

Yeah, the woman had been coming on to him, less subtly as time went on- but, not being exactly bad looking, it had been easy to ignore. Only once had he felt the need to get lost in physical gratification, and that had been with Darla. Angel honestly couldn’t see himself wanting to become so intimate with another woman whilst Cordelia still lived and breathed – regardless of her coma.

He would definitely look into that tomorrow; and he had the feeling he wouldn’t have to look further than the host of the party he’d walked out on.

His mind turned back to the Slayer again. How many times in the past couple of months had he played one-upmanship with Spike over her affections? He cringed in hindsight. The blonde bastard would no doubt take great pleasure in bringing those times up once he managed to worm himself into the same room as Cordy- especially when the perceptive little shit clicked on to Angel’s feelings regarding the brunette.

As for the rest; well, Angel decided he’d have to field each curve as it was thrown, and hope to God his justifications didn’t sound as lame out loud as they did in his head. Leaning his head back against the door, Angel closed his eyes and attempted to switch off his brain and rest.

He was well and truly fucked.

***

Cordelia tossed and turned, but couldn’t settle. God, she was tired! Fair enough, she’d been in snooze land for months and should have felt rested; but being an unnatural sleep, it obviously hadn’t worked out like that. She compared it to one of those nights where you felt like you’d just closed your eyes and it was morning two seconds later.

But as tired as she was, the freaky day she’d woken up to still hammered away at her brain. Could you ever be too hurt, too shocked and too angry? Obviously not! To find he hadn’t even bothered to take along her things; instead leaving them to gather dust just like he did her, compounded the pain.

Sighing heavily and stifling a moan of frustration, Cordelia thumped the slightly musty pillow that still retained the faint scent of the vampire who now played Sentinel outside the door of HIS old room whilst she lay in HIS old bed… and finally she let the tears flow.

Was it so wrong of her to wish she’d never woken up from that goddamn coma?

“Whoever said that ignorance is bliss HAD to have had a life as sucky as mine” she whispered hoarsely; her eyes finally drifting shut as she fell into a fitful sleep…

***

Walking out of the bathroom, Cordelia attempted to smooth the creases out of the cream blouse she’d dug out of one of the boxes. Her mouth curled at the faint musty odor of the underwear, blouse and low-slung jeans she now wore; coming to an abrupt halt at finding Angel once again ensconced in the bedside chair.

“Did I invite you in?” All earlier pain raced back to the surface, and she felt not a little satisfaction at the dark circles that now rested below his shadowed eyes.

At least she wasn’t the only one who’d had a bad night.

To her surprise, the vampire was now fully dressed- and going by the similar whiff of must coming off the black silk-knit sweater and pants, he’d obviously found a change of clothes in the hotel.

“Cordy.” Was Angel’s only reply. Seeing her out of that nondescript robe and hospital gown brought home to him even more that she was actually back. Although slightly creased and unsurprisingly loose, the difference was heart warming.

As soon as he’d heard her enter the bathroom, Angel had quietly entered and routed through his closet where most of his old clothes still remained. There hadn’t really been much call for them after finding his new Penthouse apartment already housed a new wardrobe of designer suits and accessories.

“I see you not only left my stuff behind,” her acerbic comment caused him to shift uncomfortably in his seat as he watched her pull out a brush and yank it through her much longer – and darker hair.

Angel was ashamed to admit that he hadn’t been around to see her hair grow out of the blonde until it again rested just below her shoulders; they hadn’t even bothered to rid her of the bleached locks that began just below her jaw now. His jaw tightened in renewed anger and self-hatred at yet another piece of glaring evidence of their lack of care. Especially his.

Cordelia, Aware of his silent scrutiny, finished with the brush and tied her hair back carelessly with a rescued hair scrunchie before rummaging through yet another box for a pair of plain brown sandals; perching on the unmade bed to slip them on. Then she sat up and folded her arms, her eyes latching on to a spot beyond his shoulder. She supposed she should be glad he hadn’t left her here too- though, to be honest, she’d probably have preferred waking up here.

Angel let out a breath and rose to his feet. “Are you ready to go?” he asked, half turning towards the door.

“Go? Now where would I be going? It’s a bit early in the day for me to start apartment-hunting.” she returned with a hint of steel lacing her low tone. Angel closed his eyes briefly; so much for things being better the morning after.

“I meant; I really need to get back to… They’ll be wondering where I am- especially now the sun is shining.” He explained, expelling another breath when her arms across her chest tightened along with her full mouth.

“And that affects me how? Don’t let me stop you – after all, I’m sure you have a lot of important stuff to do for your new evil bosses. – But I’m staying here.” the steel strengthened.

Angel couldn’t just leave. Anything could happen to her. Although no one had attempted to break in to the hotel since he’d moved out; possibly due to his reputation, it didn’t mean it couldn’t happen. He tried another tactic.

“Don’t you want to see the others? I thought you-“

“Did they do that ‘not’ visiting a friend thing too?” at his flinch, Cordelia used every ounce of self-control not to echo it. “If they ask, you can tell them where to find me- If they ask, that is.” Rising to her feet, she walked past the now silent vampire and opened the door, disappearing out of it. After a few seconds, Angel uncurled his clenched fists and followed…

***

As soon as he entered his office, Angel immediately contacted security and sent out a detail to watch and guard the hotel. He couldn’t remember ever racing through the sewers so fast in his whole unlife, breaking all records and arriving at W & H in under ten minutes without breaking a sweat.

He’d gone downstairs after Cordelia to find her routing through his old office, noting the rise of her brow at the untouched filing cabinets and various items left abandoned on the dusty desk’s surface. In fact, looking around she couldn’t help but notice that the place looked like they’d just upped and left without looking back.

Her silence had become deadly after seeing that the weapons cabinet was full too – even housing Gunn’s damaged axe.

After that, any persuasion he attempted fell on stone cold ears, and only the fact that he couldn’t do anything worthwhile to sort out at least some of the mess from the hotel finally pushed him to leave her; his mouth had twisted in pain when, looking back just before he disappeared down the basement steps, Cordelia seemed more interested in flicking through an old magazine than watching him go…

Was it so impossible for her to understand that when he’d left, going back had been simply too much to bear? Looking forward had been his only chance to stay sane, without her there to make it easier, anyway. Rubbing his gritty eyes, Angel leaned forward and pressed the button on his phone.

“Yes, boss?” Harmony’s shrill voice grated on his ears, along with his heart sinking lower at Cordelia’s inevitable reaction on finding out who exactly was his secretary now.

“I want to see Lorne; now.” flicking the switch, Angel leaned back in his seat and glowered blindly at the far wall while he waited…


Part 5

Cordelia spent the morning washing and drying most of her clothes in the basement, unable to tolerate wearing musty clothing longer than she had to. Although not seeing any visible signs, she was all too aware that she was no longer as alone as earlier.

Her mouth tightened even more at the realization that her comings and goings would be dogged by Wolfram & Hart yet again – but this time at Angel’s command. She couldn’t believe he actually trusted them!

“Geeze” how dumb can he be”? She muttered and heaved a pained sigh.

As much as she loved him, she had to admit he could, on occasion…well, maybe a bit more than that, she decided; be completely dense on some things- but to put his trust in an evil law firm; one that went through every dirty trick in the book to put them into the ground. That just staggered her, even knowing his track record as well as she did.

Although he’d denied working for or with them, what would he call what he was doing? If it was really just his to run as he saw fit- “They handed it over lock, stock and barrel.” she rolled her eyes recalling how he’d justified it – then why the need for a middle wo-man to act as a go-between? That was so far from ‘no connections’ it scared the bejeebers out of her.

The sound of shrill ringing jolted her out of her thoughts abruptly. Racing up the basement stairs and entering the lobby, Cordelia followed the sound to the phone still perched on the check-in counter. Hesitantly, she reached out, and taking a deep breath, picked it up.

“Cordy?” At the sound of Angel’s deep voice, her stomach twisted painfully.

“Call off the Hellhounds, Angel.” A long pause followed her cold response.

“They’re there to protect you. Please don’t be…difficult. This is hard eno-“

“Difficult?” Cordelia couldn’t believe the arrogant bastard! The weary impatience in his tone raised her hackles. “You wanna see ‘difficult? Keep trying to take over my life, and I swear to God, ‘difficult’ will seem like a walk in the park, buddy!” another silence; more strained, lengthened, and she could almost feel the vibes of anger coming down the line.

“Look, it’ll only be until I can get back.” Angel finally spoke; the strain still evident even as he attempted to soothe her ruffled feelings. Cordy scrunched up her nose and childishly stuck her tongue out at the receiver.

“I don’t need you here to hold my hand,” she replied with saccharine sweetness, and Angel could almost feel the cavities developing in his teeth. “Thanks for connecting the phone, by the way- I can start on my apartment hunting now – And don’t worry, you don’t need to pop by. I don’t need you here,” she repeated with a brittle smile.

“I said I’ll be back, and I will…” Angel swallowed the pain of her words and allowed a little spite to creep out in retaliation: “So how are you gonna manage finding an apartment? Do you have a nest egg I wasn’t aware of?” As soon as the words left his mouth, Angel curled up on himself. Low! shit! the catch in her breath lashed at him mercilessly.

“Well, obviously, I’ll be job hunting first” she finally managed to talk over the hard lump wedged in her chest, “and I’m sure I could find somewhere else to stay then – that is, unless you want me out of here today?” her fingers twisted the phone cord as she waited for his reply.

“You know what I want, Cordelia.” Angel finally answered quietly.

“Do I? Hmmm, we can agree to differ on that – so is that a yes to me staying here?” Cordelia blinked rapidly when, after a few long seconds, Angel sighed heavily and concurred, adding “I’ll be over later.” He broke the connection before she could argue.

After lowering the receiver with exaggerated care, taking several deep breaths and wiping the traces of tears from her eyes and cheeks, Cordelia turned and made her way back to the basement…

***

“So let me get this straight: You had your sleep ‘surgically’ removed – and this metamorphosed into everything you suggested at the party turning into reality?” Angel stared in disbelief at the squirming demon sitting opposite him.

“You make it sound so much worse than it was, Angelkins” at the barely concealed fury aimed his way, Lorne sank deeper, if possible, into the chair facing Angel’s desk. “ookay… well the good news is it’s all back to normal business again – as normal as we get, anyway.” He muttered.

Taking a deep breath, Lorne looked into the vampire’s face and asked:

“So… what little gem did I cook up for you?” He gulped in fear at the unadulterated rage now blatantly showing on Angel’s face, flinching when he rose to his feet and made his way round the large desk, only stopping to perch on the edge directly in front of him.

“Having sex- with EVE behind the couch.” Lorne’s mouth dropped open comically, and continued to fall lower as Angel continued, “In my office where anyone could walk in – and DID.” his jaw now rested on his chest; then snapped shut with an audible click at the vampire’s next words:

“And guess who walked in, Lorne?” Angel paused for affect: “Cordelia!”

“Oh, WOW! ….Oh, JEEZE!” Lorne added with a whimper; the instant joy quickly melting to mortification.

***

“I can’t believe he’s actually posted our security to protect the little bitch” Eve’s mouth ached with smiling; she’d done a lot since yesterday evening.

The devastated expression on the woozy-looking Seer’s face had made her day, and she hadn’t held much hope in the vampire’s ability to make it all better.

Eve wasn’t where she was today without a hell of a lot of overtime put into knowing her enemies- and one of the first things she’d done on finding out about her new ‘case’ was find out every scrap of information about Angel Investigations and all the members- especially Angel and Cordelia Chase.

Lilah Morgan had been scrupulously obsessive in her file keeping, and the details were meticulously recorded on how their relationship had developed to almost lovers. After reading of Angel’s fall to the dark side a few years ago, and, of course, the fallout between Warrior and Seer over the whole Darla incident; well, she could only praise the Senior Partners for finding the ultimate weak spot between them.

Okay- so the vampire hadn’t actually wanted to look at her face while he fucked her senseless, but she’d actually enjoyed it. Angel sure knew how to use a woman – she’d cum long before him- plus some! Being attracted to the dark, sinfully handsome vampire with a soul, Eve was grateful for any crumbs thrown her way- and if magic happened to be part of it; well… better than nothing, Eve decided without the slightest pang to her self-respect!

That wasn’t something worth having when you worked for Wolfram & Hart, anyway. A small part of her was glad that bitch would never get a taste – what with the curse, and his feelings about her. Angelus would be back in less that a heartbeat.

She’ll never know what she’s been missing! Eve squirmed in her chair with remembered pleasure.

Although Angel hadn’t made any attempt to visit the comatose woman, the Senior Partners were well aware of his reasons: his deluded idea that if he couldn’t see it with his own eyes, it wasn’t real. Because of this, Angel had unwittingly given them even more ammunition to drive a wedge between them when she finally awoke.

-And the lack of concern from her other ‘family’ would only add more nails to the coffin. God, she loved her job!

They’d known it would only be a matter of time before Cordelia Chase DID wake up. Although Jasmine was completely purged from her body, the woman was still half-demon.

Jasmine’s ‘minion’, Skip, had exaggerated the truth quite a lot in his revelations. Being demonized was the only way she could cope with the later possession of the Ex Power – as Skip was apparently working for the real PTB, he was only able to use Demon DNA that was intrinsically good. But the foundation was enough for Jasmine to get a foothold into her almost immediately. No one noticed the subtle changes in her personality as Jasmine began asserting herself, and by the time the Pylean Warrior had arrived, her ‘family’ hadn’t even questioned her reaction to his presence. The full possession came shortly after she ascended- and Cordelia wasn’t even aware that her ‘decision’ to ascend and leave Angel had been taken out of her hands, Her initial doubts and reluctance being pushed aside by the Power with ease.

Freewill was only required by the PTB.

Keeping the Seer unconscious for a short while until she was ‘needed’ hadn’t been easy. The woman still had relatively unused demon-powers of her own- not supernatural, as in levitation, glowing or such- that had all been Jasmine. But rapid healing and a mind that was almost impossible to invade any more. Luckily for them, enough sedation that would kill a normal human worked until they were ready to use her to break Angel enough to wipe out any remaining resistance he still held onto.

Eve tapped her long fingernails on her desk as she again read the transcript of the Vampire and Seer’s earlier phone conversation, the smug smile again tugging at her brightly painted mouth.

The wedge grew by the second – and Eve could almost see a promotion in the very near future.

“Who’d have thought; the oldest trick in the book- jealousy, would work better than any magic?”

***

The silence that pervaded the room reminded Angel of the similar silence that had consumed him at the Hyperion – the awkward, guilty silence. After his little talk with Lorne, the others were soon notified and appeared in Angel’s office displaying various states of emotions.

Lorne was by now on about his tenth Sea Breeze and was still unable to look the vampire in the eye. He doubted he’d ever lose that sick feeling in the pit of his stomach at the thought of the Princess’ feelings regarding the sight she’d been privy to – and, after the upset of Darla-boffing, Lorne just knew Angelkins wouldn’t get off half as lightly; which was saying a hell of a lot.

Wes stood by the far wall and seemed riveted to the almost blinding gleam coming off the lenses he polished with such vigor.

After been made fully aware, along with the others, that the Cordelia now awake was in fact the real Cordelia he’d known for so long, his guilt at his ‘remiss’ behavior regarding visitations had nothing to do with the fact that she’d been evil prior to the coma; in fact, he’d found it easy to separate the two.

No. That wasn’t the reason why he had not been to see Cordelia since they’d settled at Wolfram & Hart… Wesley Wyndham Pryce’s attention had been solely on the treasures of the libraries in the building – and his unrequited feelings for Winifred Burkle.

Fred could claim similar reasons. -The labs at Wolfram & Hart; – and later, the appearance of the blonde vampire, Spike. It only occurred to her now that she’d spent all of her time helping someone she hardly knew and promptly forgot about the once-heart of Angel Investigations.

And she had no excuse for it- unless you counted giving up on the idea of Cordelia ever coming round, pretty quickly in fact.

Gunn wasn’t sure how he felt about the whole thing. His path had taken him away from the core of Angel Investigations- he was meant for bigger, better things. The young man couldn’t afford to keep looking back; holding on to things- or people. It didn’t fit into his new life. Charles Gunn supposed the discomfort in his heart when he thought about her now must just be echoes of a life he no longer desired.

“So what happens now?” Wes finally broke the heavy silence, and squirmed a little under the vampire’s cold look.

“She’s well – or as well as can be expected, given the circumstances.” Angel’s unexpected and obviously condemning response shocked them all.

Not one of them had asked. Not one. Including him; what the hell are we turning into? Angel asked himself with well hidden and panicked horror.

For the first time, Fred felt a prickle of moisture at the back of her eyes, as she realized no one, including herself, had even thought to ask. Her last memory of Cordelia had been witnessing her attempt on Lorne’s life. Even now, though, she couldn’t recall how the other brunette had escaped them all so easily. One minute Angel had her by the throat, the next, he was on the floor unconscious, and Cor- Jasmine had gone.

“It was Jasmine” she muttered under her breath, and flinched at the low growl that tore from the vampire’s throat.

“Not any more,” shame filled his entire being. Cordelia’s comments about the others echoed in his mind as he eyed the rest of what he’d once considered his ‘family’. Dammit, he wanted to smash things, there’s so much to fix and I don’t even know where to start.

“No! I-I didn’t mean that! I meant before- before when she was possessed by Jasmine; I was just reminding myself…” Fred’s words trailed off and she looked around, her distressed gaze glancing off the faces of the others, who looked just as yucky as she now felt. “I’m glad she’s okay, Angel.” She added softly, then ducked her head and wished herself elsewhere.

“That’s good…where is she now?” Wes belatedly asked, flushing with shame at his original question. How soon they forget…

“At the Hyperion.” Angel’s tone was stiff and cold, and he had to turn his back on them, fiddling with the pen caddy on his desk; so very glad Cordy hadn’t been here to witness their initial reaction- Surprise, fear; quickly followed by suspicion.

The shame all but one displayed now was, in his opinion, just as damning.

“We should, we should go see her; hey guys?” Fred and Lorne nodded instantly; Wes a little slower to agree- he wasn’t sure he could face her.

“Why?” everyone except Angel turned shocked eyes on the snappily suited young black man.

“I mean; no one knew she was gone- or would have known if it weren’t for him,” Gunn elucidated, jerking a finger towards Angel. “No disrespect to Barbie- but don’t you think that’s being a lot dishonest? Y’all couldn’t care what room she was holed up in a day ago – and before y’all get in my face, I was right there with you.” He walked over to the door and opened it- sparing a dismissive glance at the leather-clad blonde that stood eavesdropping on the other side.

“Me? I’ve got nothing to say so far- but you guys… What reasons can you give for forgettin’ the girl, huh?” Gunn threw over his shoulder and then left abruptly, pushing past Spike and disappearing out of sight.

“So… the Cheerleader’s back in the land of the livin’? This should be interestin’,” Spike rubbed his hands together, smirking at what he’d overheard; the grin growing unpleasantly at the imperceptible flinch of his sire at his cheerful words.

The shit was beginning to hit the fan…

Part 6

Posted December 5, 2016 by califi in TBC

Faint Heart. 2-3   1 comment

Part 2

If it wasn’t bad enough that he had to break into his own Hotel, the dust and debris covering the lobby certainly was.

Cordelia walked in silently when he stood back to let her by; she had yet to say anything since they left Wolfram & Hart, and his throat was too tight to even attempt to try and talk to her.

He reached out for the light switch, praying that they worked, and let out a sigh of relief when they came on. The look of shock deepened on Cordelia’s face as she took a good look around.

“Well, I can see why you don’t live here any more.” She muttered under her breath, then moved over to one of the couches, too weary to be bothered by the dust that covered the rich red velvet; coughing a little when it spiraled around her for a few seconds.

“So…how long was I Coma Girl, Angel?” Cordelia decided to jump right in, as, going by his slightly hunched and awkward figure still hovering by the far wall, Angel had no immediate plans to fill her in. his head shot up at her blunt question and he shuffled his feet.

“About six months, give or take.” He replied hoarsely. He still couldn’t believe she was right in front of him, finally awake.

“You know, I thought the whole being dressed in a scratchy hospital gown, and bunking with half a dozen other ‘patients’ meant it was pretty recent. Obviously I was wrong.” Angel flinched at the bitterness lacing her low tone.

“If I’d have known, Cordy, I’d have-” he began, already thinking about the punishments he’d dole out to his employees for treating the most important person to him like that, but she cut in, disbelief making her voice rise by quick degrees.

“If you’d known? IF? I take it from that, your ass never made it to my bedside?” Angel swallowed convulsively as he walked forward hurriedly, his hands held out beseechingly.

“I know it sounds pretty damning, but-“

“There is no ‘sounds’ about it. Good to know where I fit into your new life, Angel.” Cordelia rose to her feet and moved away from him.

“It wasn’t like that, Cordy; I couldn’t…” he raked a trembling hand through his hair, pinning her with wounded brown eyes, “I couldn’t look at you like that; thinking I’d lost you.” He finished softly. Cordelia’s eyes hardened.

“Well, at least some things never change, I suppose.” Swallowing down the hurt and anger, she paced the lobby for a few seconds, then turned to face him, her face set resolutely.

“I think it’s time to fill the gaps- but first; who’s the blonde?” her hazel eyes flicked his half naked form, and Angel gut coiled in self-disgust at the hint of revulsion in those lovely depths.

“I know- what you saw… it was a shock.” And not just to you! he thought, dazed yet again by the whole incident.

“You boning yet another blonde? – Nope” She cut in swiftly; a disparaging flick of her hand, “disappointed, more like” she concentrated on her nails, not wanting him to see just how wounded she was. Bastard!

“”It was some kinda spell; I’m sure of it!” he defended his actions. It had to be a spell; come on! He hadn’t sunk that low, for God’s sake.

“Another one? Boy, there are a lot of those around where your sex life is concerned – not forgetting the original one.” Cordelia smiled grimly, ignoring the flinch that jolted his frame; not that surprised when he didn’t deign to reply. An uncomfortable silence filled the dusty lobby.

“Kinda pretty – not that you could see her face right then.” She snarked, and almost cracked a smile at the unusual flush of color in his pale face.

“I suppose we should all be glad she didn’t quite make with the ‘happy’ – unless you’re a tamer version of Mister Psycho Guy?” Angel swallowed hard and shook his head infinitesimally. ‘Happy’ wasn’t quite the word that came to mind. Pig sick, maybe.

“So she’s your secretary? Never thought you were one of those bosses who did the desk-chase. Learn something new every day.” She finally broke the tense silence.

“No! – L-Like I ever did that to you?” Angel stuttered slightly, his mind’s eye temporarily visualizing that particular fantasy.

“Well, I wasn’t exactly your Secretary, was I? Vision Girl, Office Manager- nurse; general dogs body, blah, blah” she ticked off the multitude of job descriptions on her fingertips, tamping down the thought of “No such luck” and flicking her eyes briefly towards his face. His jaw worked under her gaze,

“She’s…a go-between; for Wolfram & Hart.” He ran his long fingers through his hair roughly, as the conversation spiraled into severe decline. “And you were more than that, Cordy.” He insisted roughly, moving a few steps nearer.

“Yeah, whatever,” she, in turn, moved back and folded her arms defensively. “Getting back to Wolfram and Hart; I need to know whats been going on and how I got to be back on this Hell on Earth and unconscious for, like almost ever.” She moved back over to the couch and sat down again.

“Whenever you’re ready, Mister CEO.”…


Part 3

“Wow.” Words failed the brunette. The eyes that locked sightlessly onto the wall behind Angel’s head were slightly glazed and wet.

“So…let me get this straight: You came back from Las Vegas and found ‘Me’ in the lobby amnesia-ey and lost-little-girl. I then decided to move out and bunk up with-with…. And you let me?” although it sounded like a question, Angel remained silent – and she continued on, her voice flat and expressionless.

“Lorne found a spell that finally worked in a roundabout back-to-the-past kinda way, and unbeknownst to all my friends it wasn’t me at all, but an evil entity called Jasmine possessing my body.” Cordelia took a deep breath and briefly covered her lips to hide their momentary trembling.

“I then bumped uglies with a boy I considered my nephew… and you still had no idea…?” a dry sob escaped her, but his instinctive response of sweeping her into a hug was thwarted by the swift lift of her hands and the ice-cold glare she shot his way.

“-released Angelus, killed Lilah – tried to kill Angelus, Lorne and Willow; gave birth to a Fallen Power and fell into a mystical coma?” Her breaths came out harshly by the time she’d finished, and it was the only sound in the building for the next few minutes.

“Have I missed anything out? – Besides you signing a deal with the devil, ‘saving’ C-Connor- and mind-wiping our family? Anything else I should know, Angel?” he shook his head yet again, unable to form a verbal reply. Cordelia had just summarized the worst time possible in a few sentences- but it didn’t make it any less ugly.

The strained silences were getting longer by the minute, and although Cordelia was used to the vampire being stoic, this was one time she could have done without his seeming inability to speak. His revelations had rocked her to her foundations – but shock and rage could come later – alone. There was just one more thing she needed to know :

“What was the deal you made with them? Was your fair-weather soul included in the small print? Should I be running outta here screaming for my life?” a bitter smile touched her mouth as she glanced down at her robe-clad self ” – but, then again, I’m still in one piece, so maybe they’ve kept that clause for emergencies – or blackmail.- or did they make it permanent as a bonus?” Her mouth twisted with bitter distaste as she recalled vividly what she’d walked in on.

Angel instantly shook his dark head as he read accurately the sudden line of her thoughts, his own mouth twisting with regret and anger at both himself and whatever had caused him to… he finally sank into the couch opposite his Seer as he pulled his scattered thoughts into some sort of order, then lifted his head to speak.

“My soul wasn’t part of the deal.” He assured her huskily, “they needed something from me, and I…I gave them my stipulations.” Her brow rose in query.

“A new life for my son; the mind wipe was needed for that,” Angel explained defensively; the brow remained raised. “As well as seeing you had the best care – and to find a cure.” He flinched at her bitter comment of ‘best care!’ and cleared his throat. The bastards would pay for that oversight, he promised himself; desperately ignoring his own, totally unacceptable disregard of her. He’d deal with that later- alone.

“What was in it for them to agree to all that? ” Cordelia’s stomach clenched as she waited for his reply.

“They wanted me to take over their LA branch- and run it any way I pleased” Angel added strongly, “They also needed me to go to Sunnydale.” He held an unneeded breath and watched her carefully. Cordelia was far from stupid, and he waited for the inevitable fallout.

“Sunnydale? Why?” She stood up abruptly. “Don’t tell me; not Sunnydale per se- more like something to do with the resident Slayer?”

“Who says it wasn’t something to do with the Hellmouth?” Angel demurred, but at the curl of her lip he sighed heavily. He had really hoped he’d never have to tell her about that particular trip.

“Okay, they needed me to deliver an amulet- Buffy had a major battle going on over there; end of the world kinda thing – this time though, the chances of winning were pretty much zero without it. Obviously, it wasn’t an apocalypse the Senior Partners wanted.” Angel explained quietly.

“Did it work?” was all she asked; adding “Duh, world: still here!” rolling her eyes with a ftwisted smile, and he relaxed marginally.

“Yeah…but Sunnydale is just a big hole in the ground now – they got out okay, Cordy.” He assured her hurriedly at her gasp of dismay.

Angel Investigations wasn’t the only thing changed and gone, Cordelia realized sickly; it seemed everything she was familiar with had changed; and all in bad ways.. Suddenly the whole coma deal seemed a lot more appealing to her frazzled mind.

As her gaze rested on the partially clothed vampire, her eyes narrowed speculatively. She knew him so well – hah! At least one of them could attest to that – and she didn’t miss that small shadow of extra, embarrassed guilt when Sunnydale was brought up. Swallowing down the bitter bile, Cordelia forced herself to dig deeper.

“So…catch up on all the gossip with Buffy?” her heart sank when his head jerked hard before his gaze dropped to his leather-shod feet.

“Yeah… she had her own problems going on, I think I told you that?” Cordelia nodded, her hazel eyes pinned on his rapidly paling face.

“Did you tell her about our ‘problems’- my leap to the Dark side? No? And there was me, thinking it was maybe on a par.” Cordelia muttered darkly at the shake of his dark head, “So what did you talk about?” God, she knew that expression so well, and it fucking hurt. “Did you talk at all- or just do what you two were so good at?” Something else that hadn’t changed either.

Cordelia knew she had no right to feel betrayed- yet again. She knew this; but that shame-filled look on the face of the manpire she loved… “You know what? I don’t wanna know, Angel; I’m tired.” She made her way over to the stairs only to be halted by a cool hand latching on to her arm. She looked down at it with disdain and smiled coldly when he hesitated and removed it.

“Cordy, I-“

“Angel, I said I’m tired- plus, it’s not really any of my business what you get up to; your new blonde does know about your….tendency to not commit; and that little habit of yours to refresh your lip’s memory of a certain Slayer, I suppose?” for a moment, a flare of amber flickered in the dark brown eyes that lifted to hers, but Cordelia was beyond caring. How could she have been so…stupid!

Maybe it was for the best at the time that she’d ascended after all; minus the whole Skip betrayal, that is! The thought of how she’d considered proclaiming her love for someone who’d turned out to obviously have no such feelings for her made her cringe in the imagined humiliation.

“You can’t stay here” he again halted her, but this time by stepping in front of her as she made her way up the stairs. Her brows rose.

“What- you’re throwing me out now?” Angel instantly shook his head, horrified that she’d think he’d do something so…

“No! I didn’t mea… this place is cold, damp and dirty- it’s also empty and you’d be vulnerable here.” Cordy stared at him for a few seconds, then pushed past him, continuing up. “Cordy…”

“I’m not going back to that place, Angel. So unless you kept my apartment, here is where I’m gonna stay- for now” she added under her breath; but he heard it and caught up with her.

“What does that mean?” Cordy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “As you’ve said yourself, I can’t really stay here all alone, so tomorrow I’ll look for somewhere else.” They stood glaring at each other for an endless moment, then Angel growled low in his chest and turned to ascend the stairs.

“You can use my old room. Get some rest; but then,” he glanced over his shoulder, inwardly grateful that she was following, “then, we’ll discuss what happens next.”

Too tired to argue any more, Cordelia silently followed the dark figure of her best friend, hoping that daylight would bring with it renewed strength to face the days- and nights ahead of her…

Part 4

Posted December 5, 2016 by califi in TBC

Faint Heart. Prol-1   Leave a comment

Title: Faint Heart                                                                         FaintHeart
Author: Califi
Posted:
Email
Rating: R/N-17
Category: Angst. [what else?!]
Content: C/A
Summary: W & H are up to tricks, as usual, and one of their plans come to fruition when Cordy wakes up at an inopportune time for Angel…
Spoilers: From S5, Life’s a Party. *cringe* I am not watching S5, so if there are discrepancies, sorry about that. This is MY AU.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution:
Notes: One of the early scenes takes place in the same area as Lily & co have already done so; just wanna say, forgive me Lily, didn’t realise – but the similarity stops there.
Thanks/Dedication:
Feedback:Would be nice


“I am better than thou art now; I am a Fool – thou art nothing.”
Cordelia
[of] King Lear.

Prologue

Angel grunted heavily as he came; his eyes screwed tight and his large hands clutching narrow, naked shoulders that trembled softly. Then the realization of what they’d done came flooding in with unpleasant clarity. Oh, God!

Maybe if he kept his eyes closed a little longer, he’d find it was just a bad dream – or so he hoped; but the pained gasp that would have been inaudible to anyone but him hit his sluggish mind and put paid to that desperate wish. When a familiar aroma also assailed his senses, Angel’s world came crashing around his ears.

Opening his eyes reluctantly, Angel’s head snapped towards the source of the husked, familiar sound, praying his fears were unfounded. Shocked wet hazel eyes looked back at him.

And his heart lurched to his throat with sickening force. Pulling away from the body in front of him, he hesitated, suddenly aware of his nudity. Yet another nail in his self-made coffin.

“Cordy-” Her beautiful eyes dropped lower, mouth twisting in repellence as she couldn’t help but notice the painfully obvious action of the withdrawal of his sex from the equally silent blonde, who’s face was flushed; her expression a mixture of hazy pleasure and amusement as she surveyed the terry-robed brunette who stood swaying in the open doorway with a raised brow.

Both Vampire and Seer were frozen to the spot -then with a muffled sob; the girl spun on her heel and ran.

By the time Angel had pulled on his pants and ran into the corridor there was no sign of his Cordy- how the hell had she moved so fast? He wondered frantically; snarling aloud in frustration and panic, which instantly turned to rage when a small warm hand hooked around his elbow.

“Angel, I-“

“Can it, Eve!” the wet sheen in her big eyes was belied by the smugness, but he was too preoccupied to notice it, only the fact that she hadn’t even bothered to cover herself – and that made his gut twist with guilt even more.

Pulling roughly away, Angel lifted his reeling head to scent the air for the familiar aroma of cinnamon and apples, which soon touched the back of his throat, then he raced down the deserted corridor without looking back.

Eve sighed long and heavy; before grinning with cold satisfaction.

“Wow! They actually pulled it off! – As if I had any doubts.” She murmured as she re-entered Angel’s Office and closed the door quietly behind her.


Part 1

Angel finally caught up with her just as she entered the dimly lit underground garage.

“Cordy, wait!” he rushed towards her almost running figure and grabbed her upper arm, swinging her around. She shrunk away from his touch like he was a leper and the pain in his undead heart grew at the hurt and disgust on her much loved beautiful face; the only reminder of her comatose condition was the pallor of her once-golden complexion.

“Don’t. Touch. Me!” Cordy shuddered with revulsion, her voice sounding rusty and hoarse, but hearing it after so long filled Angel with a brief surge of joy.

Confident that her flight had halted- for now at least, Angel kept his distance, raising his hands high in mute assurance.

“You’re awake-“

“Wish I wasn’t” she shot back with a touch of the old Cordelia, spoiling the effect by blinking rapidly and turning her face from him.

“H-how; when – why wasn’t I told?” Angel stammered as his head whirled with raging emotions and endless questions. Cordy looked at him again, her expression bewildered.

“I don’t know- not long; does it matter?” before he had a chance to reply, she rambled on feverishly. “No one was around. I waited for a while but no one came. So I went to find someone – why am I here; in this-this…place?” Shock and fear tightened her features. “Why are you here?” she added, her confusion growing by the second.

“A lot has happened since…” Cordy cut him off with a sharply raised hand. Angel noted the fine tremor of it hazily as he pulled his thoughts together.

“I just wanna know – how did I end up here?” At the touch of hysteria lacing her sharp tone, Angel took an instinctive step forward, intending to reassure her; instantly she moved back, eyeing him warily.

“Cordy, please…” he let out a shaky breath and ran a rough hand through his hair. “What’s the last thing you remember?” He asked.

“Why? Is that important?” she asked, then continued, not waiting for his response. “The last thing I remember is being in the glowy version of Boredom City,” flicking her eyes towards the ceiling, “watching you guys- in Vegas.”

Angel reeled. She doesn’t know; doesn’t remember! Although trying not to dwell too much on the past, he’d secretly dreaded this scenario; that she’d awake with no memory of what she’d – Jasmine had done. For her own sake it would have been preferable, but the way things had turned out because of it, Angel knew things would be even harder to explain.

There was also the matter of his son. When it became painfully obvious to Cordy that they were the only ones to know about Connor… He swallowed sickly, the terrible weight of his not so recent decisions and action coming back to bite him where it hurt the most. Where the hell did he begin? More importantly: how much could he get away with leaving out altogether?

On picking up her trembling, lightly clothed body, he evaded the question- for the time being, “Look, it’s cold down here – let’s go back up to my- .” Her eyes widened in horror. “-Somewhere not there; and I’ll tell you everything.” He corrected awkwardly.

The last thing Angel wanted was for them both to be reminded of what had just happened- although judging by her dazed expression, she wouldn’t be forgetting it in a hurry . He still couldn’t believe he’d done it himself! Even if Cordy hadn’t been a factor, he still wouldn’t have chosen Eve.

“I want to go home- or to the hotel.” She broke into his thoughts; her voice now high-pitched and thready. No way in hell was she going back up there she thought, wildly. Of all the places to find herself; the Wolfram & Hart building wasn’t one she’d ever have imagined wanting to wake up in.
As to why she- and Angel were here…and she seriously doubted it was to rescue her from the evil Law Firm; unless boning that skank was an integral part of the plan – anyway, although right now, Cordy doubted she’d ever want to know.

Her head spun crazily. The need to get out of there almost suffocating in its intensity.

“We had to let your apartment go,” Angel admitted hoarsely, “The hotel; well …I don’t think that’s a good idea. I mean, I haven’t lived there for months now. It’s still pretty damaged, too.” He added, distractedly while he thought of an alternative.

“Damaged? Why – what happened to it?” Cordy’s scattered thoughts honed in on something familiar. He jolted, then shifted awkwardly, suddenly feeling vulnerable and unclean as her shell-shocked eyes ran over his naked torso, and lingered on the open top button of his hastily thrown on pants, the hazel irises darkening with revulsion.

“It’s, um- part of what I have to tell you.” Angel stuttered, automatically moving forward when she began to edge even further away. He really didn’t want to have to grab her – but if she took off, he wouldn’t have much choice but to restrain her.

“Who else is here? – Where’s Wes, the others, Angel; and Connor – is he here too?” he flinched noticeably at that last name, and her brow instantly drew into a confused frown- quickly clearing, as fear took over and rushed to the forefront of her mind. “Oh, my God! – Don’t tell me he’s-“

“No! No, Cordy, he’s not – he’s safe.” He hastened to soothe her. “He- he just doesn’t… Connor’s not here.”, his breath shuttering painfully when she moved away from him yet again. His eyes darkened in pain on watching the way Cordy rubbed her fingers harshly over the spot he’d briefly touched her.

”You need to get warm,” Angel said after a long pause and indicated the elevator several feet behind him, but she baulked.

“I said Not here! – These people have a habit of trying to kill me. I don’t feel safe, why do you think I’d be safe here?” she questioned fretfully, her distress growing in leaps and bounds.

Angel could hear her heart racing at an unnaturally fast pace, and that worried him as well as the way her whole body shook. Fuck! He knew if he didn’t do something soon she’d go into shock. That is she if hadn’t already, he thought bitterly, the sour taste of shame and regret hitting the back of his throat.

Looking around blindly, Angel tried desperately to clear his head and think of a way to get her out of the cold, dim garage without making things worse than they already were. He was uncomfortably aware of the hidden cameras placed strategically around the cavernous underground car park, and tensed, prepared for the inevitable security guards, witnessing their confrontation, and interrupting them; which is all he needed right now! His eyes skimmed the row of cars he now owned.

Shoving his hand into the pocket of his pants, Angel was intensely relieved to find that, as hoped, a set of car keys were still there. He vaguely picked up on the irony that the keys were to his old Plymouth -that he now rarely used. The find was a blessing: the more familiarity for Cordy the better, he thought hazily.

Instead of attempting to touch her again, Angel indicated the car and walked over to it, keeping a reasonable gap between them even as he kept eye contact with her, praying she wouldn’t run in the opposite direction. Opening the passenger door first, Angel walked around to the driver’s side and waited.

After hesitating for a few seconds, Cordy finally walked over and, after shooting him a wary look, she climbed quickly into the car. Letting out a small sigh of relief, Angel opened his door and slid into his seat.

Once they driven up the ramp and exited out into the night, Angel’s eyes flicked constantly towards Cordelia. Concern for her wellbeing grew as she huddled against the door, her unnatural silence freaking him out even as he wondered hazily if the hotel still had power…

Part 2

Posted December 5, 2016 by califi in TBC