Angel walked down the long hallway to the main part of the house, taking a right at the great room and into the massive kitchen. He paused a moment as he took in the excess. He had never seen so much stonework. This place was like a goddamned palace. And every smooth, hard surface was spotless. Thankful that the kitchen truly did face east as he remembered, Angel moved around the center cooking island, careful not to step into the dwindling light that still shown somewhat through the large, uncovered windows. The refrigerator wasn’t completely empty, but sparse enough that he had to struggle to find her something.
Protein. She needed protein because of the little donation she’d given him. And fluids. Lots of fluids.
Reaching in, he took out eggs, cheese, and milk and a few other items. He wished there were more. An omelet seemed such a pitiful offering to her after everything she’d done. After everything they had done together. As he set the contents in his arms down on the island, he thought of the hopelessness of Cordelia’s situation.
He struck part of the thought from his mind and altered it. Their situation. It was their problem. Not hers. It would never be just her problem again.
But Giles had let them know that there was no cure.
He stared at the food he’d spread out on the cold counter, not really seeing anything but Cordelia in front of him.
She wasn’t cursed. Therefore, there was no cure.
Angel bent down and opened a few cabinet doors until he came across a pan, sat it on the burner, lit the stove.
He found a bowl, a whisk. Everything he needed.. Everything except an answer.
What the hell was he going to do?
But Giles had said there was no cure.
Fuck that! He cracked the first egg.
At sundown he would pay a visit to the Watcher. Gules was going to find a cure, whether he knew it or not.
Cordelia lay in her warm bed, the empty plate on her nightstand next to her. She was blissfully stuffed. And sore in places that shot a small thrill through her body when she thought about it.
Now that had “fulfilled her every fantasy”. Much more so than five seconds on the backseat of a car. She stretched and rolled onto her side, glad the windows were still covered in the foil. She didn’t want to see the leftovers of Angel’s battle with the Ancient, not when she was feeling so……wonderful.
And it hadn’t only been the mind blowing sex. Afterwards they had talked. In the quiet, stillness of the room, Angel had told her how he had felt the moment he realized he had been freed of Angelus. How he had wanted to tell someone but couldn’t bring himself to because of the expectations Buffy had put on him. He talked about his first years living with the curse, how his soul had remembered every horrible act committed by Angelus, especially the murder of his family.
Cordelia had told him about her life with her parents. About how she had dealt with the problem of seeing the Ancients as a child.
They had talked in hushed tones in the dark room, their bodies still entwined. It had been so intimate. Special.
Cordelia closed her eyes and breathed in deep. She could still smell him on her sheets, her pillow. That mixture of leather and a subtle, natural spice.
He had left only moments before, kissing her and telling her that he would be gone for only a while. Her parents were due back Tuesday morning but that was still more than two days away. When she had told him, he had said that he would stay with her until then. “And when they come home?” she had asked him. “We’ll figure it out then,” he had answered her and kissed her again.
She had offered to go with him to his apartment to pick up his things, but he had adamantly refused. At first it had hurt her feelings a bit, even though she was really too tired. But he had explained that he didn’t want her out, spotting anymore Ancients when he couldn’t protect her.
Cordelia didn’t point out to him that the last Ancient they had spotted had been right outside and that the next one could be easily as close. It didn’t matter where she was. They both knew it. But still he had taken her cell phone with him and put the cordless house phone by her side. Then he kissed her again, which made her smile that he seemed to have to kiss her between gentle orders. He cared for her. Truly cared. And he was coming back.
She snuggled deeper into the covers, exhausted but for the first time in her life, too happy to sleep. She didn’t care if the Ancients did come out tonight. She wouldn’t let them ruin this. This time with Angel was hers and she would grab it with both hands. And if an Ancient did finally get her? Well, better a short life having loved someone deeply, than one lived as a lie in self-imposed solitude.
Thinking of Angel, she finally drifted off to sleep, a true smile on her face.
Angel nearly jogged the distance to his car in the parking lot of Giles’ apartment complex. He had found his answer. He couldn’t wait to get to Cordelia. She would be free. And he would be the one to free her.
“So it was true?” a young man’s voice carried from the streetlamp near Angel’s car. Xander.
Angel stopped by the vehicle. God, he didn’t have time for this, but he couldn’t seem to let it go. “Yeah, it was true.”
Xander was quiet for a moment as he stared at Angel, then he casually looked around, “I don’t see Cordelia, so I assume you’ve gotten everything you needed. No need to keep her around now, huh? Of course, who’d want to? Am I right?”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Xander’s words had come out clipped and angry, but Angel’s senses told him it was hurt, not anger that spurred this death wish of a confrontation Xander was trying to pull. Angel reminded himself that the kid was just that, a kid. He reached for the handle of his car.
“Buffy called me,” Xander acted as if Angel wasn’t trying to leave. “Told me that you broke things off for good.”
Standing in the opened door of the convertible, Angel’s jaw twitched. That was far from the conversation he had had with Buffy just before he had headed for Giles’ apartment. It had been mutual. Sad and heartbreaking for different reasons on both sides, but mutual all the same. He wouldn’t respond to the jab. Because any response he had now would be nonverbal. And probably a little bloody.
“She’s not a virgin you know. Cordelia. Just wanted to let you know before you found a way around that pesky curse of yours and screwed with her body and mind like you did Buffy’s/”
Angel had him pinned against the light pole before Xander could take another breath. “What goes on between me and Cordelia, or me and anyone else for that matter is none of your goddamned business.” He let Xander’s lungs struggle a moment before dropping him, watching as the boy’s knees gave out and he ass-planted it on the cool grass.
Leaning down, real close to Xander’s ear, Angel whispered, “And as for the sacred “virginity” that you’re so worried about. You don’t know how much I don’t give a shit. Only little pricks that are afraid of their own dick worry about who came before, what they might have to contend with.” He pulled his head back a little, his body crouched in front of Xander’s. “I suspect this is all coming out because you’re jealous, and more than a little pissed at me because you think I took something, or someone of yours. And common sense would lean toward that someone being Cordelia. But we both know that’s not who you’re pissed about. Right? Your never loved her. You didn‘t know what to do with her. Scared the shit out of you too much for you to love her. “
Xander raised his eyes, full of hate, and stared a burning hole right into Angel. It was a cold and deadly stare, one Angel could almost respect.
“No. You’ve loved someone all along that you think you can’t have. Think you don’t deserve. Well, you’re right. You don’t deserve her. But hell, I don’t deserve Cordelia either.”
Xander’s brows furrowed a little at the change in Angel’s tone. More pissed big brother now than angry demon. What the heck was going on?
“Grow some balls, Xander. If you love Buffy so much, tell her. Quit going home with a damp shoulder every time she needs a good cry. There are other ways to be strong for her than physically.”
With that, Angel stood up and made his way to his car, leaving Xander in the pool of light, thinking about how stupid it had been to goad Angel and how right the vampire was. About everything.
God, she was so beautiful, sleeping as if she didn’t have the horrible side effect of her bloodline running through her veins, ruining her life. Angel dropped his bag, slipped off his boots, and stripped free of his clothes. Sliding beneath the covers, he gathered her against him, loving the way she smiled a greeting to him before she even opened her eyes. “Hey,” her voice was drowsy, sexy.
“Hey,” he whispered back, tucking her securely under his arm, her head resting on his chest. She sighed in contentment for a moment before raising her head, her eyes open and shining with happiness. He had put that emotion in that hazel gaze. She turned into him, began peppering his chest with little, warm kisses. “Did you get everything you needed?” she asked.
More than she knew. “Yeah.” He closed his eyes when she smoothed her hand up his abs, stopping at his chest and circling his nipple as she continued her little make-out session, moving her head closer so that her lips could reach the base of his neck. He grew instantly hard. And although he was more than enjoying her confident exploration, he couldn’t get lost in the moment. There were other, more pressing matters to deal with before he could lose himself in her. His body tried to protest his mind’s lead as she nipped his ear and flicked at his flat nipple with her finger, running her hand down his chest and up just to start the whole process again.
His body covered hers so fast that the air rushed from her lungs. Even so she managed a small giggle at his impatience. He leaned his head down and kissed her hard, dove right in, reveled in the way she met him in the assault, her tongue plunging right back, massaging, stroking. He loved that about her. How her passion seemed to rise with his. No fear. No hesitation. Good. There were so many more ways to make love than the blissful time they had spent together that afternoon. There were things he wanted to show her, ways he wanted to please her. And it thrilled him that he could share each one with her.
But he had to free her first.
Cordelia loved the feel of his cool lips against hers. God, kissing him was a sensual and erotic experience in itself. Tiny shivers ran down her spine as his lips grew gentle, brushed against hers. He began to whisper something she couldn’t quite understand……another language maybe? But it sounded beautiful on his passion roughened voice. When the little chant or poem or whatever it had been was over, Angel raised his head, a strange look on his face.
“That was beautiful. What was it?”
He didn’t answer, but raised himself up and back on his heels, lifting her up by the hand. Cordelia sat up with him and followed as he rose from the bed and led her over to the French doors. “Angel? What’s going on?” there was a nervous quiver to her voice.
“Don’t be scared. I just want you to tell me what you see,” he began to peel away a square of foil from a pane.
“No, Angel. Please. I don’t want to see that thing decaying out there in the moonlight. Not while we’re here together.”
Angel ignored her and worked away the last bit of tape, freeing the window from its cover.
Cordelia looked away but Angel grabbed onto her chin gently and urged her to look out.
Cordelia gasped and Angel’s heart began to sink. It hadn’t worked. Goddamn it! He was going to kill Giles. He was going to take his…..
“Oh my, God,” she gasped. “You cleaned it up……except…..you couldn’t have because I cured you. Right? I cured you…..so you couldn’t have because you couldn’t see him or touch him.” She looked at Angel for confirmation. “I cured you, right?” There was real fear in her voice this time.
“You cured me,” he smiled and brushed his hand down her cheek. It had worked.
“I don’t understand,” she shook her head, her mind trying to calculate the possibility of what had happened.
“It’s your cure,” Angel’s hand settled on the side of her face, his thumb stroking a soft rhythm against her cheekbone. “I went to Giles tonight, after I made the stop at my place. I told him there was no way I was leaving him alone until he found a way.”
“And he just magically popped a cure out of his head?”
She looked so suspicious. Christ, she was too smart for her own good.
“Well, yeah. Sort of. I mean, when we contacted him earlier he didn’t really believe us. All of his answers were hypothetical. When I finally convinced him that what had happened to me had been real….” Okay, it had been more than simple convincing. “I told him how you had always seen the Ancients. How some of your ancestors had seen them too. He gave me what he thought might work.”
“The words. The ones you whispered. What was it? A spell?”
Angel nodded. “And it worked. You’re free, Cordelia.”
She smiled. Huge. Bright. Sunshine for his cold dark world. But the smile began to fade, his sun set.
“It’s so stupid. I feel…..,” she backed away and walked to the bed, sat down, and stared at the small pane of glass. “Thank you, Angel,” she whispered with more emotion in her voice than he could bear.
Walking to her, he sat beside her, took her hands and urged her to face him. “You’re happy. Right? This is you extremely…..happy?”
She was. Part of her was bursting with happy. No more Ancients. No more wall. No more freak show of a life. But where did that leave the two of them? God, she was an ungrateful bitch. Here he had just saved her life, given her a new existence and all she could think was would he stay? Now that he was cured, that the threat to her was over. Why would he? Sure they had had outstanding, mind-altering sex. And she was hopelessly in love with him, as crazy as it seemed to be able to fall so fast. But those were her feelings. Not his.
“Cordelia, talk to me. You’re scaring me a little here.”
“I’m just….I just…..” leaning in she gave him a tight hug. “Thank you, Angel,” she whispered in the tight, awkward embrace. “Really. Thank You.”
What the hell was that? A stiff, strange squeeze. Some kind of “friendship” hug. A prelude to “it was nice….but”.
Before Cordelia knew what had happened, her back was pressed against the mattress, an angry, urgent, and …oh….very aroused vampire, crushing her. His mouth captured hers, he kissed her deeply, desperately. It was drugging, earth-shattering. She had been worried about something. Hadn’t she? She couldn’t really remember now. Oh……she was cured……that’s right. And Angel, he was free. Not just free from Angelus or the border of that awful hell. But he was free to leave her now that she was no longer in danger.
This didn’t feel anything like a goodbye.
Angel lifted his head, stared down at her. Hell, he had to get it out. Had to know if what he was feeling was one-sided. He’d learned with Buffy just how much damage could be done by keeping your feelings bottled up, unspoken. No matter how hurt the other person might be at the revelation. If Cordelia didn’t feel the same way he felt for her, better to get it over with now. Deal with the agonizing pain of it.
“I love you,” he said the words he’d never offered to anyone.
The sun was back again. That glorious, beaming smile of hers lighting up his world.
Cordelia threw her arms around his neck, hugged him against her. “I love you, too,” she whispered back.
Hours later, Angel looked out the French doors, all now open to the moonlit night. Cordelia had wanted them that way. “I don’t have to worry about what I’ll see anymore, do I. Because of you.” He had wanted to howl when she gave him that credit. Selfishly wanting her to owe everything to him. Her freedom, her crumbled walls, her heart.
Angel looked down at her, sleeping against his chest. He had to take better care of her. He’d made love to her three more times after their little confessions of love to one another, showing her a few of the new ways they could come together. He’d worn her out and could have still had more. He would never get enough of her. But he had to pace himself. She was still young, human at that.
He looked back out to the night, reminding himself to thank Giles. The son-of-a-bitch had done it. Found a cure. Well, not actually. More like a transfer, or a shift.
Angel’s eyes caught a glimpse of fiery eyes, glinting several yard away from the pool house. The thing must smell the still decaying carcass. Angel looked over at the dead Ancient that had nearly decomposed into ash.
Yeah, but it had been a fair exchange. Her sight of the unholy border, her ability to be touched by them, hurt by them, for his ability to protect her. To love her.
The Ancient who had been walking closer to the house, now paused, catching sight of Angel. Their eyes met, the Ancient let out a snarl, but didn’t move closer. Finally the beast looked at the downed monster and back to Angel, holding a standoff with his blazing eyes for a moment before turning. His gait was slow as his massive body made its way across the yard, its eyes never leaving Angel’s as it began to leave.
“That’s right,” Angel whispered. “Keep walking motherfucker. You can’t touch her now.”
“Did you say something?” Cordelia stirred in his arms, lifted her face to his.
“Just that I love you. “
Cordelia smiled, reached up and kissed him, then pulled him down into the covers with her. She draped her body over him a little, buried her head in his neck, kissed him there and stayed, her warm breath tickling his skin, running a fresh wave of need through his body.
“I love you, too,” she whispered.