Long Time Coming. 14-55

Part 14

Angel touched his forehead to Cordelia’s as their lips parted. “Are you sure?” he asked, studying her face carefully for any sign of hesitation.

Cordelia looked up at him, her hazel eyes shining with emotion. “Yes, I’m sure.” she breathed softly.

Angel ran his fingers down from her face, over her shoulders and arms and intertwined them with hers. He lifted their entwined hands up to shoulder height before leaning down to brush his lips over hers again. Cordelia instinctively stepped closer to him, opening her mouth under his and deepening their kiss. Angel lowered their joined hands to the small of Cordelia’s back and pulled her closer still as his tongue thoroughly explored her mouth.

When they finally broke apart, Cordelia was gasping for air and her cheeks were flushed with passion. Angel could hear the steady thrum of her heartbeat and feel the blood rushing through her veins as he trailed his lips down her throat. Cordelia curled her fingers into his spiky hair and arched her neck into his exploring mouth, her breath quickening as his cool tongue slipped out to taste her skin.

Angel reluctantly lifted his head from the soft flesh of her neck, and crossed his arms over his chest to remove his t-shirt which he let drop from his fingertips onto the lushly carpeted floor. His hands reached out to untie her robe and he pushed the silk garment off her shoulders and down her arms. Angel stepped back to look at her then, with his fists clenched tightly by his sides in an attempt to keep control of his escalating desire. The strappy purple negligee was mid-thigh in length and gathered slightly under her full breasts. God, she was absolutely gorgeous. An overwhelming need to touch and taste every inch of her beautiful curvy body and make love to her with everything he was, washed over Angel.

With that goal in mind, he stepped back towards Cordelia and gently turned her to face away from him. He pulled her long dark hair away from her neck and pressed brief kisses to each of her pulse-points, before hooking his fingers under the straps of her slip and moving them slowly down her arms. The negligee caught briefly on her hips before dropping to her feet, leaving her nude apart from a pair of silk panties.

As her nightie fell to the floor, Cordelia suddenly felt extremely self-conscious; she wasn’t ashamed of her body, but no man had ever seen her naked before and she was well aware that she wasn’t slim and petite like Buffy. She crossed her arms over her chest, protecting her modesty.

Angel sensed her unease immediately. “Hey!” He whispered softly, wrapping his arms around her waist from behind and dropping a reassuring kiss on her bare shoulder. “You okay?”

“I’m not Buffy.”

“I don’t want you to be, Cordy. I thought we had this conversation last night.”

“I meant my body is … Well, I’m not your type.”

Angel laughed and pressed a soft kiss to her temple. “I have a type?”

“Well duh! Blond and petite – everything I’m not.”

Angel sighed at her insecurity and rested his chin on her shoulder. “Cordy, you have no idea how many nights I’ve been unable to sleep, just imagining you in that amazing dress you wore when we went to Lunar. If I’m honest, you are more my type in a physical sense than Buffy ever was, but it’s not really about that. You are beautiful, as is Buffy, because it’s who you both are on the inside that really counts. I love that you are my friend, I love that you gave me ice-cream when I broke up with Buffy, I love that you can make me laugh like nobody else really can and I love that you seem to accept me for all that I am – the man and the vampire. I love you – the rest is just the icing on the cake. Delicious icing it may be, but it’s not what’s important in the long run.”

Cordelia couldn’t speak from the emotions running through her. How did he always know the right thing to say to allay her fears? She tilted her head back and kissed him showing her gratitude.

Angel nuzzled her neck when they broke apart. “Let me touch you.” he whispered, taking her hands in his and pulling them away from her body. He ran his cool fingers across her belly sending shivers coursing through her and initiating a deep throbbing sensation between her thighs. Cordelia gasped, as his fingertips brushed the undersides of her breasts before he cupped the full globes gently in his palms. Cordelia arched her back in response, pressing herself into his touch and locking her fingers behind his neck. Angel bent his head to kiss her with an open mouth and questing tongue, as his thumbs drew circles around her rapidly hardening nipples. When the kiss ended, his hands slid down her body to her waist and he gently pushed her towards the bed. “Lie down for me.” he said softly, planting a kiss behind her left ear.

“On my front?” Cordelia asked, her voice shaking slightly.

“Yes.”

Cordelia lay down, the cool sheets a stark contrast to her burning flesh. Angel stripped himself of his sweat pants, but left his boxers on as he knelt over her on the bed. He lifted her hair away from the nape of her neck and placed soft kisses down the length of her spine, stroking the sides of her breasts and the dip of her waist with his fingertips as he slowly descended the length of her body. When he reached the small of her back, he hooked his fingers in the sides of her panties and drew them off of her as he backed off the bed to kneel on the floor. “Turn over.”

Cordelia hesitated – if she did that she would be exposed to him completely. She took a deep calming breath, then did as he’d directed, shivering at the dark gaze Angel levelled at her as his eyes swept the length of her body.

Jesus Christ! Angel stayed where he was, fighting the urge to just take her. Cordy was all glorious soft curves and golden skin. Her breasts were full, but still sat high on her chest; her silhouette a flawless hourglass shape, with her belly slightly rounded, but honed to perfection. Angel’s eyes finally settled on the thatch of dark curls guarding the entrance to her body; his keen sense of smell could detect her arousal as well as her nerves.

Having somehow got control of himself, Angel climbed back onto the bed, straddling her hips. He dropped a soft kiss on her belly, and another between the twin mounds of her full breasts, then looked up into her pretty face. Cordelia was breathing heavily and her cheeks were flushed. Her body was still slightly tense, but her gaze trusting. “You are truly beautiful.” He told her in a hoarse voice, then bent to suckle her left breast into his mouth.

“Oh God, Angel!” Cordelia cried out, clutching at the sheets as the pulling sensation on her nipple sent shock waves straight to her core, flooding it with moisture. Delighted at this response, Angel laved the same attention on her other breast, encouraged by her soft moans of pleasure and the growing scent of her arousal.

His mouth eventually released her breast with a wet pop and he trailed a series of kisses up her throat towards her lips. With his knee, he separated her thighs and settled over her, running his fingers through her hair and plunging his tongue deep into her mouth. Angel pressed his hips into the cradle of her thighs and rocked his hard, throbbing erection slowly against her soft centre as they kissed with rising passion.

Cordelia’s body was awash with sensations she had never experienced before. Xander had got her excited during their broom-closet fumblings but this was just …. there were really no words to describe it. She ran her hands down Angel’s back and slipped her hands into his boxers instinctively holding him to her to increase the pleasure from the erotic contact.

Her eyes shot open as she felt his cool weight leave her. “Where are you going?”

Angel looked back at her, and smiled, as he divested himself of his boxers. He slowly turned back towards her and watched, with no small measure of satisfaction, when her hazel eyes widened as she took in his nude form for the first time.

“How will it fit?” Without thinking, Cordelia blurted out the first thing that came into her head. Oh My God! I didn’t just say that out loud, did I?

Angel’s deep laugh echoed around the room and Cordelia covered her flaming cheeks with her hands in mortification. “Oh my God, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Angel, still laughing, pulled her hands away from her face. “Don’t worry about it. This doesn’t have to be all serious – it’s okay to have fun.”

He lay back down beside her on the bed and tucked her slightly damp hair behind her ear. He trailed a finger down the side of her neck, across her collarbone, and down between her breasts raising goose bumps in its wake. Angel sighed and lay his hand flat against her belly; her fears weren’t entirely unfounded. “Cor – I’m going to try and make this as pleasurable for you as possible, but I think there is still going to be some pain. I’m sorry.”

Cordelia lay her hand over his; she was prepared for that. She leant over and kissed him. “I know. Teenage girls talk, you know. It’s all right.” She toyed with the sheets, avoiding his gaze. “I’ve really killed the mood now, haven’t I?”

Angel looked down at himself. “Not noticeably.”

Cordelia giggled and slapped him lightly. “Angel!”

Angel laughed and captured her lips with his again, rolling her back underneath him. His hand left her belly and slipped down between her thighs. Cordelia gasped, her mirth forgotten as his fingers stroked her expertly, increasing her arousal tenfold. Angel lifted his mouth from hers and watched her face contort with pleasure in response to his ministrations. He slipped a finger into her slick wetness and used his thumb to stroke her clit, slowly building her arousal to boiling point.

Cordelia began to toss her head back and forth on the pillow, clutching at the sheets and moaning and gasping. Her world had narrowed to Angel’s fingers stroking between her legs and the rising tension his skilful touch provoked throughout her entire being.

“Oh God! Oh please!” Cordelia suddenly cried out, arching her back high off the bed and reaching down to clutch at his wrist as the sensations coursing through her body became too much for her to bear.

Angel put his mouth to her ear. “It’s okay baby.” he whispered softly. “Just let go. I’ll catch you, I promise.”

At his words, Cordelia gave in to the overwhelming pleasure and sobbed out her release as her insides convulsed rapidly around Angel’s invading finger. Angel kept circling her clit with his thumb, drawing out her climax until she collapsed back onto the bed, gasping for breath.

Angel’s own control was rapidly slipping; he was impatient to bury himself in her inviting warmth. If he was going to do that and not hurt her too much, then he needed to move things along while he still had some self-restraint. He positioned himself between her thighs and the tip of his hard length brushed against her wet and still quivering sex. “Cordy – Open your eyes and look at me.” he commanded, more harshly than he intended.

Cordelia did as he asked and looked up at him with passion-drugged eyes. “Are you sure?” he asked her one final time.

“Yes. Make love to me Angel.” she gave her consent.

Angel took himself in one hand, and pushed slowly inside her hot body until he bumped against the barrier of her virginity. The vampire paused and dropped a series of kisses over her flushed face. “It’s probably going to hurt now baby.”

Cordelia nodded and Angel broke through her hymen, burying himself to the hilt in one quick thrust. He winced as her fingernails dug into his back and her body tensed under him in pain. Angel gritted his teeth and held himself still, fighting the urge to move, in order to let her body adjust to the feel of his thick length deep inside of her.

Cordelia gasped at the sharp stab of pain that ran through her at his full penetration. Angel’s hard sex stretched her vaginal walls to the limit and her body involuntarily tensed against the invasion. The vampire didn’t move however and continued to press gentle kisses to her throat, murmuring unintelligible words of comfort in her ear.

Cordelia slowly relaxed as the pain began to subside. “I’m okay.” she whispered into his ear, running her hands up and down over his hard muscular back. “I’m okay.”

Angel groaned as he pulled out and plunged slowly back into her. Cordelia cried out again, but from pleasure this time. “Oh Angel!” She moaned and lifted her legs to wrap around his waist, flexing her hips in counterpoint to his slow, deep thrusts.

Angel was rapidly losing it; Cordy was tight and hot and she fit him like a glove. Her soft cries of pleasure were driving him crazy. He wasn’t going to last much longer; he was so hard it was almost painful and his body was more than ready to explode. His movements quickened, spiralling out of control, but he somehow found the presence of mind to reach down between their bodies and pinch Cordelia’s clitoris lightly between his thumb and forefinger.

Cordelia threw back her head and screamed out his name as her body tensed in orgasm again. “Angel!”

“Jesus!” Angel groaned, pounding her body into the mattress with his wild thrusts as his own climax overtook him moments later.

They finally collapsed onto the bed in a tangle of sweaty limbs, utterly spent.

“I love you, Angel” Cordelia whispered, her voice barely audible, but the vampire’s acute hearing caught every single sweet word.

***

Faith practised the Tai-Chi Angel had taught her as Wesley made a pot of tea and ordered them some breakfast from room-service.

“So, what shall we do today?” Faith asked, once she’d completed the series of exercises. “Maybe I’ll go and see if C wants to hit the shops.”

Wesley shot her a withering look and Faith giggled wickedly. “Then again, maybe not. I’m thinking she’s probably got better things to do with her time.”

“Faith!” Wesley said disapprovingly.

“Pfft!” Faith used her friend’s standard phrase. “Wes, you’re such a prude sometimes; you know that?”

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss our friend’s sex lives, that’s all.” Wesley said, a little pompously.

Faith laughed. “You’re so British.”

Wesley ignored her. “I thought I’d go and visit some of LA’s book and magic shops – they may have information about Styjasimok. We shouldn’t waste the opportunity to do some research while we are here.”

“Okay – you win. We can hit the research trail this morning, but this afternoon we are going to have some fun, indulge in some valuable R&R time like the green demon said.”

“We had fun last night.”

“Angel and C had fun last night. We watched some dull foreign movie and you taught me how to play chess.” Faith considered her watcher carefully, chewing on the ends of her hair. “I know – Ten Pin Bowling and Laser Quest!”

Wesley shook his head and gave in. “Remind me why I decided to become a watcher again?”

***

Cordelia lay on her side with her head propped up in her hand, watching Angel as he lay on his front beside her, still asleep. She reached out and traced the tattoo on his shoulder with the pads of her fingers.

Angel woke to the sensation of warm curious fingers trailing over his skin. He opened his eyes and smiled up at the naked beauty next to him. “Hey!”

“Hey!” Cordelia said, shyly returning his smile. She looked down at the bedcovers, then cleared her throat. “Was it okay?”

“Hmm?”

“Last night, I mean? You did all the work and I just … Well, I didn’t really do anything for you.”

Angel rolled towards her and nuzzled her middle, his tongue tracing circles around her bellybutton as his hand stroked over the curve of her bottom. Cordelia felt moisture begin to gather between her thighs as his touch provoked memories of the previous night’s exertions.

Angel grinned at her body’s response and looked up at her. “That was probably a good thing. A hundred years of almost complete celibacy means my self-control is shot to pieces. If you’d touched me, then I probably would have lost it.” He settled his cool body over her warm one and gazed down into her hazel eyes. “It was perfect.” he told her sincerely.

“You promise?”

“I promise.” Angel replied and lowered his head, opening her lips with his tongue to explore the hot cavern of her mouth. The kiss was slow and full of shared love as their tongues parried with each other.

“I want to learn how to please you.” Cordelia said earnestly, when Angel eventually released her.

Angel kissed her forehead. “Another time. I have a better idea right now.” He rolled away from her and got out of the bed. “Come on.”

Cordelia let Angel lead her by the hand into the bathroom, where he knelt on the floor to fill the circular bath with hot water. The prospect of a long hot soak certainly appealed, her body ached after the previous evening’s activities, revealing muscles in places she never knew they existed.

Angel uncapped a bottle of bubble bath and poured it under the running water, watching the foam build up and taking an unneeded breath as the heady scent filled his nostrils. His groin had stirred immediately at Cordelia’s request to learn how to please him, but he was acutely aware that her body was still relatively untried, and he had only been half joking about his lack of self-control. Angel didn’t want to risk hurting Cordy by losing it and taking her before she was fully ready to accept his body into hers.

The vampire looked up at the nude goddess standing next to him and got to his feet to draw her into his arms. He rested his fingertips on the curve of her bottom and dropped a kiss on the end of her nose, before playfully moving his hands lower to squeeze the twin globes of her ass in his palms. Cordelia let out a shrill squeak and slapped him lightly on the buttocks in retaliation. “Hey! Watch it, Mr Grabby Hands.”

Angel laughed and reached over to shut off the flow of water into the bath. He took Cordelia’s hand to help her into the tub, then stepped in behind her. They relaxed back into the hot water together, with the soft skin of her back against his broad muscular chest and his hands resting on the curve of her belly.

They lay in silence for a while as Angel tried to come up with a subtle way to broach a difficult subject with her. It was something that had troubled him as he watched Cordelia sleep peacefully in his arms last night. He’d lain awake so many nights and watched Buffy sleep in the same way.

In the end, it was Cordelia who gave him his opening when she suddenly sighed. “What’s the matter?”

Cordelia nestled lower in his arms, resting her head against his chest. “I know you said I shouldn’t worry about it, but I still feel guilty.”

“About what?”

“Buffy. She must have yearned for a way round your curse for so long, and now that it’s occurred it’s too late for the two of you. She’ll have to see us together knowing it could have been her. If that was me, then I think it’d slowly kill me.”

Angel gathered her closer. “I’ve been thinking about that.”

Cordelia twisted in his arms to look up at him. “You have?”

Angel nodded. “Yeah. Even though it’s through you that I’ve finally found a way to really live my life, Buffy was the one who made me feel alive again after so long. I love you, Cordy, but Buffy …”

“Will always be your first love.” Cordelia finished for him.

“Yes, and for that reason I don’t want to hurt her more than I have to. That’s why I have to leave Sunnydale – Buffy needs to move on with her life and I think that would be a whole lot easier for her with me gone.” Angel nuzzled his face into the curve of Cordelia’s neck. “So how do you feel about moving to LA, after graduation and when all this apocalypse stuff is over?”

Cordelia sat up and turned around to face him, kneeling between his muscular thighs and resting her hands against his chest. “You want me to go with you?”

“Well duh!” Angel rolled his eyes at her in a perfect imitation of her own patented expression.

“Dumbass!” Cordelia stuck her tongue out at the vampire, then leaned in to kiss and hug him.

With the prospect of college gone since her estrangement from her parents, Cordelia had deliberately avoided thinking about her future after graduation. Life beyond the closeted world of High-School had frightened her when she’d thought about having to face it alone. A warm feeling of contentment was spreading through her with the realisation that Angel wanted to be with her on that journey into the unknown. Moving to LA sounded kind of cool actually; she released her boyfriend and sat back. “I can be an actress.”

“What?”

“LA is *so* the place to be if you want to get into showbiz.”

“What about college?”

Cordelia looked down at her hands. “I can’t afford that anymore.”

“I could …”

“No Angel.” Cordelia quickly interrupted, shaking her head. “All my life, I’ve pretty much had everything handed to me on a silver platter. I don’t want you to support me; I need to pay my own way. It’s important to me.”

“All right.” Angel agreed. “But the offer is always there.”

Cordelia smiled at him in gratitude. “Thank you.”

Cordelia lifted her bottom off her heels, leant forward and touched her lips to Angel’s neck, overwhelmed by a sudden desire to taste his skin. He tasted salty and of something that was uniquely male, uniquely Angel. She quivered as his cool fingers traced a path down the length of her spine before the flat of his hands swept over the curve of her butt and down the backs of her thighs.

Cordelia lifted her mouth from his neck and moved to press her lips to his in a soft kiss. Her insides clenched as she saw the look of dark desire that shone in Angel’s deep brown eyes as he observed her actions.

“Don’t” Angel applied pressure to the backs of her thighs preventing her from sitting back down on her heels again. His hands moved to span her small waist and he watched as the bubbles, under the influence of gravity, slipped sensually downwards over her lush and voluptuous body.

Tingles of excitement were racing through Cordelia’s veins as his hot gaze travelled over her, but she couldn’t resist quipping. “You are such a perv.”

“You’ve only just worked that one out?” Angel said, with an answering smirk. The vampire leant back, and casually placed his arms along the edge of the bath. “Does that mean you don’t want me to touch you?” His eyes twinkled at her wickedly and his voice was dangerously seductive.

Cordelia felt a rush of wetness between her thighs at his teasing, but played along. “Nope.” She shook her head. “Why would I want some old guy perving over me, when there are so many hot young studs out there who’d probably do it so much better?”

Ouch! “Is that right?” Angel drawled, then leant forward to blow a stream of cool air over her right breast. Her rosy nipple puckered instantly, hardening to a tight point. Angel raised an eyebrow at her body’s obvious reaction to his nearness.

“I’m just cold!” Cordelia protested, then began to giggle.

Angel fisted his fingers in her hair and pulled her mouth down to his, kissing her soundly. “You are such a minx.”

Cordelia ran her warm hand down his face, her laughter fading as desire took over. “Touch me, Angel.” she breathed, her voice low and sensual.

Angel’s lower body responded instantly to her tone. He sat up and ran his hands slowly up her back, cupping her shoulders in his large hands. Angel then bent his dark head to trail sipping kisses along the tops of her breasts, tasting her sweet skin with his cool tongue. Cordelia tipped her head back arching her body into his touch. She cried out in passion when his mouth moved lower to suckle on her breasts and ran her fingers through his hair holding him to her to prolong the contact.

Angel was delighted at her responsiveness. Knowing the bright and passionate woman she was, he shouldn’t have been surprised, but he was nonetheless. With Darla it had all been about the sex; with Buffy all about the deep abiding love he felt for her. With Cordelia, the raw sensuality was there, mixed in with the love. It was the perfect combination – he had found his ideal mate. A rare feeling swept through him at this realisation. He recognised it from his night with Buffy – perfect happiness. Oh God!

Cordelia felt Angel suddenly tense against her breast. “Angel?”

The vampire stayed where he was, waiting for the feeling to pass. It did without incident and he lifted his head to smile at the worried teenager in his arms. “I guess I really do have a permanent soul.”

“What? You mean, that you ..” Cordelia stammered.

“Experienced a moment of absolute bliss, yeah.”

Cordelia’s insides liquefied at his confirmation. ” I want you in me now.” she demanded, reaching down into the water to take him in her hand.

“Fuck!” Angel jumped at the contact and pulled her hand away, before he embarrassed himself. “Cordy ..”

“I’m ready Angel.”

Angel slipped a hand between her thighs and ran his fingers along her sex. His fingertips came away slick with her arousal – she was telling the truth. He put his fingers into his mouth, unable to resist tasting her essence.

“Angel.” Cordy moaned at his action, and shifted to sit back in the water opening her legs so he could enter her.

“Oh Jesus Christ!” Angel swallowed the urge to just plunge repeatedly into the warm and willing woman who was offering herself to him so trustingly. He shook his head at her. “I want you on top.”

“I don’t ..”

Angel took hold of her hands. “It’s okay – I’ll show you what to do. Straddle my hips.” He caught Cordelia around the waist with one arm, as she did as he asked, then took his hard length in his hand and guided himself to her opening. He allowed his penis to slip an inch or so inside of her body.

“Whenever you are ready.” Angel fought the desperate urge to yank her down and bury himself to the hilt. Cordelia braced her hands on his shoulders, then lowered herself down over him with a soft moan.

She slowly began to ride him, Angel gently guiding her movements with his hands on the tops of her thighs. Cordelia closed her eyes and focused on the exquisite sensations of his hard sex moving deep inside her molten core. “It feels so good.” she cried out unable to stop herself, her pace quickening as her arousal intensified.

Angel buried his face in her neck and suckled on her pulse-point feeling the blood rushing through her veins under his lips. Cordelia’s movements became frantic on top of him as she struggled to find her release. She dug her fingernails into his shoulders and wailed in frustration. “Please!”

Angel reached down and stroked her clit with this thumb, pushing her over the edge into sweet ecstasy. “Oh God Angel!” Cordelia moaned as her vaginal muscles began to clench rhythmically around his throbbing sex as wave upon wave of bliss crashed over her.

“Fuck Cor, yes!” Angel shouted out as his orgasm was triggered by the sensation of hers. He clutched Cordelia against him, grunting as he pumped her atop of his body, releasing his cool seed inside her tight pulsating warmth.

“I love you, Cordy” he whispered into her hair as she collapsed against him and they sank back into the cooling water, still joined but completely sated.

***

Angel sat in the back of the Plymouth cradling his sleeping girlfriend in his arms. He pressed a kiss on the top of her head, absorbing the sweet smell from her hair.

“You wore her out, huh?” Faith asked from the front seat, where she was driving.

“Faith!” Wesley admonished sharply.

Faith rolled her eyes and Angel grinned. “Guess so.”

Another hour passed in silent companionship before Angel was rudely jolted from his contemplation of Cordelia’s beautiful face when the car screeched to an abrupt halt. Cordelia came awake instantly and the two of them sat up to see what had happened.

“What’s the matter?”

“Oh my God!”

The car had come to a stop on the top of a hill. In the valley below, parts of Sunnydale were burning.


Part 15

“Buffy!”

The doors crashed open, straining on their hinges as Angel and Faith burst into the School Library with Wesley and Cordelia close on their heels. The place was in chaos; tables and chairs were overturned and books were scattered everywhere.

“Angel!” Buffy rushed across the room and flung herself into the vampire’s arms. The blond slayer was bleeding from a cut on her cheek and her face and clothes were dirty and smudged.

Angel held his ex-girlfriend to him briefly, then stepped back, taking hold of her shoulders and bending down to look into her dazed blue eyes. “What happened?”

Buffy shook her head in confusion. “I don’t know. Some kind of earthquake I think. Giles is hurt.” She gestured to where her watcher lay unconscious on the floor.

Angel and Wesley moved quickly to kneel down besides the stricken man.

“He’s still breathing.” Wesley said, as he waved his hand over the watcher’s mouth checking for air.

Angel reached down and placed his fingers to Giles’s neck. “His heart sounds okay. I’d say he’s just concussed; something must have hit him.” The dark-haired vampire indicated the livid purple bruise beginning to develop on Giles’s forehead.

“It wasn’t an earthquake.” Willow was pale and shaking. “It was something stirring deep within the ground, something evil. I felt it in here.” The young witch touched her fingertips to her chest and shuddered.

Angel and Wesley exchanged a concerned look. “This has to be something to do with Styjasimok.”

Wesley nodded in agreement. “That would be my conclusion, yes. I’ve brought some books with me from LA that might help shed some light on things.” He looked around the devastated library. “We need to set up base somewhere else.”

“My house.” Buffy decided quickly, then her blue eyes widened. “Oh my God! Mom!”

“She’s all right.” Angel reassured her, squeezing her shoulder lightly. “We went by there first. The earthquake appears to have been centred around the high school. It must have burst a gas main because a lot of the surrounding buildings are on fire.”

“The epicentre must have been directly over the Hellmouth.” Wesley concluded, his brow furrowed in thought as he tried to make some sense of the situation.

“LA – your soul, I almost forgot.” Buffy span round to face Angel, clutching the sleeves of his leather jacket in her fists. “Willow told me about the new curse – did it work?”

Angel looked down into the petite slayer’s eager face. Damn Willow! He really did not want to get into this right now, but he supposed he had no option. “Yes.” he replied simply.

Buffy reached up and wound her arms tightly around his neck, burying her face against his throat. “Oh Angel.” she whispered, her warm breath bathing his skin.

Angel returned her hug for a short moment, before gently removing her arms from around his neck and pushing her away. “Buffy, I …” He began to explain, but broke off as his superhuman senses picked up on the sound of impending danger.

The vampire cast his eyes about the room trying to locate the source of the ominous creaking noise. A bookcase, on the second tier of the stacks, was swaying dangerously and about to topple. Cordelia stood completely unawares in its shadow.

Angel barrelled into the cheerleader, knocking her out of harm’s way mere seconds before the structure smashed to the ground with a deafening crash. A rain of books cascaded down on them and a stray volume caught Cordelia in the corner of one eye, causing her to cry out in pain. Angel pulled his girlfriend against him and wrapped his arms tightly around her, in order to shield her from the rest of the falling books. The two of them lay still for a moment until Angel caught the unmistakable scent of Cordelia’s blood.

“Oh god – are you okay?” He lifted his head and ran the fingers of one hand through Cordelia’s hair, pulling it away from her face and viewing her injury with concern. “Baby, you’re bleeding.”

Cordelia gingerly touched her fingers to the cut near her eye. “I’m all right – just a little scratch.” She smiled at him reassuringly from where she was still cradled in his arms.

Angel instinctively cupped her face in his palms and kissed her, relieved that she seemed to be relatively unhurt. Cordelia stiffened and pushed against his chest with her hands, forcing Angel to release her. He gazed questioningly down into her shocked eyes, completely oblivious to everyone else in the room. “What’s the matter?”

Cordelia just looked back at him in horror and it finally dawned. Oh Shit!

Angel slowly sat up, helping Cordelia to a seated position as he did so. He turned to look guiltily at Buffy; the blond slayer stood open-mouthed in shock.

“You and Cordelia?” Buffy couldn’t quite believe what she was seeing.

Angel just nodded in confirmation, not knowing what to say.

Buffy’s cold furious gaze turned on Cordelia immediately. “You slept with my boyfriend? You little slut.” Her voice was low and laced with venom.

“Buffy.” Angel jumped to his feet and placed himself between the two girls before things could get out of hand. He reached out and caught hold of the slayer’s forearm arm, holding her back.

“How could you? We finally get to be together and you … with *her*” Tears coursed down Buffy’s cheeks and her voice rose in pitch.

“Buffy. Listen to me.” Angel tightened his grip on her arm, trying to get through to her.

“Don’t you touch me!” Buffy screamed hysterically and slapped him hard across the face with her free hand, drawing blood with her nails. “How could you, Angel?” she sobbed again, then turned and fled from the Library.

“Buffy.” Angel called after her. “You can’t go out there without backup … Fuck!” The vampire swore and followed his ex-girlfriend out through the still swinging doors, leaving a stunned silence in his wake.

“You seduced deadboy?” Xander stared at Cordelia in disbelief. “He’s hardly my favourite person, but he and Buff … How low can you get?”

“I love him.” Cordelia raised her gaze to look directly at her ex-boyfriend, defending her actions. “And he loves me.” she added.

Xander laughed sarcastically. “He slept with you because you opened your legs for him. He’s got a permanent soul now – you don’t honestly think he’s going to stay with you, do you? Why would anyone choose you over Buffy?”

Cordelia’s eyes filled with tears as Xander’s words cut right to the heart of her deepest fear. Angel had chased after Buffy without a second glance in her direction. Cordelia wanted to trust him, but her heart was pounding in dread; maybe he had just wanted her for sex after all. Maybe, like with Xander, she’d always play second best to the slayer.

“Xander, just shut up okay?” Faith glared at the teenage boy. “I know you’d never be able to keep it in your pants where B’s concerned, but that doesn’t mean Angel’s the same. He loved B sure, but he’s totally into C now.”

“Yeah in more ways than one.” Xander snorted with derision.

“Xander.” Willow stepped in front of him and cut him off before he had chance to utter another word and make the situation worse. “Buffy and Angel can sort out their own problems. Right now, we need to concentrate on what’s going on here.”

Giles moaned and began to stir then, diverting Xander and Willow’s attention away from the escalating tension in the room. They rushed across the Library to help him to his feet.

“He loves you.” Cordelia turned her tear-filled gaze towards Wesley, who was regarding her with blue eyes full of sympathy. “He still cares deeply for Buffy and doesn’t want to hurt her any more than he has to, but it’s you he loves.”

Cordelia nodded, wiping away her tears. “I hope so.” she whispered.

“Well, I know so.” Faith said and hugged her friend round the waist with one arm. “Angel just needs to properly clear the air with B, that’s all. You have nothing to worry about C.”

***

“Buffy.” Angel finally caught up with the fleeing slayer, just as she left the school grounds. The shrill sound of sirens could be heard in the distance and the air was full of smoke from the burning buildings.

“Why Angel?” Buffy sobbed, as he grabbed her by the arm and swung her round to face him. “Why? We could have finally been together, like we always dreamed. Why did you have to go and ruin it?”

Angel wanted to shake her in frustration; hadn’t she listened to anything he’d said to her seven weeks ago? “Nothing has changed Buffy. A permanent soul does not suddenly make everything right between us.”

“And Queen C spreading her legs for you at the first available opportunity couldn’t possibly have anything to do with that, I suppose.” Buffy shot back bitterly, wrenching her arm from his grasp and swiping angrily at the tears streaking down her face.

“Cordy is not the issue.” Angel clenched his fists by his sides and struggled to stay calm.

“Like hell she isn’t!” Buffy spat out. “She’s wanted you from the first time she laid eyes on you. She told me so herself! Can’t you see how she’s totally manipulated you into this?”

“Cordy has not manipulated me into anything.” Angel snapped, his patience reaching breaking point. “This is my choice. I sorry you had to find out like that, but I will not apologise for loving her. We haven’t done anything wrong.”

“You’re supposed to love *me.*” Buffy screamed at him. She shook her head in disbelief. “She doesn’t love you; she can’t. Cordelia Chase doesn’t know what real love is.”

“Buffy, you don’t even know Cordy. You have never bothered to find out about the real person behind the Queen C persona. That’s beside the point anyway. Even if Cordy didn’t exist, there would be no going back for us. We didn’t break up because we couldn’t make love. We broke up because you couldn’t accept me for who and what I am. You know that.”

Buffy dropped her shoulders in defeat and covered her face with her hands as Angel’s words finally broke through her hysteria and struck home. “It’s not fair; we never had a chance.”

As he observed her heartbreak, Angel’s heart went out to the girl who used to mean so much to him. He still cared about her and hated to see her hurting in this way. Angel reached out and cupped her tearstained face in his hands, forcing her to look up at him. “Buffy, what we had was special and I will *never* forget it, but it was first love, not forever love.”

Buffy began to weep. “What if you’re wrong?”

Angel leant down and kissed her gently on the forehead. “I’m not. Look Buffy, you are growing into an incredible young woman and someday you’ll find someone who is right for you, but that someone isn’t me, it never was. It’s time for us both to move on.”

Buffy looked back at him with despair apparent in her blue eyes. “How is it so easy for you to do that?”

“It isn’t.” Angel said quietly, regarding at her sadly. “Our break-up was a long time in coming. I saw it as inevitable months ago. I didn’t want to face it back then, but I guess I did begin to come to terms with the possibility of a life without you. That means it wasn’t such a bolt out of the blue for me when we split. I suppose that’s why it has been easier for me to accept things and move on with my life. You need to do that too, Buffy.”

“I don’t think I can – it hurts so damn much. How am I supposed to not want you when you are around all the time?”

“I won’t be here much longer.” Angel said gently, releasing her and stepping back. “If we make it through this apocalypse, then we’re leaving Sunnydale and moving to LA.”

Buffy immediately picked up on his unwitting use of the word ‘we’ rather than ‘I.’ Cordelia was going with him then. “You really do love her, don’t you?”

“Buffy …”

“I need to hear you say it Angel.”

“Yes, I love her. I don’t know why, but it just feels so right with her.” Angel shrugged. “I don’t really know how to describe it.”

“Is she your Elizabeth?” Buffy whispered brokenly, holding her breath and hoping against hope that he wouldn’t answer in the affirmative.

Angel smiled at her question. “Yeah, I guess she is.”

Buffy’s heart sank at the tender expression on Angel’s face and the love she could see shining in his deep brown eyes as he thought about Cordelia. Her tears overflowed again; she really had lost him.

***

The Library had been restored to some semblance of order when Angel returned half an hour later. Wesley, Giles, Willow and Xander were packing various books and parchments into a series of boxes, getting ready to decamp to Buffy’s house. Faith and Cordy were nowhere to be seen.

“They went to your place.” Wesley answered Angel’s unspoken question.

“Where’s Buffy?” Giles’s voice had a slight edge to it as he addressed the vampire.

“She went home.”

“Is she all right?”

Angel sighed, shaking his head. “Not really.”

“Your timing is really off – you know that?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Unless you hadn’t noticed we’ve got an apocalypse on the horizon, Buffy should be focusing on that. However, first you break her heart and now you sleep with one of her friends behind her back.”

Angel’s eyes narrowed angrily at that. “I haven’t done anything behind her back, Giles. I’m sure Buffy will cope with whatever is thrown at her anyway. She didn’t have much trouble sending me to hell last year, after all.”

Giles’s gaze turned cold and he rounded on the vampire. “It almost killed her and completely broke her spirit.”

Angel sighed guiltily and ran his fingers through his hair. “I know, I know; I’m sorry. This isn’t easy for me either; I never meant to hurt her. So the timing sucks, but Buffy is strong, she’ll deal.”

“You could’ve tried to keep it in your pants for a bit longer, at least shown some measure of self-restraint.” Giles wasn’t ready to let it go.

“This is hardly fair.” Wesley interrupted. “It’s not like Angel cheated on Buffy. His relationship with Cordelia is non of your business.”

“I’m just saying that Buffy needs to be concentrating on her slaying right now and all this upset with Angel isn’t helping matters.”

“If Buffy is off her game, then Faith can do what must be done.” Wesley told his fellow watcher, confident in his slayer’s abilities.

Giles let out a short laugh. “Faith! I hardly think ..”

“What?” Wesley’s voice turned hard. “The fate of the world does not purely rest on Buffy, Giles. She’s not the only slayer around, not anymore. Angel’s not entirely helpless either for that matter.”

Giles, sufficiently rebuked, relented. “Arguing isn’t getting us anywhere. Let’s just finish getting this stuff packed; the sooner we find out what is going on the better.”

“You lied to me Angel.” Willow accused the vampire as the two watchers went through into the office to sort through the research material located there.

“No, I didn’t, Willow. I just didn’t tell you everything.” Angel looked at her apologetically. “I was so afraid you wouldn’t do the spell if you knew I wasn’t planning on getting back with Buffy. I should have given you more credit – I’m sorry.”

Willow felt a stab of guilt at that. Would she have denied Angel a permanent soul if she’d known? She was afraid that she would have done and, deep inside, the young witch knew that wasn’t right. Angel had treated Buffy with nothing but respect. The vampire hadn’t lied to or cheated on her friend; he’d just broken up with her. Willow knew she would have had no right to refuse to re-curse him on those grounds. She looked down at the table and remained silent.

“I don’t get you, deadboy” Xander said. “Why Cordelia? Is your brain going soft or what?”

Angel glared at the boy. “Maybe if you’d stop putting Buffy on such a pedestal, or had actually made an effort to get to know the real Cordy when you were dating her, then you’d realise it’s not such an open and shut case. I suppose you were too busy trying to get in Cordy’s knickers to bother with that though.”

Xander didn’t know how to respond to that, considering the latter part wasn’t that far from the truth. “Buffy is the slayer though; she’s something special.” he said, making a second attempt to get his point across.

“Cordy and Buffy are each special in their own right, being a slayer doesn’t automatically make Buffy superior.” Angel grabbed a handful of books and dumped them in one of the boxes with a loud clatter. “I don’t have to justify my choices to you; my love life is non of your business. Cordy is my best friend. I love her; that’s all there is to it.”

Willow and Xander looked at each other in amazement. Queen C and Angel – best friends *and* lovers? Weird.

I don’t get it, they both thought simultaneously as they returned to the task at hand.

***

Faith taped the last box shut, then straightened, putting her hands to the small of her back. “That’s all of it. I suppose we should get this lot over to B’s.”

Cordelia hesitated, and looked down at her hands inspecting her fingernails. “I might just stay here.”

“C.” Faith drew her name out into one long syllable. “I thought we talked about this; Angel loves you.”

“I know; don’t worry. I’m over my little insecurity attack. It’s going to be really awkward with Buffy that’s all, so I think it’s better that I stay away for a while.”

“I can’t leave you here alone. Angel would freak.”

“I’ll be fine. I’m just going to take a shower and go to bed.” Cordelia turned her face away from her friend, her cheeks tinged with pink. “I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

Faith laughed. “At least one of us is getting lucky.” The brunette slayer sat down on the arm of a chair, resting her elbows on her knees, and her chin in her hands. “So how was it?”

“Faith!”

“Come on C; I want details. With a body like that and two hundred years of experience, Angel’s gotta be pretty hot in the sack.”

“I don’t have anything to compare it to, but …” Cordelia blushed a deeper shade of pink.

“That good huh?” Faith said knowingly. “Man, I’m jealous!”

“Well hands off, he’s mine.” Cordelia grinned teasingly at Faith and giggled. “I can’t believe I’m even discussing this with you.”

“It’s just girl talk. I lost my virginity in the back of a car and it was over in like ten minutes. I’m willing to bet Angel has significantly more stamina than the average teenage boy, and is probably better equipped to please a woman too, huh?” Faith winked at Cordelia with a wicked gleam in her eye.

Cordelia’s face was now beetroot-coloured and she refused to meet Faith’s gaze. “We are not having this conversation, Faith. I’m going to take a shower.” She spun on her heel and headed quickly for the staircase.

“Come on C; don’t be a spoil sport. I wanna know about Angel’s equipment.” Faith called after her, then dissolved into laughter as her friend flipped her the finger before escaping up the stairs.

***

Buffy looked up at the sound of a quiet, timid knock on her bedroom door.

“Hey!” Willow said, regarding her friend anxiously. “You’re not mad at me, are you?”

The slayer shook her head. “No, you didn’t know what Angel was going to do.” Buffy’s eyes were swollen and red-rimmed from crying. “You didn’t did you?”

Willow crossed the room towards her friend. “No of course not.” The young witch sat on the bed and reached out to squeeze Buffy’s hands sympathetically. “I’m so sorry.”

“He loves her Will.” Buffy said, looking down at their joined hands. “I could see it in his eyes. They’re even moving to LA together after graduation. I don’t understand – what’s so special about Cordelia?”

“I don’t know, Buffy, but we really don’t know her all that well.”

“Angel said something along the same lines, but what’s there to know? Popular girls like Cordelia – they’re just interested in clothes, shoes and getting noticed.”

Willow shook her head in disagreement. “Cordelia doesn’t hang out with Harmony and co. anymore – she, Angel, Faith and Wesley have been spending a lot of time with each other over the last few weeks. I think they’ve all become pretty close friends. Angel said earlier that the real Cordelia is pretty different from the Queen C image she portrays at school.”

“And of course, he knows every inch of her.” Buffy shot back bitterly. “Funny how she gave it up for my boyfriend, but kept Xander dangling on a string all the time, isn’t it?”

“You and Angel had broken up, Buffy, and Xander didn’t treat Cordelia particularly well.”

“You sound like you’re on her side.”

“No – I’m just saying that, technically, Cordelia didn’t do anything wrong and it’s not like Angel cheated on you.”

“I don’t want to hear the voice of reason right now, Willow. I’ve just lost the love of my life; all I want to do is curl up and die.” Buffy lay her head on her friend’s lap and began to cry again.

Willow sighed and stroked Buffy’s blond hair soothingly as she wept, her body shaking with anguished sobs.

***

Angel entered the darkened room on silent feet and stood for a moment, contemplating the still figure on the bed. He bent down and pulled the bedclothes off the sleeping girl, then slipped his strong arms under her shoulders and knees, gathering her into his embrace. Cordelia made a soft mewling sound, protesting at being disturbed, before nestling her head into the crook of his neck with a contented sigh.

The vampire carried his girlfriend down the corridor to his bedroom and placed her in his bed, drawing the covers over her sleeping form. He quickly shed his clothes and crawled into the bed behind her. Angel pressed a light kiss to Cordelia’s temple, then spooned his body around hers, with a hand on her stomach and one arm straight out along the pillow. He buried his face into her sweet-smelling hair, closed his eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep.

Part 16

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