Silence reigned in Kenny’s throne room as his newly cleaved body lay in front of his wife. Cynthia stared at her former husband for a moment, then smiled ruthlessly, wiping her bloody blade on his shirt. She gave her sword to one of her guards, and turned to face Angel Investigations, et. al.
“My mission to the powers is nearly complete,” she said, very gracefully for someone who had just beheaded her husband.
Angel’s lips brushed Cordelia’s ear as he whispered, “Do you know about this?”
Cordelia shivered at the light touch and whispered back, “The Powers asked for her help. They want her to bind your soul.”
His face a mixture of shock and awe, Angel stared at the female demon. He said nothing as she walked regally towards him and placed her hands on his chest. She closed her eyes and began to speak.
“May the soul of the Warrior Vampire, the Champion of the Powers that Be, the protector of the helpless and hopeless, be forever thus. May his cause be strengthened by the power found in happiness and love. May he never forget his past, never worry for his future, never waste his present. May he fulfill his destiny and serve the Powers faithfully.”
As she spoke, her hands became hot, scorching Angel’s chest and burning straight through to his soul. He cried out, his eyes glowing briefly. Then the sensation was gone and Angel’s eyes slid shut.
Angel felt a warmth throughout his body that he’d never experienced before in his life as a vampire. It was fading quickly, but it was as if every dead cell in his body had been given a glimmer of life, warming him to the very fiber of his being. He opened his eyes, locking them on Cordelia’s.
Cynthia smiled at the couple, so obviously in love. They had so much in their future; they had no idea what was in store for them.
“The Powers are pleased with their Warrior and his soul mate,” Cynthia said, smiling warmly at Angel and Cordelia.
Buffy had watched the entire exchange with growing anger. She was skeptical that anything was legitimate to bind Angel’s soul—after all, Giles hadn’t found anything—but the spectacle had looked real. If she knew Angel, though, (and she was sure she did), he wouldn’t risk Angelus to test it out. Her eyes narrowed at Cynthia’s “soul mate” comment, upset that the demon’s gaze encompassed Cordelia and Angel, not Angel and herself. She desperately wanted to change the subject and break up the charged air flowing between Angel and Cordy.
“Weren’t we supposed to save some other people here?” Buffy asked, irritation obvious in her voice.
Cynthia’s eyes narrowed at the harsh tone of the little Slayer. “I will free them, Ms. Summers. Angel Investigations has satisfied its end of the deal and your services are no longer needed.”
With that, Cynthia glided toward the door and exited, her guards following closely.
Cordelia’s Apartment – 4.27 a.m.
Angel had never before known this level of contentment. He sat sprawled on Cordelia’s sofa, its owner draped over him like a blanket, her head resting on his chest. His arm wrapped around her back and his hand curled comfortably just centimeters below her breast, warmed by her skin beneath the cotton of her shirt. He brought his other hand up and smoothed her long hair away from her sleeping face, admiring the smooth profile.
He was so blessed to have her. And for a Damned being, that was saying something.
She was still an enigma to him. She lit his body on fire with her kisses, but it was her soul that had truly enflamed him. Cordelia, in all her tactlessness and bluster, matched his soul in a way that no one else ever had. She took him at face value, looking at the dichotomy of vampire and man as an asset, not a detriment.
For that, he’d given her his loyalty and his heart.
The Sunnydale gang had left just 30 minutes earlier. Riley, upset over Buffy’s wishy-washy attitude toward him, had left immediately after the mission was completed. Giles had thought it best for the rest of them to leave as well; Anya was completely overwrought, Willow was drained, and Xander’s neck needed stitches. Buffy was the only one who seemed okay, but Angel knew better. His parting conversation with her confirmed it.
He and Cordelia had walked the group to the door, Cordelia giving hugs goodbye. She had even started to hug Buffy, but one glance at the icicles shooting from the Slayer’s eyes was enough to make her reconsider. She had been shaken by the hatred she saw there, but Cordelia knew this had to be resolved if she and Angel were to have a chance at happiness. She gave silent visual approval to Angel, then excused herself to the bedroom.
Angel was grateful that Cordelia saw the need for this conversation between himself and his ex. Buffy needed to hear, once and for all, that Cordelia wasn’t the rebound skank: she was his soul mate and she wasn’t going anywhere.
On the way back from Kenny’s mansion, Buffy had reconsidered her opinion on the risk of releasing Angelus. If this soul binding was legitimate, it was worth the small risk. She could have Willow standing by with the curse, just in case. Any chance that she and Angel could be reunited was worth any risk.
As soon as the door shut behind her friends and Cordelia disappeared into the bedroom, Buffy’s features softened and she lunged at Angel. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she hugged him tightly, ignoring the fact that his arms remained at his sides. Pulling back, she looked up at him coquettishly through her long eyelashes.
“I’m so glad they’re gone,” she said, smiling tentatively. “I’ve been waiting to be alone with you since we got here.”
When he didn’t say anything, she continued. “Isn’t there someplace else we can go. . .to be alone together?” She emphasized “alone,” and Angel knew he couldn’t hold out any longer.
He knew instinctively that this was going to be worse than the break-up talk.
“Buffy,” he began, gripping her shoulders and gently pushing her away. “I can’t do this.”
Buffy feigned ignorance. “Oh, I know! In Cordelia’s apartment, that would just be wrong. On so many levels. So lets go someplace else!” she grabbed his hand, trying to pull him toward the door.
“No, Buffy.” Angel held his ground. “That’s not what I meant and you know it.” He ran a hand through his hair in frustration.
He tried again. “I meant what I said last night, Buffy. I’m in love with Cordelia.”
“No, you’re not.” Buffy said confidently, a stubborn set to her jaw.
Angel was shocked. She dared to question him on this? She of all people knew that he didn’t throw the word “love” around lightly.
“I am, Buffy. You have to accept that,” he said harshly.
“You are not in love with Cordelia Chase,” Buffy argued adamantly. “She’s a conniving, manipulative little bitch who whines if she doesn’t get the best of everything. She’s manipulated you into thinking she’s something she’s not. She knows you’re the best and she wants you, even though she knows you’re mine.”
Angel’s eyes had narrowed at Buffy’s careless words, the irises darkening until they were as black as his pupils. His jaw clenched painfully.
Buffy missed the warning, too caught up in her own pain and denial to notice. “You can’t love Cordelia and she can’t love you. She doesn’t have a heart, just a country club membership and a Visa Gold Card.”
Angel moved so quickly that Buffy didn’t even see it until she felt the excruciating pain in her upper arms as he gripped them brutally. “Don’t you eversay anything like that about her again. You never took the time to look past her image and see the beautiful heart underneath.”
“I. love. Cordelia, Buffy. Deal with it,” he growled, shoving her from him and turning away in anger and disgust.
“Angel—” Buffy realized she’d gone too far, desperation having driven her to drastic measures. She reached a hand out to touch his shoulder, and he whipped around, snarling at her.
“Just go home, Buffy,” Angel said, weariness lacing his harsh tone.
“I just want—,” her voice broke. “I just want back what we had. I love you, Angel,” she whispered, tears pooling in her eyes.
Angel’s eyes melted a fraction, but the anger and mistrust were still present. “Buffy, what we had is over. You have something great waiting for you at home and you don’t recognize it. Riley isn’t my favorite person, but he is a good guy, Buffy. He doesn’t deserve this.”
Buffy choked back a sob; these words, more than any declarations of love for Cordelia, convinced her that she’d really and truly lost him. If he still loved her, he wouldn’t be championing Riley.
With one last, longing look at Angel, she nodded, then turned for the door. Silently, she opened it and exited, shutting it behind her.
Now, alone with Cordelia in her apartment, Angel was finally at peace. He knew his life was far from perfect, but the fact that happiness was within his grasp brightened the horizon in a way that had never been offered to him before. He gently caressed Cordelia’s sleeping face, then picked her up and carried her to the bedroom.
Angel laid her down on the bed and slipped in beside her, arranging their bodies into one lumpy shape in the darkness. Gripping her tightly, he whispered, “I love you, Cordelia Chase. Forever.” He reverently kissed her forehead, the drifted off to sleep in the security of her warmth.
Cordelia awoke with the feeling that she was forgetting something really important. She struggled to open her eyes and remember, but she was so comfortable that she almost couldn’t bring herself to. Something big was draped halfway across her body and her arm was asleep. She slid her heavy eyelids open and flinched, finding herself not more than two inches away from Angel’s face.
He was awake, staring at her, and Cordelia was so startled that she froze until he blinked and his serious expression shifted into something softer.
“Hi,” he said softly, smiling, the corners of his eyes crinkling up slightly as he reached out a hand and brushed unruly hair away from her cheek.
“Hi,” she said, smiling back sleepily, raising her own hand to stroke the side of his face.
They stared at one another for a moment, enjoying the touch, basking in the warmth of each other’s love, even undeclared.
Angel said it first. “I love you, Cordelia.”
Cordelia’s smile turned wobbly, but she didn’t cry. “Angel, I love you, too. I don’t know how it happened, but—,”
“Me, either,” he answered. “But I know it did.” His expression turned fierce and he grasped her around the waist, pulling her close. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you again, Cordelia. I promise.”
“Angel, don’t make promises you can’t keep,” Cordelia said, rushing to an explanation as he began to argue. “No, listen. We face danger practically every day, and there’s no way that you can keep me safe all the time. I realize that. But I know you’ll do everything you can to keep me from being hurt, and I’m thankful for that,” she explained, mollifying him.
“You know,” she said, a secret smile stealing across her face, “I would’ve been a lot safer if I knew how to fight,” she hinted.
“Fight?” Angel asked innocently, acting as if he had no idea what she was talking about. “I don’t know, Cordelia. You’re kind of, well, girly,” he insulted, trying to hold back the grin that was threatening to break free.
Her mouth dropped open in indignation. “Girly? And you’re such a manly man yourself, Mr. ‘I spend 30 minutes on my hair in the morning.’ You’re such a dweeb.” She socked his gut playfully.
“Dweeb?” His grin turned naughty as he said, “you are going to be punished for that, Cordelia.”
She recognized the look in his eyes and shrieked, laughing as she tried to pull away from him. He held fast, and she had no hope. “Oh, you’re asking for it,” he said, then attacked her, tickling her mercilessly.
Cordelia’s shrieking stopped abruptly as his touch turned lighter, making her gasp at the new sensation. She had arched her back in an attempt to get away from him, but now it was in an effort to get closer. His fingers stroked her sides lightly, from her hips to her underarms, all the way up to her fingertips, and her senses became so overloaded she felt tingles in the ends of her hair. He continued stroking, and she slowly sank back down into the mattress.
He stopped, and she opened her eyes and stared into his. “I want you so bad, Angel,” she said bluntly, a huskiness in her tone.
“And I want you,” he returned, sinking his body down onto hers, aligning them perfectly. Gently and reverently, he brought his head down to hers and kissed her.
One taste, and neither could get enough. Cordelia attacked Angel voraciously, not willing to wait for anything. Her tongue thrust into his mouth, seeking his and rubbing against it sensually. She pulled one leg out from underneath him, bending her knee and placing her foot on the mattress for leverage. She pushed, sliding herself higher up underneath him, and every nerve ending in both their bodies screamed at the friction. She repeated the action, rubbing her tongue and her body against his simultaneously until the heat it created became almost too much for both of them.
Angel took control of the situation, reaching his hands down and pulling off Cordelia’s shirt and bra in motions that were so swift she almost didn’t notice. She whimpered at the loss of his mouth on hers, but she was rewarded for her sacrifice as he bathed an aching nipple with his tongue. She buried her hands in his hair, then down his back and shoulders, tracing his shoulder blades through his shirt and setting his skin on fire. He sucked rhythmically at her breast, lightly grazing her with his teeth, and she arched her back off the bed, moaning.
Cordelia grasped both sides of his head, pulling him away from her breast and back to her mouth, her tongue seeking his once again. Frustrated, Cordelia yanked his shirt open, buttons flying, and shoved it down his arms. He threw it aside, then melded them together once again, skin against skin. She brought her legs around his hips, rubbing herself against him, and Angel growled against the heated contact.
Cordelia dragged her mouth away from his. “I can’t wait, Angel. I need you.”
Angel agreed completely. In mere seconds, the rest of their clothing was gone, and he stretched out on top of her, his cool length fusing to her heated one. One hand slid down to cup her backside, squeezing gently.
“I love you, Cordy,” he whispered, kissing her lightly and joining their bodies into one.
The feeling of Angel inside of her was so intense that Cordelia’s heart stopped for a moment, her jaw dropping. Her wide eyes stared into his as he held there, waiting, his control hanging by a fragile thread. She breathed again deeply, returning his declaration: “I love you, Angel.”
That was all he needed. He buried his head in her neck, moving slowly within her, then increasing the pace as she arched against him. He kissed her throat, her chin, and finally her mouth once again, their tongues sparring. His pace quickened, increasing along with the intensity of sensation and desire. Cordelia reached the peak first, scraping her nails down his back and wailing, every cell in her body shimmering with pleasure. She opened her eyes just in time to witness Angel’s moment of pure bliss, his body shuddering, then slowly sinking down to rest on hers.
Cordelia smiled in the half light and lovingly stroked his back as he collected himself. He raised himself up on his elbows just about the time that Cordelia was starting to feel all tingly from lack of circulation.
“Hi,” he said again, this time his voice laced with the pure contentment only sated lovers can manage.
“Hi, yourself,” she said, wiggling her eyebrows at him saucily and laughing. Her expression turned thoughtful. “Hmmm . . . what else can I say to insult you?”
“Huh?” Angel said, perfectly clueless.
“Shhhh!” Cordelia said, her finger to her lips. Her voice dropped to a stage whisper. “I’m trying to figure out how to get my boyfriend to ‘punish’ me again,” she said, then giggled, smiling widely.
“I think that could be arranged,” Angel said seriously. “Although I think the last punishment wasn’t severe enough,” he added, his lips curving into a wicked smile. He immediately dropped his lips to her collarbone and began kissing her, moving down between her breasts and to her belly, his destination clear.
“I think you might be right,” Cordelia said breathily, her eyes crossing as he reached his goal.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, Cordelia had coherent thoughts just waiting to be brought out. Those could wait for later, though. Right now, Angel was all that mattered.
He loved her, and she had given him perfect happiness.
Nothing could be more right than that.