“Did you find anything?”
“Gunn. I didn’t hear you come in. Where is Cordelia?”
“I left her at her place. She’s packing. I told her I’d go back for her with my truck.” He leaned over the desk. “Unless you have some good news.”
“I’m afraid not.” Wes pulled off his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. “I did find a few references to this type of marriage. It’s fascinating really. Normally a ritual that requires a bloodletting is considered to be dark magic but this particular ceremony is neither inherently good nor bad. It is used by both. The bloodletting does not necessarily require a life be taken.
It can even be self-inflicted. I have only found one reference to a marriage being annulled. Actually it was only attempted. The couple…chose to consummate their marriage during their third attempt at 40 nights.”
“So this is really goin’ to happen? We have to let the vamp share a bed with Cordy?”
“I may still find another way but in the meantime we’re running out of time.”
“Yeah. It don’t mean I have to like it. I was thinkin’ they should stay at her place. That way Dennis can keep an eye on him.”
Neither man noticed Angel approaching the office.
“Staying here makes more sense. Angel cannot travel freely during the day.”
“He can take the sewers like any other vamp.”
“True but it would make more sense to have them here. He’s not going to harm her, Gunn.”
“Unless he needs a book.”
“That’s unfair. You weren’t even there.”
“Yeah and I’m sure you popped your stitches because you weren’t worried at all.”
Angel closed his eyes in shame. “Don’t make me move you.”
“Gunn, please. Rehashing this doesn’t do anyone any good. We need to deal with the here and now. They need our support.”
“No. Cordy needs our support.”
“It isn’t Angel’s fault they got married.”
“I guess not.”
“If I thought for one moment he might harm her, I would personally chain him up each and every night that they are forced to share a bed. Might I remind you that he recently saved us from being impregnated by those Skilosh demons? We fought that cult together. He has asked for another chance. He seems to be trying and we aren’t in the business of giving up on people.”
“Fine. So the vamp isn’t going to hurt her, I’ll give you that but can he keep her safe?”
“What do you mean?”
“That vicious blond visited his room every night for a long ass time and he didn’t know it. She’s not dust as far as we know. What’s to stop the bitch from showing up and snacking on Cordy?”
“Hmm well she will be living… I know a spell that will do the trick. She’ll never think of his suite as home but I can perform a spell that would simulate it.”
“You mean no vamps can get in unless they’re invited?”
“What about Angel? What’s to stop him from inviting her in?”
*I wouldn’t do that*
“The room will be considered hers. He won’t be able to invite Darla in.”
“How was Cordelia?”
“She’s Cordy. She complained at first. Now she’s resigned to her fate. She was crackin’ jokes by the time I was leavin’.”
“You know me too well, English.” They shared a smile. “After she thought I was sleeping, I heard her crying. It was like that night all over again.”
“No. You know how she gets.”
“I do. You better go pick her up. I’ll continue researching. I’ll talk to her when you get back.”
Angel moved quickly. He was on the stairs when Gunn came out.
“I suggest you empty your closet now. She had already filled two suitcases before I left. You should probably empty your dresser too.”
“I’ll get right on that after I talk to Wesley.”
Angel had so many unanswered questions but he wasn’t prepared to ask them. He couldn’t blame them for worrying. He had threatened her but he would never hurt her. “You really hurt my feelings.” “Hey Wes”
“Angel. I’m sorry but I haven’t found anything helpful. Gunn just left to pick Cordelia up. I…. I’m sure this will be difficult for you but I’m rather concerned about Cordelia. She’s been through a lot. I would appreciate it if you could give her as much space as possible. Try not to push her. I know she will face this in true Cordy spirit but…”
“What are you asking from me?”
“I know you want her friendship back but first…you will have to earn her trust. Regardless of your reasoning, you walked away. She needs to know you’re not going anywhere.”
“You have your soul for good now. Why didn’t you tell us sooner?”
“I guess I still haven’t dealt with that yet. I’ve been trying to put my life back together.”
“I’m just wondering when you intend to return to Sunnydale.”
“What about Buffy?”
“She’s moved on.”
“And if she asks you to return?”
“Don’t be evasive, Angel. If you’re going to walk away again, tell us now. She cannot walk away from the visions. You can. She needs a champion that will not leave her. If you are hoping Buffy will choose to rekindle your romance then..”
“Then what? Cordy and I are married.”
“Don’t remind me. I’m simply asking you not to… Don’t… If your heart wishes to return to Buffy then do not pretend otherwise. Cordelia has had enough people abandon her. She doesn’t need to be hurt again. She needs some stability right now. If you aren’t prepared to be her champion, tell me and I will find someone who is.”
“The mission is mine. I will not be replaced. I don’t plan to walk away again. I gave up being human for the mission.”
“I am aware of that but your dedication didn’t stop you from… Please just think about what you really want.”
“I want my family back.”
Wesley smiled. “I’m sorry, Angel. I am just as protective of Cordelia as Gunn. I myself felt betrayed but it was nothing compared to her. Despite your past, she accepted you without reservation. She let you in and you hurt her terribly.”
“Don’t you think I know that!” He held up his hand to silence Wes. “I know I should have thought about that sooner but I wasn’t thinking straight back then. I am now. I want my family back and I intend to do whatever it takes to make that happen. I’m not going anywhere. This is where I want to be. OK?”
“OK. That’s what I needed to hear. I would like to see this family come together too.”
Angel relaxed a little. “Good.”
“I intend to perform a small spell on your room. It will mean that mystically speaking your suite belongs to Cordelia.”
“Darla is gone.”
“Angel, there is no way you can promise us she won’t return unless she is dust.”
“…She isn’t but I will stake her if she comes back.”
“I truly hope so but I..”
“It’s okay, Wes. Cordelia’s safety is too important to risk.”
“I’m glad we agree on that.”
“Do you think she’ll invite me in?”
Wesley cracked a smile. “As long as you don’t attempt to carry her over the threshold, I’m sure she will.”
“I better go upstairs. Gunn suggested I empty my closet and my dresser.”
“I imagine she’ll allow you to keep a drawer.”
“Good lord, Cordelia. How much clothing could you possibly need?”
“Hey! 40 nights is a long time to pack for. Now get to work. These bags aren’t going to carry themselves upstairs, boys.”
“Since you asked so nicely.” Wesley grabbed two suitcases. He hissed in pain and dropped them.
“I’m sorry, Wes. Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine in a moment. I underestimated your ability to fit solid lead into your bags.”
“They’re not that bad.”
“They really are, Barbie. I’ll take them up. It should only take three trips.”
“Don’t be so melodramatic.”
Angel came down the stairs. He tucked one of the smaller bags under his arm then grabbed the two suitcases Wesley dropped. He silently carried them up the stairs.
Gunn grabbed the rest of her things and followed him.
“I’m quite impressed, Cordelia.”
“You’ve been married less than 24 hours and you already have him well trained.”
“Well I am Cordelia Chase.”
“How could I forget?” He hooked a finger under her chin and forced her to look at him. “Are you alright?”
“We’re only sharing a bed, Wes. It’s not like I have to have sex with him. How bad could it be?”
“You told Angel last night you didn’t even want to share an office with him, let alone a bed.”
“Please don’t start with the guilt trip. I’m here and I’m dealing.”
“Yes but sniping at him isn’t going to help the situation.”
“He hurt me.”
“And he’s sorry. He didn’t create this situation. He’s not to blame for your marriage.”
“God Wes, I’m a married woman.” She barked a humorless laugh. “My mother would be so proud. She always said a girl was practically a spinster by her 21st birthday. Of course she’d be disappointed with my choice. He doesn’t exactly have money.”
“But he does have this lovely hotel. That must count for something.”
“Yes but no one rich or famous stays here.” She started up the stairs. “I will try to be pleasant. That’s the best I can do.”
“That’s more than fair.”
Cordelia spent the entire day unpacking, redecorating and rearranging her new room. She was surprised that Angel had given up his closet and most of his dresser. He’d taken the small closet in the outer room of his suite. She took a short break when Gunn and Wesley brought her some takeout. The three ate dinner together.
It was late by the time she was finally satisfied with her work. She jumped in the shower and got ready for bed. She was nervous. The last time she shared a bed with a man she woke up pregnant. She never thought she’d feel comforted that a man didn’t find her desirable but she did. Angel had never shown an interest in her sexually. It was comforting. Sort of. So there was no reason to feel nervous.
She came out of the bathroom just as there was a knock on the door. “Come in.”
“Well that was easier than I expected. Wes did explain the whole point behind the spell, didn’t he?”
“Yes. It’s in case your ex-ho pays another visit. I forgot for a second. It’s hard to think of this place as home.”
“Try to be more careful in the future.”
“Spare me your attempt at concern.” She grabbed her brush off the bed and slammed the bathroom door behind her.
“Good start, stupid. You managed to piss her off in less than five minutes.”
When she came back out, Angel was standing beside the bed.
“I wasn’t sure which side of the bed you prefer.”
“I usually sleep in the middle so it doesn’t matter to me. Either side will be an adjustment.”
“OK. I’ll take the right side, if you don’t mind.”
“Whatev…that’s fine.” She sat down on the left side.
Angel gripped the bag he had in his hands. As soon as the sun had set, he went shopping. He didn’t own any pajamas. The most he ever slept in was boxers. He normally slept naked. Wesley, having remembered the time he had woken him up, advised him to buy a set of men’s pajamas. The idea of sleeping practically fully dressed seemed strange but he wanted to make Cordelia as comfortable as possible. While shopping he wondered if it really mattered.
Except for when he first met her back in Sunnydale, she had never shown any romantic interest in him. When he had lived with her over the summer, she never even batted an eyelash whenever she caught him in nothing but a towel. She didn’t even stare. Most women would have at least ogled a little but not Cordy. It didn’t bother him. Not really.
“Are you planning on standing there all night? I know Wes said we have until dawn before we technically miss a night but I’m a little tired. I’d like to go to sleep.”
“You’ve been busy.”
“Don’t worry. I didn’t cut up your precious floor.”
“I’m fine as long as you didn’t get peanut butter in my bed.”
They shared their first smile in a long time.
Cordelia realized they were having a moment and tensed. “Do whatever you want. Just make sure you’re in bed by dawn. I want to get this over with.” She turned her back on him and rested her head on her pillow.
“I’ll change in the other room.”
He closed the French doors behind him. He spent the previous night hanging the new doors. He didn’t want Cordelia to see the broken ones and ask questions he didn’t want to answer.
A few minutes later he slipped into bed. He knew she was still awake but he didn’t try to force her to talk. He closed his eyes and hoped sleep would come.
Sleep did come.
When morning came, his eyes blinked open. Cordelia was in his arms sleeping peacefully. He brushed a few strands of hair off her face. She looked so young and carefree. He watched her sleep. He had absorbed her body heat during the night. His skin felt warm, almost alive. “I just want to feel something besides the cold.”
Darla hadn’t warmed him but she had shown him how empty his life had become. He had pushed everyone who mattered to him away and for what? Wolfram and Hart still existed. Darla and Drusilla still walked the earth. He had taken a sledgehammer to his life for nothing. He had abandoned his best friend without considering the effect it would have on her. He wanted to know what he had missed.
What night had Gunn and Wesley been talking about? Why was Cordelia crying? Was it because of their marriage? Was it because they were forced to share a bed? Was it because she thought he might return to Sunnydale? Did she want him to stay? Did she want to rebuild their friendship? Would she let him back in?
“Cordelia has had enough people abandon her.” His eyes traced the gentle curves of her beautiful face. “She needs a champion that will not leave her.” He could feel her breath on his face. “I’m just wondering when you intend to return to Sunnydale.”
Would he leave if Buffy wanted him back? “Look within your heart, vampire. I do not believe you wish to give up such a treasure.” He stroked her cheek with his fingertips. “If you aren’t prepared to be her champion, tell me and I will find someone who is.”
Angel watched Cordelia’s eyes drift open. There was a hint of a smile on her lips. He saw the change in her eyes. The sparkle in them slowly dimmed until they became unreadable.
Cordelia pushed against his chest hard. “Personal bubble, mister! Look I told Wes I would try to be pleasant and I know it’s not your fault we got married but you will keep your hands off me.”
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying..”
“I really don’t give a damn. If the sun is shining and you’re awake, you will get out of bed. If you’re still tired, there is a couch in the other room.” Cordelia threw the covers back, got out of bed and stormed into the bathroom. She closed the toilet lid and sat down.
She had woken up in Angel’s arms. For one terrifying second, it felt wonderful. It felt right. *Maybe it was the bond. Maybe some of the changes kick in right away. That has to be it. I would never enjoy waking up in Angel’s arms. I don’t trust him. We’re not friends. He’s hired muscle that we work with for the sake of the mission.*
She took a deep breath. *I did NOT enjoy sleeping with Angel.*