Part 3 – Bringing Down the House
He wasn’t sure if it was moments or hours, but it seemed that as quickly as it started, it was over. After the tremors and clamors, there was nothing but stifling silence and clouds. Dust from plaster, dust from the opened up ceiling, dust from the disturbed floor, and son of dust choked the room.
A shroud-like stillness sheathed him like the familiar blanket of death and for a moment he felt at peace. Then he remembered.
“Cordelia!” Angel burst from beneath the mountain of destruction oblivious to the unstable structure around him. He tripped and fell toward where he last saw her, but he still couldn’t see clearly through the fog.
“Answer me, Cordy. Are you okay?” His voice and body shook more violently with every second of dead air.
From what seemed like miles away, she coughed. And then spit and then angrily fanned at the grime. Her actions only stirred up more of the grit which only pissed her off and came through loud and clear in her voice. “Oh, I’m frickin’ fine. Just goddamn peachy. How the hell do you think I am?”
He finally saw her outline pinned against the door. She was a portrait in grays, the powder storming around her settling in every crevice of her body and around every hair. Her mouth opened wide as she tried to hack out the film coating her tongue and throat. “Heecch, phtuey.”
But, it was the dog shake that changed everything. Angel thought he’d never seen a bouncier or a more beautiful sight. He was about to smile as relief filled him, but the copper scent that slammed against his scorched throat muzzled it. A wet crimson stain pooled and widened on her gray chest.
“Cordy. Your chest. You’re bleeding.”
“What?” She looked down and watched as her blood soaked her shirt.
“Angel? I think I’m going to fall now.” Cordy’s knees bent and she slumped. She didn’t feel his arms catch her, only that she was there and now she was here, where Angel had been sitting. He hovered over her, his fingers gripping her arms, his cool body acting as a canopy against the sultry day. She fought the urge to faint and vomit, her senses suddenly overloaded with moldy death and damp rot.
Her eyes desperately searched his for strength. Instead she found worry and gold flashes of his demon’s hunger. Her mouth went even drier as his nostrils flared at the fresh blood so close.
She sat up and steeled herself against the pain and his instincts. “Angel, I’m okay.” Her hand pushed at this chest. “Don’t crowd me. It…it’s okay. I can take care of myself.”
Angel jolted up and away from her. His feet kicked at plaster debris and stomped on splintered wood pulverizing it. “I need to get you out of here, damn it. I’m going to check out the damage in the hall.”
Alone, she pulled the tank away from her chest and assessed the damage to her left breast. Something, a nail protruding from the beam or possibly the beam’s edge, had sliced through her top and bra, almost giving her a mastectomy. She needed stitches – lots of them – to stop the torrent of red from escaping. And some anesthesia wouldn’t hurt.
“Okay, that’s pretty bad,” she quietly told herself. “Thank you, God, for vampires. Heh. Never thought that prayer would come out of my mouth.”
Angel returned and hesitantly knelt down. “Uh, Cordy. We’re stuck.”
She glanced toward the ceiling, gave God the hairy eyeball and sighed. “I take it back.”
Grabbing his shirt, she pulled his nose to hers and roared. “What kind of a vampire are you? Go! Hit stuff! Make a big hole! Pound your inner vamp moppet! Do whatever you have to do, but just rescue me, you jerk!”
“Cordy, calm down, okay?” He pried her fingers from his now permanently wrinkled rayon and manacled her wrists to push her back. “Look. The hallway above…hell, most of the building that was above us…is now just outside that door. It’s a cave in, and I can’t budge any of it. We’re stuck here until the sun goes down, and I can leave through the window.”
Her features became animated as a brilliant idea struck. “Oh! The fire escape! I’ll go down the…”
“This is a hotel, not an apartment building. They don’t put fire escapes on hotels.” Angel ran his hand through his hair and rubbed his neck stretching it back and forth as he massaged.
“Well that’s stupid. Who made that rule?” Cordy looked at him accusingly.
“Gee, I don’t know. Maybe it was the evil hotels-with-no-fire-escape club of which I must be the president! Is that really important right now?” He stared at her daring her to keep it up.
Cordy could see he was as frustrated as she and possibly just as panicked. Being smart and a little light headed, she decided it was time to back off. “All right. Okay. Chill. I’ll just hold my diced up body part together until dark. Shouldn’t be a problem.”
She cried out in agony as she put pressure against her breast to stem the blood’s flow that had worsened during her manic attack on Angel.
“Cordy.” He reached for her but an outstretched arm blocked him.
“I’m fine. Really. Just a twinge of…” Her eyelids fluttered.
Angel watched helplessly as her eyes rolled up and she slumped over.
Part 4 -Specialty of the House
By the angle of the light seeping through the slats of the blinds, Angel sensed it was about 2:15. He’d been cradling Cordy against his body for at least 40 minutes. Without her constant talking to keep him occupied, he found it difficult to keep his mind off the hunger that her open wound evoked.
He opened his mouth and breathed in the microscopic pink particles of blood soaking the muggy air around him. He swallowed hard and sighed when just the faintest hint of her spice touched his tongue.
“Mmmm.” Cordy moaned and stirred in his arms.
“Hey,” he said softly with a slight tremor as the guilt of having relished even for a moment in the taste of her blood filled him. “How do you feel?”
“Ummm…like I lost a lot of blood and fainted. You ever get that feeling?” Barely awake, she snuggled deeper into Angel’s chest trying to get comfortable.
“Once,” he said remembering in every detail the experience of losing his blood and welcoming the darkness in that alley centuries ago. The voice of a perturbed Cordelia brought him out of his flashback and quickly into the present.
“Angel. Why am I lying on top of you and what in the hell is your hand doing on my breast?”
“I’m keeping the pressure on it so you won’t die. Call me nutty, but I thought you’d be okay with me trying to save your life.”
“Fine, nutty, but I’m awake now, so I’ll pressure myself, thank you.” She pushed his hand away and gasped when the layers of tissue pulled apart again. Seeping liquid coated her palm as she forced the skin back together.
Angel’s hand instinctively went back to her injury when she hissed, but she warned him off with a quick slap. “Let me go. I can do it,” she said as she sat forward and tried to scoot off his lap.
Angel reluctantly slid out from under her and stood. His eye caught the sight of Cordy’s bottle of water near the door and he retrieved it quickly. Bringing it back to her, he slid his hand under her neck bringing her head forward to drink.
“Here, take some water,” he said.
Cordy’s mouth remained in a tight line for a second refusing to open up to his attempt to help. When he didn’t budge the rim from her mouth, she reluctantly opened and took some of the offered liquid. A few small sips were all she would allow herself.
“Enough,” she said as she again shoved his assistance and his arm away.
Angel moved back, replaced the cap on the small amount of water that was left and waited for her to set the tone. While she was unconscious, he had been in charge. But now that she was awake, he had no doubt he would say and do anything she wanted.
He watched as she struggled one-handed to get repositioned. In an instant Angel placed her where she wanted to be – sitting up with her back against the wall. Her eyelids flickered and head swayed as the quick movement and new position made the blood rush from her brain.
“Cordy, you need to lie down.”
She took a deep breath. “No, I’ll be fine. Really.”
She would not be fine. Not for five more hours. If he didn’t do something, she could bleed out and he wouldn’t be able to live knowing he could’ve saved her but was too scared to do it.
Angel left her side and climbed over the rubble to sit in the only corner in shadow to think. Resting his elbows on his raised knees he watched Cordy as she struggled to keep steady pressure on her chest and flinched over and over again when in her weakened state her hand kept falling and the pain made her whimper.
She was so damned determined not to need him and so damned brave. He wished he could say the same. He definitely needed her. He had prayed to all things holy to free him from that need, but part of his epiphany had been all about her and how much she meant to him. She had to be blind not to notice all the sucking up he’d been doing over the past few weeks to get her back. Did she think he enjoyed groveling?
And he wasn’t that brave. Cordy scared the shit out of him. The biggest, baddest vampire ever to walk the earth, and he was terrified of telling a dying cheerleader that he had another secret. One that would save her life, but another damn secret nevertheless.
I don’t want to die, he thought. He lowered his head into his palms and rubbed the grimy sweat across his forehead. It felt like sandpaper, and he wondered if he rubbed hard enough if he could sand himself down into powder and escape.
Suddenly he realized the irony of the situation. Leave it to Cordelia Chase to make him want to live and die at the same time. His shoulders started to quiver and the giggle that started in his brain suddenly was coming out of his mouth.
“Is my pain amusing to you?” Cordy asked obviously incredulous at his inappropriately timed laughter.
He looked up, his eyes wet from trying to restrain himself, and said between sniggers, “No, mine is.”
Immediately the strain that had permeated the air between them vanished as Cordy gasped and her eyes widened with shock. “Oh, my God, Angel. I’m sorry, I didn’t even think. What’s wrong? Let me see.”
When she tried to get up to come to him, his chest swelled with awe and admiration. His laughter was replaced with shame as he rushed to her side to stop her. When I grow up, I want to be just like her, he thought as he gently forced her back against the wall and stared into her eyes filled with worry only for him.
“Shh, I’m okay. I’m not hurt, Cordy.”
“Then what’s wrong?” Her concern was still strong, and he lost some of his instant courage when faced with the Cordy that held his life in her tiny palm.
He lowered his eyes from hers bracing himself for the cold front moving in. He couldn’t watch the warmth he saw there turn into the inevitable disappointment he knew would replace it when he spoke.
“There’s another way out of this,” he said.
“What other way?” Cordy saw him staring at the floor and the answer dawned. “Oh, sure! You can break through the floor and get us out through the room below.”
“No, that won’t work. This place is too unstable to try it. I could bring the rest of the roof down on top of us.”
“Then what? I’m all ears and blood apparently. Well, at least for another few pints anyway,” she said, the teasing tone not as optimistic as her earlier attempts.
Angel rose and scuffled toward the window, running a hand through his hair. Muscles twitching and pounding his right fist into his palm, he turned to face her and blurted out, “Take your shirt off.”
The words were hideously wrong. He knew it before they were out of his mouth and filling the room like the stink of a dead skunk. But, he wanted to get this over with and her shirt coming off was the ultimate goal. So, he went right for the punch line.
“What? I will not! Are you insane or just stupid?” She swallowed loudly, her rising anxiety apparent.
“Okay, that was the wrong approach. I…I need to lick you.” He cursed at himself under his breath knowing just how wrong that sounded.
“Oh, and that’s so much better, because a vampire licking my blood is all kinds of sane. Wait. You did mean lick my blood, right?” She smashed her body flat against the wall and further from his mouth.
Everything about her screamed at him to back off. He was making it worse instead of better.
“Damn!” He rushed forward, bending down on one knee in front of her. “Okay, here’s the deal. I can clean and seal the wound with my tongue. Actually, my saliva, but tongue sounds better, doesn’t it?” He half smiled hoping a little humor would calm her down.
“Uh-huh, sure. Tongue is so much more couth than saliva I always say. But, ya see, here’s my problem. No!” She pressed harder against her breast and Angel saw the pain it caused when her torso jerked and she hissed and bit her lip.
It was obvious she needed help fast. “Cordy, you’re still bleeding. I can stop it.” She just stared at him like he was speaking Chinese.
“Look, you know vampires heal fast. Well, whatever makes that happen is in our saliva, too, and it can help humans heal faster. So, please just let me do this for you.”
He reached for her and she slapped his hand away.
“Not so frickin’ fast, buddy. Why haven’t I ever heard of this before? Sounds like something Wesley would’ve had cross-stitched on a tea cozy by now.” Her head fell back. The effort it took to keep his hands off her had sapped her already waning strength.
“He may know. I’m not sure. But it’s not something that gets used too often. I mean, a normal vampire doesn’t have much reason to stop a human from bleeding. And it’s not like I go around doing it every day.”
Cordy perked up at that statement. “Why don’t you? Why don’t you lick Wes or Gunn when they get hurt? Huh? Don’t they deserve some of your special magic tonguing or do you just like to watch them suffer?”
The words stung, but he knew that question was coming and had to be answered. She was digging in for a fight. As weak as she was, he could see the steel fortress in her eyes. The only way he would be able to break through it was with complete honesty.
“It’s too much, Cordy. I’m a vampire who loves blood. You know that. I need it like you need air. I’ve learned to control my lust for humans, but it wouldn’t take long to start looking at you all as breakfast, lunch and dinner if I started tasting the real thing every day while healing you.”
He could see the steel begin to soften into smooth copper, but it wasn’t going to be that easy. Cordy was not a fool.
“Okay, I get that,” she said. “But it hasn’t been that long that you went all mock Angelus and served a bunch of lawyers up for a fang buffet. What makes you think that once you start dining on my oh-so-delicious red corpuscles that you’ll be able to stop?” Her body was weak, but her mouth still packed a wallop.
Brown eyes instantly pooled and dull teeth grated trying to chew the distasteful sting of those words into something palatable. His shoulders sagged under the weight of her mistrust. Unable to return her accusing glare, he looked everywhere else and found an answer under the skittering toes of a cockroach.
“Here.” He got up and retrieved a broken nightstand leg from across the room. “If you feel in danger at any time, you plunge this into my back and add a little more dust to the pile. Now, will you let me keep you alive?”
Angel saw her resolve begin to disintegrate when her gaze caught the wood trembling in his hand. She looked at the stake and then his eyes and he thought for a moment he could see the gate to her heart open. He thought he could actually hear the hinges scrape. His chest ached in anticipation of the words he so desperately needed to hear coming from her lips. The words that said she trusted him again.
She grabbed the stake, put it in her lap and painstakingly began inching her tank top off. His whole being sank into the floor as the tiny opening to her good graces was slammed shut in his face once more. He turned his back to give her some privacy and to hide the letdown on his face.