Part 8 – Home is Where the Heart Is
Angel’s hand ached from the effort it took to stop from destroying everything. His throat burned from choking back the thousands of moans that throbbed from his untouched cock. His brain pounded from fighting his demon’s insistence to just fucking take her.
It had been hours since Cordelia had finally drifted into unconsciousness and he had finished sealing her wound. Hours spent alone as the threat of death lessened outside and in. Thousands of seconds thinking. Evaluating. Remembering.
Cordy rested beside him, her breathing getting stronger and steadier as each minute passed. He raised his hand to skim her cheek, brushing a wet strand of matted hair away. The yellow haze had turned into an orange glow that backlit her profile and made her shimmer.
It didn’t hit him like a sledgehammer. It was revealed like the gift behind a slowly drawn curtain. As the scorching heat of the day dissolved into the mugginess of evening, so did the heavy blanket of his denial unravel until only a simple thread of truth remained.
It wasn’t Darla that had driven him crazy. It was her. Cordelia Chase. It was running from her, from his hunger for her that had propelled him toward the lunacy of Darla.
And he had betrayed her. He laughed now that he could have lied so easily to himself and to Cordy. Cowards can do that. Make up excuses like “I have to rebuild the trust” to avoid admitting they’re just cheating bastards.
When the truth that he was in love with Cordelia finally clicked, he felt a great weight lifted from him. He accepted that he was the helpless and hopeless to Cordy’s hero. He basked in the warmth of the heart that beat for them both. He knew without doubt that his home was not a rundown hotel but the light of her smile.
And now that he knew the truth he couldn’t keep it inside. Cordy had taught him that much. Secrets were bad, bad things. They were cages that kept you in and others out. But, before he could unleash the burden of his love on her, he had to know if she could accept it.
Looking back on their relationship, he now recognized moments that he was sure proved she was just as clueless to her own feelings as he had been. His senses had picked up the clues even if his consciousness had not. But how could he make her realize something in minutes that had taken him years to see?
Next to him, Cordelia stirred. She licked her lips and moaned softly.
Angel spoke quietly trying not to startle her. “Hey. How do you feel?”
She slowly opened her eyes, blinking to moisten them and clean out the dirt crusted on her lashes. She smacked her lips together and tried to wet them with her tongue but found it too dry. Her voice, raspy and low, managed one word. “Water.”
Angel reached behind him and found the remains of the Dishanti. There were only a few drops left.
“Do you think you can sit up if I help you?” he asked.
Cordy lifted her arm slightly. She was obviously still weak but no longer shaking. She nodded and Angel shimmied his arms under her legs and back and picked her up. Swiftly he moved her over so that her back rested once again against the wall.
Once she was settled, he put the opened bottle in her hand and helped her raise it to her mouth.
“There’s not much here, so you’d better swirl it around before swallowing,” he said.
She sipped and looked at him as if she might just gulp it down to spite him. She swished and swallowed. He couldn’t keep the thankful smile from his face.
Cordy looked down and relief flooded her when she saw she was fully covered, bra and shirt. She opened her mouth to ask about that but just closed it and shook her head instead.
Angel cleared his throat. “Cordy, I want to ask you something.”
“Why are you still here?” she asked instead, her eyes looking around the room and the darkening sky between the slats of the blinds.
“Why are you still here? I just realized it must be twilight judging by the lack of anything but gray in the room, so why haven’t you left yet?”
He stuttered and stared at her. Fumbling through his answer, he said, “You…you…my, God…you were barely alive! I couldn’t leave before I knew you’d be okay.”
She look puzzled by his adamant reply and backed off a bit. “Okay, okay. Don’t get all defensive. I’m fine now, so scoot. Skedaddle. Beat it. I want a bath more than I want sex with Jude Law, and trust me that’s a lot. So leave already.”
He didn’t move. His hesitation received that brow thingie she did, but he only seemed to be amused by it instead of intimidated. Something is so not right about that, Cordy thought.
“Angel? Yoohoo. Why are you still here and smiling no less?” She waved a hand covered with dried brown blood in front of his unfocused eyes.
He got up, the smile fading as he left her side and crossed the room to the window. He peeked through the blinds to confirm the sun was indeed no longer a threat and then pulled the string to raise them.
A hint of pink sky was the only evidence that the sun had ever risen that day. It was enough light to see Cordy’s eyes clearly.
He couldn’t leave without knowing for sure how she felt. It was now or never. Angel looked at her questioning gaze and, risking icy hazel death, stepped into the breach not knowing if he’d fall into hell or rise on thermal waves to heaven. He was scared shitless.
Part 9 – House Arrest
Taking a tentative step forward, Angel nervously cleared his throat before he spoke. “Cordy?”
Cordelia stared at him incredulous that he was still standing there and not halfway to a phone. “What, Angel?”
His hesitancy irritated her already impatient mood. She hated when he did that. “Why what? For Pete’s sake, Angel, just spit it out.”
“Why did you need to know about Darla?” he finally asked.
She sighed. She really didn’t want to do this again. Bath. Now. “Angel, please, just go. We can talk later.”
“There might not be a later. Anything could happen. I could impale myself on a tree branch when I jump, so please answer.”
Cordy couldn’t believe he was pulling that old chestnut from the fire. He must be desperate for something and that worried her. She’d had her fill of desperate Angel.
“I told you. You could’ve turned into Angelus and killed us all. I needed to know why you’d risk us all for sex.”
“Why would sleeping with Darla risk Angelus?
She looked at him like he was retarded. “Well, duh! The curse doofus head.”
He didn’t skip a beat. “The curse requires perfect happiness. How could sex with Darla ever lead to perfect happiness?”
Hell, Cordy thought. Why didn’t I think of that? He’s right. So, if he didn’t risk anything, why does it still hurt so much? I need time to think. Stall, Cordy.
“How the hell should I know. Sex and happiness seem to go hand-in-hand with you. And…and…you were acting pretty crazy, so for all I know sex with the equally crazy, skanky vampire-bitch-ho would send you over the moon and back with bliss.”
He walked slowly toward her, the hint of a grin crossing his lips. “I get it now. It’s the curse. You want to know if I still have the curse.”
“What? No! I mean, of course you still have the curse.” She tilted her head toward him like a bird curious if the sound it just heard was a threat. “Don’t you?”
His mouth quirked up in an angle that said he was pleased with her question. He didn’t respond but took another step closer. She jerked back at his advance.
“Angel! Don’t you?”
Eyes of mischief peeked up at her below his tilted brow. “You’re jealous.”
She blinked and then blinked again just to make sure she wasn’t imagining the idiot. Nope. He was real. “Oh, my God! Were you born this stupid or does it come from Darla’s side of the family?”
“You’re lying,” he said almost singing the words.
“I…I…don’t even know how to respond to that. It’s such an insane idea. What the hell even made you think of it?” Cordy squirmed for no reason she could think of and her armpits got even more damp.
Seeing her subtle discomfort, Angel relentlessly moved one foot closer. “Do you want me?”
The heat was messing with her hearing. She stuck her palm to her ear to suction out the pool of perspiration that obviously had gathered there. “Say again.”
“You heard me.”
His eyes bored into hers. She blinked and looked away.
“I heard something come from your mouth, but it sounded like ‘do you want me’ which is the most ridiculous question you could ever ask me, so that can’t be what you said.”
“Oh, you heard right.” He moved another step closer grinning now unashamedly. “Just answer the question.”
Cordy pushed her back further into the plaster and thought she heard it crack. Her eyes latched onto the pendulum motion of the blinds’ pull to keep them from being dragged back to the inquisition in his.
“I think my response of ‘the most ridiculous question you could have asked’ pretty much spelled out my answer.”
“Stop lying, Cordy. Don’t you think there’s been enough lies between us?” he asked, his lower lip puffing up just a bit in a pretend pout.
“I am not. How dare you, of all people, accuse me of lying.” The room was closing in on her and the stifling air felt like a blast furnace. Her heart was thudding loud enough for another human to hear much less a vampire. All that blood pumping sent more and more of it to her flushed face.
“I’m not accusing. It’s a fact. You. Are. Lying.” He punctuated each word with a step closer. “Maybe your mind doesn’t recognize it yet, but your body does.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” She needed a drink. A whole damn barrel of them by the feel of the desert in her mouth. She licked her lips.
Angel stepped up until her vision was filled with only him. Her eyes had no where else to look but at his chest or face. She chose his chest.
“When I touched you,” he said, “your body responded. I turned you on. I smelled it.”
“First of all, ewww. And second, I was so not turned on. I was in agony, moron. Your vamp nose must be full of plaster. When we get out of here, I’ll plug the vacuum up to your nostrils and clean that out for you.”
Angel looked so big. So very, very big. He covered her entire world. She locked her thighs together.
Angel’s eyes were drawn to her thighs clamping shut and he sighed. “There’s no mistaking that smell. Your smell. It’s not the first time I’ve sensed it.”
“Now I know you’re losing it,” she said with a little mock laugh.
Angel crossed the last gap between them and dropped to the floor. He leaned in to whisper in her ear seductively.
“The visions, Cordy. You like it when I catch you. You like it in my arms.”
“Big deal,” she said, her voice beginning to shake as a chill raced up her spine. “Barney would turn me on if he stopped me from cracking my skull on these damn marble floors around here.”
She couldn’t bring herself to push him away. He was crowding her, popping her personal bubble big time, but she didn’t want him gone just yet. She felt his eyelashes close and a cool breeze waft over her skin from her ear to the base of her throat. His face nuzzled there, his lips brushing across the fine hairs of her skin.
“Your heart is racing. I can smell your fear.” He moved back to her ear and his lips grazed the shell as he spoke. “Why would you be afraid right now?”
“If I’m afraid, which I am not, maybe it’s because you’re creeping me out with your insane ramblings.”
“Or maybe…” He kissed just inside her ear. “…you’re afraid I don’t want you like you want me.”
For a moment Cordy was lost. He’d kissed her and she’d liked it. God, she’d liked it so much. But that couldn’t be. She hated him. She hated what he’d done to her. He’d abandoned her and slept with Darla. He’d betrayed her. Oh, God! He betrayed me. Ohgodohgodohgod!
Angel pulled away from her to watch as she spoke. What clearly showed in her eyes and expression was someone grasping for any piece of sanity left.
“Or maybe…maybe,” she said, “I’m afraid because you’re losing it. Again! I so don’t need round two of beigey, crazy you. I think you’d better leave before I decide to stake you now and ask questions later.”
Her eyes shifted. Up and to the right.
God bless Samuel L. Jackson, Angel thought. He knew the truth now even if she didn’t.
Rising slowly, he walked to the window. The wood screeched begging not to be disturbed from years of lying peacefully in dried paint and rust. “I know how you feel,” he quietly said to the window.
A blast of fresh heat hit him, and he watched as the sun, the final barrier to his leaving, hissed as it dipped below the horizon.
He turned back to her and followed the line of the last shadow of the day crawl over her grimy limbs, across her blood-spattered chest and inch toward the ceiling.
As the darkness veiled her face, Cordy clutched it like a safety blanket and let her guard down. Her forehead furrowed in thought, her entire body becoming taut and pensive.
Angel poised on the sill’s edge and studied her body language waiting for her moment of clarity. She was a much quicker study than he. It took her less than a minute.
Her eyes, wide with fright, darted to his. They conveyed a silent refusal and begged him to take it all back. Gasping, all she could manage were shallow breaths leaving her unable to voice the “no” that her mouth formed.
She knew the truth at last, and she looked like she wanted to die.
As tears seeped from her eyes and the life she once knew streamed down her face, Angel bowed his head as his own tears dampened his chest. He turned from her heartbreak and swung his legs over the sill.
Staring into the darkness, he realized only then – as did she – that everything and nothing had changed. It had only shifted like the night shifts into day. They had moved from the shadows of denial and were now of one mind and one heart in the light.
And, what was clear to them both in that light was the curse and their bond as champion and seer. There would be no happy ending. No leaving and no moving forward.
The truth hadn’t set them free. It had only built the cage in another place. A prison not entombed in shadows but set in the light, the bars leaving them exposed and bleeding in the blazing sun.
He hesitated before softly mumbling the words he could say only once. Not because he didn’t mean them, but because he’d never meant anything as much.
“I love you, too.”
Then he pushed off and fell knowing that the ground was no longer there to catch him.