I’m an idiot.
~With you there Sully.~
I can’t believe I snapped at Cordy that way. And what frightened me the most was that she hadn’t snapped back. She’d looked like I’d slapped her and instead of screaming at me and calling me an ingrate or a dork, she’d left. It was indication enough that she was hurt.
First Buffy, now Cordy. I was a regular asshole with women these days.
~With you there too.~
I stood in front of the door to her apartment and scratched my temple. All through the underground walk to her apartment I’d been thinking of all the things I’d say to her to make her forgive me. Falling on my knees was a desperate option.
Hell I was ready to grovel, but now as I stood there in front of the door I only felt like the bigger fool Angelus was always calling me.
She should know I’d never hurt her. But I had. She should know she’s not just my secretary, but that’s exactly what I’d called her. I was still contemplating my options and feeling like the heel I must look like slumped there in front of her door, when the soft cold breeze drifted around me.
“Dennis? Open the door.”
Instantly the breeze was gone.
Rolling my eyes I grabbed the door handle and tried to push open the door, but it slammed back in place. I glared at the wood. “Dennis. Open the damned door. I’m sorry I was an asshole to her, but I’m here to make it better. Now let me in.”
When neither the door nor the ghost budged I sighed. “Look Dennis, do you want her to keep feeling bad about this, because I know she is? Let me get in there and make it better. I’ll make it better; promise.”
What the hell was that? A word of a vampire, but the ghost must have believed me because the door slid open with a soft creak and I smiled slightly before ducking inside. “Thanks.”
I looked around the small apartment and frowned. Hurricane Cordy had really been in a bad mood. A trail of clothes lead straight to the bathroom door that was slightly ajar. Following the path I scooped up, first the knee length gray skirt, the stockings, the blouse, the bra and then the panties.
Of course by the time I’d reached the last article of clothing I had forgotten why I was there. Instead I stood there like a blithering idiot staring down at the emerald green lace.
Lace. Cordelia Chase wears lace. Of course Cordelia Chase wouldn’t be caught dead in anything besides the best, but what’s a vampire to do holding his best friends frillies when they smell like cherries?
My feet had carried me to the bathroom, my thumb tracing over the soft material and my eyes peeked through the slightly ajar door to spot my seer.
And if I’d been alive and kicking, I’d have died. Again.
Because there she sat, immersed in bubbles up to her neck, a tub of ice-cream and a spoon dangling in her hands, and black tears running down her soft coppery cheeks.
The clothes slid from my fingers, the insane need to protect, soothe and coddle filling every pore in my dead body and for once my demon didn’t scream at me or call me a wuss. As chatty as Cordelia was and behind the brave sunny exterior, she was still a young woman.
A woman who’d lost enough in her life already. She didn’t need this kind of shit from a man like me.
She deserved better and for once I wondered if she was better off. If I should just leave her, she’d find her way without me. Only I knew she wouldn’t. Young and inexperienced that she was, the day I’d found her had been the day I’d found purpose.
And though I believed in karma and the entire PTB shit, I knew there was a reason she’d fallen into my arms that day. And I’d be damned if I let her get away from me.
Before she could notice the prying eyes or the sound of clothes hitting floor, I had pushed the door open and crouched by the side of the bathtub.
Liquid eyes snapped up from the ice-cream tub and stared up at me in alarm, the hazel sparkling like glittering amber in the candle lit bathroom. “Angel?”
I almost smiled at the incredulous tone in her voice. “Who else?”
Then the amber caught fire and the line of her jaw hardened. “Get out.”
I blinked a little startled at the sharp crack of her words. “No.” I shook my head as I sat back on my heels and watched her.
“Get the hell out Angel.” She leaned over and placed the tub of ice-cream on the floor and fixed the icy fire of her eyes on me with venom. “I had a very sexy image of Jude Law in my head. I don’t want to see you right now.”
“No, I’m not leaving until I’m done Cordy.” I reached out to try and wipe the black wake of her tears a part of me wrenching with guilt for putting them there.
Jerking away from my touch like it burnt, she sent a wave of water out of the tub, soaking the soles of my boots and coattails.
“Done!” She snapped, almost rising out of the tub before she realized she was stark naked under the bubbles and settled back against the ceramic, as far away from me as she could.
“YOU have done enough you egotistical little eunuch! What more do you want! Your ex wandering into the office, unannounced mind you; and I try, no, I STRIVE to make it easier for all of us. Giving you privacy and understanding and YOU! You berate me in front of Buffy! I can SO hear her going off to her little posse and telling them, ‘oh look, Cordy’s finally where she deserves to be, a maid in waiting to a love-struck selfish vampire!’ HER love-struck selfish vampire.”
I flinched at the well-placed, honest hurt flashing in her eyes and fought for words. “I didn’t mean it. I’m apologizing.”
“Well tough noogie Angel!” There was a slosh of water and her arms crossed across her chest, covered with foamy bubbles as she glared up at me. “Tomorrow I suggest you look for a new secretary while you make my final paycheck, because I’m so out of there. I’m through with fetching for you buddy.”
“Christ Cordelia, I’m sorry! You’re not just my secretary and you’re not there to just handle invoices and fetch for me or Doyle. You know that. You caught me at a bad time.”
“Life is FILLED with bad times Angel.”
“I was angry with Buffy, not you!”
“Well then your aim is slightly off bigman. I’m not whiny, blonde or intellectually sterile.”
Why the hell doesn’t anyone ever believe me the first time around dammit? How many times do I have to apologize! “I won’t do it again.”
She stared at me. “What are you; five?”
“I promise Cordelia.” I looked her straight in the face. “You’re never going to have to question your importance in my life. Ever.”
Her arms slid away from her chest and she sunk lower into the bubbles with a frown.
“I’ll make this better.”
“I will Cordy.”
I watched the fading tears and reached out a hand to try again. This time the pad of my thumb smoothed the smoky lines and she didn’t pull away. “You want groveling?”
“No.” She shook her head slowly, not meeting my eyes still. It unsettled me. “You know how they do it right?”
“What, groveling?” I smiled slightly.
She glared at me. “No. Apologizing. I don’t care whose fault this was; even though it’s rather obvious.” She rolled her eyes. “You’re the man. Be the man. I’m just going to sit here like a woman and act all difficult and weepy.”
I hid a smile. “I thought you were all for equality with men.”
“That was before I met you.” She stared into the depth of my eyes and the emotion there shook me to my bones. “Ever since you’ve made me believe that I don’t need to do everything, I haven’t stopped being a woman.”
I could feel the softening of my muscles, and every instinct told me to crawl inside the damned bath tub and wrap my arms around her and never let her go.
“You know what you did?” I shook my head and she continued. “You made me weak.” I raised a hand to touch her and I she batted it away. I winced slightly.
“YOU made me a woman. YOU made me soft and feminine and YOU told me it is okay to let you take care of me; that I don’t have to be the Rock of Gibraltar. YOU said you’d be my Rock of Gibraltar.”
“Yes, I did.” How the hell did she do that? Go from snaky to soft and feminine in the same minute?
“Then how the hell could you do that to me? In front of her! You know she doesn’t think very highly of me considering I’m employed and she’s getting quality education.” She looked away and I couldn’t hold it this time.
Leaning closer I ran a hand over the crown of her head and she glared up at me through watery eyes. “You were the only one who never made me cry Angel. Until now.”
“I feel like pond scum.”
She looked up with resolve. “Lower.”
I grinned slightly and this time she didn’t pull away as my fingers grazed her jaw tenderly. “How about I be your little kick puppy until you forgive me?”
She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and frowned. “Yeah I suppose having you be my kick puppy for two or three years ought to be enough for considering forgiving you.”
And right there with the smell of cherries wafting out of the scented water and the telltale smile on my secretary’s face I realize where I am.
After months of aggravation and insecurities I’m right back where I started. I told myself after Buffy, I would never put myself up for the fall. Never again. I thought I could fool myself into being impersonal.
It makes it so much easier without the farce of trying to love and express love when no one believes you’re really capable of it. Vampire with soul is only the beginning. I felt so damned ironic. I know it’s not really a state of being, but I felt it.
Like my last cigarette and one damned match left in the matchbox. And let me tell you, it feels nauseating to fall short of something you promised you’d never do again.
But here I was, watching her smile up at me with a mix of timid little girl and brazen young woman. And I realized I’d done the unspeakable.
I’d admitted it to myself that I could fall for this beautiful, young, fiercely stubborn woman.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not misplaced or a fucking rebound. Cordelia’s not Buffy or anything like her. It’s just a fact. And I’ve accepted it.
She makes me feel almost human. Less than a vampire, demon or bloodsucker. Almost like a man begging forgiveness of a woman. No what-ifs or dangling catastrophes or fatal attractions. Just comfortable companionship that could blossom into something a vampire can never be ready for.
In that tiny perfumed bathroom, I feel sated and innocent. It’s a feeling I haven’t had in awhile. In a century maybe.
She makes me wish I were a child just so I could read the emotion in her eyes. I wish I was a mystic and I could look into her heart. Her endless snarks weren’t enough to convince me anymore. I knew how to play with words.
And this time I didn’t know how to tell her that I could definitely fall for her. I could fall so deep.
I guess that’s what scares the living shit out of me. She is exactly what I need. If I stood at the brink of the building waiting and wanting to jump off, she’d take my hand and jump with me. If I wanted to close my eyes and let the darkness swallow me alive she would be there right next to me, her hand holding mine and ready to descend with me in the darkness.
If I wanted to make a complete fool of myself in front of hundreds of people she was would be right there next to me while I did it. She’d probably help me.
If I wanted to breathe I know she’d breathe for me.
It was that simple.
All I thought and did somehow affected her suddenly. And I knew it now. Everything she did was mine in the end. She swallowed me whole with her wide smiles and those hands on my arm, and the fingers bandaging my cuts and bruises. I wasn’t used to this closeness.
Not the kind of intimacy that stretched and spanned a lifetime. I hadn’t had anyone depend on me for so much. I was used to being the vampire, the muscle. The shadows. And this woman consistently dragged me into the sun; a little at a time –
until I was burning from the inside and standing there in the middle of the damned morning grinning up at the sun like a moth to a flame.
And it scared me. The simplicity with which she accepted me was scary and I was becoming edgy. I could fall for her.
I could fall for her and never hit bottom and this time it was deep enough to drown me.
Hazel eyes blinked with confusion when I didn’t speak, but watched her – a torrent of emotions flooding my usually apathetic features and she shifted, instinctively moving closer, to look at me closely.
Peering up into my face, I watched the pupils of her eyes dart fitfully over my face and then back to my eyes. “Angel?”
I didn’t trust myself to speak. I might do something stupid. Like tell her.
One soft hand cupped my cheek and I nuzzled into it. “Sweetie, are you crying?”
And just like that my shoulders were shaking, my lips pressing into a thin line and I was laughing. Head thrown back, roaring with laughter and hugging her.
Wet and squealing, I had her trapped in my arms, the edge of the bathtub digging into my ribs, the bubbles dotting my nice coat and soaking the front of my clothes with cherry scented bath water.
Burying my face into her soggy hair I muffled my laughter.
“Christ Cordelia. What the hell would I do without you?”
When she tried to draw away from me, I allowed her enough to peek up into my face, her lips smiling and her eyes happier, even when they were rimmed with leaky mascara. “Oh I don’t know Broody, do something stupid? Like wear stripes. You do know stripes make you look fat?”
I smirked down at her, stifling the urge to kiss her, before I allowed my eyes to drop to the succulent swell of her partially exposed breasts. “Nice Bubbles.” The breasts were definitely nice!
Wrinkling her nose prettily, she looked down at her breasts peeking from the froth and shrieked jerking out of my arms and back into the water, her arms wrapped across her front. “Idiot! Dork! Pervert! Out!”
Leaning over with a leer that would have done my demon proud I held her gaze until she was silently staring up into my eyes the hazel of her eyes melting into sinful toffee.
“Finish your bath then come back to work, baby. I’m lost without you.”
The soft smile tugging at her lips was melting as was the warmth in her eyes and I felt slightly more secure that I wasn’t the only one falling. “You are?”
I kissed her wet forehead, my tongue unconsciously coming out to lick the Cordelia tasting water on my lips before I stood. “Yeah. Who’s going to misfile my invoices?” I winked at the wide gape of her mouth and walked out of the bathroom.
“ANGEEEEEEEEEEELLL!!!!!!!!! Angel, get back in here so I can kill you! ANGEL?”
I remembered an old song.
‘Remember, when falling; when you’re falling; and someone catches you;
then together you might just be able to fly.’
Califi’s challenge of which the high points are as follows:
1. Post IWRY- BUT no UST with Buffy. Angel’s actually moved on.
2. He knows he is attracted/likes Cor, but that’s as far as he’s been willing to think about it
2. Fic opens up where Buffy turns up at the office.
3. The spiel comes out, but this time he says he didn’t want to cover old ground with her, and that it was best just to deal with the vision and come back HOME.
5. They start to have words as Buffy sorta gets what he’s saying
6. At the height of angst, Cordelia, clueless barges in and Angel’s misplaced anger gets taken out on her.
7. She quits and Doyle lays into Angel who is feeling guilty anyway
8. Cor goes home and basically has depressing thoughts before Angel turns up there.