Title: Fight the Good Fight
Posted here: 08/05
Rating: PG-13. Maybe R if you are picky about stuff like that
Content: C/A and yes, fair warning, A/Other
Summary: It’s two months after our two champions are reunited (following the summer they spent apart) and nothing is going the way it should
Spoilers: Through the end of Season Three
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: please ask
Notes: I have been trying for months to write things that are a little less…fluffy. It never works – I always just quit halfway and write a nice happy story chock full of one-liners and smoochies. So I finally sat down and forced myself to finish one. I’m posting this only because I promised myself I would. And don’t be nice for the sake of being nice.
Feedback:I would really welcome some constructive criticism on this one. Cause the temptation to hit delete is overwhelming
After two months, three days, and seventeen hours, Cordelia Chase had had enough. She was frustrated and angry and disappointed in herself.
What happened to Queen C? The girl who wasn’t afraid to cut through the bullshit? The girl who wasn’t afraid, period.
She was afraid now. She had made excuses at first. The excuses got progressively more ridiculous as time went on. When she and Angel finally saw each other again, after spending the summer apart, it was too new.
They were too busy. They had to deal with the Connor problem. She wanted to wait until her hair grew out some more. October was a more romantic month than September. All the excuses in the world didn’t change the simple truth: she hadn’t been able to tell Angel how she felt about him.
Why is this so hard? It’s cause we waited. Right after I got home, we should have just sat down and had the talk. But we waited and it got weird. I hope it’s not too late. What if it’s too late?
Cordelia acknowledged that it very well could be. Being reunited with Angel had been wonderful, being swept up into those arms, burying her nose in his sweater while he ran his hand over her hair. But no words were said. No important words that is. She had thought it would be better to wait and Angel.well who knew how Angel felt.
He sounded so happy that night on the phone. Like he thought he knew what I wanted to talk about and he felt the same way.
Of course, this was a historically obtuse vampire they were talking about. He might have thought she wanted to meet him at the beach and talk about how he felt about her.her and Groo getting married. She was pretty sure her feelings for him were reciprocated. Reasonably sure. Okay, so her odds were like, one in five, but that wasn’t so bad. Except for the fact.things had changed over the summer.
Angel’s different now. Darker. And not the broody soulful Sunnydale dark he used to be. He was edgier now. He had more bite. Ha ha. More BITE.
In some ways, Cordelia didn’t mind the change. She’d fallen in love with her champion in the height of his dorky, new father phase, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t appreciate Slightly Darker Angel. The increased presence of leather pants was always a plus. And the looks. She had caught some of those looks. The same way she had every so often caught him glancing at her lovingly before.
The looks were different now. Like he wanted to eat her alive in great big bites-but in a good way. And rationally, hungry looks from a man who drinks blood should make me scared. But they don’t. They were hungry looks. That made everything in her quiver.
At the same time, I do miss the way it was before. Cordelia leaned back on the sofa. It’s like he avoids me now. Makes sure we never spend more than a few hours at a time together. And never alone. Geez, the way he freaked out that time Fred went to the bathroom and it was just him and me in the lobby. He practically sprinted upstairs. Oh and God forbid I actually touch the guy.
Cordelia shivered subconsciously at the memory of the last time she had reached out for Angel. It was about two weeks ago. She had noticed how careful he was about his “personal bubble. She hated it. She missed the casual touching, the brush of fingertips, the comfort of having him to lean on. She had come into the office and seen him standing at the counter, his back to her, talking to Gunn, who stood behind the counter.
Without thinking, going strictly on feeling, she had just put her arms around him from behind.
“How’s my favorite bloodsucker?” she had said, as she reached for him. She hadn’t noticed anything was wrong, hadn’t seen the way his body tensed before she even touched him. Her hands had clasped around his waist. Then she noticed.
He had whirled around, pushed her off of him with a force she hadn’t expected. She swore she saw his eyes glint yellow for a moment. And that sound. He made a sound. Like a growl. Even now, her cheeks burned with embarrassment, remembering what he said.
“Dammit Cordelia, can you just.back the hell off.” He had said it and she hadn’t known what to do. Sinking into the floor was out, but she had sure felt like it. Gunn had just stood there, biting his lip while Angel glared at her. She had mumbled an apology and stumbled off to the bathroom.
Which makes what I’m doing now seem all the more ridiculous. She hadn’t gotten one sign that Angel reciprocated her feelings for him. They’d been back together for two months now and it seemed like every day they grew further and further apart. And here I am getting ready to go over there and tell him I love him.
She did still love him. He could go as dark as he wanted, it wouldn’t change what he was.the man she loved. I’m just a lot less sure about how he feels about me. That’s why doing this now, today was so important. Because the longer I wait, the more scared I am. And if he doesn’t feel that way about me, just a little, then I want to know.
She checked the clock on the nightstand next to her bed. Just after six p.m. She’d had all weekend to get her courage up. Angel had been so insistent lately that she work normal hours. Nine to five, Monday thru Friday. There’d been no visions, no emergencies. She hadn’t been over to the hotel since she’d walked out the door Friday afternoon.
Maybe she’d given Angel enough time to miss her. Plus, Gunn and Fred had gone to visit her parents. Fred was trying to prove to him that Texas didn’t hate the black man. And Connor was at the point where he was only comfortable coming over after dark. The Hyperion was still just a place to sleep for him-his relationship with Angel was tenuous at best. The hotel will be deserted right now. Just him and me.
Me and Angel. Angel and I. Just saying it in her head gave her shivers. Cordelia had never felt anything remotely like this before. She’d never really wanted to.
Love always seemed unfair. Tremendous amount of risk, very little pay off, and it could all end in a second, leaving you bare and empty and hurting. Like Xander had. And what I felt for Xander is nothing like how I feel now. She was willing to make sacrifices and endure pain and do anything else that was protocol for loving Angel. She wasn’t just willing, she was ready. She had spent the past two months just.wanting. All the time.
Well I’m done wanting. Its time for the having.
The guilt always came for Angel around this time. Sunday. Late afternoon.
There had always been guilt afterwards. That was not new. Back when it only happened every other month or so, when the tension would become so great that he would have do it, even if it only made it a little better. There was guilt then. But not like this.
When he first came to L.A., he would find a woman, at a bar, a club, wherever. It was surprisingly easy. Women liked danger, and he seemed to reek of it. He would say just enough. No more, no less. Then we’d go back to her place and I’d do just enough to make sure it was nice for her, no more, no less.He would never hurt them, but it was always rough.
It would always end with him pounding into some woman he barely knew, shutting his eyes tight so he wouldn’t look at a stranger and see the blond hair and bright eyes he had run away from. He would leave as soon as they were done.
The first year in L.A. the guilt was for Buffy. That he didn’t have the control, the strength, to properly honor her and her love. That he let his more base needs dictate his actions. It’s funny. I’ve done so many horrible things in my life. I have so much to be guilty for. But I still find time to brood about one night stands.
The second year it hadn’t been so much of a problem. Darla had proved too much of a distraction, he hadn’t needed to seek it out. When Buffy died, it had been months before he even felt the urge again. Then I started to look at Cordy differently.
But again, real life had made him put those needs aside. He had a baby to take care of, and then his son had been taken, and then I took an unplanned trip to the bottom of the ocean. It was that unscheduled undersea hiatus that had created this situation. He’d had so much time to think. To want. To realize.
He would have bouts of hazy delirium when he called out for Cordelia, where he brought back her taste and smell and taunted himself with it. Imagined everything he wanted to do to her. Some of the things he had wanted had surprised him. They were dark. Disturbing.
As time passed, Angel had been forced to realize something. It couldn’t work. No matter how much he wanted it, no matter how much he wanted her, it would never work. Because, yes, Cordelia connected him to humanity. And yes, she knew and loved him for what he was. And yes, this time was different, they were different, than him and Buffy. It wasn’t enough. I can’t risk her like that.
Cordelia, loving Cordelia, had kept him sane during his months in captivity. The depth of his feelings for her surprised even him, transcended anything he’d ever known. But it had scared him. Because what he’d felt, it hadn’t been all hearts and flowers and floating on fluffy clouds past rainbows. There was a darkness in his love for her, in the things he wanted from her. I don’t want her to see that. Ever.
And then, of course, there’s the curse. He had tried to ignore the curse implications at first. But slowly, he saw the truth. Over 100 years, Angel had come to understand the curse that ruled him. The others thought sex was the curse, that celibacy would keep Angelus at bay. Nothing could be further from the truth. The curse isn’t about sex.
It’s perfect happiness. And just like I can have sex without the curse kicking in, the curse can kick in without the sex.
Slowly, fear had crept into his underwater coffin. Because Cordy made him happy. Just knowing her made him happy. Knowing her love.he couldn’t contemplate what that would do.
I should have cleared it up as soon as I got her back. Made it clear that nothing was going to happen, that nothing could happen. I had the speech. He smiled. He had memorized a speech months ago. He could still recite it word for word today. I got confused. Getting Connor back made me think things, things I didn’t really feel. I’m sorry Cordelia. I care about you. You’re my best friend. But I don’t love you, not like that.
He hadn’t been able to give her the speech. He hadn’t been strong enough to lie. Instead he tried to push her away, to deny what he felt with actions instead of words. There was no more hanging out on the couch together, no listening to her read his horoscope. No more trips to midnight showings of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” He did everything he could to show her he wasn’t interested. Because he wasn’t brave enough to tell her that kind of falsehood.
Because I don’t think I could look into her eyes and pretend I wouldn’t die for her. He’d been hiding behind an attitude for weeks, keeping her from getting close, emotionally and physically. That’s the brilliant idea that made this whole situation worse.
Two days. The first time he’d gone out was two days after she’d gotten home. He’d vowed when they let him out of that box that it would be different. He would take a step back and she would follow his lead and they would both be safe. I was crazy. I didn’t count on what being near her again would do to me.
After two days with her back, it had been too much. He couldn’t look at her without his jaw, his groin, and everything inside him going tight. Everything she did, said, wore, it all seemed designed to tease. To taunt him with what he’d valiantly decided he couldn’t have.
It was when he’d gotten an erection watching her play computer Solitaire that he’d left. Being there was too hard. Making him too hard.
The woman that first night had taken the edge off. She took the edge off until Cordy walked back in the door the next morning.
There was guilt again, but he could live with guilt. He rationalized that he was doing it for her. To keep her and everyone she loved safe.
Angel made it through a week. A week of meaningless, nameless, practically faceless sex. Sex in alleys, motel rooms, clubs, cramped L.A. apartments the size of closets. Sex with all manner of women. Women that looked like Cordelia. Women that looked nothing like Cordelia. Even one girl who looked startlingly like Buffy.
It only made me want her more. . It grew inside of him, this vicious, devouring hunger that, to be honest, scared him more than anything had in a long while. He fucked a different woman a different way every night, but the one woman he couldn’t touch, she haunted him. That’s when he’d gotten an idea.A stupid, half-assed idea.
Maybe he needed a connection he’d thought. If he had someone else, someone he didn’t love but who he at least knew, someone who existed for him longer than it took to get off, maybe it would help. Help him forget her.
And two days later, Jessica walked in the door of the hotel. Perfect timing. Jessica Reed, with honey blond locks that reached the middle of her back and impossibly blue eyes. She was tall and slender and was wearing all the designers that Cordy worshipped.
She’d bought an old bookstore on 10th Avenue and was turning it into an upscale boutique. Unfortunately, the place appeared to be haunted. It had been an easy job. She’d left her number, in case Cordy wanted to go shopping sometime. But she’d looked right at him when she placed her card on the counter. I should have never called.
He had. And an odd relationship of sorts developed. They liked each other. The sex was.fast and hard and sweaty and.it seemed to help. It took the edge off. Both of them recognized they had no future together. They had no illusions. Three or four nights a week he’d end up at her place. Sometimes he’d stay the night, sometimes he wouldn’t. She didn’t seem to have a preference.
No matter how many times he came, no matter how many times she clawed his back and screamed his name, Angle wanted more. He was like a bottomless pit. He could never get full enough. It reminded him of eating. He could gorge on real food but it wouldn’t do anything to slake his hunger. Only blood would stop the craving. Only Cordy could make this craving stop. And I can’t have Cordy.
Soon the weekends at the hotel started. He instituted new work hours. Fred spent most weekends at Gunn’s. Jessica would come over Friday night and leave Sunday evening. His idea, not hers. Because he was always ravenous for her. She joked that he could never get enough. It’s not that though. It’s that she can never BE enough.
Whenever she left on Sundays, he could barely contain the hatred he felt for himself. After the first time, he had thrown up. It felt so wrong. Oddly, it wasn’t the sex with Jessica that made him sick to his stomach. It was the down time. Sitting on the couch together watching a movie. Making her dinner. It was cheating on Cordelia in the worst possible way. Cheating on her even though he had never made her any promises. It was cheating her.
Telling myself I do this for her doesn’t make it right. Angel felt dirty all the time now. He wouldn’t let Cordy touch him. He shuddered, remembering how he’d pushed her away the last time she tried-almost violently. She doesn’t deserve someone like me touching her. Jessica deserves more too. More than secret casual sex with someone who can’t feel anything for her.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Jessica said, shocking him out of his inner monologue. He hadn’t heard her approach. He’d assumed she was still asleep in the bedroom where he’d left her. Not my bedroom though. She’s not allowed in there. Whenever she came over they slept in one of the un-used bedrooms. He didn’t want her in his bed. Not with the faint scent of Cordelia still clinging to his pillow and sheets. He wouldn’t give that up.
Glancing at the incredibly attractive woman who, wrapped only in a sheet, stood confidently in front of him, Angel felt another stab of guilt. When did I become such a bastard? “Actually I was thinking about you,” he told her. She smiled, a slow sexy smile, and moved to sit next to him on the stairs.
“Hmm, I don’t know, usually when you’re thinking about me,” she said, running her hand up his upper thigh, “you’re a lot more excited.” He merely offered her a brief smile in response. She tilted her head down to try and see into his eyes. “Angel, is something wrong?”
He reached for her hand. “Jess, I don’t want to lead you on,” he began. Her husky laughter interrupted him.
“Sweetie,” she said, squeezing his fingers, “believe me, you’re not.” Angel must not have looked like he believed her because she physically turned him to look into her eyes. “Angel, dark and sexy you are, but when it comes to hiding your emotions, not so much. I have always been very clear on what this is. What we are.”
“And what are we?” Angel really wanted to know.
She stood up and moved to curl up in his lap. “For me, you’re.a good time,” she said laughingly. “I want a man in my bed and it doesn’t hurt to have someone who’s easy on the eyes and chock full of imagination.” She looked at him thoughtfully. “For you, I’m someone that you need to help you forget.”
“And what am I trying to forget?” Angel asked.
“A girl,” Jessica answered matter-of-factly. “Aren’t these things always about a girl.” Angel nodded and looked down. “And the way we’ve been going at it the past couple of weeks, this girl must be pretty hard to forget.”
“Try impossible.” Angel couldn’t help but give her a small squeeze. She wasn’t the woman he dreamed about, but she was pretty damn great. She hugged him back and climbed out of his lap. It’s too bad I don’t have more friends. I wish I could set her up with someone when all this madness over.
“So why can’t you just tell Cordelia that you’re in love with her?” Jessica asked. IT took a minute for Angel to realize what she had said.
“How’d you.when did I.what gave it away?” he stuttered.
“Oh I don’t know. The first day I came in here, when you couldn’t take your eyes off of her. The fact that we’ve had sex on every desk in this office except hers. Oh, and the sneaking out of bed with me, that sorta gave it away.”
“You knew about that?” he asked quietly.
“What did you do, go stand outside of her apartment?”
He glared at her. “You’re starting to know me too well.” All of the sudden he got worried. “Since.now that you know, does that mean we have to stop? Does it matter? Does it matter that I’m in love with someone else?”
“Well, yeah,” she said and sounded so much like Cordelia that his undead heart broke. “Of course it matters. But for you, not me.” Jessica went on, assuring him with a bright smile. “Clearly, whatever is going on with her is.complicated. Me, I’m pretty easy. In fact” she said, climbing out of his lap and moving to stand directly in front of him, “look.” She dropped the sheet. “See, no strings attached.”
Eyes moving over her gleaming, perfect naked body, Angel felt a familiar hunger stirring. He lunged for her but she moved quickly out of his reach. “Oh no,” she purred. “You have to catch me first.”
She ran towards the kitchen, a vampire hot on her tail.
The lobby of the Hyperion was deserted when Cordy got there, but that wasn’t surprising. Gunn and Fred wouldn’t be back until late and Angel was probably up in his bedroom, doing something mopey and brooding. At least that’s what he’s been doing every time I’ve come over. She moved to put her bags down on the counter.
Let’s see. Champagne? Check. Candles? Check. Gum? Oh man, please tell me I didn’t forget gum. She huffed into her hand to check her breath. Fear. Fear was not a good taste. I can’t help it. I’m nervous and when I’m nervous my stomach gets all knotty and I grind my teeth and my throat goes all dry and the result: Fear Breath. She breathed a sigh of relief when the fourth search of her purse yielded an aging piece of Bubble-Yum. Gum? Check. All set.
But she didn’t feel ready. Something still felt off. She needed something to calm her down. She eyed the champagne. A little liquid courage maybe? No, she needed something that would make her feel comfortable. She needed.chocolate. And I know for a fact there is an unopened can of chocolate cake frosting-in the kitchen, third shelf left of the sink. Hidden there by moi for just such emergencies.
She pushed open the double doors. It was pretty dark in there. The sun had just gotten down and all the shadows were kind of scary. She heard a rustling noise. Oh god. Rats. I knew it. Where are the lights? There have to be some lights in here!
She fumbled along the wall before she found the switch, flipping it up with a sigh of relief, and stepped further into the room.
Many things had surprised Cordelia before. That time at Buffy’s house when the make up man turned out to be made of bugs. When that guy in high school wanted her head to complete his Franken-girl science experiment. How awfully Wesley kissed. Those things had all taken her by surprise. This practically shocked her into a coma.
They were on the floor. Jessica, lying on top of Angel’s shirt. Her blond hair spread out all around her head. Angel was above her, thrusting into her, gloriously, perfectly naked. Of course, Cordy couldn’t appreciate it. All she could see, all she could focus on, was his hand cupping Jessica’s cheek and then clutching at strands of blondness. She closed her eyes, but the sounds of soft moans and skin meeting skin painted a mental picture that was just as bad.
Pain seared behind her eyelids as hot tears started to form. She could have sworn she was screaming, but since they weren’t stopping, it must have just been inside her head. All of the sudden, she felt dizzy, her throat hurt, she was so hot.
if I don’t get out of here I’m going to faint. Or die. She took three steps backwards. As luck would have it-and luck had never been on her side-she ran right into a stack of folding chairs that had been against the wall.
Just as Jessica came, the chairs came crashing down. Cordelia gasped and it was that sound, over the racket of the chairs and Jessica’s moans, that Angel heard. His head pivoted to the right and he saw her there.
* * *
Cordelia. Oh God. Cordelia. Angel froze, still inside of the women who lay beneath him. Jess noticed that he had stopped moving and looked to see what had distracted him. With both of them staring up at her, Cordelia tried to say something.
Her mouth moved twice, but no sound came out. Finally, fixing her eyes firmly on the spot of floor by her shoes, she managed to choke a few words out.
“I’m.oh God. I’m so, so sorry.” Her face, even in the relative dimness of the kitchen, was deathly pale. “I didn’t.you never said.I’m sorry. I, I’ll go.” Eyes still on the floor, she turned and started to push open the door.
She’s leaving. . Ice cold panic slid over him. “Cordelia!” he called out. She froze and slowly turned around to face him. Then Angel realized. I have no idea what to say. . Was there anything he could say? He had put that look on her face. I knew I would hurt her. Their eyes met. Hers, glassy and blinking too much. His, dark and not blinking at all.
Finally, she broke the silence. “I need to go,” she murmured. She spun back around and left the kitchen door swinging in her wake. Less than a minute later he heard the front door slam. It shook him out of his shock. I need to find her. explain. well, explain however I can. Make sure she understands. He rolled off Jessica and fumbled for his pants.
“Angel,” she said softly.
Oh God. He had forgotten she was there. Cordelia had walked in and he had seen her hurting hazel eyes and he had forgotten about the woman he had been inside of.
“I have to.” he started. She reached a hand out and rested it on the arm that was reaching for his shoes. “Angel. Give her a little time. She won’t be able to listen to you now. She needs to calm down a little.” She beseeched him with her eyes. “Wait until later tonight. Say whatever you have to say then. But right now.it would only make it worse.”
He looked down at her. She still lay there on the floor. They had just spent the last 48 hours together, as physically close as two people could be. He had just left her body in the MIDDLE to chase after another woman. And she was trying to help him, still. What kind of asshole am I?
She was right. Angel knew that. Later, I’ll go to her later. Do whatever I can to somehow make this better. He offered her his hand and helped Jess stand up. Together they walked back into the lobby. He stood there in a daze while she went to go grab the sheet she had dropped earlier. On her way, something caught her eye.
“Oh. Oh wow,” Jessica said, calling his attention. He looked where she pointed, over at the counter. He took it all in, the candles, portable CD player, a.a bottle of Champagne. Cordy hadn’t just been popping in to say hi. She came over here to…
Jessica walked upstairs to get her clothes. Angel sat down at Cordy’s desk. He glimpsed the framed picture of her and Fred and Connor, taken after Connor’s first trip to the mall. Angel buried his head in his hands and fought for control.