Season of Solace. 43

43:     Shady Hill Cemetery, North Central Sunnydale

Struggling into consciousness, Cordelia’s eyes fluttered open, then blinked closed again. The effort forced her back into the darkness as time slipped by without notice offering momentary freedom from the shock of being slammed into the ground. Foggy-headed, she awakened to a heavy weight pinning her down.

Hard to think, hard to breathe.

Pain forced her to move, her hand instinctively slipping across rough rock and bladed grass toward her throbbing injury. Sticky moisture clung to the left side of her face, congealed blood clotting the wound closed. Cordelia stared at her bloodied fingers piecing together what happened.

It came in rapid replay. Kissing Angel. The meteor. Falling. Being pulled up into his arms. Explosive debris and the force knocking them down. The ground coming up fast.

No, something wasn’t quite right with that, Cordelia’s slowly concluded. Her hand slipped down contacting another, Angel’s. Though her thoughts were muddled, it finally clicked. She had never actually gotten around to kissing him. Damn. No, no, that was probably a good thing. Angel was off limits in the Tall, Dark & Hottie, but no-bone category of guys. Buffy’s territory.

Oh, and hello, note to self: he is a vampire. Her hormones needed a reminder of that little factoid.

Cordelia’s fingers curled around his hand, an unsteady sigh escaping her throat at the contact. She tried to clear the last remaining cobwebs. At least she had the satisfaction of knowing that he thought she was hot, too. Not that Angel actually said the words, cos that would require actual conversation. No, he had to be cryptic about it.

Not that they could do anything about it. “Angel.” Turning her head to look his way, she ignored the pain it took to move, his name coming out more as a little cry.

His body half-covered hers. Cordelia instinctively knew that he had taken the brunt of the impact from the debris before they both slammed into the ground. They were on the edge of the gully. Not so close that they were in danger of falling, but in a position that made it difficult to squeeze out from under him.

More alert, seeing that Angel was not moving, she lifted her hand to his shoulder and tried to shake him awake. “Wakey, wakey! C’mon, Angel, don’t do this to me. You don’t breathe, so how am I supposed to know that you’re okay?”

All she managed to do was leave a trail of bloody fingerprints on his skin. Angel’s muscles were densely packed, his shoulder a rock that would not budge. Cordelia’s attempt to awaken him had no impact.

Inching forward, she pressed her mouth to his ear and yelled his name again. Up in the trees, the birds flapped their wings, squawking in reaction, but Angel showed no sign of consciousness.

The only thing that kept her from panicking was the fact that he was not a large dust pile. She wrapped her arm around him, pulling close, letting her rhythmic breathing settle her down. Pressing her cheek against him, she lay quietly gathering the strength to move.

As soon as she got out from under him, Cordelia figured she would call for help. Not that the Scoobies even had phones of their own. They had pagers and a series of emergency codes. Too bad there wasn’t one for this. Then remembering that her cell phone had been cancelled along with all of her father’s other credit accounts, she realized that making a call was not an option anyway.

“Time to move, big guy,” Cordelia muttered as she attempted to scoot her way out from under Angel. The lower half of her body was completely pinned beneath him. “Urgh! Maybe I shouldn’t have given you that chocolate pudding.”

Panting from exertion, and no closer to freedom, she puffed up her cheeks and let out a whoosh of air. “Okay then, I suppose I’ll just stay here for a while.”

A deep male voice sounded from the tree line just out of Cordelia’s line of sight. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll take care of this.”

Rescued! And it wasn’t even Buffy & Co.

Cordelia craned her neck up over Angel’s body. Garbed in dark blue from head to toe, the stranger wore an unmistakable shiny silver badge. He was a bald, muscular tough guy. Just right for lifting large objects. Perfect timing. Maybe a little too perfect, a scary vibe raced along her nerves.

“How’d you know we were up here? Maybe you were just checking things out.”

“I saw the car at the bottom of the hill. Classic.” The police officer reached up to remove his dark sunglasses revealing dark black eyes.

Mr. I-Wear-Raybans-At-Night probably thought that made him look mysterious or intimidating. Um, he was probably right. Cordelia noticed the subtle leer behind the otherwise friendly expression. Jerk. “A little help, Officer. Kinda stuck here.”

“Maybe you deserve what’s coming.” He chuckled now, a gravelly sound that crept along her spine. “Your boyfriend’s a vampire. Did you know that, girl?”

Sensing real danger now, Cordelia curled her fingernails deeper into Angel’s shoulder. It still got no reaction. This cop was giving her bad, bad vibes. She watched helplessly as he reached down and pulled up a broken branch from the ground, one end angled into a sharp point.

There was only one thing she could imagine he was planning. Fear gave her the strength to pull her body free. Cordelia scrambled to her feet, standing unsteadily at the edge of the gully between him and Angel. “He’s none of your business.”

“But you are.” Dropping the branch to the ground, he stepped forward grabbing her shoulders.

Pulled close, Cordelia noticed instantly the glittering of inhuman eyes as the mask of human features began melting away. His touch became almost painfully hot as heat emanated from his body. Eyes wide with fright, she watched as the demon’s true face was revealed.

“Tonight you have been marked for my master.” The demon’s hand slipped down to capture her flailing wrists. Cordelia kicked at his shin, lifted her knee toward his groin only to cry out as it contacted a rocky exoskeleton. “Be calm. You will only do yourself harm.”

“Maybe your master won’t want me.” Cordelia tugged hard when he moved to hold her other wrist into a single-handed grip. She broke free, but only momentarily.

That evil chuckle sounded again. What was it with bad guys who always thought they were gonna get the last laugh.

“I think you’re making a big mistake, buddy.” When he started moving toward the lower section of the cemetery where the remnants of the path led back to the parking area, Cordelia planted her feet and forced him to drag her. “Do you know who you’re dealing with? Cordelia Chase is nobody’s sacrifice.”

Now focused on getting her down the hill, the demon slung her over his shoulder and trudged on. Yelling out to Angel again, Cordelia hoped that he would finally wake up. “Get your ass over here! Kidnapping in progress. Sheesh! There’s never a Slayer around when you need one.”

The demon slapped her bottom just hard enough to sting. Outraged, Cordelia let out a curse, but it only seemed to amuse him. “Let me go, you bastard.”

“I am surprised the vampire let you live this long,” a guttural growl emerged. “Or that one such as you remains pure.”

Cordelia stopped struggling, propped her elbow on his shoulder and looked over her shoulder. “Hey! What’s that supposed to mean? My purity is none of your— anyway, it’s not an issue. My vampire boyfriend back there took care of that earlier. Starlit picnic. A little Tai Chi. Some serious boinking.”

“You lie, Noisy One, I would smell it on you.”

Eew.

Looking back, Cordelia watched as Angel’s prone form got smaller and smaller as they moved away from him. Her gut clenched tight in fear, not only for herself, but also for him. He had been unconscious so long. Any serious injuries he had sustained were not immediately visible, just scrapes and bruises. She had not had time to check him out for anything worse.

Please be okay.

Without more than a moment’s pause, Cordelia made another attempt at escape, again a futile one. This demon was almost Slayer-strong, as strong as Angel now that he had regained his full strength. “My friends will find you, kick your ass and rip your head off for this.”

Walking down the line of tall scrub bushes separating the parking area from the main part of the cemetery, he made the final turn. “I am not interested in your friends.”

The demon stopped short of the police car parked next to the black Plymouth. A third car was parked next to the other two.

“Maybe we’re interested in you, tough guy,” Faith clocked him in the jaw with a quick jab of her fist. A grunt of pain sounded and he wavered on his feet, but held on to Cordelia.

Giles stood on the other side of the opening in the bushes, holding a crossbow. “I suggest you carefully set Miss Chase down.”

Rubbing her fist in the palm of her hand, Faith walked forward as the demon took a few steps back. “Yeah, put her down. Come play with me.”

“Mok ari cha shuna sey. Ra vinor Slayer eosun.“ The demon growled a warning adding something more extensive in his own language. “De sua Varstrae gataru ona duaranta. Jo nahn. Preot mayla rek Tavrok mystarus.”

Faith merely cocked her head. “I don’t know about you, Rup, but I’m taking that as a threat.”

Abbreviating the translation to the key point, Giles said, “It is a warning not to interfere with the Rites of Tavrok.”

Faith took another step forward. Pointing out to the contrary, “I’m all for interfering.”

Cordelia let out a short scream as the demon spun her around to stand in front of him as a shield. His clawed hand with thickened skin rough against her own, he held her by the neck. Both Faith and Giles held off their approach. With the demon’s grip tightening, Cordelia thought he was about to crush her throat, but he stopped just shy of it.

“He needs me alive,” Cordelia got out over the rumble of his growling discontent. She was being dragged back up the hill.

They were in the narrow space between the gully and the forward edge of the meteor crater. Faith suddenly looked behind the demon, gave a nod and called out, “Angel, take him out.”

The demon whirled, releasing Cordelia out of necessity, and crouched into a defensive posture. It sent Cordelia toppling toward the edge of the crater. She fell with a piercing scream silenced as the air was knocked out of her when she hit the ground. Scrambling for purchase, she managed to find a tentative handhold.

Above, her captor realized he had been fooled into thinking the vampire was conscious and ready to fight. His mistake cost him Cordelia. There was nothing to do except to run. Faith started to pursue him, determined to knock him down. He was their only lead. Besides, he had obviously been planning to make Cordelia the next sacrifice mentioned by the prophecy.

The hell if she was going to let that happen.

Giles had not thought of that when he suggested they check out the crash site. It was visible from their position at Trinity Church Cemetery and seemed like it had come down near Cordelia and Angel’s location here at Shady Hill. Neither one of them had suspected trouble until they spotted the police car. Remembering that a cop had picked up Karla Brewer the night she disappeared suggested he might have a similar plan.

She did not figure on him falling for the old distraction ploy, but was not going to knock the fact that he did.

“Faith!” On the ground, Giles was leaning over the crater’s edge holding on to one wrist as Cordelia reached up with her other hand.

He had barely caught her before she fell, but his grip was failing.

Hearing him, Faith stopped and spun around. A huff of frustration sounded as she realized the demon was going to get away. She leapt across the gully they had crossed during the chase. She could not see Giles’ face, but the sound of his voice urging Cor to hold on told her she needed to haul ass to get there before he dropped her.

She had gone too far to make it. Another twenty yards separated her from Giles’ prone form when Angel barreled out of nowhere to pull Cordelia to safety. Faith had never seen anyone, even a vampire move so fast. “Way to go Angel!” she shouted out.

The strength and speed used to bring her back to her feet had Cordelia wavering in shock. First, it was Giles, but then— omigod! Angel, it was Angel standing there and she had never been so happy to see anyone in her entire life.

Tears of relief glistened in Cordelia’s eyes as she hugged him, her cheek pressed against his chest, arms winding tightly around his waist. A subtle rumble sounded beneath her ear. Instantly, Angel’s arms enveloped her. Reeled in tight as he held her close and nuzzled his cheek against her hair Cordelia wanted to be… needed to be closer still.

Angel’s hold loosened and a tiny moan of complaint escaped her throat at the loss as he pulled away just enough to look at her face. Too many emotions choked her up. She managed his name. It came out as a whisper, a needy sound swallowed up by the dark depths of his eyes.

Taut with tension, Angel’s gaze slid from hers to look at the dried blood caked to her temple and the trail it left along her cheek. He followed that trail with his fingertips, smoothing her hair and tucking it behind her ear, noting the darkening areas on her throat where the demon held a little too tight.

For a moment, he had murder in his eyes, and then it drained away. All that was left was need as he stared down at her plush lips parted invitingly so close to his. Cordy shifted in his arms, her warmth melting into him.

Irresistibly drawn together, their mouths met in a soft velvet kiss steeped by tender concern, expressing relief. Over in a moment, the soothing press of his lips left her gasping. They pulled back an inch, both staring in shock at what they had just done.

Parting lasted only a moment. Cordelia trembled at how good it felt to kiss him, a jolt of tingling warmth centering deep inside. Her palms slipped up the cotton shirt over the hard contours of his chest, her fingers slipping up to his shoulders toward the nape of his neck.

The slide of his hand down to the small of her back brought Cordelia closer still. A soft moan sounded against her lips containing a hint of the hunger he had found so hard to control. Now he just needed to taste her, to assure himself that she was alive and in his arms. That one brief kiss was not nearly enough.

Ravenously, he kissed her with the silky slide of his soft lips over hers. Again and again. Feeling her warmth soaking into him as her body angled closer, thin lycra and cotton poor barriers between them. Her mouth was eager against his, just as needy. He gently sucked at her bottom lip, heard her anxious mewl as her fingers threaded through his hair.

Letting her take what she wanted before delving into the warm recesses of her mouth, Angel shuddered with need at the slide of his tongue against hers. When he moaned into her mouth, Cordelia echoed back, their arousal climbing despite their bruises. Her body writhed catlike against him, unconsciously rubbing her breasts against his chest, hips shifting closer to his body’s hardening response. Angel’s hand splayed open across her back, moving with long, sure strokes against her spine.

“Damn, I’ve gotta get me some of that,” Faith dimpled at the sight. Walking up next to Giles who had half-turned away from the kissing couple, she tugged at his now wrinkled tie. “Told ya so. Those two are hot.”

Noting that Faith went right back to staring at them, Giles deliberately cleared his throat. The second time, Angel and Cordy turned toward the sound, both looking dazed and slightly irritated by the interruption.

Until now, it seemed like they were the only two people on that hilltop. They stood within each other’s embrace, frozen in realization of what had happened. Then it sank in, the enormity of those kisses. Slowly, they slipped apart, eyes focused on the ground and then daring to meet.

“Cordy, I shouldn’t have—,” Angel let her go, backing off a few inches. A subtle growl built up at the loss of her touch, trapped there by the guilt welling up at a fast pace.

Cordelia did not want excuses. He obviously thought kissing her was a mistake, but she did not want him to think that they were so important to her, either. “Geez, Angel, just ‘cause I’m happy you saved me doesn’t mean I’m that grateful.”

She turned away from him to walk past Faith and Giles who stood slack-jawed at their sudden change of behavior. Angel pushed past them to follow her ignoring the fact that it was probably better to let the subject drop.

“I was concerned about you, Cordy,” Angel caught up with her. “Things got out of hand. I wanted to make sure you were okay and then—”

“Then you got carried away with a little tonsil hockey.”

Catching her elbow in his grasp, Angel whirled her around to face him, a hint of anger glinting as he stared downward. “Is that really how you want to play this? I won’t apologize again.”

“For what?” The fast move had left her head spinning. Everything that happened seemed to come crashing down on her at once. Cordelia managed a casual shrug. “On the scale of bleh to earth-shattering, I’d rate it as no big deal. So drop it.”

It was a helluva big deal, Angel wanted to argue but kept his mouth shut. He was too busy trying to control the urge to yank her back into his arms and shatter every memory she ever had of being kissed by anyone else. Frustrated with his own weakness, angry at her reaction, he let her go.

Angel seethed with the need to tell her that her body betrayed her, that he knew the throbbing pulse at her throat, the beat of her heart, the scent of her arousal. Instead, he decided to let her have it her way for now. He would do as she asked, “Consider it dropped,” but not before he took his turn at biting back, the demon in him unable to let it go completely.

The words tumbled in freefall from his mouth, a venomous hiss against her ear. “After all, it didn’t mean anything. You’re not Buffy.”

Cordelia staggered back, wavering on her feet, eyes no longer focused. Her hand went up to her head, her injured temple throbbing. Now everything was spinning, not just her head. She blinked in slow motion, watching in a fog as the stony expression on Angel’s face blurred. He said something, reaching out for her. Then the world fell away.

Her legs crumpled beneath her as she blacked out.

Scene 44

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