Season of Solace. 52

52:     Mercy Hospital, Westside, Sunnydale

A click of the door shut out the world beyond Cordelia’s hospital room. Random sounds faded: a ringing phone at the nurses station, intermittent bleeping from an IV pole, the rattling cough of a patient down the hall, and the muted voices of the night shift staff. On some level, Angel remained aware of it all, keyed in to anything out of place.

Right now, the focus of his highly attuned senses stood only a few feet away, taut as a bowstring as she watched him watching her. If he had learned one thing about Cordelia, it was that he would not have long to wait to hear what was on her mind.

Brow arching challengingly, Cordelia’s relaxed tone belied her body language. “So this is later,” she tossed the small card bearing his message onto the tray table.

Angel silently admitted that the one-word note tortured as much as it teased. He hoped that it conveyed his intention to pick up their conversation where they left it. The flowers were simply a gift, not a method of atonement. If he was expected to eat his words, she was sure as hell going to do the same.

Having accepted the flowers, thanking him despite the potentially cryptic note attached, she did not seem half as surprised by the gesture as Buffy, who went pale and wide-eyed upon realizing the flowers came from him. Vaguely, Angel wondered at Buffy’s reaction when Cordy leaned in to kiss his cheek. Being very distracted at the time by the lingering warmth against his skin, he had neither noticed nor cared if it bothered his ex.

Being here had little to do with Buffy, but it was still difficult to push the thought of her completely out of his mind. Angel felt a knot of guilt that would not go away. The fact that he had used their relationship to get back at Cordy was contemptuous. He had dug down deep, biting back with words he instinctively knew would hurt the most, a demonic reaction for something that scraped at his all too human emotions.

Cordy had demanded that he take back what he said at Shady Hill after their kiss. He had every intention of trying to fix that, especially since it was apparent there would be no miraculous bout of amnesia to save him from doing so. However, Angel’s plans to explain his momentary insanity would not be accompanied by an apology for kissing her.

That kiss had been spontaneous and ultimately unavoidable. The tension between them had been building up like a simmering volcano. It was not one-sided attraction, but both of them had their reasons to fight it. He was too confused by the intensity of his feelings to sort out hers. On his part, their growing friendship was a source of so many positive emotions and experiences that Angel did not want to chance losing it, but when Cordelia said that the kisses meant nothing to her, that she experienced better, he knew she was lying.

Angel stalked closer without breaking eye contact, half-expecting to set off an internal defense mechanism in the form of a verbal attack. She was watchful, silently waiting for him to speak, no doubt expecting him to spill his guts by way of apologizing. She would have to hold her breath a long time for that to happen.

They had other important things to discuss, too. Not just their untimely kisses. Cordy’s safety was high on that list. The Crosathnam demon remained at large. The threat he posed was real. Angel intended to personally protect Cordelia or ensure that one of the slayers was at her side when he could not be there.

Drusilla’s words played heavily on his mind, far too much to ignore. Hinting that Cordelia had a destiny that involved him, she spoke of their closeness, new family ties, of blood & death. Just when Angel became concerned that Dru was predicting Angelus’ return, she seemed to offer him more evidence. Cordelia’s blood would spill, she had predicted with a surety he could not refute.

That was only part of what Dru told him. She had enticed him with other things from her visions or her equally vivid imagination. Angel knew that Dru had said something to Cordelia back at Trinity Church that scared her, something about him. Since then, the tension between them had become nearly palpable. If she had suggested half as much to Cordelia as she had said to him, it was no wonder Cordy had been second-guessing his every move.

“Love her, my Angel. For if not, her path will set the darkness free.”

That was his greatest fear, losing his soul, setting Angelus loose upon the world again. It all seemed within the realm of the possible if he gave into his desires. Hoarsely, he said, “I can’t,” as his grip on her arms tightened a notch.

When she leaned in closer to console him, she promised, “Oh, but you will,” only to draw further ire. Angel thrust her away, not wanting to hear more of something that meant he was going to put Cordelia in danger. Not put off by the rejection or his rough move, Dru fell to her knees, collapsing forward, reaching out to steady herself by grasping his legs.

How innocent she looked as her cheek nuzzled his groin. A slow grin appeared conveying a reminder of every intimate or wicked thing that had ever passed between them. For a moment, he thought Dru had plans to seduce him, and she did in a way, by making him listen.

Drusilla’s black lashes fanned across the curve of her alabaster cheeks. “Do what you do best. Make her yours,” she pleaded opening her eyes again to drown him in their depths. He got hard fast under the weight of her stare as if she had taken his cock in hand and dragged her wet tongue root to tip. “Let her find solace in your arms. Let her take you into her body, then again, and again, and again, and again. Until you spear her heart. Until you live inside it forever.”

The vivid picture Dru had painted was arousing as if she had tapped into his new cache of Cordelia fantasies. He pinned himself to the wall as her nails curled into his thighs, afraid to admit that he might welcome an excuse to seduce Cordelia. His childe seemed to want him to have one. Effortlessly, she rose to her feet, fingers skittering across his covered erection. “All for her,” she gave him a pout.

Growling out, “Enough, Dru,” he dragged her hand up to his chest. “I’m not here to play games. I want answers.”

Whatever the nature of the threat in Drusilla’s vision, she was not able to or interested in providing any details. Maybe she had just decided that telling him to seduce Cordelia would be a fun way to force the soul out.

As much as he wanted to believe that the threat to Cordelia was not real, that Drusilla’s seductive advice was just a trap in the form of a lie. Or a false vision he could ignore, he knew it to be real. This was not one of those times Dru thought it might be fun to lie to Daddy just to be punished for it. This was a warning. The threat against Cordelia’s life was all too real, but was he the source of that threat or her savior?

There was the curse to consider. Angelus unfettered. That would not happen. He could not let it.

Angel wanted to say that the curse should be no concern for Cordelia. Not for a friend. Yet, this was fast becoming more than just friendship. It was different than before, too complicated a feeling. Angel was not sure what to call it. He liked Cordy a lot. Simple. Easy. True. That was not even the half of it because the easy emotions were colored with lust making Drusilla’s predictions out to be less crazy than he wanted them to be.

Desire chipped away at his resolve slowly revealing itself to be far more powerful. Angel wanted her. Simple and true, but wrapped up in too many complications to count. Far more than was safe by any measure. These yearnings needed to stop.

Achieving a perfect moment of unguarded bliss a second time might be impossible. His awareness of the risk might negate it completely. Now that he was aware of the danger, he felt that he had some level of control over his actions. He could take things so far, but no further. Do things that focused on her feelings, not his. Never forgetting who he was, or what he was, being physical and not emotional.

Sex with Cordelia would be far different, too. His demon did not retreat into the depths of his subconscious when he allowed himself to fantasize about her.

The images that painted his thoughts were often red with lust, crimson with blood, and sizzled hot. Tonight, he had learned that she was a virgin, a status that surprised most in the room at the time, but strangely enough, not him. His instinctive reaction was an overwhelming rush of possessiveness.

There might even be some wisdom in Faith’s cheeky remarks considering Dru’s warning. The slayer told him that he should take one for the team and help Cordelia out with her little problem. Maybe she was right, but it could not be so easy when Dru predicted a deadly outcome.

Logically, as a friend, Angel knew that he should step aside to let someone else handle the issue. There would be no threat from the curse, no risk to the world, or to Cordelia, only his sanity.

So, who would it be? He growled inwardly at the torturous thought, denial and anger shooting across raw nerves. Xander Harris. The little whelp obviously never knew what to do with Cordelia when they were a couple. Expecting him to man-up now was just laughable. After his betrayal, Harris was probably the last person Cordelia would want to sleep with.

Who, then, Rupert Giles? Ridiculous. Except that during one of their patrols, Cordy had been in over-sharing mode and told him that she thought Giles was hot for an older guy. “It’s probably the accent,” she had theorized. Amused at the time, Angel now wondered if she would find it attractive if the watcher’s voice box was ripped out and handed to him.

Well, it certainly would not be some random schoolmate eager to make a score. Angel mentally cleaved his way through an imaginary sea of young men with a broadsword, leaving a heap of corpses behind. Cordelia must have found them lacking in one way or another, he smirked at the thought of their shortcomings.

Getting angry about it was not going to solve anything. Nor would imagining himself in the role of lover be anything more than a study in masochism, self-torture. He could not have her, not the way he wanted her, again and again, until she belonged to him, again and again, until Cordelia loved him as much as he was afraid he was capable of loving her.

Just looking at her now made his body stir. It would be easy to reach out and to pull her into his arms, but this was not one of his fantasies. Self-denial was his daily routine, and he ignored the crude whispers of his demon urging him get on with it. Make her pay for comparing his kisses to untried boys and untalented men.

This was not about revenge. Her words still hurt, even as he denied their validity. Angel needed Cordelia to acknowledge their mutual desire in order to understand the need to avoid any mishaps in the future. He would no longer let her believe that her kiss meant nothing, or that he felt more for someone else than he did for her.

Drusilla’s words echoed, “Love her, my Angel.”

He was frightened for her, but just selfish enough to want to claim what little he could for himself. She needed to know where he stood, where they stood. It was a precipice from which any misstep would cause them to fall into darkness.

Scene 53

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