58: The Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale
Angel felt grateful that Cordelia took a while to change clothes. He needed to get a hold on his emotions, to curtail the urge to continue where they had left off. Cordy possessed a natural enthusiasm that made it easy forget her inexperience. Desire stirred low in his loins, still thick and heavy, as thoughts of a far more personal training session painted tempting images. Teaching her all that he knew about sex would be a pleasure in many ways.
The tragedy of their situation was not lost on him. He felt it acutely. So much that it quelled his arousal, anger at his own folly rising within him. He could not have her the way he wanted, not without risking everything. How many times did he have to remind himself of it? Angel knew it would not be the last.
He leaned up against the wall, head back, eyes closed as he soaked in the utter silence of the foyer. Beyond the dark stretch of the hallway, he heard Cordelia’s movements as she shifted her belongings and moved around the study. More distantly, the unique song of the night filtered to his ears. It soothed his frayed nerves.
When the door opened, he was ready to face seeing Cordelia wearing blood red, curve-hugging, midriff-baring Lycra— almost. Angel gulped instinctively.
“The basement is this way,” he thumbed in the direction of the door. “I’ve got it all set up for us,” and then adding unnecessarily, “for training.”
Angel opened the door and waved her toward the stairs. She smiled almost shyly, and in the next instant turned to jog down the stairs. Cordy had put her hair up in a ponytail that bounced wildly, but it was not what had his attention. Groaning inwardly, Angel told himself to focus on the training session. He needed to learn quickly about not letting Cordelia distract him.
“First, you will learn to awaken the Chi,” Angel instructed deciding to make this a hands-off session. The temptation to touch her, to guide her movements into the appropriate positions was strong. Giving into that need would not bode well for the rest of their lesson.
Following along with Angel’s example, Cordelia moved through the motions of the various Tai Chi exercises. He was impressed with how quickly she memorized the correct forms; though she tended to break from the rhythm of Qi Gong laughing over the names as he explained what each form was called.
Arms stretched out, Angel lifted up his hands, moving them back down through a form that loosened the joints of the shoulders, elbows and wrists. As Cordelia mimicked the fluttering arm movements, Angel spoke the name in Chinese, the sound rolling off his tongue.
Repeating it in English elicited another fit of giggles, “Wild Goose Looks for Food.”
“Oh, yeah,” Cordelia snorted. “Next time we’re in a bar fight, remind me to use that move.”
Annoyance flitted across his face. Angel straightened up from his slightly crouched position propping both hands on his lean hips making his shoulders look even broader.
“Sorry, sorry!” Cordelia stifled one last laugh and hopped in place. Coming to a halt, she pointed at her face, “Serious mode now. Teach me.”
Giving her one last suspicious look, Angel turned back into position. “We’ll start over.”
Cordelia nodded, “Ready!” automatically moving back to the first position.
Almost instantly, they started moving in sync side-by-side. Their bodies stretched and flexed as one, motion after motion following form until a light sheen of sweat glistened across their skin. Angel heightened senses keyed into the steady beat of Cordy’s heart, her slow, deep rhythmic breaths and the subtle lingering sent of her arousal.
She had joined him in silence for longer than he had imagined possible. Cordelia was a natural talker. She could hold up both ends of a conversation with ease. So, it was no surprise when she finally spoke, this time without breaking form.
“I told Faith,” Cordy confessed with a glance in his direction.
Angel finished another move before responding, “You mean about us.”
“The kissing part at the hospital,” she clarified. “I wasn’t sure, technically, if there is an US.”
That brought the exercise to an end. Angel straightened up, watching her for a moment as Cordelia continued to move through the rest of the form. She stared straight ahead instead of looking at him, but he could see the tension that built up in her shoulders.
Sensing her uncertainty, Angel closed his big hand around her upper arm whirling her to face him. Whatever clarity the Tai Chi session may have provided, it seemed only to have heightened her doubts.
Angel had enough of his own to worry about, especially whether or not getting involved with Cordelia was the right thing to do. God knows he wanted it badly enough. She had to know that much after what happened between them earlier.
The issue seemed clear to him, but Cordelia managed to make it confusing. “Are we together officially or unofficially, or are we just having a little fun? Y’know, a little macking on the side while—”
“Stop,” Angel barked in effort to get a word in. Anger, frustration and confusion jockeyed for control as he tried to find the right way to answer her question. “If you’re asking me if I’m serious about this…about being with you, then the answer is yes.”
He heard a little sigh escape her lips, but she seemed to be waiting to hear more, so Angel pressed on. He released his hold on her arm, lifting his hand to cup her cheek. “There’s nothing unofficial about it, Cordy. Not if you want me the same way.”
“Yes.” Not even a slight hint of doubt sounded in her rapid response.
Briefly, Angel pressed his lips to hers, pulling back when she would have given him more. He sounded harsher than he meant to, but Cordelia needed to face facts before getting in too deep. Because Angel knew once he truly started to let himself think of her as being his, he would never want to walk away from this or from her.
“I’m a vampire,” he morphed into his natural features, hard ridges supplanting smooth angles. “You can’t ever forget that, or let me. There’s a reason I’ve been cursed and I pay for it every day with the memories of the countless people I’ve drained, tortured and left for dead.”
Cordelia paled slightly. It was an ugly truth, after all. Yet she looked deep into his ochre eyes to say, “I know all of that.”
“Cordy, I don’t want you to be one of them,” he stressed. “I lost my soul because I let myself forget about everything I’ve done, about the evil inside me. There is no guarantee that I—.”
“Whoa, buddy! There’re no guarantees for a lot of things.” Cordelia poked him in the chest. “You don’t need to rehash the exploits of Angelus. I have seen you evil, up close and personal. Not easy to forget.”
Shifting back into his human form, Angel relaxed a little at the fact that Cordelia did not scare easily. “What if I told you that I want you?”
Angel tried to fight off the smile that threatened to appear as he continued. He needed to know that she was ready for a relationship, partly blaming his failed love affair with Buffy because neither one of them knew what they were getting into. He was also fully cognizant of the risks. “I don’t know how far we can go, physically.”
Heat bloomed beneath his hand as a bright blush colored her cheeks. “As far as it’s safe, I suppose. Funny how they don’t cover soul lossage in Health Ed. It’s all about condoms and bananas.”
He lost his train of thought after that.
“So…umm,” Cordelia clasped her hands behind her back, swaying side to side. “I told Faith about us. She promised to keep it quiet.”
“Do you want to?” Angel asked suddenly picturing the hullabaloo that would follow any announcement that they were a couple. “Keep it quiet, I mean.”
Cordelia frowned thoughtfully. “Could we keep it between us for now? Part of me wants to tell the others, but you know what will happen.”
“Yes,” Angel nodded. “Buffy and Xander—”
“It’s none of their business,” Angel growled at the notion that their two exes had any say in the matter. At the same time, he had to concede, “But they deserve to be told at the right moment.”
“And in the right way,” Cordelia totally agreed. Pointing out, “I’m pretty sure that ‘Bite me, Angel’s mine now’ won’t go over in a big way.”
That mesmerizing smile appeared on her face holding Angel captive and making him helpless to do anything more than smile back. Finally, he decided that Cordelia was right about waiting a while. Springing the news on everyone right now while they were in the middle of this apocalyptic prophecy, especially when Cordy was in danger and needed Buffy’s support, seemed like the wrong timing.
Angel pulled her into his arms, hands shifting over her shoulders and down to her waist, enjoying the sensation of so much bare skin. “We’ll wait to tell them.”
“Good.” Arms around his neck, she reached up to kiss him. The warmth of her lips lingered even after she pulled away.
Angel pulled the scrunchy elastic thing out of her hair, fingering through her long tresses. Even damp with perspiration she was beautiful, womanly beyond her years despite her innocence. He had meant to be frank with her so she would understand the risk she was taking. Still, he doubted she knew just how much he desired her.
That he had been fantasizing about her in ways that also fueled his demonic nature. Things she was nowhere near to being ready to experience yet. Angel felt his loins tighten just at the thought of it and quickly admonished himself for bringing such base thoughts into the realm of possibility.
Maybe it would not surprise her. Cordelia was passionate enough to have an active fantasy life of her own and he hoped he played a part in it. That was something he wanted to eventually explore. Angel knew they needed to take this slowly, but as they had already demonstrated that wasn’t likely to happen.
He had the ability to be patient when he wanted to be. For Cordelia’s sake, Angel planned to try. Slow was out of the question, but there was a difference between moving ahead and moving too quickly. Just to test the notion out, he kissed her with determined tenderness, finding his resolve wavering when Cordy let out a mewl of pleasure.
There was just one thing he needed to know before letting things go any further. It was a question he had been asking for a while now. One Cordelia stubbornly refused to answer.
Lifting his head, Angel watched her eyelids flutter open and the silent question forming on her still-pursed lips. He brushed his mouth across hers one more time before asking, “What was it that Drusilla said to you at Trinity Church?”
He felt her body tense beneath his hands. Cordelia blinked, and then looked away for a moment. Slowly, she lifted her gaze back to his. “The future, I guess. That’s what she does.”
“What future?” Angel wanted specifics.
Cordelia pressed her lips together. They opened with a soft pop as she told him, “Ours, I suppose. She showed me….”
Any elation Angel felt died when he remembered that Dru’s vision had frightened Cordy. “What?”
“It’s just that—,” she began only to falter. Then Cordy’s grin appeared, not as genuine as the last. Her eyes pleaded for him to press no further. “I can tell you that there’s a serious lack of limousines and red carpets.”