Puzzle Pieces. 1

Title: Puzzle Pieces     Puzzle ficpic
Author: Lysa
Posted: 04/06/04
Rating: NC-17
Category: Angst, Romance, Smut, AU
Content: C/A
Summary: Angel reflects on his response to Cordelia’s dating frenzy
Spoilers: AtS Season3 Episode 13: Waiting in the Wings
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Anywhere…please let me know.
Notes: Challenge by Kimmers: A version of ‘See Jane Date’. Angel is jealous when Cordy starts dating and sets out to ruin her dates. Include: Baby Connor. Other pairings: Fred/Gunn, Wes/? Required Quote: “Baby, you’re mine.” This fic goes totally AU at the end of WitW. No Groo. I know…that really, really disappoints all of you. You’ll just have to live with it. 😉 I’m also trying out a new writing style this time. Something quite different for me, so a little constructive FB wouldn’t go unappreciated.
Thanks/Dedication: To Kimmers of course! For her ‘Bubblegum’ Attitude and her courage in trying out a new style of writing. Thanks for the inspiration. May your future be full of happy C/A family fics.

Watching as my 11-month-old son futilely attempts to pound a square block into a round hole, I am reminded that not so long ago I made a concerted effort to do the same. Only I was playing with lives instead of a three-dimensional puzzle. There comes a time when you have to realize that some pieces fit and others don’t no matter how hard you try to make them.

Night of the Ballet

Returning to the Hyperion after the ballet came as a reality check. Still lost in a haze of all that had happened I couldn’t get Cordelia out of my head. If my heart had the ability to beat, it would have been pounding in my chest. Every passing second was filled with resonant images, sounds and scents of those timeless minutes inside the prima ballerina’s dressing room.

It wasn’t all about possession…not just by spirits at any rate, certainly not on my side. When she asked me to undress her, I thought I’d dropped into the middle of a wet dream. The kind a guy definitely isn’t supposed to have for his beautiful best friend. Only the fantasy quickly turned real as we went step-by-step through the motions of the clandestine meeting between the ballerina and her lover.

Though the words were theirs, it was my hands caressing Cordelia’s skin, my mouth kissing those lush lips, my tongue teasing her. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that I could fight the urge to follow those ethereal commands if I really wanted to, but I didn’t. The little cross she’d picked up off the dresser scorched my skin as it touched me accidentally, snapping me out of the lustful haze that was fast taking me to a place I wanted to be.

When Cordy suggested we needed to get out of that room, all I could do was agree, but the path to the door came only with effort. One my body really didn’t care to make. I could barely keep my hands from gliding over her curves and doing precisely what she’d begged me to do: undress her.

If we hadn’t reached that door just then, I know I would have done it. I was aroused and ready and wanting her. Naturally, Cordelia noticed.

Reprieve came momentarily in the hall outside, though my burning need to apologize was blown off by my no-nonsense seer. She blamed it all on the magic, but my body wasn’t so quick to forget. I was still thinking about the way Cordelia told me she was only alive when I was inside her.

The ballerina’s words, I know, not Cordy’s. Still, her voice whispering against my lips catapulted me into a silent acknowledgement that it was precisely where I wanted to be. One she quickly turned into a joke as I attempted to explain that going back into that room just to follow-up on her theory was not the safest thing to do.

“My champion, ladies and gentlemen,” she’d announced sardonically to the otherwise empty hall. Cordelia might as well have been telling an audience I was a coward for trying to avoid her kisses. Not that they were really her kisses in Cordelia’s eyes, but the ballerina’s. Going back in was all just part of the mystery to be solved.

I marveled at the wrongness of the idea. Entering that room again could only lead to trouble, but going back was the only way forward. Because finding out the reason for the spell was the only way to break it. For ten seconds, I felt relieved that nothing seemed to be happening as the spell of possession did not immediately overtake us again.

Cordelia ran through the lines she’d spoken as if impatiently reading from a script she’d seen before. “Blah, blah, blah,” she tagged on as if that was exactly what she felt about the whole thing. Then she kissed me, her lips pressing into mine with as much enthusiasm as if it had been the back of her hand.

Then the warm tingle of magic spread through my body, the spirit of that long-ago lover reaching out for his ballerina. I listened to their conversation, eavesdropping on his desire for a future together and her fear of letting go, but heard it only from a distance. My attention was on the woman in my arms.

Just the taste of her in my mouth was enough to make me hard again, Cordelia’s hot wet tongue curling against mine, our lips crushed against one another. Then she was beneath me on the couch, just where I wanted her to be. Just how much of Cordelia was in the kisses so enthusiastically returned did not occur to me at the time. Part of me knew we were simply the ballerina and her lover, but the rest acknowledged that it was us each time my lips came into contact with that golden skin.

My hands moved over the curves I’d gazed upon so many times before with simple admiration, but lately with the surprising urge to map out every fine detail. Watching her from a distance was all I could do contemplating the differences between us and knowing that any action I took might break the bonds of our friendship. Maybe Cordy was right…I’d taken the coward’s way out.

After everything we’ve been through together, losing her trust and winning back her friendship had been the toughest. I took the easy road and played on those feminine fancies by buying more designer clothes than her closet had seen since Sunnydale. It was a cheap trick despite the considerable expense and I never regretted it for a second.

Then I lost her again, this time literally as she was sucked into Pylea by the swirling portal that sent Lorne’s cousin back home. With the possible exceptions of finding Fred, seeing my reflection for the first time in centuries and walking in sunlight, I’ve blocked out the rest of that rescue mission from my mind. At least, I’d like to think I have, but how could I forget the true face of my own demon or the sight of Cordelia wrapped up in another man’s arms.

Just as impossible as forgetting the moment when I thought she said she loved me. I felt like a fool afterward, realizing she meant the Groosalugg. Just the thought that Cordelia might choose to stay in Pylea where she was royalty and beloved by its moronic champion was too much to take. The fear gathering inside me was enough to piss me off and I outright told Cordelia she was coming home with me.

Luckily, she’d already made the decision to do so because otherwise my words might have caused her to dig in her heels and refuse to budge. Cordelia came home to our mission, but I always hoped that some part of her also returned to me.

Discovering where our friendship stood took longer than expected. The worst kind of news awaited our return. Finding Willow Rosenberg sitting in our lobby with tears in her eyes floored me, because I instantly knew their meaning. News of Buffy’s death hit me hard. Maybe we were never meant to be together, but I did love that girl.

Losing her that way woke me up and I started to think about how fragile and utterly precious humanity can be. Specifically, how precious Cordelia is to me. Realizing my feelings for her were already beyond the bounds of our friendship made me more determined than ever to protect it.

Then I got distracted with Darla’s arrival, Holtz’ return and the miracle of my son’s existence. After surviving Cordelia’s initial bursts of anger over the lie I’d told her about my not sleeping with Darla, the reality of a baby in our lives quickly put us back on track. I just had no idea where that track was headed.

All I knew was seeing my son in Cordelia’s arms made me feel like my heart was more tied to her than ever. Puck got it right when Shakespeare wrote him saying, “What fools these mortals be.” It was a truth I’m certain also applies to vampires with souls.

When the opportunity to see the Blinnikov World Ballet in action was too much to resist, I bought tickets with the money Gunn intended for us to use for a concert. To me there was no comparison, but Gunn was not too happy with the switch in plans. Only the fact that he enjoyed the ballet and came away with Fred on his arm served to mend that fence, not that I was aware of the latter bonus at the time.

Cordelia managed to surprise me as well.

While getting ready for the evening Lorne revealed that he was aware of my feelings for her. It hadn’t even taken a song. Apparently, I was wearing those feelings on my sleeve for anyone to see if they looked close enough. First Fred and now Lorne with this talk of Kyerumption, that Pylean word about fate and something about grog or ox dung. The thought rattled me that Cordelia might have guessed, but I’d never seen anything to indicate that she spent time mooning over me the way that I found myself thinking of her.

When she paused in my bedroom doorway looking radiant in her evening gown, I knew that Lorne was probably getting a damn good indication where my feelings were focused. The way she looked, the way she smiled as she fixed my tie and talked of us being a couple of young sophisticates enjoying a night of classical dance, I figured I would have a fellow devotee on my arm that night.

Instead, I had Cordelia drooling on my shoulder as she slept straight through to the intermission. If I hadn’t been so distracted by my discovery that this was the very same ballet troupe I witnessed back in the 1890’s, my attention would have been all on her. Nevertheless, I felt it every time she snuggled against my shoulder seeking her comfort spot as if she belonged there.

During the intermission, our search for the answers to the mystery led us to the prima ballerina’s dressing room and tumbling toward a meeting with fate. If Lorne knew the details, he would say that I missed the shot I was offered, but even I don’t need a soul-reading demon to tell me what I already knew.

That night is etched into my memory forever and it takes only an instant for every minute detail to flood back into my mind’s eye. Her taste, her scent, the beat of her heart, the touch of her hands and the sound of her moans all combined to send me directly to fantasyland. With the constant push of that possessing soul leading me to follow his moves, I played right along soaking up every tiny reaction Cordelia’s body had to offer.

Just the tilt of her throat caused my head to spin with wanting. Possessed or not, I’m a vampire and feeling the gentle pulsing of her vein against my lips went straight to my loins. A little purr escaped her throat as I kissed her there, her hand curling over the nape of my neck and its fingers combing through my hair. Cordelia writhed with growing passion, her lush breasts brushing against my chest as I bent over her. All I knew was a need to touch her there, to feel the weight of her bare flesh in my hands and I made it so.

Peeling the gown from her shoulders, I slowly inched the silky material downward. I actually sucked in a gasp of air and held it as her gorgeous breasts came into view. I kept peeling as if unwrapping a surprise gift, wanting to rip the wrapping away while simultaneously enjoying the anticipation of each new revelation. On some level, I was still the spectator, but it was still my body and I seemed determined to imprint myself on her skin.

Cordelia’s moue of pleasure sounded in my ears as she felt the proof of my need for her. The bulge in my pants was evidence enough as I pressed down against the apex of her thighs still trapped by her gown. I wanted her legs wrapped around me, but I was still caught up in following the direction set out for me leading me back to the beauty of her breasts as I worshipped them with my mouth and hands.

The fact remains that I can never again see Cordelia in any kind of top without visualizing what lies beneath: those soft, full curves that fit my hands, the darker circle around her velveteen nipple and the way that it hardens to a needy point under attention by my tongue.

I could have played there for hours, but I was compelled to continue on the path of discovery.

As I kissed my way down the flat plane of her belly, marveling at the silky softness of Cordelia’s strawberry-scented skin, my hand continued its downward exploration. My fingers brushed lightly over Cordelia’s thin panties feeling the moisture soaking the silk. I lay one firm kiss atop that lacy piece of nothing just before letting my fingers slip inside to slide along her slick folds.

She moaned for more only to let out a cry of alarm almost simultaneously. Reality crashed back into place with the attack of the Tragedy and Comedy-masked minions. In the middle of the fight, I could still hear Cordelia’s words resonating in my ear.

“Oh, thank God,” she cried out in relief at the interruption, pulling up the straps of her gown while hidden behind the curved design of the couch.

Only her comment at the end of the fight of, “You looked really hot doing that,” convinced me that she might have felt something other than the ballerina’s control.

By the time we made it back into the hall, the guilt started to set in. Circumstances forced me to put those concerns on the back burner while I dealt with the cause of this enchantment: Count Kurskov. Only after the destruction of his power center and the ballerina’s final curtsy was I free to consider the impact of everything this night had wrought.

I dropped off Fred, Gunn and Wes at the Hyperion before taking Cordelia home. Had I thought about it, the fact that she didn’t stop in long enough to say goodnight to Connor was a neon-bright clue that going near my bedroom was a no-no. There were not going to be any baby snuggles in my bed tonight and while that had never before caused me to feel jealous, I had other things in mind to keep her occupied there.

Just the thought of it forced me to get a grip on my feelings. Cordelia’s obvious relief when we were interrupted was only the first sign. The drive to her apartment was filled with a strained silence, both of us stealing glances at the other and saying nothing despite being caught.

The phrase, ‘No News is Good News’ never applied to Cordelia. If she was quiet, it only meant a storm brewed inside her. There was too much that needed to be said and it couldn’t be done in a moving vehicle.

“Cordy,” I tried to pave the way as I walked her to her door.

I wonder now if she thought I might be asking to come inside for there was a little look of panic in her eyes, a silent plea just before the storm hit and she cut me off. “You know we should probably not talk about…our little adventure. Anything that might have been seen. Anything that might have been…oh, perky.”

A nervous laugh and that brief flash of vulnerability seemed to be proof that Cordelia considered her body’s reactions to me totally out of her control and desire and that she would forget the whole thing if she could. Forget? Not likely. Somehow, that was precisely what I found myself suggesting except that my tongue tangled into knots of nonsense.

“It wasn’t us,” Cordelia stressed to me when my attempt at an apology drew her quick response. “Nothing to forgive. Already forgotten.”

That adamant dismissal caused me to bite back my denial of that opinion. Not us? It was definitely us and I knew Cordelia wasn’t as unmoved by it as she pretended. But I also knew that it was because she had something to protect: our friendship. It was something neither one of us would jeopardize on a whim or fancy. Not again.

So I agreed to Cordelia’s suggestion, biting back my need to talk about my feelings for her and telling her, “It’s forgotten.”

I’ve always been a skillful liar. Cordelia must have believed me because she gave me one of those brilliant smiles that lit up her face and it was all I could do to keep my hands off of her because of it. Reminding myself that best friends did not give each other passionate goodnight kisses on the doorstep, I simply took her key out of her hand and unlocked the door for her handing it back once she stepped across the threshold.

Cordelia took the keys, her hand brushing mine and instantly our eyes connected. I felt electricity shoot through me at that fleeting touch. Turning away, she called out to her ghostly roommate, “Dennis, I’m home,” and I knew the night had come to an end.

“Goodnight, Cordy,” I shoved my hands in my jacket pockets afraid that if I looked at them they would be trembling from the need to pull her back into my arms.

Almost as if she’d already forgotten my presence, Cordelia glanced back over her shoulder as I soaked up one last look at her lithe form in that gown. Curling strands of her hair, fallen loose from its upswept style, teased at her throat, my eyes drawn there as she turned to me.

“Angel,” she didn’t even bother with goodbye. “Get the door?”

Definitely a dismissal, I realized accepting it as such. Reading between the lines, I figured I was closing the door on something that could never have been more than a dream. Certainly nothing more than a misbegotten fantasy or a momentary thrill due to a century-long spell. It could never mean anything more to us than memory.

So I returned to the Hyperion where I had to deal with Lorne’s all-seeing scrutiny for the two minutes before I encouraged him out the door. My thoughts were focused on Cordelia and I didn’t want to talk about it. I was in danger of falling hard for my best friend if I hadn’t already done so and I needed something to stop me from making an ass of myself in front of her. Something that would keep me grounded.

Then I realized that I was holding my safety net. I had my son to divert me from thoughts I shouldn’t be thinking and Connor cooperatively woke up demanding a bottle. With the baby around, Cordelia was always distracted and that meant she might not notice me trying to avoid her for a while, just until I got myself under control again.

Maybe the idea of using a baby as a crutch should have bothered me, but I was willing to do anything not to ruin what Cordelia and I had salvaged when we built our friendship back up out of the ashes. It was far too important to me.


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