Kissing, Mmm…Kissing. 3

Later…

Angel’s old stories led to less sleeping, and more laughing, mostly by Cordelia and at his expense.

“Oh my god! You did NOT do that!”

“Yes, I did,” Angel said.

“Oh my god…no, you didn’t!”

“Yeah…I did.” Cordelia laughed harder.

“Mexico in the 20’s…the only place to get a decent drink during the Abolition.”

“I still can’t believe you got that drunk!”

“At least it wasn’t daylight yet.”

“Yeah, no kidding. If it were, you wouldn’t be here…”

“Yeah, no kidding…”

“And at least you found where you’d left your pants.”

“Lucky for me… I don’t think I could’ve faced Boone without them.”

“God, Angel,” Cordelia giggled. “I never knew you were so…so…”

“Stupid?”

“I was going for free spirited.”

“Well, if you want to call it that, I guess.”

“Yeah, that’s what I want to call it! The only Angel I’ve ever known was the broody one. Anything different can only be labeled as ‘free spirited’. Brood, brood, brood…that’s all you’ve done in the last, oh, DECADE! Of course, I bet it’s all that blonde’s fault…”

“Darla?”

“No, Buffy!”

“Oh. Yeah. I guess I have been kinda broody since her,”

“KINDA? No, VERY.”

“But, I really can’t blame it all on her,”

“Oh, sure you can!

“No, I had guilt issues way before she came along.”

“But at least you still knew how to let loose once in a while…”

“That summer in Juarez was the first time I’d let loose since the curse.” Angel said.

“Oh. Well, every once in fifty years shouldn’t hurt that much…” Cordelia snorted.

“But it’s been over seventy years now.”

“Then maybe its time to let loose again,”

“I thought this was letting loose,”

“Then you are a sad, sad man.”

Angel let a small chuckle escape him. Sure, she was picking on him, but it was better than the complaining.

Cordelia sighed, liking the way the conversation had headed; away from the fact that it was her fault that they were locked in here and more along the lines of actual bonding! She was enjoying the way Angel was letting her in. And she especially reveled in the surprising ease that came with it. She could talk like this all night…regardless of the fact that she’d started to yawn twenty minuets ago, and couldn’t stop for the life of her.

“God, Angel!” She said with a roll of her eyes. Another yawn. “There’s so much to live for…in your…’un-life’…” Cordelia stretched, inadvertently pressing closer. “You’ve had so much time…more time than anyone could ever have hoped for, and you’ve had so many opportunities to see so many things… I’m surprised you haven’t done more!”

“Yeah, between the battle of Good and Evil, and trying to atone for my past in order to get my humanity back, yeah, I’ve had lots of free time to do recreational things,”

“You know what I mean!”

“I guess…”

“Think about it!” She said, raising her head and pulling herself up to rest her chin on his shoulder. “You’ve had centuries to see the world. You’ve been all over Europe; you came to America when it was still new… You saw World Wars pass, and not to mention, you’ve lived through every fashion scene since, like, the dawn of taste!” Another yawn.

“Cordy…you forget.” Angel sighed, rubbing her shoulder absentmindedly. “When I saw Europe, I was leading a massacre. And I only came to America because…well, Ireland was…home…it…there was nothing left for me to go back to because I… Well…you know…I had no one,”

Cordelia closed her eyes and pressed her cheek into his arm. “I know, you murdered your family,” She said lazily. “But look, you’re making up for it. Don’t feel so bad.”

Angel was silent.

“Shit!” Cordelia gasped, suddenly coming alive. “I’m sorry! That was a terrible thing to say,”

“It-It’s okay.”

“No, its not. I’ve got a big mouth, and I just didn’t think. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, you do have a big mouth, and stop swearing.”

“I’m sorry, Angel. I really am. I am SO sorry I said that,”

“Cordy…”

“No! I swear…I am so sorry.”

“I know you are.”

“Seriously. I’m sorry I said it, Angel.”

“But I’m sorrier I did it, Cordelia.” Angel had gone stony. Cordelia sighed, pressing her face into his sweater. They’d never talked about this stuff before, not like this, and just when he was really opening up, she’d ruined it.

“Angel…I’m really sorry.”

“Cordy, forget it. Let’s talk about something else.”

“But you were on a roll. And I want to hear more.”

“I don’t know if I can handle much more,”

“Ah, come on.” She pleaded, tracing a finger absentmindedly over one of his shirt buttons. She was still kicking herself for saying that about his family. “Tell me another story Angel. I want to hear another.”

“Well,” He said thoughtfully, his limbs suddenly relaxing around her again. “Maybe I would rather hear about you.”

“Me???”

“Yeah.”

“Um…” Cordelia thought hard.

“Tell me stories about you, Cordelia. Stuff that happened before you moved from Sunnydale.”

“You knew me there…there’s not much to tell.”

“Oh, come on. I bet there’s plenty of stuff you could tell me about. I really don’t know a lot about your life before all of…well, this. In fact, I know nothing about your childhood.”

“Angel, believe me. There is nothing special about my childhood.”

“What about your family?”

Cordelia huffed. “Believe me when I say there is nothing special about my family.”

“Come on, Cordy,” Angel pressed. “Tell me what life was like growing up in Sunnydale…What the Chase family did for summer vacation, or for Thanksgiving, holidays, that sort of thing.”

Cordelia was silent, thinking about her family; her old life in Sunnydale prior to the Scooby Gang; realizing what it was he was really asking of her, and she realized that she didn’t really want him to know what things were like for her before. If she could help it, she’d leave her past in her past.

What good could it do talking about it now?

Angel sensed her hesitation. “Come on, Cordy,” He whispered. “You can tell me anything.”

Maybe it was the ‘you can tell me anything line’. Maybe it was the guilt over making him share his past that made her decide to reveal. Or maybe it was the way his fingers traced circles over her shoulder as he held her in the dark.

“Sunnydale,” Cordelia sighed with a roll of her eyes. She tugged at the sleeve of Angel’s jacket, pulling it further over her wrist as she suddenly remembered the cold. “Um, well, let’s see…” She took a deep breath and closing her eyes, plunged ahead.

“Growing up in Sunnydale, I was neglected and ignored. Summer vacations were usually spent in your typical beach resort… Jamaica, The Bahamas, wherever. Mom would be off getting facials and massages and mud baths and getting drunk off of margaritas while Daddy played golf with potential clients or took off on his yacht for a few days or chased young girls in bikinis around the pool, and I’d spend the days typically alone, usually just blowing money like crazy in the shops. You know, Daddy was always quick to hand over the credit cards when there was mention of any sort of ‘quality family time’…” Cordelia frowned to herself.

“And Thanksgiving. Ah, Thanksgiving. Every Thanksgiving, if they weren’t on a ski trip to Switzerland, or jetting off somewhere else without me, Mom would have Anita…she was the maid…set the biggest, most impressive table she could. Then she’d invite all her snotty little friends from the Country Club over for cocktails. Dad would get drunk in his game room, and mom would get smashed on white wine… I’d end up eating alone in the kitchen, and then, after all the guests left, mom and dad would have an argument, or pass out in their separate rooms, and I would spend the evening helping Anita clean up. That was when I was five… When I was ten, Mom just quit trying all together… She and dad would leave for the weekend, and since Mom fired Anita the summer before, I was pretty much left alone in the house, watching TV and eating leftover cold-cuts, or any other kind of remote meat product I could find in the fridge, pretending to have…god, I was pathetic,” She laughed a little at this part.

“I pretended to have Thanksgiving dinner with Raggedy Ann and Andy, Perfume Pretty Barbie, and the neighbors cat, which I am ashamed to say I had so unmercifully abducted out of the neighbors yard when they weren’t looking because I craved companionship and couldn’t bare to be completely alone… Oh, now! Thirteen! And this was a hoot…thirteen was a whole different story altogether…”

Angel stared at her in the darkness. Her voice was steady, but her features were beginning to crumble, as she let her true face show forgetting he could see her, and a look passed over her face that made him want to hold her. But then, he was already holding her. Angel, already wrapped tightly around her, held onto her until she was finished.

“Switzerland is over rated,” He said finally, tilting his head towards her and pressing his lips to her forehead. Cordelia sank into him.

“Yeah, I guess it is, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to throw my own pity party, I just got kind of carried away.”

“Do you miss them?” He asked.

She paused slightly, pursing her lips. “Do you miss yours?”

“Sometimes…but usually I can’t remember what they look like, its been so long.”

“Yeah…I miss mine.”

“I’m sorry things were so rough.”

“Don’t pity me,” Cordelia smiled slightly, making the serene attempt to shrug off her feelings of resentment. “I can pity myself on my own just fine. I don’t need any additional help,”

“I didn’t say I pity you…Empathize; yes. Pity; no.”

“And besides, I don’t need them. I’ve been just fine without them.”

“But everyone needs someone.”

“I’ve been better off without them.”

“But Cordelia…everyone needs someone. It’s not good to be alone.”

“I’m not alone,” She said defensively. “I have you.” She bit her lip. “And Wes and Gunn and Phantom Dennis of course.”

“Of course,” Angel said. He then reached over and brushed a strand of hair back from her eyes. “And we have you. Which is a good thing, because if we didn’t, who would handle all those invoices.”

Cordelia beamed and hid a smile against his chest. She fidgeted, playing with the texture of his wool knit pullover as he added, “Besides, you’re good for other things too, not just invoices,”

“This fits you really well,” She mumbled, changing the subject. Angel’s eyes moved down over his chest, and rested on her fingers.

“Thanks,”

“Of course you always look great in black,”

“It is sort of my color.”

“I really like it though when you wear that blue shirt of yours…it looks really good, makes you look, I dunno, less ‘moody’.” Cordelia sighed, letting her thoughts run out of her mouth unchecked.

“Thanks,” Angel said awkwardly. “I’ll wear it more often.”

“It’s a Donna Karan, right? I LOVE her stuff…”

“Yeah,”

“You have some of the best taste in clothes on a man I have ever seen.”

“Thanks,”

“I mean it. Sometimes I see Wesley in these horrible striped shirts and I just want to…GRR.” She made a gesture as if she were going to choke someone. “And GUNN! Sometimes his pants just hang so low!”

“They’re guys,” Angel mused. “And isn’t that the style? Sagging pants?”

“Yeah, if you’re an MTV VJ…” Cordelia grinned. “Or a gangster…Gunn’s not exactly either.”

“But he looks normal, not overly…saggy…or anything. He’s a guy, he looks fine.”

“You’re pretty fine yourself,” The pause made Cordelia quickly reiterate. “I mean, you dress well. You look good…even for being two hundred and fifty.” She raised a brow in the dark, not realizing he could see it, and blew out a quick breath. “Really good, Angel. You don’t even know.”

“Two hundred and forty-eight,” He corrected her.

She smiled lazily, and rolled her eyes. “As if there’s a difference,”

“There is! Two whole years,”

“You crack me up.”

“What!”

“You! Worried about your age! After all this time!”

Angel sighed. “I may be a vampire, but I’m still a man.”

“Yeah!” She giggled. “You sure are! Boy, you sure are…”

“And what about you?” Angel inquired, turning the tables. “Look at you,”

She grew quiet. Now he had her attention. Angel grinned to himself.

“You walk around dressed like a supermodel, Cordelia…flaunting your looks and eating up the attention it gets you,”

“Oh! I do not!” She pushed down on his chest.

“Oh, yes, you do.”

“I do NOT dress like a supermodel…I’m too poor to dress like a supermodel.”

“But you dress nice. Admit it,”

“I dress thrifty okay, don’t beat around the bush,”

“You don’t look thrifty. You look…glamorous.”

“Glamorous???” Cordelia smirked at him. “Me? Okay…sure…”

“Seriously. You’re always dressed…like…nice. I can’t even remember the last time I saw you in a pair of jeans.”

“I wear jeans! All the time!” Angel gave her a look. She couldn’t see it, but she sure could sense it. “Well…I wear jeans at home all the time!” She swore. “Ask Dennis! He’ll tell you!”

“Sure,”

“WELL, I DO!”

“Fine. I believe you,” Angel said. Then added smugly. “I bet they’re designer,”

“SO WHAT!” She said defensively.

“Designer jeans… Jeans are jeans! What’s the difference!”

“JEANS ARE NOT JEANS!” Cordelia snapped. “I LOVE the way my Todd Oldhams fit…besides! What’s wrong with designer??? I like to make a good impression! I can’t help it if I like the finer things in life!”

“Designer jeans are NOT the finer things in life,” Angel stated. “There are things much finer in life besides designer jeans…and regular jeans are just as good. Plus, they’re cheaper.”

“Cheaper, plech!”

“It’s true!” He shot.

“As if you would know!” She shot back. “I’ve never seen you in jeans. Ever.”

“I’ve worn jeans.” Angel claimed, his mouth hanging open. He tried to think of something else to add, something to back it up, but couldn’t. Cordelia snickered triumphantly. “I HAVE worn jeans…” Angel mumbled.

“Bell bottoms in the seventies don’t count.” She smirked, moving to lay on her back beside him. She was so involved in their discussion, she’d forgotten to be afraid of the dark.

“For your information, I never wore bell bottom jeans in the seventies!”

“Oh. Right. Just polyester suits,”

“I DIDN’T WEAR POLYESTER SUITS!”

“EVERYONE wore polyester suits,” Cordelia said matter-of-factly. Angel couldn’t retort. She had him there.

“I BET YOU WORE BROWN LEISURE SUITS!” She suddenly shrieked. “I saw Saturday Night Fever! I know what it was like! I can just see it!”

“I NEVER WORE BROWN!” Angel exclaimed.

“OH MY GOD!” Cordelia sniggered. “I bet you used to grease your hair all back and wear big, gold medallions! EW!”

“I did not!”

“And you went to discos to try to pick up hot chicks!”

“NO, I DIDN’T!”

“OH! You SOOO DID!”

“Cordy, I swear I didn’t!”

“UH HUH! SURE! Whatever you say!”She was rolling with laughter as she teased him mercilessly.

Angel felt himself growing flustered. He said nothing, but let Cordelia continue on in her reign of terror. He lay still, and would be blushing profusely if only he’d fed a little heavier earlier that night.

Cordelia continued. “And I bet you watched Shaft like every week! And all those weird old 70’s shows…Oh! I could just imagine! The Mod Squad! Charlie’s Angels! Laverne And Shirley!”

“I did not,” Angel said now matter-of-factly. “And The Mod Squad was 60’s, not 70’s.”

“Only you would know!” He smiled despite himself. Cordelia kept laughing.

“I’m glad you are enjoying this,” He said. This made her hysterical, and soon she was clutching her side in pain. “You’re going to make yourself sick,” He said dryly when it escalated. Angel felt his mouth widening into a grin as her brilliant, warm laughter rung out in the dark, enclosed space.

It was still a few minutes later before she could control herself to calm down. When she was done, she rearranged her hair, and settled back into him, a little chuckle still held in her throat. Cordelia grinned from cheek to cheek, and Angel found it becoming. He sat and stared, admiring her smile in the dark.

“I think that’s the most I’ve heard you laugh since we left Sunnydale.” He commented.

“I think that’s the most fun I’ve had since we left,” She sighed. She quieted down, and another silence filled the air.

“Angel?” She said finally.

“Yeah?”

“Remember when we stumbled into each other that one night… I just wanted to say that I’m really glad I ran into you at that party. I mean, what were the odds that we, of all people, would run into each other after…after…after all that’s happened.”

“I remember.” He said.

“It was so strange how we ended up in the same city. I’ll never forget how surprised I was…” Cordy sighed. “It’s all so strange…how you found me there…How it all happened… Oh, and then Doyle. I mean, he’d found you. He was looking for you before you’d even arrived there, and you were supposed to meet him, he was meant to be your seer. But he kissed me, and so then I was your seer, and how I ended up in the equation, I will never understand. I’m restating the obvious here, but still…” Her eyes fell a little, and she tensed.

“Angel…he was looking for you. I wasn’t. Was it just a coincidence, or what?”

“We were meant to find each other, I guess…” Angel murmured. “You, me, and Doyle, we were all meant to find each other. If I’ve learned anything in my two hundred and fifty, er, two hundred and forty eight years of living, everything happens for a reason.”

“I wanted to ask you something.” Cordelia said quietly. Angel listened.

“Anything.” He said.

“Doyle…” She said; all laughter having left her voice now. “He…he died.” She went on, her words slower, not so rushed as they’d been a moment before. “I mean, when he died, and wasn’t your seer anymore…Me. He passed his powers on to me. Was I meant to be it…the seer? Your seer? Was I in the books, or could it just have been some random person, the one to lead you down your path? Was it something I was chosen for, or just something that just happened to happen?”

“Cordy, I—”

“So am I going to lead you to victory, or what? And am I going to do a good job???”

“Cordelia—”

“Will I even be alive when this big fight takes place?” Cordelia’s fingers locked into the material of his sweater as her voice rose and quavered. Angel’s brow furrowed as he listened to her go on.

She was starting to sound thoroughly upset. “Or am I just a temporary replacement for the next seer? I mean, how long is this gonna take, Angel. How many seers are you going to have? Do you think when I die, I’ll pass my powers on to someone else??? Or is all this going to blow over before the time I’m thirty??? Or what if it lasts longer than that, and I’m carrying these visions through my midlife crisis, and through…oh my god, menopause! Angel! Am I ever going to have a normal life? Or am I stuck with these damned visions forever! How old am I going to get while you stay young and fight!

Am I going to start walking with a cane and peeing in a bucket before you even get close??? I don’t want to be 90 years old and still having visions! And I don’t want to be 90 while you still look 25! That more than anything scares the living crap out of me! I don’t want to be old and decrepit while you’re still young and able! And you’re all I have! That means you’ll be the one tucking me into bed at night, and putting my teeth in a jar besides my bed! EW! I don’t want you to see me like that!!!” Cordelia looked thoroughly frightened. “Oh my god! You’re going to have to plan my burial!”

“Cordy,” Angel said, hugging her against him. “Hey, take it easy.”

“Oh my god! How can you live like this! Seeing the people around you grow old! The people around you, die! How can the Powers do that to you! HOW CAN THEY DO THAT TO ME!!!”

“Cordy! Shh!” He held her close.

“I’m sorry!” Cordelia huffed, closing her eyes and leaning into him. “Angel, I’m sorry! It’s stupid, I know! But, seriously, it’s…it’s…it’s so out of control.”

“I know, Cordy. I know it feels that way,”

“You’re stuck with me, Angel. You’re stuck with me, and I’m stuck like this! We’ve been predetermined…we have these predetermined paths, and I am a seer! I never would have thought… I don’t know how long I can handle it! Oh, and you! You’re a champion! You have to save the world! How can you handle that! Doesn’t that ever wig you out?”

“It wigs me out all the time,”

“I never imagined… Did you? Angel, two hundred plus years ago, when you met Darla in that dark alley, did you ever have any idea of what kind of roll you would play? In history, in time I mean? In the fate of the world?”

“No. Not a clue.”

“And me! Believe me when I say that back in Sunnydale, I had no idea that by sharing my book with the new, blonde girl in school that I was being drafted in the war for the world; good against evil…not that it’s a bad thing. If I’m gonna take part in it, I definitely want to be on the good side! I’m just, I mean, I guess that after all…through Buffy, through Xander, through many various injuries and faces of death…of all things, of all people, I just can’t believe… God, Angel, you’ve become such a big part of my life. It’s so bizarre that you and me were predetermined. I mean, two years ago you barely even noticed me, and now we’re like family. It’s just so weird. You. Me. Wes. Gunn…So many things,” She concluded.

“So many things…little, big, scary, scarier…so many things, all leading up to one big event,”

“Getting stuck in a freezer is an event?” Angel asked. She smiled. Good. He’d lightened her mood.

“No, silly! I meant, the war between good and evil!”

“Oh. I knew that.”

“I just can’t believe it…Here we are, and I still can’t believe it.”

“I try not to think about it.”

“You never think about it,” Cordelia said. “Come on, admit it. You’ve been too busy doing your vampire thing to think about trivial stuff like the meaning of life,”

“You’re right,” He said. “I haven’t really thought about it…not in that degree anyway. If I did, I might end up insane again. Like that time after escaping Hell? Sure don’t want to do that again…I guess I’ve just been more focused on making the goal, then the reason for getting there. I mean, I was…is…was, a demon. That right there is enough to blow anyone’s mind, once you stop and think about it.”

“Tell me about it!” Cordelia huffed. “When I first saw you, I had no idea…and to think of how badly I wanted you…” She stopped then, slightly embarrassed.

Angel looked at her in the dark.

“You wanted me?”

“Don’t act like you didn’t know,” She said defensively.

“I didn’t,” He said, hiding his smile. Not that she could have seen it anyways…

“Don’t you smile at me!” She snapped. Angel gave her a funny look. “I can tell, I can feel you smiling…so stop it! And yes…I wanted you. Why else do you think I used to follow you around the Bronze trying to get your attention.”

Angel smiled again, slightly amused and also slightly, no greatly, flattered at the idea. He thought briefly back to those days; how she would constantly approach him when he was alone…ask him to dance, sit with him a the bar, and never flinch away… Of course, she hadn’t known what he was. She said it herself.

Angel suddenly realized that she had had a crush on him. And this, more than anything, made him smile widely. The more he thought about it, the more he remembered. Something about salty goodness…? He’d heard it. He’d heard the comment. He just hadn’t realized it came from Cordelia. He’d been too busy searching for Buffy, but now he recalled the exact words that had come out of her mouth, and it had been her voice alright.

“I had such a crush on you,” She admitted. “But every time that little slayer walked in, I didn’t even exist… That just made me want you more…until I found out the truth, I mean.”

Now Angel was beaming, trying hard to withhold his laughter. That’s all he needed to do was laugh now in front of her. It might crush her. Or offend her. Or piss her off. And Angel didn’t want to do that. So instead, he apologized. It was what he was good at.

“Cordy, I’m sorry, I had no idea,”

“Don’t say you’re sorry.” She sighed. “If anyone should be sorry, it should be me. I was so shallow… But things worked out for the best. I mean, that fact that you were a vampire…a demon…it didn’t sit that well anyway. We couldn’t have had a very good relationship, what with me being terrified of you and all… Not to mention, what happened between you and Buffy…I’d never want to go through that. When I saw what she was going through, when she couldn’t be with you the way…well, when all that stuff happened,” Cordelia took a deep breath.

“She was crushed. I was so glad I wasn’t her. It’s selfish, but…I was glad it was her going through it and not me. That sounds really bad.”

“No,” Angel interjected, so many memories of the past flooding back into his mind. “No one should want to have to go through that. I’m sorry I put her through it.”

“What happened between me and Xander hurt enough…I couldn’t imagine falling for you and then having what happened, happen.”

Angel fell silent. “Yeah, well,” Cordelia stammered, starting to feel awkward. “I shouldn’t have brought all that stuff up…it hurts you.”

“No,” Angel said soundly. “I’m fine. Things are fine. It happened, I’ve dealt with it.”

“You really cared about her, I’m sorry I reminded you,”

“Don’t be. She’s moved on. So have I. So have you. What were we just saying…? That all of this has seemingly happened for a reason…”

“Yeah, but…”

“Everything that has happened has brought us here. I’m glad for that… Well, not the part about getting locked in the freezer, but you know,”

“Yeah,” Cordelia said, smiling to herself. “I know. I’m glad I’m here in LA. But I am sorry I was such a bitch back in Sunnydale, and I’m sorry I didn’t give you a chance just because you were a vampire.”

“Cordy. I was…am…am still a vampire. You had a right to be afraid of me. In fact, you should still be afraid of me.”

“What!!!” Cordelia exclaimed, sitting up and looking down at where he lay, but still not able to see in the dark. She frowned.

“You should still be afraid of me,” He said.

“What for!”

“Because I’m still a demon.”

“You’re not a demon, Angel.”

“Only because I have my soul.”

“Right.”

“But I still have a lot of issues that are really…dangerous, especially for a woman, like yourself. You shouldn’t be here with me.”

“What?” Cordelia said absurdly. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. As long as there’s no…” She felt her cheeks blush. “Sex—”

“You shouldn’t even be working for me.” Angel interrupted, not even acknowledging that she’d said the ‘S’ word. Angel shook his head, suddenly suffering at the knowledge of what he was. He moved away from her, pushing the plastic aside and moving as if to get up. He did start to get up, but sensing his movement, Cordelia put a warm hand on his cool wrist and stopped him.

He stayed sitting, but continued speaking caustically. “You really shouldn’t even be in this line of business, you know. You shouldn’t even know demons exist, You’ve seen…you know…things that happen around me. I’m surprised you’re even still hanging around…you and Wes and Gunn… I’m a hazard. Not exactly a great guy to associate with,”

“Now who’s having the pity party,” Cordelia mumbled.

“In the last two years, Doyle died. You got those damned visions. And then ended up in the hospital. And then, when I wasn’t there, when I was being selfish and stupid, Wesley…Wesley got shot!”

“Angel!” Cordelia said, suddenly realizing how serious their conversation had just turned by the sheer frustration and disgust in his voice. Angel pulled away from her. She heard him rustling slightly, shifting his weight to turn away from her, then he lay back down quietly.

Cordelia reached out and nudged him. When he didn’t respond, she nudged him harder. When he still didn’t respond, she shoved him and said,

“Angel! It wasn’t your fault!”

“Cordelia…if I could take it all back, I would.”

“I don’t want you to take it back!”

“I would have never gone to Sunnydale.” He said, sitting up again. “I would have never bothered Buffy and her friends, I’d have never bothered you,”

“Angel, stop it!”

“I’ve been witness to far too many things, too many awful things,”

“Angel!”

“Even Gunn’s sister…”

“That was NOT your fault! You weren’t even there!”

“That’s the problem, I wasn’t there.”

“Angel, if you hadn’t come across Gunn, what happened to his sister would probably have happened to him. He has a chance now. Better than he ever had out on the street.”

“And Wesley?”

“Wesley would still have been a watcher…he still would have ended up watching Buffy and Faith. Faith! God! She still would have been crazy, and for all we know, Faith could have ended up killing him, regardless of how or why! Wes is still here, working for you, so apparently things are right!”

“And what about you?” He asked. He turned in the dark and stared at the girl. She couldn’t see him, but she sensed him. And she frowned. Angel’s gaze lingered on her down turned lips before he went on, slower, more carefully.

“You would have been in college right now, planning out your life; making goals and looking forward to normal things…instead of fighting night after night, risking your life against monsters and evil, fighting the good fight.” The last words came out forced; snipped.

“But it’s who I am.” She answered.

“But it’s my fault you’re this way. I don’t like that.”

“Well, I do! I’m happy with who I am!”

“But you shouldn’t be…you should…well, you should have your innocence.”

“Innocence is over rated,” She said sternly. Angel paused. Cordelia felt for his hand in the dark, finding it and squeezing it confidently.

“Angel, I’m right where I want to be, freezer aside. I’m with you, and I want to be here. Okay? So stop beating yourself up over it. After I’m long gone and dead, feel free to blame yourself for anything, but for now, while I’m still here. Be glad that you have a friend. FRIENDS. You have FRIENDS.”

“How can you people stand to be near me after what I’ve done?”

“We love you, Angel. We always have.”

“I don’t deserve it.”

“You deserve it. Trust me.” Cordelia listened, waiting for his response. She was surprised when he didn’t say anything else. She took it as a cue that he was still questioning himself.

“Angel, I can’t see you, but you’d better not be crying,”

“I’m not crying,” He answered.

“Okay,” She said, and then, again, waited. Nothing. “Well, what are you doing?”

“I’m staring at you.”

“Why?” She asked, suddenly self-conscious.

“Because…” He started softly. “Because…” And then she felt his arms wrapping around her and drawing her closer, gathering her to his chest. “I haven’t been this close to anyone in so long,” He confided in a whisper. Cordelia nodded her head, rubbing her cheek against the soft fabric of his sweater where it pressed against his shoulder. “Not anyone, Cordy, especially not…” He rendered himself silent.

A moment passed.

She closed her eyes and breathed in the undeniable scent of him. He was calm now. She could feel the difference in his demeanor. She always could, though. He ran his hand down her back softly, closing his eyes as he pressed his face against the top of her hair. And then his other hand was cupping her face, and she could feel his lips brush lightly against her temple.

It was faint, but it was a kiss.

She lingered, before pushing herself closer, sliding her hands from his waist up his back. She felt the skin on the back of his neck, strangely hot against her fingers where they hesitated briefly before running up into his hair. He shuddered; her breath touching his skin as she turned her face up to meet his. He opened his eyes and looked at her. She looked back, unseeing yet completely trusting against the darkness, and feeling something within her swelling to consume him. She leaned forward, rubbing her face against his.

“Cordy…We can’t…” He managed to say.

Cordelia ran her fingertips over his lips. “I’m not afraid of you, you know.”

“I know that.”

“No…you don’t.”

“Cordy…”

“Angel…I’m not afraid of you. I…I…in fact, I…trust you more than anyone,”

“Cordy…I can’t…

“You can, Angel,”

“I can’t.”

“Touch me,” She breathed.

“Cordy,”

“Angel, touch me.”

“If I fall for you now…”

“If you fall for me…I swear…I wont let you down.”

“But I’d let you down.”

“I wouldn’t let you.”

“You couldn’t stop me.”

“I wouldn’t have to.”

“I want this…” He sighed. “I really, really want this, but…”

“Then don’t stop it.”

He pressed his forehead against hers and held her hand to his chest, over the place where his heart sat silently.

“There’s nothing in here,” He said.

“There is. I know there is.”

“You don’t know.”

“I know. I’ve seen it.” She started to lean, bringing her lips so intoxicatingly close to his. With a slight sigh, Angel turned his face away. As she felt him move she tried to follow, but his words stopped her.

“But it’s something you can’t have. I can’t let you have it.” Cordelia pulled back, trying to pull her hand with her, but he held it firmly in place. She stopped, staring intently into the dark, wanting to see him, to see the look on this face, to see her hand on his chest, but she couldn’t.

But she did feel him watching her. “Don’t look at me,” She said. “I don’t want you to see me. Close your eyes.” Angel said nothing, but did as she had asked. Cordelia held her hand against his chest, against his still heart, and waited. But there was nothing. No sound. No movement.

He was the undead.

“I get the point,” She finally muttered, taking her hand back now as he finally allowed her to. She lay back against the cold, hard floor, turning away from him and hoping he hadn’t been watching her or the looks of confliction and want and lust and fear passing over her face.

“”We should get some sleep,” Cordelia sighed, letting herself go, letting her tension go and resigning to the fact that she had just made a complete fool of herself. Had she really expected him to kiss her?

Did she really think that he…that she…that they…had she really thought it a possibility?

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