Title: Underneath the Drowning Water (Book 2)
Rating: R, for now, going into NC-17 eventually
Summary: Fighting her way back to sanity after Angelus’ attentions the previous spring, Cordelia now has to deal with his return from hell. AU of BtVS s3.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Notes: Part of my Persephone series of fics, this is part 2 of Book 2. The previous four ficlets that make up Book 1 have been organized under a tag and stored in my memories. These are under the same tags. My grateful thanks to Damnskippy for being an amazing and patient beta.
Time is nothing and neither is she, without him.
She waits for his cherry mouth to move closer and when it does, she hears the earth shuffle under his bare feet, animals disappearing into the dark woods.
She hears the hairs on his arm raise and her own skin answers the call.
He steps closer and the blood on his breath is like old times, slick and shining red and when he reaches out and touches the back of her hand with one long finger, he leaves a trail on her skin, red on white.
She looks knowingly into his eyes, and waits for the biting kiss she’s come to long for.
His eyes are shining black like beetles, hiding in the dark waiting for something, for food, for her.
His head moves closer and her own moves back (muscle memory) baring her neck to his stare, his amused gaze.
Like old times, baby.
Buffy’s voice stops the music in Cordelia’s head.
The slayer pulls on Cordelia’s arm, stepping between them.
The crossbow in her grip is pointed at Angel, and the look on her face would be heartbreaking if Cordelia could feel something besides the shudder of Angel’s hand on hers.
He reaches around Buffy, and grabs her arm, the feel of his skin like freshly turned grave dirt.
She makes a sound, tasting orchids in her mouth, and pulls away from him but his nails dig into her skin and hold her still.
“Whose blood is that?” Buffy demands furiously. Angel isn’t looking at her, though. Not even the tip of the steel arrow in his chest makes him turn from Cordelia’s neck.
Buffy slaps his mouth and he growls, letting Cordelia go to grab her shoulders.
But one look into Buffy’s wet eyes and the feral look melts away as though it never appeared. Cordelia watches his lying brown eyes wash over his lover’s face like rain and then he’s sinking to his knees, her name like a broken thing on his tongue.
Buffy does not give him the comfort of her touch but neither does she pull away.
Instead, she turns and pins Cordelia with her gaze.
“Are you okay?” she asks, voice quietly hoarse with the effort not to sob.
Cordelia thinks Buffy is the weakest thing she’s ever seen. Even if it were her blood, Buffy will never kill Angel.
Jenny Calendar is shrieking in her grave.
Cordelia can hear her, nails clawing at the top of her coffin.
“I’m fine. Just keep him away from me.”
She turns and walks away.
The devil laughs and laughs and laughs.
Giles is listening to Fur Elise and sipping tea.
He almost doesn’t hear the soft knock on his door but years of training have opened his senses, just enough, and he rises and crosses the room. He peers out of the peephole.
Cordelia, dirty and disheveled in a white nightgown, stands on his stoop.
He opens the door.
There’s a smear of blood on the back of her hand, and her feet are bare and muddy.
He steps back, and she walks past him, slowly, like an old woman.
“Can I sleep on your couch?” she asks quietly, turning to face him.
He stares at her, questions swimming in his head, but in the end he only nods, and goes to get a blanket and pillow for her.
She dreams that Angel is outside of Giles’ windows, watching her. The doe’s blood streaks his skin. There are manacles encircling his wrists, with broken chains dangling like string.
His nails scrape the glass, as though he’s on the verge of breaking the pane, but he doesn’t.
She is sitting up, her spine parallel with the back of the couch, and watches him watching her.
When she wakes for real, it’s the sun that’s glaring in at her.
She leaves before Giles wakes up.
She looks up from her mirror to Buffy standing over her, arms crossed. The cafeteria is cold, the food smells and now she’s got an excuse not to eat.
The look in the slayer’s eyes is both hostile and scared. Cordelia snaps her compact shut and slips it back into her purse.
She folds her hands together in front of her and waits.
“What was he doing there?” Buffy bites the question off, not quite hiding the fear in her tone. “Near your place?”
Cordelia stares at her.
“What were you doing out there in the middle of the night?” Buffy’s tone grows sharper and heads begin to lift. “How did you know he’d be out there, in that field?”
Cordelia remains silent, unwilling to make it easier for Buffy. Not that she had anything to tell the other girl.
“Dammit, Cordelia!” Buffy slaps her palms down onto the table between them, frustration and fear evident in her sea foam eyes. “Are you two connected in some way?”
Now it makes sense.
“You’re afraid there’s some freaky Dracula link going on between me and your boyfriend, Buffy?” Cordelia asks, rising to her feet and picking up her Sociology book along with her Fendi bag.
She straightens and stares into Buffy’s eyes. “No, nothing like that.”
But before Buffy can breathe easier, Cordelia steps around the table and up to Buffy, invading her space.
“The only link between us is blood,” she says, staring down into Buffy’s face. “Mine. I was his personal keg, Buffy, all last spring, and he partied hearty.” She pulls on the scarf around her neck. The scar tissue is white against her tan, shaped like a mouth.
Buffy flinches but doesn’t look away from it.
“He didn’t have a soul,” she whispers, by rote at this point.
“You know,” Cordelia bites off. “That actually isn’t as comforting to me as it seems to be for you.”
She turns, wanting to get away, far away, from the memories Buffy is forcing up like vomit. And the idea that maybe, maybe, she’s lying.
She stops reluctantly, unwillingly, and turns around again. The cafeteria is noisy, full of kids, and Buffy stands in the middle of all the chaos like a reed in the wind, swaying but never breaking.
Angel couldn’t break that strength, no matter how many dead classmates he left on her doorstep, while Cordelia is scarred and mired in nightmares and sensory memories, skin still caked with the mud he tried to bury her in.
“He broke his chains last night, after I took him back to the mansion, after I found you two…..I don’t know where he went.”
A face in a window
“I didn’t see him.”
This time when Cordelia walks off, Buffy doesn’t stop her.
She sneaks into the library when she thinks Giles is at lunch.
“Don’t you think we should talk?”
Obviously the man does not eat.
She turns from the stacks and sighs heavily.
“Look, I just came in for a book on Troy, not to get interrogated by the Scooby snoop squad.”
Giles slips the glasses on, pushing them up the length of his nose, as he slowly approaches her.
“Buffy has informed me –“
“Really?” she interrupts. “Willingly?”
“Of last night’s events,” he finishes as though she hadn’t interrupted. He slips his hands into his pockets, looking professor-ish. She’s not sure what he wants her to say, it’s not like she’s going to fall at his feet sobbing in shame.
She has nothing to be ashamed of.
“What? You want a confession just because I slept on your couch?” she asks, pulling her hostility around her like a cloak, her books held against her chest.
“Cordelia, we need to understand the nature of your connection with Angel,” Giles presses on. “If you and he are drawn together-“
She doesn’t wait to hear the rest, stomping back down the stairs and past him.
“There is no connection, we aren’t drawn together, and this conversation is over.”
She stalks out of the library, nearly slamming the swinging doors into Willow’s nose as the other girl was trying to enter.
“Excuse you,” she snaps as she strides away, stretching out her legs to put distance between herself and the library, wishing she could just keep walking and walking until she gets to a place that has never heard of vampires or slayers.
She sits on her balcony, on the wrought-iron chair with the feather down cushion, and puts her tea back down on the table, pulling her feet up and staring at the sky above her head. Even for autumn in California, it’s unseasonably warm. The sun slips gently down the horizon, and as it does so, the sky gets darker and darker blue, the moon coming out to play.
She remembers this, when the clouds got threaded with red from the bleeding sun. She sat on her balcony then and waited for the forest to get quiet, all the little animals scurrying away as his boots churned up the dried leaves.
She looks down now, to that spot where he stood and waited, knowing she’d come.
It was always more fun for Angel when she came to him.
She gets up and goes back in her room, but stops when she realizes she has nothing to do. Her homework is done, her parents are out for the evening at another fundraiser, and dinner has been cooked, served, and packed away because she couldn’t muster up an appetite.
Now there are hours in front of her, and no real way to fill them.
She goes to her phone and picks it up.