Season of Solace. 174

174: Master Bedroom, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale

The sound of a knock on the door woke Angel from his slumber. Instantly alert, he could sense that it was just Faith in the hallway outside. Cordelia snuggled closer at the noise, her warm body shifting against him instinctively possessive. Barely a crack of light at the edge of the blackout curtains brightened the outline of her form. Sleep-tossed hair, eyes closed, her features soft and unburdened by the harsh realities of the day, he marveled at her pull on his heart, wanting countless days of waking up to the sensation of being wrapped in her embrace.

Such longings always accompanied a sharp barb pricking its reminders of prophecy and danger. Maybe it was too early to think about the future in that way. All he could do was take this moment and hold onto it. Angel pressed his lips to her forehead, murmured her name as he shifted a hand along the curve of her spine, waking her gently just before a second, louder rap sounded from the bedroom door.

“Come in, Faith.”

The door opened with a creak of its hinges. Light from the hallway chased away the dark shadows causing Angel to squint momentarily as his eyes quickly adjusted. “Time to get up and—whoa! What happened in here? Looks like you two had fun last night.”

A sleepy “Uh huh” sounded from Cordy before she even opened her eyes causing Faith to chuckle in response.

Angel was more perturbed by the disturbance of Cordelia’s rest than he was the way the slayer let her gaze linger on his exposed torso and the low dip of the soft cotton sheets covering their hips. He did not miss the hint of lust and longing in her gaze for the brief moment it met his, but Faith quickly looked away easily distracted by the sight of the ties knotted to the bedposts.

Seconds ticked away as Faith studied them in silence, her cheeks dimpling with obvious amusement as her imagination kicked in to fill in a few blanks. “Which one of you was the naughty one?”

Cordelia’s soft snort suggested the invasive question was funny rather than irritating. She seemed reluctant to move from her comfortable spot against his chest, and made no effort to provide an answer even though Angel had a feeling that if any subject was off limits for discussion between Cordy and Faith, sex was not one of them. He had no problem with that, but he hoped that the other matter would be kept private at least until Cordy had a chance to speak to one of the Watchers. He did not want a slayer’s perspective to influence her decision even if she was a friend.

Annoyed at the thought that she might interfere, Angel suddenly wanted her gone from their space. Intensity darkened his gaze. “What do you want, Faith?”

Walking forward at a slow pace, Faith stopped at the foot of the bed. “Loaded question.” She wrapped a hand around the ties and gave them an experimental tug. The makeshift rope contained familiar patterns. “Guess this explains Wesley’s casual vibe this morning. Those cute little bow ties are all knotted up right here. That’s one of today’s mysteries solved.”

Angel sensed Cordy’s heart racing a moment before she sprang into a sitting position to gasp, “I’ll tell them.” The action nearly swept the sheet away from him as she clutched it to her chest. Only his fast reflexes let him grab the tail end before giving Faith an eyeful. He quickly adjusted the covers as Cordelia gasped, “Don’t you dare say a word.”

Obviously amused, Faith did not bother to hide it. “Maybe you should just iron them and put them back.”

Not a bad idea, Angel gave it legitimate consideration wondering how long it would take to unknot each tie and return them to a pristine condition. Then recalling Faith’s reasons for coming to their bedroom probably had nothing to do with teasing them, Angel asked again, “What’s up?”

The glimmer in her eyes faded as she took the query seriously. “Giles sent me to wake you. He wants everyone downstairs ASAP.” She nodded toward the open bedroom door. “Stuff to go over.”

“Does that have anything to do with your bruises?”

His question focused Cordelia’s attention on the subtle colors showing beneath the cover of her makeup even in the dim light. A quick gasp preceded rapid-fire queries, but Faith was unusually closed-mouthed about it. “It’s nothing. I’m good.” Promising more details later, “We’ll talk about all the shit that went down last night when we’re downstairs. Now haul your hot asses out of bed, jump in the shower, and meet us in the lounge. Oh, and just to warn you. . . Xander made lunch.”

Something else suddenly clicked at the sound of the boy’s name. He could still scent the subtle, lingering traces of sex on Faith’s skin in spite of the overlying layers of soap, coffee, and bubble gum. From what he could tell, Faith had never been one to suppress her sexuality, but— Xander Harris? Bizarre. Chalking it up to apocalyptic events, Angel hoped that he could box that knowledge up and hide it away in some forgotten corner of his head.

“Lunch? It can’t be lunchtime yet,” Cordelia flopped back against her pillows and groaned in complaint. “It’s still early.”

“Move it, Chase. It’s already noon. Wesley is about to wear a hole in the floor from all of the pacing.” Faith headed for the door again doing her best to cover up a limp that was a little too obvious to hide.

Cordelia propped her chin on his shoulder to comment, “Making us get out of bed is so wrong. It is not like today is the end of the world. We’ve got another month or two for that.”

Tensing up at the idea because it meant the danger to Cordy was only going to increase, Angel promised gruffly, “Not if I can help it.”

Scene 175

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