Now It's Dark

The dusty foliage in the Hyperion's garden casts odd shadows as it shifts and wavers in the warm evening breeze. Cordelia took a deep breath of the night air. Never thought she'd be happy to breathe L.A. smog, but now the acrid taste at the back of the throat means they're home. Back in Californi-ay, where humans are the dominant species and tacos are widely available; not to mention: Soap!

Tough mission, but they'd pulled it out in the end: saved Fred, defeated an ancient and evil priesthood and, for bonus points, emancipated a whole world of slaves. Not a bad couple of days work. So no wonder they're feeling like champions as they come in through the garden. A tight knit team again, Wesley, Gunn, and her, and for once it wasn't all about Angel, they were a team.

Angel happy and smiling. No sign he'd noticed her little slip...

"I love him!" Oops. "Not you, dumbass, HIM! I love him!" Throwing her arms around Groo and ignoring Angel.

Nice save, Cordy. She's pretty sure he bought it.

Cordelia's thinking they should have their own theme song as they enter the hotel and she's feeling so good that when she sees Willow sitting on the couch, she gives her a big smile, actually glad to see her.

"Willow, Hi…" Then it hits her: Willow, here in L.A., looking like the world had ended. The rest of what she was going to say trails off into silence.

"It's Buffy," Angel says. Willow nods.

And everything comes crashing down.

Angel doesn't say much; in fact he doesn't say anything. Stands silently while Willow slowly, and with no babble at all, explains what happened. Cordelia can't follow all of it: but she gets the highlights: crazed Hell-God in search of a key who is Buffy's little sister Dawn (who isn't, really), dimensional chaos, end of the world, blah, blah, blah, epic battle, nothing they hadn't lived through before.

Except this time Buffy died, sacrificed herself to save the world and/or Dawn.

The funeral's Wednesday evening to accommodate, well, Angel. It's going to be a very private ceremony since Buffy isn't officially dead. Giles is worried about the consequences if the demons find out there's no more Slayer on the Hellmouth, and of course there's Dawn to consider.

She can tell that Willow's not telling them everything, but they don't need to know everything, not right now.

Willow starts crying. "Oh Angel, I'm so sorry…"

He stands there for a moment, then shoves rudely through his would-be comforters and disappears upstairs. Cordelia and Wesley look at each other and follow him.

They find him in his suite, sitting in the dark. They sit down on either side of him, offering the silent comfort of their warm human bodies. She tries holding his hand, but he won't unclench them. Wesley pats his back awkwardly.

He doesn't respond to them at all. Just sits there, still and silent, big black waves of misery radiating from him. Still, they've got to try, even knowing the comforting phrases they're mouthing are shit, worse than useless. There are no words that can help, nothing they can do that will change anything.

Cordelia wonders how long they've been sitting here, silent in a darkened room, her hands, her side are cold where they've been resting against Angel. She realizes that they're back to square 1. And the future doesn't look too bright: it features Angel the hero, broodmeister, with his pet humans hanging on every word, every variation in his behavior, constantly searching for glimpses of blue sky behind the dark clouds. Focused on Angel, who doesn't need to be their actual employer to control them, to own them.

She hopes Buffy is happy wherever she is.

Cordelia gets up, ignores Wesley's questioning look and leaves.

Back down in the lobby Willow has calmed down, though she's still red-eyed and sniffling. Gunn's doing his best to comfort the strange weepy white chick. Fred is the calmest person in the room. Cordelia guesses she's used to having her world destroyed. Also, she doesn't even know who Buffy is. Gunn's in pretty much the same position, he never met Buffy though he knows who she is. Was. Past tense. She's dead. Buffy's dead.

And they are so screwed.

"Uh, how is he?" Willow asks. Cordelia knows it's not fair to blame Willow who's only the messenger, so sarcasm not appropriate -- which leaves her pretty low on options. She shrugs.

"Not good." See, she can do understatement.

Willow sniffles again. New subject please.

"How's Giles? You said something about him getting speared?"

"He's fine. But Spike was hurt pretty bad, so he's staying with him."

Whoa! Rewind please. "Spike? As in evil undead guy who tortured Angel and tried to kill us last year? That Spike?"

"Oh. Yeah, he's changed. He's good now." That definitely calls for a raised eyebrow. "No really. He almost saved Dawn."

O.K., this settles it, clearly they're going to have to do something about getting regular updates from Sunnydale. But maybe not right now. She's tired, the princess costume is chafing, and she can smell herself.

"Can you give me a ride?" She asks Gunn, ignoring the various looks of shock/betrayal/confusion. "I'm going home."

She'll come back, of course, but right now she needs to be back in her own place, with her own stuff and Phantom Dennis hovering protectively. Not like she was leaving him on his own; how many groupies did Angel need anyway? Wesley, Gunn, Willow and Fred should be able to keep Angel away from sharp wooden objects for a few hours without her help, right?


It's cold in the truck, Gunn glances over at her sitting huddled in her cloak.

"So, what was she like? Angel's ex? You friends with her?"

Thanks Charles, start with the easy ones.

"She was pretty I guess, tiny. Assisted-blonde. Good fashion instincts when she remembered to exercise them. At first I just thought she was some kind of freak, little Miss Dysfunctional, especially after she tried to stake me… "

Gunn gave her a look. "Somethin' I ought to know?" Cordelia throws him the look back.

"Mistaken identity, O.K.? Anyway, I don't think we were ever friends but once I got dragged into the whole demons and secret world deal… well, Buffy was the Slayer. I still didn't exactly *like* her, but I had to respect her cause she kept saving the world over and over again. Cause she was a hero, like Angel but without all the broodiness. Not that she didn't have her Midol moments…" Stops herself, realizing she's doing it again, speaking ill of the dead.

"So Angel really loved her, huh?"


"Gonna take him awhile to get over this."

"Yeah." Couple of decades, easy, and that's if we're lucky.

"Think he'll go off the rails again?" He's watching her, not the road. She has no idea what to say. Settles for half-truth. "I don't know." Gunn doesn't look satisfied, but he lets it drop.

When they get to her apartment he stays in the truck watching until she's safely inside. She hears the gears grind as he pulls away from the curb, wonders if he's going home or back to the hotel. Of all of them she figures he's got the best chance of pulling free.


She closes her eyes, reveling in the smell as she lathers up for the 3rd time. Pure, white Ivory soap (it floats!), she'd made Gunn stop at 7-11 so she could get it. For once in her life proper moisturizing is not her first concern. She's willing to put up with a certain amount of alligator hide to remove the stink of demon horse poo, the stench of fear and pain and blood and hate, still clinging to her skin… She wants goddamned Pylea off her once and for all.

Sighs, as she takes deep breaths of the cleansing steam, loving the feeling of hot water flowing over her body, as she moves the sponge over her shoulders, breasts, stomach, arms and hands, the skin smooth and unmarred (not counting her silvery Souvenir of Sunnydale). There are no marks, no visible signs of what they'd done to her. Because once they were convinced of her chosen-one-ness, they'd put some kind of ointment on her that numbed the pain and made the burns and cuts and bruises just -- go away. (Half wishes she'd thought to ask for samples, but probably it wouldn't work in this dimension anyway. Considering the source, it'd probably turn a papercut into a septic ulcer.) So, anyway, she won't be needing that body double, but the memory of pain is still sharp and her hands keep checking the places where they'd cut, burned, crushed…

"Tell us the truth, cow…"

First time being tortured. Last time too, as God is her witness, etc. And she will never use 'red hot pokers' as a figure of speech ever again. Not the pain so much, 'cause nothing like a few years being knocked around by demons and blindingly painful visions to up the old pain threshold, but the deliberateness of it.

"I'll tear the lying tongue out of your head…"

Fred's amazing. She doesn't know how Fred had managed to stay even semi-sane through 5 years of being looked at like she wasn't a person, not Cordelia, but a thing, a possession, that might be useful, and if not could be crumpled up and tossed away. Or eaten.

"You will do what we tell you to do. If we say "mate," then you will mate. If we say "silence," then you shall shut your cow mouth."

Cutting off his head was *way* too good for him.

She turns off the water and gets out of the shower. Gratefully accepts the towel floating in midair. "Thanks Dennis."

Thinks about the rest of the crew back at the Hyperion as she gets dressed, dries her hair. Wonders when/if they'll go home. They could Angel-sit in shifts. But they won't, plenty of room in the hotel and they won't want to leave Angel alone. Not tonight, probably not for the next couple of weeks, months, years. And because they just can't leave Angel alone. He's like a big black sun, drawing them into orbit around him.

Goddamned heroes. Brave, committed, self-sacrificing pains in the ass. Sure, Buffy saved the world, but did she ever think about the people she was leaving behind?

Not that she's not grateful. And she knows that in a little while it's going to really hit her, that Buffy Anne Summers is dead. Forever. That she's never going to see her again, never have another chance to twit her about her clothes, her hair, her taste in Angel substitutes...

He's never going to get over this. Never. He'll bleed and brood and mourn her and they'll hover round him and suffer along with him until Wolfram and Hart or some other Big Bad puts him, (and probably them as well) out of his misery.

Pisses her off, because for a brief moment they'd been a team, not Angel and his groupies and she had hopes that maybe, someday, it was all going to work out. That Angel would Shanshu and live happily ever after with Buffy. That she'd pass the damned visions on to some deserving soul; finally get a break in her acting career and start collecting the kind of huge paychecks that would salve the pain of just-as-well-it's-unrequited love. That Wesley would get over his childhood trauma and acquire a life. That Gunn would be happy, quit fighting monsters, take his GED and enroll in college, cause the whole street-fighting thing was not exactly a career with long-term prospects.

And everyone lived happily ever after...

Probability low and falling fast.

She's too tired to do anything but go straight to bed. Her wonderful California King-sized bed with the 500 count Egyptian linen sheets from Bullocks and the big pillows. She leans back, ahhhhh. Heaven. In Pylea even the Princess didn't rate more than a lumpy wool mattress and scratchy sheets.

"Night Dennis, it's great to be back." The lights go out, and she sinks gratefully into slumber. Maybe she'll get lucky and dream about Groo.


Wakes up not nearly long enough afterwards. It's still night, but all the lights are on and she can feel Phantom Dennis' worry crackling in the air. Something's wrong, but he isn't sure how to deal with the problem: no slamming doors, or flying knickknacks. She pulls on her nightgown with a sigh. Not that hard to guess what the problem is.

She's not surprised at all to find Angel sitting on her couch, hunched and silent, in the exact position he'd been in the last time she'd seen him. Like he'd been magically transported from his room to hers. Her fault for inviting him in, in the first place.

"Angel?" He doesn't react to his name. Great, just what she needs, a terminally depressed vampire permanently installed in the middle of her living room.

She moves in front of him and puts her hand on his shoulder. "What are you doing here? Does Wesley know you're here?" Not really expecting an answer. Definitely not expecting him to reach out and pull her close, so she can feel his skin cool through the thin silk, as he presses his face against her and takes a deep breath of her.

"Hey!" Recoiling she manages to re-establish some personal space, but he keeps hold of her nightgown and peers up into her face, like a lost child.

"You left," he says.

"I was coming back." Wondering why she sounds defensive.

"Don't ever leave me," he murmurs, eyes fixed on her face. They look wet. Has he been crying? She didn't know he could do that. The idea of Angel crying is deeply disturbing.

"No, I won't," she hears herself saying. His fingers are still tangled in the fabric, holding her. She really doesn't want it wrecked, it's one of her few surviving items from her Sweet 17 trip to Paris and that's why she moves toward him a little, but he takes it the wrong way, wraps his arms around her.

"I just want to hold you," he lies. Big, chilly hands moving slowly on her back.

She can feel Phantom Dennis' distress like an ultrasonic whine vibrating the air, confused about what's going on, if she's being threatened. Not sure herself. She considers jerking away from him again, telling him to go home. She can feel the violence lying not very well buried under Angel's pain, in the strength of his hold on her, but this is still Angel, and she's 99% certain that if she told him to go, he would.

Go where, and do what, that's what she *isn't* sure of.

Since she hasn't moved or told him to stop, he's given up all pretense of innocent comfort. Blatantly squeezing and stroking now. Not so bad to be touched by hands that know what they're doing, however cold.

Even if it's not really her skin he's tracing patterns on, not her he's trying to touch.

He stands in one smooth motion and kisses her. A hungry kiss, wide mouth claiming hers. The tongue dipping into her mouth, tasting her, is cool and oddly dry. She guesses she passed the test because he comes back for more, no more tentativeness but a full on invasion.

She's dreamt about kissing Angel, way too often. Wishes this was a dream, just harmless fantasy, but it's not. This is real. Cordelia frees her lips, puts her hand on his chest and tries to push him away. He looks down at her, blankly.

"Angel, what are you doing! I know you're a little confused right now, but remember the whole gypsy curse, sex equals Angelus deal?"

He smiles, and now she's scared. "Don't worry, I won't lose my soul."

She has a bad moment there before her brain points out that she still has her throat, intact, therefore he doesn't mean he's already lost it. So what does he mean? "And you know this how?" Little flash of something -- guilt maybe?-- in his eyes and the smile fades. She's just as glad to see it go.

"Later, I'll tell you later." He seems pretty sure about it, and when he dips his head for another kiss she doesn't retreat.

He carries her into the bedroom, puts her down on the bed. Both of them avoiding each other's eyes. He undresses and she sits on the edge of the bed and watches him. Not that she hasn't seen it before, but it’s worth a second look. She can't help feeling a little twinge of guilt when she sees the bruises, cuts, and scars from Pylea, from the fight with Groo. She hadn't given it much thought at the time, too busy trying to cover her slip and she'd figured that Angel would be fine, like always. Hadn't really seen how bad it really was… She reaches out without thinking to the ugly puncture wounds in his chest.

"Did Groo do that?"

He shakes his head.

"Soldiers. Missed." Not by much, but she can see the wounds are already closing. Healing. In a day or two they'll be invisible, like hers.


He kneels, nudging her legs apart so he can lean in and unlace her chemise with cool efficiency. Nudges her breasts aside so he can press his face against bare skin his mouth open, cool void against her sternum. He goes perfectly still and she realizes that he's listening to her heartbeat.

Cordelia knows that he can hear her pulse from across a room. This close it must be overwhelming, a deafening drumbeat for him. She doesn't know, can't imagine what it's like for him. Whether it's maddening, because it isn't hers, or maybe soothing, because at least there's one there with him, however nervous.

Because she's also thinking about his sense of smell, must be a hangover from Medieval World, but if he can tell what color hair Wes' date had from a quick sniff how the hell did he stand being around them warm and full of blood, day after day?

Things she's never thought about before, never wanted to, and this is a bad time to start.

He stirs, moves back and looks up at her. Dark eyes meeting hers and she wonders if he even knows what he really wants. Angel drops his gaze and resumes unlacing. He takes a breast in hand and brings it to his mouth, greedily taking as much of it into his mouth as he can. He suckles till they're aching with the desire for more. Then he moves to the other one and does the same. Sits back to admire them, pink nipples erect and gleaming, with a hint of a smile while she struggles to control her breathing.

"Beautiful," he says, not talking to her.

His hands slide up her legs. She doesn't wear panties to bed and dry soft knowing fingers slip under the silk, stroking her, teasing her. Pushes her gently onto her back so that he can nuzzle between her legs, and he's making no effort to hide his quick inhalations as he wallows in her scent, her taste, his broad tongue swiping greedily across her labia, collecting the traces of moisture seeping from inside her.

And she wonders how the hell can cold hands, icy tongue ignite so much *heat*.

Wonders why he didn't ask Fred, who thinks he hung the moon… but no, Fred's new, she might have said no. Especially if she's put all the clues together and figured out the whole undead deal. Different if she sticks around and gives him a chance to get his hooks into her. Next week, next month it'll be her turn to try and soothe his fevered brow.

He sucks on a finger and gently slides it inside her, keeping up the work with his tongue.

And her -- why is she doing this exactly? Is this a pity-fuck? The next step down on the way to Saint Cordydom? Maybe she's just regretting chances lost with Groo. Or maybe just: it's been awhile.

Kinda hard to keep thinking, now that he's got two fingers inside her now, pressing in counterpoint with his tongue as it delicately laps at her button, teasing the hood back, coaxing her clit to swell, and throb. She guesses practice does make perfect because the waves of pleasure are rippling out from her center to her fingertips, washing away her control, eroding the separation she knows she has to feel. Doesn't want to get confused about what's really going on here.

It hits, and she's screaming so loud she just *knows* she's going to hear from the manager about it.

Wrung out, she just lies there. Aware that her panting is the only sound in the room.

He crawls up on the bed beside her and kisses her, eyes closed. He lavishes soft, chilly kisses on her mouth that taste of nothing, as if his mouth had absorbed all traces of her. She's tempted to tell him to drop the act and just get on with it. Stop pretending he cares about anything but the transitory forgetfulness granted by warm flesh, soft skin, and blood…

*So* not going there.

Then she guesses he figures that's enough foreplay because he's up on his knees, spreading and lifting her legs up onto his shoulders. Can't help tensing up as his cock brushes against her thigh, and stubs against her entrance, because again *cold* and also big. Angel strokes her leg absently as he makes a final adjustment and then *pushes*.

Thank God it's not as cold as his hands or tongue were before they warmed up, but still it's chilly and feels fucking huge as he slides slowly into her, stretching her till she's on the edge of pain and he still isn't all the way in. How the hell had itty bitty Buffy taken this… then again *Slayer*.

Staring up into the shadows of his face and there's nothing there to reassure her. His eyes are open, but she can't tell if he's seeing her at all, his expression blank as he fills her. He's finally all the way in, curlies entwined, her ankles resting on his collarbone. It's not the most comfortable position, but again, not like it's about her.

Angel adjusts his grip on her, and starts to move. Eases back, till he's half out of her -- then forward, back in again, smooth and slick. Keeps doing that, growing warmer, her body adjusting to him and now he feels just right. Like she was made for him, and vice versa.

Yeah, right.

He makes a sound, soft and low and picks up the pace. Slamming into her, no more Mr. Nice Guy. She feels every thrust in her bones, jarring her brain. Mental alarms going off as he fucks her harder and faster and his hands are bruising her legs. She's getting scared. Even though she's not the one he's thinking about. Not the one he's trying to fuck through the mattress, not the girl he's pissed at for dying.

But it is her, here under him, starting to wonder if she shouldn't start yelling for help, because she can see he's gone off to his own private Idaho. His face is starting to look a little distorted, or maybe that's her just being upside down.

Nope, that's not it.

His face ripples and the demon looks down at her. Not Angelus, but the thing that lives inside Angel and keeps him undead as opposed to just dead. The yellow eyes are cool and alien and only mildly interested in the sex. That's not what it wants. Thin lips slip aside from jagged teeth and the nostrils flare and she knows what it's thinking.

"Angel," she says, hating the panic in her voice. "Angel, please!"

And she believes in miracles, because it works: the demon melts away and Angel sees her. "Cordelia?" He lets her down carefully settles her in his lap, right side up. Still inside her, still hard. He rests his head on her shoulder, holds her in the circle of his arms.

"Sorry, sorry. I'd never want to hurt you Cordy." They stay like that for a little while, in the dark.

Then he starts to move again, but this time it's much better. He takes it slow and steady, and it's not nearly so overwhelming. Almost nice.

The sound he makes when he comes as though has more pain than pleasure in it. She holds him as in the aftermath he lets his full weight rest on her. Actively aware of his mouth, lying at the side of her neck, unseen and treacherously soft. Wondering if he's hungry. Waiting for the teeth, knowing it's only a matter of time.

But this time he only sighs, and disentangles himself from her enough so they can lie down on the bed, cuddling face to face.

It's weird, and not very comfortable, cuddling with a vampire. She tries to ease out of his grip, because it feels like all the heat is being sucked out of her body. But he won't let go, keeps a proprietary grip on her hip, hand on her breast. Opens his eyes, and Christ, there's so much pain, so much need there that she knows she should get up and run, not walk to the nearest exit.

"Stay with me." Soft whisper.


And she knows this isn't enough, that this will never be enough, there will always be more Angel will want, need, and she wonders when and if she'll remember how to say no.





Oni's place: