After the Fall

Author: starlet 2367 (Kelley)
Feedback: That would be a big, ole YES! starlet2367@comcast.net
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Angel waits in the wings
Spoilers: Up thru WitW, the Feb. 4 episode. If you don't wanna know, don't read
Disclaimer: All characters herein belong to the folks at Mutant Enemy and the WB. I'm just borrowing them for a few minutes. I promise to return them unharmed.
Distribution: Yup. Just let me know so I can come visit
Note: Thanks to Harv and Kazz for the beta.


The car door closed with a quiet, "thunk," before he could even get around to open it for her. Not that she'd expect him to open it--he never really did that sort of thing, even though he was supposed to be a champion.

Her champion.

And a tarnished one, at that. A clumsy, late, couldn't-answer-his-voice-mail spendthrift. Who'd touched her tonight in ways he'd barely let himself dream.

"Aren't you gonna walk me to the door?" she called over her shoulder.

The twitch of her hips under the tiny black dress was like a homing beacon. He caught up with her in seconds, the ends of his bow tie fluttering as he ran. "I didn't know if you wanted me to," he admitted. His hand found the small of her back, a gesture that could have been friendship.

Or ownership.

His eyes flew to her throat, where a livid red mark stood, just under her left ear. He'd only marked three other women: one he'd hated, one he'd wanted and one he'd saved. It was like a brand, something other vamps would recognize, and after Wes and Gunn's reaction, something mortal men hadn't evolved beyond, either.

It was territorial and primal and blatantly masculine. And it had started because the spirit that had overtaken him hadn't realized that it inhabited a vampire. But in the end, it had been all him. He'd been conscious enough to realize what he was doing, and he'd chosen not to stop.

Because in the seconds after she'd thrown herself at him, he'd known, even if she hadn't. She was his, body and soul. And he wanted to make damn sure that message got out.

Except now, after Gunn and Wes had dropped shocked gazes and hustled Fred out of theater, he wasn't sure it had been the right thing to do.

He had an excuse. He'd been inhabited by the spirit of a star-crossed lover. He felt for the guy--hell, he knew all about star-crossed lovers.

But the truth was, spirit or no, his circuits had simply fried at the first touch of her lips. And, the Powers may strike him down for thinking this, but he'd never felt a body like hers. Luxurious, pliant, willing.

Darla had been hard and cold; Buffy sweet but oh-so-young. The others, well, he didn't much like to think about them, since none of them had been willing partners in the hunt-and-kill games he'd played.

But Cordy, she was all woman. From the crown of upswept hair, to the tips of her polished toenails. She'd filled his hands, coated him with her scent. And when he'd slipped his hand between her thighs and felt her, scaldingly hot and downy soft, a shock had gone through his system like he'd walked wet into a live wire.

His body still tingled, his hands remembering and wanting and aching to hold her again. To feel her explode around him, those silken muscles clenching in ecstasy. Just that, watching her go up, and knowing it was his doing, made him feel more like a man than anything he'd ever done.

"Would you quit staring at it?" Cordy huffed, covering the mark with her fingers. "God, if I'd known I was gonna end the night with a hickey the size of Montana, I'd have worn a wrap."

Angel's heart fell. "I'm sorry," he said. "I, uh, the spirit. It didn't know."

She glanced up at him, and her face, soft and dreamy even now, was enough to make his mouth water. He'd put that bedroom look on her, and he wanted to do it again. And again. Tonight and every night until the end of time.

"Bodyjacked," she muttered, hustling into the lobby and punching the elevator button. "Just what I needed." She threw her hands up and turned on him. "I thought you'd have had more self control. I mean, human here, but geez, Angel, what were you thinking?"

Not much, he wanted to say. Just feeling. And falling.

He looked at his shoes, shiny in the bright light from the hallway sconces. The dinging elevator saved him from having to answer.

Her hand reached out and grabbed his sleeve. She pulled him into the elevator. "C'mon. I need a drink."

He was willing to follow her anywhere. She had to know that by now. But, God, he didn't want to talk about this. So he slipped his hands in his pockets and watched the numbers flash above him until they stopped on her floor.

She was still chattering, something about that damn prima ballerina that had started the whole thing. He was only half-listening, just enough to offer her some "uh huh's" and keep her from prying too deeply.

And she could, if she wanted, pry so deeply that she left him defenseless and stuttering. It was one of the things he loved--and feared--about her. She was a truth-teller.

But he didn't think she wanted to know *this* truth: he was hopelessly, stupidly, head-over-heels in love with her. No going back.

But how would they go forward?

She thought, because of the possession, they'd been driven to do something that "just friends" wouldn't do. But would someone who was just a friend cross dimensions to find her? Set a man free from Hell for her?

God, she could be so blind. But then, so could he. He'd thought, maybe, the other night, when they fell asleep on his bed, that her feelings for him were shifting. Not consciously. He'd never thought that consciously. But the back of his mind, the part of him that already knew what his heart had done, was giving a little cheer.

Yes, she loves me. And she trusts me. And she adores my son. Maybe if, sometime, I brush against her the right way, or I look at her with my heart in my eyes, she'll see how I feel about her.

And now, boy, he didn't have to worry about that. She knew exactly how he felt. He'd dragged her into that dressing room and devoured her. God, he couldn't have been a bigger fool if he'd tried.

He watched as she leaned against the couch and unbuckled the rhinestone straps on her shoes. The ridiculous bits of leather and sparkle landed in a heap, their glitter catching his eye and holding it.

Little pieces of Cordy, all around him. The shoes, the flowers on the mantel, the soft, rich pillows on the couch. The apartment looked like a woman's, full of pretty, useless things that had nothing to do with fighting or saving lives.

It was a sanctuary, like the one she'd created for Connor. A place her soul could be soothed and her body comforted. And he desperately wanted her to do that for him. To make his hotel room a home, not just a place he slept and read and fed his child.

She padded barefoot into the kitchen, and he watched, mesmerized by the play of her calf muscles. After a moment, she came back out with two tumblers. He could smell the sharp tang of blood and vodka in one, and the pinch of whiskey in the other. She held out his glass, its bright, red contents leaving legs down the side as the liquid sloshed.

"Thanks," he said. He watched as she slugged back the whiskey, hissed, and grimaced. Some of the lost, little-girl look she'd worn since the episode disappeared.

"Welcome," she said. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, then sank gracefully to the couch and leaned her head back against the pillows. Her hand reached out for him.

He sat his glass down next to hers, untouched, and let her pull him down. She had no idea what she was doing to him, just by being here. Just by being Cordy.

Her large, dark eyes were staring at him, and he could tell she was as shaken as he. She'd just been hiding it better. "What are we gonna do?" she whispered, her voice breaking. "I don't want this to ruin our friendship, Angel. It's the best thing in my life."

He looked down at her fingers, linked with his, the way he wanted her life to be linked with his.

But she didn't want him. Not that way. Or he'd have been in her bed by now, just him and her, and no excuses, not even the curse. He'd have found a way to work around that for her, for them. Even if it meant never being satisfied again.

His heart twisted in his chest. "This won't change anything, Cordy," he said. "I'm still your best friend. I still need you in my life."

She leaned over and put her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Angel," she whispered. "I know it wasn't your fault. If I hadn't started it...."

He tipped her head up so he could see her face. "Don't apologize. It wasn't anyone's fault. Not anyone corporeal, anyway." He swallowed, almost unable to speak the next line. "I promise, we'll just forget about it, okay?" He forced it out in a rush, and hoped like hell that she didn't notice the way his voice broke.

She smiled and sniffed and brushed tears away. "Okay. But I don't think the others will let us forget any time soon."

Despite the despair, Angel felt a laugh rumble through him. "Right. I thought Gunn was gonna kill me." He turned her chin so he could see the mark he'd left on her. It hadn't begun to fade, but it would, until it left behind only the faintest, shimmering scar. He ran his fingers across it gently.

Cordy gasped.

"Sore?"

She shook her head. "No, just, having you touch me now. It's different. I mean, Angel, we did everything *but*, you know?" She looked away from him. "It's kind of embarrassing."

It was like a hit to the solar plexus. "You don't have to be embarrassed, believe me," he said, trying desperately to save face.

"Yeah, well. That's easy for you to say. You weren't the one doing the jumping." Her smile was easier now, though, and even through his own pain, he could honestly say he was grateful. He never wanted to see her hurting.

"We'll just chalk it up to another one of those weird nights at Angel Investigations. How's that?" At her nod, he dropped his hand and stood. If he stayed here one more minute, he might touch her again. And he might not be able to stop. "You gonna be able to sleep?"

She blinked, and that soft, satisfied look returned. "Oh, yeah. I'll definitely be able to sleep," she said, a hint of laughter in her voice.

She was so beautiful it made his teeth hurt. "Good. I'll see you Monday, then," he replied, as if his entire system weren't churning crazily with desire and love and a need so consuming it took his breath away.

"Right. Monday." She got up and followed him to the door, and without her shoes, she barely came up to his chest. "See you bright and early." She put her hand on his arm, like she always did. Then, as if she realized what she was doing, she dropped it. But she still smiled at him. "Unless I need a Connor fix. Then I'm calling you tomorrow."

He wanted to touch her. God, he wanted her skin under his. He wanted *her* under him, her breasts spilling into his hands, her legs wrapped around his waist. He wanted to lose himself in her again, the way he had for that brief moment at the theater.

He slipped his hands in his pockets, clenching them into tight fists. "Whatever you want, Cordy," he said.

He drove home with the top down, his heart weeping as Ellington blasted out the speakers. The wind ripped through his hair, slapped his face, but didn't do a damn thing to stop his thoughts.

Lorne had left the lobby lights on, and he found himself squinting against the brightness. He thought about turning them off, but didn't know if Fred had made it back. So he slipped silently to his room.

"There he is," Lorne called cheerfully. He appeared in front of Angel, Connor clasped against one brocade-covered shoulder. "Little Fred hasn't made it back yet, but...whoa. What'd you get into?" He took a step closer. "Or should I say, who?"

Angel threw his keys on the coffee table and started unloading his pockets. Wallet, knife, coins clattered out as Lorne circled him quietly. "Oh, dear," he finally said.

Angel looked at him. "Not a word."

He raised a hand and made the "lips sealed" motion against his mouth. "You're in bad shape, bro," he said. "She has no idea?"

"No. And I don't want her to. Or anyone else. It'd just...make her uncomfortable."

Lorne patted the baby's bottom absently, his eyes full of compassion. "Right. Except did you ever consider, it might make her happy?"

Angel laughed ruefully. "You didn't hear her tonight, going on about how it was all her fault, and how she didn't want it to ruin our friendship. Lorne, that's not a woman in love. Trust me."

"You sure about that?" he asked quietly.

Angel nodded. "Positive." He slipped off his tux jacket and walked to the closet, where he hung it back in the rental bag. Next came the tie, the studs, the shirt. He dropped the shoes to the floor with a thud. "Never been more positive about anything."

Shirtless, now, and clad only in his tux pants and socks, he walked to where Lorne stood. "Has he been fed?" he asked, nodding toward the baby.

Lorne nodded. "Yeah, just finished. He's due for a long sleep. Maybe you should lie down with him."

A lance speared Angel's chest, as he remembered the three of them on his bed. Like a family. "Yeah." He took the sleeping baby from Lorne, comforted by his small, warm weight. "Maybe I will."

"Well, then, I'll just be off to bedfordshire," Lorne said. He turned back when he got to the door, as if he were going to say something else. Then he shook his head and slipped out, leaving Angel with the baby in his too-quiet room.

Angel turned off the lights and settled into the rocker Cordy had bought. He adjusted Connor so he rested more comfortably against his shoulder and closed his eyes. The chair made comforting, creaky sounds as he rocked. Against his bare skin, Connor was a living, breathing miracle.

He could smell her still. Floral, fragrant, feminine. She'd had her hands in his hair, on his neck. Had pressed her breasts to his chest, had gone taut, then lax against him, as she came.

He'd been so lost in her, not just his body, but his heart and his mind. There had been no one but her, and now, as he rocked in the dark, she was the only thing missing.

He lifted his hand to his face and breathed, deeply. Then he clenched it into a fist and tapped it against his mouth.

And stared into the dark, listening to his son breathe.

END



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