Echoing

Author: starlet2367 (Kelley)
Email: starlet2367@home.com
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Post-ep for WitW. (I know, I know. I did one of these already. But I just can't seem to stop myself.)
Spoilers: WitW
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Note: For Gracie, who has the A/C blues. I wish I could say that this will make you feel better
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He slept.

He hadn't expected to; hadn't even undressed before he lay down on the bed. Now he rested, one hand on his stomach, still-shod feet crossed at the ankles, snoring quietly.

In the crib, Connor snuffled and twitched, his little body dancing lightly in sleep.

And the night turned around them.

"Angel," she laughed, hand out beckoningly. "Come back to bed."

"Wait," he said.

"Angel," she called again. "Come with me."

"I'll be there," he replied, smiling at her over his shoulder. "Just have to...."

When he looked again, she was gone.

He woke with a start.

It was the first thing he noticed: the room still smelled of her perfume.

***

"It's not much," Cordy said giddily. "But it's home."

Groo's gaze traveled adoringly over every surface. "It is a home fit for a princess."

She smiled and drew him further into the room. "We totally need to find you some clothes."

He looked down at his champion's garb. "This does not please you?"

She laughed. "Oh, it definitely pleases me. And if you could get away with it anywhere, it'd be LA. But you'll fit in better if you wear something more like the rest of us." She gestured to her dress. The one she wasn't going to be able to return, despite the fact that the tags were still on it. "So, would you like something to drink while I go for the clothes?"

"Oh, my lady, I couldn't ask you to...."

She waved his protest away. "Don't be ridiculous, Groo. You're my guest. Now, sit." She pointed to the sofa. The Pylean champion, the one who looked like a Greek God and felled the mightiest demons on a regular basis, padded meekly to the couch.

Her heels clacked against the tile as she went to the fridge for wine. Now that she was off the vision meds, she could drink again. And after tonight, a long, cool glass of Chardonnay was exactly what she needed.

It was just the thing to keep her from thinking about him. About how close they'd come to getting happy.

The wine sloshed out of the glass and onto the cabinet. "Dammit," she said, grabbing for a towel.

"Is everything okay, your highness?"

"Fine," Cordy replied, resolutely ignoring her trembling hands.

***

The boots felt heavy and uncomfortable. He unzipped them and they fell to the floor with a muffled thud. He sat on the edge of the bed, head in his hands. Remembering.

The way she looked, framed in the doorway.

The way her hair smelled. The way her skin tasted. The way her mouth, pliant and wet, moved under his.

He grunted, frustrated by the memories, and walked to the closet. There, he removed the shirt, hung the drool-stained jacket and slipped out of the pants. The sweats were old and soft. He couldn't ignore the way his hands trembled when he tied the drawstring.

What he needed was a good workout. Get rid of some of the frustration, the tension.

Angel flipped on the baby monitor and padded out of the room.

The basement was, as ever, musty and shadowed. The only flare of brightness the flowers she had given him. He fingered the petals. "In my whole life, I've never met anyone like you."

***

He'd been convinced to take a pair of Gunn's old jeans, ones he'd left to be washed after a particularly nasty fight. The sweatshirt was hers, an ancient Sunnydale U rag that she'd bought extra-extra large because she wanted to make it look like she had a boyfriend whose clothes she stole.

Groo sipped the wine and made a face. "Kye-rumption?"

A faint feeling of deja vu overtook her. "I'm sorry?"

"A grog made from ox dung. I haven't tasted it since I was a child."

She snorted into her glass. "Not hardly. It's made from grapes. Fermented grapes. Do you like it?"

Groo took another sip. "It is...different." He set the glass down on the end table. Then he leaned forward and cupped her cheek in his hand. "I missed you."

"I missed you, too." The perfect smile, the hard body, the way he adored her. "I'm sorry I left. But I couldn't stay, Groo, you know that. I had the visions, a mission. I had Angel."

Groo's eyes narrowed. "Angel, yes. He is your warrior." His hand dropped to his lap.

"Yes. I chose him." And she had, body and soul. Because the alternative was life without her family. Even if she and Angel had nearly crossed the line tonight, they were still family. They were still connected.

"I am your warrior now."

Cordy sighed. "I don't think it works that way, Groo."

He clasped her hands. "But, Princess, now that I am here, we can com-shuk. I can take the visions. You are too frail...."

"You think I'm frail?" Cordy interrupted, slightly offended.

"M'lady, you are a cow. Not bred to contain them."

"Hold on there, buster." She knew it was just a cultural thing. But still. "I'm no cow. And things have changed since we saw each other last."

"You have com-shuked with another?" Groo growled.

There was no way to stop the sensual rush of memories. His hands, his mouth. His eyes. Almost, she thought. A few more minutes and.... "No, I haven't done that. But I did do something else."

***

It had been warm, so warm in that room. She'd been so warm in his arms. It was easy to dream. So easy to believe that she wanted him. That she was his.

But she'd never been his. She'd been Stefan's. And now she was Groo's.

His fist flew. Pieces of brick scattered, the old wall absorbing most of the shock and barely showing a dent.

He grabbed a sword and gripped it tightly, using the pain in his hand as focal point. The carefully-honed weapon swung in a high arc over his head. He called to mind the most complicated routine, using it as a channel for his fury, his thwarted desire.

But the words wouldn't leave him.

"I'm only alive when you're inside me."

He moved faster, until he was almost a blur.

***

Cordy looked into the bathroom mirror. Who was she? The ditzy bitch from Sunnydale or the new, improved superhero?

Neither costume fit. She was trapped somewhere in between. In no man's land.

No man's land, that's what I am, she thought, pressing her fingertips to her mouth. Even Angel, whose judgment concerning women was impaired at best, could barely stand to kiss her. Evidently, she was so unpalatable that he wanted to erase the whole episode from his memory.

She scrubbed her hands across her face and wished, desperately, that she could turn back the clock. That she didn't have Angel's imprint on her body.

"Yes, but can he do *this*?" With one small move of his hand, he'd taken her to the edge.

And then he'd hemmed and hawed his way right back to center.

Was she so horrible? So undesirable?

Groo didn't seem to think so.

***

Angel slid to the floor, lightheaded and sweaty. The sword clattered beside him, its lethal blade glinting in the light.

He sat unmoving long after the sweat had dried, leaving him chilled and sticky. It was only Connor's cries that made him move.

The stairs were a blur beneath his feet. His son needed him.

"Shhh, shhh," he soothed, pulling the baby to his chest. "That's right little one, da's here."

He rubbed the tiny back, feeling the bird-bones and the play of the miniature heart beneath his palm. Connor quieted slowly, going from wails to whimpers.

"Need a change, do you?" They went to the dressing table, Angel whispering baby talk the whole way. Connor's eyes absorbed him, the still-blue depths making him forget, just for a moment.

Soon enough the boy was cleaned, the powder was applied, and the diaper taped into place. Angel readjusted the blue pajamas and tucked the baby into the crook of his arm. They walked to the fridge and he took out two containers and stuck them in the microwave.

At the ding, he grabbed them one-handed and walked to the bed. Connor went down first, into the cradle of pillows, and Angel followed. The little hands reached for the bottle and Angel sat, back against the wall, and watched his son eat while he sipped his own supper.

The night was quiet and her perfume still lingered. Angel set the mug by the bed and slid under the sheets. He tucked both of them in and turned so he could watch his child.

Watch and forget.

***

"You gonna be okay here on the couch?" Cordy asked as she finished tucking the sheets around the cushions.

Groo took the pillow she handed him. "I would be comfortable anywhere, so long as I am in your presence."

Cordy smiled. He might not have been in her life for very long, but he knew how to make her feel beautiful. And wanted. "You're sweet, Groo."

Groo bowed gracefully and pressed her hand to his lips. "May your sleep be as fair as you, my queen."

Cordy closed the bedroom door behind her. The comforter was turned down. Dennis had the pillows arranged just like she liked them and a glass of water rested on her bedside table. "I don't know what I'd do without you," she said quietly.

She changed into her pajamas and climbed between the sheets. Dennis adjusted the comforter around her shoulders and stroked her hair off of her face.

***

"Angel," she said breathlessly. "I want you to undress me."

He shifted, his breathing becoming labored as the scene played out in his dreaming mind.

This time, they weren't in the dressing room. They were here in his hotel. And she was looking at him that way, the way she had earlier this evening. But this time it was all her.

In his hands, her body was just as lithe, just as warm. But this time, her eyes were clear.

This time, when she whispered, "I'm only alive when you're inside me," he knew it was because she meant it.

***

"Angel," she moaned, feeling his cool hands skating over her skin.

"Yes," he hissed.

The low growl nearly drove her out of her mind. She pressed herself closer.

Closer.

Not close enough.

"Angel!" she cried, stunned by the electric current driving through her body, the one sparked by his fingers, his tongue.

"I love you, Cordelia. God, I love you," he gritted.

The need eddied and swirled, making her dizzy. She cried out, whimpers pouring from her throat like wine or moonlight.

"Princess. You must wake up. You're dreaming!"

Cordy jolted awake, her body filmed in sweat. She felt like a wire that had been shorted out. "It's okay, Groo, I'm all right," she lied, clutching his arms.

He looked sleep-rumpled and concerned, and the intimacy of it nearly undid her.

Here she was dreaming of the real-life love she could never have. And was face-to-face with the fantasy she could.

She linked her fingers with his. "I'm all right, Groo," she said.

And this time she meant it.

***

Angel woke up gasping. Around him the night turned, giving way to dawn.

He thought about her first, and as he did, his hand twinged. He flexed it carefully, grateful that it would heal before he saw her. There was no need for her to see his pain. He knew that she cared about him. That she didn't want to see him hurt more than he had to.

She had no idea she was breaking his heart. And why should she?

What could he offer her? Nothing real or good or normal. None of the things she really deserved.

Forget that what he felt for her was stronger and more real than anything he'd known.

***

They came into the hotel the next morning holding hands. Groo got her coffee; refused to let her pick up anything heavy; generally treated her like a princess. She smiled and seemed genuinely happy. Lighter than she had been in a long time.

***

He didn't see the way her eyes followed him, as if searching for an answer to a question she wasn't quite sure how to ask.

***

With Groo she was girlish, giggly. And in loving him she never ran the risk of triggering the curse.

With Groo she could be what she was: a 21-year old woman with a heart of gold and a body and soul to match.

For her, he would step aside. For her he would pretend to be light on his feet.

Forget what it did to him. He wasn't really dancing, anyway.

He was only echoing.

END

 



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