Genre: A/C Angst; Angel POV
Rating: PG-13 for naughty Angel thoughts and adult situations
Spoilers: That Vision Thing, That Old Gang of Mine
Summary: Angel and Cordelia get away from LA for a much needed vacation. Things get complicated. Set after TOGOM.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt. This story is not for profit. Angel is copyright Twentieth Century Fox, all rights reserved.
Distribution: List archives, those that have my other fic. Else people, ask.
The Host: Think of yourself outdoors, in a meadow, or on a mountain...
Cordy: I like the mountains!
-That Vision Thing
People never understood the whole convertible thing. A vampire having one...in Los Angeles. I guess I could see their point. But the times when Cordy's smiling ear to ear and the wind is blowing her hair back remind me that it's definitely worth the risk.
She looked so...happy. It's times like these when I can remember how young she really is, and how carefree she used to be. Well, carefree might be an overstatement. She cared - but she cared about stuff like shoes and clothes. Not that she didn't care about other, more important stuff deep down, she'd just never mention it out loud. For fear that someone might see through her tough girl façade and realize that she's a young, strong, brave, sometimes scared woman.
That's the woman I love. That Cordy who I've watched grow and mature into someone that I am so proud of. Someone I want to make happy all the time. Hence the little road trip. Partly motivated by my need to get out of LA and to give Gunn some breathing room, but mostly motivated by my need to get Cordy out of LA, where she can be a person again, instead of a vehicle for the Powers That Be to send me messages.
The air is so clean up in the mountains. Crisp enough to leave her cheeks pink as the wind whipped by them, but I don't think she was cold. Even though it was nearing midnight, her jacket was in the trunk with the rest of our bags and she made no indication that she needed it as we ascended further and further up the peak.
It was hard to concentrate on the road, when all I really wanted to do is watch her enjoy the ride. But the road was a little too curvy to not pay attention. I told myself I'd have all weekend to watch her enjoy her little vacation; but somehow I just couldn't stop glancing over.
"You're going to crash us into a tree, Angel."
I guess she noticed the glancing. Not like I was trying to be covert, but she was so intently focused on the nature around us I figured I could get away with it. The moon was nearly full and it lit up the entire mountainside like a spotlight. Everything was bathed in a muted silvery glow. She was luminescent. I mumbled a sorry and kept my eyes facing forward. I felt her eyes on me for a long time after that, but I refused to look, just watched the road and tried not to smile.
She hadn't looked away from me when she asked me, "why are we doing this?"
"Doing what? Taking a vacation?"
I glanced at her, just a quick one, then refocused on the road. Her head was cocked to one side, her brow furrowed in this cute little way she has.
"Well, you said you like the mountains, and I thought you could use a break...you know, from LA."
She sounded like she didn't believe me, and I realized it was just how well she knew me. Sure there were other reasons. Other Gunn-shaped reasons.
"And I could use a break from Gunn...and probably everyone else could use a break from the tension..."
"Good. I getcha. Thanks for your honesty."
Satisfaction in her voice. Which worried me that she thought it was really about that. Which it wasn't. I could handle Gunn. I could handle Gunn not liking me. That was fine. I couldn't handle Cordy being stressed, and worn, and stretched so thin she was about to snap.
"Cordy, it is mostly about you, you know. To get you away from the...everything. You haven't been normal in a long time."
"Normal? I've been weird?"
I couldn't hold back a chuckle at the absolute panic in her voice. "No, but you haven't been able to kind of just be...a normal person. Always worrying about the visions, or cleaning up demon goo, or you know...the stuff you do."
"You have no idea what I do all day, do you?"
Hey! I do... I think I do. God, I hope I do. "You file and clean and answer the phone and bill the few paying clients we have..."
She reached over and patted my leg, and I almost swerved off the road. I really didn't want to have to instate a no-touching rule, but it could have been very hazardous to both our well beings if I didn't.
"It's fine. That's mostly what I do. It takes a lot of work you know."
"I know." I was sincere. "Consider this vacation a little thank you from me for working so hard and not complaining...much."
She was back to the big grin, face turned up to the cloudless sky. Thousands of stars twinkled above and the moon glowed. I'm pretty sure I was going on instinct when I pulled off at the next available shoulder and ground the car to a halt.
"Uh, Angel?" She dug a wrinkled piece of paper out of her pocket. "We're staying at the...Briarwood Inn. I think we still have a few miles to go."
She looked uncertain at the silvery darkness around us, but it was quiet and I didn't even smell a rogue bunny rabbit in the vicinity. I smiled, and again reveled in the fact that she makes me smile when I'm not expecting it. Smiling is a hard thing for me to do; but not around Cordelia.
"The stars, the moon...I want to look at them too."
"Oh." She pushed out a breath and settled back in her seat, using the lever on the side to tilt it backward a bit more. If I wasn't a vampire, I probably wouldn't have seen the goosebumps that raised on her arms. And instead of asking, I shrugged off my jacket and draped it over her. Her head rolled to the side and she smiled at me, eyes twinkling.
"Thanks. Just got cold all of a sudden."
I smiled back - again with the smiling - and resisted the urge to rip out the gear shift so I could cuddle her close to me. Instead, we stayed on our respective sides of the car, gazing silently up at the endless sky.
When her hand inched over and took hold of mine, I didn't flinch, didn't even look her way, for fear of scaring her back to her side. But inside, my unbeating heart flip-flopped and my chest squeezed and I pushed a breath in and out of my lungs just for the hell of it.
We sat like that, holding hands and watching the sky for a long time. Only two cars passed on the road behind us, and as the clock on the dash inched toward one in the morning, I figured it was probably time to get us checked in to the hotel. Cordelia shifted when I let go of her hand, using it to cover her mouth as she yawned. She pushed the seat up to where it had been and hunkered further down into my jacket.
I loved seeing her wearing my jacket. I don't know why; something about a woman wearing a man's clothes makes the man feel like she's his.
She'd scooted closer to me on the seat and when I turned the car back onto the road, her head was resting against my shoulder and she was nearly asleep.
The shower shut off in record time and I was surprised when Cordelia dashed out of the steam-filled bathroom in a large, fluffy white bathrobe.
"Finished!" Cordy nodded. "Hungry!"
I got the food for her, and I was proud. Eggs, waffles, french toast, sausage, fruit, bagels and juice. Anything that was remotely breakfast related on the room service menu, I ordered. It wasn't exactly morning at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, but they obliged. So I tipped. Big. I tipped him and he smiled, nodded and said 'thank you sir', so it must have been big.
She scarfed down a couple of slices of cantaloupe and started in on the eggs without realizing I was staring. I didn't realize I was staring until she looked up, mouth full.
"Sorry. I was - I got the breakfast."
She swallowed, then smiled. "Yeah, thanks. It's good even though its afternoon. You want?"
She held up a waffle. I tried not to make a face. "No, thanks. I'm gonna shower." A cold one. I thought staying in the same room would save some money. And it was. It just wasn't saving my sanity.
She was dressed when I came out of the bathroom and I was glad. If I had to catch the robe slipping open whenever she reached for another piece of fruit, I was either going to stake myself out of my misery or confess my love right then and there.
Neither one of those was really a viable option.
She looked up from the brochure she was reading, eyes sparkling. There was that genuine smile again, and I remembered she was only 20, and she had her whole life ahead of her. She could be happy, she could be normal...she deserved that.
"They have this little promenade with cute boutiques," she told me, holding out the brochure to show me the picture. "Sun should go down in an hour or so."
Even something as horrible as shopping didn't sound so horrible up at 14,000 feet. Or maybe it was Cordelia's exuberance at the prospect that made it not sound so horrible. Either way, I was as pumped as I ever get about anything that doesn't involve killing something evil.
The shirt I picked out was beige. I didn't pack anything black except pants for this trip. Figured Cordy would like that. She smiled when I put it on.
Her palm tapped my chest, moved up to my shoulder and kind of lingered there.
I wanted her to like the shirt. I didn't want her to give a dead guy a heart attack. I concentrated on tucking it into my pants and tried not to feel the burn she left at my collarbone. I tried not to inhale the scent of her perfume too deeply, or notice her cleavage as she leaned over the dresser and peered into the mirror, fussing with some phantom hair that was out of place on her perfect head.
Yeah, this weekend was going to be torture. Day two and I was already in way over my head.
The argument was this: does buying someone something with their credit card mean you really bought it for them? Cordy says yes. She picked it out which means she bought it for me. I say no. I opened my wallet and handed over the cash, which means I bought it for me.
Didn't matter I suppose. I have leather pants. I told her I have leather pants. She says, did you bring the pants? No, I didn't bring the pants. They were...well, leather pants! Somehow I don't think I should wear leather pants on a vacation. She said a vacation is exactly where you should wear the leather pants.
This pair, she said, is better than the other pair - perfectly good pair - at home. This pair is new, and by some big shot designer that's really hard to find. What was hard to find was the courage to pull three hundred-dollar bills out of my wallet and exchange them for leather pants I already have.
She got a really nice dress - really nice - and I didn't mind paying for that one. It was worth it, if I was going to get to see her in it more than the little glimpse I had at the dressing room. She ran out, asked me if she looked fat, then ran back in before I could really appreciate the dress.
We agreed that we'd wear our new stuff out to dinner the next night. Kind of make it special since we had to head back to LA in enough time before the sun rose. It was her idea. It's not like I was going to say no to anything she asked for during the whole trip.
After shopping, she wanted to see a movie, so I obliged. Movies are pretty boring for me, but it's not like I'm not used to sitting in a dark room and staring straight ahead. I don't do as much brooding when she's around, not like I used to, but being in love with her and not being able to do anything about it has pretty much given me brooding fuel for a while.
She ate popcorn and M&M's, often at the same time. She laughed when everyone else did, and I might have seen a tear or two shining in her eye at the end, but I was pretty distracted about half-way through when she threaded her arm through the crook of mine and snuggled in close. She didn't take my hand, but left hers on my side, kind of resting against my stomach. It was really...intimate.
I can't think of another word, but I know that one is inappropriate. I wasn't sure what to do but sit there, stock still. She was so warm wherever she touched me, and after a while I was sure my skin was going to be red with burns when the evening was over.
It's depressing, because I want to enjoy moments like that, but I can't because I'm always left wanting more. It can't just be a stolen moment here or there, it's always monumental to me. Holding hands in my car when we're looking at the stars becomes HOLDING HANDS in my car when we're looking at the stars. Snuggling up at the movies becomes SNUGGLING UP at the movies.
It's drama. I'm hopeless. I don't think she has any idea what she's doing to me. Slowly driving me insane for her. It's the same with the other two guys...both Wes and Gunn have it or have had it bad for her at one point or another. Fred being around is a little distraction, and that's good. But its only been Cordy for me. And she messes with me in ways that she doesn't touch those guys.
With Cordy and me, it's... more.
We held hands walking back to the hotel too. Swung them between us a little, kind of playfully, and that was good because it took the edge off a little. She never says anything, never acts like it's unusual to be touching me in such a way. Never minds that everyone assumes we're a couple; in fact, sometimes I think she does these things to make it so in their eyes. I have no idea why. If I think about it too long, I growl.
With her fingers threaded through mine, her warm pulse beating steadily below her thumb, I feel alive. Sounds cliché, but it's true. Alive and almost...normal. Dare I say, human. People look at me - at us - like we're human. Normal. A guy and a girl, walking along, seeing a movie, holding hands. God, I want to be that. I'll never be that, but I want it. Someone told me once, it's good to want things.
It was almost sunrise when we finally went to bed. We wrote postcards on the little cheap ones we found in the nightstand drawer, even though we knew we we'd be hand delivering them instead of mailing them. We played a couple of games of cards, and a couple of games of pictionary (Cordy forced me) using the hotel stationary also found in the nightstand drawer. She asked me what I thought would happen if she held the Bible open and I read out loud from it, but I drew the line at finding out.
The bed situation was easy. The room had two singles, which I specifically asked for, which was a good thing. It was hard enough laying there, knowing she was in the bed just a few feet away, all soft curves and warm skin and moist breath. Wearing a little tank top with straps that could just be...ripped, and pajama bottoms that could be loosened so easily with just a tug...
Those kinds of thoughts flitted in and out of my mind for hours before I finally fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
I wore the leather pants with a blue shirt. She said untucked, so I did, and she must have checked me over three separate times which did not help things with the...leather. And the pants.
Plus...her. The dress from the shopping. It was a shimmery dark blue that matched my shirt enough so that we were coordinated, but not enough to be tacky - her words. It had these little straps and I kept thinking what would happen if one broke? It was too expensive for it to ever break, but just...what if?
It was kind of clingy, but not tight. And kind of long, but not too long. It came just to her calves, and then these matching blue strappy heels that looked like they'd be hard to walk in. She didn't seem to have any trouble though, and she laughed at me when I stared at her like an idiot for a full minute when she came out of the bathroom.
"Close your mouth, you're drooling."
Laughing...she was laughing, which was good because it kind of let me off the hook a little bit. She had on the necklace I brought her back from my retreat over the summer, and little diamond studs in her ears. Her hair was up - I love it up because, let's face it, I'm a vampire and I love her neck - and the little wispy strands that fell around her face gave her a softness that I haven't seen in a long time.
"You look beautiful."
Three words that seemed so small for how stunning and gorgeous and indescribable she actually looked. I must have sounded pretty damn sincere though because she sort of got this surprised expression on her face, then teared up a little bit. She covered with a smile and held her arm out to me.
We went. It was really, really fun. We ate a bunch of food; I ate to please her and ended up not hating it at all, and talked about Angel Investigations a little bit so we could write it off on our taxes as a business expense. Mostly we talked about Cordy's childhood, stories I'm sure she hasn't shared with many people, if anyone.
Funny stories, cute stories...stories that made me realize Cordy is as normal and as extraordinary as they come, all at the same time. Stories that made me wish I'd known her longer; stories that made me pretty excited for the day she tells someone stories about me.
She laughed a lot. It made me happy; happier than I've been in a long time. I actually had to check myself, because I was happy, and it was normal, and I was behaving like a human being; like I hadn't killed thousands of people mercilessly and enjoyed it. I had to think about that for a minute, that's how happy Cordy makes me just by being around.
We walked along the streets of the mountain village afterwards, her in my jacket again because she didn't bring one (didn't have one that went with the outfit, apparently) and me feeling all puffed up that she was wearing my coat.
Men like me are shameless.
We held hands again, because that was somehow normal to do here, and I thought about how it would all change once we were back in LA and away from this magical make-believe.
There was nothing special about the lamppost we stopped under, except that it had a purple bulb, so the light it gave off was muted and violet, and cast an ethereal glow on the planes of Cordy's face. She stopped and looked at me, so suddenly it took me by surprise.
I'll never forget the look in her eyes. We had been talking about something inconsequential; so insignificant that I couldn't even remember what only a second or two after we became quiet. She looked at me - god, that look - and reached up, tangling her fingers at the base of my neck.
It wasn't a kiss at first - it was sort of like when you start to dance, and she puts her hands at your neck and leans in to be close. Not to kiss, just to be close. I felt her breath on my neck, at the collar where my shirt opened, all moist and hot on my skin. I looked down, at the curve where her shoulder arched up because she was grasping me, where the vein in her neck protruded just a little bit, where the little curls of hair brushed against her skin, looking so soft.
We just held - a moment, two, under that purple light. I pulled away slightly when the wind shifted and the nearest tree rustled in the breeze. It only takes something small like that to change a whole moment in time. We caught, eyes and breath, and then she just leaned up, like it was the most natural thing in the world, and kissed me.
It was slow, and sweet, and everything I'd ever expected. Her body pressed full against mine, and the kiss lingered until the wind shifted again. I pulled back.
She looked dazed for a moment, like she wasn't sure what had just happened. I knew it with full clarity; every one of my senses was on high alert. I was tense, bristled, and aching for her. Aching, now physically, for something I could never have.
Her big hazel eyes blinked up at me, and she smiled, blushed, and turned her gaze downward. Her feet kind of did a step-step on the sidewalk, wanting to continue walking, pretend that never happened, but not sure she could get away with it.
She found out she could, though, when I grabbed her hand and pulled her along the sidewalk, out of the purple circle of magic-light and toward the hotel where we would sleep in separate beds because that's how it had to be.
We didn't talk the rest of the way. Didn't speak the tiniest of sounds until we were back in the room with the door closed firmly behind.
She was out of my jacket, her dress, into her street clothes in record time. Face scrubbed free of make up, teeth brushed, and fidgeting restlessly about the room. Packing. Unpacking. Packing again.
I had on only the leather pants, about to take my turn in the bathroom when she stood abruptly, descended upon me and hooked one finger against my side and in the waistband.
I looked down at her hand, there, at my hip, as if it had any business being there, and when I looked at her, she groped blindly and kissed me. This time it wasn't soft and sweet, but desperate and passionate and...suicidal.
I growled, pushed her away and stepped back, unwilling to meet her eyes, fearing the hurt that would accompany her furiously beating heart and labored breathing.
"Look at me," she demanded, stepping closer again, closing that precious safe-space.
That space was there because it kept me sane. Kept me from doing what I'd wanted to do since we'd checked in, which is ravage her on the bed nearest then the other just for good measure.
She took that space and demanded my gaze and I shook my head like a stubborn child. No shirt and the leather pants and her in her little halter top that didn't meet the waistband of her tight jeans was doing nothing for my resolve. Nothing.
"Look at me," she said again, softer this time, reaching up a hand and brushing the pads of her fingers against my cheek. She pressed, insistent, and still I refused, feeling the hollow in my throat squeeze tightly with anguish.
"I can't," I managed, voice surfacing with such a hoarse crack I wasn't sure she would understand. "We can't."
I felt her gaze steel, pictured her beautiful face and it's steady resolve and shook my head again. No, no, you're wrong. We can't just kiss because I want more, I need more and I can't have more. But I will take more if you push me there. I will and I can't.
"Angel." Closer still, she moved, until there was no more space between us, and that body - that body - was pressed right up against me as close as she could possibly be. The girl was trying to kill me and doing a damn fine job of it too.
I lifted my arms - they were weighted with the balls of my fists at their ends - and managed to push her, myself, apart once more. I rounded the bed, put that distance between us and finally found the courage to look up and meet her eyes.
She was crying. Silent tears rolling down both cheeks, no hitch in her breath or voice had given it away. I shouldn't have looked.
The bed was between us but Cordy apparently decided it didn't matter because she crawled onto it, shuffling on her knees to me, hand circling my waist and pulling me closer to her. She buried her face into the bare flesh of my torso, I felt the hot salty tears singe my skin and her warm breath like fire against my belly button.
"I can't - I need...you."
I shook my head even though she couldn't see, even though my body was saying anything but no at that moment, with her - so close - right there - but NO, that was all I had to say and keep saying it until we were back in LA where things were real and not...like this.
"Cordy." Her name surfaced and I was glad my voice worked. She didn't look up but turned her head, so her cheek was against my stomach, arms draped around my hips like she was holding on for dear life. I wasn't about to shake her loose so I left her, spoke to the empty room in front of me.
"This weekend - it was...things were happening that aren't real. I mean, things we did here we can't do back home and - "
She released, backing up and rolling on her heels until she was sitting on the bed. Her eyes implored mine, reaching out to every part of me that wasn't able to say no.
"I know. This place...it's - " she paused, searching for the word. Her eyes lit up when she found it, though I knew what it was before she spoke. It was magic.
" - magic. I feel like...I feel like we can do anything here. Anything." She loaded the word and I ached. Her eyes sparkled. "Angel, we can...we can just be normal for once...for one night..."
No. Yes, but NO.
"Cordy, no. We can't."
She reached out, took my hand and squeezed it into hers. Willingly, I sat down on the edge of the bed and she crawled over, draping herself over my back, arms hooked around my neck. When she spoke, her breath tickled my ear.
"Yeah, I think we can."
Lump in my throat, grew to about the size of Texas and I swallowed, swallowed it down. "No, I really think we can't. I think if we made love...here..."
"Here. That's the thing!"
She thought I didn't get it. But it was she who didn't get it.
"Yeah, Cordy, that is the thing. Here it's even more dangerous. Here, I'm human - I'm almost human. I almost forgot who I am, what I am. Because you pretended so hard that I wasn't. You pretended we were a couple, and everyone believed it. Even you...even me. I can't - "
There was a little panicked edge to her voice, like she knew I was already talked out of it; I'd never been talked into it and she wasn't going to be able to convince me.
"I want to, Cordelia. I want to make love to you so badly. But I can't. You, more than anyone, make me feel...like a man. Just a regular - "
"Angel, it will be okay."
"No, it won't. See, Cordy, I could promise myself that I'll remind myself of what I am. I could say yeah, I can make love to you and still remember who I am. I could make love to you and not lose my soul. I could say that, Cordy, but it's not the truth."
She was crying now, mouth open and pressed against the tattoo on my back, leaving small kisses here and there, between quiet sobs and an endless stream of tears burning my skin.
"You don't know - "
"I do. I know that if I make love to you, I'll lose myself. I almost lost myself so many times this weekend, just being around you. Being...having more than that - being inside of you - I couldn't...I wouldn't make it. I wouldn't be able to..."
"Angel, I love you."
She blurted it out in a gush of tears and sobs, then moved back and lay down. Curled into a ball, knuckles being bitten between teeth to stop the crying. I moved next to her, arched myself around her and drew her to me, stroked her hair back and laid small kisses on her temple and across her forehead.
It was all I could do. I'd thought this moment would be different. In my mind, when I imagined her telling me she loved me, it was never in tears, never in gut wrenching sobs. I never thought it would happen in real life, though, and this is what you get when you're dealing with real life.
I tried to soothe her, shushed her with soft words and the rhythmic motion of my hands smoothing down her body, but she still trembled, curled into me and refused to look up. I told her I loved her too, I'd always love her more completely than I've ever loved anyone.
There wasn't time to sleep before we had to get up, finish packing and load the car. We did, in silence. The drive back to LA was also silent; Cordelia curled in the front seat, in her own jacket, pretending to be asleep. I felt the magic fade as we left the mountains, and reality settled in like a weight in my heart. But that weight, still heavy, was lighter than it had been, because Cordy knew.
Cordy needed to know. We needed that weekend regardless of what it won't change back in LA. Because we'll know. Even if the world won't; no one else ever will, we'll know that we love each other. Even without the magic of the mountains, the love is there. And it will be there, forever.