Line In The Sand by Dazzle
Summary: Angel and Cordelia try to find their limits.
Spoilers: Waiting In The Wings, Season Three.
had you guys pegged all along, you know," Fred confesses, blushing with combined bashfulness and pride. The guys are out patrolling, and so we're having a girls-and-baby picnic of it. Connor's in his little carry seat on the counter, going to town on his bottle; Fred and I are hanging out, listening to one of Gunn's new classical CDs, chowing down on Pringles and Diet Coke with Lemon. It's as close as we get to a party around this place, most of the time. And apparently it's gotten Fred loose enough to try a little girl-talk.
"You pegged what?" I say, even though I know full well.
"'Bout you and Angel," she says, grinning. She pushes the sleeves of Gunn's Lakers sweatshirt, absurdly large on her, back up above her elbows as she continues, "I just knew you two were destined for each other."
"Destiny," I say. Weird word to apply to me and Angel. Destiny's a big word; it takes in prophecies and constellations and inevitability. Doesn't seem to have a whole lot to do with us -- people who knew each other for years without caring much, who ran into each other at a cocktail party and started working together, who fell for each other only after the other people we'd loved were lost forever. But then, who's to say how fate works? "I kinda hope not, Fred. I'd rather just try and take things with Angel a day at a time, you know? I don't know that I want the whole fate of the free world hanging on my love life."
Not that Angel wouldn't be used to that. But that conjures up memories of high school, and She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and a certain curse that hasn't gone anywhere. All of a sudden I'm ready to change the subject. "This Diet Coke stuff is weird, isn't it? I mean, it's less lemon-tasting than lemon-Pledge smelling. You know?"
"No weirder than Pringles," Fred says, holding up one chip. "Other chips, you know, they get to have some individuality. They take their own little chippy shapes, you know? But not Pringles. They're forced into this kind of Orwellian uniformity." I forget how easily Fred switches conversational tracks -- and how easily she switches back again. "You and Angel -- it's just so romantic."
I shake my head and smile at her. "And you and Gunn aren't?"
"Oh -- well, yeah --" Fred's all blushy again, but for a new reason. "It's not the same, though. You and Angel are like something out of a story. Like a medieval romance."
I shoot her a sideways glance; that's laying it on a little thick. But for all that Fred's big crush on Angel has died down, she's still fond of romanticizing the guy. Then again, these days, I'm starting to see where she gets it. "Like Lancelot and Guenevere, huh? Always in love, but -- never with the sex."
Sex -- never. Two words that should not go together. Two words that kinda have to go together, as long as I'm with Angel.
"Never with the sex?" Fred says, looking doubtful.
"The curse. Angel's curse. Remember? We went over this --"
"Oh, no, I remember that," she says, fishing one of her little hands down to the bottom of the Pringles can to get those last few chips. "I mean, about Lancelot and Guenevere."
"Come on, Fred. Didn't your parents ever take you to see 'Camelot?' Lancelot and Guenevere never got to get it on."
"Well, no, not in the musical," Fred says carefully. "But in the original Arthurian legends, well -- you know --"
"The sword actually got in the stone? Gotcha," I say. "Not like Lancelot and Guenevere then."
"Guess not," she says sadly.
Angel's kissing me, touching me, pulling me close. I slide one of my legs between his, marvel at the way his cool skin seems to take on my heat. We're in bed, at least in the techincal sense. Everyone's gone home, Fred to Gunn's, Lorne to whatever place he wants to while away the evening. Connor's sound asleep. And so there's no one in the world but me and Angel, nothing in the world but what we're doing to each other. "You're so beautiful, Cordy," he whispers. The same thing every man has whispered to every woman bedded since the dawn of time. But the way he says it, the way he looks at my body as he runs his hand over my shoulder, between my breasts, to rest on my belly -- it makes me blink back tears. "Hey. Are you all right?" Big sweet dope. I'm crying out of love and joy, and he's worried that something's wrong. Angel is sometimes amazing in his ability to miss the obvious; then again, in a weird way, that's part of his charm. We're not naked, of course. Naked is too much temptation. But the last several nights, clothing has proved to be, well, too much clothes. So Angel's in his boxers (black silk, very nice to the touch), and I'm in yesterday's purchase at Victoria's Secret, a thin, sheer bra-and-panty set in brilliant coral lace. To judge from the stunned, lustful look he gave me when I let my dress slip to the floor, Angel likes them. I kiss him once more, and he brings his hands up to my breasts again, teasing my nipples through the lace with his fingertips. It feels so good, but at the same time, I want even that whisper-thin bit of lace between us gone. I want to feel Angel's cool skin against me, all against me -- "I'm fine," I murmur against his cheek. "I'm wonderful, as long as I'm with you." Angel doesn't respond in words. Instead he kisses his way down my throat -- is he tempted? I can never tell -- to my breasts. I can feel the wet pressure of his tongue even through the lace, and I run my nails down his back so that he shivers. To my surprise, he keeps moving down my body -- dips his tongue into my navel, scrapes his teeth lightly along the edge of my panties. His fingers slip between my legs, between lace and skin. Oh, God. And then he's touching me there, right there, soft and teasing, just the barest touch -- but I'm so hot for him, so desperate, so close to edge just from our making out that I feel myself spinning toward orgasm almost immediately. "I'm gonna come," I gasp, giving him time to stop. He doesn't stop. A few more strokes, one harder than the next, make the white-hot tension inside me coil up and explode outward, heat and light and pleasure all inside me, filling me up. I cry out Angel's name, only to have my voice muffled by his mouth closing over mine again. With heavy petting like this, who needs sex?
Wesley's giving me that look. The look that means a lecture's coming, and I try to guess what it is this time. He's glancing over from the passenger seat of the car, watching me steer toward Rick's Magic Store, still working up toward making this more than a simple supply run.
The rain gets harder, and I set the windshield wipers to going even faster as I pull into the parking lot. Here we go, I think, putting the car in "Park" and reaching for the keys. Three -- two --
"Yeah, Wes?" I look over at him, cock an eyebrow. He's still got that look, halfway between "you're in trouble" and "oh, God, don't make me say this." I sigh and say, "Out with it."
"I am of course happy for -- I mean, our hearts have their reasons, which -- I mean --" He pushes his glasses up his nose, folds his hands in his lap, like we were at tea or something, and says, now totally calm, "Are you having sex with Angel?"
Okay. Should've seen that coming.
I stare out the windshield for a moment, watching the water sheet down, blurring everything. The wipers slap back and forth, working furiously, doing almost no good at all. The only sound is the car radio, Alicia Keys crooning something sweet and sexy.
"Cordelia?" Wesley's voice is a little firmer now. "I'm sorry to have to ask you, but I do need an answer."
"I get that." I run a hand through my hair, calming myself, buying myself another couple of seconds before I speak again. "There's not really a yes/no answer to that one."
"I beg your pardon?" Wes looks unhappy. More than that, he looks surprised. He gave me and Angel credit for a lot more willpower than I would have thought. Or, as it turns out, deserved.
So how do I put this? I try to think of a way that isn't totally Too Much Information. "Bill Clinton would say no."
Wesley's jaw drops. Whoops. Too Much Information after all. I bite my lip, pat my fingers against the steering wheel. Nope, this isn't awkward.
"Cordelia -- are you quite mad?" He means mad as in crazy. But he's looking mad as in angry. Really angry. "Angel's curse! You more than any of us know what Angelus is, what he's capable of. This is -- beyond irresponsible --"
"Hey, hey, hey. Back off. Didn't you hear me? I mean, it's sex -- but it's not SEX sex. Tab A has not been introduced to Slot B."
"And, as the existence of Connor should make utterly clear, 'Tab A' and 'Slot B' have nothing to do with triggering Angel's curse," Wesley shoots back. His voice is dripping acid now. The lights from the dashboard reflect off his glasses, so I can't really see his eyes. "It's not a matter of a simple physical act. If it were, Angel would have lost his soul with Darla. But it is a matter of Angel's happiness. If he's having a sexual relationship with a woman he loves --"
"Then he's still got a kid who might be the Messiah or the Antichrist, a crazy-ass guy from the past out to kill him, bills to pay, mouths to feed, and oh-so-fond memories of hell," I reply. "And we do stuff -- I mean, he does stuff for me, but -- there's still a frustration level involved for him, okay? No guy ever got perfect happiness while he was dealing with blueballs. Am I right on this?"
That should at least have made Wesley smile, even if it was his patented, that-was-dirty-and-I-am-British-so-I-must-pretend-not-to- laugh smile. Instead he just leans back in his seat, looks up at the top of the car as though it were the sky. We're quiet for a while, just sitting in the car, listening to the windshield wipers and Alicia Keys.
Finally, he says, "When you evaluate risks, you must take into account both the probability of risk and the gravity of the result. Perhaps you're right. Perhaps you and Angel have -- found a balance. But if you haven't -- if you're wrong -- Cordelia, the consequences -- "
"I know all about the consequences, okay?" This guy's total experience with Angelus is two minutes near an elevator shaft, and HE wants to tell ME what Angelus is about. Wesley's gotten on my last nerve; my temper snaps. "Don't sit there and lecture me about Angelus and the curse and all of that, all right? Angel and I are safe. We're totally, 100% safe. Don't get all pissy about me and Angel just because you're the only one not getting any."
Wesley draws back at that, presses his lips together. I went too far, and I know it. I think about the way his face looked before we all headed out to the ballet together, when thanks to me he thought Fred was falling for him to, and I feel like shit. "Wesley --"
"Come on, then," he says, getting out of the car without even reaching for the umbrella. I can't even see him walking away from me, into Rick's, for all the rain.
I leave the umbrella too, run after him, catch up with him right before the door. We're standing together under a tiny awning, raindrops on his glasses, my wet hair sticking to the back of my neck. "Wesley, I'm sorry. I'm SO sorry."
He doesn't react to that at first, then gives a little one-shoulder shrug. Wesley will let it go in a minute -- he always does -- but he doesn't want to. "That was uncalled-for."
"I know it. It's just -- the situation with me and Angel -- it's already weird, you know? It already hurts. And talking about it just makes it hurt more."
"I realize that" Wesley's voice is soft again; willing or not, he's forgiving me. "I do want you both to be happy, you know."
I put my arms around him, hug him so tight his skinny bones ought to break. He returns the embrace and whispers into my ear, "I just want us all to be safe."
"Me too," I say. "Me too."
Water is sluicing down Angel's back, streaming over that tattoo. Does he have any idea how hot that thing looks? Probably so. That's probably why he got it. I lean forward, kiss him right between the shoulder blades, through the flowing water. He looks back at me, and even through all the steam I can see the laughter in his eyes. "Come on," he says, mock-warning. "This is just to get me warm for you." "I like you fine cold," I say, which is true. It's amazing the stuff you can get used to. "But warm is nice too." Angel still doesn't turn to face me, which is probably for the best, seeing as how we are showering together. We don't allow ourselves to see each other naked much -- it wasn't long ago we didn't allow it at all -- and the temptation factor definitely goes through the roof when we do. Take now, for instance. Angel is underneath the shower nozzle, letting steaming-hot water flow all over him, creating a little artificial body heat .A treat for me. I can't see his cock, which is a shame, because it's worth looking at. Even more worth touching. But I'd better wait for the boxers to get back on before I start with that. What I can see is Angel's extremely firm ass, tempting enough as it is. I'm feeling secure -- we're at my place, for a change -- and I'm feeling naughty, and the hot water feels good to me too, so I come up close to him. I press my pelvis against his ass, my breasts against his back. He goes tense in an instant, lets his head fall back. "Cordy -- oh, God --" His voice is already deep with arousal, and before I can stop myself, I let my hands slide around his waist, dip lower, take his cock in my hands. He's so hard for me already, so long it takes both hands to cover him completely. I start working him, slowly and gently, letting the hot water make us slippery. Angel braces his hands against the bathroom wall, as if he'd fall over without it. Maybe he would. I know my own knees are getting weak at the feel of Angel against my palms, the awareness of how he'd feel inside me, if only, if only -- Suddenly he spins around, breaks free of my grip, grabs me and kisses me hard. I hang on to him, tilt my head back, let him devour me with his kisses. It's so wrong, so unfair, that this man, this beautiful, passionate man can be such a good lover -- the way he touches, the way he kisses, I already know he's good at the rest of it too -- and yet be denied. So wrong that he can give me so much pleasure and never be allowed to take his own, to be inside me.
All of a sudden it's just too much. I have to have Angel inside me, in some way. If it can't be intercourse, then -- I drop down. The ceramic is hard against my knees; I'll have bruises tomorrow. I don't care. I take him in my hands again, part my lips. Angel puts his hand against my cheek, stopping me. "Cordy, no," he gasps. "We shouldn't." He didn't say, We can't. That's interesting. "Tell me one thing, and tell me the truth," I whisper. The water is still streaming down all around us. "Did Buffy do this for you?" I said the name, and I see the inevitable reaction -- that dark flash of pain in his eyes, something that's still there, still deep, where I can't get at it. Or can I? "Tell me!" He closes his eyes. "Yes," he says, confession and surrender all in one. "Yes." And that settles it. I take him into my mouth, take him deep. Angel shouts out, braces himself against the wall again, and almost immediately starts thrusting into my mouth, finding my tempo, letting me lead. I work him with my lips, my tongue, sucking hard. I've done this before plenty of times -- Mitch, Kevin, a couple football players who talked too much, Devon, Xander, Wilson. Each time it was a kind of game, something I could do to get them under my spell. To show how good I was at this, or to repay what they'd already done for me, or to deserve the attention they were giving me, or something. It was never like this -- the desire to give someone pleasure overriding my own need. All I want in the world right now is for Angel to come. And as I take him in even deeper, suck even harder, he does, crying out my name as his hand clenches around my shoulder, painfully hard. After a couple seconds, I pull myself up -- my legs are trembly, from emotion and strain. Angel pulls me against him in an embrace. "Good?" I whisper. "Beyond good," he says, his voice shaky.
"I can only afford one set of tickets this whole season, so I gotta choose carefully," Gunn says. "On the one hand, 'Aida' -- that's supposed to be totally amazing onstage. Elephants and everything. Can't get that off a CD. But on the other hand, I hear 'Attila' don't get staged that much. Not with Sam Ramey in the lead, anyway -- what?"
"Kicking and screaming," I laugh. "Angel had to drag you kicking and screaming to the ballet that time! And he created a monster."
Gunn grins and shakes his head ruefully. "I figure my cool is shot. At least I can be cultured, right?"
We're hanging out at his place for a change; the interior decorating is still Early Flophouse, but you can tell Fred's spending a little more time over here. He's cleaning a lot more carefully, a couple of plants have appeared on the windowsills, and there's a soft throw over the sofa that disguises the worst tear. Wesley, Angel and Fred are on a beer run -- with the baby, no less. We're gonna get in trouble for corrupting a minor one of these days; I just know it.
Gunn's CD tower is filled with the few hip-hop and rap disks he'd managed to buy for himself through the years before he knew us, and the many classical ones he's spent his share of the newfound wealth on in the past two months. From ballet, Gunn moved to opera; the symphony can't be far behind.
"Is Fred enjoying the change of soundtrack?" I ask, leaning back into the sofa. "I don't think she was wild about all the Tupac you used to play in the car all the time."
"I think Verdi's more her speed," Gunn says. He smiles broadly; these days, Gunn is a happy man. New money, new girlfriend, new enthusiasms. For the longest time, it seemed like he was never gonna get over that life he'd left behind. Personally, I still don't see the appeal of the whole homeless-gang thing. But it meant something to him, something I didn't think we'd ever quite match. But he's reinventing himself now. Charles Gunn is someone new, someone he likes better than he ever did before.
I know the feeling. It's the best feeling in the world.
His mood's good enough to try a risky question. "How are things with you and Wesley?"
"Better," he says easily. Good timing, me. "I didn't realize how deep the Fred thing went, you know? I mean, I knew he thought she was a hottie, but so would any other red-blooded heterosexual man. Or even Lorne."
"I think it went pretty deep, though."
"Yeah, tell me about it," Gunn says. "But he's starting to kinda chill out, though. I think he's getting over her."
I think Gunn's about 1000% wrong about that, but bringing up that subject isn't exactly going to help things.
Gunn gives me a look, and I think he's about to ask me just that, and I try to think of a lie. Which is why it totally broadsides me when Gunn says, "You make Angel evil, and I'm killing him."
Silence. I don't have an answer for that. In theory, I agree with that. Though the whole stake-you-dead promise was a lot easier to make before I was in love with Angel.
Gunn's got that wild look again -- the one he had when we first met him, when he lived on the streets. I'd thought he'd lost it forever, but it turns out it's just hidden, like the rip in the sofa. He leans forward again and says, quietly, "And if, by any chance, Angelus kills, rapes, maims, wounds, hits, bruises, insults or so much as short-sheets Fred before I get the chance to kill him, I'm also gonna kill you."
He leans back, takes a deep drink of the beer he's been nursing. After a couple seconds, Gunn glances at me, casual again. He shrugs. "Nothing personal."
He means it.
I'm still coming down off my orgasm, and I can't speak, can't think, can't do anything but writhe in incoherent pleasure as Angel thrusts inside me. He's pounding me into the mattress, so hard it ought to hurt, but it doesn't. Nothing's ever felt this good, could ever feel as good as finally, finally, finally making love to Angel. Making love for real. He's moving fast, so fast any human would have come a long time ago, but Angel's not human and what he's doing to me, no human's ever done or could do, oh, God, oh, God --
I'm coming again, even harder than last time. When I arch up against Angel and cry out, he grimaces with a last, desperate attempt at control. Then he slams into me again, one last time, and shouts as he comes, cold inside me.
Angel's body is shaking from release as he collapses on top of me; his body feels so heavy and so right on top of mine. I somehow find the strength to slide my arms around him, hold him close. A lovers' embrace.
Oh, God, no.
Angel's just had sex, just really had sex, and it was really fuckin' great, and I've done it. Any second now, the man in my arms is going to become the monster, and he's going to kill me and he's going to kill everybody else and it's all my fault --
"Are you evil?" I blurt out. Stupid question; my neck hasn't been broken, ergo Angel is not evil. Yet.
"No," he says. He's starting to freak out too, has that weird inward stare, like he's trying to tell when it's going to start.
"When do you turn evil?" I want to push him off me, scramble away to safety, and I hate that this is how I feel after I just made love to Angel.
"I -- I don't think I'm going to," he says. Another second and he sighs in relief. "I'm okay. It's okay."
"You're not going to lose your soul," I say. At first, there's only amazing relief. And then, stupidly, disappointment. Of course not. Perfect happiness means true love, which means something he had a long time ago, which means not me.
He sees what I'm thinking, cups my cheek in his hand. "I love you," he whispers. "It's not you, or how I feel about you."
"Try me," I say. Because right now, of all times, I don't want to feel like second-best.
"I can't have perfect happiness if I'm worried about Angelus," he says. "Of course." He's realizing this for the first time -- then again, I guess you never know until you try. Angel looks down into my eyes, and there's so much love there, so much relief, that I want to cry. "Not even with you, as much as I love you."
"You mean it?" Now I want to laugh, set off fireworks, something. Because Angel and I can make love, and now there's nothing to stop us from being together all night, every night, if that's what we want. I know I do.
"We have to remember," he says. He's got that inward look again. "We can't ever forget the curse, Cordy. The minute I started feeling good, feeling safe -- that would be when it happened."
"Right" I draw him back against me, smile as he snuggles his face down into the curve of my neck. "We won't forget."
We're both quiet for a while, and I know we're both thinking the same thing. What if we do? How can we help it?
At some point, if we're not careful, we're gonna get to feeling safe. Maybe even if we are.
Can we keep doing this? Can we keep on drawing and erasing and redrawing this line in the sand until we find our absolute limit? Or will we go too far, get too close, and bring our whole world crashing down around us, until there's nothing left?
I have a feeling we're gonna find out.