Manifestations Of Grief by Christie
Summary: This is an older one, written post Buffy S5 and Angel S2.
Spoilers: All of Angel Season Two and BTVS Season Five.
Notes: Required suspension of disbelief: Cordelia knows about Angel sleeping with Darla, and Buffy remains dead after The Gift.
The microwave signaled
the end of its cycle with a repetitive beep and Cordelia sighed, setting her
magazine down on the coffee table. Her legs felt wooden as she trudged into the
kitchen, pulled the disgusting TV dinner from the microwave and promptly threw
it in the trash. The smell alone made her want to be sick, and Cordelia knew
tonight was not the night she was going to be able to put on a brave face and
actually ingest a meal.
Instead, she set about making a cup of tea. The clock on the microwave said 11:32. Only 28 more minutes and the day would be over. It was the day she dreaded all year - they all did - the anniversary of Buffy's death. This was the fourth, and each year Angel had started the day intending on getting through it like any other; each year he'd completely wigged out before the donuts were distributed and the coffee was poured. Why she even bothered to set foot into the Hyperion on this day, Cordelia didn't know.
But deep down, she *did* know. Each year, she hoped this would be the year Angel would open up to her; give her something - anything - that would help her understand what he was going through. Something to help her help him. But each year it was the same, a broodfest to end all broodfests, with lots of dark scowls, warning glares, and the occasional flash of yellow eyes and ridged brow if you didn't leave him alone when he asked "politely". Since last year, she, Gunn and Wesley had just stayed home. It was self-declared Slayer Day - no work, no visions, hit the snooze button you're sleeping in.
Still, it ate at her. Cordelia couldn't enjoy the day the way a day off was meant to be enjoyed because all she did was fret about Angel. She didn't admit it, but last year she'd snuck into the hotel and camped out on a downstairs sofa - just to be nearby in case he needed her. He didn't - of course - but it had made her feel better. Well, also like an idiot, but what the hell.
This year, she'd only felt like an idiot for half the day. Around noon, Angel had stumbled downstairs, drunk, and growled at her until she left. She'd seen him drunk before - it was usually a weepy guilt-fest about the wrongs he'd committed which was never fun - but not this drunk. Ever. She could only assume he'd passed out by this late hour - and oh what a joy a hung over vampire would be in the morning.
Another long sigh as Cordelia steeped her tea and took the steaming mug back into the living room. She picked up her magazine as she settled back on the couch, deciding to finish the article she was reading and go to bed. The dreaded day was almost over - and the sooner the better as far as she was concerned.
The clock on her nightstand glowed 3:21 when an insistent hammering on her front door roused her from sleep. Cordelia grunted loudly, about to bring a pillow to her ears, when she heard the lock bust and the door bang open. Instantly awake, Cordelia grabbed for the aluminum baseball bat she kept by her bed and slowly crept to her bedroom entryway.
It was Angel, and Cordelia breathed an audible sigh of relief as she replaced the bat and scurried out of her room. He stood in her foyer, eyes wide and wild, hair more disheveled than usual. In short, he looked like hell. The anger at him for breaking her door dissipated.
"What are you doing?" she demanded in a harsh whisper, pushing her door closed and managing to lock the doorknob, even as the deadbolt hung useless from its hinge. "You're going to replace this tomorrow," she added, dropping the whisper and including a trace of irritation to her voice.>
Angel stopped moving, shrugged off his coat and seemed to settle slightly. "I needed - "
He trailed off and Cordelia's brow knitted in concern. Moving toward him, she gripped his biceps with both hands and guided him to the couch, peering intently at him as she did so.
"Are you drunk?"
He said no, but nodded, and Cordelia clicked her tongue. "I'll take that as a yes. You want me to make you some coffee? You didn't drive here, did you? You kill someone while drunk driving, and your shanshu's going straight out the window!"
"I walked," Angel muttered, leaning back and staring out the window behind the couch. "Iím pretty sure I walked."
Cordelia patted his knee and smiled, also glancing out the window. No Plymouth Belvedere parked at the curb. Or *on* the curb. Or on the lawn for that matter.
"Yeah, you walked," she assured him. Concern overtook her again and she straightened. "Coffee. You should have some."
As she walked toward the kitchen, strong hands encircled her waist and pulled her back, landing her in Angel's lap. Before she could stop herself, Cordelia blushed at their close proximity and the intimacy of their position. She struggled to get back up, but Angel held her fast.
"I don't want coffee," he said, surprisingly lucid.
Cordelia leaned back in order to see his face. "What's going on, Angel? What are you doing here?"
A moment of hesitation passed between them, both pairs of eyes searching the other. Angel leaned in, brushed his lips against his Seer's, almost immediately tangling his hand into her hair and pulling her closer. Cordelia froze, every muscle in her body going tight, then instantly slackening as Angel kissed her desperately. His lips were warmer than Cordelia had imagined, she managed to register that before lifting her own hands and cupping his face, finally returning the kiss with equal fervor.
It was right about when Angel's tongue quested into her mouth that Cordelia's brain checked out completely and she let emotion overtake her as the passion between them climbed.
Large, cool hands slid from Cordelia's neck down her back, guiding her over until she straddled him, legs on either side, bodies pressed flush with no space between. Cordelia felt every touch, everywhere, knew what he was asking to do every time his fingers brushed against bare skin. She ignored the question as long as she could, enjoying the feel of his hardness beneath her, his hands exploring her in ways she didn't even like to admit to herself she fantasized about. His mouth then breaking away from hers, nibbling cheeks, chin and finally neck, hands following their own path upward, venturing now underneath her camisole and meeting with the heated flesh beneath.
It was then her voice was found, brain kicked into high gear and Cordelia managed to rasp between huge gulps of air.
He did, immediately, hands and lips ceasing where they were, Angel's entire body freezing in place, head still dipped and buried into Cordelia's shoulder. She gently pulled herself back, untangling his hands from her shirt and pulling it back into place, gingerly stepping down from his lap and taking a seat on the edge of the couch - three safe feet of distance between them.
"What was that about?"
Angel shrugged, hunched over and refused to meet her questioning gaze like a child in trouble. Cordelia sighed and reached out, placing a gentle finger beneath his chin and forcing his eyes to hers.
"What was that about?" she repeated, trying desperately to look as understanding and non-confrontational as she felt.
Again, Angel shrugged, this time keeping her gaze. Silence for a moment until he finally admitted, "I want you."
Cordelia blinked, looked away as she felt her cheeks flush. The window and the night beyond provided no more answers, however, and she was forced to look back at Angel, who still hadn't dropped his gaze from her face.
"I want you." He said it again, earnestly.
Mouth opened to speak, but Cordelia had to snap it shut and think for a moment. Finally, an oh-so-intelligent "oh" got through. She shook her head and stood, desperate to get a hold of herself. Standing, pacing, things were a lot more clear.
"Angel, you're drunk. This is about Buffy, not me."
He inclined his head slightly. "Yeah, I'm drunk. But this isn't about being drunk. Or about Buffy."
Cordelia snapped her fingers and pointed at him in pure frustration. "Then what is this about?!"
Angel opened his arms, imploring, before clasping his hands and resting his elbows on his knees. "I love you, Cordelia. You know that."
Cordelia nodded slowly, stopped pacing and faced him. She sat on the coffee table across from him, placed both her hands over his clasped ones. "I love you too, Angel. We've had this talk. What's *this* - " she motioned between them, " - about? Tonight. Sex."
He bit into his bottom lip, which surprised her. He never bit his lip, or did anything, except pace, that counted as a nervous habit. When he met her eyes, they were moist. "Warmth. It's been so long since I've felt - " he broke off, voice breaking. "You're so warm."
Tears sprung to Cordelia's eyes as she moved herself back to the couch and pulled Angel into her arms. He didn't actually cry, but she did, and he let her hold him without complaint. Cordelia didn't push him away until she was good and ready, and he smiled crookedly when their eyes met again.
Their faces were only centimeters apart when he said, "I do want you, Cordelia. This - " he motioned between them, repeating both her actions and words. "Tonight. Sex."
Cordelia frowned. "It's not like with Darla, is it? Perfect despair?"
"No." Angel was serious.
"But it's not perfect happiness," her voice was flat, "is it."
Angel paused. "No."
He looked sorry, and reached out to touch her. Cordelia flinched away as her heart plummeted into her stomach. She swallowed, looked away from him. Shivered. For the first time in a long time, Cordelia felt alone. Every muscle protested as she stood. She wanted to curl under the covers and sleep until Christmas. She suddenly didn't want Angel anywhere near her. She struggled, found her voice.
"Then, no. My answer is no. I want you to leave."
Angel stood, a little unsteadily, and Cordelia made no move to help him. He looked at her for a long, awkward moment, then sighed as she crossed her arms over her chest, closing herself off to him completely. Finally, he dipped his head and walked to the foyer, donning his coat.
"I'm sorry, Cordelia. I do love you."
Arms folded, Cordelia stared straight ahead. She didn't blink, didn't speak, barely breathed as he stood at her door, waiting for her to respond. At least two minutes went by, Cordelia counted the faint ticks from the clock on the wall nearby. Finally, Angel pulled open the door and walked out.
It wasn't until the door had shut behind him and his heavy footsteps receded down the hall did Cordelia push out a long, shaky breath and wipe the stray tears from her eyes. "I'm sorry too, Angel," she muttered as she made her way back to her bedroom. "And I love you, too."