Shades Of Solace by Tinkerbell


Summary: C/A, sex, angst.


Spoilers: Up to approx Hero, Season One.


Notes: Very old fic from S1 Angel. Re-worked and re-posted.



The oppressive heaviness that never leaves him is weightier than usual tonight. Angel can scarcely keep his eyes open as he turns his key in the lock, leaning his shoulder against the door to swing it open into the small apartment.

He hasn't slept at all today, and now it is taking its toll on him. He had tried, he had lain with his head buried under his pillow for hours, willing sleep to come and claim him, but it had been elusive and he had finally risen at sunset to go to work. Doyle had found him four hours later, sound asleep with his head resting on a stack of files. With uncharacteristic sensitivity, Doyle had coaxed Angel from his chair and urged him home. The maimings and beatings and killings that are Los Angeles would still be here tomorrow night. He needed no more convincing.

Angel makes his way quietly to the kitchen, aware of the stillness of the house and the utter silence coming from the small bedroom off the hallway. He shrugs off his jacket, which lands on the arm of the couch before sliding noiselessly to the floor. It lies silently in a black puddle of cool leather. Opening the door of the refrigerator, he squints slightly at the sudden light. He pauses briefly while he studies the contents, pretending that he actually has a choice of what to eat, and then he sighs resignedly and reaches behind the peach yogurt for a fat plastic bag of blood. Dumping it into a mug, he tiredly opens the door of the small white microwave and sets the mug inside with a clunk. While the microwave hums softly, Angel rests his forearms on the countertop and drops his head, closing his grainy eyes.

When he opens them again, she is standing there, across the kitchen. A slim hand rests lightly on the white tile counter, the manicured nails tip-tapping as she watches him. Angel looks at her hand, notes the perfectly shaped nails with their coating of light polish, and knows she has done them herself rather than spend the money to have someone else do them for her.

A small detail, but significant nonetheless. Just one of the many small details that signifies the change in her. When Angel had first seen her in Los Angeles, he had been taken aback at the memories she immediately evoked of another place, another time. Another girl. An old, deep ache had begun to throb, and he had looked wildly about for a form of escape, but she had turned and seen him.

"It's you," she had said curiously, looking him up and down with only a casual interest. "Are you know....*grrr*?" She had wrinkled her nose at him and then grinned brightly, and Angel wondered if she had been high on something.

"You know, there's not actually a cure for that," he had replied shortly, and then turned away, intent on removing himself from the situation.

She was a bitch, and she would always be a bitch, he had thought, disgusted.

Except...she wasn't.

The events that unfolded afterwards had happened quickly and neatly. So neatly that Angel often wondered about it. There he had been, looking for an assistant/secretary type person for the agency, and along breezed Cordelia, giving off all appearances that she was living the high life in the City of Angels. But she wasn't, as he discovered. She needed the position as badly as he needed someone to fill it, and so he had given her the job on a trial basis.

He had fully expected the trial to be his. Cordelia, however, had given him the first surprise of many. She was efficient, neat, and organized. She was sweet as sugar to clients who deserved it, and icily cold to clients who did not. She had slapped Doyle the first day the two had worked together, and Doyle now tiptoed around her carefully.

All in all, she was just what Angel had been looking for.

Her time in the city had mellowed her considerably. She was not the hard-edged girl Angel remembered her to be. She was still marvelously quick-witted, and could unman Doyle in any verbal sparring match. She still looked down her perfect nose at people she does not deem worthy of her attention, and she still had the maddening ability to be self-absorbed.

Just not as much, or as often.

Mere days after giving Cordelia the job, Angel found himself opening his home to her as well. She had never once mentioned where she lived or what kind of rent she paid, but Angel eyed the peanut-butter sandwiches that she brought for lunch, and he correctly deduced that she was scrimping precious pennies. She had accepted the offer of the room gratefully, but her battered pride would not let her live there for free. She had paid him what she could afford for her first month's rent, and every month thereafter. It had been six months, and Angel had grown used to her presence.

Curiosity had gnawed at him, and one night he gave in and asked about Xander. She had merely arched a fine black brow at him and given him her snottiest look, and Angel turned away with a corner of his mouth quirked up. A few minutes later, she had asked him airily, "Heard from Buffy?"

Angel never questioned her about Xander again.

He had been quietly furious at her for days over the thoughtless remark. Buffy was a dangerous topic. He did not mention her name, nor did he allow anyone else to. Whistler, when he showed up occasionally, was prohibited from discussing her. Doyle had nursed a black eye for three days when he had dared to bait Angel about her.

Buffy was golden, was sunshine, was glowing. He ached when he thought of her. A lump had formed in his chest the day he had left her, and it was unmovable. The pain of it was manifested in a weight behind his eyes that was constant, never changing. He was reminded of her daily.

It took him a week to realize that Cordelia must have been cut just as deeply by his careless inquiry of Xander, and Angel had been ashamed.

The soft beep of the microwave brings him out of his thoughts and breaks his gaze from Cordelia's polished nails. He reaches in for the warm mug of liquid and takes a deep drink, watching over the rim as Cordelia grimaces in disgust.

"I'll pretend that's hot chocolate," she says.

"I'll pretend you aren't here."

"Mmm, nice mood you're in," she murmurs, moving around him to the refrigerator and retrieving a bottled water.

"Sorry," he mumbles, leaving the confining space of the kitchen and sinking heavily into the plush couch. He kicks off his shoes and leans his head back, resting the warm mug on his stomach. He does not open his eyes even when he feels the cushions move, and knows that Cordelia is sharing the couch with him. For long minutes there is a comfortable silence, broken only by the sound of Cordelia lifting her bottle to her mouth and swallowing water.

He is almost asleep when he feels the nimble fingers slip underneath his neck. Cordelia is kneading the tight muscles gently, carefully, using her nails to lightly scratch the base of his skull while she skillfully unknots his tension. For a moment Angel lets himself revel in the feel of a warm touch against his cold, undead skin. It has been long, so very, very long since he has let himself touch or be touched by another human, and he has forgotten just how warm their skin is in comparison to his. It feels wonderful, what she is doing, and he relaxes even further into the couch.

When he feels her shift closer to him, he does not have the inclination to move away. It feels too good, the hand on the back of his neck. She is using her thumb on his nape, rubbing it in small circles, and Angel feels the tension seep out of him. He takes in a deep breath, filling his useless lungs with the air, and lets it out again slowly. The action serves to loosen him even more, and he tilts his head sideways to give her better access.

It takes him a minute to realize that her hand has stilled. Cracking open one eye, he looks up at her questioningly. Angel finds her watching him seriously. "What, Cord?" he murmurs.

She doesn't reply, just continues to look at him with her large brown eyes. Brown eyes, he thought. Brown eyes. Not hazel. And her dark, so silky. Not sunshine blonde. It had been washed before she went to bed, he notes. It is still damp, and he catches the faintest scent of apple shampoo. After a bit, she speaks.

"You're lonely."

He lifts his head, surprised. It is not a Cordelia-like comment. "Yes."

"Me, too."

Angel ponders that, and realizes it is likely to be true. He never sees her with friends, she works a ten hour day and comes straight home to the apartment just as he is leaving to go to the office. She is still asleep when he arrives home at daybreak. He rarely speaks to her, even when they are at home together. He can see how her life, though busy, would be lonely.

As lonely as his is? Angel feels a sudden flash of sympathy for the girl sitting quietly next to him. If Cordelia feels even a fraction of the desolate emptiness that he does, Angel knows that she is hurting. Funny, to think of Cordelia feeling anything but selfishness.

She begins rubbing his neck again, slowly, as they look at each other. Angel sits up briefly to place his now-cool mug on the coffee table, then lies back again in the strange comfort of Cordelia's presence. After a bit, she speaks.

"Sometimes, when people are lonely, they kind of find each other."

A corner of his mouth turns up lazily, but he does not open his eyes. "You're full of wisdom this evening."

There is another long silence, so long that this time Angel does open one eye again to look at her. "Anything else you want to tell me?" he prompts, wondering why he is trying to extend the conversation. Anything to not have to return to his bed, where he is haunted repeatedly by dreams of golden hair and a bright smile.

"Angel, I..." she trails off, speechless.

Speechless? Cordelia is never speechless. Angel sits up straighter on the couch and puts a finger under her chin, bringing her downcast gaze back to him. Her eyes are limpid and soft in the single light from the kitchen, and Angel suddenly realizes how beautiful she is. In another place, her harsh demeanor had turned her outer beauty ugly, but she is not that same person. She is softer, more tolerant, and Angel is instantly aware of how feminine she really is.

"Cordelia?" he prods, curious as to what she isn't saying. His finger tips her chin up even further, bringing their faces within inches of each other, and again he is struck by how warm her skin is, how good her hand feels on the back of his neck. Before either of them can do otherwise, Angel lowers his mouth to hers, wanting to feel that human warmth on his own lips. He kisses her briefly, then raises his head to look at her. Her eyes had closed, and now they flutter open again. She looks very serious in the half light.

"When people are lonely," she repeats in a clear voice, "they find each other."

This time, he gets it. She is offering him the solace of her touch, a brief escape within her body. The thought of losing himself in a living, breathing woman is like the call of the devil...Angel does not have the strength to resist it, and does not want to. His yearning for another girl, a lost love that is forbidden now and forever, has become too raw and needs soothing. He speaks sharply to Cordelia, gallantly trying to remind her of the reality of the situation and offer her a way out. "I don't love you."

"I don't love *you*."

He breaths a sigh of relief. Their intent is the same, then. To bring two lost souls together in the hope of finding peace. Without speaking again, Angel threads his hands through her hair and drags her mouth up to his. She yields instantly, bringing her hands up to clutch at his shirt, and opens for him. Angel murmurs against her lips, "So're so warm..."

He feels her lean up against him and he eases backward, taking her with him so she lies atop his length. The short robe she wears barely covers her backside, and, still kissing her, Angel runs his hand tentatively down her back and lets it rest on her bare thigh. His other hand encircles her neck and crushes her mouth to his, noting curiously that, instead of trembling, her lips are strong and sure against his, seeking from him the exact thing he seeks from her. She does not pretend to be shy or coy, she welcomes his mouth and hands on hers and returns his kisses with equal fervor. Angel drives fully into her mouth, starving for something unknown, clutching at her with desperate hands.

Cordelia is willing to give him what he needs. She melts into him, allowing him to kiss her as roughly as he wants to, for as long as he wants to. Long minutes later, Angel finally tears his mouth from hers and looks up into her unreadable eyes. She appears flushed and yet fresh at the same time, and suddenly Angel finds himself humbly grateful to her for allowing him to take comfort in her this way. He tries to smile, brushing his thumb against her bottom lip, but then he is using his thumb to force her mouth open again so he can plunder it. His hands begin to roam, moving from her back to the sides of her breasts and then down again, trying to absorb all the heat from her body into the palms of his hands. He tries to settle his hands at her waist, and not go so fast, but Cordelia begins pressing into him slowly, answering his urgency, and he can't keep himself still.

When she sits up slightly, Angel feels the cool air between them and almost whimpers at the loss, but when Cordelia divests herself of her robe and sits atop him, naked, he appreciates the gesture. He takes a moment to gaze at her slim frame, but then has to look away when he finds himself beginning to make a comparison between her and another, different body. Instead of looking, he takes the opportunity to shed his own clothing quickly, then returns to her and revels in the warmth of her smooth, satiny skin.

He pulls her beneath him, holding her tighter than before, and buries his face in the crook of her neck. The blood that sings there, beneath the skin, is like a siren call. His nostrils flare against her neck as he smells it, wanting to tear the flesh with one bite and swallow the thick fluid, but he will not.

Angel will not mark Cordelia as his, because she is not now, nor will she ever be so.

He lifts his head with difficulty from the tempting spot and nuzzles her breasts. They are not overly large or full, but they are softly shaped and perfectly feminine, and he runs his nose in a small circle around both nipples until they are standing stiffly and begging for attention. Cordelia arches against his erection as he does it, causing him to hiss softly and press her further into the couch. She brushes her parted lips over his, asking for another kiss, and he complies willingly. Anything to absorb more of her intoxicating warmth, he is so cold inside, so damned cold. Her tongue makes a brief foray into his mouth and he responds in kind, threading her hair with his fingers.

He would have spent another hour just kissing her, marveling at the heat of her mouth, but when she lifts a leg and rubs her knee against his side he realizes that he is neglecting more important things. Running a hand down her stomach, he gently explores the nest of curls at the base before sliding a finger inside. He starts to stroke her, and then she is opening for him easily, all wetness and warmth and desire, and Angel ceases to realize that the body beneath him is not the one that will haunt him forever. To him, she is Buffy, he will make her be Buffy, or go insane from the knowledge that he is making love to another girl.

"I'm just so fucking lonely," he murmurs against her breast, and Cordelia nods, somehow knowing that he is not speaking to her. Silently she arches up against his hand, riding his fingers inside her, and Angel gently eases his hand away and moves to cover her. He probed once at the juncture of her thighs before sliding his cock inside, mildly surprised to find that she is not a virgin, yet not surprised at all.

Their eyes meet in the dim light, chocolate and coffee colors blending together, and Cordelia speaks. "What about your little...problem?"

"The curse?"

"Right. I'd hate to wake up dead next to you."

He is suddenly, inexplicably angry at her for bringing it up. It serves as a reminder that she is not who he wants her to be, no matter how hard he tries to make it so. His cold words startle even himself. "Don't you remember, Cord? I have to be *happy*."

She does not flinch away from the harsh words, merely swallows tightly and gives a short nod, and Angel feels a measure of guilt. It is not Cordelia's fault that she is not Buffy. It is not her fault that they don't love each other, and it is not her fault that he is poised above her, sheathed inside her, using her.

"I'm sorry," he says again for the second time that night.

She merely reaches up to draw him down close to her, and he lets her. He begins to move slowly within her, but when she starts to slide with him, even that small restraint breaks and he begins driving into her madly. Angel can not bear any longer to prolong the act. Seizing her mouth in a rough kiss, he pounds into her, forcing her along with him. In some distant part of his mind he is grateful that she is peaking with him, grateful that he does not have to worry about her climax. She gives a muffled cry and digs her nails into his back, leaving small half-moon shaped marks, and Angel reaches down and lifts her hips higher and tighter against him. Suddenly it is important that he be buried as deeply as possible in her when he comes, that her warmth is surrounding his coldness, and he explodes with a force that shakes his entire body. He keeps moving in her, as if somehow she can empty him of the bleakness that is in him, and as he spills his cold, dead seed into the heat and shelter of her body he feels another's name threatening to rise from his lips. A vision of blonde hair and sparkling hazel eyes flash into his mind unexpectedly, and he has to squeeze his eyes shut tightly against the sharp, painful memory. Angel clenches his teeth to keep from gasping out her name, and gives himself over to the climax that is rushing through him like the pounding surf. Beneath him, Cordelia clenched around him and tightened her muscles, shuddering silently.

For a very brief moment, Angel holds her weakly in his arms, clinging to the fading euphoria of climax and trying not to think. It is no use. His passion has been spent, and now the barrier between his brain and body is down. He has tried to find comfort in Cordelia and failed, the emptiness in him is still a gaping maw of bitterness. The ice around his heart is still solid.

Or is it?

As he looks down at her flushed and damp face, Angel realizes that his body, still nestled tightly against Cordelia's, is growing warm from her body heat. Cordelia catches his gaze, and he finds no anger in her eyes, no remorse. She merely arches an eyebrow at him inquisitively, and asks lightly, "You gonna be lonely again sometime soon?"

Angel pauses for a moment, thinking about the question, then he nods slowly. "Count on it."


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