DISCLAIMER: Angel and its characters belong to Mutant Enemy Productions, Fox Television Studios, and UPN. No copyright infringement is intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Shit C, what the hell happened?"
The slayer's near-hysterical voice greeted her as soon as she walked through the door. "Huh? Oh." Cordelia glanced down at her clothes almost absently. "Don't worry. The blood isn't mine." She crossed the room to press a kiss to the other girl's cheek. "How was patrol?"
But Faith couldn't take her eyes off the bloodstains, so unused was she to seeing the other girl anything less than perfectly coiffed. "What happened?" she asked again, the worry still in her voice.
Cordelia sighed, pulling her bag off her shoulder and dumping it in a corner of the room. "I had a vision. It was about Gunn, and I couldn't get through to Angel or Wesley so I went over to help him by myself. We ran into a few vamps... some Gone in 60 Seconds fanboys... and a Deevak demon."
Faith raked her fingers through her hair, in a quick and almost angry gesture. Yet Cordelia knew her lover well enough by now to know that the anger was directed at herself. Faith, Angel and now Gunn... she sighed again as she mentally tallied up the number of brooding souls who thought they carried the world on their shoulders that she had to help. She wondered briefly if the PTB had a toaster oven quota for the number of tortured souls she could save per month. But that thought went as quickly as it came, this was the one thing that she knew she had to do, even if there wasn't any material benefit in it. It was her own personal shot at redemption. "Damn it, I should have been here. I should have gone with you. C, you can't put yourself in danger like that."
Even though her lover's obvious concern made her feel kind of all gooey inside, she was still annoyed that Faith didn't think she could take care of herself. The bitch surfaced and started barking. "Hello, Miss Oblivious! I work for Angel. I put myself in danger every single day. And I seem to recall a Slayerfest '99 where I was mistaken for a certain slayer, got hunted by vampires, demons and professional killers, and that same slayer doesn't seem as nearly concerned then as she does now."
"Yeah, well that was before that slayer fell in love with you." Faith muttered.
Cordelia froze for the briefest second before a smile lit up her lips. Faith knew exactly how to play her, and it was so not fair. "That slayer doesn't have to worry," she said softly, coming closer to the other girl and pulling Faith's arms around her waist. "Because I am not going to get killed and miss out on where this is going."
Faith's smile was as bright as her own, and she leant forward to capture her lips in a kiss. Cordelia closed her eyes and concentrated only on the security that the other girl offered; the love, the warmth, the promise of something so good that she wasn't sure either of them deserved it.
It was why her hands dropped down to still the dark slayer, as she felt Faith begin to lift up her sweater. "Faith, wait..." she breathed.
A look of hurt flashed in the slayer's eyes, which she tried to banish with a small smile. "Guess you really don't get the horny thing, huh?"
"Right now, I'm getting the 'aching all over because I've been tossed and strangled by vamps and demons twice tonight' thing."
Faith winced. "Must be ouchy if you don't have Slayer healing." She pulled her girlfriend into another hug, and Cordelia sank gratefully into the strong arms that encircled her. She buried her face in the crook between her neck and shoulder, inhaling deeply the lingering scent of musk and sweat that came from the exertions of Faith's own battles.
"You never told me how patrol went," Cordelia said in a muffled voice.
"Five by five. Hit a few clubs, baited and hooked a few vamps. I would've had more fun if I'd been with you."
"I wish you had been there. It would have made things a lot easier." Cordelia's brave front suddenly crumbled and her arms clutched tighter around the slayer, the embrace becoming almost desperate. "Sometimes when I'm out there, I suddenly stop and realise what I'm doing, and I can't really believe it... I get so scared, Faith. I'm not a Slayer or a trained Watcher or an undead creature of the night... I start thinking that I can't do this, that tonight I really am going to die..."
Faith stopped the stream of words with a kiss. "Hey. C, I know what you're saying, we all get that sometimes, even us supernatural freaks. It's healthy... healthier than strutting out there like you own the world, and then finding out one day that you're as human as everyone else." She made Cordelia look at her, cupping her chin in her hand and brushing her lip with her fingers. "I can't say anything that'll make it better, C. I don't even know if it will get any better. But I'm here now, I'm with you, and I will die to keep you safe. My crappy life... that all I have, and that's all that I can give you."
Cordelia felt a smile forming at her girlfriend's rough attempt at comfort. But she shook her head, dismissing the actual words. "I don't want your life, Faith. I want you. Just being with you makes me feel safe, and that's all I want, it's all I need. Don't do something stupid and get yourself killed so I won't have that."
The slayer returned her smile. "I'll try."
Faith rested her forehead against hers, still smiling as she held her gaze and they remained like that for what seemed like an eternity. Losing herself in her lover's liquid brown eyes, Cordelia knew she would have been happy to remain like that forever.
It was Faith who moved first, breaking away to press a quick kiss to her lips. "You're so beautiful." she murmured.
Again, Cordelia felt the fingers on the hem of her sweater and again she whispered the other girl's name. But this time it came out low, like a moan of desire and even she wasn't sure if it was a protest or a request.
Faith lifted her head, and gave her a sweet, reassuring smile. "I'm not gonna try anything, C. Just let me take care of you, this once."
Cordelia swallowed, and nodded, finally surrendering totally to the other girl. Her clothes seemed to fall away, from the headband in her hair, to her bloodied sweatshirt and trackpants. She shivered as her body was exposed to the cool night air, and she wondered briefly if Dennis had been messing with the thermostat again.
Then she forgot to think because Faith was kissing her again, hot, hungry kisses that warmed her from the inside. She was suddenly swept up into the slayer's strong arms and taken into the bathroom where the bathtub had already been filled. Faith lowered her gently into the water, and knelt beside her.
Cordelia held herself still, as Faith scrubbed away the blood that still stained her hands, that had somehow dried under her fingernails. She never took her eyes off the dark head that bent over the task, and Faith would look up to meet her gaze occasionally, that cute smile always dimpling her cheeks.
Once she was finished, washing the dust and god knows what else out of her hair, Faith sat up to press a kiss to her damp forehead. "Take as long as you want to finish up here," she whispered. "I'll wait for you outside."
"Faith, don't go." Cordelia reached out and caught hold of her wrist. "Get in with me."
Her girlfriend hesitated. "I dunno." She studied the small tub doubtfully. "It'll be a tight fit."
"I thought you liked tight fits."
The slayer paused for one moment, before her lips twisted in her patented smirk. "Careful C. You're being awfully free with the suggestive comments. I think someone's being a bad influence on you."
"Gee, I wonder who that could be."
Faith grinned down at her, before she stripped off her own t-shirt and jeans. As soon as the last shred of underwear was gone, Cordelia reached out and pulled the slayer into the bath with surprising strength. Faith wrapped her arms around the other girl and cuddled against her side, sighing quietly in contentment.
They were silent for long moments, just enjoying their closeness. Cordelia traced her fingers over the black tribal tattoo on Faith's right arm, wandering absently over the hidden muscles of the deceptively feminine body. Her hand eased under the water to touch the long, jagged scar on the slayer's stomach that had always so intrigued her. Maybe it was because a twin snaked over her own belly.
Faith chose that moment to break the silence, her voice soft, her eyes still closed. "Why are you so good to me?"
"Was I the only one here just now? No one's bathed me like that since... since the maid when I was a baby."
"Their loss. I bet you've grown up real nice since then." But the leer disappeared from her lips almost immediately, as she nestled closer against the other girl. "C... I'm serious. You didn't need to take me in once I got out from jail. You don't need to be there for me every time I feel like I'm about to go over the edge. Why are you doing this?"
"I help people. It's what me and my friends do." The answer was out before she could stop it, a practiced line that she had used once that day already. She suddenly felt the other girl stiffen, and she opened her eyes to see Faith looking up at her. There was a wounded expression on her face, so open and real that Cordelia felt it tear at her own heart.
"So I'm just a charity case, is that it?"
"No. Faith, no. God, I don't even know why I said that." She put her hand on the other girl's shoulder, kneading gently at the soft skin and hard muscle. But Faith kept herself so rigid that it was like massaging a statue. "I saw you first that day in Sunnydale, you know."
She watched as Faith's brow creased in confusion at her sudden change in topic. "Huh?"
"When we first met you. You were dancing with a vamp at the Bronze, and I pointed you out to the rest of the Scooby gang. I called you Slut-O-Rama." She shrugged slightly, never outwardly apologetic for her days as Queen C. "I might have said that - and, ok, thought it a little too - but there was something else that I saw then, which I don't think anyone else did. You always moved like you owned the world, and I knew what that felt like. Sunnydale High used to be mine. I had the looks, the money, the people... before that temporary brain implosion that was dating Xander Harris, I only used to ever go out with the jocks who ruled Sunnydale alongside me. You had power, you enjoyed it, and I've always been attracted to that."
"So you found me wicked sexy and wanted to get into my pants." Faith started to get up, lowering her voice into a snarl. "Get in line."
But Cordelia wouldn't let go of her, pulling her back roughly with that same unexpected strength. "Would you shut up and listen for once?" she demanded. There was a tiny part of her brain that was screaming out to her, telling her that antagonising an ex-psycho slayer was possibly the dumbest thing that she could do. But she clamped it down, she had to know that her girlfriend wouldn't go crazy if she pushed her. Because pushing her was something she wasn't ever going to stop doing.
Faith stopped struggling, her anger subsiding to a sullen look that she gave the other girl. Cordelia suddenly felt an irrational urge to kiss her, to take those full, pouting lips with her own. Reluctantly, she shut down that part of her mind as well and continued talking.
"I changed when I got to LA. I was nobody when I got here. Which, admittedly, I still am. I began worrying if it was payback for how I used to treat everyone in high school... then Doyle gave me his visions, and I began to see that there were bad things happening here. It made my inevitable stardom seem a little less important, that I could really do something important for once." She sighed, her tone softening. "We're all looking for redemption, Faith. And because of what we've seen, what we know, we've had to give up a normal life so that we can find that. It's not like we can make a resolution at New Year's and say 'ok, I'm going to be a better person from now on.' But when I'm with you... I feel like I can have a little bit of that normalness back. You make me feel safe, you catch me when I fall... literally, from those stupid visions." Cordelia looked up at Faith, dropping the sarcasm and the self-possession, letting her defences crumble for the second time that night. She could see that the other girl was weakening as well. "I can't explain it any better than that. Yes, I want you. I need you. But I was there to see the good and the bad, and I still want to be with you. There's a part of me that never wants to stop moving when I'm with you, I want to be seen with you, to dance with you, to touch you, to make love to you. But there's another part of me that just wants you to put your arms around me and hold me until the rest of the world disappears. Faith... you can't tell me that this doesn't feel right."
She held her breath as she waited for Faith to reply. The slayer was struggling with her answer, she could see that, the emotions were clearly written on her face. "No. I can't," she said, slowly, finally. Then a smile crept almost shyly across her lips. "It feels fucking fabulous."
A wide smile lit up Cordelia's face, and she couldn't hold back a relieved giggle.
Laughing herself, Faith brought her head closer, tangling her fingers in the other girl's dark, wet hair. "I love you C," she whispered.
"I know." She took full advantage of the proximity of that inviting mouth to press a kiss there, her tongue darting inside and tasting the tart sweetness of the dark slayer. Faith whimpered as she pulled away, and Cordelia realised just how much the other girl wanted her. Almost as much as she wanted the other girl. She took a deep breath and looked up at Faith through lowered lashes, letting the barest hint of a sultry smile curve her lips. "You wanna show me how much you love me?"
Faith didn't even bother replying, just continued to look at her with amusement dancing in those dark, wise eyes. Then she felt those hands touching her beneath the water, and Cordelia moaned, her head falling back against the porcelain, the sensations building, building so slowly and she bit her lip as she anticipated the ending to come...
Panting and sweating, Cordelia sat bolt upright in bed.
The memory of the dream was still with her, the smallest details taking shape and focusing into crystalline sharpness. She could still remember how good it felt; the whisper of full lips drawing over her skin, the gentleness of those hands as they explored her body, the way she arched and pressed instinctively closer to the Slayer. The total love and warmth and security she gave and received just by being with Faith.
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