Disclaimer :: The characters herein are the property of their creators. I make no profit from their use.


:: Storm Front ::

written by Starlet2367 { e-mail // livejournal }


There's a storm front coming (mood indigo)
White water running and the pressure is low
Storm front coming (mood indigo)
Small craft warning on the radio

- Billy Joel, Storm Front


Cordelia glanced around the new office and sighed. It was the best they could afford, and she was glad to have it. A place to prove they were still working on the mission, even if other members of the team had opted out in favor of obsession and revenge.

Her brow wrinkled. "Enough with the seriousness," she muttered. Back to the office, which desperately needed an infusion of color. Maybe she’d get some of those silk flowers she saw at the Penny Saver. Flowers always made a place look bright and cheerful.

Her eyes traveled the out-of-date paneling, the institutional, beige-flecked floors, and the beaten-down furniture, and she realized it would take a heck of a lot more than flowers to make this place come alive. It would probably be best if they just torched it and started over.

Truthful, maybe, but not very inspiring, considering they'd just spent the day moving in, rearranging their three sticks of furniture and arguing half-heartedly about what to call the agency. Now it was night, and it was just her and Gunn, waiting for Wes to come back with wine and celebratory Chinese.

Her head throbbed and she massaged the back of her neck. She wished she could blame it on a pulled muscle, but they hadn’t moved that much furniture, and she’d had the headache long before she picked up the first box.

An industrial-strength bottle of Advil glowed in the dim light from the flea market banker’s lamp, but she ignored it. The problem with the headaches, was that they weren’t so much attached to the visions as they were just constantly attached. Since she really didn't want to become one of those pathetic addict-types who showed up on Jerry Springer, she tried to take the pills only when the pain got unmanageable.

Outside, rain began spattering against the window like loose pebbles. Cordy shivered. The dime-store heater in the corner did its best to up the temperature, but its best only equaled lukewarm, and she’d already buttoned her jean jacket as high as it would go without looking totally freakish.

Before she could stop herself, she was longing for the hotel’s warm, golden glow. For the clean floors that smelled like Murphy’s Oil Soap and a chair that wasn’t like sitting on a two-by-four. For her small but dependable paycheck.

For her family, all in one place.

"This is the worst night of my life.” The words felt funny coming out of her mouth; she hadn’t even realized she’d been thinking it until she said it.

Gunn circled something in the LA Weekly’s classified ads and grunted in reply.

Cordy really hoped it was an ad for that second desk they’d been looking for, and not something out of the Edge section. God knew they were desperate, but not *that* desperate. “Worst night of my life,” she repeated, just in case complaining would make her feel better.

Gunn finally glanced up, looking as tired and defeated as she felt. "Really? Worse than that time you kissed Wes?"

She stared at him. “Idiot,” she said, without heat.

“Ho bitch,” he replied.

She stood, shaking off her crappy mood. No visions brewing. No clients beating down the door. Maybe she should get home before the weather got truly nasty. "I'm taking off.”

“What about dinner?”

Greasy pork and a bottle of Nouveau Cheap didn’t sound so good anymore. “Not hungry. But thanks.” Her bracelets jangled as she grabbed her oversized purse and slung it over her shoulder. “I'll see you guys tomorrow sometime."

"Uh, Cordy?" Gunn put his feet on the edge of their one, crappy desk and stopped her with the barrier of his legs. "Mind if I ask why this is the worst night of your life?"

She arched a brow at him, trying to cover the sting of tears. They were all having the world’s crappiest day and here was Mr. I-Don’t-Need-No-Help-Especially-From-Some-White-Chick-Like-You doing a real, live emotional check-in. She wanted to hug him.

Instead, she resorted to sarcasm. "Well, duh,” she said, letting it roll as thick and heavy as the clouds. “I’ve got a date with one of the richest guys in the city, and seem to be all out of Kate Spade originals!"

He held her gaze for a long beat and she wondered, half in relief, half in panic, whether he was going to force the issue. But after a minute he dropped his legs and let her pass.

“I’ll have my people send one right over,” he said, and he went back to his want ads.


You look like crap, she thought, as she stared at herself in the shadowed bathroom mirror.

The headache had grown into something the size of Drew Carey, and just as ugly. The bus ride hadn’t helped. The guy seated next to her smelled like something had crawled up in him and died. To make it worse, he’d tried to pick her up by commenting on the size of her tits.

“Why do they always think that saying you have big boobs is a compliment?” she asked her reflection. “Like you don’t know your own bra size.”

Her hands shook as she palmed two of the prescription-strength pills the doctor had given her. She’d held out as long as she could, but something told her this headache wasn’t going anywhere without mama’s little helper.

Dennis turned on the bathroom light and she blinked against the pain screeching behind her eyes. “No, it’s okay, I’m just getting my meds.”

The light flickered off again, leaving her in darkness.

She was soaked by the blowing rain on the three-block walk from the bus stop to her apartment. Her teeth chattered as she stripped her clothes off. Maybe she should take a bath, but she wasn’t ready to put on her pajamas just yet.

For some reason, that seemed like admitting defeat.

Instead, she wrapped a towel around her hair and went for dry clothes. Fleece sweatshirt and jogging pants, warm and soft, the clothing equivalent of comfort food, and wow, was she finally hungry for the first time in, like, two days?

She dropped the towel on the bathroom floor on the way to the kitchen and combed her hair with her fingers while she stared into the near-empty fridge. Milk would be a good place to start, but when she poured the last quarter-cup into a glass it came out kind of chunky. The sour smell rose to meet her and she wrinkled her nose and dumped it into the sink.

“No milk, no juice. Out of peanut butter.” She went through the cabinets and found a can of pineapple and the dust in the bottom of a bag of chips.

“Pizza?” The reality of her situation hit her again. No clients. No paycheck. The $53.12 in her account wasn’t going to get her very far, and spending fifth of it on pizza probably wasn’t the smartest option.

Cordy rubbed her hand through her damp hair. She could walk to the 7-Eleven and buy bread and peanut butter and some soup, which would be nearly as much as the pizza.

Or she could go back and have a free dinner with Wes and Gunn. Of course, then they’d know she was broke. She shut the fridge and leaned her head on the freezer door. “They already know you’re broke, dumbass,” she whispered.

“And, hey,” she said, blinking back tears. “All is not completely grim. Gunn’s the expert on scoring free food for the mission-friendly.”

The wind rattled the windows and she thought about that bath again—and, nope, no way was she letting this get her down. She was warm and dry, the headache had dialed down about 5 points, and the universe had offered her a free meal.

By God, she was gonna take it.

Dennis floated her the phone.

“You reading my mind now, bub?” She took it from him and dialed. “Hey, Wes, it’s me,” she said as she hunted up a dry pair of shoes. “Mind if I take you up on that dinner after all?”

“Not at all. In fact, we were just wishing you were here.”

She smiled--God, he could be sweet, when he wasn't being totally lame. “Great. I’ll be there in an hour or so.”

“Want me to come get you?” he asked.

She winced at the thought of another forty-five minutes on the bus and almost took him up on it. But it’d take him just as long to get to her place and back, and they really couldn't afford to waste the gas money. “Nah, thanks. I’ll just squelch in on my own. Hey—don’t eat all the moo shu.”

She thumbed off the phone and dropped it on the table, then grabbed her bag and little travel umbrella. Decision made, she felt better, stronger. Giving up was for wimps and vampires—-no way she was letting a little rain and a currency-challenged bank account get to her.

The door slammed and locked behind her. “Thanks, Dennis,” she called softly through the wood.

At least the rain had turned to back into a drizzle, which she took as a good sign. Cordy opened her umbrella to keep the worst of the wet away, then glanced at her watch.

“Crap.” She’d forgotten to put it back on when she changed clothes. “’Scuse me, do you have the time?” she asked the guy standing near the bus stop bench.

He glanced at his watch through skinny blue pimp glasses. “Eight forty.” His eyes trailed over her face and down her body.

She was used to appreciative looks, sure. But this one made her feel like she was dancing in a cage, wearing nothing but a rhinestone thong.

“Thanks,” she said, keeping it short in the hope that he’d take his leer somewhere else. They stood quietly for a couple of minutes, while cars swished past, and she was almost sorry she hadn’t asked Wes to brave the traffic.

“You live around here?” he asked, breaking the silence.

She glanced at him. He’d finally ended up back at her breasts, which were fantastic, she knew, but hardly visible under the heavy sweatshirt. What a dweeb. “Kinda,” she said, skirting the issue. “You?”

He met her eyes. “Just moved,” he said. “Got any tips for the new guy?”

Sure, she thought. Take your delayed adolescence somewhere that’s not here. “Not really.”

“Oh? That’s too bad.” He stepped closer, so they were shoulder-to-shoulder. “’Cause I could really use an…escort,” he said, with a greasy smile.

She clutched her bag tighter to her side and stepped away. No sign of the bus, and the rain was coming down harder now. Her stomach rumbled loudly.

“Hey, you hungry? I saw a diner back there.” He thumbed over his shoulder toward Mel’s. “Maybe we could,” he waggled his eyebrows, “get out of the rain.”

“No, thanks,” she said, stepping closer to the curb. “I’m meeting friends.”

Just then a car drove by, horn blaring. She jumped back, but not fast enough to avoid the tidal wave that splashed over the sidewalk.

The cold water was a shock, soaking through her pants and dripping into her shoes. Cordy muffled a scream and whirled, pinning him with her glare. “Thanks a lot.”

“Hey, babe, not my fault,” he said, putting his hands in the air mock-innocently. He stepped up, took her arm, and pulled her away from the curb. “Shouldn’t stand that close to curb. Likely to get wet.” He glanced at her crotch, and she could practically hear him say, in a Beavis-like voice, “He said wet, heh heh.”

She growled. “Let go of my arm.”

“Hey, just trying to help.” But his hand didn’t drop. If anything his fingers tightened.

Cordy pulled, hard. “I said, let *go*!”

He dropped her arm just as she yanked free, and she stumbled, grabbing the bench for support.

“Leave her alone.”

She whirled, drawn by the familiar voice, and there stood Angel, cold menace in a black coat, and apparently impervious to the rain. She hissed. “Great. Just what I needed.”

Shifty eyes moved from her face to Angel’s. That nasty smile returned. “Oh, I get it. You’ve already got coverage.” His hands went up again. “Hey, no problem. Not trying to horn in on anyone’s turf here.”

Cordy’s blood pressure spiked. “He’s not my pimp, you sleaze!”

“Sure, whatever,” the guy said, as he wandered off with a wave.

She covered the shock by glaring at Angel. “Did someone ring the red phone, Batman, or were you out trolling for blonds?”

Angel’s eyes were empty, dead. “I’m just doing my job.”

Her mouth dropped open. “Yeah, right.” She snorted. “If revenge is your job, you’re meeting all targeted goals.” She raised a fist in a “go team” motion. “I’ll bet you’re in line for a big, old Christmas bonus this year.”

His jaw clenched. “It’s none of your business, Cordelia.”

Tension vibrated through the air. “Turn off the visions. Then tell me it’s none of my business.” The wind shifted and the drizzle picked up. Fat drops splattered her umbrella.

His glance slid away.

“You want to change the game plan, Angel?” The wind drew still-damp strands of hair across her face. She shoved it impatiently aside. “Fine. Be Mr. Obsess-o. But the rest of us don’t have that lux-—“

He grabbed her arm, cutting her off mid-sentence. “Don’t you tell me about luxury, Cordelia.” He shook her, eyes glittering like chips of black ice. “You’re not the one who—-“

Then he dropped her and turned, black coat whirling around him, and stalked away.

She followed. “I’m not the one who what, Angel? Sees the rapes? The murders? Feels the pain?”

He threw open the driver’s-side door and got in. The car rumbled to life and anger drove her to jerk the passenger side open and climb in next to him. She struggled with her umbrella, finally got it closed and shoved it in the floor. “You think you can make the mission go away, just by firing us?”

Angel’s familiar smell surrounded her. Sharp sting of honing oil; warm, sweet crisp leather. She refused to let it comfort her.

He punched the heater on and warm air exploded out the vents. “That’s not why I fired you.” The car swerved into traffic. His hands clenched on the wheel. “I fired you because I don’t want you around.”

Her heart twisted. “Fine. Stop the car.”

Angel kept driving.

“I said, stop the car.”

“I’m not letting you out until you get to the office,” he said.

They'd just rented the space yesterday and he already knew where they were. Creepy vampire freak.

“Let me out,” she repeated, chilled by his inconsistent behavior. Either he wanted them, or he didn't. Or he was totally screwed in the head, which was the most likely of all possible scenarios.

As if to prove her theory, he reached across her and opened the car door. "Fine. Get out." He sat back in his seat and kept driving, not bothering to slow the car down.

The road whizzed by. The SUV next to them honked and the driver flipped her off and sped past. She tried to look cool but it was really hard when one slip would turn her into road kill.

Angel reached across her, slammed the door and slapped the lock. “I didn't think so. Stop being an idiot.”

She gritted her teeth and stared out the windshield. “I’ll stop when you stop."

They left Silverlake’s quaint shops for the freeway. Traffic moved too fast for the rain, taillights one long, bloody streak of red against the corpse-colored light from the street lamps. She braced as he wove through the line, wishing the car had something more than the lap belt she’d finally fumbled around her waist.

Beside her, Angel was a frozen block of marble, untouched and untouchable. His familiar profile was etched in stone, jaw clenched as tightly as her hands.

They exited the freeway without hitting anyone and turned on Grand, heading down into East LA.

Just as they entered her new neighborhood, the familiar tingling started at the back of her brain. "Oh, God, not now," she thought, before reality popped like a flash bulb and left her face-down in the streaming rain.

She raised her head and looked around, whimpering. The alley was not much more than a short, tight brick hallway between buildings. It should have come with a sign that read, “Places your mother always warned you about.”

Her throat throbbed wetly, and she knew it wasn't just the rain on her skin, but blood. She fumbled against the concrete and pushed to her knees. And then there was a hand on the back of her neck, yanking her to her feet. Her heart exploded in her chest.

She screamed.

When she blinked she was back in the car.

Angel, across the bench seat, just watched her.

Cordy took a deep breath and pressed her fingers to her temples. “Go up two blocks and turn left,” she whispered. “There’s an alley.”

He stared at her a beat too long.

And she knew, then, that he wasn’t going after that vamp.

Shock died a fast, ugly death at reality's hands. "I don't even know you," Cordy said, as she unlocked the door and got out into the pouring rain. She reached for the stake in her bag, clenched it tightly in her fist, and ran.

Cars whizzed by, bass thumping. The wind blew solid sheets of rain and she struggled against it, rage and terror forcing her heart to beat faster.

She made it to the alley just as the girl fell, her throat marked with blood. Behind her, the vamp stood, a hulking shadow in the dim light from the street.

Cordy dashed down the narrow, cinderblock corridor, raised the stake and swung viciously. As it sliced the air, the vamp turned and the stake bounced off his bicep and clattered to the ground.

Full game face. Almost her height but broader, all muscle. When he smiled, his fangs left dents in his lips. He ignored the whimpering girl on the ground, focusing, instead, on the column of Cordy’s throat. And then, his hand snaked out and grabbed her.

Her eyes went wide--shit, Cor, shoulda seen that one coming.

Then thought clicked off, leaving behind nothing but a burning pain and her struggle for air. She flailed, clawed at his hand. Opened her mouth to scream but nothing came out.

The girl lay on the ground, crying, and Cordy knew she had to do something, now, or they’d both be dead. She closed her eyes and concentrated as hard as she could, then lashed out with her foot. It connected with soft, soft flesh.

The vamp wailed and dropped her, curling in on himself like a shrimp. Cordy sucked in a long, raw breath and adrenaline pumped through her like fire.

“Run!” she yelled at the girl.

Sobbing, the girl got to her feet and ran like hell, leaving Cordy alone with the vamp, who was now rolling to his feet, his face a mask of rage.

With a flash, his fist flew, and clipped her chin. She hit the ground with a hard bounce, the taste of blood thick and metallic. And then he was on her like a dog, ready to rip out her throat.

She screamed and rolled, desperate to get out from under him. He laughed, revolving with her until she was on top of him, hugging her to him in a parody of lust. His palm hit her forehead, shoving her head back so her body arched, throat bared to his teeth.

Cordy clawed at his face, felt a hot streak of pain as his fangs sliced her palm. It pumped her up, jolted her brain back into thinking mode.

He was strong, but she was fast. If she could just get her fingers in his eyes—

He screamed when her nails scored his eyelids, poked the jelly behind them. She rolled off, half-feral in the rainy night, and found the stake, just two feet away. In her hand, it was solid, trusty. Power rushed through her, and she raised her arm to strike.

The vamp turned to dust.

Cordy stared at the moldering pile, then at her stake, still poised above her head. She turned to find Angel, standing ten feet behind her with a crossbow. The Plymouth’s hood blocked the mouth of the alley, headlights fracturing the rainy night and leaving dingy, yellow streaks on the ground.

“I had him!” she screamed, jumping to her feet. “He was mine!”

Angel dropped the crossbow. “You’re welcome,” he said, turning toward the open door of the car.

Cordy charged, aiming the stake at his retreating back. “You BASTARD!”

Angel turned like a big cat and slapped her hand easily. The stake flew and bounced off the cinderblock wall, and then she was under him, back against the running, rumbling hood of the car.

“Calm down,” he said, like he was talking to a child.

She kicked, tried to knee him, but he pinned her, breaking her fight so easily she should have been terrified. Instead, she was furious. “I hate you!”

His eyes flickered and he retreated, stepping back, letting her go.

They stood, one panting, the other perfectly still, staring across three feet of pure tension. Rain hit the hood of the car and steam rose. “Get out of here,” she snarled.

Angel pivoted on his heel and stepped toward the door.

“Coward,” she threw at him, fists clenched, jaw tight.

He stopped, one hand on the door handle. “What?”

“You heard me.”

His head turned slowly and his gaze snapped to hers. “You’re walking a fine line, Cordelia.”

She smiled, a rude twist of her lips. “The truth hurts, doesn’t it, Angel?”

Mouth thin, eyes hot, he took a step toward her.

“Oh, right,” she said, and the edge of sarcasm cut like a razor. “It’s not cowardice at all. It’s a blond-haired damsel. One call from your guilty conscience and you’re off to--”

His grip on her arm cut the words off. “You really don’t want to go there." He was as big and as hard as the car behind her.

Her blood pressure spiked, her pulse an angry roar. She slapped his clenched hand hard, only to jerk back at the harsh, burning pain.

The smell of warm copper hit the air and they stared down at her palm, at the long, sticky cut oozing black blood in the harsh light.

Angel's body, already tense, went rigid, as the lurid scent wrapped around them.

And then his mouth was on her palm, licking away the blood, biting the cut to make more.

She shoved him, but he only pressed her tighter to the car, using his bulk to subdue her. Twisting, tugging, nothing helped. He angled her wrist painfully, running his tongue over her skin again and again until she opened her mouth to scream.

He moved, snake-fast, and muffled the sound with his mouth. She tasted her own blood, thin and metallic, with a shock that felt like she’d stuck her tongue on a battery.

So many things rushed through her—-fury, hatred, the pounding incandescence of adrenaline.

Cordy squirmed away, but he only pulled her to him tighter, pinning her arms at her sides.

She bit him, her only defense left, slicing through his bottom lip with sharp teeth.

His groan, like keys on a car door, sent a shiver up her back. He buried his tongue so deep in her mouth that the taste of their blood exploded between them. Then he shifted, and his hold on her arms loosened.

She arched away, sucking in air. “Let go!”

Angel pulled back, staring at her, eyes wild, an unleashed animal. They glared at each other, the bright shame of what just happened vibrating between them, and Angel stepped back.

“Cordy, I’m—“ Those eyes flashed again, and for one hot, hungry second, she saw the truth. He hadn't stopped caring. At all.

It was like lighting the fuse on dynamite.

She grabbed his collar, yanked him to her, and smashed her mouth against his. Angel’s chilled, wet body went perfectly still.

And then he grabbed her upper arms and jerked her to him. She opened her mouth, tasting blood and fury, and their spit-slick lips clung. He was rock-hard and getting warm fast.

Water sluiced them, soaking through clothes, leaving their hair in tangled mats, and he reached up with both hands and smoothed hers off her face. It was the only tender gesture he’d made, and it was enough to have her wrapping her legs around him and pulling him to her.

He angled her up, driving against her and she churned, back sliding against the slick paint of the hood. The thick sweatshirt, heavy with rain, dimmed the pain of his teeth on her breast, but the jolt still rang through her. She cried out and shoved the shirt up so his hands could get under.

They were like blocks of ice, sliding over her skin, and she shivered as he cupped her. There was a sting as the elastic of her bra snapped against her skin, but then he palmed her, twisting her nipples with knowing hands, and the pain turned to pleasure.

One knee came up between her thighs and she writhed against the steel-cord muscle of his leg. She pulled his mouth to her, sucking his tongue in, even as her thrusting hips searched for his hardness.

Empty--she hated being empty. And he'd become her life's focus, the only thing that filled her. Without him--

She slapped the thought away, not wanting to think about what might happen when this was finished.

The button on his pants popped under her slick fingers. The zipper rasped down. And then he was shoving her jogging pants down her knees. They got hung on her tennis shoes, and with a growl, he yanked one leg free, leaving the pants dangling from the other.

He slipped his hands under her and pulled her to him. Their bodies brushed once, twice. And without looking up, he slid into her.

She gasped, shocked by the feel of his icy heat. He worked her hard, fast, anchoring her on the car with a hand on her shoulder, and the tight movement of his hips. His coat curtained them, and the sharp edge of the hood bit into her hips.

She twined her legs around him and pulled him closer, starved and burning. Dropping her hand between them, she stroked herself. Watched his mouth twist with the same hunger and heat that she felt.

She circled her fingers, once, twice--

Her world tightened to one small point. And when the dark slap of his gaze met hers, she shattered.

He smothered her cries with his lips, eating her mouth as she came. And then he pulled out, and she felt the shock of her belly hitting the slick paint, her knees banging the bumper.

The impact reminded her who she was with, what she was doing. What he was capable of.

Her revving heart skipped a beat.

But then he was on her again, nudging her legs apart, and sliding in hard, deep and fast. She scrabbled against the car, unable to get any leverage, and finally hung, helpless, while he drove himself into her.

The smell of car exhaust, blood and wet pavement rose, a dark perfume. She cried out when he hit that spot that flashed like lightning behind her eyes, when his hands snaked around her thighs and pulled her apart like a wishbone.

Couldn’t get a breath, she couldn’t—

She sucked in a gasp as his hand slid between her legs, as his fingers trailed back, lingering where his body met hers. It should have hurt, the thrust of her hips against the hard edge of the car. Would hurt later.

She knew and she didn't care.

He wasn’t gentle when his fingers slid between her cheeks. She jolted, unsure as he rimmed her, and she felt him, wet with rain and her own juice, slide in. The invasion was torturous and she muffled a scream against the car.

Powerless. Dependent.

All the things she promised herself she'd never be.

Cordy closed her eyes and felt what she'd become, what *they'd* become.

But then he changed the motion of his body, slowed down, gentled, and with one deft move, it went from nauseating to pleasurable.

When he moved inside her now, it was, she knew, because he loved her. Loved her helplessness, loved the way her hands scrabbled against the paint. Loved how her knees found the bumper and clung, pressing her ass higher into the air.

He worked her until the pain of the car against her hipbones flashed white, blending ecstatically with the pleasure of his hand, his cock. He was buried so deep, so dark, she felt like she was disappearing into him.

She clenched, tighter and tighter, steam rising under her face as the car rumbled, as it squeaked on its chassis--as he threw her out of the life they'd created together and into the terrifying unknown.

She moaned as her body started to spasm. He groaned in response, that scraped-paint sound, and jerked against her once, twice. Then he was shooting into her, his body releasing with a last, desperate push.

It sent her over the edge, into the land of exploding dynamite and razed lives.

When she caught her breath, he was gone.

A moment of panic tore through her. When she turned, he was huddled against the rough bricks, staring at her with wide, shocked eyes.

Her pants hung in a filthy heap at her feet, rain driving down her bare legs. Her gaze bounced off his, slid away. Something hot, greasy, twisted in her gut.

By the time she forced herself to meet his eyes, he was gone in a different way, hiding behind those cold, marble walls.

“I’ll take you home," he said.

Her heart shook at the tone. So empty again. Like she didn’t even exist, even though her body still felt him inside her. “No, thanks.” She wrestled the pants up her legs and reached into the car for her bag.

He grabbed her arm as she passed, as if to stop her.

She stared at his hand, could practically see him thinking about gang-bangers or worse. “You’re the scariest thing I’ve seen in a long time, Angel,” she said, and he dropped his hand and melted into the shadows next to the car.

She felt his eyes on her as she skimmed around him and out onto the sidewalk. They were only a few blocks from her office, where Wes and Gunn and lukewarm Chinese food waited.

As the rain pelted her, she remembered her umbrella, lying on the floor of his car. Soaked to the skin, shivering with the cold, she felt a sob rumble up and bit it back. “Just let it go,” she whispered as she hurried through the twisting rain.

Ahead, the lights of the office glowed gold, the windows streaked with dirty rivulets. She put her hand on the door and stopped, staring in at Wes and Gunn, eating out of white cardboard boxes and laughing.

She looked down at her wrecked clothes and her bloodied hand, ran trembling fingers over her bruised mouth. Thought about turning around and going home.

But no. Quitting was for wimps. Or vampires.

So she shoved the door open. "Hi, guys. Sorry I'm late."

Wes stopped, mid-bite, and dropped his chopsticks into the container. “Cordelia, oh, my God. Are you all right?”

The concern on his face nearly broke her. “Vision.”

Gunn rushed to her side. “Sit down,” he said, hustling her into the chair.

Wes shook a handful of Advil onto her palm and pulled a bottle of water out of his gym bag. “We’ll take care of it, whatever it is.”

Her face contorted, and she forced the sob into a laugh. “Don’t worry. I took care of it.”

Gunn shot Wes a look, then turned his dark eyes on hers. “Cordy?”

She shook her head. “Vamp. Alley. Girl. Your usual shit.” But her gaze slid away, and a fluttery panic filled her chest.

“Well, that’s good, then,” Wes said. He shuffled around in his gym bag and came up with a towel and a dry t-shirt. “I don’t think we can do much about your pants, but maybe this will help.”

In the bathroom, as she dropped her sweatshirt and ripped bra to the floor and pulled on Wes’s dry shirt, she realized that all traces of Angel had been washed away by the driving rain. She should feel clean; she should feel golden and warm.

Instead, her mouth tasted bitter, like blood or ashes, and she could barely stand to look at the light.

Later, after moo shu and Nouveau Cheap, she doused the lights and locked the door. Gunn's truck was parked down the block and they walked together through the rain-dimmed night.

A prickle on the back of her neck had her glancing over her shoulder. Nothing but the wind, scraping a can down the sidewalk. But her eyes swept the doorways and the rooftops, watching carefully.

And when a shadow moved just a little too much like a man, she shivered.



Thanks to my intrepid betas, littleheaven, Mab and especially LaLa247, who helped me find the emotional throughline and get the sex right. Y’all rock.

Notes: Becky wanted A/C smut on the hood of Angel’s car. In the rain. On the worst night of Cordy’s life. Whatever Becky wants, Becky gets. :wink: