She was sleeping. Tears spent, but face scrubbed clean of their tracks. And her profile was beautiful even in the dark. Beautiful and human, with her broken soul right there on the surface. She'd slipped easily from his arms into dreamless slumber.
He put down the charcoal, resting his cramping fingers. He hadn't drawn since. . .since Angelus. But the obsession had claimed him, forced him to pull paper and pencil from the depth of his trunk and return to her bedroom. To capture her. To bind her. To admit that he could no longer shut out her existence.
Angel traced the haughty line of the eyebrow he'd drawn, knowing he couldn't risk touching the original. Not again. It had been bad enough the night he'd saved her. . .holding her close as the demon fought his soul. Throwing that piece of filth into the alley hadn't been enough. He'd wanted to take that scared, trusting, girl and burst open her neck. . .let the rich, red, food of her veins flow over him.
He brought Death with him wherever he went. And no one was safe. He'd run to L.A. to escape them all. . .and one had followed. His curse. His punishment. To see his sins reflected every night and day in Delia's big brown eyes. To have her life as his responsibility when he'd taken so many over so many years.
So he never spoke to her casually and made most business talk with Doyle present. Passed her in this apartment like a ghost. Because he wanted her to live without the stain of blood. To live outside his deathtrap shadow. He'd wanted to spare her what he'd done to Buffy. . .
He closed his eyes. Forced away the vision of wet green eyes and the silken feel of blond hair against his skin. And in their place he saw Delia's mascara-streaked cheeks. The scar that crossed her stomach and displayed the betrayal *she'd* suffered when Xander and Willow had given in to their brief passion.
He'd spared her nothing. He'd just given her more pain to shoulder. The weight of his cool distance. Of what she thought was contempt. He was the only person here she could call a friend. . .and he'd been nothing of the sort.
He reached for the charcoal once more and began to shade in the curve of her lips, watching her chest rise and fall as she shifted in the lumpy double bed. "I don't hate you," he whispered to the ash gray lips and *not* their lush, pink counterpart. "I hate myself."
The whisper was like a gunshot in the silence. He jerked his head up. Her sleep-swollen eyes were open, watching him intently, as she nestled her cheek into the pillow and slid one hand underneath it.
"Angel, don't hate yourself. It's. . ."
He cut her off quickly, dangerously. "What? It's wrong? It's not healthy? It just makes things worse? Cordelia, you couldn't *know* how much I deserve it."
Something flickered in her gaze. Primitive. Angry. But she didn't voice it. "Overreact much?" she asked instead, quirking one delicate brow. Her old tone. "I was going to say that hating yourself is out these days. And totally unsexy."
The sheer audacity of it made him laugh. Only it came out more like a low moan. "I-is this where Giles would remind you about tact?" he wondered, hiding his face in his hands as his shoulders shook with a combination of amusement and agony.
"Giles isn't here," she murmured slowly. And he heard the bedcovers rustle as she moved. Suddenly, he felt her touch on his face. And lightning. Her mouth brushing his forehead like his had brushed hers only hours ago. And a barely audible confidence. "Its okay to thaw, Angel. I won't expect anything out of you if you don't expect anything out of me."
Before he could uncover his face, she was all ready moving back. And by the time he looked, she'd snuggled back into bed. . .her back to him.
All he could do was sit and wait for the feeling to flow back into his limbs. For the unfinished picture on his knees to stop looking so haunting. For the echo of her kiss to fade as his wall of ice crumbled. And he began to warm up for the first time in months.
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