Title: At Night Series
Summary: At Night is a series of Buffy/Cordelia ficlets that gives little peaks into a post-Chosen relationship between Buffy and Cordy by showing flashes of the nights they spend together. This series is AU where Cordelia wakes up from her coma in Angel Season 5 and stays awake. Buffy is in New York. The rest of the story unfolds in glimpses.
Author's Note: If anyone out there loves this pairing and wants to beta future ficlets, I'd be much appreciative. As of now, all mistakes are mine.
i. beautiful tonight
The night is hot and she can feel the air wafting against her skin in heavy, nearly-stagnant waves as she waits for Cordelia to emerge from their bedroom. She has her hair pulled up off her neck, but she can still feel the dangling tendrils beginning to stick to her skin and a small bead of sweat gathering on her upper-lip. With a sigh, she raises a hand and fans her face, hoping that she can prevent her makeup from sliding off at least until Cordy sees her.
Tonight is special and she put effort into her appearance, spending an entire morning picking out the perfect little black dress and the entire afternoon at the spa, making sure she’d look perfect out of it. The broken air conditioner is an unexpected wrench in her plans and she curses the timing. When she told the aesthetician she wanted to glow, this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind and not for the first time, she compares herself to the woman she impatiently awaits. She’s positive that no matter how hot it is, Cordy will look cool and flawless. Cordelia Chase only gets hot in bed—a fact that Buffy can attest to after a year of sharing that bed.
The creak of the old door on its hinges signals Cordelia’s imminent entrance a split-second before the click of her heels on the polished wood floor heralds the same. The corners of Buffy’s mouth quirk up in a tiny smile at the sound. No matter how uncomfortably high she wears her own heels in an attempt to make up the difference in their heights, Cordy always outdoes her. It’s almost become a competition between them and if it weren’t for the way Cordy steals little lingering glances at her legs and butt when she’s wearing them, Buffy might have conceded victory to the other woman long ago.
She turns to face her emerging lover and finds herself the object of just such a look. Her smile deepens as she returns it, her gaze sweeping over the immaculately groomed form that stands silhouetted in the arched doorway of the living room. Cordelia is wearing red, and as always, she is wearing it well. Her knee-length strapless dress is hugging her curves, the deep wine color accentuating the warm bronze of her skin and the dark mahogany hair that grazes her shoulders in a fall of thick, silken curls. Buffy’s breath catches in her throat and she swallows tightly. It is in moments such as these that all of the insecurities of a decade ago come bubbling back and she forgets how different both she and Cordy are from the girls who met in high school.
The moment passes, as it always does, and she steps toward Cordelia just as the other woman also moves forward. They meet in the middle of their living room, all intimate smiles and glowing eyes. Cordy’s fingers graze Buffy’s skin as she readjusts the silver heart pendant that she’d left on Buffy’s dressing table earlier in the day, wrapped just so in its blue Tiffany’s box with a white satin ribbon.
“Thank you. It’s beautiful,” Buffy says with a smile.
“You’re beautiful,” Cordelia murmurs back with the little half-smile that she only shares with the people closest to her, and Buffy hears the sweet sincerity in her voice.
Their lips meet in a soft caress, and Buffy forgets the hot air as a different heat begins to circulate through her.
ii. night terror
Sometimes her body screams awake in the dead of the night—heart pounding, breath coming in quick short gasps, and her mind telling her she has to WAKE UP NOW. Tonight is one of those nights.
Her eyes fly open and she scans the dark interior of their bedroom, lit only by the dim glow from the streetlights outside. As always, she finds herself safe in bed with nothing to fear. But Cordelia knows that it isn't some external danger that pulls her out of a deep sleep on nights like these, not vampires or demons or ghosts that make the fear pound through her body with each beat of her heart. It is a quieter danger, more insidious because she is helpless in the face of it. It is the terror of being trapped in a sleep that she can't push away with the dawn of a new day, the horror of being almost-but-not-quite conscious as something evil uses her body for its own gain.
On nights like these she tries to take deep breaths to calm down before she wakes up the woman sleeping next to her. She is never fully successful. Even in her sleep, Buffy senses that something is wrong and she shifts closer, pulling Cordy tighter and tangling their legs more fully together. Cordelia lets out a long shuddering breath when Buffy presses a sleepy kiss to her forehead. Concentrating on the feeling of Buffy's silkystrong arms holding her close, her heart rate slows and she is able to time her breaths with the woman who cradles her. The worst of the panic is over now, but the thoughts might persist for hours. It is still too soon to tell.
The memory of the first time Buffy held her in the wake of a nighttime panic attack comes back to her, as it often does in these moments. In those early days, just after she'd come out of her coma to find her friends firmly in the clutches of the very evil they'd been fighting for years, it was all she could do to keep up the façade of the cool, confident Cordelia that everyone seemed to expect. No one questioned what she remembered or how she was dealing with what had happened to her . . . with what she had done. There were hugs and smiles and even longing gazes but they weren't for her, they were for the unused, undamaged Cordelia that didn't really exist anymore and a large part of her didn't even miss that girl the way the rest of them did. She didn't have visions and she wasn't part-demon and god she was glad. When she announced that she was retiring from the demon biz and moving to New York, she saw the flickers of relief in their faces even as they asked her not to go.
As she was saying her final goodbye, Angel slipped her a piece of paper with Buffy's address and phone number. Cordelia had no intention of ever using it, but then she'd gotten to the city and she'd been lonely and in a weak moment, she'd picked up the phone and dialed the number. They struck up a tentative friendship that grew stronger as the months progressed and when the lease on her tiny studio apartment was up, it was a no-brainer for them to find a nicer place to rent together.
The first time Cordy woke up screaming and gasping for air in their new apartment, Buffy came running. When she was sure they weren't in danger, Buffy curled up with her in her bed and stroked her hair as she whispered words of comfort and understanding. And Cordelia knew that she did understand, that as strong as Buffy was, she'd been helpless to the violating effects of dark magic too. Buffy had woken up one day to find her world shattered too. So Cordy rested her head in the crook of Buffy's neck and cried and shared her pain with another human being for the first time since her awakening. That was the night that things began to change between them.
At first, when things with Buffy were new and she was trying to figure out in her own head how the hell she, Cordelia Chase, certified heartbreaker of the male species, was sexually involved with a woman, she considered the idea that maybe this was her screwed up way of dealing with what had happened to her. No guys equaled no pregnancy equaled no giving birth to gods and going into comas-- bona fide trauma management of the avoidance kind. Now she doesn't question it because whatever the hell this is, it is right.
Now when she wakes up, the screams are only internal and Cordy takes that as a sign that things are getting better. The fact that the woman sleeping next to her recovered from coming back from the dead gives her hope.
She gazes at Buffy’s face, memorizing the angle of her jaw, the pout of her lips, the fall of her lashes against the soft slope of her cheek. Three years ago she would have rolled her eyes and scoffed at the very suggestion that she would find Buffy Summers beautiful. But that was three years ago and she can barely believe how many things have changed since then. The feeling that washes through Cordelia as she looks at Buffy is nearly overwhelming, and for a moment she forgets her suffocating fear and tilts her face up so that she can gently brush her lips over Buffy’s.
Buffy’s eyes immediately flutter open and Cordelia winces.
“I didn’t mean to wake you—go back to sleep, Buff,” she whispers.
Buffy shakes her head and presses her forehead against Cordy’s, blinking as her eyes adjust to the dark room. "You ok?" Her sleep-tinged voice is full of concern and she reaches up to push a piece of Cordelia’s hair out of her face. Her finger twists gently in the wavy strand, twirling it absentmindedly, and Cordy presses back with her forehead, grateful for the reassurance that these little touches impart.
"Just a little early-adulthood trauma session. No big. You know me-- I'm no cry-Buffy," Cordy quips quietly, her smile only a little shaky as she tries to reassure her lover with one of their inside jokes. She can hardly believe she ever thought Buffy was whiny. The woman she has come to know is strong, kind, and caring—certainly no more whiny than the average person who had the weight of the world resting on her thin shoulders.
"Yeah, I do know you," Buffy drawls, one eyebrow speculatively raised as she eyes Cordy. Cordelia still finds it hard to believe, after all this time, how quickly Buffy can go from deep sleep to fully awake. She supposes it’s a necessary side-effect of the slayerness, but really, the hows and whys don’t matter all that much when Buffy is looking at her like that.
Buffy shifts away from her and pushes her gently to her back, then leans down to catch her lips in a deep kiss. It steals Cordelia’s breath away and she opens her mouth to admit Buffy’s tongue, not caring if she ever breathes again. If anything can take her mind off of her fears, it is this, and both women know it.
When Buffy lifts her lips and moves away, Cordy murmurs in protest, but her complaints are cut off when Buffy’s tongue traces a pattern over her clavicle, and then disappears as she blows softly on the newly wet skin. Then Buffy’s body is sliding down hers and she arches into her lover’s smooth thigh as it presses into her lace-covered sex.
Cordy raises her arms as Buffy peels the white tank over her head, then tangles her hands in Buffy’s tousled hair as she returns her lips to the newly uncovered flesh.
“I . . . know . . . every . . . single . . . inch . . . of . . . you,” Buffy whispers into her skin, each word punctuated by her lips and tongue and teeth on Cordelia’s breasts. Words cease in the wake of moans and sighs as Buffy pulls each achingly hard nipple into the warmth of her mouth while one tiny hand slides over Cordelia’s stomach and under the waist-band of her panties.
Cordelia forgets about boys with bright blue eyes and comas and the smell of night-blooming jasmine. She can’t think, can only feel Buffy’s mouth and fingers as they play over her body-- light and teasing one moment, then hard . . . and. . . . demanding. . . and. . . yes . . . yes. . . right. . . there. . . rightthere. . .
“You’re here with me, and you’re safe,” Buffy whispers to her as Cordy rides out the final waves of her orgasm.
I know, Cordelia thinks just before sleep reclaims her for the night.
iii. girl’s night
Buffy is fluttering around the apartment, straightening pictures that are already straight, fluffing the pillows on the couches for what has got to be the hundredth time, and chewing on her bottom lip all-the-while. It is driving Cordelia crazy.
It's been like this since Cordy got home from dance class earlier in the evening and she's been biting her tongue since, trying to let Buffy work off her nervous energy before their guests arrive. This is the first time that Buffy has invited any of her new friends from NYU over to the apartment and Cordy knows how nervous she is. Buffy hadn't ever really elaborated on their relationship with her friends from school-- she hadn't hidden it, exactly, but she never flat-out said that Cordelia is her girlfriend, not a roommate, and their favorite pastimes are shopping at sample sales and making love. Not necessarily in that order.
Honestly, Cordy doesn't care that much. Maybe she should, but the fact is that she has gotten used to keeping her personal life very quiet. She has it on excellent authority that Hallmark doesn't make a card that says 'Sorry I missed your party last night--I'm a half-demon and I got a vision from the PTB. You know how demanding gods can be!’
Still, telling people you’re a girl in love with a girl isn’t exactly in the same ballpark (and actually, Hallmark might have a card for that). Cordy's friends have known about their relationship for months. True, they're theater people, so hello, but. . .
Maybe it does bother her a little.
Settling back into the cushions of the couch, she tries one more time to ignore Buffy and concentrate on reading the new trade magazine that came in today's mail. The constant motion is distracting, though, and when Buffy sweeps the mail off the table and plucks the magazine right out of her hands, Cordy decides she's had enough.
Sitting up straight and crossing her arms under her breasts, she fixes Buffy with one of her patented annoyed glares. "Buffy."
Buffy drops to her knees in front of the leather basket next to the couch to file away Cordy's new magazine. There is no indication that she is paying any attention to Cordy.
Cordelia sighs heavily and tries again, her voice more firm. "Buffy!"
Buffy’s head snaps up at the sound of her name and she shoots Cordelia a preoccupied smile.
"Obviously it escaped your notice, but I was reading that magazine—as in actively tracking the words with my eyes while my brain made with the interpretation," Cordy complains. As she speaks, she can feel her anger bloom. The old adage that anger is just a cover for hurt isn’t completely lost on her in this moment.
Buffy's eyes fly to the magazine in her hand, then shoot back to Cordelia. Standing, she shakes her head.
"Sorry. I'm just a little anxious about tonight," Buffy says, coming back to stand in front of Cordy. She holds the magazine out in an offering.
Choosing to ignore it for the moment, she keeps her eyes trained on Buffy. "Really. I wouldn't have guessed," Cordy replies, her tone one of dry sarcasm. "Your pacing and obsessive cleaning didn't give that away at all.”
She sees Buffy’s eyes narrow slightly, watches as the smile fades and her lover unconsciously shifts her stance to one that befits a slayer more than a girlfriend. Buffy tosses the magazine on the coffee table and glares back. Cordelia is not intimidated.
“I said I was sorry,” Buffy bites out, but then her voice softens and the look she gives Cordy begs for understanding. “I’m just. . . I just don’t know how to do this.”
Cordy’s anger recedes. She isn’t exactly sure where it came from in the first place and she knows Buffy needs her support right now. Doesn’t stop her from feeling annoyed . . . but it does help her keep it in better check.
"Your best friend is gay," Cordy states matter-of-factly as she gazes at Buffy with her eyebrows raised. She uncrosses her arms to make her own posture less combative and pats the cushion next to her.
Buffy sinks down on the couch and leans forward to place a quick kiss on Cordelia’s lips. "Yes, she is . . . that's kind of the point."
For a second she doesn’t understand what Buffy’s talking about, and then her meaning hits Cordy with a jolt that sends a riot of feeling sweeping through her body.
"Sweet . . . but so not what I meant and you know it," Cordy returns in mock exasperation, unable to keep the smile from brightening her face. It ruins the effect, but at the moment she just doesn't care. Being in Buffy's inner circle had never been a real goal of hers in the past, even when she was working with the Scoobies, but now . . . now it means everything. Cordelia is at the very center of the circle. She was born to be at the center of the circle, and she knows it.
Buffy sits up and shoots her a questioning look. Then her face falls a little and she wraps her arms around her waist. It is a classic Buffy defensive posture that Cordy recognizes immediately. “Oh. You meant Willow.”
A flash of sorrow for Buffy and all of the people she has lost over the years, through death or a simple growing apart, hits Cordy and her smile slips a little. She knows what that’s like. But now isn’t the time for a pity party and that’s never been her style anyway.
She tips her chin down and cocks one eyebrow up. “Yeah, Willow— you know, your lesbian friend who came out to all of you years ago? You have more experience in this than most people I’d bet—at least experience of the second-hand kind.”
Buffy laughs, short and tight, and it is a sound that has nothing to do with amusement or joy. “Actually, my experience tends to run more along the lines of how to hide my love interests from my friends,” she says.
Cordy flinches, unconsciously leaning back to put space between them. Immediately Buffy gasps and shakes her head. She reaches out and grabs Cordelia’s hand, linking their fingers together.
“God, can I not say anything right? I would never want to hide you, Cordy. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m just glad to be making some friends again and I don’t want tonight to go down in a flaming ball of awkward, you know?” Buffy squeezes her hand and she smiles the first real, focused smile of the night.
Smiling back softly, Cordy nods and stands up, her movements sharp and determined as she picks the discarded magazine that started this whole conversation off of the table and moves to put it away. When she stands back up and faces Buffy, she can still see a trace of doubt in her eyes and Cordy decides to try one last time to reassure her.
"We've got food, drink, and above par social skills," she says, ticking off each point on the tips of her well-manicured nails. "And if all else fails, we can whip out one of our many classic chick flicks and postpone all awkward conversation for at least 90-minutes.”
There is a whirl of movement and then Buffy is hugging her, squeezing her almost too tightly for a second before the embrace softens.
“I hate it when you go all practical and level-headed on me,” Buffy says with a twinkle in her eye.
“What can I say? It’s my curse,” Cordy replies just before Buffy captures her lips for another kiss.
The ring of the buzzer interrupts the moment and Buffy pulls away from her and runs her fingers through her long blonde hair. Cordy rubs her thumb at the corner of Buffy’s mouth, wiping away some of her stray lipstick and then checks her own appearance, even though she knows it’s fine. She wants these women to like her, if only for Buffy’s sake.
Buffy is walking to the door and then she is opening it, greeting the young women on the other side and inviting them to come in. Cordelia feels a flash of insecurity that she quickly pushes away, and she gives a welcoming smile to their guests as Buffy leads them over to where she is standing.
“Cordy, these are my classmates-- Anna, Jennifer, and Cathryn,” Buffy begins, pointing at each girl in turn. Then she threads her arm around Cordy’s waist and lays her other hand lightly on Cordy’s stomach. “And this is my girlfriend, Cordelia.”
There have been myriad moments since she’s known Buffy where she has been struck, often unwillingly, with how brave the slayer can be in the face of her fear. This time is no exception.
Her own smile widens to its full-wattage brilliance. These girls are going to putty in her hands.