Hearth And Home
by Hayley

Cordelia's Apartment:

Someone's here.

That's the very first thing I notice when I wake up.

There's someone here in my apartment and they're not dead.

The shower is running, steam coming out from under the door. The timer on the coffee pot has gone off and the smell of hot, fresh, GOOD coffee is filling in all the spaces left by the steam.

The whole bed is warm, and not just the side I normally curl into a fetal position on.

Shower's off and the soft rub of terrycloth against skin, the last drops of water being rung out of long hair.

Bare, damp feet padding on the wood floor, stopping in the doorway.

"Cordelia? What's wrong?" Bare feet quickly crossing the small space between my bathroom and bed. Tara's weight making the matress dip a little and she's on me. Her arms are twined around my body and I can feel her warm, moist flesh pressed against me and the tears are coming and I don't know how to make them stop, and I don't know how to make her understand.

How can she know what it's like to be so grateful?

There's someone in my apartment, and she's real, and good, and she won't hurt me and I'm not pregnant with demons, and she picked me over Willow and God is she beautiful and my head won't stop babbling and I can't stop crying and she doesn't care. Just holds me, and kisses me and strokes my hair while all the loneliness and sadness and sickness rolls out in waves. She's not trying to fix anything and she's not trying to make me shut up because she's uncomfortable with my tears.

She's just there and she's just real. And the tears stop, and I expect her to look at me differently, I expect her to pull away- which goes to show what the Hell I know because she plucks tissues from the box hovering over my shoulder in mid-air courtesy of Dennis and wipes my face.

"I'm sorry. That isn't the way I wanted to start your first day here."

"It's okay." She's snuggled me close to her and I feel warm. "I was worried you'd had another vision."

"I think this might be the Powers version of a vacation. Two days evil free."

Tara chuckles. "Maybe there can be a support group for us all. 'Hi, my name is Tara and I'm an evil-a-holic. It's been two days since the last time the world almost ended."

"Just what L.A needs- another self-help group."

"So what did you have in mind for my first day here?"

"I don't know- I had a big long list of things we could do. . ." Tilting my head back, I pulled Tara down for a kiss. "But right now I can't think of anyplace I wanna be more."

"Me either." Tara grins as my fingers catch hold of the edge of her towel and begin to tug slowly until it's unknotted and she's naked. "Excuse me?"

"I don't remember saying you could use one of my towels."

"Ahh. . ." Sea green eyes twinkling. "So there's a 'no towel' rule. . . .any other rules I should know about?"

"Hmmm. Now that you mention it. . . ." Before I can say anything more there's a voice in my apartment.

"Yo! Demon fighting Barbie!"


Tara lets out an 'eep' before diving so far under the covers I'm afraid she'll slide out the other side.

"The first one of you to come into my room is going to get a stake in the chest!"

"That doesn't work on humans Barbie!"

"Hello Gunn! A six inch piece of wood through the heart works on ANY thing." Grabbing the deep orange robe Tara had given me as a 'sorry your visions suck' gift, I belt it tightly around my waist and place a reassuring pat on Tara's covered backside. Walking into my living room I find Gunn, Wesley and Angel setting up different boxes of books, and Wesley and Angel each have suitcases. "No."

"Cordelia, normally I wouldn't dream of imposing- but my apartment building has been condemned."

"Angel's got a HOTEL for crying out loud!"

"Well since SOMEONE called the exterminators, they've put up a tent on the entire place and they won't let anyone stay there since the poison is toxic to humans."

"You're not human."

"And I was supposed to TELL them this?" Angel's arms folded across his chest.

"No. No. No. No. Have I mentioned 'No'?" It's silly and childish, but there are times when the only way to make a point is to stamp your foot, and this is one of them. "I don't want you all here!"

"Cordelia? Are you all right?" Tara emerged from my bedroom wearing a pale blue sundress with a border of daisies at the hem, her long honey hair pinned up loosely. Seeing the Angel Investigations convention in my living room brought her to an absolute standstill. The only one of the group she'd met was Wesley, who bless his proper British squishy heart promptly bestowed on Tara one of his very rare full faced grins and held out his hand to her.

"Tara! It's wonderful to see you again! All settled in now?"

"It-it's nice to see you too Wesley. And yes, we just got back last night."

Gunn looked back and forth between me and Tara, an evil grin spreading over his face, and giving me the sudden urge to slap him. He stepped forward and offered Tara his hand. "I'm Charles Gunn, but yo, any friend of Barbie is a friend of mine. You know our Cordelia long?"

"Tara McClay."

"You visiting for a while?"

"Tara, you can ignore him. Gunn's not really housebroken yet, but we're hoping." I turned back to Gunn. "Tara's moving in with me." My hand clasped hers, and pulled her to stand next to me.

"So it's like that-"

"Tara, this is Angel."

"Nice to meet you Tara." Angel smiled. "I'm really sorry about this-"

"Then go away." A soft squeeze of my hand and a meaningful look and I'm done in. Geez. Being in love is going to make me a push over. I just know it. "Fine. But house rules. No arguing with Dennis over the remote control, no comments about my taste in music and I am too young and too pretty to be any of your mothers- so no unmentionables left anywhere in my apartment."

"Um- excuse me." Tara flushed and ducked back through the hall and I could hear the bathroom door slamming shut.

Wesley chuckled and began to unpack one box of books on to the dining room table. "How did the moving go?"

"Great in that 'totally traumatic for everyone involved sort of way'. Are those books dusted?"

"Of course." Wesley sniffed haughtily. "I take excellent care of my collection."


Ignoring the other boxes, Gunn flopped down onto my couch and eyed me curiously. "So Cordelia. . .when you start playin' for the 'home team'?"

"Well Charles, about the time I realized that the 'away team' always stinks up the locker room, and never lasts all nine innings." Amazingly enough that shut him up, and I could swear Angel snorted.

"Whatever. If you wanna go all 'Ellen' that's your business, but does Skipper know about things that go 'bump' in the night?"

My arms folded under my breasts, and one eyebrow arched, I looked at Gunn. "'Skipper' knows 101 ways to turn you into a toad." I clapped my hand to my forehead dramatically. "Oh my God! It's too late!" Then the joke died a painful death as a vision ripped through my brain.

It rolled through me in waves, blocking out everything else in the room and leaving me in the dark theater of my mind with the feature film being a horror flick. The next thing I remembered being aware of was the blinding pain rocking my skull like 400 pound clog dancers, and the feel of Tara's hand against my forehead. Angel still had me in his arms, but Tara was leaning over me in the position Wesley usually had, a worried frown on her face.

"She's never passed out from one of these before." Angel's easing me up onto the couch, and I can feel a bottle of cold water pressed into my hands.

"Cordelia?" Tara prompts, smoothing her hand along my cheek.

After I described my vision, Wesley began to sort through Angel's weapon collection looking for items made only of silver to kill the demon about to rise across town, while I slipped back into my bedroom, followed closely by Tara.

She watched silently as I tugged on a pair of black jeans, socks, boots, a white tank top and a black shirt over that, half buttoned. Then she took a deep breath and I knew what was coming.

"I want to come with you."


"I know. I know! I said that I could be okay with this, with you walking out the door and not knowing if you're going to be okay. But I want to help and I can't help if you won't let me."

"I know you can help-" I pulled her back down onto the bed with me. "But I don't want you to unless you have to. I have to now. It's really important that you understand that. I don't fight because I want to. Or because it's my 'destiny' like Buffy. I have to do it because I know how the victims feel. I hear and see what they hear and see, and I feel what they feel and I have to try and stop it because I've been in their shoes." My fingers tucked a wisp of hair back behind her ears, lingering to rub the sensitive skin their with the pad of my thumb. "I don't want to fight, but if I have to- I couldn't stand it if I thought something was going to happen to you. not yet. It's all so new." I hugged her tightly against my side. "I just got you. Don't ask me to let go . . .not yet."

A solemn nod against my shoulder, and then Wesley's voice calling from the living room and I'm out the door before I can say 'Fuck it' and climb back into bed with the first person to touch me in months.

But i'm a good girl. I grab my axe and my jacket and one last kiss and leave the warmth and security of my aparment, praying more fervently than ever that I'll have a chance to come back when the fight is over.


Hours of pumping sources for information. Hours of tracking. Minutes worth of planning.

And then it's all over. Time doesn't make much sense in the middle of a fight. You're up, you're down. The good guys are winning, then we're on the ropes, then we're coming back and it all sounds the same: grunting, yelling, screaming, moaning, the ping a crossbow makes, and the chime of the swords and axes coming together and when it's all done we pile back into Angel's car or Gunn's truck and nurse our wounds and bluster about how easy it was and banter when all we really feel like doing is screaming our brains out and sleeping for a week.

Wesley and Angel follow me up to my apartment, and the front door swings open before I can get my keys out. The couch is made up and first aid supplies are out on the table as well as garbage bags for anything covered in demon slime. God bless Tara because if Angel and Wesley think they're coming into this apartment in those clothes, they're sorrily mistaken.

And I'm stripping off my own boots, jeans and shirt, leaving me only in a tank top and panties and I'm just too damn tired to care about my modesty. Wes, Angel and I fall right into the pattern we had the last time they stayed with me. I get the shower first while Wesley and Angel patch each other up, and grab something to eat.

In the shower and the door opens, letting in a gust of cold air as Tara joins me. Our wet bodies pressing together in the strictly utilitarian stall. Her fingers are rinsing the demon goo out of my hair before slathering in one of my few luxuries, designer conditioner for $20 a bottle. Then she proceeds to lather her hands with citrus scented body wash, and tends to my body.

And I know her touch should be erotic, but instead it's soothing, and comforting and tender, but most of all, most importantly it's loving. She's loving me more now than when we're having sex. Accepting my wounds and washing away the aches of my life.

Back in our bed, my back spooned against her warm front I know that while I'll always fight for the hopeless, the reason I'll come home is because of her. And that thought is enough to make me pull her arms more tightly around me and bring her hands to my lips for a tender kiss, knowing that gesture will suffice until I have the energy to show her how much I love her.