Bare Trees
by Scy &Kassie

His sweat burned his eyes, like acid from a sickly creature. If he touched her with all of the unclean thoughts he had, she would be infected with sin. Not knowing, she could be lifted by her purity, and if he was careful, it might be permitted to rise some distance beside her.

With no idea of what she wanted, he was at a loss as to what to steal for her.

Should flesh be currency, his body might pay any debts incurred with his fumbling homage.

She looked at him, not cruelly, shaking with laugher inspired by ignorance, but without the certainly of having known that sometimes frightened.

For her, he might do more to restore a balance in his new home. A world that was dirty, but cleansed by light in so few spots that only those seeking would see.

She would be an advisor, giving truth to the holy warrior, and allowing him to beware of what lay waiting to ambush him.

There were not enough reasons for her to remember him, but he hoped that awe would serve to bolster his worthiness. It was definite that he would have to find some means of keeping her in comfort.

It seemed that holiness was not profitable in the city of angels. That did not shock him, for how could that be allowed in the presence of such evil.

He cut his hair without a mirror, to clear his eyes of the obstruction that could make hunting fatal.

Gunn didn't consider him to be human; Connor had heard as much when listening to the Uneven Pair converse. Fred was wild, a nearly uncontrolled being who cold nurture, or turn on one. Intense in both, it was clear that his deception to her had been an error that could perhaps follow him painfully. But to Cordelia, the world was not fearsome, just unexplained.

Honesty was worth a great deal, even though so few deigned to practice the art.

He would have to show her how greatly he esteemed her, and let none of his inexperience diminish the union for her.

She had defended the one who kept her, but to be the mistress of a monster, if ever only in bond, not deed, was still demeaning to her status as a pure woman.

Though she'd known men, she didn't carry them as stains on her body. Any time life had left her with a reminder of its lessons, she refused to let it become a weight, but a trophy of how she surmounted obstacles thought impassible. For all that she'd been through, he thought her even more stunning.

She was light. Glowing like all the women he'd been told about, the pure energy of life, and Father, Holtz, had told him this was what love looked like. She didn't want to forgive him for hurting her, and that was right too, she wasn't like the others. Fred thought that he had betrayed a vampire, when he'd been taught better than to trust one. But she, hair streaked with what he liked to think was Heaven, was worth the trouble.

He'd heard stories about her, from Fred and Gunn, the humans that served Angel. She was more than just a person, Seer, Beloved of more than one, and a warrior in her way. Not perfect, he had heard them say, but couldn't imagine how they didn't see the light.

Didn't know how to touch her without letting it be sin. Father had told him that to lay down with a woman out of matrimony was a blotch on the soul, and that the demonic did it often.

Cordelia doesn't remember the world. She doesn't remember taste. Doesn't know what movies she's seen. She can't recall what it feels like to have her period. But she somehow knows the way Connor touches her is familiar. It's right and wrong at the same time, and she can't nail down the why of either.

He wants to know what it was like, to be gone for such a long time, and what was it that made her look at him so oddly. Things are moving around behind those eyes, and he thinks that not connecting may be for the best.

Angel had urges to touch this woman, and any decent man, and he is one, for his father told him so, would know that such wasn't right. A vampire would never be able to cope with this being; all he could do is drain her of radiant joy. And as a dedicated knight, he knows what he must do.

His touch is clutching, and that feels needy. The word means something to her, but she's not sure what. There are layers of clothes between them, and her own attempts at even breathing, his whispered words in a language she doesn't know but wonders if she should. And there is want. Want she thinks should be immediate and innate, but it feels more learned, in that way she hasn't.

She looks inside him, and he wants to kneel, touch her belly like it is an altar and kiss her palms.

Wants to lay him bare, demand a tithe. She's heard she was a Princess, and nothing but a Prince should do for her. He seems likely candidate, but he also appears to be lacking in some vital way she can't touch.

The nobleman always must prove himself to the maiden, and though he can guess that she is not entirely chaste, his flaws certainly give him no right to castigate her liberation.

He cannot pretend that she does not overwhelm him the way that her fingers grip his chin, turn his face to the side, he is being evaluated, and can only hope that his prayers do not offend someone.

Scratching thought in the back of his mind she was supposed to be your mother, and he smiles, for all goddesses are maternal, just as they give life they enjoy it as well.

His hair flies away around his face, and Cordelia suddenly mourns the strands of hair she saw in the pictures at the hotel. She wants to wrap him in her, pull him down in cascades of dark locks, but all she has is her skin, her short strands of almost-blond hair, and she wants to be realer that that. More herself. Something she feels should be other than this, but she can't prove that, and his very reality seems to mock her. Now she thought that there was something more to the world than what she had been seeing. Not that the people in that hotel were telling her the truth about everything, but the monsters were living and they knew what she didn't.

Impossible for her to be that tall, but somehow she stands like the metal buildings nudging at the sky have nothing on her. He'd like to take her somewhere else, clean air, and people that would listen, but he's never been there and doesn't think the road signs are truthful.

He is right in the way of all firsts. This is her life, her life as it is now, in it's second chance, in it's infinity reality, she can't know. His taste and lips and gasps, all unreal the way true reality is. Can't judge that, can't compare. She just falls down, falls in, adjusts to him, to them, to this place in time. His jagged breathing of her name becomes the baseline she will judge all voices. The taste of his tongue becomes the echo by which all tastes will be judged. Those fingers the lines all touches will ultimately emerge from.

She seems to trust him; Father repeated lessons on truth and lies, and how no good man told a lie, unless there was some greater plan.

There is a sense of some distrust in Connor. He's hesitant in a way that seems unnecessary, but she can't lay claim to the problem, can't name the wrongness. She pegs it as the unreality of the world, of the disassociation she feels for life in general. Falls into him, becomes him, part of him, because there is nothing else but demons and fright and sharp edges.

She doesn't want to be thought of as perfect, because if she tumbles from that, there is no place that they can put her which feels as cloudless, nor as cold.

He can take her in because she has so little, but is more. How she can be so confused is something he doesn't understand. She is part of those who have a purpose and a duty, and she should be aware and ready. But perhaps the Powers have chosen to keep her curious.

Still, he sees a woman reeling and when she kisses him, she is trying to draw meaning from his lips.

He tastes of nothing, his mouth an echo of her own. She wanted his to taste of passion, of spice, of anything. Instead, it's not the taste of him that seems to matter but the noise of him. The fact that he is anything but silent matters. He sighs and gasps, smacks against her mouth and sighs against her neck. Writhes and slides his fingers into her short hair. She readjusts her expectations to meet who he is.

One hand on her shoulder, her skin is softer than anything he dreamed about clouds, and she shudders when he traces her collarbone. She doesn't know what she is doing, at least that's what it seems like, but there must be something written on her limbs, because she anticipates everything he wants. Doesn't dare voice any fantasy, she might become one, and the room lets them fill it with sound.

Knows the pattern of his body, the dips and juts. This she figures is from a pattern she long ago learn and has since forgotten. He is bone and sinew and planes and ridges, and she feels comfortable with that. With him.

Like any landscape that was perfect, all he can see is the whole, and then each part moves towards his eyes, and he sees it fully. She must have spent time in the sun, her skin still holds some of its warmth.


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