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Duty

by Minim Calibre

She smelled good, just like he remembered her smelling before. Soft, for all that she was capable of fighting. Good, soft, brave.

When she chose him over Angelus, she proved also that she was smart. Only a fool would trust the demon. He knew she had, when she was still blinded by memory and foolish loyalty. Now, stripped of everything she had, she knew better. He was proud of her; she could have taken the easy way, stayed in the hotel with its heat and running water, but Cordelia was no fool.

Mindful of the chill, Connor kept his body close to hers. She deserved better than this shared pallet, but he had nothing else to offer. Cordelia didn't complain. He rested his face against her hair and inhaled the scent of wildflowers and sharp chemicals, the best and worst of this world.

He wished his father had lived long enough to tell him about women, to explain the weakness that came over him when he held her fast against his body. It was the same weakness he felt with Sunny. He couldn't protect her, couldn't save her from her medicines.

It would not happen to Cordelia. He held that thought as he struggled to remain alert. It was late, and the shared heat filled him with a need for slumber. He would close his eyes, but only for a moment.

The cry woke him. His eyes flew open to see Cordelia shaking, her body curled around itself as though she wanted to hide from something and could find no cover. Whatever danger she saw must have been in her head, because there was nothing in the room except for them.

"Cordelia?"

She shook herself free of whatever nightmare had captured her and looked at him, eyes huge and startled like those of prey before the kill. "Connor? Don't leave me. Please, don't leave me."

He gathered her in his arms, and kissed her as he had kissed Sunny. When he felt her relax, he pulled away and smiled. "Never."


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