Disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer. This story in no way attempts to infringe on the rights held by any established corporation, that being Joss and His minions. No profit, no foul, no lawsuit.
While this is a sequel of sorts to "Master Class," it also stands on its own...



Refresher Course
by suricata


Giles stood outside the apartment, not really sure why he was there. Wesley had called him, of all people, out of the blue, asking for advice. So he had come up to Los Angeles because, truth be told, there wasn't any reason not to. And he was curious to see what his former fellow Watcher had made of himself.

Not much, it would appear. Although this Wesley was a man Giles could feel a reluctant admiration for, in some small way. He was, at least, trying to make it on his own. Even if on his own did involve latching on to Angel and Cordelia.

Which was, he supposed, the reason he was there. Cordelia.

Wesley had let it slip that a good friend of Cordelia's had died recently, in a rather terrible manner. Details had not been forthcoming, and Wesley's own problems took precedence in the conversation, but the thought gnawed at Giles all night. Cordelia had, in some strange way, been his responsibility. And he had dropped it: out of sight, out of mind.

Except, if course, she hadn't. Been out of mind, that was. He could still recall the sight of her outside his apartment that night. A half-spooked doe, all large brown eyes, long legs, and bravado. She had asked him to be her first lover. Not the honor it might have been, bestowed on a boy closer to her own age, but another responsibility. And a bestowal of trust that he had felt horribly unworthy of, then -- and now.

Which, again, brought him to why he was here, standing outside Cordelia Chase's apartment door like some gawking youth. Knock or leave, you idiot.

He knocked.

#
"Just a second!" her voice called out. "Dennis, no, I'll get it."

Dennis? He wondered, suddenly feeling awkward. Wesley hadn't mentioned a boyfriend. Then again, he wouldn't have, the self-absorbed pillock. Not unless it impacted him. And since he seemed to have gotten over that damned foolish infatuation--

The door opened.

"Hi, what - Giles?"

"Cordelia. Hello. May I come in?"

Her eyes as wide and as deep brown as he recalled, she stood back but did not invite him in. Good girl. He crossed the threshold on his own, and noted as she breathed a sigh of relief. No, he didn't suppose he would want to deal with himself as a vampire, either.

"I heard you talking to someone, am I interrupting?"

"What? Oh no, that was just Dennis. What are you doing here? Not that I'm not glad to see you, but..."

"I was in town --"

"Oh. Demon-related stuff?"

"Yes, actually, but not the usual corporeal version."

He noted her puzzled look, and elaborated. "Wesley felt the need to unburden himself to me."

Her look of sympathy was immediate, and complete. "That, I think, calls for liquid commiseration. All I've got is some really bad chardonnay, though."

He followed her into the kitchen area. "Wine?"

She shrugged, the gesture emphasizing the clinginess of her stretch top. "I know, I'm only nineteen. But a glass of wine every now and then seems fair repayment for the ickiness Angel drags us into. I spent all last night sawing apart a Bheorr demon so we could get it out of its lair. Not my idea of a fun evening, let me tell you." She reached for two glasses out of the cabinet, but wasn't able to reach. Before he could offer to help, the long-stemmed goblets flowed down to within reach. "Thanks Dennis," she said casually. "I swear, Angel really should pay me wardrobe hazard pay. Do you have any idea what a Bheorr demon does when it dies?"

"Ooozes a vaguely acidic red gel," Giles replied absently, still staring at the shelf the glasses had come from.

"Right. You would know. Well, let me tell you - hello? Giles? Over here?

" He turned to where she stood by the refrigerator, wine bottle in hand. "That," he gestured vaguely. "The glasses."

"Oh. Right." She rolled her eyes in a familiar fashion, but this time the deprecation was directed at herself. "Sorry, I forgot you weren't up on that part of the weirdness that is my life. That was Dennis. My roommate. He's a ghost."

#
The story had Giles leaning against the sofa back, tears of laughter forming in his eyes. Cordelia got into the storytelling, acting out the more dramatic parts of her confrontation with Dennis' mother, and Dennis kept refilling their glasses; a convivial, if invisible host.

"You were never nineteen," Giles said, more of a reflection than an accusation.

Cordelia looked at him from across the couch where they were both seated. "Excuse me?"

"You were sixteen," he said with certainty. "And seventeen. Perhaps even eighteen. But I believe you skipped right over that to twenty-five."

Cordelia recalled the earlier comment of hers that had obviously led to this conversation, and considered his words with the due solemnity several glasses of wine required. "Could be worse," she finally decided. "I could have jumped all the way to thirty. Ugh."

Giles frowned. "I'll try not to take that ageism personally."

"It's different for guys. They're allowed to get 'distinguished' as they age. Women just get unemployed."

"You're the one who wished to live in Los Angeles," he reminded her.

"Yeah. Silly me."

They sat there on the sofa, comfortable with the silence, while Dennis filled their glasses with the last of the bottle. "The perfect roommate, indeed," Giles mused. "So now I know how you got this apartment. What else has been going on in your life?"

Her face clouded over, and he cursed himself immediately. Could he have been any more callous, more clumsy? He had completely forgotten the news which had brought him here in the first place. "I'm sorry. Wesley mentioned that you had lost a friend recently, I shouldn't have..."

"No. It's okay." But she was quiet for a long time. Too quiet.

"You're thinking," Cordelia said finally. "I can smell the smoke burning."

"Hah. Amusing."

She snickered. "Yes, it was. What were you thinking about?"

"About you," he said honestly. "About the life you've made for yourself here."

"Yeah, some life. I chase after demons, get turned down at cattle calls for jobs I don't even want, and work for a souled vampire, live with a ghost... did I miss anything? Oh, yeah. Killer headaches that come with nasty visions, courtesy of the Powers that Be who don't even have the decency to warn me before they hot, thereby ruing whatever chance of me actually having a career should I ever get past any of those cattle calls."

"Is it so horrible?" He wasn't just asking about her recitation, and they both knew it. She tensed a moment, then relaxed. "No. Not horrible. Bad-scary, sometimes, but... It matters, you know? What we're doing."

"Doyle was more than a friend, wasn't he?" It wasn't quite the stab in the dark it might have been for anyone else. He knew Cordelia, knew her insecurities and her fears and her unspoken, half-unformed dreams. He had seen her naked, emotionally as well as physically, and you could never go back from that.

"Yeah. Or, I don't know. He could have been. Maybe. Other than the fact that he drank too much, dressed like a Salvation Army reject, was divorced, way too short... oh, and did I mention the half-demon part? And that was so down the list of things that were wrong with him..."

Giles had raised an eyebrow at the half demon part, but waited her out. When her voice trailed off, she reached forward and took her free hand in his own. "You loved him."

"A little. Maybe." She paused. Sipped from her glass. "Yeah. And I think I could have been in love with him, too. You know? But we never got the chance." She was silent another moment. "I guess I stopped believing in happily ever after a long time ago. But I wanted - I always thought I'd at least get a shot at 'after.'"

She looked at him then. "But I guess you know all about that, yeah?"

Giles nodded once. "Yeah," he echoed her. The hollow pain that still stirred within him when he thought of Jenny. Faded, now, but never gone. Never released. Oh, he knew, far too well. And he would have done anything to spare her from that kind of knowledge. Was it any wonder her eyes were too old for her age?

"It is so not fair. Everyone...everyone I've loved hurts me. It's like the great Law of the Universe. And, oh god, just sex? Bad idea. I pick up a guy, and I end up..." She stopped. "No. Not going into that. It was a really, really bad week."

He put his glass down on the table and opened his arms. "Come here." It wasn't a suggestion, or a request, and he was astonished at himself even as he marveled at the way she willingly put down her own glass and crawled down into his embrace.

The weight of her felt right in his arms, and he was helpless to not recall the last time she had been there. Last Spring. After graduation. When she had come to him... He had filed the memory away under Precious: Unrepeatable. He had gone on with his life. Had gleaned what news he could from Oz's terse report of his trip to Los Angeles, and Buffy's even briefer comments when she returned. Mainly that she was working for Angel. That she was the same old Cordelia.

But she hadn't been the same old Cordelia before she left Sunnydale. Was he the only one to realize that?

Apparently not. He shook his head, bemused. Angel, of all individuals. And yet, the story Cordelia had told, of their stand against the murderous ghost, in this very room... the affection in her voice told what her words did not. Strange, that they should gravitate towards each other...and yet, somehow inevitable. The soul-ridden vampire and the doubt-haunted prom queen. They had both come to Los Angles in order to reinvent themselves, create a new reason for being. That they found it together didn't really surprise him, he who had long ago given control of his life over to Destiny.

But he did envy them, if only a little bit.

"Tell me about him. Doyle was his name, yes?" The moment he felt her tense up, he knew he had said exactly the wrong thing.

"Look, Giles... I don't want to talk about him, okay? And don't tell me it's not healthy 'cause nothing in my life's exactly mental health poster child time." She turned in his arms, the length of her body pressing against his in ways he had almost made himself forget. One slender leg fitted itself between his thighs, and even through the cloth of his trousers he could feel her warmth. Or was that heat rising off him?

"Cordelia..." But his hands were threading themselves through her thick hair even as he protested.

"You told me once that sex wasn't just about, you know, having an orgasm. That I should wait for the right somebody. And I tried, I really did. But he's gone. And the nights are so long, and so lonely. And you didn't tell me what I should do when I'm so alone."

He had shown her the joy of sex, the beauty two people could find in joining, above and beyond the physical gratification of it. He had thought it was a gift, a benevolence on his part. But instead, it had brought her pain... And what made you think one lesson was going to answer all her questions, anyway? One quick fix and then everything will be okay... who were you fooling, old man?

"I'm so sorry, Cordelia, I never meant to hurt you."

She raised herself up over him at that statement, her dark eyes watery, but fierce. "You didn't. That's the point. Of all the people in my life, you're the only one who never hurt me. You didn't promise, you never lied, and you've never gone away."

"Angel -" he protested, astonished to hear that name come out of his mouth.

"Angel's fond of me," Cordelia agreed. "He might even love me, kind of, with whatever part of his heart's not all tied up in Buffy. But he doesn't understand me. He can't."

"Because he's a vampire?"

She exhaled, her warm breath tingling the skin of his cheek, stroking the side of his face, then shook her head. "Because he's immortal," she said, showing an impressive understanding of the vampire's psyche that didn't surprise him at all. "He knows about love, and loneliness, and not being able to ever have what you want... but he doesn't understand mortality. Not really. And that's what makes us all tick, isn't it? Wanting something to hold against the moment it all ends?"

A dull pain filtered through his bones. Oh god, yes, he knew what she was talking about. And she was right; an immortal could not know what she meant, not in truth. Not after the first hundred years or so, at any rate. When the mortal memories had faded and disappeared.

"I need to have something to hold onto, Giles. And I think, maybe, you do too."

His hands gentled in her hair, curving so that they cradled her head instead. "And when did you get so smart?" he asked her in bemused wonder.

A trace of her usual flippant attitude resurfaced. "I had good teachers." Her gaze focused on his lips, and she licked her own. "But I could use a refresher course now."

Her leg shifted, pressing against his awakening cock, and Giles let his moan escape, even as he arched his back to increase the pressure. He slid his hands down the curve of her skull, down to her shoulders, stroking the sleek material of her blouse all the way down to her hips, encouraging her to move forward up his body. She picked up the suggestion like the bright girl she was, her torso leaning back away from him so that her legs could bend forward, swinging over his hips to straddle him in a position much more conducive to his seminar. His hands rested there on her hips, a little pressure enough to increase the weight on his cock.

"Sometimes, completion isn't enough. Pleasure's easily gotten," he told her, rocking gently up and down in a move that almost but not quite mimicked the mechanics of sex. "But the ache, the pain of anticipation, that's something more rare. The knowing, and the wanting are satisfactions of their own." His voice dropped half an octave, his voice roughing into a near-growl. "They're the sweat of foreplay, the reason for the cocktease. The satisfaction of fantasy..."

She dipped her head down to taste the skin on his neck with a sharp nip, followed by a slower, softer nuzzle, and he nearly lost track of his lecture.

"Sometimes, thinking's not the answer. It tangles everything up, trips us up. Don't listen to your head. Your heart will tell you what you need to know. It will let you know what you want. What you're needing." He slid his hands up her belly, pushing the top ahead of his fingertips, glorying in the warm, soft skin that was bared to his sight. His right hand stroked the faint line of scar tissue, caressing it, while his left hand kept moving up, confirming his suspicions that she wasn't wearing a bra. Cupping the weight of one breast in his palm, he gave thanks once again to the kind god who had made him left-handed, and therefore almost ambidextrous. Cup, stroke, slide, caress... he could feel her heart under his splayed fingers, the accelerated racing of her pulse. What was her heart telling her?

"Right now, it's saying 'too many clothes,' " Cordelia told him, grinning.

"Said that out loud, did I?"

"Yeah."

He smiled, and she returned it, their gazes meeting in a moment of complete - unexpected - understanding. Just enough wine to relax them, just enough honesty to release them. No complications, no expectations; only a slow, sad need the other could comprehend. They could stay here, like this, and it would be enough.

Almost.

With a groan that was half a laugh, Giles pulled the bunched-up top off her, tossing it to the floor, and replaced his fingers on her breast with his mouth. Sweet, musky, and more than a delicate mouthful: he licked, then sucked, then finally closed his teeth on the rigid nipple and tugged ungently. Her hands were on his shoulders, nails digging deep indentations into his skin. Frustration mingled with pleasure colored the growl that rose from her throat, and she pulled away abruptly, swallowing hard.

He was breathing hard, his cock urging him to go after her, to take her on the floor, against the wall, whatever surface was handy. But he forced himself to wait. To watch. To anticipate. Pleasure came in many flavors, and the educated man knew how to appreciate each and every one.

She stood up and unzipped her pants, sliding them off her hips, down her legs. He had no doubts but that she could have put a heart-stopping shimmy into the action - the fact that she didn't made the act all the more seductive.

Cordelia's gaze met his, and she smiled; not the wide grin or the sly smirk most associated with her, but a shy twist of lips that made his throat tighten with affection even as it swelled his already rock-hard cock. It was a look that said 'here I am, here you are, and aren't we a pair?'

Holding that gaze, he sat up, his feet swinging over the side of the sofa, to face her. His left hand unbuckled his belt, not bothering to remove it from the loops but instead moving straight on to the snap, then the zipper. A sigh of relief escaped him as some of the constriction eased, and his cock was able to surge forward. A slight lifting of his arse off the cushions, and his slacks were on the floor. Thank god for the agility of a misspent youth, he thought briefly, then made eye contact with his prey once more.

"Come here."

She closed the distance between them, allowing him to reach up and hook his fingers into the waistband of her underwear. Pale peach and satiny, but otherwise unadorned. Drawing them down slowly over her hips, her thighs, he denied himself the luxury of tasting that skin, smelling it, feeling it more than was absolutely necessary in order to have her standing before him, gloriously nude.

He had always adored the female form, even as a child wandering museums, staring up at chipped and broken statues. It was even more magnificent in motion, a living hosanna to the wonder of Nature and God. And when sparked by an intellect and a passion like the one in front of him, he could have no more stopped himself than he could have willingly stopped breathing.

That might have made him a bad man. But it also made him - on occasion - a satisfied one.

"You're still wearing too much clothes," she told him. "And I refuse to make love to a man still wearing his socks. It indicated a certain lack of commitment to the whole process-"

His arm behind her knees surprised her, taking her down to his lap. She laughed, tossing her long mane of hair over one shoulder and leaning forward to capture his mouth with hers. Her kiss was still tentative, but playful, tongue touching lips, teeth, then tongue with enthusiasm and a total lack of guile. She had learned since last they were together, and he felt a momentary jealousy of those unknown lovers, on both his behalf, and for the man who had not lived long enough to discover her for himself.

Then she slid closer, and all thoughts went out the window, landing with a whimper somewhere several stories below. His hands found her legs, bringing them up along his flanks, finding the warm, mist entrance behind dark curls. She whimpered, fidgeting, her back arching so that her full breasts tilted invitingly near his mouth.

"Please,' she said, her voice barely audible, her hands again gripping his shoulders for balance. "Please..."

He contemplated the peach-toned flesh in front of him, mouth grazing first one nipple, then the other, then back again as he slid into her a scant inch.

"Damn it, Giles..." But she was laughing, enjoying the tease as much as he was. Holding on to it. If you are laughing, if you are aware of the joy - you're still alive. There's still blood surging and breath heaving and that moment and that night and tomorrow still to be savored -

She pushed forward, impaling herself on him, and his hands supported her upper back, feeling her shoulder muscles work as she moved herself on him, doing all the work in a mindless determination to find her own pleasure, trusting him to follow along.

She always had been the fast learner.

He closed his eyes, letting his head drop back slightly, and let the sensations surge over him. Too long, it had been too long. Too much wanting, too much waiting, too much denial and mortification of flesh never did anyone any good old man, when will you ever learn?

Pain and pleasure ran like watercolors, the sharpness and the sweetness and the aching all thundering through his system, counterpointed by Cordelia's harsh breathing, punctuated by her calling his name, swearing softly, his own gasping for air until he lunged forward, teeth closing on the skin between her neck and shoulder, like a terrier with a chew toy, muffling his howl as he came within her, as she milked him, the results warm and sticky and damp on their thighs.

#
"Thank you," she said. Later. Much later, after they had refilled their wine glasses on their own, and moved into her bedroom, comforted and comfortable under the covers. "For being you," she said before he could inquire what for. "For being there. Here. For understanding and not judging, and..." she paused, then plunged on. "For liking me. And for not loving me."

He didn't take offense, understanding all too well what she was saying. " Everyone I've loved hurts me. "

He simply held her, and didn't make any promises.




-end-