Cordelia was sorry. Standing in front of her mirror and looking at what, exactly, she was supposed to wear tonight while being all comshukked by a Groosalugg – Cordelia was real sorry.
It was Angel’s fault.
She’d arrived at that conclusion a while ago, when she was sitting moping in her apartment about the fact that she cared what happened to people these days. “It would have been so much easier five years ago,” she murmured to Phantom Dennis, “Maybe then I wouldn’t have cared so much about Dad taking the fall for this crap…”
Because this was *his* crap and how was it fair that Cordelia had to handle it?
It was Angel’s fault. Angel’s fault by drawing her into this stupid mission and making her care about people and not want to see them die, be it in her head or otherwise. “This sucks,” she fumed, as she shoved a La Perla nightgown as far to the back of her closet as it would go.
La Perla – La freakin’ Perla and Cordelia refused to let the first item of remotely sexy underwear she’d bought with her own hard earned cash be pawed at by some icky demon. Damn well refused!
Though it wasn’t like the guys would be lining up after they learned of her second foray into the demon side of comshukking.
Cordelia groaned and sank face first down onto her bed. “I hate this!”
She really did hate this. She failed to see both why she should hate this and why she should be sorry, of course, but that was her lot in life, she supposed. Being sorry for things that other people didn’t see and boy, had she become a martyr, she realized, scrunching her face up in the blankets.
“Little Ms. Likes to Fight gets Chosen to save the world on a regular basis,” she murmured, her voice muffled, “I get Chosen to mate with a demon and carry its little demonic babies to term.”
“Was that in the contract?”
The worry in Angel’s voice wasn’t enough to make Cordelia’s heart rate stop spiking off the chart. She yelped at the sudden intrusion of the vampire who was supposed to be making coffee to calm her nerves, and dragged her face up from her quilt cover.
“No, dumbass, but demons are shady. Especially that one,” she told him, pulling herself upwards and settling against her pillows.
Okay, so that wasn’t strictly true. She didn’t even know enough about the guy to deem him as shady but it seemed fitting. After all, she was going to be sleeping with him in less than an hour.
“I can’t believe I’m actually going through with it,” she said after a beat, worrying her lip between her teeth and suddenly thankful that she’d shoved the La Perla gown back as far as it could go in her closet.
Having this talk with Angel was bad enough; having him realize she sometimes bought sex clothes ‘just in case’ would just be utterly cringe-inducing. “Remind me again why I’m doing this?”
“Because you don’t want your father to die,” he supplied, trying to be helpful. His voice was flat though.
The corners of Cordelia’s mouth twitched slightly, “Once more with feeling?”
“You can’t ask me to be happy that you’re having sex with a demon, Cordelia,” he pointed out, gruffly, “And it’s not like I’m a guru on father-child relationships.”
Fine, she’d give him that one – given that he’d pretty much eaten his father back in the powdered wig days. “At least it’ll be over soon,” she murmured, “Maybe I can go on a course of intense shock therapy to block the whole thing out once it’s done.”
Angel sat down on the end of her bed, “I’m sorry, Cordelia.”
“For not being able to help,” he admitted, frustrated, “If I could do this for you–“
Cordelia pulled a face, “And as much as I appreciate that gesture? A world of eww, Angel. Although it would sort of explain your taste in clothes…” She teased, before growing a little more serious,
“Look, I’ll be okay. I don’t foresee the guy pulling any demonic crap while we’re *y’know*… And if he does, I’ll just tell him that it wasn’t part of the deal…”
Funny how she sounded more confident than she actually felt.
Trouble was, Cordelia didn’t know the extent of the deal. There was something in the contract about the demon wanting to mate with her on the night of her 21st birthday, supposedly because she was at her most virile. Only Cordelia didn’t feel very virile or at all life force-y.
Cordelia felt like crap and it was a total chore trying to keep up the good spirits around Angel when really she wanted to stamp her feet and declare this as completely unfair.
It was her birthday, dammit. And instead of celebrating and getting presents like any other somewhat normal girl? Cordelia was preparing to have sex with someone – a demon, of all things – and she so was not prepared.
Contrary to popular belief, Cordelia hadn’t been little Ms. Slutty back in high school. Sure, she’d done stuff. Cordelia Chase would have been in the running for Foreplay Olympics Queen of the Year or something, if they’d had such a thing back in Sunnydale, but actual sex?
Cordelia had found herself biting off more than she could chew the first time when she’d woke up as big as a house and with a multitude of demon babies inside her. It had put her off sex for life – or it would have done, had it not been for her father making some stupid deal.
A deal that she couldn’t get out of, no matter how hard she tried. If Cordelia didn’t do this, her father would die. Okay, so it was vastly unfair. Cordelia had covered that in her many monologues, especially to Phantom Dennis when she’d ranted and raved about her father being this giant asshole who thought of nobody but himself.
And yet his words were still ringing in her ears: I made this deal when I didn’t know you, Cordelia… When I didn’t know your mother… Not, of course, that this made it all okay. But it was the closest her father had come to showing her actual affection and even if Cordelia hadn’t liked it, at least now she understood why.
Her parents weren’t the worst she could have had by a long shot. She’d been around Wesley enough to know that some scars – even the ones you couldn’t see – lasted forever.
She’d been around Xander’s parents all of twice when his father had been his usual abusive self and his mother had stood back and done nothing about it and Xander had just never invited her around again.
Cordelia hadn’t been given the shitty end of the deal on the parent scale but there were times when she thought she wasn’t far off and now she got it, it just made her kind of sad.
“I should probably get dressed,” she told him, glancing towards the drapes. The sun was setting just below the horizon and Angel was just as antsy as she was.
“I’m not leaving you alone with him, Cordelia,” he told her, earning himself a glare.
“And you’re also not staying in my apartment while I make good on this deal,” said Cordelia, making her trademark ‘eww’ face,
“its bad enough that I have to do this. Having my best friend listen in on it ’cause his hearing is all supernatural and freaky is so not my idea of a turn on. Just… Just go back to the hotel, okay? I’ll call you when I’m done.”
“No buts, Angel,” she replied firmly, “I’ll call you when I’m done.”
When the Groosalugg knocked on her door, Cordelia had convinced herself that this was going to be okay. He’d come in, she’d ask him a few questions about what would happen once their deal was complete and all would be fine.
The guy was polite personified. He brought her flowers.
Now Cordelia wasn’t the kind of girl who’d look a gift horse in the mouth, so when he produced the flowers and a pretty expensive bottle of wine, Cordelia took them both, placing them on the table next to her couch.
She sat opposite him a second later, placing her hands in her lap. She’d tried fifty different outfits – going from slobby in hopes that he’d take one look at her and want to walk the other way and then to real-date outfits, because if she was doing this she supposed he’d want her to at least look the part or something…
Finally, she’d decided on somewhere in the middle. Not a real date outfit, but not total slob either. She’d even attempted on the make up front.
“Can I get you something?” She asked, as much surprised as she was pleased that her voice didn’t waver once. She kept repeating her mantra of ‘it’ll be over soon and I can forget’ in her head, so much so that she almost let it slip out loud when the demon was looking at her, a half-bemused look on its face.
“Water? Wine? I– What do I call you?”
“You may call me the Groosalugg,” it told her.
Cordelia made a face at that, “How about just Groo?”
It–Groo nodded. “If it pleases you.”
She almost said something at that. Something about how none of this was going to please her, how her father dying really wouldn’t please her and if ‘Groo’ wouldn’t mind, could they just stop now? But Cordelia held her tongue – no easy task, given how much she wanted to rip the guy a new one.
This was almost as bad as last time. Almost.
“I can be whoever you wish me to be, if that makes it easier…” said Groo, his voice soft.
Cordelia’s spirits lifted a little, “Jude Law?” Maybe she’d get through this better if she just thought it was another of her incredibly vivid fantasies.
The demon acquiesced and Cordelia swallowed as she was left with Jude Law (naked!) and enough eye candy to fuel her fantasies for months.
“Are you quite sure this is who you want?” He asked.
“Are you kidding?” Cordelia asked, “I’d have made the deal myself if I thought I’d get this.” The fact that she was clenching her hands into fists and worrying her bottom lip between her teeth betrayed just how nervous she felt, making the demon frown slightly.
He was many things but he wasn’t a monster. Forcing himself onto his rather beautiful mate to be just wasn’t going to be in his game plan. So he morphed into something different. “Would this please you, Cordelia?”
Cordelia almost fell off her sofa. “I… What the– No! And very much eww!” Yelled Cordelia, her eyes as wide as saucers, “Why the hell would that please me?”
“I can read energies,” he explained, and it was so very wrong (on levels that Cordelia couldn’t even conceive right now) listening to a Naked Angel talk and trying NOT to look, “You were thinking of your friend.”
“Eww, not in that way – geez!” she said, thinking he’d just killed every chance of her ever thinking of Jude Law in any way again. She’d been thinking of Angel in the ‘oh please find a loophole and quick’ sense but not like that! Geez!
“You do not love him?”
“Who, Angel?” She scoffed, “Sure, but not in an ‘I want to bone you’ kind of way – please. I do have some standards…” Limited, maybe, but still. “Besides, Angel is a strictly No-Bone area, so even if I did…”
“Ahh, you’ve thought about it…” Groo smiled.
“What? No! Not even! Stop twisting everything!” Cordelia yelled, horrified at the fact that the demon had suggested it…and that maybe he’d been right. Oh, holy GOD. There was no way in hell she could love Angel – no way in hell. First of all, she’d sworn off fixer uppers on the night she’d had a rebar shoved through her stomach.
Okay, so Doyle was pretty fixy uppy, she’d give the guy that. But at least there she had something to… Well, something to…
“You’re in love with your vampire friend,” he nodded, morphing back to his original visage which even then wasn’t that bad. It was no Jude Law or anything, but Cordelia was going to have to live with that.
“Okay, for the record? You’re WAY off,” she said, fuming silently and wondering if she could exploit his sheer lunacy to her own gain (loving Angel? Pfft and *please*…who was the guy kidding? )
“But if I did, and you seem to be knowledgeable guy on this… Would that mean the deal’s off?” She asked, brightening visibly.
The Groosalugg sighed. He was officially between a rock and a hard place here. “Alas, no. There was a contract, Ms. Chase, one that your father signed in his own blood and to make that contract null and void…”
Cordelia frowned. To make that contract null and void, he’d have to use his own blood to un-seal the damn thing. Which meant him dying and probably not in a pleasant way either, if Wesley’s earlier Demonology Lesson was anything to go by.
“So what you’re saying is that I still have to comshuk… With you. Or else Daddy’s gonna meet a pretty sticky end at one of those Bell End demons…”
His mouth quirked upwards, painfully amused at her choice of words, and corrected her with a sigh, “Belzor Demons. And yes. I wish it didn’t have to remain this way but…”
She knew what he was saying before he even said it. A deal was a deal and though she, herself, had never even entered into contract with the guy, she had to… Make good on it, she guessed.
“Okay, but I’m not, like, betrothed to you or anything, right? The way Wesley explained it, I just give you a little of my non-demon womb and you go off do the baby-having yourself?”
“That’s right,” he nodded. There were reasons it was the firstborn and reasons it had to be on the night of their 21st birthday. Something to do with cycles being at their peak or something – Cordelia really hadn’t been listening when Wesley was trying to explain.
“Good,” said Cordelia, getting up and rubbing the palms of her hands against the legs of her jeans, “‘Cause I really wasn’t looking forward to playing Mommy to a host of demon babies again.”
Cordelia looked at him, “What?”
“You said something… About demon babies?”
“Oh, that.” Cordelia murmured, “Let’s just say I’m not exactly a novice when it comes to getting knocked up by demons.”
The guy looked horrified, “You’ve been tainted?”
“Excuse me? I’m not tainted!” She protested, severely huffed, “Hell, I didn’t even know I was pregnant until I woke up as big as a house the day after we’d *y’know* and found I was carrying, like, eight of the little suckers.”
“You have been tainted,” he groaned, slumping into his seat.
“I am NOT tainted!” Cordelia growled, then paused a moment, “Wait, does that mean you can’t… With me?”
“I’m afraid not.”
Her spirits soared, “Then that means the deals off, right?”
“No!” It protested, shaking its head, “The contract clearly states that should the firstborn not be willing to fulfil the deal…”
“Hey, I’m willing to get with the comshukking, Buster! It’s not like I asked to be impregnated way back when – that’s gotta be in the rules somewhere!”
“I–But–” Groo was at a loss for words. He’d never before come across such a glitch. And Cordelia, undoubtedly, was a fast talker, used to getting her own way. The brunette was still talking. And the Groosalugg was getting a headache.
“Perhaps using tainted to describe our predicament was rather hasty…” He murmured.
“Too freakin’ right,” said Cordelia, folding her arms across her chest, “So what do we do now? You can’t comshuk me ’cause I’m– Well, used goods. And you can’t kill my father ’cause I was willing to get with the business end of this deal… What now?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted, his own spirits sinking. He hadn’t come across this before. Hell, he hadn’t come across anyone like Cordelia before. And now he didn’t have an idea of how this debt would be repaid. “Perhaps some legwork… From your organization?”
Cordelia glanced at him, “You mean I could have avoided all this heartache and misery and seeing Angel naked if I’d just offered up the collective services of Angel Investigations?”
The Groosalugg scowled, “Not quite, Ms. Chase. I’m still rather annoyed that our deal has been thrown into forfeit.”
“Again, didn’t ask to be impregnated by demon spawn,” she said, shaking her head, “What is it you want us to do?”
“It’s probably over by now,” said Angel glumly, watching as Wesley bandaged his hand and wishing Cordelia was there to do it.
His mood was dire. Most of the time, Angel healed quickly but after the impromptu session with the punch bag and one of the basement walls downstairs, his hand was feeling more than a little bruised.
A large cut adorned three of the knuckles on his left hand and Angel kept flexing it, watching the way the skin broke, the pain keeping him grounded.
He’d been trying, unsuccessfully, to keep Cordelia out of his head. He’d been gone from her place an hour. An hour in which lord only knew what had happened. It should be over by now.
Cordelia should be calling him to pick up a vat of ice cream and he should be going over there, trying to ignore the scent of that goddamn demon.
The one that had touched Cordelia. His Cordelia.
“It’s only a little antiseptic,” Wesley scolded. A closer look confirmed that it wasn’t the antiseptic that had pained Angel so but rather thoughts of Cordelia. “Have you told her yet?” He asked, not so ashamed to admit that he pulled Angel’s bandage a little tighter, just to cause him an extra pinch of pain.
“Told her what?” Asked Angel, glumly.
“That you love her.” Wesley waited until the shock on Angel’s face had passed before continuing, “Really, Angel, I have eyes. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”
A bolt of panic shot across the vampire’s face, “Is it that obvious?”
“Not to everyone, no. But I know you, Angel. I know Cordelia. And these past few weeks… You’ve been scrambling for her approval. It would be rather amusing, if it wasn’t so pathetic to watch.”
“I– Hey! I didn’t mean for it to happen,” Angel protested, “I just… All of a sudden she was *there*.”
Wesley’s mouth quirked upwards into a smile. He knew how that happened. One minute she was a rather beautiful distraction at Sunnydale High School – a student, no less – and the next… Wesley happened to know for a fact that once you’d fallen for Cordelia, she was a hard girl ; woman – to get over.
Even after their disastrous kiss, Wesley had sometimes wondered what could have been, but that ship had sailed a long time ago and now Wesley was trying to focus on the future – what Angel’s feelings would mean – not only for him and Cordelia, but for the rest of them.
“I don’t envy you, Angel. The things you take on would make a regular man balk at the thought but with Cordelia…” He straightened a little, meeting Angel’s gaze, “If you even think of hurting her again, of putting her through anything like what you have these past few months…”
“I won’t.” Said Angel, immediately.
“Good.” Wesley nodded, finishing wrapping up Angel’s hand, “Because I don’t think you’d like to find out what Gunn and I would do to you if you did.”
Angel sighed. “I love Cordelia. I’m really screwed, aren’t I?”
Wesley smiled, “I’m afraid so, Angel. At least she’ll make your life… Interesting.”
“That’s an understatement.”
“Just be careful,” said Wesley, “And tell her before she decides she’s too old to wait around for you to ‘get with her program’…”
Right, thought Angel, tell her before she’s too old for me to get with her program. All sound advice, except he didn’t have a clue how to even broach this, especially not when Cordelia had just been having sex with some demon on the night of her 21st birthday.
Angel only felt incredibly guilty about that, even though the deal had been made before he’d even met Cordelia. He hadn’t been able to stop it and he could only imagine the things they were doing right now.
Typically, Angel was sitting up in his room, brooding. He’d tried to kill the guy twice ; short of having him sucked into some inter-dimensional portal, Angel was really at a loss, so when Cordelia arrived at his door, simply smelling Cordelia-like, he thought he was imagining things.
“Hey, Angel,” she said, not entering.
They stood like that for a few moments, apart from each other and not speaking, until the silence got too much for the particularly broody vampire and he gestured for her to come inside. “Are you… Are you okay?”
“Peachy,” she nodded, “With a side of keen. You?”
“Fine.” He nodded, “Did you-How did it go?”
Something stirred inside Angel; something awfully like hope; and he stared at her for a long moment. “You didn’t go through with it?”
“I was ready to,” Cordelia admitted, “We’d even got as far past the pleasantries as him turning into my hearts desire or something equally as lame… And then he found out I’d been ‘tainted’.”
Angel growled. He couldn’t help it. “Tainted? What the hell does that mean?”
“Breathe, Angel,” said Cordelia, a gentle smile lifting the corner of her lips, “He found out about my last brush with demon impregnation and after that… Let’s just say he couldn’t perform any more.”
“So you didn’t… What about your father?”
“I just got off the phone with him,” she said carefully, “Things aren’t great between us and he’s gonna have a hell of a time trying to explain to my mother what he’s been doing this past week but he’s not dead, at least, and there aren’t gonna be any Belzor demons knocking down his door in the next few weeks.”
And I didn’t have to comshuk with a demon, so all is right with the world. Almost.
“I still had to cough up on the deal front though.”
Angel balked at that, his face falling, “What does that mean?”
“Well the demon wanted something… In return for, I don’t know, services not rendered?” She said, actually shuddering at those words, “So in return for my father still being alive and my keeping my comshukkedness intact, I agreed to give him everything we had on Wolfram and Hart.”
Puzzled, Angel stared at her, “What do they have to do with this?”
“Well it turns out, Groo-” and she could not believe she was on a first name basis with the guy now, “-kind of has a problem with oh law firm extraordinaire. Apparently they represented something that killed his brother and got him off way lightly, so in exchange for my not humping the guy, he gets information. He’s downstairs talking to Wesley.”
Angel shook his head, “So we could have just offered him information and you wouldn’t have had to-“
“Already gone down that road and no,” said Cordelia, “He had to know that we couldn’t before he’d take something else on offer. I’m just glad he found out before he got with the comshukking ’cause that would’ve been embarrassing.”
Not like this whole thing hadn’t been, but Cordelia would take what she could get. “So… Is there a reason you’re up here brooding?”
Angel frowned, “I wasn’t-I thought you were-Y’know. And then I realized I didn’t want to be thinking of that, so I came upstairs.”
“Was that before or after you smashed the wall in the basement?” She asked, archly, “Wesley told me.”
Panicking slightly as he wondered what else Wesley had told her, Angel could only stare. “I-Well-Happy Birthday, Cordelia.”
Cordelia grinned, “It kinda is, huh?”
“I, uhm, I didn’t get you anything…”
“I kinda guessed. I mean with everything that’s been going on around here lately… We’ve had other things to worry about. I’m sure you can make up for it later,” she teased.
“I will,” Angel promised, taking a step towards her, “How about dinner?”
“What, all of us?”
“No,” he shook his head, deflating a little, “I mean… You and me. To celebrate.”
“You mean like a date, dinner? Where you pay and everything?” She asked, brightening again.
And though Angel would once have been mortally afraid of that word, given how his love life tended to go, he nodded, “A date, dinner. You look… Nice. And it’s a shame to let tonight go to waste…”
“Well, duh,” Cordelia smiled, “This is officially my ‘I didn’t sleep with a demon’ outfit. What could be better?”
Angel chuckled lightly, remembering Wesley’s earlier words about letting Cordelia know how he felt before she deemed herself too old to wait for him to get with it. “Cordelia?”
“What happened with Darla-” he could see her good mood begin to plummet already, the mention of his sire the perfect mood killer for both of them, “I’m sorry. I know I’ve said that. I know I bought you clothes… And I know that’s not enough. I was just trying… I’ve made some mistakes, that’s all. Big mistakes-“
“Huge, but go on,” she interrupted, folding her arms across her chest to see if this apology was as good as it was turning out to be.
“I missed you,” he said after a beat, “And I only realized when something threatened to take you away from me again. I just-I’m not good at this. My dating history could be summed up by the words ‘tragic’ and ‘farce’ and I don’t-I don’t want you to be among that too.”
For maybe the first time in Cordelia’s life, she was speechless. Completely speechless. She stood staring at Angel for what felt like forever, her mouth working open and closed. “You mean-you’re-and you want me to be-Okay, this is new. And very scary.”
And oh God, Groo had been right. Cordelia sat down heavily on the end of Angel’s bed.
“You really hurt my feelings, Angel,” she said eventually, her voice quiet. “You fired me and kicked me out of the hotel and let’s not forget the moment where you shoved me against a bookcase all because of your little obsession-y period over Darla…”
“I’m not finished!” She said sharply, cutting him off, “We did okay without you, Angel. We weren’t the best demon fighters out there but we got good. We became family again…”
Angel’s heart sank.
“But there was always something missing.” She sighed, “And I realized this week that the something was you. I kind of hate you for that,” she said quietly, “But I kind of love you too and I’m hoping that’s what you were gearing up to say during all that babble ’cause if you weren’t I might just have to shove a stake somewhere not pleasant and…”
She felt like her heart had stopped. The entire world had, definitely, but her heart (the thing that had previously been jack hammering against the inside of her ribcage and threatening to burst through) had absolutely stopped.
“You love me?” Asked Angel, a completely goofy (and incidentally, adorable) smile appearing on his face.
“Yes,” she sighed, “I love you. Even that demon knew it. I’m just… Slow on the uptake, is all. I swear to God, Angel, if you ever fire me again or cause me unnecessary pain, I’ll-“
“Shove a stake somewhere not pleasant,” Angel reiterated for her, grabbing the hand that was waving erratically, “I know.”
The brown of Cordelia’s eyes softened and Angel leaned towards her, one thumb coming up to stroke gently at her cheek, “I really am sorry, Cordelia.”
Cordelia slid one hand round his neck and pulled him towards her, “Actions speak louder than words, Angel,” she whispered, before pressing her lips to his.