When she left Wesley’s office, Cordelia was determined.
Armed with a brave front she wasn’t quite feeling, but was a good enough actress to pull off (despite what people thought) Cordelia braced herself, took a few short strides up the stairs to Angel’s room and raised her hand to knock on the door…
Then felt her resolve completely crumble.
I can’t do this, was her first thought. Her second, and by far not the best she’d had at any point today, was something along the lines of falling in love with the guy and not seeing it. Not knowing until he’d totally pulled a Xander and killed any chance of her ever admitting it where it mattered, like, to his face.
Cordelia did not do this.
Cordelia armed herself for pain, built up a brick wall and braced herself for disappointment way, way before people actually did the disappointing because, let’s face it, it always happened. And it had already happened once with Angel.
Cordelia had come back from that. Cordelia had come back from that swinging and then he’d bought her clothes and wormed his way under her defences again only to completely obliterate that by telling her – maybe not in actual words, where it would have counted – but just by the look on his face that said, ‘Cordy, you’re no Buffy…’ and she hated that. She’d thought they were past all that.
Back in High School, when Xander had done this to her, she’d turned up at school in her fuck-me heels and flirted with anything that moved in an attempt to make him jealous.
In the hotel, the only thing that moved were Wes, Gunn and Fred (and occasionally a couple of the rats when one of them hadn’t set the traps right) and Cordelia seriously wasn’t going to attempt blurring those lines with the one pair of Fuck Me Heels she owned these days.
Suddenly, she wished she was dressed better, or that Groo was standing behind her and she could pull him towards her and–
His voice behind her made her heart leap into her throat and Cordelia shrieked, turning around to pin him with a gaze so sharp he thought stakes might start shooting from her eyeballs.
“Jesus Christ, Angel, are you trying to kill me?” She demanded, her gaze darkening as he placed one finger over his lips to shush her. He was shushing her? Oh that was–
“I just got Connor off to sleep,” he explained softly, his eyes landing anywhere but on hers, “Did you want to talk about something?”
Too right I wanna talk about something, Bucko, she thought, her heart slowing from the wild-rumba in her chest.
“I-I just came to see if you were okay.” She decided on, wincing as the words came out all wrong. And with a stutter.
An actual stutter. It made her frown enough to want to know exactly what had happened to the friendship they’d worked so hard at and Cordelia blurted it out before she could even stop herself.
“What’s happening between us?”
The nervousness in her voice cut into him, made him look up into a usually confident gaze. She just looked worried and Angel hated that, though not as much as the words he’d heard her say last to him —
It’s not like we wanted it to be perfect happiness anyway, right? — words he’d tortured himself with for seven long days. He looked away from her.
“I-I’m not– Look, Cordy, what happened between us…”
“Don’t, Angel,” her voice was a harsh whisper and when he glanced back, he noted her eyes were screwed shut, “Let’s not, okay? Things are bad enough without dragging all this up again…”
There was that taste again, right at the back of his throat. Things were bad between them. He missed her and if not bringing this up again was what it took, then… “Where’s Groo?” He asked, his sigh barely audible.
Cordelia’s eyes snapped open. “Groo?” He wanted to talk about Groo when every time he saw them together he was heading out of the room? “Downstairs, I think, looking at the weapons. I pretty much got bored once he exited the ‘sharp and pointy’ stage and started waxing lyrical about the handle on your broadsword…” She trailed off again.
This was far from normal. This just wasn’t them and Cordelia didn’t want this to be it. She wanted her friend back, dammit, and if that meant…
If that meant talking about the weird and the very definite squinky between them, then she guessed they had to. Now. Get it all out in the open, spank their respective inner moppets and just get the hell over it.
“Okay, look. We had sex–“
Angel blinked at her, “So I’m not allowed to bring it up but you are?”
“I’m a woman,” she told him, as if he should know this already, “I have double standards. Look, what happened between us… It was just possession, right? There wasn’t anything in it, so… We shouldn’t be worried. It was just sex between two friends that wasn’t perfect happiness and will never happen again.”
Angel grit his teeth. That was how she looked at it. Possession, sex between two friends that wasn’t perfect happiness and would never happen again. “Right,” he nodded.
“So what’s the problem?” She asked.
He chewed over that for a moment, finally deciding what he wanted to say, and levelled his gaze with hers. “You’re angry at me.”
This time, it was Cordelia’s turn to blink. “Huh?”
“You’re angry at me,” he repeated, “Why?”
“I’m not angry at you,” She told him, frowning. She wasn’t, not really. She was angry at herself, maybe, for not being able to recognise the whole possession thing for what it was last week and get the hell out of that room.
She was angry at the fact that she was actually comparing herself to Buffy, when she herself knew she had way better qualities and could be way better for him if he just let her in and…
Most of all, she was angry at letting herself fall for a stupid fairytale that just didn’t exist anywhere except in her head. A fairytale that hadn’t even entered her head until that stupid ballet. Which Angel had took her to.
Okay, if she admitted it? She was a little angry at Angel. She was a angry at him for having 200+ years experience at something that, because of him and his stupid visions, she was actually pretty scared of.
She was angry at him for being so good at his 200+ years experience, that she couldn’t get the memory of his hands or the way he moved against her, the way he made her feel like the only woman in the world, out of her head.
She was angry at him because he’d hurt her without knowing it, that he still didn’t know it, and that he couldn’t just look at her and know why she was angry.
“Scratch that, I am angry at you,” she said finally, “It’s all your fault. You took us to that stupid ballet. You made us sit through that not even remotely memorable performance and then at the end of it–“
“We had sex,” said Angel again, his voice flat, “Was it really that awful?”
Had he really just asked that?
“No!” Cordelia yelled, “And that’s the problem!”
Stunned into silence, Angel stared at her. He’d thought that was the problem. That they were best friends and they’d been possessed and it wasn’t going to happen again ever… Even if he backed up a little and tried to figure this one out, he wasn’t going to get anywhere.
“You couldn’t even try to kill me a little!”
He stared again, still blinking, his mouth working open and closed. If he hadn’t been so confused, he might have cared a little bit about what he looked like, especially since he was around Cordelia and lately he just wanted to look good so maybe she’d look at him for a change.
“You’re upset because I didn’t try to kill you?”
The absurdity of that statement hit Cordelia full force and just for a moment, she wondered how silly that sounded. She wondered, that is, until Angel started speaking again.
“That’s what this is about? You’re upset because I didn’t lose my soul?”
Cordelia scowled, “Well, geez, when you say it like that it almost makes it sound okay.” Because what she really wanted was Angelus running around LA and trying to kill her friends so she’d really know he loved her. Uh-huh, sure.
“I’m upset because… Because…”
For maybe the first time ever, Cordelia Chase was speechless and Angel was around to witness it. He watched as she tried to pull herself back, detach herself from the situation and shrug it off like none of it mattered. It did matter.
They’d had sex. Every time Angel thought of that, all he could taste was her. All he could feel was her. She was driving him crazy and she thought– of course she thought –that because he hadn’t lost his soul, she somehow didn’t mean as much to him as Buffy.
“Cordy, I–” Angel paused. He could show her better than tell her right now, so he took her hand and led her into the room where his son lay sleeping in his crib.
Angel went to the dresser, paused, then took out his large drawing pad and handed it to her.
She looked at it quizzically for a moment, until Angel nodded, and Cordelia opened it up, her heart clenching painfully as she stared at drawings of Buffy. Drawings done by Angel. She almost flung the book right at his head when she got to a picture of Darla, a couple more of Buffy and then–
The first one was of her sleeping beside Connor. She remembered waking up and being a little freaked that their little de facto family had somehow evolved into sleeping in the same bed together. Then Angel had smiled, handed her Connor and after that it’d just become a regular thing, somehow.
The second was her sitting in the courtyard, the picture shaded to give the effect of the sun beating down on her face. She didn’t know how he did it, but the pictures… He just sort of made them come to life and there were a lot of pictures.
Cordelia swallowed, hard. She was no art aficionado or anything but–Geez. “I don’t know whether to be incredibly flattered or incredibly creeped out,” she murmured softly, “How long?”
“A few months,” he admitted softly, “When I came back after Buffy– I realized that I’d moved on. We both had.”
“Was that the meeting you were never telling me about?”
“You mean when you and Wesley had your impromptu Buffy and Angel show in the lobby?” Angel smiled suddenly, “Yeah.”
A few months. A few months. Since he’d returned from seeing Buffy where, apparently, their meeting hadn’t gone quite as Cordelia and Wesley had envisioned.
She focussed on actually breathing and tried to process what had happened in the last five minutes when Angel gently took the drawing pad away from her and placed it back on his dresser.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She asked while his back was turned and when he faced her again, he took her hands in his.
“Because I never felt like there was a right time,” he shrugged, “There was always something in the way. Buffy, Darla… Or maybe there was a right time, I just– You’re the easiest person in the world to talk to, but this…”
Cordelia looked at him, shook her head, “You face things that most guys would never see in their worst nightmares and this you’re afraid of. My Champion, ladies and gentleman…” She smiled.
“I didn’t say it was logical,” he answered, half-smiling.
It really wasn’t. And here she was, damning a fairytale she thought only existed in her head and–God, they were messed up. “I’ve spent the last week trying to forget everything that happened between us ’cause I thought you were still hung up on Buffy.”
“And now you know I’m not?”
Cordelia looked at him, “Now I know you’re not, I… I have no idea… What about your soul?”
“It’s okay, Cordy, I’ve checked. I’ve had Wesley check. We’re safe… It’s-It’s not an issue.”
She processed that for a moment, completely floored by the fact that he wasn’t running in the opposite direction to be with Little Ms. Likes to Slay… And felt every single one of her now seemingly silly insecurities melt away.
“You mean–” Cordelia swallowed, “We can–Y’know. And you won’t– And that’s why you didn’t last week?”
Angel smiled again, “You’re not usually this tongue-tied,” he told her gently.
“True,” Cordelia nodded, “But it’s not often my best friend obliterates every issue I’ve had over the past seven days in a three minute conversation.” She said, then thought about that a moment, “Actually… You do that a lot.”
He always had done that, for longer than she could remember and longer than she’d care to admit. How’d he get so good at the whole feeling stuff? Wasn’t he, like, Mister Emotionally Stunted, could barely hold his own in a conversation about regular things, never mind actual feelings?
“What about Groo?” He asked, after a beat.
Cordelia looked at him, puzzled, “Groo?”
“Yeah,” Angel nodded, “You’re not–“
“Comshukking like bunnies?” Cordelia teased, squeezing his hand, and wondering with a slight wrinkle of her nose whether he’d have been able to smell it if they had been,
“No, Angel. We’re just friends. Me and Groo, we just didn’t work outside of Pylea. It was just a fairytale… A nice, completely believable while we were in a far away land where they’d made me Princess fairytale. And who needs that when you have the real thing right here at home?”
He smiled suddenly and Cordelia’s breath caught, made her smile back. “I guess that means I love you.”
Angel swore that if he could feel his heart beat, it’d be doing triple time in his chest, “I guess that means I love you, too,” he answered, leaning down to finally brush his lips against hers.
Cordelia grinned and slipped her arms up and around his neck, her body moulding itself into his as he walked her backwards, the backs of her knees thudding softly against his bed.
“Angel?” She murmured softly, right as his lips started working their way down her jawline, “Promise me something?”
“Anything,” he answered immediately, pulling back slightly to look up at her.
Cordelia’s heart swelled at the blatant affection written all over his face and she wondered how she’d ever missed it, how the hell he’d kept it hidden from her.
“No more ballet?” She grinned, before pulling him backwards so they lay on the bed, “I don’t think I could take another week like this.”
Angel chuckled softly, pulling her into his arms,
“No more ballet.”