Angel still wasn’t sure how he’d been roped into this. He’d tried not to exert the whole over-protective angle in the car when Cordelia had been wounded, had insisted on patching her up when they’d got back to the hotel…
And for all that? He’d been dealt with this as punishment.
Oh, it wasn’t so bad, he supposed.
There were worse ways to be spending your Friday night, especially in this line of work, but how exactly he’d got here, he still didn’t know.
A short, sharp nail jabbed him in the side and Angel turned, looking guiltily at his best friend.
“How are we losing?” She asked, darkly, “Tell me again how we’re losing.”
Angel knew that look. Angel feared that look.
He stared at her for a moment, wondering how best to answer. My game’s off, he thought, I took a knock to the head.
Actually, it was her fault. Not that he was stupid enough to say those words to her or anything (a death wish, he just didn’t have) but the reason they were losing?
Totally and completely Cordelia’s fault.
He could have blamed it on anything, really. Those reasons he’d mentioned earlier, the alcohol that seemed to be flowing quite well, despite his protests that someone would be sick in his car…
All of those things would have been a contributing factor.
Except Angel knew why he was distracted.
He watched her flicker an annoyed glance in his direction and scrambled for something – anything – to say, and finally uttered words that almost drove the final nail in his figurative coffin.
Her gaze turned to the groupies. Blondes. Like she didn’t have enough issues with blondes and Angel to begin with…
“Well who wouldn’t be?” She asked, cuttingly, “I mean with your little harpies over there!”
“They are not my harpies.” He insisted, realising that he’d barely given them a look the entire time they’d accosted the trio of men at Cordelia’s side, “Besides, I noticed you’ve made a ‘friend’.”
He cursed inwardly, wondering why he’d thrown out that little statement. He could almost see Cordelia’s sarcastic air quotes round the word ‘friend’ and mentally groaned as she prepared herself for battle.
“Hey, at least my not even remotely serious flirtations got me a round from Mr. Cheap with a Buck,” she hissed, poking him again, “What’s your excuse? One boff then you’re soulless?”
Angel had known Cordelia for three years and if there was one thing she hated more than anything? It was losing. “Hey, I wasn’t even!”
“Whatever,” said Cordelia, holding up her right hand, “My point? Is that we’re losing. To Wesley.”
She didn’t seem to care that Wes had trophies for being a Champion darts player from some tiny pub back in England. Her logic – something he seemed to understand less and less lately – was that she was teamed up with a vampire.
His aim simply had to be good or else the world and its occupants were doomed.
Fine, logical, he thought. More applause…except Wesley didn’t currently have Cordelia sitting next to him.
He wasn’t sure when he’d started to notice her perfume or what shoes she wore. He wasn’t even sure when he’d started to realise that she competed with the lights in the room when she smiled, or that every time she was close to him, tiny little pin prickles stood up on the back of his neck.
He’d noticed fifteen minutes ago – right around the time they’d started losing, actually – how alive Cordelia was, how fierce her spirit.
He’d missed her while he’d been gone. Only Angel hadn’t figured on how much…
She was looking at him oddly. He realised he’d been staring at her and that threw him. He couldn’t be having feelings for-Could he?
He’d returned from Sri Lanka feeling awful about not feeling worse for Buffy – the girl he’d loved with everything he had – and it had been Cordelia there to kick him back into shape.
The girl he’d loved hadn’t even been gone three months and already Angel was -looking at Cordelia waving her hand in front of his face. “Are you okay?”
He had this weird feeling in the pit of his stomach but other than that, yeah, he was okay. Very okay, actually. He felt good, which… Okay, freaked him out, a little.
“I was just thinking, Cordy!”
“Did it hurt?”
The corners of his mouth twitched upwards and as soon as they did, Cordelia grinned at him.
“Time to play for real now, okay? No more losing to that Pansy Ass-Wesley!”
He’d rejoined the table, darts in hand, having just thrown a bull and two treble twenties. “How many times do I have to tell you?” He asked tightly, though he smiled, “My arse is not ‘pansy’.”
“Matter of opinion, dork boy,” said Cordelia, getting up and nudging Angel with her hip, “Angel’s turn, right?”
Wesley smirked. It was then that Angel realised, distractions or not? He had to win this one. No speeches about the gipper… It was all Cordelia and, he supposed, male pride.
The ‘harpies’ as Cordelia had named them, didn’t concern Angel.
The eyebrow did.
He took his stance a few feet away from the dart board and threw three treble 20’s straight off the bat, hearing Cordelia whoop behind him.
“I’m way too classy to do that whole ‘180’ voice,” he heard her tell Wesley, “But if I weren’t? I’d so be doing that right now.”
Angel had to bite back his smirk as he went back to the table, Wesley’s ire written plain across his face.
Cordelia whooped again, patting Angel’s shoulder as he sat down, “See? I knew your aim couldn’t have been that bad. Call it woman’s intuition.”
An hour later and Cordelia had emerged from The Head of Steam (not a pub she’d chosen by any means) victorious, clutching her manpire’s arm like a lifeline.
Wesley, on the other hand, looked particularly sour. “I was distracted.” He muttered.
“That’s funny,” Cordelia grinned, “That’s what Angel said when he sucked too.”
They both managed to look indignant at that one but Cordelia let it pass, her mood simply too good to be dulled by her two best friends inability to realise that even they sucked at stuff sometimes.
“I notice how convenient it was that you let Angel take all your shots,” said Wesley, shaking his head, “That could be construed as cheating.”
Cordelia’s eyebrows narrowed, “Excuse me, double-oh-dorko, but some of us have stomach wounds. What did you want me to do, bleed out all over the bar? Please.”
She noticed Angel’s little grimace – whether it was at the mention of the blood or her being wounded, she wasn’t sure. “Besides, it doesn’t matter how we won. What matters is that we did. We rule,” she grinned, squeezing Angel’s arm, “And now we’re going home.”
“It’s no good,” Cordelia declared, throwing her hands in the air, “We’ve been over everything. Everything! And I know I had it on the ride home from the pub because I kept looking at it in Angel’s rear-view mirror.”
She stopped any would-be chuckles at that with the desolate look on her face. Fred had ventured downstairs a moment ago to join in with the reminiscing of the night, even though she hadn’t been there.
Had even tried to help Cordelia look for it (a way to pay her way, she guessed, since she didn’t have any actual money or job prospects or anything) but so far, they’d turned up nothing and Cordelia just kept on looking more and more depressed.
If it were anything else – a shirt, maybe, like one of the ones he had bought her post-insano period, Cordelia mightn’t have minded. They were easier to replace than a necklace that had come from nine-thousand miles across the world.
And what were the chances of Angel getting all depressed again and deciding he needed to hide out and brood somewhere? It wasn’t like the love of your life up and died on you every day, was it?
Sighing, Cordelia stood up, mindful of her sucking stomach wound. “I’m going home,” she told them, grabbing her purse and keys off the counter, “I’ll be here bright and early tomorrow.”
She declined Angel’s offer of a ride home. She’d rather walk, she told him, maybe have her own little brood session on the way home and wonder why it meant so much to her.
Oh, she’d explained it alright. The guys never bought her anything. Ever. Not unless she left subtle hints like magazines with things circled and the word “want” written next to them.
This gift – aside from the clothes – was the first gift Angel had got her without being prompted by, like, crushing guilt or whatever.
It was the first gift he’d got her since their friendship had got back on track and that was why it meant so much to her. Not the nine-thousand miles or even just the general prettiness of the necklace. It wasn’t flashy or expensive but it was hers.
Picked out for her by Angel, and that was why Cordelia was so damned upset over losing it.
Sentimental value, that was it. It was the one time Cordelia would willingly admit that Wesley was right!And the one time she wished he wasn’t.
She reached her apartment an hour after leaving the hotel, noticing three messages blinking on her machine but not bothering to listen to them.
She’d retraced her steps once round the courtyard, once back to the pub and even looked in Angel’s car again before she’d given up and gone home, deciding that Phantom Dennis and a little time with the loofah could maybe make her happier.
Dennis, of course, was transfixed with the current dilemma on screen. Something about babies and infidelity and!Well, things that generally chalked up to the likes of Jerry Springer having a job.
Trash, really. But trash her ghost couldn’t keep his eyes off.
“Hey, Dennis,” she greeted him, the corners of her mouth lifting against their will as Dennis flickered her TV in return. “Jerry again, huh?”
She wondered if he knew that one of his biggest fans was actually a ghost whose mother had bricked him into a wall when he’d been alive.
Walking to her bathroom, Cordelia began shedding her clothes and trying not to think of her necklace. It wasn’t like she didn’t have a billion others.
That one she’d kinda stole from the museum that time, when Angel had dressed up as a Ratpack vampire. That was pretty.
And it had some sentimental value, she guessed, if she wanted to remember Angel going all wacko and biting Rent-a-Cop.
“See?” She murmured to herself, annoyed, “It was more than just a necklace!”
Gently- or as gently as she could when she was that pissed, anyway, Cordelia peeled away at the bandage Angel had placed over her stomach, switching on the water.
She felt all kinds of skanky after the brush with the Nestor demons and losing her necklace had only made her feel worse. She stepped gingerly under the spray, wincing as the water hit her stomach but rode it out, waiting until the water started to work out some of the knots in her shoulders.
Tense, thy name was Cordelia Chase.
The shower didn’t work out all the knots. But when Cordelia was suitably shampooed and bandaged up again, dressed in her robe and pink fluffy slippers, she at least felt halfway human again, though she was still upset about the necklace.
She headed back to her living room, smiling as she’d noticed Dennis had picked up her clothes, and let out a yelp of surprise when a dark, hulking figure flanked her from the kitchen, carrying!A tray of coffee?
“Damnit, Angel!” She yelled, “What the hell are you doing?”
He looked pretty guilty for all of a millisecond until he remembered the reason he was here – or so it seemed – and crossed her room to put down the tray of coffee, turning back towards her.
“I just- You looked so upset when you left, so…” He gestured down to the table. There, on its surface, lay three kinds of ice cream. The three kinds Cordelia actually liked.
She blinked at him for a moment, confused. “I looked upset so you went and bought me ice cream?”
“No!” he protested, “!Well, yes but… I just thought you could do with some cheering up, that’s all.”
Cordelia sighed, “Angel!”
“That and I found your necklace.” He reached into his pocket and, much to the amazement of Cordelia, produced the very same necklace he’d brought back from Sri Lanka with him.
Cordelia gasped and rushed forward, snatching the item out of his hands, “How did you-I looked everywhere! Where was it?”
“Under the bench seat in my car,” he smiled, “It must’ve slid back there when I was parking up.”
Cordelia gawped at him again, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing his cheek, “My hero!” She declared happily, “I knew you’d find it.”
Angel chuckled and held on for just a fraction of a second longer than was necessary, before pulling away. “I brought some movies too. I thought maybe we could…”
“Hang out?” Cordelia finished his sentence for him, laughing as the TV flickered indignantly, “Think you can put up with Jerry for half an hour before we start with the movies? I’ll even share my ice cream…”
“Deal.” Angel smiled, before growing a little more serious as he watched her sitting down on her couch, “Cordelia?”
“I just… I wanted to say thanks. For what you said earlier. About Buffy.” He paused and Cordelia knew that it still pained him to talk about it, but he was okay.
He was getting better.
“I meant it, Angel. I miss her too. Not that we were ever close or anything!” Definitely not like sisters as she’d once suggested, “-But I understand what she fought for and that’s our fight too.”
She waited until he sat down at the other end of her sofa and curled her feet beneath her, staring at him. “You gave me that and that’s why I was so upset about losing the necklace. Not just ’cause you never buy me anything, I mean you don’t,” she teased,
“It’s just-I guess with Fred being here and after everything that happened last year, it’s kinda like our new start.”
Angel smiled. “Our new start. I like that.”
“Me too,” Cordelia grinned, “Of course I’ll like it even better if you keep buying me things, Scrooge…”
Angel chuckled. Only Cordelia could work both a compliment and an insult into a conversation and still have you smiling.
“Okay, kidding,” she laughed, “Well, maybe… It is my birthday soon… And after that it’s Christmas…”