Bad Timing. 9

Part 9: Eureeka

Buffy came up stairs fifteen minutes later. She had broken the punching bag. Okay, so clearly I am having a few issues. Healthy aggression. That’s all. She felt better. She was back to being focused on the job at hand.

Not that Angel is a job. Being with him, that’s not a job…is it? No, it’s just harder for us to find our, uh, groove. But it’s still there. It has to be.

Assuring herself that all was once again right with the world, Buffy walked upstairs and opened the door…and the world was not as she expected.

Wes was walking around the lobby but never looking up from the book in his hand—he even handed Buffy a bottle of water, without even losing his place. He was clearly in high research mode. Fred and Dawn sat on the couch while Spike and Xander took turns holding Angel’s miracle child.

Buffy wandered into the kitchen where Cordelia sat at the table, painting Willow’s nails. Willow had that shy look on her face, one that Buffy hadn’t seen in years. It was like she was in awe of the fact that Cordelia was consenting to talk to her.

Buffy didn’t like that look.

Then there was Angel. The champion of the Powers that Be wasn’t sitting in a dark corner or polishing his antique weaponry. He was adding mushrooms and green peppers to a frying pan. He was making eggs. Alllll-right. So that part’s new. Buffy didn’t feel like commenting on the scene—she didn’t know who to address the comment to.

So she just sat down at the table next to Willow. She listened as Cordelia told Willow about the long-term benefits of getting pedicures on a bi-monthly basis. She watched as Spike laughed, no he almost giggled, when Connor spit up on him. She heard Gunn and Wesley arguing in a friendly way in the doorway of Wes’s office.

She took note of the way Cordelia would sneak icy glares in Angel’s direction and of the way he would bite his lip and look down when he intercepted those looks. Buffy silently took it all in and tried to control the growing dizziness that the scene around her evoked.

Angel was at a loss as to what to do. He could tell Cordelia wasn’t entirely happy with him. He might not be great at reading people, but he wasn’t blind. But I didn’t DO anything. She’s got no reason to be mad. Angel didn’t waste much time pondering that. He just wanted her happy again.

Even if she wasn’t yelling at him or anything, the past twenty minutes had been awful. It made him realize just how much he depended on trading looks and smiles with his best friend. How Cordy’s attitude really could make or break his day. He needed her happy…so he could be happy.

“Cordy, you want a couple of pieces of toast with that. Your omelet’s almost done.” Angel offered up. She didn’t look up from Willow’s pinky, only shrugged and mumbled whatever.

“So what are you in the mood for? Wheat? Rye? We might have some white lying around here somewhere.”

“Angel don’t worry about it,” Cordelia said. She blew on Willow’s nails. “Just forget the toast. I need eggs, now. I’m getting all weak from starvation. I don’t have the strength to discuss bread with you.”

“Right, sure, of course,” Angel stuttered. How did she do this to him? She made him feel like a stumbling idiot. “So,” he said, sliding the omelet onto a plate and placing it in front of her, “think you feel like training later. I have a couple of moves I’d love to show you.”

Angel was walking to the refrigerator when Cordelia’s tone froze him in place. “Don’t you think you’ve gotten enough ‘training’ in today? I’m sure if you haven’t Buffy would be more than happy to… finish you off.”

Angel decided it would be in his best interest to shrug that one off. Change the subject. Don’t talk about food or training. “Spike didn’t try anything last night, did he?” Willow and Cordelia both noted how Buffy’s eyebrows shot up with that comment, but neither said anything.

“No. Of course not. Spike was the perfect guest. Luckily, he doesn’t mysteriously get peanut butter on the sheets, unlike SOME PEOPLE.”

“Dammit Cordelia, that wasn’t me, that was y—”

“Whatever. Anyway,” Cordy said, more to Willow than Angel now, “Spike and I had a great time. He’s so funny. It’s amazing that he’s been around for a hundred something years and he’s so up on pop culture. Certain people are centuries behind on what’s cool.” Cordelia knew she was being beyond catty now but she couldn’t stop herself. She was hurting and angry and she knew she had no right to be angry and that was just making her angrier.

And there was only one person to reasonably take it out on. “And, lordie, that body. I love men with that tight chiseled look. He certainly didn’t put on any winter weight. Some vampires do you know. Put on a few pounds.”

“Interestingly enough Willow, vampires aren’t the only creatures that seem to be putting on weight this winter,” Angel bit out before he could stop himself. He heard the swift intake of breath, and in a move largely motivated by self-preservation, he turned to Buffy. “So, Buffy, do you have any plans for tonight?” Cordelia choked on her eggs.

“Oh she has plans. She has all kinds of plans,” Cordy mumbled so quietly that only a super-hearing vampire could have heard. Luckily there was one across the table from her. He merely glared in response.

Buffy had to focus for a second before she could answer her question. The things Cordelia had said about Spike, it’s just that, well, it was so rare to hear nice things about Spike. From someone besides Dawn that is. It gave Buffy the wiggins.

Wait, Angel wants to do something with me. That’s right. One night with the love of my life and it will stop. I won’t feel so gooey when people say nice stuff about Spike. “Dawn and I have to stop by my dad’s later, but I’m free after that. What did you have in mind?” she asked as seductively as was possible.

“Lorne’s club is having it’s grand re-opening tonight. I think you’ll like the place,” Angel said.

“I’m sure I’ll love it. You know, it doesn’t matter what we do,” Buffy said, reaching for Angel’s hand, “as long as we’re alo—.”

“Great. Fred, Buffy and her friends are gonna come with us to Caritas tonight. Can you tell Lorne we’ll need a table large enough for everyone?”

“Everyone,” Buffy repeated shakily.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to pass,” Wes said re-emerging from his office with Gunn. “I’ve hit a roadblock on my research. Won’t be able to focus until I have that Eureeka moment.” Wes grabbed an apple before heading back to his office. “I’ll be more than happy to watch Connor for you,” he said before shutting the door.

“He actually says ‘Eureeka’,” Xander asked no one in particular.

“Okay, so everyone but Wes. It’s gonna be great,” Angel said.

“Yeah, great. Fabulous,” Cordelia huffed. “I get to watch you make goo-goo eyes all night. Oh, and if I’m really lucky you’ll make a total ass of yourself and decide to sing.” The words were barely out of her mouth before Angel’s hand clamped down on her wrist, with an intimidating grip. He didn’t say anything. He just started walking towards the stairs. Cordy had no choice but to follow him, it was that or be dragged.

***

Neither of them spoke. Angel just went up the stairs and Cordelia didn’t offer any protest. She wasn’t stupid. She knew she had been behaving like a cranky adolescent. Angel had every right to be mad. She was actually a little grateful that he had chosen to go upstairs. There’s no way she wanted to have to kiss his ass in front of that group of people.

Angel pulled her into his room, finally letting go of her arm. He reached behind her and shut the door. The look on his face wasn’t unfamiliar, but it was rare that Cordelia ever saw it directed at her. It was anger. Anger bordering on rage. It was a look she had seen directed at Lilah, even a couple of times at Xander.

Not at her though. Not since all the beige-yness. Cordelia leaned back on the door. She decided it might be wise to stay near the exit. Angel stood directly in front of her, silent and unmoving. Finally he crossed his arms. He opened his mouth, then shut it and closed his eyes.

“Okay, care to explain the attitude,” he said in a hard voice. Cordelia hated that voice.

“Not really,” came her sullen response.

Angle raised one eyebrow in a move reminiscent of herself. “You don’t want to talk about why you’re acting like such a, a….”

“I think the word you are looking for is bitch.”

Angel’s eyebrow lowered and his arms fell to his side. He looked a little thrown that she was actually admitted it. He had expected more of a battle.

“That’s what I’ve been acting like,” Cordelia continued. “I realize that,” she said, now crossing her arms. Angel made a funny face as more of his anger deflated.

“So, yeah, well, why? Did, did Spike tell you something last night? About me? I should have never let you go home with him. I knew he couldn’t physically hurt you but Spike, he has this awful habit of talking. He TALKS and ruins everything.” Neither of them decided to point out that Angel had gone from angry to apologetic in 3.6 seconds.

“No, it’s not Spike. It’s… Look, Angel, I’m not perfect.” Cordy stopped and rolled her eyes as she noted Angel’s smirk. He had raised that eyebrow again, too. “Okay, so you already knew that one. But, it’s just, I get a little wacky around the Scoobies. They don’t like me much and they come here and make everything weird and then they leave and you do that whole post-Buffy brood session and I hate that and,” she trailed and took a deep breath. “I’m losing my mind.”

Angel immediately assumed the role of comforter. “No. You’re not perfect but you’re not losing your mind. This is weird for all of us. It’s understandable.”

“No, it’s not understandable, why I was so mad at you, it doesn’t make sense at all. I can’t understand why I start feeling threatened the minute they walk in the door. The minute SHE walks in the door. I mean, I saw you two…training…and I just, I—it bothered me. It felt like.” Cordelia couldn’t finish. She realized she was actually blushing.

Angel couldn’t believe she had stopped there. Finally, finally, they were getting close to something. He needed to hear more. “Like what?”

“It’s like you were cheating on me in OUR special place. Which is like so completely crazy. Because, number one, the basement is not a special place and, two, HELLO. You and I, we’re not, you know..” She said, making some odd motions between the two of them.

“And there’s no reason I shouldn’t expect Buffy on top of you. She has a perfectly legitimate right to straddle. Star-crossed lovers have straddling rights. I get that. It’s just the whole thing, I don’t know, it threw me. Stupid, huh?”

Angel slowly shook his head. “No, it’s not stupid.” So wait, is she trying to tell me that she’s jealous. That’s what she said. She said she felt like I cheated on her.

“You don’t have to make excuses for me,” Cordelia said. She sighed and walked a couple of steps closer to him. “My moment of insanity has passed. I promise.

Angel was touching her before he could stop himself. He touched the side of her face, then tucked a strand of hair behind her ears. “You are not insane Cordy. You’re not stupid or insane. You—.” Angel didn’t know what to say.

I can’t believe the right moment is finally here and I don’t know how to tell her. Should I mention the dreams? Should I tell her I like her, like more than a friend. Geez, why don’t I just pass her a note during study hall while I’m at it.

“I, what?” Cordelia asked. His hand had moved from her cheek to that spot right where her neck met her shoulder. She felt his hand move behind so it was almost cupping her neck and start to pull her forward. Pull her towards him.

Lorne burst in. “Angelcakes. You’re progeny downstairs is wanting some Daddy time. Aunty Lorne just won’t do.” Angel looked down at the ground and let out an unnecessary breath. He released Cordy’s neck and started to walk around her.

“You better come back down too, your food will be getting cold,” he said softly. Cordy nodded but didn’t move, so Angel walked away. Lorne still stood just inside the room, biting his lip.

“Well, do I know how to kill a moment or what?”

“Lorne, that wasn’t a moment, that, it was—”

“It was you two coming very close to waking up and smelling the kyrumption. Don’t worry sweetie. They’ll be another chance. You should probably admit it to yourself first though.”

“Admit what?”

“Admit that you know why you were acting like such a shrew downstairs. You know exactly why walking in on them upset you too much. It’s not a mystery. You were jealous.”

Well duh. Way ahead of you there buddy.

“And you were jealous because…” Lorne said.

Because I’m protective of my best friend. And our purely best friend relationship. And some small part of me, okay, every single female part of me wanted to be the one straddling him. And then I could’ve leaned down and kissed him and told him…that…oh sweet Jesus I’m in love with him. I love Angel.

Cordy wanted scream, wanted to yell that it couldn’t be, but it was too late, it was. Her vacation epiphany hadn’t been that Angel was a hottie. It hadn’t been that he would make a nice fuck-buddy. It hadn’t been about WANTING Angel at all. It had been about loving Angel.

Cordelia’s legs felt weak and she slumped onto the bed and proceeded to bury her face in her hands.

“There you go. Guess you just had one of Wes’s Eureka moments.” Lorne made the comment in a low voice, then turned around and left the room.

Part 10

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