Sundays at the Hyperion were usually pretty slow. Cordelia wasn’t entirely sure why this was. It’s not like evil was busy going to church or having brunch or reading the paper. For whatever reason, Cordelia was not surprised at how silent and empty the hotel seemed when she walked in. Then she realized the lobby wasn’t empty.
Wes sat behind the counter, surrounded by books. He didn’t look up; he didn’t appear to notice she was standing there. Cordy registered how tired he looked. Older. Tense.
Okay, something is off here. Wes doesn’t look like a guy who’s just gotten the girl.
She walked over to the counter. “Hey,” Cordy said softly. “What’s going on?” He jumped a little at the sound of her voice.
“Oh, nothing. Nothing at all,” he told her. “Just, uh, just getting caught up. On research.” He glanced down at the notes he’d been furiously scribbling, than back at her.
Cordelia leaned on the counter. “Find anything interesting?”
“Uh…” Wes seemed to hesitate. “No,” he said, in a voice that sounded unfamiliar. Hard. Cold. He seems cold. He sighed. “Can I help you Cordelia?”
This is really too weird. If he’s having all these amazing kisses, why’s he so fucking crabby? “Where’s Fred?” she asked.
Wesley’s jaw clenched and suddenly his eyes were everywhere but on her. “She and Gunn just left to go catch an afternoon movie.”
“Sounds like fun,” Cordelia said mildly. “Why didn’t you go?”
Wes looked directly in her eyes. He said in a quiet voice, “I didn’t want to intrude.”
Huh? “Why would you be—”
“Look Cordelia,” Wesley interrupted. “If you don’t mind, I’m rather busy here.”
Cordelia’s forehead wrinkled. “Sure. I’ll just head downstairs. I thought I might train for awhile.” She started to round the corner toward the door to the basement, then stopped and looked back at Wes.
He was back hunched over his notes. He looked so lonely and small, sitting behind the counter in the big empty lobby. He must have felt her eyes on him. He looked up.
“What?” he said in a tired voice.
“Uh, nothing,” Cordy told him. He offered her a small half smile and turned back to the books. “So where’s my sweetie?” she asked.
“Basement,” Wesley mumbled, not looking up this time.
Cordy’s mouth dropped open. What was her baby doing in the chilly dank basement? “Connor’s in the basement?” she repeated loudly.
That got his attention. “Hmmm, what? Connor? No. No. Connor’s upstairs with Lorne. Just went down I believe.”
“So why’d you say he was…” Cordy started to ask. Then she saw how pained Wes looked. She was starting to get very creeped out. And not the good Angel kind of creeped.
“Nevermind,” she told him. “Don’t work too hard.”
Cordelia was so lost in thought, trying to understand Wesley’s confusing behavior, that she was halfway down the stairs before she saw. And what she saw stopped her in her tracks. Oh my.
Apparently Angel hadn’t known the punching bag had Cordelia’s name on it. She watched as he launched a full-scale attack on the bag. Maybe the bag said something about his hair.
Normally Cordy would have laughed at that thought. But there was nothing funny about this. He looked so intense. He gave small grunts of exertion every time his fist made contact. They each tugged at something deep inside of her.
He must have been at this for a while. Angel had taken off his shirt and the tattoo on his back glistened as he moved. A bead of sweat rolled off his pec and down over his abdominals and Cordy forgot how to breathe. Sweat is not sexy. Sweat is not sexy. Why is this so sexy?
Cordelia was overcome with pure feminine awareness. She had never been so completely aware of Angel before. Even back in the day, when she harbored an obvious attraction to him, it was just that. Attraction. A crush. It wasn’t…carnal. Not like this. And then we came to L.A. Where it was about scraping by and setting up a business and a life and just surviving; she had forbidden herself to think of him that way from the beginning.
It was a distraction neither of them needed. And I didn’t. He was just Angel. Non-threatening, non-lust-inducing, asexual Angel. And then, at the ballet…
He really is gorgeous. Cordelia liked to joke about the pale skin, but on him, it worked. He was like…a big white cat. Cooly beautiful but dangerous. She remembered how that skin had felt. She remembered it perfectly. It’s like I can still feel him. Cordy bit her lip.
She’d touched him before that night, of course. Countless times she’d patched him up. Wrapped bandages around his chest. Cleaned out stab wounds. Put Neosporin on deep scratches. But that night at the ballet, touching Angel, it hadn’t been like all those times before. There was nothing clinical about it. Only him and his cool pale skin and his undefinable scent. I couldn’t place it. It wasn’t Polo. Or Old Spice. It was just Man.
Cordy had been struck by the power, the centuries-old power under her fingertips. The tie had come off and his collar unbuttoned (okay, not exactly, I ripped it) and there was all that cool, tightly coiled strength, just beneath his skin. And yet, it wasn’t scary or threatening or even weird. She wasn’t scared of his strength. She wasn’t scared when he held her. It had been nice and safe and, well, sexy as hell.
God why do I remember so much from that night? I was possessed! Possessions are supposed to make everything really hazy. Right? But no, not for me. I get possessed and I’ve got memories that are better than late-night Cinemax. And why is the whole Cordelia McLusty act kicking in right now? Where was it last night? With Groo?
Cordy’s heart was practically pounding out of her chest. That must have been what announced her presence, because she hadn’t made a sound. She hadn’t been able to. Angel froze mid-punch.
“Cordy. Hi,” he said quickly. He looked more unsure than surprised. He offered her a small, nervous half-smile. Than the momentum of the punching bag knocked him down.
Angel sat, flat on his ass, staring straight ahead and looking half shocked and half mortified. Than he turned his head to her. Be nice. Don’t laugh. Give him that much. He saw your boobs on Thursday and didn’t say one word to Gunn. Don’t laugh.
Cordelia cracked up laughing.
Thank God Angel put an end to my whole heavy-breathing stalker-ness just by being Angel. Sexy hard-body man was gone. Leaving only her best friend, still sprawled on the floor.
She walked quickly down the rest of the stairs, crossing to where he sat. He looked up at her and, she couldn’t help it, one quick chuckle slipped out. He rolled his eyes. That’s new. Cordy smiled and shook her head from side to side, as if to say “Tsk Tsk.” Angel gave a rueful grin and she ignored the odd tightness it created in her chest.
Just indigestion. I mean, what else could it be? She offered him her hand.
He reached up and took it. And suddenly Cordelia was back in racing-heartbeat mode.
Angel’s hands. Why did I never notice Angel’s hands before? Big. Cool. Slightly calloused. Not rough, but not soft either. Masculine, in a way that had made her feel even more feminine, because of the contrast. Helplessly, she flashed back to the ballet. How his hands, the hands she was holding right now, had gripped her hips as he kissed his way down her stomach.
Stop. Don’t go there. Don’t think about that.
Cordelia was still holding his hand. Neither of them had moved. Angel was still on the floor, looking up at her. He’s totally worried that I’m losing it. First I make him go to a brothel for me and now I act like I’m a hand collector. He probably thinks I’m a big giant freak. Which is incorrect. I’m a gigantic COLOSSAL freak.
She dropped his hand immediately. Or more accurately, she flung it away from her like he had leprosy. He coughed and sprang up all by himself.
“So, uh,” Angel said, scanning the room, “what are you doing here?” He started walking around the basement, not pacing, just…wandering. Cordy’s eyes narrowed when he started peeking behind boxes and equipment. What’s he doing? “I guess we both had the same idea about—” Cordy started
“Found it!” Angel yelled, and reached for a white t-shirt that lay balled up on the bottom stair.
Cordelia wasn’t sure if she was happy or disappointed that he was putting his shirt back on. While she contemplated this, Angel put his shirt back on. And then they both stood there. Talk about awkward silence. Angel sighed. Cordy made a clicking noise with her tongue. Then more silence.
“Where’s Groo?” Angel finally said.
“How’s Connor?” she asked at the exact same time. Then they both smiled. Why is this so weird? I’m not…I can’t be…why am I nervous? It’s Angel.
“Home,” she told him.
“Connor’s fine,” he told her. They both nodded. Okay, this is getting a little ridiculous.
“Well, you were here first,” Cordy pointed out. “I guess I’ll just have to work off last night’s cheesecake some other time. But know this. When people are pointing at me and saying ‘there goes the girl with the fattest ass in L.A.’ I’m gonna blame it all on you.”
Angel nervously licked his lips and swallowed. “You have a…uh, your ass is fine.”
Cordelia raised an eyebrow. “It’s big,” she said succinctly.
Angel looked uncomfortable. “No!” Up went Cordy’s eyebrow again. “I mean, it’s not small. It’s round and, well, nice and, uh, um…”
“Don’t hurt yourself Angel,” she said. “So I guess I’ll just see you later,” she told him. Please tell me to stay. No wait, don’t. The longer I’m around you the crazier I get. I should leave. Tell me to go home. Tell me to go home and have sex with my boyfriend.
Angel just stood there. “Okay,” he told her.
Cordy sighed and she wasn’t sure if it was out of relief or disappointment. She took a step towards the stairs.
“Or” Angel blurted out.
Her head quickly turned back around to him. “Or?”
He rubbed at his temples. “Or…or you could stay. We could do it together.” Cordy’s eyes went wide. Angel got paler, if that was possible. “TRAIN. We could train together,” he clarified.
“Okay,” Cordelia responded, WAY too quickly. Nice Chase. Real subtle.
She walked over to the bench in the corner and put her bag down. Good. This is a good thing. Getting back to normal. We haven’t trained since Connor was born. Friendly, platonic training. Just what the doctor ordered.
While Cordy got a bottle of water and a towel out of the bag, Angel went and took two swords down off the wall. She took a sip of water, twisted the cap back on, put it down, and then pulled off the hooded sweatshirt she’d been wearing.
Cordelia jumped a mile in the air. Her head whipped around to see what had happened. Briefly she worried it was Holtz, or more vampy weirdos after Connor.
But it was only Angel. He just stood there, staring at her. One sword gripped tightly in his hand. The other lying on the floor next to his foot. He dropped the sword? When did he go all clumsy? She waited for him to offer some sort of explanation. But all he did was stare.
Geez, is he even going to blink? Oh, maybe I have something in my teeth. But he wasn’t looking at her teeth. He wasn’t looking at her face at all. He was…Cordy glanced down at herself. No disfiguring scars (well, no new ones). No gaping wounds. Just some Christy Turlington yoga pants and a sports bra…
Oh. OHHHHH. Oh my God, Angel’s checking me out.
And then there was one moment of pure pleasure. Relief that she was still turning heads and satisfaction that this weird new fascination with Angel’s body wasn’t entirely one-sided. And then, she freaked out.
Angel’s checking me out? But I’m not blond! Or bony! He can’t check me out. He’s not allowed to. Cordy was horrified and confused and scared. Angel checking her out, that, that just wasn’t what they did. Oh no? So what was I doing playing Peeping Tom over there on the stairs five minutes ago?
Deciding now was not the time to psycho-analyze, Cordy turned away and bent over, reaching for her sweatshirt. There was a rush of air and suddenly, she knew, he was there, right behind her. Then there was the light touch of his finger on her lower back.
“What happened?” Angel growled.
Cordy whirled around so that they were practically nose to nose. She automatically moved to take a step back, but the backs of her legs were already up against the bench.
“What happened where?” she asked.
His right arm reached around and touched the spot on her back, just to the left of the tattoo. “There,” he said, pushing in slightly. Owwwww. Cordy twisted her upper torso around so she could take a look. It was a bruise. A big ugly purple-y blackish bruise. Her face scrunched up as she tried to remember where she’d gotten that one.
Duh! Last night. Groo moved around a lot in his sleep. She wasn’t sure if it was because he wasn’t used to sleeping with another person or if he wasn’t used to sleeping in a bed. Either way, last night he’d kicked his leg out and knocked her right out of bed. She’d landed on the free weights she’d never gotten around to using.
Cordy looked back at Angel. He looked angry. Why’s he angry? It’s MY back. Oh, he’s concerned. That’s so sweet. He probably thinks Groo’s beating me or something. Cordelia hurried to reassure him.
“Oh that? It’s nothing,” she said, waving her hand in the air, symbolically brushing it off. “It happened in bed last night.”
Cordy had maybe half a second to ponder the storm that rose up in Angel’s eyes, before he turned away from her and reached for the sword on the ground. “Why don’t you stretch?” he ground out, with his back to her.
“Kay,” she said, determined to shrug off the weirdness. Closing her eyes, Cordy clasped both arms behind her and arched her back forward. “Ohhh, that’s good,” she moaned. Angel muttered something she didn’t catch and Cordy opened her eyes. He looked pained.
“Is something wrong?” she asked him.
“No,” he told her tonelessly. She waited. He looked like he wanted to say more. “I’m just surprised you still want to train.”
“Angel, I thought I explained. You can’t always be around to protect me.”
He snorted. “Yeah, but now you have Groo. Your champion,” he said, like it was some sort of accusation.
Cordy’s eyes narrowed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing,” Angel bit out.
Oh no. You’re not getting of it that easy. “Do you not like Groo?” she asked.
“What’s not to like?” he said, his tone clearly indicating that there was much about the Pylean he himself did not like. Cordelia opened her mouth to defend Groo but Angel cut her off. “Look, are you ready to train?” he asked, swooshing both swords through the air and making Cordy flinch.
He had a gleam in his eye she was quite sure she’d never seen before. Cordelia tossed the sweatshirt over her shoulder and nodded.
Well this should be interesting.