Season of Solace. 39

39:     The Quinn Residence, 21 Quincy Street, Eastside, Sunnydale

“You should wear something loose,” Angel suggested to Cordelia as they walked toward her grandmother’s house. “We could make a start on your training tonight.”

Angel obviously had not seen any of her workout gear if he thought the word ‘loose’ actually applied. “Geez, don’t you think school, Mrs. Finkle, and patrol are enough of a workout for one day?”

“Demons don’t really care if you’ve had a tough day, Cordy. They’ll attack you whether you’re tired or not.”

Figuring that Angel was just looking for something to fill the time while they waited for midnight, Cordelia agreed with his plan. Everything so far had come almost at the stroke of twelve. She doubted tonight would be any different. That meant they had over three hours to kill before time to kick off patrol duties, which was plenty of time for what she had in mind.

This was going to be fun, and Cordelia was going to make sure that she was not the only one having it. Grinning at the thought of her little secret, Cordelia glanced up at Angel to find him staring back. They paused long enough for him to turn to question her. “What’s so funny? You need to be ready.”

Angel was on a very different wavelength, still thinking about defensive skills. Fine. She could try to focus on that, too. “You’re probably right. I should change. This dress is not made for too much stretching or bending.”

Testing her theory, she lifted her hands over her head. Out popped the lacy edge of her lavender bra and a generous amount of cleavage. “See what I mean? Sometimes I wish I had a little less up top. Designers seem to think you have to be flat-chested or have humongous hips.”

Cordelia was inwardly cursing some of her favorite designers while covering up again. It took a little bouncing around to get things back into their proper place, which caused her to laugh at her little dilemma. At least it was just Angel who had certainly seen enough boobs back in the day that hers were probably passé. Nor was she expecting him to comment on her issues with the fashion industry, especially now that she could neither afford tailor-made designer clothing and was forced to save up for dresses directly off-the-rack.

Smoothing her hands across her dress, she looked back at Angel half-expecting him to look bored, impatient, or as stoic as usual. Instead, she caught him staring. He coughed out a nervous laugh and turned his head away so swiftly that she wondered if it made him dizzy. Sheesh! “Looking isn’t a crime, doofus.”

For a guy that was almost two hundred fifty years old, you would think he would actually have a little more confidence when it came to women. He had spent all of those months playing lapdog to Buffy, but Cordy knew he was not always like that. She had seen it, sensed he could be different. Maybe it was just that he was different with her.

Whatever! Who wouldn’t be different? Buffy was just a magnet for weirdness, so it was no wonder that her boyfriend was a social pariah, but he did not necessarily have to stay that way. Angel just needed some exposure to things that did not involve demons or scary prophecies.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Angel asked her again clearly still determined to keep her under lock and key for her own safety.

“Angel, I’m not going to let anything Dru said stop me from doing what I want to do.” She was starting to get impatient with the over-protective vibes. It was one thing to make her feel safe, but another to smother her. “Please drop it. Just for tonight.”

They had stopped in the middle of Quincy Street having passed the half-burned out neon sign flashing in front of the motel. Angel looked torn between pleasing her and sticking to his original decision to leave her at home. Whatever Angel had on his mind, he was not about to share it. He simply continued on in the direction of her grandmother’s house.

Cordelia was not sure what that meant. Finally, they arrived. Strangely nervous about Angel seeing the place and meeting her grandmother, she fumbled with her keys for a moment finding it hard to put it in the lock. His hand closed over hers, deftly inserting the key.

“What is it?” he asked curiously. Leaning up against the doorframe, Angel graced her with a smile as if he had figured her out. “I’ve shown you mine. Time to let me see yours, don’t you think?”

Stricken by a sudden brain-freeze, Cordelia finally realized he was talking about the house. Idiot! Of course, he was talking about the house. That didn’t mean she was not going to make him pay for making her think about other stuff that was totally not a good idea to think about.

“Bev has a very strict rule about not letting vampires into the house,” Cordelia turned the knob and stepped over the threshold.

Disappointment was not the half of it. Angel looked like a kicked puppy dog with those big brown eyes delving into hers. “That doesn’t apply to friends, you big dork.” Cordelia reached out grabbing the lapel of his jacket to pull him inside. “C’mon in.”

Angel and Cordelia had not made it past the small front hall before the television in the living room went from loud to mute. Gasping, “Oh crap!” Cordy warned him, “Bev heard us come in. There’s no getting out of meeting her.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Angel said quite honestly. Meeting her grandmother was just another way to know more about Cordy herself.

Using hushed tones, Cordelia pointed out, “Bev doesn’t know vampires or demons are real.”

“Most people don’t.”

A nervous hitch sounded in her voice as she reminded, “Don’t talk about patrol.” Cordy reached up to straighten the lapel she had scrunched. “If she asks you about what we’ve been up to, let me do the talking. No mentioning training or me going to the mansion.” Tucking a stray strand of hair into place, her fingers grazing down his neck to rest on his shoulder, she added, “Bev may be clueless about the Hellmouth, but she’s not stupid.”

Bemused, Angel asked, “Anything else?”

“Just be yourself,” she suggested all too seriously. Catching his expression, Cordy realized she was probably overreacting. Wryly adding, “That doesn’t mean biting is allowed.”

Impulsively, Angel curled his hand around the nape of her neck to playfully tug her close. “But Cordy, your neck is so tempting.” Angel leaned in not quite sure what he was going to do once he got there. Between Cordelia’s sudden squeal and the sound of her rapid pulse beating close to his ear Angel heard the distinct clack of heels on the hardwood floor.

Cordelia felt Angel’s thumb brushing along her pulse point, his lips skimming up the cord of her throat, teasing her. It was a joke, a game, not anything he meant as seduction, but it left her tingling all the way down to her toes. She still had a grip on Angel’s shoulders, her body pressed close to his, head thrown back as she laughed at his sudden act of foolishness.

That was when Bev walked in. Cordy felt Angel tense up. She did too, trembling just a little as his hand slid down her back to meet the other at her waist. Carefully setting her aside, Angel automatically moved into a position slightly in front of her, an instinctively protective stance as he took a moment to assess the woman watching them from the doorway.

Standing nearly as tall as her granddaughter, Beverly Quinn was not exactly what Angel expected. Though the soft lines of her face and silver hair showed her maturity, she was still quite beautiful. It was not hard to see that this was where Cordy inherited her looks.

“You must be Mrs. Quinn,” Angel made the first move much to Cordelia’s surprise. She figured he would still be tongue-tied over the fact that Bev was not exactly the wrinkly old lady type. Considering that she was in her late sixties, she was still something of a hottie.

Bev seemed to be sizing him up. Her gaze slid up and down Angel’s long, broad frame before sliding back over to Cordelia. “So this is Angel. You didn’t tell me that he was so edible.”

“Omigod!” Cordelia gaped hardly believing that her grandmother would say such a thing in front of him.

“You obviously think so, darling. Why bother to deny it?” Bev shrugged her slender shoulders. “No wonder you’re never at home.”

This time Cordy only managed a choked gasp. She looked toward Angel expecting a horrified expression, but he seemed to be enjoying this. His face was calm, but she could tell he was finding this hilarious.

Angel idly wondered if lack of tact was genetic.

Bev approached Angel stopping a few inches away. Retaining her pleasant smile, she spoke seriously, “Cordelia is my only granddaughter. She has more sense in her pinky finger than her mother ever did. So I suppose that means you must be okay.”

“Grandmother,” Cordy uttered from between clenched teeth. She grabbed Angel by the elbow and tried to tug him down the hallway, but found he was not budging from the spot. She sent him a harsh stare, which was answered with the subtle quirk of his mouth. “Angel really doesn’t need a lecture.”

“All young men need a lecture, dear,” she rolled her eyes and continued on. “That brings me to my point. You tend to keep Cordelia out rather late. Now, I have not set a curfew because that would just be silly. She’s already eighteen, you know.”

Actually, Angel did not have a clue having assumed her to be, well, old enough. He was not sure why everyone kept getting the wrong idea about him and Cordelia, but Beverly Quinn had clearly placed him in the role of boyfriend to her granddaughter. Catching him with his mouth on Cordy’s neck might have given her a false impression, so he could excuse her being so quick to judge. He was just curious to see how far she was going to take this and just how far Cordelia was going to let it go.

Not far, apparently. “We’re just friends,” Cordy blurted looking to him to back her up on it. “Friends,” she emphasized.

Not bothering to respond to that, Bev simply addressed Angel, “You’ll learn that I prefer to be up front about these things. After all, it’s a dangerous world these days.”

“It is,” Angel agreed. He wondered if Bev might be more aware of Sunnydale’s situation than Cordy realized.

Bev looked him in the eye. “Cordelia has a bright future ahead of her. I would not want anything untimely to happen. Protection is the key. Just promise me that you’re keeping her safe.”

Mortified over the whole conversation, Cordelia blushed a fiery shade of red as Angel cluelessly assured her grandmother, “Protecting Cordy is my top priority.”

“Good,” Bev seemed pleased with herself for covering the subject. “In that case, you two have fun tonight. I won’t wait up.”

Cordelia collapsed against the front door to watch her grandmother heading back into the living room. As soon as the sound of the television came back on, she turned on Angel with a fury. “Are you completely insane?”

“She seemed pretty open-minded,” Angel defended his response, completely in the dark as to why Cordelia was angry. Grabbing her arms to stop her when she pushed at his shoulders, he asked, “What’s so bad about me telling her I’d protect you?”

“Aarrrgh!” Cordelia tried to wriggle out of his grasp, but just managed to rub up against him. He pushed her back against the door, holding her there until she calmed down enough to explain, “You just told my grandmother that we’ve been having sex.”

Breathing hard, Cordy listened to her own heaving gasps and the noisy sound of a laugh track coming from the television while trapped against Angel’s hard frame. “Sex?” That word on his lips sounded so sinful.

Lashes fluttered closed, her lips parting in automatic response as a little wanton mewl escaped her throat catching them both off guard. That fiery blush suffused her wholly, a jolt of raw awareness passing between them. “Cordelia.” Her name muttered so close to her mouth forced her eyes open.

This time it was a whimper of panic sparking her reaction. “Geez, Angel, let go!”

Angel waited a moment trying to temper his body’s reaction to having her close, the heavy sensation in his loins close to a deep throb. Dammit, he did not want to let go. He wanted to savage that sweet mouth, and fill his hands with the curves he had already memorized. The dark glint in his eyes turned dull as he remembered the line drawn between them. He had a curse and their friendship to consider.

Slowly, he released her wrists leaving a blanched impression of his fingers on her golden skin. He watched the marks fade as the blood rushed back in within the space of a couple of seconds. Wordlessly, Angel straightened up, his eyes focused on hers.

Pushing past him, Cordy immediately headed toward her bedroom at the end of the hall. She flung the door open and stormed inside, but turned still glaring as if expecting him to follow. Angel’s long stride brought him to the threshold in mere moments, but he stayed out in the hall.

Dropping the subject would probably be the wise thing to do, but Angel could not just let it go. “I didn’t say anything about sex,” he denied throatily.

“Protecting Cordy is my top priority,” she mimicked. Grabbing a pillow off her bed to fling at him proved to be a useless choice of weapon. He caught it, of course, but it felt good to let off a little steam.

Angel dropped it back on the bed beside her. “What does that have to do with sex?”

Cordelia stared open-mouthed. He was honestly clueless. “Seriously? We’re not gonna have that conversation. Just get in here and let’s forget Bev brought it up. Sit there while I figure out what I’m going to wear tonight,” she pointed to her bed.

Still confused, Angel chose to sit down. It gave him a chance to think about the fact that Bev Quinn was certainly a surprise. He was pleased that she seemed to have Cordelia’s best interests at heart, even if he had somehow misread their entire conversation.

He listened to Cordy muttering to herself as she opened up her closet and started to sift through the clothes, which were packed thickly in the small space. Half of what she said sounded like nonsense, but he definitely heard the words ‘boinking’ and ‘safe sex’.

The proverbial light bulb suddenly flashed over his head. Bev had been talking about safe sex? No wonder he did not understand her. Angel excused himself for not picking up on it. It was not exactly an issue for a vampire.

Cordelia was clearly embarrassed and angry, but the fact that her grandmother had practically given him a nod of approval left Angel feeling pretty damn good. For about five seconds. He knew that he should not be thinking about Cordy that way, imagining her with him. It was a hopeless fantasy.

She obviously did not want him that way. Both yesterday and again today, Cordy could not seem to get away from him fast enough.

There were other things to consider, perhaps too many to believe that he could ever possess her. Wanting her was such a simple thing, as reflexive as breathing when he did not have to, but it created complications. He was suddenly afraid that if he pushed too fast or too hard that their fragile relationship would crumble.

Desperation stabbed deep at that thought. Angel surrendered to the idea that his feelings involved more than base desire, but he could not identify them. They had crept up on him out of nowhere. This was different than before, filling up a void he never knew existed and to his surprise one having nothing to do with Buffy Summers.

Could he really give up what he wanted in order to keep what he needed in his life? Angel wondered if he even had a choice in the matter.

“So what do you think?” Cordy swung around holding the contents of two hangers out for his inspection. “Red or blue?”

Somewhere in the jungle of her closest, she had left her anger behind. Her ability to shift gears so quickly surprised him far less than her ability to make him do so. Angel figured he probably had a stupid grin on his face, but he did not really care.

Answering, “Take a guess.”

Cordy glanced down at the crimson outfit. Rolling her eyes, she said, “You’re just so predictable. Blue it is.” 

Scene 40

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