Cordelia had her chin on his shoulder as Angel carried her the last remaining steps to the car. The others had stopped back at the table to pay for their meal using the company card and to gather their belongings.
“You’ll tuck me into bed?”
That question sounded like the start of one of his many Cordelia fantasies. Holding her while discussing anything related to his bed was definitely dangerous as subjects went. “That’s where you belong until the demon is dead and your migraine goes away.”
I belong in his bed, Cordelia twisted his words to suit herself. A smile curled the corners of her mouth at the idea that he’d said so. Now if only she could get Angel to read between the lines like she did. Unfortunately, her manpire was as thick-headed as he was handsome.
Angel opted to drive, though it was a toss up between that and continuing to hold Cordelia. He’d left that up to Wesley and Fred. Gunn took shotgun while Angel sped all the way back to the hotel.
Then he had her in his arms again and this time she did protest considering that time was short. “I’ll just go upstairs myself. Maybe Fred can get me my purse and a glass of water. It’s almost time for big ugly to show up.”
“I’ll tell her,” Angel promised, but he made no move to stop until he had deposited Cordelia on his bed. “I want you to rest. We’ll deal with the demon.”
Bending over, he ran a hand down her calf along the sheer silk nylons to remove her shoe and repeated the move with the other. Angel set them down beneath the bedside chair as Cordelia sat on the side of his bed watching him and wondering what it would be like to be here without the vision headache and him having to rush off to save the patrons of Taco Haven from a nasty demon.
Angel was about to tell her to slide under the covers when he noticed the bulky clip at the back of her head holding her hair up. Reaching out to remove it, he simply said, “You can’t sleep like that.”
Cordelia felt her hair tumble down her back and across her shoulders. The moment Angel combed his fingers through her soft tresses, Cordelia felt her decision to grow it out again after her return from Pylea was a good one.
Even if his touch was meant to minister to her pain with kindness, Cordelia wanted it to mean something else. She turned her face into his open palm, closing her eyes for an instant as she slipped her legs onto the mattress.
As promised, Angel tucked her into bed pulling the covers up high and tucking them under her arms. For a moment, he simply looked down at her, hovering close as if he was considering something. Cordelia wanted nothing more than for him to close that distance and press his cool lips against hers. They tingled with need despite the ache in her head.
“Make it better, Angel,” she whispered. “Make it go away.”
With his hand against her cheek, Angel brushed his mouth against her forehead like best friends and even big brothers might do, though he mentally wiped out the latter consideration as soon as he’d thought it.
“Time to go, but I’ll be home soon.”
Cordelia knew the moment the demon was dead. The last remnants of her migraine vanished as if it had never existed. While she really wanted to stay snuggled up in Angel’s bed, she was too concerned about the boys coming back with injuries that might require patching up.
She was down in the lobby with Fred, the First Aid kit at the ready by the time they arrived back at the Hyperion. Fred had changed into casual clothing, but Cordelia hadn’t bothered to look for anything. She was still wearing her short black dress, but only brought the shoes as far as the lobby rather than putting them on again.
“What are you doing out of bed?” Angel asked as Cordelia rushed over to meet them at the door.
Not bothering with an answer, Cordelia was too busy checking the three of them for signs of injury. She was appalled by the amount of blood coating their clothing. “Tell me that’s demon blood and not yours.”
“We’d be lying,” Wes confessed as he limped toward the couch. He was pressing a handkerchief tinged with red to his shoulder. “Angel took the brunt of it as usual. I think Gunn and I escaped with contusions and superficial lacerations.”
Fred was wide-eyed as she looked at the trio. Turing to Cordelia, she asked, “How can I help?”
“You take Gunn while I patch up Wes,” Cordelia pointed to the peroxide, antiseptic and bandages. “I’ll deal with Angel in a minute.”
“He’s the worst,” Fred pointed out. “Shouldn’t we fix him up first?”
Angel assured her, “I can wait.”
Cutting in, Gunn reminded her, “Living Dead over there is already healing. You won’t be able to tell he was injured in the morning. Wes and me ain’t so lucky. So being first in line for a little TLC is justice.”
“That does seem fair,” Fred agreed with all seriousness. Then asked, “How’s Taco Haven? Did it survive the demon attack?”
It hurt when Angel laughed, so he kept quiet as Gunn assured the taco-loving Texan that after a few days her favorite restaurant would be back in business. Her relief at the news was visible.
Cordelia and Fred quickly tended to the minor cuts of their human companions and then it was Angel’s turn.
“Stop squirming, you big baby. It can’t be that bad,” Cordelia complained dabbing hydrogen peroxide onto the angry red claw marks crossing Angel’s chest.
Protesting, Angel answered, “You’re not the injured party.”
“Sit back and don’t move. How can I clean this properly if you keep moving around like that?”
“It stings,” he told her as he flexed his shoulder and shifted his legs again. “Maybe you should blow on it.”
Rolling her eyes, Cordelia pursed her lips and blew air across his chest. “Better?”
“Not really,” he might have been pouting, but Cordelia had seen him injured far more seriously to believe that. Angel rubbed at the open area on his chest as if to wipe away the irritating antiseptic.
“Now look what you’ve done,” Cordelia sounded incensed as she pushed on his uninjured shoulder to keep him steady. “I’ll have to start over.”
Angel honestly gave her an out, “I’ll be fine.”
“Pfft! Like I haven’t heard that before,” she waved off the suggestion. Grabbing more clean cotton balls, she moistened them with the cleanser and started her task over. “I saw that. You moved.”
“You asked for it, buddy,” Cordelia harrumphed as she climbed onto his lap to stop him from squirming across the couch. “I told you to hold still.”
Angel realized he got more than he bargained for by teasing Cordelia. She always took her Florence Nightingale routine very seriously. He almost hated to admit to himself how much he looked forward to these little first aid sessions.
Not that he had ever considered getting himself injured purposefully; it was just nice that Cordelia cared enough to take care of him as if he was a man and not just a vampire.
Like a friend would, Angel issued himself a stern reminder even as his hands grabbed onto her hips to steady her as she balanced on his thighs. Realizing that his fingers were pressed into the firm globes of her bottom, he moved them away only to settle on her upper thighs. His thumb brushed against something and Angel’s eyes darted down to see that her the edge of her dress had hiked up to reveal a black silk garter holding up her stocking. All he had to do was press his thumb up just a fraction to touch her skin.
That’s not on the list of things to do tonight, he reminded himself. Friends do not feel each other up, dammit. She just smells so fucking good. Bet my bed will be full of that scent tonight.
“Almost done,” Cordelia told him oblivious to the position of his hands or the reason for his sudden stillness. She was too focused on measuring out the right length of tape to stick to the 4×4 gauze sponges covering his wounds.
“Good, just hurry,” his voice sounded almost gruff.
Cordelia paused long enough to ask, “What’s your rush? Don’t tell me you have plans to patrol around the shelter again.”
“No,” Angel denied quickly. “I think that situation is resolved.”
Taping the last 4×4 in place, Cordelia raised a brow and tried her best to sound only vaguely interested. “Really?”
“Definitely,” he answered realizing that if Cordelia didn’t move soon she was going to be find out just how friendly some parts of him could be.
Angel lifted her to her feet and stood up at the same time. She looked a little puzzled by his hasty actions. Stepping closer, Cordelia commented, “We were cheated out of our dance. You owe me one, broody.”
“Maybe when we all go out again in six months or so,” Angel nodded to her dismay.
“Six months,” Cordelia actually believed he meant it as she fisted her hands on her hips. “You’re like the Scrooge of Fun. Bah Humbug! You wouldn’t know fun if it came and bit you on the ass.”
“Actually,” he defended himself, “I’m planning a little fun right now. Your three-eyed demon has made me miss most of the hockey game. If I hurry, I can catch the end of it.”
Cordelia thought Angel’s idea of fun needed some serious work. “Hockey again?”
Just as Cordelia was actually contemplating taking up an interest in…*shudder*…ice hockey, Gunn called out, “Yo, Barbie! Ready to hit the road? Thought you might want a lift home.”
“Yeah,” she called out over her shoulder. “Be there in a sec.”
Angel felt certain Cordelia was going to call him on his escape routine. Hell, it was so obvious that he had to get away from her he could already hear the accusations.
Say something, he urged himself trying to think of words that would reassure her that he was in no way lusting after her. That arched brow and defiant stance had him worried. Had she guessed that he wanted nothing more than to drag her up to his lair and discover every delicious secret her body had to offer?
Even if Angel didn’t have a hope of convincing himself that he felt only friendship for Cordelia Chase, he was determined to keep her unaware of that fact. “You’re such a pal. Thanks for the patch up job.”
Cordelia watched as Angel bounded up the stairs. Glancing around the lobby seeking denial of that state of being, she found that Wes and Fred had already vacated the area. Gunn was leaning up against the front counter as Cordelia queried, “I’m a pal?”
“A good one too,” Gunn walked over, slung his arm around her shoulder squeezing tight. “Grab your shoes, woman. Let’s roll.”
“I so need my own car,” muttered Cordelia suddenly hating her dependence on the bus or one of her vehicle-owning friends. “Maybe a jeep. A yellow one.”
Gunn only laughed, “You planning on asking Wes for a raise? Good luck with that. I think you’ll stand a better chance hinting to David Nabbitt that your birthday is coming up.”
Following Gunn out to the curb, Cordelia thwacked him on the back of the head. “I’ll settle for a shopping spree. After tonight, I think I deserve one.”
A pal? Cordelia stared blindly out the truck window as Gunn drove her home. After all of the subtle hints and open flirtation, Angel had no idea she was in love with him. Lately, it seemed like he tried to avoid looking at her even like the other guys did.
As if he found her so commonplace she was hardly worth glancing at unless it allowed him to play the part of the big brother or the dashing hero.
Cordelia waved her hand toward Gunn as he drove away, but her thoughts were all on the vampire back at the Hyperion Hotel. “Just you wait, Angel. Tomorrow, the kid gloves come off.”
Bright and early…almost too bright and too early…Cordelia dragged Fred on her carefully planned shopping spree. “I’m tired of being subtle. If that stubborn vamp wants to think of me as his pal, then he’s damn well gonna think of me as his sexy playmate.”
“Oh my,” Fred followed Cordelia around from shop to shop.
“I practically straddled him last night,” Cordelia realized suddenly. “He was thinking about his hockey game.”
Fred pointed out, “Angel is used to having you in his lap and holding you in a non-romantic way. Y’know, with the visions and all. You were just treating his wounds.”
“I practically drooled on his naked chest when I was patching him up. All he did was sound grateful that he had time to watch the game.” Cordelia shrugged, “Who knew vampires liked hockey so much anyway.”
Reasoning easily, Fred responded, “It’s an indoor sport played mostly at night.”
“Hmph!” Cordelia was not impressed. “I know of one indoor sport played mostly at night he’d be interested in if he ever opens his eyes. Just for a second last night, when he was tucking me into bed, I thought he wanted me. It was the way that he touched my hair.”
Fred hurried to keep the pace as Cordelia strode along in front of the stores. “Maybe he’s tactile rather than visual. Reacts to things more by touch than sight.”
Coming to a rapid halt, Cordelia glanced into the storefront window, her mouth curving into a conspiratorial smile. “Fred, did anyone ever tell you that you were a genius?”
“Yes, actually,” Fred nodded quite seriously. “Many times. Mensa has it documented using the Stanford-Binet, Wechsler and Cattell scales.”
Rolling her eyes, Cordelia grabbed Fred by the wrist and pulled her into the store, “I have an idea. C’mon.”
Now standing directly in front of the store’s exclusive bed linen display, Fred gaped at the scene forming in her head. Suddenly, Cordelia’s idea seemed all too clear. “Oh my.”
“Oh, yes. This is it, Fred. I’m pulling out all the stops for this and before the night is over, Angel will be mine.”
“Well that’s certainly a tactile way to go,” Fred considered. Her voice vibrated a little with nervousness as she pointed out, “You seem certain my theory will work. It’s just a hypothesis, Cordy.”
“Fred, I told you I’ve learned a lot from Cosmo,” Cordelia assured her. “That includes more than just a few flirting tips and makeover advice.”
Clueless, Fred could only ask, “It does?”
Picking up the corner of the top sheet on the display, Cordelia ran it across Fred’s arm and watched her mouth form a circle of surprise. “That’s really nice.”
With a smirk worthy of Angelus, holding the sensually smooth fabric up to her cheek and letting her fingers trace down the folds, Cordelia explained, “No man can resist 900 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.”