When Wesley Wyndham Pryce first began to work for Angel Investigations three years ago, one of the first disturbing things he wished he’d never discovered was Cordelia’s penchant for spreading peanut butter on everything she ate.
At the time, Angel had assured him that this was unusual behaviour for Cordelia, who’s table manners were ordinarily nothing short of impeccable, but having just lost Doyle she was prone to eating nothing but comfort foods and had developed an unhealthy attachment to Skippy Brand Peanut Butter, (“Chunky,” he said, “not creamy.”)
Sure enough, Wesley had been working there for less than a week when Cordelia decided to weigh herself and, (recoiling in horror), announced she was ‘so totally over the whole peanut butter thing’. That was the last he heard of it.
It was only now, sitting in his office with all the lights off and an open tub of Skippy in his own hand, that Wesley was beginning to see the appeal. Cordelia was definitely onto something with this ‘peanut butter’ thing.
Okay, granted, Wesley considered himself relatively blessed in the sense that none of his friends had jumped to a horrible death to defuse a bomb or anything, but with Fred and Gunn spending more and more time together, and Cordelia always disappearing into the basement to train with Angel, Wesley’s own sad, pathetic lovelife was thrown into sharp focus.
He was beginning to face the possibility that, (yet again), he wasn’t going to win the girl. Draining the last of his tea, he placed the mug haphazardly on top of a pile of encyclopaedias, and inspected the rest of his Peanut Butter stash. Peanut Butter, he decided, will never reject you. Everyone else seemed to.
Sighing ruefully, he dipped another slice of toast into the open tub and forced the whole thing into his mouth. Just as he was contemplating making another pot of tea, his attention was drawn to the open door leading to the basement – and more accurately – the argument that seemed to be coming from there.
Cordelia’s shrill voice was immediately distinctive, and there was a low grumbling baritone that he could easily recognise as Angel’s… so that’s where they were? Big surprise there. Were they arguing again? Couldn’t they just get it over with and have sex, so Wesley could just go right ahead and die alone in his flat, surrounded by cats?
Moments later Angel ascended from the basement like a whirlwind of black, and without saying goodnight, flew upstairs to his own room. Wesley grabbed another slice of toast, secretly relieved he wasn’t the only one sleeping alone tonight.
It was minutes before Cordelia and Lorne followed Angel out of the basement, moving slowly and seemingly trying to keep as much distance between Angel and themselves as possible.
Maybe he was imagining it, or maybe it was a trick of the unflattering light in the lobby, but Cordelia looked much paler than usual and even Lorne appeared to be a completely different shade of green altogether.
Lost in conversation, they’d made it halfway across the lobby in deep, secretive whispers before even noticing Wes, hiding the shadows of his darkened office, staring at them behind an empty mug and a stack of books.
“Wes? What’s going on?” Cordelia marched straight into his office. Wesley was about to make some excuse about the lightbulb being blown, or the fuse being gone, but Cordelia wasn’t concerned about the lights.
She just flicked the switch without asking, and the whole room was illuminated. Wes clung to his peanut butter, possessively.
“I’m taking the rest of the night off, if you don’t mind. I need some time to myself.”
“Is that peanut butter?” She perched on the edge of his desk, “It is! Can I have some?!”
“Cordelia, I asked for some time to m-” but it was too late. Lorne has managed to acquire two extras spoons from behind the front desk, where they kept the coffee mugs, and the two of them hovered around Wesley’s desk, staring at the jar in his hands, completely ignoring the man himself.
“Fine.” he placed the jar on the desk and leant back in his chair, trying to put as much distance between himself and the feeding frenzy that was about to ensue as possible. Cordelia descended upon the peanut butter like a woman possessed, scooping out large lumps of it and shovelling it all into her mouth.
“Sho.. mots mong wit oo?” she said, between mouthfuls.
“I beg your pardon?”
Lorne scooped out half a spoonful and nibbled on it, delicately. “She said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ And I think she’s referring to the sudden peanut butter fetish. You’ve definitely got ‘mope’ stamped on your forehead.”
“Mm-hm” Cordelia agreed.
“Me? I’m fine, thank you.” Wes shifted uncomfortably in his chair, “I just want to be alone right now.” Lorne shot him a sympathetic look, and Cordelia leant over and planted a greasy, salted kiss on his cheek.
Neither one of them took his not so subtle hint to leave, but then Wesley didn’t really expect them to. He suspected they already knew about the Fred thing anyway. Regarding his two friends cautiously, a thought suddenly occurring to him.
“What just happened in the basement? Why was Angel so upset?”
Cordelia was suspiciously quiet. She tried to bury her face in the jar of peanut butter, but that only served to draw more attention to her. Her ballsyness was conspicuous in it’s absence. Turning to Lorne, he watched him wave off his concerns with a disturbingly well-manicured green hand.
“Oh, it’s nothing. You know how Angelpie gets when he hasn’t slept enough…”
Wes leant forward and sniffed Lorne.
“Do I smell… cigarettes…?”
“MES!” Cordelia confessed, her tongue still gluey and useless with peanut butter. Christ, did she just eat the entire jar? “I wash schmoking, okay? And Lorne got blamsed for it! There, I admit it! I’m a terrible pershon!”
She pulled out the cigarettes and crushed them into a ball, before tossing them over to the other side of the room, missing the bin completely. The empty jar of peanut butter went the same way, landing in the waste paper basket with an almighty ‘SMASH!’. Lorne shrugged nonchalantly.
“She had this ridiculous idea that if she smelled like smoke, the Angellicious one would stop trying to get into her panties.”
“Hey! Leave my panties out of this!”
“He asked, dumpling.”
Wes raised an eyebrow, “Angel… made a move on you, then?”
“Not as such.” she squirmed. Wesley sat up straight, “but he… well, he… there was… a thing. Hey, is there any more peanut butter?”
Lorne rolled his eyes, “Oh for croonin’ out loud, he masturbated in front of her.”
Cough. Splutter. The sudden desire to tear off his ears. Wesley blinked. “… I beg your pardon?”
Cordelia leapt to her feet and paced nervously, “He didn’t mean to! He was doing it in his sleep, and I sort of… walked in on it. And you’ve got to admit he hasn’t exactly been Mr Joe Normal recently… although, granted he’s never been Mr Joe Normal, but usually he can resist the urge to lather himself in my shampoo and cry out my name mid-frottage. I mean, he-LO? Ew! Spank the monkey, much?”
He blinked again. “Are you sure this isn’t some big misunderstanding? Might I suggest, on your part?”
“Yes, I’m sure!” She squawked. Lorne chuckled. “It’s easy for you to laugh – but if he loses his soul, the great, leather-pantsed one comes out to play. Then we all die a horrible and slow, meat-hooky death. God knows, I love Angel – well, not love-love – and that’s why I can’t let that happen.” She ran fingers through her hair.
“How do I divert him?”
“Y’know… divert his sexy vamp lust?”
Lorne outright guffawed at this one, invoking the wrath of Cordelia, who promptly kicked him in the shin. Wesley raised an eyebrow and melted back into the safety of his leather chair, clearly not wanting to be dragged in to this.
Or anywhere near this, in fact. He resisted the urge to point out that Cordelia didn’t have any problems with Angel’s ‘sexy vamp lust’ whenever it came to him wearing leather pants.
“Angel,” he assured her, “is an adult and reasonably mature male. If he’s trying to pursue a romantic relationship with you – and that’s ‘if’, Cordelia – than maybe you should talk to him about this and explain you don’t feel the same way.”
Even though, he added mentally, there’s seldom a day when I don’t catch you staring at his arse.
Cordelia regarded Wes with a facial expression Gunn had once playfully categorised as her “wtf?” face. With an eyebrow cocked and her lips pulled into a half-sneer, she looked for all the world like she was expecting some kind of punchline.
Eventually, when she realised he was being serious, she shook his suggestion off and continued pacing.
“Pfft. What do you know.” she mumbled.
From the top of the stairs Angel watched Cordelia and Wesley’s exchange, the familiar feeling of heartbreak setting up shop in his ribcage department and refusing to be budged. This was what Shakespeare was talking about when he wrote all those sonnets. This is what Manilow probably felt like most of the time.
As Angel felt the beginnings of exhaustion creep over him, he became acutely aware of how bulky his torso was. Crawling into an empty bed seemed like an unattractive prospect, but he doubted he’d be able to lug around his own weight for much longer.
He must have been crazy. It may have sounded cruel or cliched but the truth of the matter was that Angel had a type, and Cordelia wasn’t it.
Everyone has a type. His happened to be blonde and curvy – be it the dangerous peroxide look so popular with the A list starlets of the 1950s, or the au natural, virginal summer blondes that were just so damn sugary cute. Any blondes really, Angel wasn’t fussy.
Which was why the whole situation with Cordelia was so fucking embarrassing, because it made absolutely no sense that she got him so painfully hard and made even less sense that she could annoy the hell out of him while she did it.
Miserable, Angel leant his head against an oakwood pillar and watched Cordelia pace. With his vamp hearing, he could hear every word said. Every intake of breath. Every goddamn footstep. So, Cordelia knew how he felt?
Well, obviously. She’d been going out of her way to avoid him for the past few days and had apparently noticed that when she didn’t, Angel had the embarrassing tendency to glue himself to her side, despite being fully aware he was acting like a lovesick prick. Cliches like ‘moth to a flame’ came to mind.
Even now, completely heartbroken and with a stupid amount of distance between the two of them – (across the lobby, up the stairs and tucked into the shadows, well out of reach) – he found himself staring at the deliciously long curve of her neck, so muscled and warm under his touch that he’d found himself fantasising about being able to feel its flushed heat under his cheek, post-coital, after after sex so good that they damn near passed out.
Damn. He knew Cordelia didn’t love him, but he thought at least she might have had the decency to be flattered, or something. Maybe even be a little attracted to him, or flirty, or sympathetic. Anything but this!
In fact, Angel didn’t even know what he expected, except he knew he didn’t expect her to love him back and he certainly didn’t expect her to be quite so grossed out about it.
But maybe he should have. Expected it, that is. Maybe, if he had had half a braincell, he’d have behaved like the Mr Joe Almost-Normal that Cordelia so obviously wanted or at very least, done a better job of hiding his feelings. And then, at least, they’d still be friends.
He had to fix this, somehow. He couldn’t lose Cordy – his Cordy. He had to swallow his heartbreak and do what he swore to himself he’d never have to do again. Lie like a bastard, and smile when he did it. Tomorrow, he had to be smile-guy.
Tonight though, he could be as broken-hearted and lonely as he fucking well liked. Squaring his jaw, he steadied himself against the banister and walked back to his room.
Absently, he wondered if Wes and kept anymore peanut butter on the premises.
“Okay, ideas?” Cordelia asked, emptying her make up bag onto Wesley’s desk. Wesley, running a tired hand over his face and shocked to discover there actually was stubble there, groaned. “Excuse me! Ideas, people! How do we do this?”
“Don’t you think you’re over-reacting a little?” he said.
“That’s enough out of you, British-Quotient. Lorne?”
Lorne appeared deep in thought. “You could… try dating other people?”
Cordelia shook her head as she rifled her way through her extensive collection of eyeshadow.
“Nice idea, but no. Angel can get extremely competitive and this could result in death. Namely, mine. Anything else?”
Lorne thought long and hard, furrowing his smooth, green brow and scratching one of his horns for emphasis. Momentarily he was distracted by a wonderful shade of rouge lip gloss but then it was straight back to to thinking long and hard some more.
Thinking, he decided, was boring. Instead, he picked up the little tube of lipgloss and began to play with it, turning it over in his palm.
Wesley, who was almost always thinking and found it very hard to stop, was brimming full of ideas – most of which were a variation on him hiding in places where Cordelia and her melodramatic problems couldn’t find him.
Taking a deep breath, he tried offering the first and last piece of sane advice Cordelia was likely to hear all evening.
“Maybe you should just get out more.” Cordelia greeted this advice with a glare, forcing Wesley to clarify, “I mean, try something new. Maybe you and Angel have just been spending too much time together. Since Connor arrived, he’s become quite dependent on you.”
Lorne opened the lipgloss and experimentally dabbed some on the back of his hand. “You could try taking night classes for a while – that ought to take your mind off of – ooh, smudge-proof! Can I borrow this?”
Cordelia snatched it off him. “No. Although the night classes thing isn’t a bad idea. Lord knows, I spend most of my day cooped up here, with you losers.” Affectionately, she ruffled Wesley’s hair with one hand and expertly applied lip gloss with the other.
“Who knows?” she added, smacking her lips together, “They might even have some practical classes for our line of work. Like, Latin 101. Or computer skills, or… ooh! French! I used to love French! Je suis un pomme de la terre!”
Unwilling to get glared at again, Wesley was hesitant to ask how learning French would fit into her everyday life at the office. Instead, he pretended to be fascinated with a landscape painting on the far wall.
“But alas, we’re back to square one. None of this is going to help with Angel, is it? I ca-… well, we can’t lose him.” her eyes watered almost imperceptibly, “What am I supposed to do?”
It was Lorne who took pity on her first, throwing an arm around her shoulder and pulling her closer to his purple-clad form for comfort. It was too late, though. Whatever weakness Cordelia had shared was already repressed.
Her posture snapped into a straight-backed, stubborn position that Wesley knew only too well. ‘Oh, bloody hell.’ he thought, ‘She actually loves him, doesn’t she?’
Lorne sighed, “I may not be much in the brain department, sweetheart, but I know a thing or two about people. If you don’t get out there into the big bad world and sample a little some of that ‘fun’, or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays, all you’re going to do is stay at home and repress emotions a lot. I’m not just talking about night classes, either. I’m talking about cocktails, and speed-dating, and having friends, and all those other highly carcinogenic activities that Cosmo recommends.”
“That’s your advice? You’re telling me to get a life?”
“For both your and Angel’s sakes, heck yeah. Now, pretty yourself up some – I feel the need for tequila slammers.” Wesley’s ears perked up. Tequila? Now that was an idea he could get behind. As Cordelia bounded out the office to get her coat, Wes rose to his feet, only to be stopped mid-air by a hand planting itself firmly on his chest. “Not you, Handsome.” Lorne whispered.
“What?” Wes asked, and after being ‘shushed’ by Lorne, lowered his voice, “What’s going on?”
“You can’t come with.” Lorne whispered.
“We need you here.” Wes had to admit, he felt a little hurt by this. It was one thing to feel socially inept as your friends all seemed to be having fun, but to actually have it thrown in your face? Bah! Lorne patted his arm reassuringly. “We’ll take you with us tomorrow night, but now? You’re needed behind enemy lines.”
Wesley cocked an eyebrow. Cordelia wasn’t the only one with a ‘wtf?’ face.
“Talk to Angel Delight. For the love of God, he’s going to need someone to talk to and it would certainly help if we knew what he’s thinking.”
“What he’s thinking?” Wes sank back down into the comfort of his leather chair. He certainly didn’t like the sound of this. “Why?”
Lorne brought his fingers to his chin, stroking a fake beard that wasn’t even there like he thought he was some kind of evil mastermind.
“Firstly, it’s not going to do Cordelia any harm to get out there and meet some new, less gypsy-cursed men. I don’t care what she says, having a couple of dates will probably do her the world of good. And secondly, Cordy’s perception of Angel being obsessed with her isn’t entirely ‘off the mark’. Something’s iffy with the World’s Champ, and it’s upto us to sort it.”
Wesley grumbled. “You mean, it’s up to me to sort it? You’re going for tequila, remember?”
“Got that right, Starsky.” Lorne took this opportunity to pocket Cordelia’s lipgloss while she wasn’t looking, “Don’t wait up.”