As the Caritas karaoke bar cleared out at the end of the night, Angel felt an undeniable sense of relief pass over him.
It was no secret that Angel wasn’t fond of large humanity-based throngs of people – especially when they all packed into one tight, claustrophobic space. Considering his recent problem, Angel would’ve been quite happy sitting in his nice dark room in the Hyperion hotel, spending some quality time with a roll of duct tape and good book.
He sighed dramatically, and lowered himself onto the barstool next to Wesley. He had to get to the bottom of this thing, and quickly. God knows, he’d handled a lot of dangerous weapons in his line of work.
But ‘honesty’ was the definitely the worst of them.
For his part, Wesley made no attempt at conversation. Once upon a time this would’ve suited Angel just dandy, but for some confusing reason Angel found that his friend’s opinions and temperaments had come to mean a lot to him.
He still wasn’t sure why, probably just another one of those ‘humanity’ things. But with the Englishman being in a very volatile mood with him that evening, Angel decided to distract himself by letting his eyes roam the brightly lit room, waiting for Lorne to finish locking up.
Across the bar he could see Cordelia sitting next to Gunn, and laughing halfheartedly at something he had just said. There was a small pulse of jealousy in the bottom of his stomach, the kind he got when he realised he wasn’t the only man in the world who could make her laugh like that.
He watched her fix her beautiful brown eyes on the table in front of her, still chuckling helplessly at whatever was so damned amusing that Gunn didn’t feel the need to share with the rest of the group.
At least Cordelia was smiling. Angel decided that Cordelia, when she was smiling, was a very lovely thing indeed. He felt himself smiling a little as well, despite himself.
“Phew!” Lorne sighed, as he flopped down on a stool on the other side of Angel, “Who’s for a drink, kids? I don’t know about you, but I could sure do with one.”
Angel nodded, never taking his eyes off Cordy. His Cordy. “Yeah, I’ll take two. One for me, and one for my groin…”
There. He’d done it again. “Did I really just say that?”
Instinctively, Wesley moved his stool a couple of inches away from Angel, but Lorne remained where he was sitting.
“You certainly did. And I think we could all have done without that mental image, cookie. Take it from me, if you’re looking to woo the Fair Cordelia you might want to tone down the smutty remarks and try a little romance.”
Angel was a tad too defensive. “I don’t really have a choice here Lorne. You might have noticed that somebody has cast some kind of truth-spell on me, probably the shaman. I can’t help what I say.”
“No kidding. Did he cast a ‘state-the-obvious’ spell too?”
Lorne tried his best to look unconcerned by Angel’s angry stare, but all the same climbed of the stool and quickly strode behind the safety of the bar at a pace that, quite frankly, he considered embarrassing.
Keeping his hands busy, he started fixing Angel a brightly coloured cocktail which the vampire eventually accepted with great distaste.
“Help me out here Lorne,” Angel subtly left his drink on the bar, and ignored it, “How do I stop this?!”
“Hey! What am I, a magic eight ball?”
“You could be. Do I have to try shaking you?”
“Jeez, calm down. I don’t have all the answers, mister! My guess is the shaman is the only guy who can undo this little truth mojo, so your best bet is to kiss his floaty ass. And repeatedly.”
Angel shuddered, “Couldn’t the mojo just, I dunno… wear off? By itself?”
“How the heck should I know? We’re not even sure what kind of spell we’re dealing with.”
Angel sighed, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Lorne looked sympathetic.
“Okay, Angelcakes. I’ll see if I can pick up from your aura, just… no singing, okay? Let’s try this the old fashioned way. An interrogation.”
Angel suddenly found his arms were restless. He stretched them out in front of him, narrowly missing the cocktail by an inch or two, and then proceeded to scratch his head quizzically. An interrogation? He didn’t like the sound of that.
This could not be good.
“What do you think about… ” Lorne scanned the room, “…Fred’s outfit?”
Angel turned to look at Fred, who was sitting on a chair and resting her head on a sticky table. She looked exhausted, poor thing. He hadn’t really taken any notice of her outfit, or indeed of her, all evening.
True to typical Fred-fashion, she was wearing a plain T-shirt and a long, pretty skirt that came to a rest just below her knees. Despite the circumstances, he tried his hardest to be tactful.
“I think it’s kind of plain actually. But Fred is nice. I like Fred. “
Lorne smiled, “As do we all. Now, what do you think of my outfit?”
Angel sat up straight, a little nervous. How can he be tactful about a bright yellow suit?
“Not plain enough.”
Beside him, Wesley snorted. Lorne frowned, and turned his back on Angel to put various bottles of liquor safely away. Anyone who didn’t know him would think he was just doing his job, but Angel could see he was sulking.
Wesley leaned over towards Angel, fascinated by the experiment.
“This is actually quite fascinating. Angel, how often, if ever, do you crave human blood?”
“All the time, but mostly at lunchtime. Or whenever some bright spark reminds me it still exists…” Angel felt the familiar pangs in his stomach, “Damn. Lorne – any o-postive back there?”
“No.” Was the snippy reply, “Okay, here’s the real acid test: Angel, tells us about the love of your life.”
Wesley groaned, and distracted by folding and unfolding a bar towel Lorne had thoughtfully laid out by Angel’s drink.
“The love of my li-?” Angel’s eyes wandered back to Cordelia suspiciously, “Y-y’mean? Oh!” Realisation dawned, “You mean Buffy!”
“Fickle much?” Cordelia hrrumphed from the back of the room. Angel, with some degree of panic, wondered how long she had been listening.
He gave the topic some serious thought though. Angel wasn’t afraid to confront his past with Buffy… but what could be said about her? How could he narrow years of heartache into the form of one sentence?
She was his first real love, the woman that had inspired him to make amends for his evil past in the first place. He owed her so much…
After some consideration, Angel said: “I think she needs more protein in her diet.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Have you seen her recently? She looks like she could snap in half. I mean, when we first started dating she was… well, I mean… she had…” A series of awkward hand gestures ensued. Wesley snorted again.
Gunn jumped in, “The word you’re looking for is ‘bootie’.” Cordelia smacked him on the arm.
“Thank you. Buffy had, uh… ‘Bootie’.”
“Angel, you dawg! Got a thing for the bootie!”
“Okay, seriously Gunn. Shut up now.”
“Don’t be ashamed, bro! It just means you’re one of us!”
Cordelia intervened, “But I thought she was supposed to be the love of your life!! You two had the greatest melodrama of all time! You can’t tell me you only loved her for her… uh, butt.”
“No, I didn’t say that! But to be honest – between Buffy and Darla, sometimes I felt like a Gypsy curse was the better end of the deal. We were always hurting each other. The one thing Darla and Buffy had in common was that they loved the pain, neither one of them could be in a healthy adult relationship. I think if I was human, Buffy would’ve got bored of me.”
There was a silence as this new piece of information sunk in. Gunn was the one to break it.
“But it was mostly bootie, right?”
Cordelia rolled her neck, “Oh, yay. Please can we talk about Buffy some more? As if I don’t hear enough about Malibu Beach-Massacre Barbie on a daily basis.”
Is that really what she thought? Angel nearly leapt out of his chair, gearing up for another argument.
“No! I haven’t mentioned Buffy in months!! You know that, Cordelia!”
“She’s still there, though. In the back of your head, she’s always there.” Cordelia sounded more bitter than she’d probably be willing to admit.
She slumped back into her metal chair and crossed her arms over her chest stubbornly, with her features drawn together in a stormy expression.
Angel was exasperated. This was a stupid topic. For the first time in a long time, the Buffy Topic was boring.
“Can’t we talk about something else? Before the truth spell makes me point out how stupid you’re being?… uh oh.” That was a bad thing to say.
“STUPID?!” Cordelia squawked, “Said the vampire who dated a SLAYER?”
“Will you shut up about Buffy already? I thought you of all people would have noticed that…” he offered in an almost afterthought, before violently panicking and snatching the nearby bar towel off Wes and sticking it in his mouth as a makeshift gag.
“‘Although’ what…?” Lorne asked, his curiosity piqued.
NononoNONO! This could not be happening! Angel snatched a pen from Wesley’s breast pocket, and scribbled the words ‘TRUTH SPELL!!! SEND 4 DUCT TAPE!!” on the back of a beer mat, with the towel still dangling from his lips.
Lorne smirked. Gunn and Cordelia leapt to their feet, panicking because Angel was panicking and Angel wasn’t suppose to panic. He had even gathered enough attention to have Fred lifting her head off the table in curiosity, even if she did lower it back down and snuggled into the crook of her own elbow seconds later.
Although Wes was stubbornly trying not to be not interested, Angel could hear Gunn approaching him from behind. He spun on his stool, ready to defend himself from any move his friend might make to extract information from him, but completely unsuspected, Wesley stamped on his foot and Angel let out a yelp of surprise.
The towel came falling out of his mouth, and seconds afterwards so did the words ‘IstareatyouallthetimeandI’mNOTmadeofstoneforGod’ssakewhydoyouhavetowearsuchlowcuttops?!’ Angel wheezed unnecessarily and started shaking a little.
Lorne wheezed in sympathy.
There was another silence. Gunn and Wesley hovered menacingly, undecided about what course of ass-beating they should take. To say Cordy looked a little shocked was an understatement. She had confusion written all over her big bambi eyes.
“I didn’t want to say that. The words just exploded.” He offered, by way of reconciliation.
“I ‘m warning you, man… I’m close to exploding you right now.” Gunn said.
Fred smirked knowingly, “He can’t help it. He’s got ‘kyrumption’.”
Gunn scoffed, “Is that what we’re calling it right now?”
Wesley was intrigued, “‘Kyrumption’? Isn’t that the Protou-Bantou rite of passage where the genitalia is se-“
“No,” Fred smiled sleepily, “It means Angel can’t help being attracted to Cordelia because she is his destiny, silly. It’s a Pylean word. They’re destined…”
Cordelia blushed violently, “I’m not anybody’s destiny.”
Angel found himself unexpectedly hurt by such a simple sentence. It wasn’t even an insulting sentence, either – no, it was just as casual defense mechanism that wasn’t even aimed at him. But why did it hurt?
Angel stared at the floor. Was being with him such a terrible destiny?
“There are worse destinies.” He found himself saying, “I’d make a good destiny… a GREAT destiny, in fact. I’m chivalrous. I’m a gentleman! I’m told I’m very talented in bed! What’s so terrible about me? Least you’re not ‘kyrumpting’ with Lorne.”
Cordelia buried her head in her hands, her body laced with ‘this cannot be happening to ME!’ subtext.
Lorne, however, was offended. He threw the bar towel at Angel weakly. “Hey!”
“Sorry Lorne. I think it, I say it. It’s the spell.”
Lorne grabbed the towel and began to polish the bar frantically, almost obsessively. “Well, I’m the one that was trying to help remember? You shouldn’t go picking on me just because you want sweaty naked mink-sex and can’t have it.”
“I’m not hearing this.” Cordelia moaned.
“‘Sweaty naked mink-sex?'” Angel scoffed incredulously, “Right now I’d settle for a back massage and a photo of Cord- holy CRAP, where the hell is that duct tape?”
Cordelia grabbed her handbag and headed for the door, yelling something along the lines of ‘SortthisoutamongstyourselvesI’vehadenoughofthiscrapseeyouallonMonday.’
As a whirlwind of her perfume hit his face, Angel inhaled deeply and groaned in frustration. No way could Cordy ever respect him now, let alone consider dating him.
Lorne stopped polishing, his angry facade dropping momentarily and replaced by pity.
Angel was miserable, more miserable then he had felt in a long long time, and he knew that Lorne could read it all over his pathetic, undateable aura.
“She’ll come around, I promise you.” Lorne said, “Your feelings are reciprocated, but I don’t think she thought she’d ever be in a position to do something about them. Buck up.”
“Thanks Lorne.” Angel said, and he genuinely meant it. Angel felt his spirits lift a little, because deep down inside he knew that what Lorne was saying made sense. It was just like Cordy to hide her true feelings.
It was how she got through day to day.
But how many times had they flirted? How often had he smelt the faint scent of her arousal as she pressed up against him? Angel knew that whenever their hands touched, their fingers lingered seconds longer then they had to. Whenever they were in close quarters, Cordelia felt the good, old fashioned schoolgirl butterflies in the stomach.
Angel knew this, because he felt them too.
And he was a vampire, for god’s sake. Vampire’s don’t get crushes.
Lorne had sprouted off into another monologue that Angel routinely ignored as he pondered the wisdom of sprinting out that door, chasing after Cordelia and forcing her to admit that she loved him.
Probably wasn’t a good idea. The best he could hope for in that scenario was a smack across the face.
“…hello?!” Lorne snapped, impatiently.
“Sorry Lorne, what?”
“I was saying that this kind of mojo can seriously throw you off your game, sweetie. As for example, NOW. I suggest you take your baby-powdered bottom out of commission for a couple of weeks until this whole thing has, excuse the term, ‘blown over’.”
Angel’s mouth opened as if to say something, and Wesley took this opportunity to shove the bar towel back in there to prevent any more offensive noise from escaping.
“That should be fine.” Wesley said calmly, “Gunn and I can assume any of Angel’s work duties.”
“Yeah, it’s not like business was exactly booming anyway.” Fred sighed.
Lorne chuckled humorlessly, “Fred, my little peanut, you need to get some sleep. I’ll go to the Queen of Denial and try to do some damage control. You boys might want to look into that duct tape idea, and also – you might want to refrain from using words like ‘booming’ while His Royal Badness is in this state.”
Angel huffed angrily, and tried to look as menacing as possible without physically vamping out into fangs and bumpy forehead territory.
The effect was lessened considerably by his puffed out hamster-cheeks, the towel still protruding from his mouth.