In the Dark. 7

Chapter 7

Wesley gritted his teeth and yelped, the fiery pain lancing through his body with all the fury of…

“Oh, for God’s sake, Wesley. I haven’t even touched it yet.” Cordy’s voice was exasperated. He opened his eyes and looked down to where she held the cotton ball over the shallow gash in his arm. He raised sheepish eyes to hers.

“Ah. Just practicing.” He looked away and braced himself for the fiery agony of pain.

“I keep telling you, the hydrogen peroxide doesn’t hurt. It’s all in your imagination.” Cordry dabbed at the cut, making sure it was cleaned out. “It’s the alcohol that’ll sting like hell.” She finished dabbing at it and inspected it closer.

Wesley held stoically motionless. Cordy lowered her head and blew on it softly. “That’s a good boy.” Wesley rolled his eyes. She grinned, reaching for the gauze and covering the cut before taping it.

They had just cleaned out a nest of shoklar demons down by the piers. Easy kills, but a couple were pretty feisty. They had all stumbled back to the Hyperion slightly damaged and covered with demon goo. Cordy had tended Gunn and Wesley….and that left….

Angel grinned, pulling his shirt off and pointing to the claw marks on his chest. Cordy sighed, not really seeing a way around this without making a scene. Keeping her face expressionless, she walked to him and sat down, looking closer at the wound.

“Yikes…one of ’em got ya good.” Angel nodded, leaning back and closing his eyes. He had always lapped up being tended after battle; the knight templar accepting his accolades. Cordy smiled to herself. He really was a dork. With a really well-sculpted chest. Cordy caught herself.

Whoa. Do not go there.

Angle watched her from beneath lowered lids. He could hear her heartrate increase. It hadn’t done that when she tended Gunn or Wesley. Nope, it was him. Dorky him. Over the last several days she had softened in her attitude towards him. He had been careful and considerate and sensitive, and she was beginning to warm to him.

Yep. Just a matter of time and careful hunting, and she’d be practically climbing over him, just begging to….

“Hey, Dumbass. Still with us?” Cordelia smacked him on the shoulder. He opened his eyes, glaring up at her. She looked down at him calmly. “All done.” She began gathering up the first aid supplies and walked to the office to put them away. He watched her hips gently sway as she moved and grinned to himself. It was all about strategy.

Wesley sighed, gingerly picking up his jacket and looking about for a moment. “I believe I’ll shuffle off for now….good work, Angel, Gunn.” He looked around for a moment more before sighing. “What a bloody strange life we lead.” And he walked out the door. Gunn nodded his head, his eyes tired.

“The man speaks the truth. And so do I when I say I’m beat. I’m gone.” And he was out the door, letting it swing closed behind him. Angel looked at the door a moment, then grinned to himself, rising and beginning to put his shirt on.

Then, remembering Cordy’s touch and her attention to his chest, he shrugged it back off, leaving it on the chair. Cordy walked back out of the office.

“Wesley, you better…” she looked around at the deserted lobby before looking questioningly at Angel.

“Went home.”

“Oh.” Silence. “Gunn?”

“Home.”

“Oh.” She looked around a little nervously and then smiled brightly and trotted over to pick up her duffle bag and sling it over her shoulder. “Well….busy day, busy, busy, busy….” She trailed off, puffing a small breath out. “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” And she was out the door before he could respond. He sat back, scratching absently at the freshly tended wound as he listened and waited patiently.

In the distance, he could hear her footfalls as she clicked her way to her car, parked in the back. He heard the tired sigh as she fumbled with the key to unlock the door; he heard the silent pause and pictured her, sitting there, lost in thought. He heard the soft clink of the key as it entered the igniton.

And then he grinned as he heard the soft cough of the car engine, sputtering as it tried to turn over.

There was a silence and then several muffled thuds accompanied by vicious cursing. Angel’s grin grew wider. His Cordy could embarrass a sailor.

His Cordy. He looked around, startled, as if someone else had voiced it and brought it to his attention. When had that happened? When had he made the leap from wanting her goodness to wanting her, parcel and package?

And he knew he did, with a certainty beyond any he had ever known. She had bitten off more than she knew when she had saved him; when her voice had brought him back. She had chosen him. He was taking her up on the offer.

He knew it wouldn’t be that easy. There was that whole thing where she loathed him, but he didn’t see that as insurmountable. He liked a challenge. And he had a feeling Cordelia Chase was worth the effort. Gold flashed in his eyes briefly. And he did so enjoy a good chase. He had a feeling that with Cordelia, the hunter could easily become prey if he wasn’t careful.

A good hunter stacked the odds in his favor. He used all the weapons at his disposal. He used the element of surprise. He always controlled the circumstances. And it helped if he knew how to disconnect the starter to a car so it wouldn’t run.

***

Cordelia slammed her fist against the steering wheel. Fuck. Fuckity fuck. Shit. Shit shit shit. Damn. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the steering wheel, sighing. Stupid car. Stupid life. She couldn’t call Triple A; she had already exceeded her allotted roadside assistance calls. She reached for her cellphone and paused; Gunn had been so tired. She couldn’t call him. He had put in a rough couple of days.

Wesley knew how to turn the ignition and that was about it. She looked out the window and glared at the hotel. The last cookie in the jar was in there. She climbed out of the car and slammed the door, pausing long enough to kick it before turning to stalk back around the corner into the front entrance.

She looked around, spotting Angel seated at his small desk, legs crammed into the tight leg space as he studied a file. She walked across the lobby and he looked up, surprised.

“Cordy. Forget something?” Mel and Denzel had nothing on him.

“No…no….” she broke off, hating every moment of this. “My car won’t start.”

Angel popped up. “What’d you do to it?”

Cordy gaped at him. “I tried to START IT, dorkhead. I put the key in and turned it.”

“Ok…ok…tell you what.” Cordelia glared at him as he rounded the counter and walked to her, his shirt still unbuttoned. “I’ll give you a ride home and then I’ll come back and take a look at it. It’s probably some small problem that I can take care of.”

He gave her his most winning smile. She squinted back, her brow furrowed, as if wondering who she was speaking to.

“Ok.” She seemed hesitant. “That’d be….ok.”

He dialed the smile down a notch. “I’ll take care of it, Cordy. I know cars.” He casually checked his pocket for his keys and took her arm, walking her to the door. He ignored the way she jerked her arm back as she huffed a bit. They walked out into the night and she turned to him.

“Listen, the offer is nice; why don’t I just take the bus…”

“I’ll give you a ride.”

“Angel…”

“Cordelia.” There was such implacable steel in his voice she gave up. It wasn’t the first time she’d heard it. Angel often became so exasperated with her, she heard “Cordelia” uttered in just that tone, and she knew he was immovable.

Pick your battles, Cordy. She grimaced. God knew there were probably plenty ahead.

If she hadn’t been so wary of being in the car with him, she would have enjoyed the ride. She loved riding around in his huge old dorkmobile, with the top down. On a beautiful night like this she would have enjoyed having her hair lifted and tossed by the wind.

But she sat tensely glued to the passenger door, silent all the way to her apartment. Angel pulled into an empty space in front of her building and turned the engine off. He had been silent all the way, feeling her tension seep through him. He glanced over at her as she reached for the handle.

“Cordy?” Her hand froze on the handle as she turned to look at him. He paused a moment, thinking. Finally, he spoke; his voice low and even. “Grace period is over, Cordy.” She looked at him blankly. “I mean it. I gave you the space, and the target, and I’m done. I put up with your crap and your anger, and it’s over. We’re moving on.” He looked at her levelly.

She stared at him, feeing anger beginning to stir. “Just like that. I had my cut of the anger pie and now I’m supposed to be full up?” His gaze remained level. “It really doesn’t work that way, Angel. You almost did Angelus proud, there. Set a trap, baited it well, caught me. You don’t think I was terrified?”

“I know you were. I’ll have that face….those eyes….God, that’ll haunt me forever.” Angel’s voice was low. “But it was wrong, and I pulled back. Because it was you.”

“You pulled back because somehow, you tapped into the know that you were about to rape someone.”

Angel glared at her before pushing his car door open and climbing out. Cordy quickly unlocked her door and leapt out before he could come around to tower over her. He walked casually around to her side and motioned her to walk.

“You don’t have to come up, I can walk from here.”

“It’s dark, Cordy. I’ll see you to the door.”

She sighed. They walked silently up the outside stairs to her doorway. She turned to him at the door. The light over her door was broken, and the only light was the silvery shine of the moon. His body was outlined solid and huge, and she looked up into the shadowed planes of his face, trying to see his eyes.

“Let me fill you in on something Cordy, give you a little something to go to sleep by. There wouldn’t have been another “someone.” There was you. I wanted you. I needed you, and somehow, you gave me what I needed. I’m sorry I frightened you; hell, I frightened myself. But that’s the last fucking time I’m apologizing. We’re moving on from here. Get on the same page because I’m going ahead.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

He looked down at her, silent and dark. A shiver ran down her spine, as if something important had just happened and snuck by her without her actually seeing it. He nodded towards her door. “Go on in.” she just stood, looking up at him. Her face glowed in the moonlight and her huge hazel eyes seemed to burrow into him, giving warmth to his cold heart.

He grinned slightly. “I bet you put an uninvite on your apartment, didn’t you?” She nodded, still not saying a word. He leaned down close to her ear and whispered “That’s ok, Cordy. We’ll take care of that another time.” Then he turned and swept down the stairs silently.

Cordelia remained still for the longest time before turning to her door, absently thanking Dennis as he opened it for her and closed it behind her. She walked slowly into her bedroom, dropping her bag on the floor before flopping face down on her bed.

Oh god. She felt as if she was in the dark, looking for something floating just out of range. And somehow, Angel was pulling all the strings.

***

Angel drove back towards the Hyperion, enjoying the breeze of the warm evening. His eyes were shadowed with intent and purpose. Soon enough. Cordy’s path home would be the steps to his bed. And they’d both burn from the heat.

Part 8

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