In the Dark. 9

Chapter 9

Cordelia breezed into the Hyperion, heels clicking across the lobby as she walked into the office. She set the drink carrier on her desk and reached to push the message button on the answering machine. She sipped at her latte and listened, writing down two messages to get back to later.

Later…when Wesley and Gunn were here….and Angel. Later meant Angel. Angel up at the crack of noon, sauntering downstairs, wandering into her line of vision. Staying in her thoughts.

Cordelia sipped absently and leaned back in her chair. Angel in her thoughts had changed from fantasies of torturing and staking him to….she didn’t know. She had several scenarios all lined up. They differed in style, and atmosphere, but all ended with him begging for forgiveness and her holding his life in her hands.

She loved those fantasies. Especially the begging. She had loved the begging in high school…..please, Cordelia, c’mon….go out with me. Now it was….please, Cordelia….I am the wrongest of wrong… the deepest of the low…forgive me or just kill me….I’m so unworthy…..I am shamed at the total wrongness of me.

Cordelia smiled to herself. Men, they fantasized about nude supermodels on beaches asking for help with suntan oil. Women, they fantasized about the men in their lives uttering the magic phrase….I was wrong.

And god, she bet she didn’t even know just how wrong he was. She knew there were three months of not knowing whatever the hell he did to get himself through the day, and the night. What had happened, or almost happened, between them was just the tip of the iceberg, and she was chilly enough.

She didn’t want to know anymore. She shivered a bit and sipped at her latte again.

“Cold?”

Cordy jumped in her seat, sloshing latte on her top. She spun around to glare at Angel, lounging in the doorway. He looked down at the spatters on her top and frowned.

“Jeeze louise, Angel…..get a freakin’ bell…learn to clear your throat…whatever.”

“Sorry. You seemed…preoccupied.” His eyes raked over her top; she shifted a bit. “I’ll get that cleaned…”

“No. Never mind…I’ll fix it…” She frowned, getting up and walking past him to go to the restroom and sponge at the damp spots on her shirt. As she walked past, he met her gaze.

“Good morning, Cordy.”

His brown eyes held hers levelly. “Um…morning. ‘Scuse me.” And she walked on, shaking her head. Good morning? When the hell had he said good morning to her before. He hadn’t. Not even three days ago, when she had awakened alone in his bed and had come charging downstairs, rumpled and tousled, shaken that she had spent the night.

Wes and Gunn had looked up, surprised at her mood, and Wes had explained that they decided the night before to let her sleep. He wondered if she had a bad dream or something. Cordelia had looked at them, equally surprised at herself. She had slept all night in Angel’s bed.

All night. She hadn’t slept all through the night, even in her own bed, since the night Angel had fired them. And she had done just that here. In his bed. Alone. In his….she frowned. In his different bed. That wasn’t the same bed. It was different…..maybe new?

She snuck a look over at Angel, hidden behind the newspaper. After a bit, he lowered the paper, frowning at her. “OK…I get Doonesbury…I finally get Non Sequitur…but Zippy…..completely over my head.” Wesley chuckled. Cordelia stared at him, suspiciously.

“Um…no one gets Zippy, Angel. It’s there to taunt us.” And she had turned and gone on out the door to go to her apartment, missing the grin on Angel’s face as he lifted the paper back up and mentally patted himself on the back for his display of clueless dork.

So mark today on the Cordelia Chase calendar of cataclysmic events. Angel said good morning. She sponged at her top uselessly, sighing. The days of boutique shopping were over. If it didn’t come from Target or Walmart and cost less than 12 bucks, she didn’t want to know about it.

She gave up on the spots and opened the door to walk back to the office, colliding with Angel, who stood right on the other side of the restroom door.

“Holy fucking hell, Angel. What is your deal?”

Angel rocked back on his heels a bit, hands in his pockets. “Well, sailor, I just wanted to say I was sorry again….for the top thing…..”

Cordelia snorted and brushed past him, stalking back to the office. Angel followed slowly, appreciating the sway of her hips as she walked on those stilts she called shoes. Cordy sat back down at her desk and looked around.

“Quiet day. We don’t get a few cases soon, I’m going to have to take drastic measures.” She chattered on, trying to fill the oppressive silence.

“You ok?” Angel’s voice was calm. She looked up at him. “Moneywise.”

“Oh…yeah….I always get by.” For some reason, his question discomfited her. They might have been two friends…one concerned about the other….like they used to be. She met his gaze. She didn’t snipe at him anymore; he thought he’d laid the law down on her, but the truth was, it was getting harder and harder to maintain such ongoing venom.

So….the Queen had settled in her throne a bit and scaled back her full frontal attacks. The air of antagonism had been replaced by a civil air of tolerance. Very proper. Very controlled. She was so bored with civility she was about to lose her mind. She wanted the old days, when she would snark for a raise and gripe about money and he’d ignore her.

But things had changed. More and more lately, the Angel/Cordelia show had flipflopped, and now it seemed…..he was snarking and she was ignoring. Or trying to. And his snarks weren’t really snarks…they were more….Cordelia sat back, stunned. Angel wasn’t snarking. He was….

“Hey. You’re FLIRTING with me.” She paled, hearing the words screech out before she could stop them. She clapped a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide as she stared at him in horror. Maybe he hadn’t heard her correctly. Maybe he thought she said…

“Flirting with you?” He seemed genuinely amused. “Now, there’s a thought.”

“OKAY…yes….a silly, nonsense, whoa, went to the Bahamas for a moment brain freeze thought. Boy, where did THAT come from?” Cordelia laughed loudly, a little hysterically. “Because of course….there is no…flirting. None.” She rose, agitated, and skittered around the desk so it separated them. “Don’t know what I was thinking….” Her voice trailed off as she met his gaze.

He hadn’t moved. He stood there, arms folded over his chest, his expression unreadable. “It’s just not…..” He didn’t move. Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Angel…..” Silence. “Were you….flirting? With me?” Ohgodohgodohgod.

Angel stared at her across the desk, not moving. Finally, he spoke in a low voice as he slowly walked around to her. “Cordy…I’m surprised at you. You’re a pretty accomplished flirt. You know how it’s done. That wasn’t flirting. That was….” He stopped several inches from her, not crowding her.

Her heart raced and she felt frozen. “That was one friend caring about another. Making sure that friend is ok.” He held her gaze. “We’re friends, right?”

Cordy stiffened, remembering a heated voice whispering in her ear…”And we’re not friends?” as he held her body flat against a wall. She stood still, and watched the memory flood into Angel.

He straightened and pushed his hands into his pockets, and his gaze seemed to shutter over.  He’d been trying. She knew that. He’d come in out of the dark, little baby steps, and maybe he needed…..

“Yes, we’re friends, Angel.” He seemed to freeze. “Truth is, we always were. We just got a little lost from each other, all of us. This friend is ok.” She walked to him and rose to her tiptoes and briefly kissed his cheek.

“And this friend…” she poked him softly in the chest. “This friend is good to care.”

Angel felt heat and want and need pour through him all at once…and something else. Something light and….joyful. Joy. It was going to be ok. He felt the space where his heart lay contract briefly. It was going to be better than ok.

Cordy grinned at him, her first genuine grin in a long, long time. She walked back around the desk and sat, pleased that the air seemed lighter, and that her little faux pas was going to slide on by unacknowledged.

Angel watched her, knowing exactly what she was thinking, and then leaned on her desk. “Just one thing, Cordy. Hey, how ya doing? Everything ok?” Cordy looked up at him, a little confused.

“That was me being a friend.” A wicked grin tilted his lips. “Hey cute thing…you look good enough to eat. That….” He rose, walking to her side. “That was flirting. “Now this….” Suddenly, he leaned over and yanked her up, pulling her to him and pressed his mouth to hers before she knew what was happening.

His mouth moulded to hers, slanting over hers with firm grace and strength. His hands wrapped gently around her wrists, holding her lightly still.

Cordy was too shocked to move. She held still, her senses swimming. Had she been able to think, she would have pushed Angel away and whacked him upside his gelled head. But she couldn’t think, because her mind was completely clouded over.

He tasted so good…and his mouth…ohgod his mouth. All over hers. He pulled back a bit and rested his forehead against hers.

“That was…” He closed his eyes and fell silent. “We’ll figure that out as we go along.”

Cordelia breathed in deeply as if she had run far….she didn’t move at all. His hands still held her wrists softly and his fingers traced light patterns over the pulse he felt beating a rapid tattoo. Her eyes opened and she pulled back slightly to look into his face….to see his eyes.

His eyes settled on hers, and she could see gold flecks flaring in the chocolate depths. He slowly released her wrists and stepped back, turning to walk out of the office without another word. Cordelia plopped back down into her chair, a dazed expression on her face.

“Holy cow. I mean…..yowsa. I just…….we…..I mean…and I really really mean…..” She gave up trying to think coherently and dropped her head to her desk with a thud. That was just…..something. She didn’t even realize she was speaking out loud. “That was really hot.”

Around the corner, Angel grinned, pretty happy with life at the moment. Get used to it, Cordy. Because things were going to get a lot hotter.

Chapter 10

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