“Back so soon?”Cordelia glanced at the clock. It was barely eleven. On a Saturday even. He’d only been gone about thirty minutes.
Angel’s “date” usually kept him out until at least past one…if not two, lately. Of course, they never started until after ten…Angel always slayed the demons first. Visions first, social enjoyment second. Cordelia was relieved she at least had “that” over the “date”.
She also often wondered what excuses Angel had been using on the “date” to explain all the late night excursions…anyone with half a brain would realize that they’d never seen their new guy in sunlight. But then this was Angel’s “date” they were talking about…you couldn’t expect much from the “date”.
And besides. Why should Cordelia care? She’d never even really cared enough to ask… Of course this is a big, fat lie.
Cordelia’s curiosity nearly drove her insane on a daily basis, but she would never ask; regarding the “date”, she’d never do anything but appear indifferent. It was her only true way to protest against…the “date”.Angel looked troubled. Cordelia perked a brow.
“Yeah,” He started, in regards to the previous question. “Paige wasn’t feeling well. So we ended early.”
“Oh,” Cordelia awed. “I’m truly sorry to hear that. I hope it’s nothing serious,” Cordelia waltzed passed Angel to retrieve a cup of coffee from the coffee maker. He regarded her with complacency but didn’t give her much space to maneuver about.
“Excuse me.” She huffed as she bumped into him then had to squeeze past to make it back to her desk. Angel hovered right behind her, never letting her get more than a step or two away.
“Where are the guys?” He asked.
“At a movie. With Fred.”
“They do that a lot, don’t they?”
“Yeah,” She answered dejectedly. “They do.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
“Why should it? They have lives…just like everybody else,”
“Why don’t you go with them?”
“Don’t feel like it.” He didn’t respond; instead, toyed with a book on Wesley’s desk. Cordelia took it as a sign their chitchat was over, so she sat back down and went back to her papers.
“It’s quiet.” He commented.
“Yeah…perfect when you’re trying to go over invoices.” Her sarcasm was not lost on him, but still he dwindled. So the chitchat wasn’t over… Under his scrutiny, Cordelia appeared uncomfortable. To play it off, she continued reading papers.
“Can I talk to you about something?”
“Uh, sure.” Her voice was far too “uppity”. She sat back in her chair, suddenly snatching up her full coffee cup and bringing it to her lips as she took a small sip; all in the hopes to appear convincing, all the while staring blankly at the mess on her desk.
Another moment of hovering passed before Angel grabbed up and dragged Gunn’s chair from his desk. With a bump and a scrape, he set it down across from her. He took a seat, completely silent—not even the squish of leather from his jacket — and continued to regard her with an intense stare until she surrendered her attention fully to him.
“What’s up?” She asked all too guiltily.
“You tell me.” He hadn’t said it sharply, but Cordelia recoiled all the same. She set her cup down and put all the effort she could muster into being indifferent. ‘Think it. Want it. Believe it.‘ She reminded herself from acting class. With a flutter of her eyelashes, and a quick, unconvincing shrug, Cordelia attempted to play it out.
“I really don’t know what you mean,.”
“Cordy,” Angel said almost painfully. He shifted in the chair until it creaked. Awkward noises seemed to put humans at ease. It was no different with Cordelia. It made him seem…more human, maybe.
Settling his elbows on his knees, he leaned forward, rubbing his face in his hands and resting his chin in his palm determinedly. “Tell me.” He asked. “Please. What do you have against Paige.”
“I don’t!” Cordelia swore. “I don’t have anything against…her.”
Angel rolled a groan through his throat. She wouldn’t even say Paige’s name. “Be straight with me.” He forced, eyes never leaving hers. “I heard the jezebel comment, Cordy,”
“Oh. That” Cordelia looked away shamefully; heart speeding just a little, her face flushing with the increased blood flow.
“It’s okay, I’m not mad,” Angel smirked. “I just want to know what’s up.”
“I don’t know.” She finally admitted. “I just…I don’t know. She’s like…an outsider.”
“And you want to exclude her because of that? Isn’t that a little redundant?”
“I don’t want to exclude her!” Cordelia hissed. “Not…much.”
“Cordy,” He was cocking his head at her, giving her that disappointed parent stare.
“Alright! Alright!” She held up her hand in surrender. “Alright, I’ll be straight with you.”
“Good. Because that’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
“She bugs me.” Cordelia glared at the top of her desk with a grimace of so much distaste, Angel had to hide his amusement.
“And why’s that?” He asked.
“Because…I don’t know. Just because!”
“There’s got to be a reason.”
“Well, because…” She glanced at her fashion magazine. It had come in the mail today. “She…dresses…weird.”
Angel raised a brow. “She dresses like you.”
“Not really.” Cordy retorted, but he was waiting for a better answer. Cordelia sighed. “She’s like…phony. Or something.”
“You’ve never even had a conversation with her.”
“That’s because…I don’t need to. I can tell.”
“You’ve barely spent five minutes alone with her.”
“I spent twelve minutes with her. Alone.” At the blank expression on his face, she expanded. “Remember? Last week? She came by and you had to go and change your socks. It took you twelve minutes to get back downstairs. And I had to spend twelve whole minutes alone with her because Wes, Fred and Gunn went to another movie without me…and you were upstairs…changing your socks, or whatever. So I was alone with her…for twelve minutes…twelve whole minutes, Angel. Twelve.” She held up both hands, flashing first ten fingers and then two for emphasis. Angel stared at her in absolute awe.
“Oh the horrors,” He deadpanned. “I’m really sorry I put you through that, I’ll never do it again.”
“Next time,” Cordelia hissed sourly. “Have the right socks on when she gets here.”
“They’d gotten all wet in the sewer.”
“Not my concern.”
“Alright,” He was trying hard to humor her, but Cordelia was being so irrational. He, did not, however, want to anger her or alienate her or hurt her any further. Obviously, Cordelia was hurt by something. And they said Vampires were touchy… “No more changing socks.” Angel agreed. “I go as I am. Now, what else?”
“What else what?” She scowled.
“What else do you not ‘like’ about her?”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t give me that. Be straight.”
“I don’t know!”
“I don’t know isn’t an answer, Cordy.”
“Well, tell me why you do like her, and I’ll try to counter that!”
He gave her an impatient scowl. “It doesn’t work that way,”
“Give me something to work with here, Cordy. Let me understand—”
“I just don’t like the way she is with you.” She’d said it quickly, and immediately regretted it.
“And how is that?” Angel asked in all seriousness. Now she had to elaborate. Great. Just great…
“Like…” She started, squinting her eyes, and gesturing with her hands. “All…touchy.”
“What’s wrong with touchy?”
“It’s…like…all…touchy!” The way she said it…with such distaste. “I just don’t like it. It makes me…uncomfortable.”
“And the guys too!” She quickly lied. “They don’t like it either! You should…you should make her stop.”
“Yes. Really. Uncomfortable. All…very…uncomfortable.” Cordelia wanted to crawl under her desk and hide. The scrutiny in his eyes… But he was playing it cool.
And that just made it worse.”Why hasn’t anyone said anything?” He asked.
“Because they…” Stall. “Don’t want to…” Fish. “Bother you,” Cordelia was racking her brain. It really angered her that she couldn’t come up with anything better. It was even more angering when Angel called her on it.
“I don’t think that’s a solid argument,” Angel reasoned. “I mean, Fred is touchy, and you never cared,”
“That’s because it’s Fred!” Cordelia whined. “Fred is Fred! Fred is different!”
“How’s Fred different?”
“Duh! Because she’s FRED!” How to explain to make him realize? “KATE! Kate was different! This…”date” of yours…” More distaste. “Look. I don’t know how much clearer I can make this, but I wouldn’t even be upset if you were touchy with Gunn, but—”
“Uh, not gonna happen.” Angel clarified.
“No kidding!” Cordelia quickly agreed. “But, my point is, it’s…just…her. She doesn’t fit in, Angel. The “date” just doesn’t fit in.”
“Her name is Paige, and she’d fit in if you gave her half a chance. She’s nice, Cordy. She’s a nice person. If you hung out with her, just once, I bet…”
“Buffy was a nice person,” Cordelia pointed out childishly, gripping her desk as she leaned back in her chair until the two front legs rose slightly off the floor. “But you don’t see me hanging out with her, now do you?”
Angel paused. “This isn’t about Buffy.”
“At least Buffy knew who you were, WHAT you were,” Cordelia went on. “This…Paige…she doesn’t know…” Her hazel eyes rose and met his brown ones. Cordelia looked away sadly. She breathed. “Or does she?”
Angel shook his head slightly, having nothing to retort.
“See?” Cordelia sighed in exasperation. “See what I mean!”
“I was planning on telling her.” He gulped. “Tonight, actually. I didn’t get a chance to though.” Now Cordelia paused. Slowly the chair was brought to rest fully on the floor. She shifted, uncomfortably, not knowing how to react.
“Oh?” She whispered finally, pushing her coffee cup around on the desk. A wet ring had imprinted itself on and bled some important documents, but she was too preoccupied to notice it right then. Angel had been going to tell this girl about the situation? Really???
“Wow.” Cordelia sighed in resolve. “You must really like her then, huh?”
“I don’t know.” Angel said truthfully, leaning back to rest fully in his chair. He looked as blown away as she did. Maybe even blown further. Cordelia hadn’t realized things had gotten so close between him and the “date”. Before Cordy could say much else, Angel addressed her next concern. Good thing too, cause she wasn’t sure how to bring it up. Angel just looked a little lost.
“I know that she has to know before anything can go…farther.”
“Just…how far…has it gone?”
“Well…that’s a relief.”
“To no one more than me.”
“I’m sorry, Angel…I had no idea.”
“I know. It’s okay. I just…would really like your support in this, Cordy.” He regarded her sincerely, and Cordelia felt her heart drop in her chest. “You know, you can be a really hard person to need.” His tone was all too earnest. “If ever…anything…happens…with Paige, with anyone…I want…need…you, to be there, and to support it. I can’t do anything without you on my side. It’s really important to me that you’re on my side. Because things get rough, I don’t kid myself. Really rough. And if I don’t have you there, nothing will work. Nothing works without you. Nothing else matters.”
“Really?” A beat.
“Yes.” Another beat. But Cordelia wasn’t letting go that easily, not without one last try.
“She just bothers me, Angel.” She whimpered. It was the same excuse, but never delivered with so much apathy. It never stood a chance.
“I don’t accept that.” He said quietly.
“Do you want me to make up something then?”
“No. Of course not.”
“Then you’ll have to accept it.” Cordelia teetered on strength. She sat up in her chair, very straight and professional, and picked up a pen, and started…doodling…”I Hate P”…on some paper…on her important documents. Of course she scribbled it out quickly, before Angel could see, but still…not such a good sign.
“Angel, you’ll just have to accept it…” A breath. “Because I…” She felt him watching. “Honestly…” He could see right through her. He saw the silly façade she was so desperately trying to fend.
And he wouldn’t look away because he just wasn’t that merciful. 247, scratch it, 248 years as a Vampire, and Angel had the staring game down pat. Cordelia made the mistake of glancing into his eyes…big, brown, deep saucers…and her will fell with a timber.
“I’d never hold it against you.” He whispered. “Never expect you to apologize.” It was over.
She started to smile, feeling foolish. And wriggling, she took up his offer of a way out. “I…I can’t think of…a good reason…right now. So…”
Cordelia sighed a heavy breath. “I’ll give her a chance.”
Angel smiled calmly. “Thank you.”
“Yeah.” She said. “Sure. Whatever. Maybe we could all go to a movie or something.”
“I’d appreciate it.” He got up, stopping to plant a hard, approving kiss against her temple. She smiled, but then his hand pet the back of her head.
“Hey,” She said, swatting it away. “I’m not a dog, ya know!”
“And I’d never mistake you for one.” He started to head towards the stairs when Cordelia remembered something important.”Hey! Angel!”
He stopped, hand on the banister, and turned to face her. “What are you doing this Friday after work?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know, nothing special. Why?”
“Well, keep it open.” Cordelia said sharply. “Don’t make any plans.” He nodded, and would have asked why, but she’d already turned her back on him, signaling there was nothing more to say.
Angel went upstairs to retire an early night.