What he was feeling was unreasonable and he knew it, but he was still having to practically crack his teeth, clenching his jaw to stop from ranting at her. It was just that seeing her like that, being assaulted, would be forever engraved in his mind.
Whoever that guy was he had come within a scant inch of bloody death; even now he could feel the urge to kill so strongly his fingers were white around the steering wheel.
Cordelia kept her head straight but shot cautious glances at him from the corner of her eye – she could feel the tension coming off him in waves and despite feeling resentful of that – given it was her that had been almost hurt; didn’t want to say something that would tip him over the edge.
“What the hell were you doing there”? He tried to keep the snarl out of his voice but wasn’t able to keep the bite out of it.
“Trying to kick some life into my nonexistent acting career, what do you think” replied Cordy with some snap of her own and still not looking at him.
The hands gripped even tighter on the wheel, he could guess what had caused the sudden renewed interest in Hollywood and it hurt, making the anger hotter.
“Just take me home, please” Cordy added tiredly, not up to yet another sparring match with him and she shivered despite the balminess of the night; his shirt was huge on her and she’d had to roll the sleeves up several times to free her hands.
She plucked at the hem with anxious fingers, desperately wanting a shower to scrub away the feeling of skin crawling shame. If he hadn’t come along when he had… “Thanks for the rescue by the way” it came out stilted and that shamed her even more.
“You’re coming back to the hotel; you shouldn’t be alone tonight”. He shot her a dark look when she opened her mouth to argue, “Save it”.
In that moment she was tired; bone deep, achingly tired of constantly battling against him – his influence, her feelings – all of it. No-one else can make me crazy like he does. She decided not to argue, a part of her was glad of not being alone in her apartment – even with Dennis she would have too much time to think and relive.
“From tomorrow you’re starting self defense training – every day until I’m satisfied that you can protect yourself”
Fine, whatever she thought not caring and then unable to resist a dig “Well yeah – it’s not like the menfolk can always be around to protect the womenfolk now is it; psycho trips notwithstanding”
He ignored her, she managed at least one reference to his firing her and going postal at least once a day – so this was nothing new.
Typical male – won’t answer when he’s in the wrong, “So who’s training me; you? – Hah, forget that, I can go to cop night school and get some lessons there or something”.
He shot her another dark look, lips tightening with anger and another slice of pain, “They can’t show you how to fight dirty or a lot of other things I can”.
“Like I need that” Cordy scoffed, turning to face him, I almost get assaulted, I’m hurt and angry and you just won’t let up will you, fine you asked for it . “What’s up, Angel – with Darla gone you wanna have another woman to throw around; no thanks”.
Before the words were even out of her mouth, she regretted them and wished she could take then back. He tensed as if electrified, every part of him taut with disbelief and his head snapped around to look at her.
“I’m sorry that was out of line” She said, keeping her hot face averted, she tensed too and waited for him to say something, anything to break the awful expectant silence.
He said nothing to her, just made a sharp left turn – away from the direction of the hotel. After ten minutes where each mile seemed to take an hour, he pulled up outside her apartment.
She opened her mouth to speak – maybe apologize again but he cut in before she could get a word out, “Don’t say a word; just get inside and don’t come into work tomorrow. Take the day off” – his eyes were narrowed dark slits of pure rage. She got out and watched as he yanked the car into start and roared off. She hugged her arms around her body and hitched the strap of her purse higher on her slumped shoulder.
The minute she got inside the door of her apartment she leant back against it and burst into scalding hot tears. Trembling hands reached up to cover her wet cheeks and then scrub angrily at them, within seconds a towel came floating through the air and landed on her outstretched palm.
“Thank you Dennis” utter exhaustion dragged at her body but her mind was filled with whirling thoughts and images. She walked towards the bathroom, taking off Angel’s shirt to fold it and then laying it carefully on her bed; seeing it there made the tears fall faster.
She slowly undid the snaps of her pants, her dark hair falling in short waves over her face, comforting her slightly with the covering curtain of it. The shower was already running when she got inside the bathroom and a slight smile tugged at her full lips which then wobbled dangerously again.
“What would I do without you Dennis” it wasn’t a question and they both knew it. The temperature of the water was exactly as she liked it and she groaned in relief as the hot water sluiced down her body; beating her skin with soothing heat as she scrubbed roughly at every inch of skin.
After she’d finished washing she stayed in the shower; her head resting on the cool tiles. Strangely enough it was the later part of the night that refused to stay out of her aching and woolly from crying head.
Why did I say that, why? Dammit even in my bitchiest days did I ever say something so totally wrong? No. He hadn’t deserved it and she knew it, but worse was the fact that she’d finally hurt him like she’d been trying to do for the last few weeks.
Ever since that night in the ‘old’ new office; when he’d stood in front of her and threatened her, Her, Cordelia Chase, Girl Friday and best friend, she’d been out for blood, his anyway.
Before that she’d been angry and hurt yes – but afterwards it was as if she’d started to hate him and she’d welcomed the feeling, nurtured it even especially since he’d come back. Not helped by Wesley and Gunn just making a decision to take him back and leaving her with no choice but to go along with it.
The funny thing was, standing here in the shower she realized it had all been a sham, the hate had been a smokescreen to cover her own hurt; all resulting from that single destructive confrontation. The hurt caused by knowing, convinced by the look in his eyes that at that moment he had been willing to hurt her to get his way.
“Well by the looks of it I finally got my own back tonight”. She stood back from the spray and climbed wearily out of the bath. Her robe was waiting for her and several large fluffy towels – all supplied by the loving ghost.
“I guess I have some amends making of my own to do, Dennis; not exactly my forte but I have to at least try”. Just saying it made the shame less and the tears dry up – she had a plan, a vague one anyway.
“No more being Super Bitch to Angel”. That was a start – wasn’t it?
Angel didn’t drive back to the hotel, but drove aimlessly through the dark streets; avoiding the busier roads – looking for something to take his mind off his own dark thoughts and turbulent feelings.
“I give up” he said viciously, eyes on the road but seeing her instead. I’ve tried everything I can think of to make up for it – but no, none of it’s good enough for her. “No more – she can stew for all I care – I’ve had it with her”.
What made it worse was that he knew himself well enough to know that it was never that simple; somewhere along the way she had managed to make him care about her. Burrowed deep in his un-beating heart and he had no idea how to kick her out again.
He was as wound up as a spring and he knew damn well he would get no peace; so swearing a blue streak, he turned the car around and headed back.
He parked on the road a little ways down from the apartment block and walked the rest of the way until he got a good vantage point of her apartment window. All was dark – still cursing under his breath but resigned to the fact that he should have known better than to think he could just drive off, he entered the building.
He fished the key he still had, which she’d forgotten she gave him and which he deliberately didn’t remind her off and placed it in the lock. The door opened silently, into the apartment swathed in darkness with the only light coming from the closed curtains.
His white vest underneath the black leather duster, shone in the darkness as he stood by the door, “Easy Dennis, just checking on her”. There was no response from the ever protective ghost which was a good sign.
He walked towards her bedroom door and relaxed even more when it opened before he got there, another sign from Dennis that he was welcome. Welcome by Dennis anyway, he thought wryly.
She was curled up on her side with a hand tucked under her chin, relaxed in sleep but her face still bore the puffy look of recent tears, he felt his belly constrict at the sight.
He obeyed the impulse to get closer and crouched down so he could see her face better. His unknowingly hungry gaze traveled down her body, hidden from him by pajamas and bed covers. The scent of her warm body, so close and within touching distance teased his supernatural senses, curling around him like a fine mist of perfume – he inhaled deeply and kept it inside him, warming him.
His body still hummed with a mixture of anger and hurt, but to his shock something else started to form underneath them; something almost as dark and every bit as primal; desire. He shot up and started to back out of the room, warily watching the sleeping figure and trying to ignore the sudden heaviness of his groin.
She had seriously considered ignoring the ‘instruction’ to take a day off and the only thing that stopped her from going in was that it only would rile him up more if she did. Well that and the fact that – “Well duh! Day off,’ and under orders too. Not one to kick a gift horse in the mouth, she relaxed and reviewed strategies.
After some careful thought and several changes of mind; she’d decided to forgo the ‘impeccably tailored and yet hot’ look she normally went into work with; in favor of casual form fitting pants, matching vest top and training shoes. She left her hair loose and artlessly, but only slightly, disheveled and her carefully applied make-up was natural and understated. Overall she was pleased with her appearance, not too intimidating or obvious – especially to the male of the species, dead or alive, who had no idea about these things except how they reacted to it.
Thinking about that she experienced a weird little jiggle of excitement in her belly and pressed a hand to the offending area. “Hey stop that – Geeze get a grip. It’s not like he’s going to be … ya know ‘handling’ or anything”. Her belly jumped again and she slammed her apartment door shut and practically ran down the hall, before she changed her mind and called in sick.
She walked breezily in through the glass doors and down the steps into the lobby of the hotel. Startling poor Wesley who was used to the clickety clack of her high-heeled shoes to announce her arrival. So when she just appeared at the counter opposite him; he jumped a mile and nearly knocked the book he was reading onto the tiled floor.
Cordelia caught the book and smiled at him, “Jumpy much, Wes”? She asked him with an arched brow, before walking around and behind the counter to drop her oversized and overfilled bag underneath the desk.
Wesley glared at her and snapped the precious book shut, “Well I wouldn’t be if you hadn’t snuck in like that”. He pursed his lips and looked her over carefully. “Mind you, at least you’re dressed for a workout today and not a hot date”.
Cordelia ignored the reference to her clothes and busied herself tidying the already neat as a pin desk. “So Angel told you about that did he”? She looked at him measuringly. “Did he happen to mention why it came up”?
“No and I didn’t ask” replied Wesley, rummaging around under the counter for god knows what. After a few moments, he found it and came back up with a satisfied smile on his face. Holding the thermometer up in a victory salute he smiled benignly at her. “All I know is that I’m supposed to be training you in self-defense”.
She gaped at him, her mouth dropping open in shock at that matter-of-fact statement. “You are”? Her voice was raised and she was helpless to hide her disappointment at the news.
“Yes, Cordelia – me, is that a problem”? He stood with his arms crossed over his shirt and tie, looking at her with piercing blue eyes in a face carefully devoid of expression.
It took her a moment to reply. “No, no problem”. She hadn’t missed the flash of angry hurt that crossed his face before he wiped it clear. She turned on the laptop with a stiff finger and stared blankly at the screen, her mind buzzing with anger and disappointment. Luckily for her Wesley, satisfied with her reply had gone back to whatever he’d wanted the thermometer for. Missing the myriad expressions that crossed her face.
“So brood-guy is in avoid mode is he? HAH – If he thinks he can just ignore me…”
Angrily she tapped in her password, getting it wrong twice before she could log in. “Well boy is he in for a shock if he thinks Cordelia Chase gives up so easily. He’s gonna be begging for my attention by the time I’m done”
She’d decided they were going patch things up and so patch things up they would – even if she had to hit him over the head with a baseball bat to get through that thick head of his. She briefly thought about asking Wesley to refuse to do it. But Cordelia balked at having to explain herself, and also knowing Wesley as she did – he would demand to know what had happened.
No she would manage Angel all on her lonesome like always.
Angel was asleep and as usual, disturbing dreams flitted through his vulnerable and open mind, the control he exerted over his waking hours gone. Past friends, enemies and victims chased one another through his sleep-clouded subconscious, bringing with them the usual painful pleasure and ever present guilt.
Sometimes certain memories would get stuck and loop round and it would be as if he was reliving it. He hated those the most because they were always the ones that stayed with him for days. Today was one of those days.
He dreamt of Darla and how he’d pushed her through the glass doors into his bedroom. Then after picking her up off the glass-strewn floor; forced his kisses on her before dropping them both to the bed. In his dream he leant up to look down at her and then froze. Without him realizing it the dream had taken on a will of it’s own, warping the memory to suit its needs. The face that stared back at him was not that of the beautiful blonde vampire.
Darla was gone, replaced by Cordelia. Her normally radiant face was filled with fear and hazel eyes wide with panic. He wanted to stop, tried to move off and free her. But something wouldn’t let him. The cold angry despair of that night had changed to a flash-fire heat and driven by a nameless need; he pulled off her clothes instead and not even knowing or caring if she was willing, drove himself into her soft female warmth.
The heat inside him intensified and almost frenziedly his hips plunged and retreated, slamming and recoiling in a rhythm that was both fast and hard, trying to get as deep as possible. He buried his face in the fragrant curve of her neck and jaw, kissing and sucking her skin with a hungry, open mouth. All too soon the hot wet clasp of her around him and the soft, writhing curves of her body under his nearly overwhelmed his senses, and helplessly his back arched and bracing arms trembled with the force of an approaching orgasm.
Angel awoke and bolted upright. Horror and something else had him twisting from side to side and using both hands to frantically check the bed. Realizing he really was alone, and trembling with relief and reaction; he almost fell off the bed in his haste to stand, unsteadily, beside it. He was breathing heavily for no other reason than to feel the movement of air and help convince himself that this was real – this empty room and empty bed was real, and not the dream.
Normally Angel didn’t even notice or care about his own nakedness, but today he couldn’t bear it and so swiping up a pair of sweats, he hurriedly tugged them over his hips. Covered now; he stumbled over to the bathroom, desperately ignoring his aching erection.
Unknowingly mimicking Cordelia from the night before last, Angel stood with his dark head pressed to the plain white tiles as the water poured over his still shaking body. Afterwards he stood naked and dripping on the hard floor as puddles formed around his feet, staring unseeingly at the bathroom cabinet.
“I nearly kill a guy for trying to force himself on her; then I have a dream of raping her and get aroused”. He muttered hoarsely to the empty mirror; something he usually managed to successfully ignore. Hating himself for being a sick bastard; he punched it clear of the wall and then not bothering to clear up the wreckage, roughly dried himself and got dressed.
“I can’t go down there – can’t risk seeing her”, he had a sudden horrible image of Cordelia seeing right through him and running away, disgusted and hating him. He couldn’t bear that ever happening. So he would do whatever he had to do to make sure he got control of himself and these new feelings that until recently, he would have labeled as ludicrous.
He stood at the end of the corridor leading to the stairs down to the lobby. Just out of the sight of the three people milling about, working and playing around, ignorant of the black clothed figure watching them with brooding dark eyes. There was only one way he could leave the hotel in daylight and that was through the sewers. To get to them, he would have to go down the stairs and cross a portion of the lobby to the basement door. He gathered himself and then ran.
Gunn had been standing with his back to the lobby leaning against the counter and laughing at Wesley and Cordelia arguing over the computer. Wesley was trying to get access to it for some research he wanted to do himself and the brunette bombshell was having none of it. Then feeling a weird movement of air like a breeze – only not. He whirled round; his street honed instincts on full alert. It only took seconds for him to check out the doors and the stairs and seeing nothing, mentally shrug and switch his attention back to the entertainment.
BASEMENT – NEXT DAY
Cordelia stood opposite Wesley, arms akimbo and trying to relax. This was their second ‘session’ and after yesterday she was wearing a looser, thicker T-shirt and a sturdy sports bra. Less jiggle, and less red cheeks for the both of them.
“Cordelia, please will you concentrate”, pleaded Wesley for about the fourth time in as many minutes. She nodded her head and gave him an apologetic smile, even she couldn’t deny her distraction.
So far her plan was going to hell and all because of a stubborn vampire who didn’t even have the frickin’ courtesy to be around for the plan to work. So much for gently and slowly getting back to the way things used to be with no more bitching and sniping at him – unless she had a good reason of course, then she reserved the right to bitch like hell.
Well right then, she felt she had plenty of reason, “Asshole”, she muttered under her breath her full lips pouting. So distracted that she missed Wesley almost falling on his ass, trying not to connect with a blow she should have easily avoided, if she’d been paying attention.
“Cordelia”, Wesley was shouting now – that got her attention.
“What? Dammit, Wesley there’s no need to shout, I’m not deaf OK” frustration vibrated through both of their voices, although for totally different reasons.
“This is absolutely hopeless” whined, Wesley, throwing his hands in the air and whirling around to pace away and then back again, to face her narrow eyed stare with one of his own. Neither of them where aware of the large shadow at the top of the stairs, watching them.
“Well ya know, it’s not exactly on my job description this Wes, so don’t blame me if I’m not exactly great at it”
“You could be if you tried, you just need to apply yourself”. Wesley told her, all male superiority with a trace of teacher induced smugness.
“You apply yourself – me I’m going back upstairs and forgetting this whole stupid idea” If there was one thing she hated it was being condescended too. She was leaving before she lopped his head off with Angel’s throwing axe or something – by accident of course.
She had barely set foot on the first step when she caught sight of the figure lounging against the railing at the top and blocking her dignified and thoroughly justified exit. Hot, caustic words flew into her mouth, but she bit them back.
“Hi”, she said simply and left it at that. He didn’t reply at first but just walked down the stairs until both she and Wesley could see him. “Hi” he said back to her and she relaxed, his tone sounded utterly normal to her ‘vamp moodometer’ ears.
“Problem”? Angel asked Wesley, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning a hip on the rail of the last step.
“Cordelia doesn’t really want to …” began Wesley only to be interrupted by Cordelia – “Yes I do, it’s just …”.
“Hey, one at a time” Angel held up a hand and then looked pointedly at Cordelia, as did Wesley. With the both of them making her feel like she was under a microscope or something, she started to bristle with annoyance.
How do I get myself in these situations? “It’s NOT that I don’t want to be able to defend myself – I’m not stupid”, she glared at Wesley when she said the last bit, “It’s just …”, she faltered again. Dammit how do I say I want you to do it? She was still trying to figure out WHY it had to be Angel – she just knew it did. But she just couldn’t say it.
Both of them were looking at her, bemused and waiting for her to finish what she’d been about to say, “This is such CRAP!” she thought angrily to herself. “Look, let’s just forget it OK. I’ll go and find out about some classes or something”. Her face was flushed with a mixture of embarrassment and anger with the both of them.
She started to walk up the stairs but got no more than a foot before having to stop as Angel hadn’t budged an inch. She looked up to find him looking at her with weird expression on his handsome face – hard and piercing and his dark eyes glittered with some emotion she couldn’t remember having seen in them before.
Angel felt weird, in fact he couldn’t remember ever feeling as wound up as he was now, well OK – big exaggeration, but dammit this was all about Cordelia and he was still struggling to come to terms with that little gem.
He’d done nothing but brood over and avoid her for the last few days and nights, weeks if he was honest. She was his friend of that there was no doubt – he loved her true and she still drove him crazy with her chatter at times, but since he’d only been on the receiving end of the meaner side of her tongue recently, he’d even own up to missing the chatter.
That wasn’t the problem. The problem was he’d been standing watching them for the last twenty minutes and apart from marveling at the total lack of progress – had hated every minute of seeing Wesley touch her skin, hair, clothes or any part of her person for that matter.
This possessiveness of his was getting out of hand and while one part of his brain accepted that; the other didn’t give a shit – and that part was winning hands down. But he’d been willing to give it a chance, with Wesley who he trusted to look after her and not get ideas. But a stranger and so someone out of his control – no way and over his dead body, literally.
“You’re not having some stranger teach you how to fight, and anyway – all they know about is muggers and rapists, whose gonna teach you to fight the monsters?” He raised a brow to emphasize his point and then backed it up with a thumb pointed at his own muscular chest. “I’ll teach you”.
“I agree” chimed in Wesley and got ignored by both Angel and Cordelia – who seemed to be locked in some kind of mental communication, or maybe simply a battle of wills.
It was what she wanted but that funny tingling feeling was back in her belly and it was making her feel like she wanted to argue with him some more – whoa, apply mental brakes – reverse and REPEAT that she told her mental self. Since when did arguing with Angel rank No 1 in the Cordy ‘fun things to do list’. ?
“I’ll teach you” Angel repeated, his voice was quiet and it felt like there was only the two of them in the basement.
As if from a distance she heard herself agree, “OK”, she dropped her eyes and moved back into the room, crossing her arms over her breasts because they suddenly felt full and tingly. She hoped to God the nipples weren’t tight – how humiliating.
She heard Wesley tell Angel good luck in a humorous and resigned voice and then ‘quit the field’ by climbing the stairs. Back to his beloved books no doubt, she thought sourly. She turned to face him, having felt his approach and knew when he was close.
She felt so awkward standing in front of him, dressed as she was – which was more than the day before, so she burst out “Are we over that whole thing from the other night?” He just stared down into her face so she babbled some more.
“Ya know, the …”
“I know what you mean, Cordelia”. He interrupted her this time, not wanting her to repeat it, especially now they were here, right where he’d been trying to avoid ever since. Not to mention the whole dream- Don’t go there, he ordered himself and winced.
“Look, lets just forget about that and concentrate on the here and now OK”.
Cordelia nodded, more than happy to go along with him on that particular subject. “So, how do you want to do this”?
Good question Cor, how about we start with how to protect yourself from demons and then move onto – how do you protect yourself from me, “Lets just start from the beginning; getting and keeping your balance during a fight”.
“Wesley and I covered that bit” she complained, pouting a little and frowning at him.
“So show me” Angel replied and snapping out an arm, pushed her shoulder and then caught her so that she ended up with only his hands on her shoulders and one knee underneath her ass, holding her off the floor – totally helpless.Oh yeah, this is going to be great fun, she thought sarcastically.
“It’s a good thing you move fast buster – or I’d have some serious bruises on my ass”. She was still almost vertical and had to look up into his face, which was over hers.
“Don’t worry about bruises, you’re gonna get loads of em. It’s natural during training”. Let her up, asshole, he told himself and reluctantly pulled them both upright again.
“That’s easy for you to say, super healing vamp – me I’m a mere mortal remember”. This time it was her turn to point at her chest.
Angel struggled not to follow that slender finger with his eyes, he hadn’t failed to notice the tightness of her nipples earlier, which was why he hadn’t been able to speak for a few moments while he got over that little image and his bodies reaction to it. Thankfully her babbling had helped.
“That’s precisely why you have to train harder than anyone – you’re the weakest and need to be able to fight those that are stronger than you”.
She gaped at him, “You’re kidding right, how long’s that going to take – try forever”. A thought occurred to her and her eyes narrowed into dangerous angry slits, “I’m not the slayer and don’t want to be”, she told him anger making the tone harsh.
He didn’t take the bait, “I know you’re not, Cordelia, if you were we wouldn’t be here right now”. He moved closer, crowding her, wanting the conversation ended. “Now stop stalling and get ready”.
Cordelia really, really didn’t trust that smile and did her best to ignore the things it did to her insides.
A few hours later, exhausted and yes, a little stiff and sore; Cordelia lay in the lobby, draped over the couch with her legs up trying to relax with her head leaning against the armrest. She heard feet approaching and cracked open an eye.
“So, how did the first training session go”? It was Gunn and he looked genuinely amused but sympathetic too, so she let him get away with the amusement.
“Don’t ask – ever”. She throbbed all over, she ached in muscles she hadn’t even known existed and worse than all of that; she was jumpy and jittery and …. Oh my God, aroused? Horrified she sat up and looked frantically around, startling Gunn who reached out a hand to steady her.
“What’s up, what’s the matter Cor, c’mon you’re scaring me here”? Gunn was passed being amused, she looked really scared. What the hell had happened was it Angel – had he done something to her?
Cordy looked at him blankly and then shocked the living hell out of him with her next statement. “I need to get laid – fast”.