“Look, Angel I got it OK”. She gripped the sword in her hand tighter. They’d been going at it for over an hour now and she was tired, aching and- bored.
Circling, swinging, cutting and then twisting to block but nothing else, zilch, zip.“You’re not ready, Cordelia – and I’m so much stronger and you’re just a girly girl. argghhh, she mimicked him savagely in her head, OK maybe not the girly girl bit but she just knew that’s what he was thinking.
“Chauvinist pig” she muttered angrily under her breath and pivoted again to block his next swing.
“What”? Angel asked her, standing back and lowering the sword.
Damn, he’d heard her, “Nothing, not a thing, no words passed my oh-so concentrating lips”. She smiled sweetly at him, defying him to contradict her.
She lifted the sword in a mock salute and frowning he did the same. They carried on with him barking out instructions and Cordelia following them with a single-minded determination that today she was going to get her own way.
“Can we move on? I want to attack this time”. She hated to wheedle but after a week of spectacular ‘lack of’ success with hints, nudges and then outright demands, she needed a change of tactic. He might be stubborn but then so was she.
They’d paused for her to take a drink and get her breath back, so she took the opportunity to broach the ‘hated’ topic again. Angel was running a towel over his damp brow, an action that never failed to give her a spurt of satisfaction. At least she’d managed to make him sweat!
“No you’re still not ready, Cordelia, you need to concentrate on defense and then maybe”. NOT, like hell was he teaching her to attack. The minute she thought she could take someone on there’d be no stopping her. She’d get herself hurt in no time, hurtling into one dangerous situation after the next and then he’d have to wring her neck for driving him crazy with worry.
“Oh C’mon Angel, This isn’t so different from cheerleading you know”. Not that she expected him to get it, social retard that he was. “Only with a lot less applause” she finished with a pointed glare.
“Positive feedback on progress would be nice sometime” she told him sardonically and opening her eyes wide and shrugged as if to say– ‘just a thought’.
“I will when you deserve it” he told her flatly, refusing to give into the urge to pamper her; no matter how many times she batted her eyelashes and when that didn’t work, stomped off and ignored him for the rest of the day.
Could.he.get.any.more.arrogant? Hazel eyes spat fire at him. “I’ve got defense down pat, and you know it – so stop being an Asshole” she demanded with her hands on her short-clad hips and glaring at him.
Forget ‘talking’ him round. She knew him; he wasn’t going to teach her what she wanted to know unless she gave him no other choice.
“No- and you haven’t even got close to ‘pat’ on defense”. He snapped back and shot her a filthy look for the ‘asshole’ part. Then sighed in frustration and turned away from her. He stalked stiffly back to the weapons rack and slammed the blade home. “That’s enough for today, Cordelia”.
She watched in disbelief when he just walked away, refusing to even discuss it. Her breath strangled in her throat. Right that was IT. I have had enough of this Crap, she was going to show him that she was damn well ready to get to the good stuff.
He’d walked away from her without a backward glance. So obviously unconcerned about how she would react to his point blank refusal. Just for that he was going pay – big time.A red mist of rage formed behind her eyes and sanity fled from the heat of her anger. She took a deep breath and gathered herself.
Angel had only taken two steps towards the wooden staircase when he heard the whooshing sound of air being displaced and looked up to find Cordelia flipping towards him. Literally flipping the whole distance with the sword clasped firmly in two hands.
He thought she was going to stop any moment, but she didn’t – just carried on coming and he was so distracted by the flashes of warm creamy skin not normally seen, even with the shorts, that he failed to notice until almost too late that she was practically on top of him.
The next second he was pinned to the wall with a sword at his throat, “Go team” he acknowledged and then smiling into her triumphantly smug face. “But you really need to master the basics first, Sweetheart”.
He grabbed the hand holding the sword and pulled her forward a little before pushing back – hard. Cordelia could feel herself start to fall back and tried to regain her balance with frantically cart-wheeling hands, but it was too late.
With eyes wide she waited for him to catch her and when he didn’t- landed on her ass. Angel had swiped the sword from her hand in midair and then watched her land with a yelp on the hard cement floor, More bruises on her ass for her to complain about.
He stepped over to look down and raising a mocking brow, with pursed lips he framed his next words carefully. “Back to balance, then defense and then maybe in a few years- attack”. He smirked at her outraged expression. That had hit a nerve.
Think of light years beyond infuriated and add a good dose of humiliation and you were just touching the emotions bubbling away within the brunette. Cordelia furiously blew thick strands of glossy dark hair out of her face and asked in a silky smooth voice, “You think that’s funny”?
Angel recognized the signs heralding the coming storm but, after endless days of being tortured by her nearness and handling it well enough, he thought. She turned up in ‘those’ shorts. She was trying to kill him was all he could think- when he could think at all. So yeah, now he was getting a kick out of her embarrassment.
“Pretty funny, yeah”, his grin got wider when her eyes narrowed into manic slits, all she need was steam coming out of her ears and he’d be in stitches.
She waited, still on the floor and watching every move he made. When he started to lean down to help her up. She thrust out a foot, hooked it behind his knee and pulled– HARD. He was bent too far over to stop himself and went sprawling face down next to her.
Before he could do more than turn on his back she dived on him, hands outstretched for the sword which had clattered to the floor on his other side.
“Oooff”, she deliberately dug into his abdomen with her elbows and wriggled over him a bit more when her outstretched hand only just nudged the sword hilt.
“What are you doing”? Came Angel’s confused and panicked voice from somewhere over her right shoulder.
“Getting the damn sword” she puffed out straining to reach it still.
Angel didn’t move, couldn’t actually. He lay frozen while she wriggled her way over him in her ‘quest’. He flinched when her knee got too close to a part of him that was suddenly taking more interest in the proceedings than he wanted her to notice.
“Erm, Cordy why don’t you just go around me”? He hissed an unwilling breath between his teeth when she jerked back, grasping the sword and knocked against there with her elbow.
Flushed with success she grinned down into his face and then pursed her own lips every bit as mockingly as he had, “You know, you’re not getting up until I get what I want, Angel”.
He raised both brows and tilted his head to get a better view of her face, “Gimme that thing”? He nodded to the sword, and when she shook her head, set his face into a scowl and reached up to take it.
She slapped his hand away and sat up, resting it along her crossed knees. “Oh no you don’t, Angel”. She placed a hand on the blade to prevent him from taking it. For about a second he entertained the notion of wrestling with her for it.Not a good idea, hmm hot fantasy though.He jerked his mind away from that thought before it got him into trouble.
He sighed heavily and sat up, folding his legs to face her in an identical pose, “All right, Cordy have you’re say”. Like he could stop her for longer than it took for her to drive him round the bend with her persistence, making it about five minutes- tops.
“Gee, thanks” she replied snappily and gave him a dark look out of sharp hazel eyes for suggesting she wouldn’t have gone right ahead and done so anyway.
“Be honest, did you ever intend to train me to fight properly”? She saw his tiny give-away flinch and was flooded with disappointment, followed by annoyance.
“Then why bother, this is a total waste of time”. Her voice rose with frustration and she threw her hands up in disbelief.
He didn’t bother trying to protest that she’d read him wrong but just ducked his head so that he could no longer see the hurt and obvious disappointment on her face.
“Being able to defend yourself is never a waste of time” Angel replied and forced himself to look back at her. He knew what was coming next and hadn’t the slightest clue how to avoid it.
“I want more than that” she said with absolute conviction ringing clear as a bell.
“I know and that’s what scares me” He said quietly and plucking the sword off her lap, he twisted it in his hand and then handed it back. He eyed her with a stern expression and was met with her mulish one. They silently stared at one another in silent battle of wills.
“If you promise me not to go racing off into danger, then we can start with some hand to hand stuff and forget about weapons for now, deal”? It was a concession he hadn’t wanted to make but there were times, like now, when saying no became impossible.
It was take it or leave it time, she didn’t care as a huge smile broke over her face. “Deal” and held her hand out to him. He eyed it for a moment and then shook it, his palm tingling at the touch of her softer small one.
“Why not carry on with both”? Cordelia asked, leaning back on her hands and tossing him a grin, flicked back her hair and waited for his inevitable refusal.
“Don’t push your luck”. He warned sternly and then smirked at her. “And I like my hair on my head”. He pulled her up with him and saw to the second when the penny dropped.
Cordelia took a moment to figure out what he was implying, “Hey, I can too…, that’s so unfair I could have cut your head off- if I’d wanted”. Flabbergasted she placed both hands on hips and squared off with him again.
“Yeah, yeah”, the smirk got bigger, “Let’s keep our feet on the ground this time- shall we”?
“It’s Friday night” Said Cordy, not looking round. Absorbed in watching the swinging bag she was supposed to be beating the crap out of.
Punch, punch, swing punch. Sweat was pouring off her and she grimaced when her hair band slipped down over her eyes. Stepping back she tossed a look at the vampire sitting back on a chair, leg up on one knee, reading the paper like it was the holy grail or something.
“The Holy Grail is a cup or chalice” Angel told her without looking up.
“I didn’t say anything”
“Yes you did”
“Oh”, well either that or he’d added mind-reading to his list of supernatural accomplishments. Okay, so she’d forgotten to disengage her mouth from her though processes again.
She stood back up to the bag and went back to the jabbing punches she was supposed to be perfecting. This is sooo boring- how can guys do this for hours.
“ What’s it being Friday got to do with working tonight”? He asked her and did look up this time.
It was a struggle but he managed not to drop his eyes to the view offered and even highlighted by her soaked T-shirt, despite the almost irresistible tug of his libido to look his fill. The paper was a defense against gawking, not that he’d ever tell her that.
“I’m busy tonight with pesky human stuff, such as having fun and socializing” the sarcasm was mild for Cordelia, but then she was tired so he didn’t let it worry him.
He looked back at his paper and then as if hit by lightening, bolted upright in the chair, “Socializing”?
She rolled her eyes at him, “Did that only just sink in – yes, socializing”.
“What kind of socializing”? She looked at him in surprise when she heard the growled question. What’s his problem?
Cordelia decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and said with a huge anticipatory smile, “I have a date tonight”.
“Who with”? – No question this time, that was a very definite growl.
Cordelia answered the door to her apartment and smiled at her date. “Hi, you’re right on time”.
“Do I get points for that” answered the smartly dressed, handsome yet wholesome in a ‘beer and commercials’ way – man. A human man, you’re normal, average everyday Joe. Who also happened to have a sweet smile and deep brown eyes.
“Sure do” She replied cheerfully and opened the door wide in a silent invitation.No having to say ‘I invite you’ here – well and good.
“In that case I’ll always hang around for half an hour every time to make sure that I’m never late”. Hmmm, that was either very sweet or just plain dumb, she’d decide later.
She collected her bag and switched off the lights, leaving just a single lamp lit, “Back later” she called out and earned herself a quizzical look from her date. “I thought you said you live alone”.
“Oh, Erm- well yeah, but I have plants, so … I erm .. I talk to them”, she cringed, why did she always do that?
“Thanks Dan, I had a really good time tonight” And she had, she thought dizzily. He was as fun and sweet as he’d seemed when she agreed to go out with him. Not bad for a pickup in a bar.
Dan wrapped his fingers around her elbows, lightly and smiled into her face, her eyes widened when she realized he was going to kiss her. “I’m really glad because I’d be devastated if you didn’t agree to see me again soon”.
“Oh there’s no danger of that not happening” she told him warmly and breathlessly anticipated the kiss. When it happened she waited for a hum or something, anything to make it feel special.
It was sweet and soft and really quite nice, but no sparks yet dammit, and he was a good kisser too. They broke apart and she took out her key, which he promptly took off her to open the door for her like a gentleman.
She turned inside the doorway and feeling a little awkward said, “Call me”?
Dan nodded and with a shy smile, turned away and headed back down the hallway. Passing the alcove where for some reason, the light bulb had been broken. Not noticing the dark shape standing still, silent and glaring right at him with eyes like chips of obsidian, narrowed into slits.
Angel slipped out from the niche and followed behind the man dating Cordelia. He exited the building in time to see the car the guy was driving and memorize the license plate. Then vaulting into the Plymouth he started the engine with a dull roar and tailed him.
He followed him home, got the address and then went Caritas. It was business as usual and as per usual all the demons in the place gave him a look, went quiet then carried on with their conversations as if they hadn’t noticed him arrive. He ignored them back.
Leaning on the bar he signaled to the barman, busy polishing glasses like they were crystal, “Where’s Merle, is he in here tonight”?
“Yeah, he went to take a piss I think”.
Angel gave him a pained, ‘too much information’ look but thanked him anyway, and went to wait by the door of the john. Merle came out from men’s restroom and jerked when a heavy hand landed on his shoulder. With his heart in his throat he looked up into the familiar hard face of the vampire, Angel.
“Got a minute, Merle”? The vamp was looming over him, and despite the ‘friendly’ tone and smile, he shivered. There was something goin’ on in that psycho head of his and Merle didn’t want anything to do with it.
“Do I have a choice”? He asked resigned and tried to shrug that hand of his shoulder. It gripped hard and twisted, turning and then carting him to the bar. “No” was the implacable response.
“Figures”, if they’d been headed anywhere but the bar he might have put up more of a fight – or maybe not.
A little later on. “So let me get this straight. You want me to check out this chick’s new boyfriend”. He wriggled his bony ass on the hard seat of his chair and took a sip of the drink Angel had brought him. “The same chick you couldn’t even be bothered to go see not so long ago”?
“Go figure. I’m paying this time”. They were sitting at a table ringed by others and conversation and music soared and dipped around them, interspersed with bursts of laughter and clapping.
“You said that last time” said Merle with a sorrowful shake of his head, and then watching the vamp careful like – took another swallow before he got fed the drink glass and all.
“Upfront, but I want it snappy” Angel needed co-operation and was keeping back coercion as a last ditch option. Knowing Merle seeing some greenbacks should ease the pain. He dropped a wad-full on the table between them.
“That’ll do nicely” said Merle and the cash disappeared into his inside jacket pocket as he darted his red eyes nervously around to check if anyone had seen the transaction.
“Snappy, Merle”. There was a definite threat in that smooth dark tone now the little demon had taken the money.
“I got it”. Merle said in an exasperated voice, and got out while the going was good.
It was getting on for lunchtime and Cordy’s stomach was starting to feel like her throat had been cut. So, stretching she ended her session and put the laptop on standby, just in case Wes wanted to use it.
“I’m going out” She called in the direction of the office, behind which Wesley was busy beavering away making notes on the latest demon related incident in the papers. Business was slow so they we’re having to do the supernatural equivalent of ambulance chasing. Not exactly classy she thought, but necessary to keep the cash flow from drying up completely.
“How was your hot date”? Angel asked from the bottom step directly behind her. She yelped and spun around with a hand to her chest.
“Will you stop doing that” She yelped and tried to slow her racing heart. Then she shrugged and gave him a tentative and sweet smile, “Hot – or maybe warm would be a better description – but with potential”.
Angel just jerked his head in acknowledgement and forced a smile to cross his tight face. “That’s nice, I’m glad- so when are you seeing him again” The smile wobbled but stayed in place when she told him tomorrow. That soon – this was getting serious: two dates in three days.
“You can’t” he blurted out and crossed his arms over his chest when she looked at him with a blank expression and said “Come again” in that, just building to an explosion tone she used when she was getting ready to be seriously pissed.
“You can’t, we need a woman to act as decoy for the Simmersons case and that’s tomorrow night” he was relieved to realize that he was actually making sense. Wesley would back him up; he’d make sure of it. “Wes” he shouted through the office door to get the ex-watchers attention. “Ask Wes” he said with an innocent look and shrugged heavy shoulders when she gasped fuming.
She followed, stalking him back round the counter, rigid with indignation. “And you came up with this plan when”? She demanded. Wesley winced when he caught the sharp, angry question just as he was coming through the sliding door.
Not again, he thought with a silent groan, they’d been getting on so much better recently, why the change? Wanting an answer to that question he looked at Angel and raised a questioning brow.
“Cordy here thinks her love-life is more important than solving the case” Angel informed him and ignoring her outraged hiss to continue. “I told her we need a female decoy for tomorrow and that’s that”. Trying to be casual, he walked to the refrigerator and pulled it open to pour himself breakfast.
Not even tasting the cold sticky fluid, he took a deep draught and listened to Wesley’s carefully phrased response. “He’s right, Cordelia. It is necessary is there any way you can re-arrange”?
Cordelia threw Angel an angry glance, then looking back at Wesley she pouted and rolled her eyes, only slightly appeased by the delicate request, unlike his –God he can be such a clueless, insensitive …... “Fine” she said making her reluctance clear.
“I’ll call and re-arrange it for another night, but this better be worth it” she finished with a dark warning and yet another glare, this time encompassing both of them. No longer hungry she pulled her chair out again and plonked herself back on it and glumly put her face in her cupped hands.
Satisfied if not exactly happy Angel went into his office, sat down in the leather chair and settled in for a good long brood.
His interference had been impulsive, but once started he hadn’t been able to stop. If Wesley had sided with Cordelia he would have overruled them both and damn the consequences.
She deserves to be loved, his conscience prodded at him.
I’m still checking him out, when or if Merle gives him the all clear – then I’ll stand aside he argued in his own defense.
He ignored the subsequent jeering of his conscience and shut it out with a determination honed over a century of being cursed with it.
Cordelia sat at the desk, facing her interviewer and smiled with determined cheerfulness and tried not to look as disgusted as she felt at being where she was. Me, Cordelia Chase; one of the most sought after girls in Sunnydale- at a dating agency.
Never mind the fact that girls ended up getting more than they bargained for when they signed on and some ended up in some seriously sick videos that hovered so far distant from the line of disgusting – it was almost out of sight.
Automatically she scanned the room and everything else she could while answering the inane questions put to her with a feigned denseness, My acting is beyond superb – c’mon what am I, blonde?
Finally she was done and standing up she shook hands with the sweaty palmed guy and left, ducking into the washroom to scrub said hand with fervor before returning to Angel’s car.
“Where the hell have you been, the other girls came out much sooner than you did”. She didn’t waste time or energy rolling her eyes, just pointed a stiff a finger at him “Don’t even go there, Angel”. She pulled the car door open and climbed into sit next to him, saying “You’re idea remember, me I had other plans than spending the evening with you getting pimped”.
He swiveled to face her and tamped down the harsh surge of hurt anger that accusation rose in him. “Well”? He demanded instead, searching her body and face with an intense scrutiny, looking for any signs of her having gotten into trouble. For the first time in over two hours his rigid tension left him and he relaxed.
She sighed lustily, not surprised he’d refused to respond to that one. She turned to look at Wesley and Gunn in the back seat of the GTX. “I’m special” she mimicked and then returned hazel eyes to narrowed dark brown.
“I should expect a call sometime tomorrow with the details of my very first date”. She shivered at the coincidence and then pushed the damp chill away with a firm mental shove and rested her head back on the seat. “Let’s go home, I need to take a bath”. Several of them.
Angel had become so attuned to her over the last few weeks, years if he was honest, that he caught that convulsive shiver. Frowning he started the car and with only half his attention on the road, kept sneaking peeks at her strained face.
“What’s the matter, Cordy. What aren’t you telling me” He asked quietly so the other two in the back wouldn’t hear.
“Nothing, nothing at all” she denied there was a problem and ignored the tight feeling in her chest that soft voiced query caused. “Just drive, Angel, please”.
He fell silent but determined that he’d drop them off and go hunt up Merle. He had a bad feeling about this and wanted to know what the little parasite had come up with. Large hands wrapped tighter around the steering wheel as a weird creepy feeling crawled up his spine.
Did Wesley check out if this was limited to the agency, or included more casual picks ups for dates too. He knew Cordy had met this guy at a bar, where she’d gone alone. He understood the need to find a significant other, but even in this day and age women alone where targets for all kinds of predators– he should know; he’d been one of them.
The door was knocked upon with a loud pounding, but before the demon could sidle over to the door and check the peephole, it was slammed open and the door caught him in smack in the face. Making him stagger back and clutch his throbbingly painful face with both hands.
“Oww, Jeezus, Angel, how the hell did you get in here, this building has security. In fact how the hell did you know where I live”? Merle asked querulously.
“I beat it out of a snitch”. He didn’t bother with lying, had much more important things to worry about to even consider it. Cordelia was a target for something and it wasn’t from tonight, he could feel it.
“Well now that shocks me – NOT” Even muffled through ten fingers the pure undiluted sarcasm came through loud and clear.
“Forget the smart remarks OK, I need to know what you’ve found out”
“Nothing – nada, big N O for no” was the quick reply followed by an upraised hand to ward of the now pissed as hell Vampire. “Now Angel, that’s good news isn’t it”?
“You found nothing” repeated Angel, retreating back from the demon, uncertain about how he felt about that fact.
“Hey, Angel – Buddy. If you wanted me to do a dirt job on this prick you should have just said so”. He smirked at the dumbstruck look on the vampires face. It wasn’t often you wrong footed this one so he went in for the kill.
“She a hot piece of action isn’t she, your Cordelia”? His smirk became a study of horrified disbelief when he was suddenly confronted with Angel in full fang face. Demonic Eyes glinting with feral yellow fire.
“Okaay- sorry just yankin’ your tail. Chill OK”
“What.did.you.find.out”? Snarled the vampire from about two inches in front of his face.
“Well other than the fact that he’s some kind of serial dater, nothing much really”. Wheedled the much smaller demon, holding both hands out in surrender and submission.
“You know, dates lots and lots of women over a short period of time. Lucky guy”. Merle was a nervous babbler and never more so than right then.
“Yeah, very lucky”. The door banged shut before the last coldly furious syllable finished vibrating in the air. Merle slumped down onto the floor.