Title: Happy Families
Summary: Part of the FSB/AO Fanfic Challenge No 1
The element chosen was: ATS Theme 1 – Cordelia tries her first fake tan- a potion concocted by a friend of Lorne’s and guaranteed to not fade or streak.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: GT, AO & FSB, anywhere else, just ask
Cordy’s agitated voice dragged Angel from his unhurried scan of that day’s newspapers.
“Have you seen this?”
Something wafted in front of his nose, between his face and the printed sheets. Blinking to get rid of the resulting blur, he looked up into her flushed face.
“Look at the difference,” she demanded and caramel eyes flashed with impatience.
“Okay,” he said in a reasonable tone, “If you’ll stop waving it around so I can focus on it.”
Taking it off her, Angel saw it was a photograph- of Cordelia sometime the previous year. Uh oh! Every male instinct he possessed started yelling a warning. A photograph meant it had something to do with her appearance and that was dangerous ground. Afterall there were a few differences; shorter hair, fuller bust, less cosmetics and more. If he picked the wrong one…
Wisely, Angel opted for the safest route- clueless, “It’s a picture of you,” he said, “What’s the problem?”
Cordelia snatched it back off him and tossed up her hands. “Ugh! I should have known better than to ask you-“
“Hey!” Angel objected to her back as she stormed off across the lobby.
“…Mr I can spot evil at a hundred paces and blind to everything else guy.”
Whoa, she was really mad, the longer the title the more pissed she was. Frowning, he took comfort from the fact that it wasn’t all that offensive- or true. One of his more recent pastimes was looking at Cordelia for as long as he could get away with.
Okay, so she’s not mad at you- per se he thought, but she was definitely unhappy about something. Curious and alarmed Angel decided this needed investigating.
Standing up he followed her and called out, “Cordelia, cut me slack here and just explain, huh?”
Cordelia ignored him and marched over to the counter. Behind it, a chirpy Lorne resplendent in a canary yellow shirt and purple necktie that somehow didn’t clash with his green skin, said a cheerful ‘toodlepip’ and dropped the phone back onto the receiver; then looked up just as the two of them reached him.
“What needs explaining, cherubs? Come to Uncle Lorne and have your problems answered- sorta.”
His patient glance sliced into Angel who obediently closed his mouth. Cordelia still riding high on upset slapped the photograph on the counter’s polished surface. “Lorne, look what’s happened to me. Can you believe it?”
Ruby lips pursed as Lorne flicked her a glance before picking up the snap, “Okay…dial back on the dramatics, princess, and let me have a lookeelou.”
A few beats later he gave up and shrugged, “Okay, I’m as a clueless as big brown eyes over there.” Lorne cocked his head toward Angel, “which has got be a first and hopefully a last. I guess you’ll have to explain after all, chooka.”
Cordelia’s jaw dropped; then snapping it shut again, she frowned thoughtfully, “You mean you really can’t see it?” she asked; then shook her head, “maybe it is just me-“
Angel snatched the picture back up just as Lorne planted his hands on the counter, “What’s you?” they asked impatiently in unison.
Pinned between twin glares, Cordy thrust up a slim arm, “Look at me I’m so…so pale. I used to be a golden girl…the sun loved me and I loved it. This is California-”
“Oh, that!” Lorne relaxed.
“What do you mean ‘oh that’?” Cordy’s voice turned sharp again, “since when does me being as a pale as Angel, not figure in anybody’s important stakes?”
Then a thought struck and she turned a glare of her own at said vampire, “Have you been biting me?” Hazel eyes narrowed and a finger jabbed towards his chest, “Maybe its not lack of sun, but lack of red blood cells.”
Flailing under that attack, Angel, stared and stuttered, “What…No!…as if…”
Thinking better of it, Cordy waved him off, “Forget I asked,” She said, “I’d know if you were.”
“Gee, thanks, but the fact that I wouldn’t anyway doesn’t figure in there?” Angel finally worked himself up enough to complain with a dark scowl. Feet braced apart and hands on hips, he looked aggressively unhappy with her dismissive statement.
Unimpressed, Cordy slid him a look, “I’ve seen you eyeing up my neck, so don’t try and kid a kidder.”
But not your face, ass and legs? Put on the spot, he only just managed not to defensively blurt the words out. “You’re imagining it,” Angel said firmly instead, and refused to connect with Lorne’s smirking face.
“Okay, so I’m imagining it, big whup…doesn’t change the fact that I rival a walking corpse for paleness.”
“Go out in the sun,” suggested Lorne with a shrug.
“Hello! UV rays- bad!”
“Use a sunbed,” growled Angel, shoving ultra pale hands into his pockets.
“Duh! More UV.”
“Here you, princess, now don’t say I never buy you gifts. That bottle of sunstuffed goodness did *not* come cheap.”
Chin lifting up of her palm where Cordelia had been sitting and staring glumly at the screen, she eyed the little paper bag with suspicion, “What is it?”
“Your ticket out of glumcentral and our salvation from a vampire with a steadily deteriorating mood,” replied Lorne easily.
“What’s wrong with Angel’s mood?”
Picking up the bag and following the tall demon as he strode off, Cordy struggled to keep up with his much longer stride. “I haven’t noticed any mood,” she argued.
“What mood?” snarled Angel coming down the last steps into the lobby, “And what’s that?” he asked pointing to the bag, “It stinks.”
“Afternoon, cheerful,” chirped Lorne with a pointed backwards glance at Cordelia. He didn’t have to say ‘that’ mood.
Cordelia’s lips formed on ‘o’ and she grimaced. Flashbacks of the previous day came flooding in. Crap. She’d been in a bitch of a mood yesterday and even she could see she’d aimed it mostly at Angel. It had started out badly and got worse until he’d disappeared down the sewers to get away from the hotel. And you didn’t realise this until now because?
“The bag,” prodded Angel, looking about as approachable as a grizzly.
“It’s vampire fake tan,” announced Lorne, rocking back on his heels and wearing a beatific smile, “guaranteed not to fade for at least a century,” he added.
Cordy quirked a brow, “Is this a gift for Angel or me…and fake tan– ewww streaky orange peel.”
“Not this one,” assured Lorne, “that’s what’s supposed to be so great about it- no streaking of any kind- and 100% natural looking. It’s all the rage according to Quiggin’s.” At Angel’s enquiring look, he explained, “He’s my source. A great guy, too,” he sighed, “pity about the missing leg.”
Cordelia looked intrigued. “Really? You’re sure about that- the 100% natural part, I mean?”
Angel’s door slammed open without even the pretence of a knock. Lifting his eyes but not his head, Angel eye-balled Cordelia and didn’t stand-up. He was still pissed.
“Does this look *natural* to you!” she fairly shouted.
He quirked a brow, “Now you mention it- not really, no.”
There was no other way of describing it other than orange, plain and simple.
“Arggh,” she growled and slammed the door shut again to begin pacing around the room. “You wait until I get my hands on that slimey, good for nuthin’-“
“Why are you coming to me with this?” Angel inserted, “go bug Lorne.”
“I would,” she whirled on him and threw up orange hands, “Except Wesley said he wandered out half an hour ago mumbling something about his breeze needing some sea.”
She stamped a foot, “I hope he gets drunk and then hit by a bus.”
Angel almost smiled at such blood thirstiness. Heaving a sigh, Cordelia began pacing again, “Okay, so maybe I don’t want the- him squished- but still…Angel *look* at me!” she wailed, “I’m orange for cryin’ out loud.”
“You are that,” Angel said unfeelingly and slouched down, pulling up his book and preparing to settle back into a relaxing read. “You’re the one who didn’t want to be pale anymore,” he pointed out.
Hazel eyes narrowed, “You’re enjoying this aren’t you,” she said slowly, “This is you getting revenge for me being such a bitch, yesterday?”
“I didn’t slap that stuff on your skin- you did,” Angel refuted smoothly, “and it was uber bitch.”
There was a stunned pause long enough to draw Angel’s gaze. The moment his eyes lit on her, Cordy’s face crumpled and she turned with her shoulders hunched. “Fine, I’ll just go and hibernate for the next century- it was nice knowing you,” said a muffled voice with a telling hitch in the middle.
Remorse slam-dunked him. Angel was on his feet and crossing the room before she got a grip of the handle. Hands firm but gentle on her shoulders, he pulled her back. After a seconds resistance Cordy finally let go and turning, stepped up and tucked her face into his shoulder. She clung so hard he couldn’t see her face and everything inside him squeezed at having her in his arms. “I don’t want to be orange, Angel.”
“You won’t be,” he assured her, rubbing his hands soothingly up and down her spine. “I’ll find Lorne, this Quiggins and anyone else I need to sort this out.”
His head rested on her briefly, feeling the tickle of her hair on his cheek and neck, “You know I will,” he assured her gruffly.
Three hours later, covered in soot and half charred after a fight involving rolling into a burning trash can, Angel climbed the stairs and hoped the stink of sewer wasn’t as potent as he feared it was. His footsteps dragged.
At his door, Angel sucked in a deep unneeded breath and marshalling his thoughts on how he was going to comfort and reassure a distraught Cordelia, entered his room. He sagged when he saw it was empty, until the sloshing of water caught his ears coming from the bathroom.
Another heartbeat coming from the crib next to his bed had Angel’s steps faltering as he took a detour to stand over and gaze down at his infant son. Three month old Connor was asleep with one tiny fist clenched next to a velvet, rounded cheek. The soft swell of love pushed back the bitterness of failure. Wesley must have brought him back from their day out and left him in Cordy’s care.
A burst of singing from the slightly open bathroom door jerked his attention back to the surrogate mother of his son and the woman he secretly loved. Crossing the room, Angel frowned wondering why the sudden happy when as far as he knew she should still be competing with a tangerine for brightness.
Dawning suspicion had him walking inside rather than being a gentleman and staying outside. The sight that met his eyes would stay with him for a long time.
Squeezing a sponge of water and frothing bubbles onto bobbing breasts, Cordelia was still orange but decidedly less so. She was also as wet and sleek as an otter and looked a world away from the distraught and humiliated woman he’d left earlier in the night.
She gasped, “Angel,” and the next instant the sponge was flying straight at him. Angel didn’t both trying to step aside and simply let it splat onto his filthy coat.
In the bath, Cordelia had sunk deeper into the water and glared indignantly at him over the rim of the bath, “Get OUT!!” she yelped and crossed her arms over her body.
Irritated beyond memory, Angel did only because Connor started to cry from his crib. Striding over and shucking his coat and shirt so as not to get him dirty, Angel picked up his son and called over his shoulder, “You have some explaining to do, Cordelia.”
“*I* have some explaining to do-“ she seethed, “Who just waltzed in on who?”
“That ironic coming from you,” he called back, “You’re lucky I’ve stopped sleeping naked, the number of times you’ve just barged in here.”
That silenced her and sitting down in his favourite chair, Angel grinned down at his bright eyed son. “Got her,” he mouthed. Connor gurgled and stuffed a fist in his mouth.
Cordelia rallied, “Fine I’ll stop coming in here when I hear Connor crying so you don’t have to get up.”
Angel wasn’t fazed, “She’s lying,” he told Connor, “We both know she can’t resist you.”
An extra loud of splash of water indicated aggravation, “Hey! Don’t be bringing, Connor into this. It’s tacky for parents to drag kids into arguments.”
That statement did a lot towards soothing his temper at being sent on a wild-goose chase, still… “I want to know what’s happened between before and now, Cordy. I hate wasting my time; especially when it involves fire demons.”
“What’s the big deal,” she griped, “Lorne came back and we sorted it out. Apparently it’s only permanent for vamps because you guys don’t shed skin, or your cells don’t change or something. Me being human means, I can get rid of it- hence the long soak in a tub with some serious exfoliation going on.”
“Okay,” sighed, Angel lifting Connor so he could nuzzle the solid little belly, “I guess that makes some sense. I’m still going to be having a few strong words with Lorne though- did you know Quiggins has only one leg ‘cause he’s always upsetting the wrong customers. One day another vamp is gonna rip off the other one, too,” he prophesied grimly.
There was another pause. “Angel…”
“Thanks for the white knight routine- even if it was a waste of time.”
“Its lucky you love me, huh?”
That caught his attention, “What?”
“Its lucky I love you, too.”
“You do?” asked Angel staring towards the bathroom with a blaze of hope before remembrance set in, “Oh, like you do Wes, Fred and Gunn.” Damn
“Exactly,” replied Cordy brightly, then added, “Except you’re my favourite vamp.”
“Nice to be special,” murmured Angel with a sigh, a wry smile curving his lips as he settled Connor who was now blinking sleepily into the crook of his arms.
“So, do you think you could pass me back the sponge and shut the door?”