Title: Lessons in Love
Email: to come.
Originally Posted: 2008
Timeline: AtS Season 2/3
Disclaimer: Not mine, just playing with them.
Summary: After Epiphany Angel finally knows what he wants. Only Cordelia’s just as certain that she wants the exact opposite. Can Angel use one season, one class room, and one religious studies course to teach his seer some lessons in love? Written for the Angel’s Oasis Fall Fic Festival.
Feedback: Always welcome.
Part One – First Day
“You want to what?”
Cordelia was sure that her last vision must have affected her hearing…and her sight. Because there was no way that Angel was standing in front of them asking to be taken back into the fold.
“I want to come back.”
Well, that blew her vision induced hearing impairment theory. He really wanted back in. She’d rather be deaf.
“Well, is someone going to say something.”
If there was any justice in the world Cordelia knew that the flames in her eyes would have reduced him to ash.
“I’m just trying to think of the most offensive way possible to say no. Give me a minute. Sure, it won’t be a classic like “Don’t make me move you” but I’m pretty sure I can work in seven, maybe eight obscenities.”
Angel winced at the reference to the unfortunate threat he’d made to Cordelia when he’d come to retrieve one of the books he’d needed during his Darla-induced insanity. But he’d known it wasn’t going to be easy. Easy and Cordelia didn’t belong in the same galaxy much less the same sentence. He kind of wished she’d go ahead with the swearing. The sooner they got the anger out the sooner they could move on. And they would be moving on. Angel had finally figured out exactly what he wanted and nothing was going to get in his way.
“Go ahead. I deserve it.”
A strangled scream of outrage escaped her throat.
“You’re damned right you deserve it. And don’t think you get any bonus points for knowing just how much you’ve earned this. Even a feeble minded imbecile without two brain cells to rub together to spark a thought could see how much you have this coming. Which, if you think about it, makes it kind of surprising that you managed to figure it out.”
“So that’s a no?”
Even the visions had never made her head pound the way it did at Angel’s response. Maybe she was having an aneurysm. If it got her out of this stupid conversation she hoped her brains would start leaking out her ears. When that wish proved in vain she silently cursed the Powers. During auditions it’s all spasms and drool, and the one time she wants her brain fried, zippo, zilch, nada. Sometimes this seer gig totally sucked.
“That’s a hell no!” Just as Cordelia was gearing up to speak freely and thus unleash the most fearsome weapon known to man – her razor sharp tongue; she caught sight of Wes and Gunn out of the corner of her eye.
Explosionus interruptus. Dammit! Life had been so much easier when she’d ruled over people with an iron fist instead of cared about them with a heart of gold. Boy did she miss that iron fist. She’d like to shove it right up Angel’s –
Cordelia took a deep breath. That line of thinking wasn’t going to get her where she needed to go. She wasn’t about to let Angel get close to them again. Not only was he not trustworthy, but he was dangerous. She used to think that Angelus was the threat, but at least with the soulless wonder you knew what to expect.. With Angel it had been a hundred times more devastating because they’d never seen it coming. She wouldn’t put her little family in front of that runaway train ever again.
But she had to be realistic. Gunn and Wes, as capable as they were and as hard as they tried, just weren’t cut out to play the hero. They were sidekicks. Good, necessary sidekicks, but sidekicks nonetheless. There was a reason why the big, dumb bloodsucker had been given this job in the first place. She’d be damned if she was going to let two of the finest men she’d ever met get themselves killed if there was anything that she could do to stop it.
“Look, they’re your visions and I can’t keep them from you if you actually want to try to do something with your life besides kill lawyers – and as hobbies go, just let me say ewww. But you don’t get to come back. You’re not reliable and worse, you’re a menace. For us, this mission isn’t about you and your iffy redemption anymore. It’s about people who need our help. If you want to help them, for whatever reason’s taken your fancy this week, that’s fine, but consider yourself an independent contractor. I’ll call you when I have a vision. Show up, don’t, you’ll do what you want anyway.”
She tilted her head up and met his steely gaze with one of her own.
“That’s as good as it’s gonna get Angel. Take it or leave it.”
There was no anger on his face and no remorse; simply a calm sense of contemplation. This was new. Angel hadn’t been kidding when he’d told her he only had “bite and avoid” to work with. This quiet confidence was eerie and annoying. How dare he get another mood while he was gone. She was almost back to the profanity plan when fortunately, for Angel at least, he gave his answer.
“I’ll take it.”
“Well, that was…” Wesley vocabulary was so large that, in moments like these, it was often a hindrance as it overwhelmed his befuddled mind with too many choices.
“Jacked up.” Gunn might have known less words, but they were always far more effective. Being readily available didn’t hurt, either.
Now Gunn’s words came slower. Even a speechmeister such as himself knew to tread lightly in front of verbal god…goddess. Whatever. He just didn’t want to be the first one to say something stupid and bring all that rage she was sitting on in his direction. He didn’t like to set a friend up, but with Cordelia it was every man for himself. Besides, giving Cordelia a reason to explode seemed to be Wesley’s specialty, and he’d hate to horn in on his area of expertise. Scared of a teenage girl. Damn, he had to go kill something; flex his manliness.
“Are we good?”
Cordelia drew her gaze away from the door and directed it back towards her friends.
“Of course. We’re fine. Exactly the same as we were before the unsavory element darkened our door. Look, guys; so we’re suddenly on Angel’s radar again. So what? You know how he is – tomorrow we won’t even be a memory of a blip. No point in working ourselves up over it.”
She flipped her hair out of her face in the universal woman’s sign that even Wesley knew meant that the discussion had come to an end.
“Besides, I have more important things to deal with right now.”
Wesley knew that she was right. Angel would either be there when the visions came or not, and there really wasn’t much that they could do about it. So, taking his cue from her he decided to move on to a more palatable topic.
“That’s right. Classes start this week, don’t they.”
He was rewarded with a beaming smile the likes of which he’d never thought to see again after the vampire had left them.
“So, brainiac,” Gunn asked as he leaned his hip on the edge of her desk. “What are you takin’?”
“Well, oh ye of the single digit IQ,” she taunted back as she poked him with her pen. “I’m taking Economics, American Lit., Aerobic Dance, and The Historical Development of Christianity.”
The faces of both men took on a look of surprise at the last class.
“What? I needed to take a full load to qualify for my student loans and there weren’t that many classes open this late. Besides, after the first three I chose all that were left were night classes. So I figured if I had to be out after dark at what is, let’s face it, a vamp buffet, then I should at least take a class that will let me lug around a ginormous cross and a bottle of holy water without looking like a complete freak.”
Realizing that instead of stunning bookbag/shoe combos her idea of college accessorizing was going to consist of bright, yet tasteful stake cozies she lowered her head to her desk with a groan.
“God; I’m a complete freak.”
“There, there.’ Wesley muttered the cliché phrase as he patted Cordelia’s shoulder in an awkward attempt to comfort her. “You’ll see; this will be great fun. We can go over Biblical texts in their original language and compare them to more recent translations to sort out the religious from the political -”
“So,” Cordelia’s head popped up as she looked over at Gunn. “I guess I’m only a moderate freak in a comparative sense, huh?”
A sly smile slid onto the young man’s lips.
“That’s what I’m saying, girl. You look on that bright side. So you got some freak in you; at least you still understand that Friday night fun does not in any way include texts, translations, or politics. Just remember, as long as you have English here around you’ll never be the geekiest person in the room.”
“Fine, fine. Mock me if you must. But the next time you need to know how to kill a Hulo’jueax demon see who you turn to.”
Wesley was the picture of wounded pride, but his friends could see the amused sparkle in his eyes. They were all relieved that Angel’s appearance hadn’t demolished their hard earned sense of camaraderie.
Angel listened to the gentle teasing for a few more minutes before turning to make his way back to the hotel.
Cordelia had said she’d call when she had a vision. That was enough…for now. Angel knew that she hadn’t understood; he wasn’t asking to be let back into her life, he was telling her that he was back. But there was no need to dump that all on her tonight, she’d realize it soon enough.
His little interlude into the neutral color palette of his soul had taught him something – he was damn tired of chronic brooding and endless guilt. Yeah, Angelus might have been a mass murdering psycho who tried to end the world, but what else was he supposed to do? He had no soul! Expecting him to be good without it was like expecting Donald Trump to get laid without his billions of dollars – there were just some things that couldn’t happen.
It’s not like he was happy with the things that Angelus had done, and he was trying to bring as much good in the world as he had evil; but he’d be damned if he was gonna spend the rest of eternity miserable. He did something wrong, he regretted it, and he was trying to fix it. Frankly that’s more than most people ever did when they made mistakes.
So he was going to make amends, and he was going to take back his mission, but he wasn’t going back to who he’d been before. And apparently the Powers understood that part of the reason he’d given up on his life so easily was because it was so fucking miserable. More than that they seemed to know that the situation needed to change.
Of course they’d scared the crap out of him with that blinding white light that pushed through him. Didn’t they know better than to mess around with a guy’s soul when it had such a poor track record of sticking? Still, he couldn’t complain because their timing had been impeccable. Of all the things he’d done in the past months – killing lawyers, beating informants, even the very regrettable act of threatening Cordelia – none would have been as bad as what would have happened if the Powers hadn’t interrupted him before he slept with Darla.
A shudder rippled through Angel at the thought as it did every time he remembered how close he’d come to something so completely and utterly wrong. God, he’d rather get a timeshare in Acathla’s Hell dimension.
But once he’d felt that power move through him he made for the door to go find Lorne, pausing only long enough to tell Darla that he was sorry that he didn’t have any money to leave on the dresser for her and that he was sure that she could see herself out.
Of course she hadn’t. Her mistake. By the time he’d gotten back from his talk with Lorne he had a completely new outlook on life and it took him all of three minutes to stake her, sweep her up, and put her in one of the lovely gift bags Cordelia kept in her desk for special occasions. He wondered if Lindsey had appreciated his gift.
Not that it mattered. He’d corrected his mistakes and the Powers corrected theirs. As his green friend had informed him – his soul was here to stay. Apparently the good folks upstairs realized that having a powerful champion doomed to endless unhappiness was just a vampire version of psycho postal worker waiting to happen. So they tacked his soul down good and tight and sent him back on his path with the ability to be happy. The ability, but not the reason. No, the reason was a curvy brunette with a mouth that promised Heaven or Hell, depending on her mercurial mood.
Angel’s smile was a wicked thing of beauty. Even with his super sticky, technicolor soul he couldn’t help a thrill of delight at the chase that was about to begin. And he knew just how it would start.
Cordelia looked around the classroom from seat she’d chosen. Suddenly she felt ancient. It wasn’t the sea of young faces that did it, they were all about her age. No, it was that she realized that she’d chosen a seat against an inside wall with a clear view of the entire room and up front so that she had an unimpeded path to the two exits. What the hell had happened to her life that picking a desk took on tactical importance?
But aside from that she actually felt pretty good. So far she’d had no problem balancing her classes and the visions; a feat which she attributed to two factors.
First was that, although she’d downplayed it in high school, Cordelia was extraordinarily bright. Sure, she was no Willow, but she could certainly give Giles and Wesley a run for their money should she ever decide to devote her life to dweebery. So her class load really wasn’t that much of a burden, and in fact, she’d kind of enjoyed filling her head with something other than people being mutilated and killed, for a while.
Second was, and it was absolutely killing her to admit it even to herself, that Angel was actually coming through on each and every vision. She still wouldn’t even remotely entertain the idea of depending on the doofus again, and she made sure that she was nowhere around if she knew that he was going to be, but she did have to concede that his helping had made her life just a tiny bit easier.
Cordelia cringed at that thought, knowing that she was just making it worse for herself when he up and left again. When would she learn – Angel was unreliable. Angel was selfish. Angel was standing in front of the chalkboard.
She quickly snapped out of her thoughts as she realized that Angel was, indeed, standing in front of the chalk board at the front of the classroom. And didn’t he look delicious. Okay, she demanded of her subconscious, where had that unauthorized thought come from?
After giving her mind a stern talking to she did have to acknowledge that Angel – who was still an unbearable ass, looked particularly scrumptious in a soft gray sweater stretched over his hard muscles and a pair of beautifully tailored, black dress pants. He was casually elegant, and as she looked around the room she realized that she wasn’t the only one who noticed.
Oh hell no! She had enough to worry about with school, the visions, and whatever fantastically stupid plan Angel was working on, to have to worry about a bunch of horny college girls trying to give the moronic vampire a big happy. She wondered if the college catalog mentioned anything about academic penalties for staking a professor.
“Hello, class. I’m Professor Aurelius, and this is The History of Christian Tradition. I know that you were expecting Professor Lasko, but he had sudden business to attend to out of town so I’ve agreed to fill in so that the class won’t have to be canceled.”
Cordelia just couldn’t believe it. Of all the things Angel had ever done, this was the worst…okay, trying to send the world to Hell was the worst. But this? This ran a close second. And…Good Lord, did she just hear the girl next to her sigh? Cordelia wondered what would be harder about this class – not murdering the professor or keeping down her lunch.
“This class is going to be rather informal as it’s just an introductory exploration of the tenets that have shaped Christianity as opposed to an in depth and detailed examination of historical texts. So the class will follow this format – Every class I will lecture on a given topic. You will write a summary of the lecture and at least one page on how the concept applies or manifests itself in your life for the next class.”
Cordelia felt her jaw falling open as she heard the even, confident tone of Angel’s voice. Where was her giant black hole of boring despair? Oh God, she thought. What if he’d lost his soul.
Giving herself a mental slap in the face she decided to come back down to earth; ’cause, yeah, Angel lost his soul and instead of chasing after Darla or running back to torment Buffy he came to hand out well thought out assignments in her religious studies class. Knowing Angel was officially making her nutty.
The pondering of her sanity, or lack thereof, was interrupted as Angel began his lecture. She suddenly felt pinned to her seat as piercing chocolate eyes locked with hers.
“Today we’re going to talk about Jonah – a man who turned away from his mission from on high. It was at this point that Jonah learned that there was no joy in refusing to do his duty. Although Jonah thought he knew what he wanted, the abandonment of his mission caused him immense suffering as he was swallowed by a great fish. Eventually Jonah repented and returned to his sacred calling and, as the book tells us, he sparked the repentance of one hundred and twenty thousand people. And all because Jonah finally trusted that, even when he couldn’t see it, even when he was bitter, and angry, and disillusioned with life, there was always a reason to help the hopeless.”
With a long suffering sigh Cordelia leaned back in her chair in a vain attempt to get comfortable for what promised to be a long and subtexty night.
Finally. Cordelia had already waited for half an hour as one busty yet brainless coed after another went to confer with the “professor”. Geez, like they had anything to discuss with him. They probably thought that the Christian religion was where Dior fashion originated. When the last blonde, which figured, made her way out she approached her former friend.
“It’s not going to work, Angel.”
Having put away the last of his papers he turned to face his aggravated seer knowing that his slight smirk would do nothing to calm her down.
Cordelia counted to ten, then twenty, but it wasn’t working. And that damn smirk was doing nothing to calm her down!
“What won’t work, Cordelia?”
She growled. She actually growled. Angel felt his shaft twitch at what had to be the sexiest sound he’d ever heard.
“This! What you’re doing! What are you doing?”
“I’m not sure what you mean, Cordelia. You guys wouldn’t take me back so I needed a job. Got to put blood on the table, you know.”
With a flick of her wrist she waved off his pathetic explanation.
“Frankly, I can’t believe that you don’t burst into flames just saying the word Bible, much less trying to teach from it.”
She huffed as though the lack of conflagration was a personal insult to her from the cosmos at large.
“I guess someone up there likes me.”
“Good.” She snapped. “’Cause no one down here does.”
How he had missed her; missed this. Even her disdain was better than most people’s sincere admiration. He watched her struggle to calm down, to be reasonable. His best bet was that the eye of Hurricane Cordy would last 30, maybe 40 seconds depending on her caffeine intake that day.
“Look Angel. This, whatever it is you’re doing; it’s really not gonna work.”
His shoulders rose and fell in a gesture of unconcern.
“Things worked out for Jonah.”
“Yeah,” she snapped, back to furious in the blink of an eye. “Well if it worked the same at least I’d get the joy of watching youget eaten by a whale.”
He responded with a bland expression and his ever so slightly condescending professor voice.
“Technically it wasn’t a whale.”
Remembering that he was a vampire in the knick of time, Angel barely managed to keep from stepping back as Cordelia moved forward, rage crackling around her like a living presence.
“Technically, I wouldn’t give a crap what eats you – Hellmouth, giant snake mayor, one of those slimy hula hoop demons -”
Cordelia stilled, eyes downcast as she processed what he’d just said.
“Cordelia? It’s a Hulo’jueax demon.”
Her eyes slowly met his.
“I know what you meant, Angel. I was just trying to realistically assess the likelihood that I could dust you with my #2 pencil.”
A smile tugged up one corner of his mouth.
“And the verdict?”
“Well, the jury’s still out, but I’d be willing to do some experiments in the interests of science.”
Tilting his head down to hide his smile was a wasted effort as he saw that she did, indeed, have the writing implement in question clutched tightly in her hand and his laughter spilled forth.
With a weary sight Cordelia took a large step back.
“Angel, this isn’t going to accomplish anything. Do you really expect that I’ll just forgive you?”
Now it was Angel who stepped closer. But unlike the vampire, Cordelia had nothing to prove and took a hasty step back.
“Honestly, I don’t expect you will just forgive me. I expect you to forgive me; and I expect you to guide me in this mission, and I expect you to keep your promise to be with me ’til my Shanshu no matter how mad you might be right now. That’s what I expect. That’s what I want from you. All that and more. I want my seer and best-friend back, and whatever the step is after that – I want that, too.”
Angel began slowly moving forward forcing Cordelia back to maintain the space between them.
“I’m done letting life beat me down, Cordelia. You were right. I can’t ever really know how to help the world if I’m not a part of it. You wanted me to get a life and I’m more than ready to do so – and, Sweetheart, you’re the center of it all. That’s what I expect. That’s what I want. Nothing less.”
Cordelia’s retreat was halted by the front row of desks, but Angel still moved forward until her personal bubble had been well and truly burst as his chest pressed into hers and his lips moved against her ear.
“And if you think I was fixated on Darla, well baby, you haven’t even begun to see obsession.”
When she finally managed to pry open the eyes she hadn’t even noticed had slid shut, Cordelia found herself alone in the class room with Angel’s husky promises still hanging in the air.