Friendly Persuasion


friendlypersuasion


Doyle explains to Kate how he is responsible for getting Cordelia and Angel together.

  • CONTENTS:  C/A in AtS
  • RATING: NC17
  • LENGTH: Novella / 18,000 words
  • STATUS: Completed
  • CHALLENGE CREDIT: Califi / Challenge $6 / AO’s ‘Lysa Says: Challenge Me‘ thread
  • FICPIC CREDIT: Califi
  • WARNINGS: Explicit Sexual Content

Friendly Persuasion

Kate Lockley’s Apartment

Walking back into the kitchen of her one-bedroom apartment, Kate adjusted the stovetop burner to a lower setting, commenting to Doyle as she went, “Remind me how I let you talk me into cooking you dinner.”

“Oh, I can be very persuasive when the need arises. Comes with the accent. Women can’t get enough of it,” Doyle grinned at the response that generated. Getting a rise out of the normally unruffled detective was a fun pursuit.

Arching a dark blond eyebrow, Kate tried her best not to laugh in his face. “Is that so?”

Nodding, Doyle answered quickly enough, flirtation apparent in his voice as he leaned against the kitchen counter. Kate was standing by the stove, too distracted by the Irishman’s answer to remember she was supposed to be stirring the bubbling sauce. “Absolutely, take you for instance. Don’t know how you’ve resisted me this long.”

“All of twelve minutes?” Kate glanced down at her leather-banded Timex. “You’re not short on nerve.”

“That’s called charm where I come from,” he flashed a dimpled grin that never failed.

Reluctantly, Kate found herself smiling back. He did this every time, she thought. Got her to smile. Charm, indeed. “My mistake, I thought it was blarney. Let’s cut to the chase, Doyle. We both know you’re not just here for the food. We’ve got a deal and you have a tale to tell.”

Doyle let out a long sigh. “Okay, then. Like all my favorite stories, this one begins with a girl.”


Weeks Ago…

Angel Investigations isn’t just a business. It’s a mission for the hopeless in this City of Lights, for those who can’t reach beyond the darkness. No mission would be complete without its tall, brooding Dark Avenger-type…Angel, of course, but at the heart of it all is Cordelia Chase, ex-Sunnydale cheerleader, wanna-be actress and all-around appealing kinda gal.

“Of course this is just temporary—,” Cordelia smiled in a way that made it impossible for Angel to say no to her, “until my inevitable stardom takes effect.”

Before Angel knew it, he had a mission, an agency, and a staff of two highly talented individuals; one with the right contacts and the other with enough gumption to keep Angel from drifting back into his penchant for being a lonely, self-loathing creature of the night.

Watching Cordelia in a mixture of amusement and admiration from his position in the doorway, Doyle found he wasn’t the only one following her every move with his eyes. Angel was there at his side, equally caught up in observing the brunette’s actions as she went about cleaning the rest of the outer office.

“You’ve made a good choice. She’ll provide a connection to the world. She’s got a humanizing influence,” Doyle told him.

Angel’s mouth lifted into a half-smile, still not taking his eyes from the young woman who’d just invited herself back into his life and created a job for herself all within the space of a few minutes. After the whims of fate had thrown them together again and he’d saved her life.

The response Doyle got surprised him considering the way Angel was staring. “You think she’s a hottie.”

Doyle couldn’t disagree with that. “Yeah. She’s a stiffener alright.”


Kate’s Kitchen

“Not really impressed with that conversation,” Kate made a face and picked up the long-handled wooden spoon to stir the tomato sauce. “I get enough testosterone down at the precinct.”

Doyle looked offended. “It’s important. Totally relevant. You asked for the details. Just be ready for a few surprises along the way.”

Glancing over her shoulder, Kate turned back to her task, shaking some oregano into the saucepan and stirring a little faster. “Considering I’ve been a cop in this town for more than a minute, I’d say it takes more than a little guy-talk to bother me.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Doyle moved a little closer and inhaled the wafting steam. “Let’s just say we don’t lead boring lives at Angel Investigations.”

“Right. What was that job you were on when I met you? The bartender did it,” Kate recalled that grizzly case. “Not exactly a typical photo-op of a cheating spouse.”

Shuddering, Doyle nodded, “More like ‘Invasion of the Body-Snatchers’ which is just routine fare for a vampire with a soul, a seer and their Girl Friday.”

Giving Doyle a hard stare, Kate let his words sink in. The serious look on his face and his tone of voice suggested he was entirely serious despite the content of his words. “Vampire? You really did mean creature of the night. C’mon, Angel’s a little pale, but so are most of the night shift staff at the station.”

Trying to sound as if she got that it was a joke, Kate asked with a stilted laugh, “Did you stop at the bar on the way here?”

Doyle wished that he had. It might have made this easier. “Surprisingly enough, not today.”


D’Oblique Nightclub

Walking up to the attractive black man wearing a sport coat and tie, Cordelia handed him one of her new Angel Investigations calling cards. Gifting him with a bright smile, she said, “Hi! If you’re in trouble, just call this number. We can help.”

Before he could respond, Cordelia moved on to a couple sitting at a nearby table and handed over a card to the girl who appeared startled by the brunette’s interruption. “Hi,” she greeted as if it was completely natural to barge right in on their private conversation. “Being harassed by someone or something? Just dial us up, day or night.”

Then to the equally startled guy, “You look troubled. Are you troubled— or is that just your lazy eye?— Anyway, call us, we’re very discreet.”

Moves over to the next table, Cordelia was in the process of addressing its occupants when Doyle crept up beside her and grabbed her away. “Hey, hey, hey. This isn’t a marketing campaign here, princess. You’ve got to stay a bit more below the radar.”

Looking confused by his actions, Cordelia asked, “What radar?”

Doyle gave her a look that suggested it should be obvious. “The police?” Surely she had heard of them even in Sunnydale. Pointing out, “You know the service our friend Angel provides— might put some people in mind of the V-word.”

“Vampire?” shrugged Cordelia not seeing what that had to do with anything.

“No, vigilante. You know there are laws against this. You need to chat people up more casual like,” Doyle suggested. “You know, hi, what’s your name? How’s life treatin’ ya? What’s that you say? Minions of hell getting’ ya down?”

Rolling her eyes at the idea, Cordelia explained, “I’m an actress, a student of the human animal. I don’t need to talk to people to know their story.”

Kate’s Kitchen
Kate held up the spoon as a pointing device, never minding that it dripped red sauce on her clean kitchen floor. Pursing her pale glossy lips, Kate stopped him, “Hold it right there, Doyle. This is me trying not to laugh in your face. Vampire vigilantes aren’t exactly everyday fare.”

“Not the vigilante part, anyway.”

“Angel— your boss— tall, dark and stoic kinda guy— is a vampire? As in having sharp fangs and sleeping in coffins,” Kate plopped the spoon back on the spoon rest, splattering little bits of red across the white stovetop. Crossing her arms, she waited to hear what else Doyle had to say that might earn him a serious recommendation for a psych evaluation.

He knew Kate wasn’t buying it. The atmosphere between them was as thick as mud. Trying for a bit of humor to lighten things up, Doyle commented, “Oh, the fangs are there— pearly white, I might add. Angel must floss between meals.”

“The sauce may be red, but it’s hardly vampire cuisine,” the blonde detective gave him a stark stare daring him to tell her more. Just one more thing before she shut up, Kate decided, “Or is the hostess simply expected to offer her neck?”

“Well, if I was a vampire, I think I’d bite you,” Doyle muttered loud enough for her to hear. “Angel has a soul. He doesn’t kill humans for food or pleasure unlike the rest of his kind.”

Throwing up her hands in mock surrender, Kate pleaded, “Enough with the horror stories. I’d already given up on the idea of anything happening between Angel and me. If I hadn’t guessed his feelings the first time I saw him staring at Cordelia, I certainly knew it the last time I saw you guys together. So there’s no need to make up vampire tales to scare me off.”

“Maybe it is a bit of a horror story to most humans, but it’s the truth,” Doyle met her gaze with unwavering confidence.

The look in his eyes made Kate hesitate before responding. She still didn’t believe it, but something in the way Doyle spoke made her keep searching for answers. “So Cordelia Chase knows Angel is a vampire, but they’re….”

Doyle jumped in, “Oh, definitely. That’s what you brought me here to tell you.”

Admitting the fact, “I was curious about them. They seem like such opposites, but it is obvious to me how they feel about each other.” Shrugging as if she wasn’t dying to know the details, Kate said disinterestedly, “Just thought you’d actually tell me something instead of spinning campfire stories.”

“There are things in this world that may sound like fairytales or nightmares, Katie, but they’re as true as me standing here,” Doyle put his hand on her shoulder, a move that drew a nervous glance. He kept it there. “You may have asked me here tonight, but I’ve come with a purpose. I’ve come to open your eyes to the truth before it comes home to bite you— literally.”

Looking a little angry, Kate moved away from Doyle’s touch. “This is bullshit, Doyle and you know it. Vampires? Please don’t insult my intelligence. If you want to cover up for Angel’s borderline illegal investigational methods, that’s one thing, but don’t ram this stuff down my throat and expect me to play along.”

The blond had fire in those icy blue eyes. Remaining calm, Doyle informed her with a hint of a smile dimpling his cheek, “Lucky for you, the PTB want you on our team, Katie girl. They’ve sent me a little vision to help you understand and accept that there are things that go bump in the night— and that it’s Angel’s mission to make a difference.”

“PTB?” Kate asked cluelessly.

“Powers That Be.”

Kate’s jaw dropped open and then closed with the click of her teeth. “Obviously, I should’ve guessed.”

“Hmm,” Doyle sensed her impatience and rising hostility. “Well then, considering the drippy sarcasm and icy glare tells me you’re about five seconds away from kicking me out the door, I’ll just get started.”

Outside in the Hall…
“You’re fidgeting,” Cordelia pointed out as she watched Angel straighten his collar for the third time.

Denying it, Angel sounded out a gruff response, “Am not.”

Cordelia didn’t bother hiding her laughter. “Then why do you look like you’ve got ants in your pants? Sheesh! It’s just cop lady, not a demon lair. Dinner and a little conversation won’t kill you.”

It helps that I’m already dead. Angel wasn’t so sure about any of this. Telling Kate about their mission was one thing. Asking her to be a member of the team was another. But this was just going too far. With a moan of discontent, he looked like he wanted to head for the nearest demon-infested haunt just to escape, “Dinner.”

“I know you’re not a foodie, Angel, but Kate will understand— assuming that Doyle hasn’t wimped out on telling her the truth,” Cordelia grabbed his sleeve and pulled him back toward the door.

Since there was no way out of this, Angel gave in, commenting, “Doesn’t seem right that the news comes from him instead of me.”

That came across rather ironically to Cordelia, “Yeah. Finding out you’re a vampire tends to shock a girl’s system. Been there. Felt that.”

She knocked on the door.

Angel remembered that Cordelia had done a 180-degree turn from pursuing him to avoiding him after learning the truth about him being a vampire. “I’m glad you’ve finally gotten over the shock.”

Flashing a grin, Cordelia said, “That was before I learned about the perks of having a 240-yr old vampire.”

“Having me for what?” Angel asked teasingly.

“As a boss, of course,” deadpanned Cordelia far from meaning that.

Angel stepped forward, his tone dropping into a deep range that hinted at as many promises as his words. “The job comes with perks.”

Cordelia’s back was against the door, one hand still holding the bottle of wine they had brought and the other fending off the approaching vampire. Sarcasm was her weapon of choice against that seductive suggestion. “Filing, cleaning up demon goo, buying wholesale pigs blood, working on Friday nights. Oh, yeah. Lots of perks and the list goes on.”

Moving even closer despite the hand that tried to hold him at bay, Angel leaned down to let his cheek brush against hers, whispering in her ear, “There might be some other fringe benefits.”

Head tilted up, Cordelia felt his lips grazing the soft skin of her throat. “Like what? Can’t think of any,” she teased throatily and shivered with aroused awareness.

Pulling back, Angel figured he might need to remind the tempting little vixen as he put a hand on the door behind them and closed in to kiss those smiling lips. Before he could connect, the door opened and Cordelia let out a startled cry as she started to tumble backward. Angel was still leaning forward, now against the invisible energy barrier that kept him out. Only his lighting-fast reflexes saved Cordelia from a hard landing.

Angel reached forward and caught Cordelia before she moved beyond his reach. He pulled her back into the safety of his strong arms, holding her now laughing form close as he lifted his gaze toward Kate Lockley who was staring at Angel as though she’d never seen him before. The vampire’s eyes flicked over to Doyle who stood behind her in the background before turning his attention back to their hostess.

Cordelia caught the look on Kate’s face and tried to break the ice, “Kate, hi!” Holding up the bottle of wine, “We brought you this. Angel picked it out. He— knows wine.

The comment made the blonde go pale and Kate was still doing a great impression of a mute, gaping fish. Cordelia offered her a smile anyway. “Not so much in the jokey mood? Bad vampire humor anyway. Guess Doyle told you.”

Nodding silently, a little shocked by everything Doyle revealed, Kate kept staring at Angel, her blue eyes wide saucers. Feeling uncomfortable himself, Angel said simply, “Hello, Kate.”

Silent for another tense moment, Kate finally found her voice even though it came across as strangled, “Doyle says you need an invitation to get in.”

Angel quipped, making light of the subject, “It helps.”

When Kate said nothing else, appearing lost in thought, Cordelia motioned with her hand in a sign of encouragement. “That’s your cue, Kate. You say, ‘Angel, I inv—'”

“Not so fast,” Kate snapped back to life, nostrils flaring with her indrawn breath.

Cordelia looked at Angel and then over at Doyle who simply shrugged. The PTB may want her on their team, but free will still gave Kate Lockley the right to choose her own path. There was no guarantee she would accept this despite the info the PTB sent his way.

“Doyle told me you’re a vampire,” Kate began, “but I can’t see it, Angel. You look like a man to me.”

“Trust me,” Cordelia subconsciously fiddled with the long neck of the wine bottle, “he’s all—”

Angel cut her off by growling her name, “Cor…”

Turning her eyes to his, Cordelia asked innocently, “What?”

“Let me handle this,” Angel could do without the innuendos right now. He’d already been far enough along when Kate opened the door. “Please.”

Giving him free reign to botch things up, Cordelia let out a soft, “Pfft.” Then adding, “Go for it, dorkula.”

Kate pressed her lips together and then said to Angel, “Guess you’ve been around for a while so you’ll know the old saying: seeing is believing. Show me the truth, Angel.”

His response was a simple shift of flesh and bone as Angel morphed into his vampire visage. The brow furrowed becoming an overhanging ridge that shadowed dark topaz eyes. Sharply jagged teeth appeared between his lips as Angel attempted a smile to make himself appear less frightening. Kate’s expression suggested he should keep his smiles to himself. She turned pale, but never once looked away, staring him right in the eyes.

“So it’s true,” Kate sounded bitter about being faced with a shocking reality she could no longer discount as fiction. “The whole world is caught up in a sham.”

Angel let his vampire features fade back to their human form. “People see what they want to see and ignore the rest. You’re a cop. You know that.”

The horrified look on Kate’s face unsettled Cordelia. Not that she wanted Kate to look at Angel the same way she did, but her vampire was sensitive enough without being subjected to instant contempt because of who he was. Defending him, “Angel’s one of the good guys. The best. He’s trying to make a difference. It’s his mission.”

Glancing down at the fiercely protective look on Cordelia’s face, Angel corrected her softly, “Our mission.”

Kate only returned, “Mission impossible if half of what Doyle tells me is true.”

“Not if the PTB have any say,” Doyle promised her. “We start small. One person at a time.”

Looking at Cordelia who stood with the vampire’s arm around her shoulder, Kate had to ask since her curiosity about their relationship now contained a vein of disbelief, “And you two— you actually….”

Rolling her eyes as the woman couldn’t seem to finish her sentence, Cordelia simply commented with a conspiratorial smile, “Every chance we get.”

No longer pale, Kate stood red-faced as blood rushed to her cheeks. Damn her fair skin, anyway. She was a tough cop, not a blushing ingénue. Fortunately, she wasn’t the only one off-put by the brunette’s bluntness. Both Angel and Doyle stared as her name left their lips simultaneously in groaning censure, “Cordelia!”

Sensing that she’d said something disturbing, Cordelia finally figured out that Kate hadn’t been talking about sex at all. “Ohhhh. You meant dating. As in doing things that don’t involve a bed. We do that too.”

Doyle shrugged sympathetically and Angel rubbed the nape of his neck as if that might make the whole conversation go away. He never knew what was going to come out of Cordelia’s mouth. While it sometimes made him cringe, her spontaneity certainly kept him on his toes. The corners of his mouth curled up, eyes crinkling in amusement as he accepted Doyle’s conciliatory shrug.

“But…,” Kate faltered leaving off the, “he’s a vampire” part of her comment. “This is all a little overwhelming. I think— dinner’s almost ready.”

As she started to turn away and head back to the kitchen where the timer was now buzzing, Angel called out, “Uh, Kate?”

Numbly, Kate turned back, “Yeah?”

“Invitation?”

As Doyle and Cordelia were staring expectantly at her, Kate realized that part had not been just another bad vampire joke, “You really can’t come in without one.”

“No,” Angel said truthfully.

“Huh,” Kate looked interested at that, but turned back toward the kitchen again. Two steps later, she looked at him over her shoulder, “Guess you’d better come in.”

Kate’s Dining Room
Having allowed Kate the time and space to finish preparing dinner, they were all now gathered around her small table. Doyle and Cordelia were carrying on a conversation having nothing to do with the reason for them being here when Kate finally broke in with, “I can’t think. There’s just too much to take in all at once.”

“Living in Sunnydale kinda kept us on our toes,” Cordelia explained that she had a bit of an advantage when it came to accepting the strange truth that was reality. “There was always a new Big Bad popping up with some apocalypse.”

“The Hellmouth is a little different than L.A.,” commented Angel as he poured red wine into the fragile crystal goblets Kate had salvaged from her mother’s belongings when she’d moved into her own apartment. She kept her attention on Angel’s actions and tried to hear what he was trying to explain, “Sunnydale was more a focal point for demonic activity. Here in L.A., there are whole societies of demons ingratiated into everyday existence.”

Kate gulped down a large swallow of the wine before saying, “Doyle told me you two knew each other in Sunnydale. I didn’t realize you were together before you came to L.A., but that makes sense.”

Considering the way they looked at each other, Kate would have guessed they’d known each other for years. Only it had taken her time to accept the fact considering her instant attraction to dark-haired gods…guys…vampires, apparently, meant she was once again looking in the wrong place. She’d even gone as far as accusing Angel of being a serial killer and now she wondered if that hadn’t been close to the truth.

Angel thought of Cordelia back in her Sunnydale days and the lengths he had gone to in avoiding her. And the way she always managed to catch him privately when Buffy wasn’t around, or worse, when Buffy was right there to witness them together. Not that he’d been doing or thinking anything he shouldn’t have been while talking to Cordelia, dancing with Cordelia or rescuing Cordelia. Being evil again for a while and having tackled her to the ground that one night might have been excused as simply reacting without any conscience whatsoever. Unless he’d just been doing something he wanted to all along.

Not ready to admit that to himself even now, Angel told Kate, “We weren’t dating back then.”

Twirling his fork in the large pile of spaghetti on his plate, Doyle grinned as he said, “I take all the credit for getting these two together.”

“Credit?” Cordelia rolled her eyes. Grabbing her unbuttered roll from her bread plate, she looked like she considered hurling it at his head. Nose in the air, she sounded her disbelief at his words, “Pfft. Is that what you call it?”

“Don’t look so hoity-toity at me, princess,” Doyle mocked her as he sat back in his chair. “You two would still be staring at each other from across the office if it wasn’t for me. Just took a little friendly persuasion is all to get you in the game.”

Kate found the idea somewhat strange considering the fact that Doyle obviously had to know that Angel was a vampire by that point. “You were playing matchmaker.”

“From the moment I clapped eyes on her,” Doyle readily admitted. “Kate, I’m a seer. I get visions of people in danger. Sometimes, the PTB include a little post script in their messages. I knew someone important was about to walk into Angel’s life again and when I met Cordelia, I immediately understood the impact she could have on this miserable vamp’s existence.”

Angel, who had put a small amount of spaghetti on his plate for appearances sake, stopped pushing it around his plate as he told Doyle, “Either you’re a better actor than I suspected or you’re taking more credit than you deserve.”

Angel Investigations
It began with a question. A simple one, but its meaning struck a note that resonated a warning in Angel’s brain as Doyle asked him, “Tell me something about Cordelia.”

The Irish half-demon had just suggested to Cordelia that if she wanted to spend one night away from her horrific apartment, she should let him know, hinting that she could stay at his place. Angel, sitting at his desk reading, expected Cordelia’s usual snarky comeback putting Doyle firmly in his place, but that wasn’t what it sounded like to him. Not at all.

He was out of his chair and standing in the doorway watching them by the time Cordelia finished responding. There was an almost playful smile on Cordelia’s ripe peach lips. The way she looked in that long green skirt and cream overlay top with her dark chestnut hair long and loose over her shoulders, Angel supposed he couldn’t fault Doyle for trying. He just hadn’t expected to hear Cordelia answering back with equal amounts of flirtation in her voice.

Maybe that was just the moment Angel decided enough was enough. It all actually started the moment Cordelia came back into his life elbowing her way into just as much as Doyle had done. Her charming smile making it impossible to resist agreeing to anything she and Doyle had up their sleeves.

The girl from Sunnydale certainly made an impression, one that wasn’t lost on him. Though he hadn’t taken conscious notice except to point out to Doyle what was basically an echo of his own thoughts. “You think she’s a hottie.”

That was stating the obvious. Cordelia’s beauty was there for any man to see and Angel had glimpsed moments that suggested a vulnerability she tried to hide. There was the Queen C façade she’d hidden behind for most of her high school years. He’d seen a change, though honestly his thoughts had been so focused on Buffy that he never truly knew her. Blunt to the point of being tactless, she’d amused him more than anyone might guess. He recalled her relentless pursuit of him before she knew he was a vampire. Then it was hands-off leaving him to Buffy.

In retrospect, that still stung a little.

He could have had her anytime before then. The random thought disturbed him at the time. What was he doing thinking of Cordelia that way? Doyle’s fault. The seer couldn’t seem to stop yammering about her. Cordelia this. Princess that. His little come-ons seemed to amuse or irritate her at first, but Angel was beginning to think that was all some feminine ploy.

Doyle was turning up the heat and Cordelia seemed to be lapping it up like a sponge. Angel couldn’t say why he hated the idea. He simply did. It might be one thing if he knew more about Doyle. So he was a good guy, chosen by the PTB as their seer. But he was a demon, half-demon, with a somewhat shady past and dealings he wouldn’t fully reveal. Potentially a bad influence. Plus, he refused to tell Cordelia the truth about himself.

Angel knew Cordelia wouldn’t like the lies and considering her initial reaction to his own status as a vampire, he couldn’t see Cordelia going after half-demon Doyle. At least, she wouldn’t if she knew the truth.

He was concerned. Just protecting her. That’s all it was. It began with never leaving them alone. But they joked and flirted anyway.

So Angel sent Doyle off to the police station instead of going himself. Leaving him to research with Cordelia. She made some blonde comments, surprised that he hadn’t gone himself to see ‘Cagney & Lacey Kate’. Defending his decision, Angel reminded Cordelia that it was still daylight, not bothering to point out that he could easily have gotten there using the sewer system.

Angel knew now that Doyle hadn’t exactly been keen on going to the police station himself, but agreed after it was made clear that it was an order. Cordelia sounded a little miffed that Angel sent Doyle there resulting in him thinking she was jealous because Doyle was talking to Kate Lockley.

After taking more time than was necessary, Doyle returned triumphantly having obtained the necessary information. Cordelia was all over him, proud that he did a good job, hugging him and joking about having to deal with Kate.

Seeing Cordelia’s arms around Doyle tied Angel up in knots. He couldn’t stand her touching him even in this friendly way. Though he didn’t quite understand why the sight made him feel that way. He was too busy glowering over the thought that it wasn’t just a friendly hug, but something more.


Kate’s Place

“So you were jealous,” Kate easily deduced from the limited version that Angel gave her.

Cordelia listened managing to stop herself from interrupting Angel’s little soliloquy. It was too difficult to stay quiet any longer. “Pfft! That’s an understatement.”

Glowering at Cordelia now, Angel recognized that it was best to stay silent on that one, for the moment.

Doyle explained to Kate, “Vampires are rather possessive about things and people. Knowing how protective Angel was when it came to Cordelia, I just played off that a bit. He didn’t know what hit him.”

Angel Investigations’ Underground Parking Lot
Walking up to his car in the underground parking garage, Angel reached for the door handle of his car only to go tumbling against the wall as a large beam smashed him over the head. It was Spike, vamped out and fighting. Here for one obvious reason: the Ring of Amarra.

“Angel, I believe you have something I’m looking for— a shiny little bauble,” Spike took the opportunity while his grandsire was down to explain his demands.

Picking himself up off of the ground, Angel told the peroxided vampire, “Might as well go home, Spike. The Ring of Amarra stays with me.”

Angry at that response, though Spike truly expected it, he swung the wooden beam at Angel again. The larger vampire caught it in one hand and hit Spike across the chin, in the stomach and then knocked him to the floor. Spike slowly gets back up, board in hand again.

“Why?” Spike asked derisively. “Because you are a vampire detective now? What’s next? Vampire cowboy? Vampire fireman? Oh, vampire ballerina.”

Charging Angel with the beam, Spike heard the snarky response, “I do like to work with my legs.” Grabbing an overhead pipe, he swung both feet into Spike’s chest sending him into a hard fall.

Spike quickly picked himself up and kept stabbing at his grandsire with the beam while Angel danced around like a boxer, dodging the board. When Spike tried to pin him to the hood of the car, Angel kicked him off, taking the beam away from him in the process. Then twirling the beam in his hands, Angel mocked him for such a pitiful attempt at reclaiming the ring.

“We duke it out, huh? This is your strategy to get the ring back?” Angel sneered.

Attacking again, Spike misses as Angel fended him off with the beam managing to pin the English vamp to the car. Spike only complained, “Hey, I had a plan!”

Angel all but laughed at him. The other vampire was infamous for his impulsiveness. “You? A plan?” Not that the lack of one had ever deterred Spike from getting in the middle of trouble, or better yet, causing it.

Spike growled. “A good plan. A smart plan. Carefully laid out. But I got bored,” he admitted while hitting Angel and pinning him up against the wall. “All that watching and waiting…, my legs started to cramp.” Throwing Angel up against the door leading out, told the souled vampire, “Enough with the hit-n-quip. Just tell me where the damn ring is.”

Turning around, Angel had shed his human features allowing his demon to rise to the surface as his irritation with Spike increased. “It wouldn’t go with your outfit.” Hitting Spike for a while felt pretty damn good just to pay him back for interrupting his own plans. They included helping a client and Spike was delaying him responding. Angel threw Spike against the concrete wall of the garage just as Doyle & Cordelia arrived.

Quick to see that he might turn it to his advantage, Spike got to his feet and zeroed in on the former Sunnydale cheerleader. “Cordelia. You look smashing. Did you lose weight?”

Automatically responding, “Yes, there’s this great gym— hey!”

Spike smirked in a way only secondary to Angelus himself. Offering quite honestly, “I’d give you a good workout, luv.”

“Eew!”

Angel stepped closer, his rage at the innuendo keeping his vamp face firmly in place, the feral growl telling Spike everything he needed to know. Turning back to him, “I’ll get that ring. This isn’t over until one of us is a pile of dust, mate.”

Darting off, Spike ran as if a pride of lions was on his tail. Worse, one pissed off poof of a grandsire was more than enough. Fortunately for him, Cordelia made a timely interception pulling Angel into a relieved hug despite that his vampire features were still firmly in place.

“Angel, are you okay?” Genuine worry sounded in her voice as she pulled back just enough to press her palm against his face. She knew Spike was not just an ordinary demon. Like Angel, he was a master vampire of the Aurelius clan and possessed a wily imagination when it came to scheming.

Still caught up in the way Spike spoke to Cordelia, Angel wrapped his arm around her waist, not letting her go even after she released her hold on his neck.

Doyle was quick to cut to the significant topic, “More importantly, how’s the ring?”

“It’s fine,” Angel revealed as he morphed back to his human face. “I can’t say the same for you two, though. You’d better get out of sight until this thing is over. Spike is out for blood.”

He felt Cordelia’s spine stiffen at his words. She wasn’t about to verbally admit her fear, but it was clear that she knew a run-in with Spike would not end well. It really killed him to suggest it, but Cordelia’s safety was far more important than his own jealousy over her close friendship with Doyle. Telling his seer, “Take her to your place,” Angel released Cordelia from his arms.

Cordelia looked confused and none-too-happy with the idea. “Why can’t I just go home?”

“Because he knows you, Cordelia. If he wants to, he’ll track you down,” Angel said.

Shrugging, Cordelia agreed that Spike could probably do that if he got it in his head to do so, “Yeah, but he’s not invited, right? He can’t come in.”

Doyle immediately understood what Angel feared. “No, but he can burn the place to the ground with you in it.”

After that description, Cordelia readily changed her mind. “Okay, Doyle’s place it is.”

“What about you, man?” asked Doyle concerned. “You know he’ll be coming back for you before long.”

“I know,” but Angel was resolved to see it through as long as Cordelia stayed safe, and despite his contrary feelings, figured Doyle was the only one he knew and could trust to take care of her.

Cordelia’s hazel eyes were big and bright as she asked, “So what are you going to do?”

“Find him first,” Angel told her, resolved to do anything to end this.

The look she gave him was full of confidence, as though Cordelia believed he could accomplish anything he put his mind to despite the fact that Spike was dangerous. Her lush lips pressed together in a determined line as her hand traced the sleeve of his jacket and gripped his hand for a moment. “Alright, let’s go.”

Angel knew the situation with Spike was probably far more dangerous than Cordelia might imagine. He knew the fight for the Ring of Amarra wasn’t going to be simple; not as easy as a brawl in a parking garage that was certain. Angel traced his fingers over Cordelia’s face as if memorizing its curves and the green-gold flecks in her hazel eyes. She waited for him to say something, but Angel couldn’t say goodbye. It had a ring of finality to it that he didn’t want to put to voice. Not with her.

When Cordelia moved away as his hands dropped to his sides, Angel grabbed Doyle and leaned in to issue a final order he knew the seer would obey without hesitation. “You take care of her.”

Doyle’s cheeks dimpled despite the gravity of the situation. “Oh, I will.”


Kate’s Place

Doyle made a long story short by describing the fight over the Ring of Amarra. Angel was so distracted after killing the vampire Spike had hired to torture the information out of him, and after experiencing being able to stand in the sunlight, that he hardly noticed that Cordelia had organized his rescue. She’d been busy checking him for injuries that had suddenly healed thanks to the power of the ring and asking about Angel being okay that Cordelia probably never realized the extent of her protective behavior.

Like Angel, it wasn’t just friendship driving her actions. Not that either one of them noticed.

Except Doyle. As always, he was watching.

Kate listened to Doyle’s spin on the events surrounding the fight for the mystic gem. Knowing now that vampires were real enough, she had to believe that this story was also true. Though it didn’t surprise her in the least that Cordelia would do anything in her power to save Angel, the thought of magical rings called to something from her childhood that left her smiling. “You have a ring that makes you invulnerable?”

Glancing down at the vampire’s hands, one of them resting on the table next to his wine glass, the other curled around Cordelia’s, she noted that neither one appeared to have a ring with a gem in it.

“Not anymore,” Angel answered glancing toward Cordelia from the periphery of his vision.

“He destroyed it,” commented Cordelia on a sour note. The fact was still a bone of contention between them whenever the subject came up.

Finding it difficult to comprehend that anyone would do that, Kate could only echo Cordelia’s words as a question, “Destroyed it?”

“Power corrupts, Kate,” explained Angel hoping that Cordelia would also understand now that he was free to share his true feelings about it with her and with everyone. “As long as that ring existed, I knew Spike and others like him would never give up trying to get it. Keeping the ring, I might be invulnerable, but the people around me are not.” His dark gaze shifted to Cordelia. After a pause, he added, “I couldn’t risk that.”

Cordelia wavered between looking irritated and wanting to kiss him. Leaning in close, both of them smiling, she pulled back at the last second to say, “Angel conveniently forgets that I’ve kicked a little demon ass and dusted a few vampires without him being around. He just has this whole Dark Ages chivalrous thing going on.”

“I’m not that old,” Angel sat back abruptly. “I wasn’t alive in the Dark Ages.”

“Pfft! You should see him play with his sword,” commented Cordelia with a shrug.

Kate blinked twice before asking, “Pardon?”

Cringing as he realized where Cordelia’s innocent statement automatically was taking his thoughts, Angel knew any response of his would only get him into trouble. Even though she hadn’t meant it that way, Angel had gotten in quite a lot of one-on-one ‘swordplay’ in the weeks prior to them getting together.

Not that he let himself believe it was all about Cordelia. She was just the obvious target for his lustful imaginings because she was there. Normally, he maintained a tight control over his body and the direction of his thoughts, but his petty jealousy over Doyle and Cordelia’s easy and growing friendship kept his thoughts on her.

With that focus it was only a natural hop, skip and jump away from imagining Cordelia and him: with him, under him, on top of him, just beside him. For a thankfully brief period, he acted no better than a horny teenager and chivalrous feelings were the furthest thing from his mind when it came to Cordelia Chase.

Angel Investigations: The Rooftop
High above the ground, on top of a skyscraper neighboring the offices of Angel Investigations, Doyle managed to find Angel. Still wearing the ring, he stared into the glow of the setting sun as he contemplated his decision.

“So how long has it been between sunsets?” Doyle approached slowly.

Angel barely looked away from the horizon, now a brilliant orange with the ever darkening sky above it twinkling with stars. “Two hundred years give or take.”

“Well you got to be feeling pretty damn good then, huh?” Doyle grinned. “I mean this ring— changes everything, don’t it?”

Falling silent again, Angel quickly reviewed the tempting images that flashed through his mind: Cordelia in sunlight with him at her side; taking her to the beach midday, picnics on the sand.

Doyle’s own excitement made him miss the resolve that masked sadness in Angel’s dark eyes. Looking at the horizon, he thought the vampire was just caught up in its beauty. “Yeah, it’s spectacular, I know. But I do promise that there will be another one exactly like it tomorrow.”

“Not for me,” a twinge of bitterness sounded accompanied by steadfast resolve and determination.

Confused, Doyle asked, “What are you saying? That the city will be hit by a meteor before tomorrow night or…”

“No.”

Suddenly, his friend’s decision was all too clear. “No,” Doyle glanced down at the ring and shook his head in denial that Angel could even consider it. An ache settled in his chest at the thought of what the vampire was about to give up. “It’s too horrible to say the other. I can’t even bring myself to say the other.”

“I’m not going to wear the ring,” Angel told him determinedly, the muscles of his jaw clenched. The dangers of keeping it would far outweigh any possible happiness he would gain from wearing it. Not if it endangered the people he cared about.

“That was the other,” Doyle shook his head unwilling to simply accept what seemed like a crazy decision, especially considering all that Angel would gain by keeping that ring. “You got a real addiction to the brooding part of your life. Anyone ever tell you that?”

“Once or twice,” admitted Angel with a hint of a wry smile lifting the corner of his mouth, his thought turning back to Cordelia again.

Doyle wanted to hear more than just a decision. “Care to explain? I mean this ring is your redemption. It’s what you’ve been waiting for.”

Shaking his head, Angel disagreed, “Nah, it just looks like it.”

The Ring of Amarra wasn’t redemption, but temptation. The easy path to getting something Angel thought he wanted, but couldn’t have: sunlight. He’d been brought back from hell itself for a reason and this mission was about helping those who get lost in the night, not about 18 holes at Rancho or feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin.

Cordelia was his warmth, his sunshine. He felt that with every touch and every smile she bestowed, even if it was unconsciously made. Keeping that ring would only put her in danger. Because Spike and any number of others would eventually come for the ring and that next time anyone with him would be in harms way. Next time, she wouldn’t get away without a scratch.

Angel knew that he couldn’t have both Cordelia and the ring. That made the decision easy.

“Angel, man, think what you are saying,” Doyle attempted to change his mind.

“I have,” the vampire assured him. “I’ve thought of it from every angle.”

The sun set beyond the line of the horizon leaving only darkness, starlight and the reflected light of the moon shining on their faces. Before Doyle’s disbelieving eyes, Angel removed the Ring of Amarra, placed it on the ledge between them and, after lifting a loose brick, smashed it.

Angel Investigations: The Office
Consciously admitting his feelings for Cordelia were actually something more than protective brotherly ones was a shock for Angel. Hadn’t he learned his lesson with Buffy? Cordelia deserved no less than she did: a man who could share his life with her. Someone who could give her sunlight and children and all of the other things she so richly deserved.

That wasn’t him, nor would it ever be. But it obviously wouldn’t be Doyle, either. The hell if Angel was going to let Doyle have what he denied himself.

Having exited the elevators from his basement apartment, Angel soundlessly walked into hearing range as Cordelia commented to Doyle, “This is a business. We should be running it like one. We should be charging. I know Angel has been working day and night helping people fight their personal demons, but I need a raise!”

Doyle laughed at her reasoning. “A raise? What, you’ve been working for him for like twenty minutes.”

“A month,” Cordelia corrected as if he didn’t know already, “and I have needs.”

“Needs.”

“A person needs certain designer— things,” she explained as Angel emerged from the shadows to lean up against the doorframe behind them. Both seemed engrossed in their conversation, not noticing his stealthy arrival.

Giving Cordelia a long look, Doyle leered playfully, “Personally, I don’t think you need much in the way of clothes.”

Angel’s eyes narrowed at the seer’s comment.

“But you’re right, and I do agree,” Doyle admitted before either Cordelia or Angel could say anything about his tendency to mentally strip anything in a skirt. “Angel needs to start charging. He just hates bringing up the finances with the clients. He likes playing the hero, walking off into the dark with his long coat flowing behind him in a mysterious and attractive way.”

Finding her thoughts focused on that image just as Doyle intended, Cordelia caught herself on an indrawn breath and defensively joked, “Is this a private moment? Cos I can leave you two alone.”

“No, no,” Doyle held up his hands. Trust Cordelia to twist his words around to her own advantage. “I’m not saying I’m attracted. I’m just saying he projects a certain kind of image and that asking for money isn’t part of it. He’s sensitive about that.”

What more did it take to drum the idea into the girl’s head? Stubborn little thing.

Noticing Angel’s presence, with his broad shoulder held up by the frame of the door. Cordelia elbowed Doyle, leaning in and whispering conspiratorially, “Ok, we’re going to stand up to him.”

Straightening up from his position of leaning on the edge of the desk, Doyle quipped, “Yup, standing up.”

The look on Angel’s face suggested he already had a hint of the conversation. She opened her mouth to speak and then thought twice before suggesting to Doyle, “Just as soon as he’s had his coffee.”

Doyle didn’t mind the delay in the least, “Right.”

Angel walked over to the coffee pot out of habit. It was what Cordelia expected, so he didn’t mind following suit. Both Cordelia and Doyle wore suspicious smiles on their faces and if Angel hadn’t already heard them talking about money, he might have suspected something else. Then again, they had been joking about him instead of agreeing that he might be dark and mysteriously attractive. Cordelia obviously had more interest in Doyle and in making money than him.

“Morning,” he offered them an opening despite the urge to glower at them both.

Minutes later, Doyle’s vision about Melissa Burns, employee of the Pardell Paper Company, distracted them from the conversation about money much to Angel’s relief. He simply didn’t believe they should charge for helping people. It seemed wrong to do so. He’d survived without a salary for two hundred plus years. Not that he’d had rent, utilities or employees before.

Angel headed through the sewers to the paper company to confront the future victim and offer her their services. Only things hadn’t gone as smoothly as anticipated. She turned down his help, but Angel left one of their calling cards behind in case she changed her mind. Returning to AI, Angel informed Doyle & Cordelia, “I scared her.”

Doyle, sitting close to Cordelia as usual, commented, “Sounds like she was scared to begin with.”

Pacing, Angel turned back to them, “Am I intimidating? I mean do I put people off?”

Glancing up at him, Cordelia offered him a smile, “Well, as vampires go, you’re pretty cuddly.” Angel only repeated that word in his head and tried to hold back his demon’s sudden fury at the comparison. Cuddly? She thought he was cuddly. That might not be so bad. Then she added, “Maybe you want to think about mixing up the black on black look.”

Looking down at his clothing of a black shirt, black pants and his black leather coat, Angel frowned at the thought that there was something wrong about the outfit. Then he turned his thoughts back to the issue at hand. Suggesting to Cordelia, “Maybe you should talk to her.”

Cordelia told him, “When she hires us, I’ll get involved.”

Even Doyle had to agree that they should barge into the woman’s life when it was clear that she didn’t want them there. “Cordelia is right.”

“I don’t think so,” Angel told them as he walked over to lean up against the table. “I’ve got a bad feeling that we need to get involved now. This shouldn’t be about money.”

“It isn’t,” Doyle said.

Already geared up for putting their plan into action, Cordelia automatically agreed, “Yeah you should listen to…,” she stopped to give Doyle a hard look. “It isn’t?”

“No, it’s about doing what’s best for the people you’ve helped, Doyle watched Angel straighten up. “People get attached to a mysterious savior, and can you blame them? But as long as you’re just a man who’s doing a job and getting paid, they can feel like they’ve paid their debt to you and they can move on independent like.”

The subterfuge was not lost on Angel, but he saw the way Cordelia gave Doyle the credit for coming up with that explanation. “You’re a lot smarter than you look,” she told the seer before flirtatiously joking with him, “of course you look like a retard.”

Angel’s jaw tightened almost imperceptibly at the way Cordelia and Doyle smiled at each other. Only Cordelia could insult a man and have him drooling for more. He realized they still spent a lot of time together when he wasn’t around and Angel quickly came to hate that idea deciding that was going to stop.

An opportunity came later in the case, a time when Angel would normally have gone looking for information from their one Police Department contact, but gave the task to Doyle instead.

“Again?” Doyle groused about having to go anywhere near the police station.

“You contacted Kate Lockley the last time,” Angel reminded. “Makes sense that you do so again. Familiar face.”

For Cordelia’s benefit, Doyle pointed out, “I’m not the member of this team Katie girl is interested in seeing, man. I think she’s into tall, dark mysterious types.”

Cordelia quipped, “Your entire existence is a mystery, Doyle.”

Surely Angel wasn’t at fault for believing she was jealous of Doyle and Kate seeing each other even in this capacity. For Angel, it was an easy mistake to make.

“Give Kate a little credit. She’s a capable officer. You don’t have to guess where you stand with someone like her,” Angel pointed out. She either accepted you or you’d be thrown to the wolves. Cordelia was the big mystery. She gave off so many mixed signals, it drove him crazy wanting to strangle her— and just wanting her.

“Really,” an icy tone crept into Cordelia’s voice. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Hesitates, Angel realized he hadn’t really meant to say that about Kate. Since when was Cordelia’s runaway mouth contagious? He tried to fix it by saying, “Kate seems uncomplicated. Easy to understand where she’s coming from. Don’t you think so, Doyle?”

Wisely, Doyle said nothing, trying to give Angel the high signal to shut up, but the vampire only continued without realizing that he was sinking into deep quicksand. “You, on the other hand…”

Realizing that Angel was about to make a comparison, Cordelia snapped, “You know, Angel, it’s actually a lot harder being one-dimensional than it is to be like me. Ask Kate! She even has a gold star.”

Cordelia stalked out of the office leaving Angel gaping in confusion at her response and Doyle wearing a pitiful expression as he stared back at the vampire. His little mission to get those two together might be impossible. “Two hundred forty plus years on this planet and you still haven’t got a clue about women. No wonder you brood so much.”


Angel Investigations: The Office

Dealing with Melissa Burns’ obsessed former fiancé was a lot easier for Angel than finding a way to get back into Cordelia’s good graces. She seemed focused on Doyle’s attentions for the rest of the case. Though Angel had to admit she never gave their client any reason to doubt that he was trustworthy in the hero department when it came to saving her from Ronald, the psychic surgeon who could dismember himself piece by piece and control every aspect of those separate body parts.

Watching Cordelia fix Doyle’s collar in the middle of their efforts to secure the apartment distracted Angel for several minutes of self-pity before he got back on track. He didn’t like Cordelia touching Doyle any more than he liked Doyle flirting with Cordelia. He didn’t like anything that gave them the opportunity to be together no matter how ordinary that might be. That included the simple task of them going to the bank the next morning.

“See,” Cordelia waved the check under Angel’s nose, a happy trill sounding in her voice, “you can save the damsel in distress and make decent money. Is this a great country or what?”

Doyle grinned at her enthusiasm, easily sucked right in by it. “Let’s march down to the bank and deposit this beauty.”

Despite the churning jealousy, even Angel found himself somewhat amused by their eager reaction to actual dollar signs. Pointing out the plan needed rethinking, Angel quipped, “Go ahead Doyle. I think I’ll stay here and not burst into flames.”

“Oh, right. You’re pretty much the night deposit guy,” Doyle said missing the dark look that followed. Being unable to go out meant Doyle would be alone with Cordelia. “Still, cause to celebrate.”

“Cordelia can help me whip up a little celebration right here while you make the bank run,” Angel suggested.

“Oh?” Raising an eyebrow in disbelief, Cordelia found it hard to picture Angel in any kind of celebration mode. Especially one that involved whipping something up. With her lips pursed, she couldn’t stop the teasing question, “Does that include one of us wearing leather?”

The look on his face was worth it, Cordelia decided. For someone who was an expert at not revealing a single emotional reaction, he looked like she’d shocked him to the core. “Are you suffering from brain-freeze, Broody? Sheesh! You’d think a vampire would develop a sense of humor after a couple centuries. Y’know…whip…leather.”

Watching Cordelia’s patented eye-roll, Angel tried to drag his thoughts out of the bedroom as images flashed through his head that he’d never considered in regard to her. Not more than once or twice anyway. Finding his voice, he clarified needlessly, “I meant cooking something special for dinner.”

Since Angel was ignoring her little joke, Cordelia let it slide in favor of reminding him that she wasn’t normally let near his kitchen except to make the occasional slice of toast. Cordelia also pointed out, “Besides, you don’t eat.”

“We’ll make an exception,” Angel shrugged. It might not be nutritional for him, but the capability and taste buds were still there.

“Ooookay,” sending Doyle an eye-roll, Cordelia figured this was a day to mark the calendar. Angel actually wanted to celebrate. “Next thing you know you’ll be out clubbing.”

Figuring he might deserve that one, he commented softly, “Don’t push it, Cordelia.”

After a smile that knocked his socks off, Cordelia turned to hand the check to Doyle. “We could use more of these.”

“And we’ll have more soon,” Doyle assured her as if he had previous knowledge of the fact. Maybe he did.

Cordelia added just for good measure, “We need more of these now. Have a vision.”

Heading for the door, Doyle was followed closely by Cordelia. He felt like a postman with a tenacious terrier on his tail. “I just can’t perform on demand.”

“We need the clients,” she sing-songed. “Have a vision.”

Doyle paused before heading out the door. “That money has corrupted you.”

Grinning at her little game, Cordelia asked him, “If I hit you on the head, will you have a vision?”

“Get away from me,” Doyle waved her off. Not that it worked. “You’re insane.”

“Am not. Now will you have a vision?” Cordelia wasn’t about to let it go.

Watching their banter and torn between smiling at it and wanting to tear Cordelia away from Doyle’s side where it was obvious she was completely comfortable, Angel looked on from the sidelines.

Until then, there was nothing obvious going on that Angel could pinpoint. Just the light flirtatious banter between friends. It was only when Doyle approached Angel directly to ask about Cordelia that the vampire decided he’d been playing the silent observer long enough.

Putting his feet up on Angel’s desk as he sat casually in the chair across from the vampire, Doyle said, “So tell me about Cordelia.”

The simple question did more than irritate Angel because he knew it was not just a simple question at all. It stirred up every possessive instinct he had. He’d spent the last few days short on sleep trying to be in the office from the moment Cordelia arrived in the morning.
Making up excuses for either one of them to stay behind when the other went off on some appointed task was easy enough. After dark, he went with them. Even to the clubs that played too loud music and required dancing in order to keep Cordelia occupied, happy and out of Doyle’s arms at least part of the evening. It was keeping them separated during the daylight hours Angel found difficult. He couldn’t follow them in sunlight. And he was starting to run out of excuses to keep Cordelia at his side.


Kate’s Place

“Is that why you kept showing up at the station?” Kate asked Doyle.

Shrugging, Doyle admitted, “I’m afraid so. Coming to see you was much more pleasant than some of the other little tasks Angel came up with.”

Kate’s mouth twisted at the news, “Nice to know.”

“There’s that sarcasm again, Katie girl,” Doyle told her. “You’ll bruise my tender ego if you keep that up.”

An indelicate snort sounded from Cordelia’s direction.

Doyle complained at her response. “Katie here thinks I’m the caring sensitive type. Don’t ruin my reputation.”

“You don’t need my help for that,” said Cordelia with a grin.


Angel’s Apartment

Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ played from the phonograph accompanied by the sound of a running shower. Despite the whitewash noises, a hard knocking on the front door came through quite clearly to Angel. Moments later, he’d turned off the water and emerged from the bathroom dripping wet, wrapping a towel around his waist as he went to answer the door.

No sooner than he opened it than Cordelia stepped in pushing a couple of bags into Angel’s hands walking past him into the apartment. “Oh, God, Angel! It’s so terrible!”

Angel opened his mouth to respond, but had no clue what might cause Cordelia to suddenly appear on his doorstep looking like she was planning to stay for a very long time.

“Oh my gosh,” Cordelia turned around holding up her hands. “Don’t even look at me! I’m such a mess. I am the lowest of the lowest.”

Forget the fact that he was only wearing a towel, Angel considered that she hadn’t even noticed. Gesturing toward the open doorway as Angel stood there gawking, Cordelia added, “And you’re gonna want to get my other suitcase out there in the hall.”

Glances out the door and back to Cordelia, he still couldn’t seem to find his tongue. Though Angel wouldn’t normally feel awkward about his state of undress, he wasn’t so comfortable with the way that his body tended to react to Cordelia’s presence at its own whim. Finally, he managed to ask, “What happened?”

“My apartment,” Cordelia looked like the news was devastating. “It’s like the barrio, or the projects or whatever. I’m like the girl from the projects!”

Almost drops one of the suitcases, Angel made a grab for his towel at the same time, “I don’t know about that.”

Cordelia was so focused on her own troubles that she never noticed Angel’s struggle with his towel. “Get this. I even tried to call Doyle. He offered me a place at his apartment. But there was no answer. So here I am.”

The idea that she would go to Doyle first really bothered him. “What, I’m your last resort?”

Shrugging, realizing that Angel wasn’t exactly happy about something, Cordelia told him, “It’s just that I have no where else to go.” As Angel put down one of the bags, she went to sit down on the couch. Explaining her dilemma, “Roaches. Live ones, dead ones. All skinny feet and creepy antlers.”

Angel’s eyebrows curved upward, “Antlers?”

Cordelia stared down at the suitcase he’d just placed on the floor. “Oh, my God! I wonder how many stowed away in that bag?” This time she blinked as his towel made another attempt at hitting the floor. Damn vampire reflexes.

Not at all pleased with the idea of bugs coming along for the ride, Angel stared down at the other bag still in his arms.

Just for good measure, in case the look on Angel’s face was any indication of his willingness to allow her to stay, she told him, “Also, the water is all brown and spurty, and not hot! I am dying for a shower.”

By now, Angel had put down the other bag and was holding onto his towel with both hands as Cordelia approached him again. Her voice trembled as she told him, “I— I actually smell! Smell me,” she ordered him stepping close and turning her neck up to his view. “I never smell. I didn’t know I could. I’m just going to have to stay here until I can find a decent place, however long that takes, and when I do you are completely invited over.”

“Hey, you can just dump my stuff on the couch – or let me have the bed,” Cordelia’s plush lips curved upward. That same sweet smile she used on him that first day she wheedled him into a job. “Also, my suitcase is still in the hall.” Picking up one of her bags, she pointed toward the bedroom, “Your shower is in here, right? You have mousse? Of course you do.”

Left standing there gobsmacked, steamrolled and whatever other term he could come up with, Angel realized Cordelia had suddenly invited herself to live with him. Maybe opportunity did come knocking. Even for vampires.

He resolved suddenly that this was one opportunity he would not let slip away. Now he wouldn’t have to make up more excuses to keep Cordelia with him after dark. No matter where she went, she’d be coming right back here by bedtime.

Bedtime. That made for some interesting possibilities, Angel realized. Though his overeager thoughts were way, way ahead of any reality that he figured Cordelia would be ready for.

Carrying her suitcases through to the bedroom, Angel got dressed while she was in the shower. Just the thought of her naked and washing herself with his soap aroused him. Then reminding himself that Cordy came to him for help, not to be lusted after, Angel cleared out some closet and drawer space for her.

The thought also came to him that it had been a very long time since he lived with a woman; that one being his sire and not remotely like Cordelia. Pushing thoughts of Darla aside, he headed back to the living room to await Cordelia’s emergence from the bathroom figuring they’d have to discuss her situation, not to mention sleeping arrangements.


Angel’s Living Room

Emerging from the bathroom wearing a cotton tank top that clung to her still-damp body and thin, loose pajama pants, Cordelia padded barefoot along the carpeting. “One of those bags has food and movies. I don’t want you to think I expect you to feed and entertain me while I’m here.”

Angel silently considered some interesting forms of entertainment.

Then Cordelia asked as she looked around the tidy living room, “Oh, do you even own a TV and a VCR?”

“Sure,” Angel told her with a shrug. “Doesn’t everybody?” Not that he used his very often.

“I guess.” Feeling suddenly awkward about barging in on him, Cordelia found her eyes wandering across the broad shoulders revealed by his white muscle shirt. His thick muscles bunched beneath the thin cotton, easily defined all the way down to where the shirt tucked into his black sweat pants.

Cordelia swallowed thickly as Angel explained the whereabouts of his equipment. His entertainment equipment, she clarified her own thoughts before deciding even that needed spelling out to herself: the television and VCR.

“They’re in the bedroom,” Angel told her. “I like to relax in bed while I read or watch television, usually documentaries.”

So any movie-watching with Angel would have to be done in his bed? “Oh, well I guess that would make things…cozy.”

That wasn’t Angel’s word for it. “Just make yourself at home, Cordelia. You should be comfortable while you’re here.”

“It’s just temporary,” she suddenly felt a little nervous about the whole idea, “until my place gets fumigated. Weird, I never had a bug problem before, but it’s like these creepy things just attacked overnight.”

“That place is a dump,” Angel looked like he wanted to burn the place to the ground. “I don’t want you there.”

Cordelia put her hands on her hips, telling him with a huff, “It’s all I can afford on the pitiful salary you pay me.”

Frowning, Angel figured that while he wouldn’t mind the idea of Cordelia being here indefinitely, she might have other ideas. “We’ll have Doyle check out some options. Until then, you can stay here.”

“You shouldn’t have to sleep on the couch forever,” Cordelia automatically assumed that was where he would be staying. “Not in your own apartment.”

“I didn’t say I was giving up the bed.”

That caught her full attention. Her mouth dropped open. “You’d make me sleep on the couch? I thought you were supposed to be chivalrous, a gentleman.”

Angel said, “Don’t know where you got that notion in the first place, Cordelia, but I’m not suggesting you should sleep on the couch.”

Hazel eyes widened at the possible scenarios. “You mean… share the bed?”

“Why not?” Angel made it sound simple.

“Hello! It’s not that big. No way you’d stay on your side,” Cordelia figured he’d be a bed hog. Not that she wasn’t. She normally slept in the middle.

Smirking at the thought of it, Angel explained, “I didn’t mean at the same time. Our sleeping patterns are different enough that we could take turns.”

Considering it, she asked, “Time share? I get midnight through dawn and you get dawn to noon. That might work.”

“It beats sleeping on the couch.”

Cordelia smiled at his brilliant idea. “Thanks for letting me barge in on you like this.”

“Anytime, Cordy.”

Staring at him for a few seconds as he looked back at her, Cordelia edged back toward the bedroom. “Guess I’d better unpack.”

“I’ll help you,” he offered. “Then maybe we can watch one of those movies you brought with you.”

“Hope you like Keanu and Brad. I don’t own anything else,” Cordelia admitted.

“Who?”

Laughing, Cordelia grinned widely. “Guess you’ll find out. Why does it not surprise me that you’ve never heard of them being as culturally deprived as you are?”

“Guess that depends on your definition of culture,” Angel returned smoothly.

“Don’t get so defensive, Broody.”


Angel’s Bedroom

Cordelia stared at the bed in a whole new light. It hadn’t seemed quite so intriguing when she thought it was just going to be where she slept. “Umm. Which side do you want?”

Keeping the mask of disinterest firmly in place, Angel pointed at the right side of the bed, “That one.”

“Okay,” Cordelia managed to sound nonchalant despite her nervousness at the idea of being in bed with Angel even if it was for something as innocent as watching a video. Pfft! She was being ridiculous, but this called for a little distraction. “Here’s the tape. I’ll be right back.”

Glancing down at the tape of ‘A Walk in the Clouds’, he looked up to see Cordelia run off toward the kitchen. Angel put the tape in and grabbed the remote control from the top of the television, hopping onto the bed with a little more enthusiasm than he probably should be feeling considering that he was just going to be watching a movie with a friend.

Only Angel was way past trying to convince himself that was all he felt for Cordelia these days. Though he certainly believed friendship was all she felt for him. If she had a hint of his feelings about her, surely Cordelia wouldn’t be so quick to trust him like this.

Cordelia reappeared, this time with a jar of peanut butter in her hand. “I’m back. Just had to get a snack for the movie.”

Frowning down at the jar like it was a dangerous object, Angel asked, “You’re going to eat in bed?”

“It’s peanut butter. Sheesh! You’d think I was having a five-course meal,” Cordelia rolled her eyes.

“What if it gets on the sheets?” Angel pointed out worst-case scenario. “We have to sleep there.”

Having already discovered that Angel was something of a neat freak, Cordelia figured this shouldn’t have surprised her. Not being much into food, he wouldn’t understand life’s little perk of getting to eat in bed. “I’ve been eating peanut butter since I was a kid. Trust me.”

Looking doubtful, Angel watched as Cordelia put the peanut butter jar down on the nightstand before crawling onto her side of the bed. She faced away from him while kneeling down to push the covers toward the end of the bed. The move drew Angel’s gaze down to the way her pajama bottoms fit across her lush buttocks. No panty lines there, he noticed despite trying to focus on the previews flickering across the television screen.

Turning around, Cordelia plumped the pillows next to him giving Angel an unintended eyeful of the cleavage that peeked out from the scooped curve of her top. Finally settling down, Cordelia flopped over and snuggled into the pillows to find just the right spot.

Beside her, Angel asked with equal parts amusement and arousal, “Comfy?”

Eyes glued to the opening credits, Cordelia answered, “Uh-huh.”

Halfway through the movie, which Angel was actually enjoying much to his surprise, Cordy scooted out from the spot she had gravitated to up against his chest with his arm around her shoulder. He frowned as her warmth left him wanting to reel her back in. But she only moved as far as the peanut butter before returning to her place next to him.

Angel pointed out despite the fact that he didn’t want her to move, “You forgot your spoon.”

“Nope. Don’t plan to use one.” She figured it was only the fact that the vampire didn’t breathe that there was no horrified gasp sounding in her ear. Opening the lid, she scooped out a small amount of peanut butter onto her fingertip putting it directly into her mouth.

As that finger disappeared into the warm cavern of her mouth Angel lost all interest in the movie. Instead, he watched Cordelia’s tongue peek out, curl wetly around her finger and her lips close down around it. A tiny moue of pleasure hinted at Cordelia’s obvious enjoyment as she lapped up the peanut butter.

Hearing a rumble from Angel’s chest, Cordelia mistook it for hunger. “Hungry? We could pause the movie. I could warm up some blood for you.”

His blood was warm enough at the moment and it all seemed to be rushing in one direction. Shaking his head, Angel didn’t want to do anything that would cause her to move away from him again. He’d been surprised by her unconscious snuggling as they watched the movie. Any tenterhooks she might have felt by joining him on his bed had apparently vanished.

Cordelia glanced up at him, unconvinced that he wasn’t hungry for something. She held up the plastic jar, “Peanut butter?”

Still silent, all of Angel’s thoughts were focused on not responding to her warmth. It was a good thing his sweat pants were heavy and dark because his body started to stir despite his good intentions.

Turning on her side to face him, Cordelia stuck her finger back in the peanut butter and offered her finger up to him trying to tempt him into a sample. “It’s thick and creamy. Irresistible peanuty goodness.”

That was one offer Angel wasn’t about to turn down and it had nothing to do with the peanut butter and everything to do with having his mouth on her. Holding her wrist, he sucked the slender digit into his mouth, moving his tongue sensually on her finger until all traces of peanut butter disappeared and all that was left to taste was pure Cordelia.

Finally, he pulled her finger back out, but still held her wrist captive. “You’re right, it’s good… that way.”

“Oh?” Her heart was beating so fast at the sensations he caused. Then he gave her finger one last unnecessary suck before releasing her. Cordelia’s lips felt strangely poofy, her breasts full and tingly, and the rest of her just seemed hot and flushed.

Her reaction wasn’t lost on Angel who followed a whim and dipped his own finger in the peanut butter jar. “Want more?” Figuring he probably shouldn’t be asking her that, Angel knew it was far too soon to go after what he really wanted even if the opportunity and the setting seemed perfect.

Cordelia looked a little uncertain at the offer of that finger. The spark of desire in her eyes proved she wasn’t entirely immune to him. She closed her hot, wet mouth over his fingertip and licked the peanut butter away never taking her eyes off of his. Then she dared to ask, “Do you want more, Angel?”

They both know she wasn’t talking peanut butter. Angel stifled a moan, “I want more than I should, Cordelia.”

Leaning closer, she lifted her upper body until they were face to face. Cordelia held her breath as she waited for him to meet her halfway. The sudden need to kiss him had her forgetting all about the countless reasons why it might not be the best idea.

Angel’s hands moved to clasp her upper arms, setting her back on the bed at a safe distance. Scooting off of it to stand beside her as Cordelia rose to her knees, giving him a puzzled look, Angel explained his actions, “It’s past midnight. Time you were asleep. You’ve had a rough day.”

“The movie’s not over,” Cordelia glanced at the television screen where Victoria and Paul were fighting the raging fire in the fields. She wasn’t at all happy with the idea that he planned to tuck her into bed and slink off to the living room after teasing her with the damn peanut butter. So what if she’d done her equal share of teasing.

“It’s over for tonight,” he said firmly which only made Cordelia feel that Angel wasn’t just talking about the movie.

Cordelia Chase wasn’t about to beg anyone for kisses. Giving him a look of complete disinterest, she plopped back into the middle of the bed, yanked up the covers and told him, “Goodnight, then. Turn then light out when you leave.”

Reaching for the remote at the same time, they jerked their hands away as if burned by the sensation of their colliding fingers. Angel reached down again, pressing the off switch and putting the remote down on the nightstand. His dark eyes moved across her face like a caress and Cordelia felt mesmerized by the way he looked at her.

“See you at dawn,” Angel stepped back from the bed and moved toward the door.


Later…

“Wake up,” Angel said for the third time. “Cordelia, wake up.”

Despite the louder tone, Cordelia only mumbled, snuggling deeper into her spot at the middle of the mattress. One word came across clearly enough, “No.”

Trying again, Angel told her, “C’mon, Cordy, you agreed to this. I’m not sleeping on that lumpy couch.”

“Sleepy.” More mumbling followed.

“Then the couch awaits you,” he offered.

Not budging, Cordelia covered her head with the pillow stifling the noise of Angel’s constant chatter. Grumbling in complaint, she begged for a reprieve. Who’s stupid plan was this anyway? “Just go to sleep.”

Angel was already dressed for bed. Not that he usually wore anything, but this time for her sake he had donned a pair of boxers. Though he didn’t need as much sleep as Cordelia, he still needed a few hours. There was no way he was going to squeeze his big body onto that small couch.

The alternative was far more pleasant, though, Angel knew, “That’s not such a good idea.”

From beneath the pillow, Cordelia yawned her answer, “You sleep. I sleep. We both sleep.”

Angel paced back and forth along side the bed. Should he or shouldn’t he? Cordelia seemed willing enough to share. Not that she was fully awake to make the decision. But this was his apartment, after all. Cordy had barged right in without an invitation. She’d climbed into his bed of her own free will.

Well, Cordelia could just stay there if that’s where she wanted to be. He’d warned her fair and square that it was his turn in their little time-share agreement. No way was he sleeping on the damned couch. Climbing in, Angel scooted her over to one side of the bed and Cordelia rolled that way only reluctantly.

Immediately, Angel felt the heat left behind, his body automatically turning into it and placing himself closer to the warm female lying next to him. With her scent surrounding him, Angel drifted off to sleep content in the knowledge that Cordelia was on one side of the bed and he was on the other.

Hours of blissful sleep passed.

Cordelia sighed as she awakened completely rested only to find herself curled all over the hunky manpire in the bed. Her arm was thrown over his waist, her breasts pressed fully into his hard chest as his body angled toward hers and one of her legs curled over a powerful thigh. As her senses focused on the large palm cupping her bottom Cordelia realized his hands had done a little wandering of their own during the morning.

Was it morning? She seemed to recall, vaguely, that Angel tried to get her to wake up. So this was possibly not his fault.

Considering that waking up in Angel’s arms in no way felt wrong, Cordelia took time to stare at the handsome face of the sleeping vampire. Yup! Still a hottie. Finally, she decided to extract herself from Angel’s grabby embrace, hearing him mumble a protest. Maybe she liked being there in his arms, but she still had reason to suspect he might be thinking she was someone else.

The thought immediately spurred Cordelia into action. Squirming, her leg stretched out along the bed. She let out a yelp as her foot connected with something soft and mushy. Realizing exactly what it was, Cordelia’s hazel eyes darted to the vampire expecting him to wake up at her soft screech.

Fortunately, he slept like the dead now that she was out of arm’s reach. Tossing back the covers, Cordelia stared down at her foot surrounded by the peanut butter jar that she’d somehow forgotten at the bottom of the bed.

“Eew!” she shuddered at the sensation. “This gives a whole new meaning to the words toe jam.”

Sliding the jar off of her foot, Cordelia grimaced at the icky feeling and scrambled to get off the bed. Escaping to the shower, she took the evidence with her.


Angel’s Kitchen

Cordelia sat on one of the kitchen chairs, garbed in her fluffy white robe, combing through her wet hair. She glanced up at the sound of the elevator as Doyle emerged calling out, Angel, are you around?”

The seer stopped in mid-tract, stunned to see Cordelia in such a freshly showered state of undress.

“Hey, Doyle,” she greeted him without a hint of embarrassment at being found there. “You ever get the feeling that you just can’t shower enough. Like something’s happened and you’re never going to get clean?”

Staring at her, Doyle wasn’t certain he could stand hearing the details. “What?”

Angel suddenly stormed up behind them, holding up one hand and accusing Cordelia, “You got peanut butter on the bed.”

“Really?” Her look of complete surprise made Angel stare back in awe of her sheer nerve at trying to avoid culpability. “I don’t think so.”

Showing her his hand, Cordelia noticed that several fingers were covered with sticky peanut butter residue. Her tongue swept across her lip as she remembered last night. Angel’s gaze focused directly on her mouth and Cordelia realized that they had an audience of one gaping Irish seer.

“I’ll go look,” she scampered off to the bedroom before Angel could say anything else.

Doyle watched until she disappeared through the doorway. Turning to face Angel who was wiping his hand on a kitchen towel, he shared his amazement, “I-I don’t believe it, man.”

“Hold off on the accusations,” Angel figured Doyle was about to accuse him of taking advantage of Cordelia or stepping on his toes. “Just because you—”

Not letting him finish, Doyle grinned widely, “You finally made a move. Good on you, Angel.”

Stunned, Angel could only ask, “What? Made what move?”

“With Cordelia,” he patted Angel on the shoulder. “If I flirted with the girl anymore, I’d have to start dating her myself.”

Now he was really confused. Angel shoved his hands in the pockets of his open robe. “You don’t want that? Besides, I saw her flirting with you.”

“Personally, I’d eat up the attention in a minute if I thought Cordelia meant anything by it,” Doyle revealed to Angel as he took a seat at the kitchen table. “Her interests are obviously with you.”

“Me?”

Frowning at that question, Doyle’s brow furrowed, “You say that like it surprises you. After last night…”

Angel was quick to say, “Nothing happened.” Mostly.

“If you say so, but what was Cordelia doing in your bed?” Doyle wasn’t leaving this apartment without hearing how such an event would occur without anything at all happening.

“Sleeping,” Angel returned quickly, hardly letting Doyle finish. “Her apartment is overrun with roaches. She needed a place to stay.”

Looking innocently at the vampire, Doyle slowly nodded his head in understanding, “Roaches.” Bet the vampire had no idea the number of favors he’d had to call in just to arrange that little scenario.

Then Angel realized Doyle had come over for a reason. “Why are you here, again?”

“I came to talk to you about a vision,” the seer immediately got back to business.


Kate’s Place

Realizing that this had to be where the whole tell-Kate-everything scenario came in, their hostess commented, “So you told Angel about the…uh…PTB’s message. That vision thing. About bringing me in on the big secret.”

Doyle shook his head. “Not yet. This one was ju—”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold it right there,” Cordelia held up both hands to put a stop to the conversation. Turning to Doyle with a look of incredulity, “You purposely infested my apartment with bugs.”

Recognizing Cordelia’s fury, Doyle sent a pleading look toward Angel who was smart enough to stay out of the middle of it. Trying to reason with her, Doyle said, “It was for your own good.”

“That’s why they appeared so quickly,” Cordelia shuddered at the reminder of the scores of roaches crawling all over her furniture. “That’s why you never answered your phone. You were setting me up.”

“It worked,” Doyle reminded, sending her a dimpled grin.

Cordelia couldn’t deny that. “Lucky for you. Be happy I never had to set foot in that place again. Otherwise, there would be major payback coming.”

From across the table, Kate told Doyle, “You’re rather devious when you want to be.”

“All in a good cause.”

Kate admitted to Cordelia, “I’m not sure how I’d feel about starting off a relationship thanks to roaches and a jar of peanut butter.”

“It’s better than ending one impaled by rebar,” Cordelia returned.

At Kate’s curious look, Cordelia added, “Hmm. Come to think of it, that one started on a buggy note as well. Xander and I were hiding in the basement from this icky bug man.”

Next to her, Angel sounded out a little growl under his breath. “We can drop the subject of Xander Harris anytime now.”

“High school boyfriend,” Cordelia explained to Kate. “Not that Angel cared at the time. He had other distractions.”

“You wanted me way back when, sweetheart,” Angel reminded her. “Even when I was dating—”

Using his own words against him, Cordelia bantered back, “We can drop the subject of Buffy Summers anytime now.”

Kate felt certain an argument was about to break out and thought about offering up dessert as an incentive for a little peacemaking. Then Cordelia smiled at Angel, the most brilliant, teasing, loving smile she’d ever seen. It drew an echoing response from Angel, something Kate wasn’t accustomed to seeing him do during their short acquaintance.

Looking at the two of them, Kate could swear she was almost melting from the heat they generated. Talk about sexual vibes, talk about charisma, those two had it in spades and it was all for each other. She felt like she needed to stick her head in the freezer just to cool off. “Dessert, anyone?”


Angel’s Apartment

For two weeks, Cordelia and Angel struggled with their arrangement. Cordelia’s apartment remained strangely bug-infested despite the exterminators. Doyle’s attempts at finding her suitable accommodations were either overpriced, horrifying or simply turned down as an option by Angel. They were unsuitable, unclean or unsafe in his opinion and Cordelia wasn’t in an argumentative mood considering what Doyle had come up with.

So they kept to their arrangement. Time-sharing the bed. Only they made a serious effort to make certain that there would be no sharing simultaneously. The television and VCR mysteriously appeared in the living room one day and Cordelia wasn’t about to argue the reason for the move.

Sitting on the couch together, they still managed to gravitate toward each other. His arm around her shoulder, and her curled up beside him. There was a conspicuous absence of peanut butter. Cordelia found herself a snacking alternative.

M&Ms seemed safe enough. They came in a form that required no finger-licking of any kind. Cordelia liked tossing them up and catching them in her mouth. Until one missed and dropped straight down her cleavage.

Leaping up, Cordelia bounced up and down trying to dislodge it without sticking her hand down her shirt. When that didn’t seem to knock the little brown candy loose, she stared down her shirt looking for it.

“Trying to find something?” Angel suggested with a smirk, “Maybe I can help.”

“Funny,” drolled Cordelia. “One of the M&Ms fell down my shirt.”

Oh, he’d noticed. “Melting?”

“Umm. No. They melt in your mouth, not in your hands,” Cordelia automatically used the catch-phrase only to immediately shift her thoughts to Angel’s hands and mouth exploring her cleavage for that stray M&M.

She wasn’t the only one thinking it. “Sure you don’t need some help?”

“No,” Cordelia darted off to the bathroom, her heart thumping madly at the thought that Angel was actually flirting with her again. How many times over the last couple of weeks had she imagined that to be true? Or caught herself flirting with him in return before they both seemed to come to their senses and pretend nothing had happened.

In the bathroom, Cordelia extracted the candy, dropping it onto the counter. Staring into the mirror, she gazed at her reflection accusingly. Omigod! You’re attracted to Angel. That’s bad, so bad. You want him so bad. He’s your friend, your boss. Not just a stray hunk of salty goodness. Oh, God, there’s only one thing to do.

While she was gone, Angel thought about the fact that he’d gotten to know Cordelia over the past couple of weeks. They’d talked to each other more than the sum of all of their conversations back in Sunnydale. Cordelia was as complex and layered as she claimed to be, far more than what appeared on the surface. He ached to know more.

Angel realized that he had told Cordelia more about himself than he ever thought to share with Buffy. Mostly because Cordelia demanded answers to her questions and didn’t bat an eyelash when he told her the truth. She just accepted the facts and seemed to understand why this mission meant so much. Why he felt he had to fight for redemption. Though it was unspoken between them, he knew she understood why he’d chosen to end it with Buffy and therefore why he was reluctant to do anything that might jeopardize their own growing friendship.

After noticing that Cordelia was gone quite a while, Angel started to wonder if his words had been that upsetting. Finally, she emerged from the bathroom only to pause in the bedroom doorway to stare at him from across the room, nibbling on her lower lip.

Walking over to her, Angel was concerned he had upset her with his inappropriate comments. Quick to try and fix things, he told her, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize.”

“Cordy, I was out of line,” he took the blame. “I shouldn’t have teased you.”

Releasing the lip she’d been nibbling at, Cordelia suddenly looked puzzled having thought she understood his behavior matched her own, “Are you saying you don’t want to touch me?”

Angel felt the fall of silence between them as her question sank in. Dark fire lit his eyes as he read her expressive face. Needing to ask, “Do you want my touch?”

“I asked first.”

“Yes, you did,” Angel moved forward crowding her against the doorframe and not answering her question. Asking again, “Do you want my touch, Cordelia?”

Feeling the beam of the doorframe at her back, Cordelia lifted her chin a little higher as she held his gaze. “What do you think?”

Deciding that Cordelia had left her fears behind and was just as eager as himself to explore whatever this was between them, Angel returned smoothly, “I think you’re avoiding my question.”

“You avoided mine first.”

“Forget the questions,” he suggested. “Why don’t we just find out? Let’s look at the evidence.”

Cordelia echoed, “Evidence,” wondering what that might be.

“Your heart’s beating fast,” Angel pointed out as the beat pulsed in his ears. “I think you’re excited, Cordelia.”

Vampire senses, she realized, catching her breath.

“Forgetting to breathe? I don’t want you fainting on me tonight,” he told her.

“Tonight.” Did that mean what she thought it meant? Hoping so, Cordelia felt his magnetism. She’d been trying to compartmentalize their relationship for the past two weeks, forcing it into the category of friendship. The truth was that some part of her had placed Angel in a category all his own.

Angel stood mere inches from her, no longer hiding the desire in his eyes as his deep sensual voice washed over Cordelia’s skin like smooth silk. “Your body is reacting to me even without my touch. Flushed skin, parted lips, the scent of your arousal driving me wild.”

“Wild.” That sounded a lot like the feelings running rampant inside her. Cordelia had gone into the bathroom to escape, but staring into the mirror at her reflection only made her determined to figure out if she’d been kidding herself or if Angel really did want her.

That tempting male mouth curled at one corner, his amusement showing. “One word answers coming from you? That’s evidence enough, I think.”

“How’s this for evidence, Detective Broody?” Cordelia flung her arms around Angel’s neck, kissing him passionately.

Going still in her arms for a fraction of a second, Angel tasted the warmth of her lips on his realizing this moment would change everything between them. He smiled under the touch of her soft kiss, moving his hands along her back to pull Cordelia just a fraction closer before taking the lead. Angel kissed her with all the love and passion burning inside him, stealing Cordelia’s breath away with its tenderness and power.

Cordelia gripped the taut muscles of his shoulders, then frantically moved her hands up to clutch at the short strands of his hair keeping his mouth on hers as she opened up to him. Their tongues danced and retreated, their lips sliding across each other as their bodies strained to get closer, ever closer.

They stumbled as one, Cordelia’s back hitting the doorframe. A moan sounded only to be swallowed by Angel’s mouth as he used his impressive strength to hitch her body up the surface of the door, pulling her legs around his waist. As the hard bulge in his pants pressed tight against her heat, Cordelia dragged her mouth away from his to stare down into those gold-rimmed dark brown eyes.

“Angel,” she panted for air as her hand found his face. “Are we really doing this?”

He touched his forehead to the flat surface of her sternum, so close to the tempting curves of her luscious breasts, the scent of her skin and the thumping of her heart that he found it difficult to process the question.

“Jesus, yes, Cordy,” his words felt heavy coming from his throat, both confirmation of his intent and a plea that she wasn’t backing out. “I want you so damn much. You’re all I think about.”

Gently, Angel lowered Cordelia into a standing position, still holding on as her legs seemed unsteady. Hazel eyes sparkled as they met his. The confession of his feelings returned her to that state of momentary silence that always left him edgy. Instantly, a huge grin spread across her face, leaving him in no doubt that she was okay with the admission even before she commented, “Then I guess it’s only fair to say that I feel the same way.”

The words were barely out of her mouth before Angel swooped in to claim her with another heated kiss. Searing need built up again as passion’s promise soared between them. Masculine hands danced across cotton threads and silken skin, sensuously teasing and efficiently undressing Cordelia simultaneously.

Just as busy, her slender rose-tipped fingers slid over hard angles and heavy muscle, fisting handfuls of Angel’s shirt to tug him closer before dragging the annoying barrier up over his head.

Belts and pants and socks and shoes dropped to the floor one by one in rapid succession. Skin to skin, they clasped each other close. Her breasts, pebble-tipped, pressed firm against the cool wall of his chest eliciting a soft groan of relief as the sensation quenched some of her inner heat. The hard proof of his desire felt like a velvet steel shaft against her belly causing a deep-centered ache, her body heating up and melting for him.

“Decide now, Cordy,” Angel offered her one chance before letting his own instincts guide him. “Before this night is over, you’ll have it all, but what is it you want first? Slow, tender lovemaking with my hands and mouth touching every inch of you? Or do you want to be fucked? Hard. Fast. Now.”

Cordelia felt her body quake in reaction as her hot gaze traveled down the length of his torso to focus on the towering staff of his sex tucked between them. The upward climb seemed more difficult, her eyelids heavy as they made their way back up the chiseled wall of his chest. Standing there, with his eyes dark and glittering, Angel held himself taut as he waited for her decision, his body aroused to the point that in another moment his offer might be forgotten altogether.

“Do it now,” she told him, eagerness overtaking reason. Slow sounded good, but slow could happen later. Cordelia was already stepping into his arms again as she confirmed on a throaty moan, “I don’t want to wait.”

Angel’s large hands moved across her golden skin, his thumbs grazing the curves of her breasts for just a moment before he swept her into his arms and carried Cordelia the short distance to the bed. Bouncing down upon the mattress, they were a tangle of arms and legs from the moment they hit the surface. His mouth pressed a heated path along her throat as his expert fingers trailed down between them to wet, silky heat of her core.

“Now,” Cordelia pleaded, bucking her hips toward him as his thumb circled the highly sensitive peak of her swollen clit. Then two of Angel’s fingers parted her slick folds to slip inside her tight center feeling her clutch around him as he plumbed her depths. “Geez, that feels so good. Inside me, Angel. I need you inside me.”

Her words brought a fervent sound to his lips. Now sounded damn good to him as well. Angel teased her for just a moment more, his fingers moving along her inner flesh feeling her rippling response. Then his fingers butted up against a barrier he hadn’t expected to be there. A flash of surprise lit his features as Angel lifted his head to stare down into her eyes, his incredulity at the discovery of Cordelia’s virginity apparent even through the haze of her own lust.

“What are you waiting for?” groused Cordelia anxiously, her body still tingly and wanting him without further delays.

Seeing that something seemed to be a problem, she glanced down between them to confirm the continued presence of the rigid length of his erection. Nope, still there. Boy howdy, was it ever. Then with a dawning light, Cordelia realized, no matter how much they both wanted this, Angel shouldn’t be doing anything that involved getting happy.

“Oh no, Angel,” Cordelia’s eyes widened at the thought of being in bed with Angelus should this lead to a blissful moment. Considering that it was certainly headed in that direction, she let out her frustration on a groan as Angel slowly slipped his fingers from inside her. “We forgot about your curse. Happiness clause. We can’t do this, can we?”

The clear disappointment in her voice made Angel’s mouth twist up into a smirk as he silently thanked Willow for the manipulation of the spell that had returned his soul to him. Not that it was public knowledge. The fact that Willow kept it a secret even from her friends told him she was concerned about what would happen between him and Buffy if the slayer ever found out the truth. Angel had been determined to take it slowly, and in the process discovered that trialing that clause was the last thing on his agenda.

Now it was not just something Angel could take or leave. He wanted Cordelia make no mistake. Now. Being with her was as necessary to him as breathing was to her. “There is no curse, Cordelia. There hasn’t been since I returned from hell. My soul is my own.”

Instant relief and joy danced in her eyes as Cordelia clutched him close. Arms looped around Angel’s neck; she buried her forehead against his shoulder and he felt the hot rush of her breath wash across his skin as she reacted to the news. After pressing a kiss on the hard muscle of his shoulder, Cordelia asked tentatively, “So what’s the problem? Is it me?”

This might be new to her, but she was pretty damn certain that Angel had been just as eager as she was a minute ago. There was no doubt in her mind that he wanted her. So, it wasn’t her at all. It had to be him.

“You’re a virgin,” Angel spoke bluntly. Despite that deep down the idea made his demon exult at the idea that Cordelia was going to be his, only his, there was still the slightest measure of guilt barring the way.

Cordelia blinked at him feeling his body taut, straining, obviously aroused and in need. A little embarrassed that Angel was making a big deal out of it, she snarked, “So were you fifty million years ago.”

A smirk lifted the corners of his mouth. “Are you saying I’m fossilized?”

“Something’s certainly hard,” Cordelia’s hand snaked down between them, wrapping around his solid shaft. Just because she hadn’t gone all the way didn’t mean she was clueless. “You’re not going to let this go to waste, are you?”

Laughing at her bravado, even as his eyes closed and he arched into her touch, Angel leaned close to press his lips against her ear. “No worries, Cor. I’m all yours. This just calls for a change of plans.”

He felt huge and hard in her fisted hand. Cordelia’s heart thumped against her chest at the thought that Angel would join his body to hers. That he would put this, all of this inside her. Something deep inside clenched tight at the sheer notion, wet heat blooming within her. As for changing plans, “No way. Want you now.”

Reeling in the instincts that told Angel just to go for it, to spread her legs wide and plunge into her tight depths over and over and over, he called upon every ounce of restraint left within him. Hard and fast could come later. Anywhere and often, his lust-charged brain promised that might be the reward for chaining his demonic urge to take what Cordelia offered.

“Is this what you want?” he moved his hips so that his cock slid across her grasping palm teasing himself unmercifully, darting pleasure shooting across his flesh.

“Yes, yes, now,” Cordelia tried to move her legs, to wrap them around him and bring the hard tip of his erection toward the aching center of her need. But Angel obviously had other ideas as his mouth closed over the soft curve of her earlobe, sending a hot wave of sensation along her throat shooting straight down to her loins.

When Angel’s hands extracted hers to thread their fingers together and hold them up above her head, Cordelia knew that he’d exchanged hard, fast and now for option number one. Slow, tender kisses that left her body tingling with each touch of his mouth; caresses that burned across her skin leaving her aching, wet and wanting.

Finally, he released her hands and Cordelia snatched the opportunity to touch him everywhere she could reach as she writhed beneath him. Palming her breasts, he caressed their outer curves, swept his thumbs along the edge of the dark circle of her areolas and blew cool air across the peaking nipples that begged for his mouth.

“You’re so beautiful, Cordelia,” the truth reverberated in his voice as Angel’s eyes lifted to hers. His fingers stroked softly and her hands moved up and down the length of his sinewy forearms as Angel caressed her there.

Every inch of him exuded strength and power, yet Angel touched her with the utmost care. Cordelia moaned as his mouth closed over her, his wet tongue circling one hard nub before tugging gently with his teeth and then sucking her into his mouth.

Those knowing hands caressed every inch as his mouth continued to explore her body making his way across the slope of her belly, the dip of her navel and the soft nest of curls that guarded her sex from his view. Up on her elbows, Cordelia’s eyes were fixed on Angel’s every move as he parted her thighs and settled himself between them, pushing her legs open wide with gentle hands.

Angel simply stared at her for what seemed like ages though in reality only seconds passed. His tongue tip peeked out running across his bottom lip. Biting her own lip, Cordelia couldn’t take the delay even if it hadn’t been a long one. “Are you gonna do it or do you just like looking?”

The amber-rimmed eyes that stared back at her suggested that Angel liked doing a helluva lot. Trailing the back of his fingers in a random pattern across the soft skin of her inner thighs, Angel moved closer to the plump mound now glistening wet along its petaled folds. Her scent perfused his body with her arousal and Angel pressed his cock down into the firm surface of the bed in reaction.

No verbal answer came her way, just the touch of his fingers sliding around the slick surface of her most intimate flesh, the descent of his dark head between her open thighs and the wild reaction of her body as Angel’s tongue swept across her skin.

After that, Cordelia found herself focused on one thought and one thought alone. Now, now, now, now, now. Pleasure streaked through her body, tingling waves traveling across her nerve endings spreading sensation from her heated core to her fingertips. Her toes curled as her legs closed in to clasp his back and hold Angel even closer.

There’d be no escape for him. He just needed to keep doing that forever and it might just be enough.

Clenching her eyes closed, Cordelia saw bright flashes of light like brilliant start filling the void of her vision as her body erupted with uncontrollable pleasure. Her arms flew up above her head as it turned side to side whipping damp strands of chestnut hair across her flesh and the cotton sheets beneath them. Angel’s hands restrained her bucking hips, his mouth open and tongue tirelessly gathering every drop of her honeyed response.

Before the last wave of her orgasm wracked her body with pleasure, Angel moved up to position himself at her slick entrance. A deep moan left his throat as he thrust into her tight body just so she stretched around the tip of his cock. Slowly, he reminded himself. Slow. Take it slow. All he wanted to do was plunge right in. To bury himself inside her hot channel.

Cordelia’s eyes flashed open as he entered her, the sensation a combination of pain and pleasure. A moment of self-preservation hit as she pushed at his shoulders, but Angel didn’t budge. Not to leave her, but not thrusting any further. Reaching up, he palmed her cheek, soothing her with his words and promising that at the end of the night this moment would be a precious memory.

“Tell that to someone who hasn’t been impaled by rebar,” Cordelia panted against the slow forward thrust that felt like a hot poker driving into her body. She said the words even as she wrapped her arms around him again, holding him close as Angel worked his cock back and forth in shallow thrusts letting her get used to the feeling that he was inside her.

Trust Cordelia to say something like that now when he was trying to concentrate on not hurting her too much. Angel smiled as he leaned down to kiss her, distracting her with the taste of him and her on his mouth. Soon, their heated kisses and the feeling of being stretched to the limit had her moaning into him. Angel thrust deep on his next move garnering a surprised gasp from the woman in his arms.

He stilled for a moment, taking in the shock in her hazel eyes before claiming the open circle of her mouth with his own again. Angel’s hand swept down her body, cupping her hip, his fingers pressing along the lush curve of her bottom. Buried to the hilt with Cordelia’s hot sheath clenched tight around him, Angel felt the strongest wave of possessiveness streak through his body.

Finally, Cordelia Chase belonged to him. All the other ways his demon wanted to claim her would wait. This night he resolved to make love to her, man to woman. To let his demon churn in need as a build-up for the future because he knew Cordelia would be there, would be his, just as he was going to prove tonight that he was hers in every way that counted.

And so he made love to her all through the night until they lay together in a puddled heap of damp flesh and tangled limbs.


Kate’s Place

Angel & Cordelia shared a secret smile, their fingers threaded through each other’s as they remembered their first night together. There would be no telling Kate and Doyle the details of that any time this century— or even the next one considering the millennium was right around the corner.

“So what do you say, Katie girl?” Doyle tore his attention away from his friends. “Are you interested in joining our team?”

Kate struggled to focus, her blue eyes continually straying back across the table. She figured that Angel couldn’t be all that bad. Anyone who could love someone that much had to have something good in him. “This is all still strange, vampires and demons. There are enough everyday criminals to fight much less the supernatural.”

“We’re not asking you to give up your life,” Angel turned his gaze her way, “but having a resource on the police force who understands what we’re fighting and can help when needed… that’ll go a long way.”

Making his case, Doyle reminded her, “You’ve seen darkness of the human kind every day. We’re fighting the same fight, Kate. Only ours occasionally saves the world as well as Los Angeles.”

After a long silent pause, Kate nodded. “You were right, Doyle. You can be very persuasive. I think I’ll accept the offer.”

Doyle dimpled, “Just understand that they’ll be no flirting with me during office hours. My heart still belongs to Cordelia. I pine away for her. I lust aft—”

Giving his friend a stern look, Angel said, “You don’t if you know what’s good for you,” then laughed.

With a long, exaggerated sigh, Doyle leaned toward their new teammate, “In that case, Katie girl. I’m all yours.”

The End.


The Challenge by Califi:

C/A with mild D/K flirtation. NC-17. Smut/Humor.

Angel not so keen on Doyle’s interest in Cordelia and is even less keen when she outwardly seems to lap it up. So he decides to keep them apart socially. Difficult as he has to spend more time with her than inhumanly possible. Then she leaves her apartment cos of ‘antlery’ cockroaches and the heat turns up even as he realizes there is more to CC than he originally thought.

Use the line: C: You know, Angel, it’s actually a lot harder being one-dimensional than it is to be like me – ask Kate!- she even has a gold star.

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