Learning His Lessons
ARCHIVE: Please contact me first! Mostly I'm going to agree.
DISCLAIMER: All characters on 'Angel' and 'Buffy: The Vampire Slayer' that appear in this story are owned soley and exclusively by Mutant Enemy, Inc, Twentieth Century and Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt, Kuzui Enterprises, etc.
SUMMARY: Angel and Cordelia have decided that they should continue with their unique brand of 'friendship'. But what does that mean?
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is set about 6 months after 'There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb'. Buffy has died but she has been resurrected (thereby bypassing Angel angst). Fred is there but since I haven't seen anything past Over The Rainbow I can't write her too well.
This is a sequel to my other story 'The Colour of Her'. I just couldn't leave it at that ... I want Cordy and Angel to be happy dammit! And the feedback really decided for me that there should be a sequel!
*~*~ Part One ~*~*
Wesley sauntered through the double doors of the Hyperion whistling a tuneless melody. The former watcher and current head of Angel Investigations was in a brilliant mood despite the fact that it was Monday morning - the beginning of what promised to be another demon ravaged week. He had spent the past weekend relaxing and indulging in his favourite past times - reading up on his other great interest ancient history, and going out on the town with a couple of old university chums from Oxford. All in all, the incipient boredom and frustration brought on by the inactivity of the previous week had been well and truly dispelled.
"Wesley, stop." Cordelia looked up from her perch on the counter without bothering to greet the Englishman.
"Good morning Cordelia." Wesley greeted her happily. "I trust you had a satisfactory weekend?"
Cordelia eyed him suspiciously before returning to her perusal of the Vogue in front of her. "You sure looked like you got some."
"What?" Wesley was momentarily startled out of his happy mood by her directness. No matter how long he had been around Cordelia, the former May Queen never failed to surprise him with her candour. Despite his strict English upbringing and his even stricter Watcher training, he nevertheless quite enjoyed the sensation. Kept him on his toes, so to speak.
He stared at her as she grinned devilishly. "Gotcha!"
Wesley's face broke back into his previous smile as he acknowledged her mastery. She definitely had the knack of keeping him on his toes.
"And how was your weekend?" He asked seriously as he put his satchel on the counter. He hoped that contrary to her declaration on Friday afternoon, she had actually found the time and opportunity to unwind by going out.
Wesley had noted the change in Cordelia's social habits in the past year with some apprehension. It wasn't that Cordelia couldn't be happy staying home with Dennis relaxing with a good book, it was just that he knew, deep down, that Cordelia's bright and infectious personality naturally made people gravitate toward her. There was something innately lively about the beautiful brunette in front of him, and for her to not be surrounded by life and fun seemed profoundly unnatural. So unnatural in fact, that for the past few months Wesley had more and more openly pushed her to relax and go out more. Cordelia was a social creature, and she needed to go out on more social engagements.
"It was fine." Cordelia kept her tone light as she delved once more into the magazine in front of her. What else could she say? Yes Wesley I actually went out to a really nice restaurant on Friday night. I had a really fun time at Santa Monica Pier and then I went on a Ferris Wheel for the first time since I was ten and loved it. And then on Saturday I had dinner again, at my place with take out and had a video fest, and Sunday night? Well, that was spent on a little road trip to Malibu and I stayed on the beach practically the whole night, and it was the most coolest, most romantic night ever.
And oh by the way, I did all that with Angel.
Cordelia shook her head mentally as she imagined *that* conversation. Yeah, right.
Wesley looked at appraisingly. "Really?" He paused, careful to frame his words carefully. "What did you do?"
"Geez Wesley, would you quit the twenty questions already?" She used all her acting skills to squeeze out a glare at his intrusive questioning in order to cover up her almost uncontrolleable need for perpetual smiling. Damn, how was she going to act all normal around Fred and the guys when she had to put in this much effort to not smile?
Damn that vampire with a soul for making her this abnormally happy. Damn her extremely gorgeous, sensitive, 'you just want to rip his clothes off with your teeth' best friend vampire with a soul.
Cordelia walked to her desk in a pretended huff as Wesley backtracked. "Well, no ... I just worry. About you I mean. I've known you reasonably long, and I know ... well ..."
Cordelia's expression softened as she listened to the genuine concern in Wesley's voice. She couldn't just leave him hanging like that, could she?
"Wesley, I know you guys worry over me, and I'm ... I'm grateful for it." She smiled as she looked into his intelligent eyes. "Actually I really ... I mean, it's the first time in my life I've had people looking out for me. But I'm good ..." She paused, knowing she was going to walk a very thin line with her next phrase, "In fact, I went out during the weekend. With a friend ... whom you don't know. Not that you would, I mean in a city of ten million, what are the chances that you'd know my other ... friends?"
Wesley immediately smirked, intelligent enough to detect the slight lilt of unusual happiness in Cordelia's voice. "Oh really? It was a date." He stated matter of factly.
Cordelia wacked him on the arm. "None of your business, buster."
He continued to smirk for an instant longer but decided it was rather unfair for him to continue his line of questioning. He was happy for her. There was a genuine sparkle in her eyes this morning that he had failed to detect in his unusually good mood. And she seemed more relaxed than she had been the past few months. He wished he could thank whoever she had spent the weekend with for releasing this much tension out of Cordelia's lithe frame, and for making her resemble the happy and carefree creature he had first known.
Wesley's train of thought was interrupted by the sound of Angel stomping down the stairs, the vampire's face taking on an unusually healthy expression as he spied the presence of Cordelia and Wesley. In fact, Wesley could bet his winnings from his next darts game that Angel was actually smiling. Not just smiling, but he was grinning like an idiot school boy. What the hell was going on here?
"Ah, morning Angel. You're up early." Wesley commented casually as the vampire made his way to their office area.
Angel stuck his hands into the pockets of his black pants, studiously keeping his casual demeanour. "Morning Wesley. Cordelia." He looked briefly at Cordelia and smiled brightly as she smiled back, but clamped himself down when he saw Wesley's inquiring expression fall onto him.
"You look awfully happy this morning Angel." The former watcher paused. "Are you all right?"
Angel's eyes darted fleetingly around the office before returning Wesley's penetrating gaze. "Ah ... yeah." He paused. "I'm not evil. I'm happy. Imperfectly happy, which is great, I mean, for you guys."
Wesley raised his eye brows but made no reply. He was getting increasingly curious at Angel's behaviour, but he knew it would be useless to push the obviously reticent vampire.
Angel glanced furtively at Wesley who seemed to return to his perusal of the morning paper. Damn this was hard. He didn't know why he was acting so jumpy in front of Wesley. After all, why was he even trying to keep this a secret? So he and Cordelia went out a few times ... in the space of a few days. So what? This was a good thing and besides, they were both adults. They could do whatever they wanted. And what business was it of theirs anyway? And ...
Angel felt agitated at himself. He felt fidgety and jumpy, and that was never good. It wasn't good for the control thing. He had enough on his plate as it was. He had to keep his demon in control. He had to keep his emotions about Cordelia in control. He had to keep his behaviour around Cordelia when the others were around in control. How much could a single vampire handle?!
Control issues much?
Angel almost screamed at himself in frustration. He had spent so much time with Cordelia in the past few days he was even beginning to sound like her! Not that that was a bad thing ... at least, the spending a lot time with Cordelia part.
"Angel!" Momentarily startled by Wesley's exasperated shout, he accidentally tripped over himself as he tumbled backwards, landing ungracefully on his back.
"Damn Angel, you get lessons doing that or what?" Gunn's voice floated through to Angel as he quickly scampered off the floor.
"Gunn." Angel acknowledged his associate as he adjusted his shirt. He had to work on the running himself into the furniture thing. Especially in front of Cordy.
Gunn looked around as he made a beeline for the coffee machine. "Where's Fred this morning?"
"She called early saying that she was going to visit the campus again. See if she can get back to doing the physics thing."
"Huh." He paused as he absorbed the news, waiting for the coffee to drip. "Good for her."
"Yeah." Cordelia sighed as she settled back onto her chair, absently staring at the brightly flashing screen in front of her. "Must be nice to, you know, do the college thing."
"But you like it here, right?" Angel tried to keep the anxiety out of his voice. "I mean, with ... us. I mean, obviously not with the visions, them being so painful and all, but ..." he looked at her hopefully.
Cordelia grinned at him, her brilliant eyes sparkling with energy. "Oh yeah. Those painful, utterly debilitating visions? Yeah, course I love 'em. What insane girl wouldn't?" She paused as she refreshed her screen. "But I got to admit, this job does have its perks." She grinned impishly at Angel raising an eyebrow suggestively, who took a moment to absorb the fact that she was actually referring to him.
Was she referring to him? She must be, right? What with the smiling and the intense ...
He swallowed. He had to snap out of this. He wouldn't be able to function properly today if he kept thinking about Cordelia. He dragged his mind back to the conversation taking place in front of him.
"Yeah well, don't know about the rest of you, but give me a good dusting any day. All them books? I like learning as much as the next guy," he looked over at Wesley as he corrected, "well, as much as the next all-American red-blooded non-English watcher guy, but give me action any day." He sipped his coffee. "Preferably with a heap of bad ass weapons."
Wesley smiled at Gunn's friendly jibe. "Yes, well. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at university. All the books," he looked pointedly at Gunn, "walking through the hallowed halls of Oxford, absorbing the centuries of excellence and learning ..."
"Ah ... guys?" Cordelia interrupted softly as Wesley continued.
"... And the scones were absolutely marvellous." Wesley paused to savour the memory of well buttered scones heaped with jam. "Absolutely --"
Cordelia's body suddenly convulsed dramatically as Angel raced to her side. Her head began to be filled with a kaleidoscope of images, each racing through her mind with such intensity and speed it almost knocked her unconscious. Out of the sudden haze induced by the mind-racking visions, Cordelia picked up on a few key images and feelings - a strange demon with horns ... a mountain ... no, it was a guy wearing a green shirt ... some, no make that a *lot* of blood ... a street sign ...
And God, a small kid. She was scared, so scared ...
Cordelia whimpered as she reeled her head back, the last vestiges of the vision clearing enough for her to formulate coherent words. She slowly opened her eyes to find Angel's chocolate dark ones boring down on her with intense worry. She felt his arms close in around her frame and for a brief, insane moment in the midst of her urgency she revelled in the position.
She smiled ruefully as she struggled out of Angel's protective embrace. "Ouch." Cordelia sat up as she gingerly touched her cheek that seemed to have collided with the edge of the desk. She took a moment to gather her thoughts into an understandable coherency before beginning to describe her vision, urgency colouring her strained voice.
"Okay. Big bad demon ... thing. I don't know what kind it was. It was ... big." Wesley helped her to her feet. "Oh, it had some horny things." She paused as she revisited the images swirling maniacally about in her head. "I think it uses it to fight. And there's a girl ... a little girl ... I think her dad's dead. He's wearing a green shirt." Cordelia paused as she fought back a wave of nausea which threatened to engulf her. "I think she's hiding underneath her dad ... I could smell the blood."
Angel lowered his eyes to hers. "Where are they Cordy?"
She struggled through the wave of images, replaying them frame by frame. "Downtown ..." She looked up suddenly. "Behind Union Station."
"Right." Wesley kicked into action mode as he began to distribute weapons to Gunn and Angel. "We'll need to hurry. Angel?"
Angel tossed his car keys to Wesley who deftly caught it. "Pick me up out back."
Wesley nodded grimly as he and Gunn ran out of the sun drenched lobby, leaving a pair of swinging doors in their wake.
Angel ran to grab hold of his jacket before he stopped by Cordelia's side, one hand automatically finding its way to caress her cheek. He hated having to see her in this pain. Although she had assured him time and time again that she didn't blame him for being the lucky recipient of the visions, it made his heart ache to see her in so much pain. Not just the physical pain which was bad enough by itself, but the emotional pain that was such a part and parcel of the visions themselves. What Cordelia had to see, to feel, to hear and touch and smell every day because of those visions ... sometimes he didn't think he could stand it. How could life be so cruel? Cordelia was so young, and she hadn't done anything wrong. Was it really because she had been unlucky enough to work for him that she was now being condemned to this pain?
Through her haze of already intense vision-induced agony Cordelia could almost feel Angel's now customary regret and anger at having to see her in this condition. She knew that despite all her ranting and raving, he still to some degree blamed himself for her visions. Especially when he was on hand to see her in its aftermath.
"Angel ... it's not your fault." Her eyes welled up with suspicious moisture as she met his painfully steady gaze.
He leaned down and surprised both himself and her by planting a light kiss on her lips. "I know. But I just wish ..." He shook off his train of thought. "I'll be back soon Cordy. Get some rest."
She smiled tearfully at him as he spun around and disappeared out of her view. Her fingers brushed her lips where he had kissed them and sighed. She tried not to dwell on the fear of the little girl from her vision, and her mind obediently swung to another budding trauma - Angel.
She knew that they had promised to remain 'friends', free from the curse issue and its related traumas, but she didn't know if she could realistically keep it up. The past few days ... well, nights spent in Angel's company had been some of the happiest of her life, but she didn't know whether she could be content with just that. With just spending time with him, with light kisses here and there knowing that there could never be more.
Cordelia sat down onto the lobby steps and leaned her aching head against the pillar. She had felt really good with Angel during the weekend, insulated from the cares and worries of her everyday existence. But now sitting down in the Hyperion in the wake of a vision, she realised that life would not be as simple as that. She and Angel had to find a way of juggling their feelings, their wants and desires with the practicalities of their daily existences.
Cordelia shuddered inwardly. Because if they didn't -- there would be hell to pay. In the most literal sense of the word.
(c) Vivian Ngan July 2001