Learning His Lessons
*~*~ Part Seven ~*~*
Angel subtly stared at Cordelia as she turned around to ensure that Gunn was still ensconced inside Wesley's office. Her frustration had been building up to such an extent that by the time Gunn had left for coffee that afternoon, she was about ready to explode. As soon as she had seen Gunn disappear out the door and Wesley retreat into his office, she had hissed and pulled Angel aside for much needed venting.
Her mind flittered back to the present. "Angel." She whispered urgently. "What are we going to do?"
"I don't know." Angel shrugged his shoulders as he sat down on the ottoman beside her. "It's ... hard. And I think Wesley's on to us."
"Duh." Cordelia whacked him on the chest, causing Angel to start aloud.
Cordelia looked on unregretfully. "Of course he does. He's research detective guy, and we totally froze up there." She whacked him on the chest again, eliciting another protest from the vampire. "And you didn't help. Trying on clothes? Shopping? Could you have come up with something lamer?"
"Not to go all schoolyard, but you came up with the shopping thing." He protested, defying Cordelia's glare. "And we should get back to the issue here."
"The issue ... right." Cordelia resignedly leaned back onto the ottoman and sighed. "This is so ... it's giving me headachy badness Angel, and it shouldn't. I mean, we're happy, right? And this is a good thing, and ..." She sighed and began to rub her temples. "Why does it have to be so complicated?" She exploded as she continued to rub her temples vehemently.
Angel lifted her up slightly off the ottoman in order to wrap himself around her tension-filled frame. He gently guided her hands from her temples and replaced them with his cool, masculine ones on her face, rubbing her temples rhythmically in a gentle, swaying motion. Cordelia instantly felt herself calming down, her frustration and irritation subsiding into oblivion as she let herself be overtaken by the gentleness of Angel's caressing hands, the strength and refreshing coolness of its feel permeating her headache-riddled head.
Angel heard her sigh of contentment and smiled, glad that he was able to alleviate her vision-related suffering. He felt her body pressing against his as she succumbed to the gentle swaying sensation induced by his impromptu massage, her head coming to rest backwards on his shoulder. Angel leaned back against the ottoman himself and closed his eyes, enjoying the intimate sensation of running his hands rhythmically over his seer's temples, then down to the back of her neck, and finally coming to rest on her finely sculpted shoulders, kneading the muscles knotted with tension slowly, almost sensually.
Cordelia felt his hands travelling down to her shoulders as a contented sigh escaped from her lips. This felt good ... really good. She felt her body succumbing entirely to Angel's cool, strong touch and sank deeper into his embrace, revelling in his touch.
"Angel ..." The gentleness of his hands almost causing her to groan in pleasure. "... That feels ... really good ... "
He smiled into her hair, inhaling its intoxicating, fruity sweetness. There had always been something extremely sensual about Cordelia, something that oozed naturally out of her vibrant, sunny character that he had only just realised had captured him from their very first meeting in L.A. Angel marvelled at the way things had happened. Even at two hundred and forty-eight, life still managed to surprise him, and for that Angel was glad.
Angel felt Cordelia rest both of her small hands limply on his thighs, caressing them gently, still lost in a haze of tranquillity. He sighed softly as he allowed the warmth of her slight touch to permeate the thin fabric of his pants and course through his cold, dead skin.
He looked down at the breathtakingly beautiful features of his seer as he felt an almost electric arousal tingle the length of his body. All of a sudden he was acutely aware of the weight of Cordelia's body against his own, every space between them filled with Cordelia's fragile weight.
He slowly stopped his mesmerising kneading of her shoulders. His hands began to roam almost of their own accord down her body, lightly caressing her chest before sensually encircling her lithe frame, pressing her body more forcefully against his and making her breathing catch slightly in anticipation. He tightened his hold around her waist as he lowered his head down to the erotic sight of her bared neck, her skin mesmerisingly smooth and unmarked by imperfections. Angel slowly began to trace his tongue over her smooth skin as Cordelia leaned back further into him, exposing her neck even more to the tantalising caresses of the vampire.
A groan of pleasure escaped her lips before Cordelia had the presence of mind to suppress it. Her grip on Angel's thighs tightened as she began to feel the bulk of his obvious arousal pressing against her, and her own heightened pleasure was guaranteed when she felt Angel bring one of his hands underneath her top and begin to caress her breasts with his gentle touch. The effect of his cool hands on her increasingly warm skin was driving her nearly incoherent with desire, but somehow, in the still corners of Cordelia's mind, she knew that there was no danger of things getting out of hand here. There was just something so innately loving and sensual about what they were doing now as opposed to their first encounter days ago on the floor of her apartment; that somehow amidst the almost uncontrollable sensations they were feeling there was still an element of control. She and Angel were both well aware of the dire consequences of transgressing the boundaries delineated by the curse, and neither wanted any badness to ensue from it. Everything was good.
Safe as houses.
Suddenly Cordelia's eyes snapped open as she heard the door to Wesley's office slide open, and she felt Angel tense behind her. They flew abruptly apart as Cordelia saw Gunn stepping through the doors, smirking to himself. Angel ran to the counter and pretended to be engrossed by a magazine as Cordelia hurriedly picked up a discarded rag and began to sweep imaginary dust from the hotel stairs, her breathing less irratic than it had been a minute ago.
Gunn's eyes narrowed as he spied Angel leaning with feigned casualness against the counter, and he carefully concealed a smile at the sight.
"Man I'm bored." He looked pointedly to Cordelia and Angel. "What have you guys been up to?"
"Dusting." They said, almost simultaneously.
Gunn laughed inwardly. He couldn't believe he hadn't seen this coming. Damn, he had to start paying more attention to things around here.
"Really?" Gunn asked Angel incredulously, eyeing the magazine in the vampire's hands. "You developed a taste in weddings there? And how cool is it that you can read upside down?"
Angel looked down at the magazine he was holding and couldn't believe his bad luck. Not only was the magazine in his hands upside down, it also happened to be 'Modern Bride'.
He slammed the open magazine closed and threw it with disgust onto the counter as he glared at the smirking Gunn. He had a creeping suspicion that Gunn had already been clued in by Wesley that something was up with him and Cordelia and was looking for a way to break them.
Angel was fed up with this. This hadn't been a big deal until he and Cordelia had made it a big deal. It was right and good that he and Cordy were ... together. They shouldn't be afraid at how Wesley, Gunn or Fred would react. They were practically family. Angel and Cordelia shouldn't be afraid to tell the guys anything.
And besides, what the hell was a bridal magazine doing in their office anyway?
He looked quizzically at Cordelia, who had discarded the rag and was slowly walking towards Angel, nodding imperceptibly in his direction. Angel took it as a sign of approval of what he was about to do.
"Gunn, can you get Wesley out here?" Angel's expression was serious. "We have to tell you guys ... something."
Gunn raised his brows in slight surprise before fetching Wesley from his office. It didn't take long for Gunn to reappear with the former Watcher in tow.
"Gunn informed me that you ... had something to tell us?" Wesley asked gently, carefully keeping the feeling of elation from his voice.
"Ah ..." Angel looked across to Cordelia who was now by his side. "There's this ... thing we have to tell you guys." Angel swallowed. "Me and Cordelia." He swallowed again. "We ah ... we have a thing."
"What thing?" Gunn asked, stalling for time. Maybe if he made them uncomfortable enough they would stop the big announcement. He silently cursed himself for noticing the magazine thing a few minutes before. He definitely did not want to sing a song of Wesley's choice in front of a packed Caritas any time soon. He shuddered at the thought.
But it was not to be for Gunn as Angel elaborated, discomfort more than tingeing his voice. "Cordelia and I ... we're kinda ... together. You know, in a ..." He looked to Cordelia for help.
"'In a dating, can't keep our hands off each other but fully aware of the curse' kinda way." Cordelia stepped in forcefully. "And you guys better ... accept it. I mean, it's totally none of your business, but we thought ... we wanted you guys to know. So it's out in the open and all, you know?"
Cordelia and Angel waited with baited breath, their minds panicking with possibilities. What if Wesley and Gunn thought it was a bad idea? Or worse still, what if they laughed in their faces?
"Neat." Gunn said nonchalantly.
"Well ..." Wesley's voice trailed off, unsure of how to respond. "Well ... of course both of you know about the ramifications of the curse, better than anyone else here I'll wager." Angel and Cordelia both nodded emphatically.
"Good, good ..." Wesley turned to Gunn and finally let the smirk that had been threatening to escape for the past few minutes form on his face. "And I am looking forward to seeing you singing ... I think we'll stick with the '80's ..." Wesley's face screwed up in concentration. "I think you singing 'I Touch Myself' would be rather ... interesting. In front of a packed house of course."
Gunn rubbed his head as he felt a churning sensation forming at the pit of his stomach. Damn Wesley for being so confident about the bet.
"That's it?!" Cordelia almost burst their collective eardrums by her squeal, her bottled up frustration boiling over. "That's it? Angel and I have been worrying about telling you guys this all day and all you can say is 'good' and 'neat'?!"
Wesley looked at her calmly, the voice of reason and rationality. "Cordy, what do you want us to say?"
She spluttered. What did she want them to say? Wasn't this the best thing that they could have done, just accept it and move on? "Well ... aren't you worried about ... you know, stuff? The ... curse and the vamp thing ...?"
"Well ..." Wesley looked from Cordelia to Angel, the vampire's face one of irritation at having wasted so much time worrying about the guy's reactions. "I'm sure that you two would have thought long and hard about the possible consequences of such a relationship, and as I said before, I'm sure you both are fully aware of the fine line that Angel has to walk every day of his life." He paused before continuing. "I trust the two of you implicitly."
Angel and Cordelia took a moment to absorb the implications of Wesley's statement. Cordelia couldn't believe that after all the worrying over how her friends were going to accept she and Angel being together, it ended up being this easy and pain-free. She looked over to Angel, her eyes shining delightfully for the first time that day. She could be with her vampire all the time now, with no need to hide it.
Cordelia's eyes narrowed dangerously as another thought struck her. "What do you mean, Gunn has to sing? Why does he have to sing?"
Wesley grew squeamish under the seer's penetrating gaze. "Ah ... We ah ..."
Gunn jumped in. "We had a bet."
"A bet?" Angel's voice was deceptively neutral. "A bet about what?"
Gunn raised his eyebrows at Wesley, who reluctantly explained. "We had a wager about how long it would take for you two to tell us about ... well, the two of you."
"Yeah, English said you'd crack within a day, and I said that it'd take at least a week." He sighed resignedly. "And now I have to sing."
Cordelia eyes glinted as she advanced on the hapless pair. "You mean you guys knew that we -" she looked to Angel, "and you didn't let us know? And, and ..." Cordelia was so bothered she couldn't she almost stumbled into incoherency. "You let us get all worried about how you guys were going to react when the whole time you two were just ... just ..." She let her voice peak into a scream, "You just let us suffer?!"
Wesley tried to get a word in amongst her tirade. "Well, I was only sure this morning -"
"This morning?!" Cordelia made no attempt to reign back the pitch of her voice. "Look at the time Wesley! It's almost five! That's ... that's ... I'm so mad at the moment I can't even add but that's a hell of a lot of hours Watcher boy!"
The hotel remained eerily silent in the wake of Cordelia's tirade. She was partly gratified to see that both Gunn and, in particular, Wesley were exhibiting the appropriate level of remorse even as she felt her remaining anger dissipate.
Cordelia was still breathing deeply from her verbal assault of Wesley and Gunn when she curiously asked, "Gunn's singing 'I Touch Myself'?" She giggled at the image as she snuck under Angel's arm. "Does he have to mime it as well?"
Wesley's expression transformed into one of gleeful mirth. "I'm sure that can be arranged ..."
"Oh no way, man." Gunn protests were drowned out by hearty laughter from his three friends.
Wesley looked curiously at Cordelia, who was now familiarly tucked under Angel's protective arm. "Look, I'm sure it'll take some getting used to ..." He looked significantly between Cordelia and the more sombre looking Angel, "And I day say I'm speaking for Fred, Gunn and myself when I say that it's not going to be a problem for the team either. Lord knows you two deserve to be happy," his eyes met Angel's grateful ones, "and we're all family here ... more or less ..." The Englishman blushed with the amount of emotion he was showing but he plodded on. "We're ... well, I'm extremely happy for you."
Wesley gave Angel and Cordelia a brief smile of friendship before saying matter-of-factly to Gunn, "Friday night good for you Gunn? I have it on good authority that Fred is also going to be free that evening." The former Watcher grinned evilly, "Gives you enough time to perfect your repertoire."
"Repertoire?" Gunn sounded slightly alarmed. "I ain't doing no repertoire English. It's just one song, and I'm only doing it 'cause it was a bet, although now that I think about it ..."
Angel shifted his attention from his bickering friends to his radiant seer safely ensconced in his arms. He took in the intoxicating sweetness of her hair, her features, her sparkling eyes, her essence ... and inhaled deeply. For the first time in a long time, Angel felt the calmness of sheer and utter contentment.
In that moment of realisation the knowledge that he had unwittingly been searching for uncurled before him like a bud flowering in spring - that as long as Cordelia was by his side, he would be okay. Cordelia was his friend, his anchor to humanity, his life, his love. She was his guide, a bright light in the darkness of his soul.
Cordelia sensed his gaze on her and threw a dazzling smile at him, not letting up until he felt his face melt into a similar expression of happiness. She was his and he was hers, and that was the way he knew it should be. She would be there for him and he would be there for her ... always.
(c) Vivian Ngan July 2001