Avoiding Perfection

by Sweetprincipale

A Cordelia/ Angel short, smutty piece, that is set in an alternate universe kind of tagging off the one I built in "You an' Me Against the World". Set in an alternate season three or four, no major angst, no betrayals, no Connor, just a moment of fluffy smut.

Author's Note: For all the readers who like my Spuffy works, fear not! I will never give up the "ship" (how corny), I just had this idea pestering me, and had to write it down.

Author's Second Note: This is my first ever Angel and Cordelia story, so I would appreciate everyone's kindness and patience.

Update: This piece has been nominated in multiple categories at the Sunnydale Memorial Awards, Round 27. Thank you so much for showing your appreciation for the story. If you enjoyed and you'd like to participate in the voting, I thank you in advance.

Dedicated to all the kind reviewers who told me my Cordelia and Angel subplots deserved a story of their own.

Nothing of Buffy or Angel belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Part I

"Morning." She said brightly.

"Morning." He said tersely.

"Coffee?"

"Just blood." Angel stayed on the other side of the lobby desk and let Cordelia root around in the mini fridge beside the coffee pot. Don't bend over, don't bend over, don't- ohhhhh. Someone must've put the creamer on the bottom shelf again. He turned away and pointedly studied the design on the floor. Do not look at your best friend like that. Do not look at the woman you love like that- or you won't be loving her for long. She won't be around to love you, either, that's the real danger. Think about the friendship you have, how you can really talk to her, how she opens up to you, too, how she's not always like that, how can be a total bitch sometimes, and she spends way too much time worrying about clothes and money and how she looks. How she looks. That smile, that wide mouth, those big brown eyes- this isn't helping.

Resolutely thinking non-lustful thoughts, he turned his gaze back to Cordelia as she pushed in the setting on the microwave that he preferred to heat his blood. She always gets that just right. Not like Gunn. You ask Gunn to do it and he calls you a whiny ass vamp who can get his own blood. Wesley puts it in those damn willow pattern cups that make your hands look like oven mitts. Lorne puts it glass tumblers, which means you can never drink in front of a client, and he'd probably stick a little umbrella in it if he wasn't glared down. Fred... Fred has this idea that blood is like soup and it's supposed to boil. There's a reason human bodies can only have fevers of a hundred and seven or so before they die. Not that this is human blood, but still, boiled blood- sticky. Like drinking some really awful syrup. Cordelia always puts it in a simple black mug, smiles at you in a way that doesn't require you to say thank you (unlike Fred), and it's always the right temperature.

Sigh. When you're in love you notice all the little things.


Damn him! Well, not really damn him, because that's literally possible for him, what with the demon... Why does he look so good in black? All the time, too, it's not like he gives me a break. I tell him to wear colors, and does he take the hint? Nooooo, not him. Mr. Bad Bar, one six foot chunk of dark chocolate. And if you bite him, you get the evil candy surprise, so stop thinking like this! He's your best friend. Your real best friend, and you love him, really, really love him in that really uncomfortable way. The way that you've never loved anyone before him, the kind of love where you put him first, before yourself. Where you don't tell him that the overhanging brow and the hair is totally working for you and you totally love catching him in bed with no shirt on and...mmmmmm. Although, the fact that I'm preserving his soul is also kinda self-serving, 'cause if I don't, he'd definitely kill me. Then if he ever got his soul back, he might take his own unlife in remorse, because he loves me too. I can't let that happen, he has to fight the good fight, and I have to be there to send him the leads. So I think I'm back to being unselfish. Right?

She made a muted whimper and drained her coffee before clattering away on her designer heels, hiding herself in the back, ostensibly to do filing, but really just to do anything where she couldn't look up and see him. All hulking and manly. Did shoulders even come any broader than that? He had carried her before, why hadn't she taken advantage of that to do some shoulder research?

Oh right. Because I was usually in mortal peril at the time.

I'm losing it.

If I don't have an orgasm delivered by something non-plastic or non-myself, I may go insane.

If I'm insane- I might totally try to seduce Happy Equal Soulless over there.

Which brings us back to the original problem.


"Good morning cats and kittens- oh. I see we are just cat and kitten, singular. Where are the rest of the fearless fighters?" Lorne swayed into the lobby from upstairs, caroling out a cheerful greeting.

Angel grunted and managed a half- smile.

"Fred and Gunn went on a grocery run." Cordelia came back out of the filing area, back to her role as office matriarch and provider of coffee. An unselfish task that totally wouldn't have suited her a couple years ago, that she now did naturally.

"Tex can pack it away, can't she?" Lorne chuckled. "And where's our English Muffin?"

"He went to see an herbalist in Chinatown. He wanted help identifying some tea, or root, or something." Cordelia answered vaguely, handing him a mug, and trying not to watch Angel out of the corner of her eye.

"Thank you, Princess." Lorne sighed and inhaled. "Ooh, Jamaican. You know, it kills me I will never be able to fly on a non-chartered plan. I have always wanted to go Caribbean. I never tried Reggae at the club, but I think I could pull it off. Or maybe a little-"

"Lorne." Angel snapped at the demon now sitting beside him on the lobby's central couch.

"What, Angel Cake?"

"Could you just- stop? Or at least breathe?" Cordelia giggled from behind the desk, making his face light up. She is the only one who laughs where I think a laugh should go, but never put it myself...

Lorne's face transformed into a knowing grin. "Ahhhh. I see." He leaned nearer. L'amour est dans l'air." He mumbled in a crafty undertone.

"Stop that! I think she took French in high school." Angel hissed, but didn't deny.

"Okay, okay. So how do you play this? A quiet dinner for two, you confess it's more than friendship, you work up slowly over a couple weeks, flowers every day, maybe a nice pair of earrings, or just blunt, like the man of action. 'Come to my bed, sweet filly, and let me be your stallion!'" Lorned paused, winced, and frowned. " I don't recommend that last one. Not with Cordy. She'd slug you."

"I'm going to slug you in a second! What the hell are you talking about? I can't- I mean you know there's never going to be a way we can-" Angel cast a darted glance at the back office Cordelia had retreated to, and then back at Lorne, moving his fist in a subtle slide across his chest, joining it to his other palm, representing the joining of Cordelia and himself, "connect."

"Oh pish posh, Honey Pot, of course there is."

"Did you finally figure out a way to make human alcohol affect you? Are you tanked or did you just forget about the curse of perfect happiness?" Angel glowered.

"Ease up, Thundercloud Face, I'm not drunk or forgetful. Although just once I'd like tequila to do its job and make me both." Lorne sighed enviously. "Not that I like to pry between the covers of your cold and lonely bed, but the curse says perfect happiness. I don't know about you, but I've had plenty of girls who were amazing, but not 'perfect'."

Angel's mind screeched off the track it had intended to go on, but just for a minute. In a low voice, carefully hiding his amazement and overall disbelief he asked, "You? Plenty? R-really? Because not that I thought that you couldn't, I just-" Angel stumbled, "never thought that you did. Um. Often." I don't speak to people. I need to get back to that. "I need more blood, I'll be right-"

"Sit down." Lorne tugged the suddenly tongue tied, bashful vampire back beside him. Answering in a conspiratorial murmur, Lorne adjusted his collar and replied, "Now, since I've joined up with the good ship Angel Investigations, talent and time has been a little thin on the ground. But I will say that music isn't the only reason I love working in this city and living on this planet. So many ladies, especially in California, are 'going green', if you know what I mean."

Angel made a small noncommittal noise. Even Lorne is getting some. Lorne is green. Lorne has horns! And those suits... "Okay... well, good for you and -color blindness." Angel coughed. "But I'm not looking for something like that. The way I feel about Cordy, that's different than the way I feel about anyone else. If I was with her, I would feel perfect contentment."

"Even knowing the whole time that you had a figurative stick of dynamite down there? That wouldn't give you a nagging little worry that might detract from 'perfect' happiness?" Lorne pressed.

Angel considered. That would have to play in, right? Or not. Not at that final blissful moment where he- ahh. His eyes went cloudy. "I tend to get distracted from other issues during-" if he could have blushed he would have, "completion."

Lorne stared. "You are just too cute. 'Completion'. You're like a snuggly great grandpa, you little dickens!" He would have pinched Angel's cheeks if Angel hadn't been scooting hastily away.

Angel put his hands on his knees and began to rise. "O-kay, on that note-"

"Come back. Your aura is screaming at me in big neon and plaid letters. Not a good look for you. I don't know how this thing with your ex-sweetie went, but it must've been perfect, obviously. Let us consider, Gramps, if you think that can be a duplicatable experience."

"I don't want to think about that."

"I'll keep bugging you if you don't."

"No. You won't."

"Fine. I'll just get out that recording of you singing Mandy and let that do the bugging for me."

"You wouldn't." Angel said in his "evil" voice.

Lorne put his hand over his heart. "For love, I might. And don't think you can scare me with your soul still on, Tall, Dark, and Threatening. You've met my mother."

"Fine." The vampire huffed, and closed his eyes.

Angel ran back over that gloriously sweet moment. It was the first time he'd ever been in love. Ever. Real love. Buffy, too. And they had exchanged rings. To the old Irish clinging in his soul and memory, that had meant the union was blessed and he had shown her he would be with her, a faithful suitor. It wasn't some night with a pretty lass with loose morals or a tavern wench, like his previous human dalliances, and it wasn't evil and violent like his vampire conquests. It was also her first time. There was something in him, he flushed guiltily, that loved being the first. Removal of innocence. Only for once, he'd thought it was pure and holy, real love, real sacrifice for her, real worship of her by him. He'd tried so hard to stop loving her, but he couldn't.

She was so small compared to him, and he wanted to care for and protect every inch of her. He'd felt redeemed, a lover and a warrior and... just perfect.

"Do you need a few minutes?" Lorne's voice shattered that dangerous memory.

"No."

"Alright, I can see you've found the happy place in your mind." Angel crossed his legs. "Now, compare it to how you think it might go with the lovely Ms. Chase."

"Lorne, I can't-"

"Oh, buddy, if you don't, we might need to send her to another dimension, because the looks you two try to hide are actually contributing to the global warming effect. Polar bears and penguins are dying, and it's all your fault. Now focus, you big resistant lug."

Angel rolled his eyes and sighed. Once he got over the obvious delights of a beautiful face, cleavage to die for, and a rear that saluted on every step, he could imagine talking, kissing, tenderness, two people who trusted each other so much, who saw all the little flaws, who- "No. No, no, no, this is a bad idea."

Lorne looked surprised. "That was fast."

"Lorne, I don't even need to reach that 'perfect happiness' moment, I feel so happy when I'm with her... just being close to her would..." He trailed off, unable to find the right words.

"Really? That's a beautiful thing." Lorne said seriously, a smile hiding under his somber expression. "I had no idea you envisioned Cordy the same way you did Buffy."

"I don't! Buffy was less-, that is, Cordy's more-" There were those hand motions again. "Cordy has more 'oomph'." He pushed his fist in the air.

"Powerful personality. Very alpha female."

"I like alpha females." Angel said defensively.

"Do you? I thought you liked being the rescuer. You have a pretty strong knight in tarnished armor vibe going on all the time."

"I've rescued Cordy. A lot." Angel pointed out. She's saved me too. From myself, a lot of the time, but that counts.

"Then what happens after the rescuing?"

"Well... she thanks me. Then she yells at me for not doing it a little quicker or with less life risking." He confessed, running a hand sheepishly through his hair.

"Yeah, thought so. Cordy!"

"What are you doing!?" Angel hissed, eyes wide.

"What's up?" Cordelia clicked her way over to the desk and leaned across it, her beige dress spilling open slightly.

"Oh, honey, you heard that new song I was working on for the gig I have Saturday?"

"The Stevie Wonder mix?"

"Yes, now, which intro did you like best?" Lorne ignored the "What the hell?" look, closely followed by the "I will kill you slowly and make you suffer" look Angel was giving him.

"Hmm. I think I liked when you started out with Superstition. Y'know, 'Very superstitious... writing's on the wall... Very superstitious-" Cordelia sang, slightly out of tune, absently putting pens back in the jar by the phone.

"That's enough, thank you Sweetie." Lorne praised her and halted her simultaneously, his suspicions confirmed for the hundredth time. "So, here's a thought," he began in a chipper, nonchalant voice, "your auras are both fiery enough to pull heat seeking missiles onto the building. Angel and you love each other and I think you're both going to implode if you don't go and find one of the forty vacant rooms in this hotel and practice your mattress tango."

"Lorne!" Angel bellowed.

"Are you insane?" Cordelia marched around the desk and strode over to the green demon.

Angel looked hurt. Some little part of him had hoped she might like the idea. At least the being in love part.

"Do you not remember the horror stories? Wesley and I didn't put on those skits just to entertain you while Angel was at Blockbuster getting the rental. Those were educational reenactments, living history lessons!"

"Wait, you acted out Angelus' stories?" Angel asked in a mortified gasp.

"It's not my fault you got Ghostbusters II instead of the original. We were bored, we had to kill time, I'm a good actress, it seemed logical." Cordelia shrugged and snapped off. She turned back to Lorne. "Angel having sex equals NO SOUL. No soul equals EVERYBODY DEAD." She said loudly and slowly, holding onto one of Lorne's horns to insure maximum eye contact.

"Back up, Princess." Lorne delicately detached her fingers. "I'm thinking there's a way around that. Yes, you're in love, and yes, I'm sure you're both prime specimens in the boudoir, but if you know not to make it perfect-"

"Lorne, this is really none of your business." Angel growled.

"Shut up, Angel. Keep talking, you green genius." Cordelia said breathlessly, suddenly intrigued, whipping her head to Angel then back to the demon in the snazzy sports coat.

Lorne spread his hands. "You're both champions, heroes, the best people I know. You deserve a little happiness. I said a little." He glared pointedly at Angel. "Not too much. Nothing near perfect."

"Oh, that might be a problem." Cordelia bit her lip. "Not to brag, but I have been called 'perfect' in that area." She tossed her hair.

Angel groaned and put his head in his hands and then looked longingly out of the lobby doors. "This is so unfair. It's daylight. Why do you guys always torture me when it's daylight?"

"If you don't want to..." Cordelia said in a soft voice that was quiet, yet speaking volumes, rending his heart.

"I think I'd rather not have a third party involved. I mean with giving advice!" Angel's eyes widened. "Not with- can we please stop talking?" He begged miserably.

"Fine. This is the green Barry White stepping out with one last word. You deserve some love, light on the perfection. If any two people know how to move the cosmos around to help each other out, it's you two. I think you can find a way to make each just a little bit happy." Lorne backed out of the lobby's doors, leaving Angel and Cordy staring at each other.


"Uhhhhh... I've got to go... do something in the basement." Angel bolted.

"Get back here!" Cordelia ran after him.


"Angel! Angel! Come back here! Will you at least listen to me?" Cordy chased him through the dark basement.

"I don't want to talk about this right now!"

"You never want to talk! But you're right this time." She sighed heavily.

Angel pulled up short, and turned to face her. "Really?"

"Yes, really." She walked to his side. "We're good friends. best friends. We do stupid stuff together, we're there when it's good, when it's bad..." She sighed heavily. "We can't risk our friendship, your soul, and everyone's lives."

"Yes! Yes, that's it. It's not that I don't love you, it's just that the risks are enormous." He explained in a relieved voice.

Cordelia blinked. "You love me like that, though?"

"Well... yeah. If that's okay." He backpedalled slightly.

"And what would you do if I said 'no, it's not', Dumbass?"

"I- uh- hm. Try to hide it and really regret saying it. Dammit Cordelia, I don't like to have conversations like this."

"We're having one, deal with it." Cordelia sat down on an old wooden chest and crossed her legs. "I'm surprised. You never said anything."

"That surprises you? Have you met me?" Angel cried, reluctantly sitting beside her.

"Good point." She leaned her shoulder to his. "Why didn't you say anything, though?"

"Because you made it pretty clear you thought vampire dating was disgusting."

"Well, yeah... but you and me... that's just creepy. But nice creepy. Creepy but comforting. If I got to pick the guy I fell in love with," she paused and considered, "well, no, he wouldn't be you. He'd be tan, drive a Porsche, and have offshore accounts up the wazoo."

"I think I liked it better when you just thought it was disgusting." Angel mumbled moodily.

"I wasn't done. I said if I got to pick. Love is stupid. It never lets you pick. And don't be giving me any of the sad puppy dog eyes crap, because I've seen what you pick. Blondes. Evil blondes, petite goody-goody blondes, lady cop blondes. Alllllways an eye for the blondes."

"Right." He hung his head and studied his knees, then turned to look at the brunette beside him, also sitting in the same position, except he suspected she was studying her shoes, not her knees. "Did I miss it, or was that the Cordelia Chase way of saying you love me?"

"How could you miss that?" Cordelia looked at him with a highly offended glare. "You seriously never listen to me!"

"I always listen to you, I just can't understand everything you say. I think you lost me this time at 'tan'." He glared back playfully.

"Lorne is such a dipstick sometimes." Cordelia sighed bitterly. "How he could even think we'd end up in bed together when we can't even say 'I love you' is just beyond me." Her voice slowed and her eyes narrowed. Think about that. We can't even get through the beginning without botching it up. This is sorta the easy part, we could only get worse the harder things get. "He might have a point."

Angel nodded slowly, hardly daring to feel the faint stirrings of hope. Me and Cordy. Happy yes. Perfection, not really. Perfectly ourselves, but for complete, soul-altering bliss? Not gonna happen. She won't shut up, for one thing."This might work."

Pleeeeease let this work. I'd like to have sex at least one more time before I'm thirty. "It's not like it has to change everything."

"Right. Or be weird."

Silence.

"It'd be so weird." She stared at nothing in dazed horror, contemplating the buttload of weirdness that would come from having sex with your best guy friend, even if his soul and your mortal existence weren't hanging on the climax.

"I know." He grimaced. No, I don't. My brain refuses to think how very completely awkward this could end up.

"We don't have to make any decisions today." She reminded him.

"Nah. Plenty of time." He agreed easily.

"Right. Unless, you know, one of us gets killed battling the forces of evil."

Silence.

Impulsivity.

"I do love you." Cordelia whipped around to face him.

"I love you, too." He was right there, taking her hands.

"You do?"

"I just said it!"

"Me, too!" She beamed, her voice raising to an excited squeal. "Oh God. That's so strange."

"No kidding."

"Hey!"

"You said it! I was agreeing."

"I didn't think this was possible- but you're talking too much."

"This from the woman who never shuts up."

"Are you gonna kiss me or not?"

He'd pictured this a lot. It never happened on a dirty wooden box in the basement during an argument. He held back from her luscious lips."But- what about some romance? A beautiful moonlit night, some soft music, some-"

"Yeah, yeah all that later, I've been waiting for months for you to kiss me, so come on, okay?"

"You've been waiting for-"

"Oh my God! You're like a freaking parrot!" Cordelia slammed her mouth closed on top of his.

It was so right, in an imperfect way. Because it wasn't perfection, it was just- them. Real. In the place where they lived, talking like they'd always talked. Or more accurately, sniping and avoiding like they always sniped and avoided.

She felt better than he'd imagined. He could feel the huge smile under her pursed lips, could almost hear the dazzling laugh.

He was different that she'd expected. Not as cold, and still so serious. But when she pulled away with a gasp, there was a scared looked in his eyes along with a twinkle. Like a nervous boy trying out for a part in a play, major jitters, but would kill to get the part.

"This could work." She nodded.

"I think it's worth a try." He nodded back. We could be talking about switching what coffee we use or repainting the lobby. Only Cordy.

"But no rush." Take me now. I'll just hold a stake while you do it, that's gotta be a mood killer.

"Right." I can't stand up. And I really need some roomier pants if she's going to kiss me on a regular basis.

Silence revisited.

"So..." He studied the ceiling now.

"Yep..." She clicked her tongue to her teeth in gesture of uncertainty mixed with anticipation.

"What are you doing tomorrow?" He blurted.

"Nothing." She blurted back.

"We could spend some time together. Alone?"

She let out the breath she'd been holding. "Sounds good."

"Very good." But not perfect.

To be continued...