"'You won't be sorry, you just got to *see* him'." The very expensive wooden door slammed behind Angel's mimicked mocking words.
"Oh, I saw him, alright." Angel kicked at the desk, denting it. That was another desk ruined because of Spike. That irresponsible, conceited childe of his crazy childe was good for nothing. Consorting with the enemy --- It only added more proof that Angelus was crazy.
"Last time I'll fucking listen to Lorne. When will I learn to never trust what he tells me?" Angel growled and slammed his fist against his office wall. He glared furiously at his fist's imprint. Better his office than his apartment. He knew he should be in his room; he hadn't had enough sleep for days now.
"I think I'll cut his head off and let him watch me while I burn his clothes!" He got a truly Angelus smile as he paced around his desk. "Or better yet, make his detached head watch while I dye them the in the darkest black I can find." He calmly chuckled. "No one gets to make a fool out of me..."
Except that Spike had always made him feel like a fool. He had watched one ago protégé all night, enthralled by his beauty and snarling whenever someone expressed the same appreciation. Nevertheless, Spike had been 'dead sexy' in that well-fitted suit. Angel knew he should give a lot of the credit to Cordelia but if it weren't for the wearer… Angel tried to snap out. He was good at keeping his emotions in check. Denying what he wanted for so long. He hated that such old feelings had breached the surface recently for some blasted reason.
When Angel had finally mastered enough 'valor' to alert his grandchilde of his presence, he had barely suppressed an angry growl as he saw that HE had beat him to the act. Angel very well feel the two whiskey glasses he held begin to grow warm from to the blood boiling in his veins.
He felt his hands itch with the need to crack his knuckles when he saw Hrafen approach the unusually mellow Spike in a confident swagger. He glowered when he realized that due to the background noise, he wasn't able to hear what the two were talking about, especially when Raven moved them to a secluded area. Unless he dared to blow his cover, particularly since he wasn't in his best game, he wasn't about to move from his venue.
He had been so distracted that a mere human had snuck up on him that night and hid behind him. He wouldn't have notice if the strange human hadn't ruggedly beseeched him not to move. Thankfully, the man slinked away to hide amid a group of people flaunting over that kid that Cordelia had made him watch drown a few years back. Angel narrowed his eyes at that audacity. He hadn't even said thank you. Also, thanks to him, Angel forgot to read Spike and Raven's lips and almost missed them as they headed outside.
Furthermore, what the hell was that song about? It got on his nerve and kind of made Angel feel like an ass.
He had barely escaped Cordelia seeing him. It wouldn’t do well for her to know that he was there. He knew that she was watching Spike as closely as he was. Well, not that closely since he saw her giving doe eyes to that Jack-what's-his-real-name. Angel snorted, remembering how she sighed that time over the kid's heroism and romantic gesture. He had deflated when she snubbed him for some days after he had pointed out what he had done to save the world. How romantically tragic it was when he let Buffy stab him.
Thus, he had made sure to avoid her so he wouldn't hear about how she knew why he was there following Spike - which he was not - and what shade of whatever-color that kid-actor's eyes were. With a last glance at said actor -who, at that time, had Angel's ungrateful hider behind him- and a mental note to someday check if the reason the kid's looks hadn't changed for all these years was anyway related to the undead, he exited to the garden and snuck into the shadows.
He had never felt as cold as that moment in his entire existence. He dared not dwell on the reasons too much.
He had never realized how much a threat Raven was until he saw Spike initiate the kiss and follow it through. That was it, he thought. He knew he couldn't see more of that. So, he left.
Angel sighed as he gazed out over the city.
Had he pushed Spike too far? And why in the world was he brooding over it now? Wasn't that what he wanted? Spike away from him, finally. Their blood was the last thing they shared and with Hrafen stepping in, that line would be severed. He would at last be free of responsibility over Spike. Free of accountability.
"I'll tell you why you can't stand the bloody sight of me."
If so then why was he feeling like someone had reached into his gut and twisted, relentless?
~ At least nothing worse can happen. ~ He thought as he sat in his chair and looked sightlessly at untouched mounds of paper.
The creek of the door opening was his only warning.
"Whoa, penis office have we?"
~ I thought too soon ~ Angel groaned, hiding his face in his hands. ~ I deserve this. I should learn better than to give fate an open invitation to screw more with my life! ~
"I really get the whole being presentable for work, but don't you think you're pushing it too far, Deadboy?" An obvious dig at him still wearing the clothes he had the night before.
"Xander," Angel murmured before a thought hit him as he raised his head and gave the smirking boy a withering smile. "Xander."
The boy froze at that cold tone. "Angel?" He narrowed his eye at the vampire, cautiously. "You didn't happen to get lucky last night just 'cause you got yourself into some fancy clothes, did ya, - buddy?" He glanced back at the door, wearily.
Angel stood up and stretched. He had a fleeting thought on how he had not noticed the sun rising to the mid sky as he gazed sightlessly out the window nor how long he had stood there. He ignored the irony and instead, approached Xander with small but sure steps.
"You know, you coming in is the exact thing I needed." Perhaps, Lorne could wait. The vampire was in the mood to settle old debts. He was feeling his headache clear already.
Angel was two steps away from the frozen boy whose lone eye kept peeking at the open door.
~ Wonder what he's thinking about? Escape? ~
"Told you he was in here!"
Angel's question was answered when Harmony grinned at him from the door before two figures blocked his view of her when they entered. He pulled back, blinking at their presence.
"Ladies, do come in." Xander's back stood straighter.
"Angel," two voices greeted at the same time.
"Willow - Faith."
The two women smiled at him. And they were women. Both of them hadn't changed much from the last time he had seen them, but, they radiated content and growth. He felt himself calm at the sight of them. Because, somehow, at that moment he felt that if those two could get through everything they went through, and keep on going - they being mere gifted children- then, there might be hope for someone like him.
Angel couldn't help but smile at how comfortable those two seemed around each other. He knew that it was something he wouldn't have seen a few years back. He was happy that they seemed to have had worked things out. He liked them both and was glad to see that they tolerated each other at the moment, maybe even liked each other. However, now, it was all he could do to stop from speculating if he had as good a chance as them to live on through past issues.
That thought brought his gloom back and he pulled back from a smirking Xander to sit behind his desk. Time to change the subject.
"What are you doing here?"
Xander casually sat down while Willow and Faith smiled at Angel before taking a seat as well.
The brunet boy placed a leg on the other in deliberate arrogance. He didn't like how his girls always liked Angel and were so comfortable around him. He leaned back.
~ I'm here to even the odds, that's all ~ Xander debated crossing his arms but on the last second decided that it was too much.
He looked around the room. "You know Angel, you really should get someone to check your wall, faulty craftsmanship. I could swear that someone punched a hole in it… that doesn't bode well for the CEO of a Firm/Investigations Agency- a supposedly good one."
"Xander…" Faith kicked at his foot.
He evaded her with practiced ease and continued, "Now the desk… if I had a hat I would tip it for you, but, I don’t- it's a work of art." Faith relaxed at that. "If it weren't for the kick-like-dent… is everything okay, 'pal'?" Xander hid his grin behind a concerned looked and ignored Willow and Faith's groans and mumbles of 'I knew we shouldn't have let him come'.
Three heads turned towards the huffing blonde at the door.
Angel rubbed his forehead. ~ Oh, welcome back, headache… ~ He tried to tell his head that vampires weren't supposed to have headaches, but, obviously it knew better than him because the ache lingered in small annoying pulses.
He opened his eyes and watched helplessly as Harmony stalked into the office and stood near the desk with her hands on her hips.
"What am I going to tell them now?" She shook her head exasperated, poking at the dent with her expensive shoes. The dent soon became a hole due to the nudge. Harmony sighed. "One can only use 'my boss has romantic problems' one too many times, you know!"
"I don't have…" Angel denied.
"You can tell them he was out of hair gel and took it out on the table," Xander cut in happily.
Harmony perked up. "Oh, I haven't used that one, yet… they are so gonna buy it too." She placed her hand on one hip and narrowed her eyes at Xander. "You know Xander you should've lost an eye sooner… other than making you super hot… it made you smarter."
She then turned to Angel and pointed out the window. "You can pound on badly dressed people the next time you get in a hissy fit. I won't cover for you again." And then exited the office.
Willow blinked and looked between the bewildered faces. "It's good to see that not even death changed Harmony. I guess."
"I think she's good now… or so Cordy says. As long as we keep an eye on her," Angel said absentmindedly as he stared at Xander. The boy shifted uncomfortable in his seat at the scrutiny. "Didn't really register the lack of eye - before… when did that happen?"
Xander self-consciously touched the patch. "Hellmouth. The First's right-arm clergyman thought I saw too much, so, he decided to mend that problem," he said, dryly.
"Just the one?" Angel was curious.
Willow and Faith shared worried looks.
Xander smiled bitterly. "Oh, no, he meant to be very thorough, lucky for me Spike got himself some extra oomph and knocked the bastard off before I was forced to buy a Seeing Eye Dog. This is not of the good… seeing as on a Hellmouth I could be buying a Seeing Eye Hell-Dog for all I know!" He grinned brightly and chuckled.
Angel knew from experience that that was not all there was to the story. Xander obviously still suffered from that incident. He barely held his tongue though from asking about how easily Xander admitted to Spike saving his life. He was a vampire after all. And if there was anything Angel knew for sure about the brunet boy --Angel shook his head - man now - the girls weren't the only ones to survive through the worst, he had to admit-- it was that he hated vampires. Then why would he give Spike the credit? Even if that were true. Perhaps, Xander had grown in more ways than one? Or that it was easier to give up such a right to the 'supposed' dead undead, he thought, recalling that no one else knew that Spike had returned.
Angel chose to give him the benefit of the doubt, for now. Not to mention, he couldn't do anything in front of these powerful women, so, rather than focusing on that issue, he returned to his original question.
"You were telling me why you were here." He entwined his fingers patiently.
"No, I wasn’t. I was diverging, didn't you notice?" There was that twinkle back in Xander's eye. And seeing how Willow and Faith relaxed as they saw it as well somehow made it worth while to go against his better instincts and not strangle the 'boy'. "You know Andrew?"
Angel twisted his face in disgust at the memory of the annoying young man. Yet another of Spike's admirers. And how was it that things always pointed back to him?
~ All the roads lead to Spike. ~ That was a scary thought.
"Unfortunately, yes." Angel then perked up. "He's not dead, is he?"
Surprisingly, the two men had a matching understanding expressions on their faces.
Xander sighed. "Sadly, not. Anyways, the little twerp has been making up elaborate stories, that isn't the unusual part, the strange thing is, that this time he's been avoiding talking about his short stay in L.A. - which considering Andrew's past, is really suspicious. So, since Will and Faith were coming anyway to pick up a slayer…"
"You both bothered to come to recruit one slayer. Is there a problem?" Angel cut Xander, directing the question at the girls.
Willow smiled. "Not really. You see the girl's well into the arts -"
"- and a little messed up life wise, we just didn't want any surprises," Faith completed for her. "G sort've sent the two experts." Willow and Faith smiled acceptingly at each other.
Angel nodded. "But things are okay now?"
"Five by five," Faith said. "As mojo charged messed up kids come, she's okay. She's making arrangements and saying her goodbyes. It won't take more then two or three days to get her ready for her first introduction to G's class of bore AKA 'What is The Calling'." She rolled her eyes, indicating being there one too many times.
"Yeah, and since we were already in town and things went smoothly, we thought we'd stop by and say, hi… which we haven't … so, uh… 'hi'." Willow grinned, issuing a small wave.
"That explains you two, but what about him?" He stiffly nodded towards Xander.
Xander sat up, indignant. "Hey, 'him' has a name… and 'him' was telling the story 'someone' was whining about knowing before 'you' interrupted."
Angel waved his hand in a 'go on… get it over with' gesture.
"Ok, um, where was I?" Xander blinked. Angel held back a complained grunt. "Oh, yeah… I thought Andrew was up to something and since Cord vouched for you after she woke up - by the way thank you for not telling us and leaving it to Wesley to slip up over the phone with Giles about Cordelia doing well after waking up from her *coma*! -"
"Xander…" Willow warned.
He waved his hand for her to forget it.
"- I thought it would be best to see what the little geek was up to and ask you if anything happened while he was here."
Angel didn't even flinch at the accusation. It was true after all. He had asked himself that same question a number of times and every time his mind supplied a different explanation. However, since he was indeed feeling a little guilty, he did not corner Xander by asking him why he didn't just call and ask about Andrew instead of flying all the way here from wherever he was residing.
"Also, Dana was babbling something about 'cutting the vampire's arms' and how she was now sorry 'cause he'd only wanted to help her but she thought he was someone else. Are you ok?" Willow asked in breathless concern.
So, the brat didn't tell them about Spike. Angel frowned. They still had no idea he was alive. Question was, should he tell them? But, was it his choice to do so? And what if Buffy found out what would she...
Before Angel could form a sentence, or for his mind to supply him with an appropriate answer, his office door opened and a very familiar shriek was heard.
"Oh My God! Harm told me but I wouldn't believe her 'til I saw with my own eyes!"
From behind Cordelia, the rest of the Gang could be seen, grinning in response to their friend's happiness. With no time to spare, the three young women met in the middle of the room.
Cordelia narrowed her eyes at Willow and Faith looking from one to the other. "Are you evil?" That seemed as standard as questions come regarding anyone from Sunnydale, none blinked when it was asked.
The brunette slayer and the redheaded witch shook their heads and said in unison. "Nope, you?"
Cordelia shared a grin with them. "Not for a while now." Then she pulled them in for a group hug. With her head between them, her eyes blinked at the back of a mop of dark head of hair and a ridged back ,sitting in front of Angel's desk. She pulled back from the hug and questioned, unsure, "Xander?"
The sound of a deep breath taken was heard before the tall frame stood up and slowly turned around. Cordelia felt tears sting her eyes. Xander had a lopsided grin at the ready.
Cordelia wiped the tears that had slipped and Xander was stunned when he suddenly found the weeping form of his ex-girlfriend in his arms. Not one to waste opportunities, he wrapped his arms around her and closed his eye relishing the almost forgotten feel of her in his embrace. It had been forever.
He couldn't believe that he had given this up. The feel of her in his arms was so right. When she finally pulled back, he felt reluctant to let go. It was as if a part of him had returned after a long period of separation and wasn't all that willing to let go once more.
Xander smiled as he let his arms fall back to his sides.
He looked dopily at her; the goofy grin firmly in place like was expected.
"Now I get to tell all my buddies that I got a hug from The Cordelia Chase! And since you’re a celebrity now, I have the right to embellish!" He tucked his hands in his tight jeans pockets and rocked on the balls of his feet, finding himself inside reverting to the unsure teenager in front of his old friend.
Cordelia narrowed her eyes at him and flung her head back, arrogantly, falling back to old habits as well. "Like that would matter seeing as all your 'buddies' are girls."
Xander waved his hand emphatically. "Don’t forget Giles and Andrew." He thought for a moment. "Don’t forget Giles!"
Cordelia cocked her head, she was getting more curious to see this Andrew everyone had been talking about. From the way Wesley described him he was like an extra concentrated blond Xander. She shuddered. Maybe she would overlook that. She gave Xander one of her trademark grins. "I really missed you, Xan." She touched his eye patch delicately. She let her hand fall down and said with a sniff, "I'm glad you're okay."
Xander was shocked into silence for a few seconds - something of a feat, then, a small smile returned to lips. "Same here, Cordelia." He rubbed at her arm, lovingly, letting his thumb massage her elbow in a way he remembered relaxed her.
The two gazed at each other while silence residing in the room and everyone staring at them with varied expressions.
The calm was soon interrupted.
"Lorne!" was said in a growl.
"Eeek!" The green demon squeaked. His ingenious hiding place behind Gunn was discovered when Angel took the opportunity of everyone being preoccupied with the reunited two not to notice him.
Lorne had sensed the dark vampire's foul mood seeping out of the office long before they entered to greet the visitors. He had figured out the reason to that when Cordelia came by in the afternoon. It was their - per usual - post Hollywood party meeting where she would tell him the events and gossip of the night. However, there wasn't much talk about stars and starlets today.
She had told him about how she watched as Spike kissed Raven after the dark haired vampire had requested that song. Both Cordelia and Lorne took a moment to sigh at the perfect and romantic choice, then sobered up and Cordelia said that Spike had soon after departed with said 'romantic' vampire.
The two had a split-second of joy for their friend finally taking some time of his own to be happy. Though, that was short-lived when Lorne had let it slip on how he had sent Angel to try and talk to Spike, to try and really see how different Spike was from how Angel always perceived him to be. Cordelia was aghast and had taken no time in showing her displeasure by snapping at the poor demon, "I can take a guess what he saw! No wonder Harm said that she thinks Angel was banging heads with his office walls. She's just glad it wasn't the desk again. Way to go, Lorne!"
"How should I have known that would've happened," Lorne protested with a whine. "I'm not psychic."
Cordelia flicked him with her long, sharp nail. "Duh, doofus, you are!"
Lorne smiled, sheepishly. "Oh, right." Then he retaliated, "But, I don't think that asking every conversation I have to end with a song would be very far-sighted of me, especially if its Angel-cakes doing a single."
That caused Cordelia to relent, "True."
Nevertheless, her concession didn't cause Lorne to feel any less worried. "I'm thinking I should lie as low as my stylish yet comfortable outfit permits for a while. Wrath of scorned-easily-riled vampire is the last thing I'd want after my beating booty."
Cordelia snorted and patted his shoulder. "Don't turn up this anthill. Angel claims he give an ounce of care about Bleachie, I don't think he'll blow his see-through cover."
The conversation with Cordelia had helped Lorne relax enough to show his face in front of Angel. However, what Lorne hadn't known was that hours later he would be wishing that he had never met the lying, deceitful, manipulative actress-slash-seer for he had a very pissed-off vampire in his face. His reliable eight-ball wasn't all that optimistic of the outcome.
Lorne forgot about trying to hide behind the now uncomfortable and confused Gunn. He turned to look at their baffled visitors. Better to do what he was there to do in the first place. "Willow, Faith gorgeous as ever." They women grinned at him with some confusion in their eyes. He ignored that, and turned towards Xander. "You, pup, and I will have a talk later about Johnny and a much awaited sequel." Sunny grin for all, then the red-eyed demon initiated a well-known, unfailing course of action. "Bye, now."
Xander blinked three seconds later. "Wow. Never thought I'd ever see that. Who'd've thought that a green demon in a radioactive Armani suit could run that fast!"
"You should talk about radioactive attire."
It seemed that their 'moment' was ruined thanks to Angel playing boogie vamp. Xander crossed his arms patiently at the woman in front of him.
Cordelia shrugged looked over his brown jacket and blue jeans. "Or you would've talked about it… any—hey!" She pointed accusingly. "How did you know that was Armani?"
Xander shifted, uncomfortably. "Let it not be said that Cordelia Chase had never rubbed off on Xander Harris, in not only a naughty way." He dodged Cordelia's smack to his head with a chuckle.
Harmony walked in, busy filing her nails. "Does anyone know what's wrong with Lorney-toons?"
Cordelia sucked in her bottom lip and shrugged innocently. That instantly raised suspicion in Fred, Wesley and Gunn and they gave her questioning looks. She mouthed 'Spike' and 'later' and part of their confusion disappeared.
Harmony was oblivious. "He was in such a hurry he didn't even stop to hear about how my dialing-nail broke when I was punching my hairdresser's number." She sniffed at her finger.
Gunn mumbled, "Who wouldn't run."
Xander looked at the black man, impressed. He made a mental note to talk with this man about Angel sometime. He always regretted not having a sharp-wit male buddy to make fun of Angel with.
Harmony glared at the lawyer. "Just 'cause you were born bald doesn't give you the right to make fun of us who care about their hair." Then she turned around with a huffed, "And they wonder why people hate bald men, just rude..."
Gunn gaped. "I am not bald! Why does everyone keep thinking that I'm naturally bald?" He gave Cordelia a withering look. "It's a cheerleader thing, right?" He pursed his lips. "I'm growing it back… but does she use her super vampire eye sight…nooo."
"Hey! I noticed," Cordelia protested. Gunn glared, reminding her about her own bald comment. "After a lo-ong coma slumber," she said in a small voice. Gunn snorted - he was not moved.
Xander was really impressed now. ~ Now this could be the start of a beautiful friendship… two Cordettes in less than five minutes! Better call Guinness. ~
Angel noticed Xander's grin and how his hand never left Cordelia's arm in all of that time. He restrained a growl. It was true that he and Cordelia had figured out that what they once thought they had, wasn't meant to be - story of Angel's romantic life. But, that did not mean that seeing Harris all over her like they were back together wouldn't bother him. He was owed a little anger. Nonetheless, he couldn't beat on Xander because Willow and Faith and now his Gang were here, then that manipulative Lorne ran away like the coward he was - and he was the perfect distraction. But, that was a good thing. Angel still hadn’t bought the black paint.
Angel walked around his desk, and sat back down on his comfortable chair. He silently watched while Cordelia introduced Xander to Fred and Gunn. He heard Xander congratulate Gunn on his excellent "Cordette-handling" and ask if he had any tips about that or hidden gems about Angel? Before Angel could be allowed his right to finally snap he was robbed from that as well when he heard Cordelia's palm smack Xander over the head.
~ Better than nothing ~ Angel grumbled but no one heard him. ~ What is it with all the touching? ~
He poked at the papers on his desk. Maybe he could let Wesley handle this paper work. They only seemed to grow. No, he should order him to do them. Yes, because he was the boss. It said so on his card. Not that it had ever been implemented. Angel kicked his foot forward, in a sad attempt at venting. His eyes widened when he felt his shoe lodge the hole he poked in the desk.
He tried to pull it back, but it wouldn't budge. If it were anyone else but him, they would have wanted to cry. But not him. Sure, he hadn’t slept. He was hungry. And he wasn’t allowed to kill annoying people. And now his foot was stuck. If he didn’t learn from past experience, he would demand fate show him something worse than this. But, he wasn't suicidal. Yet. So, he started reciting prayers in every language he recalled, praying that these people leave so he can get to his elevator, then his apartment with only one shoe on. He was allowed the little bit of dignity he was left, wasn't he?
"Boss, the maintenance team are gonna bring your new desk in fifteen minutes. Are those papers done yet so I can send them to the departments?"
Angel raised his eyes to his secretary's helpful smile. What a convenient time for her to be professional. He gently fingered the handy stake in his desk drawer. It wouldn't be wrong to dust her. He could do it from where he was sitting. It was easy. And it was like killing a defected animal that lost something essential. A brain was a necessity. But, that wouldn't hold in court seeing as she never had one in the first place. Angel perked up. He had super-lawyer Gunn. Gunn didn't like Harmony, more today than ever with that bald thing she said. Angel just had to make sure not to let Gunn find out that he had always thought the same thing about his head, too. He let go of the stake. No, it was too risky. Life sucked.
Harmony was blinking stupidly at Cordelia's 'cut it out' gesture. The actress had noticed from the second she walked in that Angel still had his dressy suit on. She wondered if Lorne was cementing his doorway and placing sanctuary spells on his place, he seemed really afraid from Angel just know. Cordelia wondered if he sensed something. She shrugged. She didn't need to be all 'read-y' to see that Angel was annoyed. And one guess on to why. She subtly moved closer to Xander and hid a pleased smile, when she saw Angel's face. The gang all knew how possessive Angel was, and it didn't hurt to punish him a little for being such an ass to Spike lately.
The only thing she hoped now was that Harmony would get the message and leave before anyone else noticed that Angel's shoe was stuck in the broken desk. Pushing Angel's buttons was one thing, humiliation was another, especially by Harmony and in front of Xander of all people. She spared the poor desk's carpenters some sympathy before she remembered that Angel's tantrums were making them money. Cordelia sighed in relief when her blonde friend looked at her strangely, but, thankfully, dropped the subject, not a second too soon from the looks of Angel's twitching hand, and left, closing the door behind her. She made a mental note to tell Harmony about a new nail salon that had done wonders to her nails.
~ One disaster averted. Now to get these guys out of here before Angel get the itch to fire us all again. We have enough Drama already... ~
Cordelia was about to invite everyone - save a gloomy stuck vampire - for a round of food and gossip, when apocalypse knocked. Or in fact, barged in.