It's rough and unbeta'd but I'm happy I actually finished something. Whoo-hoo. :)
Summary: Cordelia knows something's changed, but she's not sure what. And then Angel does something unexpected. Set post s3 "Hearthrob". They aren't quite as lighthearted in this as they were in the first few episodes of s3. There might be more, but I'm absolutely NOT making any promises.
“You all right?”
Cordelia all but jumped. She turned and saw Angel standing on the other side of the counter, eyes on her.
“I thought you went with the guys?” she asked him, pushing the papers around the top of her desk in an attempt to look busy.
He gazed at her without blinking, and what he was thinking she couldn’t begin to guess at.
He’d been back for almost ten days – not that she’d been counting – and since he came back, he’d been different. Staring at her as though he was seeing something else in his mind, acting like they were strangers.
Despite the initial warm way they’d greeted each other after Tibet, and the talk they had about his useless grief over Buffy’s dying, Cordelia realized there was a new awkwardness between them, something she didn’t know how to get around. The more she tried, the more she felt as though she were losing ground on a hillside of loose rocks.
“I decided to stay in,” he said. When he didn’t say anything more, she made an ”oh”
noise and went back to her paperwork.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
She looked at him again.
“Are you okay?” He asked again. “When we got back, you were limping a little. Did you trip down there?”
In the sewers, chasing a Styric demon before it fertilized its female and made a big problem bigger. She had been wearing new running shoes, a pair she’d been excited to find for a bargain at thirty percent off price marked.
She remembered when Jimmy Choos were de rigueur
for a night on the town.
“Breaking in new shoes, no big deal.” She stood up, grabbed her bag from the bottom drawer. “Time to call it a night-“ she glanced at the French doors behind Angel’s back. “or morning. Whatever. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
She took a step and groaned, pain shooting through the bottoms of her heels.
Angel moved faster than she could blink, taking her arm.
“Come over here,” he told her, fingers on her elbow. He led her over to the circular couch in the lobby, going slowly, and she thought about pulling her arm away, leaving out the closest door. He was too close and she was too…raw. And it was the wrong end of sunrise.
Maybe that was why she was looking at his profile instead of fleeing. She wanted to ask him how his trip was and what had changed so much that he had all but shut down on his return. She’d been there for him, been understanding when he told her he had to leave LA for a while. She choked back her disappointment and been his friend, smiled and supported – all the while she felt like someone was reaching inside her and tearing her heart out in bloody chunks.
He sat her down and knelt in her front of her, and she nearly sputtered at the shock of his shoulders at her knees as he bent down and pulled off her shoes, and then the socks.
“Angel, I’ve been running-“ she tried pulling her foot away but he wrapped both of his big hands around it, holding it still. Immediately his thumbs dug into the soft underside and she slumped on the couch, groaning as he kneaded the muscles and ligaments from her heel to the ball of her foot.
He glanced up at her.
“Good?” He asked.
She made an agreeable noise, the shock of the massage making its lightning way up her legs and ending at the bottom of her spine in bursts of vibrating light.
“Where did you learn…?” He found a knot and worked it hard with just the pad of his thumb and she stopped being able to make words come out of her mouth, biting her lip so she wouldn’t groan again.
He worked on her right foot until the pink rays of dawn streaked through the French doors of the Hyperion, and then switched to her left, finding different knots, working them out with his thumbs and fingers in ways that not even the best masseuses her father had ever hired, working out torn ligaments and stiff muscles collected in cheerleading camp, were capable of doing.
And he did it all without talking, hunched over her foot as though he had forever to spend on making her feel good. She gazed at the top of his head and then at his hands, feeling the good feelings as they hummed up her legs, pooling between her thighs. Before long it was as though she were floating in a warm ocean, safe and open like a flower to the sun.
Her nipples rubbed pleasantly against her bra, and she shivered at the sensation.
And then Angel stopped.
She blinked at the sudden stillness and focused on him.
He was looking at her chest, at her nipples behind her pink cotton t-shirt.
She sat straight up, pulling her foot from his slack grip and standing up. He looked flustered and unsure, straightening to his feet along with her.
“Um, I hope that helped,” he said, hands going around to his back pockets before dropping to his sides.
“Yes,” she said a little too forcibly, smiling with too much teeth and enthusiasm. “Thanks.”
She spotted her socks and shoes at the same time he did and they both bent over at the same time to pick them up. Angel won because he had vampire speed and held them to her in offering. The space between her thighs throbbed and she had the horrifying realization that Angel might actually be smelling her at that second. She reached out and snatched her shoes and socks and backed up towards the doors.
“Thanks again,” she said. “I’ll probably be late coming in tomorrow, seeing how it’s already tomorrow and all.”
She stopped at the last second and looked at him gazing at her. For a second she thought maybe he wanted to say something because he wasn’t moving, didn’t turn and go up the stairs, no goodnight like he used to throw her way. He just kept looking at her until the tension stretched unbearably, and she finally, finally turned and walked out into the morning light.
She put her footwear back on in the garden, ignoring the tingling between her shoulder blades that told her someone was still looking at her. When she was suited up, she stood and slung her back over her shoulder, hurrying away from the Hyperion and to the bus stop, refusing to think about what had happened, pushing Angel’s face from her mind.
It was just a foot rub, that’s all. Just a friendly foot rub at the end of a very long 24 hour work day. He was her friend, she thought as she climbed onto the bus that would take her within a block of her apartment. He was just concerned because they worked together and he had a vested interest in keeping her from calling in sick.
They were friends.
As the bus pulled into the early morning LA traffic, Cordelia stared down at her shoes, scuffing her feet together and swinging them apart.