Green Card by T.C.


Summary: Angel needs to stop Lorne from making the biggest mistake of his life. This story deals with the plot cliché 'Cordy's getting married to someone else. Can Angel stop her?' that was part of a challenge made at the ACangst list at yahoogroups.


Spoilers: Birthday, Season Three.


Notes: Answer to A Cliche Challenge That Doesn't Suck.


The Morvish demon had a beautiful voice. Her long, elegant neck reached up as her last note trembled in the air. The iridescent scales that covered her head, neck, and chest glittered in the filtered light. Lorne closed his eyes, took a sip of his Seabreeze, and savored the sharp citrous flavor and luscious sounds as they haunted the room. Housecalls to a Morvish demon he did not mind at all. They had style, a voice Celine Dion would die for, and chose lairs with incredible acoustics. A cold drop of water ran down the back of Lorne's neck and he shivered. Their lairs were a bit drippy, but still stylish. He opened his eyes.

The cavern's walls were stained blue and green with various families of lichen and alga and the deep pools in the back of the cave glowed with eerie soft lights from under the water. The Morvish swam around in a pool closer to Lorne, a shaft of sunlight spotlighting it. She extended her neck in question. "You will help me, reader?" her melodic voice trilled.

"Don't get your fins in a flap, Princess Ariel." The Little Mermaid reference wasn't far off since it was the Morvish that inspired sailors' tales of mermaids and sirens. Their lower body, mouth, and eyes were a lot like a bottle nose dolphin's - sleek blue/grey tail and body and a beaky mouth lined with small sharp teeth. Her eyes were an inky black vortex that beckoned enticingly until she blinked with transparent lids. Unlike the legend, the Morvish's upper body was hardly that of a human female, instead it was more reminiscent of a swan. A small head sat on top of a graceful, long neck, both decorated with scales that shone red, green, and gold rather than feathers. Gossamer wings that sparkled sliver and blue took the place of arms and completed the picture. Morvish were stunning creatures, but they were also temperamental divas.

Lorne winked at his impatient client. "Give me a moment to compose my impressions, especially after such an exquisite performance." The Morvish cooed and splashed delightedly at the flattery. Lorne took another drink and closed his eyes again. It was a simple question really - if she revealed herself to the human sailor she loved would he join her in the sea to live happily ever after together - and he could read her emotions easy enough, but the outcome was murky. But he couldn't put off the heartsick demoness with pretty words for much longer. Lorne opened his eyes and finished his drink. "Love is a risky business, especially when it involves humans giving up their humanity. I sensed some uncertainty about him so I suggest that you refrain from revealing yourself in all your demon glory and just continue crooning lullabies to him from the deep blue sea until you are certain or you can try to hook up with someone from your own species."

"Ooo," the Morvish pouted. Her clear lids fluttered. She fixed her black gaze on Lorne. "Maybe I should give up on humans. Do you like to swim, reader? I could sing for you everyday. Sometimes twice a day."

"Twice a day, you say?" Lorne felt himself drawn into the depths of her eyes. A little dip in the ocean wouldn't hurt. He stepped toward the demon, but a fortuitous drop of water splashed down onto his nose. Lorne shook his head and hastily backed out of the cave. "As tempting as the offer is, my melodic chippie, I must decline. I'm not much of an aqua-nut. Just the mention of a 'Jaws' movie and I get seasick. But let me know how the love hunt goes, songbird." Lorne rushed out of the cave and into the bright light of day. He put on his red fedora to cover his horns, hiked up the collar of his lemon yellow jacket and headed to where he had parked Angel's convertible.

The ambiguous nature of the Morvish's reading was worrying Lorne. They were a relatively easy demon to read, not complicated at all. There was no reason for the outcome to be unclear, he had only indulged in the one Seabreeze if you didn't count the three he had with lunch. Besides, he could give a stellar reading three sheets to the wind and had on many occasions. The only explanation Lorne would get for this occurrence would be from the Powers and fortunately he knew where to find them. Unfortunately, he also had an idea of what they might tell him.


"Who's the most perfect baby in the whole wide world? Even though he won't take a nap, who's the perfect baby?" Cordelia cooed. Connor gave an answering gurgle and a little squeal as Cordelia lifted him high in the air and then back down again. "Yes, it's you. Connor is the most perfect baby in the whole wide world. Yes, he is."

Following the sound of Cordelia's crooning voice and his son's delighted baby noises, Angel made his way downstairs. He stopped short three quarters of the way down when sunlight blocked his path. Cordelia had opened all the curtains while he had been sleeping upstairs. Angel didn't really mind, he wasn't quite awake yet and it gave him an opportunity to watch his Seer with his son. He settled down into the shadows of the stairwell as Cordelia waltzed around the lobby with Connor swaying in her outstretched arms. Watching them together like that was almost a moment of perfect happiness. The only thing that prevented Angelus' re-emergence was the knowledge that he would never be able to join them. He would never dance with Cordelia and Connor in the sun. He would never take them to the beach on a hot summer day and help Connor build sandcastles and slather Cordelia's body with sunblock. If he had known that one day he would have a son and fall in love with a wonderful woman, he might not have destroyed the Gem of Amara. Of course, there were alternatives - dancing in the light of a full moon, a moonlight picnic on the beach with the waves crashing around them - but Angel could never ask Cordelia to commit to a life of alternatives to the sun. She had sacrificed enough for him. She had given up her humanity to help him find his.

"Who's the broody vampire in the shadows?" Cordelia danced closer to him and tilted Connor in his direction. Angel vamped and Connor laughed. "Yes, it's Connor's Daddy. His big broody Daddy, but Connor isn't going to brood is he? No way, this cute little brow will never furrow." Cordelia brought Connor close to her and kissed said smooth brow. She turned around to look at Angel, who was back in human face and still frowning, over the baby's shoulder. She continued on in her soft, singsong voice. "I chose to become part demon, Angel. Yes, I did. It had nothing to do with you, Mr. The-World-Revolves-Around-Me. No, it didn't."

"Who's the big liar? Yes, Auntie Cordelia is. Her fondest wish was to become a demon. No, it wasn't," Angel emulated Cordelia's tone, but he smiled to take the edge off. She was amazing. She wouldn't even let him feel guilty for what he had done to her life. She deserved to be dancing a child of her own with a loving husband looking on who could give her sunshine, flowers, and make all of her dreams come true. Even though the thought of Cordelia marrying another man punched his soul into confetti, Angel wanted it for her because it would make her happy.

"Cordelia!" The front doors burst open and a disheveled Lorne stumbled in. The commotion lured Fred, Wesley, and Gunn out of Wesley's office where the guys had been subtly fawning over the shy physicists while she worked on the computer.

Cordelia whipped around and immediately headed toward her friend. "Lorne? What happened? Did that demon you went to read for attack you?"

"No, my dearest, but your concern touches me." Lorne stumbled further into the lobby. He met up with Cordelia in the middle of the room and he fell to his knees in front of her. "I can't deny it any longer, I love you, Brown Eyes." Lorne took Cordelia's free hand, the one that wasn't holding Connor close to her side, and clutched it to his chest. "Will you marry me, my lovely Pylean Princess?"

"Lorne, are you okay?" Cordelia asked in the stunned silence that followed his question. She tried to withdraw her hand, but Lorne gripped it tighter.

"Only overcome by my love for you. Please say yes."

It was on the tip of Cordelia's tongue to refuse and offer a scathing review of his 'proposal,' but something in Lorne's eyes stopped her. His ruby reds weren't snapping with sassy sarcasm, they were alive with panic. The only other time she had seen that look on his face was when they had been back in Pylea and his head had been severed from his body and they had to reunite them before his body was mutilated. He was serious and in trouble. "Yes."

An inarticulate growl escaped Angel as he jumped to his feet. He started forward, but immediately recoiled as the direct light singed his skin. He yelled in pain and fell back onto the stairs.

"Angel!" Cordelia screamed. She tugged Lorne to his feet and handed Connor to him. "Lorne, take the baby. Angel, what were you thinking? Fred, get the First Aid kit, it's in my desk."

The soft soothing touch of Cordelia's fingertips caressing his cheek was balm enough for Angel. He barely felt a thing even though he did wince when she carefully extended his arm and inspected the burnt flesh. It was a sweet delicious torture having Cordelia so close and touching him.

"Here you go, Cordelia." Fred offered her the First Aid kit. She gave Angel a sympathetic smile and rushed back to Wesley and Gunn to watch the proceedings from a safe distance. Lorne didn't move, just cradled the baby nervously.

"I can't believe you. Two hundred and fifty odd years old and you haven't learned that sunlight equals big flaming ouch," Cordelia muttered. She sent him a stern glare and then went back to work cleaning the burn with a cooling solution. It stung a bit, but Angel wasn't paying attention. He was too busy watching Cordelia. She chewed on her lower lip with her pearly white teeth as she smoothed an antibiotic cream on his forearm and wrapped it in a bandage. He didn't know why she bothered, it would heal fast enough without her medical assistance and infection wasn't a threat. A part of him hoped she did it because she liked pampering and taking care of him. That maybe, just maybe it was an excuse to touch him. Angel couldn't resist touching her any longer. He reached out and tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear, stealing a caress of the soft skin of her jawline and neck as he did it.

A fussy wail from his son broke the moment that Angel was pretty sure just wishful thinking on his part. Cordelia had never given him any indication that she felt more than just friendship for him. Angel looked away from her to Connor. Lorne. At the sight of the green skinned demon he thought was his friend his previous anger and the reason for it came back to him. "You," Angel snarled. His eyes narrowed.

"You know what, I think the little nipper here is hungry. I'll just take him to the kitchen and get him some grub." It might not have been the best idea to propose to Cordelia, but Lorne needed a demon mate. He had thought Angel would still be asleep and that they could explain everything to him at once. It didn't sound so bad when everything was explained. Unfortunately, he hadn't seen the big lug lurking in the shadows, although he should have expected it.

"Don't move." Angel's agitation had reached dangerous levels. He could feel it roaring beneath the surface. Lorne had proposed to Cordelia! And she had accepted! What Twilight Zone episode was this? "Fred, take Connor to the kitchen and get his bottle ready, please. Wesley and Gunn can help you."

Usually when Angel would try to give them orders, Wesley or Gunn would remind him that he wasn't the boss anymore. This was not a time to argue. Fred went to get the baby from Lorne and Wesley and Gunn turned to leave when Cordelia's voice cut through the momentary silence. "Stop. Why don't you guys close the curtains instead? Then we'll all go to the kitchen and get Connor his dinner."

"We have to talk," Angel protested. "About what Lorne asked and you accepted."

"And we will. All of us," Cordelia assured him.

"It's none of their business," Angel stubbornly insisted. His jaw was so set that it barely moved when he spoke. He didn't want the others present when Cordelia explained why she had said yes. He wanted her to explain to him not everyone.

"Well, Angel, since it is MY life then it really isn't your business either," Cordelia challenged. She refused to back down even though she saw the pain that flashed through Angel's eyes. She wasn't going to apologize for her statement nor take back her acceptance of Lorne's proposal. Cordelia narrowed her eyes as well and stared right back at the irate vampire. Sometimes he made her so mad! So what if Lorne had proposed to her?: He obviously had a reason for it and besides, it was Lorne. It didn't hurt her ego to acknowledge that he didn't ask her to marry him because she was the love of his life. Angel could be such an overprotective goon.

During Angel and Cordelia's battle of wills, the others considered their options. Lorne knew it would be best if he just stayed where he was and waited for everyone else to decide things for him. Fred, Wesley, and Gunn could do as Angel asked and retreat to the kitchen with Connor and let them hash things out with Lorne in the lobby or they could do as Cordelia asked and find out exactly what was going on. Angel was a vampire and he would get glowery if he didn't get his way, but Cordelia was Cordelia - who knew how her new part-demon status would affect her when she was pissed. Fred took Connor from Lorne while Wesley and Gunn closed the curtains. Angel's low rumbling growl accompanied their movements.

"Stop with the epic growlfest." Cordelia slapped Angel lightly on the shoulder. "You'll scare Connor." She stood and walked to the kitchen. Everyone else took her lead and Angel had no choice but to follow.

"Okay," Cordelia started once the bottle was prepared and Connor was contentedly sucking on it in Fred's arms. Cordelia loved to feed the infant, but figured she would let Fred this time just in case she had to step in between Angel and Lorne. She turned to Lorne with her arms crossed over her chest. "What's with the sudden urge to marry me?"

"If you say it's because you love her, I'm going to shove your horns into your forehead." Angel smirked with satisfaction when Lorne backed away from Cordelia. She said that her life was none of his business. None of his business. She didn't really mean it, though, she was just mad at him. They had been through too much for her life to be none of his business. His life was her business. Everything from Connor to his Shanshu was her business. He didn't know what he would do if she really did mean it. He needed Cordelia's life to be his business.

"Angel, Lorne can love me if he wants to. You don't love me though, do you?" Cordelia suddenly looked worried. She liked Lorne, but she wasn't attracted to him. Unrequited love in the workplace was a messy business.

"No, Warrior Princess, I don't love you." Lorne was almost offended by the sighs of relief from both Cordelia and Angel. He understood the jealous vampire's reaction, but Cordelia's was uncalled for. He wasn't that bad of a catch. There were demons out there who would love to hook up with a natty crooner such as himself. "This will be a marriage of convenience and extreme necessity. My work VISA with the PTB has run out and I'm losing my ability to read auras in this dimension. If I don't forge a connection here and regain my abilities, they'll deport me back to Pylea."

"But won't they know that you and Cordelia aren't in love." Fred frowned. "They are the Powers That Be. Don't they know everything?"

"They like to think so, but they're not the INS, Freddikins. It's not about love, it's about a connection. On Pylea, my abilities were natural, but when I got here I needed assistance from the PTB for them to work properly. It's the connection to the dimension that's key, people. My connection was my business, Caritas, but that collapsed like so much rubble."

"Why didn't you ask Fred to marry you? She's pretty." Angel sulked malevolently from his position leaning against the counter. He was pretty sure that Lorne was aware of his developing feelings for Cordelia. If the former Pylean was his friend, how could he do this to him? How could he put him through the agony of watching Cordelia, not with a another man, but another demon.

"Hey," Wesley and Gunn protested Angel's suggestion. They both stepped closer to a blushing Fred and glared at Lorne.

"I'm not denying the Yellow Rose of Texas' attractiveness, but I need a demon mate in order to forge the connection." Lorne's eyes widened when Cordelia's eyebrows rose and her foot started to tap the floor. "Not that it was the only quality I considered. You're the most gorgeous and generous part demon I know." Lorne tried the puppy dog eyes that worked so well for Angel on Cordelia.

"Mate? What kind of connection are you planning on forging?" Angel straightened. He reached out and pulled Cordelia back so that she was standing at his side. He kept her hand encased in his. "There will be no connecting or forging and there will especially be no mating."

"Relax, Angel." Lorne instinctively refrained from using a cute pet name. His vampire friend was in no mood for such frivolity. "It's purely a psychic connection."

"And purely my decision." Cordelia glared at Angel. "So, if it's just the matter of linking up psychically, why do we have to get married? You've walked around in my head before. And why the big showy proposal?" She winced and struggled to release her hand from Angel's punishing grip. "Let go, Angel, you'll break my hand." He didn't let go, but the pressure subsided.

"It's a loophole in Pylean law. If you agreed to mate with me freely without knowing about it just being a marriage of convenience than it's still valid without us consummating it. We have to become mates because that's the only way Pyleans can forge a psychic connection. You haven't changed your mind, have you? Because it won't be for long, I only had six months left until I got my permanent VISA when Caritas took its final trip to kingdom come." Lorne frowned. If Cordelia changed her mind, he could always go back to the Morvish. She seemed eager to connect with him. Thinking of the Morvish reminded Lorne of how she had paid her fee and he frantically searched his pockets. "And, hey, I forgot to give you this to make it official. That is if you still want to marry me." Lorne held out an engagement ring.

"Of course I'll still marry you, Lorne." Cordelia smiled. Her eyes fell on the ring and they widened in surprise. She wrenched herself from Angel's grasp and crossed over to her other friend. "Oh, my God, it's gorgeous. Lorne, do you know how expensive this ring is?"

"Well, it's a three and a half carat Marquise diamond solitaire ring set in eighteen carat white gold. It's cut is very good, it's the very rare D color, and it's internally flawless. I would say around seventy-five thousand." Lorne shrugged. He took Cordelia's left hand and slipped it on her ring finger. "The Morvish I just read for dug it out of a shipwrecked yacht. It was my fee. Thanks, Brown Eyes, you're really saving my cute butt."

"No need to thank me. We're friends, Lorne, we help each other when we're in trouble and this ring is, wow." Cordelia held out her hand and admired the sparkler. "Look, it sparkles even in this crap lighting."

Angel stepped forward and grabbed Lorne's hand. There was a tense moment of silence until he shook the other demon's hand. "Congratulations, Lorne." It was no use arguing with either of them right now. Lorne was desperate and hadn't had time to think of any other solutions and Cordelia was in her helping a friend mode and much too taken with the diamond engagement ring to listen to him. He took Connor from Fred to burp him and stood back while the others offered Cordelia and Lorne their congratulations. It was time for him to stand back and consider his options. There was a way to stop this marriage and Angel was going to find it.


The plan was a good one. Angel was fairly certain it was a good one. It was simple anyway. He was going to remind Cordelia of their long and deep friendship. Then she would listen to him when he told her that marrying Lorne to forge a psychic connection so he could stay in this dimension was a bad idea. They wouldn't leave Lorne twisting in the wind though, they would think of something else to connect him to this dimension.

"Hey, Cordy." Angel smiled at the sight of her sitting at her desk typing away on her computer. He casually fiddled with the baby monitor that he had hooked to his belt. "What are you doing?"

"Looking up appraisers." Cordelia looked up with a brilliant grin. She waved her left hand under Angel's nose. "I've got to get this baby insured. It would be just my luck to lose it in a pile of demon slime. Do you think insurance would cover that?"

"Yeah, we wouldn't want that to happen." Angel lost his smile. He would never be able to give Cordelia a ring like that - he could barely afford to pay his bills, start a college fund, buy diapers and formula, clothes that Connor would outgrow before they had faded from washing, not to mention renovate the hotel. It was an endless list. Angel knew that Cordelia wasn't as concerned with the material side of life as she once was, she had chosen substance over blue boxes long ago, but she still appreciated them. Angel would have loved to have been the one to give her that ring and so much more.

"Good morning." Lorne's voice was much too cheerful for Angel's ears. "Or afternoon as the case may be. How's my premarital muffin?"

"Great." Cordelia's smile brightened even more and she was no longer looking at Angel. She was looking at Lorne. "I should have known you were a financial magnet, what with your appreciation for quality apparel," she teased playfully.

"What? When I was impersonating Jay Don and dressed like that you said that it looked like a parrot from the Coco Cabana threw up on me," Angel protested.

"That's because it did." Cordelia stood up. She looked him over speculatively. "I know I keep harping on your wardrobe, but I have to admit that dark colors work for you." She patted Angel's chest, but his delight over her gesture was short lived. She passed him to stand by Lorne. She fingered the lapels of his orange jacket. "But this works for Lorne. Brings out the green tones of his skin."

"Thanks." Lorne chuckled nervously at the feel of Cordelia's fingers brushing his cheek. He didn't look at Angel. The vampire's face in his imagination was frightening enough, he didn't need to see the reality. He took Cordelia's hand from his face and placed it at her side. "Now, Brown Eyes, you now we don't have to put on a show. All we need is a psychic connection."

"Right." Cordelia moved back to her desk. She frowned at Angel, he had gotten grumpy all of a sudden. "So, how do we connect psychically?"

"Before you get into that, I need to talk to Lorne about something. In private." Angel grabbed the demon with the wonderful green-toned skin and hauled him into the kitchen.

"Well, I hope he can find what kind of bug is up your ass," Cordelia yelled after them. "The temper tantrums are getting old."

"It's a good thing my skills are on the fritz. I don't want to know exactly what you're feeling, do I?" Lorne put the large stainless steel counter between them as soon as Angel let go of his arm. The door to the alley was behind him, he might be able to escape into the sunshine if things got dicey.

Angel folded his arms across his chest and stood in his hunched posture. "Why?" he asked in an unusually calm, but quietly urgent voice.

"You know why, Angelcakes, I explained everything yesterday." Lorne held up his hands in supplication. The last thing he had ever wanted was to add more suffering to the brooding champ's already full plate. Especially during a time when the big guy actually had some happiness. "I have no nefarious romantic designs on the Cordster. I just need her help."

"How does this connection work?" Angel wasn't completely mollified by Lorne's answer. He didn't really believe that Lorne was in love with Cordelia, that wasn't his problem. So what if this 'marriage' would be in ritual only, the connection wouldn't be. Angel didn't want anyone to be connected to Cordelia but him. She was his Seer, his connection to the Powers That Be, his friend. He didn't like to share. "How deep does it go?"

"I'm not talking about a soulmate connection - the PTB won't require it and I wouldn't even consider it - it's just a simple psychic connection that can be disconnected as soon as my residency in this dimension is established."

"What about re-opening Caritas?" Angel frowned. Lorne was protesting too much, too quick to assure him about his lack of feelings for Cordelia. Was he attracted to her? Was this a subconscious attempt to get close to her? Cordelia had grown into an irresistible human being, while he didn't believe that Lorne was in love with her, it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that it wouldn't happen. Particularly if he was exposed to her innermost thoughts, feelings, dreams...everything that made her Cordelia.

"Believe me, Fangberry, I've tried. I've been scouting locations for ages now, putting out feelers, but the sad fact is that no demon wants to risk being blown up or shot at by a bunch of hyped up humans. I could open another club, but I wouldn't have any clientele." Lorne sighed. He didn't know what else to say to convince Angel that he was sincere. Cordy was a babe of the highest caliber, but she was also the object of Angel's affection. "Look, Angel, you and Cordelia have kye-rumption up the wazoo and I'm not about to interfere with that. You're my friend."

A loud, crackly wail from the baby monitor holstered at Angel's hip effectively ended the conversation before Angel could respond to what Lorne had said. He left Lorne in the kitchen and took the backstairs up to his room. As he changed Connor's diaper, Angel started to feel better and more than a little silly. He felt the tide of jealousy that he had been drowning in since Lorne's proposal ebb. Even if Lorne had latent feelings for Cordelia, he wouldn't act on them because they were friends. Besides, Lorne was always hitting on him, so he might not even be attracted to demons or humans of the female persuasion. And if he was, there was always Cordelia's aversion to horns and tails.

"It's a good thing vampires don't have horns or tails, hey little guy." Angel picked up his son and rocked him gently. Connor giggled, his blue eyes were bright and curious. He waved his hand until he had caught his father's nose. Angel laughed along with Connor as they descended the stairs. Everything was going to be okay. There was no way that Cordelia and Lorne would fall in love.

"Hello, Angel." Wesley looked up from a text he was reading. "How is Connor?"

"Fine." Angel looked around the lobby. Cordelia was no longer at her desk. "Where is everybody?"

"Fred and Gunn went to get some dinner and I believe that Cordelia and Lorne are out in the courtyard. She wanted to speak with him about the nature of the connection and what type of marriage ceremony is required."

"Oh." Angel bounced Connor in his arms as he casually made his way toward the window. He stood far enough away that the orange glow of the impending sunset didn't touch him, but he could still see outside. Cordelia and Lorne were sitting together on a bench - close together - and she was smiling at him. "Wesley, how much do you know about demon VISAs and Pylean psychic mating?"

"I must confess I was a bit curious about the matter of dimensional VISAs - it's not actually called that but the concept is the same." Wesley warmed up to the subject, his eyes glinting with knowledge and excitement. "Fred and I spent most of the day researching the topic. It's how the Powers keep track of demons with telepathic and clairvoyant powers."

"Lorne's been in L. A. for a while, why would the Powers make it an issue now and threaten to deport him back to Pylea?" Cordelia laughed at something the demon in question said and touched his arm.

"I have no idea." Wesley joined Angel at the window. "Lorne would never hurt Cordelia, Angel, I'm sure that their psychic connection will be temporary."

"I know, but Lorne isn't exactly good with the finer details. I think we should research this more thoroughly before Cordelia goes through with it. We don't want them stuck in something they can't undo." They were holding hands. Lorne was holding Cordelia's hand!

"Yes, you're right. We do have those Pylean texts we brought back, perhaps Fred and I should do some more research tonight."

"That's a good idea. Maybe you could find another way for Lorne to stay in this dimension too." Angel couldn't stop the soft growl from rumbling in his chest and he was glad when Wesley went back to his office with no more than a questioning glance. He looked down at Connor who was looking back up at him. He wished the kid would cry, because that would bring Cordelia back inside, but was immediately ashamed of the thought. He was not going to use his son to keep Cordelia at his side. "Of course, if you volunteer...." Connor only answered with a smile as he sucked contentedly on his fingers.


"Okay, I'm not changing my mind or anything, I just have a few questions." Cordelia sat down on the bench much too close for Lorne's comfort given his earlier conversation with Angel.

"Fire away, dollface." Lorne shifted further away, but it wasn't far enough. The bench was small. He looked up into Cordelia's bright smile. She did have a beautiful smile, it held nothing back. He hadn't noticed that before.

"So, what kind of marriage ritual are we talking about here? Those gross priest guys would only talk about com-shukking - and we're not doing that."

"It's the Bhion-Tuk ritual for psychic mating. Com-shukking isn't required in all Pylean mating rituals, which is a good thing because if it was, Angel's heart would start beating just so he could have a heart attack."

Cordelia laughed. It was a glorious laugh, full and resplendent with joy. "I know, what is his problem lately?"

"You really don't know, do you, Brown Eyes?" Lorne could feel the heavy-browed vamp's gaze on them. This wasn't good, he was noticing things about Cordelia that he shouldn't be noticing. Damn Angel for being so paranoid and making him so aware of the Seer's attractions.

"I really like that nickname - Brown Eyes. In highschool they called me Queen C or Queen Bitch behind my back, but yours is my favorite." Cordelia reached out and touched Lorne's arm. Her smile softened.

Lorne gulped. "Well, you know me, I'm good with the pet names." He could feel a cool flush of green infuse his cheeks and his horns were probably neon with the glowing. This hadn't happened to him since a feisty little Krevloch had seduced him his first week in L. A. It was a good thing Angel wasn't an empath, because if he was the vampire would rip his head off and make him wish his body was back on his mother's lice pile or even the maggot heap. He took Cordelia's hand. "In all seriousness, are you sure you want to do this, Cordelia? Because we can think of something else, something less vamp-enraging."

A teasing light gleamed in Cordelia's eyes. "I think Angel's problem is that he's jealous."

"You don't say?" This was no time for Cordelia to start getting a clue about Angel's feelings for her. If she could see how the vampire felt than she might get an inkling of the pesky feelings swimming around in his heart. He was not falling for her...he was grateful for her help. That was it, he was just grateful. "What exactly is he jealous of?"

"Are you kidding? With the way you flirt, he's probably upset you didn't propose to him." Cordelia grinned and squeezed his hand.

A sharp zing shot through Lorne's system. His heart started to pound - which is really uncomfortable when it's located in your ass and you're sitting down. "Hey, now, watch it with the premarital Bhion-Tuk. It's frowned upon where I come from." He untangled his hand from Cordelia's, breaking the physical contact, but the psychic thread she had established lingered.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to, I don't exactly have a handle on my demony powers and I guess they wanted to reach out and touch you." Cordelia reached out to touch him once again, but a piercing squall stopped her. Her attention turned immediately to the heartfelt sobbing of the infant in the hotel and Lorne couldn't have been more relieved. That kid had incredible timing, it had gotten him out of two tricky situations and it wasn't even dusk yet.

Angel was pacing the lobby, rocking a distraught Connor, when they entered the hotel. "Shh, it's okay. It's okay." His panicked expression diminished as he spotted Cordelia. "I don't know what's wrong, he just started crying. I changed him and he doesn't want the bottle."

"Here, give him to me." Cordelia took the baby from Angel. "What's wrong, sweetie?" The crying stopped abruptly and Connor gooed up at her with an innocent smile.

"I, uh, guess he just missed you." Angel grinned. That was his boy - looking out for Cordy.

"Of course he did." Cordelia nuzzled the baby. "I missed you to, my sweet baby boy. Are you sure you're not hungry?"

The possessive pronoun Cordelia's used didn't escape Angel, but before he couldn't get too pleased with it, he noticed Lorne's guilt-ridden face. Angel's eyes narrowed. "So, what were you two doing out there...all alone?"

"Getting to know each other better - you know, bonding. I think I gave Lorne a scare though when I inadvertently Bhion-Tukked him." Cordelia laughed and Connor squealed along with her, but Angel didn't get the joke. He glared at Lorne, but didn't get a chance to pursue it because Fred and Gunn returned with food.

"Angel," Wesley called from his office. "Do you know where Brinwauld's Psychic Theory is?"

"I think it was in one of those boxes we stored in the basement." Angel frowned. Everyone was back so it would probably be okay to leave Cordelia and Lorne. They couldn't Bhion-Tuk - inadvertent or otherwise - in front of other people, at least he hoped they couldn't. "I'll go get it."

"Wesley, we brought dinner," Fred called out to the ex-watcher as Angel went down to the basement. He could hear their muffled conversation and occasional laughter and he felt out of place. He always knew that he was separated from the rest of them, but Cordelia was the one who gave him a place in the group. She knew him as his Seer and his friend, she called him on his moods and didn't let him get away with anything. She was the humanizing influence Doyle had promised she would be and if she developed a psychic connection with Lorne then he would be the one she knew best. Angel sighed. He wasn't just jealous because he loved Cordelia, he was afraid. He was afraid that without her, he would lose everything and everybody. He couldn't lose her.

When Angel returned to the group with the book Wesley had requested, they were all eating. Fred and Gunn had brought back a selection of Chinese food and tacos and they were all busy teasing Fred about her inability to make a decision. Lorne stood to the side holding Connor and feeding him a bottle. Cordelia reached over and tickled the baby under his chin. "You're so good with him, Lorne, you would be a really good father."

But he was a really good father. Angel stopped before anyone noticed him. This was going too far and it had to stop now. He didn't care how neanderthal it sounded - Cordelia was his. "Hey, Fred, I just thought of a great idea." Angel strode forward and handed Wesley the book. There would be no more moping and brooding and wigging out over Cordelia and Lorne. "How would you like to design a website? And flyers, we'll need flyers. It's time to drum up some business around here. I'm a father now and I have a son to support." And as an added bonus, they busier they were, the less time there would be for bonding.

Part Two

Okay, so the plan sucked. It had endangered them all and made him look like an idiot, but the benefit had been worth it. Not the money - that was nice - the benefit was Cordelia sleeping in his bed. Angel hadn't planned on the three of them falling asleep together, but he wasn't sorry that it had happened. Connor slept peacefully between them, puffing out his soft baby snores, a line of milky drool dried down his chin. Cordelia's left hand lay splayed out under his on Connor's small stomach and her right was curled under her cheek. She snored softly too, but slower and deeper than the baby. Her lips were parted slightly. Angel wondered how Cordelia would feel if he woke her up with a kiss. What would she say if the first thing she felt after leaving her dream world was his tongue slipping through those parted lips?

Who was he kidding? Angel knew exactly how Cordelia would feel, what she would say if he did such a thing. Fear. Angelus. Cordelia would wake up afraid if he kissed her. She would accuse him of being Angelus. He knew that Cordelia trusted him, but only to a point and that point was his darker side. Because of Buffy and Darla, Cordelia would always equate his love, passion, and lust with his demon.

Angel didn't want to think about that right now. He wanted to enjoy having Cordelia in his bed instead of obsessing over something that would not be happening anytime soon. Connor squirmed under their hands. He was awake, his inquisitive eyes turned to his father. Angel couldn't see much of a resemblance between him and his son yet, although Cordelia claimed that if Connor had more hair and was taught how to brood no one would be able to tell them apart. He hoped Connor's eyes and hair would darken, not out of the vanity of having his son look like him, but because then Cordelia would look more like his mother and people would assume that they were a family. It would be just like when people assumed that he and Cordelia were a couple when they were out together. She would beat him to a bloody pulp if she knew how many dates she had lost because he hadn't set some of those male people straight about their relationship.

"Hey," Cordelia's sleepy voice interrupted Angel's thoughts. Her eyes were drifting shut again. "What are you thinking about?"

"I was just wondering what Connor would look like when he got older," Angel answered in a hushed voice. He let Connor play with his fingers.

"He's going to look like you, which is a good thing." Cordelia smiled, but didn't open her eyes. "Darla wasn't exactly a hag, but the blonde waif look doesn't work for guys."

"So, you think I'm good looking?" Angel propped himself up on one elbow and grinned down at Cordelia.

"Oh, please," Cordelia snorted. This time she fixed him with a patented 'no bullshit' stare. "Weren't the Buffy-panting-after-you, Sunnydale years enough of an ego stroke?"

"I seem to remember you doing a little panting yourself." Angel couldn't resist reminding her. He may not have been very responsive back then, but Cordelia's attempts to catch his attention had not gone unnoticed.

"I was young and clearly insane - dating Xander proves it." Cordelia smirked and stuck her tongue out at Angel. She snuggled closer to Connor and closed her eyes again. She wasn't ready to be awake yet. "You aren't supposed to remember that, you big doof," she mumbled into the pillow.

A comfortable silence settled between them, the only sound was Connor chewing on his father's fingers. Angel lay back down and laughed. "What's so funny?" Cordelia opened her eyes again. He had better not be laughing at her.

"I was just remembering that time you stayed at my apartment when the cockroaches had invaded yours and you got peanut butter all over the sheets on my bed." Angel chuckled again. He glanced over at Cordelia. "Doyle thought we had slept together."

"You're kidding!" Cordelia's eyes widened. "What gave him that idea? I did not get peanut butter in your bed."

"It was morning, neither of us was dressed, you got peanut butter in my bed because I don't eat peanut butter. I don't eat anything."

"Look, Angel, I don't want to get into your no-eating peanut butter involved activities except to say that I did not get peanut butter in your bed."

"I thought you had grown as a person," Angel teased. "And would be able to admit to your peanut butter crimes."

"Yes, I grew into a part demon. So, I guess peanut butter is just part of my dark side. We can now refer to it as my peanut butter period." Cordelia smiled. It was nice to see Angel so relaxed and happy. Connor was so good for him. She sighed. "I should go home. Shower. Change."

"There's plenty of hot water here and I know you keep a change of clothes hidden somewhere."

"That's so you won't give them away." Cordelia kissed the top of Connor's head. "I guess I might as well stay."

"Might as well."

"We should get up now."


Neither of them moved.


This was why he was more comfortable reading complex emotions rather than feeling them. Lorne wasn't prone to moods like the big guy, but he did sometimes feel the need to be alone so he had sought out this place a few days after he had relocated to the hotel. The Hyperion ball room. Its glitz and glamour had tarnished and faded, but it was still a grand place even if it was horribly dusty. The main floor was cluttered with sheet covered furniture from the hotel's many rooms and in a far corner Lorne had found a treasure. A Baby Grand piano. Now he sat in from of the beauty and idly tickled the ivories until a melody caught a hold of his fingers.

"You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss. A sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by." The song was perfect. As with most music, it enveloped him in a cocoon of sound and feeling, but when he sang there were no answers. He couldn't read himself even if his abilities were in full working order, but the music was still soothing. "And when two lovers woo, they still say 'I love you' on that you can rely. No matter what the future brings, as time goes by."

The tune picked up at this point and Lorne's mood lifted a little with it. "Moonlight and love songs, never out of date. Hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate. Woman needs man and man must have his mate. That no one can deny." Back into the melancholy groove. "Well, it's the same old story, a fight for love and glory. A case of do or die. The world will always welcome lovers, as time goes by." The final flourish of notes clung to the room and then melted from existence like a morning fog in the sun. Ah, Casablanca, the epitome of anguished love triangles. Although, he had always fancied himself more in the Claude Raines role. Beginning of a beautiful friendship and whatnot.

That was the crux of the problem - friendship. Lorne had always known that he didn't belong in Pylea and when he had come to Los Angeles, he had carved out his own comfortable niche among the misfits, but it still hadn't really been enough. With Angel and his crew he had finally found a home and a family. His feelings for Cordelia threatened to Yoko the whole thing.

She had spent the night at the hotel with Angel - there had been no hanky-panky of course or else evilness would have abounded by now. Lorne could feel her presence. It was a neon sign blazing 'Cordelia's here' over every other thought in his head. Humans believed in love at first sight, but Lorne didn't need sight. Cordelia probably didn't realize that she had revealed more of herself to him than she had intended when she had zapped him with her essence. He had felt the love she had for her friends, the compassion for the people in her visions, her pain and resentment toward her parents, her loneliness, her jealousy of the Slayer and her friends, her hatred for Wolfram and Hart. He had gotten it all in that moment. If he had thought he was falling for Cordelia before, that clinched it. She truly did have a beautiful soul. The problem for Lorne was that it was consumed by her love for Angel and Connor. She might not have acknowledged her feelings for the vamp and his son yet, but her soul had accepted them long ago.

The upside of being hogtied by Nahdrah demons about to decapitate one of your dearest friend's head is that you consider life and what's important. Lorne couldn't marry Cordelia. He couldn't be her Bhion-Tuk mate because he wasn't sure he would be able to let her go when the time came and a Bhion-Tuk could only be dissolved by both parties. He wouldn't be Paul Henreid's Victor Laszlo and take Ingrid Bergman from Humphrey Bogart. He was Claude Raines, dammit - the friend - and he was also a lot bit drunk. He didn't know how Angel survived his bouts of moodiness, it was hell.

There was no time like the present though. He had to tell Cordelia thanks, but no thanks and then go pack his bags for the trip back to Pylea. Lorne gave the keys one last dance before getting to his feet. He was weaving his way through the furniture ghosts when it hit him - the Mack truck of PTB messages - and he passed out.


It was the perfect day. Angel hummed as he stood in line at the ticket office. He and Cordelia had finally dragged themselves out of bed in the late afternoon when Connor had made it known that it was time to eat. They had researched a few demons, played with Connor, hung out with Fred, Gunn, and Wesley, and best of all Lorne had made himself scarce for all of it. In fact, Angel hadn't see him all day. He was wondering if he should be worried about that when he saw the poster. Blinnikov World Ballet Corps. Excellent, Cordelia would love it. Gunn was right, they did need a break from the demon hunting and an elegant night at the ballet was just the thing. Angel stepped up to the counter. "Five tickets for Giselle, please." Lorne could babysit.

Angel was actually whistling when he returned to the Hyperion. He was going to escort Cordelia to the ballet. He was going to share with her a good part of his extensive past. Nothing could ruin his good mood. "Hey, Angel." Lorne stopped him before he entered the hotel.

"Hi, Lorne. Where have you been all day?" Hopefully he hadn't been out making Bhion-Tuk arrangements.

"Got a special delivery package from the PTB. It packed quite a wallop and I was down for the count for a bit." Lorne was relieved to see some concern in Angel's eyes. Their friendship should get back on track once this mess was behind them and there was another on to concentrate on. Sure, he would pine for unrequited love, but there was some consolation in the fact that it was never meant to be. When you worked for the Powers you learned that some things were inevitable and couldn't be changed no matter how many visions you had. Cordelia and Angel were inevitable. "My abilities are back in top form. The Powers gave me permanent residency in this dimension."

"Why?" As much as the news made him happy, it also made Angel uneasy. The Powers didn't give you something for nothing.

"I don't know, but it can't be good."

"Then we'll deal with it when it happens." Angel nodded at Lorne. "Have you told Cordy?"

"Yes, she was terribly disappointed until I told her she could keep the ring." Lorne wasn't quite sure how to bring up Angel's feelings for his ex-fiancé to him. Usually he just blurted this stuff out, but he doubted that their friendship was on that plane yet. "I'm sorry about all of this, Angel, I never meant to come between you and...."

"Cordelia and I are just friends," Angel interrupted. He continued on his way to the hotel, his step lighter. "Hey, would you mind babysitting tomorrow night?"

"You know me, I live to babysit the tyke." Lorne let Angel go into the hotel alone. He would let him duck the talk right now, but they would talk. Angel needed to know that kye-rumption could not be ignored and it was time to make his move before it all went to hell.


Skin. Warm, soft, smelled like baby powder and tasted salty with sweat. Smooth in places, rough in others. Curves, dips, ticklish spots. Gaspy moans, whispered pleas. Blunted teeth nibbling, tongue in his ear. A sharp voice, "Not you, dumbass, him! I love him." All these things followed Angel as he ran up the stairs. The Groosalug was back and Cordelia loved him.

Connor was sleeping as Lorne said he would be. Angel tucked in his blanket a little more securely before moving back to his bed. He slowly lowered himself to the floor and rested his head back against the side of the bed. Was it only an hour ago that he had Cordelia down on that couch caressing and exploring her body with his hands and tongue. She had kissed him. She had touched him. It hadn't just been an echo of long ago lovers. His actions and feelings hadn't all been Stephan's. Was it possible that it hadn't all been the ballerina? That the moans and pleas and words of love could have come from a part of Cordelia as well?

"Angel?" Cordelia stood in the doorway. She was still in her evening dress, the one that had slipped so easily off her shoulders and down her hips. She came into the room and crouched down beside him. "Groo and I are going to be leaving soon." She held out the diamond engagement ring Lorne had given her. "I thought maybe we could sell this and add the money to the college fund."

"If that's what you want." Angel took the ring. "I'll put it in the safe for now." He had been so close to telling her how he felt. So close to knowing if she returned his feelings.

Cordelia straightened and stepped over to Connor's bassinet. "You were telling me something when we came home, before I saw Groo." She smiled. "Do you want to tell me now?"

That was a loaded question. Angel looked at Cordelia. Yes, he wanted to tell her - Pyleans be damned! "Yes, Cordelia, I...." She was happy. For a moment, Angel saw another face - Buffy's - and all the pain and torment reflected in her eyes. Loving him wasn't happy. "I just wanted to tell you that the best decision I ever made was to hand you that box the say you proposed working for me for a flat fee."

"You know it, buster." Cordelia reached down and squeezed his hand before leaving him in the darkness of his room. She had sacrificed her humanity for him. The least he could do was sacrifice his heart.


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