But you, you're not allowed
An unfortunate slight..."
Cordelia looked at her perfectly made-up face in the mirror, touched up her lipstick, and fought back the urge to scream.
"Why did I do this?" she asked thin air -- or her roommate, whichever was closer -- as she leaned in to put on another layer of mascara. "I know what he was doing, he was playing head games with me, being the perfect little lawyer. Why did I let him maneuver me into this? Why didn't I tell him to go to hell?"
She gestured emphatically with the mascara wand as punctuation. "But no. I had to fall for it, I had to take a dare like some grade school kid! Now I'm going to be trapped in a restaurant with Lindsey 'I sold my soul for my stock portfolio' McDonald for hours, if this isn't some Wolfram & Hart scheme to make me a human sacrifice. I wonder how many of them graduated from UC Sunnydale's Reptile House!"
She slammed the mascara down, and started brushing her hair with long, furious strokes. "God, if Angel finds out about this, he is going to kill me. And I'll have to let him, 'cause I'm now officially too stupid to live!"
Her cell phone drifted across the room and danced tantalizingly in front of her eyes. For a long moment, she was tempted, but then she shoved the phone firmly out of her way. "No, Phantom Dennis, I am not calling Angel. That's your job, if I'm not home by midnight. I'm not backing out now. It's just one lousy date, with one stupid lawyer that I can run rings around in my sleep. And maybe he'll spill something juicy about W&H."
Her eyes lit up at the thought, and her hands stopped in the middle of smoothing her hair up and away from her face. "Oh, that's right, that's good! It's, um, industrial espionage. Spy games, like Mata Hari."
The cell phone dipped and rose sharply in a gesture that was unmistakably rude, and Cordelia glared at it. "Very cute, Dennis. I can be subtle and mysterious if I want to be." She finished putting her hair up and inspected the result. "But I think I'll settle for classy and bitchy tonight. It's not like they'll let Born-Again Boy do anything that's worth finding out about."
She stood back from the mirror and turned around once, checking out the final product. She'd wanted to wear her prom dress, the beautiful shining silver that Xander had bought her and Wesley had admired; wearing that was like wrapping herself in confidence. But she had to admit it would be a little much, so she'd settled for basic black, long and elegant. With her hair up and the small diamond studs that had been Angel's Christmas present glinting in her ears, she looked like a million bucks.
"And way out of your league, Mr. McDonald," she told the mirror with satisfaction as her door buzzer sounded. "Let the games begin."
Lindsey was ten minutes late. He'd planned it that way, had waited five minutes in the parking lot to make sure of it. So it naturally annoyed the hell of him when it took Cordelia another two minutes after he buzzed to appear at her front door. He straightened his tie again, adjusted his custom-tailored suit jacket, ran his hands through his hair, and leaned against the wall to look bored and indifferent when she finally got around to opening the door.
And Christ, this was a bad idea. He knew it as soon as he saw her, wearing a smooth, strappy dress that revealed nothing and implied every damn thing.
"Oh, sorry," she said with a patently false smile. "Just putting on the finishing touches. You understand."
"Absolutely." So it was going to be war, huh? He could handle that; it put him right at home. "And it was worth the wait," he complimented her with an expression at least as insincere as hers was. Maybe more.
Her smile widened, and she turned to tell someone in the apartment, "I'll be back by midnight, Dennis. Remember to tell Angel where I am if he comes by." She said the last directly at Lindsey; he smirked at the implied threat and offered her his arm. She raised an eyebrow, than laid her arm on his elbow and allowed him to escort her down the walkway to his waiting Porsche. He closed the door behind her with perfect, hard-won elegance, and straightened his tie again as he headed for the driver's side.
They were about even on points so far; that was going to change, and soon.
The restaurant was French, of course; the kind where the food was almost as good as the service was bad, and the maitre d' ignored you for half an hour -- if you had reservations and after you bribed him. Lindsey temporarily took the lead in their unspoken, and cutthroat, competition when he got them seated, and the sommelier at their table, in less than ten minutes.
Cordelia ordered the (expensive) wine while Lindsey was still working his way through the wine list, and won an approving nod from the sommelier. The score evened up again.
As they waited for the wine to arrive, Cordelia pretended to study her menu, and surreptitiously studied her... 'date'. It would be a lot easier to remember he was scum, she admitted, if he didn't look so damn good in that suit. Angel always looked vaguely wrong in a suit, like he should be wearing velvet and ruffles instead. Wesley looked like a priss, Xander... well, she'd never actually seen Xander in a suit, just the tux at prom. And Doyle? Not even.
Lindsey wore his suit like it had been made for him -- which it probably had -- and like he'd worn one all his life, which she knew for a fact he hadn't. It was irritating. It was annoying. It was... attractive?
The sommelier chose that moment to return, and Cordelia forfeited points by draining nearly half of her first glass of wine as soon as Lindsey approved it and it was poured. Lindsey got his order -- boeuf bourguignon -- out first, but Cordelia's accent on the homard a buerre was better. Lindsey didn't flinch when she ordered the lobster, which took some of the fun out of it.
Then the menus and the waiter were gone, and there was nothing left to distract them but each other.
"So," Cordelia said finally, resorting to small talk to break the awkward pause. She had manners, she knew how to keep a conversation going. "How did you find this place? It's very classy."
He studied her, obviously trying to see if that had been a slam, then answered uber-politely, "Word on good places gets around. One of my co-workers was here a few weeks ago and recommended it."
Cordelia smiled brightly. "Great ambiance, and good service so far. Your, um, co-worker has good taste."
"We'll see after we taste the food." Lindsey steepled his hands on the tablecloth, looking all-knowing. "Ambiance is great, but if you can't eat the food, there's really no point, is there? Still, the chef is supposed to be a product of Le Cordon Bleu, so that's always a good sign."
Yes, he was patronizing her, Cordelia determined. More fool him. "Really, Cordon Bleu? I've always thought that was, well, a little overrated. When I was in Paris last year, we avoided all of those swanky, overpriced places, and went for the smaller, more elegant ones. The food was almost always better, and the service, well...." She gestured breezily, as if no more needed to be said.
His hands had dropped and he leaned back. "You were in Paris?" he asked a little too politely, his jaw a little too tight. "For how long?"
"Oh, only a week or two. On that trip." She smiled. "Everyone should go to Paris now and then, it's such a great place to just... stop and appreciate things. My family always tried to go every few years, just to, you know, catch our breath." And mostly spent said breath doing business and sleeping, but he didn't have to know that.
"You can find anything in Paris," she continued, rubbing it in. "Last time I was there, I even stumbled onto this perfect little Thai place, right off of the Rue de Passant. The best pad thai of my life, and the tom kha... perfect. You just can't eat like that anywhere else."
"No way," Lindsey contradicted her instantly. "The best Thai is right here in L.A. There's this place down on Ocean, makes fantastic chicken satay and pot stickers."
"Ooo, pot stickers." Two of her favorite words. "Do they make the chicken satay with peanut sauce?"
"Yeah, great stuff. And mini egg rolls."
"Mmmmm...." Yes, she was definitely getting hungry. Where were those breadsticks? "I make Wesley pick up Thai takeout sometimes, and Chinese, but he doesn't appreciate it. He goes all British guy and says it's too spicy. So much for all that curry they're supposed to eat over there."
"No such thing as too spicy." Lindsey shook his head, grinning, as he leaned forward. "All the peppers you've got, load them in."
"Exactly!" She gestured her agreement emphatically. "Wesley's just such a wuss about it."
Lindsey snorted. "Yeah, that's about what I'd....." he caught himself, just before he could say something rude, she guessed, and she suddenly realized they were smiling and leaning over the table towards each other. Worse than that -- they were agreeing about something.
She abruptly leaned back, Lindsey reached for his wine and gulped, and silence returned.
Cordelia had been to Paris. Repeatedly. In her teens. And he had yet to get further out of the country than Tijuana, much less overseas. And damn, but he wanted Paris, and everything that went with it. That rank injustice outweighed the fact that Cordelia had good taste in food, and he sat and stewed over it for a minute, staring into his wine glass.
Cordelia's arms were crossed on the table, her fingers tapping on her bare skin as she looked anywhere but in his direction. "So, how was your...." she started to ask, then abruptly stopped.
That was rude and lost her points; he straightened in his chair and prepared to rub it in. "I'm sorry, you were saying?"
She smiled tightly, still looking into the distance. "Nothing."
"No, please," he gestured expansively, "what were you going to say?"
She sighed and glared at him. "Small-talk reflex, okay? I was going to ask how your day at work was. But I don't actually want to know, and you don't want to tell me, so I'm just not going to ask."
"Fine by me." That was definitely his round. He smirked as he leaned back again, until he realized that it was, by the rules, his turn to come up with the conversational gambit. And he was totally unable to come up with anything better than, "So, do you go to 360 Degrees often? I hadn't seen you there before."
"My first time," she smiled brightly, "and my last, trust me. You seemed at home there; is it one of your lawyer hangouts?"
Her tone made the last part an insult, but he let it pass. "More or less. It's close to the firm, so we go there to celebrate cases, let off some steam, that kind of thing." Hey, she'd asked. "How did you wind up there?"
"Your friend Carter thought it was a good place to start the evening. I thought it was a better place to end it."
"I noticed." So had everyone else in the place. "It's an okay joint, if you need someplace to be. Some good people watching, lots of wanna-bes--" he couldn't resist the sideways glance at her; she huffed and looked away, "--coming out to try to look important. And they pour a good scotch."
"If you call any scotch good," she muttered, then forced her lips up. "I'm sure it's fine when the, ah, company is better." Her turn for a significant look; his turn to snort and fake an oblivious smile. "And it could have been worse, he could have tried to drag me to D'Oblique or something."
"D'Oblique? That meat market? Nothing's worse than that."
"Oh, tell me!" She was gesturing again, talking with her hands, which did interesting things to her neckline. It took a determined effort not to notice. "Bad music, desperate men, more desperate women, and can we talk about the lighting? Not to mention some of the ickier clientele."
She made a face, and he decided he didn't want to know. He had his own horror stories from D'Oblique. "The one time I went to that place, I had some fake blonde try to pick me up by telling me we'd been lovers in a past life. And she was ready and willing to pick up where we left off then."
"No way." Cordelia shook her head, then paused, tilting it to the side. "No, sadly, I actually believe that."
"Wait, it gets better," Lindsey told her, leaning back in his chair. "I told her I wasn't into past lives and she offered to, ah, jog my memory. Right there in the middle of the club."
"Oh, god." Cordelia started giggling, trying to hide it behind her hands. "How much clothing did she get off?"
"Jacket and tie. She was fast." He shook his head, chuckling at the memory. "She was going for my shirt before I recovered and pulled her off. She finally got the hint and stalked off, muttering something about bad karma and being a rat in my next life." Cordelia started to make the obvious comeback, but couldn't do it without losing control of the giggling. "I never did get my tie back."
She buried her face in her hands and her shoulders shook with laughter, which did equally interesting things to her neckline as the gesturing. He chuckled into his wine glass, remembering the look on the blonde's face.
"I think you got off pretty easy," Cordelia commented, regaining control of her breathing and reaching for her water glass. "She could have started, um, more directly than with your tie."
"Yeah, and walked off with something else," he shot back. "Believe me, I'm grateful for small blessings." He got his hand up in time to hold off her instant comeback. "I know, I asked for it, let the easy one go this time, okay?"
She pressed her lips together agreeably, but her eyes were dancing as she took another sip of water. He saw the exact second she remembered she didn't like him; her face tightened and all the brightness faded away. He would have minded more if it hadn't reminded him that he didn't like her, either.
Fortunately, the soup and bread arrived at that moment, and they buried their faces and the silence in food. Cordelia made quite the show out of transferring butter to her bread plate, and breaking the bread just so, but slipped and lost a drop of soup onto her napkin. Lindsey kept a straight face, ignored the bread and sipped his soup with perfect control.
"So," he asked, after a few minutes of dueling table manners, "I've got to know. Why did you agree to go anywhere with an idiot like Carter Anderson?"
"Well, I guess my taste in dates is just going downhill lately," she replied with a sweetly barbed smile at him. He lifted an eyebrow -- touche -- and she returned her attention to her soup. "Cute guy, well-paid lawyer, he seemed like he might be worth a shot. If I'd known he worked for Wolfram & Hart...."
"He doesn't." She looked up and he shrugged. "We're just working with his firm on a case. They do the math, we deal with the, ah, clients. It's a profitable arrangement."
She rolled her eyes. "I should have guessed. Carter wasn't nearly... what's the word I'm looking for--"
"Smooth enough? Intelligent enough?"
"--sleazy enough," Cordelia filled in her own blank with another of those irritating head tilts and eye bats, "to work for W&H." Lindsey just looked at her, and she smothered a smirk.
Then she sighed. "Carter seemed nice enough until he started pouring down the booze. But he didn't get really pissy until I told him I was going to call Angel for a ride home. It offended his macho, I guess; what a loser. I have got to stop dating fixer-uppers."
She was mostly talking to herself by the time she finished, and Lindsey chuckled. "What?" she asked with a lifted eyebrow. "My dating status entertains you?"
"No. Well, yes," he amended, just to keep the level of hostility up, "but I was actually laughing at something else." She gave him an 'oh really' look, and he took another sip of wine. "Right after I started with the firm, I wound up dating this actress. You know the type -- thin, blonde, employed, successful..."
"I get the idea," Cordelia grimaced and he hid his smirk in his wineglass.
"Anyway, I knew it wasn't going to work the first time I took her out. We went to a restaurant just like this, and it was such a waste of money. It took her three hours to order because she had to run down the exact calorie content of everything on the menu. From the appetizers to the main courses; even the dessert. I have no idea why she was bothering with the desserts, but hope springs eternal, I guess." He chuckled again, remembering. "She had this little calorie counter in her bag, and whipped it out before she took a bite of anything."
Cordelia's lips were curved with amusement. "Yeah, that's always kind of... really annoying."
"Worse than that." He leaned forward to emphasize the point. "She had to discuss every calorie she ate. How much it was, what she was going to have to do to work it off, how much she could weigh before 'the big audition tomorrow'..." He shook his head, still bemused by the memory. "And we're not going to talk about the state of her manicure."
"Because she talked about it enough for three people?" Cordelia guessed.
"Got it in one."
Cordelia snickered. "She sounds just like my friend Aura in high school. I swear, that girl had the calorie count for everything in the cafeteria and The Bronze memorized. And she'd recite it for you if you looked even a little bit interested. So we all made sure to look really bored every time we were eating."
And he knew from personal experience that Cordelia played bored really, really well. "Do women ever grow out of that, in college or anything? I mean, women, not actresses and models."
Her face went blank as she took a sudden interest in her soup, and he wondered if the latest actress crack had hit its target. But she only said, quietly, "I don't know. I haven't been to college."
"Oh." A little sore there? "Well, I did seven years of college, and I didn't notice anyone getting over it. Except for the Goth crowd, who didn't care, and the hippie chicks, who also didn't care. You probably haven't missed much by not doing the college thing."
She flinched under his overly-considerate tone. "I'm planning on going," she said defensively. "Angel's trying to talk me into taking some business classes, mostly so he won't have to do the bookkeeping. But I'm going to do the school thing. Eventually."
"Good for you," he encouraged heartily. "Always keep those goals in mind."
She didn't look up from the soup this time, and he took a satisfied gulp of wine.
Ooo, big-shot college boy, with his fancy law degree, Cordelia fumed silently. I got in everywhere I applied, you jerk, and I'd have left you in the dust if I'd still had money. And I'd have totally done better things with my degree than you're doing!
Her only comfort was that she knew none of the emotion was showing on her face. She sipped steadily at her soup, took another dainty bite of bread, and summoned up a Queen C smile. "I forgot to tell you when you picked me up, you're driving a nice car. What is that, a '72 Porsche?"
"'71," he corrected, "the 911. Original interior and top. Parts are a real pain to get, but--"
She held up a hand to stop him before he could devolve to his inner mechanic. "I'll settle for 'Nice car.'" He blinked, stopped in mid-spec, but settled back in his chair gracefully. "I've always had a weakness for Porsches. The older, the better."
"They really don't make them like they used to," Lindsey agreed. "I've got a '56 Ford I've been rebuilding, but the Porsche is my baby. What do you drive?"
She shrugged lightly. "Angel lets me take his convertible when I've got an audition, or have to run errands, but I don't keep a car of my own in the city," she said casually. "And isn't that weird, a vampire driving a convertible? You'd think something non-sunroof-y would be in order, but no, he has to be cool."
"Yeah, kinda weird," Lindsey agreed absently, studying her over the centerpiece again. He had lawyer eyes, the kind that pretended they could see something on the wall directly behind you, and she didn't enjoy being his target.
She shrugged lightly, as if that would deflect him. "I had a BMW in high school, but it just didn't seem worth it to haul it all the way down to L.A." Even if the repossessors had wanted to. "Besides, I always planned on getting something with a little more... style than a staid old Beemer."
The tactic didn't work; if anything, his gaze had gotten more intense. He leaned forward and steepled his hands again. "So, let me get this straight. You went to Paris for vacations, drove a BMW in high school, but didn't go to college and are working for a vampire in a second-rate detective agency. Want to tell me how that happened?"
Nothing in the world had ever pissed her off as much as the fact that she flinched at his summation. Visibly.
"Not particularly," she said with as much ice as the Queen C freezer could generate. "Do you always discuss your dates' finances at dinner? That might explain why you were at the bar alone. Or did they just not teach you about manners on the farm... or whatever it is they have where you come from."
She'd stolen both the patronizing tone and the little dismissing handwave from her mother at her bitchiest and most malicious, and they worked, as always. Lindsey sat bolt upright, his face going straight from sardonic amusement to pissed. "Listen, little girl, I earned everything I have now, coming from where I came from. Which is more than you can say, without your father's money to sponge off of."
"Please," she tossed her head. "I don't need my father's money. I can take care of myself."
"More like you can sit back and let your good buddy Angel take care of you," he sneered. "Like you really earn anything he pays."
That hit a little too close to some deeply-buried buttons. Her hand tightened on her wine glass, ready to break it or throw it, and the waiter's cheerful voice intervened.
"And we have the lobster for the lady," he said, smoothly maneuvering the plates while remaining studiously oblivious to the general aura of homicide. "And the boeuf bourguignon for you, sir. Would either of you care for fresh-ground pepper?"
"Please," they both snarled with rigid politeness, through gritted teeth and clenched jaws. The waiter did his thing with the grinder, made sure they had everything they needed, and bowed gracefully out of the line of fire.
In steaming silence, Cordelia occupied herself with her lobster tail, dipping her salad into the dressing and eating it without spilling a drop. Unfortunately, she was too mad to actually enjoy a bite of it.
Across from her, Lindsey fumbled his fork, dropping it to the tablecloth. "Damn it," he cursed, barely audibly, as he recovered. She smirked as she added points to her side, and didn't care if he saw it.
"And we're not second rate," she suddenly remembered to inform him, as she swallowed a chunk of lobster. "Angel Investigations has never had anything less than success for our clients."
He snorted without bothering to look up from his bowl. "You people don't even have a license. And I keep wondering why the cops haven't done anything about that, especially given how much the lovely Detective Lockley hates your boss."
"She's pointed it out," Cordelia admitted. "But you try getting a license for a 240-year-old. It's not like he could pass a background check."
Lindsey shrugged, still not looking up. "No problem. All you have to do is know the right people."
"Oh, I forgot who I was talking to," she said, making a face. "One of the kings of 'the law is for the little people'."
He finally looked up, his face blank except for the tightness around the edges, the hardness in his eyes. "Are we going to do that fight again?" he asked, very politely.
She thought about it. "No. I'm eating." And she applied herself to her lobster; god knew when she'd see a meal this good again.
Dessert was absolutely out of the question, but Lindsey could see the consideration in her eyes as she thought about the point value of gouging the price of cherries jubilee or something similar out of his wallet, and weighed it against having to be in his company for another half-hour. Getting the hell out of there won, and he was grateful for it. Ten more minutes, and he was going to strangle her. No jury in any dimension would convict him -- some of them would probably give him a medal for not doing it sooner -- but the trial would be a pain in the ass.
He signed the bill with a flourish, forced himself to hold Cordelia's chair for her as she stood, and escorted her out of the restaurant with a hand at her back. She accepted the courtesies in dead, stony silence, which continued out to the Porsche, out of the parking lot, and all the way down the freeway to her apartment.
He double-parked in front of her building and cut the engine abruptly, waiting for her to get out. She folded her arms and gave him a sideways look down her nose; the urge to strangle hit again and the hell with the game. He got out of the car, very carefully not slamming the door behind him, went around to her side, and opened her door. He couldn't resist rolling his eyes, and she sniffed as she unfolded herself from the low seat, disdaining his offered hand.
"Thank you for an... enlightening evening," he told her between his teeth.
"You're so welcome," she smiled, all teeth. "Let's never do it again, 'kay?"
"Fine by me," he agreed, closing the door. Hard. "I've seen high maintenance before but, little girl, you are sure as hell more trouble than you're worth."
"Oh, did the poor little evil lawyer get his feelings hurt?" she oozed over her shoulder, starting up the walk. "Maybe next time, you should try actually having charm instead of just faking it. Badly."
"And maybe next time--" he started. He had no idea how he was going to end the sentence, but it became moot as something lunged out of the shadows and grabbed Cordelia around the throat.
Oh, great! It was all Cordelia could think as the familiar strength -- and BO -- of a vampire assaulted her. The date from hell, and of course it ends with a vampire attack. Deja vu; any second now Lindsey will scream like a girl and run for the hills. No Doyle to rescue me this time, I'm dead...
She tried to brace herself to kick or fight, but the vamp had her off balance, and the spike heels weren't helping. She tried to slam one of said heels into the vampire's foot, but he yanked on her throat again, cutting off the air. She clawed at his arm as black spots started to dance in front of her eyes, and waited for the bite of the fangs. From far away, someone shouted, "Cordelia!" and there was a brief flash of hope, almost drowned in the darkness.
Then the stranglehold around her neck was gone, and she stumbled forward, gasping for air. She caught her balance and spun around to see whether Angel or Wesley had rescued her, and got the third or fourth surprise of the night.
Lindsey McDonald was wrestling with the vampire, literally. He had her fanged assailant caught from the back, and was struggling to keep hold of it. As she watched in shock, the vampire broke loose and swung on Lindsey; he ducked under and around, and didn't run. Instead, he came right back in and got his arms around the vampire again; this time, he managed to set some kind of solid hold on its head and shoulders, immobilizing it.
"You going to jump in here any time soon, Miss Demon Killer?" he demanded over the vampire's swearing and growling. "Or am I supposed to wait for the ref to make the count?"
"Just a second!" Cordelia snapped back, instinctively searching the ground and doing some swearing of her own at whoever had decided that evening bags should be small. No purse, no stake, no holy water.... But there were trees, and she snatched up a small branch. Lindsey held on grimly, despite the vampire's renewed thrashing and howls, and with one swift, practiced move, Cordelia drove the stake home.
Poof. End of fight. The mortal pair regarded each other in the sudden silence, broken only by their panting breaths.
Lindsey moved first, shooting his cuffs then starting to brush vampire remains out of his suit, the brusque movements punctuating his words. "This. Is absolutely. Without a doubt. The worst date of my life."
Cordelia considered it as she did a little clothing maintenance of her own. "You and me both," she finally concluded, trying to get vampire ickies out of her cleavage. "Up to and including the one that ended with a rebar in my stomach."
"I'd take the rebar," Lindsey replied grimly, not even blinking. "Let's get to your door so I can get the hell out of here and start pretending none of this actually happened."
"I don't need an escort," she informed him testily, still fighting off adrenaline-induced tremors.
"Tough." He caught her elbow and started hauling her up the sidewalk. She shook herself loose and led the way with as much dignity as she could muster, trying to ignore Lindsey's presence and not succeeding.
At her door, she fished out her keys, got the door unlocked and open, and turned back around to face her opponent. "There. Safely delivered, so you can toddle off home. Happy now?"
His blue eyes were flat and still furious, either with her or the vampire, or possibly (probably) both. He thought for a second, then said, "No."
He moved fast, for a suit. Before she knew what was happening, his hands were on her waist, yanking her forward, and his mouth had come down hard on hers. The part of her brain that wasn't instantly outraged registered that his lips were firm and dry, and knew what they were doing.
The rest of her brain, fortunately, had a hand up ready to punch or slap, whichever seemed easier, when he suddenly broke off, shoving her back a step. He wiped his mouth with the back of one hand, then ran it through his hair. "Gonna slap me now?" he goaded.
Her eyes narrowed. Nobody treated Cordelia Chase like that -- not Xander Harris, not Wilson Christopher, and sure as hell not Lindsey McDonald. "No," she answered shortly. With any luck, I'm never going to see you again -- and I'm damn well going to make you regret it.
In one quick motion, she grabbed his tie, and pulled him down into a Queen C special.
She caught Lindsey by surprise, and his body stiffened. But he caught up fast, and the assault became a duel, both mouths struggling for supremacy here, like everywhere else. His hands bit into her waist, pulling her against him, and her free hand dug into the shoulder of his jacket. Eyes closed, fists tightened, lips hardened and fought.
And somewhere along the way, it changed. Neither of them knew whose mouth softened first, whose hand loosened and stroked instead of grabbing and demanding. Cordelia's lips parted, and Lindsey was right there to take advantage. The first tentative forays of their tongues quickly became another duel, fighting for the right to taste and explore. Lindsey's hand found its way to the silky skin of Cordelia's bare shoulder; hers buried itself in the thick hair that lay over his collar. The blind hatred of a few minutes earlier became another kind of blindness, the kind that urged 'closer, closer', regardless of any other considerations.
Something loud suddenly crashed inside Cordelia's apartment, shocking them both out of oblivion. Dazed blue eyes met equally dazed hazel, and it took a full five seconds for identities and proximities to register. Once it did, they both sprang apart, Cordelia's hand almost taking some of Lindsey's hair with it. He swore once at the pull, then again as his watch caught on her dress strap.
Finally disentangled, they retreated to opposite corners, eyeing each other warily. "That-- that was the stupidest thing either of us has ever done," Lindsey finally managed to force out.
"Absolutely, " Cordelia agreed instantly and fervently. No argument, not on this.
"And we're never," he had to stop to clear his throat, and she was in no condition to gloat, "ever going to do it again."
"Hell no." She couldn't quite get her eyes above his mouth, and he seemed to be having a similar problem.
"Never," he repeated, eyes roaming from her lips to her chest and back up. "No way in.... Hell." With a final curse, he turned on his heel and strode away. She took slight comfort in the fact that he staggered, just a little, as he left.
It took iron willpower to get through the door and close it before her knees totally gave way, leaving her sliding down the door to the floor. The remains of one of her vases was next to her, shattered into bits, and she gave a grateful glance to the air. "Thank you, Dennis."
The pieces shivered, then settled again, and she forced herself to stand up, get ready for bed, and forget everything about this evening.
Especially the part about the kiss.
In the parking lot below, Lindsey stared at the apartment window until the living room light blinked out. He swore again, low and vicious, and pounded his hand against the steering wheel a few times for good measure. Then he started the engine and left the curb, his tires squealing angrily as he sped away.
Note: Christina K gets a big shout-out for reminding me how normal people do small talk. Not that either of these two are remotely normal, but they were trying. Sort of...