Title: Close Call
Author: Dusk (dusk@goldserve.net)
Pairing: A/m (Angel/Host)
Rating: PG
Series/Sequel: Seabreeze Situations #10
Archive/repost: AngelSlash, RareSlash, Songs of Mercy, Slashrealm, LoveLorne
Website: https://www.angelfire.com/falcon/dusk/
Disclaimer: Not mine. No profit made. Just telling a story.
Summary: An awkward meeting.
Comments: Feedback always appreciated. Thanks go to Cleo, for the usual things, and for not minding that I sent her #17 before I'd even finished this one. :)
Posted: June '01

***
Cordelia frowned at the locked door and dug through her purse for her keyring, trying to remember which key was for the hotel. She hardly ever needed it these days, but it was on there somewhere... she hoped.

Eventually finding it, she let herself in. So, her boss was still sleeping. All right for some. Would it be worth starting her own business just to earn the right to dictate her own hours?

She flicked through the mail. Bills, junkmail - yeah, like Angel really needed a food dehydrator - and a few private enquiries about the agency. Dealing with those was her first job; minor editing of a form letter about their methods and fees was all that was required.

She was typing when she noticed the message light on the answering machine blinking. She hit the replay button. One message, from a client, to phone her back as soon as possible.

She returned the call.

Okay, so much for leaving Angel to wake in his own sweet time. Clients took priority over snoozing - since she could never ignore a call, nobody else got to, either, which was fair. She clicked print and started up the impressive staircase that lead to the private rooms. Impressive only to people who didn't have to dust it, of course.

She had to pass by only fully working bathroom to get to Angel's rooms, and was relieved to hear the shower going. Waking vampires was dangerous, even the good ones. The soul woke up about three seconds after the instinct to kill, in her experience.

She pounded on the door.

"Hey, Angel, hurry up in there, will you? We have work to do."

She paused. The shower continued.

"It's Mrs Matthews. She left a message last night... I don't know why you didn't hear the phone ring... I called her, she says that peeping tom demon is back. I told her after we did the banishment there's no way it could come back, but she insists you go check it out, and since she's one of the few clients who actually pays her bills, that means you go, comprende?"

There was no answer.

"Hello? Am I talking to an empty room here, or what?"

She pounded a few more times, taking a step back when the shower shut off and door swung open.

"Finally," she muttered. "Look, I know you need even longer than I do to fix your hair, but...."

She trailed off. There was a man standing in the steamy room, one hand on the open door, the other clutching a towel around his hips. Very clearly just stepped out of the shower.

He was looking at her with large, vaguely irritated red eyes.

He was definitely not Angel. She started to apologise, then stopped. It was her bathroom, or close enough, she could pound and yell if she wanted to. And what the hell was the Host doing in their bathroom, anyway?

"Good morning, Cordy. Can I help you?" he asked patiently, when she didn't say anything.

"I'm sorry," she said, off-balance, "I though you were Angel. What are you doing?"

He looked down at his dripping form and the towel he held. "Is that not fairly obvious?"

"I know what you were doing. Why are you doing it here, was my question."

"I... uh, Angel was helping me fight something. Something messy," he improvised rapidly. "He said I could clean up. His place was closer than mine."

She blinked. "Oh. So, where is he?"

"In bed. As far as I know. Asleep."

"He's sleeping? Mr Nobody-in-my-home-but-me is sleeping while somebody who doesn't live here uses all the hot water?"

He grabbed at the towel, which was slipping. "Look, kitten, I don't know about you, but I find carrying on a conversation while naked pretty difficult. Especially when the other party is fully dressed. Can I just finish up here first? Maybe find some pants?"

She stepped back. "Sure. Clothes are good. Very good. I'll... just go wake Angel."

"Is it really urgent, this Matthews woman?"

"Technically, that's confidential client information."

He just looked at her.

"No, it isn't urgent. There's no demon any more, this isn't the first time she's called us out on a false alarm, but she's a nice lady and doesn't mind paying us a consultant's fee for her peace of mind, so we go. Okay?"

He nodded. "Well, since it can wait a bit, why don't you let Angel sleep a while? Between you and me, I think he could use it. He had a late night."

She relented. "Fine. He can sleep, I'll call Mrs Matthews and tell her we'll be over this afternoon."

"Great! I'll be down in a minute."

He shut the door. She shook her head and returned to her desk.

She lost track of how long it took him to appear, but he did eventually, breezing past her with a wave, on into the kitchen in the back. She pushed back her chair and followed him.

"So, you were out all night killing things, huh?"

"Uh, yes. Well, Angel did the killing, I mostly did the hitting and then hiding parts. And calling advice from the sidelines." He moved about the kitchen, pulling a glass out of the cupboard and a carton of grapefruit juice from the fridge. "No story to it. It's messy, we come back here, he sleeps, I shower, you pound on my door, the end." He brushed ineffectively at some of the worst wrinkles in his shirt, which were the type that you only get when you leave it crumpled on the floor overnight. He hoped Cordelia wouldn't notice that part.

"What was it you were fighting?" she asked curiously.

He downed the glass in one go and put it by the sink. "I have no idea. Sheesh, will you look at the time? I have to go. Rico'll skin me alive. I'll see you at the bar sometime, okay?"

Without waiting for an answer, he was out the door to the lobby and shutting the main entrance door behind him. She stared after him.

"Flake," she muttered, rinsing out the glass he'd left and putting the juice back in the fridge.

***

Cary entered the small office above the bar and shut the door behind him, leaning against it. Rico looked up from his paperwork, glanced at his watch, and wisely said nothing.

Cary began to laugh.

"I'm not going to ask," Rico said, his attention back on the books.

"Nothing wildly exciting. Just had an interesting morning. And it's barely even started yet," he said, shaking his head. He sat down at his desk and picked up the phone, dialing Angel's cellphone - not the Hotel's number.

Angel answered with something that was halfway between a growl and 'hello'.

"Just me, honey," Cary said.

/ /You were just here. In fact, I remember you being here when I fell asleep. Why aren't you still here?//

"Something cropped up. Angel, when you were young - the first time, I mean - did you ever have to crawl out of a lovely local lass's window after a night of debauchery?" He pulled a face at Rico, who had given up all attempts at work in favour of shameless eavesdropping.

/ /Yes. Many times. I was young and stupid... and pretty. It was inevitable.//

"Well, the young is long gone... you're still pretty, but I won't comment on the stupid part."

/ /Compliments and insults in the same breath. Was there a reason for this trip down memory lane?//

"Kinda, yeah. We killed something last night."

/ /We did? I don't remember that part.// Angel's confusion was clear in his voice, even fuzzy with sleep.

"No, not *actually*, you idiot. I've changed my mind, I am gonna comment on the stupid part."

/ /Then what, exactly, are you babbling about? Or did you wake me just to give me a hard time?//

"Good thing I'm loveable, isn't it? I just wanted to warn you."

/ /I'm still unclear about the nature of this warning....//

"Cordelia got me out of the shower, thinking I was you. She was understandably curious about what I was doing in your bathroom, first thing in the morning."

/ /She what?// Angel was suddenly more awake.

"Yeah, I looked a state. No mousse, water dripping down the horns into my eyes, it was awful." He glared at Rico, who was snickering, and tried to indictate with a wave that the human should mind his own business. Rico looked unrepentant, though he did stop laughing. Just.

/ /What did you tell her?//

"That's just it, I had to make something up and fast, so I told her we killed something and I needed to clean up."

/ /What made you say that?//

"I don't know, Angelcakes, I guess I just associate you with killing things. Huh. That's a little disturbing, isn't it? I avoided any further conversation by running like hell. Just wanted to give you a heads-up in case she mentioned it."

/ /Thanks. That could have been awkward.//

"Could have? It was horribly, horribly awkward. I was wearing a *towel*, Angel, a towel and some left-over shampoo bubbles. Nothing else."

Rico burst out laughing again. Cary gave up on him and turned his attention back to Angel. "You have got to talk to that girl."

/ /I will.//

"Oh, you will not! You're going put it off again and then you're going to tell me to stop nagging and it'll all go on as normal. Don't think I can't read you like a book."

/ /I said I will, didn't I? I think the nagging charges would be justified.//

"You're such a bear when you wake up! And it's your own fault, too, because if Cordy hadn't run me off, you'd be waking up happy instead of grumpy. Remember that in future."

/ /Great. Now I feel better. Thanks. And knowing Cordelia, she'll probably bill you for that little white lie you told her. I'll tell her we killed an expensive demon, shall I? It'd cheer her up.//

"Oh, just go back to sleep, sweetie, you'll feel better for it."

/ /I'm going to.// There was a pause. / /I'm not annoyed with you.//

"I know what you're like first thing, and I braved it anyway to warn you. I should just hope you're not."

/ /No, I mean... I'm glad you called.//

"Well, I know how happy you are in your little closet. Wouldn't do to get the door busted down by an overly-questioning secretary, would it?"

/ /That's not it!//

"That is so it."

/ /Okay, yes, that's it.//

Cary laughed. "Well, it's getting cramped in there, and I'm shutting up about it now, so deal with it or not, it's up to you."

/ /I can probably get a few more hours sleep before she officially wakes me. She puts it off as long as possible.//

"There's a trick to waking you without risking life and limb. Think she'd be interested in learning?"

/ /You're disturbed, you know that?//

"Yes, actually. It's a lot of fun. Go, sleep."

/ /Going. Sleeping. Bye.//

"Yeah, bye." He put the phone down and glared at Rico. "Not one word from you. At least *pretend* to be working, will you?"

Rico grinned unrepentantly. "I am working. But jeez, boss... you sure do pick 'em."

"Tell me about it. Idiot," he told the phone fondly.

***

Angel stared up at the ceiling. Damn, damn, damn.

Maybe it was time to talk to his team.

He turned over and buried his face in his pillow. Sleep. Sleep solved lots of problems.

He pushed himself up on one elbow and switched his pillow with the one on the other side of the bed. It smelled like Cary.

Then he slept.

[end]



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