Title: Incomprehensible Influences
Author: Dusk (dusk@goldserve.net)
Fandom: Angel
Pairing: Angel/Host
Rating: PG
Archive: Songs of Mercy, AngelSlash, RareSlash, Slashrealms, LoveLorne
Disclaimer: Not mine. No profit made from borrowing them.
Series/sequel: Sequel to 'Losing Faith' and 'Male Bonding, In Theory'. News! Series has a name now, which makes this 'But We're Not' #3.
Summary: Angel's stressed, Cordelia takes charge and all is well.
Comments: Cleo is a goddess. Maybe was her usual helpful self. Thanks, guys :)
Posted: Sept '01

***

Angel stalked through the door, ignoring all present, and picked up a book from the stack on Cordelia's desk. He opened it and began reading.

Or tried to. Feeling eyes on him, he looked up.

"Lead was a dead end," he said shortly, and returned to his reading.

"Yeah, we got that. We're all fine, thanks for asking, and yourself?" Cordelia said, apparently to the computer screen.

Angel spared them a glance. "You're all in one piece. There's no obvious bodily damage. There's..." something finally caught his attention and he looked around the room again, more carefully this time. "... More of you than there usually is."

The Host looked up from his book. "Well spotted, Sherlock."

Angel looked at his regular crew, ensuring he had gained a body and not just traded one of the others for a new model. Wesley gave him a distracted smile, and Gunn said something that could have been a word of acknowledgement, or just a general grunt.

All accounted for. Which meant they had a spare.

"What are you doing here?"

Lorne looked from his book, to Angel, and back again, clearly deciding the question was too obvious to even bother answering.

Angel looked from demon, to book, to demon.

"You don't have books at your place?"

Lorne sighed. "I'm *researching*, Angel. *Helping.*"

"You don't do research. You sit and listen to music and then make random and incomprehensible comments. Isn't that your job? Why would you be researching?"

Lorne rolled his eyes. "Well, maybe I'm just looking at the pretty pictures, then."

"You think books are dull," Angel insisted, seeing Wesley wince out of the corner of his eye and ignoring him. "You avoid books."

"Not when there's actually a point to reading them, I don't. And not when they have engravings of frolicking wood nymphs. Check this one out." He held the book up for inspection. "Not that I'm not researching, too," he added quickly. "The engravings are just a bonus."

"You can't get your own dirty books to look at?"

Lorne gave him a look that implied it wasn't even worth dignifying that with a response, and returned to perusing the text which, engravings or no, was about things far less interesting than frolicking nymphs.

"Now, Angelcakes, just because *your* lead didn't pan out," he said, not looking up, "doesn't mean you get to be all grumpy with those of us who are actually working."

"You're saying I'm not working? On my own case, which I still haven't worked out why you're taking an interest in all of a sudden."

"I'm not saying anything. Nothing at all."

"I'll have you know I spent the past two hours traipsing around this city trying to track down some information that actually comes from *this* century," Angel said, feeling the need to defend himself.

"Exactly. You got to take a pleasant evening stroll while *some* of us sat here and got crampy muscles from poring over musty, dusty tomes," Lorne pointed out.

Angel shut his book with a slam and crossed the room, standing behind Lorne's chair and resting his hands on the demon's shoulders to make his point.

"Lorne," he said carefully, "I've had a hard day. Please don't make your delight in tormenting me quite so obvious."

Lorne ignored his tone and leaned back. "Since you're there, sweetie, how are you at neck rubs?"

Angel considered the question for a moment. "Well, I'm pretty good at the fatal kind," he concluded, flexing his fingers thoughtfully.

"You know, sometimes it occurs to me to wonder if you're not all talk."

To his bemusement, Angel found his fingers disobeying his orders to strangle and instead begin working some of the tension out of the knotted muscles.

Success achieved, Lorne's eyes closed and the book he was reading fell shut, unnoticed. "Mmmm. Oh, that's good," he murmured.

"No sex in the office!" Cordelia yelled, not looking up from her computer.

"We're *not*!" Angel yelled back in annoyance.

"Hands. Neck," Lorne reminded him, and Angel resumed the interrupted neckrub, muttering to himself.

"I *hate* it when you make her say things like that," he grumbled, bending down to speak privately. "In fact, I just don't like you at all."

"That's as may be, Angel, but I don't particularly care as long as you don't stop what you're doing," Lorne replied with a faint smile.

Angel sighed loudly and unnecessarily, and of their own accord his hands continued their task.

"I note that we don't get neckrubs," Cordelia muttered to the other two.

"We ain't sleeping with him," Gunn pointed out with a shrug.

***

Angel followed his friends with notable reluctance. His threats of just digging his feet in where he stood had been ineffective, since Cordelia had refused to relinquish her hold on his sleeve. Rather than risk pulling it off his coat entirely, Angel allowed himself to be dragged.

"No. No, no, no," he said again. "Bad idea. Don't want to."

"Yes you do," she said firmly. "Stop complaining."

They reached the doorway and she stood with her arms crossed until he walked down the stairs, trying to give the impression that he would have done it anyway.

"And you're buying," she added as she followed him down, solving the disagreement that had been going on for some time between Wesley and Gunn, who were lagging behind them.

Angel muttered uncomplimentary things but put in an order for drinks at the bar because it was easier than arguing.

Cordelia, meanwhile, had taken the basic sleeve-pulling approach with the Host and delivered him to Angel, with the instruction to "Snap him out it."

Angel glared half-heartedly at her but guided the demon a few steps away with a hand on his arm, not far enough to be out of earshot of his crew - the bar was too full for that - but enough to make the point. Which, of course, they paid no attention to.

"Well, this makes my day," Lorne said with a smile, which Angel didn't return.

"Look," he said, then glanced over his shoulder at his friends and stepped closer. "Look," he started again. "I need you to talk to Cordelia. She'd decided that dropping me in your lap whenever I'm cranky will magically fix everything. I really can't take being dragged around like this."

Lorne brushed at his own sleeve, which still bore fingermarks. "Yeah, I hear you. She's got some pull for a lady her size. But what do you want me to do about it?"

"Tell her you have no influence over me!"

Lorne raised his eyebrows. "And you can't tell her that because?"

"I did. She doesn't believe me."

"Well, why should she?"

"Because it's true!" Angel insisted.

"Oh, is it now?"

"Okay, small influence. Maybe. But that's not the point. You have to talk to her."

Lorne shook his head. "I think you're overreacting, sweetie. Put up with her for a while and she'll find some other way to annoy you soon enough."

"Hey!" Cordelia protested, destroying any pretence of not eavesdropping. "I don't do this just to annoy you!"

"Although it is a side benefit," Wesley commented.

Angel and the Host had both turned to face the others.

"Private conversation," Angel said pointedly.

"And besides," Cordelia said, ignoring his comment, "if the man you're sleeping with can't cheer you up, there's no hope that anyone else can."

Angel sighed. "Cordelia, I'll say it *again*. We're not sleeping together."

"Uhuh. And that explains why you have your hand on his ass."

Angel looked down and pulled his hand back as though the buttock in question was on fire.

"I have no idea how that got there," he insisted with a hint of desperation. "Why didn't you say anything?" he hissed to Lorne.

The demon shrugged. "I wasn't sure it was any of my concern."

"Not your *concern*?"

"And besides, with you doing the public claim-staking thing..."

"Which I was *not* doing"," Angel muttered.

"... I figured maybe Liz will stop coming on to you."

Angel frowned at him. "*Liz* was...? The Lizard man? Or woman. Or... is he a he, or a she, or something else?"

"Angel! That kind of question is just *rude*."

"Liz was coming on to me?" Angel repeated, wondering just when things had stopped making sense. "When?"

Lorne shook his head. "You are so insensitive sometimes. I guess I can't blame him for being upset if you didn't even notice."

"Liz was *not* coming on to me," Angel stated. He looked at his friends for support, and his face fell when Wesley nodded sympathetically. "He was?"

"You really didn't notice?" Gunn asked in disbelief.

Angel stepped closer to the Host. "No," he said uncomfortably. "And this'll make him stop doing it?"

Lorne shrugged. "Might do."

"Good." He put his arm around the Host's waist, a little self-consciously. People coming on to him made him nervous. Especially when he wasn't even aware it was happening. When had it happened?

Cordelia looked at him and sighed. "Any excuse," she muttered.

***

Angel walked along the street, humming to himself. Each time he caught himself doing it, he'd stop and scowl, only to start up again a few moments later.

His three friends walked a safe distance behind him, observing him. For a man who'd ended up paying for every round, he was unusually cheerful.

The humming started up again, this time continuing for several verses of a top ten hit before Angel realised what he was doing and pretended to be deep in thought. Cordelia grinned and held her hand up to Gunn, who slapped it with a smirk.

"Told you it'd work," she told Wesley, who pulled a face and handed over five dollars.

"I just hope it works as well next time," he said, making a mental note not to bet against her in future.

"'Course it will," she said confidently.

Angel scowled again, pretending he couldn't hear them, and walked on.

[end]



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