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Least Obeisance
By WesleysGirl

Spoilers: Ats S1
Rating: PG-13
Angel Book of Days, Autumn/Fall 2003
Written for: Wasabi Oni
Who requested Cordelia and Spike
Author's notes ~ Many thanks to Magpie for the advice, and to Ginny for the beta. Oh, and to wolfling, who suggested the idea that spawned this rather odd story.

Available at the ABoD archives, here.

Cordelia would have said it was a relief to get home, but that would have required her apartment actually being decent. It also would have required that she not, immediately upon entering the building, have tripped over the pumpkin that someone had left in the entryway. Stupid Halloween decorations.

So yeah, not so much with the relief.

It wasn't that she hated the place. Well, okay, she *did* hate the place, and was pretty much living for the moment when she got a break and made some cash and was able to say 'adios' to this dingy, disgusting little apartment forever.

Of course after the day they'd had, it wasn't like she'd wanted to stick around the office, either. Not with Angel being all Broody McBroodypants about the Gem of Amarra -- and okay, the torture probably hadn't helped -- and Doyle being all starry-eyed around Angel, like he was the best thing since sliced bread. Sure, Angel was a good guy with a couple of capital Gs and all, but geez. Get a life.

Cordy locked the door behind her and pulled the strap of her shoulder bag up and over her head, dropping it onto a chair as she headed for the fridge. One glance inside reminded her of the other reason why she needed to be discovered, and fast. Okay, so maybe it'd be good to lose another pound or two. You could never be too rich or too thin, and right now it was looking like being too rich was *not* going to be a problem any time soon.

Not that she was complaining -- oh, no. Cordelia Chase was too smart to complain about the fact that at least now she actually *had* a job, one that paid some of the bills and let her buy things like the soup and crackers she was going to have for dinner. Again. But that was okay, because she had a slightly-used, new-to-her copy of Vogue in her bag, and having a chance to look at the fall fashions, even if she couldn't afford them, made the whole soup thing seem unimportant.

She was just starting to get out the can opener when she thought she heard a noise outside the front door. Great, it was probably that creepy old guy from down the hallway again. He was always staring at her when she walked by, and once she'd opened her door to find him standing on the other side with his eye peering through the crack, trying to spy on her. She'd yelled at him and he'd taken off, but it hadn't stopped him from staring at her the next time she passed him in the hallway.

Cordelia crept quietly over to her bag and went through it until she found her little canister of mace, then tiptoed to the door, unlocked it, and threw it open. "Okay, Mister," she said shrilly, brandishing the mace. "You need to get over your pathetic little life and -- "

Spike stood in the hallway.

"Nice place," he said, with plenty of sarcasm in his voice.

She raised her eyebrows. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, you know... just thought I'd see where you lived. Gotta admit, I wasn't imagining it being quite so... what's the word? Hovel-like?"

"That's not a word," Cordelia said dismissively, even though her heart was beating a little bit faster than it should and she was pretty sure Spike must be able to hear it. She tossed her head. "Well okay, maybe it's a compound word. And it's not a hovel."

"Uh-huh." Spike dug into his jacket pocket and came out with a crushed pack of cigarettes and a lighter. "Mind if I smoke?"

"You can't come in here," Cordelia told him. "And yes, I mind if you smoke. Just because you don't care about getting wrinkles doesn't mean I don't."

Spike rolled his eyes as he took a battered cigarette out of the package. "Yeah, I know that. Been a vampire for more than a hundred years -- figured out the rules by now." He lit the cigarette. "And I don't care if you mind."

"Then why did you ask?"

"Wanted to see what you'd say." Spike smirked.

"So is there some reason you're here *other* than the fact that you wanted to make derogatory comments about my apartment?" She knew there had to be some reason, and actually, she wasn't so sure she wanted to know what it was.

"Like I said... just fancied the idea of seeing the place." Spike leaned casually against the door frame and gestured with his chin toward her. "You gonna do something with that?"

Cordelia realized that she was still clutching the mace in her hand, and lowered her arm. "You do realize that I can call Angel and have him over here in like ten minutes, right?" Okay, ten minutes was a slight exaggeration, but it sounded better than twenty, which was probably more truthful. "He would *so* love to beat the crap out of you."

Spike snorted. "*Angel* couldn't beat the crap out of a kitten right now, what with those pokers he had shoved through his gut earlier in the day and all."

"He heals fast!" Cordelia retorted, trying not to think about how seriously gross Angel had looked. "Besides, he could probably beat you up with one hand tied behind his back."

"Yeah," Spike said. "Too bad for him we had both his hands tied. Well, chained, and over his head. Guess you saw that though, didn't you."

Before she could think about it, Cordelia twitched, moving half a step closer to the doorway.

"That's it, Princess." Spike's predatory grin spread across his face, and he made a little motion with his hand. "Come on out and give me what I've got coming."

Cordelia tossed her hair back and smirked at him. "What do you think I am, stupid? As long as I don't go out there, you can't touch me. And you can't come in."

"Could stand out here for the next couple of days," Spike pointed out, taking another drag off his cigarette. "You wouldn't be able to leave. Find it kinda hard to believe you like this place enough to want to stay here twenty-four seven."

"You'll get hungry way before I do," Cordelia told him.

Mrs. Schillis from down the hall toddled past, giving Spike a look of disapproval as she went by.

"You think?" said Spike, raising his eyebrows. "She looks pretty tasty."

The horrified gasp from the old lady made Cordelia wince.

"Shut up!" she hissed at Spike, then called cheerily, "You're right, she looks really great in that outfit. Way to go with the fashion sense, Mrs. Schillis!"

"In that purple print skirt thing?" Spike asked disbelievingly. "You've got to be joking."

"I'm trying," Cordelia growled, "not to completely alienate these people that I have to live near. I mean, who knows when I might need... something..."

"MIght need something from one of them?" Spike dropped his cigarette onto the hall carpet and crushed it under the heel of his boot. "Like protection from big bad vampires?"

"Or a fire extinguisher when lazy people's cigarettes set the hallway on fire," Cordelia said, frowning. "Is it like your goal in life to drive me crazy?"

Spike's grin spread wider. "Gettin' to you, am I?"

"Yes. I mean, *no!*" Cordelia heaved a sigh and crossed her arms in front of her. "I could just shut this door right in your face you know."

"But you aren't. S'gotta be a reason for that."

She sure as hell wasn't going to admit that it was because it was actually kind of nice to talk to someone, even a non-someone like Spike. "Well for all I know, you could eat Mrs. Schillis!"

"Her?" Spike scoffed. "That tweed skirt thing might get stuck in my teeth. There's no dental floss can take care of a problem like tweed, you know."

"Why don't you just *go away?*"

"Why, because you're so much fun. Not to mention the way you look in your own skirt."

Cordelia looked at him blankly. "I'm wearing pants."

"Not in my imagination." Spike's eyebrow lifted, and Cordelia noticed for the first time that he had a scar across it, a pale little slash like a knife cut. She wondered if it had happened before or after he'd died.

"You're such a pig," she snapped, at least a few seconds too late.

"I'm hurt," Spike drawled, one hand over his heart, fingers splayed and making it look bigger than it actually was. "No, seriously. You wound me with your cruel name-calling."

"Good." Cordelia was actually thinking about slamming the door in his face, just for punctuation, or maybe the fun of it, when her stomach gurgled loudly.

"Hungry, are we?" Spike asked.

"Well yeah. If you hadn't kept me here with your witless banter I'd have had dinner by now." Leaving the door open, Cordelia flounced back to the kitchen and grabbed the can opener and the chicken soup she'd been interrupted from opening by Spike's sudden and annoying arrival.

As she struggled to turn the opener -- she *so* needed to get a new one, this one was just a cheap piece of crap -- she heard Spike call from the hallway, "Whatcha making?"

"Go. Away!" She yelled back, just as her grip slipped and the sharp edge of the lid sliced across the meaty part of her finger. "*Damn* it!"

"You all right?" Spike's concern sounded almost genuine.

"No thanks to you!" Cordelia called. "God, why'd you have to distract me? It's a good thing I don't have another hand lotion audition in the next couple of weeks." A drop of blood hit the countertop and she cursed under her breath.

"You bleeding?" Spike asked.

"God, what are you, a vam -- " She managed to cut herself off in time, but just barely. "That's really sick, you know that?"

"It is," he agreed, his voice so loud that Cordelia thought people in the next *building* could probably hear him. "Could take care of that for you, you know. They say a vampire's saliva helps close up wounds."

Cordelia stuck her head back around the corner so that she could see him. "Okay first, that's just a myth. Second, ewwww. And third, would you shut up already? Do you really think my neighbors want to be hearing this crap?"

"Geez, a little cut really puts you in a bad mood."

She grabbed a band-aid and stuck it on, then finished opening the can and poured her soup into a pot, setting it on the stove. Turned the stove on. Realized she'd turned on the wrong burner, snapped it off in frustration, and turned on the right one.

Then she just stood there and looked at the stove.

"Come on," Spike wheedled from the hallway. "Cordeeeelia... come talk to me."

"Not like you can't hear me from there," she muttered.

"Yeah, but I like to see your pretty face," Spike called.

Cordelia leaned around the corner again. "Ha!" she said. "See? I could shut the door and you'd still hear me."

"But then we'd both be all alone."

"And I should feel sorry for you *why?*"

Spike's voice was roughened like a calloused hand. It gave her the willies. "Don't want you to feel sorry for me."

"Oh, please. You *so* do. You don't seriously think that I'm going to, like, forget and invite you in, do you?" Cordelia thought again about calling Angel, but he sure as heck had looked majorly gross when she'd left, and there wasn't any question in her mind that he'd come charging over here and probably bleed all over the place. And then there'd be more fighting with Spike, and... no thanks.

Her soup was starting to bubble just a little bit around the edges. She took the pot off the burner, poured the soup into the last of her big mugs -- the rest had gotten, well, accidentally broken during the washing process -- and grabbed a box of crackers.

With a little sadistic grin, Cordelia went into the living room and plunked herself down in a chair where she knew Spike would have to look at her. She took a sip of the soup -- and okay, ow, it was still too hot -- and then said, "Mmm. Boy, when you're hungry, nice warm, salty liquid really hits the spot."

Spike rolled his eyes. "You think that's the kind of performance that's gonna get you jobs, do you?"

"Hey!" She sat up a little bit straighter. "I don't need any critique from Mr-Dead-Guy. What do you know about acting?"

"I know I'd do a better job at it than you." Spike mimed holding a mug in his hand, with his pinky finger out. "Ooooh, this soup is just scrumptious. All full of chicken fat, with tiny bits of flour paste masquerading as noodles." His version of her American accent was ridiculous.

"You're such a jerk."

"And you," Spike told her, "are a bitch."

Before she could think, Cordelia snatched up a cracker and threw it at his head. Surprisingly it curved to the left after curving to the right, and ended up hitting him smack in the forehead.

"Hey!" Spike said. "What the hell was that for?"

"Calling me a bitch?" Cordelia said sweetly.

"Could call you worse," Spike said, glowering at her and glancing down at the cracker.

"And I could throw some more stuff at you." She drank more soup, doing her best to make obvious swallowing sounds. "Mmm."

"Shut up."

"Hey, if you don't like it, feel free to leave any time."

Spike made a frustrated noise and ran a hand through his hair. He actually wasn't bad looking, if you liked that bad-boy kind of thing, which Cordelia told herself firmly she *so* did not. "And give up the chance to annoy you? Not gonna happen."

"You're just jealous." Smugly, she took another sip of soup, then ate a cracker.

"Jealous? Of what?"

"The fact that you're a dried up old has-been, while I'm poised on the brink of a brilliant career," Cordelia said.

"Oh, you think so?"

"I know so."

"Come over here and say that."

Cordelia barely managed to keep herself from snorting, but it was lucky she did, because chicken noodle soup out the nose? *So* not a good look for her. "Oh right, like I'm gonna fall for that one. I go over near the door, you tell me to come closer until you get me over the threshold, then it's bye-bye brilliant career."

"No. Just another sort of brilliant career," Spike said. "Seriously. I want you to come over here and call me a has-been right to my face. Promise I won't try anything."

"Uh-huh. Like I'd believe anything you say." Still, Cordelia found herself setting her soup and crackers down and moving over close to the door. She was careful not to get too close -- careful to keep the toes of her almost-like-designer shoes several inches from the doorway. But she smiled sweetly as she looked Spike in the eyes. "Has-been," she said distinctly.

"You've no idea what you're talking about, love." Spike leaned in so close that for a second her heart started to pound as she worried that somehow the invitation thing was a bust, but all he did was continue to stare into her eyes. The right side of his mouth curled up the tiniest bit.

"You think?"

"I know. You're just a scared little girl. You know you don't have any talent, don't you. You know that your big dream's never gonna happen for you. It's gonna be bit part after bit part, if you're lucky." His voice was low, throaty. Mesmerizing. His eyes never left hers, but they flickered back and forth, reminding Cordelia of what he was. That he couldn't be trusted.

Even if, somewhere in the pit of her stomach, she thought he might be right.

"Then, someday, you're gonna realize that you're career's not just over -- it never started." Spike's voice was like a caress. It made the little hairs on the back of her arms stand up. It made her feel cold.

Breaking their gaze, Cordelia shook herself. "God, you're such an ass," she said, not finding it hard to inject some disgust into her voice.

"Might be. Still, maybe best that you not throw that has-been thing around too much, yeah? What with it being so pot-calling-kettle-black and all."

She went back to get her soup -- okay, *so* not hungry now, but she wasn't going to let him see that he'd gotten to her. She was as mad at herself as she was at him, for letting him draw her in like that. She should have known better.

"You never answered my question," Cordelia said.

Spike looked at her curiously. "What question was that?"

"The one about what the hell you're doing here?" She raised her eyebrows and thought, again, that she could just close the door. But then she still wouldn't know what he was up to. She probably owed it to Angel to find out that much, at least.

"I did so. Told you that I wanted to see where you lived."

"Uh-huh. Well now you've seen it, or as much of it as you're going to, so why don't you go on back to Sunnydale or wherever the hell you were before that, and leave me alone."

"But you're so pretty when you're mad," Spike said, just as George from next door came walking past, pausing in curiosity.

"H-hi Cordelia," George stammered, which was basically the way he always talked to her. Or maybe it was the way he talked to all women. Cordelia hadn't quite figured it out yet.

"Hi George," she said, in a more friendly tone than she normally would have gone for. "How's it going?"

"Oh, o-okay. You know, busy." George looked from her to Spike. He was wearing, God help him, a Halloween-themed tie with little pumpkins and skeletons on it. It had a bigger skeleton in the middle, with tiny red eyes that blinked off and on. Cordelia didn't even want to think about how he'd wash something like that, because the answer probably was, he didn't. "Th-this is a friend of yours?"

Cordelia exchanged a glance with Spike -- hers horrified, his smug. "No! Just someone I know from, um... home. But we're not friends."

Spike glowered at her for a split second, then morphed into game face and turned his attention to George, slinging one arm around the guy's neck and pulling him in close. "So you're George! Cordelia's told me all about you."

"R-really?" George's stammer got worse, and his eyes behind his coke-bottle glasses were terrified.

"Oh yeah," Spike went on. He lowered his voice a little bit. "She doesn't know how to tell you, but she likes you."

"Spike!" Cordelia hissed. She didn't know what to do. If she stepped through the doorway, she was pretty sure Spike would kill her. But if she didn't do anything...

"Aww, see?" Spike went on. "She's got a crush. But don't worry, we'll make sure she gets over her shyness real soon so the two of you can go on a *real date.*" Spike ruffled George's hair in mock affection, then let him go.

'Run,' Cordelia mouthed at George, making a desperate motion with her hand while Spike was still looking away from her. As soon as Spike turned his head toward her, she stopped and pasted on a big fake smile. "Gee, thanks for getting all involved in my love life," she said brightly, as George started to sidle off toward his apartment door. "I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Don't worry," Spike said, watching George as he opened his door. "I don't want to eat him. Was just messing around."

"Well thanks a lot," Cordelia said. "Do you want to get me kicked out of here? How am I supposed to explain this to my landlord?"

"Wouldn't worry about it," Spike said, licking his lips. His teeth were scarily sharp and white. "Met him downstairs on my way in."

Cordelia blinked. "Oh my god. Don't tell me you *ate* him."

Spike shook his head slightly, his human face sliding back on. "S'more drinking, i'n'it? But okay, I won't."

The realization that all of this was very, very serious came slamming over her. For one of the few times in her life, Cordelia Chase found herself with nothing to say.

"Well, I'm off." Spike straightened the collar of his jacket and shifted his weight, shoulders back like he knew instinctively that made him look bigger. Scarier. "Got a date with this bloke I met last night. Calls himself a Rogue Demon Killer or some such."

He took a step backward, thumbs tucked into the waistband of his black jeans. "Oh, and love? Give Angel a message for me?"

Cordelia nodded.

"Tell him," Spike growled, "that I know where you live." He grinned and glanced up at the ceiling. "You be careful. Old buildings like this, they go up just like *that.*" With a snap of his fingers, Spike strolled off down the hallway.


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