Browser Memory
by Lar

Cordelia is sometimes grateful to get into the office before anyone else. It's quiet, there's no Wesley puttering around, leaving teabags and stained saucers in his wake, no Angel brooding at his desk in front of the bricked over window making her feel nervous and twitchy with the way he sits so still.

She boots up the computer, settles her bag of magazines and baked crackers under the desk, puts her yogurt in the fridge, starts a pot of coffee. Checks the answering machine as she logs into the net, grateful now more than ever that she made Angel give up a few bucks for the cable modem since she's spared the sound of the dialup connection on mornings like this when the quiet is like a blanket. She gets the startup page, "Demons Demons Demons," like always, and looks for her little post-it notes. Researching the latest gut-devouring slime beast is less fun as the days go by, but the thought of having to start from scratch and ruling out the sites that provide gothy-hackers a jolly is not one she wants to entertain. How the hell can lime green post it notes disappear?

Fruitless search over every paper on her desk, front and back in case something slimy from one of the battles was tossed here and shuffled over, making her notes of the permanent stick variety, and there's not a single sheet to be found. Hours of research wasted and she'll bet that Wes wandered off with them stuck to his cuff or his sweater-clad elbow. Can see him noticing it at some point in the night and tossing it away, worthless trash that equals her time better spent shoe shopping, or getting a facial, or at the very least wandering through Bergdorf's pretending she can afford the things she sees.

Decides to give the browser history a chance before getting too wound up and ruining the entire day before it's begun, before saying the hell with it and pulling out her copy of Paris Vogue or at the very least reading Ted Casablanca online at E. Clicks open the history search window and scrolls down the sites. All the meaningless subdomain names march past her, up and gone, up and gone, and then she catches something so out of the flow she stops: Clicks down a few more lines, eyes getting narrower with every site listing --,, on and on, and she wonders if Angel is ever, ever going to be over his Buffy thing.

Blonde girls, god, and she clicks on one at random, gets a page full of pop-up ads, big hair and plastic boobs, wet open mouths and eyes with far too much make-up. Clicks again, not really thinking, and there's more revealing pictures, tiny little blondes of every shade in every position imaginable, legs spread and nipples perky.

Cordelia feels her cheeks getting warm, looks at all the little bleached bimbos arching their backs and cupping their own breasts, wonders how Angel could find Buffy in any of their faces. It's sick and sad at the same time, thoughts of him looking at these fake babes and putting her face to them, and oh god, what else has he been doing at her desk? She shuts the window abruptly, gets up to go find some paper towels and clean the keyboard maybe. Something with a lot of bleach in it because the thought of Angel getting a happy where she has to sit all day long is enough to make her ... well, do something, she's not sure what. Too weird, too personal, too much to process, and there's no way in hell she ever wants him to know that she found it. God, bad enough living with his guilt over murders from another lifetime, she's not dealing with guilt over Buffy-lust.

The front door opens, and Cordelia catches sight of the tips of blonde hair as someone leans in the door, tentative, and for a heart stopping minute she thinks it's Buffy. Just what she needs, flesh from fantasy and that's enough of that. Not Buffy, of course, but Kate, slight improvement, and Cordelia waits for her to demand time with Angel. Another blonde to make him insane, just not in the groiny way she thinks idly, taking in Kate's lady-cop attire: straight-leg jeans, plain, white blouse buttoned way up to the top and most likely bought in bulk, one in every color and two of the white because it goes with everything. Flat black boots and dark blue blazer with lapels that went out before Cordelia was born. No makeup, of course, but then again Kate's going for that whole one-of-the-guys aura so it leaves little room for Maybelline.

"Cordelia?" Kate's voice is patient and only mildly annoyed, a first for her, and Cordelia realizes she's been zoning out and missed the whole reason for the visit. As if she needed to ask.

"Oh. Angel's still sleeping." Shot in the dark, well, not really the dark, just the grayness of how she might have phrased her request to see Angel, and apparently it's close enough. Kate's eyebrows draw down just a little, and she sighs.

"Mind if I wait - how long do you think he'll be?"

Must be important then, if she's willing to spend time here with the help. Cordelia considers telling her it'll be at least ten hours until sunset, and she's welcome to come back then but stops. Realizes she's channeling her annoyance with Angel and his blonde freakishness towards Kate because she's here and, well, she's blonde and that's enough.

And that's when it hits her, hits Cordelia right between the eyes, almost as sharp as a vision precursor. She manages to tell Kate something reasonably resembling "Have a seat, there's coffee in the pot", before heading into Angel's office and over to the elevator. Absently pressing the intercom they'd installed to wake him up without her having to actually go down there when he might be showering or eating or whatever other things he's been doing lately, she waits for him to buzz back and tells him that Kate's here. He's up the stairs and into the office fast enough to give her more food for thought, watches the way his hand finds the small of Kate's back when he ushers her into the office, hovering there without really touching her, or even that hideous piece of rag she calls a jacket.

Blondes it was and blondes it remains, apparently she thinks, watching the blurry silhouettes through the frosted glass window. Of course she'd thought he was fixated on Buffy, but oh, Cordelia thinks, she might be very wrong about that. Because hadn't he been spending a lot of time around Kate, and wasn't he always drawn to the women most likely to stake him when he pissed them off? And now that she gave it some serious consideration, wouldn't Kate draw him to her with her back-off vibes, the way most women seemed to get the wrong men around them.

Cordelia pulls out her stack of magazines, flips them open randomly, listens to the voices murmuring on the other side of the glass. Low rumble of Angel, higher pitch of Kate, back and forth exchange of whatever it is those two might have to argue over this morning. Wonders idly if Kate and her blonde hair have been the downfall of any other obsessive freaks, thinks she must be in good shape, probably has a nice body which she manages to hide under shapeless blazers and discount store shirts. She carries herself like a man sometimes, but Cordelia's seen her when she's off-guard, when she's drunk on the feel-goods and bad mojo. Remembers the way her face had been soft, eyes tilted like an elf, lashes thick and lovely, the night of her father's retirement party. She'd had a dress on, something cheap and hideous, but still it had been a dress, nylons and heels, and Cordelia remembers thinking that Kate has nice long legs.

Flips a page in her magazine as the volume raises in the office and then drops off again, and her eyes focus on a model in a designer original. The model has short black hair and very bright blue eyes, tip-tilted much like Kate's, and she's wearing something soft and sheer and shimmery that shows the dark areola of her nipples. Kate's would be rose-colored she thinks, startled at the image, flashing to the website and one of the girls there. Her legs bent and one lying to the side, full view of pink skin and pale nipples and she wonders if Kate is a natural blonde. Vague shivery thrill rushes through Cordelia as she pictures Kate in that position, can't for the life of her imagine why Kate would ever have her body arranged like that except to show. Everything.

And yes, it's been a long time since Cordelia allowed herself to have those thoughts, those feelings for anyone, and maybe losing Doyle is what did it. Never wore her desires on her sleeve, the only one of them in high school who'd been able to walk away after slumber parties that wandered from who was the best boy to date into what was the best way to kiss and segued into demonstrations. Harmony and Aphrodesia and Aura, soft girl-lips against her own, tentative tongue tips and all of them giggling except her. Nothing to giggle about, not really, and so she'd learned that kisses were kisses. No matter if the mouth that delivered them gave her beard burn or mingled their Rose Torch lipstick with her own Cinnamon Flame, it was the kiss that mattered, and Cordelia always kept it to herself.

Thinks that Kate's mouth, wide and soft-lipped, might give kisses that are worth allowing the feeling again, worth the effort to want. Can't be alone forever, Cordelia knows that now, and who better to understand her life than someone who's practically in it. She lets herself spin out a brief fantasy of coming home to someone to fight for the remote with, someone to pick out wine. Warm feet in her bed at night, casual arm across her waist as she sleeps, blonde hair in the brush and an extra mug in the sink. Someone who's not Dennis to talk to.

The door to Angel's office opens and they both come out. Cordelia lifts her head and watches Kate, watches Angel, keeps her lashes down so she can ponder without giving it away. Their body language gives her nothing to work with, both of them uptight and stiff, and she guesses she was wrong about Angel. She guesses those sites were Buffymania, he's caught in that net, and it's going to strangle him to death one fantasy, one website, one plastic-boobed doll at a time. Pathetic and sad and creepy, and Cordelia would never let herself fall into that trap. Never. She watches Kate tuck her hair behind one ear, the ring from the Academy making her fingers look small and feminine, how she would hate to know that's the effect it gives.

"So you'll let me know." Kate finishes up, awkward at the leaving portion, as if she doesn't know how to conclude the meeting. Like she just wants to be done and walk out, forget the social graces, as if she doesn't know where to put her hands or cast her eyes.

Cordelia is struck with a sudden desire to take Kate by the hand, buy her coffee and a bagel, talk her into wearing some shoes that will hurt her feet when she walks more than a block in them and a little black dress that clings and drapes. Wants to give her girl-soft kisses that leave her lips berry-colored with shared lipstick, and let her save them both from one coffee cup in the sink and cold feet in bed every night.