SUMMARY: What if Angelus had been ‘chipped’ instead of Spike and Cordy found him?
POSTED: 20 Feb 2006
CATEGORY: AU / Humor
WARNINGS: Language Use
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES: This was originally a stand alone I think a year or so ago. I don’t know what happened. It ran away with me. Now its like 112 pages and I’m posting it as a serial.
“Oh this is just great. Perfect.” The brunette trudged through the wet puddles of the sidewalk; her black dress stained and drenched, her suede heels ruined as she stumbled into another rain-induced puddle.
In the wee hours of the morning, Cordelia Chase squinted up at the flickering sign of the Bronze. Two hours before dawn- before reality would take shape and she would have to admit that she was no longer a Chase; but a homeless, penniless, gutless piece of crap. And still she hadn’t been able to look at the wretched Cordettes’ in the face and tell them that she had no home to go back to, no money to call the cab and no guts to tell them to their face that she didn’t want to leave the sanctity of the Bronze.
But she didn’t say that.
And so now here she was with her coat and purse clutched in one hand and the edge of her dress in another as she began her first almost morning of being worth shit. “Where’s a vampire when you need one?”
Walking to car, she threw her bag and coat into the backseat before dropping into the driver’s seat. And then she caught the dial of her fuel gauge. “ARGH!” Smacking sting of her palms on the steering wheel didn’t hurt as much as the realization that fifteen minutes later when the party inside would breakup, she’d still be sitting here. And her lovely spineless exit from her so-called friends would be worth very little.
“Okay Chase.” She took a deep breath, her hands gripping the wheel for strength. “Breathe, step out and let’s walk.” Picking up her coat she left her empty purse in the backseat and kicked the door of her car shut. It along with everything she owned was going to be repossessed anyway. Where could she have driven it?
Hating the way her heels were soaked and dreading the long walk to a house that wasn’t going to be there in the morning, she shrugged into her coat and proceeded to map the sidewalk for the first time in her life. “Could this suck any more?”
And that was when she heard the crash and a strangled cry of pain.
Freezing in her tracks, her arms wrapped tightly around her, she dug into her pocket for the water pistol that Willow had handed her as a joke. She hoped the fact that it was filled with holy water wasn’t a joke as she stared into the dark alley.
“Okay whatever you are, I’m armed and dangerous.” There was a guttural groan before she made out the silhouette of a man struggling against the trashcan almost as if his legs didn’t hold him up.
Maybe it was just another homeless person who’d lost their parents and fortune all in one night: another riches to rags story. Then she winced when the grip he had on the trashcan slipped and he landed in a very large puddle with a splash and a snarl of pain that sent shivers down her back.
Even as she was taking the first step towards the sprawled form she was wondering about the sanity of her decision. She blamed the Scoobies for this stupid need to suddenly help if she could and her bravado on the fact that she had very little left to lose. “Hey are you okay?”
“Do I look okay?”
The rich timbre of his voice was laced with pain and as he shifted in the slight glow from the streetlamp across the road, she couldn’t see his face as she stood there a few feet away from him. In the slash of light she could see black pants soaked with muddy rainwater and blood, and hands slashed and purple as they clutched a very nasty gash across a chest that barely held the old black shirt that might have, at one point, been very expensive silk. “You look like shit.”
“Tactless candor suits you brighteyes.” The retort would have been effective had it not been punctuated with the hiss of pain.
Her grip tightened on her little water pistol when she noticed two things. His chest didn’t rise and fall with his moans of pain only when he shifted and the black pants she’d noticed were leather. “What stroke of unbelievable luck. Of all the things to run into at this time of the night! A wounded vampire who’s probably also hungry. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll be going now. Hope you make it.” She turned to walk out of the alley.
“Chase, the least you can do is open the fucking manhole and give a vampire a fighting chance.” Her heels skidded to a stop when she finally realized why the husk of his voice was so familiar and why he knew her name.
Turning very slowly while she took a step back, she met amber eyes of one Angelus the Scourge of Europe; and Buffy’s latest dilemma. When she caught the distinct sparkle of fangs her jaw hardened. “Awww, looks like the slayer got you good this time. What did you drag yourself here for? To let her lick your wounds?”
“Sure Chase. Kick a demon when he’s down.” She crossed her arms; slightly content in the sluggish movement of his muscles and the apparent beating he’d received.
“You don’t play the damsel in distress very well, Angelus. A little more on the pleading side might help.” The soft growl was tinged with a waver of a painful swallow.
“I have a reputation, little girl.” She shrugged.
“Fitting end I’d think. Scourge of Europe gets his tushi kicked by a girl slayer he happens to dote on and greets the sun.” She whirled around to leave.
“Cordelia.” The desperate edge to her name made her pause.
What the hell was she thinking? She couldn’t actually be considering helping him. He was a vampire. An eater of people. A soulless demon with sex and pain on the brain. So then why the hell was she still standing there with her back to the bruised and broken vampire and not just walking home like she should have? With her foot tapping on the wet pavement she grit her teeth. Damn the Scooby idiots! She whirled around and glared at him.
“What? Do you really expect me to help you? YOU the pillager of innocents and mauler of women?”
“Jesus-fucking-Christ Chase, do I look like I can do either right now!”
“No, you look like you should die. Between you killing me and you burning in hell; which ever shall I chose? Happy incineration, Angelus.”
“I’ll give you my word!” She snorted a dry laugh catching in her throat.
“Oh my god!” She feigned shock. “I so believe you now.” She glared at him. “The most I can do right now is to march to the nearest phone booth and call the slayer to finish the job and put you out of your misery.”
There was a defeated sigh and she frowned at him for a second. Then he spoke. “Are you going to open the manhole or not?”
“And that will save your pathetic life?”
“It will give me a chance to maybe try!”
“You’re evil. You should die.” The vampire let out an exasperated breath.
“Oh for…I AM dying! If I was able to pillage or maul anything right now you’d be calling me master!” He winced when he shifted again against the wall of the alley.
And again she thought. With a last cry of frustration, she pocketed her little water pistol and stalked towards the manhole some good ten feet away from the sprawled vampire and grabbed the latch with a grunt. “I cannot believe I am doing this!”
There was a chuckle from the other side as she grunted and groaned before pulling it aside. Huffing with effort she hitched her fists on her waist and watched him struggling to his knees. She bit her lip as she saw his legs waver with weakness, his arms shaking with the effort to push himself to his feet.
“Now give me a minute to use my tongue to crawl towards it, because my limbs are fucking rubber.”
Closing her eyes she let out a deep breath. “You are so pathetic.” Heels clicking purposefully she trudged up the vampire with a death glare and grabbed his arm.
His head swiveled to the side and he stared up at her, the muscles in his neck taut with strain and twitching with pain. And she saw his face for the first time.
Cordelia’s mouth dropped open with a gasp as she saw the heavy trail of blood from his temple to his jaw, the flesh around his temples burnt and opened with what looked like a jagged razor. This did not look like the work of the slayer.
“Fuck.” She couldn’t hold the shocked profanity as Angelus struggled to keep his weight on his hands and knees, his head falling back to bow between his shoulders. “What the hell happened to you?”
A muscle in his jaw worked as he stretched on hand up and grabbed the edge of the garbage can and instinctively she caught his shoulder and helped him get to his feet. Again his eyes snapped up to her with surprise and she looked at the bruises on his face and the blood drenching his shirt in wonder. This could so not be Buffy’s work. She saw his muddied forehead crease with a frown.
“What happened to letting me greet the sun?”
“You know I didn’t think anyone was worse off than me right now, but I concede to you. You look like shit.”
“Already said that.” He growled at the blinding pain in his broken leg and the stretch of tendons on ribs he knew were cracked. He watched the girl’s hazel eyes take inventory of his injuries and kept himself from leaning towards her lest he startle her and she leave him here in a heap.
“So you planning on helping me reach the manhole tonight because I forgot my sun block.” He could have sworn he saw the corner of her mouth lift slightly as she gingerly took firm hold of his upper arm.
Unwittingly, she ducked her shoulders and his arm fell around her as he finally managed to put his weight on his good leg and stand for the first time that evening.
“If I didn’t have a death wish not five minutes ago, I’d be scared witless, but nothing can faze me now. So tell me? This doesn’t look like Bluffy the vampire layer’s work.”
Instinctively Angelus’ nostrils flared with the smell of human blood, but after his night, he decided not to test the theory again. She looked about as human as they came. “I got ensnared.” He growled as he hobbled with her weight fighting the urge to feed, knowing if he tried he’d die sooner. “A couple of commando wannabes got the jump on me. Two nights go.”
She looked up startled. “You got ensnared by an army? No wonder you look like death.”
He cried out softly nearly howling with the agonizing pain in his ribs when she shifted his weight and she stopped watching the flying colors of pain streak across his previously handsome face. “Okay, let’s just get it out in the open already. I’ve had enough surprises this evening. Why aren’t you trying to eat me?”
He met her eyes, squinting his left eye to clear the vision with his right almost sealed shut with swelling. “Sounded too much like a request on your part, Chase.”
“Do you ever try straight answers Scourgey?”
He sighed wincing when he couldn’t prompt her to move further. The inquisitive glitter in her hazel eyes was insatiable and she was stubborn as hell; that much he knew from his run-ins with their little clan. “I can’t.”
“Because you love me?”
He couldn’t hold the scowl and the tightening of his muscles as he glared down at her. “I suck face with a slayer and now suddenly everything thinks I’m fucking love’s bitch.”
She didn’t muffle a sardonic snicker as her lips twisted up into a half smile, half smirk. “Duh.”
He glared down at her wishing he could rip out her tongue and made her eat it, but wishing did not make it so. So instead he shoved her away, causing her to stumble away and him to fall heavily against the alley wall, his leg trembling under the weight of his body as he gripped the brick behind him his game face slipping on in agonized frustration.
“I can’t bite you! I can’t fucking bite anyone! The reason I look like death is because I’ve been in the real life equivalent of hell on earth! The commando shits-for-brains put something in my head and now I can’t fucking kill or maim anything! Okay!”
Both her eyebrows shot up at the screamed admission and she took a minute to let the news settle. “Have you tried?”
“Oh for!” He let out an infuriated snarl as he stared up at the lightening sky and cursed profusely.
With a roll of her eyes, she sighed. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Then she grabbed his arm again. “Come on, you big baby. You’re not the only vampire that’s fangless. Remember Angel?” He growled before leaning against her, unable to help himself from accepting this stupid little human’s help because staying alive was a higher priority than his life right now.
“Me. He was still fucking me! The damned sun seems appealing right now.” Cordelia marveled at her stupidity as she began the slow journey to the parking lot of the Bronze again, this time aiding one very deranged, hungry and wounded vampire sniffing her neck and she wondered what the hell she was thinking.
“Well I bet the Scooby gang would just love to hear about this and Buggy won’t be happy if she finds out I let her boyfriend turn to dust. You’re coming home with me until she comes to take you in the morning.”
“You mean stake me in the morning.”
“Whatever rocks your rocks, now shut up before I drop you here, you’re not exactly light.”
Silence. Calculated steps. Then. “I’m not fat Chase.”
“YOU BROUGHT HOME WHO?”
Cordelia winced holding the phone away from her ear as Angelus lay sprawled on the kitchen counter, the blinds on the windows were closed and in the florescent lights of her kitchen, the deathly still vampire looked very much like the walking corpse that he was. She sighed and decided a different tactic with the screaming on the phone. She’d seen the state of the vampire and decided to call the cavalry earlier. He didn’t look like he’d make it through the night.
“Giles, it took me almost two excruciating hours to drag him here. Believe me, stupid I am not. He really can’t seem to bite me and he really is in bad shape.” She watched Angelus try and take off the tattered remains of his shirt. “Besides, he’s three sheets to the wind with hunger and blood loss and keeps raving about this Initiative group.”
“IT’S ANGELUS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!”
“Are you going to keep shouting, Librarian man, because believing me I WILL hang up on you.” She raised an eyebrow when Angelus let out a very undignified squeak.
“ANGELUS!? OF ALL PEOPLE!”
And she hit disconnect on her cordless before staring at it nonchalantly. She counted to three softly in her head before the phone rang again. After four bells she picked up. “Chase residence, Cordelia Chase speaking.”
There was a throat being cleared on the other side. “What do you need?”
“You and some very large Band-Aids. Also something for him to eat, he hasn’t fed in a week, he says.” She grabbed the edge of Angelus’ shirt and pulled. The beaten, already slashed silk tore easily and Angelus let out a hiss of pain. She admonished him with a roll of her eyes before chucking the remains of his shirt into the trash.
“And he’s not even TRIED to bite you.”
The brunette rolled her eyes as she walked around the prone body of the groaning vampire. “Hello! Fangless vampire here! Were you NOT listening before?” Facing Angelus she met his pain laced eyes. “The pants will have to go too.”
“CORDELIA! He’s undressing!?!?!”
She let out another lamenting sigh. “Do you want me hang up again?”
“Lord! No. Don’t. I can’t get through to Buffy at the moment. Willow’s parents were in town; she’s with her.” Cordelia watching Angelus struggle with the leather pants and took pity on him.
Reaching out she deftly unbuckled his belt and nearly screamed when his hand caught her wrist. Shocked hazel eyes drifted up to his face and she frowned at him as he looked at her with gritted teeth and stormy obsidian eyes.
“What?” She mouthed while Giles talked.
A scarred eyebrow arched, his mouth twisting into a cocky half smile.
Her eyes widened as she jerked her hand out of his grasp, her cheeks flaming. Gives a whole new meaning to commando, this one; she concluded, her own eyes mapping the curves of his ass once before turning away.
Clearing her throat she stepped away from the deliriously smirking vampire and addressed Giles on the phone. “Yeah Giles. I’m here.”
“I’ll be there in an hour.”
“Good.” She hung up and turned to finally regard the bruised and battered dead man on her kitchen counter. “Okay. So what shall we do till then? How about a game of poker?”
He stared at her incredulously. “Sweetheart I suggest you fetch a pair of pliers and get these bullets out of me before I turn to dust on your nice clean kitchen floor.”
She let out a snort of breath. “That drunk I’m not.”
She’d gone from a penniless May Queen to vampire nurse in training.
“You’re pulling it!”
“Will you PLEASE just NOT talk?”
“You’re dislocating my solar plexus woman! Do you really expect me sit back quietly!”
“Do you KNOW how many bullets were in here?”
“ARGH! THAT was my liver you just poked!”
The seer sat back on his thighs, her weight making him wince as she sat atop him while the vampire lay on her kitchen table. Her hands were soaked in his blood. She had agreed to get the bullets out of his body to give it a chance to heal. Even though the sight of blood was making her squeamish, the heavy amount of liquor she’d been consuming since the call to Giles had steadied her nerves. It didn’t seem to work on the vampire though. Pointing the blood soaked tweezers into his face, she glared.
“Do you or do you NOT want me to do this for you?” Angelus’ entire body was humming with pain. The insane need to feed was making him delirious and the alcohol in his veins wasn’t helping.
Besides this little girl was stubborn and uncharacteristically brutal when she was tipsy. At first he’d thought it would be a good idea to get her to relax before she tried her hand at helping him, seeing as the watcher wouldn’t be there sooner. He couldn’t risk infection. The bullets had been there the entire day yesterday. Besides the lack of feeding wasn’t helping his healing.
“This is fucking unacceptable! Can you at least TRY not to rearrange my internal organs?”
“Do I look like your surgeon, Angelus?” She grabbed the blood stained bottle of whiskey she’d found in her father’s study and took a swig, nearly toppling off the kitchen counter. “Ooo, I’m a fairy princess.”
The vampire gritted his teeth before he grabbed the bottle away from her. “Think you’ve had enough Chase.”
Cordelia shook her head to clear the sudden haze before her eyes before she blinked at him. “The bullets are out. It’s not my fault your blood is abnormally thick. I couldn’t see anything.”
“Surprising considering where your hands landed…” He winced as he shifted on the flat marble top before draining the last few gulps of the whiskey.
“How was I supposed to know your spleen is supposed to be there? If I’d paid that much attention in Bio 101, I might have been Cordelia Chase Nerd Slayer instead!”
Angelus let his head fall back against the cold marble and sighed. “Fuck, just finish the bandaging.”
Cordelia huffed as she cleaned the excess blood from his wounds before taping him up with medical tape and securing his bandage.
“You’re just lucky we had a First Aid kit and you’re even luckier I knew were it was.” She watched his eyelids drop shut and frowned slightly.
“Are you dying?” There was a distinct growl in his chest, but it was too soft for her liking. “You can’t die you big lump of rotting brain! I didn’t half carry you here to let you turn to dust. Think of the cleaning bill and I’m broke!” Grabbing the languid sway of his jaw she shook him. “Hey! Wake up Fangless! You’re not dying on me! You hear that! Wake up now or I’ll paint your toes pink!”
Angelus dragged on eye open between the bright lights exploding behind his closed lids and the screaming voices in his head. He watched bright hazel eyes watching him with something that looked like concern, her fingers securing the bandage over his forehead.
She glared down at him, a dull fear settling in her belly, the alcohol in her system dampening her defenses as she panicked at the prospect of him actually dying. She *so* didn’t want his death on her hands. She knew she’d get the blame eventually. Cordelia realized she should have just left him there in the stupid alley instead! That way, she could have just gone on with her lack of life and left Sunnydale in the middle of the night like she originally planned.
“Listen to me Angelus, I’m covered in vampire goo! I ruined a perfectly nice Perry Ellis dress, if you make all that in vain I will come after you in hell, believe me, I’m that depressed to try!” The dilated pupils shifted and she realized at least he was partially coherent.
“I’m going to get you some painkillers, I don’t know if they will work, but hey; desperate times. Don’t go away.” His tongue slid out to wet his dry lips and she took that as a yes before sprinting out of the kitchen.
Her mother took the strongest pills in the world. If they could work on her migraines, they sure as hell would be able to hold of a vampire for a while until Giles came back. She was riffling through her mother’s drawers when the sound of barking startled her.
Then her eyes widened.
“Oh shit! SAMSON!” Screeching down the stairs, she hoped the dog had not made it into the kitchen. It would so not look good telling Giles her dog ate Angelus. “Samson, don’t!”
Angelus was propped up on the floor leaning against the cabinet under the sink while Cordelia sat on the stool, her head cradled on blood soaked arms, and that was how Giles found them.
Freezing in the archway of the brightly lit, white tiled kitchen Giles almost reeled. He was too late. “Cordelia?”
“I am still an Armani privilege member!” The brunette’s head snapped up, one finger pointed up amidst her fashion nightmare and the shock of falling back to earth. She blinked disoriented before meeting his gaze with lassitude. “Giles?”
He silently thanked god he hadn’t eaten breakfast, the sight of the kitchen would have made him lose it. Rushing to her side, Giles watched the vampire sitting there a few feet away; his head leaned back against the cabinet, his eyes closed. He swallowed thickly, trying to keep the bile down his throat. “What happened?”
“Angelus ate my dog.”
Moist hazel eyes looked up at Giles and the watcher took in the blood stained floor, the prone Doberman and the very still vampire before gathering Cordelia in his arms. Why couldn’t things be slightly normal for a change? Every time Giles looked at these kids, he realized how young they were. They deserved so much better. “Cordelia?”
“Where is your furniture?”
“Tip of the iceberg, Librarian man. There’s more.”
Cordelia sat on the flush watching Giles secure the last of the chains on the vampire as he was tied into the bathtub. “Is this a popular theme with you, Giles? The bathtub I mean?”
The watcher sighed. “There aren’t any other chairs or tables in the house Cordelia if you recall. Besides, this is the only room without windows considering you don’t have curtains.”
“Oh right. I’m broke. Kinda forget that every time.” Rupert Giles straightened before he looked down at the slumping brunette sitting on the closed toilet seat.
“What happened? Where are your parents?”
“Wallowing in Barbados from what I’m told. See that little bit of information I found out at six in the morning when those tax and debt collectors started playing with my doorbell.” She waved an indifferent hand, her mind a blur with images. “Woke up to accusations, threats and demands. Not the perfect way to start a day I tell you.”
Noticing the startling clarity in her hazel eyes despite the amount of alcohol this girl has consumed, Giles was filled with panic and concern. “They left you?”
“Pfft!” The brunet snorted bitterly. “No they’d left long before. They just never came back.”
The older man allowed himself a moment of fury at the prospect of her parents sitting under beach umbrella while their teenage daughter was dragged into the gutter, but the girl had been through enough tonight.
“Cordelia, why don’t you take a shower? And then maybe I’ll see if I can find something for you to eat. It’ll give us something to do until Angelus wakes up.” A yawn caught Cordelia off guard before she frowned, as she regarded the dead man in their guest bedroom bathtub.
He lay there, like a marble stature, lifeless and not breathing. But already she could tell the wounds were healing at the expense of her very expensive Doberman. In Angelus’ drunken stupor and between his growling at her medical skills he’d managed to piece together his entire experience with this Initiative group. The starvation, the torture, and the experiments. She felt a certain amount of incredulity that she could feel sympathy for this monster. But then sympathy was all she had left.
“Who are these people Giles? I’m not in the slayer’s loop, not that I ever wanted to be, but he was supposed to be the strongest; master vampire and blah blah; right?” She blinked up at the watcher. “Just makes me wonder, if they can do this to Angelus; I hope they’re on our side.”
“So do I Cordelia.” Putting a gentle hand on her shoulder, he tried a reassuring smile. “You should get cleaned up.”
She ran her gaze once over the sleeping vampire before standing and stretching. “Vamp-sitting shift is officially changing.” She offered him a rather wobbly smile. “I better take that shower, before the water goes.”
She was almost out of the room when Giles called out, “Cordelia?”
Looking over her shoulder she met curious brown eyes behind the glistening spectacles.
“Why did you save him?”
And she’d been asking herself that exact same question all night. “I don’t know. Seemed like the only option at the time.” She frowned slightly, more to herself. “Weird, huh?”
The watched looked back at the silent vampire as Cordelia left. “Most definitely.” From previous experience, he knew Cordelia Chase was never the kind of girl who put her life on the line for a lot of people.
In one night, she’d managed to rescue a crazed vampire, drag him to cover before dawn, administered first aid and managed to keep herself alive in the process. This wasn’t the girl he’d seen walk out of her last Scooby meeting. What had changed between then and now?
Rupert Giles liked answers and so far, he was only accumulating questions. Picking up a bag of blood he’d purchased on his way over, he held the vampire’s chin and poured it down his throat.
It was almost afternoon when Cordelia finally made it downstairs into the study. She felt stronger and more in control; the pep talk she’d given herself in the shower still echoing in her head. She didn’t need anyone. She was Cordelia Chase.
From the suitcase she’d packed of the belongs she could call her own, Cordelia had picked out her white tennis shorts and a soft gray t-shirt and brushed her damp hair straight and away from her face. What she wouldn’t do for a hairdryer right now. She blinked at Giles sitting on the white bathroom floor, his head against the wall as he snored.
Hiding a smile she perched back on the toilet seat and noticed the four empty bags of blood. So now he was also fed. Suddenly they’d gone from fighting these creeplings to nursing them; all because she’d managed to get one home. Now that she was cleaned and slightly sober, she wondered what the hell had she been thinking.
But then there was something about the desolate loss in his gold rimmed eyes that had matched her own. Like losing your life. Or worse. Your religion.
“Have a nice bath?”
She nodded as Giles’ weary question before asking hers. “You called the slayer?”
“I left her a message on her voicemail I believe.”
“Call her back.”
The watcher blinked. “Pardon?”
She turned to him with icy hazel eyes. “Call her back Giles and tell her not to come here. I don’t want her to see me this way. None of them.”
She raised her hand before looking away. “Pity, I don’t want. I had this planned. I was supposed to be on a bus to LA as we speak, on my way to an acting career and new life of fame and fortune. He was never a part of it, but I bet God is laughing his ass off now at the joke that is my life. Well God has another thing coming.” She looked back with resolve etched across her beautiful face.
“No catastrophic life altering plan is keeping me here Giles and no one follows me. That was the plan. I go without notice and never look back. Well, maybe to brag once in a while to people that shall remain unnamed for trying to break Cordelia Chase. Besides that,” she stood purposefully, “I’m gone.” There was the reference again.
His eyes narrowed behind his glasses. Something had happened. Something he was not aware of. “Where will you go?”
She shrugged. “There’s bound to be an acting agent out there looking for a beautiful fresh face.”
“How will you find one?”
“They have yellow pages; don’t they?”
The man sighed before standing. “Cordelia, there are reasons for everything that happens in your life.”
The brunette looked up with a frown. “Oh please don’t.” She held up a hand and rolled her eyes. “Don’t lecture me. I’ve done it alone all this time Librarian-man; believe me I can do this.”
“You didn’t catch that bus for a reason.”
“One who calls himself Angelus; yeah. I know. I was there,” she shot back the acidic retort before letting out an exasperated breath. “Look, just call the slayer.”
“Whatever!” She snapped, her anger getting the best of her as she glared at him. “Call her and tell her not to come just yet. I’ll be packed and out of here in an hour. Then you can go save the world or whatever.” When soft compelling hands caught her shoulders, it was almost hell not to wrench away or throw herself into his arms, but he was one of them. They’d only laugh. He hadn’t; but it was a matter of time. “Let me go Giles.”
“Cordelia.” She finally met his eyes, only to blink at the understanding in the place of the pity she was expecting. “I’ll call her back, but only to tell her to meet us at my house. You cannot just get up and go to LA like that and alone no less.”
“Yes I can.”
“Cordelia be reasonable.”
Crossing her arms she stood there, with the stubborn line of her body and her eyes not meeting his. “Sorry, but sense and reason left when I lost my life Giles. Now all I have is me.”
“You aren’t alone.”
“Yes I am.” Giles resisted the urge to reach out and physically shake the woman out of her mulish state.
If she was worried about breaking, shutting herself away wasn’t going to help. And the lack of emotional response on the woman worried him more than her need to distance herself from her previous life.
“No you aren’t!” When her brow and spine stiffened at his sharp rebuttal he softened his tone. “Come home with me. I have a friend in LA. He has contacts. Let me at the least help you settle down and give you a few names. You can’t just pack up and take a bus to a new life Cordelia; these things take time.”
“IT is NOT charity!” He held her firmly, without letting her avert her gaze. “You are my student. You have been someone who I care for as much as I care for all my other students. I will not let you put yourself in harms way and I will, at the same time, not be in your way. Just take a little time and let’s plan this properly.”
Every notion and defense she’d made in her head seemed to crumble slowly and steadily as the man held her in place. She’d convinced herself that she could make it. She’d do it on her own. She’d find a way. She was Cordelia Chase. Now here he was standing there telling her she wasn’t alone and she was supposed to just shut up and take it like a good little girl.
Why did they always seem to dictate life to everything in Sunnydale? Slutty Buffy, cheating Xander and opportunist little Willow! Now they had the watcher telling her what to do.
“I’m not telling anyone I’m penniless Giles. I’ve had enough traumas to last me a lifetime.” The line of her shoulder was still distrustful.
“I won’t say a word.” Stepping away he gave enough personal space to reassure herself that he wasn’t pushing her into any decision, but he just couldn’t bare the thought of letting the young woman lose herself in the dirty little alleyways of LA.
She might not have been the greatest Scooby, but she was a part of them for a while and she was as innocent as the rest. “We’ll tell them your parents sold the estate to buy a place in LA and when you have an agent, a place to go and a job to support you; you can leave and no one has to know.”
No. The word whispered through the young woman’s head until she grit her teeth and averted her gaze. Looking at he helpless vampire, who couldn’t feed himself anymore. The fangless, defenseless creature needed them and by some sick twist of fate, she was still here in Sunnyhell between people who took her life from her to begin with. Looking up she regarded the silent man for a moment before letting out a sigh and rolling her eyes.
“Fine. I’ll shack over at your place until I’ve caught my bearing.” At the visible relief on his face she pointed her finger at him. “Remember this is temporary Giles. You aren’t keeping me. And I’m only saying that so you can’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m very likable. Don’t get attached.”
He smiled. “I shall practice restraint.” Just because she accepted help didn’t mean she trusted him or anyone else. If she was offered free room and board until she had her path clear, who was she to argue?
At least that’s what she told herself.
It had been a slow progression from her house to the car with one wrapped dead body between two people, one of which was still worried about her nails.
And from across the hood of Giles car Cordelia had let her eyes run over the white pillars of the house she’d been born into, the safe walls that kept the monsters out, the garden she’s played in as a child and the driveway where she’d backed up her mother’s Jag into a tree when she was eleven. The memories, the moments and the security hadn’t been wrenched away until that moment when she stood outside the huge wrought iron gates that were closed to her forever. Along with the sanctity of calling some place her home.
And even in the old man’s company, Cordelia felt like she was the loneliest person alive. Or dead.
Now she stood there while Giles dragged the wrapped vampire across the living room and into the bathroom as she placed her suitcase at the foot of his stairs and surveyed the little den with listless interest. Couch. TV. Books. That was all there was to Giles’s most lived-in room.
He walked up to her dusting his hands and wincing at the pulled muscle in his back. “I’m too old for this.” His smile was accommodating and Cordelia tried not to think it was ‘too’ accommodating. He had invited her into his home. She couldn’t trust him, but she didn’t have to hate him. “Would you like something to eat?” When a yawn caught her by surprise he smiled. “Or you could catch up on some sleep.”
Flopping into the couch the girl took a deep breath. “Mind if I hog your couch?”
He shook his head before pulling off his coat. “Mi casa es su casa.” He hung it up in the hall closet. “I’ll put on some tea and rest for a bit. You sure you’ll be alright on the sofa?”
But the girl was already sprawled across its length her head on her folded arms and her mouth open as she lay there. Asleep.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Giles went over books and rug, tripping and nearly dropping his mug of tea as he pulled the door open to greet a huffing slayer, a stake in her hand, as she ran past him into the house. “Where is he? Where is the vampire?”
Giles frowned. “Do come in Buffy.”
The blonde turned and blinked at the sardonic twinkle in her watcher’s eye before dropping her fighting stance and clearing her throat. “You’re calm. He’s not bitey.” She gave him a forced, bright smile. “I didn’t panic.”
He couldn’t help smile at the bright smile on his slayer’s face. “He’s quite tied down Buffy, and weather-beaten to be exact. Hardly any threat; as I already recall telling you over the phone.”
Pulling her bag off her shoulder she tucked the stake away, as he closed the door behind her before leading her into the den. “I can’t believe Cordelia found him. What was she doing with him anyway?”
“I doubt she was doing anything, Buffy. She sort of stumbled across him.”
When she didn’t answer he looked over his shoulder to see green eyes trained on the slumbering brunette on his couch. “What’s she doing here?”
Pulling his glasses off, he took a deep breath to tell the first lie he would speak to his slayer. “She’s staying with me for a couple of weeks. Her family is moving.”
Buffy Summers regarded the sleeping girl on the couch then frowned up at Giles incredulously. “With you? Why!”
An eyebrow shot up. “Like the constant pain in your backside; don’t you Giles?”
“Buffy,” his tone was admonishing as he looked at the beautiful blonde gazing at the girl with confused curiosity, “her parents asked me. It seemed she told them a lot of the times that she was doing research for me, helping me out and they assumed I was a good choice. They have no immediate family in Sunnydale and I was only happy to help. Besides, we have more pressing matters?” He nodded towards the open bathroom door.
“Right. Evil bad guy takes priority over bitchy May-queen. You know she’s been really mean to us this past week. More than usual which is not saying a lot, but still.” Striding across the living room she peered into the bathroom and stared.
“Angel!” She jumped back her green eyes wide with shock. “You didn’t tell me it was Angel!” She glared at the older man with accusation etched across her pretty face. Ducking her head back into the bathroom she stared at the prone figure of her boyfriend as she bent down to touch his forehead.
“That’s Angelus, Buffy.” Instantly, she jerked her hand away nearly jumping back. Giles sighed before stepping inside. “I decided it would be better to have you panic here rather than at Willow’s house.”
Gathering her screaming pulse and the insane need to stake the Scourge of Europe before she got answers out of her watcher, she turned and glared at him. “Cordelia was out gallivanting around town with Angelus?”
“Buffy, she found him. And after establishing the vampire really wasn’t unable to bite and almost dying, I think it was excellent judgment that she called me. Whoever did this to him is a force to be reckoned with.”
“He got out?”
Giles looked down at her. “From hell?” The pain chased guilt across her features and he shared it. “Apparently.” Squatting down beside the tub, Giles turned the vampire’s head to point to the now healing wound on his forehead. “I got a chance to examine him before the wounds closed. It seems that whatever is keeping from being able to bite is physically present inside his head. He had seemed to try and pull it out of his flesh, but failed.”
Buffy winced. “You’re telling me he did that to himself?”
“Possibly. I wasn’t able to ascertain what it is that is hindering his feeding, but from what I can tell, it seems to be some sort of electrical device.”
“And this Initiative group is out putting dog tags on vampires for what? A tally? I’m not complaining then.”
“We can’t be sure Buffy.” Sitting back on his heels he took a deep breath. “But it would make me feel better if we had the answers to this one. Angelus isn’t an easy target.”
Biting her lip, Buffy watched the angelic face of her boyfriend as still as the day she sent him to hell. Telling herself he wasn’t the same man. Wasn’t the man she loved. Wasn’t the man who loved her. Just a demon who threatened her family and other innocents and she’d made a choice.
The welling emotion in her belly brought fresh memories to front and she had finally been able to regain some emotional control on her life. She never got a break. “Where did she find him?”
“In the alley behind the Bronze.”
She frowned. “Maybe he was looking for me. Are you sure this isn’t Angel?” She looked up with more hope in her voice than she would have liked.
Giles didn’t miss the softness in those eyes and wondered if Cordelia had indeed read the vampire wrong. But the vision of Cordelia’s bloodied kitchen and the brutally mangled dog didn’t leave much doubt in his mind. “Yes.”
She sighed. “Alright, I’ll call the others and we’ll get to some answers.” She wanted to reach out and touch the healing flesh on his forehead, but it wasn’t Angelus she wanted to soothe. Rising to her feet she rubbed her temples. “We should wake Cordelia.”
“Let her sleep until the others arrive.”
“You’re all parental suddenly.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh come on Giles! This is Cordelia.”
“Yes I am aware of that. Cordelia is…”
“Awake.” Both pairs of eyes spun around to land on the groggy girl shuffling into the bathroom. “Can you not talk about me as if I’m not in the next room?”
Giles cleared his throat after a moment of heavy silence. “Sorry about waking you. Buffy, why don’t you call up the rest while I try and bring round Angelus; it seems he’s the only one who might have some answers.”
The slayer eyed the brunette suspiciously once before leaving the bathroom to call the cavalry and to tell Xander to be prepared to face the wrath of one Cordelia Chase.
Cordelia stifled a yawn as she stretched, fists lifting high above her head in cat like grace. She blinked as Giles stood above the tied corpse deep in thought. “Planning the Spanish Inquisition?”
“Thinking on a course of action.”
The brunette rolled her eyes as she stepped past him. “You know your problem, old man?” She leaned over Angelus. “You think too much.”
Before Giles could protest she’d turned the shower on at full icy blast and the vampire jerked, sputtering and cursing worse than an angry sailor.
She smirked smugly at the struggling vampire while he found his bearing before his eyes snapped up to hers with precision. “Presto.”
“Stupido!” Angelus snarled as he glared up at the feisty woman towering over him, her fists stuck on her hips haughtily. Coughing up water, he watched her with gold-rimmed eyes. “When I get my bite back, Hazel, You’re the first one I’m coming after.”
Cordelia grinned at the indisposed man-eater and winked. “Promises, promises.” Turning on her heel, she let out a wicked chuckle. “Hey Giles? You got any ice-cream around the house?”
Caught between hilarity and shock, the watcher blinked out of his stupor and stared down at the glaring vampire. What just transpired here? It would certainly take a while before he got used to having her around. He made a mental note to buy ice cream.
Clearing his throat, Giles met flashing ochre eyes. “Yes?”
“Turn the fucking water off; will you?”
“For the love of Hades Chase, did you have to try and drown me!”
“You were getting more sleep than me. I was overcome with jealousy.”
“Overcome my ass! If I wasn’t –“
“What? Such a pathetic excuse for a vampire? Fangless? Biteless? Impotent?”
“I am NOT fucking impotent!”
“Good. Your next victim; Angelus? Maybe you can lick them to death.”
Giles took a deep controlled breath as he raised his eyes to Buffy’s. The blond girl was still sitting there in shock as insults were hurled from one corner of the living room to the other where Angelus sat sprawled languidly in a chair his hands cuffed in his lap while they watched silently and waited for the others.
Irate beyond belief, Angelus finally looked at the watcher. “You know, I prefer the company of those commandos, even you tweed-boy. HELL was more fun than having a two word conference with that HARPY!”
Giles swallowed and prayed for patience as he opened his mouth to speak. And that is how Willow and Xander found them when they entered the little house.
“Two words are all you can manage vampire eunuch.”
“I rest my case.”
Two pairs of furious eyes swiveled to the usually calm man who was now spitting with fury. “Mouths shall remain closed and ears shall be open! My fault I asked a simple question.” He glared at Cordelia. “You rescued him, nursed him and kept him alive; your decision. Live with it.” His eyes snapped to the smirking vampire. “And you! If it hadn’t been for her, you’d still be having luncheon with the devil and I believe you said love wasn’t what you felt at the time.” Taking a deep breath he fixed his glasses more firmly on his nose. “Neither of you are allowed to speak to each other. All your conversations will be directed to me. Is that clear?”
The living room was silent.
“Good,” Giles nodded and looked up at the two very shocked Scoobies standing at his door. “Willow, Xander – thank you for coming. Please have a seat.” Turning to the sulking vampire tied up in the chair he took a deep breath. “Angelus, now tell us what happened after you returned from hell.”
A petulant finger stuck up.
The watcher raised an amused eyebrow. “Besides that?”
Amber eyes narrowed in contempt. “Would you like a play-by-play of what hell was like kid?”
Cordelia didn’t once raise her eyes to register the two new presences in the room as she stood leaning against the table a few feet away from Angelus and pretended to look over the titles of the old musty books. She had to clamp down the urge to attack the guilty looking young man now occupying the seat between the slayer and the witch on the couch. A lovely threesome they made, she concluded.
Giles would have felt chastised if it weren’t a 200-year-old vampire called Angelus he was speaking to. “Just how you got back and this Initiative group found you would suffice.”
The vampire feigned a yawn. Wouldn’t they like to know, he grumbled to himself. So the next time they decided to send him back, they’d know who to bribe. “How I got back is unimportant.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.”
“Fraid not little boy.” Angelus leered at the presumptuous man. “You should worry about those commando wannabe’s. Personally? I hope they kill you all and every other demon they catch. More room for me.”
“Then they’d come after you, you idiot.” Buffy rolled her eyes as she leaned back to settle against Xander’s outstretched arm. Having her friends close by almost made up for having to stare into the face of her soulless ex-lover. She’d made a choice. And she’d make it again if it meant ridding her friends and innocents of the Scourge of Europe. Now all she had to do was keep reminding herself.
“I’d be off to Europe Slayer. Kind of hoping to meet old friends. So if you’d just let me go…”
“They almost killed you once,” Giles pointed out. “What makes you think they won’t do it again?”
Technicalities. Technicalities. Didn’t these people like things simple anymore “I got away.” He snorted smugly.
“Pfft! Yeah!” Cordelia finally scoffed as she crossed her arms. “Coz of me. Duh!”
Angelus fixed her with a lecherous smile. “You’re right Chase. You should have left me in that alley.”
“How’d they catch you in the first place, Angelus?”
The vampire turned to the watcher’s curious question with a grin. “Mid-feed if it really matters. But I’d had my fill.” His eyes found the disconcerted slayer. “They’re doing your job for you, Buffy? What’s the matter? Still can’t walk?”
The young slayer bristled slightly at the callous reference and averted her gaze. She wished Giles had warned her about his return. She would have been better prepared.
“I got dragged to a facility; kicking and screaming I might add. Shabby by human standards if you ask me.”
“We didn’t.” Xander pointed out sourly he watched the rigid line of his best friend next to him. Slayer or no slayer, she deserved so much better.
Xander Harris looked up started at the sharp retort from the brunette; her hazel eyes a dull brown as she regarded him with deathly stoicism. The chill in every contour of her usually warm bronzed body took any further comments from him.
Angelus didn’t miss the animosity in the room as he grinned up at Cordelia. “Careful Chase, you sound like you’re on my side.”
“No. Just the opposite of his.” She turned her gaze away as if she’d never even looked elsewhere.
Every nerve in her body taut. This had to happen. She would have had to face him. And she wasn’t a coward. Now or later made very little difference in her life. Besides, her life couldn’t get worse. “So what happened after they interrupted dinner?”
“Lunch actually. When hell spit me out, I landed in the middle of a seedy warehouse. Typical. Next time you send me to hell, Buffy, make sure to book a good travel agent in my package.”
“And your lunch probably dropped on you, right?” Buffy shot back with brewing anger.
Giles took a deep breath. The tension in the air was starting to border on palpable.
“No, I work for my food, Slayer.” Angelus couldn’t help take another jibe. “My effort paid off on you, didn’t it?”
“They knew you were going to be there,” Willow mused out loud, the wheels in her head finally turning as the story was spun on so eloquently around them.
The handsome face donned an exaggeratedly shocked mask. “There is more under that skin than a flat chest.”
“That would mean they’ve got a link to hell?” Willow bit her lip as she met Giles’ eyes, antsy. They’d barely just gotten over the whole Mayor’s ascension business. And then there was the kiss. Embarrassed pink tinged her cheeks before she leaned away from the warmth of Xander’s arm guiltily.
“The admin up there, I gotta tell ya – not so current with firewalls.”
This time he caught the witch’s attention. “You’re informed with technology?”
“I keep with the times Witch. And in 200 years, I’ve seen enough come and go. Hey,” he snorted, “look at disco.”
Buffy took a deep breath. “An army that works for hell and hunts demons?”
“And who remembers Chubby Checkers in the grand scheme of things?”
Cordelia couldn’t hold the slight tilt of her mouth as she watched the smirk on his face. “Or plaid.”
Giles sighed as he rubbed his temples. “Angelus, back to topic if you can? What happened after?”
The vampire with the face of an Angel took on a thoughtful grimace. “Hmmm, there was the episode of X-files when Scully was abducted by aliens. Lets see…” amber eyes flashed with seedy masochism, “besides being impregnated with alien spawn, I’d say – everything.” He finished with flair and a smirk. Waiting for the uneasy silence to follow.
The occupants of the room fidgeted with disquiet. All except one.
Cordelia Chase wrinkled her nose as she regarded the smug vampire. “Eyow. Especially what you said about the needles.” She shuddered, rubbing the rising gooseflesh on her arms. Already been subjected to the slurred and rather detailed descriptions previously, she could more than imagine how he’d felt.
Noticing the look of sympathy on the young girl, he decided to remove any misconceptions she might have. But somehow, Angelus had a feeling this one, had none.
“Yeah that was rather fun. I really should have thanked them. Then again, I could do with thanking Buffy. After all, she did start this.” He fixed his wicked eyes on the slayer. “Comere and let me thank you properly, Buffy.”
But Buffy was watching Cordelia. “How’d you know…?”
The brunette rolled her eyes. “He yammers a storm when he’s drunk.”
“You got him drunk!”
“And she undressed me.”
Hazel eyes whirled around to settle on the snickering vampire, a smile threatening her lips. Did he just imply? She should have pummeled the man, but the look on the face of the Scoobies had her rooted to her spot next to the table. Let them wonder. She owed them no explanations.
“Oh dear,” Willow cleared her throat as her friend’s fists tightened beside her.
Angelus delighted in the quiet thunderous glint in Buffy’s eyes, as his mouth twisted up in a lustful smirk. “Right before she had her hand up my…”
“And then what happened?” Giles interrupted, hoping to steer the conversation back towards the topic at hand. He could gauge that Cordelia’s hostility was directed towards Xander more than the others, and Angelus wasn’t helping matters.
“When? Before or after she was straddling me, Giles?”
Buffy was about to rise before Giles fixed a glare at the vampire and Xander placed a comforting hand on the slayer’s arm. “I meant with the Initiative Angelus.”
Cordelia sent one scathing glare towards the boy. Always concerned about his slayer. How could she have missed it before? A twinge of conscience pricked at her. Was it just ego that made her wish Xander Harris had taken a walk off the cliff rather than cheat on her? Had she really felt so much for the boy? She took in his baggy pants and the Hawaiian print shirt. With his fashion sense? Yeah. It had to be more than like and she wasn’t going to forgive him. Not when it still stung.
“As much as I enjoy a good bout of torture and pain Giles, it got old fast without the sex, so I bailed.”
“So what did you do to let them let you leave? Offer free sex?”
At that quip from Xander, Angelus figured he’d tell them the truth after all. “They had little choice in my offer, Xapper.” He smirked. “I do so love a good chase. Gets the heat going you know.”
“How did you escape?”
Angelus shrugged at the watcher’s question. “I seduced my torturer. What else?”
“Before or after you killer her?” Buffy retorted with venom.
Angelus turned his head to fix her with an apathetic eyebrow. “Who said it was a her?”
“Oh dear,” Willow took an audible swallow as they others fell silent, looking away to wipe the inappropriate pictures suddenly swirling in her head. Bad willow. Remember! Gay willow!
Giles had hoped Angelus wouldn’t be quite as descriptive but the vampire had always delighted in others discomfort. He sighed. “You obviously escaped by night. Think you can find your way back?”
“When I build up my strength and hunger for fresh meat, yeah; I probably will.”
“In other words you don’t remember.”
“You ever tried walking blind, Slayer?”
“Too old for vampire vision Angelus?”
He raised a mocking eyebrow. “With my eyes closed?”
“Don’t tell me.” Xander chuckled. “You were scared of the dark.”
Flashing gold-rimmed eyes trained on the cocky young man before narrowing with hatred. “Even vampire healing takes a while with your eyes sewn shut.”
The boy swallowed visibly.
Buffy frowned. “Why?”
“So he can’t see in the dark.” Willow provided meekly.
“Bright girl!” Angelus couldn’t help smirk.
Giles adjusted the glasses on his nose before taking a deep breath. “Disturbing. This sort of testing doesn’t imply demon eradication, it rather leans towards research.”
“So they’re not good-guys after all.” Cordelia pointed to her face. “This is my not so surprised face.”
“And that’s when I realized I couldn’t bite,” Angelus continued lamenting, shaking his head for good measure. For an insane moment he felt like throwing his head back and laughing. But he figured they’d take him a lot less seriously. “Lucky for me the bastard that used to bring me free drinks screamed in pleasure before he screamed in pain,” he pointed out nonchalantly.
Xander swallowed the bile in his throat. “I need a drink.” He took a peek at the cheerleader, who was still standing aloof from the crowd and a little to close to the vampire before he walked into the kitchen. Before this day was out, he’d find a way to talk to the girl. He owed her an explanation.
“So you slept your way out of there?” Buffy rolled her eyes, her anger finally simmering low. She wondered if she should feel guilt for the pain he’d gone through, but he did look like he’d gotten off on it. After all, he was all-vampire now.
“You’d think that wouldn’t you Buffy?” Angelus snickered. “I took the uniform off the body, remember? I made good use for it. It almost made up for the brain splitting pain; until they caught me at the fence,” he grumbled. “Then I ran like hell.”
“This does not bode well,” Giles added, the apprehension over this new problem building slowly under his skin. But problems always did come without regard for time.
“No shit. They still have my leather jacket,” Angelus grumbled low under his breath.
Angelus looked up at the appreciative inquiry and grinned at Cordelia. “Hundred percent.”
“They deserve death.” Her hazel eyes twinkled with humor.
Buffy stole one glance towards the two before looking away with a frown. “This is just great. As if we don’t already have enough problems. Now hell’s employing its own human army equipped with state of the art technology. Is it just me or did we step into a bad episode of Dark Angel?”
“They made a show about me and didn’t tell me?”
“Dark Angel’s a girl stuck in a post-pulse America with feline DNA and trust issues,” Willow quipped helpfully with a weak smile.
Not so good with the whole correcting the vampire. Oh where was her mind? And still Cordelia couldn’t believe the winsome little witch had stolen her boy. Because calling Xander a man would just make Cordelia throw up in whole new ways. Instinctively, her hand went to the still tender flesh were the rebar had impaled her. Forgiving easy was never one of her virtues.
“She, however, is flanked by loyal friends.” Cordelia retorted at the redhead’s willingness to provide information even if no one was talking to her. The room fell silent for a moment and even the vampire looked up at her with amusement. She took a deep breath, her hand falling away from the ghostly scar on her stomach, before walking past Angelus to grab her jacket. “I’m going for a walk; don’t wait up on my account.”
Xander stood in the doorway to the kitchen, his eyes following her exit. He waited to draw a strengthening breath before followed.
Giles pulled off his glasses to frown at the antsy looking young women on his couch when the door slammed shut. “Usually I’m not one to interfere, but will someone tell me what’s going on between you and Cordelia?”
Willow winced at the question, green eyes flickering with anxiety. “She…er…caught us in a moment.”
“Xander and I.” Giles raised a surprise eyebrow when Willow whispered almost too softly for anyone to hear. Hoping to clear her position on the matter she looked up with guilt ridden green eyes. “We thought the world was coming to an end!”
“Good lord! When is it not?” The watched leaned back in his seat; slightly caught off guard by the current development.
He could imagine it wasn’t good news for the brunette who’d lost her family, home and friends all in the same few weeks. No wonder she was filled with such sad bitterness. He wished he could tell the other just how much it must have affected Cordelia after her parents abandoning her, but for that he would have to break his promise. And Giles had a sneaking suspicion he was the only one Cordelia believed to be on her side.
“Tsk. Tsk. Not exactly exemplary humans you so called saviors of the Hellmouth are you?”
Buffy’s fiery green eyes riveted to the smug vampire. “You’re making with the judgy very conveniently, Angelus former Scourge of Europe.”
“Bite me Slayer,” his lips widened into a smirk. “Oh wait. You already did, didn’t you lover?”
“Buffy,” Giles’ warning was ignored. The young girl let out an outraged growl before she was on her feet, her fist meeting the vampire’s jaw as the previous cut in his lip split open again and his eyes tinged with gold.
Licking the blood on his bottom lip he looked up with the ridges rippling under his skin. “I love a good romp.” Angelus reared up on his feet, his teeth bared before he realized his mistake and the blinding pain threw him back into the chair as he let out a howl of excruciating pain.
Buffy stopped struggling in Giles’ grip as she watched the writhing vampire fall cursing and heaving onto the floor on his hands and knees. The agony on his handsome features even took her breath away as Willow stood beside them a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide with shock.
“Geez, what the hell is wrong with him?” Buffy stared down at him.
Angelus panted, his vision blurring as the singing nerves finally dulled into a throbbing ache in his temples. The strength in his limbs nearly taxed to their limit as he slowly lifted bound hands to press into the bandage on his forehead, his eyes misty with the seizure. And now he remembered how much he hated Buffy Summers. The stupid bitch was standing over him, cradled in her pathetic watcher’s arms and looking down at him with frightened pity in her eyes.
The two-century-old vampire wished he were back in hell.
Giles answered his slayer’s previous question. “I have a vague idea. But I can’t be sure until we get an X-Ray. I believe the electrical device I noticed before is tapped into his synaptic nerves. How it’s specific to humans, I’m not sure.”
“I want this thing out of me!” The vampire snarled as he trembled on the floor.
Buffy held any biting retorts to herself as she saw him try to rise and sit back down into the chair, weaker than he had been a few moments before. She looked up into Giles’ worried face. “What are we going to do?”
The watcher let his eyes run over the vampire as he sat there with his head in his hands, his entire body shuddering still. “We’ll keep him here until we can be sure.”
“Next you’ll tell me I have a fucking curfew li’l man.”
“Yes.” Giles met the vampire’s eyes evenly. “One that spans 24 hours I’m afraid. I suggest you get comfortable.”
A defiant chin lifted as he held out his bound wrists with apathetic humor. “You can start with the cuffs and I prefer my blood 98.8. O+ if possible. And is it okay if I call 1-800-noblondes from you study? I like a little privacy.”
For a moment Giles marveled at the vampire’s ability to smirk while his eyes still blurred with pain. Then he remembered it was Angelus they were talking to.
Buffy gritted her teeth before grabbing her coat. “I’m going to…kill something.”
“I’ll come with you,” Willow hurriedly grabbed her bag. Over her shoulder she gave Giles a worried glance. “I’ll get my laptop and see you back here tomorrow after school?”
The watcher nodded. “Good idea.”
Angelus slumped in his chair. “Oh fine. I’ll let you watch. Nothing to get your panties in a knot… Guys?” The living room emptied as he rolled his eyes. “Oh come on! Where’s your sense of gratitude?”
“Cordy!” Xander had to run to keep up with the briskly walking brunette. “Cordy wait!” Panting, he caught up the cheerleader as she walked down the sidewalk, her eyes held straight in front of her. “Wait, please I want to talk.”
“So talk,” she threw over her shoulder as she turned the corner. “It’s a free country. Likewise. I don’t have to listen.”
“Cordy, please. Will you just stop for a minute?”
“It’s not what you think!”
“Does it look like I care?” The girl didn’t stop. She didn’t look up or even slow her pace. The knot in her gut tightened with every venomous word she threw back at him. She’d hoped that cutting him down would make her feet better, but now she just wanted him to leave her alone. To herself.
“Cordy, I care about you.”
“Funny, I don’t believe you.”
“Will you just listen?”
“Cordelia,” unwittingly Xander reached out and grasped her elbow and she spun around, eyes flashing with cold fire as she wrenched herself free. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m not,” she took a step back from him, and held her ground, her hazel eyes fixed on his without flinching.
The boy swallowed. “I never meant to hurt you.”
“Losers usually miss their targets. I can’t even blame you.”
He took a deep breath. “We were gonna die.”
“You didn’t.” Arms crossed across her chest in a clearly defensive manner. “Luck comes with being a coward, doesn’t it?”
Xander Harris watched the rigid line of her body as she stood there apparently listening but all the doors of her mind were closed and he tried not to frown at her. It had just been a kiss. Albeit an unjustified one, but she was reacting like he’d slept with Willow.
“Cordelia, it was just two very brief kisses. Intense situations sometimes make you do things you wouldn’t otherwise. And we do live intense lives.”
“No. It makes you smooch witchy bitches. Me? I wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole.”
He tried not to glare. “Leave her out of this, Cordy.”
“Why? Because from where I was standing, she was there too,” she snapped and resisted the impulse to punch him in the nose. Still defending his friends; she couldn’t help the fury that built in her belly. At least he was making it clear she wasn’t one of them.
“It was a mistake alright? I’m sorry!”
He took a deep calming breath. “Aren’t you being a tad unreasonable?”
She took a step forward and for a minute he thought she was going to hit him, but instead the brunette narrowed her eyes as she looked him squarely in the face.
“Not yet. Promise to leave you a post-it when I am. For the time being Harris, just remember: once bitten.” And she left him there on the curb, the soles off her shoes crunching gravel as she walked away.
“Forever shy,” Xander finished with a sigh as he watched her fade away into the setting sun.
Willow closed the door behind her as they stepped into the early autumn evening. The wind hadn’t chilled, but the sun had lot its intensity. The leaves were beginning to golden in the sunset.
She watched her friend standing on the front steps of Giles’ house, a thoughtfully lost look in her green eyes. Willow knew no matter how many times Buffy told herself the vampire inside wasn’t her boyfriend anymore, the man she’d loved, and still loved; Angelus would always prove her otherwise. “You okay, Buffy?”
The blonde met her friend’s eyes without stirring out of her thoughts. “For a moment I hoped it was him.”
“But it couldn’t be Buffy. Angel would never…”
“Couldn’t it?” Buffy Summers lifted her gaze back to the slowly burning streetlamps as the came on in the fading light. “If Angel was the one in there, do you think he’d be less bitter I sent him to hell?”
“You did what you had to do. Angel always supported your decisions.”
The young girl smiled ironically. “Now I’m not as sure, Willow. Once maybe.”
Willow Rosenberg wrapped her arm around her friend’s shoulder and looked up with a weighted sigh before she caught another figure walking up to them. Eyes watching the tips of his shoes. Xander looked up with a deep breath. “She didn’t give me a chance.”
Buffy gave a short bark of sad laughter. “They never do.”
Willow watched the boy stand there with his hands shoved in his pocket and realized sometimes apologies weren’t enough.
Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay
There’s always some reason
To feel not good enough
And its hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
Oh beautiful release
Memories seep through my veins
Let me be empty
Oh and weightless and maybe I’ll find some peace tonight
The hues in the sky were such a perfect blend. The girl sitting on the back porch took another swallow of her lemonade. Looking down at the bottle, she sighed. The last two dollars to her name. The seven-eleven guy would have laughed. What’s a girl to do?
Cordy looked up at the fast emerging stars and sighed. For someone who hasn’t worked a day in her life, a job sounded like a death sentence. But she’d become comfortably numb. Even the tears wouldn’t come. Between moments of positive thinking there were gut-wrenching glimpses of fear that sent her heart racing. Work? Provide for herself? Build a life from scratch? Alone?
Shamefully, Cordy admitted a part of her had hoped Angelus would kill her when she’s stepped into that alley. Put her out of her misery. Where she didn’t feel like such a waste of human flesh. And then she’d been lifting him to his feet. Helping him. Offering support when there was nothing left inside her to give. When her purpose to life was gone.
Had she really been desperate enough to cling to the prospect of saving a bloodthirsty monster just to feel needed?
And now, she was still in SunnyHell imposing on a man she didn’t really know. Rupert Giles the librarian. The girl snorted caustically. Oh how the mighty had fallen, she snickered to herself. A fitting end to the Chase legacy. She had trouble recalling one Chase of importance. Then she frowned.
Well there was that cousin of hers. The neurotic schizophrenic basket case. He was certainly a topic at big dinners. Oh the poor screwed up man. Right before: How do you like my pearls darling? Oh did you hear? Cordelia is working at the local Burger king. Oh look, Martha’s wearing a Gucci. Cordelia shops at the Hand-Me-Downs-R-Us now.
Her fist tightened on the bottle. Yeah, the pity party played on in her mind every change it got. Rising to her feet she watched the green of the trees blacken and she was so damned tired of feeling sorry for herself. Instinctively, her fingers wrapped around the bottle’s neck before she pitched it past the backyard fence and heard it smash against a tree trunk.
She wasn’t a Chase. She was Cordelia. And Cordelia wasn’t weak.
She turned and opened the door back into the house. “Hey Giles?”
“You are unworthy.”
“You deserve none of our sympathy.”
“The price is high.”
“You alone are weak.”
“We will decide who to choose.”
“Your destiny is eternal.”
“You will have to earn our keep.”
Angelus awoke with a start. His knee hit ceramic with a bone-crunching thud as he struggled to piece together where he was.
The florescent light of the bathroom wasn’t bright enough. He touched his chest to find the scorched flesh missing. The lose T-shirt the watcher had put on him in his sleep – because there was no way in hell he would have ever worn it otherwise – was dry.
He wasn’t bleeding. Blinking clear the haze of his recurring nightmare, Angelus took in the bathroom tiles with unabashed relief before letting his head fall back with an unneeded sigh.
He wasn’t on the lab table. And he wasn’t in hell.
After fitful nights of remembering his last moments in hell, the hasty promise he’d made and the torture he’d endured with the Initiative, Angelus had hoped he’d atoned enough. But apparently the glowing bastard didn’t agree.
He let his eyes fall shut and held back the amused grin at his own stupidity. And it had sounded so nice.
His soul for his life.
At time, he’d figured it would be a sweet deal. He’d get out of hell and the nagging conscience of wuss-brain would be absent. He’d be the biggest bad again. Only, he hadn’t realized. Now his soul belonged to them and they had the Scourge of Europe on a leash. He’d forgotten his life was eternal.
The Powers That Be had acquired a new puppet and they obviously wanted him to make good on his promise. And for once in his unlife, Angelus had no idea what to do with himself.
The alarm went off a lot sooner than she would have liked. The brunette was not used to sleeping anywhere else beside her bed and she’d flatly refused to throw Giles out of his.
Grabbing the little alarm clock, she switched it off before burying her head under the pillow. Until yesterday she hadn’t even considered what she’d do if she didn’t graduate, but when last night Giles loaned her the alarm clock she took it with only a frown. Since she was in SunnyHell for a little longer, she might as well.
There was the prospect of her trying to get back on the cheerleading squad maybe. And maybe miraculously she’d pick up her grades that had been slumping to all kinds of new lows in the past few weeks. Who knew? The sun might forget to set, she finished her thoughts with a muffled snort under the pillow.
Then her nose twitched.
Pulling the pillow away she frowned towards the archway that led into the kitchen. Couldn’t be. She took another whiff of the air and her stomach let out a confirmatory growl. Pancakes?
Swinging her legs out of bed, the drowsy girl instinctively reached for the rubber band to secure her hair into a lose ponytail as she lumbered into the kitchen and blinked in alarm. “Oh my god! What were you Martha Stewart in another life?”
The kitchen was brewing with all sorts of delicious aromas and one very happy looking librarian was bustling about carrying cups and plates as breakfast for two was set on the little round table in the kitchen. He looked up at his rumpled houseguest. “Oh, you’re awake. Just in time. Have a seat.”
Cordy stare as he set a cup of coffee next to a plate, which she assumed was for her, because Angelus was still in the bathroom. “Giles? Why are you acting like a compulsive wife?”
The older man chuckled. “It’s rare I get to show off my inborn culinary skills, I’m afraid. Let me show off a little. I hope you like coffee.”
“Decafe,” the girl pointed out helpfully, still watching him in wonder.
“I’ll get some on my way.” She frowned as he moved around the kitchen.
“Okay.” She walked up to him and grabbed his arm with a glare. “Okay, stop. Just stop for a minute.”
When he looked up with a confused eyebrow, she sighed before releasing his arm. “You’re freakin’ me out okay? Even my mother wasn’t this domesticated. It’s just weird.”
“Well I do this for myself every morning, so you’ll have to get accustomed I suppose.”
Her mouth twisted into a pretty, confused pout. “An English thing?”
Giles smiled slightly. “More of a bachelor thing I’m afraid.”
“You SO need a woman Giles.”
“I’ll put it on my agenda.”
She pointed a threatening finger at him. “Don’t. Don’t even try to mock me okay? I’m bereaved and for the record, I live off you now; I thought we agreed last night that you’d let me do stuff around the house. From not on you’ll wake me in the morning; I’ll make my own b-fast.”
“Truly, it is not much…”
Watching the stony resoluteness on her beautiful face, he nodded.” Agreed.”
“Good, now give me something to do.” She looked around the kitchen, wondering what she would do without burning down his house. There must be something.
“Everything’s done. I was only going to run this mug of blood to Angelus.” He opened the microwave.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Only you’d be concerned with his blood-involved sensibilities Giles. Gimmie.” She took the mug from his hands. “I’ll give the creepazoid his meal-in-a-cup and brush my teeth while I’m at it. Being broke does not mean I have breakfast with mossy teeth.” She shook her head as she walked out of the kitchen, grumbling about weird old Englishmen.
Giles watched her go and took a deep breath. The girl might not be broken but there was a sad bitterness to her that did not suit her. He wondered how long it would take for her to find the need to smile with teeth. One thing he’d always liked about her was her smile that went from her heart to her eyes. He hoped she hadn’t lost them for good.
Muttering and still shaking her head, Cordelia walked into the bathroom and sighed. The vampire was as still as death. His features calm and his chest unmoving; if Cordelia didn’t know of things going bump in the night, she’d be screaming.
Her forehead creased as she watched his almost healed wounds and the perfect skin replacing the angry gash she’d cleaned only yesterday, his handsome face almost flawless. He lay there like a marble statue and she took a second to let her eyes scan his lean frame.
Maybe bringing him his blood every morning could be fun. He was easy on the eyes when he wasn’t dying or leering like a lecher. Her eyes reached his face and her cheeks pinked. Oh oh. Almost like he was leering right now. Busted.
“Like what you see, Hazel?”
She let out an exaggerated breath complete with eye rolling. “Nothing, I’ve never seen before. Have your breakfast and stop with the googly eyes. Won’t work on me. I don’t bother with slayer hand-me-downs. Come to think of it, I don’t bother with anyone’s hand-me-downs.”
The amber flashed in brown before he fixed his irate gaze at her impetuous and beautifully shaped mouth. “Angelus belongs to no one sweetheart. It’s you who will belong to me. If I chose to have you.”
“Well for my sake then, I hope not. His grace is too costly to wear.” She threw back at him nonchalantly as she placed the mug on the floor next to the tub.
Hazel eyes snapped up sharply at the rich timbre of his knowing voice. He smirked. “I’m familiar with Shakespeare’s works. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was it?”
Her eyes narrowed at the deliberate coquettish lilt of his voice and eyes as she stood. “The play was a part of my literature class.”
“Good memory you have. Lady Beatrice did have some of your more…” She watched him with a raised eyebrow as if daring him to say it and he grinned. “Willful attributes,” he finished with a wink.
“I’ll take it as a compliment.” She turned towards the mirror and grabbed her toothbrush and unabashedly went ahead with the task of brushing her teeth.
“It was meant as one, baby. Ancient version of the whole cute, bitchy cheerleader persona, eh?”
Gritting her teeth, she rinsed before looking up into the mirror, not the least bit unnerved by his lack of reflection. “Not anymore considering I haven’t really been big on school these past few weeks, seeing as life’s been busy getting screwed over. They took me off the squad. Thanks for reminding me asswipe. I feel so much better.” She threw back with venom as she cleaned her brush and grabbed the towel.
“I aim to please.”
Turning around, she hung the towel back before meeting his eyes apathetically. “In that case Angelus; please go screw yourself.” With that she left the vampire in the bathroom grinning after her.
He pulled the mug to his lips. “She likes me.” And settled back to enjoy his warm blood.
Willow heard the cries right as she sprinted past the gate of the cemetery. Maybe they should have brought Xander along, but the boy had seemed distracted and Buffy had volunteered to walk her back to Giles’.
Who’d have thunk Buffy was not slayer-ed out even after dusting an entire pack of vampires last night. Willow dug out her stake from her bag as she ran up to the clearing and screeched to a halt. “Oh no. This is not good. Not good at all.”
Buffy heard a snarl behind her and turned just in time to see the vampire lunge for her, his demon visage conveniently in place. His claws came for her face and she fell to her hands, her leg sweeping out easily as she sent him crashing to the floor. The stake went through his heart.
Willow’s eyes widened when a rather dirty looking female charged Buffy with fangs drawn. “Buffy, look out!” The witch took one quick breath before jumping into the fray!
Buffy’s breath came out in a rather frustrated grunt when she felt the arms grab her from behind. With a muffled cry she threw her elbow back into the vampire’s gut; her foot coming hard on the boot. Incensed by the days events and her mind screaming of what-ifs, she reached up and behind her, grabbed the vampire by her collar and bent down hauling her off her back and flat on the ground. Before the vampire could look up the stake was rammed into her heart. With a cry of pain she exploded into dust. “Never grab me from behind.” Buffy glared down saucily.
Buffy pivoted on the sharp yelp as she saw Willow get tackled by a rather large snarling vampire. “Pick on someone your own size!” She jumped up into a snap kick and the heel of her boot landed at the base of his neck knocking him clear off his feet.
Before she could stake the leathered asshole for attacking her friend she was grabbed by the tie of her lose braid and yanked back. With a yelp of pain Buffy hit the hard body behind her. “Didn’t I say never grab…” She stopped in mid sentence when she stared up into the eyes one very large, scaly gray demon with burning red eyes snarling in her face, his fangs dripping with saliva. “Oh, hello.”
Willow had by that time found her stake and this time when the vampire tackled her to the ground her stake impaled him and she was greeted with a mouthful of dust. Hacking and coughing she looked up just in time to see Buffy sail over her head and land with a crack against the mausoleum wall behind her. Willow’s eyes slowly traced up the burly limbs of the demon before she saw the ugly snarl. “Oooh…I’m in trouble.”
The redhead cringed as the claws came for her face and then she heard the crack-shots. Bursts of explosion in the air so sharp, her eyes snapped open with alarm as the huge demon stumbled before taking off in a run. Away from her. Panting with fear and covered with dust, the young girl lifted her eyes to see combat boots under gray jeans and a light navy blue T-shirt below one very concerned face of a man she’d never seen in her life. And he wasn’t bad looking.
He held out a hand and Willow instinctively reached out for the offered help and rose to her feet. Dusting herself, she blinked still disoriented when she noticed a small glistening object caught in the soft wool of her sweater. Her brow creased when she pulled away the small plastic chip. Then her eyes widened. “BUFFY!” Whipping around, Willow ran towards the groaning slayer as she sat up, rubbing her head.
“Anyone get the number of that freight train?”
“Buffy, you okay?”
“Did I kill it?” The slayer swayed on her feet until she felt a strong pair of hands grab her arm and looked up with a confused frown into brown eyes. “And what are YOU doing?”
The man with the crooked smile tightened his grip on her until she stood on her own weight. “Helping you?”
Pulling her arm away Buffy glared at him slightly perturbed. “I know you’re helping! Why are you helping?”
Willow cleared her throat. “Ah, Buffy, this man chased away the gray slimy demon thingie. I don’t think we should be mean. He did save us.” At the slayer’s irritated growl Willow quickly amended. “Not that you couldn’t have handled it, but it ran away.” Willow tried her best sad face. “Damn.”
Buffy looked up at the lightly dressed man. “I could have too.”
“I don’t doubt it.” Hiding a smile he held out his hand. “I’m Riley Finn.”
The heel of Cordelia’s palm smacked hard against the swinging doors of the cafeteria as she stormed out into the hallways. Another day, another C. Hazel eyes flashing with anger and frustration, the young woman stalked past startled classmates as she headed straight or the counselor’s office. First she had to lie about her missing school. Then she had to lie about her slipping grades. Now she’d have to lie about the fact as to where her parents had disappeared to.
Passing by the trashcan she threw the note the TA had passed to her and walked up the stairs and into the administration offices. Passing by a bulletin board she peeked into her reflection in the glass and erased the frown off her forehead. She could do this. She could look them in the eye and tell them her parents were on vacation. That wasn’t a lie anyway. They probably where.
Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door to Mrs. Morgan’s office.
Pushing the door open, Cordelia fixed a bright smile for her counselor’s benefit. “Hi Mrs. M. You sent for me?”
The slightly plumpish woman looked up from behind her spectacles and smiled. “Hello Cordelia. Please have a seat.”
That was when the brunette noticed the man standing in the corner and instantly her stomach lurched. “Giles.”
The librarian nodded; his expression unreadable.
With suspicious eyes Cordelia took the seat Mrs. Morgan was gesturing to. Crossing her legs she ignored the growing butterflies in her stomach and faced the counselor without giving away any hint of nervousness. “Is everything alright?”
“You tell me Miss Chase.” Mrs. Morgan leaned back in her chair slightly, her sharp black eyes fixed on her student. “I’ve just been contacted about two of your teachers who insist that you have not been giving their course your best. Is something troubling you? Because I just heard from Rupert that you’re relocating?”
A muscle twitched in her jaw, a flush of betrayal almost making her glare at the librarian standing silently. “After I graduate.”
“If you graduate my dear. American Literature I believe is a required course.” The woman leaned forward her hands clasped in front of Cordelia as she met her eyes evenly. “Is something wrong besides the fact that you are leaving town soon?”
“You’ve missed two weeks of school for which you have yet to make up for Cordelia and when we called to confirm, we found out your house has been sold? Now Rupert here tells me your parents have left you in his care.”
The young brunette nodded, somewhat calmer now, realizing Giles hadn’t said anything about her parents ditching her. Not yet.
“How do you intend to solve this?”
Taking a deep breath Cordelia looked up at Mrs. M. “I’m doing my best.”
“No dear,” the woman smiled sympathetically, “unfortunately it seems like you are not.” She sighed and stood, walking around her desk to sit down on the edge of her desk next to her. “You’ve been entrusted in Rupert’s care from what he tells me; I can gather as much that you’re displaced. He assures me you’re a mature young woman, of which I’m certain, but it still seems as though your hearts not really in it.”
Gota have a heart first, the brunette snorted inwardly.
“Cordelia?” She looked up, expecting an admonishment, but instead Mrs. Morgan’s face only radiated concern. “We’ll have to work through this. There isn’t a lot of time left. Will you be willing to do some extra-credit work?”
For a minute the brunette thought she’d heard wrong. “Work? You mean, after school?”
“Just helping Giles in the Library. It could be enough to even let you back on the Cheerleading squad, to begin with.”
Hazel eyes snapped up to Giles before she cleared her throat. “Um…yeah. Yeah, I can do that. It would be great.”
Mrs. Morgan nodded with a smile. “Good. That should do for your History teacher. Your American Lit. I believe you have about six pending assignments that you should turn in within the week at the most.” She held out a printed sheet of paper. “Mr. Shaw has arranged for one of his students to help you if you should need it.” Silently Cordelia took the list of assignments; still slightly shaken by the help she was being offered. Without asking. “If you do manage to pull this off Cordelia, which I hope you will – because you are capable; I will arrange to put you back on the squad.”
She swallowed thickly and for an insane moment she thought she’d been dreaming. “I have two due today for Mr. Shaw.”
“Next Monday will do. I’ve explained the situation to him.”
Looking down at the paper, Cordelia’s brow furrowed. “Thank you.”
“Next time Cordelia, I would rather you came to me in advance?”
With a minute nod she rose on shaky legs. “I will.”
“Now get back to lunch.” Mrs. Morgan smiled widely before going to sit back in her seat. “Stay for tea Rupert.”
“I’ll have a word with Miss Chase and meet you here shortly.”
Led by the Librarian Cordelia mutely followed him out of the administration offices and into the hallway outside. Once back in the bustle of the students rushing to and from class she looked up at him with clear hazel eyes. “I can’t believe he snitched.”
“He was almost bursting with it. I didn’t even have to ask.”
Cordy still couldn’t get over that fact that Angelus was even listening, never mind shooting his mouth off. What did he get out of it? Then she frowned. Of course there was the whole issue of her semi-confessing to an unscrupulous opportunist. This was the last time she was going talk to the loud mouthed vampire bound in Giles’ bathroom. “He’s such whiner. Like the proverbial four year old girl stuck in a two hundred and some body. The only thing he’s missing is blonde pigtails.”
“And the charming naiveté.”
“You still didn’t have to talk to Mrs. M.”
“I didn’t.” Giles held back a smile. “Thank your Squad coordinator. You mentioned you were staying with me?”
She winced. “Missy has a big mouth.”
“Seems you are invaluable to her.”
Cordelia folded the list of assignments and stuck it into a folder. “Well thanks anyway. I’ll see you after school?” Resisting the urge to suddenly hug the old man and bounce like a little girl, Cordelia instead offered him a soft smile before walking away.
One thing was certain, Cordelia realized. Things were starting to get a bit more interesting.
“OOF!” Cordelia fell back against the side of the car, the stack of books in her arms dangling precariously against her chest. “Geez Giles! I don’t think doing Gorilla work counts as extra-credit.”
The watcher grinned at the brunette over the hood of his car as he kicked the car door shut. “Shouldn’t you try to stay in shape for cheerleading?”
Scathing hazel eyes snapped up to his. “Are you saying I’m NOT in shape?”
“Not even Miss Chase. I’m merely suggesting you keep your fitness until you are back in the squad. Now? Ladies first?”
Scowling at the dancing mirth in Giles’ eyes she turned and lugged the huge stack of books towards the house, only to pause a few feet away from the door. “Oh look what someone left at your doorstep librarian-man.” Green eyes narrowed at her as she grinned at the slayer. “A wavered slayer.”
Buffy Summers ignored the need to quip back at the bait thrown her way and instead she looked at her watcher. “Where were you? I thought we were meeting an hour ago.”
“I’m sorry. I had a new batch of books come in and I had to familiarize Cordelia with a few things in the library.” Giles walked up to the door and turned to his side. “Could you get my keys Buffy?”
With a confused frown the slayer dug into her watcher’s coat pocket to pull out the keys. “Cordelia? In the library? Is the hellmouth opening”
When the brunette next to him scowled Giles cleared his throat as he looked at the slayer struggle with the door. “Try jiggling it a little.” Buffy gave a soft grunt as she finally got the door open and stepped back to allow the two heavily burdened people into the house.
Cordelia had half a mind to step on the slayer’s cheap shoes while she walked by but then there was that dangerous prospect of dropping the load of books on her feet. And she’d only painted her nails this morning. Walking into the living room she dumped her heavy load on the table and took a deep breath. Menial work was so not her strong suit. Neither was musty old books, but then if hefting books and cataloging in the library was going to keep her on the squad and give her credit for history, she wasn’t going to complain. Not any time soon anyway.
While the slayer launched into an all out epic of her day, Cordelia stole herself into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of ice water. The story of prospective new men in Buffy’s life, just seemed horribly clichéd to Cordelia. She closed her eyes and sighed as the cold liquid filled her belly and calmed her nerves. And for a few minutes she just stood there in the light of the early evening, her eyes fixed outside the window as she wondered how long this would last. She realized how happy she’d been to fall back into normality.
The truth was; that as soon as she left Giles, her normality would go up in smoke. She’d be alone and without purpose. And being with Giles now, ending up on the cheerleading squad and being pleasantly single; she would fall back under the spell and forget that it was just a trailer before the actual movie started. And she knew, today in that little office, she’d felt as if things were finally going the way she wanted. Only when the trailer was over, she’d fall back on her ass and it would be back to scrounging at the bottom of the barrel.
She wished she’d taken the damned bus and left normality behind.
It was entirely the stupid leather-clad vampire’s fault. She glared at the now half empty glass of water. Angelus was to blame.
Floating out of the haze self-criticism, she made out brief snatches of the conversation in the living room. Buffy going on and on about some new boy and Willow harping about an A+ that might be in jeopardy and Cordelia felt the sudden insane need to guffaw like an uncultured. Irony and Alanis Morrisette was her best friend. Shaking her head at her own funny she walked out of the kitchen when she caught the distinct timber of a richer cacophonous voice. A perfect eyebrow shot up in alarm. Singing? Without any regard for melody or harmony.
“Mary Mary Quite Contrary, how does your garden grow? With bloodless bodies, virgin hotties and dead slayers stacked in a row.”
Cordelia Chase stood in the doorway with an amused smirk. “Such talent. Do more.”
“Little Bo Peep has lost her Sheep.” The wicked mouth parted in a leer. “Coz I ate um.”
“I’m only guessing.” She couldn’t hold the snort of laughter. “You’re really bored.”
“You don’t say! Oh I have a lot to amuse me sweetheart, for example: Did you know there are one hundred and forty eight thousand nine hundred and forty-four cracks in the ceiling?”
Taking another sip of her water she walked in to perch on the closed toilet. “Pathetic much?”
“Pots and kettles Chase.” Angelus snorted rudely before hunched lower in the tub. “Of course if I’d known her highness was going to grace me with her presence I would have rolled out the red carpet.”
“No need.” She waved nonchalantly with her hand. “I know you’re as feeble as I am for the moment. I forgive you.”
“Piss off cheerleader.”
She glared at him. “Stop calling me that! I’m not a cheerleader okay! Enough with the salt on wounds bit; do I tease you about your useless existence Mr-I’m-only-good-to-a-scooby-as-a-labrat!”
“Oh ouch Cor. That stabbed. That really cut me down. I think I’m going to cry now.”
With a muffled groan Cordelia let her head fall into her hands.
Angelus went deathly still as the young woman’s shoulders started to shake. “Oh for the love of! Are you crying! Coz I hate it when they cry! Dru would cry and it would drive me crazy enough to want to kill her. I can’t fucking kill you Chase! Have a heart!” She let out a snicker and amber eyes narrowed as she threw back her head and laughed. Scowling at the hysterical woman Angelus shook his head sadly. “Bitch.”
Recovering from her fit of hysteria, Cordelia watched the dark shadows in his face. “Me cry? As if fangboy! I’m all cried out. I’m just laughing at the joke that is me.”
“Hell I coulda done that.”
She grinned at him. “See? Suddenly I’m not only bonding with a toothless vampire, but I’m relating to him and believe me this is a new low, even for me.”
“Wait for it.”
“In a heartbeat.” He leered at her then leaned back to regard her more carefully. “Although, I never took you for the cowardly quitter type.”
She rolled her eyes. “It’s complicated.”
“So’s life. So?”
Frowning at his quick retort, she wondered why she even bothered speaking to him. He only upset her. But anything was better than listening to the whining outside in the living room about problems that didn’t come close to the proportions she’d had to deal with. “So I don’t have time to sit and pull apart every knot slowly and carefully; too many new knots are forming every moment I waste opening the first.”
“Kinda frustrating when what little control you have on your life is just wrenched away from you, isn’t it sweetheart? No wonder villains are always bitter.”
“Are you bitter?” She met his eyes evenly.
“Am I the villain?”
Her pretty face contorted softly in a confused frown. “Okay, that’s kind of scary that I can’t just say ‘yes’ without thinking.”
“Ye-hah!” She snorted before rolling her eyes. “Right up there with delusional.”
“Not as much to believe life did one over on you and you take it like a pro Hazel. I thought you humans were supposed to be made of stronger mettle.”
“What are you doing that’s so positive fangboy? Besides live in a bathtub rather than a grave?”
“I’m here aren’t I?” He snapped, the irritation reflecting in his brown eyes. He knew Cordelia Chase wasn’t stupid and he couldn’t believe he was bored enough to actually be having this conversation with her. If anyone saw him now they’d be laughing about as hard as she had been a few moments ago. Only at him. Former Scourge of Europe, present emotional-guidance-counselor to an eighteen year old school kid. “At least I’m not a constant whine. What you need is a good shot of whiskey and some aspirin instead of trampling the male-egos of defenseless vampires.”
“Defenseless my ass.” Cordelia resisted the urge to reassure him. So now she was sympathizing with a sociopath. Oh, how far the mighty had fallen. “And while we’re on the subject of whining, you’re the one who needs excitement by poking your fat nose into other people’s business.”
Brown eyes rimmed with gold. “I’d refrain from calling me fat Chase.”
“Oh you’ll what Angelus? Turn me to dust with your super vampire vision?” She couldn’t hold the bubbling irritation in her chest. Why did this undead bastard always rub her the wrong way?
“I’m ignoring you now.” The lanky vampire rolled his eyes before closing his eyes, hoping against hope that the exasperating brunette would be gone when he opened them. But then, he remembered he was never that lucky. Then he couldn’t help glare at her remembering the snide little tip he’d thrown the watcher about her cheerleading. “Come to think of it, you should be thanking me Princess. I did you a damned favor. Sounds like you owe me.”
“You owe me a dog as well since we’re counting and a manicure if you’re feeling generous.”
“I’m not,” he spat out.
“Good, then don’t do me any more favors Fangboy, I’ve got enough on my plate and no desire to owe anything to anyone.”
“Sucks to be you.”
“Sucks to be you more, Mr-I-have-to-eat-people-through-a-straw.”
“Where the hell do you get off calling me up on my fucking inadequacies Chase, when you’re the one without house and home? Impecunious wanabe slut!”
For an insane moment Cordelia had a merry vision of actually attacking the vampire and twisting his big head off, but instead her eyes narrowed. “Resorted to name calling already? You know I don’t understand, no matter how big or how powerful, it always comes down to name calling, but then there’s very little else you can do biteless. So I guess, again, I forgive you.”
The older vampire let out a growl of irritation. How the hell did this slip of a girl manage to rile him up enough to want to kill her? Maybe that’s what she wanted. He looked at her curiously. “You know if you want to die so bad sweetheart all you have to do is bend over.”
“You’re the one who ate my dog Angelus, seems like you’ve picked up more than enough of his dog habits.”
His lips widened into an insolent leer. “Not his habits exactly. Next time though, if you want to play solo in your bed, let the dog out first. Even he has eyes.”
When the irrational fury flushed her cheeks all concern for security or sanity burst into angry flames and went up in a cloud of red smoke. Before Angelus could marvel at the feral glint in those flashing Hazel eyes the brunette had pounced. And that was saying a lot for a human; Angelus concluded as he let out a startled cry of pain when her knee landed places, it had no right being around.
“What the?” Giles rushed in from the bathroom at the unholy racket in his bathroom and just stood there gaping like an idiot for a second too long.
“Tweed! Get this psychotic bitch OFF ME!”
“Oh, dear Lord!” Giles rushed forward, praying the slayer didn’t walk in behind him. “Cordelia, please climb off the evil vampire!” He attempted to peel away the brunette who showed no sign of letting loose of the flesh she worried in her teeth as she practically straddled the vampire and held his head to the side in hair-ripping talons.
“ARGH!” Angelus shuddered, his hands caught between their bellies, pinned motionless as he felt the flesh of his throat tear in merciless blunt teeth. Before he could react enough to condone the splitting headache at the prospect of draining her, Giles grabbed the snarling girl by her shoulders and deftly yanked the furious bundle of teeth and hair off the vampire’s lap. His eyes glowed with pained pleasure at the sight of his borrowed blood smeared on her cherry lips. Cordelia Chase had bit HIM?!
“He so deserved that, the perverted, depraved, useless bastard! Let me go Giles! He called me IMPECUNIOUS! I’ll kill him!” Cordelia struggled in Giles restraining grasp then slowly became aware of the vampire’s golden gaze fixed hungrily on her mouth.
And then the bitter taste invaded her senses. “Oh, EWWWE! Phthaphthaphtha! Ack!” Spitting and wiping her mouth on the side of her sleeve the brunette spun around, the bile building up her throat. Oh shit, did I just bite him? For real!?
“Ahem, Cordelia?” Giles lifted the curtain of hair as she bent over ‘ewie’ing in quick succession. When he caught the trail of blood beside the curve of her lips he choked on a breath. “Um, oh dear. Upstairs. My bathroom.” He barely finished before the girl was storming out into the den. “Mouthwash in the medical cabinet!” He called out after her; then closed his eyes hoping to forever the erase the picture now unfortunately committed to memory.
Turning to the now deathly silent vampire he met his curious gaze with weariness. “What did you do this time?”
“What can I say tweed, I taste damn good,” the evil vampire purred, his head already rushing with visions of one fiery brunette and his pants tightened at the prospect of other things she could do with her teeth. He lifted his chained hands enough to touch the fast closing wound on his throat as he let the cheerful mental picture of blood and hazel eyes occupy his otherwise unoccupied time.
Giles looked down at the chains that still bound the vampire in the bathtub. Suddenly, he realized it wasn’t Angelus who might hurt someone, but rather someone might kill the contentious vampire. The chains seemed so bloody useless. He wondered if there was an un-invite-spell for keeping the capricious brunette out of the bathroom.
Shaking his head, he walked out to meeting the alarmingly shocked eyes of his slayer, witch and the newly arrived Xander Harris, who looked appropriately cowed.
“Giles? What’s impecunious?” Buffy frowned.
Giles rubbed his face with both hands and prayed for patience.
Buffy appeared from between the gravestones to meet her watcher’s solemn eyes. “Okay, I’m just about looked-out here. We’ve been over this place ten times.”
Giles let out a silent breath as Willow and Xander joined them. “No luck?” The two teenagers shook their heads. “Perfect. And you’re certain this is where you saw him Buffy?”
“Yeah.” The young slayer dusted her hands before nodding. “Although, to tell you the truth, I’m a little distracted knowing Cordelia’s alone with Angelus at your house.”
“He’s biteless Buffy, what could he do?” Willow put a hand on her friend’s arm.
“I’m not worried about Cordelia,” she grumbled softly before letting her eyes wander over the landscape of the graveyard again for any sign of the demon she’d been tossed around by before. She couldn’t fathom what had possessed the cheerleader to bite the demon. The whole biting was reserved for vampires. Buffy knew Cordelia and Angelus were in each other’s proximity a lot lately. She just hoped he wasn’t rubbing off on Cordelia. Buffy so didn’t want another complication in this picture.
Giles fixed his glasses. “Well, then I suggest we head back. It’s getting late and it doesn’t look like the demon is here.”
Xander shrugged. “It’s dark, dreary, creepy and perfect demon prowling territory. Not to mention the hour is witching.” He looked at Willow. “No offense.”
The Witch only smiled softly. “None taken.”
“Look at it this way.” Xander grinned. “Where else could he go?”
A shadow cast over the wall. On the other side, a demon sat in the tub contemplating death. Or the un-death, as it were. It was a new low. Being dead was one thing, being dead and useless was another. Angelus wasn’t used to being useless. He, a demon who prided himself in having purpose had nothing to his name besides, the countless cracks he was recounting in the ceiling and the merry fantasies of killing the slayer, eating her friends and maybe tying the cheerleader in the bathtub for a few weeks, before eating her.
Suddenly even his soul seemed welcoming, but it was not his to greet anymore. One little deal with the devil and he was soulless for life and biteless for eternity. A damned cock-tease. Give him power and immortality and take away his freedom. The perfect damnation. It was befitting. Just not for a demon like Angelus. He had been destined for great things. Not a damned lab rat to a bunch of kids and a ratty old man without a sex life. True the cheerleader had potential. And the slayer still lived.
Where’s the damned God-sent miracle when needed, Angelus took an unnecessary breath. Not that he believed in God.
Then the scent drifted up his nose and he went deathly still.
Cordelia smirked over her shoulder at the face of Xander Harris as she wrapped her arms around the neck of the man and lifted her mouth up for his kiss. “Sorry Harris. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse.” Looking up into the green eyes of Jude Law, Cordelia sent the handsome man a dazzling smile and rose on top toes to receive her kiss, when the hiss made her rock back in alarm.
Pale manly arms morphed into scaly gray limbs, the hands wrapped around her arms elongating into claws as she stared up into blood red eyes and the demon opened it’s wide, fanged jaw.
“GAH!” The brunette jumped as her history book hit the floor as she sat on the couch, one hand on her heart, panting wildly, in the dark living room. Momentarily disoriented, she whipped her head around violently, her heart nearly leaping out of her throat before she realized she wasn’t in her room. She was at Giles. And she was alive. And alone.
Shakily she raised a hand to touch her forehead to find it dripping with perspiration and seething hot. A foreboding ache settled into her temples as she took a calmer breath, trying to stop her screaming heart from beating wildly against her ribs. “Geez Chase. You live on the Hellmouth, one would think you’d be used to a few nightmares.” Her whisper was meant to calm her nerves. With her legs folded under her still, she reached down to the floor to pick up her book when she caught the flicker of the shadow in the light of the lone lamp burning in Giles’ kitchen – and froze.
Then her breath caught in her throat as the shadow rose across the wall of the kitchen, and the arms and limbs became distinguishable and, even from a distance, she could see the open jaw of the fanged demon.
As the scream built in her throat, Cordelia’s hand roze back to curl around her mouth and muffle it before the first rational thought hit her. Angelus. Without deliberation, she rose; her legs unfolding as she stood to her full height. The shadow on the wall got larger and the soft snarl nearly made her jump.
Bare, feet softy shifted on the carpet as she walked backwards towards the light slanting out of the bathroom, her eyes fixed on the rising shadow. Not daring a single whisper, Cordelia held her breath, one hand behind her to catch the doorframe of the bathroom, until it caught against a stack of books and sent them crashing onto the floor with a resounding ‘thump’. And the head of the demon twisted towards the living room.
“Oh fuck.” The two identical, simultaneous curses echoed through the house just as the demon’s head appeared in the archway and it turned to look straight at Cordelia framed in the light of the bathroom.
Giles walked tiredly towards his house, the slayer beside him just as weary. They’d just dropped off Willow and Xander when they heard the female scream. Both heads whipped up in alarm before they took off into a sprint towards the house. “Cordelia!”
Angelus stared in shock as the brunette let out a shriek of terror and did the most ridiculous thing he’d ever seen her do, she closed the door and jumped up on the toilet a loofa in her hand. “What the fuck are you doing!” He’d barely finished his question when the door to the bathroom splintered and blew off the hinges. And the demon looked him straight in the eye.
Unable to keep his gameface from appearing the vampire’s eyes exploded with gold as he growled back, the fangs elongating to full length. When the demon bore down on him, he realized he was still firmly bound by his hands and feet. “You wouldn’t happen to have the keys on you, would you Chase?”
Cordelia’s eyes were fixed on the snarling demon. “No.”
“Fuck.” Angelus hissed just as the demon lunged. Lifting his chained hands, he braced for the impact that would come, and sure enough, the demon grabbed him by his clamped wrists and yanked him right out of the tub.
Cordelia let out another scream as Angelus grunted and twisted, His left elbow lifting and looping up before he threw his weight against the back and his arms came to lock around the demon’s neck in a choke hold. The gray monster rose high on his powerful legs his hands clamped around Angelus’ wrists as the vampire tightened his grip.
“What the hell are you doing!” Cordelia stared in horror, her loofa held up for strike as the snarling demon tried to dislodge the vampire.
“What does it look like you fucking idiot!” Angelus snapped back between the violet shaking, as his wrists tightened under the fiend’s throat.
“I don’t do SLIME!” Reaching behind her Cordelia grabbed a bottle of shampoo and chucked it at the demon, only it bounced and hit Angelus in the eye. “Awo! HEY!”
“Sorry!” She winced then her eyes widened as the demon reared back, slamming Angelus into the brick wall behind him and she could have sworn she saw the vampire’s golden eyes nearly cross in pain. Then he noticed the demon was too busy trying to get the strangling vampire off his back and she took her cue to run. “Be right back!”
“Hurry!” The vampire ground out before he let out a cry of pain as he was smashed back into the plaster again. The force of the blow loosened his grip as Angelus lost a fraction of the hold on the demon’s neck and the one large fang sank through the links of the iron chains and into his arm. Blood nearly flared in Angelus’ eyes.
Cordelia was rummaging through the drawers for a large knife when she heard Angelus’ scream of rage. “Oh crap!” Grabbing the first thing she could find she ran back into the living room and nearly went flying with the gray that sailed from the bathroom doorway and into the cupboard. Turning her head she blinked to see Angelus yanking the last of the chains off his ankles wrists, eyes spitting gold fire and a gash in his arm, nearly missing a good chunk of flesh as he rose to his full height. “Angelus!”
The enraged vampire lifted his eyes from the sprawled demon shaking his head across the hall to see Cordelia toss him something. Catching the object he stared down at before looking at her incredulously. “A fork!?”
The brunette only shrugged helplessly before she yelped as Angelus was tackled to the floor by a spitting angry demon, claws reaching for his face, the fork falling harmlessly by his head. Angelus snarled in fury as the demon howled above him, the bulk of his body pinning his legs and torso under him as Angelus held onto his lower jaw, his fingers splayed between his teeth and the other hand holding a ripping talon from decapitating him. “Cordelia!”
A wooden chair splintered on the demon’s head nearly dusting the vampire underneath, but it gave Angelus enough time to grab the fork and ram it straight into one of the burning red eyes of the angry demon as it screamed.
Cordelia jumped away, the demon reared back in pain and the vampire rolled onto his heels. As it towered over the brunette, Cordelia closed her eyes wincing for the blow, just as she heard a crack and a reverberating ‘thud’ before everything stilled. Surprised hazel eyes looked up to see Angelus glaring down at the demon with the broken neck, clutching his bleeding arm. Golden eyes looked up at her with appalled exasperation. “A FORK!!!!?!”
Straightening to her spine she was about to retort when the front door burst open and Giles and Buffy stormed into the house.
“Unhand Angel you…” The slayer blinked as she saw the scene in the living room. “Oh.”
Cordelia glared at the shocked face of the watcher. “You know this was not part of my babysitting plan.”
Angelus was still staring at Cordelia with vexation. “A FUCKING FORK!”
Buffy sat on the couch, her head in her hands, the dead demon laying at her feet with the broken neck. Beside her Angelus was sitting on a chair holding his bleeding arm, while Cordelia towered over him with gauze and disinfectant. The slayer looked up as the vampire let out another growl of pain. She let out a sigh when Cordelia held the bottle over his head, threatening to make him wear it if he jumped again. Trying to ignore the unsettling picture that the two presented and the camaraderie that built between them with ever passing minute Buffy turned her eyes to her watcher, as he handed her a cup of coffee.
Giles watched Buffy take the cup without a word and he frowned slightly at her. “You’re troubled.”
“I hear that’s a slayer trait.”
“Along with not being around when you’re needed.”
At the antagonized quip, Buffy fixed her weary eyes on the vampire while he attempted to dodge Cordelia’s disinfectant bottle. “I slay your kind, not protect it.”
“Slay, fuck; what’s the difference with you, right?”
Gritting her teeth she chose to ignore the barb. The baiting was rather obvious now. “You’re a mistake I regret everyday Angelus.”
“Allow me to feel guilt. Oh wait…” Angelus seemed to ponder that thought almost comically and Cordelia bit her cheek to keep the smile off her mouth. “I think I skipped the assembly when they were handing out sensitivity.”
“Why didn’t you tell us these things were the ones after you?”
The bleeding demon shrugged. “Because sweetheart, I had other things on my damned mind. Like feeding.”
“Always think with your fangs?”
Angelus smirked at Cordelia’s accurate conclusion. “After I’m done thinking with my…”
“Angelus!” Giles glared at the pornographic reference that was about to be voiced. “How could you fail to mention the demon’s link to you? Cordelia could have died.”
“And that affects me how? AWO!” He jumped when her finger dug into the gouging flesh she was trying to bandage. He stared at her incredulously. “Who’s the fucking vampire here?” The brunette kept her head down as she continued to administer first aid, the only indication that she was in their conversation was her smirk.
“Why are these creepies after you anyway?”
Angelus rolled his eyes and glared at Buffy. “You’re still here?”
Throwing up her hands she stood up. “Why do I bother? Giles’ I’m out. You’re better with interrogation anyway.”
“Are you quite sure you will be able to take it to the incinerator alone Buffy?”
The blonde rolled her eyes. “You talk as if I’ve never done it before. How hard can it be? I dump him in the car then dump him in the oven and then its hello home sweet home and warm shower.”
Giles looked up as Angelus let out another exaggerated yelp and frowned. “Perhaps Angelus could help?”
The entire room went silent. All eyes trained on Giles incredulously.
“What the fuck are you smoking watcher? I’m not taking a pleasure cruise with the damned slayer. Once was enough, thank you.”
Buffy scowled at him before looking up at Giles. “For once I agree with him.”
“Watch out slayer. The hellmouth might open. Again.”
“I have a name you know!”
Angelus’ mouth widened into a smirk even when his nerves were singing with pain. “Whatever you say tubby.” Besides him Cordelia let out a snort of laughter, as she gripped his elbow with one hand and cleaned the excess blood around the gash.
Giles ran a hand through his hair. “I was merely suggesting because even being the Slayer, you’d have problems hauling a monster his size without help and I do believe I’m not quite as young as I’d like to be.”
Buffy looked down at the very large, prone demon on the floor and let out a defeated groan. “Fine. But if he decides to go off running into the night, I’ll stake him.”
“I think he’s proved tonight that he’s in no mood to run away.” Cordelia rolled her eyes as she slapped the medical tape on his arm.
“AWO!” The vampire threw her a scathing glare and was only rewarded with a smirk. “Keep that up Chase; I just might.”
“And walk straight into the arms of the Initiative. Yeah, because if that’s the plan, you should have just told me I would have left you in the gutter.”
“Why didn’t you?”
At the blunt question even Buffy looked up at the brunette.
She only snorted in a rather un-lady like fashion before she recapped the disinfectant bottle. “That’s entirely your fault. I blame my lack of sanity on the fact that you opened you fat trap to call out to me and because you beg pretty good.” She winked saucily at him. “For a Scourge anyway.”
He stared at the audacity of the ex-cheerleader as she walked away from him without so much as a look in his direction. “I did not beg.”
Sticking her hands on her hips she turned to regard him with a haughty eyebrow. Before she could breathe, he was out of the chair in a flash, and the daunting knot in her throat came back as golden eyes bore down into hazel, with a touch of sexy insanity only Angelus could pull off. “I. Did. Not. Beg.” It irked him that this child wouldn’t stop calling him up on his inadequacies. And then there was the ‘fat’ thing.
Cordelia took a nervous swallow, the span of his chest nearly blocking her view as she stared up at him slightly caught off-guard. So she didn’t see Buffy walk up to them purposefully and it was only when the blonde hair obstructed her view into his amber eyes that she snapped back to reality and took a shaky breath. What was that? She physically shook her head to clear it and frowned at the odd ache in her belly. What the hell was going on?
Buffy shoved Angelus away from the stunned brunette and glared at the vampire. “Back off Angelus.”
The vampire’s game face receded back into smooth planes of his angelic face and chuckled. “No need to get your panties in a twist slayer. So should we go get acquainted? I think doing it on the hood of the car could be a new thrill.” His hand drifted down his stomach and Buffy’s mouth dropped open in shock.
Cordelia had recovered just enough to see Angelus hit the couch hard, his lip bleeding as the steam rose from the slayer’s blonde head. She took a deep calming breath. “Great. Now I’ll have to fix that too. You know playing nursemaid was never one of my goals in life or on my list of things to do for today.”
“You bastard!” Giles grabbed her arms as the blonde stepped forward to hit him again, green eyes flashing with murderous, betrayed rage. “That was NOT you! It was him! I would NEVER touch you!”
Angelus’ tongue snaked out to lick his borrowed blood on his lower lip and leered at her, his eyes darkening with cruel depth. “Whatever makes you feel any less dirty slayer.” He held up his hands sadistically taking tally. “These were the hands that touched you. This body pinned yours down while you screamed my name and it was this cock inside you. You fucked a vampire either way.”
“Shut the hell up!”
Cordelia winced at the struggling woman and for an insane moment she contemplated dragging Angelus to the bathroom and locking him in to protect him. But then, it was sort of fun to watch the spitting young slayer struggle with the prospect of dusting her ex-boyfriend slash worst enemy. The delicious emotional melodrama was so much better than watching any soap on TV. She crossed her arms and waited for the quip; she could almost feel it lingering on Angelus smirking mouth. Bring it.
“Slayer, go out, get some fresh air, get a damned life while you’re at it and stop pissing me off.”
“Get out! We’re not helping you anymore! This arrangement is finished.”
Cordelia opened her mouth to remind the slayer it wasn’t her house before she realized neither was it her own. And just then she wished she was anywhere but here. The melodrama was starting to hit a little close to home.
“Angelus,” the watcher began with a warning, barely able to hold the angry young woman in his arms. “Buffy let it go, he is inciting you on purpose.”
“I’m gonna count to three!”
“You can count?” Angelus feigned shock.
Cordelia yelped as she jumped far away before the slayer launched out of Giles’ arms and tackled the sniggering vampire with a battle cry. And that was when she moved forward to help Giles as she grabbed one arm and he grabbed the other. As they bodily dragged the blonde away from the vampire now nursing a red eye.
“Buffy!” Giles yanked her away hard, pulling her farther away from the growling vampire.
“I’m sick of him Giles! I’m so SICK of him!”
“Buffy! Calm down!”
Cordelia let out a slow breath as Giles slowly guided the still snarling woman into the kitchen and she finally turned to look back down at the still man-pire sitting on the couch. “Do you have a death wish?”
“How’d you guess?”
She frowned. “They why bother making me haul your butt out of that alley anyway?”
He touched his bleeding cheekbone, where the skin had split over bone and scowled. “I forgot how damned pathetic this was.”
With a lamenting sigh she twisted the head off the disinfectant and wetting the gauze that was still in her hand as she sat down on the table in front of the couch and reached out to wipe the cut on his cheekbone and then his lip. When he just sat there, she lifted her eyes to meet his perplexed gaze. “What?”
“Why do you do that?”
She blinked, startled by the vague question. “Do what?”
“Don’t play dumb with me Chase. I’ve been on to you for a while now. Why do you do this?”
And she had a pretty good idea what he was talking about, only the more she thought about the answer, the more she realized she didn’t have one. None that made any sense. “It’s in my new job description.”
“What? Florence Nightingale?”
She chuckled softly, glad for once he didn’t startle to her tending as she cleaned the gash on his cheek. “Story of my life. Not like I applied for this position you know.”
“So then why do you do it? And it’s not because you feel sorry for me. Not anymore.”
With a confused frown she sat back, her hand in her lap as she regarded his glittering brown eyes watching her with amusement. “Are you mocking me again?”
“It’s a fucking honest question. Answer it.”
“Honest and you never did mix fangboy.”
“It’s what I do best next to biting.”
His mouth quirked at one corner. “Oh yeah baby. I know.”
Rolling her eyes she recapped the bottle of disinfectant for the second time tonight. “Things have a way of not going the way I want them to.”
“They never do. The trick is not to give a damn.”
She looked up with a raised eyebrow. “Give a damn about what?”
“Life sweetheart. It gets a kick out of being ignored. Ignore life and it will fucking worship you. Not like fate listens to you humans anyway. He’s always got his head up destiny’s ass. Gota tell you though, that is one tough chick.”
Cordelia was silent for a moment. “Did they put you on crack?”
He leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees as he faced her squarely. “It’s simple Brighteyes. Don’t go around caring and breaking yourself up over every little twist and turn in the road. Play dumb when it counts.”
“Pfft! What do you think I’m doing now?”
He leaned closer and the nervous butterflies resettled in her stomach at the vampire proximity. His eyes although, were a rich brown, it was the challenge that that had her swallowing hard. “Look at me Cordelia. And tell me you feel nothing.”
Dry lips parted as she stared into his eyes, afraid to look away. “I…I f-feel…”
His lips twisted into a rueful line, one cold finger lifting to graze her chin with a whispery caress. “Too much, Chase. You feel too damned much…”
Humiliated fire built in her veins at his accurate and somewhat cocky deduction and she pulled away from the cold heat of his finger to glare down at him. “No death wish here at least. I still have a choice.”
He snorted scornfully. “That’s what they want you to believe. Look at me. I’m heartless. Everything I do or say is for kicks. I don’t feel a goddamned thing. How do you think that turned out? The minute I get the fucking soul, Density decides to give me purpose.” He leaned back against the couch, one arm draped over the back. “Even after I left it in hell, I’m stuck in the fucking circle of life crap the powers-that-do-shit spun just for lil old me.”
She stood on unsteady legs, crazily thinking if he was lose and on the couch where would she sleep, her head a kaleidoscope of jumbled thoughts and shaken beliefs. The last thing she needed was advice from a two hundred year old callous bastard with death on the brain. Even if some of the things he said made and insane amount of sense. She shook her head before stepping away from his proximity. She wished she really had caught that bus to LA. “That’s a great bedtime story Fangboy. I’ll remember it so I can tell it to my kids one day.”
The vampire let out an unneeded breath. “Can’t you at least call me fangMAN? I do have some two hundred odd years on you little girl.”
He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the back of the couch signaling that she was to shut up. “Snooty bitch.”
She couldn’t hold the stretch of a satisfied grin as picked up her books from the floor. “Want some blood?”
“Good.” Her grin widened. “Get it yourself.”
“Fossil.” And she walked into the kitchen laughing louder than Giles would have ever guessed.
Buffy blinked in confusion. “Did I miss something?”
Safe to say. Buffy took care of the demon burning alone. And Angelus slept on the floor. Without the chains.
Buffy walked around the back of Giles’ car and opened the dangling trunk open toe wrinkle her nose at the decaying demon. “Just you and me.” She sighed and reached out to grab one arm and grunted at the weight of him. “Who told you to eat all those people? OOF!”
“AWO!” Rubbing her head where she hit it with the trunk hatch she turned to glare at the owner of the voice. “Stalker boy?”
Riley Finn looked up and smiled. “No curfew?”
Still smarting in the head, she tilted her head curiously. “What do you want?”
“You found the demon.”
He cleared his throat before stepping up to. “It’s mine. I’d like it back.”
From neck to breast. The flesh was as red as the blood oozing from the gash. The split open skin, showing sternum and heart. Erratic and panting. The hazy growls, the blood like a cheap red dress hugging the fullness of her left breast. Sharp talons holding the soft mahogany curls in an iron grip, head bent back enough to break the neck, lolling. Lifeless.
“Crap!” The young girl sat up; panting as hard as the heart she’d seen. Gasping and stumbling she fell from the couch, stumbling over the prone vampire in the way as she scurried to the bathroom.
Angelus got the undead air kicked out of his when the brunette’s heel landed in the middle of his ribs. Grunting and twisting on his perch on the floor he heard the sounds of retching and coughing. Rubbing the sore spot on his chest he easily rolled to his feet and sauntered to the bathroom door, leaning there as the pale figure stood trembling over the sink; knuckles white with the effort to stay standing.
Scratching the back of his head, still groggy, he regarded her suspiciously. It had been weeks since he’d had a comfortable few hours of sleep and on the floor with the cushion was the closest he’d had to comfort lately. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Shuddering and still brimming with disgust, Cordelia lifted her bloodshot eyes to see nothing but her own sick face staring back at her. With a muffled groan she bent down and turned on the water, splashing her face and the sink clean. “Nothing.”
“Nothing my ass Chase. I don’t get stampeded everyday. What the hell happened?”
“Bad dream.” Wiping her mouth after the thorough rinse and mouthwash, Cordelia ran the back of her hand against her forehead and turned to dry her face with a towel.
“Enough to make you retch? They always like that?”
She looked up to see him leaning disinterestedly in the doorway, frowning at her in confusion.
“What do you care?”
“Great.” She tried to walk past him but he stood in her way. Lifting her flashing hazel eyes she glared. “What?”
Brown eyes were narrowed on her. Skimming over the surface, but searching for something underneath her skin. Like they always did. “Tell me about your nightmare.”
Scowling she shoved him out of the way and padded back into the dark living room. “Go walk off a cliff; I’m not feeding your morbid ego this early in the morning.”
He grinned at her over his shoulder. “Later in the evening then? Over a bottle of blood and brandy maybe?”
“Hold my hand.”
The demon snorted with laughter. “Gota admit Chase, your sense of humor is…WHOA!” He reached out more on instinct as her hand shot out to grab his bicep, his own arms wrapping around her waist as the girl’s knees suddenly gave way. Angelus stared down into her eyes, the hazel blurred and unfocused and then she screamed.
Long, hard and painfully.
He was still trying to calm her down, push her to sit on the couch, while she clutched and writhed in his arms. True though, as much as he would have liked to see her undulation under his body, this isn’t want he had in mind. And he was a demon. He figured the pleasure would match the pain.
“Wot the bloody hell are you doing! Get away from her!”
Angelus scowled over his shoulder at the thundering Englishman stumbling down the stairs. “I didn’t fucking do anything! She just started yelling like a mad cow!”
“Get your hands off her!”
“Fine.” Pulling his hands off he stepped out of the way.
When the fist connected with Rupert’s jaw, sending his glasses askew, he held the flailing arms of the brunette before letting out a whimpering request. “Hold her!”
Angelus stood back, arms crossed, watching the man get clawed as he held back a grin. “I don’t know; if she nicks a little blood off you I might not have to bite.”
The demon rolled his eyes. “Christ, you’re pathetic.” Shoving the watcher away, Angelus half climbed on top of the struggling girl, sat down hard on her thighs, enough to keep her steady before he grabbed her wrists firmly with one hand and her jaw with the other. “Cordelia! Look at me!”
The sharp snap of his tone seemed to set off some sort of switch in the girl, because her wide hazel eyes blinked open to stare up into his with precision, almost like she knew he’d be there. Shaking and disoriented, her mouth parted with labored breaths. Lips dry and Angelus had to clamp down the need to moisten them. With his mouth.
The watcher sat up from where he’d landed against his coffee table and straightened his spectacles. The room had suddenly gone deathly still.
The brunette lay under Angelus, silent, panting and unmoving. Rupert Giles took a moment to contemplate the fusion of their gazes and the curling of Angelus’ brow as he drew back, just as taken aback by the young woman’s compliance. Clearing his throat Giles took a step closer. “Yes well…um…good work.”
Angelus couldn’t shake the feeling. The feeling that this slip of a girl was looking right down into the soul he didn’t have and he didn’t like the clarity that came the longer he looked into her eyes. “What’s wrong with her?”
Giles peered over the vampire’s shoulder. “She seems….entranced.”
Scowling at the perceptive deduction, Angelus sat back slightly, his hands still wrapped around her wrists. “No shit. Even I can see that. What the hell is she so entranced with?”
Angelus’ eyes snapped back down to the brunette who lay prone under him. “It’s not me,” he muttered gruffly, glaring down into her eyes. “Speak now Chase, this is your cue.”
Her voice was raw from screaming and the two men had to strain to hear it. Giles frowned at her curiously before asking. “What was that?”
“Get your fat ass off me fangbreath.”
“That’s what I thought she said.” Giles cleared his throat, almost expecting the demon to rise to the bait. But oddly. He didn’t.
If the girl still wasn’t shaking the way she was Angelus might have picked up on the fat comment, but for now. He just wanted to get away from the liquid of her eyes. They unsettled the demon. Swinging his leg off her, Angelus rolled away from her, dropping her wrists as he gave her room to sit up.
With a groan, she rubbed the cramping muscle in her thigh before her head swayed, one shaking hand coming to touch her temple. “Oh god!”
Giles took the opportunity to sit down beside her, one hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay Cordelia?”
She shook her head almost imperceptibly before dropping her head between her knees, her mahogany pony tail sliding down over her head as she whined. “Oh eyow! It was horrible.” She straightened suddenly, her hazel eyes wide and panicked. “Horrible!” She clutched Giles’ tugging on the sleeve of his robe. “There were like, all theses vampires! And they were….wearing…plaid!” She shook the bewildered watcher as her voice rose up a pitch. “Plaid! Like that is so last generation! And I always thought the undead had good fashion sense you know, look at leather and chains over there, but no! Not these suckers! All with the stripes and squares and…” Then almost when he thought her eyes couldn’t get wider, he saw her pupils dilate and she suddenly went still again. “They had a girl…”
Giles leaned closer, his hand sliding down to cover hers in her lap. “What girl Cordelia?”
Almost like she could still see it Cordelia shivered. “About six years old. And her mother. Dead.” She let out a whimper, eyes close, almost to shake off the image. “Torn. Vampires.” She turned suddenly, her hands grabbing Giles’ shoulders. “They’re going to kill the little girl! They are! I just know it! You have to stop them.”
“Easy Cordelia.” The watcher gently pushed her back before she nearly climbed into his lap. “It’s okay. It was just a nightmare.”
“Nightmare!” She snapped, jerking out of his grasp, jumping to her feet, irate hazel eyes flashing with fire as she poked around emphatically with one finger. “No nightmare was when I woke up in huffy! THIS was like I was there! This was different. And HE was there.” She pointed to Angelus accusingly.
At the chastising look from the watcher Angelus snorted. “What the fuck are you lookin’ at me for? I didn’t do anything. Although, the rather graphic picture she’s painting is enticing. Where’s this happening? Maybe there’s some left.”
Cordelia spun on Angelus, hands on her hips, glaring. “You weren’t eating her buster! You were saving her!”
And then the room went silent again while Angelus stood there gawking at the irate young woman. Right before he burst out laughing.
“Ha ha ha! Hades Chase, Biteless I might be… hee hee… but soft I ain’t. Heh! That was good though. You always were good for a…” Angelus nearly choked on his laughter when he was bodily grabbed by his collar and one snarling human glared at him almost nose to nose. Again Angelus wondered exactly what kind of vampire this woman would make. She had the lunge and grab down pat. Maybe he was rubbing off on her.
“Does it LOOK like I’m joking fangboy? I have a headache the size of a football stadium and for the record; I am in NO mood to get crap from you. I know what I saw.”
Prying her fists from the collar of his shirt, he pushed her away and frowned down at her. “You’re out of your goddamn tree Chase if you think I’m going to go save some pathetic bite from possible friends. Still a vampire.”
For a moment Cordelia nearly bit back the insane urge to deck the arrogant demon in front of her, then she figured he’d only hit back. She’d already had her blind beginner’s lucky bite. Flinching, she stepped away from him and grabbed her coat.
“Cordelia?” Giles watched in panic as the willful brunette stalked to his front door doggedly. “Where are you going?”
“It’s not everyday I wake up with the possibility of saving lives Giles, not the slayer. So when I have a feeling my head will keep from exploding if I do this, I got with the flow.” She yanked the door opened, her resolute hazel eyes falling on the watcher. “Coming?”
Angelus stood back as the watcher went tripping over his books to catch up with Cordelia before she ventured out into the night by herself. A muscle worked in his jaw as he saw the young woman throw back an accusing glare before the door slid shut. What the hell!? Why the hell did they assume he’d be their do-gooder kick puppy! He snarled and kicked a stack of books clear across the room, the volumes flying open like wings before landing with a crash. Damn it all to hell!
Dropping into the couch, the demon ran a hand over his face only to wince and pull it away. Blood streaked his fingers and for a moment he held them in the moonlight before he turned his hands over and found the wounds Cordelia had spent the last two days healing start to open and ooze.
“Awww fucking hell!” Growling to keep his anger in check he glowered up at the ceiling. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
It was almost morning when Cordelia walked into the house. Behind her, the weary watcher and the slayer they’d kidnapped from her bed entered just as tired. Cordelia had played the getaway car driver while the watcher and Buffy had taken on the pack of vampires.
And the little girl had died.
In Cordelia’s arms.
“Back so soon?”
Looking up from where she stood, she spotted the silhouette of the vampire sitting on the couch, legs bent and feet apart, hands in his lap.
With the fury of their futile attempt burning in her belly Cordelia balled up all the frustrated anger into her fist as he flung Giles’ car keys at the vampire’s head. One hand lifted and caught the keys effortlessly as Buffy closed the door behind them, engulfing them in complete darkness.
“You asshole!” She shot back at the vampire while the watcher moved to turn the lamp on. “How much would it have taken to help us tonight!”
“Exactly! She’d dead because of you!!!”
And then they were blinded by the light and Cordelia lost all her anger in the shock of watching the bleeding vampire sitting on the couch, every scar she’d sealed and bandaged open and weeping blood.
“I know.” Angelus dropped the blood soaked keys on the coffee table and met her eyes. Licking the cut on his bottom lip he squinted up at the three gaping humans. “They sent me a telegram.”
Buffy blinked, shaking herself out of her stupor and wrinkled her nose. “What the hell happened to you?”
Angelus leaned back on the couch, but his eyes stayed on the silent brunette. “Pre-encashment penalty.”
Giles stepped forward from where he’d frozen by the end table and walked around to look at the surprisingly complacent vampire. “What for?”
“I made a deal with the powers that do all shit to get me out of hell.”
An eyebrow shot up and Giles looked at the impassive lull in Angelus’ eyes. “The oracles?”
Buffy frowned at her watcher. “Powers that Be?”
“What sort of deal Angelus?”
The demon let out an unneeded breath, every muscle in his body aching and bruised as it had been while he’d burned in hell. “I made a soul pact.”
Giles held back the startled breath and seemed to take a step back. “Wait a second. You made a deal with the devil for the price of your soul?”
“His soul!? You mean Angel?” Buffy gasped.
“Hey you sent him to hell; don’t look at me that way.”
“YOU! I sent YOU to hell!”
Angelus grunted at the stupidity of the slayer. “Oh wake up and smell the brimstone Slayer!” He snapped cruelly. “I AM Angel. He was just a pesky bug in my system. I’M the master vampire! The Scourge of Europe. The soul was a curse. A curse I shed. THIS is the real me. This is who I am. Get it through your thick head! But then you are the fucking slayer; can’t even blame you for being thick.”
Tears clouded Buffy’s eyes and she shook her head incredulously. “You’re telling me he’s still there and they let YOU go?!”
“They didn’t let me go. I was let out on bail.”
“Define bail.” Giles crossed his arms and glared down at the straining vampire. The cuts and lacerations wept blood sluggishly and Giles knew those weren’t human inflicted.
Angelus dropped his head back and stared at the ceiling, gritting his teeth and cursing the day he agreed to do this. “I’m let out of the fryer and play puppet for them. I just never figured it’d be for eternity. Hellfire clouds commonsense apparently.”
“You mean beezly played one on you?” Cordelia spoke for the first time, standing farthest away from him. Angelus figured it was just as well. He couldn’t take her tending to him at the moment. Not when everything inside him burned with the unjustness of it all. He figured once he was back on earth, what’s the worst they could do. This isn’t want he’d thought.
“He failed to mention just what I’d be doing.”
“And what is that exactly?” Giles’ brow furrowed in confusion.
“Helping the damned helpless.”
Angelus lifted his head and met Cordelia’s eyes. “The Seer sees and the demon slays.” He watched the color drain from the brunette’s face, her healthy warm glow dimming in the lamplight, her hazel eyes skittering away in fear.
Giles felt momentary panic at the implication in the vampire’s answer, his eyes flicking up to the silent cheerleader before he glared down at the vampire. “The Seer? Cordelia?”
“Hey I think it fits.” Angelus shrugged nonchalantly, while inside every undead nerve in his body jumped at the repulsive admission. “Vampire with soul. I never would have betted it’d be hers. When did you put yours on auction Chase?”
Right when I found you. But she didn’t say that. Looking to her side, she wished now more than ever that she’d taken that bus. Because now from what Angelus was telling them, she was somehow caught into their fucked up circle of righteous Scooby crap. The very thing she’d been running away from. All because she’d stopped to help the helpless.
She saw Buffy drop into the chair, her head in her hands as Giles stood beside the couch where Angelus sat, still watching Cordelia.
The vampire snorted at the asinine question. “You’re the smart one Chase. You tell me.”
Gritting her teeth, she met his haughty gaze. “WHY ME!?”
He sighed more out of frustrated habit than anything else. “Because you chose to help me that night.”
She shook her head. “No. And I’m not choosing now.”
“Cordelia, you don’t fight destiny like…”
“Yes I will!” She snapped at the watcher’s unfinished declaration. “I don’t want the stupid burden of helping the helpless! That’s Buffy’s forte. She’s the slayer. She can take the responsibility, I don’t want it!”
“No Giles. I’m sick of being given the short straw. I quit!”
“You can’t quit!” Angelus thundered; rising out of the couch so fast that all three occupants of the room froze. Cordelia suppressed the shudder of fear as he towered over her, bleeding and livid. “You think I haven’t tried? LOOK at me Cordelia. This was me quitting!” He held up the cut palms she’d wrapped in bandages before. “YOU chose to go out and try to save the girl when I refused. You CAN’T quit now. You had your chance to let me bleed, but you didn’t. And I know every instinct inside you is screaming to play Florence now.” Hazel eyes slammed shut and she took a shivering breath. “Go with the flow remember?”
“Healthy comeback.” He leered at her through his blood encrusted eyes.
“I’m not playing nursemaid to you for all eternity fangbreath.”
“You wanted a reason to keep living.”
Her gaze snapped up to his angrily. “This isn’t what I had in mind.”
His broken lips twisted into an ironic smile. “You think I did Brighteyes?”
“Maybe.” She crossed her arms, some part of her knowing he was right on the mark with each deduction. “Maybe YOU picked me. I know I’m a hottie.”
For a moment his eyelashes dropped, eyes sliding over the curves of her body under the rumpled white cotton t-shirt and gray shorts. “That you are.”
Buffy stood up. “I can’t deal with this.” She stumbled slightly. “I can’t…he’s still in hell.”
“Me, me, me, me, me.” Angelus rolled his eyes. “Is it just me or does this woman listens out of her ass? Because her ears sure as hell don’t hear.” He met her tearful blue eyes with a nasty grimace. “Angel was a parasite. Parasites come from hell and they go back into hell. He was a curse. A stupid, vengeful, little g y p s y curse. I’m the host. I’m the star of this sitcom. So get with the program already.”
Cordelia frowned. “What do you mean YOU’RE the star?”
Angelus snorted softly. “Vampire with Soul? Never really heard it being called Soul with Vampire before, Chase.”
Buffy took a calming breath, one hand held up as if to shield herself from the arguing pair. “God Giles. Just take me home.”
The watcher let out a soft breath before picking up his blood stained keys. Too much had happened for one night. He put a gentle hand on the back of his slayer as he led her out. “Get some rest Cordelia. I’ll be back soon.”
Buffy cast one last look at the wincing demon as Cordelia lifted the edge of his sleeve to look at the gashes on his arm. Sometimes, Buffy realized, it just didn’t pay to play the good guy.
The watcher looked at his slayer and could almost read the secrets there. “You know you can tell me Buffy.”
“What’s going on here?”
He sighed, turning his eyes back to the road. “I honestly do not know. From my knowledge of soul pacts, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a demon called to the service of the Powers-That-Be.”
“Who do they usually call?”
“Oh.” Buffy felt oddly humbled. “And Cordelia,” she added.
“I believe she was caught by mistake when she saved his life.”
“I’ve learnt in my profession Giles, nothing happens without reason.”
“What’s your point Buffy?”
“I met Riley last night, while I took the smelly thing to the incinerator.”
“The man who saved your life before?”
“Yeah. He works for the initiative. And he wants to help.”
Giles nearly swerved off the road.
Lions and tigers and bears: Oh my! Cordelia mentally chided herself. She could have been great. She could have been grand. She could have been – an actress.
With a sigh she glared at the lump on HER couch. Instead of being one with stardom she was sitting in a dark house in the middle of a perfectly good sunny day staring at the back of a dead man while everyone tried to figure out why the powers that be had picked her. Her! As if she was the best candidate they could have found. Well that was just fine with her. If they could find a replacement, she’d be up and gone to LA and Buffy the Whiner slayer could do her little good deed and help the damned helpless. Cordelia Chase was SO not with the super hero gig.
“Staring me into nothingness isn’t going to make it go away.”
Leaning her head against the wall where she’d been sitting in the corner since Giles had left, the blood still staining her shirt; Cordelia closed her eyes. “What is?”
She glared back at him, now taking in the full expanse of his chest and face as he lay there on his side, one arm propped up under his head, watching her with a superior glint in his eyes. It was as if he knew everything she had trouble grasping. “You’re taking this well.”
He shrugged noncommittally. “Forever is for me not you. You’re just the seer.”
She frowned at the off-handed way he said seer. “JUST the seer?”
His lazy mouth drifted up in a sneer. “Yeah. There’s going to be a new one every five decades or so. From what I know of soul pacts, the life span of champion’s sidekicks isn’t more than four or five years anyway.”
Cordelia knew he was trying to get a rise out of her, because all night she’d sat there refusing to talk to anyone. She’d just glared accusingly at him. She knew he was baiting for a reaction, but she couldn’t help the bitterness in her voice. “You make it sound like I was hoping for empathy from a heartless killer.”
“I am heartless. I don’t feel. Not like you do anyway. If I don’t get my way, I take it. No game. No rules. So you know who’s still going to be here when this is over.”
“So the world’s just one big playground for you…”
“What am I supposed to be? Your toy?”
For a moment he didn’t say anything. Then he lay back down on his back, eyes fixed up on the ceiling before he spoke. “No Chase, you’re the soul I never had.”
Cordelia’s anger morphed into abject shock and an odd knot wound itself into her chest. Glaring at the confusing myriad of emotional connotations to his admission, she glared down between her bent knees, arms propped up on them as she tried to make sense of what her head was trying to tell her, but she was tired. Tired and lost and lonely. Even the company of the demon was starting to look good.
Just then the door slid open just enough for Giles to squeeze through and he blinked in the darkness of the living room, the stream of light arching through the room, sliding over the partially hidden brunette. He scanned the room for the vampire, only to find him prone and reclining on the couch, eyes closed in sleep. With a sigh he closed the door and walked to the little lamp on his desk and turned it on. “You didn’t sleep?”
Cordelia didn’t look up, merely went on examining the wooden flooring where she sat. Counting the swirls in the teak. Crazily, thinking of the cracks Angelus had been counting. Then she closed her eyes. Relating to the demon was one thing, become it was something entirely different. “Not tired.”
“How could you not be? You’ve had a rough night Cordelia. Go to bed, I’ll watch him.”
The young woman snorted. “Are you freaking kidding me Librarian man? You think I’m here because I’m afraid he’d run away. I WISH he’d run away. You know for once it would give me an excuse to give all of this – up. Whatever THIS is.” Then she blinked at him. “You were gone all night. Did you find a way to cure it?”
Giles dropped into his desk chair and looked at the bundled young woman in the corner between his books. “It’s not a disease Cordelia.”
“Might as well be, and just when things were starting to get better. I finally have a game in two days. How would I look all seer-ed out.” She looked up at the ceiling. “I hope you’re laughing you good for nothing-”
She threw up her hands and crossed them stubbornly over her chest, her face set in a grumpy line. Only Giles would think of divine insensibilities right now. “What did you find out?”
“Willow did a little research.”
“Good old witch.” Cordelia snorted then lifted her eyes to meet the watchers. “By research you mean magic.” It wasn’t a question. “Real big on the ethics of it all aren’t we Giles?” Then she sighed. “But them I’m sidekick to the Scourge of Europe. Like I can complain. So what did little miss magic have to say?”
Giles chose to chalk up her biting lip to the still open wound of losing the man she loved and being tied to one that would never love her. He knew she blamed the world, but most of all she blamed herself. She was just a girl. He couldn’t help see the little girl in her while she sat there trying to appear as hard as stone and as dark as the night where she’d sat clutching the little dead child, crying like she’d given her birth. “Nothing much different from what he said I’m afraid. He’s been chosen as the Champion, although, I cannot for the life of me understand why they’d pick him. He is hardly eligible.”
“Back to me. Why me?”
“Because you showed something towards their champion no one has ever shown before.”
She looked up into his old eyes etched with boding irony. “What?”
“You showed loyalty and perseverance. You sealed the deal with the devil Cordelia. You; not him. You didn’t let him die.”
Cordelia thought she saw Angelus’ head snap sideways for an instant to stare at her, but she’d been too busy watching the trepidation dawning in the watcher’s eyes. “So this is my fault.” A weak laugh tore from her throat. “Great.” Eyes prickling with helpless tears. Then she felt warm hands close around her shoulders as Giles squatted down in front of her. She lifted her head to tell him off and make some snide comment, but at the sincere concern in his eyes she paused and let him speak.
“None of this is your fault Cordelia. Everything happens for a reason. True, I never would have picked Angelus as purpose for you, but his being here is reason enough for me. I will not lie when I tell you that I wanted you to stay. Stay where there are people who know you. I wanted you to be more than just a bitter little child trying to salvage her pride and thinking life owed her something. It is you Cordelia that owes life now. Life has given you what you asked for. A chance to gloat.” His mouth drifted up into a sad little line. “You’re the one they chose. Not my slayer. Not my witch. And not the man who unwittingly broke your heart.”
“I told you not to get attached.” She wagged a finger at him and stood, the weight of his words weighing her down, keeping her steadily on her feet. “I told you I was likable.” Then for the first time Cordelia Chase looked at the watcher with an expression that made him want to pull the girl into his arms and squeeze away her pain. “I’m scared.”
Awkwardly, he patted her shoulder. “That’s good.” At her confused frown he smiled. “It’s a sign that you’re still alive.”
Giles watched the young woman trudge upstairs to his room. He’d offered her the bed just this one night after cajoling and exhausted as she was, plus bribed with the prospect of soaking in his bathtub for an hour, she finally left to retire.
Running a weary hand through his hair, Rupert Giles looked at the still demon on his couch. The vampire on a leash.
The watcher’s gaze narrowed into angry slits. “Would you rather I’d have told her like it is? That you of all things are the other half of her soul?”
The vampire swung his legs down, elbows bracing on his set apart knees as he grinned at the old man malevolently, eyes gleaming yellow in the darkness of the heavy curtains. “Won’t the slayer just piss herself when she finds out ultimate happiness isn’t what killed ol’ soulful.”
Giles could only hope the slayer took it as calmly as Cordelia had.
The blonde girl looked up at her best friend’s timid smile and sighed. “Hey Willow.”
The girl sat down beside her on the lunch table and put her thick books down beside her quart of milk. “Are you…are you alright?”
The slayer sighed softly and dropped her chin into her hands, watching the students laugh and go about their lunch hour. “Almost.”
Willow winced slightly at the misery in her friend’s voice. “He can’t be right you know.” Blue eyes lifted up listlessly as the Wicca continued. “I mean look at it this way: the soul made him more…almost human you know. The man…vampire you loved was Angel. And we all saw him. He was real. Well he was dead, but he was real you know. For touching and stuff. But that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that you loved him. And that was real. Right? So what Angelus said about the soul being a parasite can’t be true. What you had was real.”
Buffy took a deep breath before rubbing her arms gently in the chill of the wind. Winter was coming. “Yeah Willow. We were real.” Then she looked up, blue eyes sad. “I’m just human I guess.” She blinked slightly. “Well Slayer. And I can’t help look at him and feel like he’s here. And somewhere deep down, a part of me wishes he wasn’t real. That would make being around Angelus…somehow easier.”
“But he’s not ya know. Not Angel.”
At the soft announcement, Buffy frowned. “What do you mean?”
“What I mean is,” Willow licked her lips, choosing her words carefully, “last night, Giles and I were going over some books. You know the really musty kind that smell sorta spicy and all. Anyway, any previous notions we might have had about the soul and the demon was based on assumptions, considering there’s no other vampire running around with a soul. Not willingly anyway. Not that Angelus would have picked this. My point is: Angelus is not the soul. The soul was an entity introduced into his body that tipped the balance towards light, but he’s still a vampire you know. Still a creature of the night.”
Buffy frowned at what the witch was telling her, somehow not grasping her point. “Meaning?”
“Meaning, the vampire in Giles’ bathroom is not the one you loved. Not the one who loved you. His destiny wasn’t the same as Angel’s. Angelus is tied to the oracles because they picked him. Angel is…”
Willow winced at the blunt interjection. “No Buffy. Angel is more like – dead.”
Willow shook her head. “For demons there’s little to do with heaven or hell. They just exist. Angelus wasn’t supposed to go to hell, you sent him there. From what Giles and I could dig up; Angel just…”
“Yeah, but like who’s to say he’s not in heaven. I mean he was good and all. I personally think he’s in heaven. But hey, that’s just me.”
“I’d like to believe that.” Buffy took a deep breath. “What about Cordelia? How does she fit into all this?”
“That was a doozy.” Willow fidgeted in her seat. “Somehow you fit with the soul and Cordelia…”
“She fits with the demon. Only a vampire would be lucky enough to have two soul mates when one betrays him. We humans never get a break.”
“Thus the vampire with soul. Two entities.”
Buffy smiled slightly at her friend’s perky response. “I get it Willow. I get that they’re different entities. Not that blonde you know.”
For just a moment, Buffy wondered that if Cordelia was the soul to the demon Angelus, did that make her the demon with the soul Angel? Then she shook her head. Angelus was not Angel. Willow was right. And she was going mad. Besides, vampires made bad boyfriends. That much was a given.
Shaking herself out of the doldrums Buffy took a deep breath. She was in no mood for a pity party. “Anyway, any lead on the demon we toasted last week?”
The Witch winced. “Not very much I’m afraid.” She sighed heavily as she opened one thick book and pointed to a place on the page she’d bookmarked. “The demon isn’t listed anywhere. I mean there are similarities and there are close matches, but nothing exactly like it. The color is all wrong and the teeth don’t nearly curve out like the one we saw. They have a tiny little bump right under…”
Buffy cleared her throat. “Ah…Willow. Point?”
“Oh yes!” The red head grinned. “Point is: I can’t find the demon.” Her face fell and she sighed again. “Bummer.”
“And the computer chip.”
The hacker’s eyes lip up. “Oh that! Well that’s a different story. I’ve pulled up an inventory of the manufactures of that particular version and let me tell you. Pretty decent work on the silicon on this one. I mean the simple logic circuits were just so…” At the bewildered look on her friend’s face, Willow smile sheepishly. “It’s pretty high tech.”
The slayer nodded thoughtfully. “Meaning expensive. Who’d have that kind of money just lying around?”
Buffy shudder slightly. “I’m in no mood to go down that road. I mean the watcher’s council is as far as I’d put politics into this.”
“But there’s an upside.”
The slayer blinked at the warning tone to her friend’s paradoxical statement. “Oh oh?”
Willow gave her friend a dire look. “The work is exactly like the x-ray scans I got from Angelus’ head. I’d even go as far to say they came from the same maker.”
Instantly Buffy sat up straighter. “So the demon ties in with Angelus’ chip?”
Willow nodded eagerly. “I’d They’re nearly identical.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Which would mean the stupid vampire knows more about it than he was letting on. I’ll kill him.” Then the Slayer leaned back slightly in her chair and took a deep breath. “Tonight. Right now I so need a little R and R.”
“We could go to the J-Crew opening at the mall.” Willow provided half heartedly. “Hotties there could prove to be helpful distraction.” When Buffy didn’t answer Willow frowned and followed her affixed gaze and raised an eyebrow. “Or we could do that right here.” Willow mumbled softly as the tall man walked towards Buffy and stood besides the lunch table.
“Why is this becoming a habit?” She smiled slightly, watching the mirrored smile on his face, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“I think I might be able to shed a little light on your demon problem. Got a minute?”
Buffy patted the bench beside her an ironic twist to her mouth. “Who needs an education anyway? Spill it.”
Cordelia purposefully chose to ignore the heavy implications of being the chosen one. That was new to her. She’d always chalked that name up to the slayer, but she’d be kidding if she said she wasn’t feeling better about the whole thing. Yeah. They had the Slayer and they had the Wicca. But they picked her. Her – homeless little penniless rich girl. The fact that she was bound to Buffy’s ex just gave her all kinds of wicked ideas. Let them think she’d taken him. That’d teach them.
Walking down the corridor of the school she frowned. Teach them what, she wondered. To take away Xander? She snorted and rolled her eyes, suppressing the dull ache of being jilted. No. Xander Harris hadn’t been growing on her. No more than moss. With determined strides she made her way to her literature class. Maybe she could get off for good behavior. Save a few extra ones before dinner time and cut back on the sentence. Oh yeah. That way she could be free in like two or three years.
First order of business, she decided. Graduation and then she’d do her bit for destiny.
Only her confident walk faltered and her delicate little ankle twisted as the first kaleidoscope of colors hit her and then the vision sent her to her knees.
Bright flashes and screams in her head were followed by the garish fangs. Familiar fangs of the demon that had died with a fork in his eye. Only this time the huge gray demon had the man by his throat, claws digging into the man’s skull and abdomen.
And then she saw another. And another.
Angelus was sitting on the couch tossing playing cards into one of the decorative, open skeleton skull of the dead Nunuki beast when he felt the twist in his chest. With a wince, one hand drifted to the dull ache. It was then when he realized it was exactly where his heart should have been.
Looking down he stilled, the card drifting from the fingers of his other hand. “Oh no. Not now.” His gaze skittered up to the glow behind the curtains before the burn settled like pinpricks under his skin. “Fine. Fine! Christ I get the fucking idea!”
Grunting and irate the vampire stood up and walked over to the cloak closet and threw the dark brown coat over his head; one that smelled too much like the watcher for his taste.
And then he ran out into the sunlight in search of his soul.
“I still don’t get why he had to carry me.”
“You were unconscious Cordy. Be glad Xander was around to fetch you.”
“Fetching is all he’s good for anyway.”
Cordelia sat in the library chair the cold pack on her head as the headache nearly ripped right out of her skull. She looked up at the scoobies huddled around the table; the new dark haired boy sprawled in his chair, swinging it back on its rear legs as he filled them in on how he’d been following the missing experiments until he found out the illicit dealings of the military organization chipping vampires.
The seer just wanted to get the slaying over with. Why did they have to sit there and engage in a symposium? Ignoring Xander’s hurt yelp she fixed her eyes on the new comer. “So let me get this straight,” she said with a hint of sarcasm in her voice, “they were using vampire research to make some sort of anti vampire demon and ended up what? Making an Anti people demon instead?”
Riley smiled slightly at the sharp tongued brunette. “Something like that. The demons were vampires.”
Buffy stared at the man. “So you’re saying Angelus would have become one of those…slimey fangy things?”
“Experiment 14 was resilient to most mutations.”
Eyes snapped up to the smoking figure in the library doorway, fangs flashing and eyes burning gold.
Angelus growled; the sound vibrating through the bookracks. “Being a few centuries old really builds up the resistance. Let’s see yours.”
“Angelus no!” Cordelia stood out of her chair and Buffy was instantly in front of Riley, but the vampire didn’t make it to his target. As soon as the intent to tear the human limb from limb was clear, the chip sent him howling to his feet. The entire library fell silent, as the vampire trembled on his hands and knees, cursing profusely, the heel of his hand pressing into his temple as if meaning to reach into the flesh and tear the chip out.
Riley raised an eyebrow from behind Buffy. “No wonder they want this one back.”
Cordelia was the first to move, striding across the library while Xander watched with growing unease and Buffy frowned at the seemingly companionable way she offered him the compress as he stood to his full height still reeling from the pain.
Giles turned to the Commando and frowned. “Beg your pardon?”
Riley shrugged as e watched the grumbling vampire mutter something to the cheerleader who only rolled her eyes. “The chip didn’t work on anyone else. None of them survived the implant. Well you’ve seen the outcome.”
“This one had to live I’m afraid.” Leaning back against the table, Giles crossed his arms as he watched the unsettling sight of Cordelia and Angelus move away from the group, automatically settling into each other’s company. For a moment he felt bad about leaving the girl home alone with the demon so much, but then this Initiative and the new demon introduced into Sunnydale had been primary on their mind. He watched his slayer’s blue eyes darken as she saw Cordelia laugh at something Angelus said.
“Not that I’m a big advocate of the vampire,” Giles looked at Riley, “but it concerns me that they are conducting such…research that is putting the lives of people in danger.”
“I agree. I’ve been trying to find proof enough to make it stick, but a few wayward demons and corpses aren’t enough with all sorts of crazy things running around this place already.”
Buffy sighed. “That’s the Hellmouth for you.”
“Besides I’m just one man.” He looked up at Buffy pointed. “Which is why I approached you.
The slayer held back her smile.
Giles cleared his throat and faced the redhead still bent over her laptop. “Willow?” Her pretty green eyes blinked up at him. “Did you track down the suppliers?”
The girl nodded, her fingers flying over the keys effortlessly. “It isn’t confirmed, but I’ve isolated the only possible supplier. Technology like this isn’t come by at e-bay you know.”
Xander pretended to rummage through his book-bag as he watched the vampire put one hand on the table beside the cheerleader and lean closer while she ranted.
“Serves you right all the bruises came back or I would have given you shinny new ones.” She stood under his scrutiny, without a hint of unease, hip leaning against the table.
“Damn the soul had it easy. I miss the bastard.”
“There there.” Cordelia patted his head.
“The hair is off-limits Chase. At least the soul bites fair. You don’t.” He ran a hand back through his hair to fix the spikes. “Besides, I’m playing the damned cowboys and Indians with you; so give it a rest.”
“Ye-hah!” Cordelia glared at him, arms crossed, the headache seemingly lessened now that she was occupied. “After you let the little girl die.”
“You’re wasting your time. I haven’t felt guilt since the 18th century.”
Cordelia sighed and shook her head. “So all you’re going to do is bitch.”
“I am doing something.”
She lifted her head to find his eyes only a few inches above her, his position over her giving him a mighty fine look down her shirt. But she stayed there. Curiosity getting the best of her. As always. “What?”
“Standard response to unforeseen dilemmas perfected over many centuries.” He paused for effect and smirked. “Nothing!” She snorted with laughter at his quip and Angelus grinned at her, basking in the glow of her wide smile and sparking hazel eyes. “Besides, you didn’t want this gig either; remember?”
“I die and it’s over. Bonus; remember?”
A muscle worked in his jaw and he let out an unwanted sigh. She had to be the most stubborn human he had the displeasure of verbally sparring with. The girl always had some comeback to everything he said and it was just damned unsettling on a woman. “Does the term self-preservation mean anything to you, Chase?”
“Death can be therapeutic. I won’t ‘feel’ as you so eloquently like to point out all the time. Besides it was lack of self-preservation that got me into saving your fat ass remember?”
He pointed a threatening finger at her; the tip nearly touching her nose as he let his hip slide along hers with a whisper of a touch, testing her boundaries, and when she didn’t pull away, he lit the tip of his finger graze her pert little nose teasingly. “Okay that’s three. One more and I won’t be responsible for my actions.”
“That night,” she smirked up at him, the twist of her pretty mouth almost taunting enough to match his own, “you were ready to die as much as I was fangless.”
Angelus watched her oddly for a moment, his head drawing back to look at her more openly. “Are you kidding me Hazel? Do you think I want to die? Do you think it’s goddamn easy after hundreds of years? Why do you think I made the deal in the first place?”
She raised a cocky eyebrow, leaning closer to him haughtily. “So you don’t tempt the slayer into staking you?”
“The Slayer’s just in heat, she needs to ride someone.”
Cordelia muffled the spurt of laughter, casting guilty glances around her before she cleared her throat. Angelus watched her for a moment, the animated twinkle in her eyes. The infectious smile on her wide mouth. “Why the hell did you think I’d actually help you? Before I found out I had no choice I mean?”
She blinked up at him, startled by the direct question. She thought of joking. She thought of hedging and she thought of just walking away. But most of all she thought of the way he looked right into her eyes as if nothing in them could faze him. And for the first time in weeks she found herself relaxing. Almost like she didn’t have to fight to keep the mask in place. “The alternative seemed unthinkable.”
A cocky eyebrow drifted up. “Forgotten the fangs and flesh already?”
“You weren’t doing anything else.” She rolled her eyes and tried to sway the conversation back to sparing, but Angelus wouldn’t let her.
“You shouldn’t have.”
At the slight husk in his voice Cordelia met his eyes and for a moment, just a moment, she thought she saw confused awe battling longing in his eyes. “All said and done?”
But then the look was gone to be replaced by the impassive chill of the vampire’s amber tinted eyes. “No. But I’m choking on the rest.”
“Choke alone.” She slid out from underneath him.
He caught her arm and she was slingshot back against him, for a breath, the others paused as Angelus glowered down at the girl, eyes brimming with gold, nose nearly level with hers. “I’ve spent more than two hundred years killing, what the hell makes you think I’m suddenly turning over a new leaf Cordelia?”
Held against the hard planes of his chest, Cordelia had to fight the urge to lean closer. Somewhere along the way, the lines had blurred between food and consumer. He wasn’t eating her and she had started to see him as more than a demon. The change in their affiliation startled her into silence almost as much as it incensed him into sneering. “We are built for certain things baby. Like that guy, Sisyphus, he rolled that damned stone up that mountain and it rolled right back down. Then he got to start all over. That’s what he was good at.”
The young woman bristled at the know-it-all-arrogant tenor of his voice. The glint in his eye was enough to tell her; he figured the reference was lost to her. “No. The difference between Sisyphus and you is that he doesn’t whine all the time.”
It was distracting. Damn distracting the way she leaned back into him, her shoulder softening against his chest, her wrist loosening in his grasp even while she shot back with equal venom, Angelus took a moment to answer. “Maybe that’s because he’s immortal. At least he isn’t just waiting around to die like you Chase.”
“Well I’m grateful for my mortality. Few people find life good enough for it to last forever. Me? I intend to go out with a bang.” Yanking her arm out of his grasp, she picked up the melting compress, the headache returning tenfold as she left Angelus glaring after her and slumped back into her chair next to Giles. “Can we get on with the invasion plan already? I have an appointment with my masseuse after this migraine.”
Xander cast one scathing look at the silent vampire behind them as he leaned against the table there; arms and legs crossed, face set in a brooding frown. But it was his eyes that made Xander want to beat the undead stuffing out of him.
His eyes were fixed on Cordelia Chase.
Angelus was cursing all the hell and heavens as he tried to calm the rage mixed with the need to possess the woman who challenged him on every turn. He couldn’t for the unlife of him understand how they were supposed to work together without tearing each other to pieces. Verbally or otherwise.
That or tear each others clothes to pieces.
It was then when he realized the singular train of thought and his eyebrows shot up in realization. Dammit! He was getting accustomed to her.
The pack of vampire demons they found indeed had the frat boys surrounded. From where Cordelia sat in Giles’ car she saw Buffy, Riley and Angelus marching up to the now snarling demon. The young woman allowed herself a few seconds for just watching Angelus strut up to the pack with a smirk and his game face. The commando had lithe easy motions – but the vampire! Cordelia recalled a previous statement about salty goodness and realized she’d been right on the money.
Angelus has his own unique pull to him. It was the way he walked up to the demon, fangs bared, the booted heel sending the demon sprawling away so he could take his time and play. Play with his new toy. Giles’ coat discarded to the ground, the black silk shirt open around his throat, pulled out of the confines of his leather pants. While the night had dawned, he’d finally convinced Giles to let him grab some clothes of his own and now Cordelia saw the confidence with which he went about disposing demon after demon.
She smirked. She always did think the right threads could make the `tude.
Putting her arms on the steering wheel, her chin resting on her arms she watched Buffy exchange blows, she saw Riley duck and parry, but it was Angelus who mocked, laughed and held all of Cordelia Chase’s attention.
Lips drifting up at the corner, she gazed with amusement at her own appreciation of the dance of death. But maybe she was just morbid and maybe Angelus was just too damned studly for his own good. Glaring at her train of thought, Cordelia slumped back in her seat, grumpily muttering about good-looking dead guys. And now she was bound to him for life. She sighed at the irony. To find someone as yummy as him and for him to be Buffy’s ex and a vampire. It was just not fair.
Looking up at the heavens she glared. “Don’t I ever get a break?”
With a bereaved sigh, she slid her gaze back to the vampire and nearly choked. Kicking her door open she ran across the park just as Buffy’s fist connected with her vampire’s jaw. “Hey!” Jumping between them, unthinkingly putting herself between Angelus and the slayer, she glared at the flailing woman in Riley’s grip. “What the hell is your damage?”
“ME!?” Buffy spit out, her green eyes flashing with rage. “He’s the one who goads me and incites ME!”
Angelus rubbed the sore spot on his jaw, his eyes still spitting fire as he watched the slayer struggle in the commando’s arms. Every instinct told him to reach forward and snap her scrawny neck, but the brunette was still standing between them and the insistent throbbing in his temple told him to keep his homicidal urges in check. But that didn’t include the onslaught of his tongue. A few well placed words and the slayer was back in kick-butt mode. No amount of borrowed blood could sate the demon while the slayer was around.
“Incite or entice you Slayer? But then you slayers can never really make up your mind, can you?”
Cordelia yelped at Buffy’s guttural snarl and jumped back against Angelus, her hand reaching back to curl into the collar of his silk shirt. She could almost feel the quip on his tongue. “Angelus…”
But he didn’t heed her warning; smirking banefully, he fixed his eyes on the green of the slayer’s. “Ever wonder why the soul didn’t stay? The goddamn ultimate happiness and all that crap that means so much to you Buff. Your tragic love farce about soul mates and two halves of a fucking whole! The truth is slayer; YOU were not the other half.” Cordelia spun around when Angelus started his tirade and she tried to grab him, tried to make him shut up, tried to put a hand over his mouth but he wasn’t done, he grabbed both her wrists and continued. Cordelia had only one other weapon left. “Your pathetic attempt at the fuck of a lifetime killed the soul. Because you were do damned bad at sucking my-”
Angelus had been so busy firing barbs; he didn’t see the panic chase dogmatic determination on the cheerleader’s face before her mouth was crushed against his and all sound was stolen from him.
Now the demon was a thing of action, but when he felt the soft wide mouth of one Cordelia Chase against his own, he missed those few precious seconds to react; she drew back and took a deep breath.
Buffy Summers had gone deathly still in Riley’s arms.
Cordelia however took a deep smug breath, happy to finally have the silence around her. “Well good. We’re silent. I was starting toMUFFFPH!” Only he hadn’t given her a moment to inquire what was his damage was. Taking advantage of her agape mouth and bewildered state, he stepped against her, arms wrapping around her like iron bands, one holding her around the waist tightly, the other up her back, hand tangling in her hair and his mouth slanted on Cordelia’s.
Like Xander’s, his mouth was full and firm, but that was where the similarity ended. None of the dreamy kisses she’d shared with Xander compared to this burst, this shock of having a man’s skillful lips devouring hers. Or the hot, impatient way he used his tongue and teeth to simply drink her in, to focus every thought, every feeling, every need into that points where mouth met mouth.
Angelus had reacted on instinct when she’d pulled away. The kiss she’d bestowed on him was hard, jarring and distracting. Mouth closed, lips pressing into his with vehemence.
But when he’d grabbed her again, he hadn’t intended to give her a moment to defend herself.
When he felt her body jerk, stiffening against the onslaught of his lips, teeth and tongue, he wondered if even a fraction of what was battling through him was heightening inside her as well. He’d expected biting and he’d expected heat. But he wasn’t prepared for the power, the pleasure that her mouth was made to give and receive. Her wide mouth had incited many fantasies. In the tub while he’d lain awake all night. Bored. Wanting. Raging.
And he’d known he’d find it all in her. It slammed into him like a bare-knuckled fist and left him drinking deeper. And he wanted to taste where her pulse throbbed, but he couldn’t get enough of her mouth to move lower.
Cordelia didn’t hear the slayer stomp away in betrayed, confused anger, but she was brought back down to earth when one cold hand slid up her stomach, fingers plowing into the neck of v-neck blouse and dig out one silk covered breast. The shock of the cold digits flicking over her nipple sent bullets of ricocheting heat through her already overloaded system. And she jerked her mouth away with a gasp. “Stop!”
His lips twisting into a sensual smile that made promises he had no right to make Angelus let his fingers stroke the swell of the breast in his palm. “You’re right. We need to finish this in a better place. My place or yours Hazel?”
“I’m homeless remember!” She placed trembling hands on his chest; she tried to push him away. The sheer weight of him surrounded her like a hot blanket and Cordelia fidgeted. “HEY! Hands off grubby paws! AIR!”
“Mmmm, yeah baby, I’m having trouble myself, but let’s breathe later.” He lowered his head, nipping at her jaw. “Let me have you Chase. Don’t fight this.”
Her breath hitched somewhere between her throat and her chest at the feel of his teeth on her neck. “NO! Let me go! Let me go NOW!”
She struggled against him, until finally she shoved him away and he went, more afraid the girl would bolt rather than the blinding pain his chip would reward him for forcing her. “Go ahead and breathe Brighteyes, but it doesn’t change facts. Although,” he ran a hand through his spiky hair giving Cordelia a peek at the restraint he was showing, “I’m not too damned happy with this either.”
“Bullshit.” She tried to calm the wild pumping of her blood and heart as she fixed her clothes. “You think just because you’re a big sexy neutered vamp you can seduce me! Hand me downs! Easy pickings since I’ve never done this before!” The hazel in her eyes turned a flashing honey with anger.
He rolled his eyes. “Oh come off it Cordy! Hand me downs my—” He broke off, one eyebrow hiking up. “Never done what?”
“You know damn well what I’m talking about!”
One corner of his mouth drifted up slightly, eyes flickering with interest. “Never? As in ever?”
Cordelia clenched her fists to her side, waiting for him to laugh so she could deck him.
“Fucking hell Chase! How was I supposed to know; I just figured since you and the moron, you’d…”
“Did he say that!” Her eyes narrowed into slits as she poised ready pounce.
Angelus held back the laugh, remembering the last two occasions when she’d pounced on him, the flesh where she’d bit him warming at the memory. “No. But have you looked at yourself in the damned mirror. I just assumed that you’d—”
He winced at the snapping retort. Hand me a damned shovel, he thought. Digging a hole with my bare hands is getting tedious. He shrugged and chose his next words carefully, because already he’d decided this sumptuous creature with her clever mouth was going to be his. Seer or no seer. “You’re a beautiful woman Cordelia. I just assumed you knew how to ask for what you wanted.”
“You’re the LAST thing I’d want!”
He smirked at her hissing, defensive reply. “Yeah right Chase. I’ve been thinking about you with as much heat as you’ve been thinking of me.”
“Doesn’t matter. Because now that I’ve had my hands on you, I’m only going to be thinking more of you and everything else that can occupy your mouth.” Her eyes flickered as her mouth parted in surprise at his blunt appraisal, laced with promise. “You’ve got one hell of a mouth on you Chase.”
“Shut up!” Spinning on her heel she marched towards the empty street where Buffy and Riley had obviously driven off and left them to neck in solitude. “I’m going home!”
He watched her strut her stuff to the lamppost across the street before looking back at him, the line of her shoulders not as sure anymore. When he stayed back watching, she scowled. “Are you coming or not!”
With a snicker he fell into step behind her as she tenaciously stomped back towards Giles’ house. He watched the sway of her hips and shoved his hands into his pockets, already grinning at the prospect his future was bringing. If serving the good side meant he could play with this little spitfire it would be worth it. For a decade or so.
He rubbed a hand over his belly, knowing it would take a hell of a lot to untie the knots there. She’d gotten to him. Gotten to him hard. And the fact that she had no experience about what all they could do together made it all the more unsettling for Angelus.
Unsettling and arousing as hell.
He walked behind her without a clue as to what he would do about her, but he knew for certain that Cordelia Chase would have to accept that the Scourge of Europe was going to be her first.
Buffy held the sword beside her thigh, angling her body as she looked at the solitary mausoleum standing in the middle of the cemetery.
“Are you sure this is it?”
Looking back at her watcher, Buffy took a deep breath. “Yeah, Riley should be here soon.”
“You trust him.”
“Don’t ask me why Giles; I just do.”
“I’m not questioning you Buffy, just that…”
The door creaked and the blonde slayer stepped forward. “He’s here.”
Willow and Xander followed Buffy into the marble crypt. Giles took a deep breath and looked back at Angelus and Cordelia. The seer had insisted on tagging along. “Angelus?”
“I’m coming Watcherboy, keep your panties on.” Angelus looked down at Cordelia. “Go back to the car.”
The seer rolled her eyes and blew her front bangs off her forehead. “Oh my god; is your record still on pause! We’ve been over this!”
“Dammit Chase, you’ll just get in the way! Go back to the fucking car!”
“You’re not my nanny!” Glaring at his cavemen attitude, she strode past him and grabbed one of the axes from Giles.
Angelus let out an unneeded breath as he looked at the watcher and followed inside. “I’m watching her.”
Giles contemplated the prospect and the finality in Angelus’ voice for a moment before walking after his troupe.
It was an ambush. And if they hadn’t been prepared, they would have been dead.
Angelus didn’t wait a second. The vampire demons were not soldiers. The soldiers were the Scoobie’s forte. It wouldn’t kill him to get payback for his time on the lab table. He reached forward and grabbed the first demon’s wrist in his left hand. He let out a snarl, game face in place as his right leg smashed over thing’s head and then snapped back throwing him back onto the ground, neck broken.
While Cordelia watched from behind him, Angelus fought like a vampire possessed. And not once did he let anything get near her.
Before the next demon could grab Angelus, his fist smashed into its stomach but one of the demons had rolled past him towards Cordelia. Spinning around he made a move to throw it away, but Cordelia’s axe had landed in the middle of the demon’s head before he slid to the ground. He blinked at the haughty woman dusting her hands. “Nice.”
The cheerleader grinned before her eyes widened. “Look out!”
She’d reacted without thinking.
Flying off her feet, her arms wrapped around Angelus’ waist, Cordelia forgot that bullets wouldn’t do a damn thing to the undead.
Angelus grunted as he hit the concrete floor, landing on his shoulder, wrapped arms around the woman as they rolled. And then he smelled it.
Blood. And it was hers. He just knew it.
The roar in the underground chamber of the old initiative headquarter was feral. The demon was on his feet, fangs elongating, and the ripples in his face furious as he sprinted straight for the last remaining soldier that had opened fire in desperation.
Giles rushed to Cordelia’s side.
The soldier barely had time to open his mouth as the gun was wrenched away from him. Angelus’ hand grabbed the man’s face and brutally smashed him into the wall behind.
The snarl reverberated through the hall and everything stilled but him, his rumbling dropped a notch as the man let out a whimper behind his hand, his skull cracked in several places as Angelus leaned into his neck, his eyes wide and terrified, peeking from between Angelus’ fingers.
Buffy stood beside a panting Riley, frozen as she saw the vampire tear into the soldier’s neck viciously, the blood staining his shirt and sliding down his neck as he drank deeply, painfully, his hands crushing bone.
“God no.” The dread building in her veins, the slayer broke off the leg of an abandoned chair and sprinted straight for the ravaging vampire.
“Let him go!” She wrenched the demon off the man, but not in time to save him. She watched in horror as the dead soldier slid down against the wall a trail of blood making an eerie arrow pointing down to his body.
It was when the slayer’s eyes lifted up to him in disbelief that he realized what he’d done. Sliding his tongue out to lick the fresh blood off his lips, Angelus’ mouth twisted up into a smile. “Well well.” It was gone.
He was free.
Buffy took a step back. “Angelus…”
His lips pulled back from his teeth in a baleful smirk. “Say please slayer.” He sprang forward, only to fall screaming to his knees.
Giles stared at the writhing vampire at Buffy’s feet. If he hadn’t seen Angelus kill the soldier he never would have believed it was the same one shuddering on the floor. For a moment Giles had thought the chip had malfunctioned, but now it appeared it had just blinked off. Enough to allow one meal.
Still covered in blood and trembling with the ripping pain in his head, he lifted his agony fogged brown eyes to his seer. She was alive. The bullet had grazed past her shoulder. She was alive.
Coughing as his own blood curdled in his throat, he swallowed painfully and glared at her. “Starting tomorrow Chase. I’m teaching you to protect your own ass.”
Giles stopped the car. The two occupants in the back most silent than he’d ever seen them. Today they’d fought by each other’s side. For the first time they’d reacted out of their instinct to protect each other and he could see it had rattled them. Rattled them enough for Cordelia to lose the cynicism in her eyes for contemplation. But she wasn’t as shaken as the vampire next to her.
Still brooding Angelus sat in the seat beside her, his jaw clenching and unclenching. The blood of the soldier still singing in his veins as he reflected on the concept that was his seer. Never in his damn life had anyone ever put his life in front of their own. Not even when he’d been human. He’d never been worth saving. But today. Cordelia had nearly died protecting him.
The idea unsettled him. It unsettled him to no end. “I’m going for a walk.” Kicking the door opened, he was gone before Giles or Cordy could look up.
Signing, Giles met her gaze in the rearview mirror.
They made fun of his confusion.
Walking aimlessly, his hands shoved into his pockets Angelus wondered what the hell they were saying behind his back. Their voices and hers molded into unbearable screams, deafening the rest of his world.
She tainted the shadows around him. When the darkness rose inside him, she radiated sunlight brighter than he remembered. It fumed the hatred and stirred the resting embers until he was smoldering worse than when he was in hell.
And the possibility of just how frail she really was, enflamed it to a holocaust, burning him from the inside. She was already essential to him. To them. This, Angelus realized, would never heal.
Pain. Longing. Loss. Love.
How much could he take? When would it be enough?
He was dangerous. He knew he craved blood and lust. He itched for destruction. He wasn’t the Scourge of Europe anymore. He died the day he’d let the cheerleader swallow him whole. He was out of control and he wasn’t sure if he could save her back. Her death would be too hard to live with. For eternity.
Looking up at the porch to the watcher’s house Angelus swallowed the emotion sticking in his throat. He was afraid to leave, but staying horrified him.
His head snapped to the side to see her sitting in a chair on the porch. “Surprised?”
“It was getting late.”
Her eyes darkened to his implication. “What do you mean?”
“You fucking know.” The shaky emotional voice laced with regret couldn’t have been his, but if she was responding to it, then it had to be his.
“I’m tired Angelus.” She stood out of the chair, satisfied that he was back.
“Then quit Cordelia!”
He’d slapped her without touching her. And she winced. He’d read perfectly into her inability to sleep. She didn’t trust him to come back.
“If you still think I’m leaving Chase, then go.” She couldn’t doubt him. Not after tonight.
“Angelus, I…” She had an answer for him. It was in her eyes. But she didn’t speak it.
“Shut the hell up Chase. I’m no longer listening.” He climbed the steps up to the front door. The barriers rose up to the heavens.
His eyes wandered over her face as he waited for her to go first. They spoke.
Cordelia swallowed them whole. “I don’t think we need to talk about this again.”
She walked into the house and the sun warmed the sky.
The moment had already passed them and the blood bond was established. It was painfully clear – they’d kill for each other if necessary.
Cordelia sat hugging the cushion as she watched the woman smile stupidly at the man bearing his caves to her on the black and white screen; making sure he wasn’t bowlegged. Sitting through the old movie, watching the lanky form of the actor she’d never seen before, ‘Shop around the corner’ dug a hole into her chest in a way nothing else had yet.
It reminded her of where she was. This disoriented woman had found her man in a shop around the corner. She’d been right there with him the entire time. And it reminded Cordelia that the only intimacy she could share was this destructive soul bond she seemed to have with a demon.
And it was then when losing Xander hurt the most.
All her life she’s gone from guy to guy. Never really staying back long enough to let anything last. Convinced. Confirmed cynic. She’d been so sure the world was a bad place. Giving her heart away wasn’t worth it. And despite that she’d fallen for the looser. She sighed. Because only her heart would have made her overlook his obvious geekiness. Did anyone notice the haircut? Hello!
Right at that moment she felt more alone that she’d felt when her parents had abandoned her. What was it about approaching holidays that made being alone worse? She looked up at the frosted windows. The colder it got, Cordelia realized the closer it drew. She didn’t want to spend Christmas here. Christmas was a time when they’d convene in Giles’ house. Eat brownies and exchange gifts. She had the neither the money nor the inclination for the exchange.
Snuggling deeper into the couch, while Giles and Angelus were out hunting demons she’d seen in her vision, Cordelia sulked. Angelus was a blood hound. He never let her take on the tough ones. Egomaniac.
Could this get worse?
“Honey! I’m home!”
She winced. It could. “Oh joy.”
“You know if you stare at the blank screen long enough Hazel, it might stare back.”
“Coming from a starving impotent, that’s rich. Didn’t you used to count cracks in the ceiling to pass the time? Looser.”
Angelus took in the scene of the empty plate of cookies and the half drained glass of lemonade along with the pile of the watcher’s old movies. He rolled his eyes, kicking the door shut behind him and embedded the ax right into the wood of Giles’ nice teak floor. “Christ, don’t tell me you’re still sore about the cockroach.”
He had figured the Cheerleader would get used to the whole scenario with him slaying and her seeing. And he’d been subtly weaseling his way into her personal space. After the near death experience, Cordelia had been avoiding him like the proverbial plague. She was never around when he woke up and she always went to sleep before he came. The unusual abundance in the demon population was troubling the watcher, but Angelus was just glad for the action. Being put on a leash was no fun. He hadn’t had a bite in days. He smirked. Pun and all.
Without giving it a thought, he stuck his hand into his coat pocket, his own –thank Hades, and handed her a small bottle of Advil.
Almost used to the regular supply of painkillers, she didn’t bother to ponder his thoughtfulness, but rather just popped two pills out of the plastic bottle and drowned them with her remaining lemonade. “Snakey bastard gone?” She lifted her eyes with a calculated sweep over his frame. “Anything to fix?”
Angelus grinned. He’d been extra careful this time. Shrugging out of his coat, he lifted his black sweater to allow her the full view of the two gouging bite marks over his right hipbone. He delighted in the sharp intake of breath and the instant softening of her eyes. Smelling her anxiety, he had the decency to look sheepish when she glared up at him, almost seeing right into his head again. “You so did that on purpose.”
“Now why would I do that?”
“Because you do it every time you sick masochistic freak.” Uncurling from her position she walked into the kitchen to fetch the first aid kit. Shoving the smirking vampire into the couch, she dropped between his parted knees and lifted the sweater off him before proceeding to disinfect.
Once the customary bandaging was complete, and Angelus had looked down her shirt to his heart’s content he leaned back against the couch and grinned at her. “So what did my sexy little pigeon do while daddy was out?”
Her glower could have melted steel as she sat back on her heels. “One set of folks was enough. I don’t need parental guidance; so save it.”
He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, face nearly inches away from her and for a moment, Cordelia held her breath, her gaze indecisively flittering between his eyes and his mouth, almost unable to decide which was more attractive. “Cordelia, take my word for it, what I feel for you is nowhere near parental.”
She swallowed at the husky pitch of his gravely voice, the bottomless depths of his eyes reeling her in until she felt like he was drawing her towards him with invisible strings. Like fish line. “I thought we weren’t supposed to feel,” she marveled at her squeak. If she had motor function, Cordelia would have smacked herself for the feminine clench to her vocal chords.
“Oh we feel baby,” his gaze swept low, mouth widening into a dark, sinuous smile.
Cordelia had to physically drag her eyes away from his face, but her body still didn’t obey her by moving away from the odd heat surrounding them. “Don’t.”
“Be specific Chase, I like things laid out on the table.” She didn’t have to look at him to know he was leering. “Don’t kiss me again?”
“The kiss was a fluke. You don’t want me.”
“Kiss me again and let me prove it.”
Her flashing hazel eyes snapped to him, not biting for his bait. “You’re just rebounding.”
He snorted, but didn’t pull away from her challenging. “Not the soul remember? No rebounds here. I like my women tall, beautiful and smart.”
“Blonde!” She spat out disdainfully.
“I don’t see a blond hair on your head Brighteyes and I’m still here.”
She let out an exasperated sigh. “Angelus, don’t.” Before he could quip bout specifics, she held up a hand between them. “I mean…don’t fall in love with me. I know it’s easy.”
A dark eyebrow arched at her condescension. “I’ve learned very few of you humans really know what that means baby. Love.”
“Look; just don’t.” She stood, the white box cradled protectively against her stomach. “You’ll just be in for a lot of unnecessary pain.”
He looked up at her, his gaze unwavering, not a muscle moved. “I am pain. I get off on it remember?”
“I think you’ve had enough.” She purposefully willed her feet to move and moved into the kitchen. She didn’t even have to see to know he’d followed. “And I so don’t get off on pain.”
“Oh but you do Hazel.” He leaned against the counter, arms crossed. “Pain is the number one motivator of life. Keeps the world going and such.” He twirled one finger in the air for emphasis and for a second her gaze riveted to the movement and held.
“I thought it was pleasure…”
“Opposite poles baby. Man and woman. North and south. Pain and pleasure.”
She scowled. “You’re a sadist.”
“That’s the trouble with humans.” She still wouldn’t look at him as she busied herself in warming blood for him. Without realizing what she was doing. “You give names to everything.”
Spinning on her heel Cordelia stuck the hard point of her nail into his chest, face set in a stubborn line. “Open your ears Fangless. I can’t love you.”
Trapping her hand against his chest with one of his own large ones he smiled down at her with a lazy ease. “Look again Cheerleader.” He heard the skittering of her pulse as he held her hand over his still chest. “You already do.”
If the world had come to an end, Cordelia would not have been able to tear her eyes away from the hot chocolate pools gazing down at her as if he knew her soul. And like always, the lies wouldn’t come. Not with him. “Yes.” She felt more than saw the triumph in his face. “But not in the way you want me to.”
“Matter of time.”
“I am not IN love with you dumbass! Get it? Not IN love!”
At the enigmatic smile, she hardened her jaw. “What the hell are you smiling at?”
“You’re so worried, Chase. Why?”
“Let go of my hand.”
The watcher’s voice seemed to break the spell and Cordelia wrenched her hand out of his. How’d it always end up there anyway? With complete disregard to the Giles’ entry into the kitchen, she marched straight into the bathroom and slammed the door shut.
Rupert Giles blinked owlishly behind his glasses. “Did I miss something?”
“Giles, I’m damned infatuated with her.” Angelus’ statement held none of the aggravation he was feeling while he stayed there leaning against the counter, arms crossed and forehead creased with a frown.
Cleaning his throat uneasily the watcher took off his glasses; cleaning them. “Angelus, that is more than I care to hear.”
“Tough.” Angelus growled, his eyes tinged with gold and determination. “You’re hearing this whether you fucking like it or not.”
It was then when Giles noticed the rigid line of the vampire’s body and the brooding frown. One that was eerily familiar. “Oh dear…”
At the nearly accurate deduction reflected on the watcher’s face, Angelus lifted an apathetic eyebrow. “Got anything to drink little boy?”
“Get everything. I’ll need it.”
“She fucking eats me.”
“Bloody ‘ell Gelus! I did not need to hear that!”
The hand thumped against a silent chest. “Right fucking here.”
“Will you bloody stop cursing! You bloody wanker!”
There was an unneeded sigh. “Hell was preferably better. At least I’d burn. This is a damned tease. An almost orgasm.”
“Oh those bloody suck.”
Angelus glared across the coffee table. “Will you fucking stop cursing! You fucking idiot!”
Giles frowned at the dark man resplendent on his couch as usual. “Devu-ja!”
“You know that whole repeating itself. The thing! Again again.”
“I don’t like being eaten.”
“Who’s eating you?”
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. The men were so thick these days. “Hazel.”
“With a fork and knife my boy.” The bottle was raised in a silent toast. “You’ll give her indigestion.”
“Fuck, I hope so.”
“You’re doing it again.”
Angelus growled, the corner of his lip curling away from his fangs as he stared down into the nearly empty glass of rum. “I could just eat her.”
“You’d choke on her.”
His eyes darkened, the memory of her mouth pressed against his fogging his already alcohol addled brain. “Not so sure I’m not already Watcher.” He let his eyes wander up the stairs where she’d disappeared. “She thinks I don’t know what that is.”
The vampire snickered. “Love.”
The man across the table winced, almost like he was physically struck. “Oh there were days.” He shook his head. “You grow old with love.”
“Why do you think vampires are immortal?”
The only mortal in the room frowned at the odd reference, his mind already going off tangents without warning, but something his companion said seemed to snap him into focus. “But love is life. Love does not kill?”
“So little you know.” Older the vampire might have been, but his voice was laced with misplaced regret as he leaned back in the couch, head against the back, staring at the ceiling. “Love is an anomaly created to put a damned leash on everything. And the woman. She’s the fucking devil wearing stilettos. History is littered with manly fools giving up kingdoms, knightly hood, Godly hood and lord knows what other kinds of hoods, just to appease the female soul. Look at their construction.” Angelus’ eyes hazed, reliving the way she’d fit against him, her breasts pressing against his chest almost like she was coming apart at the seams. Following him down his own descent. “Those sinuous curves and soft lines, big sensual eyes lined with thick beguiling lashes and a stretch of alluring lips worth drowning in.”
Nodding, the watcher seemed to ponder that, almost on a higher level. “The whole creation issue is bloody sexist. Give women all the real power and let the men rule. Bloody puppets of mock superiority and false prowess!”
His mouth stretched into a wide grin. “Exactly. They drive you to drink. They make you into kings then tear you down with a smile. They shake you and break you, then put you back together only to be broken again. They make murderers; they make thieves and then make villains. Vile creatures of hell with the face of an angel marked to test our endurance so we could never control it. That fucking manly ego and hormonal desire was meant to be uncontrollable, to tease torment and torture our sex for making the sad mistake of being born male!” He let out a lamenting sigh. “And they say I’m bad.”
“God has to be female.”
The sharp bark of laughter was genuine. A finger pointed to the man rudely, swirling in the air between his eyes. “You’re drunk Rupe.”
The watcher sat up straighter. “Tha’s not possible.” He frowned at the bottle in his hand and shook it. “The rum’s all gone!”
“No shit watcher. It’s in you.”
“Oh now you’re just flirting with me.”
And that was how Buffy found them. Of course the notion that Angelus might be hitting on her Watcher and that her Watcher was indulging the vampire only made the woman realize that maybe she had walked into an alternative universe. But then the smell of alcohol was prevalent in the air and so were the empty bottles between them. She let out a slow breath. “I so need to get a new gig.”
Pulling out her scarf, the young woman walked over to the duo and put her hands on her hips. “Consorting with the enemy?”
Angelus looked up, his nearly empty bottle raised in a toast to the bane of his existence. “Perceptive as always Sluffy. Blayer.” The vampire winced. “You.”
She sighed. “Yeah me.” Pulling the bottle away she took a moment to watch the two wasted individual silently for a moment. Contemplating her options. One finger tapping against her thigh she looked down into the loopy grin on her mentor’s face and hid a smile. “Scoot over.”
“Blood good! We got another one!”
Angelus kept his eyes on the very sober slayer and his mouth stretched into a slow knowing smile. “One last fuck?”
Her mouth open to snap, but then she seemed to rethink it. “I don’t want claw marks down my face, I hear she bites.”
“Hmmm.” His hand gently rubbed the spot on his neck where he still dreamt she’d left a mark. “Hell yeah,” he purred at the vivid memory, before his gaze focused on her. “Playing?”
She shook her head, taking a swing from Giles’ bottle then coughed, the heat rushing to her head. “Jesus.”
“She fucking eats me.”
Buffy looked up startled, her green eyes wide for a moment at the familiar timber of his voice. Her breath caught in her throat as she watched the vampire sprawled on the couch, his eyes swimming with memories, longing and rum. She watched him lift his hand and put it over where his heart should have been. “Right fucking here.”
“Devu-ja!” Giles cried out jubilantly. “Again again! See?”
The young woman groaned inwardly. This had to end – for her sanity.
Cordelia Chase couldn’t concentrate.
The accompanying grunts and groans from the living room were started to grate on her patience. The feminine growls were making her wish she’d invested in earplugs instead of new hairpins. Maybe the pins would work, she mused distracted, pulling her elbow on the textbook, her chin in her hand.
She was engrossed in exam induced visions of bobby pins and earplugs when she heard someone sigh behind her. With Christmas approaching and her last exam looming over her head, Cordelia missed the newcomer into the room. It was when she spoke that Cordelia snapped out of her day dream.
“Nice studying technique. Staring off into space.”
Blinking out of her haze, Cordelia frowned at the panting slayer, still garbed in her training gear as she proceeded to pour herself a glass of water. “Excuse you?”
Buffy leaned back against the counter and shrugged. “Just thought you’d be paying more attention, what with your graduation on the line.”
“Oh my god!” Hazel eyes widened with mock surprise. “You are WILLINGLY striking up a conversation with me. Will wonders never cease? Will we have a hot January? With the sun forget to set? Will Xander rediscover his sexual preference?”
Buffy bit back the glare and met the cheerleader’s eyes evenly. “I’m a big girl Cordelia. I am aware of your situation with Angel…Angelus.”
“Funny I don’t believe you when you still have to rethink who he is.” Rolling her eyes, Cordelia put her eyes back on her page, hoping it would dismiss the slayer, but the young woman didn’t move, instead she came and sat down beside Cordelia on the kitchen table.
“I know it’s rough for you.”
Flashing caramel eyes glared at Buffy. “You cannot begin to imagine, so don’t pretend to sympathize with me Buffy. I’m a big girl too.”
Rolling her eyes Buffy Summers let out a frustrated sigh. “For the last time, I’m not pretending to sympathize with you, and while we’re on the subject, you’re sitting in the company of one very unwilling slayer. You think I WANTED this?” The young girl snorted. “I got stuck with this destiny. Just like you’re stuck with yours. So yeah. I can imagine what it’s like.”
Leaning back in her seat, Cordelia crossed her arms, eyes narrowing suspiciously. “What do you want Buffy?”
“I’m trying to be nice.”
“You’re being too nice. What’s your angle?”
“God Cordelia, are you really that cynical to think that I’m still after him?”
“Then what are you after?”
Buffy ran a hand through her hair. “I don’t know. I thought wanted Angel back, but you were right. And so was everyone else. He’s not my Angel.” She met the caustic cheerleader’s eyes carefully. “He’s your demon.”
A muscle worked in her temple as Cordelia denied the heightening of her pulse or the indignant denial burning in her chest. So she chose not to comment.
“I’m okay with it.”
Cordelia let out an incredulous laugh. “That is so benevolent Buffy, but no thanks. I don’t want your nightmare.”
“Cordelia, I’m not giving you permission, I’m just…”
“Your permission means nothing to me.”
“So you’ve accepted it then?”
The cheerleader rolled her eyes, now completely distracted from her work. “Accepted what?”
“That you’re falling for him.”
Instantly, scalding toffee colored eyes glared at her unwelcome companion. “Butt out.”
Buffy seemed to be struggling to stay calm and control her smile all at the same time. “I’d love to.” The slayer held her gaze unfazed. Years of staring down demons. She ought to be able to handle an irate cheerleader for a while. “But your demon likes to be in my space. Just yesterday I was informed, none too politely, that you’re his soul mate. Walking in on two drunk men can really snap things in perspective. Can you imagine that? I thought the soul was mine.”
Cordelia wondered if she should invest in body armor. “You want him, he’s yours.”
“But he’s not, is he?”
At the cryptically observant question, Cordelia grit her teeth to calm her bubbling anger. “Look whatever you’re attempting to say, say it and be done with it. I do have a life.”
“Get him out my town.” Cordelia felt like the slayer had punched her in the gut. “He is Angelus Scourge of Europe, bane of my existence. And he IS yours, whether you ready to believe it or not. You’re the only one he listens to. The only one he seems to care about. The rest of us mean nothing to him. Because if the chip one day decides to go wonky – I WILL stake him.” Her green eyes were unshakable. “I will not let him hurt my friends again. Ever.”
“You better not be threatening us.” Cordelia’s hazel eyes were dark. “Neither or us takes it lightly.”
“Us, huh?” The slayer smiled knowingly. “Tell him to take his championing somewhere else. I’ve got this base covered.”
“This isn’t just your town.”
“You’re always welcome to stay back Cordelia, but you won’t. And you know it.”
The finality in the slayers claim didn’t sit well with Cordelia. The blunt insinuation seemed to tip towards reality. There was always the possibility. And the longer Cordelia contemplated leaving the slayer’s domain with Angelus, the more it became plausible. The mere notion of Angelus being staked was like amputating a limb. The attachment alone drained the color from the cheerleader’s face.
The girl looked up startled when she felt the slayer’s hand on hers, her bright eyes staring up at her. Buffy Summers’ smile was sad. “I know you didn’t ask for this, but if they’ve given you the visions, then they’ve given you the strength to see them.” Stepping back, as if realizing she’d touched the girl out of concern and understanding the slayer sighed. “My advice: stop fighting it. I’ll give him till graduation.”
Cordelia watched the slayer walk out of the kitchen.
Angelus nearly bumped into the blonde slayer and he was about to snap, when he saw the thunderstruck expression on his seer’s face. Frowning, he walked into the kitchen, dropping his freshly acquired blood bags on the table beside her books. “Chase?”
Her eyes snapped up to him, as if noticing for the first time.
“What’s did she say to you?”
Cordelia licked her suddenly dry lips. “Nothing.”
“Fucking hell Chase, don’t lie to me. Not only can you not, but I saw the slayer leave. What the hell did she say to you?”
When he made a move to go after the woman in question, Cordelia grabbed his coat sleeve, swallowing her own panic. “No don’t. She was…polite.”
Angelus frowned at the complacent face she was wearing, but her pretty caramel eyes were wide with panic. “Fine. What did the slayer politely say?”
She wondered if she should tell him. She knew he would go after Buffy. She had to make him understand. Cordelia wasn’t a big fan of the slayer, but she knew the girl meant business when it came to her business. She knew the impulsive vampire’s safety was only a priority on Cordelia Chase’s list. Something she herself hadn’t made peace with. “She’s worried the chip will stop working.”
“Fuck I hope so.”
Her panic melted into a glare. “Do you even know what that means?”
“Yeah Chase, I’m a vampire, for Christ’s sake! I drain, I fight. It’s what I do best!”
A hand touched her throbbing temple as Cordy stepped away from him, going to pour herself a glass of water. “You’re a lot more than just a vampire fangbreath.”
“That’s what YOU see.”
“You’re also a PTB puppy remember? Or did we sleep through that rerun?”
“No I had a front row seat. What’s your point?”
“I don’t know.” Putting her hands on the counter she stared outside into the night. First the idea of staying in this stupid town had loathed her. Now why did the prospect of leaving bother her so much? She’d never wanted to stay. “You can’t stay here.”
His brow drew together and he covered what little different separated them and grabbed her elbow, spinning her around to meet his eyes. “Spit it out Cordy; riddles don’t suit you anyway.”
Just for a breath, Angelus thought he saw longing marred with concern in her beautiful hazel eyes, her hand sliding up to almost touch his face, but then she looked away, her fists clenched to her sides. “If you stay here and the chip does stop working. You’ll go back to being an asshole, not that you’re not much of an asshole now.”
An eyebrow shot up, his hand curling around her wrist, pulling her closer. “That’s never bothered you before.”
“Dammit you obsessive dork! This isn’t about me!”
“Who else matters?”
“Exactly!” She wrenched her arm away. “That’s exactly what the trouble is. You don’t care about anything else!”
Now the demon was stumped. Scratching the back of his head, he regarded her with obvious confusion before sniffing the air. “That time of the month?”
“Dammit woman, I don’t understand.”
“You’ll go after Buffy!”
“And what Hazel, she’s your best friend now?”
Stamping her foot, the girl let out a cry of frustration, her hands thrown up as she started to pace. “I cannot believe you! Talking to you is like talking to a brick wall! If you go after Buffy she will STAKE you. You will turn to dust and be of no use to me! Who the hell will slay my demons if you’re dust huh? Who? Tell me!” She gave him her patented know-it-all wriggle of her head.
At first Angelus didn’t understand her train of logic, because the notion of Buffy staking him was impossible; she had nothing on him. Then her words began to seep in and the corner of his mouth slid up. “You like me undead and kicking don’t ya?”
“Egomaniac! I like me headache free and without the death of innocents weighing down my shoulders.”
The demon chuckled. “Damn Chase. Why don’t you just admit you want me?”
“Why can’t you just listen to what I’m saying for a change?”
His mouth spread into a grin, taking a step towards her, trapping her against the refrigerator with a predatory purr. “I always listen to you baby.”
Distracted by the sudden heat flaring up under her skin, Cordelia floundered. “That’s what she said.”
Angelus drew his head back slightly to look her in the eye. “Buffy?”
“I don’t want you to take on Buffy. Or the rest of the Scoobie stooges.”
“What the fuck Chase, are you asking me to be nice to them!? Are they nice to you?”
“I’m saying she wants you out of here! Because to them you are Angelus Scourge of Europe, arrogant, pain in the butt, S-O-B killer and drainer of Sunnyhell innocents! To them you’re nothing else but a vampire.”
“And what about you Cordelia?” He growled softly, head tipping down to silence her ranting. Nothing she’d said so far meant anything to him. And he had a feeling the prospect of his leaving wasn’t what had her smelling like sweet fear. “What do you see?”
“This isn’t about me!”
“This is ONLY about you!” He snapped back, his hands coming to smack against the refrigerator door, the ochre in his eyes shimmering to keep cool. “Tell me Cordelia what do you see?”
Shaken by the very angry and demanding demon, Cordelia pushed back against the refrigerator to put a little distance between them. Enough so she could form proper thought, but his body followed, his hips pressing insistently against hers. Galled and unwillingly turned on by his brash behavior she gasped, her hands pushing against his chest. “Asshole.”
When the immovable wall didn’t budge, she let out an exasperated breath, her hazel yes flashing with determination and refusal to be bullied. “Brains enough to know when to leave.”
“What else?” He hissed softly, eyes already speaking what he wanted to hear.
“What else is there?”
“Wits, madness.” His eyes were unfaltering. “Love. As far as a demon is allowed.”
Her pretty mouth dropped open. “What?”
“You know I love you. I know, you know.”
“Oh my god!”
“Tell me you love me Chase.”
“Angelus, I –”
“Shhh.” The rough pad of his finger slid up against her mouth, eyes like liquid chocolate as he held her there. “Don’t say anything, unless it’s a ‘yes.’”
Her mouth quivered under his cold finger, the insane need to run building up into necessity. Her head aching with the need to shake hard, to deny his claim.
Angelus leaned down, his mouth sliding over his own finger, keeping the distance, his lips nearly brushing hers; waiting for her to speak. “Cordelia…”
She forced the only words she allowed herself to voice past her lips with an effort that nearly took her breath away. “Angelus, I like you.”
With a wince he shoved himself away from her. “Fucking hell.”
Cordelia grabbed the front of his sweater, the absence of his presence oddly disconcerting. “You’re my friend! I just…”
“Letting Buffy stake me would have done less damage, I think.”
“But we are friends! Buddies! Amigos even!” She tried to smile despite her panic. “Doesn’t that count for anything?”
“No Cordelia. We were never friends. And now, we’re finished.”
Her hazel eyes widened, something inside her welling, tightening worse than when Buffy had asked her to leave with him. “Finished? What do you mean finished!?” He couldn’t mean. He couldn’t!
“I can’t be your fucking FRIEND Chase! I’ll touch you. I’ll say things you don’t want to hear, and then you’ll tell me you ‘like’ me and I’ll want to take a sunlit walk. It’s painfully obvious you’re a part of me in ways I can never welcome. It took enough out of me to hear you say it the first time, I’m not about to let you do it to me over again. Thanks for the reminder Hazel. I am the Scourge of Europe. Vampire on a leash, blah blah, woof woof. But I sure as hell am not your kick puppy. And I’m not contributing to your fucking pity party. You’re so damned good at it alone.”
She grabbed his arm as he turned to leave the kitchen. “You told me you couldn’t quit! You said we can’t quit! The PTB won’t let us!”
Looking down into her frightened caramel eyes, Angelus gritted his teeth and proceeded to do the most difficult thing since he’d been dead. “I’ll do the championing. You’ll do the seeing. We just won’t do it together.” Extracting his sleeve from her panicky grip, he took a step away. “I’ll be at the mansion for a while. I’ll call you and tell you how to reach me.”
And then he walked to the front door, resisting the urge to drag her in his arms and fuck her until she couldn’t say anything but ‘yes’. Only Angelus had promised. This one would come to him. He knew it as well as he knew he’d hunt one day; the only way Cordelia Chase would stay was if she came willingly. Love was a bitch.
Cordelia held her head high as she flipped the latch closed for her bag. It was just as well. The great big hole in her chest would only get worse. She needed her time away. She needed her space to come to terms with what her head and heart was telling her. And now that her contact with Angelus was restricted to a phone call, Cordelia was glad for the loneliness.
It reinforced what she always believed.
She was born alone and she’d die alone.
Lifting her eyes, she pasted on the bright smile that would hide the loss of another friend. If she could ever call Angelus friend. It was just the bond. Nothing else. She kept repeating the mantra in her head so she’d remember. Angelus didn’t love her. He didn’t want her. He was just as lonely as she was. “Guess what Librarian man?”
Giles had stood there at the bottom of his staircase watching the young woman slap her clothes into the bag before he’d spoken. After his night long drinking session with Angelus the week before and the torrent of tears he’d found his slayer in, loving her for her interference and at the same time dreading the effect it would have on both the occupants of his house, Giles feared the worst.
Cordelia was leaving for LA. Again.
“You just happened to find a bus ticket to LA in the mail?”
At the discovery of her secret wish, Cordelia’s smile wavered and she wrung her hand in a nervous gesture. “Not even Giles. Harmony invited me over to her house for Christmas.”
Giles’ heart plummeted. “Cordelia you don’t have to go.”
“I do Giles.” Suddenly the open wide smile melted into the impassive planes of her apathetic face. A face Giles never liked and had seen a lot of lately. “I can’t be here when they come bearing gifts I’m not getting.”
“Who are you running away from Cordelia? Them or him?”
She didn’t look surprised at his question. “Both. For different reasons.”
“For the same I fear.” The watcher came to stand beside her. “You’re afraid.”
“And I don’t like it.”
“Maybe if we all sit down together…”
She snorted. “Please Giles. Let’s not fool ourselves. I have a barely tolerable rapport with the slayer. The witch and the dork avoid me like the plague – which is good for them. And Angelus,” she let out a shaky sigh, “he’s made it perfectly clear that I’m only vision girl. He’ll get his PTB induced guidance. I’ll call if something happens. His new cell number’s taped to the fridge. Right now? I just need to not be here.”
“Beggars and choosers.” She shrugged and slung her bag over her head. She met his eyes with determination. “You get one hug old man.”
Giles smiled at the familiar reference he’d gotten used to hearing from their vampire. He covered the few footfalls and wrapped his arms around the girl, resting his chin on top of her head. “You’re coming back right after.”
She held him for a breath longer before muttering. “A bit long for one hug, don’t you think?”
Knowing that she hadn’t answered his question he released her and stepped away, giving her room enough to bring back her fake smile. He was starting to hate it. Cordelia only gave him a tip of her chin before she turned and walked out of his house.
And he realized she had never looked back.
Giles smiled as Willow stood on the little ladder hanging the decorations on the tree. Joyce was curled up in his recliner writing out her Christmas cards. Xander was wrapped in Christmas lights. He laughed when the young man nearly tripped taking Willow with him, the two laughing like he’d seen them laugh since childhood.
The house was filled with the smell of cookies and eggnog while Buffy worked in his kitchen. The atmosphere, save for one aspect, seemed perfect.
Giles would have figured that once Cordelia was gone, Angelus would have ventured away as well, but he had returned now and then. And he never talked to Giles unless absolutely necessary. Without his usual bite and sarcasm. Almost like everything that was left alive inside him had gone with the brunette. And what remained was for what little connection she still had with the house. Giles hadn’t let on, but he’d known the extension in his kitchen had been picked up silently when Cordelia had called him to tell him she was settled into Harmony’s house and how she was living a life of luxury for the while.
And he’d felt the sadness nearly potent in her voice as he felt it in his silence.
Then she proceeded to tell him about the vision. Angelus walked out of the house silently and returned with more than enough wounds that would have kept Cordelia busy the entire evening, but he wouldn’t let Giles tend to him, just collected his blood bag and left.
It was nearly Christmas morning. Almost like he needed to reassure himself, Giles grabbed his coat. “I’m just running out for some coffee, we’re out.”
Buffy peeked out from the kitchen with a frown, the jar of freshly ground coffee beans in her hand. “But we already have…coffee?” Her frown deepened. “Weird.”
Angelus sat watching the flickering light on the second story bedroom across the street. Without the insistent whine of his soul, his mind painfully blank of thoughts. The burn of the brandy he’d stolen out of the watcher’s house in his throat and the ridiculous music from the night nearly deafening.
It’s been a while
Since I could hold my head up high
It’s been a while
Since I first saw you
It’s been a while
Since I couldn’t stand on my own two feet again
It’s been a while
Since I couldn’t call you
And everything I can’t remember
Is fucked up as it always seemed
The consequences that I’ve rendered
I’ve gone stretched myself beyond my means
It’s been a while
Since I couldn’t say that I wasn’t addicted
It’s been a while
Since I can say I love myself as well and
It’s been a while
Since I’ve gone and fucked things up just like I do
It’s been a while
But all that shit seems to disappear when I’m with you
And everything I can’t remember
Is fucked up as it always seemed
The consequences that I’ve rendered
I’ve gone and fucked things up again, again
Why must I feel this way
Just make this go away
Just one more peaceful day
It’s been a while
Since I could look at myself straight
It’s been a while
Since I said I’m sorry
It’s been a while
Since I’ve seen the way the candles light your face
It’s been a while
But I can still remember just the way you taste
And everything I can’t remember
Is fucked up as it always seemed
Me, I know its always me
I cannot blame this on my father
He did the best he could for me
It’s been a while
Since I could hold my head up high
It’s been a while
Since I said I’m sorry
Angelus wished it was approaching dawn. After his goddamn pansy behavior, he deserved it. Because he’d pegged her wrong. She wasn’t coming to him. Willingly or anything. And it was obvious – he’d fucked things up.
“Do you miss her?”
“Sometimes.” The answer was out of his mouth in response to the watcher’s question before he could stop it.
This time he allowed himself a moment to find the right words. “When I can’t sleep.” And he didn’t hide the bitter want in his voice.
Giles let out a defeated breath. “Oh Lord…look, Angelus, we’ll drink, alright?”
Angelus took a deep drag on his cigarette before letting it out slowly through his nose, the tobacco burning out of his lungs. “Not tempting enough.”
There was utter silence behind him and Angelus figured the man had taken the hint and left, but then he felt himself being bodily lifted off the curb by the scruff of his coat collar.
“HEY! WATCH THE COAT!”
“ARE YOU GOING TO BLOODY WORK WITH ME OR NOT?”
Angelus bit down the urge to body slam the Englishman, but he was weary and had no strength to fight the pain of his chip for the sake of a few punches. Rattling on his feet while Giles shook him in anger, he glared up at him defiantly. “Get your hands off me Giles, or I’ll take you to hell with me.” His voice deathly calm.
Looking at the reigned anger in the vampire’s eyes and control he was showing, Giles took a deep breath to calm himself. He couldn’t stand to see Cordelia so broken. And God forgive him, Angelus’ obvious moping was grating on his nerves. Even Cordelia hadn’t been this darkened when he’d found her in that house sheathed in white. But without him, she’d seemed to disappear and Angelus was halfway down the same road. “Bloody sod…”
“One day you’ll give yourself a damned coronary Rupe, and I’m going to get a front seat.” Angelus reclaimed his bottle and dropped back into his previous position, picking up the fallen cigarette and taking another drag.
“Since when do you smoke?”
“Since I can’t bite.” At the raised eyebrow, Angelus rolled his eyes. “Oral fixation.”
Giles watched the vampire take a swig from his bottle before offering it to him. With a calm intake of breath he took the bottle and mirrored his motion, sitting beside him on the curb. “Cordelia deserves better than you.”
“Beggars and choosers and all that jazz.”
Giles’ eyebrows shot up at the familiar words he’d heard from the woman in question. It was almost eerie the way these two were connected which only reinforced his belief that they needed each other to survive. And Giles would never admit it, but there were times he would sympathize with the vampire. Cordelia was more than a handful, especially when she made up her mind about something. “It has been a week. How long do you plan to sit out here?”
“I don’t much care for your hospitality to come over anymore.” He snatched the bottle from the condescending man.
“Are you daft?” Giles leveled a glare at him. “After you’ve drained just about every drop of liquor in that house that I’ve ever had the displeasure of owning?”
“You should learn to hide it better.”
Giles let out a defeated sigh. “You skate around the issue almost the same way she does.” Running a hand over his face he stood up. “I cannot believe I’m about to say this.”
Angelus tipped his head back and glanced up at the watcher as he towered over him.
“Get off your bloody arse and go talk to her.”
Angelus couldn’t help raise an eyebrow. “That sounded too much like encouragement on your part. You sure you haven’t taken too much of the slayer’s eggnog?”
“My slayer’s eggnog is neither spiked nor bad. And furthermore.” Giles resisted the urge to wag a finger at the strangely complacent vampire. “When have you ever taken no for an answer?”
Pulling his gaze away from his, Angelus frowned at the inane need to spill his guts to the young man. To tell him of Cordelia’s rejection and his own rage. He wanted to kill her. To drain her and make her hurt, but since he could do neither, Angelus seethed and plotted. Thought and planned, until he was drunk and dizzy and hungry. And then even the brandy would taste like her. “The seer needs to get off her goddamn high horse.”
“She won’t.” At the soft tenor of his voice, Angelus frowned up at Giles before he continued. “Cordelia is hanging onto the last vestige of her pride. Look at it from her point of view Angelus. She’s lost it all.”
“And I haven’t?”
“She didn’t bloody deserve it! And she’s human. What is it about her existence that eludes you? She is human and she knows her time is limited as opposed to you. And it’s hard to imagine yourself as a ticking time bomb with only a crass vampire for a companion until she blows.”
“It’s safer if she just does the seeing anyway.”
“What has escaped you Angelus? The fact that you’re bonded for eternity to a slip of a girl? That you are finally afraid?”
The bottle smashed into a thousand angry shards as the demon reared up, eyes amber and the snarl nearly deafening. “I’m NOT afraid!”
The human didn’t blink. “The thought of her dying doesn’t scare you? That you will lose her one day? Isn’t that why you’re out here and she’s in there?”
Muted fury melted into confused regret and Angelus lifted his head to look up at the house where his woman was hiding. “What the hell do you want from me Giles?”
“You will remain miserable without her. She will die young with the pain she’ll carry in her heart. And the visions will take her.”
Angelus’ eyes darkened back to chocolate. “She’s really dying?”
“Without her. So are you.”
Angelus frowned. “Stop the fucking riddles. Get to the point.”
“You are no longer two entities. The PTB granted you this gift so that you may redeem yourself. Her soul chose to save you Angelus. Now it is your turn to save her. Together you will find a solution. Not if you both act like egotistical arses.”
“Last nerve,” the vampire warned.
But Giles pressed on. “You need her.”
“NO I don’t.” Giles nearly smiled as the vampire started to pace. “I don’t need her. I don’t fucking need anyone. Not my childer and definitely not some bitchy harpy who thinks she’s above me.”
“Alright, I stand corrected.” Giles crossed his arms and gave him a twisted smile that wasn’t too amused. “You don’t need her. You want her.”
“Like I want blood.”
“Ironic that she’s the only one in this world that will allow you that liberty.”
Everything about the previously prowling vampire stilled. Flashing ochre eyes caught Giles like he wanted to burn right through him.
The smile on the watcher’s face was as wicked at the vampire was vain.
Damn blood lust.
Cordelia Chase was curled up into the huge bed, the girl snoring beside her. From where she was laying on her back staring up at the ceiling, she could see the kaleidoscope of colors from her little nightlight dance there. The innocent memories of her own room and the childhood she’d spent in her own silk sheets of raven in her wrought iron bed. It was the pinks and fluffs of Harmony’s room that wouldn’t let her sleep, Cordelia concluded.
It wasn’t just Harmony’s snores.
Then she heard a grunt. Blinking at the still lump in her bed she frowned. That didn’t sound much like her bedmate.
Her spine straightened as she automatically sat up in the bed at the familiar voice.
She nearly went tripping out of bed as she hurried to the sliding window of the balcony beyond. Her hair went tumbling out of the loose bun she’d tied at her nape as she gaped over the white railing and down at the trellis lining the balcony.
For a minute she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. A dark hulking man was slowly making his way up the white trellis trying to avoid the thorns of the rose bushes that grew around it. When the spiky head tipped back, Cordelia stared down into the dark eyes incredulously. “Angelus!” She hissed softly. “What are you doing!”
“What does it fucking look like Chase?”
“Shhh!” She held a finger over her mouth and glared daggers at him. “Go away! I have nothing to say to you.”
“I have a few words to say to you woman.”
The pitch of his voice didn’t go down a bit and Cordelia darted one glance behind her to make sure Harmony was sleeping. “Angelus you are,” turning mid sentence she froze, his nose nearly brushing hers, “fast.” She finished breathlessly.
Holding the railing with both hands, Angelus resisted the urge to kiss the living daylights out of her until she succumbed and promised not to go to LA. “Forget me. What the hell are you doing here?”
Eyes widening at the irate growl she grabbed him, one hand curling around his mouth. “Stop!” Her eyes turned pleading for an instant. “If you wake her, she’ll be so more than either of us can handle right now Fang.”
For more than a breath, Cordelia stood there, her gaze locked with his, the railing digging into her stomach and her hand warming on his mouth. When his eyes swept low deliberately, Cordelia’s own followed their path to stare at the very low neck of her silk nightgown. Cursing Harmony for talking her into wearing it, she fixed the full beam of her glare on Angelus mentally willing him to raise his gaze.
She could almost feel the smile behind her hand as an eyebrow quirked before his dancing chocolate eyes lifted up to her face. And then he licked her hand.
A startled yelp preceded her involuntary reaction of shoving him away.
And it was then when she remembered he was about twenty feet up in the air as he lost his balance.
“CHASE!” He hissed.
Before Angelus could reach out to grab anything, he felt two soft pair of arms wrap around his chest tightly and he was yanked back against the railing, the strumming heartbeat of his seer escalating into a mad crescendo as she let out shuttered breath against his neck.
With his hand free to slide through her hair, Angelus let her hold him tightly, his feet instinctively relocating footholds as he returned her embrace.
“Oh my god you almost…”
“Nice catch.” His gratitude was a soft murmur into her hair and it was the misplaced tenderness from the usually crude vampire that shook her out of her frightened haze.
Lifting her head from under his chin, where she realized it fit perfectly, Cordelia looked up at him with a mixture of beseeching and relief. “Why are you here?”
“You want me to answer that while I’m in the position to break my neck in case you don’t like the answer?” He leered. “Doesn’t the Florence Nightingale in you want me out of danger and my feet on solid ground first?”
She winced at his correct deduction. Every instinct in her had been screaming to first catch him and pull him to safety, and that intrinsic need alone had Cordelia shaking with fear. “I have half a mind to drop you where you are.”
“And the other half is rearing to tangle tongues?”
With a groan at his arrogance and his choice was words, she stepped away far enough for him to climb over the railing and land on his feet neatly. “Okay.” She held up a hand between them to keep him away. “Just stop for a second.” She’d been caught off guard by his arrival and had reacted out of her need to be near him.
When she’d called Giles about the vision so he could relay the information to Angelus, it had taken every ounce of her strength and will to keep from running out and helping him when he got back from kicking demon butt. And now that she was calmer and she was assured that he was in one piece Cordelia let her anger cloud her raw emotions gladly. “There is nothing you can say that would change my mind. I’m not coming back to Giles’ house and I’m not spending Christmas with the scoobies and I’m certainly not – what are you doing!!?”
“Hold still Chase,” he growled when she tried to push him off. “I’m just going to kiss you dammit.”
“What if I don’t want you to kiss me dumbass?”
“Then say: Get your hands off me Angelus.”
That was as far as she got before he cut her off as his lips hungrily, not nearly as patient as his voice had been, descended on hers. The arms that held her tightened possessively, lips that stole her breath, had her parting her own lips to ask for more.
And her mouth was invaded by his quick and clever tongue.
It was like being swallowed, Cordelia thought hazily. Like being eaten alive with a greed that incited greed. Her heart beating like a wild animal against the cage of her ribs. Racing, wild. Dangerously fast. And she wondered if they continued to ride this current, at this speed, how soon one or both would fly headlong off a very high cliff and come out with broken arms. Or worse. Broken hearts.
When her foot came down hard on his toe, Angelus let out a muted yelp and jumped away from her with a glare. “Christ Chase what the hell is wrong with you?”
“Air…” she gasped, grasping the edge of the railing as she tried to catch her breath.
“Oh yeah.” Slightly chastised Angelus chuckled, “Sorry, forgot you were human for a minute.”
“Again.” She grunted. “You were gulping me down like two quarts of prime whiskey.”
“You’ve got the tendency to be as potent,” he purred.
“I do?” She blinked at him in surprise.
The stunned female response got his borrowed blood pumping again and he grinned. “Do you really want me to come of there and reassure you? Better yet; let me.” He reached for her again and she slapped his hands away with mild irritation. “Come on baby, you make it seem like you don’t want my hands on you.”
“I don’t,” she snapped angrily. Angrier with the lie she knew he could see right through. “I just need for you to open your ears and stop playing deaf for a change. Go away!” She hissed, hoping their loud whispers hadn’t woken Harmony to witness this scene.
“Dance with me.”
Cordelia’s eyes widened as his arm wrapped around her waist and she was yanked against him in the pretense of a waltz. “Are you insane!?” She hissed, struggling in his hold, but his arm stayed around her, his hand holding hers as tight as possible without breaking bones.
“Damn, I love your eyes Cheerleader.”
Exasperated at the capricious vampire, Cordelia let out a frustrated sigh, still struggling slightly. “Angelus, stop it, okay? It won’t work. I’m not changing my mind. No mind changing happening here. See?”
“They remind me of him.”
Cordelia stilled in his arms, her curiosity piqued. “Angel?”
Angelus tried his best to keep the triumphant smile at bay. “Yeah baby, they go all glossy like when he broods. And when you’re happy, they glisten like golden emeralds.”
“There’s no such thing. Is there?” she asked, not really noticing that he was slowly moving her in the slow motions of a waltz. The vampire grinned, inwardly charmed by her insatiable curiosity. It was one of the things that drew him to her. It was her curiosity that had made her venture into the alley. Curiosity and generosity. Something most people didn’t accuse Cordelia Chase of.
“I saw one a long time ago,” he answered with a rakish grin.
“Pfft! As if!” Her hands involuntarily slipped up his arms as her feet fell in rhythm with his.
“You show such little faith in your champion Hazel.” He grinned. “A Baroness. Happier days while we were in France. Darla was hungry for jewels and I was just plain hungry.”
“You mean horny,” she glared at the reference of his sire. Her eyes narrowed. “Are you drunk?”
“Not yet.” Silently swaying to a silent beat, he continued to hold her against him. “But then I was always hungry,” Angelus delighted in the jealous twinkle in her eyes, purposefully ignoring her statement. “I remember a similar occasion of climbing into a balcony. It took a while but I finally coaxed the damned woman out of her bed.”
“Seduced you mean.” She asked as she suddenly realized where they were still twirling to nonexistent music, his body pressing intimately against hers. “Angelus? What are you doing?”
“I don’t want–”
“Aren’t you the least bit curious where it went?” He winked and tightened his arms around her as she tried to wriggle away.
“No! I don’t care for rocks anymore, get your hands off my –”
“I fed it to her.”
“You what?!?” she squawked; breath caught in indignation, disgust and the fear of discovery. She completely forgot her objection and stared up at him with gruesome wonder.
“Stuck it right down her throat. Safe to say Darla didn’t want it afterwards.”
“She had a similar reaction,” the vampire laughed softly, a deep rumbling in his chest that seemed to calm her nerves, “after she threw me out of the window. Either way, the emerald was buried with the dead woman.”
“You killed her.” Cordelia shook her head. “I’m SO flattered that my eyes remind you of that gory story. Much thanks,” she said dryly.
“Only when you’re glaring,” he reminded her. “The rest of the time, they’re absolutely breathtaking.”
At the tender compliment, she held his gaze. “But you don’t breathe.”
“I do. When you’re around.” He pulled her hand over his chest, the steady rise and fall mirroring her own. “Don’t you get it Chase. You’re my damned Soul, only I can’t get you out of my head.”
When her pupils filled with unshed tears, Angelus pulled her tightly against him, his feet stilling on the balcony floor. “Don’t. I hate it when you women cry. Drives me absolutely crazy Chase.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Yeah sweetheart, I do. I’m not much for tragic love stories like the soul. Our story’s going to be a fucking satire. The world doesn’t define what we are.” He ran the pads of his finger down one bronzed cheek. She seems to radiate the sun even though it is in the middle of the friggin night.“And there’s no way in hell I’m letting you pick up your sexy little butt and take it to LA. So I’m giving you a choice.”
“You spend whatever time you have left, dying. Or you spend it living…. With me.”
It was like the ground was sucked out from under her. Balancing precariously on the edge, Cordelia tried to distance herself from the vampire that surrounded her until he threatened to slide down her throat and wrap around her heart. “How do you know I’m dying?”
An eyebrow arched cockily. “Because without you I’m dying and if I go I sure as hell am not leaving you behind.” He slid his thumb along her cheekbone, reveling in the feel of her coppery skin. “Come with me Chase.”
“When was the last time you asked me a question?”
The demon was suddenly thrown for a loop. He’d had enough experience with women, but it was safe to say that this Chase woman was a damned enigma. From the moment she’d dragged him out of he gutter to the day she’d taken the bullet for him, Angelus had not been able to understand her. “Is this a trick question?”
Jerking away from him, she crossed her arms and regarded him with cool inquiry. “Go ahead. Ask me one.”
“Are you PMSing?”
Hazel eyes turned a scathing caramel. “Ask me IF I want to go with you Angelus.”
A smile threatened to tug at the corner of his mouth. “What’s the damned point? You’ll only lie to me.”
“See!” Throwing up her hand, the young woman started to pace. “Ever since this whole mess started I’ve not been given a single choice. Not one. I’m a fairly independent woman. I live my life my way and I’m my own queen. Don’t interrupt.” She held up a firm hand when he opened his mouth and Angelus held his tongue more in amusement than in agreement. “From the moment I made the sad mistake of saving your fangless ass, I’ve been scratched, dragged, beaten and shot at! I’m a cheerleader for god’s sake not a slayer!”
“Seer then!” She hissed, careful to keep her voice lowered, but let her temper run rampant. “First you parade yourself hopefully under my nose, screaming innuendoes and don’t think I’m a complete idiot. I know a ploy when I see one. This is what you wanted. You LEFT me in that kitchen so you could come up here today and seduce me.”
“I haven’t seduced you yet Hazel.”
“Really?” Her mind wrapped around that concept for a moment and her mind was assaulted with possibilities before she pressed her hands against her temples. “ARGH! Stop! Just stop and listen to me for a moment…what are you…”
He held her hands in his, stroking her knuckles gently. “As much as I’d like to take credit for this Brighteyes, I’m afraid you’re the seducer in this picture.”
He mouth opened before snapping shut with a frown, her hands forgotten in his, skin tingling pleasantly under his thumbs. “How do you figure that?”
Eyebrows knitting together he seemed to concentrate on tracing patterns on her skin. “Problem is Chase, I’ve been asking you all the questions. You’ve just never given me a damned answer.” When he lifted his eyes they were tinged with ochre and her heart pitched into her stomach at the sudden stillness in the night. “Frankly, I don’t think you have it in you to give me any answers.”
Hazel eyes averted and her hands trembled in his, colder than his undead ones. “Angelus… we’re…”
She looked up sharply at his bitter laugh. Almost like he couldn’t believe it himself. “Yeah baby I feel bad for you. I think so does everyone else that you’re stuck with a bastard like me.” Then his gaze hardened hands tightening on hers.
“You’re not a bastard Angelus, you’re a cold blooded killer. Pun and all.”
“What is it that scares you more Cordelia? That I killed? Or that I killed for you?”
Dumbfounded with his aim, the young woman stood gaping up into the intelligent face of her adversary. “I don’t care what your reasons were!” She squawked indignantly. “I don’t want to be responsible for the death of innocents.”
“Was he innocent?”
“You’re not the one to decide vampire.”
His mouth twitched. “Actually, you’re the one that decides.” When her pretty hazel eyes widened he chuckled and slid one finger across her jaw down to her chin sinuously. “The damned chip in my head is not my leash Hazel.”
“Oh my god!”
“OH MY GOD!”
“It was about intent.” Stepping away from her, he ran a weary hand through his hair. “For the first time in my twisted unlife I didn’t kill because I was hungry. It was because I was saving an innocent. The only innocent that mattered. I’d figured it would be easy. I kill a few things, which is something I do anyway, and the PTB eventually let go. What’s a few centuries to a demon? But then they threw you into the damned equation and I’ve been beating my head against a wall since then. For you Chase – I’d do anything. But I’ll be damned to hell again before I let you lie to me. So tonight you’ll get your wish. I’m asking the questions. And if you lie to me, I’m going to toss you over my knee and beat the truth out of you.”
Her pretty hazel eyes were wide as she tried to shove herself away. “Are you threatening me?”
“I’m taking your advice.” Cordelia stifled a gasp as she was spun around and pinned back against the railing of the balcony. “Why did you drag me out of the gutter?”
“You were wearing designer leather,” she shot back venomously, struggling under the bulk of his muscle holding her immobile against the railing. How she always ended up here with an agitated, enamored vampire bearing down on her, she wondered.
“Why can’t I ever seem to scare you enough?”
And the answers were already there in his eyes. Just like they’d always been, but no honest words would make it past her throat while his large frame leaned against hers, the coolness of his body burning every inch of her. “Damn you Angelus, get off me!”
“Why did you talk to me Chase? Why did you stay with me?”
“I didn’t have a choice.”
“Didn’t you?” His eyes narrowed and she realized that he wasn’t playing anymore. The anger and clarity was potent in his low gravel tone. Hard and taunting. “Why did you ask Giles to unchain the demon? Why did you fucking bother to bring me blood every damned morning? Why didn’t you let me bleed?”
“I tried!” She struggled to break free, eyes spitting with anger. She hated how he always seemed to corner her. Wrenching answers out of her when all she wanted was to be left alone. “Don’t you think I tried!”
“No more lies Cordelia Chase!” His fingers tightened and for the first time she saw the man, her struggles ceasing. “This fine little web is spun by you. You pulled the fucking strings. You did the seducing. These wide hazel eyes. Your sunshine tainted smile. I had their pity, but the only thing I got from you was understanding. YOU understood the demon! Wake up and smell the brimstone woman! You saved me.” An enticing curl feel over her forehead as he shook her, hating himself for wanting to hear the truth from her mouth. “Why did you take my bullet Hazel?”
With his breath whispering against her mouth, Cordelia squeezed her eyes shut, willing him to leave her alone, but dreading the distance she’d already put between them. “What do you want to hear?”
“What you’re afraid to tell me.”
“You’re a demon.”
“I was a demon when you fished the bullet out of my chest. I was demon five minutes ago when you kissed me back like you could never stop. I was still the damned demon when you looked into my eyes lied to me that you feel nothing!”
She flinched at the memory. “Seems like ages ago.”
“Stop the damn dance Chase, my right hand’s itching.”
The flash of anger was instantaneous. “Don’t you dare!”
“Then be honest for a second! For fuck’s sake you owe me that much at least!”
She let out an exasperated sigh and tipped her head back, gaze sliding over the stars smiling down at her condescendingly. Yeah, laugh it up, she glared at them before dragging her eyes back to his. “I saved your life in the alley because I had nothing to lose that night. I saved your life because the alternative didn’t occur to me. I saved your stupid life because seeing the Scourge of Europe wallowing in the mud was so achingly familiar to what I was feeling that I just thought if could put you back on your feet…” she trailed off, remembered the last drink she ordered at the bar before leaving. Her last martini. “I didn’t know it was visiony things then.”
“It wasn’t the visiony thing then and sure as hell isn’t the visiony thing now.” At the bewildered confusion in her pretty eyes, the demon shook his head, his mouth twisted into a lamenting snarl. “You think this shit happens in a flash? Like two poles of a damned magnet? You cultivated this. I only wanted you Chase. You needed me.” The grumble was filled with regret.
“I don’t need you.”
A muscle tightened in his jaw. “You know I’d thought I would revel in hearing the words from your mouth. Willingly telling me everything your eyes scream the moment they meet mine, but I can see right now that your mouth won’t obey anything but your pride. So let’s strip you first.”
“What!?” Her eyes widened and he allowed exactly one breath before it was stolen from her.
Cordelia Chase had to physically bite down the need to scream her head off. Dangling over the trellis, her ankle still in the demon’s grasp she struggled and swayed like a pendulum with its tongue in between its teeth. “Angelusss!” She hissed. “Pull me up!”
“Say the words Chase.”
“You shit-faced ignoramus, when I get my hands on you!”
He shook her slightly and the woman gasped, her very nice silk gown nearly sliding all the way off until she caught it with both hands, her pretty hazel eyes wide. His mouth widened into a sickeningly sweet grin. “You do realize I can see everything anyway.”
“Pull me up!”
“Listen Chase, you have a few minutes before the blood starts pooling in your brain and you pass out, after which I will throw you over my shoulder and carry you off for a night of unadulterated passion and although I know I can have you begging in two shakes, let it not be said that any woman goes unwillingly into my den. I am Angelus. Just realized that you don’t respond to coaxing. So.” He gave her another shake and the woman yelped nearly losing her hold on her skimpy clothing. “What’ll it be?”
“I HATE YOAAHHH!” Her hiss turned into a startled yelp when she dropped a few inches, her heart pounding into her throat. Oh dear god he was crazy! Batty and completely out of it! What the hell had she gotten herself into? A life time of this foreplay and she’d be a basket case in six months. She whined before looking up into his face. He was taking heinous pleasure at her predicament. “FINE!”
Squeezing her eyes shut, the helpless tears building behind her eyelids she realized there was very little point in keeping something from him that he already knew. Dammit, hadn’t she been through enough? Did she really need to be subjected to this humiliation of admitting her feeling for a dead thing that loved to look up her skirt at every given moment by possibly pitching her over balconies? For fun. And she’d thought Drusilla had been psychotic. “Pull me up, I’ll tell you.”
“Tell me now.”
“Dammit Fang! Do you really want me to say this while I’m about to pass out and in a position to break my neck if you lose your grip!”
“I’m bordering on lunacy. No one said vampires were logical creatures. I could drop you and meet you in hell.”
“Oh god! I LOVE YOU! Okay! Now please…”
“God complex thing aside baby, I do have a name…”
She stared up at his self-satisfied smirk and wished he would just let her fall. Death was better than this. “Angelus?” She tried to hold his gaze as best as she could with the blood pounding in her ears. She was very close to actually making good on his threat. “I love you. I love you enough to want to die for you, you arrogant, self-serving, half-wit –”
And she was in his arms, her nose buried into his chest; she wrapped her arms around him, clinging to him almost like he’d dropped her. But then she wasn’t really sure he hadn’t. Still muttering curses and shaking and delirious with the rush of blood to her head, Cordelia let the tears slide. His satisfied laughter melted into soft soothing whispers, his hands sliding over hair and back, holding her through it. “Easy baby, let it go. I’ve got you. It’s okay to cry.”
She struggled, tried to push him away, but he held her. “No. No I’ll never be able to stop then!”
“Then I’ll just have to stay with you forever Chase.” And then he felt her body racking with soft muted sobs and felt his shoulder getting wet from her tears. But Angelus could care less. Giles had been right. It couldn’t be harder to stay together than it was to stay apart.
She’d thought she had no tears. She thought she’d cried them all. And she thought she won’t feel because she wouldn’t allow herself to feel something so deep. She’d been scared of feeling love for anyone again. And if anyone had seen closely as she’d walked down the roads, void of any real human contact, they would see the emptiness in her eyes. The dark space where love should have been. The gaping whole in her soul. But she never would have pegged Angelus to fill that gap for her. But he was here.
And for the first time since the day she’d found her parents gone – Cordelia Chase let go.
For a moment he really feared she wouldn’t stop. But then his shirt wasn’t getting wetter and the woman had stopped shaking. Her arms were still wrapped around him like a vice and Angelus realized couldn’t believe something so unnatural could ever feel so damn good. He’d seen his soul’s relationship with the slayer and he’d seen vampires and humans falling in and out of love. Why did it feel like this sharp-tongued child could give him the world? “You realize that you’ve ruined perfectly good Armani silk.”
She smiled against his shoulder. “If I wasn’t broke, I’d buy you ten more.”
“You’re not broke with me around Hazel.”
He smile widened into a grin. “You do know how to woo a woman’s heart.”
“Sexiest vampire alive. Well. Almost alive.”
Tipping her head back she looked up into his black eyes, the odd calmness to the vampire laced with the prospect of the coming future. It made her shiver with anticipation and a hint of fear. “What now?”
“I hear LA is really nice this time of the year,” he purred, softening her for the possible smooching she knew he was plotting.
“You’re welcome to come with.” Her eyes dropped to his mouth and it stretched into a full-blown Angelus-patented smirk.
“That’s better. I’m sick of this town anyway. Not enough nightlife.” He nodded safely and bent his head to finally taste her without resistance.
Or so he thought.
“Before nightlife, there’s something we need out in the clear.” Putting one finger over his lips to delay her loss of coherency she could foretell in his eyes, Cordelia spoke. “I’m so not a plaything. If I’m to accept this role as your beautiful seer and seducer, then I expect to play heroine. Not a sidekick.”
Angelus rolled his eyes. “Damn you mortal seers are demanding.”
When he bent down for his kiss she pulled back again, this time though, he saw the impish twinkle in her eyes. “And! I want new clothes.” He raised a humoring eyebrow as she pondered the options. “And shoes! And a penthouse suite in a big hotel!”
Grabbing her wrist he dragged her against him, his nose sliding along hers, eyes holding hers captive. “For you Chase, I’ll buy the whole damned hotel.”
“Can you do that?”
Grinning at the adorably greedy awe in her big hazel eyes, he pressed a hard kiss on her mouth. “Let’s go.”
She blinked before grinning widely, the happiness reaching her eyes for the first time in weeks. “Let me get my bag.”
“Leave it,” he took her hand. “Just grab your shoes.”
She blinked at his illogical trail of thought. “My shoes?”
“Don’t then,” he shrugged noncommittally as he pulled her toward the railing. “Have I ever told you about my fetish for bare feet? I remember this child I ate once; she—”
“Shoes!” She squeaked. “Shoes are good. I love shoes. Yes. See me wear shoes!”
Angelus grinned at as the brunette ran all the way to the door; tiptoed inside, grabbed her shoes, tiptoed back and ran into his arms.
When they disappeared over the railing, Harmony rolled over in her bed and grunted. “About time.”
“Are you sure about this Cordelia?”
“Your slayer made it easy.” The cheerleader smiled at the Librarian. “It was a long time coming anyway. I was supposed to be on this bus like two months ago.”
Rupert Giles sighed. “I still cannot believe Buffy said that to you.”
“She was doing her slayer thing. It’s fine Giles. She made a point. I get her. I don’t like her.” She shrugged. “But I get her.”
“Are you absolutely certain you –”
Rolling her eyes, Cordy shouldered her backpack filled with what little she owned. “Yeah Librarian man. I’m sure I’m not staying.”
Giles grinned. “I meant about Angelus.”
Her grin melted into a glare and she poked a finger at him. “Don’t even. Not after you played stupid cupid with me. You know I don’t like anyone pushing me and you pushed.”
Holding up his hands, the older man laughed. “Guilty as charged. Although, I don’t think you’d frown upon the results.”
“Pfft, that’s just as well for you.”
The girl looked up at the tender tenor of his voice.
Giles smiled gently, lifting one hand to gently touch her jaw. “Be safe.”
Her mouth widened into a dazzling smile that put the moonlight to shame and she threw her arms around him, nearly sending him toppling down under her as she squeezed him tightly. “Thanks Giles. For everything. I’d be a bag lady without you.”
There was the sound of a horn behind her. Insistent and demanding.
Looking over her shoulder, Cordelia watched the black ship of a car stop beside the curb. Her lips quirked when an irate vampire got out of the driver’s seat and glared at them. “Get your damn hands off my woman Tweedboy.”
Dropping a kiss on Giles’ cheek she pivoted and ran right into Angelus’ waiting arms, the bag tossed into the back, her arms wrapping around his neck, legs looping around his torso as he caught her against him effortlessly. “Where’d you mooch the wheels?”
Angelus smirked wickedly, his hands squeezing the ample flesh of her ass as he held her up. “They’re ours baby. Enough to fit the both of us in the backseat.” His lips nibbled at the pulse in her neck, inhaling her scent, wondering why the hell he left her side even for a second. A possessive growl building in his belly. “Company car. It’s a Plymouth Chase. Appreciate the sentiment. I made an investment in Angelus Investigations.”
Giles held back a smile as Cordelia jumped out of her lover’s arms and put her hands on her hips. “Angelus Investigations?! Whatever happened to equal partnership?”
“I said this car is half yours, didn’t I?”
“I can drive it then?”
“Yours is the half with the passenger seat.”
Giles hoped LA was ready for them.