Long Time Coming. 3-4

Part 3

Angel opened his deep brown eyes and ran his palm slowly over the empty pillow beside him. The vanilla scent of Buffy’s perfume saturated the sheets, the salty taste of her skin was still on his lips, and the faint odour of her blood was still tangible. He had held her in his arms throughout the night, watching as she slept, her pretty face peaceful in repose. Buffy had awoken just after dawn, and looked up at him with worried blue eyes. “We’re still okay – aren’t we Angel?”

“Yeah, we’re okay” Angel had lied and pressed a chaste kiss to the centre of her forehead. The young slayer had wrapped her strong arms around his neck, and pulled his head down to her lips. They’d made out for a long time, their tongues entwining, fighting each other for dominance of the kiss. Angel had been overtaken by a bittersweet memory of the two of them doing just this, of him leaning in through the open window of the slayer’s bedroom as their lips met again and again, discovering each other for the first time.

For Buffy, simple kissing was enough; she was still so very young and only just coming to terms with her developing sexuality, but Angel was over 240 years old, and now he knew the experience of making love to this girl, he wanted more. He could remember in vivid detail the softness of her skin pressed against his, what it felt like to be buried deep inside her body with her hot, tight channel pulsating around him. He wanted to experience what he hadn’t that night over a year ago; he wanted to taste the sweet honey of her womanhood, to have her ride him until they both plummeted over the edge into sheer ecstasy, but he knew that they could not have those things. Their relationship was stuck in limbo, and Angel was very aware that it needed to grow and change in order to sustain itself. Angel had no wish to risk his soul again, but he did want their relationship to move forward; for them to connect on a sexual level, even if they couldn’t have full intercourse. For Buffy, it was all very black and white. She couldn’t see the shades of grey in between and would, therefore, continue to withhold herself from him, just as she had done the previous night.

The two lovers had eventually drawn apart and Buffy had left the mansion soon after. Angel had removed his clothes, then wearily returned to the empty bed, finally letting sleep claim him.

A loud knocking broke into the vampire’s reverie. Stumbling out of bed, he pulled on a pair of black pants, and made his way down the stairs to answer the mansion’s heavy door.

“Good morning. May I come in?” Wesley Wyndam-Pryce stood in the threshold, nervously straightening his tie.

Angel was surprised to say the least. The vampire hadn’t had much contact with Buffy’s new watcher. He had observed in passing that the young Englishman was seriously lacking in self-confidence; a situation that was made worse by Buffy and Faith’s complete lack of regard for his authority. Other than that though, Wesley’s presence hadn’t really registered with Angel, “Sure.” The vampire stepped aside, allowing the man to enter his home.

Wesley walked into the room and stood uncertainly in the centre of the downstairs living space. The watcher was dressed in a pale grey suit and shiny leather shoes that Angel was positive he’d be able to see his reflection in; if he’d been human, of course.

Wesley looked around taking in the minimal furniture, the heavy velvet curtains that blocked out the sun’s rays and … the chains that were bolted to one wall. He gulped, then took a deep breath to steady his nerves. The young man turned to find Angel studying him, a look of wry amusement on his handsome face. Wesley was sure the vampire could sense his every thought. “Um … Buffy said that the two of you were attacked last night; that you saw the demon that has been plaguing this town for the last week.” The watcher paused to gather his thoughts, then continued. “Unfortunately, she was less than descriptive about the creature’s appearance. Big, grey and with extremely sharp claws was the best she could come up with. I was hoping you would be able to provide a more comprehensive account.”

“Did Giles send you?”

Wesley bristled at that, “No, I am quite capable of making my own decisions when the need arises. Mr Giles was more concerned about Buffy’s injury, than trying to extract more useful information out of her.”

“And you’re not I take it?”

Wesley’s heart skipped a beat; he knew that the vampire was extremely protective of his slayer girlfriend, often violently protective. “I … Uh … Of course I was concerned, but we need to …..” Wesley’s voice petered out. Why did I think coming here was a good idea? I should have known I would mess it up.

Angel could feel the fear coming off the young watcher in waves; it had obviously taken the man a lot of courage to come here. A vampire with a soul was an alien concept to most watchers as they were taught, practically from birth, that vampires were evil beings that needed to be eliminated. Wesley’s need to find answers had outweighed his inherent distrust of Angel, as well as his own lack of belief in himself. Angel admired that; when the chips were down this man was prepared to step up despite the odds stacked against him. Wesley just needed someone to give him a chance to prove himself, someone to believe in him.

“I can draw it if you like.” Angel offered.

“What?” This was not the response that Wesley was expecting, especially after his faux-paux in regard to Buffy. “Oh yes, thank you, that would be very helpful.”

Angel nodded, and padded silently across the room to retrieve an empty sketch pad from the dark wood bureau that stood against one wall. He sat down and began to draw, his quick mind and skilful fingers reproducing an exact image of the demon that he had fought the previous evening.

Wesley peered curiously over the vampire’s shoulder to observe the drawing. “You’re an artist?”

“I wanted to be when I was a kid, but real life, then death in an alleyway kind of got in the way of all that.” Angel completed his sketch, ripped the page off the pad and handed it to the young watcher. “That thing was really strong too – extra demon strength.”

Wesley studied the sketch, a flicker of recognition starting to ignite inside him.

“You’ve seen it before.” Angel noticed the watcher’s expression.

“Yes, I think so. I just can’t remember where – maybe Montgomery’s Book of Demons? No, I looked through that yesterday. The Niazthian Codex then?” Wesley frowned. “I’ll have to contact the council, and see if they can send me their copy. Mr Giles has an extensive collection of books, but I don’t believe that one is among them.”

“I have a copy. Picked it up in Delaware. Wanted to know how to kill a Troisac Demon a few decades back.”

Wesley whirled to face the vampire. “The Niazthian Codex is an extremely rare volume. Are you telling me that, all this time, you have had a copy of it? Do you have a large collection of books?”

“Quite a few; I get bored during the day. I’ll show you.”

The vampire rose and crossed the room to the stone staircase that led down to the basement, Wesley following closely at his heels. Angel suppressed a grin; the watcher’s excitement was palpable. Before they could descend however, a single series of deafening knocks reverberated around the room, bouncing off the stone walls. “It’s like Grand Central Station here today.” Angel muttered under his breath, as he turned back towards the door to answer it.

Two brunettes stood in the dimly lit porch. Faith was dressed in her usual attire – dark blue jeans, boots, and a tight blue T-shirt. Her dark hair was wild and untamed as it flowed down her back like a mountain waterfall, and she glowed with unrestrained power and energy.

In contrast, Cordelia’s appearance was much more polished. The cheerleader wore a deceptively modest shift dress with a high neckline; the midnight blue material moulded to her upper body, accentuating rather than concealing her curves. The skirt was short, exposing long tanned legs; delicate black sandals adorned her feet, and her toenails were painted the same colour as her dress. Her sleek dark hair was pulled back off her face, and secured at the nape of her neck with a silver clip.

Although, she was obviously aware of her attractiveness, Angel didn’t think Cordelia really understood the temptation she presented to every man she walked past in the street, or to the vampires that roamed Sunnydale at night. There was a reason the cheerleader was a constant target; she was youthful innocence encased in the body of a woman. It was an intoxicating combination; the vampire’s body tightened involuntarily at the thought.

Angel’s attention was diverted from Cordelia by Faith’s low whistle of appreciation at his state of undress. “Wow! Check you out. No wonder B is so hot for you. You’re a regular Adonis.” Faith reached out to place a warm hand on the vampire’s hard muscular chest.

Angel caught hold of her wrist in his strong grip before her finger’s could touch his bare skin. “Did you want something?”

“Spoilsport!” Faith pouted. “C told me Wesley came to interrogate you. Thought I’d better check you hadn’t eaten him alive,” she brushed past the dark-haired vampire, and swept into the mansion.

“I’m in perfect health – thank you very much.” Wesley shot the brunette slayer a disapproving look. “Angel has been most helpful; in fact, we may have had a breakthrough in our investigation. The book, Angel?”

Angel returned his gaze to Cordelia. “You coming in?”

The young girl silently nodded, then slowly entered the room, spinning round to take in her surroundings as she did so. Nice – could use some colour, but liking the minimalistic feel to the place.

“The book?” Wesley repeated impatiently. Angel led the three of them down into the basement. He reached up to the top shelf, extracted the ancient book, and passed it across to the eager watcher. Wesley sat down at the small wobbly table near the bookcase, and immediately began to leaf through the pages trying to locate the information that they required.

Faith crossed the room to where Angel kept his weapons and training equipment, and removed an axe from the wall, testing the weight and feel of the lethal looking weapon. “Nice axe.”

Angel picked up a black shirt from the back of an armchair and watched Faith swing the axe around her head in a series of precise movements; the weapon made a high pitched whistling sound as it sliced through the air. Faith possessed a certain flair that Buffy didn’t have, the vampire observed as he fastened his shirt. The brunette slayer was much more comfortable in her own skin; she accepted her calling, and didn’t fight against it like his girlfriend.

“Eureka!” Both girls dissolved into giggles at Wesley’s exclamation.

“What’s so funny?” The watcher wrinkled his brow in confusion.

“Who says that nowadays? This is the 20th century, Wes.” Faith lowered the axe, then strode across the basement towards the table, “What you got?”

Wesley held out the open book, showing it to Angel. “Is that it?” he asked, pointing to the drawing of an evil looking demon with what appeared to be knives for fingers.

Angel nodded, recognising the demon that had attacked him and Buffy. “Yeah, that’s it.” He leaned in to read the small print below the picture. “Kryzlic Demon. Never heard of it.”

“I’m not surprised – the book says they became extinct 300 years ago.”

“So how come there’s one roaming Sunnydale on a killing spree?” Cordelia asked, “Maybe your musty book is wrong.”

Wesley shook his head. “The Niazthian Codex is a sacred text; part historical record, part prophecy. It has *never* been wrong. Someone must have found a way to extract a Kryzlic demon from the past.”

“Meaning we’ve got two Big Bads to contend with.” Faith surmised. “Cool!”

“This is serious Faith.” Wesley scolded her misplaced enthusiasm. “It must have taken a great deal of power to resurrect an extinct demon.”

“My very first apocalypse then.” Faith replied nonchalantly. “So first thing’s first – how do we wup Edward Scissorhand’s ass?”

“The book doesn’t say, but now we’ve identified the species it should be possible to find out. We should get back to the Library, and show this information to Mr Giles and the others.” Wesley stood.

Faith turned and pitched the axe across the room with deadly accuracy; the weapon span through the air, and came to rest on the hook that had originally secured it to the stone wall. The slayer punched the air in triumph. “I am so it! And so are you – way to go Wes.” Faith clapped Wesley on the shoulder.

Wesley flushed, embarrassed but inwardly pleased by the slayer’s compliment. “Angel, we could use your help; your experience might be useful.”

Angel shot a quick look at Cordelia; this was his opportunity. “I’ll be there. I just need to check a few things out first. It’s daylight so I’m going to need a chauffeur. Why don’t you and Faith go, and Cordelia can drive me to the school in a bit?”

“Sounds Good. Come on, Faith.” Wesley hefted the heavy volume, and hurried towards the ascending staircase eager to get back to the Library to continue his research. Faith followed the Englishman; she was beginning to realise she had misjudged her watcher. He didn’t have Giles’s street sense, but the man wasn’t quite as ineffectual as she originally thought. Maybe, she should give Wesley a chance; it would be nice to have her own watcher again rather than playing second fiddle to Buffy with Giles. The dark-haired slayer turned back as the two of them reached the front door. “Will you be okay, C? Angel doesn’t bite, I promise. Well, not unless he gets down and dirty with B, then you’ve got a problem.”

“I know – I’ve had that particular pleasure before. He looks all souled up and broody right now though, so I guess it’s okay.” Cordelia pivoted towards Angel. “You’re not going to drag me to some stinky demon lair so you can beat the crap out of one of your informants are you? Cus if I get covered in demon goo – you are so paying for the dry cleaning bill.”

He had informants? What was he? A Private Investigator? Angel shook his head. “I think I can safely say you will not get a smidgen of demon goo on you.”

“Good.” The cheerleader turned back to Faith. “I suppose it’s all right to leave me alone with the vicious killer then. He’s just a care-bear with fangs really.”

Faith laughed, then followed Wesley out into the daylight. “See you later.”

What’s a care-bear? Never mind, I don’t think I want to know. Angel crossed the room to the bureau, stepping carefully around the stream of sunlight let in by the open door as he did so. It was nearly midday; between 11am and 1pm was the only time the mansion door let in any sunlight. Angel always avoided answering his door at this time of day; at least, he would do if he ever had any visitors during human waking hours. Today had to be a record.

Cordelia closed the door, and smiled uncertainly at Angel. Why is he looking at me like that?

“Hold out your hand.” Angel instructed, returning to her side.

“Why?” Cordelia demanded suspiciously, but did what the vampire asked anyway.

Angel placed something cold and metallic in her palm. “I think you dropped something.”


Part 4

Cordelia stood frozen, staring at the object that Angel had just put into her hand. Her bracelet – the one she had lost two nights ago. Oh Shit. Angel knew.That thought galvanised her into action, and she fled towards the door only to find her way blocked by the tall dark vampire. “Cordelia ..” Angel said, reaching out to catch hold of her shoulders.

Cordelia shook him off. “Let me go!” The cheerleader stared up at the vampire, her hazel eyes defiant. “I want to leave now.”

“Not a chance.” Angel replied, shaking his head stubbornly. “Not until you tell me what’s going on.”

“It’s non of your damn business.” Cordelia yelled. “Where do you get off anyway? If I want to have sex in the back of my car then I will; you had no right to invade my privacy like you did. Get out of my way!” Cordelia tried to dodge round Angel, but his vampire reflexes were too quick; he was an immovable wall preventing her escape.

“I’m a vampire Cordelia.” Angel began.

“Well duh!”

Angel ignored her interruption and continued. “I can see, hear and smell things that humans cannot and you know what I smelt two nights ago when I ‘invaded your privacy’? Fear – you didn’t want to have sex with that boy, that was the *last* thing you wanted!”

“You can’t know that. You don’t know me Angel!”

“No, I don’t.” Angel agreed. “But I do want to help you.”

“You can’t help me – no-one can.” Cordelia slumped, the fight going out of her. She couldn’t do this anymore; she couldn’t pretend that everything was okay when it was anything but. The young girl fell to her knees, buried her face in her hands, finally letting the tears that she had been holding back for weeks overflow.

Angel’s heart went out to the sobbing girl; Cordelia’s normally confident attitude made it easy to forget that she was a vulnerable teenager, just like any other. The vampire knelt down besides her on the stone floor, reaching out to stroke her dark hair soothingly. “Ssh – it’s all right. It’ll be okay.”

Cordelia shook her head. “No, it won’t. It will never be okay again.” The dark-haired girl moved closer to him burying her tearstained face against his solid chest. Angel’s arms automatically went around her, and she clung to him taking solace in the comfort he offered. Cordelia was weeping in earnest now, her hysterical sobs echoing around the room. Angel rocked her gently, whispering calming words into her hair until, eventually, her crying ceased.

The vampire helped the young cheerleader to her feet, then led her to an oversized armchair that stood in one corner of the room. “Here.” he said, handing her a large white handkerchief.

Cordelia blew her nose noisily and rubbed her trembling hands over her wet face. “Thanks.” she whispered, her voice barely audible.

Angel reached out and brushed a few wet strands of dark hair out of her eyes. “No problem. Are you ready to tell me what’s going on now?”

Cordelia looked down at her hands. “My Dad wants me to get married.”

“And you don’t want to?”

“No! Not to whom Daddy has in mind. My folks have money troubles – something about Daddy not paying his taxes. Apparently, it’s my duty to get our family out of its financial problems by marrying some forty-five year old guy. Ryan Lauper is prepared to pay a million dollar dowry for me.” Cordelia started to quietly cry again; her tears running silent tracks down her flushed cheeks.

Angel was shocked; he didn’t think men traded their daughters for money and property in this day and age. One thing puzzled him though. “What does this have to do with you offering yourself up for sex that you were clearly not ready for?”

“He wants a virgin bride. I guess he gets off on innocent girls. I have an appointment at the doctor’s in two weeks to check that I’m still intact. Daddy says he will throw me out if I haven’t kept myself pure, but I figured that’s better than being forced to marry an old guy and be his sex slave for the rest of my life.”

“You’re still a virgin.” Angel stated the obvious. “Hence the desperate need not to be.”

Cordelia nodded, then lifted her despairing gaze to the vampire’s. Maybe he could help her after all. “Will you have sex with me? I mean Buffy wouldn’t have to know – I’d never tell, I promise.”

Angel shook his head. “No, Cordelia.”

“You said you wanted to help me.” Cordelia cried out hysterically. “You wouldn’t lose your soul. You don’t love me so I couldn’t make you perfectly happy could I?”

Angel caught hold of the young girl’s shoulders again, and looked deep into her tear-filled gaze. “I do want to help you, Cordelia, but this is not the way.”

“What other way is there?” Cordelia shoved Angel to one side, got up, and began to pace back and forth. “I can’t be a virgin when I go to my appointment in a couple of weeks, and having sex is the only way to change that fact.”

Angel sighed, then sat down in the chair. “Cordelia, your first time should be about making love not having sex.”

Cordelia whirled to face him. “Well, some of us don’t have the luxury of having an adoring boyfriend like Buffy.” she stormed, her eyes flashing angrily. “Some of us only have boyfriends who prefer to make out with their best friend, or make googly eyes at Little-Miss Perfect! If you’re not going to help me, then I’ll find someone who will.” Cordelia marched decidedly towards the door.

Angel caught up with her before she had got half way across the room, wrapping his strong arms around her waist, and pulling her back against his solid chest to prevent her escape. Cordelia struggled wildly against his secure hold. “Let Me Go – you big bully!”

The vampire effortlessly lifted her off her feet, and deposited her back in the comfy chair. “Sit and Stay” he ordered.

“You can’t keep me prisoner here. I’ll scream!” Cordelia threatened.

“Go ahead.” Angel growled. “Nobody will hear you. Very few of Sunnydale’s human residents come anywhere near this house. Apparently a monster lives here!”

“I hate you!”

Angel studied the pretty teenager; he had never met anyone so frustrating in his undead life. “Cordelia, I will help you, but I won’t have sex with you. Can you please just listen to me rather than arguing about everything?”

“All right.” Cordelia sullenly replied, her full lower lip jutting out into a pout.

Angel couldn’t help but smile; she was adorable. “How old are you?”

“Seventeen.”

“And your eighteenth birthday?”

“In a month.”

“Your parents can’t force you into a marriage that you don’t want. If you left home now they couldn’t stop you. The cops wouldn’t bother trying to make you go back, not when your eighteenth birthday is only a month away.”

“Where would I go? I have some money that my grandmother left me, but it’s only enough to feed and clothe me until the end of the school year at most. How will I pay for somewhere to live? I can’t stay with any of my friends; their folks would just take me back home.”

“You can stay here.” Angel decided. “I have plenty of room.”

Cordelia looked at him incredulously, then started to laugh. “Oh yeah, and Buffy would just *love* that.”

Angel sighed because Cordelia did have a point; the cheerleader was hardly one of his girlfriends favourite people. However, Angel could not stand by and let this poor girl’s life be ruined by her uncaring parents, just because Buffy didn’t trust him. “This isn’t Buffy’s decision, Cordelia. It’s mine. True, she isn’t going to like it, but she will just have to get over it.”

Cordelia stared at the handsome vampire, an impossible hope starting to build inside of her. Could it really be that there was another way out? “Are you sure? I mean, what would you tell Buffy?” she asked quietly.

Angel took her warm hands in his and squeezed them gently. “I’m sure. I’ll just tell her that you were having family problems and needed a place to stay. She doesn’t have to know any details” he reassured off Cordelia’s panicked look.

Cordelia’s hazel eyes filled with tears again, only this time they were tears of relief. She impulsively flung her arms around the vampire’s neck, hugging him tightly. “Thank you.”

Angel was a little taken back by the teenager’s affectionate gesture, but he returned the hug allowing his cold body to absorb the heat from the warm, and very alive girl in his arms. “Any time” he whispered quietly into her silky hair.

Angel stood as Cordelia released him. “Tonight we’ll go over to your place and get your things. Will your parents be home?”

Cordelia shook her head. “No – they’re going to the Peterson’s for dinner. I’ll just leave a note.” The young brunette looked up at Angel with large frightened eyes. “Daddy will not let me go so easily. He’ll try and get me back once he realises I’m gone.”

“He’ll have to go through me first.” Angel said resolutely. “Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.”

Cordelia hoped to god he was telling the truth.

***

“You left Angel alone with Cordelia?” Buffy stared at her fellow slayer incredulously. “Were you trying to send the poor guy back to hell or what?”

“Hey! C’s all right,” Faith defended her new friend. “Besides, it was Angel’s idea that Cordelia be the one to drive him – wasn’t it Wes?” The brunette slayer winked slyly at her watcher.

Wesley suppressed a smile. “I believe it was Angel’s suggestion yes” he concurred.

Buffy’s face clouded over. “What were you all doing over there anyway?” she demanded. “If you needed Angel for something, you should have come to me.”

“What, so Angel is your exclusive property now is he?” Faith retorted. “Geez, there’s no need to get your panties in a bunch, B. Wes just went to question Angel about the Kryzlic demon that’s all. He didn’t need a chaperone.”

“The *what* demon?” Giles interrupted, poking his head out of his office.

“Oh, didn’t we mention that? Wes found our claw-demon in one of Angel’s books.”

The rest of Giles’s tweed clad body emerged from the office. “Show me.”

Wesley handed Giles the book. “We have a more serious problem though. This demon was raised from the past; whoever is pulling the strings is far more dangerous.”

“Well, it’s been six months since the last apocalypse; about time for another one.” Giles commented drily.

“I thought they only happened once a year” Faith quipped. “Think the puppet master got his dates mixed up?”

“It would seem so. Unless this is just the beginning, of course.” Wesley straightened, then turned towards the blond slayer. “Buffy – you call Willow and the others; Angel will be here with Cordelia shortly. Faith – you start with trying to find out how to kill the Kryzlic demon. Giles and I will look into what would be required to raise such a demon in the first place.”

“Yes, boss.” Faith saluted, turned on her heel, and marched towards the book stacks.

Buffy opened her mouth to protest Wesley’s orders, but thought better of it when Giles frowned at her. She sighed, then turned to use the telephone on the library counter to call the Scooby Gang.

Great. Another apocalypse. Always love those. Will my life ever be normal?

***

Buffy glanced over at Faith as they strolled through the park on a last sweep patrol of Sunnydale; the brunette radiated a tightly focused vigour, her slayer senses obviously on high alert. Buffy sighed, and tried to muster up the same energy within herself, but her mind kept wandering.

They had spent the rest of the day researching the big bads. Faith had quickly discovered that the Kryzlic Demon could be killed by means of a mystical poison named Balthrim, which was, unfortunately, as ancient as the demon it had the power to destroy. Willow, assisted by Oz, Xander and Cordelia was now trying to track down the ingredients and spells that they would require to manufacture the poison. Giles, Wesley, and Angel were researching raising spells and rituals that had enough power to conjure up an extinct demon.

Once these tasks had been assigned, Wesley had insisted that Buffy and Faith focused their energies on training to ready themselves for the upcoming battle. Buffy had wanted to object on principle to Wesley’s peremptory orders, but Faith had acquiesced immediately robbing Buffy of her ally in completely ignoring all of their new watcher’s instructions.

Giles had finally suggested that they call it a night an hour or so ago, and what had transpired following that proposal was the source of the blond slayers current distraction. Angel had volunteered to make sure Cordelia got home safely, and while Buffy agreed that Cordelia probably needed an escort – given the magnetism the cheerleader seemed to possess for attracting almost every big bad that arose in Sunnydale – she couldn’t see why that escort had to be her boyfriend.

Buffy didn’t understand why the vampire had openly offered to be Cordelia’s bodyguard in the first place; he had never shown any interest in Cordelia, even during the time when the young cheerleader had continuously thrown herself at him. Buffy could admit that her jealousy and insecurity, at that time, were more of her own making than of any action on Angel’s part, but his behaviour over the last few weeks troubled her.

The vampire no longer silently agreed to her every wish without question and, although hardly Mr Outgoing, he didn’t keep himself locked away in the mansion until she called for his help either. There had been several times recently that the vampire had not been home when Buffy had called round. Angel was also publicly participating in the discussions on battle tactics, and this afternoon, to Buffy’s amazement, had even bantered along with Faith and Cordelia during a small break from the unrelenting research and training. Buffy was beginning to discover that she didn’t know her boyfriend as well as she thought she did, and that unnerved her. Angel’s whole life was supposed to revolve around the petite slayer, but the vampire was slowly breaking away from those confines and starting to interact more with the other people around him. In the process, he was revealing a side to his personality that Buffy hadn’t hitherto been aware of.

“B, Watch out!” Faith’s warning cut through her abstraction, and she whirled to deliver a spinning kick to the vampire that had sprung out from behind a tree to attack her, the action pulling slightly on the healing wound on her stomach.

Buffy cocked her head at the creature. “Now what did you do that for?” she said, punching the vampire as it rose from the ground. “We were just wandering along; minding our own business and you” punch “had to” kick “be so totally rude. So now” punch “I’m going to have to kill you.” The blond slayer whipped a stake out from somewhere beneath her clothing, then delivered a final forceful kick sending the vampire crashing into the tree. Buffy expertly hurled the wooden stake directly at the centre of the creature’s chest, and the vampire exploded in a cloud of dust.

Buffy turned to where Faith was battling with a couple more vampires, and immediately headed into the fray; her concerns about Angel set aside, for the time being, since her slayer instincts had finally kicked in.

***

Angel sat backwards on the cushioned stool, facing out into the centre of the living space rather than towards the oval-shaped mirror on the dresser. Cordelia’s bedroom was large and spacious; the huge king-sized bed taking up a considerable amount of space, but not overwhelming the room. A television/DVD combo stood in one corner, with a music system and CD racks alongside it. Cordelia had a large on-suite bathroom, and a walk-in closet from which she was currently retrieving various items of clothing.

As he took in his surroundings, it struck Angel that the spare rooms at his mansion were hardly in a habitable state, and certainly had nothing of the luxury that Cordelia was used to. He would have to let the cheerleader sleep in his room tonight, whilst he took the armchair downstairs. Tomorrow, he would clear out one of the rooms, put clean sheets on the bed, and try to make Cordelia’s new accommodation as homey as possible. Stocking the fridge and cupboards with something other than blood and tea might be an idea too.

Cordelia could sense Angel’s intense scrutiny. “Don’t worry, Big Guy. I’m not planning on taking all of it with me.” she commented, as she folded up her clothes placing them into the two large suitcases that were open on the bed.

“I wasn’t think…. Okay, so maybe I was.” Angel changed his tune at Cordelia’s raised eyebrow. “My place is nothing like this.”

Cordelia looked down. “I know – don’t worry about it. This,” she said, indicating her opulent surroundings, “is just my folk’s idea of love. In their world, possessions make up for absentee parents; I would have preferred them around, but I pretend I’m all right with their money as a substitute.”

Angel nodded, “Maybe you should bring the TV; I don’t have anything like that at the moment.”

“Not even a music system?” Cordelia enquired.

“I’ve got a record player and a few LPs.”

Cordelia shot him a wide beautiful smile. “I think we need to drag you out of the dark ages, Broody Boy. Gotta move with the times you know.”

Angel was bowled over by the genuine warmth radiating from her expression, and felt himself returning her smile. “I’m not sure we’ll fit that lot in the car though.” he said, pointing at the electrical equipment.

“It’s okay; I don’t need it. I’ll just bring my portable CD player and a few CDs.”

“We can go and buy a TV.” Angel decided, then asked. “Do they still show Bonanza?”

“Huh?” Cordelia looked at him blankly.

“Guessing not then.”

“Angel, you don’t have to …”

“I know. I want to – honestly.” The vampire said, off Cordelia’s doubtful look. “As you said, it’s time I dragged myself into the present. Maybe I should get one of those handheld phone thingies.”

“They’re called cell phones, dumbass.” Cordelia laughed. “Are you sure you want one? You’re already Buffy’s beck and call boy as it is; why would you want to make yourself even more accessible?”

“I’m not …”

“Pfft! You so are.” Cordelia interrupted his protest. “Little Miss Slay-Happy clicks her fingers and you coming running.”

Angel glowered as Cordelia’s words hit home. He hated himself for giving in to Buffy’s every whim; he sublimated whom he was, because having never really known love before he was terrified losing it.

Cordelia noted the vampire’s dark look. Oh crap! Way to go, Cordy. Pissing off the guy who’s offered you a home – nice work. “I’m sorry. Buffy and your tragic love thing isn’t any of my business. Only, you know that little thing called tact – I haven’t got any.”

Angel smiled, despite himself. “Really, never noticed that.”

Cordelia relaxed, then turned back towards her packing. “Better get this done. Mummy and Daddy will be back from the Peterson’s soon.” She felt tears well in her eyes as she realised she was packing her whole life in two suitcases. Cordelia angrily wiped the tears away, and swallowed the lump in her throat. You can do this. You have to do this.

The cheerleader had turned her back to him, but Angel could smell her salty tears and, in that moment, he knew that he had made the right decision to help her. He was giving something back to the world that he had taken so much from; moving a little bit farther along the road towards redemption.

Part 5

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