Cordelia sat in her car outside Angel’s mansion trying to pluck up courage to enter hew new home. She glanced over at the packages sitting in the car’s passenger seat; she had gone to the Mall after school to get herself some essentials. If Cordelia was brutally honest with herself, however, the shopping trip had been more to avoid Angel than of any great need for the items she’d purchased.
The vampire had not been up when Cordelia had descended the stairs that morning, so she’d quickly escaped the mansion, stopping to pick up a cappuccino and a muffin from Starbucks on her way to school. Now many hours later, she was back and facing Angel was an inevitability. Her fingertips went to her mouth; she could still feel the pressure from the vampire’s lips. The kiss had essentially been platonic, even if it had lasted longer than was strictly necessary, but Cordelia’s insides had turned to jelly from the gentle way that Angel had held her to him.
Cordelia shook her head; she didn’t understand why he had done that. She knew that Angel loved Buffy, so why had he prolonged the friendly kiss she’d given him to thank him for his kindness. It scared her somewhat – she’d just escaped from being forced into a sexual relationship that she didn’t want. What if Angel was trying to seduce her with his philanthropy knowing that she had no-one to protect her? She looked again at the mansion. Well, there is only one way to find out, she decided and got out the car.
Angel looked up from his book as he heard the car door slam. He thought he’d heard the car draw up ten minutes ago, but when Cordelia hadn’t come in the vampire convinced himself he was mistaken. He got up, and began to pace the room trying to figure out the best way to reassure the girl that he wasn’t some pervert who had only invited her into his home in order to take advantage of her. The memory of last night’s kiss was still fresh; Angel had tried to push the experience to the back of his mind, but was failing miserably in his endeavours. Cordelia had tasted good, sweet and slightly spicy. He loved Buffy, he knew that, but he craved human contact and affection like a starving man did food. Cordelia’s warmth and easy affection was something he wasn’t used to and he didn’t know how to deal with the feelings her tactile nature engendered within him.
Angel stopped as the door opened and Cordelia entered laden down with various packages. He quickly crossed the room and took some of the items from her, placing them on the table that stood against the wall near the door. The vampire watched as Cordelia nervously ran her fingers through her long dark hair, smiling at him warily.
He looked down at his feet, and cleared his throat. “Look about last night. I’m sorry okay? It’s just you kissed me and I …” he sighed. “People don’t touch me very often.”
Cordelia looked at Angel’s bent head and a glimmer of comprehension sparked within her. She understood loneliness – she’d felt lonely and isolated all her life, a result of her parents indifference to her presence. To compensate, whenever anyone had shown her any affection, she’d reached out and grabbed it with both hands. Gradually, over time, she’d become the one to initiate such interactions; seeking out the means to assuage her loneliness herself. Cordelia was seventeen years old, she couldn’t imagine what it was like to endure decades of loneliness in the way that Angel obviously had. No wonder he’d grasped onto the small amount of affection she’d shown him last night. Angel hadn’t tried to deepen the kiss, or take advantage of her in anyway; she belatedly realised. He’d just wanted to prolong the contact; Cordelia could relate to that.
“Hey! No big. After all, who wouldn’t want to keep kissing me? I’ve been voted ‘the most kissable’ two years running now.”
Angel relaxed, and lifted his gaze to hers; she wasn’t angry. He still needed to make sure she understood that she was safe with him though. “I won’t touch you again, not unless you want me to that is. Shit! That came out wrong – I didn’t mean it like that – I meant that I would only touch you if – you know what I meant right?” He appealed to her.
Cordelia began to laugh at his stuttering, but nodded “I think so – although you really need to work on your conversation skills. Relax, big guy, okay? I understand loneliness, believe me. I’m surrounded by people every day, but non of them really know me. I don’t have any real friends.”
“Until now.” Angel said. “I want to be your friend Cordy. I’m just not sure how good I’ll be at it.”
“Oh, I think you’re doing all right so far.” Cordelia said softly, liking the way he had shortened her name. He’d called her Cordy the other day in the Library, she realised; when he was reassuring her that he wasn’t going to throw her out. “I just have one condition though.”
“I get to be your friend too. We got a deal?”
Angel nodded “Yeah, we’ve got a deal. Now didn’t *my friend* say something about wanting a cooking lesson? There’s a couple of hours before we need to get to the school, that’s enough time to make pasta and pesto sauce.”
Cordelia sat on the steps, watching as Willow placed candles in a circular pattern on the Library’s dusty floor. Wesley was carefully measuring quantities of various coloured powders into an earthenware pot on the table, Giles ticking each one off their list as he did so. Xander was talking to Oz nearby; the two of them seemed to have got over their differences with regard to Willow. Cordelia studied her former boyfriend, and realised she no longer felt any pain at his betrayal either.
Speaking of friends, Cordelia shot Faith a quick grin as the dark-haired slayer sat down besides her, and started to polish the wicked looking knife that was to be anointed with the Balthrim. Following on from Faith’s diversionary training session, the two girls had quickly discovered that, despite appearances, they actually had quite a bit in common. Cordelia was beginning to think that maybe she’d be able to confide in Faith about her family problems. Angel was sympathetic, but also male and there were a few things that she didn’t feel comfortable talking to him about.
“Looks like B and Angel have patched things up.” Faith said, nodding over to where Angel and Buffy were deep in conversation. The slayer had her hand on the vampire’s thigh, and Angel, in turn, was rubbing his fingertips in slow circles on the exposed skin of Buffy’s lower back.
“Looks like.” Cordelia agreed, trying to ignore the twinge of jealousy she felt at the sight.
Her cooking lesson had been fun – Angel was really kind of dorky, and she delighted in teasing him as he patiently showed her how to make pesto sauce. Cordelia could tell that Angel really didn’t know what to make of her, and that only prompted her to increase her efforts to coax a laugh out of the broody vampire. She eventually succeeded and was rewarded with the rich timbre of Angel’s deep laugh, a sound that sent shivers down her spine and provoked a warm tingling in her belly.
Cordelia had always found Angel attractive, in a salty goodness kind of way, but had long since allocated him to her unobtainable category. Now, as she got to know the real person behind the enigma, her attraction to him was growing steadily by the hour despite how hard she tried to suppress those feelings. Cordelia did not want to fall for someone else who thought Buffy Summers was the best thing since sliced bread, or a souled vampire who was effectively neutered by his curse.
Not that I actually want to sleep with Angel, she quickly reminded herself. He’s eye-candy, that’s all. Why ruin a potentially good friendship with a fling?
Angel was confused by his girlfriend’s about face. When he and Cordelia had arrived at the School earlier, Buffy had immediately pulled him to one side apologising for her behaviour the previous evening. The slayer’s apology had seemed genuine, but Angel wasn’t entirely convinced. It was fairly obvious that Buffy was staking her claim over him; she hadn’t kept her hands to herself all night, touching him in a way that wasn’t entirely appropriate in company. At regular intervals, she shot quick glances at Cordelia to make sure that the girl was observing her every move.
Angel knew that Buffy was almost as possessive as he was, especially when it came to him. She never encouraged him to interact with her circle of friends, preferring instead to keep him to herself and visit him at the mansion alone. The fact that she was suddenly okay with Cordelia’s presence in his life made the vampire suspicious of her motives. The young slayer hadn’t offered a similar apology to Cordelia, so Angel worried that the cheerleader was going to bear the brunt of Buffy’s displeasure when he wouldn’t be around to prevent it from happening.
Angel looked over at his friend as she sat on the steps talking quietly to Faith. He recalled how she had made him laugh earlier; the sound was so alien to his ears that it startled him. The pretty teenager was beginning to get under his skin, her friendly attitude and refreshing honesty warming him from the inside out, making him feel more human than he had in a long time.
Cordelia had caused a few raised eyebrows when she had entered the Library that evening. She had changed into more comfortable attire after their cooking lesson, and wore a pair of dark grey combat pants with two hot pink stripes up the outer seam. Her tight T-shirt was of a much paler pink, and ended about an inch above her waistband, exposing a strip of golden skin. The cheerleader had designer pumps on her feet, and her hair was caught up in a high ponytail, a few dark strands escaping to frame her pretty face that was almost devoid of makeup.
Cordelia was usually decked out head to toe in smart designer clothes, so the casual look was a startling contrast. Not to mention sexy, Angel thought privately; remembering how the material of her pants emphasised the twin globes of her round bottom, and the stretchy material of her top fit snugly over her full breasts.
Angel felt Buffy’s fingers dig into his thigh as his gaze lingered a bit too long on Cordelia. He quickly returned his attention to the slayer, just as Wesley announced that everything was ready for Willow to cast the spell that would bring about the mystical poison.
Giles shut off the library lights, plunging everything into darkness. Willow moved to stand in the centre of the circle of candles, then slowly lit each one, in turn, with a long taper. Wesley gingerly passed her the earthenware bowl containing the ingredients to create the Balthrim, and the red-haired witch placed it on the floor lowering herself to sit cross-legged in front of it. Willow closed her eyes in concentration, lifted her hands palms facing upwards, and began to chant in a slow, measured voice.
Cordelia felt the oppressive weight of the magic enter the room and it sucked the energy out of her. She staggered slightly and Angel was across the room in an instant to steady her. Cordelia gazed around and saw that Xander, Giles and Wesley were similarly affected. She watched mesmerised as the candles slowly levitated off the floor, and began to circle around the witch, gradually picking up speed until the light from them was one concentric ring of yellow flame. Willow’s eyes suddenly snapped open and she lifted her arms higher into the air in supplication, before bringing her palms together with a resounding crack. The powders in the bowl exploded, and the candles fell to the ground extinguished by some unknown force. The young witch let her head drop wearily drained of all energy herself now the spell was complete.
“What the hell happened?” Angel demanded, his arms still supporting Cordelia, who was sure that her legs would give out under her if the vampire released her from his embrace.
“The translation of the spell isn’t that clear; the language is so ancient that most of it has little meaning in the modern world.” Wesley answered Angel’s question as best he could as he sank wearily into a chair. “About all I could figure out was that the spell would need to draw on the strength of human life to generate enough energy to fuse the raw components into Balthrim.”
“And you didn’t think to mention it?” Cordelia’s voice had a faint edge of hysteria to it.
“Don’t worry; it won’t have caused any lasting damage. The spell just borrowed the energy from our aura’s, that’s all. The effects shouldn’t last very long and a good night’s sleep should definitely replenish the lost strength.” Wesley replied.
“It better.” Angel said ominously, his brown eyes flickering gold as he helped a weak Cordelia into a chair.
“Why didn’t it affect me, B and Oz?” Faith asked curiously.
“You’re not pure human beings.” Wesley explained apologetically.
“I have a feeling I should be insulted by that.” Faith replied, with a broad grin.
“Be careful with that Willow!” Giles warned sharply as the witch lifted the earthenware pot from the floor, and placed it on the table. They all gathered around; the bowl was now half-filled with a bright blue liquid.
“So how does this work?” Faith asked, unsheathing the knife.
“You dip the blade into the Balthrim, and the metal absorbs the poison.” Giles explained “A cut from the knife is deadly to demons and humans alike.”
“How are we supposed to prevent ourselves from cutting the wrong person in the heat of the battle?” Faith eyed the blade with trepidation.
“That’s why I chose that weapon.” Wesley said, taking the knife from the slayer. He located a small indentation on the hilt of the knife and pressed; the wide blade retracted into the handle exposing a smaller inner blade.
“That is so cool!” Faith exclaimed.
“We’ll have whoever is chosen to fight the Kryzlic anoint the inner blade, then they’ll keep the outer blade on during the fight, only retracting it when they stab the Kryzlic.”
“What do you mean ‘whoever is chosen,’ it’ll just be the person who gets the best shot won’t it?”
Giles shook his head. “It doesn’t work like that Faith. Balthrim is a mystical poison, whoever anoints the blade has to be the one to kill the demon.”
“So who’s going to do it? Me or B?”
“Neither of you.”
“What?” The two slayers and Giles all turned to look at Angel.
“Buffy, that thing threw you aside like a rag doll. I fought it, and I know how strong it is. It takes a demon to defeat a monster like that. I’ll fight the Kryzlic.” Angel extended his hand for the blade.
Wesley gave the weapon to the vampire. Everything he had read about the Kryzlic suggested Angel was right; he was the most qualified to fight this duel.
“But Angel, you can’t.” Buffy protested. “Faith and I are used to battles like this; we’re slayers. I know you’re a good fighter, but you’ve never gone one on one with a demon before.”
Angel stared at his girlfriend incredulously, then suddenly let loose with peal upon peal of laughter.
“Buffy, what do you think I did before I came to Sunnydale?” he asked, once he’d composed himself. “You’ve been a slayer for what? Three years. I’m 243, I’ve fought more demons *one on one* than you’ve had hot dinners. I think I can handle it.”
Buffy flushed angrily; Angel was laughing at her – what was wrong with him lately!?
Cordelia rested her chin in her hand, her mind was fuzzy, and her body still tingled from the after effects of Willow’s spell as well as from the sound of Angel’s laughter. She watched, fascinated, as the vampire dipped the blade into the bowl, and the metal absorbed the blue poison like a sponge.
Angel held the weapon up in front of his face, studying it carefully, before sheathing the deadly blade with the outer knife. “Okay – Lets get this show on the road.”
Wesley took a firmer grip on the cudgel he held in his hands, readying himself for action. He was uneasy; everything was in place, but the watcher was worried that something had been missed. Angel had quickly come up with a plan of action, handing out specific assignments that were all designed to keep the Kryzlic Demon off balance. The vampire’s take charge attitude had soothed Wesley’s frazzled nerves somewhat. However, given his significant role in getting them to this point, Wesley still felt a certain amount of responsibility. Angel’s ideas seemed sound – Wesley just hoped that they could pull it off.
Angel looked around, checking everyone was in position. Willow, Xander, Oz and Cordelia were all perched high in the surrounding trees; each of them armed with a basket full of what Willow had termed ‘magic balls’ with an embarrassed blush. The missiles were harmless to humans, but caused a considerable amount of pain to a demon; Angel just hoped he didn’t get hit by too many of them. He had wanted Cordelia to stay behind, but she had adamantly refused and he’d caved at the sight of her adorable pouting lip. Angel reasoned that her position should keep her out of harm’s way because the Kryzlic would have enough to contend with on the ground, without attacking those in the trees.
Wesley, Giles, Buffy and Faith were his ground force; they were armed with a diverse array of weapons, and were to mount hit and run attacks from miscellaneous positions encircling the clearing. At present though, the two slayers stood with the vampire preparing to initiate the first phase of their attack.
“You ready?” Angel bent to whisper in Faith’s ear.
“Five by Five boss.”
“Yeah, I’m ready.” Buffy’s sullen voice replied; the petite slayer hadn’t liked being shunted into the background.
Angel ignored his girlfriend’s petulance. “All right – Let’s do it.”
Buffy and Faith crept to the centre of the clearing, locating and uncovering the trapdoor. Faith took a lighter out of her pocket, lit the end of the flare that she held in her hand and nodded to her blond counterpart. Buffy took hold of the rope handle attached to the trapdoor, and pulled it open in one swift movement. The dark-haired slayer threw the crackling flare into the pit, Buffy kicked the trapdoor shut, then the two slayers retreated back into the undergrowth to await the Kryzlic demon’s emergence.
Angel checked the anointed knife was still firmly secured to his wrist, and prepared himself for the upcoming battle. He hadn’t taken the lead in a fight for a long time, but that didn’t worry him; once he got himself into the right groove, the rest usually came naturally.
The enraged roar of the demon echoed around the clearing as it realised it was under attack. The trapdoor suddenly crashed open and the angry demon emerged. Angel hadn’t had the chance to get a good look at the Kryzlic until now. The demon stood about six and a half foot tall, was grey in colour, with broad shoulders and thick muscular limbs. Its face was human-like in features, with a prominent nose and sunken eye sockets. The creature’s mouth was full of razor sharp teeth, and its eyes glowed a fiery red. The Kryzlic’s most distinguishing feature was its fingers that extended into razor sharp points from the knuckles. They were a formidable weapon, but Angel realised that they could also be a hindrance to the creature if an attacker could get close enough. The vampire guessed that would involve a lot of bleeding, it was just fortunate that such things didn’t kill him, even if they did hurt like hell.
The Kryzlic howled as a bevy of missiles rained down on it from above. It twisted and turned trying to shield itself from the sizzling balls of magic. Whilst the creature was off balance, the two slayers and their watchers rushed the demon, inflicting a series of gaping wounds on different parts of its anatomy.
Angel held back, waiting for the right moment to launch his offensive.
Buffy and the others attacked again, but were not so successful on their second sortie. The two watchers were sent flying in opposite directions by the Kryzlic’s powerful kicks. Buffy and Faith immediately engaged the demon in combat; their weapons flashing through the air, countering all of the Kryzlic’s moves.
Still the vampire held back.
Once their supply of magic missiles had been exhausted, the Kryzlic began to gain the upper hand and the two slayers started to struggle. Faith swung her axe aiming at the Kryzlic’s left wrist, but her footing suddenly slipped on the wet grass and she fell backwards, the demon easily disarming her as she crashed to the ground. Buffy managed to stave off the Kryzlic’s initial assault on the downed slayer, but was hurled across the clearing on the second attempt. The Kryzlic advanced on Faith who hadn’t quite managed to get her feet back under her.
Angel finally attacked.
Faith scrambled out of the way as the demon and the vampire circled each other, the small clearing acting as a boxing ring for the fight to death that was to come. Buffy struggled to get to her feet, but Faith caught her arm and tugged the girl back down to the ground. “Don’t interfere – this is Angel’s fight now.”
Cordelia clung to the tree branch, her heart pounding in fear as she watched the battle commence below her. She winced as the Kryzlic slashed Angel across the chest with its claw, ripping through the material of the vampire’s shirt, and drawing blood, lots of blood. Angel didn’t seem to notice though, and he delivered a spin kick to the demon’s torso sending the creature sprawling to the ground. The Kryzlic demon was on its feet in seconds and barrelled back into the vampire; its claws extended to inflict the most damage possible. Its razor sharp fingers sank into Angel’s chest with a sickening thud, and Cordelia cried out in alarm at his howl of pain. “Angel!” Oh God! Oh God! The young cheerleader’s hands covered her mouth in horror, and her eyes overflowed with tears.
Angel wrenched himself off the Kryzlic’s claws and vamped out, his yellow eyes flashing and a menacing growl erupting from his throat. The Kryzlic was driven back by the ferocity of the vampire’s next assault, unable to do anything, but constantly defend itself against the deluge of blows and kicks. Angel’s hands and arms were getting slippery from the blood that was pouring from the myriad of cuts wreaked by the demon’s defensive gestures. He ignored the pain and kept the pressure up, preventing the Kryzlic from regrouping. Angel knew he couldn’t keep this up forever though; he wasn’t inflicting any real damage on the Kryzlic because the demon’s claws were deflecting all his blows.
Out of the corner of one eye, Angel caught a flash of something lying on the ground a few feet away – Faith’s axe. The vampire took a step backwards, then launched himself up into a back flip, his boot-clad feet catching the demon under the chin, momentarily knocking it off balance. Angel took advantage of the Kryzlic’s distraction to dive for the weapon, rolling to his feet in one continuous motion, the axe now in his two-handed grip.
He held the weapon at the ready as the Kryzlic slowly advanced. Glowing yellow eyes met with smouldering red ones as the two demons stalked each other, locked in combat. The Kryzlic suddenly attacked, but Angel was ready and quickly side-stepped the charge bringing the weapon down with phenomenal force on the creature’s forearm. The edge of the axe sliced cleanly through skin and bone, severing the Kryzlic’s right hand from the rest of its arm. Dark green blood spurted, and the demon let out an agonised wail. Angel immediately swung the axe again, amputating the demons other hand, and the creature fell to the ground, its blood staining the grass black.
Angel tossed the axe aside, and planted a foot into the hollow of the Kryzlic’s throat, “Who sent you?” he grated.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out.” The demon’s voice was guttural, but the words surprisingly clear-cut
Angel applied more pressure to the creature’s throat, the bones cracked and the Kryzlic screamed. “I want a name. I can either kill you now, or keep you alive and torture you for days – it’s your choice.”
The demon raised the bleeding stumps of its arms, trying to remove the vampire’s foot, but to no avail.
“So, what’s it to be – a name and a quick death, or several weeks of agony?” Angel demanded. “Tick, tock – time’s a wasting.”
“Styjasimok” the Kryzlic gasped out in agony, finally admitting defeat.
“Now, that wasn’t so difficult was it?” Angel drawled as he removed the poisonous weapon strapped to his wrist. He lifted the knife in a two-handed grip and drove the weapon into the centre of the demon’s chest, retracting the outer blade as he did so. The Kryzlic howled as its body slowly disintegrated, its skin bubbling and popping as the Balthrim burnt like acid from the inside.
“Angel, get back.” Wesley yelled a panicked warning as it dawned on him what was about to happen. “Everybody get down.”
The vampire dove for cover just as the Kryzlic exploded, scattering body parts loaded with Balthrim around the clearing. The pieces burned, then dissolved into nothingness, leaving no trace of the extinct demon or the Balthrim-anointed weapon behind.
The first round of this year’s apocalypse was over.
Angel sat on the window ledge in his bedroom, gazing unseeing out of the open window into the dark night. He was unable to sleep; the pain from his healing wounds, the adrenaline from his battle with the Kryzlic and the subsequent events that followed, keeping him wide awake.
The vampire glanced down at his naked chest and smiled briefly. Although she was drooping with exhaustion, Cordelia had insisted on patching him up when they had arrived back at the mansion in the early hours of the morning. He was now covered in haphazard squares of lint and he looked like a half-finished collage.
Angel ran his fingers through his spiky dark hair and closed his eyes at a not so pleasant memory. Buffy had shied away from him when he had reached out a bloody hand to help her up and that action had precipitated the heartbreaking incident that followed.
A few hours earlier …
Buffy was stunned by Angel’s violent execution of the Kryzlic demon. She didn’t want to be near him right now. In fact, the young slayer couldn’t wait to get as far away from him as possible. Buffy was finally, against her will, having to face up to the reality of her boyfriend’s vampiric nature and she resented being forced into it by events that were out of her control. If she or Faith had fought the Kryzlic demon, like they were supposed to, this wouldn’t be happening, and her fantasy bubble would not be in danger of bursting.
Angel sighed in resignation when his girlfriend flinched back from him, then turned to Faith to return her axe. The brunette slayer just looked at him in admiration. “You okay?”
“Five by Five.” he said, reflecting her own catch phrase back at her with a tight grin.
Angel nodded at Wesley as the watcher approached the little group. “Thanks for the warning. That could have been painful.”
Wesley’s brow creased. “I probably should have researched the effects of Balthrim a bit more.” he reproached himself.
“Relax Wes, you did a great job.” the vampire assured him.
“I did?” Wesley looked up astonished.
Faith rolled her eyes at her watcher’s uncertainty. “I’m thinking – yeah. Score one for the Fang Gang, I say.”
“Speaking of which.” Angel crossed the clearing to the large tree that Cordelia was still ensconced in.
Xander and Oz had already climbed down and were helping Willow to the ground. The young cheerleader sat on one of the lower branches trying to decide whether to risk jumping, since nobody had deigned to offer to help her down – until now that is. She smiled down at a blood-covered Angel.
Cordelia’s face was pale and she looked worn out, the events of the night finally taking their toll on her physique. She threw herself into Angel’s arms as he lifted her down from the tree, hugging him tightly. “Oh my God! I thought that thing was going to kill you.”
Angel held the trembling girl in his arms for a few moments, soothingly stroking her back as she buried her tired face in his neck.
“Cordelia, I know draping yourself over unsuspecting men is your favourite form of entertainment, but I really think my boyfriend would prefer it if you didn’t have your hands all over him. He’s got better taste than most of your conquests.” The warmth of Cordelia’s presence was swiftly removed from Angel’s embrace as Buffy yanked the girl away from him.
“Hey!” Xander protested.
“Sorry, Xand – didn’t mean you. You were just temporarily insane for a while.”
Angel scowled at the teenage boy when he failed to contradict the slayer. Xander had dated Cordelia for over a year; the vampire thought he should have more respect for her.
Who does Buffy think she is anyway? She hasn’t even asked me if I’m all right, let alone hugged or kissed me. She’s supposed to be my girlfriend, but it’s Cordy who expresses relief at my survival. “I think Cordy was probably the one who was temporarily insane.” he blurted out before he could stop himself.
Buffy glared at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just that Xander was obviously too stupid to realise what he had.” Angel replied, refusing to back down from what was a potentially explosive line of conversation. “Cordy wasn’t doing anything wrong, Buffy. She’s my friend; you hug your friends all the time.”
“Difference is they’re not trying to get into my pants!”
Angel snorted. “Like Xander would really say no if you ever offered!”
“Why are you being like this? Can’t you see what she’s doing to you? Everything was fine before Cordelia came to you with her sob story.”
“No, Buffy. Everything was *not* fine. Things haven’t been right between us for a long time.”
“How can you say that? We love each other.”
“Sometimes, that’s not enough.” Angel stated regretfully.
“What more do you want?” Buffy cried. “I’ve given you everything.”
“Oh, I don’t know, let me think – how about respect? How about recognising that I had a life before I met you? How about welcoming me into your circle of friends rather than keeping me locked away in my kennel like your personal lapdog? What about accepting me for everything that I am, rather than trying to fit me into your mould of the ideal boyfriend? What about friendship?” Two years of unspoken dissatisfaction with certain elements of their relationship had finally escaped Angel before he could hold his tongue.
Buffy stared at him, tears running unchecked down her cheeks. She stood her ground for a brief moment, then, with a small cry, turned and fled. Angel watched her go, unshed tears blurring his vision. He looked around at their stunned audience, noting the four pairs of accusatory eyes staring at him, as well as the three pairs of sympathetic ones.
Wesley cleared his throat. “Err – maybe we should all call it a night. Go home, get some rest. Things might look different in the morning.”
Angel swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. “Come on” he said quietly to Cordelia, reaching out to place a supportive hand on the small of her back. “Let’s go home.”
End of flashback …
Angel opened his eyes and finally let the tears overflow. He buried his face in his cold hands, and mourned what he thought was probably the loss of his first real love.
Cordelia slowly came awake, her eyes flickering open. She had fallen asleep the moment her head had hit the pillow; her body and mind sapped of all energy by Willow’s spell. She glanced over at her alarm clock, 3.00pm – she’d slept for over twelve hours and missed a whole day of school in the process. Wesley had been right though, she felt fully refreshed and nothing lingered of the bone-weary exhaustion from the previous evening.
Cordelia stretched, working the kinks out of her body, before getting out of bed to pull on her robe and don a pair of big fuzzy slippers. She descended the stairs and surveyed the downstairs living area – Angel was nowhere in sight. Cordelia went into the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee, then searched the cupboards for something to eat. Waffles, she thought she could manage those without too much trouble.
Once she had eaten, Cordelia took her cup of coffee and curled up in the big armchair with the latest copy of Cosmopolitan. Half an hour passed peacefully until her reading was interrupted by a loud hammering on the front door. Cordelia glanced down at her attire – pyjamas, slippers and a robe. She was hardly dressed for company, but the cheerleader figured that the only people likely to visit the mansion would be one of the Scooby Gang, so she decided to risk answering the door – and immediately wished she hadn’t.
“Hello Cordelia” her father said sternly “I think it’s about time you returned home and fulfilled your duty to your family, don’t you?”