Once Upon A Time. 2

Part 2: – Friendly Conversation

Cordelia feverishly prayed that she’d been dreaming. That the last minute and a half was a figment of her imagination. She’d never had a hallucination before, but there was always a first time, right?

Slowly, she opened her eyes.

Nope. He was still there.

“Are you okay?” Angel asked, sounding almost worried. Head tilted to one side, he studied her face. “You look a little…pale.”

Under normal circumstances, Cordy would have made the appropriate, snappy comeback. Something like, ‘Well, that’s the Niles Miller calling the Tritori last season.’

But her well-honed, snappy comment skills were beyond her at the moment. Instead, she was busy thinking of all the terrible things Angel had done since he and Buffy did the nasty. And he was here. Now. With her.

Without giving it much thought, Cordelia sat. Luckily, the chair was there, or she would have had an embarrassing moment. As it was, her butt hit the seat with an inelegant thump, and the impact gave her teeth a good rattle.

Angel’s puzzled frown almost seemed sincere. “I thought you were calling it a night.”

Yeah, right. She was going to leave the Bronze—where, thanks to the witnesses, she was less likely to be brutally slaughtered—and go strolling outside all alone now. Hey, why not score really high on the stupid meter and ask the homicidal vampire to walk her to her car.

And, on the way, she’d stop at the bathroom to write MAIN COURSE on her forehead in passion pink lipstick.

Of course, these weren’t thoughts she wanted to share. So, instead, she said, “Actually, I was going to the bar for a cappuccino. But I changed my mind.”

“Oh,” Angel said, as if he actually believed her. He nodded at the chair across from her. “Do you mind?”

Before she could answer, he pulled out the chair and sat down.

Terrified or not, she couldn’t help being a little annoyed by his presumptuous. It was the kind of stunt guys she wouldn’t give the time of day pulled on her all the time. Lips twisting into a frown, she grumbled, “Be my guest,” under her breath.

But, Angel—with the freakishly acute vampy hearing she’d forgotten all about—heard her. Crossing his arms atop the table, he gave her a knowing grin. “So, how’s your night been so far? Having a good time?”

For some reason, his friendly, polite tone made her heart leap in her chest. She could actually feel the pulse in her neck throbbing.

And Angel could see it, if his gaze dropping to her throat was any indication. Which made the vein throb even harder.

He seemed extremely satisfied by her reaction. His pleasant smile turned smug. His onyx eyes seemed to glow.

It was the fear. Whether Giles believed or not, she did pay attention to his boring lectures. So she knew vampires loved fear. They could sense it. Smell it. Taste it in their victim’s blood.

And there isn’t enough ‘ewww’ in the world!

From what she’d heard, Angel appreciated fear even more than the average vamp. And, without lifting a finger, he’d gotten some pretty choice panic from her in less than five minutes.

Cordy took a deep breath and tried to sound calm. “You know, you should probably make yourself scarce before Buffy gets here. I know she’s wimped out on killing you before. But after all the crap you’ve pulled, I think she’s finally pissed enough to…”

“You know she’s not coming,” Angel interrupted. “And so do I.”

Cordelia gave him a startled look.

“I overheard you talking to yourself,” the vampire explained. “Xander stood you up, and you think he’s with Buffy and the gang killing something without you.”

As she realized how long Angel must have been there, watching and listening without her even knowing, the blood drained from her face. If she wasn’t creeped out before, she was now.

That’s right, Cor. Chat amiably to no-one for half an hour, like an escapee from the snake pit, and let the sadistic bloodsucker know you are truly alone, with little chance anyone will be riding to your rescue.

Angel shook his head sympathetically. “Oh, I know how you feel. I’ve been waiting for Buffy for an hour myself. When she didn’t show…Well you can imagine my disappointment. I had our whole evening laid out.”

“What? Dinner and a maiming?”

Cordelia’s eyes widened. The words had popped, unbidden, from her mouth. Of course, that was how she always did things. But antagonizing Angel wasn’t her top priority at the moment. Living to see daylight again was.

Fortunately, Angel didn’t seem annoyed. In fact, he chuckled a little. “Something like that.” The vampire leaned back in his seat. “But, now, I have to find other ways to occupy my time.”

Cordelia swallowed. Well, gulped, actually. She hoped her brutal murder wasn’t on his TO DO list.

Angel seemed to read her mind. “Oh, I’m not going to kill you,” he said amiably. “Not tonight, anyway. After all, there wouldn’t be much point to it.”

“Oh?” Cordy said, sounding way too chipper. Realizing her hands were engaged in a nervous wrestling match on top of the table, she put them in her lap. “Well, that’s…good?”

“For you?” He nodded. “Yeah. I mean, if you were someone Buffy didn’t know, I might suck you dry and dump you in the alley. A guy’s gotta eat, right?”

Since he paused, as if waiting for some kind of response, Cordy nodded dumbly.

“But,” he continued, “for someone like you, who knows what she is and helps on her little Scooby missions, I figure killing you in front of Buffy would have more impact. You know, snapping your neck right in front of her, and there isn’t a thing she can do about it. That’s gotta be worth a few guilt points. Whadda ya think?”

I think I’m going to be sick, Cordy thought, swallowing her nausea. The way he sounded, he could’ve been talking about the weather. Sports. That documentary on the Discovery Channel.

Not how or when it would be best to kill her.

Cordelia felt herself turn pale, which so wasn’t a good look for her. She thought about pulling out her compact, just to see what the trauma was doing to her look. But she decided against it.

Angel frowned thoughtfully. “Of course, killing you wouldn’t have as much effect as killing Giles, or Willow, or Xander. Yeah, their little ‘gang’“—he made finger quotes—”would be upset for a few days. But I’d imagine they’d get over it pretty fast.”

Cordy frowned. What the hell was he talking about?

“I mean, let’s face it,” Angel continued. “You’re as much of an outsider as I was.”

Cordy’s back stiffened. Her head flew up, her chin set at a proud angle. “I am never an outsider.”

“Oh, sure you are,” the vampire said, waving away her denial. “I’m betting even Oz, who’s new, is a better fit than you or I ever were. Really, what do they need you for…besides convenient transportation? Your superior fighting skills? Research? Computer wizardry? Your ear-piercing scream?” Suggestively, his eyes grazed over her chest. “Great lungs, by the way.”

Silently, Cordy seethed. Teeth gritted, she glared at the object of her irritation. She reminded herself that this was Angel’s thing. Mind games. He liked playing with people’s heads. Finding their weaknesses…

Wait a minute! That is not a weakness. I don’t give a crap how Buffy and the rest of the Loser Patrol sees me. I barely care what Xander thinks. So none of this trash Angel’s talking means anything. Because it’s not true. And, even if it is, I don’t care!

Angel’s head tilted inquisitively. “They didn’t even bother to tell you what was up for tonight. Did they?”

“You just love to hear yourself talk, doncha?” Cordy snapped. One part of her waved panicy arms in the classic ‘shut up’ signal, because being a smart-alec with a serial killer was never a smart choice. But another part just couldn’t sit there and let him try to dismantle her with a few well-chosen words. She’d been in way too many verbal throw-downs not to say something. “You just go on, and on, and…”

“And not having you there probably eases Xander’s mind,” Angel continued, as if she’d never spoken. “He doesn’t have to decide between protecting you, and fighting shoulder to shoulder with his beloved Slayer.” Smirking, Angel leaned across the table. “What a dilemma, huh? A young man in love with two women. Torn between the one he can never have, and the one who’s all too willing to spread…”

“Shut up!” Cordelia hissed. Breathing a little more harsh than normal, she rose to her feet. “Shut your big, undead, annoying…”

“So, you’re leaving now?” Angel asked amiably. Slowly, he stood. “Let me walk you out. You know, this town really isn’t safe after dark. It would be my pleasure to…protect you.”

Cordy’s stomach clenched. Taking a deep, calming breath, she tried to get her emotions under control. So, this was why the others looked so shaken after they confronted him. It wasn’t just the physical threat he represented. It was the way he used words, like weapons as sharp as any stake, or knife, or sword.

Cordelia’s hands balled into fists. She’d never had to deal with Evil Angel face-to-face before. He’d always focused his attentions elsewhere.

Well, she wasn’t loving this first-hand experience. Nope. Not loving her late-night chat with the psychological sadist.

Cordy jumped when one long arm reached across the small table. Her flesh crawled when one cool hand rested on her bare shoulder.

“Sit,” Angel said. And while the amusement was still there on his face, something dark slithered behind his black eyes.

Swallowing hard, Cordelia let herself be pushed back into her seat. Despite the warmth of the room, she shivered. Cold terror would do that to a person.

Casually, Angel retook the chair across from her. “As I was saying,” he continued smoothly. “You’re safe with me.”

Yeah, Cordy thought, giving in to the urge to roll her eyes. And there’s a pig taking off out of LAX every hour.

“Don’t get me wrong.” Suddenly, he laid a hand on top of hers, making her yelp just a little. “You definitely look…tasty. New dress?”

Grimacing, Cordy tried to pull her hand out from under his. But he held hers in place with little effort.

“Anyway, someone made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.” And the vampire looked over Cordy’s shoulder.

Frowning, Cordy glanced back.

There was a girl coming from the hallway that lead to the bathrooms. A pretty, perky girl with blond hair.

Cordy groaned. Well, doesn’t she look familiar.

The girl’s eyes roamed the Bronze, and finally settled on their table. It seemed she was looking for Angel because, when she saw him, her eyes lit up.

Then, she saw Cordelia. And their joined hands resting on the table. And her smile wavered uncertainly.

“That’s Tracy,” Angel explained. “She’s a sophomore at UC Sunnydale. Pretty, isn’t she?”

As Cordy watched, the girl made an all-too-familiar transformation. Uncertainty turned into smug determination. She wasn’t going to let the fact that Angel was with someone else stop her.

Cordy knew that transformation well. She’d gone through it herself a million times. Hell, she remembered doing it back in the day, when she was still stupid enough to have a thing for Angel, and he only had eyes for Little Miss Slay Happy. Tracy definitely had the ‘she might have him now, but she won’t when I’m through’ vibe going on.

Cordy was brought back to the present when Angel’s thumb started to slowly caress the back of her hand. Flinching, she again tried to take her hand back. And, again, she failed.

“I like hunting for prey,” Angel mused. “But when a meal just throws themselves on the chopping block…”

Filled with dawning horror, Cordelia stared at him. No. He couldn’t mean…

Giving her hand a pat, he stood up. “Gotta run. I hate to keep a lady waiting.”

“No!” Cordy blurted out. “You can’t!” She almost choked on the words. It was one thing to know Angel was a killer. But to see it, live and in person, to know what was about to happen, was a whole other story. “Don’t…”

Angel looked down at her. His eyes glittered like black ice. “It’s either her,” he drawled, “or you.”

Cordelia clamped her mouth shut. What was she supposed to say to that?

Then take me! Viciously murder me instead of the girl I’ve never met who I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like anyway!

Yeah, right!

Straightening his coat, Angel smiled. “It’s been fun.” As he walked past her, his hand briefly rested on her arm. “We have to do it again sometime.”

Part 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.