Angel took a deep unneeded breath and settled his cool hand over Cordelia’s beating heart, tub thub, tub thub, a rhythm that sounded in his ears and gave him the courage to say what he wanted to say.
“Cordelia, I think I’m in-“
“Ahem.” Giles cleared his throat making Angel and Cordelia spring apart from each other as though they’d been electrocuted.
Which they were.
“Angel can I speak to you in my office please?” The Englishman said sternly, disapproval etched around his eyes as he surveyed the pair. Cordelia bit her lip in consternation and darted a worried look at the vampire that was now too far away from her, too far away to reach out and touch him, to take his comfort and ease her fears.
“Now.” Giles raised his eyebrows at the vampire then turned on his heel and strode away before Cordelia and Angel could say anything to him.
“Angel?” Cordelia said quietly, trying to gage his reaction, she couldn’t read the look on Angel’s face and it was making her nervous.
“Shit.” Angel finally grunted and raked his hand through his hair, too many conflicting emotions blurring his brain for him to think clearly. They’d been found out, they’d been foolish and had been found out. By Buffy’s Watcher of all people, by his girlfriends father figure.
He didn’t look at Cordelia as he strode away, didn’t tell her not to worry, that everything would be OK. He didn’t see the mask of distress that shadowed Cordelia’s face as he walked away from her, didn’t see the bleak resignation in her eyes.
Angel didn’t tell Cordelia that he loved her.
C’mon Cor, just go down there and pretend everything is fine. Cordelia instructed herself as she made her way towards the bottom landing of the Library. Her stomach was churning and her skin still burnt with embarrassment at being found in such an intimate embrace by Rupert Giles. But it was nothing in comparison to the pain in her heart that had struck her when Angel had left her standing like an idiot in the shadows of the stacks without so much as a glance.
God I’m so stupid. She silently berated herself as she flicked her ponytail over her shoulder and smoothed out the non-existent wrinkles from her shirt.What did I think? That he was just gonna declare to the world that it was me he wanted to be with and damn Buffy to hell? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Cordelia swallowed heavily as she made her way down the steps, her gaze averted from the British watcher that had found out their secret. She tried to summon up her inner Queen C but found she couldn’t as she stood on the outskirts of Buffy and her Scoobies, her heart was beating too fast, her body still humming from Angel’s touch, she was a wreck and dearly hoped that it didn’t show on her face.
“Was there a party in the stacks that I wasn’t invited to?” Buffy raised a suspicious eyebrow at her, intuition telling her there was something wrong about this, about the way Giles had come out of the stacks in an embarrassed shade of pink, about the way Angel had followed him out seconds later looking like he was about to rip someone’s head off, about the way Cordelia couldn’t seem to look at either Giles or Angel.
Like we learnt before, Buffy Summers, not exactly known for her razor sharp intelligence. But what she lacked in smarts she made up in brute force…which was what was making Cordelia even more nervous than she already felt.
“A party you weren’t invited to? Well, gosh, it wouldn’t be the first time now would it?” Cordelia snarked out of habit, apparently there was still enough Queen C in her to keep up appearances. Cordelia returned the glare Buffy sent her way unflinchingly, a silent battle of wills that the Slayer wasn’t exactly sure was about.
“So what, you were just hanging around the stacks with my watcher and my boyfriend for fun?”
“Get over yourself Buffy.” Cordelia rolled her eyes and glanced at her nails in boredom.
“Would someone please like to tell me what the hell is going on!” Buffy hissed at the people around her. Angel stood stoically with hands in his pockets, a scowl on his face the likes of which she’d never seen before. He hadn’t kissed her hello, hadn’t even said hello to her when he’s stalked into the room. Giles stood in his office doorway, a harried look in his features as he cleaned his glasses.
Cordelia leant casually on the table, her legs crossed at her ankles as she inspected her latest manicure for faults. Willow and Xander sat at the large library table, the red head worrying her bottom lip and fiddling with her pencil while the brunette was casting confused glances at everyone around him, clearly Buffy wasn’t the only one out of the loop.
“Angel.” Giles cleared his throat and gestured to the vampire to step inside his office.
“What do you need with Angel?!” Buffy yelped indignantly.
“We’ll talk about this later Buffy.” Angel finally spoke up, his voice tense and gruff as he tried and failed not to look at Cordelia Chase. He momentarily caught her eye and the questions he found there twisted his insides.
“Well maybe I want to talk about it now?!” The Slayer’s eyes flashed angrily at him, Angel felt a stab of guilt in his gut like hot steel through cold dead flesh.
“We don’t always get what we want Buffy.” Cordelia muttered before she could stop herself.
“Speaks little Miss Gold card.” Buffy scoffed.
“You really don’t want to start with me Summers.” Cordelia pushed herself off the table and took a step towards Buffy, her jealousy and guilt building up into a ball of anger in the pit of her stomach that had the potential to leave her with more than a black eye.
“What’cha gonna do Chase, pull my hair and call me names?” Buffy laughed dangerously.
“Pfft, like I would even go near that peroxide mess.” The brunette sneered at her as she flicked a disgusted look at Buffy’s hair.
“Buffy.” The vampire said softly as he grasped her arm Angel had seen the Slayer’s eyes narrow and knew he had to put a stop to this before it went any further. The slayer was acquiesced by his gaze, dark eyes that she so often couldn’t understand but longed for anyway.
Cordelia watched the silent exchange between the man she was in love with and his girlfriend, her heart twisting sickly at the display. Willow was the only one in the room that saw the cheerleaders back tense up, that saw the too carefree flick of a her dark ponytail as Angel and Buffy stood looking at each other.
“Oh for godsake.” Cordelia muttered as the moment stretched on and on by increments, trying to ignore the way her heart felt like it was being ripped out and nailed to the wall.
“Angel, please, just tell me what’s going on.” Buffy whispered, searching the vampire’s eye for an answer.
“I just need to talk to Giles…and then we’ll talk later. OK?” Angel said gently, squeezing her hand reassuringly.
“Please Buffy.” The vampire brushed a stray strand of blonde hair behind her ear, he didn’t see the cold shadow that passed over Cordelia’s face. The slayer nodded shortly, a small frown on her lips that Angel hated he had put there.
“Buffy, maybe you Willow Xander and Cordelia might like to go and get a drink in the common room while I speak to Angel.” Giles spoke up from where he was stood cleaning his glasses, again, as though the simple act could bring a semblance of decorum to the tense group.
Cordelia was the first to move, she needed to get out of here, get away from the way Angel was looking at Buffy, away from Giles’ disapproving eyes, from Willow’s sympathetic gaze. The library door swung angrily in her absence, the click of her heels echoed down the corridor in her wake. Buffy was the next, still angry but for once doing as was requested.
“OK, what’s with all the weirdness?” Xander asked Willow as they trailed shortly behind, Willow hushed him curtly, darting a once last nervous glance at the two remaining occupants of the Sunnydale High Library.
She prayed this didn’t end in either dust or blood.
Angel stood in the middle of Rupert Giles’ office, arms folded defensively across his chest as a silent stand-off was waged between vampire and Watcher. He could hear the retreating footsteps echoing down the corridor, four separate heart beats becoming fainter as the further away they went until he couldn’t hear them at all.
“I think you’d better tell me what’s going on.” Giles broke the tense silence that had enveloped the office as soon as they’d entered it.
“It’s none of your business.” Angel barked gruffly, not liking the way the Englishman was looking at him.
“I’m Buffy’s watcher, if it concerns her then it is very much my business.” The watcher retorted evenly. Once again the silence swallowed them, creeping into every corner and covering the sparse furniture.
They didn’t like each other, that much was glaringly obvious, Giles had spent his life protecting the world from Angel’s kind and Angel had spent a large part of his life hunting down Giles’ kind. It didn’t make for comfortable bed fellows and it had borne an inherent unease between the Watcher and vampire that would not dissipate no matter how many times they worked together to avert the next apocalypse.
“You want a piece of advice Giles? Back off and stay out of this.” The vampire warned him trying to stay as civil as he could manage in the face of this man butting into his business.
“You’re messing around with two young impressionable girls Angel, I won’t allow it.”
“Maybe you didn’t hear me the first time?”
“They’re children. Cordelia Chase is seventeen years old, she may look-“
“You know nothing about her Giles.”
“And you do?”
“I doubt that very much.” The Englishman scoffed patronisingly.
“I’m not one of your students Giles, I was two centuries old by the time you were even a sparkle in your Fathers eye so get off that damn superior pedestal and remember who you’re talking to.” Angel snarled, his demon prickling just beneath his skin wanting to come out and show the damn watcher just who he was.
“I know who you are Angelus. Do either of those girls know your true name? Have you told them what you did for a hundred years, the innocents you killed, raped and tortured for the fun of it? Have you told Cordelia what you and Darla did to girls younger than her?” Giles removed his glasses as he finally spoke of his unease of having Angel in any of their lives.
“I’m not Angelus.” The vampire growled darkly.
“Maybe not, but you’re hardly what either of those girls need.” The Watcher said evenly, realising that goading the vampire wasn’t the best of things to do right now. He watched Angel’s shoulders slump in defeat as the truth of his words entered his conscience.
“I know.” Angel sighed and sat down on the small office couch, he rubbed his hands over his face roughly, the scent of Cordelia Chase still lingering on his skin.
“You’re going to hurt them both.” Giles told him softly as he sat down opposite the vampire.
“I know Giles, OK, I know.” Angel muttered, he wished they’ve never left the damn motel room in the first place, stave off reality for a little longer so he could figure out exactly whatever it was that he was starting to feel.
“I think…” The vampire finally looked at Giles, unsure of his words but needing to say them anyway.
“I think I’m in love with Cordelia.”
“So…this is strangely tense and awkward. Anyone wanna tell me why?” Xander piped up as he studied the closed off expressions of slayer, cheerleader and fellow nerd. The only one to give him any sign that he had been heard was Willow whose frown only deepened as she picked at the non existent lint on her sleeve.
“Is it me? Do I smell of something really bad but you all love me too much to tell me? Did I miss a memo? Is there an apocalypse and you guys thought it best not to bother me with it? Are Angel and Giles having a clandestine affair in the library stacks?
Has the Creek been cancelled and you don’t want to break my fragile Joey lovin’ heart? What? Someone, anyone? Bueller?” Xander said starting to get annoyed at the stoic tension that hovered around the group.
“Am I the only one with the disturbing mental image of Angel and Giles in their head now?” Willow grimaced, both Buffy and Cordelia raised their hands and nodded in agreement but quickly retreated back into their own thoughts about the same vampire.
Silence reigned supreme once again as sodas were drank and candy bars were chewed with distraction. Buffy wanted to scream and shout and demand to be told what was going on, what Giles and her boyfriend were being so secretive about, what Willow was so concerned about her finding out. Angel had been so distant lately and it was worrying her, if he was in some kind of trouble why hadn’t he come to her for help? And why was it she was starting to get the weird feeling that Cordelia Chase had something to do with this?
“Why were you in the library?” Buffy eyed the brunette who was staring into space with a unreadable look on her face suspiciously.
“Well, it’s a library…I needed a book…you do the math.” Cordelia wrenched herself out of her thoughts to answer her, hoping there wasn’t a big red neon sign above her head screaming liar. She glanced at her watch, they’d been exiled to the common room for ten minutes now, ten agonising minutes full of unanswered questions that were starting to eat her up inside.
Cordelia didn’t know why she was still here, she wanted to leave, run as fast and far as she could but there was something stopping her from leaving. She didn’t like this limbo she’d found herself in, too use to saying what she thought and not giving a damn about the consequences to suddenly have to still her tongue and watch for Angel’s next move.
Cordelia was waiting, she wasn’t sure for what exactly but Angel was here and that was where she wanted to be, even though he’d held Buffy’s hand and brushed her hair out of her face, even though he had barely glanced in Cordelia’s direction, even though she actually had no idea how the vampire felt about her.
“Why are you still here?” Buffy said as though she were reading the cheerleaders every thought.
“You know, I was just wondering that myself.” Cordelia stood up unable to sit here with these people any longer. She crossed her arms and turned on her heel and made her way slowly back to the library looking for maybe little peace of mind. Buffy followed looking for the answers she deserved.
“You’d tell me if I smelt, right Will? Hey, where are you going? Will?” Xander called after his redheaded best friend as she hurried after the retreating blonde. “This is doing nothing for my manly confidence.” He muttered then loped after them.
Giles watched the torn vampire opposite him, he saw the raw tension in his stance that told of a man not used to discussing his personal life with others. The Englishman could understand that need for privacy but this involved two of his students and his concern was with them, not Angel.
“What about Buffy in all of this?”
“I love Buffy.” Angel said truthfully even though his voice wavered with uncertainty.
“You can’t have them both and you can’t keep doing this behind Buffy’s back Angel, you’ll break her heart.”
“Do you think you could stop pointing out the obvious for a minute, it’s starting to grate.”
“Well some one needs to talk some bloody sense into you man! You’re messing around with two seventeen year old girls, neither of whom particularly like the other, one is tremendously strong with a short temper and the other has an even shorter temper and a caustic tongue! Do you need me to draw you a diagram of what will probably happen if Buffy finds out!” Giles’ own temper snapped, his fury with the vampire too much to be retained behind his very British exterior.
“You think I meant for this to happen? That I went looking for it?”
“Your history would-“
“Fuck my history Watcher, I found Cordelia Chase scared and alone living in a goddamn motel because her parents couldn’t give a shit about her! How was I meant to walk away from that?! I didn’t go out looking to cheat on Buffy, it just happened.” Angel bit out angrily as he leapt off the couch and stalked across the room.
“That doesn’t make any of this right.” Giles whipped of his glasses and stood his ground before the vampire.
“Dammit man I know that!”
“Have you slept with Cordelia?” Giles ventured unwisely, needing to know just how much of a mess this demon had dragged his two young charges into.
“Don’t push your luck Giles.” Angel growled.
“What if I have?!”
“For Christ-sake Angel she’s a seventeen year old girl! Did you ever stop to think what you were doing or where you too busy corrupting an innocent child!?” Giles’ voice echoed around the room and out of the library.
“You think this is just a game to me? That I’m just playing with Cordelia?” Angel hissed indignantly, the Englishman was beginning to tread on dangerous ground.
“I’ve read about vampire’s sex lives-“
“Is that how you get your jollies Giles? Reading up on my past conquests?” Angel sneered, a vestige of the demon inside him that they had never had the displeasure to meet.
“Is that what Cordelia is, a conquest? You sleep with her and move on, who’s next, Willow?”
“She’s a cute one that’s for sure.” His demon was too close to the surface, itching under his skin and wanting to come out and play for a while, to goad the human and watch him squirm.
“I don’t care who you were or who you are Angel, from now on you stay away from those girls.” The unspoken threat in Giles’ voice didn’t escape the vampire, it riled the demon and the soul.
“This is none of your business, stay out of it.” Angel ground out, his jaw ticking with tension as he glared at the other man.
“None of my…You’re sleeping with Cordelia Chase while your girlfriend, my Slayer sits at home thinking you’re in some kind of trouble!!! It’s very much my business!!” Giles boomed the truth to the world.
“You-” Angel stopped what he was about to say as he heard the creak of the library door closing on it’s hinges. His eyes widened as his hearing picked up tell tale tub thump of four human hearts, two beating wildly, a blazing cacophony that signalled the truth was out.
Buffy stared unseeingly at the slightly ajar office door, her Watcher’s words crashing through her heart. This wasn’t happening, it didn’t make sense. Angel was sleeping with….She couldn’t even bare to repeat it to herself. It was insane, he wouldn’t do that to her, he loved her, he just wouldn’t….
“What….” She frowned and tried to understand what she’d heard, what they’d all heard. Buffy jerked her eyes to the silent girl behind her by the library doors. Cordelia took an uncertain step back, pushed by the full truth now known to all, desperate to get away but her feet were refusing to listen.
“I….” Cordelia trailed off uncertainly, her head whipped around when Angel emerged from the office, worry etching his handsome face. The face she had learnt with her fingertips, the face that now saw nothing but Buffy.
“Buffy how long have you been standing here?” Angel edged towards the petite blonde.
“Is it true?” She blinked at him, her heart in her throat.
“IS IT!” Buffy jerked away from his outstretched hand.
“Just tell me the god damned truth!”
“I never meant to hurt you Buffy, please, you have to believe me.” Angel said solemnly, his voice thick with guilt and shame for how she had found out.
“Believe you? You…you…”
“I’m sorry Buffy…I didn’t…it wasn’t….” Angel trailed off weakly.
“Please Angel, tell me this isn’t true, that’s it’s all a big unfunny joke. Please don’t…just don’t tell me that you….”
“I thought you loved me.” Buffy whispered unable to quite believe what he was telling her.
“I do.” He took a step closer to her desperate to take the betrayal and pain from her eyes. Angel didn’t see Cordelia stiffen when he said those to words, didn’t see her jaw tense as she fought not to scream the unfairness of it all. The man she was in love with loved another, not her, he wasn’t looking at her with concern and regret, with love and penitence.
Cordelia wasn’t even sure he knew she was in the damn room.
It was then that she accepted the truth, the truth she had tried to deny from the moment she had first felt Angel’s lips brushing across her own. The truth she thought was about to be changed, amended when the vampire had almost given her his heart in the shadowy stacks.
Angel was Buffy’s, not hers.
Nobody saw Cordelia slip through the library doors, her heels clacking as she ran down the corridor in the whirlwind of a broken heart. Nobody saw Cordelia Chase cry and for that much she was grateful.
“You slept with Cordelia. You slept with Cordelia.” Buffy said out loud as though there was some hidden meaning that she was missing.
“You say you love me…what, you decided to show this by sleeping with the school whore!?” The Slayer hissed at Angel, disgust dripping venom from her words as the truth of the last few days hit her in the gut.
“Don’t call her that.” Angel instantly bristled in the face of the Slayer, his need to defend the brunette out weighing his need to comfort the blonde.
“You’re screwing her behind my back so I think I have the right to call her whatever the hell I want.” She laughed bitterly.
“Please, just leave her out of this.” Angel begged his righteously angry girlfriend.
“Oh my god, you’re in love with her.” Buffy said with disgust and disbelief, her answer was his damning silence. “How could you? I trusted you Angel.” She whispered, the tears that she hadn’t realised were sliding down her face twisted the knife Angel felt in his stomach.
“I’m sorry Buffy, I never-” Angel didn’t know what else to say, how else to make this better.
“You’re sorry? You’re sorry! You…BASTARD!” Buffy’s palm connected with the side of Angel’s face in a sharp slap that made knocked him to the floor and drew blood from his lip. Her slight body was shaking with indignant fury.
“Buffy-” Giles stepped forward.
“You knew.” She accused her Watcher. “You all knew and you kept it from me. All of you…did you have fun talking about it behind my back? Poor clueless Buffy, her boyfriend’s taking a ride on the town bike? Did it give you a laugh? Did it?!”
“It wasn’t like that.” Willow spoke up from where she and Xander had stood on the peripheries as the watched the Slayers heart break into a million pieces.
“You’re my best friends, you should have told me.”
“Don’t take this out on them, they have nothing to do with this.” Angel said as he dragged himself up from the floor.
“No, you don’t get to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do anymore Angel. You lost that right when you screwed Cordelia Chase.” She spat at him furiously.
Angel had never wanted this, never wanted to see the pain in Buffy’s eyes trickling down her cheeks and flooding his soul with shame. He certainly never wanted to be the one to cause pain like this, for so long his thoughts had been consumed with Buffy, from the moment he had first seen her he’d wanted to ease her pain and give her some happiness…but he’d fallen in love with another woman and a fragile heart was the cost.
Cordelia took three deep breaths as she leant her forehead against the steering wheel of her car, trying to patch up the wall Angel had broken down with his body and words.
C’mon Chase, get it together! She screamed silently at herself as her tears continued to fall.
It was over.
Angel and Buffy would kiss and make up, he’d tell her it was all a mistake, they should never had done it. It was wrong. He loves Buffy. He loves Buffy.
Angel fucking loves Buffy.
Get over it. Move on. She angrily wiped the evidence that she had a heart from her face.
He hadn’t even glanced in her direction…like she didn’t even exist. Cordelia felt stupid and used, angry at that she’d let herself be put in such a situation. A few kind words, a dinner or two and she’d given her body and heart to a man that had no room for it next to his.
Get over it.
Cordelia gunned the ignition as she closed up her heart one brick at a time.