“Well isn’t this cosy.” Buffy Summers called out from where she stood ten meters away. “Would one of you mind telling me what the hell is going on here?”
Cordelia flinched away from Angel like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar, forbidden candy melting in the palm of her hand. She flicked her hair over her shoulder and straightened her jacket, not daring to look at the vampire next to her.
Breathe Cor….just breathe…
“What’s going on Buffy is that Angel was doing your job for you, you know, slaying.” Cordelia snapped, she crossed her arms over her chest hoping no one could see how her hands were shaking. Her traitorous body had never reacted to a man in this way before, blood singing, heart pounding crazy. Is this what Buffy feels when ever he looked at her, when ever he touches her….
“That’s not what it looked like to me.” Buffy glared at Angel who to her dismay was still standing next to Cordelia, closer then the Slayer liked.
“Exactly what does it look like?” Angel growled, his demon pushing at the barrier of his soul. He tried to reign it in, stamp it down and lock it away like he usually did but it wasn’t listening.
“Why don’t you tell me.” Buffy scowled at him.
“For crapsake Buffy grow a life already, Angel saved me from one of his dumber cousins and was just making sure I was OK.” Cordelia huffed when it was clear that Angel wasn’t going to say anything.
“Is that the truth?” The Slayer asked her boyfriend pointedly.
“What, my word’s not good enough for you? Excuse me Miss superior attitude, if I say that’s what happened then that’s what happened!” The brunette snapped making everyone but the vampire beside her flinch.
It’s not like I’m lying, we haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not like we were kissing or anything…..So why do I feel guilty? Was Angel about to kiss me? Hold on….is that Angel’s hand on the small of my back. Oh sweet jesus… Cordelia clenched her teeth to stifle the squeak she was sure was about to fly out of her mouth, she frantically hoped that Buffy couldn’t see the blush that was creeping up her neck in the dark. She prayed that slayer’s senses weren’t that good.….oh shit, vampire senses!
Angel ignored the quick darting glance the brunette shot him out of the corner of her eye, he didn’t need to look at her to know the reaction he was stirring up inside of her. The heavy drum beat of her heart was sign enough. He knew he should move his hand but his body wasn’t listening. Angel had fleetingly felt her warmth and now he feared he was addicted. He couldn’t not touch Cordelia, even with his girlfriend standing meters away from them.
What the fuck am I doing? He growled silently to himself.
Buffy eyed the pair suspiciously, the tense silence growing thicker by the second. Cordelia appeared to be as aloof as ever, tapping her foot and scowling at her in boredom. Nothing new there and Angel’s face was expressionless, a handsome mask that she couldn’t read. Again, nothing new there either.
So why didn’t this feel right to the Slayer?
“Ahem.” Xander cleared his throat when he could take the silence no longer. “I hate to break up this very uncomfortable moment between love birds….actually that’s a lie, please, carry on.” He grinned and gestured with his hands for Angel and Buffy to continue. Making Angel feel uncomfortable was a favourite past time of his and you couldn’t buy entertainment like this.
“Shh.” Willow smacked his arm like a disapproving sister, she frowned at him sternly until he looked suitably ashamed. The red head bit her lip as her gaze shifted between Buffy and Angel, she knew her friend was having a difficult time with her boyfriend, things hadn’t been the same between them since her death had been foretold the summer before.
Something like that can put a dent in a blossoming relationship.
“Cordelia did you…umm…did you get hurt?” Willow asked her awkwardly, trying to divert attention away from Buffy and Angel’s silent argument.
“Just the usual head trauma, but I think I’m OK, nothing permanent.” Cordelia offered her a small smile that surprised Willow so much she said…
“Do you want to come to the Bronze with us?” As soon as the words left Willows mouth she steeled herself for Queen C’s inevitable cutting come back.
“I….sure.” Cordelia shrugged and stepped away from the vampires maddening presence. She could still feel the shadow of Angels hand through the material of her jacket, her body refused to forget how his thumb felt against her lips, cool and smooth and utterly delicious. Cordelia would have walked off with the devil himself just to be away from Angel in that moment. She ignored the way Xander and Willow were looking at her in disbelief and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other as she walked.
One not completely innocent touch from Angel and she was having trouble remembering that she didn’t like these people.
“Well? Are we going or not?” Cordelia arched a perfect eyebrow at Willow and Xander when they hadn’t moved. The pair looked at each other and shrugged, a silent conversation between best friends before they fell into step with the Sunnydale May Queen.
“If anyone asks why I’m with you people I’m gonna say it’s against my will.” Cordelia informed them evenly, Xander and Willow breathed a mutual sigh of relief at her snark. That was Cordelia.
Angel tried his best not to stare at Cordelia as she walked away, tried not to watch how her red skirt swirled around her knees, tried not to notice how her leather jacket hugged the feminine curve of her waist.
“Angel?” Buffy snapped at the vampire whose mind was a million miles away.
“Huh?” He blinked and forced his gaze to the blonde beauty in front of him.
“What’s up with you tonight?”
Do you really want me to answer that girl? His demon dared him to say. Angel bit his tongue to stop the words coming out.
“I…nothing Buffy, really.” Angel gave her the best apologetic smile he could manage but the look of annoyance didn’t leave the slayers face. “We should…” He nodded towards the retreating figures of Cordelia Xander and Willow.
Angel tried not to watch how the light evening breeze tussled Cordelia’s thick chocolate brown hair.
“Yeah.” Buffy frowned and crossed her arms across her chest, she shot one last scowl at him then turned on her heel and followed her friends, not waiting for him to walk beside her.
“Shit.” Angel muttered under his breath and trailed after them.
It was going to be a long night.
Willow Rosenberg was an intelligent young woman, hell if she were honest with herself she’d realise she was the smartest girl at Sunnydale High but as she sat in the crowded Bronze between Angel and Cordelia she couldn’t think of one intelligent thing to say. She couldn’t even think of one stupid thing to say, but glib and sarcastic remarks were more Xander’s forte anyway.
Why didn’t I go with Xander and Buffy to get the drinks? Why?! Willow looked longingly over to where her friends were queuing at the bar sharing easy conversation. And why do I feel like a third wheel here? She wondered, there was a palpable tension between the vampire and the brunette, Willow was a sensitive person and had a tendency to pick up on things like that, but the why completely alluded her.
“So….” Willow’s voice came out nervously high. “….the band’s cool.”
“Hmm.” Angel grunted.
“They’re very…..good.” Willow nodded silently begging her friends to hurry up.
“Yep….good with the….music.”
Deep blue tense music filled silence.
“OK, cards on the table here guys, this is uncomfortable as hell isn’t it? I mean, a cheerleader, a nerd and a vampire? Not exactly the ingredients for flowing conversation.” Cordelia said what everyone was thinking, she saw the vampires lips quirk into a smile.
“It’s making the time I was lynched feel positively comfortable in comparison.” Angel said dryly, his dark humour surprising the red head but not the brunette.
“You were lynched?” Willow gaped at him.
“Yeah and hung…it’s just as well I was already dead…it could have been very messy.” The vampires face scrunched up in a comical grimace.
“And they say there isn’t an upside to being dead.” Cordelia laughed, her eyes dancing happily.
“Positive thinking is the key.” Angel winked at her tapping a finger to his head, the tension of the earlier quickly began to dissipate between the pair.
“You spend a lot of time watching Oprah don’t you?” Cordelia snorted.
“Well what do you think I do during the day? Sit and brood about my past sins? How clichéd.” He mocked himself and rolled his eyes, a perfect impression of the cheerleader who was still laughing.
“You were lynched?!” Willows usually quick brain was three steps behind in the conversation. Her squealed exclamation drew Angel and Cordelia’s eyes away from each other, both realising they weren’t alone in this conversation.
“Umm…yeah. It kinda goes with the territory Willow.” He gave the red head a sympathetic smile, he knew is was difficult for Buffy’s friends to accept that part of him.
“The territory…?” She blinked at him in confusion.
“Willow you do know Angel’s a vampire right? I thought you were the brains of this operation?” Cordelia said slowly as though she were talking to a child , but the grin creeping across her lips negated any scorn found in her words.
“Actually Xander’s the brains…he just hides it well.” Willow’s deadpan come back made Cordelia and Angel erupt in laughter, the red head had never really heard genuine laughter come from either the cheerleader and the vampire, it was strange and wonderful.
“What’s so funny?” Buffy deposited the tray of drinks in to the table then took a seat close to Angel.
“The delights of day time tv and lynching.” Willow grinned at her friend who just looked back at her in confusion. “I guess you had to be there.” She shrugged, the light laughter fading away.
“Oooook.” Buffy shot her boyfriend a silent question with her eyes, Angel smiled back at her awkwardly.
“I got snacks.” Xander deposited his bounty onto the table. “None for you though Deadboy, they don’t cater for your kind.” He sneered at the vampire.
“I’m sure I can grab something later.” Angel flashed him a fang letting him know exactly what he meant, Cordelia snorted with laughter and the vampire smirked as the boy paled and shut up in his seat. “And it’s Dead man to you kid.”
“Have you been on the happy sauce?” Buffy asked her boyfriend annoyed at the way he was talking to her friend.
“You’re acting all…..not like you.”
“Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do Buffy.” He said without thinking. He saw the hurt flash across her face before the anger took over.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I didn’t….” Angel sighed I’m too fucking old for this shit.
Cordelia watched the vampire withdraw into himself and frowned, the ever present tension returned to the small table and Cordelia started to wish she were back at the motel eating popcorn and watching Die Hard for the eighth time that week. What the hell was she doing here anyway?
Because I wanted to be where Angel was….. Her treacherous mind informed her. Dammit, get a grip Chase!
“This would be the opposite of fun then?” Cordelia spoke up to try and break the awkwardness.
“No ones forcing you to stay.” Buffy spat at her for no real reason other than she was hurt by what Angel said and was looking for someone to take it out on.
“But who could resist such sparkling conversation?” Cordelia bristled, an arched eyebrow giving her a warning not to make an issue with her which the slayer ignored.
“What are you doing here Cordelia? Isn’t there an elsewhere you should be, some jock you haven’t got your claws in yet just waiting for the ride of his life? “
“Buffy….don’t even try to out-bitch me, you won’t win.” The brunette fixed her with such a cold stare it made the slayer nervous and yet didn’t stop the rant forming in her mouth. Buffy knew her problem wasn’t with Cordelia, it was with the vampire next to her but she couldn’t call him names….
“That’s right, your Queen C, master of all you survey, ruler of Sunnydale High…..but no one takes you seriously Cordelia…not even your own friends, you’re just a step up the social ladder for them, take away the clothes and Daddies gold card and what are you? A vapid cow that screws…”
“That’s enough Buffy!” Angel boomed at her, shocked at the venom in his girlfriend’s words. He’d never heard her be so acerbic towards another person for no apparent reason, lashing out at Cordelia when it was him she was mad at.
To Cordelia’s dismay she could feel embarrassment creeping up her neck in a thick red wave, her eyes darting around the club, several dozen eyes were watching the impromptu entertainment their table was giving. The cheerleader hadn’t realised the band had stopped long ago allowing some of the inhabitants of the Bronze to listen to Buffy’s scathing attack.
Her gaze locked with Harmony’s, her friend was looking at her with equal parts confusion and amusement.
Cordelia had to get out of here now.
“I wouldn’t even waste my breathe on you.” Cordelia’s lips twitched into a sneer, she slipped on her jacket not daring to look at the man she knew was watching her, she didn’t want to see his pity. “Willow…thanks for the laugh, I needed it. Xander…you’re still an idiot….” She calmly walked away from the group, her head held high as she headed for the exit.
“Shut up Harmony.” Cordelia dismissed the blonde before she even said anything as she marched past her. Once she was finally out of the club Cordelia let out the breath she didn’t realise she was holding, her stomach in knots and her skin prickling with embarrassment.
“That was harsh Buffy….even for Cordelia.” Xander said with so much sincerity it surprised himself. He enjoyed in a little verbal battle as much as the next person; Cordelia and he had spent most of their lives bitching at each over, but there was a fine line between bitching and being down right vicious for no reason. Even Xander knew that.
“She was trying to be nice.” Willow agreed with him, she didn’t know why the cheerleader was trying to be nice or why she had spent her evening with them but for a little while there Willow had seen a side of Cordelia she had liked, but it had vanished as quickly as it had emerged.
Buffy felt suitably ashamed under the glare of her two best friends. “Where are you going?” She asked Angel as he stood up.
“Buffy, you need to grow up.” He told her sternly then then left.
Angel could still smell Cordelia’s light perfume in the air outside the Bronze, letting him know that she hadn’t gone far, as he rounded the corner he found her rifling through her purse in the same distracted way she had done the night he had stumbled into Cordelia’s life.
“Where are you going?” Angel’s voice startled her and she dropped her purse in surprise.
“Good God Angel! Give a girl a heart attack why don’t you!” Cordelia yelped, her heart beating wildly in her throat, taking a deep breathe trying to calm herself she mock scowled at him. “It wouldn’t hurt you to whistle a jaunty tune when you’re sneaking up on someone.”
“That would kinda negate the element of surprise Cordy.” He crouched down to help her pick up the items that had spilled out of her purse.
“I like that you call me Cordy.” Cordelia said honestly without thinking, she hoped she didn’t sound as stupid as she thought she did.
Oh for crapsake am I blushing again?! Cordelia thought frantically, she tilted her head and let her hair hide her face as she snatched her keys and lipstick off the floor. Her breath caught in her throat when Angel’s strong hand brushed the hair out of his view and gently tucked it behind her shoulder. Cordelia had no choice but to look at him, her eyes catching with his for what felt like hours but was only seconds. Deep brown intensity held her where she knelt on the dusty ground, his hand lingering on the sweep of her neck, fingers burning her skin.
“You’re getting bruise.” His thumb drifted over the small patch of discoloured skin on her brow, Cordelia had forgotten about the attack earlier but it all came rushing back to her now. Not the near death experience though, but the way his cool hands had felt on her face, the desire in his eyes as he touched her lips….
“It’s fine.” Cordelia managed to get her self together enough to say at least two coherent words.
“Do you want me to walk you home?” Angel’s voice was a deep rumble that she felt all the way down to her toes.
“You should get back to Buffy.” Cordelia forced the words out of her mouth, she hadn’t meant to whisper it, she’d meant to say it with conviction.
“I’ll walk you home.” The vampire declared not wanting to think about the inevitable show down he’d have with his girlfriend. Angel stood up, his body uncurling with a grace that would have been breathtaking if his knees hadn’t popped at the movement. The noise broke the thick tension that would have made a certain two FBI agents blush and Angel was both relieved and disappointed. Cordelia didn’t try to hide her amusement as she took his outstretched hand and stood. Her knees were dirty but she didn’t care.
“I thought you were meant to be eternally young?” Cordelia chuckled, she unconsciously slipped her hand out of his grasp and snaked it around his arm as they walked.
“I am….my knees just don’t know it.” Angel smiled.
The Sunnydale Motel sign flickered a red neon glow over the parking lot, the first night she had spent here, in between hysterical crying fits, Cordelia had sat and stared at the world engulfed in scarlet for hours fighting off sleep until exhaustion and tears took her under. She had hated the red light then and she hated it now but it didn’t feel quite so desolate anymore.
“I actually had a fun this evening…well, you know, until your girl went insane.” Cordelia rolled her eyes as she leant back against the door of her room.
“Yeah, me too.” Angel nodded, his hands firmly in his pockets and his back hunched over slightly, almost indistinguishable from the night sky behind him. Cordelia wondered if that was why he dressed in black so often, so he could merge with the background and pretend he wasn’t really there.
“You’re not going to turn all laconic on me now are ya?” She tried to jostle him back into the light mood they had shared as they walked to the Motel.
“What Buffy said….” The vampire tried to apologise for his girlfriends hostile words.
“It wasn’t me she was mad at Angel.” Cordelia told him wisely, she was annoyed that Buffy had ranted vitriolic at her but she wasn’t really upset at the words, it was the fact that half of Sunnydale High had been there to see Queen C be verbally bitch slapped that pissed her off.
And the fact that my friends were there to see me socialising with the school freaks of course. She tried to convince herself but that shallow argument didn’t seem to matter anymore.
“I know.” Angel sighed wearily.
“You should go speak to her.” Cordelia couldn’t believe she was actually trying to get the vampire to kiss and make up with the slayer. Just call me Saint Cordy and be done with it.
“What if I don’t want to?”
“We all gotta do stuff we don’t want to.” She shrugged and fished her keys out of her purse and put them in the lock, her back turned to him.
“What if I want to stay here and talk to you?” His quiet words tugged at something inside of her she knew she had to ignore.
“Isn’t my keeper Cordy.” Angel told her smoothly, slight irritation creeping into his voice.
“No…she’s your girlfriend.” Cordelia’s turned her head to him, her smile was etched with a sadness she hadn’t intended him to see. “Goodnight Angel.” She turned the key in the lock and slipped inside her room before Angel could say a word.
Angel stood staring at the door, his boots rooted firmly in place outside her room counting the moments that ticked by. An eternity condensed into seconds as her presence still surrounded him in the solitary night. He heard the slide and click of Cordelia twisting the deadbolt into place and he silenced his demons desires.
He clenched his jaw and disappeared into the darkness.