“We’re back and we come bearing pizza.” Xander looked around the library. Cordelia and Angel were sitting next to each other at the table. “Where’s Buffy?”
“Hello to you too, Xander.”
“Hello Cordy. Where’s Buffy?”
“Patrolling. Wesley went with her.”
“She left you alone with him?”
“Xander!” Willow hissed as she placed the sodas on the table.
“No Will. This is not cool. She shouldn’t have left Cordy alone with him.”
“Relax Xander. It’s okay. It was tense for a minute but Angel told me he’d give me a ten second head start if he started to feel hunger pains.”
“He what?!” Xander glared at the silent vampire. Angel didn’t look up from his book.
“Don’t worry. We worked it out. I told him he could bite you when you got back.”
Willow turned wide eyes to Angel. She could almost swear she heard him bite back a laugh. She shook her head. She must have imagined his snort.
“Geez. I’m kidding. You used to have a sense of humor. We’re not alone. Giles is still in his office.”
Xander sat down in the chair across from her, grumbling.
Cordelia leaned forward and smiled sweetly. “I appreciate the concern though.”
He looked at her with a goofy grin. “Pizza?”
“Sure” She took the slice he handed her. “Do you eat pizza, Angel?”
“It’s sausage. That’s not his pig part of choice.”
“Is your name Angel?”
Xander’s grin faded under his girlfriend’s harsh stare. *Great! Yet another woman who feels the need to defend the poor helpless VAMPIRE!*
“I don’t really care for pizza.”
Cordelia threw a couple of slices on a plate and grabbed a soda. “I’ll be right back.” She could hear Willow furiously whispering to Xander as she walked away.
Angel watched Cordelia out of the corner of his eye. He tried to ignore the whispered conversation going on across the table. He didn’t want to analyze why, but he wished Willow and Xander hadn’t returned. He stopped pretending to read and openly stared at the office door. He found Cordelia’s presence made being in the library more bearable.
Since she closed the door behind her, not overhearing her conversation would be completely natural. His eyes drifted down to the pages in front of him but he didn’t see them. He focused his senses on the other room. He told himself he was only doing it to avoid listening to Willow lecture Xander about his behavior.
It would be easier to eavesdrop if he closed his eyes. Shutting down one sense increases the others, but he forced his eyes to remain open so as not to draw attention. The voices started to clear.
“Cordelia, I told you. I’m not hungry.”
“Don’t give me that ’cause I’m not buyin’ it. I’ve been here since 4 o’clock and you haven’t eaten anything. I bet you skipped lunch too. Am I right?”
“I am a grown man. I believe I can take care of myself. I don’t need you…”
“Shut up and eat the damn pizza. Don’t make me get tough. I’ve already had to beat a vampire into submission tonight. I think I can handle an ex-watcher.”
“I noticed you and Angel seemed to be getting along.”
“Yeah. Does that bother you?”
“I don’t trust him.”
“I didn’t ask you to.”
“My pizza’s getting cold and so is yours.”
“Just..be careful. I don’t want to lose anyone else.”
Angel refused to look up when Cordelia returned. He was surprised by the concern the brunette expressed for Giles. The Cordelia he remembered, the one Buffy used to complain about and the one from tonight didn’t seem to match. He wondered what caused the change.
“Angel, you’re just supposed to read it. You don’t have to memorize it.”
Cordelia leaned over his shoulder. “You’re still on the same page.”
Her scent surrounded him. “Sorry. I guess my mind wandered.”
“It’s not the first time, Spacey. Maybe you should call it a night.” Her fingers stroked the back of his neck for a moment before she returned to her seat. “There’s no reason to overdo it. The musty books will still be here tomorrow.”
“I’m fine.” *You’re the distraction, whether you’re here or in the next room.*
“I’m sure Angel wants to wait for Buffy to get back.”
Willow’s words made the guilt come crashing back. He hadn’t been thinking about Buffy. He hadn’t really thought about her since she left to patrol.
“Oh how could I forget? Angel’s a kept vampire. It’d be easier to remember if you left your collar on.”
“I would but it chafes.”
“I like it when you make funnies, Spacey.”
“That’s why I’m here, to entertain you.” Angel finally broke eye contact with Cordelia only to find Xander and Willow staring at him like he’d grown a second head. He went back to reading.
Willow and Xander were still gaping when Buffy and a very rumpled Wesley walked in.
Xander snapped out of it. “Hey Buffster. How was the slaying?”
“Not too heavy. There were a few vamps.”
Giles stepped out of his office. “Buffy. Was there any sign of Faith?”
Giles removed his glasses and began polishing them. He couldn’t keep the smirk off his face. “Wesley, you look a little worse for the wear. Rough night?”
“Yes. Well I was merely there to observe. I may have…”
“Tripped over a headstone while running away from a vampire?”
Wesley blushed in embarrassment. Everyone but Cordelia and Angel laughed at Buffy’s words.
“Don’t worry, Wesley. It’s not your fault Buffy didn’t do her job.”
The petite blond glared at Cordelia. “I had already dusted one vamp and I was fighting two others. The fourth one went after Wesley. Giles never ran. He didn’t scream like a girl either.”
“I seem to recall hearing a story about a slayer, temporarily without her powers, running from a vampire.”
“That was different and I did…”
“Ladies, that’s enough. I suggest we call it a night.”
Buffy and Cordelia continued to glare at each other.
“I agree with Mr. Giles. You should get some rest, Buffy.” Wesley gave Cordelia a small smile before leaving.
“God that guy’s an idiot.” Buffy turned to the others. “So?”
“Bronze?” Willow turned to Xander.
“Sounds good. Cordy?”
“If you lot aren’t tired, perhaps you should continue researching.”
“Sorry watcherman. Our youth calls to us.” Buffy smiled at Angel. “Do you want to go to the Bronze? We could do something else if you’re not up to it.”
“Come on, Spacey. You can brood to loud music.”
Angel glanced at Cordelia before looking at Buffy. “The Bronze is fine with me.”
“Great!” *I knew my idea would help him.*
“Hey guys. What’s up?”
“Oz!” Willow gave her boyfriend a kiss on the cheek. “How was practice?”
“OK. We still suck but now we suck a little less.”
“I think you guys are great. Oooh I love this song. Let’s dance.”
Xander watched the new couple head to the dance floor. “You want to dance, Cordy?”
He didn’t even look at her. “Not right now.”
“OK” He turned to Buffy. “Shall we?”
“Umm” She looked at Angel.
“Go ahead and dance.”
“I’ll be back.” Buffy grabbed Xander’s hand and dragged him to where Willow was bouncing around.
“You don’t like this song?”
“I love it.”
“Then why aren’t you dancing?”
“It doesn’t matter. So how are you doing? You finally came out of your self-imposed exile and now you’re surrounded by dancing teenagers. Not feeling urge to hunt, are you?”
“You don’t pull any punches, do you?”
“Giles keeps trying to explain tact to me but I find just the idea of it too exhausting.”
“You and Giles seem close.”
“What makes you say that? He barely came out of his office tonight.”
“Oh..he…I..you brought him pizza. I didn’t see Willow or Xander worrying about Giles eating something.”
“Giles and I are friends.”
“Friends? I also noticed you were quick to defend Buffy’s new watcher tonight. I guess you like British men.”
“Wesley’s a nice guy. He’s not exactly battle ready but the Council doesn’t really train them to be.”
“What does Xander think about all this?”
Angel shrugged. He wasn’t sure why it bothered him. “Xander isn’t bothered by your…closeness with Giles..or the new watcher?” He was shocked by the tears he saw in her eyes.
“So that’s how it is? You’ve decided I’m a whore.”
“What? No! I…”
“You know what? Forget it. I’m out of here.” Cordelia grabbed her purse and left.
Angel ran after her. “Wait! Please! I didn’t mean that. I wasn’t suggesting…I just..you are very…I didn’t think Xander would want to share you.”
“He’s not sharing me! I am FRIENDS with Giles and Wesley. That’s it! I’m not sleeping with anyone behind his back.”
“I didn’t…it’s just I’ve been known to get jealous of Buffy’s male friends. I wasn’t…”
“Who could forget Buffy’s dance of the slutty slayer when she got back from her summer in L.A.”
“She’d been through a lot.”
“She died. I heard the story. She died the same day Willow and I found the body of the first guy I ever had…never mind. Poor Buffy. I know the routine.”
“I’m sorry I upset you. Please don’t leave.”
Cordelia finally looked at him. “I guess it’d be unfair to get mad. I didn’t pull any punches with you.” She managed a small smile.
“So when did you and Giles become such good friends?”
They walked over and sat down at the bar. “It was after that night you had Giles kidnapped.”
Angel started to fidget. The guilt came flooding back. He stilled when Cordelia gripped his hand.
“Don’t start brooding. This is about my guilt.”
“I was handling the stinky herbs during Willow’s spell. The next thing I knew there were vampires coming from all directions. Xander was pretty brave.” A wistful smile crossed her face. “When all hell broke loose, he told me to run. So I ran.”
“It was the right thing to do.”
“That’s what Buffy said later but she obviously didn’t mean it. You heard how she talked about Wesley tonight.”
“Whatever. Anyway when I finally stopped running, I went to the hospital to see if anyone was hurt. Willow was in a coma, Xander had a broken arm, Kendra was dead and Giles was missing.”
“What’ll ya have?”
“A diet coke, please.”
“Coffee. Black.” Angel paid for both drinks. “I shouldn’t drink this. It makes me jittery.”
“Should I start running now?”
“No. I’ll be fine, but if I have another cup, run.”
“Thanks for the warning. So everyone was either injured, dead or captured, except me. I didn’t have a scratch on me.”
“You shouldn’t feel guilty for that. I’m the one who sent the vampires. I was…”
“Stop. You’re not invited on my guilt trip.”
Angel smiled. “Sorry”
“As I was saying, I was injury free and feeling guilty. When the dust finally settled and the world hadn’t been sucked into hell, I had time to think about everything that happened. I needed to do something to relieve my guilt. Xander was busy hovering over Willow so I decided to take care of Giles, much to his horror.”
She took a sip of her soda. “Then a funny thing happened.”
“We became friends. I don’t know who was more shocked, me or Giles. After I left on vacation with my parents, I called him once a week. I’d ask how he was doing and we’d end up talking for like an hour or so.”
“What about Buffy’s new watcher?”
“His name is Wesley.” She shrugged. “I saw how they all treated him. They never gave the guy a chance.”
“If he hadn’t interfered, I might have been able to help Faith.”
“Maybe and maybe if Buffy hadn’t purposely kept him out of the loop, he might have supported the plan. Maybe if Buffy had gone to Giles and Wesley right away, they might’ve been able to help Faith themselves. I’ve heard the tale. It was an accident. She wasn’t trying to kill a human.”
“Buffy was scared. She…”
“Oh please! If that Ted guy hadn’t been a robot, if he’d just been the controlling, abusive asshole Buffy thought he was, she’d have been a killer too. She didn’t try to cover it up then. She shouldn’t have tried for Faith. If anything, it made it worse. It was an accident. The way we have weapons flying around during battle, it could have happened to any of us. Faith needed everyone’s support. She was screwed up before she even came to Sunnydale.”
“Yeah. I just meant it wasn’t all Wesley’s fault. He’s a nice guy. Do you know all he has to do is call the Council, tell them that Giles’s presence here undermines his authority with Buffy and they would have Giles deported in a heartbeat? They actually have that power.”
“I’m sure they do.”
“But Wesley would never take Giles from her. He knows how important they are to each other. He just wants to be a good watcher. You know Giles may have gotten his book smarts from his Council training but it was his misspent youth that gave him the ability to fight. Wesley just needs…help.”
“So you’re trying to help him?”
“What part of my scaredy cat run did you not understand?”
“I’m his friend. I know what it’s like to be an outsider around here. I may help with the research, be a chauffeur and act as bait but I’m not really one of the scoobies. At best I’m Xander’s girlfriend. Wesley needed a friend.”
“I can relate. You really have changed. You’re…”
“Not the same selfish bitch you remember?”
“Don’t worry. I dish out blunt honesty so I shouldn’t stop you from doing the same.”
“The bitch is still here. I just save it for special people.”
“There you guys are.”
“Hey Buffy. We were just talking about you.”
“Really?” Buffy’s eyes narrowed at Cordelia’s words. “What were you saying about me?”
Angel stood up. “I was just wondering if you might like a drink.”
“Yes please. All that dancing with Xander made me thirsty.” She smiled sweetly at Cordelia.
“What can I get you?”
“A bottle of water.”
“OK. I’ll bring it to the table.”
Buffy hesitated. “Umm..OK.” She went back to their table.
Angel waited until Buffy was gone. “Is that why you’ve been talking to me? You feel sorry for me, like Wesley?”
“Where did that come from? Isn’t this where you’re supposed to lecture me about being nice to Buffy?”
“Answer my question.” Angel looked at his hands. “Did you not mean it when you forgave me?”
“Hey,” Cordelia clasped his hand. “My forgiveness was sincere. I don’t feel sorry for you. I did think you could use a friend but if you’re not interested in being friends that’s fine.”
“No! I’d like that.” Angel squeezed her hand. “I should get back. Buffy’s waiting for her water.”
“Wow! You could feel her tugging on your leash from here? Maybe I should get one for Xander.”
“I’ll ask Buffy where she bought mine.”
“Another funny? Now I know you’re getting stronger. C’mon, Spacey.” She grabbed a couple of bottles of water and tossed some money on the bar.