Of Demony Things & Crappy Lifetimes. 4

CHAPTER 4

BANG! BANG! BANG!

Giles went over books and rug, tripping and nearly dropping his mug of tea as he pulled the door open to greet a huffing slayer, a stake in her hand, as she ran past him into the house. “Where is he? Where is the vampire?”

Giles frowned. “Do come in Buffy.”

The blonde turned and blinked at the sardonic twinkle in her watcher’s eye before dropping her fighting stance and clearing her throat. “You’re calm. He’s not bitey.” She gave him a forced, bright smile. “I didn’t panic.”

He couldn’t help smile at the bright smile on his slayer’s face. “He’s quite tied down Buffy, and weather-beaten to be exact. Hardly any threat; as I already recall telling you over the phone.”

Pulling her bag off her shoulder she tucked the stake away, as he closed the door behind her before leading her into the den. “I can’t believe Cordelia found him. What was she doing with him anyway?”

“I doubt she was doing anything, Buffy. She sort of stumbled across him.”

When she didn’t answer he looked over his shoulder to see green eyes trained on the slumbering brunette on his couch. “What’s she doing here?”

Pulling his glasses off, he took a deep breath to tell the first lie he would speak to his slayer. “She’s staying with me for a couple of weeks. Her family is moving.”

Buffy Summers regarded the sleeping girl on the couch then frowned up at Giles incredulously. “With you? Why!”

“I offered.”

An eyebrow shot up. “Like the constant pain in your backside; don’t you Giles?”

“Buffy,” his tone was admonishing as he looked at the beautiful blonde gazing at the girl with confused curiosity, “her parents asked me. It seemed she told them a lot of the times that she was doing research for me, helping me out and they assumed I was a good choice. They have no immediate family in Sunnydale and I was only happy to help. Besides, we have more pressing matters?”

He nodded towards the open bathroom door.

“Right. Evil bad guy takes priority over bitchy May-queen. You know she’s been really mean to us this past week. More than usual which is not saying a lot, but still.” Striding across the living room she peered into the bathroom and stared.

“Angel!” She jumped back her green eyes wide with shock. “You didn’t tell me it was Angel!” She glared at the older man with accusation etched across her pretty face.

Ducking her head back into the bathroom she stared at the prone figure of her boyfriend as she bent down to touch his forehead.

“That’s Angelus, Buffy.” Instantly, she jerked her hand away nearly jumping back. Giles sighed before stepping inside. “I decided it would be better to have you panic here rather than at Willow’s house.”

Gathering her screaming pulse and the insane need to stake the Scourge of Europe before she got answers out of her watcher, she turned and glared at him.

“Cordelia was out gallivanting around town with Angelus?”

“Buffy, she found him. And after establishing the vampire really wasn’t able to bite and almost dying, I think it was excellent judgment that she called me. Whoever did this to him is a force to be reckoned with.”

“He got out?”

Giles looked down at her. “From hell?” The pain chased guilt across her features and he shared it. “Apparently.” Squatting down beside the tub, Giles turned the vampire’s head to point to the now healing wound on his forehead.

“I got a chance to examine him before the wounds closed. It seems that whatever is keeping from being able to bite is physically present inside his head. He had seemed to try and pull it out of his flesh, but failed.”

Buffy winced. “You’re telling me he did that to himself?”

“Possibly. I wasn’t able to ascertain what it is that is hindering his feeding, but from what I can tell, it seems to be some sort of electrical device.”

“And this Initiative group is out putting dog tags on vampires for what? A tally? I’m not complaining then.”

“We can’t be sure Buffy.” Sitting back on his heels he took a deep breath. “But it would make me feel better if we had the answers to this one. Angelus isn’t an easy target.”

Biting her lip, Buffy watched the angelic face of her boyfriend as still as the day she sent him to hell. Telling herself he wasn’t the same man. Wasn’t the man she loved. Wasn’t the man who loved her. Just a demon who threatened her family and other innocents and she’d made a choice.

The welling emotion in her belly brought fresh memories to front and she had finally been able to regain some emotional control on her life.

She never got a break. “Where did she find him?”

“In the alley behind the Bronze.”

She frowned. “Maybe he was looking for me. Are you sure this isn’t Angel?” She looked up with more hope in her voice than she would have liked.

Giles didn’t miss the softness in those eyes and wondered if Cordelia had indeed read the vampire wrong. But the vision of Cordelia’s bloodied kitchen and the brutally mangled dog didn’t leave much doubt in his mind. “Yes.”

She sighed. “Alright, I’ll call the others and we’ll get to some answers.” She wanted to reach out and touch the healing flesh on his forehead, but it wasn’t Angelus she wanted to soothe. Rising to her feet she rubbed her temples.

“We should wake Cordelia.”

“Let her sleep until the others arrive.”

“You’re all parental suddenly.”

“Buffy.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh come on Giles! This is Cordelia.”

“Yes I am aware of that. Cordelia is…”

“Awake.” Both pairs of eyes spun around to land on the groggy girl shuffling into the bathroom. “Can you not talk about me as if I’m not in the next room?”

Giles cleared his throat after a moment of heavy silence. “Sorry about waking you. Buffy, why don’t you call up the rest while I try and bring round Angelus; it seems he’s the only one who might have some answers.”

The slayer eyed the brunette suspiciously once before leaving the bathroom to call the cavalry and to tell Xander to be prepared to face the wrath of one Cordelia Chase.

Cordelia stifled a yawn as she stretched, fists lifting high above her head in cat like grace. She blinked as Giles stood above the tied corpse deep in thought. “Planning the Spanish Inquisition?”

“Thinking on a course of action.”

The brunette rolled her eyes as she stepped past him. “You know your problem, old man?” She leaned over Angelus. “You think too much.”

Before Giles could protest she’d turned the shower on at full icy blast and the vampire jerked, sputtering and cursing worse than an angry sailor.

She smirked smugly at the struggling vampire while he found his bearing before his eyes snapped up to hers with precision. “Presto.”

“Stupido!” Angelus snarled as he glared up at the feisty woman towering over him, her fists stuck on her hips haughtily. Coughing up water, he watched her with gold-rimmed eyes.

“When I get my bite back, Hazel, You’re the first one I’m coming after.”

Cordelia grinned at the indisposed man-eater and winked. “Promises, promises.” Turning on her heel, she let out a wicked chuckle.

“Hey Giles? You got any ice-cream around the house?”

Caught between hilarity and shock, the watcher blinked out of his stupor and stared down at the glaring vampire.

What just transpired here? It would certainly take a while before he got used to having her around. He made a mental note to buy ice cream.

“Watcher?”

Clearing his throat, Giles met flashing ochre eyes. “Yes?”

“Turn the fucking water off; will you?”

***

“For the love of Hades Chase, did you have to try and drown me!”

“You were getting more sleep than me. I was overcome with jealousy.”

“Overcome my ass! If I wasn’t –“

“What? Such a pathetic excuse for a vampire? Fangless? Biteless? Impotent?”

“I am NOT fucking impotent!”

“Good. Your next victim; Angelus? Maybe you can lick them to death.”

Giles took a deep controlled breath as he raised his eyes to Buffy’s.

The blond girl was still sitting there in shock as insults were hurled from one corner of the living room to the other where Angelus sat sprawled languidly in a chair his hands cuffed in his lap while they watched silently and waited for the others.

Irate beyond belief, Angelus finally looked at the watcher. “You know, I prefer the company of those commandos, even you tweed-boy. HELL was more fun than having a two word conference with that HARPY!”

Giles swallowed and prayed for patience as he opened his mouth to speak. And that is how Willow and Xander found them when they entered the little house.

“Two words are all you can manage vampire eunuch.”

“FUCK YOU!”

“I rest my case.”

“Enough.”

Two pairs of furious eyes swiveled to the usually calm man who was now spitting with fury. “Mouths shall remain closed and ears shall be open! My fault I asked a simple question.” He glared at Cordelia.

“You rescued him, nursed him and kept him alive; your decision. Live with it.” His eyes snapped to the smirking vampire. “And you! If it hadn’t been for her, you’d still be having luncheon with the devil and I believe you said love wasn’t what you felt at the time.”

Taking a deep breath he fixed his glasses more firmly on his nose. “Neither of you are allowed to speak to each other. All your conversations will be directed to me. Is that clear?”

The living room was silent.

“Good,” Giles nodded and looked up at the two very shocked Scoobies standing at his door. “Willow, Xander – thank you for coming. Please have a seat.”

Turning to the sulking vampire tied up in the chair he took a deep breath. “Angelus, now tell us what happened after you returned from hell.”

A petulant finger stuck up.

The watcher raised an amused eyebrow. “Besides that?”

Amber eyes narrowed in contempt. “Would you like a play-by-play of what hell was like kid?”

Cordelia didn’t once raise her eyes to register the two new presences in the room as she stood leaning against the table a few feet away from Angelus and pretended to look over the titles of the old musty books.

She had to clamp down the urge to attack the guilty looking young man now occupying the seat between the slayer and the witch on the couch. A lovely threesome they made, she concluded.

Giles would have felt chastised if it weren’t a 200-year-old vampire called Angelus he was speaking to. “Just how you got back and this Initiative group found you would suffice.”

The vampire feigned a yawn. Wouldn’t they like to know, he grumbled to himself. So the next time they decided to send him back, they’d know who to bribe. “How I got back is unimportant.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

“Fraid not little boy.” Angelus leered at the presumptuous man. “You should worry about those commando wannabe’s. Personally? I hope they kill you all and every other demon they catch. More room for me.”

“Then they’d come after you, you idiot.” Buffy rolled her eyes as she leaned back to settle against Xander’s outstretched arm. Having her friends close by almost made up for having to stare into the face of her soulless ex-lover.

She’d made a choice. And she’d make it again if it meant ridding her friends and innocents of the Scourge of Europe. Now all she had to do was keep reminding herself.

“I’d be off to Europe Slayer. Kind of hoping to meet old friends. So if you’d just let me go…”

“They almost killed you once,” Giles pointed out. “What makes you think they won’t do it again?”

Technicalities. Technicalities. Didn’t these people like things simple anymore “I got away.” He snorted smugly.

“Pfft! Yeah!” Cordelia finally scoffed as she crossed her arms. “Coz of me. Duh!”

Angelus fixed her with a lecherous smile. “You’re right Chase. You should have left me in that alley.”

“How’d they catch you in the first place, Angelus?”

The vampire turned to the watcher’s curious question with a grin. “Mid-feed if it really matters. But I’d had my fill.”

His eyes found the disconcerted slayer. “They’re doing your job for you, Buffy? What’s the matter? Still can’t walk?”

The young slayer bristled slightly at the callous reference and averted her gaze. She wished Giles had warned her about his return. She would have been better prepared.

“I got dragged to a facility; kicking and screaming I might add. Shabby by human standards if you ask me.”

“We didn’t.” Xander pointed out sourly he watched the rigid line of his best friend next to him. Slayer or no slayer, she deserved so much better.

“We did.”

Xander Harris looked up startled at the sharp retort from the brunette; her hazel eyes a dull brown as she regarded him with deathly stoicism. The chill in every contour of her usually warm bronzed body took any further comments from him.

Angelus didn’t miss the animosity in the room as he grinned up at Cordelia. “Careful Chase, you sound like you’re on my side.”

“No. Just the opposite of his.” She turned her gaze away as if she’d never even looked elsewhere.

Every nerve in her body taut. This had to happen. She would have had to face him. And she wasn’t a coward. Now or later made very little difference in her life. Besides, her life couldn’t get worse.

“So what happened after they interrupted dinner?”

“Lunch actually. When hell spit me out, I landed in the middle of a seedy warehouse. Typical. Next time you send me to hell, Buffy, make sure to book a good travel agent in my package.”

“And your lunch probably dropped on you, right?” Buffy shot back with brewing anger.

Giles took a deep breath. The tension in the air was starting to border on palpable.

“No, I work for my food, Slayer.” Angelus couldn’t help take another jibe. “My effort paid off on you, didn’t it?”

“They knew you were going to be there,” Willow mused out loud, the wheels in her head finally turning as the story was spun on so eloquently around them.

The handsome face donned an exaggeratedly shocked mask. “There is more under that skin than a flat chest.”

“That would mean they’ve got a link to hell?” Willow bit her lip as she met Giles’ eyes, antsy. They’d barely just gotten over the whole Mayor’s ascension business.

And then there was the kiss. Embarrassed pink tinged her cheeks before she leaned away from the warmth of Xander’s arm guiltily.

“The admin up there, I gotta tell ya – not so current with firewalls.”

This time he caught the witch’s attention. “You’re informed with technology?”

“I keep with the times Witch. And in 200 years, I’ve seen enough come and go. Hey,” he snorted, “look at disco.”

Buffy took a deep breath. “An army that works for hell and hunts demons?”

“And who remembers Chubby Checkers in the grand scheme of things?”

Cordelia couldn’t hold the slight tilt of her mouth as she watched the smirk on his face. “Or plaid.”

Giles sighed as he rubbed his temples. “Angelus, back to topic if you can? What happened after?”

The vampire with the face of an Angel took on a thoughtful grimace. “Hmmm, there was the episode of X-files when Scully was abducted by aliens. Lets see…” amber eyes flashed with seedy masochism, “besides being impregnated with alien spawn, I’d say – everything.”

He finished with flair and a smirk. Waiting for the uneasy silence to follow.

The occupants of the room fidgeted with disquiet. All except one.

Cordelia Chase wrinkled her nose as she regarded the smug vampire. “Eyow. Especially what you said about the needles.” She shuddered, rubbing the rising gooseflesh on her arms.

Already been subjected to the slurred and rather detailed descriptions previously, she could more than imagine how he’d felt.

Noticing the look of sympathy on the young girl, he decided to remove any misconceptions she might have. But somehow, Angelus had a feeling this one, had none.

“Yeah that was rather fun. I really should have thanked them. Then again, I could do with thanking Buffy. After all, she did start this.” He fixed his wicked eyes on the slayer. “Comere and let me thank you properly, Buffy.”

But Buffy was watching Cordelia. “How’d you know…?”

The brunette rolled her eyes. “He yammers a storm when he’s drunk.”

“You got him drunk!”

“And she undressed me.”

Hazel eyes whirled around to settle on the snickering vampire, a smile threatening her lips.

Did he just imply?

She should have pummeled the man, but the look on the face of the Scoobies had her rooted to her spot next to the table. Let them wonder. She owed them no explanations.

“Oh dear,” Willow cleared her throat as her friend’s fists tightened beside her.

Angelus delighted in the quiet thunderous glint in Buffy’s eyes, as his mouth twisted up in a lustful smirk. “Right before she had her hand up my…”

“And then what happened?” Giles interrupted, hoping to steer the conversation back towards the topic at hand. He could gauge that Cordelia’s hostility was directed towards Xander more than the others, and Angelus wasn’t helping matters.

“When? Before or after she was straddling me, Giles?”

Buffy was about to rise before Giles fixed a glare at the vampire and Xander placed a comforting hand on the slayer’s arm. “I meant with the Initiative Angelus.”

Cordelia sent one scathing glare towards the boy. Always concerned about his slayer. How could she have missed it before? A twinge of conscience pricked at her. Was it just ego that made her wish Xander Harris had taken a walk off the cliff rather than cheat on her?

Had she really felt so much for the boy? She took in his baggy pants and the Hawaiian print shirt. With his fashion sense? Yeah. It had to be more than like and she wasn’t going to forgive him.

Not when it still stung.

“As much as I enjoy a good bout of torture and pain Giles, it got old fast without the sex, so I bailed.”

“So what did you do to let them let you leave? Offer free sex?”

At that quip from Xander, Angelus figured he’d tell them the truth after all. “They had little choice in my offer, Xapper.” He smirked. “I do so love a good chase. Gets the heat going you know.”

“How did you escape?”

Angelus shrugged at the watcher’s question. “I seduced my torturer. What else?”

“Before or after you killed her?” Buffy retorted with venom.

Angelus turned his head to fix her with an apathetic eyebrow. “Who said it was a her?”

“Oh dear,” Willow took an audible swallow as they others fell silent, looking away to wipe the inappropriate pictures suddenly swirling in her head.

Bad willow. Remember! Gay willow!

Giles had hoped Angelus wouldn’t be quite as descriptive but the vampire had always delighted in others discomfort.

He sighed. “You obviously escaped by night. Think you can find your way back?”

“When I build up my strength and hunger for fresh meat, yeah; I probably will.”

“In other words you don’t remember.”

“You ever tried walking blind, Slayer?”

“Too old for vampire vision Angelus?”

He raised a mocking eyebrow. “With my eyes closed?”

“Don’t tell me.” Xander chuckled. “You were scared of the dark.”

Flashing gold-rimmed eyes trained on the cocky young man before narrowing with hatred. “Even vampire healing takes a while with your eyes sewn shut.”

The boy swallowed visibly.

Buffy frowned. “Why?”

“So he can’t see in the dark.” Willow provided meekly.

“Bright girl!” Angelus couldn’t help smirk.

Giles adjusted the glasses on his nose before taking a deep breath. “Disturbing. This sort of testing doesn’t imply demon eradication, it rather leans towards research.”

“So they’re not good-guys after all.” Cordelia pointed to her face. “This is my not so surprised face.”

“And that’s when I realized I couldn’t bite,” Angelus continued lamenting, shaking his head for good measure. For an insane moment he felt like throwing his head back and laughing. But he figured they’d take him a lot less seriously.

“Lucky for me the bastard that used to bring me free drinks screamed in pleasure before he screamed in pain,” he pointed out nonchalantly.

Xander swallowed the bile in his throat. “I need a drink.” He took a peek at the cheerleader, who was still standing aloof from the crowd and a little too close to the vampire before he walked into the kitchen.

Before this day was out, he’d find a way to talk to the girl. He owed her an explanation.

“So you slept your way out of there?” Buffy rolled her eyes, her anger finally simmering low. She wondered if she should feel guilt for the pain he’d gone through, but he did look like he’d gotten off on it.

After all, he was all-vampire now.

“You’d think that wouldn’t you Buffy?” Angelus snickered. “I took the uniform off the body, remember? I made good use of it. It almost made up for the brain splitting pain; until they caught me at the fence,” he grumbled. “Then I ran like hell.”

“This does not bode well,” Giles added, the apprehension over this new problem building slowly under his skin. But problems always did come without regard for time.

“No shit. They still have my leather jacket,” Angelus grumbled low under his breath.

“Genuine cowhide?”

Angelus looked up at the appreciative inquiry and grinned at Cordelia. “Hundred percent.”

“They deserve death.” Her hazel eyes twinkled with humor.

Buffy stole one glance towards the two before looking away with a frown. “This is just great. As if we don’t already have enough problems. Now hell’s employing its own human army equipped with state of the art technology. Is it just me or did we step into a bad episode of Dark Angel?”

“They made a show about me and didn’t tell me?”

“Dark Angel’s a girl stuck in a post-pulse America with feline DNA and trust issues,” Willow quipped helpfully with a weak smile.

Not so good with the whole correcting the vampire. Oh where was her mind?

And still Cordelia couldn’t believe the winsome little witch had stolen her boy. Because calling Xander a man would just make Cordelia throw up in whole new ways. Instinctively, her hand went to the still tender flesh were the rebar had impaled her.

Forgiving easy was never one of her virtues.

“She, however, is flanked by loyal friends.” Cordelia retorted at the redhead’s willingness to provide information even if no one was talking to her. The room fell silent for a moment and even the vampire looked up at her with amusement.

She took a deep breath, her hand falling away from the ghostly scar on her stomach, before walking past Angelus to grab her jacket. “I’m going for a walk; don’t wait up on my account.”

Xander stood in the doorway to the kitchen, his eyes following her exit. He waited to draw a strengthening breath before following.

Giles pulled off his glasses to frown at the antsy looking young women on his couch when the door slammed shut. “Usually I’m not one to interfere, but will someone tell me what’s going on between you and Cordelia?”

Willow winced at the question, green eyes flickering with anxiety. “She…er…caught us in a moment.”

“Who?”

“Xander and I.”

Giles raised a surprise eyebrow when Willow whispered almost too softly for anyone to hear. Hoping to clear her position on the matter she looked up with guilt ridden green eyes.

“We thought the world was coming to an end!”

“Good lord! When is it not?” The watched leaned back in his seat; slightly caught off guard by the current development.

He could imagine it wasn’t good news for the brunette who’d lost her family, home and friends all in the same few weeks. No wonder she was filled with such sad bitterness.

He wished he could tell the other just how much it must have affected Cordelia after her parents abandoned her, but for that he would have to break his promise. And Giles had a sneaking suspicion he was the only one Cordelia believed to be on her side.

“Tsk. Tsk. Not exactly exemplary humans you so called saviors of the Hellmouth are you?”

Buffy’s fiery green eyes riveted to the smug vampire. “You’re making with the judgy very conveniently, Angelus former Scourge of Europe.”

“Bite me Slayer,” his lips widened into a smirk. “Oh wait. You already did, didn’t you lover?”

“Buffy,” Giles’ warning was ignored. The young girl let out an outraged growl before she was on her feet, her fist meeting the vampire’s jaw as the previous cut in his lip split open again and his eyes tinged with gold.

Licking the blood on his bottom lip he looked up with the ridges rippling under his skin. “I love a good romp.”

Angelus reared up on his feet, his teeth bared before he realized his mistake and the blinding pain threw him back into the chair as he let out a howl of excruciating pain.

Buffy stopped struggling in Giles’ grip as she watched the writhing vampire fall cursing and heaving onto the floor on his hands and knees.

The agony on his handsome features even took her breath away as Willow stood beside them a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide with shock.

“Geez, what the hell is wrong with him?” Buffy stared down at him.

Angelus panted, his vision blurring as the singing nerves finally dulled into a throbbing ache in his temples. The strength in his limbs nearly taxed to their limit as he slowly lifted bound hands to press into the bandage on his forehead, his eyes misty with the seizure.

And now he remembered how much he hated Buffy Summers. The stupid bitch was standing over him, cradled in her pathetic watcher’s arms and looking down at him with frightened pity in her eyes.

The two-century-old vampire wished he were back in hell.

Giles answered his slayer’s previous question. “I have a vague idea. But I can’t be sure until we get an X-Ray. I believe the electrical device I noticed before is tapped into his synaptic nerves. How it’s specific to humans, I’m not sure.”

“I want this thing out of me!” The vampire snarled as he trembled on the floor.

Buffy held any biting retorts to herself as she saw him try to rise and sit back down into the chair, weaker than he had been a few moments before.

She looked up into Giles’ worried face. “What are we going to do?”

The watcher let his eyes run over the vampire as he sat there with his head in his hands, his entire body shuddering still. “We’ll keep him here until we can be sure.”

“Next you’ll tell me I have a fucking curfew li’l man.”

“Yes.” Giles met the vampire’s eyes evenly. “One that spans 24 hours I’m afraid. I suggest you get comfortable.”

A defiant chin lifted as he held out his bound wrists with apathetic humor. “You can start with the cuffs and I prefer my blood 98.8. O+ if possible. And is it okay if I call 1-800-noblondes from your study? I like a little privacy.”

For a moment Giles marveled at the vampire’s ability to smirk while his eyes still blurred with pain. Then he remembered it was Angelus they were talking to.

Buffy gritted her teeth before grabbing her coat. “I’m going to…kill something.”

“I’ll come with you,” Willow hurriedly grabbed her bag. Over her shoulder she gave Giles a worried glance. “I’ll get my laptop and see you back here tomorrow after school?”

The watcher nodded. “Good idea.”

Angelus slumped in his chair. “Oh fine. I’ll let you watch. Nothing to get your panties in a knot… Guys?”

The living room emptied as he rolled his eyes. “Oh come on! Where’s your sense of gratitude?”

***

“Cordy!” Xander had to run to keep up with the briskly walking brunette. “Cordy wait!” Panting, he caught up the cheerleader as she walked down the sidewalk, her eyes held straight in front of her.

“Wait, please I want to talk.”

“So talk,” she threw over her shoulder as she turned the corner. “It’s a free country. Likewise. I don’t have to listen.”

“Cordy, please. Will you just stop for a minute?”

“No.”

“It’s not what you think!”

“Does it look like I care?” The girl didn’t stop. She didn’t look up or even slow her pace. The knot in her gut tightened with every venomous word she threw back at him.

She’d hoped that cutting him down would make her feet better, but now she just wanted him to leave her alone. To herself.

“Cordy, I care about you.”

“Funny, I don’t believe you.”

“Will you just listen?”

“No.”

“Cordelia,” unwittingly Xander reached out and grasped her elbow and she spun around, eyes flashing with cold fire as she wrenched herself free. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not,” she took a step back from him, and held her ground, her hazel eyes fixed on his without flinching.

The boy swallowed. “I never meant to hurt you.”

“Losers usually miss their targets. I can’t even blame you.”

He took a deep breath. “We were gonna die.”

“You didn’t.” Arms crossed across her chest in a clearly defensive manner. “Luck comes with being a coward, doesn’t it?”

Xander Harris watched the rigid line of her body as she stood there apparently listening but all the doors of her mind were closed and he tried not to frown at her. It had just been a kiss.

Albeit an unjustified one, but she was reacting like he’d slept with Willow.

“Cordelia, it was just two very brief kisses. Intense situations sometimes make you do things you wouldn’t otherwise. And we do live intense lives.”

“No. It makes you smooch witchy bitches. Me? I wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole.”

He tried not to glare. “Leave her out of this, Cordy.”

“Why? Because from where I was standing, she was there too,” she snapped and resisted the impulse to punch him in the nose.

Still defending his friends; she couldn’t help the fury that built in her belly. At least he was making it clear she wasn’t one of them.

“It was a mistake alright? I’m sorry!”

“Tough.”

He took a deep calming breath. “Aren’t you being a tad unreasonable?”

She took a step forward and for a minute he thought she was going to hit him, but instead the brunette narrowed her eyes as she looked him squarely in the face.

“Not yet. Promise to leave you a post-it when I am. For the time being Harris, just remember: once bitten.” And she left him there on the curb, the soles off her shoes crunching gravel as she walked away.

“Forever shy,” Xander finished with a sigh as he watched her fade away into the setting sun.

***

Willow closed the door behind her as they stepped into the early autumn evening. The wind hadn’t chilled, but the sun had lot its intensity. The leaves were beginning to golden in the sunset.

She watched her friend standing on the front steps of Giles’ house, a thoughtfully lost look in her green eyes.

Willow knew no matter how many times Buffy told herself the vampire inside wasn’t her boyfriend anymore, the man she’d loved, and still loved; Angelus would always prove her otherwise.

“You okay, Buffy?”

The blonde met her friend’s eyes without stirring out of her thoughts. “For a moment I hoped it was him.”

“But it couldn’t be Buffy. Angel would never…”

“Couldn’t it?” Buffy Summers lifted her gaze back to the slowly burning street lamps as the came on in the fading light. “If Angel was the one in there, do you think he’d be less bitter I sent him to hell?”

“You did what you had to do. Angel always supported your decisions.”

The young girl smiled ironically. “Now I’m not as sure, Willow. Once maybe.”

Willow Rosenberg wrapped her arm around her friend’s shoulder and looked up with a weighted sigh before she caught another figure walking up to them.

Eyes watching the tips of his shoes. Xander looked up with a deep breath. “She didn’t give me a chance.”

Buffy gave a short bark of sad laughter. “They never do.”

Willow watched the boy stand there with his hands shoved in his pocket and realized sometimes apologies weren’t enough.

Part 5

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