Cordelia sat hugging the cushion as she watched the woman smile stupidly at the man bearing his calves to her on the black and white screen; making sure he wasn’t bowlegged.
Sitting through the old movie, watching the lanky form of the actor she’d never seen before, ‘Shop around the corner’ dug a hole into her chest in a way nothing else had yet.
It reminded her of where she was. This disoriented woman had found her man in a shop around the corner. She’d been right there with him the entire time. And it reminded Cordelia that the only intimacy she could share was this destructive soul bond she seemed to have with a demon.
And it was then when losing Xander hurt the most.
All her life she’s gone from guy to guy. Never really staying back long enough to let anything last. Convinced. Confirmed cynic. She’d been so sure the world was a bad place. Giving her heart away wasn’t worth it. And despite that she’d fallen for the loser.
She sighed. Because only her heart would have made her overlook his obvious geekiness. Did anyone notice the haircut? Hello!
Right at that moment she felt more alone that she’d felt when her parents had abandoned her. What was it about approaching holidays that made being alone worse? She looked up at the frosted windows. The colder it got, Cordelia realized the closer it drew.
She didn’t want to spend Christmas here. Christmas was a time when they’d convene in Giles’ house. Eat brownies and exchange gifts. She had the neither the money nor the inclination for the exchange.
Snuggling deeper into the couch, while Giles and Angelus were out hunting demons she’d seen in her vision, Cordelia sulked. Angelus was a blood hound. He never let her take on the tough ones. Egomaniac.
Could this get worse?
“Honey! I’m home!”
She winced. It could. “Oh joy.”
“You know if you stare at the blank screen long enough Hazel, it might stare back.”
“Coming from a starving impotent, that’s rich. Didn’t you used to count cracks in the ceiling to pass the time? Loser.”
Angelus took in the scene of the empty plate of cookies and the half drained glass of lemonade along with the pile of the watcher’s old movies.
He rolled his eyes, kicking the door shut behind him and embedded the ax right into the wood of Giles’ nice teak floor. “Christ, don’t tell me you’re still sore about the cockroach.”
He had figured the Cheerleader would get used to the whole scenario with him slaying and her seeing. And he’d been subtly weaseling his way into her personal space. After the near death experience, Cordelia had been avoiding him like the proverbial plague. She was never around when he woke up and she always went to sleep before he came.
The unusual abundance in the demon population was troubling the watcher, but Angelus was just glad for the action. Being put on a leash was no fun. He hadn’t had a bite in days. He smirked. Pun and all.
Without giving it a thought, he stuck his hand into his coat pocket, his own –thank Hades, and handed her a small bottle of Advil.
Almost used to the regular supply of painkillers, she didn’t bother to ponder his thoughtfulness, but rather just popped two pills out of the plastic bottle and drowned them with her remaining lemonade.
“Snakey bastard gone?” She lifted her eyes with a calculated sweep over his frame. “Anything to fix?”
Angelus grinned. He’d been extra careful this time. Shrugging out of his coat, he lifted his black sweater to allow her the full view of the two gouging bite marks over his right hipbone.
He delighted in the sharp intake of breath and the instant softening of her eyes. Smelling her anxiety, he had the decency to look sheepish when she glared up at him, almost seeing right into his head again.
“You so did that on purpose.”
“Now why would I do that?”
“Because you do it every time you sick masochistic freak.” Uncurling from her position she walked into the kitchen to fetch the first aid kit.
Shoving the smirking vampire into the couch, she dropped between his parted knees and lifted the sweater off him before proceeding to disinfect.
Once the customary bandaging was complete, and Angelus had looked down her shirt to his heart’s content he leaned back against the couch and grinned at her. “So what did my sexy little pigeon do while daddy was out?”
Her glower could have melted steel as she sat back on her heels. “One set of folks was enough. I don’t need parental guidance; so save it.”
He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, face merely inches away from her and for a moment, Cordelia held her breath, her gaze indecisively flittering between his eyes and his mouth, almost unable to decide which was more attractive.
“Cordelia, take my word for it, what I feel for you is nowhere near parental.”
She swallowed at the husky pitch of his gravely voice, the bottomless depths of his eyes reeling her in until she felt like he was drawing her towards him with invisible strings.
Like fish line. “I thought we weren’t supposed to feel,” she marveled at her squeak. If she had motor function, Cordelia would have smacked herself for the feminine clench to her vocal chords.
“Oh we feel baby,” his gaze swept low, mouth widening into a dark, sinuous smile.
Cordelia had to physically drag her eyes away from his face, but her body still didn’t obey her by moving away from the odd heat surrounding them. “Don’t.”
“Be specific Chase, I like things laid out on the table.” She didn’t have to look at him to know he was leering. “Don’t kiss me again?”
“The kiss was a fluke. You don’t want me.”
“Kiss me again and let me prove it.”
Her flashing hazel eyes snapped to him, not biting for his bait. “You’re just rebounding.”
He snorted, but didn’t pull away from her challenging. “Not the soul remember? No rebounds here. I like my women tall, beautiful and smart.”
“Blonde!” She spat out disdainfully.
“I don’t see a blond hair on your head Brighteyes and I’m still here.”
She let out an exasperated sigh. “Angelus, don’t.” Before he could quip bout specifics, she held up a hand between them. “I mean…don’t fall in love with me. I know it’s easy.”
A dark eyebrow arched at her condescension. “I’ve learned very few of you humans really know what that means baby. Love.”
“Look; just don’t.” She stood, the white box cradled protectively against her stomach. “You’ll just be in for a lot of unnecessary pain.”
He looked up at her, his gaze unwavering, not a muscle moved. “I am pain. I get off on it remember?”
“I think you’ve had enough.” She purposefully willed her feet to move and moved into the kitchen. She didn’t even have to see to know he’d followed. “And I so don’t get off on pain.”
“Oh but you do Hazel.” He leaned against the counter, arms crossed. “Pain is the number one motivator of life. Keeps the world going and such.” He twirled one finger in the air for emphasis and for a second her gaze riveted to the movement and held.
“I thought it was pleasure…”
“Opposite poles baby. Man and woman. North and south. Pain and pleasure.”
She scowled. “You’re a sadist.”
“That’s the trouble with humans.” She still wouldn’t look at him as she busied herself in warming blood for him. Without realizing what she was doing. “You give names to everything.”
Spinning on her heel Cordelia stuck the hard point of her nail into his chest, face set in a stubborn line. “Open your ears Fangless. I can’t love you.”
Trapping her hand against his chest with one of his own large ones he smiled down at her with a lazy ease. “Look again Cheerleader.” He heard the skittering of her pulse as he held her hand over his still chest.
“You already do.”
If the world had come to an end, Cordelia would not have been able to tear her eyes away from the hot chocolate pools gazing down at her as if he knew her soul. And like always, the lies wouldn’t come. Not with him.
“Yes.” She felt more than saw the triumph in his face. “But not in the way you want me to.”
“Matter of time.”
“I am not IN love with you dumbass! Get it? Not IN love!”
At the enigmatic smile, she hardened her jaw. “What the hell are you smiling at?”
“You’re so worried, Chase. Why?”
“Let go of my hand.”
The watcher’s voice seemed to break the spell and Cordelia wrenched her hand out of his. How’d it always end up there anyway? With complete disregard to the Giles’ entry into the kitchen, she marched straight into the bathroom and slammed the door shut.
Rupert Giles blinked owlishly behind his glasses. “Did I miss something?”
“Giles, I’m damned infatuated with her.” Angelus’ statement held none of the aggravation he was feeling while he stayed there leaning against the counter, arms crossed and forehead creased with a frown.
Cleaning his throat uneasily the watcher took off his glasses; cleaning them. “Angelus, that is more than I care to hear.”
“Tough.” Angelus growled, his eyes tinged with gold and determination. “You’re hearing this whether you fucking like it or not.”
It was then when Giles noticed the rigid line of the vampire’s body and the brooding frown. One that was eerily familiar. “Oh dear…”
At the nearly accurate deduction reflected on the watcher’s face, Angelus lifted an apathetic eyebrow. “Got anything to drink little boy?”
“Get everything. I’ll need it.”