Part 16: You know your timing really sucks when…
Just when he thought the night couldn’t possibly get more tense or awkward, Angel had turned and seen Buffy staring at him from the stage. At first he was just annoyed, because this was literally like the millionth time something ruined a potential “moment” with Cordy.
Then his annoyance turned to confusion. What is with that yearning smile on her face? He focused on the song and the words she was now obviously singing to him. She was…was she…Did Buffy think there was still something between them? She has been pretty touchy. And dinner could have seemed a lot like a date.
“Dude, she wants you so bad,” Gunn said, disrupting his thought process.
“Um, yeah. Look at her.” How a man could live two and a half centuries and still be so clueless about the female gender was a mystery to Gunn.
“But, I, I think she might be with Spike now,” Angel stuttered.
“The Spike she threatened to stake three times tonight? I doubt the line between love and hate is THAT thin. No, man, she’s all about you. You don’t believe me, ask Cordy. Women can always tell about this shit.”
Angel turned to his other side to do just that, but Cordelia was gone. He immediately scanned the room, before the burst of applause momentarily drew his attention back to the stage. Buffy took a bow before making eye contact with him and waggling her finger, telling him to come over.
“See,” Gunn said, proud to have been proven right. “Aww yeah. I told you. You gonna hit that shit?”
“My man, are you gonna get yourself a piece tonight?” Gunn said, hoping to clarify.
“A piece?” Giving up on understanding Gunn, Angel scanned the crowd again, spotting Buffy now walking towards him. This was so not good. He didn’t have time to deal with Buffy’s unrequited love right now, he had his own possibly unrequited love to take care of.
Where the hell is Cordelia? Okay, here’s the plan. Tell Buffy nice job, make sure she understands where we are right now (and where we definitely are not), then find Cordy, drag her somewhere no one will ever find us, and end this madness. I’d rather have her laugh in my face and tell me she could never like me like that then go through one more minute of this not knowing.
Buffy reached him, grabbed his hand, and pulled him over to the hall where the bathrooms were. When they reached the relative quiet, she turned to him, still holding on to his hand.
“So did you like,” she asked in a husky voice.
“Yeah. You, you’re a pretty good singer. I didn’t know that about you. You know Buffy, there seems to be a lot we don’t know about each other.” Like why you are still holding on to my hand.
“I don’t know about that, Angel. I take one look in those big brown eyes of yours and I know all that I need to know.”
“Um, Buffy, about that, I—”
She gripped his hand tighter and with the other hand, put two fingers on top of his lips. “Shush. It’s you and me. You don’t need to say anything.”
Oh I so clearly DO need to say something Angel thought.
Buffy went on. “Nothing’s changed Angel. You heard my song. You’re still the one.”
“Buffy, meeting you, loving you, it changed my life. It made me realize that –”
Once again he was interrupted. “That we’ll always be together. It’s destiny.” And before Angel could respond to that, she lunged. Angel tried to swallow his shock as Buffy’s lips pressed against his, warm, insistent, demanding.
Buffy wasn’t consumed in the way Angel’s kisses had once made her . She was working too hard at it. This was the kiss that needed to convince Angel, convince him that they still had the magic they had always had.
Angel brought his hands up to Buffy’s shoulders in order to push her off of him. But he didn’t do that, not right away. The kiss wasn’t unpleasant. Her lips, her taste and smell, they brought back memories that he would always carry with him. For seconds, as she snaked her arms around his waist, Angel lost himself in that kiss.
Lost himself in the past.
Cordelia had looked everywhere for Angel. This was getting a little ridiculous. She was finally ready to get her act together and give this thing with Angel a shot and he had disappeared. They hadn’t exactly been lucky in the timing department lately.
But that’s about to change.
Cordy couldn’t believe it had taken a pep talk from Fred of all people. I can’t believe I’ve been so scared. Since when do I get scared of men? Cordelia squared her shoulders and smiled. She had never been this scared before because the man in question had never mattered so much. So much of her happiness, her very existence, was wrapped up in this one man…pire.
“Hey sweets,” came Lorne’s dulcet tones. “Can I help you with something?”
Cordy smiled even brighter. “I’ve had all the help I need tonight, thank you very much. But I seem to have misplaced a certain vampire with a soul. Any ideas?”
“I thought I saw him heading over to the phones by the bathroom.” Cordelia nodded and started to move on. “Oh and Princess,” Lorne added. “Glad someone finally lit a fire under you. It’s about time, kiddo.”
Yes, it is about time. Cordy ran her tongue over her teeth as she walked to the back hall. She felt a confidence that had been missing for weeks seep back into her. It was long past time. She wanted the fairy tale and it was about damn time she got it. She wasn’t asking for a happy ending, she just wanted something.
She wanted one of the covers of her romance novels, she wanted her and Angel doing the whole passionate embrace thing.
She turned the corner and there he was…with Buffy. Here was the trashy romance cover—he had his arms around her and they were kissing in what could only be described as a passionate embrace. The world fell in on top of her.
Cordelia blinked once. It was still there. She couldn’t turn her head. She couldn’t move her feet. She couldn’t close her eyes. She felt like she watched them, frozen, for hours, even though in reality it was probably milliseconds.
This kind of pain, it’s unnatural. Visions, demonization, right then Cordy realized those were nothing. They were nothing like feeling your own heart literally break inside your chest. She was dizzy with the pain. The dizziness also might be a result of the whole forgetting to breath thing.
She forced herself to suck some air in. Angel twitched and ended the kiss, turning her way, arms still around his ex-lover.
Angel was about to ease himself out of the kiss. This was a delicate situation. She wasn’t the girl he wanted to be having makeout sessions in the back of Caritas with. At the same time, he didn’t want to hurt Buffy any more than he had to. She was the girl who he had once loved more than he thought possible. He big blue eyes. Her blond hair. Her pounding heart.
Wait a second. That’s not her pounding heart. And it certainly isn’t mine.
Time slowed to a near stop. He registered the heartbeat. Then he picked up the scent. There was the smells of lavender bubble bath and Clinique. Of raspberry flavored vodka and a hint of baby powder.
Underneath all those familiar smells was an even more familiar smell. The smell that made him hot and cold and dizzy and hungry every time he smelled it. Now that smell made him scared. Because he was kissing Buffy and he smelled…Cordelia.
A split second after that came that sound. Not a gasp exactly. Not a sigh. Just a quiet, shocky, hurting breath. He pulled back, pushing against Buffy as he turned to where the sound had come from. There she was.
Angel noted the pain in her eyes. He had only seen that look on her face twice before. Once when he had fired her and once again the day Darla had shown up pregnant. Something inside of him died a little. It might have been hope.
“Cordelia,” Buffy said. She waited a beat or two but Cordy didn’t say a word. “Can we help you?”
Angel knew then and there that hope had died. He saw the hurt in Cordy’s eyes flare at Buffy’s words, saw his best friend swallow and look down at her feet. When she looked up again, he didn’t recognize her eyes.
The hurt was gone. But her eyes were blank. She smiled a smile that Angel hadn’t seen in years. It was a bright shiny smile that was hard as nails. He almost started to cry.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Cordy said. “I was just, just,” inspiration struck, “just looking for Spike. Yup, can’t find Spike. He’s my ride.”
“Oh leaving so soon,” Buffy said, in a way that made it quite clear that soon couldn’t be soon enough. “I guess you have a lot of better things to do than hang out with all of us.”
“You know me, Buffy. Places to go, people to see.”
Angel had finally disentangled himself from Buffy and her Slayer-grip. He reached out and put his hand on Cordy’s shoulder. Just then she flung her head back and closed her eyes. It was a vision.
Subconsciously, Cordelia reached for Angel’s hand as the horrifying pictures flashed before her eyes. It wasn’t until the vision was over that she realized she was gripping for dear life the man who had just torn her dreams apart.
She let go of his hand and opened her eyes. Angel pushed her down into a chair and crouched in front of her, stroking her cheek.
For a minute, one seemingly endless moment, their eyes met. Each looked at the other, each looking for some sign, for something; each coming up empty.
“High school kids,” Cordelia said, preferring to focus on the matter at hand. “Drinking in that park down on Lee Highway. They’re about to stumble into a nest of angry vamps, who seem to have especially brutal preferences for dealing with trespassers.”
This, Buffy knew, was something she could handle. The odd looks passing between Angel and Cordy were not. “So Angel and I will go. Do the rescue thing.”
Cordelia shook her head. “You’ll need everyone. There’s lots of them and they aren’t amateurs.”
“Angel and I aren’t amateurs either,” Buffy huffed. “WE can handle it.”
Angel tried to calm the two women down. “Buffy, we probably should bring—”
Cordy interrupted Angel. “Look. I’m not going to fight with you about this. It may be whatever the Slayer says goes back in Sunnydale, but—”
Then Buffy interrupted Cordy. “Fine. Aughh. You and Fred take Dawn home and anyone who may be remotely useful comes with me and Angel.”
By that time, the gang had noticed the commotion and gathered around their three friends. Fred, overhearing Buffy’s comment, took exception. “Excuse me. You don’t have to live on the Hellmouth to be useful. I go where Gunn goes. And Cordy goes where..”
Cordelia prayed Fred didn’t say “Angel,” prayed she wouldn’t embarrass her like that.
“Cordy goes where the action is,” Spike said, appearing out of nowhere, like a guardian angel. “Now what’s this I hear about a vision, love?” he asked, coming up and throwing his arm around Cordelia. All she could do was stare at him blankly.
“Well lets go help the hopeless and whatnot. Come on, get a move on.