Saturday Evening, Just After Sunset
“Just come on in, Cordelia,” Willow urged the other teenager who refused to set foot in the library.
Cordelia asked, “Can’t you just talk loudly? Why don’t we ever have these meetings in the student lounge where it’s comfortable?”
“Because we need to be inside the library.”
Reluctantly, Cordelia stepped inside, noting that the others were already gathered at the large table they used for research. Her face flushed a little at the thought that it wasn’t all the table had been used for recently.
As it was just Giles, Buffy, Willow and Xander present, Cordelia let out a little sigh and joined them at the table.
“So what’s the scoop?” Xander asked as soon as Willow returned.
Giles was in the dark as much as the others. He couldn’t recall Willow calling for a meeting before. “I’ll tell you everything in just a minute. We’re waiting for Angel to get here.
Cordelia’s head shot over to the doors as if she was planning to run for the hills rather than be in the same room as the vampire. She was halfway out of her seat when Willow grabbed her arm. “Trust me, Cordy. It’ll be okay.”
The brunette sank into her seat, staring at Willow in confusion. Realizing, “You called me Cordy.”
“Dontcha like it?”
“Yes,” Cordelia admitted, she liked it a lot, but there was only one person who called her by that nickname.
Before the questions brewing in Cordelia’s head could pour forth, Willow asked Giles to open up the book cage. “I need you to get the amulet we took from that demon last week.”
“Perhaps we should discuss defensive techniques against magic while we’re waiting,” Giles suggested as he got up to retrieve the amulet.
Buffy didn’t want to think back to that episode. The demon was dead and gone and that was good enough for her. “Giles, you’re acting like a mother hen; surely Slayers get a day off now and then.”
“Not until you’ve got it right,” Giles called out from the depths of the cage.
Cordelia finally dragged her gaze away from Willow long enough to see that Xander had a large pile of goodies from the vending machine piled up in front of him. “What are you planning to do with those?”
“Eat them,” Xander was already in the process of scarfing down a Twinkie.
“Don’t complain when you start looking like the Michelin Man,” Cordelia warned him. “We may have to roll you out of here.”
Glancing down at the goodies, Xander commented, “I can’t help it. Every time I think about coming here, I get a snack attack. The cravings just start and I’m not satisfied until I get here or I stuff my face with the nearest junk food.”
Willow took the amulet from Giles when he brought it out and placed it on the table. “Oh, look. There’s Angel. Now we can get started.” She quickly averted her eyes from the approaching vampire. It was too easy to picture him without the leather coat, shirt, pants… stark naked.
The vampire walked into the library, his eyes sweeping over the group as a whole and then settling on Cordelia. The nervous look in her eyes made him wonder what was going on, but it could have been just the fact that they planned to let Giles in on their little secret tonight. Angel headed over to his usual spot on the stairs and took a seat.
“A week ago, we were all exposed to this,” Willow held up the amulet only to have it tumble from her fingers. Xander caught it before it hit the table. The redhead let out a grumbled protest and determined that she wouldn’t make another move before she got this out into the open. “Ugly demon’s sneaky magic.”
Buffy pointed out, “The demon’s dead. I cut off his head.”
“Eew!” Cordelia crinkled her nose at the reminder. “Focus much on the gross parts?”
“Doesn’t bother me,” Xander commented with his mouth full of peanut M&Ms.
“I came back to the library this afternoon while Buffy and Giles were finishing up their training session,” Willow explained. “My theory on the library being haunted was a bust. The tape proves we didn’t have a ghost.”
Cordelia gaped, “Tape? What tape?”
“From the security system I activated yesterday,” Willow told her noting the deep shade of red that was creeping up Cordelia’s neck and flushing her cheeks.
“Will’s uncle is the coolest,” Xander grinned.
Buffy nodded in agreement. “Too bad the tape was blank.”
“Blank?” The question came from Angel who had risen from his distant spot on the stairs and walked over to stand next to Cordelia, his hand on the back of her chair. The silent support wasn’t lost on Willow.
“There was no poltergeist,” Willow confirmed now daring to look straight at him even though her cheeks were flushed at the time. She hadn’t lied to the others about it. They just assumed the tape was blank when she declared that the ghost was a no-show. “I did make a discovery, though.”
Angel gave her a stern look that nearly had Willow cringing under its weight. “And what was that?”
“J-just the reason everyone has been acting so strangely,” Willow managed a small squeak. Even as she answered, the vampire’s hand had left the back of Cordelia’s chair and was now on her shoulder, his thumb working in a little soothing circle on her upper arm.
Realizing that she’d better hurry, Willow swallowed down her nerves to explain, “I came back to do a little research. Things have been weird this last week. For all of us. I finally realized that the amulet was the cause.”
“Weird in what way?” asked Giles. He hadn’t noticed anything untoward happening to him.
Willow told him, “You’ve been working Buffy to the bone day after day. If you’re not after her to train, you’re talking about training.”
“That’s my job,” defended Giles, standing up from his sitting position on the edge of the table. “Nothing unusual there. As a matter of fact, we should be reviewing those defensive techniques now instead of wasting more time talking about amulets and ghosts.”
“See,” she pointed out. “You can’t go two minutes without mentioning it.”
Buffy sent her Watcher a pleading look. “Believe her, Giles, please. I think Will is right. Something’s going on. It started that night.”
“Geez, Buffy. What’s with the rhyming gig?” Cordelia asked. She’d noticed it before, too.
A little whine escaped Buffy’s throat, her large eyes pleading and a pout forming on her pink lips.
“It’s the magick,” Willow piped up when Buffy seemed reluctant to open her mouth again. “The moment the amulet zapped us, it caught us doing or thinking about something and that kinda trapped us. The spell wasn’t designed so much as to harm us physically, but to affect us mentally.”
“Nothing’s wrong with me,” Xander protested as he opened up a small back of nacho flavored Doritos.
Willow would bet her allowance that Xander had been thinking about food that night. Buffy was so close to defeating the demon that his mind had already wandered off to the after-patrol pizza party. “Well maybe you’re just the lucky one, Xander. I’ve been a clumsy oaf every time I come in here. I can’t even move without bumping into something or someone. That night, I’d tripped over the root of that tree right when the demon zapped us.”
“That’s quite a theory, Willow,” admitted Giles. “I was concerned about Buffy’s use of one particular method of attack when the amulet was invoked. My mind was on Buffy and her training sessions.”
“So you’re saying we’ve just been doing the things that were on our mind at the time the demon zapped us?” inquired Xander now ready to admit that his thoughts were not exactly on the fight. “I get it now.”
Angel didn’t particularly want to draw attention to himself and Cordelia, but as they had already agreed to bring their relationship into the open after they figured out what was going on, this seemed to be the time to do it. “So do I…get it. It’s starting to make sense.”
“What happened to you?” Xander asked curiously. “Don’t tell me…you bought out all of the black clothes at the mall. Broke into the local chapter of the Red Cross to raid all of the AB-negative? Practiced scowling? Cos you do that real well. Like now for instance.”
That was precisely what the vampire was doing until a feminine hand closed over his and pulled it down to the table, squeezing it. “Angel and I ended up here,” Cordelia announced to the group. “We couldn’t stay away. Kept coming back every night. We were the ones who left the library in a mess.”
Buffy eyed their joined hands and looked at the brunette with a vein of suspicion. “So you’re confessing to being our ghost. What were you two thinking about when the demon zapped you…trying to get out of our next research session? Why do I get the feeling there’s something else?”
“Because there is, Buffy,” said Angel as his fingers threaded through Cordelia’s when she caught the darkening look in the Slayer’s eyes. “Cordelia and I have been seeing each other for the past couple of months.”
At her gasp and Xander’s strangled choke as he chomped on chips, Angel revealed, “We decided to hold off on telling everyone.”
Cordelia pointed out, “That was my idea. I didn’t know what you guys would think and I asked Angel to keep it between us for a while.”
“Y-You’re dating?” Buffy’s eyes shimmered, overly bright. “Oh. Well, that’s… great.”
Anyone at the table could tell the Slayer thought it was far from being great, but she was doing her best to control her emotions. Having given up Angel, she could hardly blame him for choosing someone else, but the expression on her shocked face made it clear that Buffy never in her wildest dreams imagined that person to be Cordelia.
“This isn’t how we intended everyone to find out,” Angel confessed. “I’m sorry if that hurts you.”
He’d been talking to Buffy, but Angel’s gaze slid over to Xander whose glare looked deadly. “I went to see Cordy in the hospital. Things just progressed from there.”
The deathglare turned to cloudy guilt and resigned acceptance. Xander told them, “I guess you’re the reason Cor has been so happy lately. That’s…cool with me. Just no going all evil on us and I won’t have to stake you.”
“My soul is secure,” Angel revealed slowly. He really hadn’t wanted to get into that, but since Xander had brought up the possibility of Angelus, it might be better to talk about it now. “Something Willow did, I imagine. I found out the hard way during my little stay in hell when they tried to rip it out of me and couldn’t.”
Willow hadn’t a clue as to what she did or didn’t do that might have secured his soul. She’d done her best to translate the rest of Jenny Calendar’s notes prior to invoking the gypsy curse that returned the vampire’s soul. Maybe she’d missed something.
“Well, dunno what I did, but I’m glad,” Willow gave him a little closed-mouthed smile and added, “cos things do seem to be all secure now.”
No sign of Angelus, she added silently. Not that what she’d witnessed appeared to equate to perfect happiness. Far from it; they were both upset over the whole thing, but Willow got the impression they’d already tested out that theory more than once in comfier locations.
Looking over at her best friend, Willow decided Buffy was going to have a hard time with this. Even though she had been the one to break up with Angel, the fact that she had kept him close suggested that she still cared for him.
Giving her ex up to Cordelia Chase shouldn’t have been as much of a shock as it was considering that the cheerleader had never denied finding him attractive, but the reality still hurt.
Getting back on track, Willow further explained, “The amulet’s spell was designed to lure us to its location so that the demon could bump us off one by one… assuming he had been able to escape as originally planned.”
“Except that Buffy killed it and we took the amulet,” Cordelia nodded her understanding. “Giles brought it to the library and that’s why we’ve been stuck coming back here.”
“You couldn’t leave until you’d done what you’d been thinking or doing at the time of the initial spell,” Willow nodded with a grin. “I get clumsy, Buffy’s does the rhyming quip thingie, Giles is all focused on training Buffy, Xander constantly thinks about food and you two… were obviously thinking about each other.”
Xander leaned forward on his elbow, cupping his chin in one hand as he looked at Willow. “Are you sure that security tape was blank?”
Blushing ten shades of red, Willow glanced toward Cordelia who wasn’t exactly pale herself. The brunette was quieter than she’d ever seen her, though, which was kinda scary. Maybe she was saving it all up for a private Willow-bashing session. Oh, that would be fun. Maybe as fun as having teeth pulled, Willow figured, so not.
“Like I said, Xander,” she told him still feeling the need to be utterly truthful, “there was no poltergeist. Angel and Cordelia came and they left.”
“Going now,” Cordelia jumped out of her chair at that comment.
Angel pulled her close, whispering into her ear, “I don’t think Will meant it quite like that. We arrived in the library. We left together.”
Inwardly cursing the direction of her own thoughts, Cordelia realized he was likely right about it. Willow hadn’t even blinked when she said it, so it was doubtful that the girl was making a snide remark about the goings-on in the library. Even if she had caught everything on camera.
Cordelia seriously doubted Willow had gotten past watching the kissing stage before she’d tuned off the television. “Can we get on with destroying the amulet? That’s what we’re here for, right?”
“Right,” confirmed the witch who let out a little sigh as Cordelia seemed to turn her rising fury toward something constructive rather than take it out on Willow. “Buffy, you wanna get a hammer or mace out of the weapons cabinet and do the honors?”
The rest of the evening was an anticlimax after the amulet’s destruction and their discovery of Cordelia and Angel’s relationship. The pair had gone off together soon afterward. Giles had made his apologies to Buffy for overworking her and driven off after guiltily suggesting keep patrol to a minimum tonight. That left Willow trailing along with Buffy and Xander who were as talkative as scarecrows.
“If it’s any consolation, they really do love each other,” Willow piped up when the silence grew too thick to bear. Maybe she was lucky her friends were too caught up in their own thoughts to ask just how she knew that so convincingly.
Buffy shook her blond head, denial still clouding her heart. “I can’t believe it.”
Even Xander wasn’t so sure he was going to accept this so easily. No matter what he had told Cordelia about her being happier lately. “Cordelia can usually handle guys, but this is different.”
“It’s Angel,” Buffy murmured in agreement, placing the vampire in a whole different category.
Xander groused at the thought of his ex-girlfriend being in love with Angel. “I hafta see it with my own eyes. Make sure he’s treating her right.”
“Seeing is believing,” quipped Willow, “but you’re not getting your hands on that tape.”
With a whine, Xander put his arm around her shoulder, “C’mon, Will, it’s my right as the ex-boyfriend. As your best friend? As a concerned citizen interested in poltergeist sightings?”
“Perv,” Buffy slapped him in the arm eliciting an exaggerated howl of pain from the teenager.
Willow smiled indulgently, “I’ll give you the tape, Xander.”
That surprised both of her friends who stopped walking long enough to gape at her. “Really?” Xander asked trying not to sound too excited about the possibility of finding out exactly what when on between the vampire and Cordelia in the library last night.
“Sure, you can have it,” Willow promised. “In fact, we can all watch it together if you wanna come over my house.”
“T-that sounds okay,” Buffy agreed despite the fact that Xander suggested there was a lot more on that security tape than she wanted to see.”
Willow had already learned her own little lesson in minding her own business and this seemed like the right time to share a little wisdom with her best friends. A smile curled her lips knowing that the only thing Xander and Buffy would get to see on that tape was Saturday morning cartoons. She’d set her VCR to record over the tape just to make sure it never fell into the wrong hands and to avoid the temptation of ever watching it again.
Too bad that keeping the details to herself meant she’d never find out the answer to her little question about vampires. Buffy would not be too happy about it if Willow asked her. Hmm. Maybe that was something Cordelia would tell her.
Miss Cordelia Tact-Is-Just-Not-Saying-The-Truth Chase would probably fess up if she knew the answer. Besides, Willow was just curious… scientifically speaking, of course.
The television screen flickered with the closing credits of the late-night movie. Curled up on the couch in her sitting room, Cordelia and Angel didn’t move despite the end of the film. His arm was around her shoulder and she was sidled up next to him, her head on his chest.
They sat there for the longest time in silence. Slowly, Cordelia lifted her head and found him to be watching her, his dark eyes just soaking up the beauty of her face.
His fingers traced the line of her jaw, “What’s bothering you, Cordy?”
“Willow. It’s just the fact that she has that tape,” Cordelia clamped her teeth over her bottom lip and tugged worriedly. “One day she could turn evil or just decide to resume her role as President of the I-Hate-Cordelia-Club and publish that tape on the internet. Geez, can you imagine the humiliation?”
“Well, it wasn’t my best performance,” Angel shocked her with his answer. His mouth curled into that trademark smirk.
Cordelia blurted out a belly laugh at his joke, “Oh really? That’s a mighty big ego you have there.”
“Wanna find out?” Dark eyebrows quirked upward playfully. Angel added, “I owe you for the past few days. Rushing things in order to get out of the library is not my idea of the right way to make love to you.”
With her heart beating a happy tune, Cordelia was swooped over Angel’s shoulder in one strong move. He even managed to grab the remote and shut off the TV before carrying her through to her adjoining bedroom.
Laughing as he tossed her down on the bed, Cordelia grinned up at him as Angel started to unbutton his shirt. “This is the right way?”
“There are countless right ways to love you Cordy, and I plan to try every one,” he told her quite seriously, love and lust mixing in the midnight gleam of his eyes.