Angel sat as close to Cordelia as he could without exchanging her for Darcy on his lap. And he was very tempted to do just that if only to get Cordelia to stop paying all of her attention to Miss Twittle.
He took a deep breath as he realized the foolishness of such an action and switched his concentration to their phone conversation.
“Oh dear,” Miss Twittle chuckled. “Cordy, where is Darcy now?”
“Oh Angel’s lap. He seems really happy. He’s purring.”
Angel felt a bit less annoyed — at least she did realize that he was next to her. His fingers did double time on the area around Darcy’s big ears. The kitten melted against his hand and purred even louder. Angel smugly looked up at Cordelia, who rolled her eyes at him.
“Honey, tell me the truth.”
Angel narrowed his eyes at the sudden tension in Cordelia’s shoulders. Darcy squirmed at the abrupt stillness of his hand. What the hell was Miss Twittle talking about?
Cordelia tried to clear her throat but still ended up stuttering. “I am.”
Angel wanted to slam the phone down to silence Miss Twittle’s demand for the truth and conversely,to grab it closer to clearly hear what she had to say. He decided to stay still and just listen. Cordelia was becoming comfortable in the mansion.
It was more important that he discern if Miss Twittle’s words would be a threat to Cordy’s growing acceptance of him and their situation rather than her obvious agitation over Miss Twittle’s question.
“Yes, dear. Now tell me the rest — did you even go to school today?”
“Of course, but then … well, Darcy was driving Angel really nuts. He wouldn’t stop crying.” Cordelia’s shoulders relaxed. Angel took a deep breath; relieved that Miss Twittle was so easily handled.
“You’re coddling him.”
“Angel?” Cordelia narrowed her eyes at Angel. ‘Did you just Pfft’, she mouthed.
He returned her question with an innocent gaze.
A soft chuckle sounded through the phone. “No dear, Darcy.”
He maintained his expression and continued to pet Darcy, as Cordelia gave silent ‘Pfft’ and turned back to the phone.
“But — “
“Cordy, Darcy is a cat.”
Angel nodded. That’s what he had been telling her.
“I — “
“Honey, you’re spoiling Darcy. You don’t need to be with him every minute. It’s no wonder that he cried when you went to school.”
“But — “
“No, Cordelia. I’d wager a bet, if I did such an illegal thing, that neither you nor Angel have actually allowed Darcy to explore on his own.”
“But, Miss Twittle, he’s so small he could get lost.”
Angel cringed, remembering the couple of times that Darcy had escaped from him. That wasn’t going to happen again. Angel would rather carry Darcy around even if he looked like one of those flighty Victorian ladies and their equally annoying lap poodles.
“He won’t, not as long as you make sure he can’t get outside. Let him walk around the house on his own four feet. He needs to learn independence.”
“But, he likes to be held and petted,” Cordy said, shooting Angel a questioning look.
Angel nodded, hoping to encourage her just in case Miss Twittle suggested exiling the kitten from their bedroom.
“Of course he does and you should. But kittens can be left to their own devices for a period of time. They’re quite the self-sufficient little creatures.”
“But — “
“No, buts, Cordelia. You have to go to school and to work —“
“Yes, work.” Miss Twittle chuckled. “The store is scheduled to open in a couple of days. I expect you to be there.”
“Of course.” Cordelia nodded.
Angel’s chest constricted. He had forgotten about Cordelia’s misguided notion that she needed to work. Convincing her otherwise wouldn’t be easy. It would probably best if he just made sure that the dress store never re-opened.
“Now, Cordy, I would suggest that perhaps you and Angel go out tonight and enjoy yourselves — leaving Darcy to his own devices. Of course, I do expect you both to keep alert for any dangers.”
Angel felt his chest tighten again. He didn’t want to leave the mansion, or more particularly he didn’t want to leave his position on the sofa next to Cordelia.
“So,” Cordelia sighed, leaning back on the couch. “We’re supposed to go out.” She stretched her hand out to join in petting Darcy.
“We can do that.” The more Angel thought about the idea the more he could accept it. He wouldn’t necessarily be alone with Cordy but he was sure he would have an easier time distracting her from strangers rather than needy presence of Darcy. “Where?”
Cordy’s brow wrinkled. “Not Starbucks. Harmony works there. Not the Bronze. Who knows who’ll be there? Maybe the mall?” She suggested, straightening up.
“No,” she sighed, her shoulders slumping. “It’s no fun without money and anyway Aura and Josh work at Burger Heaven in the Food Court. Though,” she perked up. “I would love to see them in those stupid hats. But, then we can’t let any body see us. Jeez. Sunnydale is sinking into an even smaller pit by the minute.” She frowned.
“Why can’t anybody see us?” Angel asked.
“Duh, someone sees us ‘out’,” she quoted in the air, “ and it will be around school by first bell. By second I’d be cornered by an angry slayer, and by third, while my pummeled body is being wiped up, you’d have her on your doorstep. And to appease her irrational anger you’d tell her the truth. And that’s so not happening.”
“Even IF that highly imaginative scenario was to occur. Buffy wouldn’t hurt you.” He stopped at her loud snort. “I wouldn’t let her. Anyway, it’s none of her business.”
Cordelia snorted again, even louder.
“It’s not.” Angel said firmly.
“Angel, you know nothing about women or Buffy if you believe that. You may no longer be ‘dating’ — “.
“Stop that.” Angel grabbed her upraised fingers.
She tugged at her hands and dropped them to her lap. “Fine. But whatever your delusions, Buffy hasn’t given up her leash,” she continued. “And you can’t tell me that you wouldn’t give up my secret if it was a choice between it and her being angry with you.”
Angel leaned in closer, ignoring Darcy’s irritated squeal as the kitten was driven off his lap. “I told you.” His jaw clenched so that the words came out sharp and low. “There is NO leash.”
“Whatever.” Cordelia’s gaze flickered to the floor.
“Not whatever.” Angel leaned in even closer to block any possible movement on her part. “Buffy has nothing to do with this. THIS is about us — “
“Us?” Cordelia squeaked as her hands fluttered on his chest.
“Yes, us.” Angel pushed her hands away and leaned back against the couch. “And YOUR apparent lack of trust.” He crossed his arms. Turning to look at her, he said, “I thought you trusted me. I don’t know what else I can do for you to prove it.” His seemingly half haphazard wave hovered in the direction of the new TV. He turned his gaze to the far wall.
“I — I do trust you,” she stuttered.
Angel shook his head.
“Angel, I do — it’s just that — I know how you feel about Buffy.”
He jerked away from her approaching hand. “You don’t know anything about me or the way I feel if you think I would betray you.” Angel got up and turned away from her.
Cordelia fidgeted and gathered her breath in the heavy silence. Finally, she jumped up from the couch and moved in front him. “I’m so sorry, Angel.” She reached out again. “I do trust you. I swear. You’ve been wonderful — are wonderful.” She squeezed his arm.
“I thought you had begun to think of me as a friend,” He said softly as he looked at the floor.
“Oh God, I do.” Cordelia reassured him as she wrapped her arms around him.
”You swear,” he whispered into the crook of her neck.
“Definitely.” She nodded into his shoulder.
“Good.” Angel said as he pulled her body flush against his. “Because that’s what I want,” he whispered as he hid his satisfied smile in the depths of her hair.
Cordelia’s mind rang with caution, but her body rejoiced at the solid feel of him against her. She did trust him, she vowed, pushing aside the doubts that Buffy’s name brought up.
She didn’t necessarily hate Buffy, but her life had seemed a lot easier before the slayer showed up. Sure, Buffy saved her life plenty of times, but her life had never been in danger before then.
Cordelia refused to rub her head at what was beginning to be a ‘chicken or the egg argument’. What was important was that Angel had offered her friendship when she had no one and she couldn’t let her mixed-up feeling about Buffy screw that up.
Hell, Buffy had nothing to do with her being poor.
Settling the important issue in her mind, she trailed her hands over Angel’s shoulder’s to rest them on his chest. “You’ve been great. A real friend.” She repeated, blinking back tears that threatened to fall.
“That’s all I want. For you to trust me.” Angel cupped her chin.
Cordelia leaned in to his touch. “I do.”
“Good.” Angel nudged her back so that their eyes met. “So, trust me now.”
“I — okay.” Cordelia didn’t understand the change in Angel, but didn’t question it. She wanted Angel to believe her and it seemed he now did.
“Go, upstairs and freshen up.”
Cordelia’s shoulders tightened. Tenderness and hotness aside, he’d just ordered her to go upstairs and that just wasn’t who she was.
Except, she reasoned before any words could snap out, her face did feel a bit puffy. And she probably should look in a mirror soon or she’d be really embarrassed and, she sighed, there was the way he touched her. She’d hate to lose the tingling feeling along her skin just to prove a point that would most likely be moot because he was probably right.
However, Cordelia paused in her acceptance of his order. “Angel?”
As if reading her mind, he said, “I have an idea on how we can stay within both Miss Twittle’s instructions and your parameters.”
Cordelia frowned. He didn’t have to say that last part, especially so disapprovingly … She told him that she trusted him. He was acting like such a freak. Maybe she should just go upstairs and stay there.
Again her doubts disappeared as Angel brushed his lips against her forehead. “I believe you. And you’re right. We don’t need to take the chance of unwanted interruptions. Now go.” He pushed her gently towards the stairs.
Cordelia’s mind finally caught up with her. No way was she letting a little sweetness make her into absolute putty. “Where are we going?”
“Pizza. I saw the way you looked at that commercial.” He turned his head towards the glow of the muted TV. “We’ll order out and then leave to pick it up — thereby giving Darcy his independence per Miss Twittle. Then we’ll eat out in the garden — so you don’t have to be seen with me.” His deep gaze flickered on her and then moved to rest on the floor.
A surge of guilt pushed up from her toes. She couldn’t stop herself from running towards him. “There is no way that I’m ashamed to be seen with you.” She bit her lip, searching for the very first thought she had of him. “You’re salty goodness — a hottie.”
He frowned as he brushed her hands away. “I’m a vampire.”
She straightened her shoulders. “Yeah, a really hot one that happens to be MY friend.” She brought her hands up again to his chest. “And your idea sounds great. I’ll just be a minute.”
Cordelia slumped on the bed hugging her knees. She peered through her blurry eyes at the envelopes on the dresser. She could no longer pretend that she could ever pay Angel back.
She pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes. Sure he could be bossy, but all in all he was too nice, way too gorgeous, and had done so much for her. It was making the whole thing difficult. She’d almost forgotten that he was a vampire, or rather, that his being a vampire should be an ‘ewwy’ turn off.
She thought back at the hurt look in his eyes, a look she didn’t ever want to see again. So she braced her shoulders and got up, cringing when she saw her reflection in the mirror.
Angel had seen her with drippy eye-makeup. That would also never again, she vowed as she hurried to the bathroom.
“Darcy?” Angel looked down at the whining kitten. “Fine,” he said, picking Darcy up. “You’ve got until Cordy comes back downstairs to be coddled. But, just to let you know, if you ruin this for me you’ll be a door decoration.”
Darcy’s dark eyes were rimmed with gold as he stared at Angel. Angel scratched the cat’s head. “You aren’t nearly big enough to pull that threat off. But, don’t worry,” Angel hugged the kitten. “I want what you want — to keep Cordy here.”
“Don’t you want another piece?” Angel gestured to the pizza box on the stone bench between him and Cordelia.
“I’ve already had — “ Cordelia’s eyes widened as her hand flew up. She coughed loudly in a panicked attempt to disguise her burp. At her failure, her head flew down to the cradle of her hands.
“Stop laughing.” She managed to sneak a glare at Angel. “After all, you did it.”
“Me?” Angel pointed to his chest.
“Yes, it couldn’t have been me. Cordelia Chase does not burp.” She took her head with conviction. “So, therefore, it had to be you.”
Angel’s smile grew wider. “As persuasive as your logic is — it’s just not true. The ‘huge’,” he held his hands out,” – burp was all Cordelia Chase. You know —,” Angel paused and cocked his head at the side door.
Cordelia crossed her arms and raised a brow. “What?” Her reproach belied that delight she felt. She should be mortified and angry that he was teasing her about such an uncouth thing but she was having too much fun watching him smile.
“I hear Darcy scrambling to hide. Maybe you should go in and explain to him that the ungodly noise came from you and not some monster waiting to devour him.”
“So, says a devouring monster,” she automatically retorted.
“Excuse me, a HOT devouring monster, thank you very much,” Angel corrected.
“Yeah, well, whoever said that was truly delusional.”
“Oh NO. You can’t take something like that back. Once labeled a ‘hottie’ by Cordelia Chase it’s permanent.”
“Pfft. She that giveth can take awayths.”
Angel snorted. “That’s not right.”
“It is, too. So, watch it, buster, or you’ll be labeled a ‘non-hottie’ just like that.” She snapped her fingers and then sighed.
“What is it?”
Cordelia looked at the side door and then back to Angel. “Can you really hear Darcy? I haven’t heard a peep out of him since we left to get pizza. It’s been hours. AND I am NOT a worry wort.” She stuck her tongue at Angel’s patronizing look.
“Right, because a NON-worry-wort would’ve told me to get pizza while she waited outside the door — just in case.”
“Yeah, well, it could’ve been necessary. You didn’t have to go all ‘Tarzan’ and drag me away.”
“You would’ve caved after two seconds of his whining. I HAD to drag you away — for his own good. And I had Miss Twittle to think about it. She scares me.” He faked a shiver.
“Hmmph.” She crossed her arms. The she leaned closer to Angel and threw all pretext of joking aside. “Do you really hear him?”
“Cordy, he’s fine.” Angel moved closer and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear.
“I know,” she shrugged. “But, he’s such a little guy. What if something happened to him? I’d never forgive myself.”
“You really do have an amazing heart, don’t you?”
Cordelia squirmed on the stone bench as Angel cupped her chin. She could feel the blush spreading from her toes upward and she nudged Angel’s had away. “Yeah, tell that to the Sunnydale High populace.” She didn’t want to bring up Buffy or the Scoobies again. No matter what Angel said, mention Buffy and he got weird.
“How about I take out a billboard?” Angel said softly as he brushed his thumb along her chin.
Cordelia licked her lips. She couldn’t be sure whether the tingling in her belly was the result of his words or his touch but she did know that he had all the signs of wanting to kiss her.
“Angel?” She cringed as she heard the want in her voice. She shook her head for clarity. “Angel, what do you want from me?”
“You,” he said simply.
Cordelia didn’t have a chance to respond before his lips met hers. She couldn’t stop her tongue from meeting his any more than she could stop her fingers from entangling in the thick hair at the nape of his neck.
“Why?” she whispered.
Angel chuckled, “’ Queen C’ has to ask why?”
She lurched back as if he’d thrown a bucket of cold water on her and stood on shaky legs. It was only after she masked her hurt and anger that she turned towards him.
“Gee, I don’t know Angel.” She made her smile pageant-perfect. “So far, my only appeal to vampires has been as — well — food.” She forced her fake smile into one of question. “Is that it? Were you just tenderizing me?”
Pretending to think, she tapped her forefinger against her chin. “But, maybe that’s not it. After all, you’ve ignored my ‘Queen C’ charms for over a year.” She narrowed her eyes, her anger winning over her attempt to be cutting. “Maybe the ‘curse’ has a loop hole and you want some ‘lovin’ that doesn’t have any strings attached. If that’s the case, find a bimbo, hell I’ll give you a couple of names, but leave me alone.”
Angel yanked her down on the stone bench.
“Let me go.”
“Not until we get a couple of things straight,” he said, staring her down.
Cordelia squirmed. “You can’t force —“
“Don’t kid yourself.”
Cordelia tried to jerk back but his hand didn’t budge.
“All I want is for you to listen. Can you do that?’
Cordelia felt helpless against his strength. She was starting to get scared.
Suddenly his grip changed and he rubbed her back gently.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I was just teasing — just like when you called me a devouring monster. That’s all.”
She narrowed her eyes. “So, the kissing was teasing? That’s not very funny.” She tried to stand, but he pulled her back down.
“Not the kiss, Cordy,” Angel said softly, “Calling you Queen C. The kiss was only the beginning of what I want.
The intensity of his gaze stopped her movements.
“You’re not ‘Queen C’ to me. You’re YOU, the real you. Who, insists that I share my meals with you.” He gestured down to the empty container by the bench. “You make me laugh.” He brought his hand up and traced his forefinger along her cheek. “You make me believe that being a vampire doesn’t have to be a life full of guilt and regret.” He tipped her chin up. “That’s why I want you.”
Cordelia wanted so badly to get lost in his words, except there was a tickle of common sense that refused to let her fall completely.
“What about the curse?”
She had to know. No matter what feelings Angel’s kisses brought forth she couldn’t – wouldn’t take the chance of unleashing Angelus.
Angel continued to hold Cordelia’s chin as the impact of her question hit him. He should’ve known that Cordy would need assurance.
He gentled his touch and dropped his forehead against hers, deciding that the truth was the only option. “I don’t know why, Cordy, but while hell offered me a hundred years of torture, it also gave me a permanent soul. There is no more ‘Angelus’ — just me.”
Cordelia blinked. “If that was true than you and Buffy —“ Angel tightened his grip around her jaw and forced her eyes to his. “I told you this was about us. Buffy has nothing to with it.”
Cordelia jerked back but Angel held her close. He knew that he could possibly leave bruises. But he couldn’t stand that Cordelia threw Buffy in his face again. So, he stared down the tears welling in her eyes and tightened his grip.
“What everybody — meaning you, Buffy, and the so-called Scoobies – seem to forget,” he said as his eyes held Cordy’s “is that I’ve been what I am for almost 250 years. Angst and futility are NOT what I want. I’m sick of being burdened with the past. I want the promise of the future.”
He heard her gasp. “I’m sorry.” Angel released his grip and brushed his fingertips along her face. “I just want you, only you.” He said, tenderly cupping her face towards his.
“Oh,” Cordelia whispered, feeling extremely uneasy.
“Oh — yes,” Angel repeated his whisper, his fingers leaving a tingling along her cheek. “Only you. Please, Cordy, let me have you,” he murmured against her cheek.
Cordelia whimpered. Her mind was still full of doubts, but her body was already giving in.
Then he kissed her again and she didn’t care anymore.