Cordelia’s eyes opened and opened wide. Standing right in front of her was a mirror image of herself. She blinked, but the girl was still standing there.
She looked to the mirror and saw nothing. She glanced back at the other Cordelia, who was grinning like the cat who got the canary. Again, she turned to the mirror and yet again saw nothing. This was definitely a joke.
She focused on breathing steadily in and steadily out, taking great care to pump enough oxygen to her brain. “Okay,” she laughed, fake as it was. “Fun time’s over, guys. You can come out now.”
Honey eyes darted here and there as though she were expecting someone to jump out, shouting “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!”
When nobody did, Cordelia flung open one cubicle door after another until she’d checked all four. The vampiress simply stood watching in amusement. She was just too damn adorable yelling a victorious “Ha!” Each time she pounced on an unsuspecting door.
She really should tell the poor stunned girl what was going on, but she couldn’t seem to find it in her heart to do that. It might be wrong and a tad cruel of her, but really. How often was it a person got to see themselves acting like a lunatic?
The vampiress only intervened when Cordelia checked the small trash can for a hidden camera. “As fun as this is, you’re barking up the wrong tree. It’s not a joke or a trick.”
“You’re right. It’s more like a nightmare.”
“Don’t put yourself down.” The vampiress paused for thought. “Although low self esteem does explain Xander.”
“Hey!” Cordelia yelled, her voice a high pitched squeak full of hysteria. “I do not have low self esteem. Look, one of us is obviously cracking up and I’m guessing it’s me. So I’m just gonna go get some serious help. Possibly electrotherapy.”
The other Cordelia took pity on her. “You’re not hallucinating. The craziness is still up for debate, but no-one’s perfect. Well, almost no-one.” Her grin said it all.
The lock on the bathroom door proved no match for Angel’s foot as he booted the door open. Both vampiress and human jumped a mile, identical screeches pierced his ears. He saw Cordelia, the one in the summer dress, and had her protectively behind him before she could blink.
Angel warned the vampiress off with a glare.
“All this for little old me?” Cordelia dramatically clutched her chest and sniffed. “I’m touched. Really. I might even cry.”
He felt a tugging on his sleeve, but didn’t acknowledge her with a look. “You okay?”
The Cordelia behind him pressed closer and Angel shivered at the warm feel of two soft breasts cushioning his back. Did she have to do that? As if the images in his head weren’t enough.
If only he hadn’t left his jacket at Giles place. Damn. This was not the time to get distracted.
“Angel, are you listening to me?”
He scowled at the smirking vampiress. “You certainly have his attention.” She could smell a faint trace of musky masculine arousal, and he knew it.
There was only so much a girl could take. A struggle ensued between Angel and Cordelia as he tried to keep her behind him and she tried to escape.
“Your ass is in my stomach.”
“Believe me, I know.”
“Then move. God!” Cordelia shoved her way out only to be greeted by the sound of laughter coming from…
Figments of imagination weren’t supposed to laugh and friends weren’t supposed to protect you from said figments. Figments were supposed to last a few minutes while a decision was debated, not stand there in full glorious Technicolor and wearing the pants Angel borrowed. Wait a minute. Unless figments came with replica wardrobes, then that girl, the no reflecting version of herself, was definitely not a figment.
Snapping, “Will somebody please tell me what the hell is going on here?”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea.” Buffy’s reaction was worrying, but how would Cordelia react to hearing she was the honey of Angelus in another world? Angel never took his eyes off the vampiress. “The best thing for you to do is…”
“When you have a twin staring you in the face, then you can dictate about what’s best.”
Vampire glared at cheerleader, who leveled a gaze of equal intensity right back. Deep brown eyes narrowed and a shaped eyebrow rose. The lock down showed promises of lasting all night and probably would have if a long, exhaled breath hadn’t ruined it. Well, at least one thing on her agenda was going to be relatively easy now that Cordelia was on Angel’s radar.
“What?” The human demanded when she saw the other Cordelia fanning her cheeks.
The vampiress rolled her eyes. “I guess I’ll have to bask in my sweet success later. What do you wanna know?”
Cordelia rubbed her aching head with numb fingers. “Alright. If this isn’t my imagination, which it obviously isn’t, then the Hellmouth is going crazy. My idea is we should go to Giles, and I can’t stress this enough, now.”
“Oh yes! I can’t wait to tell Rupert all about my little adventure. Oh, and one more thing? Xander?” The vampiress shook her head in dismay. “That boy has no control.” She received two looks. One of confused disbelief and one that clearly said nice going.
“Let me get this straight…”
“Let me get this straight,” Buffy spoke slowly just to make sure the words in her head weren’t the ones that came out of her mouth. “You knew about this and didn’t tell me?” Her icy blue stare bore holes into her watcher’s head.
Giles removed his glasses to meet her head-on. “Given the possible consequences, I thought it best not to involve you.”
“What about other consequences? Like her killing you while you slept?”
“She needs my help to get home, Buffy. I doubt she’d kill me.” Not physically in any case. Mentally, however, was a very different matter.
The slayer stared at him as though he was a strange animal. “She’s a vampire! How you can trust her…and before you bring up Angel, he has a soul. He’s different.”
Xander snorted. “Yeah. So different he goes evil when he…” A solid glare stopped that sentence short. He rolled his eyes and placed his forehand in his palm. He was still trying to come to terms with the fact a dead version of his girlfriend went to eat him and he peed. Peed! He hadn’t peed his pants since he was six and that was watching Dr. Who and the Daleks.
“I don’t trust her,” Giles responded tiredly. “But I honestly believe she wouldn’t do anything to harm her chances of going home. Besides, Angel has kindly been here to make sure she stays out of trouble.”
The atmosphere in the house dropped to below zero as Buffy’s head spun with the knowledge that not only had Giles betrayed her, but Angel had been in on it too. “Angel. Right.” She’d deal with him later. “What if something happened to you both and she’d gotten loose on Sunnydale? Did you ever stop to think about that?”
Who would have had to do the clean up? Her. That’s who. Plus what if, God forbid, there’d been a nasty accident and she’d staked the human? There was so many things wrong with this that it was hard to focus on any one problem.
Buffy sighed. She could see both sides of the situation, yet could only think about hers. It might be a little unfair and self-centered, but what else could she do? It was only last year when she sent Angel to hell, and to think of having to kill a friend, or someone who looked like a friend, was a bit too much for her to take in right now.
Cordelia and her weren’t close by a long shot, but she was still there. She still gave her time to help make the world a safer place and though the brunette would rather die before admitting it, she had a heart and a good one at that. Buffy grinned inwardly. Besides, she gave great advice.
There was a thought. “Am I to assume Cordelia doesn’t know about this either?” The slayer grimaced. Perish the thought.
“She does now.”
All occupants in the room jumped as the door opened to allow Angel, who had an iron grip on Cordelia, and the other Cordelia into the living room. The vampire pushed the vampiress in first, just to make sure she didn’t pull another escape.
Xander quivered and a humiliated blush spread across his face when the golden orbs of Cordelia immediately landed on him. He swallowed, thankful for the look of assurance he got from both Buffy and Giles. She wouldn’t be able to have him for breakfast.
The slayer did a double take. Hearing about this wasn’t quite the same as seeing it. It was only the clothes they wore and the hair. The vampiress had hair down to her waist, Cordelia’s went to her shoulder blades. They were otherwise completely identical.
“Hey Rupert, did ya miss me?” Cordelia gave him a sly little wink which earned her a response in the form of an unimpressed glare. “I gotta say the Bronze isn’t what I thought it was gonna be.”
“The Bronze never is,” the human cheerleader mumbled as she numbly sat on the couch and let her face flop into her hands. A few breaths came from her and slowly, eyes peered up over her fingers. She offered a sarcastic smile to everyone. “Hi.”
Buffy gave the girl as much sympathy as she could. “Hi.” Trying to make Cordelia feel better, “I like your dress.” She couldn’t begin to imagine what was going through the other girl’s head.
The vampiress studied the pretty sundress. “I don’t know. I’d suggest something in red, perhaps velvet.” When Angel narrowed his eyes at her, she knew she’d hit on something juicy. It appeared there was wasn’t that much difference between him and her Angelus. Talk about working in her favour.
Cordelia’s face didn’t change. “Yeah, I’m sure what I’m wearing or should be wearing is the topic of the day. Thanks.”
Buffy pursed her lips in defeat. She tried.
Giles braved the front line when it looked as though no-one else would for fear of losing their head. “How are you, Cordelia?”
Her reply was, “Which one?”
The Englishman sighed deeply. “I can see how this might be…”
Hazel eyes hardened. “Do you?” Cordelia stood and met his gaze. “Because I really don’t think you do.”
The vampiress leaned close to Angel, whispering. “Hold onto your britches.”
Angel didn’t look at her in an effort to ignore her, but that made the rest of his senses lock on her. The scent of Cordelia mixed so intensely with his, the soft perfume that was beginning to fade, the feel of her slender arm in his hand. “Quiet,” he said as much to her as himself.
“Sorrreeee.” Cordelia huffed in return. “I was just gonna offer some insight, but hey. If you’d rather think I’m the problem here, then go right ahead.”
He looked at her. “You don’t think you’re the problem?”
She held up her hands. “Quiet!”
“What I don’t get is that I’m strong enough to put myself on the line for your little quest, yet you don’t think I’m strong enough to hear about this?” Cordelia didn’t snap even though every inch of her was screaming with anger.
Giles was wrong to worry about Buffy’s reaction. “It wasn’t about what you would be able to handle. The risks of you and her in the same room, at the same time, let alone face to face, might have caused catastrophic consequences.”
“Then how about you telling me to lay low for a couple of days, huh? It’s easy. Here, I’ll show you.” The cheerleader’s voice dropped to a mockery of Giles. “Cordelia, may I have a word with you? You see a girl, looking a lot like yourself, has arrived.”
Her voice resumed it’s normal tone. “Really? How?” It dropped back down again. “That is what I intend to figure out, but in the mean while, may I suggest you refrain from doing anything outside of school in case you see her and the universe is destroyed?”
The cheerleader stopped herself before she went on a crazy tirade. She took a moment to count to ten, then continued. “You underestimated me, Giles.”
“And therein lies the problem.” The vampiress sighed out. When everyone looked her way, “I could have told you that. Aurelius does that to me all the time. He thinks that cus I’m the youngest, I needed to be treated with kid gloves.”
Xander raised his hand. “Is it just me or was that a scarily accurate impression of Giles?”
Cordelia rolled her eyes and performed a curtsey full of sarcasm. “And for my next trick…” She found a new target to vent on. “By the lack of reflection, I’m guessing you’re dead.”
Cordelia grinned cheekily. “As a doornail. Cordelia Chase of the Order Aurelius at your service. Nice to meet you.”
Raised eyebrows came from Giles and Angel, who recalled the vampiress saying the exact same thing, in the exact same tone. It was amusing, in a chilling sort of way.
The cheerleader nodded. “This is freaking me out.” She didn’t have a clue what to think. The whole situation was surreal.
Giles glanced at the clock, noting it was pretty late and figuring tiredness wouldn’t be helping an already tense moment. “May I suggest you all go home? This will be better dealt with in the morning when we all have clear heads.” Then he could have a word or two with Cordelia about her actions, which could have ended very badly.
“Oh, my head is very clear.” Cordelia bit out as everything began too get to her. “Let’s face it. Not that much to deal with, is there?”
“Only finding a way to return Cordelia home. No, not that much to deal with at all.” The watcher breathed heavily. “Perhaps I did underestimate you, and for that, I am sorry.”
She stared at him for a moment only to find she couldn’t hold onto her anger when faced with such a nice apology. She still tried to fight the forgiving smile worming its way across her mouth. “Make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Giles blushed. He couldn’t help it. “You have my word.”
The vampiress smirked when she saw Angel look away. “There’s just something about a distinguished gentleman and proper speaking that gets me right here.” She patted her dead heart softly, watching as the dark haired vampire gave her a blank expression.
Quick to have the night end before it blew up into something more, “Angel, would you mind taking Cordelia home?” Giles didn’t want her driving. Her hands, though balled into fists, were heavily shaking.
Angel nodded. “No problem.” What was a problem was the fact it wasn’t a problem.
The drive to Cordelia’s house was silent, only the noises from outside kept it from being deathly so. She’d spent half the time looking out of the window and the other half with her knuckles pressing into her forehead. Soft, even inhalations were followed by calming exhalations.
Angel wanted to offer some form of consolation, but he didn’t have a clue what to say or do. He cast a sideways glance at her, not able to gauge anything for the strands of chestnut hair falling freely down her face. “Hey.”
“This explains how you knew my size. Keep that to yourself, by the way.” That was all the small talk she was in the mood to make. She knew it wasn’t Angel’s fault. Hell, it wasn’t anyone’s fault the vampiress was here, but she couldn’t bring herself too be nice to him.
He’d never known her to be so quiet. Come to think of it, he didn’t know her at all. The words of the vampiress came back to haunt him. If you aren’t gonna spare a few obviously precious minutes to speak, why should she? He frowned.
Angel spoke to her earlier, but only because something was needed. His frown deepened. It wasn’t a nice feeling. Before he could say anything more, she beat him to it.
“There aren’t any other little details you’re keeping from me?” Cordelia asked.
A few minor details, but he really didn’t want to be the one to tell her that the vampiress was deeply involved with Angelus. On one hand, it wasn’t his story to tell, but on the other, he didn’t want her to find out by a surprising chat with the vampiress.
Angel settled on saying what he thought. She seemed to place value in honesty. “I don’t know if I should tell you.”
She nodded. “I get that.” There was a small rustling sound as she opened her bag and dug through it, sure she had a spare comfort candy bar in there somewhere. The smell of chocolate filled the Corvette and he watched out the corner of his eye as she bit into it, moaning lightly in appreciation.
“So, she’s a vampire.” Cordelia stated in a much sweeter tone. “Who do you think made her?” The look on his face told her he knew. “Well?”
Angel said nothing. Didn’t know how. “Well what?”
She swivelled around to face him. “Who is it?”
Cordelia took a moment to let that sink in. “The Master would be the one who rules the family, right?” The surprise he felt at her knowing that showed. “I do my reading,” she said lightly. “Know thy enemy. The Master is dead in this world, does that mean there’s no ruler?”
Angel smiled. “No. The Master dies, then the next in line is called unless a different vampire has been appointed. I am.”
Disbelief came with a smile he was happy to see. “You?” Off his nod, Cordelia shook her head. “Somehow that doesn’t come as a shock. I figured with the kind of vampire you are, you would have had your own.”
“The kind of vampire I am?” What did she mean by that?
She shrugged. “You know; the kind.” She didn’t want to say what she wanted, as she didn’t know how he’d react to hearing the name Angelus. She wasn’t frightened of him anymore, well not really, but she was cautious. Not for him hurting her, but more for revealing things he would use against her.
Now Cordelia felt like a first rate, hard hearted bitch. The way she made it sound was as if she didn’t trust him, and hadn’t he proved he was a-okay?
Dark eyebrows rose at the avoidance. “Say it,” Angel urged. Everyone else walked on eggshells when he was around, he couldn’t stand one more person doing it. “Don’t I qualify for the same honesty you demand from me?”
The candy bar was lowered and Cordelia’s expression grew serious. “I’m talking about you. Angelus seemed so dominant that I can’t imagine you living under anyone’s orders but your own.”
He was expecting anything but that. “I’m not sure whether or not to take that as a compliment.” Angel’s mouth quirked up.
She appeared thoughtful. “I’m not sure if it’s meant to be one, but whatever. Not like I know you well enough to make a sound judgement. Tell me.”
The vampire definitely wasn’t expecting that and nor was he expecting what followed. “I know you made Drusilla, who made Spike. I know you were made by a woman, Darla I think the book said. If you’re the ruler now, then this Darla is dust.”
The more she talked, the more uncomfortable Angel got. He shifted in the driver’s seat, hands tightened around the steering wheel, knuckles cracked in sequence as old memories were unintentionally brought up. Speaking lowly, a soft growl lit the words. “I killed her.”
Drove a stake right through the heart of his own sire. God, he couldn’t help the betrayal that rang through him. She may have deserved it, but she was his sire. Still family.
Cordelia blinked away wide eyes as her mouth mimed a whoa. “That’s intense. From what I’ve read, there’s a pretty big bond thing between…”
He cut her off through not being able to hear anymore. It still got to him when, late at night, he saw the look on Buffy’s face when she came to kill him after thinking he was the one that bit her mother. “Cats, Cordelia. Remember what curiosity does to them?” Though there was a lilt of humour to his tone, there was an underlying warning that she took notice of.
Attempting to lighten the atmosphere that tensed up dramatically in the space of a few short minutes, “Yeah, but satisfaction brought them back.” Accompanying the wise words was a cheeky little wink that threatened to make him tell her every sordid thing he ever did. “I digressed. So Cordelia, the dead me, is sired… That’s the right term… By the Master. What else can I look forward to hearing?”
When she said look forward to hearing, it sounded like she was planning to see the vampiress again. “I don’t think it’s such a good idea for you to see her.”
“No? Because I do.” The cheerleader’s expression was so easy to read. Big doe eyes were shining with something akin to hyperactive excitement and her lips kept twitching. “If it was another you, with a totally different existence, wouldn’t you wanna know about it?”
Honestly? “No, not really.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “That doesn’t surprise. I’m not you and I want to take this chance. Let me rephrase. I’m going to take this chance.”
“Determined little thing aren’t you?” Angel took a second to debate once again over whether or not to inform her of the vampiress companion. He should probably tell her, but there was a sick part of him that wanted to see the look on her face when she found out it was Angelus.
What would she do? Only one way to find out.
She always prided herself on being a pretty good judge of moods. So when the vampire’s face turned unreadable, she had to ask. “What is it?”
Angel, whose mouth was suddenly very dry, found himself rethinking the idea to tell what he knew. One word did it. “Angelus.” Off her confusion, “Angelus is her… Companion.”
The only silence in the car was of the half eaten candy bar hitting the floor. Her jaw opened, then closed, and then opened once more. Head tilted to one side and her mouth went back to the closed position. She stayed like that for a short time and Angel wondered if she was okay.
Cordelia hadn’t been a vampire when she first met Angelus, but he figured that might be too much information for the cheerleader right now. He kept quiet on that.
“Oh.” Angel heard the embarrassment in the clearing of her throat. When she spoke next, her voice was a bit too husky for someone who was horrified. “When you pounced on me, you said you were gonna turn me, do more than turn me.”
The quiver in her voice made him swallow.
She was going to ask why her, he knew that. He also knew he would never, ever answer that. How could he tell her that he’d wanted to bleed her in every way? How could he tell her he’d wanted her to die? Angel closed his eyes.
Hands pinned smaller ones to the bed, body caged by his, legs held wide by cuffs on her ankles. Neck arched invitingly, breasts rubbing against his chest. Plump lips damp and salty with sweat, eyes squeezed tight shut and unable to open, not even for a second. Orgasm closed around him in hot, heavy waves that left him soaked. Sliding into her so very easily, his cock hot and hard for her, because of her.
A cruel mouth whispering the same words over and over and over. “Die for me, Cordelia.”
Angel handed her the keys to her car and popped the door open. “Goodnight, Cordelia.”
He didn’t hear her reply or see her staring after him as he walked away.
He didn’t go back to Giles or the mansion. He wandered around the streets of Sunnydale, ignoring both vampires and ignorant people who unknowingly walked among the living dead.
Angel kept to himself. Breathing when people looked his way, warning when vampires got in his personal space. He reflected on what he’d said to Cordelia. Had he frightened her? He hadn’t meant too. Didn’t know why he’d told her.
Was it just to see how she’d react? Didn’t think so. Maybe he wanted one person, one measly person to not look at him as though he was a monster created by Satan himself.
And telling her she’s with the very vampire who nearly killed her last year is the way to do that.
Angel shook away the voice that sounded like Xander and concentrated on the cracked pavement. His thoughts were a jumbled mess, flitting from one to another at the speed of light. He got like this sometimes, the feeling of being pulled in two very different directions. One half of him wanted to bring the world to it’s knees and one half of him wanted to disappear, become untraceable.
Neither the vampiress or Cordelia were helping. They were making it worse.
Both of them a physical representation of the two halves. One was a beautiful vampire with eyes like liquid gold. Resourceful, smart. A direct descendant of the Master. She saw Xander and went straight in for the kill, no time for pleasantries and how do you do’s. She just went for it.
Angel sighed. Incredible. The equal of what lay chained by the soul.
The other was human with eyes like Bambi. Just as beautiful, just as smart, just as resourceful. Angel wryly smiled. She saw Xander and went for the kill, only with words.
An attraction to her, them, was natural. A man would have to be stupid not to find her, them, beautiful.
God help him.