Part Four – The Balcony
The edge of oblivion is a warm place. It’s the first day of spring, it’s the last day of school, it’s your grandmother’s cookies and a fire on a stormy day. It’s the precipice on which you stood and gazed into the welcoming abyss of slumber. And as the nothingness washed over you…some stupid tapping craps it up.
What is that? Cordelia’s brain screamed as she tried to shake of the early stages of sleep.
Cocking her head to the side, she listened carefully to the night’s sounds in the hopes of identifying those which ripped her so callously from her mandatory 8 hours of beauty sleep.
Tap Tap Tap
Snapping on the small bedside lamp, Cordelia made a careful survey of her room. Creepy closet noises? No. Creepy under the bed noises? Nope. Creepy balcony noises? Ding Ding Ding!
Even in her drowsy state, Cordelia knew that whatever was out there, and in Sunnydale it couldn’t possibly be anything good, would have either come in and killed her already or was mystically barred from entering. Demon or vampire? Vampire or demon? It was hard to know which to root for. Of course, since vampires couldn’t come in without an invite, they tended to be the frontrunner. However, if her visitor was who she thought, she would seriously consider rooting for the demon with a free pass to kill her horribly.
Hearing the tapping again, she realized that she wasn’t going to get any sleep unless she dealt with this. Dammit, she spent Lord knows how many hours a week with the stupid Scooby Gang. Why could he never bother her when she was “on duty”?
Sighing as she climbed out of bed and made her way to the window, she pondered how odd her life was that she was longing for a normal, home grown serial killer right now, instead of the supernatural mass murderer she knew she would see when she opened the drapes.
Bracing herself for the unpleasantness sure to follow, Cordelia let her fingers caress the heavy, golden fabric separating her from the face that recently haunted both her nightmares and her dreams. Never one to postpone the inevitable, she curled her hands into the material and pulled it aside.
The jolt of electricity that rushed through her system caught her off guard. She had no doubts that it would be Angelus at her door, so the flutter of what she assumed was surprise seemed out of place.
The vampire standing on the other side of the tangible, fragile glass, and the intangible, unbreakable barrier was also unprepared for the frisson of energy that shot through him at her sudden appearance.
As Cordelia came into view, backlit by the muted bedside light, Angelus couldn’t stop the sensual smile that curved his lips. Admittedly, Cordelia Chase was always a desirable woman, but somehow, standing there still slightly overheated from her bed in her baby blue tank top and matching cotton shorts, she embodied a vulnerability that was as genuinely erotic as the confidence she normally projected.
As his strong hands traced patterns known only to himself on the transparent panes, his voice eased past the glass, through the magic and would it’s way around every nerve ending in her body.
“Open the door, Cordelia.”
Dark and erotic, his voice pulled at her as if the sound were in fact, mystical tendrils overriding her freewill. For that very reason Cordelia was shocked to see her hand on the handle of her balcony doors. Pulling it back as if she’d been burned, she shot a sharp glare at the vampire.
Not remotely deterred, Angelus simply leaned in closer and let his eyes slowly caress the golden skin his demon eyes had no trouble seeing, even in the dim light.
“Cordelia, don’t be difficult. We both know I’m stuck out here until you invite me in.”
Opening the door she informed him, “Well then I guess you’ll be out there ’til Satan needs to break out his snow shovel, huh?”
Although Cordelia knew that this was Angelus’ morning, it was still her night and she wasn’t sure if she was up to another confrontation with the pesky vampire, especially since it was avoidable what with her be inside the house and him not.
Emptying her lungs in a sigh of resignation she ran a hand through her tousled hair while she gathered her thoughts to put an end to this interlude.
“Look, Angelus, as much as I appreciate this little social call, you can’t be here.”
Normally opposition roused his demon instincts and brought no end of pain to those standing against his whims. But seeing Cordelia standing there, sweet and sleepy, with the illusion of nothing but air between them, he couldn’t help but smile as he was heated by the fire burning from her spirit.
The smirk was clear in his voice as was his obvious humoring of her.
Cordelia’s mouth tightened and her jaw clenched as she recalled exactly why the vampire shouldn’t be anywhere near her, much less on her balcony.
“No, you can’t. Giles told me what you did. The only good that came out of the most humiliating experience of my life. I don’t get it, you’re good looking, you’re like king of the Hellmouth or something, you’re a real catch for a dead guy. Can’t you find another way to get women than the whole hypno-hickey thing?”
“Geez, this is worse than when Jason Einertson gave me mono in 8th grade.”
The smile slowly slid off of Angelus’ face as he began to comprehend the meaning behind Cordelia’s nonsense.
“Are you comparing my claim to a communicable disease?” The incredulous question rasped through his lips.
“Well, if the infectious overbite fits…”
Cordelia’s dismissive shrug made clear that even with the watcher’s help she was no where near grasping the seriousness of his hold on her.
Angelus was brought out of his possessive thoughts by Cordelia’s new and yet equally inflammatory, words.
“Seriously, Angelus, you have to leave. Giles was specific about how much time I should spend with you – a big gigantic none.”
As she turned to close the door she was surprised by the lack of grumbling from the vampire. In fact, all she heard was…what was that?
Turning back to the open doorway to identify the sound she saw Angelus, lounging against the invisible barrier flicking a sliver lighter open, igniting the flame, and then smothering it with the cover. He repeated the action a number of times, watching the fire disappear and reemerge.
Catching her eyes following his movements, he smiled at her.
“No, I understand Cordelia. Go back to bed. I’m sure that we can talk in a little while, outside while we wait for the fire department.”
No matter how tired she might be, Cordelia grasped the threat to burn down her house instantly. God, would she never have control of her life again?
“What do you want, Angelus?”
Seeing that she understood that there was no option but submission, he slipped the lighter back into his pocket. Sliding down the unseen wall, he stretched out his legs and, to Cordelia’s dismay, seemed to make himself comfortable.
“Sit down, Cordelia, relax. I only want to talk to you. This can be a painless process, and for once the choice to make it so is up to you.”
“Aren’t these supposed to be your special Buffy stalking hours?” She asked bitterly as she complied with what she had no doubts were Angelus’ orders.
Choosing to sit facing him in the opposite corner of the doorway, Cordelia’s legs were nowhere near as relaxed as those that rested along side hers on the other side of the thin veil of magic.
While Angelus seemed satisfied to just sit and enjoy the enticing picture presented by the scantily clad brunette, Cordelia was less pleased by the ongoing silence.
“Well, if you’re not gonna go, the least, and I emphasize least here, you can do for me is explain this whole claiming thing. I mean, Giles sort of did, but it involved a lot of stuttering and historical references, so not so much with the curiosity satisfaction.”
“I always thought you grr guys were supposed to want to eat us, not date us. After all, I don’t eat a Big Mac and then ask Bossy the cow to the prom.”
Every moment spent with Cordelia was a new and unexpected experience for the vampire. Which was probably why he was here with her once again, despite his better judgment. Sure, he’d told himself that he needed to make sure that the girl understood and accepted the limits that he had set and that the watcher had explained. But being here now, enjoying simply sitting in her flustered company, he had to wonder just how much he’d been kidding himself.
“Don’t believe everything you hear from the Watcher’s Council, Cordelia. Really, with their vested interest in the slayer how unbiased do you think they can be?”
“Are you kidding?” Cordelia almost laughed at his apparent accusation of Council propaganda. “I don’t need a bunch of uptight, tweedy, old men to tell me that vampires want to eat me. ‘Cause hey – Hellmouth resident here. Do you think that I spend most nights running for my life because I need the exercise? Because clearly I don’t.”
Her eyes dared him to deny that her body was anything but perfect, and although he would certainly have no basis for that assertion even should he chose to make it, he took his time surveying her form as if giving the thought careful consideration.
“While it’s true that humans are the drink of choice in blind taste tests, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t entertaining in other areas.”
Cordelia’s disgust was clear in that endearing crinkling of her nose. “Yeah, I bet we’re just great for the beating and the torturing and hey, when you get that multiple homicide urge, who’s better than those oh so convenient humans. On behalf of my fellow homo sapiens, let me just say that we’re sooo glad we could entertain you.”
Angelus’ laughter at Cordelia’s none to subtle sarcasm cracked like a whip across the silence of the night. She couldn’t begin to understand the boredom inherent in immortality. True, his fellow demons generally regarded humans as a relief for their momentary desires, but every once in a while you met one who was more than that. A human who promised to hold the tedium more continuously at bay. As Angelus studied the girl sitting warily across from him, he had a sneaking suspicion that she was one of that small minority of mankind.
“Well, I can’t in all good conscience – ” Angelus paused for Cordelia’s snort of disbelief at his reference to having any type of conscience, “I can’t say that all of the activities which you so ably catalogued aren’t tremendously fun. But you just don’t get vampires. Too much running and not enough conversing. Not that you need to be talking to any vampires other than myself.”
Cordelia was surprised as the light joking tone turned menacing so quickly. Not knowing the cause of the abrupt change she could only look at him in confusion.
“You’re kidding, right? I don’t even want to be talking to you. I’m definitely not going out to find other psycho vamps to pester me endlessly.”
With only a slight frown passing fleetingly over his lips, Angelus ignored her reminder that she didn’t want him there and concentrated on her original question.
“Vampires are different than humans in more ways than those musty research books of Rupert’s will tell you. Youth, the preferred state for humans is often the enemy of the vampire.”
“Most minions die relatively young. They are created to serve and their ability to be easily replaced makes their deaths inconsequential. They, like all new vampires, are driven by instincts, the demon drive to kill and feed overwhelms what little good sense they may have, and their carelessness in pursuing those desires tends to make them vulnerable to those who hunt our kind.”
“Childer also tend to die young, but the percentage who do is much lower than with minions. Childer aren’t created to serve, they are turned for companionship. As such much more effort goes into their creation and early years and the fact that they are almost constantly at their sire’s side gives them a certain amount of protection.”
“For a vampire, power comes with age. Not just the strength that the passing of the years brings, but the ability to see long term. That existence isn’t merely for the moment, but an eternity. Delayed gratification isn’t always fun, but it is effective. Learning to savor the anticipation that makes whatever you’re doing just that much sweeter is a lesson wasted on newer vampires.”
“However, the power of age has its price. After the first century or so, boredom begins to set in. Sure, the first thousand people you kill are fun enough, but then you start to want more.”
Cordelia’s face was once again arranged in an expression of disgust. Angelus knew he wasn’t garnering any sympathy for his kind, but that really wasn’t his intention. He didn’t want her understanding; he just wanted her to understand.
“Eventually the lack of limitations leaves one jaded. The killing escalates, not necessarily in numbers, but in cruelty, each death having to top the last to maintain that feeling. But as the years pile up the endless, random killing begins to loose its allure. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still pleasurable as hell. But the newly developed patience tends to lead to more directed, useful killing.”
“Take young Harris for example. Even the soul wanted to kill Xander every time he saw him. So you can imagine how much more difficult it is for me to refrain. But I know that if I wait the satisfaction will be that much greater when I break every bone in his body and leave his corpse propped up on the slayer’s porch. See how I’ve denied myself the immediate pleasure of ripping out his throat for what I know will be the far greater pleasure of killing him as part of my goal to destroy Buffy?”
Cordelia didn’t even try to hide her shudders of disgust at the picture painted by his gruesome words.
“If telling me exactly how much joy you get out of killing humans was supposed to demonstrate how you manage to like people I gotta say you probably weren’t captain of your debate team in school…if they had debating back then…oh, or school. Did they have school?”
And the strangely appealing oddness continued.
“Yes, Cordelia. We had school when I was a boy. We also had fire and the wheel.”
Even with their bloody topic still fresh in her mind, Cordelia couldn’t prevent the smile tugging at her lips at the exasperation in his voice.
“Cordelia, you need to understand that to me, people are merely a way to accomplish my goals. A means to my end. As objectives change over time, so do my use for the humans around me.”
“When I was young and almost constantly driven by my instincts, I killed because that’s what satisfied me. As I grow older I want different things. I want to be entertained for more than an instant. In adjusting my perspective to include the long term, I’ve found there’s value in anything that breaks up the monotony of immortality, even if it comes in human packaging.”
“There have been plenty of humans I’ve enjoyed over the years. And I don’t mean as a snack. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have killed ’em if the mood struck me, but there have been people that I’ve genuinely liked.”
Pausing for a moment, Angelus waited until Cordelia’s eyes lifted to meet his own.
“I like you.”