Chapter Thirty Four
“Why are we here again?” Buffy questioned Cordelia as the woman in front of her pulled her left hand forward.
“We’re here because I want a manicure and you need one. I mean really, with your extracurricular activities you’d think you’d be in here every other day.”
For the 372nd time that day Buffy reminded herself that Cordelia was going through a “traumatic ordeal” and that’s why she was being so undiplomatic. Which of course didn’t explain her bluntness all those times that a vicious maniac wasn’t trying to date her.
Of course she did have to admit that her nails looked fabulous.
Hair done, face facialed, and nails painted, the two attractive young women made their way to the front of the salon to settle the afternoon’s bill. As Cordelia withdrew her trusty gold card she was surprised as the woman behind the counter waved it away. No one dismissed a gold card. Just as Cordelia was about to inquire into this unheard of oddity it was explained.
“The bill has been taken care of Miss Chase.”
Then again, Cordelia thought, that explained nothing at all.
“What do you mean it’s been taken care of? I always pay when I’m through.”
“Yes Miss Chase, but today’s session was charged to your account.”
“Excuse me, my account?”
The receptionist was beginning to look put out. What kind of person argued about a bill that had been settled?
“Yes, your boyfriend came in yesterday evening and set up an account for you. All your future visits have been paid for. If you don’t mind me saying you’re very lucky. He was terribly sweet and so handsome. He said that you always look so beautiful for him that the least he could do was see that you didn’t have to worry about the cost.”
As Buffy blanched at the ramifications of this new development Cordelia leaned forward and slapped her card down on the counter. Forcing the words out past her grinding teeth she made her position perfectly clear.
“I can pay for it myself. So take it off my “account” and put it on my card. Now.”
The older woman looked at both the card and its owner wearily as if dreading what she was about to say. Glancing at her blonde friend for help she saw that there would be no support forthcoming from the girl wearing an oddly stunned look on her face.
“I’m sorry, Miss Chase, but your boyfriend spoke to the manager and apparently they reached some sort of agreement because I was told that under no circumstances was I to accept any money from you.”
Cordelia wanted to scream. She could just imagine what kind of agreement Angelus would have made with the manager. Sure that it included the threat of dismemberment, Cordelia would normally sympathize with the woman, but dammit she wanted control of her life back! How had it come to this; that she couldn’t even go to the salon without the obsessive vampire being a part of it?
As her temper ignited, a tentative hand on her shoulder reigned in her anger for the moment.
“Cordelia,” Buffy began hesitantly, “there’s nothing to do here and it’s not their fault. You know that.”
Cordelia’s frustration grew at Buffy’s words. She knew that blame didn’t rest with anyone here, and she knew that there was nothing that they could do about it. But that only made her more upset, not less. Helplessness was not a state that she endured well, and yet it was an increasingly large part of her life since that fateful, cursed night.
Turning her glare on the slayer she bit out an abrupt, “Fine” and stormed out the door leaving the slayer to convey a silent apology with her eyes as she rushed out to catch the fuming brunette.
Reaching her, Buffy took hold of Cordelia before she reached her car.
“Geez, grabby much? Isn’t it bad enough that your loony ex-lover is not so slowly dismantling my life, but now you’ve got to ruin my outfit?”
Taking a deep breath and counting to three because she didn’t think Cordelia could last until ten, Buffy explained herself.
“Come with me. I want to check something out.” And not waiting for an answer she dragged her companion into the exclusive dress store situated next to the salon they had just left.
Pulling the resisting girl up to the counter, Buffy addressed the salesclerk.
“Excuse me; my friend would like to buy that dress.” Buffy indicated a dress at random with a sweep of her arm. “How much will that be?”
The clerk looked over at the seething brunette, her eyes narrowing then opening wide in recognition.
“Excellent choice. That dress is $843.00 without tax. Shall I put that on your account, Miss Chase?”
As Cordelia’s attention focused entirely on her, the unfortunate shop employee actually shrank back from the venom contained in her stare.
Once again Buffy was left to smooth over the situation.
“Actually, I think we’ll come back later. Thanks anyway.”
Grateful to simply be out of the laser-like glare of the tall brunette, the young employee smiled and nodded rapidly at the thankfully rational blonde who was prodding her friend in an effort to obtain a silent retreat. Feeling the anger flowing off of “Miss Chase”, she wished the smaller girl luck.
Chapter Thirty Five
The sun had set by the time they made their way back to the Chase estate. Buffy had dragged Cordelia to three more stores at which she had sworn she never shopped only to have it confirmed that there were evidently charge accounts set up in all of them and none would accept payment of any other sort.
The amount of time and effort that must have cost would have made such measures impossible for most people. And yet, Angelus’ new position and his access to the Hellmouth’s resources, both demonic and human must have greatly eased the undertaking.
As the scope of the vampire’s actions became clear Cordelia grew more and more silent. Not that Buffy could blame the girl. Slowly but surely Angelus was insinuating himself into every facet of her life. Buffy had fought with Angelus since his return, but she had escaped this intense, unrelenting focus. She wondered if she would have if Cordelia hadn’t caught his eye.
As the girls exited the car and made their way to the entrance, it was as if thoughts of the vampire had called him forth; for there he was, pacing restlessly in front of the large double doors, obviously waiting for Cordelia’s return.
Seeing Cordelia, Angelus’ eyes raked over her taking in every detail. Once satisfied with his detailed inventory he turned his burning amber gaze to Buffy. Anger coating his tone, he barked out his displeasure.
“What do you think you’re doing keeping her out this late, slayer?!”
Both girls were nonplussed by the question, although Cordelia seemed to recover much faster than Buffy.
“Excuse me! Did I turn seven when I wasn’t looking? It’s a half an hour after sundown; I’m hardly violating my curfew.”
Angelus swung back to face Cordelia, his eyes still golden but alight with a fire far from anger as they perused her figure once more. Smirking slightly he caught her hazel glare and held it effortlessly.
“Baby, you’ve just had the wrong people setting your curfew. You know that any time after sundown is dangerous and even my protection can only stretch so far.”
“Well, buddy; maybe I don’t want your protection.”
The smirk designed to annoy transformed into a genuinely indulgent smile as he addressed the girl’s complaint.
“Sweetheart, I’m not actually giving you a choice. You’re mine, and as such your security falls to me.”
Angelus was being completely truthful with the beauty before him, but he had to admit that his honesty was in large part motivated by the fury overtaking his wondrous pet right before his eyes.
Knowing that her control was precariously balanced he gently pushed it over the edge with his next question, intent on enjoying the fireworks soon to follow.
“Tell me Cordelia, did you like the bracelet?”
The reins of her temper broke with an almost audible snap as Cordelia lunged for the smug vampire before her. Just as she was about to make contact with his beautiful, hated face she was grabbed around the waist and swung out of reach of her target.
As Buffy tried to restrain the surprisingly strong girl, she was caught off guard by the dangerous snarling sounds coming from behind her.
“Don’t touch her, slayer.”
The words, uttered low, vibrated with a hatred that went bone deep.
Buffy jerked towards him, dropping into a fighting stance, but he paid her no attention as he stepped closer to Cordelia. In a quiet, soothing voice, the polar opposite of that which he had used with the slayer he spoke.
“Are you alright, Cordelia? You’re not hurt?”
Confusion swept through her body where rage had previously burned. “Are you serious? You push my buttons with your grotesque presents and stupid questions and you’re upset ’cause Buffy stopped me from kicking your ass…again? You’re insane. Buffy never had to put her normally unmanicured hands on me until you came along. And then you’re all concerned?? What’s wrong with you? Seriously, does that whole blood loss thing before you die cause brain damage?”
Buffy rushed to put herself between Cordelia and the sure to be furious vampire when said demon threw back his head and released a shout of hearty laughter. She didn’t know what to make of this vampire. Where she had only ever experienced his overpowering dislike and vitriolic rhetoric, this new side of tenderness and humor was more than she could take in.
Angelus’ laughter melted away at the slayer’s actions. His voice reflected the seriousness of his warning as he cautioned the girl, “Don’t get between me and my pet, Buff.”
Looking over Buffy’s shoulder he grinned at Cordelia.
“Are you going to hide behind the slayer, Cordelia?”
A look of patently false distress came over Cordelia’s face as she addressed Angelus’ criticism.
“Oh no.” Her voice trilled in a mockery of disappointment. “The sadistic vampire thinks I’m a coward. Let me regain his good opinion by throwing myself into his death grip.”
Rolling her eyes scornfully at the wildly entertained demon she continued her tirade.
“Sheesh, you know that trick stopped working when I was like five.”
Far from being upset at not getting his hands on the openly scoffing girl, he was instead pleased that she could keep her wits about her even in her anger.
“That’s my girl, always thinking.”
“Pfft. Yeah, that’s what all this is about. You want me for my mind.”
As Angelus was about to detail exactly what he wanted her for, Cordelia continued.
“Look, I don’t know what you hope to gain with your little stunt at the crappy stores in this worthless town, but I can take care of my own bills. That’s why I have my daddy’s gold card.”
“Yeah,” Buffy muttered over her shoulder. “Way to be self-sufficient.”
Angelus’ face rippled, demonic features flicking on and off as his anger at the slayer’s words threatened to overcome him. Cordelia was his. His to care for and his to hurt. No one else had that right and he’d make sure Buffy new it even if he had to rip out her lungs as a reminder. He settled now for growling at the interfering girl although his eyes never left Cordelia’s.
“She doesn’t need to be self-sufficient and she doesn’t need her daddy’s credit card. She has me now.”
Although his attention had been on her he had been speaking to the slayer. But now his words were directed solely at Cordelia and the force of them sent shivers swirling across her skin.
“I’m giving you time, Cordelia. I don’t have to. I can take you now and we wont have to worry about who cares for your needs. The matter will definitely be settled in my mind, and yours.”
“You’re mine. I own you. Your mind, your body, your soul, they all exist for me now. I may have thought that I could be satisfied with having you in name only, but that was before I realized how truly glorious you are. No one’s done what you’ve managed to do. You challenged me, laid me out and walked away unscathed. How could you possibly think I’d ever let you go after that?”
“No, Cordelia, you are mine absolutely and I take care of what’s mine. No one else.”
Not willing to let that go unchallenged, Cordelia began her arguments.
“I don’t belong to anyone, least of all…”
Cordelia wasn’t one to hold back. When something crossed her mind it most likely fell out of her mouth. But the death promised in Angelus’ eyes as she rejected his claim to her stilled the words in her throat.
Angelus’ smile seemed carved from ice as he made clear the menace his gaze held. He knew that his luscious pet thought herself the recipient of the retribution he was foretelling, but she still hadn’t grasped that he had no intention of damaging her when hurting those around her would be far more effective.
“Let me be perfectly clear about this. To me this problem is easily solved by killing your father and thus eliminating the annoying “gold card” conflict. Allowing him to care for you anymore than I have would be a denial of my possession of you. Nothing would incite me to do that. You’re mine and mine alone. And Cordelia, I don’t share.”
Pressing even closer towards the shaken brunette Angelus put himself well within staking range of the slayer to deliver his dark ultimatum.
“If you buy anything in this town, use any services that I don’t provide, I’ll punish you, Cordelia Chase. And believe me, sweetheart, I’ll enjoy every minute of it.”
Taking advantage of both girls’ distraction, Angelus reached forward and seized the slayer’s arms, jerking her from her protective position in front of Cordelia. With Buffy out of the way and Cordelia still stunned by his sudden movement and his earlier threats, Angelus surged towards her pulling her around to face the recovering slayer and tucking her body tight into his chest.
Running his hands down the long lines of her body, they groaned in unison as the eternal embers of their passionate fire flared to life. Denial of this all consuming force was getting harder for both of them even though they knew, each for their own reasons, that tonight could not bring the final inferno.
Angelus wanted more time. Time to sooth and shape his pet. Time to mold her into his perfect pleasure.
Cordelia wanted to survive and she knew that any chance she had at freedom would be lost the minute she tasted the full spectrum of delights to be found in Angelus’ arms. Those arms that wound around her now, calling forth a response she never knew rested within her.
Although it only took Buffy seconds to right herself and produce a stake, by the time she spun around she was in time to witness the almost pornographic show that the vampire and the cheerleader were providing.
Sensing that the slayer’s attention was now focused on them, Angelus decided to mix a little business with his obvious pleasure. The feel of his little pet writhing in his arms was amazing, but knowing that he was hurting the slayer took the eroticism to a whole new level.
Driving his steel hard member into the firm curves of Cordelia’s ass, Angelus dropped his head to the gentle slope of her neck drawn by his scent, sure and strong, pulsing through his woman. Pressing his lips to the mark that proclaimed her as his he smiled wickedly as he felt the shudders roll through her.
Touching his tongue to the healed wounds he tightened his arms as Cordelia’s legs failed her and his strength was all that kept her upright. He reveled in his effect on her. Knowing that right now she despised him, her heated reaction was just further proof that she was falling deeper and deeper under the spell of her bond to him and nothing she or anyone else did could alter that reality.
Buffy shook herself out of her stupor at seeing her boyfriend’s body draped all over Cordelia’s smaller frame. Raising her stake and stepping forward she paused once more as Angelus’ head jerked up and flashed his fangs at her in a clear threat to the neck of the girl he was holding.
Now it was Cordelia’s turn to pull from the haze encompassing her as she saw Buffy pause in her effort to free her from the vampire’s grasp. Feeling Angelus’ elongated fangs tenderly abrade the skin on her neck, she knew what had given the slayer pause.
“What are you waiting for?” Cordelia called out to the hesitant blonde. “He’s bitten me before. I’ll live; go ahead and kill him.”
She felt the rumble of his chuckle deep within his chest as he yanked her head back. Thinking he was exposing her neck for a vicious bite she was surprised when instead he trapped her with his liquid velvet gaze.
“Ah, Cordelia. I love you too.”
And although his tone was mocking for the slayer’s benefit, what she saw in his eyes scared her to the depths of her soul.
He meant it. He actually believed that he was in love with her. Remembering what he had told her of vampiric love she shuddered in horror at the thought that he wanted her to participate in such a one-sided relationship. She wouldn’t, couldn’t become a slave to his desires, his needs.
Feeling her stiffen Angelus knew she received his message loud and clear. Satisfied with this night’s work he released Cordelia and gave her a gentle push in Buffy’s direction.
“Take better care of her slayer, or I’ll relieve you of that duty.”
And with those words Angelus whirled around and, as was his habit, disappeared into the night.
Chapter Thirty Six
As Cordelia walked out of her bedroom in her pajamas she was disheartened to see Buffy camped on her bed, clearly wanting to talk. Crossing the room and taking a seat she trembled in remembrance of that morning that changed her life.
“Alright, just spill it Buffy.”
“We have to see Giles about this.”
That wasn’t what Cordelia was expecting and definitely not what she wanted to hear.
“And what is Giles going to do Buffy? Go and hunt Angelus down? Kill him? Even if he wanted to we both know how that would end. And if he decided to be sensible he’d just end up wallowing in guilt that he couldn’t keep me safe.”
“Giles doesn’t wallow in guilt.” The slayer protested.
“Oh my God, Buffy. Have you ever even met the man? He feels responsible for everything. You being the slayer, all of us helping you fight, me being stalked by a deranged demon. You know I may not be overstocked in the tact department, but at least I’m not blind.”
Buffy was hurt. Not just by Cordelia’s words but also by the thought that there might be some truth to them. But wouldn’t she notice if Giles felt bad? After all, she spent more time with him than anyone. There was no way that Cordelia Chase would notice something about her watcher that she hadn’t. She believed that. Right now she needed to believe that.
That concept held firmly in her mind she lashed out at the far too perceptive brunette.
“Of course, Cordelia. You don’t want to tell Giles about tonight for his sake and not because you come off looking like a skank.”
Cordelia’s eyes flashed at the insult, and although she was the slayer, with all the strength and power that entailed, Buffy found herself shrinking back from the building rage she could feel flowing from the girl.
Realizing she was backing down from Cordelia, she straightened her spine and continued, even thought she knew her words weren’t entirely fair.
“You were all over him. You let him be all over you. And you were enjoying it; enjoying being touched by Angelus.”
On some level Cordelia understood how difficult this whole situation must be for Buffy, but, honestly, she’d had just about enough of pretending that it wasn’t her life that was being systematically dismantled, and not the blonde’s.
“Hello! Being compelled by a mystical bond here. What’s your excuse? After all, I may have been making out with the bastard, but you slept with him.”
Buffy shot of the bed and glared daggers at Cordelia as she refuted the verbal slap in her face.
“Shut up! I don’t need any excuses. I didn’t sleep with Angelus. I slept with Angel. You know the one with a soul who doesn’t send his loved ones body parts.”
“Pfft.” Cordelia waved away Buffy’s reasoning. “Who do you think was in there, watching, waiting, wrapped in that thin covering of Angel? Angelus may not be Angel, but he’s always been inside of him, every moment of you perfect little love affair.”
Things were fast passing the point of no return as the two distraught young women poured their frustrations out in the form of hateful barbs towards each other, the closest target at hand, while the true cause of their turmoil roamed the night unharmed.
“As usual, Cordelia, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Well Miss Whorier-Than-Thou, I know this – I’m the one dealing with all the fall out from Angelus while you’re the one who set him free.”
Buffy was literally shaking with anger. Even though she had thought the exact same thing, she didn’t need to have it thrown in her face by some stuck up cheerleader.
“What should I have done, Cordelia? Checked for a medic alert bracelet that said “Allergic to Bliss”? Besides, Angel didn’t know either.”
“Well whose fault is that?”
Buffy was momentarily shocked into silence. What was Cordelia suggesting? Was she saying that this was Angel’s fault? Was she implying that he wanted to lose his soul?
“What do you mean? How was Angel to know about the stupid happiness thing? It’s not like he and that gypsy clan were on speaking terms.”
Cordelia wasn’t buying that lame excuse for a second.
“All I know is that if some gypsies put a wacky curse on me I’d have spent at least some of my century of down time trying to get a copy for my records.”
“Why?” Buffy’s voice was steadily rising. “How could he have possibly expected that Angelus would be back?”
“Back?!” Cordelia’s voice rose to meet the level of the slayer’s. “That’s the thing, Buffy. Angelus has always been there. No matter how deep he may be buried, no matter how hard Angel might try to ignore him, he’s there, 24/7. Angel’s a vampire, so Angelus will never be gone.”
“Don’t you get it yet? Angel is the temporary one. He’s the one that comes and goes. He’s just something the Kalderash added to make the demon suffer. He’s an additive. A desperate attempt to improve on something crappy. He’s like a slayer on the Hellmouth, like a candy apple paint job on a Yugo, he’s like a brand new baby on a fading TV show.”
“Face it, Buffy. Angelus will always be the Big Mac here. Angel, he’s just the side of fries.”
As Cordelia’s words burned their way across her brain, Buffy’s fury grew by leaps and bounds. Even as a part of her acknowledged the truth of the words being flung at her, a larger part just wanted them to stop. All she had left in this nightmare were her memories of Angel. She clung to those with every ounce of strength she had, slayer or otherwise. There was no way she would let Cordelia contaminate those with thoughts of Angelus.
And so she lunged at the brunette who retained enough good sense to throw herself to the side, avoiding the slayer’s blow.
“Buffy, no!” Cordelia shouted from her haphazard position on the floor. “We’re just arguing, no one needs to die.”
Buffy stopped her surge forward, an appalled look crossing her face.
“I wasn’t going to kill you, Cordelia. I was just going to hit you.”
Sensing that the immediate danger had passed, Cordelia picked herself off of the ground and made a show of brushing off the imaginary dirt that wouldn’t have the nerve to grace the Chase floors.
“Well, as fun as that sounds, I didn’t mean I would die, I meant you.”
For the first time that day Buffy felt genuine humor overtake her.
“Really Cordelia, I hardly think you could -“
“Geez, not me you idiot! Angelus. What do you think is going to happen if I show up to my apparently never ending photo shoot tomorrow with a black eye? I hardly think he’ll believe that I ran into a slayer shaped door.”
“Next thing you know I’m getting another special delivery, only this time its boxes filled with Bits o’ Buffy. God, I’m going to be in therapy ’til I’m forty as it is. If I live that long.”
At that sobering and all too likely possibility, the girls decided to end their fighting for the night and get some rest in the hopes that they’d be better prepared when the real enemy came calling.