Title: Off the Screen
Rating: up to R
Summary: Whenever I see SAR I always start thinking and wondering what happens right after Cordy finds the hand, when they were alone in the library, when they left the library, ECT. So here it is.
Spoilers: for BtVS up to Some Assembly Required.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Notes: I’ve had writing stuckage for what seems like forever, so this is an exercise really, it’s not my best work but it’s me getting stuff that’s been in my head and I’ve actually gotten it onto paper. I do however claim the right to write another story someday with another version of the following events, because well I wanna. Also, if all goes well I may make this a series with more A/C interactions that would of course because I’m me lead to A/C romance. But don’t expect fast action, I’m still tiptoeing back into the writing pond. Starts with SAR and will go to The Dark Ages (then things will go totally AU). Notes 2: Some episodes will be kept to more strictly than others, but there may/will be places where I’ll change little things to make the flow work (and or make Cordy more dimensional because s2 Buffy not her most dimensional writing). It covers SAR.
Thanks/Dedication:Thank You to everyone that read the first chapter and encouraged more. I’m still just dipping my toes into the writing pond here folks — so with that in mind
Feedback:YES! Please. I’ll even take Bad and Ugly feedback. But Good feedback is welcome too of course.
“Angel saved me from an arm.”
Cordelia Chase, Some Assembly Required, Season 2 BtVS
After telling her fellow cheerleaders to practice, so that they – and more importantly she – didn’t look bad at the first football game of the season, Cordelia started to make her way toward her car. Her mind wandered to her bathtub and how she was going to fill up and nearly drown herself in bubbles when she got home. Though she loved being the captain of the cheerleading squad it was hard work and she was tired and sweaty. Sweaty was not something she liked to be at all, she heard the squeal of her friends car tear out of the high school parking lot and quickened her pace.
Then she heard a noise, a noise that felt out of place in the quiet parking lot. IN the dark parking lot, Cordelia felt her heart quicken and the memory of Buffy and her cohorts talking about grave digging and Zombies flew into her mind. Xander’s joke about them eating her flesh, made her flesh burst into sudden goose pimples of trepidation.
There was no response but Cordelia heard another sound, a decidedly unnatural sound she decided and she broke out into a fast walk, digging for her car keys, hurrying to her car and called out a warning to Xander Harris – it had to be him playing a joke on her, they’d gotten back from the cemetery and he was messing with her. Her warning felt weak to her ears, but felt like she was being cornered and all her focus was getting into her car – damn it, why had she opened her eyes to vampires and other things…it was all Buffy Summer’s fault that she had to believe there could be flesh eating Zombies after her. Even as her mind tried to calm her down by saying it was just that loser Xander.
Her keys dropped to the ground and under her car, she dropped to the ground, completely flat trying to reach them, when she saw the shoes – shiny shoes, nice shoes, expensive shoes. Not Xander shoes.
Cordelia ran and she could only hear the beat of her heart, and all she could think of was where the hell could she hide when she spotted the dumpster. The fact that it was garbage filled didn’t even cross her mind as she hauled her ass over to it. All she cared about was it had a door she could close over her head – it was a place to hide from the damn Flesh Eating Zombie with expensive shoes.
He’d been to the library, walked the deserted halls before the sounds of heartbeats had led him toward the gymnasium and he’d found himself spying on Cordelia Chase ending cheerleading practice with a few positive comments but a lot of pointers of how the girls should be getting their game higher. She wasn’t going to allow them to look bad out there.
“Especially since it would make me look bad, as your captain. Now do you want to make me look bad?”
He’d heard it all and her later orders to the two girls she’d left the building with and then they were gone and Cordelia was walking to her car. And he was watching her… long legs in a short skirt, hair in a ponytail pulled back from a perfect neck…
If he still hunted he’d be hunting her, right now, and not necessarily just for her blood – the errant thought caught him up short, the conscience his soul afforded him catching up with the demon and sending a wave of guilt and confusion through him. God, he’d come here to talk to Buffy, to try to be… to try to figure out what they’d been fighting about the day before. To be with Buffy.
And that’s when he started to step forward, remembering why he’d really been watching Cordelia from the shadows. The real reason that nothing to do with her beauty, her heartbeat, or her long legs. To ask her if she knew where he could find Buffy – she wasn’t at home like she said, she wasn’t here, and maybe Cordelia knew were he could find her. And he hit a soda can someone had dropped on the ground and froze.
Her heartbeat sped up, her body tensed and she looked around the area but didn’t see him, he was still too far in the shadows and an age old thrill tingled through him. She knew someone was watching her now, she knew she wasn’t alone in the dark – and knowing what she did Cordelia Chase was afraid.
He heard her yell out for someone to admit they were there, saw her digging for her keys and hurry to the car. He knew he should call out, answer her; let her know she was safe… but her fear smelled intoxicating, she smelled intoxicating her work out from her practice heightening her natural scent. Cordelia was truly stunning, he had to admit and he liked her afraid – she didn’t freeze, she moved but she was a bit panicked.
He frowned when he heard her say Xander’s name – that boy irritated him with his interest in Buffy, with the way he’d let her crawl all over him the other night at The Bronze. And now Cordelia thought that boy was the one scaring her from the shadows – Harris couldn’t scare a fly, Angel was sure of it. He’d show her fear…and he smiled when she dropped her keys, felt instant lust at how fast and easy she flattened her body and he walked, making sure his soles hit the pavement a bit too hard. He moved slowly, lazily – knowing he could catch up with her.
And damn she could run but he kept up his slower pace when he lost sight of her and scented the air…garbage was overpowering the area, he glanced at a dumpster and realized why. Moving past it he focused his senses in a way he hadn’t in a long while – it’d been so long since he hunted, he hadn’t been using his senses fully for so long, it felt exhilarating…even if this was just a little game.
He picked up her scent, followed it and was shocked to see it led him to the dumpster, and then the lid popped up. He was still hidden from her but not for long, as she looked in one direction he moved right next to her at her other side. The scream he got in response was gorgeous, the woman had lungs and he roamed his eyes over her body, enjoying the curves as she caught her breathe.
“Cordelia, this isn’t where I’d expected to find you hanging out.”
“Angel, it’s just you. I thought …” she trailed off. “It doesn’t matter what I thought. Why were you following me?”
Angel wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or impressed – Cordelia’s fear had vanished leaving only a faint trace, in it’s place he saw confusion, some delight in seeing him – he wasn’t blind to her attraction to him after all – and curiosity.
“I wasn’t sure if it was you,” he lied effortlessly. “I’m looking for Buffy,” he added, stepping closer as Cordelia started to move her arms to grab onto him to help herself out of the dumpster. It was time to stop playing games with the other girl and find…well, he didn’t know what to call Buffy. His Slayer?
“Buffy’s, well big surprise, she’s at the grave yard.”
Angel felt a flash of anger at ‘his slayer’ but bit back a growl at the thought she’d lied to him. “She said she’d be home…but when she wasn’t, I thought she was taking Slayer duties off tonight?”
“Well, she lied,” Cordelia stated, truthfully but then she smiled at him. “But lucky for you, my night is free”, and she moved forward her hand landing on his arm but she stopped short. “Wait a minute, my skirt is caught on something….”
He waited, outwardly looking patience, inwardly getting more and more angry at Buffy. What did that girl want from him? She’d admitted to using Xander to make him jealous, and maybe he was a bit – something that confused him. Xander was a kid; something Buffy hadn’t liked hearing. He just didn’t understand anything anymore and now she was lying to him, to avoid seeing him? Why? He didn’t like it. He felt out of his element, when he’d been human he’d just seen a pretty girl and gone after her. All seduction and promises he didn’t mean. It was about the sex…
“There it is,” Cordelia said holding up what had her caught in the garbage and his eyes zoomed in on a very human hand. And then Cordelia was screaming in a way that made the scream he’d gotten out of her earlier small in comparison.
“Get me out, get me out, get me out of here…” she yelled constantly, moving forward blindly and trying to stand up but slipping on what was under her and falling deeper into the trash bin. Angel moved forward and scooped her up, a human arm with the hand still attached caught in her shoe and Cordelia screamed, kicking her leg. “Off, off, get it off!”
Angel ripped it off and tossed it back into the dumpster, and then sat Cordelia on her feet and just looked at her blankly. He wasn’t sure what to say, what did one say to someone who had just been attacked by body parts.
“It’s the flesh eating Zombies, they are here, and they’re going to want me next, aren’t they?”
Her fear was up again and his mind clicked that was what she had been thinking about earlier and wondered if the boy had told her that about Zombies. “Zombies don’t eat the flesh of the living, Cordelia.”
Cordelia sighed. “Thank god, then we are both safe…but,” she looked back at the dumpster tentatively. “I guess this is the girl, the girl whose grave Buffy found dug up the other night.”
“You know about that?”
“I overheard when I was asking Willow if a tomato was a fruit.”
Angel ignored her explanation, his eyes and senses narrowing in on the body parts throughout the dumpster. He leaned in and picked up the hand Cordelia had dropped earlier and then the arm that had attached itself to her. They didn’t match – he moved forward and dug looking at more of the parts.
“Eeew. What are you doing?”
“These parts, they are from more than one girl.”
Cordelia flicked on the lights of the library and tried to will herself to calm down. She felt like little insects where crawling all over her body, she’d held a human hand – dead flesh had touched her flesh and it grossed her out. She hugged herself and made her way over to one of the tables and sat down on the edge.
“They better get back soon.”
“So, it’s all of them.”
“Buffy and her Scooby Gang.”
Angel looked at her blankly.
“You know Giles is Fred, Willow’s Velma and Xander’s Scrappy…because he’s well annoying. I guess Buffy’s Shaggy and Daphne all in one…and well none of them are Scooby, well maybe Xander can be both dogs.” Cordelia met the still blank look on Angel’s face and wondered what that was about, hadn’t he watched cartoons growing up, he couldn’t be that much older than her. “Didn’t you watch Scooby Doo growing up? They call themselves the Scooby Gang, you know, they are such losers.”
Angel moved and sat next to her. “Are you sure you don’t want my jacket?”
“That cream colored nightmare, no way, what happened to the velvet one or one of your leather jackets. That thing is a total fashion don’t, plus it drains the color from your face.”
“I touched dead flesh, wouldn’t you shake too?”
He looked at her and Cordelia watched his eyes darken, and he looked away. Cordelia felt herself getting irritated; God he was brooding about stupid Buffy wasn’t he. What did he see in the little blonde stake-wielder anyway?
“She’s probably embarrassed you know, since she did that dancing thing with Xander to make you jealous and try to push them away, you know since she hadn’t dealt with her almost-dying Master issues… Which you know, so stupid, she had the whole summer and I got grabbed by vampires right behind her back. She was less than a foot away from me when I was kidnapped. And she calls herself a Slayer. She’s really self-centered you know, which brings me to my point…she’s embarrassed about the dancing thing – and who wouldn’t be, she used Xander – and well now she’s not sure what do to, or what not to do, so as a somewhat smart person… and I mean ‘somewhat’ adamantly, she’s now avoiding you to make you even crazier, so you end up apologizing for something she did. It’s classic, really, she must had heard me one day in the bathroom last year when I was luring in Kevin…” Cordelia trailed off.
“Wow. It’s my day to think of dead guys I liked and lost. Daryl, Kevin…that hand I found, we had a torrid affair…” Cordelia eyed Angel for a full minute before she punched his arm as hard as she could and screamed. “Damn it Angel do you ever talk!”
“Ow!” Angel grabbed at his arm where she hit him and looked at her in surprise and then back at this arm. “That actually hurt.”
“I hit you hard, duh.”
“I don’t have anything to apologize for to Buffy? Do I?”
Cordelia laughed. “Did you say something stupid about Xander last time you spoke to her?”
Angel looked away from and back at his feet.
“Well it doesn’t matter actually – because even if you didn’t say anything you are still stuck in the corner. Because it’s your fault you got mad, even though she wanted to upset you and if you don’t get upset it’s your fault too because she did it all for you.”
“Huh?” Angel looked back at her. “Now my head and my arm hurt.”
“Hey, I’m just trying to help.”
Angel looked at her sideways. “Why would you care?”
“I don’t, actually, but I’m bored waiting them, my skin is still crawling and I really-really want to take my bubble bath now.”
“Bubble bath,” Angel echoed his stare landing on Cordelia.
Cordelia met the stare and raised one of her eyebrows. “Sure you want to play Buffy’s games? Because you could always just date me instead.”
Cordelia held her own and waited for his stuttering reply, realizing instantly he was looking for a way out and hating it. He was hot, he was older, and why he wasted his time on Buffy – well she’d already thought about that question and she wasn’t going to waste more time on it. But he liked her, he’d totally pictured her in bubbles and who was she to let that go unchallenged.
Cordelia chose to smile at him at that moment and in the most innocent voice she could muster softly said, “yes, Angel?”
“Shi…” As Angel started to swear the door the library opened and Buffy, Giles, Xander and Willow walked in. Angel stood up immediately and Cordelia decided to have fun with both him and Buffy. It was something else to do besides think too hard about why there were dead girls being chopped up – that was Buffy’s problem, and she didn’t want to think about it. And neither was Buffy at the moment with the looks she was sending Cordelia, then Angel over and over again, as they had an awkward conversation about first where she was, then about why Cordelia and he were in the library.
Cordelia half-listened and kept herself stuck to Angel’s side, sticking in a few comments about being rescued and wondering things like that kept happening to her. Then when things seemed to be leading toward Buffy and crew doing a lot of stupid legwork to find out what kind of monsters they were looking for – and she heard right it was a student which was a even more disgusting and loathsome thing – Cordelia really pushed thoughts of the subject away and put her plan to mess with Buffy and Angel’s heads a bit further. She’d let Angel off the hook soon though, he was cute even if he had bad taste in women.
“Angel could you take me home, I need to burn these clothes and take a bath,” she looked up at him with a half-smile and from the darkening look in his eyes was sure he’d seen her devilish intent.
He stayed quiet though, so she took it as a yes, and keeping hold of his arm pulled him out of the library, ignoring the glares from Buffy and Willow, and trying not to laugh as a very confused Angel took one last look at Buffy.
Angel followed Cordelia, half of his mind still back in the library with Buffy, his mind still wondering at what the hell was going on with her. Why had she avoided him? She hadn’t even wanted to ask for his help with her current situation, Giles had to force her. And yet she’d seemed angry at the fact he was standing there. Was it because he’d been with Cordelia? Or that he was there at all?
Then there was the question of Cordelia. What she’d said, her purposely teasing him and then pressing herself against him – purposely seductive yet restrained. She had no clue the full power of her sexuality, or sensuality, but she knew enough to push his buttons. And he’d let her, he’d enjoyed letting her but…
A sharp punch to his arm startled him out of his thoughts and his hand flew to where Cordelia had once again hit him. “What?”
“You aren’t listening to me, man do you really like thinking that much? That much deep thinking and I’d…” Cordelia trailed off and shuddered. “Get visuals I rather not think about and it probably gives you wrinkles.”
Angel took an unneeded breath; his night had turned out to not be at all what he thought it would be. In fact ever since he’d come to Sunnydale nothing had turned out how he’d expected. Buffy confused him on so many levels and now looking down into the exasperated face of Cordelia he realized that this young woman confused him too. It felt similar, but it wasn’t the same, he couldn’t even begin to compare Cordelia and Buffy – even if at the moment he felt like both of them had put some sort of confusion spell on him.
The truth was in all his life and unlife, he’d never learned to talk to women. He’d charmed, cajoled and fucked them sure. Darla had been his sire, his lover; the woman who killed by his side and found him pets to play with. But anything beyond that and he hadn’t cared…he’d never cared to just see someone and get to know them. Until Buffy. He wanted to know her. Protect her. He wanted to sleep with her too, but it was different than anything he’d felt before and he didn’t know what to do about it. And considering what he was he wasn’t sure he should – Buffy deserved an actual boy… which was why the dance with Xander had really hurt him, that her tossing the fact he was vampire in his face when they’d fought.
Another punch hit his arm and Angel growled.
“Wow. Boy howdy! I didn’t hit you that hard.”
“You’re stronger than you think, woman,” Angel snapped at her. “What the hell do you want?”
“For you stop staring into space and listen to me.”
Angel rubbed his arm and wondered at Cordelia’s strength. Sure she was healthy, she glowed with it her skin shined with it, her heart beat was steady and her blood flow hummed along. Nothing was wrong with her, and she was beautiful with her big eyes and big smile, her dark hair that when she wore it down would fall over her chest and hide her breasts in a tantalizing fashion – but she wasn’t a Slayer, she was just a normal girl but she packed a punch.
“So, will you listen now?”
Angel nodded and focused his attention on her face instead of her chest – her hair wasn’t hiding it tonight but her stupid cheerleading sweater was, though it hadn’t hidden the shapely curve of her breasts.
“I just did that to mess with Buffy, you know… and as for that hook I put you on in the library, it’s okay. I get it; you are into Buffy for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because you know stuff about vampires and demons and stuff. I mean you help her out – kind of a consultant position? Does that pay?”
“Pay? No… mess with Buffy?”
“Make her jealous. Payback is a bitch. She did the dance, you two haven’t really gotten past it, so let her stew a bit and think I’m throwing myself at you. I mean I was and since it won’t work, I might as well make Buffy think it might for a thrill.”
“Why, why, why…” Angel ran his hand over the back of his neck and forced himself to focus. “I don’t get it? Why would you do that?”
“Because, I like making Buffy feel miserable and trust me the feeling is mutual.”
Angel sighed. “Look, Cordelia about dating you…”
Cordelia’s hand suddenly crashed over his mouth. “Look, I’m confident. I’m beautiful and I know it. And I know you know it too, Broody Boy, however…I do think you picked the wrong woman but I’m trying to just accept it. After all I’m young yet and it’s your loss, but I don’t want hear the ‘let Cordy down easy’ speech hence me giving you an out, dumbass. Just take it.”
“Still want me to drive you home?” Angel asked, as he studied Cordelia with all his senses trying to find a way to figure the girl out. She was even harder to read than Buffy…at least with Buffy he knew a lot of her choices, her reactions stemmed from being The Slayer and trying to reconcile that with being a teenaged girl. But Cordelia, what made her decide to do or say anything?
“No. But I do want you to drop to the ground and get my keys out from under my car. Since it’s your fault I dropped them – well yours and Xander with his zombie lies.”
Angel nodded, a surge of pride and amusement filling him at her reactions to his slight ‘hunt’ earlier. Maybe he should feel guilty about it but he couldn’t bring himself to, he’d found out a lot to be curious about when it came to the young woman beside him. They were walking to her car now and when they reached the door, he dropped down and pulled out her keys.
“Here you go.” He handed her the keys and felt an impulse to push her buttons like she’d pushed his earlier. “Enjoy the feel of the bubbles against your skin, Cordelia,” he whispered into her ear.
She gasped, her breath caught and deepened.
Angel smiled, and it felt good to give into something fun instead staying caught up in his confusion and messy feelings toward Buffy. “Goodbye, Cordelia,” he said relishing the fact he’d finally made her speechless.
It hadn’t even been twenty-four hours since she’d almost been beheaded to become some sort of Frankenstein Bride for her first crush, Daryl Epps. Cordelia still couldn’t get it out of her head, the blindfold coming off and seeing Daryl like that – the same but dead, moving but not the vital football player she’d had a crush on since she was 12 years old.
He’d been her longest crush, that first crush of puppy-love that you didn’t let go of until suddenly it was gone – only her crush hadn’t gotten a chance to die on its own. He’d died, and it’d hurt her. But not as much as his family, Mrs. Epps had become a sad recluse and Chris had become a mad scientist and nearly a killer.
Cordelia was caught between anger at almost being killed and deep sadness at the entire situation. It was just so weird – and complicated and thinking about it was too hard, everything was too creepy and sad – and she didn’t even want to go into how monstrous Eric had turned out to be. He’d had no grief, he was just some sicko who wanted to cut her head off and he wasn’t even a demon. No, what Cordelia needed was to just put it all behind her and the best way to do that was to go to The Bronze and be seen.
It took less than an hour, for Devon the lead singer of The Dingoes Ate my Baby to come off the stage and approach her. Cordelia wasn’t upset at all, Devon wasn’t unpopular at the school even if he wasn’t involved in sports. He was, however, in a band, his own band and he was the lead singer. It scored him all sorts of points and he was cute. She could let him make his approaches and see how it went.
So he bought her a cappuccino and they talked briefly before it was time for him to go back on the stage – then he asked her out. Cordelia immediately said yes and told him to call her to make more specific plans. Then she rejoined Aura and Harmony, and the three girls went out on the dance floor to dance to whatever music The Dingoes Ate my Baby played.
Angel entered The Bronze from the back, wondering if Buffy was going to be there or not. If she was he really hoped that Xander and Willow weren’t with her, because that would mean he’d have to sit there and listen to the three of them have nonsensical conversation about their lives. It always served to remind him of the generation gap between him and Buffy – and he wondered if they would ever find a way to communicate around it. He didn’t much care about the age difference, once you were around for so long it stopped seeming to matter, and though Buffy was young she was also The Slayer and that gave her a dose of maturity that most people her age didn’t have – and some never found.
He pushed the thought of his own human days of irresponsibility and made his way through the crowd until he found himself slowing down, when on his search for Buffy he found Cordelia.
She was on the dance floor with her court of followers, a semi-circle of people who wanted to dance with her, both male and female were around her, each of them following her dancing lead. Angel held back a smile at the way people flocked around Cordelia; it wasn’t really Cordelia’s fault though she did use her regality and beauty to her advantage.
But she held a certain quality that made people want to be near her because she was a Queen – it wasn’t some mere childish ego and teasing that her dubbed Queen C of Sunnydale High. He had to admit though he was surprised to see her in The Bronze so soon.
It hadn’t even been a full twenty-four hours since the kids creating their very own Frankenstein had nearly killed her. Buffy had told him that the brother of a kid who died a few years ago had brought him back and had tried to create him a bride – and Cordelia’s face had been chosen as the final piece. She’d nearly died at their hands and then in a resulting fire during Buffy’s rescue. And yet there she was looking vital and as if the only care in the world she had was that her hair stay perfect as she danced.
Angel knew that is what Buffy would say, that Cordelia just didn’t care, that she didn’t get the seriousness of situations because she was too caught up in herself. But was that really possible? If Cordelia was truly like that wouldn’t she like most of the residents of Sunnydale forget what happened, rationalize it into explainable things… she had when he first met Buffy and those around her. Fallen for the party line of PCP and forgotten what she saw until the night the Master rose. He’d heard what she’d done, she’d been in the midst of it and she’d never forgotten – even told Buffy her secret was safe with her.
Before he realized what he was doing, he’d walked up to Cordelia on the dance floor, taken her wrist gently and led her into a dark corner. Cordelia had let him but when they got to the corner and he just looked at her, having realized he didn’t know why he’d taken there, her eyes started to narrow.
“Are you okay?”
Cordelia rolled her eyes and made an odd noise that sounded something like. “Pfft.” To his question.
“It’s just, I heard what happened last night.”
“Oh that…” Cordelia sighed. “It was awful, I thought they were going to cut my head off and then I was sure I’d die in that fire…but Xander saved me. Which is the thing I’m sure I’ll have nightmares about.”
Angel laughed. “That would give me nightmares too,” he muttered, he hated to admit that boy was a hero.
“Tell me about it. But really I’m fine.”
“Don’t I look fine?” Cordelia asked.
Angel looked her up and down; she looked beautiful – sexy if he was totally honest about his reaction, which confused him because his feelings for Buffy were so strong. Since meeting her he hadn’t noticed other women much, but Cordelia constantly managed to capture his attention.
“You look better than fine.”
She blushed and Angel felt a sense of pride of shock at that, he had a feeling making Cordelia blush wasn’t an easy task. “Well then believe me when I say I am.”
“You make a pretty package Cordelia, but what’s underneath the veneer?”
Hazel eyes darkened and her posture took on the rigid regality of the untouchable and Angel realized he’d just made a huge mistake. Cordelia had just slammed down an entire wall, forget about the veneer of a pretty dress and make up. He’d just been frozen out.
“I think it’s time I went back to the people who matter to my social status,” she snapped and made her way back to her court of followers.
Angel let out a sigh and shook his head. Why had he pushed her to give him more of her? He sighed and started searching The Bronze again for Buffy, and when he didn’t find her, he turned around and left the building.