Faint Heart. 10

Part 10

“What the hell is he doing here- and why would you even bring him? – You did bring him, didn’t you?” As the thought that he may just have turned up entered her stunned mind, Cordelia shot forward and yanked the younger girl over the threshold and out of reach of the figure still standing in the cloak of shadows.

“It’s okay, Cordy- he’s a good guy now; well, a good vampire– he has a soul, just like Angel.” Fred rushed to explain, wincing at the painful grip Cordelia still had on her upper arm.

“Pft! Having a soul- if he has one, which I find hard to believe- doesn’t necessarily mean he’s suddenly all fluffy puppies and hero material” Cordelia released Fred and refolded her arms, her spine as tense as a bow.

“Hey! I know we didn’t hit it off last time, but there’s no need to bloody well insult me!” Her eyes pinned on the blonde vampire warily when as he finally spoke, stepping into the light, his face a picture of outrage.

He hadn’t changed- well, duh, Vampire! – except maybe for the barest tinge of something familiar she’d got so used to seeing in Angel’s eyes – but he hid it well.

“So you’re working for Angel now?” She asked a trace of incredulity in her voice, surprised the dark vampire hadn’t dusted Spike the instant he’d shown up.

“That coma must’ve rotted your little brain! I work for me– I only hang around that tosser to piss him off.” Cordelia blinked hard, her stance relaxing even as her expression melted to curiosity at the bitterness lacing the sarcasm in his tone.

“Take no notice, Cordy – Spike has been a real help to us since he came.” Fred cut in, surprising Cordelia with the easy smile she bestowed on the sullen faced vampire.

“Angel hasn’t mentioned him, Fred – why would he miss out something as- bizarre as that, hmmm?” Although still wary, Cordelia felt her initial fear and deep suspicion melting away.

Why wouldn’t Angel tell her- especially after what happened the last time she’d seen the bleached none-wonder. It must have occurred to him that they’d eventually cross paths! That then made her wonder what else he’d left out.

“Probably too busy sulking cos he’s not so ‘special’ any more” Spike snarked, then grinned wickedly: “could be worse, love- his new secretary is still a soulless little bitch.”

“He’s got an evil vampire as a secretary?” Cordelia’s mouth had dropped open in amazement- lips quickly drawing back to bare her teeth at his reply:

“Yeah, and you’ll never guess who it is!” his grin growing by the second; ignoring the look of dismay on Fred’s anxious face, “Harmony.

“Come in, Spike” the blonde hid his triumphant glee at getting his foot over the door, and strolled in following the brunette silently; both leaving Fred standing uncertainly just inside the door.

This was such a bad idea! she regretted asking him to come with her, at the time excited that his advice and gentle coaxing to contact Cordelia had worked out after all… her brow scrunched up as she trailed after him, trying to recall the precise moment she actually invited him ?

“Must have had more wine than I thought,” she mumbled under her breath; too late now- Angel was gonna have a cow!

***

Angel growled with irritation at the pile of paperwork that still seemed as high as when he’d started- two hours ago.

He leaned back in his chair, the end of the gold pen tapping against his tightly pursed mouth as he stared intently at his desk, hoping that if he glared long enough the paper would magically combust and turn into a pile of ashes by mind power alone.

“Fuck it!” throwing down the pen, he pushed back his chair and rose, stretching and popping his cramped spine therapeutically before walking over to grab his leather jacket and enter his private elevator.

As he left the building Angel debated whether or not to go to his usual hang-out and increase his self-inflicted torture- and maybe get as far as climbing out of his car this time. *Damnit, this time I’m gonna go in there and sort it out…won’t hurt to take some more food; Cordy must be running low by now his internal monologue continued on as he made his way to the all-night grocery store…

***

“Anyway, Spike kept walking through Angel, and Angel got so mad cos he couldn’t do anything about it- but then he – Spike; became corporeal again; the first thing Angel did was hit Spike up the-” Cordelia half listened to Fred’s verbal diarrhea whilst covertly watching the blonde vampire, who sat opposite them in the lobby seemingly lost in his own thoughts.

Not pretty ones judging by the sulky mouth and surprisingly poignant expression in his half lidded blue eyes. Cordelia’s curiosity grew by the second.

Spike was all too aware of her searching gaze, and played it for all it was worth, letting his deep-seated bitterness add to the mix; which wasn’t that difficult to do, considering he was bloody bitter!

Eve’s shrewd observance of the developing friendship between him and the physicist – and Fred’s almost worshipful fascination with him, had given her the idea of using that ‘bond’. Pop by for a few hours, her favorite tipple at the ready…. Before Fred knew it, she’d been talked into ringing the chit, invited herself over – and he’d wangled it so the tipsy physicist thought she’d asked him along.

“Okay, spit it out” His head jerked up, genuinely startled; his thoughts temporarily making him lose awareness of his surrounding, to find the chit eyeing him with a mixture of exasperation and peaked curiosity. He inwardly grinned. Gotcha!

“Sorry, love; you talkin’ to me?” his brow furrowed in mild confusion, shifting in his seat with deliberate discomfort. Cordelia leaned forward a little.

“No, that guy behind you by the wall- duh!” she rolled her eyes expressively as Spike actually glanced over his shoulder immediately. “Yes, you!– why the puppy-lost-his-bone face?” she asked bluntly.

Fred looked from one to the other, that anxious feeling creeping back into her gut.

“You got a thing for puppies- I’m sure Peaches’ll get you one if you ask him; being your Champion an’ all,” Spike hated the fact that he felt a little mean when she flinched at the descriptor he gave his Sire, but he had no intention of letting pangs of conscience get in the way.

“Forget I-“

“Did he tell you about Buffy and me?” Spike cut in before Cordelia could back off, and instantly got her undivided attention…

***

Fred truly wished she were somewhere else right at this moment- in fact, for the last forty minutes or so as Spike ‘opened his heart’ to his rapt audience.

Watching Cordelia’s expression melt from shocked disbelief, disgust…pity- empathy; gradually setting into cold hurt and betrayal as he recapped his life from the time of his second arrival to Sunnydale right up to the now, Fred knew she’d made a disastrous faux pas.

The sound of several heavy objects hitting the lobby floor had her and the others turning towards the entrance in startled surprise- and boy, was she in trouble, Fred thought sickly as she took in the sight of their unexpected visitor.

Game face to the fore and carelessly dropped grocery bags around his feet, Angel looked seriously pissed. Before the occupants could react, a black tornado had crossed the lobby and ploughed into the blonde vampire. The red couch tipped backward sharply at the impact and landed on the floor with a crash.

Both vampires were now a blur as fists and feet connected. For a stunned few minutes, both women remained in their seats. Fred was still frozen to the spot with her heart firmly wedged in her throat when Cordelia had finally shaken off the shock and rose to her feet. Without a word, she skirted around the lobby and headed towards the weapons cabinet, avoiding crashing furniture and battling flesh and blood.

Angel finally pinned Spike to the floor and proceeded to smash his bloodied fist repeatedly into the fanged face below him, completely oblivious to Fred’s belated high-pitched pleas to stop; then a loud and piercing whistle tore though the hotel and his fist froze mid-punch, his amber eyes lifting to rest, startled on the brunette who now stood a few feet away -an automatic loading crossbow in her experienced grasp pointed directly at their prone figures.

“Break up the playground shenanigans or forever be dust motes.” Her no- shit tone had both vampires scrambling to their feet in seconds.

“He started it” Spike grumbled, wiping his bloodied nose and sending death glares towards the other, equally bloodied vampire.

“What are you- five?” Cordelia barked at him; shooting an annihilating glare Angel’s way when he had the temerity to snort in glee at her words. He cleared his throat and shuffled his feet; “Cordy, I-” he began defensively, only to be cut off by the frighteningly still woman.

“Can it, Angel. I am so not in the mood to listen to you right now; get out.” Angel’s mouth gaped for a second, then snapped shut as he stepped forward pleadingly- freezing when the crossbow leveled directly at him.

Spike smirked and relaxed, moving closer to Cordelia, and Angel’s heart sunk to his feet when she merely flicked a glance at him and let it go.

“If I go he goes” The dark haired vampire replied firmly, folding his arms and attempting to stifle his hurt at her blatant siding with his nemesis.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but he wasn’t the one who came in all guns- or should I say fangs blazing,” she returned coldly, “From what I gather- thanks for letting me know, by the way; Spike is apparently a good guy now, so why the macho-protecto display?”

Whilst Angel struggled to think of an acceptable reply Spike stepped nearer to Cordelia with a repentant look on his face.

“It’s my fault, Cordy” he stifled the smirk that threatened to crack his face at the feral snarl that rumbled only enough for his ears to pick up at his familiarity with the brunette; “Peaches here warned me to keep away- don’t know why; mebbe it’s cos of my amazing charm and stunning good looks” he shrugged, his expression remorseful.

Both women’s eyes rolled at that; trust Spike to find some humor in a nasty situation. Eyeing Angel’s expression of barely hidden panic, fear…and guilt, Cordelia knew exactly why Spike had been warned off. She didn’t doubt that the blonde vampire had deliberately sought her out- hell, from what he’d told her, he had more reason than her to be bitter!

Although the last time she’d set eyes on him, she wouldn’t have trusted him as far as she could throw that two-faced bastard ex best friend, she instinctively sensed he’d been telling the truth.

“Please leave, Angel. You’ve gate crashed our little get together; Spike here is quite the little storyteller.” Her brow rose as her ice-cold gaze rested on the visibly tense vampire, who inwardly died a little as he realized all his nightmares had just come painfully true. He had to rescue this- though God only knew how! Straightening up, Angel refused point blank.

“I’m not going anywhere until we’ve talked; please, Cordy” he added softly, dark brown eyes pleading with her.

“Funny, but for once I actually have nothing to say.” Cordelia raised the crossbow again, her hands trembled slightly, but her face was firm- and completely closed off to him.

Noting the fine tremor, Angel hesitated. Now was not really the time for discussion; one, he didn’t want Spike around when he got his ass served to him on a plate- and two, he knew her well enough to know she wouldn’t listen to anything he had to say right now. Plus he wasn’t quite sure what he could say to make it all better. Casting a final, fulminating glower towards the other vampire, he backed off then turned to exit the building.

“He’s gone, love” Cordelia finally relaxed her tight grip on the weapon, letting it point to the floor at Spike’s quiet words but her shimmering gaze still lingered on the door Angel had minutes earlier exited.

Fred walked over and gently relieved the distraught woman of the crossbow, turning to place it on the counter behind them before turning back, hesitant to speak.

“Oh, Cordy, this is all my fault.” She finally said, regret lacing her softened tone. Cordelia seemed to give herself a little shake before turning her attention to the girl who now patted her arm consolingly.

“Don’t blame yourself, Fred. I would have found out sooner or later- though sooner than now would have been better in my book.” Less chance of me letting him back in to break my heart all over again. Her mouth twisted as she wondered if it was at all possible to break any more than it already was?

“Look, can we call it a night? I don’t think I’m fully over that whole coma thing yet- always tired. Pretty freaky when you think how long I slept before.” Fred nodded thoughtfully:

“Maybe- but it wasn’t exactly a normal sleep, was it? I mean, I bet you didn’t even have any REM cycles- and they say if you take sleeping pills, you don’t dream and therefore you don’t really get the benefit of the-“

“We know when we’re not wanted”, Spike cut in without heat, swallowing down the lump of unfamiliar guilt on taking in the quiet brunette’s unnatural pallor and deeply shadowed eyes. As far as he was concerned, he’d stuck the knife in –and-damned-if-he-didn’t-feel-bad-about-it; if only with regards to the chit. bloody interfering soul/

As if in retaliation, Spike had a brainwave and abruptly strode over, causing Cordelia to yelp in alarm and stiffen in his arms when he morphed into his natural face dipped his head and nipped her throat sharply.

“Not bad,” he released her just as swiftly, grinning wolfishly at the shocked fear and confusion on her lovely face as she instinctively reached up to check; and then even more confused and furious at the very slight tenderness of her flesh and tiny pinpricks of blood.

“Spike!” she practically growled at him, “What the hell-” He raised his hands in silent supplication, backing off until he again stood next to the younger girl, who glanced from one to the other with horrified eyes.

“I’m done.” He promised her- and he was. His final revenge; no matter how superficial the mark, it would have his Sire spitting blood and nails- and knowing him as well as he did, Spike could guess at his reaction.

“Come on, pet, let’s go back to your place and finish that nice bottle of wine” He slung an arm over Fred’s shoulder; “Don’t worry about that invite- I won’t be back.” he winked saucily and turned, pulling Fred along with him.

“Goodnight Cordy- I’ll- I’ll call tomorrow- if that’s okay? Okay!” Fred repeated with a grin when Cordelia nodded with a faint smile, too drained to reply verbally.

As soon as they walked out of the door, she stepped over the abandoned grocery bags, ignoring the various tins and the broken eggs that spilled out of them and locked up.

Turning off the lights, she slowly retreated up the stairs, too numb to even cry.

***

Cordelia’s eyes shot open even as she rose to sit up. It hadn’t been a nightmare that woke her up- so what was it? Leaning over to switch on the bedside lamp, Cordelia shrieked sharply when the soft light revealed a dark figure sitting in the chair beside the bed.

“What the hell are you doing here? Christ, you nearly gave me a heart attack.” She scowled heavily at the dark vampire, drawing her knees up to her chin protectively.

“We need to talk- I already told you.” Angel’s dark eyes devoured the golden flesh of her shoulders left bare by the plain black chemise she wore; cursing the sheet now wrapped protectively up to her chest.

When he’d first entered his old room, that sheet had only partially covered her sleeping form, allowing his hot gaze free reign on the dips and curves barely covered by the scrap of silk laughingly called a nightgown. Angel hadn’t laughed at all. Resisting the urge to join her, he instead lowered himself into the nearby chair and unblinkingly watched her.

He’d had an hour to covet before she’d abruptly woken.

“You told me?” he pulled his attention to her still-scowling face with difficulty. God, he had it bad! “Don’t I get a choice in the matter?”

“About Spike-“

“You said that you were ‘in love’ with me; when did that supposedly happen?” Cordy cut in abruptly, causing Angel to frown in confusion.”

“Whe- y-you mean when I realized?” he hedged uncomfortably, thrown for a loop and suspicious of her reasons for suddenly asking.

“Yeah, that’ll do.” Cordelia held her breath as she closely watched his face but was unable to read his now closed expression.

“Well…. I realized when you went into that vision coma- on you’re Birthday – that I’d been in love with you from around my Epiphany,” he finally replied, stumbling a little over his words. His eyes lifted from their close scrutiny of his knees to meet hers.

First reading shock- rapidly followed by a chill that soaked into his very bones and he practically quailed went she drew breath to speak.

“Spike has a lot of grievances where you’re concerned- but then again, you two have a lot of history; Angelus must have been a real joy to hang around with!” Angel remained silent, the sinking feeling in his gut growing by the second as Cordelia paused for a long moment, picking invisible lint from the loosely held sheet covering her legs.

“You had quite the little reunion with Buffy; hearts, flowers – and lotsa spit-swapping,” She pinned him with overly bright eyes; “not to mention weird conversations about baking- and waiting forever.” Crap. Angel half rose from his seat, leaning forward, his expression desperately earnest.

“Cordy, it wasn’t-” he managed before silenced with a look that felt as palpable as a very sharp stake.

“What? So you didn’t go all smoochy and waxing lyrical; promising to wait till she was done baking her cookie-dough goodness?” her brows rose in expectation as Angel’s mouth worked soundlessly, unable to get past the large lump in his throat.

“In between all of that, did I happen to pop into your fair-weather brain – or *gasp* say to her ‘oh, by the way, I’m kinda in love with Cordelia – but she turned evil and is in a coma now; so forget I mentioned that little detail’?” She lay back abruptly and turned her back on him, not wanting to look at a face that screamed ‘guilty conscience’.

“Cordy, please” he whispered hoarsely, “a lot was going on in my life right then- things were said; done. Please don’t turn away from me.” The only outward sign that she’d heard him was the tensing of her spine.

Long minutes went by before she finally let out a harsh breath and rolled onto her back to stare at the ceiling.

“I didn’t meet you that night- I’m not exactly clear why I decided to leave everything behind, but that’s a whole other weird ass kettle of fish; the point I’m trying to make is- you owe me nothing, Angel- no explanations, no apologies- oh, well, except maybe one little thing,” she turned her head to look at him; “Honesty. You don’t need to feed my ego with pretty words and promises -I’m a big girl, and I don’t need lies from you.”

“I wasn’t lying to you. I made a mistake; hell…can’t I be allowed to do that?” Angel knew he sounded defensive, but Jesus; everything he held dear was on the line.

“Of course you can!” Cordelia sat up jerkily. “But, God, Angel- Spike’s known me; what- five minutes? And he was painfully honest-“

“Come on, Cor,! he hates my guts – it’s pretty obvious to anyone after two seconds of being in the same the same room with us!”

“So you’re saying he’s lying?” Angel raked a shaky hand through his dark hair, pushing past the chair to start pacing at the foot of the bed.

“No,” the word was thrown out grittily even as he continued to evade her narrowed eyes, and an awful, suffocating silence blanketed the dim room. Then she sighed, a small catch ruining the casual affect of it and her lovely mouth turning down at the sides in poignant sadness.

“I don’t suppose these little ‘aberrations’ really count for much – only minor stopgaps till Miss Slayhappy’s done baking.”

“You weren’t- aren’t a stopgap.” Angel insisted, his mouth snapping shut at the hard glare he got for his trouble.

“Well, we’ve had our little talk. Can I go back to sleep now?” Cordy finally spoke, her voice weary and drained. Angel halted his pacing and moved around the bed to perch on the edge.

“No, you can’t!” Although he could see it leading to even more unpleasantness- though how much more that it had been already, he couldn’t quite imagine, Angel couldn’t leave it like this. “Why would I lie to you, answer me that, Cordy?” She squeezed her eyes tight and wished him gone; this was getting them nowhere- just making it hurt even more than it already did.

“I don’t know; guilt- some twisted need in you to make me feel good about myself – or…” Cordelia sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees defensively, “…or maybe because you somehow got it into your head that I expected some kind of declaration- which I didn’t” she added, deliberately dismissive, making his hackles rise at the uncaring tone threading her voice.

“Don’t do this to us, Cordelia. Stop pushing me away.” She doggedly ignored the hint of warning in his velvet soft voice and shrugged carelessly.

“Can we not talk about ‘this’ right now? I wasn’t kidding about being tired, you know- Fred has an interesting theory on why-“

“I don’t think you should have given Spike an invite – I don’t trust him.” He cut in abruptly. Fine, if she wasn’t ready to talk about them, he’d drop it- for now; but Angel was damned if he was going to leave before Cordelia agreed to keep a wide berth from his troublemaking Childer.

He wouldn’t put it past him to make a move on her; she was, after all a very beautiful woman- and also it would be the perfect revenge. Just thinking about him laying a single finger on his woman made him burn up inside with raw jealousy- and if he wormed his way into her affections to the point of more…

“Oh, then I’d better un-invite him right away – got the stinky herbs and spell handy?” her false bright voice brought him sharply back to the present; flinching visibly at the matching stretched plastic smile and deliberately ingenuous expression in dramatically widened eyes.

“No- but I can get them” he offered tentatively; a low growl escaping his throat when she rolled her eyes and dropped the pretence.

“Don’t waste your precious time, he’s no bother ” sighing heavily, she hugged her knees tightly to her chest before relaxing her hold; “I don’t know what you’re getting all hyped up about; he’s got a soul now, remember?”

“I don’t want him near you- he’s dangerous” Angel retorted, the growl rising in volume which only caused her to let go of her knees and fold her arms across her chest in an achingly familiar show of defiance and stubbornness.

“To whom- me or you?” Before he could reply, Cordelia continued on: “Cos I personally found him rather…. entertaining- and pretty sweet.” The growl turned into a low snarl at her softened tone- especially at unholy gleam in her lovely eyes, and the jealousy increased in intensity; his ever-present insecurity where she was concerned returning with a vengeance.

“Spike’s nothing but an opportunist, you let him in and he’ll take advantage of it” he warned fiercely.

“Boy, you can say that again” the words slipped out before Cordelia even considered Angel’s possible reaction to them- the annoyed quirk of her mouth that accompanied her comment only compounding the error when he wrongly read it as secretive.

After days of heart-shredding arguments, going through every conceivable emotion to man and demon, Angel was near breaking point. His brown eyes flared amber even as he scowled darkly, suspicion in every line of his hard, handsome face as he aggressively crowded her against the headboard.

“What does that mean??” the barely hidden jealousy that Cordy mistook as menace caused her to press back, unconsciously touching her fingers to the faint tiny puncture marks on her throat. Immediately, his predatory eyes latched onto it and at the same time the faint yet uniquely-Spike scent touched his flaring nostrils.

Although it was obvious only the tips of Spike’s fangs had broken the skin, all rational thought went out of the window as Angel reacted to the blatant show of disregard to his property – not that, in a lucid moment, the soul would admit to thinking of her in terms of ownership. But the inner demon raged possessively, not caring about PC, or that the mark was superficial- only caring that it was done in the first place.

Angel!” One minute Cordelia was looking into furious gold eyes, the next her world shifted and she was flat on her back and pinned under a very angry vampire.

She couldn’t suppress a cry of fright when his large hand curled into her loose hair and none too gently yanked her head to the side.

“You let him touch you?” the rage almost made speech impossible and Angel couldn’t control the change in his face as he glared at the patch of broken blood vessels under her skin.

He didn’t give her a chance to reply- with a roar of possessiveness his head dipped and he replaced Spike’s playful nip with the real thing. As soon as his fangs pierced her flesh Cordelia’s whole body clenched in pain at the invasion. Squeezing her eyes shut she just clung onto him for dear life as he gulped a mouthful of blood before penetrating deeper into her throat.

Then just as quickly, his head jerked up, his fangs leaving her flesh just as abruptly as they’d entered. Ice-cold realization hit him between the eyes as he stared in horror at the deep twin puncture wounds that now graced her throat; and the blood that quickly filled them and overflowed. Shakily, Angel again dipped his head and lapped at the wounds, halting the flow and sealing them, hazily grateful that he hadn’t torn the surrounding skin. Then he then rolled off her rigidly held body.

Cordelia opened her eyes as soon as his heavy weight disappeared, turning her head to find his back now facing her at the end of the bed. Her hand tentatively went to her throat, surprised not to find a big gaping tear similar to the one Darla had doled out. The initial sharp pain of penetration had now dulled to a throbbing ache.

Cordelia Chase wasn’t stupid- and she instantly clicked onto why Angel had bitten her – he’d ‘claimed’ her in a fit of possessive rage; she could see no difference in his actions to that of his Sire- except his intent wasn’t to drain and kill her, but to make a primitive vampy ownership statement to Spike. And right at this moment she doubted she’d ever be able to forgive him.

“Get out.” Her voice was thready and trembled alarmingly, but Cordelia knew he’d heard her by the answering twitch of his back muscles. How many times had she said that particular sentence to him? She’d lost count; but not conviction that it was the right road to go.

Several long seconds went by before he moved, almost as if in physical pain, slowly turning to face her. His human features were once again in place, his natural pallor even more pronounced than usual. Darkly shadowed repentant brown eyes were compulsively drawn to the hand that now covered the wound.

“God, Cordy- I’m so so-“

“I don’t wanna hear it,” she cut in frostily, “Just get out” swallowing convulsively, Angel’s shadowed eyes sought hers briefly, still able to taste her rich blood in his mouth and his knees nearly buckled as the utter stupidity and wrongness of his actions hit home hard.

Cordelia’s pupils swallowed the hazel irises; her face a picture of betrayal and shock. He hesitated, unsure of what to do next, his shoulders hunched, and then he turned and walked shakily across the room to the door. As it closed softly behind him he heard her speak again:

“And this time, don’t come back.”

Part 11

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