“Buffy?” Angel’s mouth gaped for a second before he added, “What are you doing here?” his brown eyes instantly reflected regret at his rather harsh tone; wincing at her offended expression.
“Wow! Way to feel welcome!” Buffy couldn’t keep the hurt from her tone even though she was inwardly relieved he hadn’t done what she feared most; pulling her into an overly-enthusiastic hug, and maybe, horror among horrors, more than friendly kissage. With that in mind, the hurt quickly dissolved.
“Hey, no big; that isn’t why I’m here anyway,” she hastily cut off both his apology and move to approach her, with a faint grin.
“So…this isn’t another cookie moment?” the blonde blushed at the light tone and teasingly raised brow. God, she still couldn’t believe she’d said that; a small scowl touched her face, before finding herself giggling sheepishly.
“God, no! – Umm, I’m actually here after receiving an SOS.” At his rapidly darkening face, Buffy moved forward and sat down to face him across his rather intimidating large mahogany desk. “And before you ask, the call was anonymous. Said you were in trouble- as in close to dusting and/or losing your soul trouble!” she clarified. Angel leaned back in his plush leather chair, his firm mouth pursing thoughtfully.
“As there is no hint of anything that bad on the horizon right now, I’m guessing someone wanted you here,” he surmised thoughtfully, then straightened to pin her with calculating eyes. “Was the caller female by any chance?” Angel could already feel his inner alarms going off as a suspicion entered his mind.
“Yeah; and I’m guessing you have an idea by that ‘gotcha’ look on your face?” Buffy nodded, watching as he reached for his phone and punched in a number.
“Harmony? Contact Eve and tell her to get her ass up here now.” Without waiting for a reply, he replaced the receiver and leaned back in his chair. “A lot has happened in my life since…” Angel paused, unsure as to how or where to start.
“Since the amulet bringing?” Buffy asked helpfully, surprised when the vampire instantly shook his head. Her green eyes narrowed slightly at the almost abashed expression that took over from the intensity of a few seconds before.
Rubbing his eyes tiredly, Angel almost slumped in his seat; he’d have had to be totally dense not to pick up on the Slayer’s less than romantic vibes since she’s entered his office, and that should have made it easier. But it didn’t. Taking a deep, unneeded breath, he dropped his hands into his lap and caught her mildly curious gaze.
“Truth time, Buffy- and I’m sorry, but you aren’t gonna like what I have to tell you,” he warned quietly.
“Gathered that; shoot.” Buffy sat back in her own chair and made herself comfortable; she had a feeling this was going to be quite a long soul-bearing-fest.
“I need to tell you about Cordy,” Angel began, a slight quaver in his normally firm tones…
“I can’t believe it.” Angel dipped his head uncomfortably.
“I know, but you-me…we kinda moved on and-” Buffy raised a silencing hand.
“No, I meant I couldn’t believe you didn’t mention it! – Angel! You came to Sunnydale acting like you wanted to pick up from where we left off,” her lips twisted for a second as she recalled her own behavior. “How could you do that?”
“I didn’t want to hurt you,” he weakly defended; “you had enough problems of your own right then.” He halted the flow of excuses at her rapidly shaking head.
“I don’t mean me you lughead!- I mean Cordy; how could you do that to the woman you claim to love? Hell, Angel, are you so fair-weather that you run away at the smallest obstacle that trips you up- no!” she raised her hand sharply. “Forget I asked that; we both know the answer to that one”. Angel rose to his feet abruptly.
“That was completely different!” he stalked round the desk, to tower over the now-standing blonde who refused to be daunted. “There was no future for us and you knew that.” He raked a rough hand through his immaculate short locks as he sought for the words to explain himself clearly. Buffy took the chance to interrupt.
“Yeah, I get that- but then again, what has really changed?” she asked, but ploughed on without waiting for a reply. “Curse: check- Cordy human, check…what?” her brow furrowed at the way his eyes slid away from hers. “Tell me, Angel.” She demanded quietly.
He drew in a breath, and then let it out sharply before meeting her waiting gaze.
“The…the Curse is still the same; well I figure it is, even though I doubt there’s any chance of it being triggered any time soon,” Angel’s mouth twisted with barely hidden bitterness. “And… Cordy- for a while, she wasn’t exactly what you’d call human. It’s a long story.” He added at the sight of her mouth dropping open.
“I bet,” she agreed, a lot overwhelmed, then said: “You mentioned for a while; what, was it a 30-day try-before-you-buy kinda thing?” Angel rolled his eyes in exasperation, and Buffy almost smiled at the familiar expression.
“As I said earlier, Cordy was…possessed by an renegade Power for a while- a lot longer than I first thought,” he added quietly, swallowing hard before continuing. “When Jasmine- the Power was finally strong enough to manifest her own form, she left Cordy human; but in a coma.” He turned away to hide the remembered pain in his eyes.
“They said Jasmine had sucked her dry and left her brain dead, Buffy. How could I have fought that?” He turned back, his face pleading for her to understand. The blonde took a step away, and then sat heavily into her chair.
“How long was that- before you came to Sunnydale?” was all she asked. Angel thought for a moment before replying.
“A week at the most; why are you asking,” his brows drew together in confusion. He’d expected shock, dismay, but not such an abrupt question.
“If I recall rightly, when I died, it took you three months to come to terms with it; tell me, how did cordy take the news of your brief grieving time before you turned to me?” Angel folded into himself as shame devoured him. Knowing what a bastard you were and then hearing it from an observer was totally different, and Angel felt like he’d been sucker punched.
“She didn’t.” he finally replied hoarsely. Buffy almost felt sorry for the stupid vampire- almost.
“So, where is she? Making you pay through the nose for that major insult? ‘Cause I’m just saying, there isn’t enough Gucci and Donna Karen originals in the world to make it all better.” Angel ducked his head and walked around his desk to sink heavily into the soft leather of his chair.
“Cordy left- almost as soon as she woke up- she’s staying at the hotel till she finds other accommodation.” Or so she thinks! he thought to himself possessively. No way was he going to lose her again.
He glanced furtively over towards the blonde and swallowed again, hating himself for wishing she was still in Europe- far away enough to be out of the brunette’s thoughts. Although he knew there was nothing there; that all his heart and soul were invested in Cordy, he also was aware of her suspicions, hurt and insecurity where his ex-love was concerned.
“It’s not only that, Buffy,” Angel became even more uncomfortable as he admitted that Cordy was less than impressed with their changes in fortune. Buffy raised her brow and took another good look around.
“I must admit; this is a lot different from the old place Will and Faith described to me.” Her green eyes pinned the vampire to his seat. “If Queen C of all people backed away from the opportunity, what’s the sitch with this place- and how did you get to be here?”
“It’s a long story,” Angel repeated, his degree of discomfort was growing by the second. Buffy folded her arms, once again getting comfortable. She absently wowed at the longevity of the verbal communication between herself and the usually stoic vampire, realizing belatedly that he had changed- mostly for the better.
“Give me the cliff notes then,” she replied in a no nonsense tone. Angel groaned inwardly, as he again set about explaining- this time, respecting her enough not to leave anything out- not even Connor.
“WOW! Never thought I’d be totally on Cordelia Chase’s side about something!” and I have to admit to being surprised she hung around after that Darla-fest that sound icky even now!” Angel cringed at her expression of amused incredulity.
“What- did you have brain altering surgery? Did you have your common sense and natural Vampy suspicion removed? Cause we all make mistakes, Angel; but wow, yours are pathetically repetitive and way off the scale of rank stupidity!”
“You sound just like Cordy”, Angel growled low, surprising her by pouting petulantly. Buffy rolled her eyes and a pang of hurt exploded in his chest:
Jeeezusss! At that moment, Buffy reminded him of CORDY! And his heart sank even lower as it again hit home that he’d almost definitely lost her for good; he had to think ‘almost’ otherwise he’d die of a broken, dusted heart. The only thing that gave him that tiny bit of hope was Cordy’s track record of always eventually forgiving him- and that thought made him feel even more of a total bastard.
“Can you get in touch with her? – Might as well see her now I’m here” Angel panicked; and she saw it in his darkening eyes. “Is there something else you aren’t telling me? She asked with a weary sigh of her own. God, they’d spent a good few hours reminiscing in a far from pleasant way- how could there possibly be more?
“We aren’t exactly- she’s not really talking to me. In fact, she most likely wants me only as a pile of dust on her mantelpiece right now,” Angel admitted with a groan.
“That’s understandable,” Buffy agreed softly. “Hurt feeling, betrayal, being dumped on your almost deathbed- I can relate” she thought for a moment before shaking her head; “Maybe not.” Angel took his turn in the head shaking, a rare show of faint color in his face even as he avoided her eyes.
“Not just that,” Angel admitted awkwardly, unconsciously licking his blunt teeth. The slayer in Buffy instantly made the connection and she rose to her feet in angry disbelief, momentarily distracted by the sound of raised voices in the reception area outside Angel’s office.
Then the door opened and in strolled Fred; with a bleached blonde alongside with his arm casually draped over her shoulder.
“Oh, my God- Spike?!”