12: Talking Truce
Chapter 12: Talking Truce
The strange sounds were coming from the kitchen, Buffy realized as she made her way across the foyer of the mansion, a combination of deep throaty laughter and someone choking to death. Moving a little faster, she soon came to the open door and found Cordelia in a bathrobe again, only this time it looked like the silky green robe belonged to her.
Both Angel and Angelus were seated at opposite ends of the table, one dressed in an open blue robe and dark boxers and the other in gray sweats and a white muscle shirt. Boxer Vamp had his dark head thrown back in laughter, grasping his chest as though it hurt from the effort.
Angelus? Buffy questioned her conclusion uncertainly. She’d rarely seen Angel crack a smile, much less laugh his head off, but that meant Cordelia was standing next to Angel. What’s she doing touching him? Still confused, Buffy decided there would be no hello kiss for Angel until he declared his identity to her.
Mister Muscle-Shirt gasped hoarsely, his hand around his throat, “What was that?” He coughed yet again as if trying to force the liquid out of his normally unused lungs.
Pounding hard on the vampire’s back, Cordelia huffed at his reaction, “Don’t be such a weenie. It can’t be that bad. It was just a little experiment to spice things up. Try some more.”
When she nudged the mug closer, he gave Cordelia a strained look, barely holding back a feral growl at her continued ministrations.
Easing down on his laughter, Boxer Vamp picked up his own mug of doctored blood at the challenge glinting in his double’s eyes. “Wimp,” he quipped and then started swallowing the thick liquid.
The mug slammed down on the table with a bang, vampire sitting statue-still in his chair, eyes wide and pale skin flushing in a way unnatural to his kind. Those brown eyes unblinkingly stared back at the other two. Buffy watched him struggle to speak. Finally, he got out, “Mmm, tasty. Anything is better than drinking that stuff straight up.”
“Tabasco and a touch of cinnamon,” Cordelia beamed that one of them apparently enjoyed her concoction.
The one who didn’t bother sparing her feelings on the matter asked, “Would you put that in your own food?”
Cordelia rolled her eyes at the thought, reminding him, “Duh, I don’t cook.”
“Exactly,” he shuddered, still reeling from the taste.
Buffy wasn’t certain that she understood what was going on except that Cordelia was putting ingredients together in a very strange fashion. Calling out from the doorway, she asked, “Cooking what?”
“Vamp juice,” Cordelia responded matter-of-factly, continuing to pat and rub Muscle Shirt Vamp on the back. Either it wasn’t Angel, figured Buffy, or Cor didn’t care that she had her hands all over someone else’s boyfriend. She looked quite at home in a way that seemed quite annoying.
Then the brunette cleared things up by telling her, “Angel can’t handle anything new. Big vampire baby.”
So it is Angel.
“That wasn’t juice,” he countered with a gruff complaint. “It was a liquid firecracker.”
Buffy tried not to smile, but it was kind of funny. The fact that Cordelia couldn’t cook wasn’t a major surprise, but the fact that she had made some kind of effort for the two guys stunned her. Approaching, Buffy gave the brunette a look to indicate she would take over the conciliatory touching duties. Cordelia was no slouch in the silent conversation department and understood immediately, backing off toward her own boyfriend.
“Better?” Buffy asked Angel as she ran a small hand across his broad muscular back.
“Mmm.” Angel reacted with a noncommittal murmur. “Remind me never to let Cordy near my blood supply again.”
Pausing on her way to kiss him, Buffy straightened up so fast it looked like she was leaping away from him. “Eew! You’ve been eating blood.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Duh!”
With a harsh laugh, Angelus pointed out, “C’mon, Buff. Angel’s kissed you after he’s eaten… other things. What’s a little blood after that?”
Turning her gaze on the other vampire, Buffy gaped at him irately, realizing exactly what other things he was referring too. “That was just gross!”
Giving his double a barbed look, Angel ground out, “That was totally unnecessary.”
Even Cordelia had to respond as she curled her fingers around Angelus’ shoulder and gave it a squeeze, “Crude much?”
“Well, I thought it was funny,” Angelus responded without a measure of guilt as he turned his attention to the fall of silk across her hip.
Too irritated to notice his distraction, Buffy was in the middle of complaining about Angelus’ tendency to say things that disgusted her, when Cordelia suddenly let out a small yelp. A soft flush lit her face and neck, but the brunette said nothing, a sparkle lighting her eyes as she looked down at Angelus. It wasn’t a stretch to guess where the vampire had moved his hand. It was there to see in the mirthful look on Angelus’ face.
Buffy hadn’t come here to watch Angelus grope Cordelia.
“Got something to say, Slayer?” The challenge in his voice was one she wasn’t about to turn down.
“I didn’t come here for your games or insults, Angelus,” she told him firmly. “I had enough humiliation yesterday to last a lifetime. This is a brand new day and things are going to be different starting now.”
Placating her by listening to her little speech, Angelus attempted to appear as if he was interested, “Really? Do tell.”
The sardonic tone to Angelus voice gave him away, not that Buffy cared at this point. She was going to tell the vampire what needed telling.
“First off…get off my back. It’s not my choice that you’re here, but I’m going to put up with you for Angel and Cordelia’s sake. Second…when on patrol— I’m in charge. Stop second-guessing me. Third…I haven’t thought of a third thing yet, but when I do I’ll let you know.”
Cordelia stared from Buffy to Angelus and then over to Angel. The Slayer’s gaze was locked on Angelus and vice versa. Two enemies caught up in their endless conflict hashing out a negotiation. Only Angel met her eyes, his full of caution and a patience beyond Cordelia’s ability to stand. She was about to say something when Angelus responded to Buffy’s demands.
“My turn, Buff,” he told her without ever removing his hand from Cordelia’s rounded bottom. “First off…I want my own back Slayer-free. Stay out of my business. No more spying by sending the Scoobies to track me around town.”
Buffy glanced between Angel and Cordelia wondering if they knew about that. From their expressions, they didn’t. A twinge of guilt crept up to lodge in her throat, but she swallowed it back down. There was a good reason to send Xander and Oz to follow Angelus. They hadn’t done it in a while, not since they were almost certain the vamp wasn’t causing trouble.
Acknowledging her guilty expression with a smirk, Angelus continued. “Second thing, Slayer, I have a helluva lot more experience than you at fighting demons, so you better listen to my advice when I give it even if you don’t want to hear it. Especially when Angel isn’t around to tell you what you need to know. Third…you get the idea.”
“Yeah.” Buffy returned his intent look with equal force. “Truce? For now.”
After a long pause, Angelus let out a low growl of reluctant acceptance. “Truce.”
Cordelia gave Angel a surprised smile. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. A truce between Angelus and Buffy. Elated, she spouted, “Terrific!”
Then her smile fell from its brilliance into a tentative line. Remembering her own part in yesterday’s conflict, Cordelia questioned the blonde, “What about us?”
Buffy lifted her eyes away from Angelus, still caught up by the fact that the vampire was touching Cordelia so intimately even as they settled their differences. “Uh, that’s why I came over so early, Cor. I didn’t realize these two would be up. I thought we could talk about yesterday. Minus the cat fight.”
“But that was the fun part,” Angelus protested with a grin.
“Keep your girl-on-girl fantasies to yourself, Bad Boy!” Cordelia teased. Pursing her lips, she commented, “I haven’t sharpened my claws today, so Buffy should be safe enough.”
Next, turning to Buffy, she added, “I need to get dressed. Meet you outside in ten minutes?”
Buffy gave her a short nod as she pulled out one of the chairs at the kitchen table and took a seat.
“Why outside?” Angel asked them.
“Sunshine,” answered Buffy simply.
Cordelia was more direct, “No vamp hearing.”
Buffy further explained, “Girl talk.”
Angel cringed reflexively at the thought. Girl talk. That could be dangerous.
Warningly, Angelus looked at the Slayer’s expression before sounding out, “Cor—”
“Buffy isn’t gonna slug me.” Cordelia let out a laugh and then asked the blonde more seriously, “Are you?”
“Not today.” Buffy gave her a look of innocent generosity.
Cordelia placed a lingering kiss on Angelus’ forehead. “See. No problemo.”
Twenty minutes later, Buffy and Cordelia started their outing through the park behind the mansion.
Buffy was gaping at the scenery. Landscaped trees and bushes dotted the area and there were signs of flower beds currently overlaid with greenery. “I didn’t realize this was back here. It’s overgrown and wild, but gorgeous.”
“The park looks different in the sunshine,” Cordelia was a bit amazed herself.
“Did Angelus bring you out here on a moonlit walk?” Buffy found herself suddenly comparing it to her cemetery strolls with her own boyfriend where the mist rose up in wafting curls around the headstones. Though admittedly, their walks tended to be interrupted by fledgling vampires. “One of those romantic moments you mentioned?”
Answering honestly, “No, it was Angel.”
Stopping short, Buffy blinked as though she hadn’t heard correctly. “Angel?”
“And it was so not romantic,” Cordelia waved a hand in the air. “Lecture time.”
Understanding sunk in. Remembering now, “About Angelus.”
Looking surprised that Buffy knew anything about it, Cordelia acknowledged, “Yeah. Angel told you?”
“Only after the fact,” the blonde rushed to point out hoping that she hadn’t broken a confidence.
Cordelia seemed to shrug it off. Instead of being angry that Buffy knew about the brotherly lecture, she just seemed confused. In fact, that was exactly what Buffy heard her admit seconds later. “I’m still confused about this vampire possession business. It’s weird, dontcha think?”
“The vampire what?” A muddled look accompanied the query.
“Uh.” Cordelia wondered vaguely why the Slayer would be confused about anything to do with vampires. Surely Giles kept her up to speed on vampy stuff. “How much did Angel tell you?”
With a shrug, Buffy summarized the discussion, “Just that Angelus asked his opinion about dating you. That he told Angelus to forget about it, but decided you two would probably do what you wanted to do. Angel felt that he needed to talk to you about his concerns.”
When Cordelia’s sarcastic little sound turned into a series of soft giggles, Buffy was a little put out. “What?”
“Angelus didn’t ask for an opinion, Buffy. He asked for permission.” Since this was a real heart-to-heart conversation with the goal of settling the score between them, she saw no reason not to make certain that Buffy knew about the formal hand-off that had taken place.
Without the details about Angel kissing her, of course. Otherwise there’d definitely be a cat fight and Cordelia wasn’t stupid enough to hope she stood a chance against the Slayer in a physical scrap.
Listening to Cordelia’s explanation, Buffy was stunned, just totally shocked at the idea that Angel had lied to her about the brunette. While she wondered if this was not another attempt at protecting Cordelia by masking the whole truth, Buffy didn’t understand why she was included in the lie.
“So in vamp terms, the whole Scooby Gang technically belongs to Angel?”
Cordelia nodded, “Minus me.”
“Weird. I usually leave the reading and research up to Giles. It never occurred to me that Angel could be so…possessive about people,” Buffy admitted suddenly thinking about Angel in terms she never had before.
“He’s a vampire,” Cordy gave a shrug. “It’s what they do.”
Buffy squirmed at the use of the term vampire when referring to Angel. “I-I hardly ever think of Angel that way. As a vampire.”
“How else would you think of him? Hard to hide the fangs and the blood drinking.” Once Cordelia had discovered the truth, she had never thought about Angel in any other way.
The words came out as a near confession for Buffy as she lifted her gaze from the green grass to the hazel pools of Cordelia’s questioning eyes. “After I found out the truth, Angel…he doesn’t often vamp out. Even in a fight unless it’s some major battle. I don’t really think about it…mostly. Except during the day when he’s not around.”
Cordelia attempted to perk her up. “A girl has to have a little time to herself now and then. Unless you find other ways to occupy yourselves indoors.”
Rolling her eyes, “Oh, please! You can’t tell me that you don’t want to jump Angel’s bones every time you see him.”
Blushing, Buffy felt the fire light her cheeks aflame. “Mostly…I do.”
“That’s what I thought.” Laughing heartily, Cordelia’s eyes twinkled in complete understanding.
“I just wanted to say that whatever you feel for Angelus…I’m sure it’s real for you. My own feelings about Angelus just got in the way and thinking about you two as a couple…I get the wiggins just thinking about it.”
“Get over it, Buff,” she suggested with a laugh not even realizing that she used Angelus’ name for the Slayer. Buffy noticed and was a little taken aback by the subconscious way Cordelia had connected with the vampire’s habits. “Wiggins will give you wrinkles.”
A burst of unexpected laughter sounded from Buffy’s throat. “Guess I’ll have to.”
Cordelia shared the fact that it seemed like her relationship with Angelus was a lot longer than it was in reality. “It has only been a couple of days. It’s new to me too.”
“You love him?” Buffy asked somehow knowing the answer. Considering the way that Cordelia had come to his defense yesterday, it was kind of obvious.
Sighing dreamily, Cordelia had to agree. “Yeah,” she freely admitted.
“Me too. Except…I mean Angel.”
“Duh! Forbidden love and all.”
Confused, Buffy had to ask, “What do you mean?”
“Oh. Just something Xander and I talked about. You being a Slayer and him being a vampire. Opposites attracting.” Cordelia waved it off as old news. “Then there was the whole curse thing…not being able to be together. Willow and I—”
Buffy cut her off, “Is there anyone you haven’t talked to about my love life?”
Thinking hard, “No.”
Looking horrified at the thought, Buffy gasped, “Giles? You’ve talked to Giles about Angel and me?”
Snorting lightly, Cordelia revealed, “Everyone talked to Giles about Angel and you.”
“Might as well have written an article for the Sunnydale Gazette,” Buffy looked a bit dazed at the thought. “Slayer Loses Virginity to Vampire. Angelus Returns.”
Cordelia was snickering uncontrollably. She didn’t want to laugh, but the way Buffy talked about it was so funny considering all of the angst she went through afterward.
“It was embarrassing,” Buffy complained. “So was yesterday. Kissing Angelus that way. I-I can’t tell them apart. How do you do it?”
More seriously, Cordelia swallowed her laughter and gave a shrug. “I don’t know. Ever since they walked into the library together that first time, I just know. Seems obvious to me. Maybe it’s your Slayer senses getting in the way.”
“Maybe.” Disappointed that Cordelia couldn’t give her any hints, Buffy sighed.
Thinking about that first day, Cordelia remembered that Angel had a conversation with Giles that she never found out about. “Did Giles ever tell you what Angel said to him that day?”
Buffy wasn’t even aware there had been a conversation. Although that might explain why Angel hadn’t been in the main part of the library when Angelus tricked her. “No. Why?”
Thinking about it, Cordelia commented, “Giles has just been preoccupied for the last month. Doing research we’re not involved in.”
The Slayer wondered, Since when does Cor notice stuff about MY Watcher? “He’s still mourning Ms. Calendar. Angelus’ return brought it all back to him again.”
“No,” Cordelia knew Giles’ moods. “This isn’t Jenny-depression. It’s something else. I think Angel told him something about this deal with the Fates that has Giles really worried.”
“Angel told me that it could be dangerous,” Buffy remembered. “Deadly, in fact, but I thought that he was just talking about the split itself.”
“Deadly!” The word threw her for a loop. “We have some questions to ask.”
“Slyly of course,” Buffy figured it was the only way to get the information.
Cordelia returned firmly, “No. I’m gonna walk back in there and ask them.”
Countering her, Buffy suggested, “Let me talk to Giles first. Then we can interrogate Angel and Angelus.”
Confused at the reason for subterfuge, Cordelia asked, “Why wait?”
“Angel isn’t going to give up any information if he doesn’t want too. As for Angelus…I doubt that he would want to say anything that might worry you. He seems very protective.”
Smiling suddenly at the thought, Cordelia gave in and changed the subject. “I love Angelus and he does deserve a chance, Buffy. He and Angel struggle with each other because they’re like two opposites…different parts of the same person. We need to help them get along.”
Buffy realized that she hadn’t thought about the fact that Angel and Angelus might have a hard time living with each other. She had been focused more on herself and her own contrary feelings.
With growing enthusiasm, Cordelia continued. “Wouldn’t it be great if they did learn to treat each other like brothers instead of rivals or enemies?”
“This whole family idea is weird. I can’t get used to the idea that Angel and Angelus are two separate beings…even after nearly two months.”
As Buffy said that she admitted to herself that she had always thought of them as separate beings. It helped her to differentiate what Angelus had said and done. Having them here in physical form at the same time merely cemented that thought in her head, but it was still disconcerting. “Maybe they are like brothers, but Angel’s comment about us being part of the family sounded strange.”
Cordelia was confused at why Buffy made it sound like a bad thing. “It just means that you’re special to him. That we’re both important. I don’t know all the vampire rules about what makes a family. Just accept it, Buffy.”
“Maybe it’s stupid, but I get the wiggins just thinking about it.”
“Wrinkles,” Cordelia sing-songed the word. “You just need to get comfortable with the idea that you’re dating a vampire. Except that you and Angel don’t really date. You just show up for mutual post-Slayage groping sessions.”
Shrugging off the protest, Cordelia stared back. “No offense. Just stating the facts.”
Buffy muttered under her breath realizing that she couldn’t really deny the fact. It seemed that Cordelia was more observant than she had given the cheerleader credit for.
“You had a great idea yesterday, although I think you were being sarcastic at the time,” Cordelia put forth suggestively as she stood with her hands behind her back, her head tilted and a winning smile on her face.
Silently wondering if that was the manipulative look Cordelia gave her father when asking for his credit card, Buffy realized the girl was serious. Recognizing exactly what Cordelia was suggesting, Buffy gave her a pleading look. “No…we can’t do that.”
“Double dates? Sure we can. Just think of them as bonding moments,” suggested Cordelia with a smile, her tongue peeking out between her teeth.
Putting her arm around Buffy’s shoulder, she was so into the ideas popping into her head that she missed the look of discomfort that appeared as a result of the friendly move. “You and Angel get a little romance in your otherwise dreary existence while Angelus and I have lots of fun. Somewhere along the way, you and Angelus can learn to tolerate each other.”
“Bonding moments,” Buffy muttered somewhat unenthusiastically. “Great.”