18: Scooby Bonding

DoN_500


Chapter 18: Scooby Bonding

Angel sank down into the leather chair staring at Cordelia’s determined face with intense dismay. “Do we have to do this?”

“Geez! You’d think you were being asked to walk a tightrope over a pit of stakes.” Cordelia rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and then answered his question. “Yes, we’re going to do this. It’s mandatory Scooby bonding.”

Honestly, the thought was not pleasant. “Don’t we bond enough already?”

“Pfft! That’s all about demon research, patrols and slaying. This is about having a little fun.”

“We had fun at the football game yesterday,” reminded the vampire. “I think that was enough for one weekend.”

The football game had not really been Angel’s cup of tea, though that surprised her. Angelus’ vehement enjoyment of the game showed up even during his attendance with her at the Razorback’s victory party. Only the upset over the Palmdale fan’s suggestive comments cast a dark shadow over the experience. Angel had quickly volunteered to patrol with Buffy in order to escape the party scene.

The vampire brooded darkly, stubbornly crossing his arms over his chest. “What if I don’t want more fun?”

Laughing at him, Cordelia playfully stuck out her tongue, “Too bad. You’re gonna get it if I have to tie you to that chair.”

From his position in the doorway, Angelus chuckled in response. Suggesting, “Don’t give him ideas, babe. He has enough of his own already.”

Angel’s eyes darted to the other vampire realizing there was a double meaning to his words. Their gazes locked and held for some moments of silence until Cordelia broke through with a protest. Facing Angelus, she let out a sigh of discontent.

“Your brother is a stuffy old muggly-wuggly,” Cordelia threw her hands in the air in a gesture of frustration. “When he’s not brooding about something, he’s planning to brood about it.”

Glowering, Angel countered defensively, “Do not.”

“Yes you do,” Cordy fisted her hands on her hips taking a firm stance.

“I am not stuffy.”

To that, she gave a droll comeback, “Like the air in a musty old coffin.”

Offended, a hurt puppy-dog expression appeared on Angel’s handsome face. Cordelia was not going to let it get to her. “Don’t give me that look, Mr. Distance. You’ve been avoiding me all morning. Afraid I might force you to have fun?”

“I’d like to see you try,” Angel answered and instantly regretted the sensual twist to his challenging tone.

Angel exchanged another look with Angelus, this time thinking they were probably overdue for a talk. It was true that Angel had purposefully avoided Cordelia this morning. First by taking his time getting out of bed and then spending time in the training room where she had yet to venture. By default, avoiding Cordy also meant that he had not found time to confront Angelus alone, although Angel was a little surprised that the vampire had not barged into his room last night demanding an explanation for disturbing them.

“Depends on the fun,” Angelus smirked as he observed the exchange between them both.

Pointing out the obvious, Cordy explained, “This fun involves movie marathons and watching Xander when he’s on a sugar high.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun,” Angel grumbled, his thoughts returning to the long day ahead. “It sounds painful.”

Sitting down on the padded arm of the leather chair, Cordelia patted his shoulder in false commiseration. “It’ll give you more to brood about later. Besides, this wasn’t my idea. Buffy gets all the credit. Your girlfriend personally picked hours of torture just for you.”

“A little Tai Chi might be in order.” Angelus tried to put on a serious face, but failed to hide the twinkle in his dark eyes. “Prepare for the torture to come.”

“Good idea,” Angel was all seriousness, figuring that it couldn’t hurt.

“You have five minutes,” Cordelia told him as she glanced at her watch. Almost on cue, the doorbell rang. With a sympathetic shrug, she corrected herself, “Make that five seconds.”

Rising from her perch, Cordelia headed for the foyer. Buffy, Willow and Xander were all arriving together. As usual on a weekend day, Oz was on the road with Dingoes Ate My Baby.

“You don’t need to ring the doorbell, Willow. I’m shocked it still works,” Buffy let out a surprised laugh as she opened the door.

Willow pointed out that was a rather rude thing to do. “I wouldn’t just walk into your house without knocking or ringing the doorbell.”

Snarking at the idea, Xander took Buffy’s point of view. “They’re vamps, Will.”

“So?” Willow didn’t think that automatically provided a license to be rude. “Besides, Cor lives here too…part of the time.”

Xander wasn’t happy with that reminder and quickly changed the subject. “This place is a lot less spooky than I imagined.”

“Hey, guys!” Cordelia called out to them as she emerged from the living room.

Her ex-boyfriend grinned widely upon seeing her and hugged her close with his free arm. “Cor! I brought supplies.”

He held up two plastic shopping bags full of goodies. Playing hostess, Cordelia asked him, “Anything for the fridge?

“Just the Yoohoo.”

Cordelia held out a hand. “I’ll take it. Put the rest in the living room over there.”

“Hiya, Cor. Where are…oh!” Willow started to inquire after the two vampires, but they appeared suddenly with their usual stealthy steps. “Hi, you two.”

“Hello, Willow,” greeted Angel with a small upward curve of his lips. Then he moved past her toward Buffy. Vampire and Slayer merely stood together in silence staring at each other.

Willow thought for a moment that there was a conversation going on between them. It just didn’t involve words. Seeing the two of them, she wished that Oz was here. It was hard to do coupley things without the other half of the couple. Having Xander as a substitute merely brought back thoughts she had already put past her.

Noticing the silent exchange, Cordelia read a little more into it than Willow. There was an obvious undercurrent between Buffy and Angel. One that suggested their get together after patrol last night had not been completely satisfactory. Since Cordy was tired after their come-from-behind victory over the Fighting Falcons and the after-party, she and Angelus had skipped out on joining them for late-night patrol activities and come straight home to the mansion. She had no idea when Angel finally arrived home last night or if it was just before dawn this morning.

“What’s in the bag, Willow?” Angelus inquired stepping up to the redhead.

Gasping at the sudden attention, Willow found that she couldn’t move under that piercing gaze. Since Buffy was staring into the other vampire’s eyes and vice versa, that was almost certain to be Angel, meaning the twin who was talking to her had to be the soulless version. A powerful wave of irrational fear zinged through Willow’s body, an automatic response to his closeness.

“A-Angelus?”

The vampire nodded, immediately realizing that Willow Rosenberg was afraid of him. Still. After two months. Though he hadn’t done anything to encourage her fear, neither had Angelus done anything to assuage it. Until now, he hoped.

Willow pulled out a small rounded glass bowl from the plastic bag. “I brought it like you said.”

“Good,” Angelus noted it with satisfaction. Reaching out, the vampire grabbed the bowl with one hand and wrapped the other around Willow’s delicate wrist.

“Hey!” Xander protested the move, but was ignored by Angelus.

Uncertain what was happening as Angelus suddenly started to pull her down the hall, Willow stammered, “C-Cor?”

Glancing over her shoulder, Cordelia calmly commented, “Be there in a sec, Willow. I have to stop in the kitchen.”

“Eep!”

Buffy frowned at the sight of her friend being physically dragged toward another area of the mansion. Asking Angel in a demanding tone, “Where is he taking her?”

“The living room.”

“Oh.”

Sending her a questioning glance, Angel had to ask, “Where did you think— the bedroom or our resident torture chamber?”

“There’s a difference?” quipped Xander.

Glaring at the boy, Angel realized that he had not yet acknowledged his presence in his home. With a cool stare, the vampire met his gaze. “Xander.”

“Angel,” responded Xander as he swallowed down the lump in his throat. Was it just his imagination or did the vampire seem different today? There was an undercurrent to his tone, even with that one word, that sounded almost dangerous.

Buffy didn’t notice any difference, but then she was focused on where Angelus had taken Willow. She was already halfway down the hallway before Xander and Angel started to follow. Entering the room, Buffy stopped short as she realized it had undergone a complete transformation since the last time she was there. Obviously, Cordelia had been on a shop-til-you-drop redecorating rampage.

The large room was divided into two functional parts. The right side held a pool table and a dartboard. A comfortable couch divided the two halves. On the other side, a wall-to-wall entertainment center was hooked up including a large-screen television, VCR and stereo. A large leather chair was angled near the empty fireplace and next to it was a huge fish tank.

It was this that had drawn Willow’s attention. Dozens of brightly colored fish darted around in the clear water.

“Take your pick Willow,” Angelus was telling her. “To replace the ones I…you know.”

Staring up at the vampire, Willow could hardly believe the offer. Tears stung her eyes at the memory of finding her little fish strung up knowing that evil Angelus had been in her bedroom to accomplish the deed. Now he freely made a peace offering.

At her lack of response, Angelus frowned worriedly. He’d been certain this would be the right move to reach the little witch. Cordelia didn’t like the fact that Willow was still afraid of him and frankly, Angelus was tired of the instant fear that lit her face whenever he walked in the door. The time where he would have gloated over the fact and played on that fear was over. He’d save it for someone more amusing, like Xander.

“It was this or a mummified hand down at the magic shop,” Angelus joked adding the most. “I took a chance.”

Willow felt a rush of warmth flush her skin. “Fish are good. I like fish. Obviously, since I had some. Which you killed and I haven’t wanted any since. Until right now. C-Cordelia was right…you can be really sweet when you want to be.”

At the conclusion of her babbling session, Willow closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around his waist, hugging tightly. Angelus stared down at her with a panicked look on his face. He wasn’t certain what to do. The evil vampire had never been in a situation that involved spontaneous hugging, except from Cordelia.

Angelus put the glass bowl down on the top of the fish tank and gave Willow a quick hug. The brief squeeze was noted with amusement by Cordelia as she entered the room. “Hands off, girl,” she joked. “That’s my manpire. Stick to your werewolf and we won’t have to wrestle on the floor like the Tweedles do.”

Instantly letting go, Willow stood red-faced as if she had done something wrong despite the fact that she realized Cordelia was joking.

Rolling her eyes, Buffy commented, “I thought you weren’t going to call them that in public.”

“Geez! This isn’t public.” Cordy looked around the room. “It’s just us. Besides, it’s too fun to resist.”

Angelus narrowed his gaze at Cordelia with predatory precision. “I’ll show you what Tweedles do.”

Suddenly, the vampire let out a short playful growl and began to chase Cordelia around the couch. Shrieking, Cordy called out for help as she went along barely avoiding capture as she darted around the stock-still occupants of the room. They looked on with a measure of amusement and shock.

“No you won’t.” Cordelia hid behind Xander, peeking out over his shoulder.

The vampire glared hostilely at the boy. Coming between a vampire and his mate was a dangerous thing even during a spontaneous game. Demanding with a serious tone that belied the fun of the chase, he snarled, “Move out of the way.”

While diving for the couch, Xander called out, “Sorry, Cor.”

Having seen what was coming, Cordelia had already abandoned Xander for the next person over. “Buffy?”

“You got yourself into this,” Buffy pointed out with a bored sigh as she started to look through the stack of movies piled up on the coffee table.

Another shriek sounded as Cordelia felt Angelus’ fingertips brush against her hip as she rounded the couch. She was still looking behind her when her path carried her directly into Angel connecting hard with his steely torso. “Oof!”

Catching her, the vampire held her against him for an instant to prevent her from falling. Soft laughter welled from his chest as Angel asked, “Problems?”

Gasping, Cordelia pointed her thumb over her shoulder. “There’s a maniacal Tweedle right behind me.”

Angel glanced up to where his double was now leaning against the back of the couch waiting to see which way this little game was going to go. “Lost something?”

“Brunette. About yea tall,” Angelus described using his hands to mold the air. “Curvy in all the right places.”

“I think that’s you, sweetheart.” Angel’s dark eyes sparkled with amusement.

“Traitor,” Cordy returned a mock glare as Angel handed her over to his brother.

Angelus curled his fingers around her waist pulling her close. “C’mere you.”

Placing her arms around his neck, Cordy grinned at his ability to be a little silly in front of her friends. Now if only she could get Angel to loosen up a bit. As the fingers of one hand teased the outer shell of Angelus’ ear, she gave him a challenging look. “Tell me again, Bad Boy. What do Tweedles do?”

The vampire’s response was not a verbal one. Xander watched in fascination and horror as Angelus kissed Cordelia. Though he had to give the vampire credit for the technique that appeared to have Cordy melting in his arms, Xander couldn’t deny the wave of jealousy that hit him at the same time as the observation.

“Ugh!” Xander tossed a couch pillow at their heads, “Let’s start the movie.”

“I wanna pick out my fish.” Willow told Xander he was being impatient. She pushed the leather chair over so she could stand on its arm to get to the top of the tank. Taking off her shoes, she climbed up, grabbed the scoop and started to fill her glass bowl with water. Then using the net started to select the colorful fish. “I think I’ll call them the Scoobies. There will be one named after each of us.”

Xander snorted, “Got any Angelfish in there?”

Not even hearing Xander in her excitement, Willow let out a little gasp and turned to face Angelus. “Can I have that many? Maybe I’m being greedy.”

“Take as many as you want, Will.” Angelus told her with a grin. “They’re for you.”

Willow trailed the small net after one particularly colorful fish. Lifting the net, it passed close under her face as she tried to maneuver it toward the fishbowl. The fish suddenly leapt out of the net diving back toward the tank only to hit Willow on the nose with its tiny tail.

She spluttered at the accompanying splash of water. “Gah! Get back here, you pretty fish. Think you can escape? Do what you want? Hey…I think I’ll call you Cordelia.”

“At least it’s the pretty one,” Cordelia mumbled when the others started laughing. “I’ve wanted to slap you in the face a time or two, Willow, but I never thought it would be with a wet fish.”

Getting organized, the movie marathon finally began. Willow curled up in the large leather chair. On the floor, Xander had sprawled out on the floor on a pile of throw pillows; small bowls of snack food in a convenient semi-circle in front of him. Buffy, Angel, Cordelia and Angelus were lined up on the long couch.

The first movie was Xander’s choice, a mindless comedy that was almost as funny as it was crude. Cordelia had seen it once before and found Angelus far more distracting than the dialog. The vampire seemed to enjoy the humor and found himself laughing in some of the same parts as Xander. That was disconcerting to everyone at first.

Cordelia’s bare toes rubbed along the side of Angelus’ foot. She’d convinced him to get comfortable by taking off his shoes. Now she was starting in on his socks playing footsie with Angelus during the movie. He kept trying to concentrate on the show, but quickly found Cordelia too persistent to ignore.

Noticing the footsie game, Buffy let out a groan of complaint. Remembering that she thought it impossible for Angelus and Cordelia to cause trouble away from the public eye, the blond figured location didn’t matter to those two. Mumbling, Buffy pointed toward the television, “We’re supposed to be watching the movie. Or will you two be heading off for some fun like you did at the theater?”

“Buffy,” censured Angel as he sent her an angry stare of disbelief. Was she ever going to drop the subject? Now she was starting to sound like a petulant child and Angel was getting more annoyed than ever.

Cordelia dropped both feet to the carpeted floor, her face flushing at the surprising accusatory tone in Buffy’s voice. A glance at Angelus showed a smirk on his face as if he found the Slayer’s discomfort amusing. Now Willow was staring at her with a look of complete shock on her little pixie face, obviously working her imagination hard to come up with the scenario Buffy described. As for Xander…he didn’t even bother to turn around to face her.

“It was fun,” Cordelia confirmed, staring Buffy in the eye as she rose from the couch.

Xander finally glanced over his shoulder connecting dots he didn’t want connected. There had obviously been some major gropage in the theater the other night. That is, assuming they stopped at just groping. After the Tweedle game earlier, he wasn’t certain what to think. Xander figured Angelus was capable of just about anything at this point.

The vamp seemed to have a sense of humor— unlike tall, dark and broody. Angelus obviously felt protective of Cordelia considering the way he attempted to kill the Palmdale fan at the game. Maybe she was right. Maybe Angelus wasn’t quite so bad— for a vampire. Still, Xander felt a bit jealous. Angel had Buffy. Angelus had Cordelia. Oz had Willow. All his girls were claimed by other guys and maybe they were just his friends now, but Xander couldn’t help but feel a little left out.

Sounded to him like Buffy was feeling left out of something. Xander eyed Angel from the edge of his peripheral vision. The Slayer’s mood swings usually had something to do with the souled vamp. He made a mental note to get nosey.

“Anyone want something from the kitchen?” Cordelia asked the group, interrupting Xander’s plotting. Hands went up and Cordelia informed them she would be back with lunch.

“Does that mean she’s cooking?” Willow asked nervously as soon as Cordelia was out of the room.

Angelus sounded serious as he said, “Whatever it is, you’ll eat it all.”

“Eep! Okay.”

“Cordelia opens things,” Xander commented. “She’s chips and dip girl, not Julia Childe or Betty Crocker. How about ordering pizza?”

Glaring at Xander, the soulless vampire repeated himself, “You’ll eat what she brings you. Now shut up. I’m watching the movie.”

Willow glanced up at her fish, reminding herself that Angelus could be sweet when he wanted to be. It was just more of a challenge for a vampire to be sweet more than once on the same day, she reasoned.

Buffy sat cross-armed and staring at the television. She felt Angel’s piercing gaze upon her. Then the couch cushions shifted and Buffy found the vampire now blocking her view. “I’m going to help Cordy.”

A snort of laughter sounded from Xander. He didn’t know what was funnier: the idea of Cordelia cooking or a vampire whose idea of lunch was more along the lines of Cordelia herself helping her to do it. At Angel’s piercing gaze, Xander swallowed his laughter, deciding he better concentrate on the movie.


Cordelia had the refrigerator door open, pulling out items from the shelves and filling her arms up so she’d only have to make one trip to the counter. Straightening, she turned around only to hear Angel’s voice right beside her. “I’ll help you with that.”

“Eyaaah!” Letting out a surprised cry, Cordy dropped the jar of Miracle Whip that had been precariously resting on top of the other items. Angel’s superhuman reflexes saved the jar from hitting the floor. “Geez, Angel. Will you please hum a tune as you enter the room to give me a little warning?”

Angel badly hummed a few bars of a song Cordelia thought she recognized. “Is that supposed to be Barry Manilow? On second thought… buy some squeaky shoes.”

Putting the jar down, Angel proceeded to take the other things out of her arms and lay them on the countertop. “I’m sorry if Buffy upset you.”

Cordelia didn’t think it was so obvious. Did Angel think she was going to stay mad at his girlfriend just because she lacked any imagination whatsoever? Was it against the law to think Buffy needed to stop pretending to be such a prude, especially when she conducted her own chandelier-shaking events? Angel was playing peacemaker again and Cordy found that more irritating than the Slayer.

“Pfft! Upset me about what?”

“You know what.” The undercurrent in Angel’s voice stressed that he didn’t want any games between them. “Buffy is still riled up about you and Angelus having sex at the theater.”

“I never admitted that.” Cordelia ignored the fact that she might not have used the word sex when saying she had fun at the theater, but her meaning had been all too clear. Grabbing the loaf of bread from the counter, Cordelia twisted the yellow tie in one direction and then the other, so distracted that she couldn’t focus on properly unwinding it.

“Give me that.” Angel took the bread, calmly untwisted the tie and then set the opened loaf on the counter.

Cordelia grabbed the nearest pack of luncheon meat while complaining, “Buffy just took a wild guess and now she won’t shut up about it.”

“Her instincts are often on-target. Remember who you’re talking to, Cordelia.” Waiting until she glanced up at him, Angel revealed, “Even if I hadn’t been there to witness the warm up, I know what followed. My own senses confirmed it.”

He watched as the blood rushed through the capillaries of her throat and down to the hint of cleavage showing at the vee of her shirt. Angel resisted the urge to trail his finger down to those shadowed curves.

Turning slightly so that she faced him, Cordelia put one hand on her hip while the other gripped the countertop. Almost defiantly, she told him, “I meant what I said to Buffy. I did have fun. Maybe it was naughty and a little dangerous, but Angel it was so…so…”

“Good?” Angel didn’t doubt it.

“Mmm.”

It must’ve been, because Angel could tell that the memory alone was arousing her. “It’s none of Buffy’s business what you two do. We agreed not to nose into each other’s affairs.”

Cordelia realized suddenly that Angel was not here to defend Buffy from her possible anger. He was taking her side in this? “Buffy might like to think I’m a slut, but I’m not.”

The fact that Cordelia used the same description Buffy had come up with in her non-description of the brunette angered him. Angel felt a protective surge and didn’t care that Cordelia belonged to Angelus at that moment. He had to make certain she knew he didn’t think of her that way.

“You’re no slut, sweetheart, and I’ve known a few,” Angel watched her roll her eyes at that comment.

“Liam really was a perv, wasn’t he?” Cordelia had been told about his pre-vampire days as a carousing, wenching tavern patron.

Angel’s mouth twisted into a wry smirk. “I was referring to Darla for the most part.”

“Oops.” She knew that Angel didn’t like to talk about his sire.

Curling his fingers around the nape of her neck, Angel brushed his thumb along the curve of her jaw. “Don’t be afraid or ashamed of what happened between you and Angelus. Being spontaneous and adventurous in your lovemaking is exactly what he’d want. You’re beautiful and sensual and everything a vampire could want in a human mate.”

Momentarily speechless, Cordelia could only stare up at him, her breath catching in her throat.

“Angelus is lucky to have you,” the vampire added with complete sincerity despite the hidden layer of jealousy coating his words.

“I am Cordelia Chase. What’d you expect?” Smiling brilliantly, she threw her arms around the vampire spontaneously kissing him on the cheek. “Angel, you are so sweet to check up on me and give me a pep talk. Just like a big brother, not that I’ve ever had one.”

Reeling at the touch of her warm lips on his cheek and her luscious curves pressed against him, Angel suddenly felt punch-drunk. A slow stirring heat curled up inside making his loins ache. His hands hovered close, but did not encroach upon her curves until Cordelia added, “Sometimes, I imagine Angelus and you being more like my family than my real one.”

Angel held her to him gently, “Cordy, imaginings have nothing to do with it. You are officially part of this family. Part of my family— the Order of Aurelius.”

“The vampire clan,” she recognized the name from Giles ramblings. “How am I a part of that, don’t you have to have fangs to be a member?”

“You have Angelus’ mark.”

Unwinding her arms, Cordelia stepped back to lean against the countertop unaware that Angel only reluctantly let her go. Confused at the reference he made to a mark, she slowly admitted, “Angelus doesn’t bite me.”

“But he wants to,” Angel countered veering off-subject as her words conjured up images of fangs settling over Cordelia’s smooth throat.

“Duh! Hello, vampire.” Cordelia had no doubts that Angelus wanted to bite. There were times when that was quite apparent, usually at the moment of climax. They tried it once, but the Fate’s little safety clause had kicked in. Talk about a frustrating night.

Angel reached up again touching Cordelia’s neck with the cool tips of his fingers. He wondered aloud, “How can he stand it? Being so close and not tasting what’s his?”

“We tried,” Cordelia found herself comfortable enough to share that with him despite the fact that his hand was on her throat. Staring up at Angel’s mouth, she imagined him shifting into game face and baring those fangs. The thought made her tingle.

Angel caught the telltale signs of her arousal. Those tempting nipples called for his attention, begging to be tweaked. Her scent filled his nostrils with its heady perfume. The vampire’s voice dropped an octave as he asked, “You want to be bitten?”

“Angelus wanted it,” Cordelia told him as if that was the only important thing. Then she added, “I guess I’m curious. I know he wouldn’t hurt me more than necessary.”

Jealousy ate at him with every word spoken. “Do you have any idea how unique you are?”

There was a marked intensity to Angel’s words that startled her, but Cordelia latched on to an idea and her curiosity took over. Once the thought was in her head, it came pouring forth in the form of a question. “Do you bite Buffy?”

“No.” The answer came hard and fast.

Assuming that was another Slayer thing, Cordelia wasn’t totally surprised, but her curiosity didn’t end there. Even though a dark cloud shrouded Angel’s eyes in a mist of deep thought, she asked quietly, “Do you want to bite her?”

Only when we argue. During sex? “No.”

Cordelia was a little surprised. Though there were no obvious signs of biting, Cordy knew that the neck was only one of many locations vampires favored. Angelus had given her a detailed account while substituting kisses for bites.

Flipping back to Angel’s original comments, “So if it’s not a vampire bite, what mark are you talking about? Oh— my tattoo,” she realized before he had a chance to answer.

Angel confirmed her conclusion with a nod.

“How’d you know about it?”

“I caught a glimpse of it,” he admitted.

“When?” Cordelia tried to think about how it was possible for Angel to see that area of her body without her knowing about it.

Seeing her perplexed expression, Angel cleared things up for her, “Movie theater.”

Instead of grumbling that the theater had been brought up again, Cordelia decided to focus on the tattoo. “Isn’t it fabulous?”

Should he admit that night vision allowed close inspection in the darkened theater? “I’ve only seen it in the dark.”

Turning to bend over the counter, Cordelia glanced over her shoulder. “Take a look. Angelus drew a picture of it for the guy in the tattoo parlor.”

It took Angel a moment to get over the fact that Cordelia had turned her pert bottom in his direction. She obviously had no clue about the tempting picture she presented, especially in allowing him to put his hands on her. Her shirt was riding up a bit and he could already see a glimpse of the sun tattoo rising above the waistband of her pants.

One hand left the curve of her hip to raise Cordelia’s shirt a little higher on her waist. “Hold it there,” he sounded distracted.

Angel’s hand dropped to curl a finger into the waistband tugging down just a tad too far. Accidentally taking the elastic band of her panties with it, the move was enough to see the shadowed cleft of her buttocks. Lifting his free hand, Angel circled his thumb over the tattoo eliciting a throaty cry from Cordelia as her hips jerked in automatic response to his unexpected touch. The sudden move brought her into temporary contact with his groin, causing Angel to bite back a moan.

“It’s permanent,” Cordelia commented noting only that he seemed to be trying to find out if it would rub off.

“More permanent than you know,” Angel quickly removed his hands after putting her clothes in order.

Cordelia straightened up and turned to face him, still only inches apart. “Stop it with the cryptic, Angel.”

“Think of that tattoo as part of the family crest,” he explained. “Angelus marked you with a sign of the Order of Aurelius.”

“A sun is part of a vampire crest?” Cordelia sent him an odd look though it seemed that she was neither surprised by the fact the tattoo meant something, nor it having to do with Angelus himself. “Moons and stars seem more appropriate.”

Angel felt a twinge of admiration at her open-mindedness. The Scoobies would freak out if they suspected what that tattoo represented. “The sun is a powerful sign to a vampire. There are legends and prophesies about daywalkers in our lineage, but I’ve never seen one.”

“So the sun sign…,” Cordelia started to ask another question, but was caught up by the memory of something Angel said before. “Wait a second. Earlier…you said that I was everything Angelus could want in a mate. Did you mean girlfriend and lover kind of mate or something else?”

“Marking you with that sign officially makes you one of us despite your humanity.” Angel told her. “Being a vampire’s mate means far more than sharing a bed. In addition to offering you protection, the claim gives you authority over the minions of the order…if there were any.”

“Officially,” Cordelia repeated the word as though a heavy hand strangled her throat.

Angel realized that he might have said too much. “Don’t look so scared.” Maybe he’d been too quick in thinking the Scoobies were going to be the only ones freaking out over this.

Cordelia held a hand to her stomach, suddenly feeling queasy over the fact that she had not been told about this by Angelus prior to the tattooing. “I can’t help it, Angel. It’s like I just found out that I’m married, but didn’t know it.”

“I told you there were things to learn and adjustments to make,” Angel pointed out to her. “The moment you agreed to accept that mark, it sealed the bargain between you in Angelus’ eyes. I warned you that he would never let you go.”

“Not that I’m going anywhere, but there’s a huge difference between being just a girlfriend and a mate,” Cordelia countered, her hazel eyes wide as she stared up at the vampire.

Angel watched silently allowing her thoughts to settle. He realized Cordy looked more surprised than opposed to the idea. Then she threw him for a loop asking, “When was Angelus gonna tell me about this?”

All he could do was shrug.

“I’m thinking I hafta kick vampire butt tonight,” Cordelia joked. There had to be a reason Angelus didn’t tell her about the meaning behind the sun sign. She’d ask him about it after the Scoobies left. “So…uh, this means you really are my brother.”

Angel decided to squash that line of thinking right away. “As the leader of the Order, it means I’m your master.”

Rolling her eyes at the hilarity of the idea, Cordelia responded with laughter. “Pfft! Like you could ever master me.”

That sounded almost like a challenge. A low rumble sounded from his throat at her comeback causing Cordelia to raise an eyebrow at its ineffectualness. “Is that a growl? That won’t work. The intimidation factor doesn’t work on someone who knows you’re really just a cuddly Care Bear with fangs.”

The rumble continued despite Cordelia’s response. In fact, the snarl changed pitch and seemed to surround her. Coming at her like a sonic wave, the throaty growl felt like a caress across her skin. She tingled in response, feeling a little breathless at the sensation.

“You think I’m trying to scare you, sweetheart?” Angel stepped infinitesimally closer moving his hand around her hips to rest atop her clothing just over the location of her tattoo. “What if I told you this mark also made you mine?”

After a long pause, Cordelia managed to convince herself that Angel had to be joking. She actually started laughing at him. “C’mon! Like I’m supposed to believe that? Vampires don’t share. Possessive, remember? This from the vamp who won’t even let Angelus borrow the Plymouth.”

Angel’s mind kept going back to last night when he found her asleep in Angelus’ arms. It was obvious to him even through his frustration, lust and Cordelia-obsessed mind that while he may have found a loophole to his agreement with Angelus, trying to act upon his feelings would be the wrong thing to do. Even now, with his arm around her, Angel acknowledged that he had no business touching Cordelia, but he couldn’t seem to move away.

“Believe what you want, Cordy,” Angel’s eyes smoldered with dark fire.

“Pfft! And you call me a tease.” Cordelia slapped playfully at the hard muscle of his chest. “Just for that you get to help me with the sandwiches.”

Realizing that Cordy no longer wanted to talk about it, Angel decided to drop the subject. For now. Glancing down at the items she had carted from the refrigerator, he asked, “You do sandwiches? What do you put on them— Tabasco-flavored Miracle Whip?”

Cordelia grumbled jovially, “You are never going to let me forget that are you?”

“No.” Angel smiled as the tension left her shoulders and suddenly he was laughing over the incident.

Together, they made the sandwiches and piled them up on a platter. While Angel carried it in to the living room, Cordelia stayed behind to prepare some blood for the two vampires. They deserved a mid-marathon snack too. As the microwave beeped, she found herself staring at the spice rack in contemplation.

“Here you go, vamps.” Cordelia walked up behind the couch where Angelus was still lounging with his feet up on the coffee table laughing at the scene in the movie.

“Thanks, baby,” Angelus winked at her. Taking a sip, he commented, “Mmm. Just the way I like it— considering that it’s still pig’s blood.”

Xander looked sick to his stomach and dropped his half-eaten sandwich onto his plate. “Gack! I think just I lost my appetite.”

“Rude, much?” Cordelia gaped at her ex-boyfriend. “The vamps need to eat, too, Xander. Think they don’t gag seeing you eat?”

Angelus agreed, “It is disgusting now that you mention it. Take one bite at a time, Harris.”

Then Cordelia handed over the other mug of blood to Angel. “Just for you. All special and mixed up just right.”

Realizing that Cordy handed Angelus blood with something extra, he realized that was is revenge for teasing her about her cooking again. This time, it might do more than choke him. “Cordy?”

“Yes, Angel?” Innocence flashed in her eyes.

That look scared him. He sniffed at the blood, but there was nothing obvious about it.

Cordelia pushed at his shoulder, encouraging him to get on with it. “Drink up, silly vamp. It’ll get cold.”

Taking a tentative sip, Angel immediately realized that it was just regular pig blood.

With Angelus laughing next to them, Cordelia leaned close to Angel’s ear. “You’re so easy, Care Bear.”

Angelus laughed even harder. Just when he started to feel a stitch in his side, Cordy commented, “Angel told me something interesting about my tattoo.”

Happy that he didn’t splatter the blood he was drinking all over Xander and Buffy, Angel sent cautiously glanced in his brother’s direction. He supposed that his little discussion with Cordelia wasn’t really a secret, but Angel wondered just how much of it Cordelia planned to tell.

Just as Angelus flashed Angel a questioning look, Xander asked Cordelia, “You have a tattoo?”

“Yeah. It’s fabulous. Wanna see it?”

Angelus reacted with a seriousness that completely countered his amusement from moments earlier. Leaping off the couch, he stared down at Xander who was still reclining on the floor. “What’s your answer, Harris?”

Xander glanced at Buffy who seemed to be awaiting his response with just as much interest as the vampire. Angel glared at him with an equally dark expression as if he had any right to be upset if Xander did want to look. Willow looked a bit startled, but kind of curious. He wasn’t certain if it was curiosity about his answer or the tattoo itself.

“Do I wanna see it?” Xander repeated the question. Heck, yeah! “Nope.”


CHAPTER LINKS

DoN Chapter 17          DoN Home          DoN Chapter 19


 

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