Four: Calling It a Night
Cross held in front of her like a shield, Cordelia studied the alley with narrowed eyes. Now this was just creepy. It was bad enough facing an evil, heartless creature of the night all on her own. But knowing he was probably still there, you just couldn't see him, was ten times worse.
"C'mon," Cordy said, eyes still darting back and forth. Slipping her perfume sprayer back into her purse, she grabbed Tracy's arm. "And the next time you decide to pick up a tall, gorgeous stranger…don't!"
Cordelia dragged the shell-shocked coed towards the Bronze's exit. Feeling the first stirrings of relief, she gave the door a push. Once they were inside, everything would be…
"Oh, of course," Cordy grumbled, because the door didn't budge. It seemed to have locked behind her. "So, it's the hard way."
The trip down the long, dark alleyway was nerve wracking. And it was made worse when Tracy started shaking and blubbering about halfway.
Ignoring her, Cordy let her wary eyes dart around the alley. She didn't trust Angel's decision to let them go. It had been too fast. Too easy. Which was why she was pretty sure he was still there somewhere. Watching.
That thought sent a permanent shiver racing down her back. It would be so easy to panic about now. But, if Angel was watching, that was probably just what he was waiting for. For her to show even a hint of weakness or fear.
Please, Cordy thought. I'm dating Xander Harris out in the open. If I can walk into the Bronze with him on my arm and my head held high, I can do this.
When they reached the front of the Bronze, she felt a tiny smidge of relief. There were plenty of people coming and going, milling around the entrance. But she wasn't quite buying that illusion of safety. Yeah, she still didn't think Angel would kill her in a crowded place. But being in a house the vampire hadn't been invited into would make her feel much better.
So, instead of heading for the entrance, she steered Tracy towards her car.
"Wait!" the girl exclaimed, coming out of her shock long enough to realize they weren't going where all the people were. "We have to g-get h-help."
"Pfft!" Cordy rolled her eyes. "You won't find any help in there. Besides, we both want to be as far away from here as possible. Believe me."
Once she had Tracy bundled up in the passenger seat of her speedy red roadster, Cordy drove away from the Bronze.
"Okay," she sighed, glancing at the other girl. "Where do you live?"
Her only answer was more weeping.
Shaking her head, Cordy rolled her eyes. She knew that realizing vampires were real could be mind shattering and all that. And she couldn't expect everyone to handle finding out the truth with the same grace and aplomb as she had. But Tracy was starting to get on her nerves.
"Get over it!" Cordy finally snapped. "And give me your address!"
After a little more coaxing—well, badgering, if you wanted to get technical—Tracy blurted out the name of a street.
By the time Cordelia deposited her on her front porch, she was tired of the whole 'rescuer' thing. And she sure wasn't in the mood to deliver one of those grave, cautionary speeches Giles specialized in.
There are dark forces all around us. Dangers you must protect yourself from…
Cordy snorted. That wasn't her style. But, since she'd gone to so much trouble to save the girl, she had to say something.
"So, you know that was a vampire, right?"
Tracy started to shake even harder, if that was possible. "N-no. V-vampires aren't real. They aren't real!" And, by morning, she might even believe that was true.
"Whatever," Cordy sighed. "But, once the sun goes down, you'd be smart not to invite any strangers into your house. Especially if they're really pale. Or seem really interested in your neck. Got it?"
Once Tracy was safely inside, Cordelia got back into her car and drove home. As she pulled into her driveway, she marveled at how calm she still was. Calm but tired. It was amazing how tired confronting a brutal killer could make a girl.
Holding up the garage door opener, she pressed the button.
…And nothing happened.
"Oh, crap!" she exclaimed, pressing the button again and again. "Don't do this to me!"
CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.
"The batteries! Damn!" Disgusted, she tossed the remote on the passenger seat. How could the stupid thing run out of batteries? That never happened.
Hands wrapped around the steering wheel, Cordy glanced around the security-light illuminated yard of her secluded home. Since learning Sunnydale was The Creature Capital of California, she tried not to go outside—actually outside outside—after dark alone. And, after the night she'd just had, it was a rule she didn't want to break now.
Reaching into her purse, she pulled out the cell 'phone. The housekeeper was probably asleep by now. But she wouldn't mind getting out of her warm, comfortable bed to open the garage door manually.
She was just about to dial when there was a knock on the driver's-side window. With a startled shriek, Cordelia spun around.
"Geez, Angel!" she exclaimed. "You scared me!"
Lips quirked in the hint of a smile, the vampire shrugged. "It's what I do best."
As Cordy stared at Angel, she remembered one important detail. He didn't need an invitation to get into her car. Not unless she was living in it. Which, with him outside, sounded like a great idea. But…
Taking a deep breath, Cordy stiffened her spine. Glaring at him, she said, "You need another hobby," her voice classic Queen C. With a haughty toss of her hair, she opened the car door. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
"Making sure you got home safely," Angel had the nerve to say. He stepped back enough for her to get out of the car. "Isn't that what a man born in a more courtly age should do?"
Rolling her eyes, Cordy walked past him. She had this nearly overwhelming urge to break into a run, but that would undermine the effect she was trying to create. Instead, she walked at a more leisurely pace.
Seeming thoughtful, Angel followed behind her. And Cordy knew what they meant when they said someone had presence. Angel wasn't touching her, but she could almost feel the weight of his body on her back.
"I don't smell any fear on you," he finally said.
"Now that's charming," Cordy scoffed, walking up onto the porch.
"You should be afraid," he insisted. He sounded really puzzled. "I could kill you in an instant."
"Oooh, more charm. No wonder you turn all the girls' heads."
The vampire let out a startled chuckle. "Funny."
"I do try." Keys in hand, she turned towards the door. And nearly jumped out of her skin when he took her wrist.
Cordy froze. His hand was like a manacle made of ice, wrapped around her wrist. Holding her breath, Cordy stared at him, hazel gaze searching the endless depths of his midnight eyes. This was it, wasn't it? Her luck had run out. It was his style, wasn't it? Let her think she'd pulled off the biggest bluff of her life. Let her get to her front door, a threshold away from safety. Then…
"Let me," he said, taking the keys from her hand. When her mouth fell open in surprise, he smirked. "It's what a gentleman would do."
Still holding her wrist with one hand, he unlocked the door with the other. Cordelia had to grit her teeth to keep from snatching away from his hold. But, since she was pretty sure that was what he expected, she wasn't going to do it.
The picture of politeness, he finally released her arm. "There you are," he said, handing her the keys.
"Thanks." Pushing open the door, she stepped into her house. Letting out a silent breath, she turned to face Angel. "And, no, I won't be telling Buffy the story I made up earlier."
Angel's smile was cynical. "I didn't think you would."
"Because I have an even better story to tell. A true one! All about how you spent the entire night stalking me. How I spent hours in mortal terror, certain you'd snap me like a twig any minute…if I was lucky. And how none of it would have happened if she'd just killed you when she had the chance! Or if the rest of the Loser Patrol hadn't stood me up!" Her eyes narrowed. "I'm going to make as many people as possible pay for ruining my Friday night!"
Silent, Angel studied her from the other side of the invisible barrier. Finally, an almost genuine smile quirked his lips. "You'd make a great vampire."
Despite being shorter than he was, Cordy managed to look down her nose at the vampire. "Of course I would. I'm good at everything I do."
With a smile the outdid his on the smug-o-meter, Cordy shut the door in his face.
Safe in the foyer of her own home, Cordy collapsed against the door. Forehead pressed against the wood, she gasped for air, like ice water had been thrown in her face. Her heart thundered, slamming against her chest. She was suddenly so cold, her teeth chattered.
As all the fear she'd been holding in crashed over her in a wave, the strength went out of her legs. Unable to stop herself, she slid down the door, and sat in an ungraceful heap on the floor.
Fingertips pressed against the door, Angelus leaned close, until his ear was almost pressed against the wood. He could hear her heart pounding, so loud and strong he could almost feel it in his own chest. Could hear her panting, almost like she was in the throes of passion rather than terror.
Angelus smiled. He'd known she was afraid. He'd tasted her panic when he sat at her table in the Bronze. Terror that potent didn't just disappear. No matter how good an act you put on, it was always there, surrounding you like tantalizing perfume.
Except for with her. When she stepped out of the Bronze to save Tracy—sweet, boring, weak little Tracy—it was like her fear was gone. She stared him down. She scoffed and mocked. And she wasn't afraid. Somehow, in a matter of moments, she'd taken her panic and pushed it so deep, even he couldn't sense it.
What kind of strength does it take to control your emotions so completely? Angelus wondered. How much would it take to break it?
In a good mood—despite the fact that he hadn't eaten all night—Angelus lowered himself to the porch, leaning back against the door. She was still there. He could almost feel her heat through the wood. Feel her body trembling against his back. He imagined she'd be there for a while, until she got control of herself.
Sighing, a smile on his lips, Angelus looked up at the moon. There was nothing he liked better than finding a new toy.