New Neighbors by Dannyblue
Summary: Jeff Mitchell meets Cordelia, half of the reclusive couple that just moved into the house next door.
Spoilers: None specified.
Jeff Mitchell placed
the coffee mug on the kitchen table.
"Here you go," he said. "I can almost guarantee it won't take the enamel off your teeth."
"Thanks," Cordelia said. And she gave him a smile that just about made him stop breathing all together. A smile so bright, it could light a small city.
A little dazed, Jeff sat in the chair across from her. It was official. This was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen in person. Or in print. Or on television. Or…
Jeff frowned. There it was again. That feeling that he'd seen her somewhere before. Strange, since he knew he'd never forget meeting someone like her. Still…
"Mmmmm," she sighed as she took a sip of coffee. "It's really good. Way better than I've ever managed."
He grinned, happy he'd made her happy. In some tiny way. "Practice makes perfect, I guess. Coffee's a staple for any graduate student who spends way too many nights cramming."
"I guess," she said. Then, a delicate frown wrinkled her beautiful brow. "I always wanted to go to college. In fact, I got accepted to some really good schools. It just…didn't work out."
Jeff's grin faded, surprised his little joke turned into such a downer. She sounded so wistful. So sad.
Wrapping his hands around his own warm mug, he lowered his head. A quick change of subject was in order. "So, where are you from?"
She seemed startled by the question. "Oh! Um, well, I was born and raised in a little town in So Cal. Don't ask, because you've never heard of it. Anyway, I lived in L.A. for the last few years. You know. The land of swimming pools and movie stars!"
"Wow." Jeff was impressed. He'd never been anywhere outside a 100- mile radius of right here "I always wanted to go to California. Compared to L.A., this place must seem pretty dull. Why did you move?"
"Oh, well Angel…"—here, she faltered; her smile dimmed—" …Angel wanted a change."
Angel, Jeff thought. The mystery man who had the entire neighborhood talking.
Since the couple moved into the house next door, Jeff had caught a few brief glimpses of him. And the word dangerous popped into Jeff's head each and every time. He wasn't sure why. It just did.
"You must miss your family, huh?" Jeff said. "And your friends."
Her clear, hazel eyes darted away from his. "Well, I've never been all that close to my parents. And my friends. Well, we all sort of had a…a falling out. Some…things changed, and they couldn't accept it. So we drifted apart."
Her gaze settled on some point over his shoulder. She frowned at whatever thoughts were running through her head.
It only lasted for a moment. Just as Jeff was about to say something, she gave her head a hard shake. Sat up straighter in her chair.
"So, anyway!" The smile reappeared, like a shield against those thoughts. "A college student, huh? What are you studying?"
So, Jeff told her all about graduate school. And all the jobs he'd taken to keep food on the table and a roof over his head. And the band he spent way too much time rehearsing with on weekdays, and playing gigs with on the occasional Saturday night.
Cordelia was a good listener. Once he got going, most people tended to drift off. But, the way she was looking at him, a thoughtful expression on her face, he knew he had her complete attention.
Until about half an hour later, when she glanced at her watch three or four times.
Jeff paused. "Hey!" he teased. "Am I that boring?"
"Oh, no!" she rushed to reassure him. "It's just, well, I'm not sure when Angel will get back. And I kind of want to be home before he is."
"He works nights?"
"Uh, yeah. I guess you could say that. "And he kind of made me promise not to leave the house." She must have seen something in his look, because she chuckled nervously. "You have to know Angel. He's kind of…overprotective. Doesn't think I'm safe outside the house unless he's right there." Laughter turned into a sigh. "But I just couldn't stay cooped up for another second! And it's been so loooong since I've talked to anybody else."
Absently, Cordelia rubbed her wrist. And, once again, Jeff noticed the bruises on her forearm. They were about the size and shape of fingerprints. Like someone had grabbed her. Really hard.
Jeff figured he hadn't known her long enough to say anything. Maybe later.
"So, how long have you and Angel been together?" he said instead.
"Oh, wow." Eyes narrowed, she peered up at the ceiling. "Well, we've known each other for about…nine years?" She seemed surprised by the figure. "Since I was a sophomore in high school. But we didn't really get to know each other until a few years later." She placed her elbow on the table and rested her chin in the palm of her hand. "We've both changed a lot since then."
"Hmmm." Jeff started to take another sip of coffee. Then, he realized it was ice cold. "Do you want another one?" He gestured towards her mug.
She cast another worried glance at her watch. Looked out the window at the house next door. "Um, sure." Then, her spine stiffened. She added, with more certainty, "Why not?"
As she handed him her mug, she tilted her head a certain way. And it hit him!
"Damn!" he exclaimed.
Cordelia gave him a puzzled frown. "What?"
"I just realized where I've seen you before." Grinning, he pointed the finger of one mug-holding hand at her. "You were in that commercial a few years back. For—what was it? Suntan lotion?"
Cordelia looked both pleased and embarrassed. "Yeah, that was me. I once had delusions of being an actress. Which is a laugh considering how bad I was back then." A small smile turned up the corners of her mouth. "But I'm much better now." ____________________
The door to Jeff Mitchel's kitchen crashed open, shattering the still silence of the night.
Startled, Cordelia glanced up. A low growl rumbled in her chest. Malicious, yellow eyes glared out of her demonic face.
Until she saw who it was.
"Angel," she sighed. And the demon melted away, leaving behind the smiling face of Cordelia Chase. "You're home." And she used her sleeve to wipe the blood off of her chin.
Cautiously, Angel stepped through the doorway. When he didn't find a barrier to push him away, his un-beating heart sank.
The young man Cordelia hovered over was dead, then.
A familiar wave of guilt crashed over him. He'd known. As soon as he got home and saw the broken locks on the basement door. And he'd prayed—as if there was some higher power that would still listen to him—that she hadn't been gone long. That she hadn't gone far.
His first prayer had been answered. She hadn't gone far.
But he was too late.
"Come on, Cordy." He held a hand out towards her. "Let's go."
She looked down at the body. "But I'm not finished yet." She gave him a coy, teasing glance. "Hey, you want some? I mean, I know you have this thing about killing humans. But, since he's already dead…"
"Let's go, Cordy," he repeated. His eyes dared her to defy him.
Pouting, she stood. No, Angel wasn't her sire. That honor belonged to a vamp that was dusted hours after they did this to her. And he might still have a soul. And he might do just about anything for her. But he was still a Master vampire. And, when a Master Vampire got that particular look in their eye…
Cordy wiped her bloody hands on the seat of her jeans. She stepped over Jeff Mitchel without a downward glance. "I hate to agree with your skanky sire, but you are just no fun." She wrapped her arms around his waist, and rested her cheek against his shoulder. "But I love you anyway."
He felt something twist in his soul. So painful, he flinched. It was a familiar feeling. Born the day the re-souling spell hadn't worked.
The day he realized he couldn't stake Cordelia. His Cordelia.
And he couldn't let anyone else stake her either.
"I love you too, Cordy." His hold tightened as he stared into the dead, accusing eyes of Jeff Mitchel.
"I know I broke my promise. But it was so nice having someone to talk to again." She hesitated for just a second. "Are you mad at me, Angel?"
"No." He kissed her temple. "I'm not mad at you."
And he wasn't. Because none of this was her fault.
It was his.
His for being so weak.
Too weak to let her go.
"Let's go home," he said.
As he steered her towards the house he'd rented two weeks ago, he was already thinking of where they would go next.
A place where their friends couldn't find them.
A place Cordy would like.
A place with better locks.