AUTHOR: NICKLE (aka BRENDA)
SUMMARY: WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS DOESN’T NECESSARILY STAY IN VEGAS
POSTED: 10 Jun 2004
WARNINGS: None Listed
FICPIC CREDIT: CALIFI
AUTHOR NOTES: AU from the beginning of Belonging on. Based on a challenge by CAMartin.
“Oh……..God……ummmmm……” Someone beyond cruel had snuck in and poured sand into Cordelia’s eyes while she slept. And apparently had smacked her head repeatedly with a blunt object, because she was waking up with the most raging headache known to mankind. Ever. And her eyes. Jeeze. She couldn’t even open them because they felt gritty and scratchy. She lay in the bed, still, taking slow, steady breaths while she tried to get her bearings.
Uh….she thought a moment. This was not her bed. She was…..oh god. She was in Vegas. She slowly raised her arm and dropped it over her eyes. She was on a case. For….ohgod…what was his name……ANGEL. That’s right. Angel, the guy she worked with.. That guy. She had come on a case to Vegas and was supposed to be going home today. Except that she couldn’t move. Because she was tragically overcome by a massive gut wrenching hangover.
Her head hurt. Her body hurt. Her hair hurt. She licked her lips, trying to remember. The case had been solved, drinks had been poured, blackjack had been played…..she crinkled her brow. And there was something…..what was it? Something…maybe it was….
“Oh, please, kill me now.” Cordelia winced as she grabbed at the phone by the bed to keep it from ringing again. She carefully held the receiver to her ear. “Um…hello. Hello? Jeeze…I hate it when wrong numbers….oh.” She turned the receiver around and licked her lips again. “Hello?”
“Cordelia?” Angel’s voice seemed to boom through the phoneline. Cordy groaned and held the phone away slightly. “Cordelia? Why are you still there? It’s past noon. I called your cell and it was off…I thought you’d be on the road by now.” He paused, thinking. “Is everything all right? Because check-out time was…”
“I know…I know….” Cordelia took a breath. “Um. We kinda got a little…well…..um…”
“Are you drunk?” There was anger in Angel’s voice.
“No. Jeeze. I am not drunk. Thanks for your support.” Cordelia pushed her hair behind her ears.. “I am not at the present drunk at all.” There was a silence.
“Were you drunk?”
“OK, dad. Busted. We got a little….well…..we kinda had a little celebration last night. C’mon, Angel…it’s freakin’ VEGAS. We kinda went out and maybe had a little…”
Angel snorted. “How many glasses of what did you have?”
“One glass, I swear…amaretto sour.”
Angel thought a moment. How many times was the one glass filled?”
Cordelia giggled without thinking. “Oh, god, lost track after…..” she paused. “That really didn’t help me, did it?”
Angel was quiet. When he did speak, his tone was measured. “Where did you celebrate?”
“Oh, we went to the Hilton and did the Star Trek Experience….and ya know…one thing…and another….” She thought a moment. “It was happy hour, and these waitresses, they just kept bringing ‘em. Weird. And I think we saw a movie.”
“A movie.” Angel was beginning to sound amused.
“Yeah, at the Star Trek Experience. We were on a ride….The Klingon Encounter…and somehow, we saw a movie….and it was in a funky little room, and there was a man, and he was a Klingon, and there was organ music, and it was so sweet because the man and the woman were getting married…”
“The Klingons were getting married?” Angel was amused. She was giving him ammunition for the next century.
“Yeah….” She thought a moment. “Wait. The Klingon guy said he was a minister and the man and the woman thought it was funny….” Her voice trailed off as pictures flashed in her mind. “Um….and they…..they got married…..kinda…..” her mind went numb as her body went rigid. She could barely breathe as she slowly brought her left hand up to her view. On the third finger was a small plastic ring with the Starfleet insignia on it. It was blinking red then green.
“Cordy?” Angel’s voice came over the line as she dropped the phone. She looked over at the nightstand next to the bed and slowly reached for the piece of paper propped up against the lamp.
Oh god. Oh fuck. Oh crap. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
She stared down at the elegantly printed letters that curved across the top of the page. MARRIAGE LICENCE. Oh god. Fuck. Wait a moment….the Klingon…the small room…it was a chapel. It was a Klingon Chapel. It wasn’t a movie…..it happened. A man and a woman got drunk and went into the Klingon Chapel and got married. Oh shit. And the woman was…..she squinted, suddenly feeling her head pounding even harder. Her. She was the woman. She had gotten married. By a Klingon. To….
Her heart skipped a beat as she slowly turned her head, noticing for the first time the low, rhythmic snoring coming from beside her body on the bed. A long blanket covered lump seemed to rise and fall slightly with each snore. Cordelia sat up, ignoring Angel’s voice as he began to call her impatiently on the phone. One hand reached over, and slowly pulled the covers down gently to reveal the slack-jawed face of her sleeping husband….
“AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” The scream went on and on, and stopped abruptly as Cordelia slapped a hand over her mouth. Frozen, she looked down at Wesley as he snored softly, a small trail of drool working down from the corner of his mouth.
No. No. No. No. Cordelia looked around wildly. Wakey wakey now. I’m ready to wake up now. She scrambled to a sitting position and moaned, grabbing at her head. Oh…this is….this is just so bad…..
“CORDELIA!!!!” Angel’s voice boomed frantically from the phone. “Answer me!” Cordelia finally looked down at the dangling receiver and gingerly picked it up, looking around wildly as if she could be magically guided through this conversation.
“Um. Oh yeah. Angel.” She closed her eyes. “I…ah….this is a bad time.”
“What the hell is going on there?”
“Cordelia, you screamed. What is it?”
“I didn’t scream.”
“I’ve heard it enough to know, Cordy. Why did you scream?”
“Oh. That scream. Um.” She looked around again, frantically. “Bug. Huge bug. Big, bad, um…bug.”
There was a silence. “You saw a bug. And you screamed.”
“Yes. There was. I did. Wow, look at the time…..”
“Gotta get about, Angel. You know, shower to take, aspirin to inhale, stuff. We’ll…um..” The soft snoring stopped on a snort as Wesley rolled over, eyes tightly shut, and draped one arm around Cordelia’s hips, burying his face in her thigh. She held still, not breathing, as she spoke softly and slowly, holding perfectly still. “Gotta go.” And she hung up the phone gently.
She looked down at the lump burrowing into her leg and slowly reached down to lift Wesley’s arm from around her legs. Protesting with a frown, Wes clamped his arm tighter and mumbled into the rumpled covers. Cordelia leaned back, groaning, and covered her face with her hands while she tried to think. Wesley mumbled again and Cordelia listened.
“Make it so. Mmmm…….dilithian crystals. Bolster the shields.” Cordelia rolled her eyes and winced with the pain of the effort. Oh god. She had come to Las Vegas, found and slayed…well, helped to slay, a kinethian demon, seen a huge replica of the Borg Queen, drank more amaretto sours than anyone had ever had in a lifetime, and ridden a couple of fun rides. Oh yeah, and got married. She had gotten married. To Wesley Wyndam-Price. In a Klingon wedding chapel. She was very sure they weren’t being punk’d, because no one on the planet had the imagination to make this any worse than it already was.
“Wesley…” Her voice was a gentle coaxing. “Wesley.” He remained still, occasionally mumbling about takiyon emissions. “Wesley. You have to wake up. We’ve got a problem.” She poked him softly. “C’mon, Wesley. Wake up.” Wesley gave a snort and rolled over onto his back, rolling his tounge out several times as if trying to clear a bad taste from his mouth. Cordelia watched him a moment. “Wesley…this is so so so bad. Wes. C’mon, open your eyes.” Wesely remained still, and began to snore softly again.
“WESLEY!!!!!! OPEN YOUR FREAKIN’ EYES!!!!!!!!”
“EEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII” Wesley’s eyes finally opened and he sat up with a screech, rolling off the side of the bed and disappearing from view to land on the floor with a fleshy ‘thud.’
Cordelia watched impassively and heard him mumble curses as he slowly sat up, peering at her over the edge of the bed.
“What? What is…is something…….” His voice trailed off as a soft green tint began to coat his face. “Oh dear. I….um…..”
“Right there with you, Wes.” Cordelia’s voice was resigned. “But we’ve got a problem.” Wesley looked at her blankly, his beard-stubbled face becoming more pale and green by the moment. “Um. Wes. What do you remember about last night?”
Wesley tried to fix on his surroundings. Some shrill voice was harping at him…..oh. It was Cordelia. She was just yammering……he frowned, groaning as pain shot through his forehead with the effort. She needed to….he wanted her to…..
“Shut up.” His voice was a desperate whisper.
Cordelia looked at him, a hunted look in her eyes. “Wesley, you need to focus here. We’re in deep doodoo. Really big trouble.”
Her panic finally registered and he trained bleary eyes on her face as he tried to straighten up. “What is it? Did the kinethian…didn’t we kill it?”
“Yeah, gone, yesterday’s news, keep up here.”
“Um. OK. What is it?”
“Wes…..ohjeeze. Wesley, I think….last night….” She took a breath. “Ithinkwegotmarried.”
Wesley looked at her blankly. “Was that a foreign language? Because I don’t recognize…”
“Wesley! Pay attention!” her voice was sharp. “Last night, we got married.”
A long moment passed. Wesley’s face remained blank. “Married.”
“Yeah, married.” Cordy threw the covers back and stood up, glancing down at her wrinkled jeans and knit top. The ring on her finger flashed red and green with rapid intensity, and she grimaced and looked away.
“Married.” There was confusion in Wes’ voice, as if the word was foreign to his language. Cordelia glanced over at him as she began looking around the room, spotting an ornately decorated sheet of paper laying on the dresser.
“Married, Wes. Wedded. Ball and Chain. Joined at the hip.” She stalked over to the piece of paper and looked down at it. It was gold leaf, and had a funky symbol stamped on the lower corner.
“Tlhogh….” Cordelia tried to sound it out.
“Mating” Wesley’s reply was automatic.
Cordelia looked at him. “Is this a demon language? What is this?”
“No. It’s…” Wesley slowly rose to a standing position, weaving a bit. “It’s Klingon.”
“And you admit to knowing it?” Cordelia’s voice bordered on incredulous. “Wesley, you gotta get a girl…” She broke off with a sigh, looking down at the flashing red and green ring. “Apparently, you did.”
Wesley wandered over to her and took the paper from her hand, squinting as he tried to read it. He turned it over several times before Cordelia sighed and reached down to the floor to pick up his glasses and hand them to him. He took them automatically, pushing them onto his nose, and read the paper. His eyes widened and he looked at her.
“This is basically a Klingon wedding license. Well, a certificate of mating, since in the Klingon Culture marriage doesn’t actually…”
“Shut up. Shut up. Oh god.” Cordelia looked at him, wanting to smack his scruffy face.
“Cordelia, I hardly think a souvenir certificate qualifies us as married.” His voice was the kind of calm people use when approaching someone armed with a knife.
“Yeah? Maybe, but I bet this…” Cordelia stalked over to the side of the bed and snatched up the official Marriage Certificate from the nightstand and waved it in his face. “…is more than just a souvenir. It’s a state license, Wes. It looks pretty official to me.”
If possible, Wesley went even more pale. He weaved a bit more before wandering over to the bed and plopping down with a shocked look on his face. He looked pathetic, his clothes from yesterday wrinkled and a bit gamey. Cordelia almost felt bad for him. Except for the part where she wanted to kill him.
“C’mon, Wes, we gotta get a move on. We need to go back to that chapel and see if this is legal, and if we can…oh…I don’t kow…take it back. Get a do over. Whatever.” Cordelia began to move, scooping up her robe as she stalked to the bathroom.
“Um. I think I’m going to throw up.”
Cordelia didn’t even pause. “Well, make it snappy. We got a marriage to end.”
Hours later, they trudged back to the hotel, despondent. They were silent as they rode in the elevator, their eyes shielded by sunglasses that covered the bleary redness that was proof of a hangover. It had been a long, long afternoon.
One trip to the Starfleet Chapel of Love had proven to be an exercise in humiliation. A huge guy in full Klingon regalia had tried to be patient with them, but finally told them that there were really no do-overs and they had to go through normal legal channels. That meant a lawyer. It meant an annulment. Or a divorce. Cordelia and Wesley had listened with sinking hearts, realizing that for all intents and purposes, they were married.
The walk back to their hotel had been silent, each lost in their own thoughts. On the way out of the hotel earlier, Cordelia had grabbed a bellman and frantically asked what to do if someone found herself suddenly married in Vegas, which had earned her a bark of laughter and a leer. They passed the same bellman on the way in without a glance, and slowly rode the elevator to their own floor. Wesley silently swiped his door key and opened the door, standing aside for Cordelia to enter. She did, stopping so abruptly that Wesley careened into her back, sending her stumbling further into the room.
A bottle of champagne chilled in a metal bucket on the low coffee table, next to a small white cake with a plastic bride and groom perched on the top. A printed card propped up next to the cake read, “Congratulations from your Concierge.” A movie was playing on tv, and Cordelia squinted as she recognized herself, drunken and leaning into Wesley as they slurred out marriage vows in front of a huge, mean-looking Klingon. Oh. The souvenir tape of the ceremony that Wesley had bought.
Her heart almost stopped as her eyes went past the tv to the long legs, crossed negligently at the ankle, propped up on the other end of the coffee table. Her eyes followed the dark-clad legs up to rest on…Angel. Sitting in the chair, seemingly relaxed, his unreadable gaze on her as he rested steepled fingers against his mouth.
Wesley took in the scene and opened his mouth, closing it without making a sound. The three were held in suspension for a long moment before Angel lowered his hands, speaking softly.
“So……having a good time in Vegas?”
“So……having a good time in Vegas?” Angel’s voice was low. Cordy caught her breath at the flash of gold she must have imagined in the depths of his dark eyes. He looked at Wesley, and then his gaze slid away, dismissing him, as it settled back on Cordelia with mild intensity.
“Wushhh….mmmm…..gggaaarrrrr” Wesley couldn’t seem to put together a coherent word. Cordelia finally reached back and smacked his head as if he was a skipping CD.
“OhmygodAngelwegotmarriednowwehavetofixit” came rushing out in a whoosh from Wesley’s mouth as Angel regarded them both silently. Cordelia bit her lip, and grimaced as the sound from the tv finally registered.
“You may now kiss the bride…” Cordelia nearly tripped over her own feet lunging for the remote held loosely in Angel’s hand. Without a change in expression Angel held the remote up and away from her grasping hands so that she fell over his legs and landed face down over his lap. She pushed frantically against his legs, trying to stand again. He reached down and grabbed her around the waist, pulling her upright to her feet. She thought she heard a muttered, “don’t tempt me” as he hoisted her back up. After setting her back on her feet he grabbed at her hand, holding it so he could see the flashing red and green Starfleet Insignia ring, still glowing around her finger.
“Nice Ring.” He looked at Wes. “Family Heirloom?”
Cordelia tossed him an evil glare before snatching her hand back and marching over to the tv and turning it off with furiously jabbing fingers. Angel watched with a deceptive calmness.
“Oh, c’mon, Cordy. We were just getting to the good part.” She closed her eyes in resignation and turned to face him, finally opening her eyes to meet his gaze. He hadn’t moved.
“There is no ‘good part’. No, we’re not having fun. We’re screwed.”
“Well, actually, I think that’s where the tape was going….” Cordelia looked at him blankly. “You know. On to the wedding night.”
“THERE WAS NO WEDDING NIGHT.” She took a deep breath. “OK. Technically there was, but there was no….you know….” Angel’s expression didn’t change a bit. “There wasn’t an actual…” she made airquotes with her fingers. “wedding night.”
Angel’s hands rose and he made airquotes with his fingers. “Good.”
Cordelia shook her head and sat down on the sofa, slumping back and covering her face with her hands. “Oh, god, Angel….this is so, so, so…..so bad.” She heard a murmured gurgle and looked up at Wesley who stood, frozen, still staring at Angel. “Wes. Sit down. You look like you’re going to pass out.” Without a word, Wesley sat down next to Cordy, his hands held together loosely in his lap. Angel watched him without comment.
“Really, Wesley just wanted to see the Star Trek Experience….we thought it would take an hour at the most…and….”
“You got married. Yeah, how exactly did that happen. You’re riding, you’re seeing, you’re touring, you think…hey…it’s a guy dressed like an alien. Let’s get married.”
“No…no….no…..ok, kinda. I mean…there were, you know….drinks.”
“No kidding? Drinks? Really? Amaretto sours, you said.”
“Yeah. Lots of drinks. I lied, Angel, I drank a lot.”
“Ya think? A lot, hmmmm?”
“So, we got drunk, real drunk….and….I think we went into the chapel….and I think we kind of…well, one thing led to another…”
“We’re married.” Wesley sounded dazed.
“Well, yeah.” Cordelia looked nervously at Angel. “We’re married.”
They all sat there silently a moment before Angel spoke. “So….are congratulations in order?”
Cordy snuck a look at him. He seemed…..she didn’t know. She had never seen him like this. It was as if Beige Angel was multiplied by Angelus and then watered down by the guy who found peanut butter in his bed. She didn’t know this guy. And she wasn’t sure that she wanted to.
Wesley suddenly popped up. “I need to…um…excuse me.” And he bolted out of the room into the restroom, slamming the door behind him. Cordelia looked over at Angel.
“He hasn’t felt well. He’s been a little….”
“Hungover?” Cordy nodded. He raised his hands once again, making airquotes. “Good.” She sighed.
“OK, lemme have it.”
“Oh, where to start?” Angel suddenly rose, agitated, and ran his hand through his hair. He walked a few steps away and turned to face her. “How could you both be so stupid?”
“We were drunk!”
“Asked and answered.”
“Oh, c’mon, Angel, we can fix this. I think.” He glared at her. “It’s not that bad. I mean, it’s…you know….bad…but Jeeze…”
“Not that bad? Really? Cordy, do you have any idea…” He broke off, glaring at her wildly before crossing to her and yanking her to her feet in one fluid move. Startled, she looked up at him as he gripped her wrists and looked down at her with an almost feral glint in his eyes.
“What are you doing?” her voice was a squeak.
“Kissing the bride.” was muttered before his head lowered and his lips pressed to hers firmly. It was hard and quick, and Cordy didn’t have time to react before he raised his face and looked down at her before dropping her hands and turning away, seeming to draw a steadying breath.
“Angel…” her voice was soft and slightly confused.
“Cordelia…don’t.” He stood with his back to her. He was still for a moment before turning to her, his hands on his hips, holding his jacket back. “Ok. What have you done about it?”
“Mmm….went back to the chapel….seems there are no do-overs..” she smiled weakly, guessing it would be best to ignore the kiss. He looked back at her without a change in expression. “Now, I guess we have to go home and get an attorney and see about getting it annulled. Or a divorce. I’m not sure what the difference is.”
Angel rubbed his forehead as if he was getting a headache. “An annulment usually means the marriage wasn’t….consummated.”
“It wasn’t.” Cordy’s voice was flat.
“YES.” Angel seemed to relax.
“Ok. Then we’re…..I mean, you’re good. You can go see an attorney and get this whole thing over with. Should be simple.” They both stood there, silent, looking at each other. Cordelia opened her mouth to speak just as the restroom door opened and Wesley calmly walked out, his face pale but composed.
“Sorry about that. Stomach’s a little….”
“Empty, Wes.” Cordelia looked around. “You haven’t eaten all day, and you’re a mess.” She looked around a bit before sitting down at the sofa and leaning over to cut a small piece of cake. She placed it on a plate and held it out to him. “C’mon. Take a small bite.”
Wesley trudged over to her and sat down beside her, looking balefully down at the cake. “I don’t think I can.”
“Wes, you need something. Just take a bite…” Cordelia broke off a small bite and held it up to his mouth with her fingers, smiling at him coaxingly. “Just a bite and we’ll check out and get you something better in your tummy.” Wesley opened his mouth and leaned in and she started to feed him the cake just as a picture of what they must look like flashed in her head. She froze, looking over at Angel, who glared at them both.
“Go on, Cordy, give the groom his cake.” Angel’s voice was almost a snarl. The lightbulb above Wesley’s head suddenly went on and he scrambled back from Cordy and stood, agitated. He jumped up and almost leapt several steps away.
“No, not at all… I meant, we didn’t mean….um….” he turned frantically to Cordy. “Help.”
“OK. I’m done.” Cordy rose up. “I’m packing, we’re outta here. Let’s go home.” She looked at Wesley, trying to smile reassuringly. “It’ll be fine. Johnny Cochran here tells me we can get an annulment, so it will be good.”
Angel snorted and she threw him a dirty look. Turning back to Wes, she said, “Get your stuff out of the bathroom and let’s blow this marriage hole.” Wesley nodded and walked to the bathroom, turning slightly and not meeting Angel’s gaze.
“It was an accident, Angel. We never intended….”
Angel seemed to sigh. “I know. I know. I’m just….it just surprised me. That’s all. Let’s go home.” Wesley nodded and turned to go back into the bathroom to get his shave kit. Cordelia looked back at Angel, wariness in her eyes as she walked to the bed and began gathering sundry items to toss into her travel bag.
He watched her a moment, then slowly turned back to the small cake sitting on the table. He leaned down and plucked the groom off the cake, looking down at it as he slowly closed his fist, crunching the small figure into a pile of broken shards. Shaking the mess off his hands, he glanced at Cordy to make sure she hadn’t noticed and then plucked up the bride, brushing crumbs off of it before tucking it away in his pocket.
20 minutes later they were on the road, driving through the Nevada desert in the inky black of night. Just married. Mr. and Mrs. Wyndam-Price. Cordelia sighed, sitting next to Angel in the front seat, Wesley silent and still in the back. As marriages go, it was off to an ok start, like other marriages. Except her wedding ceremony had been in Klingon. And a vampire was driving her home. And the marriage was already over. She stole a glance at Angel. And the vampire was acting almost…..jealous. What was that about?
Fred tidied the books. She lined them up neatly, and dusted them off, and arranged the astral physics section first by alphabetizing the authors, then arranging them by book spine size. Every few minutes she looked at the clock, and bit her lip, and played with her hair before going back to line up titles like The Astral Travel Workbook next to Astral Projection and Psychic Empowerment. She sighed and looked at the clock again, huffing out a breath as she tried to appear casual about her work.
“Fred.” Angel’s voice jarred her into bumping her head on the shelf. “Their appointment might take a while. Ending a marriage is…complicated.” Fred turned to look at him, standing in the doorway with his hands in his pockets.
“Oh. Angel.” She giggled a little nervously. “Um. Just putting these back. Some idiot filed Goldberg next to Llewellan.”
Angel watched her, a small smile playing about his lips. “Wrong order?”
“Oh, goodness, no. It’s just that Goldberg and Llewellan can’t stand each other. Their books next to each other…” she shuddered. “Yikes.”
“Of course.” Angel nodded, seriously. “Can’t have battling books just hanging out on the shelves.”
“Well, no…” Fred broke off, blushing even as she grinned up at Angel. “Oh. You’re making fun….”
“No, no.” He strolled into the office and sat, leaning forward to rest his forearms on his knees. “Well, yeah, but it’s a nice, friendly mocking.”
“Well, that’s ok, then.” Fred smiled at him and bent to pick up another book, seeming to study it a bit before saying casually to Angel, “So……Wesley seems to really want this to be over….”
Angel looked off into the distance, thinking a bit. “Yeah. They both do.” He looked at Fred. “I don’t think they’re the only ones.”
She blushed to the roots of her hair, lowering her gaze. “Well, yeah, you know……..they seem so unhappy….I just want…um….it seems that they….you know….” She stopped babbling and looked down, pressing her lips together tightly. “They’re so unhappy.”
“Well, being stupid does that to ya.” Angel leaned back and closed his eyes. They were both silent for a moment, and Fred slowly picked up another book, shelving it absently as she thought. She snuck a look at Angel and quickly looked back down, seeing his eyes still closed. “What is it?” She jumped at his voice, low and tired.
“OH! Oh. Um. Nothing.” She giggled nervously. “I mean, well, something, but you know….nothing.”
“Fred….” His eyes opened to slits. “Out with it.”
“It’s just….Angel…doesn’t this just eat at you?”
“Eat at me?” His eyes opened a bit more. “Uh, no…”
“Well, sure it does. This has to be just killing you.” She lowered her head and muttered, “It’s sure as hell drivin’ me crazy.”
Angel looked down at her a moment before speaking, choosing his words carefully. “Fred….Wes doesn’t want to be married to Cordy, and I don’t think she wants…”
“Well no, of course she doesn’t, Angel. She and I talked about this. And cried about it, actually.”
“Cordelia cried?” Angel sat up, leaning forward.
“Yeah. Yeah, Angel, she cried.” Fred looked up at him from the floor where she sat. “This isn’t just being embarrassed for Cordy…although, wow, has she got that market cornered right now…” She thought about sitting in Cordelia’s apartment the night before, and plowing through an entire half gallon of Chunky Monkey and commiserating with Cordelia Chase Wyndam-Price over her current status. She thought a moment and came to a decision. “Angel…she’s……sad.”
“Sad.” Angel looked at Fred. “Why is she sad? Did she really want this? I mean, it wasn’t exactly the wedding of her dreams…”
“That’s just it. She doesn’t have a dream wedding. She’s not expecting any wedding at all.” Fred rose and walked to sit on the ottoman facing Angel’s chair. “Think about it from her mind, Angel. She told me that she never expected to meet anyone and get married, because, who’s gonna get her life? She just thought, you know, being part demon was kind of a solo gig. She said she feels like this little matrimony faux pas is kind of the Powers That Be’s way of rubbing her nose in it.” She looked at Angel, sadness in her face. “She knows she’s never gonna have that life. She’s just kinda sad at being reminded.”
Angel looked at Fred for a long moment, sighing. “Yeah. I get that.” They both sat there, lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Fred looked up at him, curious.
“What did you mean, it wasn’t the wedding of her dreams? I think that’s the most romantic…” She broke off as Angel looked at her again, amusement creeping into his eyes. “Oh, c’mon, it’s not like I have a homemade Starfleet uniform in my closet. I think that it just sounds….”
“Exactly like Vegas.” Angel finished, rising up.
“Yeah….” Fred’s voice trailed off as she got a dreamy look in her eyes. Angel sighed and turned to go back into his own office just as the phone rang. He looked back at Fred, who apparently was writing “Fred Burckle-Wyndam-Price in the notebook in her head, and was obviously not going to pick up the phone. He picked up the receiver on his desk.
“Angel Investigations…We help….um….” He broke off. “Wesley? What’s…” he listened intently, immediately reaching for a pen. “Ok, ok…calm down. Where are you?” Fred came out of her trance and jumped up, looking at Angel anxiously. He gave her a glance as he listened. “No. Don’t let her….ok, ok. On Penwaite Drive? Got it. Be there in a minute.”
He hung up and walked around the desk, stalking to grab up his coat and slung it on, Fred following him on his heels.
“What is it? Is everything alright? Was the attorney…”
“It wasn’t an attorney.” Angel’s voice was grim. “They were set up. Cordy is about to be offered as a sacrifice…” His eyes glinted as he yanked open the basement door. “Call Gunn, tell him to meet me….18801 Penwaite Drive. Down in the old canning district. Tell him to come armed.” And he was gone.
Fred ran back to the office and snatched up the phone, frantically dialing. Her hands shook as she waited for Gunn to pick up. A bogus attorney? No, that couldn’t be. That guy at the bar who gave his name to her seemed to know what he was talking about….what was that guy’s name again….oh yeah….Merle.
Cordelia awoke slowly, groggily. She felt cold, and her head pounded as if someone was beating on it with a mallet. She thought a moment. Vegas. They were in Vegas. Oh thank God, it had only been a crappy bad dream. She almost giggled in relief. It hadn’t happened. She and Wesley…they hadn’t…..she frowned, trying to raise a hand to her throbbing head. But she couldn’t.
Her eyes flew open and she raised her head slightly. Oh shit. She was lying flat on her back on a cold cement slab, and her wrists and feet were tied down at the corners. She dropped her aching head back to the cement slab and winced, closing her eyes as pain reverberated through her body. Oh god…where was Wesley? They had been…she thought a moment. They had been sitting….in an office…that’s it. They were sitting in an attorney’s office….Melvin Smoot. Melvin Smoot, attorney. They were sitting in Mr. Smoot’s office, talking about the annulment, and….she grimaced, trying to think. He had gotten up….excused himself for a moment….had poked his head back in, asking her to step out into the waiting room for a moment so he could speak with her privately…..
She frowned. She had, after a puzzled look at Wesley, gotten up out of the ratty chair and followed Mr. Smoot out into the waiting room. He had motioned her to come closer, and she had…then…a cloth over her mouth….and….nothing. She thought a moment. She had been drugged. Knocked out. And now she was here.
Oh, shit. Where was Wesley? What had they done…..she tried to hold still, faking sleep, as she heard muted voices at the far end of the room. Low murmurs in a tongue she didn’t understand reached her ears, and she strained to make sense out of what they were saying. The murmurs came closer, and she tried to keep her breathing even so they wouldn’t know she was awake. She felt someone leaning over her…tingles raced up her spine and her eyes shot open before she could prevent it.
A large upright demon loomed over her, cobalt blue eyes staring down into her face. Cordelia sucked in her breath as he lifted one hand…hoof, actually, and stroked her face gently.
“She’s awake.” There was a rustle, and Cordelia found herself surrounded by three other demons, all draped in black woolen robes with small holes cut in the hoods to accommodate their horns. She looked from one to another, trying to still the panic rising in her chest.
“Who are you?” Her voice was a little reedy with fear. She tugged uselessly at the restraints around her wrists. The first demon leaned over her again, his voice a hiss.
“Do not struggle. You will harm yourself.”
“No, no. Wouldn’t want that….don’t want to harm myself. Hey, tell ya what…why don’t you just untie my wrists..”
“No. No. The ritual is clear. The fastenings must be in place.”
“Ritual? What ritual…because…I’m not really of…you know…your faith…whatever…” Cordelia looked around frantically. “Where’s Wesley? What have you done to Wesley?”
“The human is fine.” Cordy turned to face another demon. This one held a long, thin scythe, curved with a wicked looking jagged edge. He stroked it softly with his hand, and Cordelia flinched as she watched his fingers trail lovingly over the cool metal.
“Mmm…well…I need to know that. I need to see him.”
“The human is not of significance.”
“Oh. Well, there ya go. I’m human, too. Pretty insignificant here….really really just…you know….mmmmm.” She thought a moment. “Why don’t you just untie me and we can forget this whole little deal ever happened…”
“You misunderstand. Your significance is great. Ethereal, really. You are our honored guest.” ‘Guest’ was hissed out from thin, scaly lips. Cordelia’s mind raced, trying to stay on top of the conversation.
“Well, gotta say…you don’t treat your guests very well…why don’t you just untie…”
“SILENCE” Cordelia quickly closed her mouth as the first demon leaned over her, menace in his tone. “Your role in our ritual is great, but I will not stand for….”
“Let her go.” Cordelia almost passed out with relief when Wesley’s voice, firm and solid, sounded in the large, empty factory. She turned her head to see him standing, legs slightly apart, just inside the doorway.
“I thought you knocked him out hard.” She heard one demon whisper to another.
“I did. Really hard. Thought I’d killed him for a moment.”
“Pffftttt.” They looked down at Cordy. “Please. This man is a professional at getting knocked out.” She looked back at Wesley. “Get me out of here!”
Wesley looked at her, trying to remain calm. There were four of the demons, and they were massive in size. Angel should be here any moment, and hopefully would have Gunn with him. He just had to stall for a bit…
“Get out, human, while we choose to let you live.” The demon spoke dismissively.
“Not without my wife.” Wesley’s voice was firm and low. Cordy turned her head to look at him again.
“She is not your mate. We know this. You both said so.” The demon seemed unconcerned by any threat Wesley was trying to pose. “We know that this being…” he indicated Cordelia, “is a virgin. Untouched by filth. Clean and pure. She will be a fitting tribute to Ogranth.”
“Our Master. He who reigns supreme over all…”
Wesley smirked. “He doesn’t reign over me.”
The demon snarled back “He is far above humans.”
“Ahh. But then, you’ve made a tremendous and fatal mistake. I am no human.” Wesley whipped his glasses off and carefully tucked them into his shirt pocket. “Hegh lu’meH QaQ jajvam. Hab SoSlI’ Quch!
The demons looked at him a moment before one spoke. “What did he say?”
The demon with the scythe looked at the other demons and said, “He said ‘today is a good day to die’ and ‘your mother has a very smooth forehead.’.” He caught their blank stares and shrugged. “I watch a lot of Star Trek.”
Cordelia whispered loudly, “Wes, untie me now so I can kill you.” She looked back up at the demons and laughed a little, hysterically. “OK, think I see where the snafu is. Guys, big mistake here…not your fault, just…ya know, a little teeny misunderstanding….the thing is…” her voice dropped to a whisper. “I’m really not a virgin.”
The four demons looked at her silently, then at each other. They spoke in tongues to each other, and finally looked back down at her.
“It is of no consequence. You have been chosen. Your death will be an honor.”
“No, no, not really feeling all that honored…just…”
“SILENCE” Dread poured through Cordelia at the heat in the demon’s voice. “Do not peddle your falsehoods upon us. The time is here….Ogranth must be appeased.”
“Yeah? He sounds kinda whiny to me.” All heads turned to see Angel, standing in the doorway, his black coat billowing out from behind him. A puff of relieved breath escaped Cordy as she began tugging again at her bonds. Wesley sagged, equally relieved, and held up his hands to catch the axe that Angel tossed to him. Gunn appeared behind Angel, and they swept into the room and slowly approached the dais that Cordy lay on. Angel spared her a small glance, and a muscle twitched along his jaw as he saw that her wrists and ankles were tied.
The demons rushed the three men, and the air was thick with clanging and grunting sounds as they fought furiously. Gunn beheaded one, and turned to help Wesley, who was being backed into a corner by another demon. Gunn caught the demon’s raised arm from behind just as Wesley slashed the axe through the scaly skin, bisecting him and shrinking back as bright demon blood spouted out everywhere.
“Angel…” Cordy’s voice was a whisper as she watched the demon raise the scythe over his head, towering over her body as he chanted softly. “Angel?” Angel raised his sword, clanging it against his opponent’s, leading him to the left before reaching around and slicing to the right, sliding his sword into the demon’s chest. He yanked it out with looking back as he turned to the dais, approaching it at lightening speed as the chanting demon closed his eyes and thrashed the scythe down towards Cordelia’s heart. “ANGEL!!!!!!!” Angel threw his sword at the demon’s arm and a thick fleshy rip sounded as the demon’s arm came flying off. Goo spurted out and over Cordelia, and the demon staggered back, howling in rage. Angel picked his sword up and stood over the demon, who fell to his knees. Angel casually drove the point of the sword through the demon chest and then turned to Cordelia, untying her bonds even before the huge body had crashed to the ground with a thud.
“Oh god…oh god…oh god…” Cordy gasped as Angel untied her ankles. “Angel…oh god.”
“I know, Cordy. I know.” Angel’s voice was rough. “It’s ok. You’re ok, baby.” He scooped her up and swept her off the dais, holding her tightly as he turned to face Gunn and Wesley. “You two alright?”
“Right fine.” Gunn said. “Cordy…you ok?”
“Yeah. Peachy.” Cordelia lay her head against Angel’s shoulder and she closed her eyes. “Wesley’s the one who got smacked.”
“No, no, I’m fine.” Wesley panted a bit and bent down to catch his breath before straightening up. “What was that about?”
“Oh, the usual. Go to see an attorney, he’s really a demon from hell.” Cordelia breathed in Angel’s scent before sitting up with a start and blushing, wriggling a bit before he set her on her feet. She looked down at her goo covered clothes and sighed. “This was my ‘get an annulment’ outfit. It’s ruined, now.”
Angel put his hand on her back and pushed her forward gently, leading her to the door. The other two followed, dragging their swords and axes behind them. “It’s ok. We’ll find you another outfit. Right after we find you another lawyer.” Cordy looked up and opened her mouth and Angel spoke again. “Nope. I’m finding him. I’m paying for it.”
Cordelia looked surprised and Wesley started to protest. “No. I want it done right. I’m taking care of it. I want this over.” Cordelia stopped and looked up at Angel, her eyes narrowing. From behind them, Wesley gave a small sigh.
“tlhIngan maH!” They all stopped and turned to look at him as he pulled his glasses back out of his pocket and pushed them onto his nose. He looked up and grinned, sheepishly. “Oh. Sorry. Ancient Klingon saying.”
“Bite me, Wesley.” Cordelia turned to go, Angel right behind her. “Me, just now.”
Wesley followed, a disgruntled look on his face. Gunn brought up the end, grinning to himself.
Don’t know what the fuss is all about. They sure sound married.
Would this night never ever end? Cordelia closed her eyes and breathed out heavily, feeling the weight of the last two weeks settle about her shoulders and pull her further down into her body. She felt so alone, and so bone tired. Her big choices lately were to either celebrate each anniversary wearing a velour Starfleet uniform or to be sacrificed as a fake virgin. And that about summed up her nasty, no good very bad life.
She sighed, watching Fred tuck into the huge plate of tacos with gusto. How could anyone eat like a long-distance trucker and still have the body of a child from a Sally Struthers country? Fred looked continuously like her picture should be above the caption, ‘You can feed this child for just seventeen cents a day,’ but Cordy had seen her pack it away on an ongoing basis, and never put on a pound. Life was funny that way.
Life was funny in many many ways, none of which Cordy saw any evidence of tonight. She sat, tight-lipped, while Gunn and Wesley roared over the sacrificial virgin incident. Yeah, yeah, yeah. God knew she thought it was a complete stitch. She looked down, trying to smile, as Gunn retold the story, again, for Lorne’s benefit.
“So she’s just layin’ there, all mouth, lippin’ off like the guy is getting ready to hand her flowers and not slice and dice her little body, when she announces, hey, I’m not a virgin!” Gunn laughed again, throwing his head back. Wesley chuckled beside him, and Lorne smiled absently down at his own plate. Fred stopped eating and looked at Cordy sympathetically. Cordelia looked at Gunn and nodded.
“I did. I just threw what was left of my dignity right out there. Seems to have worked…I mean, no slice and dice to be seen…”
“Well yeah…Angel and me show up to save the day for Klingons everywhere…” And Gunn laughed again. Cordelia felt a wave of tiredness begin to creep over her body. She was so tired of this. She drifted off, trying to ignore the chuckles of the group as they lounged around the table at the small Mexican restaurant. She looked down at her untouched plate, pushing rice around as if it would, like tea leaves, form some kind of mystical guidance message that she could use to jump her life forward to a better place. She didn’t notice Angel, who had been silently watching, lean forward and clap Gunn on the back, laughing loudly.
He threw a camaraderie arm around Gunn’s solid shoulders and grinned, leaning over to whisper quietly, “laugh about that story again and I’ll bleed your body dry before the sound leaves your throat.” Gunn sat straight up, eyes wide, and Angel grinned a dorky grin while nodding his head slightly towards Cordelia. Gunn looked past Angel at Cordy, and a dull flush spread over his face as he realized how bad Cordelia was feeling.
“Hey, Cordy…” She looked up at him, wary. “Sorry about that…..you….that was a crappy thing to happen to anybody. You…” He grinned, but without humor. “You were handling yourself fine. You’re a tough cookie.” Cordelia looked at him, unblinking. Gunn shifted a bit nervously. “What?”
“Uh. For what?”
“The other shoe. C’mon, Gunn, the joke. I’m a tough cookie…..who’s, oh, bittersweet. I used to be pure as the driven snow. but I drifted…c’mon….hit me with the funny.” Gunn stared at her, misery beginning to show in his eyes. “Ohhh…maybe it would be funnier if Wes gave you the Klingon word for snow.” Her voice began to rise. “Because god knows I haven’t had enough Star Trek action to get me through the day.” Angel started to say something and she threw him a dirty look. “Don’t even start with me. I’ve been hearing it from you for two weeks now. I think ‘stupid’ is the your favorite word for me, with ‘dumb’ and my personal favorite, ‘spacy’ coming in a close second and third. Because, it’s all about how stupid I am.” She rose up, unaware that other diners had stopped eating and were listening in.
“And I’m even more stupid than that because I’ve been sitting here, listening to this crap like I had no choice. Ya know the really crappy thing? This wouldn’t even be a huge jokefest if they had asked Wesley if HE was a virgin. Everyone would only be hootin’ and hollerin’ if Wesley WAS a virgin. What the fuck is that about? My lovelife, or lack of…” she snorted with disgust, “…is nothing but ammo for the humor to fly, but if I was a man…boy, would this story be different.”
“Amen, sister!” Someone called out from across the small restaurant.
“You bet!” Cordy was on a roll, and shook Angel’s hand off as he tried to pull her back down. “Stop that. What’s the matter? Think I might be EMBARRASSED? Think I may do something…oh….STUPID?” She drew in a deep breath. “I can’t take this anymore! I can’t do this! I’m done! I don’t care if I get sacrificed to appease the fashion police at US magazine. I don’t care if scary demons tie me to a slab and use me for a dinner plate. Do you hear me? I don’t care! Wes, hope you love this face, because you’re stuck with it for 50 more years. Know why? Because I don’t care!” She shrieked out the last on a hysterical note and smacked her chair away before stumbling out through the restaurant into the inky night.
Everyone sat at the table, frozen. Lorne sighed and leaned back, not saying a word. Wesley looked down at his plate, and Gunn hung his head and shook it slightly. “Man. Just beat me with a brick now, ‘cause I don’t think I could feel worse.” He looked up. “Sorry, Wes. I don’t…..I didn’t mean…”
Wes nodded, tiredly. “No, it’s ok. Well, no it’s not, but the thing is…you’re fine.”
Fred looked over at Wes and Gunn, her face wreathed in sadness. “I’m a bad friend. I should be there more for her, and I’ve been….just….not a friend.” She looked down at her plate. “I suck.” And she lifted another taco to her mouth, munching as she looked off into space, depressed.
Angel watched them all silently and rose up. “I’ll get her home. She’s….having a bad time with all this. Mainly…” He tossed money on the table and grabbed up his coat. “Mainly because she needs her friends. And..” He laughed, a short, angry laugh. “Her friends aren’t there.” Everyone looked up at him, guilt on their faces, and Angel tugged his coat on. “And I’m supposed to be there for her. And I haven’t been, either.”
Lorne spoke up, his voice low. “You can fix that, Angel. Go be there now.” Angel looked at Lorne, and silent communication passed between them as Angel nodded and moved towards the door.
Gunn called out after him, “Angel. Yo. How’re we supposed to get home?”
“Get a cab.” Angel tossed over his shoulder. “Wes can translate if the driver’s an alien.” And he was gone out the door.
He caught up with her two blocks later, trudging down the sidewalk, her head down. Angel gripped her arm and pulled her around to face him and she looked up at him, tears shimmering in her eyes.
“Ok.” Her voice was low. “How bad was that?”
Angel looked of into the night, thinking a bit. “Oh, not too bad. Wesley is getting them all home. Gunn is a quivering mass of sorry goo. Lorne’s having a drink as soon as he hits home. And Fred…” he paused, grinning. “Well, this has hugely affected her appetite. She was only able to eat two more tacos after you left.”
Cordelia sniffed and pressed her face into Angel’s chest, sighing as his arms came around her solidly. “They hate me now. They used to like me, and just think I was ditzy. Now they hate me.”
“No, they don’t.” Angel tucked her under his chin. “They feel bad. We all feel bad. I’m as sorry as they are.” He stroked her back softly, staring over her head into the inky night. “Cordy…we’re sorry. All of us. No one was laughing because you’re not a virgin….” She pulled back a little and looked up at him. “C’mon Cordy, I think that ship sailed a while back. No big thing. It’s just you…laying there, all tied up…trying to talk your way out of being a sacrifice. Damn.” He shuddered a bit. “I think back on that, and don’t know whether to laugh or cry about it. Your friends…” He sounded ‘friends’ out distinctly, “..are in the same boat. Coulda lost you. I think they’re choosing to laugh.”
“Yeah. I know.” Cordy’s voice was muffled. “I just….” She sighed. “I just feel so….”
“Don’t say stupid.” Angel ground out. “You’re not. Not at all. I think I am.”
“Why do you think you’re stupid? Not that I’m disagreeing with you….” She grinned to herself as she felt a rumble in his chest as he laughed, a low, sexy chuckle.
“Because I shouldn’t be this angry about you being married.” Cordelia stiffened in his arms. “Why do you think that is? Why do you think I’ve been such a bear about this?”
They both stood there, silent in the night. Cordelia finally raised her head and pushed away, stepping back a little as she looked up at Angel, her eyes luminous in the moonlight.
“Um. I don’t know.” Angel held her gaze and didn’t move except to push his hands into his pockets. “I know we’re putting you to a lot of trouble….”
“It’s not the trouble.”
“I know this makes stuff….messy. Life, that is.”
“I don’t mind a little mess.”
Cordy threw her hands up, a laugh bordering on hysteria bubbling up from her throat. “Well, damn, Angel, I don’t know why my inconvenient marriage is such a thorn in your side. You tell me.”
Angel looked down at her, at the energy that crackled off her body as she stared up at him. He looked away and grinned to himself, meeting her gaze again.
“Tell you what. When this is all done, when you’re just Cordelia Chase again, we’ll have a drink and I’ll tell you.”
“Yeah, like that’ll happen soon.” Angel took her arm while she talked and they headed back towards his car. She sniffed again. “Now, apparently, I need more than references to select an attorney. I need blood samples, a family history, and a sworn statement of humanity.”
Angel held her hand as they crossed the street and approached his car. “I found him. A real attorney. He’s on the level, and has a one man office, so his case load is small. He can take care of this in about a week.” He opened the passenger door for Cordy. “You and Wes have an appointment tomorrow.” Cordy looked up at him, smiling slightly. “What?”
“You. You’re one of the good guys.” She wiped at her eyes and leaned in to whisper, “You don’t scare me, pal.”
“Well, don’t let that get around.” Angel pushed her into the car and shut her door, walking around and getting in on his own side. “Girl Scout Cookie time. You know I have to be rough and tough when those little girls come knocking, or I’m outta control.”
“Yeah. We’ve still got boxes of thin mints from last year.”
“We do?” Angel sounded pleased.
“We hid ‘em. You and sugar, not so much.”
Angel grinned and started the car, pulling out into traffic. Cordy looked out the window and smiled, feeling a little lighter in heart and soul. Tomorrow. She’d take care of this little problem tomorrow. And then….single city. And, apparently, drinks with Angel.
There was sweating like a pig, there was flop-sweat, and there was Mr. Blevins. He raised perspiring to a whole new level. Cordelia sat still in her chair and looked across the old, metal desk at him before sneaking a glance at Wesley, who sat beside her. Wesley looked back and shrugged, just as Mr. Blevins finished looking over the paperwork spread out in front of him.
“Hooookay.” His voice was brusque, and a little strained. He looked over the forms and raised flat blue eyes to rest on Cordy and Wes. “I think we’re set. Just need..” He wheezed a bit. “Just need to sign a little John Hancock here and there….and get this baby filed…and” he paused, leaning back to emit a deep, gurgly hacking cough. Cordy leaned forward in her seat a bit.
“Um. Mr. Blevins…are you alright?”
“Yeah. Oh, yeah. Just…gotta lay off the cigarettes.” He wheezed a bit more and grabbed up a bottle of water, taking a deep swig before slapping the bottle back on his desk. He rubbed his head and looked back down at the papers.
They had first met with Mr. Blevins a week ago. Dry and cranky, he had assessed the situation and had said that it wouldn’t be a problem to get this taken care of quickly. He had prepared all the paperwork and laid the way for them to get to this point. Today was the day. By this afternoon, Cordelia would be a single woman.
“Okiedokie now….” Mr. Blevins seemed to be working to concentrate. Beads of perspiration shone on his forehead, and he had begun to pant a little. He slid the packet of papers over to Cordelia. “You’ve signed everything except this. It’s the final motion to annul. Right here…” he wheezed a bit and pointed at the blank line. Cordy signed it, sighing, and handed the papers to Wes, who signed his name on the corresponding line. He handed the packet back to Mr. Blevins, who took it and looked down at it, raising his hand to sign his own name.
“Just…” he paused, wheezing a bit more. “Just need my own signature, and I’ll run these down to the county clerk and it’s done.” His face began to turn grey, slowly, and his hand shook a bit. “Hang on a minute….” He coughed harshly, and couldn’t seem to stop. Cordelia snuck another look at Wesley, who looked back, concerned.
“Mr. Blevins?” Cordelia’s voice was a whisper. “You seem….I think….” Suddenly, the lawyer groaned and slumped down on his desk, silent and still. Cordelia and Wes seemed frozen, their eyes wide, before Wes jumped up and grabbed at the phone on the desk, dialing 911 while Cordy rose and ran around the desk, leaning Mr. Blevins back in his chair and loosening his tie. “Mr. Blevins? Mr. Blevins? Oh god, Wesley….I think he’s having a heart attack.”
Two hours later, they sat in the waiting room of the emergency room, forlorn looks on their faces. A nurse had come out to tell them that yes, it appeared that Mr. Blevins had had a heart attack, was stabilized, and resting. They took in a relieved breath.
“Do you think we could see him, just for a bit?” the nurse looked down at Cordy and smiled.
“Don’t see why not. Let me check with Mr. Blevins. You know, it’s so nice of you both to be concerned…I know it makes Mr. Blevins feel a lot better.” Cordy nodded, a frozen smile on her face, as the nurse walked away.
“What are you doing?” Wesley hissed in her ear.
She ignored him, looking casually around, as she reached into her bag and pulled out the blue-backed packet of annulment papers. Wesley looked down and his eyes grew wide.
“I cannot believe….” He looked around, lowering his voice. “I cannot believe that you brought those here to…..Cordelia. The man has had a heart attack.”
“Well yeah, was right there when it happened, Wes.”
“And you want him to sign them NOW?”
“Well, when would be a better time? He’s…ya know…in bed….probably bored…nothing to do. A little work will pick him right up.”
Wesley stared at her in disbelief. “He’s in the emergency room, not at a spa.” His voice dropped. “I’m not even sure this would be legal.”
“First of all, a lawyer. He’s used to things not legal. Not that this isn’t legal, it’s….creative.”
“Creative.” Wesley’s voice echoed hers.
“Yeah. C’mon, Wes. I’m a woman who’ll chase a heart attack victim into the ER to get him to sign papers. Do you really want to stay married to ME?”
“Good point.” They both stood up as the nurse approached them, crooking her finger at them. They followed her to a small curtained off cubicle, peering around the curtains at Mr. Blevins, lying peacefully on the hospital bed. A monitor hummed quietly beside his bed, and an oxygen tube entered his nose.
They approached the bed quietly, and the nurse left, pulling the curtains shut behind her. Cordy leaned over his bed, a small smile on her face. “Mr. Blevins? It’s me. Cordelia Chase.” Mr. Blevins opened his eyes and squinted up at them.
“Oh. Hi. Yeah. Chase and Price.”
“Wyndam-Price.” Wesley muttered under his breath. Cordelia kept smiling and didn’t even spare him a glance as she elbowed him in the ribs.
“How are you, Mr. Blevins?”
“Been better.” He coughed slightly. “Hey, gotta tell you both thanks. The nurse tells me if you hadn’t been there…” He coughed again. “Well, we wouldn’t be talking.”
Cordy patted his hand. “No problem. Always willing to lend a hand.”
“Sorry about this….know you wanted to get this taken care of. Wish I could fix this…”
“Well…” Cordelia smiled brightly as she yanked the packet of papers out of her tote bag, “as a matter of fact…if you could just kind of…you know…sign these…”
Mr. Blevins looked a little surprised. “Oh. Yeah, we can do that. You have to take ‘em down and file ‘em yourselves. County clerk. County seat. Open till 4:00, so you’ll have to hurry.” He took the pen Cordelia handed him and squinted down at the paper. “Um.” Cordy guided his hand to the line and he began to write his name, his hand starting to shake. “Um….” He wrote his first name and stopped, suddenly gurgling and passing out as the monitor beside his bed beeped an insistent alarm. Cordelia froze, panic on her face. Wesley groaned and covered his face with his hands.
Suddenly, Cordy reached down and grabbed at Mr. Blevin’s hand, the pen still gripped in his fist. Raising his hand to the paper, Cordy guided his hand and signed his last name, snatching the pen out of his hand and stuffing the papers back into her bag just as the curtains ripped open and a team of nurses and doctors raced into the small space. Cordy and Wes moved back out of the way, and watched as they worked on Mr. Blevins frantically. A nurse took them aside and said they’d have to go outside to the waiting room.
Cordelia stalked straight through the emergency room lobby on out into the bright day, an appalled Wesley close on her heels. “Cordelia.” His voice was a low hiss. She ignored him and walked around the corner, stopping to pull the papers back out of her bag. Smoothing out the wrinkles, she looked down at them.
“Cordelia. Oh my god.” Wesley leaned against the wall of a building, closing his eyes. “I cannot believe that you…that we….”
“Ease off, horror boy. We’ll send him flowers later.” Cordelia scanned the papers and carefully put them in order. “Ok. I think we’re good.”
“Good? We’re awful. We just…forged a signature on legal documents.”
“Nope. He signed ‘em with his own hand.”
“Oh, Cordelia, really.”
“Oh Wesley.” She looked at him closely. “This has been a train wreck from the get go, Wes. I love you. You’re….you’re like a best friend or something. But the last month, we’ve been fighting and scraping and yelling and it’s just been nasty. I’ve taken on Klingon ministers, demon virgin sacrificers, and more embarrassment than a human should ever have to take. This is it. This is our out. This is us going back to normal. Sorry it’s not all perfectly Perry Mason for you, but this is what we got. I worked with it, and pulled it out of the crapper.” She looked at him. “Now. Do we both go to the county clerk or do you want to do it or do you want me to do it? ‘Cause we’re burning daylight, here.”
Wesley looked at her, resigned, and wordlessly held out his hand. She gave the papers to him, and they looked at each other blankly. She finally spoke.
“Ok. I’ll head on home. You take the bus to the county clerk’s. I think you need the yellow line, and take it to 56th…” Wes looked up as a bus rolled by and on up the street.
“Was that it?”
“No, honey, if that was our bus it would be exploding.” Cordelia thought a moment. “Ok. You take my car, I’ll take the bus. It’ll be quicker.” She handed her car keys to Wesley and he took them, silent for a moment, shaking his head. When he looked up at her, there was a glint of dark humor in his eyes.
“We’re going to hell. You know that.”
“Yeah.” She patted his arm. “But we’ll be seated in the singles section.”
He chuckled mirthlessly, and they both looked down at the papers. Wesley looked up, and searched her eyes, as if looking for reassurance in the hazel depths. Cordy smiled and he nodded his head. “Hey, look. 2:15. Ya got just enough time to get to the county clerk and get this notarized and on record.”
Wesley looked closely at her. “Sure you don’t want to go along? Seems that an occasion of this import…”
“Nah. You go. But….swing by the Hyperion. Maybe take Fred with you.”
Wesley seemed surprised. “Fred.”
“Yeah. Fred. I think….I think she needs to know this is a done deal.” Wesley seemed speechless. “And, you know, if the clerk happens to be Klingon, she can help you translate.”
Wesley laughed, a little lighter, and looked at Cordelia. She looked back, feeling the old, familiar feelings of love pour through her. This was the best, she thought. This is my family.
Wesley leaned in and kissed her softly on the cheek. “Ms. Chase, it’s been an honor being your husband.”
She smiled back at him, feeling tears gather in her eyes. “Wesley, I don’t know if I’ll ever get married for real…..but if I do…..God, I hope he’s at least half the man you are.”
Wesley’s smile faltered a bit and then he nodded and rose, ducking his head. He turned to go towards the street where her car was parked. Cordelia watched him, a sad smile tilting her lips. He paused, and turned back to her. She grinned, and intoned solemnly, “We’ll always have Vegas.”
Wesley smiled back, and left. The smile bled off her face, and she turned to walk down the sidewalk. Another day, another…..crisis. Her pace picked up. Now on to the rest of her life. But first, she had to finish the day.
Cordy tugged her jacket off as she meandered through her apartment….sighing a little at the tingle of cool air that wafted over her neck.
“Yeah, Dennis, done and donner. You are looking at a single woman.” She stretched, yawning. “Single and happenin’.” She giggled slightly, walking down the short hall to her room. “Gotta say, even for me, this was a red-letter day. I cowed Wesley, tormented a heart attack patient, and hey, oh yeah, ended a FAILED MARRIAGE. All in a day’s work for Cordelia Chase, seer in the big city.”
She kicked off her shoes and headed for the bathroom. “Gonna take a shower, gonna pull on ugly comfy pants and big fat bunny slippers and gonna sit my ass right in front of the tv with a little gift from my future husbands, Ben and Jerry. Whatdya say?”
Silence greeted her musings. “C’mon, Dennis. We’ll watch Ghost.” Her voice cajoled tiredly. The water in the shower turned on, and she smiled softly. “There ya go.”
An hour later, just after twilight, she settled comfortably on the sofa, slapping her feet onto the coffeetable. The cheerful bunnies on the toes of her slippers grinned maniacally at her upside down, and a pint of Half Baked lay open in her lap. “Ok, Dennis…let’s get this cryfest on the road.” A dvd floated up and into the open drawer of the player, which slid shut with a mechanical whoosh. Cordelia was reaching for the remote when the phone rang, jarring her in the silence.
She stared at the caller ID. Wesely. Please, God. Please please please. Let this be an everything went ok call, and not a business as usual, all screwed up call. She picked up the receiver with fingers that shook slightly. “Hello?”
“Cordelia.” Wesley’s voice sounded muted. “It’s done. Everything went smoothly. The papers have been notarized and documented and filed, and as of 5:00, we are….” He broke off. Cordy relaxed and leaned back.
“Not legally forced to bicker? Able to snark at each other now just for sport?” Cordelia took a huge spoonful of Half Baked and shoved it into her mouth.
“Well, yes.” Cordelia could hear the amusement in Wesley’s voice. “Feel free to….snark….away just for the pleasure of it.”
Cordelia grinned, licking the spoon. “Well, now that I’m single it has to be protected snark.”
“Cordelia…” Wesley’s voice turned serious. “I never said….” He broke off. There was a silence, and she heard him mutter softly, “Maybe this is best not done over the phone.”
“Oh, Wes, now you’re stuck. What is it?” Cordy froze. What had gone wrong now?
“The thing is, Cordelia, I haven’t said….I didn’t…..Cordelia, I didn’t ever tell you how sorry I was about all of this. I feel like it was my fault.”
“Wes. I was there too. Not completely dumb here, just kinda. You don’t have to tell me you’re sorry. I’m not.”
“You’re not?” Wes sounded surprised.
“Well, no. I mean, look at the lives we live, Wes.” She stuffed another bite of Half Baked into her mouth. “Ish nst e ay i ish.”
Cordelia swallowed quickly, holding her hand to her forehead as brainfreeze shot through her. “Um, I said, it’s just the way it is. With us. We have weird lives.”
“Yes we do.” Wesley’s sigh was heartfelt.
“Look at it this way, Wes. How great is it that I was married to my best friend? How sucky would it have been had I woken up with Bubba, the 300 lb truck driver from Armpit, America? C’mon, get a little perspective here.”
“There is that.” The amusement was back in Wesley’s voice.
“Good. We’re back. I called the hospital. Mr. Blevins is fine. He’s in the cardio-care unit, but expected to be ok.” Cordy licked at the spoon some more. “I’ll send him flowers from us tomorrow. Maybe with a box of nicoderm patches.” Wes chuckled. “So……didya stand and deliver alone today?”
“Um….no. Had company.”
“Company of the taco-shovin’ variety?”
“Yes. How could you see that she…”
“Oh Wes….clueless, clueless Wes. I think the question here is how could you NOT see?” There was a silence for a moment.
“There is something to that. Being clueless.” Wes mused. “Perhaps there’s something in the water. Because it seems that the clueless affliction is going around.”
“What?” Cordy sifted uncomfortably. There was another moment of silence. When Wesley spoke again his voice was casual.
“Oh, nothing. Just that some people can’t see what’s right in front of them. Me, for example. I think…” he paused. “I think I can see a lot more clearly now, and I think I’m going to take Ms. Winifred Burkle out for dinner tonight.”
Cordy smiled sadly, a little chagrinned at the small stab to her heart. “You dog. Get rid of one, just get another. Really, Wes. Have a good time. I’ll talk to you in the morning, probably with a dairy product hangover.”
“Would you like to join us?”
Cordelia laughed out loud. “Oh, may I? That’d be a perfect first date for you and Fred.” She chuckled. “But thanks, Wes. You’re the best.”
“Alright then. See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah.” Sigh. “Tomorrow.” And she gently put the receiver down. Wesley and Fred. Sittin’ in a tree. She smiled, fingering the receiver lightly as she thought. Good for them. She was reaching for the remote when the phone rang again. She looked at the caller id and picked it up, holding it to her ear. “Hey Gunn.”
“Barbie.” Gunn’s voice sounded relaxed. “Hey, heard you were on the market again.”
“Yes, and I’m strong, have child bearing hips, and all my own teeth.”
Gunn laughed. “Just wanted to call and tell ya….kinda think I was a butt about this whole thing.”
“Yes, you were. Lucky for you, your butt is fabulous.” Gunn laughed again. “It’s all good, Charles, my sweet. I kinda had a butt moment or two of my own.”
“Oh, like torturing sick lawyers?”
“He wasn’t sick. He was near death. Big difference.” She paused. “But yeah, that was a less than stellar moment for the archives. I just wanted it done.”
“Yeah.” They were both silent for a moment. “So…we good?”
“We’re the best, Charles Gunn.”
“OK. Need a little company?”
“Yeah, Microsoft would be nice, if you’re offering.”
Gunn laughed again. “Ok, ok, I get it. Just don’t want ya alone and sad, like those sad women, sitting there in front of the tv eating ice cream all the time.”
Cordy froze, the full spoon halfway to her mouth. “Um, no, no, not gonna happen. No ice cream binge for me.”
“Good. Because my Auntie Bernice…..man, when she sits around the house, she sits AROUND the house.”
Cordelia laughed. “No, no, no. No Atkins for me. I’m gonna be skinny Minnie for a while at least.”
“Sure you’re good?” Gunn was serious. “I mean, big day. I was a butt. I could take ya out…”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. How can I not be, with such good friends?” There was a silence for a moment.
“OK. Long as you’re good. Because you’re….you’re gold, Cordy, and you deserve good. Hell, you deserve the best.”
“I think I already have it.” Cordy sighed. “It’s…we’re good and solid, sweetie. I’ll see you tomorrow, still skinny, and buy you a latte.”
“Ok. Gonna hold you to that.” And he hung up. Cordy lowered the receiver and was reaching for the remote when the phone rang again. She looked at the caller id and sighed, picking up the phone and holding it to her ear.
“Lorne. Hey. Don’t wanna sing, I’m fine, I’m not mad, I’m not eating myself into oblivion and it’s all good.”
There was a silence. “So…..you’re turning down a date with moi?”
Cordy giggled. “A date with you? Please.”
“Hey it could happen. You know what they say. The size of a demon’s horn corresponds directly to the size of his…”
“LORNE!!!!” Cordelia laughed loudly. “You’re bad.”
“So bad that you need to hustle your tush over here for dinner and entertainment. C’mon, Cordycakes. It’ll be fun. Right now, a Klanarion is onstage singing It’s Raining Men. You can’t find good times like that anywhere.”
“Ok, ok, ok.” Cordelia threw her hands up. “Dinner with the host with the most…sounds good. Give me a few minutes and I’ll be there.”
“Good girl. Just for that, I’m not going to tease you for one single second about your tainted Klingon blood.”
“Just kidding. Had to get my little lick in. C’mon, time’s a wastin’”
“OK. On my way.” She hung up and sighed. “I give up. My friends are determined to be friends. Dennis…” She rose, and trudged down the hall, her bunny slippers making little slappy noises on the wood floor. “You’re on your own. Try to not drool over Demi, ok?”
Lorne hung up the phone, smiling slightly across the table as he lifted his drink in a toast. “She’s on her way.”
An hour later, Cordelia entered Carita’s and sat down, looking around for Lorne. Not seeing him, she wandered through the crowd till she got to an empty table and sat, wincing as the woman on stage belted out “Like a Virgin.” God had a sick sense of humor.
A waitress appeared, and Cordy ordered with an absent minded smile as she looked again for Lorne. Maybe he was giving some kind of psychic music mojo reading thingee to someone, or something. The waitress returned and set her drink down and wandered off at Cordy’s soft “thanks.”
She leaned back in her seat, absently stirring her coke as her mind wandered. A shadow fell over the table and she looked up, grinning a bit as Lorne joined her and sat at her table.
“Cookie….a coke? The shame, the shame.” Lornes’ voice was light but his gaze was watchful.
“Yeah. Me and the drinkypoo, we don’t seem to mix.” Cordelia flashed him another grin. “I learned my lesson.”
“That. And other things.” They both fell silent. Another shadow fell across the table, and Cordy looked up at the waitress, standing over her with a single drink perched in the middle of her tray. The waitress pointed in the direction of the bar.
“From that guy over there, the one with the horn in the middle of his forehead?” Cordelia followed the point and smiled apologetically, shaking her head no. The Demon shrugged his shoulders and she turned back to Lorne.
“Just what I need. Newly single, out on the prowl.”
Lorne looked down at his fingernails carefully. “Sooooo…not ready to dive into the having fun with the romance thing just yet?”
“If ever. Jeeze.” She sipped at her coke. “I don’t think I’m cut out to be married.”
“Honey….” Lorne broke off as the waitress appeared again with another drink for Cordelia.
“The guy with the one eye in the middle of his chin.” Cordy followed the waitress’ pointing finger and smiled again, shaking her head no. Lorne watched the byplay.
“Cordilicious…you’re looking at this all wrong. That wacky thing called love doesn’t really walk hand in hand with married. Those are two things going on. You need to look at the big picture.”
“Oh, I did. I have seen the big picture, and it’s like a Seurat. You know….really beautiful from far away…but get up close, and it’s a mess.”
“Cordy, maybe your happy ever after is here. Maybe you’re too close and it looks like a mess, but you need to stand back and let the picture get clearer.”
Cordy sipped at her coke. “Could be. Maybe…” She grinned at Lorne. “Maybe I just need to hang with my favorite green guy and have me some dinner.”
Lorne nodded, looking over her shoulder and hiding a grin before rising.
“Cordycakes, all I’m gonna say is that men are like busses. One goes by, another one will come along.” Cordy wrinkled her nose at him.
“Oh, nice, Lorne. I’m having that stitched on a pillow.”
He grinned back. “Oh, and live long and prosper.” He waved a little wave and disappeared, leaving Cordelia shaking her head; she would never, ever live the Great Star Trek Wedding down as long as she had breath.
Just then, the waitress reappeared, this time holding a tray heavy with several glasses, all identical, of the same drink. She plunked the tray down onto the table and Cordy raised wide eyes to her.
“Cranky looking guy in the black coat over by the bar….” Cordy’s head whipped around and met the solemn dark gaze of the vampire who stood apart from everyone else. Cordelia froze, held by the somberness of Angel’s unwavering stare.
The waitress looked down at the tray. “Honey, just take ‘em. I’m not carting that tray back to the bar.” And she disappeared. Cordy ignored her as Angel strolled over, his eyes never leaving hers. He sat down across the table from her and they looked at each other silently. Finally, he spoke, looking away casually.
“So. Big day. What with the medical emergencies and all.”
Cordelia groaned. “Any chance of this little story just sliding away without comment?”
“None at all.” Angel smiled a bit. “That’s Cordelia. Good in a crisis.”
Cordelia smiled slightly and played with her glass. Angel watched her a bit.
“Any regrets?” Cordelia barked out a laugh.
“Oh, my. Jeeze. Where to begin…”
“But the thing is….”Angel’s tone was calm. “..at the end of the day, you have friends who care….you have your life back….”
“Not to mention newfound legal expertise and a sundry knowledge of Klingon. Wasn’t expecting that.” Cordy grinned at him. He nodded back.
“So. I guess it’s official.” Cordy nodded.
“Yes, it is. I’m officially, absolutely, one hundred percent…..not married.” She thought a bit. “Hey, you were going to tell me something….something….remember?” He looked at her evenly. “C’mon, Angel, you hate it when I do that to you…spill. What did you want to tell me. Tonight, everyone wants to tell me something, it seems, get on that train and dish the dirt. He just looked across the table at her, and she began to fidget. “What’s with the drinks?” She leaned in closer, wrinkling her nose as she sniffed at one of the glasses. She looked up at Angel, who watched her carefully. She picked up a glass and took a sip, her eyes widening as the cool liqueur slid down her throat. “These are…these are all….” She laughed. “These are amaretto sours. Hooboy….no thanks.” She set the glass back down. Angel shifted slightly, watching her. “Last time I had one of these…”
She paused, smiling sadly. “I had another. And another. And another. And after a while….I got wacky.” She broke off, raising startled eyes to his face, as he leaned in a little and lifted the glass back up, reaching across the table and handing it to her. She took it with nerveless fingers, and held it tightly as he nudged her hand, keeping his eyes locked on hers. The picture suddenly became clearer as all the dots in her mind connected into a lovely arrangement of color.
And she did.