AUTHOR: VISION GIRL (aka CHRISSY)
SUMMARY: When Lorne gives Angel a self-help tape, the vampire realizes that the person he wants to be with is right in front of him.
POSTED: 28 Nov 2004
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A, W/F – ATS post-Billy
WARNINGS: None Listed
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES: Intended to be the first of a trilogy
Cordelia flopped down onto the stool in front of the counter, grumbling to herself and burying her face in her arms as she let her forehead hit the hard surface with a loud thud.
Crossing his arms and cocking his eyebrow, Angel took a step towards her. “Cordy?”
She didn’t answer him so he crept towards her and gently prodded her shoulder. He got a reaction but not one had expected. Throwing her head up into the air as her elbow went straight into his stomach, she yelped in surprise. She’d obviously been too dazed to hear him approaching.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she halfheartedly apologized, reaching out to pat his stomach and make it feel better but missing him by at least a foot and falling towards the ground. Luckily, Angel caught her when her nose was about two inches from hitting the ground.
“You seem a little…” Angel began to note, hiding the throbbing ache in his gut. Cordelia sure does have a lot of vim. He couldn’t help but smirk, even if he was a little disappointed in his Seer, when he detected a hint of alcohol on her breath and cigarette smoke in her hair. “Hung over.”
“Good observation,” she mumbled, her eyes only half-open. “And I’d ask you to turn down the lights but I know that since we didn’t pay this months power bill if we turn it off it won’t be comin’ back on.”
Taking Cordelia behind the counter over to her desk where the lighting was softer and not right in her eyes, Angel placed his hand on the small of her back and guided her as carefully as he could without pushing her too fast. Even if she seemed thankful to his helpfulness, she still seemed irritated.
“How do you do it?” she asked him quietly, her voice growing raspy.
“Go through life being single…” she sighed, shaking her head at her own wretchedness. “I mean, being a Eunuch and all, you gotta have thoughts from time to time about being with someone. And I’m hoping if you even choose to go along with this conversation that you refrain from referring to The Blonde.”
Cordelia had to put all of her willpower into keep from rolling her eyes. “Either of them will give me the urge puke. Again.”
Angel let his head fall to conceal the smile appearing on his second, giving himself enough time to wipe it off his face before looking back up at his friend. “I don’t think we can have this conversation without me giving you the urge to puke. Unless it’s what you really want, then I could go on for hours about how sometimes at night I think about how it was being with Darla…”
Her cheeks puffing out as she retched a little, Cordelia screwed her eyes shut and pushed Angel. When she managed to push back whatever might have been coming up her throat, she smacked Angel upside the head. “Jackass.”
* * *
With a sigh Lorne seated himself next to Cordelia as she rested her head on top of the keyboard. Sliding the cup of special tea he’d made for her across her desk, he patted her head with his other hand before sliding it down and rubbing comforting circles on her back. “Poor brown-eyes. This little drink’ will cheer you up.”
“Never again will I drink Whiskey. Jack Daniels is now my sworn enemy, so you’re gonna have to tell me what he looks like so I can kick his ass if I ever run into him in the street.” Cordelia lifted her head up and took a big whiff of the soothing aroma and her eyes blinked open. “Does this have, like, magical marijuana in it or what? Because one whiff of that and I feel like I’m ‘tripping out’ in the back of a van.”
“You feel a little better?” Lorne asked quietly.
The grin on his face was hard to miss and Cordelia’s eyes narrowed as she grew suspicious. “You’re a little too happy, so either something really great happened or you’re just as mean to me when I’m drunk as Angel is.”
“I want you to come talk to a friend of mine,” Lorne nodded his head in the direction of the lobby, grabbing Cordelia’s arm and lifting her up to her feet, not giving her a second before dragging her out to meet an average-looking, average-sized man. He was the poster-boy for average and Cordelia had to suppress a groan.
Holding out his hand, the man smiled politely at her and his bright blue eyes flashed at her. God, they were so bright Cordelia was blinded for a moment. “Hello, I’m Alex Pepper.”
“Interesting last name, even more interesting if you’re mother’s maiden name was Salt,” Cordelia dryly responded, plastering on a smile. She wasn’t even trying to be funny, actually thinking her attempt at a stupid joke was more pathetic than intended, but the “Guy Who Tries Too Hard” laughed anyways.
“You’re funny,” his laugh was piercing, the exact opposite of what Cordelia needed at the moment. “They say pretty women usually aren’t funny because they never had to be. Were you a fat child?”
Lorne cleared his throat and put his one hand on Cordelia’s shoulder and the other on Alex’s, pulling them a few feet closer before gasping in some feigned realization. Cordelia shot knives at him with her eyes. “Oh, I almost forgot about a client that I have to check on. Apparently he wants to know whether or not he’s destined for greatness. It’s only weird because his ambitions are to become a porn star and run a drug ring.”
Cordelia stepped on his foot before the emerald-skinned demon patted her on the shoulder and left without another word.
“Listen, Cordelia…” Alex started to say, stepping too close to her.
Cordelia thanked god when she saw Angel walking down the stairs, reading some random book he probably didn’t understand. “Alex, have you met Angel?”
Cordelia ran right past Alex and grabbed Angel by the hand and yanked him down the stairs. When they reached the bottom he tried to pull his hand away but she gripped it tighter until he winced slightly in pain. She forced his arm to awkwardly wrap around her waist. “Angel and I run the business. Together.”
Alex looked crestfallen. “Oh?”
Cordelia would have felt bad if she didn’t have a throbbing headache and was forced to have Angel’s hand on her waist. “Angel, my Angel, has been great. Especially when we first started up ourbusiness. I couldn’t have done it without him.”
She arched her neck and looked back at him, her fake smile showing off all of her shiny and perfect white teeth. “Have I thanked you recently?”
“Um…no.” Angel grunted when she dug her nails into his hands and he reluctantly placed the book in his other hand on the post at the end of the rail. He used his now-free hand to grab her hand and hold her, fighting the urge to squeeze it tight to give her a taste of her own medicine.
“Well, thank you.” Cordelia turned back to face Alex, still smiling.
Alex, on the other hand, recovered as nicely as he could, and pointed to the door behind him, clearing his throat uncomfortably. “Well, it was nice…um, meeting you two. But it’d be best if I went on my way. Have to…get…somewhere.”
“Bye, Alex.” Cordelia and Angel said together.
And once he was gone, Cordelia ripped the vampire’s hand off of her waist. “Don’t touch my waist.”
“You put it there!” Angel protested as she walked back towards her desk.
Cordelia was halfway to getting back to ‘working’ when she growled in frustration, stomped her foot and spun around to face Angel. “He set me up! God, I’m going to kill him!”
“Lorne!” Cordelia said his name in utter disgust; her anger showing as she fisted her hands up and her movements became sharp and threatening. Angel actually held his hand out to defend himself as he stepped towards her. “He set me up because god, why not? I haven’t been with a guy in over a year. Well, that’s excluding Groo, but that ended when I came back here.”
Angel reached out and grabbed her shoulder, “Calm down.”
She shrugged out of his grip and turned around so her back was to him. “It makes me sad sometimes.”
“Not being in a relationship?”
Cordelia looked at Angel over her shoulder and nodded, her eyes displaying all the emotion that was churning beneath the thick layers of defense she had up. Lately she had to be either drunk or her eyes would do the job of explaining what she was feeling. Angel could see that she really, truly, hated being lonely and it made his heart ache.
“Does it make you sad?”
“You know me, I’m always sad. Or broody.” Angel offered a small smile, but it faded away when she shook her head, obviously not in the mood for him to try and lighten the situation.
“Seriously, Angel…” she sighed, turning around to face him and taking a step closer. “Doesn’t it make you depressed to think that, after you kill the demon’s, save the day and get blue gook in your hair, there’s no one you’re going home to?”
Taking in a deep breath and thinking about it for a moment as he slipped his hands into his pockets, Angel looked at Cordelia as he contemplated it for what seemed like forever. “Yeah. It does. A lot of the time I can’t get out of my head the fact that I’m alone. But then…”
“Then what?” Cordelia asked, actually hopeful that he had some magical cure for the unbearable emptiness she was experiencing.
“Then I remember I have you. You, Wesley, Gunn, Lorne and Fred.” Angel stopped talking after that, knowing if he went any further he’d ruin the substance of his words.
Cordelia looked down at her feet, ashamed that she hadn’t thought of it the way he had. “I guess I’ve gotten used to you guys being around. Not that I don’t love all of you but sometimes it’s not enough.”
“I don’t expect it to be enough for you,” Angel admitted quietly, looking at her and wishing that all of her confusion and pain would just go away. When Cordelia hurt, he hurt along with her. “I don’t expect any of this to be enough for you. You deserve more…”
A smile tugged at the corners of Cordelia’s lips and she started to play with her fingernails, not able to look at Angel for more than a second or two. “When did you get to be all smart and stuff?”
Angel laughed, “You can’t be around Wesley 10 hours a day and not pick up a few things. You’d be surprised on how much I can tell you about Kikk Demons.”
Finally, he had said something that brought out a full-on Cordelia Chase smile. Even if she only felt better for as long as they spoke, he was glad he could help in some way.
* * *
Lorne skipped into the Hyperion, humming a little song as he walked towards the counter. Only once he got there he received an unexpected surprise. Angel came from behind, spun him around, grabbing him by the arms and lifted him high up into the air before pushing him against the wall. “I appreciate the interest you have in finding someone for Cordelia, but next time, why don’t you include her on your plans?”
“I saw her come in late last night drunk. She fell asleep on the floor, if you didn’t know that already,” Lorne explained breathlessly. “And just for your information, my ass is pounding faster than it should be.”
Angel slid Lorne down the wall so he was on his feet, but didn’t stop gripping his arms. “She didn’t deserve to be thrown into an awkward conversation with a stranger and left alone.”
Lorne shrugged, “I probably shouldn’t have left her like that, but brown-eyes can handle herself. She’s a firecracker if you hadn’t noticed and I’m just testing out a few guys to see who she’s most compatible with.”
“Make her sing, read her. Just include her in it, alright?” Angel emphasized the last few words by shoving Lorne a hard into the wall before letting him go. “From what I got from Alex, he wasn’t near capable of handling Cordelia. She takes a lot of work. She deserves a lot of attention, all right? Alex seemed a little too focused on the area between her neck and belly button. Does that sound like a guy that’s right for Cordelia?”
“You need to work on that anger there, cupcakes,” Lorne smoothed out his jacket and shook his head, trying to walk away. Angel stepped in his path and Lorne actually looked pretty mad. “Not to get too personal here, but it seems like you’re taking out some of your pent up frustration and making it seem like you’re focusing on Cordelia’s problems.”
“I am focused on her problems.”
“And some of yours,” Lorne lowered his voice to a whisper. “You hum when you reorganize your weapons cabinet and let me say something about what I got from it: if Cordelia’s having a little trouble with being alone, then you’re about ten miles ahead of her in that department.”
Angel didn’t even argue with it, his hard expression melting a little when he realized some truth in Lorne’s words. It’d been almost three years since he’d left Sunnydale, left Buffy and he still wished he could have worked things out.
It wasn’t that he wanted to be with Buffy forever, but he wished that, after finding the right person, he’d be able to make a relationship last, be able to fall in love and not have to worry about it coming apart and his heart shattering into a million pieces.
God he hated when Lorne was right. “What’re you getting at, then?”
“Cordelia wasn’t the only one I was watching…what I’m trying to tell you is that I might have a way of helping.”
* * *
Angel rested his elbow on the edge of the table, his chin resting in his hand as his fingers covered his lips, lost in thought as his eyes bored through the cardboard box placed before him. His room was always quiet but sitting there, staring at the object that was calling out to him and mocking him at the same time, it seemed deadly, uncomfortably silent.
After much convincing, Lorne managed to get Angel to take the box up to his room with a small tape player. But when he got to his room, after locking the door, the vampire immediately regretted giving in to such an idiotic thing.
Groaning the entire time, Angel ripped open the sealed box and slid out the small tape. Ignoring the cheesy title, Angel wondered if Cordelia managed to find out what he was doing, whether right then and there or later, if she would take him straight to a mental hospital for sinking as low as to listen to a self-help tape.
It didn’t help when a workbook fell out of the box, making Angel roll his eyes. Placing the tape into the cassette, Angel pressed play, not ready for what was to come.
“LOVE!” came a loud, too-cheery voice.
Startled, Angel flung back in his chair, almost sending himself and the chair to the floor. “Jeez!”
“You want it? You can have it!” the man continued. Angel couldn’t help but easily imagine the man narrating the tape with a pink, fluffy boa around his neck and a big-ass smile plastered on his face. It was highly unsettling. “And not compromised, stifling, soul-killing love, but open, honest, life-affirming love. But how do you get it? How do you get this love?”
Angel scratched the back of his head uncomfortably and looked over his shoulder, “If I knew that than why would I be putting myself through this?”
“It’s going to take work. It’s going to take introspection. You’re gonna have to learn new things-how to be your best friend, how to treat your damaged psyche with a little kindness, how to say ‘hey pal, you’re worth it. You mean something to someone, and deserve love.’ That is the key. If you crave love, then you deserve love. Say to yourself. If I crave love, I deserve love.”
Angel sighed and shifted in his seat. Before he even thought of opening his mouth to say the words out loud, the tape kept going.
“How did that feel coming out? I’ll bet it was hard. I’ll bet you felt ridiculous. Some of you may have been incapable of saying it at all! Try again.”
“I’m capable I just didn’t think I had only two seconds to-”
The tape interrupted him, “Trust me, friend. It will get easier, until one day, you turn around and you’re not alone! Ready to begin that journey? It’s going to be one heck of a ride! Okay, let go and open your workbook to page one.”
Reluctantly licking his thumb and opening the workbook to the first page, Angel cleared his throat and shook his head as he realized just how pathetic he was becoming. “Doesn’t get any lower than this.”
* * *
Wesley looked up from his book through the small crack of his door, a small smirk flashing across his tired features when he saw Cordelia not so subtly glancing inside. “Might I help you with something or are you just fascinated by the bags underneath my eyes?”
“Actually, I couldn’t really notice them,” Cordelia whispered, looking over her shoulder as she snuck into his office, closing the door behind her. “Just thought you’d like to know, Fred’s totally into you. She just hasn’t figured it out yet.”
“Well that’s…” Wesley tried to suppress his pleasure at hearing that. “How…how did you know that I-?”
“Please,” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “I’m not stupid. Despite what a lot of people from Sunnydale High have said.”
“Are you doing any better?” Wesley cleared his throat, changing the subject. “I heard about your adventure with alcohol. Might I say that I never figured you to be one to drink whiskey.”
Cordelia scoffed, “Don’t you dare say you labeled me as a tequila girl!”
Wesley immediately buried his face into his book, avoiding looking her straight in the eyes on purpose, teasing her.
After stepping on his foot under the desk, Cordelia looked over her shoulder through the open area out into the lobby where Fred was reading a book. “I wasn’t lying, y’know. She was talking about your guys’ little adventure in organizing the books. At first I thought she was drunk to talk about books with all that excitement but god, was she blushing like an idiot. Soon enough she’ll figure out how she really feels.”
When Wesley looked up for only a minute before focusing his gaze where Fred was, Cordelia couldn’t help but smile a little, absently wishing she could feel what he was so obviously feeling. “I’m actually a little jealous.”
Wesley looked at Cordelia, surprised. He pointed at himself cluelessly and the Seer immediately put that possibility to rest by waving her hands in the air in denial. “Oh, no. Not that way. Hello, I was eighteen Wesley.”
“Therefore incredibly naïve. I appreciate the subtle insult.”
Cordelia leaned forward and placed her hand on his. “Look, some find you to be an attractive man. Such as a certain bookwork out in the lobby. Brown hair, wears glasses, very talkative. Go out there and just…talk. No book organizing, just the two of you talking about normal stuff.”
“And what qualifies as normal?”
Cordelia laughed at that question, a little bitterness creeping into her tone when she replied: “Anything that has nothing to do with what we do.”
* * *
Running a wet washcloth along his small little kitchenette counter to remove the bloodstains, Angel hummed quietly enough to be able to hear the still-annoying cheery voice from the tape. To be honest to himself, he hardly noticed it anymore. Sure, the words still registered in his mind, but it was almost as if, in the past few days that he had been listening to it, that it was actually making sense so much that it all seemed natural.
Crap. I’m becoming one of those self-help fruitcakes. Great, just great.
“Complete the following sentence: I feel angry because…”
“I’m listening to this tape,” Angel finished, grinning at his own cleverness. That’s right, Angel. Just keep on saying you hate it. That’ll make it all true.
“I feel hopeful because…”
“I won’t have to listen to you when I’m chopping demon heads off.”
* * *
Approaching Cordelia cautiously, Lorne tapped on the wall before coming within five feet, just close enough for Cordelia, out of instinct, to jump him and beat the crap out of him. “Hey there, brown-eyes.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you coming in,” Cordelia greeted him quietly, not looking up from the files she was going through. “Or maybe I just figured the next time I saw you you’d have a different guy to stick me with.”
Lorne laughed, “If you’re gonna do it. Do it now. Take one of my horns, one of my fingers. Decapitate me, whatever you want, Princess. But I’d figure you to be at least a little grateful.”
Lorne narrowed his eyes, unsure if he was falling into a trap. “You are…?”
“Of course I am,” Cordelia looked up at him only for a quick second. “I mean, despite how pissed I was about being left alone with a complete stranger, I do admit I appreciate that you tried. That you noticed.”
“To make you feel better, it wasn’t that noticeable. I’m sure Angel would have done something if he saw it,” Lorne assured her, pulling up a chair. “He’s kind of clueless. Despite being a vampire, he’s still a man. Man’s job is to annoy women, am I right?”
Cordelia laughed a little, nodding in agreement. “It’s pathetic. I’m pathetic.”
“No, you’re not.”
“You and Angel sure do sugarcoat things,” Cordelia closed her magazine and placed it on her lap, crossing her arms and looking at Lorne without any trace of anger. She was glad someone just wanted to talk, even if it was Lorne just wanting her to think she’s perfect. “I’m not flawless, we all know that. Let’s face it: my love life is pathetic. Well, actually, having a love life would require me going out on actual dates and having past, serious relationships.”
“Angel’s right and we both know I am too, that’s not new,” Lorne offered, tapping her knee with his hand when she looked down away from him. He forced her to look him straight in the eyes. “Our favorite vampire’s been busy lately and we all know he’s always distracted, so you should give him a lot of credit for caring so much. He cares a lot, trust me, I have a bruised shoulder as proof.”
The phone started ringing and Cordelia nodded to Lorne, her eyes conveying how grateful she was without having to say another word. Getting up, Cordelia reached for the phone and answered in her cheeriest, fakest tone. “Angel Investigation, we help the hopeless.”
* * *
Angel practically tackled his table to stop the tape from playing when a knock at his door sounded. When the tape was shut off, Angel cleared his throat and ran a hand down his shirt to smooth the wrinkles before opening the door to find Cordelia standing anxiously in front of him.
“Hey,” she greeted him.
“Hey,” he greeted back, stepping aside to let her in. “Come in.”
“You locked yourself up here for a few days, came up here to make sure you were still alive and breathing…or…well, to make sure you weren’t a pile of dust,” Cordelia admitted, walking inside and relaxing a little in his company. “But god damnit, you’re still alive. Too bad, I was hoping I’d be able to finally get a chance to see what you left me in your Will.”
Angel closed the door and stuffed his hands in his pockets, watching Cordelia walk over to his bed and fall down on it. “Sorry to be such a disappointment.”
“No worries, I’ve still got a few years left in me, hopefully by then you’ll Shanshu and I’ll finally get the chance to take you shopping for some nice clothes and swim trunks.”
“Swim trunks?” Angel’s brow furrowed as he walked over and sat down at the foot of the bed.
“For swimming, during the daylight. It’s not like we’re going to waste our Cabin by the lake.”
Angel laughed, falling back onto the bed beside her. The stiffness in his back disappearing as he sunk into his mattress beside Cordelia, Angel closed his eyes and adjusted his position so he was as comfortable as possible without pushing Cordelia off of the bed. “What cabin?”
“The one we’re going to get when you turn human,” Cordelia explained, turning on her side. “I mean, we can’t let the boat sit in the harbor all year.”
“The boat…ah, of course there’s a boat.”
Cordelia grinned, “It’s only the most obvious purchase. Besides the membership to a country club. Golfing, a nice sauna and bar.”
“Because we both know you’ll wanna retire early and drink Whiskey with your lunch.”
Slapping Angel, Cordelia sighed into her pillow, burying her face in it for a moment. “I wanted to thank you.”
Cordelia sat up and looked down at Angel as she sighed again, taking a moment to just look at her friend. He really was the best guy to have around all the time. “For making me feel better the other night. I kind of let out all of my frustration on you and you didn’t deserve that. Well, maybe you did a little…”
“Of course I did,” Angel agreed with a small smile, his eyes closed. “Just to refresh my mind. Why did I deserve it?”
“Well, it’s only obvious!” Cordelia pushed herself off the bed and walked over to his sink, running her hand along the newly cleaned counter and raising her eyebrows in approval. “The constant brooding, bad taste in clothes. It’s only an equal punishment to hear my bitching and take in my spew of pathetic crap.”
“I’d hardly call it pathetic,” Angel joked. “Crap, sure. But pathetic is stretching it.”
Cordelia grabbed a towel immediately after that and tossed it in his direction, “Sometimes I wonder if you’re seriously retarded.”
“I thought that was one of my redeeming qualities,” Angel remarked dryly, crossing his arms and resting them behind his head. “Was there something you wanted? Besides thanking me for my supreme talents.”
“Supreme talents my ass,” Cordelia said sarcastically in return. “Just wanted to hang out, I guess.”
Walking away from Angel’s counter, Cordelia noticed the tape player on the table. “Wow, who knew you’d have one these things. Let’s find out what an ensouled vampire considers good music. Cher, The Beatles, maybe some ‘NSYNC.”
Angel sat straight up, a panicked look on his face as he saw Cordelia’s finger moving towards the play button. Thanking god for giving him vampire reflexes, Angel jumped off of his bed in front of Cordelia, pushing her away and. “Stay away from that!”
Cordelia held her hands up defensively, her eyes a little wide as she looked at Angel like he was crazy, which she was starting to think was completely true. “What’s with you, mister crabby? You all of a sudden consider a dusty tape player private property or what?”
“Never mind, just…go. I need to finish up some stuff up here. I’ll be downstairs. Go there; go through Wesley’s stuff, maybe Fred’s or Gunn’s but not mine, alright?” Angel pushed Cordelia towards the door with only a little kindness in his touch.
Cordelia pushed Angel’s hands away and, after giving him one more confused look, walked herself out the door. “Mr. Sensitive.”
Letting out a relieved sigh that he avoided Cordelia’s teasing, Angel locked the door, ignoring the fact that even if he had avoided embarrassment, he probably just pissed her off. Great.
Walking over to the table, throwing one look over his shoulder to make sure the door was locked and Cordelia wasn’t eavesdropping, Angel pressed the play button and adjusted the volume so only his super-hearing could pick up the cheery voice.
“You’re a road in need of some repair,” the man explained as Angel grabbed his notebook and absently leaned against his kitchen counter, scratching his chin as he continued his tallying of his own personal score. “If your score was between 30 and 40 than you’re a road laden with potholes and you need some double striping. And if your score was 40 or over it’s jackhammer time because your road is impassible!”
“Yikes!” Angel sarcastically mumbled, giving up for the moment and tossing his notebook on the table without even daring to see how damaged his road was. Leaving the tape playing, Angel walked over to his bed and stared to remove his shoes.
“Chapter 7. Men, a question—what is fantasy? The answer—fantasy is imaginative fulfillment of your heart’s desire. And one of the most common fantasies of single men is the fantasy of your ultimate companion.”
“Blahdiablah-blah,” Angel mocked under a long, unneeded breath to relax his nerves as he tossed his shoes to the side and lied down on his bed, trying to think of some excuses to get himself out of dropping to his knees and groveling to Cordelia for forgiveness.
The man took on a hyper-active tone as the seconds passed. “Story time! I had a friend—let’s call him Bob—who couldn’t make up his mind amongst three different women he liked. I developed a test for him…and for you!”
“Oh, goody,” Angel closed his eyes and attempted to fall asleep while the tape was playing.
“Whose phone calls or visits are never unwanted or too long? Do you see her face? Who would you most like to have in your life to ward off moments of loneliness? Do you see her face?”
Angel shook his head in annoyed disbelief as he contemplated buying flowers for Cordelia. That’d not only get her to forget about him acting weird, but it’d be great for him to bring up the next time they got in an argument.
“When you travel, who would make your travels more enjoyable? Do you see her face? When you’re in pain, who would you most like to comfort you? Do you see her face?”
Turning over onto his side, Angel shook of the possibility of flowers, knowing it was too obvious. Maybe a car! She’d love a car.
“When something wonderful happens in your life — a promotion at work, a successful refinancing — who do you want to share the news with? Do you see her face? Whose face appears to you, my friend? Whose face?
Angel’s eyes popped open when one distinct image of a brunette stood alone in his mind. “Whoa.”
* * *
“There’s some things in life you should never experience,” Wesley commiserated in a gentle voice as he closed his book and placed it on the counter quietly, never taking his eyes off of Fred as she pointedly avoided his stare.
Biting her bottom lip as her cheeks flushed a soft pink; Fred tucked a stray hair behind her ear and nodded. “We don’t have to talk about me. We can talk about…um; well…we can talk about tacos!”
Wesley looked down at his feet as he let out a laugh at that, “If that’s what you want, then fine. Taco’s it is. But how about we avoid a discussion and just venture out into the heart of L.A. to find some to actually eat.”
“Sounds great!” Fred jumped out of her seat at that, glad he took her suggestion. “I’ll go get a coat.”
Wesley watched her walk off, pleased that he didn’t embarrass himself. But then a soft clearing of Cordelia’s throat from inside of his office disrupted that and he tried to keep from smiling as he spun on his heel to see the brunette Seer leaning against the doorframe, shaking her head. “Is there something you need assistance with?”
“Yeah, you just try and suppress that huge-ass grin of yours,” Cordelia rolled her eyes, walking up to him and squeezing his cheeks together. “My little boy’s all grown up!”
Involuntarily, Wesley blushed as his eyesight followed Cordelia as she walked around him and to her desk. “Do you think she has any clue?”
Cordelia was quiet for a moment, her back to Wesley as she thought over how to break it to him. Turning around, she looked at him with a little sadness in her eyes. “I don’t think so.”
“That’s what I thought,” Wesley laughed at his pathetic self. “But she might have a wonderful time tonight and it might end well.”
“It’s not that she won’t have a great time, Wes. I’m sure she will, you two are like made for each other.”
Wesley’s cheeks got even redder as he shrugged it off modestly.
“I mean, both of you are total dorks, wear glasses and have hardly a smidgen of fashion sense,” Cordelia counted them off on her fingers. “And that’s good! For you two. But…I mean, let’s face it. Fred’s a little like Angel. Put something right in front of her and it’ll take a while for her to see it for what it really is, if she ever sees it at all.”
“Very reassuring,” Wesley sarcastically thanked her under his breath, letting out a long sigh of resignation. “What should I do?”
Cordelia bit her lip and looked at him for a moment, as if measuring something. “Don’t put too much of yourself into this little adventure of yours. If you make it a date you could scare her away.”
“Yet if I don’t, she’ll continue to see me as a mere platonic companion,” Wesley pointed out.
“I don’t know then. Why ask me? I’m like the last person you should be asking,” Cordelia threw her hands up in the air. When she saw Angel walking down the stairs looking at her weirdly, she narrowed her eyes for a moment until she shook it off and used him as an example. “Angel will give you better advice then I ever could.”
Stopping on the bottom step, Angel finally snapped out of it and, cluelessly, pointed to himself. “Me? What?”
Fred walked behind Angel, whispering in his ears. “Going for tacos, wanna come?”
Jumping a little, Angel looked at Fred with wide eyes. “Um, no. No thanks.”
“Wes and Fred are going for a stroll to find some good taco stands,” Cordelia explained, pushing Wesley towards Fred. “Bye guys!”
Fred was already out the door when Wesley, nearly tripping up the stairs, backed up so he was still facing Cordelia, his hands held out as he mouthed: “I still don’t know what to do!”
“Good luck!” Cordelia waved goodbye, winking his way. When the doors finally closed, Cordelia shook her head and laughed. “What a dork.”
Angel, one hand stuffed in the pocket of his pants and the other pointing over his shoulder, casually strolled over to Cordelia, looking quite nervous. “So…Wes and Fred?”
“Goin’ on a taco-raid date. One doesn’t know what to do and the other has no idea it’s even a date. Isn’t that just the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard?” Cordelia speedily talked, the phone starting to ring on the counter.
Grabbing it and placing it between her ear and her shoulder, Cordelia walked over to her desk till the chord wouldn’t let her go any further. “Angel Investigations. We help the hopeless.”
Angel watched as Cordelia’s face scrunched up, then hardened as her eyes grew wide and her mouth fell open. “Who is it?”
“Um…hi, Buffy!” Cordelia choked on her own words as she spoke into the phone, trying to sound happy to be speaking with Little Miss Crybuffy. “Good to hear from you. H-how are you?”
Predictably, Cordelia rolled her eyes as she listened to Buffy talk and talk and talk. Covering the mouthpiece, Cordelia looked at Angel and shook her head in disbelief. “She talks more than me!”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Angel firmed his jaw and leaned against the counter, watching Cordelia quietly mock Buffy. Standing there, he finally saw her. Whatever and whomever she was to him before…he couldn’t even begin to guess how he couldn’t see it. The small twinkle in her deep, brown eyes and the corner’s of her lips always wanting and waiting to form a smile, to form her smile.
Taking in a deep breath to steady himself, Angel wondered how in god’s name he would go about what he was planning on doing.
Finally, Cordelia snapped him out of his own thoughts when she pulled the receiver from between her ear and shoulder and held it out for him to take. “She has something to ask you.”
Motioning to her bag on her desk to signal that she was planning on leaving, Cordelia watched Angel for a moment as he took the phone and pressed it against his ear, clueless as ever. She couldn’t help but smirk at that.
“Hey, Buffy. Yeah, it’s great that you called, we haven’t talked in a while and—huh? R-really? Wow.” Angel covered the mouthpiece and, in a loud whisper, proclaimed: “Xander’s getting married!”
Cordelia gasped and covered her mouth. “Oh my god, really?”
For a moment, Angel thought she was serious, wondering why she was being so dramatic, but then she rolled her eyes and snorted. “See ya later.”
“Um…sure. I don’t get why he would—oh, you convinced him. Great. Thanks, I guess. Glad that I’m still—thanks, Buffy. I’ll, uh, I’ll be there then.” Hanging up, Angel scratched the back of his head and turned to talk with Cordelia. Only she was no where near his desk. Spinning around so hard he gave himself whiplash, Angel saw that Cordelia was already halfway out the door. Tripping over himself as he jogged around the counter, he called out her name as he tried to catch her. “Cordelia!”
“Whoa. So you stay fit by chasing poor people who just wanna go home down?” Cordelia held her hands out when she turned and saw him running straight towards her. “What’s wrong?”
Angel stopped just as his feet and chest bumped into hers. “Nothing’s wrong. I just…that was Buffy.”
“No shit Sherlock.”
“And Xander’s getting married.”
“And I already know all of this, Angel.” Cordelia raised her hand to pat him atop the head. “You sure you didn’t hit your head? You’re acting pretty damn weird lately. Weirder, actually.”
Angel got the point, raising his hand to point at Cordelia, making an aha! face. “But! Buffy thought it’d be nice if I came. And, I’d like it if you came with me.”
“You really think that’s a good idea? I might go and suddenly get the sudden urge to reveal embarrassing things about Xander.”
“We both know you’re too mature for that.”
“Yeah, right! It’s Xander! I could so get a few drinks in me and go up on that stage and tell everyone in attendance which places are ‘tickly’ ones and which make him go ‘Oh!’” After making a hilarious ‘Oh!’ face, Cordelia paused and her eyes drifted absently as the memory floated back.
Angel grinned down at her and shrugged, “Come on. You know you wanna go.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yeah, you do.”
Cordelia reluctantly grinned when he stared her down, giving in. “Fine. I’ll go. But only if I get to buy myself a beautiful, gorgeous and way expensive dress, therefore charging it on your credit card.”
Angel looked at her for a few long moments before nodding. “Deal.”
“Deal,” Cordelia nodded along with him.
After a moment, Angel cleared his throat and, embarrassed that he couldn’t stop smiling, started to back up. “So, it’s next Saturday.”
“Good,” Angel managed to get out, running into the bushes, recovering with only a smidgen of pride left. Waving goodbye, he finally managed to get inside the hotel without humiliating himself any more.
Cordelia narrowed her eyes, even with a smile on her face, and tilted her head to the side, catching on to something different about Angel. In the end, after several minutes of lulling it over, she shook it off and turned to go.
For some reason, whether it be her choice of escort or the fact that she was getting an uber-expensive dress to show off to all of her former classmates, Cordelia felt better then she had in weeks.