Title: Starting Over
Posted: Jul 19 2004
Content: Cordelia/Angel, Fred/Gunn etc
Summary: Angel meets an old friend but all isn’t as it seems…
Spoilers: AU, but knowledge of some eps of Buffy/Angel up to S5/S3 would be helpful.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.The idea behind this fic comes from a movie that, for reasons of an evil nature, I’ll disclose after the third chapter. This idea is NOT mine. I’m just borrowing for a while.
Distribution: Anywhere, just let me know where it’s going.
Notes: Cali wants this finished (amongst others) or there will be HELL to pay!!!(Hows that for stalking? *snikker*) A/N 2: I have an idea of where this fic is going now, how it’s going to be resolved, etc… Hopefully that means I’ll actually finish this one. *G*
Thanks/Dedication: Finally, thanks to my darlingest of Pods, Lisa, I can post chapter 4 (+ onwards). I thought I’d have to start all over but because of whoring it to her and her being wonderful enough to keep it? Most of it was written. Ta, mate!
Feedback: Want me to beg? I can do that…
Chapter One – New Beginnings
He stood at the top of the stairs leading down into Caritas and wished, for what felt like the hundredth time that minute that he hadn’t been brought to this part of town.
It wasn’t a bad part of town per se; in fact, this was one of the nicer areas of Los Angeles. The creatures of the night tended to populate the less loud, brass places of the city – places where they could pick up an unsuspecting victim without being noticed.
Tonight though, his fight had brought him here. His fight had brought him to the one place in the city where he could literally rid the world of seven different kinds of human-eating demons… Only, because of some sanctuary spell enforced by the owner of the club, Angel would have to wait until he got outside to do his evil-ridding.
He frowned, moving down the stairs and through the electro-sensors, having to step through them three times to rid himself of weapons before he was finally allowed in the club.
His target was seated at a booth, smirking. Obviously safe in Caritas, the demon kept looking over at Angel smugly, just daring him to do something, anything, to make his night.
Angel could just imagine one of those bad Clint Eastwood movies that Xander used to watch incessantly, playing at the back of his mind. Go ahead, punk… Make my day. Said the voice in his head, aided by the roll of Angel’s eyes and then… Then, the stage lit up with what seemed like a billion lights, a green demon stepping out onto the stage.
“First, I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live
Without you by my side
But then I spent so my nights
Just thinking how you did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along…”
Angel tuned the voice out, the pulsing beat in the karaoke club thrumming through his feet. He glared at his target again, hoping to extricate the demon by sheer will alone when a voice behind him made him turn.
“Wesley? It’s Cordelia… Listen, our pigeon stool’s nowhere to be seen. I’m gonna finish my drink, say goodbye to Lorne then head home, okay?”
He didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. Cordelia Chase, the once Queen Bitch of Sunnydale High School, closed her state of the art flip phone and ended the call, placing it back inside of her purse.
When she turned, her smile almost split her face. Dressed in a deep purple halter-top and a pair of black leather pants that had half the population of the club practically salivating in their drinks, Cordelia looked fantastic. Her hair drawn back off her face, shorter than the last time Angel had seen her.
“Oh my God, Angel? What are you doing here?”
She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him, surprising him momentarily before he found himself relaxing into the hug, relishing the contact of the soft, warm body pressed against him.
“I… Hi.” He said, almost sheepishly as she pulled away, guilt flooding through him. He shouldn’t feel guilty. It was a hug, nothing more, nothing less. “What are you doing here?”
“That was my question,” She laughed, talking a little louder than normal over the song from the green demon on stage. “How are you— Okay, wait. You’re not, like, evil right? I mean, are you…” Cordelia hooked her fingers into claws, leaned forward and screwed up her face in the cutest look Angel had ever seen. “Grrrr, still?”
Angel stared at her, bemused. “Yeah… There’s not actually a cure for that.”
“But you’re not here to, like, bite people?”
“No,” Angel shook his head, “No biting.”
Cordelia grinned. “So really, what’re you doing here? Is Buffy with you?”
He could almost feel the smile falling off his face. It was amazing how some moments, he could almost forget about her, when others all he could think of was her smile, the touch of her lips on his.
Angel sighed, glancing down at Cordelia. “We… Uh… We broke up a while ago.” He said, matter-of-factly. Maybe if he just said it quickly, some of the pain would go away.
Or maybe, Cordelia would look at him the way she was now, with those patented pitying eyes. He felt a flash of anger, a moment of regret over opening his mouth and ever saying those words to Cordelia Chase… When she let her head tilt to one side.
“Love sucks, huh?”
It was a simple statement, one Angel had heard a thousand times in his 250-year life span. The most surprising thing of all? It made him smile.
This time, it was Cordelia’s turn to be surprised. She looked at him, and then blatantly down at his crotch area to make sure there was no leather, before looking back up at him again. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Said Angel, bemused. “So what about you?”
“Oh, I’m fine–” Cordelia began, nodding.
“No,” Angel interrupted, “I mean, what about you? Here, in LA?”
“Oh! That ‘what about you?’” She grinned, running her finger around the tip of her glass and glancing around the club, presumably to see if her pigeon stool had turned up yet.
When she turned back to Angel, she was smiling again, “I own an investigations agency with a couple of friends of mine. Nothing fancy, but simple enough to pay the bills and keep me in—Whyyyyy are you looking at me like that?” Cordelia’s eyes narrowed.
“An investigations agency?” Angel looked at her curiously. She couldn’t be serious, could she? Cordelia Chase, the bane of Buffy’s life in high school, was running her own investigations team… And seemed to be enjoying her job?
Okay, that? Was new.
Something to do with fashion, he could have believed – Cordelia and her friends had been like the Russian army if they cared a lot about shoes but… An investigations agency?
“Believe me,” Cordelia laughed, “That wasn’t my big plan. I was supposed to move to LA, get a fabulous acting career, have Steve Paymer fall in love with me and live happily ever after.”
Angel raised his eyebrows, about to ask who the hell Steve Paymer was but the name seemed vaguely familiar—and then he remembered where he’d heard it. Dawn, the week before he’d left, had been babbling excitedly to Buffy about seeing the guy somewhere – a signing at Sunnydale mall, if he remembered rightly.
She wanted to marry that guy?
“As you can see my plan didn’t work out,” Cordelia continued, good-naturedly.
“My first acting gig? A national, by the way, I got set up to be part of some televised cult sacrifice. I got rescued by Groo and Doyle and from there, my part in the whole helping the helpless deal from great sucking evil was sealed, only it was my idea to start charging the helpless and get a little money to actually, y’know, buy stuff?” She grinned, taking a drink of her non-alcoholic Margarita.
Angel smiled again, before lifting a hand to signal a waitress. Technically, he was here on business – the demon in the corner that, even now, was still bugging the crap out of Angel.
Just one good hit and it’d be dead… But for some reason, Angel wanted to stay here and find out more about Cordelia, about why she fought this fight when she didn’t have to.
It was a simple truth he’d learned about her back in Sunnydale. She could mouth off, talk good game about the better elsewhere’s she had to be – but simple human strength kept her around researching when, knowing her, she’d rather be out partying.
Before he could get the waitress’ attention, Angel was suddenly aware of the presence beside him. The demon that’d been up on stage, apparently finished his version of ‘I Will Survive’.
“Plumcake!” Lorne greeted Cordelia, jovially, “How nice to see you gracing our presence again… Who’s our friend?”
Angel watched as the demon looked him up, down and up again, his red eyes narrowing.
“Lorne!” Cordelia smiled, apparently not noticing the icy glares shot Angel’s way. “Meet Angel. Angel? Meet Lorne. He owns this place.”
Lorne extended a hand but it was out of nothing other than politeness. The frown on his face told Angel that he wanted him to disappear. Fast.
“Angel.” Said the vampire, extending as much courtesy as Lorne was giving him. “Nice place you got here.”
Smiling, but only for Cordelia’s benefit, Lorne raised his eyebrows. “So how do you know Cordelia… Angel, was it?”
It was the oldest blow off in the book, usually reserved for jealous boyfriends and the like, but somehow Angel doubted they were that involved. Cordelia was oblivious to it – or if she did notice, it meant she was used to it.
“He’s from Sunnydale,” She smiled, “Remember? Those traumatising days that I, like, never talk about?”
“Ahh, a Sunnydale dweller.” Lorne nodded, “Which, if I remember rightly? Means that you’re as reluctant to talk about yourself as Cordelia here.”
Angel glared at him. True, he didn’t want to talk about his past, especially not to some green demon that’d done nothing but glare at him.
“Not really into the whole share my pain deal,” He said tersely, “But thanks anyway.”
“Believe me, Angelcakes, I wasn’t offering a shoulder to cry on if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Cordelia looked up, surprised. She elbowed Lorne in the ribs and coughed, embarrassed. “Angel’s okay, Lorne. He’s one of the good guys.”
Angel could almost imagine her adding the ‘Providing he doesn’t get laid’ part – Cordelia had always had that knack for saying what she thought, no matter what.
Lorne didn’t look convinced. In fact, if anything, he looked more convinced that Angel was something that could be scraped off the bottom of his shoe.
Angel frowned, turning to look at his demon friend who he’d accosted earlier, trying to feed off an unsuspecting victim. The booth he’d been sitting at was now occupied by a Torval demon, sitting sipping his beverage of choice. He swore under his breath, turning back to Cordelia and effectively ignoring Lorne. “Listen, I’m going to have to cut our little chat short – my business just ran out of here. Maybe we… I mean, if you’re not busy we could…”
“Pick this up later?” Cordelia finished for him, smiling. Angel never had been known for his conversational skills. “Sure, I’d… I’d like that. I mean its not every day the very embodiment of all things Sunnydale walks into your local, is it?”
Leaning over, Cordelia unzipped her purse, producing a card from the bottom of it. “Here,” She handed it to him, “Just… Call the office and ask for me. I’m usually around. Or—” She stopped, screwing up her nose as she thought of something. “You could always come back here, tomorrow night?”
“Here?” Damn, thought Angel, Green guy doesn’t intimidate me but another night of glares like this? Enough to put me off coming back here at all.
“Yeah,” She smiled again, “We’re having a birthday party thing for one of my friends. Fred. She turns 25 tomorrow. And… You could come, maybe?”
Angel shifted, nervously. Meeting up with Cordelia he could do but gate crashing a birthday party? That didn’t sound like the best plan. “I… How about another night?”
“Are you declining ‘cause you’re busy being avoidy-manpire or because you don’t like the idea of crashing a party?”
Busted. Angel looked at her, nodding. “Last one, I think.”
“Well,” Cordelia looked down at her drink for a moment, taking a breath, “People are bringing guests and… You could maybe be mine?”
Angel looked at her, stunned. Three years ago, this would have been a different invitation. Three years ago, Cordelia would have been hanging off his arm and trying every trick in the book to get him to notice her. Not for the first time in his unlife, Angel was struck by how times (and people alike) changed.
“I’d like that. We could catch up.” He smiled.
Cordelia looked up at him again. “Say… Eight?”
“Sure.” Angel nodded, and then pointed towards the door, “I have to… I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Cordelia and Lorne both watched as he walked away, coat billowing out behind him.
Lorne was considerably less than pleased. “So, you know him from days of olde, huh, Plumcake?”
“Don’t Plumcake me.” Cordelia turned, glaring at Lorne. “Could you have been more rude to the guy? All he was doing was talking to me! It’s not like he was trying to bone me in the middle of Caritas!”
If Angel was scared? Then Lorne had a reason to be even more so. You did not mess with Cordelia Chase, no matter what. There were just certain rules you lived by.
“And as lovely an image as that produced,” Lorne grimaced, looking up as the Gour’Shan Mage on stage finished murdering a Barry White song, “Duty calls. Listen, I’m sorry… I just… I was looking out for you, Cordelicious. You know how I worry.”
Cordelia sighed, picking up her drink from the table. She downed it, wishing for a split second that it were alcoholic, before patting Lorne on the arm affectionately.
“I know you do, but really? There”s nothing to worry about between Angel and me. Unless he grows a brain and realises that little blondes who know their way around an ancient fighting axe aren’t the only girls out there to be boned? Then we’re good. Trust me, okay?” She smiled, picking up her purse and waving at one of the waitresses across the club. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Lorne sighed, watching as Cordelia sauntered away – twenty pairs of eyes concentrated on that cute little hiney of hers. He wished that she had a normal life and that what she was thinking could ever happen with Angel.
He didn’t have to hear her sing to know that her aura was playing a little tune of its own – that much was obvious. The guy had shown up and Cordelia was her glittering old self for just ten minutes. Not that she wasn’t her usual glittering self, but this… This was different.
Reaching into his pocket, Lorne retrieved his cell phone, dialling the number for the Hyperion hotel. When they finally picked up, Lorne sighed. “Houston? We have a problem…”