The party was everything she’d expected. A particularly lavish affair decorated and hosted by Lorne, the Anagogic demon with more style than a Neiman Marcus footwear sale.
It looked fantastic, a world away (but not completely) from the floor Cordelia had stood on two months ago, and that served to make her feel a little better.
Wesley had tried to come over all 007 in a simple tux, until Cordelia had stepped in and demanded he up the ante a little. Now, complete with manly stubble, Wes had been transformed into Indiana Jones, along with a very intimidating looking whip and a hat that he was afraid made him look rather silly.
“You look great, Wesley,” Cordelia had told him for the ninth time in the car on the way over.
Spike, however much he’d told Cordelia about how ‘fun’ it would be, didn’t go in for ‘all that dressing up lark’. Content in his leather duster, he’d scowled when one of the other partygoers had asked if he was supposed to be Billy Idol.
“It’s your own fault,” she’d laughed, once Spike had groused around his beer for ten minutes. “There were thousands of costumes in that shop.”
“What’d you want me to come as, bloody Superman?” he muttered, standing awkwardly to the side of one of the offices. “I mean Billy Idol, pet, really. I gave that bloke his looks!”
Spike hadn’t been impressed at that. Still whining another twenty minutes later, Cordelia gave up on the idea of him enjoying the party and decided to mingle, plainly avoiding the demon that looked like he had a whole excess of skin thing going on.
She got herself a glass of punch – non-alcoholic, because she maintained that she needed a clear head in a place like this – and started milling around the room, noting the appreciative gazes and filing them under ‘still a hotty even after two demon pregnancies and a coma’.
She was talking to a guy who she’d decided was most definitely evil when she heard Lorne’s voice. She turned, excusing herself from the guy, and headed over to him, touching his arm lightly.
“Plumcheeks!” His face lit up when he saw her and he whistled, watching as she twirled to give him the full benefit of the outfit, “You look—”
“Fantastic?” She supplied with a grin. “Amazing? Like I haven’t survived two demon pregnancies and a coma in the last three years?”
Lorne smiled, “I was going to go with ‘a million dollars’ but yours works too. I wasn’t sure you’d come.”
“Yeah, well, how could I pass up a party?” Cordelia smiled again, her gaze travelling the room a moment until it landed on Angel. He hadn’t noticed her yet, caught up with what looked like a heated discussion with some demon or other.
She wondered, briefly, if Angel was attempting some kind of deal but Lorne soon squashed that theory. “No business on this floor tonight, Pumpkin,” he shook his head, “It’s party time only. Why don’t you go over?”
She cut Lorne a glance that told him to stop interfering, that she’d go over when she was ready, but it was too late. Angel had seen her already, excused himself from the demon and begun to make his way towards her.
Cordelia’s calm wobbled a little and she straightened, knowing she looked fantastic and that if Angel gave her cause to, she could hold her own in an argument as much, if not more, than he could.
This Angel was different than the one she’d seen a week ago, and she wasn’t just talking about the big black wings that were sprouting out of his usual black suit. He looked more focussed somehow, at ease with his role and that unsettled her more than it served to calm.
“Athena.” He said as he reached her.
Cordelia blinked. As expected insults went? That really wasn’t one. “Huh?”
“Greek Goddess of Wisdom,” he smiled. “That’s your costume.”
Cordelia glanced down at the knee-length Roman style white dress, tied at the waist with thin ropes of gold. Her hair was pinned up with a tiny gold flowered headband, curly tendrils falling down over her face. Her shoes were gold, too, laced up to her calf, her skin bronzed from an hours worth of spray-tanning.
“I was going for hot and sexy,” she mused. “I didn’t really consider the whole mythology behind it or anything.”
He smiled at that, stepping a little closer to her, “She was known as protector of the city. She offered advice and protection to heroes to help them win their battles.”
Cordelia’s cheeks flushed slightly as she took in what he’d said. “She didn’t happen to get a little vision-brain every now and then, did she?”
“No,” he chuckled, “no vision brain. She was known for her strategizing skills in war.”
“Not much for the strategizing,” she grinned. “I’m more for the ‘poke them with the big shiny sword and hope they go away’ ploy.”
They smiled at each other and for maybe the first time since she’d woken up, it felt normal being around him. It was hard, sure – being inside this building was never going to put her at ease – but she could deal with that for now.
She started to say something, to ask Angel how he’d been this last couple of weeks – Queen of Small Talk, thy name was Cordelia Chase – but Angel got there first and with it, her stomach dropped.
“Cordy, can we talk?”
“I’m sorry about last time,” he told her quickly, earnestly. “But what you said made me think that maybe you’re—”
She turned right in the middle of Angel’s sentence, cutting him off at the knees to greet Fred who’d headed there with Gunn and drinks, looking a little glassy-eyed.
“Hey guys,” she grinned, thankful for the interruption as she took the drink. She took a sip, making a face as she realised it was alcoholic. Hadn’t her plan been to not do the alcohol thing tonight?
“Isn’t it great?” Fred gushed, unaware that Angel was glaring at her as he was handed one of the drinks by Gunn. “It’s just totally what everyone needed! I mean, after the week we’ve had -”
Angel cleared his throat and Fred clammed up, flushing guiltily. Cordelia’s spirits soared a little. So, his week hadn’t exactly been great, huh? That was…kind of a good thing, as far as she was concerned.
Then she just wondered if it was something to do with their killing those Bendril demons and her spirits dropped. “Bad week at the office, huh?” She tried.
Fred glanced at Angel, floundering for a moment, “Well, I mean…”
“We had visitors,” said Angel, taking a drink of the punch from the small, frosted glass. He didn’t look like elaborating was in his game plan.
“Anyone I know?” She asked, trying to sound offhand about it, though her curiosity was piqued.
Angel frowned, glancing from Fred to Gunn and then back to Cordelia. “Buffy,” he said quietly, “Buffy was here.”
Cordelia’s previously in-place calm wobbled again. “Buffy?”
“Y’all talk about her like she’s the second coming or somethin’,” Fred murmured, ignoring the fact that Gunn jabbed her lightly in the ribs.
Three glasses of punch did not make for a very patient Fred, especially when her friends were big dummies who couldn’t see what was right there in front of them the whole time it’d been there.
“Fred,” Angel warned softly, having heard this argument only a few nights before.
“What?” She demanded. “You get your hands cut off and she shows up and acts like you brought it on yourself just ‘cause you’re a vampire. She couldn’t even try to be a little bit sympathetic!”
Cordelia’s mouth fell open, “You had your hands cut off?”
“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” Angel tried, though it didn’t put her at ease, “and she did save me.”
“That figures,” said Cordelia, rolling her eyes. She had a funny taste in her mouth. “So she just happened to be in town and save you from a…what did it, anyway?”
“A Slayer,” said Angel. “She was-”
“Psychotic,” Fred interrupted. “Completely and utterly out of her tree. She was in a mental institution when she was called. She thought Angel was the guy who’d killed and tortured her parents ten years ago.”
Cordelia blinked. She’d heard bits and pieces from Spike about the last few days in Sunnydale, what they’d done in making all the potentials into Slayers. It sounded like a good idea at the time,
Cordelia had admitted, but maybe now Buffy was thinking that she hadn’t quite thought it through. “So what happened?”
“Buffy showed up, saved Angel and then decided to bitch him out for taking the job at Wolfram and Hart.”
Angel looked mutinous, his mouth cut into a thin line as he glared at her. “Thanks, Fred.”
She looked confused for all of a second until sarcasm registered and she rolled her eyes, not quite sure when speaking her mind had become her top priority. That was usually Cordelia’s job. “No problem, boss.”
“Now can we talk?” Angel asked, glancing at Cordelia.
Cordelia frowned, not at all sure she wanted to hear how the Buffy and Angel show had gone. She glanced at Gunn and Fred, now hasty in making their retreat, over at Spike who was being pissed off by Harmony and then to Lorne and Wesley, deep in conversation.
“Okay,” she sighed, “Fine. Let’s talk.”