Part 15: Get off The Stage Already
Cordelia didn’t need another drink. She didn’t need one, but she sure as hell could use one.
What the fuck happened back there? What the hell is her problem? And what’s my problem? I just sat there, taking it. When did I become Little Miss Victim?
Dawn was on stage, singing her heart out to a ditty by Brittney Spears.
It was nice of her, to save me like that. But I hate the fact that I put myself in the position of needing to be saved. Looks like three years with Mr. Swoop-in-and-save-the-damsel-in-distress has made me soft. I can’t forget how to take care of myself.
The bartender finally noticed her standing there and she ordered a Raspberry Stoli and Sprite. Cordy turned around for a second to check out Dawn, then turned back to grab her drink.
“That will be $6.75,” the demon bartender said.
“Put it on my tab,” came a voice from behind her. Angel. Play it cool Cordy. You can do it. Cordelia slowly turned around, leaned back against the bar, and gave Angel a glance before taking a sip of her drink.
She didn’t say anything though. She swore she had some cool retort on the tip of her tongue, but that was before she had gotten a good look at his eyes. I’ve seen him day in and day out for years, but I’ve never seen his eyes look like that before. Look at me like that.
Angel was trying to call on his inner demon, trying to find vestiges of the sensual, predatory creature he once was. Stuttering idiot wasn’t really working on Cordelia, it was time to try something new. He got as far as one smoldering good look before his plan backfired.
The mistake wasn’t the smoldering part, it was the looking part. God, she made him crazy, crazy with want and need and fear and hope and everything that was good and bad about human emotion. Unfortunately, all that emotion brought Stuttering Idiot back to the surface.
“You don’t look nice,” he blurted out.
Cordelia choked on her drink. She coughed twice. “What?”
Oh shit. What’s wrong with you? “I mean, what I said, before, what I said when you came in. I said you looked nice. Well, I take it back. You don’t look nice. You look breathtaking.” He eyed her warily, hoping he had eased over his blunder.
She rolled her eyes. “I’m breathtaking? Angel, you don’t breath.”
Good point. “Well yeah. And that’s a good thing, or else I would have passed out hours ago, what with all the breathtaking-ness. You look like a—”
Cordelia had a sinking feeling she knew where he was going with that, so she cut him off. “Please don’t say a princess.” I don’t know when I started to hate that word, but I really do.
“No. Not a princess. It’s funny. You were Doyle’s princess. Groo’s princess. Even Lorne lets it slip now and then. But I’ve never really thought of you that way.”
“Gee thanks.” It wasn’t that Cordelia was fishing for compliments. But she wasn’t fishing for insults either.
“Princess,” Angel continued, as if he hadn’t heard her wounded comment. “It’s just not you. Royalty, that implies something distant, removed…”
“Untouchable,” Cordy added.
“Exactly,” Angel said, in that smooth voice he had adopted ever since she’d brought up the princess bit. “A princess would be untouchable. And you, you are very,” he reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, “very,” he tipped her chin up with his index finger so she was looking him directly in the eye, “touchable,” then used the same finger to trail down her smooth bare arm.
Cordelia didn’t smile, didn’t laugh, didn’t move, didn’t think. She did, however, gulp.
Angel leaned in, so his mouth was right up near her ear. “Sometimes,” he confided in a low sexy voice that literally made her quiver, “I can’t NOT touch you.” And then he was leaning down and Cordelia’s heart was going to explode out of her chest and she clenched her hands into fists and it was really going to happen and…
Once again, fate was a cruel mistress. Gunn and Fred walked up. Too late, Fred saw that they were interrupting and tried to tug her boyfriend away. Too late.
“Hey can I get two Bud Lights,” Gunn called out over Cordelia’s head, to the bartender behind her. “Yo, dawg,” he said, sidling up to Angel, “I think someone is trying to get your attention.”
It was like Angel hadn’t heard. He had quit leaning in, but he was still staring down at Cordelia. She was staring right back at him. Fred noted their preoccupation with each other. “Gunn, I’m not really all that thirsty. Maybe after another song.”
“Angel, man, hey. Pay attention. I think your girl is dedicating this song to the one she loves.” Somehow the words penetrated Angel’s mind, though the haze of Cordelia. He was confused. What the hell is Gunn talking about? Then the music kicked in and all four of them turned towards the stage, where Gunn had been pointing to.
There was Buffy. Alone on stage. Staring at Angel.
Buffy wasn’t entirely sure about her actions. A few minutes ago, the Karaoke had seemed like a good idea. After all, so far the night had not been going her way. She had gone too far when they were all sitting down. Cordy hadn’t been fighting back, so Buffy had come off looking like a real bitch. She had taken a few minutes to regroup and by the time she was focused again, Cordy and Angel were standing way too close over by the bar and Spike was sitting next to her.
This is all Spike’s fault. If he had just kept his stupid mouth shut. But no, he had to go on and on, about how great “Cordy” was and how she was irresistible. I just wanted to make Angel see me. What better way to get his attention than standing on stage, opening up my heart to him.
But on stage now, Buffy was definitely beginning to regret her decision, especially the song she had chosen. It was cheesy and corny and obvious. But she really needed the message to be clear. So that Angel would get the message. So that Angel, and Spike, and Cordelia would get the message. Maybe, just maybe, so I’ll get the message too.
“Looks like we made it,
Look how far we’ve come my baby,
I’m glad we didn’t listen,
Look at what we would be missing…”
Spike’s breath, unnecessary though it was, had caught in his throat the moment the Slayer opened her mouth. He knew what was coming, he thought he had prepared himself for it, but it was still like being kicked in the gut. Fuck it he thought, and walked out the door. He may be love’s bitch, but he wasn’t a glutton for punishment.
“You’re still the one I run to,
The one that I belong to,
You’re still the one I want for life…”
Cordelia stood silently watching Buffy. She looked good up there. She was so tiny and blond and her voice wasn’t too shabby. The words of the song reverberated in her mind. “The one that I belong to”. Cordy closed her eyes.
It’s true. Buffy does belong to Angel and Angel belongs to Buffy. Always and forever. So what the hell am I doing? She couldn’t compete with Buffy because there was no competition. This whole ordeal, it was so…tired. Cordelia was tired. I’m tired of trying to distract Angel. Tired of coming close and always having something happen. I’m tired of comparing myself to the Slayer and always being found wanting.
It was time to stop. Cordelia grabbed her drink and glanced at Angel who stared, apparently entranced, at the stage. Then she walked away.
Thirty seconds later there was a tap on her shoulder. Cordelia turned to find Fred. Fred was yelling.
“Where are you going? You can’t just walk away. That girl on stage is trying to steal Angel. Fight for him.”
Cordelia sighed. “Fred, what are you talking about?”
“Look Cordy, you and Angel, you know that there is something there. Something was about to happen back there, before me and Gunn interrupted and before—”
“Before Slayer Night at the Apollo?” Cordy offered.
“Yes. You need to go back there and finish that moment.”
“Fred, sweetie, there was no moment. Nothings going to happen between me and Angel. No matter how much you shout kyerumption and moira in my face. Don’t look at me like that. Fine, yes, I admit it. I have feelings, certain feel—Look, I like Angel. A lot. In ways that I shouldn’t.” Cordy stopped for a breath and watched Fred’s face blossom into a huge goofy grin.
“Not so fast there.” She set down her drink and used both hands to spin Fred around so she faced the stage. Buffy had just finished the song and was soaking up the crowd’s applause. “Look at her. It will always be her for him.” Cordelia spun her friend back around to face her. “Don’t tell me to fight. I don’t want to fight. I shouldn’t HAVE to fight. I don’t want to MAKE someone love me.”
“Cordy, he does lo—”
“Fred, it’s done,” Cordelia said, swallowing and running a hand through her hair. “I’m just going to stop. I’ll forget these feelings and we can all go back to normal.”
There. That should get Fred off my back. That will solve everything.
Fred snorted. “Oh wow. And people think that I’m the crazy one.”
Cordelia couldn’t stop herself from arching an eyebrow in response. But that wasn’t about to stop Fred from saying what needed to be said. “Cordy, how clueless are you? You can’t just wake up one day and snap your fingers and say ‘today I’m not going to be in love with Angel anymore.’ It doesn’t work like that.”
“Hey, I didn’t say that I was in love,” was all Cordelia could bite out before Fred held up her hand, effectively telling her to shut up.
“My turn to talk. Look, it’s like, um, it’s like a flat tire.” Up went that eyebrow of Cordelia’s again, this time accompanied by the rolling eyes. Fred was undaunted. “My cousin Lindsay, she’s one of the Louisiana Burkles. Anyway, she once got a flat tire. And she just ignored it. She didn’t have a spare, she was way too broke to afford a new tire. SO she just pretended that it never happened. She drove around on a flat tire for three days! Eventually it got so bad that she couldn’t steer and she ran right off the road and hit a tree and totaled the car!”
“Is there a point to this story?” Cordelia honestly wasn’t trying to be mean. She really just didn’t see the point.
“Love is like a flat tire. There’s never a good time for it, you never plan on it happening, and it almost always screws up your schedule. But most importantly, you have to deal with it. You can’t just ignore it or pretend it isn’t happening or think that it will just go away, or, or…”
“Or I’ll run off the road and get totaled?” Cordy asked.
“Something like that,” Fred said quietly.
“Look Fred. I appreciate your concern. I even appreciate the analogy as helpful as it wasn’t. But we’re done here. I tried and I failed.”
“How have you tried Cordelia? Have you even told him how you feel?”
“The Cordelia Chase I know and love, the woman who helped drag me back into reality, she wouldn’t give up on something she wanted, not without having done everything in her power to have it.” Cordelia couldn’t help but smile at that.
Fred did have a point.
“Now,” Fred said, reaching for Cordelia’s drink and raising it to her friend’s lips. “Take a big sip, square your shoulders, go find Angel and you tell him that, that, um, that if he isn’t smart enough to realize how perfect you are for him, then, then he and the Slayer with the bad highlights deserve each other.”
Fred really was a genius.