Boldly Going Where Cordelia Chase Has Never Been Before…6

Part 6

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…….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?”

“Just waiting.”

“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.

Part 7

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