“Hi, Paige. How are you?”
“Fine, thanks for asking.”
“Sure.”So far, so good. Cordelia had been openly polite. Angel smiled at her from behind Paige’s head, and Cordelia decided his well-being was well worth it…for now. The other’s came up behind her and offered their greetings.
“So, what movie is it tonight, guys?” Angel asked curiously, nearly wrapping his arm around Paige’s shoulders. Cordelia resisted the urge to purge.
“The Queen Of The Damned,” Fred answered. “It just came out. I love Anne Rice…even though it’s fiction.” Angel froze. Paige didn’t notice. However, Cordelia did.
“So, do you…like…vampires, Paige?” Cordelia asked, looping her arm through the other girl’s and forcibly pulling her away from Angel and towards the door.
“It’s kind of a…gothy thing.” Paige answered with a giggle.
‘Gothy thing?’ Cordelia turned back and mouthed in amusement to the group. Gunn and Fred smiled, Wesley looked worried, and Angel looked petrified.
“I guess it’s okay. Really, the modern vampire is a glorified fabrication of pop culture,” she went on. “But what’s not to like? Charming, handsome, eternal men. With great style and a flair for the sensual,” She turned and looked at Angel in a flirty, dirty-whore way…or so Cordelia thought.
“So, then you do like vampires?”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“Oh, so you don’t like them?”
“I liked Interview,” Paige answered, referring to Interview With A Vampire. “But if these things were real, we wouldn’t be so enamored with them. I think it’s ridiculous to regard anything, even if it’s fiction, that is so obviously demonic in such a glorified, tragic, human light.”
“Yes…they are tragic. Again, you don’t like them?” Cordelia glanced back and caught the frowns of all four friends behind her. They didn’t approve of where the conversation was going, and Angel stared at her darkly. Apparently he didn’t see
how this was helping him…was that a growl? Not helping at all. Cordelia sighed in apology, shrugging…what could she do? He reluctantly broke his gaze in acceptance. They made their way out to the car.
“I guess not?” Paige said, making it questionable. “Of course…I’ve never met one before!” It was a bad attempt at a lame—and so out of place—joke, but Cordelia couldn’t hold it against her because of the look on Angel’s face. He was looking pretty crushed right about then. And pretty much pissed at her. And actually, he was coming towards her, very deliberately.
“Oh! Tehe!” Cordelia mused, eyes widening. “That’s funny. Clever…really…” Maybe if she could get in the Plymouth, she’d be safe…out of reach, or something. Cordelia started to push. “Okay. Paige. So. Get in the car.”
Wesley took a deep breath, briefly placing a hand on Angel’s shoulder as if to say “It’s just a few hours, it will be over soon” then the England native turned and headed towards Gunn’s truck.
Gunn chuckled and followed, and Fred followed after.
They’d only gone a few paces before Cordelia turned around, saw them and practically shouted out, “Where are you going!”
“There’s not much room,” Wesley said, eyeing the classic Plymouth. Angel had silently gone to hold the passenger’s side door open for Paige and Cordelia. Paige slid in the front seat, and didn’t move towards the middle. Cordelia all but shoved her.
“THERE’S ROOM!” She said quickly. “THERE’S ROOM! Come on! Get in! You know this car seats six! Remember? Pylea? Lorne?”
“UH, let them take Gunn’s truck, Cordy.” Angel said very quickly. Cordelia looked down at Paige and decided as she wore a dumb expression that she was obviously oblivious. Cordelia looked at Angel.
“It’s cool, Angel.” She urged, implying so much more than anything having to do with the seating arrangements. She observed the other three friends again. “Come on guys! We’re taking the same car!”
At her insistence, everyone piled into the convertible.The ride to Mann’s Chinese Theater wasn’t as uncomfortable as everyone acted like it was. Cordelia had pressed herself into the front seat next to Paige…unfortunately pushing Paige farther into Angel, while Wesley, Fred, and Gunn, in that order, sat in the back.
Angel didn’t look like he was complaining, and neither did Paige. Cordelia frowned, not liking it one bit, and decided she’d have to make a little noise. She reached forward, making sure to elbow the “date” as she did so, and flipped on the radio. She twisted the dial up so that it was loud, and an old Aerosmith ballad (which probably only Angel would recognize…maybe Wes or Fred) came blaring out of the speakers.
Fred barely had enough time to cover her ears before Angel flicked it off and gave Cordelia a really mean look. Cordelia got the point, and didn’t mess with the car anymore. Instead, she decided to talk it up. She brought up every invasive topic she could think of until she was sure she saw Paige frowning to herself.
Angel got really upset when Cordelia asked Paige how she felt about Lawyers. Wolfram and Hart: Still a very sore spot for Angel. “That’s enough Cordy,” Angel said.
“Oh look!” Wesley said chipperly from the backseat. “We’re here!” The others looked up as Angel looked over and veered his car into the small parking lot next to the theater. He stopped at the gate, paid the attendant eight bucks to park, and then pulled in and settled the Plymouth into a wide space.
Cordelia and Angel opened their doors near simultaneously while Wesley and Gunn climbed over the sides of the car, and helped Fred do the same. Cordelia started to hold the door for Paige, but then realized Paige had slipped out on Angel’s side and was busy inspecting some smut that apparently had worked its way onto his chin. Cordelia watched as Paige licked her finger and wiped at it—’What is she, his mother?’ she thought sarcastically—and…the light that lit within Angel’s face.
Cordelia’s gaze fell away, and she slammed the car door. The others were already on their way to the box office. Angel and Paige started to walk. Cordelia hung back, and watched Paige slip her delicate, little hand into Angel’s. She supposed they did that often—’what more could Angel do besides hold hands?’ she thought.
When she formed a mental image, she suddenly didn’t want to think past hands. And so she removed the entire nasty notion from her mind. She just wouldn’t acknowledge the hand holding, and everything would be okay. Cleared head and not thinking about it! Eh, it still made her cringe. The “date”… It just wasn’t right.
She slowly followed at the back of the group of six. They bought their tickets, and went inside. The theater wasn’t crowded.
“Yo, the usual?” Gunn asked, glancing at his two usual movie companions and starting towards the refreshment stand.
“Yeah,” Wesley called.
“Don’t forget the Goobers!” Fred reminded him.
“I wouldn’t forget the Goobers!” Gunn exclaimed good-naturedly. He reached the back of the line and took his place. “English, find us some seats!”
“I’m on it!” Wesley answered, and then led Fred inside.”Do you want anything?” Angel asked Paige.
“No. I’m fine. Thank you.”
“Want to go sit?”
“Don’t you want anything?” ‘A nice big pint of B negative,’ Cordelia wanted to say. ‘Nuked, with a touch of cinnamon.’
“No, I’m good.”
“Then let’s go sit.” They started to go. No one asked Cordelia if she’d wanted anything. Well, if no one asked, then she’d just have to tell them, now wouldn’t she!
“I want a Diet Coke.” She stated.
Angel and Paige turned slowly to regard her. “Then get one.” Angel said. Cordelia looked from Angel to Paige—smug, little…—and back to Angel again. Then she held out her hand. With a sigh, he reached back, pulled out his wallet and handed her a twenty-dollar bill.
Paige looked up at him in confusion but said nothing as he handed over the cash, then fumbled to place the wallet back in his pocket.
‘That’s right,’ Cordelia said to herself. She’d have given anything to be able to say it out loud. ‘I need, he gives. Learn it, live it, fear it.’ Instead she watched them retreat, and then dejectedly went to stand in line with Gunn.
“You’re acting crazy.” He said when they were alone. Frowning, she glared up at him. “I’m just tellin’ you for your own good. Angel’s gonna kick your ass when we get home if you don’t knock it off.”
“I’m not doing anything!”
“‘I’m not doing anything’,” He mocked, and when she looked like she was about to slug him, he offered her a genuine smile. “I’m jus’ teasin’. You know that.”
“Huh?” Trademark wrinkled nose/look of disgust. “What??? OH. I don’t care about that,”
“Ah, thanks.” He snipped. “Then what is it? What’s ruffled your feathers? Or should I say who?”
“P—” Scowl. “Angel’s “date”.”
“Could that look on your face have been any more green?”
“I don’t like her, Gunn. I just don’t like her.”
“I don’t think she likes you either, and I can’t say that I don’t blame her.”
“Really?” Surprisingly…or not…Cordelia brightened at that.
“Nuh huh.” They stepped forward as the short line moved up. Gunn looked at his watch, growing impatient. There was now only one couple ahead of them. How long does it take to make a bucket of corn and a couple of sodas?
“Like I said,” Gunn restated, wanting to douse any bad ideas from the start; for he knew how Cordelia thought. And he wouldn’t put anything past her…even if Angel would. “Chill out.” He warned. “Angel’s gonna get pissed at you if you keep antagonizing it. I know how tempting it is…being so easy and all…”
“So it’s not just me, she’s dumb.”
“She’s not dumb.” Gunn laughed. Cordelia frowned even more. “She’s just ignorant of what we are. Give her a break. She’s just a normal girl.”
“Yeah, well…” She had no way to counter that. “I guess.”
“Can I help you?” The pimply adolescent cashier said from behind the counter.
“Yo, man, three large cokes, extra large corn with butter…Oh. And a package of Goobers.”
“Can’t forget those Goobers.” Cordelia said glumly.
“You want anything?” He asked, removing his wallet.
“Nah.” She held up her twenty. “Angel’s paying.”
The previews had already started by the time Cordelia had gotten her Diet Coke. Gunn waited for her at the entrance with his arms full, and Cordelia elected to help him by carrying one of their spare drinks. She followed him in, carefully, as they went down the darkened aisles.
After their eyes had adjusted to the dark, they spotted Fred, Wes, Angel, and… “her”…in the center aisle about fifteen rows down. Gunn walked quickly, and Cordelia kept right behind him.
She didn’t realize it until she’d already followed him into a row that Angel and his “date” were sitting one row back, behind Wesley and Fred. And now as Gunn sat down, she was stuck in this row too. She passed the spare Coke to Gunn and had just started to sink into a chair when suddenly she up and decided to climb over the seat.
Angel stared at her blankly and Paige looked more than surprised…maybe a little tiffed?
“So what did I miss?” Cordelia asked, leaning over into Paige’s personal space and directing the question more to Angel.
“A preview.” He said simply.
“Duh. Which one.”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Leave it to the social retard,” It came out too fast to stop, and she noticed Paige tense up…offensively.
“It was for an art film,” Paige said shortly. “You probably wouldn’t have cared for it.” Cordelia processed that twice before deciding to take offense “What’s THAT supposed to mean?” And then she noticed Angel had his arm around the little…
“You’ve got mine!” Gunn said, turning back and switching their Cokes. “This one’s diet!” Cordelia went through the motions of handing his back but wasn’t paying attention and almost spilled it.
“The movie’s starting!” Fred scolded, spinning in her chair to regard the escalating tension behind her. Cordelia was about to say something more, but Wesley also turned around, and catching sight of her, shook his head ever so slightly.’Bad idea, Cordy. BAAD idea.’
Cordelia clammed up. She leaned back in her seat, and watched the movie over the top of Gunn’s bald head. Lucky for her, he slouched through most of it… Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been able to watch all the Angel, Spike and Drusilla wanna-bes on screen. It was a long, long movie.