“I’m not here to fight with you.”
“Then why are you here?”
“I want to talk. Honestly.”
“Angel…obviously” Cordelia cast Paige a sideways glance. This early in the day, there was no point in being cordial, especially since early on in the conversation, Paige had revealed the fact that she knew Cordelia hated her guts. Cordelia figured why pretend?
“Angel’s not awake yet, so maybe you should come back later.”
“You don’t understand, I want to talk to you alone.” Paige looked uncomfortable, but she didn’t let Cordelia intimidate her, even with the imaginary daggers Cordelia was throwing with her eyes. She could’ve easily thrown real ones; there was a display of them against the wall behind her. But Cordelia figured…Paige being Angel’s “date” and all…probably not a good idea.
“Do you think that’s such a good idea?” Cordy said aloud about the talking while glancing at the daggers in the case with longing.
“Maybe.” Paige regarded her suspiciously. “Maybe not.” Cordelia sighed and leaned back against the counter, arms crossing and eyes darkening while she stared at the other woman with repugnance.
“Fine. You want to talk? Talk then. I’m all ears, Miss Thing.”
Paige glanced up at the stairs hesitantly. “Do you think we could go somewhere…private?”
Cordelia’s brow perked.”Right here’s just fine.”
“I don’t want anyone else to overhear. What I’ve got to say is between you and me.”
“Anything you need to say to me can be said right here.”
“Wouldn’t you rather talk frankly?” Paige challenged. “Instead of holding back to spare Angel’s feelings? I mean, come on, I know there has to be a couple of things you’ve been just dying to say to my face. So, come on. This is your chance.”
Cordelia thought about the proposition. Obviously Paige wanted a place to bitch her out in private. No witnesses so that she could say horrible things and make accusations and threats. And no witnesses so she could deny it later, like, say, if Cordelia went running to Angel to tattle or something. The tramp probably figured she’d play it all innocent and Angel would take her side, making Cordy look bad and causing even more of a rift in Angel and Cordelia’s friendship. Of course, there was that thing about being able to fling the crap back.
And Cordelia could do her fair share of bitching! And without an audience, who’d be there to hold her back…Cordelia glared at the girl and smirked.”I’ll get my coat.”
“I know we might not have gotten off on the right foot,” Paige was saying. Cordelia watched her droll on and on over cups of gourmet coffee at the little café down the block from the Hotel.
The Seer picked up her latte and sipped; very much bored with the conversation, and admittedly disappointed that this hadn’t turned out quite the way she’d expected.
Walking side by side down the sunny, heavily traveled LA street, Cordelia had been preparing herself for eye scratching and hair pulling…you know, traditional cat fight. But just as she was looking forward to it, figures that Miss Thing would decide to get all civil on her.
Talking things out instead of settling it like angry women. Trying to level on common ground instead of bitch-slapping and name-calling. You know, actually talking, instead of well…talking. Cordelia sat idly, letting Paige do all the truce-talk groundwork. She nodded her head once in a while just to let the other brunette know that she was still there, in body if not in spirit.
And she pictured Angel a couple of times, and what it must have been like for him having to listen to this girl go on and on, cluelessly, about whatever it was she found reason to discuss.
What he’d ever found interesting about her, Cordelia didn’t know. But Cordelia pictured him kissing her, embracing her and kissing her in all the ways he shouldn’t have, and a frown popped up onto her face before she could stop it. Paige noticed, and stopped speaking. Cordelia looked away and sighed.
“It must be hard for you.” Paige said point blank.
Cordelia glared in annoyance. “What do you mean?”
“Seeing him spending time with someone else.” Cordelia’s eyes narrowed slightly, lips turning down even more in an open scowl.
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure you do,” Paige said knowingly, nodding her head to herself as if to confirm some silly little secret in her head.
Cordelia hissed. “You have NO idea of what you’re talking about!”
“Well, then tell me! Let me in on the deal. I mean obviously, you have a problem with something. That’s no secret,”
“I—I never said it was!”
“Well, then stop acting like it!”
“I’m not acting like anything!”
“You’re denying it!”
“I so am not!”
“You are to! You’re denying it right now!”
“I never denied anything!”
“You just said you didn’t know what I was talking about!”
“I didn’t!” Cordelia seethed. “I still don’t! I don’t even know why we’re having this conversation! I figured when you said you wanted to talk, it’d really be, like, having it out, or something! Over your attitude! Not this petty getting-to-know you crap first! Jeez! I swear—”
“I’m not the one with the attitude, and I never wanted to have it out with you.”
“Then what the hell was all that, ‘I’m sure you’ve got something to say’ stuff!”
“I thought you had something you wanted to get off your chest.”
“I don’t HAVE anything to get off my chest!”
“Are you sure? I mean, you seem like you’re struggling with something, like you can’t deal with me and Angel being together—”
“TOGETHER??? PFT!” Cordelia let out a long scoff before she could stop herself. “Look, think whatever, girlie! But if I wanted to get something off my chest, I’d talk to one of my FRIENDS, not to you!”
“Well, excuse me for trying to be nice!”
“I don’t need your nice!”
“I’ve been trying to be nice for Angel’s sake!” Paige swore with frustration. “You know, Cordelia, you’re not the easiest person to speak to!”
“I’m plenty easy to speak to!” Cordelia blasted. “And you know what? Angel doesn’t need your nice either!”
“How would you know what Angel needs?”
“HOW WOULD YOU!”
“We connect! I feel like we might, I dunno, belong together or something!”
“If you only KNEW how many times I’ve heard THAT,”
“Angel and I…we have something, and I can’t help but feel that it’s fate!”
“If you only KNEW how absurd THAT is!”
“The others don’t have a problem with this, why do you?” Paige demanded.
“Speaking of the others,” Cordelia hissed. “The others aren’t as fond of you as you think. Don’t go thinking they have any loyalties to you! Just because you’re Angel’s “date” once in a while, don’t go getting comfortable with my friends.”
“Don’t you think you should let them speak for themselves!?”
“They might be too nice to say it, but we all realize that you’re just a passing trend! You’re not a part of the group, and you never will be. Maybe you should stop trying to kid yourself, and put an end to this dating madness. You’re not right for Angel, and you sure as hell don’t fit in with my group!”
“I never thought trying to actually offer friendship to you would be this insulting.” Paige scathed. She sat back, hand clamped angrily around her hot coffee mug as she glared at Cordelia.
“It’s nothing personal.” Cordelia growled. “Really. It’s not. You have to understand that we’ve known Angel for a long time. A VERY LONG TIME. I’ve—We’ve been through the thickest of the thick with him! And when others bailed on him, in his dark times, we stuck by him, no matter how bad things got! You couldn’t handle the kinds of things we deal with in our lives. You’d get yourself killed. If you even saw a glimmer of what being with Angel really meant, you’d be hightailing it out of here. LIKE NOW. Save him some heartache. Do him a favor…Just let it go.”
“I don’t know who you think you are,” Paige said incredulously. “You’re not his mother. You’re not his girlfriend. You certainly can’t make decisions for him. If Angel wants to date me, that’s his choice! If he doesn’t want to date me, then it’s up to him to tell me. Not his little…groupie!”
“I am NOT his groupie,”
“Maybe I don’t know him as well as you do! Maybe I’ve only known him a few weeks and I don’t know what you guys deal with at work! But you don’t know what it’s like between us! You don’t know how close we’ve gotten, or how he makes me feel, when we’re alone. I like him, Cordelia. He’s a great guy. And as few and far between as guys like him are—and I’m sure you know how rare they are!—I’m NOT about to throw it away because you don’t like me! I’m dating him, not you. In case you didn’t notice, you’re opinion doesn’t count.”
“My opinion counts A LOT more than you’d like to admit, sister! Angel and I are like family—”
“You want to wage war against me?” Paige practically roared. Everyone in the restaurant turned to look at them. “You want to go up against me? You want this to be a competition??? Then that’s your problem!” Paige’s face pinked with fury.
“But I just want to warn you, Cordelia, you’re in for a hell of a fight. And I don’t play nice. I’d rather not, but I will do my damnedest to better you. Angel’s going to make up his own mind about me. And that’s all there is to it.” Paige sat back in disgust, determination on her features.
The air was thick, and Cordelia felt its roughness as she inhaled through flared nostrils. The two girls locked eyes in an unwavering staring match, teeth ground and eyes afire, nearly staring a hole into each other when the waiter hesitantly approached to refill their cups.
“Uh, more coffee?” He stammered.
“Yes, please.” Paige mumbled. He filled her cup, then started at Cordelia’s, but a firm hand across the top of the cup stopped him and the look on Cordy’s face sent him scurrying back to the kitchen. At their silence, the other restaurant patrons turned back to their own business.
And finally, after several moments, amazingly both girls’ faces softened enough to cause a falter in the glare. They both sat back slowly, eyes dropping to the tablecloth and hands to their laps. Paige was the first to speak.
“I didn’t want things to be this way.” She said, pained.
“You think I did?” Cordelia sighed angrily.
“No. I don’t think so. I don’t think you meant to be this hard on Angel.”
“Angel?” Cordelia scowled, wrinkling her nose.
“Yeah,” Paige snapped, leaning forward. “You think you’re being hard on me. But you’re not. You’re being hard on him. I don’t know you. I could care less about what you think. Angel cares about you though. He respects you. And highly, as I’ve come to find out. And your opinions do matter to him. You being mean to me doesn’t do anything but hurt him. The way you are about him…so protective…it’s obvious that your feelings for him run deep. How deep, I don’t know. And being that I’m vying to be his girlfriend, it’s something I have to consider, and something I have to deal with. Am I worried about that? Sure I am. Am I troubled by that? A little. Am I afraid of it? Absolutely not. So don’t think you can scare me off, Cordelia. I don’t scare easily.”
‘Yeah right,’ Cordelia mused, imagining Paige’s face after a run in with Angelus…Paige went on. “And you should save your strength for more important things, like your own relationship with him.”
Cordelia started to protest, but Paige held up a hand. “I know nothing’s going on between you. I know your relationship isn’t like that, he told me. But regardless you are competition. In your own, scary little way, I have to deal with the fact that you’re here. And so we’re going to clash. That’s not uncommon between old friends and new girlfriends…”
Cordelia cringed at the word. “…But the easier you make it on us, the easier you’ll make it on him. The easier you are on him, the better it will be for yourself. You want things to be easy, right? You want your friendship to remain intact?”Cordelia nodded bitterly.
“Then back off, Cordelia. Let Angel do this on his own. Please don’t try to push him away from me. If things don’t work out…” Paige stalled, and Cordelia had to wonder if that was a slip at something she hadn’t yet heard about or if it were just a hypothetical thought.
Either way, Paige continued to talk and Cordelia did not interrupt. She actually listened, and frightfully because everything that Paige was saying felt true…everything that came out of her mouth had already ran through Cordelia’s head this morning. She’d been thinking about all this ALL morning, ever since last night, after Angel had stopped by and they’d had their little “talk”…
“Cordelia…” Paige pleaded. “Look, if we break things off, let it be on us…not on you. Otherwise, he’s going to end up resenting you, and at this point, you really can’t afford to have that, right?”
“Where have you been?” Gunn asked.
“Out getting coffee with Angel’s girl.” Cordelia sighed.
“Whaaat?” A lopsided smile formed on his lips.
“Shut up, Gunn. It wasn’t that big a deal.” Cordelia hung up her coat and handbag and then ventured to her desk.
“What do you mean you were getting coffee with Angel’s girl?” He teased, following her and plopping down on top of her desk and swinging his legs. “Did hell freeze over? Are you drunk? Are my ears not working properly? Cause I thought I just heard you say that you was getting coffee with Angel’s girl!”
“I DID say that,” Cordelia sighed bitterly. “And if you repeat it to anyone, I’ll kill you, got it!” Gunn held up his hands.
“Hey, my lips are sealed! But what did she say? I can’t imagine it was girlfriend-talk, am I right? I mean, I KNOW you didn’t have girlfriend-talk with Angel’s date!”
“No, it wasn’t girlfriend-talk.” Cordelia said. “At least not in the way you mean it. We did talk…about her being Angel’s…girlfriend,” Gunn’s eyebrow perked. “WHICH SHE SO IS NOT,” Cordelia stressed, shoving a stray strand of hair back behind her ear. “She’s sooo not his girlfriend…not yet, anyway. And I don’t know if she ever will be, but…” The Seer grew quiet until Gunn nudged her with his foot.
“Cordy, what happened?” He asked too seriously.
“We came to a truce.” She said with acceptance. Glancing up into the Street Warriors warm brown eyes, she offered him what small smile she could and explained. “Paige and I agreed to a few things. I’m not going to interfere anymore. She’s not going to try to come between us, and I’m not going to try to come between them. We’re both going to keep our distance from each other and just let things work themselves out. She’s going to continue to see Angel…and I’m going to start minding my own business. Maybe this way…things wont get so messed up. I—I don’t know—”
“And you agreed to this???” She shrugged sadly. “WOW.” Gunn sighed, intrigued. “I didn’t think you’d bend so easily.”
“I had to.” Cordelia said timidly. “If I didn’t, things might…well, it might not end so well. For anyone. And I don’t want that. I couldn’t handle that. Not again.” A small shiver came over her, and he caught it, hard times from the past coming back to haunt her memories. Gunn reached out and rubbed her shoulder.
“So it’s a good thing,” He suggested.
“Maybe.” She said. “Maybe. I guess it’s up to Angel.”
“It’s all up to Angel. Now…”
“Well, I think it was very woman of you to agree to this!” Gunn said loud and encouraging. He let go of her shoulder and hopped down from her desk. “And I think Angel will appreciate it, not having to deal with your hair-brained antics anymore,” She shot him a dirty look and he grinned.
“So what about tomorrow night?” He asked, quickly changing the subject. “How’s that gettin’ dealt with?”
“Well,” She shrugged, picking up a pen and absentmindedly chewing on its cap as she flipped open her day planner. “I decided to invite her.”
“Oh REALLY?” Gunn said, surprised.
“Yeah. I mean, I thought about what you said the other day,” She explained. “And I figured you were right, Angel would want her there. They are dating after all. And this is kinda a big deal for him, a huge deal, even though he doesn’t know about it yet. I mean, I was thinking…what if things do work out for them? What if she becomes like permanent??? Then what? Then I’m the troll who didn’t invite her to Angel’s big day! I didn’t want that hanging over my head, you know. If Wesley had been in charge of the arrangements, I’d have let it go, left the blame with him,”Gunn chuckled, as did Cordelia.
“But seeing as it’s my thing,” She said in conclusion, pen now working at creating a big, blue circle around the events marked down for Friday the 15th. “I figured, you know, better do things right. Everyone else is coming, she should too. It’ll probably make Angel happy, ya know? And that’s the point… Everyone’s gotta be happy, I don’t throw unhappy parties. I worry about my guests’ well being. Just call me Hostess Cordy.”
“Good work, Hostess Cordy,” Gunn said, nodding in approvement. “Well done.”
“Thank you.” She beamed.
“So what time is everyone gonna get here?”
“Uh,” Cordy glanced at her notes. “Everyone’s coming at 8, I worked it out with Paige to bring Angel around 9.”
“Trusting her to do the duty? I thought me and Wesley was taking care of that?”
“I thought it’d be better to let her do it. I need you and Wesley at Caritas anyway. And this way, there’s no weirdness. They’ll be out on a date, and she’ll just insist they stop by for a little song and drink, and surprise! Angel’s clueless, things are done. Angel would get way suspicious if you and Wesley suggested stopping for karaoke anyway. It’s a way for Paige to finally be useful, and plus it’s just the easiest solution to the entire situation… Pretty smart, huh?’
“Props for cleverness.”
“But how did you know they’d be having a date, I thought you told Angel to keep Friday open?”
“I did. But after what happened last night…” Cordelia flushed at the thought. Gunn was clueless about what had happened at her apartment and she wasn’t about to tell him anything.
“After last night, I just figured Angel would much rather go out with Paige than hang out with me. She’s going to be calling him later and asking him out, and I’m going to tell him whatever we’d planned for tomorrow is off and to go ahead and go, and then, well…everything should work out fine.”
“Looks like you’ve got everything figured out.”
“Of course I do.” Cordelia smiled assuringly. “Now I just have to make sure it goes smoothly, and we should have quite a happy vampire on our hands!”
“But not too happy, right?”
“No. Not too happy. That wouldn’t be good.”
“It sure wouldn’t.”
Cordelia glanced at the time. “Oh crap, I have to call Sunnydale!”