“Cordelia, Angel, please step into my office for a moment.”
“I wanted to give you more details about the case. You are expected at the Wellington Marriage Center tomorrow evening. It’s named after its benefactress. Elizabeth Wellington is the widow of an extraordinarily wealthy man. They were happily married for 47 years. Apparently she feels the rising divorce rate is responsible for the decline of society. She checked out. Nothing demonic about her, her late husband or their children.
The center is a rather large complex. It’s situated about 40 miles north of Los Angeles. There are outdoor recreational facilities but all the sessions take place indoors so Angel shouldn’t have any difficulties avoiding direct sunlight. It’s a week long retreat that involves private as well as group therapy. Now about your cover story. I’ve given it some consideration and I think it would be best if you try to stick as close to your real history as possible.”
“What do you mean?”
“You will both be questioned, sometimes separately. If you mix the details of your marriage with your actual past, it will be easier to be consistent.”
Cordelia nodded. “That makes sense.”
Wes started polishing his glasses. “I’ve had Mr. Nabbit establish the identity of Angel Murphy, CEO of a small computer company.”
“Computers? Angel barely knows how to turn one on.”
“We thought it would be best. Mr. Nabbit is providing a laptop that will allow us to exchange email without fear of it being intercepted. We need to be able to contact you. We don’t want them to find it suspicious if they can’t hack into it. It is also the only way the two of you can talk openly to each other. You will need to be careful due to the cameras but it should raise fewer eyebrows then your continued whispering even when alone.”
“Okay. I run a computer company. When did we get married?”
“Right after we returned from Pylea, although I wouldn’t mention the hell dimension part.”
“Duh. Wait that’ll mean we’ve been married for less than a year. How can we need counseling already?”
Wesley fidgeted for a moment. “The two of you shared mutual friends in Sunnydale, but it wasn’t until you both separately moved to LA that you got to know one another. Cordelia was a struggling actress. Angel, who had just started his company, needed all the moral support he could get so he hired you as his secretary. You began dating…let’s say about the time I came back into your lives. Everything was going well until..a competitor threatened to put you out of business. I’m told the computer industry can be rather cut throat. Angel decided the only way for his company to survive was to be as ruthless as the competition. Cordy objected to your actions so you fired her and ended your relationship.” Wes stood up and began pacing. He didn’t want to see the stormy look in Cordy’s eyes or the anger building in Angel’s. “Angel spent the next few months battling against Darla Williams, his rival as well as old girlfriend. Eventually he came to his senses and realized what a moronic ass he’d been. He begged you to take him back which you did. You became engaged soon after. It was a short engagement. The two of you were very happy together. Well that is until Darla showed up again and dropped the bombshell that she and Angel had slept together during your estrangement. Something he’d denied doing. Ever since then you’ve been having trust issues, so you decided to attend the retreat.” Wesley finally looked at their faces. He suddenly wished he’d thought to keep a stake on his person. “So do you think you can remember that?”
Cordelia took a deep breath. “Angel tossed me to the curb, screwed that skanky ho and lied to my face about it. Somehow I think I’ll remember it.” She shrugged off Angel’s hand and stood up. “Now if you both will excuse me, I have some things I need to return.” Cordy pushed Angel out of her way and stormed out of the office.
“Cor!” Angel watched from the doorway as she practically ran from the hotel. He turned to Wes. “You do realize I’m going to kill you now.”
“I’ll give you a sporting chance. You can have a two second head start.”
“You have to agree that you both will be able to be very convincing which IS crucial to solving this case. That’s what is important here.”
“It isn’t worth hurting Cordy. We could have come up with something less painful. I’m surprised you didn’t throw Buffy in. You could have reduced her to tears.”
Wesley stepped back when he saw a flash of yellow in Angel’s eyes. “I wasn’t trying to upset Cordelia.”
“You could have fooled me. We were finally getting past this.”
“Who are you trying to convince, me or yourself? Angel pretending something never happened and buying expensive presents aren’t solutions. You never resolved her feelings of betrayal. You simply bought her clothes and expected her to trust you again. Of course lying to her wasn’t the best idea. Whe Darla showed up again, everything happened so quickly. It took Darla almost draining Cordy for you to finally stake her. By the time Cordy recovered, she chose ignore your lies and just be grateful you saved her life. She placed her concern for you above her own feelings. She let the fact that you had to stake your sire for the second time overshadow you risking your soul for a night of sex. Cordelia has silently made one sacrifice after another for you. That amazing woman became part demon for you. Perhaps you can use this retreat as an opportunity to finally talk and deal with your feelings. I know you’d rather drink holy water than open up, but I don’t think I’m out of line when I say tough! If you truly love her, I suggest you try to do what’s best for her.”
“L.love? Who said anything about l.love?”
Wesley rolled his eyes at the stuttering vampire. “The only person in the hotel unaware of your feelings is Cordelia. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m meeting Mr. Nabbit to pick up the potion and laptop.”
“Hey Wes!” Wesley turned back. “If she returns anything she bought, you are a dead man.”
Wesley gulped at his Angelus-like smirk. “I fail to see how Cordelia’s undergarments are pertinent to this case.” He hurried away before Angel could respond.
Cordelia stood in her closet. She was too furious to decide what to pack. The blood red nightie she bought was laying on her bed. Next to it were the new bras and matching panties. She pulled her comfy pj’s out of the closet and threw them in her suitcase. *He doesn’t deserve sexy. Lying bastard!* “Dennis, can you get my things from the bathroom?” She took the slight breeze she felt against her face as a yes.
She decided on casual clothes and packed accordingly. She placed the floating items in her bag. “Thanks Dennis.” Her new clothes floated toward her. “No. I’m not taking those. Who was I kidding? There will always be a blond who’s more important to him than me. It’s just a matter of time before the next one shows up.” She eyed the nightie again. “On second thought maybe I’ll wear it to torture him. He might not be in love with me but it has been a while since..” She felt nauseous when she remembered who he’d been with last. She shrugged and threw her new things in the bag. “They’ll be no shortage of hot water by the time I’m done with him.” She froze at the sound of knocking. *I so do not want to talk to Angel right now.* She straightened her clothes before answering the door.
“Sorry to bother you but I wanted to apologize. I didn’t mean to upset you earlier.”
“I’m not upset.”
Wesley observed her puffy eyes. “Of course. I thought you might be hurting after I brought up the Darla incident.”
Cordy clenched her hands into fists. “No. That’s ancient history. I’m fine.”
“Oh. Well Angel was rather furious. He did a lot of growling after you’d gone.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah. ‘Cause firing us, boning Darla and telling lies were traumatic for him. Maybe we should do something to make him feel better. What says no-hard-feelings-that-you-kicked-us-to-the-curb-like-we-were-yesterday’s-trash? Maybe a nice plant?”
Wes pulled her into a hug. “He really is sorry. He knows how wrong he was.”
She stepped back. “I thought I was past this.”
“It might help if you and Angel talked about it. The two of you need to deal with this.”
“Because I…I’m..I don’t know what hurts most firing us, risking his soul or..”
She wrapped her arms around herself. “Or sleeping with someone that wasn’t me.” She looked up at Wesley. “I can’t talk to him. If I do, I might tell him I love him and then where would we be?”
“If you continue to hold everything in, what do you think will become of your relationship?”
“I don’t know.”
“You know one would think you of all people would understand his compulsion to lie.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“In case you’ve forgotten, you kept your impending death a secret from us.”
“Did you think about what would happen? You were going to die. One vision too many and we’d get to see what’s left of your brains through the gaping hole in the back of your skull!”
“I didn’t know that was gonna happen.”
“Perhaps not, but you knew you were going to die and you knew we wouldn’t see it coming. Angel probably would have killed a building full of lawyers before Dennis managed to tell us about your secrets.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“Yes you did. As did Angel.”
“It’s just like an ex-watcher to use logic and reason against me.”
He pulled the potion out of his pocket and handed it to her. “Opening up your heart to someone is rather frightening, but I’ve never thought of you as a coward before.” He smiled as her eyed flashed.
“I’m not a coward! I have faced hell beasts. I think I can handle a conversation about my feelings.” She clutched the bottle and stormed out of her apartment.
Angel had been brooding in his room since Wesley left. He wished Cordy would come back and nag him out of his mood. *This is all Wesley’s fault. We were fine until he opened his big mouth! Now I’ve lost her.*
“Is this a private brooding session or can anyone join?”
Angel jumped. *How the hell did she sneak up of me?* “Hey. I didn’t expect to see you so soon. At least not without a pointy wooden stick.”
Cordelia crossed the room to stand in front of him. “We have a lot to talk about.”
“Yeah we do. Now?”
She stepped back. “No. Wes had a good point. We have enough unresolved issues to convince a building full of counselors we need therapy.”
“But I wanted you to know that I’m not going anywhere. We will get through this.”
“Of course.” For the first time she noticed the glimmer of fear in his eyes. “Angel, there may be some lingering Darla issues but I have no intentions of letting go of you.”
He clasped her hands in his. “I am sorry I hurt you.”
“I know.” She took a deep breath. “Wesley stopped by my apartment. He reminded me that I haven’t exactly been the poster child for honesty. Although I was protecting you guys and you were protecting yourself so it’s not really the same thing. Plus it’s my death and if I want to deal with it by myself..” She hesitated at his growl. “but I wouldn’t want that. I totally learned my lesson. No secrets for Cordy.” She pulled her hands away. “Wes just pointed out that we’ve both kept secrets. Look as soon as we solve this case, you and I are gonna sit down and talk about everything.”
“Yes. Not that I’m afraid or anything. Cordelia Chase is no coward. We could talk now but…it might make us less convincing. Yeah. We have to put the case first.” She looked up at his sad face. He looked like someone just nailed his puppy to his door..speaking of Angelus. “Wes gave me the potion. You should probably drink it now.”
He gave her a confused look but did as he was told. “That was gross.”
“Do you feel any different?”
“Not really but I’m sure it worked. I trust Wesley.”
“Good” *I am not a coward!* She raised herself onto her toes and kissed him.
She pulled away before he could react. He was stunned. “What was that for?”
“I wanted to kiss you.” Her eyes sparkled as she smiled. “Do you have a problem with that?”
He answered by crushing his lips to hers. The first kiss was chaste. This kiss was hungry. He devoured her mouth. She felt dazed. Reality floated away when she suddenly felt herself being pressed down into his mattress. He released her lips so she could breathe. He looked down into her eyes. *Please tell me you love me!*
Angel felt like he was about to explode from happiness. “I need you so much.”
*Need* His words hit her like ice water. Reality came crashing back. His kisses moved down her neck but the heat that had been building was extinguished by his unspoken words. She pushed him away. “Angel, I think we should stop.”
He creased his brow in confusion. “It’s okay. I took the potion. We don’t have to stop.”
She felt like she’d been sucker punched. *I guess I should be flattered he thought I could make him happy.*
He took her silence as acceptance. His hand slipped under her shirt as he began kissing his way across her collar bone.
She pushed him away harder this time. “I..I need to go.”
He caught her arm before she could escape. “Did I do something wrong?”
She looked into his sad puppy face. She wanted to beg him to love her. She knew he cared. She felt his desire for her hard against her thigh, but that wasn’t enough. She wouldn’t risk what they had for anything less than love. She stroked his cheek. *There was a time I would have taken anything you were willing to give me.* “No. There’s just so much we haven’t said yet. I don’t want to do anything we might regret.”
He released her arm. He was tempted to check for blood because he definitely felt like he’d been stabbed. “I guess.”
“Good night Angel.” She kissed his cheek and hurried out.
Angel stared at the door willing her to come back, declare her love and spend all night showing him how much she needed him. Nothing. No approaching footsteps. No heartbeat outside the door. He whispered, “I love you.”