Connor knew the UPS man very well. His name was Harold. He was married with three kids. He liked to listen to Sinatra and he loved “The Godfather.” He didn’t like paparazzi or the shorts he was forced to work in.
Harold was at the hotel every day. For the past month, like clockwork, he showed up a little before five with an armful of packages, which Connor would inevitably have to pick up and move to several locations inside the hotel.
Harold the delivery guy was now in the best shape of his life and he’d earned enough overtime money to take his family to Hawaii. Connor now had a violent hatred for the color brown and was almost positive he was developing a hernia.
“So, Saturday’s the big day,” Harold noted as Connor signed for the delivery.
“I guess,” Connor commented distractedly.
“Bet you can’t wait. You know, I’m gonna miss this place. You and I should go out, grab a beer sometime,” Harold said as he handed Connor a gigantic pink-and-white package covered in bows and ribbons.
“Sure. Yeah. Definitely,” Connor mumbled, gritting his teeth at the familiar pressure in his lower back. He kicked the door shut without waiting for a response. He felt bad about being rude, but rationalized that he was entitled to be. The wedding was, after all, only two days away.
“Cordelia,” Connor shouted. No response. “Someone? Anyone?” Typical. The lobby always seemed to miraculously empty out whenever something large had to be moved or carried. Any other time of the day and he was practically tripping over people. Wedding coordinators. Clients. The odd group of weirdos the agency employed. But when Harold’s truck rolled up the place turned into a ghost town.
He should leave the stupid present right here in the middle of the lobby. Make someone else take care of it. But that meant risking the wrath of both Cordy and Fred. Connor was smart enough to know what that entailed. He started up the stairs. Maybe one of the girls had some Advil.
“Cordelia,” he called again when he reached the second floor. They better be here. He knew they were storing a lot of presents up on the fourth floor. He wasn’t sure he could make it to the fourth floor. He readjusted the package and started down the hall.
This floor was considered Cordelia’s private residence. Formal living room. Less formal den. A gourmet kitchen (that she never used). A training room. It was all part of the renovations Angel had initiated right after they got married. Cordelia had cried when she saw all that he had done for her.
She still slept in the same bedroom suite she had shared with Angel. Connor once pointed out that that indicated she had lot of unresolved emotions about her divorce. Cordy had kicked him in the shin. She wasn’t big on self-analysis these days.
He found her and Fred in the living room. The room itself was lovely, impeccably decorated in warm neutral tones. However, it was impossible to miss the presence of the heavy drapes on the windows. Connor thought the lack of natural light in the hotel was also very telling, but was wise enough to keep that notion to himself.
Cordelia sat scribbling thank-you notes on the couch, surrounded by a huge array of gifts. She hadn’t changed much in the two years since Angel left, in the sense that she was still as youthful and beautiful as ever. But she wasn’t the same. Cordy looked a lot like those pictures Connor had seen of her from high school, and not just because she’d grown her hair long.
There was a glossy sheen to her beauty, a placid perfectness in her Shiseido lipstick and her haute coutour uniform. Connor missed the old days, when he’d catch her racing barefoot through the hotel wearing nothing but a sweatshirt and Angel’s boxers, her husband hot on her heels.
Her appearance had ceased to be a mere weapon—it was full-fledged suit of armor now, protecting her from demons of all sorts. Connor was thinking of doing his senior thesis on the subject. But right now, he had more pressing concerns.
“Where do I put this?” he asked impatiently from the doorway.
“How do you spell omelet?” Cordelia asked, not looking up to sympathize with his plight and effectively ignoring the question. The dull ache in Connor’s back was starting to get stronger. If they would just tell him where to put the stupid thing…
“Fred?” he called out meekly.
“Ninety-three, ninety-four, ninety-five…” Fred mumbled to herself.
Connor abruptly dropped the package at his feet. There was a noise that sounded suspiciously like glass shattering. That got their attention. He shrugged haplessly and flopped down on the couch next to Cordelia.
“Thanks a lot,” Fred said. “You made me lose count.” Fred hadn’t changed much either. By turns wacky and brilliant. Pretty in that quiet, delicate way of hers. She was too skinny though. Ever since she’d moved back into the hotel. “Was I on ninety-seven or ninety-eight?”
“Does it matter?” Connor told her. “The wedding’s in the courtyard. If extra guests show up we’ll just grab some more folding chairs. Problem solved.” In Connor’s opinion, Fred was taking this whole thing much to seriously. She didn’t look like she had slept in days, and it wasn’t like she didn’t have her own problems to worry about.
“I still think we should have the ceremony in the lobby,” Fred said, standing up. She would need to call the caterer again. The man was incredibly temperamental. Telling him the headcount had changed was not going to be fun. “Cordelia, I don’t get why it’s so important to get married outside.”
Connor snorted. “Oh, yeah, I can’t begin to imagine why she wants to have this wedding at 12 noon under all that bright sun.”
“It’s a puzzler,” Cordy mumbled, staring down at the note she was writing. O-M-E…
“You know, a therapist would have a field day with you,” he told her. Cordy glared over at him.
“I’m not kidding Connor. If you take one more psych class, I am SO cutting you off,” she warned. His increasingly pointed (and accurate) remarks were really starting to piss her off.
“But what are we going to do if it rains?” Fred worried, oblivious of the tension.
“Oh it won’t rain,” Connor assured Fred, who was already dialing the weather service and wasn’t paying him any attention. “It won’t rain because Cordy won’t let it. Nothing and nobody is going to ruin this wedding, isn’t that what you said Cor?”
She shot him an icy glare that Connor couldn’t help but be slightly afraid of. Sometimes he was glad that she lost all of those superpowers of hers. Even as plain old Cordy, she could be pretty scary.
“Do you know how to spell omelet or not?” she asked him again impatiently.
He didn’t have a clue. “I think there are two M’s,” he guessed.
Cordy frowned down at the note. “I thought there were two L’s.”
Connor peeked over her shoulder at what she had written. “I don’t get it. Who gives someone an omelet anyway? That’s a pretty crappy present, if you ask me. Unless it’s a really big omelet with like three kinds of cheese and—”
“It’s a pan to make an omelet in, sweetie,” Fred explained as she hung up the phone. The forecast was predicting clear skies. Thank God. She glanced down at her gigantic To-Do list and then at the two people sprawled on the couch. “Connor, why are you just sitting there? Why don’t you go unpack all your things?”
“Already done,” he told her smugly. They had agreed that it would be easier if he spent the entire weekend at the hotel. “I’m all moved into the poolhouse.”
“Well good,” Fred said. “Cause all these presents need to be taken up to the fourth floor.” Connor’s face fell. “Now,” Fred added. Her voice left no room for argument. Fred could be scarier than Cordy when she wanted to be.
Connor stood up gingerly. “Fred, my back really hurts.”
“Quit whining,” Cordelia told him. “Suck it up,” she advised, stuffing the card into an envelope. She’d finished five. That left, what, 250 to go?
“You know Cordy,” Fred said, “we could use an extra hand.” Cordelia did not look pleased at the suggestion.
Connor couldn’t help but laugh
The fourth floor looked like a department store. Piles and piles of presents. Everywhere you stepped there was china and crystal and a whole bunch of other very breakable looking stuff. It made Connor nervous. He quickly put down his load and followed Fred and Cordy into the epicenter of the wedding planning. Cordy called it “the War Room.”
It was a mess. Charts and diagrams everywhere. The seating chart for the reception took up an entire desk. Books on flower arranging, magazines devoted solely to the bride’s hair, a Martha Stewart Wedding Planner that seemed to be roughly the same size as Fred.
“I’m exhausted,” Cordy said. “I can’t wait until this wedding is over.”
“You can’t wait,” Connor exclaimed. “I’m in serious pain here. I think I slipped a disk.”
“You don’t even know what that means,” Cordy shot back.
“So? I know it hurts. I know I hurt,” he pouted. Cordelia rolled her eyes. It was a little hard for her to believe Connor’s complaints. He’d really filled out since he’d returned home to them. Gone was the lanky awkward boy and in his place was a strapping young man with a much better haircut. Sometimes Cordy would catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye and she’d swear it was…well, that was beside the point.
“Hmm, that’s interesting,” Fred commented, standing over the seating chart.
“What?” Cordy asked.
“Well it looks like someone has been messing with the seating arrangement cards. Again.” They both turned accusing eyes on Connor.
He put up both hands as if to ward them off. “Hey, don’t look at me. There must be a ghost loose in the house.”
“Oh, Dennis knows not to touch anything in this room,” Cordy said in a low voice.
“Well maybe it’s another ghost,” Connor said, fumbling for an excuse. “Maybe it’s the ghost of bridegroom number one.”
“Don’t say that,” Fred admonished, “it makes it sound like Angel’s dead.”
“Angel is dead,” Cordy pointed out.
“I meant dead dead,” Fred clarified.
“He might as well be, for all SOME people seem to care,” Connor said.
“Oh, Connor, I wouldn’t say that,” Fred told him.
“I would,” Cordy announced in a perfectly serious voice.
“Cordy,” Fred warned her. They had discussed this. Cordelia was not supposed to bad-mouth Angel in front of Connor. Regardless of the fact that he’d essentially been MIA for two years, the man was still his father. “Don’t.”
“Don’t what?” Cordy said, as she wandered back over to the presents. “I’m sorry, but if I never see that stupid vampire again it will be…what the hell is this?” she asked, distracted from her rant by a particularly ugly piece of sculpture.
“It came yesterday,” Fred told her.
“It’s hideous,” Cordy picked it up. It was hideous and heavy. “Who’s it from?”
Fred looked at the card. “I think they’re some of Wesley’s associates. This is the address for Wolfram and Hart’s New York office.”
“Oh that’s just perfect,” Cordy whined, shoving the sculpture at Connor, who’s knees nearly buckled under the weight. “Put this with the rest of the presents that are most likely cursed.” Connor hobbled over to a growing pile of suspicious gifts on the far side of the room.
“Cordy, I doubt they would—” Fred started.
Cordelia immediately cut her off. “They would and they probably did. They work for Wolfram and Hart Fred. They could be devil worshipping flesh-eaters for all we know.”
“That’s hardly fair,” Fred said.
Cordy sighed. “Haven’t we had this talk before?”
“Yes,” Connor practically shouted. “Yes, trust me, you have.” He was beyond tired of hearing this argument.
Fred was undeterred. “Wes and Angel manage to do a lot of good things at Wolfram and Hart.”
“When they aren’t off doing evil’s bidding, you mean?” Fred’s eyes shot way up at Cordy’s remark and she gestured in Connor’s direction.
For a moment, Cordy really did feel guilty. It’s not like she was trying to poison the kid against his father. After that awful year, she had sworn she would never purposefully come between the two again. Once she married Angel, he and Connor had actually started to slowly repair their shattered relationship. She knew that Connor missed him. He wasn’t the only one.
Fred stepped closer and started talking in a low voice so that Connor wouldn’t overhear. “What’s gotten into you lately? After the divorce you were barely able to say Angel’s name. You never talked about him. Now suddenly you’re tearing him down every chance you get. And don’t think I don’t notice the way you’re always attacking Wesley either.”
“You just need to face the facts like I did,” Cordy whispered.
“Maybe we both need to face the fact that neither of us were all that great at being wives,” Fred said.
“That’s ridiculous,” Cordy waved off the concern. “We just picked the wrong first husbands, that’s all! Come on, let’s not fight about this. You did the right thing.”
“You wanted me to take a stand and I did,” Fred told her.
“Well duh. What else could you do? I mean, a girl has to have some self-respect.”
Fred snorted. “Yeah, look at me now. I’m overflowing with self-respect and yet I seem to sadly be lacking a husband.”
“Fred, you had to leave. Don’t you remember? All those super-secret cases he would never talk about? That new Dark Magic hobby? Those late night meetings with Lilah?”
“You know Cor, I’m starting to think that maybe if I had just trusted him more…”
Cordy slowly inhaled, trying to keep her cool. “Trust has to be earned and neither of the men in our lives seemed to want to bother with that. You know, you’re starting to sound like you actually want the asshole back.” Her voice was getting progressively louder but neither woman seemed to notice.
“Well even if I did want him back, he probably wouldn’t come,” Fred said despondently.
“It’s better this way,” Cordy patted her on the back. “You’ll see. We just need to move on. Forget about the past.”
“That’s easy for you to say, you’ve got Spence.”
Cordy laughed. “Hey, I offered to send Dennis up to your room the day you left Wes and moved in. The things that ghost can do with a loofah…” From across the room Connor coughed loudly to remind them of his presence. Both women blushed. “Errr, as I was saying, you need to move on. You deserve a man who is willing to make you his top priority—and who’s not afraid to tell you that once in a while. A man who can have money and power without the aid of the dark arts. A man…like Spence. Who, clearly, is perfect.”
Cordy did not seem to notice the heavy sarcasm in Fred’s voice, or the way that Connor rolled his eyes.
“I mean, the guy’s insanely gorgeous, and he doesn’t need brooding puppy eyes and a color-free wardrobe to make him that way. He’s smart. Popular. He’s always nice to waiters and valets,” Cordelia gushed. She wasn’t entirely sure why she constantly needed to review all Spencer’s attributes. It was almost like she was afraid if she didn’t remind herself, she might forget just why she was marrying the guy. Which was ridiculous. Wasn’t it? “Come on, admit it, my fiancée, is seriously hot.”
“Angel was hot,” Connor blurted out. Cordy and Fred gave him a strange look and he hurried to explain. “I mean, not to me. But people said he was hot.”
“What people?” Cordelia wanted to know.
“Uh, people. Some girls we saved. His secretary at the office.” Connor didn’t like the way Cordy was looking at him. All suspicious. “Uh, Fred said he was hot,” he said, pointing a finger at her, eager to get the heat off of him.
Fred ignored the accusing stare Cordy sent her way. She wasn’t going to deny it. “Hey, say what you want about the guy Cordelia, even you have to admit that Angel is an attractive man. A very attractive man.”
Cordy wanted to laugh. As if she wasn’t aware of what her ex-husband looked like. She was married to the guy. She’d seen a lot more of him than Fred ever had.
“Well,” she told them calmly, “if you two think Angel is so great, maybe you should just figure out a way to postpone the wedding.”
“How would we do that?” Connor asked, completely missing the sarcasm in her voice.
Cordy pretended to think for a second. “Gosh, I don’t know. You could lose a limb. Get a fatal illness. Dig up some crazy world-ending apocalypse.”
“Please don’t give him any ideas,” Fred requested. Connor was the kind of guy who was willing to do extreme things when the pressure was on. He was like his father that way. This worried Fred.
“Oh Connor knows better than to mess with my wedding plans,” Cordy warned, as she checked her watch. “Hmmm, I wonder where Spence is. He’s never late.”
“Cause he’s so perfect,” Fred muttered under her breath.
“What was that?” Cordelia asked.
“Oh, nothing,” Fred said.
“Spence is probably waiting for you,” Connor told her.
Cordy was confused. “Waiting for me? Where?”
“He called about an hour ago. Said he’d meet you for drinks at Caritas. Oh, did I forget to tell you that?” Connor asked, attempting to feign innocence and failing miserably.
“You little…” Cordy said, lunging in his direction.
Fred jumped in to separate the two. “I’m sure it just slipped Connor’s mind.”
Cordy didn’t believe that for a second. “If you’re not careful little man, you’re not going to make it until Saturday.”
“Would THAT postpone the wedding?” Connor wondered aloud.
“Nope,” Cordelia assured him.
“Cordy!” Fred yelled.
“The caterers are non-refundable,” she reminded Fred.
“True,” Fred agreed.
“Fred!” Connor exclaimed. “you’re supposed to be the nice one!” Fred merely shrugged.
“Which Caritas is he at? The one on Sunset Boulevard?” Cordelia asked.
Connor shook his head. “The Caritas on Sunset got sucked into a hell dimension last week. Spence said he would meet you at the one in Santa Monica.
“It’s so confusing now that Lorne’s a chain,” Fred pointed out as she sat down at the desk. “He could at least number them. Caritas 3. Caritas 4. Caritas 5.”
“Speaking of five, I’m leaving in five minutes,” Cordy said as she headed out to the hall. “Anyone who doesn’t want to stay and sort presents with Fred is welcome to join me.”
“I’ll be down in a sec,” Connor told her. Cordelia nodded and left.
“She’s so mean about Angel,” Connor said to Fred after a minute.
Fred pursed her lips. “Well Angel was pretty mean to her. Those two…I mean, they’ve always been very different.”
“Did he really hit her?” Connor asked abruptly.
“Did he?” the young man asked again, sitting down on top of Fred’s desk.
“Where did you hear something like that?” Fred asked him.
“After Angel left the papers were full of innundo.”
“Full of what?”
“Innundo. You know, stuff about how Cordy was always attending charity events alone and pictures of Angel in an alley with a mysterious blonde. And how the day he left he hit her.”
Fred nodded. “Oh, you mean innuendo.”
“That’s what I said.”
“No, you…nevermind,” Fred said, shaking her head. “Those papers were wrong. I think that’s what I regret most about all of us joining Wolfram and Hart. I miss the days when we weren’t in the media’s spotlight.” Of course that wasn’t the only reason why Fred missed the old days. But that was neither here nor there. “The papers always make stuff up. Remember what they were saying when Wesley consulted on Jennifer Garner’s possession?”
“So my dad never hit Cordelia?”
“No,” Fred said with conviction. Because pushing someone into shrubbery wasn’t technically hitting. “And yes, Cordy attended some parties by herself. Because Angel was busy WORKING.”
“But what about the blonde?”
“I’m sure someone told you about that little visit from Buffy. It was about a month after Wes and I got married.”
“That’s the other thing.” Connor frowned. “She won’t even invite Wesley to the wedding. I mean, I can see why you would be mad at him, but—”
“Cordelia just has very definite opinions about certain things,” Fred said, as if that explained anything. In truth, she was just as concerned as Connor.
“She’s so different. Every since Angel left, and even before that…ever since she came back she’s been sorta, I don’t know, hard. Cold,”
“Oh Connor I wouldn’t call her…well, and even if she is, it’s because she had to be. You have no idea how difficult it was for her to recover from that year.”
“It was difficult for all of us,” Connor said simply.
Fred nodded. “Cordelia sets incredibly high standards for herself. She gets upset when other people don’t quite live up to her expectations.”
“That’s crazy,” Connor said. It didn’t make sense. None of it made sense. “I mean, she wasn’t perfect. WE all forgave her. But Cordy…I mean, it’s almost like she hates my dad. She gives Gunn shit constantly. And she’s been weird around Wes ever since…well ever since I’ve known her.
Fred couldn’t disagree with that. Connor had none of the memories that she had, of the days when there was nothing but comfort and affection between Wesley and Cordelia. Since the moment Wesley had chosen to kidnap Angel’s infant son, things were never right between him and Cordy again.
“It’s fucked up,” Connor pronounced solemnly.
Fred leaned up and brushed his hair out of his eyes. “Yeah. Yeah it’s pretty fucked up.” They shared grim smiles. “Now get out of here. I’ve got work to do.”
“I’m going, I’m going.” Connor slid off the desk, the gracefulness he had mystically inherited apparent in every move he made. He was growing up before their eyes. Sometimes Fred wondered if it was hard for Cordy to maintain such a close friendship with him, when everyday the young man seemed to resemble Angel more and more.
“Hey, Fred?” Connor called from the doorway.
“Hmmm?” Fred was already searching her Rolodex for the caterer’s phone number.
Connor paused. “If someone wanted to start an apocalypse, how would they go about doing that?