Chapter 2 pt. 3



"Why do I do this again?" Cordelia Chase studied a broken fingernail resignedly. She set aside the filing she'd been working on, and returned to her desk for her nail repair kit. The former queen of Sunnydale High had actually mellowed since graduation, and wasn't as consumed with her appearance as she'd once been, but she still tried to look her best. While she'd learned to keep her nails short soon after starting her part time job at the little detective agency Angel worked for, Cordelia did occasionally backslide for special occasions. And since she did have an audition the following day...Pleased with the rationalization that she couldn't afford another manicure until payday, and that it was Angel's fault for creating the filing system in the first place, Cordelia pushed aside any small guilt for repairing her nails on the clock, presenting the picture of the stereotypical disinterested secretary.

The truth was, the former cheerleader actually liked her job. Something had been missing when she'd first moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress, but Cordelia hadn't been able to figure out what it was. Sure, she missed the ease of her life from when she'd had money, but she'd been missing that for the last three months of school anyway. Cordelia could even admit to missing Buffy, Giles, and the rest of the gang, but she knew they would come if she called, and things hadn't been the same since she and Xander split anyway. But, when she'd run into some vampires one evening and been rescued by Angel, Cordelia realized what it was that was missing. Formerly, one of the most self absorbed individuals in her high school, Cordelia Chase missed making a difference.

So, when acting jobs proved to be few, far between, and not all that lucrative, Cordelia asked Angel and his employer, a smarmy demon named Doyle, for a job. She answered the phone, did a little filing, ran errands in the daylight, and generally helped out. Angel taught her some self defense, and Cordelia eventually swallowed her nervousness regarding his presence to help him troll for vampires in local clubs. On occasion, she'd acted as bait for a trap, sometimes accidentally, but more often on purpose, honing her acting skills under fire. After Cordelia had worked with Angel for a few months, she lay to rest any lingering concerns she'd had about Angel loosing his soul again. It absolutely wouldn't happen without magical intervention; he was simply too miserable without Buffy to be happy.

The vampire had been so depressed that; Cordelia had occasionally worried that he'd take steps to end his suffering. Despite Angel's reassurances to the contrary, she set out to make a place for herself in his life. Still mixed up and confused about what had happened with Wesley, and hurting from Xander's betrayal, Cordelia had not had any intention of trying for a romantic relationship. Besides, Angel hadn't been able to even see other girls; in fact, he still wasn't; he was still so wrapped up in his petite Slayer. But, both Angel and Cordelia knew what went bump in the night, and they had been missing their friends. So Cordelia worked at getting Angel to open up a little, to make friends with him. In the beginning, Cordy had told herself she had simply been concerned about what Buffy would do to her if she let Angel kill himself, and what would happen to her without her well-paying, very flexible job. But eventually, Cordelia admitted that she needed a friend just as badly as Angel did, and things had gone much smoothly from that point.

Cordelia had finally accepted Angel's avowals that he wouldn't try to commit suicide. She didn't understand his muttered reference to snow, but she did understand that he felt he deserved to be miserable. While in high school, a part of Cordy had agreed that Angel deserved to be punished for his sins, but now in close daily contact with him, she quickly realized that the soulfully sad vampire was more than paying for his past transgressions. Everyday was a reminder that he was essentially alone. Angel had a few acquaintances, and estranged true love, betrayed former friends on both sides of the fence, and hundreds of enemies. Cordelia had realized that, lonely as she was, all she needed to do was swallow her pride and ask Buffy, or even Willow, to go shopping, and she'd have a path back to her dearest friends. All Angel had was the mostly absentee Whistler, a badly hurt ex-girlfriend, and Cordelia herself.

So Cordy decided to make Angel more comfortable while he was being miserable and resolved to drag him out of his dark cave of and apartment. She dragged him out every two or three weeks; if Angel was going to dedicate himself to making amends by trying to save the world, then Cordelia was going to make sure he remembered why the world deserved saving, and all that it had to offer. Within a year, Angel had stopped fighting with her when she wanted to take him somewhere, so Cordy moved onto the next step. While Angel was fretting over Buffy's disappearance, she pushed him into a new, larger apartment, closer to the office, and decorated it herself, using a mix of his comforting darkness and the light that reminded him of his precious Buffy. She had even created his 'brooding garden' on the roof, giving him shadows to hide in, but light to comfort him at the same time.

Angel had put his foot down when Cordelia decided he needed to start dating, and when he threatened to do the same for her, or move back to his tiny cave of a studio apartment, Cordelia acquiesced. She agreed to stop pressing him to meet new people, and Angel agreed to try to listen when she and Whistler lectured him. And, Cordy had to admit that she had become adept at lecturing him. She had stayed in his guest room for a week after he'd been injured rescuing her, visions of avenging Buffy's in her head. By the end of the second day, Cordy had finally had to ask him about the nightmares that constantly tormented him, but all she got was indecipherable mutterings about Hell being Hell. She had spent the rest of the week researching Hell, demon dimensions, and general vampire lore. From that point on, sickened by the mere suggestions of what her vampire friend must have suffered there, and totally comprehending why Buffy had freaked so badly over what she had done to her love. Cordelia had decided; Angel had suffered enough, and for things that weren't his fault. All she had to do was convince him. That had become and ongoing verbal battle, one that both parties came to enjoy.

The office door swung open to allow the vampire in question to enter. Angel looked up and made a face at the chemical smell of her nail polish, before dumping the mail on her desk. "I picked up your mail, too Cordelia, and please remember to open the window when you use that stuff," he sighed, having long ago given up on having her not doing her nails in his office. "It gives me a headache." The dark haired vampire sorted through his messages, then headed back for the door. "I'm going to run to the store before it closes. I'll walk you home when I get back."

Cordelia sighed and dutifully started going through the mail so it would be done before Angel returned. With her strange hours, running between auditions, roles, and errands for Angel and Doyle, sometimes it was hard for her to get to her post office box during the daylight, so occasionally she had one of the guys pick her mail up. As the brunette carefully flipped through the office mail, so as not to ruin her polish, something caught her eyes. A small, square envelope of good quality paper was in the mail. She recognized it from years parties with her parents. An invitation. Cordelia pitched the junk mail and reached for the letter opener, displacing some of her mail in the process. A matching envelope really caught at her curiosity, especially when the handwriting on the envelopes matched.

A small wave of...was that concern or apprehension? slid through Cordelia when she recognized Willow's careful script. Both she and Angel had already received their invitations to the redhead's wedding, and things were still tense between her and Willow, despite the time that had passed since she and Oz had caught Willow and Xander together, so Cordelia wasn't sure what this could be for. This type of invitation was usually reserved for fancy parties, which the hacker and werewolf could not afford, and weddings. And since there were few people that both Cordy and Angel knew, and Xander would rather stake Angel out in the sun than invite him to his wedding...

Suddenly nervous, Cordelia slit the envelope with her name on it, and pulled out the inner envelope, no longer concerned with her nails. She was not invited to bring a guest, increasing the fluttering in her stomach as she started adding things up. It had been nearly three months since they'd heard from Buffy, and no one seemed to know anything about her. Buffy wouldn't allow Cordelia to bring a date to her wedding, the odds of weirdness occurring were just to high to risk strangers. Thinking of the recent rumors that had been flying about a weakness in the Slayer's defenses, and knowing Buffy would do anything to protect someone she loved, and how hard it would be for her to tell Angel, Cordelia whispered a quick prayer. "Oh, please, don't let her be getting married." Cordy had faced reality when she started to get to know Angel, and knew that the weird stuff that happened around Buffy was not the blond's fault. From the research she'd done, Cordelia was also well aware of the Slayer's limited life expectancy, and wished her every happiness. But, Cordy was afraid of two things. The first was that, from what Cordelia had seen, Buffy would never love anyone with the same intensity she loved Angel. Should this prove to be an invitation to her wedding, Buffy was in total denial about her feelings. The second was what would happen to Angel if he really, truly lost Buffy to someone else. As long as his Slayer was still free, Angel still had a chance to set things right between them.

Taking a deep breath, Cordelia opened the last envelope and read the invitation. Then she read it again, confusion marring her beautiful features.