Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan -- he shuddered, took a bracing gulp of his drink, and firmly corrected his subconscious -- Lorne leaned back as well as anyone can lean back on a barstool, and surveyed his domain with a satisfied smile.
Demons and humans were drinking and mingling from wall to wall, orders for everything from lemonade and beer to blood and Romulan ale had been flowing (the short pixie wearing the purple Captain Picard T-shirt that clashed with her orange skin had retreated happily to her seat after the bartender had concocted something appropriately blue and bubbly; Lorne made a mental note to give Mike a raise), and a gang of Haltin demons out for a bachelorette party were currently on stage, trying to sing backup to the bride's rendition of "Leader of the Pack".
Yes, indeed, Caritas was hopping and all was right with Lorne's little corner of the world.
But not so right with other people's. He frowned when he saw the human come in the front door, and gestured at Mike. "T&T for our new arrival," he asked quietly (well, quietly compared to the "Vroom, vrooms" coming from the stage). "And why don't we set up the floor mic?"
Mike's face seemed caught between anticipation and dread, but she nodded and moved away to start building the drink. She slid it down the bar to Lorne, who caught it in passing without missing a step. He took a quick bow at the patter of applause for the move, then headed across the room to intercept an admittedly evil and (far more importantly) seriously depressed lawyer. The brood vibes almost knocked Lorne out of his Guccis from twenty feet away.
"Hey there, cowboy!" he greeted the newcomer cheerfully. "Didn't think you were going to ride into town tonight."
"Hey." Lindsey looked like even that much basic civility was a stretch,; he shifted his guitar case on his back and looked past Lorne instead of at him. "That mine?"
Lorne frowned at him, but handed the drink over. "Well, that wasn't much of a greeting for a man bearing free booze. And hey, don't let that part get around, 'cause I'm not buying drinks for the house, if you know what I mean."
"Yeah." Lindsey tossed back half his drink in one swallow, then nodded brusquely. "Thanks."
"Now, that's more like it." Lorne's wide smile reasserted itself. "If you plan to serenade us -- and I'm going to assume you are, with the guitar and all -- you've got about three people ahead of you, depending on how you count Harold and Harvey." He leaned in conspiratorially. "I understand they've been working on the harmonies for 'Me and My Shadow' for a month. Make sure you look appreciative, they're such a nice guy."
Lindsey made a sound that might optimistically be described as something resembling a laugh and finished his drink, gesturing towards the bar for another. "I'll see what I can do. No promises."
Lorne put his hand over his heart, looking mildly offended. "Amigo, when do I ever ask for promises? Pull up a chair, I need to go send these lovely ladies off."
He'd timed it perfectly as usual, and got onstage just as the last repetition of "The leader of the pack, now he's go-one" faded out. The audience offered an enthusiastic round of applause and Lorne kissed each and every hairy purple cheek (easily ducking the bride's aim at something a little less innocent). "Let's hear it for the lovely bride," he announced into the mic as they wandered giggling off-stage and towards the bar. "I'm sure she and her husband will be very happy for the 5 days until their mating. Now, let's make some noise for Harold and Harvey!"
The two-headed troll blushed a deep green, but rumbled up to the stage, adjusting their Harley-Davidson jacket over their hot-pink shirt as they took the mic from Lorne. He gave them an encouraging pat on their back and exited stage left.
Ryo, bringing the floor mic on stage, grabbed Lorne as he left. "Tell me Suicide Boy ain't playing tonight."
Lorne spread his hands wide. "What can I say, the man wants to share his pain. It's almost beautiful."
Ryo rolled all three of her eyes, including the one on her stomach, and went back to rigging the mic. Lorne patted her on the shoulder and made his way back out into the club, circulating and doing the good host thing, which hey, lucky for him, he was very good at doing.
But even as he leaned over shoulders, gestured for refills, and exchanged anecdotes with regulars, the perpetual cloud of bitterness floating across the room from Lindsey's table was almost enough to turn Lorne's smile upside down. He shook his head and waited for Lindsey's turn to come up -- maybe this time the guy would listen to him.
And maybe Harold and Harvey would suddenly discover the cure for tone-deafness and existential troll angst. Lorne sighed and went to get another Sea Breeze. He had the sinking feeling this was going to be a loooong night.
"Join me in welcoming an old favorite back to Caritas -- give it up for Lindsey McDonald!" The crowd cheered enthusiastically at Lorne's intro; Lorne gave Lindsey an encouraging gesture as he left the stage, which Lindsey more or less ignored as he settled himself and his guitar at the mics. The room quieted at the first chords, and Lorne (and most of his employees) leaned back to enjoy the performance. Lindsey might be a lawyer, and the very picture of depressed and bitter, but the man had golden pipes.
Lindsey finished tuning and leaned close into the mic as he started singing.
"Like a desert needs rain
Like a town needs a name
I need your love"
Well. This was certainly promising. Familiar song, even if Lorne couldn't place it off-hand, but it was certainly starting nicely enough.
"Like a drifter needs a room
I need your love
I need your love"
Oh, yes, very nice indeed. Lorne let Lindsey's emotions drift through him with the music. Uh-huh, there she was, the brunette with the face and the stunning smile -- say what you would about the man's taste in employers, he had some impressive taste in women.
"Like a rhythm unbroken
Like drums in the night
Like sweet soul music
I need your love"
And what was apparently an equally impressive ability to get down and dirty in a breakup fight. Some serious hurt still coming off him, all of it centered around said brunette.
"Like coming home
And you don't know where you've been
Like black coffee
I need your love
I need your love"
Actually, the brunette wasn't looking all sunshine-and-roses either. Lots of things unresolved there....
A group of noisy, half-drunk Relik demons staggering in the front door jolted Lorne out of the music. He sighed and shoved Lindsey to the back of his mind as he went over to meet, greet and set strict alcohol limits for the newcomers. Fortunately, Relik demons were almost always cheerful drunks, and this crew seemed bent on drinking one of their number out of a serious date with depression. Lot of that going around, these days.
"Like thunder needs rain
Like a preacher needs pain
Like tongues of flame
Like a sheet stained
I need your love
I need your love"
Unfortunately, by the time he got the Relik demons settled and quiet, drinks all around, the cloud of bitterness coming off Lindsey was almost enough to send the depressed one off into tears. And since Relik tears tended towards the severely acidic side of the bodily fluid scale, it was definitely time to Do Something.
"Like a needle needs a vein
Like someone to blame
Like a thought unchained
Like a runaway train
I need your love
I need your love..."
And what in the name of the Supremes was that, hovering around his favorite songbird's aura? Some serious destiny, it looked like -- the unavoidable, rock-your-world, make-a-choice-and-it-had-better-be-the-right-one-or-you're-karmically-up-the-creek kind of destiny. Some of it had to do with the brunette, but most of it seemed to be all on Lindsey. Lorne made a face and ordered a bracing Sea Breeze for himself, another T&T for Lindsey, and a round of daiquiris for the Reliks, who were all starting to look as sniffly as their buddy.
He hated it when he had to Do Something. Much taller, no accent, much flashier sense of style, the whole green skin thing... No, he didn't look like Dear Abby, thank you.
"Like faith needs a doubt
Like a freeway out
I need your love
Like powder needs a spark
Like lies need the dark
I need your love"
Lindsey finished to a round of enthusiastic applause from the non-empathic members of the crowd. He acknowledged it with a shrug and looked ready to start another, which normally wasn't allowed, but Lorne had long since made an exception in Lindsey's case. This time, though, Lorne got on stage before he could start. "Lindsey McDonald, everyone! Isn't he fabulous?"
Lindsey raised his eyebrows sardonically at Lorne, who beamed widely at him and pretended not to notice. "Next up is a young lady by the name of Breen; let's give her a warm Caritas welcome." The pixie bounced towards the mic, still clutching her 'Romulan ale'; Lorne placed a small mental bet with himself as he walked off-stage with Lindsey and nodded when she started 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'.
"Come on, sit with me for a while." Lorne clapped Lindsey on the shoulder and steered him towards the bar where their drinks were waiting.
"I didn't come here to get my ice cubes read," Lindsey shrugged him off, "and I don't want to hear anything about my future. I just came to sing."
"And we appreciate that, sweetie, really we do," Lorne smiled broadly. "Except for those of us who are being driven into suicidal depression by your choice of tunes, and by the way, remember those big, slimy, purple demons from a couple nights ago?"
"Well, when they're in the club, we like to keep things kinda up-beat -- when that particular breed gets depressed in the Japanese sword-in-the-stomach sense of the word, they regard it as a religious imperative to take everyone else in the room with them." Lindsey shrugged, vastly indifferent. Lorne sighed. "That means we don't play Harry Chapin, especially not 'Taxi', 'Positively 4th Street' is not on the request list, and if the Eagles are absolutely required to satisfy your musical muse, 'Tequila Sunrise' just isn't the best place to go. Comprende?"
"Yeah. Whatever." Lindsey knocked his drink back in one swallow. "Are we done with this little heart-to-heart?"
Lorne chuckled in genuine amusement. "Not even close, buckaroo. Pull up a chair."
"Forget it." Lindsey slammed his glass down, making a few heads turn, and concentrated on zipping his guitar back in its case. "There's other places in this town I can play, without the nosy maitre d's butting in."
"There certainly are," Lorne agreed cheerfully, ignoring the maitre d' crack since the guy was obviously hurting. "Which kind of makes a perceptive demon like me wonder why you keep showing up here?"
Lindsey didn't answer but he did stop moving. Lorne rolled his eyes to the ceiling (which needed to be repainted again; those vertical darts games were hell on the plaster). "Look, if we agree to take the macho 'I don't need to discuss my feelings' crap as stated, would you just sit down and listen for a minute?"
For a long second, Lorne honestly wasn't sure which way Lindsey was going to go. But 'need to be validated' finally won out over 'need to be bitter loner'; he pulled a barstool over and sat.
"Thank you." Lorne shot his yellow cuffs, smoothed his orange lapels, and took a sip of his red drink. Color coordination, you had to love it. "So I'm not even gonna ask how things are going, 'cause obviously, they're not going so hot."
"They're fine. Great. I got a new case this morning. Very high-profile."
"Well, congratulations, pilgrim." Lorne tried to sound enthusiastic, and tried equally hard to hide his grimace. Even a neutral kind of guy like him had to eye Wolfram & Hart a little, well, askance. "But business isn't actually the kind of business you need to talk about."
"I don't need to talk about anything."
Lorne rolled his eyes again. "Yeah, I can see you've got the denial reflex honed really well there, but saying it doesn't make it true, or this world would be full of a whole lot of really popular speech writers."
Lindsey didn't answer -- a lawyer? Lost for words? This was even worse than Lorne had thought -- but stared darkly at his drink. He didn't have to be singing for the waves of brood coming off him to be visible, a heavy cloud dimming the lights around him.
Gesturing at Mike for refills, Lorne shook his head and changed tactics. "Speaking of songwriters, I've been meaning to ask you -- what's with all the covers? Haven't heard an original out of you in weeks. Four weeks to be precise, not that anyone's counting or anything."
"Haven't felt like it," Lindsey muttered into his glass.
"Now that's a shame. You had some tunes going there that were just fabulous -- love and happiness... well, in a dark and angsty kind of way, but hey, everyone's got his style. So what happened to that? What's with the gloom and doom?"
Lindsey shook his glass as he lifted it to take another slug, the ice cubes tinkling against the sides. "Thought you were into seeing the future. That is definitely the past."
"The past is the future, or the future is the present, or something like that." Lorne waved one hand in the air dismissively. "Anyway, the point is that you can't split them apart and just take what you want. You have to make your choices based on all of them. Past, present, future -- they all weave together into that gorgeous tapestry we call life."
Lorne stopped, considering his words. "And you know, there are some award-winning lyrics in that."
Lindsey snorted. "Whatever. All I know is, she's definitely in the past and she's staying there. I've got a real future to think about, and she's not gonna be any part of it." He tossed back the last of his drink, and left a $10 bill on the bar before he stood. "It's not like she ever really mattered anyway."
He shouldered his guitar and walked out of the bar without another word.
"Come back soon," Lorne called after him. He shook his head sadly at Lindsey's retreating back, adding, mostly to himself, "You can try as hard as you want to convince yourself, sweetie, but not even you can avoid the fine print of Destiny. And there ain't gonna be any out-of-court settlements this time around."
The pixie finished her song and Lorne stared after Lindsey for one more moment before shrugging him off and heading for the stage. He had a club to run, and hey, it wasn't his future that was about to be monumentally screwed up.
"There is no mystery to be revealed
And so we tell the truth and then run
I love you because I love you
And I did think that you were the one
But now I see who you've become..."
Wesley worked very hard at being motionless, trying not to fidget, or breathe, or even let his heart beat too loudly. Angel had the advantage in this, since still for a vampire was really still, with no inconveniently loud bodily functions to interfere with hiding.
If they were quiet enough for long enough, it would pass them by. It never lasted long, all they had to do was be patient, wait it out, not make a sound...
Cordelia appeared in the archway to the kitchen, waving an empty coffee pot threateningly. The radio in the kitchen was blaring rock music rather loudly, yet her voice had no trouble at all piercing through the noise. "Is it too much to ask that you remember to turn the burner off? I mean, I let you guys come here and sit on your butts on my couch and drink all of my coffee every day, even Angel, who doesn't even need to drink coffee and it's not like he's not enough trouble when he's not caffeinated, and I bought this industrial-sized coffee maker just for you so is it too much to ask that I not have to scrub out this icky, crusty stuff from the bottom because you were too busy trying to get back to your musty, boring old books to flip one little switch!"
Her voice had risen to a shout by the time she finished her rather incredible sentence, and Wesley deemed it wisest not to point out that, more than likely, it would be Dennis who did the coffee pot scrubbing.
Instead, he answered carefully, "No, Cordelia, of course it's not too much to ask. You're quite right, I should have remembered to turn it off, and I will come clean the pot out as soon as I'm finished here."
The mostly sincere apology rolled right off of Cordelia's temper tantrum. "Oh, don't bother! You just go on saving the world, I'll just be back here scrubbing and being your secretary."
She stalked back into the kitchen in a fine huff. Wesley snuck a look sideways at Angel, who was seated on the floor sharpening a long broadsword.
Angel simply shrugged in response. "She'll get over it," he repeated for perhaps the 300th time, pitching his voice around the music.
"It's been over a month," Wesley pointed out. "Surely there's some sort of statue of limitations."
"On relationships ending? Don't count on it." His eyes darkened as he concentrated more fiercely on his task than it strictly seemed to require. Wesley wasn't sure if he was seeing Buffy's face in the metal or Lindsey McDonald's and, again, deemed it wisest not to ask.
"We could just kill him," Angel said a moment later, answering the unspoken question as if by telepathy. Well, it wasn't as if they hadn't had this conversation before.
Wesley closed his book on one finger and stared meaningfully at Angel before making his usual response. "I don't think the Powers That Be would be terribly happy with you killing a human, even to avenge Cordelia's honor."
"He's a lawyer. That doesn't count as human."
"I seem to recall making precisely the same argument a few months ago and being thoroughly stuffed down for it."
"Yeah, well...." Wesley took mild satisfaction in the fact that Angel had yet to produce a comeback for that, which almost off-set his terrible suspicion that Angel was entirely serious about killing McDonald -- he always got the most chillingly Angelus-like expression when he said things like that. Angel didn't merely think of Wolfram & Hart when he thought of McDonald anymore -- he thought of the man who was making Cordelia cry. Granted, she had yet to do so when either Wesley or Angel was around to see it, but the evidence was there in her sometimes swollen eyes, her sad smile, and her far-too-frequent bouts of irrational temper. This wasn't the first time Wesley had been forced to point out to Angel the reasons that simply killing the man would be Wrong, and he was quite certain it wouldn't be the last.
And, of course, Wesley's involuntary casting as The Voice of Reason wasn't aided by his own heartfelt desire to track McDonald down and demonstrate the Watcher Council's little-discussed but faithfully passed-on demon torture techniques.
"Wesley! Get in here! This thing isn't going to clean itself!"
Wesley sighed and hung his head. "There's really no point in reminding her that she said she'd do it, is there?"
Angel considered, then shook his head. "No. Especially since she only said she'd do it to make you feel guilty so you'd go do it." Wesley looked at him, eyebrows raised, and Angel shrugged. "I've spent a lot of the last four years around teenagers. I had to start deciphering the language at some point."
"True enough," Wesley conceded. "Although she isn't a teenager any more, thank goodness." And hadn't that been a precarious birthday celebration.
He winced at the screech, and added, "Most of the time."
Angel gave Wesley a sympathetic pat on the shoulder as he stood up to sheathe the sword, very carefully going nowhere near the kitchen in the process. He'd been the target of Cordelia's temper yesterday, something to do with a bloody mug left in the sink -- they really did have to find new office space soon -- and understandably had no desire to offer himself up as a target again.
What was less understandable was his mutter of "E tan e epi tas," which he probably hadn't meant to be audible over the music. Wesley gave him a dirty look, then set his shoulders and marched for the kitchen.
The determined march turned into a dead run a few feet from the archway, when the sound of shattering glass momentarily drowned out Aretha Franklin. Wesley rounded the corner so quickly he almost wiped out on the kitchen tile. He managed to catch himself on the counter before he tripped over Cordelia, who was kneeling next to the sink over the remains of the coffee pot under contention.
"Chill," she said shortly, without looking up at him. "It wasn't a vision. Go back to your stupid books."
She was not in fact clutching her head and there was no blood in evidence, so Wesley firmly ordered his heart to stop racing quite so quickly.
"Cordelia, are you--?" He barely hear himself over the radio at this range, much less effectively speak to Cordelia. He reached past her to turn down the volume, and in the sudden silence he heard a sniffle, hastily cut off.
Oh, bloody hell. Cordelia was sniffling. That meant Cordelia was trying not to cry. Right here in the kitchen, at his feet, Cordelia was trying not to cry. Wesley stared helplessly down at her, then back at the entryway, where Angel was hovering anxiously. The centuries-old vampire and one-time Scourge of Europe stared at Cordelia's shaking shoulders, his eyes wide in something like panic, which Wesley could certainly relate to, and shrugged equally helplessly. No assistance forthcoming from that quarter.
But he was a Watcher, he was a rogue demon hunter, he was a member of Angel Investigations, and this was part of the job. Wesley took a deep breath, crouched down on the floor next to Cordelia, and put a tentative hand on her shoulder. "Cordelia? Are you all right?"
She shook him off, which he'd expected, and continued trying to pick up the shards of glass scattered over the floor. "I've got it, Wesley," she snapped through what was obviously a stifled sob. "I'm fine, it's under control, go away."
Wesley hesitated, then sighed and stood. Angel gave him a 'what are you doing, get back there' gesture, which Wesley ignored. Instead, he picked up a towel and dampened it in the sink before kneeling beside Cordelia again. "You get the large parts, I'll get the smaller," he told her.
"I said, I'm fine. I can do this myself." She tried to shove Wesley away again, only to yelp as her hand caught a sharp piece of glass. "Dammit!"
"Yes, I can see that," Wesley observed dryly, taking her hand in his. "Let me look."
He dabbed at the blood with the towel, revealing a shallow, messy cut across the heel of her hand. "Not too bad, but you should bandage it before you get blood all over. Let me get the rest of this."
He was expecting another round of 'I'm fine', and was surprised she only gave him a small nod, and another sniffle. Looking up at her face, he saw tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks. "Oh, Cordelia."
The first serious sobs began to shake her; Wesley smoothed her hair awkwardly, then sighed and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, rearranging his legs so they were both sitting on the floor against the counter, well away from the glass. He continued patting her hair with his free hand and tried to think of something wise and calming to say. He came up blank and settled for making noises that he fervently hoped were reassuring. Angel knelt carefully next to them with the first aid kit and began cleaning Cordelia's hand, pausing occasionally to add his own awkward pats to the situation.
The crying jag was intense but, thankfully, short-lived, as if Cordelia simply couldn't sustain the emotion for very long. "I'm sorry," she managed to say finally, her voice muffled by Wesley's shirt.
"It's just a coffeepot," he assured her breezily, quite certain that wasn't what she'd meant. "Easy to replace. Nothing to worry about at all."
"No. I mean for yelling at you." She looked up at him, and he would have preferred the yelling to this terribly young and vulnerable face. Killing Lindsey McDonald became a more attractive prospect with every passing moment. "I didn't mean to yell at you, Wes. Although you did forget to turn off the burner again."
Ah, that was their Cordelia, sneaking out around the sincere remorse. "Yes I did, and I'm truly sorry."
She sniffled and rested her cheek against his shoulder again. "I don't know what's wrong with me," she sighed, wincing as Angel gently arranged a gauze pad over her hand. She managed a brief, watery smile of thanks. "Either I'm crying or I'm MegaBitch, and you guys have been so great."
Wesley opened his mouth to agree, but closed it on a pointed glance from Angel. "Yes, well," he stammered instead. "It's been a hard summer for everyone."
Angel nodded in agreement, holding her hand carefully. "Visions, explosions, break-ups, houseguests.... You've earned a few, um, temperamental moments."
"Is that what you call it? Temperamental?" The bloody towel floated to the sink and started running water. "Cold water, Dennis, or it'll set," Cordelia reminded him.
"If he didn't know that by now, you'd have no linens left," Wesley pointed out.
"Don't remind me," she groaned. The tears had, thankfully, retreated, but sadness still lurked around her eyes.
"It will get better, Cordelia," Wesley heard himself say. She looked at him in surprise, and he forced himself to continue. "I know you're in pain, and I know this is not a pleasant time for you, but it will get better. You'll meet someone else, and be happy, and it will all work out."
"What he said," Angel agreed, checking the remarkably neat bandage and studiously avoiding Cordelia's eyes. "Trust me, this is something I know about."
Cordelia looked at them both very seriously, then reached up just enough to kiss Wesley's cheek, before stretching out to brush her lips across Angel's. Angel fidgeted and Wesley was quite sure he himself was blushing.
"Thanks, guys," she said, with a hint of her former smile. "Thanks for putting up with me. And thanks for not saying I told you so--"
"--We would never--" Wesley started.
"--No matter how many times I know you wanted to." Wesley joined Angel in not quite meeting her eyes this time and it was worth it when she laughed.
"You're all done here," Angel announced, breaking the intensely uncomfortable moment. "Why don't you go sit in the living room while Dennis and I finish cleaning this up."
Cordelia opened her mouth to argue, then apparently thought better of it when both men looked at her. "Okay, okay. Geez."
They helped her to her feet, and Wesley kept an arm around her waist as they started moving towards the living room. From behind them came the tinkle of glass hitting the trash can and an admiring, "Nice shot, Dennis," from Angel.
"You should sit down, Cordelia," Wesley told her as they cleared the archway. She gave a pointed look towards her couch -- there was a reason Angel had been sitting on the floor -- and Wesley hung his head. "After I clear off a place for you, of course. Do you feel up to a little research?"
"Okay. Sure." He stacked and lifted a heavy pile of books and she sat, tucking her feet under her and folding her hands carefully in her lap. "More slimy things?" she asked.
Wesley turned around a few times, and couldn't actually find anywhere to place the stack he was holding. "I think I've got it narrowed down to magical things, actually."
"Cool. Are they doing anything in particular, or is this like a pre-emptive research party?"
"More pre-emptive than anything." Let's see, if he rearranged the scrolls on the coffee table, he could fit the smaller books beside them, leaving room for the larger stack on the other side.... "There's a prophecy, you see, about a circle of power and some sort of binding, and we're--"
"It was the song."
He stopped and blinked down at her. "Excuse me?"
"The song. 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T'. I put that on the jukebox in the restaurant on our first date. Mine and Lindsey's. And it surprised me, so I dropped the coffee pot." She gestured awkwardly with the bandaged hand. "That's why I was, you know, doing the crying thing. And, mostly, the bitchy thing."
"Yes. Well." Wesley settled the large stack of books carefully into place, then adjusted his glasses with great precision. "He's not worth it, you know."
It just slipped out, despite all of the time he'd spent learning to bite back diatribes on Cordelia's taste in men, and he cringed in anticipation of more yelling or, far worse, more tears.
Instead, Cordelia simply looked wistful. "He wasn't... I know you and Angel are getting some pretty elaborate revenge fantasies happening and okay, maybe I've indulged in one or two myself but--" She bit her lip, staring down at her lap. "It wasn't all Lindsey's fault, you know. It was me, too. I tried to make him be something he wasn't ready to be, which I said I wasn't going to do, and I did."
"But it'd be easier if it was all his fault, you know," she said, as if she hadn't heard him. "I don't want to feel this way anymore. I did this after the whole Xander mess, and even after the whole Wilson awfulness, where there are things you can't look at or listen to, or even think because it reminds you-- And now even one of my favorite songs is screwed up!"
She started to clench her fist, winced as the motion pulled at the cut, and put it carefully back in her lap. "I just wish it would all just go away," she said sadly. "I wish he would just go away. And I'm so not supposed to make wishes like that, because I totally did learn my lesson, but...."
Wesley sighed and finally looked at her. "He will go away, Cordelia," he said, with as much assurance as he could muster, sitting next to her and patting her hand. "He has gone away. He won't come near you again, and in time, I'm sure you'll forget what you ever saw in him."
She sniffed once, then nodded emphatically, setting her chin and her mouth in determined lines. "Absolutely. He's total history. Gone, poof, yes sirree, Lindsey McDonald is no longer part of this girl's life. Period."
"Indeed." Neither of them believed a word of it, of course, but it was the thought that counted. "So. Would you care to join me in ordering from House of Hunan while we read our musty, boring old books?"
Cordelia shrugged, one-shouldered, taking the small copy of the Librus de Matellus he handed her. "I guess."
"We could get garlic chicken," he suggested innocently, retrieving his own copy of the Senex Darius and settling beside her. "With extra garlic."
"And Angel will have to sit across the room and he'll glare at us all night."
"That would be the general idea." He allowed himself the tiniest of smirks -- With your shield or on it, indeed -- and caught a quick glimpse of her smile in return.
"You're evil, Wes."
"I'm not sure that was a compliment."
"Do let me know when you decide."
They grinned at each other in perfect accord as Wesley reached for the cordless phone, asking over his shoulder, "Do you want pot-stickers?"
A few hours later, they'd settled in for the evening -- potstickers, eggrolls and garlic chicken at hand, Angel indeed glaring at them from beside the TV -- when the phone rang. Wesley reached for it at the same time that Cordelia dropped the book she was pretending to study, and made a dive across Wesley for it, knocking over a carton of rice in the process. Dennis caught the rice on the way down and floated it carefully back to the table.
Wesley fought her off with one arm, the other trying to keep his grip on the phone. "I've got it, Cordelia."
"Wes, it's my phone!" Cordelia objected.
"And I was closer," Wesley shot back. Cordelia subsided reluctantly. "Chase residence."
"Wesley? Good, you are still hanging about at Cordelia's."
"Giles." Wesley's brow furrowed at the entirely unexpected voice. "It's good to hear from you." In an awkward, 'oh god, is the world ending again and why does it have to involve them?' sort of way. It wasn't as if Angel Investigations never communicated with the Sunnydale crowd, but such conversations were generally short, to the point, and conducted via email, to avoid those awkward pauses.
"Giles?" Cordelia had perked up at the name and made another try at the phone. "Gimme!"
Wesley put his hand over the receiver and glared at Cordelia. "You can speak with him after I'm done, Cordelia! Honestly!" She slouched back against the couch and pouted, any goodwill he'd obtained by comforting her earlier clearly gone. He tried not to roll his eyes and returned to the phone.
"Sorry about that," he said to Giles. "A bit of a scuffle over phone rights, I'm afraid. What can we do for you?"
"It's good to know that some things will never change," Giles observed dryly. "I was calling to, well, update you on a recent discovery. We've come across something here that might be of interest to you three, particularly to Angel. A prophecy that's, ah, a bit disturbing."
Wesley blinked. "Ah. I gather you'd like to speak to Angel then?"
Wesley held the phone out to Angel, shooting a look at Cordelia that dared her to intercept it. Angel's eyebrows went up, but he took the phone, pacing away as he said, "Giles?"
"What does SuperWatcher want?" Cordelia asked immediately, her displeasure temporarily set aside in favor of curiosity.
Wesley shook his head, trying unsuccessfully to eavesdrop on Angel's end of the conversation. "Something about a prophecy. He didn't go into details, just that it involves Angel."
Cordelia frowned. "Oh, that's so not a good. Even aside from the whole Sunnydale thing, there's just never anything good about prophecies. Except maybe the Shanshu one," she amended, with a sideways look at the whiteboard and its crossed-out lines.
"I tend to agree," Wesley sighed thoughtfully, looking down at the Senex. "Especially if the prophecy Giles has discovered has anything to do with the 'circle of power' we've been researching. It's the sort of coincidence-that-isn't that I've come to expect."
"It does, and it is." They both jumped as Angel appeared next to them, putting the phone down on the coffee table. Cordelia slapped his waist, the highest she could reach, with her bandaged hand, then winced.
"Enough with the sneaky," she ordered, cradling her hand in the other, "or we're all gonna die of heart attacks before any big prophecy gets to come true. And you didn't let me talk to Giles."
"Sorry," Angel apologized absently, his eyes slightly narrowed and focused on Wesley's book. "You know how we were trying to figure out where that binding ritual Darius talks about could take place?"
"Yes," Wesley answered slowly. "Oh, don't tell me...."
"Something bad happening in Sunnydale," Cordelia said with disgust. "Now there's something new."
"Yeah, what are the odds?" Angel shrugged, his face caught somewhere between worry and resignation. "Giles found a book with the original prophecy, not the summary in the Senex. He thinks it's Sunnydale, and he thinks it involves me." He paused, swallowed hard. "And Buffy."
That silenced them for a long moment. "Great," Cordelia finally said. "Returning to Sunnydale, home of all things we ran away to L.A. to get away from."
"I didn't run away," Angel said defensively. Wesley and Cordelia just looked at him until he held his hands up in surrender. "Okay, maybe I ran away a little. But it wasn't as bad as you make it sound."
"Whatever." Cordelia flipped her hand at him dismissively.
"And no one's said we're going back."
"Right," Cordelia nodded. "'Cause we hate Sunnydale and bad things always happen there, so we should stay in L.A."
"Absolutely," Wesley agreed immediately. "Going back would be a terrible idea. To say nothing of the potential for Angel's presence to simply make matters worse by fulfilling the prophecy."
They stared at each other for a long, long time.
Then Cordelia got up, and started gathering Chinese food cartons. "So, we'll have to take the Angelmobile, 'cause the motorcycle's not going to hold three people, much less the heinous amount of bookage that Wes is going to want to drag along."
"Right." Wesley also rose, to start collecting the volumes that had proven helpful so far. "Let me put these together, and then I'll go pack. Pick me up at my apartment in an hour?"
"I'll get the weapons together," Angel said as he reached for the sword he'd sharpened earlier. "We'd better call Giles and let them know we're on our way."
"And here I thought my high school reunion wasn't going to be for another nine years," Cordelia sighed as she carried the leftovers into the kitchen. "Lucky me."
Lindsey performed "Hawkmoon 269", by U2.