Title: The Proposition
Spoilers: Season 4.
Summary: AU after Angel Season 4. Still reeling from the Jasmine fiasco, Cordelia gets a job offer.
Authors Notes: This was originally going to be the first chapter of a larger story, but I never really got any further than this with it. After due consideration I decided that this could stand on it's own.
She had a short, but colorful resume.
As she had once told Doyle, she was aptly suited for two occupations. Superstardom, or working as a secretary to a vampire with a soul.
Life, in the guise of the PTB's and Jasmine, had changed her options slightly. Working for Angel was no longer an option. Not after what Jasmine had done while she had been in the driver's seat of Cordelia's body.
Cordelia now knew how Angel must have felt after he had returned from Hell. Intellectually she knew that wasn't her that had done those things. She hadn't been the one to kill Lilah. She hadn't slept with Connor. She hadn't been trying to kill her friends. She knew that. But she didn't feel that.
Nor did Angel.
Wesley came the closest to acting normal around her, and it hurt that the one man...pire that could know what she was feeling, couldn't seem to get past the fact that her body had taken his son's virginity as fire rained down around them.
It was like post-Hell Sunnydale mark II, with Angel playing Giles' part while she played his.
Being the people they were, they tried to ignore the problem. Uncharacteristically she had tried to ignore the problem. Instinctively she drew back, erecting her old shields, drawing cynicism around her like a cloak. She simply wasn't able to deal with Angel and this...tension. Not until she had some measure of resolution on what she...Jasmine...what had happened.
She wasn't the same Cordelia Chase that had ruled Sunnydale High. She hadn't been that person since the never-ending vision coma had made her completely aware of the suffering in the world. But she wasn't the Cordelia Chase that had ruled Angel Investigations with a velvet encased iron fist for the last few years either. Jasmine and the PTB's had taken that woman and twisted her. And the kicker was that she had allowed them to do that, blinded by the idea of the mission and the greater good.
Her greatest fear used to be that she would become invisible to people, just like Marcie had in high school. Now it was something she craved, the desire to just dissapear constantly itching just under her skin. After all, if she wasn't the Cordelia Chase of Sunnydale fame, or the Cordelia Chase of Angel Investigations then who was she? What did that leave? A void. Nothing. Nobody.
Physically leaving was one of the easiest things she had ever done. With the emotional, and often physical, distance she had put between herself and the rest of A.I. and the upheaval of Angel taking over Wolfram and Hart, her absences were barely noticed. After all who notices Nobody?
It took three days for Angel to realise that Cordelia had left for good, not just a short holiday or a few days or weeks leave. Her room was completely devoid of her presence, not even a stray earing remained. Gunn, Wesley and Fred had started searching for her as soon as they had realised that she had gone, even going so far as to check her old apartment at the Pearson Arms. Wesley had been absolutely shattered when he had discovered that Dennis was also missing. When Cordelia had asked for the spell to relocate her former roomate, he had taken it as a sign that she was beginning to deal.
Only Lorne was unsurprised. Saddened, but not surprised. "In reality, what option did she have? Stay as a shadow of the person she had been? A puppet of the PTB's or of Wolfram and Hart? Or leave and try to reclaim what she could of her life?"
Angel had almost ripped his head off.
With all the resources of Wolfram and Hart at his disposal, why was it so difficult to find one unforgettable woman?
She had a short, but colorful resume.
She was suitable for exactly two things. Superstardom and ...
Well, she was working on the second thing.
Unfortunately considering her current occupation, she knew that waitressing wasn't it.
Cordelia mentally sighed as she cleared the dishes from the linen covered table. Pigs, the lot of 'em. Upper class pigs, but pigs just the same. Cigarette butts and tobbacco ash was ground into the remains of a hundred dollar a plate meal. Make that cheap assed, lousy tipping, upper class pigs, she silently groused as she a few scant coins into the pocket of her apron. She was thankful that her shift was almost over. Eight hours of serving overpriced food to lecherous males, while trying to dodge their wandering hands, was draining. The 4 inch stilletto shoes she was wearing weren't helping any either. Her feet were about ready to petition her for a divorce.
She surreptitiously eyed the clock as she pushed through the swinging doors into the kitchen. Three minutes. Three minutes until she could kick off these torture devices masquerading as footwear.
Unloading the dishes she was carrying she sighed. Done. All she had to do was waste two and a half more minutes and the business man from San Francisco, ("Just call me Bob, honey. Heh, heh."), could pinch Alexa's ass instead of Cordelia's.
"Hey C.C! Scotch rocks, table five."
Cordelia groaned. Damn! So close! "It's not my table Rick!"
"Hey, babe. He asked specifically for you." Rick, an aging Australian who ruled the waiting staff much the same way Cordelia had once ruled Angel Investigations, smiled at her sympathetically. "It'll only take a couple of minutes. Worst case senario, you end up with a couple of minutes overtime in your pay."
"John would pitch a fit." Cordelia sighed, and reached for the tray. John Albernathy, the owner of Windsor's Gentlemens Club, was a notorious tight wad.
Rick laughed, "Maybe you'll get lucky and this guy'll be a great tipper."
She pulled at her skirt to ensure it covered her ass and snorted. "Not if the clientele I've been serving tonight is any indication."
She threaded her way across the smoky dining room towards table five, and slowed as she got a look at the patron seated at the table. It was him. He was still here.
He had arrived almost four hours ago, and had spent a good portion of that time staring at her. It wasn't an evil 'I'm scoping you out so that I can kill you later' kind of stare, or even the 'I'm keeping tabs on you because your overprotective boss will rip out my liver through my nostrils if anything happens to you while he's not around' kind of stare. This stare wasn't sexually motivated either - a suprise considering that she was wearing a skirt that had little more fabric than a handkerchief - and that's what made her uneasy.
His lips curved in a smile and his eyes gleamed with approval as he watched her approach. Cordelia's defenses went on high alert as she deposited the drink on the table. "Scotch on the rocks." A well practised smile was pasted to her face.
Before she could turn to leave, his hand shot out and grabbed her wrist. "Why don't you have a seat? I have a proposition for you."
Cordelia stiffened. "I'm sorry," she almost choked as she forced the polite words past her clenched teeth. "Windsor's doesn't sell that. And neither do I." Before he could react, she twisted her wrist free of his grasp, leaving him to watch as she swiftly retreated.
"I wasn't trying proposition you for sex."
He was waiting for her at her car. Instinctively she reached into her purse for a stake. Leaning nonchalantly against her beatup Ford, he made an imposing figure. He was about the same height as Angel, but a little more solidly built. And why was it that after six months she was still comparing every man to Angel?
"I have a job offer for you. A legitimate job offer."
"Really?" she drawled, grasping the stake securely, forcing her body to relax. "Why me?"
"My boss thinks you've got great potential as an Angel."
An angel. God! Didn't the PTB's ever give up?! Dropping all pretense at civility and defenselessness, she snorted and pushed her way past him and opened the car door. "No thanks. Been there done that. Even got the T-Shirt that says how screwed over I got in that deal."
"Uh... I'm pretty sure that..."
"Look," she began, interrupting whatever stammered excuse he was about to attempt. "You can just go back to the PTB's and tell them that I don't work for them anymore. I'm through being their puppet."
"PTB's?" A confused frown etched itself into his face. "Ok. Well... If I see them, I'll certainly let them know. In the meantime," he reached into into his jacket pocket and pulled out a business card. Before she could close the car door, he snaked his arm into the car and handed the card to her. "You might want to have a think about checking out the job." He retracted his hand, closed the car door, then leaned down to talk through the window. "9.00am tomorrow. No obligations. And the pay is much better than Windsor's."
Angrily she slammed down the door lock, and threw the card over her shoulder.
He watched as she started the car, and tyres spinning pulled out of the resturant car park. The last glimpse she had of him in the rearvision mirror, was of a man smirking.
Cordelia awoke with a sick feeling in her stomach and sweat drenching the sheets. Dreams. Nightmares. Memories that weren't entirely hers. When she closed her eyes they haunted her.
A glass of ice water floated across the room, and she took it gratefully. "Thanks Dennis." Thank god for her ghost. Having not been around during the Jasmine fiasco he was the non-judgemental presence that she needed at the moment. Plus he was Dennis. That had always been a good thing. The glowing numerals of the bedside clock showed 4.13am. She groaned. Experience told her that there would be no getting back to sleep tonight...this morning...whatever.
Rolling out of bed, she stumbled into the small bathroom. Ignoring the reflection in the mirror she opened the medicine cabinet and popped four Tylenol from the blister pack. The almost constant headache that came from keeping out the visions throbbed viciously in her temples. She swallowed the tablets dry, and closed the cabinet with a definite click.
Automatically she moved through the small apartment, stripped the sheets from the bed, dressed herself in an old pair of tracksuit pants and a tank top, slid a stake into her pocket, and gathered her laundry.
If she wasn't going to get any sleep, she may as well do something useful.
On the all to frequent nights like these, she found the laundromat soothing. Something to do with the way the washers and dryers hummed and clunked soothed her nerves. This was reality. This mundane chore of laundry seemed to ground her when the memories and the nightmares and the dreams attempted to overwhelm her. She found a certain irony in this. Until the IRS had taken everything that she had owned, the closest she had gotten to a washing machine was putting her laundry in the hamper.
Feeding coins into the machine, she set the machine to start, then settled herself onto one of the benches.
She was so tired.
Tired of the nightmares. Tired of the memories haunting her. Tired of not getting enough sleep. Tired of her job. Tired of never truly smiling or having fun. And tired of using a public laundromat as a refuge.
She was tired of running from herself. When had she become this person? When had she become a person who ran from her problems rather than face them? If she were honest with herself, something she hadn't been for the last six months, she couldn't blame Jasmine or the PTB's for the person she hated looking at in the mirror. Not entirely. She could blame them for Connor and for Angel having so much damn difficulty looking at her, but she couldn't blame them for her turning herself into a coward.
It was time to change this existence. Stop running from herself.
She considered her options as the spin cycle wound down. She could always go back to Angel Inves... No. Not yet. When she could like the person she sees in the mirror perhaps, but not now. She could remain as she was, a thought that was instantly dismissed. She was no Cry-Buffy, no matter how good an impression she had been doing these last few months. She could get some help. That option was problematic. If she didn't want to be admitted to a mental institution there were really only two groups of people she could go to; Angel, Fred, Wesley, Lorne and Gunn or Buffy and the Scoobies. Ok, so that option would be shelved until she was truly very, very desperate, because having to explain this whole saga to Buffy and the Scoobies sooo didn't appeal.
She transferred her washing to the dryer and fed coins into the machine. The only other option she really had was to shake up her life a bit and see if any opportunities presented themselves.
Only... maybe one already had.
Oh you have to be kidding me!
It was a detective agency.
The job was for a detective agency. Well... if it was for a secretary it fit her resume almost perfectly. Sans the vampire with a soul part. At least, she presumed so. She glanced at her watch. She was a little early, having over-estimated the amout of time it would take to find the place.
"You coming in? Or are you going to sit out there in your car all day?" The sudden presence of the man from last night startled her. He opened the car door and looked questioningly at her. Well Cordy, you want to change your life? Get your butt out of the car.
"Ok." She took a deep breath and climbed out of the car. "So... What's the job?"
"Blunt. I like that." He smiled. "Polite, not so much, but blunt can be good." He extended his hand. "People call me Bosley, Miss Chase. Welcome to the Charles Townsend Detective Agency."