The... Something More Series
Part 2 - Just Checking In
written by Nickle
Without thinking about it, Rupert picked up the phone and dialed the number. It wouldn't hurt to check up on things up in LA. Oz had given a positive but rather brief recount of all that transpired. Thank God Angel was able to get that ring back. No telling what kind of trouble would have occurred if the ring had been passed into the wrong hands.
Tapping the card on his desk, his thoughts wandered to Cordelia. Their coincidental encounter at the coffee bar in LA had left him a little... concerned. The usually upbeat, confident demeanor she had once carried was dulled, softened even. Even the her tactless comments were lacking their usual Cordelianess. On one hand it might have been welcome, her being less bothersome, but from what he gathered during their conversation he had a feeling that it wasn't a change due to good circumstances, but unfortunate ones.
"Angel Investigations," came the polite feminine voice at the other end of the line.
He smiled slightly and sat up. She had the polite receptionist role down pat. "Cordelia? It's Giles."
"Giles?" she paused. "What? You're not out on a date or something?"
"Excuse me?" he asked.
"It's like eleven o'clock on a Saturday night. Date night. Why aren't you out, showing off the goods?" He could tell she was grinning at the other end and he shook his head.
"I show off my goods when I... oh, nevermind," he heard her snicker at the other end and he groaned.
"So what's up? No, wait lemme guess. Asking about Spike and the whole 'Ring of Amarra' dealy?"
"Well, yes. Everything status quo up there? I heard about Angel being tortured-"
"Yeah," he heard her sigh. "He's fine. A poke here, a poke there, And a few nasty sunburns. He's not gonna do his shirtless karate moves around here for a while which is too bad since he's got a great bod." Giles rolled his eyes and shook his head. "He's fine Giles," Cordelia said seriously. " Tell Buffy he's fine."
Giles nodded to himself. "I hope Angel is taking the proper precautions to keep the ring safe. You can be sure-"
"Angel got rid of it."
"What?" Giles leaned forward in his seat. "How?"
"Smashed it with a rock. After everything we went through and you guys went through and after being able to see the sun in like forever, he gets all stoic hero guy and smashes it into little pieces."
"Huh," Giles muttered in confusion.
"Huh is right. I mean he could've at least just kept it around, under lock and key of course, and pull it out in red alert sitches. Kinda like the Green Lantern, ya know?"
"Yes, of cour-wait, Green what?" Giles asked in confusion.
"You know, the Green Lantern? Green ring? Super powers come when wear green ring? Hello?" She was met with silence at the other end. "Nevermind," she sighed. "Everything's fine here Giles. Angel's all patched up and in one piece, the ring is gone, and Spike got nadda."
"Well, I guess that's about as good an outcome as any," he replied distractedly.
"Yep. I'd let you talk to Angel, but as usual he's out working. Darkman lives for the nightime prowling." He heard a noise in the background. "You want me to have him call you?"
"No, that's alright. You say everything's fine so..." He paused and sat back. "How are you doing?"
He could visualize her shrugging. "Fine. I guess. I eat. I work. I sleep." He heard another noise.
"Cordelia what are you doing?" he asked.
"Oh. Um. Perfecting my aim," she said. "Since Angel's out I can use the wall as my target."
"Doyle isn't keeping you company?"
"Bite your tongue," Cordelia said quickly. "I had to spend enough time with him when Spike was in town. Angel made me go stay with Doyle at his apartment."
"Really?" Giles frowned.
"Get your mind out of the gutter. Geeze, all you guys are alike-"
"Cordelia I didn't mean to imply-"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. His apartment was sooo grody. Worse than mine, definitely." He heard another noise-a thwack. "Doyle went out to the races or something. He bets money on races and games and-Oh crap!"
Giles sat up in his chair. "Cordelia? What's wrong?"
"I -" she laughed softly. "I missed the nose."
"You missed the what?"
"On my target. I , uh, have a picture of Mia on the wall as my bullseye." He heard her grunt. "The arrow went north and hit her on the forehead instead. Shoot!"
Giles winced. "Well both are deadly shots I should say." He leaned back in his chair. "Are auditions picking up?" he asked gently.
"I'm here, does that answer your question?" she said flippantly.
Point taken. "I'm sorry that it's slow going."
"Yeah, well, I am holding on to the firm belief that my incomparable talent as an actress will be discovered and then it will be shared with all the world."
He smiled at the optimism in her voice. "I'm sure it will be."
"Hell yes. And when I am a big star you can be sure that you will get primo seats at my movie premiers and even an autographed picture," she went on.
"What, no private screenings at your LA mansion?"
She laughed lightly. "Just for saying that, you are on my list."
Giles raised an eyebrow. "What list?"
"Of people who helped me out or were nice to me when I was undiscovered and who I will remember when I am rich and famous."
"That list should be pretty large," Giles said.
"Not really," he heard her sigh. "So far there are two."
"You, Angel," she answered distractedly.
Giles got quiet. "Why only us? What about your parents?"
"Like I said the 'rents and I-well it's complicated. Angel gave me a job, despite knowing me from Sunnydale -," she stopped. " Hey I heard that," she said hotly.
"That laugh. Careful or I'll take you off the list and put you on the other one-and you don't want to be on that one."
"Oh, well, sorry."
"That's better. Anyway. You're on my list 'cause you didn't give me that look when I said I was going into acting."
"The 'yeah right-you're going into acting' look. I DO have talent, but people seem to think I don't. Remember the talent show in high school?"
Giles was lucky she couldn't see him now. He bit the inside of his cheek as the memory of Cordelia's singing solo came to mind. "Well, I do believe that whatever you put your mind to, you'll succeed Cordelia. That I'm sure about."
"Boy, am I sending out a 'be nice to me I'm a loser' vibe? You're being so 'Joe Smiley-ish.'" Thwack. "Bullseye!" she said with satisfaction. "Mia really needs a nose job," Cordelia laughed with glee.
"I'll bet," Giles remarked with amusement.
"So tell me, Mr. Playboy. Why aren't you out getting your groove on? Hitting the -where do British ex-Watcher, ex-librarians hang out? Dusty bookstore teashops?"
"Funny," he replied tersely. "I'm home tonight because I am cleaning up my apartment. I would have been finished sooner if my help hadn't bowed out on me."
"Help? What poor slob did you get to help you clean out and organize your stinky demon, vampire books?"
Cordelia snorted."Should've guessed. So what was his lame-o excuse for ditchin you? Back give out? Couldn't alphabetize the books? No-a massive allergic reaction to the thousand year old dust covering your old records-right?"
Giles groaned. "No. But again funny. He and Anya went out to a college party with Buffy and the others-"
"Anya?" Cordelia interrupted.
"Yes," Giles replied carefully.
"With Xander? And the others?"
Oh dear. He had a feeling he had just done something really horrible "Yes, Cordelia. She recently returned to Sunnydale. Actually around the same time as Spike and Harmony."
"Harmony?" Cordelia repeated incredulously. "I thought she- I heard from her parents that she just up and left after graduation. Something about France. Why would she come back to Sunnydale with Spike of all people?" He heard her suddenly stop. "Oh," he heard her softly mumble.
Oh bloody hell. "Cordelia?" Giles asked after a moment. "I'm sorry. I thought you knew about... all of this." He was met with more silence. "Cordelia are you alright?"
"I-uh- hold on a sec," he heard her say.
Bloody, bloody, hell. He wasn't even thinking when he had mentioned Xander and Anya or Harmony. He had upset her. He could easily tell that from the drop in her voice.
"Back," she cleared her throat. "Crossbow was acting up on me."
He waited a beat. "I'm sorry I upset you-"
"Upset me? How?" She laughed weakly. "Xander and I are so... I mean I cut him lose a long time ago and if he wants to hang out with that 900 year old hag then... as for Harmony I mean it's sad and all but she and I weren't friends anymore..."
"Cordelia I do understand this being upsetting."
"Yeah, well," she blew out a breath.
"Cordelia, it's okay to feel whatever it is you feel," Giles said gently.
"Dammit," he heard her mutter. "I don't know what I feel," she said quietly after a moment.
Sensing her frustration, Giles pressed on. "What is it?"
Silence. "It's like thinking of Harmony as a vampire... she and I were so alike and... we had been friends sorta... I mean hanging out with you guys I could've been vampirized or... at graduation I could've been..." she stopped. "It could've been me. Does this make any sense at all?"
Giles nodded into the phone. "Yes, it does."
"Does it make me a selfish bitch that I'm glad it wasn't me?" she asked quietly.
"No," Giles answered quickly. "It doesn't make you selfish to be happy to be alive when someone you know dies. You just appreciate life a little more"
"Did you guys- did Buffy you know-get her?"
"No, Harmony escaped. She was upset I believe about Spike leaving her."
He heard her murmur distractedly."I don't know to be happy or sad about that. I mean she is a vampire, but-" She went silent again. "Thank you for telling me this. About Harmony. And Anya and Xander. Although I don't know why I should be upset about that loser-"
"Cordelia," Giles interrupted. "Don't hide from it. It'll hurt less."
"Yeah, well-" she stopped again. A moment later he heard a loud Thwack. "I'm gonna need some more pictures."
"Well, it's one way to get out physical aggression," Giles offered lightly.
"No-a baseball bat breaking bones is a way to get out physical aggression," Cordelia mumbled.
Giles blinked."Um, I don't think-"
"Kiddin Giles. Well- mostly." He heard her move around on the other end. "I better let you go-since you are unemployed and were on a teacher's salary when you had a job, I doubt you want to use your savings on a long distance phone call to little ole me."
Giles pressed his lips together. "I think I can cover this call and still manage to live," he retorted.
"Well yeah, but you're girlfriend won't appreciate you throwing your money away on stuff that isn't for her." Cordelia said simply.
Giles smiled in spite of himself. "I don't-"
"I know, have a girlfriend," Cordelia finished. "Go out and get one," she instructed.
Giles shook his head and glanced down at his watch. "How late will you be working? Is Doyle or Angel coming back soon?"
"Ohhh, coming to pick me up for a date?" she teased.
"I refuse to answer that," Giles huffed. " I was wondering if you were going to be alone for much longer."
"I'm a big girl, Giles. I'm fine."
"Yes, well you may be an Olympic bronze medal contender with the crossbow, but you shouldn't be alone in the office, especially if Spike and a host of other undesirables know where you are."
"Gee Giles, you just made me feel so much better," she said in an annoyed tone. "Oh, look," he heard a noise in the background. "Doyle's back. Now I'm safe from all the baddies and you can go out and get yourself a girlfriend."
Giles narrowed his eyes but said nothing. Something told him that he was being dismissed. "Okay, okay. I'm hanging up now," Giles relented.
"Giles?" She said quickly.
"Thanks for calling. And listening. It was nice hearing from you again. Even all the badness."
Giles smiled into the phone. "Nice talking to you too, Cordelia. Take care."
"You too, Giles. Bye." She hung up.
Giles looked at the phone and slowly placed the receiver on the hook. He wondered if he had done more harm than good tonight. He had hoped to find her in better spirits only to aid in lowering them further.
The more he actually talked with her, the more he realized how different she was from what he had originally believed her to be. The person she showed the world was but a part of who she really was, but then again that was probably more a facade. There was depth to her that he doubted she shared with many. For some reason she hid herself, and unfortunately it isolated her.
He picked up her card off his desk and fingered it thoughtfully.
"I do hope you're alright," he murmured finally. "If not tonight, then soon.
Read the next part: Dropping By