By Minim Calibre
Notes: Back in the Day story, four snapshots, star-crossed. Doyle/Cordelia, PG.
“New shirt?” Cordelia smiles, looking for all the world like she cares.
“You like it? I went shopping. Had too, after what happened to my last twelve Ralph Lauren knock-offs.”
“Please. Ralph Lauren’s knock-offs would have been ashamed to call that a knock off.” She rolls her eyes and does that thing with her hands that’s a little to abrupt for him to call fluttering. “But, whatever. Yeah. You look nice. For you.”
Doyle grins at the almost compliment. “Think I should bill Angel?”
Lord, she’s lovely when she laughs, even if the sound of it’s more like a goose honking. “Right. Because even if you could get Angel to cough up the dough—which, I might add, is like getting blood from a stone—the ten bucks you spent on that shirt’s really going to break you.”
It’s ten bucks he could be spending on a bottle of something strong and brown or little and yellow, but it’s worth it to see that laugh. “You never know, princess. It could be the difference between me being able to buy you a nice dinner sometime, or me just sitting around wishing I could buy you a nice dinner sometime.”
She rolls her eyes again. “A clue? Playing the poverty angle? Never works. Hey, I have an audition in the morning. Help me run lines.”
“Absolutely.” Sure, she’s not tripping over herself in a rush to be social with him, but she said he looked nice. It’s a start.
“Did I ever tell you about Keanu?”
They’re three shots into a celebratory night of tequila shooters, even though they don’t have anything to celebrate. Cordelia’s feeling good about a part she almost got, because almost getting the part means she’ll get one soon. Doyle, well, she thinks Doyle’s feeling good about not having his brains eaten by his ex-wife’s fiance, and how weird is it to think that somebody married Doyle?
No weirder than to think that she’d been thinking of Doyle in the maybe he’s fixable way when the whole married bombshell dropped.
“You knew Keanu Reeves?” Doyle sounds impressed, and, okay, maybe there’s a little disbelief in there, too.
“Keanu my palomino.”
“You named your horse Keanu?”
“Well, yeah.” She pours herself another shot. “He was a really handsome horse.”
“Not much of an actor though, I take it?”
Cordelia punches him lightly in the arm. “I’m sharing my pain with you. This way, you can open up about your pain, and I can comfort you.”
“Your pain’s a horse named Keanu, princess? I’m not sure I can compete with that.”
“Right now, I think my pain’s named Doyle, and it’s in my ass.” Oh man, that came out really wrong. “I mean, you’re a pain in my… that is.” The bastard’s snickering at her. And she thinks it’s kind of cute. When she sobers up, this is going to be one of those what were you thinking moments, just like all the ones involving Xander Harris.
Kissing Cordelia’s everything Doyle ever dreamed it would be, and he’s been dreaming the moment since he met her. Her lips are warm and fit his perfectly, and he could spent a lifetime just feeling her breath against his.
But he doesn’t have a lifetime. He doesn’t even have the rest of his life, just a large portion of it before he has to go and shut off the Beacon. He doesn’t want to let go. He doesn’t want to die, not when Cordelia’s there and there’s things to look forward to and second chances to do something with his life.
It’s a pity the second chance to do the right thing’s more important.
His lips still tingle as he pulls away, says his goodbye, and makes things right. She looks stunned, his princess. Stunned and beautiful.
The Beacon burns as he struggles with the cable, and the life he’s not going to have flashes before his eyes. The dinner Cordelia ordered him to ask her to, their second kiss, and their third and forth for good measure. If he can pull that cable, she’ll get to have that dinner, those kisses, with some other lucky son of a bitch.
He feels the Beacon consuming him, and knows he can’t let up, can’t let go, or Cordelia, Angel, Rieff, everyone who’s counting on him dies and it’s all for nothing, and his whole life’s been all for nothing until now.
This something worth dying for. She’s something worth dying for.
There’s not enough Tylenol in the world, and she wonders again how Doyle could stand it. The pain, the images, the complete and total loss of control over your own body. Cordelia runs the bath, slips out of her robe, and slides into the tub.
She slipped up and called Wesley Doyle again today.
It’s been a month.
“Is that it? Are we done?”
She watched the tape again today.
She knows Angel did, too. It wasn’t rewound.
This last vision hit her harder than usual. Maybe that’s because she’d already spent half an hour in the bathroom crying and her head was already hurting. At least it was Angel who found her curled up and whimpering behind the desk. Wesley would have been too humiliating.
“Calgon, take me away.” Her best commercial voice. Doyle must have heard it a hundred times for every audition. The water’s warm and dulls some of the sharp throbbing in her skull. It’s like someone’s inside there replaying that scene from Basic Instinct over and over.
Doyle said that once, and she’d thought he meant the scene where Sharon Stone crosses her legs and shows off her total lack of panties. She should have known he meant the icepick. Dennis pours some shampoo onto her head and gently lathers it into her scalp. She just sits there and lets him take care of her, lets him rub and rinse until the pain in her head fades away, leaving just the pain of grief behind.