SPEAK NOW, OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE


Following his usual late afternoon ritual, Angel sorted through the mail. Bills, bills, junk mail, credit card applications--and one large, cream-colored, very formal-looking envelope, return address Las Vegas, Nevada.
Laying aside the rest of the mail, Angel reached for the letter open. Carefully, almost reverently, he slit open the envelope.

Alexander Lavelle Harris
and
Cordelia C. Chase
Request the honor of your presence
As they join their hearts as one…


"Goodness. Nothing serious, I hope."
Angel jumped at the sound of Wesley's voice. He'd been so focused on the invitation he hadn't heard the other man approach. He composed himself quickly.
"Wedding invitation," he said.
Wes perked up. "Really? Who's getting married?"
Angel handed him the card. "Cordy."
"Oh." Wes glanced at Angel as he took the invitation and read it over. "This is in two weeks," he said.
"At dusk."
"It sounds like they might want you to come."
Angel nodded. He didn't know how he felt about that. "It's addressed to all of us."
"Are you going?" Wes prodded.
Angel stared at the invitation. There were so many reasons why he shouldn't go, and one very good one why he should. "Maybe," he said finally, and laid the invitation on the desk.

#

Cordelia was beautiful, but then Cordelia always had been. Superficial beauty at first--the stylishly slim body and dazzling smile--then deeper and deeper beauty as she had grown and transformed before his eyes.
Angel stood next to a tree, a good distance from the actual wedding, watching. He could see well enough from here, could hear the minister's voice as he spoke the homily.
They weren't quite married yet. Cordy and Xander stood in front of the minister, holding hands and smiling at each other as the minister talked about their love for each other, which had grown between them in high school and had never died, but returned to blossom again those few years later.
Angel remembered when Cordelia and Xander had been a couple. He'd been on the fringes of things then, first because of the whole Angelus debacle, then because of the fallout of the whole Angelus debacle. But he remembered. And he remembered her early flirtation with him, when she'd been so obviously trying to wedge herself between him and Buffy, with no clue about the reality of the situation.
He'd found her--not really annoying so much as just there. He hadn't had much thought for her one way or the other. But she'd always smelled nice.
Then the time in LA, of course, when they had become such good friends. She'd been an anchor for him, and a catalyst for his own change. With Buffy, he'd had a haven. Cordelia had thrown him to the wolves of semi-regular social interaction, and he was a better man for it.
The minister read a scripture, then turned to the waiting couple. "We gather here together to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony…"
He remembered training her, the lithe movement of her body against his as he'd corrected her stance. The smell of her sweat--she'd worked harder than he'd ever imagined she could--the tautness of his own arousal as they'd worked. Kyrumption, Lorne had called it, the coming together of two champions.
He loved her. There was no question about that. But he loved easily. He'd realized that about himself. He loved them all, Wes and Gunn and Cordy, Willow and Faith and Fred. And Buffy.
Connor.
There were some things he just couldn't think about right now.
Yes, he loved Cordy, but what did it mean? When he'd been in love with her, what had that been?
"Were we in love?"--"We were."
Had that even been her? Had she been possessed even then?
"I'm only alive when you're inside me."
That definitely hadn't been her. They'd both been possessed by spirits then, and still he'd squirreled away the memory of her mouth on his, the soft skin of her belly under his lips….
"Deep down, I think I've always known."
His own hallucination, that one, brought on by sensory deprivation and starvation. Yet it had seemed so real…
"Angel, haven't we waited long enough?"
And that only a spell, a construct meant to take him where he needed to go, to release his soul and bring Angelus.
"If anyone here objects to this union, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace."
Angel's eyes burned. In front of the minister, Xander held Cordelia's hand, cradled it. Xander loved her, of that Angel was certain. He would take good care of her, keep her safe.
Angel had loved her, but she had never been his. And she never would be.
"Do you, Alexander Harris, take this woman, Cordelia Chase…"
Of course he did. He'd be a fool not to. And Angel watched, trying to be happy for them, as Xander lifted the veil and kissed her, and made her his.

#

He had made arrangements to meet with Xander after the wedding, away from the rest of the guests. The reception hadn't quite gotten underway yet, and from his place behind the tree, Angel watched the others.
Willow was there with a girl Angel didn't recognize. They both looked happy, comfortable in each other's company. Giles and Wesley held a staid conversation near the hors d'oeuvres table. Dawn--God, how she had grown--was startlingly adult and lovely in a gauzy floral dress. Buffy was there, too. He had seen the golden flash of her hair out of the corner of his eye but had refused to seek out her face.
He heard a rustle behind him. He knew it was Xander without looking, in spite of the thick cologne he wore. Angel turned.
"You're really committed to that skulking creature of the night thing, aren't you?" said Xander.
"I don't skulk." He saw no need to rise to Xander's bait anymore. Xander insulted him reflexively, he'd come to realize. Over the past few months, since Angel had sent Cordelia to Las Vegas, he and Xander had come to an uneasy but satisfactory understanding.
"You look good," Angel said grudgingly.
Xander smiled. "Hell, even you would look good in one of these monkey suits."
"I've been told I look devastatingly sexy in a tux." He'd opted for something more casual today--no tie, but a shirt and jacket that had passed Fred's outdoor wedding etiquette inspection.
"Well, of course you do, you big, gorgeous bastard."
Angel smiled. "Gee, Xander, I didn't know you found me attractive."
"I don't. But I do find you big. And a bastard."
"Sorry if I've given that impression." Angel withdrew an envelope from the inside pocket of his jacket and held it out to Xander.
"What's this?" Xander eyed it warily.
"A wedding gift."
Xander lifted a hand. "No way, Angel. I told you I didn't want anything from you."
"I have as much right to give her a present as anybody else here. Besides, I owe her this."
Xander still eyed the envelope warily.
"It's all her back pay, from when she fell into the coma to when she woke up."
Xander seemed a little less dubious, but not much. "That's a lot of money."
"Not as much as you might think. I hear her boss was a real skinflint."
Finally, Xander smiled. "All right. That seems fair." He took the envelope and looked at the check inside. "Damn, you are cheap." But he looked up at Angel with some measure of gratitude. It was a decent sum, Angel knew. He'd hoped the paycheck approach would convince Xander to accept it. "Thank you," Xander added.
Angel nodded. "Take care of her."
"You know I will." Xander started to go, then paused. "You should go mingle. A couple of people have said it's kind of weird you're not here."
"I don't know. It doesn't seem like a good idea."
"Buffy already knows you're here."
"Damn. I was afraid of that." He sighed, resigned. "How much have you told Cordy? Has she remembered anything?"
"I told her she went to LA to work for you, and had an accident that gave her amnesia. As far as I know, she still doesn't remember anything past mid-Senior year."
"Okay." Angel steeled himself. "Well. Here I go, then."

#

He went through the receiving line, saw Cordy, held her hand, embraced her, kissed her cheek. It didn't hurt as much as he'd feared. Perhaps because she was so obviously happy, her eyes warm and bright, her smile brilliant.
"Thanks so much for coming, Angel," she said. Maybe he imagined the warmth in her eyes, or maybe she'd remembered, if only in her heart, something of what they'd shared.
It didn't matter. It was over now, and he had to move on. As he always did. So he turned to leave her--
And there was Buffy.
He froze, staring at her, his voice caught in his throat.
"Hey," she said, smiling. "I was wondering if you were going to show yourself."
"You knew I was here."
She sobered a little, an odd weight in her eyes. "I always know."
He just stared at her stupidly, with no more words. This--the energy between them, the sure knowledge of each other--this was real. More than anything he'd ever experienced.
And, dammit, it just would not go away.
Finally, she tilted her head a little, regarding him with some of the old warmth, though he could tell she was holding it back. "Dance with me?"
He took her hand, led her to the patio area where the others were dancing. The band was playing a slow song; he folded her gently into him, remembering the last time they had danced like this. The only other time.
So many things they'd only been able to do once.
He took a long, steadying breath, and she craned her neck to look up at him. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah." He touched her lips to her hair, not quite kissing her. "Just…sad."
"It's a wedding. You should be happy."
"I'm happy for Cordelia." He was, honestly. It was just hard to feel it past everything else.
"You guys worked together a long time."
"We did." He didn't know how much he should tell Buffy. His relationship with Cordelia had gone past friendship, but they hadn't been lovers. Besides, this wasn't the place.
"I guess you were pretty close, huh?"
"We were."
"It's good you came, then."
She nestled back into him and he cradled her. There were so many things he wanted to ask her--was she single again, did she miss him--but he set them all aside. Right now she was here in his arms, soft and warm and welcoming, and not far away, Cordelia danced with Xander, her eyes bright with happiness. For now, it was enough.
It would have to be.


END.