I don't own Cordy and Wesley, they belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The lyrics are from Alanis Morissette's song "Perfect" which is on the "Jagged Little Pill" album. Enjoy and send feedback firstname.lastname@example.org!
Cordelia Chase regretted the moment she'd ever agreed to spend Thanksgiving at her aunt's house. When her parents had called and told her that Thanksgiving dinner was at Michelle's house this year, and they expected her to be there, she hadn't had enough time to think up a good excuse. That was surprising for her. Being away from her parents and school for so long had made her lose her touch when it came to fabricating excuses.
So, here she was, stuck at her aunt Michelle's house, which, of course, was as luxurious and spacious as the Chases' old house. The house they no longer had.
And there was her cousin Courtney. Courtney, the same age as Cordelia, but of course, the good one in the family. Little Miss Perfect. She only dated the right type of guy, of course, the nice ones that you brought home to Daddy, and of course she'd never dream of anything further than a chaste goodnight kiss. She was in by midnight every night, and had won a scholarship to UCLA.
What drove Cordelia's parents mad was that Cordelia had sat the scholarship exam, and got it, but had turned it down in favor of going to LA to make her way as an actress. They didn't understand that college had lost all appeal for her when she realized what she wanted to do was to act. And that she wanted to get started right away.
But that was the way it had always been. Cordy's parents wanted her to do one thing – usually in competition with Courtney – and she wanted to do another. When she was in grade school, she'd been a straight-A student, and her parents were convinced she was a genius. And then along came middle school, and high school, and the work got harder, and her social life took up more of her time, and although she was still managing to keep up a B average, they weren't happy.
Or when they'd entered her in all those beauty contests when she was a kid. Most Beautiful Baby 1982, she'd won, and from then on her parents pushed into more and more. She'd hated it. Being admired at school was one thing, because of your looks or your clothes, but being admired while in outfits that just weren't her…it wasn't the same.
Or the way they'd made her take up a musical instrument, in the hope that she'd be the next Mozart. They were never happy. They wanted her to be perfect.
She wasn't perfect. She knew that. She had her faults, like anyone. And she could accept this. Her parents couldn't. They wanted her to be perfect, and, in particular, to be more perfect than Courtney.
"Courtney's been getting straight As ever since college began," Michelle began, and Cordelia rolled her eyes.
Sometimes is never quite enough
If you're flawless, then you'll win my love
Don't forget to win first place
Don't forget to keep that smile on your face
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce had been planning to spend Thanksgiving alone. Circumstances, however, had dictated otherwise, and now he was on a plane to England.
"He's dying, Wes," his sister Natalie had told him the previous evening. "He's only got another few weeks left. Please come and see him. He needs you."
"He needs me?" Wesley said incredulously. "That man made my life for years. I'd prefer not to see him."
"He's our father, Wesley," Natalie said. "And he does love you. He just has trouble showing it."
Trouble showing it? Wesley felt like he wanted to explode when he heard this. As far as he was concerned, he'd put the years of being dominated by his father behind him. Years of being told that he wasn't good enough, that he could never live up to expectations, that he'd always be a failure.
At least, he'd tried to put them behind him. They kept on coming back to him, the thought that maybe he was a failure. He'd been fired from the Council, and his disastrous relationships with women were certainly nothing to boast about.
He tried to tell himself that this wasn't true, but after years of being constantly reminded that you weren't good enough, it was difficult to accept something else.
Thank you, Father, he thought grimly. You've managed to erase every single iota of self-esteem I ever had.
He hated his father with a passion. And now the old man was dying, and Natalie – oh so perfect Natalie, a wonderful sister to him, but also the one that his father was proud of – wanted him to come home to see his father one last time.
He supposed, to be told one last time that he wasn't good enough, that no matter how hard he tried, his father would never be proud of him.
Be a good boy
Try a little harder
You've got to measure up
And make me prouder.
"You made it," Natalie noted with some satisfaction as she opened the door of his former home. "How was the flight?"
"Fine," he replied curtly. "Where is he? I want to get this over with."
"Wes. Don't do this. Please. I know you and Dad never got along that well – "
Wesley stared at her in disbelief. "Didn't get along? He made me feel worthless. Useless. A feeling which has continued to haunt me through my adult life. So don't act like it was something trivial, because it wasn't."
Natalie was gaping at him. "I didn't realise things were that bad," she finally said.
"No, well, you wouldn't, would you? He's proud of you. You remind him of our mother. He adores you. As for me – he constantly put me down and told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn't good enough. I tried and I tried and I did my best, and it did no good."
How long before you screw it up
How many times do I have to tell you to hurry up
With everything I do for you
The least you can do is keep quiet
Cordelia's mother was an expert at guilt trips. One of her favorite hobbies was to remind her daughter of everything she'd given up to have her.
"I had you when I was eighteen," she'd begin. "I gave up the chance of a college education and a job to become a wife and mother. And over the years I've sacrificed so much for you." This would be followed by the "Don't you think you should repay me by…" speech, in which Mrs Chase would suggest that her daughter take extra classes or work harder or do something else, as it was, apparently, the least Cordelia could do.
"I never asked you to make those sacrifices, Mom," she'd told her once, to which her mom had replied, "I know. But I made them anyway. For you. Because I wanted you to have all the opportunities I missed out on."
All the opportunities she'd missed out on. Cordelia could understand that, on some level, but what her mom wouldn't accept was that maybe Cordelia didn't want to take those opportunities. That maybe she just wanted to do her own thing.
"Cordelia, how's the acting going?" Michelle asked in a condescending tone.
Cordelia was determined not to put up with this patronising crap from her aunt. "Quite well, actually. I'm working mainly in theatre at the moment, as it's really good experience and looks great on a resume. When I'm not involved in any one particular project, I also work at a private investigations firm." She tilted her chin firmly and dared her aunt to make any condescending remarks.
"How impressive," Michelle murmured.
"And what kind of theatrical work do you do?" Courtney asked, feigning innocence, but hoping to catch her cousin out.
"Some Shakespearean plays, mainly the comedies, as well as some other classical plays, and occasionally some new works," Cordelia replied smoothly. "I've had the lead in several," she added. Exaggerating a bit, she thought, but it's not going to do any harm.
"Not all of them?" Courtney asked sweetly.
Cordelia's parents turned to her as well, as if disappointed. "Maybe you're not trying hard enough," suggested her mother.
Cordelia had to resist the urge to scream.
Be a good girl
Try a little harder
That simply wasn't good enough
To make us proud.
"Maybe you should think about college," Michelle suggested some time later.
"Why bother when I'm doing what I want to right now?" Cordelia responded, getting seriously fed up of her family.
"Cordy, honey, think of all you could learn at college," her mom said. "You're so smart. You could do anything you wanted."
I'm doing what I want! she thought. Do any of you even care what I think?
I'll live through you
I'll make you what I never was
If you're the best, then maybe so am I
Compared to him, compared to her
I'm doing this for your own damn good
You'll make up for what I blew
What's the problem…why are you crying?
"Wesley." The old man lying in the bed looked frail and weak. There was little sign of the monster that had been there before illness and old age had ravaged his body.
"Hello, Father," he said awkwardly. He always felt as if he had to be especially formal around his father. As distant as possible, so that his father wouldn't have to be constantly reminded of the fact that they were related.
"You came," he said, and a smile spread across his face. "Thank you for coming. It means a lot to me."
"Why did you want to see me?" Wesley got straight to the point.
"It's a little late for that."
"I'm hoping it's not." He motioned for his son to come closer, and somewhat reluctantly, Wesley did so. "I never told you I loved you, did I?"
"No," Wesley said quietly. He felt like adding, "Generally it was just shouting at me about all my faults and how worthless I was." But he refrained himself.
His father shook his head sadly. "No, I suppose I didn't. And I should have, you know. Because I do. I always have. And I assumed you knew it. But – you didn't, did you?"
"You never acted like it."
"I wanted you to be the best. To be perfect."
"No one's perfect."
"I know that now. But I wanted you to be. I was always proud of you, Wesley. I suppose I never told you that either. But I was, and still am."
"Then why did you always make me feel as if I was never good enough?" he asked through clenched teeth. "It was clear you were proud of Natalie, but not me. Never me. I was never good enough."
"Natalie takes after your mother. To me, your mother will always be perfect. You – you take after me. And I could see that in you, and I didn't like it – because I don't like myself. I didn't want to see me in someone I loved so much." He suddenly gasped, and his breathing became more shallow and rapid.
"Natalie!" Wesley yelled, panicking. "Call the doctor!"
"No, there's nothing they can do for me now," his father said, his face growing paler by the second. "Wesley – can you forgive me?"
Wesley didn't even have to consider the question. "Yes. Of course I do."
An expression of relief and peace came to the old man's face. His breathing became slower, and he began to shut his eyes.
Natalie rushed in. "Dad! Dad!"
His eyes opened again momentarily. "Natalie. It's all right. I'm going to be with your mother. I'm going to tell her how proud I am of you – of both of you."
And then his eyes closed for the last time.
Thanksgiving dinner had, Cordy decided, been an utter disaster. Back at her parents' house, she sat down with her parents.
"Dinner was a disaster," she told them bluntly. "I resent being constantly compared to Courtney. I resent being told how much you sacrificed so I could do this or that. That's blackmail. I resent being pressurised into doing certain things because you never got to do them. I'm happy with what I'm doing. I don't want to go to college, or to be a straight A-student like Courtney. I just want to be me. OK? Well, if you can't accept it, tough."
And then she walked out in a stylish exit and drove all the way back to LA without stopping.
Her parents were probably going to forget what she'd said. By the time Christmas came around, they'd be trying to get her to be perfect again. She'd never be good enough for them.
I think I'll spend Christmas in LA, she decided quickly.
"Hey," Cordy said, greeting and hugging Wesley at the airport the following week. "How're you holding up?"
"I'm coping," he told her. "At least we finally sorted things out before he died."
"That's good," Cordelia smiled. "By the way, how do you feel about spending Christmas Day at my place?"
"That would be wonderful," he responded.
"Great! Family holidays are just too much strain. You're expected to be –"
"Perfect?" he finished.
"Yeah. It's too hard. No one's perfect."
"And no one should have to be perfect in order to be loved."
"Exactly," Cordelia nodded, her eyes meeting his in a look of understanding.
Be a good boy
Push a little farther now
That wasn't fast enough
To make us happy
We'll love you just the way you are
If you're perfect.