Title: A Princess And Her Pauper
Author: Torra (torra_k@yahoo.com)
Summary: The story of "Just So" as seen though Cordelia's eyes.
Rating: G

 Kevin had his new Jetta idling in front, and I had just meant to run in to grab my purse.  It was the really cute one with the strapey handles which I had left at work, and I thought it would go perfectly with my new strapey sandals that I was wearing for the date.  Not that I really *wanted* to go on this date, mind you, it's just that I had to.  An up and coming starlet has to keep up these sort of appearances.  In truth, Kevin was even more boring then what's his spaz...that other guy I had been out with when the Vampire attached me, and Doyle had saved the day.  And considering he was so boring I cant even remember the name of the restaurant he took me too, that's saying a lot.

 I walked up to the front doors and fished around on my key chain for the right one.  Xander had given me the chain just before I left for LA.  It was three interlinking hoops, each one with a different cross.  One each in gold, bronze, and silver.  I let my fingers gently rub the bronze one for a moment, remembering how much it had hurt when we had broken up.  How much it still hurt.

 Pushing the memory away, I managed to find the right key and entered, the door sliding open silently on its well oiled hinges.  From there it was only a short walk down the hallway before I had to find the next key to enter Angel Investigations.  One thing about working as an Office Assistant (like I'd really let someone call me a secretary!  Shah, as if!), is you end up with a lot of keys.  Keys to apartments, keys to offices, keys to safes, keys to filing cabinets, keys to liquor cabinets, and several keys I don't even remember getting.  It's just a thing that happens, it goes with the job.

 The light was still on in Angel's office, so I came in quietly, trying to not disturb him during one of his all-night brood fests.  I spotted my bag sitting on top of the coffee pot and crept forward to grab it before I realized Angel wasn't alone.

 "Well…Cordelia Chase."

 I felt myself freeze as soon as Doyle spoke my name.  I couldn't help it.  There was just this way he said it, the feel of my name in his voice, it always did this to me.  It would pass in a moment, I reassured myself, and then I'd tell them I was here.

 But then he went on.

 "She's…young, smart, funny, honest…beautiful.  VERY Beautiful.  She has this beauty…it's not just physical, man, it's…it's everything.  It's in her smile; it's in her every movement.  She's beautiful when she's trying really hard ta type som'm up for ya.  She's beautiful when she's yell'n at me for be'n a bum.  She's beautiful when she's helping someone she doesn't know.  She's beautiful even when she's a mess after fight'n off the minion's a evil 'n all that.  She's just…it's som'm inside her, man, it just…lights up whenever she does *anything*."

 I meant to move away, I really did.  I'm not normally Miss Eavesdrop, but...how could I?  A man was paying me a complement, the least I could do was listen.

 "She's smart…but she doesn't let on about it a lot.  She knows more 'bout how every' thin' in this world works 'n I do sometimes.  She may not know all the details…but she understands it!"

 I smiled, remembering all the times I had opened childproof aspirin bottles for him and had helped him limp home after one of his drinking contests with the Vroken demon down at the local Pub.

 "She learns incredibly fast," I could almost hear the smile in his voice, and I couldn't stop the warm flutter it caused inside me.  He went on, "She makes her mistakes on the way, sure…not that she'll ever admit to 'em, but she makes 'em 'n she moves on.  She doesn't let 'em hold 'er back at all!  She just has a job, and does it…even when she doesn't want'ta."

 "When I first saw her, my first thought was just 'Gaw…how lucky can a bloke get to see someone like her at least once in his lifetime?'  I mean, admittedly we were in a bit of a rush 'n I wasn't sure how much longer that lifetime was gunna last…but it was still there."

 I leaned against the coffee counter, my knees feeling week.  Was he really saying these things about me?  There's no way he could be talking about me, I told myself.  I mean, sure, I'm beautiful, I know that...EVERYONE with two eyes knows that!  But this woman he was talking about...she must be some sort of Queen.  Not just me.

 " 'N then she started work'n here, man!  It was…I don' quite know what it was.  But I liked it!  She was smart, and she had talent, and she knew it.  And she knew that everyone else in this world should know it too, and she wasn't gunna rest until she made SURE everyone else knew it.  I love spar'n with her.  Even when I'm pissed out drunk, she still jokes 'round wi'f me.  'N no matter how stupid som'm I say is, she'll smile.  Roll her eyes too, but a smile's a smile"

 It was true, when he got drunk, he got funny.  I'd never admit it to anyone, EVER, but he made me laugh more when he was just talking about his life while drunk, then anything I ever saw on comedy central, or in a Chris Farley type movie.  He could make me smile just by trying to sing.  He often tried to sing while drunk.  Never very well, but he always tried.  And he always tries to sing *to* me.  Always.  He just looks at me, smiles, and tries his drunken best to make music.

 "I love her smile.  It just…it just lights up her whole face.  The whole room!  I mean, when I'm in me demon form, I can see pretty well in any level light--"

 This time my knees nearly did give out.  My heart was pounding, and my whole body went cold.





 Oh My God, not more lies, please, not more lies.

 "--But when she smiles…who needs ta be half Brachen Demon?  It c'un just light up every' thin', ya know?  Like she's her own little star in the sky."

 One heart beat.

 Two heart beats.

 Three heart beats.

 I think I'm going to be okay.

 I didn't have time to catch by breath before he continued.

 "God, listen ta me.  I sound like a bloody Hallmark card reject.  Harry used ta always laugh when I'd go one like this.  Said I just saw what I wanted 'ta see." I never did like Harry much, not really, but he went on before I could figure out exactly why, "Maybe she's right.  Maybe I do just see what I want ta see.  Maybe Cordelia has all the faults in her, all these bits and pieces that everyone else sees…"

 I could feel the tears slipping down my cheeks now.

 It always comes down to this.  Just like with Xander.  Every time.  Why do they always see though me?  Why do they always have to see past my confidence into what's inside of me?  Why can't I be better?  After Xander and I got together, he decided I wasn't good enough, and now Doyle...

 Oh god, not Doyle too.  Please.

 "But you know what…I can't see 'em."

 Oh God.



 He...he can't see them.  He doesn't hate me.  Oh God, breathe girl, Breathe.  In and out, in and out.  He doesn't hate you.

 He doesn't hate me.

 "When I look at her…when I think about her, I can't see anything 'bout her that I don't luv', man!  Every part of her is just so…HER!  It all makes up this wonderful, amazi'n person.  I mean, if we're gunna talk 'bout failings in a body, all I have 'ta do is look in a mirror, ya know?  I certainly aint no prize at t'a county fair…" he sighed, "But Cordy…she's a princess stuck down here with us paupers.  She deserves someone just as regal.  Someone who can try ta be just as perfect."

 I clutch my hands to my chest, not even thinking about how the tears must be ruining all of my oh-so-carefully applied makeup. But right now, makeup doesn't matter to me, and that is honestly something I never thought I'd say to myself.  Right now, my whole world was focused on the man, the demon, on the person speaking in the next room.

 I was trying so hard to keep control of myself that I missed what Angel said, but hearing Doyle's voice again pulled me back.

 "A course Ah'would!  I'd hate it.  I'd want ta kill anyone who so much as looked at her twice!  God, it'd kill me to see her move on…" There was something in his voice...was he crying?

 "But how cun' a drunk, half demon, pauper ask a princess ta love 'im?"

 I'm not sure if I stopped breathing first, or if the tightness in my chest was from my heart staying still for several beats too long.

 Oh God.

 It was me.

 I was the queen.

 How could anyone care for me that much?  How could they love me like that?

 And oh God, how did I go on this long without loving him back?

 Gathering all of my remaining strength, I pushed away from the table and stepped into the doorway, bracing my shoulder against the molding. "Maybe the pauper should just open his mouth and ask sometime," my voice sounded rough, as if I had been crying.  I guess I had been.

 They booth stood up shocked, "Cordelia!"

 I clutched my wrap around my shoulders like a shield, trying to hide how badly my entire body was shaking.

 "Cordy, how long have ya--"

 I already knew what he was going to ask, "Long enough, I think."

 "Aw God, 'm sorry, Princess.  I had no right ta…"

 "To talk about me behind my back?" I ask, letting my Bitchy Self-Defense mechanisms kick in before I could stop them.  "To say all these things to Angel without even saying them to me first?  Shah, damn *right* you didn't have a right to!"

 Even before I finished saying it I regretted it.  Doyle's whole body seemed to shrivel up and a part of myself shriveled with it.  I hated myself for hurting him this way.  I had to make it better.  I took a slow step forward and wrapped my right hand around his cheek, "But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to hear them…"

 Doyle's eyes opened wide and I thought I could almost see a spark of hope inside them.  I gave him the best and brightest smile I knew how to give, "You know, a lady always likes to hear people say how beautiful she is…" My body seemed week again after the effort of saying this, and I let myself lean against him, our foreheads touching, the skin-to-skin contact helping me to regain the strength to finish, "And you never know what the Princess might say if no one asks her in the first place."

 "Cordy, I…"

 I nodded and smiled.

 I knew.

 I know.

 I wanted to scream 'I love you too,' but instead all I could manage was a quiet, "I know, Doyle.  I heard.  You already said everything you needed to."

 He stood up slightly, taking his worm forehead from mine, but before I could protest at the lack of contact, he took my left hand in both of his and clutched it to his chest like a lifeline, "Not everything, Princess.  I still haven't said how much ah'love ya."

 I looked at his face, his tired, worn, serious face and I couldn't stop the smile blossoming across my own, "I think you just did."

 I knew that would make him grin, and despite what he had said earlier about my smile, his truly did light up the whole room for me.  Because it was for me, and for me alone. "Yah…guess Ah' did, huh?"

 "Uh-huh…and Doyle…" Before I knew what I was doing, I leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his lips, "The princess might always say yes…"

 A part of me was aware that Angel had left the room, but that was no longer my concern.  My whole world had, for the first time, narrowed down to one person besides myself.  Doyle was a part of me.  He is what makes me whole.  And nothing can make us give that up.  Not now.  Not ever.

 As he pulls me into a deeper kiss a part of my mind wonders what my date must be thinking, waiting out in his cherry red car out side the offices, waiting for his hot date.

 The rest of my mind doesn't give a damn.  I've got Doyle.  I've got my prince.  I've got all I'll ever need right here, thank you very much.  Tomorrow there will be minions of evil, and other icky things to kill, but for now, for this all to short instant, everything is exactly as it's supposed to be.

 Just a Princess, her Prince, and their happy ending.