Settling For Perfection
by Karen



"I have plans."

"You can't cancel them?"


"What are they?"

"Things. Very important, crucial things that I need to do tonight."


Cordelia stopped in her tracks just inches from the entrance to the Hyperion and whirled around to face the man who had spent the last thirty minutes hounding her relentlessly. If he wasn't careful he'd be on the receiving end of her icy glare. Just because she hadn't used it lately didn't mean she'd forgotten how.

"It's none of your business what my plans are. They're my plans, and I have them, and they can't be cancelled, and that's that." She stood tall, proud and unrelenting, pointing her finger confidently with each statement. "You're not the boss of my social life. In fact you've not been the boss of me at all since you decided to go all semi-evil and left Wesley in charge last year."

Angel took a step out of Cordelia's personal space, tilted his head to one side, lifting the corners of his mouth in a knowing smile and raising his eyebrows in question. Cordelia could see he was in this for the long haul if necessary. She knew there was no escape until he got the answer he was looking for, and unlike some other undead people that would remain nameless, Cordelia had things to do, people to see, and if she had to stand there much longer she was going to need a bathroom break.

"Fine!" She relented. "I was planning on trying out this new conditioning treatment I have for my hair tonight" She twirled her fingers together giving Angel a sheepish smile. "It's supposed to leave your hair silky smooth and increase shine by forty percent," she said almost as a question: asking for forgiveness for putting the well-being of her hair over that of her friends.

"Come on, Cordelia. She doesn't really know anybody, not after being stuck in Pylea for five years. She's shy and she needs a friend. Please?"

"How about you? You're her friend too, you know."

"Yeah, but it's not as if we can get together, braid each others hair, paint our toenails and talk about guys. She's needs a girlfriend."

"You know, I have a great frosted pink nail polish at home that would look really good on you."

"Cordy," Angel said with as much menace in his voice as he could manage. Or, at least as much as he knew Cordelia would let him get away with.

Cordelia sighed and Angel could see her resolve starting to melt. "Give me one good reason why I should do this?"

Now it was Angel's turn to look sheepish. "Um...maybe I already told her you said yes?"

"What? Angel!"

"Well, I didn't think you'd say no."

"This is just great. The first day in forever that I don't get one of my skull-crushing, mind-blowingly painful vision headaches, which also means the first night off in forever, and you schedule a slumber party. What am I, twelve?"

"I just thought you might enjoy some female company for a change," Angel said, deciding to change tactics in his approach. "I never see you hanging out with your friends any more."

"Yeah, well it got kind of hard to explain my disappearing act every time I had one of my mysterious, screaming headache fits. And there are only a limited amount of excuses you can come up with for why your shoes look like they've been covered in demon goop, without actually coming right out and saying that they've been covered in demon goop. Oh, that reminds me, I need the company credit card this weekend. I have to get some new shoes."

Angel ignored the last part and instead went straight for the guilt "Cordy, I'm sorry. I-"

"Did I ask you to apologize?"


"Well then. This is what I do. I don't mind if I have to sacrifice one or two things in the name of fighting evil. Just as long as the PTB don't expect me to sacrifice my Gucci shoes and purse then I'm all set."

"So does that mean..." Angel eyes were wide and hopeful.

"Okay. I guess my hair can stand one more night with forty percent less shine."

"Great. I'll go tell Fred." Angel turned around to see Fred already at the top of the landing. "Speaking of." Angel smiled up at the shy young women now making her way down the stairs.

"Hi." Fred's voice was quiet and unsure.

"Hey, Fred. You all set?"

"Yeah, I think so." She adjusted the overnight bag on her shoulder. "Cordelia? I know Angel said you were okay with this and everything, but if you have other plans that's okay, I don't mind. I'm sure I can find something to do in my room on my own if-"

"I wouldn't miss it for the world," Cordelia said. Seeing the uncertain look on Fred's face, Cordy felt the need to reassure her, even if she had to massage the truth a bit

Fred unconsciously pushed her glasses back up with her index finger, nodding slightly. "Okay then."

Cordelia looked over again at Angel and frowned at the self-satisfied look on his face. He immediately stopped under the pressure of her glare and had the decency to look contrite.

Cordelia opened the door for Fred, and they both stepped though saying their goodbyes as they went. As soon as they were gone Angel gave into his urges and allowed his smug look to return.


"Well, here we are-- Home sweet apartment." Cordelia unlocked the door and walked through followed closely by Fred.

"So you really have a ghost?"

"Oh yeah. But it's okay, he's just like Casper." Cordelia put her keys and purse on the kitchen table and indicated for Fred to put her bag down anywhere. "Hey, Phantom Dennis, I'm home. You here?" Cordelia yelled in the air at nothing in particular.

Fred hunched her shoulders and looked around as if expecting something to jump out and go "Boo!" any second.

"Huh. He must be off playing with his ghost buddies or something."

"He has ghost friends?"

"I have no idea. I hope so, but that's just what I say when he doesn't seem to be around. You can never really tell though."

Fred looked around the apartment a little more nervously now.

"Don't worry, he wouldn't hurt a fly. Well, except he did kill his mom, but she'd already died from a heart attack right after killing him, so I guess that's okay. Do you want something to drink?"

Fred was still trying to make sense of what Cordelia had said and missed the question entirely. "Sorry, what?"

"Drink. Do you want one?"

"Oh, sure. Thank you."

"Just make yourself at home," Cordelia shouted behind her as she made her way into the kitchen and over to the fridge. She opened it and went for the soda, before having second thoughts and reaching for the ice trays instead. "This night is going to need something to give it a kick start," she whispered to herself and she walked over to the cabinet to collect a couple of glasses and a pitcher, a bottle of tequila and the blender.

Cordelia went back though to find Fred standing uncomfortably by the fireplace, awkwardly fingering a picture of the Angel Investigations crew Cordelia had on the mantle, her head still darting back and forth at every small sound or movement of air. Cordelia took a deep breath, resigning herself to a long night ahead and said "I hope you like margaritas?"


"S. U. N. N. Y. D. A. L. E. Sunnydale, Sunnydale. Gooooooo Sunnydale. Whooooo!" Cordelia bounced up and down, waving the pom-poms around in the air with one of her patented, perfect Cordelia smiles spread across her face.

Fred was sitting cross-legged on Cordelia's bed, laughing and clapping along, watching Cordelia's cheer. "Wow, you're really great."

"Yeah? Thanks. It's been a while." Cordelia tossed the pom-poms aside and climbed onto the bed opposite Fred. "I'm kinda out of practice."

"You can't tell," Fred said. "Cheerleading must have been a pretty big part of your life for you to have kept your poms-poms and everything."

Fred looked around Cordelia's bedroom. The room was softly lit, with the dimmer switch set low and a few candles burning on the bedside table. There was an empty pitcher lying on the floor next to two empty glasses, a couple of bags of half finished potato chips and a pizza box. The floor was also strewn with the content of Cordelia's ample wardrobe. Dresses and skirts and blouses lying around and hanging off every available surface, where they had been tossed aside as casually as the pom-poms, after being declared as unworthy for a couple of beauties such as they, by the Chase Fashion Police.

Fred had simply sat back and enjoyed the ride as Cordelia went over every piece of clothing she had, trying things on, mixing and matching and accessorising like an expert. Letting herself be led behind the screen while item after item of clothing was thrown over the top for her to try as well. Her hair has been teased and combed and styled in half a dozen different ways, her make-up applied and nails polished.

As the evening wore on, the excitement had calmed, and they were now sitting together on top of Cordelia's bed dressed in simple tee-shit and shorts, reminiscing about high school days. Fred's gaze rested on a couple of cheerleading trophies sitting on top Cordelia's dresser. "You must have been good to have won those awards too?"

Cordelia turned to see what Fred was looking at. "Yeah, for a while there I was really something. I wasn't the head cheerleader for nothing you know," she turned back and looked Fred up and down appraisingly. "Were you a cheerleader in your school?"

"Me? God, no. I was in the Science Club. In my school those were two very different social circles-- they never really hung out together."

"Yeah, it was the same in my school. Well, except for the group I started hanging out with in my junior year. We were a pretty mixed bunch." Cordelia started counting them off on her fingers. "A Slayer, a geek slash hacker slash witch slash boyfriends stealer, a loser slash joker slash cheating boyfriend, an old tweed wearing Watcher guy, a monosyllabic musician, a moping vampire, and me: the cheerleader slash all-round popular person. I raised the coolness level of that group by several hundred degrees."

"You miss them?"

"What, that bunch of losers?" Cordelia scoffed, then paused and looked off in the distance, her eyes becoming unfocused. "Yeah, sometimes. I mean, when we weren't saving the world we did have some good times."

Cordelia snapped herself out of the memories and looked at Fred again. "But tonight's been fun."

"Yeah it has." Fred agreed. "I'm glad we did this."

"So am I." Cordelia said, a little surprised to discover she really meant it. They smiled at each other a little breathlessly, and there was a pause before Cordelia said suddenly: "You could have been a cheerleader you know. You're totally pretty enough."

"Oh no, I could never be a cheerleader: I'm not graceful like you. I get all nervous in front of big groups of people, and when I get nervous I come over all clumsy, bumping into things and knocking things over. It's not a pretty sight." Fred dropped her head down and fumbled with her hands in her lap, wringing them together before lifting her head up again giving Cordelia a shy look. "You really think I'm pretty?"

"Sure I do. I mean, the guys must have been clambering all over themselves to get to you in high school and college."

"Oh yeah, sure," said Fred, with a quick exhale of breath in disbelief at Cordelia's claim.

"Seriously. You must have had no end of dating opportunities."

"No, no dating. Not really anyway. A couple of first dates, but they never went anywhere. I think the guys in school though I was a little weird, which I was...or am, so I guess I can't blame them."

"Totally their loss," Cordelia said nodding her head with authority. "So . . ." she said casually, "is there a guy you like now?"

"No! No . . .guy. What about you?" Fred asked a little uncertain, unable to make eye contact.

"Me and guys? Nothing going on there. The only guys I see these days are Angel, Wesley and Gunn, and they are so not dating material. Angel's more like a brother, I know from experience that there is absolutely no chemistry between me and Wes, and Gunn. I love them all, just not like that. Well, I guess there is my neighbor, Mr. Gorman. He is single, the only trouble is he's also seventy, completely bald, has no teeth and for some reason always smells of peppermint." Cordelia enjoyed the sound of Fred's soft giggling.

"But you must have been out with lots of guys in high school. You know being a cheerleader and everything, so beautiful and elegant and nice."

"Well actually I was a little less nice back then" Cordy admitted.

"But still . . ."

"Yeah there were a few guys, but they were never really interested in me. They just liked the package."

"It's a good package" Fred said dreamily, gazing at Cordelia before she felt the heat rising in her cheeks and she began to blush furiously, "I mean all of you is a good package . . .I mean . . ."

"I know what you mean. And thanks. You're a pretty good package yourself."

They smiled at each other, and moved a little closer.


"Mmm Hmm."

"Have you ever even kissed a guy?"

Fred looked around the room, anywhere but at Cordelia. Her face was really becoming flushed and she started to stammer. "W...well, there was this one time in college, but was awful. I got all flustered and he ended up kissing my eye. I just couldn't get my co-ordination right."

"Kissing's easy." Fred looked at Cordy over the top of her glasses, clearly not believing a word she said. "No, really. The key is to relax. I think you just tensed up to much. If you stay relaxed and loose and casual it's much better. Not too relaxed though, because you don't want to get all sloppy and slobbering. Most of the time guys don't really know what a girl likes. They just want to plunge right in, but it's got to be just right."

Fred rested her elbows on her knees and nestled her chin in her hands, listening in rapt attention to Cordelia's description. "You want it soft at first, just barely brushing your lips together. Then you press together a little harder but still keeping your mouth closed. You make small lip movements, turning you head to the side so your noses don't collide. It's still soft though, soft and sweet and gentle and oh so good. After that you can open your mouth a little, but only a little. Let your tongues touch, just getting a taste; a feel for the other person."

Fred let out a contented sigh and Cordelia carried on, swept away in her own fantasy. "Maybe you could let your hands wind their way into the other persons hair, tickling the little tufts at the back of the neck because the need to touch is overwhelming. Their arms are around your waist pulling you closer so you open your mouth a little wider to let them in. Their tongue sweeps round your mouth, exploring and tasting everything, and you do the same to them. Your whole body becomes one giant nerve ending on fire, the intensity growing and growing with each passing second. Your toes curl in delight at the sensations, until you have to break away because all the oxygen has left your brain, and you've forgotten that you're capable of breathing through your nose."

Fred's breathing was coming in short sharp pants, matching Cordelia's. "Wow. That!"

"Yeah." Cordy agreed, her eyes flicking over Fred, her own face becoming slightly flushed.

"I could never do that."

"Sure you could. Want me to show you?." Before Fred could counter Cordelia's assertion, or even register her question, she saw her lean forward and she felt Cordelia's lips on hers and a hand cupping the back of her head keeping it steady.

All coherent thought left Fred's mind. All the earlier advice that Cordelia had given was gone and the only thing left was a single word: more.

The feel of Cordelia's soft lips on hers made her feel light-headed and made her whole body tingle. She leaned forward herself, pressing her lips more forcefully against Cordelia's. She brought her hand up and wound it through Cordelia's thick hair, just longing to touch, to feel...more.

Fred opened her mouth a little, desperate to experience everything that Cordelia had described. Cordelia opened hers in response, their tongues meeting in the middle just flicking over each other gently, each enjoying the taste of the other: a hint of limes and tequila and salt from the margaritas.

Cordelia let Fred determine the pace of the kiss, not wanting to push her too far too quickly, but as Fred's courage grew she became bolder, opening her mouth a little wider, letting Cordelia's tongue probe further inside.

Careful not to break the kiss, Cordelia uncrossed her legs and sat up further so she was on her knees. She moved her hands down so they were resting on Fred's waist. She lifted gently encouraging Fred into the same position.

Cordelia wrapped her arms fully around Fred's waist bringing the two even closer together and Fred draped her arms around Cordelia's neck, both hands playing in her hair.

Cordelia could feel Fred start to struggle for air, her passion and excitement for the kiss overriding her need to breath. She reluctantly broke the kiss, leaning in for one quick last peck before pulling away all together and sitting back on her heels.

She could see Fred eyes still closed, her face rosy, her lips full and red and her hair mussed where Cordelia had run her hands through it. Her glasses were sitting on the bridge of her nose at a slightly crooked angle and Cordelia couldn't help the little snigger at the sight of her thoroughly debauched looking friend.

The sound of Cordelia's laughter brought Fred crashing back down from the clouds she was floating in. She couldn't meet Cordelia's gaze and once again settled for looking at her hands wringing nervously in her lap. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No, of course not. I was just thinking how good you look just now."

Fred lifted her head up and gave Cordelia a coy smile. "Good?"

"Yeah. All disheveled and beautiful." Cordelia lifted her hand and cupped Fred's face, enjoying the feel of her warm skin over her palm. "See, I told you you could do it."

"Yeah, you did. But I um..." Fred straightened her glasses and cleared her throat, trying to gather her courage. "I'm not sure I could do it again. Maybe I need another lesson?"

"You think?" Cordelia hummed and tapped a finger against her chin, biting her lip, pretending to think it over. "Well, they do say practice makes perfect and I refuse to settling for anything that isn't perfect."

Fred's smile practically lit the room and the two women both leaned forward meeting in the middle for another lingering kiss.


Angel looked up from the papers he was studying by the lobby desk to see Cordelia and Fred walking through the Hyperion main doorway. He couldn't help the little grin at the sight of the two of them together. The were walking very close, side by side, shoulders brushing together and fingers playfully entwined.

They stopped in front of the staircase and Cordelia leaned forward to whisper something to Fred that Angel couldn't hear. They pulled apart and smiled at each other, Cordelia holding the gaze longer than Fred could as she broke eye contact to look down at her shoes and bite her bottom lip.

Cordelia reached out her hand and cupped Fred's cheek, running her thumb back and forth gently over her skin before leaning in again and pressing her lips softly against Fred's in a sweet chaste kiss.

"*Ahem*" Angel coughed, trying his best to pick his jaw up from the floor, where it fell at the sight of his two colleagues and friends kissing.

They broke the kiss, but both kept eye contact for a moment longer before looking over at Angel. Fred gave Angel a shy smile before once again turning her gaze down toward her shoes. Cordelia's smile though, was bright and toothy and confident. Angel could see the happiness almost radiating off of the two of them and returned their smiles.

Cordelia whispered something else to Fred, who nodded her head, turning again to Angel, giving him a little wave before walking quickly up the stairs towards her room.

Cordelia watched her go for a few moments, matching Fred's earlier wave when Fred stopped her ascent and looked back, as if to check and see that Cordelia was still there. When Fred was finally out of view, Cordelia walked across the lobby, right past Angel and behind the desk where there kept the mini fridge. She opened it and took out a bottle of water before closing it and brushing right past Angel again on her way back toward the stairs.

"So?" Angel couldn't stand the silence any longer, the curiosity was killing him.

Cordelia stopped and turned to look at him, feigning innocence. "So what?"

"How did it go?"

"Pretty good."

"That's it?"

"Yeah, that's it."

"Oh come on, you've got to give me more than that. Did you have fun?"

"I think a fun time was had by all, yes."




"No, you are not getting any more details out of me, Mr. I-literally-don't-have-a-life-of-my-own-so-I-have-to-live-vicariously-throug h-my-friends." Cordelia started towards the stairs again.

"I'll be in Fred's room if you need me, and I'll warn you now, you'd better not need me," she shouted over her shoulder.

Angel could see he wasn't going to get any more information about the previous nights activities anytime soon, so went back to his papers. After a moment he was interrupted again by Cordelia. "Angel?" He looked up at her where she'd stopped halfway up the stairs.


"Thank you."

"Your welcome." Angel watched as Cordelia quickly bounded up the rest of the stairs to Fred's room.

"Oh yeah. It went well," Angel said to himself. Filled with a sudden sense of purpose, he put the papers down again and headed towards Wesley's office. A sly smile on his face and a mischievous glint in his eye.

"I wonder if Wesley and Gunn like slumber parties?"