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Table for Two

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The waiter looks between them. "Will that be all?"

He looks across the table, half in question and half in terror, but she only smiles up at the waiter. "Yes, thank you so much."

"A pleasure, miss," the waiter demurs before disappearing, an almost abrupt use of movement and motion.

The smile turns on him, as do the eyes, and he has to reach immediately for his wine. He sees Cordelia through it all, the way she dims and her smile wanes as he takes his first drink. When he returns it to place, the smile makes a valiant effort to return but that concern around her eyes stays steadfast.

"This is a nice place," he observes, casting a glance toward one of the light fixtures, something very nearly qualifying as a chandelier.

Her smile goes up to a million watts and she nods. "It's amazing. And the owner is a friend of Angel's."

Nodding, Xander shifts. "I feel like I could never be dressed enough for this place."

"The dress code is more for fun; they let people in wearing jeans. Besides, you look great."

"No, you look great," he counters, glancing at the shimmering skin of her décolletage, her arms. "That dress is amazing."

Cordelia sounds entirely too gleeful as she tells him, "I know."

He has to tear his eyes away and finds himself scanning the crowd, probably for uncomfortably pale beautiful people in dated clothes. "So, do I get to know why we're doing this?"

"I thought that much was obvious," Cordelia countered. "We never do anything and I thought we…should."

"We spent a solid thirty-six hours together last weekend."

"It doesn't count if it's a stake-out," Cordelia chides. "We're friends, right?"

Xander clears his throat and forces himself to make eye contact. "Of course."

"Well, can't friends who have known each other most of their lives go out to a nice dinner, enjoy each other's company…"

"I usually save that for dates."

Cordelia sighs and drops her elbow on the table before propping her chin on her hand. "Gunn told me it was too date-like. I should have listened."

Eyes going wide, Xander wonders, "So what is it? You obviously have a, a reason for all of this."

"Okay, I guess if my incredibly-subtle cover is blown—"

"Not even kind of subtle."

"Then…I should just come out and say it." She took a deep breath, then blew it out. "Angel wanted me to extend a formal invite to you, to live in the hotel."

Xander grimaced at that and grabbed his wine glass again. "No he didn't."

Nodding, Cordelia explained, "You're the only person who lives in a building with six apartments, and your landlord is kind of see through."

"My rent is cheap and I don't have to deal with neighbors." He shrugs. "I don't see the problem."

"Well…the building is technically and…also, legally, condemned."

"The poltergeists aren't going to let them demolish it."

Cordelia sighed. "Okay, I tried. If anyone asks, I begged. Want to stuff all this fancy food in our faces and then go to the drive in theater in our fancy clothes?"

"Only if we can get those crappy nachos. I don't expect the portions here to make a dent in my hunger."

"Hey, why did you come if you thought it sounded date-like?" Cordelia wonders, then sips her own wine. "You could have just told me you weren't interested."

He shrugs it off. "Food, a beautiful woman, not having to work the Friday night shift. It sounded like a lot of 'wins'." He takes a drink. "Why not just grab pizza?"

She sniffs in derision. "I needed to do this right, obviously. It needed to look good."

Smirking, he guesses, "Angel's paying for dinner."

"That, too." She reaches out and waits for him to take her hand. "We are all worried. And that's me saying it."

"I've survived worse. My parents, for example," he points out. "I have no desire to move into Angel's over-decorated pit of despair. I know we're some value of 'friends' now but that would put a quick end to that."

With a little shrug, she smiled, a gentle thing. "Remember before the hotel? Just the four of us holed up in that dinky office?"

Squeezing her hand, he nods a little. "And then the other four of us. Things have…changed." At her face, her eyes, he says, "You still miss Doyle."

"I…" She licks her lips and then meets his eyes. "I still wonder, and think about maybes. Could've beens, y'know?"

"Of course I know." He snorts. "I don't know if you know this but…In high school, I had this girlfriend, way too good for me, and I fucked it up."

Cordelia smiles sweetly and explains, "I heard something about that but…that was a lifetime ago. I was the biggest bitch I knew, so I hope high school doesn't count against us forever."

His breath hitches a little at that but he nods, and swallows. "Yeah." He clears his throat, but the waiter is approaching in the corner of his eyes and this is a shift. "Me, too."