Angel Of The Pearls
aka Give A Working Girl A Chance
On the night Wesley found the video, it was raining. Strange enough in Los Angeles to begin with, but when it's a long angry tropical storm-style rain, with fat droplets falling everywhere, it's obviously going to be a night of peculiar events, especially for someone who sees a variety of peculiar things in his average day.
He hadn't honestly meant to pick it up, really, but it had been a long and tiring day and Virginia was up in San Francisco at a booksellers' convention and, honestly, the rain just reminded him of that month he spent in Thailand on holiday and if that wasn't unofficially titled "Wesley Wyndham- Price's Hotbed of Sexual Frustration," he didn't know what was.
He really should have gotten his end away with some ladyboy back in Thailand. A few hours, a bit of cash, and he wouldn't have this residual ache of unresolved sexual tension. But that was in the past, and when he found himself glancing through the porn section at his local video store (having already picked out Queen Christina and The Black Swan -- in the mood for classics), it seemed almost natural to him to pick something up.
A little pornography never did anyone harm, right? And besides, the selection here seemed much better than the occasional Confessions of... movies that were passed around in his youth. The titles were unique, and the pictures just as fascinating...why, that one there...
He peered at a box closely, his eyebrows joining together as he frowned in concentration. If he squinted, a little, the girl on the box resembled Cordelia...and when he didn't squint, she looked even more like Cordelia. A bit more rosy and glowing and well-lit than he normally saw Cordelia, so it couldn't possibly be her.....could it?
He picked up the box gingerly, almost afraid to see "Cordelia Chase" scrawled across the front. Instead, to his relief, the title was Angel of the Pearls, and the accompanying blurb on the back went into raptures about the video, apparently a compilation piece of a particular porn star and her talents.
And since the letters C, O, R, D, E, L, I, and A weren't used together on any particular side of the box, Wesley surreptitiously tucked it between his two other movies and walked to the checkout. A little pornography never hurt anyone. Not at all.
Wesley had been acting suspiciously around her for weeks. Cordelia was convinced it was probably something about Angel acting all weird, or maybe his girlfriend had mentioned something, and she had meant to mention it to him, but why bother? He was Wesley, and if he wanted to blush and fluster when he was around her like he used to, whatever. As long as he did the research and didn't make any cracks about her studying "advanced bosoms" or whatever, everything was just fine.
Or so she thought, until she got that phone call.
"Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless. How can I help you?"
"Yeah, um, I'm looking for a Wesley Wyndham-Price."
"I'm afraid he's not in at the moment, can I take a message?"
"Yeah, um, this is Total Video calling. He's a month late with the movie..." There was a brief pause while there was tapping on a keyboard. "Angel of the Pearls. Can you tell him to return it as soon as possible?"
Cordelia nearly dropped the phone. "What movie?" she asked in a nearly angry voice.
"Angel Of The Pearls."
"Fine, okay, yeah, he'll get the message," she said quickly before slamming the phone down. She stood up and began to pace around the lobby, muttering to herself. "I don't believe it. I don't believe it. How could he? How could he rent porn? He's English, I didn't think they had a craving for these things! Oh God, he must've watched it! Oh ew, he kept it! Oh, Ew, God, oh what am I going to tell him?! What can I possibly tell Wes--"
"What?" said Wesley from behind her.
Cordelia whirled around, looking frantic. "Wesley! Hi! How are you? How was your research?"
Wesley frowned, looking at her. "Fine..."
"Great, great." She paused for a second. "Um...Total Video called about a late video...Angel of the... something-or-other..."
Wesley paled just as Cordelia blushed. "Oh, y-y-yes, right," he said, taking a deep breath. "I should return...that particular movie." When she turned her back to him, he watched her closely as he continued. "It...it's just the strangest thing...the actress looks so awfully familiar..."
Cordelia turned around, looking at him. "What? No..." She scoffed. "All actresses in cheap porn look the same..."
Wesley looked up at her, his eyes wide. "How did you know it was cheap porn?"
"I...uh...I...the guy on the phone told me. You really ought to go to a different video store, because giving out that sort of information over the phone is pretty lacking in the customer care department..." Her voice grew slightly more and more desperate.
"You're making porn," Wesley said resolutely, almost paternal.
With the truth out in the air, Cordelia's tactics changed, and she glared at him defensively. "Yes, and what are you going to make of it, huh? It's a perfectly legal business -- it pays well and I'm doing what I want to be doing."
"Well, from what I saw you were doing quite a bit..."
"It was a compilation film! Just bits and pieces carved out of other movies!"
"Other!?! How long have you been doing this?"
"Just a year or so...I've become very popular."
"As Cordelia Chase, porn queen of the underworld?!" Wesley closed his eyes for a second. "Cordelia...please don't tell me you've been using your real name..."
"Are you insane? You've seen Angel of the Pearls, Wesley. I'm not Cordelia. I'm..." She straightened proudly. "Angel."
"And the hair?"
"Wigs. And why do you think I cut my hair? Do you think I wanted to purposefully look like Courtney Cox?" She scoffed again, then sat down on a nearby couch. "Wesley, look," she said, her voice very matter-of-fact. "I require certain things. I have certain cravings. For Versace. And Prada. And things like that. And, frankly, what with having to pay you and Gunn, Angel isn't giving me the money I need for my cravings. And besides, I'm bound to get a real role soon enough -- it happens to enough girls..."
"You aren't..." Wesley sat down next to her and reached out to grab her hand. "You aren't doing anything you don't want to do, are you?"
"Pfft! No..." Cordelia said, shaking her head. "Moved on to girl-girl action now...pays better and a lot less wear and tear on the wardrobe..."
"Girl-girl..." Wesley's voice trailed off as his eyes got bigger. "I..."
"Just promise me one thing, okay? Don't tell Angel? Because, you know, if Angel knew..."
"If Angel knew what?"
Both Cordelia and Wesley sighed heavily as Angel walked into the room.
"Nothing, nothing!" Cordelia said, smiling briskly. "We were just talking about...um..."
"Cordelia's been starring in pornography for the past year," Wesley said flatly.
"Wesley!" she hissed.
"Is this true?" Angel asked, looking at her.
"Because, you know, if it was, I'd have to wonder when you were getting the time. I don't give you that much free time, do I?"
"No, of course not! I'm always busy doing your research and getting your visions and fighting your demons and...and...okay, I am doing pornography and all those times I've been saying I've been out at auditions I was getting it from a variety of strange men. Are you happy now, Wesley?" She sighed heavily. "And now that he knows, all we need is Gunn finding out...because that is going to be a barrel of laughs, of course."
"'Gunn finding out' what?"
Cordelia looked heavenward. "That's it, I'm just going to get a large sign and wear it around my neck. Cordelia! Chase! Does! Pornography!"
"Shit, girl, I knew that..." Gunn rolled his eyes. "I've got a friend who works security for the studios...once he saw you at that party, he just had to tell me what you were doin'..."
Cordelia stared at Gunn.
Wesley stared at Gunn.
Angel stared at Gunn.