Vampire Stories, story 4
BtVS / Buffy/Willow/Xander
Summery: Cordelia? There are many questions that arise. Some truths are revealed. And everyone has choices to make.
Love and Loyalties, part 4.
Disclaimers and warnings are listed in part 1 and still apply.
Xander untangled himself from Willow’s embrace and watched as she rolled over and spooned with Buffy. He thought about just going downstairs naked and seeing how their new housemate dealt with it, but relented and got dressed. That was something that would have to be addressed sooner rather than later. He wasn’t going to spend hours cooped up inside and start behaving himself. He would have to build her that room soon he realized. Xander headed down the stairs and noticed again the remnants of a night of drinking. Empty bottles and half eaten snack bags littered the coffee table in front of the large window. Thankfully, someone had remembered to close the heavy curtains before the sun rose. He smiled at the sight of Cordelia sprawled across the couch. One arm over her eyes, the other hanging over the side and touching the floor. At the moment, she looked deader than they were. Xander crossed over to the kitchen area and started up a pot of coffee.
“Here,” Xander encouraged as he gently shook Cordelia to wakefulness and held out a mug of coffee. “Good morning, Sunshine.”
Cordelia reluctantly sat up and gratefully took the cup. “Sunshine?”
Xander shrugged. “You’re the one who can go out in the sun.”
Gulping the contents, her eyes still closed and head pounding, Cordelia wasn’t prepared for the fiery kickback. “Xander! What’s in this coffee?”
“Oh, I snuck some Irish in it,” Xander gleefully informed her, pleased with himself. “I saw the drunken state of the coffee table and thought I better put some drink in the coffee. It’ll help with the hangover.”
Cordelia continued to drink greedily; finally daring to open her eyes and grateful vampires don’t like sunlight pouring through their windows. “Well, thank you. Who knew you were such a nice guy.”
“I’m not.” Some part of Xander instantly bristled at the idea. Maybe it was the heartbeat nagging the demon.
Cordelia remembered the physical connection trick and took Xander’s hand in her own. She gently pulled and encouraged him to sit beside her. “Yeah, you are.”
“Sometimes,” Xander relented with a smile.
Sudden, intense memories overwhelmed Cordelia. “I remember you always tried to help. And you never gave up. You never gave up on your friends.”
“Even now the snackable ones,” Xander joked. “You have a new chance here, Cordy,” he continued in a softer tone. Xander looked over at the empties. “Fun night last night?”
“Needed.” Cordelia finished her coffee and set the mug down. She rested her head back and looked up at the industrial remains of the ceiling. “Regretting it a little now.”
“Drink lots of water,” Xander advised. “You’ll live.”
Cordelia laughed a little until her head protested. She turned her gaze to Xander and really looked at him for the first time since showing up. First time in years she realized. It’d been years. And even through the hangover her mind was finally a little clearer. He’d grown. It was evident, impressive. Even as he still graced her with his patent grin. Yet past the smile, she could see that he had also aged. Well beyond his years. And of course the eye patch. “Xander, what’s with the eye patch? What happened to your eye?”
“I thought you said you were shown everything that happened to us?” Xander marveled for a moment at the connection he could feel even with Cordelia. He could remember human things, the times before. It was fainter than with Buffy or Willow: the connection. It didn’t, of itself, fill the empty space that now left them colder than their skin. But it was enough to counter the call of her heartbeat or the anger and pain of the memory that question still brought to mind.
Cordelia noticed him flinch a little at the question and held his hand tighter. “I was only shown the end and even then it was probably the bits and pieces they wanted to show me. I don’t trust it was the whole story. If you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine.”
Xander got up. “I’ll get you some water and some more coffee. This story is going to take a while.”
* * *
Giles roused himself from his musings at the desk when he noticed Jenny come out of the bedroom and cross to the kitchen. He joined her there and greeted her gently with a kiss then started the coffee machine. Each morning he woke hours before her and it seemed the least he could do was have it set and ready to go when she got up. Each morning, her grateful smile reaffirmed his choice to abandon the never ending fight and join her here. He supposed, one day, complacency would take over as it always does; but he drew comfort from the fact that by then the routine of cohabitation itself would be enough to find solace in.
“How after all these years of staying up late into the night can you be such a morning person?” Jenny stirred Giles from his thoughts.
Giles tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m afraid it’s a genetic curse.”
“I’m gonna start looking for a cure for that,” Jenny promised with a smile as she heard his chuckle. She started in on the coffee and started to feel more human. “I know Cleveland is a few hours ahead. Did you reach Faith?”
Giles started to heat the kettle for more tea. He prepared a cup for the water then turned and leaned against the counter; a little more settled for the sudden conversation. “Yes. I was circumspect of course. I think I muttered something about updating my personal journals and being too drunk at the time to properly hear all the details. In truth, that last part may not be as farfetched as I would like to admit. In any case, she was kind enough to give me a proper and accurate recounting of everyone’s fates and end in L.A.”
“How do you know it’s accurate?” Jenny wondered. As far as she could remember, Giles had never mentioned anyone surviving to join them in Cleveland.
The kettle whistled and Giles poured the water and made note to keep track of the time. He tried to ignore the way the sound still made Jenny startle just as she studiously ignored her body’s flinch; her heart rate’s jump. With a couple deep breaths he noticed her settle back down to morning coma calm. “Faith still has many connections in the demon world there. In any case, I was able to confirm that Cordelia Chase never awoke from her coma and died shortly before Angel and his crew killed the members of what we later learned was a society called The Black Thorn. And for that, Hell itself rained down upon them. No one survived.” He noticed it was time to stop steeping the tea and removed the tea bag. A pleasant surprise to moving to the northwest was finding a culture that loved and appreciated good tea and the ready availability of a wide variety. The cupboard was filled with his initial overindulgence. “Her information is so detailed and I’m afraid I know her well enough now to know when she’s holding something back, that I suspect her source is someone who in fact did survive. Someone she would probably protect with her life and I would never ask her to betray. But I am just as certain from the way she relayed the facts that someone is not Cordelia.”
“So, you don’t know what’s going on either,” Jenny concluded. She started on her third cup and was catching up on Giles for wakefulness.
“No, I’m afraid not.” Giles thought back over what he was pondering at the desk before. “Cordelia could possibly be alive somehow, though why she would be with Buffy and the others would still be an unanswered question. Or more probably, she’s undead like the others and somehow found them.”
Jenny stared at the counter; pulled herself up and her mind inward in thought. It was still painful to recall, that time in the motel room. They told her the stories. Over and over, the stories they would tell their young from now on; the stories of heroes. Then, at the end, they whispered the desecration that happened. Told her where they were. They never mentioned Cordelia being here. “I don’t know Rupert. We saw her breath. It was a cool night and I remember noticing just the one… Our first reaction was that she was alive. I know we can’t tell for sure from a distance, but I trust that reaction. Plus, my tribe didn’t mention her being here. Didn’t mention anything like that happening to her. I just…” She took a sip of coffee instead of finishing. “I guess we’ll deal with it when we know more.”
Giles agreed with a short nod. “Yes. Quite right. I don’t believe we can do anything about it and worrying about it doesn’t feel at all productive.” He felt relieved the conversation could come to an end. Almost everything in his present life he felt helpless to stop and useless against. It wasn’t a familiar situation and he was uncomfortable and unaccustomed to feeling so powerless. Even as a Watcher, he inserted himself into a more active and aggressive role, finding he was unable to just wish for the best from the sidelines. Right now all he could do was take care of Jenny. And research what was becoming less a viable option the more he learned: the restoration of souls. Running from his thoughts to the safer vision of the woman in front of him, Giles smiled. “Here, why don’t you sit and I’ll cook us some eggs for our breakfast.”
* * *
Buffy woke a little after Xander left the bed, stretched, turned over and kissed Willow awake. She wasn’t surprised when Willow smiled and kissed her back more firmly and passionately. Eventually, the kiss ended and Willow looked around the room.
“Xander go downstairs?” Willow sat up slightly and leaned over Buffy and out the loft windows to confirm for herself.
“I think so.” Buffy distracted Willow’s attempt to find their wayward lover by sucking on the nipple that was now hanging temptingly over her face.
Willow groaned low and deep and gave up any further thoughts of Xander. She moved down over Buffy, kissing her hard. Their legs entwined and Willow brought her thigh up between Buffy’s legs even as she started rocking against Buffy’s raised thigh. Buffy broke the kiss and lowered her leg. “We should take this to the shower.”
“Why?” Willow impatiently tried to start things again by caressing Buffy’s breast.
Buffy smiled and enjoyed the attention. In a way she couldn’t explain or even fully understand, she loved watching Willow over her like this. But she had a purpose. There was a reason why she stopped. “Because after last night, I could really use a shower. I feel like one of those sailors you’re always feeding on.”
Willow leaned down and made a show of smelling Buffy. She could indeed smell the alcohol but the overriding Sire to childe desire the scent of Buffy stirred in her almost derailed her intended joke. She pulled up, regained some mental balance and forced a smile. “You smell like one, too.” The desire would have to be taken care of soon, but she could put it off for the length of a civil conversation and a place of Buffy’s choosing.
“Hey!” Buffy pinched one of Willow’s nipples. Hard.
Willow growled low at the sudden pain, her eyes paled to a yellow tint and ridges creased her brow. “If the shower is where you want this, we better get there now.”
Buffy smiled and licked her lips. She wasn’t sure where a playful morning of sex had turned to this but she would never complain. They left the bathroom light off, not wanting or needing it and turned on both shower heads. Entering the steam and hot streams, Buffy wasn’t surprised to feel her back against the cold tiles as Willow pushed her against the wall and kissed her; fangs out and cutting. Willow’s hand possessively ran up her thigh and between her legs. Her fingers pushed inside Buffy as her thumb rubbed across her clit. The rhythm was sudden, deep, strong and bruising. Buffy didn’t have time to think. Didn’t want to think. She clung to Willow’s shoulders, the hot spray just missing her leaving her shaking with cold or was it need. The kiss broke and she felt Willow’s lips and teeth move down over her jaw to her neck. Buffy tilted her head, offered her neck, heard herself begging Willow to bite her. Finally, the fingers inside her, the thumb on her clit… it was realized with fangs in her neck and the union with her Sire. Buffy wrapped her arms around Willow and held her tight. As she reverberated with her climax, she wanted Willow to feel this, experience this love and bond. As the waves of sensation ebbed and she calmed, she felt Willow lower the shower seat and she sat down. Willow joined her.
“That was…” Buffy couldn’t think of the words and absently touched her neck to feel the bite marks instead. She smiled, leaned over and kissed Willow.
Willow smiled back as Buffy pulled away after the kiss. She ran her fingers through Buffy’s still unruly morning hair. “Yeah. I don’t know what got into me. I didn’t take that much. But still… wow.”
Buffy sank to her knees in front of Willow and spread her legs. “I know what will get into you,” Buffy hinted as her fangs grew.
“No, Buffy, don’t bite,” Willow tilted Buffy’s head up. At the question she could recognize in even these yellow eyes, she explained. “Not yet. I actually do want to shower with you now. Later, after the shower, I want you to feed from me.”
Buffy half growled and half smiled at the suggestion. The effect sent a visible chill of desire through Willow. Buffy smiled and relented. The demon withdrew but the intent and passion remained. Buffy leaned forward while she pulled at Willow’s hips and slid her towards the edge of the seat. Her tongue dove in and ran up from her opening to her clit. Buffy closed her lips then, sucking and teasing Willow with her tongue. The onslaught was rapid and intense. She pressed two fingers into Willow and started moving them in time with caressing Willow’s clit. It didn’t take long. The earlier climax they experienced together already had Willow at the edge. Buffy held her still, not letting her fall off the seat and rode the waves until they softly ended. Buffy sat back on her knees, smug smile firmly in place.
* * *
Xander and Cordelia were seated on the long side of the couch that faced the living space. Well, Xander was seated at one end and Cordelia was laying across the couch facing him, leaning against one arm, her lower legs and feet sitting on his lap. She figured if she had to be touching him, the least she could hope for was a foot massage. It hadn’t happened yet. He was being a decent sport about it though. She had drank a few glasses of water and a few mugs of coffee and with that and the ‘nip ‘o the dog’ from earlier, she was feeling pretty good now. At least the headache was gone. His story was as bad as her own. He didn’t just tell her how he lost his eye. He filled her in on some other things. Not the whole stories, just the highlights. But it was enough to get the idea. She was beginning to think their turning into vampires was the least that had happened to them.
“This sucks! All of it. God, it just makes me want to drink again.” Cordelia concluded when it seemed the catching up was done.
“Well you can,” Xander offered. “We do. We have plenty. Or we did before you and Buffy got to it last night. But it doesn’t have to suck. Second chance remember? You’re free.” Xander paused for a moment. “Well, I guess for us, it does still suck. But in a different way.” He flashed her a goofy smile.
She just looked at him in disbelief. Memories clashing with ironies and realities. He was going to give her another headache. She just shook her head. “You still make those lame jokes I see.”
“Hey!” Xander protested and tickled the feet on his lap. He had been waiting for his moment to strike.
Cordelia squealed and jumped up off the couch. “Okay, I’m going to the bathroom to get myself presentable.”
* * *
Giles was again seated at the desk, mumbling and occasionally cursing over the translation of Marcus the Mad Monk’s journal. A notepad with relevant and significant passages quoted rested on the desktop nearby, depressingly scarce of ink. Giles leaned the final distance forward and started pounding his head gently on the book. “I’m going to go mad!”
Jenny looked across the room and smiled indulgently. Yes, he had a glass of scotch on the desk already, but he wasn’t at it constantly. Yes, he was researching something she was uncomfortable contemplating, but she was uncomfortable with most things right now. Besides, when he got like this, he looked so much like the roguish and adorable librarian she remembered. She guessed she must look something like her old self as well at the moment. Jenny was laid back along the sofa, her new laptop rested against her bent knees. She was trying to catch up to technology’s sprint since she’d been gone. Giles had been indulgent as ever; buying her everything she wanted to try or could possibly need. Her ignorance felt foreign and unsettling as the salespeople patiently explained what seemed like a whole new dialect of a native language. New hardware, new software, new slang, new ways of doing things, new possibilities… it was amazing what had happened in only a few years and it was now a blessed escape. It was just similar enough she felt she was on solid footing, but the differences were in all the details each step of the journey she took. She was remembering her love for this: the possibilities it held, the power of information, the community and communication. She just never imagined it could grow so wide, so fast and so visual. Or that its instruments could get so small. Jenny closed the laptop, sat up and rubbed her eyes. “Then we’ll go mad together. All this new technology. I feel like I’m chasing a white rabbit around the web.” She got up, stood behind him and started to rub his shoulders. “Rupert, hun, why don’t we both give this a rest. We can go out. There’s some more stuff I want to buy and while we’re out we can get some lunch.”
Giles sat up and back but let his head hang forward, still enjoying the shoulder rub. “You’re going to make me go to a computer store?”
Jenny smiled even if he couldn’t see her. “Only for a minute.”
He rose from the chair, turned in her arms and gave her a quick kiss. “That sounds lovely. The lunch out I mean, not the shopping.”
Jenny laughed. “I know what you meant.” They gathered their jackets and headed for the door. Before they could reach it a knock alerted them to someone on the other side. They looked at each other and Jenny took a moment to calm her heart and nerves again before she leaned forward and kissed Giles reassuringly on the cheek. “Go ahead and answer the door.”
Giles returned a moment later with a package in hand. “A delivery. I had found… um… what I believe might be a better translation of the journals of Marcus.” He stepped from foot to foot, unsure how to ask if he could beg off of going out; to say he would rather stay and start in. His eyes kept returning to the package in his hands. His mind starting to list the entries he would like to look up first.
Jenny wanted to laugh at the sight. She also wanted to cry. In the end, she relented. “Stay, start.” When she noticed his eyes focus on her and doubt cloud the initial spark, when he moved to set down the package unopened; she stopped him. Jenny kissed him slow and deep. When it ended, they were both breathing hard. “It’s okay. I’m in love with a book geek. I can still go out to lunch and the computer store, right?” Her smile was disarming.
Giles smiled back, a rakish glint in his eyes. “Of course. I’m in love with a computer geek aren’t I?”
“You better be,” Jenny emphasized with a quick kiss then left.
* * *
Buffy ran a soapy cloth down Willow’s back. She was enjoying the feel of the endless hot water against her own as well. Once they had both recovered enough to stand, the shower became just a shower: with a little help from a friend. “I wonder how Xander and Cordy are getting along.” Buffy mused as she ran the cloth over Willow’s butt and down the back of her thigh.
Willow spread her legs a little and planted her feet more firmly. She glanced back over her shoulder. “Are you worried? I guess this does have the potential to be a short housemate experiment.”
Buffy ran the cloth up the back of the other leg. “No, not worried. Not like that.” She turned Willow around and placed the cloth in her hand. Then turned around herself. “I’m just curious. Are they fighting like they used to? Are they ignoring each other? What?”
Willow took the hint and began cleaning Buffy’s back. “Bigger question. Are we going to behave ourselves now downstairs? I mean with the sex and nudity and all. We do tend to ignore clothing and stuff during the day. And sex, or at least, well, this, just being with each other, touching each other, is a big part of how we spend our days; get through our days. Are we really going to give that up?”
Buffy turned around and faced Willow. She took her in her arms and kissed her. “No.”
“No?” Willow’s puzzled smile lit her face.
“It’s our home. We’re not giving anything up.” Buffy set the washcloth down on the shower seat and simply held Willow in her arms under the spray. “I already talked to Cordy about it. She can go out. She can go to her room. She can watch.” Buffy pulled back a little to look into Willow’s eyes and smirked. “She might end up liking to watch.”
Willow shook her head and leaned it on Buffy shoulder. “Great. If anyone had even suggested that this would happen in high school…”
“We would have all secretly entertained the visuals many times,” Buffy finished. “Well, except for the vampire part. We would have been horrified at the vampire part.”
Willow started laughing. “I don’t know. I had the memory and visual of my vampire part remember. I would have probably been horrified at the sex part.”
“I don’t buy it.” Buffy protested. This felt good: holding Willow, running her hands down her back, the hot water pelting both of them, the connection filling the cold void, the memories so easily recalled that bound them. Sometimes the day with Xander and Willow felt as good as the night. She understood so clearly now why Willow did what she did after being turned. The anger was gone, the betrayal of fate relegated to the landfill corner of her mind where she kept all her disappointments. This… this was right. She felt free and even happy, finally. “Willow, I know you fantasized. You’ve already admitted as much.”
“So did you,” Willow accused. “You’ve admitted it, too.”
Buffy laughed. “Yes, I did. That’s my point, remember? Would have secretly entertained the visuals? You know who else has admitted to high school fantasies? Xander.”
“Well, duh.” Willow traced a finger randomly over Buffy’s chest. “Why the sudden talk of high school fantasies? Did Cordy admit to anything last night? It looked like you guys had quite a party.”
“No, nothing like that.” Buffy paused for a moment to try and recall the whole rest of the night. Drinking might not give her a hangover, but it still got her drunk. “Not that I can remember at least. She needed to get drunk. I helped out. The talk we had was before all that though. So, I know she remembers it. And the liking to watch has something to do with a ghost watching her in L.A. I don’t know. L.A. will make ya kinky.”
“That’s something I don’t want to think about. Kink and Cordelia.” Willow shuddered in Buffy’s arms.
“Really?” Buffy pressed.
Willow paused to think about it a little. She searched for some feeling as she considered the idea of Cordelia watching them or even the image of Cordelia in leather with a whip. Nothing. “Okay, at some point, my memories of old me and new me are going to have to reach some sort of agreement.”
Buffy smiled and kissed her. “Nah. I love you just as you are.”
Willow just closed her eyes and tried to let that sink in. “So, you never answered my question,” she suddenly changed the subject. “Why all the thoughts of high school fantasies?”
“Oh,” Buffy was pulled back to trying to figure that out herself. “I’m not sure. It just keeps coming up. Xander hinted at some yesterday morning. And now, here…” Buffy was getting an idea. A wonderfully dangerous idea. “I think we should do more than just admit it. I think we should tell each other. Or even try them.”
“Buffy…” It was Willow’s standard response when she wanted to warn Buffy off an idea but wasn’t sure how to yet and needed to buy herself some time. “There’s a reason why they’re kept secret. Telling just makes them icky and trying them is never as good as having them.” There, those were two very good reasons to give up this idea.
“They’re back from high school, they can’t be that bad.” Buffy reasoned back. “Plus, they’re from old human life. We’re different now. We’re not going to feel the same way about it.” Buffy went in for the kill. “Aren’t you curious what my actual fantasies about you were? Or Xander’s fantasies about you?”
“Buffy…” This time it was said in a pleading tone. “Be careful what we wish for comes to mind, but alright… spill.” Willow relented.
Buffy laughed. She knew she would win. “No, not like that. Later.”
“With what? Candles and chocolates?” Willow slapped Buffy on the arm. “You’re so mean.”
“No, I just mean, confessing in the moment,” Buffy tried to explain. “Besides, I’m getting tired of the shower.” They turned off the water and stepped out. “There is one moment I want to explore with Xander.”
“What’s that?” Willow ran a towel over herself. She briefly considered taking over the job of toweling Buffy dry then gave it up. Their morning routines would go faster if they each did their own thing.
Buffy wrapped the towel around her body and started to brush her hair. “You remember when he did that Cordelia will love me spell and instead all the women except Cordy fell in lust with him?’
“Of course.” Willow started on her own hair. Later, they would check each other to make sure it looked alright.
“Well, remember it was me, in the library, wearing nothing but a raincoat and coming close to undoing the sash.” Buffy paused then to brush her teeth. She knew it would frustrate Willow.
“Buffy…” Willow gave the warning tone before she, too, started brushing her teeth.
Buffy smiled. ‘The more everything in their world was upside down…’ she pondered for a moment. “I just want to know how the story of sash pulling ended. Cause you know he thought of one. Just cause he stopped me from doing it, doesn’t mean he didn’t imagine me doing it.”
“Well, that’s true.” Willow realized. “I’m not even sure I could have stopped you from doing it. So, you know, don’t be mad at him for what he thought about.” Willow took Buffy’s hands and led her back to the bed.
“Mad?” Buffy let herself be led, wondering what Willow had in mind now. “I’m not going to be mad. I want him to tell me so I can do it.” She grinned mischievously.
Willow shook her head and then pulled Buffy down with her onto the bed. She hadn’t forgotten her own plan for this morning. “First,” she licked the fresh bite marks on Buffy’s neck. “I want you to feed from your Sire. I want to feel you, Buffy.”
The effect was sudden. The demon leapt to the fore as Buffy climbed on top of Willow. Buffy’s knee bent to press her leg between Willow’s. Her hand reached possessively onto Willow’s breast. Her fangs cut Willow’s tongue and lips as they kissed. Willow’s demon side jumped approvingly into the fray and turned the tables. Willow tossed Buffy over and rolled on top. Sitting up, she raked her nails down Buffy’s chest. Then Willow relented, remembered, bent forward and offered her neck to Buffy. The bond hummed and buzzed between them and the sting of fangs slipped in and blood was pulled slowly out. They had gotten better at control, still, each time… They clung to each other; tried to slow it down; make it last. Too soon, as Buffy felt Willow start to relax and go limp, she slipped her fangs from her neck and rolled her back onto the bed. It wasn’t too much. She just needed to rest for a moment. Buffy lay still and felt the buzz hum in her body, let the Sire’s blood fill and strengthen her as nothing else could. As her mind wandered and plotted how to make Xander give up his secret, her thoughts faded to black and she fell into sleep.
* * *
Cordelia exited the bathroom. She felt a little better. The headache was gone. There was just a dull, queasy throb in her body now. She thought maybe food might help, though it was hard to tell since the actual feeling of hunger had yet to return to her. She was dressed again in the same clothes. The only things she was left with, still possessed from her life before. She only just now noticed their wrinkled state after two nights sleep, the smell of their lived in condition. But her face was washed. Her hair and teeth were brushed. Her mind was just a little clearer and calmer. She had a to-do list for the day: some shopping. Cordelia raised her arms and stretched, then really looked around the living space. They had good taste; she had to give them that. A little Euro-trendy but high end. Stark and sparse: there wasn’t even a collection of faux personal decorative showroom knickknacks on the shelves. A blank slate: for all of them.
Cordelia crossed over around the couch and began to pick up the mess from the night before. Xander leaned against the wall beside the TV and watched. Cordelia was doing her best to ignore him and his smirk.
“You know, when you’re done with that, we have some laundry that needs to be done,” Xander none too subtly suggested.
“No,” Cordelia stated firmly as she passed by him on the way to the kitchen and the trash.
“No?” Xander followed slowly.
“Yes, no.” Cordelia emptied the trash from her arms and turned to the cupboards to put away the half empty snack bags. “Buffy tried as much last night suggesting I could do some cleaning. I’m not going to be your guys’ house girl.” She closed the cupboard doors and turned around.
Xander smiled at her surprised intake of breath when she found she was suddenly face to face with him. “You’re not?”
Cordelia pushed him away as she tried to back up and out the other side of the kitchen. Xander grabbed her arms on reflex. His grip wasn’t hard, but she wasn’t getting away. His face hadn’t changed, in fact his eye softened some and as Cordelia saw that she relaxed. The more she relaxed, the more his grip lessened until he released her. They stood facing each other, barely understanding.
“Your heart’s racing,” Xander whispered.
“Yeah, well, you snuck up on me,” Cordelia ended the standoff, whatever it was, by slapping Xander on the shoulder and finally backing away and getting that space she needed. She turned and left the kitchen; more comfortable in the open space of the main living area. She turned back towards Xander. “Look, I’ll clean up after myself, but if this other thing is a condition of my living here…”
“It’s not,” Xander interrupted her. “Can’t blame a guy for trying though, right?”
Cordelia ignored that. “I’m getting some clothes for Buffy and Willow, do you want anything? I promise, I won’t go crazy or be mean.”
Xander laughed. “I remember your first attempts at dressing me.” At Cordelia’s continued look, he relented. “I don’t want anything but Buffy and Willow would probably want you to get something, so go ahead. After Anya, I just gave up and gave in.”
Cordelia wisely didn’t comment on that. “I’ll need the car keys and some way to pay for it all.”
Xander deemed it was safe to leave the kitchen. He handed Cordelia Buffy’s purse. “Credit cards. Pretty sure there’s cash. Keys. The ID will look enough like you for all the attention anyone gives it anyway. Just don’t get pulled over.”
“Gee thanks.” Cordelia was suddenly a little nervous about her day of retail therapy.
“I’m sure Willow will have an all new you set up in no time complete with ID and plastic all your own.” Xander led her to the elevator door. “Don’t worry. Maps are in the car. There’s a mall just north of here. You know no-one ever looks at these things. Just remember the new name.”
“New name?” None of this was actually helping Cordelia’s nerves but she wanted out of the loft. She wanted to do something and this was perfect: easy and productive. She could shop on autopilot.
“Joan Morte.” Xander gave her the last of what he thought she needed to know and hit the button to open the elevator door. “We’ll fill you in later. I guess there’s still a lot of that. But soon Buffy and Willow are gonna come down here. So, if you’re gonna go, you might want to go now.”
“Yeah, what’s taking them so long?” Cordelia suddenly thought to wonder.
“Do you really want to know?” Xander answered with a smirk.
“Gods! Never mind.” Cordelia waved him off and stepped onto the elevator. “Thanks.”
Xander watched the elevator door close then wandered over and sprawled on the side of the couch that faced the TV. He channel flipped as he waited for the ladies to join him.
* * *
Jenny meant to go downtown to what was becoming her favorite Thai restaurant and then do some shopping. But as soon as she hit the sidewalk, she found herself walking down Cornwall Ave. towards Holly St., towards Railroad, towards where she knew Buffy, Willow and Xander spent the day. She considered as she walked about the deceit. Why she snuck out last night. Why she didn’t bring it up in the light of day. She couldn’t form a reason and she prayed it wasn’t a condition. The high school across the street distracted her. It was less foreboding in the light. The school year was out and it was shuttered and empty. Still, she wrapped her arms around herself and picked up the pace and with a decided effort, shoved all thoughts to the back of her mind.
Railroad was as busy during the day as it was at night. The clubs were closed but the vintage clothing and thrift stores were open. The expanse of parking provided a public lot for the surrounding businesses. A man almost bumped into her and apologized quickly as she was stopped at the corner waiting for the light to cross. People. Crowds of people. She was still getting used to the noise and the energy of it. Jenny focused on her breathing, crossed Railroad when she could and quickly walked up the hill to the quieter streets. She stopped for a moment to catch her breath; to find her center. It was an old part of town just up the hill from the docks on the bay. Small businesses in low buildings. Brick, decorative awnings, big display windows; it was simple, on the street parking; this is for the locals part of town. Scattered through the area, a block here, a block over, there were larger buildings: an old warehouse or factory. Jenny didn’t look for their building yet. She looked around. It was a warm morning. The sun was bright. She could hear the birds over the muted sound of car traffic and the far off sound of ship traffic. She could smell the sea and the fresh wild that was always present on the wind here. She looked up over the rest of the hill and peeked between the buildings until she spotted the mountain. Mount Baker. Snow and glaciers beamed as the Cascade Range peaked and dipped across either side. It always stole her breath to see the mountain; the whole range. They lived so close. It was so beautiful, this volcano. So dangerous. It could destroy them all one day. Until then, it just remained a stalwart, eternal witness.
Jenny felt much more centered now. The building wasn’t far and she strolled down the street. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do once she was there. She was sure she wasn’t going to knock on the door to try to go inside. Standing around and staring at the building seemed like a waste of time. None of this was planned. She didn’t even know why she felt compelled to come in the first place. Turning back for the original plan of lunch and computer shopping was beginning to take over her thoughts. She almost didn’t notice the movement in time and ducked quickly into the doorway of a nearby storefront. Through the outcropping of display windows she watched Cordelia exit the building, get into a car and drive away. ‘It’s daytime. Cordelia was definitely out in the daylight,’ Jenny thought as she straightened up and stepped back onto the sidewalk. ‘The bond. It must be the god-damn bond.’ Jenny postponed most of her plans for the day and resigned herself to this destined bit of reconnaissance. ‘Buy a book back at that book store. There’s a sandwich shop just up there. I can have lunch, read and watch ‘em from the window.’ She put her new plan in motion.
* * *