This piece is dedicat'd with warm regard to Mistress Niccy , who's kind words and fondness of this couple is a source of inspiration to the Authorness, who is much oblig'd.
Xander pulled into the school parking lot, parking slightly askew.
What am I doing here? He wondered. Why do I let myself in for it?
He knew what was going to happen. Willow was going to look at him with that liquid hurt puppy gaze and her voice full of silent reproach. Which would make him completely crazy in a way that he really couldn't say anything about. What could he say? And Buffy would be all guilty and wanting to rescue Faith and averting her eyes from his neck. Dammit, he knew telling the others about Faith was a bad idea. They didn't get it. Of course, neither did he at the time. At least not until Faith's fingers closed off his breath and he'd seen red stars explode.
Xander drummed his fingers on the steering wheel for a while more. God, he wished he had someone to talk to. He felt sick inside. Used. He could only think of one thing that had made him feel worse. Well, two things...maybe three. Finding his Dad crashed through the glass coffee table in the living room when he was ten. His dad had been drinking and passed out. He zonked out still in the pieces; too wasted to realize he was bleeding. His Mom, keeping cool, had jerked down the curtain to wrap around Dad's arm and they'd gotten him to the hospital. His Dad had woken up later with no clue what had happened.
The second had been turning on his friends when he'd been possessed by the hyena spirit. He'd been heartless, even cruel to Willow and tried to attack Buffy. He still had a flush of shame whenever he thought about that. That and eating the pig, of course. That wasn't just shameful, it was really revolting.
The third was watching his girlfriend turn away from him with her eyes full of pain. Running from him after finding him in Willow's arms. Crashing through the floor and spearing herself on a length of iron. The look on her face in the hospital, the hurt in her eyes and the emptiness in her voice as she told him to stay away from her.
Finally, he made himself move and get out of the car. Locking the door, he turned and started across the lot. Maybe Giles would be there and wouldn't mind talking. The new guy could try to keep Buffy from being with Giles every second, but he had no authority over Xander. He could talk to Giles if he wanted too. Of course, this was assuming that Giles would like to talk to him, which Xander wasn't entirely convinced of. But he could try.
He kept looking around the parking lot. Lots of things could be in the twilight. All he could see was a few girls heading to their cars.
He didn't see Cordelia until he crashed into her. Her athletic bag hit the ground and she staggered. She was wearing bike shorts and a loose tshirt. Her dark hair was pulled in a ponytail. Great, he'd arrived just when cheerleading practice was breaking up. His timing was still unsurpassed.
"Hey! Watch where you're going! Oh, I should have known." She said with toss of her head. "Off on another life or death donut run? No, wait, now I know it seemed awfully quiet and peaceful today. You skipped didn't you? So, all slept up for another night of reading about things you can't pronounce? If you're lucky maybe Buffy will pat on the head and say good boy."
Xander breathed deep. "You know, Cordelia, you should really work on the shower to shower after practice. Or is that smell just your personality seeping through your pores?"
Her shoulders squared and her mouth opened in outrage. Xander smiled internally at his score. It was a cheap shot, but hey, he was a bit run down. He waited for her scorching comeback. He was tired, and frankly he didn't really want to fight with her. But at least she was treating him normally, or well, normally for the moment, which was pissed off and antagonistic. Then she cocked an eyebrow. "What's the deal with your voice?"
"You don't sound right. What's up with that? Are you..." She swallowed the question, but it still hung in the air. She'd been about to ask if he was okay. He was thrown off his mark. She couldn't actually care, could she? Flustered, he reached up to the neckline of his turtleneck and pulled it down for a second. The row of bruises was visible and ugly. She gasped. "Oh, my god, Xander! What happened?" She reached out a hand to touch him. He jerked away.
"Look, don't act like you care okay? I'm not up for it. If you could have traded places with her, I'm sure you would have. Maybe next time you'll get your shot." He snapped.
For the barest second, she looked like he'd slapped her in the face. Then her face and body turned cold. "Alright, fine. I don't care. Just if there's another psycho monster on the loose try to let someone else know. I'd like not to get fed to it." She swung angrily and grabbed her bag. She stormed to her car in long, angry strides.
Before he could really think, Xander loped after her. "Cordy!"
She tossed her bag into the back seat and turned to him, crossing her arms. "What?"
"I'm sorry. Look, I'm kinda messed up right now. I could..." he stuttered. " I mean, I need..." She looked at him warily.
Come on, Xander, he told himself. Swallow the pride...it can't be any worse that what happened with Faith. "I need to talk to somebody."
"What about them?"
"They're uh, they're part of the mess-up." He looked at her. "Cordy, please?"
For an eternity of seconds, she looked into his eyes. Slowly her hand went down to the console on her door and unlocked the passenger door. She shrugged and got in the car. He scrambled in. Without another word, she drove off.
She unlocked the back door and walked in first. Xander followed and closed the door. He glanced around. "Are your folks around?"
"No. They're out of town. I figured you might want some privacy. Are you hungry?" Cordelia asked, her voice wary and subdued.
"Uh, yeah...got anything soft?" He pointed to his neck.
Xander didn't speak as Cordy poured potato soup out of a jar into two soup mugs. She zapped them in the microwave and sprinkled cheese and bacon on the top. She handed him his and scooped up a sleeve of crackers.
"Wanna go upstairs?" She asked.
"Yeah. That would be good. Uh, thanks." Xander let her lead the way upstairs to her room. He looked at the bed and swallowed. He was tired and it would be good to stretch out...but would that be a bit too much? God, he felt uncomfortable. "Uh, Cordy?" He jerked his head to the bed. "Do you mind?"
"No, go ahead."
Xander sat on the bed, stretching his legs out and balancing the soup on his stomach. It was warm and felt comforting. They ate in silence. Finally, Cordy took the empty bowls and put them on her dresser. "It was good, Cordy. Thanks."
"Yeah, I open a good jar." She said with mild sarcasm. Cordy walked to the window and looked out, crossing her arms. "You said you wanted to talk...so talk."
"Okay...uh, where to start." Xander rocked back his head and closed his eyes. "Faith killed some guy."
"There's a shock. My God, stop! The room is spinning. Xander, Faith kills guys all the time." Cordy sat on the window seat.
"No, no, you don't get it. A guy guy. An ordinary guy. That mayor's guy on the news. Faith stabbed him with a stake. She and Buffy were on the slay and Faith hit him by mistake."
"Oh, my God." Her voice became serious.
"Buffy was right there when it happened. She couldn't stop her. Now Buffy's all freaked out."
"I don't blame her. How are they going to deal with Faith? They aren't going to put her in jail are they?"
"That's the thing. Faith doesn't want to deal. She just wants to run away and blow it off."
"Oh, color me surprised."
Xander looked at her, confused.
"Look, Xander, I know you have this whole sanctity of all things Slayer, but Faith isn't Buffy, okay. Look, she's a dropout and a runaway and that all happened before she got the job call. When her Watcher got killed, she didn't call anybody, she just bailed, showed up here and lied about it. And then tried to impress us with how bad ass she is. She doesn't deal with things. She just goes wild, drops in and smashes things up." She sighed. "No wonder somebody got hurt. I'm just glad it wasn't one of us."
Xander stared at Cordy. It was easy to forget how bright she was.
Cordelia got off the window seat and moved to the corner of the bed. "And don't tell me the next part. Buffy's all guilty and thinks it's her fault, right?"
"Well..." Xander looked at his shoes.
"Yeah. I figured. Xander...come on. She did the same thing with Angel. It wasn't her fault Angel went psycho. She didn't know, neither did he, for what it's worth. But come on, how long did she beat herself up? She almost got herself killed trying to fight him when she had the flu cause she felt so guilty. Look, I know she's the Chosen One and that's important, but she isn't everything. Not everything that happens is her deal."
"You're right. I never thought about it like that. She's just been so wrapped up in wanting to save Faith from herself...I didn't think about it." He let himself slide down the headboard a little. "Faith tried to pin it on Buffy. She went to Giles and told him Buffy killed the guy."
Cordelia snorted. "Giles didn't buy that, did he?"
Xander made an inarticulate noise. Cordelia scores insight number two.
"Xander, you know Buffy's not my favorite person, okay? But with the whole Slaying thing she knows what she's about. How many times has she really had to twist it all out to make sure one of us didn't get hurt?" Cordy shook her head. "Buffy's too careful to accidentally kill someone. Xander, you went patrolling with her more often then we had dates. You know that she watches herself. Giles really taught her on that score." She stared at the bedspread. "If you tell her this I'll hurt you. But sorry, if Faith says it was Buffy, I say it's bullshit."
Xander smiled. "No, Giles didn't buy it either."
Suddenly, Cordy sat up very straight and looked intensely at him. "Your neck! Did Faith do that to you?"
"Uh, yeah. Yeah, she did."
"Oh, and I suppose that was an accident, too?" She declared sarcastically, crossing her arms.
Xander fidgeted. "No. No, it wasn't."
"God! Xander! She must have completely lost it!" Cordy looked shocked. She took two steps to the bed and stopped short.
Xander stared, dumbstruck. She was actually upset! Over him getting hurt! Over him!
She sat on the other side of the bed. Gingerly, just on the edge, but closer to him. Her eyes were wide and filled with conflict. "Why! Why, would she do that to you? Has she gone psycho like Angel did?"
"I...I don't know. She was so mad at what I was saying and then she stopped listening and then she accused me of just...of just coming back for...more, and I told her she was wrong about that, that I was concerned that I wanted to help her, and she got even madder and then..." It came out in a rush, the words falling out of him. Cordelia stiffened.
"Coming back for more?" She asked, slowly. "More of what?" Her arms pulled around her, like she was trying to block herself from his words.
Inwardly, Xander sighed. He'd hoped to avoid mentioning that part. It was bad enough that everyone else knew. Now, Cordy too? He'd never live this down.
"Uh, yeah...she thought...it was...uh...sex...more of, um, sex." Xander looked down at his lap. He felt the bed shift as she turned away from him.
"You had sex with Faith?" Her voice sounded hollow. "Was this before we.."
"No! NO! No, no! You don't understand Cordelia. No, this was after we...broke up. Around the time I got my Uncle's car." He reached out a hand to touch her. He felt her shoulder, stiff under his fingers. "It was weird. Almost all a blur, really. She was cornered by some vamps and I helped get her out. She was hurt, so I got her back to her place. Then she, well, and I, and we, well...and then it happened. Uh, and then she, um, threw me out."
Cordelia turned around and blinked at him. "She threw you out? You had to help save her from vampires and then she threw you outside alone? Is she just completely insane?" Anger flushed her features again. "Was this was part of her hungry and horny after slayage stuff? She just run out of batteries for the personal massager and you were handy? And don't tell me, you thought she might care a little?"
"I kinda hoped. I really thought she knew that I was her friend. I mean, I wouldn't have...otherwise." Xander knew it sounded lame. And yet, she was indignant for him. For him! She didn't automatically think it was his hormones in overdrive, like everyone else seemed to.
Cordelia jumped off the bed. "Why, Xander, why? I know I can be a bitch, but I've never treated you that bad! Was it the sex? Was that what you really wanted? Did Willow not want to go that far? I mean, if you wanted that why didn't you just ask me? Huh? Maybe, I would have, maybe I wanted.." Tears filled her eyes and she turned away to the dark window.
Xander launched himself up and came next her and turned her to him. She tried to pull back, but it was feeble. "No! Cordy!"
She stared at him, tears running down her face.
"Uh, I mean, yes! I mean, yeah, I wanted sex, but that wasn't why I was with you! Not that I didn't want sex with you! God, this doesn't make any sense! It was like Willow turned into a new person, one I'd never seen before...and I wasn't thinking, and I was afraid...I don't really understand it...but I was going to stop it! If Spike hadn't got us, it would have stopped and you and Oz wouldn't have found out, but there's some kinda karma thing that happened and I blew it, Cordy it was my fault. No, you didn't treat me that bad! You were very loyal and beautiful and you made me feel so many things that I didn't know I could and I just knew I'd end up screwing it up somehow." He paused for breath. "With Faith, it just happened. I didn't plan it. I liked it, I'd be lying if I said I didn't...I don't wish that it hadn't happened. I just wish, it had been with you..." His voice hitched in his throat and he knew he'd be blubbering soon, but he had to get this out, get her to see. "Because even if you hated me afterwards it would have meant something to you! It would have mattered. It didn't matter to Faith. I didn't matter. I was nothing, not even her friend...I was less than a loser, I was nobody, just something better to do than to unwind with the TV, and she'd have killed me, Cordy rather than let me matter, than let me care about her about what happens to her, and it was so empty...like I wasn't even real."
Cordelia flung her arms around him. She was hugging him tight and he wrapped his arms back and buried his face in her hair. He was crying, she was crying, and he finally wasn't alone.
His lips found hers and he tasted salt as he kissed her. She kissed him back, flinging her arms around his neck. It was the same as it always was, whenever he kissed her. The rest of the world was gone, there was only her breath, her taste, her warmth and her smell. She was the whole of his senses. Kissing her was the most wonderful thing he'd ever known.
She pulled back a little and looked into his eyes. "You're right. Even if I hated you afterward, it would still have mattered to me."
"I did want you, Cordy. I did."
"Do you still want me now?" She asked.
"What?" He couldn't have heard that right.
"Now. Here. Me...me." She whispered.
Xander stared at her, his jaw dropping.
"I just want it...to matter to you, too." She kissed him, very gently.
He kissed her back with a swallowed sound and a snuffle of escaping emotion. He pulled her into his arms and held her tight. They found their way back to the bed and fell together, tangling, grasping, touching, and sharing in a hundred kisses. The pushed at each other's clothing, caressing. The bedclothes became wrapped around them.
Xander couldn't help but realize how different it was this time. Before he'd felt overwhelmed, caught up in Faith's spell, letting himself be directed, feeling like he was being dragged along a wild current. This was nothing like that. This was a passion reaching to his own, like a flow of energy passing back and forth between them, and ebb and flow. Each giving, each reaching, each sharing.
Cordelia gasped and arched to every touch. She kissed his skin hungrily and without reserve. Her hands ran over his chest, his back, his butt and his legs. His hands ran over her breasts, her nipples rising. He ran his face over her, his faint beard rasping her skin lightly. He kissed her nipples, then sucked and nipped. His hands moved under the tangled sheet and found her bike shorts and pulled them off. Her fingers found his belt.
He tried to pull the bedclothes away, but was distracted by her hands on his dick. He moaned into her dark hair as she moved his pants and underwear out of the way and freed him. Her hand stroked him, at first gently, then with more confidence. He let his fingers find her panties and pull them away. Then he felt her vulva for the first time.
God, she's so soft!
He touched lightly, taking care with the delicate skin. She was moist and warm.
She made a little mewling sound and kissed him again. Shifting his position, he was over her. Her hand around him guided him. He slid into her body slowly, trying to be careful. She was like honey and velvet all around him. She gasped, in pleasure or pain, he couldn't tell. He stopped. At her nod, he pushed more and finally was all the way in. Her legs arched around his own. She relaxed a bit as her body adjusted. She kissed him.
It was the most incredible feeling.
Pleasure flooded his senses. He felt consumed by touches, by thrusts, by kisses. He wanted to stay forever here, in this moment of joy with her. Her lower body pressed against him and her back arched with her climax. He thrust harder, faster, reaching out, gasping her name. He lost himself, and collapsed on top of her, holding her.
He moved off to the side and she kissed him. Without a word, she rolled on her side and snuggled into his arms. He dozed off with her in his arms.
He had no idea what time it was when he awoke. He glanced at the raven tressed girl in his arms and the time didn't matter. She hadn't left him while he slept. She was still here.
"Hmm?" She murmured.
"Forgive me? Please?" He whispered.
"I..." Her voice was instantly alert. "I don't know, Xander. I don't know if I can. I loved you."
"I know. I'm sorry. I fucked it all up. I loved you. I don't think I understood it then...I don't even think I knew until...until you were hurt."
She looked at him and swallowed. She rolled on her back and finally pushed the sheet away.
The scar was a short, vicious indentation. It was still reddish, standing out against the smooth skin. It was ugly, a testament to pain. He reached out to touch it, curling his fingers back when she flinched. "Oh, Cordelia." He whispered. "Oh, Cordy."
"It's so ugly."
"It is. But you aren't. You're still beautiful. You'll always be beautiful, Cordy."
"I don't feel beautiful. I feel ugly and hard and brittle, all the time. I get so angry, Xander. I felt alone before I had you...and now it's a thousand times worse, because I can't even pretend that my 'friends' like me for myself." She gave a sigh. "It's just now my outside matches my inside."
"No. You're better than those morons, even at your worst. You were right, Cordy, they are all just sheep. You're more than that." Xander struggled to find words, and his vocabulary was vanishing. "You were our friend, Cordy. A real one. We miss you. I miss you. Please, forgive me. Come back. I want us to be together again, but I can deal if you don't. But please..."
"Okay. I'll try. That's all I can say now." She looked at him. "You really hurt me." It was a simple statement, not a reproach.
"Yeah...I did. I'm so sorry, Cordy."
"I believe you."
His fingers traced her face, and he kissed her cheek. He felt her hand rest over his heart and he finally felt safe again.
He went back to sleep.