An Interesting Night
by Pat Kelly

Cordelia had been sitting on the couch in her vampire boss' hotel/office, glancing at her watch every, oh, thirty seconds. She had been waiting to hear from Wesley and Gunn for almost an hour and a half now. Angel had gone to the address the Host gave him with Darla, to go through a 'trial thing' to save his ancient, ex-lover's life. That was four hours ago. Angel hadn't called or anything, so they had no idea if he was dead, if Darla was dead, if he had committed suicide, nothing. So Wesley and Gunn had gone searching, and now they were missing.

She was hurt, that's what it came down to. First, because he always pulled the "Boss Card." They weren't a normal business, and they were all much closer than an "employee-employer" relationship, and he knew that. Second, was because Angel thought he was alone.

Had he learned nothing from the previous year? He had a family to lean on. Sure she, Wesley, and now Gunn, might not understand everything he was going through, but they didn't mean couldn't listen. Couldn't be supportive. Though she would never be able to wrap her mind around the reason for his obsession with Darla. Well, if he explained she might.

She thought she and Angel had really formed a bond since they first met up in LA. Working for him had made her a better person, it really had. And every day they got to know each other, talk, she could see him becoming more and more open. They were both becoming more human. And she was very protective of him, half the time not even realizing she was doing it. She had to watch him struggle, beat himself up, and it was painful. Because he tried so hard. The Powers that Be were complete and total...a word she didn't want to think, because they gave her the visions.

She loved the guy. She had gotten over her lust for him a long time ago and cared for him in a way that was beyond explanation. She could never repay him for what he had done for her. Not only had she grown up significantly, but she also had a purpose now. She had a role in life. Her life meant something. Sure, her head hurt like hell pretty often, but it was worth it.

Wesley finished off their odd little group nicely. She couldn't forget him. After Doyle died, it was nice to have someone familiar around. Someone she knew and liked, pushing aside their romantic failure. They had a tendency to bicker and fight, but it was harmless and rooted in the "sibling" roles that had developed between them. He was a great guy. Funny and cute in a bumbling sort of way. He had some self-confidence issues, but he was improving. They all were. Though Angel seemed to keep reverting a little more each day.

Gunn was still trying to find his place. Her need to watch over him had come out of nowhere. That wasn't exactly true. She remembered one time, when she was about sixteen, she had gone with her parents to New York. They stayed at the fanciest, most expensive hotel, ate at the best restaurants, and they all had been basically shielded from the less fortunate New Yorkers. Until they had to go to this party.

It was a very elite, high-class event, and they were being driven there in a limousine. She was a Chase, and her father expected no less. They hit a bad spot of traffic, it was New York after all, and the driver had decided to take a detour so they wouldn't be late. The detour was essentially a look at the vagrants, drunk, homeless, poor, old and diseased. Some were on the sidewalk, just sitting; others had somehow made signs that asked for money or food.

Listening to her father's derogatory remarks (it was ironic that he was now, or close to, that same situation. She hadn't spoken to her family since before she left Sunnydale), she stared out the window looking at all the people that were beneath her with a mixture of snootiness and disgust. Thinking back, she was deeply ashamed of her ignorant, "better than everyone" attitude she had had.

Gunn hadn't been given a choice in the life he had. He was born with next to nothing. But he struggled and fought to make life better for everyone he cared about. He was far from the stereotypical bum image her parents had planted in her head. He wasn't lazy; he didn't give up. He was a survivor. There were times he "bent" the law, sure, but he was a good man. He fought against himself, much like Angel had done and was continuing to do. Seeing that and wanting to make up for her past, she had taken it upon herself to help him in any way she could.

Now she understood the Scooby Gang. Understood how Buffy must have felt having that circle as her backing. Cordelia never could quite fit in there, but she had her own now. She and Buffy had been exactly the same at one point, rich, snotty, tons of acquaintances, popular, and it wasn't until they moved out of those "false" environments that they learned what friends, family and life was all about.

And seeing Angel on a daily basis, she finally got why Buffy was always bogged down with him. Maintaining any kind of relationship with the vampire was hard work. All she wanted was his friendship, and she had fallen behind on the maintenance. She worked the first year to break through his shell of brooding and depression, and when the office blew up and they moved the office into her apartment, she felt she had succeeded.

It was steadily getting worse now. Back to his old habits multiplied by twenty or thirty, no, one hundred times. She couldn't even talk to him anymore. She had let it get this way. In all likelihood, he was close to dead or there already, and it was her fault. No, she couldn't think like that. But it seemed like she always had a permanent frown, because nothing was ever happy around the office anymore.

She checked her watch again. Then the phone rang. At last. She ran behind the counter, and answered it.

"Did you find him?" She didn't even bother with the 'Angel Investigations' automatic greeting.

"Huh? Cordy?"

The brunette's eyebrows arched. "Buffy?"

"Um...yeah. Hi. I'm sitting outside of your guys' building; pretty sure I am anyway, and it looks...remodeled. I didn't realize the 'Post-Graduation, Sunnydale High' look was in. I knew LA was strange, but...confused slayer here."

Cordelia had to grin. "You don't know the half of it. We moved. Had the phone company transfer the number here. Meant less we had to pay for the new business cards. Angel didn't tell you?"

"We haven't talked since...for awhile."

"I hear ya." She sighed. "Look, let me give you directions."

"What's it look like?"

"Oh, I don't think you'll miss it."


Cordelia watched her old...friend? Was that the word? No. More like, close acquaintance. She watched her close acquaintance walk through the doors from behind her usual position at the counter, immediately glancing around the spacious hotel. When Buffy's eyes met hers, the slayer walked up to her.

"Wow it's..."

"Big?" The brunette filled in. "Yeah, I get that a lot. I've told Angel that a nice, small office would be a hell of a lot cheaper. Half this place is still the Cobweb City it was when we moved in. Totally unused. But does he listen? No. He's got this long story why don't wanna know."

'He doesn't listen to me much at all, anymore.'

"Um...sure. Like your hair. It's more adultish. Nice."

"Thank you! Finally! Someone who doesn't take a week and a half to notice an obvious haircut."

"How can you not?"

"You're gonna tell this to Wesley when he gets back."

"So...where is everyone?" Cordelia frowned.

"I wanted to ask Angel something. Strictly business. I'll pay and everything."

"Great! That's great. We could use the money, only..."

"Only what?"

"I don't know where they are. I can't get through on their cell phones, and I..." She sighed. "Do you want some coffee? Then maybe you could tell me what's up. I've been covered by my fair share of vampire dust, demon vomit and innards, you know. And I'm not above slicing body parts. I could probably handle it." Buffy laughed a little, as the other girl went to the coffeepot. "Something funny?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. I just keep picturing -"

"The old me."

She nodded. "I mean, Willow's told me she's talked to you and how different you are, but until I came in here, I kinda didn't believe it. But just by looking at you I can tell you've changed."

"We all have."

"That's true. Even Xander." Cordelia looked as if she didn't believe that. "Anyway, good for you, Cordy. Really. I always knew there was more to you that people didn't get to see."

Homecoming sprang to Buffy's mind.

"Thanks." The brunette smiled.

"And if it was a simple demon killing job, I'd say let's go, but it's...more complicated than that."

Cordelia poured the coffee and headed to the couch. "Speaking of change, is everything okay at 'Home Sweet Hellhole'? Well, not that anything was ever okay there, but you look worn."

"You were always quick pointing out the obvious, weren't you?" Buffy half-smiled.

They sat.

"Were? How about are still? I did just say you were worn." Cordelia said, defending her skill. "Duh, Buffy."

"Some things do stay the same, then." Buffy said sarcastically.

"'Old me' and 'new me' have learned to share. So talk already."

The slayer sipped the black coffee. Which was just what she needed.

"I'll make you a deal. You tell me yours, and I tell you mine."

"My what?"

"Problems. Duh, Cordelia." She said in a tone mocking the ex- cheerleader's identical jibe, directed at her mere seconds ago.

"I don't have -"

"Come on. It's written all over your face. You're stressed. I can tell. Stress and I know each other really well. He's like one of those friends who comes to your house, eats all your food, makes a mess, and never leaves."

"Basically Xander."

Buffy narrowed her eyes. "Fine. I don't wanna know now."

Cordelia exhaled. "They're Angel problems. You don't wanna hear them. I know how you two get just talking about one another."

"I'm the expert on Angel problems. Broody Angel, Overprotective Angel, Wallowing Angel, Bad Angel..." She tied to be upbeat about it, but it wasn't working. "I'll always have a spot for him, but it doesn't hurt to talk about him like it used to."

"Maybe not, but I don't think you ever met Obsessed Angel."

"Uh, hello? Guy came in through my window and drew pictures and...oh no." She inhaled sharply. "He didn't -?"


"Oh. Good." That meat he hadn't found anybody else. Though she didn't want him to be lonely for etern -

"At least...not yet."

"What's going on?"

"You asked for it." Cordelia set down her cup, and prepared herself. "Hope you're comfortable."


Finishing her recount of the last couple months, Cordelia thought she could really use a drink. But seeing as Angel kept the only liquor cabinet locked, which was in his room, she couldn't. She was still a minor and he didn't want her drinking underage. He could be so much like a nagging older brother at times. Or what she imagined an older brother to be. Truth was, her parents practically forced her to drink wine "to be social" at parties.

She looked at the blonde for any sign of a reaction. Buffy cleared her throat.

"In my 'second-hand, not knowing his side and therefore not completely informed' opinion, I would've locked Darla in one of those little padded rooms and let her live the final two months of her life bouncing around in there. Slutty, psycho, syphilis-infested bitch." Buffy covered her mouth quickly. "My jealous side is evil."

Cordelia shook her head. "No, I enthusiastically second that idea."

"Vampires aren't supposed to come back, especially not as humans. That's just screwy. She was dead. Dead was good." She suddenly got serious. "He's losing it, isn't he?"

"Uh huh. And I don't get it. Wolfram and Hart are evil, plus their lawyers, so I'm on board with hating them and shutting them down, and I know Darla has a soul now or whatever, but he's taking it too far. He isn't acting like himself. He's Angelus-like. I can't deal with that again."

"He never got this crazy over me. Not when he was souled, anyway." Buffy was hurt by that, and even as frightening as Angel's recent attitude sounded, she couldn't hide it.

"He killed her for you the first time around. If it came down to a choice between you and...'insert gorgeous model, movie star or porn star here' he'd still pick you." Cordelia smirked, and then got a sad look on her face. "But it's not fair, you know? Everything he does for people, and they don't let him catch a break."

"No, it's not. He's the most moral, wisest, fairest, most sensitive guy in the world. And he's the best fighter the side of Good has. I don't even come close."

"Ruins every other member of the male species for you, doesn't it?"

Buffy exhaled. "Does it ever." She looked at Cordelia. "You care about him, don't you?"

"He's my friend. He...saved me. From LA." She chuckled. "I guess I was his first customer. And hey, I got it for free."

"I'm glad you're making it. You left without much of a warning, and I know you might not believe me, but I worried. If anybody could've made it, it was you. You knew what you wanted, and got the hell out. Wish I could do that." She coughed. "But I'm glad you're there for Angel. He needs it. And if you ever tell him any of this -"

"Girl Talk only." Cordelia promised. "I try to be. Lately I haven't been doing a very good job."

"You do the best you can."

"But is it enough?" Buffy had no answer for her. "Sunnydale time."

"It's not so much Sunnydale as it is me." She glanced at Cordelia's watch. "Right now, Glory is planning something huge, and I'm clueless as to what it is; right now, my boyfriend is probably calling the military behind my back and not being there for my friends when they go on patrol again; and right now, my mom is in her second hour of surgery to remove the tumor from her brain, and she could die," She snapped her fingers, "like that." Her eyes were glistening, but she was stopping the tears from falling.

"Oh my God." Cordelia was stunned.

"The doctors forced me to go home and sleep because they said the surgery was gonna take awhile, but I came here instead. Dawn is staying with Willow and Tara, and Giles said he'd stay at the hospital and beep me if anything happened. I wanted Angel to watch over Dawn if mom...Dawn needs to be protected."

"Okay, I don't know who Glory is, but she sounds like she has a superiority complex or is some kinda religious fanatic. And I don't know anything about your boyfriend. Well, just what Angel thinks of him. Was he really born a girl, but the doctors made a mistake?"

"Angel said -?"

"Getting back on track. I may not know anything about them, but I do know your mom. She'll make it. And why would Angel have to take care of your sister? You're not planning to do anything crazy, are you? I know I'm probably turning down a check by saying this...but be honest."

"Suicide? That's nuts." She tried to come off like it was the worst idea in the world, but she wasn't convincing.

"I know. That's why you shouldn't do it. People -"

"I can't lose her. You don't realize how much you really need someone in your life till it becomes a real possibility that you may never see them again. Or tell him how much you love them, or how glad you are that they raised you..."

"She's not going anywhere. Giles'll beep you, the surgery will be over, and she'll be fine. You'll go back to slaying, and everything'll be normal again."

There was a lump in Buffy's throat; the wall was about to break.

"Cordy, I...I want to be everything for everyone. Every day. I have to. Do you know what that feels like? Do you know the kind of responsibility that comes with that? They all look up to me. I'm supposed to have the answers. I'm strong. I'm invincible. I can do it. Anything they want. I can take out any demon. Even the one in her head. I have to. I want to. I have to. I have to."

She was shaking. Cordelia had never seen her like this. Ever. It was scary.

"Buffy. Let it out."

"No. I can't. I'm Buffy. The Slayer. I can't be weak. I have to stay in control. I have to live up to everybody's expectations. The world needs me to."

"Yeah, the world needs you, but it can wait a minute. I'm not the world. I don't even know the meaning of 'expectations.'" She smiled. "You need to let it out. Now. I won't think any less of you. I promise." The slayer was shaking her head. "Don't make me do this."

"Do what?" The slayer choked out, the layers being stripped away.

"Remember the last time you tried to go into the vault and throw away the key? You didn't take my advice, we all nearly got killed, and it was a very traumatic experience for me. I know you don't want that to happen again. So listen now. This isn't healthy. Just. Let. Go." There was no response. "Buffy!" She screamed, grabbing the smaller girl's shoulders and shaking her forcefully. It could get her a punch in the face, but it was necessary.

Immediately the flow began, and Buffy threw her arms around the girl. Sobs racked her body, and she crumpled. Cordelia held onto her, letting her release it all. And unlike her mini-breakdown in her kitchen back home, Buffy didn't fight the tears now that they had started.


It was a good five minutes before Buffy could see clearly again, and now she was in the deep, shuddering breaths stage. Cordelia had gotten up to grab some tissues. It had been a very bizarre experience for the both of them. Never in a million years did Buffy think she would open up to Cordelia of all people, and cry in her arms. Likewise, Cordelia never thought she would have gotten the slayer to open up, cry in her arms, and that she would actually comfort her.

Buffy sniffed as she accepted the tissues. "You were right. I needed that."

"Feel better?"

"Yeah, starting to. Thanks."

"It's what I do." Cordelia seemed to shrug it off. After all, she had done almost the exact same thing for dozens of other clients. Yet getting Buffy to, felt like an accomplishment. It had taken more than usual, and she was proud that she had been the one to bring it out.

"Make a lot of people cry?" Buffy smiled.

"Only at my auditions." She joked. "No, I mean people come in here, and most of them hold so much pain inside. Girls that have been raped, abused, guys that just watched their friend get shot...and even demons, they all have this complex about showing emotion. Even though they know they want to. I've seen and felt some horrible things, Buffy. If I can help them suffer a little less..." Cordelia trailed off.

"It was starting. She really didn't want to have to deal with one right now, but it wasn't like she had a choice.

"Wow. You're -" Buffy stopped herself when she saw Cordelia clench her eyes shut and reach for her head. The other girl was in physical pain, and she was losing her balance. Buffy rushed to catch her, and listened to her small scream. "What's happening?"

"After a second, Cordelia's eyes shot open, and she rubbed her forehead with a sigh.

"Can you get me the aspirin? Bottle's next to the coffeemaker." Buffy immediately went to get it. "I just told you I've seen and felt bad things, well, that's how. I'm kinda like 'Helpless Radar Girl'. I get visions, Angel goes and beats up the nasties, and we get paid. Or it used to work that way. Until -"

"Until Darla showed up." Buffy finished, handing Cordelia the bottle. "Does it hurt a lot?"

"Oh yeah." She was very clear and emphatic. "But you learn to deal. It's one of the 'perks' of working for a vampire with a higher purpose. That's what I keep telling myself."

"So what did you see?"

"Looked like a vampire and a Salar Demon. And that's bad news. They don't normally hang out. I'm not sure, but I think I saw hostages too."

"Shouldn't Angel -?"

"He's not here, and they need rescuing now. Wanna come? Slayer backup would be nice."

"Buffy nodded. "Where?"

"Some place shady. And that's what? Ninety-nine point nine percent of the city?" She cursed. "Damn visions! You can't choose when you want to be specific and then get lazy and be vague! Ever hear of a thing called 'consistency'? Whoever's in control up there -"

"Cordy," Buffy said calmly, "what do you want to do?"

"I'm good at bribing. Somebody has to know something, and things in this city'll rat each other out for the right price. It's disgusting." She thought a second. "Wait. Demons are supposed to be disgusting."

"That's generally a common theme." The slayer agreed.

"Lemme just get the axe from the basement, then we can take my car."

"Lead the way." Buffy held her arm out. "Why an axe?"

"Cause I know how to use it." Cordelia said simply.

"That should probably surprise me, but I'll take your word for it. If I keep my distance, just know it's nothing personal."


Cordelia left the axe hidden under the front passenger seat, and then she and Buffy walked into Caritas. The slayer was instantly tense, as they had just walked into a place swarming with demons...singing karaoke. Stranger and stranger.

"Don't worry, this place is a 'no blood' zone." Cordelia had apparently expected her to be uneasy.

"Mine or theirs?"

"No one's. It's rule numero uno here at Caritas. And nobody's broken it since...well, it was a sad day. A story best left untold, because really, who wants to frown?" The well-dressed, green-faced, host said walking up to them. "Smiles look much more attractive. On any creature. Am I right? The ones with lips, anyway. But we're all beautiful creatures. Especially you two lovely ladies." He smiled at Cordelia. "Ms. Chase, always a pleasure. Is it just me, or do you get cuter every time you come through that door?"

"This was new. Cordelia blushing. It was kind of cute. And it wasn't like she hadn't noticed that the brunette was attractive. After being around someone almost daily for three years, it's bound to sink in.

"Who's your friend? I bet she turns a few heads." Cordelia was about to answer, but the Host decided to keep going. "Wait. Don't tell me...the Slayer."

"That's me." Buffy answered hesitantly.

"Wow. Isn't this a special occasion? A celebrity. Infamous around here, but a celebrity nonetheless. Honored. Truly. Now if only Barbara would grace us with a visit." He sighed. "But Mr. Tall Dark and Dashing's soul wasn't kidding, I'll tell you that much." He finished off the last of his drink, and a man came over with another drink that was situated on a tray. He accepted it gratefully. "Does he have timing or what? Bless his heart."

"Is Angel okay?" Cordelia asked.

"Never made it home, huh?" They both shook their heads. "All I can do is tell you to be positive, sweetheart. He's got a good head on his shoulders, even though he's been risking it a bit much lately. Your boss is one of the good ones. He's a sucker for love. I'd hate to see a specimen like that..." He decided not to continue that thought. He didn't want to upset them. "You're not here about him, though."

"We're looking for Merl."

"Poor guy. He's in the back over there. If he had a liver, it'd be destroyed by now. I keep telling him he can sing even though he doesn't have a tongue. After all, you can't fight genetics, so why wallow? Of course, he wouldn't be able to sing well, but that's not the point of getting on that stage, now is it?" He looked, watching the current singer finish up 'Rocky Mountain High'. "Enjoy yourselves, and if you need anything, just give a holler. Oh, have an interesting night." He smiled, and headed off to meet his next customer. "Way to hit those notes, Maxie! John D would be in tears!"

"They walked off too, going back to find Merl.

"Okay. What. Was. That?" Buffy made sure to punctuate every word. "I feel like I've stepped into a warped version of that bar from Star Wars."

"He's agonistic...or Anagogic, that's it. He gives Angel and whatever...uh sings, help and advice. I think it's kinda weird, but he's a nice demon."

"Buffy stopped dead in his tracks. "Angel...Angel got up there, and sung?"

"Couple times." Cordelia cringed. "Though I only had to sit through it once, thank God. It was 'Mandy' by Barry Manilow."


"I didn't know who he was either."

"They saw the bald, gray-skinned Merl at a table with three empty glasses in front of him. They joined him, not waiting for an invite. He became frightened.

"I haven't done anything to the vampire." The demon said quickly. "It's even between us. All the stuff I give him is on the level."

"I'm sure, but he's somewhere else right now." Cordelia said.

"Then what do you want?"


"And just because we're not Angel, it doesn't mean we won't make your life hell if you cheat us." Buffy promised him.

"She's always been quick to threaten. Must be a slayer thing."

"Merl's worry increased then. "You're a slayer?"

"We could go outside and I can prove it if you don't believe me." Buffy offered.

"I'd rather not. Just that, the only slayer supposed to be in the city, is in a cell."

"She's visiting." Cordelia explained. "We don't have all night. We need to know if there's a Salar and a vampire working together, and where they are."

"Talk to Deo."

"Who's that?" Buffy asked.

"Local, self-proclaimed, all-powerful vamp. Had trouble with Salars for years. Rumor has it someone in his organization got a reason to turn on him. If anybody would know, it'd be him. Pretty sure he and your boss have an understanding, so he probably won't kill you. You can find him in the warehouse on fifty-sixth."

"Don't know anything else?"

"He shook his head. "Been trying to lie low."

"How much do you want?" Cordelia got out her wallet.

"Free of charge."

"How generous of you."

"Treat a slayer right, she treats you right. Right?" He looked hopeful.

"Thanks for the help." Buffy said to him, smirking.

"Plus, some demons around here think I've gone straight. If they see me accept any green, I'm dead. Could buy me another beer, though."

"Fine. But nobody likes an alcoholic." Cordelia admonished.

"Caritas was on Forty-seventh Street, so they figured they'd walk the nine blocks to the warehouse. And it was guaranteed that if Cordelia left her car out front of the bar, nobody would try to wreck it or steal it. Grabbing her axe, Buffy already had stakes; they started on their way.

"After checking her watch to see that her mother was now in the third hour of her operation, Buffy thought some talking was in order. So she said the first thing that popped into her head.

"What are we?" She asked.

"Are you serious?" Buffy nodded, so Cordelia answered the question. "The word 'human' comes to mind, then 'females.' Unless those construction workers I see on the way to work every day are whistling at the fire hydrant. Or they could be whistling at the crosswalk guy. Hey! That's probably they don't get anything built here."

"Ignoring the mental images, Buffy snickered. "Interesting theory, but what I meant was, what are we to each other? Are we friends? Cause I could never figure us out. We hung out in the group, but the only time we ever really talked was -"

"In that cabin. Homecoming."

"Homecoming." Buffy confirmed.

"You wanna know the truth? I convinced myself I didn't like you. I knew you were better than me, so I had no choice but to hate you. I had one thing you didn't though. I was popular. The funny thing is, even that didn't matter. I'd be talking to a guy in the hall, and if you walked by, he'd just stare at you, completely ignoring my existence. And you know what really got me mad? You didn't even notice. You could've cared less. I envied you because of that too. I needed people to look at me, but you didn't. That's why we weren't friends when you first came. You were my competition, and you weren't even trying." Her eyes went wide. "Whoa. Where'd that come from?"

"How long have you been waiting to say that?"

"Awhile." Cordelia admitted.

"Better?" Buffy questioned.

"Much. Look, I'm -"

"Don't apologize. That was how you felt. I remember what it was like to be popular, back in the Ice Age, you know. It was a rule to keep possible threats at distance. And I guess I blew the next time we could've been friends. Like you said, I didn't take your advice. I came back to school after killing the Master and he freaked me out so much, that I didn't know how to deal. So I became bitchy. I didn't 'Spank my Inner Moppet' when I should have." She grinned.

"Cordelia cringed. "Did I really say that? I didn't know what the hell I was talking about."

"No, you did. The message just got kind of lost in your choice of slang. For the record, I never thought I was better than you, and if I ever did anything that made you think -"

"I know you never thought that. But, and I never would've admitted this then, some part of me knew how pointless cheerleading and being Homecoming Queen was. I used to wish that I could do something meaningful. And on my list of things that meant something, saving the world was at the top. I wanted to be like you, but I didn't know how."

"Really?" Buffy was shocked.

"I told that girl, Anya once, that the only reason I really started to look at Xander, was because you hung with him. And I wrecked another friendship chance when you were just trying to be nice and talk to me after Xander and I broke up."

"A vampire attacked you." The slayer reminded her.

"He only got me dirty, and I got mad because Harmony saw me less than perfect. I was such a -" Cordelia was getting angry.

"Stop. Look at yourself now. Helping people, destroying demons, on your own and doing pretty damn well. Got your wish. You grew up to be a great person. And believe me, if I didn't have to be the slayer, it would've taken me just as long to realize that the real world wasn't dance routines and credit cards, as it did for you. Somebody just hit the 'You Have to Mature Now' button a little earlier for me."

"Sometimes I wonder...if my dad hadn't gone bankrupt, would I have changed? If you didn't have to slay vampires, would you have changed?"

"They stopped walking and looked at each other.

"Let's not go down that road. Some things happen for a reason, and just thinking's too scary." Buffy said.

"Cordelia shivered. "You're right. I can see myself living in a trailer park, glory days over. Bad road."

"But I did look up to you."

"No you didn't."

"I did so. Not cause you had everything like I used to or anything like that, but cause you were always confident. Inside of you, you have this strength, and I don't. I pretend I do, and I'm good enough at it that I've managed to fool everyone. Even though I have tons of support, sometimes I just want it all to go away. I'm afraid somebody's gonna see through it, which is why I fought you earlier. Crying in front of people -"

"But I always thought you and Willow...that's what you did." The brunette was surprised.

"The only time that ever happened was when Angel said it was over, because he was the only one I used to let my guard down with, and I couldn't anymore. And I went to her and let loose because I wanted to. You were different. You made me. Willow would never force me to do anything. I've been hoping she would, but you did instead, and only you would have the guts."

"Buffy was quiet for a few seconds, thinking to herself.

"There was one other time. With Giles. Because...I almost lost him." Buffy's face had lost color. She had just opened up old wounds. She wasn't sure if they had ever truly healed. "I'm scared to open up to my best friends, what's that say about me?"

"It feels like we're outside the Bronze again." Cordelia said. "You're just gonna have to find a way to get past the block you have. You need them, so show it. You were close to a breakdown tonight, you know. Up until last year, I was 'guarded girl' too."

"What happened?" Buffy asked.

"Cordelia started walking again. She needed to be doing something else while she talked about this.

"He was...a friend. A really close friend. He was Angel's guide, and he used to have the visions before me. Then...then one night he decided to be noble. He died to save these people, and...Angel and I were there. Just before...he...kissed me. And it was so unfair. He loved me and I didn't know it until then. I think I loved him too, but it was too late. We watched him die. It wasn't quick, it was painful. I turned to Angel, and I just started...and couldn't stop." She closed her eyes.

"Cordy..." She reached for the other girl's shoulder, as silently tears found their way down her face.

"I'm okay." She smiled slowly. "Anyway, it changed me. I found out that showing emotion with somebody you care about, a friend, is a good thing. I was expecting the whole world to hear about what I did, like some kind of rumor, and look at me like I was a freak. Sort of like high school, when you tell someone who says they're your friend, a secret, and then they stab you in the back the next day. Didn't happen."

"He was really special to you, huh?" The blonde could see that plain as...night.

"I haven't been on a date in a year and a half." She looked around. There was a building that looked very warehouse-like. "Think we're here."

"Buffy was studying the surroundings. "I just realized something. For two people who aren't friends, we sure spilled an awful lot."

"Maybe we've been friends for five years and haven't even known it." Cordelia said.

"Weird. But hey, I've seen weirder."


"Should we make it official?" Buffy wondered. "That we're friends? We don't have any reason to hide it anymore. Then we could do all the things friends out in the open do. Like I could come here and shop with you."

"I do miss having a shopping partner." She grinned. "Okay, I'm in. Is there a handshake or..."

"How about a hug? Handshakes are more a guy thing."

"Oh, right." They hugged nervously at first, and then they didn't mind it so much. Cordelia didn't let go as she spoke, and her voice was low. "Ready?"

"Buffy broke the hug. "And willing. Oh, by the way, Anya's been dating Xander for about a year now."

"What?" Cordelia was instantly fired up. "That tramp!"

"I don't think this Deo guy knows what he's in for."


Deo was a very angry vampire, as was evidenced by the fact that he was throwing things, and even staking his assistants. The girls watched quietly, until his temper tantrum subsided, and he noticed their presence. He looked to be about forty, or at least he was when he died, and he was wearing a nice-looking suit. Short, brown hair, he was probably a businessman in life.

"Question Deo," Buffy spoke, walking up to him, "when were you made?"

"Who the hell let her in here?" The three vampires that stood by him shook their heads vigorously. They whispered to him. "I was made in 1949. Ma'am."

"1949? You're only fifty-one in vampire years, and you call yourself all-powerful?"

"I came to LA before the demons decided to be more open about living here. I was established by some well-placed lies, and I find that if you portray the right image, nobody will bother you. So far, no one has."

"Except Angel." Cordelia said. "And the Salars."

"His vampiric face came out, and he growled. "I will kill them all!"

"Uh huh. Best of luck with that." Buffy began circling him. "I was wondering, has any of your boys joined the other side? Made friends with the enemy?"

"Who've you been talking to? I'll have his tongue ripped out." Cordelia tried not to laugh. His face reverted back to human form. "It wasn't one of my men. It was my daughter. Kelley. I shouldn't have turned her at seventeen. Worst mistake I ever made."

"You made your real daughter a vampire?" Cordelia asked.

"Yes, and that's none of your business. She fell in love with one of them. A Salar. They're off somewhere. If I don't find her soon, I'll have a war on my hands. The whole Salar race blames me, when they know perfectly well that it's all their fault, raising their son the way they did. I told her time and time again, inter-species relationships don't work. But that rebellious streak is embedded in her for eternity."

"Buffy whispered to Cordelia. "What do these demons look like, anyway?"

"They have ridges like vampires, but all over their bodies. They look pinkish -"

"And they have tongues like lizards. Vile beings." Deo overheard the description.

"Normally, I'd say a problem between demons is a problem between demons and tell you 'you're on your own' cause this is just bizarre, but we have it on good authority that your daughter and her 'friend', might have hostages." Buffy said.

"What did you say?" His eyes narrowed.

"Hos-Ta-Ges." Cordelia clarified slowly.

"No! I'll kill him!"

"Think we got that impression already."

"You don't understand. It's a marriage tradition among Salars that the two mates each bring a sacrifice, and kill them together. While the victims are still warm, they remove both hearts, eat them, and share the blood that drains out. Then they bathe the blood still left in the bodies. Then the ceremony is completed."

"I think I'm gonna be sick."

"You don't wanna know how they do it." One vampire piped up. Deo proceeded to calmly walk up to the vampire, and tear his head off.

"We need to find them before anyone gets killed." Buffy said, trying to get focused. "Do you have any idea where they might go?"

"She never tells me anything." Deo grumbled.

"One of the two vampires left, cleared his throat, and raised his hand. He was extremely hippie looking. "She goes to the sewer sometimes. It's her getaway spot. Somewhere in the Valley."

"Cordelia groaned, while Deo got angrier.

"You knew this and didn't tell me? My daughter has been living in a sewer, and I've been unaware of it...why?" He started crushing the vampire's throat.

"Because Kelley asked me not to nark, man." The hippie choked out.

"She obviously turned that one." Cordelia whispered.

"She is in so much trouble!" Deo exclaimed, flinging his captive across the room.

"We'll handle it. I don't work with vampires, got it?" Buffy backhanded him to the floor, before he could argue. "We'll bring her back if we can, but if she tries anything...poof."

"And you might wanna tell the Salars to be patient." Cordelia advised. "Doesn't look like you have much of an army left. I wouldn't want to fight a war if I were you."

"They walked out.


By the time they were back in the car, and on their way to the Valley, their laughter had died down enough so they could speak again.

"Are all your cases this ridiculous?" Buffy asked. "I mean, two people's lives aren't ridiculous, know what I mean."

"If Jerry Springer ever runs out of human guests, I know who he can call." Cordelia said. "But no, they're not. Figures I'd get stuck with the really weird one. The Powers plan this just for me, probably, but I could do without their sense of humor."

"You know, if these demons weren't trying to kill anyone, I'd say let them do what they want. Willow's got a girlfriend, and they're happy, so I'm pretty open to just about anything." Cordelia started to laugh again. "What?"

"She was remembering a conversation she and Willow had had three years ago. That was rare back then, but they had complained about their men at the time.

"'What's he waiting for? What's his problem? Oh, that's right, he's a guy.' She had said.

"'Yeah, him and Xander. Guys.' Willow had agreed.

"'Who do they think they are?'

"'A couple of guys.'

"Coming back to the present, Cordelia looked at Buffy. "Nothing. I can see it, though. Good for her."

"Yeah. I never would've thought...until she told me. I guess you never really know. I'm sure she didn't think she'd ever fall for a girl. She told me that, actually."

"No, I mean, how could you? We could be perfectly content going that way, and be completely oblivious. It all depends on who the person is. But then again, we might not be. I mean, just because I think you're an attractive person and that you look good even without makeup on, it doesn't mean I like you in that way."

"No, of course not. I mean, girls compliment each other on their looks all the time. There isn't any hidden meaning if I tell you that that outfit looks really cute on you and that any guy would think you were amazing in it, is there?"

"No way."

"Be crazy to think there was."

"They looked straight ahead in silence for awhile.

"You really like this outfit?"


Cordelia tossed the axe into the sewer, and climbed down through the manhole. She promised herself she'd use it. She hated bringing weapons that never got used. She grabbed it once she reached solid ground again, and it was virtually slime-free. They had picked a good spot to enter.

"A few minutes after her, Buffy was making her way down. The slayer reached into her back pocket, and gave Cordelia back her cell phone.

"Any news?" The brunette asked.

"Giles just checked with a nurse. She said they had a minor complication, but that mom is okay and that everything is back on track." She was a little frazzled, still.

"Do you need a minute?"

"Buffy shook her head. "I'm good. Let's get this over with."

"Oh damn it! I forgot flashlights." Cordelia said as they made their way through the tunnel. "Of all the things to -"

"I know I have..." Buffy searched her jacket. "Aha!" She pulled out a small bottle, and threw it on the ground, smashing it. "Fiat lux!"

"It suddenly looked as if the whole sewer had been bathed in light. Cordelia was awed.

"That was..." She couldn't think of anything to say.

"Willow made it for me. I love spells with two words. Makes me think I can do magick."

"They were on the move again.

"So what did you tell Giles you were doing?" Cordelia asked.

"Cordelia and I are going in a sewer, and we're gonna stop two people from being slaughtered in a demonic marriage ritual."

"And what did he say?"

"Nothing. He dropped the phone." They started giggling, but their laughter was interrupted by two growling sounds. Echoes. "I think the lovebirds noticed their hideaway is a little brighter than usual. Stay on guard, okay? They still have the advantage over us, knowing these tunnels better than we do and all."

"Why did you have to remind me about that?"

"Sorry." Buffy shrunk back.

"They eventually came to a fork in the tunnel system. One was going right, one left. Above them, there was a high grate on the ceiling, still dripping water from the street, a result of the previous night's storm. Which wouldn't normally matter, but that's all they had heard for the last few minutes. The dripping.

"Please say we're not splitting up." Cordelia said, looking around nervously.

"We're not."

"Good." She sighed.

"Cause they've been waiting for us to get to this fork."


"Probably to come at us from both tunnels and kill us." As if on cue, the Salar came out the left, and Kelley came out the right.

"Cordelia watched them charge, and readied her axe. "Don't you ever hate being right?"

"Sometimes." Buffy was in her fighting stance.

"The Salar was eyeing Cordelia, and when she thought he was close enough, she swung with all her might. She connected with his chest, and he, not expecting the impact, tripped and fell. Buffy front kicked Kelley in the face, and she staggered, falling just like her boyfriend. Experienced fighters they weren't. Either because they were young, or because they had never faced a slayer or an axe wielding, ex-cheerleader before.

"Thinking quickly, the Salar retracted its long tongue, and wrapped it around the axe handle. He took Cordelia's weapon from her, and she wasn't at all happy about it.

"Give me that back right now, or we're going to tell her father!" She yelled.

"What?" His tongue unraveled, and remained limp.

"Cordelia took back what was hers. "You heard me. And put that back in your mouth."

"No! Y-you can't tell him!" Kelley pleaded, trying to get back up.

"We can and we will." Buffy swore. "And how come I have to get all the hard and scary demons at home? I wouldn't mind getting a reject every once and awhile. Be a nice change of pace."

"We'll do anything!" The Salar promised.

"Take us to the people you kidnapped, and we'll see what we can do." Cordelia told him. "Come on, move it."

"The two demons led the way, shaking from fear during the entire walk to their lair. A man and a woman were tied up back to back, and gagged. Buffy noticed they had wedding rings on. Husband and wife. She glared and Kelley shrugged.

"Do you know how expensive rings are?" She asked. "But we weren't gonna really kill them, were we Benny?"

"Nope." The Salar responded.

"You guys are bad liars." Cordelia said.

"Well, maybe we were, but we would have felt bad about it afterwards." Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. "We're evil! Cut us some slack!"

"Buffy and Cordelia started to untie the couple. The man was passed out, and Buffy checked his neck. There were bite marks.

"I was starving." Kelley whined, then slumped her shoulders. "We just wanted to get married."

"Shoulda tried Vegas." Buffy quipped.

"If you two loved each other, would you let somebody stand in your way? Even though some of your kind might think it was kinda strange and different?" Benny challenged.

"The girls didn't look at each other.

"I used to do what my dad said. Hate his species. I always knew, when I saw him, that he was different. We were different. Then one night our dads were fighting, it was this huge battle, and I ran away from it. Benny was there too, and he started chasing me and I was sure he was going to kill me. He pinned me down, but instead of crushing my skull, he started licking my fangs. Then one thing led to another and -" Kelley smiled, a glint in her eye.

"That's enough!" Cordelia announced. "Eew!"

"And totally besides the point." Buffy said. "You were going to murder innocent people, that's all I care about. I don't care if you run off and live in Mexico, but as long as I can help it, you aren't going to kill anybody."

"Mexico?" Benny wondered.

"Ooh! We could start over!" Kelley was imagining. "And everybody's living together and not getting married. It's the new trend."

"Are you just saying that cause you know that's what we want to hear?" Cordelia asked.

"We'll be good." Benny said. "But you need to tell our dads something. We need time. Could you kill them for us?"

"You really want your dads dead?" Buffy asked.

"No..." Both demons muttered.

"I can't believe I'm doing this, but if you help us get these people to our car, and think of a good lie, we'll let you go. And swear to drink pig's blood for the rest of your unlife."

"Pig's blood?" Kelley whined again. "But...but...but..." Buffy wasn't budging. "Fine."

"Cordelia looked at Benny. "Oh, I don't eat humans." He said. "I prefer cats."

"I didn't hear that." Cordelia frowned.

"No matter how warped I think it is, I can't destroy love." Buffy sighed.

"Every superhero has their weakness." The brunette rationalized.

"They got back to the hotel an hour later, and collapsed on the couch.

"Deo was pissed." Cordelia said.

"Not my problem." Buffy shrugged. "Good thing he backed off, or he would've met the pointy end of Mr. Pointy."

"I've seen Angelus up close and personal. I wasn't impressed with that guy."

"This might sound strange, could be from exhaustion, but I had fun tonight. Talking and fighting poor excuses for demons and being...with you." She knew that last part came out, but she didn't really care at this point.

"Me too." Cordelia said with a smile. They sat in relaxed silence for a bit, and then Cordelia remembered that there was a question she had wanted to ask all night. "Is your boyfriend an unmentionable?"


"Not worth mentioning. Thought that was pretty clear."

"Why would you think that?"

"Cause, gee, you haven't mentioned him all night. Well, that's not true. You did mention him once, but you sounded angry."

"He isn't the kind of person I thought he was. He was what I needed last year, and I hoped he could handle what my life is. On call twenty-four hours a day, a lot of independence on my part, occasionally inconvenient, but as soon as I started going full speed into the slayer thing..."

"Hasn't handled it? He's got a Neanderthal thing going, right?"

"Not very well. And yeah, a little caveman-ish. It's not like I can make it any easier on him."

"You shouldn't have to. I remember what it was like. You either got with the program or you got out."

"But I think I'm the one holding on. I've wanted a stable relationship for so long, and I don't wanna lose it. Though it's not what I'd call stable anymore. I thought he could be someone I could talk to, but if I do, he either tries to tell me why I shouldn't worry about it, or ignores the whole thing completely. I don't need protection from the big bad world; I need someone who can help me make sense of it. He doesn't have a clue, and that's because he hasn't seen enough things yet. But I don't know if he'll be able to last for the long haul."

"That was the cleanest, nicest boyfriend bashing talk I've ever had." Cordelia smirked.

"Buffy chuckled. "I'm fair. It's a flaw."

"So we had an interesting night, didn't we?"

"Yeah, we did. There was some emotional cleansing, you saved me from depression and a total meltdown, I met a way too chipper demonic lounge singer, we rehashed the past, realized that we had always had kind of a hidden friendship, had a chat with a not so threatening vamp kingpin, and helped two wacky, evil teens escape across the border."

"How the hell did we do all that? And I ask you, why can't we fighters for the side of good have a normal night in?" Cordelia thought what she had just said. "Gotta stop hanging out with Wesley."

"Ya got me, Cordy, but who likes normal? At least evil keeps things exciting. I wouldn't have said that before this year, but I accept who I am, and even though I'm currently having a tough time, if I was fighting being the slayer still, I'd probably be dead right now. Instead of sitting here, uh...alive."

"Sure, that's great for you, but considering I have a ghost who likes to peep when he shouldn't...things are more exciting than I can stand sometimes."

"You have a ghost?"

"Dennis. He's not evil as far as ghosts go, but he does have a tendency to get horny. Who ever heard of horny ghosts? They're dead for crying out loud. Their bodies are decomposed and...yuck. That train of thought is stopping right now." She made a face.

"Buffy found herself scooting closer to Cordelia. She was amused by the expression, and she was staring at her face.

"He's got good reason to look. I always thought you were prettier than I was, not the other way around. People always stared at the wrong things, though. Although I bet they're very nice." Did that just come out of her mouth?

"The slayer was looking at her in a way she had looked at many guys before, but behind the appreciation of her form, there was caring in Buffy's eyes. The way Angel talked about her, and the way she acted around him, Cordelia had always wondered what getting that kind of attention from Buffy would be like. Now she was getting her chance.

"What should they have looked at?" Cordelia asked softly.

"Your face. That's what made you, no, that's what makes you, beautiful. There was always this one spot right..." She reached her hand out, and ran her finger over the mole on Cordelia's right cheek. "There."

"That thing? I was going to have it removed."

"No. Don't. I like it. Kind of an odd thing to be attracted to, but hey it gives you character."

"I knew I had a lot of character."

"Buffy gulped. Her brain was final catching up to what her vocal cords were spewing out. "Did I just say, 'attracted to'?"

"Think so."

"Oh. See, what I meant to say was...I had a crush on you. No! That's not it! I do have a crush on you. What am I saying? This is...maybe it was because you never backed down from me like most people would, or..." She covered her mouth. "God, shut up!"

"Buffy could act really cute at times, Cordelia was seeing. "Did you just say you have a crush on me?"

"It's not one of those things you realize kinda creeps up on you. Like tonight." She sighed, checking the time on the invisible watch she was wearing. "I'm making me uncomfortable, so I know you must be real uncomfortable. I should go, anyway, so I'll -"

"Cordelia grabbed her by the shoulders for the second time that night, and kissed her before another word could come out. Why break the trend of the night? She was in control the whole time and she ended the contact when she was ready.

"I've wanted to do that for a long time, Buffy."


"I still got it. And here I was beginning to doubt myself." Cordelia was pleased. "Why are you so shocked? You think you're the only one who had a crush they didn't act on in high school?"

"You always thought you were such a great kisser, didn't you?" Buffy smiled predatorily, her sensing coming back to her. "Well you are. But I bet even Cordelia Chase can be stunned."

"Give it your best shot." Cordelia challenged.

"I intend to." She stared into the brunette's eyes. "You've brought two things out of me tonight, you know that? How do you do it?"

"I've always known how to push your buttons, Summers."

Buffy gave Cordelia a kiss of her own then, fierce, passionate, and an inkling of tenderness. She pulled away abruptly.

"Now who's speechless?" Buffy asked teasingly. Wait. They were kissing and flirting now? Not that she minded, but this whole night had been an emotional whirlwind. Maybe they should take a step back. "What are we doing?"

"Besides having a really pleasurable makeout session? I don't know. But I missed being kissed. I...enjoyed that." She touched her lips. "A lot."

"I need to think." Buffy talked as if she hadn't heard her. "Even if I knew what I was feeling right now..."

"Regretting already?" Cordelia asked, her eyes glancing around the room. "That was quick."

"No! Just confused."

"Well...if it helps, and just in case you weren't paying attention, I like you too. But you're right. I need to think too. And breathe. This could go too fast. Felt really good, but whatever this is gonna turn into, I wanna do it right. I've been single too long, and I might screw it up before we even get started."

"It's not like I'm any better at it, but...this is me. Slowing down."

For a few seconds they were doing just that, but then they began leaning close to each other, and in their minds, if their lips or other oral parts happened to touch by accident, it wasn't their fault. But then the phone rang, and they were both so startled that that they sat there, frozen. The machine eventually came on.

"Yo Cor, its Gunn. You there?" Gunn waited for an answer. "Take that as a no. Listen, I'm using a payphone across the street from that chick Darla's place. We found Angel. Tied up, no girl. Either they got really freaky, or somethin' bad went down, but he ain't talkin'. Wes can't even get him to move. If you get this, you're feel free to swing by and join the extremely dead party. Later. And yeah, I know my creature of the night humor needs work."

"He's okay." Buffy announced. "That's a relief."

"Yep, it's a big relief." Cordelia agreed. "I should go over there, see if I can help. You can, um..."

"I know what you're gonna say, but I get the feeling I'm the last person he'll wanna see right now. Besides, I should get back to the hospital."

Buffy got up off the couch, and Cordelia followed her to the door.

"How you getting there?"

"The bus. Not the finest way to travel, but it's cheap." She shrugged.

"Call me? Let me know how she is? Which I'm sure is in recovery. One- hundred percent recovery."

"Thank you." Buffy smiled, and hugged Cordelia. "And I plan to be making a lot of calls to Los Angeles from now on." They both smiled. "You should visit soon."

"I'll think about it."

They separated, and she watched Cordelia wink.

"Take care of him." The slayer said.

"Do my best." Cordelia said.

"We both will." The slayer said.

"And if it gets hard?"

Buffy kissed the brunette's lips lightly. "We turn to our friends, right?"

"Hey, look at that. You're not as stubborn as you make people think you are. Things do get through."

The blonde had one foot on the steps, and rolled her eyes. "See ya, Cordelia. Thanks for the night out. You really helped me. More than you know."

"I'm glad I could. And every night's just as interesting as this one around here."

"I don't doubt that."

Soon after Buffy left, Cordelia braced herself for any possible bad news, and headed to her car. For the first time in months, she had a reason to smile. Even though it would probably be gone in about fifteen minutes or so, it was a nice feeling.