by corrupt-blondie

"Who's Sally?" It rang through Cordelia's head rapidly. Did she really talk about Sally? Cordelia immediately backtracked, she wasn't going to have Buffy thinking she was nuts.

"What are you talking about?" Cordelia questioned.

Buffy, however, saw the fear in the cheerleader's eyes and knew that she was going to cover up this Sally girl. It plagued her mind though. Who's Sally? How come I never met her? Are Sally and Cordelia together? Did they break up and Cordelia came to me? The thoughts were wedging their way into every corner of her brain. Without realizing, a primal and animalistic surge of jealousy clawed to the surface. Cordelia was mine, she mentally growled.

"One more time," Buffy pushed, "Who's Sally?"

The former cheerleader did not want to discuss her crude imaginary 'friend', and she used the term friend very loosely, "I have no idea what you are talking about."

"Cor..." Buffy warned, her patience wearing thin.

Figuring she wasn't getting out of the slayer's line of questioning, Cordelia sighed, "Just someone who's been in my life for as long as I can remember."

It was an ambiguous statement and both of them knew it. The slayer, mind you, wasn't having any of that tete-de-tete crap they were playing. She tried to hide the small amount of begrudement towards Sally from arising so Cordelia couldn't see the green-eyed monster bubbling inside of her.

"Buffy," the brunette pleaded, noticing that Buffy wasn't going to give up on the Sally situation, "please, let's talk about anything... just not her."

Cordelia never begged so Buffy obliged reluctantly, but she decided she was going to find out about this Sally person later.

When she noticed that Buffy was relenting, Cordelia daintily smiled towards the other girl, "So... you kicked demon ass at graduation?"

The slayer was quiet for a second, her thoughts consumed of Sally and Cordelia, but answered, "Yeah, ass was kicked and the school was exploded."

"Buffy," the cheerleader grinned, "you have a knack for putting schools in ruins. First the gym in LA, the old science lab at school last year, and finally the school itself. I'm impressed."

The slayer chuckled, "It wasn't entirely my fault you know. I have valid reasons," she counted them on her fingers, "one... vampires, two... Frankenstein Daryl, and three... does huge demon ring a bell?"

Cordelia giggled and the blonde soon followed. When the chuckles subsided the ex-cheerleader reached for Buffy's hand, "This is nice... laughing with you."

"I agree," the blonde smiled.

She tenderly grazed her thumb over Cordelia's hand and Buffy sigh happily. Things were far from being resolved, but sitting here... being Cordelia's presence made her content.

About an hour later, Willow answered her phone, "Hello?"

"Hey, Will," Buffy greeted cheerfully from a payphone at the hospital.

"Hey, Buffy. What's with the happy?" Willow retorted playfully.

Her best friend beamed but the novice witch couldn't see it, "She's awake."

"That's good," the redhead replied, when she heard no response she asked, "isn't it?"

Buffy exhaled forlornly, "It is... but she accidently told me about someone... that's been there all her life."

"Buffy, don't worry, she's all about you," Willow comforted.

"Who's Sally, Will?" the slayer inquired suddenly.

Willow was dumbfounded by the abrupt change of subject, "Sally? Never heard of her."

The blonde slayer was crestfallen. She was really hoping that Willow knew who this person was. What kind of person she is? What role does she play in Cordelia's life?

"Hold on," Buffy could actually hear the wheels in the hacker's brain turning, "I remember Cordy talking about Sally when we were younger. She would always be talking to no one and when I asked her about it, she was confused that people couldn't see her. We were in elementary school, so I just thought Sally was an imaginary friend. When the kids teased her about it, Cordelia stopped mentioning Sally all together." Willow paused, "From what I recall, Sally wasn't the good kind of imaginary friend. I would go to the bathroom and hear Cordy crying in the next stall... begging for Sally to stop hurting her. After the kids teased her, Cordy instantly shut herself out from anyone, and became the Queen C you first met." The redhead sighed sadly, "Cordelia and I were friends once, but Sally made her turn away from me."

Buffy thought about what Willow said before adding in her own thoughts on the matter, "When I saved her from that demon, she was looking to the side and her eyes were watering. I thought it was because of the demon, but when I called her name she screamed shut up. It wasn't to me though." All the pieces of the puzzle were coming together, "Then the next morning, she was looking at the lounge chair and talking to someone."

"So Sally is still around?" Willow asked, pretty much knowing the answer already, "Poor Cordy."

Buffy had gut feeling that Sally wasn't your ordinary imaginary companion, "Did Cordelia ever tell you what Sally looked like?"

"Long, black hair and crystal blue eyes," the redhead offered right off the bat, "she also said Sally's eyes were hollow, like the sparkle just died. Back then, Sally was supposedly really tall, but that's because she was an adult and we were kids."

The blonde woman was calculating all the recent information she just collected and asked Willow the one thought that has been badgering her mind, "What if Sally wasn't any simple imaginary friend?"

"Where are you getting at, Buff?" the redhead asked her best friend.

"Come on, Will. What imaginary friend's sole purpose is to bring down the person that supposedly made them up? Not to mention, why would the imaginary friend stay longer when they normally vanish before elementary school ends?"

Willow seemed to be catching on the slayer's train of thought, "I'll research it on the net. Shouldn't you... go back to Cordelia? Sally might be there."

Buffy's eyes widened in panic and quickly said bye to leave Willow with her work, but more importantly to get to Cordelia. Without realizing, her pace towards room 217 was getting quicker and her heart was thumping in her chest with a sickening slow rate as she opened the door. Seeing Cordelia, lying on the bed watching TV caused an audible sigh of relief from the petite woman.

Hearing noise from the from the door, Cordelia turned her head and smiled at Buffy, "Hey."

"Hey," Buffy strolled towards the bed, "who's Sally?"

The brunette's eyes immediately glazed over with the mention of Sally, "Do you really want to know?"

"Yes," Buffy pleaded, "who is she, Cor?"

Cordelia breathed out heavily, "For as long as I can remember... Sally has been there. She was always there to make me feel worthless. When my parents left me with the maid on the holidays... she was there telling me how much they didn't love me. It was all she talked about... people didn't love me, that I was a mistake for my parents, and people used me." Cordelia wasn't shedding any tears when she was explaining Sally, her voice took an eerie, detached manner as she continued, "As I grew older, Sally noticed that the parent angle wasn't working anymore so she used other material. I have no true friends, that the group of people I surrounded myself with were using me. Same with the boyfriends I had... they didn't love me because I was only eye candy for them. Then she started on my physical appearance." The ex-cheerleader paused, "When you came to Sunnydale and I found out about your identity, she told me how useless I was in the world. Then I got together with Xander, and she was quiet for a while. Unfortunately, that didn't last long as she noticed how he would stare longingly at you... and the kiss with Willow... well that was more ammunition for her, now wasn't it?"

Buffy was silent as Cordelia's words swam around in her head. She almost didn't hear Cordelia begin to speak again.

" She made me break it off with you. Saying that I couldn't bring you into my downward spiral... so I did. After you left, I basically was tired of her... so decided to set her free. Which I did, and I'm ecstatic by that fact... but I'm worried." Cordelia's voice cracked, and her cool faŤade was broken, "I'm worried because I survived which means she had to have survived right? This was all for nothing if she's still here. What's the point if I can't escape her, Buffy. What's the point?"

"If she is here," the slayer replied, "I'll make her leave."

Cordelia looked at the determination in the other girl's eyes and relaxed because someone was there for her this time around when the first time she was all alone. Tingles coursed her spine, she discerned that this was the first time she was happy. She's actually worth something to someone, and that was new to her.

The cheerleader that Buffy was dazed with her thoughts so Cordelia got her attention, "You want to lay with me?"

Buffy was brought out of her reverie by Cordelia's question and the slayer beamed, "Sure."

The blonde took off her shoes as Cordelia pulled the blankets aside and Buffy got herself comfortable on the bed, unconsciously snuggling to the taller girl's body frame. She lied on her left side so she could face the former cheerleader, casually wrapping Cordelia in her arms, and rested her head on the nook of the other girl's neck and collarbone. Buffy inhaled deeply, relishing the aroma of Cordelia. True, the other girl didn't have any fragrances on considering she was in the hospital, but the natural scent that the ex-cheerleader creates was better than any man-made perfume in Buffy's opinon.

They were silent for the longest time, both content to bask in the nonvocal comfort. Cordelia raked her fingers through Buffy's hair in slow, soft-hearted strokes. The slayer tightened her embrace on the taller girl in response and murmured, "I love you."

Cordelia didn't respond right away, but she kissed the top of Buffy's head, "I love you too."

The brunette couldn't see it, but Buffy radiated with a smile

Day faded into night as Willow heard a knock on the door to her room. She peeled her eyes from a captive read on demons that possess the mind and offered absently, "Come in."

"Hey," The person greeted.

Willow turned her head, "Buffy. Hey. How was your time with Cordelia?"

Buffy beamed and answered dreamily, "She loves me."

The redhead smiled in return, glad that her best friend was happy again, "I found something on what you asked me. Sorry to ruin the mood, but I thought you might want to get in on this."

"What is it?" The slayer questioned.

Willow turned back to her laptop, and began to read what peaked her attention, "Bayemon. A demon that has the capability of seizing one's mind and using their insecurities to torment the host. They have the ability to take on any appearance they so fit, and use the human guise to throw off the victim's perception. Most go after the strong-willed minds to challenge themselves. They generally come to the person when they are a child, and mold the impressionable mind of the youth." The hacker looked to see Buffy's reaction, and when she noticed the hard stare at her computer, Willow continued, "Nearly all their victims can't bear the emotional turmoil, but most that do are scarred forever."

Buffy was silent for a moment, taking it all in, but she had to ask, "Will Sally come back, Willow? Will she come back to try and harm Cordelia again?"

"Depends on the demon," Willow answered softly, "the vicious type would stop at nothing to get their prey, but there are others where they respect the person if they survived. Those kind would bask in their victory that they had driven their target over the edge. It all depends on what type Sally is."

Meanwhile, in Cordelia's hospital room, someone was watching as Cordelia attempted to sleep. Their movement in the room was indistinguishable to the human hear, and the slow, effortless walk turned predatory as the person stood over the brunette lying in the bed. The mysterious visitor gleamed at how fragile Cordelia was, and slowly placed a hand over the ex-cheerleader's mouth. Cordelia's eyes widened in alarm, but when her gaze settled on the unwanted guest, she looked downright frightened.

"Hello, Cordy." The person smiled tightly, "you miss me?"

Cordelia was frozen, absolutely paralyzed with fear.

"Now, I'm going to take my hand off your mouth as long as you promise not to scream," The unwanted guest offered apathetically, "not like it would matter in my case. No one can see me but you."

The brunette nodded and when the person placed her hand by her side once more, Cordelia whispered, "Sally."

"Yes, honey. That would be me," Sally smirked.

"You... you were suppose to be gone," Cordelia mumbled, "I set you free."

The raven-haired woman let out a hollow laugh, "That you did. Of course, your bitch of a girlfriend had to go and ruin that. Saving you in the nick of time right, Cordy? Must be a nice feeling that someone would care that much about you. However, you live so that means I still exist."

"No," the brunette gasped in horror.

Sally smiled cockily, "Oh yes."

"It was all for nothing then. All for nothing," Cordelia muttered sadly.

The cold-hearted woman rolled her eyes, "Not to interrupt your pathetic grumbling, Cordelia, but I have other people to see. I came here to say good job."

Cordelia reeled back in shock, "What?"

"You know how I loathe compliments," Sally glared, "anyway, before you so rudely interrupted me... I was saying you survived me. You surpassed it all even if I did bring you to your attempted suicide, which is an amazing accomplishment for me I might add. You even have the slayer's love as a bonus."

"I...I..." Cordelia tried to speak, but the words never left past her lips.

"Goodbye, Cordelia," Sally smiled evilly, "it was nice torturing you while it lasted."

With that said, Sally departed from Cordelia's hospital room. She simply vanished before the brunette's very dazed stare.

Back at Willow's house, Buffy and Willow were still discussing Bayemon. Buffy was pacing the room like a cage animal, and Willow tried her best to calm the slayer down.

"What if Sally... Bayemon or whatever is there right now, Willow?" Buffy demanded, "what if she's there right now, picking up where she left off with Cordelia? I should be there."

Willow sighed, "Visiting hours, Buffy. They are long over, and Cordelia can handle herself."

"I know she can," the blonde relented, "it's just... Sally gets under her skin so easily and knows how to push the right buttons... and I'm not there protecting her."

Willow got out of her chair, and went to comfort her obviously distressed friend, "She'll be fine, Buffy."

"I... I just hate this," Buffy admitted, her eyes watering slightly, "I finally get her, and I might lose her all over again."

"You won't lose her, Buffy. We'll make sure of that," Willow stated while hugging the blonde.

The next day, Dr. Stevenson walked to his patient's room. Opening the door, he saw the occupant of room 217 watching the television with a smile on her face.

"Miss Chase," the doctor greeted.

Cordelia turned her attention from Jerry Springer toward the door, "Hey, doctor."

"I see you're looking fine," the man smiled while looking at her charts, "in fact, I think you might be released today."

"Great, " the former cheerleader beamed.

Dr. Stevenson looked at the young woman and wondered why this same person could have attempted suicide not long ago, "We'll get everything set, and you might leave in an hour. Do you have someone that can pick you up?"

"Yeah," Cordelia answered.

"Okay," the doctor headed towards the door, "I'll leave you to your entertainment."

The young woman laughed, "Can't leave Jerry unwatched now can I?"

Dr. Stevenson chuckled, "No, you most certainly can't."