Smart Cookies
by Buffonia

Willow was pretending to do her homework as she sat on the couch in the student lounge. But she was really focused on the penetrating stare that a certain brunette was directing right at her. Willow could feel Cordelia sizing her up, like a tiger stalking its prey from the shadows--no a panther. A deadly, grieving panther with justifiably sharp teeth to rip and tear horrible kiss-slutty redheads to pieces. Willow sighed, she had been kicking the ball of guilt in her gut around ever since...since the mistake with Xander. Nothing she could say would make it right.

She knew Cordy was in a lot of pain; everyone was making jokes and ostracizing her, well as much as one could ostracize Cordelia Chase. What was social leperosy to her was probably average existence to the rest of the high school population. This had to stop. Finally, Willow gathered the courage to raise her eyes from the blank notebook in front of her. But to her surprise, instead of the venomous gaze she expected, Cordelia looked startled and even a little embarrassed. The redhead furrowed her brow in confusion, but in a blink Cordy was back to conversing with that new girl, Anna or whoever. Willow would have thought she imagined the bizarre incident but there was still an unusual flush in the former May Queen's cheeks.


"Hey Buff what's wrong?" Xander asked the slayer as she took her seat between Willow and Xander on the sofa. The blonde wore an extra-guilty expression on her pretty face.

"Vampire got your tongue?" The redhead smiled innocently before her features fell in horror. "Oh god! It didn't get your tongue did it?"

Buffy turned to her friend and wrinkled her nose. "Ew. No. My tongue is in my mouth." The slayer sighed. "Cozied in there with my foot. I ran into Cordelia outside, trying to see if she was okay, so of course I just made things worse." She slouched further down between her friends.

"She didn't want to talk?"

"Actually, I'm pretty sure she did. All verbal systems were go," Buffy affirmed. "That is until a vamp decided to crash our special moment."

"I take it that was a crash of the literal kind," Xander interrupted.

"Yeah," Buffy winced, "which landed Cordy in the literal trash heap."

"Ouch." Willow cringed at the mental image.

"It gets worse. Harmony and her little shadows just happened to walk by after..." Buffy mimed a stake jab.

"Double ouch." Xander said sullenly. Buffy patted him on the shoulder, she knew he felt horrible for what Cordy was going through.

"Um, I'm gonna head home guys." Willow said distantly, lost in thought.

"Want us to come with?" Buffy asked.

"Nope. I'm good." Willow pulled her mini backpack over her shoulder. "I leave bearing crosses and holy water." She half smiled her goodbyes and exited the club.


Willow stopped in the middle of the parking lot. A few spaces down was Cordelia's familiar red convertible. Will paused for a moment, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, she didn't know what to do. Should she see if Cordy was okay? Or would that be rude? Willow chewed on the inside of her cheek pensively. Rude or not, this was Sunnydale, and safer took precedent over sorry. With a deep breath she slowly made her way to the vehicle.

Cordelia's hands were on the steering wheel, she was hunched over, her forehead resting on the horn. Willow could tell she was crying by the way her body was shaking. Just as Will was beginning to lose her nerve and leave, Cordelia lifted her head. Willow gave a tentative wave and the window lowered.

"Want a Polaroid?" Her tone wasn't cruel, but defeated. "I bet Harmony would pay you for..."

"No! God, no." Willow cut her off, sympathy running from her eyes into her words. "I...I just wanted to make sure you were okay." She fiddled with the straps of her backpack as she spoke.

Cordy let out a bitter laugh, but it came out more like a cough. "Oh I'm peachy. Thanks for ask--" Her eyes widened. "Get in the car."

"What?" Willow turned and saw some vampires approaching from the Bronze. She screamed and ran around the car and hopped in as Cordelia opened the door. She slammed on the accelerator and the car jerked backward before speeding off into town.

They sat in silence as Willow watched the darkened stores pass by. Finally the familiar shops turned into familiar houses as they neared Willow's driveway. When they reached the picketed fence, Cordy put the car into park and sat there staring at the road ahead.

"Thanks for the ride Cor--"

"I don't blame you," Cordelia blurted out, still focusing at some distant object. Before Willow could form a word the cheerleader faced her. "Anymore." She said pointedly before looking away again. Her voice became soft as she repeated herself, "I don't blame you anymore."

Willow bit her bottom lip as all the guilt liquefied and threatened to burn it's way through her tear ducts. But she wouldn't let herself cry, it wasn't her moment to cry.

"I blamed you first." Cordelia continued. "Then I blamed Xander. Then Buffy. I still dislike her, because she's easy to not like. But I don't blame her." She swallowed before going on. "Now I just blame me."

Willow wrinkled her forehead. "You cannot blame yourself for me and Xander's bad coping skills. You didn't deserve..."

"Didn't I?" Cordelia's hazel eyes were sparkling with tears as her gaze bore into Willow's green one. "Think back into the not-so-distant past Willow. At least Buffy saves the world and stuff, she has reason for her attitude. What's my excuse? My crippling wealth, beauty and popularity? " She stopped herself and gave another choked laugh. "Well, two out of three ain't bad."

"They'll get over it." Willow offered. "They'll get bored and then they'll get over it."

"Is this how it felt?" Now Cordelia couldn't hold back anymore, tears poured down her flawless cheeks. "Is this how it felt Will? All those times, I laughed at you, insulted you. Me and the girls just breezed by..." She was sobbing now, coughing out her words. "hitting your books or..." Willow nodded and leaned in wrapping her arms around Cordelia.

They sat there like that for a while, Willow stroking Cordy's long black hair as the beauty cried into her red tresses. At least twenty minutes passed before Cordelia's tears slowly ceased and she pulled back.

"It's late." Her voice was raw and strained but low.

"Do you want to stay the night?" Willow asked. "Like you said, it's late. And you shouldn't drive home like this."

"Your parents wouldn't mind?" Cordelia glanced at the quiet house.

"You'd have to be pretty darn noisy to bother my parents." Willow sighed. "They're in Hungary right now."

"Oh." Cordelia turned off the car and pulled the keys out of the ignition. She looked back at Willow. "Thanks."

Willow nodded, knowing that she was thanking her for more than just the invitation.


"Um, Willow..." Cordelia called from the bedroom. The redhead poked her head in the room from the hallway, still brushing her teeth. "Do you have anything warmer than this?" She held up the sunny yellow night shirt.

"You mean like long sleeved?" She garbled through a mouth full of toothpaste.

"No. I mean like a maroon shade or even a soft mauve color."

Willow raised a brow. "We're going to bed Cordelia, this isn't the sleepwear competition of a beauty pageant, I mean sometimes the fish can be a little judgemental but if they mock you with their gills I promise I'll..."

Cordelia giggled. "Point well past made, now go spit in the damn sink you're drooling minty freshness." Willow smiled and ducked back out of the room.

Cordelia changed as Willow finished up in the bathroom. When she was dressed for bed, she nosed around the redhead's room. Expensive laptop, stuffed animals and...ooh magazines...Scientific American?

Willow entered the room and stopped short when she saw Cordelia sitting cross legged on the bed reading her science periodicals.

"If you want something to read my mom might have last month's Vogue..." Willow paused as Cordelia glanced up with a smug look.

"That's okay I already found myself something. Unless you're suggesting this might be a little to heavy for me?" Cordelia smiled challengingly, but far friendlier than one might think she was capable of.

"No i-it's just that I didn't know you were into..."

"Smart stuff?" Cordelia's smile grew as she closed the journal. "Well I'm not. By choice though, not default."

"Choice?" Willow was confused. "Why would you choose to not be smart..."

"Puh-leeze! If people knew I was a brain, they'd have me do homework and stuff. There are less questions this way. If you copy, people just figure you wouldn't pass otherwise. I let them think what they want, I know I could do it if I wanted to. Besides, no one likes a brain." Cordelia realized what she said as Willow's face fell. "Oh I didn't mean it like that. I meant, no one would like me as a brain."

Willow looked up. "How do you know? You've never tried..."

"No. But I still know. I know that they wanted me a certain way. You saw what happened when I first went public about Xander--" She stopped and blinked a few times remembering everything she had managed to not think about for at least an hour. "If I didn't fit the plastic mold of Cordelia Chase: Eternal Prom Queen. Then they'd take it as a sign of weakness and turn the tables on me."

"So let them grow into the plastic mold. Let Harmony play bitch Barbie for now."

"Why not?" Cordelia sighed. "She learned from the best."

"They just want to be you Cordelia. Wear the crown, walk in the heels. They want to be you."

"So you're saying I should feel honored?"

"What I am saying is you don't need them ." Willow sat on the bed. Cordelia lay her head in Willow's lap.

"What I don't need is them making my life hell." She looked up into Willow's face. "How did you deal with it?"

"If you mean deal by crying everyday and burying myself in excessive loads of homework then..."

"So it doesn't get easier?" Cordy winced.

"Think less easier and more routine." Willow stated.

"Doesn't have to be..." Cordelia sat up and grinned mischievously as an idea came over her.

Willow gave her a skeptical look. "What do you mean?"


Xander watched from a distance as his ex-girlfriend's car roared into a parking space. He had grown accustomed to watching her step out of her car every morning, looking amazing. Now he saw she had a friend. A redhead with loose curls stepped out of the passenger side. Xander squinted and almost dropped his books as the girl turned around and he saw who it was.

"Hey Xan, have you seen...." Buffy's voice trailed off as she followed his stare. Her eyes went wide. "...Willow?" she finished weakly.


"I can't do this!" Willow whispered to Cordelia as they made their way down the school corridors.

"Sure you can." She whispered back through a full tooth smile.

Willow glanced down at her outfit and blushed more profusely. She felt like a prostitute. She was wearing a pair of black MaryJanes and a black leather skirt. Cordelia had also lent her a scoop-neck viridian blouse to accentuate her eyes. Her make-up was courtesy of Ms. Chase as well. Although she had to admit, it was amazing to have all eyes on her as she walked alongside Cordelia.

"Well, well, look at what the cat dragged in." Came a snide voice. Willow and Cordy turned in unison to face Harmony and the former Cordettes. "Oh and by cat I mean loser."

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Wow Harmony, did you burst some brain cells just thinking that up or did you have to practice it first."

"Excuse me?" Harmony narrowed her eyes.

Cordelia eyed some of the football players walking by. "You know practice. Like that time you came over my house and had to make out with a pillow for an hour before you felt you'd be good enough to kiss Jeremy Freeman." Harmony's face grew an intense shade of red. Cordelia smiled and cocked her head to the side in condescension "Or better yet, like that time you told me you were afraid you couldn't have orgasms so you practiced on yourself a whole lot." Harmony was almost as red as Willow's hair by this point and shaking in place as the group that had gathered around chuckled.

"At least I didn't get dumped by a friendless loser." Harmony sputtered, practically choking on her breath. Cordelia's eye twitched for a moment but her smile just grew brighter.

"How could you be Harm? You haven't had a real boyfriend since the seventh grade." Cordelia pouted with mock sympathy.

Harmony's eyes grew wide and she spun on her heels and began to storm off. Obviously she expected the rest of the clique to follow and she paused, half turning to them. But the cluster of girls just stood there awkwardly torn.

Finally one of them looked up at Cordelia. "See you in History class Cordy." She gave her a weak smile that Cordelia just returned with a icy upturn of her lips. The other girls murmured similar forms of apology and took off in the opposite direction of Harmony.

"What was that about friendless Harmony?" Willow called after the blonde girl who was raging towards the bathrooms. Cordelia linked the redheads arm and they continued down the hall and turned the next corner.

Once out of sight and range of the crowd they turned to each other and burst into giggles.

"That was delicious!" Cordelia clapped. Willow smiled, glad that Cordelia was feeling better. "I think it's safe to say that we are out of the line of Harmony's fire for quite sometime."

"I think everyone is. I don't think she's going to be able to throw stones any time soon." Willow assured her.

Cordelia studied Willow's face for a second. "You know I realize now that it wasn't facing them that I was afraid of. It was doing it alone. Being alone."

Willow slid her hand into Cordelia's and clasped it tight. "Well now you're not."