by Selena Ulrich

It was the swirls she always noticed. The way the batter was twisted and formed by the blades of the machine, each stroke of the blade leaving a momentary trail, with slight ridges either side by way of gentle emphasis, before the next revolution came and the pattern was reformed again. She liked the symbolism of that. A brief moment of beauty, something to admire and analyse, and then suddenly it changed and everything was different but still the same.

It would have amazed them to hear her think like that, she was sure. They didn't really like her, and that was OK because she didn't really like them. But at least she never thought of them as vapid and empty and devoid of any inner life at all. Well, actually she did, but not in so many words. It was like her Mom had always said - clothes maketh the man. If you could work out why someone sported the look they did, you usually had them summed up neatly enough not to have to worry about anything more. In fact, if you put your mind to it, you could develop whole systems of what this colour meant with this pattern, or how that shade of green and that haircut just screamed trouble. Pity no one else saw it that way.

A yawn began to make its escape, but she managed to stifle it with another bite of deep-fried calorie multiplier. This was like her fourth round of them in as many hours, and she knew she'd regret it in the morning, but after recent events she found herself no longer really caring, and anyway, wasn't it already morning outside? Certainly the sky didn't look so dark and she could hear the beginnings of bird song outside, and if it was early enough for birds it was early enough for breakfast, god damn it, and half a million cops can't be wrong, so why should she worry? It wasn't like she was addicted or anything.

It was Faith's fault, of course. That stupid Slayer metabolism burned so fast she could scarf down twenty boxes of the sugary little beasts and still be as svelte as ever. Hungry and horny, that's what she had said slaying made her, and since Cordelia couldn't always be in the mood they had made this place their unofficial haunt. Somewhere to rest and catch their breaths after a night of patrolling, or dancing, or whatever little crazy scheme the Slayer had dragged Cordelia off on, bringing her back here sooner or later, always tired but always exhilarated. Now Faith was gone but the exhaustion remained, a dull heavy ache that seemed to lurk in the front of her head and scratch away at her eyeballs as if trying to get out. Of course the sensible thing would have been to go home and sleep, but that would involve letting the exhaustion go, and every time she managed that she was left facing up to the even more intense sensations that her lover had left in place of her heart.

So here she sat, watching the patterns in the dough like some sort of fast food auger and stuffing the end results down her throat like it didn't matter, because sugar was a stimulant and kept you awake, and the longer she managed that the longer she kept the exhaustion; her last gift from Faith, the one thing she was going to keep, no matter how droopy her head or heavy her eyelids or warm her arms, or comfortable the bar...

Cordelia Chase began to snore.