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The Bitch Is Back

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This story is No. 24 in the series "Oh, The Places He Goes!". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: The last story of the series. Xander Rule #4: If you don't have a body, she probably isn't dead.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > 4400, ThephoukaFR1316,48521511,11627 Jun 0727 Jun 07Yes
Disclaimer: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, its characters, setting, and other minutiae are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and 20th Century Fox. Gobo Fraggle, Fraggle Rock, and other related details are property of Jim Henson Productions and its related companies. The 4400, its characters, settings, and other minutiae are the property of CBS Paramount Network Television, American Zoetrope, and the USA Network. No infringement is intended. No profit will be made.

Not-the-Author's Note: So, the phoukabro tells me this is the last chapter of "Oh, The Places He Goes!" He has accomplished what he set out to do, which was tell Xander's post-S7 story in the direction he felt was truest to the characters and original theme and tone of the series. After I finish posting this, I will be explaining to him that this is not permitted, and if he has any questions, he can simply refer to Stephen King's Misery for more information. We'll see if that gets us anywhere.

The Bitch is Back

Riley Finn paced back and forth in the study, glancing at the clock.

“He'll be here soon, I assure you,” Reginald Johnston told him. He sat by an end table calmly paging through a report.

“You said that an hour ago,” Riley responded. “Xander's still not here.”

“I just relayed to you the information I had. Mr. Harris and his team successfully completed their mission and would return once they attended to all the needed clean up.”

Riley stopped his pacing and faced Reg. “Could you just call him?”

“Standard protocol is that unless there is a level three emergency or higher, a field team will not be interrupted until they have returned to base,” Reg told him without looking up. He continued to leaf through the file. “While your situation is... unusual, I hardly think it's dire enough,”

“You think she's going to accept that?”

“If you're worried about your guest, I would be more than happy to explain things to her,” Reg closed the file and got up from his seat. “She seems like a reasonable person.”

“Sure, you do that. See where it gets you.”

Riley sat down, listening carefully. Reginald excused himself to the connected room. The calm tones were muffled by the door as Reg spoke to the guest. Riley broke into a broad grin as the loud yelling was directed at the junior Watcher.

“Better you than me,” he said.

The front door opening caught his attention. Riley stood and ran to the front door. Just as he turned the corner, Xander came in the doorway carrying a large bag. Several people followed him.

“Xander! Thank god you're back.”

“Riley?” Xander stopped in the doorway in mild surprise. “Hey. I thought the poker game wasn't until this weekend.”

“Yeah, something came up. I really need to talk to you,” Riley said.

“Um, yeah. Just give me a moment,” Xander stepped into the hallway. He turned and waited for the redheaded young woman to limp through the door after him. “Violet. You need to get your knee looked at immediately. I want to read Dr. Benton's report in the morning.”

“I will, but Herbie's been hurt!” Violet protested.

“I know. But it's not too serious. I promise you we'll get him fixed up. Now I know you're worried about him, but he's also worried about you too and wants you looked after. Right?”

“I guess,” Violet pouted.

“Good,” Xander turned to the next person. “Rona, take the van and haul Violet over to the Doc.”

“On it, boss,” Rona replied. She dropped the case she was carrying and grabbed a set of keys from a hook on the wall.

“And Rona? I want you to head over to Dr. Crane's after you drop her off.”

“C'mon, boss. I'm fine.”

“Then it'll be a short session,” Xander said. “Look, Drusilla did a number on you. We both know that. I don't want you off your game or trying to overcompensate because of it. Besides, you have to be the role model here. How are any of the others going to go in for their sessions if they see you skip yours?”

“Fine,” Rona sighed. “I'll do it.”

“Thank you.”

Rona steadied Violet and led her back out through the door.

“Riley!” Dawn passed by the two Slayers and greeted him with a hug. “What brings you by?”

“It's a little complicated. I need to talk to Xander.”

“I'm here. We can talk in just a second. Carry this for me, would you?” Xander handed Riley the case Rona had left.

Riley hefted it with some difficulty. He looked back up and saw Xander walking down the hallway next to Dawn. Riley hurried to catch up with them.

“Dawn, I need you to go to the garage and look over Herbie. Then call the mechanic, see if Carlos is available. Offer them double time if they come out today.”

“Will do,” Dawn said. She turned and headed for the garage, leaving the two men. Xander continued walking into the training room up to a large cabinet. He set his bag on the floor, began taking weapons out of it, and placed them in the cabinet. Xander gestured for Riley to place the case down. “So what's got you hot and bothered?”

“It's about the 4400.”

“The what?” Xander asked, carefully wiping down a blood smeared sword before putting it up.

“The 4400,” Riley repeated. “The Returnees? From Mt. Ranier?”

Xander gave him a blank look.

“Group of people show up in blaze of light? It's been all over the news the past month?”

“Sorry, man. I keep up with the Council's briefings. I don't follow the national news,” he said.

“How could you possibly miss this? It's the story of the century!” Riley asked.

“Hey! We've been a little busy here. For the past six months, Drusilla and Harmony have been running amok in the city” Xander tossed Riley a rag. “Could you clean up the swords in there? Anyway, when gothic insane teams up with California blonde, no one is happy. They just tried to pull an apocalypse on us. So between stopping that and finally dusting the vapid twins I've had a busy week. I haven't had a chance to catch up on the 6900.”

“4400,” Riley corrected him. “You guys okay?”

“A little banged up, but we should be fine. Drusilla and Harmony had a lot of minions protecting them we had to get through. For two vampires that can barely put together a rational thought they had surprisingly good team motivational skills,” Xander said. He reached over and began to put up the weapons Riley had cleaned. “Now what's up with this group that would bring you here?”

“I need to start at the beginning,” Riley sat down and kept talking as Xander moved around the room. “About a month ago, satellite radar was tracking a comet-like object that was passing by the Earth. To everyone’s surprise and fear, the comet changed course and headed directly for the west coast. It even slowed down to prevent a collision. Once it arrived at Mt. Ranier, there was a huge flash of light and over four thousand people standing around.”

“O....kay. Not seeing how this involves me,” Xander said as he carefully placed a battleaxe on the wall. “Besides Mt. Ranier is in Washington state. The San Fransisco branch would deal with it if it's supernatural related.”

“Just listen,” Riley said. “The people who appeared were all people who had been reported missing over the past sixty years, most were presumed dead. The oldest one dates back to 1946. The most recent was about a year ago. But someone or something took them and returned them. Not one of them has a clear recollection of where they were.”


“I know. A division under Homeland Security called NTAC has been handling it, trying to figure it out. All the Returnees were kept in quarantine for study. But we can't stall anymore. The relatives of these people want them released, and they want to go. Last week a federal court ruled that they be released from custody. So every Returnee has made a list of people they want to contact. Your name was on one of the lists.”

“My name?” Xander asked. “I'm the first choice for contact for one of these 4400?”

“Not the first,” Riley explained. “The other names were either dead, out of the country, or we were unable to track them down. But when we mentioned your name, the Returnee demanded to see you.”

“Who is it?”

“HEY, DORKBOY! How long are you and Captain Crewcut going to keep me waiting?”

Xander slowly turned around to look at the speaker.

Cordelia Chase stood poised by the far wall, tapping her foot. She took a long look at him. “What the hell happened to you?”

“So....” Xander handed Cordelia a cup of coffee. “You're…alive?”

Cordelia took the cup and sipped it. “Yeah, apparently that's a surprise to some. Last thing I remember helping Angel one last time, then saying goodbye to him. Then there was a bright light, and I was standing around in a field with a bunch of strangers.”

“Her death certificate says that she was in a coma for several months. She eventually deteriorated until her breathing stopped,” Riley informed them. “Date of death was February 4, 2004.”

“It appears reports of her death were greatly exaggerated,” Reg said from across the room.

Cordelia shot him a withering glare, while Xander sadly shook his head.

“I'll just... be quiet,” Reg mumbled.

“But the vision thing is gone?” Xander asked, hovering over Cordelia.

“Yeah. I think I passed them off, just like I originally got them. I haven't had one since I got back, and I think I'm rid of the demonic parts I used to have.”

“NTAC ran extensive tests on all the Returnees,” Riley said. “Cordelia came up 100% human.”

“I'm normal,” Cordelia repeated in disbelief.

“You okay with that?” Xander asked.

“Yeah. I think so. I mean the splitting headaches are history, thank god. And the whole part demon thing was a manipulation so some skanky goddess could use me as an incubator. I went through so much because of that, and it's finally over. But...I did help a lot of people with the visions,”she put down the empty coffee cup as she spoke.

“You want some more?” Xander asked. “I can brew up another pot. We've got the good stuff too. Real Colombian beans.”

“No, thank you.”

“Oh, you're probably hungry. We can order something for you. What do you want? Hell, between being quarantined, abducted, and asleep in a coma, it's been years since you had a decent meal,” he said nervously.

“I'm fine, really.”

“It's no problem. I'll just rustle up some food and drink. Don't worry about it,” Xander insisted, as he got up and rushed out of the room.

Cordelia gave a questioning look to Riley. He shrugged and turned to Reg.

“Mr. Harris only wants the best for his guests. He's very concerned with... beverages and such.”

“Where the hell is it?” Xander shouted as he slammed the cabinet door shut. “We just bought some yesterday. We should have some godda-”

“Mr. Xander?” a nervous voice asked.

Xander turned and saw Gobo Fraggle standing on the counter, watching him.

“Darn coffee,” he finished.

“You look upset, Mr. Xander.”

“I'm just having a little trouble finding the mother... hugging gourmet coffee beans,” he said, searching through the pantry. “I've got some very special friends visiting and I can't even serve them a decent cup of coffee.”

“So you're upset about the coffee?” Gobo asked.

“I'd offer them a latte or espresso, but I can never get the piece of... tin espresso maker to run right.”

Gobo nodded, then pulled out a small notepad. He flipped through it, then stopped once he found the correct page.

“Mr. Xander, do you remember last month when Miss Rona and Miss Buffy were arguing over who made the food stain on the carpet?”

“Yes, Gobo. I remember.”

“You told me that sometimes when people say they're upset over one thing, they may actually be upset over something completely different. And you said that it was their time of the month that made Miss Rona and Miss Buffy so mad,” Gobo gently placed his small hand on Xander's arm. “Mr. Xander, is it your time of the month?”

“Gobo, guys don't have.... You know, I really don't want to have this conversation. Ask Reg about it, and he'll explain.”

Gobo shook his head sadly. “I'm not leaving until you tell me what's wrong. Your friend is back. Shouldn't that make you happy?”

“I'm very happy Cordelia's alive, believe me,” Xander stopped his frantic searching and took a deep breath. “It's just that I'm the closest person she has left. They couldn't find anyone else for her.”

“Why is that bad?”

Xander shook his head and explained. “In high school we used to date. We actually grew pretty close, but then I did something stupid and screwed it up. Cordelia was hurt, physically and emotionally. And it was all my fault. I lost touch with her after high school and didn't even know when she was in a coma then disappeared. Now she's back, and I'm scared I'm going to screw things up for her.”

“That's why you're wigging out on me?” Cordelia stood in the door with her arms crossed in front of her. “C'mon, Xander, you're still stressed about some high school melodrama? That was years ago.”

“Doesn't change the fact that I screwed up and hurt you,” he told her. He kept his head down, unable to look directly at her.

“Xander, listen to me. Growing up, I was a total bitch to you ninety percent of the time,” Cordelia said in a proud tone. As she spoke, she slowly approached him

“Yes, you fooled around on me when we were dating. But truthfully, other guys I dated before fooled around on me. Hell, I fooled around on them,” she said in a calm tone. Her voice turned softer as she continued. “You were the first guy that I really cared about and that scared me. Then when I found out about you and Willow, I thought that I meant nothing to you. That's what upset me so much.”

In front of Xander now, she gently touched his hair, looking directly at him. “But then when you found out I was broke, you covered for me. And you bought me that prom dress. I know that you used up your road trip fund for that, and I will always be grateful.”

Cordelia stood straight up. “So will you quit your damn moping already?”

Gobo let out a soft gasp. Xander grimaced.

“House rule number seventeen,” he told her. “Don't curse in front of the Fraggle.”

“You're kidding me,” she asked with a raised eyebrow. “You actually have rules to look out for this annoying -”

“House rule number one. Do not diss the Fraggle,” Xander warned her. He smiled at her as he continued. “About half the house rules are about Gobo.”

“Fine, it's your house. I won't curse around him, I won't insult him, I won't sexually harass him, I won't sell him to the highest bidder. Is that okay?” she asked.

“That about covers it,” he said. “So you're not mad at me over that anymore?”

“Xander, since then I've been impregnated with demon spawn three times,” Cordelia said, leaning against the counter next to Xander. She slouched a little, relaxing. “Once after sleeping with a guy I thought was nice. Once after my body was taken over by a higher power, and the last time was through good old fashioned demon implant. I just kissed a guy once and contracted head-splitting visions. That give me a little perspective. So I honestly say that dating you, even with the breakup, was one of the more successful relationships of my life.”

“Thanks. I guess one of the reasons this has been bugging me so much is that I'm afraid I'll hurt whoever I'm with. I don't want to turn out like my father.”

“Please, you are so unlike your father,” Cordelia assured him. She leaned in close to speak to Xander in a warm tone. “Whoever you wind up with will be a very lucky girl.”

“Well, I've been with Dawn for over a year now, and we're closer than ever. Maybe you're right. Maybe we'll -”

“Wait,” Cordelia interrupted. She took a step back and straightened up. “Dawn? Dawn Summers? You're dating Little Dawnie Summers? YOU PERVERT! I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!”

“Cordy, calm down,” Xander said, wincing at her yells. “I realize that from a certain point of view, my relationship with Dawn might possibly look a little... unorthodox.”

“Unorthodox?” Cordelia asked in disbelief. “YOU USED TO BABYSIT HER! WE USED TO BABYSIT HER! How many times did we have plans for a special date that were canceled and we wound up watching her?”

“Maybe... twice?” Xander offered. Cordelia glared at him. “A month?”

“Cordelia?” Dawn said from the hallway. “Hey, I don't want to barge in, but I was kind of hoping to see you.”

“Dawn?” The stern expression on Cordelia's face transformed into a giddy smile. She stepped over and warmly hugged the younger woman. “Oh my god, it's been so long. You look so great. I can't believe how much you've grown up.”

“Thank you. First of all, I'd like to say welcome back, and I'm glad you're not dead.”

“That is so sweet,” Cordelia grinned. She paused, turned towards Xander and glared, then turned back to Dawn, smiling again. “I love what you've down with your hair.”

“You do? Thanks, I wasn't sure about the highlights.”

“They're wonderful. I am so glad you stayed with the brunette look. It looks so natural. Too many girls go for the cheap blonde look.”

“I thought about going blonde for about five minutes. But I remember you telling me that the best coloring just tweaks the original, rather that replacing.”

“I am so proud of you. This must be what those inner city teachers feel like when they teach gang members to write formal essays.”

Xander watched Cordelia and Dawn happily chatting across the room with an uneasy expression.

“They're talking about me.”

“You're paranoid,” Riley told him. “They haven't seen each other in years. They've got a lot to catch up on.”

“So does he still do that thing with his fingers when you kiss?” Cordelia asked.

“What thing?”

“Where he tries to run his fingers through your hair, but half the time he gets tangled up and accidentally yanks it?”

“Oh, no. Now he lightly brushed his hands over my neck and ears. He must have worked on that with Anya. Did he do the sucking on your earlobe thing?”

“I taught him that. Of course at first he would jump right in and do it all the time. I had to teach him to build up to it.”

“Well I appreciate the lessons. He is a fantastic kisser now,” Dawn said.

“Oh, he was always a good kisser. I just refined his talent a little,” she stopped and glanced over. “Okay, he's looking pretty worried right now. On three, we both look over for a second, then laugh.”

“Got it.”

Xander stopped as Cordelia and Dawn looked directly at him for a second, then laughed.

“There! Did you see that?”

“Relax. You should be glad they're getting along so well,” Riley told him.

“You wouldn't be so calm if it was Buffy and Sam talking about you and laughing.”

“Please. I keep Sam in line,” Riley said. “But, uh, you don't have to tell her I said that.”

“I won't.”

“And where is Buffy?” Riley asked. “She went to school with Cordelia also. I figured they would want to catch up.”

“Buffy's on a camping trip with her Mountie boyfriend. I don't think she really understands what he means by camping. I saw her pack a hair dryer for the trip. But she'll be back next week.”

Across the room, Cordelia and Dawn had stopped laughing.

“So, are you really upset about me and Xander?” Dawn asked with a little fear.

“Don't worry about that,” Cordelia said, waving off her concerns. “I just can't let an opportunity to yell at Xander go by. Although, I was surprised. I really wouldn't have figured you settling so low.”

Dawn shrugged. “There's something about him. He looks at me with that puppy dog expression and I'm hooked.”

“I guess Xander does have a certain pathetic charm about him. Even I fell for it,” Cordelia said. She leaned in close and asked with a grin, “how did you two get together?”

“After Sunnydale, Xander was in pretty bad shape. He had just lost his eye, and his fiancée died. The whole gang drifted apart. I traveled some in Europe, then came to Chicago. Xander spent a couple of years in Africa, then went all across the country. He was doing a job for Giles in Chicago when I ran into him. We spent the week together, and by the end, of it he couldn't leave.”

“It's good that you guys connected like that. I really need to catch up with everyone. Do you know where I can get a line on Angel and the rest of his gang?”

Back across the room, Riley leaned towards Xander.

“There's something else I need to tell you. We did all the tests on Cordelia, and she came up clean. Totally human.”

“But?” Xander asked.

“But a few of the Returnees have shown a few... unusual abilities since being released from custody.”

“Abilities? Like what?”

“Well, one guy had enhanced strength and reflexes,” Riley explained.

“Had?” Xander asked.

“Yeah, I was hoping you wouldn't pick up on that,” Riley said, rubbing the back of his neck. “He decided to fight crime. After a couple of days, he was stabbed and died. Another guy could make people do what he says just by speaking to them.”

“Maybe he was just really persuasive.”

“He killed several women and got someone else to confess to the crime,” he said with a grim look.

“Huh. So how does this affect Cordy?”

“Well, some people in NTAC think that every Returnee has some kind of ability. They just haven't come up yet. Another theory is that whatever was done to the 4400 only affected a small percentage. Another theory is that maybe these abilities don't have anything to do with the disappearances,” Riley shook his head. “That's not a very popular theory.”

“Any sign of weird stuff with Cordy?” Xander asked in a concerned tone.

“None,” Riley admitted. “Of course before she disappeared she was a part-demon seer who was in gravely injured and in a coma. And she's now fully healed, out of the coma, and fully human. Some would say that is pretty weird.”

“Does NTAC know about the whole part demon seer thing?”

“Nope. First I head of it was when you two were talking.”

“Could you not mention it to them?” Xander asked. “I trust you, and I'm sure Cordy would appreciate the discretion.”

“Well, technically my job just was to accompany her here. I don't have any orders to investigate her or report any findings.”

“Thanks, man.”

“Xander!” Cordelia said in a loud voice. She got up and strode over to him. Xander noted the slight tremor in her hands as she walked. “Dawn just said... Dawn told me about Los Angeles. Is it true? Are my friends dead?”

Xander saw the scared look on her face. “I'm sorry, Cordy. They're gone.”

“All of them?” she asked in a tightly controlled, even voice as a tear slowly slid down her cheek.

“Hey, Dennis!” Willy shouted out. “Can you start bringing down all the undamaged glasses? The boss wants an inventory done on what we have left, so we can order more.”

A tray of shot glasses floated by him and gently set itself on the floor. Willy turned and grabbed the broom from the closet. He began sweeping the broken glass strewn across the floor.

“I don't care if it's an ancient ritual of the Ano-Movic demons, they shouldn't trash the place and then claim it's all in the name of cultural heritage. And how can it be an ancient ritual when they watch Girls Gone Wild DVDs halfway through?”

A second tray of brandy tumblers floated past Willy as he complained.

“And the boss should really get the anti violence charms to prevent property damage. Don't get me wrong, it's nice not to get slapped around by every other person that comes in, but the after party clean up is getting old. Why do we even host these things?” Willy asked.

“Because their check cleared,” Lorne said from his office. “And if you want the full health coverage you keep asking for, the bar will keep hosting these things. If you have a problem with that I suggest you...” he trailed off.

“Suggest I what?” Willy asked. He turned and saw Lorne standing by the door in shock. “Boss?”

The tray of wine glasses hovering next to Willy dropped to the floor, the glasses shattering on impact.

“Geez, what the hell, guys? What's got you two so spooked?”

Lorne raised a hand and pointed to the bar entrance. He finally spoke, his voice cracking. “Cordelia?”

Xander stood before Lorne, ranting at the top of his voice.

“So, let me get this straight: The evil law firm, which has already tried to auction off Cordy's body parts and hired a demon to screw up her visions and physically injure her, says 'Oh yeah, we have plenty of doctors. Don't worry about that pesky coma she's in, we'll take care of her.' Then a few months later they call up and say 'Um, she just... died. Bummer.'”

“It's amazing how you can boil down any situation until only the snark remains,” Lorne told him. “It's a real talent.”

“Thanks, Dennis,” Cordelia said as a pina colada with several fruit slices and an umbrella sticking out of the glass floated down and set itself before her. “I hate to admit it, but Xander's got a point. Did you guys even ask to see the body?”

“You should always check for a body. The one thing I've learned from comic books is if there's no body, then they're not really dead,” Xander informed them.

Lorne glared at Xander. “We were in shock. After that our group imploded on an assault to take out Wolfram and Hart. How did you handle the news of her death?”

“I got drunk,” Xander proudly proclaimed.

Lorne and Cordelia stared at him for a second, then shrugged and turned to face each other.

“Princess, we made a mistake. Believe me, I realize that. But you have to understand how bad things got.”

“I mean, really drunk,” Xander said in the background. “I had a three day blackout.”

“Once you died, it was like we lost our heart of our group. And once the heart was gone, the rest of the body died off.”

“I joined AA and everything,” Xander added. He shrugged, got up, and walked over a few tables to join Dawn.

“Lorne, tell me what happened,” Cordelia asked.

"Fred was the first. She opened up this sarcophagus, and an ancient demon goddess took over her body. Her soul was consumed. The demon Illyria spent the next few months walking around in her body,” Lorne said sadly.

“Oh, god. Poor Fred,” Cordelia said, shaking her head.

“The rest died a couple of months later,” Lorne continued. He poured a shot of whiskey into a glass and began drinking as he spoke. “Angel planned a suicide run to take out the earthly backers of Wolfram and Hart. Wesley was fatally stabbed by his target. Gunn killed his target and made it back to meet the others, but his wounds were too serious and he bled out just as the big battle started. Angel and Spike were next. They lasted a lot longer than they should have, but there were too many warriors against them. Illyria, who was working with Angel by that point, was the last. She finished off all the warriors and even took on a dragon. She managed to destroy the dragon, but the explosion took her with it. Official reports blamed it on a series of building demolitions gone awry.”

“What happened to you?” Cordelia asked.

Lorne hefted his wine glass and took a swallow before answering. “Same as what happened to everyone else. I just didn't die in the process.”

“How bad was it?”

“Very. At first we told ourselves that if we were in charge, all the bad stuff would stop. But that didn't happen. Then we thought we could minimize the damage. HA!” Lorne laughed bitterly. He downed the next shot of whiskey and poured another glass. “Finally we just wanted to hurt the other side, no matter what the cost. And, oh, the cost. Not just our group, but others too. Angel killed people. Angel arranged for people to be killed. He made me a killer. And if I hadn't walked away when I did, I would have died with the rest of them.”

“Lorne, I have to ask. Is there any chance Angel survived?”

Lorne sadly shook his head. “I'm sorry.”

Across the room Dawn and Xander sat at a table and talked quietly.

“You ever think about them?” Dawn asked.

“Not really,” Xander shrugged. “Only one I was ever close to was Cordy. Once I heard about her, I didn't have much interest in the rest. I know it sounds cold, but I was in another continent, and I had more than enough people to worry about otherwise.”

“I remember when the news came. I got a call from Buffy. She was quiet and subdued, so I knew something really bad had happened. Then when she told me about Angel I.... I was relieved. Oh god, I felt so bad afterwards. But -”

“You were glad that everyone who really mattered to you was still okay,” Xander finished.

“Yeah,” Dawn agreed. “Do you think that maybe there's a chance that Angel and Spike didn't die? I mean it wouldn't be the first time we thought they were gone, then they showed back up.”

“If anyone would get yet another chance to live it would be those two. But,” Xander shook his head. “They're gone.”

“Are you sure? You said it yourself, they never found a body.”

“Vampires don't leave bodies, they leave little piles of dust that blow away in the wind,” he pointed out. Taking a deep breath he continued. “We would have heard something by now. Every time we thought they were gone from our lives, they would pop back in. Buffy never had a chance to get over them, because they never left long enough. It's been over three years without even a whisper. Angel and Spike are dead. I'm sure of that. No more second chances for them.”

Across the room, Cordelia held Lorne's hand. She took a napkin floating before her and wiped her eyes.

“I'd like to visit them,” she said. “Their graves or wherever they spent their last moments. I need to say goodbye.”

“I can take you. I'll need a couple of days to make sure things don't fall apart here, but I'll go with you. I never said goodbye to them either,” he said.

A loud rapping on the table caught their attention.

“Yes, Dennis,” Cordelia said. “You're more than welcome to come with us.”

Back across the room, Xander watched his ex-girlfriend, the anagogic demon, and incorporeal spirit share a hug.

“I'm still having trouble believing she's actually back,” he said.

“When Buffy returned, I slept in the same room as her for a week. I was scared that she wouldn't be there in the morning unless I kept watch. It seems stupid now, but it made sense at the time,” Dawn told him. “You ever wonder if anyone else might come back. Like... Anya?”

Xander let out a soft chuckle. “I can just imagine that. Anya walking in on us late at night. Either she'd flip out and try to eviscerate me, vengeance demon or not, or she'd want to join in and would start ordering us around.”

“You're imagining being in a threesome with me and Anya?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah. Imaginary you is quite the deviant,” he joked. “The first few months all I could think of was the possibility of Anya coming back. I never saw a body. I know Andrew told us how she died, but... it's Andrew. He's not exactly a reliable source. What about you, anyone you hoped would return?”

“My mom,” she said. “I tried that stupid spell after she died, and it gave me nightmares on top of my grief. But even after all that, a small part of me still wishes she'd come back.”

“You're not the only one,” he said as he hugged her.

“You sure you'll be okay on this trip?” Xander asked.

He stood just inside the door of the guest bedroom Cordelia was staying in. She sat on the bed, packing a duffel bag.

“I told you I'll be fine. This will give me a chance to catch up with Lorne and Dennis,” Cordelia answered as folded her clothes and placed them in the bag.

“Okay, but be sure to take one of the Slayer emergency kits with you. And I also want you to have this,” he said, handing her a debit card. Cordelia glanced at it, then shot a questioning look to Xander.

“It's a prepaid account. There's a thousand dollars in it right now, but if you need more, call me and I'll authorize it.”

Cordelia slipped the card into her purse. “Thanks for everything. You've been really sweet helping me out.”

“No problem. You give any thought about what you want to do after your trip?”

“I don't know,” Cordelia said. She got up and looked around the room for any last minute items. “I got an e-mail from Jordan Collier saying he was setting up a center for all the 4400. It offers free room and board.”

“You going to take him up on it?”

“Maybe. The problem is that there's not much for me to do there. I don't want to just sit around and feel useless. But there's not a lot of job opportunities for me.”

“If only there were some organization that needs people with experience in the supernatural and a desire to help people. Possibly some secret agency that's been rebuilding for the past few years, maybe a close acquaintance of yours works for them and could put in a good word for you. That sure would be convenient,” Xander said. “Oh, wait! There is!”

“I appreciate the offer. But it won't be until after my trip that I even think about anything like that,” she said. She packed her bathroom items in a small overnight bag and tossed it on the bed.

“Just remember, you have a place here if you want. And we've got postings all over the world.”

“So I wouldn't have to work for you directly? Ooo, that does sound tempting.”

“Funny. But keep it in mind. We're on the lookout for reliable people, even managed to hire some people your group worked with. Kate Lockley works in London, Gwen Raiden is in Melbourne, Justine Cooper in Rio. We've got some rich guy named David Nabbit pulling strings in Hong Kong in exchange for getting to ride along with the Slayers on slow nights. There's even some guy named the Groosalugg in Beijing.”

“You really went on a recruiting drive. I can't believe you've got Groo working for you. And... wait Justine Cooper? The name's familiar, but how was she connected to Angel?” Cordelia asked as she hefted the duffel bag on her shoulder.

“Oh, she... isn't important right now,” Xander said. He grabbed the overnight bag and followed Cordelia down the stairs. “What is important is that you figure out the next chapter of your life. And a nice long road trip is just the help you need. I know that from experience. You have a lot of options. You can be a bar wench for a demon, a Watcher here or around the globe. Hell, you might even be a super powered Returnee. The world is your oyster.”

“Nice to know I have choices,” she stopped at the front door to the building and set the duffel down. “But don't hold your breath about me getting any powers. I think I filled my quota for this lifetime.”

She walked over to Xander and lightly kissed his left temple just by his eyepatch. “I appreciate all your help. And I'm glad I saw you again. I'll keep in touch, no matter what happens.”

“Same here,” Xander said.

Cordelia walked over to Dawn and gave her a hard hug. “Take care of him. He gets into trouble when he's off on his own.”

“I will,” Dawn replied.

Xander and Dawn watched as Cordelia Chase grabbed her bags, walked out the door, and got into the car waiting outside.

“Good luck, Cordy,” Xander said, rubbing his left temple.

“I'm very proud of how you handled all this,” Dawn told him. “I bet she'll take the job.”

“I hope so. I don't think she's going to need our help. But I'd like her working on our side,” he said. He stopped shook his head. “Have we got any aspirin?”

“There's some in the kitchen. Let's head over,” Dawn said, guiding Xander down the hall. “I was just thinking, Cordelia said that she had her fill of powers for her life. But she was declared dead, so technically this is a whole new life for her.”

“Good point. Maybe.... ow,” Xander put his hand to his face. “I've got some kind of... OW!”

“Xander! What is it?” Dawn cried.

“Something's wrong!” he yelled, falling to the floor. “JESUS! SOMETHING'S WRONG!”


“Oh, god,” Xander moaned. “It's burning.”

“Xander, listen to me. I have to take a look,” Dawn told him. She pulled his hands away from his face. Taking a breath, she moved the eyepatch off. “Oh. My. God.”

Xander's panicked breath slowed. He sat up and stared at Dawn's face, blinking. A nervous smile broke out on his face. Dawn brought her hand up and caressed the side of his face. Leaning in, she looked directly in his eyes.

“I think,” she started, then let out a nervous laugh, “we know what ability Cordelia has.”

The End

You have reached the end of "The Bitch Is Back". This story is complete.

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