Giles and Wesley jogged towards Cordelia’s apartment.
Wesley was carrying a crossbow, and trying not to smile triumphantly.
“Listen,” Giles said as the two Ex-Watchers entered the building, “What do you hear?”
Confused, Wesley said, “Nothing.”
“Yes,” Giles said as he hurried up the stairs. “No sounds of violence, no screams of rage.”
“Ah. Perhaps we’re not too late.”
“My thoughts precisely.”
They ran down the hall and opened Cordelia’s front door – just in time to hear Buffy say, angrily, “Nice try, Cordy. But Riley doesn’t act like that. He leaves running my life to me.” Tears were running down Cordelia’s face, but Buffy apparently hadn’t noticed them.
“So that’s what this was about,” Angel said. “You’re not angry at me. You’re angry at Riley.”
“I will show you how not angry at you I am!” And then Buffy leapt across the room and punched Angel in the face.
Mildly, Wesley told Giles, “What was that about no sounds of violence or screams of rage?”
“Shut up,” Giles said. Buffy’s attack was almost void of technique; she was simply hitting Angel as hard as she could. The vampire was blocking nine out of ten attacks.
“In any event. Miss Summers!” Wesley raised his voice. “If you would please –" he raised the crossbow and pointed in Buffy’s general direction. This had the exact consequence you’d imagine, which is to say, none.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Joyce ran across the room and slapped the weapon from Wesley’s hands. “You are not going to shoot my daughter!”
Angel, momentarily distracted, failed to counter a blow to the face. Within seconds Buffy had knocked him down and had taken out a stake. Giles and Wesley moved forward, uncertain what to do, when a sudden piercing scream brought the action to halt.
Everyone looked and saw Cordelia holding the crossbow –
Pointed directly at Buffy’s head.
“Back away from him,” Cordelia said, crossbow shaking in her hand. “Now.”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Giles demanded.
“I think I’m ending this now,” Cordelia snapped back. “Now get away from Angel, Buffy. I’m not kidding.”
“Like hell you’re going to kill my daughter,” Joyce said, moving towards the younger woman – only to trip and fall when the throw rug she was standing on suddenly flew out from under her.
“Way to go, Dennis,” Cordelia muttered to herself.
“You’re not going to shoot me,” Buffy said, though she did lower the stake.
“Oh really? Why not? Why the fuck not?” Cordelia said. “I mean, I’ve already killed one person this week, I may as well go for two.”
“Cordelia, I really don’t think –" Giles began, only to be silenced by a light kick from Wesley.
“She knows what she’s doing,” Wesley told him. "Have patience. Please."
“I mean,” Cordelia continued, oblivious to the Watchers' conversation. “That’s the way these things go, right? It’s just like I was telling your mom earlier, Buffy, kill one person and the next becomes easier. You should know though, right? You came here, you wanted to kill Faith, and here you are trying to kill Angel. So you should know exactly what I’m going through. This murderous rage. First you kill one person, then the next and pretty soon you end up just like Faith. Killing people just because you think they’ve pissed you off.”
“Cordy –“ Buffy started, hesitantly.
“Me,” Cordy said, “I’m better than that. Because I know you’re pissing me off.”
With one word, Buffy threw the stake down to the floor and screamed. It was a scream of rage and anguish directed mostly at herself. “Enough,” she yelled as she stood up. “Enough,” she said again, more quietly, as she walked over towards Cordelia. “Enough,” she repeated in a normal tone of voice as she took the crossbow from Cordelia’s unresisting hands.
“So do you believe me now?” Cordelia asked as Buffy set the weapon aside.
“I gotta say, Cordy,” Buffy said with bitter humor, “You’re the best person I know at driving home a point with a sledgehammer.”
“Nothing else was working,” Cordelia responded just as bitterly.
“So . . .” Angel said tentatively as he stood up, “Does this mean you’re not going to kill me?”
“Not right now, anyway,” Buffy said, not really looking at him.
“How did you know?” Giles asked Wesley.
“I had no idea,” Wesley responded. To Joyce’s and Giles’ apparent astonishment he said, “Educated guess on my part. I know Cordelia."
“Cordy,” Buffy said shakily – “Could I sit down on your couch? Because I’m not feeling like I can stand much longer –" she staggered and fell.
Of course Angel caught her.
The vampire guided her to the couch and then slowly backed away, not saying a word. Giles and Joyce then moved in. “Buffy?” Joyce asked. “What is it honey? What’s wrong?”
“I thought he wasn’t like that,” Buffy said. “I thought he wasn't going to come on all macho and protective. I thought he was different.”
“He told me he was doing it because he loved you,” Angel said softly.
“That’s what they all say,” Buffy said, visibly drained. “And then – the way I came up here –"
“We’ll talk about it later,” Giles said firmly, daring anyone to disagree with him.
Cordelia took the challenge. "The hell we will. We’ll talk about this now.” Buffy looked up her blankly.
“I really don’t think –" Giles began.
“You got that in one. Look. Buffy comes up here and nearly goes psycho, what, twice, in the span of one month? And instead of confronting the issue, which any good psychiatrist would tell you is the way you deal with these things, you want to handle it later. And then instead of talking to her about her bad attitude you and mommy over there will just let it slide. Poor Buffy, her boyfriend died, that’s why she did it. Well, we all know how Buffy acted the last time one of her boyfriends died. I gave her a pass then. But you know, if she’s going to go looneytunes this often then maybe we need to go find ourselves someone with a bit more emotional stability to do this job for us. Like, I don’t know, Faith.”
“God, Cordy,” Buffy said after a stunned silence, “You can be a stone bitch.”
“Well, somebody has to tell you the truth, Buffy. And as usual it looks like I’m elected. You’re going over the edge here. Again. And you know, one of these times we might not be here to pull you back. And then what happens? I mean, this is your life we’re talking about here, and your sanity.” No one else even tried to speak here. This was Cordelia’s show.
“I know,” Buffy said. “I know. I was just so angry – I was thinking that maybe Riley had been my one shot to get past – but anyway –"
“And you went ballistic. Look, I don’t know what this is, or why you do it. Maybe the strain of being a Slayer makes you megatouchy mentally. I mean, sad to say, you’re the sanest Slayer I’ve met.”
“Not exactly a ringing endorsement,” Buffy said wryly.
“Not intended to be. But you need to do something about it. I don’t know what. Call a shrink. Vent more often. Find that inner moppet of yours and spank her until she screams. Whatever. But for god’s sake find some way of dealing that doesn’t involve going postal or running away from the world.”
“What do the rest of you think about this?” Buffy said.
Giles answered. “Well, actually –"
“You agree?” Buffy asked.
“I wouldn’t have phrased it quite that way, but yes,” Giles said.
“I quite concur,” Wesley added.
“And you?” Buffy demanded of Angel. “You apologized to me for what happened on the roof, and in the police station, with Faith.”
“I had to,” Angel said. “Not because I was wrong but because I wanted the lines of communication to stay open. I didn’t want to lose touch with you over something like that.”
“First time I’ve heard about any of this, honey. But you know, maybe Cordelia’s right."
“Damn right I am.”
Buffy said quietly, “Then maybe this is my wake-up call. My one shot. But goddammit, why did Riley have to die?”
And then, in a voice tinged with more venom, more bitterness, than anyone had ever heard her use before, Cordelia said, “My