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Fate's Little Plaything (Volume One)

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This story is No. 4 in the series "A Different Future". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Fate hasn’t finished playing with Cordelia – and this time there isn’t even a Vengeance Demon in sight. Continued from “Someone Else’s Mess”

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > Cordelia-CenteredCordyfanFR1333426,219120813269,70019 Aug 0926 Feb 11Yes

NOTE: This chapter is rated FR15

Sisters

Fate’s Little Plaything

 

Chapter Two – Sisters

 

Summary:  Fate hasn’t finished playing with Cordelia – and this time there isn’t even a Vengeance Demon in sight.


Pairings:  None at present

Disclaimer:  I don’t own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, NCIS or Stargate SG-1

 
Notes:  Loosely set just before, or at the beginning of, the 5th season of BtVS.  Continued from “Someone’s Else’s Mess” – this will probably only make sense if you’ve read the two preceding stories first.  Note that there are some major AU components.

At 12, Dawn is a few years younger in this story, for the sake of future plotlines.

 

1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale, California, 15th August 2000

It had been a long three days, but Buffy had secretly enjoyed the time spent with her bratty twelve-year-old sister.  Joyce, driven to distraction by sibling squabbles, had given her daughters money to be elsewhere for three days and Dawn had demanded Disneyland.  The youngest Summers was an odd combination.  On the one hand, she wanted to grow up as quickly as possible and continually raided her big sister’s make-up drawer to that end.  On the other, Dawn still loved the Disney experience.  Every ride, every cartoon character parade outside the Magic Kingdom, every tacky over-priced souvenir.  Buffy roundly hated the rides, or at least those with a high scream factor.  There again, she couldn’t get her head around Cordelia’s fetish for jumping out of perfectly good aircraft, either.

Nonetheless, the Slayer had been more than happy to leave town for a few days, having ensured there were no serious threats brewing.  With her typical luck, she’d no sooner returned from Cordelia’s bedside in Colorado, when none other than Count Dracula had paid her a visit.  It was a close run thing – what with the whole thrall and a new set of bite marks to on her neck to match the scars left by Angel – but she’d eventually prevailed over the Transylvanian show-off.  Willow and Cordelia would probably never let her live it down, but Xander – still-smarting from being what he described as a “bug-eating butt-monkey” – wasn’t in a position to gloat.  Buffy had at least managed to shake the thrall, but it had taken a blunt object over the head to bring Xander back to his senses.

Stepping out of the cab, Buffy felt vaguely uneasy as she identified her father’s car parked outside the house.  Hank Summers generally didn’t pay social calls on his former wife and family nowadays - certainly not during the week - and Buffy and Dawn’s visits to their father in LA were pretty much a thing of the past.  The Slayer decided it could only be bad news, perhaps some sort of family crisis.  For a moment, she felt a surge of fear that something had happened to her mother.  Logic then took over – someone would have called her and Dawn at the hotel if that had been the case.

A family death seemed unlikely.  She seriously doubted her father would be here  simply because one of her mother’s relatives had died.  No one on her mom’s side of the family could abide Hank and the converse was also pretty much true.  The Slayer told herself she was being overly morbid.  There was no particular reason why anyone should be dead.

Deciding they’d find out soon enough, Buffy and Dawn walked quickly up the path and opened the front door, only to hear raised voices in the kitchen.  Whatever was wrong, it didn’t sound good.

“Hi Mom...  Hi Dad,” Dawn breezed into the kitchen, loaded down with souvenirs, then stopped dead.

Even a twelve-year-old could sense the tense atmosphere between her parents and Dawn still remembered the horrible weeks leading up to their break-up and subsequent divorce.

 “What’s up?” the Slayer asked carefully, feeling the same vibes, even without the yelling.

“We’re discussing the never-ending story that’s your father’s unwillingness ever to take responsibility for his actions.” Buffy’s mother said angrily.

“Please, Joyce...  I don’t think we should be discussing this in front of Buffy and Dawn,” her father was trying to sound reasonable.

Joyce nodded. “Dawn?  Can you wait upstairs, honey?”

“Why?”

“Because I said so.  Now go on,” Joyce pointed towards the stairs, exuding no-nonsense.

“But...” Dawn’s protest was brief and singularly unsuccessful.

Her mother fixed her with a warning expression. “I’d be going if I was you, missy.  I don’t like to repeat myself – and I won’t a fourth time.  Wait upstairs for now – you can tell me all about your trip later.”

Dawn’s sense of self-preservation might not be Slayer-level, but she knew when to call it quits.

“Take notes!” she whispered urgently to her sister, before reluctantly heading upstairs.

“But Buffy’s old enough to hear the truth.  And she’s had to grow up faster than you can ever know!” Joyce grimly informed Hank.

She didn’t think he could handle the truth.  Her feckless former husband couldn’t even handle the consequences of his own actions, let alone knowing his daughter was the Slayer.

“Mom...  Dad?  What’s going on?” the Slayer sounded bewildered.

She’d hoped that the days of endless arguing and recriminations between her parents had ended with the divorce.  They’d seemed to reach an understanding of sorts and parted on reasonably amicable terms, or at least as amicable as possible under the circumstances.  With everything settled, there appeared to be no reason to recommence hostilities.

Now, however, Joyce and Hank were at each other’s throats once more.  Or at least her mom was out for blood.  Buffy could tell the look – she’d seen it before.  Admittedly, in the past it had usually been directed at her or Dawn following some major misdemeanour and tended to precede a lengthy grounding or other punishment.  This time, though, her mother was beyond merely irate at wayward daughters.  If looks could kill, Hank Summers would have expired on the spot.  Slowly and excruciatingly painfully.

“It’s really quite simple, honey.  You have another sister - or a half-sister at least.  Turns out your father had himself a little fling a few years back...  Only the first of many, of course!  Or maybe not the first, you rat!” Joyce shot a venomous glare at her ex-husband.

She was only aware of three affairs – four now, it seemed.  And two of the others only came to light after the divorce.

“This particular dalliance happened while I was expecting you.  About five months after you were conceived.  Seems I wasn’t enough to keep him satisfied,” she added in acid tones.

“I discovered a few years later he’d had an affair – a different one - but not the specifics.  Your father was fuzzy on the details – like having a fling with yet another business acquaintance’s wife.  Like a fool, I didn’t ask if there were any more affairs he wanted to tell me about and I forgave him.  The first time, anyway.”

Joyce hadn’t asked largely for reasons of her own self-esteem.  Now she felt like an idiot for not noticing.  He’d played her for a fool not once, but four times during their marriage.  If she’d known it wouldn’t have lasted nearly so long.  Now she wondered if there were more of Hank’s offspring scattered across California.  Business had often taken him away from home, so God only knew he’d had the opportunity.  Obviously, the desire, too.  Part of Joyce wondered what was so unattractive that made her ex-husband seek comfort from four other women.  Another part speedily brushed aside the destructive self-analysis and decided that Hank Summers was a serial philanderer. 

Buffy shook her head, not really wanting to get involved but also feeling that she should try to play the peacemaker.

“But why does it matter now?  I mean, you’re divorced...  Water under bridges and stuff?”

It was asking a lot, but she wondered if it wouldn’t simply be easier just to ignore her father’s dirty laundry.  After all, with the divorce there seemed to no more reason to dwell on the past.

On the other hand, there was a Hell of a lot dirty laundry.  Hank had treated her mother like crap, without the slightest compunction.

Joyce exhaled, biting back a retort. “It matters because your father’s dirty little secret – or one of them – just came back to haunt us.  “Us” as in you and I, and Dawn.  Plus your other poor sister.  And because the dead-beat still won’t accept any responsibility!”

Buffy winced.  In the past, her mother had at least avoided spousal name-calling in her and Dawn’s presence.  It was all getting very nasty, nastier than she remembered!

“That’s enough, Joyce!” Hank snapped ineffectually.

“Truth hurts?”

“This isn’t the time or place...”

“And when or where would that be, exactly?” Joyce growled.

Hank opened his mouth to reply, but Buffy beat him to it.  Now the Slayer was annoyed and that annoyance was growing by the moment.  Her father had shown up, out of the blue, and upset her mother.  Her mother who’d had more than enough unpleasant surprises recently, thanks to Riley Finn and his friends.

“Shut up, dad,” the Slayer told him flatly. “And take your medicine, like the man you aren’t.”

Hank reddened. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that young lady!”

“Easy choice here...  You can be quiet and let mom tell me what’s happening, or I’ll make you,” there was the vaguest hint of threat in the Slayer’s voice.

“And I’ll give you another choice.  Option A - leave by the door... Or Option B, by the window,” the threat level moved from vague to explicit.

“Don’t think she couldn’t, or wouldn’t.  A lot of things have changed...” Joyce smirked approvingly.

“So where was I?  Oh yes...  The dead-beat who calls himself your father abandoned his daughter for almost twenty years.  She was raised by a very wealthy family, an embarrassment to her mother and step-father.  They never loved her or showed even the slightest trace of affection.  Outwardly, the poor girl was spoiled, given every material thing – appearances had to be maintained after all.  But your sister was emotionally neglected, always reminded that she was her mother’s “little mistake”, and constantly criticised – and worse.  You can imagine what that sort of thing did to her emotional development and personality!”

She glared wrathfully at Hank yet again. “Your father knew all this.  More than once, offered custody, long before our divorce.  She could have lived, quite happily, with us.  But he didn’t have the guts to do the right thing.  Still doesn’t.  If I hadn’t found out and called him, this piece of work would still be too busy travelling around and screwing his latest secretary to care!”

“Joyce...” Hank really didn’t want his daughter to hear this.

For her part, Buffy was rapidly beginning to see why her mother had demanded a divorce.  Joyce had always concealed her father’s philandering ways, giving other reasons for the break-up.  The Slayer uncomfortably realised that her daddy, who’d always doted on her, really was an unreconstructed bastard of the first degree.

“Ever wondered why your father was so nervous about us moving to Sunnydale?  Now we know the reason why.  Your sister and her family have always lived here and he was terrified we’d find out,” Joyce told her.

Buffy nodded. “I guess that explains it...  Always wondered what it would be like to have a sister about my own age.  Not like the squirt.”

“Don’t call your little sister names, Buffy.” 

“As I said, your sister has a temperament that could strip paint from a wall.  Not so much today – fortunately for your father.  She’s mainly needing to cry her eyes out...  Also, you already know her,” Joyce allowed herself a slight smile.

“I know her?  Who - and where - is she?” the Slayer’s mind was racing.

“Your sister ran upstairs when we started arguing.  Couldn’t bear anything else today...  Especially not to talk to the guy who abandoned her.  Cordelia’s feeling very fragile right now,” her mother tried to keep a straight face as she delivered the bombshell and counted down from five as she waited for the explosion.

If truth were told, Joyce already expected Buffy to have figured it out.  The clues were all there.  Obviously three days of entertaining a hyperactive twelve-year-old had turned her brains to mush.

“Cordelia?  Cordelia Chase?” Buffy almost shouted, as everything clicked into place with a horrible clarity.

“Yes honey.  She’s in your room right now.  So why don’t you go upstairs while I sort out a few things with your father?” Joyce replied calmly.

“Cordelia Chase is my half-sister?  And he left her, to be raised by the Chases?” the Slayer’s voice cracked into a Willow-like squeak.

Buffy could have flattened her father at that moment, but restrained herself at the last moment.

“You left her, when she could have found a decent family – one who cared about her – with us?” the Slayer demanded.

Hank found he couldn’t look his eldest daughter in the eye.

Her mother nodded. “I think it’s best if you call Cordelia “sister”.  And when I offered to let her call me “mom” just over a month ago, who’d have guessed I’d be so close to the mark.  If anything this settles it - the Lord only knows she needs a real mother in her life.”

She growled at her ex-husband. “Even if someone denied that to her for years.”

Joyce’s tone softened and she took her daughter’s hand. “Buffy, she looks awful.  More lost and fragile than anyone I’ve ever seen, just when we thought she was over...  Well, over everything else that’s happened recently.  She’s just had the rug pulled out from under her feet – or another piece of it – by her parents, real and otherwise.  And it was a pretty frayed rug in the first place.”

“You sonofabitch bastard!” Buffy rounded on her father.

Before he could respond, Joyce’s voice took on a dangerously controlled tone.  Hank had heard it just once before, when the divorce papers were served.

“Let me deal with this Buffy and leave us for a while.  Cordelia may not be a minor any longer, but your father still owes her something.  We’re about to discuss how much he isn’t going to be spending on his trollop du jour, with those bigger alimony checks he’ll be sending each month...” Joyce regarded her ex-husband with all the compassion a wolf had for a cornered rabbit.

Hank put out a tentative hand to stop Buffy as she turned to leave.

“I hope this won’t change things between us!  You know how much I love you and Dawn...”

“Tell that to Cordelia, you bastard!” the Slayer refused to even look at him, hackles visibly rising.

Buffy wondered if the former weekend visits to her father had simply been down to a residual conscience issue.

“And if you don’t move that hand, I’ll snap it off at the wrist and stuff it where the fucking sun don’t shine!” she snarled, leaving her father speechless.

For once, Joyce didn’t even warn her about bad language and decided to let the potty-mouth pass.

Hank angrily grabbed his daughter by the wrist. “I won’t have you talking to me like that, Buffy!”

The next instant, he was flipped off his feet and slammed down hard on the floor.  Biting back a yelp, he looked up in shock to see the Slayer standing over him.  A dazed Hank wondered how the Hell his slip if a daughter had accomplished such a move.

“I told him about the hands,” Buffy turned to her mother, shrugged nonchalantly and strode out of the kitchen.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you!” Joyce smirked as her bruised and winded ex-husband dragged himself painfully to his feet.

“Now you’d better be thinking major damage control.  And you’ll be lucky to come out of this with one daughter who still acknowledges you,” she told Hank, with no small satisfaction.

Up to this point, she hadn’t told Buffy and Dawn the real reasons for the divorce.  But with all that was happening, it was perhaps time for the full unvarnished truth.  Then the Slayer could make up her own mind about her father.

 

Buffy met her sister at the top of the stairs, the inquisitive Dawn desperate to hear what was happening.

“I couldn’t hear stuff properly from up here,” the youngster complained.

“Good.  And you shouldn’t be listening in on other people’s conversations,” Buffy told her little sister.

“It’s not fair!  Just ‘cos you’re the oldest, mom tells you stuff,” Dawn grumbled.

The Slayer sighed long-sufferingly, having heard the same refrain a thousand times over. “I’m pretty sure mom’ll tell you everything once she’s done with dad.”

“Cordy’s in your room,” Dawn folded her arms, not even close to satisfied. “Looks like she’s gonna start crying.”

Normally, Buffy’s little sister got on extremely well with Cordelia and always had done, even when the two older girls were at each other’s throats in High School.  The beautiful brunette was Dawn’s role model for several years, never her own sister.

“You’ll have something to cry about if mom catches you eavesdropping,” Buffy predicted, as her sister glared back.

“And I suppose you’ll tell,” Dawn responded accusingly.

The Slayer’s eyes widened.  Her little sister was the world’s biggest tattle-tale.  When they were younger, she only had to look sideways at Dawn and Joyce knew about it within seconds, with consequences following soon after

“Pot calling kettle here...”

Buffy rolled her eyes and decided to be mature about this.  Three days worth of sibling diplomacy and they were back to arguing.  It just wasn’t worth it.

“Tell you what, squirt...  You let me talk to Cordy for a while and – uh – I’ll let you use my cosmetics.  And here’s five dollars...” the Slayer resorted to bribery, while something in the back of her mind was reminding her of a school history lesson and the concept of Danegeld.

By comparison with Dawn, the ancient Vikings probably resembled a charitable foundation.  No doubt her sister would be back for more – and very soon.

Cordelia was sitting on Buffy’s bed, listening to the Slayer’s Abba collection and otherwise just staring into space.  She’d had a few days to process all this – something she’d never really allowed herself to do - and the emotions were just waiting to bubble over.  Perhaps that was the reason she’d always dealt with certain family issues on only a surface level.  Anything deeper hurt just too much.

Buffy checked her over quickly and unobtrusively.  Cordelia’s eyes were desperately sad and, as Dawn had said, tears didn’t seem to be far off.  The Potential, however, was determined not to give in to them.  Buffy, meanwhile, didn’t have a clue what to say.

“What did I ever do to deserve this, Slay Girl?” Cordelia demanded angrily, as Buffy sat down beside her.

“Didn’t know being my sister would be that bad a deal,” the blonde replied, trying to lighten the mood and failing miserably.

“Not what I meant,” Cordelia almost snapped.

Buffy nodded apologetically and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, deciding it would be best to leave the talking to her latest sister.

The brunette let out a quivering sigh. “You know, I lost count of the times my mother called me a mistake.  Usually when I was in the “disobedient Cordelia” position across her knee, and she was busting my butt with a hairbrush at one end and my ears with some diatribe at the other.  Like, only about once a week, if I was lucky....  But I never once put two and two together.  I thought “mistake” just referred to some birth control failure – and my grandparents on my bitch of a mother’s side were really strict Catholics.”

Cordelia almost sagged against Buffy, as the tears slowly began to fall. “I shouldn’t even give a fuck.  I mean, my mother and the guy-who-wasn’t-daddy didn’t care about me.  But to find out how much I didn’t – and won’t ever - mean to them?  I think it just really hit me when they sent back that album, as trash they didn’t have space to keep.  Just like me...

“Your mom was the first person who ever used the “a” word.  Until now, I thought my parents had been pretty harsh, but I never considered myself abused.  Now I’m not so sure...  And I’m not just talking about mother’s hairbrush and daddy’s belt when I didn’t toe the line.  Or even when I did sometimes...  No, it was the emotional stuff.  Never being hugged, or praised – or even noticed half the time.  Being told never to get too close to anyone, to use friends for what they could for me...  Being wheeled out in public as Daddy’s Little Princess who wanted for nothing and having to fix a fake smile to keep up with the fiction.  Because it wouldn’t do to let anyone know we weren’t the perfect, affluent family with influence – and God help me if I ever did or said anything to embarrass them.  But I would have traded everything – every damned possession – just for the occasional hug and bit of encouragement and acceptance.  What you saw at school?  Confident, arrogant Queen C?  Half of it was a sham and the other half was me channelling my bastard parents,” Cordelia wept as she poured out long bottled-up woes.

“Then they run off to Brazil with money they’d hidden from the IRS – enough to live pretty comfortably - and didn’t give a fuck what happened to me.  And this – this is like they’re trying to erase me completely.  No more snaps – no more reminders of the embarrassing little mistake.  And then your dad – he never wanted anything to do with me.  Was I really such a bad child?  Am I really such a bad person?” the brunette suddenly stopped talking and sobbed unashamedly into Buffy’s shoulder.

Buffy growled softly, holding her tightly. “You’ve nothing to blame yourself for, Cordy.  Not a thing.  And as for my dad?  I don’t have one, not any more.”

The Slayer knew it would be a long time – if ever - before she could be in the same room as her father without breaking his jaw.  In her opinion, he’d be getting off lightly.  As for Cordelia’s mother and erstwhile father-figure, she couldn’t begin to think up a suitable fate for them.   

“They finally broke you, Cordy...  But mom and I – we’ll put you back together.  I promise you’ll never lack a family ever again, sister,” Buffy consoled her softly, stunned by the extent to which the former Queen C – and the outwardly supremely confident new-model Paratrooper Cordelia, looking forward to a successful Army career – had been reduced to a quivering lump of misery, simply by a single piece of news.

 

NCIS, Washington Navy Yard, Washington DC, 15th August 2000

“What have you got for me, Ducky?” Gibbs wanted to know, having been dragged into the office at an ungodly hour.

“That depends how open-minded you are, Jethro,” the Chief Medical Examiner responded cautiously.

“Medical Examiners are sometimes faced with, shall we say, things that shouldn’t be possible, which deny all rational scientific explanation.  In our occupation, that can be a very disconcerting situation...”

“What are you trying to tell me, Ducky?” Gibbs cut him off, slightly impatiently, but with infinitely more tolerance than he ever showed towards his Special Agents.

Ducky pulled back the sheet, to reveal the inevitable corpse, pasty white as usual.  This one seemed even pastier than normal and the Medical Examiner pointed to two holes in the body’s neck.

With a bad feeling in his gut, Gibbs knew what was coming, before Ducky even uttered the words.

“Petty Officer Chester Levardier, found only a few hundred metres from here.  Every drop of blood has been drained from his body...”

Dr Mallard moved to the next table, where a young woman lay, bearing the same marks. “Petty Officer Christina Marple, her body was found in the same location.  Same apparent cause of death.”

The Medical Examiner cringed as he considered his next words. “I will, of course, have to perform a full autopsy, but I can give you a cause of death right now.  And you aren’t going to...”

“Vampire,” Gibbs' jaw set tightly and he suppressed a groan.

There would be no bloodsuckers operating in his neighbourhood, he vowed.  The only problem was finding someone with the expertise to track and kill the things.

Ducky flinched in surprise. “I beg your pardon?  How did you...”

“Not my first time, Ducky.  I suggest you run that autopsy, make sure there’s no other possible explanation.  I’m going to whistle up some expert help,” Gibbs pronounced.

At the door, he turned briefly to the Medical Examiner. “Two things, Ducky.  First one?  Any sign of blood on the teeth and lips?  Get yourself a piece of wood and stake it through the heart, before the damn thing wakes up.  Might destroy the chain of evidence, but I’d rather have a live Medical Examiner.”

Mallard nodded solemnly.  He’d heard of such cases from others in the field, but had never expected to encounter such a thing – if it was actually true.  Opinion – when the subject was even discussed, usually over late-night drinks – was divided as to whether the whole notion of vampires was an occupational joke.  Ducky trusted his eyes, but he trusted science even more.  Vampires or not, only the body could tell him.

“And the second one?” the Medical Examiner wondered.

“Don’t tell Abby.  Under any circumstances.”

 

1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale, California, 15th August 2000

“Are you okay?” Buffy worriedly asked her latest sibling for the eighth time.

Cordelia smiled wanly, eyes still red and puffy. “Just fine, thanks.  Like I was the last time you asked – and the time before that.”

She’d cried solidly for two hours, literally running out of tears, before trying to put a brave face on things.  Buffy knew it wasn’t so easy, even with her own freshman-level knowledge of psychology.  It would take more than one - albeit lengthy - session of crying.  Cordelia might have started healing by finally venting emotions, which must have been deeply buried.  But she’d feel hurt and betrayed for a long time and, being Cordelia, would probably start to bury her feelings again.  Right now wasn’t the time to raise the possibility of a therapist – perhaps later – but the brunette would probably be happy to talk things over, at her own pace, with her new family.  Hopefully, that would help the Potential to gain some sort of closure.  Buffy would have preferred said closure to involve a blunt instrument and three specific individuals, but that was out of the question.  Her mother had, unfortunately, already forbidden her to get creative with Hank before he returned to LA.

In any case, Joyce wasn’t allowing Cordelia to go home tonight, so she’d be sharing a bed with the Slayer.  It wouldn’t be a slumber party by any manner of means.  Buffy half-expected to be woken by her sister’s bad dreams in the middle of the night.  On the other hand, the blonde was as likely – if not even more so - to awaken the Summers household with her own screams.  Both Joyce and Dawn weren’t unaccustomed to Buffy’s past encounters returning to haunt her, in grossly distorted form, in the small hours of the morning.

“Two little sisters – twice the trouble,” Buffy mock-complained, running a brush through her hair.

“ “Little”?” Cordelia raised an eyebrow.

“Five months between us.  Not a lot, but I’m the big sister.  Means you have to do what I say,” the Slayer teased lightly.

Cordelia snorted. “Even Dawn doesn’t do what you say, Slay Girl.”

The Potential allowed herself a small smile. “And as you’re the eldest, means you have to be the responsible one.”

“As if...” The Slayer retorted, as her sister began to undress.

Having become accustomed to barrack life for some months, Cordelia had no problems stripping to her skivvies in front of another woman.  As she prepared to change into the pyjamas Joyce had loaned her for the evening, the brunette suddenly noticed Buffy staring in horror at the wounds inflicted by the Jaylokh Demon.  Six thick and still quite red scars ran from the front of her shoulder, then diagonally across her ribs, ending just above her waist.  It had been a miracle no major organs were torn open by the ferocious creature.

Cordelia visibly winced.  She’d always been proud of her looks and body and enjoyed soaking up the rays on Sunnydale’s beach.  It might be vain, but the prospect of showing off her scars – even if they had been won in a worthy cause - really didn’t appeal.

“Sorry,” Buffy tore her eyes away.

The Potential shrugged gamely. “Guess I might as well retire the bikini, at least ‘til I get around to seeing a plastic surgeon.  Somehow, I hadn’t expected to need the stretch and lift before my forties or fifties.”

“I’m sorry, Cordy,” Buffy repeated.

“I’m alive.  And they can fix these scars – at least make them less noticeable.  Besides, most of the time they’ll be hidden under a uniform,” Cordelia responded, as much for her own benefit as Buffy’s.

The brunette had been feeling slightly depressed about the cosmetic effect of her injuries up to this point.  Her looks after all, were almost all that were left of her old life.  Now, however, she was determined not to brood on what couldn’t be changed.  Whether it was physical scar tissue left behind by a demon, or emotional scarring from an unhappy childhood, Cordelia knew that scar tissue could always be cut away.  And a real family could help to dissolve it.

“Buffy?” Joyce called upstairs. “Call for you.”

“It’s gone eleven,” the Slayer pointed out, almost dreading the news – at this time of night, it was almost invariably bad news of the demon-related type.

“Special Agent Gibbs, calling from DC,” Joyce told her, as she trotted downstairs.

“Demon...  I knew it!” Buffy muttered.

 

 

 
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