Cordelia Chase and Xander Harris stormed the sidewalk to the school as if it were a runway. The crowd parted, and Xander and Cordelia smiled and cooed at the appropriate people, leaving blushing boys and girls in their wake. When they at last reached the door, Xander nodded kindly at Buffy, Willow, and Oz, who stared back at him. Cordelia snapped her fingers, and Harmony and the Cordettes immediately fell in line.
“He’s been assimilated,” a horrified Willow whispered.
“Resistance is futile,” Oz grinned.
The Slayer, witch, and werewolf followed the Cordettes as if they were all part of a royal court, and were surprised when some of Xander and Cordy’s shiny rubbed off on them, as people who had never before given them the time of day stopped in their tracks to say hello. They were amazed at how quickly, in a mere matter of moments, Xander had been accepted as Cordelia’s Consort. When they had been dating, everyone had given Cordelia massive amounts of grief for her choice, but one simple makeover and a confident attitude had brought the masses to their knees.
Buffy in particular was wondering if that was exactly where Xander and Cordelia wanted them, and she looked at the Queen in silent wonder.
“She’s good.”* * * * *
Xander and Cordelia separated in front of the library, an absolutely gob-smocked Giles taking in the new Xander from head-to-toe. The Queen and her Consort kissed briefly on the lips, inspiring a fresh wave of whispers which shot throughout the school like a shockwave.
“See you in third period,” she whispered.
He nodded and tucked a tendril of hair behind her ear. She raised a brow.
He shrugged. “Looks better that way."
She smiled. “See how easy it is?”* * * * *
Xander strolled down the wing toward his locker, Buffy and Willow nipping at his heels like terriers.
Oz was content to follow more slowly, though he was equally...enthralled. Truly, he could think of no better word.
All three tried to avert their eyes from ogling Xander’s ass, which the jeans hugged like a second skin. When had Xander’s butt become so juicy, and why had he been hiding it?
As the boy set about dialing his combination, Buffy and Willow began peppering him with questions, exclamations, and concerns. He let them ramble for several moments until they were panting and gasping for air.
He calmly turned around and looked at them. “I’m sorry if I worried you," he smiled, "and I know should have called, but I really am okay. Cordy and I were busy all weekend but, as you can see, I’m just fine, so stop worrying!"
“But what’s going on?,” Willow demanded.
He shrugged a shoulder. “What do you mean?”
“What do I mean?! Why did you come to school with Cordy? Why did you spend the weekend at her house? Why are you dressed like that?”
Xander looked himself up and down.
Buffy grinned. “You look awesome, Xan."
He blushed profusely. “Thanks,” he said softly.
Willow shut up because she realized that, for all her genuine concern and worry, she wasn’t being supportive, and that, whatever he was doing, it was important to him.
“Really great!,” she added brightly.
He colored even more, but smiled when he caught sight of the other boy. “Oz! Hey!”
Oz blinked. Yeah, he and Xander were friends, sort of, or at least had been, but he was unused to such a warm greeting. He nodded. "Hey."
“How are you?"
Oz considered the question for a long moment. “Cool."
Xander shuffled his feet. “Um, I was wondering if I could talk to you about something?”
Oz shrugged. “Sure. Now?”
Xander nodded and looked to the girls. “See you guys later, okay?”
Willow meant to protest, but Buffy pinched her arm. They both nodded.
Xander strutted up to Oz and put his arm around the smaller boy, drawing him in close.
Oz frowned for a moment until Xander began stroking his shoulder. He then frowned more deeply because it felt nice, and he enjoyed how well he fit under Xander’s arm. And how good Xander smelled. Like oranges. And, really, he hadn’t intended on snuggling Xander, but it felt too good to stop. Everyone should have a Xander to snuggle, Oz promptly decided. Maybe Willow had been on to something after all.
They began talking animatedly, though in hushed tones, and not even Buffy could overhear what they were saying.
“Um,” Willow began, “is Xander trying to steal my boyfriend?”
Buffy cocked her head, looked at her guys walking away, and thought about it. “Man, that would suck
for you!”* * * * *
Cordelia arrived early to homeroom, claimed her desk, and withdrew a pad and pen from her Versace tote. More lists were required, for a Queen’s work was never done.
She looked down on the sheet of paper labeled 'Operation Fabulous'.
“Clothes? Check. Walk? Check. Attitude? Almost. Self-confidence? That one needs work,” she muttered before deciding to move on to Other Things.
Other Things included compiling a short list of possible boyfriends for Xander. She needed to consider many factors, including those qualities Xander wanted in a man, as well those she herself insisted were required.
Intelligence, humor, snark, and a hot body were all well and good, but not if the potential suitor had a face that belonged on a bottle of iodine. She wasn’t being just superficial; yes, it was more important to be able to hold a conversation with someone, but that didn’t mean that the person you were talking to had to be ugly.
If vampires could be hot, so could Xander’s boyfriend. She wasn’t going to allow him to settle for mediocre. He deserved better and, as his ex-girlfriend, so did she. What would people say if the first person Xander dated after her was a complete troll?
“I don’t have time for that!"
She turned and glared at Harmony. “Did I say you could speak?"
Harmony’s eyes grew wide, but she decided to ignore the warning. “What’s going on with you and Xander? He looked...”
“He looked what
?,” Cordelia demanded.
“Hot,” the blonde meekly replied.
The Queen smiled with satisfaction. She decided it spoke highly of her own character that she had always seen Xander’s hotness, but a moron like Harmony needed shiny wrapping to understand the value of something. Her superior nature once again confirmed, though it was never in doubt, Cordelia decided to toy with the girl.
“Xander and I spent the weekend together,” she revealed in an exaggerated whisper.
?,” Harmony and the other Cordettes shrieked.
The Queen nodded. “Mother and Daddy wanted to take me to tour some of the colleges on the coast, and they invited Xander to go with us.”
“Xander’s going to college?,” Aura asked.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Of course he is.” Well, he would be if she had anything to say about it, and she had a lot to say about it! “Anyway, you’ll never believe what happened at this Tri Delt party at Stanford!”
The girls surrounded her like goslings, eyes glazed and primed for gossip, and she prepared to launch into her fantastical tale which was sure to circulate throughout the entire school before the end of homeroom.
“This totally hot business major, he was a junior by the way, put the moves on me, and pulled me onto the dance floor.”
“Really?!,” they excitedly screeched.
She nodded. “Anyway, he was being all sexy, but I got bored, so I waved Xander over. It’s so
necessary to have a spare waiting in the wings.”
They all nodded sagely.
“So! Xander comes up and cuts in, and this guy – I think his name was Jeff or something – starts dancing with Xander!”
“Xander danced with a guy?,” Harmony frowned.
Cordelia sighed. “No, the guy danced with both Xander and me."
“Oh my god!," Aura yelped. "You had a threesome?"
Cordelia batted her eyelashes. “Did I say that?”
“So, you three were dancing...and?!,” Harmony trilled.
“Xander put his arms around me, and Jeff put his arms around Xander,” she added, saying nothing more, drawing out the suspense.
“Then what!,” the blonde exploded, standing up.
“Frustrated?,” Cordelia cooed. “Fine. Xander and I started making out, and then Jeff pulled us apart and started kissing me, and then he pulled away and kissed Xander.”
“Harris kissed another guy?,” Aphrodesia repeated in a strangely strangled voice.
Cordelia smirked triumphantly and nodded.
“Um, how did they, um, how did it look?,” asked a breathless Harmony, falling back into her seat.
“It was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. Xander made that guy his bitch in under five seconds."
“Jeff was begging for it. Poor Xander was so embarrassed, he grabbed my hand and we left. Of course we were followed, because we were the best-looking people at the party.” She paused to survey her surroundings. “And around here.”
The others nodded.
“So Xander’s into guys, too?,” Aura whispered. “You and him got back together, and now you get to scam guys as a team and make out with the hot ones? You have a hot boyfriend and have a free pass to second base with other guys?”
Cordelia began filing her nails. “Third.”
“What did this Jeff look like?,” Harmony asked.
The Queen thought about Phantom Jeff, and decided to shoot for the moon. “He looked like Brad Pitt’s hotter, younger brother. Blonde, built, the cute smile. Buns like muffin tins. The whole package.”
“And he and Xander were making out?,” Aphrodesia drooled.
“And they both made out with you?,” Harmony demanded.
“It was a very good weekend,” Cordelia primly offered.
She suppressed her grin. It was only a matter of moments before her sycophants spread the word about the Lips of Xander and all of the hot guys and girls helpless in their wake.
Operation Fabulous was indeed well underway.* * * * *
As soon as Larry Blaisdell entered the room, Cordelia excused herself and hustled over to the football player.
She would be able to commandeer the entire female student body to her cause, as well as most of the guys, but a foolish few who believed themselves beyond the reach of her power might try to target Xander, which was entirely unacceptable. He needed someone to watch out for him when she couldn’t, and Larry was that person.
His sexuality had never been a secret to her. It had been so obvious
that his former misogynist attitude was nothing but a cover for a deeper internal conflict. She had confronted him over it during freshman year because, while he was never so stupid as to harass her, he had harassed her minions, which could not be allowed. So when the tearful boy had confessed all under her ruthless interrogation, she had put him under her protection. Thus had Larry become a devoted acolyte, and she was happy to count him as a friend.
Unfortunately, this was before she and Xander had become close, and she had done nothing to interfere with Larry’s relentless bullying of the boy. Last year, Larry had inadvertently come out to Xander, whose surprise had been mistaken for acceptance, and then Larry had come out to everyone and named Xander as his inspiration.
Since then, the jock’s crush on Xander was obvious to everyone but
Xander. While Larry would never admit that he had been happy at the dissolution of Cordelia and Xander as a couple, hope had dawned in his eyes, and Cordelia knew she had to play this very carefully. She liked Larry a lot, just because he was Larry, and she didn’t want to hurt him, but she also wasn’t above using him to protect Xander.
“I need a favor,” she whispered.
He beamed. “Anything for you Cordy, you know that.”
She bit her lip and nodded and ushered him out into the hall, glaring at the teacher who was pointing to his watch.
“What’s up?, Larry asked, leaning up against a row of lockers.
She twisted her hands. “I wanted you to hear this from me first, since I know you got here late.”
His brow furrowed. “Is something wrong?”
“No, but I’m not sure you’re going to happy about it, either." She looked into his eyes. "Xander and I got back together this weekend.”
His own eyes widened as he realized that Cordelia was concerned about his feelings, which meant she knew about those feelings and she wasn’t angry about them; she was worried for
him. This was why he liked her, and it was a small part of why he liked Xander so much, because Xander understood who Cordy really was. They had all been forced into roles that had nothing to do with who they were as people.
“I’m happy for you,” he said, and he meant it.
She smiled, stood on her toes, and kissed his cheek. “Thanks, but there’s more. Um, I’m not sure how to say this other than just to say it.”
“Xander has come to realize that he’s also attracted to guys.”
He closed his eyes and sank against the lockers. He had never thought this would happen, and now that it had, he rather wished it hadn’t.
“I’m encouraging him to explore this."
“What?,” he squeaked.
She nodded. “Buffy, Willow, Oz, and Harmony and the other girls already know about this, so you know it’s just a matter of time.”
He set his jaw and nodded.
She took to pacing. “There could be...repercussions. You can take care of yourself, Larry, and so can Xander, to a point, but he doesn’t stand a chance if the jocks decide to wolfpack him.”
“Understood,” Larry replied, eyes hooded.
She nodded. “I’m glad, and thank you. Whatever classes he and I don’t share, you have with him. I can take care of him but only so much." She put her hand on his arm. "Larry, I really need you here.”
“You got me, Cordy,” he said. He knew how much Cordelia hated to admit that there were some things she couldn’t control, and he would happily see to it that anyone who said a cross word to Xander was quickly shut down.
“To answer your unspoken question,” she began, “I don’t know." She sighed. "This is really new for him, Larry, and he’s incredibly scared and confused. Also hurt. We’re talking about something that a lot of people, including you, had accused him of being for years, and you tormented him about it.”
He blushed and hung his head before clearing his throat. “Xan was there for me when I needed someone. I’ll be there for him now, just as a friend.”
She smiled sadly. “He’ll like that, I think. He hangs with Oz, but that’s more about Willow. Xan hasn’t had a guy friend since...”
“Jesse,” Larry quietly supplied.
Surprised, she nodded.
“Cordy, what happened to Jesse?”
She looked into his eyes, weighing exactly how much she should tell him. Then she decided to abandon pretense altogether. “Jesse was murdered.”
He sighed. “Yeah, I figured. By the things we’re not supposed to know about. The stuff you and Xan help Buffy fight.”
Her eyes widened as she nodded again.
“I want to know,” he pressed.
“How much do you want?”
“As much as you can tell me.”
She glanced around, seeing no one else who could overhear.
“Here’s the deal, Larry. We literally live on the mouth of Hell. Vampires, demons, witches? All real. Whatever forces that rule the universe chose Buffy to fight them. Jesse was kidnapped by a vampire and was turned into one. He cornered me in the Bronze and tried to rape me. Xander killed his best friend of fifteen years to save me, a girl he loathed at the time.”
That did it. Cordelia saw the hero worship blossom in the boy’s eyes, and knew he had just dedicated himself to ensuring the long, healthy life of Xander Harris. She suppressed her triumphant smirk. She sensed there were other questions, but this wasn’t the time.
“After school, I’ll tell you everything. You need to know how to protect yourself from these things. I should have told you before, but we figured the more people who knew, the worse it might become. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.”
“You guys are in a lot of danger,” Larry realized.
“Yeah," she shrugged, nodding. "Xander and I are usually the ones most at risk because we don’t have any powers, but we can't let that stop us. Buffy’s the Slayer, Willow is a witch, and Oz is a werewolf. Xander and I get stuck playing bait far more than I’d like, but we understand that it's important work.”
“I want in.”
She remembered Anya and the wish and how, in Bizarro World, Larry had been part of an altogether different Scooby gang. She knew he was capable, that he was fast and strong, and that he was far smarter than most people realized. Still, did she have the right to bring him into this, to expose him to that world? Of course, she also knew she didn’t have the right to make that decision for him. And, according to Larry himself, he had already figured out what was going on, if not the specifics.
“That’s between you and Buffy.”
“Fine. I have Chemistry with her and Xan first period.”
She nodded. “Thanks.”
“Like I said, not a problem.”* * * * *
Harmony floated into Chemistry, high from the buzz of telling all and sundry of what Cordelia had revealed during homeroom. Now, she couldn’t wait to see Xander.
She didn’t know what she was going to do. On the one hand, she was now fascinated by him, but on the other, he had once again stolen Cordelia’s attention away from her, and that was annoying. But she wasn’t so stupid as to start anything in a class Xander shared with Buffy.
Still, fantasies of Cordelia, Xander, and another hot guy were occupying all of her thoughts, and she wanted to get a closer look at Cordy's erstwhile boyfriend. He was officially a major hottie after Cordelia had worked her mojo on him.
Harmony castigated herself. Why hadn’t she seen the potential before? In a matter of an hour, Xander Harris had become the most popular boy in the land and, if she had played things differently, he could have been hers. Together, they could have taken over the school.
Now, she realized there was nothing she could do but suck up faster than the speed of light. With Cordelia still in power and Xander at her side, backed up by freakish Buffy Summers and the devoted Larry Blaisdell, whom she had seen with Cordelia earlier, it would be enough to unite the different factions, and if she wasn’t careful, she’d lose her status as second-in-command.
She took her seat at the lab table she shared with Xander, Buffy, and Willow.
“Hi, Xander,” she cooed, fluttering her lashes. “And...everyone.”
They blinked at her. Usually, Harmony did nothing more but sneer at them. Now, she had addressed Xander by name and had deigned to acknowledge the Slayer and witch.
Xander recovered quickly. “Hi, Harmony,” he said softly, a hesitant smile on his face as he peeked at her from beneath his lashes.
He could tell it worked, just as Cordelia had assured him it would. The shy, hot bi guy thing was in full effect.
She beamed and proceeded to rattle off a string of compliments which quickly had Xander genuinely blushing.
Buffy and Willow stared.
Just as Harmony was about to invite Xander to the Bronze with the gang, a gruff voice bombarded her.
She looked up and saw Larry hulking over her. “Excuse you! This is my lab table!"
Buffy and Willow quickly found something else to look at, while Xander looked chagrined. Harmony interpreted this as him being afraid to go against Larry, which she could more than understand. Larry was like the male Cordelia, even though Cordy probably had bigger balls.
Huffing, she gathered her things and glared at Larry.
“I’ll see you at lunch, right, Harm?,” asked a hopeful Xander, grabbing her hand and rubbing her thumb with his. He then unleashed the Puppy Eyes, ratcheting them up to Doom Level.
Her breath hitched as she was trapped by the mesmerizing power. Oh, those eyes!
“Sure!,” she tinkled, before throwing him a dazzling smile and skipping over to Aura.
“What the hell was that?,” a baffled Buffy slowly asked.
“You want to have lunch with Harmony?,” an incredulous Willow hissed.
He rolled his eyes. “Desperately. And right after that, I think I’ll swallow glass.”
Larry and Buffy shared a snort.
“Hi Xan. Buffy. Willow,” Larry greeted, nodding to each in turn.
“Hey Larry,” the Slayer and witch smiled.
Xander crossed his arms. “Cordy talked to you, didn’t she?"
Larry nodded. “She’s worried about you. Be grateful she loves you so much.”
“I am,” he said quietly.
“What’s going on?,” demanded a worried Willow.
Xander sighed. “Larry’s my new bodyguard for when Cordy’s not around.”
“Why do you need a bodyguard?,” Buffy asked. "Are you okay?"
“Because I sometimes like boys,” he answered in defeat.
,” she replied, as she was flooded with insight. She gave him the side-eye. “You do realize we will be discussing this later, right? And probably for the next three months.”
“Joy,” he drawled.
Willow looked at Xander, at Buffy, and then at Larry, and quickly gleaned Cordelia’s plan. She was faking their reconciliation so that when it became known that Xander was also into guys, anyone who wanted to go after him would have to go through her first, which was so daunting, not many people would dare.
However, Cordelia also had planned ahead, knowing that there might be some people who would try to circumvent her decree, so she had installed Larry as backup. The girl was shrewd; with the leader of the school and the star football player backing him, no one was going to mess with Xander.
“Damn,” she whispered. “She’s really
good.” She turned to Xander. “And, hey, were you macking on my man this morning?”
He grinned, but said nothing.
“Evil,” she pouted.
Buffy, aware of Larry’s crush, spared a glance at the boy, who looked upset but was struggling for stoicism. She decided it was best to cut that particular line of questioning short. “Thanks for looking out for Xander.”
She meant it and he realized that. He nodded. “Cordy told me everything about...everything.” He twisted to look at both Willow and Xander. “About Jesse, too.”
The boy and girl quickly grasped hands as Xander swallowed heavily and Willow gasped. Buffy struggled to maintain her composure; it wasn’t easy at all for her to remember Jesse, and she knew it was so much worse for her best friends.
“I’m sorry,” Larry whispered.
Willow said nothing, but Xander nodded his thanks.
Larry looked back to Buffy. “I’m in this now.”
“Now hold on,” she protested.
“No,” he insisted. “Anything that threatens Cordy or Xan goes through me first. If you can use them, and they have no powers, you can use me too.”
“What exactly did Cordelia tell you?,” Xander asked, narrowing his eyes.
Larry pointed at Buffy. “Slayer.” He pointed at Willow. “Witch.” He stuck his thumb over his shoulder at Oz. “Werewolf.” He looked into Buffy's eyes. “I already knew most of what was going on. I just didn’t have names for it.”
“Shit,” she muttered, before appraising the football player.
She could play this one of two ways: first, she could simply refuse his demand, which might mean that Larry would go off on his own and do something foolish, and it would be her fault. Or, she could let him see what they were really up against and let him make a more informed decision.
Whatever happened, Larry now understood what was involved, and as much as she wanted to be angry at Cordelia, Buffy recognized that if Larry was going to be looking out for Xander, he needed to know everything. And, frankly, it was a relief to have one less person around with whom she had to play games.
“Fine,” she said, "but it isn't just my decision. I'll talk about it later with Will and Xan, and you'll need to pass muster with Giles, which won't be easy. We meet every night in the library at ten for patrol. We might be running a little late tonight, though, since we’re apparently Bronzing it.”
Larry took that as an invitation for the Bronze, as well, and nodded. “Cool. You guys need a ride to the club?”
Xander shook his head. “I’m going with Cordy." He groaned. "She has to dress me."
The other three snickered.
“Well, you have to admit she does a good job,” Buffy offered.
Xander beamed so broadly at her, his entire face lit up, and she wondered how the hell she had ever missed how truly gorgeous he was, remembering a time when he had eyes only for her.
“What?,” he asked, frowning.
“Oh, nothing. Just remembered I’ll need to call Mom to let her know, is all.”
“I could use a ride,” Willow said to Larry. “Oz needs the van to haul all the equipment for tonight’s gig.”
She couldn’t believe that the guy who had been a total asshole to her for years had just offered her a ride, and that she had just accepted.
“Me too,” Buffy piped up.
“No problem,” Larry smiled.
“What about Angel?,” Xander asked. “Is he going?”
“Isn’t horning in on one of your best friends’ men enough?,” Buffy cooed.
He colored so darkly he turned purple.
“Buck up,” Willow chuckled, slapping him on the back.
“Angel,” Larry repeated. “He’s your boyfriend, Buffy? I think I’ve seen him before. Way to go, girl. You scored a major stud.”
He turned to Xander. “Angel or Oz?”
“Eh, I could have either one,” the boy shrugged, keeping his face placid.
“Hey!,” Buffy and Willow shrieked.* * * * *
When the bell rang and Cordelia emerged into the main corridor, people followed her like lemmings, which was nothing new of course, but now there were more than ever, all shouting questions and comments at her. All she did was smile coquettishly or raise a well-timed eyebrow because she knew no one was really interested in what she had to say, only in how she reacted. So she worked the halls like they were red carpets and the people flocking to her were merely paparazzi.
Somehow, Harmony managed to navigate the sea of humanity and join her, and Cordelia was inwardly grateful for her presence. While it was sometimes necessary for the Queen to appear to favor all her subjects, the same did not hold true for Harmony, who screamed profanities and hurled slurs like javelins at the more aggressive audience-seekers.
“Well?,” Cordelia asked.
“He’s so sweet!,” Harmony gushed. “Oh! But Larry was such a prick! He made me move, but Xan promised to see me at lunch,” she sighed, eyes sparkling.
Cordelia’s lips twitched. If only she had insisted Xander charm Harmony months ago instead of letting him continue to antagonize her, things might have been very different. Since the blonde was being such a good sport, the Queen decided to reward her. Lacing her arm through Harmony’s, she leant over and whispered, “I need your help.”
Predictably, the girl’s eyes lighted. “Sure!”
“I need you to help me form a list of acceptable boys for Xander and I to date,” Cordelia explained. “You know what I mean. Hot, but not hotter than us; sweet but not stupid; smart but not a dork.”
Harmony looked excited, but then frowned. “At this school? Short supply.”
“I know,” Cordelia lamented. “Still, I’d like to present Xander with some options at lunch.”
“Well,” Harmony began, “why don’t we watch him at lunch instead and see who catches his eye? Maybe he’ll see something we don’t, and you can work with it like you did with him.”
“That’s...actually a very good idea.”
Harmony beamed. Her position was safe for a few more hours.
“I need to run to the lav,” Cordelia whispered. “Meet you later.”
The blonde nodded and watched her friend leave, but felt something gnawing at her. After a moment of silent debate, she began pursuit.