Best Laid Plans: The Slayer, Heart, and Witch
Welcome back to the Buffyverse! We are fast approaching the point where the universes will collide, so expect later chapters to include characters from both verses until Cordelia arrives at Hogwarts. Again, and I feel irritated that I have to warn for this, but there are harsh words exchanged between Buffy
characters in this chapter. I don't understand the inclination to denounce something as "bashing" simply because characters fight with one another. Friends argue all the time - that doesn't mean they don't love and support each other when it truly matters. Per canon, Buffy, Willow, Xander, Cordelia, etc. often argued. No one gets along all the time
. And writing such a scene is certainly not bashing
. However, if you feel that arguing characters will bother you, it is best that you refrain from reading much of this chapter.
Also, my versions of Tara and Riley are decidedly different than their canon portrayals. In this story, both Tara and Riley are good friends with Xander and Anya, thus they aren't as isolated as they were with Willow and Buffy on the show, and they're more integrated within the Scooby Gang. I'm an unabashed Riley fan, and I think Tara is awesome. There was a lot that could have been done with both characters that just...wasn't. Sadness. :(
Oh! Giles is a total BAMF here. And Tara is HBIC. Don't make her cut you.
And, finally, enter Cordelia. XD* * * * *
Xander awoke to a presence beside him which was quite obviously not
that of his girlfriend.
Cracking open an eye, he looked to his left and saw Tara’s golden locks swirling about a pillow, obscuring her face. Slightly hysterical, he quickly lifted the sheet which covered them and heaved a sigh of relief that they were both clothed. He didn’t remember
getting drunk and having hot but adulterous sex with his best friend’s girlfriend.
“I didn’t compromise your virtue,” she snorted, wide blue eyes peeking out from behind her curtain of hair.
He felt the blush creep up his cheeks. “I don’t know how you stopped yourself,” he retorted, “but congratulations. It’s not every day a woman wakes up to Xander Harris in her bed.”
“Unless she’s a demon.”
“Ouch. Not that you’re wrong, but ouch all the same. And, hey! Ex
She grinned. “I need tea.”
She sat up and squeaked when a cup was thrust at her.
“I think Dennis has taken a shine to you,” Xander snickered.
“Well,” she drawled, “I can certainly see why Cordelia adores him. Truly, all the decent men are dead.”
She patted his cheek. “I’m sorry,” she contritely murmured.
“I forgot about Giles.”
“You should call Buffy.”
“Oh, sure. That’s
a conversation I’m desperate to have.”
She clucked. “Well, she’s probably pissed you didn’t do so last night, and having Angel call her?” She shook her head. “Not the smartest decision.”
“You thought it was okay last night. Even funny.” His brow furrowed. “What’s changed?”
She sipped her tea and hummed with appreciation before blinking. “Huh? Oh. Well, Angel likely let it slip that you disappeared for a time. She’s sure to have put it together by now. Where else would you have gone? Who else in L.A. do you know?”
“Exactly. Ten to one she already tried interrogating Anya.”
“Now that’s a conversation I am
desperate to see.”
She smirked. “Ditto.” She snaked up the bed and rested against the headboard. “Okay, you call our fearless leader, and I’ll use my cell to the call the hospital and check on Cordy.”
She rolled her eyes. “Relax. What can she do to you over the phone?” He gave her a Look and she conceded the point with a nod. “Best to get it over with, then.”
He sighed and rolled out of bed, flushing when he realized he was in his boxers.
He had been in his boxers
with the girlfriend
of his best friend
. They had shared the bed
of his ex-girlfriend
The blond witch sat up and looked down, giving a wolf whistle. “Nice legs!”
“You’re entirely too saucy this morning, young lady.”
They began trading barbs only to be jolted from their fun by a furious banging.
“Xander Harris! Tara Maclay! Open this door right now before I kick it in!,” howled a perturbed Vampire Slayer.* * * * *
Joyce Summers was fixing breakfast for her youngest daughter and lamenting that Dawn, while not a Slayer, had an appetite which rivaled that of her sister.
“It’s just wrong,” she frowned, attending the sizzling bacon.
“What is?,” the girl asked, mouth crammed full of toast.
“That you speak with your mouth open,” the woman chastised. “It’s bad enough you eat as much as your sister. Did you have to pick up her atrocious table manners as well?”
Dawn gave an indignant glare, but its fierceness was belied by the blush pinking her cheeks.
“Did you finish all of your homework?,” Joyce pointedly asked, frowning more deeply when her daughter mumbled something unintelligible and dove into her scrambled eggs.
Both looked up as someone began knocking on the kitchen door. Sighing and deciding it was far too early for bad news, Joyce picked up her coffee mug and glided over to the door, surprised to see Anya’s face peeking back at her through the café curtains. She opened the door and stood aside.
“Good morning, Anya. How are you?”
The ex-demon snorted and rolled her eyes. “Peachy. I’m trying to dodge your annoying daughter.” She glanced at Dawn. “The older one,” she amended.
“Hey!,” Dawn shrieked, spraying orange juice across the table.
“She eats just like Buffy.”
“Yet another of the many crosses I must bear,” Joyce sighed. “Come in, please. Coffee?”
“Yes, thank you,” Anya answered with a dreamy sigh. “I got about two hours sleep after last night’s misadventures.”
The girl raised her brows. “Didn’t anyone call you?” Before Joyce could answer, she charged forward. “No, of course they didn’t. Isn’t it lovely that you and I seem to be on the Not Notify List for Wonky Hellmouth Things until someone with sense is needed?” She angrily shook her head. “I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. If you can call anything about this town ‘right’.”
Anya took a seat at the island and gratefully relieved the woman of a second cup of coffee. She cleared her throat and appeared to be fighting for words.
“Anya?,” Joyce prompted, her worry now evident.
The girl sighed. “There’s no easy way to say this other than just to say it.”
Joyce braced herself and slowly nodded.
“Last night after patrol, we were hanging out at Giles’s apartment when Xander got a phone call.” She paused, biting her lip. “Cordelia’s in a coma.”
Dawn shrieked as Joyce dropped her mug. “What happened?,” the woman repeated, this time with more force.
“You know about the visions?”
Dawn and Joyce both nodded.
“They’ve taken their toll,” Anya quietly said. “I don’t know with whom Xander spoke last night, but I assume it was one of Cordelia’s doctors.” She averted her eyes. “It’s not good. Possible brain damage.” She let that settle and took a sip of her coffee. “There could be other problems.”
Dawn immediately burst into tears as Joyce settled herself against a counter, ignoring the advancing spill of coffee spreading across the floor. There were numerous questions she wanted to ask, but only one was at the forefront of her thoughts.
“And Xander? How did he take the news?”
“Badly,” was the frank admission. “He went to L.A. last night. Cordelia listed him as her next-of-kin, which means he has to make all the decisions for her. He was dreading having to deal with Angel.”
“I’m sure,” Joyce murmured.
“He took Tara with him,” the girl added. “You can imagine how well that went over with Buffy and Willow.”
“Oh, god,” Joyce groaned, sagging.
“Exactly,” Anya nodded. “Xander called me late last night. He’s doing surprisingly well, or at least better than I expected,” she cocked her head, “but then he usually does when under pressure. He said the doctors are cautiously hopeful, insofar as they believe Cordelia might eventually wake up, but what she’ll be like if that happens is anyone’s guess.”
She suppressed the urge to shrug, not wanted to appear callous. Xander had told her that certain gestures were considered dismissive even if that was not the intent.
“He and Tara are staying at Cordelia’s apartment. Apparently, she was too busy to call Willow, so Buffy called me to see if I had any news, and then bitched and moaned after I let it slip that I had to talked to Xander. I guess he’s supposed to check in with them before going to the bathroom or calling his girlfriend who shares his apartment,” she savagely muttered.
The woman sighed. “I’d apologize on her behalf, but we both know it would be an empty gesture.”
Anya’s lips twitched and she nodded. “Well, anyway, I just dropped by to fill you in. I know how much I despise it when I’m kept out of the loop.” She quickly drained her mug, set it carefully in the sink, and slung her purse back over her shoulder. “I need to get to the shop and open for Giles. He was...very upset about Cordelia,” she said softly.
“Truthfully, I don’t think any of them besides Xander has given her much thought since she left Sunnydale, and there was a lot of guilt and self-recrimination flying about from all sides last night.” She surprised herself with her quasi-support of Buffy and Willow. “And poor Riley, he just had no clue. Still, he sided with Xander, which is really all that matters.”
Joyce and Dawn tried to assimilate all of that information, but only halfway succeeded.
“Thank you for telling us, honey,” Joyce whispered, as she drew the girl into a hug. “I’m quite fond of Cordelia, myself.”
“There’s more going on here than you can possibly imagine,” Anya murmured into her ear. “Xander and I are doing everything we can to help her, but Buffy and Willow are not going to be pleased. I can’t tell you more just yet, but when I can, I promise I will.”
Startled, Joyce drew back and looked down into the ex-demon’s eyes, nodding.
“What are you two saying?,” Dawn demanded.
“Finish your breakfast and get ready for school,” was her mother’s sharp reply.
The girl’s eyes widened, and she grabbed several strips of bacon, laying them over her bowl of cereal, and angrily stalked out of the kitchen.
“She’s fun this morning,” Anya noted. “I really need to get going,” she added, digging for her keys. “I’ll update you as often as I myself am updated. Xander’s promised to keep in regular contact, provided circumstances don’t interfere.”
They embraced again and Joyce led Anya back over to the door. When she opened it, both were startled to find an angry Willow upon the threshold, clutching a note in a white-knuckled hand.
“Buffy took off for Los Angeles,” the witch seethed.* * * * *
Buffy Summers poised her fist to knock again on the door of Cordelia Chase’s apartment, surprised when it opened to reveal an absolutely furious Xander Harris looking down at her. The Slayer swallowed heavily and made her eyes very wide and innocent in the hope that her impetuosity was not going to result in her being handed her ass.
It was his only word, and it wasn’t a question, but a demand.
It was in that moment that Buffy realized how badly she had fucked this up. She had acted without thinking. Again.
“I was worried,” she whispered.
He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the jamb.
“I don’t think so. I think Angel accidentally spilled some beans last night when I asked him to call you.” He shook his head, annoyed that Tara had been correct and he had been so short-sighted. “So, figured it out, have you?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Fine. Then it’s up to you how you want to play this. Are you going to help me, or are you going to get in my way and force me to do things which both of us will regret?”
She glared at him. “Are you threatening me?”
“I don’t make threats; I make promises. And I promise you, Buff, if you do anything which interferes with my helping Cordy, you'll wish I had left you dead in that cave four years ago.”
Her mouth fell open and she stared blankly at him, shock and disbelief plain on her face, as was her certainty that he was not being facetious. He was making a deliberate point, and it was not lost on her. She owed him.
“You’re not in charge here,” he continued. “I really don’t know where you get off thinking you control the world, because you don’t. You certainly don’t control me, but you seem to forget that with increasing frequency. I’m your best friend, Buff, not your toady.” His eyes flashed in warning. “None of this has anything to do with you, so leave it alone.”
“You can’t help Faith.” Why didn’t he understand that? Faith had hurt him just as badly as she had Angel and Buffy herself.
“No? Watch me.” He turned and went back into the apartment, leaving her standing on the stoop.
Enraged, Buffy tried to enter, but was stopped by an unseen force.
“What the hell is this, Xan?,” she demanded. “A No Slayer Zone?” She heard Tara’s light laughter coming from what she assumed was the bedroom.
“That would be Dennis blocking your path,” he said. “I guess he doesn’t like your attitude either.”
“Phantom Dennis. He’s a ghost and Cordy’s roommate. He’s also very protective of her; and of her friends, it would seem.” His shoulders sagged. “Tell you what, Buff. Why don’t you toddle over to the Hyperion and talk to the one you really came to see?”
She set her jaw and flushed, her ire lit. “I am not here for Angel,” she ground out. “I love Riley, and you know
that, Xander. I’m here for you. I was worried about you
“No,” he countered. “You were worried about what I might do. You were angry that I was operating without your approval.”
She fell silent. He was right and she knew it, and she knew that he knew she knew.
“You know what really pisses me off?,” he added. “I mean aside from the fact of you showing up and dictating how I’m supposed to behave?” His arms tensed at his sides, his hands curled into fists, and she could see his frustration not only with her, but with the entire situation. “I was just about to call you, after my whopping two hours of sleep, to tell you my plan. But instead of trusting me, you drove down here to get in my face, demanding answers and telling me what I will and won’t be doing. After all of these years, after all I’ve done, you still don’t trust me.”
“That’s not true at all!” Christ, did he really believe his words?
“You just think you can do better.”
It was like a fist in her gut. She dropped her eyes and offered no answer. One wasn’t required.* * * * *
Rupert Giles was rather discombobulated when he answered his front door shortly after eight in the morning to find an annoyed ex-demon, a pissed-off witch, and an icy mother of a Slayer on his threshold; he gathered Dawn had already been deposited at school.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, he looked at them, shrugged, turned his back, and shuffled his way toward his kitchen, desperately seeking a cup of impossibly strong tea. They could invite themselves in as easily as they had appeared unannounced. He errantly wondered if forms of evil other than vampires were restricted to the no-invitation policy. He would have to research it later.
“Buffy’s run off to Los Angeles,” Anya said evenly.
“How could she leave me behind?,” Willow angrily demanded.
“Why wasn’t I informed about Cordelia?,” asked a frosty Joyce.
Tremendous. The Furies had descended upon his doorstep and he had no scones for his tea.
He sighed and kept his counsel. They weren’t really looking for answers, after all, merely someone at whom they could vent their frustrations.
He felt rather stupid, actually. He should have guessed that Buffy would do something reckless and leave him to clean up the mess. He was quite sorry he hadn’t been able to accompany her, if only to see the look on Xander’s face at her arrival. Really, she should know better by now than to underestimate him. Oh, well. Xander would disabuse her of that nonsense soon enough, he suspected.
The three women were still ranting away, gesticulating wildly, as the kettle began to whistle its sharp cry. Quickly pouring the steaming water into a waiting mug, Giles then calmly walked over to the phone affixed to the wall and began dialing.
“Hello, Angel. Rupert Giles here.”
Joyce, Anya, and Willow paused in their whining.
“Yes, it’s nice to speak with you, as well,” the Watcher politely said, rolling his eyes. “I just thought I should inform you that Buffy has taken it upon herself to sneak off to Los Angeles and, er, check in on Xander and Tara.”
As predicted, the vampire issued a litany of creative invectives which Giles thought oddly appropriate to the situation.
“Well, I’m sure she’s already arrived at Cordelia’s apartment, so for its safety as well as that of those within it, and perhaps the entire city, might I suggest you make your way over there and attempt to diffuse the situation?”
He paused and listened.
“No, I really would not advise bringing Wesley with you. Neither Buffy nor Xander has much use for him, and his presence would only further serve to alienate them. I believe you have another associate? A Mister Gunn? Perhaps he would be a more prudent choice.”
He frowned. “I’m sorry? Er, no, I will not
be calling Xander or Buffy, thank you. My hands are rather full at the moment with her mother, his girlfriend, and Willow. Please give my best to Cordelia when you see her.”
With that, he hung up and turned toward the menagerie in his living room, disregarding their gaping stares.
“Now, then. There are several things I need to say, and you will do me the courtesy of shutting up and allowing me to do so. Is that clear?”
One after the other, each nodded, and he returned to his living room.
“Excellent,” he nodded. “I gather it was Anya who alerted you as to Cordelia’s condition?,” he addressed Joyce, who again nodded. “Thank you, Anya, for showing some initiative and correcting our oversight. It was not that we meant to exclude you, Joyce, but there was simply so much happening at the time that it truly didn’t occur to us to inform you, and for that I sincerely apologize.”
He waited for the woman to acknowledge his words with a sharp nod of her head before he continued.
“Willow,” he began, “I fear that for too long I have allowed both you and Buffy to linger under the mistaken impression that you are by any means in charge.”
The witch’s eyes widened.
“You are not,” he continued. “Magic or not, Council or not, you and Buffy simply do not have the knowledge nor the wisdom to lead. You act impulsively and run roughshod over other people, so entrenched in what you believe is your divine right, simply because the Powers That Be have seen fit to imbue you with supernatural abilities.”
He shook his head. “Allow me to remind you that you are not the only witch in our little, er, coven, and that Tara has shown remarkable restraint and patience in the face of your nonsense.” He raised a brow. “I do wonder how much longer that trend will continue, don’t you?”
Willow swallowed heavily and dropped her eyes to the floor.
The Watcher was severely annoyed by now, however, and her token submission did not impress him.
“I fail to understand why neither you nor Buffy believe Xander and Tara capable of a two-hour drive to a city in order to check on Xander’s former girlfriend, a woman for whom you never cared, and who currently lies in a coma. If you have a reasonable explanation for your groundless fears, please do enlighten me. I look forward to hearing it.”
She remained silent.
“Ah. I see. So this is less about Xander’s capability than it is your jealousy.”
He ignored her soft squawk.
“Why you’re jealous of with whom Xander spends his time simply mystifies me, given that he is not your boyfriend, that he never was, that his girlfriend is currently standing right beside you, and that you have a girlfriend of your own.”
He found her splutter rather endearing.
“How you can still be so threatened by Cordelia is truly unfathomable, for she never had any more power over you than that which you ceded to her.”
He peered more closely at her, cocking his head.
“Perhaps that is the problem? Whatever the case, Xander rushed to her side because she needed his help, and he would do the same for any one of us, for which I personally am most grateful. I suggest you start approaching this from that view, rather than from the one of spiteful envy which you have wrongly interpreted as righteous indignation.”
Willow flushed spectacularly and nodded her head.
“Excellent. On to other things, then. Anya, I take it you have spoken with Xander?”
“And he no doubt has some nebulous master plan for Cordelia’s care which he has shared only with you.”
Her lips twisted into a wry smile. “He does.”
“Wonderful! And none of us shall interfere with that,” he said, looking only at Willow, who tearfully nodded. He then turned to Joyce.
“Again, I apologize for not informing you myself, but I was rather mired in my own depression and stymied by my own helplessness. We both know that Cordelia is in good hands, and there’s no point in worrying about it further, for there is nothing we can do to help her condition. We will certainly not take it upon ourselves to go rushing down to Los Angeles and corral your foolish daughter. By now, I’m quite sure that Xander will have her well in hand.”
He gave a small smile before faltering. He then grinned.
“However, if he does not, and if he insists on reverting to stubbornness, I believe we can both take comfort in the fact that Tara will deal with them effectively, can we not?”
“We can,” Joyce smirked.
“Well,” he finished, “then I suggest we all go about our lives and try not to worry. I know I certainly won’t. Xander obviously knows what he’s doing and has asked Anya for help; she’s the most knowledgeable amongst us, though I am loath to admit it. It’s rather difficult for me to concede that a girl who looks no more than twenty knows far more than I ever will.”
He blinked and cleared his throat, wondering what that admission would later cost him.
“At any rate, I believe we all know that Xander will do whatever is necessary to help Cordelia, and I frankly pity Angel and Buffy should they try to go against him.” His eyes shone with glee at the prospect. “Tara is a formidable ally, and I trust her to look after him. Now, if that’s all, I’d like to shower and change, and continue looking for some answers, just in case Xander needs them.”
He nodded to them. “Good morning.”
He then departed from their company and headed up the stairs, humming cheerfully.
“Is anyone else really, really turned on?,” Anya asked.
Joyce raised her hand and, after several long moments, so did Willow.* * * * *
Cordelia Chase was unhappy.
She had been standing before the altar or whatever of the Powers That Be, who had, presumably, been the ones to summon her, and they now had the audacity to ignore her demands.
Who did these dorks think they were? Didn’t they understand who she
“What the hell am I doing here?,” she roared, not for the first time.
Of course, they didn’t answer her directly, but saw fit to do so through those infuriating Oracles, whose skin looked like cheap wrapping paper one purloined from 7-11 in the wee hours of Christmas morning.
Not that she knew anything about that!
“It is not to question. It is to obey. Send it away,” the male sniffed, dismissing her with a prissy wave of his hand.
And that was the wrong answer.
It was on
She charged the dais, and the man was so stunned, he did nothing but stand there and gape, an expression soon replaced with one of quiet bliss when her fist connected with his temple and he collapsed into unconsciousness. She whirled and faced his female counterpart, who was wide-eyed and wary.
“I am not an it,” Cordelia hissed. “I am not a Lower Being or any of the other oh-so-charming names you’ve been hurling at me for however long we’ve been at this. So listen and listen good, bitch, because I’m not repeating myself.”
She drew herself up, squared her shoulders, tossed her hair, and cocked a hip. “I want answers and I want them now, or I’m going to rip your head off your shoulders and shove it firmly up your dimpled ass. Am I making myself clear?”
“I am immortal.”
Cordelia shrugged. “Interesting, but irrelevant. How would you like to spend eternity in pieces?”
Her words were heeded, she was pleased to note. Ha! And Angel couldn’t deal with these freaks? What a loser.
“The Powers have detected a conspiracy against you; or rather, against the Champion. You were intended only to be the instrument.”
Cordelia curled a lip and willed herself not to sigh and roll her eyes, though the temptation was overwhelming. Instead, she impatiently tapped a foot and gave a curt nod.
“The visions have taken their toll on your mortality,” the woman continued, “and there is little the Powers can do to interfere with that, without violating free will and Fate.”
“Uh huh.” The hell?
“Another Champion has taken it upon himself to impede this plot, and the Powers have been debating whether or not to allow this.”
Cordelia blinked. Another
Champion? She thought the only Champion was Angel, and maybe Buffy. Of course, if the Slayer was a Champion, didn’t that make Faith one, too? That was a scary thought.
But the bitch now before her had clearly stated that this other Champion was male. And - hey! - who were the Powers to allow or disallow anything this person was trying to do to help her? Wasn’t that a violation of this other Champion’s free will?
“Who’s this guy?”
Her eyes bugged. Xander?
Doofy, goofy Xander Harris was a Champion? Xander? Her ex-boyfriend who hadn’t even had the decency to cheat on her with someone who knew how to use eyeliner? The irony of the universe was cruel indeed.
Then she really thought about it.
Well, he had
brought Buffy back from death and had saved Faith from those crazy evil nuns. He had also tricked Buffy into getting rid of Angelus and had stopped zombies from blowing open the Hellmouth. Of course, no one else was supposed to know about those things, and she supposed that such feats and many others, combined with his big eyes and big…other things...rendered him marginally cool, and she guessed it was nice that someone somewhere was keeping score.
So, yeah, she could buy Xander as a Champion. It wasn’t as if he was a nitwitted blond, or a souled angst-filled vampire who had two hundred years of badness for which to atone.
“Okay,” she shrugged, “but why are the Powers getting involved? Doesn’t that interfere with Xander’s free will?”
The Oracle grimaced. “Yes, it does, and that is the crux of the problem.” She laced her fingers together. “The Champion has already refuted prophecy and thrown things out of balance not just once, but several times. If he was allowed to do so again, it would be nearly impossible to predict what might happen, and the world could plunge into chaos.”
"Hell,” Cordelia drawled, "the world is already
These tools needed satellite or something, because it was apparent that they were missing a lot.
“The Champion of your cause is a vampire
," she continued. "Granted, an insanely hot vampire who’s my best friend, but still.” She put her hands on her hips. “And what about the Slayers? Neither one is exactly a ringing endorsement for mental health. They both abuse their powers as they see fit, and Xander’s the first one who really ever stepped up to stop that, so what the hell is the problem here?”
The Oracle said nothing.
Cordelia smirked. “You have no control over the Slayers, do you? Neither do the Powers!”
She threw back her head and cackled. “Oh, wow, that’s got to suck
She shook her head in wry amusement. “So, what, the Powers are upset because Xander didn’t
let his friend die? Because he stopped Hell from appearing on earth? Twice? Are your holy Powers that sadistic?” Her anger at their snub reignited. “And why aren’t they speaking for themselves, huh? What is this, Dogma
? Will the sound of their voices make my head explode?”
The Oracle opened her mouth to protest, but was cut off.
“I’m tired of you, you parrot,” the girl complained. “You tell your bosses to start explaining things directly, or send me back from wherever the hell this is. I’ll take my chances with Xander. At least I know he cares about me." She frowned. "Or is scared of me." She shrugged. "Whatever.”
At once, the Oracles disappeared, and she was facing three cloaked figures.
“Well, well,” she sneered. “Are we finally going to get to it?”
“Greetings, Seer,” the middle one said, drawing back the hood of his cloak.
Confidence and bravado fled, leaving a pale and shaken girl in their wake, her eyes narrowed in pain and misery.
“Doyle?”* * * * *
Angel charged through the sewers toward Cordelia’s apartment, knowing it was faster than trying to maneuver through the morning traffic of downtown Los Angeles. Gunn was nipping at his heels, still unsure about the big emergency and why he had to forgo sleep and breakfast to attend to it.
“So Buffy’s here,” he panted. “So what?”
“It’s hard to explain without you knowing them,” the grim vampire ground out. “Buffy and Xander argue all the time, but it’s usually worry about the other’s safety. When Cordelia or I are involved, it’s decidedly...unpleasant.”
“What do you mean?”
Angel grimaced, having neither the time nor inclination to explain, but knowing Gunn would halt in his tracks and precious time would be lost in which Xander and Buffy could wage an apocalypse.
“He doesn’t like me; she doesn’t like Cordy.” Best to open with understatement. “It would be different if one or both of them hated us, but they don’t.”
Xander not hating him surprisingly infused him with warmth.
“He showed me last night at the hospital that he cares for me, even if it’s begrudgingly and only because of Cordy. Fine. We could have been friends, but too much has happened. Still, we’ve managed to be allies when it counted.”
“So you’re on his side.”
Angel nodded; as far as Cordelia was concerned, absolutely. “Yes.”
Gunn’s eyes widened. “You really think you’re gonna have to fight your ex over this?”
Angel picked up the pace, wondering when the other man had gotten ahead of him.
“Where Xander is concerned, Buffy is irrational at best.”
He shook his head, no closer to understanding their dynamic than he had ever been.
“They’ve never been lovers, but they regard each other as such, just without the sex. They’re possessive of one another and are vindictive against the other’s suitors.” He sighed. “As for the girls, Buffy and Cordy never got on, but when Cordy started dating Xander, Buffy was...,” he exhaled, “jealousy just doesn’t cut it, okay? And I’m betting Anya fares no better. And I’m not including Willow, which is a whole other mess of strange. Xander didn’t like me from the beginning, even though he had barely known Buffy before he met me.”
He grimaced. “Although, he seems to like her new boyfriend just fine,” he grumbled.
“So it’s ‘cause you’re a vamp? Well, can’t blame him.”
Angel paused, turned, and glared.
Gunn held up his hands. “Hey, no offense, okay, but you know I wasn’t all fluffy for you either at first, especially not after what happened with Alonna. I came around and realized you were worth putting up with. I guess this Xander is the same.” He shrugged. “Yeah, you’re my bud, but I get where he’s coming from.” He looked scornfully at Angel. “You telling me you like all humans? Hell, you don’t even like your own kind!”
The other man frowned. “Why what?”
“Why do you have to make sense? Nothing about Xander is supposed to make sense!”
Gunn’s laughter echoed throughout the tunnel.* * * * *
Angel and Gunn rushed across the courtyard of Cordelia’s building and banged on the door to her apartment. They heard bustling inside and what sounded like stifled groans and squeaks. They turned to each other with raised brows.
“Whatever’s happening in there is either really, really good,” Gunn drawled, eyes sparkling, “or really, really bad.”
Angel grunted but said nothing, swinging his head back around when the door was thrown open by Tara.
“Hello,” she warmly greeted them, sticking out her hand. “You must be Charles Gunn. I’m Tara Maclay. It’s nice to meet you.”
He took her hand and gave her an obvious appraisal, liking what he saw.
“I’m a lesbian,” she added.
His grin became a leer. She chuckled and led them inside.
As the three entered the living room, both Gunn and Angel were rather startled to see Xander and Buffy sitting opposite each other, their gazes searing but their voices silent. Their arms appeared to be locked at their sides, but no restraints were apparent. They turned to Tara for an explanation.
She shrugged a shoulder. “I got tired of listening to them, so I froze and silenced them.”
Gunn snickered with delight while Angel fought to maintain his stoic mask.
“What happened?,” the vampire asked.
“Well,” she said briskly, “Buffy showed up unannounced because she figured out Xander had been to see Faith...”
Immediately, both Xander and the Slayer began struggling against their invisible bonds and trying to speak.
“Save it,” Tara snapped at them. “Buffy, if Xander wants to go see Faith, he doesn’t need your permission. Xander, Angel already figured it out, I’m sure. Other than he and Cordy, you don’t know anyone in L.A. besides Faith.” She frowned and narrowed her eyes. “I thought we went through this already?”
Xander winced and Buffy sagged, and Angel and Gunn would have sworn they heard the former’s sighs even through the charms.
Tara then turned to Angel. “Yes, I know Xander’s plan. No, I won’t tell it to you, and if you insist on becoming obnoxious, I’ll have to take matters into my own hands.”
His mouth fell open and she pressed the advantage.
“A little birdie told me you have a weakness for Barry Manilow.” Her eyes became huge and limpid. “If would be a terrible shame if you were to burst into song at unexpected and inopportune moments, wouldn’t it? Say, the next time you were in a fight, or in that pesky law firm?”
She whirled on her heel to face Buffy. “As for you, how would you like to find yourself unable to have an orgasm for a year?”
Buffy’s eyes widened with horror as Angel stumbled but refrained from total collapse. Gunn doubled over and beat his thigh with a fist, wheezing with hysterical laughter.
“Now,” Tara continued, once again facing Angel and Gunn, “I’ve been trying to convince the both of them that it’s in everyone’s best interest if they play nicely together, but they refuse to be reasonable. My cell phone’s been blowing up with messages from Willow and Joyce.”
She frowned. “Strangely, nothing from Anya, but I gather she has assignments of her own,” she smirked, sparing a knowing look at Xander. “I did receive one message from Giles, and it’s his example I choose to follow.”
She stared down at Xander and Buffy.
“If you two insist on acting like spoiled brats, I’ll have to take complete control. Buffy, I can and will send you back to Sunnydale; this is Xander’s show, and you weren’t given a ticket. Xander, you don’t have time to waste; airing petty grudges does not help Cordelia. Buffy is your best friend, and you love her. You know she’s terrified for you, so suck it up and stop acting like a jackass.”
Both Xander and Buffy turned their eyes toward the floor.
Tara turned back to Angel and Gunn. “Now, then. Wesley called Cordelia’s machine and gave us the latest, and I also talked with her doctor this morning. Cordy is slowly coming out of it, though she’s still unconscious. The latest EEG results indicate that there should be no impairment, though the doctors are still hedging about personality changes. I really don’t think that’s going to be an issue, but I’m no doctor.”
She looked singularly at Angel. “Whose side are you on?”
Her gaze was approving. “Good answer. Do you stand by what you said last night in the hospital? That you’ll trust Xander to take care of her?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Not really, no,” she demurred. “You do
have a choice in how difficult you’re going to make it for him, which in turn should give you pause about how difficult I can make things for you
. Of course,” she added nonchalantly, “I’m sure you’re aware that I’ve already chosen my side and that, if pressed, reinforcements will arrive from Sunnydale. You know as well as I do that no matter how much they argue, the Scoobies will unite for one of their own, even if it’s against you.”
She paused. “In fact, for some of them, especially
if it’s against you.”
He curtly nodded. “I trust Xander.”
“I trust you to do what’s best for Cordy,” the vampire amended.
The boy grunted.
“Wonderful!,” Tara beamed. She then turned back to Buffy. “As for you, I think this is really more about your fear for Xander than it is about Faith. Oh, you resent her because Xander still cares for her, but I think you want to help Cordelia as much as he does.”
Buffy hesitated and then, with a concerted effort, inclined her head.
“And you trust Xander?”
Another nod, more emphatic if slightly annoyed.
“Good. So, I’m going to release your bonds, and you and Xander are going to talk this out.” She clucked her tongue. “Buffy, if you continue to be uncooperative and unhelpful, you’re going back to Sunnydale by whatever means I deem necessary or amusing, just like I said.”
She turned and thrust a wagging finger in Xander’s face. “And you will listen to her concerns and opinions; you don’t have to consider them, but you will give her that courtesy. If you don’t, I’m knocking you unconscious and Anya and I will handle the rest of it.”
Xander and Buffy nodded, and Tara waved her hand to release the spells.
Angel stared at the witch while Gunn burst into thunderous applause. Watching Tara at work was eerily reminiscent of Cordelia, sadly without the barbs and emphatic gestures, though still quite compelling.
Lesbians were so damn hot!
“Remind me never to piss you off again,” Xander gasped.
“Will you really need a reminder?,” she cooed.
He shuddered and frantically shook his head. “No.”
Buffy looked at Tara with a mixture of awe and anger. Wisely, she said nothing.
“Who wants breakfast?,” the witch chirped.* * * * *
A few hours after the scene at his apartment, Giles strolled into the Magic Box and was unsurprised to find a gleeful Anya counting money.
“Welcome, beloved customer, to the...oh. It’s you.”
“Good morning,” he nodded. “Any word from Xander?”
She shook her head, quickly thumbing through a stack of bills with a speed which both startled and fascinated him. “No, but I just got a call from Tara.” She smirked. “Buffy showed up at Cordelia’s apartment and she and Xander screamed at each other until Tara spelled them both.”
She grinned, her tongue poking through her teeth. “Then Angel and one of his platonic male life partners arrived, and Tara proceeded to give them all orders and then made them breakfast. She’s a nice person.”
Giles twitched his lips, desperately trying not to snicker. “That girl is rather fierce.”
“She reminds me of Joyce,” a distracted Anya replied, making notes in her ledger.
“Quite.” He paused, wondering how to phrase his question, before deciding to ask it outright. “So, are you going to tell me about this master plan?” He hoped his curiosity hadn’t sounded too pathetic.
Anya looked up from the counter and ensnared him with an inscrutable, measured gaze for several long moments. “No.”
He nodded as if he had expected no less. “Very well. Is there anything I can do to assist him?”
She sighed. “Honestly there isn’t, but I thank you for the offer. I managed to pull off most of what Xander needed, with some help from Spike.” Seeing the Watcher’s mouth fall open, she cut him off. “No, I didn’t have to pay him,” she happily explained, eyes shining with pride. “I used threats and intimidation.”
He frowned. “Why doesn’t that work for Buffy?”
“Spike’s not scared of Buffy.”
“But he is of you?”
She quirked a brow. “Aren’t you?”
“A bit,” Giles confessed, his face coloring.
She beamed. “At any rate, I’m glad you’re here. Dawn has a half-day at school, and I told Joyce I’d pick her up.” Her voice dropped, as did her eyes. “Joyce has a doctor’s appointment.”
“These headaches are getting worse, aren’t they?,” he quietly asked.
“I think so,” she murmured. “She doesn’t want to talk about them, and I don’t press her, because I think Buffy’s already doing that.”
He nodded, his jaw set.
“So, I’m going to go get Dawn, pick up some lunch for the three of us - which I will expense - and bring her back here. I’m drafting her to help with inventory.”
“You’re giving her busywork.”
She shrugged. “I’ve done what I can. The rest is up to him and...other parties.” She offered a firm nod, which appeared to Giles more for her own benefit than his. “He’ll take care of it.”
Of that, he had no doubt, yet he still worried. “And what of Buffy?”
“Tara will take care of her.”
He shook his head. “I really don’t want to know what’s going on, do I?”
“You really don’t,” she agreed. She then grabbed her purse and keys and stormed out of the shop.
Giles watched her leave, wondering when she had so endeared herself to him, while at the same time pondering whence he might procure a pet rabbit.* * * * *
“I don’t understand why this is necessary!,” Buffy hissed, struggling for a civil tone.
She and Xander were locked in Cordelia’s bedroom, Tara having cast charms to make sure they weren’t eavesdropped upon by Angel’s sensitive ears or any nosy neighbors.
He sighed and ran a hand over his face. “Buff, do you really think Angel can do this on his own?”
She ground her teeth. “He’s not on his own!,” she protested, and not answering the question. “He has Wesley and that Gunn guy.”
“And how is he supposed to fight the bad stuff or seek his redemption or whatever,” he sneered, “if he doesn’t have a Seer?”
She crossed her arms and glared. “Faith’s not a Seer!”
“But she does have mystical radar,” he patiently explained, and not for the first time. “She knows where the creepy will go down, just like you do.” His brow furrowed. “Well, not exactly like you do. I mean, she doesn’t get those cramps. Hey! Do you get those around Angel? Because that would be weird, but it would explain a lot about your reaction to Spike.”
At her curled lip and snarl, he decided it best not to wait for a reply and pushed forward.
“Gunn and Wes are the muscle and brains, respectively. Just like we all have our roles to help you, Cordelia has hers to help Angel.”
He let her think about that for a moment, knowing she didn’t like it any more than he did, which didn’t make it any less true.
“No, Faith isn’t the ideal replacement, but she’s as close as we’re going to get.”
He sighed and sat down on the bed, beckoning her over. She hesitated, so he unleashed the puppy eyes, after which he had to wait approximately three seconds for her to join him.
“Buffy, what good is she doing just sitting in jail? What does that accomplish in the long run? By that logic, shouldn’t Angel be in a cell next to her? Shouldn’t Spike?”
He frowned at her silence. “Why are we even arguing about this? There’s important stuff to do!” He cupped her chin with his hand. “Do I trust her? I'm not sure, but Angel does
, and that’s really all that matters.”
Buffy was really bothered by the fact that he was right.
“Well,” she prevaricated, “how do you know the stupid Powers won’t just send him another Seer?”
He paused, reflecting on what was a very good question.
“I don’t; it’s just a feeling I get.” He ran a hand through his hair. “From what Anya told me, Seers like Cordy are really rare, and there’s only one at a time. They get the visions to help the Champion; Doyle gave the visions to Cordy because he knew he was going to die. I don’t plan on letting Cordy die, so even when she goes away, she’ll still be the Seer.”
Buffy frowned. But wasn’t she also a Champion? How come she didn’t have a Seer? She looked fleetingly at Xander before realization struck her.
She did, kind of. She just never listened to him.
Clearing her throat and trying to focus, she asked her next question. “Why are you doing this for him?”
He stared into her eyes. “I’ll answer your question, if you’ll answer mine. Total honesty, okay? No deliberating, no avoiding.”
She was wary, but his quid pro quo was fair. She nodded.
“What would you do if it were me?”
Baffled, she screwed up her face. “Huh?”
“What if I was where Cordelia is right now?,” he quietly asked.
His words cut through her, and her mouth immediately snapped shut; her lips pursed as her eyes filled. She fought to breathe, finally managing through her nose, which was suddenly congested and therefore gross.
She pitched herself forward at him, her arms going around his torso as she buried her face in his neck, abandoning all pretense.
“I can’t even bear to think about it,” she whispered, her breath catching several times as she choked on tears.
“But I have to,” he murmured, stroking her hair, his head resting on her shoulder. “If it helps Angel or Faith, whatever. That’s just gravy.”
A sob was torn from his throat.
“She trusts me, Buff." He shook his head in misery. "I never thought I’d have that again after what I did to her.” Every muscle in his body tightened with resolve. “I have to help her. I have to do everything for her I possibly can, and that means helping the people she loves.”
Of course it did. Why hadn’t she realized that sooner?
“Where will she go? Cordelia, I mean.”
“I can’t tell you.”
She quirked a brow at the flat admission and squeezed him tighter. She knew there was no way she was going to get it out of him, and it would be pointless to try.
“Will she be okay?”
“I don’t know,” he whispered.
She heard the pain and uncertainty in his voice and, as angry as she was at his obstinacy, as worried as she was for Cordelia, as horrified as she was about Faith, her love for and trust in Alexander Harris overrode her every other thought and emotion.
“How can I help?”