The Cat Came Back
TN: … and so did the typist. (After our long hiatus, like the Portal computer we declare that we're still alive... The cake is delicious.)
“Why are we hanging out again?” Xander asked Angel dubiously.
“Because you wouldn't hesitate to stake me if I lost my soul and the chances of you giving me a moment of perfect happiness are the same as winning the lottery if I didn't enter, using a past due phone bill,” Angel explained.
“And why did I agree to this?” Xander asked.
“Because I agreed to train you, neither of us has an overabundance of guy friends, and it keeps me away from Buffy,” Angel replied with a sigh.
“Well, it'd be an act of monumental stupidity on everyone's part to let you two near each other again,” Xander said bluntly. “Plus in a few years you'll find some other underage girl to chase and it won’t matter.”
“I'm in love with Buffy, not her age,” Angel argued.
“All I know is, you, a guy older than America, decided to date a high school girl,” the black haired teen replied.
“And who am I supposed to date?” Angel asked. “Anyone my age is either dead, dust, or a demon.”
“You aren't supposed to date anyone, you're dead! If you're really seeking redemption you're not going to find it in a young girl's panties.”
“You'd know,” Angel said.
“Yeah, I've looked – but I'm not seeking redemption I'm...” Xander trailed off.
“Seeking revenge?” Angel finished.
Xander sighed. “Partly. I'm not working from pure motives, I admit, but on the whole I am trying to save lives. Anyway, this isn't about me, it's about you.”
“Well in my day, Buffy was of marriageable age and we didn't look down on age differences the way you do today.”
“Didn't think of that,” Xander admitted.
“The idea that women are incapable of making informed choices until they're 18 is pretty offensive if you ask me.”
“It's applied to both sexes,” Xander pointed out.
“But is only really enforced on women,” Angel said. “It's an outgrowth of the idea that women are property to be protected, not people able to make their own decisions.”
“Never thought of that either, but it makes sense.”
“In my day girls Dawn's age would already have decided who they wanted to marry and would spend the next two years being trained in how to run a household and be a good wife, while the two were introduced to each other formally. Marriage was for the sake of having a family, so they had to make sure they were compatible and fertile with each other. If the young woman got pregnant during the courtship it was considered a sign from above and they were wed.”
“Fine, I can't really fault you on Buffy's age,” Xander admitted.
Silence fell as Angel drug out training mats and Xander stretched.
“I told you they'd be fine,” Willow said smugly as they watched Angel teach Xander how to fall via her laptop.
“I'll reserve judgment until I see them sparring,” Buffy replied.
“Formal introductions,” Dawn muttered softly as she watched Xander work up a sweat.
“Good taste, but too late,” Cordelia told her, amused.
“So, why Cordelia?” Angel asked, taking a break to let Xander catch his breath.
Xander wiped the sweat from his face with a towel. “Why Cordelia?” he repeated.
“Yes, why did you choose Cordelia?”
“Cordelia...” Xander trailed off for a moment. “Can I choose the shallow answer and say boobs?”
“No.” Angel shook his head firmly.
“Cordelia turned out to be everything I thought Buffy was,” Xander replied.
“What?!” Buffy and Willow exclaimed simultaneously.
“You?” Dawn asked Cordelia.
“Me?” Cordelia said with a stunned look on her face.
“Seriously?” Angel asked.
“Seriously,” Xander replied. “Remember, Buffy was the Cordelia of her school before she became the Slayer.”
“True,” Angel agreed.
“Neither one has a body you can ignore, but in addition to looks they are both strong women.”
“I can see that,” Angel admitted.
“Good, and now for our final answer,” Xander joked. “Cordelia upon finding out about the real world couldn't turn and walk away.”
“And how is that different from Buffy?”
“Buffy has said it a thousand times; she didn't ask to be the Slayer, she doesn't want to be the Slayer. She's tried to turn and walk away a couple of times.”
“She came back.”
“Because she had no choice. Cordelia has a choice and look what she's chosen to do with it. Plus, Cordelia wasn't given special powers to make it easier. Cordelia, for all her bitching, started helping when none of us even liked her.”
“Buffy might have done the same if it wasn't forced on her,” Angel said loyally.
“And there might be a time line where we're all vampires and the Master won,” Xander replied with a shrug. “All I know is what is; and what is, is that Cordelia Chase has all the qualities I thought I saw in Buffy, along with the best rack west of the Pecos.”
“I'm sure he didn't mean it,” Willow tried to console Buffy.
“He's right,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “I don't want to be the Slayer. I've never wanted anything more than a normal life and I can't say what I would have done if I was given a choice, because I wasn't.”
“Just you wait; I'm pretty sure I get my breasts from mom's side of the family and they have just begun to grow!” Dawn swore to a grinning Cordelia.
“Caught your breath?” Angel asked.
“Yeah,” Xander agreed. “Bring on the swords.”
“Okay,” Angel said handing him a bamboo sword much to Xander's surprise. “I'm going to swing and you've got to dodge and block the follow up shot.”
“You're telegraphing your moves,” Xander noted after the first couple of blocks.
“We're programming your reflexes, not testing your speed or fighting skills,” Angel replied. “Once you can dodge and block without thought we'll work on programming in some basic attacks.”
“You make it sound like a video game,” Xander panted out, stepping back and bringing his sword up to block, though the power of the blow pushed him back a step.
“It's not far off,” Angel admitted. “There are basic and advanced attacks and defenses; each of which counters another. Moves that aren't one of them may surprise your opponent, but most of the time they're wastes of energy and leave holes in your defenses.”
“No branching out until I have the basics mastered, gotcha.”
“What about Willow?” Angel asked, having scented her on Xander.
“No clue, it came out of left field,” Xander admitted, not bothering to try and hide anything.
“But you have suspicions,” Angel said knowingly.
“Yeah, I have three off the top of my head,” Xander agreed.
“So, let’s hear them.”
“Ethan and his band candy.”
“Possible,” Angel said thoughtfully. “Buffy told me it made people act foolish and caused some strange couplings.”
“And he's not the only mage we've pissed off; but even though I suspect magic I think I know what's really pushing us together,” Xander said with a sigh.
“Is there something you want to tell us?” Cordelia demanded frostily while Willow shrank down in her seat.
“Not really...” Willow replied.
“And what's pushing you together?” Angel asked.
“Aphrodite, as punishment for the spell I attempted to have cast on Cordelia.”
“The love spell?” Angel asked.
“See, I was thinking about the whole situation and how mad I was that someone would deliberately manipulate our emotions to make us hurt each other and how unfair that was… and then I remembered what I almost did to Cordelia.”
“Didn't the spell backfire?”
“Yes, teaching me not to play with magic, but if the lesson was that screwing with affections is wrong, Aphrodite may feel I got off too easy, especially since I got back together with Cordelia.”
“And your third guess?” Angel asked, though that last one sounded likely.
“Someone has plans for Cordelia and regularly manipulates things to make her break up with her boyfriend before it gets too serious,” Xander replied seriously.
“I'm not so sure about that one,” Angel said.
Xander shrugged. “I think Cordelia is destined to do great things, but then I am biased.”
Angel almost smiled. “Well, maybe a little.”
“So, I need your help procuring a sheep!”
“What?!” the girls watching chorused.
“I have three ways to solve this problem,” Xander explained.
“Off the top of your head?” Angel asked cautiously.
“Off the top of my head,” Xander agreed with a grin.
“Let's hear them,” Angel said with a sigh.
“One, a sacrifice for Aphrodite as an apology, in hopes she stops.”
“A cow may work better, but the Greeks did prefer sheep for sacrifices,” Angel admitted.
“Number two is what I like to call: applied psychology.”
“Applied psychology?” Angel asked doubtfully.
“Yes, applied psychology. Specifically, Pavlov.”
“Conditioning?” Angel guessed.
“Exactly; we take a couple of pics of Willow and Cordelia, dressed to the nines and looking good. We hand you a baseball bat and a box of twinkies.”
“You want me to beat you with a baseball bat?”
“Only if the sacrifice doesn't work,” Xander declared firmly.
“And your third choice?” Angel asked.
“Resorting to magic.”
“I can see why you put that at the bottom of the list,” Angel admitted.
“Aphrodite is my first choice as both cause and cure, because I believe divinity trumps magery.”
“And if it's not magic and just hormones?” Angel asked.
“Aphrodite can fix that too, but failing that we have the bat.”
“Your boyfriend is insane,” Buffy told Cordelia.
“And yours is a corpse,” Cordelia replied snarkily.
“I wouldn't mind if he loved Willow as long as he loved me too,” Dawn said.
“I'm selfish,” Cordelia replied easily.
“Of course to keep you from being too happy during the beatings you'll have to dress like one of those pansy, French, Anne Rice vamps,” Xander told him.
“Please goddess let the sacrifice work,” Angel prayed.
“Your boyfriend is insane,” Buffy repeated.
“Learn to share!” Dawn ordered.
“I don't think Oz would be okay that,” Willow admitted.
“Not you.” Dawn said and poked Cordelia in the side. “Stop bogarting all the Xander!”
“I'm not-” Cordelia began. “Well, actually I am,” she admitted, “and I'm still not sure whether to kill him or not.”
“More Xander for me,” Dawn replied easily.
“You can't have Xander!” Buffy told her.
“You chose the dead guy,” Dawn replied, “you snooze you lose.”
“You're too young for him,” Buffy complained.
“What's the age difference between you and Captain Hair-gel again?” Dawn grinned evilly and Cordelia decided that she might have to go easy on Xander.AN: Back in the saddle again!