Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Character/Pairing: Cordelia, past Xander/Cordelia
Challenge/Prompt: gameofcards: School Daze (If you join, be sure to tell them Kat Lee of Team Clubs sent you!)
Word Count: 1,637
Date Written: 28 September 2016
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
Her life wasn't supposed to be like this. Monsters weren't supposed to be real. Boys were supposed to fall at her feet, not break her heart. The fate of the world wasn't supposed to rest in the hands of a few teenagers, one Slayer, and an old man. But yet that's exactly what has happened to her life.
She's been helping Xander and Willow pour through smelly, old text books for hours. None of them have dared to speak hardly a word after what's happened between them, and with Giles and Buffy out looking for the latest Big Bad's secret hideout, the only sounds in the library other than the ruffling of pages and scratching of highlighters (which Giles will have a fit about, one of the few highlights of her evening) has been the prowling and scratching of Oz in his cage.
She'd slipped by there one time earlier under the pretense of going to the bathroom. It had quickly proven to be a mistake when the Werewolf had lunged at the thin, metal bars that were all that separated him from her, but she had been so desperate for contact with some one, any one, who would understand how uncomfortable she feels helping her ex and the nerd who he chose over her to save the world. Who better than Oz, Willow's boyfriend who had felt almost the exact same pain Cordelia had except that he wasn't half as cool as she and hadn't suffered a physical stab through his heart when they'd found their exes together as she had? But of course, this is the Hellmouth, and so rather than being able to relate to her pain, Oz was venting his in the form of a hairy, smelly, and very dangerous beast.
Cordelia jumps as Xander's arm once again brushes against hers. She tries not to make a big show of sliding her book further down the table. She doesn't want to give him the benefit of knowing he still gets to her, which is part of the reason she agreed to come help them on the current pending apocalypse. Once again, Cordelia's thoughts turn inward as she wonders why she can't seem to stop letting Xander Harris, of all people, get to her.
She tries to pretend she doesn't hear the words. She turns another pages, trails the words she's barely skimming with her finger, as she concentrates on making sure her breathing doesn't hitch and her beautiful, hazel eyes remain the same, dry and without the slightest hint of the tears she's been having far too many of lately.
"I said I'm sorry."
She turns the page again, even though she's not done with it. "I don't want to hear it." The smooth clip of her voice wins her own approval. There's no sound of hurt or any other softer, unwanted emotion in her tone. She's almost back to the regal snarl of her old, "Queen C" self.
"You don't have to pretend there's any one else here. We're alone. Willow's gone."
"I still don't want to hear it," she retorts, but her gaze does lift. She glances cautiously around the library, wondering where the little redheaded Witch has gone.
"She went to the bathroom. Cordy, we can keep not talking all night, but . . . I . . . I just wanted to . . . Will you look at me?"
Cordelia finally zeroes her gaze in on the boy whose loser status she keeps reminding herself over. The only problem is she fell for him, loser status and all, and now that he's the one who left and hurt her, she's an even bigger loser than him. That's why her so-called friends were trying to set her up with Jonathon, of all people. She had known they'd ditch her and she'd be the laughing stock of Sunnydale if her relationship with Xander was ever discovered. She just hadn't expected everything to be so much worse because he was the one who ditched her. She hadn't thought he'd ever hold the power to hurt her.
She hardens her gaze as she looks at him and grins as he actually winces underneath her harsh glower. Looks may not be able to kill, but she knows the power they hold to hurt very well. "What do you want now, Harris?" she snaps. Other than to paint me with a giant L on my forehead other than that scarlet letter chick.
"I wanted to thank you." He looks bravely into her hard eyes.
She opens a mouth to shoot a retort at him, but none comes. "For what?" slips out instead as she gazes puzzledly at the boy whose fear she suddenly sees openly.
"For coming. For helping. You didn't have to."
"Well, you know there is that whole the world is going to end thing if we don't stop this creature," she murmurs with a shrug of her shoulders. The library doors open. She glances up to see Willow returning and looks quickly back down to the text book in front of her. It won't do to have the little redhead guess that there's a part of her that still, as sickening as it is after all he's done to her, wants Xander.
They settle back into their research routine, the silence between them loud and audible once again, but Xander's words still whisper in Cordelia's mind. He's right, of course. She didn't have to come. She could have stayed home, painted her nails, done her hair, cried some more, but then where would she be when the world ended? If there was anything left of her after the apocalypse came and went, she'd have another regret.
She doesn't care about Xander or Willow -- well, definitely not Willow --, and she doesn't care if the Slayer dies tonight. (There's always a new one called, after all.) But no more world means no more dresses, no more new clothes, no more fashion magazines, no hope of one day becoming a model/actress. No more world means the deaths of every one she knows, all the cool kids who think they're so much cooler now that they're able to knock her down a rung on the social ladder. No more world means never finding any true friends (as she's suddenly been made to realize she's never had any, not the popular kids at school and especially not these two geeks here in the library) and never moving on to another cuter, hotter guy after Xander (not that being cuter or hotter than Harris is any hard goal).
It also means the deaths of her family, of her parents who have never protected her even though that's supposed to be what parents do. She's protected them so many nights through nights like tonight even though they'll never know. She's helped to protect her family, her school, her country, her world, and here she is, doing it again. She can't sit at home when everybody she knows is in danger. She can't paint her nails and pretend that she doesn't know what's real in this world.
Cordelia raises her head suddenly as she turns yet another page, a new thought occurring to her. She's too much of a Queen to ignore the reality, such as it is, all around her. Monsters are real, and the apocalypse will happen if they don't stop it. The world will come to an end, and every one -- all the kids at school who have jeered at her, all the teachers at school who don't realize that she's so much more than just a pretty face and a short skirt, all her family, and her parents especially -- will die. A real Queen won't just hand over her people without a fight.
Cordelia breaks into a grin that Xander and Willow can't help but to notice. Willow shoots Xander a questioning look, but Xander just shakes his head and turns another page, hiding his own grin as he does so. He doesn't know what has Cordelia smiling again, but she's always been so beautiful when she smiles. She's always been so beautiful. It was a miracle when he got her, and he was an idiot to let her go. Still, it's good to see her smiling again.
Cordelia spends the rest of the night with a smile on her face, suddenly knowing that they're going to find a way to stop the apocalypse and she's going to find a way to lift herself up out of her own mess. She's going to rise above Xander and the rest of their classmates just like the sun is going to rise again. And by the time the sun is rising again, every one is exhausted, but Giles, Buffy, and even Angel are back again and the latest battle is won.
Buffy's watching Angel slip away from her again through the few, remaining shadows when Xander turns to Cordelia. "Would you like me to walk you to your car?"
"No thanks," Cordy tosses at him, but she says the words with a smile and a clear air of dignity and superiority that even makes Oz's head lift up as he's dressing in the cage.
"What's up with her?" Cordelia hears Willow whisper to Xander.
She doesn't see Xander shrug in response, and she doesn't care. Let the girl wonder. Peasants can only guess at the thoughts of royalty, after all. Cordelia prances out of the school, her head held high, her dignity in tact, and a more beautiful and prouder smile than any she's worn in months upon her rosy lips. The world may have forgotten that she's a Queen, but she hasn't. Queen C is back to play and rule, and soon Sunnydale will creak beneath the coolness of her high heels.