Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Character/Pairing: Cordelia, Keanu (Bonus points if you know who this is BEFORE you start reading the story!)
Challenge/Prompt: lands_of_magic: Best Friends (If you join, tell them Kat Lee of Team Winter sent YOU!)
Word Count: 2,154
Date Written: 25 April 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
There are a thousand stories he could tell that none of the other kids at school would believe. He rarely sees other children, but he still remembers the way they talked about his mistress the one time her class visited the stables where he stays. They aren't modest accommodations at all, although he'd rather live closer to, and thereby see, his mistress more often.
The other kids were never like his Cordelia. They were never as strong or, as Cordy never failed to point out, as beautiful, and they never once -- not any of them, he was quite certain, -- guessed at the strength behind his mistress' beauty. His Cordy was more than a beautiful face, and she wasn't half as mean as the other kids thought she was. They talked about her nonstop, even when she wasn't among them, but they never dared talk back to her face. His girl could reduce any of them to tears with but a few words.
The other horses thought his mistress would be mean, or at least a prima donna, but they don't know how Cordy like he does. No one knows his mistress like he does. No one knows how gentle she can be, or how many times she's hidden her tears in his mane while she's been brushing him. They don't know the stories they've shared over the years, and there have been plenty of those for he has been Cordelia Chase's horse since before the little Princess was able to actually ride him.
Her father used to hold her up onto him back while the stable hands led him around the walking field. Her father used to laugh and be gentle, just as his Cordelia can be. They have the same smile, those two, father and daughter, but he sees it too rarely on his Cordelia these days and hasn't seen her dad for years. He'd wonder what happened to him except that Cordelia always has something to tell him about one or both of her parents.
Keanu emits an indignant snort and paws at the hay beneath him. The stable hands keep it changed twice daily, but he hasn't seen his Cordy in too many days now. Something new is happening in his little Princess' life, but whatever it is, she hasn't even shared the big secret with him. She doesn't talk about it, but her pretty, hazel eyes seemed more haunted in her last few visits than he's ever seen them before.
He wishes, not for the first time, that he could talk like the animals in the fairy tales her mother used to read to Cordy. He wishes he could really share her secrets and be a real confidante for his little Princess, one who could offer the words of love and sage advice she needs so dearly. He wishes he could tell her parents off. They spend too little time with their daughter, who strives constantly with both making a name for herself and her grades to earn their attention and admiration, and honestly, what isn't there to admire about a human like Cordelia Chase? The girl is a Princess, even if not a fairy tale one, in every sense of the word but one.
He knows what bothers Cordy's father so. He's too wrapped up in money. He's heard him argue with the owner of the stables about the fees for keeping him, and to be honest, he wishes he wouldn't spend the money and would just let him go home with his Princess. If he could only be closer to his Cordy, he'd show that poor child some true love unlike her parents. He shakes his head, snorts, and stomps his hoof again. He doesn't understand what's wrong with them. Any parent should be proud to have a child, foal or human, as beautiful and smart as his Cordelia! But her human parents are too blind to see the jeweled crown they possess in their own child.
He looks to the big doors all the way at the end of the stables and wishes again that his girl would come visit her. He hasn't seen her in too many days now, and he worries about her. This is the time of day Cordelia used to always spend with him, coming to his stables just as soon as she got out of cheerleading practice. Cheerleaders get a bad rep, but he knows just how hard Cordy has practiced to be a graceful and beautiful Captain of her team. She deserves the title and every bit of respect, if not fear, she gets at that dreadful school.
The doors open, and his skin flinches as he practically wriggles in place. He leans out of his stall, hoping with all his heart, and then whickers with excitement as he sees the golden rays of the afternoon sun playing like dark gold on his girl's head. She's here! She's actually here! She's come to see him again at long last!
He whickers and dances in his stall and notes that Cordelia has to force herself not to run to him. Keanu can tell from her strained steps and the way her fingers curl at her side just how eager she is to be with him again. Upon reaching him at long last, his Cordy wastes no time in opening his stall and slipping inside the narrow space with his. "Hey, boy," she says, reaching up to his head, scratching his favorite spot between his ears, and then simply holding his head in her gentle, loving hands.
He whickers again, blowing his hot breath on Cordy, claiming her as his own, and trying his best to tell her how much he's missed her. Cordy must understand, too, because she murmurs as she leans her forehead against the side of his head, "I've missed you too, boy." She stays standing like that, pressing her face against his, as she slips a sparkling, red apple out of her pocket. "I'm afraid this may be the last one I get to feed you."
He would laugh if he could. His girl's freaking out over something simple and ordinary again after just being reunited with him! Of course this won't be the last apple she feeds him! He nudges her shoulder with his long nose, then takes the apple from her palm, licking her flesh as he does so on purpose, and starts crunching on it.
Cordy rubs her cheek against his. "I'm going to miss you."
The apple suddenly tastes bitter, and he swallows it hard. His ears lay flat against his head. His tail whisks, beating at the stall's back wall. He wants to demand to know what she means for he knows now just how serious she is. She really thinks she won't be back!
Cordelia looks up into her horse's big, left eye with tears filling her own hazel eyes. "I wish I could take you with me."
Where are you going?! he wants to cry. What do you mean I'm not going to see you again?! This is nonsense, utter nonsense! But after all these years, he still can't make Cordy understand him any more easily than he could when she was little. He tosses his head, but Cordelia just brings him calmly back down.
She presses a kiss to his cheek. "I'd like nothing more than to just run away with you," she whispers to him.
"That would be a problem, Miss Chase, seeing as how the animal now belongs to the United States government."
Cordelia and her horse both jump, startled, and look at the man dressed all in black through the tears in their eyes. Cordy's never been one to let somebody see her cry, but now her jaw wobbles. "Can't I at least say goodbye?"
"Make it fast, Miss Chase." The government agent looks pointedly at his gold watch. "You're spending Uncle Sam's time."
But he does walk a few paces down the stables to give her a little more time to say goodbye to her oldest, and quite possibly truest, friend who watches her roll her eyes now. "Assholes like that deserve to be Vamp food," Cordy mutters, and her horse whinnies. Vampire food?! What on Earth is his girl talking about?! Just what has she been doing these last few days?!
Cordy thinks of Buffy and the other Scoobies. She's helped to save the world so many times now, and yet everything is being taken from her. It doesn't seem fair, but she knows, too, that it won't do any good to pitch a temper tantrum no matter how much she feels like doing so. She also can't bribe these men, because she has no money of her own and nothing else they want. She's already tried making a sexual advance on two of them, and their refusal was the same: Her father could go to jail for pimping out his daughter, but her advances wouldn't help his, or her, case at all.
Cordy wraps her arms around her horse's neck and squeezes him tight. The animal whickers softly, his speechless voice almost sounding like notes of a lullaby from long, long ago in a childhood that was happy nowhere nearly long enough. He tucks his head over Cordy's shoulder and does his best to return the hug and to hold onto her.
Cordy doesn't let go either until the agent returns to the stall. "Now, Miss Chase, unless you would like to join the horse."
She kisses her horse's mane and quickly wipes away her tears, careful to make the movement of her fingers look like she's brushing his mane instead. Then she glares up at the agent. "I would if I could, but you boys already made it clear that you don't like that idea."
She has to walk away before she slaps the agent and lands herself in even more hot water, but she's standing alone out in the field when they go to move her horse up into a waiting trailer. Seeing her, the Palomino gelding bucks his head and almost breaks free of their ropes -- almost, until Cordelia walks closer and speaks very softly, "It's okay, boy. You've gotta go with them. It's okay."
The horse blinks and looks at Cordy long and thoughtfully before allowing the agents to lead him on into the trailer. "He's got fine breeding," one of them remarks. "He should fetch a pretty penny."
"He'd fetch just as good at a glue factory."
"DON'T YOU DARE!" Cordelia screams, her hands balling into tight fists.
The agent who just spoke flashes her a grin and a wink. Clearly, he'd said the words only to upset her further, but the one who'd spoken of her horse's breeding, the youngest and cutest of the bunch, nods politely to her and tips his white hat. "I'll make sure he goes to a good home, ma'am."
Cordelia bites her bottom lip to keep from crying in front of them. She nods instead and watches them carry away the last piece of the life she loved -- and the piece she realized too late she treasured the most. Slowly, as the trailer becomes but a dot in the far distance, her fingers uncurl. Her tears begin to stream again, hot and wild -- the only thing about her that still feels free.
Her words echo in her throbbing head. She told him it would be okay. Her last words to him were a lie! She's so tired of lies, but she didn't know what else to say. He doesn't deserve to have to worry. He doesn't deserve anything bad, especially not to have to suffer because of the mistakes her stupid father made! Cordy presses a fist to her mouth to keep from sobbing aloud and forces herself to walk away before somebody can spot her crying and making a fool of herself.
She returns to the empty stall and gingerly touches the ribbons that still hang on the wall. Her fingers trace her horse's picture in a photograph of herself and Keanu. For once, she doesn't study her own beauty. She's never known any other being as beautiful as herself, more beautiful actually she thinks, because his beauty shined as brilliantly outside as it did within. He had always been her friend when Cordelia had had no true friends. She had always been able to tell him anything, to genuinely laugh with him when she felt like crying, and to cry with him and not be laughed at.
Cordy's lips tremble again, and as she breaks down crying once again for all she's lost, already over a mile away, the sweetest friend she ever had bucks his head and cries too. He whinnies as loudly as he can, but his Princess doesn't come. Cordy doesn't show, and he knows, though it breaks his heart, he'll never see his little foal again.