Matters of Blood, Love, and Family

Author: Nodakskip <nodakskip[at]>

Rating: Pg-13

Ship: Cordelia/Xander

Setting: AU at the start of season 3 and then set after season seven Buffy. Contains at least three crossovers.

Note: Xander is talked about and seen in flash backs but not in this till the end.

Summary: After Xander is ambushed and may die, his girlfriend Cordelia risks her life to save him.

Latest addition

Chapter 1

New Watchers Council Compound
a.k.a. The Queens School for Girls
35 miles outside of London, England
Main Gymnasium Complex.

January, 2005

The large, brand-new building that housed four full-size gyms, three weight rooms, and two pools was packed as always. It was the weekend too, so there were many teenaged kids running about here and there, yelling and fooling around.

When one looked, there appeared to be a really large gap in the numbers of female to male students. But since it was primarily a school for teenage girls, there was no problem with that fact. At least, not to the 39 teenage boys who attended the institution...

The rest of the student body - all 172 of them - was teenage girls. So, bottom line, the unbalanced ratio and the school's rural setting made sure that many of the boys led very active social lives.

There *was* another special circumstance, that contributed to making the boys' nights interesting; of the female students, over 80% of them were Slayers - the Chosen Ones, who had been called when Willow Rosenberg had activated them worldwide to help in the battle with the First.

Girls who often got hungry and horny...

The boys, and the other 20% of the girls, were either the brothers, sisters, friends, cousins, or significant others to the Slayers. And one such person, Dawn Summers - the now 18-year-old sister of the 'Alpha Slayer' Buffy Summers - was sitting at a round lunch table towards the back of the cavernous building.

And she was shaking her head, at what her mealtime companion was saying.

"Come on, baby D, you have *got* to have a lot of pent-up sexual energy stored up here!" the brunette teen was told. "You need a man, if only for just one night. Or, preferably, the entire weekend. And hey - your big sis can't control who you have your wicked way with, not anymore!"

Dawn just shook her head, as she ate some more salad. "Faith, we're talking about *Andrew* here!!"

The second longest active Slayer shrugged. "So?" she grunted out between bites of onion rings. Then she shrugged, "Okay, granted he's a bit of a dork, but you waited too long with your friend Carlos. So, unless you wanna get into a cat-fight with one of the Chosen crowd, he's basically the only one available right now!"

"Faith," Dawn sighed, as she thought about what Faith was insinuating. "I don't love Carlos that way, and even if I did - no way am I gonna do something like that to Kit. Plus...I don't want my first time be with a guy who might be gay, and used to draw pictures of me in colored spandex!"

"Love doesn't enter into it here, li'l sis. You just need a quick roll in the never know, why not ask Kit if she's willing to share her boy toy?"

The Summers girl almost choked, at the prospect of a threesome with her best friends. "Faith!"

The 'Beta Slayer' held up her hands. "Fine, how about tonight I grab a set of keys and we head into town, or at least that military academy..." she stopped, as she saw the other girl's face. "What?"

Dawn shook her head firmly. "I just don't want my first time to be some guy whose name I might not even remember later..." The girl then mentally kicked herself, when she saw Faith look down for a moment after she spoke.

"Let's cut the bull here, Dawnie," the former rogue Slayer said firmly, as she looked back up. "I know who you want to be your first, and twenty gives ya ten so does most everybody else in this school; but it's not gonna happen. You'd have better prospects with the threesome! I mean, when's the last time you even heard from him?"

Dawn squirmed. "It's been over two months..."

The man in question was in fact the one and only Alexander LaVelle Harris. He who was the former Slayerette who had left town with his high school girlfriend Cordelia Chase, just a month after Buffy and the others had started college.

With a sigh, the former Key remembered back when the duo had initially moved out of Sunnydale...Willow had assured her that Xander would return to his real family after he came to his senses, and finally dumped that "brazen hussy".

But it was obvious now even to her - that wasn't going to be happening anytime soon.

"And what are you two talking about?"

The Slayer and the Key looked to the side of the mini-lunchroom, to see three teenage girls enter. The Slayers by the names of Kennedy, Vi, and Molly.

"Faith is trying to corrupt me," Dawn told her friends with a sigh, as they sat down.

"Big surprise," Kennedy smirked.

"Hey!" Faith yelled. "I'll have you know - uh, well, all I'm saying is Dawn just turned 18, so she should find some stud and live it up a little. You never know what might happen, these days."

"Well," Molly started to say, as she wiped the sweat from her face with the white towel around her neck. "I'm sure the two guys that watched us work out just now, would be more than in the mood for you to go over and say hi..."

"Yeah," Vi said, as she then turned to Kennedy who was sipping her energy drink. "And I can't believe you did that. Dropping your towel, so you'd have to bend over to pick it up and give them a good look?"

"Tell me about it!" Molly groaned. "What, Ken, did you get stuck in that position and have to wiggle your ass like that to get free?"

"Wait, wait, wait," Faith interrupted the teasing, before the smirking Kennedy could respond. "You were teasing the boys here? I thought you were only playing for the other team, already!"

The other dark-haired Slayer shrugged. "I've liked girls for as long as I can remember, but there have been a few guys that did look damn good. And you two," pointing to her workout partners, "have to admit that those new glasses that Johnny got, just makes him so damn cute..."

"So...glasses do it for you, eh Ken?" Faith grinned. "That why Red got herself a pair of 'reading' glasses?"

"Maybe," The Slayer who was Willow's lover said innocently, causing light laughter to erupt.

"Ah, oh," Vi said, as she looked down the long main walkway that went down to the building's main entrance. "Seems that Johnny might have a new target now, Dawn."

The four other girls looked, and frowned.

Two brunette girls - no, two women were walking down the path, and more than a few guys were staring at them.

One woman had on what looked like a very expensive white slacks and blouse, with a matching long white coat.

While the other woman was dressed in a skintight black top with black leather pants, and a matching black leather jacket. A pair of expensive aviator sunglasses topped off her ensemble - which was somehow sexy and dangerous, at the same time.

Their entire look screamed, 'don't piss us off'. Which of course seemed to attract two of the trainers who were at one of the gyms, Buffy and Willow.

The five girls just watched the two newcomers, while they moved as if they owned the place. It took them all a few seconds, before the party of five realized the black and white duo was headed right for them.

<I wouldn't kick either one of 'em out of my bed, especially not her,> Kennedy thought to herself dazedly, as she looked at the rapidly approaching woman in black leather. She was slightly surprised when the two stopped at their table, and looked down at them with intense gazes.

"Something we can help you with?" Faith demanded of them, not liking the scrutiny, as old habits died hard.

The woman in white seemed to ignore her, but the woman in black turned her gaze on the dark-haired Slayer. "Faith. I'm just wondering who you slept with, to get a spot here at Slayer prep school?"

Faith was up in bolt of anger at the insult. "Who the hell do you think you are, lady?!"

Buffy and Willow arrived next to Faith, and the blonde quickly put a hand on the former rogue Slayer's shoulder. "I'll handle this, Faith..."

When Faith stepped back, the woman in black laughed - and it was an ugly sound. "You have her all housetrained now, Buffy?"

"Who are you two?" the blonde asked with a frown.

"It's *so* nice to be remembered," the woman said with a snort. She then took off her sunglasses, to show her full face to Buffy, Willow and Faith. "Nice to see you three are still total fashion victims. But Dawn, at least, has a top on you can admire..."


"I guess you weren't wrong. Well, it's good to know old friends still have a special feeling in their hearts for you," the woman in white said with a smirk, as she spoke for the first time in a British accent.

"What right do you think you have to come *here*, you cheap whore!?" Willow snarled at her childhood nemesis. Stunned, Kennedy and the other two non-former Sunnydale girls looked to each other.

The same thought went through all three minds. <Willow?>

Face contorted with fury, Cordelia was about to fire back with a real zinger when a hand was put on her shoulder. "Remember why we're here..."

The former Queen C of Sunnydale High got a hard look in her eyes. "Trust me, I know *exactly* why we're here. Plus, I have no desire to spend any more time in the company of the redhead here than is absolutely necessary. Not when..." she choked off the rest of the sentence.

"He will be okay, Cordelia. That I promise you," the woman in white said comfortingly, but her look started getting hard as well.

"Cordelia, what is going on? Who is this woman?" Buffy demanded, having already completely dismissed her former classmate as nothing more than an annoyance from the past - one best left forgotten, at that.

"What's going on, Little Ms. 'Alpha Slayer'," Cordelia started in her best bitchy tone, "is that we're here to speak to Giles. Just tell us where he is, and you won't have to see us again."

The woman in black then snorted. "And if you must know - this is my cousin, Lara Croft."

Chapter 2

Soon Buffy, Willow, Kennedy, and Faith were escorting Cordelia and Lara through the long sky walkway, that connected the school's buildings. Dawn and the others were following a short distance behind the older women, somewhat nervously.

"Who the hell is that chick? And why's Willow looking like she wants to kill her?" Vi asked Dawn, as she watched Willow sending murderous looks towards Cordelia.

Dawn made sure she was out of earshot from the first group before she spoke, "Do you remember us ever talking about a guy called Xander Harris, back in Sunnydale?"

"Sure," Molly replied. "He was one of Willow's old boyfriends, right?"

Dawn stopped in her tracks so suddenly, that the other two girls plowed into her. "Hey!" both Molly and Vi exclaimed.

The brunette Key glanced at the back of the redheaded witch to be sure they were not within hearing distance, before hissing, "Where the hell did you hear that?!"

"From Kennedy," Vi told her. "We talked one night about Willow's love life – don't ask why – and Kennedy said that Willow had had two boyfriends and one girlfriend before they met. Oz, Xander, and Tiara something."

"Tara Maclay," Dawn corrected. "But Xander was never her boyfriend. Look, it's a long story – and this does not get out into the rumor mill!" the 18-year-old said sternly, as she looked between the two girls.

"Of course," Molly smirked.

"Dawn, you know how much I hate gossip..." Vi shrugged.


Cordelia could not help but give herself a mental pat on the back, as she watched Willow looking back at her with a scorn that bordered on pure hatred. She had promised her fiancé a few weeks ago that she would try to get along with Willow, when they finally came to visit Slayer U. <Of course, he asks the impossible, but that's Xander for you...>

The former Sunnydale socialite almost choked up again. <Xander is going to be all right, he has to be,> she told herself. <Because it's my God-given duty to kick his ass, for going off on his own like that!>

But even as she thought that, Cordy knew why he had done it. Why he had waited.

Last year, there had been a lead on an artifact that had last been seen in the 16th century; something Lara had been searching many years for. Xander had been the one to find the lead; and so five members of their group had gone in search of the device. But it had turned out to be a trap by one of Lara's old enemies.

A death trap, at that.

After a heavy exchange of gunfire they had escaped, but Cordelia had ended up with a broken arm. No one had blamed Xander afterwards; Lara had in fact mentioned to him the number of times something like that had happened to her, the tomb raider business was cutthroat sometimes. Those were the breaks.

But Xander had become a very stubborn ass about it. He'd blamed himself for months over his woman getting hurt. So this time he had gone off on his own, to make sure that what he'd found out was real.

The only thing that suppressed Cordy's overwhelming desire to run to Xander's bedside was the wanton rage that she had boiling inside her, to severely torture the man who'd done this to her betrothed.

Cordelia tried to calm herself down again, as she saw Willow looking back at her once more with a very unpleasant glare. As she flashed a perky grin that pissed the witch off completely, Ms. Chase suddenly thought back to when the redhead had first tried to mess with her life...


Many years ago...

Two days after Homecoming, October 1998
San Francisco, CA

"You want us to do what?!"

Cordelia Chase looked up from the cup of tea, to the three twenty-something brunette women and the man who had brought her here from Giles' office. "I need a protection spell, for my boyfriend and me."

"Because your friend is a Wiccan, and she's trying to mess with said boyfriend?" Piper Halliwell said in confusion.

"Right," Cordelia commented. "Look, I know something's gonna happen. Willow's trying to mess with my Xander, and I am not going to let her do that."

"Why don't you start from the beginning?" Prue Halliwell asked her. "And we know all about the Hellmouth and the Slayer, so you can skip the 'vampires and demons are real' story."

"Well, that's a relief!" the cheerleader exclaimed. "Okay, so I was in the high school library stacks by myself – since it's the only place I can go now, without Harmony or her idiot friends bugging me. About an hour or so ago, I heard Willow and Xander coming into the main area arguing with each other."

Cordelia continued, "And those two never argue, ever! I couldn't help wondering what had pissed them off like that, so I eavesdropped." At the witches' looks Queen C got defensive, "Hey, he's my boyfriend! I'm allowed to do that, it's one of the perks. Anyway..." Cordelia recalled the events that had transpired, only a short time ago in the town built upon la Boca del Infierno.


Sunnydale, CA

"Xander, you can't tell her!" Willow yelled.

"I have to, Willow. She's my girlfriend!" Xander tossed back.

"She'll dump you right there, on the spot!"

Cordelia got very curious, as she watched them through the space between the books and the top of the shelf. Her curiosity turned to anger though, at what Willow said next.

"I mean, you're really dumb enough to tell Cordy that we made out?"

The cheerleader was about to come out in righteous anger, but something stopped her.

The look on Xander's face.

"I've got to do something – 'cause this is hell!" the dark-haired young man told the redhead. "That was a mistake – you know it, and I know it. And we didn't make out, exactly; we kissed once before the Homecoming Dance, and that's all. It's not totally unforgivable if I get down on my knees and grovel when I confess, right?"

He went on, "For God's sake, Willow, Cordy was mistaken for Faith in that stupid Slayerfest '98 – and she told Buffy she might love me! She was being hunted down like a dog by vampires and those other Hellmouth-y things, and still I was what she was thinking about! I just – I can't stand the thought of not telling her, after she was almost murdered by the German Gestapo twins!"

Willow wasn't convinced of Xander's words. "So, what are you saying? After hearing all that, you realized you love her or something?"

For Cordelia Chase, it was if time was standing still. She'd had no idea just coming into the library today – a decision she might not have made, under other circumstances – could very well be one of the most important moments of her life.

Xander fidgeted a few moments before saying, "I...I..."

A sigh. "Yeah, I guess I do. Feel that way. I mean, it kinda hit me – while she was fighting for her life, what I was I doing? I was sitting around at the Bronze, feeling pissed at and sorry for myself..."

The boy held his hand up to silence what Willow was about to say, "Look, is it true I have no idea how Cordy really feels about me? The answer's yes." He sighed again, "But I don't want to just throw it all away, simply because I have doubts, Willow. We're seniors now, we should start acting our age – which means not trying to base a relationship on lies. 'Cause God knows I've screwed up enough things in my life; I have to try to start breaking that pattern..."

Cordelia wiped away a tear that had come down, as Xander confessed his feelings. <He loves me?> She had wondered if he really did. They'd always had trouble admitting stuff to each other, and the femme had to acknowledge that was mostly her fault – as at the beginning, the head cheerleader had hated even to be associated with a dork like the Xandman, let alone admit to herself the possibility of the L-word.

But a few moments later, Cordelia's anger came back.

Because Willow still wasn't convinced of something. "Xander, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but I think you're making a mistake. Look, we've known Cordelia all our lives; and you guys hated each other, ever since we were six years old! I can't believe that deep down, she loves you – as in scary, messy, no-holds-barred love. And I know it hurts to hear it but if push comes to're just a high school fling to her, and that's it."

"I think you're wrong, Wills."

"Am I, Xander?" the redhead challenged. "Let's look at the facts, then. Number one: when you guys first started going six rounds together in the broom closet – did she, or did she not, say she was ashamed of you?"

"Willow, you don't have all the..."

She cut him off, "Yes or no?! Did Cordelia not say – over and over, I might add – that she was ashamed of you?"

"Yes," Xander painfully admitted.

Willow shook her head. "Number two: after her friends like Harmony and the sheep found out about you two, they pressured her to dump you because you weren't popular. And what happened?"

Xander looked away, "She dumped me...on Valentine's Day."

Willow pressed harder. "And you had some big night planned for the two of you, isn't that right? Do I really need to remind you how much money it cost you to reserve a table at that French restaurant, or how much those tickets to that play cost?"

Cordelia felt lightheaded at this revelation. <He'd planned an entire romantic night together, and I dumped his ass? And he never said anything...>

"Number three," the amateur witch continued. "How many of her friends laughed at you the next Monday, right in your face? Did you like it when that football player made fun of you in front of the whole team, about how Cordy finally wised up?"

"No, I didn't," Xander seethed, getting upset.

"Number four: like you said, we're seniors now Xander. Graduation next year, it's not that far away. Has she ever talked to you about what her plans are, for when high school's over?"

"Well," Xander thought about it for a few moments. "It depends on what happens when we take our SATs next month. I think she was hoping to get into Duke or USC..."

Willow almost instantly pointed the next part out, "Xander, do you honestly think you can afford to go to either of those places? I think we both know the answer to that! More importantly, do you think Cordy would take you along with her, if you can't pay your own way?"

Mr. Harris looked lost at the question. "Uh, we haven't talked about it yet, but I'm sure she-"

"She'll what?" his childhood best friend demanded. "She'll drag you along as her townie boyfriend? Look, you know as well as I do that Cordelia is almost sure to get inducted into some sorority, during college. The new, rich, snobby girlfriends would meet you – and just like the sheep, they'd instantly hate you on general principles. I'm not – I'm not saying it'll happen straightway, but odds are eventually, she'll dump you again. What then, Xander? Another love spell?"

"Damn it, Willow!" Xander shouted, after he had finally heard enough. "Look, I dunno what the next year after graduation will bring for Cordy and me. But I do know this – I'd rather try to be with her and watch it all fall to pieces in the future, rather than just dump her now out of fear like a coward!"

"It's not about fear, Xander; it's about you waking up, ceasing to see things through rose-colored glasses anymore. I'm just trying to help you examine the situation for what it is, sooner rather than later. I mean, what do you have with Cordelia – really? You two constantly fight and make out, and that's it. You make fun of her to Giles, Buffy and me, and she still treats you like crap in the halls..."

"It's not that simple," Xander stated firmly. "She's changed a lot, and don't try to tell me otherwise; remember how Cordy helped you curse Dead Boy that time? How she helped out with the patrolling, while Buffy was...away? Willow, you remember when Marcie Ross wanted to kill her, how Cordelia admitted she's been alone for most of her damn life! I mean, you can't expect her to become Super Girlfriend overnight..."

"Alone?! She's had her pack of sheep, ever since we were teenagers!" the witch insisted.

The boy shook his head. "Do you really think Cordy could have ever confided anything to them, about herself? Given them the ammunition they needed to start rumors about her, so they could take her place at the top? I had you and Jesse, but she didn't have anyone..."

The so-called heart of the Scooby gang paused. "You talked just now about the rose-colored glasses thing, Will; and that's one reason why you've never seen the real her. She has all her defenses up whenever we're around other people, but when she's alone with me – it's different. A few times, I've seen what's underneath the bitch façade. She's smart, kind, funny..."


"Girl's got a sense of humor, when she finally opens up to you. But you've been acting so different towards her the last few days, that she's reverted to type..."

"Oh, come on..." Willow began, before Xander stopped her.

"I'm sorry, Willow, but my mind's made up. For better or worse, when I get back tonight from my family thing I'm gonna tell her we kissed – and that it was just a fluke, and didn't mean anything. Who knows, you may be right and we're already history; but it's my decision to make, not yours. So, you better tell Oz the same time I do, in case Cordy screams at him or whatever. Now I'm late as it is, I'll see you tomorrow..."

Willow watched, stunned, as he went out the door – leaving her alone in the room. "It didn't mean anything? Standing right here!"

Cordelia had enough of this, and was making for the redhead – when she saw what Willow was doing.

The witch had pulled out a large leather-bound book from her bag. As she flipped through the pages, Willow started talking to herself, "God, I'd hoped I wouldn't have to do this..."

Later she murmured, "Let's see now, how do I fix it?" Willow said to herself, as she looked over the ingredients in the spell book, "De-lusting spell? No, that's not gonna work. Ooh, tabula rasa spell! Hmm, mugglewort, crystal – yeah, I can get those at the local magic shop. Ouch, Lethe's Bramble? I'll have to drive all the way out to Fondren to get that! Still, this is for your own good, Xander – if you won't see this for what it is, then I have to help you do it. It's all for the best, you'll see..."

Moments later, she was out the door.

Cordelia came down into the main room, less then a minute after Willow had left. She went right to the table, and opened the book that Willow had been looking at. The green bookmark got her to the page, and she saw what Willow was planning.

<A memory-wipe spell?!> The cheerleader's face went white, as she read over what the rite would accomplish. <No, she wouldn't. I mean, this is Willow we're talking about. Sears-dressing, socially-helpless Willow here, she wouldn't hurt a fly...>

But then cold realization hit her. <But if she thought she was protecting Xander from me...oh, holy shit!>

Ms. Chase looked around in a panic, not having the slightest idea what to do. <Come on, girl, think! Buffy won't believe you, best friend blindness thing – you've seen it often enough. And hell, even if Miss Slays-a-lot did believe, she'd probably agree with Willow's arguments and help her out! Giles is off sick today, but maybe...>


San Francisco, CA

"So that's it," Cordelia said, drinking the last of the tea. "Willow thinks I'm going to hurt Xander again. But I can guarantee you that I will not make that mistake twice," the brunette said a little coldly. "I ran into Giles' office and found his Watcher Rolodex, and you girls were listed under witches, so I called you. And Mr. Very Cute Handyman here zapped me over here."

"Couldn't you just talk to this Willow girl, convince her how you feel – like you did with us?" Piper asked her. "I mean, I still can't believe that any white witch would mess with a friend's mind like that..."

Cordelia snorted. "If she thinks it's for Xander's own good, then trust me – she'll do it. Besides, it's not like I haven't given her ample enough reason to distrust me, over the years..."

Prue nodded, a concerned look on her face. "I see..."

Phoebe looked worried as well. "You know – this can't be good for her karma. Some of the demons and warlocks we've run into have been downright evil, but to do something like a friend..."

Leo spoke up. "Actually, it's not that hard to understand. Witches are only human, after all, and I get the feeling she loves this guy and just doesn't want him to get hurt. If this Willow thinks she's doing the right thing..."

Cordy was getting antsy, looking at her watch. "Look, can you help me or not? And hey, if it makes any difference I'll pay you for services rendered! 'Cause money? Not a problem. But she might be back soon from her little magic ride to Fondren, and get started here! All I'm asking for is protection against any spells she tries to do on us, without our informed consent. I'm not asking for super witch-y destruct-o powers or anything!"

"Alright, we'll do it," Prue stated.

"We will?" Phoebe and Piper asked their older sister together.

"I think we should," Prue nodded her head. "I can't see the harm, if it's just a protection spell..."

Twenty minutes later, Piper blew out the candle that was floating in a bowl of ingredients. "There, how do you feel?" she asked the brunette teen.

"Fine," Cordy told her honestly. "I don't feel any differently..."

"You shouldn't. Basically, it's like a blanket over you and the other subject of the magicks. The way we worded it, it should make you and your boyfriend immune from the tabula rasa spell or anything like that, for at least the next eight to ten years."

"Cool, thanks!" Cordy said gratefully, as she stood up from the floor.

"I'll have to have a talk with the Elders about this, you know. If a good witch on the Hellmouth is on the brink of going bad, then we could have a-" Leo started.

"Hold on there," Cordelia stopped him. "Like I said, Willow just thinks she's doing the right thing for Xander. She's not evil. I mean, it's not like she's going to try to destroy the world or something, anytime soon!"

Leo looked unconvinced, but backed down. "You ready for me to orb you home, then?"

Cordelia looked at him, "Actually, there is one more stop I want to make – if it's not too much trouble."


Sunnydale, CA

Two hours later found a confused redhead in a candle-lit circle, on the floor of the school's biology lab. "It didn't work? I...I don't understand, why didn't it..."

"Are you playing around with black magic, Willow?"

Willow spun around in surprise, to see Cordelia leaning against the wall. "Cordelia!" she gulped, as she tried to stand in front of the candles on the floor. "Uh, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at home? Waiting for Xander to come over?"

The brunette shook her head. "Nope, he called and said his dad was already passed out drunk, so he's still stuck at his cousin Carol's for a while."

The head cheerleader pushed off the wall, moving towards the computer hacker slowly. "So I got to thinking, hey – why not go see what spell a certain redhead's doing, in order to mess with my boyfriend's head!?"

Willow paled, "I don't know what you're talking about. Uh, has all that hair spray finally seeped into your brain?"

"Funny, Willow, very funny," Cordelia snarled, as she looked behind the girl at the small fire and candles. "The Spell Omnibus volume four, published in 1732, page 146..."

Willow just backed away from her as the brunette continued, "And I quote, 'Lethe's Bramble. Used for augmenting spells of forgetting and mind control'. A damn memory spell, Willow?" Cordy asked in disgust. "You're that afraid of me, that you'd take things from Xander's mind without even asking him?! Or were you planning to plant something in his head, instead?"

"I...I don't know what the hell you're talking about..."

"Oh, really?" Cordelia demanded, as she picked up a piece of paper from the floor. "Hmm, I'd say this Xeroxed spell says differently..."

"Okay, fine! But I'm not going to let you hurt him again!" Willow suddenly said in a deep anger. "He, he was doing great, before you and him started violating the laws of God and man last year! You can have any guy you want! Why can't you leave my Xander alone!?"

"Your Xander!?" Cordelia yelled back, full of venom. "My God, what kind of drugs are you on? He was never your Xander! He loved Buffy – till she humiliated him that time at the Bronze. 'Cause hey, Little Miss Goldilocks has made it abundantly clear she prefers 'em good and pulse-less! And you had that stupid crush on him ever since we were in pre-school, and never said or did anything about it? Well, too bad! You snooze, you lose – he's mine now, bitch!"

"How dare you?!" Willow raged back. "You honestly think you and him belong together? Xander needs someone on his side, not someone who'd dump him to sleep her way through the entire football team, if she had to!"

Cordelia growled with pure hate, almost unable to believe the redhead she'd known and belittled all her life was now acting like this. "I'm real glad we're not pretending to be friends anymore, you know, because Willow – this is the way it's going to be from now on..."

She pointed a finger at the witch. "You are going to stay the hell out of Xander's and my relationship! You have no right to interfere with it, at all. If I ever learn of you trying to manipulate him, or pulling something like this again..." she leaned right into the other woman's face, "I will hurt you."

Her voice dripping with cold hatred, Ms. Chase added, "And I swear, Xander and Oz will hear about all of this..."

Before Willow could respond, Cordelia turned and walked out the door.

<Like either of them would ever believe her over me,> Willow thought in contempt, before she went to work cleaning up – wondering just how the airhead had known what she was going to do.


Cordelia walked to the blue van, sitting in the darkened school parking lot. She slid the door open, and climbed in. Sitting down on a seat inside, Cordy looked towards the short nerd on the other side of the vehicle. "Did you get all that?"

Jonathan Levinson nodded. "Word for word, and in living color."

"Good," Cordelia responded, as she removed the fake broach containing the tiny camera from her jacket. "Best two hundred dollars I ever spent..."

As Jonathon handed her the tape, he noticed some worry on the cheerleader's face. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah," Cordy answered him. "I just shudder to think what she might have done, even though she's only thinking it's for Xander's own good..."


The Harris household. Friday morning, 10 a.m.

"Ah, nothing like crashing on the couch watching TV. A weekday with no school, how sweet it is..." Xander said to himself, as he stretched out. Well, at least till the doorbell rang.

"Cordy?" Xander then asked in surprise, as he let his girlfriend in. "I thought you were going to sleep in this morning. Or else, strip-mine the mall..."

"Knock it off, Xander," she told him playfully, as they sat back down. She grabbed the remote and shut off the TV. "I'm guessing that your parents are out?"

"Yeah, it's just us," he told her. "Cor, is something wrong?" He had a sudden deep fear that the "it's over but we'll still be friends" speech was about to happen, after he'd confessed a few days ago. Because oddly enough, all she'd done was slap him and then kiss him afterwards...

Cordelia Chase took a deep breath, gathering all her strength.

"Xander Harris, I love you."


Chase family guesthouse
Christmas Eve, 1998

Cordelia wrapped the blanket around her, as she snuggled closer to Xander. The large fireplace crackled despite the California heat outside, as the log she had thrown in succumbed to the flames.

"What're you thinking about?" she asked her boyfriend.

"Guess," came the low-key answer.

"Xander," the girl gave him a stern look.

Harris sighed. "A lot of things, I suppose. First off, thank you for not going to Aspen with your family, because I know how much your parents hate me."

Cordy squirmed, "Maybe 'hate' is too strong a word..."

Xander grinned. "Tact has never been your strong point, honey, so don't start now. And the other thing – I just didn't think Buffy would ever decide that...that she'd actually have to go this far. I mean, I know you, her and Willow don't get along at all anymore...but to do something like that?"

"I know, Xander," the brunette beauty queen sighed. "Still, I can understand their reasons, even if I hate them for it. They still think it's the right thing to do. You'd think that since we've lasted this long, that they would just let it be, but that ain't happening."

"Yeah, I guess," her boyfriend frowned. "But to push us out like this, no more patrolling – just to protect us?"

"Xander? Buffy and Willow only want to protect you," Cordelia told him bluntly.

The former class clown still shook his head. "But to push us out of the Slayage, trying to mess with my head, and hacking into the school's computer to try to change my classes so they were all the same as theirs? It's too bizarre. I just don't get it anymore..."

The former May Queen just let him talk, since this was one of the few times she'd gotten her significant other to talk about this. "Xander..."

"I mean, this really makes no sense, Cor. Buffy's with Angel again? Well, okay – although I don't even wanna thinking about them getting pelvic once more – and Willow's making goo-goo eyes at Oz. So, what, am I supposed to be just sitting around on the sidelines, like a human blow-up doll? Be a potential backup boyfriend – in case of emergency, break glass and have an instant Rebound Guy?"

The ringing of Cordelia's cell phone cut off her reply.

The half-naked girl quickly got out from beneath the blanket with an apologetic look to Xander, before she grabbed the phone off the couch. "What?!" Cordy demanded angrily, when she answered it. Her mood quickly changed though, "Oh, sorry Giles. Is something up?"

Xander watched her, as she listened intently. "You sure you don't need us for this?" Cordelia asked. "Well, okay, if you think Buffy can handle it. Right, we'll check in with you in the morning, bye."

"What's up?" the so-called Donut Boy asked, as she set the phone down on the end table.

"Oh, it seems some demon – or something – is driving Angel nuts. Buffy, Willow and Oz are on it; Giles just wanted to keep us in the loop."

"At least, someone still does that these days," Xander said, with another headshake.

"Hey, you know what?" Cordy asked, as she got off the arm of the couch she was sitting on. "Wait here a minute. I want to get your Christmas present from the other room," she finished, before she dashed off.

"I thought we weren't going to do the presents thing this year?" Xander called after her, from his spot next to the fire.

"I know, but I saw this the other day, and I just knew you'd love it!" she called back. "Just give me a few minutes, will you?"


Minutes later, the son of two drunks heard footsteps in the hallway. "Close your eyes," Cordy ordered. Xander did as he was told, and he could hear her walking up to stand in front of him. "You ready?" she asked teasingly.

"Yeah, Cor. I'm all ready."

She laughed a tiny bit. "We'll see about that," the female teenager said nervously. "Okay, open your eyes."

"Cordy, what...great googley-moogley, woman!"

Xander's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. Because his girlfriend was standing right there, in a matching set of powder-blue lingerie underwear.

Small panties, with a white giftwrapping-style bow on them, plus a tight see-through top that she filled out very well – which also had a bow on it. The outfit came with a matching choker, which carried a small bow as well.

Cordelia Chase looked like a very hot Christmas present, that men would kill and die for.

"Oh geez, Cor...I," Xander choked out, as he noticed how very well she filled out the lingerie.

"You like?" Cordy blushed a bit at his reaction, before doing a quick spin to show off the outfit. "I found it at Victoria's Secret..."

The smile on Xander's face seemed to be fused in place, as Cordy took his chin in her hands – making him look at her in the eyes. "Because I wanted something good on, for our first time together."

As she'd predicted to herself, the words took a few moments to sink into his Xander brain. "First time? Cor, you sure? I mean, you wanted to wait till we..."

Cordelia stopped him from babbling, by dropping down and straddling his waist. "Yes Xander, I'm sure." She wrapped her arms around his neck, as she looked into his eyes. "I'm ready. Plus, there's the fact I can feel that you're more than ready."

The young man blushed, big-time.

Cordelia continued, "And this night is just too perfect. We have a dark house all to ourselves; plus a bearskin rug, a roaring fire, and we're not needed to go get monster slime all over our clothes, or something. And a few months ago, you did say that when we finally did have sex, that you'd make me forget all about my time with that guy in Sweden..."

"Oh, I will," Xander told her with conviction. "I will make you forget you ever spent your freshman summer vacation there, at all."

She giggled. "Don't want you to overexert yourself there, tiger. Let's just settle for upstaging him for now, okay?"

"Sounds fine to me."

"Now then, Xander, I've only got one thing left to say," the cheerleader said cheerfully.

"What's that?" the boy asked softly, as he nibbled on her neck.

"I really hope you don't like this shirt..." Cordelia whispered in a throaty voice, before she ripped open the piece of flannel, causing buttons to go flying.

Moments later, Xander lowered her near naked body down onto the floor next to the fire, on top of the rug.

And steam started fogging up the windows of the guesthouse for the rest of the night, as the flesh of two worlds became one.


Sunnydale, CA. March, 1999

"Amy!?" Buffy called out in surprise. "You're back!"

"How did you-?" Willow asked, stunned. "I, I thought it was impossible to reverse that spell, and get you de-ratted..."

The former blonde got a dirty look on her face. "Willow...what in God's name were you thinking?"

"What?" the redhead asked. "What do you mean?"

"What do I mean?" Amy mulled it over for a moment. "Oh, I don't know, maybe the fact that you wouldn't admit the de-ratting spell was beyond your current skill level, and ask for help? You just say it can't be done and put me in a makeshift hamster cage, from a garage sale?!"

The witch sighed, as she closed her locker. "Look, let's just say I'm very glad Cordelia and Xander knew the Charmed Ones, or else I'd probably be having a craving for cheese for the rest of my life!"


"Boy, you were lucky you weren't at the school last night Xander, it was crazed..."

Buffy watched as Willow spoke to their male friend, who was sitting hand-in-hand with Cordelia. The smarted-mouthed 'ho was in her cheerleading uniform. And the Slayer noticed right away the big grin the brunette got, when Xander responded to their bestest friend, "You know me, Willow, give me the quiet life any day..."

Giles addressed the group, "Well, I-I-I'm afraid we'll have more to do than just clean up the library today. We must discover why, why there were also two dead, rotting human bodies in the school boiler room last night. If something was going on other than the apocalypse, then we..."

"Oh, don't worry about them, Giles," Cordelia said, as she leaned her head on Xander's shoulder, while wrapping her arm around his waist. "I'm sure they were stopped by a concerned citizen, who just happened to pass by."

Xander looked panicked as the cheerleader continued, "I mean, who else could it have been? It surely couldn't have been the guy who's been delegated to donut duty lately, by the people with superiority complexes..."

Xander shut his eyes as the twin female yells erupted, "You were there!?"

He opened his eyes, to subsequently see two sets of womanly eyes looking at him in fury. "We told you to stay home, Xander. Angel and I told you, Giles told you, even Willow told you..."

"Yeah, but Buffy, what happened was that I..."

"No excuses, Xander Harris!" Buffy said angrily, as she cut him off. "We could have handled it just fine! From now on, when I order you to stay home, you stay home! You should have a normal life, away from..."

Xander was about to interrupt her, but his angry girlfriend beat him to it. "You're giving us an order!? Who the hell do you think you are? This isn't the Army, and only a lunatic would put you in charge as the commanding general if it was!"

"Cordy, for God's sake will you grow up!? Buffy's just telling Xander the situation, for his own good. We can't keep protecting him in a fight anymore, someone might get killed!" Willow seethed at her now-hated enemy.

"Really? So, lemme get this straight. You want us out of the action permanently? Like, it'd be better if we'd never gotten involved at all, right from the start?"

"Yeah!" both Buffy and Willow nodded, wondering if maybe Cordy had finally seen the light.

Unfortunately, the Bitch came out to play. "Giles, how are we for time-travel spells? You know, as in real-life "Back To The Future" or something?"

The Englishman looked stunned, "What? Cordelia, there are some such magicks around, but-but you can't be thinking-"

"Oh, I know exactly what I'm thinking," the cheerleader spat with sudden venom. "Prom Night '97. Just send me back, and I'll change it all – just as the Wonder Twins here said they want it. I'll seduce Xander – and don't think for a second that I couldn't have, even way back then – and leave you guys to fight the Master on your own..."

There was a cruel smile on her face as Cordelia then went on, "Oh, of course, that means Buffy here would end up dead, 'cause Xander wouldn't be there to give her CPR. And Willow and Ms. Calendar would be murdered by those vampires, because I wouldn't be there with my car to save their asses. But hey, what does that matter? Like Buffy just said, we shoulda stayed home anyway, right? Have a nice normal life? That sort of thing?"

Giles and Xander looked stunned. And there was a terrible ghastly silence, as the Slayer and the witch looked at the cheerleader like she was a venomous snake, that should be killed on sight.

"You bitch..." the redhead started to snarl.

"Okay, that's it. Let's settle this right now, Willow!" Cordelia said with conviction. "You, me and Xander, in the library. No holds barred. We'll see which of us ends up being the one who needs to be protected..."

"You two, that's enough," Giles called nervously, looking around. "People are starting to stare..."

Cordelia's anger simmered down, only because it was Giles. "Fine," she said, as the girl grabbed Xander's backpack and dug into it. She pulled out a computer circuit board, and handed it to Giles.

The Watcher looked at it in confusion, before Buffy grabbed it. "What's this supposed to be?"

"It's the circuit board for the bomb that Jack tried to set off last night," Xander said with a sigh. "Without it, the bomb is basically just a big paperweight."


"Yeah," the boy admitted. "They thought it would be funny to bake a cake. You know, blow up the school last night..."

"My God," Giles said in horror, as the words sunk in. "If that bomb had gone off near the Hellmouth, when it was open..."

"Then it would have stayed open, and we'd all be dead now," Cordy said matter-of-factly. "Ya know, I can't believe that I'm actually grateful Xander and I had that stupid fight at the Bronze last night..."

Buffy and Willow both still looked a little annoyed that Xander had disobeyed their wishes, but Giles stood up and offered his hand to the other male present. "Good work, Xander. Thank you for your assistance. I'm very proud of you..."

Cordelia beamed, as she watched Xander shake Giles' hand. But soon, after they were far enough away from the others, Xander got a bit ticked. "Cor, I asked you not to tell them!"

The girl squeezed his hand at hearing that, and shook her head. "Xander, you saved the world last night. All by yourself. You didn't need any help, or Slayer powers, or whatever; you did it all on your own. I'm proud of you, Giles is proud of you, and it shouldn't be all just swept under the rug because those two can't handle it."

Cordelia looked into his eyes. "You're a hero, sweetheart, and it's time everyone realized it too."

Xander gave her a small smile. "I know, Cor, but you still shouldn't have told them. It's just gonna make everything more difficult now..."

The cheerleader gave him an evil look. "Okay, so I've been a baaaad girl. You can punish me tonight..." she told him, very suggestively.

"Yeah, I might just do that, woman," the former Idiot Jed told her with a grin. "But you're sure you have your own room?"

"Yeah, honey, I'm sure. I've already called the hotel, and they're expecting you about an hour before we get there on the bus."

"Well, good. God, you know, when I started high school I never thought that my girlfriend – that is, assuming in my wildest fantasies that I ever got one – would be taking her cheerleading squad to the national finals," Xander gave her a kiss on her forehead. "I'm proud of you too, babe."

"Thanks. And I mean that," Cordelia said, as she ran her hand threw his hair, straightening it out. "Let's cut through the hall over here..."

Xander looked to where she pointed, and frowned. "That's the freshman hallway. You never go down there! In fact, as I recall, you've gone out of your way to avoid it ever since sophomore year..."

"I know, but Jonathon told me he overhead a bunch of the freshman players on the junior varsity football team saying I had great legs."

"Well, you do!" Xander then frowned, "You want to yell at them for it?" he asked skeptically.

"Well, no. But I do have my cheerleading outfit on, Xander. I'm just going to walk as slow as I can through there, and then drop my notebook and bend over to pick it up..." She got an evil smile. "I'm going to help those idiot 15-year-olds go through puberty pretty damn quickly. Trust me, I've got to strut it sometimes! It kind of relaxes me, to see them drool over something they'll never have..."

At the look on his face, Cordy sighed. "Okay, so it's a little mean, but come on! It'll be fun!"

The high school senior made no more protests, as she first kissed then dragged him along with her.


The Chase Mansion.
Noon, the following Monday.

Cordelia drove into the most shocking sight she had ever seen. Some men, with black jackets on, were pouring in and out of her home like ants.

"What the hell is going on here!?!" she raged, as the teenager was reaching for her cell phone to call the cops.

"And you are?" one guy in a suit asked.

"I'm the girl that's going to have you busted, for breaking and entering and theft! Hey, hey, put that down!" Cordelia yelled, as she saw men moving out an artwork from her mother's collection.

"Are you Cordelia Chase?" the man asked.

"Yes. Now hold on, while I call the cops..." the girl fumed, as she started to dial on her cell.

The man shook his head. "Don't bother, they're already here," he said, pointing over to a Sunnydale PD police cruiser. Cordelia was about to stalk over to it, when the man handed her a warrant.

He sighed, "I'm Tim Markson, with the IRS. I hate to have to tell you this, kid, but this is a raid."


Two hours later

Cordelia sat in the interrogation room alone, as she waited for the Feds to return. She tried to wrap her head around what she had been told...

Her parents had been cheating on their taxes for 12 years, and they apparently had some links to organized crime in Las Vegas as well. Not only that, some pesky lawyer previously from the LA firm 'Wolfram and Hart' had warned them what was about to happen, and her parents had skipped town with a whole bunch of their stuff. They had disappeared, while she was away having fun with Xander and the squad at the tournament at UCLA.

Cordelia looked up as the door opened, and the two Feds came back in with the public defender that had been appointed for her – since the Chase family lawyer couldn't be reached now in LA.

"These agents have been authorized to offer you a deal, Ms. Chase," her lawyer said.

"Really?" Cordelia mocked. "I didn't know I needed a deal..."

"Look, little girl, lose the attitude – you're in deep shit," the Fed named Owens said. "Your parents just ditched you completely high and dry, while they're probably off somewhere sipping a pinacolada on a beach. Bottom line here, you have no options. You're broke; all your credit cards are just a memory. Ditto, the trust fund. Any remaining liquid assets your parents had have been frozen. We just repossessed your palomino horse, Keanu, too! The only thing you currently have in your name is a Blockbuster Video membership."

"And your point is?" Cordelia said, her voice full of scorn.

"The point is," the second Fed, Blanchard responded, "we want your parents, not you. Cooperate with us, and maybe-"

Cordelia gave them a sneer. "Maybe, nothing. You have nothing to charge ME with! I had no knowledge of any of this. And I'm still a minor," she told them.

"Yes, that is true Ms. Chase, but the deal is dependent if you want to still have anything to your name after today," Owens said. "We can't make you testify against your parents, but help us – and we can give you some of your things back."

"I don't believe this! You're trying to bribe me with my own stuff!?" Cordelia yelled, shocked at their audacity.

"No, it's the taxpayers' stuff now. Look, however you want to paint this, your parents did some very bad stuff for some very bad people. You help us, and we'll help you."

"And just what would I get for telling you everything I know about my parents, where they might be?"

"Well, no promises, but it might be arranged to return your car, anything that was in your room, and your bank account," Blanchard said, with a slight smirk.

"What bank account is that?" she asked hotly. "You said I had nothing of my own..."

"Your parents had a lot of dummy accounts in banks around the state, kid. And there's one in a savings and loan in LA, that's in your name."

"Mine!?" Cordelia was a little nervous, maybe technically these guys DID have something on her after all.

"Your parents earmarked it as a 'college fund' for you, but I don't know of many college funds that have ten million bucks in it! It's all in your name, but as you said, you're still a minor and can't access it. Which is lucky for you, otherwise you'd already be in the county lockup," Owens told her.

He went on, "Ms. Chase, we need whatever info you might have overheard or know of, fast. Now, you can take it or leave it. But I have to warn you that if you don't take it, then we'll have to proceed with the other criminal charges we have pending."

"What other charges?" Cordelia and her lawyer demanded together.

Owens took out an eight by ten color picture, and slid it across the table. And Cordelia growled low in her throat, as she saw what it was.

Her and Xander making out, on the patio of her hotel room in LA.

"You were spying on us!?" Cordelia yelled. "What the hell gives you the right-?"

"Oh, we had every right. After all, part of our job is to serve and protect; to insure your safety, Ms. Chase," Blanchard looked totally unfazed.

"My safety!? What the hell are you talking about?"

Owens got a very big smirk. "Young Mr. Harris turned eighteen last month. And you ARE still seventeen."

Cordelia's face fell. "You can't be serious..."

"We take statutory rape very seriously," Blanchard told her.

Queen C was ready to castrate him. "Xander hasn't done anything illegal, you freaking idiot!" And Cordelia was going to yell again, when her new lawyer stopped her.

He asked carefully, "I take it you're offering to drop any charges against the boyfriend, if she accepts the deal?"

Owens just nodded, as everyone else looked at Cordelia – waiting for her response.


A month later.
Sunday morning, April 1999

Buffy and Willow paced the library, waiting for Xander to show up. The mood between the two girls this morning could be described only as downright giddy.

They'd finally gotten the dirt they needed on Cordelia Chase, to prove to Xander once and for all what kind of woman the little slut was.

"Okay, I'm here you two," the male Slayerette said, as he came into the library looking exhausted. "Now, what's the big end-of-the-world emergency?"

When no answer was immediately forthcoming, the boy sighed. "Come on, ladies! I've been driving all night, after helping Oz and the Dingoes with their gig in Monterey. I just want to go to my nice warm bed..."

Willow stepped forward, trying to keep the feeling of vindication from her face. "Xander, I hate to tell you this – but we've learned that Cordelia is cheating on you!"

Xander stared, before he just turned around and headed for the doors. Buffy ran to grab him and pull him back, though. "Xander, wait-"

"Buffy, I'm tired. I had to deal with my cousin's constant snoring the other night, and my other cousin's 15-year-old friends giggling at Oz's band all day, then get up very early in the morning to drive back here. Now, let me get a few hours sleep, and then you two can play the 'let's break up Xander and Cordy' game all you want..."

"No! It's true, Xander," Buffy told him, as she set him down at the table. "Look, we followed her last night..."

"You did what? Buffy! For God's sake, this is unbelievable!" The young man laid his head on the table.

"I'm sorry, Xander, but it's true!" Willow told him, as she sat next to her childhood friend.

"Yeah, sure you're sorry Willow. That's why you almost look like the Joker, with that huge smile you're trying to hide – the one that's about to split your face wide open?"

"Xander!" both girls exclaimed. "We're not getting any pleasure from this..."

"Fine," he gave up. "I'm guessin' you won't let me leave, until you lay it all on me. So please, let's get this over with, so I can get to bed..."

Willow got right down to business. She took on the air of a prosecuting attorney and exclaimed, "She has a love nest that she takes guys to!"

"Oh, really?" Xander said, amused.

Buffy gave the former Zeppo a five by seven picture of a yellow house, on a middle-class street. It showed Cordy getting out of her car, within the garage. "We got these developed less than ninety minutes ago, at this one-hour photo store. Xander, you'll never guess who she's seeing behind your back! God knows it shocked us..."

The next picture showed Cordy opening the door of the house, for Jonathon Levinson.

"Jonathon?" Xander asked, raising his eyebrows. "You're saying now my Cordy is sleeping with Jonathon Levinson? I don't suppose it occurred to you guys he could have been there, just to fix her lap-top or something..."

"Afraid not, Xander," Willow told him, as they handed him another picture.

It showed the house in the early morning light. Jonathon and Cordelia were on the front step, talking. Jonathan was in the same clothes as when he'd arrived in the other picture. Then in the last photo, Cordelia was giving Jonathon a kiss on the cheek.

Willow and Buffy shared a look of victory, as Xander looked at the picture in disbelief. The girls' looks quickly soured though, when Xander started to laugh.

"Okay, not the reaction I was expecting, but..." Buffy began.

Xander stood up. "A really great job of detective work here, girls – really." Then he suddenly growled, "I'm sure that whoever the vamps killed last night will be glad to know, that the Slayer wasted her time like this!"

The young man moved for the door, but then turned around to the Scooby women. "And just for the record, I know for a fact Jonathan was upgrading Cordy's lap-top with a new CD writer. Plus, he helped her set up the surround-sound system for the TV. All of which took almost all night, 'cause some idiot at City Hall couldn't get the power back on after a blackout in the area..."

"What?" Willow looked to Buffy, then back to Xander. "Look, Xander, it's okay if you don't want to believe that we're right..."

With a sigh Xander pulled out his cell phone, and called up the recent call list. He showed the screen to them, "Okay, Willow, who does it say called me at nine pm last night? And six am this morning?"

The witch read the screen. "That's Cordy's cell number."

"Right!" Xander said, re-clipping the phone to his belt. "And in said phone calls she told me how much she missed me while I was gone, and that Jonathon was kind enough to come over and help her with the tech stuff. He slept in the guestroom, when it got too late to leave. And I know that Cordy would never make a play for him, even if for some insane reason she ever wanted to – I mean, why would she put the moves on Amy's guy, of all people?"

"Amy's guy!?" the twin questions echoed.

Xander looked at them weirdly. "You two don't pay much attention to the school gossip anymore, do you? Amy and Jonathon have been going out, for the last two weeks. She told me a while ago, that they both have a thing for magic. And, remember what her psycho mom did to my girlfriend? No freakin' way Cordy would risk going blind, or anything like that, again..."

"Xander, please, you gotta believe me..." Willow started to say desperately.

Xander shook his head. "Willow, I'm sorry but let's face it, your credibility – and Buffy's – is pretty much gone, for the moment. How the hell has it come to this?" he then asked them sadly. "Will, it's like ever since we kissed at Homecoming last year, you two have become completely different people..."

"No we haven't, Xander. You're the one that's changed. Cordelia's changed you," Buffy challenged him.

"Well, I should hope so," Xander said, shaking his head again. "Because, let's face it – the idiot who never even realized Willow had a gigantic crush on him, since forever? The loser who was in love with a girl that could never love him back, because she only had eyes for a vampire? Not someone I think you'd want to be associated with..."

With that, he left the library – leaving two very upset women behind.


"Xander?" Cordelia called from the bathroom, as she came out. The woman was clad only in a towel, having just gotten out of the shower.

"Yeah, it's me Cor!" Xander called back, as he locked the front door.

"I thought you were going to be back later?" the brunette asked, as they met in the hallway and kissed.

Xander rolled his eyes. "Well, I would have, but like I told you – emergency call from Buffy, that there was a big Slayage thing going on. So, like the idiot that I am, I went over to the library as soon as I got into town."

His girlfriend leaned against the wall. "Should I even ask?"

"Oh, yeah; apparently you have a secluded little love nest here in the suburbs, and you're screwing Jonathon," the 18-year-old proudly told her.

"I'm what?!"

Xander nodded with a tired smile. "Yep, they had pictures and everything. Apparently Buff and Will followed you, and saw him come over; then took a few pictures of him leaving in the morning..."

Cordelia just shook her head in defeat. "They followed me home, then camped out on the street? All damn night?"

At his nod she suddenly asked, "Any chance we can have Amy turn them into rats, just for one day? It would be great to not have to listen to them think up this crap..."

"I know, Cordy, I know," the dark-haired boy told her with a sigh. "But we – uh, well, that is, at least I – have to put up with it, to stay in touch with the end-of-the-world stuff. I mean, the library is sorta our home away from home, same like it is for them..."

Cordelia's face scrunched up in displeasure. "Easy for you to say. You don't have Wesley Wyndam-Pryce constantly stammering at you, trying to think up a decent way to say he likes me..."

"Should I be worried?" Xander ginned.

Cordy hit him on the arm. "Jerk! Well, I'm sure when he gets done with puberty, Wes'll meet a nice Watcher woman and have lots of little Watcher children. But my God, I am getting so sick of having to listen to his stories about merrie old England! Who cares what really happens over there in Teabag Central, anyway?"

"Oh, well, Buffy'll tell him to shut up sooner or later..." The guy then changed the subject, "So, what's on your to-do list for today?"

"Not much," the woman shrugged. "Amy and I were going to go to the spa, after playing some tennis..."

Cordelia saw his fatigued state, then took Xander by the hand and led him into their bedroom. "Okay, now I want you in this bed, mister! You look like you're gonna fall asleep right here..."

"Nice resolve face there, Cordy..." he mumbled.

"Oh please, Willow has the resolve face. I have a command face, and you will do what my command face says! Now get undressed, and into that bed..."

As Xander took off his shirt he said lightly, "Now why did you have to give me that particular order, when I am so dead tired?"

"Just to drive you crazy, you hopeless sex-crazed geek..." Cordy said as her man stepped out of his pants, leaving only his boxers on. She quickly placed Xander under the covers and smirked, seeing him fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Cordelia Chase watched the man that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with for a few minutes, before she gently kissed him on the forehead. "Sweet dreams, you dorkhead..."

Then she went into the house's second bedroom, to pick out the outfit she was going to wear for the day.


New York City
The Fisk Plaza building

Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin of Crime, looked up from his copy of the Wall Street Journal to look at his lawyer-slash-underling. "Something to report, Wesley?"

The small blond man – and definitely not the Watcher of the same name – nodded to the large black man, who was his boss. "The arrests in Las Vegas have proceeded faster than we predicted would happen. There's already a power vacuum, with the major crime families there."

Wilson smiled. "Then tell our men to make their move a few days sooner than planned." He ate a piece of cantaloupe before adding, "And I take it the Chases have been taken care of?"

"Yes," was the answer. "The pictures sent to me were very graphic. Messy, even. But no one will ever know."

"Good. And what of the evidence we planted?"

"Ah, yes, that's also working out better than we anticipated," Wesley said. "Owens and Blanchard are worth every penny you spent on them. All the Feds needed was a little push from what the Chase girl knew, and Las Vegas fell like a house of cards. You'll be in charge over there, within the week."

Fisk nodded, as he sipped his orange juice. "I can tell by your face, that you have a problem with some part of the operation."

"Well, sir, it's just that you yourself taught me about never leaving loose ends behind. I was wondering – since Cordelia Chase has served her purpose and ratted out her parents, shouldn't we remove her from the playing field? I'm sure Bullseye would be most accommodating..."

Fisk considered it for a moment, but then shook his head. "No, there's no need to kill her."

His assistant was surprised. "That goes against your normal policy, sir."

"Indeed it does, Wesley," the large man chuckled. "But the reason I'm sitting in this chair and you're not, is a little thing called judgement. I can foresee how her death might give some Fed unwelcome cause to look at her and her family's situation again. And besides, the girl and her boyfriend just bought a little place for themselves, with some of that blood money she earned. Call me old-fashioned, but I kind of liked the idea of those two screwing each other on top of the memory of her murdered mother and father..."

Fisk stood, and tossed the Daily Bugle on the table. "We have other things to deal with."

Wesley looked at the paper's headline, and frowned as he read it aloud. "Vigilante Spider-Man breaks up drug ring..."


October 10th 1999
Sunnydale, CA.

Cordelia swore to herself, as she tied her robe closed. "Who could that be, at two in the morning?! I swear, if this is Buffy with more of her 'college sucks' act, then I will just wring her little Slayer neck!"

The Chase girl angrily opened the door and was surprised to find a fellow woman, but not Buffy Summers.

Cordelia took a moment, to take in the new arrival. Brunette hair with a longer-than-normal sleek ponytail, well-toned face and fairly curvaceous body. She looked like a classier big sister of Faith, if taller...

"Yes?" the graduate of the last class ever of Sunnydale High asked.

"My God, you do look so much like Grandmother..." the woman said to herself in a British accent, as she looked Cordelia over from the front steps. Cordy was about to respond, but then the woman looked up slightly. "Oh, did I come in the middle of something?"

Cordelia's face reddened, as she quickly snatched off the white nurse's cap with the large pink cross on it – throwing it into the umbrella stand.

"I take it that Xander is waiting for you to come back to bed?" the woman asked with a smirk.

Cordelia narrowed her eyes. "Who the hell are you, lady?!"

"I'm Lara Croft," the woman said, before she held up a cross and twirled it in her hands to show what she wasn't.


Ten minutes later...

Cordelia and Xander sat across from the new arrival. And in annoyance, Cordelia had to elbow Xander to get him to stop staring at the woman's breasts on the other side of the couch.

The former cheerleader knew that Xander was still in the mood right at the moment, given what they had been doing, so she quickly forgave his looks. After all, she had to privately admit to herself that the new woman was pleasing on the eyes.

<I bet Faith would try to nail her on sight,> Cordy then thought with a mental snicker. <That is, if the brunette bitch wasn't vegetating in a coma at the moment...>

"Just how much do you know about us, Lara?" Xander asked suspiciously.

"Well," the English noblewoman said, as she leaned back into the couch. "I know you two occasionally work with the vampire Slayer, and that Cordelia's patents skipped town barely a few steps ahead of the IRS. And a week after she got this place with the money from her rather large college fund, you moved in here with her. I believe it was after your father tried to use you as a punching bag, once too often?"

Xander bristled, as Cordelia interlocked her fingers with his. "So, how do you know about that?" the Sunnydale native and former bitca asked.

"Police reports. My friend's a whiz at finding stuff out on the computer, cuz."


"Didn't I mention it? I'm your cousin from England," Lara let out a lazy smile.

"Cousin?!" Cordelia frowned. "Lady, I never even met you before now!"

"You're wrong," Lara told her. "I last saw you, when you were two years old..."

"Oh my God. My family moved to town when I was two, remember?" Cordelia said to her boyfriend as Xander nodded, that fact being known to him.

"Let me tell you a story," the woman said. "Back when my parents were alive, I rarely saw my mother's only sister, Rose. She was educated here in the States, and met a guy by the name of David Chase. They had a little girl named Cordelia, which of course was you."

"So, then what happened?" Xander asked in amazement.

"Then there was a fight between David Chase and my grandfather, and that lead to David, Rose and their daughter Cordelia moving to a little sleepy town named Sunnydale. And after more fighting over the phone, Rose cut off all ties to her English side of the family."

"Noooo! You're saying I'm half-English?" Cordy asked guardedly, not knowing if this was for real.

"Yes you are," Lara responded.

"Oh dear God," Cordy whispered in horror. "All that horrible stuff I said to Wesley before he left, it all applies to me too?!"

"If this is true," Xander asked, ignoring that, "why didn't you show up before now?"

Lara got a sad look on her face. "My parents weren't exactly fond of David and Rose Chase. And I was too young; I'm only three years older than you, Cordelia. My parents died in a plane crash when I was a teenager. Other things became more important to me than finding a long-lost cousin. No offense," the British woman told her relative.

"None taken," Cordelia told her back honestly.

"Anyway," Lara continued. "My friend Bryce found out about a high school here in this country that was blown up, during the graduation ceremony a few months ago. The man got a little curious when he only read about it on a conspiracy theory website, and not CNN's. So, he snooped around – and last week I happened to look at the class list and saw 'Chase, Cordelia' listed. We did a little digging: and, well, here I am."

"So what happens now, if Cordy's really a member of your family?" Xander asked curiously.

"Well, first off, she gets her share of the inheritance from my grandparents' estate-"

"Inheritance?" Cordy's head snapped up. Xander just grinned, as he saw his girlfriend's eyes almost light up with dollar signs. "Uh, just wondering here," Cordelia said, trying to be tactful for once. "But how big of an inheritance are we actually talking about?"

Chapter 3

The Office of Rupert Giles
January, 2005

"Cordelia! It's delightful to see you again," Giles said in astonishment, before he hugged her warmly.

"You too, Giles. Same here," the brunette woman told him sincerely.

"And you as well, Lady Croft," Giles said, as he formally kissed Lara's hand. Behind them, Willow mouth the word 'Lady?' to Buffy, who simply shrugged.

Watching the interaction between her cousin and the much older man, Cordelia said shaking her head, "Giles, sometimes I think you're just a dirty old man. Or to use the British-ism, a randy old bugger!"

"Cordelia," Lara chastised her cousin with a smile. "There's nothing wrong with an attractive man showing proper manners to a lady..."

Cordy shook her head with an amused smile, as Giles face' reddened with the look Lara gave him. The former Californian then groaned in her head, as the memory resurfaced of Lara and Giles' one-night stand several years ago...

The former ruler of Sunnydale High just tried her hardest to stuff the memory back into the farthest recesses of her mind as she told Giles, "Well, it's nice to know that *someone* is happy to see me again."

Giles glanced over to the blond and redhead. "Yes, uh, well, with the altercation you three had when the news of Xander's and your departure hit us back then..."

"Altercation?" Lara asked in confusion.

"Oh yeah," Cordy grinned, looking back at her old friends. "The Wonder Twins here tried to do a...well, an intervention, guess you call it. Seems that they *knew* Xander would never want to leave Sunnydale on his own..."



The Summers family kitchen.
November 1st 1999

Cordelia Chase knew, even before she told them the news, that Buffy and Willow would immediately go ballistic. "You want to do *what*?!" the redhead yelled at her.

"I told you twice, already. Xander and I are moving to England."

"This chick is *your* cousin, so why the hell is Xander going with?" Buffy demanded.

"Because, Buffy," Cordelia said slowly, with growing anger. "He's my boyfriend, and we've been living together for months now! We both talked about it, and decided to do this because we don't want to lose one another."

"But, but you can't do this!" Willow yelled. "We need him here!"

"You *need* him!?" Cordelia yelled back. "What the hell for? Stimulating conversation? I'd find *that* kinda hard to believe, since he's talked more to Dawn in the last few months than either of you two!"

Willow ignored her as she went on, "This is insane, Xander won't survive on his own over there. He needs someone to watch over him. And you want to take him to another country!?"

Cordelia just clenched and unclenched her fists. "Someone to watch over him, Willow? For God's sake, please tell me where the hell you got this idea in your skull that Xander Harris is this Special Ed kid that needs Mommy Willow to help him with everything!"

"Damn it, Cordelia!" Willow fumed. "He's always needed someone, and don't try to tell me different! Ever since we were in kindergarten, he's always screwing up and someone had to..."

"Willow," Cordelia sighed as she rested her arms on the table. "Did you ever stop to think maybe his home life was the cause of all that, when we were little kids? And not that he needs someone to hold his hand through every little thing?"

"What about his home life?" Buffy asked, confused. "I know his dad yelled at him a lot, and that sucks ? but so what?"

"Yelled at him a lot?" Cordelia looked at the Slayer in shock. "Buffy, what are you ? BLIND!?"

"Wha-?" the Slayer got out before Cordelia went on a rant.

"His dad used to BEAT THE SHIT out of him! Didn't you ever wonder why he never wanted to go home after the Slayage!? Why he would rather sleep outside in the backyard during Christmas, in a town infested with vampires? Or my favorite..." Cordelia said icily, as she looked at the Slayer.

"The times he came to school with a black eye, or worse, stuff that was caused by his old man ? and you thought it was from going out slaying without your damn permission, so you yelled at him about being stupid and needlessly risking his life!?"

Buffy looked shocked, but Willow was shaking her head. "No, no, Cordelia, that's impossible! Okay, Mr. Harris was a drunk but if he ? no, I-I would have known! He's my best friend, for God's sake!"

"Willow, you were friends, but he was never your best friend. Jesse was his best friend; you were just part of the 'We Hate Cordelia' club, and he loved you like a sister. Well, until you and Queen Buffy decided he was just an impediment, and Xander got left by the side of the road..."

"We did not abandon him!" Willow screamed at her nemesis.

"Oh yes you did, the both of you," Cordelia looked across the table to them. "Now, putting aside the fact that we hate each other if you can, tell me ? why SHOULD he stay here? The crummy jobs he's been working lately? Believe it or not, Xander can't wait to give them up! Look, just for now; will you two at least try to act like you're happy for him, and say goodbye when we leave?"

"You want us to talk to him?" Buffy asked, surprised.

"Buffy," Cordy sighed. "Here's a fact that you can't seem to grasp. I love him as much as he loves me, and it would make him and therefore me feel better if you guys at least part with him on good terms."

"Oh please, you honestly expect us believe that you care for him like that?" Willow demanded. "That you actually love him?!"

Cordelia had finally had enough, and she got up and went for the door. She turned back with tears glistening in her eyes and shouted, "Yes, Willow, I *do* love him!" she yelled. "Is that what you want to hear? That I can have the worst day ever ? like when the IRS took my home, yanked away my family's money, told me that my parents just took off without me ? and it can be made all better, just by him holding me?"

The former ruler of the Cordettes wiped away a tear as she continued, "Willow, I sleep in his arms every night. And one day, I'm hopefully going to have his children. Why can't you guys just give us a chance to be happy?"

Cordelia then shook her head silently, as she left the back door open as she walked away.

Willow just began to shake her head. "No...NO, she's lying. We didn't...*I* would have known if his dad had ever hurt him. And I NEVER abandoned him!"

Buffy watched, as Willow started to chant. "Willow, wait, what are you doing?" she asked, a little panicked.

Then Buffy's eyes bulged out, as a stream of white energy appeared and flew out the door towards the back of the departing Miss Chase. "Willow, oh God, please tell me you didn't-!"

The Slayer ran to the door, and had just a microsecond to duck as the energy blasted back through the doorway, nailing the wall-mounted microwave, and causing it to explode in a shower of sparks.

As the Chosen One looked between the infuriated witch and the now-fried microwave, she shrugged, "I guess that protection spell is still in effect, huh?"

"Then we'll have to do this the good old fashioned way!" Willow said, still pissed as she ran out after Cordelia. Buffy ran after her, seconds later...

End Flashback


Cordy looked at Buffy with a grin, after remembering what had happened next. "Wishful thinking given that old Slayer healing, I know ? but I hope that black eye took a long time to go away, Buffy..."

Giles stopped Buffy from advancing on Cordelia. "Girls, please, we don't need a replay of that fight now!"

"Speak for yourself, G," Faith said with a grin. "From what I heard about it from baby D, that 'altercation' was almost X-rated stuff..."

That remark reminded Cordelia of something. "Oh yeah, that's right Willow; I still owe you for ripping open my shirt like that. If I hadn't been wearing a bra?"

"Oh, so what?" the witch demanded with a nasty look. "Ninety percent of the town had already seen them up close beforehand, what exactly would have been the problem?"

"Chick fight!"

Everyone quickly turned to the young man who spoke out. "Oh c'mon," Andrew Wells whined. "It would be fun!" He looked to Cordelia. "So, so, you were a cheerleader, right? Did the outfit have any spandex?"

Lara and Cordelia just exchanged disgusted glances at one another, as the rest of the people present just ignored the nerd and former member of the Trio.

All of them, that is, except Faith.

"Well, Andy, lemme tell you ? C here looked smokin' hot in her cheerleader outfit way back when. She had these spandex shorts underneath that made all the guys..." she trailed off, as the dark-haired Slayer saw the woman in question glaring at her.

"Faith, you need a life, stat! And as for you," Cordy said turning to Andrew. "There's only one guy I still model my old cheerleading uniform for, and just for the record? You are nowhere near even half the man he is..."

"Speakin' of the whelp," a male British voice cut in with a large amount of arrogance. "Where is the stupid sod right now? Out gettin' his butt kicked somewhere?"

Dawn rolled her eyes. "Spike..."

The newly-returned corporeal vampire didn't take the hint to shut up, though. He moved over to Cordelia with a leer, "Ya know, I never could figure out how an idiot wanker like him ever got to score with a high-class chit like you, luv. Care to enlighten us?"

What happened next caught everyone ? apart from Lara Croft ? by surprise.

In one fluid motion, Cordelia reached into her jacket and pulled out a Beretta 92. And Spike was instantly slammed to the ground by the force of the bullet ripping into his shoulder, at so close a range.

Cordelia quickly put her foot heavily on the vampire's chest, as he lay clutching his wound in astonishment. She pointed the gun at his heart, "Any other smart comments, Captain Peroxide?"

Eyes filled with wrath, Buffy moved to stop the former cheerleader; or rather, she was going to move when she noticed a Glock 9mm being pointed at her own head.

"Now, now..." Lara said, as she kept eye contact with the blonde Chosen One. "She's just venting some steam. No need for anyone to want to be heroic, or anything."

"Buffy, please calm down!" Giles said, knowing what his surrogate daughter was feeling and trying to remain calm himself.

"ME calm down?!" Buffy hissed what she thought of that order, as she stared at the front of the weapon aimed at her. But she stayed put, hands clenched in fists of rage.

"Oh yeah, you've got some wrinklies on ya now, little girl!" Spike said, with laughter mixed with bits of pain from the floor under Cordelia's boot. "Bloody hell, I could throw you off of me in a second, but I gotta ask..."

Another bullet hit the floor near his head, shutting him up.

"Yeah, Spike," Cordelia said, looking down at him in the eyes. "I know all about how you finally got that chip out, and you're the Big Bad again now. Not to mention how you killed quite a few people, when the First Evil made you its bitch! But you insult my fiancé again, and..."

"And what, pet?" he demanded with another sneer. "Your bullets may 'urt me, but they don't kill vampires. You forgotten that?"

Cordelia smiled a cold smile that suddenly reminded the male vampire uneasily of his lost, mad Drusilla. "Even if I turn your head into a leaky canoe, if not vaporise it? Could you still bite me, with your face blown out through the back of your skull? Or maybe I should just shoot the only part of you that Buffy *really* likes..." she mused, before the brunette moved the gun down to above Spike's crotch.

Seeing his increasingly nervous face, Cordelia dropped the smile. "Like I said, vampire, insult the man I love again and I *guarantee* you'll be instantly missing a few choice body parts. On account of unlike Buffy, I don't get all wet downstairs because of the washboard abs and high cheekbones. Are we clear?"

Spike just nodded.

"Good boy..." Cordy removed her foot from his chest. She then nodded to Lara, and they both put their guns away at the same time.

"You-!" Buffy yelled in a fury, as she headed for Cordelia.

Only to be grabbed by Faith. "Focus, B! This ain't the time or place, and I'd prefer you not to get a slug between the eyes ? on account of these two ain't kidding around..."

"She shot Spike! SHE shot Spike! That, that useless piece of spoiled white trash actually ? he's a hero, damn it, he saved the world!"

"Don't tell me she's still harping on about that?" Cordelia asked snarkily, as she looked to Dawn. The Key just nodded numbly.

"What's the matter, Cordy?" Buffy demanded, as she shook Faith off and calmed down. "You jealous that he did what you can never do?"

Not rising to the bait of the Alpha Slayer, Cordy just shrugged. "No, not really. And I'll freely admit I've never directly saved the world. Xander did that for the both of us, back during senior year ? but all you ever did was yell at him for it, as I recall..."

The half-British woman turned to Lara. "See, with Buffy? The world-saveage thing, she has to be screwing you for it to ever count."

Everyone turned when they heard light giggling. "You two finding something funny?" Buffy demanded, very pissed.

"Uh, no..." Molly giggled.

"Nothing at all, boss lady," Vi responded.

"Ah, yes, if we could move on?" Giles said in a loud voice. "Maybe we should all take our seats..." He gestured to the large wooden table. But as they moved to the chairs, Lara sniffed the air with disgust.

"What?" Cordy asked her cousin.

Lara nodded her head towards Andrew, who was sneaking out the door. "I think Cheerleader Appreciation Boy definitely peed his pants at your little show, cuz."

Cordy quickly matched her cousin's look of disgust, as they sat down. Then she shook it off as she addressed her former father figure, "Giles, can you tell me who these people are?"

"You don't need to know who everyone is," Buffy said coldly, from her seat. "And while we're at it, I want you two to hand over those guns before I-"

"Look, I'm on the clock here, oh bottle-blond one. And as for the other thing, you try disarming us ? and maybe you won't get a room full of dead bodies if you're lucky, but your corpse will definitely be the first to fall," Cordelia interrupted her hated former friend. "Get over the attitude, on account of we don't have time for your Slayer PMS-ing..."

Giles quickly went around the table, before Buffy could fire an insult back. "To the left of Faith is, uh, Robin Wood, he's an old ally from Sunnydale. This woman here is Jeannette Kipp; she's the second in command of the new Council."

"Under me," Buffy quickly added with a glare.

"Buffy," Giles rubbed his head.

"You're humoring her by letting her think she runs everything, huh Giles?" Cordelia asked him with a grin.

"Buffy is the best leader we have," Willow said coldly. "She led us to victory over the First Evil, if you didn't know..."

"Absolutely right, ducks," Spike said at once, his natural bravado returning. "I collapsed the whole damn Hellmouth, on top of the stupid bird and its army! Even got the crater 'n all, for proof..."

"Well, that's great, Spike," Cordelia told him acidly. "No, really. I'm sure you hurt a noncorporeal being like that a *lot*, by dropping a human town on top of it. Seeing as how it can't even manifest on this plane of existence, I'm sure a town passing right through it must have killed that sucker, stone dead."

Before Buffy or Spike could return Cordy's sarcasm, Lara looked back to the three girls sitting on a couch on the side of the room. "And these three? I know who Dawn is, but not the other two..."

"These are, um, Molly and Violet," Giles told her. "Two of the former potentials, now Slayers from the battle with the First."

Cordelia gave the girls a quick nod, before turning back to Giles. "Lovely. Look, Giles, let's cut to the chase ? what we need is a list of all the old Council's safe houses in the LA area. And, also, anything that could be big enough to be used for an airfield."

Jeannette frowned. "And why would you want that information?"

"Better yet, why the hell should we give it to you?" Buffy demanded again in that hostile tone.

This time Cordelia ignored the Slayer. "Does the name Clayton Travers ring any bells?"

Both Giles and Kipp were surprised. "Yes, of course. That's ? he's Quentin Travers' oldest son. But, but how do you know of him?" the G-man asked.

"We know of him because of Xander's hard work, Rupert," Lara responded.


"Yes, Willow," Cordelia growled. "Remember him? The guy who you tried to force to stay in Sunnydale, way back when?"

"Enough, you two!" Giles groaned. "Now, really, what's this all about?"

Cordelia leaned back into the chair. "Okay ? three weeks ago, Xander noticed something odd about a few new missing person's cases in LA. A lot of teenage girls just vanishing from their homes, schools, friends' houses?"

Lara took over telling the tale. "All of the girls had one thing in common, though. Their friends all say that they got a lot stronger, a few years ago."

"They're Slayers?" Giles understood.

"Right," Cordy said. "But the cops ignored any stuff about super-powered kids; they just chalked it up to crack hallucinations, or whatever. But as Xander dug deeper, he got some information from a contact of his."

"The X-man has 'contacts' now?" Faith asked, surprised.

Again, Cordelia ignored the interruption. "He found out that Clayton Travers showed up here, shortly after you guys started the new Council."

"Oh yes," Giles said with a sigh. "He, ah, demanded that we turn over control of the organization to him. The young upstart bloody well wanted to remake the Council into what it once was, he was interested in nothing but power and money. We quickly showed him the door-"

"-and that's putting it mildly," Faith smirked over the memory of what she'd done to the guy.

"Well, I'm afraid the bad news is Clayton Travers simply went into business on his own," Lara said.

"He what?" Robin asked.

"Asshole started his own Council," Cordelia clarified.

"What does the bloody git watch? Porn films? We're the Council now," Spike laughed at his own joke.

"I know you're dead, but are you brain-dead as well?" Lara asked him quite seriously. "Missing Slayers, and another Watchers Council. Do I need to draw you a diagram?"

Spike's face flashed to his game face for a moment, before he felt Buffy's hand on his leg and he calmed down.

"Dear Lord. He's taking these girls, and forcing them into working for his own designs?"

"Yeah, he is Giles," Cordelia told him. "Xander went to LA, while Lara and I were in Spain. We'd just gotten back, after a call from Amy-"

"Amy?" Spike looked up. "That backstabbing li'l blond witch is out of her bloody coma?"

"Yes she is, Spike," Cordelia didn't even look at him.

"Well, well. She still makin' googly eyes at the magnificent poof's little brat, then?"

Cordelia just sighed. "As you should know, Spike, that entire Amy/Connor crap was just because of the half-demon thing, and Jasmine's insane plans. Amy's looking for Jonathon, and for that matter so are we..."

"Why would you wanna find that guy, C?" Faith asked, genuinely confused. "I mean, apart from the magicks he has even less power than Xander..."

Lara jumped in before her cousin pulled out her gun again, to shoot the Slayer across the table. "Really, I honestly don't know what you peoples' fascination with power is all about. If that's your only measure of a person's worth, then I feel very sorry for you..."

"Okay, that's it, let's cut the bullshit!" Cordelia yelled. "Giles, we need that list, as in right now!"

"Again, why should we give it to you?" Willow demanded.

"Willow, for once in your life would you just shut up?" Cordelia snapped.

"Hey!" Kennedy snarled. "You don't talk to her like that!"

"Oh please, Rebound Girl!" Cordelia snarled back.

"Watch what you say to me, you little..." Kennedy growled out.

"For heaven's sake, will you all kindly cease and desist?! We need to focus-" Giles tried to intervene.

"Oh, puh-lease," Cordelia groaned at Kennedy, ignoring him. "As if I should be scared of you..."

Kennedy shot up from her seat. "That's it, you cheap whore!"

Cordelia stood up, with a gleam in her eye. "Oh, this'll be fun..." She turned to the aggravated Giles. "Giles, please give Lara the information we need." Then she turned to Lara. "While you're getting it, I think I'll wipe the floor with this skank's face!"

Lara grabbed her arm. "Cordelia, we do *not* have time for this! We don't know how long we have till?" she trailed off.

"This won't take long!" Back to Kennedy she said, "So, Rebound Girl, where do you want to do it? The gym area? Or should I just beat your ass right here?"

"Not in *my* office, you won't!" Rupert's authoritarian voice rang out.

The two fighters and others quickly left the room to go the gym, when Lara collared Giles. "I need that list, lover boy..."

"And I need to know *why* you need it," Jeannette Kipp told her quite frankly.

"Oh, hell, Xander got ambushed by the bad guys while looking for one of the missing girls," Lara said. And Kipp could tell she wanted vengeance, as much as her cousin did. "He survived, but they...they poisoned him."

"Poisoned?" Wood asked, surprised. "Doesn't make sense. Why not just kill him and be done with it?"

"Because..." Lara said with a sigh. "He is, or at least was, an old friend of Buffy, Giles and the others. A relatively slow, yet very painful just sends the message a lot better, wouldn't you say?"

Seeing the question on Giles' face, Lara added, "It's Ner'isa."

"Oh dear Lord!" Giles exclaimed in horror. "Jeannette, make up the list from the old records, as fast as you can!"

As the older woman ran off, Wood asked, "Ner'isa?"

Giles took off his glasses, and rubbed them clean. "It's a very effective poison, made from the blood of a Moirce demon. Awful stuff."

"And the antidote is hard to come by?" the former principal asked.

"Well, no, not as such," Giles said uneasily, as he slipped his glasses back on. "The antidote for Ner'isa can be easily made."

"Then what's the trouble?"

"The trouble," Lara told Wood, "is that the antidote has to be made from the blood of the exact same demon that the poison originated from. Not one of the species, but the *exact* same one."

"Yes," Giles agreed. "And what's more, Ner'isa ? it's immune to any type of healing magic. Not even a whitelighter can overcome its effects?"


New Watchers Council Compound.
Main Gymnasium Complex

A small crowd had gathered, as the word had quickly spread. A sparring match between Kennedy and one of the mystery women that had come to the school, was too juicy a thing to miss out on.

They all gathered around three sides of a matted area of the gym, as the wall took up the fourth side, and mats covered that as well. Some of the crowd was betting money on the upcoming fight, but most didn't bother.

A normal human against a Slayer? Sucker bet.

"Don't worry, Willow," Kennedy told her lover as she stretched. "I'll just knock her upside the head, and make this quick..."


"No? No what?"

"Don't make it quick," the redhead told her. "I want you to hurt her, at least a little. Don't kill her or anything, just..."

"What?" Kennedy asked, surprised. She leaned in to whisper, "Willow, what's going on-?"

Willow's face got a savage look. "Kennedy, I had to put up with her crap since before we started grade school! She made fun of everything I was, made me cry countless times when I was a kid. She had Jesse drooling all over her, and worst of all ? she flashed her cleavage at Xander, and stole him away from his real family. Us. All these years, he shoulda been there with Buffy, Giles, Dawn, and me ? not with that...woman! She'll get the message..."

Kennedy nodded. "Okay, I'll just go through the basics with her to prolong it a bit. But..." Both girls looked over when they heard a few of the boys whistle, when Cordelia removed her jacket.

<Damn it, she does have a nice pair. What a waste...> Kennedy thought absent-mindedly, as she watched the other girl stretch while talking to her cousin.

As Kennedy stepped onto the mats, she heard Willow's voice in her head. //Please hurt her!//. She nodded back to her lover, as Cordelia stepped onto the mats.

"So, you're Cordelia Chase," Kennedy said slowly, as she circled her opponent.

"Yeah, that's me," Cordelia replied.

"I've heard a lot about you," Kennedy added.

"Oh? And what does the old Sunnydale grapevine say about me?" Cordelia wondered, while keeping her distance.

Kennedy shrugged. "Boyfriend stealer. Not to mention, town slut. From what I've been told, you knew a lot of the boys in your senior class rather well, in the Biblical sense..."

Cordelia snorted out a laugh, as the two continued to circle. "Was that supposed to rattle me?" she asked derisively. "Make me scream 'you bitch!' and run straight at you? Go nuts, and give you a chance to get some good hits in?"

The Slayer just shrugged. "Maybe."

Her opponent laughed, "Sorry to disappoint. And I've heard a lot about you too, ya know. Must be tough competing with Tara's memory, huh? I'm sorry I never knew her ? from what I heard, I woulda been proud to call her a friend. What do you think ? if that asshole Warren had aimed a little to the left, would Willow ever even have looked twice at you?"

Kennedy's eyes narrowed, as the mocking words and her own fears about that hit home. "You have no idea what you're talking about..."

Cordelia stopped moving, shrugging her shoulders dismissively. "You know something? You're already boring the hell outta me." She dropped into a fighting crouch, and did a 'come get some' gesture with her hand. "If you've got the guts," she added with a trace of the old 'Queen C' sneer at the younger girl.

Kennedy immediately charged, throwing her right fist at the taller brunette's face and following it immediately with a roundhouse kick with her right leg to the stomach. It was, after all, one of the basic attacks that the school taught the new Slayers, and Buffy and Willow smiled as they waited for Cordelia to hit the mats, hard.

But their smiles faded quickly, as the duo saw the impossible happening right before them.

The former cheerleader just dropped back a step, letting Kennedy's punch and kick miss her entirely. The young Slayer's chagrin at missing her opponent caused her to immediately follow up her first attack with a spinning left-hand backfist and another lunging punch aimed at Cordelia's head, while she snapped her foot at the brunette's right knee.

Cordy spun to her left as Kennedy attacked, causing all of the Slayer's attacks to miss her again entirely, the expression on her face one of boredom.

The amazement on Buffy and Willow's faces grew, as Cordelia easily blocked every attack Kennedy made. Every punch, every kick and every move was effortlessly blocked, the older girl not even flinching as her hands or arms flowed into the appropriate position to block each incoming blow as though it were second nature to her.

But what the onlookers found even more unbelievable was the bored look on her face, the entire time Cordy was doing it.

Kennedy the vampire Slayer was growing more and more frustrated, with each passing moment. The bitch must have had some training at some point, she thought, which surprised the young Chosen One. She had been told that when push came to shove, Cordelia Chase couldn't fight her way out of a wet paper bag...

<Oh well, that should teach me not to trust in gossip. Fighting's about who's really got the power...>

The young woman attempted a Slayer-fast swipe at the bitch's jaw, trying to end it quickly ? only to have her arm deflected, grabbed and twisted up behind her back. The girl with a summer house in the Hamptons cried out in sudden pain, as Cordelia simply shoved her hard into the wall.

"Is *that* the best you've got, loser? 'Cause I could take you down just by hitting three pressure points, right now!" Cordelia tauntingly whispered in Kennedy's ear, before she released her.

The Slayer pushed off the wall and went right for the challenger, leaping forward into a flying side kick, her body soaring through the air at the older girl like the proverbial speeding bullet.

Cordelia didn't flinch; she merely sidestepped the kick meant for her head as she wrapped her arm around the hip of the airborne girl's extended leg, using the Slayer's momentum against her as she redirected Kennedy to slam down hard against the mat.

Cordelia bent down and grinned down at her, inches from her face. "Aw, is little Rebound Girl hurt?" she asked, as if talking to a small child. "Should I kiss it for you, and make it all better? Or would you like that too much?" she asked mockingly.

In a fit of rage, Kennedy used her Slayer strength to shove the older girl off her. "You bitch!" she howled, not appreciating the irony of her opponent's comments from a short while ago.

Cordelia landed a few feet away on her ass. "So you do have some power, after all," she grinned as Kennedy stood up. "I mean, other than your rather ? powerful ? fragrance..." The former Queen C then charged the young Slayer, at full speed.

In the microseconds that Kennedy saw the girl coming, she knew that she was finally going to win. She would just kick her opponent in the head as Cordelia ran at her, and then...

Kennedy's jaw dropped, as the woman effortlessly jumped over her with incredible ease. The young Slayer then barely had a moment to feel two hands grab her shoulders, and flip her backwards up into the air.

"What-" Kennedy felt herself become airborne a scant few milliseconds before slamming against the mats mounted on the wall, head first, knocking her out completely.

"Kennedy!!" Willow cried, as she ran over to her unconscious girlfriend. "Damn you-!" she seethed at Cordelia.

Cordelia just shrugged, as she received her jacket from Dawn. "I told her I'd kick her ass..." She walked over to where Andrew, Giles and Faith were staring at her, open-mouthed.

"That was totally awesome," Andrew breathed, looking at Cordy as if she was Wonder Woman or something.

The Watcher stammered, "Cordelia, h-how did you-? I mean, the only way you could have had the power to do that, is if-"

"-is if you were a Slayer! Damn, C..." Faith finished for him with undisguised fascination.


The Queens School for Girls
Main Car Park

Ten minutes later Kennedy was leaning against the school's small bus, holding an ice pack to her head. She was glaring at the woman who temporarily gotten the best of her, and plotting how to later get her revenge...

Cordelia herself was standing off to the side, with a small group of people around her. "You wanted to know something, Giles?"

"Yes. Now, Cordelia, I must ask," Giles told her. "H-how the devil did you become a Slayer? You've never shown the signs of being one. If you had, I-I would have found and trained you as a potential, over two years ago..."

Cordy just shrugged. "Not if I didn't want you to. And I became a member of the Slayer club, the same way all the other girls here did."

"You were affected by my spell?" Willow asked in shock. But then a grin instantly appeared, "So that means you don't have that mystical protection anymore!" she raised her hand, as a blue ball of energy appeared.

Not flinching, Cordy shook her head. "So sorry, Willow, but you still can't do jack to me and Xander. We had the spell modified last year."

Giles cast a grim look at Willow, who got the message and powered down, before glancing back to Cordelia. "So, then, how did you?"

"Bottom line, I was put on the list."

"What list?!" Buffy demanded.

"The list the Elders keep for the girls who'll become Slayers. I'm told I was added, back during junior year. And as for the why, that's a whole other story," Cordelia told them.

Giles and Kipp were floored at this. "There, there's a list of what girls will..." Giles stammered.

"Yep," Cordy told him with a shrug.

"There is no way in hell I'm gonna believe the Powers That Be would make a spoiled, uptight, egotistical bitch like you a Slayer!" Buffy said with spite.

Cordelia just looked at the blond, before shaking her head. "No, that's too easy an opening for the insult. Even for me."

"Enough!" Giles shouted, sick and tired of the non-stop bickering. "Please, all of you, kindly cease this-this annoying battle of insults! What are you, children?" He went on, "Now Cordelia, you say you were somehow added to the Slayer line back in high school?"

"Yeah," Cordelia sighed. "With all the stuff happening on the Hellmouth then ? the Judge, Angelus, Acathla ? the higher-ups musta wanted a quick replacement for Kendra. Someone who would know all the players in town, if bad came to worst. But at some point they decided to make it so the line went through Faith. Maybe if she had died before I hit 21 years old, then I might have been called; but thank God, it didn't happen that way."

"And just how do *you* know all this?" Willow demanded to know.

"Leo told us all about it," Lara spoke up.

"Leo?" Willow echoed softly, this time without any belligerence.

"Yes, Willow," Cordelia told her. "You do remember Leo Wyatt, don't you? I mean if he hadn't brought Tara's soul back when he did, to talk to you on Kingman's Bluff three years ago..." the brunette then sighed.

"I still find it hard to believe, ya know. Back when they first did the protection spell, during 1998? I told him and the Charmed Ones that you wouldn't go bad and try to destroy the world, or anything. But hey ? guess I was way off on that one, huh?"

"This is unbelievable," Giles said, ignoring that last part. "The Council has, has always speculated how exactly the Slayers were chosen to be called, but for it to be as simple as who's next on a mystical list?"

"From what we've been told, Rupert..." Lara said, then hesitated. "It is a *lot* more than just a simple duty roster. There are girls mentioned there, who haven't even been conceived yet..."

Willow was shaking her head, focusing on only one thing. "I still can't believe I helped make you a Slayer!" she said with venom to Cordelia.

"Oh, don't pat yourself on the back or anything for that," Cordelia responded nastily. "You messed up that spell, just like you always do with your magicks."

"What do you mean, she messed up the spell?" Dawn asked. "I mean, you being a Slayer would tend to indicate that it worked, right?"

Dropping her nasty tone when talking to the young brunette girl, Cordy nodded. "It'd seem that way, wouldn't it? But let me ask you this, Dawn. How many potentials were in Sunnydale? I mean, before the..." she laughed briefly, "well-planned attack on the Hellmouth?"

"About thirty, I think," Dawn answered, frowning to recall.

"Right," Cordelia said firmly. "But did Willow activate only those Slayers for the battle? Nope, she activated every possible girl. Including me..."

She turned to Willow, "The Elders, Powers That Be, or whatever you want to call them?they had girls all over the planet in demon hotspots, just ready to become Slayers. And then all of them got activated at once..." Cordelia shook her head. "Do you even *know* how many girls were killed during those first 19 days, Willow?"

"Killed?" Vi asked with wide eyes.

"There is nothing tastier for a vampire to feed on than the blood of a Slayer that doesn't know what she is, or rather was," Lara told her with a shrug. "Most of them had no idea that they *were* a Slayer, until some damned demon called them that before they died."

Cordelia took guilty pleasure in the terrible look on Willow's face at that news, before she spoke up. "Okay, now for those who just seem to *have* to come with us to LA, follow us back to our place. Then we'll take it from there."

Buffy, Faith, Willow, Kennedy, Andrew (thankfully with new underwear and pants) and others moved to get on the bus. They were leaving Wood, Spike, and Kipp to watch over the school.

"Dawn?" Cordelia called. "You want to ride with Lara and me?"

Before Dawn could say yes, Buffy came off the bus. "Forget that, she's riding with us!"

Her sister complained, "Buffy!"

"No arguments, Dawn!" Buffy said very strictly. "I'm still your legal guardian. And I'm telling you to get your ass in here!"

Cordelia had heard enough. She moved across, grabbed the young woman and quickly dragged her to Xander's red metallic H2 Hummer they were using. "She's 18 now, Buffy, remember? Old enough so that the stupid guardian crap no longer applies. So please, grow up!"

Buffy moved to stop them, when Giles blocked her path. "Buffy, we have more important things to deal with now! There's no time, Xander's in trouble..."

The blond looked at her father figure with a glare, but Giles didn't back down. "Fine, already!" the blonde barked, before she got back to the seat across from Willow.


Xander Harris's Hummer.
Five minutes later

Lara was in the driver's seat, with Cordelia on the passenger side and Dawn in the back. The daughter of Hank and Joyce Summers was amazed, "This is really Xander's car?!" she asked in amazement as she looked around, then out at the roadside zipping by.

"I wouldn't say that 'car' is exactly the right word," Lara said with a grin.

"Yeah," Cordy agreed. "This thing is like his baby. He doesn't even let *me* drive it! God, Xander would pitch a fit right now if he saw us using it..." The black-clad woman looked out the window, downcast. "And to tell you the truth, I would love nothing better than to hear him bitch at me for using it, I kid you not."

Dawn, having been updated on the Xander situation from Giles slightly before the Slayer-on-Slayer fight, tried to comfort her friend. "It's gonna be okay. I'm sure you two will be back to fighting like always soon, Cordy."

Cordelia just looked back, giving the girl a small smile. "I hope so too Dawn, I really do."

After a few seconds Dawn asked, "So, why won't he let you drive this thing?"

"Oh, uh, Xander just got it seven months ago," Cordy told her old acquaintance. "He covers it up every night, even when it's in the garage, and goes nuts if there's so much as a scratch on it! I don't know, it just felt right to use it now. To just be a little closer to him, in a weird kinda way."

The former head cheerleader's face brightened up a bit. "Now, Dawn, as to why I wanted you with us ? I have two things I need to talk to you about."

"You do?" the younger girl asked.

"Yeah, I do," Cordelia mused, as she looked to her cousin. When Lara gave her a nod, Cordy turned back and said, "We know what you've been talking to Xander about, in your emails. So, do you still want to?"

The girl looked down for a second. "Well, of course! I mean, it's not exactly fun being Normal Girl with a crap-load of Slayers all around you. But I could never afford it..."

"We can help with the cost, no problem," Cordelia told her.

This caused Dawn's head to shoot up. "What? No, Cordelia, thanks, but I can't just leech off of you guys like that..."

Cordy stopped her. "Dawn, all three of us talked about this a while ago. We can easily afford it. And, you can get a part-time job anywhere in the city with our contacts. Hell, Lara could get you a job at the British Museum tomorrow, for crying out loud! Just do two things for me, and we'll help you get into any university in this country you want come autumn."

"Come autumn?"

Cordelia looked embarrassed. "I mean to say, next fall. God, I really have been living in this country for too long..."

"What two things?" Dawn asked, not quite believing it was this easy.

"Well," Cordelia responded, "Just keep being our friend, and uh, I do need another bridesmaid..."

"Bridesmaid!?" the teenager yelped.

Cordelia nodded happily. "We finally set a date just a few weeks ago. Interested?"

Dawn didn't know what to say.


The English countryside.
A short time later

Dawn Summers watched the scenery outside the car continue to zip by, as Lara drove along. Cordelia had fallen asleep, stressed about Xander and subconsciously feeling the need to relax when not around danger or potential enemies.

The young woman still couldn't get her head around what Cordy had told her, a short while ago. <Me, a bridesmaid. Xander and Cordelia, they're finally getting married...>

"Penny for your thoughts," the Tomb Raider said with a lazy smile.

Dawn started. "Oh, just thinking about the wedding thing. I've done some research in the past, y'see..."

"On what?"

"Demon weddings, amongst other things. Did you know, in some cases the bridesmaids still have to wear the traditional blood larva and burlap?"

"Sweetheart, you have way too many thoughts," Lady Croft tried to hide her smile. "What's this really all about, then?"

Dawn sighed. "I don't know if they still do it nowadays, but I saw an episode of that old TV show 'Blackadder' a few months ago where the bride had run off ? and, and someone mentioned that it was traditional for the groom to marry the bridesmaid, instead..."

Lara looked around briefly, as she continued to drive. "You cheeky little tart. Having naughty thoughts about my future cousin-in-law, are you?" she grinned.

The girl who had been having wet dreams about Xander Harris for ages blushed. "Doesn't matter. He's made his choice, probably made it a long time ago. And it's not like I ever really had a chance with him ? he'll always see me as that annoying 11-year-old kid he and Cordy used to baby-sit..."

"Come now," Lara said encouragingly. "You're 18, he's 24. The age difference isn't that great! If it wasn't for Cordelia, you would have had a sporting chance..."

"But she's always been there, so I didn't. And I don't. Besides, anyway, I couldn't do that to her ? she's my friend. I, I'm happy for them, I really am..."

"Me too. And just between us, I've been trying for years to get them to settle down and have kids! But they got addicted to the tomb raider thing ? and that's not exactly all bad, the five of us make a great team. Still, the manor really needs to hear the sound of happy families and children's laughter, to feel like a home again. It's been too many years..."

Dawn nodded. "Cordelia told me you're an orphan? I know what that's like..."

Lara looked lost. "But you've got your sister, always have..."

The teenager sighed. "No. There was a time she was dead, just like my mom, and my dad was in the Central Republic of "Where In The Hell". Giles, Tara, Willow, and Spike, they took care of me until Willow resurrected Buffy."

Lara looked astonished. "I'm sorry. Sounds like you've had it rough..." Then she checked her watch. "We should be there soon..."


Croft Manor. Buckinghamshire, England.
January, 2005

"Wow, just look at this place!" Molly said in wonder, as they went in via the main doors.

Buffy and Willow tried their best to not look impressed, at the sheer size of the country estate. Dawn had told them about the pictures Xander had sent her; the place was big, but this was way bigger than they'd thought possible.

<No *wonder* Xander didn't want to come home...> the two women thought in amazement.

Upon fully coming into the main area, they saw a very large framed picture; it was about three times the size of a normal poster. The frame had a black and white image in the middle; an old picture from the end of World War II, of a sailor dipping his girlfriend while giving her a big kiss. On either side of the black and white were color versions of Cordelia and Xander, and Lara and another man copying the pose.

"Wow, that turned out so well, Cordy!" Dawn told the former beauty queen at seeing the poster.

Buffy looked at her sister. "Dawn? How did you know about this?"

"Oh, well, uh, Xander told me all about it last year, in one of his emails," the Key told her dismissively.

Cordelia leaned next to Willow, who was examining the poster with a frown. "Yeah, one hell of a day that was too! You'd think it would be easy to copy that pose, but it's a lot harder than it looks. We had to kiss for hours and hours, till we got it right..."

She leaned in a little closer to the witch, who was getting upset, with a small grin. "And of course you can guess what we did after so many hours of making out like that, can't you?"

The newly-revealed Slayer grinned even more at the deadly look Willow sent her. "I could have a copy made for you, if you'd like..."

"Cordelia, please," Lara scolded her cousin. "I know how much joy this is giving you, but don't get carried away. You two can get the ruddy cat fight thing going, *after* this is all over."

Cordy looked over to Willow again. "Yeah, you can count on it."

Before anyone could say anything else, a man who the new arrivals guessed was the resident butler came up. "Ah, good, you've both returned. Welcome home, m'ladies..."

"Hi, Hillary," Cordelia told the man warmly. "Has our guest shown up yet?"

"Not as yet, Lady Chase," the butler said. Most of the others raised their eyebrows at the use of the honorific.

Hillary went on, "But I do have all the bags packed for you and Lady Croft. And the items you asked for that belong to my old friend and your future husband, they're also ready."

"Good," Lara said with deep gratitude. "Thank you, Hillary."

"Of course, ma'am. Also, Mr. Chase called. He'll be meeting you at the law firm in Los Angeles, as you arranged."

"Mr. Chase?" Buffy asked. "More of Cordy's family? Oh, joy..."

Lara just shook her head. "Actually, Chase is his first name..."

Cordelia pointed to the man in the picture, that was sharing a liplock with Lara. "Her on-again, off-again relationship. You don't want to ask for details ? it's even worse than for you and Angel..." The blonde instantly glared.

"Any chance he has a younger brother?" Vi asked shyly, as she checked out the man's picture.

"No," Lara told her. "Just a younger sister. Sorry."

"There is another matter," Hillary spoke up, as he looked at Cordelia. "I'm afraid Sheba can sense what's happening ? and she, ah, is not making it at all easy to feed her, in that particular state."

Cordelia sighed. "Well, I guess she would be upset. She is tuned into my emotions, after all..."

Without another word, Cordelia left the others in the entryway. Lara turned to them all, "While we're waiting for our other guest, we can wait in Xander's study." She turned to Hillary, "Inform us when she arrives, will you?"

"Yes, Lady Croft," the butler said, before he also left the room.

The group started to follow Lara through the large estate when Buffy asked, "Who's Sheba?"

Lara and Giles shared a worried look before the noblewoman answered, "A...friend. It's a long story that has to do with a trip to Africa, one that we took a few years ago. Please, don't ask ? it's a story for another time, really."


Cordelia exited out the back way of her home for the last five years. She walked past the large tent area Lara had set up, what felt like a long time ago. A few minutes later, the woman strode into the enclosed space and grabbed a large tray of raw meat.

Without any hesitation she went in through a large door that had written on it, 'Danger, Do Not Enter'. And as soon as Cordy entered the large habitat she could feel her nearby, with just a quick look to the left necessary for her to see her quarry.

A large Bengal tiger.

The animal stared at her from under a tree, as she set down the tray on the ground. "Are you going to eat sometime today, or what?" Cordelia asked the animal, with no trace of fear in her voice.

The tiger got up, and walked slowly from its resting spot towards her. Cordelia just kneeled down next to the meat, as the tiger reached her.

"Hey, big girl, mommy's here," the human told the tiger, as it came close and started to nuzzle her neck playfully. Cordy could feel the tension in the huge feline, when they were close. When the animal moved back, Cordelia looked it right in the eye before *it* happened.

Her eyes glowed yellow, as she stared at the hunting cat.

"He'll be fine, Sheba," Cordy told her...friend. "Your daddy will be back with us soon, and I'll kill the asshole who did this to him..."

The tiger let out a low angry growl. Cordelia laughed cruelly, "You want to have a piece of him too?" The tiger growled again. "Yeah, I know you want to protect us Sheba, but this is something *I* have to do. He's my mate, after all. Now eat already, will you?"

The tiger growled once more, before she started to tear at the meat. "Good girl," Cordelia told the tiger, as she rubbed its head. "Now, don't be a pain for Hillary while we're gone, comprende?"

Cordelia got up and headed for the door before she turned back, "Your daddy will be home soon. I promise!" she yelled with an almost feral yell. The tiger growled back to her in response, as she left the habitat.

And only after the future Mrs. Harris had left the tiger's presence, did her eyes ever stop glowing.


The group of mostly Slayers entered the large room. "This place is Xander's study?" Dawn asked in awe at the room.

Because it was huge. It was covered wall to wall with bookcases reaching the ceiling, with a few ladders attached to them. There were enough chairs and a sofa near the fireplace, but Willow went and sat behind the large desk.

Lara and Giles began a conversation by themselves near the entrance of the room, leaving the others to explore as they waited.

"This is so über-cool!" Andrew exclaimed in wide-eyed wonder, as he saw the model covered by a glass case.

"What is?" Vi and Molly asked, as they came over from looking at the model of the RMS Titanic on the other side of the room.

"This!" the nerd exclaimed as he pointed. "I've been wanting one of these for years! I've never even met the guy, but this Xander Harris is now officially my hero!"

"Is that a model spaceship?" Molly asked, ignoring the geek's last few sentences.

"It's not just any spaceship!" Andrew said, offended. "It's a cutaway model of the USS Defiant, NX-74205!"

"Star Trek?" Dawn guessed.

Andrew nodded, as he examined the model with an almost sexual happiness. "My God, he's even got a mini-Nog and Chief O'Brien in engineering. And the bridge screen works!" he stared in awe, as the viewscreen on the bridge of the ship flashed between flying stars and a Dominion battle fleet.

"Okay, Andrew," Molly said in exasperation. "Odds are you'll know ? mind telling me who the hell that is?"

The boy turned around, and let out an even greater squeal. There, standing at half his height, was a statue of a robot. It had a helmet with very large horns, and wired pole-like wings on its shoulders. "Unicron!"

"Who?" Vi asked in confusion.

"The guy from the Transformers, Generation One. Not that crappy Beast Wars stuff!"

"Are these, uh, Transformers also?" Molly asked, pointing to other statues.

Andrew was so in awe of the collection, he just rattled off the names as he saw them. "Prowl, Ironhide, Jazz, Wheeljack, Hot Rod, Grimlock, Arcee, Optimus Prime! I've died and gone to Heaven!"

At the desk Willow tried to log onto the computer, but the large flat screen kept asking for the password. The redhead quickly grew frustrated. "I don't get this, Kennedy. I've tried all the passwords Xander ever used. I even tried her name!" she pointed to the framed picture of Cordelia and Xander from a beach on the desk.

"Did you try *your* name?" her lover asked. "You are this guy's best friend, right?"

Embarrassed, Willow tapped in her name and hit enter, and was a little miffed when again a flashing 'Password Incorrect' message appeared. But before she could try anything else, Buffy and Faith came over, rather excited.

"Check out what we just found," Faith exclaimed.

They set down a thick leather photo album, with the unmistakable symbol of Playboy magazine on the cover of it. And Cordelia was on the interior cover, with a very revealing swimsuit...

"I knew it!" Willow cried too loudly. "I knew that deep down, that hussy really would sell herself like that!"

"Not so loud, Red," Faith said, vastly amused. "I'll bet you this has some quality naked shots of C in here..."

"It certainly does," came Lara's voice from behind them.

The gang turned in time to see her grab the album from Willow, before they could take a look inside it. "But they're private pictures. Not public property, for unwelcome guests to take a look at without permission," the Englishwoman said coldly.

"Private pictures!?" Buffy asked in amazement. "These aren't a bunch of Kodak moments, lady ? this is Cordy showing her bare ass to the whole world! So why not let us..." she trailed off at the look Lara gave her.

"Okay, look," the Tomb Raider sighed, quelling the desire to get out her gun. "Just for the record, this was a favor for Hef."

"Hugh Hefner?" Faith asked, impressed.

"Yes," Lara responded shortly.

The noblewoman then opened the album to the first page, and showed it to the four women present. They saw a large picture of Xander decked out as a photographer, complete with cameras and a baseball hat on backwards. And Cordelia with her hair and makeup very nicely done, standing in a yellow robe.

"Hef's wanted Cordy and myself to pose for his magazine for years," Lara said, as she then closed the album and tucked it under her arm. "Eventually, Cordy agreed to do a deal. She did the swimsuit cover, and in return?"

"You did the centerfold?" Faith asked, giving the woman a slow once-over.

"No," Lara said, biting back the angry response she really wanted to say as the Boston native got the message. "My cousin did what she did in exchange for a birthday present for Xander. Any nude shots were not to be published; in fact, we have the negatives here locked away. Hef let her do a private photo shoot, with her boyfriend as the photographer."

"The guy got to snap pics of Queen C, all nude?!" Faith asked, impressed. "That's one hell of a birthday present! B, remind me to keep it in mind for Robin next month..."

"But she posed with all those people around, right?" Willow demanded. "The makeup guys, hair, lighting, wardrobe?she was naked around all of them?"

Another sigh. "Yes Miss Rosenberg," Lara told her. "She was completely starkers in front of the lot of them. But then, those people work professionally for Playboy magazine. They see over ten nude women before lunch, some days. It's no big deal, and there were some very nice shots taken." She noticed Faith's face, "Which I'm sure none of you will *ever* see!"

"Is everyone in here?" They all turned towards the entrance when they heard Cordelia's voice. She was standing with some girl in her late teens. With light skin and very curly hair, she was about the same height as Cordelia herself.

Lara went right to her, and hugged the new arrival. "Hermione Granger, it's been too long!"

"It's good to see you too, Lara," Hermione told the Tomb Raider, as they released the hug.

"Why do we always seem to get together only when people need saving?" Lara smiled warmly to her young friend. "If you'd only kick the ass of 'he who can't be named' already, maybe you'd have more free time..."

Hermione smiled back. "No chance. If I ever did have any free time, then Ron would never let me leave the house!"

Lara laughed. "That little redhead of yours is always eager to get some time alone with you. It's always the quiet ones, hmm?"

"Tell me about it!" Cordelia said off to the side, as she joined the conversation.

"Just pray that Xander and Ron never compare notes. My boyfriend has one hell of an imagination," Hermione said with a hint of pride.

"Oh, you don't have to tell me that. I still remember the outfits they wore to break us out of the Death Eaters prison camp!"

All three girls erupted in laughter.

"Death Eaters? Prison camp?"

The three women looked to the person who had spoken. "This Buffy Summers, then?" Hermione asked with a flick of her thumb.

Buffy answered for her, somewhat annoyed. "I'm the Slayer, yeah."

The witch shrugged. "Well, good for you..." She turned to Cordelia. "Why's she here?"

Cordelia shook her head. "They insisted on coming along."

"Why?" Hermione asked. "It's not like they'll be doing anything to help in LA..."

"What *we* are gonna be doing," Buffy stressed firmly, "is saving our friend and bringing him back to the people who care about him. Not leaving Xander here, where his so-called girlfriend doesn't seem to be bothered by the fact that he's..."

Buffy was cut off as Cordelia grabbed her with Slayer speed, and in a fluid motion pushed her to the ground. The enraged former cheerleader was only a few inches from Buffy's face. "Let me make something very clear to you, Buffy. I am *very* upset over Xander, but I'm doing my best to keep calm. On account of people make mistakes when they go over the edge with worry or fear, and this is too important to screw up. You wanna try to give me orders? I'll put a bullet in your goddamn head, before you can even blink!"

She leaned in even closer. "And I'll tell you something else, Ms. Alpha Slayer. It wouldn't be the first time I've killed people who've hurt my property..."

Buffy watched, stunned, as Cordelia let her go and stood up.

Willow spoke up with more venom. "Your property!?" she shook in anger. "This is unbelievable! Same old Queen C ? Xander's your boyfriend, and you treat him like?"

"My betrothed *is* my property, Willow," Cordelia said with equal venom. "I own him. Heart, body, mind, and soul. Just like he owns mine. Hell, we even made up little fake receipts for each other, a couple of years ago! After Xander's back and those other bastards are ripped apart? I'll be glad to show them to you!"

She looked to rest of the old Sunnydale group. "Let me make something else clear to all of you. This is not an operation of Buffy's or Willow's. Anybody who thinks otherwise, can go back to the school right now. On account of we can't just luck into saving the day like Buffy here did, back in Sunnydale 2003!" With that, she turned and stalked out of the room.

Dawn just looked at her sister. "Buffy, please, do us all a favor and don't provoke her anymore. I don't want her to shoot you!" Then she, along with the others, went out into the large open living room.

"Damn, Spike was right. That chick really grew a pair," the Beta Slayer shook her head.

"I don't care whether she has a gun or not ? I am *not* going to entrust helping Xander to her!" Buffy told Willow and Faith.

"Call me crazy, but doesn't look like we really have a choice here, B. Not unless that 'no-killing-humans' rule is now out the window," Faith said with a shrug, before she walked towards the rest of the group.

"Don't worry, Buffy," Willow told her best friend. "We'll put an end to this soon enough, and Xander will be back with us where he belongs..."

The blond and redhead entered the large room, and looked around. Buffy asked Giles, "So, are we going to get going to the airport sometime this week?"

The Watcher just slumped against the wall, exhausted after the constant fighting. "Buffy, as a matter of fact-"

"Hey, what the hell is that supposed to be!?" Willow demanded, as she saw Hermione's wand taken out.

"Well, what does it look like?" the schoolgirl asked sarcastically.

"It looks like you're going to pull a rabbit out of a hat!" Willow laughed. "Look, just let the *real* witch here handle whatever?"

Hermione waved the wand in the air and called out, "Portal open!"

Willow and the other newcomers watched, shocked, as a stream of energy left the wand, and went to the far end of the room. It hit the wall and expanded quickly. In no time, there was a large portal there.

"What the-? But, but that goes against every ? how did you..." Willow stuttered, as she looked at the office building lobby beyond the portal.

Hermione smirked at her. "You'd be surprised what a *real* witch can do..." She then turned to Cordelia, and hugged her. "Bring him home safe!"

"I will, I will no matter who I have to kill in order to do it!" She then nodded to the others and said simply, "Let's go!"

And with those words the gang followed her into the portal, on their way to the lobby of the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart.


Chapter 4

Los Angeles, CA.
The law offices of Wolfram & Hart
January, 2005

Most of the male employees in the lobby stared at the group of mostly young women, as they came through the portal. And they were more interested in them, than the fact that they'd just come through a time/space tunnel like that.

Many eyes were glued on the attractive brunette, as she walked with a decided step to the front desk. <What wouldn't I give, to get me some of that...> or something similar echoed in the brains of said hormonal males.

"Welcome to Wolfram & Hart," the twenty-something redhead receptionist said, with enough good cheer to choke a dead horse. "How can I help you?"

"We're here to see..." Buffy started, but was interrupted by Cordelia. "We've got a standing appointment with the head vamp."

The receptionist smiled, "Of course, Ms. Chase. Mr. Angel is waiting for you in his main office." She pointed to the left, "If you'll just take the express elevator, it'll take you right to..." But Cordelia and Lara didn't wait for her to finish, as they headed right for the lift.

As they began to pile in, Vi looked back. "I guess we'll have to take the next one-"

"That won't be necessary, Ms. Lepete."

Vi jumped as Kennedy spun towards the receptionist, who had seemingly appeared next to them. "How did you know her last name?" the brunette Slayer demanded.

The perky smile stayed exactly the same, "It's my job to know these things, Ms. Michaels." She motioned to the elevator, "The carriage can easily hold all of you."

The young Slayers looked, and sure enough saw that there was now indeed room for all of them in the lift. "How the-?" Molly asked.

"Who gives a rat's arse!? Now get in!" Cordelia demanded, before she grabbed Vi and Molly and pulled them inside. Kennedy jumped in too, as the doors were closing.

Minutes later, the group was met at the top floor as soon as the doors opened. Lara smiled slightly, when she saw a rough-looking man in a banged-up leather jacket. "Chase."

The man that Vi had taken a liking to in the picture back at the Croft manor, hugged his sometime-girlfriend. "You doing okay, Red?"

The Tomb Raider just shook her head, as they parted. <Not till Xander's safe again...>

Chase Carver took Cordelia in a big hug next. "He'll be alright, woman, don't you worry that pretty little head of yours. Got me?" he told her, as the guy looked at his friend's ladylove. "He'll be up and around in no time, and besides! If something did happen to Harris, who the hell would I cheat at poker with?" Chase tilted his head towards Lara. "Her?"

Cordelia smirked at him. "Xander will beat this, I know." She poked a finger in his chest. "But after this is over, make no mistake - I'm going to go right back at being madder than hell at you!" the young woman said, before she started across to the main office.

"Oh come on," Chase said as he followed her. "It wasn't all that bad! Was it?"

Vi stopped Lara. "What's she mad at him for?"

Lara gave her a tiny grin. "Five words; Xander. Singapore. Strip club. Alcohol."

Faith butted in, looking over at the two people walking away, "He took X to a strip club? What, did she find him stuffing one-dollar bills down a girl's g-string or something?"

"No, not that simple," Lara responded. "She's pissed that he got Xander drunk."

"So what?" Kennedy said in confusion. "Everyone gets drunk every now and then!"

Lara turned to the girl. "Yes, but not everyone has the type of family history with the damn stuff that Xander does! It was the first time I'd seen him even go near hard liquor, from the first day I met him," she told them, as the gang moved to catch up.

As the group was just about to reach the main office, they heard an excited shriek. "Cordelia!"

No one moved, as a blond woman excitedly hugged the former Queen C; they were all either too shocked, or didn't know who she was.

"Oh my God!" Harmony declared. "It's been ages since I last saw you! While you're in town, we simply gotta catch up. I know this great little boutique, you know, that..."

"Why the hell are you hugging me, vampire?" Cordelia said with venom, her hand curled around her gun - which was pointed at Harmony's stomach.

The vampiress let go, and looked at her in surprise. "What? Cordelia! I know it's been a while, but it's me! Harmony. Remember? We were best friends for seven years? Any of this ringing a bell?"

Cordelia just looked at her as she holstered the weapon, as if Harm was a piece of disgusting vermin. "Don't worry, I know perfectly well whose body you're inhabiting there..."

Then she turned her head to look at Buffy, "What was it you said to your old crush Billy Fordham, back during junior year?" Cordelia then remembered and repeated the words Xander had told her once, "Oh, right. You die, and a demon sets up shop in your old house. And it walks, and it talks, and it remembers your life, but it's not you..."

She turned back to Harmony, who was now very upset. "Xander eventually understood that with Jesse. And I understand it with you. So let's cut the touchy-feely nonsense..."

Cordy then leaned into the blond's face, "And what the hell, let's even pretend for a moment that you really *are* the Harmony Kendall I once knew. As I recall, she did bloody well everything she could, to destroy the relationship between Xander and me! So tell me - why would I want to do anything with you, other than put a bullet in your head before tossing you out of a window at high noon?"

The blond shrunk back, "Okay, it's obviously your time of month or something we can catch up later..."

"Don't count on it, vampire," Cordy said icily, as she walked away.

"Damn, but that was cold! Wasn't that your best friend at one time?" Faith asked the former cheerleader.

"Once, maybe..." Cordelia responded, dismissing the past. "But I only trust one vampire. And that's Angel."

"What's that riff all about?" Buffy asked, as they went through the doors. "Xander always hated Angel, so why would his girlfriend like him?"

"Because we got over it," Angel spoke from his desk, as he got up. "Hey, everyone. Welcome to LA-"

"Wait, hold up here," Faith said in amazement, as she watched Angel and Cordelia greet each other warmly. "Are you saying that C's boy toy and Fang here are friends now?! Somewhere, Satan's gotta be getting himself a pair of ice skates!"

Angel just shook his head, "It's true enough though, Faith-y..." before he and Giles shook hands as a hello.

"How?" was all Dawn could think to ask.

"Yeah!" Willow agreed in complete disbelief. "I mean, he was always jealous of Buffy and Angel, and..." she trailed off at the look Cordy was giving her.

"As I recall, Xander got over Buffy fairly quickly," the half-Englishwoman said just as icily as before.

"It was after the fight he and I had, that time..." Angel added with a sigh.


Hyperion Hotel lobby
October 23rd, 2001

"Oh, man!" Cordelia said as she ran into the offices of Angel Investigations, with the others right behind her. "Where the hell is the basement?!" she cried, looking around frantically.

"Over here!" Amy Madison yelled, as she flung open the old door leading down to the steps. Cordelia quickly followed her, with a very worried look on her face.

Gunn looked at Wesley, as they headed for the door. "You don't think this guy would be stupid enough to take on Angel, do ya?"

The former Watcher shrugged. "From what I was told, he's fought Angelus several times. If he can do that, then no doubt he..." Both men stopped, as they tried to look past the two stunned women at the top of the stairs.

Gunn was definitely surprised at what they saw. His so-called boss and that Xander kid were beaten and bloodied, lying on the ground; but both men were laughing their asses off.

"You would have loved it!" Angel told Xander with a chuckle. "Just seeing Spike whine like that, when he couldn't hit anything. Even Dawn made fun of him!"

Xander roared in laughter, "Come on! Little Dawnie? Oh man, how the mighty have fallen!" Xander looked at the ensouled vamp lying next to him. "Serves him right for kidnapping me and Willow that time. Lord, I would have loved to..."


The harsh noise caused the two men to look up, from their spot on the floor. They quickly saw Cordelia standing over them with her hands on her hips, and a very pissed look on her face. "Would one of you mind telling me, just what the *hell* happened here!?"

Xander raised his hand, and waved half-heartedly. "Hiya, Cordy..." He jerked a thumb at the vampire, "Don't worry; everything's copacetic, sweetheart. Angel and I just had some issues to work out."

Angel rubbed his jaw. "You know what? You have *got* to tell me the name of your sensei, Harris. Your punches actually hurt nowadays."

"Oh, really?" Xander grinned. "Then it was just luck that got you off Buffy, way back when you were evil soulless guy in that cemetery?"

Cordelia moved over to Angel angrily, before the Champion could answer. "What's the big idea, going at it with my boyfriend?" she asked accusingly. "You're a super-powered vampire, for God's sake!"

"Hey, Cordy?" Xander asked innocently.

What?" the former shopping addict snapped at once.

Xander looked up...straight up his girlfriend's leather skirt. "Are those really the thin blue ones, that I bought for you in Switzerland?"

Cordelia looked down at his grinning face. And only then did she realize she was standing almost directly over his head... "Alexander Lavelle Harris!" the woman yelled n anger and mortification, and blushed at the same time as she quickly moved away and started to stomp up the stairs.

"Come on, already," Angel said to him, as they sat up. "I got a first aid kit in the office..." He saw Xander wince, as he got up from a pain in his shoulder. "And maybe a drink to dull the pain?"

"Uh..." Xander started to say, but his girlfriend cut him off.

"If even one drop of booze touches your lips, then I won't wear what *else* you bought in Switzerland last week!" the harsh voice was back.

The look on Xander's face changed in an instant. "Got it, no pints of Guinness will be consumed here," he said, as Angel helped him up.

"Damn right you won't have any of that! Don't think I've forgotten about Singapore..." Cordelia hissed, before she went through the door to the lobby.

End Flashback


"So they finally had it out?" Faith spoke. "Okay, I get that and all, but now what I want to know is - how come Wes isn't drooling at the sight of Cordy here, like he used to?"

At that question Cordelia had to release a small laugh, while Wesley just shook his head. "I was at the time," the man in question said with a shrug, when Fred looked at him strangely.

Cordy just shrugged too. "It's a fact of life, people grow and change." She looked to Buffy and Willow, "Well, most do anyway..."


Everyone turned to see who had spoken from the door. Cordelia smiled warmly. "Amy!" She walked over to her best friend from Sunnydale during senior year, and hugged her intensely. "Any word yet?"

Amy looked up at her. "That's exactly what I was going to ask you," the blond half-demon said, as she wiped a tear away. "I mean, Xander is...and here I am, more worried about where Jon is and what he's doing. Selfish, much?" the woman asked, before she broke down in tears, not caring what the others from Sunnydale thought.

"Hey now, chin up," Cordelia said softly with the British-ism, as she held her. "It's going to be all right, ya hear me?" she then told her friend. "You didn't do all that stuff, you were possessed by Jasmine. And when we save Xander's lame but cute ass, we'll go find Jonathon and tell him what was really going on then... "

Amy nodded, as she sniffed. "Okay."

"After all, I can't have my maid of honor dateless for my wedding, now can I?" Cordy finished up.

"No. Right. We'll, we'll save them both," Amy whispered, as Cordelia helped her to the couch next to Fred. The Texan trying to add some comfort to her old friend, as well.

"Wedding?" Buffy asked a bit *too* calmly. "You and Xander are..."

"Getting married?" Cordelia told her. "Yes. We're getting hitched, tying the knot, doing the old ball and chain bit. We, we finally set a date before all this shit happened..."

"Just tell us where and when," Angel said with a smile. "And we'll all be there!"

"Yes, yes, uh, we all will be as well," Giles added. "Although God knows, it took you two long enough to finally take the plunge..."

Cordelia looked at him with a frown, before an impish smile appeared on the 24-year-old's face. "I know, I know. But you just make sure you have your tux ready, Giles. I want you to look your best to impress those stuffy old Englishwomen, when we walk down the aisle and you give me away!"

Giles nodded, unfazed. "Of course."

"*Giles* is going to give you away?' Dawn asked in amazement.

Cordelia gave a small snort. "It's better than trying to track down my dad again, wherever the hell he and Mom have been hiding out since 1999. Besides, I would still prefer Giles anyway..."

Cordelia was so ready to add a small insult to Willow about the wedding, when she saw how close the woman was to tears. Kennedy was holding her as they walked out of the room, unnoticed by anyone but her, so she stayed her tongue.

And for a moment, Cordelia felt guilt at the way she was rubbing it in that she and Xander had gotten closer than he and Willow ever had. But only for a moment...

She looked to Angel. "I need to see him."

"Of course," Angel said. "Wes, can you-?"

The former Watcher was up in an instant. "Follow me."


The office of Amy Madison

Willow sat down at the desk, putting her head in her hands as she did. Her thoughts a chaotic maelstrom, over the bombshell she'd just heard. <Cordy and Xander are getting married?!>

Kennedy closed the door, as her girlfriend started to sob. "It'll be okay, Willow," the young lesbian said, trying to reassure her lover.

"No it won't, Kennedy," the redhead responded in a low voice. "Because it hasn't been alright for years now. It's, it's worse than when I found out they first had sex, back in high school..." She sighed, "I mean, I cried in that stupid bathroom stall for half an hour!"

Kennedy sat on the desk next to her, her face sympathetic. "You really loved him, didn't you?"

Willow looked up at her. "How could you tell?" she asked sarcastically. "God, Kennedy! He was Xander! He was always supposed to be there for me, to catch me if I ever went wrong..." She shook her head. "He just took it the wrong way, right from the start."

"Took what the wrong way?"

"What happened in Sunnydale back then. We only did what we did because we wanted to protect him!" Willow exclaimed. "He was just a normal guy, and he should have had a normal life. He didn't have any fighting skills, or magic powers to fight the vampires with. Neither Buffy or I could have handled it, if something would have happened to him!"

"Well, you got what you wanted, right?" Kennedy told her with a frown. "He has a...relatively normal life, away from the Hellmouth. Granted the girl he left with is a mega-bitch, but he's safe. Or at least, he was."

"I know," Willow sighed. "But I...I guess I just always took it for granted, that he would always be there. I remember back before Cordy lost her money, that she had been talking about going to college out of state. And I'd thought for sure, that no way in hell would Xander ever leave with her..."


"Yeah, I was totally certain that he was just a fling to her. And I had me no doubts, 'cause I'd lost count of how many boyfriends she'd had in high school! But to *marry* him?" the former magic addict asked, starting to tear up again. "It just makes it I'm just as sure now as I was about that then, that Xander's not ever coming back to me."

Kennedy could do nothing but hold her, as the young woman cried over lost chances and dashed hopes.


The first thing that the group noticed when they approached the door, was the people guarding it. A French and Asian girl, both looking about 19 years old. Some were surprised there were none of the guys in the dark blazers and suits that they'd seen all over the building, but not many.

Both girls straightened up, when the group approached. Cordelia went to the tall blond French girl, "Thank you for watching over him, Lisette."

The girl spoke, and only a few understood her. "Il est famille."

The Chinese girl spoke then in her native Cantonese, but Cordelia seemed to understand it as she replied in English, "As well as can be expected, thank you."

"How can they understand each other?" Faith asked in a whisper to Wesley.

"All the Slayers here use a translation spell, that's Wolfram & Hart commercial property. But Cordelia and Lara speak most of the languages the girls use. It takes too much time to have everyone learn English..."

Buffy's eyebrow went up. "How come we don't know any of the Slayers here?" When Wesley didn't respond, Buffy was going to press the issue...when she saw something she thought she'd never see.

Cordelia was in front of the door, and she was visibly trembling. Her cousin had to steady her, as Lara quickly whispered something into Cordy's ear. With a slightly shaking hand the future Mrs. Harris then turned the knob, entering the room with the others right behind.

There were no attempts to hide the sob that escaped Cordelia Chase, as they finally saw Xander Harris again after all these years.

He was strapped down onto a double bed. A long gash went from his left cheek over his nose to just short of his right eye, that had been repaired with stitches. Various bruises covered what they could see of him. His left arm was also in a freshly-made cast. And the sheen of perspiration on his face, made him look even worse.

They all watched, as Cordelia kneeled down and took her lover's right hand in hers. "Hey, baby," she whispered between the tears. "It's me, your little kitty..." She reached up, and moved some of his damp hair away from his face.  "Honey, can you hear me?"

Lara turned slightly to Wesley, but her eyes still on her cousin. "Why is he strapped down like that?"

Wesley spoke softly, "The poison...ah, he's been going into seizures that, that are becoming more violent. That's what's responsible for his arm, I'm afraid."

Cordelia overheard and looked back as Wesley continued, "Last night...he started thrashing around, and it took three of the girls to hold him down."

"How long do we have?" Cordelia asked, as she clutched his hand tighter.

Wesley looked at her for a moment, before answering. "Nobody knows, to be perfectly honest. A day, maybe two at the most."

Dawn joined Cordelia at the side of the bed, while Buffy turned to Faith, Molly and Vi. "We'll get Willow to see if she can do a spell to find this demon. Faith, I want you to work with..."

"You're not in charge here," the Tomb Raider said, before Wes could open his mouth.

The 'Alpha Slayer' turned to Lara, "Well, someone needs to something!" The blonde pointed to Xander, unconscious in the bed. "You guys have like obviously failed miserably at keeping an eye on him-"

Dawn outwardly cringed, when she heard Buffy talk like that to Lara. The thing was that ever since the conflict with the First, Buffy had developed a huge take-charge mentality. And while it had worked then -it had not been of the good, on most occasions since.

The younger Summers daughter was then about to say something, when she noticed it. <Oh, boy...>

Cordelia had gone from sad to angry. And her eyes were glowing yellow.

"Buffy, please! Now is not the time-" Wesley said, aggravated.

"Yeah? When will it be the time then, Wes? When he's dead?" Buffy shook her head. "I'm the Slayer. This is my call..."

"Need I remind you that you're just *one* Slayer nowadays," Lara told her, trying not to get annoyed. "Do keep in mind you're not that special here, there's a good girl..."

"Don't try the superiority act with *me*, lady!" Buffy responded, by crossing her arms over her chest. "Where have you been for the last few years? Sitting around your huge mansion, while I fought to save the world?"

Molly and Vi shared a worried look between themselves, as they watched the two LA Slayers moving into position next to Lara. "Ah, Buffy, not to contradict you here - but maybe we should take this..." Vi started to say.

"No! We don't have time to argue," Buffy told them with determination. "And damn it, if Xander didn't have that ridiculous protection spell on him, I'm betting Willow could cure him in heartbeat!"

"Buffy, for heaven's sake, this poison is immune to all magic!" Wesley said, getting upset. He was going to at least try to get Buffy out of the room, when Cordelia silently rose behind the blond Chosen One. <Oh, bloody hell...> the Englishman almost wet his pants.


The Slayer turned around, and was shocked to see the transformation in Cordelia. She had a look of pure hatred on her face, but of course Buffy was more fixated on her glowing yellow eyes. "Get. Out. Now!"

"I'm not going anywhere," Buffy said, not sure anymore what was happening, but definitely not backing down.

On the sidelines, Lara knew what was coming; and she didn't know if she wanted to stop it or not.

A low growl escaped the half-Englishwoman before, with an impossibly quick move, Cordelia grabbed Buffy - picking her up like she weighed nothing. And then she threw the struggling Slayer over Xander's bed into the wall across the room, hard.

The rest watched in utter shock as Buffy slid down to the ground, leaving a rather large hole in the wall.

"Hold her!" Lara yelled, to the two LA Slayers. Without a word, they grabbed the 'Alpha Slayer' as she got up.

"Hey! Lemme go!" Buffy yelled, as she struggled with them. The Tomb Raider was just grateful that the stunned others were not making any hostile moves towards her cousin.

"Cordelia!" Lady Croft yelled, as she twisted her relative away from her growling at Buffy.

And then, even Faith backed away at the look on the former spoiled egomaniac's face. With the glowing eyes, and the rage evident, Cordy looked somewhat - animalistic. "Snap out of it right now, damn it!" Lara shouted.

Cordelia just looked at her cousin, letting out another growl and causing Dawn to back up in fear. The former Sunnydale people had no idea whatsoever what was happening...

"Cordelia!" Lara tried again. When that had no affect, the English noblewoman slapped her cousin hard across the face. "Come on, cuz, take back control. You can do it. Xander needs you to do it..."

The rest just watched, as the two members of the Croft family kept their eyes locked on each other.

"Pryce?" Lara called out. "Get everyone else out of here, right now!" Obeying orders, he started to do so.

"No way in hell am I going to leave *her* in here with Xander!" Buffy yelled as the two Los Angeles Slayers took her by the arms and legs, carrying her out of the room in a very undignified way.

"Give us at least an hour, Pryce!" Lara called after Wesley, before the door closed. Then as soon as they were alone in the room, Lara let Cordelia go. The woman just turned immediately, going back to Xander.

Still acting in tune with her primal emotions, Cordy climbed onto the bed, lying next to him. She looked around with predatory eyes, as if looking for any enemies - before she made a purring sound, as she nestled in next to her mate.

Lara just sat in the chair next to the bed with a big sigh and watched, as Cordelia started to weep silently against her betrothed, wrapping herself around him.


The people in Angel's office quickly stood, as Buffy was pushed into the room. "Get your hands off of me!"  The two Slayers just took position outside the office, while the others came in.

"What happened?" Angel demanded at once.

"What happened?!" Buffy yelled. "I'll tell you what happened! Cordelia has finally flipped out completely!" the Slayer then shrugged off Dawn, as her sister tried to calm her down. "Plus, she's possessed by something! Her eyes were glowing and..."

"Glowing yellow?"

Buffy spun on Chase. "This has happened before?"

The man shared a long look with Giles, before nodding. "Bloody toffing hell. Sheba must be going nuts, if Cordelia is flipping..."

"Who the hell is Sheba?" Buffy demanded "And none of that "it's a long story" crap, either!"

"Buffy," Giles began. "Making it an order that way...doesn't change the fact, that that's precisely what it is. The link between Cordelia and Sheba is-"

"You *knew* about this, G?" Faith asked accusingly.

"Er, yes, I did. I helped them research it when it first happened," Giles said, not liking the looks he was getting from the two Slayers in front of him.

"Sit down, ladies, and I'll tell you all the quick version of what happened," Chase said, as he sat on the edge of Angel's desk. When all eyes were on him he continued, "We were in Africa, about four years ago. To make a long story short, we got caught up in a ritual to...well, *bond* people to some animals."

"Uh, who would want to bond themselves to an animal?" Andrew asked from the couch.

"It's done more often than you would think," Giles told him, before he looked to Buffy. "It's marginally like what that zookeeper was trying to do, way back when Xander was possessed by that, that confounded hyena spirit."

"So, Cordelia got possessed?" Dawn summarized. "Then why haven't you removed it before now?" she asked, wondering why Xander had never told her any of this in their email correspondence.

"Because," Chase responded, "It's not entirely the same as what happened to my old mate, back in high school. Yes, she's possessed in the strictest sense, but it can't be removed without death for them both! The bonding lasts for the term of a natural lifespan. Cordelia ended up bonded to a Bengal tiger cub, that she later named Sheba. The cub had just been born too, so it ended up thinking of her as its mother. Since Xander is Cordy's mate, Sheba also thinks of him as her father."

"Well, that's weird," Faith said slowly, turning it over in her head.

"You see, the thing is - when Cordelia's under extreme stress, she, she, she can fall into an animalistic mindset," Giles told them. "And, I don't think we have time to explain the full theory behind this. After all, it took us nearly a year of phone calls to work it all out..."

"She gets a few benefits from it, though," Chase added, as he ticked them off with his fingers. "Better eyesight, hearing, smell, reflexes, strength. On top of the Slayer thing! Basically, you don't want to piss her off when she gets that way. Only Xander, and sometimes Lara, can help her back out of it."

"So only high stress can cause this?" Angel asked, concerned for his friend.

"Well...there is one other thing," Chase said with a shrug, as he looked back at the vampire.

"And what's that?" Dawn wondered.

Carver just looked to her. "Whatever you do - never, and I do mean never, make a serious play for our boy Harris. Cordelia in that mode is *very* possessive about her fella. Hell, it's a bloody miracle she didn't kill Sara that time!"

"Sara?" Gunn asked, undoing his tie.

"Sara Pezzini is a police detective friend of Lara's, in New York. And not that bad-looking either, I might add," Chase said with a smirk.

He went on, "Xander was helping her out, by posing as a crime boss's spoiled rich kid, and Sara was his girlfriend in an undercover deal. But what they didn't know was that the real arsehole and his woman had a reputation for...having a rather large appetite for one another. Plain and simple, to keep their cover intact Sara and Xander had the part."

"They slept together?" Fred asked, with an upraised eyebrow.

Chase nodded. "Cordelia was less than thrilled."

"I'll bet!" Faith whistled. "So, him and C broke up for a while?"

"No," Chase told her. "But like I said before, Cordy's sense of smell is a lot better. She understood that they did it only to keep their cover going, however since she could smell Sara all over Xander like that..."

A faint smile appeared on the man's face. "Our pissed-off bird locked him up in their bedroom, and they didn't come out till about two days later. When Cordy had gotten Sara's scent off of him completely..."


The Mountain View Apartments building, Room 312
Two blocks from the Hyperion Hotel

Darryl Gazaway lit a cigarette, as he kept watch on the video monitors along the wall. And the 39-year-old man was disgusted with what he saw.

On all the monitors were various views of the old hotel built in the 1920's. Every entrance was covered, front to back; even the parking garage was being monitored.

The residence itself was not what made him upset, though; no, it was the more than 100 Slayers that lived and trained there.

He had records on all of them, as well as logs as to their comings and goings. Who went to what school, who liked to patrol with whom, and even where some of them went to meet their boyfriends or even girlfriends for a grope or a quickie.

And Gazaway couldn't touch any of them.

They were too well protected by that *damned* vampire and his forces. In the good old days of the Council, the *real* Council, they would just take a new Slayer away from her home city, maybe stage an accident to make the family believe she was dead.

And even back only a few years ago, they would have stormed that building and taken every last girl away for proper training. Supervised by Gazaway himself, of course.

After all, a few Slayers accepted their role and the need to be removed from their old lives, but others...others had to be forced. It was Gazaway's view that once a girl had been chosen, she was no longer a person with any human rights. She was a tool, plain and simple.

But then along had come the likes of Rupert Giles and Buffy Summers.

Gazaway blew out smoke, as he wondered how the hell any operative of the Council could have let his Slayer, his *bloody* Slayer order him around! Let alone carry on with not one, but two vampires...

In his opinion there was only one thing Buffy Summers had ever done right, and that was to have her witch friend cast that spell to activate all the potentials. But with the Council facilities gone or now unavailable, it had been impossible to rein them all in.

So far, with the new setup they'd had only one real success. A few others had not been able to handle the transition from a potential to what a Slayer had to become, and so regrettably they'd had to be put down.


Gazaway turned to face the young Watcher, who had come into the room. "What!?" he pointed to the monitors. "Can't you see I'm in the middle of another boring night of Slayer 90210?"

"Sorry, sir..." the youth babbled, as he held up the phone. "But our man inside the law firm has some news."

The older man grabbed the phone in annoyance. "What is it, Markson? Did Harris finally croak already?"

#Ah, no sir,# the reply came back.

"Then what the bloody hell are you bothering me for?"

#Ah, well sir - it seems that his wife-to-be showed up via a portal, a little while ago.#

That caught Darryl Gazaway's attention. "She's in LA?" he asked, surprised. "Was there anyone with her?"

#I wasn't there to witness their appearance,# Markson responded. #But I'm told that a few, and I quote, 'hotties' came with her. One of them could be Slayer Summers, but...#

"Summers!" Gazaway snorted a laugh. "Ridiculous! Slayer Chase hates that bitch as much as we do. No way she would ever start talking to her now..." He thought for a moment. "Can you get access to where they are in the building?"

#Sorry, but no chance of that, sir. They're up in the main offices, and I would be unfavorably noticed at once if I went there. Plus, there's another slight problem. I'm supposed to be out of town for a court case, for the rest of the week. If I want to maintain my cover, I have to keep the appointment.#

"Yes. I see. All right, go on your little trip," the man ordered his underling. "We'll stake out the law firm. With luck, we'll soon get the third highest Slayer turned over to our side."

#Based on the reports of her activities to date, sir, I don't think she'll ever come back into the light,# Markson commented.

"Who the hell ever said I was going to give her a choice?" Gazaway asked rudely, before he hung up the phone. Going back into the living room area he addressed the others, "Get ready, we have a Slayer to grab."

As the others immediately started preparations for the capture, a figure walked out of the other bedroom. A tall, dark-haired 21-year-old woman dressed in a pair of plain black jeans and a black T-shirt.

"Is it true?" she asked Gazaway with an almost orgasmic smile. "A new Slayer?"

"Yes, she's one of your sisters," Gazaway responded, as he began to check the dart guns. "And a powerful one, at that. She's had a lot of training. It's Harris's girlfriend."

The woman shook her head in disgust. "That pathetic bitch! A Slayer with a boyfriend? She doesn't have the right for anything like that! While she should be fighting alongside *me*, she's globe-trotting with that imbecile!?"

She looked at Gazaway with glee. "I'm *so* glad I was able to beat him up a little, even if you didn't let me finish the job. I looked at the research on them; instead of doing her duty, they were taking ballroom dancing lessons!"

Gazaway smiled at his *properly*-trained Slayer's attitude. "Don't worry, you'll be able to teach her the error of her ways soon enough."

The woman gave a grateful nod to her mentor, before she thought out loud, "We'll have to leave the area to properly train her for her destined role."

"That's why we have the facility in Mexico," Gazaway told her with a sneer. "You know first-hand the wonders they can do there with a disobedient Slayer."

The Slayer grinned madly at the thought of it. "Well, it'll be a pleasure to go back to help in her training..."


Cordelia opened her eyes, to find her cousin watching her. The former Sunnydale princess carefully extracted herself from Xander's limp form, and stood up from the bed. She kissed her man on his sweat-covered forehead, before turning to Lara. "I zoned out, huh?"

"We pretty much figured beforehand that you would," her cousin said, as Cordelia sat across from her. "After all, I practically had to sedate you for the trip to that blasted school."

"Did I cause much damage?" Cordelia asked, cringing.

Lara tilted her head to the opposite side of the room. "Other than the Slayer-sized dent in the wall over there, not much."

"Buffy," Cordelia guessed with a shake of her head.

"Buffy," Lara acknowledged.

Cordelia rested her head on the table, before turning it to look at the man in the bed. "I can't lose him, Lara. I...just can't."

"You won't, Cordy," Lara told her. "We've been in tight spots before. I mean, what about when we had to escape Quill's underground city when the Midnight Squires attacked?"

Cordelia snorted. "Oh, you were just pissed that that stupid Eye of Shaherettin told Quill that you and him would become lovers someday!"

"Hey!" Lara exclaimed. "At least *you* didn't wake up completely naked in that weird bedroom!"

"Oh, please!" Cordelia waved her off. "You woke up in that huge four-poster bed with silk sheets and everything." She pointed to herself, "I, on the other hand, woke up dressed in a set of veils that would make a porn actress blush! I swear to God, if Xander had seen me before I changed back into my own clothes...Quill wouldn't be alive today!"

They shared small smiles before Lara asked, "You still want to go at it the way we talked about?" At Cordelia's nod Lara added, "It's a shot in the dark, as it is..."

"But it's the only lead we have," Cordelia told her firmly. "You read Xander's notes, same as I did. Those bastards are watching the school. All I have to do is put in an appearance, and it'll be like flashing a huge neon sign that says, 'come kidnap me'."

Lara moved over to Xander, and she placed her own kiss on his forehead. "You know, he would never agree to you going through with this. That's why he tried to do this behind our backs."

"I know," Cordelia told her cousin as she stood. She looked at Xander's prone form before she said in an accusing tone, "And don't think that it's gonna get you out of being yelled at when this is all over, Dweeb Boy!"

"Come on then," Lara said with a shrug. "Alex should be here soon."

"You go on without me," Cordelia told Lara. "Tell Buffy and Willow to come down here. I need to talk to them."

Lara looked at her in concern. "Cuz, are you sure that's wise? We don't really have time for you to beat up on those two..."

"Don't worry," Cordelia assured her. "No blood will be spilled. At least, not by me."


Angel's private office

Everyone looked up from the various groups they had spilt into, to watch as Lara came back in. The Tomb Raider walked right to the two women. "Summers, Rosenberg? Cordelia wants to have a little chat with you both, in Xander's room."

"Why?" Buffy demanded. "To try to throw me around the room again? To make Willow cry some more?"

"Buffy!" Willow hissed. The redhead didn't want anyone to know how badly the day's events were getting to her.

"Look, ladies," Lara said with much scorn on the 'ladies' part. "Cordelia needs her mind to be clear and focused during the rest of this. You three are going to have a nice discussion, with no yelling or fighting. She has something she needs to say to both of you. And you *will* listen to what she has to say. If you truly value Xander's life, you'll do this for her."

Slayer and witch stared at each other for a minute, before moving for the door. Lara quickly moved in front of Kennedy. "Just those two."

The junior Slayer was about to object, when she saw Willow shake her head at her. "All right," Kennedy said, as she got in Lara's face. "But if anything happens in there to Willow, I am personally going to come looking for you. And Heaven help you if I do."

Lara just turned away from her, and took a seat next to Chase. "Now she's gone and put the fear of God into me, hasn't she?" she told her so-called boyfriend sarcastically, as she laid her head on his shoulder.

Chase chuckled, as he wrapped his arm around her. "Don't worry, Red, I'll keep the big bad Slayer away from you."

Kennedy could only shoot them both murderous looks.


Xander's room

Willow tried not to run to his side, as soon as she first entered the room. Buffy had warned her to not show any major reaction to the state Xander was in. Whatever game Cordelia was playing at, it would do none of them any good to see her go all nuts again.

The brunette woman had moved her chair to the head of the bed facing the door. And she had Xander's hand intertwined with hers. "Please sit, both of you," the daughter of David and Rose Chase told them, and motioned to the two chairs set across from hers.

No one spoke for a minute, as they stared at each other. Willow found herself watching how Cordelia kept stroking Xander's still hand with her thumb.

"We don't have a lot of time," Cordelia said finally. "But we have to make time for this."

"Time for what?" Buffy demanded.

"Well, first, I have to 'fess up and say insulting you two has kept my mind occupied on something other than this," Cordelia tilted her head towards Xander. "But Buffy, Willow...we need to talk about what's been going on with you two and Xander."

Willow picked her head up in surprise. "What are you talking about? Nothing's going on between us! We haven't even talked to him in years!"

"That's what I mean," Cordelia told them, as if it was obvious. "When we moved away from Sunnydale, do you two know how much hurt it caused him to leave like we did?"

"You're blaming *us* for that?" Buffy asked her shocked. "You're the one who dragged him off to England back then!"

The brunette sighed. "First, I didn't drag him anywhere; he told me he wasn't planning to ever let me go away alone. And second...what I meant was the fistfight you started with me, Willow. The 'but my Xander-shaped friend can't leave!' thing from you as well, Buffy. You two went out of your way to make him feel bad for leaving. And after you two had pushed him out of your little Slayage club..."

"We just didn't want him to get hurt!" Willow interjected. "Can't you understand that? He was always jumping into the fight, when he had no real powers to help him..."

"Neither did you, Willow," Cordelia said calmly, surprising the redhead.

"Willow had her magic thing going then. She could handle herself!" Buffy shot back.

"Okay, if we're going to get technical," Cordy said musingly. "Willow, a vampire can snap your neck in less than a second. You're telling me you could have muttered a paragraph-long spell, or gone on a trip to the Magic Box in that amount of time?"

Willow looked like a deer caught in headlights. "Well, no. But no vampire ever got that close to me during a battle!"

"Really. What about when you were trying to restore Angel's soul, that day? And what about those Sisterhood demons in that cave, the year after that?" Cordelia asked her, going on a trip down memory lane. "Did your spells kill any of them?"

"No..." Willow said slowly. "I just did a cover spell, back then."

"As I recall from what Xander told me, you created a fog so the two Slayers could save the day," Cordelia summed up. "You yourself did nothing to help destroy or incapacitate those things. In fact, Buffy and Faith had to protect you the entire battle. So tell me something, Willow; just how many vampires or demons did you, yourself, kill back in the old days when Xander and I were around?"

As Willow just kept the lost look on her face, Cordelia pressed another point. "And what special power did Oz have, that made him so valuable?"

"He was a werewolf!" Buffy told her bitterly.

"So, what, he changed into his wolf form for the fights?" Cordelia asked. "He used his super-powers to rip the heads off of vamps?"

"Of course not," Buffy said hotly. "You know perfectly well that we had to lock him up, whenever he turned all wolf-y..."

"So then," Cordelia interrupted. "There were two people, Willow and Oz, who had sod-all skills in a fight and made you have to protect them, instead of fighting the bad guys..."

The dark-haired Slayer looked into Buffy's eyes. "Therefore please tell me why when Willow told you that she was going to stay in Sunnydale for college so she could help you slay, you hugged her. But when Xander wanted to help and was technically a better fighter than Willow was, you shut him out?"

Buffy looked surprised, as if she had never even thought of it. "I...look, we just..."

"You just what?" Cordelia asked.

"He is and was a normal human," Buffy said finally.

"And he kept getting hurt," Willow added.

"When?" Cordelia asked. When the two women looked at her with blank faces, Cordy asked again, "When exactly was he badly hurt? The only time I remember my boyfriend getting seriously injured because of the Slayage...was when he got his arm broken, that day Drusilla and her vamps attacked the library in 1998."

She thought for a moment, "Other than a bruise here or there, he never got hurt slaying vampires or fighting demons. So why do you two insist otherwise?"

"There were lots of times-" Buffy started to stay.

Cordelia raised an eyebrow. "Name them."

"What?" the blond Slayer asked, surprised.

"You're so sure about this, let's hear details, Buffy," the brunette ordered again. "Tell me the exact times and places that Xander was hurt with more than a minor injury during the fighting. And keep in mind that with one phone call, I can have his entire medical history for that time Fed-ex'd here in less than 6 hours to check."

"Well, I..." the oldest Slayer said, before she stopped to look in confusion to Willow.

"Having a hard time?" Cordelia asked them innocently. "You know what? I think you've told yourselves that line so many times, that you honestly believe it to be true without remembering what things were truly like back then."

Buffy had had enough. "Cordelia, sorry to burst your bubble, but what things were like back in high school...they were like the good old days, compared to what happened after you two left! I was there - I know."

At her once-again-raised eyebrow, the 'Alpha Slayer' went on, "You guys weren't there for ADAM, Glory, Willow's little ride on the wild side and the thing with the First. And most especially, that bastard Caleb!"

Cordelia nodded her head. "Angel's mentioned him. Said something about the attitude towards preachers being the only thing Liam, Angel and Angelus could all ever agree on..."

Buffy had a strange look on her face. "Whatever he told you, it wasn't detailed enough. That man was almost as evil as the Master - no, he was even worse, because he still had a soul! Look - two years ago, back before Sunnydale was scrunched, I made the worst mistake of my life. I led Faith and my so-called army of potentials into battle against that prick..."

The young woman briefly closed her eyes. "I was pissed at Giles, and didn't listen to Mr. Caution Man's prophetic words of wisdom; so it ended up a slaughter. Afterwards my people were either dead, in hospital or completely demoralized. And later when I was taking a walk alone, it was one of the few times I was *glad* Xander had left with you. Because knowing him - he would have been there on the front lines, and gotten himself killed..."

Cordy shrugged slightly. "Well, to tell you the truth, all that doesn't really matter anymore. If you two want to be his friends again..."

"Hey!" Willow yelled. "We-" she pointed to her and Buffy. "-are still his best friends!"

Cordelia let a groan escape, before she responded. "You said it yourself, Willow. You haven't talked to him in years."

"Like you would have let us get through to him?" Willow replied with spite.

"What?" Cordy asked with a laugh. "Willow, he's had his own email account for years! He has his own satellite cell phone too..." Her hazel eyes bored into the redhead's green ones. "Oz has called once or twice. Dawn's stayed in touch with him, and Giles talked to us all the time on the phone. Hell, he even stayed at the manor for a few days, when he briefly moved back to England then! You could have easily gotten the contact info from either of them at any time, but you never bothered."

Cordelia continued, "May as well face it; you two are not his best friends anymore. You haven't been for years." She pointed to herself, "Me, Lara, Chase, Alex, Hillary, and Bryce have all been there for him for the last five years. Not you guys."

The woman paused, then looked at both of them intently. "Back during the latter half of senior year, do either of you remember a week that Xander was out of school?"

Buffy frowned. "Maybe. But what does that have anything to do with-"

Cordelia ignored her as she looked towards the bed, "He would never admit it to you two, most likely. But a bit after I'd moved into my new house, I got a call at three in the morning one night..."

She turned and stared back at them. "It was Sunnydale General. Xander's dad had beaten him up after he got drunk one night. He was out of it from the pain pills for a day or so, but it wasn't either of your names that he called out in the middle of the night in that ambulance back was mine."

"It doesn't matter!" Willow said with conviction. "When this is over, Xander is going to be moving to our school for good!"

Another laugh came from the girl opposite them. "Really. And exactly what, pray tell, is he going to do there?" She paused. "Teach math? Be a student? Wait on you two, hand and foot? What?"

Neither girl had any clear answer for her so Cordy continued, "Sorry to burst *your* bubble, but this is what's going to happen. When Xander's better, you guys will have to decide if you want to put in the effort for rebuilding your friendships with him. And if you do, then I swear - you both really have your work cut out for you."

"*We* do?" Buffy asked.

"Yeah, you do," Cordelia answered. "And to be honest, I don't know how you two can make it up to him. He owes both of you nothing. And we all know the glory days of the Slayer and her two Slayerettes are long gone now. He has his own personal Slayer these days - me. At best, you'll maybe be email buddies or something..."

She leaned into them. "But let me make one thing perfectly clear. If you two try to manipulate him or hurt him again...I will have no problem killing the both of you."

"You wouldn't do that," Buffy said at once. "You're a Slayer, you can't kill human beings-"

"Oh, that's where you're wrong. And that's the difference between us; I'll do whatever it takes, if I need to," Cordy said as she stood up. "I've done it once before, to protect him."

"You did what?" Buffy asked, still shocked.

Cordelia nodded. "In one of those godforsaken countries we visited...this old, rich tribesman saw Lara and me, and the big ponce decided he wanted us for his harem. And don't laugh; then and there, he could have gotten away with it..."

She reached down, and removed some stray hair from Xander's face. "So he came to the hotel room that the three of us were sharing...and he shot Xander. He just walked in at night, sodding well pulled out a gun and shot him as he was coming out of the bathroom. If Xander hadn't dodged it at the last second...the slug would have gone through his brain, rather than his shoulder."

At the girls' horrified look, Cordelia asked, "You've been told about the deal with me and Sheba?"

"Somewhat," Buffy said shakily.

"Sometimes..." Cordelia stated. "When I zone out, I can't recall a thing. Other times, I can. But when I saw Xander go down that night...." She trailed off for a moment, before going on. "When I saw his blood splatter onto the floor, I didn't care that I was waiting for him buck naked under the sheets. I just completely lost it."

She closed her eyes for a moment. "I took that guy out, with no weapons other than my own bare hands. In my dreams...I can still hear him screaming, as I killed him. It wasn't a quick or easy death, either..."

The young woman paused for a moment. "I've made my peace with it, sort of. But if anyone hurts my mate, I will utterly destroy them. Nothing can or will change that." She looked back at the Xandman on the bed. "He's mine, and I'm his. I'm going to marry him. And I'm going to have his cubs..."

"You mean his children," Buffy said with a frown.

"Whatever," Cordelia shrugged. "Like I said, he's mine and will be for the rest of our lives." A soft smile appeared on her face, as her enhanced hearing heard his semi-steady breathing. "All of us at the manor, we're his family and friends. And I take care of my family and friends; they're my pack."

Willow tried to make some sense out of all this. Cordelia was talking kind of like Xander had, when he'd been possessed by the primal hyena mojo all those years ago. "But you threatened to kill Harmony upstairs just now, before. Wasn't she your best friend for years?"

"Yes, and I did care for Harmony," Cordelia said with a sullen look. "But again for the record, that undead thing running around here is not her. It has her body, her memories, her voice...even the lameass sheep personality! But it's *not* her. And to call it her or act like it's her...that's like spitting on Harmony's memory. I'm not going to do that. And I really don't want to have to find her parents, and tell them that their little girl's corpse is working at a law firm as a vampire..."

She continued, "Whatever her mistakes, Harm deserved better. For a time back in senior year, I thought of getting past her distaste that I was dating Xander, and that - those two could have become friends. At least, I *think* Xan would have eventually gotten along with her, if they just gave each other half a chance. But that's not going to happen now."

She leaned down and kissed him on his still lips. "I'll be back when it's all over, baby. But right now, your little kitty has to go hurt some bad people."

Then Cordelia went for the door. "Stay with him for a few minutes if you want, but we have things to discuss upstairs in Angel's office," she said, before she left the room.

Willow was shocked now, as much as Buffy. "Do you think that story was true? About her killing that guy, I mean, all naked and stuff. It sounds like Faith's alligator story..."

Buffy slowly nodded. "If all that we've learned about that tiger and her is the real deal...then, yeah. You heard how she was talking."

"So, what do we do?" Willow asked the woman she'd fought beside for years.

Buffy sighed, as she looked towards Xander lying still on the bed. "I guess we better tone it down a little. At least, for now. I don't think that Xander would just ignore us when he wakes up, but if these people are Cordelia's pack..."

Willow shivered. "I remember back when Xander was possessed by that hyena. When all those other members of his pack came to rescue him. Buffy, Dawn and I had bad dreams about it for months after that!"


Sometime later in Angel's office

"Well, it's about time you got here!" Cordelia called.

Buffy, Angel and the others looked on when a short woman with the same body type as Willow came into the room, lugging a metal briefcase. After a few hugs with Lara, Cordelia, and Chase - the new arrival, who looked in her early twenties, asked Cordy, "How is he?"

The way she asked it, with so much emotion, Buffy guessed this was one of the people Cordelia mentioned a little while ago.

"Not good," Cordelia told the woman. Her voice trembled for a moment as she added, "They messed up his handsome face..."

"If we need to, we'll have Hermione take him to see Pomfrey, and everything will be okay. Nothing bad's allowed to happen to the old professor, after all."

"Ah, sorry to interrupt," Dawn said. "But are you Alex?"

The woman nodded, "Yeah, and I'm guessing you're Dawn, Xander's pen pal?"

"Hey, C," Faith wondered. "Is this chick a Slayer too?"

"God, no!" Alex Mack said with a horrified face. "Like I ever want that kind of lifestyle..." She turned back to her friend. "Not that you don't make it work for you, Cordy."

"So, you're a civilian?" Faith said, annoyed. "No offense, but we're going to need fighters for this, not..."

"I can take care of myself," Alex told her, equally annoyed. "And I could take you, any day."

"You and what army, babe?" Faith asked, getting in a combat-ready stance.

Alex just looked at her for a moment, "Oh, please..."

The next event shocked everyone, save for the part-time Tomb Raiders. Faith floated off the floor, seemingly all by herself.

"What the hellllll!?" the 'Beta Slayer' yelled out, as she kicked her legs trying to reach the ground. "What are you doing, you bitch!?"

"Oh, you just had to start with the 'B' word, didn't you?" Alex made a small movement with her head, and Faith flew through the air, crashing though the office doors out into the lobby beyond.

"Hey! Get off me, you über-skank!" Harmony could be heard from beyond the office.

Faith just ran back through the doors, ready to tear the new girl apart. Alex showed no fear, as she quickly pointed at the oncoming Slayer...and yellow bolts of electricity shot out of her finger, knocking the second-oldest Chosen One off her feet.

"Do you give up now?" Alex asked, looking down at Faith. "Or should I hang you upside down in the hallway, for a while?"

"She gets the point!" Buffy said, as she reached down to help her sister Slayer up. "You give up, right?" she said as more an order than a question.

"Yeah, fine," Faith growled as she got up. "Now, what the hell are you?" she demanded to Alex. "A demon?"

"You don't smell like a demon," Angel said as he went near her, getting a little too close for comfort.

"Oh my God, is that your best pickup line?" Alex asked him. "And back off buddy, I already have a boyfriend!"

"You got back together with Hunter?" Lara asked at once.

"Well, it sure felt like we were back together, two nights ago," Alex answered with a shy smile.

"Um..." Dawn said, hopelessly lost. "Why did you call Xander the old professor?"

"He taught me how to play pool at the manor," Alex responded to her question. "He's very good."

"Really?" Willow asked. "I know he used to play at the Bronze a lot, but he wasn't that great at it..."

"Oh, trust me luv; he's really good with the cue nowadays," Chase said. "He wipes the floor with me, whenever we play."

"Of course he does," Alex told him. "After Cordelia's 'helping' him practice before that ESPN 2 tournament two years ago, of course he's gonna sink every damn ball on the table!"

"There is definitely no need to bring that up again," Cordelia ordered her, as she blushed slightly.

"I'm still trying to get Lara here to play it with me," Chase told her.

"In your dreams!" Lara said, as she smacked his arm.

Chase just grinned at her. "Oh, actually, we do much better stuff in my dreams, Red."

"Come on, what is it?" Dawn asked amused.

"Well..." the blond man started, but was stopped by Cordelia. "Chase, don't you dare!"

"Fine, then!" the man said. "I won't say it out loud..." He then bent down and whispered into Dawn's ear. Cordelia blushed even more, as Dawn's eyes became as big as saucers as she looked at her.

"Ah..." the former Key stammered, not wanting to keep this topic going anymore. "Let's open the case, Alex! Time's a-wasting!"

The girl in question didn't move for a few moments, making Cordelia squirm a little longer. Then she put the briefcase on the desk, as Lara moved to Angel.

"That thing-" the Tomb Raider said, pointing to the 42-inch plasma TV on the wall. "-can do videoconferencing, I take it?"

"Of course," the vampire responded, as he pressed a button on his desk. A miniature keyboard popped out, at the same time the monitor came to life with a blue screen and a command prompt.

The senior Tomb Raider quickly typed in a long sequence of numbers that only Andrew seemed to understand. "Hey, wow! That's an English government secure line!"

Lara just pressed a finger to her lips. "Shhh. We just borrow it from time to time."

Alex finally unlocked the case, letting some see what was in side. Two ear and microphone devices with a tiny screen of some kind were sitting in protective foam. Also present were two short devices that looked like a hypo spray. One tube was empty, while the other was half full of a green liquid.

The plasma screen came to life, to show a scruffy, dark-haired Englishman. "Where are you guys callin' from?" came out of his mouth as soon as the connection came online.

"It's good to talk to you too, Bryce," Lara said, annoyed.

"We're at Wolfram & Hart," Cordelia said to the screen.

"Ah, right," Bryce nodded. "The connection on this end shows a lot of firewalls. Someone must have a lot of secrets."

"Or else are just really paranoid," came through the TV, from an unseen woman's voice.

Alex stepped up to Cordelia and Lara. "Annie? What, are you hiding or something?"

A short, dark-haired woman dressed in only a long shirt appeared into the frame. "No, Alex, I was trying to get some sleep. I trust you're keeping out of trouble?"

"You know me, Annie," Alex said with a laugh.

"Yes, I do, that's what worries me. You better be careful, I don't want to have to explain things to mom and dad if something ever happened to you!"

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Alex mumbled. "I already got lectured by Ray."

"Uh, back to the matter at hand, ladies?" Bryce cut in. "The good news is that the isotope lasts 24 hours. The bad news is that the satellite will only be in the right orbit for another four."

"Can you gain access to any other ones?" Cordelia asked him. "We have *got* to have some sort of backup."

"I can maybe piggyback through NORAD. But that's a big maybe," the man told her.

"Do what you can," Lara told him simply.

Bryce nodded and moved to sever the connection - but then stopped. "Oh, almost forgot. Cordelia?"

"What?" the woman asked.

"Martin called. They won 73-48."

Cordelia let a small smile come to her lips. "When Xander wakes up, I will be *sure* to tell him."

"Roger that," Bryce said as a farewell, as the screen went blank.

Chase shook his head. "Man, is he going to be brassed off. They finally make it to the championship game, and he's injured!"

Before anyone could ask the question, Cordelia told the former Sunnydale people, "Xander's on a park league basketball team."

Lara picked up the hypo syringe from the case, and rolled up Cordelia's sleeve. "Hold still, cuz..." A moment later, she injected the greenish liquid into her arm.

Cordelia closed her eyes for a moment, her face showing a disgusted look. "God, Daniel was right. It does feel weird!"

"What did you just do?" Angel asked.

"I injected Cordelia with a nonlethal radioactive isotope that was engineered by an ally to the American government. It's designed to shield people from scanners, for a time," Lara told him.

"Is that safe?" Fred asked before Wesley asked, "You're going to break into someplace?"

Lara answered Fred, "For normal humans or Slayers, it just breaks down naturally after a certain amount of time."

"And no, it doesn't block much of our tech," Cordelia answered Wesley. "It was made for a ship's internal sensors. And no, I can't tell you what kind of ship, but if you know what to look for - a high end satellite can pick it up."

"The people we're going after aren't dumb. They are in fact really smart bastards," Chase said. "They know how to block most magical ways to track a person."

"Why would you need to..." Buffy started before she understood. "You're going to let them take you!?"

The others reacted negatively to this idea, but Cordelia just shrugged. "It's the fastest way to find them. To save Xander." She pointed to Buffy, Faith and the other Slayers present. "That's why you guys are staying here, out of sight."

"If these people are hunting Slayers for their new order, or whatever, why shouldn't we come along and kick their asses?" Kennedy demanded.

Lara and Cordelia exchanged a look, before the former cheerleader spoke. "Because I'm one of their primary targets."

"You're what?" Faith asked in disbelief.

"Somehow, these idiots know I'm a Slayer," Cordelia said. "Xander's contact told him that they had plans to kidnap me, since the other two most experienced Slayers..."

"That would be you two," Chase said, pointing to Buffy and Faith.

"...would be too much trouble to try to get to," Cordelia finished.

"I really don't like this, Cordy," Buffy said firmly. "You just putting yourself out in the open, in the hopes that they kidnap you? What if they get away with it? I should be the one to..."

"No way in hell, Buffy," Cordelia told her sharply. "You're not the only Slayer in town anymore. And these assholes hurt *my* man. It's my right."

"Don't worry your blond head about it too much," Chase told Buffy with a merry smile that she instantly hated. "As soon as Cordelia gets taken, we follow her trail right to the bad guys, and then you can kick as much ass as you want."

"Are, are you sure about this, Cordelia?" Giles asked her.

"Yes Giles, I'm *majorly* sure," she responded, the old American slang resurfacing. "My better half might die because of those assholes!" Cordy told him, as she slammed a fresh clip into her Beretta. "They're going to learn the hard way, what happens when you mess with me or mine."

Cordelia then reached into the case and tossed the other hypo syringe, with the empty tube, to Alex. "You ready?"

The blond woman nodded silently.

"Well then," Cordelia said, turning to Angel. "Where's the garage around here?"


Main Wolfram & Hart parking lot. Basement Level A

Cordelia walked out of the elevator, heading to the car she wanted. Angel's Mercedes SLK 320 Auto. It would do for what she had in mind. She just hoped that Angel had the darn thing insured.

Then again, judging by where he worked, he most likely even had his clothes insured.

//How do I let you talk me into these things?// Alex's voice came to her ears.

"It was the only place we could hide you," Ms. Chase said, as she got in the car. And it was true; with Alex in her liquid state, she fit perfectly inside the crystal pendant that Cordelia now had around her neck.

Back when she'd first gotten her powers - the young woman could morph whenever she wanted, but her liquid mass stayed the same. But now years later, with much practice, she could shrink her mass to very small proportions, for a limited time. It had come in handy getting past a few locked doors over the years, and Cordelia felt it would again.

//Even for me, this is a little cramped,// Alex responded. //Plus I can hardly hear myself think, with your heart beating so damn fast!//

"Tigers get excited when they go hunting," the brunette said, as she started the car up.

//But you're not a tiger,// Alex reminded her.

"Don't let appearances deceive you," Cordelia declared, as the tires squealed and they shot along the ramp to the street above.