Glamourous Rags

Five Lovers Cordelia Chase Never Had


I don't know when I grew up, so much. Maybe it was eighteen months ago, on the road, or maybe it was this last six months with the hospital thing and the Dawn thing. And maybe it was just now.

Anyway, here I am in the adult world, stuck there for good. Perhaps it isn't that I grew up, just that sometimes I feel old and sometimes I feel middle-aged, and I never feel young anymore.

I only went to the store for some food, for Bisquik for the girls and avocados and red peppers for the salad and some zucchini to roast with the chicken. That's a shopping list that will be carved in a hellish corner of my memory forever.

And the mall's just near the supermarket with the good produce, so I looked in to see if there were any interesting new shoes. One of the things I loved about her was that she was a woman with whom I could discuss shoes for hours. Just because she didn't spend money on shoes very often any more didn't mean she didn't care about them.

She loved to look at shoes and talk about the shoes she bought back in the day. I never understood before why platform wedgies even happened - one of the things I loved about her was that loving her meant that I got context for things.

I was only gone for an hour. Just an hour.

And when I came home, the paramedics were just leaving and Giles was just arriving - luckily he was back from LA that week - and Buffy hadn't even thought to call my cellphone. Which I could have resented, but I'm bigger than that.

And Joyce was lying there, with her eyes closed and her mouth slightly open, and there was a patch on the carpet that smelt of disinfectant, and Buffy looked at me with big helpless little girl eyes and I thought, I am only a couple of months older than you, and I didn't say it, because what's to say? And I hugged her and I hugged Giles, because he had lost her too. She had lost her mother, but Giles and I, we lost Joyce.

And then I knelt beside Joyce and kissed her cheek one last time.


I'd always noticed her, in the way you notice your sort-of-friend's really amazingly good-looking mother. As someone whose good looks told you that there is a life of looking good beyond the mall and beyond marriage and children. A life of taking gentle care of yourself and moisturizing daily and getting gently older.

I must have chatted with her a bit, at some point, the polite meaningless words you say to a sort- of-friend's mother when you meet them on the stairs or bump into them in the street.

For the longest time, she didn't know anything, which meant we didn't say anything in front of her about Slaying or the rest of it. Then there was the Buffy being missing thing which sort of made for pregnant silences if she met us. And then there was the whole trying to burn people alive thing, which left a certain coolness. And the fact that I was sort of not speaking to any of that group of my sort-of-friends because of Xander and Willow and all of that.

My car broke down thirty miles out of Sunnydale. The only people that stopped to help were lingerie salesmen or truck drivers who wanted to keep me chained in a cellar with their Nazi pit bulls. After a few baking hours, I was down to my last bottle of Evian and wondering how bad life with a pit bull could be.

Suddenly her car pulled up and she asked if I needed help - well, duh! The cool thing is that she pulled up and asked even before she knew it was me, and that when she saw it was me behind the sunglasses, her face lit up in a smile that made her look so young it was almost scary.

She said that I couldn't just sit there and it was insane of me to go to LA by myself. And suddenly I realized what I needed was someone to take care of me, and there was someone here who would.

Somehow, she knew all about my parents and the IRS. I've learned, now, that grownups know all sorts of things that they don't tell you if you're younger than them, except in bed. She knew how broke I was and how much I'd hated working in the dress shop. And suddenly I was working for her at the gallery and sleeping on the couch at Revello Drive.

When she told them I was going to be living there for a while, Dawn said 'Mom!' and then said 'Actually, this is going to be incredibly cool'.

Buffy was sweet and said of course I was welcome. She doesn't really like me all that much, which is OK, because I don't really like her, but somehow, when it comes to it, we rub along well enough.

And then I wasn't sleeping on the couch, because one day in the gallery, Joyce's hand touched mine, or I put my hand where hers could touch it, and our entire lives changed. It was like brushing up against something really sharp, except I didn't bleed.

'I've never done this before', I said, as her big curls feathered into my nose and made me sneeze down her neck.

'Neither have I', she said, ' but somehow it is what I want to do.'

I didn't say anything else, but hung onto her like she was my mother and my boyfriend and everything to me. She had curves and softnesses I wasn't used to and they felt like cushioned heaven.

For the longest time, we lied. I slept on the couch and we made out in the stock room like I used to in school cupboards and it was the biggest fun that Dawn and Buffy really didn't know. Buffy never notices anything of course - she took the longest time to know about Willow and never worked it out about Faith - but I was surprised that we pretty much managed to keep it from Dawn.

The kid is sharp. So very sharp. Except about that, right under her nose - it is one of the things that could make a person worry.


In the end, it all came out, which was a relief.

It was Faith bursting in on us that pretty much fixed that, of course.

Dawn was doing a sleepover and we knew Buffy was safely tucked up in Stevenson Hall or with her soldier boy somewhere, so we thought it was a good night for staying in safe with fluffy slippers and chocolates and champagne. Joyce taught me the joys of not feeling you have to be sophisticated about everything - she had a way of teasing you about who got stuck with the hard centres that made me go all squishy inside myself.

And in through the door comes Faith just as we are wrapped around each other to a degree that makes it pointless to disentangle. For several minutes, she is so awesmacked and giggly that I could probably have taken her down.

'So, C, not driving stick anymore? And Mrs S - if I had known you were into cradlesnatching, I'd have given you a go myself.'

And a lot of snarky remarks about a lipstick shade that never suited Joyce and which I had made her hide in a drawer.

Then Buffy comes in through a window and they fight and I thought there was something odd about Buffy afterwards, but who knew? I should have got it from the selection from Buffy's wardrobe next day, which is the closest I come to Tara and her auras, but I didn't.

Love blunts my instincts. Which goes some of the way to explaining Xander of course.

I don't even want to think about why she took up the bathroom for so long.

After that, Buffy didn't say anything, but she looked at me and at her mother from time to time as if there was something she knew but could not remember. She is so clueless - I mean she was sharing a room with Willow and still had to be told about Tara.

Willow and I never had gaydar about each other - and Faith totally had it about both of us. Which is odd, or, worryingly, maybe not.

By the time we had shared our essences and been the SuperSlayer - and can I say ewww! about that? - and I had added proper sarcasm to the mix that pulled Adam apart instead of Buffy's usual lame quips, Buffy was staring to work it out. That or the night we all had dreams, which is something I really do not want to think about - Giles and Spike in matching tweed is a fashion nightmare like no other. I think she saw something in her dream, because after that, when I was helping Joyce with the hot chocolate, Buffy suddenly definitely knew.

And was cool with it.

Buffy and Dawn were troupers during the hospital period - we went through it all together and I don't plan ever to brood on it again. You sit in waiting rooms and you play silly word games and you eat too much chocolate and too many Doritos and all the time there is that smell of chlorox and ozone and vague death. I had hoped, when it was over, that that was it, and we could get back to normal and I had my Joyce back for a few weeks, instead of occasionally crazy Joyce, or Joyce who couldn't remember why I was there, or Joyce just lying there with the mother of headaches grinding behind her eyes.

And, when it came, it was fast. I missed it by an hour I never thought I had to worry about.


So we all go to the morgue and everyone is sweet to Buffy and sweet to Dawn and even Willow is sweet to me, which I really don't deserve, and Tara does her big basset-hound without the bags eyes at me, which is her way of being sympathetic and actually matters.

Anya says, ' Will your next orgasm friend be your own age? Because then you won't have to look for another one for ages.' And everyone shushes her.

Giles and Wesley look at me, consideringly.

I know what they are thinking, of course. I can see Giles gearing up for a lecture behind that noble forehead. A lecture about facing facts and finding the higher purpose behind them.

I could write the lecture for him.

None of this ever happened, right. I was just Joyce's pet project who worked for her in the shop and stayed in the spare room and was prickly friends with Buffy when she was home and helped out.

Until Dawn.

Who had always lived in the room that was no longer spare, so I could not be living there.

When the monks made Dawn, and made memories of her, I was an inconvenience and setting me up as Joyce's cute young plaything was the easiest way to rewrite it. Moving me and all my clothes to a motel was just more magic than they wanted to spend.

Plus, monks are boys, and boys with time on their hands, and thoughts about girl on woman action always part of that deal.

And I don't care, or rather I do care and it doesn't matter. I had six months and more with Joyce and they were the best months of my life - and maybe it was all true even before Dawn, and I had the year I remember as well. Except, I had that year even if it never happened.

Who cares what the facts once were? The truth is that I loved Joyce and lost her.

If there is a higher purpose to that, I don't want to know how I could care.

Even if I didn't. And now I have to work out what comes next.



The Monks of Acne had this way of creeping up on you.

You'd think people would have noticed them, would have pointed and snarked at them. Or maybe screamed. Because, hello, scary little people with pointed ears, wearing burlap robes in California. They never washed, fairly clearly, so also an odour problem.

Yet somehow eyes slid off them even in daylight - it's the damn Hellmouth and the way no-one ever sees what they don't want to. I remember what that used to be like, kind of.

And, OK, no-one who knows anything walks down alleys in Sunnydale at night. Me, I avoid them even if it is just a bit overcast or there's an awning. Because that is just a one-way ticket to Neck Trauma Street Station, Morgueville, CA.

It was bright though, that morning, and the sky was clear blue.

I'd dropped Dawn off at Junior High - well, the Jeep was one of the few things Joyce left us apart from the house and the gallery, once her medical bills were paid. I liked to have an excuse to drive it and think of her. Plus - too responsible to let Buffy try and drive, especially after a hard night's slaying.

Most of Dawn's teachers thought by now that I was just her other big sister. Hey, easier than explaining the whole story right - which would have meant the possibility of Family Services getting all interested. When I still had Joyce, I'd hyphenated our names as a way of saying I loved her. And going by Summers, mostly, was just convenient in a town where my father had left a lot of people he owed money to and even more prepared to say he did.

You'd think more teachers would remember me from my own time as Junior High Diva - but the death rate on the faculty there is Sunnydale standard. Over time, either they get killed, or they get smart and move away.

I guess I was never as important or memorable as my friends told me.

I parked where I wouldn't get a ticket and took the short cut round the back of Wesley's magic shop to get Mochas. Making Buffy breakfast would be a roleplay too far - but bringing her stuff in is different.

I was carefully balancing the cardboard tray on my way back to the Jeep and suddenly there is a sack over my head smelling of old shoes and dead leaves and prickling against my cheek like the worst stubble-burn ever.

And there was something sharp pressing into my lower back.

I don't remember dropping the coffees but I guess I lost them round about then because I heard the kind of yelp that means someone with bare feet got scalded. The only damage I got to inflict and I can't even pretend it wasn't an accident.

' You will come and see our glorious mistress, possible Key,' an insinuating voice said with breaks in the wrong places so half of it souned like a question. With a knife in the small of my back, I was in no position to argue.

I was too busy keeping my balance in the dark as we walked for what seemed like a couple of miles. No-one saw us - victims are as invisible in Sunnydale as anyone else untoward.

Besides, I was thinking, thinking hard and scared about what came next.

I don't go on and on about how much I love Dawnie the way some people do, but the kid is family now, part of what is left of Joyce, even if in another sense she really isn't. She is the one living member of the Summers family who asks me for fashion pointers, which is a big plus on her side.

I have hopes that one day she will moisturize.

No way was I going to save my skin by giving her up. Especially not to the Demon Goddess Tacky and her Minions of Scab.

If even Willow can turn being hostage girl into a chance to do harm, then no way was I crumbling.

On the other hand, not good with pain and mutilation, and pretty certain that having my brain sucked out of the sides of my head would not to wonders for my stylishness.

Fate worse than death, much. Which sort of gave me a plan that would probably kill me, but that was a plus. Given the alternatives.

And suddenly I was stumbling across a doorstep and my heels were clicking on marble-effect linoleum instead of sidewalk. You know how private eyes keep track of how many times they are spun round, and sense every turn the car makes from their place in the trunk, and the noise of the amusement arcade and trolleycars.

Well, not so much. I knew where I was because when Buffy killed snakeboy, we looked at the nearby apartment buildings and decided which one was in worst taste, and stayed well away from it. Aesthetic considerations there, apart from Hellgoddesses.

They shoved me into an elevator and under the sack I pulled my mental attitude into a positive and vicious place. They really did not know who they were dealing with. They were going to be very sorry minions before I was through.

Or, alternatively, they would be alive and I would be dead, also a result of sorts.

So, when the sack suddenly came off my face, I was ready with a glare.

'Tada!', one of the more disgusting minions said as he folded the sack into the sleeve of his robe with a gesture so fluid that it implied joints in all the wrong places.

'This is the Slayer's supposed sister,' he went on.' About whom everyone's memories are all confused. Some people think she is the sister, and some that she is just a friend. But we think, oh utterly tasteful one, that she might be - the Key!!!'

His pauses were still irritating, and tentative, but there was also a sort of showoff grandstanding which a weak person might let themselves think was cute.

Luckily, I had heels on that were fully half an inch taller than Glory's over-priced pumps And I was, to my surprise, an inch or two taller to begin with, which was handy. I walked straight up to her and looked down into her eyes from well into her personal space.

'Are these your minions?' I said, in a voice I normally reserve for people who were knockoffs of designer clothes or waiters who bring the wine cold when it should be room temperature, or the other way around.

'They're not very good,' I went on, 'are they? Apart from the poor grooming, their whole appearance just screams crazy person. Which you might want to think about, because villains get judged by their servitors - awful stereotype I know, but way of the world. You have to ask yourself - what kind of statement am I making about myself here? '

Glory had her mouth open - I could see all her teeth and had to acknowledge to myself that divinity means you get a perfect mouthful with no hint of ever having had braces - open in a losing control of the situation sort of way.

So I sauntered over to the nearest chaise longue and sat down Bolt upright, with my left leg resting on my right knee so that she could see just how expensive my stockings were and how much better my ankles looked than hers. And, damn, she might be divine, but I was still prettier.

'I'm just saying' I said, 'you really ought to think about them.'

I looked round at her apartment, which was mostly red and pink, like her outfit, and had two not very good Lempicka pastiches on the wall.

'This is quite a nice apartment,' I said, ' and they really do not go with what you've done with it.'

One of the minions bounced up and down on his dirty little feet.

'She's the Key, I know she's the Key, she must be the Key.'

I picked up a cushion and threw it at him.

'Oh do shut up. You silly little man. Do they do that all the time? Pick perfect strangers off the street and tell you they're the Key.'

'So,' she finally said, 'you admit to knowing about the Key,'

'Oh, please,' I said. 'How could I not? You've done nothing since you came here but come round to our house and whinge at Buffy about this Key you've lost. Of course, I know about the Key. Everyone in Sunnydale knows about the Key by now. Willy the Snitch is running book on it out of his bar.'

I gave her a pitying glance.

'You really have no idea of how to do things in this town, do you? I always thought that a God would display a little more finesse.'

I still wasn't dead, and Glory was still looking at me with a sort of baffled unease, which meant that my theory was in fact correct.

She could be got to, if you went in hard and never stopped pushing.

I speak as a recovering bully myself.

I looked pityingly at the red satin number she was wearing.

'I mean - one Starbucks town and all. But it has quite decent dress shops. You needn't dress out of Hookers r'Us, not unless you really want to go around looking like a drag queen. Which, OK, perfectly valid fashion statement. If you're a drag queen.'

I looked at her again, consideringly.

'And you really need to sack your hairdresser. The perm screams older woman and you are immortal and unageing, right? - so you can play the youth card foreve. Which would suit you better.'

I bounced to my feet, walked over and took her head in my hands.

'Because, my dear, you are quite the cutest super-villain we ever fought.'

And I kissed her, hard, on those baffled quivering lips.

I never before got the whole butch thing and how it isn't just about short hair and y-front role- play, but about taking charge. And not taking no for an answer.

Her lips tasted of cheap gloss, but were truely sweet under the strawberry and sugar.

I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her in close - there was a resistance, but not much for someone supposedly superstrong, just a girly 'you're doing this to me; I'm not saying yes' sort of resistance. She was the first woman I had kissed since Joyce, except in a sisterly sort of way - there was a springtime in my guts that was not sisterly at all.

She looked at me with the big scared eyes of a goddess who has totally lost the plot as I pulled her down onto the chaise longue and patted her knee. Which was pleasingly round under my hand and made a very appealing ripe noise when patted.

' We have things to talk about,' I said, ' that are so much more interesting than your Key.'

' Flesh, corruption, yearning, what is going on in me I can't control all of you not myself lusciousness and lips and parts of me that are not even supposed to work I'm a goddess and evil and chaste and yes, yes,' she babbled at me.

'I know just how you feel,' I said, pecking her on the cheek for variety. 'It's called the human condition, sweetie.

'Champagne, if you would be so kind' , I said to one of the hovering minions.

'Yes your Imposingly Sapphic Dominatricksiness', one said. Did she really put up with this sort of babble all the time?

I leant into that really quite appealing face and covered it with kisses while my hands felt random curvy bits of her and our bodies pressed into each other, yielding and resisting in unpredictable ways. What was interesting about this was how much I was enjoying it even though it was supposed to be a strategy.

Clearly I really am the cold-hearted bitch everyone says and it did not stop when I gave up boys - oh well, it looks good on me.

And then, before the champagne arrived, she started gasping and bucking under me, which was almost flattering so soon - only then things got vague and a little time later I was clutching the also quite appealing in its way muscular body of that intern from the hospital Buffy is always going on about.

Who was wearing Glory's dress. Or maybe she'd been wearing his.

I said it made her look like a drag queen.

'Ms Chase-Summers?' he said, as I disentangled myself from him rapidly. 'I'm Ben? From the hospital?'

And what were you doing here with Glory? he was obviously dying to ask

'Hi?' I said with mild embarrassment. And not about to tell him.

'Your champagne', one of the minions announced, with a flourish.

It was, of course, warm. And domestic. And served in what looked like a frog-shaped tooth mug.

Ben was clearly as out of the plot as Glory had been. But the minions were bustling about him in a way that meant he obviously belonged here, unbecoming frock or not.

'I'll let myself out', I said.

'She's the Key', one of the minions said.

I threw my mug of champagne at its head.

'No,' I said. 'I really am not. Guess again.'

'Sorry about this' Ben said. 'They are far too enthusiastic'

'Life on the Hellmouth, sweetie' I said as I pulled my clothes into some sort of order and stepped back into my shoes, which I had kicked off, but neatly, in the throes of not entirely feigned passion.

There are times when you really don't want to hang around having a conversation.

I looked at my watch.

'I have to go get coffee for Buffy,' I said. 'And I will have to walk back to the car, so inconvenient. So I really must go.'

'Any message for Glory?' he said, with a superior smile playing on his lips. God, I really did not like him.

'Oh,' I said, ' tell her Cordelia says hi.'

So nice, I thought as I strutted past the minions and got into the elevator, to meet people whose problems are clearly so much worse than mine.



' It's a bloody stupid idea.' Spike said.

'It's the only possible thing we can do,' Willow said. ' We just have to find a way of making it work. Which will take all of us, pulling together.'

She'd obviously taken notes every single time Giles or Buffy made a big 'this is the plan that will save the world' speech, and marked them in yellow highlighter when she went over them afterwards.

She kept looking round at us as she spoke, which kind of spoiled the effect.

I still didn't like her, but I'd voted for her as leader because she was so clearly the person for the job - I don't think she was ever going to get over watching my hand go up to vote for her. Like I'd vote for the Bleached Undead, or for Mr. Don't Bleed On My Armani.

'Without Buffy,' Wesley said. someone else who owned a copy of Rabblerousing for Dummies, , 'Sunnydale is a corpse lying where the vultures can eat it. We don't have Buffy, but we have the next best thing.'

'It's a holding action,' Willow said. 'Just to keep things going until we work out something better.'

She had a look in her eye that I remembered from computer classes. I could bet that she knew exactly what that something better was going to be and that she wasn't going to tell us because we were really not going to like it.

Part of not liking Willow is not suffering from the delusion that she is sweet and kind and good - part of what I have come to respect about Willow is that she has a close eye to what is necessary. Including not telling us things that would probably upset us.

'Bloody hell,' Spike said. 'It's not the next best thing and it's not a holding action. It's a sodding toy that I got made so I could boink it.'

'Spike is a demon in bed,' the Buffybot said, now we were finally discussing something that interested her. 'He has abs like steel and a cute ass. He says cruel things sometimes, but he is sensitive deep down.'

'It's a toy that can fight any of us into the ground,' Wesley said. 'It just needs to be told what to do.'

'Wind it up,' Spike said. 'And watch it go. Am I the only one who thinks this is a bloody stupid idea?'

'Probably,' I said.

'Oh God,' Spike said. ' Another twerp heard from.'

He had never forgiven me for walking out of Glory's apartment in one piece - not that I'd ever explained exactly how I managed that. Important to keep my mystery.

' Denial much,' I said. ' This isn't just about your guilt, Spikey. -' I just knew that was what Harmony had called him in bed, because Harm is, well, just predictable, living or undead - 'You need to feel guilty, fine, do it on your own time. This is about what we need to do, and what Buffy would have wanted.'

'Bitch,' he said.

'Uh huh,' I said with a smile.

Spike looked at me with something that was almost respect.

'Just so long as I don't have to talk to it,' he said.

'Why can't you just be nice to the poor little thing ?' Tara said, all People for the Ethical Treatment of Androids.

' It's not trying to tear your clothes off every five minutes, Glinda,' Spike said.

Tara blushed. She did that a lot.

'You know,' I said. 'If this is going to work at all, Spike, you are going to have to talk to her. Not it, not a poor little thing, Tara - her, Buffy.'

Spike growled and I stared hard into those ice-blue eyes.

'And you are going to have to hold her hand in public and whisper sweet nothings to her. And Willow, you are going to have to tell her what to say in class. And cover for her when she doesn't understand the social construction of reality - so no change there.. And Dawn and I am going to have to be all cosy with her round the breakfast table and eat her lousy pancakes. And you, Wes, you are going to have to be all pompous and Watchery at her.'

'What do I do?' Anya said.

'You know,' I said. 'I've never especially noticed you talk to Buffy or be interested in her in any way. So don't ever change.'

Willow had her mouth open. I sometimes had that effect on her these days, I'd noticed.

'You're the leader,' I said. 'I'm clearly the person in charge of sensitivity. Which, let's admit it, is a switch...'

'No,' Willow said. 'You're right, of course you're totally right.'

'I like Cordelia,' the Buffybot said. 'She lives in my house and she is recently gay, but less recently than Willow.'

'And another thing.' I said. 'There is something else I really am going to have to take care of. Personally.'


It's not as if they had done an especially bad job.

Spike clearly spent a century stitching Little Miss Crazy into her gothic velvet numbers and learned a bit along the way. And Warren obviously knew how to look in a catalogue and not screw up too badly.

Buffy really should have taken care of this herself, before we went up against Glory, who - OK had little fashion sense, but maybe just enough to notice. But luckily didn't.

Buffybot's clothes just were never quite right - it's not so much that she wore clothes that Buffy wouldn't, so much as that they were all from the silly fluffy end of her wardrobe, the clothes she might share with Willow when they were sharing a room. You watched Buffybot over a period of days and suddenly you realised that she wasn't Buffy, because it all added up wrong.

Buffy would wear those pink shades of lipstick, sure, but she wouldn't wear them every day; she owned the pink mohair sweater, but she only ever wore it in quotation marks. Plus, Spike had some idea about clothes, and hair, and makeup, but he had none whatever about shoes.

And it is asking too much to expect a vampire to be especially good at accessorizing.

'We're going to the mall,' I said to her next morning.

'The mall is two miles from the centre of Sunnydale and has extensive parking on two levels.' Buffybot said. 'It has a multiplex cinema and branches of most major retailers.'

She grinned cheerily - did Buffy really have teeth that good?

'I can direct you there,' she said. 'Because I have a GPS installed in me as an optional extra.'

Some of the problems with her were Spike, but others were entirely down to Warren. I suppose we should be grateful he did not install a cell phone in her.

'I've known how to get to the mall since before I could crawl,' I told her and then felt embarrassed as her face fell into that sulk she got whenever she was confused.

'Exaggeration for comic effect,' I said.

'Oh,' she said. ' I am programmed to recognize non-functional verbal behaviour in six languages. But sometimes that function doesn't work very well - I don't understand half of what you or Spike say.'

'I sound nothing like Spike,' I said.

'No,' she said.

If a flesh person had agreed with me that quickly, I would have suspected irony.


Sometimes, I'm whim girl, and power girl and exploitation girl and just wanna have fun girl.

Probably it was a mistake of Willow and Tara to let me take her to the mall by ourselves. Or maybe if Dawn had wanted to come, but she was kinda freaked out by the whole idea.

It just reminded her some more that Buffy was really, really dead and the Bot was all we had.

Playing dressup girl with my friends is something I would like to get the chance to do because it is one of the few bits of old impure not-so-nice Cordy still left for me to enjoy.

Now I am a reformed character.

I couldn't do it with Joyce because the couple of time I tried, she insisted on pulling out the Victoria's Secret catalogue and making me tell her which outfits I thought would suit her best. When I said I thought Victoria's Secret was a bit tacky, Joyce laughed at me and said 'Next time, Fredericks'.

She knew my buttons, that one.

And too much history with Willow, much of it to do with me being a bitch about clothes, for me ever to bond with her about makeovers - I blew that one in Sixth Grade. Tara, sweetest of sweet girls, but a woman with negative fashion sense. Those two together - just the aftermath of some terrible accident in a dye factory.

I wish I had tried harder to persuade Buffy herself to come and be a mallrat with me; it would have been something to do together.

Because somewhere I blew it with Buffy - whether by being mean to Willow in front of her or breaking up with Xander or having sex with her mother doesn't really matter.

We got on, but that was all it was ever going to be. And we could have been friends, we could have been like sisters.

In this, as in so much else, the Buffybot was a next best thing.

I just thought, before buying the clothes that would be sensible choices, clothes that would stop the Bot being Ms Cornfed Bland, we could try a few experiments, just to see.

The experiments I would have tried to talk Buffy into.

She was so wholesome, so much more wholesome than the original, that I decided she needed to be dressed in black and red, in leather and studs and sequins. It wasn't necessarily what we were going to leave with, but I just wanted to see what she looked like out of pastels and pinks. And not cute, and not perky.

She looked hot.

I tend to think of Buffy, and of the Bot, as scrawny little things, but that is just my way of not worrying that I am over-ripe, over-lush, too much of a handful

And also, of not thinking of Buffy as hot. Because that would be so wrong. In so many ways.

I'm used to playing it cool, for boys. You don't let boys know what crosses your mind because it's war out there, and we take no prisoners.

Girls are harder, I get that, but I can play cool there too.

What I forgot is that the Bot wasn't a girl, or rather, she wasn't only a girl.

Warren built in a whole lot more than a GPS.

We were standing in a changing room, which luckily was a proper little room, with walls and everything, and a door that shut, and the Bot suddenly turned, reached up and put her net-gloved hand on my shoulder.

She pulled me down a few inches and whispered in my ear.

'Your pulse rate is elevated and the blood vessels in your pupils are dilating and there is an interesting sheen of sweat visible on your upper lip,' she said. 'Are you aware that these are physiological symptoms of sexual desire?'

'Ahh, no,' I said.

The Bot smiled the smile Buffy uses on particularly idiotic vampires.

'Warren installed a lie detector,' she said.


'You are kind to me,' the Bot said. 'Kindness is often a prelude to an exchange of sexual favours.'

She kissed me hard and held me imprisoned in those implausibly strong arms. Her lips were soft and yielding and yet there was nothing soft about her, not really. It was like being taken.

And when her moist tongue gently invaded my mouth, there was subtle intelligence in each feint and fence.

A part of me was wondering how she kept the relevant bits of herself moist as a human and going eww! at some of the ideas that came to mind. Mostly, though, my mind was shutting down in quiet squirming waves of pleasure.

It had never occurred to me that, if the Bot was a good fighter, well, fighting was never her primary purpose.

She really was very very good. And did not need to come up for air any time soon.

At this point, we were still both fully dressed, but I was no longer entirely aware of that.

'Your cheekbones are just as good as Spike's', she said conversationally, in between licking the flesh behind the corners of my jaw. ' And the flesh that covers them is softer and less tense without being even a bit flabby. You are sarcastic and kind and quite recently gay.'

I was losing the battle.

'We can't,' I said.

The Bot smiled a triumphant little smile.

'Physiological signs indicate that you are approximately thirty-two seconds from orgasm.' she said and did something ingenious and feathery with her left hand finger and thumb to the fleshy part of my ear.

How nice to know, a part of me went on thinking, that even Warren's gadgets can't always time things absolutely to the second.

But that part of my brain was just a spectator by this point.


Somehow, I managed to get all of my clothes back on and to remember to pay for all of her new outfits with the Magic Shop credit card Wesley had lent me in spite of Anya's moaning.

I didn't encourage her to change back into the clothes she was wearing when we arrived.

Some looks are too good to spoil and she was sort of shiny afterwards. Small sheen of sweat, indeed.

I really did not want to know where the moisture came from.

' Did you know they have cameras in that changing room?' she said.

Omigod, I thought.

'Warren programmed me to be able to short out other people's spy cameras.' she said.

I was too relieved to pay that remark quite the attention it deserved.


And after that, we had the summer, and I was happy.

I'm not sure that robots can be happy, but she bubbled around and killed things and came home and pounced on me for weeks and weeks and weeks. She looked happy.

Everyone paid lip service to treating her like an equal and I don't think she noticed that mostly that's all it was.

She was programmed to be Buffy, after all. Not to have insight.

Dawn knew, because sometimes when I looked in on the Bot, because I liked to look at her, Dawn'd be there nestled into her sleeping arms while the Bot recharged. And sometimes Dawn would look up with that knowing smile she has before I closed the door gently.

Sometimes, when the Bot was with me, I'd half hear the door to my room go.

And it wasn't Willow or Tara, who, bless them, were too far off in their We-Invented-Lesbianism fantasyland.

Then they killed her. They tore her in pieces.

We killed every one of them and in the middle of that we got Buffy back.

Oh good, I thought, we've got Buffy back.

And I was glad.

And went back to my room and cried for a hot little robot that not even Dawn would remember to mourn.



Willow's been irritating since the first day of kindergarten, so I could think of lots of reasons why someone might want to break up with her.

It never occurred to me that magical meddling with memory would be the issue, though, with so many other faults to choose from. I mean, just start with the sweaters for one thing, primary colours and cute animals. And the hats - who needs hats anyway ? But especially not those hats.

So, OK, in that area Tara was no prize either, but surely she must have noticed the self-righteous little digs or the smug little grins when she thinks no-one is looking or the I am so cute and sweet and you boys love me all the more now that I'm gay and you don't ever have to do anything about it except adore me thing or the whole I'm Buffy's very bestest bestest friend, and you're just other ranks thing.

Put up with all of those and the memory thing seems trivial.

I mean, let's face it, most of us lie to our lovers about something or other sooner or later, and magic is just another way of lying, really. Willow's always had a way of fixing the truth so she comes out perfect, and it didn't surprise me at all to find her editing people's life experience a bit.

But, hey, we're none of us perfect when it comes to mind control. Everyone else might have forgotten Tara's whole hide demons from our perception thing that so nearly got us all throttled by creatures with carbuncles and gray faces that, apart from the dying bit, one would have been quite glad not to have seen, but I surely hadn't.

Give me half Willow's power and there are many bad hair days that would be stricken from the public record for good. And can I say, dating Devon? That would so never have happened.

Still, Tara did warn her, and she didn't listen, and then there was the whole everyone stuck in the Magic Shop with amnesia business.

One of those occasions when you get your memory back just in time to want to forget everything.

It could have been worse, of course. Things can always be worse, because we have limited imaginations.

Worse than the person now known again as Anya doing her 'you two are the most attractive people here so I must be dating one or other of you or possibly both' and making me and Wesley reprise the kiss catastrophe, which for a blessed few hours I got to forget about, only with her in the middle. Which also turned out to mean Wesley's well-manicured hand on my left boob. Can I say, scrub out my brain at the idea?

And then she says 'oh, perhaps I don't do girls, though you're very pretty for a lesbian.' She actually likes having Wes drool on her, obviously. Because, dammit, I am a good kisser, with moist lips and nonsmearing glosser, and if she wasn't into girls before, she should have been after that.

It's not, of course, that I actually want to have come back to myself making out with Anya, because, hello!, I may be obnoxious, but at least I'm not oblivious. Imagine going to bed with yourself, only worse.

I just hate anyone preferring Wesley to me, because even if he weren't a boy, he just isn't as pretty. Though he does dress well.

After that, Tara moved out of Ravello, which meant no-one to share getting Dawn to eat a proper breakfast, and a lot of Willow's tissues in the trash, and, for a few days, Amy nibbling every cracker and cookie in the place. Buffy was no help either, for reasons we know about now, but didn't then.

I thought it was just burger-flipping getting to her.

If I'd been the sort of person who gets guilty, I'd have got guilty over the fact that there was nothing new horrible about my life. Joyce was still dead and I still mourned her; the bot was still in bits and I kind of missed it.

Everyone else was brooding about their own stuff and none of them wanted to talk to me about it. Buffy was going off for moonlit trysts; Willow was trying to contact her higher power or her inner child; and Dawn was being a whiny brat, the way teenagers with dead moms and irritating resurrected sisters and arms broken by magic car crashes so often are.

Not that I'm the greatest listener.

Tara and I had never talked much before, because she was Willow's new One True Love and I was Evil Cordelia. And I thought of her as Willow Mark Two, because she dressed like her and made superior little jokes about magic like her.

She'd been sweet when Joyce died, though, mostly to Buffy and Dawn, but she remembered to be sorry for my loss too, which was more than occured to Willow to be.

And every so often, when she was making chaotic pancakes and wasn't aware anyone was watching her, she would have that smile with the turned out lower lip and the look of utter bliss in her wide eyes and I could almost envy Willow for getting to see it every morning the first thing she saw.

Also, if she ever wore jeans, there was something mathematically perfect about the curve of her butt that was all the more best of all possible because mostly it got hidden behind ill-judged velveteen dirndls.

She'd come round for her visitation rights with Dawn. so they could go and drink milk-shakes together, and quite often that meant that we would end up chatting because Dawn would come in and get straight on the phone and squee to all her little friends about Justin and Christina and all those things that I discover myself suddenly too old to appreciate. Or perhaps too in possession of taste.

I couldn't let Tara leave the house without a cup of herb tea - apart from anything else, the herbal tea bags were one of the things Willow bought specially so I wasn't paying for them, anyway. Tara was one of those women who clearly drank them because she liked the taste, which I don't even begin to understand, but at least it wasn't any sort of image statement.

'How's Willow?' , she'd say.

And I'd say, 'Still clean as far as I know.'

It wasn't as if Willow was going to have girly chats with me about whether she had fallen off the magic wagon or not; amazingly, we managed to live in the same house and hardly ever even ask each other to pass the sweetener at breakfast.

She'd say, 'Has Amy been around?'

I'd say, 'Not that I've seen. But maybe she's in the crawl space. Old habits die hard.'

Tara would look up with her eyes dancing and then look down again, ashamed that I had seen her laughing at another's misfortune. On her, I realized, being a goody-goody was really kind of cute.

'Dawn says Buffy seems depressed, and goes out even more than she used to.'

And I'd say, ' I really don't know what's up with that girl. I keep finding her conditioners that would take the smells out of her hair and she never even tries them.'

I really wasn't hinting that Tara should try a spell, because I knew she had principles about these things, principles that were easier if you didn't have to live with GreaseBuffy and the smell of fries over your morning coffee.

And then I'd wonder if Tara thought I was criticizing the way she wore her hair and somehow it worried me that she might think I was being a shallow bitch to her, and I would say something in character but complimentary.

'Poor lamb, since she was dead, her hair just lacks bounce and body. It just isn't shiny like yours, and mine.'

The third evening I said something like this, Tara giggled and said, ' I g-guess Osiris just doesn't care about bad hair years.'

Which was sort of funny even for a magic geek joke.

And then she looked even guiltier, because I laughed, and then she laughed too.

The next week, Dawn had sleepovers and birthday trips to the Bronze and was just blowing Tara off totally, so I just arranged to meet Tara after I finished work and she finished her seminar so we could have coffee and catch up.

It was just fun being with her and I didn't even think of it as a date. We just hung out for hours and said funny stuff and most of it wasn't even about anyone. She was very good for my character.

And a couple of times when I said something funny and not too malicious I got to see that smile over the top of a skinny latte decaff.

Then Dawn insisted on going to see 'Crossroads' and I said I'd go with her because I just didn't feel the Britneylove and felt I needed to make a cultural effort.

On the way to the cinema, Dawn said 'Tara's coming, too'

I said, 'Cool. I didn't know Tara was into Britney.'

Dawn said, ' I so don't think she is' and giggled.

I don't always follow the point of things Dawn says.

'Crossroads' is not the worst film I ever saw.

Afterwards, I said. 'Britney should be prevented by law from putting her whiny little voice all over Joan Jett songs.'

Dawn went, 'Cordy!!!'

Tara said,' No, Cordy, you're wrong, because that would mean that she only ever sang Britney songs, which we don't want any more of either.'

''You've got a point,' I said, ' it's a tough call.'

And then I said ' And such a gay film.'

Dawn said, ' Everyone tells me off if I use gay to mean bad.'

'So they should, Dawn,' I said, in my sort of being a parent voice. ' I meant, such a gay film in that those other two girls are obviously a couple by the end. And then there's Britney's boyfriend.'

Tara nodded a lot and Dawn looked baffled.

'What kind of guy,' I said, 'comes out of prison with a Harley-Davidson logo on his shoulderblade?'

Dawn went on looking baffled - I thought it really sad that she could know all about life and death and the end of the world and still be clueless about sexstuff I'd known when I was twelve.

'Duh. Means he's a good ride,' I said.

'Oh,' Dawn said and then ' sometimes I think you think everyone is gay.'

'Most people we know are,' I said. 'Or at least bi.'

'Oh,' Dawn said, 'that isn't even true.'

'Try me,' I said.

'Giles,' she said.

'Sweetie,' I said, ' we both know he slept with your mother. So what? He obviously did Ethan.'

I turned to Tara. 'Ethan is this big old queen sorcerer who knew Giles back in the day and used to show in Sunnydale until Buffy gave his ass to the US army.'


'Angel,' I said. 'Betcha he slept with Angel.'

'My sister,' Dawn said.

'Good point,' Tara said.

'Fair enough,' I said, 'but the Faith thing was real intense.'

'Really?' Tara said. 'So the bodyswap thing...'

'Was Faith finally getting into Buffy's pants.' I said.

Dawn choked on her green milkshake.

'You know it's true, sweetie.' I said. 'She was in the bathroom for just hours that morning.'

Tara patted her back and gave me a you've said quite enoough look.

And I gave her a what if I have look straight back in the eyes and she giggled. She was so sweet when she giggled - it was like the smile only in stereo.

And I caught Dawn watching us look at each other and was aware that perhaps someone was being smart and managing in this situation that wasn't me and wasn't Tara. I thought, that child is trying to match-make me and Tara into seeing each other, and then I thought, there are worse ideas in the world.

I so wasn't going to be the person to say anything though. Because I am Evil Cordy and nice girls like Tara don't go out with terrible bitches like me.

Then Tara said, 'We should do this again next week.'

I said, 'What's on?'

Dawn said, with a huge smirk, 'Kissing Jessica Stein - I'll pass, but you two big dykes should go.'

So next week Tara and I got to go to the movies together and that was definitely a date. Not in a necking way, or even a holding hands way, but in a general atmosphere of something about to happen way, and her looking up at me with half-closed eyes and a little smirk that was always on the brink of being a smile. And me thinking I could so be interested in this woman and how could I have been so clueless as not to notice her properly before.

But the movie, though cute and funny, was telling both of us something we kind of needed to hear that evening. It was saying that relationships die, and the ones that die are doomed even before they start, and you have to weigh the heartbreak against the good times.

And for both of us, it was kind of too soon for anything as good as we might have been. Neither of us said this - we made conversation about New York and how it thinks it is the centre of the universe. And Tara told me that before she came to college, her cousins told her that Jews have horns. The mere fact that neither of us said anything about the way we were looking at each other meant that we were both being sensible and avoiding the issue.

Or so I thought, until Tara put her hand very firmly on top of mine and said, 'So, you're coming b-back to my room?'

Luckily I had finished repairing my lip line post latte, because I was left open mouthed which is quite unbecoming enough without clownmouth disasters.

When I had thought about this, and I had - I'm human - I had assumed it would be me that pounced.

She went on, 'I appreciate we can't go back to yours because it would be too awkward and it might upset Dawn. And Buffy has a whole lot of issues of her own right now.'

'Well, duh,' I said. 'And your magic addict ex-girlfriend sleeps in the next room and we really really mustn't hurt her feelings, because that would be the end of the world.'

Tara said, 'You don't care about hurting Willow's feelings, Cordy. Not a bit.'

And I sat perfectly still for a moment and then said, 'It's not that. I guess it's like this. I've been totally horrible to Willow, who has often deserved it, for all of our lives, and it was about her being irritating and smug and wearing pinafore dresses and me being a snarky bitch with too much money and bad friends. It wasn't about her having something I want, or me having something she wants. Except when it was Xander, and for a bit there, we were almost friends, and she betrayed me, and I almost died. I just can't go through that again - the resentment and the sharing and the crying in the bathroom and the tearing up the person we both love. Because you still love her, Tara, and that's all right. And you and I, that's a possibility, but not just yet, or right now.'

Tara bit her bottom lip and shrugged and looked sad and hurt and resigned.

'You know how hard it was for me to ask you?'

'I'm proud of you,' I said. 'Because you're braver than I am.'

'Shit,' she said, which was the first time I ever heard her swear except when she hit a demon with a big axe. 'You're right. And I so want to feel my hands on you and get to look at your smile really close up. And have your skin slide against me.'

'You're the girl with the smile,' I said.

'You're kidding, aren't you?' she said, and blushed and did the smile again. My resolve weakened, but not enough. I held her hand even tighter.

I said, 'I'm not saying no. I'm saying wait. I don't think you and Willow are necessarily done, and I couldn't bear to lose to her again. It's an ego thing - I'm flawed that way.'

And suddenly we laughed and it was all OK.

So this is the story of how I was never Tara's lover, though I was her girlfriend for a while, and that's a word with two meanings and I was sort of both of them. We went to the cinema and we had coffee and that's how it started and how it went on and anything else was just a momentary possibility. What Willow would call a fluke.

She backed Willow up the night we were trapped in the house and Anya wanted Willow to do magic and I should have backed Willow up and didn't because I was scared. I hate being helpless. I guess that all the times I told her how hard Willow was trying and how well she was doing stuck.

Tara was always so brave. She even coped with Buffy when Buffy went nuts and tried to kill us all.

She was also good at keeping secrets, because I realized, once I knew about Buffy and Spike, that Tara had known for ages, and just never told anyone.

The night after we all found out about that, I was at the Bronze. I was just hanging, the way I sometimes did, even without my friends there, because the Bronze was the place of my glory days and I could still hang there, being wistful and looking worldweary.

Finding out you know nothing at all about people you think you know will do that to you, plus I had heard Tara turn up the night before and knew that she and Willow were back together and this was a good thing and I had done the right thing, and why was I feeling sad? And vaguely guilty?

I felt a hand grab me and the fingers were strong, demon strong or vampire strong, and I threw my drink over my shoulder into his face, because that often works and I have had lots of practice.

It's one of the stupidest things about them all - they know, mostly, that you probably aren't drinking holy water from a glass with a cherry and a little umbrella. But they flinch anyway, just to be safe.

He let go of me and I jumped away and banged my hip real hard into the pool table. Or maybe he threw me a bit - I wasn't too sure about that.

It was Warren, and somehow he was demon strong and just as creepy as always.

He had his two little friends with him - I looked appealingly at Jonathan and he shrugged and looked vaguely embarrassed. I should probably have paid him for all those frappacinos he bought me at High School.

'I'm going to enjoy this,' Warren said. 'Show the Slayer what's coming to her. Smash up one of her dyke friends. Just to show I can.'

He did that laugh they always do.

'So,' I said. 'You're a supervillain now. Just like you always wanted. With supervillain bad dress sense, and two tiny Boy Wonders.'

He was always going to gloat, but ideally I wanted to get the intel before he hurt me. I always prefer that order, personally.

'Super strong,' he said,' and invulnerable. You are going to hurt so much.'

'Uh-huh,' I said, and swung at his head with a pool cue.

Warren flinched.

'Listen to me, bitch,' he said. 'I just told you. I'm invulnerable.' and tried to grab me again.

'I know,' I said, and danced away from him, swinging the cue at a point precisely two inches in front of his balls. He flinched again. 'The question is, Warren dear, do you know it? Really know it? In your cowardly heart, where you live.'

The thing was, to keep moving and never let him get a grip on me or the cue, because then he was going to kill me. I really wished right about then that I had done some martial arts, but cheerleading taught me swinging sticks with precision and moving really quickly, so not so bad as all that.

I was swinging the cue as much to keep people out of my way, and out of his way, as for protection. If someone knocked into me, and made me lose my rhythm, I was so dead.

He got winded even sooner than I expected.

'Too many pizzas, Warren?' I said. 'Betcha Lex Luthor doesn't eat too many pizzas.'

Jonathan tugged at his sleeve and Warren nearly hit him.

'Leave her alone,' Jonathan said. 'You've embarrassing yourself. Besides, I don't want you to hurt Cordy. I only got two dates in High School and she was one of them.'

Warren laughed out loud.

'Queen Bitch dated Short Round? Now that's just wrong.'

He was an evil-minded malicious son of a bitch, but for a second there, I got why Jonathan and that other kid hung with him. There was a sheer joy in his malice just there, that I know only too well. I guess there is a supervillain in all of us, just waiting the right bad day.

He walked out then and there, and that was good, because I don't honestly think otherwise I would have gotten out in one piece.

By the time I got out, Buffy had gone out on patrol, so I didn't get to share the major insights into Warren's vulnerability that I hoped - but she has the sense she was born with and Jonathan helped out and it all worked out OK.

Also OK were the noises coming from Willow's room - it was, after all, what everyone wanted. I'd shown everyone that I was ethics girl, and their noisy happiness was my bittersweet reward.

I lay in bed, trying not to hear and feeling noble.

Next morning, I took coffee out in the garden and tried to bond with Buffy. I didn't quite understand why she had this thing for dead people, but I'd shagged a robot for months, so was in no position to talk.

Warren turned up, in a rage, with a gun, and suddenly Buffy was on the floor bleeding and windows were breaking and I was ringing for an ambulance and Buffy was dying again and I was trying to stop the blood and keep her breathing.

It wasn't until Willow turned up at the hospital with her eyes all black that I even knew Tara was dead

You think you did the right thing, and that you are in control, and actually you knew nothing about any of what was important. You live your life a day at a time, and the days that matter go past and you are left with - not nothing, but nothing very much.

By now, I know all about grief.



It was way past the sympathetic chat stage.

I'm famous for not being Miss Sensitivity, but even I sometimes get a clue.

Having your suddenly and unattractively black-eyed and black-haired housemate chasing you on the roof of a Monster Truck and trying to obliterate you off the road is kind of an obvious cue. Friendship such as it was is dead, and mayhem moved right into the empty room.

Me, I'd have tossed her Tucker's campy little brother in a heartbeat, just like I felt like applauding when she tore up the obnoxious Warren. I guess I'd even have thrown her Jonathan, though I'd have felt bad about it, because, hey!, he saved my neck, sort of. But Buffy has the Mission, and helps the totally hopeless because it's part of the superheroine job description, and I respect that, really I do.

Even when it was going to get me killed.

Because now Willow had moved past Guy Who Killed Her Girlfriend, on to Guys who Used To Hang With Guy, it would be time for Girl Who Used to Make Her Life a Living Hell and Oh Yes! Seriously Thought About Bonking Girlfriend. Once you've flayed someone alive with maximum mojo, sense of proportion doesn't really enter into it.

Buffy she'd kill because she was in the way; me she'd kill for reasons. And reasons I guess I respected.

In a walking a painful mile in her hideous Birkenstocks sort of way.

I so envy Buffy round about now, because hello! quick death kind of a plus point here.

I hate the sense of helpless. And I'm not going to put up with it. Once I figure a way to get ten more miles an hour out of the police car we'd stolen, or a cunning plan to make Willow steer her truck into a ravine, or the man from the Acme company turned up with the giant witch-stopping rubber hammer.

Getting away because Willow simply ran out of juice really doesn't reassure me.

Because Big Bads always refuel and come back for a second pass, even when you've known them since they were five.


Ten minutes of hanging out in the magic shop with Jonathan and Andrew and Anya waiting for the next bit of bad news, and I'm ready to do some skinning myself. Starting with Vengeance Girl, who was always annoying and was now annoying with super powers, always a bad combination.

She had this thing like being capable of going veiny, changing history and setting fire to people was this exclusive club she'd got into and we hadn't, so nyah to us. I mean, outside of daydreams I just don't talk about, as if!

And the name-dropping. Genghis this and Vlad that and a million demons I am so glad not to have encountered.

What kind of name is D'Hoffryn anyway? He has blue skin and horns and somehow thinks he's French too? Doesn't surprise me at all, now I think of it, because somehow being a soulless demon does not render you immune to self-deception.

Oh, and it had to be Anyanka now. Because that's her special demon name. Oh sure, right on, whatever.

I never got her and Wesley, especially when Wesley had the option of cute soldier boys. Even his vampire, though annoying, was not as annoying as her. Her vampire too, I guess, and Buffy's. What is it about Spike? He's, I mean, OK, everyone's vampire who is not actually a dyke, except for Dawn, maybe. Because that would actually be wrong.

One thing about the video feed was, we finally got to know that yes! Anya was just as annoying when making little squeaky orgasm noises. Which is half too much information and half ha! I knew it!

Then Willow and Buffy and Dawn arrive, not through the door. Which looks pretty bad for our favourite jail-break boys, except somehow they are holding her off for a few moments and I do a whole 'let's run for it, Dawn' thing and of course they tag along and somehow Willow isn't coming after.

And then the boys think I'm in charge of their escape which is so far from being the case.

'No,' I say. 'You do a famous supervillain escape master plan and do it somewhere else. This one here is the girls only mistressplan which consists of running in the opposite direction from whichever one you choose. Because Willow can do many things, but as far as I know, she can't kill people in two places at once yet.'

Tucker's brother starts waggling a sword menacingly at me, so scary! so macho! so persuasive!, and Jonathan who clearly sees himself as Errol Flynn's shorter brother knocks it out of his hand and bows and says 'as you will, milady.'

Which is so sweet and cute that I say 'honestly, you can run in the same direction as us, if you really want to, but it is not going to do you very much good.'

And we all start jogging again, which at least means I might die a few ounces thinner, and after a bit we run out of town to be running through and end up in a graveyard. Which, of course, you are always prone to do when leaving Sunnydale by anything other than sea or main roads.

And also means straightforward running gets replaced by jogging in zig-zag lines to avoid tripping over gravestones, flower-pots, used stakes and so on. The further reaches of cemeteries are always, I find, full of Buffy's old junk - she works so hard, poor dear, so hard she is too tired to clear up after herself.

So we keep going and on into open country and then Buffy turns up and throws Dawn to the ground and I flatten because that always seems like a good idea and a big fire-ball goes whoosh! and creates a crater into which the Summers family falls. Around this time, the boys take a hint and skedaddle, which is such a relief not to have to be nice or try and save them any more.

I shout into the crater and Buffy shouts back - and the boys have left their swords and so I drop them down, handle first, because Buffy might need them and I surely do not.


Then Anya shows, looking anguished.

' Willow's going to destroy the world,' she shouts down into the hole.

Noises of swordplay are coming up from under the ground, so I guessed that meant Buffy had problems of her own.

'Tell me about it,' I say to Anya.

'She's uncovered the big Satanic temple on the bluff and using the demon goddess as a receptacle for dark energy.'

I do so despise magic technobabble, but I got the idea.

'Well,' I say, 'someone is going to have to stop her.'

'Don't look at me,' Anya says. 'Willow really doesn't like me, and she just left Wesley more or less for dead - he tried to be gallant, poor silly boy. Whom I hate, of course, for sleeping with Spike and jilting me.'

' The world ending - doesn't that sort of get in the way of the vengeance business?'

'We will regroup in the demon dimension of Aroshm'ha,' she said. 'There are worlds in need of our services elsewhere.'

She says this in the bored rote tone of someone who has just got an edict from senior management in some very large company.

'Whatever,' I say, with an awful sense that I am about to do something incredibly stupid.

' So,' I say, ' I suppose that means it's up to me. Anya, will you teleport me up to the temple?'

I have no idea what I am going to do once I get there, except die horribly, but obviously years of hanging around with Buffy have entirely corroded my good sense.

'I can't take you there,' says Anya. 'Being a vengeance demon has all sorts of rules, and one of them is against being a supernatural taxi service.'

'Hmm,' I say. 'OK. Here's the deal. As a scorned woman, I wish that you teleport me up to the temple.'

'When, precisely,' Anya says, 'did you get to be a scorned woman? I mean, this time. We dealt with the whole Xander issue, and that worked out badly. You don't get a second go on that one.'

I have no memory of this, but it seems logical, so I take her word for it. After the monks, and Willow, and getting hit on the head a few times, I know that memory is kind of provisional.

'Ah,' I say, ' I am a scorned woman because I have spent the last fifteen years trying to get Willow to notice my undying and deep love for her.'

'You've always been utterly horrid to her,' Anya says. 'Everyone knows that.'

I cross my fingers behind my back.

'It was all the sort of meanness I go in for when I cannot get what I want. You saw how I treated Xander after we broke up.'

'Well, yes,' Anya says.

'It's the same deal. I am horribly mean to people I think are rejecting me so that they will at least notice I care.'

'I have to warn you,' Anya says,' that no-one lies to vengeance demons.'

Yadda-yadda, I think to myself, what are they going to do to me for breaking that rule? Destroy the world and cause me to die in horrible pain.

' I wish that you teleport me to the side of Willow Rosenberg', I say.

And Anya says 'Done'.

Willow is standing casting bolts of energy at a particularly unappealing idol on top of a piece of bad art deco architecture - why do the forces of evil have such terrible taste, I find myself asking? I had thought that Glory's collection of de Lempicka knockoffs was about as bad as this could get, but here's a new low. In beige sandstone.

'Hi Willow,' I say. Which is kind of feeble, but is just to get her attention. We can't say brilliant cutting things absolutely every moment.

With luck she will take several minutes to eviscerate me, which might buy someone some time to come up with a plan.

'Cordelia' she says in a Menace 1.01 voice. And throws a bolt which is clearly intended to miss me by at least six inches.

'Oh, please', I say. 'I'm supposed to be scared by that.'

'You should be', she says.

'Willow,' I say,' I've known you since the first day of kindergarten. When you were the girl who ate the yellow crayon. And, I have to say this, you looked very silly standing there crying boo- hoo! with yellow smeared all the way round your droopy mouth. But you look even sillier now, with veins all over your face. You've always been one of the no-moisturiser crowd, and see where it's got you.'

That one was closer. I think I got her attention.

'Goth was so last year sweetie, and it never even suited your evil vampire version, who at least had sex appeal. World-destroying evil witchypoo - not your best look ever. I give you fashion advice, out of the goodness of my heart, and it never seems to penetrate at all.'

This time I had to duck.

'Black eyes,' I go on. 'The hair sort of works, but the eyes are a big mistake. I've always thought your eyes were the best feature.'

'You're trying to distract me.' Willow says. 'I'm trying to destroy the world and you stand there yammering about clothes and hair to try and distract me.'

'Well, duh,' I say.

'All my life' she says, ' all my life you've made my life a misery. Bitching and bullying and sleeping with my boyfriend and trying to sleep with my girlfriend. And don't deny that, I saw how you looked at Tara sometimes.'

'Ah,' I said, because sometimes low blows are the good ones. 'But did you see how Tara sometimes looked at me?'

'I hate you, Cordelia Chase' Willow says, and she really isn't throwing bolts at the temple any more, which means I have her full attention, which is scary and what I planned and not less scary for that. I am really not as brave as Buffy.

'I think,' she says, ' that, since we have a few minutes,before I have to get on with destroying the world, and ending its pain, I will show you exactly what you have done to my life. And teach you what you taught me about pain.'

She starts making mystic passes, which always look silly, even when they aren't.

'Fair enough, ' I say. 'Hit me with it. I want to feel your pain. And why not look at mine?'

'Pain?' she almost shouts. 'You don't know about pain. Don't you understand? I lost Tara.'

'And I lost Joyce,' I say. ' And so did you and so did Buffy and so did Dawn. You aren't the only one who lost Tara - we all did. And yes, I was a little in love with her, but not in a way that meant I stood a chance.'

She looks at me with what would have been obviously even greater anger, except that little hints of green and hazel keep glimmering through the blackness of her eyes.

And suddenly I am glad I once dated Xander, because I can say 'Oh Vulcan Mind Meld' and understand what is happening to me. Well, actually to us, because Willow and I are totally inside each other's heads.

It is all so embarrassing watching myself be really mean at Harmony's seventh birthday party - ice cream cone in Willow's face - and Larry's barbecue party - special sauce smeared down the back of Willow's dungarees - and oh god! the first day of Buffy in Sunnydale - me mocking her for that pinafore and what did I think I was wearing at the time?

I would like to say that I learn a valuable lesson from Willow's pain, because actually much of what gets concentrated into the long long minute we are in each other's heads is stickiness down the neck and acute social snubbing and kicked shins. But mostly, it is embarrassing, because could I have been more obvious? Attention-seeking much.

I realize how cheesy I have been most of my life.

And how Willow never ever really hated me. Because she is trying to get my attention all her life. What did I think the We Hate Cordelia society was all about?

And I see her watching my boobs grow and my legs get long and my hair get thick and my lips moist and me slut around town and swan around with the sheep and then be with Joyce and get all sophisticated and maturely snarky instead of just cheaply bitchy. And I see her see me watch her get cuter and cuter with that droopy mouth that so needs kissing and those small perfect breasts that you want to take home and look after because they're so little and that red hair and those wonderful terrible clothes and the sometimes scary magic and the bravery and the love for Tara and Oz and never for me, because I don't deserve it.

And none of what is in my head is quite how I remember ever remembering it before, but it's not like I ever sat down and thought about it. Willow and I hate each other, everyone knows that.

Except apparently us.

And suddenly we're out of each other's heads and shaking our heads like dogs out of a pond and dreamers suddenly awake. And I ignore the veins and the scary eyes and the lightning in the sky. and I pull her over to me and I kiss her, very hard, on that droopy mouth.

And the black eyes and the veins and the hair go away. And it's ordinary Willow looking up at me.

'Cordy', she says. And it's all breathy.

'Willow,' I say. And it is embarrassingly sentimental.

And in another part of my mind, because there is a bit of me that always watches what is going on even in the true moments of my life, I hear Anya say ' No-one lies to vengeance demons' and remember that magic is tricks.

I totally love Willow, and I always have, and it is exactly how it was with Joyce. Some monk probably made it up two years ago, and that doesn't matter one little bit. Because my love for Willow is real and true and eternal and saved the world, even if it didn't exist until five minutes ago. And how complexly embarrasing is that?

Electricity or magic or lust is crawling all over my skin and it feels like I am floating and quite possibly I am because I saw Willow do that with Tara. The temple is sinking into the ground like a crude metaphor and the demon goddess is looking so disappointed with petulant lines round her beak mouth and sharp teeth - well screw her, because I've got Willow, and right now I am kissing her, and sometime soon I will be taking her into my bed and running hands all over her, only carefully because she might break. And I will have that sweet mouth pecking at me like humming-birds and looking into eyes that show no pain or hatred any more.

And what our friends are going to say about this, when everyone knows how we feel about each other? And how will we deal with dead Warren and quite unwell Wesley?

The bit of me that asks inconvenient questions really needs to shut up round about now. Because this is what they call a moment of truth.

Even if it's not. True, that is.

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