I wanted to kill Faith.
I wanted to grab her by that sweet lying throat and pin her to a wall and slap her leaving marks red hard across the face and tear her clothes off her back, no really tear, actual destruction of cheap Wal-Mart fabric, or even that one good silk blouse she has, and breaking my nails on the leather, and fuck the Xander out of her with more fingers than I have on a hand.
I wanted to sit on the rickety bed in her motel room and cry and cry.
Last night clearly hadn't been the end of the world, but I could almost wish it had been, because being tortured by yellow-eyed monstrous fiends in some bottom-most pit of Hades might not have hurt me as much.
As to think of her, with him. To think of her with anyone, but with him. And, something I didn't want to think about inside my head whispered, to think of him, with her.
Don't go there, I thought, this isn't about disgusting smug leering Xander with his tacky old car and his sexual confusion. I am so over him, more or less. I need to focus.
And think about what I am going to do to her.
And since she wasn't there to be killed, or slapped, or stripped, or fucked, all I could do was sit there on the bed and cry and try and convince myself that I was wrong. Maybe she'd just bought some of the same deodorant, or borrowed his after sweaty slayage, and I wasn't going to look any closer at the rumpled bedding. Just smell her sweat and sweetness on the towel and think about the good bits and wait for her to come back, and be sure that she was alive.
Before I killed her.
How does an ordinary person hurt a Slayer anyway? Even the least bit I didn't think biting remarks about her dress sense, or her taste in lovers, was going to work all that well.. On the one she clearly had no shame at all, and on the other, well, her taste had been good enough to include me, just trashy enough to include him as well.
And I had to make her pay - pride demanded it.
I guessed I could creep up on her on quiet feet, pounce and make love to her to tire her out and then hit her with a lamp; maybe I couldn't tire her out, though. Slayer stamina, particularly if she had been out slaying and had all that burn on. Fun trying - bad Cordelia, need to focus on anger.
So I lay on that bed I didn't want to think about the smell of, and smelled her towel some more, and shut my eyes and imagined it was her hand on my breast and it was her fingers rucking up my skirt and in me and on me and stroking me and fucking me, hard like bruising, and it was her teeth biting sharp into the fleshy part of my arm. Until there were small perfect crescents of pain and bleeding release. I had to make it hurt to make it real, to make it her.
And then there was a warm body leaning over me, and small callused fingers stroking parts of me that I couldn't reach, and painted lips teasing the wet skin of my cheek, and her hair smelling of smoke and rain drifting across my face and an ironic voice that said, 'Jeez, C, if I'd known you were this much of a slut, I'd have made you wait for me more often. Sloppy seconds is hot when it's just your girl warming herself up for you.'
The relief of knowing for sure that she was alive and that she still wanted me was enough to make me arch into her embrace and look up at her with eyes full of sweet and sour happiness and kiss those lips as hard as pressing grapes till the skin comes off. Whatever pride and anger said, what ever jealousy said. It was one of the moments that I loved her most, of all the moments we had together.
When I think about us, when we were good together, I don't feel so bad about who I am, what I've done. I must not be a wholly dreadful person; I don't deserve everything that happens to me.
Faith tugged my hand up to her mouth, and slurped me off my fingers.
'Don't need to do that for yourself, C,' she said. 'I'm here now, I'll always be here for you.'
She looked down at me with dark lying eyes, that were maybe telling what she thought was truth and I was weak; I said nothing; I let her strip me of my clothes and be in control and ride me to where I needed to go right then, into exhaustion and near oblivion. I really did not need to be thinking about us, just take what we were doing that moment as standing for the whole of it.
She was as hard with me as I had ever been with her, setting a rhythm to her fucking that I was hard-pressed to keep up with and respond to at the same racehorse pace.
'Shush,' she said. ' Don't even try. This is about you, not about me.'
But I reached up and pulled her hair away from her face so I could look at her, and then bit down on her free wrist, wanting to share with her the sharp release my teeth had brought me. Then, as she went on fucking me without more than a moment's break, I reached into the soft crease under her left breast and tickled her gently.
She giggled and moaned.
'OK,' she said. 'I'm not made of stone; just keep up, kid. This is going to be quite a ride.'
Sometimes, when love is good, you lose track of the details. There is not my hand, or her hand, or my breast, or her breast; there is Hand, and Breast and Lips and you and she somehow aren't there any more. It's not being lost in the moment; it is being so perfectly there. We were golden, for a moment then - bitch queen of Sunnydale and psycho betrayer - we were better than we were.
Afterwards, as we lay in each other's arms, Faith put her finger on my lips and said, ' We need to talk.'
That is always such a bad sign, when people say that, and the finger on the lips is never a good thing either. Even when it tastes sweet.
'I think we should be seeing other people, ' she said.
Replies ran like lemmings through my head. Things I was so not going to say like 'oh, but you're the best' or 'I never look at anyone else'; silly sentimental shit that may have been how I felt, but was just not going to wash with her.
'I suppose,' I said, ' that this is about Xander.'
'What's Xander got to do with it?'
'Oh,' I said, 'I thought you slept with him last night. And that's why your room smells of him.'
'No I did not sleep with him,' she said.' Does it?'
I do wish my face could not give me away, because, for a moment, I showed relief.
' Did screw him, though.' she went on. ' I thought you were the one who said what you thought - no coy shit, OK? I could probably have handled the blue bitch, but he drove up at just the right moment, and offered me a ride out of there. And I needed someone to hold me tight while I put my shoulder back, and hey! it's only polite when someone saves your life.'
I suppose I just had to adjust to the idea of Faith having manners about anything - but it had a certain logic to it.
'But hell no!' she went on,'I'm not talking about him. Though he is pretty good, and you really ought to give him a try some time. No, seriously, you should, next time you feel like taking on a boy for a night. Cause I don't know whether Larry has his number right, but he really isn't at all bad for someone who said he never did it before.'
I reflected, with a certain amount of bitterness, on the irony that people always called me insensitive round here.
' Oh C,' she sighed. 'What we have is kind of special, I know that. So don't pout at me. It's been more than I ever expected - I never thought you'd be so into it. '
'Well, pardon me.'
'No, really,' she said. ' I thought, I bet that Cordelia could be had, and I thought of you as this mean bitch that said cutting things about me to her friends, and it would just serve her right if I pulled her across the street one night, and showed her how the other half life. First time we met, you made that remark about me expecting you to believe this was my natural hair colour - and I thought, I could dig helping her find out. And when I got you, you were this brave strong tender chick, and not the mean bitch at all.'
'Don't count on that, missy,' I said. 'I'm like Angel. I could turn evil again in a heartbeat. He goes grrr; I go bitch - just don't push your luck.'
She looked at me with calculating cute sentimental eyes - I wanted to make more love to her and I wanted to throw up.
'C, you're my wonderful Sunnydale bonus, right,' she said. 'But you must know that you're not what I want forever.'
Sometimes you know the future even without headaches. I suddenly knew what was going to come next.
' It's been sooo good with you,' Faith said - and the pain of it was that she clearly meant it -' and that just makes me know how great it would be with her. She knows what it's like being the Slayer; we're the Chosen Two and it will just be so wicked neat when she sees that she needs me to complete her.'
'But Buffy doesn't love you,' I said.
'She will,' Faith said. 'Get her out on a slayfest, kill us a few vamps, get her engine boiling. I just know we'll do it one night. You know how hot slaying gets you, and you're just a regular girl. Shoulda done it with her already, but I got bent out of shape about her lying to me, not telling me the vamp was back.'
I was so tired of this.
'You weren't around before,' I said. 'They had this whole destiny thing going. It was so sickening and Hollywood and strings; even when he was evil, it was just the biggest deal there has ever been. And the no touch, no happiness deal, just makes it more romantic than ever. Faith, you are the most wonderful girl in the world, but I don't think you're even in the competition.'
I stroked her hand as I said this, and she pulled it away sharply.
'It's a Slayer thing,' she said. 'You wouldn't understand. B and me, that's destiny. I can see how she might like boinking the undead - as stiffs go, he is a hottie. But he's just what she did until I came; I'm the real thing.'
'So how far are you going to take being the real thing, Faith?' I said. 'You planning on going evil too?'
'Whatever it takes,' she said, and there was a darkness in her dark eyes that I had never seen before. 'I always do what I have to do. I want something, I take it, and then I've got it. It's very simple.'
The little girl in her was turning school bully now - I had never thought that she could be so mean.
'I wanted you, I took you and I had you. All it took was removing the distributor head from your car; did you really never wonder why I found it so easy to fix the next morning? And OK, I expected to have to kill the vamp for you and get rewarded. My Heroine gig and all. But C, you were so easy to have. And it was fun, and now I want her. Want, take, have. It's so simple.'
'C,' she said, and the smug patience in her voice broke my heart into a hundred angers. 'If you really loved me, if you really knew me, you would understand.'
I could not believe that this was happening to me. My father losing his money, life in the diner, life in the dress shop - all of these things were disasters I could in no way blame on Buffy Summers. I was so over blaming Buffy for Xander, and falling into garbage, often, and what happens? I become a dyke and immediately she steals my girl.
I thought about Faith as if she was not sitting there with me. I should, I really should, have guessed about my car. She had a cheating heart and hair and eyes and lips to die for; one thing she was right about, you fight for what's important to you, and I guessed that I loved her, because if I fought hard with myself, I could still forgive her everything.
'You don't understand, Faith,' I said. 'I think I really really love you.'
And somehow I still did, whatever she said, because we had been so golden, and she was so wrong. About who she was and what she wanted.
She set her jaw into an unattractive firmness.
' And you don't get it C,' she said. ' I. Just. Don't. Care.'
I got up, and I said nothing, and I put my clothes back on. Sometimes there is nothing left but loss. And pride.
' I am so not going to put up with being your number two girl,' I said. ' Especially when you are just never going to get number one.'
'You don't have to go, C,' Faith said, still mocking me, still pulling me to her, with those eyes.
'Oh yes, I do.' I said and turned my head so that I could not see her as I left, and she could not see my eyes either.
You always have something to lose, no matter how much you lost already.
I had to know what Xander knew. I realised that I could have lived with being part of a, lets face it, quite incredibly gorgeous dyke couple. Quite another thing to be a sad loser who went dyke and just got dumped all over again.
So I wandered over to him and Witchy and Buffy and Oz when they were all cooing over Willow's, OK pretty impressive, university acceptances. And I was cutting to him, and he was cutting back, and so I did something I had really never intended to do, especially now, and threw my father's money, which we didn't have any more, but no-one knew that, right in his face and ground his family's lack of poverty right in. Which was meaner than I like even to be, but meant, when he didn't have a snappy reflex comeback, either that he didn't know anything or that he was being really discreet under gross provocation. Which I could probably live with, but didn't believe.
So she hadn't told him I was poor, which probably meant she hadn't said anything about anything else.
I suppose she didn't want to risk Buffy finding out that there had been a test marketing exercise.
I was not going to humiliate myself by getting involved - Faith and Buffy could cut each other's hearts out for all I cared right then.
You should never ever illwish people on a Hellmouth; I don't think that anything I said, or did, or thought, had any long-term effect, but how can I ever know for sure - butterfly and hurricane sort of thing.
I just buckled down to life, again, and routine, again, and working harder at school, again; you have to make do without what you no longer have. I had got so used to seeing Faith every night, and often in passing during the day, that not seeing her, avoiding seeing her, was like after a cold when there is a lightness in your head from the fever, but everything has actually gone away, and you're fine, really you're fine.
I couldn't be happy; I wouldn't be happy ever again. But there was more or less no pain if I stayed away from everybody - there were things I didn't need to know or think about. I was just going to have to be lonely, and I had always been good at that.
One of the things that the IRS had left me with was my cell-phone - it was prepaid in advance and they really couldn't claim that making it possible for his daughter to wander through her life safely and ring him in jail was one of my father's so-called scams. It sat in the bottom of my bag with all the rest of my junk.
It was a slack night in the diner and so when Bill the Cook said, 'Cordelia, your phone is ringing. Deal with it', there were only a couple of truckers to pass ice water to before I could answer it.
I don't know what I expected - Xander was one of the few people who knew my number and I really did not plan on hearing from him any time soon. Faith, though, I had pushed so far out of my conscious thoughts, so that she sat there like the pain in a tooth that you don't want to have to deal with until your skiing holiday is over, like the dress you are pretty certain you don't like as much as you did when you saw it on the model, but has a good enough label that you are in two minds about taking back.
'C, I'm in a mess,' she said. ' I really need your help. And your car.'
She was crying into the phone.
Part of me wanted to tell her that she got no favours any more; and part of me remembered that the last time I had seen her cry, she made good and sure to punish me for it. Most of me just went cold and helpful and took down the street three blocks away that she was ringing from, and took my waitress stuff off and told Bill the Cook I had to go.
'Don't tell me,' he said. 'Girlfriend trouble.'
He looked worryingly sympathetic for a big groping pervert who was normally horrible to me.
He caught me looking surprised.
'Hey,' he said. 'She saved a whole lot of my customers the other week. And don't think I didn't notice you telling her what to do. I'm not a complete asshole you know. Go and sort it out - you've been like a ghost for the last few nights.'
'We broke up,' I said. 'She's only ringing because she's got some problem.'
'Well,' Bill the Cook said. 'In my experience, most problems can be solved by one of five things. Fifty dollars' - he counted it out of the till ' hey, don't worry about it. A few aspirin ' - he poured some into my hand from the bottle in the First Aid Box' a surgical dressing, a stack of plastic garbage sacks or a half-bottle of decent Scotch. But I'm not giving you any of my private stash of Laphroaig, and the pair of you are too young to be drinking.'
I drove the few blocks and found Faith standing pale at the end of an alley. She waved me in, and then I saw what the problem was. There was a dead man slumped there with a hole in his chest.
'We were fighting vamps,' she said. 'B and me. This whole bunch of them, with swords and daggers and everything. And I thought he was with them. And he stepped out in front of us, and I was in the thick of things, and I put the stake in his chest and B shouted 'No' but it was in through his ribs and he didn't dust. He didn't dust. He just bled. And died. And B said we should run for it, but I lost her and I didn't know what to do. So I came back here.'
Her hands were bloody, and there was blood on that top.
'What do you want to do?' I said.
'Get it away somewhere,' she said. 'Make it go away. So there is no body.'
She was breathing better now, but she was still in shock. I found myself cold and still and reasoning - she wasn't mine any more and I wasn't going to play any games with this. But she was the Slayer. When Buffy killed her mother's boyfriend by accident, I stuck up for her and everyone told me off, and it so happened that he was actually a killer robot, so it was suddenly OK again, and no-one ever dealt with my point.
'Well,' I said. ' He has stopped bleeding. Which is a plus. And Bill the Cook clearly does know something about life, because,' and I reached into the back seat of my car and did a vague sort of tad! thing,' he sent me over with garbage bags.'
Faith lifted his feet and we slid a bag over the bottom half of his body; and then we slid one down over his head. Part of me was screaming in panic that I was doing this, that I was helping her do this, and part of me just said that this was what I needed to do, what was the right thing to do. We laid out more bags in the trunk of the car and somehow managed to get him in - he was just starting to go stiff on us, but we got the trunk closed.
Then we drove away from there in silence. I don't think I could have borne to talk to her; I certainly didn't want to look at her. I was committing Accessory to Murder One for her, but I didn't want to talk. Maybe that's what true love is, in Psychoville.
Certainly she was getting perkier, the further from the scene of his death we got. We drove a little way out of town where the river that empties into the harbour runs quick and deep out of the hills round Sunnydale, and we pushed the body off the road bridge after she'd stuck some rocks into one of the outer bags to weigh it down. I thought, no, we should hope it washes away fast out to sea, and then I thought, no, this is Faith, she knows what she is doing.
'I don't know what to say, C', she said as we drove back to town 'You came through for me, when she wouldn't.'
'Yes,' I said. 'That's true.'
'You can come in,' she said when we got back to her motel. 'I could do with somebody to hold me.'
'I'm not a body,' I said.' I am Cordelia Chase, not Alexander Lavelle Harris. I loved you, Faith, and I helped you because of that. If it's Buffy Summers you want, I suggest you ring her next time you make a mess. Or ring your watcher - isn't that what Watchers are for.'
'There's a new one,' she said. 'And he's real tight-assed and British. He makes Giles look relaxed. Even Buffy ....' -
- 'You can't go thirty seconds without mentioning her, can you?' I said, and walked to my car.
Then I turned on my heel, walked back to her as she stood in front of her motel room and I put my arms around her one more time, and I kissed her on the lips and stroked that divinely taut ass and that soft space just between her shoulder-blades. And then I walked away from her.
And if she had found it in her to say some right thing, I would have stayed.
But I knew she never would.
She had her pride; and I had mine.