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Secrets in Her Lipstick Mouth

by Jennifer-Oksana

"Art and buildings," Cordelia told everyone hoarsely, wondering if she'd have had anything nicer to say about St. Croix if her parents had come through on that particular pipe dream. "I was totally beachless for a month and a half. No one has suffered like I have suffered--"

Which, she thought to herself, was true. But hardly for the reasons she was telling her friends, but if she told her friends the truth, they'd freak out on her, and the last thing she needed was to lose all of her friends over that stupid bitch.

Besides, it hadn't been suffering. Just teen experimentation that Cordelia had accidentally taken way too seriously. She'd heard all about it from her cousin Hannah-Beth last Christmas. Hannah-Beth had been visiting from her junior year at Smith and she was miserable the whole time because her girlfriend had broken up with her for a preppy boy at UMass.

"I fuckin' hate those sorts of girls," Hannah-Beth had told her, offering her a clove cigarette while sipping vodka-laced orange juice. Cordelia had taken the cigarette, impressed that even wearing Birkenstocks and a smell tank top about saving the planet, Hannah-Beth was still as glam as fuck. "Don't ever date a girl like that, Cor."

"Oh, so totally not," Cordelia said. "Besides, hello, I'm straight. Totally crushing on Daryl Epps and..."

"Enjoying those mysterious sleepovers with that blonde girl," HannahBeth replied dryly. Cordelia blushed. It wasn't like she and Harmony had...well, not really, anyway, and how would Hannah-Beth know?

"I'm..." Cordelia protested.

"It's okay, Cor," her cousin replied, patting her on the arm. "You be as straight as you want. Just never date a girl like that, or you'll be crying into your beer for months, wishing you'd listened to your scary dykeadelic cousin."

And Cordelia, walking down the hallway with all feelers out for the stupid bitch who hadn't called, written, or spoken to her for a month and a half, was wishing she had.


After the Death of the Master

"You really drove your car into the school?" Buffy asked again, as if she hadn't heard the story five times. She was clearly a little wacky on something, which made sense, because Cordelia had supplied the wacky in the form of Daddy's best tequila. "Like, vroom?"

"Yeah, like vroom, vroom, oh my God, I'm gonna die, but eat my dust, vamps," Cordelia said again, not minding the repeating.

They were clearly outlasting the rest of the post-Master-dusting party. Mr. Giles and Miss Calendar had taken off two hours ago, muttering something about leaving them to their vapid generational rituals or whatever (like they weren't leaving to go find somewhere private and make with the sex). Angel had taken off twenty minutes previous, really apologetically, but it was almost sunrise after all, he said. Xander and Willow were conked out next to each other on the couch in Cordelia's den, those wild party beasts, and Buffy was...Buffy was sitting next to Cordelia.

On Cordy's bed, giggling her pretty little head off.

"That's so excellent," Buffy said. "Your house is so great."

"I know," Cordelia replied. "Oh, that so wasn't modest."

Buffy laughed wryly and sank into the pillows, holding Cordelia's favorite stuffed teddy bear, Miss Patches, close against her chest. She was smirking at Cordelia's little statement like it was the funniest thing ever, which was slightly offensive.

"Yeah, like you're ever worried about being modest," Buffy said. "Not."

"Wayne's World much?" Cordelia retorted. Buffy might have just saved the world, but there was no way she was getting away with that lame-ass comment. "Should I go wake your Garth up so I can get a schwing and some bitching air guitar to go with?"

Buffy laughed again, but real laughing.

"Excellent!" she said giddily, suddenly grooving with Miss Patches. "Cordelia's World, party time, excellent!"

"Oh shut up!" Cordy said, wondering why it was so funny when it wasn't.

"Oh, make me!"

"Don't think that I can't," Cordelia replied, clambering onto her hands and knees with a gleam in her eye. "I'm totally going to clobber you, Buffy."

"You and what army?" Buffy asked. "I could slay you with my wit alone."

"But not with your fashion sense," Cordelia replied, jumping on Buffy with a triumphant little cry. The triumph was short-lived, as within thirty seconds, Buffy had Cordy pinned to the mattress, Buffy sitting on Cordelia with a tipsy little smirk.

"See?" Buffy said, leaning over Cordelia. "I am the girl. I am girl power personified. I am all that, a bag of chips, and a side of fries. Aren't I?"

Cordelia fake-shrieked, squirming underneath Buffy's grasp for all she was worth. She was kicking, she was tossing her head back and forth, and even bucking up and down.

"Let go!" she squeaked. "Let go, Buffy! Uncle! Uncle!"

"Don't wanna," Buffy whispered, leaning close enough for Cordelia to feel Buffy's breath against her face, warm and only a little alcoholtinged. "I've got you right where I've wanted you and I'm gonna..."

Wanted? Huh? Maybe Buffy wanted to tell her off or something, but it didn't seem like it. Because usually, when you were about to tell someone off, you didn't hold them down and lick your lips.

"You're gonna what?" Cordelia dared her, blinking rapidly. There was something very wrong with the situation. This should be scary, not exciting. Buffy should have let go, not held on.

"I'm gonna..." Buffy paused to brush the hair out of Cordelia's face. "You have the best hair."

"Yeah, I know, thanks," Cordelia replied. Something was very wrong. The squirming to get loose seemed less about trying to get free and more like trying to stay pinned. "You had the best prom dress."

"Thanks," Buffy whispered, lowering her lips to Cordelia. Cordelia kissed her, finding it strange and normal that Buffy tasted good, not like lipgloss or sugar, and maybe a little like blood and dying, but she liked the way Buffy kissed her.

"Let go, Buffy," Cordelia pleaded when Buffy pulled away. "I'm getting numb in my arms."

"I don't think so," Buffy replied, rocking her hips into Cordy's. "I don't feel like it."

"All right," Cordelia said lazily, meeting Buffy's hips with her own and raising the blonde an arched back that pushed her breasts up. "But aren't you a straight girl?"

Just because Buffy was a girl didn't mean Cordelia didn't know how to deal with someone on top of her. Buffy's hands let go of Cordelia's arms, which was good, because they really had been going numb.

"I am," Buffy said, kissing Cordelia's forehead and cupping one breast with a free hand. "Aren't you?"

Cordelia had kissed away the question, and by the time Willow and Xander had woken up, Buffy had finished kissing Cordelia goodbye and promising they'd keep in touch all summer long.

A week later, without even a phone call, Buffy went to her dad's place in Los Angeles. Two days after that, Cordelia's parents had handed her a plane ticket to Italy. And that had been that.

Except for the fallout. But that's how it always is.


All Cordelia had meant to do was re-establish semi-normal relations between herself and the Bizarro Brigade. Okay, maybe hear if anything important and world-endy had happened and also see if Buffy was okay. She hadn't meant to find herself getting insulted right and left by everyone and finding Buffy refusing to even make eye contact.

The awkwardness had been heavy even for the people not in on Buffy's little gay secret. Willow and Xander were doing all of the talking and fucking it up hardcore, though Cordelia could deal with the fact that they were talking. The Cordettes took care of the small talk so that she didn't have to, and Buffy clearly adhered to that school of thought.

But there was the not-looking and that was freaking Cordelia out. There should have been looking, private subtext, messages being passed back and forth with casual glances. Buffy was screwing everything up. There were things that had to be done in situations like this, and Buffy knew it, dammit. Finally, Cordelia had to give Buffy the pleasure of having power over the entire situation.

"Your secret's safe with me," Cordelia said, loading the phrase with as much significance as she could. Buffy should have looked up then and possibly nodded. There needed to be acknowledgement that she and Cordelia had safe secrets, the moment of something that hadn't really mattered. That was how it should be, dammit. That was all that Cordelia wanted. But of course, Buffy being the queen freakazoid of the universe and clearly PMSing, she didn't do it.

"Well, that works out great. You won't tell anyone I'm the Slayer, and I won't tell anyone you're a moron," Buffy said, brushing past all of them and leaving Cordelia with a knot in her gut.

That stupid fucking bitch! Moron, indeed, Cordelia thought when she could think again. At least Cordelia hadn't been the stupid drunk girl who'd initiated the early-morning macking. Xander and Willow were talking again, but who gave a damn? Buffy had totally given her the brush-off in less than twenty-five words, refusing to admit there had been a drunken antic. Cordelia was way pissed. That was just too harsh and it broken rules. Rules that existed to safeguard them.

Fuck Buffy anyway. Cordelia didn't need her and the attitude. Hell, Cordelia didn't even really want her. First of all, Cordelia was straight. Second of all, even if she was, you know, bi, she didn't date losers. Besides, who would want to get involved with a girl who didn't moisturize and had an attitude the size of Mount Everest?


Previously, in Tuscany

At least on the beach in St. Croix, she could have suntanned and swam and not looked like a dumbass American tourist. Plus, they spoke American in St. Croix, didn't they? Not like here in Firenze, where everyone spoke Italian (she hoped) and all the nastiest guys kept pinching her ass whenever she went for a walk.

Meanwhile, Mom had been crazy enough to drink the local water and she ended up stuck in their hotel suite, wailing for a doctor in as many languages as she could half-remember, so Cordelia couldn't stay in and try to find American TV shows to watch in Italian. That was at least sort of entertaining. Instead, Cordelia was trapped in Italy, forced to look at the art and the buildings and the Italians.

Though it hadn't been all bad. Firenze was also where Cordelia had met, wooed, and won Roland.

Roland was--Roland was gorgeous, with a thick thatch of dark hair, a pair of slightly cracked glasses, and this perpetually confused look on his face that was absolutely adorable. She'd always remember his eyes as blue, though in fact they had been green. Roland and spoken Greek and Norwegian fluently and his uncle had paid for him to cross Europe with a rail pass and a backpack for the summer.

Lovely, useful Roland. They'd met in a tiny caf, the kind she wouldn't have been caught dead in if she'd spoken the language. He'd wandered in with a packful of sketchbooks and cameras, noticing her sitting at a table with a double espresso and the keen, hungry look of someone who wanted to be noticed.

"Pardon me, miss--" he'd said in Italian. "I don't speak very good Italian, but I noticed you sitting there and--"

"I'm sorry, I don't speak Italian," Cordelia replied in Italian so bad Roland mistook it for Portuguese.

"Oh, bugger," he'd sworn in English. "I'm sorry--you're Portuguese? Or Spanish? Habla espanol?"

"No, I'm American," Cordelia said in English. "Wait, you're English?"

"Welsh," he replied. "I'm Roland. What's your name?"

"Cordelia," she replied. "Would you like to sit down?"

Roland sat down next to her, stumbling over his backpack. Cordelia didn't notice. She was too busy going over her cover story, the one she'd written out on the plane to Italy. She was nineteen and she was touring Tuscany with her twin sister Ophelia. Where was Ophelia? Oh, Ophy had a stomachache and was staying at the hotel for the day. They were from San Diego, but Cordy was at USC now, part of a sorority, and a journalism major.

"Thanks," he said, smiling at her. Roland pushed up his glasses slightly and forever after, Cordelia would prefer slightly geeky men with dark hair and charming smiles. The way he explained with a sexy accent that he was an aspiring artist, the way he tried to order coffee in Italian and failed, these things all made a thousand future things about Cordelia's life make sense.

At the moment, none of that was on Cordelia's mind. She was watching Roland, trying to draw a picture of him in her memory while she smiled big and almost listned to the details. It was funny, how he was looking at her without noticing her checking off requirement after requirement in her head. He was handsome, smart, nice, and European. He wouldn't ask too many questions about Ophelia, which was okay because Ophelia didn't actually exist in this universe except sometimes in Cordelia's head.

Cordelia, like most of us, would have died of surprise to learn that in an alternate dimension, she did have a twin sister named Ophelia. The universe is sometimes like that.

Cordelia was almost surprised and actually delighted when he asked her to go on a scooter ride with him the next day. Roland was perfect. He was almost too perfect, like she'd created him in her head between a sorbet and a trip to another art museum.

He waited three days before he asked her back to his room at a little pensione or whatever they called them in Italian. He had to leave the next day (so did Cordelia; Mom's stomach had gotten worse and they were going to a spa town until she mended) and would she like to come up for a visit?

It had been the perfect virginity-losing experience until a few minutes afterward, when he handed her a cigarette and smiled at her with compassion and maybe pity.

"What?" she said in a panic. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No," Roland replied, brushing her hair back from her face. "Not at all."

"You've got a weird look on your face," she said, her stomach turning somersaults. "What?"

"Whoever he was, he was stupid," Roland said. "That's all."

Cordelia went back to her parents and her rollaway bed, somehow much less pleased with herself than she'd meant to be. She wished Daryl hadn't died before she'd slept with him, and all in all, everything was rather bland until she hit the spa town.


Cibo Matto at the Bronze should have been vaguely cool, except for the part where Buffy was bound and determined to piss everyone off, including and especially Cordelia.

There was the sleek ignoring walk (that was okay, they weren't friends), there was the intense talk with Angel. Then there was what Buffy did to Xander, overtly to break everyone's heart in one fell swoop. The truly sucky part (at least to Cordelia) was that the little sexy dance of forced heterosexuality was aimed directly at Cordelia's ever-so-over-the-one-night-groping heart.

Fucking bitch! Fucking Buffy Summers, the biggest closet case that Cordelia had ever seen, including Xander Harris, most of the Cordettes, and her hairdresser!

Then there was the exit, directly aimed to cross Cordelia's path, just to reiterate for the lovely Miss Chase that yes, if you weren't sure, that was just as much for you as it was for Angel, Willow, or Xander.

Cordelia did not handle rejection well. She especially didn't handle the kind of rejection that Buffy was dishing out, and she certainly didn't just stand there and take it.

"Buffy!" she called, following the evil creature into the alley next to the Bronze, and why were there so many creepy alleys around the Bronze, anyway? Did they design the place to be a vampire feeding ground or what?

Buffy paused but didn't turn around. Oh, how Cordelia was going to turn the bitch inside out when she got the chance. She was going to give her a good old fashioned what's what and watch Buffy squirm in its clutches.

"You're really campaigning for Bitch of the Year, aren't you?" Cordelia snapped. That was enough to get Buffy to turn around. Good.

"As defending champion, you nervous?" Buffy said flatly, giving her the look of fuck off and die. Cordelia rose to the bait, partially because it was a good opening, and secondly because Buffy was ready to run at any moment, and Cordelia was damned if she was going to let her get away without a fight.

"I can hold my own," Cordelia replied, walking closer while Buffy pretended not to care. "You know, we've never really been close, which is nice, cuz I don't really like you that much--"

Buffy's head tilted. Score one for Queen C. Besides, they were close enough now to touch, if either Buffy or Cordelia so desired and the air was crackling with betrayal, annoyance, rage, and the awkwardness that exists between girls who hate each other because they should, not because they actually do.

"I'm gonna give you some advice," Cordelia said after a few more insults. "Get over it."

Again with the double entendre, and Cordelia wasn't sure which one pissed Buffy off more. There was also a serious hurt look on Buffy's face, which was totally one of the things Cordelia had wanted. Except now it wasn't worth it.

"Excuse me?"

"Whatever's causing the Joan Collins 'tude, deal with it. Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet--" Cordelia was rambling and she knew it. But what else was she going to say? Come out already? I'm sorry you have a stick up your ass the size of a regional cheerleading trophy and can't deal with your issues? I think you're cute as hell?

"I think it's time you started minding your own business," Buffy snarled. Cordelia nodded ruefully.

"It's long past," she said, wishing there was some way to shake Buffy out of it. But of course, Buffy would have to put on her hood and spin around like the queen brat of the universe. Cordelia decided to get one last snide comment in before taking off--as it should be. Just as it should be.

"I'm just going to see if Angel wants to dance--"

Karma always bit Cordelia on the ass so fast that it was almost like magic. Cold, undead hands were on her mouth and she couldn't even scream before she was dragged away, wishing that Buffy would look back just for a second.

But of course not. That would have been too easy.


Previously, at a Spa

Maybe drinking tainted water had been the best idea Mom had ever had, Cordelia thought as she walked through the hotel doors to the nearlydeserted pool. This town was so much better than Florence--Firenze-- whatever. Mom was all about the spa therapy and Cordelia got to come along wherever Mom went if she wanted.

That had been nice for the first two days, with the massage therapists and the mud baths and the yummy, low-cal lunches and the special water, but by the third day, Mom had gone on and on about her Epstein-Barr one time too many and Cordelia was starting to wonder if her father was willing to join her on an escape from Mom trip, which was just such a scary idea that she couldn't even imagine.

Then she'd discovered the pool at the tiny little hotel next door to their very American touristy, very expensive hotel. For whatever reason, nobody used the pool, and almost nobody seemed to be staying at the hotel, anyway.

Cordelia had come to a very sensible decision, which was to use the deserted pool to sunbathe. She would sneak into the hotel, slide out to the pool, pull out a floppy hat, her brand-new sunglasses (a pair of Guccis they only made in Italy), a towel, and then lay herself out on a chaise, neatly gleaming all over with tanning oil.

A very pleasant nap followed. Then, of course, everything went to hell when someone woke Cordelia up by pouring a glass of very cold water on her face.

"You're going to burn," someone said matter-of-factly. "Also, you shouldn't be here. My tribe has booked this whole hotel for their reunion."

Cordelia, spluttering, could hardly open her eyes. When she did, she tried to smile but was too busy gawking to manage. A lovely young woman with light brown curls, olive-tinted skin, and the most perfectly 1940s-style black bikini Cordelia had ever seen was standing over her. Marilyn Monroe would have worn that bikini with less grace than the girl who was currently wearing it, which was pretty damn well.

"Your tribe?" Cordelia asked, sitting up. "Are you Indian or something?"

The girl snorted. "I'm Romani."

"But you speak English," Cordelia said, somewhat confused. "Like, American English."

The girl laughed. "You're not so bright, are you?" she asked, sitting down next to Cordelia and lighting a cigarette. "My name's Lorraine. I'm what you might call a Gypsy, except not exactly. I'm from--well, all over, but I was born in Prague and spent most of my childhood in Arizona."

"I'm Cordelia," Cordelia replied, trying to avoid the smoke. "I'm from Southern California. Near LA."

Lorraine smiled with just a hint of naughty in her eyes. "Well, you couldn't have been from anywhere else, could you, sweetheart?" she asked.

"I guess not," Cordelia said, feeling like she'd walked into her own dream, a dream where she wasn't as quick with her tongue as Lorraine was with her insults. "I'm sorry. I was having a good nap when you woke me up--I'm not quite me yet."

Lorraine winked at her. "That's plenty all right, princess," she said. "I was just surprised to see anyone out here. Most of the people here are old and boring and dislike swimming pools, so I was almost as surprised as you were to see a lovely creature like you gracing this humble spread."

Cordelia wasn't quite sure, but she was thinking that Lorraine was flirting with her. Which was a new experience for Cordelia. She wasn't used to the games of normal dating being turned into a girl-on-girl thing. That was always so much quieter, at least for Cordelia. It was less silly, more direct.

Maybe she was wrong.

"You're very strange," Cordelia said. "Usually I'd have escaped the weird by now, but you're also cute. And American. And my age. Three things Tuscany lacks hardcore."

Lorraine laughed. "I've noticed that when I get anywhere near my Romani relatives, I suddenly become a public speaker," she admitted, patting her thigh absently. "A really bad one to boot."

"I guess," Cordelia said, trying to shield her now overtanned stomach from the sun. "So--Lorraine?"

"Yes?" Lorraine asked.

"Are you flirting with me?"

"Do you mind?"

"Not really," Cordelia said. Lorraine's smile got downright sexual.

"Good," she said, taking a long drag off her cigarette. "You know they sunbathe topless here, right?"

Cordelia blushed. "Yeah."

"I think we should keep up with local customs," Lorraine said, undoing her bikini top slowly. "Don't you?"

Cordelia felt like she had somehow become a sixteen year old boy. And not a particularly socially adept sixteen year old boy. No, she was the Xander Harris of formerly cool girls turned boy, because she could not stop looking at Lorraine's tits. Breasts. Not tits, that was the kind of word someone like Xander wouldn't even dare use. She was still staring.

"Um, I guess," Cordelia said, staring at Lorraine as her hands refused to move. Lorraine smiled, stood up, and slid herself behind Cordelia.

"You're new at this, aren't you?" Lorraine murmured in Cordelia's ear.

"Yeah," Cordelia said.

"It's okay," Lorraine whispered, undoing Cordelia's top. "I live to help pretty girls like you."


Vampires. Cordelia was already sick and tired of vampires. Anne Rice needed to be beaten with a stick. Or maybe she just needed to get a summer house in Sunnydale and discover just how much fun vamps weren't.

Also, it was annoying that her one good act for the year was going to result in her brutal murder. So much for doing nice things for dorks.

"I so don't want to die," Cordelia said, wishing Buffy would just save them already. Buffy would save them. Maybe. If she was over her serious issue thing.

It would also suck if Buffy's freaking out over making out with Cordelia resulted in Cordelia's brutal murder. Cordelia couldn't even begin to describe how much suckage that would be. She totally never should have touched Buffy, but like, how was she supposed to know that Buffy was a closet case freakazoid?

"Come on, Buffy," Cordelia muttered, watching Miss Calendar do the weird thing with her hands again. What was her deal? And dammit, why couldn't they figure out an escape plan, especially with all of the vampire guards--

"Well, well, well," someone said. "Looks like we've got a complete set of cards now."

Cordelia's head twisted around and her stomach dropped. They were dead. If Willow and Giles didn't matter to Buffy, they were all so dead. She didn't want to die.

"No!" Cordelia said, trying to sound angry. She sounded scared, and hated that she sounded scared. "I'm not supposed to die tonight. I'm going to be famous. Also, a gypsy girl told me you wouldn't kill me. So you have the wrong person because I totally cannot die."

Miss Calendar's eyes went wide. The vampires were not impressed.

"Someone shut her up," the head vampire said. "Shut them all up. The sacrifices won't be nearly as impressive if they're howling and crying."

Cordelia put her fists up. "You're going to have to fight me first," she said. "I'm not going to die. I don't want to die. It would wreck my social life."

"For the love of the Master!" someone squawked while Cordelia tried to punch the nearest vamp. She missed.

As she was going down into the deep dark night, she had to think as she felt herself being dragged, well--maybe Lorraine didn't know it all.

Or maybe this is the meantime.


Previously, at the hotel

"I can tell you the future," Lorraine murmured, her long fingers tracing a spiral from Cordelia's belly button outward, massaging tanning oil deeper into Cordy's skin. "I can see it in your eyes. I can smell it on your skin."

"Tell me it involves Christian Bale and a palatial villa on the beach," Cordelia replied, her eyes half-closed with drowsy wanting. Lorraine laughed.

"You will always love more than you're loved back," Lorraine replied, putting her ear against Cordelia's tummy. "Your ears have that bent to them. But you'll have great love affairs. Like amazing, epic, passionate."

"That's cool," Cordelia said, looking at the sky through Gucci sunglasses and stroking Lorraine's hair. "Will I fall in love with girls or boys?"

"Only your heart knows for sure," Lorraine replied, peeking up at her. Cordelia frowned.

"You're really got this gypsy girl thing down, don't you?" Cordelia asked. "What if I don't know what my heart knows? I mean, I could want one thing, but know it's the wrong thing. What then?"

Lorraine yawned and sat up, staring at the almost-dyed blue of the pool in front of them. The water glimmered and shattered, leaving light patterns to dance on the bottom. "I'm going swimming," she announced, straightening herself up into long lings and sun-baked skin matched to her black bikini. "I need to get wet before I burn up."

Cordelia, stretched out like a cat, watched the other girl dive into the water, turning the placid surface into something rougher and choppier with a little bit of splash. Lorraine was going to have to wash out a billion gallons of chlorine out of her hair, she thought, and curly hair took forever to dry right. But it looked nice, the swimming and the nice cold water and--

"Hey!" Cordelia shrieked. "You splashed me!"

"You need to get in the pool, Cordelia," Lorraine said, soaked and grinning. "You have way too much attitude for someone your age. Get in the pool and go swimming. I'll rinse out all the chlorine tangles, I promise."

Cordelia thought about it, took off her sunglasses, and leapt in the pool, which was colder than she thought it would be. Lorraine squealed for a few seconds until Cordelia dunked her, and then she came up sputtering, grasping for Cordelia.

"You're gonna get it for that, girl," Lorraine said, looking for something of Cordelia to hang on to. "You're--"

Lorraine suddenly let go of Cordelia's neck, gasping and choking.

"Lorraine, are you okay?"

Lorraine's mouth was hanging open while she stared, colorless and terrified, at Cordelia, who was not getting it in a major way.

"Are you okay?" she asked, trying to do something.

"I just really saw your future," Lorraine whispered, finding the pool edge and clinging to it. "Oh, Cordelia."

Cordelia, treading water, looked at the other girl and shook her head. "What?"

Lorraine slowly and gracefully swam to Cordelia and wrapped her arms around her. "Your future will be very strange," she said.

"I'm going to die," Cordelia said, shivering. "Vampires, right? Because I know some."

Lorraine was soft and smelled like chlorine and cinnamon breath mints. It was strange to imagine that she was actually a roam-around-thecountry, honest-to-God gypsy-type person, Cordelia thought.

"It's all very unclear," Lorraine said, kissing her on the cheek distractedly and letting go. "Not vampires, Cordelia. Though you should watch out for a few of them."

"Demons?" Cordelia asked, almost hopefully.

"I can't tell you," Lorraine said. "This is what I can tell you. Whoever she was, watch out for her. She's the only one who can save you, but she might kill you in the meantime."

Cordelia remembered that. Much of the rest of the summer, she let herself forget in a haze of sunshine, too-similar architectural masterpieces, and endless objets d'art, but she remembered what Lorraine said. It came back to bite her in the ass later.


Buffy waited until everyone else was safe and home to take Cordelia back to her house. That was something, at least. It wasn't enough to make up for the fact that she'd almost been killed by a pack of vampires and hung upside-down and ignored by everyone and her favorite Bronzing outfit was now intensely stained, but.

It was something.

"You're going to be fine," Buffy said as they walked. "I think you might have a charmed life or something. Plus the Teflon ego."

"If this is charmed, then I totally don't want to see uncharmed," Cordelia replied. "So, get enough shoulder time in with Angel?"

"Cordelia--"

Cordelia snorted. "Sorry," she said. "I can't help it. You drive me nuts, Buffy."

Buffy offered her hand to Cordelia, which Cordelia took gratefully. "The feeling is mutual."

"I noticed how the sexy dance was all about Angel, except the part where it totally wasn't," Cordelia said. "I mean, not like I want to be your co-mascot in the Slayer Pride Parade or anything, but that was bitchy. You made everyone hate you in less than five minutes."

Buffy nodded. "It was pretty damn effective. Except that you're you and didn't take the hint that I was a hetero ho-bag."

"I don't let people brush me off without getting in a last word," Cordelia replied, squeezing Buffy's hand. "Besides, you were being stupid. I can handle other things, but that was just like, hi, and I'm a six-year-old with issues."

Buffy smiled. "You were the only one brave enough to come after me," she said. "Brave or stupid, I can't decide which."

"I care, Buffy," Cordelia said. "And you pissed me off pretty hard and I don't let that go well. I mean, you didn't even give me the look of shared drunken groping shame. That was harsh."

"I know," Buffy said. "So was telling me how you don't like me that much."

Cordelia shrugged. "I don't, though. I mean. Well, I do. Sort of. But we don't like each other, I mean, not like--and really not like--you know."

"I know," Buffy said, tilting her head Cordelia-ward. "In an alternate dimension far far away, maybe there is a Buffy and Cordelia."

"An alternate dimension without high school," Cordelia said. "That would be a good one."

Buffy nodded again, and Cordelia knew they were almost at her house and they were both delaying. That was no good. "So, we're not exactly friends. Except you can count on me to keep a secret and you know, be there when you need a good reality check," Cordelia blabbered.

"And I'll always be there to save you from the legions of demons and vamps who seem to want the pleasure of your company," Buffy replied. "No matter how much it's karma."

"Thanks, Buffy," Cordelia replied sardonically. She let Buffy's hand go. "This is my house."

"I know," Buffy said, grabbing Cordelia's face for a brief, smooshy, messy kiss that Cordelia pulled away from almost immediately, amazed that after all that had just happened, after everything, Buffy had kissed her anyway.

"Buffy, don't," she murmured. "You don't have to--Buffy, don't."

Don't be the straight girl in my life, Cordelia thought at her. It's hard enough already, knowing that you're going to haunt me for years, into therapy, and into relationships with nice men who remind me far too much of Roland.

"You're safe. Always," Buffy promised, looking at Cordelia with strange, hungry eyes. Years later, during the Faith debacle, Cordelia will remember this and wonder if Buffy is ashamed of liking girls, or if it's just the same utter cluelessness about the world that causes Buffy to do things like sleep with vampires.

"Night, Buffy," was what the Cordelia of that night managed to say, stumbling up her driveway and running toward her room, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened to her. She wanted to laugh, she was almost crying, she was sort of relieved.

By morning, of course, Cordelia decided to be relived and move on. There was closure. Sort of. And even sort of closure was important. At least Cordelia knew now that Buffy was in serious denial and it wasn't exactly her fault. She'd heal. Eventually, and probably better with a new hot boyfriend--maybe that guy Devon, from the band. He was hot enough. Yeah. He'd do.

It wasn't what she'd wanted, but it was something. And that was enough.

End


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