Temporary Sweetener by Janine

Disclaimer: All the characters, Buffy, Cordelia, Dawn, Anya, Willow, Giles, Xander, etc. belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Inc., and Warner Bros (and now UPN). I'm just borrowing their brilliant creations. I intend no copyright infringement from my use of their characters, and will receive no monetary or any other compensation for their use, in any form, of the story that succeeds.
Paring: Buffy/Cordelia
Rating: R/NC-17
Summary: Cordelia has a vision that forces her to return to Sunnydale. [S6]
Email: jbstories@hotmail.com
*NOTE* I apologize for any spelling mistakes/missing words. The only editor I've had for the fic so far is me, myself, and I and as an editor of stuff I've written I tend to suck. Hard.

| Part 1 | Part 2 |

Temporary Sweetener

PART FIVE

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Buffy carefully closed the door to bedroom before turning around to be ensnared in Cordelia's arms once again, the brunette immediately leaning forward bring their lips together once more. By the time they had made it back inside of the house the gang had decided to call it a night, and for this a certain Slayer and diviner were extremely grateful. After their adventures in the Summers' backyard the last thing either one of them wanted to have to do was make small talk.

"We have to be quiet," Buffy managed to mumble, her eyes closing as Cordelia kissed her way down her neck, and began to work her hand under the Slayer's shirt. "Dawn and Willow are just across the ha � ha � hall," she continued, feeling Cordelia smile against the skin of her shoulder as her breath hitched in her throat and she struggled to get the rest of her words out.

"Okay," the brunette whispered back a moment later, her hands settling on the blonde's hips, her lips attaching themselves to the spot behind Buffy's ear, working the soft skin with her tongue, her heart skipping a beat at the sound her actions caused to erupt from the Slayer's mouth. "Is there anything else?" she continued, her mouth hovering beside Buffy's ear.

"Yeah," the Slayer responded, a smile of her own now spreading across her face. "Take off your shirt."

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How they found their way to the bed neither of them would later be able to remember, and how the rest of Cordelia's clothes were shed, to be quickly followed by Buffy's, without them ever breaking contact, they could only contribute to divine intervention. But somehow, someway they did end up spread across Buffy's bed, their clothes discarded, Buffy's body draped over Cordelia's, covering her like a blanket, moaning softly at the first contact of their naked bodies as the Slayer rubbed her body along the brunette's lithe frame. And then the Slayer was kissing her, her hands resting on the ex-cheerleaders hips as the brunette trailed her own hands over the smooth expanse of Buffy's skin, desperately tugging and clawing, trying to draw the Slayer closer to her. Because everywhere they touched, every place where their bodies were in contact with other they felt fire.

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"Uhhhh," Cordelia moaned, biting down on her lip as the moan started to erupt from her throat. Her heels were digging into the mattress as Buffy's mouth captured one of her already painfully erect nipples and began to suck, her other hand manipulating Cordelia's other breast as the brunette's hands bunched themselves in fists around the bed sheets. The brunette's mouth flew open, a long drawn out moan that she just couldn't contain tearing from her throat as the Slayer's lips, teeth, and fingers continued to attack her nipples. Freeing themselves of the bed sheets, Cordelia's hands came to tangle themselves in Buffy's hair holding her head in place as her chest arched up into the blonde's mouth, begging for more of whatever she was willing to give.

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Buffy pressed her lips to Cordelia's pulse point sucking on it hard as her hand caressed the inside of Cordelia's thigh. Her nails ran lightly across the tanned skin of Cordelia's leg as she pressed herself closer to brunette even though there was no place left for her to go. Cordelia arched up into Buffy, blindly seeking out her lips, which Buffy gladly gave over to her, groaning as the brunette sucked her tongue into her mouth, kissing her fervently.

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The only thing that Buffy was aware of was the sound of Cordelia's voice -- the soft sounds she was making in the back of her throat and the sound of her name coming out of her mouth in ragged, desire filled gasps -- and the sound of her own breathing. The body beneath hers was now moving in a frenzy, a blur of activity as Buffy continued to move her hand in and out, her lips and her free hand caressing and exploring every and all available patches of skin. And then she felt it. Cordelia's body tensed, her breath hitching one last time before wave after wave of pleasure ripped through her body, taking her breath away. And as Cordelia surged against her, forcing her further in, Buffy pressed herself down onto the brunette one last time before she too lost the ability to make sound all together.


PART SIX

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Buffy watched her hand as her fingers slowly trailed up and around Cordelia's abdominal muscles, raising and falling with the brunette's gentle breaths. "That tickles," she heard the woman say a moment later, her hand coming to rest on top of Buffy's, flattening the Slayer's hand down so that it was merely resting on her stomach instead of playing with it. "Can I please have some of the blanket now, or were you planning to molest me all morning too?" she continued as Buffy tilted her head up to look at her.

"Molest?" the Slayer asked, quirking an amused eyebrow at Cordelia. "That's funny. Last night I could have sworn you were saying 'yes, YES'," she continued, removing her hand from underneath the brunette's and dragging the sheet up so that it covered the other girl's mid-section.

"At least I was saying it quietly," Cordelia responded a moment later, a smile beginning to work its way across her face as she remembered what exactly it was that Buffy did to her to make her agree so vigorously. She supposed she shouldn't have been surprised though, Buffy had demonstrated numerous times in the past that she was in possession of an impressive amount of imagination.

"So what does this mean?" Buffy asked, laying her head down on her pillow and staring up at the ceiling. She supposed that she should have been feeling rather freaked out. She had, after all, just slept with another woman. Moreover, that other woman had been Cordelia Chase of all people, Cordelia. Yep, that was definitely material for freaking out, yet she found that she was oddly calm.

"Couple more nights of good sleep?" Cordelia suggested, her eyes idly roaming around Buffy's bedroom. She could've addressed the question on a deeper level, made it a poignant study about life, about love, about loving in life and journey's in and love and a bunch of other shit, but she didn't particularly feel like taking stock of how what happened between them last night would effect her as a person or whatever. She wanted to concentrate on the fact that once she had actually fallen asleep it had been a fitful one that she hadn't woken from once. She wanted to concentrate on the fact that just laying there she felt more relaxed than she had since her first day as the Pylean Queen. She just wanted to concentrate on the fact that whatever it was that happened, it was good.

"I can deal with that," Buffy responded, turning her head to side so that she was looking at the brunette. "Yeah," she continued, "a couple more good nights sleep," she went on hovering above Cordelia's face as the woman turned to look at her. "I can definitely deal with that," and with that Buffy leaned down bringing their lips together once more. She couldn't remember the last time dealing had been this much fun.

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"What's your secret?" Willow asked, making her way over to the table where Cordelia was sitting. The gang plus a Cordy and minus a Buffy and Dawn were congregated as usual at the Magic Box, with a cornucopia of books surrounding them. Buffy had taken off for a Parent-Teacher conference at Dawn's school which had left Cordelia wondering around the house aimlessly until Willow had dragged her to the shop to try and see if she could find anything in the texts about the creature she had seen in her vision � even those Cordelia insisted that she hadn't really seen anything.

"Huh?" Cordelia asked, turning to face the redhead. At the moment she was desperately missing Wesley and Fred and their insane yet effective research methods. She had gotten out of practice and didn't really care to get in practice again.

"With Buffy," Willow clarified, brushing an arrant strand of hair away from her face. "She's been talking to you," the redhead continued, her face falling slightly. "She hasn't talked to me, not really, not since�" she paused there, still not liking to think about what had happened those few short months ago. "What's your secret?"

"I haven't been here," Cordelia replied in a kind of half sigh after a moment. There was no secret really, Buffy wanted to talk, it would have been impossible for her to not want to talk. You just had to ask her the right questions, the tough questions, and nobody but her seemed to be willing to do it. She knew they had to have figured it out, Buffy was a stubborn jackass, she always had been, and if you let her get away with saying nothing she would just keep on doing it. She knew they knew that and she also knew that they would never be able to ask her, because making her talk about it would hurt her before it would help her and they couldn't bear to do anything that would hurt her. "Sometimes it's easier to talk to strangers."

"You're not exactly strangers," Willow responded, turning her head to the side to get a better look at the brunette. Even when Cordelia and the Scoobies actively hated each other so many years ago the brunette could hardly have been referred to as a stranger. Willow knew that she certainly felt like she saw a lot of the brunette than she cared to back in the day.

"True, nearly being eaten by evil snakes together, tends to bring people closer," the brunette agreed with a rueful smile. "But we were hardly friends," she continued, shaking her head thoughtfully. "Not like she was with you and Xander anyway."

Willow nodded in understanding before letting out a loud sigh. "It's just that it's so�"

"Frustrating? Irritating? Makes you want to beat them with a shovel�ing?" Cordelia asked, smirking at the redhead and her expression. "Don't' forget, I too know the friendship of a taciturn avenger."

"Angel's like this too?" Willow asked, though she wasn't really surprised. She heard that he had lightened up a bit, but with the excessive brooding that he'd done in the past, him lightening up would probably still have left him in the charcoal gray area of the colour spectrum.

"I think he's the one she got it from," Cordelia answered, shaking her head. The truth was that even though she was the one who brought him up, she didn't really want to think about him at the moment, or at any moments coming up. The events of the night before were still fresh in her mind, and even though she knew that Angel and Buffy were forever more going to be a past tense, and even though she could semi-justify things by saying that she had no idea that anything like what happened was going to happen�ever�in life, she was feeling slightly�what was that word�not quite the opposite of pride but close to it�guilty. Yeah, she was feeling somewhat guilty and wanted to ignore it.

"I just�I wanna see her happy, you know," Willow responded, sighing dramatically.

"Yeah," Cordelia responded. She wanted the same thing. "But you can't gift wrap happiness and courier it to someone," she continued. "Buffy has to want it."

Willow nodded. Cordelia wasn't saying anything that she hadn't already thought of herself; it was just that the answer seemed to be part of the problem. "But Buffy hasn't seemed to want anything lately," the witch finally replied in a despondent tone. How could wanting something be the answer to not wanting anything? If someone wanted something there would be no problem to begin with.

"Oh, I don't know about that," Cordelia replied with a droll tone, not quite able to keep the huge smiley face she was making on the inside stop from showing on the outside, as images of Buffy wanting and taking came to her unbidden.

"What?" Willow asked, not quite sure what to make of Cordelia's tone or expression yet oddly encouraged by them nonetheless.

"Nothing," the brunette responded, quickly straightening up in the chair as she struggled to get her features back under control. "Sorry. Yeah," she went on shifting in the chair uncomfortably. "So. How's Amy? Still a rat?"


PART SEVEN

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Sensing a presence beside her, Cordelia turned her head to the side slowly cracking her eyes open. She hadn't seen Buffy since the Slayer had taken off earlier that day to attend the meeting at Dawn's school, and feeling rather tired and not wanting to be presumptuous she had taken up her spot on the Summer's couch again and settled in. "Home a little late aren't we?" the brunette asked, looking up into Buffy's face. "Either that or extremely early."

"I got distracted by a song and dance number," the Slayer responded, her eyes focused on Cordelia intensely.

"Excuse me?" the brunette asked, wondering if it had been wise to leave the blonde alone for so long.

"Nothing�I just had the strangest night," Buffy responded, shaking her distractedly. "I'll tell you about it tomorrow," she continued, taking a step back and offering her hand to the brunette.

"Ummm," the brunette responded, grasping the blonde's hand allowing herself to be pulled into a standing position. "I'll remember," she said, turning her head to the side to watch Buffy as the Slayer began to lead them up the stairs.

"Of that I have no doubt," Buffy responded softly, a small smile drifting her across her face as she opened the door to her bedroom, allowing Cordelia to enter the room. "I'll just have to do my best to occupy you until then," she continued, her smile growing as she watched the brunette lift her shirt over her head and fling it to the side.

"Promises, promises," Cordelia mumbled, turning around to face Buffy.

They turned out to be the last coherent words she was able to emote quite some time.

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"Good morning, Buffy," Giles greeted as the blonde woman entered the shop.

"Oh hey, did Dawn get off to school alright?" Willow asked, looking up as the Slayer entered the shop. Buffy had been late getting down that morning for some reason and the young brunette had been worried about getting to school to time.

"What?" Buffy asked, turning distractedly to face Willow. "Oh, uh, yeah. I think," she continued, the redhead's question finally registering with her as she scanned the store for a certain brunette. One who wasn't at all happy with her for hurriedly taking off earlier and thus avoiding the conversation she had promised to have with her if the brunette let her have her way the night before.

"Respect the cruller. And tame the donut!" she heard Xander chanting from her side.

"That's still funny, sweetie," Anya told him encouragingly on her way to the counter. However as Buffy turned her attention to Xander's side and saw Cordelia staring at him sternly, she realized that Anya was probably the only one who still found it amusing and that if she didn't distract everyone with strange happens soon, Cordelia was going to be looking at her with that expression.

"So, uh, no new research?" Buffy asked, making her way into the middle of the store. "Nothing new going on? Monsters or whatnot?" she continued, ignoring the look Cordelia sent her as the others shook their heads no. "Good!" she declared upon seeing their reactions. "Good," she continued less certainly as the events of the night before came back to her. "Uh, so, did anybody ... uh ... last night, you know, did anybody, um ... burst into song?"

"Merciful Zeus," Xander cried, dropping his donut back onto the plate, as the rest of the room's occupants rushed over to the table.

"We thought it was just us!" Willow stated excitedly, looking over at Tara.

"Well, I sang but I had my guitar at the hotel..." Giles responded, glancing at everyone else.

"It was bizarre. We were talking and then it was like-" Tara interjected animatedly.

"You were in a musical!" Buffy said, finishing Tara's sentence.

"Oh, that's what it was," Cordelia said, looking over at the two girls. "I'd heard noises but figured that what two people choose to do in the sanctity of their own bedroom is�"

"Yeah," Tara responded, nodding in Buffy's direction. "And hey!" she said, looking at Cordelia who suddenly found the seam of her pants extremely interesting.

"That would explain the huge backing orchestra I couldn't see and the synchronized dancing from the room service chaps," Giles added, looking rather pleased at the turn the conversation had taken since it meant that he wasn't going completely nutty.

"We did a whole duet about dish washing," Willow related. "And Cordelia accompanied us, no matter what she says."

"It was catchy, that's all," the brunette responded, even as she thought back to the incident and realized that her participation had been rather involuntary if highly amusing.

"And we were arguing and, and then everything rhymed and there were harmonies and the dance with coconuts," Anya said, jumping in, not liking the fact that Cordelia was speaking more than her. Men liked women who could speak.

"There was an entire verse about the couscous," Willow went on, shaking her head.

"Oh god the couscous," Cordelia muttered, shaking her head.

"It was very disturbing," Xander said with a touch of bewilderment in his voice.

"At least you didn't get couscous," the ex-cheerleader responded to which Xander nodded. That was very true.

"What did you sing about?" Giles asked, looking at the Slayer. This discussion of couscous was getting them nowhere.

"I don't remember," the blonde replied, "but i-it seemed perfectly normal."

"But disturbing. And not the natural order of things," Xander added in after Buffy finished speaking. She probably just forgot to mention that part, and he was nothing if not a helper. "And do you think it'll happen again?" he continued with a touch of dread in his voice. He really had more of an alone in the shower kind of singing voice, definitely, but if this continued there were going to be mountaintops and all that stuff and he just really wasn't up for that.

"I don't know," Giles said glancing down. "I should look into it."

"With the books," Willow supplied.

"Of course with the books," Cordelia said, shooting a look at Willow. Like there was anything else with these people.

"Do we have any books on this?" Tara asked thoughtfully. She'd never come across a musical section before.

"Well we just gotta break it down," Xander said firmly. "Look at the factors before it happens again," he continued, "because I for one�"

"I've got a theory/ That it's a demon/ A dancing demon! / No something isn't right there," Giles began to sing, sitting down and taking his glasses off in consternation.

"I've got a theory/ A kid is dreaming/ And we're all stuck inside his wacky Broadway nightmare," Willow piped up as Tara accompanied her with some jazz hands.

"I've got a theory we should work this out," Xander contributed.

"This isn't Fosse/ What are the jazz hands all about," Cordelia sang, shaking her head. This was going to be a long, long, long, long, long, long, couple of days. And she didn't even need to have visions to divine that.


PART EIGHT

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"Don't think that I've forgotten," Cordelia said, coming to a stop beside Buffy and reaching up to place the book in her hand back on the shelf.

"How could I with the death rays you've been sending me all day," Buffy muttered in a rather petulant tone. First she has deal with the entire town suddenly going Disney, and then Spike becomes Mr. Even Worse Attitude after admitting to spying on her and Cordelia while they were in the backyard the other night -- somehow making it sound like he had suffered a great injustice -- and kicked her out of his crypt while singing that dumbass song, and now Cordelia was giving her attitude.

"I think death rays is tad strong," Cordelia started with a frown. "Perhaps icy�uh�.ah�Buffy," she trailed off clutching her head as her eyes closed painfully. "Buffy," she repeated one last time before the images began to flood into her brain, slamming into her and causing her to stumble backwards.

"Cordy!" Buffy yelled, moving around the brunette just in time to catch her before she hit the ground. "Giles! Giles�Cordelia, something's wrong!"

"Dawn. At the Bronze. Crazy Tommy Tune like guy's holding her. He's the one. Buffy's dancing � for him?" Cordelia choked out, her eyes still closed even though the pain was lessening now.

"Are you okay?" Buffy asked worriedly as the brunette began to struggle into an upright position. "I mean, god � are they always like that?" the Slayer continued, wondering if Cordelia had been putting up with whatever that was for over two years now.

"I'm fine," Cordelia said, struggling onto her feet with Buffy's help. "It's okay. Really. The demon that's got Dawn, it's the same one from my vision in L.A.," she continued. "I�"

However, as Cordelia was about to continue the door to the Magic Box came flying open and Spike walked in dragging what looked like a super-sized Chucky doll behind him. It was, to put it mildly, exceptionally creepy.

"Lookie, lookie what I found," the vampire stated flinging the thing inside of the shop.

"Is this the demon guy?" Tara asked eyeing the odd looking creature. Somehow she thought that it really looked more comical that evil. And he in no way resembled Tommy Tune.

"Tara," Willow said happily, seeing the girl come up behind her. She'd gotten the impression that Tara had been avoiding her, and as the blonde ignored her, she realized that she had been right on the mark with her earlier assessment which meant that something was seriously wrong.

"Works for him," Spike responded. "Has a nice little story for the Slayer, don't you? Come on then," she continued, giving Chucky a none to gentle shove. "Sing."

"My master has the Slayer's sister hostage at the Bronze because she summoned him and at midnight he's going to take her to the underworld to be his queen," Chucky stated calmly.

Spike glanced at the Scoobies who seemed be perfectly contended with the dolls answer irritably. Not only was Buffy wrapped around the bloody cheerleader like she was a candy bar, no one in the room seemed to give a ruddy damn that they didn't know anything about what the dancing bad wanted. "And what does he bloody well want?" the vampire asked, jerking the doll around again.

"Ah Spike," Buffy interrupted as the vampire raised his hand to hit the hostage. "We kind of already know that."

"How?"

"Cordelia had a vision," Tara replied, taking a step back when the vampire's lips curved upwards in a snarl.

"Well Cordelia's just bloody well got all of the answers doesn't she," he muttered, tightening his hold on the doll. "What's next, turning water into wine?" he asked, tossing the doll out of the door.

"Did somebody get caught cheating at kitten poker again?" Cordelia asked in a psuedo-sympathetic voice. "Uh ah," the brunette continued as the vampire whipped around to face her. "You don't want to hurt yourself."

"Um, if Cordelia and Spike are finished re-introducing us to kindergarten, do you think that we could maybe move on," Buffy interjected stopping the vampire from retorting. "Like onto maybe forming a plan."

"Plan, schman. Let's mount up," Xander said, taking a step forward. He had a thing for the Summers girls. He just liked them, and there was NO way Dawn was getting married before him!

"No," Giles said, glancing over at Buffy sadly. He had hoped to see her begin to show some kind of interest in her life, to see her begin � even if slowly�to take charge once more. But, here she was again, simply waiting for orders, unable or unwillingly to think for herself.

"Uh, Dawn may have had the wrong idea in summoning this creature," Anya began at Giles statement. "But ... I've seen some of these underworld child bride deals and, and they never end well," she continued. "Well, maybe once."

"We're not just gonna stay here," Willow said, adding onto Anya's unique critique of Giles' noninterference policy.

"Yes we are," Giles responded, looking intently at Buffy. "Buffy's going alone."

Spike left out briefly disgusted laugh at that. "Gah! Don't be a stupid git. There is no�" the vampire began. Buffy may have been messing around with Skipper for now, but she was still his girl whether she knew it or not, and he'd look out for her until she realized that they meant for each other.

"If I want your opinion, Spike, I'll..." Giles began before pausing briefly to consider his words. "I'll never want your opinion," he concluded, looking hard at the vampire.

Willow watched the proceedings with a growing unease. "A little confusion spell could�"

"No!" Tara interjected, cutting Willow off. A little anything spell was the last thing any of them needed. "I mean I don't think it'll help."

"Look, forget them Slayer. I've got your back," Spike said, stepping forward. He liked the little bit and didn't want anything to happen to her, plus it couldn't help but win him brownie points with Buffy. It was really a win, win situation.

"I thought you wanted me to stay away from you?" Buffy responded rather militantly, unconsciously leaning towards the warmth of Cordelia's body. "Isn't that what you sang?"

"Spike sing a widdle song?" Xander asked, smiling at the idea.

"Would you say it was a break away pop hit or more of a book number?" Anya asked, edging her way into the circle and the conversation.

"Let it go, sweetie," Xander responded, shaking his head. Sometimes the woman just tore the ass out of subjects, she had to learn to let bygones be bygones gee golly.

"Fine," the vampire responded angrily as she noticed the Slayer's motions. If she wanted the bitch she could have her. The brunette was going to leave, just like all the others and Buffy could rot away alone and miserable for all he cared. "I hope you dance till you burn," he spat at her. "You and the little bit," and with those parting remarks he huffed his way out of the shop.

"You're really not coming?" Buffy asked, turning her head to look at her Watcher. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. They were just going to abandon her now? They couldn't be bothered anymore? She hadn't asked for them to bring her back, but they had, so that what? They could stay home at night and carve fertility statues?

"It's up to you," Giles responded walking over to Buffy. He could see the hurt in her eyes, but he knew that it was for the best.

"What do you expect me to do?" the Slayer asked, clearly upset.

"Your best," the older man responded.

Buffy clenched her jaw. Her best. Whatever.

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Buffy shoved her hands into her pockets as she stalked down the darkened streets of downtown Sunnydale. She was overwhelmed, she was hated, she was alone, and she was numb. "I touch the fire and it freezes me/ I look in to it and it's black," she began to sing, her heart contracting painfully. Had it ever been warm? Was it that along ago? "Why can't I feel?/ My skin should crack and peel," she continued, passing by an open fire and feeling nothing. "I want the fire back!"

"Now through the smoke/ She calls to me./ To make my way across the flame/ To save the day," she sang, her mouth forming a sorry excuse for a smile, "or maybe melt away/ I guess it's all the same," she continued shoving her hands into her pockets. It didn't matter anyway, whatever she did it was never enough, there were always more and always death.

"So I will walk through the fire," she continued making her way down the street. "'Cause where else can I turn? I will walk through the fire/ And let it�"

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"I hope you dance till you burn," Cordelia repeated. Spike's words swirling around in her mind like endless dark clouds. Images from her visions flashing in mind, disjointed but pieces that could be put together. "Buffy surrounded by smoke," she continued. "I hope you dance till you burn�oh god!" she said whipping around to face the others in the room.

"Will this do a thing to change her?/ Am I leaving Dawn in danger?/ Is my Slayer to far gone to care?/" Giles sang looking thoughtfully into the distance.

"What if Buffy can't defeat it?" Xander sang looking around the room.

"Beady eye's is right," Anya joined in.

"We're needed," Cordelia continued.

"Or we could just sit around and glare," the ex-demon went on, staring at Willow and Tara.

Immediately they all rose, striding purposefully towards the door.

"We'll see it through/ That's what we're always here to do," they sang together as they strode down the street. "So we will walk through the fire�"

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"Showtime!" Buffy heard from in front of her as she kicked the door to the Bronze down and walked inside. "I love a good entrance," the demon continued.

"How are you with death scenes?" the Slayer asked, looking up onto the stage to make sure her sister was alright.

"You got a name?" she continued, ignoring the creature's amused laughter.

"I've got a hundred," Sweet responded with a smile.

"I ought to know what to call you if you're going to be my brother in law," the Slayer continued, taking up a relaxed stance against one of the room's pool tables.

"Buffy, I swear I didn't�" Dawn started, wondering why she constantly had to be the damsel in distress.

"Don't worry, you're not going anywhere," the Slayer said, interrupting her sister. "I am."

"What?" Sweet asked, leaning forward. This was an unexpected, though not totally unwelcome, change.

"Deal's this," Buffy said meeting his gaze. "I can't kill you�you take me to Hellsville in her place," she continued, her voice almost as flat as she was feeling.

"What if I kill you?" Sweet asked, intrigued by the Slayer's response to the whole situation.

"Trust me. Won't help," the blonde deadpanned, meeting the demon's gaze.

"That's gloomy," Sweet responded.

"That's life," Buffy replied, checking her instinct to frown at the feeling of d�j� vu that came over her.

"Come on now, is that really how you feel?" Sweet asked. "Isn't life a miraculous thing?" he continued in a teasing tone.

"I think you already know," Buffy replied, pushing off of the pool table. "Life's a show/ And we all play our parts/ And when the music starts," she sang, opening up her jacket as she went along. "We open up our hearts," she went on, moving forward as her jacket dropped to the ground. "It's alright/ If some things come out wrong/ We'll sing a happy song/ And you can sing along," she continued grabbing a pool cue and some of Sweet's minions approached her from the sides.

"Everywhere there's life," she sang, hitting one of the minions with the cue. "There's hope/ Every day's," she continued elbowing one, "A gift. Wishes can," kick, "come true/ Whistle while/ You work/ So hard/ All day," she continued, impaling the last of the minions.

"To be like other girls," she continued as the Scoobies arrived. "To fit in to this glittering world," she continued wistfully. "Don't give me songs/ Don't give me songs," she continued as Anya and Tara began to dance behind her.

"Give me something to sing about�" she cried desperately. Make it enough; she needed it to be enough.

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"All the joy/ Life sends," Buffy continued,   working herself up into a frenzy, wanting to stop but not knowing how. "Family/ And friends/ All the twists/ And bends/ Knowing that/ It ends/ Well that/ Depends," she continued, wishing that her mouth would shut yet at the same time becoming oddly glad that it wouldn't. "On if they let you go/ On if they know enough to know/ That when you've bowed/ You leave the crowd," she went on walking up onto the stage, her gaze shifting between the others and Sweet.

"There was no pain/No fear, no doubt/ Till they pulled me out/ Of Heaven," she continued, noticing Giles and Xander's shocked faces. "So that's my refrain/I live in Hell/ 'Cause I've been expelled/From Heaven/ I think I was in Heaven," she went on softly. "So give me something to sing about�"

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Cordelia watched as Buffy looked out at them desperately before flipping off of the stage. She turned to look at the Scoobies who were standing by in some sort of stupor as Buffy began to dance and dance and dance. Faster and faster she moved, spinning wildly until smoke began to curl off of her.

"Buffy!" she called out, stepping forward, her shoulder colliding with something. Turning her head she spotted Spike beside her. She hadn't realized when he had shown up, but apparently he had the same idea she did.

They watched each other for the briefest of moments, then eyes blaring with some emotion the brunette didn't have the time to identify, the vampire stepped back, allowing Cordelia access to the Slayer.

"Life's not a play," Cordelia sang, grasping Buffy's shoulders, slowing the Slayer's motions down. "It isn't bliss/ It's just this," she continued as Buffy stared at her. "It's living," the brunette went on. "You'll find a way," she sang, brushes a stray strand of the Slayer's hair away. "Those feelings of pain/ Only you can repair/ By living. You have to go on living. Believe in living," Cordelia continued as Buffy stared at her.

Buffy stared into the brunette's dark eyes, the shimmering, dark orbits anchoring her as emotions churned inside of her like the sea during a storm. She didn't want to feel like this anymore. She couldn't take feeling like this anymore.

"The hardest thing in this world�is to live in it," she heard her sister say from behind Cordelia. Her voice quivering slightly as she recalled the Slayer's words.

And Buffy remembered then. She remembered what love felt like. She remembered loving Dawn so much that she died for her, and how beautiful and terrible an emotion it was. She remembered how happy she was to see Giles when he returned and how she was unable to convey to him just how glad she was to see him. She remembered the endless comedy that was kitten poker, and she remembered Cordelia trying to chase her down with the shopping cart at the grocery store. She remembered the way the brunette's lips felt against hers, and how wonderful it felt to feel Cordelia's warm body sliding against her own, warming her in places that had been so cold. She remembered that cartoon they always used to show after Care Bears where the little boy shared his double scoop with his sister after she dropped hers and how it always made her feel warm and fuzzy inside. She remembered how much fun it had been trying to teach Willow to skate until the redhead had decided that sitting on the ice was more her speed, and much more fun it had been meeting with Xander for hot chocolate after. She remembered that things could be good�if you'd let them.

So, remembering this, Buffy leaned into the brunette's arms allowing the other woman to pull her into a tender embrace. And lying her head against Cordelia's chest, her eyes closing as she sighed softly, she let it feel good.


PART NINE

----------------

"So everything's alright?" Angel asked, his relief clear even through the muffled tones of the receiver. He'd been getting increasing agitated as the days had worn on and he hadn't heard anything from her.

"Yeah, everything's fine. She's completely alive � and, dare I say it, finally on the mend," the brunette responded. "How did the stuff at the warehouse go?"

"You know, slash. Kick. People running away in a blind panic. Consult the books. Swords. Methane tanks. The usual," the vampire responded, trying to sound nonchalant. The truth was, though it had taken a couple of days, they hadn't had much trouble dispensing with the small group of demons that had kidnapped the boy. But, it just hadn't been the same without Cordelia there. He didn't know quite how to explain it, but things just seemed off somehow with the brunette gone, and the others had felt it too. The fact was, that he'd be glad when she came back. "So, when can we expect the pleasure of you're company?"

"Tomorrow morning I guess," the brunette responded. It had been a couple days since the musical incident ended, and while things with Willow and Tara seemed a little tense, and the Scoobies interactions with the Slayer were still rather strained, Buffy seemed to be taking whatever epiphany she had at the Bronze that night to heart. She wouldn't have minded sticking around a little more to see how things turned out, to maybe help Buffy ease back into life a bit more, but she knew that if she didn't leave soon she was going to be sucked into something bigger than whatever it was that had been going on between her and Slayer, and she couldn't wait for that. She had responsibilities to get back to in L.A. "Everything here is slowly getting back to normal � so, no more Cordy."

"We'll all," the vampire started, pausing, then sighing. "I'll be glad when you're back. The hotel has been missing a certain � Cordyosity."

"You mean horribly bad coffee?" the brunette asked.

"Of course," Angel responded. "We've been able to drink it for the last week. I don't think that Fred has been able to get to sleep for the last three days."

--------------------------------------------------

"So," Dawn began, looking at her sister dubiously. "What you're saying is that the Bretton Woods project was a task undertaken by the world's leading thinkers in cracker technology to create a new and better biscuit?" she went on. "And that this all became possible because of amazing discoveries that Gen. Poncho Villa made during the invasion of Normandy?"

Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her chair as her sister summed up the conversation they had just had into a few very compact, very incredulous sentences. It had seemed a lot better when she was making it up.

"Buffy, did you ever even GO to school?" Dawn asked, shaking her head. She may not have read the homework, or paid much attention in class, but she knew that Poncho Villa didn't have anything to do with the invasion of Normandy, and was willing to bet her 'No String's Attached' CD that Bretton Woods didn't have anything to do with crackers � even though Bretton crackers were very yummy with spread.

"I did," Buffy replied huffily, looking over at Dawn. "Occasionally I did," she continued, playing with the scone on the plate in front of her. "Once or twice," she went on glancing over at Dawn.

She held her sister's gaze for a moment, each of them staring at each other intensely, before they both began making little hmph-ing sounds in there throats which quickly led to full out laughing.

"I seriously fail to see how writing a history paper could be this much fun," Cordelia stated, walking into the kitchen eyeing the two laughing Summers girls with a touch of amusement and concern. What could possibly be that funny?

"It is if Buffy's the one giving you source material," Dawn replied, cracking up again. "Poncho Villa," she continued shaking her head. "Ass."

"Hey," Buffy responded. "He was very important to development of commercially marketing the hooded sweater jacket!"

"Was this before or after he personally defeated Dr. No in his island fortress of extremely stupid evil?" Dawn asked, smirking at Buffy. She'd missed this, them just sitting around snarking at each other in the way only sisters can do and still love each other in the morning. She'd missed Buffy.

"Oh go to bed," Buffy replied, pointing at the door. Dawn stuck out her tongue. "No, seriously," Buffy continued. "Go to bed. It's past midnight."

"I would so kill to get my hands on one of your old papers," the brunette stated with a smile, sitting down across from the Slayer.

"I hear they're actually handing them out to the kids now as warnings, skip class and this could happen to you," Buffy responded, shaking her head with an exaggerated sigh. "My personal favorite was 'Nuts to the Middle Ages'. I based the whole essay on five minutes of a documentary I saw on PBS one night. It would've been good, it could've been good�you know if the documentary had actually been on the Middle Ages," she continued, smirking at the brunette. "And if I had left out the little rant about genetically engineered, super intelligent monkey's surviving us icies on the moon."

"You're a strange girl, aren't you Buffy?" Cordelia asked the other woman, her eyes twinkling with amusement.

"Professionally," the Slayer responded with a grin, before becoming pensive as she regarded the brunette. "When?" she asked finally, her eyes drifting about the kitchen.

"When what?" Cordelia responded, not surprised but still confused by Buffy's abrupt subject change.

"When are you leaving?" the Slayer asked, looking back over at the former debutante.

"Oh," the brunette replied with sigh, slumping down in her chair slightly. "Tomorrow."

"I bet the business is crumbling without you," Buffy commented, suddenly finding the tabletop very interesting.

"You have no idea. I really wonder about those people. The only thing I don't have to schedule for them are bathes," Cordelia responded in a fond tone though she shook her head as if it were an absolutely exasperating experience just thinking about them.

Buffy was silent for a moment as she considered what had been said. The truth was that she had become quite fond of the brunette and she didn't at all want her to go. In fact she would have been quite pleased with Cordelia staying with them, with her indefinitely. But she knew that it couldn't be that way.

"I should give you a proper send off," the blonde began moments later, pushing out of her chair and standing up.

"What did you have in mind?" the brunette asked, looking over at the Slayer questioningly.

"Follow me and I'll show you," the Slayer responded, a truly lecherous grin spreading across her features as her eyes raked themselves over the brunette's body, before she turned and headed for the door.

"Different cork than I was expecting," Cordelia mumbled to herself, standing up. "But it works for me," she continued with a grin. Oh, sweet Sunnydale.


Cordelia stood looking out of the Summers' bay window. The Scoobies were congregated outside on the lawn with her luggage talking about something or the other, probably wedding plans from the look on Willow's face. They'd been inside moments before saying their goodbyes, but had left after the hugs and the 'good to see yous' to wait for Cordelia's cab. As for the brunette herself, she was waiting for a certain Slayer to make her appearance so that they could say a proper goodbye to each other. A private goodbye, worth of the bond formed between them over the past week.

"I didn't say it the first time you left�you know, because I wouldn't have meant it," Buffy started with an impish little grin as she stepped off the last stair. "But I'm going to miss you," she continued, coming to stop in front of the brunette who was now facing her. Her voice dropped intimately as she looked at the other woman and she had to struggle to suppress the urge she was feeling to stroke the brunette's cheek.

"Hmmm," Cordelia responded, looking down at the Slayer thoughtfully. "You're temporary sweetener," she continued, a ghost of a smile making its way across her face. For some reason she was feeling an intense desire to wrap the smaller woman in her arms and squeezing her as tightly to her as she could without injuring either of them.

"No," Buffy stated, taking a step towards the other woman. "No Sweet ' n ' Low, just you," she continued softly. "If things were different," she went on, dropping her head down, not quite sure that she should be voicing the thoughts that were running through her head. "I don't' know, if things were different I guess that things could be different."

"You'd join the parade with Kim and Kerry over there," the brunette asked, flickering her head towards the window, indicating Willow and Tara, who were waiting outside with the others and her luggage. Truthfully, she never considered that she would consider considering herself one of those women who wore shirts saying 'I'm not gay, but my girlfriend is'. But she had never considered considering that she might end up working for a vampire, while getting visions from a higher power that helped her be a champion of justice, before becoming a Queen in an alternate dimension. So all things considered, what she considered considering didn't really mean that much.

"Well, I already march to my own drummer," the Slayer responded, grinning at the brunette. She should have figured that the brunette would've been able to figure out what she was getting at.

"And I step to my own tune," the ex-cheerleader responded seriously before pausing for a second, then leaning down and brining their lips together. Drawing the blonde into her tenderly as her hands came to rest of the Slayer's hips, deepening the kiss as they stayed locked together in that sweet embrace for long moments.

"I've gotta go," Cordelia whispered reluctantly, taking a step back from the blonde in an attempt to collect herself.

"You will call, won't you?" Buffy asked as the brunette opened up the front door. "I may be reanimated tissue but I'm a still a lady," she continued trying to make herself sound only half as demanding as she was feeling.

"I�" Cordelia started to say turning around to face Buffy. "I will," she continued softly smiling at the Slayer before turning back around and heading down the steps. The cab had just pulled into the driveway, and she wouldn't look back.


The End

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