It Starts With Faith
Xander held back the urge to sneeze.
For some reason he didn't like sneezing. It was also why he probably didn't like dust. Which there was a lot of in Cordelia's house... mansion... well, mansion like house that they were currently inside.
Not wanting to keep living in the lonely place she'd grown up in, Cordelia decided to auction off the house and most of the family belongings. The profits of the auction would go to a charity she'd gotten the scores of lawyers her father worked with to set up. One used to aid the families of the victims of vampire attacks.
Today was the final day of the spring cleaning extravaganza, as Cordelia liked to call it, and the movers were taking the last of the belongings for processing just before the auction tomorrow afternoon. All in all, moving the various piles of stuff her family owned brought a lot of dust into the air. Especially since most were in storage. This caused something of a problem for Xander and his dust and sneeze disliking senses.
But Xander held back the urge to sneeze.
He held it back successfully and ended up looking like a freak while he stood there. Observing him, Cordelia arched an eyebrow and chuckled. "Go on," she teased in soft tones. "You know you're going to anyway."
Xander held back the urge to sneeze and formed his very best resolve face. The one he learned from years of being friends with Willow.
"He's stubborn," Amy said with a smile as she hooked her arm in Xander's and leaned up against him, trying to ignore the awful face he wore. "But cute so I'll keep him for the time being."
Xander held back the urge to sneeze and wore a vaguely offended expression as he looked at Amy.
Then Faith walked into the room and whacked him against the back as she grinned. "Hey, X," she greeted cheerfully. "What's with the funky face?"
Xander responded by sneezing on her.
"Y'know," Faith began in a low growl as she looked down at her sneeze covered shirt. "That wasn't the response I was expectin' to get from you, right?"
Xander laughed nervously and held up his hands in a hapless gesture. "Sorry," he said quickly. "It was an uncontrolled bodily function I tried to control and had no luck at doing so. You now reap the consequences."
Instead of replying, Faith shook her head and muttered, "I'll show you reaping..." Sighing, she looked at Cordelia who was smiling fondly at her. "Sweets, did you box up all your spare clothes? Or do you have a shirt somewhere around her that I can snag?"
"For you? I'll always have something special that needs putting on," Cordelia teased, taking Faith's hand as she gently pulled the Slayer upstairs.
Amy and Xander observed them for a moment before meeting each other's eyes and forming a goofy grin they had somehow mastered together.
"Cuuuute," the couple cried out, clasping their hands together and bouncing up and down a bit.
"Says the masters of cuteness themselves."
"Bufficus Maximus," Xander said, grinning as he watched the blonde Slayer weave her way through box after box filled with various... well, Chase stuff. "What're you doing here? I thought you and the Willster had a fun fun day planned out together." He formed a serious face then said quietly, "Is she okay? We know she didn't want to come today because... you know, adjusting."
"She's with Charlie and Derrick," Buffy said. "They're trying to figure out if they want to keep the band together without," unable to finish, Buffy simply met the couple's eyes and looked sad.
"Do you think they will?" asked Amy softly.
"I hope so," murmured Buffy, moving her gaze to study a table filled with various electronic equipment. "I'd like for them to stay together. It would be good for Will. She loves playing music so much and... I think that's what Vince would want. For them to keep playing."
They were quiet for a moment and Buffy strolled over to the table and picked up one of the pieces of fancy equipment and pushed a button. Seconds later, the sound of ear piercing high frequency pain was launched.
Then Xander took Buffy's new toy away.
"This is our brains seeping out of our ears," Xander groaned, turning off the gadget and putting it down. Glaring at Buffy with a playful expression, he shook his index finger in her face. "If you don't know what something does, don't touch it."
Buffy scowled and was about to reply when Xander released an altogether childlike noise of delight and went dashing towards something on the other side of the table. Whirling around, he revealed that he now had a digital camera in his grasp and aimed it at Buffy.
"It's Xandcam!" he cried out happily. Moving closer as he adjusted the zoom and feature options on the camera, Xander continued, "Aren't I the coolest?"
"You," Buffy pronounced slowly, staring hard into the camera with her best look of disdain. "Are a dork."
"This thing is great," Xander said, making the unknowing Buffy a wave of sparkly lines. "Ohhh, it has nifty special effects options. I wonder if I can mess with the sound and make you sound ominous?"
"You mean she doesn't sound ominous now?" Amy asked with a smile while Buffy rolled her eyes.
"Funny," drawled Buffy. "Everyone mocks me."
"That sounded ominous!" Xander exclaimed. Walking over to his girlfriend, he moved the tiny screen so she could see what he just filmed. "Tell me, don't you think this makes her sound humorously grrr scary?"
Amy watched the screen as Buffy dissolved into sparkly lines and then ended up looking like some sort of weirdo monster as her voice growl gurgled, "Mocks me!"
"Oh god," Amy giggled. "That's too funny."
"Buff the Magic Dragon is a sparkly demon," Xander said, grinning at his girlfriend and poking her in the side. "I think we should stay away from her, pookie."
"Definitely, sugar britches," Amy giggled more.
"Like I said," Buffy pronounced. "The masters of cuteness. I suddenly have the urge to barf."
"Hold back your urge, Buff," advised Faith, strolling downstairs and holding hands with Cordelia. The dark Slayer now had on one of the tall brunette's flimsy spaghetti string tank tops which looked oddly fitting with the black leather pants she wore. "Sweets is trying to sell this place remember? Barf covered floors... not a good selling point, I'm thinking."
Three days had passed since Cordelia's resurrection and she had yet to deal with Buffy or Willow. Her general plan had been to avoid them both.
So on seeing Buffy in her house, or soon to be former house, Cordelia set about doing just that. It wasn't like she wanted to be rude to Buffy... she just didn't know how to deal with the blonde Slayer. Part of Cordelia was still angry at Buffy for kissing Faith. But another part just couldn't be angry. After all, if anyone knew best how easy it was to fall for Faith and her charms, it was Cordelia.
But she couldn't help the uncomfortable way she felt around Buffy. Which was why Cordelia didn't reply to Faith and shifted her gaze to Xander. Good, happy, safe, Xander whom she couldn't possibly feel ill at ease with.
"You found our gifts from the Sony people I see," Cordelia said with a smile. "We have tons of them."
"Really?" Xander's eyes lit up. "Why's that?"
"My father rescued one of their top executives from a total financial loss in his divorce," said Cordelia, moving to stand at Xander's side. Peering down into the screen, she smirked at what she saw. "That's nice. I didn't realize you liked video cameras so much."
"Hey, I like anything I can record moments in time with and use to embarrass my friends," Xander grinned.
Studying Xander for a moment, Cordelia tipped her head to one side then said, "Keep it."
"What?" asked Xander, blinking dimly.
"You heard me," replied Cordelia, smiling. "I'm just going to sell it anyway. I much rather give it to you. If you see anything else you'd like, take that too."
"Cordelia... I can't..." Xander began in shock.
"Xander," said Cordelia, her tones firm but definitely affectionate. She hesitated then gently gripped his arm as she continued, "Please let me give you this. It would make me happy... to be able to do just a little for someone who's done so much for me."
"I haven't done anything," whispered Xander, looking perplexed about the entire situation.
Shaking her head, Cordelia looked up at him and smiled softly. "No, you've done a lot," she paused to look at Amy. "The both of you made me feel like I belonged, it helped... after I first came back. You should know that."
Xander, feeling confused, met Amy's eyes and with a shrug and a grin, she said, "Better give in. You don't want to make her angry, especially now that she has the vampy powers gig going on. Soul or not, that's not a mojo you want to mess with."
"Okay," Xander heaved an exaggerated sigh as he looked at Cordelia and grinned. "I guess I'll just HAVE to be burdened with keeping this way too fun video camera. I'll have you know that you owe for me this though."
"Right," Cordelia smirked, tugging Xander along after her. "Come on, I think we have some spare batteries lying around here that I know you could use."
Watching Cordelia and Xander rift through the table full of electronics and discussing all the cool uses for them, Amy smiled softly. Walking over to Faith and Buffy, she commented idly, "If I wasn't such a self secure and magnanimous girlfriend who knew full well of the eternal love you and Cordelia share, I'd be jealous."
"You're a saint, Amy girl," Faith chuckled.
"She doesn't want me here."
Seconds after Buffy said this, Amy and Faith fixed their gazes on her. She sighed and gave them a wan smile as she said, "You guys know it's true."
"Just give her time Buff," said Faith quietly. Looking concerned, she clasped the other Slayer's arm gently and gave it a squeeze. "It's been hard on her, on all of us... what went on. We can't just poof back to how things used to be, no matter how much we wanna."
"Don't worry," Amy murmured, giving Buffy a reassuring look. "It'll work out in the end. We just need some time to adjust, that's all. I'm sure sooner or later it will all come together and she'll want to talk to you."
At this prospect, Buffy looked sick. "Talk to me about what?" she muttered. "How I almost ruined her life and the life of everyone else that she loves?"
Faith and Amy exchanged a look at this.
"You wanna or should I?" asked Faith.
"I'll do it," Amy said with a sigh. Wearing a face of determination, she gave Buffy a whack on the back of her head. "Stop being a ditz," she ordered.
"Oww!" Buffy whined, rubbing the back of her head as she glared at Amy. "Some best friend! You take the first chance to assault me."
"I had to do it," said Amy, looking at Faith and smirking. "Faith didn't want to."
Scowling at the dark Slayer, Buffy said, "You want to tell me what that was for then?"
"Exactly what Amy girl said," Faith responded earnestly, her eyes calm. "It was to get you to see what a ditz you're being. Y'know," forming a small smile, Faith chuckled. "I love you, Buff... but damn, you really got this thing about blaming yourself. I can't give you much trouble about it, seeing as I got the same problem myself but... stop it, okay? It's like we both told you, it's gonna take awhile for stuff to work itself out. Till then we just gotta be patient." Clasping Buffy's shoulders in a gentle hold, Faith said, "Don't worry so much."
"Or you'll get wrinkles," Amy chimed in. Sneaking up behind Buffy, she reached around the back of the slim blonde and pulled at her cheeks. "Your poor face will be aged before your time and you won't ever get any dates!"
"Amy!" exclaimed Buffy, pushing the witch's hands away from her face, laughing without helping it. Heaving a sigh a moment later, she smiled at them both then shook her head. "All right, I'll do my best."
"To do what?" Faith encouraged.
"To not worry so much," Buffy elaborated rather indignantly, sticking out her tongue after saying this.
Smirking now, Faith turned to look at Cordelia and Xander who were happily discussing electronics and couldn't help but think that things would work out.
They just had to.
With a smile, Willow studied the tiny but elaborately painted figurine that held a double bladed sword that served to remind her of the absent Brendan. "What's this one again?" she asked.
"The Captain of the Knights," Charlie replied with a grin. "Power level fifty. He kicks ass mightily."
"He's a toy," said Derrick teasingly. His brown eyes fond, he looked over at Willow and said in low tones of conspiracy, "Eighteen years old and he's playing with the same toys. What am I going to do with him?"
"I don't know," a naughty smile played on Willow's lips. "Why don't you tell me?"
"Ohhhh, Red," gasped Charlie, holding his hands over his heart and looking like he might faint. "That was a moment of pure mischief, I'm sure! Excellent!"
Chuckling now, Derrick eyed Willow and murmured, "Are you interested in our love life, hmm?"
"No, no," Willow giggled. "I just think that as a friend it's best if you're both feeling satisfied."
Charlie and Derrick gaped at Willow.
"Red!" they cried together. "Bad girl!"
The smile on Willow's face soon faded and she said softly, "When... should we look at drummers?" She lifted up her gaze to look at them. "And I mean drummers not replacements because no one can replace him."
"Yeah, exactly," Derrick said quietly, nodding his head as Charlie reached for his hand.
"I think we need time," Charlie offered after a moment. "Maybe we should audition people during the summer, before fall enrollment into UCS." Blinking, his expression changed to one of realization as he turned to look at Willow. "Uhm... Red?"
"Yeah?" asked Willow.
"Are you going to UCS?" asked Charlie seriously. "I mean... I know you were getting offers from Harvard. I guess I shouldn't have assumed... y'know, making an ass out of you and me but I just thought--"
"I'm staying here," Willow assured with a smile. "This is my home. Where my family and friends are and I have to say, there are worse schools than UCS."
"Yeah, right," Derrick chuckled playfully.
"I heard the hairdressing college is pretty bad," teased Charlie, bumping shoulders with his boyfriend.
"Is that where you got your hair done?" asked Derrick, pulling up one of the spiky green locks. "You look like the jolly green giant."
"I'll have you know it's sage, not green," Charlie sniffed, looking offended as he folded his arms across his thin frame. "Don't you know your color schemes?"
"He's a big priss," Derrick confided, covering his mouth with his hand as he leaned closer to Willow.
Pushing Derrick on the shoulder, Charlie rolled his eyes then smiled at Willow. "Seriously, Red," he said. "I'm really glad you're sticking around. Without you... it wouldn't be the same. Hell, we wouldn't be us."
"Yeah," Derrick agreed softly.
"Hey," began Willow with an easy smile. "I'm not stupid, I know exactly where I belong."
They all shared a moment of happiness, then Derrick quirked an eyebrow and asked, "You going to the ultra lame college fair tomorrow, Red?"
"To see what I'm missing out on?" Willow joked.
"Yep, that's the general plan," replied Derrick.
"I can't wait to harass the guys from Berkeley," Charlie gave a wicked grin. "Crash and burn, big time."
Somehow, when Charlie said this, he didn't know just how right he was. Which was probably a good thing.
One would assume.
She couldn't get used to it.
Then again, Cordelia sincerely doubted she'd ever get used to drinking blood. Or wanting to drink blood. As a former vegetarian she found this far, far, worse than her experience with eating Herbert the Pig as a harpy.
But she had to do it. Drink the blood of those animals from the butchers so she could live. So she could be with Faith... and all of her friends.
That didn't change the fact it was gross though.
With a sigh, Cordelia downed the glass as quickly as she could, trying her best not to enjoy it.
They had spent a lot of time at her former home and supper had long since past when they returned to the apartment. That left Cordelia fairly hungry.
Something she didn't enjoy being. At least she was alone, like she always was when she drank. Faith and Giles seemed to know she wanted her privacy and left the kitchen empty before starting their own meals for the day.
Setting the empty glass in the sink, Cordelia stared at the red coating it was soaked in and shivered. Almost against her will, she opened her mouth and touched the dangerous looking canines she now possessed.
The proof that she was and had been a monster.
Despite what Faith or the others said, she thought of herself as a monster. How could she be called anything but when she lived on the life blood of others?
Something that only a monster would do.
Shaking her head, Cordelia moved her hands off of her fangs and started about the vigorous task that was cleaning every last hint of blood from the glass before she put it away in the dish washer. The last thing she wanted was to leave further proof of what she was now.
Especially around Faith.
Smiling on just hearing the hesitant, gentle, tone of Faith's voice, Cordelia called back, "What is it?"
The Slayer was so careful, so caring, not wanting to upset Cordelia or invade her privacy. Smiling now, she leaned up against the doorway to the kitchen and watched as Cordelia closed the dish washer.
"Wanna go to the college fair?" Faith asked. "Apparently the X-man says that Charlie is gonna harass some of the nicer colleges to support the locals."
"College fair," echoed Cordelia. She arched an eyebrow and said, "I haven't taken the GED yet." Turning away, she then added quietly, "Besides, I'm probably not going to college... what would be the point?"
"Hey," said Faith softly as she moved forward to peer into Cordelia's eyes. "Before you answer I want you to think on this hard, okay?"
"Okay," whispered Cordelia.
"Wouldn't you like to take a class or two on painting? To improve your technique and learn some new stuff about something you love?" Faith formed a tender smile as she touched Cordelia's cheek lightly. "I think that would be sorta fun, don't you?"
Unable to lie to those dark brown eyes that were filled with concern for her, Cordelia said, "Yes."
"Then isn't that reason enough?" Faith pursued. She paused to grin and said, "Look at me, I'm not exactly a brain but I'm going to UCS in the fall. 'Course," she now looked a bit sheepish. "My major's gonna be criminology so I can work the Slayer gig all the better."
"That's my mushball," Cordelia teased gently, reaching out to hold Faith's waist softly. Pulling the dark Slayer against her, she leaned down to murmur against her lips, "You're such a good and dedicated girl."
"You better believe it," Faith responded before concentrating totally on their kiss, no more words needed.
When they pulled apart, Faith felt the need to be held, unexplainable and strong, and buried herself deep in Cordelia's loving embrace. Tilting her head up just a bit, her breath blowing hot on Cordelia's neck, she said, "So do you wanna go to the fair, sweets?"
"Isn't it during the day?" asked Cordelia, kissing Faith's wavy dark locks softly. She played with the hair in a soothing movement, running it through her fingers. "The sun isn't my friend anymore Faith."
"You could wear a trench coat and a hat," Faith offered lamely. When Cordelia quirked an eyebrow at this and smirked, Faith sighed. "I know, stupid idea."
"Not stupid, sweet," Cordelia corrected, whispering in Faith's ear, hugging the Slayer close. "I just don't think the college fair is for me. Besides the entire daytime and outdoor issue, I happen to already know what college I'm taking my night class at."
"Oh yeah?" asked Faith, wearing a lopsided grin. "And what college is that, huh?"
"The one you're at," answered Cordelia quietly.
And as lips met lips, Faith suddenly realized she wouldn't be attending the college fair either. Because she had much more important things to do.
Like being with Cordelia.
The students of Sunnydale High that chose to attend the college fair were met with two scary sights as they watched the parking lot. The first was Susie the Bus, with Willow in the driver's seat, slowly screeching and maneuvering way too closely to other cars and looking like a moving machine of destruction. The second was Amy and her Lincoln Towncar roaring into the lot and leaving the usual tire marks before coming to a loud halt just inches away from Susie.
Most of the students vowed to keep a distance from both vehicles and their drivers after seeing this. The others simply observed with humor the shaken forms of Buffy and Xander as they set foot on solid ground.
"Buffy!" Xander cried on seeing his friend.
"Xander!" Buffy cried on seeing him as well.
They quickly moved together for a fearful embrace as they tried to control their quailing. It was something Xander was well used to.
"I was so afraid!" wailed Xander. "I saw my death before my eyes! All the various ways of death!"
"Me too!" Buffy exclaimed. "It was scary!"
Observing this display, Amy arched an eyebrow and folded her arms across her chest as Willow moved to stand at her side. "We got ourselves a pair of comedians, Will," commented Amy in dry tones.
"Apparently," said Willow with a hint of a smile.
"I'm never letting her drive again," said Xander in low tones to Buffy. "I have too much to live for... I think."
"You say that now," Buffy said quietly, eyeing Amy rather suspiciously. "But wait until she gives you the sexy pout. That'll make you give in. Always does."
"I'm doomed," Xander whined. "Doomed!"
"Uh huh," said Amy drolly, taking Xander by the hand and pulling him after her. "You said it so lets go."
"I thought I did pretty well," Willow said as Buffy approached her with a grin. "For my second time."
"You did good, Will," Buffy assured, taking the redhead's hand and giving it a squeeze. "I was just having some fun with Xander."
"I wasn't having fun," Xander grumbled. "I almost died... it was traumatizing. Like the time I lost my favorite stuffed animal that helped me combat the Boogie Man."
Buffy grinned at this and averting her eyes, she noticed two members of their group weren't with them. "Where's Faith and Cordelia?" she asked.
"Faith called me today, said that she and Cordelia weren't feeling up for some fair fun," Amy supplied.
The group was silent as they absorbed this. Then Xander pulled out out his brand new and ultra expensive digital camera as he said, "I think they were avoiding this! I know how much Miss Faith hates being filmed."
"Oh no," Buffy groaned, watching as Xander turned the camera on as it focused on her. "Not this thing again. If you make me another sparkly monster you will face my Slayer wrath, Xander."
"She says while fluffing her hair and giving me a classic pin up girl pose," drawled Xander playfully as the camera zoomed in on Buffy.
As Buffy scowled, a noise disrupted their conversation. A rather large and scary noise. To be precise, it was the noise of a explosion.
Together, their eyes focused on the form of Sunnydale High School, thankfully empty because the college fair was being held outside, as it turned into a fountain of fiery disaster. Feeling altogether shocked, their only reaction was to stare as a second explosion rocked the building, causing the flames to spread.
Camera held in his hand, Xander watched this occur through its lens. One that was notably superior to the human eye in accuracy. Perhaps that's why he released a loud gasp of surprise at what he saw next.
It was a flash, merely a flash at first. But then Xander pulled his eyes away from the camera, taking it off of record and rewinding it to watch in slow motion.
Then he saw it.
Icky, ew, and gross, that's what it was. With the green of its skin and the slime trail it left behind as it ran away, a gleeful expression on its wicked features.
"Toilet demons!" Xander shouted at the top of his lungs, shaking his brand new and fancy video camera just slightly. "You won't get away with this, I swear it! No one destroys Xander Harris' school without his permission!"
Anyone within hearing range stared at him.
They stared but only his friends understood what exactly he was ranting about. Which caused them to wear fairly bemused expressions as they sighed at this.
At the return of the toilet demons. -End- (That's the end of our ride in Hell. Thanks for going through the entire trip with me. Chapter Thirty One will start Season Four of the fic. In the meantime, I will be writing a special episode that occurs after this epilogue and before Thirty One. Look for it, okay?)