|Dancing with Myself
Author: Mediancat PM
Buffy and the Slayer from another universe switch places.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure - Buffy S. & Cordelia C. - Words: 15,233 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 4 - Published: 08-27-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3126571
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: This is the very first fanfic I ever wrote, way back in 1997. I've made a few minor changes -- mostly removing evidence of my at-the-time incomplete knowledge of the Buffyverse -- but the plotline and most of the language is presented as I originally wrote it.
I've plucked the sequel out of what I thought was oblivion and after fine-tuning it a tad I'll post that as well.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon created the Buffy universe. The AU presented herein is mine, at least insofar as it can be, legally.
The Slayer entered the library. As usual, Giles had his nose buried in a musty old tome. No, that's unfair, she reflected. The book was old, but Giles scrupulously kept all must and mold off them. Good thing, too; she hated dust. She walked over to him and asked, "So, Giles, what are we going to do tonight?"
Giles raised an eyebrow. "Why, the same thing we do every night, Pinky--try to save the world!"
Her jaw struck the floor with an audible clatter. "Since when do you watch Pinky and the Brain?"
Giles flushed slightly, and responded, "Well, Jenny introduced me to them."
She smiled. "Say no more, Giles." Turning serious again, she continued, "No, this time I have a reason. My mom's meeting a few people tonight, and she'd really like me to be there. I haven't heard of anything serious going down--Spike and the Queen have been quiet. I haven't had to stake anything in nearly a week."
"And you're getting antsy," came a voice from behind her. She turned and saw Willow. Her friend was dressed in black again. "And it's such the wrong color for her, too..." she muttered to herself.
Fortunately, Willow seemed to be getting over her recent depression. Unfortunately, it was changing into anger, mostly directed at her. While Willow didn't exactly blame her friend for what had happened-at least not consciously-unconsciously was a different matter.
Willow continued, "Well, So have I. The bloodsuckers have been quiet way too long. Something's going down, it has to be."
Giles spoke up. "I fully agree. Unfortunately, periods of dormancy such as this are usually followed by periods of frenetic activity. The only thing I've gotten from my studies is that the next thing they try will involve another Slayer."
"That's odd," Willow said. "Kendra's in the Caribbean, isn't she?"
"Last I checked," the Slayer answered. "And I don't think she'd come here without telling us. We don't get along too well. For one thing, she has no fashion sense."
Willow bristled, then saw that her friend was joking. Giles seized the opportunity to break into a conversation potentially heading down uncomfortable paths and broke in with "Well, then, unless you've died recently and neglected to inform us, I don't think she's the solution. Attend your mother's party. I'll call you if I figure out anything more."
"So we're dismissed?" Seeing Giles' nod, she clicked her heels smartly, spun 180 degrees in place and marched out. After a few seconds, Willow followed her. Once in the hallway, Willow hustled to catch up to her and said, "Look, I'm sorry. It's not your fault. None of it is."
"I tell myself that too, Willow. And maybe one of these days I'll believe it. But not yet. I know I could have saved him. Saved both of them." She paused. "I loved him too, you know."
"I know." A moment of silence. "Look, I'm going down to visit his grave now. Want to come?"
"I'll drive." They made their way to the school parking lot. "In one way, Xander's lucky. At least he got a grave. People know he died. But Angel--no one even knows he lived, much less sacrificed his life for me in the Hellmouth."
"We know," Willow said. "That's the important thing. And we'll never forget."
"No. And even if we could, Spike and Queen Buffy never get tired of reminding us, do they?"
There was nothing else to be said. Willow Rosenberg and Cordelia Chase, the Vampire Slayer, got into the car and headed for the cemetery.
The Slayer entered the library. As usual, Giles had his nose buried in a musty old tome. He didn't always enjoy it, but it had to be done. She walked over to him and asked, "So, Giles, what are we going to do tonight?"
Giles raised an eyebrow. "I'm not sure yet. There's something in here--"
Buffy snorted. "Sheesh, don't you know a setup line when you hear one?"
"Setup line? What for?"
She smiled. "Pop culture, Giles. Embrace it." Turning serious again, she continued, "Just worried, is all. The vamps've been way too quiet recently--I haven't had to stake anyone in over a week. Makes me wonder if they're up to something."
"And you're getting antsy," came a voice from behind her. She turned and saw Willow. Her friend smiled as she said it, though.
Oz accompanied her to the door and gave her nose a quick kiss. "Gotta go rehearse. Catch you tonight?"
Willow looked towards Buffy, who shrugged. "Depends. Giles? You've been too quiet. Haven't said anything in at least forty-five seconds. You sick?" Giles gave Buffy a long-suffering look, but said nothing.
Willow gave Oz a "who-knows" look, watched him leave, and continued, "Maybe they're on vacation. Where would a vampire go on vacation?"
Buffy answered, "Alaska? Night six months a year there. The perfect vamp vacation spot."
Giles spoke up. "I don't think so. Unfortunately, periods of dormancy such as this are usually followed by periods of frenetic activity. The only thing I've gotten from my studies is that the next thing they try will involve another Slayer."
"That's odd," Willow said. "Kendra's in the Caribbean, isn't she?"
"Last I checked. And I don't think she'd come here without telling us. We didn't exactly hit it off, remember."
"That's right, she wanted to kill Angel and..." She stopped when she saw her friend's face cloud over. "Oh, Buffy, I'm sorry..."
"Don't be," the Slayer answered, giving a wan smile. "Believe me, I wonder now what would have happened if I'd let her do it. Ms. Calendar would still be alive."
Giles said, "Buffy, never think that. You made the right decision at the time. Even I wouldn't change it."
An uncomfortable silence ensued, broken by Giles' businesslike, "Well, then, unless you've died recently and forgotten to inform us, I don't think Kendra is the solution. Willow, go join Oz if you wish. Inform Cordelia and Xander that they have the night off. I'll call you if I figure out anything more."
"So we're dismissed?" Seeing Giles' nod, she clicked her heels smartly and saluted. "Yes, mein commandant. Off I go to the graveyard to chase nonexistent vampires."
"They won't be nonexistent for long, Buffy."
"I know." So saying, she left the school and headed, alone, for the cemetery.
Willow and Cordelia stood silently in front of Xander's gravestone, shivering, though not from the cold. There was really nothing that could be said that they hadn't said already to each other, and to his spirit, a hundred times before. They tried anyway.
"Willow, at least, has the consolation of having known that you loved her while you were alive," Cordelia thought. "It was only after your death that I realized that at least in some way you loved me too. I needed your friendship, Xander. I needed your support. Most of all, I needed your humor. I've struggled without it. All of it. But every time I start feeling too sorry for myself, I look at Willow. She loved you far longer than I did, and she's surviving. So I guess I have no choice. Besides," she gave a bittersweet grin, "It's not like I can admit that she's better than I am, can I?"
There was a time when she would have meant that seriously, but that time had long passed. With the burden of being the Slayer, she had no time for her old narcissism. Without that self-absorption, of course, she'd lost most of her old friends--spoiled debutantes and man-hungry twits, every one of them. What had Xander called them? The wanna-bes? No way could she figure out why anyone would want to be the Cordelia she'd been. That's why she'd needed Xander. "And Willow, and Angel, and even Giles,"--all the Slayer wannabees, she thought.
She straightened up, and noticed than the sun had just set. She offered up a brief, silent prayer for the soul of Xander Harris. She added a longer one for Angel's far more tainted soul. "Forgive him, God," she said. "He did such great evil, but he redeemed himself. In my eyes, and I pray in yours."
Willow gave her a puzzled look, and then the realization dawned, "Oh. Angel." She bowed her head for a moment, then looked up and said, "Sundown."
"I know. I'd better go drop you off and change, then come back and patrol. My mother's shindig's not until 9:00. " Thunder could be heard, from far off. Willow gave her another odd look. "Practicality, Willow! It's hard to high-kick in a long leather skirt." She paused. "Besides, my lipstick's all wrong for night in a cemetery. Plum? That's last week's color!" Willow's face darkened; then suddenly she laughed and hugged her friend. "Thanks, Cordy. I needed that."
"Well, it's hard not to take things too seriously here. I'm no Xander, but I try."
Willow laughed again, more thoughtfully, and they walked through the darkening cemetery towards Cordelia's car. She asked, "Can I help?"
Cordelia answered, "It'd help me best knowing you're safe." Willow sighed. Cordelia sympathized. Willow so much wanted to be an active part of the Slaying team, but there was no way the Slayer could allow that. Not after what she'd been through. After losing so many--
A distant rumbling came from the distance. "Thunder?" Willow said quizzically.
"It's going to rain. So?"
"Have you checked the sky recently?" Cordelia shook her head no, then looked up. "No clouds." She gave the horizon a long hard look, and then turned to Willow. "No clouds as far as I can see. You're right, this is strange." Another thunderclap, louder this time. "Are you seeing any lightning?"
"No. Forget about going home; we'd better report this to Giles. This may have something to do with the trouble he was trying to puzzle out."
They headed again for the car. As they approached it Cordelia suddenly felt a vampire's presence. Then they heard a voice from behind them. "Aww, a party. Guess my invitation was lost in the mail, huh?"
Cordelia spun. Buffy the Vampire Queen stood there, a sardonic grin on her face as always. "Don't worry, I've still got a gift for you."
"Into the car, Willow." She threw open the driver's side door and shoved her friend in. "Buffy, any gifts you have we don't want." She moved warily towards the vampire, stake in hand, making sure to keep between the Queen and the car. The thunder was so loud it was almost deafening.
"Ooooh, clever repartee. Pauly Shore writing your lines these days?" Noting Cordelia's protectiveness, she said, "Don't worry, Cordy. I'm not after your little friend--yet. I can get her any time I want to."
From the car, Willow shouted, "Drop dead, Buffy!"
"Already am, thanks. It's fun. You really should try it sometime. But Ms. Slayer here won't let you. She's SUCH a spoilsport." They continued feinting. "What is she up to?" Cordelia thought. "She should have attacked by now. What's--"
Then Queen Buffy straightened up, said, "Well it's been fun, but I gotta motor. Willow! We'll do lunch sometime. On you. Toodles!" She turned and sprinted into the twilight.
Willow said, "What the heck? The thunder! Cordy! It's a trap! Get into the c--" She never got a chance to finish the sentence. The next thunderbolt was so powerful it knocked her backwards and slammed her head into the other door. She lost consciousness for a few moments. Coming to she looked out at the window and said "Cordy, what happ-" There was no sign of her friend. Instead, an oddly familiar young woman with blonde hair was lying face down on the ground struggling to get up. Willow raced over to her, then recoiled in shock when she saw who it was.
"Buffy! Get back, Vampire Queen!"
Buffy walked into the graveyard right as the sun set. While a lot of vampires typically waited until a half hour or so after dusk to be certain the sun wouldn't hit them, the newer, stupider and more powerful sometimes cut it closer. A lot closer. So she was on time if they tried any mischief. Stake in hand she prowled. Thunder rolled in the background.
Ten minutes later, nothing; not a sign of the damned things anywhere. "Willow was right," she thought. "I am getting antsy. Maybe I'm addicted to slaying? I need to kill a vampire every so often or my body rebels. Yeah, I can just see the twelve-step program. 'Hello, my name is Buffy, and I'm a Slayaholic." She grimaced. "I have GOT to stop listening to Willow." Then she looked down and saw that she'd unconsciously been drawn to Ms. Calendar's grave. While she was there, she had something to say.
"Ms. Calendar, I'm sorry. Something inside me was actually glad when Angel killed you. Just desserts, I suppose. And that scares me. I don't want to take joy in someone else's death, and no matter how badly you betrayed me, you didn't deserve a broken neck. Giles needed you. Willow needed you. I guess even I needed you. I still can't forgive you for how you betrayed me. Even now, I can't forgive you. Betrayal is something I've never dealt with easily. But for Giles' and Willow's sake I hope you can forgive me. And I will get Angel. Either by destroying his body or restoring his soul, I will get him." Another sound of thunder, closer than the last. Odd; the sky was completely clear.
"Don't you think you'd better ask him first, sweetie?" Angel's voice came from behind her. A "sweetie" from Angel would at one time have been Buffy's dearest wish; now it was a deadly, scornful insult. She whirled around, stake at the ready. "What's the matter, honey?" he went on. "Aren't you glad to see your sweetheart?" Angel was being free and easy with the endearments, trying to edge her off-balance.
"You're not my sweetheart. Maybe you never were. Maybe I was using YOU. Trying out on someone safe before I had sex with a REAL man. You ever think of that? Sweetcheeks?" She tried to invest the endearment with as much scorn as Angel had, and failed. The problem was that she did still love him, and he knew it, so her attacks on him couldn't help being less vicious than his. Speaking of which...why WASN'T he attacking? The thunder crashed again, somewhere nearby. "So, you have anything do to with this wacko thunder? Or did you just decide you needed sound effects to liven things up?"
"Why, Buffy, thunder's perfectly natural. You 're not slipping in school, are you? I'd hate to think the love of my life was getting poor grades." Which didn't answer the question. She was just about to try to pound some answers out of him when he surprised her by saying, "Well, it's been a blast, but I have some errands to run." He bowed. "Until our next date...if there is one." He took a step backwards and ran off behind a mausoleum.
"You're not going any--" she started, then was knocked off her feet by a tremendous blast of thunder. She must have fainted for a second; as she came to she turned over slowly and saw...Willow? What was she doing here? The mystery only deepened when, instead of helping her up, Willow shrieked at her, "Buffy! Get back, Vampire Queen!" and pulled out a cross.
Cordelia shook her head, blinked, and
slowly rose to her feet. "It WAS a trap," she thought.
"Willow was right." She looked around the cemetery, which
seemed slightly different. Her only friend was nowhere in sight.
"Willow!" she shouted. "Willow! Oh, Willow..."What
would she do without her? "My friend," she thought. It was
amazing how close the two of them had become, considering how little
they'd once thought of each other. How nasty she'd been. She sank to
her knees and was ready to despair when she noticed that her car had
also vanished. "Maybe she drove off when things got too heavy,"
she thought. She had to think that. It wasn't like Willow to run from
vampires--rather the reverse, since the tragedy at the
Hellmouth it had taken all of her Slayers' ingenuity to keep Willow from trying to stake every vampire in town--but Cordelia would much rather her friend have been a coward than dead or worse.
She blinked and took fuller stock of the area. Something else was wrong. Not only was her car not there, she wasn't even in the same section of the cemetery. She looked at the gravestones to get her bearings. She gaped when she saw the words, "Jenny Calendar, 1966-1998" written on the nearest. "This," she said, gritting her teeth, "is one SICK joke."
"Yes, it was, wasn't it?" came a strangely familiar voice from behind her, "And I'm the one that played it." She turned. It couldn't be..."Angel? Is that you?" It WAS him, black coat and all. She resisted the impulse to hug her old ally. There was something bizarre about the situation.
"Buffy was right. You ARE dense. Now then, you should know better than to come here without protection, little girl. I wonder how she'll feel about losing two friends in such a short time? Oh, it'll kill her. If she ever comes back. Come on, now; I'm in no mood for a Cordelia chase." He moved towards her with a distinctly unhealthy glint in his eyes. This was not the Angel she'd known, that was certain.
He reached in to grab her and she kicked him in the solar plexus. "You know better than that," she said.
"Oh, you've been practicing. Very good, Cordelia, very good. This is going to be fun. " So saying, he threw a punch that she barely dodged. Another one followed, and this one struck her on the shoulder and knocked her back into the bogus gravestone. She quick-kicked him in the kneecap and slammed the base of her palm into his chin. He recovered and grabbed her arm, yanking her neck close to his teeth. "Oh, damn, he has on his vampire face." She thought quickly. Dropping to the ground, she flipped her over him, elbowing his head as he went down. She backed away slowly. If she'd had a stake--well, she didn't know what she'd do. This was Angel, who'd sacrificed his life for hers. Or so she'd believed. She couldn't kill him out of hand, no matter how he'd changed.
"Knock it off, Angel. You're ruining my blouse!" He stood and growled to himself, "Something went wrong here...who ARE you?"
"Cordelia. The Slayer."
"I KNEW this wouldn't work!" And without another word he ran off, faster than Cordelia could follow.
Maybe Giles would be able to puzzle this out; it was beyond her. Offering up a silent prayer for Willow's safety, she walked back to...where her car used to be. She sighed and started the walk back to the Sunnydale High School Library.
When she arrived, she opened the door without preamble to find Giles still sitting at a table reading. "Giles, I--"
"Cordelia?" He looked up. "Good lord, what happened to you?"
"I was down at the cemetery and--get this. Angel was there and he attacked me."
"You were at the cemetery? Alone? AND you fought off Angel? I don't know whether to be disappointed or amazed. What on Earth possessed you to go down there?"
She shook off a sense of unease. "I know I had to go to my mother's party, but I figured I had time for a quick patrol. It's worse, Giles. Willow's missing."
"Your patrol? Cordelia, are you feeling alright?"
Someone at the library door said, "Willow's missing?" That voice--it couldn't be...Slowly, she turned. It was. It was--
"X-X-Xander?" Tears started forming in her eyes as she ran up to him and touched him, hesitantly "Xander? Is that--" She couldn't take any more. She fought off tears and hugged him like she would never let go.
"What's going on?" he said to Giles.
"Apparently she just fended off an attack by Angel."
"No, Giles, that's...not what I mean."
She could hear someone walk into the library behind Xander. A voice she couldn't quite place said, "Well, Xander? Is there any--...who are you? And what are you doing embracing MY boyfriend?"
Cordelia pulled away from Xander and saw--herself...
Buffy stood up. Willow slowly backed away, holding a cross in one hand and a--stake?--in the other. "Willow, what are you do--Vampire Queen? What are you talking about?"
"Don't play dumb, demonspawn. What have you done with Cordelia?"
Cordelia? Demonspawn? Buffy couldn't believe it. What had gotten into Willow? And why was she dressed like a refugee from a coffeehouse? "Willow, are you sick? Or cursed?"
Willow snorted scornfully. Willow NEVER snorted scornfully. "If that's not the pot and the kettle, I don't know what is. Now," she said, "What--have--you--done--with--Cordelia? I'll stake you, don't think I can't."
Something was seriously wrong. "Who do you think I am?"
"What is this, riddle night among the vampires, or something? You're Buffy the Vampire Queen. You rule all the bloodsuckers in Sunnydale. And you've just made my only friend disappear. You're not getting lunch on me!" Willow was screaming and bitter. Suddenly she threw the stake at Buffy who, startled, caught it only a fraction of an inch before it would have plunged into her heart, and tossed it away. "She's been practicing," she thought admiringly, before quickly reaching out and twisting her wrist. "I don't know why you're doing this but you need help." Surprising Buffy, Willow yanked free and struck her in the forehead. She then grabbed a cross and frantically thrust it into Buffy's face; after ten seconds of this, Buffy sighed and took the cross away, grasping it firmly in her left hand for a moment before forcing it to drop to the ground with a dull thud. She then showed Willow the hand.
Realization dawned on Willow's face as she saw Buffy hold the cross without harm, and her unburned palm. "You're not the Vampire Queen, are you? Who are you exactly?"
"Buffy the Vampire SLAYER. You're not the Willow Rosenberg I know either. You're way angrier."
"I have my reasons." She stopped. "Look, could you let go of my arms? They're starting to cramp up."
"Oh. Sorry." She let Willow go, and picked up the cross from where it lay on the ground as Willow rubbed her arms and retrieved the stake, saying, "Giles needs to know about this." They both looked at Cordelia's car. Buffy was startled to read the license plate: "SLRMOBL." "I don't suppose you can drive--" they both started, then laughed.
"Guess not," Willow answered. "Here, hold on a moment." She got a few things from the car.
Buffy took a quick look inside. "Wow, it's a REAL Slayermobile. Cordy must be a real help in the fight here."
Willow blinked. "Cordelia's the Slayer."
"Whoa...Cordy? You're joking, right?" Willow shook her head. "You'd better fill me in."
So, as they walked back to Sunnydale High School, Willow gave Buffy a brief history of Cordelia the Slayer. By the time it was over, Buffy was amazed. This Cordelia had had to deal with all the problems she'd had, and for the past 9 months or so she'd been virtually alone. Xander and Angel dead...when they'd barely been scratched under the same circumstances in her world. Oh, sure, her Angel had been dead to her for a month, but at least there was a chance he could return. And there'd been several times this year she would have been killed without at least one of the two there to guard her back.
Buffy paused at the entrance of the school. "How does she do it?" It was more than a casual question.
"Sometimes I'm not sure myself. She's a remarkable woman. She has inner strength no one who'd known her before ever would have guessed." Which answered Buffy's question exactly, and helped her not at all.
"I'm sure you've been a big help." Willow beamed briefly. Buffy guessed she rarely beamed much anymore.
"Not as much as I'd like. She won't let me do any of the dirty work. Won't let me or Ms. Calendar take any physical risks. But I do what I can. She's my only friend--now. And since Xander died, I've been blaming her. It's not fair; I know she loved him as much as I did. But I was the one he loved, and part of me still thinks that she was jealous and let him die. Not the rational thinking part-but that's not always in control."
"I'm sure she knows that."
"I hope so. I really do." There was nothing more to be said, and they walked into the school in an uncertain silence. Buffy was about to ask if she wanted her history when she said, "Here," and opened the bundle she'd retrieved from the car. Inside were two large, prominent crosses, as well as other Slaying equipment. Willow handed Buffy both crosses and one of the stakes.
Buffy said, "I think I know what you want me to do with these."
"I thought you would. Wait for me to call you." Willow turned the corner and walked into the library. A minute later, her voice came back, "Come on in."
Buffy held the crosses at arms' length as she strode through the library's front doors. Giles sat at a table, looking upward, and jumped backward when he saw Buffy, saying, "Good Lord, Willow, have you gone insa-" He hesitated a moment, noting what she carried. Then, slowly, "You're not the Queen, are you?"
"Nope. I don't even like blood oranges." Giles waked over behind the check in-counter and pulled something out. Fearing a trap, Buffy drew back, then relaxed when she saw a vial of holy water. He tossed it to her and said, "You know what I want to see."
Without a word Buffy tossed both crosses into the air, caught the vial and took a big swig from it, then deftly caught the crosses before they hit the floor and made a production out of swallowing the water. She then gave a deep theatrical bow and said, "Ta-daaa!" Then she spat a bit. "Eucch. How old WAS that holy water?"
"I have no idea-I was expecting you to pour it on your arm, not drink it. In any event, it is obvious you are not the self-proclaimed Vampire Queen. The question is, who are you, and what do we do now?"
"Send me back, I hope. But there's something Willow didn't tell me I'd really like to know. How did I become the Queen of the Vampires?"
After a brief, successful hunt, Buffy the Vampire Queen made her way back to their headquarters: An underground mausoleum. Spike stood inside waiting.
"It so worked! Right about now Willow and Giles should be crying their hearts out." They embraced violently.
"Soon we'll be ripping their hearts out, my love. Shall we tell the boys to cut loose?"
"Release the hounds!" Spike looked confused. "Seinfeld? TV commercial? You really should watch more television. Can't drink blood 24-7, you know. Gotta have something to do in the downtime."
"Plotting revenge for Dru's death in Prague does it for me."
"Careful there, Spike. You'll have me thinking you don't love me anymore."
"Never," he said throatily. He reached for her and pulled her towards him. Suddenly she struck him in the check and knocked him into the wall.
Queen Buffy said, in a voice dripping with affront, "Hey, watch it--what kind of girl do you take me for?"
"Dead and easy."
"Oh. That's right. Silly me, I forgot." Saying this, she jumped at him and knocked him to the ground. Their lips had just met when one of the lesser vampires--some recently converted worse-than-useless musician--walked in and said, "Can we go now, my Queen?"
"Being a parent is such a burden," Spike sighed, and the two head vampires pushed themselves up.
"Yeah, but discipline can be a blast," Buffy chortled as they walked over to the musician, phony smiles on their faces.
"Sure," she said. You can go right now," and as he turned to leave Spike savagely broke his neck. Letting his body fall to the floor, Queen Buffy leaned down and said, "You're lucky. You should see what he does to people that get him mad."
"Shall we adjourn to the high school?" Spike said with mock formality.
"Of course. Just remember. You get Giles, I get Willow. Long and slow for both of them." She paused. "You know, I wish there was a way to have them keep part of their souls after we're done with them. I'd LOVE them to know what's been done to them, and that there's not a damn thing they can do about it."
"If only it could be so." Hand in hand, in a vicious parody of true love, they walked boldly out of the mausoleum and into the night.
Angel bluntly told them, "We've got trouble."
From his wheelchair, Spike said, "Didn't the plan work? The spell--"
"Worked as far as it could. As you said, I waited until the last minute and bolted. Buffy never knew what hit her."
"So what's the problem, Daddy?" came Drusilla's voice as she draped herself over her "father."
"I went back to the spot a few moments later to make certain that Buffy had vanished. She was nowhere in sight. But Cordelia was."
Irritably, Spike interrupted, "The spoiled rich girl? So you had a little snack. Does this narrative have a point, or have you gone existential on us?"
"No, not Cordelia the spoiled rich girl, Cordelia the Slayer. Apparently you didn't consider that some other world's vampires might have the same idea we did. I got careless; she nearly killed me. I was lucky she didn't have a stake on her." He paused. "I KNEW this stupid plan of yours wouldn't work. Not only do I NOT get to torture Buffy, we have another Slayer to deal with!"
"Kill the Watcher's girlfriend, you said. That'll drive him and the Slayer crazy." He sneered. "Worked so well that our hideout burned down and the Watcher beat you senseless." Angel moved towards him, enraged.
Drusilla interposed herself between the two. She said sweetly, "Calm down, Spike, Angel. I'm glad we have another Slayer. I was so afraid I wouldn't get to kill one."
"Knock it off, Dru," Spike said. "So, the question is, what do we do now?"
"Let's go kill them now, Angel. I'd so love a Slayer head to mount on the wall. Spike promised me one, you know."
"Dru!" Spike growled.
Struggling for self-control, Angel said, "No, she's right. We should hit them now when they're still confused. Come on, Dru. Hold down the fort 'til we get back, Spikey."
He watched them leave and pounded the arm of his wheelchair. "Like I have a BLOODY choice!"
Cordelia recoiled and backed into a bookshelf. The other Cordelia gave a short scream and jumped back a few inches. "What--no, wait," she thought. "Xander's alive. Angel is an EVIL vampire. And worst of all, there's another me walking around. Spike and Buffy wouldn't come up with something this strange just to mess with my head; they had me, they'd kill or turn me, no waiting. So this can't be my world." Then she had another thought. "That mean's Willow's okay. Thank God. Without her--"
Giles rose from behind his desk and said to her, "So the question remains, who are you?"
Xander--not hers! she thought sadly--said, "More likely, WHAT are you?" He pulled out a cross and stood protectively in front of the other Cordelia--"CORDY," thought Cordelia, "If I keep calling her the other Cordelia it'll drive me nuts--" while Giles reached behind the counter and retrieved a hand-held crossbow. Xander continued, "Vampire plot? Demon shapechanger?"
From Giles, "Doppelganger? Changeling?"
From Cordy, "Pod person?" Xander gave her a funny look and she said, "I HAVE seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers." The funny look continued. "I didn't say I LIKED it."
Xander mimicked wiping off his brow. "For a second there I thought you actually had taste."
"You should know better. I'm dating you, aren't I?" The bickering had a clear undertone of affection, and neither one took their eyes off her for more than a second.
From his side of the room, Giles said firmly, "We have a problem here. Could we focus on it? We somehow appear to have acquired an extra Cordelia. And-"
Xander broke in, "Yeah, one's enough. Can you imagine? The clothing bill alone would bankrupt a small country."
"And--" Giles continued, pretending not to have heard Xander's comment, "We need to figure out what she is and what to do with her."
Cordelia was tired of being spoken of in the third person. "Why not ask HER what she is?" They stood warily, saying nothing. "Okay, fine. Be that way. Let me show you. I'm--" She dropped to the ground, rolled towards Giles and kicked the crossbow out of his hand. "--Cordelia Chase--" She caught it before it hit the ground and in one smooth motion shot a bolt at the cross Xander was holding, shattering it. The bolt itself struck a wall and clattered into a nearby trashcan. "--the Vampire Slayer."
Xander and Cordy had dodged and fallen to the floor as the cross broke; Giles had flinched and paled a bit in shock, but quickly regained his composure. Catching his breath, he said, " You know, I believe you are..." Noticing Xander's disbelief, he said, "Think, Xander. She had ample time to injure or kill us if that was her intention; instead, she contented herself with shooting the cross out of your hand. And the fighting techniques she used were those taught to a Slayer."
Xander said, hesitantly, "I see...and thank GOD for Slayer training."
Cordy got up and said,
"What? I can't believe you two!" She walked over in front
of Cordelia, and facing her, said, "I mean, just look at us! Her
clothes are dirty, her blouse is ripped, she has more muscles than I
do--She looks like me, sure, but I wouldn't be seen dead in dirty
clothes. I don't even like looking at the
laundry! And there's something worse!"
"And that is, Cordelia?"
"She's wearing PLUM lipstick! Plum after dark?"
Cordelia couldn't help it. She burst out laughing. After a few seconds, Xander began chuckling, while Giles simply snorted. Cordy screamed, "What's so funny?"
Giles said, "Let me put it this way,
Cordelia. Do you trust me?" She slowly nodded. "Do you
trust Xander?" She nodded again, more forcefully. "Then
trust us now. Against all odds, we seem to have acquired ourselves
another Slayer." He stopped. "Slayer--may I address you
that way? It solves the problem of having two people answer to the
same name. Anyway, I was reading a prophecy
"Which mentioned that the next vampire plot would probably have do with another Slayer. I know. My Giles mentioned it to me. At least we know how it came true. Your Slayer must be on my world."
"Which begs the question, how do we return you and get Buffy back?"
"Buffy? The Vampire Queen?"
"Buffy the Vampire Queen?" Giles started. "While we try to figure out what to do maybe you'd better tell us how that happened."
Cordy, Xander and Giles picked some books off the shelf and Cordelia began to tell the story.
Buffy waited a few seconds and said, "C'mon now, if you knew me you'd know how hard it is for me to see myself as a Vampire Queen. What happened?"
Willow said, "If you knew us you'd know how hard it is for us to see you as anything else."
Giles broke in. "No, Willow, it's a fair question, which I hope she can help me answer by answering one in return." Turning to Buffy, he went on, By your mannerisms I would guess that you are your world's Slayer. I would appreciate it if you could tell me how that came to pass."
Willow and Giles listened intently as Buffy told them of her history. Hemery High School, and Pike, and Merrick, and Lothos, and burning down the gym to kill the vampires trapped inside; of her parents' divorce and her mom's subsequent move to Sunnydale for a fresh start. How her Giles had been ready for her presence and told her that, unfortunately, her Slaying days were not yet over. She was about to say what had happened after their initial encounter with the Master and his minions when Giles held up his hand. "No, that's all I need for now."
"The short version is that in this world none of the events you have described occurred except for your parents' divorce and your subsequent move to Sunnydale. I have never heard of a Watcher named "Merrick," and Lothos was killed in 1943 by then-Slayer Elszabet Aranovic, so there would have been no need for you to become the Slayer at Hemery, because Lothos had not then killed the previous holder of the position. In fact, Cordelia's predecessor was not killed until shortly before the Master first regained form, and it was then that I contacted her and began her training. Your earlier experience evidently gave you an edge over Cordelia; she was unable to prevent a few more turnings than you were. One of them, unfortunately, was yours. A rogue vampire hit town and converted you before Cordelia could prevent it, although she did destroy him afterwards. The Master tried to recruit you, but you declined rather forcefully. Unfortunately, you showed real talent, staying one step ahead of both him and us and somehow acquiring your own followers. Many of the same qualities that make you a good Slayer also make your counterpart a chillingly effective vampire."
"But… Vampire Queen?" Buffy asked.
"I think your exact words were, 'Warrior Princess, Vampire Queen, same diff.' Xander had to explain it to me later. Anyway, when Cordelia was battling the Master at the Hellmouth, you took advantage of the situation and killed the Anointed One. You also saved Willow's and Ms. Calendar's lives by protecting them when they were caught outside the school, and since then, you've claimed that Willow "owes you." After the events of last May, you fended off several challengers before forming an alliance with Spike, a vampire who--but by your expression I'd say there's a Spike on your world too. Never mind. Between your counterpart's nasty mind and sheer power and Spike's experience and flair for inventive sadism we've had several narrow escapes."
Buffy couldn't help but smile. Both Giles had similar definitions of "short version." Then she sobered. This was serious. "I don't think they counted on me coming when Cordelia vanished. They probably figured, no Slayer, Sunnydale's a vampire buffet. The last thing they'd want would be someone else who could spoil their dinner plans."
Willow spoke up. "So, what do we do?"
"I should think that obvious. We need to return the Slayers to their proper universes. The question is, how?"
"The thunder--" Willow began. "While Queen Buffy distracted Cordelia, thunder came closer and when the loudest one hit, she vanished and this Buffy appeared. The thunder has to be the key."
"I'm inclined to agree," Giles said. "Is this your experience?" he asked Buffy.
"Yup. But there weren't any clouds in the sky either."
"Sourceless thunder? That shouldn't be difficult to track down. Buffy, you and I can start looking through these books. Willow, Ms. Calendar should still be in her room. Enlist her assistance and...go do whatever you do with computers to track down information."
Buffy jerked her head up. "Ms. Calendar's alive here?" She should have guessed, with no Angel..."Can I talk to her? Please?"
"You mean she's dead...never mind that. That is not something I need--or want--to hear. Go, but please make it as brief as you can. I may need assistance." With that, he walked into the rare books cage and pulled several books off as Willow led Buffy down the hall.
As Cordelia explained her history only Giles kept his composure. Even he winced when he heard of how Angel and Xander had resuscitated Cordelia-how Xander had run off vowing to force the depressed vampire to help his friend-and then how both had died protecting her from the vampires attempting to get to her on Sunnydale High's roof. Cordy's expression changed from disgust to pity to admiration; Xander's face froze when he heard that he was dead in the other universe, conflicting emotions warring in his eyes. "Damn," she thought, "the last thing I want is for Xander to suffer."
But right as she was ready to reach out, to console him, Cordy looked up at him and squeezed his hand tightly. "I can't let myself forget again--He's not my Xander. But then--my Xander was never mine either." She sighed and tried to regroup.
Giles broke in. "Slayer, you have not yet told me by what means you arrived in this universe."
"That's because I'm not sure how. All I know is there were several thunderclaps and on the loudest I ended up here."
"Thunder?" Giles started. "That's connected with this prophecy..." He picked up a small leatherbound tome, the identical twin of the one her Giles had been studying, and read: "When the thunder booms shall the Slayers fall. Then, rising, they will confront the demons of the inside and out." He stopped. "It seems it was more than coincidence that you arrived here, Slayer."
From behind her, Cordy said, "Thunder, right? I was just reading that..." she reached for a book and handed it to Giles. He glanced in and asked. "Did it have a source?"
"Nope, not a cloud in the sky." Xander's face, on the other hand, was still clouded. He hadn't said a word or changed his expression in five minutes.
"Here, either," Cordy said. At a quizzical look from Giles, she said, "I always check. I've got to protect my hair." Cordelia spoke the last sentence with her in unison. They laughed and hugged each other. "Alright," the other one said, "maybe we do have something in common. But plum?"
"Hey, Slaying takes a lot out of a girl. Sometimes I don't even get to change my outfit before I go on patrol!"
"Eeuuhh! I'm so sorry," she replied. And the bond was broken the moment she realized Cordy was basically serious. "Was I really that shallow?" she wondered, knowing the answer. "No, that's not fair. She hasn't been through what I have. And she must have some inner strength or she wouldn't be here at all. They trust her, and Xander cares for her. That says something. That says EVERYTHING." She resolved not to be judgmental, and to talk to her counterpart in private as soon as she could, if possible.
Giles said, "Ah. Here we are." They crowded around him. "It seems that the thunder is something of a natural phenomenon. If it claps where someone is, that person trades places with one in an alternate universe. It's rather rare, and in most cases barely noticeable. However--"
Xander finally spoke up. "How the HELL could it not be noticeable? I think I'd notice if everyone reacted to me like they'd seen a goddamn ghost! "
Cordy said, "What's wrong?"
"I DIED, Cordy! Try facing your own mortality sometime. It isn't very pleasant!"
Cordelia turned to Giles and said, "Can you puzzle out how to reverse it by yourself? I think the three of us really need to talk."
"Yes, but hurry. I'll see if I can get in touch with Willow. We're going to need all the help we can get." He walked over and began dialing the phone.
As Giles reached for the phone Cordelia led them into what she thought was Giles' office but turned out to be a coat closet. "Different universe," she thought, and went through the other door into Giles' office.
Willow knocked on the classroom door. "But Ms. Calendar's is two doors down," Buffy thought. "Well, not in this universe." Apparently someone inside gave the go-ahead, because Willow gave Buffy a "hold on" signal with her left hand and began walking into the room.
Buffy stopped her. "Teasing Giles was okay, but I don't want to give her a heart attack," she said. "You'd better tell her EXACTLY who I am."
"I never have any fun," Willow whined.
"No," Buffy responded firmly. A mild look of irritation flashed in Willow's eyes but she nodded and went into the room. A few seconds later muffled voices could be heard at the far end of the classroom--"different layout, too," she thought--followed by a loud "You're joking!" in Ms. Calendar's typically amused tone, then a "You're NOT joking," spoken gravely.
Willow's voice came through the door crack, "Come on in!" Buffy cautiously opened the door and walked into the computer classroom, which DID have a different layout. Ms. Calendar's desk and terminal were at the far end of the room from the door. And there, behind the desk...Jenny Calendar. Buffy hadn't known how she would react until she actually saw her, but now...
She still didn't know. Conflicting feelings warred within her.
The teacher gasped. Buffy glared and said, "Willow..." in the same tone she'd have used to discipline her friend. Her friend would have smiled; this one glared back. "She's had a lot more shit to deal with," Buffy thought and dropped the glare.
Ms. Calendar said, "No, Buffy, she warned me. It's still a tremendous shock, to come face to face to someone who looks exactly like your worst enemy, but isn't. I'm still not sure I believe it."
"I'm not going to stake myself through the heart just to prove a point, " Buffy retorted.
"No--if Willow and Rupert believe you, then I trust them."
"Good thing. I'd've probably missed." Willow had pulled up a chair and was starting to type at the terminal Ms. Calendar had been using.
Buffy continued, "This is hard for me, too. You're looking at your worst enemy; I'm looking at a ghost."
"A ghost?" Ms. Calendar asked. "I think I have some idea why you wanted to talk to me." She gestured at her office, and Buffy walked in. "You sure you trust me?" The computer teacher smiled. "Of course. There's a ward on that doorway -- powerful enough to give any vampire short of the Master the migraine of the millennium. You passed through without flinching." She followed Buffy into the office and sat down. From behind them, Willow said, "I'll let you know if I can find anything on the thunder."
Motioning Buffy to take a seat, Ms. Calendar said, "It's like nothing I've ever heard of before. The magic involved must be purely evil." She changed directions. "You said when you looked me you saw a ghost. So on your world I'm--dead?"
"How did I die?"
"Angel killed you. Your people's curse removed his soul, and to strike back at me and Giles, he broke your neck." The teacher began to protest; Buffy interrupted with, "Don't bother. You're not that different from the Jenny Calendar I knew. Giles loves you and Willow worships you. AND you were keeping an eye on Angel for the gypsies, to make sure he never got too happy."
"You BETRAYED me! You could have told us about how Angel's curse would be lifted, but you didn't. And then I hated you and you died and I never had a chance to forgive you and part of me thinks that maybe you deserved to die and I hate that! I hate knowing that about myself!"
"And you wanted to forgive me? Buffy, I can't. I have no authority to do that."
"No." Ms. Calendar looked startled. "It still cuts too deeply--and you're not the right person anyway. I guess I just wanted to know that you understood why I couldn't forgive you yet."
"I think I do. But--"
"No. If you understand, she would have understood."
They sat silently for a few moments.
Willow said, "got it," matter-of-factly. Buffy reflected that this was another difference as she and Ms. Calendar walked out into the classroom. Her Willow would have been excited; to this one, destroying vampires was as holy a chore as it was for the Slayer. She needed to be lightened up a bit, but Buffy was exactly the wrong person to do it.
"This Fortean website mentions vanishings, and in some of them they disappeared at a sound of thunder, with no clouds in the sky. This link here," she said, clicking the mouse, "takes us to the homepage of a Satanist who claims to have sent his enemies to some far-off universe by controlling the thunder. The details of this spell are, "clicking another link, "here."
"So we can reverse it!" Buffy exclaimed. "Good."
"It's an evil spell, though. I'll work on getting--what's that?" Pounding footsteps in the hall revealed themselves to be a furiously running Giles. "Spike's twenty seconds behind me." Odd time for precision, Buffy thought as she said, "My department. Get back, everyone. I've been waiting for this." She reached into her pocket and pulled out the stake.
"Any other weapons?" Heads shaken no.
Willow said, "I've got a cross and some holy water."
"No, you'll need it more than I do. The hard way, then." She picked up a chair and waited.
A few seconds after, Spike said, "Come now, Watcher, you can't hide forever," as he opened the classroom door. "Now--"
He never got to finish the sentence as Buffy's thrown chair struck him in the face. Buffy raced up to Spike and dodged a punch woozily thrown as he tried to rise. She kicked at Spike's leg and smashed his face into the floor until he stopped struggling. Good thing she'd caught him off guard, or that could have been a much longer and bloodier fight. She raised the stake...
From down the hall, "Spike...you didn't start without me, did you?" Buffy's blood chilled and she backed off. Time for dusting later.
"Get behind us," Giles said.
"I'm not--" a shushing motion and Willow's whispered "Fair is fair--" made Buffy understand. Silently she slipped behind the three others and waited. Soon a pale duplicate of herself, clad in a tight cutoff tan sweater and a short brown leather skirt, walked into the room. Her face contorted into a travesty of Buffy's smile as she saw the three huddled against the far side of the room.
"Hi guys! Miss me?" She saw Spike sprawled on the floor. "I'm impressed." She paused. "Oh well, more for me!" she chirped happily and moved towards them. She stopped. "Ooohh, a bonus. Come on out, I won't bite. Well, I will, but not hard. Okay, hard, but you'll like it. Don't be shy. I--" the Vampire Queen's mouth dropped open as Buffy stepped out from behind Giles.
"Bet that's the first time you've been speechless in a while," Buffy said as she struck the Queen full in the face.
They sat at the table, Xander and Cordy on one side, herself on the other. "What's this about?" Xander said irritably. "We need to get you back to your own world, get Buffy back, and you drag us off to Giles' office for a conference? There's this little thing called timing, missy: Look into it."
Cordy squeezed his hand and said, more calmly but with equal intensity, "He's right. We need to be helping Giles. Is this that important?"
Cordelia reached over the table and squeezed his other hand. "I never could stand to see you hurting," she said with a rueful grin. He flinched but didn't pull his hand away. "Xander. You were my dearest friend. I was devastated when you were killed. But from your memory I've gained the strength to fight, sometimes, when it's all looked hopeless. I'd trade all that inner strength to have you back, but I know that's not possible. You and Angel chose to sacrifice your lives to protect me from the Master's minions, that day. But it was YOUR choice. Didn't you try to protect Buffy's life in your Hellmouth?" He slowly nodded yes. "Don't you see? You've ALREADY faced your own mortality. You just didn't die."
"It's just hard to imagine yourself dying, that's all." His girlfriend hugged him. "It'll be alright, Xander. We'll work through it." They rose. As they walked for the door Cordy stopped her.
She said, "Go help Giles, Xander. We'll catch up in a moment." Xander left, pondering. She turned to Cordelia. "You loved him, didn't you?"
"More than anything. And unless I'm way off, you've loved yours for longer than he suspects."
"It took me too long to admit it to myself, and I'm a long way from admitting it to him, but yes. Besides, you think I would have hung around with them because I liked Buffy? Please."
Cordelia chuckled, then quickly sobered. "First Jesse died. A few weeks later, Buffy-who Xander had a crush on, and who unlike most of the popular girls was actually nice to he and Willow--was murdered. He was even more freaked when she returned and tried to kill him. He ran panicking and I intercepted Buffy and fought her off-barely, she showed a lot more control than your average vampire newborn--and as we walked back to his house, he poured his heart out. I was touched. We'd only been friends a short while, but that night we made a connection. It was then that I first began to fall in love with him."
Cordy's eyes flashed in sympathy. "What I didn't find out until later was that, after I'd walked him to his front door, he called Willow. And it was that night, finally realizing how much she'd loved him over the years, that he fell in love with her. I lost him the same night I found him." She paused. "Cherish your time with him, Cordelia. Cherish him in the ways that I can't."
"You love this Xander too, don't you?" her counterpart asked. There was no malice in the question.
"Of course I do." She sighed. "Get me out of here fast, Cordelia. I don't think I can stand to lose him again."
They walked out into the main room of the library and joined Xander around the table. Giles was scribbling furiously and grunting into the telephone. After a moment he said, "Thank you, Willow. "He turned towards them. "She found something on the...internet. Apparently a Satanist spellcaster has developed a method of summoning the thunder. I have the spell written down here."
The other Cordelia said, "Satanist? Eeuhh. He's definitely NOT on our side."
Giles answered, "No. Unfortunately, I don't believe I can alter the spell into something neutral or good. Jenny would have known, but..."
"Yeah." Xander said.
"We'll figure something out," Cordelia reassured them. It just means--"
"--hitting the books." Xander sighed. "Oh, joy. Nothing I like better on a Friday night than intense study into Satanist rituals. Cordy, make things perfect. Get squeamish."
Cordelia laughed; Xander was clearly feeling better. Cordy gritted her teeth, took a deep breath and said. "No. This is too important. Give me a book." Giles and Xander seemed surprised; they'd obviously forgotten that she'd discovered the reference to thunder in the first place. Cordelia imagined they'd continue underestimating her counterpart for some time. God knows she had. Fifteen minutes later, to everyone's amazement except hers, Cordy said, "Got something. Replace the cat blood with cat hair."
Giles said, "Yes...theoretically, that could work. None of the other material components to the spell could be considered as having evil origin. Let me see that." He glanced into the book. "She's right. Now all we need to do is find a cooperative cat. Let's start looking."
They left the library. Cordelia pulled her counterpart back and said, "Hold on." Two minutes later both women walked into the hallway where a visibly annoyed Giles and Xander were waiting impatiently. "You stopped to put on makeup, Cordy?" Xander asked. "I can't believe--Plum after dark? I like your style." He held Cordelia's hand and they all walked down the front steps of Sunnydale High School, where they were brought to an abrupt halt by two figures walking towards them. Both groups stopped.
"Going somewhere?" Angel said.
Drusilla asked, "Can I kill the Slayer now, Angel? Can I?"
The Queen recoiled from Buffy's blow. They circled the room while Giles, Willow and Ms. Calendar dashed for the relative safety of her office. "Who are you?" the Queen asked, lunging.
Buffy dodged. "Your better half." She sweep kicked at the vampire's feet, but missed as the Queen leapt and struck the Slayer in the throat. She bounced off the wall and moved back towards her adversary. As she passed Spike, she kicked him in the head again hard, irritated that she didn't have the time to stake him properly. Her double was bad enough.
Queen Buffy said, "Hey, watch it! That's the vampire I love!"
Her and Spike? She flinched at the thought--what had she DONE to herself? Taking advantage of her distraction, the Queen picked up another chair and swung it at Buffy's face, grazing her skull. She swung back, but Buffy grabbed the chair and yanked her opponent forward, striking her in the chin and then slamming her back against one of the tables. A computer monitor crashed to the floor.
"You LOVE him? God, do you have lousy taste in men." Not like her track record was much better--the Queen kicked Buffy in the chest and rolled off the table. They continued to move around the room, a feint here, a strike there. Along the way she kicked Spike in the head twice more.
"I'm getting really tired of that," the Queen exclaimed, grabbing Buffy by the throat and lifting.
"Tell you what," she choked out, chopping the vampire's hand at the wrists, forcing her to drop her captive. "Next time you kick him and I'll get upset."
"Sorry, that's foreplay and I'm not in the mood." She looked down at the unmoving Spike. "I will be when we're all done, honey. Rest up." Spike didn't answer, thank goodness. The concept of her and Spike as a couple still nauseated her.
"This is more like a dance than a fight," Buffy thought. "I'm dancing with myself. Where's Billy Idol when you need him?" She looked down and saw Spike. "Close enough," she thought. For good measure she kicked him again.
Two minutes later her double surprised her by standing up and giving a "time out" sign. Buffy was panting; she rarely had to work this hard to kill a single vampire, but she and the Queen could anticipate each other's moves, it seemed. She nodded acquiescence and simultaneously the Buffys stepped backwards.
"Don't trust her!" Willow hissed from behind her. Before the Slayer could respond Queen Buffy said merrily, "I don't, but thanks for the warning! Sure you don't want to be on my side?" Willow glared.
Buffy hissed, "I don't, Willow. But pounding away on each other like this isn't getting us anywhere." Buffy said, "Right?" to her double, while sneaking a glance at the still-motionless Spike.
"It's such a wonderful stress reliever, though." The Queen smirked.
Buffy thought, "Good God, can I really be that annoying?" She said, "Aren't you taking this seriously?" As though she was one to talk. But seeing herself as a vampire--seeing what could have happened to her in her own universe--had wiped most of the good humor from her system and replaced it with a cold anger. She HAD to beat this demon.
"What, the prospect of being staked through the heart by an exact duplicate of me who seems to be a Slayer?" She faked a yawn. "Naaah. Happens two, three times a week." Buffy rocked a bit more closely to the Queen. Her rival said, "We're a lot alike."
Sarcastically, "You think?" She poised herself.
Her rival stuck out her tongue. "More ways than that."
Suddenly Buffy said "Time in!" and jumped at the Vampire Queen, who...dodged? Damn! She was--
Her rival grabbed her by her shoulders and threw her into the wall, caught her as she bounced off the wall and spun her around into it again. In the office, Giles and Willow winced. Where was Ms. Calendar? Buffy wondered.
The Vampire Queen bent down over Buffy and said sweetly, "Told you we were alike. I lied. You lied. I want to kill you. You want to kill me. Why don't you just admit it?"
"I'm not evil," Buffy said woozily. "I don't want to use Sunnydale as my own private bloodbank." She concentrated. A few more seconds...
"No, you just want to turn me into ashes."...which apparently she wasn't going to get. "It'll be fun having a double around. Someone to keep Spike company while I'm away on those long hunting trips." The Queen put her game face on and leaned down.
The Cordelias said in unison, "behind us." Xander and Giles complied, moving behind the flagpole. It didn't seem to offer very much protection.
Angel said gravely, "Yes. She's the one on the l--no, wait." He looked more closely. "The one on the right." He nodded admiringly. "It almost worked--the clothes switch." With inhuman speed he reached forward and grabbed the Cordelia in the leather skirt, who shrieked. Pointing to the other one, he said, "Plum. This one knows better than to wear plum after dark. The Slayer wouldn't have time to keep up with the latest fashion trends."
Drusilla grinned and moved towards the other Cordelia, who grimaced and moved her arms in a feeble, though spirited, parody of the martial arts. "She doesn't behave very much like a Slayer," Drusilla said disappointedly. "I was so hoping she'd struggle. I love it when my prey struggles."
Angel looked down at the Cordelia he was holding. She said, "Surprise!" as she punched him in the stomach, then kneed his face as he doubled over. As he reacted to this she took hold of his coat and swung him into the flagpole headfirst. He let out an oof and fell.
Drusilla whined. "No fair. You said I'd get her." She stomped her feet. "You promised!" Sighing, she turned towards Xander and Giles. "I guess I'll have to settle for you ordinary humans. Not much of a challenge, though, and not what I was promised at all!"
"More of a challenge than you think," Xander said as he moved between Drusilla and Cordy. After a half second, Giles joined him, pulling out a stake. Their faces were stone.
Cordelia moved to intercept her and Angel grabbed her ankle. "No you don't," he said, twisting her to the ground. With her free foot, she kicked his face twice, but he held on tightly, stood up, and began dragging her along the sidewalk.
A kick to the back of the knees brought him down again. Cordelia rolled quickly into a standing position and glanced behind her. Giles was groaning on the ground and Xander was ineffectually trying to strangle Drusilla. Cordy just stood there, clearly out of her league in a physical fight but wanting to contribute.
Grimly Cordelia turned back towards Angel. Before he could react she flattened his nose with a punch and then stomped on his instep. "Finally, a use for heels," she thought. She rushed him and, throwing all her body weight into it, slammed into him and sent him sprawling down the front steps. Finally, he seemed hurt. He struggled to rise.
"Not down for the count, but it'll have to do." Things were growing desperate in the other fight. As she turned Drusilla knocked Xander into the rising Giles and put them both into a pile on the pavement.
"I've always wanted a pair of twins," Drusilla said languorously as she drifted towards Cordy, who nervously circled so she was between Drusilla and Xander.
"Stay AWAY from him!" her counterpart said. The vampiress just grinned.
She was so intent on her prey that she didn't notice Cordelia, who was ready to clobber her from behind. Then she had a better idea. Positioning herself, she called out, "Cordy! Cheerleading!" Drusilla whirled to face her. The Slayer continued, "One, two, three..."
Drusilla suddenly tumbled forward as Cordy's foot struck her in the back of the head.
"Kick," she said smugly.
Cordelia put the vampire in a headlock and spun to face the advancing Angel. "Back off. I'm betting I can break her neck before you can get to any of my friends." The other Giles and Xander were just now standing up.
"So we have a standoff. You're still not going anywhere." Giles suddenly turned and raced back into the school building as Xander dove into the bushes. Angel laughed a humorless laugh.
"And those cowards can't stand the strain."
...and Willow raced out of the office, cross held high, yelling, "Stay away from her!" as she slammed it into the vampire's back. The Queen yowled, straightened, turned to face her and said, "Two for one. I always did love a sale," as Willow braked suddenly, banging into Ms. Calendar's computer monitor and turning it so it faced the classroom, apparently by accident.
Buffy shook her head clear and kicked her double behind the knees, toppling her. "Store's closed," she said angrily. She threw herself onto the vampire and began slamming her face into the computer lab floor, no subtlety, no Slayer training, just pure rage. Willow rolled over the table and frantically began typing.
Again and again, Buffy pounded the Queen's head into the floor. "How DARE you," she screamed. "How DARE you do this to me." Her vampire self had stopped struggling, but Buffy didn't notice until Giles put his hand on her shoulder.
"Buffy, that's enough," he said sternly. She mindlessly spun to face him and stopped only when it finally dawned on her that this was no threat. He went on, "You were enjoying that. That is something a Slayer must NEVER allow herself to do--enjoy causing pain, even to a vampire. We kill; we do NOT torture. That is one of the things that separates us from them."
Panting, Buffy said, "I know. It's just that--"
"No justs. I understand why you were so offended. She could have been you. More importantly, you could have been her. But you cannot afford to make exceptions."
Buffy concentrated, forcing herself to calm down. What had she just done? She said, "She was right. I am like her. It felt so good to hurt her." She paused. "I feel dirty."
Giles' voice softened. "Good. That means you'll remember this the next time." He stopped for a beat, then continued, "It also means you're not like her. Would SHE feel dirty?"
Spike interrupted them, suddenly grabbing Giles by the shoulders and throwing him over the classroom tables, where he landed in an undignified heap among the chairs. More computer monitors crashed to the floor. Glaring at Buffy, he said, "You must be an unintended consequence."
"What the--?" she asked, still disgusted with her actions. Warily, Buffy prepared for another fight.
As though he hadn't heard, Spike said, "Obviously a vampire leader on another world--another me would be my guess--had the same idea I did. Send the Slayer off to some other universe and then ravage her town, knowing that she knows there's not a damn thing she can do about it." He gave Buffy another evil stare. "Unfortunately, that leaves me with the difficulty of another Slayer, and one who looks like my closest ally. If I didn't know better, I'd swear I'd gone starkers."
From the floor across the room, Giles muttered reply came, "You need to improve your self-knowledge, Spike."
The vampire ignored this. He reached down and dragged the Queen to her feet. She said dazedly, "Anyone get the license number of the Slayer that hit me...?"
Spike slapped her twice. "Wake up, my love." Buffy felt like vomiting. "You're going to need all your strength for this." They advanced on Buffy, who stood her ground.
They'd forgotten completely about Willow, who yelled at the advancing vampires, "No you don't!" and pressed a final series of keys. A cross blazed onto the computer screen and both vampires recoiled, throwing their arms up to shield their faces. Buffy knocked their heads together and they backed up. Willow turned the monitor to face them and held up her own cross, and Buffy advanced with stake drawn.
Spike broke the window with one fist and both vampires leapt through it. The Queen gave a parting shot as she left. "You win this round! Course, our offspring are busy ripping throats, but hey--nothing for an experienced Slayer like you! Willow! You still owe me that lunch!" And with that they were gone.
Buffy raced to the window to chase after them when Giles firmly said, "No. This is not your fight."
"But what if your Slayer doesn't come back? You need--"
"She'll be back!" Willow hissed in a tone that brooked no argument.
Buffy assented, "You're right, Willow. I'm sorry. If she's half the Slayer you say she is, she'll be fine." Willow turned away, but calmed down, and Buffy realized how much anger and pain her friend's counterpart still had to work through.
Ms. Calendar emerged from seclusion in her office. "Replace the cat blood with cat hair and don't invoke Satan and it should work." She and Willow read over the spell. "We need to go outside." They walked out and stood on the front sidewalk of the school near the flagpole. "This should do it. Are you ready, Buffy?"
"As I'll ever be." Maybe if she braced herself this time she wouldn't be knocked down.
In unison, Willow and Ms. Calendar began chanting the spell. During the next two minutes nothing happened. Then there were five claps of thunder, each one growing closer and closer. Before the last Giles shouted, "Good luck!" as the three of them ran off.
Then the thunder took her.
Cordelia stared around in shock for a few moments; then Xander crawled back out of the bushes, smiling triumphantly and holding a small angry animal. "Thought I heard something. Guess the Cub Scouts aren't completely useless."
Angel muttered, "Yeah. They make great snacks."
Ignoring him, a wide-eyed Cordy said affectionately, "Nice work," and took a small pair of scissors out of her purse. The cat yowled but Xander kept a firm hold of it until she had a clump of its hair. Then he released it as her counterpart said, "This better work. I mean, I just ruined a good pair of nail scissors and got cat hair all over my shirt!"
Cordelia and Xander laughed, and Xander squeezed his girlfriend's shoulder. Drusilla, who had remained unusually quiet, wrenched in the Slayer's grip. "Let me go," she howled.
Cordelia said, "Quit struggling," and held on tighter. When Drusilla ignored her and kept squirming, she whispered loudly in the vampire's ear, "I love it when my prey struggles too."
"You stole my line," Drusilla protested mildly, "that isn't fair at all." Thankfully, she quit wriggling anyway. All this time Angel bobbed back and forth, clearly waiting for the right moment to rush.
Giles raced back out of the school carrying an armload of...stakes, holy water, and crosses! He quickly passed them around. Cordelia took a stake and a cross with her free hand, turned to Angel and said, "Giles may be repressed, prissy, and have almost no sense of humor; Xander may be immature, impulsive and controlled by his hormones..."
Xander interjected, "I don't think I like you any more."
A heavily breathing Giles said, "Neither do I."
Cordelia grinned and continued "...but one thing neither of them is is a coward. You should know these things."
Angel smiled grimly, in appreciation of having been caught in a lie. "Yes. But I was hoping you didn't."
A blast of thunder centered on the flagpole knocked everyone except Angel off their feet. Drusilla was thrown clear of Cordelia's grasp and quickly stood up; a few seconds later, Cordelia did the same, springing into a fighting position.
By the flagpole..."Buffy!" Xander yelled. Cordelia started. She looked so much the Queen...She shook off her trepidation. This was no time to be distracted. Keeping an eye warily on Angel and Drusilla, Cordelia the Vampire Slayer walked over to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and pulled her to her feet.
"Thanks, Cord--" Buffy hesitated. "You're the other Slayer."
"No, YOU'RE the other Slayer." Buffy looked around and took the situation in with one quick glance.
"Angel? Drusilla?" Cordelia nodded. "Trouble." She saw Giles with his armload and her eyes widened. "Big trouble. Giles, stake me."
Angel roared forward, seeing the odds turning rapidly against him. Cordelia kicked him in the kneecap as Buffy whirled and kicked him in the face.
Drusilla moved in, but a barrage of holy water from Giles and Xander and Cordy's prominent crosses kept her at bay. She backed to the steps, said mysteriously, "I don't think I like this game anymore. It's no fun," and ran off out of throwing range. Then she turned and kept a close eye on Angel. Giles' thrown stake barely missed her shoulder as she retreated. The slayerettes turned to watch the other fight to see how they could help...
...but, quite honestly, their help wasn't needed, because Angel was getting the crap beaten out of him. Whenever he dodged a blow from one Slayer, the other would connect. "What is she waiting for?" thought Cordelia. "All she's doing is hitting him." She'd finally figured it out: In this universe the curse that restored Angel's soul had never happened.
A right cross to the jaw from Cordelia finally sent Angel to the pavement. She pulled out her stake and was ready to destroy him when suddenly Buffy kicked the stake out of her hand. She turned angrily. "What are you doing?"
Buffy said, "If anyone has to kill him, I will."
"JEALOUS?" Cordelia thought in amazement and reached for the stake. She said firmly, "He's a vampire. You kill vampires."
"Would you have killed your Angel?" Buffy asked, grabbing her by the wrist.
She shook free and said, "No. But he was my friend."
A look of infinite sadness entered Buffy's eyes. "And this one was more, once."
Cordelia dropped the stake as she realized the full meaning of what Buffy was saying.
"I love it when you fight over me," Angel sneered from the ground. "But now that you know you won't be killing me, can I leave?"
"Shut up," the Slayers said in unison as they kicked Angel, Buffy in the head, Cordelia in the balls. The vampire yelped in pain and slowly rolled to his feet as the other three approached with crosses held high.
"That's two you owe me," he said. Cordelia glanced at Buffy, who shrugged and said "Great minds and all that." They stood in a group and watched Angel slowly fade back into the darkness. When they thought to check for Drusilla, she was also gone.
Cordelia turned to Buffy. "I'm sorry."
"No biggie. Just the hazards of May-December romance." Buffy's face grew serious. "Look, you need to get back. Vampires are ravaging your Sunnydale."
"What, again?" She gave a half-smile. "Just give me a minute." Cordy handed Giles the cat hair and he reread the spell.
Avoiding Xander's gaze--"If I look, I'll never want to leave," she thought--she walked over to her counterpart.
"Remember what I said. Never let go of him."
"I won't." Her counterpart paused. "Wish I could make you feel better."
"You already have." They hugged and there didn't seem to be anything else to say. As she walked over in front of the flagpole Cordy shouted, "Wait! There is something I can tell you." Cordelia waited expectantly. "Don't wear plum after dark!"
Cordelia began laughing helplessly; after a moment, everyone else joined in too. Her counterpart grinned; "She's not as shallow as everyone thinks," thought Cordelia and got back to her feet.
Giles began chanting the spell and everyone but Buffy moved to a safe distance. She stood in front of Cordelia as the thunder started booming and reached out her hand. Without hesitation, Cordelia shook it.
"I envy you," she said.
"I admire you," the other Slayer responded.
"Trade?" she said wistfully. Buffy shook her head and dashed for cover.
Then the thunder took her.
Cordelia fell to the ground in a tremendous blast of thunder, but quickly stood up. Giles, Willow and Ms. Calendar rushed to her side.
"I'm okay," she said. She hugged all of them in turn. "And I'm--glad to be back."
If Giles noticed the slight hesitation, he gave no sign. "You won't be for long. I'd like to hear your perspective on that other world later, but for now, the vampires apparently planned on making use of your absence--"
"--to tear through Sunnydale. I know." She paused. "No rest for the righteous, I guess. I need to get my car."
"I'll drive you down to the graveyard," Ms. Calendar said.
Willow hugged Cordelia again. "What was that for?" she asked.
"NEVER leave again!" whispered Willow fiercely, tears in her eyes. "It took another Slayer to make me realize how good a friend you really are to me." She hesitated. "She was so annoying. Couldn't say two sentences without making a joke. Just like--just like--"
"Buffy Summers. OUR Buffy Summers...before she turned."
"Yeah." Finally it struck Cordelia. She had to stop being so overprotective. She had been as afraid of losing Willow as Willow had been of losing her. She'd been practicing, training; she WANTED to help Slay. She needed to. And it wasn't Cordelia's call to make. Her fear shouldn't determine Willow's life.
For the longest time Cordelia Chase had been Willow Rosenberg's only friend. It was time to start being her best friend. "Look, do you want to patrol with me tonight?"
Willow's surprised nod was all the answer she needed.
Buffy turned to Giles. "So, anything exciting happen while I was gone?"
Xander interjected, "Naaah, same old same old. Giles blustered, Cordy screamed, Angel threatened and it was up to me to save the day. As usual." Cordy slapped him on the shoulder. "What?"
Buffy grinned and turned back to Giles. "Let's let the two lovebirds alone."
"Yes, let's. You said something about vampires raging through Sunnydale?"
Buffy quickly grew serious. "Yes. That was Spike and--" She couldn't say the name--"the Queen's plan."
"Have you considered that Angel and our Spike--and may God strike me down if I ever use that disgusting phrase again--may have had the same idea?"
She said, "Yeah. Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to Slay I go." She looked over at Xander and Cordy, who had moved past the insults and were into some heavy interfacing. "Don't think we need to disturb them, though."
Buffy went through the armload of vampire-hunting goodies Giles had brought out and took a few choice items. As she turned to leave, she said, "One thing, Giles--how do we know that they won't try this again?"
"Well, we can't be absolutely certain, but I suspect that this experience of trading one Slayer for another has soured them on the idea. Who knows? Next time they might have really bad luck and trade you in for Xena, Warrior Princess."
Buffy gaped at Giles.
He said mildly, "Well, you DID tell me to embrace pop culture..."