Armor By - D.M. Evans Disclaimer - I don't own them. We all already know that. Thanks to Joss for letting me play with them. As always Joss owns all and I make no money off of this. Rating - Pg-13 Spoilers - Takes place within "The Wish" in S3 so no spoilers Summary - Cordelia's first day back to school after breaking up with Xander does not go as planned Author's Note - Written for the Fourth Lyric Wheel Challenge. Thanks to Jason for the lyrics by Liz Phair ' Why Can't I?" (Lyrics to be found at the bottom)

Isn't this the best part of breakin' up? Cordelia thought, strutting into Sunnydale High. All eyes were on her in her leather skirt and jacket, silk shirt and matching accessories, armor by Prada; all those potential boyfriends studying her as she strolled down the corridor. She could make them all want her if she so desired and then she could savor those first weeks of dating again; those were the sweetest fruits on the vine, when the guy would do anything to impress her. Yes, the joy of the hunt was the best part of breaking up.

At least that's what Cordelia tried to convince herself. She needed to believe that because if she wasn't concentrating on her next conquest she'd be thinking about Xander. She couldn't spend any more time dwelling on that idiot. He had hurt her in a way she could never have imagined. Breaking up was something Cordelia was well acquainted with. She was the one who usually did the breaking but she couldn't remember it hurting this much before. Maybe it was because she had never been betrayed before. Okay, there was the frat boy who had offered her up as a sacrifice but they hadn't really dated.

She and Xander had had something and Cordelia knew she hadn't just dreamt it. She never had been a starry-eyed schoolgirl. She had sacrificed a lot to be with Xander, her popularity chief on the list. She knew it was shallow to even think about it but she couldn't help it. Everyone knew how important the pecking order in high school was and she had messed with the natural order of things.

Still, Xander had been the sweetest boy she'd ever been with. His easy going, Irish Setter personality had a certain charm. He had found a chink in her armor and somehow got in to her. Xander never hounded her for her money. In fact, he had been uncomfortable with her buying him gifts or paying for dinners. She couldn't believe how respectful he had been, never pressuring her for sex, even though he knew she wasn't a virgin, thanks of slip of the tongue. Instead, he was willing to wait for her to be ready for that next big step. Together, they had been comfortable in their own skins.

That was, until she caught him kissing Willow. That memory agonized her more than the rebar through her belly. Cordelia shook her head, trying to dispel the cobwebs of Xander's memory. They were broken up now and she needed to concentrate on the matter at hand, finding someone else you can't get enough of, and Cordelia, girl, all eyes are on you.

Cordelia had no doubt of that. She knew she looked stunning. She felt like a queen and that was worth the pain stitching her side. The doctors hadn't wanted her to return to school yet. It wasn't a nice, easily repaired wound she had. She had narrowly missed losing a kidney. Some of her intestines had been nicked and the doctors were worried about peritonitis. She was on antibiotics and percocet for pain. She shouldn't have been driving anywhere but her parents were too wrapped up in their busy lived to even notice she was on narcotics. Besides, she had to get back to school, to show everyone nothing stopped Queen C.

Keeping her head up, smile wide and eyes bright, took more work than most people realized. Cordelia wished she had forgone the high heels because each step jarred her, making the stitches pulls and twinge, but if she'd gone with anything else, the lines of her legs wouldn't be perfect.

Cordelia was braced for the fact she would see Xander and his friends. She had her best cold shoulder ready for them. Seeing Harmony and the Cordettes, plus a stranger in their midst, waiting for her at the end of the hall, Cordelia's smile widened. She was back in her element. She ruled. What could go wrong now?

* * *

Cordelia curled up on her bed as much as her stitches would allow, trying to let the scent of the rose candles relax her. Her eyes felt swollen and she knew they had to be as red as her silk robe from all the crying. She had stuck it out as long as she could at school but left before the last period.

Her world was just a little too askew for her to handle. She hadn't anticipated Harmony staging a coup, humiliating her in front of the whole school or so it had seemed. Her friends had laughingly suggested she date Jonathan, the little lump. Then John Lee had called her "Xander Harris' cast off" and told her flat out she was only good for sex so long as no one found out he was with her.

It was a horrible, degrading thing to say. Worse, she knew she had been as cruel to others in her time. Now she understood. It was the last lesson Xander had to teach her. The only good thing to happen to her was meeting Anya. How pathetic was it that a stranger was the only one to offer her any sympathy, especially after all she had been through? Queen C's crown had been knocked off and the Cordettes had given her a new title, 'Xander's leftovers,' and she would have to put up with it if she wanted to regain her crown.

Cordelia sniffled, thinking about calling Xander back. He had left an outrageous number of messages for her. She knew he wanted to make it up to her, to take that day back. She almost wanted to let him but no, she couldn't do that. She had been hurt too badly to take him back. She had her pride, tarnished as it was but deep inside a little voice said she was sacrificing something good just to get her old reputation back. She had to beat the voice down.

Cordelia wiped her face. "I can survive this," she whispered to the stuffed tiger on the pillow beside her. "What do I care what anyone thinks? I'm Cordelia Chase and before long, everyone will forget the insanity that was Xander Harris."

Cordelia knew it wouldn't be as simple as that. She did care what everyone thought, to the point of parroting Harmony's words to her beloved childhood toy. They wouldn't forget or forgive the clique breech she had made in dating Xander but she wouldn't let them get to her. She had a dignity they couldn't take from her.

Tonight she would go to the Bronze, as beautiful as ever, and show no signs she had cried herself out over her losses. She wouldn't let Harmony and her friends get to her, even though Cordelia knew they weren't done torturing her yet. Her silky red dress hung on the back of her door. She would don it like armor and go forth like nothing had happened.

Maybe Xander would see her and agonize over what he had done. Maybe she would find someone new, and maybe safe in her armor, she'd stop hurting, if only for a little while.

"Why Can't I?" - Liz Phair

Get a load of me, get a load of you

Walkin' down the street, and I hardly know you

It's just like we were meant to be

Holding hands with you, and we're out at night

Got a girlfriend, you say it isn't right

And I've got someone waiting too

This is, this is just the beginning

We're already wet, and we're gonna go swimming

Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you

Why can't I speak whenever I talk about you

It's inevitable, it's a fact that we're gonna get down to it

So tell me

Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you

Isn't this the best part of breakin' up

Finding someone else you can't get enough of

Someone who wants to be with you too

It's an itch we know we are gonna scratchGonna take a while for this egg to hatch

But wouldn't it be beautiful

Here we are, we're at the beginning

We haven't fucked yet, but heads spinning

Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you

Why can't I speak whenever I talk about you

It's inevitable, it's a fact that we're gonna get down to it

So tell me

Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you

I'd love for you to make me wonder

Where it's goin'

I'd love for you to pull me under

Somethin's growin'

for this that we can control

Baby I am dyin'

Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you

Why can't I speak whenever I talk about you

Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you

Why can't I speak whenever I talk about you

It's inevitable, it's a fact that we're gonna get down to it

So tell me

Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you