By D.M. Evans

Disclaimer - so not mine. Mr. Whedon owns all

Rating - PG

Time Line - BtVS S3 (early)

Feedback - yes please,

Summary - The price of a slip of the tongue? Pain.

Author's Note - This has been bugging me since last night

No sooner than the words were out of her mouth, Cordelia wanted to spool them back. What he had said to her had taken her by surprise so much she hadn't known what to say. She hadn't been expecting that personal revelation of his pain. The first thing she had said had meant to be an 'I understand because this is how I handled something similar.' Instead, it came across as self-centered and she felt him turn to ice. Even as she tried to make a light-hearted joke to cover that faux pas, it was too late. The conversation was already dead and the joke just shoveled on the dirt over the grave.

It hurt more than she could say. Cordelia hadn't meant to be insensitive. She had been trying to be supportive but had found all the wrong words. She knew what he was thinking; 'calloused bitch.' He thought the world had to revolve around her, or at least assumed that's what she thought. He couldn't be more wrong. She just didn't know how to help others through their pain so she tried to make it hers for a moment to understand it better.

What possessed him to tell her that family secret in the first place? What had he been expecting her to say? Maybe she wasn't supposed to say anything at all and was just supposed to listen and be supportive. Why couldn't she have just done that? Why did she have to open her big mouth and twist the situation to fit her life? How could the innocence of her words be so devastating?

She watched him turn and walk down the hall, mumbling something about having to get to class. She knew it was a lie. Since when did Xander Harris care about class? What he meant was 'I can't even trust the girl I care about with my personal pain. She doesn't care about anything unless it relates to her.'

She wanted to tell him that it wasn't true. She cared but she just didn't know how to make herself heard. Whispering apologies to the air still perfumed with his scent mixed with cheese doodles, Cordelia hid her face by pretending to dig for something in her locker. Tears pearled her eyelashes. No one would know how crushed she was. She would put her armor back on and let them think of her as they would. Her pain was private. Maybe that's the way pain should be.