How I Spent My Vacation

Somehow it didn't feel like going home.

She had arrived in LA in style after spending most of what she'd put aside on a rented Lexus. Why not? She knew it wouldn't be long before she was rich enough to buy one of her own – you might say it was her destiny – and somehow it felt right to make a splash right away. Look out city of angels, here comes Cordelia Chase, dressed to the nines and ready to wow ya. Roll out the carpet and step aside.

Well, Cordelia Chase left LA wearing off-the-rack clothes and the biggest cheap sunglasses she could find to hide the Faith-related shiner that covered half her face. Oh, she made it look good, alright; as far as she could tell from her own reflection in the window as the bus passed through the suburbs she had a pretty cool seen-it-all-and-not-impressed vibe going. And yup, it says "Greyhound". Not that she couldn't have afforded anything better; after all, she had gotten Angel to sign enough checks to buy her, say, a week in Malibu – not the kind she had been used to just 12 months ago, but still, a roach-free hotel room, lots of sunshine and a few really good nights out. And besides she'd worked hard for this money, she deserved it. So far, though, she had only cashed one of the checks. She wanted to keep her options open, and told herself she would cash them as she needed them - after all, what were the odds that Angel could figure out how to navigate the bank's customer service hotline (where for personal service, press 4 was at least three menu choices in) and cancel the checks? Pretty damn low, mister. If he ran out of cash, well, that just proved she was right about him not charging his clients enough.

As she stepped off the bus, she was still not completely sure why she had come here of all places. But hey, it had been almost a year since she'd set foot in Sunnydale, and no matter how lame the place was compared to LA, it had been home sweet hell for 18 years. She could at least drop by and check it out before heading off on... whatever fabulous vacation she was going to think up.

One of the first places she visited was the house where she'd lived for most of her life. Of course, she couldn't go in; whoever owned it now, with Dad in jail and Mom off "visiting relatives", was hardly going to let her have a tour of the place. She certainly wouldn't let just anyone come in off the street and walk all over her home. Still, it was good to see the place, if only from the sidewalk, even though the people who lived there now obviously had no taste at all. I mean, a Volvo? Garden gnomes? They'd even chopped down the tree in the backyard. There had been a swing on it once, she remembered.

The old high school wasn't much to look at either. When she left town it had still been covered in smoke and debris, and seeing it now in all its burned-out sooty glory really wasn't an improvement. But had they really blown up that much of it? It had always seemed... well, a lot bigger. She should know, after all, she had practically run the place. She distinctly remembered leading her girls down hallways that were way too long to have been inside this little shack of a smalltown school. Weird.

She spent about an hour browsing around the mall, amazed at how few stores there were nowadays, feeling exquisitely bored. Now what? The next bus didn't leave until tomorrow morning. She stopped by Harmony's, but no one was home. She swallowed another mouthful of pride and went over to Xander's; luckily she happened to glance through the basement window before she had time to knock and then briskly walked away, trying to wipe the image from her mind; so he and Anya were still together, and VERY together at that. She found herself wondering if things might have gone differently if she and Xander had ever... oh for crying out loud, what does it matter now. Let them have each other and their little demon fighting club.

Speaking of, she stopped by Buffy's. Not because she had any great wish to see Blondie, but... well... what if Buffy didn't know about Faith? Oh yeah. That would be so like Angel, to forget about even phoning Giles or anyone. He really could be completely helpless. Seriously, between him and Buffy and their various hangups, it's a wonder evil ever got fought at all.

Of course, it wasn't Buffy who opened the door.

"Oh, hi, Mrs Summers."

"Hi... uh, Cordelia, right?"

"Yup, that's me!"

"Of course, I'm sorry... Do you want to come inside?"

They had coffee in the kitchen, trying to fill some uncomfortable silence.

"So, Cordelia... I was just thinking, I haven't seen you around much lately?"

"Well, I moved to LA after graduation. Like I was going to stick around this place."

"That's funny, Buffy just left for LA this morning. I thought she would have let you know...?"

Cordelia laughed. "Oh please, don't worry about it, I'm totally over the Scooby thing. I mean who has time for demons when you've got an acting career, right? Well OK, I help Angel out a bit. You know him – if he has to use something that was invented after 1776 or actually talk to people he almost starts to cry. So I check up on him now and then when I have the time."

They talked for a little while, about how, yes, Angel was coping with the single life and saving people and doing good and yada yada yada. Joyce seemed oddly relieved by this. But there really wasn't much else to talk about, so they exchanged say-hello-tos, she thanked Joyce for the coffee and left.

That evening, she went to The Bronze. Holy crap, when did they start letting all these... kids in here? How old is that girl over there, 14? And just look at all those other girls hanging on her every word like she was the second coming. Full of herself much? And was that... oh God, it was. Aphrodisia, one-time Cordette, was part of that girl's posse. How lame is that, hanging out with high school kids as if there's nothing more to life than this small-town club? She left before they spotted her; that would have been too embarrassing. Not for Cordelia, obviously, but...

It was just her luck that the hotel was full and she ended up spending her last night in Sunnydale at the Downtowner Motel. And it wasn't just the question of exactly what the hell that stain on the mattress was that kept her awake for most of the night; she was sure that Murphy's law was going to kick in and end this crappy day with one of those skull-cracking spine-fusing eyeball-boiling visions she told everyone she was getting used to but never did. While she waited, she came up with a few more insults to add to the ever-growing list of things to yell at Doyle if she ever got to see him again – because hey, in this business, anything's possible. If it wasn't for someone's stupid idea of heroics, she could be on TV now. She didn't have a murderous past or a mystic destiny, nobody expected her to save the world. "OK, come on, get it over with! Give me the vision already!" But this night the PTB were quiet. She couldn't quite put a name on the feeling she had when she finally drifted off at around 4 AM; it was a lot like disappointment, but obviously it couldn't be.

Over breakfast, she decided. This wasn't Sunnydale. It couldn't be. Queen C had been the center of Sunnydale, at least as far as anyone who counted was concerned; she had thought the place wouldn't work without her. Now there was just this bizarro version, Sunnydale-Two, and... GOD, were the effects of dating Xander really still there? I mean, do you see Sandra Bullock cracking Superman jokes? Whatever. She didn't belong here anymore. Visions or not, she could go anywhere, do anything. She was Cordelia Chase, goddamnit, no one could make her do anything she didn't want to.

An hour later, Cordelia Chase got on the bus and was back at the office at around noon. She called the bank to cancel the checks she hadn't cashed, brought Angel his coffee as he stumbled up from the basement with a huge yawn and a broken heart, gave him a few verbal jabs when he got too down in the dumps, did his paperwork, answered his phone, and at the end of the day went home to her apartment. She was barely inside the door when a vision struck; something big and scaly with lots of arms about to wreak havoc in West Hollywood. She phoned Angel immediately with the details before heading for the medicine cabinet. As the headache slowly lifted, she looked out over the lights of Los Angeles, knowing it held millions of people and probably just as many monsters, slimy ooky things with teeth that wanted to eat you or impregnate you or represent each other in court.

Somehow it felt like coming home.