Part 3: Cordelia

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„So who's left on your list?"

Cordelia looked on as Faith crossed a name off her list and quickly scanned the leftovers. They had spent the last two hours at the mall, trying to get the largest number of presents possible on a limited budget. It was a new experience for Cordelia, who usually never had to worry about money. But Faith insisted on buying everything on her own dime, so limited budget it was.

"Well, there is just Mrs. S and the Bookman left. And... well, you."

"Oh, you're getting me a Christmas present?" Cordelia asked, genuinely surprised. There were times she still didn't quite consider herself a member of this very strange group that persisted in calling itself after a cartoon dog. Usually the only ones giving her gifts were her parents or whatever boyfriend she had right now. Of course the last to have given her a gift had been Xander on that fateful Valentine's day. The less said about that the better.

Faith looked up at Cordelia, puzzled.

"Of course you get a present, CC. I thought the whole point of this thing was to give presents."

Cordelia frowned, once again reminded that she and Faith had more in common than their hair colour. Faith had never outright said anything, but Cordelia was smart enough to realise that parental affection was not something Faith had ever enjoyed. Neither had she, for that matter, but at least her parents had tried making up for it by giving her a platinum credit card.

"Yeah, well," she tried to brush it off, "after what happened a few weeks ago I... I kinda got the impression that you were no longer all that fond of me."

Faith stiffened, her memories undoubtedly flashing back to whatever had happened to her during that brief change in history when the whole world had gone to Hell. As far as Cordelia knew Faith had not told anyone what had happened to her during that time, but she had been extremely upset and taken it out of Cordelia's hide.

"Yeah, I... fuck, CC, I don't do this whole thing well, you know?"

"Thing?"

"Yeah, the one where I admit that I screwed up, you know? It's just... it was... bad, okay? Real bad. And you caused it."

Cordelia opened her mouth to say something, but Faith raised her hand. "I know you didn't mean to, CC, really. I got that through my thick head, okay? But you were the most convenient target since that Anyanka bitch wasn't there for me to kill. So I took it out on you. Shouldn't have."

Figuring that this was as close to an apology as Faith was likely to give (and not that she had expected one in the first place), Cordy instead focused on Faith's words earlier.

"You never said what happened to you in Hell," she probed. "Wanna talk about it?"

Faith apparently considered it for a moment, giving Cordelia time to ponder the strangeness of this whole conversation. Here she was, the bitch queen of Sunnydale High, and she was trying to give some peace of mind to a troubled girl. Then again, it was as much for her own peace of mind as for Faith's, really. After all, intentional or not, it had been her wish that had consigned the world to Hell. The fact that she had somehow managed to fix what she had wrought was little help to those who retained memories from that time.

"B ever tell you how it felt the first time she sensed a vamp?" Faith asked.

The question took Cordy by surprise. What did that have to do with anything?

"Ah, no. We never really did bond all that much. We had this whole mutual hatred thing going before she went to Hell and afterwards, well... we didn't talk that much."

Faith just nodded at that, then continued.

"Well, when you're still new to the whole Slayer gig, it's kinda overwhelming. The first time I sensed a vamp, shortly after I was called, I puked my guts out, the feeling was so intense. It's like someone hitting you in the guts with a big hammer or something."

Cordelia frowned, trying to figure where Faith was going with this.

"It takes time to get used to it," the Slayer continued. "These days it's little more than a tingle, really. Guess it's kinda like when you live in a place where the toilet stinks. After a while you don't notice the stink anymore."

"So...," Cordelia started.

Faith looked at her, her dark eyes troubled.

"I was called as the Slayer when that Kendra chick died, CC," Faith said. "Which was just hours before the entire world went to Hell in that screwy world that wish bitch created."

It took Cordy a few moments, but then she understood. If a single vampire could make a newly called Slayer puke her guts out through sensory overload, then the entire world being swallowed into a demon-infested hell mere hours after Faith was called couldn't have been all that nice. Hell was the home of thousands, probably millions of demons.

"I'm so sorry, Faith," Cordelia simply said, aware how inadequate that sounded.

Faith just shrugged. "Like I said, not your fault. Not really. I'd rather forget about it, okay?"

Cordelia nodded, understanding. The memories of that other Cordelia, the one who'd been tortured at the hands of Angelus himself for over a century, still sometimes floated to the surface and gave her nightmares. She was doing her best to ignore them. That hadn't been her, after all. These things hadn't happened to her.

In the small hours of the morning when the sweat was flowing freely down her body and she couldn't keep from shivering those words were but small comfort.

"So," Cordelia said loudly. "What do you plan on getting for Giles?"

Faith visibly perked up, the change in topic obviously okay with her.

"Oh, I had this wicked idea. Come on!"

Cordelia just followed the whirlwind that was the Slayer until they arrived at a shop selling posters and trading cards. Faith stormed inside and rummaged through the shells until she found what she sought.

"What is that?" Cordelia asked, curious.

"I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show in Boston once."

"So?"

"I really loved it and did some digging. And there is this one guy who once played Frank N. Furter."

"Again, so?"

Faith, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, unrolled the poster she'd gotten and Cordelia saw a large picture of Frank N. Furter as portrayed by one Anthony Steward Head, who bore a remarkable resemblance to one stuffy British librarian. Her eyes widened.

"Oh, Giles is going to love this!"

TO BE CONTINUED

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Author's Note: Just in case you don't know, Anthony Stewart Head, the actor who portrays Rupert Giles, also once played Frank N. Further in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.