Visiting

Cordelia stepped off the plane feeling very much like a refugee, cast adrift in a strange country with only the clothes on her back, the only person she knew was the frightened young girl at her side.

Here was supposed to be safety that's why they came, but here she had no one to turn to.

An attractive, well dressed brunette approached them, smiling warmly.  "You must be Cordelia.  LaCroix has told me so much about you.  I am Janette, your sister.  Welcome."

"I'm sorry to just drop in like this," Cordy said nervously.  "I mean a phone call after Dawn and I are already on the plane, then bam, we're here, dumped in your lap."

"Think nothing of it my dear," Janette assured her.  "I've been anxiously awaiting LaCroix's decision to introduce you and our most fascinating brother to society."

"Like Angel would want to meet a bunch of vampires," Dawn snorted.

"And this 'enchanting' child must be the item LaCroix mentioned," Janette sneered.

"Janette, Dawn, Dawn, Janette," Cordelia said performing introductions.

"Yes, well you both must be exhausted and sunrise nears.  Let's collect your bags and be on our way."

Cordelia looked away in embarrassment, "We didn't have a chance to pack.  What you see is what you get."

"Ahh, I remember more than a few precipitous exits myself," Janette replied.  "We shall deal with all that tomorrow.  Come along now."

Cordelia woke with a yawn, for several minutes she simply luxuriated in the soft bed, down comforter and piles of fluffy pillows.  When she got up she found a silk dressing gown hung over the back of a chair, with a towel and toiletry items.

"This is nice," Cordy sighed.

Forty-five minutes later Cordy ventured out of her rooms.  Dawn, similarly dressed in a robe sat at the table with an open pizza box in front of her.  Janette reclined on a couch on the other side of the room, her nose wrinkled disdainfully.

"Cordelia, good morning," Janette greeted her, pouring a glassful of blood and extending it to Cordy.

"Eeth," Cordy sighed.  "Food time."  She accepted the glass and took a sip.  "Hey this is good… oh, please don't tell me this is human."

"Of course it is," Janette said.  "Animal blood is so disgusting.  It's not as if you haven't drunk human blood before."

"I had to, LaCroix said I'd be wrong if I didn't," Cordy explained to Dawn.  "It was just that once."

"Yes, you would be carouche if you had not.  LaCroix would not allow that.  And so now and forever after you will hunger for human blood.  You can subsist on the blood of lesser animals, but to truly live you need human blood."

"And what about the poor guy that died for my breakfast?" Cordy asked.

"Silly girl, no one dies in this day and age.  It would be too conspicuous," Janette laughed.

"Angel doesn't drink human blood," Cordelia argued.  "Except when he's hurt."

Janette sighed.  "Your Angelus is much like my Nicola, very concerned with things that don't matter.  Once upon a time I came to believe that Nicola's delusions were truth, that belief brought me nothing but loss and misery.  I am a vampire.  You are a vampire.  We are not mortal.  We move through their world, taking what we need, but we are not a part of it.  Its concerns are not ours."

"And I thought you guys were supposed to be better than the vampire my sister kills," Dawn said.  "Gotta say, you don't sound all that different."

"You are here only because LaCroix indulges Angelus too much, don't push me girl," Janette snapped.  "Such indulgence will only lead to more tragedy for us.  While you are under my roof you will eat properly, little sister.  I will not suffer through LaCroix's loss of yet another child.  I am tired of grief, I am tired of guilt."

Cordelia took a quick drink from her glass.  "When in Rome right?" she said with a sickly smile.  "Human blood, yum."

"I apologize," Janette said.  "I overreacted.  I've arranged for a seamstress to bring by some clothing for a fitting, she will arrive later today.  For now your old clothes will have to do, they were washed while you slept."

"Thanks, that's really great of you to take care of things like that, but, uh, Janette I really can't afford anything but off the rack.  I mean just getting one or two other sets of clothes for Dawn and I is going to pretty much wipe out my checking account."

"Do not concern yourself," Janette said.  "I will see to it.  There is always a gathering of the Community in my club; you must be properly attired for your introduction.

Cordelia bit her lip uncertainly.  "I don't want to look ungrateful or anything, but I'm feeling like a poor relation here."

"And I don't want anything from you," Dawn added, the two vampires ignored her.

"I will have LaCroix transfer money to an account for your expenses if that would make you more comfortable," Janette said with a shrug.

"Same problem really," Cordelia pointed out.

"My dear, you were brought across less than a year ago.  LaCroix is you maker, I believe financial support falls under his responsibilities as the parent of a very young child."

"I guess when you put it like that," Cordelia hedged.  "Daddy always did get me stuff, before the IRS took everything away.  I take it you guys are a little more savvy about money than Angel is?  You'd think money really is the root of all evil given how reluctant he is to make any."

"Money is simply money," Janette said.  "But it does make everything else so much easier."

 "Oh, this is gorgeous," Cordelia said admiringly.  "Don't you just love this one Dawnie?  It'll look great with your eyes."

"I told you, I don't want anything," Dawn snapped.

"Don't be a spoiled sport," Cordelia replied.  Janette is being the greatest host ever, you could at least be civil."

"She's a vampire remember?" Dawn asked.  "An evil, icky, undead thing.  I have a rule about vampires: I don't like them.  You, Angel and Spike are my only exceptions."

"I'm not undead, and neither is Janette," Cordelia said stiffly.  "I can't believe you classified me with Spike, eew.  He's one of the Failed."

"You all drink blood, at least I know he can't kill me, what guarantee do I have from Janette, she 'takes what she needs' from us, what if she decides she needs a snack," Dawn said.

"Buffy's busy keeping Angel not dead, I'm in charge of you," Cordy said.  "And since I'm in charge, you're going to put on the damn dress, go to Janette's party and be gracious to everyone their, got it?"

"Or what?" Dawn challenged.

"Or Janette might get sick of you and kick both of us out.  We don't know anyone, we don't have any money, we don't even speak the language.  What do you think's going to happen to us then?"

"If I have to," Dawn said.

"Come on, it's not like I'm asking you to join a convent or wear sackcloth or something," Cordy said.  "This is fun.  Do you know how long it's been since I got to be this Cordelia Chase?  The one who wears designer labels and stuff?  You've got you're mom, you don't know what it's like to have to worry about not getting enough paying clients to cover the rent almost every other month.  Please Dawn, don't wreck this for me.  I just want to wear a really expensive dress and go to a party.  I want to pretend for a little bit okay?"

"Okay," Dawn sighed.

"You look lovely," Janette said as Cordelia descended the stairs in a floor length sapphire blue evening gown.  "I'm certain you will be quite the sensation tonight."

"I do look good don't I?" Cordelia preened.  "I can't thank you enough for the dress and the other clothes."

Dawn stepped out of her room in her old jeans and tee shirt, clutching her stomach.  "I think the pizza was bad," she moaned melodramatically.  "My stomach feels all queasy.  I should go straight to bed.  Janette I feel so awful about missing your party, I really wanted to go."

"It was probably too late for a day person anyway," Janette said with a dismissive wave of her hand.

Cordelia walked over to Dawn.  "You're sure it's just the pizza?" she asked escorting the younger girl back into her room and shutting the door behind them.  "Or is this whole thing an act?  Cause if it is fine, if you're really sick… Well I did promise your sister I'd take care of you."

"I'm trying to be nice," Dawn said after a moment.  "So just let me say I'm sick okay?"

Cordelia looked hesitant.  "If you're sure that's how you want it?"

"I'm sure," Dawn said. 

"Okay," Cordelia replied walking back to the door.  "Sleep tight, I hope you feel better in the morning," she called as she left the room.

"If your charge is settled?" Janette asked.

"All ready to go," Cordy replied.

"Excellent, now remember Darling, the inner room is for members of the community only, you need not concern yourself with secrecy there, but the front room is a popular night club, many of the patrons there will be mortal.  Also you should partake sparingly of the alcohol mixtures, you'll find your tolerance to be quite limited for your first few decades."

Cordelia slipped out of the inner room and took a set at the bar with a sigh.

Janette's gathering was great and as a new member of a very closed society she was the belle of the ball.  So why wasn't she having more fun Cordelia wondered.  It was like getting back everything she'd lost in high school because of Xander and the IRS.  She was dressed like an heiress.  She had all the right connections, even if people were speculating whether she'd turn out like Janette or like Nicholas, but even with those mummers she was definitely good with the in crowd again.

Of course the problem could be that it was too much like high school with everyone wanting to be around her because it was the popular zone.  To make it even worse it was borrowed popularity.  Every adored Janette and feared LaCroix.  Not to mention the fact they were all curious, LaCroix and Nicholas' feud had provided the community with gossip for centuries.  They all wanted to know what going on with the ancient now that his erstwhile favorite was gone. 

Still she was popular again; it wasn't like her parent's money hadn't been part of her status in Sunnydale; that was borrowed popularity too.  How was being popular a bad thing?  It wasn't like Angel or Wes would suddenly stop liking her just because they weren't her only friends now.  She could be popular and keep the relationships that had proved so much truer than any of her old friendships.

Only that hadn't worked so well in high school.  She couldn't be part of the in crowd and still have friends among the outcasts.  On the other hand Janette had managed to associate with Nicholas and keep her social status in tact, which might make Angel okay, but Wesley was mortal.  Cordelia had a feeling that associating with mortals in this society was the equivalent of hanging out with the chess club at Sunnydale High.

"What they don't know won't hurt them," She muttered under her breath.  "It's not like they're going to come visiting in LA or anything."

"You're from America right?" a voice asked at her words.

Cordelia turned to find herself staring into a pair of the darkest green eyes she'd ever seen.  "How many LA's are there," she said with a grin. "I'm Cordelia Chase, and you are?" 

He's mortal she thought, didn't you just get done telling yourself mortals are the social kiss of death around here?

The green eyes had a cute smile to go with them.  "Robert Carmen from Denver, this is my first time in Europe and when I heard your accent I just had to introduce myself."

Vampires have to at least talk to mortals to make more vampires, Cordy thought.  This could be like a practice run.  Not that she wanted to turn anybody or anything… did you turn people you liked?  Then you'd be their parent and that would be yucky, she thought tangentially.  Maybe you found someone else to do it.  Of course Nick and Janette had been lovers and they were like her and Angel… and that was not a mental place she wanted to go.  When she'd first seen Angel she'd been interested, who wouldn't be? But they hadn't even known each other then and now it was different.  Angel had a place in her heart, and it wasn't a place that lent itself to boyfriend thoughts.  And Robert Carmen from Denver was waiting for her to say something, those beautiful green eyes fixed hopefully on her…

"Homesick?" Cordy asked sympathetically.  "I was like that when I first got off the plane, but my sister's the greatest, she really made me feel at home."

"She's lived in Paris for a while?" Robert asked.

"She's like a native," Cordy laughed.

"Wow, that long?" Robert replied smiling.  "You said you're from LA, are you in the movie business, because you've certainly got the looks."

Cordelia smiled winningly.  "You're so sweet.  No, I thought about it but it didn't work out.  I'm an associate in a detective agency."

"Sounds exciting," Robert said.  "I'd love to hear about it."

"Well isn't that the greatest coincidence, because I'd love to tell you about it," Cordelia replied.

"Janette, there's a problem," a vampire who appeared to have barely left his teens said.  "Victoria and Elizabeth are both here."

"And have already renewed their cat fight, I assume," Janette sighed.

The other vampire shook his head in disgust, "Fight over the attraction of a mortal decades after his death, what a bore."

"Quite," Janette said.  "I suppose I shall have to separate them."

"Oh, I don't want this night to end," Cordy exclaimed happily leaning into Robert as they danced.

"It doesn't have to," he said.  "I've got a hotel just up the street."

Cordelia made an unhappy face, "I've got this skin condition, I can't go out in the sun light."

"Well, I guess I'll just have to keep you entertained all day," Robert replied with a suggestive smile.

Cordy grinned.  "Okay, let's go."

Cordy and Robert worked their way to the door.  "Meklos, could you let Janette know I have plans for today?" Cordy requested as they left.  The bartender nodded distractedly.

Robert wrapped an arm around Cordy's waist and held her close as they walked down the Parisian street, whispering softly in her ear.

"She's done what?" Janette demanded. 

"Cordelia left with a mortal, said she had plans for the day," Meklos replied.

"She'd better be discreet," Janette said shortly.  "I've had enough fuss already.  Still, it seems most out of character for her.  She is taking 'when in Rome' to a level I never would have anticipated.  Perhaps LaCroix was not such a fool to turn her after all."

Cordelia arched her back, trying to give Robert better access to the fastening on her dress, without ending their kiss.

"You're so beautiful," he murmured, letting the dress fall to the floor.

 Janette blinked groggily at the ringing phone.  "This had better be important," she muttered.  "Janette here."

"Oh God, oh God.  Janette I… I didn't mean to… " Cordy said in a choked, panicky voice.  "I don't know what happened… everything was fine… then… I don't know what came over me… I bit him… Oh God… I bit him… I didn't mean to, I swear I didn't mean to."

"Where are you?" Janette demanded.

"Hotel… just a block up the road… I bit him… I didn't mean to… I didn't…"

"Your room number," Janette snapped.

"I don't know…" Cordy moaned.  "He isn't moving."

"Go look at the door," Janette instructed.

"Okay… Okay… look at the door… the phone cord isn't long enough…"

"Set down the phone and check the room number," Janette pressed.  She heard the muffled thump of the phone being dropped to the carpet then several uncertain footsteps followed by the creak of a door.

"I'm in room 318," Cordelia said a few moments later.

"Very good, now I want you to shut the door, which you have left open, and lock it.  Put the chain on.  Let no one in till I arrive."

"But… I need to call the hospital… what if Robert needs a doctor?"

"You will not call the hospital or the police or do any other foolish thing," Janette snapped.  "You know he is dead do you not."

"You can't be sure… I wouldn't have killed him," Cordy said, Janette could hear the beginnings of tears in her voice.

"Experience tells me he is dead.  Your senses would tell you the same if you would heed them," Janette said.  "I'll be right there, just stay calm and do nothing for a few moments longer."

Janette hung up the phone then grabbed up a heavy cape and hurried out of her room.

Dawn was drawn out of her room by the sound of a door slamming.

She came into the main room in time to see Janette practically carrying Cordelia up the stairs to her room.  Both women where heavily cloaked and the smell of smoke wafted through the room.

Dawn hurried up the stairs after them.

Janette dumped Cordy on her bed then turned and all but tossed Dawn out of the room and locked the door.

Dawn pounded on the closed door.  "What's wrong with her!  What did you do to her?" she screamed.

A little more than an hour later Janette emerged from the room.

"Silence girl," she ordered imperiously, but her eyes were dark with concern.

"What happened?" Dawn asked.

"I warned her about over indulgence and a fledgling's capacity for drink," Janette said.  "And yet she still managed a nasty case of alcohol poisoning.  I believe Cordelia will recover but she will be most ill for the next several days.  She needs her rest, so why don't you go back to you're room and leave her in peace?"

"I'm sorry, I'll be quiet," Dawn said in a severely chastened voice as she turned and headed back downstairs.

With a sigh Janette returned to her our rooms and picked up the phone.

"I expected you to take better care of your younger sister," LaCroix greeted her, his voice harsh.

"This is entirely your fault LaCroix," Janette exclaimed.  "How could you have sent her among mortals without explaining the… how shall I say it… the birds and bees with regards to our kind?"

"I'd hoped it would be Angelus who would first encounter that aspect of our nature.  He is, after all, the one with a girlfriend."

"That is insanity LaCroix," Janette hissed.  "I won't go through another incident like what happened in Toronto.  I don't know your Angelus, his death will not grieve me as Nicholas' did, but he is still family.  I will feel it.  I want no more of pain LaCroix, why are you setting us up for more?"

"You ought to have more faith," LaCroix said.  "Angelus will not kill his Slayer.  He has drunk her before, under circumstances more urgent than a tryst and yet she lives.  He won't kill her, if good fortune is with us nature will take its course and he will turn her, thus resolving our association with a Slayer issue.  If not she will most likely be sufficiently horrified to end their relationship.  Either way I win"

"Well there's been a kink in your ingenious scheme:  Cordelia met a nice, young, mortal man.  Nature, as you say, took its course, and she made a meal of him.  Now she is in a state and I fear the Slayer's sister will become an issue for the Enforcers if she ever suspects the cause of Cordelia's distress."

"I'll arrive shortly to take care of this," LaCroix said.

"See, I'm all better," Cordy said making a model's turn for Dawn.  "And I've sworn off  alcohol forever."

"I could hear you crying through the door," Dawn said skeptically.

Cordelia frowned in confusion.  "I don't remember crying or anything."

"She was delusional for a time," Janette supplied.

"I don't believe you," Dawn said.  "Something happened and you're hiding it."

"Because that is what you suspect a vampire would do?" LaCroix asked.  "Or because you were attacked by a powerful entity, snatched from your home, dropped into an unfamiliar place with only one person you knew and so it is impossible that this person should become ill. Correct?"

"Yes," Dawn exclaimed.  "To the first one, I mean."

"So it is possible that Cordelia's illness was nothing more sinister than a case of poor judgment?" LaCroix asked.

"It could have happened, but it didn't.  You're hiding stuff," Dawn argued.

"Always, but is Cordelia?  Is the person your sister entrusted with your safety * in * on it?" LaCroix pushed.  "Because she is a vampire and thus evil.  Your sister was wrong to trust her."

"No," Dawn said.

"If we were covering up something that happened to her, Cordelia must be a part of the conspiracy to deceive you," LaCroix pointed out.  "And if she is deceiving you your sister was wrong to trust her."

"Buffy isn't wrong," Dawn argued.

"Then perhaps Cordelia simply became ill as she herself has said," LaCroix suggested.

"I guess," Dawn wavered.

"Thank you for allowing the possibility," LaCroix replied.  "In other matters, the threat of Glorificus has been removed.  You will be free to return home as soon as I can arrange a flight."

"Really?" Dawn asked with a smile.

"Mr. Giles has indicated that your mother is quite concerned, I think we should put her fears to rest."

"Oh geese, Mom.  I must have scared her out of her mind," Dawn exclaimed.

"How did you do it?" Janette asked.  "I know a vampire cannot be mesmerized."

"You've never been a parent Janette," LaCroix said.  "You possess a certain influence over your child's mind, especially when they are young.  As she grows Cordelia will undoubtedly recover the memory of this incident.  She was a resistor before I turned her, the memory may resurface within the decade.  But for now she is still a child and I am her parent.  I told her that her nightmares are nothing more than that and she clings to that reassurance.  I told her nothing more than what she wished to hear.  It is her dearest wish that her lover's death was not reality, it is always easiest to convince people of those things they desire to believe."

"And what of the next time?" Janette asked.  "Cordelia is a lovely young woman, she won't lack for suitors."

"I've taken measures to ensure that she will be more discriminating in her future liaisons," LaCroix said.  "She has a long history of elitism, it is an admirable trait in a vampire.  I've taken pains to ensure that it crops up in an appropriate manner."

"You cannot change who we are," Janette protested.  "Not even you have that power LaCroix, did you not learn that from Nicola?"

"I was a fool with Nicholas, true," LaCroix said.  "I tried to make something of nothing.  I believed I could force him into a mold that ran counter to his basic identity.  In the end Nicholas was not only true to himself, he violently rejected those things I had tried to graft on to him.  That is not what I did here.  I merely encouraged certain desirable traits and repressed other more objectionable ones."

"You play with lives LaCroix, our lives, as if they were toys but the pain is real.  My pain, Nicholas' pain, your pain, it was all real.  I wish I could wash my hands of you.  Oh, how I wish it."

"There will be no more pain.  I won't allow it," LaCroix promised.