Please let me know when those of you who are reading get bored with this story. I don't want to beat this horse to death. I see no end in site to this current line! If you enjoy the current arc, please let me know. If not...well, I will drop a meteor on the Earth and write a very quick ending chapter. Thank you to all those who have been so supportive!
Chicago was nice. It wasn't as sunny, it seemed, as Las Angeles, but Xander thought he could definitely stay in a city such as the one he was currently in. He had been there for three days; it had taken him that long to convince himself to confront his blast from the past. He had found her address through a few spies he knew throughout the country. She had used the credit card Angel had given her at a furniture warehouse; she had traveled light, her apartment was being leased fully furnished.
The four story sand colored brick apartment building stood in a quiet part of the city. Xander hadn't expected her here, and he certainly hadn't expected to find her in such a quaint apartment building. He had imaged a high rise downtown as her chosen dwelling place. Swallowing his fears, he entered the building and flashed a fake badge to the doorman. The badge stated he was from an important security company; Xander had accepted the badge from his friend with the guarantee it would work and hadn't asked many questions. He would wing his way through trouble if he got into it, he had decided.
Walking to the fourth floor, he found apartment 402 and knocked on the door. Waiting a few moments, he heard her look through the peep hole and hesitate on the other end of the door. Finally, a dark haired and unhappy Cordelia opened the door. Sighing, she turned around and padded back to the living room in bare feet, jeans and navy blue wrap shirt. Sitting on the tan leather sectional, she looked at him expectantly but did not offer him a seat.
Smiling, he shook his head; she was the same Cordelia he had fallen in love with so long ago, he thought. "Hi to you, too."
"Why are you here Xander?"
Sitting down, even though he had not been invited to do so, he put one arm across the back of the couch and turned towards her. "I wanted to see you."
Thinking about the answer to that question, he formed his sentence carefully before responding. "I wanted to see a piece of the past I had mostly forgotten about. I wanted to know if…really, I want to take you to dinner."
Crossing her arms, she looked a little surprised. "No one sent you? Angel didn't ask you to talk some sense into me or some nonsense like that?"
"You think pretty highly of yourself, don't you? Angel's a new father as of about four days ago. He has enough to worry about without thinking of where you are or what you're doing."
Smiling at his honesty, she relaxed a little. "Okay. So you came just to take me to dinner? You flew four hours to take me to dinner? And you wonder why I think so highly of myself."
Smirking, he leaned closer to her. "I want to know what kind of woman you are, Cordy. I want to know who you are today. I just…got a little confused with the dead, not dead, thing. And you seem so different. I'm curious."
"Curious? Is that all? I'm so flattered."
Sighing, he shifted in his seat. "You aren't going to make this easy, are you?"
"Not a chance."
"Okay…" Taking a deep breath, he started with the best explanation he had, "I left my life in that crater formerly known as Sunnydale. I left everything I had ever known or loved. Including my wife. So, I am trying to move on. I've been trying to move on for years. I had a girlfriend in Africa, I had a job. I was anonymous and I didn't have any responsibilities except for a few field trips for The Council. Well, I left Subira in Africa with my lack of responsibilities. I want something familiar, Cordy. I need to be around someone familiar again."
"And Buffy and Dawn, they aren't familiar? You could go to England, Giles is there. Or France; you could stay with Willow. Why me?"
"Because I loved you once." Deciding to lay his cards bare on the table, he looked at her with trepidation. Not knowing how she would react to him or his reasoning, he tried to keep calm and focused while he waited for her response.
Licking her suddenly dry lips, she stood and walked silently down the hallway and into the kitchen. Taking a deep breath, she started to fill a tea kettle to put on the stove. She heard him approach her from behind but waited until the burner was lit and the kettle was on the burner before she turned to speak to him.
"You came to me because you're lonely and you remember what we had when we were teenagers. Is that it? You need a trip down memory lane; maybe you want me to assure you everything will be alright. Is that want you want?"
"I don't know what I want, Cordy. I know that it took me a long time to work up the nerve to come see you. I know that I felt like I was hit by a bus after I saw you walk into that conference room. What does that mean? I don't know, Cordy, but I want to find out. I don't know why I'm here! I just felt like I needed to see you."
Sighing, she sat at the kitchen table, which only had two chairs at either end of it, and put her chin in her hands. "Fair enough. I don't think I want you here, though."
"Fair enough." Sitting down, he put his forearms on the table and leaned forward. "Why did you come here? What made you leave L.A?"
Shrugging, she stood momentarily and poured them both mugs of tea without asking Xander if he wanted any. Sitting back down, she handed him a mug as she blew the steam from hers. Sipping the beverage, she looked at him to see an expectant expression. Exhaling slowly, she set her mug down and stared at him.
"I needed to get away from the familiar. Being tied to Angel…it was great for a long time. I wouldn't have traded that for anything. We didn't work well when we weren't together; nothing worked well when we weren't together. But now…I couldn't wake up in an apartment he found for me every morning. I couldn't answer a phone only he knew the number to. I…he has someone else. They are finally together. I'm happy for them. But I can't be around that right now."
"Their happiness is painful when you're miserable."
"I guess." Sipping her tea, she swallowed before speaking again, "Yeah, maybe. I'm so used to him pining over her. I'm so used to him being miserable and alone and…well, he isn't any more. And I'm happy for him. But…I used to be the one he went to."
Nodding, Xander stared into his cup of dark liquid. Blowing steam away from it, he swirled the mug with his wrist so the liquid formed a short lived whirl pool. Looking up, he watched as she stared intently into her mug. "You're the other woman. That's what you said. You meant it, didn't you?"
Nodding slowly, she looked up at him with a forced grin. "I guess so. I was, wasn't I? He came to me instead of going to her. He relies on me too much when I'm there because that's all he's known for so long. I mean, I know that was a long time ago, but I was the last person to be comforting, supportive."
"What about the others?"
Shaking her head, she scoffed, "They were all to busy…too busy with stuff. Fred was, well, she was an evil hell god for a while and that will screw with a person. And guys don't let guys cry. They don't do that kind of stuff. He needed someone and there wasn't anyone there to meet his needs. When Buffy came back into his life, I guess he tried to rely on her, but he was too damaged. When I cam back, he immediately came back to me. I was the other woman."
"You never slept together, did you?"
"No. Not that I didn't think about it. We just didn't. He loves her too much; he always loved her too much."
"And now you're in Chicago. Alone, you don't know anyone; you work at a fashion Boutique downtown part time and at a small law firm as a secretary the other part of the time. That doesn't sound like you."
Raising an eyebrow, she told herself she wasn't surprised. "You did your homework. It's a life. It's better than no life at all. I still have visions, I kill bad things. I just need to live a quiet life for right now."
Leaning back, he looked at her in a way he hadn't looked at her in a long time. She was beautiful and intelligent and had matured so greatly since he had last seen her. Trying to remember the Cordelia he had known, he found it was difficult to do so. This woman was the same woman, yet was entirely different. Clearing his throat, he suddenly wanted to spend much more time for this person in front of him.
"How about that dinner? Could you stand my presence, you think?"
Smirking, she looked at him with kind eyes. "Xander, I always liked your presence. I'd love to go to dinner with you."
"Great. Actually, I didn't get very far beyond that in my planning; I think that means you have to decide where we go."
Laughing for the first time in a long time, she stood and walked into her bedroom. He didn't follow her this time. Slipping on understated heels and pulling a black lightweight button down cardigan over her shirt, she took a deep breath and tried to convince herself this was not a date. Composing herself, she started into the hallway.
Xander was handsome, she thought. He was handsome and no longer completely awkward. Following him to his rental car parked on the street, she tried to stay calm as she directed him to a restaurant she had heard of but never tried. She hadn't been out since arriving in the city; she hated going out alone and she didn't want to be accompanied by any of her co-workers.
After being seated, she tried to convince herself she didn't care if Xander decided he liked her. Telling herself it was of no consequence to her if he got back on a plane half way through dessert; she tried to be calm as she looked at the wine list. Glancing occasionally at her companion, she started to remember when her last date had been and almost winced. Shaking the memories away, she chose a wine and set the menu down, smiling across the table as she did so.
Smiling back, Xander forced himself to stop from loosening his collar. This was Cordelia, his mind said, a woman he'd known all his life. She isn't a threat, he told himself. His sweating palms were reminding him that he had always thought otherwise. Taking a deep breath, he tried to relax and lean back in his seat. He wanted very badly for this night to go well.