Lilacs on the Air
It stood just under seven feet, dusty skin stretched taught over lanky arms and legs. It's head was a triangle, eyes on the tips of the top two points so that it could look in any direction. It was about to eat a hooker.
"Hello," Cordelia said, leaning the axe she'd brought with her on the base of a light pole.
The hooker kept screaming, her platforms scraping uselessly against the pavement as she tried to scoot away. One of the demon's eyes swiveled around and its screams immediately drowned out the woman's. Cordelia winced. She'd forgotten the sound, all high-pitched and girly. It made the bruise around her eye throb.
"Oh, knock it off," she snapped and tossed a bottle (a $200 bottle full of an archaic potion) at the thing. It shattered when it hit the ground and the thick vapors began eating at the demon's flesh. It's screams continued, unaffected. "Now," Cordelia said, glaring through the smoke at the shocked hooker, "would be a good time to run away."
The woman did and Cordelia hefted the axe, holding it in both hands so she could lift it higher than her hip. The demon was still staring at her, screaming its quickly melting head off. Cordelia thought this would be a good time for a snappy comment, but the lilac smell was mixing with the scent of melting flesh and she thought she might gag if she opened her mouth. Instead she swung the axe like a bat and took off the demon's head, stopping its screams so abruptly that the silence of the deserted street shocked her. Slowly, the popping, sizzling sound of disintegrating flesh filled some of the void. She stepped back, taking deep breaths of fresher air and turning away from the smoking mass.
She froze, the axe clattering to the ground beside her. She'd seen Buffy Summers only once since graduation nearly a year ago, but she'd recognize the slayer anywhere. Buffy came closer, her eyes skimming over the demon remains before focusing on Cordelia.
"Has Angel seen you?"
Buffy tensed ever so slightly and Cordelia fanned the triumphant feeling that sparked within her. Good, Buffy deserved to feel bad.
"Yes," she said, her tone clipped. "Not that it's any of your business."
Cordelia scoffed. "I'm sorry, not my business? My boss's ex-girlfriend rolls into town and it's not my business?"
"No, it's not," Buffy snapped.
"You're leaving. I'm right, aren't I? You came here for Faith and once that's taken care of you'll be gone. You won't have to stay and see Angel walk around more sulky than he usually is. You won't have to walk around the office pretending everything's all right when it's oh so obvious that it isn't. Because you come and you go and you never look back to see the destruction you've left behind you."
Cordelia saw that her words had hit their mark and bent to pick up the axe before heading back to her car. She'd parked on the next street over, not wanting to scare the demon off before she was ready to vanquish it.
Buffy fell into step beside her and reached for the axe. Cordelia jerked it away, ignoring her shoulder's protests that the weight was too much. She'd be damned if she let Buffy Summers help her now. For several moments the only sound on the street was their own discordant footsteps.
"Faith turned herself in to the police."
Cordelia let out the breath she'd been holding since two days ago when Faith tried to kill Angel. "Good. Dennis'll be glad to hear that."
Buffy waited exactly three steps before asking, her voice a bit strained, "Did Faith hurt your boyfriend?"
Cordelia paused and waited for Buffy to stop and turned before asking, "Where the hell did that come from?"
Buffy frowned. "Well, you just said …"
Cordelia laughed. "Oh, no! Dennis is my ghost! Faith attacked me and Wesley in my apartment and Dennis felt bad that he didn't do more to protect us."
Buffy waited until her laughter ebbed before saying, "Behold, she has a ghost and slays demons. Cordelia Chase has definitely grown up."
"Oh, please, the demon slaying is still all you and the guys."
Buffy folded her arms over her chest. "Really? Because from my vantage point you looked like you were doing pretty well for yourself back there."
As much as she would have liked the free praise, especially from her pseudo-nemesis, she didn't want people thinking she was available for slayings. She started walking again and explained, "Actually, we fought a nest of those demons a couple months ago. Since there were so many I had to come along, though, mostly just to free the humans they'd captured while Angel and Wesley did the heavy lifting. I tried to sneak around but it didn't take long for one of them to notice me. And that's when the screaming started."
"The demon. Then all its friends looked to see what was up and they started screaming too. It turns out this particular species of demon has a weird genetic disorder that makes them terrified of female seers. It's really weird. That's why I'm out here by myself. Since Faith was basically taking all of Angel and Wesley's attention, I figured I could handle this guy myself."
Cordelia glanced to her side, waiting for a snarky response, only to find that Buffy had stopped several feet back.
"What?" Cordelia asked.
"Seer?" Buffy said. "As in see-er of the future?"
"Yeah," Cordelia said slowly.
Buffy shook her head, her hands out in an obvious gesture of "could you explain this any less?"
"I told you this. It was in the company newsletter."
Buffy's expression froze and Cordelia frowned, realizing why Buffy didn't know about her visions.
"You didn't read the newsletter, did you?" Buffy opened her mouth to give some lame response that Cordelia didn't have the patience to hear. She whirled, walking much faster than she had been. Buffy hurried to catch up.
"Oh, come on, Cordelia. What did you expect?"
"I know we weren't friends but I thought -- I thought you might give a damn. I thought you might care about the fact that there's an evil law firm in LA who just might cause trouble for people outside this city." She shook her head and when it made her head hurt blamed that on Buffy, it made her feel better. She stopped so abruptly that Buffy almost ran into her. "Did you even know Wesley was here?"
"I -- no."
"Listen, I'm sorry I didn't read your newsletter. I'm sure everyone else did and I promise to read the next one."
Cordelia didn't bother pointing out that if Willow or Xander or even Giles had read theirs, they probably would have mentioned a little thing like the bitch of Sunnydale High getting conscripted into the fight against evil.
"How did it happen?" Buffy asked quietly.
"Doyle. He was the guy who the PTBs sent to Angel and who had the visions before, in case you didn't bother to remember. There was this weapon that was going to kill a lot of people and stopping it meant certain death. You know Angel, he stepped up. Doyle went to give him one last goodbye -- and hit him. Then he kissed me -- and then he died." She threw her head back, more to dispel the tears threatening to well up than to shake her hair into place. "A few days later I was at an audition when I had my first vision. Hurt like hell, let me tell you."
Nice as it was to have someone comfort her, Buffy wasn't Cordelia's first choice, and she laughed it off. "Nothing to be sorry about."
Buffy nodded. "Well, you wanna keep going or are we just gonna stand out on a dark street in a seedy part of town all night?"
Cordelia gestured behind Buffy as best she could with the axe. "My car's right here."
She loaded the axe into her trunk and paused at the door. "You want a ride somewhere?"
"No, my car's just down there. I left it when I heard the screams."
Cordelia nodded and started to climb in while Buffy headed down the street once more. "Buffy." The slayer turned quickly. "Don't come back."
"What?" There was an edge to her voice that Cordelia ignored.
"Don't come back. He's learning to live without you now. And really, there are only two ways you popping back up can end. Either he gets depressed for days and it makes him sloppy, which could very well make him dead, or you two let your emotions get the better of you and do the nasty. Either way I'm out a champion and I'm pretty sure my destiny doesn't end when he does. So I'd appreciate it if you didn't completely screw things up anymore. Have a safe drive back to Sunnydale."
She ducked into the car and slammed the door before Buffy could reply and drove off, leaving her still standing there.
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