Summary: Faith saves Cordelia from a vampire attack, then talks to her about recent events.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes and language

Time Frame: Three days after "The Zeppo," and before Wesley's arrival during "Bad Girls."

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.


The party had been unexpectedly dull, and Cordelia had decided that she could duck out early without creating a major scandal-a conclusion that had caused her to grit her teeth in annoyance at how far she had fallen in the last year before she went to her car and drove to Main Street, where she found a corner table at Starbucks and drank three non-fat lattes before a glance at the clock caused her to sigh and head back towards her car.

She had been forced to park some distance away, and her annoyed mood was rather quickly replaced by unease as a tall figure wearing a Sunnydale High letterman jacket slipped out of the shadows. The boy smiled at her and called out, "Cordelia! How's it going?"

Cordelia rolled her eyes and replied snidely, "Not badly enough that I'm going to fall for whatever 'lure the dumb girl into being a cheap dinner' routine you've got, Cory. You've been missing for a week, you're two shades too pale, and that jacket with those pants? Serious darkness issues." She felt a brief pang of sadness, then forced it away as she snapped, "I'm not food. Go away."

Cory frowned in annoyance and mild confusion, and his face changed to its natural demonic state. The vampire visibly regrouped for a moment, then growled and retorted, "You don't seem to get the idea, Cordelia. The game goes: I show up, you scream and run, and if you get really lucky, the Slayer shows up and lets you get away. We're not in tenth grade any more-I'm not going to turn tail and run because you raise a disapproving eyebrow at me."

Cordelia laughed coldly and raised the aforementioned eyebrow at Cory, causing an involuntary flinch as the former May Queen replied, "Oh, right: I'm supposed to be terrified of a bunch of monsters so lame that they spent most of last year working for an eight year old, an self-obsessed pair of sickos, and Buffy's confused boyfriend, and who spend most of their time getting their asses kicked by a blonde midget with a lame wardrobe. And you're one of the newbies-meaning you're the lamest of the lame. Not impressed: not even a little. Why don't you run along, little man? I hear there's a bunch of nice juicy cockroaches hiding out near the dump that should be right about your speed."

Cory managed to look mortified through his game face, and Cordelia felt sweat trickling down her back as she dared to hope that the bluff might actually work. After a few seconds, the vampire snarled and began advancing on Cordelia, who began to frantically fumble around in her purse for the holy water and stake she always carried.

Cordelia caught a brief glimpse of a blur of motion, and Cory burst into dust with a scream, revealing Faith, who was standing there in her usual T-shirt and jeans, with a light jacket as a concession to the early February chill. The Slayer grinned and commented, "Damn-I never get tired of that."

Cordelia took a moment to consciously relax and let her pulse rate slow down a bit before she asked in a deceptively quiet tone of voice: "How long were you standing there?"

Faith shrugged casually and replied, "I spotted him a few minutes ago. I was about to stake him when you showed up, so I slipped into the shadows and watched the show."

Cordelia blinked, then directed her nastiest glare at the visibly amused Slayer as she grated out, "So why exactly didn't you stake him instead of sitting there and watching the whole thing?"

Faith shrugged, then responded, "Hell, I just wanted to see if you could make him cry." Cordelia was silent, and the Slayer added, "You were really on a roll. Who was he when he was alive, an ex of yours?"

Cordelia shook her head involuntarily, then whispered, "Just someone I went to school with." She was silent for a moment, then visibly composed herself before looking back at Faith and concluding quietly, "Thanks for the save: I've got to get home."

Cordelia walked past Faith, and was startled when the Slayer called out, "Mind giving me a lift? I'm done for the night, and I'd like to get back to my place."

Cordelia turned in surprise, then shrugged and called out, "Yeah, come on. You're not really part of Buffy's little group until you've bummed a ride from me." She turned away and continued to walk to her car, with Faith quietly following, her eyes scanning the area for remaining lurking vampires.

When they reached the sports car, Faith whistled and commented, "Nice wheels." She glanced in a window and added, "Kind of cramped for-"

"Don't go there." Cordelia's voice was annoyed, if still somewhat subdued after the vampire attack. They both got into the car and drove off. The trip passed mostly in silence, except for Faith's occasional directions and comments about the car's luxurious interior. After about ten minutes, they pulled up in front of the door of Faith's motel room. Faith opened the door without waiting for Cordelia to turn off the engine, left the car, and quickly moved around to the driver's side, motioning for Cordelia to roll down the window. Cordelia frowned, but complied, asking, "What is it?"

In contrast with her relaxed manner in the car, Faith seemed visibly solemn as she watched Cordelia silently for a moment before asking, "How about coming in for a few minutes? We can shoot the breeze, kick back a bit. It's not like either of us has school in the morning."

Cordelia avoided staring at Faith in disbelief by sheer force of will, and managed to keep her voice calm and noncommittal as she replied, "Thanks, Faith, but I think I'd better call it a night."

Faith grinned again, and she coaxed, "Come on, Cordelia: you're not afraid of being seen in a dive like this, are you? It's not like any of that bunch of sheep you used to hang out with would be caught dead within a mile of this place."

Cordelia's eyes narrowed, and she watched the Slayer closely as she contemplated what to do next. She could just leave, but something told her that it would be a bad idea, not to mention rather rude by even her standards. What could it hurt to go in and make some polite comments about the d├ęcor, then get out and head back to her safe bed? She raised an eyebrow, shrugged, and got out of her car, locking the doors and following Faith into her room without further hesitation.

Cordelia's eyes adjusted to the light, and she was hard-pressed to conceal her distaste at her surroundings. After a moment, she turned to Faith and commented, "You'd think those Watchers would be willing to spring for a better place for you to stay. What's up with those guys, anyway? I heard that they did something to Buffy to make her weak, and then they fired Giles. What's next, taking your stakes away and making you slay vamps with butter knives?"

Faith snorted contemptuously and replied, "Don't tell them that: they've already done stupider stuff, and we don't need them getting any ideas." She shook her head and added, "I was so pissed off at Giles. . .I came back to town and Buffy was a basket case. I took off before I heard the whole story and was going to beat the crap out of him until he told me that the Council had fired him. He did the whole stupid test with Buffy because he thought they would just can him and put someone in who would do it if he wouldn't, or something worse. Hell, if B could forgive him, then who am I to rock the boat?" Her lip curled in disgust, and she concluded, "If those bastards had their way, Giles would have skipped town the second they fired him, and we all would have died the other night."

Cordelia had been feigning a look of polite interest, though she was genuinely concerned about how the situation played out. After her brief period of actively blaming Buffy for her misfortune, Cordelia had reflected on the situation and decided that Sunnydale was better off with someone killing off the nasty things that went bump in the night. Her recent experience with the Hansel and Gretel demon had rather thoroughly reinforced that attitude, particularly with the damage its influence had done to her makeup supply and wardrobe. Faith's last comment caused Cordelia to stare and ask, "You all almost died the other night? The world almost came to an end? Again?"

Faith nodded and replied, "Yeah, my very first apocalypse, with a swarm of big, nasty demon bitches and the Hellmouth beast to make it really special." She described the events leading up to the brief re-opening of the Hellmouth, describing the Apocalypse demons and the Hellmouth creature in minute detail. Cordelia listened raptly, with only occasional expressions of disgust, and was relieved when Faith described the completion of the spell that re-sealed the Hellmouth-she still had nightmares about the creature that had crawled out when the Master had opened the Hellmouth. "Nasty fight. I dislocated my other shoulder-the damned thing's still sore. B got banged up pretty good. Giles and Angel almost bought it: they were out cold by the time the thing left. Red got out of it without a scratch, but she fainted after she cast the spell-I'm not ragging on her for it, either. That was a bad scene."

Cordelia shuddered and nodded, then did a roll call in her head. The full moon had been that night, so Oz would have been locked away, but. . ."Faith, what happened to Xander?"

Faith was facing away from Cordelia, and the older girl missed the brief grin on the Slayer's face that was gone by the time Faith turned back to her and replied innocently, "Oh, Xander? He wasn't there."

Cordelia paused, allowing her to hide her relief and summon her most contemptuous tone to comment, "Figures. He was probably off ordering the chips and dip for the post-Apocalypse avoidance party." She noticed that Faith was biting her lip to avoid laughing, and she raised an eyebrow as she snapped, "What's the joke?"

Faith looked over at Cordelia with a calm expression, then replied, "It's a funny thing. It turns out that there was a gang of zombies headed up by that dumbass Jack O'Toole tearing up the town while we were busy with the world coming to an end. They decided it would be fun to make a big bomb out of stuff from the hardware store and put it in the school boiler room. Most of the time, no big deal: school goes boom, no one gets hurt, and you guys find a new place to go to school." Faith paused: both girls knew that wasn't quite true, with all of the nights that Giles, Buffy and the others had late night research sessions in the library, which was directly over the boiler room. Faith let the pause go on just long enough to drive home the implicit point, then continued: "But if it went off while we were busy kicking Hellmouth demon ass-"

"You all die, the Hellmouth stays open, the world ends. I get it." Cordelia's voice was a little shaky, and she took a deep breath before continuing, "What does that have to do with Xander?"

Faith reached under her bed and pulled out a bag of pretzels, which she took with her as she sat down on the bed, still looking at Cordelia. She looked back up at Cordelia and replied, "The zombies were taken out. Jack's body was found in the boiler room next to the bomb: something had eaten it. Oz had gotten loose-we're not going to tell him what he was snacking on that night. The bomb was still in one piece but disarmed: someone shut it off after it had been started. We wondered who had saved our asses, since a pissed-off werewolf makes a pretty lousy bomb squad. A little digging, and guess what we found out?"

Cordelia's mind went blank for a moment, and she could only manage a whispered "No way."

Faith nodded slowly, then continued, "Angel's got sources all over town, and Willy dropped B a few hints when she visited him in the hospital: his other visitors had been passing the word on. He killed one of the zombies out on the street, and he was seen leaving the school just after we sent the Hellmouth demon packing. Unless one of those Apocalypse demons did it, Xander shut off that bomb and saved us. Not to mention taking care of the rest of the zombies while he was at it."

Cordelia shook her head in disbelief, then muttered, "No wonder he was so smug when I saw him the next morning. It's just like him to do something crazy like that and-" She stopped in mid-sentence, realizing that Faith was watching her in visible amusement. She snorted and regrouped by snapping, "Fine, he got lucky. Hanging out with Buffy, you're bound to pull something off like that sooner or later." She glared at Faith and asked in annoyance, "Why am I here, anyway? Did you just want to pass on that little piece of information, or did you-" She paused again as Faith idly chewed on a handful of pretzels, and she paled slightly as she edged towards the door.

Faith finished chewing and swallowed, then called out, "Something wrong, Cordelia?"

Cordelia halted, then looked back at Faith, noting the faintly predatory look on her face. She tensed, then began haltingly, "Look, Faith. . .I know that you get a little worked up after Slaying, but I'm really not-I mean, well, you're attractive in that bad girl way, and if I had an afternoon with you in Nordstrom's, you'd probably give the male population of Sunnydale a collective heart attack, but I'm not into, well, you know-"

Faith grinned wickedly, and moved to Cordelia's side with a single fluid motion that caused the older girl to shiver slightly. The Slayer leaned in and whispered, "Are you sure about that, Cordelia? It might be fun, you know." Cordelia tensed again, and Faith waited for a few more seconds before adding in a normal tone of voice, "Relax, Cordelia: that's not my game tonight. Though if you ever change your mind-" Faith's tone was invitational, and Cordelia took a step back and Faith nodded in acceptance as she concluded, "I wanted to talk to you about Xander."

"What about him?" Cordelia had recovered her composure, and was irritated at Faith's game playing. "He cheated on me, he got me hurt, and he humiliated me in front of the entire school. Fine, he helped save the world the other night, but so did the rest of you, and I'm not going to start dating any of you, either."

Faith snickered, then asked seriously, "Cordelia, how did everyone find out about Xander cheating on you? I mean, it was just the four of you there, and it's not like anyone explained what you all were doing at the factory. You could have made up any story you wanted about how you got hurt, then broken up with Xander using any reason you wanted to give. But you made sure that every last one of your nasty little clique knew the whole embarrassing truth: what was that all about?"

Cordelia flushed, then turned away and muttered, "What are you, my shrink? I was pissed off and on pain medication-you've never done anything you regretted when you were mad?"

Faith nodded, then replied, "Yeah: someone told me that I should wait and think about killing Angel until we got more facts. I ignored the advice and nearly got everyone killed because I listened to that evil bitch Gwendolyn Post instead." She looked up at Cordelia and added, "Funny, it was Xander giving me the advice that time too. Go figure."

Cordelia shrugged, and asked, "What's your point?"

Faith sighed, then walked back and sat on the bed. Cordelia spotted a chair next to the TV and sat in it, watching the silent Slayer for a moment until Faith shook her head and commented, "Xander's a good guy, Cordelia. Yeah, he's annoying at times, and he's really going to get himself killed someday if he doesn't stop taking chances, but he's all right in my book. I trust him to watch my back, and that's something I don't say about many people. You might want to think about giving him another shot, particularly since you don't seem thrilled about hooking up with any of the losers you've been hanging out with lately."

Cordelia's eyes narrowed in anger as she snapped, "Easy for you to say: he didn't get you perforated." She shook her head, then added, "Why do you care, anyway? It's not like you've been around him all that much."

Faith grinned, then replied simply, "Xander saved my life by getting rid of that bomb-that was the second time that night that he saved my ass."

Cordelia blinked, then muttered, "Huh?"

Faith smiled softly, then described how Xander had come upon her in his car while she fought one of the Apocalypse demons. "I was getting my ass kicked, Cordelia. I had a dislocated shoulder, no weapon, and she was bigger and stronger than I was. I should have tried to bail, but it's not my style. Xander comes flying up and bashes into the bitch, then yells for me to jump into the car. He didn't have to tell me twice-I did, and we were out of there." She paused, then added, "We were back here in five minutes, and he helped me slip my shoulder back into place." She glanced at Cordelia and changed subjects abruptly: "Cordelia, you were dating him for what, a year? How come you two never knocked boots?"

Cordelia flushed, then retorted, "What kind of question is that? It's none of your damned business, and how would you know anyway. . .?" Her voice trailed off, and she looked at Faith's calm expression for a moment before whispering, "You did it with him." She frowned, then recovered her composure enough to comment, "Better you than that bimbo he was driving around earlier, I suppose. Let me guess, you got back here, he fixed you up, and you were out of pretzels."

Faith nodded, and elaborated, "He was a bit nervous, but enthusiasm counts for a lot, and you know he's got good hands-and lips." Cordelia nodded involuntarily, then frowned again as Faith continued, "He was sweet. I was kinda in a hurry, what with the world ending and all, but if I had dozed off, I wouldn't have been afraid what he might do while I was out-first time I've ever felt that way about anyone."

Cordelia felt a pang of sympathy for Faith, then frowned and asked, "OK, maybe Xander isn't a total dirtbag, and maybe I should have tried certain things while we were still together, but if you think he's so great, why don't you drag him back here and finish what you started? He's always been obsessing over you and Buffy anyway: I think the whole Slayer thing gets him hot. Why bug me about it?"

It was Faith's turn to blush: Cordelia was startled to see the reaction from the jaded younger woman. Faith looked down, then muttered something under her breath. Cordelia blinked, then called out, "Faith, I couldn't hear you." Faith looked back up, glared at Cordelia, and repeated herself, in a normal and clear tone. Cordelia's eyes widened, and she whispered emphatically, "He did not."

Faith nodded slowly, and elaborated, "He did-at a really important moment, too."

Feeling rather ambivalent, Cordelia looked at Faith with a genuinely sympathetic expression on her face and commented, "I'm amazed you didn't kill him."

"He HAD just saved my life," replied Faith, not looking at Cordelia. She sighed, then added, "Besides, it's probably for the best. It's my way: get some, get gone. If he hadn't. . .done that, I might have been tempted to try something different, and it's pretty obvious that I'm not the one really on his mind. I don't play second best, not if I can do anything about it." She grinned and concluded, "I threw him out of the room in his underwear, and threw his clothes after him-I think he got the message that I wasn't thrilled."

Cordelia sighed, and looked at Faith, suddenly wondering if Faith was lying to her. She considered the idea for a moment, then dismissed it. *Who would lie about something like that?* She shook her head and commented, "If anyone told me that I'd ever even consider giving him another chance, and that you would be the one to talk me into it--"

"You'd figure that it was just another day on the Hellmouth?" Faith had apparently recovered from her embarrassment, and her tone was one of amusement.

Cordelia gave her a dirty look, then nodded and replied, "Yeah, pretty much." She stood up and cleared her throat before continuing, "Anyway, I'm going to go. I'm not making any promises, but I suppose it can't hurt to hear the big jerk out." She walked to the door, then turned back and added, "Thanks again for the save tonight, Faith."

The Slayer smiled at her and responded, "No problem." Cordelia turned away, only to hear Faith call out, "Cordelia? If I ever hear what I told you tonight from anyone else-"

"Yeah, yeah. I know. Horrible, painful death. Don't worry, your secret is safe with me." Cordelia's tone was matter-of-fact, and she turned back to Faith once more: her expression looked normal, but there was a glint of genuine gratitude in her eyes as she turned away and left the room.

Faith looked at the closed door for a moment, sighed, then clicked on the TV. "South Park" would be on in a few minutes, and the distraction would be welcome.

* * * * *

Xander sat at the library table, scowling at the English paper in front of him. The place was still in bad shape from the fight the other night, and Giles, Buffy, and Willow were out getting supplies for repairs and inventory. He had offered to help, but Willow had noted firmly that getting a halfway decent grade on the paper would greatly improve his chances of graduating with them in June: the magic words "another year with Principal Snyder" had proven to be an excellent motivation to study.

The library doors opened, and Xander looked up, expecting to see Giles or one of the others. His eyes narrowed when he saw Cordelia, and his tone was sardonic as he called out, "Cordelia, I'm really not in the mood for round five hundred in the 'Xander is a worthless loser' event. Could you catch up with me later? It'll give you more time to figure out just the right place to stomp on whatever remains of my self esteem."

Xander looked back down at the paper, and was startled when he heard Cordelia say quietly, "I heard you had a pretty busy time the other night."

Xander blinked, then looked up and replied in a completely unconvincing tone, "I don't know what you're talking about."

Cordelia walked up to the table, sat down across from him, and stated bluntly, "Yes, you do." She saw Xander slump slightly, and smiled inwardly before continuing, "I ran into Faith last night: we had an interesting conversation, about a lot of things." Xander flinched, and Cordelia felt a slight tingle as she added, "OK, so I was out of line with the whole Zeppo thing: you did good the other night, and when I got past how pissed off I've been at you, I had to admit that it wasn't the first time. Faith also mentioned some other details that I am so not going to get into, but they were also interesting." Xander squirmed in his seat, and Cordelia watched him closely for a few moments before concluding, "Anyway, I was thinking we might drive over to that bar on the edge of town that isn't too careful about checking ID's tonight, and you could give me a really long list of reasons why I should take you back."

Xander scowled at Cordelia, and outrage was audible in his voice as he retorted, "So I'm supposed to beg you to take me back, after all of the crap I've taken from you the last few months. If Faith told you what happened, then you ought to know that-" He caught motion out of the corner of his eye, and turned slightly to see Faith standing in the doorway of Giles' office: she was shaking her head slightly with a sad look on her face. Xander quickly absorbed the new information and changed gears abruptly: "-I think it's an absolutely wonderful idea. When should I pick you up?"

"Seven will be fine: don't be late." Cordelia turned to go, then turned back and locked eyes with Xander as she added grimly, "Oh, and Xander? I'm not implying anything about anything we might be doing in the near future, but if you even THINK about calling out another girl's name at an important moment, they're going to need dental records to identify your body. Clear?"

Xander nodded without comprehension, and Cordelia swept out of the library without another word. Xander sat silently for a moment, then looked up to see Faith grinning at him. Xander blinked, then gave Faith a wistful look before quietly commenting, "Faith, I'm OK with you not wanting to make something more with what happened the other night, and it seems like you put a lot of effort into getting Cordy to give me another shot. . .but how did you find out what else I was up to that night, and what was she talking about when she threatened me just now? I'm pretty sure I didn't-"

"You didn't." Faith's tone was reassuring, and Xander relaxed as she continued, "If you had, I probably would have kicked your ass into next week. Considering you saved all of our butts later that night, I'd have to call it a good thing that you didn't." She shrugged and concluded, "I added a few details to get her attention. It was pretty humiliating-don't blow it, or I'm going to be seriously pissed off at the wasted effort."

Faith turned to go, and Xander stood up and reached out to touch her arm. Faith turned and saw the affectionate look in the boy's eyes as he whispered, "Faith, I won't lie: I'm glad to have another shot with Cordelia, but if you think that I wouldn't have been interested in giving it a try with you, you're wrong."

Faith looked at him in silence for a moment, and the smile on her face was gentle as she shrugged and replied, "Not my style, Xander." She turned again, then glanced back with a wicked grin on her face and added, "It would have been fun, though." She turned and walked out of the library, leaving Xander to stare at the closed doors in silence for a moment before sighing and returning to the paper.

As before, comments are welcome and desired.