Hidden Depths By Inell



Willow took a deep breath as she looked at the school. It was the first day back from summer vacation, and she honestly wasn't looking forward to the beginning of classes. It wasn't that she didn't love school. She did. Well, she loved to learn. Unfortunately, everything else she had to deal with daily was also included in the package. Things were a bit better now that she had Buffy and research. Of course, Buffy was becoming more and more involved with Angel and Xander had started spending time with Amy over the summer. That sort of left Willow alone, as usual. Thankfully, Angel didn't go to school with them or else she would have really felt left out. As it was, she and Buffy could chat at lunch and in between classes while Xander explored whatever it was that was happening between him and the blonde witch.

Willow moved away from the doors, deciding to postpone the inevitable as long as she could. Besides, the others still weren't there. She usually met Xander and Buffy on the corner of Meadow Lane and Parke Avenue. Today, though, since it was the first day back in class, Buffy's mom was driving her and Xander had met Amy for breakfast. So, Willow had walked to school alone. It had been a nice, quiet walk and she had spent the time thinking about the joys that were high school. She really did hate school. Speaking up in class, having the reputation of knowing it all, being a teacher's pet, having the completely wrong look and pretty much being an overall nerd. She was definitely socially challenged. She knew that without a doubt. She would never be able to say the right thing or be cool. It just wasn't her nature.

Today, though, she was rather proud of how she looked. She and Amy had gone shopping the month before and she had splurged and bought several things that she normally never would have worn. Amy had insisted that they looked good on her and she had been persuaded to take a chance. Today, she was wearing a very pretty dark orange colored shirt that fit a bit tighter than she had realized and a pair of brown jeans that were just her style, baggy but not completely swallowing. She had seen herself this morning and thought she actually looked almost pretty. Her red hair fell to her shoulders in layered waves after a trip to the salon last week with Buffy. It was the shortest her hair had ever been, but she liked it. Buffy said it made her look spunky. She honestly did not know if that was a compliment or not, but she had decided to Buffy it must be. Willow just knew that she would no longer have the hair to hide behind, a trait she had picked up in elementary school when she had realized that if she leaned forward just a bit, she could conceal herself behind the curtain of red. She had decided that this was her junior year. She had spent sixteen years hiding herself away. Well, no more.

"Hello Willow," a falsely sweet voice said from behind her.

Willow closed her eyes briefly, the familiar wave of self-consciousness overtaking her as she turned to face Cordelia Chase and her harpies. "Cordy. Did you have a nice summer?"

"Of course," Cordelia said, her eyes running over Willow's form. "I am so surprised to see you standing here alone. What happened to your little hoodlum friends? Did they realize that you are a geek and decide to disassociate themselves from you finally?"

Willow listened to the girls laugh as Cordelia looked at her with that smug smile. "They aren't here yet."

"Some friends," Cordelia remarked, an edge of anger in her tone before she lightened it. "Leaving you all alone the first day of school. Guess they know you'll always be waiting for them. Good old reliable Willow."

"Don't you have somewhere to be?" Willow asked, her tone a bit sharper than she had wished. She saw Cordelia straighten as the brunette's eyes narrowed.

"Actually, yes. Just about anything would be more important than wasting my time talking to a social reject like you," Cordelia said sweetly.

"Good one, Cordy," Harmony said, looking at Willow and rolling her eyes. "We have better people to see and be seen with. Leave the nerd alone."

Cordelia smiled, "Very true, Harm. Oh, Willow, by the way?"

"What?" Willow asked, her tone resigned.

"Love the pants. Did you have to rob a homeless man?" she asked, laughing as she walked away with her friends. She glanced back over her shoulder, watching as Willow looked at the ground, the redhead's arms going around herself as she shuffled to sit down on one of the empty benches. Cordelia's smile faded slightly before she raised her chin and turned back to her friends, the smile firmly planted back in its place.

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"You sure told her," Harmony said, laughing as they entered the school.

"Yeah, who does she think she is? Being snappy to you like that," Aurora echoed in her breathless tone that irritated Cordy to no end.

"Hey, watch it," Cordelia said, giving the four girls her special stare.

Carly sighed, "Sorry, Cordelia. We forgot."

"Can I just ask again why we can't pick on that geek?" Harmony asked, her tone disgusted.

"Because, I said so," Cordelia said, her tone giving no room for arguments.

"Yeah, Harm....cause she said so," Erica said, her dislike for Harmony evident in her tone before she smiled. "We all know that Cordelia is the only one allowed to pick on Willow. It's been like that forever."

"Well, excuse me," Harmony said, glaring at Erica. "I just asked. I know that Cordy enjoys picking on her. I just wondered why we couldn't do it too."

"You know," Aurora said, looking away from the mirror in her locker and frowning. "She actually looked almost pretty today. I like her hair like that."

Cordelia frowned as she looked into her locker. "Oh please. What was she wearing? Those jeans could have fit two of her. And that shirt? While it did bring out the color in her eyes, it did nothing with her hair color. She was just playing dress up."

"Yeah, I mean, Willow pretty?" Harmony said, giving Aurora a disbelieving look. "She isn't anywhere close to pretty."

"She could be," Cordelia said sharply, giving the blonde a look.

Harmony snorted, "Oh yeah, I can really see that. Good one, Cor. Like she could ever get a date."

"She is real sweet," Erica mentioned, "I mean, she is the *only* reason I was able to pass Bio last year. If she hadn't tutored me, well, I'd have flunked."

"That's all she is good for though," Harmony said. "Homework and tutoring. Other than that, she's complete bore."

"Harmony, that's enough," Cordelia said, rolling her eyes. "Willow may be the biggest nerd this school has ever seen, but she isn't nearly that bad."

"Oh please, this coming from you?" Harmony said, looking at Cordelia. "You can't stand her. I can't remember a single day for years that you haven't found some way to belittle her. Don't be acting all holier than thou now just because you think you might need help in computer lab or something. She's a loser!"

"Just drop it," Cordelia said, not wanting to be drawn into some stupid argument. Besides, Harmony was right. She did pick on Willow. Had since they had met in elementary school. She was being pretty hypocritical at the moment by defending Willow when Harmony was just repeating things she had said previously herself.

Harmony suddenly smiled, "Wait a minute."

"What?" Cordelia asked, her tone irritated. She really hated school. She'd rather be home alone with only the television for company than to have to keep up the act constantly.

"You seem to think Willow has some sort of potential or something," Harmony said, a thoughtful look on her face.

"I never said that," Cordelia said, glancing at the others and seeing them watching with interest.

"She didn't," Erica echoed.

"Yeah, but she did say that Willow could be pretty," Carly remembered.

Harmony smiled, "You really think so, Cordy?"

"What is this about?" Cordelia asked again.

"I was just wondering if you were willing to back up your thoughts," Harmony said, watching as Cordelia realized what she was doing. This would be perfect. Cordelia could either back down in front of the others or she could accept Harmony's idea. Either way, Harmony couldn't see how she would lose. Cordelia Chase would finally be taken down a step or two.

"You want to bet? What? That Willow could be pretty?" Cordelia asked, watching as the smirk crossed Harmony's face. God how she hated that blonde bitch.

"I bet that, even with your help, she couldn't get a date to the Fall Formal," Harmony said, watching as Cordelia frowned.

"A date? You want to bet that Willow couldn't get a date?" Cordelia said, rolling her eyes. "Is your life so pathetic, Harm?"

Harmony frowned, "Scared Cordy?"

"I could easily get her a date," Cordelia said, her competitive streak surfacing.

"No, she has to get the date. I don't want you bribing some guy into taking the little nobody just so you'd win," Harmony said. She wasn't that stupid. "If you think she has such potential to be pretty, help her. You're the expert at looking good, after all. If anyone could help the nerd, you could."

"What do I get when I win?" Cordelia asked, wondering if it would be worth making Willow over just to save face.

"I don't know," Harmony said, having not farther ahead than forcing Cordelia to either spend time with the one person she seemed to hate more than any others or force the girl into admitting defeat before it began.

"What about that red suede coat you just got?" Aurora suggested, smiling slightly. "I know that Cordy loves it."

"My jacket?" Harmony squeaked, "I haven't even worn it yet."

"Scared, Harm?" Cordelia said, smiling. "I do love that jacket."

"What about when I win?" Harmony said. "I can't think of anything Cordelia has that I would wear."

"If you win, I'll resign as head cheerleader," Cordelia said simply. She heard the gasps from the other girls and saw Harmony's eyes widen. "But, know this, I have no intention of losing."

"Transforming that geek into a date able girl? You haven't got a chance," Harmony said. "Besides, she hates you as much as you hate her. Do you really think she's going to let you close enough to make her over?"

"She's right, Cor," Erica said, hating to admit that Harmony was right. "Maybe you should think about this. I don't want you to quit the squad over this."

"I am a Chase," Cordelia said, smiling slightly. "We never lose. Harmony, you've got yourself a bet."

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Cordelia entered the library, her eyes scanning the empty tables before settling on the quiet redhead in the corner, typing away at the computer. It was the fourth day of school and Cordy had noticed Xander sitting outside with Amy and Buffy flirting with some guy from their English class. She had assumed then that Willow had been left to her own devices, again. She hated the way the girl's friends treated her. They always wanted to say that she was the callous cruel one, yet they seemed to forget about Willow as soon as something else came along. She didn't know why anyone that would be lucky enough to have the redhead's friendship would risk it all so often. She knew she would do whatever needed to never lose Willow if she had her. Friendship that was, she amended mentally.

Cordelia straightened her back and lifted her head as she walked into the library. It wouldn't do to get caught ogling Willow. Wouldn't do at all. "There you are."

Willow heard the voice and tensed. She sighed, her plans for a silent lunch completely changing when she heard Cordelia's voice. Willow glanced at the cheerleader, "Yes, here I am."

"I've been looking everywhere for you," Cordelia said, not wanting Willow to know that she had actually known automatically to search for her at the library when it was evident she wasn't in the cafeteria.

"I hadn't realized I was lost," Willow said, irritated that the moping she had planned to do alone had been interrupted.

"Oooh, someone's touchy today," Cordelia said. She smiled sweetly, "Is it that time of the month, Willow darling?"

"What do you want, Cordelia?" Willow asked, not giving Cordy the satisfaction of arguing with her.

"You," Cordelia replied, her face flushing as Willow's eyes widened. "I um I meant....that is..."

Willow sighed, knowing that no one wanted her, especially not someone like Cordelia Chase. Not that she wanted Cordelia to want her, she thought. Because, that would be wrong. Yet, she couldn't deny that Cordelia's matter of fact tone had caused butterflies in places Willow had never felt anything. What was wrong with her? This was Cordy of all people. They hated each other. "You need help on homework. What subject?"

"Actually, none," Cordelia said, frowning. "I may not be near as smart as you are, Willow Rosenberg, but I can hold my own."

Willow frowned at Cordelia's snappy tone, "Then what do you want?"

Cordelia smiled, "Why don't we discuss this elsewhere? Every time I am in this place, I just can't think. The smell of books or something."

"I'm in the middle of something," Willow protested, resisting the urge to ask when Cordelia ever thought.

"Well, get out of it. We have," Cordelia glanced at her watch, "forty three minutes left until lunch is over. We can go grab some fast food and talk. My treat."

"I can buy my own food," Willow grumbled, wondering what was so vastly important that Cordelia would not only seek her out but also offer to buy her lunch. She considered protesting again, but her curiosity got the better of her. She turned her computer off, glad she really hadn't started anything. She had intended to sit in the silence of the library and reflect on the poor state of life. School had not even been in session a week and already she was feeling alone. Buffy, whom she honestly thought was so enamored of Angel that she'd spend more time with Willow during school, had spent four days flirting with some good looking transfer student. Amy and Xander were falling in love, which was nice, but it left Willow out anytime she was with them. Actually, spending lunch with Cordelia wouldn't be all that bad, not that she'd ever admit it. Being alone was not fun.

"Good, then it's a date," Cordelia said, closing her eyes briefly as she mentally kicked herself. Damn this was great. Just fucking great. With Willow alone less than ten minutes and she had already embarrassed herself twice. Did no one understand the reason she picked on the redhead so much? When she tried to be nice to her, her attraction and these weird mixed up feelings for the girl came out to play. She had already said that she wanted Willow and now she was talking about dates. This was so not good. Maybe not being a cheerleader wouldn't be too bad. Remembering Harmony's smug face, she frowned. No. She was going to do this. If it was the last thing she did, she'd win this bet.

"Let's go," Willow said turning to face the girl. She didn't say anything out loud, but Cordelia's use of the word date almost amused her. It would be the first date she had ever gone on, if this was a true date. As it was, she knew from hearing Cordy and her friends, they referred to any outing as a date. She again chose to ignore why the idea of having a real date with Cordelia didn't bother her the way it should. She knew she had been attracted to girls before. She had accepted that part of herself, knowing that she wasn't a lesbian because she liked guys too. There was just something special about women that struck her fancy in a way that looking at guys did not. She could also confess that quite a few of her squidgy feelings for females centered upon the bane of her existence, Cordelia Chase. But, it was better to forget such thoughts and not mention them out loud. Speaking of those sort of things was not smart and could lead to even more humiliation at school than she already faced every day. "Let's get some lunch and then you can tell me what it is you need from me."

Cordelia's mind flashed with delicious images to answer Willow's question. She sighed loudly, knowing this would the most difficult forty minutes of her life. "Come on then. My car's outside. Let's get out of here."

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Willow sat down and watched Cordelia sit in the booth opposite her. She took the menu from the waitress, knowing what she was going to order without looking. She loved Charlie's, an old fashioned fifties diner that had greasy burgers and milk shakes. She was rather surprised that Cordelia knew about it. Charlie's was not in Sunnydale exactly, instead being downtown in Marshdale, a small town almost thirty minutes from Sunnydale. "So, I guess this means I'm missing my next class."

Cordelia nodded, not sure what had prompted her to come all the way to Marshdale. It was rather a long drive for a simple lunch. Yet, after getting in the car with Willow, they had begun discussing music. It seemed they actually liked many of the same artists. She had found herself driving past McDonalds and heading towards the highway without even thinking about it. In fact, it had only been about ten minutes away that she had realized there was no way they could come here, eat and then make it back to school. "Do you mind?"

Willow frowned, thinking about her schedule. "Not really."

Cordelia smiled, "Good. So, what are you ordering?"

"A cheeseburger and a chocolate milk shake," Willow said, noticing that Cordelia had also not opened her menu. "You?"

"The same, except strawberry instead of chocolate," Cordelia said, smiling at the waitress. "Hi Gracie."

"Delia, why aren't you in class?" the waitress teased, smiling at the pretty girl.

"School is so pointless," Cordelia said with a smile.

"She already knows everything so why attend?" Willow said dryly, a slight smile playing across her lips.

Grace laughed, looking at the pretty redhead. "I like you. What's your name?"

"Willow," she said, wondering why it was that Cordelia seemed so familiar with the waitress.

"Pretty name for a pretty girl," Grace said, watching the girl blush. She glanced at Cordelia, seeing the way the brunette's eyes were watching Willow. She knew that look, often looking at her husband the same way. Times were changing, she realized. And the funny thing was that she was adapting. She may be fifty-four years old, but the idea that these two girls were in love didn't seem unnatural to her. If anything, she was thrilled that Cordelia had finally found someone to love, regardless of sex. The poor thing was so lonely and spent way too much time at the diner just talking. Maybe Willow would finally make the girl smile a true smile, something Grace had seen very rarely. "What will it be, sweetheart?"

Willow and Cordelia placed their orders and watched as Grace left. A silence overtook their table as they both looked at the table. Willow began to run her fingernail over a crack on the surface, picking at the small strip of plastic. Finally, she looked up to find Cordelia watching her. The look in the girl's eyes made her blush as she shifted on the booth. "Um, Cordy...what did you want to talk about?"

Cordelia smiled slightly, having seen the flash of awareness in Willow's eyes. Maybe her redhead wouldn't turn away from her in disgust. "Harmony and I made a bet. I thought you should know."

"A bet?" Willow repeated, frowning. "And you drove me all the way to Marshdale to tell me this why?"

"It was about you," Cordelia said simply.

"What?" Willow squeaked, feeling like an idiot suddenly. Cordelia didn't like her, as a friend or anything else. This was all about some stupid bet. She couldn't believe that she had even begun to think that she and Cordelia might be friends. What a joke. "What bet?"

"Harmony bet me that you couldn't find a date to the Fall Formal, with or without my help," Cordelia said, knowing that she had to be completely honest.

"Good God!" Willow said, feeling embarrassed and stupid and hopeless. The cheerleaders had had a bet about her love life, or lack thereof.

Cordelia frowned, "I didn't want to make the bet. It was just, Harmony was being such a bitch. I can stand her sometimes, but that day she was annoying me and I had to respond when she started insulting you. It soon turned into the bet, and I couldn't refuse without losing face."

"So you made a bet that I would attend the Fall Formal and you now want my help. You want me to find someone to take me just so you don't lose. Do I have it pretty well thought up?" Willow asked, her tone harsh. It suddenly made sense why they had driven to Marshdale. It was too far for Willow to walk home. She was stuck.

"Sort of," Cordelia said, keeping her eyes on Willow's face. "I intended to try to make you over, to make it where you attracted attention and some guy would ask you to the dance."

"Intended? Past tense?" Willow said, a puzzled look crossing her face. Before Cordelia could reply, their food was placed in front of them. She smiled at Grace before sipping her milk shake.

"Yeah, past tense," Cordelia said before taking a bite from her fry. "I've had four days to think about it since the bet. I don't want to make you over into some copy of those sheep. Sure, with the right clothes and make up and hair, you'd attract a lot of guys and probably get a choice of invitations to the dance."

"And that would be bad why?" Willow asked, taking a bite of her burger.

"Because, they wouldn't want you. Not the real you, that is," Cordelia said, her tone sharp. "They'd want the designer version that would be nothing like you really are."

"You don't think they'd want that?" Willow asked, trying to understand Cordelia's strange ramblings.

"Oh, they'd want it. You're beautiful, Willow. With the right look, everyone would see what I do," Cordelia said, "you'd get a date and I'd win. But, I'd really be losing."

"You're confusing me," Willow said, deciding not to mention the feelings that spread over her as Cordelia called her beautiful.

"I'm confusing myself," Cordelia said, smiling sheepishly. "I don't have to make you over for you to get a date, Willow. You're beautiful, intelligent, witty and caring. New clothes and make up will not do anything except conceal the natural beauty that is already there."

"So your brought me to here to tell me that you made a bet that you don't plan on trying to win?" Willow asked, not able to move her eyes from Cordelia's. The girl's words washed over her and she found herself basking in the praise. Someone thought she was beautiful.

"Oh, I plan on winning," Cordelia said, her voice determined. "The bet was just that you'd get a date to the formal."

Willow snorted, "Like that one is ever going to happen."

"Quit it!" Cordelia said, "I don't want to hear anything negative coming from those pretty lips."

"Why?" Willow asked, knowing the question was rather broad.

"Why what?" Cordelia asked. "Why did I make the bet? Why do I pick on you? Why do I act the way I do? Why did I fall in love with you?"

"Huh?" Willow asked, her eyes widening as she heard the last words. She must have mistaken. "What did you say?"

Cordelia grinned wryly, "Why did I fall in love with you?"

"Love? You? Me?" Willow said, not sure what to say. This had to be a joke. "Funny, Cordy. Ha, ha."

"Trust me, it isn't," Cordelia said, sighing. "I have been fighting it for years. Hell, I've wanted you for almost as long as I can remember. It wasn't until last year though, when you became such good friends with Buffy...well, I was jealous. She had you and I didn't. I broke down and started to hang around whenever I could without being obvious. I couldn't let anyone know the truth. My God...I can't believe I'm telling you all of this."

"Are you serious?" Willow asked, leaning back in the booth in shock.

"Very much so," Cordelia admitted. "I've had four days to decide if I could actually set you up with some guy, knowing that his hands would caressing what I wanted to caress....that his lips would be kissing the lips that have haunted me for years....or if I could really find the courage to finally tell you how I really felt. You're disgusted aren't you? You hate me and never want to see me again...."

"I don't hate you," Willow said softly, almost too softly for Cordelia to hear. "I am just surprised. I mean, just Monday you were raking me over the coals and now you want me to believe that you want me. With the bet and everything, it seems a bit unreal."

"The bet has nothing to do with this," Cordelia insisted. "I could care less about winning or losing, really. I mean, I hate the idea that Harmony would win, but I somehow think if my true feelings become known that I'd lose the friends I had anyway. That's not important. You are. You don't have to feel the same way....I know this is probably freaking you out, me being a girl and feeling this way towards you. I just really needed to tell you."

"It isn't freaking me out," Willow said, smiling slightly as Cordelia looked at her with hope. "I just don't really know you. You don't know me either. I mean, you're talking about love which to me is very serious yet this is the longest time we've spent together ever. You can't love me if you don't know me, just as I can't love you if I don't know you."

"I love you, Willow," Cordelia said softly, understanding Willow's logic but knowing her true feelings were sincere.

"Cordelia, shhh," Willow said, holding up her hand. She took a deep breath before continuing, knowing that after this, she could not go back and erase the words or thoughts behind them. "I might could love you, though. If I knew you, the true you. The Cordelia that knows the waitress at Charlie's by her first name. You could get to know me too, and if you still wanted me, well, who knows? We'd have to wait and see."

"Wait....you want to get to know me to see if you could love me?" Cordelia asked, a large smile crossing her face. "Really? Like dating and stuff?"

"Really," Willow said quietly, wondering how she was going to explain this to her friends. Dating Cordelia Chase? She must be crazy.

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