You fell down, of course
And then you got up, of course
And you started over
Forgot my name, of course
Then you started to remember
The same boy you've always known
Well, I guess I haven't grown
The same boy you've always known
~Lyrics by White Stripes
Angel glared at her. “I’d like to see you in private, Cordelia,” he growled. Cordelia rolled her eyes and sighed huffily, moving to follow Angel down the stairs.
“Wait,” Xander said suddenly from the doorway of his room. Cordelia was stunned by how small he looked standing there, although he hadn’t changed in size. His shoulders were more slumped than usual, and his eyes were set deeply in dark circles. She managed to keep herself from flinching at the change in him.
“Xander, you don’t have to…” Angel started, but Xander cut him off.
“I do have to. She’s going to find out eventually. She should hear it from me.” His voice was tired, but determined. He stepped back into his room, and sat on the bed. After a moment, Cordelia followed. She was suddenly very afraid of whatever it was Xander was going to tell her.
“You don’t have, like, cancer or something, do you?” she asked in a tiny, fearful voice.
Xander chuckled mirthlessly. “I’m not dying, or anything. But we should talk.”
Spike sat on the bed next to Xander, holding his hand tightly in support, watching his love’s face as he slowly recounted the shortened tale of what had happened in the last week, and an edited version of what he had discovered about his life before then. Cordelia sat in stunned silence, and Spike wondered if she even realized she had tears running down her face.
The silence drew on until Spike was uncomfortable, so he cleared his throat. “So that’s why we’re here, in L.A. To get Xan some proper help from a pro.”
“Do you... do you know who you’re going to... to go to?” Cordelia asked softly, sniffling a little as she tried to compose herself.
“Not yet. We were gonna... look into that today,” Xander said quietly.
“I am... I am so sorry, Xander,” Cordelia said on a sob. “I don’t know... how to...”
“It’s okay. Well, no, it’s not okay, but it’s not your fault. Spike’s helping me realize that it isn’t mine, either. That it never was.”
“Of course it wasn’t!” Cordelia replied vehemently.
“I just need to get used to the fact that I’m a different person now,” Xander said after a moment.
“You’re a different Xander, but you’re still Xander,” Cordelia said, brows furrowed. “The same Xander I dated in high school, the same Xander that almost married Anya, the same Xander that started dating Spike. The same Xander who works in construction. The same Xander I’ve always known.”
“Am I?” Xander replied, squinting slightly.
“Absolutely. You are Xander. Now you’re just Xander who needs to deal with stuff you haven’t had to deal with before. You’re Xander with bad taste in clothes, Xander with big brown eyes and shaggy hair, Xander with good taste in girls. And apparently boys,” she added as an afterthought.
“Same old Cordy,” Xander snorted with amusement.
“Damn straight. I don’t think any of us have really changed, not where it matters. That’s what you have to remember right now. That circumstances have changed, but not you.”
“Maybe you have changed a little. Seems you got smarter,” Xander answered with a small, warm smile.
“I always had brains, Harris. I’ve just learned a lot since I moved out here.”
Cordelia stood up and sat next to Xander on the bed, pulling him into an embrace. Finally she let him go and stood up. “I’m gonna go...see if Angel can scrounge up something for me to kill,” she said stiffly.
Spike’s eyes lit up. “Have him scrounge me something up too, pet, eh?”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Whatever, bloodbreath.” Xander snickered.
“You gonna let her call me names?” Spike asked him, trying to act affronted. Xander nodded enthusiastically. Spike grinned at the real smile on Xander’s face. Maybe the cheerleader wasn’t so awful after all. She was still annoying, though. Spike leaned in to give Xander a kiss, and while they sat on the bed, mouths moving lazily against one another, Cordelia slipped out. She went directly out into the garden, and sat on the heavy stone bench, surrounded by greenery and a few blooms. She stared at her hands for a moment before finally bursting into tears, her heavy sobs wracking her body violently.
She sobbed like that until her eyes were wrung dry, and she had no more tears left. Her body kept sobbing though, until her ribs were tender, her throat burning, and her head pounding with dehydration. The late morning sun beat down against her back, and she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why it was such a nice day outside, when inside it was so cold and dismal. She thought the weather should reflect the tragedy that was going on in Xander’s life somehow.
Wesley found her on the bench like that, glaring at the sky, her face blotchy with tears. He reached into his pocket and handed her a handkerchief, not saying a word. She took it, also wordless, and wiped at her face delicately. They sat in silence for a few minutes, until Gunn found them there and cleared his throat, sitting beside his lover.
“I miss something?” he asked unsurely. He took hold of Wesley’s hand, linking their fingers together comfortably.
Cordy sniffled again, composing herself. She wasn’t sure she should tell Wesley and Gunn why Spike and Xander were in L.A., but she knew she had to tell them something.
“I just... I found out why Spike and Xander are here. Kinda... threw me.”
“It’s bad, then? Are they all right?” Wesley asked gently.
Cordelia blinked back fresh tears, marveling at the fact that her body could produce more. “Neither of them is sick or dying, if that’s what you’re asking,” she sniffed.
Wesley and Gunn exchanged a look before Wesley placed a comforting hand on Cordelia’s shoulder. She let out a long, shaky sigh.
“Can you tell us what it is they’re doing here?” Wesley finally asked.
“I don’t... I don’t think I should. It’s up to them, what you know. But... it’s bad, anyway.” Gunn and Wesley exchanged another worried glance.
“I don’t suppose there’s evil brewing so I can kick its ass?” Cordelia asked weakly. “Messily?”
“Cordy’s looking for messy carnage? It must be bad,” Gunn replied, eyebrows scrunching together.
“It’s weird, how everything can change in the blink of an eye, but it still seems the same, you know?” Cordelia said, ignoring Gunn’s reply.
“The important things don’t change, Cordelia,” Wesley offered. “You know that.”
“I know. But that doesn’t mean I have to like the changes that do happen.”
“Most of us don’t.”
Back to Mercy
Next Chapter - "In This Life"