Giles was prepared today for Cordelia and her questions, the girl was brimming with them and he had promised he would try to help her understand better this time. He worked better when he was lecturing to her about the past, but he would do his best for her today. He stayed up half the night just staring at the bottle of bourbon, never taking a sip, thinking about if he would even open the door this morning. It would be so easy to just shut her out and go back to wallowing in the dark, but he was an adult and he would face this in an effort to help them both.
A soft knock on the door drew his attention, he knew if he hesitated he would talk himself into doing something unforgivable so he got up and answered without putting too much thought into it. He should have at least looked to be sure it was Cordelia, since instead of the expected brunette he was faced with an irate redhead. Willow had finally gathered her courage to come and see him. This he was not prepared for.
She was obviously angry, but so was he. This was not a good situation for either of them to be in. Unfortunately since they were in his home he couldn’t walk away and he knew it wouldn’t occur to her to do so, they were stuck.
“Willow, now really isn’t-” He had been gearing up to gently steer her away, the last thing any of them needed was another confrontation between her and Cordelia.
“Oh, now is the perfect time. Or is Cordelia the only one you have time for now?” The look of hurt on her face at his apparent rejection was enough to soften him, he stepped aside to let her in hoping this wouldn’t come back to bite them all later.
“I’m sorry, you’re right I should not have shunned you and the others like I did. I was working through some things and while that is no excuse for shutting all of you out it was a necessary step that I had to take. What brings you here this morning?” He had a good idea but until she said it he could feign ignorance.
“My magic. You need to undo whatever you did to it so I can have it back. It’s infuriating, I can feel it but I can’t reach it. Do you know what that’s like? No, you don’t, because no one ever did something this cruel to you.” It broke his heart that she thought his actions cruel, but he stood by his decision. That fact that she was standing here now making demands rather than seeking understanding told him he did the right thing.
“No they did not, I only wish that they had. You needed this to help you gain some control, something you sorely lack. I’m sorry that having your magic bound this way upsets you, but it is for your own good.” He truly did wish someone had taken the time to notice his struggle for control and acted in his best interests. He most likely would have reacted the same as Willow was now, all young people would, but that didn’t change the fact that it had to be done.
“My own good? What do you know about my own good?”
“Do you not remember when we were all faced with Eyghon? That was the result of my having too much power and not enough boundaries. Like you I thought I was smart enough and strong enough to do whatever asinine idea took hold of my mind, and like you I was wrong. You harmed a fellow human being, yes you did so without meaning to cause what you see as actual harm, but you did it.”
“That was an accident, I wasn’t trying to hurt Cordelia!” Even now she refused to acknowledge what she’d truly done. Her eyes wouldn’t meet his when she spoke her lie, but she stuck to it all the same. He never should have taught her magic to begin with, they should have started smaller and worked their way towards the mystic arts. It was partially his fault and he accepted that but now he was trying to correct their course, that had to count for something.
“Then please enlighten me, what were you trying to do? You never did explain your intentions and if you are telling the truth and they were benign then tell me and maybe I will change my mind. Was it a mistake?” If he could get her to admit to what had happened, maybe he could lead her towards the truth.
“I was just trying to get you to see her for what she really was. You were all fawning over her and acting like she was some poor innocent girl, but she was tearing us apart. Her being there was wrong!”
“So instead of harming Cordelia you intended to harm the rest of us?” He was stunned at her casual announcement of such a vile act. How could she think something like that was okay to even attempt. She needed more help than even he had realised before if she couldn’t see the problem with what she was trying to do to them all.
“Yes! What you are speaking of is mind magics, you wanted to alter us all to fit with the image of the perfect life you had in your head. That is harmful, that is invasive, and frankly in most circles it is considered a type of rape. You had no right to attempt it and you have no right to use it as an excuse to absolve yourself of your wrongs. You tried to hurt multiple people and because of your anger you instead harmed only one. Either way you do not deserve to have your powers unbound. It is clear to me that even now you don’t understand what you’ve done or why you shouldn’t have done it.”
“Why are you twisting things?” She turned from him now, her back to him she didn’t even acknowledge what he had implied about her actions. She didn’t want to see it as wrong, so she refused to.
“I’m not twisting things Willow, I’m being more than clear. You want your magic back, I’m saying you can’t have it. Your powers will be unbound and returned to your will only when you prove that you can be responsible.” Even while he was trying to gently express his thoughts he wondered if he was doing her a disservice. Maybe if he was harsher with her now it would save her grief in the future, but he did not want her to turn from him completely in her anger. There was no telling where she would go if she left their group, she knew just enough about the dark side of their town now to put herself in grave danger. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if she was hurt because she wouldn’t listen to him.
“I am responsible, I’m Willow there’s never been a more responsible person than me.”
“In most things yes, with your grades and every task given to you of course you are a studious and responsible young woman. That is not the point we’re talking about here. With power like this it’s not enough to be simply smart or just good, with this kind of power you have to be kind and I don’t think you are. You are a good friend and a truly good person, but there are things in life that blind you too easily. Cordelia Chase did nothing to deserve your ire, yet still you attacked her, that is not the mark of a person ready to wield such powers alone. I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry!” By now her volume had risen to near ear piercing. He needed to sit down and try to center himself again. He was in no shape to have this conversation with her now. No shape at all.
Cordelia was late, not that she and Giles had a set schedule but she had been making a point of coming to him early in the day. She didn’t want him to have a chance to start drinking before she got to him and then she kept him busy for as long as she could to keep him from the bottle. Today was different. Today she’d been caught on her way out by Drusilla and Spike.
Cordelia walked silently down the stairs towards the door. The vampires were still awake this time, but if she walked with purpose none of the minions would dare try to stop her. She could hear the moans and slaps of sex coming from everywhere and the soft wimpers of their victims and she just wanted to cry. She wanted out but she didn’t know what to do or how to break free.
“Naughty kitten, hiss.” Turning she found a naked Drusilla standing in the doorway to the dining room, with Spike looming behind her. “Kitten can’t leave us, she’s daddy’s favorite.”
She for one was getting tired of waiting for Angelus or even Angel to come back to town. She knew that was what the others were waiting for, that they wouldn’t leave until Angel made them go.
“Spike kitten is being mean, put her over your knee.”
“Yes dear.” She wanted to run but she knew it wouldn’t help her at all. When Spike grabbed her arm and dragged her into the dining room and towards one of the chairs around the table she didn’t resist. He had her over his lap with her ass sticking up into the air in no time, though for once he didn’t bother stripping her bare first. He was probably in a hurry, he already had some deep scratches in his own chest from an angry Drusilla, he likely didn’t want to take too long.
The first slap was fairly tame, almost teasing, and her clothes helped to muffle the pain a bit. The next was a bit harder but still nothing too bad, she was just starting to think that she might be able to get through this when Drusilla started talking again.
“Punish her Spike! Punish the naughty little thing!” Drusilla was on the table next to them rubbing her hands up and down her body. She was getting excited seeing her like this and they all knew it. The next hit was at full strength and it jerked her body forward until her head hit against the table Drusilla was sitting on making the deranged vampiress giggle.
She wanted to cry but she was all cried out, there were no more tears in her. The next hit made her want to scream but she didn’t, she refused to give them the satisfaction. Not anymore.
Sitting in the car in front of Giles’ apartment complex for a minute she shifted from one side to the other trying to get herself comfortable enough to get out of the car. It wasn’t working and she knew it wouldn’t, but she had to try. Stepping out she straightened her dress and gave her hair a good flip to try and snap herself back into place, she was Cordelia Chase and she could do anything. Coming up to the door she could hear muffled yelling from the other side, that was strange no one else had ever been here before. Maybe it was his landlord? Or a neighbor?
Getting closer she peered through the semi-closed curtains to see Willow standing in front of Giles really laying into the man. Her hands were on her hips and her mouth was going a mile a minute, even her feet were stomping every few seconds. She was livid. Looking over at Giles she found a man defeated. He was sitting in his chair at his desk with his face hidden behind his hands and anyone who looked could see the man was close to losing his temper. Or his mind.
Feeling her own fury rise she straightened up and pasted on her best May Queen smile before barging in without knocking, something she would never normally do, catching them both off guard. Good, that would make this easier.
“Giles, I’m here for our daily chat. Sorry Willow, this is our hour to talk.” She tried to make it sound like she didn’t know the other girl hadn’t been invited over but they both knew she did. Giles hadn’t talked to anyone but her yet and while she was working on getting him to come a bit more out of his shell of grief and pain, this was not helping.
“We’re not done.”
“Oh yes you are. Run along now.” Her smile promised retribution later, it was the one she used to use against her sycophantic followers whenever they would step too far out of line.
She watched Willow rise up to fight before she deflated again just as fast. Without Giles or Buffy or anyone really to back her even at a distance she was out matched and she knew it. Looking over towards Giles for help she finally saw the broken shell of a man she’d been screaming at for who knew how long and lost all color in her face. She messed up and now she knew it.
Watching the other girl flee filled her with the same kind of satisfaction she used to feel when she would put a poser back in her place. It had been what felt like an eternity since she’d had that rush, too bad she couldn’t just sit back and enjoy it.
Looking back at Giles she thought about what she was supposed to do now. She could just let it go and pretend that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. She could make an excuse and leave after giving Willow enough time to put some distance between them, leaving Giles alone to pull himself back together. Or she could do what came naturally to her and charge full speed ahead.
“What was all that about?” She had seen that Willow was angry but she hadn’t been able to really hear any of the words through the door, and all talk had stopped when she came in. If she knew what the fight was about she might be able to help.
“Willow came by this morning to discuss her magic with me.”
“What about it?” Did Willow want a magic tutor? Giles had been there to help the girl ever since she started delving into her wiccan side, but maybe she was feeling neglected without him around all the time. Everyone knew that Willow valued information and learning above everything else.
“After her behavior towards you, and the spell she cast against you, I had her magic bound. She now believes I was unfair and has demanded that I undo it. I refused and that is where you came into the fray.”
“Wait. Willow was the one who did that to me?” Her brain could not process that, there was a disconnect between reality and fantasy that was making it hard to breathe. She had thought that Angelus or Drusilla had arranged for her little peyote-esq dream walk of self discovery, after all it came down heavily in his favor. Hearing that it was Willow made her stomach clench in an emotion she couldn’t identify. It wasn’t fear. It wasn’t even anger. It was something new and powerful, but she didn’t have the time to really try to figure it out just yet. She needed to pay attention to Giles.
“Yes. She was trying to make the rest of us see you for who she thought you were and because of her malicious intent it didn’t go as planned. Once I realised she was the one responsable and the reasoning she held for her actions I took steps to keep her from doing such harm again. She can no longer use her magic at her own discretion.”
“Huh.” So Willow hated her that much? Enough that her hatred caused her magic to hit the skids. She hadn’t thought she’d factored into life that much for the redhead. Sure she’d said some awful things to the girl and been verbally slapped back in return, but that was just normal teen drama. It wasn’t worth that level of hate, at least she never thought so before.
“Are you alright Cordelia?” She wanted to tell him that she was fine, that the idea of someone like Willow doing magic on her in hatred didn’t send shivers down her spine but the words wouldn’t leave her throat. They were stuck behind that lump there that was making her eyes burn.
Huh, she finally knew what that emotion was. Betrayal. She felt betrayed. The monsters were supposed to attack, not the heroes. Slowly breathing in she got the pain to subside enough for her to answer Giles before he started to panic and try to help her. She didn’t want him to look at her with pity, she couldn’t take it. Pulling on her best Queen mask she threw his question back at him.
“Am I alright? Are you alright? When I got here she was really laying into you, if one of us has the right to be upset right now it’s you. Being attacked in your home has to be kind of bizarre and really upsetting.”
“Yes, I believe I am doing fine now. It was just a shock to see her here when I wasn’t expecting her.”
“That I get.” That would have been the point, Willow knew that Giles wasn’t seeing people right now, but she found a loophole and snuck in. It was an ambush.
“Did you have questions for me?”
“They can wait.” The two of them sat in silence just finding comfort in not being alone. When it was time for her to go she gave him a soft smile and was rewarded with one in return. She was making progress.
Oz had waited for Cordelia outside of Giles apartment and talked her into coming to the Bronze with him. He knew that all their problems couldn’t be solved by just pretending like the last few months never happened, but he wanted to remind Cordelia that there were still good things out in the world waiting for her.
She was in her element, while he didn’t see any of the usual Cordette posse around that didn’t stop Cordelia from holding court. She passed judgment on fashion and declared who was in and who was out of the crowd. She never left her table while in the past she used to split her time between holding court and moving on the dance floor.
It wasn’t until someone mentioned having missed seeing the usual girls around that Cordelia started to get a little down. No one had really seen Aura or Blue and Oz could only claim to have seen Harmony once at the mall. The Cordette’s had vanished and everyone was clamoring either for some good gossip about where they went or to replace them.
He was so caught up in his own thoughts about what could have happened to the other girls that he didn’t notice Cordelia starting to hyperventilate until it was very noticeable. Seeing her starting to panic he reached out a hand to touch her shoulder, he meant it to be a show of support but the moment he touched her she flinched away and tears began to pool in her eyes. She jumped up and ran from the table, pushing people out of her way and he followed. He tried to make sure no one else did but his main focus was getting to his friend who was in obvious pain.
When he made it outside he found her standing in the middle distance trying to get her breathing under control but the very sound of it made him flinch back in empathy. He wanted to embrace her and help to get her breathing back under control but he didn’t want to set her off again, she didn’t seem to want to be touched so he just stood in her eye line and silently waited. He would wait all night if he had to, but he would be there for her no matter what.
Through her sobs she started talking about her friends and where they were now or rather where they weren’t. They were no longer among the living. Halfway through her broken retelling her legs seemed to give out and she fell to the hard asphalt, he could smell the blood from where her knees hit. She didn’t seem to notice she just kept saying she was sorry and asking why they hadn’t been found yet.
He stepped towards her, he wanted to help pull her up off the ground and get her home, but she had other ideas. When he was close enough to touch she latched onto his waist and broke beyond words. She sobbed into the side of his coat, her ragged breathing and fractured coughs the only sound around them. He didn’t know what to say. There was nothing to say.
Xander saw Cordelia rush out of the Bronze with Oz close on her heels and he followed them. If there was some kind of trouble he wanted to help, he was still feeling beyond guilty about his lack of help before and he wanted to change that. He knew that being a good guy now wouldn’t ever change the absolute asshole he was before, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t try to be better.
What he saw when he cleared the doorway made his whole body lock up. Cordelia Chase, queen of Sunnydale High and the biggest baddest bitch to ever walk her halls in all of Sunnydale history, was on her knees in the alley surrounded by trash and grime sobbing. Oz was standing over her with a look of anger and pain on his face while she babbles incoherently into his hip. Her arms were around his waist holding him to her like she thought he would shake her off, but anyone looking could see all he wanted to do was find some way to comfort her.
Xander did too.
He wanted to help, but he knew that his being here would just make things worse. It was one thing for Oz to see her breaking down, but if she knew he had seen her too she would be mortified.