SUMMARY: Set right after Spin The Bottle, Xander is sent to L.A. on Buffy’s orders to get books on how to defeat The First. Once there, he notices that Cordelia is hardly herself.
POSTED: 2 Aug 2007
CATEGORY: Challenge Fic / Action-Adventure / Humor / A bit of Angst. It has it all.
WARNINGS: None listed
1) An “ex” visits, mystical circle, Eternal Flame by The Bangles at Damnskippy’s LJ comm CA_Atlast.
2) I went a little nutty with the style here. The first part is seen through Xander’s eyes. The second part through Angel’s. The third part through Cordelia’s. Total word count: 11,908. HUGE thanks to boy_named_susie who gave up time on Potter weekend to beta for me.

ANGEL: Cordelia. Were we in love?
CORDELIA: We were.
-Spin The Bottle

Xander Harris could think of a thousand reasons why he should not be driving to Los Angeles at this moment. Buffy with a house full of Potentials with even more Bringers after them. Something evil that could take the form of any dead person. Not to mention the crazy preacher. The last thing he had wanted was to be ushered out of the house on Revello drive, shoved into a sedan, and told to go to Los Angeles to retrieve a book. Apparently, either Angel hadn’t heard of FedEx or he was so busy brooding that he couldn’t pick up the phone.

He parked just outside of the hotel, noting the number of cars already lining the curb. Seemed like Angel was having a party or something. Yippie. Hopefully he didn’t get too happy with his partying as the world was ending in Sunnydale. He checked the address Willow had given him one more time. The place was huge. Of course. Angel gets the girl, Angel gets the mansion, Angel gets the cool car, and Angel gets the giant office slash hotel.

He got out of the car, giving a quick look around the hotel before he made his way inside. He paused when he saw the trio in the lobby. Two unfamiliar faces and one familiar face that had changed a lot from the bumbling Watcher he had known in Sunnydale. Willow had said Wes was different but this was way different. He watched for a moment as they cleaned up before he spoke.

“Looks like you guys had a party in here. Broken bottles, symbols on the floor, like a regular culty good time.”

The girl was the first to turn, regarding Xander strangely. There was some flicker of recognition in her eyes but not enough for her to remember who he was apparently. The big, very big, black guy was the first to speak.

“We help you?”

“Yeah, looking for the big brooder himself here…”

“Gunn, it is alright. This is Xander. He is from Sunnydale.” Xander was relieved that Wes had decided to speak up. He had caught sight of the scar across his neck, not sure if the guy could even talk. Hazard of the job apparently. He had his share of battle scars too.

The black guy, Gunn, snorted and picked up something off the floor. “Muffy die again?”

“Hey buddy, can you take it down with the object hatred? Her name is Buffy and no, she isn’t dead. Just sent me to see if you guys had a couple of books is all.”

“That is English’s department.” Gunn replied with a crook of his finger towards Wes. He was keeping a wide distance from the man though and the girl, well, she was staying quiet.

“Yes, it might be best not to discuss these matters here, Xander. Perhaps if you gave me a list, I can see if I have any of them.” Wesley held a hand out, waiting for the list. Xander knew that the former Watcher had to know that if it was bad enough for Buffy to send him all the way here, it was really bad.

Xander began to dig in his pockets, trying to find the list. Looking down, he didn’t notice as a woman coming down the stairs nearly bowled him over in order to get to the door. He grabbed her to stop the collision out of pure instinct. It wasn’t until he paused and looked up that he saw yet another familiar face, one that had changed dramatically over time.


Xander saw something then, something that flashed in her eyes, something that well…he had seen evil before and this was evil. He frowned deeply. He was expecting either a hug or a slap in the face. Or at the very least, he was expecting some of Cordelia’s razor sharp wit. What he wasn’t expecting was the silence that hung between them or the glare that Angel was giving him from the top of the stairs.

“Cordy?” He had to repeat her name. Something had to break that spell. Cordelia, not the nicest girl in Sunnydale history, but she had had her fleeting moments of compassion. But nothing could explain the second cloud that passed over her eyes as she pulled herself from Xander.

“Xander…I…I need to be alone.” She finally yanked herself free, turning away from him and pushing the doors open.

He watched her go before turning back to the group. Either she changed a lot or there was something going on here. He had felt her, so he knew she wasn’t First evil brewing here. “Some welcome I am getting here. You’d think I killed a basket of cuddly puppies in front of your mothers or something.”

Wesley spoke up. “We have all been through a lot the past few months, Xander. Things have been…complicated.”

Xander’s reply was cut short before it ever left his lips as he heard his “favorite” person in the world’s voice. And here he had thought Dead Boy was just going to stand at the top of the stairs and glare all night.

“What are you doing here, Xander?” Xander hadn’t missed the patented Angel scowl that was all over the vampire’s face right now. Angel was not happy to see him in the slightest. Big surprise, he wasn’t happy to see him either.

“Buffy sent me for some books. Big trouble brewing in Sunnydale. You know, of the Apocalypse kind. The First.”

“Is everyone okay?”

Now that was odd. Really odd. He expected Angel to ask specifically about Buffy as in was Buffy okay. Instead he threw a curveball out and asked about everyone. He felt like he just walked into crazy town. “House full of Potential Slayers that The First’s goons are killing off one by one…I’d say we are good.”

“I’ll see what we have in the office.” Angel, always the perfect and friendly host.

The vampire passed Xander and headed into the lobby. Xander dug into his pockets once more. “I got a list.” He finally found the paper and held it out. Angel continued giving him the cold shoulder despite being just a few feet away, so Wesley took the list instead, looking it over.

“I have a few of these. The Cyridian Codex for one.”

“I think I must have walked in on big to do that is none of my business land here. Cordelia was…” Xander just trailed off as he felt four pairs of eyes on him.

“Cordelia has been…going through a great deal of difficulty.” Wesley replied before folding the list and putting it into his jacket pocket. “We should be going if you want these books, Xander.”

“Who’s the new guy?”

Xander looked up as he saw yet another unfamiliar face. Angel had his own little group of Scoobies. They all looked like they’d been sucking on lemons too. Could call them the Lemonheads. He suppressed a chuckle at that thought. Will’d think it was funny. He’d have to tell her when he got back.

“Connor, this is Xander. He is from Sunnydale.” Wesley had to answer since Angel had retreated to his office, door now closed.

The teenager sniffed the air slightly. Angel had acquired a weird group, that was for sure. “Human.” That’s it. That was all the kid said.

“And proud of it.” Xander puffed his chest out some. He glanced back to the door though, worried about Cordy.

“I am going after Cordy. Make sure she is okay.” At least the boy wonder knew more than five words. That was a plus.

He had a feeling that was the kind of guy that Dawn would think was cute. All with the brooding and the heavy brow and the punk attitude. Teenaged girls love that sort of thing. Did Cordy? Naw, he pushed that thought quickly out of his head. Cordy liked to pretend to date the jocks, but he knew deep down she dug a little of the dork loving. She loved him, hadn’t she? Hadn’t she? He wasn’t so sure now, with the look he had seen in her eyes. If anyone around this place would know what was going on with her, it would be that Bronsony look alike. Though now Wes was looking more like the Connery version of Bond, more dark and smarmy.

“Well, that was a bust, cupcakes.”

Xander’s head turned as he heard yet another voice. Red eyed, red horned, green skinned demon. DEMON! Xander jumped back. “Woah, hey, demon. Why is no one making with the killing and the slaughtering and the funny quipping?”

It was clear from Wesley’s face that he was getting exasperated. It wasn’t his fault that Buffy didn’t warn him. If she even knew. He wasn’t sure where the calling Angel was fitting in with the whole sexing Spike up and then later taking care of crazy Spike thing.

“This is Lorne. He is an empath demon. He won’t hurt you. Or anything else for that matter.” Wesley said. Fred and Gunn had quickly disappeared as soon as Angel had appeared on the top of the stairs.

“The only thing I want to kill right now is a Sea Breeze, darling.” This Lorne guy moved past Xander to the front desk. They were working with demons now. Okay, so Buffy didn’t kill Clem or Anya but those were different. Anya used to be different and it was his fault she went back to the vengeance and Clem, well Clem was just Clem. Fried chicken loving Clem. So this was their Clem. Only he was mixing drinks behind the front desk and his suit looked like this mumu his Aunt used to wear only in suit form.

“We really should be going, Xander.” Wesley began to move towards him, to help usher him out the door. Angel still hadn’t come out of his office. “You can follow me in your car so you can leave as soon as you get the books.”
Xander didn’t want to sit on the couch in Wesley’s apartment. With all the weapons lying around, he was worried that he was going to sit down, trigger something, and get shot in the buttocks, as Forrest Gump would say. Or get shot even worse. Get shot in a place that he planned to use later with some lucky lady if they survived the Apocalypse. If…they always survived.

“Would you like something to drink while I finish getting these books? There is whiskey on the table.” Wesley kept his back to him as he scanned the bookshelf, looking back to the list every now and again.

“Drinking and driving baaad. Or did you miss that day during Watcher training? Xander drinky, Xander crashy, world endy.” He quipped back.

“Yes, well, you will find that sometimes the worst things in life, like a good drink and a bad woman, can be exactly what you need.”

“So…” Xander figured it was now or never. It was time to go into the breach. “What happened with Cordy? She didn’t exactly seem overjoyed to see me. Well, nobody did. But I thought we parted on the good terms. She still talked to Willow, you know, the whole keeping in touch thing. If she can forgive Willow, I figure I am right next on that list.”

“Cordelia…has been through a great deal.”

“Yeah, said that before. Was kind of looking for specifics here. Pretty clear that Angel just wants to brood in his office so that hasn’t changed. He was never that good with ponying up the info or the talking thing, unless it was talking with your fists variety.”

Wesley did that sigh thing once more. Oh yeah, that was exasperation. “It would probably be best if you knew if only to keep you quiet while I finish getting together these books.”

Xander stood there, listening carefully as Wesley reviewed all the details of what had happened to Cordelia since she left Sunnydale. Xander knew all about her losing her money and not exactly being the famous actress. But no one had bothered to tell him about her getting visions that nearly killed her or her getting demonized or going to a higher plane of existence and disappearing for months only to come back with no memory at all. Then tonight, well, Xander had walked right in on a big party of confusion and crazy in trying to get her memory back.

“That explains it then.” He wasn’t sure what else to say.

“Explains what, exactly?” Wesley moved back to the bookcase to begin retrieving the volumes again. As he found each one, he set it on the table nearby. It was clear that he wasn’t going to pay attention but hey, Xander was going to tell him anyway.

“Cordelia. When she looked at me. She wasn’t…herself.”

Well, that was enough to make Wesley pause in the middle of grabbing a book. He looked back to Xander. “Not herself, how?”

“In her eyes. You know. Cordy always had that sparkle in her. You didn’t know if she was going to kiss you or verbally gut you or both. That sunshine, little trick of the light. Wasn’t there tonight. All that was there was…”

“Was what, Xander?” Wesley put the book down, moving closer to the young man.

“This is going to sound crazy, but I saw evil. I have looked evil in the eye plenty of times and then run away. I even saw evil in my best friend’s eyes. And what I saw in there, it was more evil then when Willow tried to end the world. It was full on dark juju.”

“Willow tried to end the world?”

They were really going to have to start communicating a little better with each other. Xander just nodded his head. Wesley moved to sit down, reaching for the whiskey bottle. He unscrewed the top, tossed it aside, and took a big swig from the bottle.

“Woah there. You might want to slow down. Your liver will thank you later.” He might not have been the best or the brightest, but he was smart enough not to take the bottle from Wesley. He didn’t get an answer from the man, just another pull from the bottle.

“You know Cordelia too. When was the last time she ever wanted to be alone? She was miss I’d rather be alone surrounded by people than just alone. Now she goes tearing out of that place like it was on fire. And hey, I got no hug or insult. That is just not Cordy.” He continued because he was basically talking to himself now. He had to wonder why her friends, those who had spent years with her, couldn’t see it.

Again, Wesley was silent, finding his answer in that bottle instead of giving one to Xander.

“Maybe something big put the mojo on her and it put something on you guys as well.” He paused for a moment, his brain recalling something. “Her outfit. No way would Cordelia go for the flowy blousy thing and the pants with the big…” He lifted his leg up, moving his hands around his ankles. “Tight…god, she always loved those tight clothes.” He sighed softly, caught just slightly reminiscing.

It was clear that Wesley was remembering the fixation with young Cordelia Chase as well. He set the bottle down. “We need to tell Angel. He knows her better than anyone. I haven’t seen her in quite some time.”

“I thought you were all part of the Lemonheads. You know, yay team! Angel’s Scoobies or whatever you guys are calling yourselves. Rag tag group of brooding heroes.”

“Lemonheads?” Wesley shook his head. “That is not important now. What is important is that Angel must be told immediately. If something has taken hold of Cordelia, perhaps during Lorne’s spell, we will need to get it out of her as soon as possible. It could be linked with what is occurring in Sunnydale.”

“You need me to call Will? She isn’t really doing the magic anymore but she might be able to whip something up. Do a spell to see if something is in Cordelia or someone put the whammy on you guys? I bet she can make you glow if you’ve been hit.” He was eager to help, not that he wanted Willow messing with the magicks anymore but Wesley was right, it could be linked to the craziness that was going on in Sunnydale.

“That is quite alright, Xander. I am more than equipped to do such a simple spell. There are also other variables, such as being exposed to Lorne’s spell.” Wesley rose from the couch, moving back over to his bookshelf. He took several books off and made a second pile on the table. He pushed one of the stacks towards the edge of the table, in Xander’s direction.

“I take it that is the not so subtle English thing for take your books and go?” He moved to take the offered books off the table. He knew Buffy needed these but it was late. He could stay the night. If, at the very least, to make sure that Cordy was going to be okay.

“Very perceptive.” Wesley said dryly.

“You do know that I can’t just run back to Sunnydale, right? Not if this Not-Cordy is connected to The First. And well, because it’s her.”

“We all care a great deal for Cordelia.” Wesley picked the books up, moving towards the door. “Come on then, if you are coming. We need to speak to Angel about this.”



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