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Nice and Awkward

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  • Nice and Awkward

    Title: Nice and Awkward
    RatingG-13
    Spoilers: Through Season 7
    Characters: Xander, Cordelia.
    Disclaimer: Joss owns all of these characters whose names you recognize, and I probably only barely own any of the ones I made up since I'm using them in his house.

    Act 1

    Xander sat on his favorite stool with his eyes fixed very clearly on the bottom of his whiskey. It was a Tuesday, and usually that would mean a beer with some of his crew after a hard day's work, but he'd given them the week off. A couple of the guys were reservists, and were throwing a Veteran's Day party for someone's brother who was coming back from Afghanistan. Xander, who'd been a soldier for a day, felt at least some brotherhood to that sentiment, and decided to be generous.

    Besides, it's not like autumn on the Hellmouth was loaded down with new housing development. With the high school almost finished, there wasn't anything already booked until the next week anyway.

    Xander sighed, before signaling the bartender to freshen his Crown. He had planned to order the next one with cola in it, but who was he kidding? I can walk back to the apartment from the Bronze, he reasoned? and it's not like anyone's going to be there waiting to say something about it. He was pretty certain that he hadn't really wanted Anya back, but knowing she felt the same for sure still hurt. And as for any? other interest he might have had? well, he wasn't in a big hurry to be around his roommate, either.

    "Oh great," Xander muttered. The roommate. He had hoped coming to the Bronze on a Tuesday would mean relative quiet and no Spike. That idea flew straight out of his head as the vampire casually slid up on a stool at the opposite end of the bar. Xander was not in the least bit impressed by Spike having gotten his soul ? too many people with souls had done too much harm, lately, and it's not like having Angel as a role model really recommended the new Spike as far as he was concerned.

    Xander slugged down the whiskey the second it was placed in front of him. His throat burned and he grimaced before placing $30 on the bar to settle his tab. "Keep the change," he insisted as the young woman tending the bar swept up the cash in her hand.

    Not drunk, but drunk-ish, Xander concluded, pulling his wool jacket around him and turning the collar up. It wasn't cold, not in Sunnydale, but it was still only about 55 degrees and that was plenty cold enough. Not stumbling, but a little dizzy, Xander wandered out the door as he heard the woman on the Bronze stage sing "Where were you? where were you?"

    "Good question," he mumbled to himself as the door shut behind him. He turned to walk across downtown toward his apartment. Before he was fifty feet from the door, though, he heard an impossible voice call his name.

    "Xander? Xander?!" Cordelia shouted from across the street. Xander did a double take to be sure it was her. The people out shopping and walking cut her off for a moment, but when he saw her again, she was crossing the street toward him, a bright smile on her face.

    "Cordy, what are you ? I mean, when did ?" Xander stumbled for a way to ask the obvious without sounding unhappy to see her. She is so much more beautiful than I remember, he thought appreciatively. She stopped a few feet from him, a friendly distance, and gestured in happy speechlessness.

    "Well, I, y'know, I just thought it would be great to stop into see my mom. We're getting pretty busy in L.A. so I didn't think I'd be able to make it for Thanksgiving, y'know?"

    "You going into the Bronze? If you were looking for anyone from school, it's no go. The only person in there you'd recognize is Spike," Xander saw her mystified look, "which is a long enough story."

    He sized up Cordy before he could stop himself from looking. Her hair was a lot shorter than he'd ever seen it, only reaching as far as the nape of her neck. She wore black jeans and green sweater with a v-neck that showed off a pleasing amount of cleavage. He willed his eyes to look back up to hers, where he saw only a knowing smile.

    "Easy there, Bucko," Cordelia warned, putting her palms up to warn Xander from getting too close. "I thought you were a married man, now?"

    The wince on his face must have told her everything. Xander was immediately reminded of just how little he talked to anyone in L.A. Well, what do you want, Harris? It's Angel, Wesley, an ex-girlfriend, and some total strangers?

    "You would think that, given the whole wedding announcement thing, but that would be far too obvious for a mastermind such as me," Xander said, twirling a non-existent mustache to provide a sinister touch. He hoped that the hurt didn't show through the bluster, but it almost certainly had.

    "Oh, I'm sorry, Xander. I'm just so out of touch with everything, I should have called to talk to you at the time and I'd already know. It just slipped my mind," Cordy offered as apology. Xander was consoled only so far as he tried to ignore the fact that his planned wedding had ?slipped her mind'.

    "Hey, don't worry about it. Between saving the world and rebuilding the high school, it's been so busy in the past, uh, nine months that I barely remember it didn't happen," Xander answered, too cheerfully. It just didn't sound convincing. Also, it sounded a bit obvious that he wanted to impress Cordelia. He wasn't sure if he was going to start hitting on her or not.
    "Look, I was going to go in there, but if it's as dead as you said, I'm left with a couple hours to kill until my mom's going to be back at her place. Can I walk with you?" Cordy's turned her head down and looked back up at him, making it sound like it was a shy question, almost flirting.

    Xander couldn't help smiling. He gestured forward on the sidewalk to indicate his acceptance, and Cordelia fell into step beside him.

    Act 2

    "So, you just grabbed the jacket off the guy? That's how you follow up saving the world, by mugging a high school football player?" Cordelia laughed as she recapped what Xander had told her. Her expression turned thoughtful. "Actually, no, I could see where that probably would resolve a lot of pent up aggression."

    Xander laughed in return. He walked beside Cordy with his hands shoved in his pockets. He didn't trust himself not to touch her, or even try to hold her hand. He felt strange being around her. He had never been happy about how they had left things after his idiotic ?fluking' with Willow. Coming to civil terms over the purchase of a prom dress was one thing, but it still hurt that she had just vanished from all of their lives. With her here, beside him, he almost started to wonder if it could lead to something. That's whiskey and your pants talking, he insisted. He hadn't had sex since two nights before the failed wedding with Anya, and he had already played the ?unresolved longing for my friend' game for a few months this year.

    Cordelia's expression teased that she had some idea as to this inner debate, but she said nothing. Xander walked along, fishing for something to say to keep the conversation going. "I'm just glad you weren't visiting then instead of now. Walking in on you climbing on top of a teenager might have made me eat my hardhat." To this, Cordelia laughed harshly into her hand. Xander looked at her in confusion, but she wouldn't explain.

    "Of course," Xander continued, "I'd probably have to give him credit for finding the love spell that actually works on you."

    Cordelia smiled coyly in reply. "The closest anyone ever got was at the ballet, and I don't think there's a varsity letter unitard out there if you were going to try. Besides, why would a handsome small business owner like you need to work the mojo?"

    Xander felt his cheeks flush. He didn't brag about his career, but, Cordy was right, he did own his own contracting business before he was even 22 years old. It was gratifying beyond words to hear it validated in this way.

    "It pays for the apartment," Xander agreed, nodding further down the street. He could see his apartment across the opposite corner. "I'm also glad that I can be a bit more flexible with my hours. You never know when the Hellmouth is going to fart and need us to light a match."

    Cordy looked down and casually swung one leg in front of the other as she walked. "I totally get that. I basically stopped going to auditions more than a year ago. I mean, having a real power and a role in fighting all those monsters really changed my perspective, y'know? Well, I mean, you can imagine?"

    The correction made Xander furrow his brow as he strolled beside Cordy. He looked at her intently. Did she really just say--? But Cordy was smiling at him. She probably wasn't at all conscious of how she'd implied that Xander really didn't have a ?purpose' with the Scooby gang. That was well covered ground for Xander, and he was surprised it still could make him feel a little insecure. Maybe it always would, a little, but it hadn't eaten at him for years.

    They stopped as they reached the entrance to Xander's apartment building. Nice and awkward, now. Cordy rocked on her heels with her hands clasped in front of her. She can't really be waiting for me to invite her up? Xander thought.

    "Look, Cordy, I'm going to hit the sack. Are you alright getting to your mom's from here? It is Sunnydale."

    "Don't worry about me, Xander. I'm not the girl you remember," Cordy answered with narrow eyes. She looked pretty amused by the idea of the girl he remembered, honestly. "But? unless you have something to do tomorrow, do you think maybe I could come upstairs? For, y'know, coffee or something?"

    Cordy's eyebrows arched suggestively over her beautiful eyes, and Xander couldn't believe this could be happening. "I don't have any coffee," he whispered.

    "I don't want any coffee," Cordelia answered immediately, locking her eyes with his.

    Act 3

    Xander still couldn't quite process the moment. Cordelia Chase, one of the two or three most beautiful women he'd ever met, a girl he'd dated for almost a year, was inviting herself up to his apartment for sex. That whole time, he had been going out of his wits thinking she would be his first. Now he found all that lust building back up inside his Crown Royal dazed mind.

    But underneath that?

    Underneath that, you know you're still in love with her, he scolded himself, Come up with whatever excuse you want, just make it sound good, but you aren't going to go to bed with Cordy and blame the booze in the morning.

    With a deep sigh, Xander got all gentlemanly. "Cordy, I can't even tell you how much I'd like to say yes, but, see, Spike lives here now, too, and things are crappy enough putting up with him without him walking in on us."

    As lame as it sounded to him, it appeared to anger Cordelia. Her expression turned to ice as she stared back at Xander through his excuse. He felt an urge of shame to look away. Then Cordelia broke off with a roll of her eyes and a quick, cruel laugh.

    "That just figures, doesn't it? Buffy shoves her pet vampire in your closet and you're such a pushover for it that you turn down a chance for consequence-free ex-sex."

    Xander reacted as if slapped. Maybe that hadn't been the best excuse he could have chosen after all.

    "I really don't get what you are trying to prove, Xander. Do you think Buffy will be disappointed in you if you tell her to take care of her own problems one time since you've met her?" Cordy continued. Xander could feel his face glowing a bright red at this unexpected assault. Cordy had always known where his weakest spots were.

    "Cordy," he breathed, gesturing in a helpless shrug, "it's not as simple as all that. I'm not crazy enough to defend Spike, but he needs someone to keep an eye on him."

    "And you can do that better than who, exactly? You have a full time job. From everything you've said, you're the only one around here that does. And Buffy expects you to just drop everything and watch her pogo stick when you should be getting some sleep? Or some gratitude?"

    Xander couldn't even look up at her eyes at that point. Cordelia crossed her arms over her chest and paced in front of him. Xander started to say something in his defense, but couldn't. Anya was gone, and the only other people he had in his life didn't seem to appreciate a single thing he did, even though he was always watching out for them.

    "Xander, show us the high school blueprints again. Xander, can you get us a deal on the lawn service? Xander can you babysit my demon lover?" Cordelia's tone became more mocking as she paced around Xander on the empty sidewalk. She kept a few feet of distance from him, as if he was giving off an unpleasant odor. "You just go along with anything she says so you can feel useful, don't you? Maybe you haven't changed. Maybe you still are just ?the Zeppo', except now you can afford to buy their donuts without them having to chip in cash first."

    Xander was absolutely undone by this tongue-lashing. When he heard the word "zeppo" though, he regained a little of his resolve. "No, you know what? I may not have visions and I may not have a superhero standing over my shoulder teaching me how to swordfight, but I'm long past thinking that I'm just the errand boy for this outfit. I'm there to talk to Dawn. I help make the big decisions. I keep the wheels spinning. When Buffy needs help, I'm always there to? to?"
    He interrupted himself, looking up at Cordy who had stopped in front of him. She posed with her hands on her hips, unabashedly emphasizing her body to make the point of what he'd passed up. Her expression was a knowing sneer.

    "So that's why you put up with all this? It still is, isn't it? You're not a useless hanger-on like I thought you still were. You're the helpless puppy love loser you were before that, aren't you? You're still in love with Buffy."

    Act 4

    Xander had all he could stand of this. He stormed toward his door so quickly that Cordelia had to step aside to keep him from going through her. Even as he headed back up his steps to the second floor apartment, she was following him.

    "You would have thought after she called you an idiot in front of half our senior class, you would have started to get over that."

    Xander whirled in the hallway, just feet from his door. "Cordelia, I don't know what got you started on this. I'm sorry I didn't want to screw you, but this isn't who I thought you were. I thought we were going to be friends again."

    "Do you have independent friend-making authority?"

    "You think I'm crazy about Buffy and do whatever she says. I get it. You go right ahead with that. Nevermind I almost got into a fistfight with her a couple of weeks ago. I keep Spike here because I trust her. And she counts on me to take care of important things because she knows I'll always be there for her."

    Cordelia stood within arm's reach of Xander and looked right into his face. Her expression suddenly took on a look of earnest concern and sympathy. Xander put a hand out blindly fumbling for his doorknob. He couldn't look away from her eyes.

    "But you should have realized by now, Xander, that she won't always be there for you. She's always taken you as needed, and she'll give you up as needed, too, when the time comes. All that help you think you can be watching out for them? You'll never see her coming. And until you're smart enough to know that, I guess you'll still be in this place alone with her lover, and not with yours." This last was delivered with an almost intimate whisper. Cordelia threw a regretful sigh at him, emphasizing the choice he'd made turning her down, and then sauntered down the hall, swaying her hips.

    Xander stood in the hallway for he didn't know how long before realizing his hand was numb. Looking down, he saw that his fingers had turned white as he squeezed the doorknob.

    As Xander stepped into his apartment, he saw time really had flown talking to Cordy. It was already after midnight. Much of that time had gone by trading stories, long before she flipped out and tried to humiliate him.

    I'm not that guy anymore. No more Zeppo. No more buttmonkey, Xander insisted, flipping out the light in the closet bedroom that Spike had carelessly left on. The haze of his drinking was finally lifting, and now he just felt exhausted and drained. He threw his coat over the back of his sofa and limped into his bedroom.

    "Buffy isn't going to abandon me," Xander said to nobody as he got his pajamas on. None of his furniture bothered to speak up about it one way or another.

    "I'm not just the errand boy. She doesn't take advantage of me and she doesn't just come here thinking about Spike." He muttered this as his head hit the pillow. Before he had time to reassure himself again, he was asleep.

    Epilogue

    Thumping. Xander stirred in his bed. A banging sound. The crew had started up the cement mixer? No, Xander realized, groaning back into consciousness. Somebody was at the door. Cordy, apologizing for being a bitch? The idea brought equal feelings of hope and dread.

    The knocking persisted as he got to his feet. He glanced at the clock in disbelief as he walked out to the living room.

    "Okay, okay, I'm up. It's 4:30 in the morning. Sweet mamalooshin," he sighed. Then he called out through the door. "Who is it?"

    "It's me." Buffy's voice. 4:30 in the morning. Xander immediately unlatched the door and opened it to her.

    "Buffy?" he began. She stepped right through the door and past him, looking around.

    "Where's Spike?"

    From behind her, Xander's stomach clinched. Not going to abandon me, he remembered. He ignored the feeling of doubt and mistrust, pushed it away, and turned back to do what he always would do. He'd be there for Buffy.
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  • #2
    Readers will note that I've taken obvious liberties about the First here. Writing this story, I based the premise on the idea that Cordy may have been momentarily dead at some point in her past -- "Lover's Walk", "Birthday", etc.
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    • #3
      Interesting, is this supposed to take place during CWDP? Cordy as the First?

      Edit: Ah, never mind then, you explained it.
      Last edited by bishopcruz; 20-06-07, 06:19 AM. Reason: Post while I was replying.

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