Los Angeles to New York. Flight 1374, United Airlines.
It was almost unfathomable that those simple, unassuming little words could hold such a mountain of uncertainty. Cordelia stared down at the airline ticket in her hand, the date, tomorrow’s date, seeming to leap off the page and dance accusingly in her face. Okay, so she hadn’t told anyone she was leaving. But would they really care? Somehow, she imagined that she’d get an absentminded hug from Wesley and at best, a shrug and “Nice knowin’ ya” from Angel. Color her totally unexcited about sharing the news of her move with any of her supposed friends.
Determined not to dwell on it, she set the ticket down on her gleaming mahogany desk and swiveled comfortably in the high-backed leather chair. She looked around at her office in distaste, still squeamish that she’d even accepted so much as a square inch of space in the lion’s den. But Angel had insisted, and she hadn’t had the strength to refuse him. All the more reason to get the hell outta dodge while she still had the nerve.
Leaning back and closing her eyes, she was almost prepared for the vision that suddenly came upon her. Relaxing, she let herself float off the chair, the images flashing before her eyes. She reviewed them clinically, noting pertinent information as if she were dictating a memo for her boss. As she drifted back into her seat, she jotted down what she’d seen and placed a call.
Usually, she left the fighting up to the flunkies or Angel and Wes. This time, though, she wanted to go along. It was her last chance to remember the good times, and it would feel really good to kill something today.
“So you said this isn’t a normal slime demon, Cordelia?” Wesley asked anxiously, his weapon poised as they stalked along a particularly nasty section of the sewers.
The whole scene seemed hauntingly surreal. Cordelia, Angel, and Wesley were patrolling the underground tunnels in a way so eerily reminiscent of their first year together that it made her want to cry. The differences were subtle: Angel no longer tried to be funny or join in the conversation; Wesley was no longer over-eager, the boyish innocence he’d had then destroyed by bad decisions and unforgiving friends.
But the biggest difference was that both of them treated her like she had leprosy. They kept their distance both physically and emotionally. At least Wesley put up an effort, and for that she supposed she was thankful. A starving person didn’t scoff at crumbs. But Angel acted like she was a window, looking right through her as if she were a nuisance, a barrier to what chance at happiness he had left.
Her resolve to escape to New York strengthened as she answered Wesley’s question. Her tone was light, totally masking her emotional trauma.
“Yep. The vision didn’t really say how it was different, but I saw a whole bunch of blue goo, and I know that slime demons aren’t usually blue, right?”
“The slime can come in several colors, but blue isn’t one of them,” Angel said, his voice echoing in the corridor as he walked some ten feet ahead of them.
Wesley’s face grew grimmer. “If only we’d had more time to research. . .” he trailed off wistfully.
“Looks like we don’t!” Angel said, raising his sword above his head as a bluish-gray demon came barreling out of an access tunnel directly into his path.
Weapons at the ready, Cordelia and Wesley hung back. The stench was awful; Cordelia wanted to retch. The beast stank of rotten fish and something that smelled suspiciously like wintergreen lifesavers, the resulting combination nauseating like nothing before it. Angel, even with his over-sensitive sense of smell, hacked away like there was no tomorrow. The beast was reduced to nothing but a quivering mass of jelly-like slime within a matter of minutes.
Lowering his sword, Angel stepped back and straightened his coat. Amazingly, he had not one ounce of goo on him.
“Huh.” Wesley’s eyebrows where scrunched up together in the middle of his forehead, a look of confusion on his face. “I thought you envisioned a major battle, Cordy, one with explosions and such.”
She was just as surprised. “I did. There was blue goo everywhere.”
Cautiously, she walked up close to the decapitated monster. Gingerly, she poked at it with her small sword, shuddering as the Windex-colored, jell-o like substance giggled. Shrugging, she turned her back on it and faced the two men.
“Wouldn’t be the first time the Powers sent us a message that was off. Remember that—Ahhhh!!” Cordelia’s scream echoed off the walls as the mass of blue slime behind her suddenly erupted, covering the three fighters in the substance from head to toe. From the remains, a smaller demon emerged, lunging for Cordelia’s unprotected back.
That was just the last damn straw. Her life was hell already; she didn’t need a slime demon to add to her misery. Whirling around violently, her eyes narrowing, Cordelia let the little devil have it.
“I do not” HACK “appreciate” HACK “being covered” HACK “from head to toe” HACK HACK “in your freaky” HACK “nasty” HACK “slime!”
“Um, I think you killed it, Cordy,” Angel understated, noting that the only remains of the demon were bite-sized pieces.
“Well, it deserved it,” Cordelia grumbled. She glared down at the mutilated remains, knowing that her companions wanted an explanation for her outburst.
She wasn’t about to tell them the real reason.
“I haven’t bought anything new in ages, and I decide to buy new clothes, white tennis shoes no less, and I get covered in this icky, goopy crap.” Finally looking up at them, Cordelia glared at Angel as this whole escapade was his fault. “It’s dead. I’m filthy, and I’m going home.”
With that, she stalked off, leaving Wesley and Angel behind. She knew she was being a coward, using the slime as an excuse to postpone her news, but she didn’t care. She felt awful, she smelled awful, and she looked like blue shit. She deserved a break here. A big break.
“It won’t. come. OFF!!” Cordelia’s cries of frustration went unheard, except by Dennis, as she furiously tried to remove the sticky substance from her new white tennis shoes. Growling in frustration, she threw the shoes violently back into her sink, one bouncing off the edge and hurtling towards the tiled floor. Frustrated and emotionally fried, she braced both hands on the edges of the sink and hung her head, staring into the goo-spattered basin, her eyes blurring with tears.
Tired of crying, Cordelia sniffled and collected herself, raising her head and catching a glimpse of herself in the bathroom mirror. It only served to highlight her misery. What had she done to deserve this? A life where no one wanted her and she spent her hours wondering how she could’ve prevented it all. Despite her best efforts, her eyes slowly filled with tears, finally spilling over and coursing a track through the blue globs on her face. She let them come, enjoying the hot liquid, the pain itself almost soothing in its intensity.
She only let herself wallow for a moment.
Straightening her back, she sniffed and quickly dried her eyes. Bending over, she grabbed up the shoe on the floor with a jerky motion, suddenly anxious to escape. She swayed a bit as she came back up, dizzy from bending over so quickly, and her knuckles scraped hard on the exposed pipe under her sink, breaking the skin.
“Figures,” she muttered, shaking her head. She scrutinized her bloody knuckles and frowned.
Life down the drain. Check.
Covered in blue slime. Check.
Injuring oneself repeatedly. Check. Check.
“What I wouldn’t give for this day, this year, never to have happened,” she whispered to herself.
Grabbing up her tennis shoes from the sink in preparation to throw them away, her knuckles brushed some of the blue substance that now clung to the side of the basin. Immediately, she felt dizzy, but blinked and shrugged it off. She didn’t notice the air wavering behind her, didn’t notice her surroundings blurring as the dizziness overpowered her and she slumped to the floor, unconscious.
“Cordelia.” The male voice seemed to come from far away, as if through a fog. It sounded familiar, but she couldn’t place it. All she wanted to do was sleep, anyway, so she ignored it.
This time, the voice was more insistent, almost an annoyed hiss, and was accompanied by a shove on her elbow.
“Go ‘way,” she muttered tiredly, raising her hand up and batting against the air. “I’m sleeping,” she whined.
“Guess what, Folks? Contrary to popular belief, she does have a brain!” The snide comment was accompanied by a rude jerk to her elbow, pulling her arm out from under her head, her forehead slamming on the table. “Wake up, Cordelia! Class is OVER!”
Annoyed, Cordelia groaned and pried her eyes open, only to find herself centimeters away from what looked suspiciously like a school desk. And ewww. There was drool, right under her mouth. Slowly, she raised her pounding head in confusion, totally disoriented, and her eyes nearly popped out of her sockets as she recognized the gangly teen standing in front of her.
“Oh, God! Xander?”
He just glared at her in annoyance. “I think you need to get that air in your head replaced.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What the hell are YOU doing here?”
“Hello? Earth to May Queen. I’m here for the same reason you are. The government-sanctioned form of hideous torture that adults give the catchy name of ‘school,’” he said, looking at her like she was nuts.
“What the hell is going on?” she yelled, glaring at him as if he were responsible for this. One minute, she was in her bathroom in L.A., and the next, she’s in her science classroom at the now destroyed Sunnydale High??
Xander rolled his eyes and threw up his hands in exasperation. “Geez! Try to save a drooling ex-girlfriend from total humiliation, and this is the thanks I get? See if I help you next time, Cor.”
With that, he stalked off, leaving her to an empty classroom. Still totally confused, she looked around, gathered up what she assumed were her belongings and rushed after him.
She had to figure out what the hell had happened to her, and so far, her time-warped ex-boyfriend seemed to have the answers.