“Xander, stop! – Please?” His body tensed and stilled at the last softly spoken word, looking down at the redhead hanging onto his t-shirt for dear life.
Suppressing the urge to push her aside, he settled for glaring down at her. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t go over there and express myself, Will?” He exclaimed angrily, his dark hair almost on end with passionate; and to his mind, justified anger.
Willow glanced over at Giles’ office as the door closed behind the girl in question. She’d swept into the Library seemingly without a care in the world- unless of course, you were looking with critical eyes. The too brittle smile. A slight pallor that emphasised dark shadows under eyes that make-up couldn’t quite conceal.
It had taken the speed of light to get to Xander before he managed to confront Cordelia who was by then at the door of the office. An almost impossible feat considering the cold dismissal in the brief flick of the girl’s dark eyes over his angry features.
Grimacing helplessly. Willow wracked her frazzling brain trying to think of the perfect thing to say. To turn this from what was definitely going to be so, so bad. Then it came to her.
“Don’t forget, Xan, we pretty much left her to fend for herself that night”. Although more than a little upset at the time, Willow had paled with the recollection: the moment Buffy collapsed they’d both ran over. Completely forgetting for too long a time, that Cordelia’s life hung in the balance.
She looked up at her friend, relieved to see the hot anger bleeding from his face. “Can you honestly hold onto that angerfest you’ve got going knowing that you; well, we” she hastily amended off his accusing look; “did something worse?” Xander visibly deflated and she dropped her restraining hands.
Now bitterly regretting the anger-laced calls she’d made to both Xander and Giles right after the other girl had left -the same way she’d arrived. Sleep had been elusive as her mind constantly went back to the ‘spat’ between herself and Cordelia.
It had taken the best part of the night before Willow herself had come to that mortifying conclusion.
“I still think I have every right to be more than a little upset about this.” He muttered morosely, slowly sinking into the edge of a library table.
“I know,” willow sighed, “but right now I think we need to back off and regroup for a while, then try to build bridges.” Not that it’s gonna be that easy she thought sadly, glancing again at the door of the office.
Sitting back in the chair on the other side of the desk, Cordelia managed to keep her veneer of calm from cracking.
The still tender-looking cuts and bruises that adorned his face, the numerous taped fingers and the wheelchair he now sat in had caused her confident stride to briefly falter when she’d first entered the library’s Office. Willow had told of his kidnapping and rescue, but failed to mention the torture he’d endured. How’d he swung that past weasily Principal Snyder? she wondered. Car crash? Definitely believable.
Her own fading bruises paled into insignificance in comparison. Not that her short time with Angelus hadn’t left its mark. The physical scars would eventually fade, but the psychological ones would stay with her for a lifetime. A small sigh fell from her mouth at the recollection of Xander’s reaction to her entrance; the little witch frantically rushing across the library to hang onto his shirt when he instantly approached her; self-righteous anger colouring his face bright red.
As pissed as Willow had been the other night, which in itself had been a little disconcerting for such a mouse it seemed she wasn’t looking for another round of the Blame Game. Restless fingers absently checking the neckline of her silk turtleneck top, she brought her attention back to the present.
Giles sat silently observing her with thoughtful eyes, and her jaw unconsciously angled high as she waited for him begin the inevitable lecture. Fortune had shone on her for most of the day, managing to avoid all three until, in her last class a school Monitor had popped in to hand her a note from the man facing her. The temptation to ignore the ‘summons’ was strong, but she knew she’d have to face him eventually.
Dragging it out would only make things worse in the long run. After what she’d been through, facing Giles would be a walk in the park. Most of all she wanted the whole thing finally put to bed. But long tense minutes of continuing silence was starting to grate. Shifting uncomfortably then half rising in irritation; her mouth opened ready to make excuses and leave, he finally deigned to speak. With reluctance, she settled back down onto the too-hard seat .
“Mrs Phillips mentioned this morning that your housekeeper called on Monday to confirm your absence. Due to a bout of influenza?” Thrown by his innocuous question Cordelia’s head nodded yes. He leaned back in his wheelchair, eyes sharpening as he continued.
“Apparently this was the only call she’d received. Even though you had in fact been absent for several days previous.” Giles noted and mentally filed away the guarded expression that now settled on her face. “I’m a little confused as to why you waited five days to notify the school of your… malaise.” He raised a stalling hand when she went to speak.
“Let me finish, Cordelia. Please” off her look of frustration. Leaning forward, resting his hands gingerly on the desk he sighed wearily, a tinge of regret lit his tired eyes.
“I’m more than aware that I may have been a little…terse on the phone yesterday, and I can only put that down to the fact that for almost a week I thought you had died -horribly, I might add, at the hands of A-Angleus.” The slightest stutter eased her annoyance somewhat, as did the reminder of the other girl’s death. They both had justifiable cause to hesitate over the vampire’s name.
“But things don’t seem to be adding up,” another sigh, “and as credible as your explanation of events sound, I’m left with the feeling that you aren’t being entirely…truthful?” For a moment stricken eyes stared into his. “Please talk to me, Cordelia,” he urged softly. “What really happened that night?”
Then she blinked and the moment was gone. Expressionless hazel now stared into disconcerted blue. “Nothing else happened,” she asserted, her voice as cool as her eyes. “Given your background and everything, I can understand your need for dramatics.” Giles’ eyes widened, for a moment wanting to defend himself, but kept his mouth shut as the young girl continued on.
“I escaped. I survived.” Keeping her gaze locked to his, she rose to her feet. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience caused” with a subtle hint of sarcasm, “but the last thing on my mind at the time was ringing in sick.” Releasing his eyes, Cordelia bent to retrieve her purse off the floor and turned towards the door- only to look back; her expression mirroring his earlier weariness.
“Just remember, Watcher man. I’m not the only one that did a runner.” He jolted at that reminder, “Not that I blame her. But you can all freak out, lecture and recriminate to your heart’s content. As for me?” pulling the door open, she continued, her face hardening. “I’m done. I’m gonna put this whole sucky chapter in the trash where it belongs and be grateful I can carry on living my life.”
A slight shrug lifted one delicate shoulder. “It’s getting late and Rosa’ll have a cow if I’m not home soon, so I’ll maybe see you around. Night” The door closed, surprisingly softly, behind her.
The Watcher stared blankly at the door, unable to shake off the fact that the young girl had thoroughly turned the tables on him.
Game, set and match.
Note to self: Never reread your own fic once published. It never ends well.