The Real Thing
by Juanita Dark

if you eat her lipstick you consume her jealous rage
they get you in the mouth, those girls
fall down - throwing muses

I'll be the first to admit that the need for revenge changes a person.

And maybe it's best that - if you're seeking revenge - you don't notice the difference. Frankly, it does some scary things to your hair for a start, but revenge? Pretty much a one-track state of mind.

I know - I've tried it. I have, or had, at least, the wardrobes gone wrong to prove it. And after a while, people would tell me - not to my face, of course - that I was off but it didn't matter (insert exclamation point here) because that would be the one-track mind part.

You've heard that saying 'all's well that ends well?' Well, with revenge there is no end. There is no well. There's nothing - because nothing is what's going to stand between you and what someone else has coming to them.

So naturally, your social life is next.

Don't make friends when you're out for revenge because you hang with people who, ordinarily? Never in a million years. You make them think that they're interesting. Why?

A means to an end.

Firstly, though, a few things to get out of the way.


You may be asking yourself, how I, Cordelia Chase - ex-cheerleader, former prom queen and once aspiring actress - can be apparently all- seeing and all-knowing during this recollection of events? Well, that would be this ascended higher-being, empathic, being-given-the-chance- to-look-back-on-a-situation-and-see-it-from-both-sides thinamagiggy.

While I was savvy enough at the time to figure that Buffy coming on to me of all people - even as extra appealing as I am - might have dubious motivations (especially seeing as Faith turned herself in to the LAPD a few hours before - and Angel wasn't the one who insisted on it) I can't say I understood where exactly she was coming from either.

I think saying out of hand that she did it for revenge makes it seem way more petty than it actually was. I mean, from up here, I got to see how my need for revenge on Xander wished everyone into a whole other alternate reality where everyone I knew - including me - ended up dead.

So mistakes, accidents, they happen. it's just that some accidents and mistakes turn out better than others.

At least in this case nobody died.


1. The Tell Tale Jacket

The light outside has turned Buffy's jacket blood red, and even though it's cold she's chosen not to wear it. And all that neck? Just screams 'bite me' to every man, woman and vampire in the city. If she thinks I'm shallow enough not to notice, she might want to think again.

Blondes and red? Never a good combination.

Plus, the fact: She's here.

It's 2 a.m. in the morning - and she has this whole glare-y thing going on. If this was Sunnydale... well, if this was Sunnydale I wouldn't be answering the door - I'd have people to do it for me. People to say, Cordelia Chase isn't in, you might want to come back later - or never - whichever is convenient, you know? As it is, the most I can think is: At least she's over that whole 'Bulgarian' thing, before Dennis slams the door in our faces.

(He's been touchy with visitors ever since that Faith-breaking-and- entering-and-giving-me-a-black-eye thing.)

So, it cracks my voice to have to tell him, out loud:

"It's okay, she's a friend."

Because even if she isn't the first person I turn to in a crisis I am definitely a person in need.


2. (With Friends Like These) Who Needs Enemies

"Sure... no. No. Angel... You don't have to drop by - I'll just fax- Really.... no, really...."

This is me holding an ice pack and a phone to my head, simultaneously.

"Really. No, REALLY."

And those visions? Way more painful than they look.

"I can't hear you. You're where?..."

That's not what's giving me the headache though - well, not exactly - there's that, and the fact that when Angel gets his mind to something, his mind gets made: barring all common sense, common courtesy, and common convenience.

"I think we already covered that I'm totally embarrassed by you, that doesn't mean I- Hello?... Angel, you sound really far away. Angel? Hello, I'm still here... You're what?... Hello?"

That would be the sound of dial tone.

"Ugh!!" And that would be me sitting down in defeat, frustration, a cool but handy DKNY tank top that I got on sale for a third of the asking price, and did I mention defeat?

A sketchpad hovers in front of me and I take it out of the air.

"Thanks, Dennis."

A friendly ghost is a good thing to have around the house if you need the comforting familiarity of household objects floating in front of you or, sliding over tabletops towards you. Not, however, the greatest form of home security. Or maybe, he's just no good with girls? Whatever.

He nudges the remote control across the table towards me and I take the hint.

"Still feeling guilty, huh? Go ahead, watch whatever you like," I wave at him.

He seems to have only just discovered MTV too. It's like living with someone half my age - which, when you've been striving for a crowd that's twice your age which turns out to be more like ten times your age, is less of a problem than you'd think.

By the time Angel arrives they're screening that Britney Spears video that Dennis seems to have - for someone with no body to speak of - an unhealthy preoccupation with. I mean, the ponytails, the school uniform - come to think of it, if she really was a virgin, and about to join a convent this might be Angel's thing.

"Could this be any more wrong? Gah!"

I'm registering my own personal disgust here. I erase the nose of the demon I'm trying - badly, even for me I'll say - to sketch, and start again.

Meanwhile, Angel does that whole hovering-mooching thing he's had down for centuries - you know, when he wasn't torturing, maiming, impaling... and I'm now recognising that that looking-after-Faith thing must have had its nostalgia value.

"Try closing your eyes for a second."

"Tried that."

"How about actually having research books at home."

"Hmm, just what I need. Because nothing quite says anti-social psycho killer like more tomes of the gothic and obscure medieval weaponry. No thanks!" What is it with people wanting me to keep more weapons?

Angel, tired of being the backseat artist over my shoulder is kind of pacing now. So, clearly, time for a time out.

"I need... more ice."

I put the pad down and brush past him to the kitchen. He furrows his already significant brow:

"Is this... going to take much longer?"

I blink at him over the freezer door.

"Well, the demon in my vision isn't rising for another three hours, other than that..."

He indicates the sketch:

"No, this 'visions-from-home' thing?"

Because there's that much difference between my flailing around on the office floor and me flailing around on the floor at home. I close the fridge door and start cracking ice into a bowl.

"All the perks of a paid vacation. You're the boss, you signed the papers."

"You don't have to remind me."

Sure, I don't need to remind him of my black eye, or Wesley's no doubt multiple scars, or that he decided to make the office a rehab for gifted psychopaths (with plus points for finding new and inventive ways to torture the staff with household appliances without killing them); but that's me: classy!

Angel manages to make a near full circuit of the room and the hall as if he's looking for something - which he is, of course (vampires have that whole smelling thing) - before taking me off the subject.

You know, he's saying something here but I'm not really listening. Actually, he's not thinking too much about what he's saying now either, because he's picking up Buffy - on me of all people - and it's not like the thought of her alone isn't a total mental eclipse issue for him. Fortunately for me Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. I mean, sure, he's surprised but he's not quite convinced (although the longer he thinks about it the less sure he's going to be). Buffy's parting words to him were that she trusts her new boyfriend and not Angel. Nobody ever said anything about whether Buffy could be trusted. And I? Well, I wasn't there.

Right now he's figuring its: (a) his wishful thinking (eew!), (b) something that came in with Wesley (let's not get to the how), (c) the workings of his guilty mind - I mean, who knows how to accessorize guilt like Angel? Definitely, nobody else in that much black, I can tell you.

By the time I make it back to the living room, Britney (she's so precocious) is still asking for a sign. So I finally figure out what I'm doing wrong with my bad demon portrait, throw in some extra horns and slime, and hand it to him.

He leans a little too close to me attempting to take it out of my hands. The scent he's getting isn't quite sex - or is it? (And they call this guy a detective?) I wave the sketch in front of his vacant expression for a moment. He starts again:

"You didn't happen to...?"

"Happen to what?" I say, sitting down on the couch in what I call my professor pose - elbows on the arms of the chair, fingers steepled together, crossed legs - optional.

"Get anything else..."

"From my vision?"

And yes, this is almost like real torture, except without the dry cleaning bills and need for a lawyer.

"Nope. Just general pain, bloodlust, fear, death - the sort of thing you demons (no offence) love so much? Why?" I give him six hours before he really starts to brood. But in reality it's a lot less than that.

"No reason."

"No reason," I repeat.

"No reason," he echoes, but it's more like a muttering note to self.

Yep, no reason at all.


3. (Two Can Be As Bad As) One

There is no reason at all for Buffy to be here. I think we both know that. I mean, if the Powers are canny enough to have her intercept half of my vision with that Slayer dream thing of hers and lead her here to help me with the demon I couldn't possibly scratch, let alone kill, by myself (seeing as the only weapon I've ever managed to salvage from the boss is a tiny Byzantine axe) couldn't they just do the same with Angel?

But let's not get picky; desperate times - when I can't reach either Angel or Wes by phone, and the oozing slime beast from the sewers is planning to rise in the next twenty minutes for general hell raising and mayhem - mean that when I get a Slayer one step off of an emotional vendetta I don't complain.


"Okay, how is this the answer to my prayers?"

We're already five minutes late for the scene of my vision when Buffy insists on parking her dad's car at least a street away from the site of, most likely, mucho destructo.

"Cordelia, this happens to have been... not my best night - I would rather be at home right now. And I do not," she slams the driver's door. "Have time to explain to my dad how his car got mauled by a demon - let alone what I was doing there."

"You mean he still doesn't know?"

She snatches the axe out of my hands:

"And it's going to stay that way."

That would be a warning for me to marginalize my non-tact - which would be okay, if the actual words had left her mouth - and frankly? This isn't my best night either.

"It's not like I'm longing to be here either."

"Good. So let's just find this thing, kill it, and our lives can go back to their opposite ends of sucking considerably."

"It's a plan."

Except that we have to run the rest of the way to even get near this thing - making us later than we should ever have been. Although, maybe these strange things happen in threes? Because there is absolutely no havoc being wreaked when we get there, although the demon is very much present; and thankfully, no bodies - dead or alive.

"What's it doing?"

I finally catch up with Buffy who's crouching beside the front wheel of the car nearest to it, on the opposite side of the street. She squints, tightens her grip on the handle of the axe and grimaces:

"Only in Los Angeles."

I finally get a better vantage point and peer over her shoulder. The hulk of a thing has only managed to get itself mesmerised by the Britney Spears video playing on an in-store television set. What gives? If that was all it took I could have slipped on my high school cheerleading uniform and made with the axe while it was too busy being an easy target.

Buffy has pretty much the same idea - sans the uniform. She considers the demon and the axe for a moment:

"A word of advice, Cor - if you're going to keep weapons at home at least keep ones that can do maximum damage with minimum actual fighting."

She should be glad I don't have a crossbow anymore but she doesn't wait for me to answer, just charges off and opens the fight with one of those quips she's so fond of making.

She manages to take it down in less time - it seems to me - than Angel would but that's more because right now Angel's the one who's pissed her off. And fighting, for her, is this whole cathartic thing. It's almost impressive how both of them get to work out their respective issues by literally killing any big evil that gets in their way - kind of like Faith but with way better discrimination.

So I'm all ready to thank Buffy, head home and hopefully never have to do this again - though not necessarily in that order - when the great slimy thing refuses to die and... I'd recap better but the whole screaming "look out" and throwing things at the demon to distract it (and missing) doesn't need much commentary. In the end, Buffy has to dump the in-store TV set (it having shattered the store's windows during the first fight) on its head to slow it down and behead it - which considering the size of the axe in question? I give her ten out of ten for yucky creativity.

Once the thing loses its head it pretty much dissolves in a way that is slug-like and may I say disgusting. More disgusting, however, is the fact that I end up at least half covered in the stuff.

It is now 2:54 am in the morning.


I'm testing the stains on my tank top, as we make our way back to the car:

"Why does this icky stuff always manage to happen to me?"

And is it me, or does being around Buffy manage to bring out my inner Sunnydale? She doesn't look that slime-free either.

"Wrong time, wrong place, Cor."

That tone is exasperation - because right now she's thinking the same thing, only her mind has supplied the answer: 'Oh yeah, it's my job!' And worse, we have to put down blankets before we can get into the car again.

On the way back neither of us says a word, so I decide to at least express some gratitude - because we normally charge for this kind of stuff.

"Thanks." Uncomfortable silence. "I know I can be kind of flip sometimes but if you hadn't been there to help me that thing would have moved on and killed an entire kitchen of Korean students."

Buffy remains quiet for a moment before asking:

"Where'd you get your visions from?"

"Kissing someone who I thought was a total loser until he sacrificed his life to save everyone in the city."

"Oh." Buffy laughs softly, but it's that ironic kind of laugh.

Sure, she thinks that could only happen to me but with our matching karma, one day she'll get more than just the picture. I change the subject because this one makes me think about Doyle and miss him.

"I cannot wait to go home, have a shower and go back to bed."

I feel the car edge forwards as Buffy puts her foot down on the accelerator.


4. The Donut Shop Avenger

There are more than a few places you'd hope to never find a recalcitrant slayer; in your near vicinity being No. 1, and in your boss' bed (particularly when the boss in question is a vampire who lost his soul and became a sadistic murderer after bedding the last Slayer) coming in at a close second.

I had already woken up that morning to a black eye NASA could observe from space, only marginally saved by my choosing to wear a large pair of Jackie O-style glasses - that I'd 'borrowed' from a girl at an audition and never given back (seeing as she went on to get the part, I figured she didn't need them); and already been told that Wesley was 'safe' after the previous night's game of hide-and-go-torture-the- Watcher - so my arrival at work the very next day was a combination of presumptions and facts:

Fact 1 - Wes was safe. Presumption - the description of harrowing torture had been greatly exaggerated. I mean, half the time Wesley was so prissy and British anyway what else was I supposed to think?

Fact 2 - Faith was with Angel. Presumption - this involved large restraints, a lock of some kind, and the throwing away of a key.

So I thought it safe to assume that a little trek downstairs to check on Angel wouldn't have any surprises. Other than the obvious bizarro- ness of finding a stony-faced Faith being made comfortable on Angel's bed of all things - and the appropriate restraints? Nowhere to be seen.

Angel looks at me as though nothing whatsoever could be wrong with this picture.



"So, Wes is...?"

"At home."

"And you are...?"

"Here with Faith."

And Faith is looking like she didn't get bounced along the streets long or hard enough to make a lasting impression of 'I'll-never-do- that-again'. Not that I'd actually care if she was hurting much except contrition doesn't seem to be the next thing about to dawn on the deranged state of mind vibe I'm feeling from her. She rolls over, so that she's facing me but from what I can see, she's not even blinking.

"Mail," I say, handing Angel the four or so envelopes that are probably of the pay-now-or-we-evict-later kind. He's busy reading and opening when I glance one more time at Faith (who still looks like she's been marginally lobotomised) and make my way back upstairs.


He has got to be kidding right? But no, I already know he's not kidding. This would be one of those times when Angel's at least two hundred year old seniority - during most of which he was happily oblivious to anyone else he wasn't driving insane or happily persecuting - rears its ugly head. This is what he thinks Faith needs, or whatever. Never mind what the rest of the people she ingenuously rampaged through might think or feel.

I'm already figuring, over filing and the still swelling sensitivity around my eye, that no way am I sticking around for Part Two: The Retribution when Wesley poses my second surprise of the morning by not only coming in but looking like he has indeed had the Third Reich makeover. He can't miss my eye either.


And though he says it softly, I stiffen slightly.

"Not you - obviously," he says, then sighs. " I can't tell you how sorry I am that I allowed this to happen."

The sighing is catching: "I believe it was Faith, who allowed her elbow to collide with my face - not your fault."

"At least you only got the elbow."

I smile commiseratively. "Well if it's any consolation it really does look like you were tortured by a much larger woman."

"She's still here, I assume."

I have to say, the indignance gets the better of me here: "He gave her his bed!"

Which would be the moment Angel makes his appearance from the skankier depths of housesitting the basket case.


"Angel." The provocation in Wesley's voice bounces off of Angel's I- am-so-obviously-saving-myself-downstairs-that-I-can't-at-least-stop- to-care.

"I didn't expect to see you in today. How are you feeling?"

"As well as to be expected."

Angel gives Wes a cursory once over - "Good. Good," (ignoring that Wesley's so obviously glaring at him over his glasses) and looks around the office, before settling on me:


I point at the box in the corner by the coffee.

"Developed a sweet fang, have you?" Wesley puts in.

While Angel develops selective hearing, still talking to me:

"You got jelly?"

I demonstrate a big fat donut hole with my hand, "Whole selection."

Wesley's still chafing. "Won't she find it difficult enjoying delicious, jelly-filled donuts if she is - one assumes - bound and gagged?"

Angel goes through the motions of explaining the situation as if Faith did nothing more drastic than rearrange Wesley's furniture.

"Wesley, we went through all this last night."

"Yes, you were right. The police would be ill equipped to hold a Slayer against her will. I understand why you chose not to turn her over to them - I do not, however, understand why the woman who brutally tortured me last night, this morning gets pastries!"

"I don't really have anything else downstairs - what do you want me to do, Wesley? Let her starve?"

And can he really be that oblivious?

"Certainly not. There are far more humane ways to deal with a rabid animal."

"She is not an animal."

(Probably not to a guy who's appetite for destroying things was legendary.)


"She's a person. In case you've forgotten - we're not in the business of giving up on people."

Which pretty much inflames Wesley right there. "Don't you dare take the moral high ground with me after what she did. I believe in helping people. I do not believe in coddling murderers!"

"It wasn't too long ago that you were the one making the case for her rehabilitation."

"It wasn't too long ago I had full feeling in my right arm!"

"She wants to change."

"There is evil in that girl, Angel. It doesn't matter what she wants, or says she wants - you set her free - she'll kill again."

Angel doesn't answer. Probably because if they weren't talking about Faith they could easily be talking about him.

Wesley takes that as a hint, picks up his jacket and leaves. Which pretty much? Exactly what I had in mind.

Angel takes stock of the shutter still fluttering against the door and concludes:

"He'll come around."

I make my way around the desk I've been sitting at. "Wesley? - Sure! - People always get a little funny right after they've been sadistically tortured. Well, you'd know."

I set a book of business cheques on the box of donuts he's holding. "I need you to sign these."

"You understand why we have to help Faith, don't you?"

>From where I am now? "Totally." He signs the first cheque and I point to the second: "And here."

"We can't just arbitrarily decide whose soul is worth saving and whose isn't."

Well, I guess not when they come in a Faith-shaped container.

"Oh, I know! And this one?" I point again before he signs, then rip out the page. "Thanks!"

"Wait. Those were all made out to you."


He inspects his signature in the book: "Paid vacation."

Meanwhile I'm already halfway into my jacket. "Like I'm going to stick around while psycho-case is roaming loose downstairs with three tons of medieval weaponry?" I slide the dark glasses on gingerly. "Not!"

I'm halfway out the door when I consider and add: "Oh - and I'm thinking - sugar high? Maybe not a great idea."

Then I'm gone. Because maybe, I'm thinking, this entire working for the undead boss isn't such a grand idea if it's okay by him for the people he saves to mangle the people who routinely give him the benefit of the doubt. And sure, I can now understand why he did it but I'm not saying that this kind of thing hasn't always been a blind spot of his.

I go home and leave a message for Wes - I figure sharing the spoils of the punitive wealth is a good idea before I commit to some drastic retail therapy and opt out of doing the right thing.


5. The Look of Revenge

The something I figured wasn't right emerges when Buffy misses my turning and takes me back, not to my apartment, but to her dad's.

For once I don't ask. I figure she's in a frame of mind where avoiding Angel at all costs is a good idea. (Which is pretty good prescience from where I'm standing now.) And I'm not about to disagree with her until I have a change of clothes.

The house is nothing like I'd expect for a place that she says she grew up in, but I do wonder how come her mom and dad don't patch up their differences - I mean, for the sake of the decor alone.

Her dad isn't home. Which explains how she could borrow his car in the middle of the night without arousing his curiosity. Her explanation? Some kind of a business convention. I don't care much for the details I just want out of the slime wear.

What I get is a change of clothes not exactly in my size and access the shower.

The guest room's full-length mirror allows me to observe the wrongness of the ill-fitting clothes she's loaned me - the t-shirt doesn't quite cover the rebar scar I received in Sunnydale, and that's before I get to the state of the pants. My legs are at least a couple of inches too long.

It gets weirder.

I'm somewhere between that and examining the weird and wonderful colours my black eye is turning when I realise she's come into the room behind me. She's wearing what I think are sweats under a dressing gown, and carrying a change in pants - which I welcome - until I realise they're men's.

"They're my dad's," she says. "Don't worry, he never wore them - too small."

Well okay then.

Buffy has her hair up - which is a nice improvement on the look she had before - but she looks tired, as tired as I feel. I allow myself a slight self-congratulation on not looking that bad at least, until she motions carefully to the bruise on my face, and I remember the black eye:

"Let me guess, Faith?"

"You should have seen what she did to Wesley."

"I did."

Which would bring all the pieces of this random puzzle I've been living for the last few hours together: Angel being AWOL, the peevish attitude, the near sulking, the...

"She turned herself in anyway."

She? Faith turned herself in? Maybe she was lobotomised after all.

I notice the scar on her neck, and for some reason decide not to ask about Angel.

"I guess it's too much to hope that she just hopped on a bus from Sunnydale without getting in anyone's way?"


Buffy sits down on the edge of the bed in the middle of the room.

"As much as I'd like to know the details-"

"She swapped bodies with me."

Realising this isn't going to be over any time soon I sit down next to her. It's funny now how I can't figure out why she's telling me all this. Although, it leaves me with a tantalizing question:

"Did it hurt?"

"Kind of, I guess. It's like putting something into a space where it doesn't belong."

"Yeah, kind of like my mom and my old Jimmy Choos."

She laughs at that.

"Figure you need a hug?"

She looks at me as if I've just lost my mind. "What? It's not like I can't grow as a person big enough to give you one." And after that I might just be able to leave. "After one of my visions-"

"Your visions hurt?"

"Like someone pouring hot lava into my skull. Anyway, human contact helps. And, it's not like Wes isn't practically a woman anyway." Except now I keep remembering him storming out of the office doors. "Well, he used to be anyway."

I glance at my watch, and she notices.

"Okay," her expression mirrors what she feels is the incredulousness of the request - and me agreeing to it. "I guess I can live with a hug."

We both edge towards each other. I put my arms around her pretty quickly because the entire atmosphere is starting to get hesitant - and may I add, stupid - because it's just a hug.

Anyway, once I'm holding her, Buffy seems to accept the fact, and I place a hand on her back and bring it from the top of her shoulders to the small of her back. Which she seems to like because I feel her breathe out, and with that, totally relax.

Normally? This is where I disengage, except Buffy seems to want to extend the moment longer than is natural. So I presume it's a Slayer thing, though it reminds me, for some reason, of hugging Doyle.

I'm thinking along these lines when Buffy decides (finally!) to let go.

Which would be when I kiss her.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mean it like that. It just suddenly occurred to me that if she somehow picked up on my visions and the Powers brought her to me, then what other reason could it be than for me to give her my visions? Besides, I'd tried it on Wesley and Angel to no actual gain. Why discriminate? And with her being a Slayer it would be like an instant resolution to me not actually being very good in a fight and Angel not being on hand all the time.

Only it doesn't work. I don't feel any different. And I expect that I'll have to explain the situation when she freaks out about it. Which might actually make her more eager to, you know, take me home like she should have in the first place.

But that doesn't happen.

Sure, there's this initial resistance to the idea of me kissing her but then there's... nothing. Except the sound of me kissing her the middle of the room.

I'm the first person to pull away because - I have breathing issues.

Which would be what I'm doing now - breathing. She's doing the same, looking at me. There's this slight look of mystification turning into something else on her face. To which I think: Anything but another Slayer elbow.

So when she raises her hand to my face, I think I shrink back a little despite myself. But that isn't what's happening; she's just touching my face where the bruise is. Leaning forward slowly she presses her lips against it, and I close both eyes.

Of course, this is nothing short of gross misinterpretation but I'll be the first to admit that it's more than a little pleasant.

When she kisses me again, her earnest way of kissing is replaced by something a little fiercer, and a little more direct. To which I wonder if it's possible for a little bit of Faith to get trapped in Buffy, and a little bit of Buffy to get trapped in Faith on their way around each others bodies. But for the most part I'm starting to feel like I want her to kiss me. It certainly doesn't feel like revenge - although that would have been her original motive in bringing me here - but she realised when she entered the room that she wasn't going to follow through on it.

The kissing, however, doesn't stop. And if I could read her thoughts then like I can now I'd realise that she was thinking about high school and her early envy of me leading the cheer squad - although that petered out later when she realised Darryl Epps wanted my head as the crown on his achievement of miscellaneous girl parts. Even so, the impressions of the cheer squad's strong thighs and competitive flirtation with the crowd reminded her of why she liked it so much: To be seen, heard and admired.

Buffy used to cheer until there was nothing to cheer about - she kept it up long enough to prove that she could - and long enough to burn down the school gym. It came up again for about two seconds in Sunnydale and went down with a girl almost going up in flames. Being normal again clearly wasn't going to happen.

I guess, I could say the same.


6. (Even Better Than) The Real Thing

"This is the City.

"Los Angeles, California.

"Four hundred and sixty-five square miles of constantly interfacing humanity; representing every race, colour, creed, and persuasion, but God - no matter how He is worshipped, chose in his infinite wisdom to deposit here, in the cultural nexus of the Pacific Rim."

"Almost four million people work and play here, and like any other place, anywhere, there are those who have it and those who want it..."

No kidding.

"Those who have it, enjoy it, no matter how they got it. Those who want it can get it by attempting to better themselves in a sympathetic community populated by decent citizens cheering them on; or they can try to take it the easy way, because even in the City Of Angels, from time to time, some halos slip..."

"That's where I come in, doing my job to the best of my ability on a daily basis. I work here. I carry a badge..."

The theme from Dragnet reverberates like a bomb across the living room, just while I'm pondering the hurricane-like nature of things Buffy and how she sweeps in like she might be a mildly entertaining and exotic interlude, and basically up ends things with her irrepressible nature of things-she-wants-but-cannot-have. Sure, there's an up side - at the heart of this storm lies someone, who, if they hadn't been selected by some random supernatural force to be a lightning rod for the elimination of all things grotesque and apocalypse now-y, could have been an acceptable representative of all the things I found appreciable in high school (with my help, of course; I would have fixed the hair and the kinky boots straight off the bat). But really, last night the view from the floor of my apartment had been no place to judge.

It's not that difficult to figure out what just happened in the last 24 hours - although, I can honestly say that getting in the way of people on the path of retribution? Hazardous to the health.

Not that either Dennis or I will be slamming the door in Buffy's face any time soon.

Hearing a clutter from the kitchen I figure it's kind of mean of me to let Wesley make his own tea. So I go into the kitchen to help him. We're giving Angel the cold shoulder he so rightly deserves (which would be what we'd be doing if we were in any union to speak of) - although, Wesley's already tried to weasel his way out of it (twice!).

If I get a vision I fax or phone it in, as I maintain that we're both in recovery. The cheque I gave Wesley, while not the greatest, helps for a bit - and I don't mind him coming over every so often for food - although that's not what I tell him - especially if he's seen or talked to Angel. Usually he comes in with the impression that we've been fired or something, to which I say:

"He'll come around." As Angel so can't fire the visions of this operation.

Wesley's cup wobbles as he places his cup of tea on the coffee table and wipes his glasses. (I think his coordination is a little more off since the Faith thing.)

The phone rings in the background and I make no effort to pick it up, although Wesley twitches a little when he realises it's Angel - who's asking how I indexed the filing again.

I offer Wes my bowl of popcorn before flicking though several channels and stopping at a black and white movie. The machine rings off without either of us having touched the phone.

Sure, it's not real revenge, but it'll do.


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