Cordelia wakes up to find the world is utterly changed.
Cordelia wakes up and standing there watching is Lilah, Lilah who fell dead at her feet, and in Lilah's eyes is something that looks like sympathy.
Cordelia wakes up and discovers that for most of them, Connor never existed. Angel explains his choice in halting words, and Cordelia's heard them all before. The forgotten day, Angel, she thinks. He's so unoriginal it hurts.
Cordelia wakes up and she knows why Angel gave him up, gave him to a different world that he deserved, knows why Angel chose Wolfram and Hart and not the lone warrior in the field model. Doesn't mean she agrees, but she understands.
Cordelia wakes up, and she wants to throw up until her insides are turned out, because there's so much that's happened to her and they really can't have any idea. How it feels. Her body was stolen from her. Her mind. Her words. Her soul. Everything was taken from her, controlled and manipulated by something else, something that spread her legs and thrust her knife into someone's throat and made her like it, this killing, this evil. And now, even knowing this, her friends can't look her directly in the eye.
Cordelia wakes up and realizes Angel doesn't love her.
And isn't that...not a kick in the head. Cordelia doesn't love Angel either. She didn't. Not ever. What's worse, she didn't love Connor, doesn't love Connor. Not like that. Love, the kind of down-deep in love love? That keeps getting away from Cordelia, slip-sliding away from her in ways she just can't understand. She thinks she loved Xander. Once. And she thinks that she almost loved Doyle. Once.
Now she's alone and isolated and love is beyond her horizon. Her friends aren't even her friends anymore.
Speaking of her friends, they got fucking weird. Gunn is connected to something larger than himself, some sort of power that Cordy doesn't quite understand. Fred is...completely and utterly Fred. In love with Willow. Working in the lab sixteen hours a day. Talking about how they're a year, two years, three weeks away from a cure for cancer, an end to hunger, a way to grow traits so everyone's pretty and young forever. Wesley is stubbly and dangerous and back to his books. He and Lilah have apparently decided Buffy and Angel weren't angsty enough for the universe, so they pine and gaze and everyone knows their pain. She's dead, he wants to save her and doesn't know why, they're in love, and it can never be except for those kinky trysts they keep having in semi-public places.
At least they're not Angel. Angel doesn't even know what he wants. He pretends to hate it, being Mr. Angel with the desk and the power and the minions and the selling out. Hell, Buffy saw the new set-up Angel had and went back to Cleveland swearing at the top of her lungs that she'd marry Xander before she'd date corporate sell-out Angel. Cordy suspects Buffy's bitter because Angel has twelve cars and Buffy and Dawn barely make rent on a two-bedroom in Ohio.
Then again, Buffy came for Spike, and was vexed to discover Spike didn't need her anymore--and besides that, he's hardly the souled-vamp-man he once was. Spike told Buffy that she was kind, but he didn't want her pity. And Cordelia knows for a fact that Buffy likes having the all-time Big Angsty Starcrossed Lovers title, and Wes and Lilah are currently kicking her ass in that department. It had been great. Buffy just stood there while those two were fighting about some deal with Wolfram and Hart planning to transfer Lilah to an extra-toasty hell dimension, Wesley swearing he'd sell his soul first, Lilah screaming at him that he couldn't, she wasn't worth it, and the messy foreplay, and in the end, Buffy knew she was whipped. Serves her right for all the crap she'd put everyone else through concerning Angel.
In short, Buffy found LA to be not so much to her liking and made sure to make everyone miserable in the three days she deigned to visit. Cordy hopes that she's having fun in Ohio and will now stay there.
Cordelia, when she's not scrubbing her skin raw to get rid of the taint of that icky thing that took her over and raped her mind, body, and soul, is actually really amused by the drama. Her old self--the self she likes, the non-possessed bitch queen of Sunnydale self--is starting to feel more confident in her head again. She might be bruised and broken and fucked up, but she's Cordelia fucking Chase, and not even some elder god reborn as her daughter's going to take that away from her. And god DAMN, she's tired of being pale and sick and invalid and all these crazy people thinking she's ready to sacrifice herself another virgin any day now.
It wasn't her, for fuck's sake, she feels like screaming, it wasn't ever her thing, and yeah, it's hard to separate what was her and what was Pod-Cordy, but you know? Shit happens, and at least she made her choices thinking she was doing the right thing.
Cordelia's tired of being the victim. She was the victim, and yeah, it sucked like unto nothing that has or ever will suck. But now that she's awake, free of those damn visions, single as she's ever been, twenty-two going on twenty-three, no one's mother-figure, and well-funded again? It's time to cast down the victim talk and find a better way.
In short, Cordelia makes a decision or six. And when she's done deciding, she sends for Lilah, their not-so-friendly supernatural concierge slash contingency planner slash tempter.
"Fashion victim," Cordelia says briefly. "I'm tired of being one. Let's change that."
Lilah smiles, because she gets it "We can have you on a plane to Milan in twenty minutes," she offers. "Any designer you want, next season's line. A week at Bacara if you want it. Say the word, it's yours."
Cordelia grins. Lilah is extremely good at what she does, and it's nice to know at least one other person who's as vain and stylish as she is.
"So do you think pod-me killing you cancels out regular-you almost killing me?" she asks.
"In the cosmic scheme of things, we're both still pretty and buying clothes, so what the hell?" Lilah answers pragmatically. "Are you suggesting vicious bitch solidarity?"
"Something like," Cordelia says. "You look me in the eye."
"And vice versa," Lilah says gracefully.
The important stuff out of the way, Cordy goes looking for Spike. Or William, as people are starting to call him. To her, he's still Spike, because whatever. He has the Spike-memories, he bleaches his hair Spike-blond, so he's Spike. In any case, she feels like she needs to see him, and so she goes and finds him in the library bothering Wesley, who's busy on the phone to Giles and Xander and their reformulated baby, the New Watchers Council.
"Cordelia," Wes says stiffly, putting Giles on hold. "Are you looking for something?"
"I wanted to see if William wanted to go to lunch," she says with one of her disarming smiles. Wes is the one who's weirdest with her. Which, y'know, Cordy gets. Pod-Cordy totally shunned him (even though he doesn't remember the Connor thing), ignored him, and then slaughtered his one true love. Never mind that at the time, one true love was getting the boot for Fred. Wes has the issues, Cordy can admit they're fair, whatever.
"He's over in the stacks," Wesley says tightly, going back to his conference call. Cordelia wanders off. Spike is sitting at a table, wearing a pair of glasses and reading something nervously.
"You know, for someone as badass as you were always supposed to be, you're kind of a wussie," Cordelia says, plopping herself down in front of Spike. He looks up, completely confused.
"Cordelia?" he asks, sounding uneasy.
"Yeah, still me," she says. "Awake and demon-free for sixty-three days and counting."
That makes him smile. "I think I'm at day ninety-seven," he admits. "So what brings you to the World of Wyndam-Pryce? I know he fancies brunette for lunch, but I'm guessing you're not on the menu."
"And the WAYS I did not need to hear that," Cordy says. "Actually, I was going to ask you to lunch. Not for lunch, though behave and I might even snark at Wesley on the way out about being a complete slut."
Spike perks up. "Can we go somewhere with bloomin' onions and buffalo wings?" he asks. "Maybe a good beer? Because if that's the case, you can have me for lunch and take me to lunch and leave Wesley unzinged."
Cordelia snickers. "Like I'd EVER neglect a chance to do something that left Wesley zingless," she says, standing up. Spike offers her an arm, all gallant-like, and she takes it. "Hey, Wes? Spike and I are going to lunch. So take your time with the evil undead, okay?"
Spike is still laughing by the time they get to the lobby. "Bloody hell, Evil-delia," he teases. "I'd known you were back to your clever-mouthed ways, I'd've gone looking for you and not hid out with the sodding broodmaster in the library. Do all of Angel's sidekicks take brooding lessons from the poofter?"
"To admire Angel is to love the brood," Cordelia replied cheerfully. "Wesley just takes that hero-worship a little too far."
"Bet his girl likes to watch that," Spike quips. "Oh, Wes! Hero-worship Angel just a little more--oh, like that, like that!"
Cordelia blushes and howls with laughter at the same time as they walk toward the limo. Cuz, funny. True. For a second, she forgets that the reason they've been calling Spike William is because he's human now. She worries when they walk into a mid-November santana, glancing his way.
"Human now, remember?" he asks, waggling his hand. "I got me one of those shanshus that shoulda belonged to Angel. At least, that's what the Mouse told me, very seriously."
Cordelia can actually imagine Fred saying that, and she shrugs before telling the limo driver where to go and turning back to Spike.
"Fred also thinks I should kill Lilah again because if anyone deserved the whole Rosemary's Baby bit, it was her. So, you know, it's all her opinion," Cordy says.
Spike nods. "Opinions are tricky things," he says. "Like I'm of the opinion that Peaches sold his soul to Satan and this set-up's too good to be true."
"And I'm of the opinion that lying about Connor's stupid," Cordy says. "But mention it to anyone and they're like--who's Connor?"
Spike smirks. "You mean the kid? Yeah, Angel's been stalkin' him a little sometimes. Which is bloody typical Angel," he says. "And if you try to press it, they get this look on their face--Ben is Glory? What?"
"What?" Cordy asks.
"Nevermind," Spike says. "Old joke. But I know how you feel. And Angel's a bloody wall on the subject. Worse than anything. One of these days, it's gonna come apart, and the bloody ministers of grace are gonna beat him to death."
"Only in your wildest dreams."
Spike smirks. "Oh, those include whipped cream, pretty girls giving me a bob's-your-uncle, and sodding Angel getting his ass kicked by Swedish girls on motorcycles with chains."
"Your fantasies are a place I never need to visit," Cordy says as the limo stops. "Shall we?"
"We shall," Spike says.
Suddenly aware that they're allies in this upside-down world gone crazy, Spike and Cordelia look at each other and grin sheepishly. Spike offers Cordy his arm, and she accepts.
It's not what either of them would have expected, but as hopeful beginnings go? Could be worse.
"You know, buffalo wings are going to make you fat," Cordelia says as they walk toward the restaurant. "Bad for the heart."
"Well, you can eat the extras, cuz you could use a little meat on those bones, Little Miss Skin and Bones," Spike replies. "I can bloody eat what I want."
Cordelia smiles. "Yeah, wait until all those leather pants stop fitting," she teases. "Then you'll have to go on a diet with me and you'll get cranky."
It's a start, she keeps telling herself as they walk into the restaurant. Flirting with Spike, recapturing the inner vicious bitch, refusing to be a victim. Things aren't perfect and they won't be for a long time. But it's definitely a start.