As she sat on her comfortable, expensive bed, Cordelia Chase hated to admit it, but she wanted her imaginary friend to show up.
It was silly, really. In fact, it was absurd. Her old invisible friend had been a figment of her imagination when she was merely four. Not only did it seem so long ago, but Cordelia knew that while, as asinine as it sounded, vampires existed, werewolves existed, mummies existed, even huge bugmen existed, imaginary playmates did not, under any circumstance, exist except in the person's mind.
But that fact did little to stop Cordelia from wanting her friend to pop up again. She knew that it was just because she was so unsure right now in her life. After all, she just became a--what did Xander call them?--slayerette, along with Xander, Oz, and Willow, who she didn't think liked her very much. Not that she would blame her, since Willow had always been Cordelia's human punching bag, ever since they were seven.
She was part of an exclusive, yet isolating club. A small band of youngsters pitted against the hordes of hell. Naturally, Cordelia thought they were doomed. They were bound to die sooner or later. After all, how does one computer wiz(Willow), one cute but dorky guy(Xander), one werewolf with a crush on the `puter nerd(Oz), and one ex-popularity Queen(herself), possibly have a chance in hell against all that evil?
Of course, there was Buffy, the Slayer. The one that was supposed to be doing all the high-risk stuff, but Cordelia noted that that rarely happened. One of the slayerettes was always putting their neck out to help Buffy. Even she, Cordelia Chase, who just a few months ago couldn't stand the sight of Buffy and her two sidekicks, was helping.
Not that Cordelia wasn't glad that Buffy was around. After all, somebody had to fight for the good of mankind, and as much as it pained her to admit it, Cordelia knew that Buffy was the best one for the job. Tough, quick, stubborn, but not stupid. Those were the basics of Buffy, as through the eyes of Cordelia. She secretly had a very high opinion of the Slayer.
Cordelia suddenly wondered if Xander had a high opinion of her.
"Bad, bad Cordelia!" she smacked herself with her pillow a few times, and flopped face down on her bed. She didn't want to have those types of thoughts.
Xander was why her life was all messed up. He was the reason nothing was the same. It was Xander who made her want her goofy imaginary pal to make an unlikely appearance. It was all Alexander Harris' fault!
It was Xander Harris who she had unexpectedly fallen for, and it was for him that she had dumped her previous life in the uppercrust of popularity. One day she was the Queen of Sunnydale High, the next she was the lowest of the lows she wasn't a girl who had accidentally fallen out of favor. Worse, she was a traitor. She had deliberately dumped her status.
And for what? For a guy. And not just any guy, but Xander Harris, a guy who was all too happy to be an outcast, which made him even more of an outcast.
Cordelia had wondered for a while if it had been worth it. If he had been worth it. She was foolishly believing that he wasn't, until Harmony, who Cordelia thought was her best friend, had stabbed her in the back, and taken over as the most popular girl in school. Harmony had perversely enjoyed shoving it into Cordelia's face.
Cordelia knew that most of her popular friends had only been "friends" to look good, but she had always thought, well, always hoped that Harmony was different. That Harmony, who she had known since kindergarten, was a real, true friend.
She had been terribly, dreadfully wrong. And that type of betrayal hurt her more than losing all the popularity in the world ever could.
And who had been there when Cordelia had run out of the school in the middle of the day, and hid behind a tree to cry? Xander Harris. He had followed her out, and sat next to her. He hadn't said a word. He had simply looked at her, wiped away some tears, placed a hand on the side of her face, and had gently guided her tear-stained visage to his shoulder. It was more profound and meaningful than any words he could've spoken.
The more she thought about the whole thing, the more Cordelia realized that it really wasn't Xander's fault that she was exiled from the land of Celebrity. No, it wasn't his fault. It was hers. She had deliberately chosen him over being in vogue. But, she did have regrets.
She wanted to have her cake, and eat it, too.
"That's the dumbest cliché I've ever heard," Cordelia muttered into her pillow. "What's the point of having cake if you can't eat it?"
What she really wanted was for her to have her old status back, and still be dating Xander. And be friends with Buffy, Willow, Oz, and--heaven help her--Giles, as well. After all, she liked them. Cordelia couldn't believe it at first, but the more she knew them, the more she liked them. They were funny, and nice. It was the first time in a long time that Cordelia didn't worry about whether or not somebody was being sincere to her.
Cordelia hated liars. She might have been a Grade-A snob, but no one could accuse Cordelia Chase of being a liar. It was one value that she held dear. It was something Simon had taught her.
`Simon,' she thought, a little smile edging its way on her face. She looked up from her pillow, and reached out to her nightstand, grabbing a small, shiny object from it. It was a silver ring with a Celtic design. Simon had given it to her when she was young. How long ago had that been? She must've been only on the verge of six. It hadn't fit her at all back then, but Cordelia smiled, satisfied, as the ring slipped easily onto her right ring finger.
"It'll give you good luck," Simon had explained, smiling in the bright, elfish way she always had.
But Simon was just an imaginary friend, Cordelia lamented. Her parents had probably bought the ring on a trip to Ireland when she was young, and had left it on her dresser, forgetting to tell her that they had bought her something, which was a common thing for them to do. Besides, it didn't seem like the ring was working at the moment.
Simon had been conjured up by Cordelia when she was four years old, and her parents went on their first, but certainly not last trip without her. They had tried to reassure her as best they could, which wasn't much at all, but they had eventually left her alone.
Terrified and distraught, little Cordelia had locked herself in her room, crying so hard that she gave herself a headache. She didn't want to be alone, why couldn't her parents see that?
When she heard a loud thump behind her, Cordelia had jumped into her bed, and under her covers.
"Ow, that smarts!" she had heard a young, strange female voice exclaim. "Well, that's gonna leave a mark. Hey, kid, whatcha doin' hidin' under those covers? I ain't gonna bite."
Cordelia hadn't moved.
"Geez, kiddo, that ain't gonna work," the strange voice had said, amused. "Doncha know coverin' yourself with blankets doesn't protect you from the ghoulies in the night?"
Cordelia had started to sob at that point.
"Oy. Oh-tay, maybe that wasn't the best thing to say. C'mon out, kiddo. I ain't gonna hurt you, I promise. In fact," the voice had added. "I was sent here to protect you, go fig."
"Y-you're here to protect me?" Cordelia had nearly whispered, still not daring to look out from the safe covers.
"That's right, kiddo. Um, you are Cordelia Chase, right?" the voice had asked, sheepishly.
"Uh, huh," Cordelia had sniffed.
"Then consider me your protector for a long time to come," a smile had found its way into the weird voice. "Now, how 'bout you come on outta there?"
Taking a deep breath, Cordelia had poked her head out from underneath the blankets, and stared in awe at her "gaurdian angel."
She looked like she was 19, at the most. She had been wearing a phosphorescent, sliver dress. It was always in movement, like it had been alive itself. She had had dark hair, with an odd, green tint to it, and blue eyes so light, they had been nearly white.
The slim figure had then smiled to Cordelia with rose colored lips and had said, "Hiya, kiddo. The name's Simona."
"Simona?" Cordelia had repeated.
"Please, just call me Simon. Simona sounds so . . . so . . . ," Simon had wrinkled her nose, "snobbish. And stupid. Definitely, definitely stupid."
Cordelia had giggled at the strange face Simon had made. She had felt a lot safer at that moment. She wasn't going to be alone for the week like she thought!
"So, kiddo, what do ya friends call you?" Simon had asked.
"Cordelia," had been the response.
"No nickname? How 'bout your parents?" Simon had gasped when Cordelia had shook her head to that. "Not even a nickname from your parents? Sheesh. Oh-tay then, from now on I'm callin' you Cordy. Or kiddo. Whichever one comes first in my mind."
That had been Cordelia's first meeting with Simon. She had been the first "person" to ever call her Cordy. Cordelia hadn't liked it when anyone else called her that. Harmony, and the others, whenever they rarely called her that, it had always sounded wrong, and foreign to her ears. It had only been when Xander started calling her that that it had sounded right again.
"And I'm right back to where I started again," Cordelia placed her chin in her hands, and pouted. "Simon would know what to do. She always made everything sound so simple."
"`Course I did," an odd, familiar voice said behind her. "That's my specialty, ya know."
With a weird feeling in her stomach, Cordelia turned. "Simon?"
"Who did you think it was?" the green haired figment said. "Santa Claus? How ya doin', kiddo?"
"You can't be real," Cordelia said, without much conviction. "You're just . . . an imaginary playmate I made up when I was young."
"Shyeah, whatever makes ya happy, Cordy," Simon whipped her head back, tossing her green hair. "You always thought I was a figment, why change now?"
"B-but why are you back?" Cordelia gripped her bedsheats, like she had done at her first meeting with Simon. "What are you doing here?"
"Ah, ain't that the million dollar question. Not that you would need a million bucks. Well, kiddo, I'm afraid you're just going to have to ask yourself that," Simon jumped up, and sat on Cordelia's desk, knocking a few things off. "After all, if I'm just an illusion you've conjured, than it's your fault I'm here, not mine. So, what's the reason?"
"Well, how should I know? I've had problems before, and you've never popped up, so there's no reason you should've done so now. Not really, anyway," Cordelia added.
"Uh, oh. Sounds like a personal problem to me. Not school. Not a fashion emergency. Parents?" Simon guessed, and Cordelia shook her head. "No, huh? Um, friends?"
"Well, kinda," Cordelia relented a bit.
"`I see' said the blind man to the deaf boy," nodded Simon. "So, what's wrong with your friends? Not exactly being friendly?"
"They're being a bunch of . . . of . . . " stuttered Cordelia.
"Say it, kiddo."
"They're being a bunch of bitches, all right?" Cordelia spat. "They kicked me out of the group `cause they don't like the guy I'm dating."
"Whoa, that's harsh. And really, really, dumb. I always knew Harmony and Company were a flock o' flakes, but this beats the band," Simon frowned. "Who the heck are you goin' with, anyhoo? I hate to admit it,--since we're always honest with each other I will anyway--but I always saw you as the captain of the cheerleading team, goin' out with one of the jocks. No offense," she added.
"I am captain of the cheerleading team!" Cordelia exclaimed.
"Oopsie. My bad," flushed Simon.
"And I did go out with some of the jocks. Not anymore," a sardonic grin flashed on Cordelia's pretty face. "No, now I'm going with a real doozy."
"Must be to have Melody-"
"Whatever. Must be to have the flake patrol boot out their leader. So, who is it?" eagerness flickered in Simon's oh-so-light blue eyes.
Cordelia smiled shyly, embarrassed. "Xander Harris."
"WHAT?!?!" Simon looked as if she was going to have a heart attack. "Alexander Harris? The little boy who put gum in your hair in kindergarten? The one you swore to me you would hate forever, even though I told you he only did it `cause he liked you? That Xander Harris?"
"Yeah, that Xander Harris," Cordelia said, lifting her chin a bit. "He's not that bad anymore. Well, he doesn't stick gum in my hair, anyway."
"I always thought you two would kill each other first before you ever realized how much ya liked each other," stated Simon.
"Well, it could've gone either way at one point," Cordelia muttered, sarcastically.
Well, doesn't this just beat all? The Queen of the Flakes datin' the King of the Dorks." Simon grinned.
"But he's a cute dork," Cordelia defended.
"Oh, well, that makes all the difference in the world," she shrugged.
"It does! Kinda," added Cordelia. "But you don't understand. I mean, how can I not be in the In crowd? I don't know how to function."
"Oy," Simon hung and shook her head. "How have you managed to survive without me, kiddo? Ya really want to know how I feel? I mean, really?"
"Uh," Cordelia hesitated, then nodded fervently, "yeah, I do. Basically."
"I think your friends are twits, with absolutely not one functioning brain cell between them, and that you're better off without them. You should grateful that you found a guy who actually likes you, and not just your body," Simon crossed her arms.
"Well, he's kinda fond of my body, too," Cordelia admitted.
"He's a guy, what do ya want from him?" asked Simon, tartly. "C'mon, kiddo, why are you so upset? It's not like you've been dealt such a great loss. I mean, after all, look at who dumped ya! A bunch of worthless Twiggy look-a-likes. It coulda been worse. You coulda lost somebody who you really cared about."
"But I did care about them," snapped Cordelia. "I mean, I do care about them."
"No, you don't. However," Simon raised her hands to stop Cordelia from interrupting, "if you truly think that they're worth your precious time, then fine. I'll go to school with ya tomorrow, take a look at the situation, and tell ya what t' do. Alrighty?"
"You mean it?" Cordelia asked, hopefully.
"Kiddo, have I ever let you down?" Simon lifted a green brow.
Cordelia beamed. "Thanks, Simon. I really appreciate it. I really do, honest."
"I know ya do, kiddo. If there's one thing that I taught you that you actually remember, it's how t' be honest. Though, I wish," Simon added, as she began to disappear, "that you had also remembered how t' be smart."
As the green figment vanished, Cordelia relaxed. Simon was going to fix everything.
Cordelia suddenly went rigid. "Simon's going to fix everything?" she thought out loud. "I just had a whole conversation with my old imaginary playmate. I'm wiggin', that's it. Yeah," she placed a pillow over head, and moaned. "I'm definitely certifiable."
Cordelia woke up with a moan. She had slept in the terribly uncomfortable position of her neck arched up and to the left on the arm of her backrest. She had a stiff neck, she just knew it.
Worse, she had slept in her clothes! Cordelia wrinkled her nose and kept her eyes shut tight, as she gingerly sat up.
"Ugh, I feel so gross," she complained. "Why did I do this? Oh, yeah," she said, with a flippancy she didn't feel, "I began to hallucinate, and I thought I saw an imaginary playmate. I've been slummin' with Buffy and the loser patrol for too long."
"Rise and shine, Cordy!" said a cheerful, and strange voice. "Time to see what this day has to offer."
Cordelia's eyes flew open. "Oh, no."
"Oh, yes, little girl," Simon sat on her bed, and crossed her arms. "Guess you were wrong 'bout that whole, um, `wiggin`' thing, huh?"
"I've gone insane, that's it," Cordelia said, as Simon stood up and walked over to the closet. "Yeah, I've gone nutsoid. I've lost it. Dating Xander, and losing my popularity was the last straw. I've snapped. Yeah."
"Eeeehh," Simon buzzed. "You are incorrect, madam. You're as sane as you possibly can be, and I really exist. Deal with it. Now," Simon pulled out a pink dress, "how 'bout this?"
"Eelch," Cordelia gagged, her fashion sense calming her down. "Pink is just not in anymore."
"You mean there was a time when it actually was in? Sheesh, that's scary," Simon shook her head. "`Sides, it wouldn't look too good with those bluish circles under your eyes."
"What? I have circles under my eyes!" Cordelia ran frantically to her mirror, and glowered at Simon after she gave her own image a good look. "I do not have circles!"
"I know," Simon laughed. "I just had to egg ya. Sorry."
"No, you're not," muttered Cordelia.
"You're right, I'm not," Simon went into a full fledged laughing fit. "Ya shoulda seen the horrified look on your face," she said through a few chortles. "Priceless!"
"You're really sick, you know that?" Cordelia tried to keep a straight face, though she felt a smile pushing on the corners of her mouth. "I'm gonna go take a shower now. Try not to break anything, okay?"
Simon swallowed a chuckle. "Oh-tay. I'll just have a little looksie in your closet. Pick somethin' nice and tasteful out for ya."
"Oh, I'm so afraid," Cordelia mumbled, only half-joking, as she left the room to shower.
"Well, we're here, don't talk to me," was all Cordelia said to Simon as they walked into Sunnydale High.
"Why?" Simon asked, almost looking serious.
"Well, letsee," Cordelia whispered quickly, hoping no one would notice. "`Cause they'll think I've gone Linda Blair on them, and lock me away in a padded cell?"
"Oh. Well, that makes sense," was Simon's overly simple response.
Cordelia rolled her eyes, and began to walk to her locker, all the while wondering if she was the only person in the hall who could hear Simon's footsteps, which seemed deafeningly loud to her ears.
"Hey, Cordy," a familiar voice filtered through the noise, and Cordelia sighed with relief.
"Xander," she turned to source of the voice, and smiled politely at the handsome young brunette, who was giving her a lopsided grin in return.
"That's Xander Harris?" Simon suddenly piped up. "When did he become a hottie?"
She couldn't help it Cordelia beamed at that. Simon was the first person to actually approve of Xander. Not even her parents had done that. Hell, not even Buffy and Willow had approved the relationship, though it wasn't for the same reason her parent's hadn't. It was a nice feeling to know there was at least one person who liked it. Even if that one person happened to be a delusion of a diseased mind.
"My, you look happy today," Xander commented. "What, does the Gap have a sale goin' on?"
"No, I just..." Cordelia really didn't want to get into a lover's spat in front of Simon. A little bit too embarrassing for her taste. "Listen, I didn't get a great night sleep, so be gentle with me today, all right? I'm fragile."
"You're anything but," laughed Xander. "And I usually have more fun when we play rough. However," he added when she tried to snap a response, "since you asked so nicely, I...suppose I'll be good today."
"You're a gentleman and a scholar," Cordelia muttered, sardonically.
"I try. Hey," Xander leaned over, and began to twirl a lock of her hair, "Buffy, Willow, Oz and me are gonna go to The Bronze tonight. Feel up to coming?"
"Oh, look how he's twirling your hair," Simon gushed. "That's so cute! Say yes. I know I would if my boyfriend looked like that."
"Well, I don't know," hesitated Cordelia. "It's a Friday, after all."
"That's kinda the point, Cordy," Xander raised an eyebrow. "The Bronze'll be kickin' tonight."
"Yeah," Simon pushingly agreed. "You can show off your cute dork. Be proud of your geeky catch."
"Yeah," repeated Cordelia, unenthusiastically. "Kickin'. And full of people."
"I guess. Oh, I get it," Xander suddenly stiffened, as his voice turned cold. "You don't want to be seen with me, right? Heaven forbid people think that you care for a dork like me, huh?"
"No, that's not it," Cordelia defended. "That's not it at all."
"Sure, whatever you say, your High, Holy Prissiness," snapped Xander, and he began to walk away.
"Oh, that's harsh," Simon cringed. Then upon seeing Cordelia's distressed face, she jumped. "Don't worry, kiddo. I'll get 'im back."
Simon started to follow Xander through the thick crowd, easily passing through the students there were perks to being imaginary at times. When she got to Xander, Simon quickly stepped in front of him, and stuck her foot out. Much to Cordelia's surprise, Xander actually tripped over Simon's outstretched foot, landing almost flat on his face, his hands stopping him from doing so.
Cordelia ran to Xander's side, and to Simon, "You tripped him?"
"`Course I did," the green haired figment replied. How else was I goin' to stop him?"
"Who tripped me?" Xander asked Cordelia, as he picked his books and himself up.
"Huh?" Cordelia blinked, owlishly.
"You said, `you tripped him,' to somebody," he reminded her. "Who were you talking to?"
"Oh!" Cordelia gulped. "Did I say that? I didn't mean to. I meant to say, `who,' not `you.' Slip of the tongue," `He doesn't buy that,' she thought, as she gazed at Xander's skeptical face. "What, you don't believe me?" she challenged, hoping that would unbalance him.
"I never said that," Xander said, defensively. He sighed. "Listen. I have to get to class. I'm gonna be late as it is."
"Say something already!" Simon ordered.
"Uh, Xander, wait," Cordelia stuttered. "About goin' to The Bronze tonight."
"If you don't want to be seen with me, fine," he interrupted. "See if I care."
"Will you let me finish, you big mouthed jerk!?" Cordelia's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, I didn't mean that. I, uh, what I meant was...oh, crap. This is coming out all wrong, you know."
"Yeah, I figured that," Xander crossed his arms. "Well?"
"Take a deep breath, and start again," instructed Simon.
And Cordelia did just that. "I don't have any problem with being seen with you at the Bronze. On any night. If people don't like what they see, well, that's just too damn bad for them. The problem is that on Fridays, chances are Harmony and the gang will be there, and I just don't know if I can deal with them right now. I'm going through, oh, I don't know, some lousy metamorphosis, or something stupid like that. I'm...confused right now. Did anything I just say make sense to you?" Cordelia suddenly asked in mid-shpiel. "`Cause it made only partial sense to me, and I'm the one who said it."
Xander looked at her blankly for a moment, and then said, a grin crawling on his face, "Metamorphosis?"
"If you laugh, so help me God, Xander Harris, I will cause you physical harm," Cordelia warned.
The grin turned into a smile, and Xander reached out, and swiped a errant lock out of Cordelia's face. "I'm not gonna laugh. And, I pretty much got the gist of what you meant. If you're not ready to go head to head with Harmony again yet, fine. I'll live. How about we spend tonight someplace else, say, my place? My parents won't be there," Xander's smiled quickly flipped into the devilish grin that always made Cordelia melt.
"All right," she began to walk away, and then stopped. Simon might follow her to Xander's, and she didn't want Simon to see...Uh, oh. "But," Cordelia added, "I just wanna talk tonight, okay?"
"Talk?" Xander looked at her as if she had said it in Swahili. "As in, our lips moving, but apart?"
"Yeah," nodded Cordelia. "Can you handle that?"
"I'm not quite sure I can grasp the concept," admitted Xander. He shrugged, and nodded. "But, if that's what you want."
"Yeah, that's what I want," she smiled, and walked off, not noticing Simon wasn't following.
"You two normally make out when you're alone," she accused Xander, "don't you?"
He, of course, didn't hear the chimera, but simply mumbled, "Talk? No smoochies? That blows."
"You are so sad," Simon lamented, watching the young man walk away.
Go on to Part Four
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