Part Four

The rest of the day looked pretty promising to Cordelia. Simon had remained relatively quite, except for a few outbursts of making fun of some of the teachers. With her invisible friend beside her constantly, Cordelia had paid surprisingly more attention in class than she ever had. And, for some odd reason, that made her worry.

It wasn't until she reached science class, that Cordelia finally encountered trouble. Trouble, by the ironic name of Harmony.

The teacher had assigned a lab paper for them, and Cordelia realized, much to her chagrin, that Harmony was still her lab partner.

"So," Cordelia said, trying to be friendly, "shall we get this started?"

"Do me a favor, Cordelia," the blonde snapped. "Just shut up, and do your part of the assignment, okay?"

"Rowr," meowed Simon, batting her clawed hand at Harmony. "I'm guessin' the girl with the stick up her butt is your ex-best friend? Nice choice, kiddo. With friends like this, who needs...wait, your friends like this actually turned into your enemies. The old cliché just doesn't apply here, does it? Dang it. And I so liked sayin' it."

"You know, Harmony," Cordelia started, ignoring Simon, "I always knew you were pretty petty at most things, but I never thought you were so pathetic that who I dated somehow would have an affect on our friendship."

"Good point," nodded Simon.

"Friendship?" Harmony laughed, not bothering to even look at Cordelia. "We never had a friendship. What we had was a business deal."

"Excuse you?" Cordelia raised a brow.

"Get with it," the blonde rolled her eyes. "Like I would ever bother being a friend to you. We were the two most popular girls at school, therefore, we, like, had to stick together. That's how things work, ya know? I thought you knew that. Too bad you're so dumb, huh?"

"I never thought I would ever say this to you," said Cordelia, calmly, "but you, Harmony, are a bitch."

"Yes!" Simon cheered. "Now, that's my Cordy!"

Harmony fumed. "Just shut up," she spat out each word like a sentence, "and do your part. Okay?"

"Fine, whatever," Cordelia waved her hand.

For a few minutes, the three were silent, except for the scratching sound the two tangible girls made with their pens.

The gracious silence was, unfortunately, ended when Harmony said, in a low, even voice, "Do you know what me and the rest of the girls are gonna do?"

"...No," Cordelia warily answered, her instincts screaming that something was wrong.

"Oh, we have a big thing planned for you," a malicious smile spread on Harmony's pretty face. "First, we plan on getting you kicked off of the cheerleading squad."

Cordelia nearly choked. She had worked so hard to get onto that squad! They couldn't just take it away from her, could they?

"Keep calm, " said Simon.

"I can live with that," Cordelia said, feigning confidence. "I don't need that dumb, old squad." 'That I shed blood, sweat, and tears to get on,' she mentally added.

"Then," continued Harmony, perversely happy, "we're gonna raid your cheerleading locker, since you won't be needing it anymore."

Cordelia clenched her fists.

"We're gonna take all your stupid, tacky stuff, and burn it," Harmony further explained.

Cordelia's knuckles turned white, and she thought her perfectly manicured nails had just bit into her flesh.

"Except, of course," whispered Harmony, in a malevolent voice, "for that precious little picture of Xander that you have in there. That we're gonna keep for prosperity."

"You little skank," Cordelia snapped, in a hushed voice. "You went through my locker!"

"Oh, yeah, so I already have," Harmony said, faking innocence. "We were supposed to warn you before we did any of that. Must've slipped my mind. Oops."

"Your slipping mind is the least of your worries," Cordelia growled. "You should be worrying about that slipped disk I'm gonna give you after school."

"Whoa, down, girl," Simon gently interrupted.

"Touch me, Cordelia Chase," Harmony threatened, "and you'll be in traction for the rest of the year."

"Listen to her, kiddo," Simon suggested. "You in traction, bad. You walking under your own power, good."

Cordelia glared at Harmony for a few tense filled moments, then turned away in disgust. The blonde smiled triumphantly, and went back to work.

"Don't fret, kiddo," Simon said, a grin suddenly spreading on her face. "I know what to do with Goldilocks here." The evil grin still on her face, Simon stepped next to Harmony, and said, "Time to take her down a few pegs."

Raising her hand, Simon swung it down, and smacked Harmony's books. Again, to Cordelia's surprise, the ethereal once more became solid, and Simon's hand flung the books half way across the room.

"What the-?" Harmony jumped.

"And wait," Simon lifted a finger. "That's not all!"

Taking that same pointed finger, Simon aimed it at the class sink. The long, steal spout began to jiggle and shake. Suddenly, it snapped off, and a stream of water gushed out in a wide arch, and landed right on Harmony's shocked face.

"Oh, my God!" Harmony screeched. "My silk blouse. It's ruined," she pointed wildly at Cordelia, who was beginning to laugh along with the rest of the class. "You," The drenched popularity queen accused, "you did this. I know you did!"

"How?" asked Simon, chuckling.

"How?" Cordelia repeated, gasping for breath in between chortles.

"I-I don't know," Harmony admitted. "But I know you did it, and I'm gonna prove it."

"Sure, she is," Simon smiled.

"Sure, you are," Cordelia grinned.

"You should have seen it," Buffy said to Giles, as she sat on a table in the library. "I mean, the water just swooped up, and landed right on her. We're talkin' serious Hellmouth happening."

"It was kinda weird," Willow volunteered.

"That's putting it mildly," Buffy muttered. "And then, she wigs, and blames Cordy for the whole thing. Now, while I admit she's not always a pleasure, unless she's been takin' lessons from Amy, Cordy's no witch."

"Yes, well, it does sound a bit out of the ordinary," The Watcher said, tapping his coffee mug, "Doesn't it? Did you, uh, see anything odd, besides the water?"

"Her books flew across the room," Willow said. "There was nobody there to hit them."

"I wonder if Marci's back," Buffy pondered.

"I doubt it," Giles shook his head. "She'd be after Cordelia, not Harmony."

"Yeah, I guess," Buffy shrugged her shoulders.

"Hey, G-Man," Xander, with Cordelia in tow, walked in, "Buff, Will, what's up?"

"What's, um, "up" is that we are trying to figure out what occurred to Harmony today," said Giles. "And don't call me G-Man."

Xander grinned, sat down on a chair, and proceeded to his usual after school hobby: Staring at Buffy.

"You were next to her, Cordy," Buffy pointed out. "What did you see?"

"W-well, I..." Cordelia's voice trailed. She hated lying, but what else could she do? Tell them her imaginary playmate of long ago had recently popped up, and started creating havoc wherever she went? "I don't know. It all happened so fast," she said, finally.

She then shrugged, apologetically, and sat down next to Xander. When Cordelia noticed he didn't even acknowledge her presence, she daringly placed her hand on his. He didn't even glance at her.

`Hey! A little attention, please. Creep,' she scowled, and took back her hand.

"Hmm," Giles placed his mug on the table, and rubbed his chin with the side of his index finger. "It doesn't seem that this creature is malevolent. More of a trickster. It plays juvenile tricks."

"Hey," Simon abruptly popped up, and Cordelia nearly jumped. "Dang straight I ain't malevolent. And juvenile! Well, I...well, then again...dang, I think he's got me there."

"Well, if that's all it is, it doesn't sound so bad to me," said Buffy. "I can take it."

"Shyeah, I believe that as much as I believe she's a real blonde," Simon murmured, making Cordelia giggle.

"What's so funny?" Xander asked.

"Huh? Oh, nothing," she blushed. "I was just thinking about something I heard on TV yesterday."

"Oh," He said, and then began to stare at Buffy, again.

"Um, hello," Simon waved her hand over his face. "He does realize that you're his girlfriend, right? Ya know, he would inspire a lot more confidence if he spent more time staring at your butt, than he does hers."

Cordelia sighed in agreement.

"If it's a trickster, that means it really doesn't want to fight, right?" Willow pointed out. "Maybe we can just talk to it."

"I am not an 'it,'" Simon stated. "And I would appreciate it if they all stopped callin' me that."

"That's quite possible," said Giles.

"Yeah, that sounds great and all, except one, tiny little detail," Xander pointed out. "Where do we find it? And how do we talk to it? Are we sure it even speaks English? Maybe it's only fluent in French. In which case, if it's a French spirit, we should destroy it solely on principal."

"Hah!" Simon smacked her hands. "I like this guy. I really, really do."

"I, uh, don't think that will be necessary," said Giles. "It sounds like a leprechaun, or a fae."

"A fae?" Cordelia repeated.

"Yes. You're more familiar with the terms `fairy' or `pixie,' I believe," Giles nodded.

"A pixie?" Simon nearly gagged. "How dare he accuse me of being a lightheaded, winged fruitcake! I am much more levelheaded than a pixie."

"She's not a pixie," Cordelia slipped.

"Dang straight," nodded Simon.

"What was that?" Giles asked.

"Yeah, how would you know?" Buffy raised an eyebrow.

"Well, I just..." Cordelia shrugged, "I have a feeling, okay?"

"That's it's not a pixie?" Buffy said.

"And that `it' is a she?" Willow queried.

"Uh, yeah," Cordelia lamely answered.

"Ooookay," Xander leaned over, and whispered in her ear, "Cordy, are feelin' all right?"

"Uh, oh," Simon flinched. "Distraction time."

Simon leaned over the table, and flicked her finger at Giles mug, which promptly spilled coffee all over. Buffy, Xander, and Cordelia jumped up, so they wouldn't get any of it on them.

"Oopsie," Simon blushed. "Sorry. Musta hit it too hard."

"Just how much caffeine was in that coffee?" Xander asked.

"Not enough to do that," Buffy remarked. "I...I think I feel something in here."

"Oh really? I think the peroxide affected the one brain cell she still had," Simon smirked. "What is it, Lassie? What is it, girl? Did that dumbass Timmy fall down that stupid well again?"

Buffy tensed, and slowly walked around the room in a ready stance. Everyone else remained perfectly still, not daring to move. Not even Cordelia, whose mind was racing.

`What is Buffy gonna do?' She thought, nervously. `Please, please, God, don't let Simon do anything I'm gonna regret.'

"Buff?" Xander whispered, concerned.

Cordelia shot him a look. `You think we're in mortal danger, and your first thought is Buffy? You jerk! Why aren't you worried about me?'

Suddenly, Buffy did a spinning kick at seemingly nothing, except to Cordelia. Buffy's heel would've connected to Simon's face. If Simon was tangible, anyway.

"And the point of that was...?" Xander's voice trailed.

"I could've sworn..." Buffy looked crossed.

And so did Simon. "She tried to kick my face off!" She stated, angrily. "Well, ya Spice Girl wanna be, I can do that, too."

`Oh, God, oh God!!!!' Cordelia flinched. `Something stop her! The Hellmouth opening again! An asteroid! A vampire! A bee sting in the butt! Anything!'

Simon repeated Buffy's kick to perfection, cleanly hitting the Slayer's chin, and knocking her back a few feet.

"That ain't good," Xander stated the obvious.

Everything happened so quickly after that, Cordelia couldn't think straight. Willow and Giles had began edging for the door, while Xander tried to help Buffy fight the unseen attacker. Simon seemed to be almost immediately bored by the whole ordeal, simply staying intangible while Buffy kicked and punched, and then sticking her foot out every so often to trip the Slayer and Xander. Meanwhile, Cordelia stood frozen, just staring, even after Xander had yelled at her to leave.

"Now," Simon yelled, allowing a lucky kick from Buffy, whose aim at the invisible target was quickly improving, to fly harmlessly through her immaterial head, "I don't like to fight. And I know you can't hear me, but I'm hopin' that it'll seep through your bleached brain that ya ain't gonna win this. So, just give," she side-stepped Buffy's kick to the stomach, "up!" and then easily kicked Buffy's feet out from under her.

"Buff!" Xander looked down at his hurt friend, then in the general direction of Simon. He raised his fists up and shouted, "C'mon, I can take you! Bring it on!"

"Oh, you've gotta be kiddin' me," Simon rolled her eyes. "That so ain't happenin', bucko boy."

She turned to walk away, and Cordelia almost to a sigh of relief. But then, Xander got stupid, and blindly kicked out, surprisingly hitting Simon square on the back, causing her to fall flat on her face.

"That was such a bad move," Simon uttered. On mine, and your part. Me, for staying touchable, and you, for actually being inane enough to kick me."

Cordelia couldn't take it anymore. "Xander, stop it!" she yelled.

"Cordy, have you lost it?" he asked, incredulous.

"Yeah, Cordy," Simon said, getting up. "I haven't gotten in last licks, yet."

"Don't you hurt him, Simon!" demanded Cordelia.

"Who's Simon?" Xander asked, getting irate.

"But your dork kicked me!" Simon pouted.

"I don't care," said Cordelia. "Simon, don't you dare touch him."

Simon sighed. "Oh-tay, kiddo. If that's what ya want."

"Who's Simon?!" Xander repeated, getting more and more angry. "Just who the hell is he?" he walked over to Cordelia, and gently grabbed her arm to get her attention. "Well?"

"I'm not a `he!'" Simon complained.

Justifiably, Cordelia snapped right there. "Go away!" she yelled at the chimera. "And you..." She snatched her arm away from Xander, "Don't demand questions from me. You're not my father! I don't see why you even care. You never seem to pay much attention to me, anyway."

"Now, wait just a minute there, Cordy," Xander said, taken aback.

"NO!" she screamed at the top of her lungs, causing everyone in the room to cringe. "You wait a minute. I've done more things for you than I've done for anyone I've ever known. Even my parents! And all you can do is stare at Buffy, and talk about Willow all the time. I'm surprised you even notice I'm around. And as for Simon, she's none of your damned business. Now, leave me alone!"

Fury and tears blinding her, Cordelia fled from the room. She couldn't believe she just did that. How incredibly stupid of her! Now, she had lost all her friends. All her real friends. All five of them.

"Damn," she muttered, then grasped her raw throat.

She needed to get out of school. Right that very instant.

"Don't talk to me," Cordelia snapped, not even bothering to look behind her.

"I'm sorry, kiddo," Simon whispered, her usual sarcasm and bravado gone. "I screwed up. Big time."

"You certainly did," Cordelia agreed.

"I'll...I'll go now," Simon sniffled. "I'll come back when ya wanna talk."

"You've got a long wait."

"Yeah...yeah, I figured that..." Simon's voice faded.

Wiping the hot tears from her face, Cordelia ran out of the school, and stormed into the parking lot. Even with her shaking hands, she managed to rummage through her purse, and take out her car keys. She got into her car, started the engine, and screeched out of the parking lot, with no particular destination in mind.


Part Five

Cordelia didn't know exactly how long she had been driving. But, it was long enough that it was pitch black out. Muttering a few curses, she looked at her clock/radio. It was 9:15. She had been driving at least three hours.

"Damn," Cordelia sniffled. She should be going home. If her parents were actually there, and not in London, they might be worried.

Where was she, anyway? Cordelia glanced around, and flinched. She was some-odd blocks away from Xander's house. She wondered if he had decided to go to the Bronze with the Scooby Gang, as was originally planned.

`Probably,' she thought, miserably.

Coming to a crossroads, Cordelia turned right, only to have the engine sputter, give out a last, heaving "sigh," and die. She was dead in the road.

"Oh, what now?" she asked.

Cordelia checked the gas, but she still had a quarter left. It had to be the engine.

"Stupid car," Cordelia punched the dashboard. "I hate calling for a tow truck."

She reached into her purse, pulled out her cellular phone, and dialed the number, all the while cursing her damnedable luck. The phone was still ringing when a odd, scratching sound came from outside the car.

Fear shot through her system, and though every fiber of her being told her not to, Cordelia turned around. On the outside bottom of the far back window, was someone's hand. Its pointer finger clawing at her window with its nail.

Suddenly, the body that the dreaded hand belonged to popped up, and Cordelia screamed when she saw who it was.

"Well, if it isn't the May Queen," Angel smiled, revealing his fangs. "Car problems, Cordy?"

`Doors are locked,' she reminded herself, trying to keep calm. `He can't get in. He can't ge-'

Angel slammed his fist through the back window, sending glass shards everywhere.

"I keep forgettin' to thank you for invitin' me into your car that night," he said, tearing the door off, and flinging it across the street as if it were nothing. "Well, thanks."

Screaming so loudly she thought her lungs would burst, Cordelia opened her door, and ran as fast as her legs could go. Angel, for his part, seemed amused.

"You do realize I can catch you whenever I want?" He called to her, not moving. Then he shrugged, and said to himself, "I'll give her a few minutes. Let the adrenaline pump through her blood. Yum."

`Don't stop running,' Cordelia demanded of herself, her already sore feet pounding on the asphalt street. `Whatever you do, do not stop running.'

A familiar car turned the corner, and hope rushed through Cordelia's tired frame. She waved her arms frantically in the air, hailing the driver to stop, which she did.

"Cordelia?" Harmony rolled her window down. "God, what happened to you? You look awful. Then again, you normally do."

"Now's not the time to argue, Harmony," Cordelia gasped, desperate. "Listen, I really, really need a ride outta here. Please, Harmony, let me in."

"I don't think so," the blonde said. "What you did today was so-"

"I didn't do it, I swear!" fear gripped Cordelia's heart. "I'm begging you, Harmony, let me in. I'll do whatever you want me to for a week. Just, please, give me a ride!"

"Well..." the idea of having Cordelia as a slave seemed to amuse Harmony, "I guess. Just this once, though."

"Oh, God, thank you," Cordelia gushed, and ran to the passenger's side.

She gripped onto the handle, and nearly opened the door before Angel's hand grabbed wrist, and hauled her back.

"Let me go!" Cordelia screamed.

"Now, now," Angel reprimanded. "There's no need to act like a child."

"What's going on out there?" Harmony asked, annoyed.

His hand still with a vice-grip on Cordelia's wrist, Angel leaned over Harmony's hood, and grinning, changed his face into its vampyric form. "Boo."

Screeching at a near dogwhistle level, Harmony stepped on the gas, and sped off.

"No!" Cordelia began to cry. "Oh, God!"

"`Fraid He's not in right now," Angel said, trying to grab her other arm. "Ya know, you're not exactly who I want," He finally snatched her forearm, and squeezed until she stopped struggling. "I don't think Buffy'll really freak if they find you with your throat ripped out."

"Oh, God!" Cordelia repeated, and tried in vain to struggle free.

"However," Angel continued, not really bothered by her struggles, "I really am hungry, and you really are annoying. I think it's a match made in heaven, don't you?" He leaned over, ready to bite into her neck, when something on Cordelia's hand attracted his attention. "Where did you get this?" He shoved her hand into her face, and she quickly focused her eyes on the ring Simon gave her.

"M-my ring?" Cordelia stuttered. "A fr-friend ga-"

Angel didn't let her finish. "You're one of hers," He accused. He looked up at the sky, and yelled, "Simona! I know you're here. I've got one of yours. Not being a very good guardian, are you? C'mon! I swear, Simona, if you don't show your little, leprechaun butt out here right now, or her throat's gonna be on the other side of the street!"

"Ya know, subtly was never your strong point, Angelus," an odd voice said from behind the vampire. "I mean, first you kill Drusilla's family to get her attention, then that Calendar woman to get Buffy's, now this. Tsk, tsk. Certainly you can think of something a little less abrasive."

"Simona," Angel turned, a fleeting look of shock on his face. "Well, would you look at you. You haven't changed."

"You have. Twice, actually," Simon crossed her arms. "I like the first make-over better. This retro trip you're havin' just ain't doin' anythin' to me."

"Doesn't seem like you've been doing anything, period," Angel pulled Cordelia in front of him. "I do believe this is yours. She has your mark. I'm surprised you haven't been around more often. She's been in enough trouble."

"She hasn't worn the mark in a very long time. But she's wearing it now, and I'm here, ain't I? So, do yourself a favor, Angelus..." Simon's sky blue eyes sparked, "Let her go now, before I hurt you seriously."

"Hmm," Angel shook Cordelia a little, and she whimpered. "That is, if I give you the chance. Maybe you'll be spending more time tending to a...wounded friend."

`I'm gonna die,' Cordelia thought, miserably. `I am so goin' to die.'

"And if I'm tendin' to a wounded friend, you will be, too," Simon's light blue eyes flashed, dangerously. "Except, your `friend's' a little closer to home, know what I'm talkin' `bout?"

Angel glared at her, half with anger, half with discomfort. "You won't get near me in time," he said, and began to drag Cordelia back.

Cordelia gasped, but was too terrified to scream anymore.

"Won't have to," Simon answered softly. She gently wiggled her fingers, then took a step back, a crossed her arms, a smirk on her face.

There was silence for a moment, and Cordelia thought that Simon had ran out of tricks at the worse possible time. Then, a sharp crack shot through, and a whistling sound, like a whip slicing air, followed.

Angel cried in anger and pain, and Cordelia felt his hands give a little. She turned as much as she dared, and saw a slight branch land on the ground at Angel's feet.

"You think that's goin' to stop me?" He asked, incredulous. "A couple twigs in the head? Looks like your magic never improved."

"Oh, really?" Simon raised an eyebrow. "Take a better look."

The cracking sound was much louder the second time round. There was also more of it. The whistling sound, too, became louder, and more of a chorus.

Suddenly, large branches from nearly every tree in the neighborhood flew from every direction, aimed straight at Angel and Cordelia.

"I am so dead," Cordelia whispered, right before screaming.

Apparently, being squashed by tree limbs wasn't on the top of Angel's list of things to do, either, because he quickly let go of Cordelia, and began to back up, realizing a moment to late that he was surrounded by disembodied fauna. It made an odd crunching sound when the boughs crushed him.

"Is he dead?" Cordelia asked, staring at the pile of branches that he was buried beneath.

As if to answer, Angel's hand shot up from the fallen tree limbs, and he slowly began to emerge. Bloody, tired, and angry.

"Oh, I'd say not quite," Simon answered. "Make a break for it, kiddo."

"But he-" Cordelia argued.

"He ain't gonna get close enough to hurt me," interrupted Simon."Now, move it or lose it, kiddo. Literally!"

Cordelia took one last look at her friend, and then ran, the fear and the anger making her nearly fly away from the scene. There were only two things on her mind. To get someplace safe as soon as possible. And then to pray to whatever God or gods that were up there to bring her friend back to her alive and well.

Xander sat on his living room couch, flipping through each channel, not even seeing enough of one to see what was actually on it. He really didn't care. All he could think of was that afternoon, and the outburst that Cordelia had had.

It was weird enough that he and Buffy had been defeated by some invisible attacker, but for Cordelia to know the guy...or should he think girl? Either way, it was beyond strange.

And then there was the whole speech she had made to him. Did she honestly think that he didn't care for her? Could she possibly be so blind?

`Or maybe I'm being blind,' Xander grimly thought. `Again. First, I have no clue that Will has a crush on me. Now, Cordy says that I'm oblivious to her. And I didn't exactly hear the guys argue with her on that point. In fact, Will seemed to look as if she thought Cordy was right, which is very rare. Oh, yeah, I'm battin' a thousand.'

"Xander!" someone yelled from outside, frantically beating on his front door. "Xander, let me in! Be home. Please, God, let him be home!"

"Cordy?" Xander nearly ran to the door, and quickly opened it.

Seeing Cordelia didn't startle him. It was the face she had the instant before it registered that he had opened the door that scared the hell out of Xander. Her whole face was red, and wet with tears. She was biting her lip so much, that it looked as if she had drawn blood. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her brow was creased with worry. Cordelia didn't at all look like the perfect, calm, and flippant Cordelia Chase that Xander knew so well. This was a different Cordy. And she was petrified.

"Oh, thank God," she cried, and dissolved into tears.

Worried out of his mind, Xander pulled her in the house, and shut and locked the door.

"Cordy, hon?" He stroked her hair, and led her gently to the couch. "What happened?"

"M-my car broke down." She began, the words coming out in a rush. "I was callin' a tow truck, a-and there w-was this scratching at my window. It was A-Angel."

"Oh, man," Xander pulled her closer to him.

"He ripped off my c-car door. Just ripped it off!" Cordelia cried, a touch of anger and pride mixed with her fear. "I ran. I almost got a ride, b-but she split. He caught up, and he got me. He was gonna kill me. He almost ki..." Her voice began to trail, but she found it again. "We gotta go back," she stated.

"What?" Xander stared at her, dumbfounded. "Are you nuts?! You barely got away. Why would you wanna go back?"

"Ya gotta call Buffy," Cordelia continued, ignoring his protest. "Gotta get help for her. He'll kill her, I know he will."

"Kill her? Who?" Xander framed her face with his hands, and made her look at him. "Kill who, Cordy? Who will Angel kill?"

"Simon," she responded. "He'll kill Simon. Sh-she saved my life, Xander. We gotta help her."

`She's snapped,' He thought. "Okay, Cordy," Xander nodded, calmly. "I'm gonna go upstairs for a moment, and as soon as I get back down, we'll call Buff. You stay right here. Don't move, okay?"

Cordelia nodded, anxious to get him to hurry up.

"Good," He leaned over, and quickly kissed her on the forehead, before going upstairs to his room.

`Blanket,' Xander rummaged through the mess in his closet for the extra one he had always had. `There! Alrighty then. Police always give messed up people blankets to wrap themselves in. Must release stress, or somethin'. If it works for the cops, why not me?'

How was going to handle this whole Simon thing? The thought stopped him dead in his tracks. Cordelia was so worked up right now. She looked as if she was going to have an emotional breakdown right on his couch. Not that he could blame her, considering how close she came from being a late night snack for Angel.

`Dear God,' Xander thought, stricken. `I almost lost her.'

The idea hit him like a blow to the stomach, knocking the wind out of him, and making him nauseous. What if Angel had done it? What if she had actually...? No, don't think of it! Bad, bad thought. Very bad thought. Didn't happen, no need to worry. Cordy was okay. She was upset and not thinking in her right head, but alive. And that was what mattered. She was alive. He could still talk to her. He could still hear her voice. And hold her. And tell her that everything was going to be okay, and he'd never let her be in so much danger for the rest of his life.

And he was going to do that right now.

"So, how's she doin'?" An odd voice floated behind him.

Xander turned, ready for a fight. In front of him stood a thin framed girl, with pale, near white skin, sky blue eyes, and dark, green tinted hair.

She brushed her gossamer gown, allowing some dust and leaves to fall off. "Well?" she said. "How is she?"

"Who are you?" Xander demanded, staying tense.

"Oh, you know me, Alexander," She tilted her head. "I'm sure Cordy's said my name a few times. She's said it at least twice today."

"Simon?" he said, uncertain, and uncomfortable.

The girl smiled, and nodded.

"Oh..." Xander repeated her nod, not knowing what else to do. "She...she was-"

"Cordy was tellin' the truth, yeah," Simon finished his sentence.

"You're real. You're really real. Which means..." Xander's eyes widened. "Angel. Is he...?"

"Still the walkin' undead, I'm afraid," she admitted. "But he won't be usin' his left arm normally for a while, if it makes ya feel any better."

"Oh. Good," He said, the shock not quite wearing off on him yet.

Simon tilted her head for a moment, a strange look on her face, and then said, "So, you're the boy whose been causin' me so much trouble?"

"Huh?" Xander stuttered, confused.

"Listen, kid. I've been the Chase family guardian for five generations. Count `em." She held up an outspread hand, "Five. And every single one of `em have been somewhat rational. I mean, Cordy's not the brightest bulb, but she ain't dim, either. She knows a good catch when she sees one. Which makes me believe that there's gotta be somethin' special in you that made her willingly dump her old social status, just so she could be with ya. I'm not quite sure what it is, but it's gotta be there. It better be there," she added.

"`Cause, ya see, kid," Simon walked slowly toward Xander, "my job as guardian means not only do I protect them physically, but mentally and emotionally, too. I'm kinda like a physiologist, only I do my work before the problem starts. So, I'm gonna give ya fair warnin'," she suddenly grabbed him by the collar, and lifted him in the air as if he were as light as a feather. "If you ever, ever, hurt her, I'll hunt ya down like the animal you are, shoot ya, and mount ya rotten head on my den wall. We clear, kid?" Simon asked.

"Crystal," Xander managed to squeak.

"Good," she let him go, and he managed not to fall on his butt. "Now, go down stairs, and keep her company."

"Uh, yes, ma'am," he turned and started to walk out of the room, when Simon stopped him to say, "Oh, and tell her I'm oh-tay."

Xander found Cordelia huddled on the couch. Worry still filled her face, but she was crying anymore, and he was pretty sure the shaking was gone, too. She even managed to look up and smile a little when he placed the blanket over her.

"We gotta call Buffy," she said, her voice much calmer than it had been before.

"No, we don't," Xander said, and sat down next to her.

"But Simon's out there, and-"

"No, she's not," he interrupted. He noticed the confused look on her face, and he mumbled, "She popped up in my room."

"Really?" relief and hope filled Cordelia's face, and Xander was grateful to see it.

"Yeah, really. I swear, Cordy," he grinned, "I will never doubt anything you say again. No matter how weird it sounds."

A smile graced her face, and she began to look around the room.

"What are you lookin' for?" Xander asked.

"A pen and some paper," Cordelia responded. "I want what you just said in writing."

He laughed, and pulled her close. "Man, Cordy, I don't think you realize just how scared you made me tonight. I came this close to losing you," Xander began stroking her soft hair, trying to memorize the feel of it. "I came way too close. I...Well, I'm gettin' used to havin' you around all the time," he said, and he heard her snort. "No, I mean it. I'm gettin' used to havin' you by me. I like havin' you there. I like it a lot. More than I tell you, I think."

Cordelia tightened their embrace, but said nothing.

"I should tell you more often," Xander continued. "Hell, I should tell you, period. I tend to take the good things I have for granted. I'm afraid it's your job to get me out of that habit."

"But that would mean helping you," she teased. "And that simply cannot be."

"Heh," he smirked. "I deserve that. I'm man enough to admit it." When he didn't get a quip in response, he said, "You can retort now. You can even call me `dork-head,' if it makes ya feel better."

When Cordelia still didn't answer, he looked down, and realized that she had fallen asleep. Smiling, Xander continued to stroke her hair, thanking who ever was up in heaven for keeping her safe.

Xander thanked Simon, too. After all, if it wasn't for her, who knows if Cordelia would've stayed with him. And all Simon had to do was pop up from nowhere, crack a joke every other sentence, trip him, soak Harmony, beat up him and Buffy, cause a fight, and save Cordelia from a bloodthirsty vampire. Sounded simple enough to Xander.


The End