Summary: Xander and Cordy reflect on their past, present and future. But who or what is lurking in the shadows(hey, it's Sunnydale! There's always something lurking in the shadows!) Told from Xander's POV
This is the second part of my three-part "Triptych", an interlude between parts 1 and 2 of "Somewhere I Have Never Travelled". A triptych, in case you were wondering, is a three-piece hinged tablet or portrait, usually of a religious nature. Loosely, it can be applied to a work in three parts.
Buffy and Willow aren't in this story, but it is important to read this if you're following my main story arc. A major plot change is in the offing for one of my favorite supporting couples, and a new player enters the field. As Buffy would say, "Can you vague that up for me?"
Oh, and I lifted the "Buffysexual" line from Pat Kelly's "Woes of Myth and Language", a dynamite read. He had Buffy call herself a "Willbian", and I kinda ran with the concept.
Part 2: The Essence of Cool The Essence of Cool
To paraphrase the line from the movie "The Yellow Submarine", Sunnydale can be
a lonely place on a Saturday night. And it was only Wednesday morning.
Actually, that was a technicality. It had been Wednesday morning for a grand
total of twenty minutes. I had just finished my evening beat, Wetherly Park, and
had just finished my paperwork at the precinct house, and was on my way home.
I lived in a studio apartment just over the Bronze, and I could feel the
vibrations of the music and dance below me whenever I went to sleep. I had a
salary that couldn't afford much more in a place, and a job that, by the latest
studies, easily contributed to high blood pressure, ulcers and gunshot wounds.
Life was good, actually.
Two nights ago, I had helped save the life of the bravest, most caring, most
heroic person I had ever known. Buffy Summers was still in the hospital, under
observation, but she was coming home tomorrow. Willow had already cleared out
half of her closet for Buffy, and was excited about having her in her digs, and in
her bed. I think the old me would have made a joke about her not having gotten
any for a year, then she would scowl at me, then I'd shrink a bit, then we'd laugh
and move on. Now, I only felt happiness for her. I know I may have had a problem
with homosexuality once upon a more chauvinistic time, but one look at Buffy and
Willow together would convince even Dr. Laura that they belong together.
Besides, as Willow once explained to me, shortly after they finally got that
party started, "I'm not a homosexual, I'm a Buffysexual! I can only do it with
Buffy!" She punctuated that remark with the grin of a cat that had swallowed an
entire aviary, so I had no room to argue with her. Of course, being Xander
Harris, I had to ask if that made Buffy a 'Willowsexual', to which Willow looked
at me slyly, and said, "I sure as hell hope so!", dissolving into giggles at the
Hey, all that mattered to me now was that Buffy was back, Willow had an
epidemic case of the happies, and life was good. Oh, and Cordy was back in my
Ah, Cordelia Chase. I hadn't asked her how her quest for fame and fortune amid
the bright lights of Los Angeles went. I assumed that she hadn't yet set the
world on fire, or landed her oft-fantasized love scene with Leonardo DiCaprio. I
didn't pry, and she didn't volunteer any information, but we did talk about
everything else. She was startled first, amazed second, and finally proud of my
joining the Sunnydale's Finest, the SPD. She wistfully said something to the
effect of "at least one of us has their life in order," which makes me worry about
her. I didn't say anything, just quietly let her know that if she needed me, I
As I headed back home, I passed through Whetherly Park, once the popular
hunting ground of Sunnydale's vamps, but more recently rather quiet. As they say
in the movies, 'too quiet'. Angel and Cordy had said that something big was
happening. I didn't understand these new psychic powers Cordy had developed (she
said she got them from an old boyfriend before he died), but I trusted her. She
may have been the town rich-bitch, but she was still my friend.
More than my friend, really.
When did that happen, anyway? In high school, we had what could only be called
a 'volatile' relationship, which ended badly when she caught me lip-locking Willow
in the factory, after a run-in with Spike. Nope, the Queen C didn't take it well
at all. Now she was back in my life, and she seemed to want me back. I was
thrilled, I was surprised, and now I was waiting for the other overpriced size six
pump to drop.
A sudden snap of a branch caught my attention; my years as a member of the
Scooby Gang increased my hearing big time. I spun around, and noticed two young
women walking under the street lamps. I recognized them instantly; "Tara, Sandra.
"Hey, Officer Harris," Sandra Ogawa greeted me. I held up my hand, and said,
"Please, the name's Xander." She blushed prettily. I was pleased that the new
Slayer was so polite, but after she had helped anchor us when we dove into the
Hellmouth to rescue Buffy, she earned my respect and my friendship. "So, you two
out on patrol?"
"Yes, Xander," Tara said. "I wanted to show Sandra around, and maybe show her
some defensive spells I've been working on, but it looks like a dead night."
"Yeah, things have been rather quiet lately," I admitted. "I kinda like it
that way, myself. Makes for less stress and fewer ulcers. I like it boring."
"Not at all like the old Chinese Curse," Sandra commented. " 'May you live in
"Good call, Sandra. You two take care, now." I waved goodbye as the two young
Scoobs resumed their vigil.
The new Scoobs. I felt like I was passing a torch to the younger set.
Slayerettes; The Next Generation. It felt good. It was great to know that
Sunnydale was in good hands.
I couldn't help but notice that they were holding hands. I started to
wonder--then decided to head out to my rendezvous
I had promised Cordy that I would meet her at the Espresso Pump before calling
it a night. I wasn't sure that she'd wait up past midnight for me; I had warned
her that the paperwork might take me a while. I headed for the Pump, and there
she was. No longer wearing designer fashions, but a simple off-the-rack blouse
and skirt combo. I entered the coffee house and waved at her. She smiled at me,
her smile natural and happy.
"Hey, Cordy, how's life?" I asked as I kissed her forehead. At least I aimed
for the forehead, to be polite. But she lifted her head at the right time, and I
caught her lips. We lingered there for a second, before I backed away. "Sorry
about that," I started.
"Why," she gave me a Cheshire Cat grin, "I'm not." Yep, she still liked to
keep me guessing. I sat down next to her, and noticed her drink. "Chai tea,
decaf" she said. "Sort of an east Indian tea, served latte style."
"Sounds good," I answered. "I'll do that." I ordered a chai tea, and sipped
at it. Sweet, but not too sweet, creamy, generously spiced. I liked it at once.
"You've still got good taste," I commented. I noticed the newspaper on the table
in front of her. "Whatcha looking at?"
"Apartment listings," she said casually.
I stopped sipping at my tea and turned to her. "Sunnydale apartment
"No, Paris," she said with sweet sarcasm. Yea, that's the Queen C I know and
lo--did I say that? "I thought I'd do the 'bum around Europe and try to find
I considered my next statement carefully. Sometimes talking to Cordy was the
conversational equivalent of slow dancing with a porcupine. She cut me off before
I started; "Before you ask, Xander," she said, a little weariness in her voice,
"I've given up my quest for super- stardom. I've enrolled in U.C. Sunnydale,
majoring in education, minoring in dramatic arts, I applied for a college grant
and I think I'm in, and I just landed a late-night job here at the Espresso Pump.
I start tomorrow on cash-register."
"Hey," I said, "congratulations." She nodded at me, and smiled a little.
"Hey, if you're looking for a place to crash, there are a couple of vacant units
where I live."
"You mean, over the Bronze?" she wrinkled her nose distastefully.
"Hey, it's not that loud at night. Besides you're working nights too, you
won't notice. Plus, you've got a cop living next door."
"Aha, so the ulterior motive rears its ugly head," she grinned at me again, and
we both found ourselves laughing briefly. "I missed you, Xand."
"Why do I find that hard to believe?" Don't get me wrong, I was glad to have
her back too, I just wanted to know why she wanted me in her life again.
"You're not like the jerks I met in LA. The only real guy there was Angel,
and, you know, happiness clause. You're real. You're basic."
"Hey, hey, hey," I stopped her. "You just quoted Ione Skye in 'Say
"Hey, I liked that movie," she defended herself. "I used to fantasize about
John Cusack standing outside my bedroom window, hoisting a boombox over his head,
playing 'In Your Eyes' by Peter Gabriel--"
"Would you settle for 'Planet Claire' by the B-52s?" She dimpled at my words.
I then serioused up, saying, "Of course, I figured I got more out of our old
relationship than you did. I mean, here I was, going out with Cordelia Chase,
while you were stuck with Xander Harris. Hardly bragging rights there."
"Stop that now, Xander," she suddenly placed her hand on mine. "You're still
the nicest guy I ever met. Braver than most guys, I mean, you've joined the
police force, not to mention going to Hell to save Buffy. You've done some good,
you've made something of yourself. That's what I want. It wasn't working with
the acting, I figured out that I wasn't going to be accepting an Oscar any time
soon, and I sure as hell wasn't going to drop my pants for some made-for-video
sexfest. You know, my last five offers were for soft-core parodies of 'The Blair
Witch Project'? That's when I knew I had to get out of there."
"Hey," I gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "I'm sorry it didn't pan out."
"I'm not," she said ruefully. "I'm just glad I got out with my sanity intact.
That's why I'm back here in Sunnydale. After Daddy got arrested for tax
evasion--another point I have in common with Ione Skye from 'Say Anything'--I
thought I needed to get away, to redeem myself on my own. But being here, with my
friends--not Harmony and the other sheep that followed me in high school but my
real friends, Willow, Buffy," she dropped her eyes slightly and added shyly, "you,
it jelled for me. I was trying to live my life by what everyone thought of me,
not what I thought of myself. Now, I got a chance. I'd like to teach, maybe
drama, maybe something else. And hey, if I can land a few roles in some local
community theater, just enough to feed my ego, I can be happy with that."
"Okay," I grinned, "who are you and what have you done with Cordelia Chase?"
We both laughed at that. "Seriously, Cordy," I added, "I know what you're going
through. I spent the first year out of high school in a void, just hanging out in
my parents' basement, drifting from job to job, having Anya screw my brains out--"
I stopped her before she could say it, "I know, no challenge. Y'know, I don't
think I even noticed when she finally walked out on me. But once I realized that
she was gone, it was like a splash of cold water. It woke me up. That's when I
started to turn it around, to get my life back on track. That's when I decided to
become a cop. Maybe it's wish-fulfillment, but it's something that matters to me.
Besides, it's about time at least one cop in Sunnydale wasn't clueless."
Cordy regarded me thoughtfully for a few seconds, and said, "Looks like you
finally found it."
"It? What 'it'?" I asked.
Cordy sighed lightly as she explained it to me. "That night I called you the
team Zeppo, you had asked me what it was that decided who was cool and who was
not. You're exact words were, 'What is the essence of cool?'. I never quite
understood it myself until recently. Self-confidence. That's the essence of
cool. If you have that, then no matter who you are, what you do, how you dress--"
she appraised me up and down, "yeah, even your God-awful Hawaiian shirts, you're
I glanced at my watch. "Lessee, twelve-forty-three a.m., June 28, 2001.
Cordelia Chase called Alexander LaVelle Harris cool." I stood up and announced to
the otherwise empty espresso bar, "Let this be recorded for all posterity, she who
used to decide all matters of coolness at Sunnydale High has declared me to be
cool!" Cordy whooped with laughter as I continued my rave.
"Sit down, Xander," she admonished me. "I always thought that you were cool.
I was just too afraid that I'd be uncool if word got out. That brings me back to
that self-confidence thing. You think I'd hang out with Harmony and those others
if I had any self-confidence? I needed them to boost my ego, not because I liked
them." She patted my hand, and added, "And for what it's worth, I never thought
of you as Zeppo. You may not be the Slayer, or a Witch or anything like that, but
you kept us together as much as anyone else. I always envied your ability to take
what the Hellmouth threw at you and still crack a bad joke about it. And I always
admired that. And loved that about you." She touched my cheek with her hand, and
said, "I love you, Zeppo. It took me two years in Lala Land to figure it out, but
I do." She leaned forward and kissed me on the lips.
I had not expected her confession, the depth of emotion she demonstrated, but
as her lips met mine, I knew it was right. I, Xander Harris, knew that she wasn't
holding anything back, she wasn't hiding behind the mask of Queen C, that Queen C
was as dead as the Zeppo. And it felt good.
As our lips parted, I could feel the silence build between us. I needed to say
something, either a trademark wisecrack or my own confession of my feelings for
Cordy. I had to say something, just so that something was said.
Cordy looked at me, dazed. "What?"
I realized what I had said, and blushed. "I said that out loud, didn't I?"
Cordy glanced away from me, and lowered her head. I had to regroup fast. "Look,
Cordy, I love you too, and yeah, I do want us to be together. But before we go
any further, I need to warn you. I'm a cop now. That's dangerous work, and not
the best paying job on the planet. I'd hardly be able to afford the lifestyle you
were used to with your dad."
"Neither could he," she observed. "That's why he's in Club Fed."
"Okay, good point. But the thing is, I'm saving what I can, and I'm sure I'll
get paid more as I advance in the department. Besides, you just got back in town,
and we should take this slow. Not dead stop, just slow. So here's what I
propose; we go out, we date, and the earlier marriage proposal is still there.
It's on the table, it still stands. If after a while you decide that it's what
you want, then fine. If not, then, not fine, but at least we tried, okay?"
She looked at me as though I had grown a second head. "Are you finished
channeling Willow?" she asked. She then took my head in her hands and pulled it
toward hers for another kiss, more urgent than the last one. She pulled me away
again and said, "Yes, Xander Harris, I will marry you!"
You could have knocked me over with a feather. I stared at Cordy for a full
five seconds before I said anything. "You said yes. Right?"
She nodded enthusiastically.
"You do understand the idea of going slow, right?"
"Yes," she nodded again. "I also know when something is right, and when to go
for it. We, Xander Harris, are right. I know we won't be able to get married
right away, but I do want to share my life with you. You got a problem with
I felt the blood rush to my brain and started feeling a little light headed. I
managed to say something like, "Uh, yeah, no, no prob, problem not here, you
marry, I will, I--" At least that's probably what emerged from my lips; I had
planned something eloquent and romantic, but the interface between my brain and
my mouth tends to get disengaged in situations of extreme stress. Like when I'm
caught in the shower belting out James Brown in my underwear. Or when my
girlfriend catches me kissing my best friend in the library.
Or when the girl of my dreams says that she wants to be mine forever.
I managed to stop stammering like an idiot long enough to kiss her again, and
that seemed to say everything that I wanted to. We held each other and kissed
repeatedly, just happy to have found each other again. I was able to look at her
for a few moments, and say, "I know I didn't say it well before, but I do love
you, Cordelia Chase-Harris-to-be."
"I love you too, Xander Harris," she whispered to me. We noticed the night
manager of the Espresso Pump looking at us, and we tried to compose ourselves, but
still had this compulsion to hold hands constantly. I made motions to pay for our
chai lattes, but the manager stopped me; "Hey, it's on the house tonight.
Congratulations you two."
As we left the Pump, we chatted aimlessly about everything and nothing. We
didn't decide anything major beyond the actual fact of our engagement, but it
didn't matter. Cordy asked me if I wanted to start on wedding plans right away,
but I was happy to just live with the idea for a while. Besides, there was one
thing I had to do before anything else. "The first thing I do once I have the
money scraped together," I announced, "is get you an engagement ring. A nice
"Hey," she smiled at me, "you don't have to go too far there. Just a nice
simple gold band, solitaire, five carats."
"Hoo-boy," I breathed, "I think I can afford five carrots right now, if you're
wild about produce--"
"Kidding," Cordy laughed. "Tell you what, once you and I both scrape together
enough, we'll go to the jeweler's together and pick out something nice. Believe
me, two years working for Angel has taught me to economize, and shouldn't you be
listening to your fiancee now?"
"Shh," I motioned to her. "I thought I heard something." I stepped forward,
hoping it was just Sandra and Tara wrapping up their patrol. Cordy and I stood
quietly for a few seconds, until I heard the rustling of leaves behind us.
We turned and saw a man standing behind us. My first thought was "Barnabus
Collins". Tall, gaunt, sunken cheeks, but he still held his form high, and his
eyes gleamed with intelligence, with determined fire. Wavy brown hair crowned his
head, and he leaned stiffly against a brass tipped cane. He regarded me with
obsidian eyes, and said to me, "Alexander LaVelle Harris. Greetings. And you,"
he bowed formally at the dark-haired girl who clamped down on my arm, "must be
Cordelia Chase." He tipped his hat toward her.
"Hello," I said to the stranger, as I started to reach for the crucifix I kept
in my pocket. "Do we know you?"
"Not at this time, Mr. Harris," he said civilly, "but you will soon enough.
And yes, I am a vampire, but you have no reason to fear me." Cordy gasped beside
me, and I echoed her sentiment. "I, like your associate Angel, am possessed of a
soul. I do not regard you as my enemy. Whether you regard me as your enemy is up
I had managed to grab the crucifix, and held it in front of the stranger. He
stepped back at the sight of the cross, but still didn't leave yet. "I didn't
expect to win your trust this night," he said, and I could hear a hint of sadness
in his voice. "But I do need you to warn your friend the Slayer that there is a
power afoot. Inform your Watcher, Rupert Giles I believe, that Mister Beltaine
must speak to him. I will contact him in time. Good evening, and congratulations
on your engagement." He tipped his hat to us again, turned and started to walk
away. "May you live long enough to see your wedding day."
I started to chase after him as he walked away, but I was stopped by a sudden
mist that arose out of nowhere. When I blinked, the mist disappeared, taking Mr.
Beltaine with him.
Cordy rushed up to me, as I looked around for this strange vampire. "What was
that about?" she asked, clearly shaken.
"I don't know, Cordy," I answered. I was as shaken as she was, but more than
that, I was angry. This Beltaine person ruined a perfect evening, and took the
luster off of my engagement to Cordy. But seeing her, looking at me with her
worried eyes, put things in a little more perspective. She was looking to me to
make her less scared, and I think, hoped to make me less scared as well. We both
held and calmed each other, as we wondered what we were going to do about Mr.
We agreed to speak to Giles tomorrow. We figured that he was asleep by now,
and besides, there was nothing we could do about it tonight. At any rate, I
wanted to spend a little more time alone with the woman I was going to marry. We
were still happy just to be together, but the sense of dread that this new vampire
left behind still wouldn't let us go.
So, where do I stand now? I lived in a studio apartment just over the Bronze,
and I could feel the vibrations of the music and dance below me whenever I went to
sleep. I had a salary that couldn't afford much more in a place, and a job that,
by the latest studies, easily contributed to high blood pressure, ulcers and
gunshot wounds. I had met someone who could be as great a threat as Acaltha, Adam
or the Master was. And Cordy and I were at this time the only people who were
aware of this new development.
And an angel named Cordelia Chase had agreed to share her life with me.
Yeah, life was good.