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Buffy glanced at the dim exterior of the club, a long line of people already waiting outside, and sighed. What was she doing? Was she really about to go spend an evening with Cordelia Chase? No amount of free alcohol was worth that. The eagerness she had shown earlier in the afternoon had quickly dissipated on her way home as the reality of what she had agreed to became apparent. Buffy had been running from her past for so long, making concerted efforts to stay away from anything slayer-y, demon-y, apocalypty, and here she was, agreeing to go out with Cordelia Chase, a reminder of everything she was trying to leave behind.

Wait, hold up. 'Go out'? It's not like this is a date. This is drinks-free drinks--nothing more. And why are you even thinking this?

Tossing her money at the driver, she quickly exited the cab, slamming the door shut behind her. Rafe had said he would be waiting for her at the bar, but he didn't say if he had put her name on the list. Taking a chance, she walked up to the burly, tattooed bouncer and tapped him on the shoulder. His glare would have sent anyone else running, but Buffy had faced much scarier demons on a nightly basis than this guy could ever dream of being.

"Hi. Uhm, is Buffy Summers on the list?"

The bouncer checked his list and, finding her name, silently let her pass. With a short nod, she walked to the entrance, taking another deep breath before opening the door to the club. The 80s music blaring from the speakers throughout the room greeted her as she entered the smoky room. The strobe lights on the dance floor were the only lights in the room aside from the dim glow at the bar. Not feeling up to dancing just yet, Buffy made her way over to the bar. Relieved when she saw Rafe behind the counter, her luck grew when she snagged an empty spot. She waved slightly at Rafe when he glanced her way and waited for him to take her order.
 
 
Current Mood: nervousnervous
 
 
26 September 2005 @ 10:22 pm
Faith groaned quietly as the bus slid into one of many stations in Denver. The sky was tinged a light pinkish-orange and she blinked heavy-lidded eyes.

She picked her duffle bag up while the bus came to a halt and the driver opened the doors. The few passengers riding with her sleepily gathered their things and they all filed out and down the steps, mindless and automated.

Faith looked around, her eyes taking in the bustling city. It was dirty and noisy even at this hour, and the buildings rose up around her. She felt comfortable. This could be a good place to get lost, and stay lost. There were too many people and most of them didn't give a rat's ass about each other. No one would even notice her.

She slung the duffle over her shoulder and asked directions to the nearest, cheapest hotel. The surly attendant rattled off a name and street, and she flipped him off cheerily when he sneered at her. *I think I'm gonna like it here,* she thought in amusement.

It only took her a few minutes to find the hotel, and she paid in cash and went to her room. It was nicer than the last place. She might not mind staying here for a while, until she figured out what the hell she was going to do.

Faith stripped quickly, threw back the covers and slid into bed, sighing in pleasure as the cool cotton sheets closed in around her. The quilt was wrapped around her up to her chin, and she stayed awake for only a few moments. Plans for the day ahead of her swam through her mind while she fell blissfully into sleep.
 
 
22 September 2005 @ 11:42 pm

He knew he really should be studying for Abnormal Behavior if he wanted to stay on the Dean’s list but it was such an easy class, Connor was sure he could take the night off. Besides, he had his project for Basic Drawing done. Angel’s Cro-Magnon face was an easy sketch besides it would make his Dad proud to get it this Christmas. Connor laughed pulling on his D S F shirt at the memory of Angel’s peacock act when he saw Connor’s grades from Stanford. One would have though the vampire had pulled straight A’s instead of him.

 

Of course, he’d never know if he was smart or if Vail had crammed all that knowledge into his head. This semester, across the continent in Columbia University, would be the true test of his brains. He had abandoned pre-Law major, much to Lawrence Reilly’s displeasure but it was easy enough to see that major would just mean Wolfram and Hart would be knocking on his door in a few years with an offer he couldn’t refuse. Of course Dad didn’t know that. He thought Wolfram and Hart was a place full of nice people like Mr. Angel who helped his son understand his strange abilities. The way Mom and Dad rationalized him getting run over by a van without getting hurt shocked the hell out of Connor but he went with it.

 

Angel had wanted him to stay with the Reillys and after a brief fight, Connor conceded, especially when it was obvious Cyvus Vail’s spell wasn’t so easily undone. Truth was, the Reillys had money and his life was easy with them. He had begun to suspect they had lost their real son and he was a replacement. He also liked having a little sis who pretended to hate his guts but really looked up to him. It made him feel needed and wanted and that had been sorely missing in his life. However, he also knew so long as he was around they were in danger so he left for their own good and headed for New York.

 

The New York cold was different. It reminded him of home, red sky flashing in his mind’s eye. He shuddered as he headed downstairs from his cramped attic room to the living room where the  Animal House Theme song blared.  A typical noise for a Delt party. It would bathe the first floor but the real music and dancing was in the basement. The frat house was still fairly empty since the kegger was just getting started.   The only ones in the basement were more of his Delta brothers, some of the Delt little sisters, and the first of the non-Greeks who always showed up for free booze.

 

Connor knew neither dad would approve of this but he didn’t have to worry about it. Lawrence wouldn’t show up unannounced and hell that Dad used to be a Delt. That’s how Connor got in so easily. He was a legacy. Daddy Three knew the score. Daddy One should know but he had blinders. He was also likely to just show up out of the blue. Well, too damn bad. Angel wanted him to be normal. Frat parties were normal parts of the college experience.

 

“Hey, Reilly, come on, let’s kick this thing off,” Brad said, their Rush chairman winging a pitcher to him. “Chug.”

 

Connor eyed the pitcher. “Already? It’s a little early.”


”Come on, chug,” Brad said. “You have that hollow leg anyhow. Tom has your song ready for later.”


Tom didn’t wait for later. He cued up Hurt So Good.  Kari, one of the little sisters, gave him a look that said she wasn’t opposed to that whole scene. Connor sighed and reached for the pitcher as the chants of ‘chug-a-lug’ grew louder. He gulped down the pitcher in a few long desperate swallows, almost choking.

 

Brad pounded his back, whooping then shoved him toward the pizzas. Connor chowed down happily. Yes this was so much better than thinking about Abnormal Behavior. He could at least plot out the kinds he’d exhibit for Siobhan when he went home for the holidays. After all scarring little sisters for life was a brother’s sacred duty. He’d save some scarring for Angel of course. He wouldn’t have it any other way. It was kinda hard to think that’s all that was waiting for him back in California, a fake family and a vampire. He no longer knew where Cordy was, which might be for the best. Wes and Gunn….Angel didn’t want him having contact mostly just because he wanted Connor to have that separate life. His father was very hesitant about him doing anything with the supernatural and Connor was hiding his own tendency to hunt demons. Spike was definitely a no-no, which was a pity. He had all the best stories about Angel, which Connor figured was the reason he was forbidden.

 

He grimaced and put down his plastic beer cup. He thought he saw a skinny little blond and his mind flashed up the word ‘Tracy.’ The last thing he needed would be for her to have found him here. Connor knew that was crazy. Yeah she had gone all stalker on him because of the spell that made her love him but would she follow him here from California. Connor went to investigate. It was worse than Tracy. He put his best smile on when he went over to the blonde.

 

“Hi, want a beer?” he asked.

 

“I was thinking about taking one outside. It’s a little stuffy in here.” She smiled at him.

 

The basement was a pit, no doubt and outside suited him just fine. Connor got the beers and made out like he was drunk as a lord, staggering back over to her. She took the beer with a predatory grin then led him outside.

 

She sighed. “Isn’t this better, stud?” She took a drink then ran a hand along his shoulder and up his neck. “A cute frat boy like you alone?”

 

He smiled stupidly at her. “Not tonight.”

 

She leaned in for what most guys would have thought would be a kiss. She had barely morphed into her vampiric visage when caught her long hair, yanking back hard and fast. There was the snap of bone and then her dusting. He brushed the dust off his fraternity t-shirt. “Don’t make vampires even worth the effort any more.”

 

Satisfied his fraternity was safe, Connor headed back inside. Kari grabbed his hand and pulled him onto the dance floor. He couldn’t dance well but he was having fun. That’s what his second chance was all about right? He just wished he knew better what his place was in the world.

 

 

 
 
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
 
 
O'Brien's was a respectable pub. . . almost too respectable for Wesley's patronage but the titular proprietor manned his station behind the bar with efficiency and discretion. He didn't comment on Wesley's habits or drinking constitution so Wes had returned perhaps more than was prudent for a man who was attempting to get lost in the nameless, untraceable cracks of society. This became particularly evident when Wesley saw the door of the pub swing open to admit Gunn.

Gunn stood in the doorway, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the dim interior lighting. Wesley noted that this time he'd forgone the expensive suit in favor of jeans and a hooded sweatshirt.

Most likely got some particularly unsavory stain during his last harassment attempt Wesley thought. A moment later he chastised himself for the uncharitable thought. Gunn's attempts to convince him to return to L.A. were unwelcome but he knew that if the tables were reversed, he would be hounding Gunn just as doggedly. This knowledge didn't change the fact that his attempts were met with refusals that were as chilly as Wesley could make them. No matter how aimless he felt, he had no intention of ever setting foot in Los Angeles again.

Wes looked down at the glass in his hand and swirled the contents. The alcohol barely managed to dull the pain these days. Usually all he got for his troubles was dimmed emotion and a raging hangover. Nevertheless, the hope of substance-induced amnesia was better than nothing.

He detected a movement out of the corner of his eye and knew that Gunn was on his way over to his table. Wesley chose to ignore him for the time being, hoping that this might be the time that Gunn looked at him, gave up, and turned back around.
 
 
Gunn signed his latest letter to Cordy with a sigh. He wasn't sure why he wrote them anymore, it's not like she ever replied. But somehow he couldn't make himself stop writing the relentlessly cheerful, painfully false missives. It was a rather elaborate fiction, friendship, happiness, satisfaction with life. But while he was writing the letters he let himself believe just a little. And he needed that too much to stop writing.

There were two quick knocks on his office door and Gunn knew that it was Angel before the door swung open. Spike and Illyria wouldn't have bothered to knock. And Lorne barely bothered to leave his office since Fred.

“I need a favor.” The muscles in Angel's jaw were clenching and Gunn knew that whatever the favor was it wasn't going to make either of them happy.

“Okay. What do you need?”

“I need you to find Wes.”

Gunn shook his head. “Hate to break it to you big guy, but I already did that favor. Four or five times now. Without you even having to ask. And let me just say that I sincerely doubt that in the three weeks since I last saw him he's decided to crawl out of a bottle and drag his ass back here.”

Angel grimaced. “I don't want you to bring him back.”

“You want me to find him just to find him?”

“No. I want you to ask him to do me a favor.”

Gunn couldn't help but laugh. “Angel, Wes can barely get it together to tell me he's okay and I should leave him the fuck alone. I highly doubt he's in any shape to do anything for you.”

“Well he needs to get into the shape to do it! He owes me.”

Gunn frowned.

“And you owe me too. Or you owe us. Or you owe him. Something! You owe somebody something.”

Gunn went silent. When he began to speak again it was barely audible. “I think that spending time in a hell dimension getting my heart cut out did a lot to repay that debt. And just so you know Angel, at some point I'm going to stop letting you use my guilt to get me to do shit for you. What do you need me to convince Wes to do?”

Angel sighed. “You know there's been increased demon activity in New York?”

Gunn nodded. They'd been getting reports on it for weeks. Most of it had been in the form of self-congratulatory press releases from Wolfram & Hart NY.

“I need someone to start up a branch of Angel Investigations over there.”

“Angel Investigations doesn't exist.”

Angel glared.

Gunn put his hands up. “Okay, fine, it does, we're it. Go us, the little guy taking on the corporate giant.”

“I need Wes to open the New York branch. To fight Wolfram & Hart over there and keep the demons at bay. We'll give him Spike to help him out.” For the first time since entering the office Angel smiled a little.

Gunn's lips quirked slightly. “Do you have any thoughts on how I should convince him? Any sort of specific plan? Or should I just take away his whiskey and push him toward the coast.”

“Yeah, I have a plan.”

Gunn grabbed a pen and took down the details of the plan that would either save or destroy Wes.
 
 
 
21 September 2005 @ 10:27 pm
The pain was incredible—white hot pokers, not just stabbed into his eyes but woven between the nerves behind them. It radiated through his skull, pounded in his temples, and was preparing to burst his head open like a ripe melon.

And this was all before Wesley had even opened his eyes.

He supposed he ought to have been accustomed to the pain by now. It had turned into a daily ritual, this slow hazy awakening that was quickly succeeded by the headache and an intense screaming protest from his mind. Wakefulness meant hours of time that were open and available for Wesley to do nothing but consider his myriad losses and failures. He had never been good at repressing, not the memories of his father’s disappointment and scathing disapproval, not the thoughts of his failures as a Watcher—a position for which he’d been groomed from birth, and certainly not the memories of his most recent betrayals of family and responsibility. His repression skills hadn’t improved in the time since he’d left L.A. If anything, the destruction of Vale’s magic had made it impossible for him to forget.

There were so many things he wanted to forget. People he would love to forget.

As always, in these moments of nearly complete sobriety, the guilt hit him in waves, shame that he would even consider forgetting those he had failed. Faith, Connor. . . Fred. Wesley knew he didn’t deserve to forget, knew that if he spent every moment of the rest of an unnaturally long life inundated with visions of his many misdeeds and mistakes that it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for what he’d done. Not being the Watcher or the friend that Faith needed because he’d been too busy foolishly competing with Giles for power and control over Buffy; leaving Faith to be exploited and then carelessly turning her in to be slaughtered as though her failures weren’t also his.

And Faith had been the least of his triumvirate of Big Failures—at least she’d had Angel to step in and do what Wesley should have been doing all along. Connor had no one but a madman with a twisted concept of love to keep him company in a hell world and with Connor, he’d also managed to betray Angel as well and his actions had led them all on the path to his most personal loss—Fred. If he’d only believed in Angel, trusted his friends, then perhaps he wouldn’t have been manipulated into starting everything that had followed... Actions that had resulted in Angel making a deal with Wolfram & Hart to save his damaged son (a son who was only damaged because of Wesley), actions that had taken them all into belly of the beast, actions that had made Fred vulnerable to those bastards. . .

It was like this every day, every time he woke up. Soon the visions of Fred’s skin turning brittle and hard would come, her dying words would echo in his ears. Every day it was a race for oblivion before that happened.

Wesley cracked open an eye and turned his head to look at the alarm clock on the cheap nightstand. For a single moment the blurriness of the glowing red numbers confused him—perhaps he was still more intoxicated than he thought—but then he sighed and slowly reached for his glasses. He sat up and gingerly eased off of the bed, raising a hand to rub across the stubble along his chin. After a few minutes of waiting for a wave of nausea to pass, Wesley stood up and crossed to the heavy hotel draperies, cracking them open to let in a sliver of the late afternoon light. He scanned the nearly empty parking lot before turning to make his way to the wash room.

He couldn’t remember the name of the hotel, or the town. It hardly mattered. It had at least 3 establishments that catered to the only needs he indulged these days.

As he squeezed a dollop of toothpaste on his brush, a vision of Fred’s dry cracked lips flitted through Wesley’s mind and he dropped the toothbrush into the sink. Grabbing a half-empty bottle that sat next to the sink, Wesley took a quick swig.

It was past time to visit one of those establishments.
 
 
When Buffy woke up, she had no idea that her life-- or lack of a life as the case may be-- would change so completely in a few short hours. She was too busy focusing on her dream. The faded edges slowly lingered just out of reach. She felt like it was something important, but she couldn't figure out what that "something" was. She had been back at the Sunnydale High library researching at one of the tables--which was strange because research was not her thing back in high school-- when she caught a brief glimpse of a dark head turning into the stacks. She woke up with the feeling that it was someone important but she couldn't quite her finger on who.

Glancing at the clock and seeing how late she was running already, all thoughts of the dream flew from her mind. "Shit," she muttered as she jumped from the bed and raced to the tiny bathroom. "Shit, shit, shit. This is so not the day to be late." She had a huge test in her Gender and Socialization class, as well as a meeting with her advisor on her possibilities after graduation. Already she could tell this was going to be a banner day.

******

After leaving her meeting, Buffy was in the need for a little celebration. Her advisor had been very complimentary and had encouraged her thoughts of graduate school. She had also aced her test--Giles would have been pr-... She winced at the unconscious direction her mind had gone. That was the past. She was making a concerted effort to move on from that past. Thoughts of Giles wouldn't help matters.

Yes, today was definitely the day for a little mindless celebration in the form of shopping. It would have to be window-shopping of course but even window-shopping was still shopping, right?

As she walking out of Munger Hall, she overhead some girls talking about a sample sale. Since she had been in New York, she had heard of the chaotic free-for-alls with women practically trampling on one another to snag a designer dress but she had never been to one. Maybe that was the shopping she needed. She still wouldn't be able to afford anything, but half the fun was in trying on the clothes. Or so she told herself.

"Excuse me," she interrupted the two young women, "where is that sale?"

"Oh, it's at La Di Da over on Orchard Street. You might want to hurry. Those places can get brutal fast," one answered. "I would go but I have a damn sociology test in about ten minutes."

Buffy thanked the two girls who had drifted back into their conversation. She glanced at her watch and calculated the time needed to get to Orchard Street. If she could grab a cab... granted, she'd be eating tomato soup and crackers for the rest of the week but it'd be worth it.

Hailing a cab like a true New Yorker, she felt a inner thrill of victory when one pulled right over for her. Ignoring the leer of the driver, she gave him the address and watched the buildings fly past as he roared away from the curb. When he finally stopped at the store, Buffy frowned as she watched the mass of women in front of the store push and pull their way closer. I'm doing this why? she asked herself.

"Hey, lady. You leavin' or stayin'?" The guttaral voice of the cab driver startled Buffy into action. "Sorry," she apologized as she dug through her wallet for the fare. "Thanks." She had climbed out of the cab and barely shut the door before he was off like a shot.

Taking a deep breath, she turned and faced the crowd. The Hellmouth hadn't been as scary as this crowd. Stop that. No more thoughts of Giles, of demons, of slaying, nothing. You're moving on, remember? So start moving. Before she could continue her self-admonishment, the doors opened and the solid mass because one giant, writhing body as the women rushed to be the first inside. Swept in with the crowd, Buffy struggled to hold on to her purse and bookpack. She grunted when a woman elbowed her in the side, and she was pretty sure the glare on the woman's face meant it wasn't an accident.

Once inside, the chaos seemed to calm but only slightly. The larger space inside diffused some of the manic tension rippling through the crowd. Buffy pushed her way through amid cries of "Mine!" "I saw it first!" "Hands off, bitch!" to a less crowded rack. Maybe it wouldn't be so crazy here.
 
 
Current Mood: rushedrushed
 
 
Dawn jotted down a few more observations in her notebook and looked up warily as Giles quickly walked into the office and dropped another pile of paper in front of her with an ominous thud. She stretched the kinks from her shoulders and took a moment to really look at her desk and her eyes widened as she took in the millions of post-its and scrolls that covered the surface. It was like they were reproducing. Being a watcher-in-training was a lot like being a secretary she was finding.

She couldn’t help the scowl that flitted across her face when Giles started to babble on about some ancient artifact that no one had heard of or seen in millions of years but that had suddenly become very important. Usually, she found this kind of stuff really interesting, but today all she wanted to do was go home. She’d been at the Council for hours and she still had loads of work to do for class the next day. University was a lot harder than high school even without the hellmouth and the fact that everyone sounded like Giles made her feel even more insecure.

She hadn’t realized that the grimace had remained on her face until Giles stopped talking and frowned at her in that way he had, “Dawn, are you paying attention? This is a serious matter and I will need your cooperation.”

Dawn sat up a little straighter in her chair and looked directly at him, “Sorry, Giles. I was just…never mind. I’m listening.”

“You know, Dawn…”

And, here it comes, she thought as she slumped in her chair again. It was the dreaded speech. She’d heard him give it to Buffy at least a thousand times and by now she’d received it herself about a hundred times. She was almost tempted to mouth the words along with him, but knew that would only make things worse. So, she sat there quietly as he emphasized the importance of reaching one’s potential.

She noticed that the wrinkles around his eyes had deepened in the last year or so. She knew how much stress he was under. It wasn’t easy to rebuild the Watcher’s Council, especially now that there were slayers all over the world. And, of course, there was the thing with Buffy…

He never talked about it but she could see how much he missed her. And, Dawn missed her too. Her phone calls with Buffy were always short and awkward. Dawn understood that right now the calls were an obligation, something she felt she needed to do because Dawn was her sister, her family. But, Buffy was still angry, she was still hurt; Dawn heard it in her voice. And, she felt horrible about it, but she still wasn’t sure that they’d been wrong the night that the group had asked Buffy to stand aside.

But, at the same time, she loved her sister and after everything they had been to each other, it was still painful to know that Buffy was shutting her out. She remembered the day Buffy left, her stance rigid and stubborn. And, Dawn knew that their relationship would never be the same.

She sighed as she heard the last points of Giles’ speech. He always ended it by telling her how much he respected the work she’d done so far and that he was sorry for being so hard on her. He just wanted the very best for her. And, then she would smile and nod and he would clean his glasses the way he did when he was sentimental or uncomfortable.

Eventually Giles left, telling her that she could go home for the night. As she gathered her things and turned off the lights, she tried to purge all the Buffy thoughts from her mind. Everything just needed time and until that time came, there was nothing to do but wait.
 
 
18 September 2005 @ 09:54 pm
Faith let the newest motel room door swing open on squeaky hinges, sighing as she stared into yet another bland room with a cheap, shiny comforter on the bed and scarred wooden table in the corner. The blinds were drawn and the room smelled like stale cigarette smoke, and she pitched her well-worn duffel bag onto the dresser that held an ancient TV.

"Guess I can't complain too much," she muttered to herself, easing the door shut behind her and sprawling out across the bed. "These pit-stops are definitely a notch or two up from my old digs."

She crossed her arms in front of her and rested her cheek on her wrists, closing her eyes for a moment. She hadn't slept much in the last few days. She had this feeling that the Fibbies were closing in on her. She hadn't seen anything, or heard anything. It was just this tight, itchy feeling in the back of her neck that told her she was in the crosshairs.

Not this time, dammit, she swore to herself. She wasn't going behind bars again. She had a lot more to offer the world now that she was back to playing nice with the other boys and girls. Okay, not exactly "back to", she amended thoughtfully. You can't go back to what you never were.

Faith sighed and rolled over, using her thumb and index finger to split two of the slatted blinds apart a fraction of an inch, just enough for her to peer warily outside. Her eyes narrowed, flicking over everything in the parking lot, every shape, every shadow. She gradually relaxed, her shoulders easing back, as she realized there was nothing out there waiting to grab her. Waiting to try.

She sat up, scooting the two cheap, thin pillows against the headboard and settling back in against them. She grabbed the remote and flicked the TV to life, but her thoughts strayed from the moronic laugh-track sitcom to her complicated life.

Not so complicated now, she realized. When did solitary stop being the law of the land and start sucking hardcore?

She couldn't blame anyone but herself. It had been her choice to leave Cleveland-and she had friends there, after all. Or friends of a sort. Dawnie was still givin' me the evil eye, but Red was cool enough. And there was Wood. Although she supposed that it was only a matter of time before they'd gone their separate ways. Guess that's what they mean when they say 'don't shit where you eat', but whatever. She had tried to use them as excuses-she didn't want to get tied down, she couldn't be responsible for other people's lives, etcetera, ad infinitum. (She'd learned that last one in prison, and she just liked the way it sounded. Never mind the fact that she could barely pronounce it.)

Faith refused to admit it to anyone but herself, but she was tired of trying to be Buffy. She was tired of being the only Senior Slayer around, the one they all looked to for direction. Hell, didn't anyone ever tell them the only direction I know is south? It wasn't her deal. The whole leadership thing, it just wasn't her. She liked the lone wolf lifestyle.

Or at least, she had. Once upon a time. Seemed lately that walking alone didn't do it for her the way it used to.

Not like I have much choice anymore, she reminded herself, as philosophically as she could get. I gotta keep movin', or I'll be locked up again faster than I can whip out a stake. Doesn't give a girl much time to settle down and buddy up with the locals.

She glanced down at her watch and grimaced. It was midnight, and she had to be up in just a few hours. No staying in one place too long, that was the new golden rule. Gotta love life on the run.
 
 
Current Mood: tiredtired
 
 
Cordelia stepped out of the building and buttoned up her coat, pulling her scarf more tightly around her neck to block out the cold winter wind. This was her first real winter out of California and it was nothing like she remembered from the ski trips her father used to take them on. Instead of clean white flakes of snow there was dirty gray slushy ice. Instead of ski lifts and sloping paths there were subways and endless sidewalks. And at the end of her trip she wasn't going to be greeted by a bubbling jacuzzi and crackling fire-- more like a claw foot bathtub and a radiator that never seemed to be able to manage adequate heat in her studio apartment.

It was a different life, for sure, but Cordy didn't regret her move to New York. There were other things that she was more than happy to have left behind-- things like demons, comas, and evil law firms. Those were the things that she tried her damnedest to try to forget about. During the days forgetting was easy-- between dance class, voice lessons, auditions, and her reception job she didn't have a lot of time to obsess about the complete crappiness of the last few years of her life. The nights were a different story. Cordy hadn't slept through a single night since waking up from the coma, the nightmares coming like clockwork. If she was lucky she didn't remember any details-- if it was a bad night, she couldn't scrub the feeling of warm, hot blood off of her hands no matter how much she tried. Those were the nights she woke up screaming.

Over the past year she'd found that the best method of scream prevention was complete exhaustion. Luckily, the frenetic pace of her life made that easy enough. She took dance classes 5 times a week and had weekly voice and acting lessons as well. In her "spare time", Cordy worked as a receptionist for a greasy little ambulance chaser who took too much interest in her breasts, but he only worked with humans and it was honest money, or at least as honest as it could be given the skeeziness of her boss. She was just glad she found an office job-- she may have changed a lot over the years but Cordelia Chase was never going back to retail. She preferred to spend her time on the customer side of a cash register, thank you very much.

Cordy pushed up her coat sleeve and glanced at her watch. She had about 10 minutes to get to her modern jazz class and she was running late. The audition she'd just left had gone pretty well. The casting director had told her that her choreography was strong but hadn't had much to say about her voice-work. She frowned, thinking about all the money she was spending on voice lessons. She knew she was improving-- Maria, her voice instructor, hadn't winced in weeks and had in fact told her she was ready to move on to some more difficult arrangements. It was a far cry from her first lesson when Maria had frowned and muttered that while she didn't seem to have an ear for music, at least she wasn't tone-deaf. Considering how hard she worked at it, Cordelia had been hoping for some kind words from the casting director but at least he hadn't said anything negative. She wasn't sure if she'd get called back or not but it was the best audition she'd had yet and Cordy knew she was going to get her break any day now.

As Cordy rounded the corner, a well-dressed young man thrust a sheet of paper at her. Cordy glanced at the flyer and smiled. New York might be cold but they had the best sample sales ever. She couldn't wait to tell Rafael about this one after class- it was painful to admit it but his fashion sense was even more finely honed than hers and he was the perfect shopping companion. Shoving the ad in her bag, she picked up her pace and raced the rest of the way to the studio.