Special thanks to Ainon, who got me out of lots of trouble with this chapter. Um, and Faith, who (again) wasn't even supposed to be here but just suddenly appeared. I'd complain, but I don't want to make her mad.
Xander's Job, Chapter 11: Cordelia's Point of View
I thought they’d never get there.
I mean, showing up late for a funeral would be a major faux pas under any circumstances, but showing up late for my funeral would be criminal. But they made it to the funeral home, after what was probably way too little sleep at the swanky hotel Angel put them up in. Angel peeled off to take care of some details – too bad there wasn’t time for him to replace those truly horrid lavender drapes – while the others stayed in a tight little knot, as if entering some monster’s lair.
After Angel left the others, I noticed something kind of odd. Whenever Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander went somewhere together before, it seemed like Buffy always led the way. So, she was the Slayer, big whoop. Did that mean she always had to be the leader? But whenever they went off to do battle, or research some new big bad, or get take-out, Buffy was always the one in front. Maybe the others were just afraid she’d trip, and take out their Achilles tendon with one of those big axes she was always carrying around.
But this time, Xander was in front. I watched them come to a stop near the rear of the chapel, with him forward, Buffy and Willow to either side, and Giles bringing up the rear. It was weird. Buffy seemed … lesser somehow, even though she wore a truly smashing black silk dress, knee length, with an old fashion collar and layered sleeves – anyway …
No, it wasn’t that Buffy seemed lesser. It was that she was one of a crowd, while Xander stood out, for once. He’d also changed back at the hotel, and somewhere along the line he’d developed some serious fashion sense – I’d like to think I rubbed off on him. He wore a regular black suit, which hey – so did everybody else – but it was custom fit, and the red tie added color in just the right place, and that eye patch – very secret agent.
Where was I?
Well, after a moment of sizing up the place, he led everyone straight to the empty seats in the front row, and swept a hard gaze around as if daring anyone to say he didn’t have the right. I swear, Fred swooned, and I think Lorne did, too.
He did have the right, of course. Angel had arranged for my family – my blood relatives, I mean – to gather the next day for a different service, which would avoid questions about some of the weird people who were here today. It would also allow Angel and some others to conveniently miss the burial, since it would be happening during the day.
That was fine with me. I’ve got to admit, I was still getting the willies over the idea of my body being planted in the ground, even though I’m obviously not going to be in there, so I didn’t mind waiting another day for that.
Angel, who was greeting people at the back of the room, glanced over and raised an eyebrow as the Scoobies headed for their seats, but didn’t say anything. There was enough room in the front row for both them and the Angel Investigations gang, after all.
But before anyone had time to get seated Fred ran up and grabbed Willow’s hands, chatting to her like a schoolgirl. Wes stepped in front of Giles and, after they had a moment to size each other up, they shook hands and started that inane British chitchat that polite people do when they really don’t like each other. Spike shuffled toward Buffy until she caught sight of him, then they just stood there staring at each other, like a couple of geeks at a school dance. The gang’s all here, you know? I was getting a kick out of their discomfort.
Well, the gang wasn’t all here, since a bunch of people had stayed at that new Watcher’s headquarters. But to my surprise Faith had caught a redeye straight to L.A., beating Xander and the crew by a long shot, and she was the one who first to catch on to the fact that Xander was just standing there, looking at me.
Not the real me, of course; just the body in the coffin.
I had on this darling burgundy dress with a kind of paisley pattern, and it showed off some very nice cleavage, if I do say so myself. They had my hair up in a complicated, delicate pattern, and the makeup – perfect. I looked alive, seriously. Thank goodness Angel didn’t try to shove me into black – there was way too much of that going around as it was. Fred was wearing white, bless her; she knew how I would have felt.
Anyway, Xander just stood there near the front row of chairs, staring at me, and I began to wonder if the open casket thing was such a good idea, after all. Faith took his arm and spoke into his ear, but it was as if he didn’t know she was there. A moment later Lorne caught the undercurrent, but to my surprise he just stood there like a big lump, staring. Maybe he was waiting for Xander to break into a heartfelt chorus of “Feelings”.
Buffy and Willow didn’t catch on at all. Jeez, they called that group the Scoobies, like they lived together in a van with a big dopey dog. You’d think they’d be more sensitive to each other’s feelings.
“What’s the matter with you?” I demanded out loud. Doyle had told me to stay quiet at funerals, in the brief time we talked before he went on to do that whole whitelighter mission thing. I don’t know why he felt the need to tell me that, but he should have stuck around for more than a “welcome to ghostville” speech if he wanted to shut me up. “Lorne -- singing and helping, those are the things you do best. Get involved or do some Sinatra.”
Lorne turned and, with an expression of incredible sadness, looked right at me. “I can’t help him right now,” he whispered. “He needs someone who’s been to the bottom of the discard pile, and was able to get back into play.”
Okay, so that shut me up. I just gaped at him until he turned away. Maybe he was talking to himself, and I just happened to be there. But I don’t think so.
I felt a little bad about yelling at him, but I was the guest of honor, after all. Cut me some slack. Anyway, I looked really good, and that was one deluxe casket, so I don’t think I can be blamed for changing the subject by saying out loud, “A girl who chucked it all to help the helpless deserves a nice send off, don’t you think?”
“Oh, absolutely,” agreed the spirit who stood near my casket, giving Faith a hard stare. “Spending lots of money on a girl, living or dead, is the best way to show her you love her.”
“I wish I’d known you when you were alive,” I told Anya. “We have a lot in common.”
Anya turned from Faith to give me one of those challenging stares that I used to consider – well – a challenge. “Maybe so, but you can’t haunt Xander. Xander’s mine.”
“Please. I’ve got a lot of traveling to catch up on; I’m not going to waste my time haunting anyone.” Besides, Xander had turned from my body, looking depressed but not as freaked a moment before, so I wasn’t too worried about him. In fact, I’d have been insulted if he didn’t take it hard.
“As long as we’re clear. I know you have history, but I’m the last person Xander had sex with, and he had a lot more sex with me than with anyone else.”
“Lady, if Xander and I had sex just once, he’d still be in my bed, whining for more.”
Okay, I admit: I was tempted to rise to the challenge. But I was also busy eavesdropping on an increasingly heated conversation between Buffy and Spike, so mostly I wanted Anya to shut up.
Their conversation started with something like, “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you’re alive,” and went rapidly downhill from there.
“Buffy, when I first came back –“
“And you invaded my apartment, sneaked into Rome like a couple of spies –“
“We were invited in – we had to be invited in, remember?”
“Andrew was a guest. Aren’t there rules? Can a housekeeper invite you in? How about a TV show? Or a loud parrot?”
“The point is, the last time I saw you, you were spontaneously combusting. You couldn’t have sent me a note? ‘Dear Buffy, I’m not on fire anymore’?”
“I didn’t want you to go through –“
“I’m so tired of people making those decisions for me!”
Just when it was getting good, Angel stepped between them. First he stepped through me, which is really weird. What was weirder was the way he stopped for just an instant, glancing around as if he’d just – well, as if he’d just passed through a ghost. But he shook it off and put a hand out. “This isn’t the time –“
“You!” Buffy punched him in the shoulder. “You were no better, skulking around Rome like a stalker.”
Taking a step back, Angel rubbed his arm. “I don’t skulk.”
“Buffy, please. This is a funeral for your friend.” Buffy didn’t hear that, because her mother said it. But she must have at least felt something, because she looked around with that guilty, puppy dog expression. Shaking her head, Joyce drifted away to join me and Anya. “I hated to do that. It’s so important for us to be quiet during funerals, when the spirit world comes close to the surface. When Buffy heard me at my funeral, she had nightmares for weeks.”
Buffy was nightmare girl anyway, but I didn’t mention that. The place was filled with spirits, almost as many as the living, but I have to admit they weren’t all here for me. Tara stayed close to Willow, and Jenny Calendar followed Giles around, for instance. In the last few days I’d learned that they aren’t always there, shadowing their former friends and families, but they’d all shown up for this. So much for Angel being the stalker.
I saw Harmony walking down the aisle, which made me think of something. “Joyce, what about vampires? When they’re turned they lose their souls, so could Angel’s and Spike’s ghosts be wandering around somewhere?”
Anya spoke first: “I didn’t know you were capable of such deep thought.”
“At least my idea of a conversation wasn’t listening to the screams of men being turned into horse droppings.” Not my best zinger, but I hadn’t known Anya long, and hadn’t had time to zero in on her weaknesses.
Anya looked horrified. “I only did that once. And he didn’t scream at all, he just sort of gurgled.”
“Color me ick.” Before I could say more, my attention was taken by Xander, who had turned to see Harmony approaching him.
“Xander, I just wanted to say how sorry –“
“Vampire!” Eyes wide – um, eye wide -- he yanked a small cross from his jacket pocket and waved it at her. “Vampire!”
“Hey!” Harmony protested, lurching backward. “That stings!”
“It’s supposed to! Hey, everybody, Harmony’s a vampire! Who let her in?”
“I did,” Angel said in that dry voice that usually meant he got the joke, but didn’t think it was funny.
“Xander!” Harmony whined. Hey, I’m sorry, but Harmony whines a lot, even as a blood sucking fiend. “I may be the undead, but Cordelia was my friend, too. She even let me stay at her place once after I was turned.”
Xander stared at her. “She did?”
“Uh huh. So, can’t I at least stay to pay my last respects?”
“Um, yeah. Okay.” Looking embarrassed at the attention he’d drawn, Xander sank into his folding chair. Maybe he’d have been less embarrassed if he’d known Harmony tricked me into inviting her in, and that I didn’t know she was a vampire until later, and that she tried to get us all killed. But what the heck. No girl should have to fight in those high heels, and dusting a vampire in the middle of a funeral had to violate all sorts of etiquette rules. Well, unless the funeral was for the vampire, in which case I suppose there’d be no choice. Still – tasteless.
Looking hurt, Harmony found a seat as far from Xander as she could get, and the others also began working their way to chairs. Angel and Spike both made a move toward a place beside Buffy, but Faith gave them a look promising great violence and sat there herself. Unfortunately, that put her right beside Wesley, who suddenly went from looking very cool and sedate (he’d even shaved) to really uncomfortable. The two vampires settled for side by side places on the other side of the aisle, where they spent the next few minutes elbowing each other.
With the seats suddenly crowded with living people, the spirits drifted toward one side of the room, forming a line so they could all see. “It’s a lovely service,” Tara said, and even as the words came out she looked mortified. “Um, I think there are more people here than came to mine.” That didn’t help. But, hey – how can you give a dead person a compliment for their funeral without feeling foolish? I give her credit for trying. She’s really sweet, and I understand what Willow saw in her, even though – ick.
The service? It was very nice, and everybody teared up, and Lorne did a really great version of “Amazing Grace”. Other than that? Well, let’s face it, funerals are boring. It was more fun at the dinner later, when some people got drunk, some got morbid, and the rest got both. Giles sat in a corner, staring at everyone as if he was in the CIA; Willow and Fred formed a kind of nerd corner where they debated geek stuff for about two hours; Spike got slapped by both Buffy and Harmony, then started up with Gunn, the wrong man for a vampire to start up with, and got decked; Angel wandered from place to place, looking morose, which was really sweet.
Xander didn’t swallow a drop of alcohol, but after awhile his voice started rising, and he flung his arm at everyone who tried to talk to him until Faith suddenly grabbed him by the arm and drug him into -- get this -- the women’s restroom.
“Hey!” Anya cried out, chasing after them, but Jenny Calendar grabbed her -- in a ghostly way, it’s hard to explain -- and held her back. Not an easy thing.
“Don't do it,” Jenny hissed at her. “I sat with Rupert during all those hard times, and couldn’t do a thing to comfort him -- it just made him feel more haunted. You can’t help, and you’re bound to hear things that will just make you feel worse.”
Personally, my first, impulsive thought was that Faith was looking to get laid. The girl was thoroughly sloshed. I mean, she may be trying to redeem herself, but she’s still Faith, right? But Lorne moved to guard the door from Buffy, Willow and a half dozen other people who were thinking the worst, and Lorne doesn’t take offensive action without having a pretty good idea what’s going on. I decided to trust him, if not Faith, and that’s what I told the other spirits.
It made Anya crazy.