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Old Skool Ficathon - World, Mostly Turning
Even in the darkness, every colour can be found
desoto_hia873
desoto_hia873
Old Skool Ficathon
My first-ever entry into a ficathon. For sathinks Old Skool Ficathon

The Potential Awards

Title: Pier Group
Setting: Post-Band Candy, BtVS S3
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,432
Written for cookie_dough101 who wanted Xander & Cordelia dating in BtVS S2/3 and snarky smoochies.
Summary: The Scooby Gang spends a day at the Pier. A missing scene from BtVS S3.

Disclaimer: Joss likes fanfic. He said so.

Profuse thanks to flurblewig and sunnyd_lite for beta-reading and encouragement.



Cordelia leaned back into the soft cushions of the sofa, her hand resting wearily on the bookbag that Aura had just dropped off for her. Her face was pale and her expression strained. She’d told Aura what had happened, so the whole school should know about it by lunchtime tomorrow. At least she wouldn’t have to repeat the story a hundred times herself when she went back. She closed her eyes and wondered if she’d ever feel good again. Physically, at least, she seemed to be improving – she’d made it as far as the living room today, which was something. As for the rest of her – well, that would take a little longer. Probably alot longer.

She was going to have to start catching up on schoolwork soon though, whether she wanted to or not. With a sigh, she mustered energy that she didn’t really have and looked into the bag. She pulled out calculus homework, a half-finished English essay, and her history textbook with a note clipped to it saying that there was going to be a test next week. At the bottom of the bag was an envelope containing a small stack of photographs. She pushed the books aside and opened the envelope. Brightly coloured pictures tumbled into her lap. The cheerful faces that grinned up at her proved not only that shiny, happy, unwounded and not-exhausted people actually existed, but also that she used to be one of them. Only a couple of weeks ago, even...

***


It had been a beautiful day. The air was warm, the sun shone brightly in a perfectly clear sky, the weekend stretched free before them, and SATs were over. To celebrate, the gang had decided to spend the day at the Pier. Of course, two of their number hadn’t actually taken SATs this time around – Oz had done his the previous year and Faith wasn’t having anything to do with them at all – but they were up for the celebratory part of the rite of passage nevertheless.

The air at the Pier was filled with competing sounds of jingly midway music, chattering voices, the gleeful excitement of children, and the cries of seagulls. Also, if you took a deep breath, with the mingled scents of cotton candy, caramel apples, hot dogs and fries, and other heart-healthy foods.

Xander gestured to the panorama before them. “Well, guys, whaddya want to do first?”

Willow pointed excitedly to the right. “The carousel! Please? I had my tenth birthday party here, remember Xander? My parents reserved the carousel for us for an hour.”

“I remember,” Xander replied. “I also remember you being sick to your stomach after the first fifteen minutes.”

Willow looked at him reproachfully. “That was a long time ago. C’mon!”

They headed towards the carousel, a fanciful, intricate, and elegant old machine with horses, painted ponies and chariots, brass poles, ribbons, and mirrors. Eagerness shone on Willow’s face. This was her favourite part of the park.

Faith leapt up to the platform of the ride and ran her hand along the mane of a pony. “It’s nice, but I dunno – pretty tame, guys.”

Xander swept into a grandiose bow before Cordelia, and gestured to one of the horses. “Your steed, m’lady.”

“Thank you, serf.” She mounted it delicately. “Have you seen my knight in shining armour?”

“I’m right here, m’lady.”

Cordelia raised her hand to shade her eyes and searched the distance. “Still looking...”

“Oh, ha ha.” Xander swung himself up onto the horse next to Cordelia’s.

Buffy climbed onto a pretty white pony, while Faith chose a bucking black mount with its ears laid back. Oz stood holding the brass pole next to Willow’s palomino. She looked down at him.

“Oz, aren’t you going ride one?”

Oz grinned at her. “Thought I’d better stay close to yours in case he gets frisky.”

The carousel started up and spun to the sounds of a merry waltz. After several minutes, the music slowed and the ride drifted to a stop. Willow dismounted and walked away unsteadily, looking a little green.

“OK, time for a real ride.” Faith pointed at the roller coaster. “Who’s with me?”

There was an enthusiastic show of hands from Buffy, Xander, and Cordelia

Willow’s hand was notably absent. “Think maybe I’ll sit this one out,” she suggested, looking wan and holding her stomach.

Oz put his arm around her. “I’ll stay with Willow. Besides...” he gestured at the sign indicating the 42” height requirement, “...having to be measured? Could be embarrassing.”

Buffy, Faith, Xander, and Cordelia set off for the roller coaster while Willow and Oz sat on a nearby bench to wait for them. Oz rubbed Willow’s back sympathetically as they watched the car holding their taller and braver friends speed off along the tracks. Screams ensued. A short time later, the four returned looking windblown and flushed by the experience. Cordelia retrieved a compact from her purse and, peering into its small mirror, began repairing her hair.

Willow looked up at them, her colour greatly improved. “I think I’ve been living near the Hellmouth too long. Those were good screams, right?”

Buffy laughed. “Yes, good screams. How’s your stomach?”

“Better now. Wants cotton candy, actually.”

They wandered over to a vendor to get cotton candy for Willow and a caramel apple for Xander. Xander patted his pockets and was dismayed to find them empty.

Cordelia saw his grimace and rolled her eyes. “Xander’s having another out-of-money experience. There’s news.”

“Damn, I lost all my change on the roller coaster.”

“I think that’s how they make a profit here,” said Oz, reaching past him and paying for the snacks.

Her hair restored to order, Cordelia picked out a pair of sunglasses from the next stall and turned to model them for the others. “I bet I look pretty cute in these.” She put the compact back in her purse, pulled out a camera, and handed it to Xander. “Here – take a picture of me to preserve the cuteness for posterity.”

“Hey guys – Cordy brought a camera! First round of mug shots is on me.”

They took turns posing and snapping pictures, first couple-wise and then group-wise for the benefit of the couple-less.

“Who wants mini-golf?”

“Mini-golf is good,” said Buffy. “And no Ted this time to catch me cheating.”

“Ted?” Faith’s eyebrows rose in question. Buffy gave her a look suggesting unpleasant memories.

“Long story.”

In keeping with its location next to the Pacific, the miniature golf course was nautically themed. Players had to hit their balls through the moving legs of an octopus, off the plank from the side of a pirate ship, and, on the last hole that returned their balls to the clubhouse, though the eye patch of a buccaneer. Xander’s ball got stuck in the giant squid on the fourth hole and he had to take a two-stroke penalty to get a new one. Cordelia emerged as eventual champion, all those family vacations at swanky resorts having finally paid off.

Lunch was had at the Surf View Café. They watched colourful sailboats wend their way in and out of the bay, and fed fries to the seagulls. Then they went to try their luck at the midway games. Oz and Xander got into a spirited competition trying to win prizes for their girlfriends at the ball toss, but the targeted pyramids of milk cans refused to topple. Faith and Buffy grinned at each other and stepped in.

“Stand aside, boys.”

The softballs began flying like guided missiles and milk cans tumbled everywhere. Willow and Cordelia were soon presented with two enormous stuffed rabbits. Buffy and Faith high-fived each other.

“Girls rule!”

“OK, using Slayer skills to win fuzzy bunnies?” Xander complained. “That’s just wrong. Plus, makes us guys look bad. Double plus, now we have to carry these friggin’ things around for the rest of the day.”

Faith elbowed him in the ribs. “You’re just jealous.”

“Oww...”

The afternoon continued. They strolled through the aquarium, bought fish to feed the dolphins, hurriedly sought out restrooms to wash the fish-ick off their hands, poked through the souvenir shop, and Willow upset her stomach again on the Ferris wheel. Then it was time for an ice cream break.

As they stood at the ice cream counter debating flavours and cone sizes, they heard a man and a woman engaged in a heated argument behind them.

Xander looked at them. “Sheesh – grouchy.” He pointed to a picnic table some distance away. “What say we eat over there in the peace and quietude?”

Their selections made, they strolled over to the table and raced to finish their ice cream before the sun melted it into their laps.

They were about to call it a day when Cordelia spotted the Tunnel of Love. Xander looked at Buffy and Faith apologetically.

“It’s OK,” Buffy reassured him. “You guys go ahead. Faith and I will wait here and keep an eye on Flopsy and Mopsy.” She pulled the purple bunny towards her and straightened his ears.

The two couples headed down to the ride, holding hands. Buffy watched them a little wistfully from her seat at the table, while Faith lay back on the grass behind it to enjoy the sunshine. One of the boats pulled up to the dock, disgorged its occupants, and then rocked gently as Cordelia and Xander climbed in. They sailed downstream and disappeared into the tunnel. A minute later, the scene repeated with Willow and Oz.

The pair who had been in Cordelia and Xander’s boat passed Buffy and Faith, bickering noisily.

Buffy watched them go by, resting her chin on Mopsy’s head. “They seem pretty cranky. Must be contagious.”

After a while, Cordelia and Xander emerged from the tunnel. They returned to the table, fighting. Cordelia was in a huff and Xander seemed unusually belligerent.

“I am not vain,” Cordelia exclaimed, “although I certainly have every right to be!”

“Oh, please,” Xander shot back. “You’re the only person I know who failed their driving test for looking into the mirror too often!”

Faith sat up, raising an eyebrow. “So, that Tunnel of Love thing didn’t work out for you two, huh?”

The boat carrying Willow and Oz returned to the dock and they disembarked. It was immediately apparent from their faces that something was wrong. Willow was upset and near tears, while Oz looked uncharacteristically surly.

“OK, something’s going on,” Buffy said. “Just what happened in that tunnel?”

Cordelia, Xander and Willow started to answer her, speaking in loud voices all at once. Oz ignored them and turned away.

“Wait, one at a time! Willow, you first.”

“I don’t know – nothing really happened,” Willow sniffed. “As soon as we went in the tunnel, Oz went all funky and stopped talking to me. He wouldn’t even look at me – see, he still won’t look at me!”

It was true. Oz’s only response was a muffled grunt and a hunching of his shoulders.

Willow started to cry. “He shouldn’t be so mean – I didn’t do anything!” She stamped her foot for emphasis.

A little taken aback by this outburst of emotion, Buffy turned to Xander. “What happened with you guys?”

Xander glared at Cordelia. “As soon as we got in there, the Her Sunnydale Highness started laying into me about everything and anything – how my clothes are all wrong and my hair’s always a mess...”

Cordelia interrupted. “Oh, right, it’s all my fault! You’re the one who called me a shallow, heartless snob...”

“...and I say all the wrong things, I’m a stain on the face of humanity...”

“...I do so care about important things, but you don’t even know that you don’t know what’s important...”

“Do you hear me, Oz? I didn’t do anything!”

It was clear that there was no more sense to be gotten from any of them.

Buffy and Faith traded looks. Glancing down at the ride, they saw yet another couple coming out of the tunnel, arguing.

Faith pushed herself up from the grass. “Think we better check this out, B.”

“Thinking you’re right.”

A hand reached out suddenly and seized Buffy’s arm. She turned, startled, to see Oz staring at her intently, his breathing laboured as he fought for control. His eyes were black. Willow gasped.

“It’s bad.” His voice was low and gravelly. “Fix it. Fast.” He released her.

Buffy shoved the stuffed rabbit she’d been holding at Willow, who held it in front of her like a shield, looking frightened.

“Let’s go, Faith.”

Oz turned away again and stared fixedly into the distance, his hands gripping the bench on either side of him and his chest heaving. Disregarding Cordelia’s protests, Xander pushed her behind him, somehow managing to continue sniping with her while keeping his eyes on Oz.

Buffy and Faith hurried down to the dock and got in a boat together. The operator, a pimply teenage boy, gave the two of them a funny look. Faith grinned lewdly at him, draped her arm around Buffy’s shoulders, and kissed her on the cheek. Their boat began to move.

Faith looked back at the boy. “Guess we know who’s gonna be starring in his wet dreams tonight.”

Their boat rounded a curve and approached the tunnel. From where they sat, they could see the dim red lighting inside and that the walls had been painted a violent colour of pink.

“This is romantic?” Faith asked disdainfully. “It’s like looking down someone’s throat.”

“Or a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. Gleh.”

The boat entered the tunnel. Faith suddenly yanked her arm away from Buffy as if she’d been burned.

“Keep your hands off me, bitch!” she spat, giving Buffy a shove.

“You started it!” Buffy could feel the irritation rising inside of her. “You practically put on a peep show for every guy that comes near you.”

“At least I know how to have a little fun.”

“At least you know how to be a tramp, you mean.”

“Don’t you dare call me a tramp, you stuck up tight-assed...” Faith started making a fist.

Buffy’s fingers curled in response. “I’ll show you who’s a tight...”

She stopped, and reigned herself in with an effort. “Wait, we’re not doing this. We don’t have anything to fight about and we don’t have time. It’s the tunnel that’s making us this way. Something’s not right.”

Faith sucked in a deep breath and placed her hands on her legs, forcing her fingers to straighten. She could still feel the irrational anger seething in her belly. “You’re not kidding.”

“There has to be a source...” Buffy peered through the pink gloom and saw narrow ledges on either side of the tunnel running along its length. She pointed them out to Faith.

“Look. You check that one out – I’ll go this way.” She climbed to the front of the boat and jumped over to the ledge on the right.

Faith glared at her with undisguised fury. “Quit bossing me around, you freakin’ harpy!”

Buffy glowered back. “Faith, don’t give in to it. Now go! We don’t know how long Oz can control himself.”

Faith gritted her teeth. “I’m going, I’m going,” she grumbled and jumped over to her ledge.

Crouched beneath the arc of the curved ceiling, Buffy crept along the ledge back towards the entrance, Faith paralleling her actions on the other side. As she neared it, a small assemblage of items came into view – an assortment of what appeared to be bleached chicken bones, a long black feather, and some thorns – all carefully arranged under a chalk symbol drawn on the wall. She glanced over at Faith and could just make her out in the dimness. Faith picked up a black feather from a similar pile on her side and looked at Buffy questioningly.

“It’s a spell. Break everything. And wash the symbol off the wall.”

“Little Miss Know-it-all,” Faith muttered, just loudly enough that she knew Buffy would hear.

“Now!” Buffy hissed.

Faith mumbled a few more obscenities, but did as she was told. There followed the sounds of grinding bones, snapping thorns, and splashing water. The tension between them disappeared as suddenly as it had started. Faith slid down into a sitting position and looked over at Buffy.

“That was... spooky.” Faith shivered and wished she were back out in the sunlight. “Kinda gave me a chill.”

“Me too.” Buffy was surprised to find that she was panting. She leaned her forehead against the cool wall for a few seconds, thinking that it was easier to fight vampires than her own emotions. “We’d better get back to the others and make sure there’s no werewolf or bunny fur flying.”

They clambered into the next empty boat and exited the tunnel. Running back up to the picnic table, they could see Oz resting his arms on the top of it and shaking his head in bewilderment. Willow had dropped the purple rabbit and sat next to him, patting his shoulder and wiping her eyes. Xander was trying to talk to a still-petulant Cordelia.

“Whoa. That was some weird shit,” said Oz. His eyes were back to normal.

“What was it?” Willow asked.

“A spell.” Buffy dusted the remaining chalk off her hands. “I’m thinking that Ethan Rayne had some free time on his hands when he was in town last week and decided to make a Tunnel of Hate. Probably his idea of a joke. Anyway, gone now.”

Cordelia turned to her. “Then why am I still mad at Xander?”

Buffy looked at her. “I think that’s just your personality, Cordelia. You probably weren’t even affected by the magic.”

Cordelia gave her an aggrieved look and crossed her arms, miffed. The others stood, picked up Flopsy and Mopsy, and started towards the park exit.

“It’s okay, Cordy.” Xander dropped back and put his arm around her. “You know I wouldn’t want you any other way.” He lowered his voice to a whisper.

“Is it weird that I found that strangely arousing?”

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Xander – aroused by strangeness. Why does that not surprise me?”

Xander grinned at her. She relented, smiled back, and they shared a kiss.

***


Cordelia bit her lip and looked away from the photographs. She was definitely, absolutely not going to cry. She was done with crying. She called up her inner bitch and glared at the coffee table until the stinging in her eyes went away. Disregarding her homework, she pushed herself up from the sofa and walked gingerly down the hall to her bedroom. She noticed the message light blinking on her answering machine – she’d turned the phone off before taking a nap earlier – and pressed ‘play’. The tape began to rewind.

Sitting down on the bed, she placed the photographs on the blankets next to her and reached over to the bedside table to retrieve a pair of scissors from the drawer. The motion made her gasp and she bent forward, wrapping her arms around her abdomen. Stretching like that had pulled her stitches.

When the pain passed, she straightened and picked up the top picture from the pile. She, Xander, Willow, and Buffy were posed in the sunshine, smiling broadly, their arms looped companionably over one another’s shoulders. Cordelia’s lip trembled. Her inner bitch was abandoning her.

She took a deep breath and methodically began cutting the photograph to pieces. It was locker material no longer. The fragments fell into an empty bowl on her dinner tray. The answering machine’s tape finished rewinding and it began playing back her messages.

“Hey, it's Xander. If you get this, call me.”

A lump formed in her throat at the sound of his voice. She looked at the last part of the picture left in her hand. Soft brown eyes gazed back at her. He’d looked good that day...

“Hi! Xander. I, uh... Well, I'm in if you feel like calling. Bye.”

...for a loser. She cut off his head.

She wasn’t, damn it, she wasn’t... oh God, yes, she was. She was crying. Again.

Tears flowed into her eyes and slid freely down her cheeks as she picked up a pack of matches, struck one, and set fire to Xander’s face.

“Hi, Cordelia. Um... If you get the chance, if we could talk, I'm here.”

She dropped the burning paper into the bowl and held the match to the other fragments. They burst into flame. Her shoulders sagged. Every part of her ached. She couldn’t remember ever feeling so tired and worn out.

“Hey again! It's me. I'm here. Again.”

She watched the flames burn themselves out, leaving only ash behind.


Pier Group Cordy
Icon by mangofandango



Tags:
Current Mood: nervous nervous

14 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 19th, 2004 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Good story

Although I'm more of a sucker for happy endings, this is pretty good reading material. Elegant writing style so I'd guess some of your dads genes are floating around in you ;)

GJ.
jedi_penguin From: jedi_penguin Date: May 19th, 2004 01:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very nice. I liked the way you fit this into canon, showing us a scene that we should have seen.
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: May 21st, 2004 02:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! Fitting into canon was a requirement and the first draft was actually written in script form, so I felt a little like I was writing a deleted scene from the show. Glad you liked.
flurblewig From: flurblewig Date: May 19th, 2004 03:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
::applauds:: Wonderful - I love the changes! Great story - a wonderful, happy slice of Scooby-life, snatched cruelly away as we go back to Cordy's pain.

Just like ME always did on the show :-)
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: May 19th, 2004 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! You are my hero for all your encouragement and helping get me through this. Without your nice words, I might not have had the courage to finish and post it (I panic real well).

Consider me your beta-slave for life! I'd offer you my first-born, but, well, don't have one. Would you like my annoying dog instead? :-)
flurblewig From: flurblewig Date: May 20th, 2004 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
You are most welcome, hon! It was a pleasure to assist with the losing of your fanfic virginity. So to speak. Ahem.

And the dog sounds quite nice, but not sure my cats would be so happy :-) I'll settle for some more fic, heh :-)
cookie_dough101 From: cookie_dough101 Date: May 19th, 2004 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
*tackles her fic to the floor*

That was amazingly good and even got me teary towards the end. Absolutely perfecto, everything I was looking for and then some *G*
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: May 19th, 2004 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! :-) I was so hoping you'd like. First time I've tried one of these - ohmigawd, the stress! But fun too. Think I might even try another one...
entrenous88 From: entrenous88 Date: May 20th, 2004 09:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Just clicked a random link on the Old Skool Ficathon to get here. Very well done -- lovely writing, a true BtVS plot with the spooked tunnel-of-love, and a poignant look into the happier days of Xander and Cordelia. Nice work.
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: May 21st, 2004 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! There was a certain amount of terror involved in doing this (first time!), but it was fun too. Off to read some of the other Old Skool stories now...
serasempre From: serasempre Date: May 20th, 2004 10:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Very nice entry.I like the punny title; liked the solid characterization, especially. My favorite fics are ones that can fit into canon and this one does that very well. I'm glad you entered.
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: May 21st, 2004 02:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! The title was the first thing that came to mind. ME's titles almost always have double meanings, so I wanted mine to have one too.

All the nice comments have given me enough courage to enter two more ficathons... (eek)
wickedprincess3 From: wickedprincess3 Date: July 6th, 2004 12:19 am (UTC) (Link)

archive request

This was funny and sad. The snark between Xander and Cordy was just perfect (Xander being oddly aroused. Heh.)
I really enjoyed this. I'd love to archive it at Old School if you would let me.
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: July 6th, 2004 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: archive request

Hey - absolutely! You're my first ever archive request. That gives me a happy. :-)
14 comments or Leave a comment