Exaggeration and Blank Verse

Wishverse 2.0

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series

She’d called Xander before she left the office; now that was something she thought she’d never do again once she got to LA.

“That girl you went to prom with. Anya. She had something to do with wishes, granting them and changing the world, something...”

“She, uh, used to be a vengeance demon.” She could actually hear him fidgeting. “She’s not anymore, though. All human now.” He paused. “We’re sort of dating.”

“Oh, so you’re going back to chasing the nonhuman now? Maybe that’ll work out better for you.” She didn’t have time for a trip down the Xander Harris memory lane. “Where does Anya live? I need to talk to her.”

“Where does she...” There was a long silence. “I don’t know where Anya lives.”

“Where does she work, then?”

“I...don’t...she doesn’t work. Wait a minute. How does she afford those outfits, if she doesn’t work?”

“Oh, a nonhuman kleptomaniac. You really are moving up in the world.” She glared at the receiver. “Can you at least ask her to meet me somewhere, then? I really need to talk to her.”

“Look, Cordelia, you call me and you ask me all these questions, and now I’m wondering about things that I didn’t even consider before and this will probably lead to a huge fight and-”

She banged the phone against her desk. “Xander Harris!” she shouted. “Have your ex-demonic sex toy meet me at the diner by the highway tonight at nine, got it? I’m stealing my boss’s car and driving all the way to Sunnydale for this, and I don’t want to waste my time.”
* * *
“I don’t have my powers anymore,” Anya said for the fourth time, and Cordy wondered what the girl would look like wearing that coffee mug as a hat.

“But you must still have connections,” she pressed. “I work at investigating the demon underground now, Anya, I know that you all talk.”

“Why should I help you?” she pouted. “Why should I call in one of the very few favors I have left for the girl who lost me my powers in the first place?”

“What?” Cordy blinked.

“Never mind,” mumbled Anya, suddenly turning very red. “In fact, I’ll help you just for promising you’ll forget I said that.”

“Done.”

Anya sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. “Where are you staying tonight? It’ll take me a while to get through, but if I get someone to agree they’ll come to you within a few hours.”

“I’m at that scuzzy little motel. Angel’s petty cash doesn’t stretch far.” She pushed a piece of paper with her room number across the table. “Hope your friend isn’t too late. I need my beauty sleep, after all.”
* * *
2:30.

This was the time of night she would normally cry, trying to keep her sobs quiet until Dennis floated the tissues to her as a gentle reminder that she didn’t have to worry about waking him up. But tonight she wasn’t crying, because she was finally going to do something about it, about everything that was wrong.

If Anya’s demon friend ever showed up.

She turned off the TV when it went from talk shows to infomercials and went into the bathroom. When she came out again, a voice floated through the darkness.

“Are you decent?”

“Yes,” she said, telling herself that her heart was most certainly not racing with fear. “Demon guy, I presume?”

“Dzezzin, child of D’Hoffryn, at your service.” One of the shadows gave a theatrical little bow.

“Took you long enough.”

“I apologize for the delay.” He stepped into the light. His face was tinged green, with bony ridges twisting all over and deep eyes that glowed in the dim light coming from the parking lot. “Anyanka’s message called for a specialist.”

“I thought vengeance demons were female.” She sat down on the edge of the bed and looked at him skeptically.

He smiled vaguely. “Well, sweetheart, I’m not a vengeance demon. Your wish isn’t about vengeance.” He ran his hand over the bedside table and frowned at the dust on his fingers. “I would advise you to seek accommodations with maid service in the future.”

“I’d prefer it,” she muttered, glaring around the dirty little room.

“Well, at any rate,” he said, wiping his fingers daintily on the bedspread, “the Wish can be powered by any feelings that run strong and deep. I presume that yours do?”

“They do,” she said softly. “But I didn’t realize it until too late.”

He nodded. She thought she saw some sympathy in those glowing eyes. “So what is it you want, Cordelia? What is your dearest wish?”

She swallowed. “Well...you guys can change the world, right? Alter reality?”

“If that is the Wish.” He was studying her carefully, and she could feel him judging her, her intentions, her desires. Well, let him; she was Cordelia Chase, she had nothing to hide.

“Make it so Doyle didn’t die,” she whispered. “Don’t bring him back, don’t wipe out his sacrifice…make it so he never died at all.” She wiped at her eyes out of sheer force of habit. “Can you?”

“It will change everything, you know.” His lips turned up into a stiff little smile. “More than you know.”

“I don’t care,” she said stubbornly. “It isn’t fair; we never got a chance to see. I only realized how I felt when he...”

Dzezzin chuckled softly. “Life is very rarely fair, Cordelia. And if my power came from vengeance I would spin you off into your wish-world without a second thought. But I grant wishes with the ache for loves that might have been. I don’t have the thirst for pain that motivates Anyanka and her kind.” He tilted his head and smiled at her again, reaching out to gently brush his hand against her cheek. “Your ache runs deep, Cordelia, so I’ll grant you your wish. But I’ll give you a trap door. You’ll live two days in your wish-world, just enough time to see how things have changed. And then I’ll come to you, and you can choose.”

“Choose?” She stared at him.

“Which reality lives and which dies.” He stood up and stretched slowly, cracking his knuckles.

“It’s no choice,” she said firmly. “If Doyle is alive, that’s the world for me.”

He gave that odd, sad little smile again. “Well, then I won’t have to stay long. Now, we ought to do this properly, Cordelia...say the words all proper-like…”

She closed her eyes. “I wish that Doyle hadn’t died...”
* * *
The world went white, and she gasped as for an instant she could see the universe as it really was, a web of infinite possibilities branching out since the dawn of time. It was too much, more than her brain could bear, and as she opened her mouth to scream the world snapped back into place around her.

She was standing in her bedroom, hands wrapped in her hair, holding it up off her neck while invisible fingers zipped up her dress.

“Thank you, Dennis,” she whispered automatically, staring at herself in the mirror. Her hair was an artful mass of curls spilling down her back, her makeup was flawless, and she was wearing the sleek little black dress from the Nordstrom window, the one she’d been coveting for weeks.

In the mirror, a bottle of perfume hovered patiently by her elbow. She blinked, then nodded, and Dennis gently spritzed it over her.

“I guess I’m going out,” she said, turning slowly to look around the room. A gold necklace settled around her throat; she saw her strappy gold stilettos on the bed and smiled. “Good taste is the same in every reality,” she said, sitting down and reaching for a shoe. Something rustled as she shifted her weight, and she glanced down to see that she was sitting on the Nordstrom garment bag the dress must have come in.

There was a note taped to the bag, in the same even handwriting that signed her paychecks.

“Cordelia- Here’s my contribution to the evening. I hope this is the beginning of some real happiness for both of you. You truly deserve it. Angel.”

“Angel bought this dress for me,” she said, staring down at the note. “Angel bought this dress for me?” She looked up at herself in the mirror.

“And I’m going out with someone he wants to be happy.” She watched a smile slowly spread across the face in the mirror. “Well, now I know it’s an alternate universe. Vision boy actually got up the nerve to ask me out!”
* * *
Dinner was at a tiny Italian restaurant a few blocks from the office, not quite classy enough to justify the dress, but she wasn’t wearing it for the other customers anyway. She was wearing it for the man sitting across from her, the pale, sweaty Irishman stuttering like a maniac and drinking his wine way too fast.

“Doyle,” she said for the fourth time, “calm down, okay? It’s just me. We eat lunch together at the office practically every day anyway, so what’s with the panic attack?”

“This is different,” he said, hand jumping out towards his wineglass. She caught it an instant before he did and pulled it away. “I’m paying, for one thing, and for another…” His voice trailed off and he gazed at her over the candles. “Saints and angels, Cordelia, you’re always stunning, but tonight you’re…unreal.”

She felt a warm glow go all through her body at the words, and wondered if this was the “perfect happiness” she’d heard so much about. “Thank you,” she said softly. “You’re looking a few steps above your usual tonight too.”

Turns out the man did own at least one item of clothing that was conservative in cut and color; or if he didn’t before, he did tonight. She wondered if there was a check with Angel’s name on it being deposited in a men’s clothing store’s account tonight.

He blushed and stammered and smiled at her again. The candlelight reflected in his eyes.

She handed him his wineglass and picked up her fork. “So tell me about your life, Mr. Allen Francis Doyle…”
* * *
They talked and talked while the candles burned down and the level in the wine bottle dipped lower. He learned all about cheerleading and palomino ponies that went to live with the IRS; she learned that teaching third grade sounded much more interesting than actually being a student in it.

But inevitably, as a second bottle of wine replaced the first, the subject took a more somber turn.

“Angel’s taking it pretty hard,” Doyle said, staring down at the smear of chocolate on porcelain that used to be his dessert.

She made a noncommittal sound and hoped he would elaborate on that. Too bad Dzezzin didn’t give her a Cliffs Notes version of what happened in this reality.

“I mean, that little boy…seeing him take that leap, giving up his life to save his family…” He shook his head slowly. “Angel just can’t seem to forgive himself for not being the hero that night.”

Cordelia wondered if this was what Angel’s heart felt like- frozen in his chest, not beating.

“That boy was a champion too,” he said softly, glancing up into her eyes. “I mean, can you imagine, Cordelia, looking into your heart and finding that kind of…depth there? That kind of love, that kind of heroism?” His eyes went back down to the plate again. “I know I don’t have it in me.”

“Doyle, that’s not true,” she breathed, reaching across the table for his hand.

He glanced up at her with a cynical little smile. “Well, I doubt we’ll ever have a need to find out, princess.”

She bit her lip and was quiet. This version of Doyle hadn’t discovered just how much of a hero lived in his heart.

Well, he had her now, and she knew. She could help him find it.

“It’s getting late,” she said, smiling at him. “We’d better call it a night.”

He drove her home and they hovered outside the door for a few minutes, chatting about nothing and not wanting to say goodbye while the door fluttered against its deadbolt as Dennis expressed his none-too-patient desire for Cordelia to come inside.

“Can I take you to dinner again tomorrow night?” Doyle asked her after a gentle kiss. She nodded eagerly, loving the sight of his eyes and his hair and his warm hand cradling hers. He was alive, and she was in paradise.
* * *
But the next day was a whirlwind, with a new client and an audition and Angel beating the crap out of some leather-clad ninny who turned out to be, of all people, the Amazing Non-Watcher Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. Then their client turned out to have a slight problem with telling the truth, and Doyle almost got his eyes sold on the black market, and it took about three highly improbable coincidences and a shocking turn of events before they were all slumped in their chairs back at the office, exhausted and bewildered and far too tired to go out on a date.

And so Cordelia fell asleep on Angel’s office couch with twenty-four hours left before she’d have to choose.
* * *
The next night she asked him to take her dancing.

She wasn’t quite sure why, but something in her heart insisted that she had to wrap her arms around him and feel his heart pressed close to hers before she could look Dzezzin in the eye and tell him where she wanted to stay.

“You’re awfully quiet tonight, Princess,” he chuckled as they moved slowly over the floor. “Is it a special occasion?”

She tried to smile and rested her head against his shoulder, closing her eyes and feeling the steady lub-dub, lub-dub of his heartbeat against her chest.

“Cordelia? Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” she whispered, not daring to look up at his face. “Just hold me.”

“All right,” he said, chuckling softly and bringing his arms tighter around her. She felt his breath softly stirring her hair. “By the Powers, how did I get to be so lucky…”

Because I wanted you to be. She kept her eyes closed for another moment, then opened them and followed the feeling of being watched over across the room. One of the waiters tilted his head and smiled at her, eyes glowing a brilliant green. They stared at each other for a long moment before she stepped back from Doyle’s arms.

“Excuse me for just a minute,” she said, waving her hand vaguely towards the restrooms. “I’ve got to…”

“Of course, Princess,” he said, smiling at her again, that dazzling smile that stopped her heart. She’d ignored it for a long time, and she wanted to cry for every one of these moments she’d missed.

“I’ll be right back,” she said, more to herself than him.

She crossed the room to where Dzezzin was waiting, next to the pay phones at the end of the hall that led to the restrooms. He smoothed his uniform top and stared at her, face sliding back into its demonic form. “So, my dear, have you made your choice?”

“I have,” she said.

His eyes glowed in the dim light. “And what do you wish?”

She took a deep breath, lifted her chin, and told him.

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