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Cordelia carefully wiped her eyes, a tiny part of her registering the fact that her non-smear mascara actually worked. Swallowing the last of her tears, she forced her breathing under control and peeked up at her boyfriend. Xander had been silent for nearly ten minutes as she had softly cried.

His face was a calm mask as he stared blindly across the club. He sat still as a stone, except for the slow clenching and unclenching of his fingers.

"Xander," she whispered. "Please let me explain."

He didn't answer for a minute and Cordelia wasn't sure he'd heard her, when he replied in a low, even voice. "I want to see Willow."

"Oh...sure...I'll drive you."

Xander rose and Cordelia followed him out of the club and down the alley to her car. They drove in silence to Willow's. Every few moments, Cordelia would glance over at him and see that calmness on his face, that lack of expression. By the time they reached the Rosenburg residence, her nerves were shot. She desperately wanted him to yell at her.

Taking out the key Willow had lent her, Cordelia let them into the dark house.

"Willow? It's me," she called, then quickly followed Xander down the hall. He opened the door and stepped inside, not allowing his girlfriend to stop him this time.

Startled, Willow looked up from where she lay on her stomach, watching tears smear her attempt at math homework. She'd managed to write out the first problem before the crying had begun again.

Reddening at the sight of Xander, she shoved herself up on her arms, hoping the t-shirt covered all the bruises. Before she could say anything or really wonder what he was doing there and why Cordelia had let him in, Xander was rounding the bed and grabbing the edge of her t-shirt, yanking it up.

Her cry of embarrassment mingled with his moan of empathetic pain. Cordelia grabbed his wrist, quickly recovering Willow's bottom, as Willow turned bright red.

"I...didn't want to believe it," Xander stammered, shocked and horrified as he collapsed on the desk chair.

"Cordy," Willow cried. "Why did you let him in here? Why did you TELL him?"

"I didn't," Cordelia defended herself. "Spike did."

Willow groaned and buried her hot face in her trembling hands.

Looking from one best friend to the other, one red faced, one white, Cordelia took a step backwards. "I think you two need to talk."

Xander's hand snaked out and captured her wrist, holding her still. "Why leave, Cordy? Apparently you're as involved with her as you are with me."

Willow's eyes flashed open and she stared in horror at Xander. "Wh-what?"

"I know first hand what a dom Cordy is. From what Spike said, I'm guessing you do, too. That, and other things."

"What other things?" panicking, Willow asked Cordelia.

The cheerleader just whimpered and sank down on the floor next to her boyfriend who continued to hold her wrist in a light grip.

Xander glanced up at the ceiling, smiling wryly at the poster of a unicorn tacked above the bed. "I don't think that applies anymore. Do you remember when I gave that to you?" he asked softly.

"My eleventh birthday."

"I had just learned what a virgin was and I teased you about it until you informed me, quite haughtily, that I was one, too. And we made a pact to tell each other first when we lost it. Not that we really had a clue how that would happen." He sighed softly and looked back at Willow. "We both broke the pact."

" knew about me and Spike...Okay, it was a couple months later...Xander...please, let me explain about Cordy."

"Do you know why I let Cordy beat me?" Xander asked, not expecting an answer. "There's so much anger bottled inside me. I held off from making love with her for so long because I was afraid I'd hurt her, like I hear my dad hurting my mom late at night. When Cordy hit me the first time, I realized there was something that could drain that anger from me."

"I know. She told me."

Xander gave her a mirthless smile. "Yeah, apparently you two share everything. My best friend and my girlfriend and I'm blind to both of you."

Willow felt a chill sweep over her as realization dawned. "What did Spike tell you?"

"About what? That you auctioned yourself off at some demon club to be whipped as punishment for fucking Angelus. Or maybe that you and Cordy are more than just friends, though Spike did only hint that it was you Cordy was eating out."

Willow went white in shock. "Oh God..."

Another whimper came from Cordelia, as the brunette tried to curl into a ball, her wrist still caught by Xander's hand.

"So, Will, why do you let her beat you? 'Coz, I know you don't have the anger inside you that I do."

She just stared at him, watching his face betray no emotions.

"Do you get off on it?"

Her teeth caught her chafed lower lip and her eyes glistened with fresh tears.


"What do you want me to say, Xander?" Willow finally asked softly. "That I'm a masochist? That I get turned on by pain? That I love a good, hard spanking? That it makes me come faster, if not better, when I'm being fucked right after I've had my ass reddened?" Her voice rose shrilly as the words spilled from her lips and she rose to her knees. "I like to do something I think of as naughty or disobedient, just so I can get the paddle, just so I can feel the sting of pain that makes me so wet."

"Stop it," he said, his voice strangled, unprepared for the truth, but she continued.

"I love a belt, too, but the best, the best is Cordy's switch. I love it when she hits me across the tits and then makes me go down on her, making her come two or three times before she lets me finger fuck myself."


Willow closed her mouth and wrapped her arms around her trembling body. "I'm sorry that we did this behind your back, Xander. I never meant to hurt you. But, I can't and won't be sorry for what I am. I grew up. Maybe it wasn't the way we imagined in our wildest dreams. But, I can't change what I've become."

Xander stared at her, tears glinting in his eyes. "This can't be normal. S&M amongst teenagers? It sounds like something on Jerry Springer!"

"I've questioned that too...recently,"Cordelia said softly. "I don't know if it's normal or if were deviants...But I know I can't stop. I don't want to stop. I...can stop it with Willow, if you want me to, but I'll never stop being a dom. It's a part of me. A part I like."

Swallowing hard as he looked down at his girlfriend, Xander just shook his head, confused, then looked over at Willow and the defiance and sorrow on her face. "Do you let HIM hit you, too? Was the slap across your face a love tap?"

Willow's eyes fell and she took a deep breath, wincing at the strain on her back. "Spike was the first to spank me. Drusilla caught me out walking at night and gave me to him again. He was angry, but more, I think he was terrified. He's never said, but I think he fell in love with me that night when he realized he might have lost me. So, he punished me...and it turned me on."

"God Willow, please no more details," Xander begged, unable to stomach the image of her and Spike doing the things he and Cordy did.

"Strangely enough, Spike doesn't like to hit me. He was truly horrified when he saw my back tonight."

"He's a demon. I thought they were all into whips and chains and torture," he scoffed.

"Not Spike. I've tried to tell you how different he is. I don't know for sure, but I think it has something to do with Drusilla. I think she loves to be beaten and he can't bear to hurt her."

"But, he can bear to hurt you."

"Maybe he loves her more," Willow answered the accusation in a small, sad voice.

"And the bruise on your face?"

She shook her head. "I told you, he acted instinctively when I hit him with the cross. He's never slapped me before and..."

"He never will again," Xander finished, snidely. "Believe me, I've heard the line before.

"No one is perfect, Xander. Everyone has a demon inside."

"Oh, nice psychology there, Will," Xander snapped. "In your lover's case, it's unfortunately not a metaphor."

"No, his is real. Look, right now Spike and I are at another stalemate. It's kind of pointless to discuss our future when we probably don't have one." She sank back down onto her side, propping her head up on several pillows and all three fell silent, lost in inner contemplation.

"Xander?" Cordelia said hesitantly, drawing his eyes down to her. "I'm sorry I cheated on you."

Hurt crossed his face and his lower lip trembled. "Do you love her?"

"What? Xander, I love YOU."

"'s just sex, not love?"

Cordelia squirmed, flushing. "I guess. I mean, I love her as a friend, but I'm not a lesbian. We fool around. It's fun, but..." Her voice trailed off as she tried to make him understand.

Willow picked up the thread. "It's not love in the sense of a relationship, of wanting a future together. We experiment, have fun. Cordy and I are friends. It's just that we're friends that enjoy having sex with each other."

"But...why?" Xander asked. "Why is sex part of your friendship? Why can't you just go to the mall like other girls."

"Um, Xander. Willow's not the first girl friend..." Cordy explained, watching his eyes widen. "I think it happens a lot more than you think. I started fooling around with girls back in junior high."

"Oh geez," he sighed, rubbing his free hand over his face. "I just...we're together now and...don't I satisfy you?"

Cordelia's face fell and tears filled her eyes. "You think that's why? Oh, no Xander. It has nothing to do with you. I love you and yes, you satisfy me completely, but I still enjoy my time with Willow."

"I don't want to come between the two of you," Willow added. "Cordy and I can stop. I think...I'm going to get enough pain from Spike."

"Don't say that," Cordelia snapped and Willow shut up. "I refuse to accept that. Spike loves you. You just have to forgive each other."

Hearing the severity of Cordelia's voice, Xander released her wrist and watched as she rose to her feet to sit next to Willow's head. Gently she stroked Willow's hair from her face. "He hates hurting you."

"You didn't see him tonight. Oh, right, you did." Willow sighed sadly.

"Will?" Xander asked haltingly. "I've gotta know. I...why Angel? Why on Earth would you risk your life like that? I don't get it."

"Oh, Xander. There's been so much I haven't told you about in the last three months."

"He's evil, full out evil, wants us dead, etcetera? Remember?"

"I'm not so sure about that any more. He hasn't attacked any of us in months, not since right after he first changed. He seems pretty content to sit back, rule Sunnydale and fuck Dru."

Xander blushed at Willow saying a dirty word. He still had trouble picturing her as a mature, sexual woman. "He's still a really bad guy."

Willow sighed and hoped she could keep Buffy's true involvement with Angelus out of it. One more disillusionment and Xander would probably lose it. "A couple months ago, Angelus caught me in Spike's room and...Spike managed to convince him that giving me pleasure would hurt Buffy more than raping me. We had sex."

"Oh God," Xander interjected dully.

"I was fine. I'm still fine. He didn't hurt me and we managed to keep Spike's lack of paralysis a secret. Angelus doesn't know about our relationship though he believes that Spike captured me at that time and I guess he assumes we had sex in some form. On Wednesday, Angelus called me and asked me to come to him...and I did. It was a big mistake, and not just because Spike found us together."

"Why? Why would you willingly do...that with that beast?" Xander whispered hoarsely, his throat closed by emotion.

"I was confused, lost in my despair." Silently, Willow pled with her eyes for him to accept if he couldn't understand. "It's over. I'm fine, physically. I won't be doing it again."

"God I hope not," Xander yelled, choking over the words. His face graphically displayed all the horror he felt at the fact that his best friend had slept with his worst enemy.

"I know you hate him," Willow continued. "I hate him, too. It was stupid of me."

Xander rubbed his tired eyes, shaking his head numbly. "This is just too much, I think. I'm just going to try to forget that ever happened, because I really can't deal with it. There are more pressing things to deal with. two."

", are you okay about it?" Cordelia asked hesitantly. "I...I really didn't think that it was cheating, but, of course it was."

"That's not...I don't think that bothers me all that much, and, yeah, you cheated, was with Willow. I mean, maybe it should bother me more, but Willow's not another guy and her. She's my best friend. I can't see me sharing you with a guy best friend, seems different."


"I'm not...angry." He seemed a little surprised at his own answer. "I think I'm just really, really stunned right now."

"Xander, I know how much you care for Cordelia and I'm glad." He stared at her and Willow smiled slightly. "Yeah, me glad about the two of you. I remember how much I hated the idea at first, two really work. I don't want to come between you two."

"It's okay, Will. I can't say that I'm not freaked, but I think that's mostly because when I look at you, I see you as a little girl in pigtails in a sandbox, crying because I stole your Barbie." He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "I know...I mean, know, the crush. I knew. I just didn't want to deal."

"It's okay, Xander. I love you, as my best and oldest friend, but the crush is gone."

"Which is one reason why I'm more comfortable around Willow," Cordelia added. "I don't see her as competition."

"I...still need some time to digest all this...but I think it will be okay," he said softly.

"Xander...I never want to hurt you and I know I have Willow and I can stop..."

"But, you don't want to," Xander said perceptively.

Slowly Cordelia shook her head and walked over to him. He pulled her gently onto his lap and she buried her face in his neck, hugging him tightly.

"It's okay, Cordy. I love everything about you. It may take me time to adjust, but I will eventually. "I just...I don't really want to know any details."

"Thank you," Cordelia whispered in his ear, tears leaking out of her eyes.

"I'm glad," Willow replied. "I don't want to give up what I have with Cordy. I...have a finite lifetime. We all do, of course, but most teenagers think they'll live forever. I know I won't."

"What are you talking about?" he asked, puzzled.

"Think about it, Xander. We live on the mouth of Hell and there's already a high mortality rate, especially amongst teens. Then take into account that we help the Slayer, yet we're powerless. The vampires know that we're her friends. And, me...well, I've accepted that my life won't be very long. Either Spike will be killed and the bond will destroy me...or he'll grow tired of me and kill me."

Both Cordelia and Xander gasped, stunned by Willow's seemingly calm acceptance of her future.

"Spike loves you," Cordelia argued. "Okay, he's really pissed right now, and who wouldn't be Angelus, euuu but he isn't going to kill you."

"Actually, I tend to agree with you, know how tenuous his position in the clan is. If Angelus finds out that he can walk...Spike can't kill him."

"Why?" Xander asked.

"It's almost unheard of for a childe to kill its sire. If it happens, it usually happens in a fight instigated by the sire or by secretly hiring an assassin. Plus, I'm not sure Spike will ever totally recover his full strength."

"You know way too much about the way vampires work."

A ghost of a smile crossed Willow's face. "Have you learned nothing in the year of research?"

"Yeah, that Giles hogs the jelly donuts."

At that, all three friends smiled. They knew that their relationships were still strained, but they weren't broken and eventually everything would work out.

End Chapter 8