Cordelia gave Faith a droll look and said, "What?"
"It stinks," Faith repeated as she scrunched up her nose. "This whole building reeks of musty things. It's like my place with G-man but only a thousand times worse."
"Museums don't stink," said Cordelia who couldn't help but form a fond smile. "You're just being weird again."
"I am not," said Faith stubbornly. "This place stinks." She looked over at Amy who seemed enraptured by a picture of some women dancing around a bonfire. "Right, Amy girl? You agree with me, don't you? It stinks in here."
"Huh?" asked Amy in distracted tones as she looked to Faith who rolled her eyes at this.
"Never mind," Faith muttered before she shoved her hands into her pockets. Tilting her head to one side she then looked at their teacher who was eons ahead of them in their tour of the museum. "This is too boring to be educational."
"Ah, that's where you're wrong," Xander's playful voice floated in as he appeared at Faith's side. "Because this field trip is mind numbingly boring it automatically makes it educational. Now do you understand their fiendish plot?"
"Fiendish plot?" repeated Cordelia with disdain. She folded her arms across her chest and smirked. "Oh, I've got to hear your explanation for this one."
"It's very simple," said Xander as he smiled and waggled his dark eyebrows. "They're trying to bore us into submission so they can control our impressionable minds."
Raising an eyebrow in skeptical disbelief, Cordelia breezed past Xander as she said, "First you'd have to have a mind to let someone make an impression on it."
"Ouch! One for Corduroy," Xander said while he held his chest in a mock gesture of pain.
"Corduroy?" asked Faith as she quirked an eyebrow in amusement. "Where'd you come up with that?"
"Hey, there's a limited amount of things that sound or look like the name Cordelia," said Xander. "At least I made the effort of giving her a nickname that doesn't rhyme with witch."
"I heard that," Cordelia called out before she turned her head to smirk at Xander. "And you don't even want to know the sort of nickname I could come up with for you."
Faith watched Cordelia walk away before she turned to Xander wearing a serious expression. "Could you try to lay off with the teasing for awhile, X?" asked Faith. "It really does bother her. Especially what with how everyone's been treating her because of us."
Xander gained an expression of understanding and rubbing the back of his head he said ruefully, "I'm sorry. I was just messing around. I didn't mean to really upset her." He lowered his voice and said, "To tell you the truth, I'm even starting to like Cordelia."
"I'm glad, X," said Faith with a smile before she gave his shoulder a light punch. "Now just start being nicer to her."
"I gotcha," Xander said smiling. As soon as Faith walked away he held onto his arm and said lowly, "Ow... I wish she'd learn her own strength."
"Hey, Cordelia," said Willow who turned to her companion with a smile. "What's up?"
Returning the smile, Cordelia said, "Not much. Just hiding from Xander's lame attempts at humor."
"Ignore him," Willow advised as she gained a soft look in her eyes. "He's just being dumb, he doesn't mean any harm with it."
"I know," said Cordelia. "It's just that ever since I've gotten together with Faith it's been--"
"Talking about your girlfriend again?"
In a slow movement, Cordelia looked at Harmony along with two of her former friends, Aura and Jasmine, who were close at her side. Holding back a sigh, Cordelia said, "Harmony."
"Where's Sunnydale's most wanted?" Harmony mocked. "Breaking into the wing with all the jewels?" She arched a blonde eyebrow then said, "Or has she already dumped you for another girl? I hear that carpet munching is harder then it seems, Cordy."
Narrowing her hazel eyes, Cordelia set her jaw before she stalked forward and grabbed Harmony by the wrist as she dragged her into a deserted portion of the museum.
Willow watched this with certain surprise and remained frozen while Aura and Jasmine dashed after their former friend and leader.
After recovering from her surprise, Willow started to follow after them when a voice called out in loud and sharp tones, "That wing of the museum is closed!"
Jumping slightly, Willow looked at a woman in an elegant red suit who looked at her with cool blue eyes. "You can't go in there," she said. "It's closed."
"Yeah," said Willow nervously. She backed away and watched as the woman hooked a long velvet rope with a sign on it that read 'closed' in front of the entrance. "Closed means no one can go in there and no one has. Gone in there, I mean."
"Good," said the woman who was studying Willow closely. "No one is allowed in there. We've just acquired an extremely rare import from Greece and it's not ready yet."
"Ready?" asked Willow curiously.
"For display," the woman supplied. She looked at Willow with another close gaze before she seemed to relax and smiling she said, "I'm Kelly Lewis, the museum curator. I'm sorry if I frightened you but this wing is--"
"Closed," Willow said with a wary smile. "So," she said after a moment of silence. "What's this display of?"
"The Harpies," Kelly replied.
"Harpies?" Willow repeated curiously. "Weren't they some type of Greek monsters?"
"Of sorts," said Kelly. "They tormented King Phineus by stealing all of his food each time a meal was laid down for him until Jason and the Argonauts defeated them."
"Eww," said Willow as she made a face. "I thought that Greek myths were supposed to be all nice and pretty."
"Sometimes," said Kelly. "And the Harpies are beautiful in their own way. Their beauty is found in the ferocity of their nature and how they take vengeance against those who do wrong to them. Their hunger is amazing."
"Yeah, well, that's nice and all," said Willow nervously. "But I should really be going. I'm sorry I almost crossed over the velvet rope. Before it was there, I mean."
With that, Willow turned around to walk quickly over to Faith who was approaching along with Amy and Xander. And watching this departure, Kelly narrowed her blue eyes again before she turned on her heel and left.
"I've had it with you, Harmony," said Cordelia in a low hiss. She had released the other girl and who was looking at her with wide eyes. "I can understand that your pea brain can't take me being with Faith and that's fine but if you don't stop with these stupid comments..." Cordelia trailed off and formed an almost ominous smile. "Well, you don't want to know what I'm capable of. Remember, I know a lot of things about you. Things that I'm sure you don't want getting out."
"You don't scare me," Harmony said with a sneer. "You're nothing, Cordy! You were somebody and now you're just the school loser who hangs with a dyke!"
"What did you say?" Cordelia growled.
Cordelia then moved forward in a swift movement to slap Harmony across the face while Aura and Jasmine only took a step forward in response to this action.
Holding her cheek, Harmony looked at Cordelia with wide eyes and backed away from her as an eerie green light filled the air. Seconds later, the light faded only to be seen in the reflection of the other girls eyes.
Shivering at this, without knowing why she was even doing so, Harmony said imperiously, "Come on. Lets get out of here and leave Cordy to her little girlfriend."
"No," said Jasmine sharply.
"We're staying with Cordelia," said Aura coolly.
"What?" Harmony said in shock.
"You're the nothing," Jasmine berated as her eyes gained a cruel gleam. "We could tear you apart."
"Oh yeah," Aura agreed with a slow smile. "Very easily. But you're not even worth our attention."
"And Cordelia is?" asked Harmony incredulously. "You guys don't even like her anymore!"
"Well, they do now," Cordelia's low and sultry voice cut in. "I suppose that means you're the loser, Harmony."
Aura and Jasmine gave a sensuous laugh as they crossed to Cordelia and Jasmine leaned lightly on Cordelia's shoulder as she smiled. Aura in the meanwhile, hooked her arm into Cordelia's and said lazily, "Harmony's just upset that she never caught your attention. She's always had you to herself these past years and then you up and leave her for another girl. That's it, isn't it Harmony? You wondered why Cordelia wouldn't want you if she really liked girls. After all," Aura drawled. "You certainly want her."
"It's because she's impure," said Cordelia in almost dark tones. She leaned into Jasmine's touch as the other girl gave her cheek a soft caress. "In body and mind."
Harmony's eyes widened and she said, "I'm not--"
"Impure," Cordelia repeated in a hiss.
"Impure," said Aura and Jasmine as they gave throaty laughs which echoed off the walls of the room.
Shaking her head in disbelief, Harmony shoved past the other girls and ran out of the room with the sound of that horrible echoing laughter filling her ears.
"Calm down, Will," said Faith as she touched the redhead's shoulder in a comforting movement. "If I know my girl, she won't have any trouble dealing with Harmony."
The group were making their way towards the closed wing of the museum where Cordelia had disappeared with her former friends. Willow having just rushed over to Faith to tell her about the entire situation involving Cordelia.
"I know that," Willow said who was still looking a bit nervous. "I'm sure Cordelia can handle those snobs, I'm more worried about that creepy museum curator. She really freaks me out, Faith. All her talk about Harpies and--"
"Just a general creep out, huh?" Faith cut in with a wry smile. "Don't worry, Will. It looks like she's gone so we'll just lift up this velvet rope and go get Cordelia then make a stealthy escape, okay?"
Before Willow could reply, Faith lifted up the velvet rope and strode into the closed wing of the museum.
Willow remained frozen until Xander softly touched her back and said, "You don't have to go in there if you don't want to. We can be the lookouts if you want."
"No," said Willow as she shook her head. "I'm just being stupid. I'll go in to check on Cordelia with Faith. Why don't you and Amy keep watch, all right?"
"Sure," said Amy with a small smile. "You go--"
Amy halted in her speech when the figure of Harmony ran past them at top speeds wearing a distressed look on her features. The group remained silent until Xander said, "What was that about?"
"I don't know," said Willow in almost grim tones. "But I think that we should find out."
Saying that, Willow turned on her heel to walk into the closed wing of the museum to leave a stunned Xander and Amy behind. But seconds later, they followed after her just as curious as she was about what had happened to cause such a reaction in Harmony.
Faith was in something close to shock.
It wasn't really shock but more like mammoth surprise. But whatever it was, Faith was in it as she looked at Cordelia chatting with two of her former friends.
"This is the first sign of the apocalypse," said Faith dryly. "I gotta tell the G-man."
She was about to announce her presence when Cordelia turned around and gave her a charming smile. In a slow movement, Cordelia walked forward to lightly cup Faith's chin in her hand.
"Faith," said Cordelia in low mesmerizing tones as her head tilted to one side in a inspection of sorts.
"Cordelia?" asked Faith uncertainly. "What's going on, sweets? Why you making nice with your old--"
Before Faith could finish her question, Cordelia leaned forward to possess Faith's lips with her own in a kiss that was searing in its pure intensity. The kiss would've kept going on if the voice of Xander hadn't interrupted them.
Reluctantly parting from Faith and her lips, Cordelia gave Xander an annoyed look before she turned back to the confused figure of Faith. Touching Faith's lips lightly Cordelia murmured, "They understand everything now. About you and me and how you're pure of heart. It's all right now."
"But what's--?" asked Faith in confusion.
"Shhh," Cordelia said quietly as she pressed her index finger against Faith's lips. "I promise to explain later. But now I've got to finish talking with them."
"Okay," Faith said hesitantly. "Whatever you want. I'll just go wait outside for you."
"Thank you," said Cordelia with a gentle smile. She then turned to walk back to Jasmine and Aura who had been observing the entire scene with lidded eyes.
"What was that about?" asked Xander as he neared Faith who was still watching Cordelia.
"I don't know," said Faith slowly. She shook her head and gave her friends a bright smile. "I guess that she must've won them over. I wouldn't put anything past my girl."
"Yeah, she must've," said Xander. He watched as Cordelia chatted happily with Jasmine and Aura. "Weird. I never would've thought those two would dump Harmony."
"They saw the error of their ways," said Amy with a smile. She gave Xander a light slap on the shoulder and said, "You see? There really is hope for humanity."
Chuckling at this, Xander said, "Maybe. But you have to remember that Harmony is still wandering free."
"Hey," Willow's voice broke into the conversation. "There's that statue the freaky museum lady was telling me about." She moved past Faith to stare at the statue of three bird like women that Cordelia and the other two girls were standing in front of. "The Harpies," said Willow lowly. "Big time creepy."
"Yeah," said Faith as she studied the statue. "You got that right. C'mon," she said softly. "Lets get out of here and let Cordelia have some privacy with her girls. We can quiz her all about the insurrection later."
The group turned to walk out of the closed wing of the museum but Faith paused before heading after them. She then looked at Cordelia who was still talking to Jasmine and Aura. As if sensing Faith's gaze, Cordelia lifted her head to look at Faith and formed a slow sensual smile.
And on seeing the slow smile and hungry look that floated in Cordelia's hazel eyes, Faith shivered.
Whether it was from anticipation or fear she didn't know.
"Is it just me or was Cordelia acting weirder than usual today?" asked Xander.
He was sitting at their usual couch at the Bronze which, much like their table cafeteria, had been claimed by their group in such a way that others didn't go near it. This again being due to Faith's steadily growing reputation as the resident Sunnydale fighting machine as the rumors about her got wilder and wilder with each passing day.
Who actually believed she wrestled alligators?
Anyway, Xander was sitting at their usual couch having both Willow and Amy with him for company until Faith and Cordelia arrived.
"She seemed fine to me," Amy said before she took a sip of her soda. "Why do you ask?"
Heaving a sigh, Xander slumped his shoulders and said, "I dunno. She seemed wigged out to me, that's all."
"You're just worried she'll start torturing you again because she's back with her old friends," said Willow.
"Right," Xander said. He moved his gaze to lock on Willow and asked, "And you're not?"
Wilting a bit under Xander's stare, Willow finally shrugged and said, "Not really. I mean, I am worried a little but I don't think it's worry worrying. It's more nervous worry that's silly and won't go anywhere." She paused to push a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "Cordelia's changed."
The three were silent for a moment before the sound of a low familiar voice broke them out of their reverie.
"Serious faces," Faith commented. She then appeared in front of them wearing her usual jaunty smirk and holding a large order of French fries. "That means you gotta be discussing my girl. I know that look by now."
"Faith," began Willow slowly. "We weren't saying anything bad. It's just that, well, it's only--"
"You're worried about her playing chummy with the former playmates of Harmony," Faith supplied. Sitting next to Xander, she wore a face of understanding as she said, "I totally get where you're coming from but I don't think it's anything to really worry about, Will."
"That's just what I was saying," said Willow with a smile. "Cordelia's changed so it doesn't much matter who she hangs out with. And who knows? Maybe Aura and Jasmine have changed too."
At this, Xander snorted derisively and observing this Faith smirked again. "Why, X," asked Faith in teasing tones as she munched on a French fry. "Does that mean you doubt the honesty of their sudden metamorphoses?"
"Seems weird to me, that's all," Xander remarked.
"Don't worry," Faith said. "Since Cordelia and me are taking our relationship slow we've done a lot of talking. I don't think it's likely she end up switching sides again."
"No worries," said Xander as he smiled. "I'm willing to give them a chance. I did that for Cordelia and look how good she's turned out because of your slow relationship."
While she chuckled at this, Faith reached for another fry but was cut off by another hand beating her there. When she looked up she saw Cordelia eating several of her fries in a slow and rather sensual manner as she bore her hazel eyes deep into Faith's gaze.
"Sweets," said Faith with a smile. "I was wondering when you were going to show up. Where have you been?"
"Here and there," Cordelia replied before she smoothly moved to sit in Faith's lap which quite surprised the other girl. She then lowered her face inches away from Faith's and purred, "Did you miss me?"
"Always," Faith said while she tried to control her surprise in regards to Cordelia's aggressive attitude.
She was about to question the other girl about it when Cordelia turned her attention back to the French fries. Cordelia ate the tops off of the large handful that she held then as soon as she did this, she tossed them aside.
"Uhm, hello littering?" Xander said as he observed Cordelia's odd behavior.
Turning to look at Xander with sharp eyes, Cordelia wound her arms around Faith's neck and said, "In life it's best to take what you want then throw the rest aside."
"Who told you that?" asked Amy skeptically.
"No one had to tell me," Cordelia replied in low and almost dangerous tones. "I just know it to be true."
Amy was about to ask something else when Cordelia suddenly averted her eyes in a jerky movement and the group watched as the figures of Aura and Jasmine entered the club and locked their gazes with Cordelia's.
The three girls seemed to go through a silent form of communication which was only disrupted when Faith gently cupped Cordelia's chin in her hand.
"Hey," said Faith in soft tones of concern while she bore her gaze into Cordelia's. "Is anything wrong, sweets? Y'know you can tell me if something is."
"Nothing's wrong," Cordelia said. She formed another slow sensual smile and lowered her face to Faith's and breathed against her lips, "Not when I'm with you."
Before Faith could reply to this, Cordelia darted forward to possess her lips with a kiss more passionate than any they had ever shared at that point.
When they finally parted after several heated moments, Cordelia wasn't lax in her performance as she moved her head lower to kiss Faith's neck who looked utterly dazed about her current situation.
Turning towards her friends who all looked, if possible, more shocked than she was, Faith tenderly pushed Cordelia back and looked into hazel eyes which were burning with a lust that Faith found both exciting and frightening at the same time.
"Not in public, huh?" Faith said with what she hoped to be a playful smile. "Why don't we go and do some dancing instead?"
Hazel eyes narrowed by a notch but Cordelia relented with another smile and languidly rose up off of Faith's lap only to quickly pull the other girl against her. And as the pair walked onto the dance floor, Cordelia kept her arm firmly wrapped around a very perplexed Faith's waist.
After a long moment of silence, Xander turned to look at Willow and Amy then said, "That's taking it slow?"
Giles did his best not to wince as Faith landed another blow on the large and very padded gloves he wore for their kickboxing practice.
It didn't work as he immediately winced when Faith gave a particularly hard blow to his padded right hand.
"All right," said Giles suddenly as he backed away from a surprised Faith. "I think that's enough training for today."
On hearing this, Faith looked disappointed and strode over to the library table where she sat down before opening up a bottle of water to take a long drink.
"Faith," said Giles while he took off the equipment. "Is anything the matter? You seemed unduly... exuberant for today's training session. It's as if something is haunting you."
"I dunno if something's haunting me, but yeah," Faith said with a sigh. "Something is bugging me, G-man."
"Might I ask what it is?" asked Giles.
"You just did," said Faith with wry humor. She paused to stare at her water bottle that she held before she said quietly, "Cordelia's been acting sort of strange lately."
"Strange how?" Giles pursued as he locked the equipment up in the cage and then walked towards Faith.
"Just strange," Faith said slowly. "Last night at the Bronze she was all over me. I couldn't peel her off me even if I wanted to. Not that I wanted to... but still. It was weird. She was pretty emphatic about needing to take it slow and then she does that." Faith paused to shake her head. "Not only that she's also made friends again with two of those snobs she used to hang with back when she was pals with Harmony."
Blushing somewhat, Giles coughed as he adjusted his wire rim glasses then said, "I see. Well, that does sound strange but I'm sure it's nothing to worry about. Maybe becoming friends with her old companions again has caused a slight change in personality but I'm sure she'll return to her old self once she's adjusted. In the meantime, I think it might be best to stay true to her take it slow motto. Even if she seems to be reverting against it lately."
Forming a slow smile, Faith looked at Giles and said, "You saying that for her sake or yours, G-man?"
"A bit of both," answered Giles in almost flustered tones. "And for yours as well, Faith."
Chuckling at this, Faith hopped off the library table and walked out of the room. "Thanks for the advice," she said. "I'm definitely gonna follow it. All of it, in fact."
Now alone in the library, Giles heaved a quiet sigh as he said, "Thank goodness for that."
Faith's eyes instinctively narrowed and her body went into attack mode when she saw the large crowd of students.
It gave off a definite vibe of something wrong and whenever something was wrong in Sunnydale it usually fell directly into Faith's line of specialty work.
Then Faith caught sight of the potbellied pig running her way and Principal Flutie yelling for someone to catch it.
With a shrug, Faith bent down to grab the small pig in her hands and lifted him into her arms. Moments after she did this, the pig stopped squirming and Faith noted the odd costume the animal was wearing.
"What the hell is this?" Faith said with a snicker. "Halloween for animals or something?"
"Thank god you caught him!" Principal Flutie said as he approached. Looking down at the potbellied pig, he said, "Bad, Herbert! It's very bad to go running off like that."
"Herbert?" asked Faith dryly.
"Exactly," said Principal Flutie with a smile. "This is Herbert. The new mascot for the Sunnydale Razorbacks."
"That would explain the weird costume," Faith said under her breath. Meeting the Principal's gaze, she asked, "Is he supposed to be running around the school like this?"
"Of course not," Principal Flutie said huffily. "He got out of his cage while I was feeding him." He paused to give a somewhat nervous smile and said, "I don't suppose you'd mind taking him back there with me, would you?"
"Nah, it's cool," Faith replied. "Anything to help school spirit. Besides, G-man would say it's my duty."
"That's right," said Principal Flutie with sudden recognition as they walked down the hall. "You're the niece of our Mr. Giles, aren't you? I hear you're causing quite the stir amongst the students and you've only just arrived."
"Yeah, well, that's me," Faith said lamely. "Stir girl. I just love to stir things up in the big soup pot of life."
Studying Faith closely, Principal Flutie said, "I see."
It was then that Faith wondered just what Principal Flutie and the teachers thought they knew about her.
Whatever it was Faith had a feeling that it wasn't anything good or anything somewhat correct.
But isn't that how life and rumors often go?
Misinformation is always being spread.
"I know I might be getting obsessed and near stalker like with this, but isn't Cordelia acting weird?"
As he said this, Xander focused on Cordelia who was on the other side of the quad chatting with Aura and Jasmine, generally looking like she was having a good time.
"You're definitely not stalker like," Willow said. "But I do think you need to stop worrying so much. What's the big deal if Cordelia hangs out with those two? From last night it's pretty obvious she's still dating Faith."
"That's the other thing," Xander said as he whirled around to face Willow and Amy. "Faith said she was totally into this going slow stuff because they've never had any serious relationships before and then last night she acts like she has an addiction to Spanish fly. What's up with that?"
"Maybe she was horny," Amy suggested. When Xander and Willow turned to stare at her with incredulous faces she blushed and said, "What? Maybe she was!"
Still looking at Amy with a skeptical expression, Xander turned to Cordelia who was currently wearing a dangerous looking smirk and eyeing Harmony who was timidly walking past the group of girls.
"Well, if anything it's fun to watch Cordelia turn the tables on Harmony," said Xander. "Fun but still weird. Especially how she always seems to be with Aura and Jasmine these days. If she's not with Faith, she's with them."
"Xander does have a point," murmured Amy thoughtfully. "The three of them are hanging out a lot."
"They're friends," Willow said with a hint of exasperation. "We hang out together a lot and I don't see anyone making any big deal out of that."
"Yeah, but we're not acting weird," Xander replied in semi- triumphant tones. Well, semi-triumphant until he noticed the droll looks of his companions. "Well," he said in sheepish tones. "We're not acting weirder than usual."
Shaking her head a bit, Willow watched Cordelia with careful eyes as the other girl sat at one of the outside lunch tables with her two friends. And as she did this, she couldn't help but partially agree with Xander.
Cordelia was acting a bit weird. But the real question was: Just what was causing her to act this way?
Faith attempted to block out Principal Flutie's droning speech about how kids were getting more and more out of control these days and as the niece of a faculty member she should be an example to other students.
An example of what? Faith wondered. It wasn't like she could really let the other students know what she was really about. She doubted G-man or the Council would take her 'outing' herself as a slayer too kindly.
Still, Faith mused. The idea of telling the other students the truth about what she was sort of appealed to her. Maybe because if they knew the truth they would stop thinking she was some sort of homicidal nutcase.
Then again, even if they knew the truth they still might think that. Depending on how they felt about vamps.
Before she could wonder too much about this, she caught sight of Cordelia walking down the hall with a sexy swing of her hips as she met Faith's eyes in a burning gaze.
Behind her, as always, were Aura and Jasmine whose gaze almost matched Cordelia's when it came to sheer intensity as they looked at Faith.
As Cordelia neared them, Faith felt a wild struggling in her arms and she looked down at Herbert who was desperately trying to escape from her grip.
"Hey," said Faith with a frown as she looked at the tiny piglet. "What the heck is your problem, buddy?"
"Well now, it looks like your little friend doesn't appreciate being in your arms as much as I do, Faith."
Looking up on hearing Cordelia's husky drawl, Faith met teasing hazel eyes. Still attempting to restrain the wildly moving Herbert, she found herself at a loss for a reply and smirking at this, Cordelia reached out to give Faith's cheek a light caress as she walked past.
"But we'll make up for that later, won't we?" Cordelia called in playful tones as she continued down the hallway with Aura and Jasmine trailing after her.
With a dumbfounded expression, Principal Flutie looked from Faith to Cordelia's departing figure then back to Faith again before he said dimly, "What was that about?"
"I don't know," said Faith hoarsely. She turned to shove a now calm Herbert into Principal Flutie's arms then walked down the hall with determination as she said, "But I'm going to find out."
Principal Flutie, like almost every other adult in the school, had no idea what she was talking about.
"Kids," he said with a sigh. "Who knows what's going through their heads these days?"
Giving a nervous jump, Principal Flutie whirled around to meet the eyes of Cordelia Chase. Behind her were the same two girls she'd been with before.
"Cordelia?" asked Principal Flutie as he turned to look down the hall where Faith had disappeared after her only moments ago. "But I thought..."
"Principal Flutie," began Cordelia again, her sensuous voice almost mesmerizing as she locked her gaze on both him and the piglet that he carried. "Would you like for us to put your little friend away for you? I'm sure you have much more important things to do than care for him."
"Yes..." Principal Flutie replied slowly. "I do."
"Good," Cordelia purred as she held out her arms and took the catatonic piglet into her arms. "I'm pleased that we see eye to eye about this."
With that, Cordelia strolled into the science lab where Herbert was being kept and said, "You should go back to your office and do your work there, Principal."
Trailing after Cordelia, Aura and Jasmine smirked as they watched their Principal turn mechanically and then walk down the hall towards his office.
"Sisters," Cordelia's husky voice called out to the both of them. "I'm hungry... aren't you?"
Instead of replying, the two girls licked their lips and formed predatory smiles before they walked into the room and closed the door behind them with an almost ominous click.
"Dammit," Faith muttered under her breath. "This school isn't that big. Where the hell could she have gone?"
Turning around quickly, Faith looked into the concerned green eyes of Willow and heaved a sigh.
"Oh," said Faith in disappointment. "It's only you."
"I'll ignore that remark and pretend you greeted me with your usual perkiness," Willow said in droll tones.
"Me and perkiness?" echoed Faith as she formed a slight smile. "You gotta be kidding me, Will."
"And when do I kid?" replied Willow with a smirk. Her amused expression quickly fading, she said, "Seriously though, what's wrong? You look upset."
"It's Cordelia," said Faith while her dark brown eyes continued to dart all over their surroundings. "I can't find her anywhere. It's like she just went and disappeared on me. I gotta talk with her about... well... about the way she's been acting lately." Pausing to regard her companion, Faith said quietly, "You've noticed it too, right, Will?"
"Yeah," replied Willow softly. "It's sort of hard not too. Cordelia's almost acting like her old self. I mean, she's not but she is, you know? She's back to being friends with Aura and Jasmine again and has this sort of superior thing about her but it's not mean. She's almost..."
"Almost, what?" prompted Faith.
Meeting Faith's gaze with sad eyes, Willow whispered in the barest of tones, "Inhuman."
Frowning at this, Faith murmured, "I dunno about that, Will, but I don't like this at all. Cordelia and I were just starting to get close and I was starting to feel like we were finally learning about each other. I felt like I knew her, or was at least beginning to know her. And the way she's acting lately definitely isn't like the Cordelia I know."
"What are you going to do?" asked Willow as she watched the familiar look of resolve surface in Faith's eyes.
"I'm going to bring the Cordelia that I know back," Faith said strongly. "I'm going to bring the real Cordelia back."
"How?" Willow asked as she followed after Faith who was walking down the hallway in even strides.
"G-man," was Faith's only reply.
Food is something everyone needs.
Nourishment of the body is essential to survival. Just as essential is nourishment of the soul, of the heart, of the mind and everything else in between.
Under normal circumstances, Cordelia would realize this. But these were hardly normal circumstances.
All she knew in her predatory state of mind was that now that she had completed the nourishment of her body she wanted to replace it with another.
Because she hungered for something else entirely different than mere food. She hungered for Faith's touch and the path of fire it would inspire in her body and soul.
And with this calling out to her, Cordelia languidly rose to her feet and wiped the last remnants of her feeding from her lips and looked down at her companions.
"Feed as long as you want," Cordelia murmured. "Once I've appeased my hunger I'll return to you."
"To appease it again?" asked Jasmine coyly.
"Yes," Aura said with a charming laugh as she draped herself on Jasmine. "We'll be hungry too."
"Hunger," said Cordelia, who formed a dangerous smile that glinted in the sunlight. "Must always be fed. One way or another. But my hunger can only be fed by her. Do remember that, sisters. And don't try to interfere."
"Interfere? With your fun?" said Aura with a smirk.
"Perish the thought," finished Jasmine teasingly.
"Good," Cordelia said as her eyes glinted. Turning on her heel, she murmured, "And do have a pleasant time entertaining yourselves while I'm gone."
Cordelia then walked out of their private sanctuary and made her way out of the bell tower and towards the only person that could appease her hunger.
"And it all started when we were on that class trip at the museum," finished Faith as she looked at Giles with an almost imploring gaze. "I know you don't think this is a case of weird Hellmouth activity but I really do."
"Faith's right, Giles," said Willow for support. "Cordelia just hasn't been acting normally. She hasn't done anything weird... at least not that we know. But the way she acts is just so..." Willow trailed off as she searched for a better description than her 'inhuman' reference earlier which seemed to upset Faith. It finally hit her and she said quickly, "Predatory."
"Predatory?" Giles echoed as he quirked an eyebrow. Mulling over this, he turned to walk towards a nearby bookshelf and said, "It's possible she might be possessed. But that happening seems very unlikely--"
"Possessed?" Faith jumped on the statement and walked around the library table and towards her Watcher. "Possessed by what? A ghost or something?"
"Perhaps," murmured Giles. "Although that wouldn't explain her predatory behavior you've witnessed. Tell me," he turned to look at Faith. "Where were you in the museum when Cordelia first acted this way?"
"This closed section of the place," informed Faith. "They had a lot of Greek statues in there and stuff."
"The Harpies," said Willow in low tones. Her eyes going wide, she exclaimed, "They were standing in front of that creepy statue of the Harpies! All three of them!"
"The Harpies," repeated Giles who quickly strode to another section of the library and retrieved a large book off of the shelf and strode towards the large table. Placing it down on the table, he flipped through it and said, "They were known for their predatory behavior in the ancient myths. Being capable of many terrible things, such as even ripping their enemies to pieces. Yes," he paused to meet Willow's eyes. "I think they would qualify as predatory."
"Cordelia is possessed by a Harpy?" said Faith with clear disbelief. "C'mon, you guys. That makes no sense."
Before Giles or Willow could respond to this, Amy and Xander burst into the library wearing rather distressed expressions on their faces.
"Herbert!" cried out Amy in between breaths.
"What? Did he get out again?" Faith asked dryly.
"More like he got in," supplied Xander. On seeing everyone's confusion he added, "Into someone's stomach. They found bits and pieces of him all over the science lab. It looks like someone ate him."
Gaining a dark and serious expression on her sharp features, Faith frowned as she considered this.
"That lady at the museum said Harpies have ravenous appetites," Willow reminded.
With a sigh, Faith looked at Willow then said, "I get the point, Will." Narrowing her eyes, Faith turned on her heel and walked out of the library as she said, "I'm going to find Cordelia. You guys find out everything you can about Harpies and reversing possessions."
The group was silent for a moment before Giles looked to Willow and asked, "What lady at the museum?"
Instead of answering, Willow swallowed the nervous lump in her throat that formed on thinking of the rather strange museum curator and what Giles probably wanted all of them to do while Faith was busy.
And Willow was most definitely not looking forward to talking to the woman known as Kelly Lewis.
But maybe if she was lucky she could stay behind.
"I found you," said Principal Flutie coolly. "But why I found you here is something to be seen." He was looking around the messy bell tower that was filled with shredded paper and various items. Items that were covered with the half clothed figures of Aura and Jasmine who were looking at him with lidded eyes. "I... ehm..." Getting his bravery back, he said strongly, "I have witnesses who said that you along with Cordelia Chase, who I'll deal with later, were the last ones seen inside of the science lab."
"So?" asked Jasmine lazily as she rose to her feet and held her hand out to Aura.
"So?" repeated Principal Flutie incredulously. "You mean that you admit you were the ones who..." He gave a nervous gulp and finished, "Killed Herbert?"
"We were hungry," Aura replied, giving the impression her answer and actions regarding Herbert were the most natural thing in the world.
"In fact," Jasmine said as she walked around Aura and headed towards Principal Flutie who backed away from the two girls rather anxiously. "We're still hungry."
"Very hungry," murmured Aura.
Darting his eyes from Jasmine to Aura then back again, Principal Flutie backed up against the far wall to the bell tower and rested his hands on the top of the concrete.
So anxious was he to escape from their frightening and perplexing presence, Principal Flutie found his foot slipping on some of the torn paper lying all over the floor of the bell tower. His balancing wavering, he reached out to grip on the hand railing to the stairs but found it wet with something.
Shaking now, as he looked at the gleam in Aura and Jasmine's eyes. Principal Flutie turned his gaze down to look at his wet hand and let out a silent scream upon seeing blood there.
"Y-You... what are you?" he whispered.
Enveloped in fear, Principal Flutie turned quickly, hoping to escape from the girls and the fear they incited but found himself slipping on the torn paper and trail of blood from the hand rail onto the floor.
And with cold and calculating eyes, Aura and Jasmine watched as he fell down the long and twisting stairs with a loud and resounding thud.
Staring at his crumpled form, Jasmine looked back to her companion and said harshly, "He was weak."
"Yes," said Aura with a nod. "We had not even made prey of him and yet, he already feared us."
"Perhaps," Jasmine murmured as her eyes formed a disturbing gleam. "We should use him to ease our hunger."
"Perhaps," repeated Aura sensuously.
Faith had just turned down yet another hallway in the school as she continued in her search for Cordelia when she suddenly found herself being tugged into her Advanced English classroom.
With wide and puzzled eyes, Faith gazed up into Cordelia's hungry hazel gaze and said, "Sweets?"
"Yes, I think you are," Cordelia murmured as she seemed to lick her lips in anticipation. "In fact, I think I'd like to taste some of your sweetness right now."
"Cordel--," Faith found her statement abruptly cut off as Cordelia grabbed her waist in a fierce action and pulled her close to her body before she devoured the soft lips that lay before her.
When Cordelia reluctantly parted from their steamy embrace, she continued her kisses downward as her hands roamed up and under the small shirt Faith wore.
"This isn't you," Faith managed to say roughly.
"It isn't?" asked Cordelia with a chuckle. She was now kissing Faith's collarbone as her hands rested lightly above the Slayer's breasts. "Then tell me, is this me?"
Then in a precise movement, Cordelia took hold of Faith's shirt and ripped it apart, straight down the middle, leaving her breasts exposed in the black silk bra that they rested inside. Cordelia paused to trail her hands over the soft skin that now lay open to her then looking at Faith with hungry eyes she smiled softly before she plunged her mouth towards them and began ravaging them with kisses all while her hands worked to efficiently unsnap the bra from the back.
Bewildered and lost from the emotions and sensations that Cordelia was causing in her, Faith could feel herself letting go as the other girl licked and nipped at her erect nipples as her hands traveled downward as her pants seemed the next item of clothing to go.
But through her haze, Faith realized something. This wasn't her Cordelia. This wasn't the girl that she was falling in love with. This wasn't her girlfriend.
It still was Cordelia's body but this was not Cordelia's mind and this was not Cordelia's soul. It was a creature who had taken over Cordelia doing this to her.
It was a stranger who cared nothing about her. It was someone who only wanted to use her for their own pleasure. For their own purpose. For their own needs.
It was like all of those other times before.
And Faith wasn't about to go back to her old life and her old way of doing things. She wanted to start her life over when she moved here. To do things differently.
That's why with great reluctance, Faith let her hands roam over Cordelia's back, trying to find the place Giles pointed out to her in one of their training sessions and in a quick movement, pinched the nerves located there, causing the other girl to collapse in her arms.
"Sorry, sweets," murmured Faith as she looked down at the unconscious girl in her arms. "But you'll thank me for this later. At least, I hope that you will."
"I really didn't want to come here again," said Willow warily. "You do know that right?"
"Then why did you come?" asked Giles dryly as they made their way through the museum.
"Yeah," chimed in Amy impishly. "Why did you?"
Giving Amy a slight scowl, Willow said, "I couldn't let you guys come here alone. I mean, what if it turns out that she's really the one responsible for Cordelia being possessed? She is the museum curator, after all, and she's responsible for the pieces that end up in their displays."
"Indeed I am."
Upon turning around Willow, Amy, and Giles were greeted by the sight of a woman in with shoulder length blonde hair who was wearing an yet another elegant suit.
"Oh," said Kelly with some surprise as she focused her blue eyes on Willow. "You're back. Did you want to see the statue? That wing of the museum is open now."
"I've already seen the statue," said Willow as her eyes narrowed a bit. "In fact, one of my... friends saw it too. And ever since she hasn't been acting like herself."
"What piece?" Kelly demanded quickly, nearing Willow with a suddenness that shocked the other girl. "Do you know what piece she was looking at?"
"We believe it was the Harpies," Giles answered for Willow who was staring at Kelly with wide eyes.
"No," whispered Kelly. Closing her eyes she sighed quietly and murmured, "This is all my fault I'm afraid."
"Your fault?" asked Amy in confusion.
"Yes," said Kelly, opening her eyes she locked her gaze on Willow. "I ordered that piece because of the myth surrounding it. The locals in Crete said it was cursed by the ancient gods, that the souls of the actual Harpies were locked inside of it. Of course," Kelly said this wryly. "This made the piece more intriguing for me. I thought that if we had it our collection might gain some recognition and we could.. well..."
"Get people to show up?" Amy said helpfully.
"Exactly," Kelly murmured with dry humor. "Museums aren't exactly the hot spot these days and our funding is getting close to nonexistent."
"The statue of the Harpies," interrupted Giles, but in his usual polite tones. "Can you tell us everything that you know about them?"
"Certainly," said Kelly. "If you'll come into my office--"
With faces of obvious surprise, everyone turned to regard Willow who said firmly, "We have to go back. You can tell us about the statue on the way to school."
"All right," Kelly nodded. "But if you really want to help your friend we need to take something with us."
"What's that?" asked Willow carefully.
"Will it take long?" Giles added. "We must hurry before her condition gets worse."
"Well, it depends," said Kelly slowly. She paused to form a sheepish smile. "How good are you at lifting?"
Xander was seeing something from his dreams.
His very secret and well hidden erotic dreams. And his very secret and not so well hidden daydreams too.
Lets just say Xander was in a dream like state.
Anyway, what Xander saw, and rather dreamily at that, was Faith, clad in a black silk bra and tight leather pants hauling an unconscious Cordelia over her shoulder.
Okay, so except for the unconscious Cordelia and the wearing pants part it was a similar to his dreams.
Similar enough to distract him and annoy Faith.
"X!" said Faith irritably as she walked towards the cage on the far side of the library. "Help me out, huh? It's not like I can hold her and unlock it all at once."
"Yeah, sorry!" Xander apologized quickly as he scrambled to his feet and dashed over to the cage to begin unlocking it. As he did so, he asked nervously, "So... do you want to tell me how you lost your shirt and Cordelia lost consciousness? Or should I just not even ask?"
"Too late for that, X," said Faith as she walked into the open cage and gently placed Cordelia on the floor. Brushing back some stray strands of hair she looked into the other girl's beautiful features and murmured, "Lets just say that she tried some uncool stuff with me. Stuff that I only want to do when she's back to normal and ready for what doing it would mean to the both of us."
"Oh, I getcha," squeaked Xander as he used one of Faith's phrases to attempt to cover his embarrassment.
Of course, his attempt didn't work very well. But it wasn't like Faith was paying any attention to him as she only had eyes for Cordelia at this point.
"Sweets," Faith said in soft and tender tones as her fingertips lightly traced Cordelia's cheek. "Please hurry up and come back to me soon, because I miss you a whole lot."
Feeling like he was intruding on a very private scene, Xander backed out of the cage and was about to leave the library altogether when he heard several screams along with the sound of a crowd rushing past.
"Did someone eat the mystery meat?" Xander pondered aloud as he walked towards the library doors and opened them. Grabbing the back of a passing student's shirt as Faith walked over to join him, Xander said, "So what's the big rush? They filming a new boy group video here or something? Are we being invaded by ravenous obsessed preteens?"
"Didn't you hear, man?" asked the boy with wide eyes. "They found Principal Flutie dead right in front of the bell tower. Someone pushed him down the stairs."
Letting go of the boy's shirt, Xander turned to look at Faith with shocked eyes. Meeting his gaze, the Slayer had a grim expression on her features as she said, "Watch Cordelia for me, X. I think that I better go and find her little friends and ask them some questions about stairs."
Xander was about to reply when his gaze drifted towards where they had left Cordelia.
Had left as in the past tense. As in Cordelia was no longer in the cage. As in she was loose running around.
"I'd be more than happy to," said Xander a bit nervously. "If she was still in there for me to watch."
Turning around to face the empty cage, Faith narrowed her dark brown eyes and muttered, "Crap."
"Yeah," Xander agreed with a nod. "That would pretty much sum this whole situation up."
"This thing is heavy," grumbled Willow as she helped push the statue on the huge roller it was sitting on top of. "Tell me again why we couldn't just bring Cordelia to the statue and not the other way around?"
"You wanted her exorcised immediately," Kelly reminded with a huff as she helped push the statue along. "And if she and the other girls have made their roost at the school it's unlikely they'll want to leave the premises."
"She does have a point," Giles offered, who was trying his best, which wasn't very good, to get the statue moving along at a faster pace. "The Harpies were known to be very volatile creatures in Greek myths. They're not easily swayed from their chosen course of action."
"Amy," said Willow as she looked to the other girl. "Can't you cast some sort of spell and help us move this?"
"Who do I look like? My mom?" Amy retorted.
Before Willow could reply, they heard a familiar voice question, "What are you guys doing with this thing?"
In synchronization, everyone who was helping to push the statue of the Harpies along, poked their head around it to look at the questioning figure of Faith.
"Cordelia's getting worse," said Faith seriously. Averting her eyes a bit and blushing slightly, she said, "She sort of... well, attacked me. We were going to lock her up but we got distracted and she escaped."
"Faith," said Giles in disappointed tones. "How could you let her escape? Without her and those other two girls we'll never be able to free them from the--"
"Principal Flutie is dead," Faith interrupted.
"What?" Giles blinked.
"He's dead," Faith repeated. Avoiding Giles gaze she murmured, "I have a good idea of who did it too. But Cordelia didn't do it, she was with me when it happened."
"They've killed," said Kelly quietly. When everyone turned to regard her she said, "The blood lust has seized them. Well, two of them at least. And soon they'll want their sister to join them in their killing."
"Cordelia," Faith whispered. "C'mon," she said urgently. "We gotta hurry and find her quick."
"I'm game," said Xander nervously. "But how? We have no idea of how to know where they went."
"Didn't you say something about them not wanting to leave their roost?" asked Amy as she looked at Kelly.
"Yes," Kelly nodded. "My best bet is that they've established their roost at this school. If that's true then I'm sure that's where they are now." Gaining a sudden look of realization in her eyes, she turned to Faith and asked in slow reluctant tones, "Where did they find his body?"
"At the bottom of the stairs," replied Faith. Her eyes growing wide, she finished in wonderment, "At the bottom of the stairs to the school bell tower."
"Then that's where we should go," said Kelly.
"Right," said Faith with a nod before she went dashing off down the hallway and towards the bell tower.
"Great," Willow groaned as she watched Faith depart. "Of course, the strongest one of us all leaves us to push this stupid statue all the way there." Still grumbling as she pushed the statue along, she said, "There's no way I'm hauling this thing up a flight of steps. No way at all."
That was something Faith noticed about Sunnydale. The cops never stuck around very long. They took away the body, marked the spots, did a short nothing look around, then left with a few do not trespass yellow plastic streamers plastered all over the bell tower area.
Gazing up at the top of it, Faith murmured, "I'm coming for you, Cordelia. I'm here to get you back."
Turning to look at the slowly approaching group pushing the statue of the Harpies, Faith called out, "I'll get them down here and you turn them back to normal!"
"Normal?" Xander echoed. Giving Kelly a wry look he smirked and said, "You've got your work cut out for you, lady."
"Funny," said Kelly dryly. "Now hurry up and push. We have to have everything ready and soon."
"Someone is coming."
Turning to look at her leader, Aura smirked as she purred, "I think it's your plaything, sister."
"Perhaps she wants to apologize," Jasmine offered.
"Silence!" Cordelia hissed. Her hazel eyes narrowed into slits and she murmured, "You haven't been able to ease my hunger while I know that she can."
"Then go to her," said Aura from where she peeked up from resting her head on Cordelia's shoulder.
"Yes, go to her," agreed Jasmine as she flanked Cordelia's other side and traced her fingers down her arm. "Go and ease your hunger, sister. You know you must."
"I will," said Cordelia with narrowed eyes as she rose to her feet. "I will have her ease my hunger."
"I don't think so, sweets."
Whirling around, Cordelia faced Faith who was standing at the top of the winding stairs to the bell tower and wearing a look of determination on her features.
"You want me?" said Faith almost mockingly. "Then you come and get me. All three of you."
Then with that, Faith went dashing down the stairs in a frenzied movement to leave the three girls alone.
"She ridicules us?" Cordelia hissed as her hazel eyes blazed. "Not even easing my hunger will take away such an insult."
"Then she will feed us all," said Jasmine sharply.
"Yes," Aura said in dark tones. "It is time to feed."
With that, the three girls took off after Faith and went running down the stairs with an agility that seemed to equal even the Slayer's in unexpected skill.
But when they reached the bottom they were met with a very unwelcome sight.
Drawing back and making an almost hissing noise, Cordelia, Jasmine, and Aura moved away from the statue of the Harpies that was resting in front of them.
That was when Kelly began chanting.
Only Giles and Willow recognized her words as ancient Greek but everyone present could see their effect as a strange green glow filled the air and the three girls bodies became as stiff as boards.
Moments later, the light faded with a flash and the girls collapsed to the ground. Well, Aura and Jasmine collapsed to the ground. Cordelia didn't have a chance because as soon as she looked faint, Faith was by her side and when she fell backwards the Slayer caught Cordelia in her arms and lifted her up to cradle her as you would a baby, with Cordelia's face deeply buried in Faith's neck.
"Faith," whispered Cordelia in sleepy tones as she unconsciously nuzzled the Slayer's neck.
"Sweets," Faith said with shaky emotion, pulling the other girl even closer to her. "Welcome back."
Watching them both, their companions couldn't help but think that everything was right with the world.
For the time being at least.