The following is the third episode of what will be my FIVE UNTRUE THINGS ABOUT CORDELIA CHASE story which has been appearing here intermittently over the last couple of months. I am afraid that the moral tone is no higher than it was in the previous episodes.
Colour me louche.
Usual disclaimers apply to this and previous parts - characters not mine, copyright Mutant Enemy, all hail Joss etc.
It's a bloody stupid idea.' Spike said.
'It's the only possible thing we can do,' Willow said. ' We just have to find a way of making it work. Which will take all of us, pulling together.'
She'd obviously taken notes every single time Giles or Buffy made a big 'this is the plan that will save the world' speech, and marked them in yellow highlighter when she went over them afterwards.
She kept looking round at us as she spoke, which kind of spoiled the effect.
I still didn't like her, but I'd voted for her as leader because she was so clearly the person for the job - I don't think she was ever going to get over watching my hand go up to vote for her. Like I'd vote for the Bleached Undead, or for Mr. Don't Bleed On My Armani.
'Without Buffy,' Wesley said. someone else who owned a copy of Rabblerousing for Dummies, , 'Sunnydale is a corpse lying where the vultures can eat it. We don't have Buffy, but we have the next best thing.'
'It's a holding action,' Willow said. 'Just to keep things going until we work out something better.'
She had a look in her eye that I remembered from computer classes. I could bet that she knew exactly what that something better was going to be and that she wasn't going to tell us because we were really not going to like it.
Part of not liking Willow is not suffering from the delusion that she is sweet and kind and good - part of what I have come to respect about Willow is that she has a close eye to what is necessary. Including not telling us things that would probably upset us.
'Bloody hell,' Spike said. 'It's not the next best thing and it's not a holding action. It's a sodding toy that I got made so I could boink it.'
'Spike is a demon in bed,' the Buffybot said, now we were finally discussing something that interested her. 'He has abs like steel and a cute ass. He says cruel things sometimes, but he is sensitive deep down.'
'It's a toy that can fight any of us into the ground,' Wesley said. 'It just needs to be told what to do.'
'Wind it up,' Spike said. 'And watch it go. Am I the only one who thinks this is a bloody stupid idea?'
'Probably,' I said.
'Oh God,' Spike said. ' Another twerp heard from.'
He had never forgiven me for walking out of Glory's apartment in one piece - not that I'd ever explained exactly how I managed that. Important to keep my mystery.
' Denial much,' I said. ' This isn't just about your guilt, Spikey. -' I just knew that was what Harmony had called him in bed, because Harm is, well, just predictable, living or undead - 'You need to feel guilty, fine, do it on your own time. This is about what we need to do, and what Buffy would have wanted.'
'Bitch,' he said.
'Uh huh,' I said with a smile.
Spike looked at me with something that was almost respect.
'Just so long as I don't have to talk to it,' he said.
'Why can't you just be nice to the poor little thing ?' Tara said, all People for the Ethical Treatment of Androids.
' It's not trying to tear your clothes off every five minutes, Glinda,' Spike said.
Tara blushed. She did that a lot.
'You know,' I said. 'If this is going to work at all, Spike, you are going to have to talk to her. Not it, not a poor little thing, Tara - her, Buffy.'
Spike growled and I stared hard into those ice-blue eyes.
'And you are going to have to hold her hand in public and whisper sweet nothings to her. And Willow, you are going to have to tell her what to say in class. And cover for her when she doesn't understand the social construction of reality - so no change there.. And Dawn and I am going to have to be all cosy with her round the breakfast table and eat her lousy pancakes. And you, Wes, you are going to have to be all pompous and Watchery at her.'
'What do I do?' Anya said.
'You know,' I said. 'I've never especially noticed you talk to Buffy or be interested in her in any way. So don't ever change.'
Willow had her mouth open. I sometimes had that effect on her these days, I'd noticed.
'You're the leader,' I said. 'I'm clearly the person in charge of sensitivity. Which, let's admit it, is a switch...'
'No,' Willow said. 'You're right, of course you're totally right.'
'I like Cordelia,' the Buffybot said. 'She lives in my house and she is recently gay, but less recently than Willow.'
'And another thing.' I said. 'There is something else I really am going to have to take care of. Personally.'
It's not as if they had done an especially bad job.
Spike clearly spent a century stitching Little Miss Crazy into her gothic velvet numbers and learned a bit along the way. And Warren obviously knew how to look in a catalogue and not screw up too badly.
Buffy really should have taken care of this herself, before we went up against Glory, who - OK had little fashion sense, but maybe just enough to notice. But luckily didn't.
Buffybot's clothes just were never quite right - it's not so much that she wore clothes that Buffy wouldn't, so much as that they were all from the silly fluffy end of her wardrobe, the clothes she might share with Willow when they were sharing a room. You watched Buffybot over a period of days and suddenly you realised that she wasn't Buffy, because it all added up wrong.
Buffy would wear those pink shades of lipstick, sure, but she wouldn't wear them every day; she owned the pink mohair sweater, but she only ever wore it in quotation marks. Plus, Spike had some idea about clothes, and hair, and makeup, but he had none whatever about shoes.
And it is asking too much to expect a vampire to be especially good at accessorizing.
'We're going to the mall,' I said to her next morning.
'The mall is two miles from the centre of Sunnydale and has extensive parking on two levels.' Buffybot said. 'It has a multiplex cinema and branches of most major retailers.'
She grinned cheerily - did Buffy really have teeth that good?
'I can direct you there,' she said. 'Because I have a GPS installed in me as an optional extra.'
Some of the problems with her were Spike, but others were entirely down to Warren. I suppose we should be grateful he did not install a cell phone in her.
'I've known how to get to the mall since before I could crawl,' I told her and then felt embarrassed as her face fell into that sulk she got whenever she was confused.
'Exaggeration for comic effect,' I said.
'Oh,' she said. ' I am programmed to recognize non-functional verbal behaviour in six languages. But sometimes that function doesn't work very well - I don't understand half of what you or Spike say.'
'I sound nothing like Spike,' I said.
'No,' she said.
If a flesh person had agreed with me that quickly, I would have suspected irony.
Sometimes, I'm whim girl, and power girl and exploitation girl and just wanna have fun girl.
Probably it was a mistake of Willow and Tara to let me take her to the mall by ourselves. Or maybe if Dawn had wanted to come, but she was kinda freaked out by the whole idea.
It just reminded her some more that Buffy was really, really dead and the Bot was all we had.
Playing dressup girl with my friends is something I would like to get the chance to do because it is one of the few bits of old impure not-so-nice Cordy still left for me to enjoy.
Now I am a reformed character.
I couldn't do it with Joyce because the couple of time I tried, she insisted on pulling out the Victoria's Secret catalogue and making me tell her which outfits I thought would suit her best. When I said I thought Victoria's Secret was a bit tacky, Joyce laughed at me and said 'Next time, Fredericks'.
She knew my buttons, that one.
And too much history with Willow, much of it to do with me being a bitch about clothes, for me ever to bond with her about makeovers - I blew that one in Sixth Grade. Tara, sweetest of sweet girls, but a woman with negative fashion sense. Those two together - just the aftermath of some terrible accident in a dye factory.
I wish I had tried harder to persuade Buffy herself to come and be a mallrat with me; it would have been something to do together.
Because somewhere I blew it with Buffy - whether by being mean to Willow in front of her or breaking up with Xander or having sex with her mother doesn't really matter.
We got on, but that was all it was ever going to be. And we could have been friends, we could have been like sisters.
In this, as in so much else, the Buffybot was a next best thing.
I just thought, before buying the clothes that would be sensible choices, clothes that would stop the Bot being Ms Cornfed Bland, we could try a few experiments, just to see.
The experiments I would have tried to talk Buffy into.
She was so wholesome, so much more wholesome than the original, that I decided she needed to be dressed in black and red, in leather and studs and sequins. It wasn't necessarily what we were going to leave with, but I just wanted to see what she looked like out of pastels and pinks. And not cute, and not perky.
She looked hot.
I tend to think of Buffy, and of the Bot, as scrawny little things, but that is just my way of not worrying that I am over-ripe, over-lush, too much of a handful
And also, of not thinking of Buffy as hot. Because that would be so wrong. In so many ways.
I'm used to playing it cool, for boys. You don't let boys know what crosses your mind because it's war out there, and we take no prisoners.
Girls are harder, I get that, but I can play cool there too.
What I forgot is that the Bot wasn't a girl, or rather, she wasn't only a girl.
Warren built in a whole lot more than a GPS.
We were standing in a changing room, which luckily was a proper little room, with walls and everything, and a door that shut, and the Bot suddenly turned, reached up and put her net-gloved hand on my shoulder.
She pulled me down a few inches and whispered in my ear.
'Your pulse rate is elevated and the blood vessels in your pupils are dilating and there is an interesting sheen of sweat visible on your upper lip,' she said. 'Are you aware that these are physiological symptoms of sexual desire?'
'Ahh, no,' I said.
The Bot smiled the smile Buffy uses on particularly idiotic vampires.
'Warren installed a lie detector,' she said.
'You are kind to me,' the Bot said. 'Kindness is often a prelude to an exchange of sexual favours.'
She kissed me hard and held me imprisoned in those implausibly strong arms. Her lips were soft and yielding and yet there was nothing soft about her, not really. It was like being taken.
And when her moist tongue gently invaded my mouth, there was subtle intelligence in each feint and fence.
A part of me was wondering how she kept the relevant bits of herself moist as a human and going eww! at some of the ideas that came to mind. Mostly, though, my mind was shutting down in quiet squirming waves of pleasure.
It had never occurred to me that, if the Bot was a good fighter, well, fighting was never her primary purpose.
She really was very very good. And did not need to come up for air any time soon.
At this point, we were still both fully dressed, but I was no longer entirely aware of that.
'Your cheekbones are just as good as Spike's', she said conversationally, in between licking the flesh behind the corners of my jaw. ' And the flesh that covers them is softer and less tense without being even a bit flabby. You are sarcastic and kind and quite recently gay.'
I was losing the battle.
'We can't,' I said.
The Bot smiled a triumphant little smile.
'Physiological signs indicate that you are approximately thirty-two seconds from orgasm.' she said and did something ingenious and feathery with her left hand finger and thumb to the fleshy part of my ear.
How nice to know, a part of me went on thinking, that even Warren's gadgets can't always time things absolutely to the second.
But that part of my brain was just a spectator by this point.
Somehow, I managed to get all of my clothes back on and to remember to pay for all of her new outfits with the Magic Shop credit card Wesley had lent me in spite of Anya's moaning.
I didn't encourage her to change back into the clothes she was wearing when we arrived.
Some looks are too good to spoil and she was sort of shiny afterwards. Small sheen of sweat, indeed.
I really did not want to know where the moisture came from.
' Did you know they have cameras in that changing room?' she said.
Omigod, I thought.
'Warren programmed me to be able to short out other people's spy cameras.' she said.
I was too relieved to pay that remark quite the attention it deserved.
And after that, we had the summer, and I was happy.
I'm not sure that robots can be happy, but she bubbled around and killed things and came home and pounced on me for weeks and weeks and weeks. She looked happy.
Everyone paid lip service to treating her like an equal and I don't think she noticed that mostly that's all it was.
She was programmed to be Buffy, after all. Not to have insight.
Dawn knew, because sometimes when I looked in on the Bot, because I liked to look at her, Dawn'd be there nestled into her sleeping arms while the Bot recharged. And sometimes Dawn would look up with that knowing smile she has before I closed the door gently.
Sometimes, when the Bot was with me, I'd half hear the door to my room go.
And it wasn't Willow or Tara, who, bless them, were too far off in their We-Invented-Lesbianism fantasyland.
Then they killed her. They tore her in pieces.
We killed every one of them and in the middle of that we got Buffy back.
Oh good, I thought, we've got Buffy back.
And I was glad.
And went back to my room and cried for a hot little robot that not even Dawn would remember to mourn.
Normal service will now be resumed until I finish Cordelia and Tara.