Story By: Patrick Kelly & Series By: Joss Whedon
Willow, Amy, and Xander were on stage as Oz and the band packed away their instruments. After two sets, all the songs began sounding the same, but that didn't slow up the dance and all its related activities, any. Full gear or not, the two couples were going to call it a night. Sadly, party animals they weren't. Thankfully, Oz had his van, so they could ride in relative safety.
Xander had enjoyed himself more than he'd expected to. The main motive behind asking Amy out had been a simple one - so he wouldn't look like a loser standing alone in a corner. Not that he hadn't noticed her attractiveness before, but she had only been a friend he saw once and a while. He was figuring out that he liked her though, and she seemed to like him. A lot. He wouldn't object to seeing her in a place that wasn't school for a second time, possibly even a third. Assuming that she'd agree to a...what was that word?
Date? It sounded so foreign.
The drum set was currently being carried off in its separate pieces, and he couldn't help but eye the base drum with a raised brow. Gone were the band name and logo - it had been replaced by a phrase. He knew what it meant; yet it struck him as funny. 'Happy VD' was written, with a heart in the middle. It was in the spirit of things, true, but it was also open to his unique brand of interpretation.
"Happy Venereal Disease?" He questioned, smirking. "Actually, that's sort of appropriate. It's you guys saying, 'we know how your night's gonna end, and we plan to celebrate it. We're a progressive, non-shunning, groove machine. Go crabs!'"
The hacker and witch grimaced.
"Room became an issue." Oz said.
"Ah. So Devon never learned how to stay between the lines." The singer shot him a look. "Love those vocals! Major improvement! I can almost understand every other word now."
"If there was ever a cue to leave, that's it." Amy said.
The girls pulled him outside, each holding onto an arm. He got the impression that that didn't swing the odds of there being another outing, in his favor.
"No, really. Where'd you get it?" Cordelia asked, walking into the kitchen and recognizing the aroma.
"It's a present." Buffy turned, gripping the wooden spoon she was using to stir the mixture of sauce, garlic, basil, olive oil, white wine, and clams. "You don't ask that about a present...and why are you wearing my sweatpants? And my sweater?"
"Um, cause of the comfort factor? They're a little small on me, but they're better than that damn dress. It ripped! I knew it wasn't worth the retail." The cheerleader was angry.
"Whoa, whoa. Where'd it rip, how come I wasn't shown, and could you look any cuter? You're all snug and homey."
"That's a bad thing, Buffy. It's like I'm the 'little woman,' when you clearly have that role locked up. I mean, you have the apron, the recipes...you just need a potholder to complete the look."
The slayer's eyes were mad, her lips pursed. "I was gonna let you taste the sauce, but now you'll just have to wait."
"Fine." There was eye rolling.
"Go change, too. I want a romantic setting. Candles are involved, and with candles, mood is created. Sweats aren't part of the mood."
"So it'll be casually romantic." Her girlfriend shrugged. "Besides, you said I looked cute."
"Technically I said, '*could* you look any cuter.' You're almost there, but not quite." Cordelia put her hands on her hips in disbelief. "Plus, *you* said I was the 'little woman.' Aren't you supposed to keep me happy?"
"First, I'm not the man. Second, as a woman, I have equal rights. Heard of those? You can't boss me around and expect me to do your bidding."
"Damn feminist." She grumbled.
"Third, 'little woman'? Height."
"You can't make up new definitions every five seconds! It means 'wife.' You know it, I know it, and the eighty-year-olds who still think it's current slang, know it." She punctuated each point with a flick of the spoon.
"Are we married? Don't think so. You can't blame me cause you're a midget; I'm taller, I'm in charge."
"I changed my mind." Buffy held out the spoon. "Cordy, taste this."
"What if I don't wanna?"
"Taste." She wasn't going to tolerate a negative response. The brunette stepped up to the wooden object, and gave it one, long, sensual lick. Buffy wanted to be in charge? That'd happen. Right. The blonde's throat was feeling dry. "Well?"
"Mm...good." The slayer kissed her without warning; they both could taste the seasoned, clam-filled sauce, which added a whole new level for them to experiment with. "Better."
The buzzer went off for the Chicken Parmesan.
"Sit!" Buffy commanded, somehow resuming her task with relative ease. "I'll be out in a few, and we'll eat. Stay like that. What do I care?"
"I love it when I get my way."
"He's coming." Jenny Calendar told her uncle as she paced in his apartment.
The gypsy had recently moved to Sunnydale to keep a closer eye on things. They didn't trust her to stay impartial.
"I suppose you were looking forward to an evening with this man." Enyos said, sitting in his chair.
That had been the original plan. She realized how she'd been acting, and they'd made amends. Tonight was going to be a reconnection of sorts. In other words, she was all set to send the tweed flying right off of him. Unfortunately, her duty to her people took precedence over her personal life, though Jenny never thought she'd have to deal with the problem that had arisen. She knew the clause, and there had been no catalyst for its activation.
"Angelus is my first priority."
"Good." The older man nodded. "Can your friend be trusted with the knowledge of our cause?"
She had called him as she left the school, and just hoped that he didn't hate her after they told him the story. How do you tell the man that you love, that you were sent to the town where he lived, to watch a vampire your gypsy clan had cursed with a soul for vengeance purposes? That same vampire who'd helped them all over the past two years, and that it was also your job to make sure a moment of true happiness wasn't achieved, as it was the only thing that could make him revert back to his evil ways? Or so they had believed.
"Understand, Janna, that I do realize your life has been saved by this creature. However, its soul is no longer dominating the flesh it inhabits. The monster that slaughtered our beloved daughter has broken free, and is winning the inner struggle. Soon, the humanity will be completely destroyed. Steps must be taken."
"I know...but why did this happen? That's what I don't understand. His habits haven't changed. Nothing changed."
"I'm afraid I do not know the reason, either. But 'why' is unimportant to us. The solution is our focus. The Elder Woman has written a new incantation, which will restore what needs to be restored. It is stronger, permanent."
The techno-pagan raised her eyebrows. "Permanent?"
"Yes. If it is successful, he won't have to fear the loss of his soul ever again. Some have argued that with an eternity to live, it is possible that he could obtain happiness, and that his suffering would end. If his pain is not going to be infinite, many say he should die...yet she will not hear the protests." Enyos sighed. "The Elder Woman may have grown soft with age, but we still must respect her wishes. It has always been that way, and so it shall continue."
"So why doesn't she just perform the spell now? Why wait?"
"Because she is weak, and the strength to perform such magick has left her. The distance is also too great. Her parchment will arrive at your home as fast as possible. The task falls upon your shoulders, child. She has felt great power around you."
"Me? I don't have that kind of strength, Uncle."
There was a knock at the door.
"Then perhaps he does."
She went to answer the door, preparing herself. When she opened it though, an unexpected surprise was awaiting her. The small shriek came out before she could stop it. Rupert was here, but unconscious, Angelus gripping him by the throat. She should've warned him. God, she should've warned him. Relax; she had to relax. Angelus couldn't come in - this was a private home. How'd he know where to find her, though?
She paled. He knew what she was.
"Hiya, Jenny. Guess who I ran into on the way up?" The demon smiled. "Looks like it's turning out to be my night after all."
Her uncle came and joined her, speaking sternly. "You are not welcome here. Be gone."
"You know, that's a really good point." Angelus shook his head. "Geez, I should've thought this through. I mean, you probably don't care about my buddy Giles," He looked down at the watcher, "even though she does, right?"
"Her affairs are of no concern to me."
Jenny hated her relative at that moment. Life was expendable - just as long as that life didn't contain Kalderash blood.
"You wanna get rid of me at any cost. Wow. *That's* dedication. Let's see. You're not giving me much to work with here, so what choice do I have? Oh wait..." His embarrassment quickly turned into a dark confidence. "Now I remember."
In his other hand, Angelus held a knife. Yet within an instant, it flew out of his hand, and the sharpened end of the blade was sticking out the other side of Enyos' neck. Blood escaped down his bottom lip as the Romanian fell to the floor, his nearly dead eyes wide with shock. Jenny brought a hand to her mouth; her brain was having trouble registering anything. When the vampire looked at her again, it was with his true face.
He ran his hand along the weakening barrier preventing his entry into the apartment.
"I'd say you've got about two seconds, Teacher, then you and Rupert can be together. No one should be alone today; it's just not right."
She began backing up, looking around for some sort of weapon.
"So since I'm doing you a favor," He crossed the threshold, "at least try to make this fun for me."
Xander hopped out of the passenger seat of the van, and slid open the side door when they stopped at the sidewalk in front of Amy's house. Once the blonde had said her good-byes, she headed to her porch. Willow shut the large door from inside, after she pushed her friend to walk his date up. She felt a small pang of jealousy, but she had Oz now, and she'd be happy for him if he and Amy went somewhere couple-wise.
The two people stood awkwardly on the porch.
"Thanks for blackmailing me. It was...fun." The witch smirked.
"Thanks for not running away." Xander responded. "I gave you plenty of opportunities to, so either you found my wily antics amusing, or you're just looking forward to mocking me endlessly tomorrow morning."
"I haven't decided yet, but I'll let ya know."
"I appreciate that." He smiled. "Hey, if your vote happens to swing toward the, 'I like that guy' area, would you, I don't know...wanna do something remotely similar to tonight, uh...again? But with the possibility of a movie and fast food being involved? Feel free to shoot me down."
She laughed. "It's not classiest offer I've ever had...but I can't see why I'd say no. Maybe I'm drawn to you."
"Drawn? To me? That's great!" He cleared his throat. "I'm masculine. Yeah." She was still smirking. "This is me leaving before your brain comes back, and you stop being temporarily insane."
"With compliments like that, it's hard to understand why girls aren't falling all over you."
He was embarrassed. "Oh, they fall. They fall so hard there's usually casts and restraining orders shortly afterwards."
She kissed him on the cheek. "Good night, Xander."
It had been a good Venereal...err...Valentines Day, after all.
Jenny was struggling to get out to the fire escape through the window, while trying to ignore her newly broken leg, but it wasn't working. If she lived through this with only that, and the numerous bruises she'd received, she'd be happy. Some of the floor's other residents must have gotten nosy, because she could hear and see the sirens coming closer. Thank God for people who couldn't mind their own business. She and Giles just had to hold on a little longer; Angelus wouldn't risk being surrounded by cops. He'd be removing the bullets from his body for a month.
The Englishman had come around two minutes ago, finding himself lying next to a dead man. Jenny had given him directions to her uncle's building, and the last thing he remembered was getting out of his car, then the blackness. When he saw what the vampire was doing to his girlfriend, all questions left his mind. Pure rage coursed through him as he got to his feet, and he had just sucker punched Angelus, which surprised the demon. But he quickly turned, putting his back to the watcher.
"You're just wasting my time; I don't want you. It would've been less painful if you'd only stayed down, but..." He was facing Giles in a split second, delivering a direct uppercut to his chin. His victim went reeling. "If this is the way you want it, that's fine with me."
"Angel, help us!" Jenny pleaded. He was supposed to be in there, wasn't he?
Bad word. She was growled at, and then the vampire went to her uncle's body to yank the knife free.
"Sorry, he already saved someone tonight, and he's kinda tired. Ssh...don't wake him up." Angelus brought a finger to his lips, and after a moment, slid it down the blood-covered blade, gathering some on the tip. He tasted it, grimacing. "I think it's gone stale. Always been fond of the younger generations, anyway. Like your ancestor. She was the sweetest I ever had."
He grabbed her with the same hand he was using to grasp the knife, pulled her over to Giles, and lifted his head.
"Still there, Rupert? Wouldn't want you to miss the show." The demon asked the hurting watcher, who groaned in response. "You've gotta help me choose. Do I drink her or carve her, first?" Giles spit the blood that had been sitting in his mouth, in Angelus' face, and looked horrified as it licked its lips. "You're right, you should watch me cut her."
Jenny looked at Angelus with tears in her eyes, as he dragged the knife in a circle on her shirt. "They'll be here any minute."
"I'll be quick." He was ready to do it, and then she watched anger flash across his features as they became human. Angel's eyes were as frightened as hers were. "Oh God..."
He pushed her aside, and scrambled out the window. Jumping off the fire escape and into the alley, he fell hard to his hands and knees. They both knew things were going to get complicated now, and unbeknownst to them, in a factory across town, Spike rose from his wheelchair.
"What's the verdict?" Buffy asked hesitantly.
Cordelia was taking her last bite of the home-cooked meal, very impressed. Her girlfriend obviously wanted to make the night a pleasant one, and as far as she was concerned, it had been. Slowly chewing, she decided to torture the slayer for a few seconds. Eventually she put her fork down, and wiped her mouth on the napkin that was beside her plate.
"Did I like it, you mean?" The brunette asked in return. "Well...the food was eatable, it passed that test...and the box of wine was a nice touch." She sighed in mock disgust.
The blonde chucked her napkin at her guest. "It was the only thing in the house, okay? And when my mom finds out that I invaded her supply, I'm dead." She paused, shaking her head in confusion. "Why did I risk the rest of my adolescence for you? Tell me. Please, cause I haven't got a clue."
"Maybe you love me." The brunette smiled at her from the other side of the dining room table.
Buffy smiled back. "Could be."
"Maybe I'm like a goddess to you, and you want me to be happy so you don't have to face my wrath." She considered that. "And as long as we're on the subject, I think the next step should be building a shrine, that has a wall devoted to pictures of me. Except...if it gets too big, then we enter Psychoville, and that's not what I'm going for. Simple, but elegant. Is that asking too much?"
"Let's not get carried away here, Cordy." The slayer eyed her, seeing through the act. "Damn, you're good at that."
The cheerleader grinned, caught. "What can I say? It's like a switch. On, off...whenever. Julia Roberts? Give me a break." Her grin became a smile. "It was great, Buffy. So great that I feel guilty."
"Guilty? How come?" The blonde looked up in the direction of the ceiling, remembering something. "Uh...can you close your eyes and hold that thought?" She made a beeline for her room, and came back down with something in her hand. "Are they closed?"
"I can't see anything, so...I'm gonna go with 'yeah'."
Buffy walked behind Cordelia's chair, gently brushed her hair aside, and slipped the necklace she'd bought, around her neck. "Okay, open 'em."
The gold chain had three objects on it - a B, a C, and a heart that was just somewhat larger than the letters surrounding it, because it was meant to be a locket. Inside the heart was a picture of them Willow had taken several weeks ago, outside of school. The redhead had brought a camera in the hopes that she could take candid shots, and then give them to the yearbook. She wanted to branch out into other areas of Nerd-dom, especially because Eric, the young Dr. Frankenstein who usually took them, had been expelled.
The couple was caught off guard, and by the time the picture was taken, it was too late to object. It wasn't a complicated or mushy photo; Cordelia's head was turned towards Buffy's, and they were just talking, smiles on their faces. It was chosen because one, they hadn't really built up a large enough collection of pictures to pick from; two, there was something unguarded and natural about it; and three, she thought it captured one of the main parts of their relationship. Conversation. Openness. They talked constantly, even before they were official.
Everything was covered; it felt appropriate.
"You shouldn't have." Cordelia whispered, lifting it to get a better look. "This is...thank you."
"You're welcome." Buffy smiled.
The doorbell rang, and she went to see who would show up now, leaving the brunette to stare at her other gift. Surely Jehovah's Witnesses had to sleep?
Cordelia blushed as the slayer re-entered the dining room a couple minutes later, carrying a dozen red roses. "They're late. And I didn't think I'd be here; I figured you'd be just getting off work. Didn't see the point in having one of those little cards, either. I'm not Hallmark."
"I thought I told you that you didn't have to do anything? I just got you *and* a bracelet for my birthday. That was plenty; I woulda been set for at least six months."
"It's Valentine's Day, I had to. Besides, if I'd known you were gonna get me chocolates, Sir Sno-Paw, and make me dinner, I would've done a lot more."
"Exactly why I kept it a secret. You feel guilty because of that?"
Cordelia nodded. "I have all this money, but when I can finally spend it on someone else and have it actually mean something, I'm not allowed to."
"It's not about -"
"Says the girl who splurged."
"You call this splurging? I just wanted to give you a little surprise. I could've gone for broke and gotten you the twenty other things I saw that I thought you'd like, but I didn't...and now I feel guilty."
"If I can't, than neither can you, agreed?"
"Agreed." There was a smirk.
"I don't need my fabulously wealthy girlfriend to spoil me just because she can. Gifts are nice and all, but I've already got the best one there is." Buffy cringed. "God, that was sappy."
The cheerleader reddened some more. "You like the roses though, right?"
"They're beautiful." She smelled the twelve flowers as Cordelia got up from her seat. "Sir Sno-Paw? How long have you been waiting to use that?"
No one had ever done anything like this for her. Silently, she walked over to Buffy and hugged her. "Thanks. I mean it." Cordelia kissed her lightly when they separated. "Love you."
"Love you too." The blonde said with a smile. "I should put these in some water."
It was still hard to believe sometimes, but here they were. Best feeling in the world.
"What'll you tell your mom if she asks where you got 'em from?"
"That since there was no card, I must have a secret admirer." She grinned.
"Am I not obvious enough?" Cordelia didn't get an answer. "Then I guess I'll have to try harder."
"Sure, ya know, if you have to. But *after* I put the dishes in the sink and deal with the roses."
"I can wait." The brunette went and stretched out on the living room couch, while Buffy started cleaning up. She grabbed the remote off of the coffee table, and flipped through the channels for several, long minutes. "There's crap on TV."
"Good crap or bad crap?" The slayer questioned, coming to join her girlfriend on the sofa and managing to fit just right, allowing them both to lie down.
Cordelia draped her arm around the blonde. "There's no such thing as good crap. It's...that word we learned in English. An oxymoron."
"I knew that."
"Uh huh, and it doesn't matter that you're Buffy Summers, the Chronically Absent Delinquent." Came the sarcastic jibe.
"And it doesn't matter that you're Cordelia Chase, the Hollow-Brained, School Spirit Slut." The delinquent in question had been prepared.
The cheerleader was tracing her nails in slow circles around the outside of her girlfriend's ear. "It's nice to know that we're comfortable with our flaws, isn't it?"
"Hmm mm." As they watched the various commercials, one caught Buffy's eye. It was reminding women to get breast cancer checkups. "Whoever came up with 'mammogram,' anyway? Every time I hear it, I think I'm supposed to put my breast in an envelope and mail it to someone."
"Probably the same lonely pervert who named Lake Titticaca and the Woodcock." Buffy snickered, and Cordelia bit her lip, thinking quietly to herself for a while. "Have you...?"
Why did being a teenager mean you were turned on by everything? Here she was, only making a tiny, semi-suggestive joke, and doing some innocent, non-suggestive cuddling, which was causing the heat level to rise. Plus, with her mouth right next to the back of the slayer's neck, it wasn't easy to remain composed.
Buffy wanted to pry, but the phone rang. Good. The cordless was on the table, and she was able to reach it without having to sacrifice her position.
"It was nothing." Cordelia said as the blonde clicked the 'Power' button. She was relieved and disappointed all at once.
"Hello?...This is her...What happened?" Buffy sat up as the person on the other end continued to talk, her face turning white. "I know...Yeah...Sunnydale General?...No, I'll be there soon. Thanks...Bye." She hung up, stunned.
"What's going on?" Cordelia sat up, too.
"Giles and Miss Calendar...they were hurt or...I don't know. I was a contact person; I gotta -"
"I'll run home and get my car. Call Willow and Xander, leave a note, then we'll pick them up and go to the hospital. Be back in five, ten minutes."
"Don't argue; just give me some holywater. I'll be fine."
The brunette's survival techniques were apparently top notch, because a short time later, they were on their way, vowing from then on to drive everywhere.
"I can't believe this. Why didn't...?" Buffy trailed off, thinking it wasn't right to go on the attack. "You could've told us."
"I didn't know until -" Jenny began to respond.
"I meant about who you are. You could've been honest with us."
The teacher had asked to speak to the slayer alone after she woke up, even though she wasn't feeling too great. Her left leg was in a cast, her lower lip was cut, and there was bruising on her face and wrists. As well as on areas she didn't realize Angelus had hit. But above all, she was worried about Giles. Being in worse shape than she was, they'd immediately rushed him into surgery, and it'd been nearly three hours since the two of them were admitted. They weren't saying anything to her about his condition.
He wasn't supposed to get caught up in her clan's ancient crusade, but outside involvement was pretty inevitable at this point. The situation was out of her control. Well, almost.
When she learned that she had visitors, she knew she had to tell Buffy the whole story. Now that the secret was out, Angelus would step up his plans - whatever they happened to be. In any case, she needed to get ready for him. Her reaction to the news, to the truth, had been a relatively calm one, but she wanted answers. Jenny would've been happy to oblige, except that there weren't many to give.
"I know...I should have. It was a mistake, and I'm sorry. I really am, Buffy, but I was taught to put my people ahead of my life. They were fools." She closed her eyes, pushing back the pain. "I guess that makes me a fool, too."
Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. "So you care about people that used you, and act like they were the only ones hurt by Angel...a hundred years ago. I'm trying to understand, here."
"No, not anymore." There was bitterness in her voice.
"What about Giles?" The teacher-student dynamic was still in place, but her eyes gave her feelings away. "Good." Then she wasn't a fool. "Cause he cares a lot about you."
"I think I blew my chance." She sighed. "How is he? Do you know?"
"The doctor said there was some internal bleeding..." Her forehead creased. "There was other stuff, but the only thing I really heard was the, 'he'll heal' part."
Jenny was obviously relieved. "Thank God."
The blonde's expression softened, her arms dropping to the side. The woman had gone through hell; she'd paid enough. "How're you doing?"
"I won't ever badmouth drugs again." She received a chuckle in response. "My uncle said they were going to send me a permanent spell before..." She swallowed; his death was fresh in her mind. "It'll save Angel."
"We just gotta find someone to do it in time, right?" Buffy frowned. This was bad, but the scariest thing, was that it began to explain his recent, odd behavior. "You're sure he's still there?"
"If he wasn't, I wouldn't be alive right now. Neither would Rupert. Angel isn't doing this, Angelus is."
"But you have no clue why they're, uh, separating?"
Jenny shook her head on the pillow, as the gang came in.
"Can we...is it okay?" The redhead gently asked.
"Sure, Willow." She smiled.
They were definitely a special group of kids.
"Hi, Miss Calendar." Cordelia greeted her, grabbed Buffy's hand, and then focused on the teacher. "Oh geez."
"I see your 'geez' and raise you a 'whoa.'" Xander looked away, realizing how not tactful that sounded, which was one of the side effects of being around the cheerleader. "Sorry."
"Ooh. Who did that?" Willow questioned, getting angry. "I'll-I'll...do something real mean to them! And glare at them when they're...um, in jail. A-a whole bunch, though!"
Buffy shrugged, giving Jenny a, "they're gonna find out, anyway" look. Still, she hesitated.
"They're moving Giles to a room." Xander said. "We'll keep her entertained if you wanna go see him."
The slayer nodded. "I'll let him know you're all right."
"Tell him," The techno-pagan wanted to be able to move, "tell him I wish I could get up and come with you."
"Bet he's thinking the same thing." Buffy smiled. "Don't worry, you haven't run out of chances yet, just get better." She looked at her friends. "Make sure she stays comfortable, guys."
"Will do." The hacker stated, firmly.
Cordelia wordlessly followed her exiting girlfriend, not releasing her grip. Sensing a new level of stress, she figured she should remain close. Stress mixing with Buffy wasn't a good thing.
The cheerleader walked slowly across the parking lot, making her way to her car. A very ill-looking Buffy was barely managing to trail behind her, which was why she wasn't leaving school grounds as quickly as usual. Everyone knew the slayer had been pushing herself too hard. She had passed exhaustion after the second day, but they were afraid to say anything. Angel had moved out of his apartment, so they didn't know where he was, and they were all anxious about what he was going to do next.
Opening the passenger-side door, Cordelia watched as Buffy wearily climbed into the seat, a hand on her forehead. Then she spotted Snyder, and ducked. He had been trying to corner them; their "open displays of affection" were inappropriate and unwelcome in his school. There was an occasional, kiss, hug, or handhold. What was so wrong about that? If it was the gender issue, then she didn't buy it. All he wanted to know was how he could get his hands on a videotape.
Ugh. Yeah, she'd avoid him.
"Don't patrol tonight." The brunette said, focusing on the blonde. "You're sick."
"I have to; and I don't get sick." No sooner had the words come out of Buffy's mouth, that she sneezed. "First time for everything."
"Uh huh. Right." Her face displayed concern, but she wasn't budging. "You should stay in and get your mom to make you soup or something. At least you have a parent that lets you milk illness."
Buffy smiled a little. "Would you make me soup if...nah. You wouldn't wanna have what I got."
"I'll risk it if it'll keep you inside. Where you can't get killed." Cordelia hated saying it even more than she did thinking it. "It's going around. Probably catch it, anyway." Her eyes widened as an idea came to her. "Hey, maybe I could mooch off your mom, too. It's not like Marta's an option. She's a maid, but somehow, there's a list of things she swears she won't do, which I don't get."
"Lemme guess...'nurse' is at the top?"
Cordelia nodded. "Figures, doesn't it? But that's actually fine by me, cause frankly, there's no way I'd put my life in her hands."
The blonde saw the forceful look behind the humor. She knew it well by now. "It won't be a long one, okay?"
"You can barely stand!" She sighed, not used to people arguing with her. "No wonder you're ready to collapse! All week you've been going to cemeteries looking for Angel, then you spend the rest of the night at the hospital and playing stakeout waiting for Angel to show up, and then you come to school and worry about what he might've done. Do you even sleep? Am I in there somewhere?"
"Of course you're in there. That's why I'm..." Buffy's words dropped off. "I don't want him coming after you. And Giles and Miss Calendar are getting released tomorrow -"
"Buffy, you're missing the point. So I just won't go out at night. Fine, I can adjust. But what happens if you run into him this time? What're you gonna do, cough on him?"
"What choice do I have, Cordy?"
"Wait till you can breathe. It's great that you wanna save people's lives, especially mine, but you won't be able to do anything like this, and you know that."
"It really gets to you, huh?" The dizzy slayer was slowly starting to understand that.
"The idea of you dying? Yes!" Cordelia was ready to rank her girlfriend's question up there amongst the dumbest ever. "Oh, and since I don't trust you to overcome your Super-Girl complex, I'm not letting you out of my sight."
Maybe it was because she was delirious, but Buffy thought that was the sweetest thing anyone had ever said to her.
Spike's legs hung over the side of the mausoleum; he had been sitting there for the last twenty minutes, puffing on a cigarette. Being able to move freely once again had its advantages. He was back in the loop with everything from Angel's unpredictable behavior, to the new twist in the Slayer's love life. No middlemen or lackeys for him, anymore - he decided that now was the time to take charge, to be his own man. Yeah, he was the master of his destiny, and no one else would tell him what to do.
He'd used his brief period of disability not only to grieve, but also to make a clean break from his attachment to Druscilla. Oh, he'd definitely have his revenge...and when that was over, he was going to say so long to this damn town. He and Sunnydale were through. Where would he go? Maybe back to his old haunts, establish a permanent lair, and let eternity pass him by, all the while achieving the vampiric status he knew he deserved.
Alone and solitary. Love? Who needed it? Certainly not him. Why'd he get so upset, anyway? He was a demon - the biggest and baddest of them all. It was time they all knew that.
Hearing the crunch of footsteps, he nonchalantly blew one final cloud of smoke out of his mouth, and flicked the cigarette to the grass. One of the shoes that was the cause of the sound, stamped out the faintly glowing butt. The bleached vampire had known he was here; that's why he had picked this spot to wait for him. Took the guy long enough, but then again, Spike was okay with the staking delay. It allowed him to get motivated.
"Know what I heard? I heard somebody's been unstable lately." Angelus looked up at him. "What's the matter, Angelus? Soul got you down?"
"It's a phase, Spike, and it's almost over."
"Really? Well, that's a relief. I'm no doc, but I bet it's gotta be bloody crowded in there."
"Like I said -"
"Yeah...phase...right. Got the message. Don't get repetitive on me, Granddad. You'll start showing your age."
"What're you doing here?"
"Just enjoying the night air, is all. I hope that doesn't bother you." Spike smirked. "Hiding from the Slayer yet?"
"Hiding?" Angelus asked incredulously with a touch of annoyance. Like he would hide.
"Not that I blame you. Hell, I'll be the first one to admit she's got the stuff, and word is, she's on full alert."
"I happen to be recruiting, so -" He was cut off.
"Oh, my mistake. Waitin' for one of your boys to wake up, are ya? Smart. I mean, you've never needed reserves before, but it's nice to see that you've figured out when you're outmatched. I had to learn the hard way, but you've always been the strategic one. Are you rushing off to smother her watcher with his pillow, or to tear apart the slut she ditched Softy for? No, not you. You say, why be rash? Not cause you're scared, but cause you've got brains. And that's why you won't ever stop teaching the rest of us."
Angelus was leery. "I'm a giver."
Spike hopped off the mausoleum to stand in front of his elder. "I don't wanna sound greedy or anything, but could you give me something else? Only an answer; nothing big."
"What's the question?"
"Who did Dru in? You or the Lapdog?"
"Thanks." His knuckles connected with Angel/Angelus' forehead, then. "Doesn't make a difference, but I appreciate it, anyway."
He hated them both.
Buffy had to admit it -- Cordelia had a good idea. After spending the whole day in the house because her mother forced her to stay home from school (if she didn't know better, she would've thought there was some conspiring going on), her girlfriend had come to get her outside. The brunette commented that the entire place smelled like sweat and germs, and her response was that they didn't have a particular smell, which then led to a debate on the purposes of scented Lysol.
But the night before, Cordelia stuck to what she had said. She kept Buffy at her house until Joyce finished at the Gallery, and then took the blonde home, to be monitored by a watchful, motherly eye.
It was two forty-five in the afternoon now, though, and they had just about absorbed all the fresh air that Wetherby Park had to offer. The rest of the group had accompanied them - including Amy and Oz - and soon they were going to pick up Giles and Miss Calendar from the hospital. Buffy rested her head on Cordelia's shoulder as they walked, but other than feeling completely drained, she thought she was doing okay. Her fever had broken a half-hour ago.
"Whatcha thinkin'?" She asked the cheerleader, as there had mostly been silence so far.
"Thoughts." Cordelia loved sarcasm.
"Wanna narrow it down for me?" There wasn't enough energy in her body to devote to smacking.
The brunette glanced behind them, judging their distance from their friends. "You don't wanna hear them; not when you look that pale and splotchy."
"What's it have to do with how I...?" Buffy lifted her head up, as the answer dawned on her. "Oh." She flushed, but the reason for it was totally unrelated to her health. "Really?"
True to form, Cordelia wasn't the least bit fazed at being found out. "Did you forget that we're kind of involved? Also called 'dating'? It was bound to cross my mind, eventually."
"Enough that it causes me problems, all right? Sheesh. Too much flattery can be bad for you, you know. And don't tell me you haven't."
"No, I-I have...I mean, look at you." The brunette grinned. "But I just...that's far."
"Do you have somebody else in mind? Cause I'm not going anywhere."
"That's not what I meant." Now she checked the gang's distance, whispering. "I'm a...I've never...and I want us...except...there's this thing where...I don't exactly know how."
"And I do?"
"Well, you've had...experience."
"Hello, in case you didn't notice before? They were guys. I'm just as clueless as you are about...that."
"Um, we could rent some videos, or...books. Are there books?"
"Yeah, in a back room somewhere." Cordelia wrinkled her nose as if she had just caught a whiff of a really bad odor.
"What's your bright idea, then? We gotta know what we're doing."
"Xander's probably read all about it. We could ask him." She paused. "Ew. Even as a joke, that's *so* wrong."
"What're you two talking about?" Xander questioned, which was very good, almost creepy timing. "Can't be any more interesting than the conversation we've got going on. Birds, bees, and nature in all its glory."
"That's too easy even for me."
The slayer wanted to laugh, but grimaced instead; her unpredictable monster of a flu was coming back with a vengeance.
"Can we sit?" Buffy requested, not knowing why the trees had to spin. "Dizzy."
Cordelia briefly wondered if this was just a way to leave the topic they were discussing, but one look at her girlfriend told her it wasn't. "Hang on, there's a bench right..."
Things were darkening - they weren't going to make it there.
"What do I owe ya, Danny?" Spike asked the blood bank's delivery boy, as they stood at the back of Sunnydale General that night.
Just as he'd gotten the upper hand, the recruits decided to rise. Three of them - Angelus must have had a big meal. Could anyone blame him for not liking those odds? If it had stayed one-on-one he would've taken him, but as soon as he saw an opening, he decided it was better to split. He probably wouldn't have an opportunity to get the drop on Angelus again, though. It was always a bad idea not to finish what you started.
"That's five bags...three AB positive, two O negative...got a special this week. Thirty-five. Outside shipment - quality straight from Virginia. Lucky you." The substantially younger vampire answered.
He reached into his pocket and handed over the requested price. "Yeah, lucky me."
"Laying low, huh?" Danny said as he accepted the cash. "It's understandable."
The Brit had issues with rage, and it showed in his face. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Hands went up. "Nothing, Spike, nothing. Just...you don't normally buy this much from me, and we all heard about Angelus. What you did."
"And I'd do it again. It's not him I'm worrying over; it's the Slayer. She doesn't know I'm out and about, and I'm trying to keep it that way. Don't need them both to be on the hunt. Got that, Danny Boy?"
"Sure, sure. But I don't think the Slayer'll be a problem. Least for a couple nights. She checked in this afternoon."
This caught Spike's attention. "You're kidding." He smiled when Danny's head shook. "For what, Bitchitis?"
The information would be worth parting with his money.
Before she even opened her eyes, Buffy knew exactly where she was, and mentally groaned. The smell gave it away, though she also felt the IV in her arm, and the too tight blankets pulled up over her. She didn't want to see just yet, but she would've bet anyone that they put her in one of those gowns. When she finally allowed herself to look at the room they'd given her, she had to rationalize -
"Well, was coming here, anyway."
But for other people, not for herself. As she reached for the controls to make the bed sit her up, several questions flew through her mind: Did they get Giles and Miss Calendar out okay? Where was everybody? They didn't patrol, did they? How was Cordelia? When could she leave? Because the blinds were closed, she didn't know what time it was. Day or night? She'd be a sitting duck if it was the latter.
Then she remembered something. Whether it was last night or a few hours ago or a dream, she didn't know, but she thought she got out of bed after seeing a kid walk down the hall, and there were two doctors arguing about treatment for them...was there some sort of demon wearing a hat? And a dead girl? It was probably just all in her head; she knew she hadn't been thinking straight.
Her mother came in. "Oh good, you're awake."
"How're you feeling?"
"Groggy, but okay."
"The doctor said you're doing much better. You want me to tell them to bring you breakfast?"
So it was morning. Hospital food? That would make her sick all over again.
"No, I want you to tell them that you're taking me home."
Joyce went over to the bed and rubbed her daughter's hair. "They only wanna keep you a little while longer."
Buffy frowned. "You weren't here all night, were you?"
"No, they made Cordelia and I both go home. She was scared for you."
"She was? Why?"
"You were out of it when they were wheeling you away, honey. Saying things..."
The younger Summers' eyes widened. "What things?"
"Just about how you didn't want to be here. And something about vampires..."
"Heh." She smiled nervously. "You don't say?"
"But we all knew it was because you were sick."
"Right." Buffy sighed, nodding. "Sickness leads to crazy talk. I'm a nut-job."
"I told your friends why you didn't like hospitals, and Cordelia seemed to take it hard. I think she felt guilty. She drove you here, you know."
Celia. Her cousin had died in the hospital while she was there in the room. It was a very traumatic thing for an eight-year-old to experience; she still thought about her. Now the gang knew one of her biggest fears, and her girlfriend was wrongly punishing herself for revealing it. Even though Buffy didn't want to admit it, going to the hospital more than likely had saved her life.
"Are the guys at school?" She asked.
"Hmm mm. Xander said they'd come visit afterwards, and Mr. Giles said he'd call to see how you were. Miss Calendar is staying with him until her leg heals."
She couldn't blame him for not wanting to come back after spending a week here, but thinking about the living arrangements, the slayer had to mask a grin. "Really?"
"That was a horrible thing that happened to them. Did they ever find who was responsible?"
Her eyes got both sad and angry. "I'm sure they will."
The older Summers' glanced at her wrist-watch. "I should go to work. Will you be all right? I promise I'll be by later."
"I'll be fine, mom." She smiled.
After her mother kissed her forehead she headed for the door, but for some reason, she suddenly stopped and turned around.
There was a questioning look on her face. "You and Cordelia...you spend a lot of time together, don't you? More than you used to last year?"
"I guess..." Buffy answered shyly, a big 'CAUTION' sign going up. "Why?"
"I just thought she hung out with a different crowd, that's all."
"Things change." The daughter shrugged. "And she's really a cool person."
"She didn't wanna leave; she dared security to try and throw her out." The blonde gaped. "It's nice that she's learning who the good people are, but is she usually that direct?"
"I think it's impossible for Cordelia to be anything else. She lives by it; it's practically a code." The slayer smirked.
Joyce smiled. "That's a good quality to have; it shows she has confidence. Not many people will say 'no' to her."
'I know I didn't.'
"I talked her down." Buffy looked surprised. Her mother deserved a medal. "I'm a parent, it's what I do."
"Party Wagon's here!" Xander announced, bursting into the room with balloons several hours later.
She was happy to see them, especially after getting Giles' call. He asked how she was, said that he and Jenny had talked things out, but the main reason he phoned was to tell her that he'd been doing some thinking about Angel. He didn't want to get into specifics because she was in the hospital where their conversation wasn't entirely private, and so he left it by saying that he'd know more when she came home.
"Good!" Dr. Wilkinson said as the rest of them flooded in. "Maybe you can keep our
patient from bolting." She looked at Buffy before leaving. "Rest! Hmm?"
"Flowers for milady." He presented the patient with his gift.
She looked up at them. "I think they call those balloons."
"Yeah, stick 'em in water, maybe they'll grow."
Cordelia shut the door, and then joined the group, biting her lip almost like she was frightened.
"Not to be outdone..." Willow put the books she was carrying on the bed.
"Homework?" Buffy asked.
Her friend had to know her better than that.
"It's my way of saying, 'Get Well Soon'."
"You know, chocolate says that even better."
The redhead grinned. "I did all your assignments. All you have to do is sign your
Her eyes appeared to light up. "Chocolate means *nothing* to me."
Amy was next in line. "I just did a healing spell for you. I didn't know what else to do, really."
"I knew doctors were full of crap." Buffy smiled.
The brunette was last, but not least. "Nobody told me I was supposed to bring a gift." She eyed everyone. "I was out of the loop on gifts."
She wanted to smack herself; she was the girlfriend. Out of the group, she was the most expected to bring something. It was just difficult to keep track of all the relationship rules. Buffy's well-being was on her mind every single period, though. They had to give her points for that.
"Silly, we've discussed this. You're my gift." The slayer patted the mattress, and the cheerleader climbed up onto it to sit beside her.
"You look good." Cordelia couldn't hold back any longer. She touched her lips to her girlfriend's for one, impressively long French kiss. "Feel good, too."
"Not too shabby yourself." They turned to stare at the spectators. "Yes?"
"Isn't it traditional to unwrap gifts?" Xander wondered, hopefully.
"It's also traditional to take dogs for walks." Cordelia countered, glaring. "Amy, maybe you should tie him up outside."
"How about I give him fleas?" Amy suggested, crossing her arms.
"Hey, that's not fair. You have no idea how hard it is being a guy, constantly surrounded by high levels of estrogen." Xander defended himself. "Plus you two with the rainbow action..."
"You've been a guy, what, seventeen years now? Get used to it." Buffy told him.
"Sleep okay?" The brunette asked. "I didn't know...I'm sorry."
"Not really, but I'm glad you finally got me here...and I know you didn't. Thanks for doing what I needed instead of listening to me." She kissed her that time. "Heard about the fight you put up."
"Well...visiting hours suck."
All day, Buffy couldn't shake the feeling that the thing she saw last night was real. At the risk of sounding insane, she thought she ought to place it before the group. They could research.
"You know? Let's all take a walk. I gotta tell you guys something."
Angelus was thoroughly enjoying his new abode. The mansion fit him; large, antique...it always came down to status. If vampires didn't grab a hold of the finer things in life, then they were only animals. Not him. He appreciated art and wealth, as did his more moral half. Though it had kept quiet for the most part, conserving what remained of its strength, no doubt, for when it would truly come in handy.
Smart in a way, but just plain stupid in another. People still continued to die.
He figured that Spike's little attack was a formal announcement that the bleached blonde had chosen to enter into the game, and he could handle that. Right now, he was content to wait and see just how much Spike was willing to put on the line; the move was his. Buffy wasn't going anywhere, but he wanted to be there when she disposed of the competition. A part of him almost felt sorry for his grand-childe.
*Almost*. Not really.
Hearing his dinner moan behind the gag, he wondered how he could have forgotten. Where were his manners? The ones who fought were the most fun.
The sun was going down the next day, as Buffy sat in her hospital room with Willow, contemplating how to deal with Der Kindestod. The thing went after sick children, and it killed the doctor that was trying to treat the kids, because he was taking them away. She didn't see anything; it was like it was invisible, but she knew she had seen it the first night of her stay. She needed to be able to look at it to fight it - she wasn't a Jedi.
"She actually brought it up?" Willow asked.
What she was thinking and what they were saying were two different things.
"Technically I guess the 'word' wasn't used, but yeah. We had a non-conversation conversation about the possibility."
The hacker pushed aside the embarrassment that wanted to overtake her. "Well, you should research. Knowledge is power. I'm a firm believer in that. The firmest."
"We should be the best we can be, right?" She paused. "And that sounded way too Army. But then I think that maybe going with the flow is the best thing. It's supposed to be natural, so...I dunno."
"What don't you know?" Cordelia questioned, walking in and up to them carrying a McDonald's bag and a milkshake.
Fast food had never smelled so good.
"How I ever could've survived in here without you." Buffy eyed the bag hungrily, clawing for it, but her girlfriend held it just out of reach.
The cheerleader ignored the whimper. "Honesty first, imitation chicken and grease, second."
"This is something that's priv..." Willow trailed off as she was silenced with a look. "Who ever said hospital chairs weren't comfy? Nothing could get me out of this. Nuh uh."
"You obviously know what it is, so why shouldn't you be here?"
"Fine. We were trying to find the most enjoyable way for me to ravish you, happy?" Buffy spilled, too starved to be evasive. "Now gimmie."
"B-but there was no experimenting. No, uh, testing or anything remotely close to...talking! We talked. Oh! But no talking about experimenting. There was none of that. Bad cause of Oz and you, and best friends and boundaries and they have Hungry, Hungry Hippos in the waiting room...okay, leaving." Willow bolted.
"The chair must not have been as comfortable as she said." Cordelia commented. "She should really see someone about that."
"I swear I'll get her a Babble Specialist as soon as they let me out, just feed me. I can't slay on an empty stomach."
"Feed you? Did you break your arms when I wasn't looking?" She chucked the bag, and the blonde caught it. "Didn't think so."
Carefully positioning herself beside Buffy so she didn't drop the cup, Cordelia handed it over as she kicked off her shoes. Then she stole the fries once her girlfriend got them out, resulting in a mini staring contest as she dared the slayer to challenge with her eyes. Buffy silently admitted defeat when the straw was stuck into the milkshake, but gave the "Puppy-Dog" look, nonetheless.
"You're such a baby sometimes...here." The brunette held a fry in her hand. "If every vampire knew -"
"But they don't." She cut her off, and was fed, the fry being contorted and pushed into her mouth. As she accepted it, she couldn't help but accept a fingertip as well.
Cordelia's eyes widened at this development, but then became very focused. "Is it getting hotter in here?"
Buffy chuckled, ceasing her actions. "Not even two seconds, and already you're going 'badly-acted porno' on me. I'm definitely filing that for future reference, but see?" Getting the kissing underway, she didn't even realize that the solution to the demon problem had presented itself. "I receive, I give...I'm versatile."
"I demand proof." The cheerleader's lips managed to reach neck, and her hands started to feel up the gown. That was all Buffy was wearing.
*All* Buffy was wearing.
"You had to pick here? Now?" A few more seconds of touching, and she wouldn't be coherent. "Where it's public, where there's nurses making rounds...and..." Did she just hiss? "God, thanks to you my temperature's gonna go back up and they'll keep me here for a month."
"That good?" Cordelia looked up.
"Who said stop?" Question answered. More than one actually, because then it clicked. "Temperature, that's it! That's how I'll be able to see it when I kill it!"
Her girlfriend could sense that their heavy groping session had come to an end. "Kill what?"
"Der Kindergarten or whatever. I was sick when I saw him before, so I need to be sick again; Willow can help me. She was going to a waiting room. Which one did she say?"
"She didn't." Cordelia sighed. "This slaying thing is going to put a serious cramp in our sex-life, I can tell. Meaning, we're never gonna have one."
"We will too." Buffy insisted, hugging her close. "And...hospital? They catch us, we're in the slammer. You're the only bitch I want, Cordelia."
"Nice, Buffy. Real nice." She took a deep breath. "But I am the best; I won't deny that."
"That's all I'm sayin'. Harmless compliment."
She grinned. "I think that nurse would've cut us some slack, no questions asked."
"Can we save the kinkiness until after I have one, normal sexual experience?" Buffy's request teetered on the edge between a demand and a moan. "Who knew Cordelia Chase was such a -"
"It's a flaw, you *did* know that, and I can't help it if you drive me crazy." The kiss was more chaste than the ones before it. "I suppose you want me to track down Willow."
"Would you?" Buffy smiled and released her.
She tried to look put out, but returned the smile. "Yeah." Which was followed by a shrug. "Why not?"
"Besides, now I have to go to the bathroom and make myself presentable. *Twice* in one day."
"I know you can't possibly wanna blame your appearance on me, you animal." Cordelia stuck her tongue out. This was the childish side only she witnessed, and she shook her head at it. "Don't with the tempting, you can't win."
Buffy resumed eating the fries, demonstrating her point.
The second Cordelia emerged from the bathroom and turned to go search for their missing friend, a hand reached around to cover her mouth from behind.
She was quickly and quietly dragged over to the next door, which led down to a sewer grate. It was great for entering and exiting without being seen.