"Good morning. It�s rather early," Giles said.
"We both�" Buffy started.
"Couldn�t sleep." Willow finished.
"Faith," Buffy said.
"Well it appears your suspicions might have been correct."
"See? I knew you were right."
"And if I had time, I�d gloat. She�s not a slayer?"
"She is a slayer. That was confirmed."
"Her Watcher�s not at a retreat, then?"
"Then where is he?" Willow asked.
Willow drew in a breath.
"Repeat please?" Buffy asked.
"Recently, he was found in Boston murdered. They skimmed over the details, but it was brutal, I was told. The Council lost track of Faith, and they suppose she might�ve been involved."
"That�s not good."
"Shouldn�t we try and find out her side of the story?" Willow asked.
"If you can figure out a way of saying, �Did you murder your watcher?� without it resulting in any of our deaths, I�d be glad to hear it, Will."
"Well�why don�t you two go slaying tonight? See what you can find out."
"That�s a good idea. The last thing we need is to alienate ourselves from her, so it would be best to include her in patrol. And for the others safety, do not tell them any of this until we�re sure.
"If they start acting differently around her, she may get suspicious."
"Oh, I can just tell this is going to be a great day," Buffy said.
"I got in contact with a few of this town�s underground members. They�ll set it up. You just gotta come through." Trick said.
"You don�t doubt me do you, Trick?" Faith asked.
"Girl, don�t get me wrong. I�m all for alliances, whether it be for good, demonic, or indifferent, but only when it�s suits my interests."
"Well that�s good because until this job is done, you�re interests are the boss� interests. If you�re worried about compensation, don�t worry, the guy�s connected."
"So am I. Poor Kakistos left his little nest just for this game. If he doesn�t get the kill he wants, he�ll be very angry."
"I�ll worry about him."
"Good, cause I�m letting you know now, whether this goes down as planned or not, I�m turning entrepreneur."
"I don�t care what you do. But the boss will."
"He is a mystery. Gotta like a person who wants to keep himself a secret nowadays. Shows class. Guess, I�ll have to wait and see how far reaching he is."
Trick walked away.
"Yes, you will."
At lunch, the gang was sitting in the cafeteria, absent Buffy.
"She didn�t tell me she was going anywhere. Did she tell you guys?" Willow asked, worried.
"No, but I�m sure she�s fine." Cordelia said.
"She�s Buffy. She can handle anything," Xander said.
"I know, but�"
After they�re �secret meeting� with Giles in the morning, Buffy had been quiet. Then, as soon as bell rang for lunch she had bolted without a word. Willow didn�t know what was going on.
For all she knew, Faith had ambushed her, or was keeping her hostage somewhere, or�
�Stop it. She�s fine.�
Willow took a deep breath, and started looking around the cafeteria.
Buffy walked down the sidewalk toward the coffee shop on the corner. Her mom said that�s where Willow�s mom wanted to meet. She was taking a big risk leaving school, but the note her mom wrote excused her off campus for lunch.
She knew Willow was probably going crazy wondering where she was, but she couldn�t tell her. She hoped that Willow�s mom would be reasonable and let Willow come home, or this whole thing would be for nothing.
She saw her sitting at a table. She went over and sat down.
"Thanks for coming."
"Thanks for calling, Mrs. Rosenberg."
A man walked over.
"How is she?" he asked simply. Buffy guessed he was Willow�s dad.
"Bad. She misses you a lot."
"Her dad and I realized we�ve been rash�about this."
�Can you say, understatement?�
"Why don�t you talk to Willow about this?"
"We wanted to meet the person who�s affected our daughter�s life so much, that she�d leave the house, first. I don�t suppose you could stay away from her." She said.
"I�m sorry that was �"
"I�m sure you can understand Buffy, that we take our religious beliefs very seriously, and when my daughter turned against them for you, it was hurtful, to say the least." The man said.
"Mr. Rosenberg, I haven�t tried to purposely undermine your beliefs, and neither has Willow. She�s respects you and loves being Jewish�"
"She�s just never got these kind of thoughts into her head before. Not until �" Miss Rosenberg interrupted.
"Me. Well guess what? I�ve never had these thoughts until her."
The Rosenbergs were quiet.
"Look. I know you�ve probably heard about my record and all that, and to be honest, I have nothing to prove to you that I�m not evil. I can only tell you that I�m a good person, and hope you believe me.
"I would never do anything to hurt your daughter, and I�d make anyone pay who did. She makes me happy, and I hope I do the same for her. Lately though, she�s been really upset."
"I know we�ve been partly responsible," Mrs. Rosenberg said.
"But can you understand how uncomfortable this makes us?" she continued.
"I do, and I hate to sound rude, but that�s not the issue. Willow�s happiness is the only thing that matters, and right now, she doesn�t have it. You and your husband are the only ones who can give it back to her.
"I understand that you don�t get it, and it frightens you. We don�t even understand it. We just know we love each other, and that�s good enough for us. She just needs you to be there. You can hate me, or not trust me, but trust Willow.
"She�s knows what she�s doing, and she loves you so much."
"This whole situation is awkward to me. I was raised to believe in conventional things, and I�m not sure how to handle this." Mr. Rosenberg said.
"You do believe in love don�t you?"
"Of course I do."
"Then why can�t you let your daughter feel that? Conventional or not?"
"Because it isn�t�natural."
"I�ve learned that a lot of things aren�t natural in this world, and I�m positive one thing is, and always will be. Love, in no matter what form, between what gender, or type of people is the purest, most natural thing there is.
"And you can�t contain it, because love is a beautiful thing, but also dangerous. People will do anything for love. Go against people, religion, whatever�s in the way. That doesn�t mean they have turned their back on those things, it just means they�re doing what they think is right in that situation.
"Sometimes it doesn�t work out. Sometimes it does. But isn�t love always worth a shot?"
The two adults were taken aback.
"How do you know you give her that?" He finally asked.
"I don�t. When I tell her I love her, and she says it back to me, I trust her to tell me the truth. It�s that simple. And I�ve never known her to lie about something as important as love."
"You truly love her don�t you?" he asked.
"Yes, I do."
"You watch out for her?"
"Always. If you didn�t believe anything else I said, believe this. I would never let any harm come to her," Buffy said with conviction. She looked at her watch. "I have to�get back to school."
"Thank you." Mrs. Rosenberg said.
It was the end of school, and the gang was in the library. With Buffy. Faith had come in as well.
"I told you, Will. I went out for lunch." It was technically true, anyway.
"Then how come you didn�t tell me?"
"I was really, really hungry and I didn�t think to mention it?" She offered. Buffy could tell Willow didn�t believe her. "I�ll explain later."
Seeing that that was all she was going to get, Willow gave up.
At the table, Oz and Xander were engaged in meaningless debate.
"Pepe Le Pew was a skunk. His cartoons were pointless! A bucket of white paint falling on a cat and watching her run away from him is funny the first five times, but after that, the joke gets old," Xander said.
"He was a ladies� skunk."
"The ladies ran away!"
"He was motivated."
"He was a stalker!"
Faith walked up to Giles.
"How do you get anything done?"
"That is a good question. Excuse me."
Giles walked over to the book cage and got out a sword. Walking over to Xander, Giles stood behind the chair he was sitting in, and raised the sword. Silence.
"Works every time." Willow and Buffy said, and started busting up at the sweat dripping down Xander�s forehead.
"Aren�t you going to defend me, Cordy?"
"If I could, Xander, I would. But right now, I can�t think of anything." She said laughing as well.
Xander tried to glare at everyone, but it didn�t work.
"We didn�t mean anything. Really, Xand�" Buffy said, her laughter dying down. "I should patrol. You wanna come Faith?"
"Thought you�d never ask."
They started to walk out, and Buffy glanced back at Willow. Willow gave her a look that said, �Be careful�, and watched as Buffy left.
Faith and Buffy ended up in an alley, searching for any signs of vampires.
"Didn't we, um, do this street already?" Faith asked.
"Funny thing about vamps. They'll hit a street even after you've been there. It's like they have no manners."
"You've been doing this the longest."
Buffy gave her a sideways glance, and kept walking.
"So come on, B. Do you play for the other team or what?"
"Okay, Listen F, I�m only gonna say this one last time."
"Do I sense a threat?"
"Maybe. But it ain�t from me." Buffy pointed to the group of vampires coming at them.
She shoved Faith aside as a vampire attacked, making her fall to the ground. Buffy punched the vampire in the gut, and made him land on his back. A second one came and took a swing at Buffy, but she ducked. She blocked his punches and then proceeded to punch him in the face and the gut. She took his head in both hands and twisted. He fell to the ground.
Faith got up and grabbed a nearby trashcan. A third vampire ran in and punched Buffy in the face. He went around behind her and tripped her. She fell. Behind him, Faith smashed the trashcan over his head, blinding him.
She got hold of the can and pushed him into a sheet of drywall. The board broke and fell on top of him, making him fall. One of the others dove for Buffy, but she rolled out of the way and onto her feet. Immediately she crouched down and staked him in the chest. The other one grabbed her from behind and pulled her away.
Faith's opponent got up, and she kicked him in the stomach. He got forced back, and he knocked his head hard into a low pipe behind him. Buffy's attacker threw her onto a stack of plywood. She hit the wall behind it, but got to her feet. The vampire jumped onto the stack and she kicked him in the stomach. He flew back and landed on a dumpster, rolled off, and fell to the ground.
Faith's assailant punched her in the face, but she didn�t feel it She blocked his next two punches and then backhanded him in the face.
�Okay, Faith. Let�s get the plan into action.�
"My dead mother hits harder than that!"
"Faith! Stake him and give me a hand."
Faith continued to punch him as he lied on the ground.
"This is me! You undead bastard!"
Meanwhile, Buffy was fighting for her life, trying to get away from two vampires holding her.
"For Kakistos we live! For Kakistos you die!" The vampire told her.
�That was no Oscar performance, but they got the job done. Easy.�
"Faith!" Buffy yelled.
Faith grinned and just continued punching.
Faith walked back into the library, and Buffy was still alive, there with her.
�Damn it! I underestimated her.�
Buffy stormed past her, and to the rest of the gang.
"Explanation, Faith. Who is Kakistos?"
Giles was suddenly at attention. Before he could speak, Buffy silenced him, and waited for Faith�s explanation.
�I guess I gotta take this to the next level.�
Faith looked down at the floor, and started to �cry�.
"Who is he Faith?" Buffy asked.
"An enemy. I came here to try and get away."
"What did he do to you?"
"It�s what I did to him. He�killed my Watcher. So I scarred him."
Buffy walked up to her.
"I... I was there when he did it, and I saw what he did to her... what he was gonna do to me. I tried to stop him, but I... I couldn't. I hurt him, and I ran."
Faith looked at their faces. There was sympathy.
�I�m better than I thought.�
They were all in stunned silence. Just as Buffy went to put her hand on her shoulder, she ran.
"I�m sorry. I have to�go."
Faith ran out of the library. Buffy followed her.
She chased Faith all the way to her motel. When she got in, Faith was packing.
"Where you going?"
"Away from here."
"You can�t keep running."
"Watch me. I haven�t paid the rent yet anyway."
There was a knock at the door. Faith looked out of the peephole. It was the manager.
"See? Told you."
Faith opened the door, and the manager�s body dropped to the ground, revealing a grinning Kakistos.
"Faith." He said.
She started shaking. Buffy saw the window, and grabbed Faith. They crashed right through it. When they got up off the ground, Buffy was dragging Faith away from a group of very angry vampires.
They ran down an alley, across an intersection, and to a warehouse. Faith glanced back, and saw that Trick was leading the vampires. She grinned. In the corner of the warehouse, there were dead human bodies huddled together.
"No." Faith said.
"This is his place."
"He drove us here."
One of the vampires appeared at an entrance and growled at them. They ran through the warehouse. Two others came in the other side and tried to head them off. Buffy stopped by a bucket, and put her foot in, kicking it into one of the vampire's faces. He stumbled backward and over a chair.
She kicked the other vampire and did a side kick to another one behind her. He fell backwards over a table. Buffy ran and jumped onto the table, rolled over it and kicked him in the back as he tried to get back up.
Kakistos walked into the building; his gaze was fixed on Faith, but he headed towards Buffy. Buffy rolled to a stand on the table. She picked up a crowbar and swung it at another vampire advancing towards her, hitting it squarely in the neck and knocking her down and out. Buffy saw Kakistos.
�Make it look real.�
"Stay away from her!" Faith yelled.
"Faith!" Buffy yelled. She tossed her the crowbar.
Faith caught the crowbar, but before she swung it at Kakistos, he punched her hard and knocked her into a bunch of large wooden beams leaning against the wall. She hit the floor as the beams tumbled down.
Trick walked in, observing the fight.
Buffy started to fight Kakistos, a stake in her hand. Faith was cowering, seeing that Buffy�s back was to her. Buffy roundhouse kicked him in the back of the knee, spun around and tried to backhand him in the face, but he blocked it. She spun around the other way and backhanded him in the face, succeeding.
She then tried to stake him, but with his size, it didn�t even penetrate.
"I guess you need a bigger stake, Slayer!" He said.
Faith, still behind Buffy, picked up a wooden beam and was preparing to shove it through Buffy�s back. Buffy saw her, and thought the wooden beam was for Kakistos, so she helped Faith hold the beam, and they shoved it through his heart. He turned to ash.
Trick was walking away, shaking his head.
"Big picture�they never get it."
Later, Buffy was in her room with Willow. She was talking on the phone with Giles.
"The Council has approved our request. I informed them of the situation, and Faith is to stay here indefinitely. I'm to look after you both until a new Watcher is assigned."
"Good. She really came through in the end."
"I�m glad to hear it. It�s been a long night. Get some sleep."
"Yes sir. Good night Giles." She hung up.
They heard a knock at the door.
"Who would come here now?" Willow asked.
"Willow? Could you come down here please?" Joyce called.
Willow looked at Buffy, and Buffy smiled. Willow ran downstairs, and Buffy followed, and sat on the steps. Standing inside the foyer, was Willow�s father.
"Daddy!" She hugged him.
"I�m so sorry. I�ve been a fool."
"What are you saying?"
"I forgot to realize my priorities. As much as have faith in God; I forgot to have faith in my daughter first. I lost it for awhile, but I found it again. With some help."
Willow looked back at Buffy a tear in her eye.
"I should never have made you make a choice between family and someone you love. That was hefty decision I placed on your shoulders, it was wrong of me, and I apologize. It scared me. I thought I was losing sight of who my daughter was, and I panicked. And all it accomplished was hurting you, and I never intended to do that.
"You haven�t changed, you�ve just grown, and I�m sorry it took me so long to realize that. Whatever makes you happy, your mother and I will support it. Forgive me?"
"You know I do."
Willow hugged him again.
"Well, it�s late. You should sleep, and I�ll pick you up here tomorrow."
"Make sure to thank Mrs. Summers for her hospitality, and I�ll see you tomorrow. I love you, Willow. Never forget that."
"I love you too."
Mr. Rosenberg looked at Buffy for a moment, smiled, and walked out the door. Willow stood there a moment, and turned to face Buffy. With a huge smile on her face, she ran up the stairs, and hugged her.
"I�m just glad to see you happy again."
Faith was in her motel room, talking on the phone.
"I couldn�t make the kill�it wasn�t the time�oh, don�t worry. I can play the part of dutiful slayer, but I gotta warn ya, it might drive me crazy�So what�s the next step? Okay�oh no�there�s plenty of possibilities to explore�okay�later boss."
Faith hung up the phone. Tonight didn�t go like she planned, but original plans rarely did. Succeeding in her mission was becoming more important to her. It wasn�t just for the boss; it was for her too.
�I�ll put Miss High and Mighty in her place.�
And she thought she had a good place to start.
Sitting in Trigonometry across the aisle from Willow, Buffy drifted into her thoughts. She was glad Willow was back in her house and her relationship with her parents was getting better, but she missed waking up next to her.
She never thought that having someone there, sleeping next to you, was a big deal. Well, that was until she had experienced it. Even with all her strength and ability, when she was wrapped in Willow�s arms she felt completely safe and content. And then it was taken away.
It was hard to go back.
Looking up from her desk, she locked gazes with Willow. Buffy knew she felt the same way.
Willow looked at Buffy and saw that she was thinking the same thing. They both needed to go do something fun. Something relaxing, by themselves. She got a piece of paper, and wrote something down. She passed it to Buffy.
< Wanna go do something tonight? >
Buffy passed the note back.
< Just us? >
Willow smiled down at the note.
< Just us. And bowling. >
Buffy looked up at her with a �you can�t be serious� look.
< We�ll go to the ice cream shop afterwards. My treat. >
Before Buffy could respond, the bell rang, and they walked out of the classroom.
As they were walking down the halls to the library, Willow noticed that nobody was looking at them. The whole thing had worn off, or at least nothing was said about them to her face anyway, and she was glad for it. She felt safe in school again.
"What�s wrong with bowling?" Willow asked.
"Oh that�s a great reason."
"Knocking down ten objects that look like inflated socks, with a ball, just seems�well, stupid."
"You�re just saying that because you probably get strikeouts all the time cause of your slayerness, and it gets boring."
"Yeah�that�s�gotta be it," Buffy said slowly.
"You were gonna take me bowling a couple weeks ago."
"I wanted to cheer you up. I�d do anything to see you happy."
Willow smiled at her.
"Then go bowling with me, then we�ll get ice cream. It�ll make me happy." Willow gave her the �puppy dog� look.
"You�re just lucky I love you."
"Yeah, I am."
"Why can�t we double?" Xander asked.
"Nothing against you and Cordy, Xand, but if we all went, I�m pretty sure I�d get a headache," Buffy said.
"And we�re both fresh out of aspirin," Willow said.
The library was silent as everyone realized that Willow had made a remark at Xander�s expense.
"It was a joke, people."
"And a good one for a first attempt, even though I so take offense at it." Cordelia said.
"Are you saying you two won�t start fighting for no reason?" Buffy asked.
"And not stop till you find a closet?" Willow asked.
"My whole world is shaken. Two in a row," Xander said.
Buffy gave Willow a high five.
"I hate to put a stop to this amusing conversation," Giles said, "but have any of you heard from or seen Faith?"
A chorus of �nope� was his answer.
"She hasn�t been slaying or anything. I think she just likes time to herself," Buffy said.
"That�s understandable, however, she is my responsibility, and I would be much happier knowing where she was and what she was doing."
"I volunteer to go get her," Xander said.
"Oh no you don�t." Cordelia said.
He shrunk back.
"Let her be for today. She needs to adjust in her own way," Buffy said.
"Yes, I suppose you�re right."
"I am? Does anybody have a video camera so I can record this? It may never happen again."
"I think I saw one in the utility closet, Xander." Cordelia said.
Not picking up on her intentions for a moment, he finally understood.
"Yeah, I think I saw one too. Let�s go."
Cordelia and Xander practically sprinted out of the library, leaving Buffy, Willow, and Giles to stare after them in confused amazement.
"For the life of me, I cannot understand how their minds function with that level of hormonal activity."
They didn�t want to go down that road.
Willow walked over to Buffy.
"So�when do you wanna�"
"Okay, cause I need to reserve a lane."
"Reserve a lane?"
"It�s a popular place."
Buffy couldn�t help but laugh.
"I�ll be by your house at six-thirty then."
Buffy stood on the sidewalk in front of the walkway that led up to Willow�s house. Willow came out, and started walking over towards her.
"Bye, mom!" She called after her mother.
Buffy waved at Mrs. Rosenberg. Willow whispered to Buffy.
"I never thought I�d get out of there."
As soon as they got off Willow�s street, Buffy wrapped her arms around Willow�s waist from behind.
"I missed you."
"I know what you mean," Willow said leaning in closer. "I look over every morning and you�re not there anymore."
"I�m here now."
"Yes you are," Willow said kissing her.
They broke apart and started walking side by side. Buffy noticed that Willow had a bag flung over her shoulder. Buffy gave her a quizzical look.
"You really like bowling, huh?"
"Yep. And besides, it�s the most neutral thing I could think of to go out with you to, because I know my parents would go nuts if we were going to a restaurant or something really date-ish."
"Well, it doesn�t matter where we go. You�re here, I�m here. That�s all I care about."
"Good, because we�re gonna bowl till we drop."
They got to the alley, and Buffy was trying to pick out shoes.
"See? This is why I don�t like this. They never have shoes my size. Guess I can�t bowl."
"Nonsense. I always come prepared."
Willow took out two pairs of bowling shoes, and handed a pair to Buffy.
"You have your own shoes?"
"I used to have the same problem. I could never find the right size to fit my feet, so I bought my own. And I knew you might try to use the shoes as an excuse, so I brought an extra pair. Come on, let�s get our lane."
They went over to lane five, and sat down to put their shoes on. After Willow was finished, she pulled a bowling ball out of her bag.
"You own a ball, too?"
"Customized holes on the ball for my fingers. See my dad and I�we used to bowl together a lot. It was our bonding thing. He got me a ball, taught me how to play�it�s the only thing we ever related to."
"I know what you mean. When I used to ice skate as a kid, my dad would always take me to the rink on Sundays and skate with me. He bought me skates and everything. One time he even rented out the whole place for me.
"And even though my parents are divorced now, he still takes me to the ice show in LA every year for my birthday."
"It�s nice to have a common ground with parents. Especially dads, because when you�re a girl, it�s hard to find something to do together."
They were both silent for a few moments, thinking back. Then Willow spoke.
"You want to go first?"
"Nah. You go ahead," Buffy said sitting behind the scorecard table.
Willow picked up her ball, situated her fingers, and got a running start, releasing the ball. The ball traveled straight down the middle of the lane, crashing into the pins. They all fell.
"Strike!" Willow squealed happily.
Buffy went wide-eyed.
"Wow. So how many is that?"
"10 points. But you can just mark an X."
Willow got her ball out of the ball return, and repeated her first effort.
"Come on, Buffy. Your turn."
Buffy got up slowly, and walked down, and grabbed a ball. Getting a bad throw off, the ball went down the left side of the lane, and into the gutter.
"You don�t bowl that often. You just need to warm up," Willow said.
Buffy didn�t say a word, and just got the ball back. She threw it, and it went down the left side again, but this time, it caught one pin.
"There you go. You got one."
Buffy turned around, and saw that Willow was grinning.
"You�ve found out my horrible secret. I stink at bowling."
Willow couldn�t help but laugh. Buffy glared at her.
"I�m sorry. Here, let me help you."
Willow got the ball, and gave it to Buffy. She stood behind her, and reached under Buffy�s arms to grab the ball with her.
"You know, a girl could get the wrong impression from this," Buffy said. She couldn�t see Willow�s face, but she knew it was red.
"Buffy! That�s not nice. Now, do you want to learn or not?"
"Okay then. Now when you put your fingers in the holes, don�t grip too tightly because you want to be able to snap the ball out of your hand quickly."
They both thought about that for a moment and then Willow continued.
"Try to take long strides when you�re getting ready to throw. It gives you more momentum. Then bring your arm, fully extended, back and then forward."
Willow gripped Buffy�s arm, and they started to practice the motion.
Stuttering slightly, Willow continued. "If it helps, just think of the ball as a stake, and the pins as vampires."
"I can do that."
Willow stepped back, and Buffy took a deep breath. Doing exactly as Willow told her, she threw the ball. Not the way it was meant to be, however. It went up in the air, and landed on top of the ten pins, knocking them down.
Buffy turned around, smiling happily. Willow looked frightened.
"I think I forgot to mention that you�re supposed to roll the ball. You almost put a hole in the floor."
"But at least you got the pins down, that�s an improvement."
Over the next half-hour, Buffy got progressively better, but Willow still won. The finale score was Willow, 233, Buffy, 187.
"Let�s get something to eat from the snack bar."
They got sodas and cheese fries, and sat down to eat.
"That�s the one thing I love about bowling alleys. The food," Buffy said.
"But it�s all greasy. And fattening."
"It tastes good though. That�s the important thing. The nice thing about being a slayer is you don�t have to do much to keep weight off. I remember my mom used to hound me about watching what I ate."
"Yeah, she and my dad were always so busy that she made sure to nag me about something before she disappeared for the entire day. The really important stuff though, was crammed into the shortest amount of time possible. I had to learn to absorb pretty fast. Like, the talk about sex, and I mean everything, A to V, was said in one hour."
"A to V?"
"AIDS to Virginity. One right after the other. I think that�s why I was so popular in school. I knew everything there was to know before everyone else."
"Well at least your parents told you about that stuff. Being the religious family that we were, they said seven words to me. �Sex is a sin; don�t do it.� I was very sheltered. The only way I found out about that stuff was if I was lucky enough to overhear some girls talking at lunch.
"That wasn�t the only stuff, either. Things I needed to know, things I would ask were just avoided. They said religion held all the answers and that�s all I needed. Well, it never did. Not about everyday stuff anyway. Until recently, they had still seen me as a five year old child who wasn�t ever going to grow up in their eyes, so that meant they had nothing to worry about."
Buffy put her hand on top of Willow�s.
"Despite what you may think, my life wasn�t a walk in the park either, and that was before slaying. As soon as my mom lost her job, that�s when the fights started. My dad was the sole support, and he blamed everything on my mom. He also wasn�t around that much. His job had him working late hours and mom was left at home, trying to deal with all the bills, and me.
"The �friends� I had were so dense, that I couldn�t talk to them about it. The only problems they heard were ones involving split ends, and bad mascara.
"It got worse when I started slaying. My dad didn�t just blame my mom anymore; he blamed me too because I was getting in trouble at school. And my mom defended me all the time, and I think that I was the last straw. When my mom announced we were moving after the divorce, well, sometimes I think he was glad to get rid of me."
"Don�t say that. You know he loves you. You didn�t cause anything between your parents."
"No. Trust me on that. It seems that we all had not so perfect childhoods. You�re not the only one."
"I know, but it feels like that to me sometimes."
"To me too. I went sixteen years without a real female friend. They would come to me for homework help and stuff, but as soon as they were finished with me, I was ignored. Xander was the only real friend I had, and he was great, but he was a guy. There were just things I couldn�t talk about with him.
"Besides as time went on, he became too distracted by other girls to really help me. I needed a friend of my own gender. I know it�s not as traumatic as having to slay while your parents are fighting every night, but�"
"Sure it is. From your perspective it was. Cause you lived through it."
"But now I have you. And I can say all those years were worthwhile because they got me here."
"Same here. You were my first �real� female friend too. All those ditzes back at Hemry weren�t friends. They were sheep who followed me around cause I had the newest style on. You saw me deeper than that. Well, I wasn�t like that when I came to Sunnydale, but you know what I mean. You actually listened to what I had to say."
Willow smiled at her.
"Thanks for being my friend, and�for being more."
"Thanks for taking a chance on a nerd like me, and being my friend despite what every one else thought, and for being more�despite what everyone else thinks."
"I love you, Will."
"I love you so much, Buffy."
They hugged tightly. After a few moments they stood up.
"Who�s in the mood for ice cream?" Willow asked.
"You wanna get outta here?"
"Uh huh, and the next time we come here, I�ll kick your butt."
"We�ll see. This is my turf, Slayer."
They threw away their trash, Willow gathered her stiff, and they were laughing all the way out the door.
They sat in the ice cream shop eating vanilla ice cream sundaes with hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts, and jimmies.
"This place has the best ice cream," Willow said.
"Yeah, this is great. I didn�t think anything could top DQ, but wow."
"Next time you have to try their banana split."
"Will, I�ve been thinking about something lately. Well, ever since you �moved out�, actually."
"After graduation would you want to get a place?"
"That�s a big step�"
"I know, and I know it�s still early. I mean, who knows what�ll happen between now and then? You probably won�t even stay in Sunnydale."
"Yes I will."
"You don�t know for �"
"I will. I know things will probably come up, but I am promising you now, no matter what happens to our friendship or relationship, I ain�t leaving Sunnydale."
"Willow! Your grammar slipped!" Buffy said in fake shock.
"I like to rebel every once and awhile. I won�t lose you just because of some hang ups along the way. We�ll both go to UC Sunnydale, and if we get to the point where we want to get a place together, and I really hope that we do, we�ll do it."
"Simple as that, huh?"
"Simple as that. We�ve just set a goal, Buffy. As long as we stick to it, nothing else matters."
"So let�s make it official."
Buffy leaned in to kiss her.
"But what about�oh right. Screw them."
Willow leaned in as well, and their lips met. The goal was set in stone. Finishing their sundaes, they got up and left. A few tables behind where they had been sitting, Faith looked up, and watched them go.
"We�ll see how well they stick to that goal. Every relationship needs to be tested."
They ended up on a bench in the park, arms around one another. They both looked at their watches.
"I don�t wanna go," Willow said.
"Well you don�t have to, but my parents will send out a search party."
"Nah, they�ll give you some more time."
"Cause tomorrow�s Saturday."
Willow smiled into Buffy�s neck.
"That makes me happy."
"I thought it would."
"So what�d you wanna do this weekend?"
"You�re gonna hit me, but since we told Xander we were going solo tonight, I promised him we�d do miniature golf with him and Cordelia tomorrow."
"No, it�s okay. Just a warning - let him win."
"He gets cranky if he doesn�t."
"Does Cordelia know that?"
They both looked at one another and gasped.
"Oh no." They said at the same time.
"I suddenly don�t feel so good," Buffy said.
"What�s going around?"
"You�re the brains. You come up with something."
They got up off the bench as Willow tried to think, and started to walk home.
"Oh and that�s more realistic how?"
"We could just say we�re too tired."
Willow kissed her.
"That would give him ideas."
Buffy kissed back.
"Yeah we shouldn�t do that to him."
Willow kissed her again, longer this time, and for a few minutes they were lost in the sensation. When they pulled away, Buffy looked at Willow.
"I�d sure like to see the look on his face though."
They were quiet, picturing it, and they both started to laugh. It was good to be happy, and even though they knew it would be a rarity for a night to ever be this perfect again, they were content to just live in the moment.
In the Bronze, Buffy, Willow and Oz were sitting at the bar, nursing sodas and snacks. Cordelia and Xander walked up behind them and took the empty stools next to their friends. They needed to decide what to do for the Homecoming dance.
"So what are we going to do?" Buffy asked.
"I think we should get a limo." Cordelia said.
"A limo?" Xander asked.
"A big, expensive limo?"
"That sounds like fun! And it is our last Homecoming Dance, so maybe we should make a big deal of it," Willow said.
"You wanna talk fun? Public bus. You meet the funnest people," Xander said.
Everyone looked at him like he was insane.
"Back me up here, Oz."
"Well, if it's a dollar issue, we could all take my van."
"Van? The Homecoming Queen doesn't go to the dance in a van. Use your head." Cordelia said.
Willow rolled her eyes.
"What�s the point? The dance is here, in the Bronze, and in case you haven�t noticed, it is within walking distance," Buffy said.
"That doesn�t matter. The Homecoming Queen is supposed to arrive in style."
"Well, technically, you haven't been elected yet..." Xander started. Cordelia shot him a look. "Although you certainly and without a doubt will be. Who else likes a limo?"
"A private limo! It, it is pretty...cuddlesome," Willow said, scooting closer to Buffy. "And if we all split the cost..."
"Then it�s settled. We�ll all meet at my house on Thursday. That gives everybody two days. And Xander, since I don�t trust you to pick out a respectable tux, you�re going with me to shop tomorrow." Cordelia said.
"Save me," Xander said pleadingly. They all just grinned at him.
"The band�s playing at the dance. We�re actually practicing for it, so we should be good," Oz said.
"Good, it should be fun then�oh, damn," Buffy said.
"What?" Willow asked.
"I have to meet Faith so we actually slay as a team this time. And I�m late. I gotta run. Hey do you want to invite her to come with us?"
"The more the better," Oz said. Everyone nodded in agreement.
Buffy got up off the stool.
"Watch your back," Willow said.
"I will." Buffy kissed her cheek, and walked off.
Willow turned back to the group who was smiling at her.
"You two are so cute together it�s disgusting." Cordelia said.
Willow just took a sip of her soda, smiling.
Buffy sprinted into the graveyard to find Faith sitting on a headstone, twirling a stake. Faith was hanging around a lot more, trying to get involved with the gang, and Buffy was glad. She welcomed her to just about everything the gang did, and Faith accepted.
At first, Buffy thought that she wasn�t the type to actually hang out with others, but she surprised her. Faith hopped off the headstone, and started walking over.
"Hey there�s the other half of the chosen two."
"Sorry I�m late, lost track of time. Did you start without me?"
"I waited like a good girl. It was the G-man�s orders."
"He got to you too, huh?"
"You could say that."
They started walking through the cemetery.
"Faith I was with the gang before, and we were wondering if you wanted to come to the Bronze with us for this dance the school�s having. We�re getting a limo."
"You want me to come with you guys?" Faith asked, disbelieving.
"Why wouldn�t we?"
"I dunno, I just thought�"
"Look, I don�t know what you think of me, but anybody who saves my life is instantly on my friends list."
Faith had a guilty look on her face.
"All I�ve done since I�ve gotten here is given you a hard time."
"That wasn�t all you. You wanted to know about me, and I shut you out. I�m sorry. So are you in?"
"I�ll try. Thanks."
"Well, it�s better than no."
Off in the distance, they heard growling. They ran towards the noise, stakes at ready.
Later, Faith was lying down on the bed in her apartment. Her patrol with Buffy had left her thinking. When she showed up in Sunnydale, she had tried to get on Buffy�s nerves, upstage her, and basically be a pain in the ass. And she was doing a pretty good job she thought, and she wasn�t even trying that hard.
Yet, Buffy had looked past that, and had tried to befriend her tonight. Before she met her boss, anyone who spent five minutes with her wanted to get away as soon as possible, but Buffy kept at it. A part of her actually felt touched, and if it had been a different time she might�ve accepted her offer, but not now.
She had all the friends she needed and plenty of things at her disposal. Plus, she had a job to do, and she was pretty damn sure that if Buffy knew the real reason she was in this town was to kill her, that she wouldn�t be trying to extend any type of friendship toward her at all.
Her phone rang.
"Yeah? �Hey boss�No just bored�So what�s up this time? �I�m not surprised, he always did have creativity�No course I want in�Yeah I�ll be there�Oh really? �He wants to meet you too�Thanks, I really need to work off this energy�I�ll call you when it�s over�You always know how to cheer me up, boss�later."
Faith went to sleep with a smile on her face. She could become part of Buffy�s little band, but torturing her, and inevitably killing her, just seemed more satisfying somehow.
At Trick�s house, a very well furnished house at that, a group of people was assembled. A man in wheelchair was wearing a headset and observing a series of monitors. At the table, three humans, two vampires dressed in �old west� attire, and a yellow, spiked-demon were listening to Trick speak.
"Competition. Competition is a beautiful thing. It makes us strive. It ...makes us accomplish. Occasionally, it makes us kill. We all have the desire to win."
He walked across the room, gesturing to the different species.
"Whether we're human...vampire...and whatever the hell you are, my brother. You got them spiny-looking head things. I ain't never seen that before."
"I am Kulak, of the Miquot Clan." The yellow creature said.
"Isn't that nice. Point is, you're all here for the same reason."
"Well, it sure ain't no philosophy class, now, is it?" Said the vampire wearing the cowboy hat, looking at his wife.
"Mr. Gorch, my account statement says that your deposit has not yet been made."
"Well, me and Candy... we�re blowin� our whole honeymoon stash on this little game here."
He emptied a bloody bag of cash onto the table.
"The games will begin in a few days time. The target, Buffy, is the main course my friends. The rest are just the side dishes. You can do whatever you like with them, but it has to be Miss Summers� dead body on my doorstep for anybody to win this game.
"However, Buffy and her friends will all be together and ready for the killing, and that is a money-back guarantee."
He looked at everyone.
"Ladies, gentlemen, spiny-headed looking creatures, welcome to SlayerFest '98!"
Buffy and Willow had just come back from the mall where they had bought several dresses. They were in Willow�s room trying them on. Willow had a �changing barrier� set up, so she was standing behind it and her shadow was the only thing visible on the other side.
"Why�d we get all these dresses anyway? We�re not going to keep all of them," Willow said.
"Because it was necessary."
"And why�s that?"
"Look, Will. I may not shop that much anymore, but I do know that if you can�t decide on a dress, you buy all the ones you�re interested in, try them out at home, and pick the one you like best. Then the next day, you return the others. Thank God for receipts."
"This is crazy. You already picked the one you�re gonna wear, and I�ve been doing this for an hour."
"It doesn�t matter which one you pick. You look great in all of them."
"You�re just saying that."
"I am not! Which one are you trying on now?"
"The black one. Oh, damn."
"What is it?"
"I think the zipper�s stuck."
"Hang on, Buffy to the rescue."
She walked behind the barrier, and behind Willow. The dress was up over her waist, and her middle of her back was bare up to the base of her neck. Buffy just looked at Willow, and drew in a breath. She was mesmerized.
�It�s just her back.�Buffy told herself.
But it didn�t seem to matter at that moment. This was the first time she had seen Willow�s bare skin since they had revealed their feelings about one another. Even when Willow was living with her, she hadn�t ever seen her less than decent. They had always changed separately.
It was stirring reactions in her. Reactions she hadn�t felt toward anyone. Not since her night with Angel.
�Her skin is so perfect.�
"Buffy? Are you okay?"
Buffy snapped out of it.
"Yeah, I�m fine."
She reached for the zipper, and started to pull it up slowly. She touched Willow�s back with her hand. She saw and felt Willow shiver. She ran her finger up Willow�s spine. Willow wasn�t stopping her, so she started kissing her skin. Up and down her back. She couldn�t get enough.
A small sound escaped Willow�s lips. Somewhere between a sigh and a whisper.
"You�re so beautiful," Buffy said, her soft kisses nearing Willow�s neck.
"Did you want me to stop?" Buffy asked, letting up.
Buffy resumed her kissing.
"But we have to�"
"We�re not ready�"
"Okay we are, but we still�have to�stop."
"It�s not time�"
"Give me a better reason."
"Okay. That did it."
Buffy stopped, and the loss of contact caused Willow to release a small moan of protest. Buffy zipped up the dress, and turned Willow around, looking her up and down.
"We�re keeping this dress," Buffy said, trying to get her breathing back to normal.
"Definitely." Willow agreed.
In Trick�s house all the participants in the game, were training. He walked over to the man in the wheelchair that was looking at the monitors.
"Tonight, Mr. Trick, you will see why technology is the future, and unlike senseless killing, it is more efficient."
"That�s just great. Everything�s in place. Are your boys ready?"
"Do they look ready?"
Trick looked at the two German humans, the Gruenstahler brothers. They were practicing a blocking each other�s punches. The other human, more rugged than the clean cut Germans, was cleaning out his rifle. Kulak was facing a wall, and then out of his arms, came two long razor-like weapons, which he threw into the wall. Lyle Gorch and his wife were lying on the couch.
As he started to walk to the other room, Faith came in, a briefcase in her hand.
"Well, well, well. Hello my dear." Trick said.
The Gorches sprang up.
"Take it easy cowboy, this little lady�s special."
"I didn�t realize you thought so highly of me."
"I give praise where it�s due. I�m glad you decided to grace us with your presence, but I got the feeling at our last meeting that I wouldn�t see you again."
"Well, things change. You see�" She walked over to the Germans, and ran her hands over their bare chests. "The boss heard about your Fest thing, and he wants in. Or, more accurately, I want in."
"As much as I like you, I�ll need a down payment. Nothing�s for free."
Faith sat the briefcase on the table, and opened it. Several hundred thousand dollars were inside.
"Good enough?" Faith asked.
"Plenty. Who is this boss of yours?"
"You�ll find out soon enough."
"I very much hope you win."
"I�m not going for the win. Yet."
"Only you would use the prize intelligently."
"Oh, if I won I wouldn�t want the cash. Just give me one of these German boys."
Faith grinned at Trick, and started to walk out.
"I�ll see you around."
It was night and Buffy and Willow walked up to the sidewalk in front of Cordelia�s house. Willow had on the black dress, and Buffy had on a long red one. Coming down the walkway was Xander in a tux, arm in arm with Cordelia in a green dress.
Buffy and Willow went wide-eyed when they saw Xander up close.
"Wow�Xander, is that�" Buffy started.
"Really you?" Willow finished.
Xander twirled around, showing off the whole ensemble.
"Sometimes I can work miracles." Cordelia said.
Xander looked at Willow and Buffy.
"You guys okay? You look a tad�flushed."
"Of course we�re fine�why wouldn�t we�be�fine." They both said, stuttering.
They glanced around nervously, and saw the limo coming up the street.
"Look! It�s here," Willow said.
The limousine pulled up, and stopped. The driver got out, opened the back door, and they all piled in. A few minutes later they were off.
"Guess Faith didn�t wanna come?" Willow asked.
"I called her before I left. She said if she was going, she�d meet us there, so I don�t know," Buffy said.
Cordelia looked at the floor. There were three corsages in small boxes.
"Look, free corsages." She handed one to Buffy and one to Willow. "I�m taking the orchid."
Buffy and Willow shrugged.
"It goes with my complexion better."
"Okay!" Buffy and Willow said, putting theirs on their wrists.
Cordelia looked at Xander.
"What�d I say?"
The limo stopped in the woods. The driver�s side door opened and one of the German brothers ran out. Inside, they were all trying to see out the window.
"Finally we�re here," Buffy said, taking the initiative and getting out.
They all got out and realized they were in the middle of the woods.
"Okay, where�s the Bronze?" Cordelia asked.
"I�m gonna take a wild guess, and say, not here," Xander said.
Buffy was looking around, and saw a VCR and a TV sitting on a tree stump, with a sign saying �PRESS PLAY�.
"What's massively wrong with this picture?" she asked.
Everyone walked over with her to the TV, and she pressed play on the VCR. Trick appeared on the screen.
"Hello, kids. Welcome to SlayerFest '98."
They stared at the monitor in disbelief.
"What is a SlayerFest, you ask? Well, as in most of life, there are the hunters and the hunted. Can you guess where you fall? From the beginning of this tape, you have exactly thirty seconds�no, that's seventeen now�to run for your lives."
"Buffy," He said laughing slightly, "and slayerettes, have a nice death."
The TV went black.
"Hello! I�m not a slayerette!" Cordelia yelled.
"Yeah! The PC term is Slaying Assistant!" Xander yelled.
"No, Xander! I meant that I�m not a slayerette, I�m a Homecoming queen. I spent so much time campaigning�"
Xander wrapped her arms around her.
"Oh, will you knock it off," Willow said. She walked over to Buffy. "What do we do?"
Buffy had been leading the way. Willow was behind her, followed by Xander and Cordelia who were walking side by side. They heard a rustling, and all stopped. They looked around for the source of the noise. Seeing nothing, Buffy started to take a step forward.
"Look out!" Willow yelled, looking at the bear trap directly in front of Buffy. With fast reflexes, Buffy lifted her foot back up, and the trap snapped shut. Knowing someone must be near for certain now, Buffy dropped to the ground, and everyone else followed suit. The human with the rifle was aiming at them.
He shot and missed. Buffy grabbed the sprung trap and hurled it at him. It hit him hard, and he staggered back into another bear trap. It snapped shut on his leg and he grunted in pain. Buffy hurried over to him, picking up his rifle along the way. She pointed it at him.
"That's gotta smart," Xander said.
The man tried to pry open the trap.
"Now, I can let you out of that, or I can put a bullet in your head. How many are there in this little game, and what are they packing?" Buffy asked.
When he wasn�t speaking, Buffy pumped a fresh round into the gun�s chamber. He looked at it, and his eyes went wide.
"There's me, two Germans with AR-15s and grenade launcher...yellow-skinned demon with long knives... Vampire couple from Texas named Gorch."
"Everybody who's out here. Germans are wired. Their boss is tracking them on computer. Now get me out of this!"
Just as she reached down to do that, Cordelia screamed. Kulak�s weapons sliced into the tree in front of her. They all ran.
In the Bronze, Giles was trying to find the gang. They were supposed to be there nearly twenty-five minutes ago. He couldn�t find them, so he made his way through the crowds of kids, and went outside. He decided to go back to the library in case they called.
Back in the woods, the two brothers had their weapons poised, and they were dressed in black, wearing headsets. Their boss, the man in the wheelchair, was speaking to them.
"Continue proceeding south ninety meters to vector three."
They had come across an old cabin. As soon as they were all inside, Buffy shut the door. She got a chair to barricade it.
"We should be safe in here for awhile. We need to get more weapons." She said.
They all started to look around. Cordelia shouted that she found something. They come over.
"It�s a spatula." Cordelia said.
"That�s it?" Willow asked.
"Oh, and just this phone."
They stared at her.
"And you didn�t think that would be helpful?" Buffy asked.
"No, cause this is better for�" Cordelia started to swat the air with the spatula. "Oh."
Buffy picked up the phone, and started to dial.
Back in the library, Giles was drinking a cup of tea. As he walked over to his answering machine, he saw there was one message on it. He pressed a button.
"Giles, it's me...and everyone. We're in a cabin in Miller's Woods, and we're in big trouble." Buffy�s message got cut off.
Giles turned around, and came face to face with Lyle Gorch�s fist. Giles dropped to the ground. Candy walked up beside Lyle.
"When's she comin�?" Candy asked.
"Well, he's her Watcher. She'll show...just as soon as she gets rid of some of our competition."
Back at the cabin, Buffy looked at the phone and put it back on its cradle.
"It went dead."
Suddenly Kulak came crashing through a window. He immediately grabbed
Buffy and threw her down onto an old mattress and pillow on the floor, which made her drop the rifle. She rolled out of the way as he swung at her with his blades, and they just sliced into the pillow.
Buffy rushed to the far wall and took down a set of antlers to use for defense. Kulak swung his blades at her. Buffy blocked the blades with the antlers and shoved the antlers aside. Kulak went down with them.
Xander pulled him up, and started to punch his face.
"The gun!" Buffy yelled.
Willow ran to get the gun, just as Kulak knocked Xander down. He went over to Buffy, and took a wide swing at her, cutting her arm, and making her fall. Willow found the rifle on the floor and picked it up. Kulak tried to swing again, but Buffy grabbed the end of the rug he was standing on and yanked it out from under him, making him fall backward and hit the floor hard on his back.
Willow raised the gun, and tried to look for a good spot to shoot. Kulak got back to his feet, and she shot and hit him in the leg. He dropped again.
Outside the cabin the Gruenstahlers were setting up the grenade launcher.
"Prepare to launch." Their boss said through the headsets.
One of the brothers loaded a grenade into the launcher and closed the chamber.
"Target's in range. Y-axis fifty-three degrees west by eight degrees south."
He punched the coordinates into the targeting computer.
Inside, the grenade penetrated a window shutter and fell to the floor in front of Kulak. He looked at everyone. Buffy wrapped her arms around her friends, and they ran toward a window. Kulak went towards the window on the opposite side.
The gang jumped and crashed through their window. Kulak tried to jump through his also, but his window was shuttered behind the curtain, and he just bounced off of it. He took a quick, terrified breath, as the grenade exploded.
As they were running away outside, they momentarily lost track of one another in the blinding heat and light of the explosion as they fell to the ground away from the building. Out of nowhere, a figure clad in all black entire attire, even the face, ran in and grabbed Willow. The figure ran off, Willow in tow.
"Is everyone okay?" Buffy asked, getting up.
She looked at them. They seemed fine, but Willow. Where was she?
"Willow!" she yelled.
They all started looking around.
"Look, you guys get to the library. Get Giles. I�m going to find Willow."
"What if she �" Cordelia started.
They heard Willow scream.
Inside Trick�s house he and the Gruenstahler�s boss were tracking Buffy, Cordelia, Willow on computer.
"One is heading west, back into town. Two others are going east, deeper into the woods."
"Only one person could have split up their group." There was a knock at the door.
"I�ll take care of it."
He went to answer the door. Two police officers were waiting outside.
"Evening, gentlemen. How may I help you?"
Without a word the two officers grabbed him and dragged him out of the house.
"Excuse me! Anybody got a warrant here?"
Back in the woods, the person in black was holding Willow by the neck, giving her just enough air to stay conscious.
"Be quiet, or I�ll choke the life right out of you."
"Faith?" Willow gasped.
"That�s right, Red. Now shut up."
Buffy came running up.
"Let her go."
Faith whispered to Willow.
"I�m gonna let you go, but if you squeal to anyone, I promise you, next time you�ll be dead."
With one final squeeze, Faith threw Willow to Buffy, and ran off.
"Are you okay?"
Willow nodded coughing.
"Who was that?"
"Well, it doesn�t matter right now. We need to get to the library."
Xander and Cordelia were walking the halls in the school, making their way to the library.
"So let�s recap. Jungle Bob and spike-head are history. We've lost the grenade-happy Germans twice, and yet they find us. If we take them out and the vamps, we can still make the Bronze," Xander said.
"Those animals! Hunting us down like poor defenseless... well, animals." Said Cordelia, still holding the spatula.
They got to the library, and Candy roared and grabbed Xander by the arm. She swung him around and let go, but Xander maintained his balance. Candy tried to do a roundhouse kick to his face, but somehow, he managed to back away before it connected.
She grabbed him by the back of the neck and shoved him into a bookcase, causing several books to hit him as he fell to the floor. Dazed, he grabbed her leg, and made her fall too. Cordelia got his attention.
"Xander!" She yelled, as she tossed him the spatula.
He caught it, and turned to face Candy. She grabbed the coat rack as she got up. Xander lunged at her with the wooden end of the spatula and impaled it on her. Candy shoved the base of the coat rack into his face and made him stumble back into the walls. He fell over a wastebasket and into a potted tree before he fell to the floor unconscious.
Candy dropped the coat rack and noticed the spatula sticking out of her chest. Lyle looked terrified. She turned to ashes right before his eyes.
He started for Xander on the floor. Cordelia calmly stepped over and headed him off.
"I'm gonna kill both of you for this! You hear me?"
"I hear you, you redneck moron. You got a dress that goes with that hat?"
"Rip out my innards, play with my eyeballs, boil my brain and eat it for brunch? Listen up, needle-brain. We�ve already taken out four of your cronies, not to mention your girlfriend."
"Whatever. The point is, we�re not even Slayers and we still won. I haven't even broken a sweat. See everyone else is just the runners-up. I�m the Queen. You get me mad, what do you think I�m gonna do to you?"
Lyle was taken aback by that. Cordelia raised her eyebrows at him impatiently. He gave her a quick nod.
He walked off, leaving a smiling Cordelia. Giles and Xander were coming to.
In the Mayor�s Office in City Hall, a police officer shoved Trick inside. Mayor Richard Wilkins III smiled up at him.
"Hello! Nice to meet you."
"Yeah, hi, it's a pleasure. Where am I?"
"In my office. I'm Richard Wilkins. I'm the Mayor of Sunnydale. And you're...Mr. Trick. Please, sit down."
Trick took the seat offered, and realized something.
"You�re the boss aren�t you?"
"Guilty as charged. Faith�s a good girl. Like a daughter, but she�s not the issue in this meeting." The Mayor inspected Trick closer. "That's an exciting suit."
"Well, clothes make the man."
"Well, as I understand it, you're not a man... exactly. Mr. Trick, I've been the Mayor for quite some time. I like things to run smoothly. This is a very important year for me."
"Something like that."
"If this is the part where you tell me that I don't fit in here in your quiet little neighborhood, you can just skip it 'cause, see, that all got old long before I became a vampire. Do you know what I'm saying?"
"Do you have children? Children are the heart of a community. They need to be looked after. Controlled. The more rebellious element needs to be dealt with. The children are our future. We need them. I need them."
"If this rebellious element means who I think it does, then that problem may be taken care of this very night."
"So I've heard." He chuckled. "That's a very enterprising idea you have - SlayerFest. I love that name, by the way. You see, that's the kind of initiative I need on my team."
"What if I don't wanna be a part of the team?"
"Oh, no, that won't be an issue."
The Mayor reached onto his desk for a thin plastic box and opened the lid.
"See, you and I are gonna get along very well. Moist towelette?"
Back in the library both Xander and Giles were nursing their heads with ice packs, as Willow and Buffy walked in. Buffy looked at them.
"What happened to you guys?"
"Cordy just kicked some vampire ass while Giles and I were unconscious, that�s all," Xander said.
"Yes, I must admit that she did an admirable job. I feel that I should apologize. After all, I was the one who reserved the limousine for all of you," Giles said.
"That�s okay. At least we got these free corsages." Cordelia said.
"Oh, that's nice. Although I don't recall them mentioning corsages."
"Jungle Bob... said that the Germans were hooked into a computer system," Buffy said looking closer at her corsage, which revealed a small transmitter. "And they're hooked into us."
They all looked up when they heard a door slam out in the halls. Cordelia quickly pulled her corsage off and threw it to the ground, smashing it with her foot.
"Willow give me yours," Buffy said.
Willow handed hers over to Buffy, giving her a questioning look.
"I need some wet toilet paper."
"Yeah! That'll help." Cordelia said sarcastically.
Out in the halls, the Germans pulled on their night vision goggles and were scanning and advancing through the darkness. Their boss talked over their headsets.
"Transmitting coordinates now. They're fifty feet away."
Suddenly Buffy ran across the hall. They tried to trace her and fire, but they weren�t fast enough to aim. One of them signaled the other to advance. Around the corner, Buffy ducked into a classroom. The one followed her in. The other listened to the instructions and took aim through a wall.
"Axis six degrees by forty-three. I have them both in range."
Inside the classroom, the German scanned around the dark room, but couldn�t see anything. The one in hall moved his rifle according to his instructions.
"I have the targets together, twenty feet north and stationary. Final position is locked. Fire when ready."
Still inside the classroom, he kept scanning, walking through the room.
"Both targets seven degrees by thirty-five."
Buffy rose up from behind a low bookcase. She threw a wad of wet toilet paper with the transmitters, and it hit the assassin on his back. He spun around to look at what direction he was hit from.
"Adjust! Right ten degrees! Fire!"
The one out in the hall started to shoot through the wall. The other one turned toward the fire and shot back. They kept shooting at each other through the wall until they hit each other and died.
"I won!" The boss said, back at the house.
In the Bronze, they saw Faith, in a dress, looking at them. Bruised and battered, they all walked up to her.
"Jesus! What the hell happened?" she asked.
"Long story," Buffy said.
"Got hunted." Cordelia said.
"Apparently not that long."
Faith looked at Willow, and saw she was nervous.
"Hey Willow, you okay? You look tense."
Faith smiled evilly at her.
Up on stage, Devon, the lead singer of the Dingoes stepped up to the microphone.
"Hey guys, the moment we've all been waiting for."
"Well, at least I�ll make queen. Something good will come from this night after all." Cordelia said.
"And the winner is...Hey, I believe we have a first for Sunnydale High. We have a tie."
Cordelia had a confused look on her face.
"The winners are Holly Charleston and Michelle Blake!"
Cordelia was shocked.
"So, who wants to go home?" Buffy asked.
"Me." Willow and Xander both said.
Faith walked up to Willow.
"See you around, Red. Be good." She whispered.
Buffy and Xander started to walk away, and Willow, shaking, followed after them.
"Hey! What about my pain? I need comforting!" Cordelia called after them.
No one seemed to hear her, so she stormed out after them.