Chapter 2: Once a Cheerleader, Always a Cheerlead
Chapter 2: Once a Cheerleader, Always a Cheerleader
“You aren’t funny,” Buffy said, holding out at arms length the last minute costume that Jessica had finagled from a friend of a friend. Red and white pleated skirt, with matching sleeveless sweater, the costume evoked memories that were truly from another lifetime. Before she’d been the Slayer, before they’d moved to the Sunnydale Hellmouth and everything else it entailed.
Sitting on the bed, all dolled in her nurse’s costume, Jessica gave her an unamused smile. “I wasn’t trying to be funny, it was the best Beth could do on short notice.”
“I haven’t been with the cheer in forever,” Buffy mumbled, putting the Stanford cheerleading uniform up to her and gazing into the door mirror.
Jess’s eyes wouldn’t quiet meet hers as she nodded. “Then its past time for you to get a little wild. Have a little fun, Buffy. Not everything has to do with...,” she paused, furtively glancing for Sam. “Not everything has to do with angry puppies,” she opted for the safer route. “You know, you could stay here, do everything you’ve ever wanted. We could be together. There’s nothing left to protect me from.”
Buffy looked away from her sister and back to her reflection in the mirror. She needed a tan, she realized. Her skin was so pale, nearly translucent, to the point where she thought she could see the blood thrumming through her veins. Whatever mojo Willow had used to bring her back, it hadn’t been able to bring life and vitality to her skin.
“I have responsibilities,” she said, her mouth forming the words before her mind had time to catch up.
Jess’ forehead furrowed and she gave her head a shake, clearly disappointed with the answer. “So you slay here.”
Buffy traced one of those blue veins with a finger. Blood. Life.
“The hardest thing in this world, is to live in it.”
Vividly, the tower, Jessica struggling in her bonds, until her wrists were raw and bleeding, as crimson poured from several cuts along her abdomen, flashed before her mind’s eye. Coupled with it, came that feeling, not defeat, but completion, where she knew that she’d finally be able to rest.
Would it be so bad? Could she just lay aside the duty and the constant battle that any slayer lived and be what she’d once been? Buffy Summers, cheerleader.
“What time is the party?” she asked, diverting her and Jess’ thoughts away from slaying and questions of a future that wasn’t bright or dark, but dull and faded.
“Seven,” Jess answered.
“I’d better make with the haste then.”
She made her way into the small bathroom and shucked out of one of the few outfits she’d purchased after her resurrection. Being dead for over a year, Jess had already given most of her clothes to charity. She stepped into the pleated skirt, pulled the sweater over her head, and tied her long hair into a high ponytail. Taking a step back, she gave her reflection a once over. And if she lied to herself, she could almost believe that she looked young, vivacious, alive.
Dismissing both, the truth and the lie, she walked out to where Jess and Sam were waiting. “Hey,” she said, voice full of indignation. “How come he gets to avoid the embarrassing last minute costume thing?” Buffy cried with a wave towards the plainly dressed Sam Winchester.
Jess quirked an ‘I told you so’ eyebrow at her boyfriend. “See?”
Sam rolled his dark eyes and said, “I thought you were worried about being late.”
“Fine,” Jess said with a feigned pout that almost made Buffy laugh.
Together, Buffy feeling very much like a third wheel, they exited the apartment and headed out on the street. Automatically, Sam reached out a hand for Jess and Buffy’s sister took it without a thought. It made her think of Angel and the unspoken link they’d once shared. But he was gone, finally at peace.
A ghoul, or at least the more make up, less scary-death version, came tottering over, and started poking fun at Sam. A friend.
Normal. Safe. Everything Jess had tried to convince her they could have. In her mind, There’s not reason for Buffy to argue.
“More shots!” Sam’s friend, Vinn, crowed as he came to their little table. The party was being held at a bar, not unlike the Bronze, though definitely run on student money. He brought a tray of short glasses filled with deceptively clear liquid.
Buffy gave a giggle that was cut off by an unexpected hiccough. She’d already indulged in a way she hadn’t since the beer incident during her first year of UC Sunnydale. She liked the way it made everything about the world seem bright a beautiful and took away all the memories of what came before her rebirth.
“Mm, I like shots,” Buffy hummed to herself, snatching up one with exaggerated care. She knocked it back and downed it all with one swallow.
Vinn eyed her with a wide expression, before breaking out into laughter. “Go, big sister.”
“Well, I propose a toast,” Jess said, holding up one of the shots. “To Sam’s awesome LSAT scores.”
Buffy eagerly clapped her second glass against the others.
“All right, all right,” Sam said, dunking his head and giving a shy, dimpled smile. “It’s not that big a deal.”
Jess turned to Buffy. “He acts all humble, but he scored a 174.”
‘1430, Buffy, you kicked ass.’ The memory echoed unpleasantly in her drunken mind and Buffy reached for another glass as Vinn asked, “Is that good?”
“Scary good,” Jess said, gazing on Sam with infinite pride.
“You could pretty much get into any law school you’d want,” Buffy said, the memory still clinging and being played out in some strange bizzaro world.
Sam nodded, missing the importance. “Actually, I got an interview here. Monday. If it goes okay I think I’ve got a shot at a full ride next year.”
“Hey, it’s going to go great,” Jess urged with a hand to her boyfriend’s shoulder.
“It’d better,” Sam quipped.
“So how does it feel being the golden boy of your family?” Vinn asked.
Buffy’s last drink paused short of her lips as a sudden sadness gripped Sam’s dark eyes, making him appear like a kicked puppy. “Ah, they don’t know.”
“Oh, no,” Vinn gasped. “I’d be gloating! Why not?”
“Because we aren’t exactly the Brady’s.”
Vinn threw an arm around Sam’s shoulders. “And I’m not exactly the Huxtables,” he cracked. At the sudden damper on the party bing, he asked, “More shots?”
“No!” Sam and Jess echoed each other at the same time Buffy shouted, “Yes!”
Sam helped Jess carry the unconscious Buffy to the couch. “No offense Jess, but your sister can’t hold her liquor.”
“It’s been a hard year for her,” Jess explained. “She’s usually not like this. I hoped that the party would loosen her up, get her feeling more like herself. Maybe I should call G....my dad.”
He nodded and hugged her to his side. “Maybe we should just let her sleep it off then.”
Jessica gnawed at the flesh at the inside of her cheek. “Yeah.” She shook her head. “You’re right.” She gave a sly grin. “Wanna help me out of this costume.”
His eyes grew sultry. “Are you propositioning me, Ms. Summers?”
Buffy woke up to the sound of a heavy thud.
“Hey, easy tiger,” a mocking and unfamiliar voice whispered from the shadows.
Despite the pounding in her head, Buffy sprang to her feet and immediately regretted it as the room began to spin.
“Dean!” Sam exclaimed quietly. “You scared the crap out of me.”
“That’s cause your out of practice,” that cocky voice, Dean, said. There was another thud and a gasp. “Or not. Get off of me.”
“What the hell are you doing here?” Sam demanded, sounding anything but happy.
“I was looking for a beer.” Buffy could hear the shrug in the voice.
“What. The Hell. Are you doing here?” Sam emphasized.
“Okay. All right. We gotta talk.”
Sam gave a long-suffering sigh. “Uh, the phone?”
“If I’d called, would you have picked up?” Now it would take a deaf person to miss the accusation in Dean’s voice.
Buffy clamped her eyes shut at the same time she swallowed down bile as Jessica switched on the lights.
“Sam,” Jess said, her voice slurred by sleep instead of drink.
“Jess, hey,” Sam said abruptly on the offensive. “Dean, this is my girlfriend, Jessica.”
Blinking, still trying to come back to the land of the conscious, Jess said, “Wait, your brother, Dean?”
Buffy opened her eyes in time to see a tall, tow-headed man, with intense green eyes, starring her sister down like Jess was a piece of meat. “Oh, I love the Smurfs,” Dean said, a smirk curling his full mouth. “You know, I gotta tell you, you are completely out of my brother’s league.”
“Hey, bucko, eyes on the floor,” Buffy growled.
That brought Dean around on his heels. Buffy took some pleasure that the arrogant ass hadn’t noticed she was there. He covered his surprise with a leering grin. “Don’t worry, baby, I’m a fan of the classics. That a costume or are you the real thing?”
“Dean,” Sam said as fire entered Buffy’s eyes.
“Seriously,” Dean said with a wink at Buffy. He switched his focus back to his brother. “Anyway, I gotta borrow your boyfriend or whatever, Sam you are a sly dog, here, talk about some private family business. But, uh, nice meeting you.”
“No,” Sam insisted, walking to Jess and putting an arm around her. “Whatever you got to say, you can say it in front of her.”
“Us,” Buffy reminded.
Dean looked between the three of them. “Okay. Um. Dad hasn’t been home in a few days.”
“So he’s working overtime on a Miller Time shift, he’ll stumble back in sooner or later,” Sam replied with obvious disdain.
Dean’s eyes narrowed. “Dad’s on a hunting trip. And he hasn’t been home in a few days.”
To Buffy’s surprise, something inside Sam caved at his brother’s insistence. “Jess, Buffy, excuse us. We have to go outside.”