: So sorry that I'm not yet caught up on reviews, but things have been incredibly hectic lately! I so appreciate all who are reading and tracking this story, and sincerest thanks to all of you who have been so kind as to leave a review! After this, there's only two chapters left, so thanks for hanging in there! :D* * * * *
Buffy stumbled through her front door, Faith in tow.
“Is that you, dear?,” Joyce called from the kitchen.
“Yeah, Mom!,” the girl screeched. “I hope there’s enough for three. I have a guest.”
Joyce appeared and beamed. “Faith! How good to see you again! How are you?”
Faith grinned. “Five by five, Big J. How they hanging?”
“Gravity is not a woman’s friend."
Faith howled with laughter as Buffy blushed.
“Dinner’s on the table,” Joyce said, “and of course there’s more than enough. As long as Buffy doesn’t once again inhale the meal, of course. She eats me out of house and home.”
“Hey!,” her daughter groused. “Slayer metabolism, remember? Not my fault!”
Joyce playfully rolled her eyes, before turning and beckoning the girls to follow.
“So, what’s on the agenda for tonight?,” she asked.
“The Bronze,” Buffy curtly answered as she tore into a dinner roll. “Me, Faith, Will, Oz, Xan, and, um, some others.”
“What am I missing?,” Joyce asked, brows drawn.
Faith snickered. “B still can’t get over it. Queen C did this whole Bippity-Boppity-Boo thing, and now X runs the school at her side. Gave him a complete makeover, too." She closed her eyes and smiled wolfishly. "Man, that boy was looking tasty.”
“I see,” Joyce said evenly. “So how did
Xander look, Buffy?”
“He was okay,” the girl mumbled.
“Right,” Faith drawled. “Which was why even with the souled undead in the room, you couldn’t tear your eyes from X’s juicy ass.”
“Oh, fine!,” Buffy growled. “Xander looked great, okay? He’s...gorgeous. In a completely offbeat though very cute way.”
Faith winked. “Told ya, B. You shoulda hit that when you had the chance.”
Joyce raised an eyebrow.
“Uh, sorry, Mrs. S,” muttered a chagrined Faith, before she shrugged. “Sometimes my mouth just talks before my brain can tell it to shut up.”
Joyce winked in reply and said nothing. “So does this mean that Xander is back with Cordelia?"
Buffy shook her head, spooning potatoes by the pound on to her plate. “We don’t know for sure, and they’re not talking. Something happened this weekend, I know that much. They showed up at school together, and they’re acting like if they’re out of each other’s sight for more than an hour at a time, they’re going to have a coronary. Some people think it’s for real, and some think it’s a cover since Xan’s decided he also likes boys.” She looked defensively at her mother and Faith. "Which is a totally valid lifestyle choice!"
"Hey," Faith barked, "who's complaining? No one here has a problem with hot man lovin'." She frowned. "Gotta say, though, I'm surprised Red climbed aboard the Acceptance Train so fast."
Buffy gave her the side-eye. "Well, me too, actually, but Will and Xan, no matter what they feel or think about the other's choices, will always go to bat for each other in public."
Faith nodded. "That's pretty damn cool, to have someone who always has your back."
Buffy looked at her speculatively. She knew Faith had gotten very close to both Xander and Cordelia, and again regretted the distance between herself and the other girl. They were both Slayers and they had friends in common; therefore, they should be better friends. She nodded to herself. It was time to work on that. Inviting Faith to dinner had been a good start, and she thought the invitation should be a standing one. She knew her mom would agree.
“So,” Joyce interjected, "I still don't know who else is going with you tonight.”
Buffy swallowed noisily. “Like I said, me, Will, Oz, Faith, Angel, and Xan. And, um, Cordy, Harmony Kendall, Larry Blaisdell and Percy West. Oh, and Jonathan Levinson.”
Joyce’s forehead furrowed. “Larry Blaisdell. He’s on the football team, right? Didn’t you tell me he came out of the closet last year? Oh! Oh, I see.”
“No, you don’t,” Faith smiled. “Larry’s got it bad for X, and so does this guy, Percy. What the hell kind of name is that, anyway? Should’ve been Wussley’s name. You know, all proper and boring. Anyhoo, this Percy’s also on the team, and he’s a smokin’ hot babe. He’s warm for X’s form, too.”
“Are you telling me that Xander is dating both of them?,” Joyce demanded.
“Nope. Larry and Perce want X, but X is going out tonight with Devon,” Faith replied.
“He’s the singer in Oz’s band,” Buffy added.
“I know who he is,” said a distracted Joyce. “Let me make sure I’m understanding this correctly. Xander and Cordelia may or may not be together. Cordelia gave Xander a makeover, and he is now popular. Two of the members of the football team are pursuing Xander, but he’s going out with Devon MacLeish, whose reputation is quite well-known. Somehow, Harmony Kendall is also involved in this. I know she’s a cheerleader and is friends with Cordelia, but I was under the impression she didn’t care for Xander. And I don’t know who this Jonathan is.”
“Harmony and Xander buried the hatchet today at lunch,” Buffy said. “Harmony saw this jerk manhandle Cordelia in the hall, and...”
“What!,” her mother demanded. “What the hell goes on at that school?”
Joyce immediately resolved to have another chat
with Principal Snyder. In fact, she was looking forward to it, especially because she knew he wouldn't be. A slow, satisfied smirk spread across her face.
Buffy nodded. “Yeah, it’s being taken care of. Well, I handled part of it, with Giles’ okay, but Cordy, Larry, and Percy are going to finish it. Whatever, Xander and Harmony had a Moment, and now they’re friends. Somehow, Xander brought Jonathan, a huge nerd, into all of this by asking him to help Harmony with her math homework. It was unreal! "
She shook her head either in confusion or consternation, she wasn't sure. "Xander was totally flirting with this kid, and Jonathan was lapping it up! It was probably the first time it ever happened to him." Her eyes narrowed. "And Xander was really good with the flirting, too. Cordy made him a manual.”
Faith and Joyce laughed.
“Don’t forget how Jeeves gave X the Population Zero speech and bullied him into going to college,” Faith added.
Joyce's eyes widened to epic proportions. “Rupert spoke with someone regarding sex?" She drew her head back. "Was he coerced?"
“What are you talking about, Faith?,” Buffy asked. “Xander didn’t say anything like that.”
Faith rolled her eyes. “Please. What do you think they were doing in the office that whole time? Just discussing applications? Did you see his face when he escaped? X was all pasty and shaky. You know G was talking about bodily fluids and whatnot.”
“But Xander’s a virgin!"
Her mother and the other Slayer stared at her.
“I don’t want to know how you know this,” Joyce stated. “Whatever Xander’s, er, status, I’m just glad that Rupert took the initiative. The boy should be informed, especially with regard to other boys, and specifically with that Devon character. I know his mother discussed preventing pregnancy when he began dating Cordelia. And I’m thrilled that Xander is going to college! He’s far too smart to languish in this town.”
Buffy was now lost in thought, trying to discern how her Watcher knew enough about gay sex to counsel Xander before deciding she really didn’t want to know.
“Are you almost done?,” she asked Faith. “I still need to get ready, and I want to watch the fireworks when Percy gets here.”
Faith grinned evilly.
“Percy?,” Joyce repeated, her tone casual but her eyes hard. “He’s coming here?" She smiled, baring her teeth. "Oh, how delightful! I really must get to know him better.”
The Slayers looked at each other and smirked.* * * * *
“Cordy, I don’t know about this,” squeaked a nervous Xander.
“No, it will fit.”
“It’s too tight!”
“No such thing is possible,” Harmony declared, cocking her head. “Yes, this will work well.”
He became even more panicked. “I’m gonna look like a such a fruit! Everyone
is going to laugh at me!" He shook his head furiously. "No one dresses this way!”
“Well, they should,” Cordelia sniffed, hands on her hips. “Everyone could use a personal shopper, and it’s high past time you had one. I know you’re...on a budget, Xander, but those old clothes of yours were absolutely atrocious.”
Harmony wrinkled her nose at the memory and nodded.
"And if even one
person says anything snide to you," Cordelia growled, hands now curled into fists, "you leave them to Harmony and me."
Harmony grinned and cracked her knuckles. "I look forward to it."
"I can fight my own battles, Cordelia," he hissed.
She shrugged. "I know that. I'm just saying you don't have to."
"Oh, sure," he snapped, "because having two cheerleaders come to my rescue isn't humiliating at all
. It's bad enough when Buffy does it." His face grew thoughtful, and then accepting. "Although," he admitted, "it's usually because I'm in mortal peril."
Cordelia waved her hand dismissively. "Get with the program, you anachronistic bisexual. Women are all about saving the day now. As you well know!"
“But...,” he tried, sighing and knowing it was a lost cause.
“Just make sure you break in those shoes,” Cordelia advised. “You don’t want blisters after dancing for ten minutes.”
“Dancing?! Whoa, who said anything about dancing? I can’t dance!”
She closed her eyes and smiled. “Oh, you definitely
have rhythm. We just need to find the best way to bring it out.” She had several ideas about that actually, many of which involved a broom closet.
Harmony quirked an interested eyebrow, but quickly swallowed her curiosity.
Cordelia could tell that, at any moment, Xander was going to start whining again
, so she held up a hand. “What did we discuss this weekend?”
He sighed. “No more hiding my thunder.”
“And?,” she prompted.
Another sigh. “Cordy is always right. Always listen to Cordy.”
“Thank you. Now, go put these on.”
He snatched the clothes from her hand, gave them both a vicious glare, and stomped toward her bathroom.
Harmony and Cordelia gave each other smug, satisfied looks.
“Wait!,” the Queen called, before forking over a scrap of fabric to the boy.
“What’s this?,” he asked dubiously.
She blinked. “It’s a thong, Xander.”
He blushed. “Cordy...”
“It’s not mine, you goon! It’s for you
! To wear
He balked. “I’m not...I’ve never...no way!”
She waved him off. “Be ready in ten.”
“I’m not wearing this!”
“You are,” she said with a nod, pushing him toward her bathroom. “Unless you want
your wang flopping out all over Devon,” she smirked. “Or was that what you were going for?”
Xander’s mouth was opening and closing though no sound emerged, his face so mottled that Harmony fretted he was about to stroke out.
Cordelia gave him a final shove and pulled the door shut between them.* * * * *
Buffy and Faith began giggling the moment they heard the doorbell ring.
“At the top of the stairs,” Buffy whispered. “We’ll be able to hear everything.”
Faith nodded, eyes gleaming. They grabbed each other’s hand and slunk out of Buffy's bedroom and arrived at the landing, just as they heard Joyce opening the door.* * * * *
“Hello,” the woman said warmly. “May I help you?”
“Hi,” replied a masculine voice. “My name’s Percy. I’m supposed to be meeting Buffy?”
“Of course,” Joyce said, nodding. “And Xander, as well, correct?”
Percy swallowed heavily. “Um, yeah?”
Joyce moved aside and raised a brow. She wasn't going to invite a stranger into her home, and Buffy had said this Percy boy was aware of Sunnydale nightlife, though he still didn't necessarily believe it.
Silence reigned for several long seconds.
“I’m not going to bite,” Joyce laughed.
“Uh, sure,” Percy said lamely, his voice breaking slightly.* * * * *
Buffy grinned. “Just wait till she shuts the door."
Faith held a finger to her lips, but her smile was wide and predatory as she heard the lock click in place.
Just then, the doorbell rang again.
“Even better!,” Faith wheezed.
Buffy leaned against her and buried her face in Faith’s shoulder to stifle her snickers.* * * * *
Joyce opened the door for a second time and extended a similar greeting.
“Oh, and you must be Larry!”
“Yes, ma’am,” the boy said politely. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Summers.”
Again, Joyce stood aside to allow the boy entrance.
Larry cottoned on quickly and nodded, entering the house. “Thank you.”
The Slayers heard Larry’s footfalls as he entered the living room, and could almost see the glares which were surely being exchanged between the two boys.
“Blaisdell,” Percy nodded.
“West,” Larry said curtly.
“Ah," Joyce drawled, "I just love the smell of testosterone on the night air."
The boys looked askance at her before once again staring menacingly at one another.
“Would you two like a ruler?"* * * * *
Buffy bit her hand.
“Your ma is so, so cool,” Faith whispered.
The other Slayer nodded fervently.* * * * *
Joyce waited a moment, but when neither boy spoke, she decided it was time to take the bulls by their horns. And neuter them.
“Sit down,” she commanded.
They looked at her.
“I said sit!,” she snapped.
“I presume that each of you were warned by Buffy and probably Willow. I’m quite sure that warnings from Cordelia are unnecessary, as you are both undoubtedly aware of what she will do to you if you damage her property. For all intents and purposes, she considers Xander hers, and I’m similarly inclined.
"That boy is like a son to me, and if either of you does anything
to hurt him, my daughter, or their friends, you will have to deal with me, and let me assure you, I’m more dangerous than Cordelia and Buffy put together. Just ask Spike, if he’s still in town. He’s a vampire whose head I introduced to an ax.”
The eyes of Percy and Larry grew extremely wide.* * * * *
“Talk about your Kodak moments!,” Buffy panted. "Oh, my god, we could have sold tickets
Faith rolled back and forth across the floor, beating her thigh with her fist.* * * * *
“Ma’am...,” Larry began.
Joyce held up her hand. “I am well aware that Xander will be seeing Devon tonight, and I gather that your opinion of that young man is probably the same as mine.”
Percy and Larry looked at each other, back at Joyce, and nodded.
“Excellent,” she said, “but that’s neither here nor there. We’re talking about the two of you. See, boys, I’ve learned a lot being the mother of a Slayer. I know the Hellmouth like the back of my hand, and I know
what to do with a body.”
Their mouths fell open.
“I’m sure you’ve noticed that Xander has a lot of powerful young women surrounding him. Don’t make the mistake of believing he needs their protection, he’s quite capable of taking care of himself, I assure you. It just doesn't occur to him to do so. Instead, you should ask yourselves what it is about him that inspires such devotion within his friends. And what those friends will do to you should you hurt or embarrass him in any way.
“Xander doesn’t like being the center of attention,” she continued, “so you will do nothing to exacerbate the confusion he is currently experiencing. If he wants to date Devon, although I can’t imagine why he would, then he will date Devon. If he wants to date either of you, so be it. Or, if he wishes to reconcile with Cordelia, I’ll personally don her cheerleading outfit and bust out my pompoms.
“So answer me this,” she said, “what is it that you want from him?”
“To be his friend," Larry said. "I like Xander. He’s a good guy."
“And you?,” she asked Percy.
“To date him. I’m not going to lie and say that it’s not about how he looks, because it is; he’s hot as hell. But he’s also smart and funny." He shrugged. "He makes me laugh."
“And what if he decides he doesn’t want to date either one of you?,” she demanded.
The boys looked at each other and shrugged.
“That’s up to him,” Larry said. “Either way, I’m still going to be his friend.”
“Ditto,” Percy replied, "but I don’t want him with MacLeish. The guy’s a whore.”
Joyce raised a brow.
“Sorry,” he said insincerely, “but he is. MacLeish has done more banging than a screen door in a cyclone. Harris deserves better.”
Joyce stared at both of them for several moments, rather impressed when the boys met her gaze with clear, unblinking eyes. Though she would never, ever tell them that.
“Okay,” she said, nodding. “Treat him well, either as friend or boyfriend, and I will welcome you into my house and even feed you. Hurt him, and you’ll know pain like you never imagined. I’m neither a teenage girl nor a British librarian. I’m a mother. I imagine you’ve seen those nature videos about animals attacking when their young are threatened?”
The boys mouths fell open for the last time and they nodded.
“Live in fear.”
They nodded again.
“Girls!,” Joyce called. “You can come down now.” She looked back to the two boys. “I assume we’re finished? Questions? Comments? Concerns?”
They shook their heads as the Slayers came clattering down the stairs.
Joyce took one look at her daughter and raised a brow. “I gather Faith dressed you?”
Buffy blushed and nodded as Faith beamed with pride.
Larry and Percy were rather startled to see Buffy in a pair of white leather pants and a silvery sequined thing which barely qualified as a top, with her hair artfully arranged around her face and rather smoky makeup.
“You look very nice,” Larry said.
“Uh, thanks,” Buffy replied, looking away, a blush spreading across her cheeks.
Percy examined her critically and began nodding. “It works. Can’t say I’ve ever seen you dressed like that, but it looks good on you.”
The girl bit her lip and nodded, her confidence rising. She turned around to make sure she had placed by the door her bag, which contained a change of clothes. No way was she patrolling in this outfit, but she had to admit she felt sexy, and it was nice to get dressed up just for the sake of it.
Faith rolled her eyes. “Oh for Christ’s sake, B, loosen the hell up! We’re going out with friends old and new. Your vamp honey is going to be there and his eyes will roll back in his head when he checks you out. Besides, what with me, Xan, and the Queen looking undeniably fine, you don’t want to get left in the dust, do ya?"
Buffy rolled her eyes in reply and grinned. “Whatever. Let’s go.”
“Who’s driving?,” Joyce asked.
“I am, Mrs. Summers,” Larry replied.
The woman nodded, picked up a pen and pad from a nearby table and crossed to the window, peering outside. Quickly, she jotted down the license plate number.
“In case of...emergency,” she casually remarked as she turned back around.
“May I?,” Percy asked, gesturing toward the pad and pen in her hand.
She held them out, and Percy took them and scrawled something.
“This is my cell phone number. If something comes up, just give me a call and I’ll hand the phone over to Buffy.”
Joyce nodded and gave a small smile before turning toward her daughter. “Are you patrolling after?"
Buffy nodded. “Just briefly. We need to break in Harmony and Larry, and Percy if he wants to come. I don’t know about Jonathan. Or Devon, for that matter. I don’t know how much he knows, if anything. I’m leaving it up to Xander and Oz.”
Percy and Larry scowled, but said nothing.
“Can we get going now?,” Faith whined. “If we’re late, Queen C is going to snack on all of the hotties before I can even sink my teeth in.”
Joyce chuckled and ushered them out the door.* * * * *
Harmony raced up the steps of the Levinson home as fast as her heels would allow and rang the doorbell.
A rather short and sour woman opened it, looking up at her visitor and blinking. “May I help you?”
“Hi!,” Harmony chirped. “Are you Mrs. Levinson?”
The woman nodded, suspicion in her eyes.
“I’m Harmony Kendall. I’m here to pick up Jonathan?”
“You?,” the woman all but screeched, her surprise evident.
Harmony raised a brow. “Me. Is he ready?”
The woman turned around and bellowed for her son, her shrill tone causing Harmony to wince. Mrs. Levinson peered past Harmony into her driveway and narrowed her eyes.
“Who’s with you?,” she demanded.
“Xander Harris and Cordelia Chase,” the girl politely answered. “Would you like them to come up?”
?,” the woman trilled. “What would she possibly want with my son?”
Harmony frowned. What was this cow’s problem?
“Jonathan is our friend,” she said slowly. “We’re going to the Bronze to meet up with some other people.”
Just then, Jonathan rushed down the stairs and hovered on the threshold. “Hello Harmony,” he said softly, blushing.
“Hi Jonathan!,” the girl greeted. “You look great!”
And he did, much to her pleasant surprise. He was dressed rather like Xander’s earlier outfit of that day: dark jeans, black boots, and a simple button-down. Apparently, Xander had collected a fashion fanboy. Still, he looked decent, more than, actually, and that was all that mattered.
“Are you ready?”
The boy nodded shyly.
“How do you know this girl and Cordelia Chase?,” his mother barked.
A mortified Jonathan looked up at his mother and stumbled for words.
“Well, Jonathan has known me, Cordy, and Xan since kindergarten,” Harmony drawled, “and we’re going to meet Willow Rosenberg; her boyfriend, Oz; and Xander’s other best friend, Buffy Summers, and her boyfriend, Angel.”
“What kind of name is Angel for a boy?,” the woman demanded.
Harmony blinked. “Who cares? He’s hot.”
“Is Larry coming too?,” Jonathan asked.
“I don’t know these people,” Mrs. Levinson complained.
Harmony turned to Jonathan. “Do you have a cell phone?”
“Well, if you need your son, you can just call him, right?,” she asked the boy’s mother.
Mrs. Levinson appeared to ready herself for an argument, but just then, Cordelia rolled down her window and stuck her head out.
“Is there a problem?,” she shrieked, glaring at Jonathan’s mother.
The woman’s eyes widened. “It’s really her,” she whispered.
Cordelia, of course, heard her, as she heard everyone who dared to talk about her. She cocked her head. “Of course it’s me! Who do you think is driving my car? Know someone else with ‘Queen C’ plates?” She narrowed her eyes. “Hey, I know you! Aren’t you the lady who threw a fit in Daddy’s bank because they wouldn’t take your eight sacks of unrolled pennies?”
The woman squeaked and all but threw her son out of their house, slamming the door shut in Jonathan and Harmony’s faces.
“What’s her damage?"
“I don’t really have friends,” Jonathan said quietly, shrugging, “especially not incredibly gorgeous and popular girls who knock on the door and ask for me.”
Harmony felt bad for Jonathan, but her pleasure at his compliment was obvious as her face lit up. Smart, rich, kind of cute, and knew to keep the compliments coming. She could definitely work with this kid.
“Let’s go!,” she cheerfully ordered, pulling him toward Cordelia’s car.
They walked around the passenger side, which necessitated Xander stepping out of the car to push forward his seat and admit them entrance to the back.
Jonathan took one look at Xander, mouth falling open and eyes bugging.
“Not. A. Word,” the boy seethed.
Harmony rolled her eyes. “Xan, you look great!” She nudged her companion’s shoulder. “Jonny, tell him he looks great.”
Jonathan inhaled sharply. “You really do, you know. If you didn’t, I’d tell you. I know what it’s like to be embarrassed, or did you miss the scene on my porch just now?”
Xander’s face relaxed into a small smile. “Thanks, Jonno,” he quietly said, ducking his head.
Jonathan and Harmony scrambled into the backseat and Xander got back into the car.
“How’s it going, Jonathan?,” Cordelia chirped, looking at him via her rearview mirror.
“My mother just humiliated me,” the boy complained as Harmony patted his knee.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Parents,” she muttered in sympathy. “Oh, just so you know, Percy West is going to be at the Bronze with us. If he gives you any grief, just let me or Buffy know and we’ll take care of it.”
"No," Xander interrupted. "I'll
take care of it."
Cordelia eyed him and finally nodded.
Jonathan swallowed heavily. “Okay,” he whispered. “Anyone else?”
“Buffy’s boyfriend, Angel,” Xander added, “and our friend Faith. She's a handful, but you'll like her.”
The other boy nodded as a thin sheen of sweat broke out across his upper lip.* * * * *
“There’s Willow’s house,” Buffy said to Larry, who nodded and pulled up into the teen witch’s driveway.
Buffy hopped out of the car and skipped merrily up to the Rosenberg house and rang the bell.
“I can’t believe she’s out saving the world on a daily basis,” Percy said, his voice half-jeering and half-awed.
“She doesn’t do it alone,” Larry said evenly, “but believe me, I give thanks every night. Most of us would be dead if not for her.”
“We really live in Hell,” Percy whispered, as the shock finally began to ebb away.
Larry chuckled. “Nah, just Sunnydale. Same zip code, though.”
The girls raced to the car and piled in, Buffy in the front next to Larry, and Willow in the back next to Percy, Faith on his other side.
“Hey!,” Willow said enthusiastically.
“Hiya, Willow,” Larry smiled.
“Cute skirt, Red,” Faith said.
“Rosenberg,” Percy said, nodding gravely.
She rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to hurt you, Percy.” She grinned. "Unless you're into that kind of thing." She leaned over, placing her mouth next to his ear. "Are you?," she purred.
He choked and quickly pulled himself away, accidentally falling into Faith, who laughed uproariously.
“Mom warned them both,” Buffy announced.
Willow nodded. “That’s good. Mrs. Summers can be scary.”
Larry and Percy both nodded as the former threw the car into reverse, backed out of the driveway, and began barreling toward the Bronze, Faith laughing the entire way.