Walking out of the club, Buffy felt satisfied. Well, in one area, at least. She had driven Angel crazy by dancing with Xander. She didn't know why she did it exactly, but vampires weren't exactly her favorite demons right now.
Dying could really screw with your mind. Especially when it happened at the hands of a vampire like the Master. She couldn't get his face out of her head.
When she was gone, Buffy didn't see a light at the end of a tunnel, or feel a comforting presence surrounding her. It was dark, and it was cold. She wasn’t letting anything get close enough to send her back there. Even Angel.
She got spun whenever he was around. When he kissed her, when he was near her...it was overwhelming. But when she was dancing with Xander, she had full control. Over herself, over Xander, over *him*.
The slayer cared for the brooding, creature of the night, even loved him in a way. Angel had saved her life; those feelings were bound to come up. Except she couldn't get lost in what she felt--she wouldn’t be able to find herself again.
Love with a vampire was dangerous, and she didn't want loving somebody to be like that. Though she knew, probably despite her better judgment, things would happen contrary to her original plan. It always worked out that way.
Whatever. Buffy couldn’t think about this anymore. She was too confused, pissed off, and, well, stimulated. She’d regret that dance from a “friend” standpoint later, but there was a whole, different type of regret at the moment.
"Buffy," a voice said from behind her, causing the slayer to stop walking--this wasn't going to help. "You're really campaigning for 'Bitch of the Year,' aren't you?"
Turning to Cordelia, she had a smartass reply ready in spite of being...distracted. "As defending champion, you nervous?"
"I can hold my own. You know, we've never really been close, which is nice, ‘cause I don't really like you that much, but...you have on occasion saved the world and stuff, so I'm gonna...do you a favor," offered the cheerleader.
It was amazing how quickly Cordelia could bore the now blonde. Though she did look good. That was one thing the girl could consistently be counted on for.
"And this great favor is...?"
"I'm gonna give you some advice--get over it."
Sure, that made sense.
"Excuse me?" Buffy asked, somewhat incredulous.
"Whatever's causing the Joan Collins 'tude, deal with it. Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet, whatever, but get over it," Cordelia elaborated. "’Cause pretty soon you're not even gonna have the loser friends you've got now."
Buffy stepped up to her, clearly displaying her anger. "I think it's about time you start minding your own business."
The brunette smiled. "It's long past."
What was this? A clique cease-fire or something? The Queen of All Things Popular was expecting the Leader of the Freak Patrol to accept the white flag?
The slayer couldn't believe it. She felt like telling Cordelia to take her advice and shove it up her...but she did have nice lips. Damn hormones. Lips that were nice and...
She stared at her, like she had with Xander moments ago. Intense. Pulling off “sexy” was easy, she was finding out. And it made her prey uncomfortable. She only wanted Cordelia silent, but this was great.
After all Cordelia had done to them, where did the biggest snob in school get the nerve, anyway? Especially now of all times? Talk about insensitive. She'd just have to put her in her place. Why that involved running a hand along her cheek, Buffy had no idea.
"Are you feeling okay?" Cordelia stammered.
Buffy Summers kissed Cordelia Chase, and went all out for it, too. Long and hard, possibly longer than she intended, but then broke it off. The sudden loss of contact caused her kissee to let out a small, inaudible to the majority of human beings who didn't have slayer hearing, whimper.
"Leave me alone," the slayer told her before walking in the other direction.
The cheerleader brought her hand to her lips, felt the smudged lipstick, and tried to get her bearings. "What the hell was that?"
"Consider it...returning the favor. A 'thank you' for your advice."
Buffy flipped up the hood of her jacket, and kept going.'Okay, that wasn't so bad. And it...made things worse.'
Before a frazzled Cordelia could yell any kind of response, a hand was clamped over her mouth, and two vampires were dragging her across the alley.
This was just perfect. The Anointed One and his vampire cronies had unearthed the Master's bones to bring him back to unlife. As if Buffy wasn't freaking out enough already. He would come back, and he would make sure the next time he killed her, it'd be for good.
She needed to stop them, needed to hit something. And sitting in the library while everyone was calmly researching, made her want to scream. Her fear of the Master had taken over so much that she was only partially aware of being a step or two away from losing her only friends.
Cordelia was right. Cordelia who she hadn't seen since last night--that memory was not fading. But just like everything else lately, Buffy didn't know what to make of it, and preferred not to dwell. She did wonder what the cheerleader was thinking, though.
Wait...hadn't seen her since last night? Hadn't Cordelia been in school?
Xander was starting to say something. "Well, is there anything on when the ceremony might take--?"
A rock then came crashing through the window, which he dodged, but Buffy caught it easily from her spot on the table.
"Whoa!" He exclaimed.
The slayer saw a piece of paper around it, held in place by a nice-looking bracelet.
"This is Cordelia's." She removed the jewelry and began to read. "'Come to the Bronze before it opens, or we make her a meal.'"'Damn it! They must've grabbed her right after I...damn it! I'm gonna get her back.'
Her rational side wondered.‘Cause we're friends. And it's my job,
her bull...her less than truthful side answered.You're friends? When did this happen? I think you--
"They're gonna cook her dinner?" Xander asked in a worried tone, halting the internal discussion. The gang stared at him. "I'll pretend I didn't say that."
"What do we do?" Willow asked.
Buffy exhaled and hopped off the table. "I go to the Bronze and save the day."
She started for the doors.
"I don't like this," Xander told her.
"Nor I," said Giles, for once in agreement with the young man.
She turned around. "Yeah? Well, you guys aren't going."(You're not handling this right,
argued her rational side, starting again.It's for their own good,
her not so rational side chipped in. My screw up, my problem. I'm not putting them in danger.
"What do you mean?" The hacker questioned, interrupting the debate this time.
"I can't do it anymore. I can't look after the three of you guys while I'm fighting," answered Buffy, bluntly.
(Yeah, that's a *great* excuse.
Willow tried to hide her hurt. "Well, what about the rest of the note?"
The slayer wore a quizzical look, then. "The rest of the note?"
Her friend wasn't normally one for sarcasm, but it was appropriate here. "The part that says, 'P.S. This is a trap'?"
"You'll be playing straight into their hands," the librarian said, removing his glasses.
"I can handle this," Buffy insisted.
"Stop saying that! God, what's wrong with you?" The redhead was nearly yelling.
"Cordelia may be dead," said Xander, flat out.
"She's *not* dead. Don't say that; she'll be fine." The blonde stared hard at each of them. "This is my fight."
Grabbing her coat off the counter, she hurried out of the library.
"It's entirely pointy. I was a moron. I put my best friends in mortal danger on the second day of school," Buffy was telling her watcher the next morning as they walked through the quad.
She had saved the day; everyone was rescued. And there was that part where she smashed the Master's bones with a sledgehammer, thereby allowing her to weep a summer's worth of pent up emotion into Angel's chest. Everyone watched--it was quite the spectacle. This thing with him wasn't going away.
"What are you gonna do? Crawl inside a cave for the rest of your life?" Giles asked her.
"Would it have cable?" Her voice was small.
He smiled at her. "Buffy, you acted wrongly, I admit that. But believe me, that was hardly the-the worst mistake you'll ever make." Beat. "Uh, that wasn't quite as comforting as it was meant to be."
"Well, points for effort." She gave him a tiny smile as the bell rang. "See ya."
Then she saw Cordelia walking with Miss Calendar. The thing with her wasn't going away, either. After the closure, the guilt and realization of what she'd done to everyone made her feel terrible. Cordelia was number one on her “guilt” list.
Buffy ran up to them. "Hi, Miss Calendar. Um, I need to talk to Cordelia."
She grabbed the cheerleader by the arm and dragged her over to a quiet corner of the quad. It wasn't the most polite way to go about this, but it was the only way she'd ever get her attention.
"Hey! Enough with the manhandling." Cordelia wrenched her arm free. "I'm gonna be late for class."
"Since when do you care about punctual?" The slayer asked, skeptically.
"Since about ten seconds ago." The cheerleader tried to leave.
"Wait. Please," requested Buffy, earnestly.
Cordelia didn't know why she stopped, but she did.
Buffy continued. "I just wanted to say that, I'm...sorry. For *everything*."
"Keep your voice down!" The brunette snapped. "I'm trying to block it out, so could you never mention it? Ever?"
But Buffy wanted the air clear. "I don't normally...I'm not usually like that. I wasn't thinking straight and I--"
"Was horny?" Cordelia cut to the chase, which made Buffy flush. "It's weird, but I get it. ‘Cause if I was drowned by a way-too-old, deformed vampire in serious need of reconstructive surgery--who almost came back to try it *again*--I'd probably wanna turn into a crazed slut, too."
The blonde’s scowl didn't carry over to her hazel. "Gee, is it ever not about you?"
"Sometimes," said the brunette after a beat, and both girls smiled at their private memory.
Then the guilt-ridden one began to open her mouth, but Cordelia wasn’t finished. "Don't. You're forgiven. Let's just show a little maturity...and move past this. As long as we have a mutual understanding--"
"You didn't like it?" Buffy's confidence level was dropping, but she had no idea why.
Lie or be honest? Cordelia was usually good at lying, but Buffy could read people, was trained to. At least that was her assumption, so there was no other choice.
"No, I did. That's why I'm trying to forget it, okay?" She revealed. "So you're done being 'Miss Sexual Predator,' and you're sorry. Got it. Now I'm going."
Though determined to head inside, she turned with a sigh as her name was called.
"Thanks," said Buffy simply, pleased.
The cheerleader didn't want to smile, but did anyway, then continued walking, her own inner-dialogue in progress:(That kiss wasn't the only thing you liked.
It was going to be a long year.