PART FIVE: 17th March 2004
Chapter Five: Third Date Jig
"Well Buffy's always had a thing for cooking, haven't you Buffy?"
Willow was talking to Toni while Buffy herself was leaning back in her seat, one arm draped comfortably around her date's shoulders.
"Huh? Sorry Wills, what was that?" Buffy pulled her eyes away from the couch on the other side of the chill-out room. She had managed to head everyone to the other end when they'd first decided to take a break from the packed dance-floor.
"I said you've always worked in the food industry." Willow twisted in her seat to look behind her. "Is there someone we know?"
That made Buffy sit up and take more notice.
"Uh, no, I just, you know..."
Everyone clearly didn't know and she certainly wasn't going to fill them in on why a random empty couch was keeping her more entertained than her friends and girlfriend. Even Faith looked a little blank about her weird interest, but Buffy couldn't tell if she was as clueless as the rest or if she was just acting it.
Buffy cleared her throat. "Have I always worked in the food industry?"
"Well there's your job now at the diner and you used to work at the Doublemeat Palace," Willow explained.
"You used to work at Doublemeat Palace?" Toni turned to her with a smile.
"Oh yeah," Buffy grinned back. "But they sacked me in the end for being an under-achiever; they knew I was never going to earn one of those stupid buttons."
She'd actually been sacked for absenteeism in the end, something that was Warren's fault, and Andrew's, Jonathan's, Willow's... Her dismissal was the only bright spark in what had been a really awful couple of weeks.
"So did you have to wear the cute cow and chicken hat?" Toni asked with a teasing smile.
"What's so cute about having a chicken ass sticking out of the back of you're head?" Faith was sitting on the arm of one couch and Troy was standing behind her, his hands resting comfortably on her shoulders.
Buffy wasn't very sure about that one herself, but if Toni said it was cute, then who was she to argue with her.
"I think the cuteness came from how red she went whenever Buffy saw one of us come in," Xander laughed easily. "Man, you must have died that time Riley saw you!"
Buffy shot him a look that plainly said 'What are you doing!?'
Xander gave her one back that plainly said 'Absolutely no idea.'
"So was Riley your boyfriend?" Asked Toni.
"Not at that point no, we'd split up by then." Buffy told her. "Long before then." She emphasized.
"I was wondering what happened to corn-boy, B. I thought he was The One, know what I'm saying? You two just seemed to click." Faith was grinning at her.
"Yeah, well, you would know." Buffy stared back at her, not smiling, until Faith's grin faltered and she looked away, seeming uncomfortable.
Willow either didn't understand the tension that suddenly poured over the conversation or she was too drunk to care about it. She turned to Faith and told her, and in the process Toni, the tale.
"Riley started seeing Va-ow..." Willow rubbed her arm where Kennedy had just pinched her. "... um, vapid ho's behind Buffy's back..."
"That shit was cheating on you!" Faith turned back to Buffy, full of indignation on her behalf.
Buffy shrugged. "That's about the size of it."
"So tell me how much pain he was in when you kicked his ass," Faith pushed. "Did you make him cry? Did you cut off his cheating cock and shove it up his ..."
"It wasn't like that," Buffy interrupted her. "He wasn't sleeping with them."
Faith just looked at her confused. "Well, what was it like? Either he was cheating on you or he wasn't."
"It's complicated and I have much better things to do tonight that re-open long healed wounds." Buffy tightened her arm around Toni's shoulder. "Do you wanna go dance some more?"
Toni stood immediately and held out her hand for Buffy's. "Yes, lets."
"Good, let's go." Standing and taking Toni's hand, Buffy took them back to the dance-floor, hoping the pounding Irish techno-jig would push the conversation she'd just endured out of her head.
Toni was a good dancer, but she wasn't as good as Faith. Buffy was pretty sure that no one was as good as Faith and that was just something she was going to have to learn to live with.
They were dancing a foot apart, which reminded Buffy more of dancing with Willow and Xander than a date, but that was okay. She didn't know if Toni felt uncomfortable dancing with another woman or if she realised that Buffy was, and was just being a good girlfriend.
If she was dancing with Faith right now, there probably wouldn't be an inch between them and Buffy wouldn't have a choice in the matter.
'See? Faith would be a bad girlfriend...So stop thinking about her!'
Buffy kicked her stupid brain and grinned up at Toni. "So are you glad we came here instead of going to the nice, quiet, romantic restaurant you've wanted to go to for ages?" She shouted over the music.
"Yes; your friends are very entertaining!" Toni shouted back.
Okay, so did that mean that Toni would rather be entertained by her friends than have the romance with Buffy herself?
Toni must have seen her face drop a little. "Buffy, we don't need to go to an expensive restaurant neither of us can really afford just to have an amorous night together."
"Amorous, huh?" Well that sounded more like it, but she was a little dubious. She looked around her at the multitude of clubbers. Faith's night was so far a big success. "Here; are you sure?"
Toni danced a little closer. "Yes, anywhere."
Buffy danced in a little closer herself. "Well that's good to know."
There weren't many inches between them now as Buffy looked up into Toni's smiling face and Toni looked down into Buffy's. It was easy and the most natural thing in the world for Buffy to put her hands on the Italian's shoulders and lean up to kiss her slowly on the lips.
"Place is full of fuckin' dy..."
Buffy's eyes were shut, but she heard the rowdy shout from somewhere close in the crowd behind her. She cringed with humiliation and anger.
Toni pulled away just as the squeal at the end of the sentence registered and Buffy's eyes flew open. She turned around expecting to see a pissed off Willow and a puzzled bunny, but instead she saw Faith physically strong-arming some big guy out of the club.
The clubbers followed her as one across the floor to the main entrance, where they watched her throw the guy out on his ass in the rain.
"And don't fuckin' come back while I'm around." Faith turned to a group of guys standing by her side and sniggering openly. "Any of you share your buddy's opinions?"
The group looked around at each other and Faith smacked her fist into her palm impatiently. They hurriedly chose a spokesperson with a little shoving and he stumbled forward, speaking almost too quick to understand.
"Hell no, the dude's a prick. We hardly know him, seriously."
"Hey!" Came the pissed off reply from their friend outside.
They ignored him.
"Is that right?" Faith asked, fist still smacking her palm.
"For sure, I have a second cousin who's que...uh, gay, and he's cool, ya know?" The spokes-dude was trying to melt backwards into his friends.
Buffy watched as Faith shook her head, dismissing them, and started to walk away. She turned back when someone else in the crowd around the door called out:
"Casey can bench press 250, how did you do that?"
"Casey's a pussy who can only bench 250." Faith responded casually. "Half the women I know could take him."
A few people laughed and then when it was clear the show was over, they drifted back to dancing, drinking, having a good time.
As Faith walked past, Buffy put out a hand to take hold of her arm. "Thanks."
Faith brushed her off. "Don't need chumps like that ruining my night." She disappeared into the crowd.
Buffy and Toni went back to dancing. The foot gap was back and now Buffy was even more conscious of it. After what felt like an eon with Buffy imagining everyone's eyes on them, Toni lifted her voice to carry above the music.
"Can I get you another drink?"
Buffy all but melted with relief. "Yes please, whatever you're having."
"Would you like to go and sit back down while you wait?"
Yes, she did. She felt so 'on show' out here on the dance floor, but that felt rude and she hated the feeling that she was giving in to the loud-mouthed homophobe from before.
She dithered without answering until Toni put a warm hand on her shoulder. "Buffy go, I will just be a minute."
Nodding, Buffy watched Toni walk away through the crowd until she was hidden by the mass of bodies. She looked around, trying to guess the direction to the back room where her friends were chilling when her eyes caught Faith's across the floor.
Some Brownian motion thing had bounced all the clubbers out of their line of sight as the two Slayers looked at each other. As Buffy smiled awkwardly and waved her hands in a gesture that obviously said 'And here I am all alone!' Faith gave her a stoic nod and turned to speak to Troy.
"Thanks for the save." Buffy muttered sarcastically as she pushed past men and women alike to get to the seated area at the back only to find no one was back there. "Great!"
She turned on the spot, checking out the whole room in case her friends had moved to another couch for some reason, but no. Aside from one cosy couple necking in a corner she was alone.
Necking, now what made her think of a term like that? She sighed with impatience as the static-y feeling rolling around in her gut caught her attention. Just what she didn't need.
Conscious that Toni would be back any minute with drinks, Buffy stormed up to the pair, pulling the guy off of the girl with impossible ease.
"Hey!" Shouted both surprised kissers.
"You'll thank me for it when you don't wake up dead in the morning." She told whichever was the victim, pulling her stake free from her leather pants.
Raising it, she noticed both of their frightened, human faces.
What the hell... they were both human? Then what was...?
Something landed on her shoulders, forcing her to the ground. Buffy managed to twist as she fell and her attacker landed on her stomach, struggling to pin her arms down as he shouted at her:
"What the fuck Slayer?! I didn't touch your friends; these are mine!" He growled through his fangs.
The formerly happy couple side-stepped hurriedly as the vampire's eyes flashed yellow.
"S'okay." She called out to them as she struggled on the floor. "I got it under control. If you could just..."
The pair couldn't control themselves any longer and ran off into the depths of the club.
"Yeah, that was pretty much what I had in mind." Buffy got an arm free and smashed her palm into the vampire's nose, splattering it and making him howl with rage. "I should warn you, I seem to have super strength today!" She kicked him off of her. His back hit the wall and he slid down. "See?"
Scrambling back up, he advanced again. "Don't you have super strength all the time?"
"Well yeah...fuck!" His blow knocked her head back and sent her mind reeling for a second. She shook her head and stepped forward again. "But today is special."
He punched her again, but she ducked it this time. "Oh yeah? Why's that, 'Because I'm going to kill you today' maybe?
She laughed. "I wish it were that simple." She kicked him in the stomach and he flew backwards into the wall again. "No, tonight I'm having sex for the first time."
It was his turn to laugh as he righted himself once more. "I heard stories about you Slayer; you really think I'm going to believe that you of all people are still a virgin?"
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
He charged at her, fangs bared.
"Never mind." Buffy stepped to the side and planted her stake in the Vampire's chest. She was already turning as he disintegrated. "Hey Toni, that was quick."
"It most certainly did not feel quick at the bar. Were you talking to someone?"
"What? No. Everyone must be off dancing." Buffy eagerly accepted her drink.
"Oh, I thought when I entered that I saw someone else here with you."
"Nope, just you, me and the dust bunnies." Buffy chuckled at her own wit; the short fight had her blood pumping fast through her veins. "Wanna make out?" She asked mischievously, running her free hand up Toni's arm to her shoulder.
"Right here?" The Italian's eyes were twinkling too as Buffy's fingers stroked the side of her neck, playing with the long strands of dark hair that fell past her shoulders.
Buffy stepped closer. "Well, you were the one who said we could have an amorous night anywhere."
"I thought you were no longer in the mood."
"I'm not going to let one idiot ruin this evening for us." Buffy said sincerely.
She set her drink down on a table and, taking Toni's hand, sat down on the couch previously occupied by them all. Toni had no choice but to follow her down, but she didn't seem to mind. Not even looking about her, Buffy leaned in close until Toni's warm breath tickled her lips.
When she felt Toni's hand gently rub against the back of her neck, Buffy closed her eyes and kissed her.
This was better; this was how the night was supposed to be.
Toni seemed completely relaxed already and it didn't take Buffy long to catch up. Leaning back against the couch, she felt the buzz from the alcohol and the fight slowly dissipate to leave behind the warmth that just kissing Toni caused.
"Hey guys, we were looking for you everywhere."
Buffy groaned against Toni's lips as Willow not only broke their intimate moment by disturbing them, but also by falling onto the couch all out of breath.
There was never just one idiot though, was there!
Toni moved to give Buffy some space.
"We were just catching our breath." Buffy answered as she reached over for her drink.
"Yeah, was that what the mouth to mouth was for?"
Buffy twisted around to look behind her. Faith was standing there, smirking.
"No, that was about kissing." Smirking back, Buffy faced front again, her hand seeking out Toni's to hold.
"Good answer," she heard Faith mutter before announcing that she was going to the bar.
Considering Faith had wanted her to come tonight, she didn't seem to be too pleased that Buffy had.
Faith had obviously run to the bar too fast for Troy to follow. He sat down now on the couch opposite and leaned forward to talk to Toni about something Buffy couldn't be bothered to listen to. Instead, she finished the remains of her drink and slipped her hand out of Toni's. She had better go see what was wrong with Faith.
"I'm just going to get a refill," she explained when Toni looked up at her. "You want one?"
"I am fine, thank you, il mio amore."
Buffy didn't bother asking Troy as she stood and made her way around the back of the couch and, after a second's hesitation, headed in the right direction for the bar.
It was three deep in some places, but Buffy didn't scan the area like she normally would to find the easiest place to squeeze in. Instead she scanned for Faith. She spotted her almost instantly and quickly slipped in next to her.
"Hey." She shouted over the noise of the bar and the music still pounding from deeper in the club.
Faith turned her head and nodded in reply.
Buffy convinced herself that Faith just couldn't be bothered to shout. "So this club night seems to be a success; are you planning any more?"
Faith pointed to a flyer stuck to a beam of the bar. It had a list of dates below Faith's name.
"Did the cat get your tongue?" Buffy asked, teasing, after she'd spent several seconds reading the flyer.
"If you'd been paying attention in the past month you'd have known about the flyers. In fact, you might even have helped with them like Dawn and Willow did." Faith shouted into Buffy's ear.
Buffy chewed the inside of her cheek while Faith wriggled closer to the bar, away from her.
She thought about backing off and going back to her girlfriend, but of course that didn't happen. She pushed her own way closer, apologizing to people as she did.
"So how's your face?" Buffy said loudly into Faith's ear when she was right behind her.
Faith turned almost fully around, her upper body brushing against Buffy's. "How's it look?"
"Good." And it did. The bruises along Faith's cheek had disappeared altogether before they'd even left for the party, and now she was back to her beautiful, unmarred self.
Faith twisted back around without replying and called to the over-worked barman for service.
Buffy put her arm around Faith's neck and leaned closer. "What is it, Faith? You've gone bad mood-girl all of a sudden. You weren't this stand-offish after I kicked your face in."
"Yeah, but that doesn't answer my question." Buffy grinned.
"You seem to be spending a lot of time today violating the 'No touching' rule you made a while ago." Faith pointed out.
Buffy's arm went stiff around Faith's shoulders, but she didn't move it yet. "Does it bother you?"
Now she removed her arm. "Okay, fine, I'll leave you alone."
Buffy started to squeeze her way back out of the throng and into the relatively clear space beyond. She'd just made it when her arm was grabbed from behind.
"Okay, you're doing the touching now, so..." She allowed herself to be swung around to face the younger Slayer.
"Just shut up and drink this." Faith pushed a shot glass into her hand.
Buffy looked at the amber liquid and then back into Faith's eyes. "Is this what I have to do to get a smile out of you tonight?"
"Yeah, say it is."
Shrugging, Buffy drank it down in one gulp, and then there was the usual splutter-fest that always accompanied the Jack Daniels. "Go on then," she coughed.
Faith had already broken into the wide dimply smile Buffy loved. "You're a dork, you know that?" She threw back her own shot.
"And like you're not."
"Whatever." Faith waved that away. "Look B, Will told me why you didn't want to come tonight..."
"She did?!" Buffy looked over towards the chill-out room but there were people in the way and a couple of walls. "What the hell..?"
Faith dragged her to the side and through the door to the restrooms, where it was quieter and they could talk without shouting.
"Buff, don't be mad at her."
"I'm not! It's you I'm mad at. If she told you, why did you invite Toni anyway?" Buffy pulled her elbow from Faith's grasp and leaned back against the cool wall of the corridor. "What are you punishing me for now?"
"Whoa, back off B. Firstly it was Dawn and Kennedy that told your chick about the party, not me. I came back from letting Troy in the front door and they were rail-roading her into saying she'd come; and secondly, Red didn't tell me until we were in cab on the way here and by then there was nothing any of us could do."
Buffy let out a long breath, still leaning against the wall. It had been a long night already and according to her watch it was still early.
"Okay, I'm sorry for jumping down your throat. So is that why you've been pissy with me most of the evening? Because I was gonna miss your big night just to have sex?"
Faith gave a loud and sudden burst of laughter, catching Buffy off-guard. She looked warily at her.
"I haven't been pissy; I've just been trying to keep out of your way." Buffy looked at her blankly until Faith continued. "Red said I might knock you off your groove with Toni, y'know, distract you or whatever. Which, let's face it, I could do without even trying." She finished with a smile and a little waggle of the eyebrows.
"Now I'm mad at Willow and I'm mad at you all over again." Buffy was about to leave it at that as she pushed open the door to the ladies, but stopped on the threshold to look back. "Oh, and newsflash Faith: It would take a lot more than anything you could do to distract me. I am so there with Toni tonight." With a wink she let the restroom door close behind her, almost but not quite blocking out Faith's answering chuckle.
Buffy leaned on a damp sink, grinning nervously at her reflection and counting to one hundred to give Faith time to leave.
What was she doing? Tonight was not the night for playing games. At least not with Faith! Hopefully the other Slayer would take her comments at face value and not as a challenge. The little tingle running through her obviously hoped otherwise. It wasn't like she could say she was drunk either. Apart from the shot of whiskey Faith had just bought for her, Buffy had been very cautious with how much she was drinking and was still barely more than tipsy.
The best idea was to go and get Toni right now and leave. Right this second.
She was still leaning on the sink staring into the mirror a couple of minutes later when the door swung open and Toni came in.
"Faith told me you were in here. Is everything okay?"
Buffy turned to face her, smiling, her butt leaning on the edge of the sink and her hands still loosely gripping the sides.
"Yeah, how about you - are you enjoying the party? Faith did a great job, don't you think?"
Toni smiled. "I think Troy wishes she would do a little less work and spend a little more time with him."
"I'm sure she'll make it up to him later." Leaving the sink, Buffy moved closer to her girlfriend and reached up to wrap her arms around her neck. Faith faded from her mind as Toni leaned down and kissed her lightly.
As Buffy tilted her head a little to one side and pressed their lips together again, the door was barged open and a couple of women came in, laughing hard and staggering. They didn't even seem to notice as Buffy and Toni quickly stepped apart, Buffy giggling, embarrassed, and Toni smiling despairingly back.
"I think it is maybe time we went back to my apartment, do you agree?" Toni asked as the two women disappeared into cubicles.
"Very much with the agreeing." Buffy reached for her hand and led them out of the restroom and back into the main room of the club. "We'll just say goodbye and grab our coats and then straight back to yours. We shouldn't speak to anyone except to say goodbye." She thought the last bit out loud.
"Okay." Toni agreed. If she thought Buffy was weird, her tone didn't show it. She seemed quite happy to be led along.
The further they made their way through the club, the more obvious it became to the Slayer that things were not the same as they had been when she had entered the corridor with Faith ten minutes ago.
More people were standing around talking than were actually dancing and a lot of them were looking panicked. Halfway to the chill out room, the music was cut off with a screech and the microphone made the sound of being tapped by a finger.
Buffy stopped, letting go of Toni's hand and turning to see who was about to speak. It was Faith. Buffy looked up as Willow and Kennedy stopped by her side.
"What's going on?" She asked quickly.
"Hear what Faith has to say and then we'll fill in the blanks." Willow promised.
Buffy nodded as Faith, up on the stage, started to speak.
"Okay, I know some of you are freaked but from what we can gather, it's just a really bad storm - really fucking bad if I'm honest. But storms pass, right? So it's just a case of bunkering down until it does. I've cleared it with management that everyone can stay in here until that time comes and there'll be sodas on the house 'til morning. Those of you who wanna booze your way through it - go right ahead; just don't expect me to pay for it."
There were nervous laughs from the crowd.
Buffy looked at Willow again.
Willow looked past Buffy at Toni and then pulled the Slayer a little away. "It's a storm like she says, but it's not a natural one. At least it doesn't seem natural. Giles called ten minutes ago after he saw some disturbing weather reports for Cleveland. He said a bunch of stuff but we somehow got cut off before he could explain what it all meant."
"But is it really that serious?" Buffy looked doubtful, her attention every few seconds went to Faith who was still on the stage talking.
"Come see for yourself." Kennedy walked purposely through the crowds to the front doors of the club. Buffy and Willow followed her, leaving Toni listening to Faith.
Swinging one door open, Kennedy gestured for Buffy to look outside.
All she could see was a thick curtain of rain; it was impossible to even see the buildings on the other side of the street.
While that was a lot of rain, Buffy couldn't see what had everyone so concerned. So people would get a little wet on the way home; they'd dry again surely.
Stepping out from under the foyer, she noticed the sharp flashes for the first time and she jumped when lightening struck a few feet to her left. She backed up as another strike hit to her right and then another somewhere across the street. Another hit a trash can, sending up a fountain of sparks. A car was hit and the alarm started blaring, joining several others that Buffy only now noticed above the din of the rain. She could make out a few sirens too, but none seemed to be coming closer.
She turned and dashed back into the doorway, dripping a little. "Okay I get it now." She panted, still shaken by her minute outside. "I can't believe you let me go out there!" She snapped at Kennedy.
The youngest Slayer shrugged. "Faith let me go out there."
Despite almost getting fried, Buffy had to chuckle at that. "So we stay here a while then. Do we have any reports of how widespread it is, or how long it might last? Has anyone tried getting through to Giles again?"
"Only like a thousand times." Dawn joined them by the door along with Xander. She held up her cell phone to show she was still trying. "The networks must be down."
Buffy saw Troy approach Toni and the two began talking together. At the back of the club, Faith finally jumped off the stage and made her way over. Pausing first with her boyfriend and Toni, Buffy saw her say a few words and then kiss Troy soundly on the mouth. She also touched Toni's shoulder lightly before leaving them alone and walking up to Buffy and her friends.
"So we've got ourselves a situation." She remarked as soon as she was close enough to be heard above the hub-bub dominating the room.
Buffy looked over at Toni and sighed.
It was really hard to tell if this was some kind of third-date-curse-mojo or just her love life sticking to its usual form.
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