Almost everything was set for the party. Buffy checked her reflection once more and adjusted her sarong before stepping out into the pool area.
"Hey... Where do I set up?" someone asked behind her.
She turned. "Oh, hey Oz."
"Hey," he nodded.
She waved at the girl standing by his side. "Willow, hey."
"Hey," the redhead waved. "Is it... okay that I'm here?"
"Of course it is," Buffy scoffed as if that were the most ridiculous question ever. But really, she couldn't blame her for asking. "You're completely welcome here."
Willow gave her a grateful, thin-lipped smile.
Buffy turned to Oz, "Um... over there, by the speakers?"
"Got it." Oz lugged his DJ equipment up the platformed steps.
"Ding dong," Larry announced, the first in a procession of young men lugging kegs. "Did somebody say... beer?"
"Yes, I believe someone did," Buffy answered, happily fleeing from the uncomfortable Willowness.
"At your service, Miss Summers. And I do mean service."
She smiled. "Think I'll just take the beer, thanks."
"Ooh, shot down again." He put a hand over his heart. "I don't think I can take much more of this."
Cordelia and Harmony strutted in. "Oh no, we're unfashionably early! Let's wait inside to make our big entrance." Cordelia turned to Buffy. "We'll be needing cocktails, natch."
"This way please," Buffy smiled, directing her to the bar.
* * *
"Now what?" Anya asked, door half open.
"I need Xander's help," Spike said.
"Look, you can't stay here forever. You know that, right? And if you do, you have to pay rent. Lots of it."
"I'm not staying over. I need an address."
"Who's address?" Xander asked from inside.
Spike stepped through the door. "Girl that owns this phone."
* * *
"Hm..." Xander clicked through to the next window. "Buffy, Buffy, Buffy... where are ya, Buff?"
"What kind of a name is Buffy?" Anya wondered.
"Rich," Xander said.
"Oh," said Anya, considering it for her first-born.
Spike looked at the phone that Xander had charged by way of some technological whatzit. Or, maybe he just had the same plug. Home: 213-
Anya was looking over his shoulder. "Why don't you just call her?"
"'Cause he wants to get it on with the Buffster."
Spike scoffed. "Do not."
"That was quick," Anya shrugged. "One single day after the world revolves around Dru and it's onto the next sexual conquest. Hmpf. Typical male."
"I don't want to... conquer her! I just want to return the bloody phone."
"Uh-huh," Xander nodded, unconvinced. "Hey, no judgment. I hope you're very happy together in your dreams."
"Shut your gob, Harris."
"Funny British insults will not make this go faster..." Click, click, click... "Or maybe they will. Buffy Summers, daughter of Hank. One Never Gonna Get Her Drive, Out of Your League, USA."
"Let me see that--" he peered closer, committing the real address to memory. He slapped him on the back. "Thanks, mate."
* * *
Buffy's arm brushed against Willow's at the snack bar. "Oh! I'm sorry. Go ahead."
"No, you," Willow said.
"Really, Will. I'm the hostess, remember? It's all you."
Willow made a funny face. "You haven't called me that in a long time."
Buffy winced inwardly. "Guess I haven't." Awkward silence. "So, um... where are you going next year?"
Willow chewed on a Tostito. "Yale."
"Really? Wow. Good for you."
"Yeah. It's gonna be hard to be away from Oz, but... I think we'll make it."
"You guys are pretty tight, huh?"
"Since eleventh grade, yeah."
"Right." I should probably know that.
"Where are you gonna go?"
"Nowhere so exciting. Just USC."
"That's good! That's a great school. Their humanities department is the--"
Suddenly, an arm was hooked through Buffy's and she was pulled away from the buffet table. "What are you doing?" Cordelia asked her ear.
"Getting a snack, actually--" She looked behind her.
"Before or after you slipped down a social rung?" Her voice dropped to a whisper. "What's she doing here, anyway?"
"She's dating the DJ. Cord, we're not in high school anymore. We don't have to play 'avoid the loser.'"
"I'm gonna have to disagree with that... Angel!" She scampered off to be with her longterm guy.
Buffy sighed, returning his terse nod. Where was her longterm guy?
* * *
Spike zigzagged through a driveway full of cars. Party going on -- he only hoped it didn't involve dear old Dad. When he saw some high school kids jump out of the Lexus in front of him, he sighed. Didn't know which was worse.
Spike parked, smoothed his hair in the rearview and stepped out.
Laughter and music echoed loudly, but the monstrous excuse for a house was dark. Following the path the kids took to the back, he rounded a corner into a sea of rampaging teenage hormones. Bikini-clad girls and swimtrunk-wearing boys, some in the pool, some not.
He saw her immediately.
She was alight in a crowd of dancers, her hair and skin glowing, setting her apart somehow. Baby blue, shimmery string bikini top, a matching patterened sarong that clung to her every curve. And the way she was moving... undulating to the smooth, driving beat, flickering and flowing like loose liquid fire.
This was nothing like the girl he met two days ago, but he knew her just the same.
He stalked forward, slowly, weaving through the crowd.