Lunchtime was a messy mix of teenagers, gossip, hunger and hormones, but this was the normal part of their world. The parts where headless corpses were found in the freezer and the lunch lady served up the mystery meal of the day were a couple of exceptions. Buffy, Xander, Willow and Oz sat together at one table trying to bring Oz up to speed on everything that had happened.
Looking upset that he had not been around to offer help, Oz told them, “The band is booked pretty solidly over the next few weeks. I don’t know how much I’ll be around for research. Willow, you should definitely call me if you guys ever need the van. Or a werewolf,” he added wryly.
“Thanks, Oz,” Willow squeezed his hand conveying her gratitude. “Maybe it’s better if you don’t get involved.”
Oz’ expression didn’t change as he calmly pointed out, “You’re involved.”
“Awww! That’s so sweet.”
Watching Willow hug her boyfriend and plant a mushy kiss on his cheek, Buffy felt a big void in her heart. She thought about the way Angel had comforted Cordelia after Giles’ big announcement and remembered the gentle strength of those arms. It just wasn’t fair that Angel should be so wrapped up about Cordelia Chase.
Every time she thought about the way she had forced them to patrol together, expecting they would drive each other insane, it made her a little crazy instead. Now Angel was acting differently and Buffy suspected his relationship with Cordy was to blame. Look at the way he had attacked Faith.
He was protective. Okay, so that was not a bad quality in a boyfriend. Still, there were times when Angel reminded her more of Angelus’ possessive, obsessive side. Heaven help anyone who threatened to sneeze in Cordelia’s direction because he acted like he might take off their head for it.
He was verbal. Chatty, much? That was so Cordelia’s influence. Angel had always been the strong silent type. Buffy was not used to him having opinions— unless he had them all along and she just was not listening.
He was totally in command. Bossy. Ordering everyone around like he was the one in charge. She should talk to Giles. It might be Angel’s mansion, but he invited Spike and Drusilla for cripes sake. No way was she ever going to trust those two. Imagine working with Spike to save the world. As if.
Lately, Angel just rubbed her the wrong way.
“Hot enough?” The question startled her out of her Angel-fogged thoughts.
He was definitely hot. Oh yeah. Nothing had changed there.
Buffy blinked slowly into focus as she realized the voice was not asking about Angel’s hotness. “Wh-what?”
Sitting next to her, Xander asked again, “Is your food still hot? You keep pushing it around on your plate.”
“Food…right.” Buffy gulped down several bites in a few seconds. “Mmmm.”
“You scare me.”
Xander returned to the conversation they had been having with Oz when he had noticed that Buffy had zoned out. He lifted a spoonful of green Jell-O to demonstrate what would happen to them if Amolon managed to make it to Earth.
“This is us.” He wiggled the Jell-O around on the spoon. Turning it at an angle, with the green dessert hanging precariously to the side of the spoon, he prepared for a quick demonstration of Amolon’s power.
“This is us after the Big Bad shows up.” Xander bent the spoon back like a catapult. Aiming for a nearby column, he let the Jell-O fly expecting that Oz would be suitably impressed with the splattitude and his use of visual aids.
The wiggly green blob arced through the air.
At the very same moment Principal Snyder stepped up to their table intercepting the Jell-O with his otherwise spotless grey suit. Infuriated, he roared, “Xander Harris!” as they watched the green Jell-O rebound off his lapel and plummet onto his shoe.
In frozen tableau, they watched as the principle’s mouth moved, as his face turned beet red, and the few hairs remaining on the top of his head stood up as if electrified by his fury. The whole cafeteria stopped to listen. More gossip fodder? Noting that it was just Xander Harris up to his usual lowbrow hijinks, they turned their attention back to their own conversations.
“Detention, Mr. Harris,” Snyder doled out the punishment that included scrubbing the graffiti found earlier that day on the school grounds. It did not matter that he was not responsible for it. He would clean it anyway.
Xander gulped and sank down into his chair.
Leaning down to speak to Buffy, Snyder added, “I wasn’t able to trace the Chem Lab heist to you, Summers, but I’m not about to let you walk away scot-free.” His beady gaze circled the table pausing over each of them. A satisfied little smirk tightened his mouth. “Detention for all of you.”
Spike opened the basement door and saw Cordelia and Angel going through some Tai Chi moves. “So this is where you two get down and dirty.”
He took a seat on the top step and lit up a cigarette, pocketing his flip-top lighter.
“For your information, we’ve been training.” Cordelia continued the cooling down exercises.
Talking did not distract her from matching Angel’s moves exactly. Her cheerleading drills had instilled a sense of timing, an innate physical memory. Dressed in a tight little outfit that showed every curve, Spike had more to admire than just the way she moved.
No wonder Peaches had dumped the slayer. For the first time since being tortured, Spike felt his cock twitch to life. The wood was a good sign his body was almost recovered. That bloody bitch had weakened him so much he could not even get hard. Isobel was going to pay for that, too.
The swill the watchers were feeding him certainly did not help. Pig blood. Swine. How the bloody hell did Angel survive on that bland stuff? What he would not give for a mouthful of hot, red blood fresh from a ripe woman. The one right in front of him caused his thoughts to shift in a dangerous direction.
If Angel even suspected that he was imagining what it would be like to sink his fangs into his lover’s beautiful neck, Spike knew he would have his bollocks for it. Though Angel had already warned him to stay away from Cordy, he noticed that she was not marked in any way. There was no visible claim.
Spike was not stupid enough to go there. If Angel was dumb enough to let his girl go around without his mark, then that was his problem.
Taking a quick drag, he held the warm smoke in his dead lungs until it burned and then blew it out. “Do you really think Lover Boy will let you anywhere near a fight, pet?”
It did not take a verbal reply for Angel to get his point across. One look told Spike he had better mind his own business. Not that it had any effect. Bloody boring, that.
Cordelia stopped mid motion and turned toward the stairs again. Her skin was shiny and beaded with perspiration. A wet spot had gathered between her breasts drawing Spike’s gaze for an instant before he hastily turned his attention back to her face.
“I make my own decisions, Blondie,” she crossed her arms defiantly. “Maybe I don’t have natural slaying skills, but I have as much right as anyone else to defend myself and my friends. Angel knows that. Don’t you?”
The pause before he answered lasted a second too long for Cordelia’s liking. Spike had to chuckle over the outrage on her face. “Right,” he glared at Spike over Cordy’s shoulder. “Absolutely. When and if there is an attack on the mansion, you’ll be ready for it.”
“But I want to patrol with you again,” Cordelia turned around to face Angel. “That’s what this training is all about. We’re Team Chase. Nothing can stop us. I’m tired of being cooped up like some pathetic little princess in an ivory tower.”
Angel visibly struggled for a response. Looking pained about it, he finally said, “You can’t put yourself at risk that way.”
“What? It’s my life. Do you know how long it has been since I’ve been to the Bronze? And I’m not even asking for that. If I want to go out, then I’m going out.”
“The hell you are.”
Icily, Cordelia said, “Excuse me?”
Oh, ho! Looks like trouble in paradise, thought Spike, biting back a laugh and taking that as his cue to leave. His fag had burned down low so the glowing ash hung at the end. A flick sent it to the top step where he stood and stomped it out with his boot.
Angel argued, “The mansion is the safest place you can be right now.”
Cordelia argued right back. “Your smarmy friend can walk around in sunlight. He might show up here anytime. Who’s to say he can’t just come through the front door invite or no invite?”
“Cordy, for once will you listen to what I’m—”
Spike closed the basement door behind him, blocking out the sounds of the conflict below and went to find Drusilla for a shag.