Erica Kane wandered into her living room, looking for her daughter.
She tried to remember that a lady doesn't raise her voice, but while Erica did consider herself feminine, she had long ago given up the idea that she was a "lady."
"In the kitchen, Mom!"
So had her daughter, apparently.
Erica clacked her way into the kitchen, always enjoying the sound her shoes made no matter what surface she walked on. She found her daughter sitting at the table, various papers and catalogues strewn around her.
"Well? Have you been looking into colleges?" she asked Bianca.
"Yes, I have, Mother."
"And? I was thinking Vassar."
Bianca held her gagging reflex in check.
"Or perhaps the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising."
"Those are good choices, Mom, excellent schools. I thought of one or two others as well."
"Oh good, one mustn't narrow one's options too much. So where else are we looking? Harvard? Yale? Perhaps something on the West coast. Stanford."
"I was thinking something a little more low key. Sunnydale."
"Sunny . . . dale?" Erica looked like she'd just swallowed a bad batch of caviar.
"Yes. It's in California, a little North of LA. It's calm, quiet, all reports of an excellent school, and they also have a strong arts program."
"Yeah. Remember, I told you I wanted to study art. I can still do fashion design too. I was thinking of double majoring in marketing and art."
"Why not marketing and business?"
Bianca sighed inwardly. Outwardly she smiled and said, "We already discussed this, Mom. I want to study art and since it is me going to school it makes sense that I do something that interests me."
"Well, all right. You haven't . . . set your heart on anything, though, have you?"
"No, Mom. But I did schedule a campus tour. If that's all right with you, of course."
"Of course. When did you set it for?"
"Three weeks from now, I'm going to spend the weekend of the 5th there."
"The fifth? Oh, but Honey, I have to be out of town then, remember? The gala in New York?"
::Of course I remember::
"Oh, no, Mom. But I can't reschedule, this was the only available time."
"Well, maybe I can go to the gala and fly out after that, join you there for a day or two."
"Mom, the gala's on a Saturday. I'm visiting Sunnydale from Friday through Sunday. You'd end up getting there early Sunday and then leaving late Sunday. That makes no sense."
"Well . . ."
"I'll be fine, Mom. Besides, letting me see it on my own will be good for me."
"Oh, I see, because I'm such a fuddy duddy you can't have fun if I'm there."
"No, Mom, you know I don't think that. I just really want to go see this school and this was the only available time. And since this is a big step, going away to school, I think seeing it on my own will help prepare me for that."
"I don't see why you have to `go away' at all. Why can't you stay right here?"
"Oh mom, we've been over this." Bianca stood up and moved to the fridge, searching through it for a soda.
"I know, I know. I'm just going to miss you, that's all."
"Mooom," Bianca moved to her mother and put her arms around her shoulders, "I haven't left yet, and good heavens, I'm only going to school, not dying."
"But it's so far away." Erica pouted.
"You suggested Stanford."
"Well I didn't think you'd take me up on it."
Bianca smiled. "We'll still be close. Just not physically."
Erica looked at her. "Wait, I thought you hadn't decided yet."
Bianca thought quick, "I'm just trying to prepare you for the worst while you hope for the best."
Erica patted Bianca's arm. "You're so good to me."
"Yes I am."
Three weeks later, Bianca found herself in a limousine on her way to the airport.
"Now, you have everything, right? Clothes, toothbrush, make-up, all the essentials, right?"
Bianca laughed, "Yes, I even packed extra shoes."
"That's my girl. You look so nice in that dress, have I told you that? That color is great on you." Erica patted Bianca's knee.
Bianca looked down at the sky blue dress Erica had bought her the day before.
"Thank you, Mom. It's a lovely dress."
Erica smiled tightly and patted Bianca's knee again.
"It's only a weekend, Mom. What's going to happen when I actually leave for school?"
"I'm trying not to think about it."
The rest of the ride was silent, each woman lost in her own thoughts. Erica imagined Bianca deciding to simply stay and become a supermodel, as any young girl is supposed to want to do. After all, why did she have all this money and power of not to give it to her daughter?
Bianca daydreamed about meeting someone in Sunnydale. Someone nice, caring, gentle, and someone who had no idea who Erica Kane was.
At the gate to the plane Erica hugged Bianca. "Have fun. Look around and meet people, but please, don't set your heart on anything."
"All right, Mom, I won't. I love you and I'll see you in a few days."
Bianca picked up her carry-on and got on the plane.
Erica once again wondered how in the world she had spawned such an introvert.
On the plane, Bianca found herself sitting next to a couple of older women. Bianca was in the aisle seat.
"Hey Sugar, be a dear and flag down one of those stewardesses." the woman next to the window said.
"You don't need to flag them down, Carla, you just press the call button." the middle passenger said.
"Oh. Sorry, Dear," Carla leaned over the middle passenger and spoke to Bianca, "it's been a while since I've been on a plane."
"You've never been on a plane."
Carla looked at her friend. "Don't be snippish, Ali."
"I'm not being snippish." Ali replied.
Carla spoke to Bianca again, "She's being snippish. We're going to spend a week with my parents and Ali's not looking forward to it."
"You haven't seen them in ten years. You think this is going to be a picnic?"
"They said yes to the visit, didn't they?"
"You didn't tell them I was coming."
"Well, they should assume."
Bianca regarded the two women thoughtfully. Carla leaned back into her own seat, unaware of the scrutiny. She had blond hair, long, pulled back into a low pony tail. She was dressed casually in dark slacks and a cream blouse. Ali was dark haired. Hers was cut shorter, coming to just below her ears with bangs over her eyes. She was dressed in blue jeans and a v-neck sweater.
"Um, did you still need a stewardess?" Bianca asked.
"Oh, yes, forgot all about that. Thank you, Dear." Carla smiled and pressed the call button.
"If you don't mind my asking, how did you end up on the East coast if you didn't fly there?"
Ali let out a bark of laughter. "She was kidnapped."
Bianca's eyes got wide.
"Oh hush, Alison." Carla smacked her arm. "I wasn't kidnapped. I left of my own free will. It simply took a little convincing on Ali's part."
"A little, she says." Ali leaned towards Bianca and spoke conspiratorially. "I went to her house in the middle of the night, climbed up to her window, tied her up, and put her in my car."
"Are you serious?"
"Yup, and she hasn't left my side since."
Carla hit Ali again, "That's not true. She did not tie me up, even she's not strong enough to climb down that trellis with me on her back. I climbed down myself."
"Only to tell me she wasn't leaving with me."
Bianca smiled, deciding it all sounded terribly romantic and wasn't unaware of the similarity in their story and her own with Sarah. Only it seemed theirs had a much happier ending.
"But she did end up going?" Bianca asked Ali.
"Of course, I'm nothing if not charming." Ali winked at Bianca.
"Took her two hours to convince me. She finally climbed back up and threw my clothes into a suitcase, then we drove and drove and drove . . ." Carla's expression grew distant.
"Driving wasn't all we did." Ali said.
Carla's mind came back to the present and she smacked Ali again. "Hush, she doesn't want to hear about that."
Ali regarded Bianca with a raised eyebrow.
Bianca said, "So you drove all they way across country?"
"Oh, no, we got to Colorado and stayed with my brother for a few months before moving East." Ali answered.
"Running away certainly wasn't easy, but it was the only choice I could have made and stayed happy. Well, relatively." Carla smiled.
This time Ali was the one who smacked her on the arm.
"And you haven't seen your parents since?" Bianca asked.
"Once. They visited us for Christmas."
"That was a fiasco." Ali rolled her eyes.
"I can't imagine going that long without seeing my mother." Bianca said.
"Are you and your mom close?" Carla asked.
"Yes, very. Especially since my father died and I moved back in with her. I lived with him after the divorce but after he died I moved back to Pine Valley."
"Whew, Pine Valley. So you've got bucks." Ali said.
"Ali." Carla's tone was warning.
"Well, yes, I didn't want for anything."
"That's good, count your blessings." Ali said.
This time Carla agreed with her.
"So why are you flying to California?" Carla asked.
"Visiting a school actually, UC Sunnydale."
"What a coincidence, Sunnydale is where we're headed too," Carla smiled
"You could go to school anywhere and you picked Sunnydale?" Ali asked.
"Is there something wrong with Sunnydale?" Bianca asked.
"Oh, no, it's a perfectly nice place, quite lovely in fact, I'd just think you'd want something faster paced, like NYU or something."
"Actually, the slower pace is what I'm looking for." Bianca sighed.
"Well, depending on where you look in Sunnydale, you'll find it." Ali said.
"Course, you can find the fast pace too." Carla said.
"What do you mean?" Bianca asked.
Instead of answering, Carla smiled to the stewardess who finally appeared and ordered a drink.
Bianca spent the rest of the trip talking with her new friends. They exchanged numbers and Carla invited Bianca to visit them at her parent's home if she had time. Ali said that she could also come and visit them at the hotel they may end up getting if the week didn't go well. She earned herself another smack from Carla for that.
After getting off the plane, Bianca found the limo driver her mother had insisted getting for her instead of a taxi to the UC campus.
"Well, this is it. It was very nice meeting you two." Bianca said. "By the way, do you have a ride to Sunnydale? It's a good hour from here. I'm sure I could drop you."
Ali looked around. "Granted, it's been ten years, but I think I'd recognize your parents if they were here."
"We're going to rent a car, Bianca. But thank you for the invitation." Carla hugged Bianca. "Be sure to give us a call if you have time. And you can call us when you get back home, too, let us know how the tour went. Ali's cell works anywhere."
Bianca suddenly found herself wrapped up in a bear hug from Ali.
"Good luck, Kid. Cay's right, give us a ring. Something tells me you need someone to show you the hot spots back home."
"And of course you can call just to talk." Carla smiled.
Bianca grinned. She hugged both women again and thanked God for putting her next to them on the plane. She then followed her driver down to baggage claim and out to the limo.
Back in the airport, Carla turned to Ali. "She seems lonely."
"Yeah. Pine Valley, yeesh. Probably doesn't have anyone she can turn to about herself."
"Well, She'll have plenty of people in Sunnydale."
Ali grinned, "You know it."
Bianca sat calmly in the back of the limousine, listening to a local radio station and trying to stay collected as she got closer to Sunnydale.
"I'm excited, not nervous. Excited." She kept repeating that mantra to herself. The car trip went smoothly, traffic not being as congested as Bianca had been fearing. The driver pulled the limo onto the UCS campus and Bianca used the school map to direct him to student services, where she was supposed to meet her campus guide.
"Here you are, Miss Montgomery." The driver opened her door for her, "The UC Sunnydale Campus. Let me get your bags."
Bianca thanked him as he unloaded her luggage from the trunk. She tipped him and he went on his way. Hefting her carry-on onto her back and dragging her suitcase behind her, she made her way into the student services building, following the directions on the letter, and over to the window marked "Student Aides".
"Hello," Bianca said to the woman at the window, "I'm Bianca Montgomery, I scheduled a campus tour for this weekend."
"All righty, can I see your ID?"
"My driver's license you mean?"
Bianca fished it out. "Here."
The woman took it and clacked her nails on the computer's keyboard a few times. She handed Bianca her license back. "Your guide's name is Tara. That's her, over there. Sign this release and she'll show you where you're staying."
Bianca signed the paper and walked towards the girl the woman had pointed at.
The blond girl turned and smiled shyly, ducking her head.
"H-h-hello. Yes, I -I-I'm Tara Maclay." She put her hand out. "Pleased to mmmeet you."
Bianca wondered why someone with a speech impediment would be a campus guide. She also wondered at Tara's shirt, which read "Miss Kitty Fantastico Rules The Planet" in iron on letters.
"And I'm Willow Rosenburg."
Bianca turned to a red haired girl who also had her hand stuck out. This girl was dressed in a maroon a-line skirt and a peasant blouse, somehow pulling off a vintage hippy look without looking like she was pulling off a vintage hippy look. It just seemed natural on her. Bianca noticed Tara move closer to Willow. Bianca shook Willow's hand.
"Bianca Montgomery. Pleased to meet you both. I didn't realize I'd get two guides."
"Well, Tara's the guide, I'm just the support team." Willow gave Bianca a lopsided smile.
"I've never d-d-done this before. I w-w-was nervous." Tara said.
"Well, that makes two of us. I guess that means that if you do something wrong I won't know." Bianca smiled.
Tara smiled back, seeming to relax a little. "W-well, I guess w-w-we can start at the d-dorms."
"Works for me." Bianca hefted her carry-on when Willow took the suitcase.
"I have to be useful or else I lose my position." Willow said.
Bianca laughed and followed her and Tara out of the building towards the dorms.
"There was a kind of mix-up, or something. I guess they usually reserve a dorm just for campus tours, but there isn't one, so you're rooming with us." Willow said.
"Oh, I can just get a hotel-" Bianca started.
"N-no, that's okay. W-w-we've got room." Tara said.
"Besides, how do you get a taste of dorm life if you don't stay in a dorm?" Willow asked.
They led her up a small hill and into a large brick building. A lounge area was full of students either studying, hanging out, or sleeping.
"People sleep here?" Bianca asked.
"S-s-sometimes. D-d-depends on their r-roommates." Tara replied.
"Yeah, my best friend had a roommate onetime that turned out to be a d-" Willow stopped herself. "A drunk. Yeah, drinking all the time, and you know how drunks get. Loud, that's what they get, and obnoxious. Buffy couldn't take it, she started to go a littleloony-"
Tara elbowed her.
"Anyway, sometimes roommates are bad." Willow finished, slightly blushing.
"B-b-but sometimes they're good." Tara smiled shyly at Willow before turning towards the elevator.
Bianca smiled to herself. Out of Pine Valley for less than a day and she'd already met two happy lesbian couples. She should have brought a video camera to prove to her mother that gay people can be happy. Hence the term "gay."
"Sometimes they're very good." Bianca heard Willow mutter.
Bianca raised an eyebrow to Willow who blushed fiercely and looked at the ground.
The couple led her up to their room and opened the door.
"You can have that bed, Bianca." Willow pointed to the one closest to the closet.
"I can sleep on the floor, I don't want to put anyone out." Bianca protested.
"Don't worry, we don't really use it anyway." Willow set Bianca's suitcase next to the bed.
"S-s-so, this is the room. All the rooms here are pretty much the same. Th-th-they're comfortable and even though the dorms are co-ed, the bathrooms are still single sex, and the rooms are pretty well sound proofed." Tara said.
"It doesn't get, um, well, wild does it?" Bianca asked.
"Wild?" Willow asked.
"Yeah. I don't want to go to a `party school'. It's not constant partying here, is it?"
Tara laughed quietly, "Oh, no. I mean, there are parties, but for the most part it's pretty quiet."
Bianca nodded and looked around the room. She noticed all the occult books, the Wiccan paraphernalia, and the large rat cage in the corner.
"You can have pets?"
"Well, what the officials don't know won't hurt `em." Willow said.
"And you're Wiccan?"
Willow and Tara glanced at each other.
"Y-y-yes. We practice W-witchcraft." Tara answered.
"I've never known Witches before. I don't really know a whole lot about the religion." Bianca sat on her bed.
"We're supposed to be telling you about the school, not trying to convert you to Wicca." Willow said.
"B-b-but we're always happy t-t-to talk about it." Tara added.
"To correct any negative stereotypes you may have heard." Willow finished.
"I'd love to hear more about it." Bianca stood and moved over to the rat, who sat on her rear haunches, staring back at Bianca. That rather weirded Bianca out.
"Th-that's A-a-amy." Tara said.
Amy cocked her head to the side. Bianca somehow knew that Amy would cross her little arms if she could.
"Amy. She's a friend." Willow said.
Bianca slowly turned and looked at Willow.
"S-s-so, should we c-c-continue with the tour?" Tara asked.
"Let's." Willow turned and left the room.
A bewildered Bianca followed.
"And this is the library." Willow swept into the large foyer of the library with her arms spread out and continued into the main room, followed by Tara and Bianca.
"She always does that. She likes this place." Tara said.
Bianca looked around at the unusual architecture decorating the foyer, then gasped at the size of the library itself. The high domed ceiling and high set windows reminded her of a gothic cathedral.
"Cool, huh?" Willow said, smiling lopsidedly again.
"Very." Bianca agreed.
"They've got just about every book you could want on almost any subject."
"And what they don't have, we've got." Tara added.
Bianca noticed her stutter had disappeared. ::She must be relaxing around me::
Suddenly a low rumbling was heard. Willow blushed.
"Sorry, I'm hungry." She looked down at her stomach. "Quiet, I'm busy, I'll feed you later."
Bianca watched as Tara smiled a smile of pure adoration at Willow. Willow was too busy talking to her stomach to notice.
"No rumbling. I mean it." Willow pointed at her stomach, which promptly growled.
"Well, I could eat too, actually." Bianca said.
Both Willow and Tara looked at her.
"Oh, food! I forgot to ask if you were hungry when you got here, I'm s-s-sorry." Tara said.
"No, it's okay, I didn't feel hungry until Willow's stomach did. I was too involved in the tour to think about it." Bianca said.
"Hmm, food. Well, we should probably go to the cafeteria so you can see what it's like to eat there but I really don't feel like their food tonight. Not that there's anything wrong with their food, it's actually pretty good, for cafeteria food, in fact they have ayummy banana bread they serve every now and then, but I sort of feel like Chinese and they won't have Chinese, I'm sure of it, so if that's okay with everyone else we can go get Chinese." Willow said.
Bianca wondered how someone could turn a simple request into Chinese into that long of a diatribe. Tara simply smiled at Willow again.
"Umm, works for me." Bianca said.
"Oh good, let's go back to the room and get some moolah." Willow once again led the way.
"Is she always like that?" Bianca asked Tara.
"Yeah. She's worse if she's hungry and really bad if she's nervous."
"How long have you been dating?"
"About six months." Tara smiled shyly.
Bianca smiled back. "You look cute together."
Tara blushed. "Thank you."
At the dorm, Willow opened the door just in time to hear the phone ring.
"Hello? . . . Hi Buffy, what's up?"
"Buffy's her best friend." Tara said.
"Does Buffy go here too?"
"Yes, I guess she's at her mother's right now though. Her mom's kinda sick."
Bianca and Tara listened to Willow's side of the conversation.
"Actually, we were gonna grab some Chinese, you want to join? . . .Both of them? All right, but if Anya makes any more references to dumplings and Xander's anatomy, I'm going to stab her in the eye with a chopstick . . . I am too serious . . . If you could see me you'd call me serious girl . . . You're going to drive? You're mom's car? Are you sure?"
Bianca saw Tara's eyes go wide.
"Oh, no, Buffy, you're a fine driver." Willow gave Tara a look of desperation. "Safe. Uh huh, safer than I would if, say, a blind person were driving."
Willow took the phone away from her ear for a second, then replaced it. "Okay, so we'll see you in a few? . . . All righty, buh bye." She hung up.
"Buffy's driving?" Tara asked.
"We'll be fine, she's been practicing." Willow didn't look very sure.
Bianca wondered what she'd gotten into.
Willow answered the knock at the door.
"Ready?" a familiar voice asked.
Bianca moved to the door and looked at the girl standing there.
"Kendall?" she asked.
The blond girl looked at her, then turned around and looked behind herself, then turned back to Bianca.
"Nope, just me, little ol' Buffy Summers, at your service."
Bianca shook her head. "I'm sorry, you look an awful lot like my sister."
Buffy smiled. "I get that a lot."
"Hey, ready to go?" Willow grabbed her bag and Tara and dragged the other girl out the door, followed by Bianca, who shut it.
"So, Chinese. Where?" Buffy asked.
"How about Dandy Dumplings?" Willow asked.
"Works for me. We're supposed to get a ton of it and meet at Xander's."
"Um, B-b-buffy, this is Bianca." Tara said, quietly.
"Oh, manners!" Willow said. "Yeah, Buffy Summers, Bianca Montgomery."
"Pleased to meet you." Bianca said.
"Likewise." Buffy turned to Willow. "New spell buddy?"
"No, prospective freshman. Remember? Tara volunteered to be a campus guide."
"Oh, right, you mentioned that. Well, welcome to Sunnydale." Buffy led them out to the car, parked right in front of the door.
"Umm, Buffy, you aren't supposed to park here." Willow said.
"But it's so convenient."
"But this is a walkway, not a road."
"Well, this," Buffy pointed to the car, "is an SUV. Meant for off roading, which is why I enjoy it. Get in."
Willow sighed and climbed into the front passenger seat. Tara and Bianca climbed into the back. Buffy started the car and pointed it in the direction of the street. Bianca wondered how no one on campus reported this to the campus police, or why the campuspolice hadn't seen it themselves. She was shaken out of her thoughts by a question.
"So why Sunnydale?" Buffy asked.
Bianca shrugged. "It's a nice looking area, a good school, close to the outside world but not caught up in it. And very far away from where I live now."
"Never heard of it."
"Which is why I want to live here. People here have never heard of it."
Buffy turned around and looked at Bianca. "I know the feeling. Sometimes a little anonymity is just what the doctor ordered."
"And sometimes he orders glasses. Buffy, turn around!" Willow yelled.
Buffy turned just in time to avoid hitting a pedestrian.
"Yeesh, you'd think they'd watch where they're going." Buffy muttered.
Bianca looked at Tara who was gripping her door handle so hard her knuckles were white. They finally arrived at the Chinese restaurant, ordered a ton of take out, and headed over to Xander's.
"You'll like Xander, he's a nice guy. Anya's his girlfriend, though, and she's a little . . ." Willow searched for the word as they walked up the apartment.
"Blunt." Tara said.
"And tactless." Willow added.
"So if she says something that offends you, she's not saying it to offend you, she just doesn't know any other way of saying it." Tara said.
"Course, the idea of not saying it never crosses her mind." Willow muttered.
Tara ran her hand down Willow's back. "Are you still angry over what she said?"
"No. Not in the least. Angry is not what I am. I am something else. Disgruntled. Yeah, that's it, I'm disgruntled and the only way I'll be gruntled again is if she apologizes." Willow said.
Bianca raised her eyebrows.
Buffy leaned into her. "Anya talks about sex a lot. Fair warning."
They knocked on the door and were let in by Xander.
"Ladies, you and your plates of food are most welcome. Come, sit, eat." Xander took Willow and Tara's burdens and placed them on the counter.
"Xander, you can't say `eat' to them, remember? Willow turns all read and storms out." Bianca saw another red haired girl come into the main room from what she assumed to be the bedroom. She then turned to Willow who was indeed turning a few shades darker than normal.
Anya looked at Bianca. "Hey, a new friend. Is she yours, Buffy? Have you become Lebanese too?"
Bianca couldn't hold it in, she started laughing and couldn't stop. Soon Willow and Tara joined in, as well as Buffy, and even Xander chuckled a little. Anya was the only one who didn't think anything was funny.
"No, Anya, I'm not a lesbian, thank you." Buffy said, wiping tears from her eyes.
"Then what's she here for." Anya narrowed her eyes at Bianca and grabbed Xander's arm. "You can't have him, he's mine, go find yourself another beefcake."
Bianca's eyes grew wide. ::These people are all insane::
"She doesn't want him, Anya, she's a prospective student for the college and we're showing her around. Calm down." Willow said.
Anya smiled and perked up. "Oh, well then, welcome to Sunnydale. It's really very nice. Dumpling?"
Bianca was stuffed. She couldn't eat another bite. She was trying to vehemently explain this to Anya, who refused to listen and was trying to get Bianca to eat the last bite of chow mien.
"One more bite isn't going to kill you. It's good, eat it!" Anya said.
"Anya, she doesn't want it. You eat it." Willow said.
"You hush up. It's the last bit of food we have, if we eat it then we ate all the food and nothing goes to waste."
"I'm really full, Anya. If I eat that I'll explode." Bianca backed into the counter. Anya smiled in triumph at having cornered her prey when a hand grabbed her wrist and shoved the fork into it's owner's mouth.
"Derw. Ifs gong." Buffy said. She sucked a noodle up.
"Hey, that was for Binky." Anya said.
"Bianca." Bianca replied.
"Whatever. Fine, I'm only trying to be a good hostess by seeing that all my guests are properly fed. This is me becoming more ingrained in your strange human habits." Anya threw her arms up in a huff and stalked back over to Xander.
Everyone else in the room froze and looked at Bianca.
"Boomin'! I didn't say human, I said boomin'. Yeah, strange boomin' habits, cuz that's what they are. Boomin'." Anya looked at Xander. "Oh hell."
"Um. So. I'll just clean up then." Bianca knelt down and began gathering cartons.
"Oh, we can do that, you relax." Buffy and Willow both knelt at the same time and cracked heads.
"Owww!" they chorused as they both sat back on their behinds.
"Willow, are you okay?" Tara knelt next to her girlfriend.
"I think we all need to get out and do something." Xander said.
"Yeah, please." Buffy replied.
"Yeah, we'll have some boomin' fun!" Anya said.
Bianca once again wondered what she'd gotten herself into.
"Where are we going again?" Bianca asked.
"It's called the Bronze. It's fun, they have food and drinks and pool and dancing and music, which would be a given I suppose, because of the dancing. That would be something, a club with dancing and no music. I can imagine one with music and no dancing just because sometimes people are shy and don't dance, or the music is really bad and people don't want to dance, but the opposite idea, dancing and no music, makes me giggle. Maybe a club like that could open for deaf people." Willow answered.
"How should I dress?" Bianca asked before Willow could continue.
"What you have on is fine, though you might get a little chilly." Tara said.
"I'll change." Bianca pulled out a pair of black flared jeans and a tight red v-necked shirt. Willow and Tara also changed; Willow into a pair of jeans and Tara into a button up shirt with three quarter sleeves. Bianca smiled as Willow straightened Tara's collar and then kissed her on the nose. Tara smiled shyly at Willow, then jumped as the door crashed in.
"Hey, you ready?" Buffy asked.
"That was quick." Willow said.
Buffy had gone home, changed, and come back in the time it had taken the others to just change.
"Slaayyyaaam dunk speed. That's what I've got. Faster than a speeding center." Buffy grinned at Bianca, "You ready?"
"Yeah Ken. I mean Buffy! I'm sorry, you just remind me of my sister so much." Bianca said, blushing a little.
"That's okay, as long as you don't call me Barbie."
::And yet `Buffy's' okay . . .:: Bianca shrugged inwardly.
The trio followed Buffy back down to her mother's SUV, once again parked right in front of the door.
Bianca turned and noticed a few students leaning against the door frame of the building, intently watching her three new friends. One, a girl with long dark hair, nodded to her and gave her a slight smile. Bianca smiled back, wondering at their interest in Buffy, Willow, and Tara. Bianca also noticed they all wore the same necklace, three circles interwoven, on choker chains.
She felt a nudge.
"Ready?" Willow asked.
"Yeah, sorry." Bianca got into the car and prepared herself for another Buffy chauffeured experience. She wasn't disappointed. Buffy kept up a continuous one sided dialogue about why her sister, Dawn, should move to Nebraska.
"I mean, really, she's so young and needs to be safe, right?In Nebraska she could learn new skills, like how to grow corn and how to weave a basket underwater. Unusual talents like those will take her far in today's marketplace, don't you think? I mentioned this to Mom, she didn't seem too keen on the idea, and Dawn, phew! She blew a fuse and shouted something intelligent like, `Mooooom!'"
"Buffy!" Willow interrupted Buffy's rant. "She's your sister, you're supposed to be annoyed by her. Don't you think that this desire to mail her to Nebraska is a little . . . infantile?"
"Bianca." Buffy turned around. "You have a sister, did you two get along?"
"Buffy, watch the road!" Willow shouted.
"Wills! Stop shouting, I'm right here." Buffy turned around.
"Um, well, Kendall and I didn't see much of each other. She lived with her adoptive family until she found out about our mother and when she came home, well, things got a little crazy. I was kind of young and when she left I just sort of grew up really fast, it seems, so I didn't really have time to wish her away to another country, or something."
"Hmmm. Maybe that's it. I could wish her away . . ." Buffy cast a sideways glance at Willow.
"Don't even think about it."
Buffy stuck her lip out in a pretend pout. A few minutes later they found themselves at the Bronze. Alive. Bianca once again thanked whoever was watching over her. Outside the place didn't look like much, an old warehouse mostly. She followed her friends in and found the inside wasn't much different, but it was packed with people.
"Welcome to the Bronze." Willow said.
"Why is it called that?" Bianca asked.
"I have no idea." Willow answered. She then grabbed Tara's hand and dragged her out onto the dance floor. Buffy pulled Bianca over to a couch that suddenly found itself vacated.
"Willow loves this band. She always dances with Tara as much as possible when they're here." Buffy said. "Which means we may not be seeing much of them tonight."
Bianca smiled. "That's fine, I'd hate to think I was causing them to not be able to do something they wanted to."
Buffy smiled in return and then looked beyond Bianca. "Ah, Xander and Anya are here."
Bianca really wondered about that Anya. She wondered even more when Anya walked up and said, "So, are we having a boomin' good time?"
Xander rolled his eyes and whispered something to Anya. She frowned and said, "Oh fine, I was only trying to make her feel welcome." She sat in one of the chairs next to the couch in a huff.
Xander sighed and sat in the adjoining chair.
Bianca turned her attention from them back to her surroundings. The band playing tonight was playing something Bianca could only describe as ethereal rock. The music had an edge, yet still seemed to float along it's own harmonies. It didn't surprise her that Willow loved it. The Bronze itself also required a second look. At first Bianca thought it was simply a small town club trying to catch up to the already past industrial phase, but she realized that the club wasn't trying to match anything. It was simply an eclectic jumbling of the industrial look with a splash of modern comforts to give it a nook and cranny feel, such as the couch and chairs she and her friends now occupied. It was a place that people in this small town could go to unwind, the only place probably, so it made no pretenses to be anything other than what it was. Her mother would hate it. Bianca loved it.
"I'm going to go get myself something to drink, does anyone else want anything?" Bianca asked.
"I'm fine, thanks." Buffy said.
"I'll go with you." Xander said. Anya shot Bianca a warning glare that had, "He's mine!" written all over it. Bianca smiled and moved through the crowd with Xander on her heels.
"I'm sorry about Anya, she can get a little . . . overbearing at times." Xander said.
"Oh, she's fine. Believe me, overbearing people are a dime a dozen where I'm from." Bianca replied.
Xander smiled. "And where's that?"
"Never heard of it."
"Is it in California?"
"No, back East."
"Oh. That would explain why. I've never been back East. I guess that would make it just East for me, since I don't have a place there to go back to." Xander gave her a lopsided grin.
Bianca decided that Willow's rambling was contagious. She wondered how long it would be until she caught it. She also suddenly found herself at the bar.
"Diet coke, please." She said. The bartender disappeared before she could place Xander's order.
"That's fine, I'll get him when he comes back." Xander said. Bianca took her drink from the bartender when he returned, and moved out of Xander's way so he could get drinks for himself and Anya. Bianca moved away from the overcrowded bar and bumped into someone.
"Oh, I'm sorry." She turned around.
"No, my fault, I wasn't watching where I was going."
Bianca gasped at the familiar voice. She looked up at the person she'd run into and couldn't seem to make her vocal chords work. Her mouth opened and closed and she knew she had to look like a fish out of water, but she was too shocked to do anything about it.
"Bianca." Rain Wilkins said, staring just as bewilderedly at her former friend.
::At least her vocal chords work:: Bianca thought.
"Rain. Oh my gosh!" Bianca threw her arms around the taller girl, feeling shivers of delight when Rain hugged her back.
"How've you been, Binks?"
Bianca released Rain and promptly smacked her on the arm. "Why did you leave? Where did you go? You didn't even say goodbye, how could you just leave like that?"
Rain's face fell. Guilt, anger, and shame ran across it all at once.
"Come on, Bianca, let's go somewhere where we can talk."
"Wait, I'm here with people, let me go tell them first."
Bianca handed Rain her drink and maneuvered her way over to where her friends sat. "See that girl over there?" she pointed Rain, who was watching them intently, out to Buffy. "We're old friends, we're going to go catch up for a sec."
Buffy looked Rain up and down, decided she wasn't a threat, and said, "Okay. Thanks for letting us know."
Bianca nodded and moved back over to Rain, who led her upstairs into the loft where it was quieter.
"Well?" Bianca said. "Time to `splain, Lucy."
Rain ran her fingers through her hair, which wasn't braided anymore, and said, "I took money from your mother to leave."
"I know that, I found out. What I don't understand is how you could have done that with out at least telling me goodbye."
"I know, I know, it's terrible and not a day goes by that I don't regret not saying goodbye, but the deal was I'd take the money and just go and since then things have actually started working out better for me."
"Yes. I took the money and got the hell out of Pine Valley. I didn't stop until I couldn't go any further and ended up here. I bounced around shelters for a little while until I finally got a room in a boarding house and established a real residence. You have no idea how good it feels to be able to say, `I live here.'" Rain stopped for a second, studying her hands. Then she looked back at Bianca and continued. "With a place of address I was able to get a job and apply for grants to go back to school. I'm going to school now, Bianca. UC Sunnydale."
Bianca smiled. No matter how angry she was at Rain for disappearing, hearing how good things were going made her feel happy for her friend.
"What are you studying?"
"Sociology. I want to help people, do social work, counseling. I've been there so I can bring something to the job another might not be able to." Rain looked at Bianca with a pleading expression. "I've missed you so much, you have no idea. I wrote; did you get any of my letters?"
Bianca's eyes grew wide. "No, I didn't."
Rain nodded. "I figured that was why you didn't write back. I hoped that was why."
Bianca looked Rain up and down, taking in the loose fit jeans and black tank top. Her eyes met Rain's again and Bianca moved in for another hug.
"I'm glad things are going well. I'm glad you're happy."
Rain smiled, relishing in the hug, pulling Bianca closer. Bianca was the one to pull away first.
"So what brings you here?" Rain asked. "And how did you hook up with the group you're with?"
"UC Sunnydale, actually. I'm here on a campus tour. Willow and Tara are my guides and they introduced me to their friends. Do you know them?"
"Only by reputation." Rain flipped her hair back and Bianca noticed the necklace she wore.
"I've seen that necklace before. Some students at the dorms were wearing them. Does that mean something?" Bianca moved close to Rain and took the necklace in her hand. She could now see the three rings were each made of a different metal: gold, silver, and bronze.
"Yeah. I'm sort of in a club, that's our symbol."
"What kind of club?"
Rain chewed on her upper lip as she regarded Bianca. "How much do you know about Buffy and her friends?"
Bianca shrugged. "What they've told me. Willow and Tara are girlfriends and Wiccan. Buffy goes to UCS with them and has a sister and a mother, who's apparently ill. I don't know a whole lot about Xander and Anya, except they live in an apartment off campus."
Rain nodded. "They're good people, you're lucky you hooked up with them when you got here."
Bianca could tell there was more Rain wasn't sharing with her. "So what's this club?"
Rain shrugged. "I want to help people; this club allows me to do that. We call ourselves the Crusaders."
"How do you help people?"
"You know, usual stuff, we offer to escort people around campus at night so they don't have to go alone, we offer support to each other and other students who may need it. We're a support group, really."
Bianca smiled. "That's nice. I'm not surprised you got involved in something like that."
Rain smiled back at Bianca. She didn't reply, she simply stared at Bianca, as if she was drinking her in with her eyes. Bianca began to feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny. Rain reached out and put her hand on Bianca's shoulder. "I don't know who or what brought you here, but I'm so glad they did."
"Me too." Bianca replied, stepping closer to Rain.
"Do you want to dance?" Rain asked.
"I'd like that a lot."
Rain took Bianca's hand and led her down to the dance floor where they joined the other couples in a slow dance. Bianca laid her head on Rain's shoulder as the other girl wrapped her arms around her waist.
"Rain?" Bianca asked.
"Why didn't you say goodbye?"
Rain was quiet for a moment. Then she said, "I was too ashamed. I prided myself on not really being attached to anyone or anything and when she offered the money, I took it as a way to get back to that. I was getting too attached."
Bianca lifted her head and looked Rain in the eyes.
"I'm sorry, Binks. More sorry than I can say. I wanted to say goodbye, that's why I wrote those letters. I knew they couldn't make up for me just leaving but I figured they were better than nothing."
Rain stared at Bianca, her storm blue eyes searching for forgiveness.
"So you got scared." Bianca said. "And ran."
"Yeah. Pretty much."
"Of me. You were scared of me."
Rain's eyebrows lifted. "No, not at all. Bianca, you were the only person in that place that made any sense to me. The way I felt around you, the way I could tell others felt. You're special and I wanted to be around that. You didn't scare me, the way you made me feel scared me."
Bianca's heart was warring between wanting to swoon at Rain's words and wanting to smack Rain upside the head for what she'd done. Finally she decided to let the past die and allowed Rain's words to fill her with joy. After all, she knew she could trust Rain. Lying wasn't something Rain did to Bianca. Leaving, maybe, but lying, no.
"I want to trust you, Rain."
"You can. I swear to you. I've grown up a lot since coming here, going back to school, and joining with the Crusaders. I'm a part of something now and it feels really good. Knowing that you and I are okay will simply make everything perfect." Rain pressed her forehead to Bianca's and whispered, "You make everything perfect."
Bianca blushed, grinned, and buried her face in Rain's neck, wrapping her arms tighter around the other girl.
Across the floor, Buffy sat with Xander and Anya.
"Well, I guess you don't need to worry about her anymore." Buffy said to Anya.
"Who's that girl?" Xander asked.
Anya smacked his arm.
"I'm only asking out of curiosity, yeesh." Xander rubbed his now bruised arm.
"Bianca said she's an old friend." Buffy answered.
"They look aesthetically pleasing together." Anya remarked.
Xander wisely kept his mouth shut in regards to Bianca and her friend's aesthetics.
"Yeah, they do." Buffy agreed.
"I didn't know Binky was a Lebanese."
"Lesbian!" Xander yelled.
He blushed and shrunk into his chair when all surrounding heads turned to him.
"Lesbian, Anya, she's a lesbian, not Lebanese." Buffy said.
"Whatever. My point is, she doesn't look gay."
"I didn't know they had a look." Buffy said dryly. "Do Wills and Tara look gay?"
"They're witches. `Nuff said."
Buffy let out a bark of laughter, "You know, for a former demon, I'd think you'd know that stereotypes are more often than not untrue. Especially human ones."
Anya pouted and then looked at Xander. "Aren't you going to defend me?"
"Oh, no, I'm staying out of this one." He looked up as Willow and Tara reappeared.
"Water break, anyone want?" Willow asked.
Buffy nodded and followed her over to the bar.
"Did you see our new friend?" Buffy pointed to Bianca.
"Yeah. Who's that girl?"
"I dunno. Bianca said she's an old friend; they were going to go catch up."
"Looks like they're pretty well caught up to me." Willow said.
She and Buffy grinned at each other, then got their waters and headed back to the table.
"Oh, I noticed something about the friend." Buffy said.
"She's got one of those necklaces. I saw a couple others here with them too."
Willow looked around. "Do we know what they are yet?"
"No. I asked Giles to look into it, he hasn't gotten back yet."
"You don't think they're dangerous, do you?" Willow glanced worriedly at Bianca and her friend.
"Well, we don't have anything to make us think they are, and if anything, the people I've seen with them on campus have been doing nice things."
"Yeah, you know, good deeds."
"Hmm. Well, Bianca has us if something should happen."
"Yeah." Buffy agreed as they sat back with their group.
"So what kind of reputations do they have?" Bianca asked.
She and Rain were sitting off to the side of the dance floor. Bianca figured she should probably rejoin her new friends, but Willow and Tara were still dancing, Xander and Anya were involved in a heated discussion, and Buffy was over at the pool tables making a lot of money playing large men who had low opinions of women. Bianca figured they wouldn't notice her absence.
"Do who have?" Rain asked.
"Willow and her friends. You said you know them by reputation."
Rain shrugged. "You live here long enough you begin to hear things. They're good people, special people. I've seen things here, Binks. Even I'm not sure if they're real but Buffy and her friends, they know and they do something about it. The Crusaders try to support them, make sure they have enough leeway to do what they need to."
"Rain, what are you talking about?"
"I'm not exactly sure myself, I've only been with the Crusaders for a few months so I don't know much. I do know that there are things that happen here, bad things, and Buffy and her friends fight that and we try to help them."
"How do they fight?"
"However they can."
"So Willow and Tara really are witches? Real spell casting witches?"
Rain nodded, "Yup."
"Buffy's the leader. She's not a witch, but we're not exactly sure what she is."
"Xander and Anya?"
"We aren't really sure about them either, but from what we can tell, they aren't the same as Buffy."
Bianca stared at Rain for a second. "You're really serious."
"Of course I am."
Bianca flashed back to dinner earlier and Anya's comment about "strange human habits." She gasped.
"What do they fight?" she asked.
Rain studied Bianca for a moment. "I've told you too much already."
"Rain, you can't tell me that and stop now. How did you get involved in this? What exactly are you involved in? What bad things do you fight?"
"We don't fight at all, we protect, we try to support Buffy and her friends so they can fight. We're stage hands to their act." Rain looked earnestly at Bianca. "I told you all this because I know I can trust you. Buffy doesn't know about us and we'd like to keep it that way. I'm sure she's noticed us because that's how she is, but she doesn't know who we are or what we do. You can't tell them, Bianca."
"Now wait a minute-"
"I'm serious." Rain took Bianca's hands in her own. "I can trust you, I know I can. I want you to trust me. I don't know if you're going to come to UCS or not but if you do, you can be a part of this too. We can . . . You can . . . You'll have a place here."
Bianca leaned forward. "I am going to go to UCS, Rain. I made up my mind before I even got here. I'll have to go through some stuff with Mom, she'll try to convince me to go somewhere else and I really don't think she should know you're here-"
"Irony at it's finest." Rain smiled.
Bianca returned the smile. "I am coming here. I lost . . . a chance once. I don't want to do it again."
Rain leaned forward, meeting Bianca half way, and pressed her lips to Bianca's. They kissed lightly, holding hands and simply enjoying the promise they both felt being made. Bianca pulled away slightly, bringing her hand up to cup Rain's cheek. She glanced towards her group and saw them all gathered at the couch again.
"I should go, I think they're waiting for me."
Rain nodded. She kissed Bianca again, softly, and stood up with her.
"Can I introduce you to them? That way you could know them as more than reputations." Bianca said. "They're probably curious as to who you are too."
"All right." Rain followed Bianca over, keeping their hands locked the whole way.
"Guys, this is my friend Rain. Rain, that's Willow, Tara, Buffy, Xander, and Anya." Bianca pointed to each one, then motioned between herself and Rain. "We know each other from Pine Valley."
"Nice to meet you, Rain." Willow stood and shook her hand. The others followed suit.
Buffy studied Rain, looking closely at the necklace she wore when she stood for their handshake. Rain noticed the scrutiny and allowed it.
"Are we getting ready to leave?" Bianca asked.
"Yeah, it's kind of late, even the band's packing up." Willow pointed to the stage.
"Okay." Bianca turned to Rain. "I'll see you later."
Rain smiled and took a pen out of her pocket, scribbling a phone number onto the back of Bianca's hand. "Less chance it'll rub off."
Bianca smiled. "Do you have experience with that?"
Rain laughed, "Not really. Call me when you can, or when you get home, whichever."
Bianca nodded and hugged Rain, kissing her cheek before letting go and following her friends out of the club. A figure came up and stood next to Rain.
"We aren't supposed to make friends with them. We're supposed to watch from afar." The young man said.
"Bianca's an old friend, Drake. Don't get your panties in a twist."
Drake frowned. "They aren't to know about us."
"You know they'll find out, they're bound to, that's what they do."
Drake sighed, "Well, we don't have to help them."
Rain nodded. "We can trust Bianca. I promise."
"I hope so. Buffy would never approve of us. Anonymity is a must."
Rain nodded and followed her friends out of the club.
Bianca woke up the next morning at eight o'clock and couldn't fall back to sleep. She lifted her head and saw Willow and Tara still asleep. Bianca sat up and studied them for a moment. Other than movies that she'd seen on the sly, so Erica wouldn't find out,Bianca had never really seen two women lying in repose together, besides those rare moments she and Sarah could catch. She decided it was one of the most beautiful things she could imagine and wondered why her mother had such a problem with it. Maybe she was one of those that was afraid because she had actually felt something for another woman and it scared her. She and Brooke fought often enough . . .
::Whoa! Don't want to go there:: she thought ::Mom's sex life is not a happy mental place::
She watched Willow and Tara for a few minutes more, decided she couldn't imagine a cuter couple, and got out of bed. She pulled a robe on and went into the hallway, remembering seeing a pay phone near the end of it. Then she mentally debated whether it would be too early to call Rain. She didn't know what the schedule was todaywith the campus tour and she didn't know if she'd get a chance to call her later. It was only eight thirty on a Saturday. The hallway she now occupied was completely empty and very quiet. It was almost eerie. Bianca finally decided that if Rain were to call her she'd be happy, so it would be okay to call Rain. After all, do unto others . . .
It was picked up on the first ring. "Hello?"
"Hi, is Rain there?"
Bianca waited, then realized the person on the other end wanted more. "May I speak with her please?"
"Sure, hang on a sec."
That must mean she's up, Bianca thought.
"Yup, it's me. It's not too early, is it?"
"No, not at all. I actually have to leave for work in a few minutes but we can talk until then."
"Oh yeah? Where do you work?"
"A coffee place called The Bean Counter. It's right near campus, near your dorm in fact."
"What time do you start?"
"Nine. I work nine to two today."
"And then you're free?"
"Um, I don't know what's going on with the tour, but I'd like to see you today, if I could." Bianca played with the phone cord hoping that what she'd felt the night before had been shared and she wasn't going to get burned here.
"I'd love that. Bring your friends by, I'll give you guys free coffee. We can do something tonight, if they don't object. There's another good band playing at the Bronze."
Bianca grinned. "Okay. Let me give you my cell phone number, you can call later and we can set something up."
"Lemme get a pen." The line was quiet for a second, then Rain came back on, "Okay, go."
Bianca gave her the number and Rain promised to call when she got off work to see where Bianca was. Then she had to leave to make sure she was there on time. Dragonflies danced in Bianca's stomach as she walked back to Willow and Tara's dorm. She opened the door to find them still asleep. Deciding this was as good a time as any toshower, she grabbed her toiletries and went down to the bathrooms to shower. Willow and Tara were up by the time she got back.
"Hey, how'd you sleep?" Willow asked.
"Fine, you're right, it's nice and quiet here." Bianca answered.
Tara smiled. "Yeah, one of the reasons we like it." She and Willow were both dressed in robes and holding towels and bathroom totes.
"You guys going to go shower?" Bianca asked.
"No, we have class in a few minutes, we were going to head off to that." Willow replied.
Bianca stared at her.
"She's kidding." Tara said. "We're gonna go shower."
Bianca nodded, then asked, "Oh, uh, what's on the schedule for today?"
"We thought we could take you around Sunnydale, show you the actual city as well as the campus." Willow said.
"That sounds good. Do you think we could stop by The Bean Counter? Rain, the girl from last night, works there." Bianca added in a sing song voice, "She promised free coffee."
"I think we can fit that in." Willow smiled.
"No coffee for you." Tara said.
"What?" Willow looked shocked.
"You remember what happened last time? You had three shots of straight espresso and didn't sleep for two straight days."
Willow raised an eyebrow. "I don't remember you complaining."
Tara blushed a deep crimson and mumbled something about needing a cold shower before bolting from the room.
"She can be shy." Willow said.
"The best ones often are." Bianca replied.
Willow grinned and shut the door behind herself. Bianca changed and got ready to go out before she found herself with nothing to do. She moved over to Amy's cage and bent to pear in at the rat.
"Hello Amy." Bianca stuck her fingertip into the cage.
Amy moved over and began chewing on her nail. Bianca may not have been the fashion mogul her mother wanted her to be, but she did know that having a rat chew one's nails wasn't the best way to keep them trimmed. She reached in further and scratched Amy's head. The rat sat back on her haunches again, staring at Bianca. Once againBianca felt there was more to the rat than meets the eye. Willow and Tara chose that moment to come back into the room.
"That's not true." Tara said. "It was only four pencils and three books."
"It was eight pencils, five books, and a croissant." Willow retorted. "Dancing."
"I'm sure I would have remembered the croissant."
"Yeah, just like you remember the other four pencils and two books."
Both looked at Bianca. Willow said, "Long standing argument."
"Willow's prone to exaggeration sometimes." Tara said.
"Oh pish posh." Willow moved over to her dresser and began pulling clothes out.
Tara looked at Bianca and smiled before doing the same. They prepared for going out as well and then Willow called Buffy.
"I hate to do this, but she has a car and we don't." Willow said. "What about Xander? Or Giles? They have cars."
"Xander also has Anya and you think Giles would lend us his car or want to drive us around all day?"
Tara shrugged. Willow dialed.
"Hi Dawn, yup it's me. Is Buffy there? . . . Thanks. I'm good, how're you doing? . . .That sounds like fun. Tara and I would be happy to show you some stuff, you know you're always welcome here . . . I suppose Xander could join. Just bring some food and he's here . . . I wouldn't mind Anya staying home either . . . Buffy! Don't yell at her like that, she and I were talking . . . You're the only one she bugs, Buffy . . . No wishing her away! Resolve face firmly in place here! . . . Actually, what're you doing today? Tara and I were going to show Bianca the highlights of the town . . . Well I'm sure we could stretch it to more than a half hour . . So bring her along, we won't mind . . . Excellent, meet us at The Bean Counter . . . Yeah, see you in a few. Bye." Willow hung up. "Well, we have a ride."
"Mmm," was Tara's reply.
"Who's she bringing along?" Bianca asked.
"Dawn. Her sister." Willow said.
"The one she wants to mail to Nebraska?"
"Yup, but we will stop her nefarious scheme. Now, on to fuel up for the day ahead!" Willow grabbed her bag and led the way out the door.
"She hasn't even had any yet and look at her already." Bianca heard Tara mutter. She smiled and followed them out the dorm hall to the coffee place, which was only a ten minute walk. The place was rather busy, though, and Bianca was afraid she wouldn't be able to see or talk to Rain much.
::Well, I can at least look at her::
She saw Rain as soon as she walked in the door and couldn't keep the smile off her face. Rain looked up and matched Bianca's smile with one of her own.
"What do you guys want?" Bianca asked.
"I would like a mocha." Tara said. "And a muffin. Willow?"
"One of those mocha latte freakachinos. Whatever their version is. Mmmm, and a chocolate covered croissant." Willow leaned against the glass case and peered in at them.
Rain came up and stood before Bianca. "I can hook you up with coffee, but not food."
"Oh, you don't have to do that." Tara said. "We can pay."
"No, it's cool. What drinks do you guys want?" Rain leaned forward, closer to Bianca. "You know, the mocha latte freakachinos are really good."
Tara started laughing, Bianca giggled, and Willow huffed.
Tara said, "I'll have a hot mocha please, a tall. She would like one of your mocha freakachinos and I don't know what Bianca wants."
Suddenly Buffy appeared and nudged Willow. "Look at her ordering for you. She's so butch."
Tara blushed and Willow laughed. "I know, she's changed so much."
Tara rolled her eyes and stepped away from the counter. Bianca smiled at her and ordered a non-fat latte and their various pastry choices. She went and sat with her new friends and absentmindedly watched Rain as she worked behind the counter.
"Are we going by the magic shop today?" the fifth girl in their group asked. Bianca assumed her to be Dawn, Buffy's sister.
"I don't know what we're doing today." Buffy said. "I'm only the chauffeur."
"Why did I have to come along?"
"Because Mom needs her rest and having you stomp around the house and have loud conversations with your friends on the phone won't help with that."
"But what if she wants or needs something and we're not there?"
Buffy turned to Dawn. "This is bonding time. We're supposed to learn to get along. Deal with it." She then turned her back and proceeded to ignore her sister.
Bianca stuck her hand towards Dawn. "Hi, I'm Bianca, Willow and Tara's shadow for the next couple of days."
Dawn reached out to meet Bianca's hand. "Dawn. Buffy's much put upon younger sister."
"I'm the younger sister as well but I didn't get to see mine all that often, we grew up apart."
"That must have been wonderful." Dawn said scowling at Buffy.
Bianca shrugged. "I didn't have anything to compare it to. I talk to her a little now, through letters and stuff, but we still don't see each other often."
Dawn looked at Bianca and seemed to decide that she wasn't trying to convince her of anything, just relating their two worlds.
"Yeah. It's nice to meet you. Buffy doesn't have much in the way of manners."
Buffy rolled her eyes but kept her mouth shut.
"Here you are." Rain suddenly appeared by Bianca's side with their orders.
"You didn't have to bring them over." Bianca said.
"It's okay, we've got a dead moment so I could emerge from my counter for a sec." Rain pulled a chair next to Bianca.
"Hey, I've seen you around campus." Willow said. "I don't remember where, but I remember seeing you."
"Yeah, I'm all over, getting my GE stuff out of the way has me running ragged."
"I like your necklace." Buffy leaned forward to get a closer look.
"Thanks." was all Rain replied with.
"I've seen others wear the same design. Does it mean something?" Tara asked.
Rain shrugged. "A guy makes them in his basement and sells them. I guess they're just a popular item."
Buffy raised her eyebrow and sat back in her chair. Bianca saw the glance she shared with Willow. She suddenly felt very in the dark and was determined to get more answers out of Rain.
"Is Xander going to join us?" Dawn suddenly asked, breaking Bianca out of her reverie.
"I don't know. We didn't call him." Willow answered.
Dawn frowned. "Well, Anya would probably tag along anyway."
"I gotta get back, we're picking up again." Rain stood, putting her hand on Bianca's shoulder and squeezing before returning to the counter.
"So are we, um, do you think we could go to the Bronze again tonight? I mean, if we don't have any other plans?" Bianca asked.
"I dunno, there are so many other places in Sunnydale to hang out. Oh right, I forgot, there aren't. Bronzing works for me." Buffy smiled before sipping her coffee.
"Can I come?" Dawn asked.
"Oh sure, you don't want to hang out with me today but you're all up for hanging out at the Bronze." Buffy said.
"That's just it, we wouldn't have to actually hang out together at the Bronze." Dawn replied.
Bianca watched the exchange and thought of her mother and Brooke's constant bickering. ::Maybe they're secretly sisters. That would make Laura my cousin. Eww, that's so soap opera::
"Well, I guess we should get on with the tour of Sunnydale. We can stop by Main street and fan out from there." Willow said.
"There won't be much fanning unless the AC goes out." Buffy replied, standing up.
The others followed suit, throwing their trash away and gathering near the door.
"Can you hang on a sec while I say goodbye to Rain?" Bianca asked.
"Sure, we'll be outside." Tara said.
Bianca smiled and nodded, then turned to go tell Rain the Bronze would be a go for that night. Rain stepped back out from behind the counter and took Bianca around a corner into a small alcove.
"You have no idea how glad I was you called." Rain said.
Bianca smiled. "Of course I called. You made your life sound so intriguing I had to satisfy my curiosity."
Rain leaned into her and whispered, "That's not all I want to satisfy," before she softly kissed Bianca. Bianca was surprised at Rain's brazenness but gladly returned the kiss. She felt her body heat up at the contact and tugged on Rain's sides to bring her bodycloser. The kiss began to deepen, both enjoying the sensation too much to remember where they were. Finally Rain pulled away, saying, "I'm at work, damn it." She laughed softly. "I tend to forget what's around me when I'm with you."
"Tonight. Willow and the others are up for the Bronze."
"Excellent. I'll see you there again. Oh, and Bianca?"
"Yes?" Bianca smiled at the rather sheepish expression Rain had on her face.
"Um, you know that blue shirt you have? The one with the lace?"
"Did you bring it?"
"Of course, it's one of my favorites."
"Do you think you could wear it tonight?"
Bianca grinned. "I'll see what I can do."
Rain smiled and ran her finger down Bianca's cheek. "You better go, I need to get back to work before someone comes looking for me."
Bianca nodded, gave Rain one last quick kiss, and hurriedly left to meet up with her friends.
"I'm sorry I took so long." She said.
"No worries, we aren't really in a hurry." Willow replied. They piled into Buffy's car again and pointed it in the direction of central Sunnydale.
"So, this is Main Street." Willow said, sweeping her arm in an arc. "There's a theater, another coffee place, some restaurants, shops." Willow looked around. "That's about it."
"And Giles'." Dawn added. Bianca was squeezed into the back seat between her and Tara.
"Do you have enough room?" Tara softly asked.
"I'm fine." Bianca answered. "Thanks."
"Let's go see Giles." Buffy said. "Did you say you were out of gizzards again?"
"Yeah, I could use some more. That and powdered hen's teeth."
Bianca hoped they were kidding. They stopped in front of a store front with a large sign saying "The Magic Box."
::Sounds like it's from a TV show:: Bianca thought. She followed the others into the store and found that it was surprisingly bright and airy for a magic shop that sold gizzards. Behind the counter stood an older gentleman telling a couple that their purchase would help ensure their health for a very long time. He looked up.
"Buffy. Hello. And Willow, Tara, Dawn. And someone new." Giles' eyebrows raised in question at Buffy.
"Bianca." Buffy said. "Prospective student. Wills and Tara are her guides."
"Oh, well, welcome to Sunnydale." He held up a plate. "Mint?"
"Um, thank you." Bianca took a mint.
Buffy smirked. "What's this?"
"Anya has decided that mints will make people feel better after they shop here. Next thing I know there's a plate of them . . . sitting by the cash register." Giles shook his head and put the plate down. "So, what brings the tour to my shop?"
"Lack of anything else to do." Buffy said, plopping down in a chair at a table set near the rear of the shop.
"Oh, well." Giles leaned against the counter.
"And Bianca was curious to see the shop." Willow said. "And we always enjoy coming here."
Giles smiled and stood up. "Thank you Willow. Um, Buffy, I found something I think may interest you. Come into the other room, I'll show you." Giles led Buffy to a room in the back of the shop.
Bianca began to look around at the various knick knacks. There were obvious implements of magic, items she'd seen in movies or on TV that she recognized, and there were other fantasy themed statues and such. She found a rack of t-shirts with one saying "Submit to me." She wondered if her mother would appreciate it.
Tara came up next to Bianca. "So, um, you and Rain. There's something there?"
Bianca smiled. "Yeah. We know each other from Pine Valley. She left and we lost contact but here we are, together again."
Tara smiled. "She seems nice."
"Yeah. She seemed to . . . get me when no one else did. We got into some trouble together, nothing really heavy, and then she had to leave. I missed her soooo much."
"I've learned that things that are meant to be have a way of working out, whether we like it or not."
Bianca nodded. "Yeah, I think you're right."
"She's meeting us at the Bronze tonight?"
"Yes, if that's all right."
"Of course. We sort of assumed."
"How did you and Willow meet?" Bianca asked.
"Through a Wiccan group, actually. We seemed to be the only two who actually took it seriously and developed a friendship which just sort of blossomed."
"Does . . . do your families know?"
Tara shook her head. "My family isn't exactly open minded; especially when it comes to the women. They didn't even want me to go to college. And Willow, well, she rarely even sees her parents anymore. I've met them, it's not like they don't know I exist, they just don't know what capacity I exist in."
Bianca nodded. "My mother knows. She just pretends she doesn't."
Tara nodded. "Willow's friends are a good group. I found an acceptance with them I'd never felt before. Is that what Rain did for you?"
"Yeah. She, uh, she snuck me into a gay bar one night when I was sixteen. I didn't know what it was when she brought me to it and when I finally realized it some other friends of mine came to drag me back home. They weren't angry I was in a gay bar, they were just protective as a whole. Well, one of them was. Anyway, I realized that no matter how supportive any of my friends could be, none of them could truly understand what was going on. Rain did. She saw me for who I was and helped me see it too."
Tara nodded and smiled softly. "Well, if you do decide to go here, you've already got a group of friends."
Bianca grinned. "My mother will be so pleased."
Buffy and Giles emerged from the back room. Buffy held a piece of paper and Bianca saw the three circle emblem that Rain wore on it before Buffy folded it up and put it in her pocket.
"So." Buffy said. "Where to now?"
"And that's the high school that used to be." Willow said, pointing out the burnt ruins of Sunnydale high school.
"What happened to it?" Bianca asked.
"Oh, slight problem with the principal resulted in it being burnt down." Buffy replied.
Bianca sat back in her seat, between Dawn and Tara again. It was later in the evening. They'd already had dinner and driven all over the city of Sunnydale and surrounding parts of interest. Bianca was counting the minutes until she could see Rain again. She then realized they were driving through a residential area.
"Ah, home sweet home." Buffy stopped the car in front of a modest two story house. Bianca followed her and the others up the walk when Buffy yelled.
"Aaaauuuuuuugh!" She pointed to a pile if cigarette butts near a tree.
Bianca thought it was gross that someone would leave them there but didn't think it was worth screaming over. She hadn't realized Buffy was such an avid anti-smoker.
"I thought he was going to stop." Willow said.
"Mmm." Buffy growled as she stepped up onto the porch.
"It's not something bad, is it?" Bianca asked, suddenly worried her new friend had a stalker.
"Nothing I can't handle, believe me. Although, I'm sure he'd love it if I'd handle him." Buffy said, opening the door.
"Ewwww." Willow said, pushing Buffy on her back.
Bianca raised a questioning eyebrow to Tara as Dawn moved passed them all and up the stairs.
"Spike. Not really a friend, not really an enemy, but a very long story." Tara said.
"Buffy, you brought guests, how nice. Hello girls." A nice looking blonde woman appeared from the dining room.
"Hi Mom. This is Bianca. Prospective student." Buffy said, pulling Bianca forward.
"Hello." Bianca said.
"Hello Bianca. Welcome to Sunnydale. With these three showing you around I'm sure you've seen more than you bargained for. Have you girls eaten?"
"Yeah, we grabbed some grub. How about you? Want me to run out and get you something?"
"Oh, no, I had left over chicken. I'm fine. Planning on staying in tonight?"
"Nah, we thought we'd hit the Bronze again. Another good band playing tonight."
"How was Dawn today?"
"Fine. Her usual pain in the butt self."
Buffy's mother frowned.
Buffy put her hands up in a conciliatory gesture. "Hey, we were together all day, bonding mission completed."
"Mmm, I don't know about that. Driving all your friends around doesn't sound like very good bonding time with your sister."
"She was there. I let her ride in the car this time."
Her mother rolled her eyes and said, "Well, you're welcome to what ever's in the fridge, I'm going to go upstairs and read a little."
Bianca watched as Buffy followed her mother up the stairs, walking softly a few steps behind. She remembered something about Buffy's mother being sick. Buffy then came back down stairs and said, "So, I'll change and then we can head back to the campus for you guys."
"Sounds good." Willow said. Buffy charged up the stairs and a little while later appeared changed and refreshed.
"Ready?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah. Oh, what about Dawn? She said she wanted to go too." Willow said.
"She's going to stay with Mom. I talked to her already."Bianca followed the others out of the house and back to the car. They drove back to the campus and Buffy parked in her usual spot.
"Buffy, you're going to get towed." Willow said as she got out of the car.
"Oh calm down. They haven't towed yet." Buffy replied.Bianca fell a step behind and turned to see a campus policeman on his way up to the car, only to be waylaid by two students motioning frantically in the opposite direction. They distracted the cop as another student put a maintenance crew tag on the car which would allow it to park anywhere. Bianca turned to see if the others had seen this, only to discover they were already inside the building. Turning back to the activity, she caught glimpses of Rain's necklace on these students.
"Bianca?" Willow called from the door.
"Coming, sorry." Bianca followed Willow up to her dorm room.
Feeling a warmth spread through her as she followed her friends up to the Bronze, Bianca straightened her shirt for the thousandth time.
"Nervous?" Tara asked.
"A little. I don't know why, it's just Rain."
Tara smiled softly. "I think she's become much more than `just Rain.'"
Bianca blushed a little and nodded. "I think you're right."She entered the club and was surprised to find the couch and chairs to be empty again. Bianca wondered if perhaps her friends knew the club owner or something and had special privileges; like prime seating arrangements. Bianca sat and began scanning the crowd for Rain. The band was still setting up and Bianca realized it was a little early. The club wasn't nearly as packed as she had remembered and figured a lot of people simply hadn't arrived yet. Rain must be one of them. She began to regret not setting an exact time to meet.
"Are Xander and Anya coming?" Willow asked.
"Yeah, probably a little later. I called them before we left."
"Well, I'm going to get a drink, does anyone want anything?" Bianca asked, standing up.
"I'll go with you to get them." Buffy stood as well.
"I'm fine right now." Willow said. Tara agreed with her.
Bianca led the way over to the bar and placed her order along with Buffy's.
"So, your friend Rain." Buffy said. "What's her story?"
Bianca's eyebrows raised in surprise. She felt both warmed that her friends were so curious about Rain and concerned that her friends were so curious about Rain.
"We met in Pine Valley. She was homeless at the time. Her mom had kicked her out for being gay and she'd been on her own ever since. We met at a shelter a friend took me to to sort of wake me up to reality. She was easy to talk to and obviously understood what I was going through and she didn't care about all the pretenses everyone else back home cares about. With her it was all out on the table. Take it or leave it." Bianca's face grew thoughtful. She then noticed Buffy's expression.
Buffy wasn't looking at Bianca, she was looking over her shoulder with a disturbed expression. Bianca turned around.
Turned around and saw Rain with her arms wrapped around another girl as the other girl petted Rain's hair. She watched as Rain slowly released the other girl, saying something to make the other girl chuckle. Bianca didn't waste a moment. She had been burned too often, had backs turned to her more times than she cared to count; backs that included her own mother's. She didn't wait to yell at Rain or demand an explanation, nor did she wait to go back to her friends and ignore what she had seen. No, Bianca ran. She pushed passed Rain and ran out the door.
A surprised Rain yelled after her. "Bianca!"
Bianca didn't listen, didn't care. She just ran out of the club and into the night.
Bianca's heels clacked against the sidewalk as she blindly ran from the Bronze. She had no idea where she was going, the buildings she passed were a blur, streets a haze, as she just kept going. She ran until her lungs burned, her legs ached, and her eyes were too teared up to see anymore. When she finally stopped she had no idea where she was. Leaning against a stone wall, she breathed in and out heavily, trying to calm her heart and her blood.
"Damn it, Rain. Not you too." Bianca let out in a harsh whisper.
Bianca finally took a minute to look around herself. She realized she was at the gate to a graveyard.
::Oh that would just figure::
"Well well, hello there."
Bianca whirled around to the speaker to find a young man standing before her in a long leather coat and a bad bleach job. She quickly wiped her face.
"Um, hi. Could you tell me which direction the Bronze is?"
The guy seemed to suck his cheeks in before pointing behind her and saying, "Back that way. The same direction you came running from." Bianca couldn't tell if the English accent was real or not.
"Oh, right, thank you."
"Everything all right? You ran like you had something big and nasty after you."
Bianca shook her head. "No. At least nothing tangible."
The guy nodded and pulled out a cigarette. "You want?"
"No, thank you, I don't smoke."
"Good idea. These things'll kill ya." He lit up. "Name's Spike. You are?"
"Well, very good to meet you. I understand you're hanging around with Buffy and her friends?"
"Yes, how did you know?"
"Why is it everyone knows everything about Buffy and her friends? What's with them? First the Crusaders and now you."
"Whoa, the Crusaders? What do you know about them?"
"Not a whole lot, no one will tell me anything. I'm only here for a campus tour and suddenly I find myself mixed up in some weird cult activity. Then I find out that the girl I thought I liked and whom I thought liked me isn't quite as faithful as I thought she was. I thought things would be different here. I thought I wouldn't have to play games and not everyone would have some secret agenda they were trying to follow but nooooooo, I find that it's just like home!"
Spike smiled. "Everyone has an agenda. The ones you have to watch out for are the ones who won't admit it."
Bianca glared at him. "I don't have an agenda. Do you have to watch out for me?"
"I'd guess probably."
"Augh!" Bianca sat on a bench.
Spike knelt in front of her. "Look, Doll, I don't know exactly what's happened, but I can tell you this much: things are never what they seem here. Sunnydale's a special place. Trust me."
Bianca looked at him. "How do you know Buffy?"
"Oh, we go way back."
Bianca's eyes widened. "You're the guy who hangs out outside her house."
Spike stood up. "I am not."
"She keeps finding piles of cigarette butts outside her house. Tara said it's a guy named Spike."
"Well, there are a lot of people who smoke and I certainly have better things to do than hang around Buffy's house."
"Yeah, like wander around a graveyard at eight o'clock at night?"
"Hey, I could just leave you here alone, you know."
Bianca knew that wouldn't be good. "I'm sorry. Rough night that's catching up to me."
"Well, where are Buffy and her gang? It's not her that you had your little lover's quarrel with . . . is it?" Spike looked a little queasy.
"No, not Buffy. I've only known her a couple of days. An old friend, Rain."
Spike looked very relieved. "Well, you know what they say, more fish in the sea, or whatever."
Bianca sighed. "I should probably be getting back, running like a bat out of hell wasn't the smartest idea."
"Never is, Deary. Come on, I'll walk you. If we cut through the cemetery it'll be shorter."
Bianca looked at him. "Oh yeah, I'm going to walk through a dark cemetery with some stranger."
Spike through his hands up. "Have it your way, Doll."
He followed her out of the graveyard and up the darkened street.
"Has this place never heard of streetlights?" Bianca asked.
Spike chuckled, then suddenly stopped and looked around.
Bianca stared at him. "Uh oh? What do you mean uh oh?"
"Have you got anything on you that could be weapon? Preferably one large, wooden, and pointy."
"Do I look like I'm carrying large pieces of wood?" Bianca held her hands out.
"Bollocks." Spike turned to his left and peered into the dark. "Okay, stay by me, you'll be safe if you don't run, okay? Get away from me and they'll get you."
"Who? What are you talking about?"
Suddenly three large figures charged towards them, one over the cemetery wall Bianca was still next to and two others from the street.
"Look, it's the cannibal." One of them said. Bianca looked at his face and saw it was horribly deformed. The other two had the same disfigurements.
"We can play all you want. Touch her and you're dust." Spike said.
"Ooooh, big threats from a little . . . demon." Another taunted.
Bianca turned to Spike and saw his face suddenly had the same distortions as the others'. She screamed.
"Oh yeah, scream all you like, Honey. We like that." The figure on the wall jumped down and grabbed Bianca.
Spike quickly moved behind them and grabbed the man by his neck, twisting and squeezing at the same time. The figure yelled and let go of Bianca while trying to get Spike to release his grip.
"Wood, Doll, we need wood." Spike threw the figure he had at the other two.
Bianca was frozen. What had happened to Spike's face? Demon? What was that other guy talking about?
"Bianca! Wake up!" Spike kicked one of the other figures in the stomach while whirling around to punch the third in the face.
"Tree branch, wooden crate, anything, just get some wood!" Spike continued to fight with the three when one broke away to stalk after Bianca.
She screamed again and ran back towards the gate of the graveyard. A tree branch, she could get one of those and use it to beat off her attacker. Just as she reached the gate she felt a hand on her shoulder and was shoved into the wall.
"Time to die, pretty little thing. Feel free to scream, it makes you taste better." Bianca's assailant held her pinned to the wall and began to lower his face to her neck when she brought her knee up to connect with his groin. Apparently even demons were still susceptible to that move. He immediately released her with a loud yell of pain, grabbing his crotch with both hands. Bianca took her chance and ran into the cemetery. She looked around desperately for something to fight with but the cemetery was too well groomed. No errant tree branches or pieces of garbage. Garbage! Bianca ran towards a garbage can and took it's lid. It wasn't a piece of wood but it was solid and heavy. She turned just in time to see her assailant running towards her. She dodged to the right and swung down, beaning him across the head. He yelled again and fell to the ground. Bianca ran out of the cemetery and back to where Spike was still fighting with the other two.
That's when she saw two more figures running towards them. Bianca was afraid it was more of the bad guys but these two began to help Spike with his two burdens. One dove for an assailants legs and pulled him to the ground while the other punched him in the face. Left with only one to fight, Spike began to pummel him into the ground. Bianca just stood aside with her garbage lid ready to help if she got the chance. A screech of tire wheels pulled her attention to the street as she saw Buffy and her friends run across the street to the fight. The two who had been helping Spike ran off as soon as they saw Buffy. Buffy ran up and took a flying kick into one of the assailants, pulled something from under her jacket and plunging it into his chest. Bianca screamed as he suddenly turned into dust.
Spike punched the third guy in the face, causing him to fall back towards Buffy who proceeded to give him the same fate as the first guy. Once those two were gone, Spike turned to Bianca. "The third?"
"He was knocked out inside the gate."
"Buffy?" Spike held out his hand.
Buffy tossed him her stake and Spike ran into the cemetery to find the third guy.
Bianca suddenly found herself enveloped in a hug. Willow's voice said, "Are you all right?"
Bianca pushed her away. "Would someone please tell me what the hell is going on?!"
Another car stopped in the street with a screech of tires. Rain and two others got out, walking slowly towards Bianca and her group.
"I'm seriously starting to freak out here, okay! All three of those guys had weird faces I would have just thought they were masks or something when suddenly Spike had the same face. One of them called him a demon and then they all start fighting, then one of them grabs me and says I'll taste better if I scream. I'll taste better! Then Buffy comes charging up and stabs too of them in the chest making them disintegrate and now here comes Rain and her Crusaders and all I want to know is what the hell is happening here!"
Bianca finished her tirade (which, had she stopped to think about it, would have made her think she had caught Willow's rambling tendency), breathing heavily and holding onto her trash can lid like a shield, blocking anyone who would move towards her.
Spike came back and tossed Buffy her stake. "He's gone." He noticed Bianca's state and remarked, "Someone has some explaining to do."
Buffy turned from Bianca to Rain. "I'd like to know what the deal with you people is too."
Rain stared at Buffy for a second before turning to Bianca. "C'mon, Binks. I can explain everything. What you saw isn't what you thought it was."
"Oh no?! I saw you giving another girl a full body hug and letting her pet your hair. What am I supposed to think?"
"That she's a very good friend who helped me through some hard times and whom I think of as a sister, nothing else. I promise you, Bianca."
"Rain, we must leave." A dark haired young man standing behind Rain said.
"In a sec, Drake. Not without Bianca."
"Oh no, Bianca's coming with us, back to the school." Willow said.
"As they wish, Rain." Drake said.
Rain turned. "I want to talk to Bianca. She's not one of them." Rain turned back to Bianca, taking a step towards her, pleading with her eyes. "Please believe me. I would never lie to you, I could never do that to you. She's a friend, nothing more. She helped me get a place here, get my GED and get into college. Her name is Sasha. I can introduce you and you'll see she's not a threat. She has a boyfriend."
Bianca lowered the trash can lid to the ground and took a deep breath. She turned to Buffy. "What happened here?"
"You were attacked, we helped." Buffy replied.
"Bullshit! Who were those guys? What were those guys?"
Spike leaned against the wall, enjoying the show. Rather than answer Bianca, Buffy turned to him. "How did you end up here?"
"I ran into Nibblet here. We were on our way back to the Bronze when Larry, Mo, and Curly showed up."
"And I'm supposed to believe that?"
"Believe what you want. It's the truth."
"Hello!" Bianca called.
Buffy and Spike both turned back to her. Buffy rubbed her face. "I guess it was only a matter of time. Especially if she decided to go to school here."
"Let's go back to the dorm. We can talk there." Willow said.
Rain took a step forward, stopped by a hand on the shoulder from Drake. Buffy turned to Drake and walked towards him. He stood a head taller than her but still somehow seemed dwarfed next to her.
"Who are you people? You keep popping up in places you shouldn't be and you seem to know more than you should about me so why don't you tell me about you?"
Drake was obviously uneasy but he said, "I can't say anything."
"Well why don't I guess then and you can fill in the blanks, hmm? This," Buffy poked Drake in his necklace, "is the symbol of the Tribunum. From what I've read, the Tribunum is a council that heads a group of protectors who watch over a champion whom the council chooses. Am I right so far?"
Drake didn't respond but his expression grew a little more guarded. Buffy took that as a positive.
"Since you've been following my friends and me around, I'm led to assume that one of us is the champion?"
Drake said nothing.
"Hey!" Buffy smacked him upside the head.
Drake stepped back a few paces and his other friend and Rain moved towards Buffy.
"Who are you people?" Buffy asked.
"Friends. That's all." Rain said.
"Friends? Friends who watch me, who follow me around, who follow my friends around? Who is the Tribunum?"
"It's time for us to leave." Drake turned and walked towards their car. The other Crusader followed him, leaving Rain watching Bianca.
"Come with us, please. I can drop you off at the dorms later." Rain said.
Buffy wasn't yet done with Drake yet. She walked after him, throwing him against the car. "I already know more than I'm supposed to. You might as well share the rest."
"I can not." Drake answered.
"The hell you can't."
"It is not your place to know about us. We will not harm you, we will not interfere with your work."
"And what is my work, exactly? What is it I do?" Buffy asked.
Drake's jaw clenched and his lips thinned.
"I can't have people running around pretending to be superheroes nor do I need more people `watching out for me' and pretending to look out for what they believe to be my best interests."
"We are not pretending." Drake said.
"I don't know what you are, you won't tell me!" Buffy yelled.
"We are of no consequence to you."
"Those two earlier." Bianca suddenly spoke. All eyes turned to her. "When Spike was fighting the other two, two more guys came to help out. As soon as Buffy showed up, they ran. Were they apart of your group too?"
Buffy turned back to Drake. "So, you don't interfere, huh? But you'll risk your people's necks fighting demons they shouldn't even know about."
"My people risk their own necks. Your friends were obviously in trouble and my people, as you call them, helped out. Would you be yelling at them if they had just been ordinary citizens trying to help some people in need? What are you truly mad at, the fact that we helped or that fact that we won't tell you why?"
"Both!" Buffy yelled. "You shouldn't be taking on vampires nor should you be consorting with some kind of otherworldly council."
Bianca's mouth dropped open. "Vampires?"
::Oh that's just perfect::
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