Story: Lost Scenes... (all chapters)

Authors: Pat Kelly

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Chapter 1

Title: ...From High School

H.G.O.G.A in the ‘Brary

"You got the tix already. Why don't we go together?" Faith suggested, as they took a break from sparring in the library to replenish fluids.

"The tix" to which she referred were to the school's homecoming dance at the Bronze.

Buffy closed her water bottle, smiling gratefully at her sister slayer. "I don't know about that."

She knew the reason Faith was offering. Because she had no date. Between the bus crash and the election campaign, Veronica was kind of consumed at home, so she wasn't getting her hopes up. But Faith didn't know she had a girlfriend yet. And her girlfriend didn't quite know how hot Faith was yet. Even with platonic intentions, it could get...messy.

"Come on. We'll find a couple studs, we'll use 'em and...discard 'em. That's always fun." The brunette took a swig from her bottle.

"Um, see, the thing life's been stud-free, happily free, for a while now, so..."

Or it had been until Angel fell back into the blonde's life, which again, Faith didn't know yet. No one did.

Giles emerged from his office, then. "Are you both sure--?"

Someone's voice stopped him.

"Is it true? Does Carrie actually go here? Because that'd be awesome. She's the last autograph I need to finally complete the can."

Buffy knew that voice. Veronica Mars had just pushed through the doors of the Sunnydale High Library--a.k.a., "Scooby Meeting Central"--and was giving the place a look-see.

The petite slayer tried to walk over as nonchalantly as possible, but couldn't keep the broadening smile from breaking out. "You're addicted to stealing from Tom have a problem. What if he didn't make movies?"

Veronica shook her head as if to banish such a horrible thought. "That's a world I don't wanna think know Zoltar's my comedic rock."

Next thing she knew, she was in her girlfriend's arms, and there were lips, tongue, and lips and tongue. After, she smacked her lips together like she just had a tasty meal.

"Solid 7.8. Pretty good. Though, full disclosure? I was hoping for perfect tens."

Buffy smirked. "Tens are how?"

"Shouldn't be able to feel my face. I mean, it's been a relatively long absence...your heart *could* be a little fonder."

"Maybe if I wasn't doing all the work, and someone started remembering that making out is a two-person thing..." Buffy complained, and Veronica stuck out her tongue. "Hey."

"Hey." Then the detective saw perspiration. "Have you been sweating to the oldies again?"

"Been holdin' out on me, B," Faith interjected from her spot over by the book cage.

This drew Veronica's attention, and following a split second appraisal of the Bostonian's form and cocky grin, missiles were armed. She looked to her girlfriend with raised, "What do we have here?" eyebrows.

"Looks like you were both sweating to the oldies...all of them. Richard Simmons would be thrilled."

Buffy tried to say something, tried not to look guilty (because really, was omission that big of a crime?), but every time her mouth moved, no sound came. Except when she whimpered and went to hide by Giles, who was still wiping his glasses at the office door. Veronica went over to Faith.

"That would be Veronica, I assume?" He asked.

His charge nodded mutely. She looked at the door. "Does that lock?"

Veronica seemed to study the quite sexy (and much, much more butch than either of them) Faith. She cocked her head to one side, then a few seconds later, cocked it to the other. At one point, she seemed to cup the air in front of her chest, and frown. Then she moved, getting both side angles.

"Your girl have pills she isn't poppin'?" Faith wondered. "Not sayin' it ain't a great view..."

Buffy wisely didn't answer, considering she was trying to disappear. Which she did, backing into the office.

Veronica kept researching for a good thirty seconds more, and then she stuck her hands in the pockets of her jeans, and bit the corner of her mouth.

"Hell. The one time I forget to pack a tape measure." Beat. "If you still want an escort to the ball--who'll don the appropriate, feminine attire without protest--best show yourself."

Buffy poked her head out. Only her head. "What...kind of attire?"

She didn't trust it. Could've been a trick.




Ralph Macchio's a Bitch

"Just feel better when I get my strength back," said Buffy as she sat at the kitchen island, trying fruitlessly to open a jar of peanut butter.

Her strength had been sapped by the injected, chemical concoction Giles secretly administered for the Council's rite of passage test that they forced her to endure. Because she was lucky enough to have reached eighteen years of age. She still didn't know if she could trust him again, but that he got fired standing up for her, helped.

So, powers on hiatus, face bruised and cut, and now she couldn't open a jar. In front of everyone. Her mom stood behind and to her right, Veronica behind and to the left, Oz was over in the corner near the sink, and Willow was at the island's far end. Xander stood opposite her, on the other side of the island.

He held his hand out. "Give ya a hand with that, little lady?"

She begrudgingly gave it to him; she was against birthdays from here on out.

"You're loving this far too much."

"Admit it--sometimes you just need a big, strong man." He turned and turned his wrist, putting all his strength into it. "Heh. Uh, Will, gimme a hand with that?"

All females present shot him a bemused, "Big, Strong Man, huh?" look.

Willow twisted it off easily, then set it down. "Or a ‘Me.'"

"Know which one I'd go with," Oz commented.

Willow smiled, then after a beat, frowned in uncertainty, turning her head towards him. "A-a ‘Me,' right?"

"Not that we'd judge know," Xander jokingly reassured. "'Cause you'd make ‘gay' cool."

Blond heads focused on him, warningly.

"Cool-er. *Er*. Over on our side. Your side's already...yeah. It's Xander's ‘quiet time.'"

Veronica moved a little so Buffy could see her without turning.

"I'm the one who'll be loving it most. Because as long as your metachlorian count's low," Buffy's girlfriend got her karate chops prepared, "that long distance, ‘Karate Kid' marathon from last weekend is finally gonna start paying dividends. Who's waxed off now?"

She moved her hands around menacingly, before doing her best Ivan Drago. "I will break you."

Perhaps the high from her first, vampire staking a few nights ago hadn't worn off.

Buffy just stared a moment, then slid the jar over. "Make me peanut butter and jelly. I'm injured," she smiled evilly. "My mom says you have to."

Joyce shrugged. "She *is* injured."

A double team was one thing, but Veronica had no choice but to lower her arms upon parental interference. What a cheap tactic.

"Shoulda waxed on first." Xander critiqued, ending "quiet time."

Oz concurred. "Rookie mistake."



Why Kate Beckinsale Should Stay Out of Dark Alleys

"Whatcha doin' there, Mac-y?" Veronica inquired as she walked up to the Slushie Booth, seeing Mac sitting inside while Cassidy fought with the machine.

"Keepin' Beaver company," answered the hacker with a broad smile.

"That sounds fun." She was happy for her friend, who was now apparently part of a couple.

One of the many couples milling about Neptune High's transformed, outdoor cafeteria. She was part of a couple, too. But today she was just one. Usually that didn't bother her, going it solo, adrift in a sea of high school hormones. Which she had to navigate to recover a stolen cashbox and clear her name. At least she knew how to do that--she did so daily.

Mac smiled impossibly broader. "That's ‘cause it is."

Then she kind of looked past the detective, her smile becoming a grin.

Veronica didn't get a chance to turn. A hand grabbed her in the her belt buckle. When she smiled, her tongue pressed behind her teeth. No one else would dare, not even Dick.

"Better be who I hope you are. I've got ‘Sexual Harassment Panda' on speed dial."  On that note, she felt the grip loosen, so she turned. And frowned. "You're not Kate Beckinsale."

"That's a bad thing since why? My face would be all swollen and bruising and...'Michael Jackson'-nosed," Buffy responded to that, grumbling. "From the constant self-punching. Forever." 

"And ever?" Veronica asked in child-like wonderment, followed by an audible and visible wince. "Swear it wasn't premeditated. ‘Keira Knightley'? *Right* there. On the tip of my--"

She edited herself just as her girlfriend's arms crossed. "And coming in at #4 on the list of phrases not to use when you've decided the ‘L Word' might be onto something..."

"So how," Buffy said, her own smile near to Veronica's and forgiving of the tongue-slip, "open is your closet?"

Veronica pulled apart the sides of the green jacket she wore, and said low, "Off the hinges--I let it all hang out." Beat. "Didn't think you were gonna make it."

"If my mom asks, I showed three hours later than now. ‘Cause I attended all classes." The slayer's grin didn't seem all that guilty. "And training's out till I'm full-strength."

"You're committing truancy? For me?" Veronica put her "scheming" face on. "Why wasn't I told that I held this kind of power?"

"You and power and knowing you have equals ‘scary.'" Buffy didn't beat around the bush on that one. "Did that need saying? Nuh-uh."

Veronica's response was to hide her mouth behind her hands--pressed together in a prayer position--letting her eyes sparkle with mischief, and the brows above them rise.

"Uh, besides how she nukes the self-esteem of teenage girls across America who've got reflections," Mac piped up from inside the booth, "why else would you hate..."

Veronica turned back around, rapidly gesturing for her to desist. 

"...Kate Beckinsale?" Mac finished her question anyway.

"Movies. Three. Two where she's reflection-less." Buffy was ready to go off. "Van Helsing," She counted off on her fingers, "Underworld, Underworld: De-Evolution. They were just...and she...I mean, *one*, fine. I forgave. But *three*? Do your homework!"

There was a vein in her forehead that looked ready to burst, and she looked like she was trying not to strangle the air. She had so much hate she couldn't even get it out.

"Isn't just me, either. One night, for an hour, this vam--"

Veronica cleared her throat loudly to try to stop the tirade before it exposed things that should stay hidden. "She gets it."

"I do?" Mac asked, confused, and she was fixed with a pointed stare. Oh, of course. "I do."

Cassidy didn't. "You do?"

His girlfriend nodded. "I do."

"Come back to me, Jennifer Walters." Veronica's arms made like they were pulling back the air.

To this, Cassidy grinned, and Mac was again confused. "You got that?"

"She-Hulk," he shrugged, and went back to trying to fix the machine. "I think the machine broke."

"The ice is jammed. Just break it up with a screwdriver," advised Veronica, having mastered the art during her shift at the booth.

Buffy's eyebrow quirked. "There's earning of alcohol with Pirate Points now?"

"The tool, honey." Veronica then flashed tongue at her. "Not that Student Council hasn't tried."

"Great," Cassidy said, annoyed. "I just lent it to Jackie."

Veronica's mind was instantly back on the case. The girl was also a suspected, cashbox thief, as she was the now-reviled daughter of Terrance Cook, who might have blown up the bus.

"Jackie asked to borrow a screwdriver? Did you see where she went?"

He looked around. "She was just--"

"Buffy Summers." Principal Van Clemmons had joined them all suddenly, curtailing the search. "I seem to remember expelling you from Neptune High."

"That was a ‘forever' thing?" The expellee asked, in her best "innocent" voice.

Still liked him better than Snyder.

Veronica added, spotting Jackie heading into the school, "And ‘ever' thing?"

"I have money." Buffy pulled out her wallet and showed it off. "To spend. Here."

The detective grabbed her girlfriend's hand and pulled her along towards the bathroom. "Long as she's with me, she won't even burn a Dura-Flame log, Mr. C!"

"No," protested Buffy. "I hafta buy a Pep-Squad Pie then do something where Madison's face's involved. I've been waiting. Years."

"All in good time," Veronica assured her. "Don't you wanna see my office?"


Murder, Mugging and Morons...Oh My

"Let your freak flag fly, ladies!" Dick called after the newly-outted Kylie and Marlena, as they walked down the Neptune High hallway.

Veronica's reaction as she walked up to him? "How progressive of you, Dick."

She might've been disingenuous in her compliment. At least that was one couple she didn't have to prevent the "Pizza Boy Mugger" from blackmailing. She almost wished she wasn't "out," so she could take this case just a little more personally.

"Damn. What is it with you? Do you follow me around for fun, or what?" He tried to be humorous, but like all those other times it was intentional, he didn't pull it off.

"Would it help if I started making out with *my* girlfriend in the hall?"

He perked up at this. "*Yeah*, obviously. I'd so pay."

She nodded, having expected such an answer. Silently, she retrieved her call phone and dialed.

After a couple rings, "Hey, bad time? Because it's been requested that we publicly display our affections. Just thought I'd let you know. There was talk of compensation." Getting a response, she smiled unsettlingly at Dick, but talked to Buffy on the other end. "Didn't even need to guess."

She held the phone out to him. "It's for you."

Dick took a couple steps backward. "I don't want that."

Veronica looked surprised. "You're sure?" She watched him take off in the opposite direction, random pal in tow. "I expect a check to appear magically in my hand by the end of the day!"

Because he owed her for hitting her car. Not because there was going to be H.L.A for cash.

"So," Veronica said to the significantly more pleasant person on her phone, beginning to walk through the hall, "how *you* doin'? Need anything? I.D.s faked? Bodies hidden? I know a good landfill."

Listening, she froze in mid step. "Hold on."

Then she was running into the bathroom. Once inside, she shoved the stopper under the door, before going from stall to stall looking to make sure she didn't see any feet.

"Okay, from the top. You and Faith what?"

#We...on patrol...we killed someone. It was an accident. I wasn't thinking--we weren't. I thought he was a vamp, an-and I grabbed him, and then Faith...I watched him die. God, his eyes were...#

"Give me two hours," said Veronica, not liking the tone in her girlfriend's voice.

#No, it's...don't. You don't wanna be here.#

"Oh yeah I do."

#I'm serious. Faith's losing it, and the cops, they're...I think I'm a suspect. The paper said he was the deputy mayor.#

The teen detective's eyebrows hit the roof. "Deputy mayor, eh? Checking out Sunnydale's back alleys. At night. Either he was hoping Roxanne would put on that red light one more time, or, he knew exactly what he was strolling into. And because I get happy when there's corruption in City Hall..."

As quick as she started to latch onto that bone, she dropped it just as quick.

"Two hours. This? Why support systems were invented."

#Support after. I want. But I'm calling because I need help--private detecting help. Giles talked to the Council...they already knew. Means it was Wesley who spilled. Giles said they'll probably send people to ‘rehabilitate' Faith. I don't trust Wesley, and I *really* don't trust them. Not after my birthday.#

Veronica didn't like the word "rehabilitate." Not in this context.

"Welcome to my worldview," she exhaled. "I'll make a call. You've got a P.I. in your backyard that, luckily, owes Dad a favor. Other than legally trying to change his name to ‘Sam Spade,' he's on level. And the guy can tail like nobody's beeswax. Soon as I haggle him down, I'll text you the address."

#Thanks, Veronica. I'll let you know what's happening.#

Veronica heard the smile. "Damn well better. ‘Cause I still object."

#Support after. Meant that.#

"Buffy? Watch your back."

#Only if you watch yours.#

They hung up with each other. Veronica was even less eager to face Neptune High now. Tempted to screw the case.

She was here trying to solve the mystery of a bus crash she felt guilty over, and more immediately, trying to keep gay students closeted. All while her best friend was there, being a murder suspect. What a great year this was.

Didn't like it. Nope. Nuh-uh.

On her way out of the bathroom though, she still made the call.



Van Morrison Was Wrong

"Um...'You know, Cassandra, from this height, you could really hawk-a-lugie on someone,'" Buffy quoted as they stood outside on the balcony of Logan's penthouse suite.

"Damn it. I knew you'd go there," complained Veronica, looking out at the town of Neptune on "Alterna-Prom Night." "That was mine."

"Hey, I didn't make you pick 'Evita' last turn."

They were out here--Veronica in a strapless, backless, black dress; Buffy in red satin, borrowed from Veronica--passing the time by trying to quote famous, balcony movie scenes. An activity inspired by their current location, away from the predominantly 09er crowd that partied their rich hearts out back inside.

"You think you didn't, but you did. Madonna/'Mo'/Esther, post-1992? We've never seen eye-to-eye. And yet," Veronica pointed at her vocal chords, "forced to sing. Hope you hate yourself."

Her fingers drummed on the balcony wall.

"There's always the obvious," Buffy reluctantly pointed out.

Veronica's palm plugged up her girlfriend's mouth. "I'd rather drag a lip plate through the halls of Neptune High, drooling involuntarily for the rest of my four-year sentence."

She freed up Buffy's word hole. "Thought we agreed it was an unspoken rule."

"It is," Buffy reaffirmed. "Ever since they made us watch in English class so we'd hopefully relate better," she continued. "Except it just made hating Shakespeare feel allowed."

Veronica's hand turned in an encouraging, "go on" motion.

Well, after, "A hate equaled only by that which you direct inwards, I'm sure."

"Shut up," Buffy smiled playfully, and hooked her arm around Veronica's. "Anyway, when she's suddenly, yunno, *stabbing herself in the chest*? Over him dying at the end? Was there sense that I missed? She was dumb for loving him in the first place, even. He was so--"

"--DiCaprio?" Veronica nodded agreeably. "Got plenty a'bones I'd love to pick with Baz Luhrmann. Quoting that one means he wins, and I refuse to surrender under pressure."

"Means *I* win."

"Hold your horses, Horatio. Finding a towel this fluffy doesn't happen everyday--ain't throwin' it in," Veronica exhaled.

Never let it be said she didn't go down swinging.

She quoted, "'Mind if I bum a fag?' 'What do I care? You can bum whoever you...Oh.'"

Her scowl then met a slayer's grin.

"Not a movie," Buffy stated the obvious.

"Yes, she came up empty. Unbelievable but true. Thank god the next blue moon is years away."

"So. Win. Me." Buffy couldn't bask very long, because she shivered. "Dressing up leads to chilly."

"Remember the temperature inside?" Veronica asked. "Why, you could almost see frost."

To say they didn't get a warm reception from their peers...would be underselling. Silent contempt, leering and low jeering drove them out here. Didn't help that Mac wanted Veronica water-tortured, and that Jackie and Wallace had abandoned them to get their freak on.

"It's Neptune," shrugged Buffy, taking Veronica's usual line. "And we're putting the 'alterna' in 'Alterna-Prom.' And they're not Marsipan-fans. M'not shocked."

She pulled Veronica away from the balcony and drew her close. "For body heat."

"So... I'm being used," Veronica deduced, all the while snaking her arms around her girlfriend's back. "Guess I'm not shocked, either. But that's otay, 'cause I'm turning us down a two-way street, and getting something outta this--it's a marvelous night for a moondance. Chop, chop, Dumbers."

Buffy frowned. "These shoes don't dance."

"If somebody wants to bop horizontally later, they better learn." Veronica smiled as feet began to slow dance, and shut her eyes, feeling peaceful despite the enemy territory. "Scrappy Doos from Hell notwithstanding? Your prom was actually more traditional. Dunno what that says."

"Huh? I'm thinking about bopping."

There was banging on the sliding, glass door to their right. Dick Casablancas stood on the other side, the straw to his "Party Pig" in mouth. He was exclaiming something. Something less than classy, no doubt.

"You aren't alone." Veronica blanched at the sight of him. "Grabbed a sheet like I suggested, we could be escaping over the side right now."

Buffy's eyes narrowed. "This is my fault?"

"No," Veronica replied, "it's your fault you drew the short stick when it came to superpowers. Because if you hadn't, we'd be flying, and you'd be redeemed."

"Then you'd be Lois. 'Margot-Lois,'" the slayer verbally slayed.

The detective had a sudden attack of acid reflux. "Cease-fire. We're even, Steven." Upset, she groaned. "Only way out's over hot, drunken coals, isn't it?"

"I seriously wish I wasn't wearing these shoes."

Chapter 2

Title: ...From Freshman Year

Sisters Doin' It For Themselves

...and Other Frightening Sights

Buffy and Veronica stood just inside the Zeta Theta Beta House, undercover in their light and airy sundresses, bracing themselves for three hours of wishing they were somewhere else. Singing, why'd there have to be singing?

They had to remember it was all to stop a rapist. Greater good. Noble cause and--

"Quit trying to look at my ass," the slayer whispered, catching her girlfriend attempting to discreetly lean back.

Veronica sighed. "Never a windy grate around when ya need one." Then she whispered herself as a Theta Beta approached, "Which circle did Dante say this was on again?"

"Six. ‘N'a half," reminded Buffy promptly. "There's also where every Adam Sandler movie made after 1999 is."

It was all coming back to Veronica now. "And all those ‘comedy' specials Gallagher did in the eighties, right." Beat. "Game faces."

"Hi! Welcome to Zeta Theta Beta. I'm Hallie. What're your names?" The girl's chipmunk voice greeted, chirpily.

And best, fake chipper smile...


Hallie was filling out a heart-shaped nametag. "Oh my gawd--I used to have a little Shih Tzu named ‘Veronica.'" She put it on the new "pledge."

"What a coincidence."

Just keep smiling...just keep smiling...

"Buffy." The slayer took her turn.

"Just like the sweet, old, rich lady on ‘Gilligan's Island.' Too cute." Another name, another tag from Hallie. "So are you like, you know," Her voice dropped, "together?"

"Once. *Way* too much ‘Grey Goose,'" cracked the detective, trying to gauge the Theta Beta's member's reaction to the mention of alcohol.

Hallie laughed. "Tell me about it."

Though befuddled by the reaction to her name, Buffy managed to contribute, "We've known each other since forever."

Veronica nodded, filing away what she'd just learned. "Inside our respective wombs? Communicated telepathically."

Hallie melted like ditzy, blond butter. "Aww! You guys are totally adorable! I think you're gonna *love* being one of us."

"'One of Us'?" Veronica repeated once the girl walked to the next victim, and they were relatively alone. "Somebody's been reading ‘Cult Slanguage For Dummies.'"

Then she got a good look her girlfriend's nametag. And her game face broke to allow barely restrained laughter to surface.

"What?" Buffy ripped off the nametag and saw what was written there.


Even without the "Gilligan's Island" reference, there was still the sexual connotation, which they both assumed was lost on Hallie. Despite how annoyed she was, Buffy hugged Veronica as her laughter/crying became less and less restrained, and began drawing attention.

"She had a Shih Tzu, too. Died. She's having a really hard time," Buffy offered to the onlookers. "It got sat on."

Then she was back to whispering. "Nobody hears about this. And later? Say *nothing* to me. Be wordless. *Veronika*." She wasn't the only one with a botched tag. "When did you become a bulimic, Russian runway model?"

Veronica showed no signs of stopping.

"We're on a mission here!" Buffy hissed.

While she hid Veronica from the sorority house, her gaze settled on a tall, leggy, wavy-haired redhead. Her Spidey-Sense tingled off the chart. She decided on the spot, that she wasn't leaving Veronica alone with her--claws were at the ready.

But while she was in this position, she figured she'd attempt to peer down over her girlfriend's shoulder and see what she could see.



Oh, (Alley) Balls!

"Bring it in, boys," Veronica directed the bowling alley employees, who were carrying the ramp to the lane.

The ramp used to help young children who couldn't yet hold a bowling ball, much less roll it. The two, teenage gentlemen set it down, and snickered in Buffy's direction before going/running away, seeing the look in her eyes. Veronica's amused with herself smile took a bit of a hit when she saw Buffy un-amused, arms across chest.

"This isn't helping me be less mad," said the slayer to her girlfriend.

Veronica showed "The Face," and hoped that was enough. "Love you, but occasionally, your lack of imagination makes me one, sad panda--don't you see the possibilities?"

She walked to the ball rack, got a ball, and placed that chosen ball at the top of the ramp. Next, she got behind Buffy. Her arms slid underneath Buffy's, and she placed her hands back on the ball. This brought their bodies in close contact at several points. That was the plan.

Buffy, however, was not in on that plan. "What're you doing?"

"I *was* going to impart my bowling wisdom using a ‘hands on' approach, but if you're not interested..." Veronica tried to sound as "whatever" about it as possible, but she soon felt Buffy's hands covering hers. "Okay, on a Spanish three. Uno, dos...wait for the sexual tension to peak, and...tres."

They pushed together, and watched the ball roll weakly down the lane, into the gutter.

"And now? Beer."

Buffy's eyebrow quirked. "That was bowling wisdom?"

"I never said it was vast."




Several feet back, Piz slouched on the bench and exhaled. "I'm pretty sure I should enjoy watching that, but you know, I don't."

He arranged this outing, see, and invited Veronica himself, over Wallace's vague suggestion that he forget about it. The very same Wallace who was ditching to study, therefore making tonight even less easy to bear. But his roommate clearly knew what he was beginning to realize--Buffy and Veronica weren't a "college thing." He would've known that before now, had Wallace not refused to discuss their relationship.

Veronica certainly didn't. And Piz didn't know much about Buffy. Tonight was his first time really seeing them together. It was kind of disheartening. Having a crush had an ugly side, and this was it.

"Don't you think they're awesome together?" Parker asked, down the bench, but scooting her way closer and closer. "Mac said they were mad at each other for like, the first time a couple days ago, but you can't even tell."

She had passed spitting distance in her proximity. "It's funny the way two people can really, connect, isn't it? I mean, in the right situation, with the right mood..."

"Uh, yeah," agreed Piz, trying to hide how uncomfortable he was. "I never thought TomKat would make it, but they just show us how much we still don't understand that word called, ‘love.' Ron Hubbard made a match. Bet he's somewhere proud...on his spaceship."

When Parker laughed, he sat up and forward, feeling his body tense up.

He commenced deterring. "It's wrong to encourage that. Maybe not legally, but it should be. Carrot Top rode his whole career on pity laughs and hair; I wanna earn what little I get. Legitimately."

"It was funny," she responded in counter.

"No...wasn't even ‘Horatio Sanz' funny. Thanks, though."

He tapped his hands together nervously, and tried to inch over the other way.

"Well, is it okay if I think your hair's a lot better than Carrot Top's?" She asked with a, "give me a sign" smile. "Makes you look...sensitive."

If he didn't know she was interested in him, he would've thought that to be a "kiss of death" compliment.

"Personally, I've always liked ‘soulful,' and I know you probably meant ‘quietly feminine,' but it's cool. Happens when you go for a circa-1998, ‘Johnny Resnick' look."

"Hey, after what happened to me? A nice, sensitive, soulful guy is *exactly* what I need," she assured him that that was a good thing. "Like you, Piz. You're reminding me that not all men are horrible, disgusting pieces of crap that keep getting stuck on my shoes. Which is a huge thing, I completely mean that--thank you."

Aw, nuts.

He smiled weakly back at her. "Welcome."

At the conversation's awkward-for-him lull, they viewed the girlfriends' latest antics together--Veronica was literally trying to pull Buffy onto the lane.

"I don't think we're ever gonna get to play an actual game tonight," Parker took an educated guess, but chuckling, she didn't seem to care.

"Uh huh." Piz was now even more tortured.




"You're jaywalking. In a bowling alley," Buffy pointed out to her rule-breaking friend and lover. "You're ‘jalleywalking.'"

Veronica ignored the accusation, having succeeded in making her step onto the lane.

"I hope that hasn't been already coined. It deserves an entry right between ‘jalapeno' and ‘jalopy.' My first call when we get outta here? Noah Webster. Going straight to the top. Or, more accurately, to the bottom--‘bout six feet oughta do it. We have a shovel, right?"

"So you'd raise a zombie, dictionary-inventor guy--who won't stay slayed ‘cause there's a mask again--and hog all my credit?" Buffy accused, then to add further insult, "Jalleywalker."

Veronica looked offended. "Like I'd selfishly raise the dead for personal gain; it's all for yours. Yes, that's how much I care."

"Till they start becoming multiple zombies and eating people."

"Oh, then I throw you to some likely reanimated wolves. Posthaste," answered Veronica succinctly, grinning.

She squeezed both the hands she still held. "But what's any of this hafta do with the price of fish?"

Beat as she looked down at their feet. "Both're sporting the required footwear, lane's paid for. I'm read up on the letter of the law, and, tonight anyway, abiding. For once. If ya can't define your own term, maybe I better hog it for myself."

Buffy smiled, conceding this thing, but she wanted to make it clear that she hadn't conceded everything. "It still isn't okay how you decided to basically attack him, Veronica."

Veronica knew she disappointed her girlfriend, but what had she been supposed to think?

"Weevil was the most--"

"--frame-able," finished the slayer her own way. "There coulda been DNA on Lilly's necklace, and you wouldn't've believed it was me."

"Yeah, except you're not Weevil, Buffy. He didn't earn himself a sorted, criminal past and that brief stay in the California, penal system, by accident," Veronica offered, fairly rationally.

"Fine, he's done crime, which he misses," Buffy wasn't ignorant of those facts, "but that shouldn't matter."

To Veronica and Veronica's face, no math in the world made that add up. Would not compute, as the Lamb-Bot might say.


"Because he's our friend, he's never crimed against us, and he told you he didn't. *I* told you he didn't." To Buffy, the math was very basic.

"And you I believed," said the detective seriously. "But where the evidence led, I had to follow. You know I'm compulsive that way."

"How come you can believe me and not him? ‘Cause I'm ‘Good'? ‘Cause of maybe sex again?"

Didn't Buffy get it?

Veronica frowned for reasons numerous. "I don't trust him. He's lied to me before. At some point, everyone in my life has. Could've been big, could've been relatively off-white...but they have. You excluded."

She was getting serious herself here. "When we were fifteen, you told me the biggest secret you'll ever need to keep, knowing there was a strong chance I'd react exactly how it played out."

She still carried guilt around over that--Buffy had trusted *her*, and she let her down.

"So I *know* you'd never lie to me. Unless something makes me look fat, then intend to," she smirked before honestly smiling. "You're the only person I trust's that for pressure?"

"Kay," Buffy was slow to respond to that admission, near floored, "wow. Tonight I'm kinda won over."

There was no maybe about sex later. Then tomorrow, they'd figure out who falsely fake-ified Veronica's paper on the Internet.

"Does that mean you'll be my ball, and kick down the pins for me?" Veronica asked hopefully. "Smithers did it for Mr. Burns..."




Parker was no idiot. While Buffy booted poor, defenseless pins, she finally saw that when the rest of the alley's eyes went to the spectacle, Piz's eyes remained on Veronica. It wasn't a real boost for her self-confidence.

"The fight wasn't just about who left the cap off the toothpaste. Stab in the dark," he surmised, talking more to himself. "But there they are, being asked to leave together."

It was true, they'd attracted managerial attention.

"I don't have a shot in hell."

"Nope. Not at all," she had to agree.

Beginning to feel the stirrings of confidence, she didn't just mean with Veronica. She wouldn't be his consolation prize. Was that kicking him when he was down? Eh, whatever.




No P.H.A.T Chicks

"So, you wanna pose together?" The debatably metrosexual, vegan, P.H.A.T (People for Humane Animal Treatment) member asked as Buffy, Mac and Veronica took in the camera equipment and the calendar's "naked" theme, illustrated by the photo on the computer.

This case had gotten them in over their heads. For the want of a stolen, lab monkey. Veronica was nearly ready to cash in. Who cared if these student, animal rights activists were the most likely suspects?

"Uh, my mom always taught me three's kind of like, crowded? But-but they already do," Mac said, thumbing in the direction of the girlfriends.

Veronica tried to discreetly shoot Mac "eye beams of death." Then she found herself nodding, looking at Buffy.

"Totally. We know all the best poses."

"Yeah." Buffy was still rather shell-shocked. "We just don't--"

"--share this knowledge publicly."

"Uh huh." The slayer finally came out of it. "Well, at least not in ‘calendar' form."

"June? Not our greatest month," the detective turned on the bullshit. "It'd compromise the group's whole message for the rest of the year. And September's not a real winner either."

"Ask her again after a couple, Irish coffees," suggested Mac, hand over her mouth, and Veronica promptly applied pressure to her foot.

Buffy pondered, and had to support, "It isn't pretty. They're like her only weakness."

Veronica felt mildly betrayed. "Hey, anyone remember Chumbawamba?" She pointed to her girlfriend, who gaped. "I think I've said enough."

"I thought you guys were committed," the Daria-wannabe member spoke up.

"Wanna commit somebody..." Buffy mumbled under her breath.

"Don't act like you wouldn't bust me the frak out with a water fountain," whispered Veronica back at her, grinning. "Go ahead, Chief--deny it. But lie to yourself like that? Why?"

"'Kay, I would. After the lobotomy."

Their P.H.A.T recruiters turned to Mac for help. She just gave them a, "You have no idea" look.



Pimpin' Ain't Easy

Veronica closed the door once they finally got a heart-shattered Max to leave the apartment. That Wendy was one, sly swindler of a prostitute. She could almost respect the skill, if she weren't so incensed.

Buffy sat in what she'd affectionately dubbed, the "Zebra Chair," a disbelieving, "What the hell was that?" expression on her face.

"Please promise we won't try matchmaking again. This whole night is why we shouldn't branch out, and why Chuck Woolery is way better at it."

Veronica put her hands up. "Am I arguing?"

Buffy smirked. "Not yet."

"Har-har." The detective's eyes were un-amused eyes. "Our commercials could never compete with eHarmony's infectious, ad juggernaut, anyway."

As her girlfriend came over and climbed into her lap, Buffy stated, "I'm coming with. To see the judge."

"See" meaning, "extort/blackmail." Getting Max's money back from aforementioned prostitute was the goal, so it was for a good cause. The guy was a dupe, but decent enough. Not a trait you'd expect out of someone with a lucrative business selling exams and essays, and yet...

But naturally the slayer was coming. Veronica had already assumed.

"Note how she *still*, doesn't put up an argument. Lesson's been learned. You're my secret weapon."

"Just what I always wanted to be," smiled Buffy, and once Veronica found a comfy position, she reached her hands around front, gripping waist. "Um, before the double cross? When they were--"

"Crowding every square centimeter of first base?"

"That's not us, is it?"

Long pause while they both considered.

"No way," Veronica denied.

"Yeah. No," Buffy agreed.

"Don't forget, one of us is butch."

"Ooh. Right." The slayer liked that reasoning. Liked it a lot. "Daintily butch."

Long Pause: The Next Generation.

"Do you want a hooker? 'Cause I'll buy you a hooker," queried Veronica.

Buffy didn't falter. "Y'know, if you were a hooker, I could buy you."

"While absolutely the answer we were looking for..." Veronica was immensely proud of how wise her girlfriend was. " that scenario, you're so my pimp. Keepin' me fresh."

"Daisy fresh?"

"As if there's any other kind."
"Okay, but...I want, and am taking, seventy-five percent."

Veronica gasped. Then huffed. "Fine. Then I'll just bide my time 'til Richard Gere pulls a white limo 'round my corner. It'll happen."

The slayer didn't see what she was so huffy about. "What? I'm being generous. I don't hafta give you anything. S' in the rules."

"Anything except some 'Florida Snow,' right? 'Wacky Dust'? 'California Cornflakes'? Make sure I stay in line," Veronica rattled off, accusatorily. "Call that 'fresh'? Geez."

"I didn't ask for 'pimp' status! You gave." Buffy pinched her side.

"Coulda declined." Veronica squirmed--she was pinched again. "Just because you temporarily have tactical advantage..."

And again. She "grr'd" in frustration; Buffy giggled.

"Of course you realize, this means war."

And pinch again.

She sighed. "Eventual war. Long conflict, heavy casualties." Pinch. "Are you five? Is this 'Big' in reverse?"

Buffy grinned. "Love hurts...sometimes. Mostly it pinches, though."

"So Elaine Paige is a liar? I'm supposed to buy that? Fat chance." Veronica couldn't believe the gall.

"Stop me," challenged Buffy.

"I could. Anytime," Veronica responded to the challenge. "Opportunist that I am, I'm holding out for my moment. To strike. Isn't here yet."

"Lemme know when it is, then."




Why Would Michael Scofield Want to Leave?

Two, parted lovers--one free, one imprisoned--stared at each other across jail cell bars.

"It's not the same in here without you...remember how it used to be?" Veronica spoke longingly. "We didn't know the meaning of 'Lights Out.'"

"Back." Buffy's jaw set. She seemed determined.

With all her slayer strength, she grunted, pulling the bars apart just enough to let her bend down, get flexible and squeeze through.

Veronica grinned widely, beckoning her new cell mate with her hands. "Come to Marge."

She'd make her own conjugal visit. They owed the escaped Josh Barry a "thanks."

Chapter 3

Title: ...From Sophomore Year

Never Let Vlad Impale You, Or Else

"What I miss?" Veronica asked as she hopped back onto their bed in Buffy's room, handing over a fresh bag of newly-popped corn.

On the TV, Buffy heard herself moan, and she looked back to make sure Mr. Gordo was faced away. This was...embarrassing. And currently not fueling any fires.

Veronica saw, and rolled her eyes. "Because it's not like he hasn't seen it before." Then she exhaled heavily. "Real pig."

"Do we hafta watch this?" The slayer asked again.

"Orville's got lots more where that came from," said the detective in answer, gesturing to the bag. "And the obvious reply to your next, pointless question? Until I'm convinced you're all 'thralled-out', might wanna put those eyes front-and-center, 'cause we haven't even begun. I *will* resort to 'Clockwork Orange' levels."

"I completely am. The thrall is gone. What thrall?" Buffy claimed in desperation.

One bite from Dracula, and she was in the doghouse. How was that fair? It didn't mean anything. In fact, it was sort of disgusting.

Veronica sadly sighed. "Exactly what an enthralled someone might say. But if ya ask me, he was no Gary Oldman."

She turned her attention to the TV, then took the popcorn back and opened it, as her girlfriend hadn't.

"This soundtrack *sucks*. It's looking less and less likely that we're gonna get our hands on a Woody."

Buffy looked over at her, oddly. "Maybe you're who's..."

She then had a terrific idea. "I'll prove I'm de-thralled. We can have sex. Right now. In the present."

Veronica deliberately ignored this suggestion. "Holy crap." She pointed to the screen. "Lucky my block wasn't knocked off into freaking orbit. Hip control, Dumbers. Gotta work on that."

"And you gotta work on the not-crushing of my head." Buffy wasted no time in giving her own critique.

Super-strong though she was, it did have its limits. Plus, Veronica legs were pretty super-strong themselves. Yeow.

Veronica munched on the buttery snack, speaking with her mouth full. "Sorry, what?"

Then Buffy listened to her recorded self on the DVD make another sound, a squeal.

"I can't sound like that when I..."

"Huh. Whaddaya know? Willow was on the mark. Dead on." Veronica was stunned. "That's the 'shoe sale noise,' all right," she nodded, before turning her head to face the equally stunned female next to her.

"Can you spot me a Franklin? She has to come collecting, it's sayonara little toe." 

The slayer couldn't believe it. "You and Willow bet...? You and *Willow*?"

Veronica wanted "De-Thralled Buffy"? Oh, she was going to see her. She was going to...wait.

"I make a 'shoe sale' noise?"

The detective picked up the remote. "Let's rewind."



A Bad French Connection

When they got to the restaurant, a nice, hidden away French bistro down an alley of all things (which could be problematic, because, Sunnydale), Buffy and Veronica were shocked at the classy vibe. They got seated and the table had pre-folded napkins was no Bennigan's, for sure. Actually had to have manners here. Or do your best to fake them.

"Did you know it was like this in here?" Veronica asked, after letting loose with an impressed whistle. "I must really be worth it."

Buffy felt in over her head as she shook it. "I just saw it on patrol; wasn't thinking money thoughts. I was thinking, ‘Blow dusty alrea...look, cute.' But it wants a lot, doesn't it? Of money. Probably what it eats. But there's no money to feed. You have to help. Did sitting cost anything?"

"Don't panic. I'm a Mars--I've danced this déjà vu before. It's all about the bread." Veronica's plan was so simple, so perfect. "We pace ourselves, strategically, through a loaf or t..."

She trailed off as something caught her eye a couple tables away. "Forget what I said. Panic."

Buffy turned around in her chair, then saw. "We need to get to an away place. A far, far away place."

As she said that, they were spotted. By a parent each. Joyce and Keith were on a date. Here. The same night they were. Did God like to laugh at them?

"Correction...*needed* to," said the detective.

The slayer tried to hide behind the expensive menu when the older adults got up from their table.

"Quick, they're coming over. You hafta have an out. You always have an out."

"Root canal?" Veronica offered, too busy panicking to think clearly.

"A *better* out," Buffy glared overtop the menu. "They're gonna ask us to sit with them."

Veronica went from panicked to horrified. "Don't say that. Because unless you've got some kind of hard proof or an airtight source, you can't know."

She waited. "What's that? Nothing?" Beat. "Take it back."

"They could. Do you wanna double date with your dad?" Buffy questioned to her, to which Veronica could only blink. "So think!"

"You think!"

"Me thinking is why we're here!"

Yes. Yes, this was all Buffy's fault. Of course. Veronica's eyes didn't hide this feeling.

"Girls," greeted Keith as he and Joyce arrived at their table.

Buffy folded the menu and set it down, trying to smile. "Hello, Mother."

"Hello, Father," said Veronica next, then she made sure to look at her girlfriend to see that they were on the same page.

"We wish we were at Camp Grenada," the younger couple echoed.

Keith's brow rose. Joyce looked upward, in a "heaven help us" manner. These two were a handful one-on-one, but together? Sheesh.

"Looks like we all had the same idea," Joyce spoke the obvious, because nothing else came to her.

"Guess we raised great minds." Keith wasn't any more at ease. "To think too much like we do."

The slayer nodded. "Mistakes don't get any bigger." Beat. "You couldn't've been sucky parents?"

She turned to the other blonde. "See? It's them."

Wasn't her fault.

Veronica downed the contents of her water glass like she was taking a shot. "This eatin' hole ain't big enough for the four of us."

She put it down with force, and then stood up.

Buffy followed her girlfriend's surprisingly direct out. "So make sure you fill us in on what non-Pillsbury croissants taste like."

"There's no reason everybody can't enjoy a meal--" The father began.

His daughter had to interrupt here. "There's where you're full of crap."

"'Cause then why cross to our side of the invisible line?" Joyce's daughter asked. "It was a working line."

Mother answered, "We were just saying ‘hi.' I didn't know we suddenly weren't allowed."

"Remember our talk about ‘common courtesy'?" Keith posed to Veronica.

"That wasn't ‘common courtesy,'" she refuted. "Don't pretend--after all this time, call me greedy, but I expect better. And shouldn't you expect better from yourself?"

"You crossed because you can't be your date-selves now," Buffy enlightened their parents. "Neither can we. If we stayed, we'd be all self-conscious."

"Say we wanted to put our elbows on the table," Veronica gave an example.

"Or chew with mouths open," Buffy gave her own.

"Or you two wanted to be--" Veronica swallowed.

"--couple-y," said the slayer like she had a bad taste in her mouth.

"So being the wonderfully accommodating progeny that we are..." Veronica tried to give them their second out.

"Stay," Joyce said generously, her hand going up to pinch the bridge of her nose. "Have a nice dinner. I've had this headache all day, anyway. I should go home and take some more aspirin."

"Joyce?" "Mom?" Keith and Buffy questioned, concerned.

He shared a look with Buffy, and then by himself spoke, "Should've said something."

"I'm fine." The woman smiled at both of them a few seconds later. "Just need a good night's sleep."

Her focus turned to the girlfriends. "Sit back down, you two. Really."

They obeyed.

Keith placed his hand comfortingly on the small of Joyce's back, and then kissed her cheek. "Wait here. I'll get our coats."

When he walked away, Veronica took her turn. "Mrs. Summers, are you sure--?"

"*Yes,*" insisted Joyce. "Happens when you work as much as I do."

"Got it. Never work."

Things were quiet until the three females saw Keith returning.

"Um, Mom?" Buffy asked.

"Honey, I said I was--"

"No, I-I was gonna ask if Mr. Mars needed his wallet. ‘Cause, um, I kind of need to borrow it."



Glinda and Hazel Would've Done It By Now

 Willow made her way to Tara's dorm--because she'd work up the courage this time--after helping Anya clean up the Magic Box, post-troll. Everyone else made an excuse that it would give them more time to bond, but really, they just didn't want to pick up a broom. She found Buffy, Veronica, and Tara on the bed with their art history books open.

"Gosh, wasn't that the best game of spin the bottle ever?" Veronica proclaimed loudly as Willow entered. "And using tequila...damn genius, Tara."

The redhead pouted. "I missed spin-kissage?"

A smirking Buffy poked a blushing Tara, then whispered, "Told you."

Veronica however, was disappointed. She wanted Willow pissed off enough by the thought they had Frenched Tara, that the hacker would finally do something.

"Well that backfired."

The girlfriends looked at each other, beginning to get frustrated. As Wile E. Coyote once said, it was back to the drawing board. Godsdamn it.

Chapter 4

Title: ...From Junior Year

Broadway Babies They Ain't

On the front porch of the Summers' home, the girlfriends sat in the swing. Mulling over events of the last, few days, they were trying not to at the same time. Looking at each other, they immediately looked away. They wanted so much to will the memories--and melodies--banished forever.

Veronica dared speak first. "That was..."

"Life in Sunnydale," came Buffy's stock, all-encompassing answer.

"Whoa no, uh-uh. That was life in Sunnydale, detoured through the Twilight Zone, with a brief stopover along the Outer Limits. Well-blended into an unholy batch of Rocky Horror/Moulin Rouge-laced Kool-Aid."

"That demon made us drink. Who tap-danced," the slayer added on. "Yeah, my 'weirdness threshold' kinda even upped a notch. I want it to go back down."

"A notch? Try again. The buckle's gone bust, baby," Veronica exaggerated for comedic effect. "And what you meant to say was, 'upped an octave.'"

She mimed striking a drum. "Ba-Dump."

"I sang." Buffy still didn't believe it. "I *sang*. There's no forgetting spell in the *world*."

"You and your magic words. Like 'please.' Why say that Hell-mouthful?" Veronica swatted the air dismissively. "All we need is a mallet, and a bottomless jug of the best moonshine an attractive, second cousin can buy."

Beat, and then Buffy asked--

"Who first? Shouldn't it be me, then you?" Something didn't sit right with her. "Maybe a third person oughta be helping. What if we missed?"

Veronica considered. "What if this person were to sport a trench coat? Concealing a camera--or worse--a sixty-year old birthday suit in desperate need of dry cleaning? With us being seven sheets to the wind..."

"Trench-coated people are automatically off-list."

Buffy flushed, being hit with a horrifying memory of her high school self in a trench coat. But then she grinned, remembering something significantly more recent. A tune. It wasn't originally hers, but she hummed the chorus to, "Why So Camera Shy?'"

Veronica punched her in the arm. "Wanna meet 'Mr. Mallet' first? I'll gladly oblige."

"What, it's catchy," Buffy said, unapologetic. "But Eighties Pop died for a reason, still."

"He doesn't know it yet, but Xander's smack dab in the middle of my warpath. And he won't until I strike," Veronica swore. "Quit while you're behind, and he'll come through it with minimal scarring."

A car pulled into the driveway, then. Keith Mars got out, carrying his duffel bad. He was just getting back in town. Lucky him.

"Dad, hey," daughter greeted, a vice grip on her girlfriend's thigh.

"How was the case?" Buffy tried to sound normal.

"Too long," he answered, walking up the stairs. "I miss anything?"

"Life in Sunnydale," the slayer smiled at him.

"What's to miss?" Veronica asked rhetorically.



G-ddamn Garden Gnomes

Veronica ran her hands through her hair for about the sixth time, standing against the wall. Then she stepped away and paced her own private corner of the hospital waiting room again, tapping her fingers together nervously. She looked at the double doors for the twentieth time. In the last five minutes. She wouldn't lose it, she wouldn't lose it...

Willow came over from where she'd been sitting on the chairs, the blonde witch following. "Veronica--"

Veronica cut her off. "No offense, Willow, but...go away."

Tara took the redhead by the shoulders. "C'mon, honey."

"I was just trying to..." Willow wanted to explain herself.

"She knows."

Veronica remembered hearing. It happened too fast for her to see. Everything had happened too fast lately. Her dad's death, his funeral, Buffy's near-paralysis...Buffy's getting shot in the backyard.

BLAM. One second, not shot; the next, shot. On the ground.

It was time to compulsively run her hands through her hair again. Her dad, now Buffy? From a gun? Because of that misogynistic piece of shit? No. *No*. She wouldn't lose it. How long had it been? Were surgeries supposed to last this long?

She sank to the ground, and cupped fists in front of her mouth.

"Xander pickin' up the kid?"

Veronica looked up at Faith, who came from...somewhere. The smell of cigarette smoke gave a clue.

"I guess. I dunno." She noted the slayer's taped up fist. "How is it?"

Faith's eyes darkened. "Shouldn'ta held back."

Veronica closed hers, saw the images behind her lids, and opened them to stop seeing. "Not what I meant."

The brunette stretched out her fingers. "Said I held back, didn't I?"

He was here, too. If he had to be breathing, hopefully it was through a tube.

They were both alone with themselves for a few minutes after that when Faith uttered, wide-eyed, "Fuck. No fucking way."

Sometimes the "slayer connection" sucked. Faith felt gut-punched.

Veronica was on her feet, panicked. "What? *Faith*."

The answer she didn't want from the brunette, but got anyway?

"She's dead."




~The Summers' Residence, Several Hours Ago~

"Before, they just used to be why I boycotted Travelocity," said Veronica as she and Buffy searched the backyard for more camera-packing garden gnomes, and hidden cameras in general. "Now I have an even better reason."

"I wasn't imagining jetpacks, was I?" Buffy asked, poking the grass with a stick. "You saw, didn't you?"

"Much as I think you, snug in straps, would be dead sexy...that's a big 10-4. Warren's no 'Rocketeer,'" Veronica confirmed that her girlfriend still gripped reality and sanity. "Don't wanna call it too early, but it's looking all clear."

Buffy sighed in relief. "Good. This was getting weird."

She halted right then.

"Yeah, that's my fault. Watching you jab the earth the way you do stirs up these...feelings." She flashed an "oops" smile. "Still, I'll take them over rage and debilitating grief."

Must've been the others' rare day off.

With an understanding, supportive smile, Buffy squeezed Veronica against her as they started walking toward the back porch and said, "I'm smelling Italian."

"How'd we live without a ‘Tara'?" Veronica questioned.

Tara had kind of taken care of all of them once Keith died. With the Council recalling Giles to England after Glory was stopped (figuring that if he'd produced the longest surviving slayer in history, other watchers would benefit from his experience), she kept the house in order. No one expected her to when they asked her to move in; they only didn't want her to have to live alone on campus. But Tara took it upon herself.

"I microwaved, you baked. Sometimes there was scooping," remembered Buffy. "Ordering--we were great at ordering. With phones."

"Ever see a Snickerdoodle or a Papa John's menu again...well, nobody likes me when I'm angry," Veronica said, looking towards the back door. "If we're gonna eat tonight, we better pray that cooking while smelling that smell isn't an aphrodisiac."

A redhead was in the kitchen with their chef as well. After fall semester, Willow did what Buffy and Veronica had done a year earlier. She packed up her Hearst-earned college credits and transferred them to UC Sunnydale.

And in an obvious move, she transferred herself here, because here was Tara. She was so witch-whipped. Since late, last summer officially.

The house was a lesbitastic place.

Buffy halted again. "God, what if they are?"

"Xander makes his entrance soon, I know what he'd say," grinned Veronica, and was discouraged by her girlfriend's head shake. "But *we'll* say ‘get a room' for the hundredth time, and when we do, remember to specify--"

Warren Meers' voice interrupted their conversation. "You think you can just do that to me? That I'd let you get away with it? Think again."

The girls both turned, unprepared to see him standing there. Let alone standing there with a gun. Yet Buffy reacted instinctively, protectively, and shoved Veronica down.


His aim was wild. An upstairs window took a bullet. A tree. A slayer.

Backup was the first one out of the house. He flew into the yard barking viciously and leapt at the intruder on his property as said intruder tried to flee. His paws held Warren down, all his weight behind them, while he snarled and growled right above the murderer's face.

Veronica picked herself up and immediately crawled over to a prone Buffy. Her girlfriend's eyes were open in shock, but she said nothing. The shot was real close to...Buffy's shirt. It had blood. Buffy's blood.

The new girlfriends were the next ones out.

Veronica looked over at them. "911. Yesterday!"

As Tara went in to call, Faith pushed past her and zeroed in on the subdued Warren. She charged over, kicked the gun away, and the look in her eyes scared Backup off. She bent down, pulled Warren up by the shirt collar, and just started letting loose on his face.

Willow ran over to Buffy and Veronica, and seeing her best friend like that, she couldn't keep from crying. "Buffy? Oh my god, nonono. Buffy!"

Veronica was by Buffy's head, cradling it in her hands and lap. She couldn't deal with crying right now.

Sharply she said, "Stop her."

Willow was somewhere between pissed and perplexed. "Stop...?"

"Faith. Stop Faith. Quick."

The hacker witnessed the other slayer going apeshit, but just before she got over there, Faith stopped herself. Jumped off, and defensively showed her bloody-knuckled hands. Most of the red wasn't hers.

"Stay the hell with me, Buffy. Got it?" Veronica ordered, her eyes boring into the hazel ones she was trying to will to remain open.

She had to keep her conscious. "You listening? Don't go *anywhere*. The ambulance is gonna pull up any minute now, and if you want the pleasure of my company in back, keep that gaze focused right here."

She pointed at her own face. "But that should go without saying. Why would you wanna gaze at anything else? And you're doing great so far. Really. Oughta be able to shake off a bullet, c'mon. Wasn't even that big."

Though she smiled, her voice broke on every word. "Any minute."

By the time she heard Tara say it was coming, she could already hear sirens in the distance.




It was six hours later, and the surgery was still ongoing.

Moments after Faith's announcement, Veronica barreled through the double-doors and fought through security to catch a glimpse of the doctors before she was hauled away. A few minutes after that, a nurse appeared and explained that while Buffy's heart had stopped, the surgeon was able to manually get it beating again. But it would be a while yet--the bullet hit dangerously close to that pretty crucial organ.

With that good news, Veronica calmed down some, though Faith was on her shit list. She'd thus been in her corner ever since. She hadn't even spoken to the police detectives who wanted her statement.

The only, other time she let someone in was when Dawn brought her a Kit Kat from the vending machine. But then Buffy's sister went back to sit with everyone else. In six hours, Veronica had taken maybe half a bite.

At six hours and fifty-two minutes, when the exhausted doctor finally came out, his face was the opposite of grim. It was a success, he'd said.

"We're moving her to the ICU for a little while just to be sure, but...she's a strong young woman."

Buffy's friends and family cried tears that came happily. Xander cracked jokes. They all hugged Dawn. The usual, relieved reactions.

Veronica, though? She wasn't relieved until she was alone later in Buffy's hospital room, seeing--and holding--her girlfriend in living color. She might have cried then.

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