*The song used is Sarah McLachlan's "Witness" off the album Surfacing.*

CHAPTER 8

"You're in the fire in my belly
The fucked-up way I'm feeling"
-Lauren Christy, "Walk This Earth Alone"

Cordelia Chase opened the door to her house and nodded for the people standing outside to come in. It was still raining out, and she didn't want to be responsible for anyone catching a cold.

Following her up to her room, Willow and Xander stepped in, and she shut the door behind them. It was one of the rare times her parents were actually home, and she didn't want any disturbances. They had called her from a pay phone somewhere and after filling her in on their current situation, asked if she could salvage what was left of Willow's hair. Always eager to help anyone during a fashion crisis, she had immediately agreed.

When Buffy first came to Sunnydale High, Cordelia had been nice to her and gave her the 411 on the small town. However, when Buffy's began hanging around with Willow and Xander, she quickly broke off ties with her unless they had to be together. After Buffy saved her from an invisible girl named Marci and being attacked by vampires on school grounds, she and the rest of the group became good friends. She and Xander even started dating.

"Can you fix it?" Willow wondered, putting her hands up to her hair self-consciously.

"Of course I can," Cordelia said, leading the girl into the bathroom...

Half an hour later, after a quick shampoo and cut as well as styling, Cordelia finally let Willow look in the mirror. She thought she had done a pretty good job.

"Good as new," she declared, putting her styling tools away.

Willow swung her auburn locks around in front of the three-way mirror. She wasn't sure if she liked it or not. The cut took away a lot of her hair, but she did have a great abundance of it seeing as she hadn't cut it in over a year besides a few trimmings. This new hairstyle was a definite change for her.

"Xander, you can come in now!" Cordelia called, opening the bathroom door.

She had stuck him in there ever since washing Willow's hair because she was so self-conscious about it. Now it was time to get a guy's opinion.

"What do you think?" asked Willow nervously.

Xander was her best friend. If anyone would tell her the truth, it would be him.

"Wow..."

"'Wow' what?"

"You look great."

Her hair now rested only a couple inches below her shoulders but it still had the same, simple style to it. A natural 'do. The shorter cut didn't take away from her pretty hair, but it accentuated her beautiful face, too.

"Really?" Willow smiled.

"Really. It's like in that movie 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' when the killer cut off Sarah Michelle Gellar's hair, but then she ended up looking even better after."

At this, Willow's smile widened. Xander had a habit of comparing everything to TV, movies, and books, but the compliment was still nice.

"If you don't believe me, ask Cordy."

"See, I told you," Cordelia declared, crossing her arms over her chest triumphantly...

***

Buffy walked into her room, wearing her pajamas and drying her hair with a towel. She told her mother she was caught in the rain at the Bronze as she was leaving and hurried home. The explanation was true enough, and her mother believed it as she had all the ones before. Someday, maybe Buffy wouldn't have to lie to her mother about where she'd been, but she doubted it.

Make me a witness, take me out
Out of darkness, out of doubt
I won't weigh you down with good intention
Won't make fire out of clay or other inventions

Sitting down on her bed, she dropped the towel on the nightstand beside her and climbed under the covers. She was exhausted. Being the slayer had to be the most frustrating and tiring job in the world. Even Clark Kent didn't have to worry about his mother. And he could drive, too, along with all those other superpowers. The only things Buffy had were her mind and superhuman strength, although Giles and the Slayerettes did try and help her with everything else.

Will we burn in heaven
Like we do down here?
Will the change come while we're waiting?
Everyone is waiting

Switching off her light, she lay down and shut her eyes, trying to sleep. She quickly found she couldn't as images kept flooding back into her mind. Angel, Angelus, and the way he came to her rescue. Her Angel was still in there somewhere. She knew he was. They just weren't looking in the right places...

And when we're done soul searching
And we carried the weight and died for the cause
Is misery made beautiful right before our eyes?
Will mercy be revealed, or blind us where we stand?

Outside the confines of the Summers home, Angelus sat up in his tree again, watching the inside of Buffy's room. After a while of tossing and turning, she had managed to fall asleep. His stomach was bandaged over and it hurt like hell, but he had to come and check on her. He knew Spike would come after the both of them now that Drusilla was gone and he had no one to answer to. He was going to have to protect her as best he could until another solution was found...

Will we burn in heaven
Like we do down here?
Will a change come while we're waiting?
Everyone is waiting

Meanwhile, in the late Ms. Jenny Calendar's room at Sunnydale High School, a yellow computer disk rested between the teacher's desk and a file cabinet. Unbeknownest to anyone, the unlabeled object was the key to fulfilling both Buffy and Angel's dreams. Someone just had to find it...

Will we burn in heaven
Like we do down here?
Will a change come while we're waiting?
Everyone is waiting...