CHAPTER SIX

"This is ridiculous," Cordelia moaned, checking her lipstick for the thirtieth time in her gold compact.

Buffy wondered if it really was honest to god gold. Knowing Cordy, yes it was. "Look Cordy, if you think I wanted to be doing 'service learning' chaperoning the elementary school's Fall Ball you're nuts. Mom had to get a last minute babysitter for Dawnie. We didn't even tell Dawn this is where I'll be since she's still fuming about being grounded and missing the ball."

"I just don't see the point of service learning. Isn't service the reason we have servants in the first place?" Cordelia applied another layer of gloss to her full lips.

Buffy figured those lips could provided light should they need to go outside.

"Yes and how many of us can afford servants, Miss Fendi?" Xander's sarcasm was practically visible.

Cordelia gave him the hair eyeball. "Do you actually know what Fendi is or were you spanking your monkey to your Mommy's Cosmo's again?"

Willow clamped a hand over Xander's mouth. "Kids present! Buffy, it's not so bad. I mean wouldn't this be like a candy store to a vampire who likes kids?"

"The thought has crossed my mind," Buffy replied and it had, a bit belatedly but it had. When she first been assigned this service project in Sociology, she had been furious that she would miss out on a night of looking for Ilya then it dawned on her that Ilya would find the Fall Ball a smorgasbord. She was so glad that Dawn was under Mom-Enforced house arrest. Of course, it wasn't really Mom-Enforced. It was a last minute arrangement with Dawnie stuck with Amanda and Ginny at Ginny's home. It had been uncomfortable when Joyce realized how much she relied on her daughter to help out with Dawn and worse, she really didn't have friends her own age in Sunnydale that she could ask to babysit. Buffy felt guilty to no end about that. "Think of it this way, Cordelia, we could have got stuck with the other service learning project, helping at the nursing home."

Cordy shuddered. "I'd have taken the F. Oh hey, Harmony, wait up!" Cordelia darted after her friend.

"Yeah, I'm just as glad I didn't pull granny duty," Xander said and Willow elbowed him. "Hey! Just saying. I would have missed out on seeing my two girls looking so fine." He draped an arm around Buffy and Willow.

Buffy smiled. Her pale lavender dress might be poorly designed for fighting but she looked good in it. Willow had accepted her help in fashion and was sporting a green micro dress that the red head was more than a little uncomfortable with its hemline. Xander had cleaned up pretty well, looking good in his blue suit. It was a shame he had such a blind spot when it came to Willow. Of course, Willow was looking at other men finally, much to Buffy's relief. She hated seeing her friend all hung up on Xander and miserable. She was thinking she was going to have to slap Xander to wake him up.

"Hey, you two, none of that," Willow said, sliding out from under Xander's arm, heading for a young couple kissing. That sort of thing was strictly forbidden at the dance, for that matter so were all slow songs. It was less a dance than a corral for kids with games in the auditorium, dance music in the gym and punch and cookies along the walls. Her scolding done, Willow bopped back over to her friends. "So, Buffy, do you think Ilya will show up?"

"I'm afraid so." Buffy knew that it was an ugly possibility. Ilya had eluded Angel in the tunnels. "But Angel should be here soon."

"Ooo, a gaggle of pre-pubes and Angel, it's my best night ever," Xander said, sarcastically.

"Xander, would you like a high heel in the butt?" Buffy shot him a warning look.

"I think I'm going to snag cookies," Xander said and hurried off.

Willow gave Buffy a quick smile then sobered. "Are you and Angel okay?" Willow brushed nervously at her hair which Buffy had spent a good deal of time curling and fluffing. She playfully slapped Willow's hand. "Things seem tense between you."

"A little, I guess. It's just me being stupid over Dru. I know she's not what Angel wants but I can't help feeling jealous."

"Buffy, you know Angel only has eyes for you. As old as he is, there's lots of baggage."

"I know, but I'm better off not thinking about it. You pointed out once there had to be dozens, if not hundreds of other women. I can't be jealous of them all." Buffy slumped. "But the rest of them are long dead and Dru is here where I have to deal with her."

"No, you don't." Willow clamped her hands on Buffy's shoulders.

"How do you figure?"

"You could just her once Angel's done using her as bait." Willow's eyes were utterly sober and unapologetic.

"Willow, so blood thirsty," Buffy said, almost surprised. "But you're right, I guess."

Willow smiled suddenly and pointed toward the door. Angel stood there, looking a bit bemused.

Buffy bounced over to him. "Hey." She took a long look at his face. It was too smooth to have lines she could read like she did with Giles. Still, she could see worry in his eyes. "What's wrong?"

"I saw Spike heading out of town with Dru."

Her face fell. "Oh. So much for bait. Are you sure?"

"Saw a De Soto with black painted windows. That's a sure sign of a vampire driving. I know Spike has a De Soto, heard about it at Willie's. Spike's taking Dru where Ilya can't get her," Angel replied.

Buffy blew at a strand of hair hanging in her face. "Even though he still wants something from you?"

"He probably isn't going far. If Dru wasn't so ill, Spike wouldn't miss this fight for the world," Angel assured her.

"So now what?" Buffy felt suddenly disheartened. She had been hoping that Dru would be the target. She had entertained Spike and Dru as dust as a result of the fight with Ilya, the good kind of collateral damage.

"I'm loathed to suggest it but..."

"This dance is one big playground for Ilya," Buffy finished for him and he nodded. "Yeah, it crossed my mind, too."

"How many kids are here?"Angel asked.

"More than fifty." Her lips thinned. "No way of watching them all as much as we chaperones try."

"I don't like this." Angel's eyes swept over the gym. "We should coordinate with Willow, Xander and Cordelia. Between us, we should be able to watch the entrances."

"You go round up Willow and Xander off the dance floor and I'll see if I can find Cordelia," Buffy said.

She found Cordelia and Harmony outside the gym, decidedly doing nothing that resembled chaperoning. They had gotten some chairs, probably from the auditorium, and were conducting their service learning by sitting in the hallway calling out fashion tips to the kids going to and fro from the gym, auditorium and rest rooms. Buffy stabbed a fist into her hips. "Cordy, I could use your help inside."

Cordelia scowled. "Why?"

"Angel would like it, too," she added, hating to do it. Cordelia's eyes took on that eager and predatory look just as Buffy was counting on.

"Buffy, maybe you ought to teach your little sister how to put on make up. She looks like a tramp," Harmony said as Cordelia got up.

"What are you talking about? My sister isn't here," Buffy said.

"Sure she is. She's in the auditorium with her little friends." Harmony primped her bottle-blonde hair, getting up to follow Cordy.

Buffy turned on heel and stalked into the gym. She grabbed Angel's hand and yanked him away from Willow and Xander. "Change of plans. Harmony just said Dawn is here."

"Oh, she wouldn't," Willow said.

"Of course, she would. I told Mom letting her and Ginny be together was a bad idea. Amanda is not a good babysitter. I know they were ticked off they couldn't come to the dance. How much you want to bet the minute Amanda's boyfriend showed up, Dawn and Ginny were out the door," Buffy stormed, heading for the auditorium.

"But surely she has to know the dangers," Willow protested.

"She's a child, Willow. They don't think of danger," Angel said.

"If she's here, Buffy, I'll take her home," Xander offered. "I'm not the first string when it comes to fighting and if someone even notices I cut out on the service learning, what's another failing grade to me?"

"Thanks, Xander. There she is." Buffy pointed to the auditorium's stage where Dawn was playing Twister with several of her classmates. Buffy never understood how that could be an acceptable game when slow dancing wasn't. She snatched Dawn off the stage before the girl even knew she was there.

"Hey!" Dawn slung her long hair back then lost all color when she saw it was Buffy. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm the chaperone. Better question is, what are you doing here? Mom is going to kill you, if I don't do it first," Buffy snapped.

"You're not going to tell her." Dawn said, jerking her head at Angel for emphasis.

"If I don't tell her, Willow or Xander will. You're coming home now, young lady, so march," Buffy said.

"What's the big deal? Are you always such a downer?" Ginny asked, jumping off stage.

"Yes, and you're coming along, too," Buffy said.

"You heard her. I'm taking you girls home," Xander said, putting a hand on Dawn's shoulder.

"Why? It's not like we're doing anything bad," Dawn said. "It's not like we're outside the building smoking like some of the other kids are."

"Yeah, there's a nice guy out there sharing his smokes with a bunch of girls," Ginny said. "He's kinda cute?"

Buffy made a face. "Angel, would Ilya qualify as cute?"

"Why are you asking me?" The vampire gave her a look.

"Okay, change of plans. You two stay here until I'm sure it's safe to go to Xander's car. Willow and Xander will stay with you just to make sure you do," Buffy said.

Angel followed her out. Cordelia and Harmony had left their post in the hall and kids were streaming in and out of the front door more or less unchaperoned. Buffy went outside not needing Angel's sensitive nose to hone in on the smoking. The kids stared at her with horrified looks at getting busted.

"Who gave you the cigarettes?" she demanded to know.

"Some guy," one of the replied.

"Where did he go?" Angel asked and the kids quelled.

"Inside. He wanted to check out the dance."

Buffy raced back in and nearly plowed into Xander who was hobbling up the hall. "Xander, what are you doing?"

"Dawn kicked me in the shins and took off. Willow chased her and Ginny into the gym," he replied.

Buffy made an exasperated sound and jogged into the gym. She spotted Ilya talking to some girls near the D.J's speakers. "We have to clear this room."

"Suggestion?" Angel said.

Buffy went to the table with the punch and cookies and grabbed a napkin. She used it to cover her hand as she pulled the fire alarm, which spewed blue powder onto the napkin. Most kids knew how to get around the powder they used to figure out who was prank pulling the alarms during school days. As the kids started bolting out, she and Angel fought up stream against them. The other chaperones were trying to help the kids out. Buffy saw Dawn near the gym's exit to the practice fields, where Harmony was helping to herd the kids out but her sister would have to get passed Ilya to get to the door. Luckily, Ilya was more interested in Angel and her advancing on him than he was in the kids around him.

"See, Buffy, I told you your sister was here!" Harmony hollered as Dawn made for the door.

Buffy froze, horrified. She was going to kill Harmony when this was all said and done. Ilya's rugged face lit up and he lunged for Dawn. She shrieked as he pulled her to him. Ilya twisted with her, giving Buffy a good view of how he had her sister pinned to him.

"Angel...," Buffy whispered.

"We'll save her," he said tightly, putting space between him and her, trying to give her room to fight.

"So the Slayer has a sister," Ilya purred then ran his fat, pink tongue up Dawn's face. She squalled, struggling in his arms. "She's a tasty thing."

"Hurt her and you die slowly," Buffy said, knowing she couldn't be less imposing than she was in her heels and lavender dress. She had to keep reminding herself, this was just an ordinary vampire, not a Master. She killed vampires every day and twice on Saturdays. She could handle Ilya. He has my sister.

Ilya laughed, confirming that fear. "And you think you can stop me? I've never understood why the Powers That Be puts such power into cum dumpsters. It's an insult to the power."

Buffy's lips skinned back. "Did you just call me a cum dumpster?"

"Don't let him get to you, Buffy?" Angel said, trying to find a way to edge around behind Ilya but there wasn't anything to hide behind now that the gym had emptied out.

"Ah, another land heard from. What a pity I had to see the crawling pansy Angelus has become." Ilya gave Dawn's budding breast a squeeze and she whimpered. "What would that bitch of yours say?"

"Darla's dead. I killed her," Angel said, watching Buffy slip off her high heels.

Ilya grinned broadly. "Too bad I missed that. Did you enjoy it?"

"Not really."

Buffy hefted her shoe. "Dawn, duck!" Her sister did and Buffy winged the high heel. The heel embedded in Ilya's neck. He stumbled back, tearing at it. Dawn didn't need anyone to tell her to make a run for it. She bolted for the door. One of Ilya's hands tangled in her hair. Dawn yelped as she left that hunk of hair behind.

Angel was on Ilya as the vampire tore the high heel out of his neck. Buffy screamed Angel's name as Ilya buried the heel in Angel's cheek. Angel staggered for a moment and that was all Ilya needed to toss him into the D.J.'s set up. Metal cracked and the torn wiring hissed as Angel crashed through it.

Buffy, regretting not having the ability to bring much in the way of weaponry to a school dance, scythed the other heel at Ilya. He caught it and tore the shoe out of her hand. Buffy twisted and tried a high spin kick. Ilya moved faster than she thought a stocky little man could. He caught her ankle.

He grinned again, looking up her skirt. "Nice view. I think I'll have a taste before I kill you." He hurtled Buffy into the cinder block walls of the gym.

She heard Angel growling that strange vampire growl they all made in a fight. He tackled Ilya as she tried to make the stars stop dancing in her vision. She got up as the two vampires wrestled, nearly clocking herself on the peg board that hung on the wall for the sheer purpose of torturing grace school non-athletes. She reached up and pulled down two of the pegs from the board. She tossed one at Angel. "Catch."

Angel snagged it out of the air, nearly getting intercepted by Ilya. Their hands were moving so fast Buffy could barely see the trade of blows. Angel was doing his bit to keep Ilya distracted or kill him whichever came first. Buffy went for the Russian's back at the same time Angel stabbed him with the peg from the front. Buffy grunted as her hand stung. It was so much harder to do it through the spine and ribs but the peg went in just as Angel shattered breastbone from the other side. Ilya's scream was cut off as he powdered away. Buffy's hand found Angel's, their fingers touching amidst Ilya's dust.

She wanted to toss herself into his arms but there were kids to worry about. The vampire might be dead but if she let any of them wander off there'd be hell to pay. She reached up and gingerly touched the ragged bleeding hole in Angel's cheek, cut there by her shoe. "This looks bad."

He captured her fingers, gently pulling them away. "It'll heal." He turned away from her, self-consciously. "You need to go take care of your sister...and the firemen. I hear the trucks coming."

She nodded regretfully. "I know. You'd better go."

She hated to see him go but she didn't want to have to explain a non-chaperone being at the school. Instead, she went out to find Dawn and make sure she was okay, or as okay as she could be given the circumstances.

EPILOGUE

"A coffee house?" Buffy looked at Angel in surprise as he led her to the near Sunnydale U campus building.

"The Bronze is always so noisy. We practically have to scream to hear each other." He stroked her hair as they went inside. "Here we can have a nice conversation."

"And the Irish band that'll be playing later has nothing to do with it?" She raised an eyebrow.

He smirked. "That's just icing on the cake."

Buffy laughed and let him buy her a cup of cappuccino big enough to swim in while she went and bogarted a couch along the back wall. It was soft and enveloping like a big bear hug and was even better when Angel joined her. They'd be able to hear the band perfectly once they took the coffee house 'stage.' She snuggled up against him, giving Angel a kiss. She might not be ale to do all the kissing she'd like with him at this point, being out in public, but just pressing up against him, having coffee was nice too. She sighed contentedly.

"You look happy." His big hand rubbed her shoulders.

"I am. Ilya's gone. The kids are safe...or as safe as they can be in Sunnydale. Dawnie's finally understanding how dangerous my life is and how she isn't making it any easier by breaking curfew and running off when she's been grounded."

"That's a good thing."

"Even seeing Spike driving back into town isn't going to bring me down," she assured him.

"That's good. You deserve an easy night." He rested his chin on the top of her head.

"No arguments."

Buffy nestled up against him, as one of the band members started tuning an instrument that sounded something like cats being tortured. She canted her eyes up at Angel.

"Uilleam pipes. Don't worry, they won't sound so bad with the rest of the band playing." He smiled.

"I sure hope not." Buffy took a drink of her caramel cappuccino enjoying the rush. Even if the band was bad, she wouldn't care. She was here with the man she loved. The latest monster had been destroyed and for one night, she could pretend all was right with the world.