"Oh come on, Buffy. If my Mom calls, all you have to do is tell her I'm in the shower. Or the bathroom. Or... well, just make up something. And then call me at Angel's house and I'll call her right back," Cordelia begged.

It sounded simple enough, but Buffy didn't know how much longer Ms. Chase-Giles would buy her lies. Harmony was staring at her with hopeful eyes. They got her every time with their 'Oh Buffy, why don't you come spend the weekend with us! It'll be just like when we were kids!' It never was like when they were kids. She knew that the only reason they still asked her to their sleepovers was so that someone would man the phone and feed Max, the aging Lhasa Apso Cordelia once carried around like a baby and now couldn't be bothered with.

"Okay," Buffy digressed. "I guess I can study just as well at your house as I can at mine."

Secretly, Buffy hoped that Cordelia's older bother, William, or Spike as he now liked to be called, would make an appearance. It seemed that he was home every weekend these days.

"You are a life-saver, Buffy!" Cordy beamed, wrapping her arms around her friend and planting a noisy kiss on her cheek. "We'll totally be back in time to go to the beach tomorrow, okay?"

Buffy rolled her eyes and shrugged her off. Cordelia was so overly dramatic that it was comical at times. Harmony looked at her and grinned.

"I'm not all about the lesbian-love like Cordy, but thanks, Buff! You're the best," she agreed.

Cordy and Harmony had taken to inviting Buffy over every weekend so that they could sneak out to see their boyfriends undetected by parental radar. It was easy enough. Angel picked them up at the convenience store across from Cordy's house.

Cordy's mom had decided that being married to Mr. Giles was no longer fun. His business trips took him overseas too often and instead of accompanying him, she took to finding the company of men half her age. It was just too easy for Cordy to sneak out the sliding glass door in her bedroom and across the road to the Circle K.

"No prob," Buffy smiled weakly.

She was grateful that her own mother didn't ask too many questions about where she was or what she did. Lying to Cordy's mom was one thing. Lying to her own mother was another. Joyce wasn't home much these days, anyhow. Her passion for art had her travelling the world at the drop of a hat. She had already put their house up for sale and announced to Buffy that at the end of her senior year, she would be moving to New York to open a gallery.

What about me? Buffy had initially thought. Instead of following her mother, she had decided to stay in Sunnydale and live in the dorms at the University when she graduated high school.

The phone rang for the third time at 11:30. Buffy prayed that it wasn't Ms. Chase-Giles again.

"Hey Buff!" It was Cordy. She could hear Harmony giggling in the background and the sounds of muffled male voices as well.

"Hey Cordy. What's the what?" she asked, absently petting the dog who had fallen asleep in her lap.

"Just talked to Mom. She's down for the count," Cordy giggled.

"In English, please?" Buffy asked.

"She'll be out all weekend. Something about a hottie in LA and don't wait up and I'll see her Sunday night sometime," Cordy filled her in. "In other words, I won't be hearing from her again. So, uh... if you want to hang out at the house, that's cool. If not, that's cool, too. Just leave Max some kibble and maybe stop by and check on him if Spike doesn't show up before you leave. Oh, and make sure you lock up? You still have the key, right?" Cordy asked hopefully.

Big freakin' surprise. They were completely blowing her off again.

"Uh, yeah. I'll just head home in the morning," Buffy said a little too brightly.

"Thanks, Buff! You're a gem!" Cordy sing-songed before hanging up the phone.

Yeah... that's me. A freakin' gem.

Buffy switched off the TV and made herself comfortable on the sofa. She had been working on a paper for senior English. Poem interpretation. It was something she enjoyed doing, but knew that her evil hag of an English teacher would just make her feel foolish for being more advanced than the other students.

You don't do this for them, Buffy. You do this for you, she told herself as she began reading Dylan Thomas' "Incarnate Devil."

Incarnate devil in a talking snake,
The central plains of Asia in his garden,
In shaping-time the circle stung awake,
In shapes of sin forked out the bearded apple,
And God walked there who was a fiddling warden...

"Talking snake... he must know Cordy," Buffy mumbled, trying to ward off the tears stinging the backs of her eyelids.

She pulled out her notebook and shifted the dog off her lap to the seat beside her. She was scribbling furiously, tortoise-framed glass sliding down her nose, when the turn of the dead-bolt made her jump.

"Jesus, Will. You scared me," she gasped, as he poked his platinum blonde head in the doorway, secretly happy to see him.

"I see you're playing house-sitter again, Pet," he grinned, secretly happy to see her.

She closed her notebook and set it on the coffee table as he closed and locked the front door. She tried not to watch as he disappeared down the hall to throw his duffle bag into his bedroom. He reappeared a few minutes later and plopped down beside her on the couch and confiscated the remote control to the TV. He turned it on and began flipping through the channels, landing on Beavis and Butthead.

"Ah, only the finest in Cult-TV for you, Will," she grinned, elbowing him lightly in the ribs.

"Yeah, well, after a week of Calculus, Biochemistry and so many chapters of Don Quixote that my eyes have crossed, I deserve a little mindless drabble," he informed her.

They sat laughing at the two cartoon idiots on TV for a little while without further conversation. She liked that about Will. When his father, Rupert, married Cordy's mom five years before, he'd been part of the package. One of which Cordy was not very fond. But Buffy had always been grateful to have someone with a brain to laugh and talk with. They had even taken to trading snipes about Cordy and Harmony. It was nearly impossible to not do.

"Gawd," Cordy had whined after finding out that she was getting a brand new step-brother. "He's so freakin' embarrassing. He's got that awful accent and those stupid clothes and all he ever does is study and he's, like, always saying things I don't understand."

I'm always saying things you don't understand, Buffy had thought.

"Off with the great poof again?" Spike suddenly asked as the show broke to commercial.

"Yeah. And Harmony's flavor of the week, Gunn," Buffy told him.

He narrowed his eyes on hers and cocked his head to the side.

"What?" she asked. She hated that look. He was always trying to figure her out.

"I just don't get it, Summers," he told her. "Why do you still come here every weekend when you know all she's doing is using you?"

Because of you, she thought.

"Because she still asks me," she responded. "Why do you still come here every weekend even though your Dad is in England and has filed for divorce?" Turnabout was fair play.

Because of you, he thought.

"Nowhere else to go," he lied. "Honey and Cordy are the closest thing I have to family now that Da is back in England."

Buffy giggled.

"What's so funny?" he grinned.

"Just... I hate calling Cordy's mom by her first name. She insists that I do it and I just... I mean, calling a grown woman Honey?" Buffy laughed.

"Think that's funny?" Spike asked. "Imagine having to introduce her as Honey to your mates and then standing there red-faced while she openly flirts with them!"

"Okay, okay," she stopped to catch her breath before giggling some more. "You've way got me beat."

She looked up at the clock hanging over the entertainment center. Already pushing 1AM.

"Hey, Will?" she asked quietly. He was already engrossed in the cartoon morons gracing the small screen in front of them once again.


"Can you give me a ride home in the morning?" She tried not to sound too disappointed about missing out on a day at the beach.

"Mmm-hmm," he answered, still laughing at the television.

A minute later he snapped off the TV and turned to face her.

"Aren't you going to the beach with Queen C and her insipid liege?" he suddenly asked.

She laughed weakly and rolled her eyes.

"Yeah. About that... Honey's out for the weekend and it looks like Cordy and Harm are, too," Buffy told him. "She said something about me locking up and maybe checking on Max after I leave."

He could feel the anger rising in him. Who the Hell did Cordy think she was? And why did Buffy continue to let her walk all over her time and time again?

"No," he told her firmly.

She wrinkled her brow, confused.

"No... what?" she asked cautiously.

"No, I won't take you home in the morning," he told her, arms crossed in resolve.

"Oh," she said, disappointed. "Um, that's okay. I can walk or--"

"That's not what I mean, love," he smiled at her. "You came over to go to the beach. And you are going to the beach."

Was he... he couldn't be... was he?

"Be ready at 8AM sharp," he told her before dropping a kiss on her forehead and disappearing into his room.