Red Carpet Romance

Part 1

Soundtrack: (I almost always listen to music while I write. Doesn't necessarily relate to the story, but thought you might be interested.) Full of Grace, Sarah McLachlan

"Rupert Giles, head of Magic Box Productions," the image of a distinguished-looking older man with glasses appeared on the screen. "Ethan Rayne of Chaos Records." He was replaced by another man with a fiendish smile, only to be replaced himself by a younger man with a somewhat affected, but very warm expression. "And Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, the head of Hunter Press." The last man disappeared to be replaced with the speaker, a woman with platinum blonde hair and an overly large grin. "Separately, three powerful media moguls, together, they've been called 'The Watcher's Council', because everything we see on television, be it a music video, an interview with an author, or a movie, has come through these men."

She turned as the camera swiveled to a new angle. "For those of you in the know, you know that today is a very special day for one of these men. Who is it?" She paused for a moment, perfect teeth still dazzling, "that's right! It's eight years today since Rupert Giles, everyone's favorite film powerhouse, married unknown divorcee Joyce Summers. It was only a matter of time before Joyce's daughter, the then-ten year old Buffy became a viewer's sweetheart and a beloved fixture at galas and the red carpet."

A few notes of music began, and the girl sitting on the couch with her parents leaned back, squeezing her eyes shut.

"No!" She moaned. "Don't tell me they're going to show the wedding footage. Not the wedding footage!"

But it was the wedding footage. A very pretty young blonde in creamy pink satin stepped, smiling brightly, down the aisle.

"That is so lame. You'd think with all their technology and scheming, they could dig up some other private family video to show." Buffy pouted, shoving a handful of popcorn into her mouth indignantly.

"It's very sad, I think," Giles said, glancing at his wife with a twinkle in his eye, "that it is not enough for Miss Summers that she is on television. She expects them to make her a star. I do believe I've created a monster."
"You can't take all the blame, Rupert," Joyce smiled, "I think Buffy was a monster before you ever bestowed upon her fame through association."

"Yeah," the teenager said with a mock scowl, "please, talk about me as though I'm not here. I insist."

"Buffy, would you like me to 'leak' some video to the media? Would that make you feel better?" Giles asked, a small smile peeking through his "sympathetic" act.

Her simple answer drove both her mother and step-father to helpless laughter, and it wasn't long before she herself joined in. Once the giggles had subsided, Buffy sat up and stretched.

"Well, I guess it's time for your anniversary present."

"Oh Buffy," Joyce smiled, "you didn't have to get us anything."
"I know. But I did. For your anniversary…I'm going to go out for the whole entire evening. Even staying over at the Rosenberg's." The happy couple exchanged confused glances. Buffy nodded encouragingly. "The whole house to yourself. You can do whatever you want. Play Mahjong, or whatever it is that old people do."

"Hey!" Joyce frowned good-naturedly. "Who are you calling old?"
"You and Giles," Buffy leapt to her feet with a impish grin, and darted out of the expensive mahogany doors, narrowly avoiding a projectile pillow from her "old" mother. "Oh, yeah," she stuck her head back in, still grinning, "I've also got Guillermo slaving away in the kitchen on a special little something. Have a nice dinner."

And she was gone. Joyce and Rupert exchanged another glance, and were once again overcome by laughter.

"Seriously, though, it's getting really lame," Buffy said, stirring her Shirley Temple absentmindedly. "I hate watching that same video clip over, and over, and over."

"You shouldn't have looked so cute in it," Willow Rosenberg shrugged. A powerful techno beat thumped in the background, and there were strobe lights. "Then they wouldn't show it."

"I suppose," Buffy said forlornly. She glanced up and her eyes widened. "Battle stations, Wil." Instantly, her best friend snaked her arm through the arm of her other best friend, Xander Harris, and entwined her fingers with his. She leaned her head on his shoulder.

"I hate this," she murmured, as the undercover photographer who had been sneaking up behind them started shooting pictures.

"Thanks a lot, Wil," Xander said, pretending to be wounded. But Buffy knew he shared the feeling. The two of them were both major movie stars right now, and considered Hollywood's hottest couple. It would be great…except for the part where Willow was gay. Her agent had told her it would be career suicide to come out to the public, so she and Xander played the roles of devoted lovers. Both had to hide their real relationships: Willow's with a shy, young writer, Xander's with a foreign model. Buffy, who often bemoaned her own lack of love life, was still thankful she didn't have to sneak around and hide-in-plain-view from the paparazzi.

"I think he's gone," Buffy whispered, moving her mouth as little as possible.

"Thank god," Willow "nonchalantly" stretched, freeing herself from Xander.

"Now that's what every guy wants to hear," Xander quipped. Willow smiled and rubbed his arm.

"Love you like a brother, honey." Willow leaned back in her chair and surveyed the crowd, looking bored. It was a veritable 'Who's Who' in the show business industry here at the Bronze. Hottest club in town, strictly "No Photographs". But there were always a couple that managed to sneak past the guards. Even here, where they were supposed to relax, you had to be on your guard. And speaking of…

"What are you losers doing here so late?"

"Nice to see you too, Cordy." Cordelia Chase slid into a seat at the table, flanked by two massively beefy men in black suits and sunglasses.

"Aren't you out a tad late for a school night?" She asked, pointedly but not unkindly. Cordelia had always had the 'bitch' persona going on, but she was a sweet girl underneath. "Crowding!" She threw up her hands and both her bodyguards took a step backwards. The daughter of a high-ranking government official, her father was constantly paranoid that she would be attacked or abducted by his opponents or dissenters in the country. She was never seen without at least two guards.

"It's Buffy's parents' anniversary," Willow reminded her, "So we're all celebrating, then heading back for a sleepover at my place."

"Sounds delightfully juvenile," Cordy smiled brightly, then directed her attentions back on Buffy. "Now, Buffy. I'm holding a little get-together at the estate. No more than two hundred. I want the Watcher's Council there."

"Cordy, it's really not under my-"

"I can hook you up." She interrupted. "There's a rising star in the White House, and I will make him date you if I have to break his fingers. All you have to do is get Giles, Rayne and Pryce to my house before the media breaks in."

"Fine." Buffy sighed. There was no arguing with Cordelia when she set her mind to something. And plus, it couldn't hurt to have her influencing someone who might possibly become her boyfriend. It got pretty tired, walking the red carpet with one of her step-father's friends. And Cordy definitely had the power to bend whoever she had in mind to her will. "I'll do my best."
"You'll do it," Cordy corrected her, rising. "Great chatting." She strode off, bodyguards close in her wake.

"Hurricane Cordelia is now leaving the coast of Buffonia," Xander intoned in a meteorologist voice.

"Very funny," Buffy smiled at him. She could tell why the public (especially teenage girls) loved him. Attractive, witty, an all-around great guy to be around. If he wasn't one of her best friends in the whole world, she would probably date him. Except her was. She sighed, driven back into depression again. She was so happy that her mom was happily married now. It certainly didn't hurt that just being Rupert Giles' step-daughter made her a celebrity. But she had to admit, she was jealous of their relationship. Why couldn't she find a great guy who loved her that she could love?

"Bored now," Willow stretched again and yawned. "I'm getting kind of sleepy. Then again, being talked at by Cordy always wears me out."

"Should we head for la casa del Rosenberg?" Xander asked.

"Sure," Buffy shrugged. "We can watch a movie. What are you guys up for?"
"Anything that I'm not in," Willow and Xander chorused immediately. Buffy laughed and the trio rose.

"Then we're off."