disclaimer in previous part
Party at Phi Kappa Sigma
Buffy glanced at her watch irritably. Just because she knew where Riley actually was nowadays didn’t make waiting for him any more fun. "Just a quick sweep tonight, he said," she muttered, barely able to hear herself over the pounding music and the collective roar of party-chatter. "Go ahead, I’ll meet you there, he said. Just a couple hours, I’ll be there by nine-thirty." She glanced at her watch again, the third time in two minutes. "An hour later, and still no sign. Does he think I can stay here all night? I have class tomorrow." This was true. The weekend began on Wednesday afternoon at UC Sunnydale, and it was Thursday night. The Party was in full swing.
Annoyance was a convenient place to put worry. She understood that about her mom now. If all had gone well and the patrol had encountered nothing, then he would have been here by nine-thirty. If they had run into some "hostiles", then the "bagging and tagging"—subduing the demon, taking it back to Initiative HQ, locking it up, and filling out the paperwork—might have slowed him down.
Assuming that they’d won the fight.
"That does it," Buffy muttered to herself. "I’m going out and looking for him."
She turned on her heel to go tell Willow what she was doing and nearly ran directly into some guy who’d been coming up behind her. Fortunately, she caught herself before a collision that probably would have sent him skidding across the floor.
"Oh! I’m sorry!" Buffy exclaimed.
"No, that’s okay," he assured her. "I was actually coming over to see you." He held up his hands, each of which was holding a cup of punch. "You were standing over here all by yourself, and—"
"Oh, I was just waiting for my boyfriend," Buffy said quickly. The guy was gorgeous, but even if she wasn't with Riley, he wouldn’t have had a chance. He looked too much like her two Great Disasters—he was tall and muscular with short-cropped, jet-black hair and big, soulful blue eyes.
"Oh," He looked crestfallen. "Well, still, have some punch," he said, holding out one of the cups. "It’s good."
She accepted the cup and he lingered anxiously for a moment while she took her first sip. "It is good," she praised, smiling and nodding at him. He smiled back, then wandered off back into the crowd.
Actually, it tasted kind of funny. But except for her adventures in One Million Beer C, she didn’t have much experience with booze. Maybe that was how it was supposed to taste.
Fifteen minutes later, Buffy was at the end of her patience. Images of Riley scattered across one of the school lawns kept flashing into her head, and she couldn’t take it anymore. After one last glance out the front door to see if he was coming—her fifth—Buffy crossed over to the couch where Willow was sitting.
Poor Willow. She was still so broken up over Oz. She was just sitting at the end of the couch, watching the party go on around her, staring at the occasional couple making out in the shadows with a mixture of wistfulness and envy. Buffy knew that she couldn’t be having much fun and that she herself should be doing something about that. Until quarter after ten had arrived and she’d realized just how late Riley was, she had been. But right now it was closing in on eleven and she was too worried to be very good company. She’d make it up when she returned with Riley thrown over her shoulder.
"Uh?" Willow looked up at her, startled out of a reverie.
"Riley’s late, and I’m getting a little worried. I’m going to go out and look for him."
"Oh," Willow said, sounding disappointed. "Okay."
"We’ll be back soon," Buffy promised. "Just sit tight."
"Just sit tight," Willow grumbled as she watched Buffy go. "I just bet you’ll be right back…after half an hour or so of smoochies. Why did you even bring me if you didn’t really want to hang out with me you big—" She paused and considered, then a spiteful look appeared on her face. "No, not big, little—abandoner?" Not for the first time, she wished that she’d begged off tonight and gone to hang out with Tara.
Willow glanced up. There was an absolutely gorgeous guy standing there in front of her—blue eyes and broad shoulders and black hair. Somehow, she didn’t find him as interesting as she once would have. Maybe it was because his hair was all short and spiky, so it reminded her of both Angel and Oz. A Double-Strength Man Trouble Warning Beacon.
"Is your friend all right?" He asked.
"Oh, she’s a pal," Willow muttered under her breath.
You’re being rude, Willow scolded herself. He hasn’t done anything. "She’s gone to pick up her boyfriend," She explained. "They should be back in a while."
"I guess that gives me a little time to get acquainted with you, then," He smiled. "Can I get you something to drink?"
Falling Asleep On Duty
Buffy had never been to the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity house before. She’d stopped for directions twice trying to get there. At first, she figured that was why she was having a bit of difficulty finding her way to Lowell House. After a few minutes, though, she had to admit that she was just plain lost.
How did that happen?
UC Sunnydale wasn’t that big. There shouldn’t be that much lost to get on campus. Besides, even before she’d been the Slayer, Buffy had possessed a pretty decent sense of direction. Finding her way back to someplace should have been easy enough.
She was disoriented. That was the problem. It felt like there was sand in the gears in her head. Probably because she was so tired…
Eleven o’clock is like early evening to me. Why the hell would I be tired?
Whether it made sense or not, she was exhausted. Her body felt heavy and slow, and she could barely keep her head up and her eyelids open, even as she stood.
Maybe it was the drink—alcohol is a depressant. But I only had one! What the hell was in it?
The unfamiliar territory was starting to look downright threatening. Buffy didn’t like a lot of things about the layout of the UC Sunnydale campus. There were all those thick trees and high hedges and secluded courtyards, plus all of those surrounding woods. There were too few street lamps to begin with, and they had a tendency to get vandalized every weekend. Only about one in five of the blue-light security phones worked. Add the fact that the Security Department made the Sunnydale PD look like the FBI, and it seemed like somebody deliberately designed the place as a vampire buffet.
Case in point. Up ahead, the path she was walking on intersected another. Two girls had just hurried past the intersection and continued on—perhaps to the Phi Kap party? Trailing behind them, in the shadows that the lamps didn’t reach, was a male vampire in a black trench coat.
Buffy got her stake out of her purse. This shouldn’t take long. It had to be a fledgling. First of all, he was in vamp face. Hunting in vamp face is kinda like showing up at your first day of Spring Training in a limo—a real rookie stunt. If the Prey spots you before Chow Time, it scares ‘em off. Second, he was doing a sneak-up-and-snatch. On two people no less. A lot of screaming, a lot of struggling, poor control of the situation, and a witness left behind. Any vamp worth its fangs preferred seduction or ambush tactics—the better to trick or drag someone where no one will hear the screams.
She stepped out of her side path and into the vampire’s way, cutting him off. "When I saw you in that trench coat, at first I thought you were a flasher," she said. This was untrue, but only because she could sense vampires. If she’d been going on appearances alone…"I was going to call campus security. But then I realized that you’re a vampire," she set her face and brandished her stake, and her voice dropped into grim menace. "So I decided to deal with you myself."
"I’ll be just as glad to eat you as them," the vamp snarled.
"Okay, but I warn you, I’m liable to be a lot harder on your teeth," she retorted.
Something was wrong from the moment the fight began. Buffy had thought that a tussle would wake her up, shake her out of her lethargy. It always had before.
Not this time.
Something was wrong.
Punches that should have knocked the fledgling to the ground barely staggered him. A spin-kick missed entirely and she came back down off-balance.
Something was very, very wrong.
Her blows had no strength and she was an instant slow and getting slower and she had no quips or taunts because she couldn’t think. She was needing to concentrate on things that had long since become muscle memory and there was sand in the gears in her head and she couldn’t think!
And through her mounting terror, she just kept getting sleepier. She was getting slower and weaker and more confused, and she could barely keep her eyes open. Her body felt so heavy.
Suddenly, pain erupted on the side of her head and fireworks exploded behind her eyes, and she found herself on the ground with no real idea how she’d gotten there, the vampire standing over her.
"Well," the vampire, apparently still in the habit of breathing, panted. "That was certainly good for the appetite. Thanks." He started to kneel down and bend toward her when he exploded into ash.
"Don’t worry, miss," a familiar voice said. "You’re…Buffy?"
It seemed that her worries about Riley had been unfounded.
"I still know who I am," she quipped weakly. "He didn’t hit my head that hard."
Buffy felt much better by the time they reached Stephenson Hall. Riley had carried her for the first part of the journey, but by the time they arrived she was leaning on him as she walked.
"So what happened?" Riley asked as they slowly climbed the stairs. "Was he some kind of vampire bad-ass? Did I just get really lucky here?"
"No, that’s just it," She frowned. "He was a newbie, I’m sure of it. Something was wrong with me. I was sick or something. I think I might have passed out even if he hadn’t been there."
"I didn’t know you could get sick," Riley said.
"Not often, but when I do, it can get nasty. I once had a case of the flu that put me in the hospital." She fell silent for a moment. It still hurt to think of that time in her life. "But that doesn’t make any sense," she continued after the moment had passed. "How could it come and go so quickly?" Her expression grew worried. "I hope it’s not anything Hellmouthy."
Riley’s face had gone grim. "Did you have anything to drink?"
"A cup of punch," Buffy answered. "Why?"
"That’s not good."
Buffy looked affronted. "I wasn’t drunk," she protested.
"I know, I—"
"I know what drunk feels like," she continued, acting as if she hadn’t heard him. "And this isn’t drunk."
"I believe you, it’s just—"
"I’ll have you know that I can drink like a man three times my size."
"Buffy! I believe you. You weren’t drunk."
"Where were you, anyway?" Buffy sulked.
Riley sighed. Maybe she wasn’t drunk, but she definitely was not in her right mind. Fortunately, he interpreted her question correctly: she still felt accused, and she was blaming him for not showing up on time. It never would have happened if you’d been there.
"Bagging and tagging," he answered. "We ran into a couple weird ones."
"Hey, that’s right," Buffy said. "Shouldn’t you have bagged and tagged my vampire, instead of dusting him?"
Riley shook his head. "I can’t carry my taser around with me."
"But you do carry a stake?"
Riley quirked a wry grin at her. "On this campus, a lot more useful for self-defense than mace."
Buffy chuckled as they approached her door.
"So why did you want to know if I’d had anything to drink?" she asked as she fished around in her pockets for her key.
"I’ll tell you in the morning," Riley said, grim-faced once more. "Right now, you need some sleep."
"Okay," Buffy agreed, turning the key in the lock. "Could you go over to Phi Kap and tell Willow what happened?" She asked as she swung the door open. She had to look over her shoulder to say this—Riley had stopped in the doorway, staring straight ahead.
"I don’t think that’ll be necessary," he said.
Confused, Buffy followed his gaze across the room, to where she saw something that blew the lethargy out of her system at last and made her eyes fly wide open.
Parker Abrams tucking Willow into bed, then turning to face them.
The Honest Liar
"Oh, good. You’re here," Parker said calmly, as if the situation between him and the other two people in the room was completely amiable.
"Yeah, we’re here," Buffy growled, crossing her arms and glaring at him. Riley closed the door behind them and stepped to her side. "And you have about five seconds to explain why you’re here before I kick your ass, throw you out that door, and call security."
"Your friend was…sick," Parker explained.
"Like you care," Buffy scoffed.
"Usually I wouldn’t," Parker admitted. "First Years drink themselves sick all the time. But there’s some things you just can’t walk away from."
Thirty Minutes Earlier
"Well, I’d like to go to France next year," Parker said to the girl beside him. "They say it’s difficult to do a semester abroad in your Senior year, but I don’t want to miss the chance. After all, that’s what college is all about, isn’t it? New experiences."
"Oh, definitely," the girl agreed warmly, nodding. Her name was Sung Olsen, and she was stunningly beautiful—one hell of a prize. Her skin was golden and her hair was night-dark, though there was a streak of white-blond in it that she swore was natural. Her almond-shaped eyes, currently wide and bright and impressed, were blue. He had once—carefully—asked about this unusual combination of features. "Ever seen Miss Saigon?" She had asked in reply. When he had answered in the affirmative, she had said "I’m what happens a few years after a happy ending."
Parker took a sip of his drink and smiled. Sung smiled back, her delicate features warming. She didn’t know that the real reason he was smiling was because he was thinking: Score! She has bitten on the "New Experiences" hook. Thank God for Freshwomen. Nobody else would fall for a line like that. Not that it’s a lie. Exactly. I would like to go to France. Kinda. Hell, a little luck and I might be able to reel her in tonight. It might not even be necessary to sink the "dead dad" hook into her.
He was about to launch into his explanation about how he wanted to see all the great artwork and perfect his French—by the time you were done whispering a few French endearments in a girl’s ear she was usually standing in a slippery puddle—when he spotted something over her shoulder.
That girl, earlier this year. The one who’d given him so much trouble. What was her name? Buffy? Wasn’t that her little friend, the one who had yelled at him right before the fire? Willow? Funny, he didn’t think she was the type to end up passed out on a couch at a frat party. Ordinarily he wouldn’t care, but this was a Phi Kap party. It wasn’t a safe place to sleep.
Oh, well. He was turning his attention back to Sung—after all, Buffy or that stupid hulk Finn could take care of her—when a familiar figure sat down beside Willow on the couch. Short, black hair. Broad shoulders.
"Are you okay?" Sung asked. "You’re looking kinda pale."
"Me?" Parker stumbled. "Oh. Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just my…friend over there," he explained, pointing.
"Her?" Sung asked, following his finger. "Oh, I know her. She’s in my drama class." She winced. "She looks kinda sick."
"Yeah, she does," Parker agreed quickly. "I’m a bit worried about her. I’d better get her home."
"It looks like that guy is taking care of her," Sung shrugged.
That’s what I’m afraid of. Parker thought. "Well, I don’t think she knows him at all. He probably doesn’t know where she lives—I do."
"Okay," she said, disappointed. "See you soon?"
"Wouldn’t miss it," Parker grinned, then headed for the couch where Willow slept.
Willow was awake again when Parker arrived at the couch—sort of. Darren had gotten her sitting up and semi-conscious and was trying to coax her to her feet.
"Thanks, Darren," he said as he arrived, nodding. "I can take it from here. I know her."
Darren stared up like a deer in the headlights. "But—"
"It’s okay," Parker continued. "I’ll make sure she gets home safe." Then he turned to Willow.
"Hey, Willow," He greeted her. He was loud and over-enthusiastic, hoping to wake her and catch her attention. It worked, sort of. Her eyes blinked open and she looked up at him blearily.
"You don’t look so good," he continued, crouching in front of her so he was on eye level. "Have too much to drink?"
"Don’t think so," she said in a dazed voice. "Can’t remember."
"You must have, then. How are you feeling?"
"Sleepy," she answered, her eyes starting to drift closed.
"Why don’t I take you home, then?" he suggested.
"She’s welcome to crash here," Darren offered quickly.
"No, she’s probably better off in her own bed," Parker waved the offer down. Darren glared at him in a way that clearly said Piss off, punk, can’t you see I’m working, but Parker kept his voice and expression deliberately innocent. Darren was bigger than he was, and he was alone in the Phi Kap house. If it seemed like he was deliberately cock-blocking Darren, he would probably get taken out back and beat up. "Thanks, though."
"I know you," Willow said, catching both young men’s attention. "You’re Parker," she said, pointing at him. "You were mean to Buffy."
Darren grinned. "Sounds like she doesn’t want to go home with you," he gloated.
"It’s not like that," Parker said. "I just want to make sure she makes it across campus. It’s chilly out there tonight. If she passes out on a bench somewhere, she could get hypothermia."
"I don’t like you," Willow said. "You’re a poop head."
Darren snorted laughter.
Parker flushed. "You’re right, I know, hurting Buffy was bad. But you know I’m not dangerous, right?"
"Yes," she admitted reluctantly.
"Well there are some dangerous things out there, and I’d worry if you tried to go home alone—"
"All alone. Buffy’s not coming back."
"You want to go home, don’t you?" he coaxed.
"Dude," Darren protested. "I don’t think—"
Willow nodded. "Sleepy," she said.
Parker rose to his feet and offered her a hand up. "Come on, then," he said. "Let’s get you home to bed."
Willow rose unsteadily to her feet, but Darren leaped up. "Seriously, you don’t have to go," he protested. "She’s free to crash here."
"Don’t feel so good," Willow said, swaying on her feet.
"Hear that, man? She’s sick," Parker said. "Don’t want puke everywhere, do you?"
Suddenly, the sound of loud retching came from across the room, followed by another voice raising a triumphant shout of "Power booting!"
"Well, any more puke everywhere," Parker corrected without missing a beat. "Thanks anyway, though." With that, he pulled one of Willow’s arms around his shoulders, wrapped a supporting arm around her, and led her out the door.
"I had to carry her piggyback the last third of the way back," Parker finished. "She was just conscious enough to give me her key when we got here. You two arrived five minutes after we did, and here we are."
"Here we are," Buffy agreed, the words falling off into silence. "And I’m sure glad we got here when we did," she said, her voice tight.
Parker scowled. "Why would you say that?" he asked, pretty sure he already knew what she meant.
"By your own story, you were pretty eager to get her home."
Riley looked down at his girlfriend in surprise.
Parker scowled. "Look, I know that you and I had a misunderstanding, and I know that I hurt your feelings, but—"
Buffy’s eyes blazed, and Parker knew that he’d made a mistake. "Misunderstanding?" she demanded. "You used me. You lied to me and you tricked me—it was all just some kind of game to you, wasn’t it? You’re no better than this Darren Edwards! How do I know that you didn’t bring Willow home to do the same thing he wanted to?"
"Buffy!" Riley said, shocked.
Parker brought his fist down on Buffy’s dresser like a gavel, snapping their attention back to him. The solicitous, charming look was gone from his face, replaced by something Buffy had never seen there: cold fury.
"You know what?" he said. "It’s late, I’m tired, I passed up a pretty good chance to get laid and risked my ass to get your friend home safe. And you call me a rapist? Fuck you. I just got out of the mood to sugar-coat things for you."
Buffy, who had been shocked at first by Parker’s transformation, now met his gaze and held it firmly. She suspected that this was the first time she was hearing the truth from Parker Abrams.
"I’m a player," Parker continued. "I’m not ashamed of that. Sex is a game, and I play to win. If it comes out a draw, everyone wins, that’s all good, but it doesn’t happen that way often. You lost," he said, pointing at her. "And now you hate me. Fine. You’re not the first and you weren’t the last. Accuse me of cheating? Whatever. But I’ve never done anything with a woman—not you, not anyone else, ever—that she didn’t choose to do. Remember? ‘Making a choice’?"
Buffy flushed and balled her fists, but Parker pressed on.
"That’s because sex is a game, and games are about fun. What fun is it if the other side isn’t playing, too—willing and eager? And sometimes I lose! I tried to get into her pants once," he said, thrusting his thumb over his shoulder toward Willow. :"She turned me down flat. Laughed in my face. Called me ‘Id-Boy’, which I still don’t quite get. Did I get mad? No! I just put a mark in the Loss column and moved on. That’s the difference between me and Darren Edwards."
Still glaring, Buffy relaxed and unclenched her fists.
"Know what they call him?" Parker continued. "Date-Rape Darren. You might have met him yourself. Black hair, blue eyes—really hospitable with offering you a drink of punch?"
"I met him," Buffy, slowly-dawning horror spreading across her face. "The punch…wasn’t very good."
"It was drugged," Parker said bluntly. "And so was Willow’s. Roofies, I’d guess. Like I said, that’s the difference between him and me. For me, sex is a game. For him, it’s a hunt, and all he cares about is pretty little heads mounted on his wall. He doesn’t hear ‘no’. Hell, he doesn’t even listen for ‘yes’. You may not believe this, but I hate him even more than most guys would, because he cheats. He rigs and dishonors my game and he cripples women who might have been worthy opponents. He takes something that’s supposed to be fun and turns it into a weapon, and makes it so they don’t ever want to play again. I would never do that. Never. So don’t you dare call me a rapist."
They stood there for a moment in a silent tableau, Parker panting angrily while Buffy watched him, her expression unreadable. Riley prepared to step into the middle of any fight that might break out, hoping that Buffy wouldn’t break anything he put in her way.
"You’re right," Buffy said at last. "That was a terrible thing to accuse you of, even given our history. I’m sorry."
Parker watched her suspiciously for a moment, then took a deep breath and let it out, his customary smile returning.
Riley relaxed with a similar sigh. Danger past.
"You know," Parker grinned. "I think that may be the first time I’ve ever heard a woman actually say the words ‘you’re right’."
"You’ve saved Willow, and I can’t thank you enough for that," Buffy said. Then she stepped back, took the doorknob, and threw the door open. "Now please leave."
"Who is ‘they’?" Buffy asked, not turning around after she closed the door behind Parker.
"They?" Riley asked, confused.
"He said ‘they’ call this bastard ‘Date-Rape Darren’. Who is ‘they’?"
"His frat brothers," Riley answered. "They know."
"So do you," Buffy said, turning back to him. Her face was bleak with shock and anger. "Why haven’t you done anything about it?"
"What do you want me to do?" Riley asked, spreading his hands helplessly. "Have a street rumble between our fraternities? Nobody presses charges."
"Why didn’t you warn me?" she demanded.
"I thought you and Willow would be safe. What can hurt a Slayer and a witch at a frat party? Even at Phi Kap? I didn’t want to look like some possessive jerk of a boyfriend, trying to keep you from having fun without me."
"Oh, yeah, it was a blast," she snarled.
"Sorry doesn’t do it!" She yelled. "He tried to rape Willow, Riley!" She paused, and she started to tremble as the other half hit home. "He tried to rape me! There has to be something we can do!" she insisted, her eyes filling with tears of helpless rage.
"I’m sorry," Riley repeated. "I just don’t know what that might be."