It was lunch hour at Sunnydale High School and seniors were coming and going. Aurelia was sitting in the park across from the school watching Willow and Oz waiting for Xander and Cordelia to join them. Oz was being characteristically calm, but Willow was swaying around, almost nervously. She could hear them talking all the way across the street.
"I'm giddy." Willow said.
"Oh, I like you giddy. Always have." Oz said. Aurelia smiled.
"It's the freedom! As Seniors, we can go off-campus now for lunch. It's no longer cutting. It's legal! Heck, it's expected! Wow, it's, uh, also a big step forward, a Senior moment, one that has to be savored." Oz looked back during Willow's speech and saw Xander and Cordelia coming. "You can't just rush into this, you know?" Xander headed for Willow's side opposite Oz and the two boys each grabbed an arm and started to pull her across the street. Aurelia laughed out loud and went back to arranging the picnic lunch she and her mother had made.
Willow started to resist, leaning backward with all of her weight. "No, I can't!" Oz and Xander just lifted her by the arms and pulled harder.
"You can." Xander promised.
"See, you are." Oz said.
"Oh, but, no!" Willow cried. "What if they changed the rule without telling? What if they're lying in wait to arrest me a-and, and throw me in detention and mar my unblemished record?" They reached the other side of the street and Oz and Xander steadied her on the sidewalk.
"Breathe. Breathe." Xander said.
Willow took a breath and let it out, calming herself. "Ok. Hmm…." Oz took Willow by the hand and Xander put his arm around Cordelia as they walked towards Aurelia. "This is good! This is…. Hey, we're Seniors! Hey, I'm walkin' here!"
"Ahh. Aurelia and food." Xander said.
"Maybe we shouldn't be too couple-y around Aurelia."
"Oh, you mean 'cause of how the only guy that ever liked her turned into a vicious killer and had to be put down like a dog?" Cordelia asked.
"Can she cram complex issues into a nutshell, or what?" Xander said. Aurelia sighed and studiously ignored her friends.
"All right, prepare to uncouple…." Oz said. They took a few more steps. "Uncouple." They let go of each other as they came around the tree towards Aurelia. Willow crossed in front of Xander so Aurelia saw girls on the right and the boys on the left.
"Aurelia, banned from campus, but not from our hearts, how are you and what's for lunch?" Xander asked as Oz climbed onto the bench and sat on the backrest. The others knelt on the blanket Aurelia had brought.
"Oh, I just threw a few things together." Aurelia said.
"When did you become Martha Stewart?" Cordelia asked.
Aurelia snorted. "Martha Stewart knows nothing about hand-cut prosciutto." She handed out drink bottles.
"I don't believe she slays, either." Xander said.
"Oh, I hear she can, but she doesn't like to." Oz said.
Aurelia laughed. "Well, I have too much free time on my hands since I got kicked out of school, so I watch a lot of TV."
"Oh, I know they'll let you back in." Willow said.
"Don't you and your mom have a meeting with Principal Snyder?" Xander asked.
"We're seeing the troll tomorrow morning." Aurelia said.
"Ooo, Scott Hope at eleven o'clock." Willow said giddily. "He likes you. He wanted to ask you out last year, but you weren't ready then. But I think you're ready now, or at least in the state of pre-readiness to make conversation, or-or to do that thing with your mouth that boys like." Aurelia snapped her head around at Willow and gave her a shocked look. "Oh! I didn't mean the bad thing with your mouth, I meant that little half-smile thing that you…." Willow stopped and glared at Oz. "You're supposed to stop me when I do that."
Oz just smiled and shook his head. "I like when you do that."
Scott came towards them and as he passed, he looked over at Aurelia. "Hi, Buffy."
Aurelia didn't say anything, she just turned her head. "What was that!" Willow demanded.
"He didn't try to slit our throats or anything." Cordelia said. "I see that as progress."
"I'm not trying to snare Scott Hope." Aurelia said. "There's only one man I love and there's no room for anyone else. And by the way, has Giles found anything yet? He didn't answer his phone this morning."
"He's been buried in his books all morning." Willow said. "I'm sure he'll find something soon."
Aurelia and her mother sat in Snyder's office facing the little troll. He sat behind his desk, calmly giving it to them straight. "Here are the terms of your re-entry, missy. Take 'em or leave 'em. One: that you pass a makeup test of every class you skipped out on last year. Two: that you provide, in writing, one glowing letter of recommendation from any member of our faculty who is not an English librarian. Three: that you complete an interview with our school psychologist who must conclude that your violent tendencies are under control."
"I'm not sure I like your attitude, Mr. Snyder." Joyce said. "I spoke with the school board, and according to them…."
"I'm required to educate every juvenile who is not in jail where she belongs. Welcome back."
"So let me get this straight." Aurelia said. "I'm really back in school because the school board overruled you." She giggled. "That's like having your whole ability to do this job called into question, when you think about it."
"I think what my daughter's trying to say is…. Nyah, nyah-nyah-nyah, nyah." Joyce gave Snyder a defiant look and the two women turned and walked out of the office, proud of themselves.
Willow met them outside. "So! What did he say?"
"The school board overruled him and I'm back in." Aurelia said smugly. "The vile little troll in there can't keep me out any longer."
"Yay!" Willow bounced up and down and hugged Aurelia tightly.
"Well, I guess I'll let you get your things arranged." Joyce said. "Have a good day at school." She smiled proudly at Aurelia and walked away.
After Aurelia had gotten everything set up for her readmittance into school, she and Willow walked down the hallways together chatting lightly.
"Oh, Giles wanted to see you." Willow said as they started to walk.
"I was headed that way anyway." Aurelia said.
"It's so great that you're a schoolgirl again."
"We'll see how it works out. That sideshow freak of a principal will be breathing down my neck at every turn." They walked into the library. "Did Giles say what he wanted? Do you think he's mad?" They stopped at the counter where bowls and jars of various dried herbs were arrayed.
"No, I don't think so. I think he just needed to see you. Have you ever noticed, though, when he is mad, but he's too English to say anything, he makes that weird cluck-cluck sound with his tongue?"
Giles suddenly rose up from behind the counter and looked at the things he'd laid out on the counter. "Hello, Giles!" Aurelia said loudly.
Willow blushed and looked at Giles. "Oh, hi! Been there long?"
"Aurelia, good timing. I could use your help. I trust you remember the demon Acathla?"
"Giles, please contain yourself. Yes, I'm back in school, but you know how it embarrasses me when you gush so. But you're right. Let's skip all of that and get straight to work." Aurelia smiled brightly at him.
"Oh, ah…. Well, I, um…. Well-w…. O-o-of course, it's wonderful to have you back, i-i-it goes without saying. But…. You enjoy making me say it, don't you?" Giles set his glasses on his nose and continued looking around.
"We need to make sure that he remains dormant and that the dimensional vortex is sealed tight. So I'm working on a binding spell."
"Well…. That goes without saying. Acathla is dangerous. We can't just have him lying around and not sealed tight."
"What if it's the key to getting Cassius back?"
"Aurelia, I understand you want him back, but right now the world is your first priority. You have to make sure it's safe from things like Acathla. And we don't know nearly enough about this prophecy to even consider bringing him back yet."
"But if you bind that portal, who's to say that it can be opened again to get him back?"
"We don't want it opened again."
"Not suck-the-world-into-hell open, no. But if that's the only door to that dimension and we figure out a way to open it the other way so Cassius can get out, but you've bound it tight, how are we going to get him back then?"
Giles sighed. "Until I've figured out this prophecy, I'm not going to bring Cassius back. I don't want to end the world so you can have your sweetheart back."
Aurelia turned on her heel and walked towards the door. "I have to go take an English makeup exam."
Aurelia made her way through the Bronze with drinks and listened to the band on stage. The dance floor was crowded with dancing couples and Aurelia had to shake her head at one couple that was a bit more energetic about it. She turned away and headed for the alcove furnished like a turn-of-the-century parlor, with a love seat, a couple of armchairs, tables, and a lamp with a pink shade. Willow and Oz were sitting on the loveseat having some romantic kisses.
She smiled and said, "Don't let me interrupt."
Willow and Oz looked up from their kissing and Willow sat up. Aurelia handed Oz one of the drinks. "Thanks." He said.
Scott Hope approached them just then. "Hi, Scott. What are you doing here?" Willow said.
"You told me if I came after 8:00, I could run into Buffy." Scott said. Aurelia shot Willow a look and Willow was embarrassed and hid behind her drink, taking a big gulp. "Uh, I'm sorry. I'm a bad liar. It's not good for the soul. O-o-or the skin, actually. It makes me blotch." Aurelia nodded, not really interested in Scott Hope. "Don't you love this song?" She smiled and nodded slightly, still ignoring him and hoping he would take the hint. "Well, would you like to…." He indicated the dance floor and let the sentence trail.
Aurelia sighed. "Dance?"
"No." Aurelia noticed the look Willow shot her and decided to tone down her rudeness. "Thank you for asking, though."
"Ok, you know what? I'm just gonna go stand by the dance floor. If you change your mind, you can mosey on over, and then if not, then you don't mosey. No harm, no foul, right?"
"Hmm…." Aurelia turned away from Scott Hope and walked off, taking a spot near the dance floor. Aurelia rolled her eyes and flopped her head back.
"Come on, Aurelia. I mean, the guy is charm, a-and normal."
"Plus bonus points for use of the word 'mosey'." Oz said.
"How can I make this anymore clearer? I do not want Scott Hope or anybody else for that matter. The last time I tried an outside relationship, he was murdered by my sister and her boyfriend."
"That shouldn't stop you!" Willow said.
"It doesn't. The undying love and devotion I have for Cassius does. And I'm close to getting him back, I just know it."
Cordelia and Xander walked up just then with Cordelia saying, "Check out Slut-O-Rama and her Disco Dave." She pointed to the dance floor as she and Xander sat on a low table against a wall. It was the energetically dancing couple that Aurelia had shaken her head at. Although the girl's style was more contemporary, the guy was dancing way too fast for the music, with an unmistakable 70's disco influence. "What was the last thing that guy danced to, K.C. and the Sunshine Band?"
Aurelia began to really wonder about them now. The couple got close again and the girl extended her arm, pointing at the door. The guy took the hint and led her out with his arm around her. Aurelia watched them go, suspicious of his intentions. "I don't think that guy thrives on sunshine." Aurelia said. She quickly put down her drink and started out after them.
As she crossed the room behind the dance floor, Scott saw her coming and stepped over to intercept her. "Hi."
"Oh, you." Aurelia rolled her eyes and stepped around him, continuing on her way. She heard him say, "Oh. Uh, uh, sorry, my bad." Rolling her eyes again, she headed outside. Xander came out right behind her followed closely by the others. "Where did she go?" Aurelia asked, taking a few steps down the alley to the left to check things out.
"I bet it's nothing." Cordelia said. "They're probably just making out."
"Hey!" A girl cried followed by a loud noise, as though something was just broken. Xander pulled a stake out of his jacket and Aurelia took it from him and headed in the direction of the noise.
"That's not what making out sounds like, unless I'm doing it wrong." Willow said.
Aurelia found the couple from the dance floor. The boy had the girl up against a section of temporary chain link fencing that was leaning against the building. "Stop struggling. This won't hurt." The boy said just as he vamped out and moved in to bite the girl.
She grabbed him by the neck, pushed him away a bit, and elbow jabbed him in the face. He staggered back and regained his balance as she jumped onto a crate. She did a jumping roundhouse kick to his face, knocking him to the pavement.
The girl noticed Aurelia and approached, smiling. "It's ok, I got it. You're, uh, Buffy, right?" Just as Aurelia was about to answer, the vampire came up behind the girl and grabbed her by the shoulders. She snapped her head back to head butt him in the face and grabbed onto his arm. "I'm Faith." She twisted the vampire around and shoved him into the section of chain link fence.
"I'm gonna go out on a limb and say there's a new Slayer in town." Oz said behind Aurelia.
Faith kneed the vamp in the gut from behind. The vamp whirled around and tried to backhand her, but she easily ducked it. She punched him in the gut and then again in the face. Everyone just watched her fight. She did a high side kick to the vampire's jaw, grabbed onto his shirt and neck and threw him to the ground. The vamp did a no-hand front roll to control his fall while Faith reached over to Aurelia for the stake and jerked it from her hand. "Can I borrow that?" The vampire used the momentum of his roll to get back to his feet and run at Faith, throwing a punch as he came. She ducked it, hooked her hand on his shoulder, turned him around, and pushed him back into the fence. She raised the stake and jammed it cleanly into his chest and jerked it back out. The vampire instantly crumbled into ashes. Faith faced Aurelia and handed her back the stake. "Thanks, B. Couldn't have done it without you."