Author: Tim Knight

Title: A Taste of Friendship

Copyright: May 2002
Rating: PG-13 (fight scenes, language, some mention of illegal activities, sexual innuendo)

Buffy: Season 2 until Phases. Specific Episodes, Season Three involving the Mayor, the Ascension, and Graduation.
Highlander: Season 5 until Season finale. Richie Ryan lives.

Keywords: Buffy/ Highlander.

Summary: As Graduation and the Ascension loom, a Slayerette finds out about the past shared by two of her classmates. When one tries to set the record straight once and for all, the other goes too far, leading to the Scooby showing him that in the end, what goes around does indeed come around.

Legalese: All characters except those noted below with their respective rights, properties, and copyrights are the property of the respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains.


A Taste Of Friendship


Comparative Literature Class

Sunnydale High School

Sunnydale, California

16 December 1998


  “All right class,” Sandra said as she placed her chalk down on the ledge, then turned and smiled at her pupils.  “That’s your next story assignment.  I’ll expect your synopses by next Wednesday, so get cracking.  If you have any trouble, feel free to ask for my help.  That’s why I’m here.”


  The bell rang and her last period Comparative Literature was finished for the day.  Her thirty-one students began to pack their things so they could abandon this institute of higher learning, leave, and seek what really mattered to teenagers.


  < Institute of higher learning.  I’ll have to share that one with Jenny. >  She favored her kids with one more secretive look, trying not to betray the tremors of fear she felt every time she watched them walk out into the coming night.


  She did remember one thing she wanted to settle though.  She looked into the mass of teenage bodies and sought out a pale, black-haired junior with hazel eyes and blue cheekbones.  “Shaw?” she called out.  Despite the chattering of a full class of students, the exchange student turned and sent an inquisitive look her way.  “Could you stay behind for a few moments?”  A cheeky smile formed on her face.  “I won’t keep you too long, I promise.”


  The girl simply nodded and placed her belongings on her desk.  She walked up to Sandra’s desk but stopped short.  Sandra took half a second to scan the young woman and wondered if she’d recovered from the incident that occurred around Thanksgiving.  It still sent shivers down her spine to think that just two or three weeks ago, this young woman had been… dead.  For five minutes.  The only good thing, if such could be said, was that it had had nothing to do with the vampires she knew prowled her hometown.


  < Of all the things that happen in this town, an allergy nearly made her buy the farm. >  Her smile faded and she asked, “How are you holding up?  Are you feeling all right?”


  Shaw’s face became neutral, a look that hurt Sandra’s feelings.  Involuntarily, she glanced at the Medic Alert bracelet she now wore every day.  “I am dealing with it.”


  The Literature teacher just nodded supportively.  “If you feel like discussing it any further, I’m willing to listen.”


  “Thank you, Mrs. Livingston,” the Scottish girl said, while she averted her eyes somewhat.  Sandra wondered what had happened in her past to make her that introverted.


  She put on her reading glasses again and examined the assignment sheet for the next story project.  “Shaw, I noticed you haven’t selected a group to work with you on this assignment.”  The sixteen-year-old nodded slightly.  It caused Sandra to release a breath filled with sadness.  She picked up a pencil and asked, “Have you considered joining a group on a permanent basis?  It really would be better for you.”


  “I…”  She didn’t seem to have an answer.  The sixteen-year-old instead meekly responded, “I do not know anyone well enough to ask, Mrs. Livingston.”


  “I understand.”  Shaw’s head snapped up and her eyes showed some doubt.  < God, why do these kids always seem to forget that I was a teenager once? >  She leaned forward on her desk and stared earnestly at the girl who loved read.  At least, she knew that much about Shaw.  “Listen…I understand what it’s like for kids to move to a new town and try to adjust to a new home.  I’ve done it before, so have a few of the students here.”  Her voice took on a soft and friendly tone.  “I know some of your classmates would like to have you join their groups, if you’d just take a chance and ask them.”


   “Me?” She didn’t sound very convinced about her observations.


  “Yes, Shaw,” she said lightly, giving her a pert smile.  “I’ve seen how voracious you are when it comes to reading.  And from the assignments you’ve done so far this semester, you have a talent for developing intriguing story ideas.”  She leaned back and twiddled the pencil in her fingers.  “You enjoy this class, Shaw, I can see it in your eyes.  You love reading.  And that has translated into the effort you put forth in the classroom.  I enjoy the fact that you enjoy my class, because it lets me know that I’m doing the job the way it should be done.”


  Shaw blushed at the praise even though Sandra fully believed she deserved it.  “This is my favorite class,” she confessed with a shy whisper.  Her face furrowed.  “I hope… Miss Calendar does not find out.”


  < Ah, a budding tech-junkie? >  “My lips are sealed.”  She was glad that her ego didn’t get too much of a lift from Shaw’s little statement.  The Sunnydale-born educator started chewing on her eraser.  “But getting back to joining a group, I know that David and Jessica would like to have a third member on their team.  They’re good people, Shaw, and I think that they could become good friends…”  She paused and wondered if she was treading the line of interference.  “If you let them.”


  The beginnings of pride fled from Shaw’s expression.  She petulantly said, “I have friends, Mrs. Livingston.”


  “I know that, Shaw,” Sandra diplomatically assured her.  She glanced at the clock, not wanting to keep Shaw too long as she’d promised.  “But I also know that the more friends you have, the happier you might be.  I didn’t have many friends when I was your age; I was the Sunnydale High Geek of the Decade.”  Shaw arched an eyebrow but Sandra’s ploy was successful; the girl perked up a bit.  She nodded and her lips curved upward a bit.  “Part of the reason I held back was because when I was a teenager, I lost people that mattered a great deal to me.  Besides the fact that I was a brain, I wanted to go to college somewhere else, so I’d stop losing the people I cared about.”  She remembered the night her father had vanished and the subsequent things she’d learned about her hometown.  “But since this was home, I eventually returned, because I refused to let the past haunt me.”


  That seemed to strike a blow to Shaw’s defensiveness, because her eyes narrowed a bit in a way that hinted she was actually considering what she’d said.  But her emotional walls were still in place.  “Mrs. Livingston, there are things about me…”  She glanced at the doorway, like she was trying to ensure their conversation was private.  “There are things about me that might make others… uncomfortable.”


  “Like?” Sandra asked, folding her hands together on the desk.  When her pupil’s face went blank, she continued.  “Shaw, the only things I know about you or your background that might throw people for a loop are your parents’ careers, that you know some martial arts, or…”  She paused and Shaw’s face reflected that she felt vindicated over her pause.  “All right, I admit it.  I myself am uncomfortable with the fact that you died, Shaw.  But if you think about it, the fact you had to be resuscitated is enough of a curveball for anyone.  Especially when you’re back in school a week later.”  She paused and gave the junior a look she hoped told the kid she truly did care about her students’ welfare.  “It was frightening to me, and probably to a lot of the other students, someone they know, however distantly, came that close to passing away.” 


  The transplanted European seemed to understand well enough.  She didn’t smile, but the “wry” in her statement could be plainly heard.  “The result of drinking those cups of coffee was not exactly the most enjoyable of experiences for me, either.”


   “True.”  Sandra returned to the point of the assignment.  “Will you at least think about asking them?”


  Shaw seemed far from certain; Sandra could almost swear she dreaded the idea.  But she acquiesced and nodded once.  “I shall consider it, Mrs. Livingston.”


  Her relief was immense.  She gave Shaw a friendly smile and said, “Good.  Now go home and enjoy yourself, all right?”




The Quad

Sunnydale High School

Sunnydale, California

16 December 1998



  “So what kind of story should we come up with this time?” she asked her boyfriend.  She shifted her books to her left hand and took David’s hand in her right.  A tiny smile crept onto her face that she knew was reflected on his.  “I still say we should do a romance.  We haven’t done one yet.”


  “And we hopefully won’t,” he drawled, the sun glinting off his silky brown hair.  She knew he was toying with her; eventually they’d do a love story, but still she preferred to keep their options open.  “I was thinking, maybe a historical fiction, something like Red Badge of Courage.  That would be a change of pace.”


  That idea perked her up.  But she couldn’t give in too easily.  “Or Gone With The Wind?” she countered.  He snorted in disdain, so she snatched her hand away and good-naturedly smacked him on the arm.  “What’s wrong with Gone With The Wind?”


  “Just the sequel.”


  < Oh.  Good point. >  “Still,” she said with a wicked grin and glimmering sapphire eyes, “we should at least consider it.  Mrs. Livingston would never expect you to agree to do a romance.”


  He scowled at her, but the effect was pretty much ruined by the laughter in his eyes.  He just liked giving her a hard time.  “You’re not going to let this drop, are you?”


  She just shook her head, sweetly smiling all the while.  God, how she cared about him.  Jessica saw a clear bench and said, “Why don’t we sit down for a bit?”  He just raised his eyebrows, so she just turned up the wattage on her smile.  “I just want to sit down before we head to your place.  Take a little break and wait for the traffic to dwindle down a bit.”


  “Okay, Jess.”  She led him over to the bench and sat down.  She crossed her hose-encased legs and scooted closer to him once he joined her.  “Seriously, Jess, what kind of story do you want to do?”


  Although she would’ve liked the mutual teasing to continue, the redhead turned her mind to business.  She pulled out one particular folder and started rummaging through it.  “Hmmm.  Personally, I do think the romance is a good idea.  We’ve already done a Gothic horror story this semester, and the last two were your basic mystery and legal thriller.  I think we really should have a change of pace from the dramas.  A romance would be something out of left field for us.”  She amended her statement with a twinkle in her eye.  “Or for you.”


  “How about something humorous?” he countered. 


  < Here we go, > she gaily thought, < let the negotiations begin. >  Of course, Dad was a lawyer, so that gave her a leg up on David when it came to the fine art of give and take.  “I had ideas involving stuff like a humorous fantasy like Princess Bride, or maybe something like a swashbuckling adventure.  Three Musketeers or a Sinbad thing, maybe?”


  That sounded intriguing at least.  She flipped to the pages she’d started for this particular assignment and jotted down those ideas.  < And those usually involve some romance.  I am determined to get at least one this year!  Sorry, sweetie… >  “Okay.  They’re good.  Another one bouncing around in my head was perhaps a period piece.  Maybe something Elizabethan or Louis XIV.  She raised an eyebrow and shot an askew glance at him, pencil poised for his riposte.  “Comments?”


  “The Musketeer theme would go hand in hand with Louis.”  He dug into his book bag and pulled out his History book.  He flipped through a few pages before coming to one section.  “How about the Crusades?  That’s one we haven’t even thought of before.”


  “I can’t help but notice that most of your ideas involve swords, David,” she said in a voice that was sharp, but without any venom.  She was just being firm.  “But okay, I admit it.  The Crusades idea is new to me.”  She jotted it down and placed an asterisk next to it; this was original for them.  She tapped her pen against the page a few times before inspiration struck.  “How about something that combines my romance idea with the Crusades?  Maybe a Knight Templar or other knight having to separate from his lady love to serve king and country?”


  His brown eyes dimmed in their excitement for just a second before he chuckled.  “And we could go the other way.”  She arched an eyebrow.  “Think about it from another angle.  Most marriages in those days were arranged.  What if, instead of him being separated from his One True Love, the Templar finds his OTL in the Middle East and decides he wants to find a way out of the arranged marriage.”


  Her mind just as rapidly took up the thread.  “But we would probably have a problem with religious differences.  We’ll have to do some research on that, see how to work through it.”  She knew that he’d notice she said “through it,” and not “around it.”  They so did not take too many liberties when it came to historical pieces.  “All right, which Crusade?”


  “I’ll look the time periods up and get back to you,” he told her.  She nodded, jotted down more detailed notes on their prospective storyline, and was so preoccupied that she barely heard someone call their names.


  “Excuse me, David?  Jessica?” a cultured voice asked.


  The junior glanced up to see one of her classmates standing there, a very pensive look on her face.    She smiled and gave a small wave to Shaw Hunter.  “Hi, Shaw.  What’s up?”


  For some reason, Shaw appeared reluctant to be here.  Jessica liked her well enough; they’d worked on a couple of assignments together and Shaw really got into them.  “I…”  She paused and seemed to gather her nerves.  “I wanted to know if it would be possible for me to join your group on a permanent basis.”


  That immediately drew Jess’s full attention.  < She wants to join us?  On a permanent basis? >  She liked the idea; Shaw could be a good catch!  But she wondered why Shaw had come and ask them out of the proverbial blue.


  Before she could query the other girl, her boyfriend asked the British kid the same thing, but in terms not so nice.  She couldn’t believe the sarcasm she heard as he asked, “Is this for real?  Are you seriously saying you’d hang out with us commoners?”


  Jessica focused her eyes on him and snapped, “David, what the Hell was that for?!”


  He waved her off and she looked back to their equally confused classmate.  “Come on, Jess.  Hunter here doesn’t spend her quality time with juniors.  She likes hanging with the seniors.  That’s why I wonder why she’d even notice us.”


  It was true that Shaw didn’t spend much time with her fellow juniors, however; she knew Shaw’s reasons.  “I have my reasons, David.  I thought you knew them,” Shaw said neutrally.


  David’s face twisted into a sarcastic expression that Jess didn’t like.  < I can’t believe he’s being like this. >  But then she recalled that David had been out with the flu during the week of Thanksgiving!




  “It’s okay, Jess.  I want to hear her explanation, although I think it’s pretty obvious.”  He folded his arms and sat back, waiting for her to begin.  But then he added, “I think you just want to be ‘cool,’ so you’re trying to worm your way into the good graces of some of the senior class.  That’s what surprises me so much about you coming over to us ‘mere’ mortals in public.”


  “David, that’s enough!” Jess snapped.  She’d had enough of this.  He was usually so nice to everyone!  She scrunched a little closer to him but fixed him with a look that told him she was well and truly pissed off at him.  “David Marshall Abhrams, I can’t believe you’re treating someone like this.  There’s a very good reason why Shaw hangs out with seniors.  Specifically, with Amy Madison.”


  He dismissively shrugged her off.  “I don’t believe those stupid rumors about her.”  He looked at the tight-faced Hunter.  “I don’t think you’re gay or whatever, and I don’t really care one way or the other; it’s your choice.  I just think you’re trying to make yourself look cool and become popular.”


  Shaw finally spoke up in her own defense.  “Which goes to show that you know absolutely nothing about me.  Popularity is the last thing I give a damn about on this Earth.”  Jessica nodded to the empty space on the bench, which had more than enough room left for her; she was kind of on the thin side.  She looked at the seat for a second then nodded her thanks.  She sat down and placed her backpack on the sidewalk next to them.  “I cannot believe you do not know why I spend time with Amy and the others.”  Shaw shifted her gaze back over to Jess.  “You obviously know, why does David not know?”


  “Know what?” he asked, not liking that they were talking about him like he wasn’t there.  < Oh well.  He earned it, being mean like that. >


  “Do you want to tell him or shall I?” she asked, sadistically.  She heard David shuffle and knew that he realized he’d somehow put himself into the doghouse.  Shaw looked between them but silently nodded for her to be the one to tell him about her and Amy.


  She uncrossed her legs and turned back to her man, her eyes much cooler toward him.  He seemed confused and she decided to let him off the hook, a little bit.  “Remember during Thanksgiving week, when you were out with the flu?”


  His face went blank and she resisted the urge to smirk at him.  “Yeah.  What about it?”


  Just to be fair, Jess gave her classmate one last glance, offering her the chance to spill the beans herself.  She’d take enjoyment out of it, while Shaw would be mostly business.  Shaw nervously nodded again, so she smiled back at her.  “Well, while you were fighting that little flu bug, Shaw had an allergic reaction to something and had to spend a couple of days in the hospital.  She was sick for a week.”  David sat up straight once she dropped that bomb on him.  His superiority complex faded real quick and turned into concern.


  “Are you all right?” he asked.  Jessica’s heart warmed at the way he turned back into the guy she liked so much.  “What happened, Hunter?”


  “I… what was the term Xander used?  Oh yes.”  She held up her left arm, which had a Medic Alert bracelet on it.  She looked past her to her boyfriend and drawled, “I ‘flat lined’ for nearly five minutes.  The doctors had to use a defibrillator on me to get my heart restarted.  It turns out I… I’m allergic to caffeine.  Deathly allergic.”


  As she’d expected, David was stone-faced with shock, which gave way to sympathy.  “Damn, Hunter.  I didn’t…”  He shook his head.  “Wait a minute.  This was two weeks ago and no one’s said anything?”


  “I think they would rather not think about what’d happened, because it would force them to remember that they are mortal, too.”  Jess nodded in total agreement but Shaw shrugged.  “I have faced it before, so while ‘pleasant experience’ is the last phrase I would choose to describe the episode, it is nothing I have not confronted on more than one occasion.”


  “Damn.”  Jessica could tell he felt like a heel.  “I didn’t know.  So what’s this have to do with Madison?”


  Jessica grinned because she wondered how her brown-haired boy would react.  “Oh, it happens that one of Shaw’s grandparents or great-grandparents was a Madison, too.”  Just in case he didn’t catch on, she gave the simpler version.  “Shaw is Amy’s cousin.”


  He blinked several times and glanced at Shaw.  She looked at the woman also and saw her actually smile for one of the few times she’d ever seen.  She could also tell how much she cared about Amy.  “You’re not pulling my leg, are you?”


  “No, silly.”  Jessica laid her hand on his thigh and gave it a little squeeze.  “The Airheads tried to badmouth her and Amy while you were out with the flu.  Amy stood up in the middle of the lunchroom and told everybody.”  She glanced at Shaw, who was laughing under her breath.  Obviously Amy had told her the story of her big announcement.  “And I know something happened with Harmony, right?  She actually seemed worried about something other than her hairdo.”


  Shaw’s smile faded a bit and her eyes smoldered.  “I told her I would not go into specifics, Jessica.  All I will say is that I foiled someone’s attempt to mug her.”


  The way she’d said it, in a clipped tone, told her and probably Davey not to prod her on that.  But the fact that she’d helped someone was enough.  Jess smiled and said, “Fair enough.”  She looked back to David and continued.  “And that’s another thing.  She hangs out with the same seniors that her cousin hangs with.  Is that really a bad thing?”


  “No, I suppose not,” he confessed.  She knew he finally saw how his feelings about Shaw were built on a house of cards and misassumptions.  “I mean, no offense, Shaw, but it just seemed to me that they’re the only people you hang out with, you know?”


  “I understand.”  She was being a good sport about it.  Shaw folded her arms and looked down.  “But personally, I have not been one who makes friends easily for more than a few years.  Ever since…”

  She broke off and Jess glanced at David, who shook his head.  < Don’t push her, > he meant.  She licked her lips and tapped Shaw’s shoulder.  “It’s okay.  We don’t mean to pry.  Besides, unlike my sometimes hard-headed boyfriend, I realize the subtlety about the seniors you’ve become friends with.”


  Her face came up and Jessica’s mind said, < Uh oh. >  Shaw was very, very loyal to what friends she did have if the Lit teacher wannabe had read Scotty’s body language correctly.  “Shaw, David thought you wanted to be cool and popular.”  She let the right side of her mouth curl up in a crooked smile to try and keep the encounter light.  “Me, I look at the seniors you’re hanging out with and to be honest?  I don’t see anyone who tops any of Sunnydale High’s ‘Most Popular’ competitions.  Know what I mean?”


  Her tense body relaxed a bit and she did seem to know.  She gave a small grin and nodded in agreement.  “I cannot argue with that,” she mumbled.  “But that kind of thing does not matter to me.  What matters is that they were the first ones who offered me their friendship.  They tried to make me feel at home here and treated me like one of them.”


  “Kind of figured that,” she said.  She looked at David, who seemed to be thinking about everything.  She decided to let him stew awhile and handle Shaw’s joining the group herself.  “Okay, let’s get back to what brought you here.  You really want to join our Lit group?”


  “Mrs. Livingston suggested that it would be beneficial if I joined a group on a permanent basis,” she confessed.  Jessica nodded, reading that Shaw did want to join them, but was nervous about it.  < Maybe that’s from having so few friends not being used to reaching out. >  Well, she’d see what they could do about that later on.  The black-haired Brit’s eyes flicked between her and David.  “I would like to join your group, though.  I enjoyed working with you and David, actually.  And…”  She paused and her shoulders sagged.  “I did not tell Mrs. Livingston this, but I am tired of shuffling between groups.  I just didn’t know how to approach anyone to ask them if I could join them.”


  Trying to break through her shell a bit, Jess lightly said, “Well, you did okay here.  Me, sure!  I’d like having you on our team.”


  Shaw looked real surprised by that.  “You would?”


  “Hey, you like reading as much as we do, it’s so obvious,” she started, laying out how she saw things, “and you know your research.  On the assignments we worked on together, we liked your ideas and input.  And besides, having three people in the group instead of two means less work for everyone.”


  Shaw actually laughed at that!  And with some measure of surprise, Jessica realized this was the first time she’d ever heard Shaw laugh at all.  She liked it; that meant Shaw did have a sense of humor inside that reserved, angst-filled persona.  “Well, I don’t mind at all.”  She looked at David so that he could put in his two cents.  “David?  What do you think?”


  The sarcasm and mild hostility he’d had was long gone, replaced by a little sympathy and thoughtfulness.  That was just part of what drew her to him like a moth of a flame; he had values he refused to compromise and, if he realized he was wrong about something, he’d make amends posthaste.  He nodded with a grin and reached a hand across her front to shake Shaw’s.  “As long as you don’t try to suggest nothing but romances, welcome to the team.”


  “David…” she growled.


  “As if I would do something like that!” she agreed.  Jess’ forehead wrinkled as she gave Shaw an “oh yeah?” look, to which their new member just grimaced.  “The few romantic stories I have read here are so beyond ridiculous and lacking in plot that I gave up on them weeks ago.  I prefer fantasy novels, some mysteries, and I have found I like some of your so-called Westerns.”


  < Oh God… >  Jess moaned.  She thought Shaw would have some taste.  But she had David’s likings!  “How about sci-fi?  You like Star Trek or Babylon Five?”


  Just as quickly, Shaw went from agreeable to glaring.  “Why do you think I specifically said fantasy.”  She shivered with disgust.  “I despise Star Trek.”


  The way she’d said that had left no doubt on that score.  But she, on the other hand, felt some sense of satisfaction.  < That means there’s hope for her yet! >


  “Okay.  Dave and I are going to his house to work on our storyline.  You want to come with?”  Jessica hoped she’d accept the invitation, but Shaw’s face fell.  “You have something planned already,” she guessed kindly.


  “I do.  But after six o’clock, I do not have any further obligations.  Can I join you then?” she asked, actually looking a bit hopeful.  “I promise, I would not be that late if it were not something I was already previously committed to.”


  “No problem,” her boyfriend told her.  Jess tingled inside at how he was willing to let bygones be bygones, as well as give her some slack.  < Heck, after what she went through two weeks ago, she deserves a little. >  “You want the address so you can find it?”


  Shaw smiled that tiny smile, like she was hard pressed to give out anything more.  But she did pull out a pen and paper to take down his address.  She put the stuff away and shook their hands in turn.  “David, Jessica… thank you.”


  “It’s okay,” Jess assured her.  They stood up as one and Jessica pulled out another piece of paper.  She quickly wrote down her own address, phone number, and email address.  “Here’s my stuff.  Sometimes, if one or two of us are busy, we can keep track of our assignments by email.”


  “Ulric does not have a computer, but I have an address through the library,” Shaw said.  Jess nodded and told her she’d get the address later that night.  Their classmate and new partner shyly blushed and said, “I will see you later then.”


  Shaw headed the other way while she and David headed to the car he had parked in the lot.  As they did, David asked, “So how much groveling am I going to have to do to get out of the doghouse with you?”


  She giggled as he pulled her closer in a small hug.  “I’m still thinking about it.  I’ll let you know when I get to the point where I think you stopped being pig-headed.”


  He rolled his eyes.  “Great.”


  < Oh is that right. >  So, just to keep him off balance, she turned her head, leaned up, and kissed him on the cheek.  < If he thinks he’s forgiven, he’s not as bright as he thinks he is.  Wait until I call Shaw and we ambush him by doing that romance! >




Student Lounge

Sunnydale High School

Sunnydale, California

20 January 1999



  Jessica sat down next to David and handed him a can of Mountain Dew.  She used one of her fingernails to pop the tab on her Diet Pepsi and said, “So what do you think?  Saturday night, the movie and then the Bronze?”


  “I was thinking maybe we could do it in reverse.  Or maybe skip the Bronze and hit somewhere for a light dinner instead.”  David took a sip of his Dew.  His brown eyes glimmered with anticipation of their dinner date this weekend.  “Maybe the Mexican place on Main Street, then we hit the Cineplex.  I want to treat you special this weekend.”


  She just knew she was blushing a bit, because he’d been adamant about having a long and special date before they went into their stretch of midterm exams.  “I don’t have a problem with that,” she confessed.  She ran her fingertip along the rim of her pop can.  “We can discuss it tonight at my place if you want.”


  “Sure,” he said with a soft voice.  The way he’d said it made her look up to see what was going on.  He was staring at her.  “What?” she asked.


  “I was just thinking about how cute you look when you act shy.  It’s nice.”


  Shy was the last word she’d believed ever would describe her.  But the thought was sweet.  “You really think so?”


  “Yeah.”  He leaned in and she decided to oblige.  Jessica stared into his brown eyes and let instinct guide her until their lips met.  She closed her eyes and allowed herself to enjoy the sensations of his lips caressing hers and affirming their feelings for each other.


  < Oh yeaaaahhh… > she mused, shutting down all rational thought to enjoy the moment.  Jessica’s heart caught on fire and she felt a warm, comfortable feeling rise in her breasts.  < I liiiike thissss… >


  After an indeterminable amount of pleasurable time, his lips broke their kiss and she felt the fire inside of her softly fade away.  She opened her eyes and just watched him smile at her with the same warm, fuzzy feelings she felt for him.  “That was nice,” she observed with a small bit of detachment and no little disappointment.


  “You’re not so bad yourself,” he countered.  She scooted even closer to him, then suddenly got the eerie feeling that she and David were being watched.


  She looked up and froze like a deer caught in the headlights.  < Oh no… >


  Shaw stood there, a smile on her pixie-like face.  Jess gritted her teeth but Shaw didn’t give her a chance to vent.  “I am sorry I came up upon you like that, but I did not want to ruin the moment for you.”


  “Gee, thanks,” both she and her boyfriend grumbled.  David wrapped his arm around her back and said, “So what’s up, Hunter?  Joining us for lunch instead of the upper classmen?”


  The argument that he’d originally had with her had become an in-joke with them over the last month.  She shrugged and folded her arms.  She wore a long-sleeved blue jeans jacket over a navy blue turtleneck shirt, although that cool ivory unicorn pendant hung between her breasts on the outside of her shirt.  She had on a tight pair of black acid-washed jeans and a pair of hiking boots that looked fashionable yet functional.


  “Actually, I have made friends with another ‘commoner’ in the junior class and she is joining us in Literature,” Scotty said with a light tone.  She’d really eased up over the last couple weeks.  < Meeting her family must’ve done some good. >  “I wanted to ask you if she could join the group?  Mrs. Livingston has already discussed it with her and she likes the idea.”


  “Sure!” Jess said gleefully.  She was more than happy to add another girl.  “What kind of stuff does she read?”  < I just hope she doesn’t like…ugh…pro wrestling like these two! >


  David added, “How about we ask who she is and what she’s like first, sweetheart?”  She pouted at him but she couldn’t hold her severe expression.  She grinned at Shaw and drawled, “Okay, Shaw.  What’s she like?”


  Instead of dishing the dirt, their partner just cocked an eyebrow in that irritating way and the same side of her mouth curved into a smirk.  “I do not think I would be up to the challenge of describing her.  She defies mere words.”


  “Nice to be appreciated,” a husky, feminine voice filled with feisty attitude rejoined.


  Jess and Dave turned around to look behind them.  < WOW. > Jess thought.  Even to her, a young woman who was extremely heterosexual in her outlook on life, this new girl was hot!  She had long, dark brown hair that framed her face, dark eyes that looked like a combination of David’s antique wood brown and a deeper version of Shaw’s hazel, pouty lips that, if she put the effort into it, were sexy as Hell, and…oh God, how could anyone that petite and thin have that kind of bosom?!?  She didn’t look like the type who’d stuff her bra!


  She shot an askew glance at David, very concerned about the effect that this girl’s untamed beauty would have on him.  However, he simply stood up and held his hand out.  “So you’re the new kid on the block, huh?”


  She tilted her head just so before cracking a smile.  “You sound like someone from the city, just like me, not some country hick.  Where’re you from?”


  “Cincy,” he said.  Jess felt a rush of jealously; damn it, this bitch was already trying to make time with her man!  “I don’t have to ask where you’re from.  Beantown, right?”


  “Damn skippy.”  She took off her black biker jacket she’d worn and worked her arms a bit.  “Well, Shaw, just got done getting my books from G-Man.  So these are your reading and writing pals?”


  “That is one way of putting it,” Shaw said with a smile.  Of course she was enjoying this!  But she decided to make the introductions.  “Jessica, David, this is Faith Pryce, late of Boston and new to Sunnydale.”  She shook hands with both of them and Jess was unsurprised by the tough girl’s grip, forcing her to surrender on her fantasy of taking this chick to the woodshed for trying to skank her man.  “Faith, David Abhrams and Jessica Smithson.  Jessica is the leader of our group.”


  “Nice to meet you, Smitty,” the Boston girl drawled.  She plopped down into a cushy chair, so the rest of them did as well.  She kicked her boots onto the table.  “Look, I just wanted to say thanks for giving me an audition.  I’m still getting up to speed with the new school, you know?”


  “Been there, done that,” David told her.  Jess was surprised to find that she was warming to the girl as well.  She got the feeling she didn’t hide anything about herself.  “So you and your folks moved to Sunnydale, huh?”


  The girl’s cheerful attitude disappeared instantly.  She closed down her emotions with a visible effort before glancing at Shaw.  Jess watched in surprise as Shaw reached over and rubbed her shoulder.


  Shaw was the one who answered, and even she was subdued about it.  “Faith’s foster mother died in Atlanta.  She was killed by the vampire cult.”


  She felt a cold chill fill her soul.  < Oh God.  How did she end up in California then? >  “Faith, we…”  Nothing she could say would be adequate.


  The new junior’s hard mask softened significantly.  “Hey, we’re five by five, Firehair.  You didn’t know.”  She looked around the lounge and Jess and David could see the emotions running through her eyes.  “I’m still dealing with it, not to mention getting used to having all these people reaching out.  Heck, when you grow up on the streets for five years, having friends is pretty hard.  You spend all your time looking out for number one.  Having all these people as my pals… kinda takes getting used to, you know?”


  < No, not really. >  “But still… do you have a home now?” she asked.


  “Oh yeah!”  She cheered up just a little, a sly smile coming to her face.  “Mrs. S took me in.”


  Jessica glanced quizzically at Shaw, whose smile equaled Faith’s.  “Buffy’s mother.”


  She nodded in understanding, as did David.  “So you have a home now?”


  “I’ve got a roof over my head.”  She hesitated but seemed to recover a little of what Jess had figured was her typical devil-may-care attitude.  “Way I figure, though, beats being on the streets.  Even if Mrs. S is making a big deal out of everything.”  She shrugged like it didn’t mean much, but Jessica could see the pain she was dealing with.  “Like I said, takes some getting used to.”


  “Well, I hope you like it here,” David said, giving the Boston girl a soft gaze.  “If you’d like, we could show you around the school, help you find your way.”  Jess looked at him and she knew what he was going to say next and wholeheartedly agreed.  “And maybe we could get together, show you some of the local hangouts.”


  Faith smiled at the offer and took her feet off the table.  She leaned forward and offered her hand in friendship.  “Deal.  Long as it doesn’t end up cramping you kids’ style.”


  There was no mistaking her meaning.  David blinked a couple times while Jessica’s jaw fell a little.  She recovered before he did, but he shook his head in wry amusement.  Jessica shrugged.  “It’s okay.  So do you want to join?”


  The new kid glanced at Shaw, who nodded eagerly.  Jessica could see the connection that they’d made in whatever amount of time Faith had been here.  < Geez, it’s taken them God knows how long to get to the point it took us over a month with Shaw! >  It was plainly obvious they’d already become fast friends.


  < Well, any friend of Shaw’s is a friend of ours. >


  Faith licked her lips a bit.  “I’d like to give it a shot, see how it goes.”  She held her cheerful attitude back a bit and Jess wondered if that was what made them close; they’d both lost family.  “I gotta be honest with you, I don’t read every book that’s ever been printed like Scotty here.  I mean, sure, I can read, but I don’t make it my number one hobby.  Just so you know.”


  Dave was the one who didn’t let her get any defensive walls up.  “Hey, that’s half the fun.  Doesn’t matter what tastes you have, Mrs. Livingston makes you want to have fun in her class.  You’ll really enjoy it, Boston.”


  “You really think so?” the New England tough girl asked, her interest piqued despite the loneliness that she was plainly overcoming and reflexively using as a shield against opening herself up again.


  Jessica leaned forward and hoped she could convey how much she loved their last hour class.  “Faith, believe you me, when we say you’ll enjoy it, that’s putting it mildly.”


  She chewed on it for a few seconds, but Jessica truly hoped that she’d join them.  Somehow, she thought things would be a lot more interesting with Faith on board.  Faith seemed to agree, since she clapped her hands and snickered.  “Oh, why the Hell not?”  She held her hand out again.  “Thanks, guys.  This… it means a lot to me.”


  “Glad to have someone else on the team,” she grinned back.  The quartet stood up and Faith began to put her biker jacket back on.  Jessica said, “We’re getting together at the Bronze tonight.  You two want to join us?”


  They looked at each other, sharing some silent communication.  It was Shaw who answered for them both.  Her hazel eyes were regretful.  “We have something already planned for tonight, but we are free tomorrow.”


  “Cool,” David said before they could come up with a reason to bail tomorrow.  “Tell you what, Faith.  We’ll take turns trading Yankee insults.”


  Her smile lit up like a hundred watt light bulb!  She shot him with a finger gun.  “Five bucks says I have at least twice as many as you.  Remember where I’m from, Clark Kent.”


  “I’ll take that bet,” he said, folding his arms.


  Jessica laughed at the exchange and said, “Well, Faith… see you in class.”


  “Sure thing, Smitty.  See you on the flip side.”  The two brunettes started to pick up their gear and looked at Jess and David one last time.  “So what’s the first ditty we’re cooking up, anyway?”


  “We’re doing something other than a romance story,” David said far too quickly.  Off the girl’s raised eyebrows and her and Shaw’s silent laughter, her boyfriend told the newest addition to their group, “When Shaw joined us last month, Jess called her before we got together that same night and they outvoted me on doing a romance for our first assignment as a team.”


  “Don’t worry,” Faith said.  She shivered dramatically.  “Romances are too sappy.  If you’re gonna have a guy and girl get together, make it hot and spicy.”


  Jessica looked at Shaw, who just had a stupid grin on her face.  < Why is she enjoying this so much? >  “Spicy?”


  “Yeah, you know, spicy.  Rockin’ and sweaty,” her newest classmate said while grinding her hips and thrusting them forward and back in rapid succession.  “Getting bouncy.  Doing the horizontal mambo.  Rockem sockem.”


  She grinned widely at Jess’s pale and drawn face and said, “If you’re gonna do a love story, you might as well do it like the Mitchell Brothers.  Go straight for the bacon and show the guy and girl using their mad skills on each other.”  Then she slung her backpack over her shoulder and drawled, “Later, dude and dudette.”


  Faith whirled and headed off, hair bouncing as she strode toward the lunchroom.  “See you in class,” Shaw added softly over her shoulder before she slung her backpack over her right shoulder and headed off after Faith.


  Jessica swiveled her head toward David.  “Getting bouncy?”


  “Rockem sockem?” he observed.


  They stared at the mass of students and, despite their inability to see either Faith or Shaw, Jess and David were both thinking the same thing.


  < What the Hell did we just get ourselves into? >


The End