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The very first thing that Alexandra thinks upon catching the very confident gait of a short, unfamiliar blonde that was weaving her way through the crowd is: “Those are the cutest boots I’ve ever seen!” 

And her second thought is “OW!” 

That is, of course, right after the end of her skateboard collided with the side of the cement steps that lead up from the sidewalk to the main walk up to Sunnydale High, sending her tumbling. She ducks down, narrowly avoiding smacking her head on the railing… but the rest of her isn’t so lucky, landing in a heap on the pavement. No broken bones, as far as she can tell, but there’s a new tear in her own jeans and tears of pain swimming in her eyes, along with some scattered laughter. 

She starts to sit up, stretching and wincing as her spine snap, crackles, and pops back into alignment, reaching to rub at her head and wincing at the ghost of the wound she ALMOST had, right as a familiar hand reached down toward her. She lifts her face and grins, sheepishly. 

“Willow!” She exclaims, jumping back to her feet and dusting herself off like that entire dramatic entrance was planned. “You’re so very much the person I wanted to see.” 


“Yeah. Do you think you could grab my board and the little pieces of my dignity that are scattered around?” 

Willow’s bright laughter is gratifying and takes some of the sting out of Xandra’s humiliation, if not from her scraped knee. 

“You looked really cool up until the…. You know, the falling down part?” Willow promised, snagging Xandra’s board and handing it over to her. 

“I do know. I remember it like it happened five seconds ago,” She said, good-naturedly rolling her eyes as she takes her skateboard back from Willow and tucks it under her arm. They start up the stairs together and she nudges Willow’s side. “I’m not sure how else that was going to end. I haven’t really figured out how to stop, yet, but I was running late and these are the only wheels I got.” 

“Forgot to set your alarm again?” 

“You’d think it would be easy to remember to flip a switch, but I surprise even myself,” Xandra muttered, darkly. She perked up in the next second, though, and nudged Willow again. “Oh, are we still on for our study date tonight? I was slaving over the math last night - not watching TV - and I didn’t get any of it.” 

Willow squinted her eyes, clearly not buying the unnecessary fib, and then just sighs the sigh of an exhausted but willing tutor. “Of course we are. Do you have Theories in Trig? You should check it out, I think it breaks it down into the simplest explanation.” 

“Check it out?” Xandra asked, mystified, wondering when it was that Willow started assigning homework and when she’s going to have time to read it before tonight. If she cuts fifth period she might be able to -

“From the library,” Willow explains, patiently. 

Oh. Right. Duh. “Got it. I’m so there. See? I w a n t to change.” 


A familiar, jovial holler brought Xandra out of her math-musings and a grin brightened her face. She lifted her hand into a wave, ignoring the way that her stomach flipped at the sight of him. 

“Jesse!” She said, trying - and failing - not to sound too excited, but successfully ignoring the knowing little smile that Willow flashed her. “What’s what?” 

“New girl,” He said, ominously, waggling his eyebrows and grinning. 

“That’s right!” Xandra said, turning to Willow with excitement. The near head-trauma had knocked the memory of the girl-with-great-boots out of her head. “I saw her. She had the best shoes, Willow, you wouldn’t believe.” 

“I did hear that someone was transferring here.”

“And you didn’t tell me? Information hoarder!” Xandra said, pretending to be aghast. She glanced back at Jesse and schooled her expression into something more somber, determined to be a good audience for his flow of knowledge. His ability to gossip was rivaled only by Cordelia’s, so this should be good. “So? Tell.” 

Jesse blinked. “New girl.” 

...Okay, so, maybe he’s losing his edge. 

“Hey, Xan? Do you want to go out with me tonight?”

Xandra blinks a few times. “What?” 

“To the Bronze?” Jesse prompted, nudging Xandra’s side with his elbow and laughing. “Earth to Xandra. I was just saying that I was gonna hit the Bronze, see if I can catch Cordelia there. Do you want to go out with me, tonight? You can bring Willow. The three of us, we can hang and maybe Cordelia won’t think I’m such a loser.” 

That made more sense, Xandra thought. A nice, soothing sting of reality slapping some sense into her because, for a second, she’d wondered if she’d accidentally stepped into one of her daydreams; the kind that she liked to entertain during History, where Jesse suddenly came to his senses and realized that she was the perfect girl for him. Something really twee and dumb, like the ending to a bad Rom-Com. But, no. 

Xandra patted around her pockets, looking for her half-consumed pack of gum, trying to give herself an extra few seconds to think about it. On one hand, Jesse w a n t e d her to go with him, even if the invitation was only extended so that he could make himself seem more desirable to Cordelia Chase of all people… but, on the other hand…

“I don’t know.” She said, popping a piece of cinnamon gum into her mouth. Spicy, sweet, and soothing the feeling of disappointment that had trickled down to her stomach when she realized that Jesse wasn’t making a move. “Willow and I kinda already had plans. School’s barely started and I’m already flunking math. She said she’d walk me through it.” 

“Oh, come on! You guys can study any night. Hey, you can even bring the books with you if you want. Don’t make me go alone. Come on, I’ll trade you! A lifetime of servitude in exchange for one night of you pretending to laugh at my jokes and maybe pretending to flirt with me where Cordelia can see.” 

And that is ha-ha-hysterical because she could probably ACTUALLY flirt with Jesse and he wouldn’t know the difference. He hadn’t noticed it yet. She should say no, keep her plans with Will, and look forward to a boy-less night of math tutoring, ice-cream, and a house where the adults aren’t screaming at each other. But something gets lost in the translation between her brain and her mouth because the words that actually come out are -

“I’ll ask Will if she minds postponing. But if she even frowns, a little, we’re keeping our study date and you are on your own. I don’t know how much of a boost you think you’re going to get from us flanking you, anyway. You know Cordelia hates us, right?” 

“I really think all she needs to get that I have boyfriend potential is to see me surrounded by some other girls. You don’t have to be perfect just -” 


Xandra said, interrupting Jesse’s explanation before they could veer from “clueless” to “hurtful”, as he seems so wont to do and she quickens her pace, making a beeline for the familiar head of red hair… and the less-familiar-but-still-known blonde that was sitting next to her. Those boots! She’d know them anywhere, especially since she’d nearly killed herself oggling over them. Looks like Willow’s making friends. Sweet. 

Xandra hops up onto the wall, behind where they're sitting, and scrunches herself in. “Hey! Sorry to interrupt, but I saw hanging out happening and wanted to get in on the fun.” 

Willow grins and reaches over to pat Xandra’s knee. “Buffy, this is Xandra. Oh, and that’s Jesse.” 

Jesse finally caught up, dropping his bag onto the ground and waving over at Buffy. “Hey!” 

“Okay. Here it goes. Risk of sounding weird,” Xandra said, tapping Buffy on the shoulder and stealing her attention from waving at Jesse. “Hey, you don’t know me - yet - but I almost killed myself admiring your boots and I gotta ask… where did you get them and will I have to sell my soul to get a pair like them?” 

Buffy lit up like a Christmas tree, kicking her feet and grinning. “Thanks! Uh, I don’t know where they come from, though. My dad got them for me. Sort of as a, “Sorry your mom and I couldn’t make it work” present.” 

“Well, that’s my hopes and dreams destroyed.”

Jesse laughed and stepped closer, eyeing Buffy in a way that made Xandra’s stomach flip with a REAL kind of disappointment, not the faux-shock of realizing that she wasn’t going to get shoes like those (like she could really even afford them.) Jesse’s looking at Buffy like he looks at Cordelia. With that, “What a hottie” gaze. 

“Well, you know, we wanted to welcome ya, make ya feel at home, you know… unless you have a scary home.” 

“Actually, I needed to talk to Willow.” Xandra interrupted, pushing Jesse’s welcome wagon schtick off of the tracks before it could really gain speed. “Getting to meet you was just icing. 

“Come on, Xan. We see Willow every day, you can ask her questions whenever, so let’s not be rude to Buffy. It is her first day here, after all. So, what do you do for fun, what do you like, what do you look for in a man? Let’s hear it.” 

“You can ignore him,” Xandra said, leaning down to stage-whisper to Buffy. “We usually do.” 

“I’m just saying, Sunnydale’s a small town compared to L.A. Compared to most places, actually. So if you have any dark, painful secrets that might come to light? Now is the time to just get them out.” 

“Gee, everyone wants to know about me. How keen.” Buffy said, smiling faintly, but she looked a little queasy and Xandra shot a baleful glare in Jesse’s direction. Jeez, play up the creep factor much? She must think that they’re total freaks. 

“Well, it’s just… not a lot goes on in a one Starbucks town like Sunnydale,” She says, trying to smooth over the tension and win Jesse back some “I can be a normal guy” points. “You’re pretty big news. We don’t get a lot of new students, so some of us get a little over the top.” 

Another glare at Jesse, who just grinned and shrugged.

“Oh, I’m not news. Really. I -” 

“Are these guys bothering you?” 

Cordelia appeared at the other side of Jesse in a cloud of J'adore eau de parfum, her eyes flashing and perfectly glossy lips curled back over her teeth, like she might actually consider getting her hands dirty if they are. It figures - Buffy is probably the coolest person in Sunnydale, just by virtue of being from L.A. Of course Cordelia’s already staked a claim and started trying to inaugurate her into her clan of eager-to-please “Cordettes”. 

“No, I -” 

“She’s not hanging out with us!” Willow said, defending Buffy.

And Xandra would have rolled her eyes, maybe would have said something about Buffy being immunized against catching “loser”, but the way that Jesse practically floated on air to get closer to Cordelia stole the sting out of her words before she could even form them and put another sour taste in her mouth that not even her cinnamon gum could mask. 

“Hey, Cordelia…” He said, tilting his head and licking his lips, ready to get his flirt on. 

“Oh, please,” Cordelia said, brushing him off without a second glance. “I don't mean to interrupt your downward mobility, but I just wanted to tell you that you won't be meeting Coach Foster, the woman with the chest hair, because gym was canceled due to the EXTREME dead guy in the locker.” 


“What are you talking about?” 

This might be Cordelia’s best gossip ever. Even Xandra, who’s mastered the art of deflecting anything that she has to say, can only stare at her with wide eyes. 

“Some guy was stuffed in Aura's locker!” 


“Totally dead. Way dead!” 

Xandra finally found her voice, again. “So, not just a little dead then?” 

Cordelia’s gaze flashed to her, and her upper lip curled back over her teeth with irritation. “Don’t you have elsewhere to be?” 

Actually, she should probably be moving on toward her next class. But no way is she giving Queen C the satisfaction of her moving an inch. 

“Y’know,” Jesse said, trying again to win Cordy’s attention. “If you need a shoulder to cry on, or just to nibble on…” 

Barf. Xandra really considers throwing something at him. 

“How did he die?” Buffy asked. 

“I don't know.” 

Doesn’t sound like she really cares, either. But Xandra is right where Buffy is. Dead bodies don’t usually make their own way into a locker. But a murder on campus? Seriously? That’s a little intense, even for Sunnydale. 

“Well, were there any marks?”

“Morbid much! I didn't ask!”

“Uh, I gotta book. I’ll see you guys later.” 

Buffy gathers up her things and books it from the bench, leaving them all staring after her. 

“What’s her deal?” Cordelia asked, eyebrows raised.

“Murder on her first day? I’d be a little wigged, too.” Xandra said, shrugging. Then, she turned to Willow. “Oh, so Jesse wanted me to ask…” 

“I hate this song,” Xandra announces, tracing her finger around the rim of her coke glass, glaring into the murky contents so hard that she’s surprised it doesn’t shatter. 

“No, you don’t.” Willow counters, taking a sip of her own drink. “You’re just cranky because Jesse hasn’t shown.” 

Okay, fine, Wills. Drag out her innards for the whole world to see, will ya? Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you have to SAY it… but Xandra bites back that unpleasant thought before it can leap off of her tongue. Willow IS right, this crankiness is because of Jesse, and so it’s not fair to make Willow suffer the consequences… uh, any more than she already is, sitting with her as she mopes. 

“Okay, so maybe that.” Xandra murmurs. “But also it’s not the bestest band in the world.” 

“Maybe we should just go?” Willow suggests, soothingly, trying to smooth over the agitation that’s making Xan all bristly. “It’s not too late to head over to my place for an ice creams/Study double-feature.” 

She does consider it for a second. Jesse’s late, her math grade is seriously low, and if Jesse DID show up, later, and wondered where the two of them were, it’d be a nice piece of petty revenge. But, just at the thought that Jesse might show up, her heart did a swan dive. 

“Let’s give it a few more minutes? I didn’t go get that book, anyway, because we said we’d be here and maybe he -” 


Buffy appears as if by magic, all bright eyes and amicable smiles. Willow lights up, obviously delighted for a distraction from Xandra’s nose-dive back into the Jesse-issue. 

“Oh, hi!” 

“Do you guys mind if I sit?” Buffy asked, nodding her head toward the seat on the other side of Xandra, the one that Jesse SHOULD be occupying. “Or are you waiting for someone?” 

“No, you can -” Willow started to say, just as Xandra began, “Well, Jesse was supposed to -” 

They both stopped talking, in unison, and eyed the other warily. Finally, Willow took another shot at it. 

“Xan was kinda hoping that Jesse would be around, but it doesn’t look like he’s coming. You can sit.” 

Buffy did, shooting a glance at Xandra while she did. “Oh, are you and Jesse an item?” 

Xandra made a face and took another sip of her drink before answering. “No. We’re just… friends.” 

Jeez, did that sound as hopelessly pathetic to them as it did to her?

“Ah,” Buffy said, maybe understanding a little too well. But, thankfully, she didn’t push and looked to Willow instead. “What about you? Any special fellas?” 

Willow turned red. “I-I-I don't actually date a whole lot... lately.” 

“Or ever,” Xan said, helpfully, earning herself a baleful glare. 

“How come?” 

“Well, when I'm with a boy I like, it's hard for me to say anything cool, or, or witty, or at all. I-I can usually make a few vowel sounds, and then I have to go away.” 

“I’ve seen it in action. It’s actually kinda cute,” Xandra added. 

“I’m sure it’s not t h a t bad,” 

“No, it is.” 

The three of them laughed, then, and a feeling of warmth settled into Xandra’s stomach, over the bitter disappointment of Jesse’s no-show. She even managed a real grin when she glanced back over to Buffy. 

“Okay, time for the turn to table. What about you? Leave anyone special back in L.A? Dating must be a cinch for you.” 

Buffy’s smile faded a little, then, turning into something wry. “Yeah, r e a l easy.” 

“You don’t seem too shy,” Willow offered. 

“And your hair is doing that shiny thing that you usually only see in shampoo commercials. Struck-by-lightning is what I pull off on a GOOD day.” 

“Well, my philosophy -” Buffy started to say, then paused and looked at them, almost guiltily. “Uh, do you want to hear my philosophy?” 


“Any wisdom from the kingdom of Buffdom would be totally appreciated.” 

“Life is short.” 

Xandra blinked. Brevity is the soul of wit, but she feels like she’s missing something obvious, here. Willow, on the other hand, widens her eyes like Buffy’s just explained the secret of the universe. 

“Life is short!” She parroted, nodding her head enthusiastically. 

“Not original, I’ll grant you, but it’s true. You know? Why waste time being all shy and worrying about some guy, and if he’s gonna laugh at you… or if he’s ever going to realize that you’re a total catch,” She added, with a significant glance at Xandra. “Seize the moment, ‘cause tomorrow you might be dead.” 

“Oh, that’s nice!” Willow said, nodding. 

“And vaguely threatening. I’d buy that t-shirt.” 

“Um,” Buffy says, missing the joke that makes Willow snort and starting to rise to her feet. “I’ll be back in a minute.” 

“Oh, that’s okay,” Willow says, immediately assuming the same thing that Xan does, that Buffy’s spotted someone cooler in the crowd. “You don’t have to come back.” 

Buffy smiles, gently. “I’ll be back in a minute.” 

She bounced out of her seat and pushed forward, swallowed by the crowd in an instant, and Xandra turned back to Willow. 

“Do you feel peppier? I feel peppier.” 

“Seize the moment,” Willow echoed, looking out into the crowd. “You know what? Why don’t we go dance? I bet Buffy could find us again, if-if she wanted to and we don’t need Jesse to have a good time.” 

“You want to dance?” Xandra asked, blinking slowly. The most that she’s ever gotten Willow to do was bob her head along to the music, while staying firmly seated at the bar or at a table. “Is Buffy a witch or something?” 

“I just like her philosophy. Besides, dancing always cheers you up.” 

“That it does,” Xan agrees. And, not thinking of a good enough reason to argue, she pushes her empty cup aside and jumps up, too, nodding her head for Willow to follow her. They push their way into the crowd, awkwardly at first, looking for a place that seems both busy enough where they can hide among the writhing masses of bodies without being so crowded that they’re noticed by anyone or getting in the way or getting pushed around. Finally, though, they find a spot and Xandra starts to move her hips. 

She’s not much of a dancer. She’s short, with awkward limbs, and her best move is probably the sprinkler - she’ll never be sultry, like those girls in those dirty dancing movies - but it’s fun, the display of exuberance. The release of energy into some wild, flailing groove and the song has shifted into something better. 

Willow even tries to get into it, too. She doesn’t move her waist, much, staying rooted to her spot, but she bobs her head and even snaps her fingers a few times, making Xandra have to bite her tongue to keep from laughing, even as her heart swells. She loves Jesse - and has the worst crush ever - but Willow is probably her hero and she reaches out, taking Will’s hands in her own, and getting her to move with her, so they look like one whole unit of dork, instead of two separate ones. They’ve even WORSE, together, if that’s possible… but it’s fun and they spin around, giggling like loons, until someone taps Xandra on the shoulder and they both freeze. 

She turns her head, surprised to see a guy towering over her. He smiles a friendly smile and pulls his hand back. 

“Sorry, did we nudge into you?” She asked, confused as to why else he would be intruding. 

“No! I uh, I was just wondering if you and your friend want to come hang out with me and my friend.” 

“....Seriously?” Xandra asks, glancing over at Willow, who looks just as mystified as she feels. 

“Well, yeah. This place isn’t really my style, my friend dragged me out here. And you guys look like you could use an excuse to ditch, too. Wanna go grab a bite?” 

“I don’t think -” 

“Hey, Cordelia!” 

Xandra’s head turned, instinctively, toward the sound of Jesse’s voice, seeking him out through the crowd just in time to see him making his way over to Cordelia. She can’t hear the rest of their conversation, not over the music, but it’s clear from the way he’s standing and looking and grinning that he’s making his move. Did he even try to look for them? For her? That sour feeling is back in her stomach and stronger than ever and she has to swallow hard against the lump in her throat. 

Suddenly, Buffy’s advice makes perfect sense to her. Seize the moment. Jesse’s NEVER going to like her like she likes him and waiting around, hoping and hinting, is just miserable. She needs to move on and fast. 

And what better way to do that than with a boy who actually IS looking at her? 

“You know what? We’d love to. We were just talking about how much we were craving ice cream. Your treat?” Xandra asked, trying to look coy or at least a little less like a total idiot than she usually does. 

“Absolutely. My friend is waiting outside. We just gotta grab him and then we can go.” 

Thomas’ friend isn’t standing outside by the time they make it out. It’s colder than it was when they arrived and she and Willow stand there, shivering, while Thomas calls out for someone a few times and then stalks back over to them, looking disgruntled. 

“I think he took off without me. Man, what a jerk!” He said, shaking his head. “I’m sorry. But, hey! We don’t have to let this ruin things. I promised you two ice cream and I’ll deliver. We’ll have to walk, though, because my buddy took the car. Is that okay?” 

“I’m cool with it,” Xandra said, looking over Willow. Practically begging her to be cool with it, too. 

“That’d be okay,” Willow said, hesitantly, after catching Xandra’s gaze. She looked nervous… and, honestly, Xan was too. 

But what’s the worst that could happen? They’re together, and they outnumber him. They’re not splitting up or accepting open drinks. It’s just a nice guy who wants to hang with them. What’s the worry? 

“Great! Thanks. Some friend, huh? Gee whiz. Maybe I should start hanging out with different people,” Thomas says, as he starts walking. They tread alongside him, ambling. 

“So, Thomas, are you still in school?” 

“Yeah, high-school.” Thomas says, grinning. 

“Never seen you around, before.” 

“Yeah, I haven’t seen you either. Crazy, huh?” 

Yeah, Xandra’s leaning toward the crazy side of things. Sunnydale High is a big school, but surely not so huge that she would have never seen this guy before, though, right? 

The conversation stalls, after that, just footsteps and awkward tension and Xandra is so relieved when Willow pipes up, again. 

“Sure is dark,” She says. A terrible, horrible, very unfortunate sentence to say right as they’re coming up next to a graveyard, but it’s somehow wittier than all of the thoughts in Xan’s head.

“It’s night,” Thomas says, shooting her a look. 

“Well, that’s a dark time, night. Traditionally. I still can't believe I've never seen you at school. Do you have Mr. Chomsky for history? Cause I -” 

Thomas suddenly veers, walking toward the cemetery, instead of on the sidewalk, and Xan throws her arm out, to stop Willow from following. 

“Uh, the ice cream bar is that way,” Xandra says, jerking her thumb in the right direction. “It’s past Hamilton Street?” 

Thomas looks back at them and grins, holding out his hand. “C’mon, I know a shortcut.” 

This is the part where she should say no, urge Willow to go back the way they came or demand that they walk the normal way because it’s way too dark and WAY too creepy to be strutting through a graveyard, right now. But the memory of Jesse flirting with Cordelia rises in her mind again, unbidden, and she scowls. Fine, she’d walk across broken glass if that meant sticking it to Jesse. In a few minutes, she could be eating ice cream and laughing with a cute guy instead of moping. So, she shrugs and takes his hand, her other one holding Willow’s. 

“Short cuts are good.” She agrees, a little faintly. 

There’s hardly any light, here, but somehow the tombstones are still casting shadows that stretch on and on and on. Xandra tries not to focus too hard on them, tries to notice things like how pretty the night sky is and how cold Thomas must be, because his hand is like ice. Maybe he should roll the sleeves of his jacket back down… 

“Oh, okay, th-this is nice... and scary. Are you sure this is faster?” Willow said, suddenly, after a few minutes of walking further and further into the cemetery. They’re coming up to a large building - a mausoleum and Thomas suddenly comes to a stop. 

“Hey!” He said, turning to look back at them. “Ever been in one of these?” 

“...Have we ever been in a mausoleum? You mean, a house for dead people? No.” 

“And no thank you,” Willow said, starting to pull Xan in the opposite direction.

“Come on,” Thomas said, “What are you afraid of?” 

He’s behind them in a flash, and he grabs a fistful of Willow’s hair, yanking her back and dragging Xan with her. Willow yelps and Xandra screeches as they’re shoved, sent tumbling down the stairs and barely managing to keep to their feet. Xandra slams hard into a stone coffin and groans while Willow whirls back around. 

“What wasn’t funny!” 

Thomas starts down the stairs, too, and his expression is… different. Xandra can’t find the words to explain how, but fear makes her hair stand on end and she starts to back away, reaching out for Willow, pulling her too, until they’re pressed back against a wall. It’s not even ground, there are stones threatening to twist their ankles, but Xandra is too scared to look away from Thomas to watch where they’re walking. 

“I think we’re gonna go,” Xandra says, firmly. 

“Is that what you think?” 

He starts at them again, grinning wildly, and Xandra makes a break for it, dragging Willow with her. They dash past him, starting up the stairs, but someone else starts down and blocks their path. An unfamiliar girl, with blonde hair and what looks like a Catholic school uniform on. 

“Is this the best you could do?” She asks, looking past them and at Thomas. 

“They’re fresh.” 

“Hardly enough to share.” She tsks and Xandra starts to step back again. 

Share? What the hell are they talking about? She didn’t sign up for this - whatever weird, freaky, sexually charged thing is going on here. 

“Why didn’t you bring your own?” 

The girl smiles and it’s the most terrifying expression that Xandra has ever seen. 

“I did.” 

Someone else starts to stumble into the mausoleum. A tall, lanky figure holding their neck.

“Hey, wait up!” Jesse says, stumbling down and looking pale. 

“Jesse?” Xandra asked, alarmed. 

Jesse looks up, surprised, but then collapses. Xandra and Willow both dart forward, catching him before he can crack his head against the floor. There’s something on his neck, and it looks like -

“Y’know, you gave me a hickey…” Jesse mumbles, his eyes half-closed. 

The girl shrugs. “I got hungry on the way.” 

“Jesse, Will,” Xandra says, again, trying to keep her voice from wavering. “Let’s get out of here.” 

The blonde girl whipped her head in Xandra’s direction, still smiling sweetly. “Oh, you're not going anywhere.” 

“Leave us alone!” Willow said, squaring her shoulders and barking at her with more bite than Xandra had ever heard her use before. 

“You’re not going anywhere,” The girl says, again. And her face starts to… to, distort. Xandra watches with equal parts horror and disbelief as her eyes grow yellow and her teeth sharpen. “Until we’ve FED.” 

Willow screams and hits the floor, next to Jesse, while Xandra barely stays standing, her legs wobbling like jello. This - this can’t be real. She’s dreaming, right? She’s dreaming and she’s going to wake up and -

“Well, this is nice.” A voice drawls. Buffy appears at the top of the stairs and prances into the mausoleum, her voice bright and cloying with sarcasm. “ I-it's a little bare, but a dash of paint, a few throw pillows... call it home!” 

She moves behind the coffin, on the other side of them, and Xandra watches with fear as the two freaky, cannibalistic and weirdly mutated creatures start to follow her. 

“Who the hell are you?” The blonde girl spits out, tilting her head. 

Buffy smiles grimly. “ You mean there's actually someone in this town who doesn't know already? Whew, that's a relief, I'm telling you! Having a secret identity in this town is a job of work.”

“Buffy?” Xandra called, over whatever weird, banter thing they’re doing. “We bail now, right?” 

“Not yet!” Thomas snarls and Buffy whips her gaze over to him. 

“Okay, first of all, what’s with that outfit? Live in the now, okay? You look like DeBarge.”

What is she doing?! Xandra nearly falls over, too, when Buffy starts taunting them, provoking them into drawing closer to her. She looks so tiny by comparison, and Xandra isn’t sure if she wants to scream or try jumping into the fray and help out. 

But Buffy doesn’t even flinch. She just turns back to Darla. “Now, we can do this the hard way, or… actually, there’s just the hard way.” 

“That’s fine with me!” 

“Are you sure? Now, this is not gonna be pretty. We’re talking violence, strong language, and adult content…” 

Thomas opens his mouth and makes the most unholy sound that Xandra’s ever heard a person make, something like a r o a r and he charges her from behind. She pulls something out from inside of her shirt - a chair leg, maybe? - and shoves it back behind her, neatly jamming it into his chest. He falls back and freezes, looking stunned, and then he just… dissolves to ashes, right in front of their eyes. 

Xandra blinks hard against the dark spots that appear in her gaze, willing herself not to pass out. Is this real? Is this happening? Holy shit! 

“See what happens when you roughhouse?” Buffy asks, tsking her tongue. 

“He was young and stupid!” 

Buffy rounds on them, her eyes wide. “Xandra, go!” 

The Catholic School Girl lunges at Buffy, and Xandra doesn’t think twice. She and Willow both yank Jesse up and start for the stairs, half-carrying and half-dragging him up and out, back into the night. She has no idea where they are, or where they’re supposed to go - who are they supposed to go to?! - but Willow answers that question before she can voice it. 

“We’ll go to the police, it’s just a few blocks up!” 

A snarl rips through the night and Xandra suddenly gets the feeling that they’re not going to make it that far.