CHAPTER THREE: FOUR YEARS AGO
Disco Night at the Bronze was always something to see. Although the nightclub’s regular patrons—in their late teens or early twenties—had no firsthand memories of the disco era at all, a chance to scour the thrift stores and dress up in hilariously unfashionable clothing was always appreciated. Inside, the club’s manager had a disco ball temporarily installed, and since there would be no band, the stage was set aside as an extra dance floor. Music the crowd’s parents might have enjoyed—hits by Abba, Donna Summers, and the like—blared over loudspeakers.
Buffy and Willow, sitting at a table near the Bronze’s normal dance floor, were not dressed up in seventies clothing. They hadn’t come for the music, the clothes, or the faux-nostalgia—they had come for the boys. Two boys in particular . . .
“Is that him?” Willow said, rising up from the table to get a better look. “No it’s not. Yes it is. Is it?”
“Will, calm down,” Buffy replied. “And no, it—yes, yes it is.”
The girls couldn’t help but giggle as Oz dodged around a couple of their classmates and made his way to their table. He didn’t look like Oz at all—or rather, he looked like his own father in one of those period photographs everyone leaves in a box at the bottom of the closet. He wore a tight-fitting, orange leisure suit, neck open at the collar, while his hair and false sideburns had been dyed a dark black.
“I wasn’t going to,” Oz said, looking at his own outfit. “But after I saw this, I just couldn’t pass it up.”
“Well it’s very . . . authentic,” Buffy said, smiling. She looked around for Angel, but he hadn’t arrived yet. Angel actually lived through the disco era. I wonder if he’ll—nah.
“The bandages are gone—your arm’s completely healed?” Willow asked. She could still hardly believe he had jumped in front of a bullet for her.
“Yep,” Oz replied. “It left a scar in the shape of the Virgin Mary—or maybe Marilyn Manson. I can’t tell which.”
Buffy waited around a few more moments to make sure Willow was holding up her end of the conversation and then excused herself and made her way to the juice bar. Willow had been so excited about seeing Oz tonight, Buffy had feared she might tense up or spaz out—but to Buffy’s relief, her friend was being charming and funny, engaging Oz in talk about his band’s gig this weekend.
Buffy sipped her drink slowly at the bar, looking around for Angel. Her eyes were drawn to the disco ball as it reflected light and images from around the room. By concentrating just enough, she swore she could see herself reflected on one of the glass panels of the ball.
Her concentration was broken when she felt a hand on her arm. She looked over and saw that a man dressed in a white-John Travolta-Saturday Night Fever suit was leaning next to her.
“Hey baby,” he said. “You wanna dance?” Ostentatious gold-plated necklaces clanked as he spoke.
Buffy peeled his hand off of her arm, causing him to wince in pain slightly. “I don’t think so,” she said.
She returned her attention to the dance floor, hoping that Angel would show up and that losers like the guy standing next to her would take the hint and leave. Neither of her hopes had come true yet, however. She caught sight of her self in the mirrored disco ball again, standing at the bar, all by herself. All by myself? Wait a sec!, she thought.
She turned and faced the bar, setting her drink down. She smiled at the man she had just turned down, and then “accidentally” knocked her glass over. She watched the reflection in the glass carefully as it rolled over to him. He picked it up and set it back down in front of her.
“C’mon baby,” he said, slipping his arm around her waist. “You know you want me.”
Like cancer, she thought, while saying “Yeah. Let’s dance.”
She led him over to the edge of the dance floor and then, with a wink, led him back behind the stage where
it was dark and deserted.
“Now we’re talking,” he said.
“I know you’ve been waiting a long time for your clothes to come back into fashion,” Buffy said, “so I’m almost sorry about this.”
“About what?” he asked.
“This,” Buffy replied, sliding the stake out of her purse. She brought it up quickly and in a flash of light and dust, the vampire had disintegrated.
Buffy walked back to where Oz and Willow were sitting.
“Hey, who was that guy you were talking to?” Willow asked.
Buffy wiped a few flecks of ash off of her blouse. “Him?” She looked back at the stage. “He was a bit of
a flake. Anyway, I don’t think Angel’s going to show. I’m gonna head home.”
“No!” Buffy said rather loudly. “Don’t run into the forest—you’ll trip! Grab the knife!” Immediately, several of her fellow theater-goers shushed her. “Sorry,” she offered in a whisper.
Xander sighed, handed his popcorn to Willow, and leaned over to whisper in Buffy’s ear. “Listen Buffy,” he said, “It’s just a horror movie, right? The dumb blonde is always going to run into the woods, she’s always going to trip on a branch, and the bad guy’s always going to get her. It’s just the way it is.” Xander knew that if Buffy kept interrupting the movie, she’d get them thrown out—and he would have risked Principal Snyder’s ire by skipping the play in vain.
“It’s just . . . she’s so stupid,” Buffy whispered back. She sipped at her diet soda. Watching horror movies just wasn’t the same since she became the Slayer. Now that she had encountered dangers far worse than ever reached the big screen, it was hard to watch such a movie and not identify with the characters—and offer advice— as if it were real.
On screen, another ill-fated camper had locked herself in a room and pushed a bed up against the door. She backed away slowly, carefully eyeing the door, and stopped in front of a window on the opposite wall from the door.
“Don’t do that!,” Buffy said. “That’s where he’ll come through!” Several more shushes told her she had accidentally said it out loud again. On the screen, the murderous manaic crashed through the window, just as Buffy had said, and wrapped his arms around his next victim.
She looked over and saw Xander giving her a not-so-friendly look.
“I know, I know,” she whispered. “I think I’ll go get a candy bar or something.”
Buffy left the theater and stepped outside. Nearby, a long line of moviegoers was awaiting the next screening. Don’t bother, Buffy wanted to tell them. You can see a horror movie for free every night—just walk around Sunnydale after midnight. She began walking home, but stopped when a voice called her name from across the street. Angel.
She waited as he crossed over, trenchcoat flapping in the cool autumn breeze.
“I thought you were supposed to show up in unexpected places,” Buffy said when he reached her. “Full of cryptic advice.”
“Listen Buffy, I’m sorry about last night—I got held up.”
“Like a bank?” she replied.
“No—I just couldn’t make it. But I wanted to.”
“No biggie I guess.” Buffy smiled ruefully. It was hard to stay mad around someone like Angel. “Hey, were you around during the disco days?”
Angel was confused by the sudden digression. “Yes. I hated them.”
“Good,” Buffy replied. “So did I. Listen,” she continued, “I’m going to leaving town for a little while. Can you take over for me?”
Angel shrugged. “Sure.” They had continued walking, and now were in a quiet residential area. He leaned
in and they shared a long, passionate kiss. Angel pulled away just long enough to ask her how long she’d be gone.
“Just a few days,” she replied. “And then I’ll be back.”