The flyers were up all over the school. Done up in orange and black in honor of Halloween by the dance committee, The Masque, as the dance was called, was the talk of the school.
"So, Xand-man. You going?" Buffy asked her friend, motioning to one of the many fliers posted outside of the library.
"But of course," Xander said with a terrible French accent. "Ah would not mees it for ze world!"
Buffy laughed as they moved into the library. "Hey Will, Giles!"
"Hey Buffy," Willow said from her place by the computer.
"Willow-Willow-Whip," Xander said moving to his best friend. "You going to the Masque?"
"Yeah. Oz and I will be there," Willow said. "Although, because of the rules of the Masque, we won't be going together."
"I think it's kinda neat," Buffy said. "Air of mystery, and all that."
"Well, Buffy, The Masque dates back many centuries. The rules of the Masque were set so that everyone, regardless of their status, could attend. It was also said that the Masque allowed true love to...well...come forth, as it were. Utter rubbish, if you ask me. But, I do recall attending a few in my days at Oxford," Giles said.
"You? At a dance?" Buffy asked.
"There's no need to be sarcastic. There is a lot about me that you know nothing about," Giles said, snippy.
"Geez, Giles. Take a pill, why don't you. I was only kidding," Buffy said. "C'mon guys, biology class is beckoning."
"Do I gotta go to class, mommy?" Xander whined as he followed Buffy out the door. Willow and Buffy laughed.
"Oh, I don't know. We don't want to repeat what happened last Halloween," Willow said.
"Definitely not," Buffy replied. "I don't know what I'm going to wear, either. It's not like Angel is going to be there."
"Why not?" Willow asked.
"It's that whole 'I'm a vampire and am too old to be attending a high school dance' thing."
"Tell me about it. Listen, why don't we head on over to the mall and look for some costumes," Buffy said.
"Sure. Just let me leave a note for my parents," Willow replied. Then the two friends left for the mall.
"Xander," Oz said, nodding.
"You wanna check out the mall with me, see if we can find something to wear to the Masque?" Xander asked.
"What you're really asking me is for a ride," Oz said, grinning.
"You've been hanging around Willow way too much to know me so well," Xander replied. "You game?"
"Sure. I have to pick up a new color to dye my hair, anyway. Wouldn't want to be a dead giveaway at the dance," Oz replied as the boys moved towards the zebra striped van.
"What can I do for you, Principal Snyder?" Giles asked, eyeing the distasteful man.
"You're on chaperone duty for the dance. Don't forget your mask," Snyder snapped and quickly left the room.
"Hiel Hitler," Giles said under his breath. Then the Ripper smiled.
The gym was decorated with a medieval theme. Cardboard buildings lined the walls. Streamers ran between the buildings in various colors. Tables were set up along one wall, and, along the other, punch and snacks were being guarded over by costumed chaperones in masks.
Students filled the gym with noise as the DJ played song after song. People stopped to chat with one another, trying to find out who was who under the masks.
Buffy, Willow and Cordelia came together. Cordelia, as usual, was dressed to the nines in a fitted, red silk kimono style dress, which stopped at her ankles. Her feet were encased in matching red slippers.
Willow was dressed in a skin tight, full body leotard which she had picked up from a dance store. On her feet she wore a pair of Buffy's low heeled boots. She completed the outfit with a small, thin, gold chain belt around her narrow hips.
Buffy was wearing a 1930's style white, fitted dress. It was floor length, which pooled about her ankles. The sleeves and collar were made of a sheer material, with silk cuffs and choker holding it in place. She topped off the outfit with a white hat, perched at an appealing angle on her head.
Each of the girls wore masks in the same color as their outfits. They surveyed the room, looking at the variety of costumes and masks. Some wore full face masks while others wore half masks. One thing the girls did agree on was the excitement in the air.
"So, who do you think is who?" Buffy asked, surveying the crowd.
"I have no idea," Willow said, folding her arms across herself.
"Will, you need to loosen up," Buffy said, indicating Willow's arms. "You look great!"
"Yeah, Willow. For once I agree with Buffy," Cordelia said.
"May I have this dance?" a voice said from behind them.
The girls turned as one and looked at the man standing before them. He was dressed in well worn blue jeans, a fringed chambray shirt and cowboy boots. The outfit was complete with a large rodeo buckle and black cowboy hat. He held out his hand towards Willow.
"Um...sure," Willow said taking his hand. She looked back at Buffy and Cordelia before taking the dance floor.
"You go, girl!" Buffy whispered to Cordelia as Willow left. The two broke into giggles.
"Milady, will you do me the honors?" a dapper young man asked Cordelia. She turned to look at him and her heart skipped a beat. He was wearing a three piece suit in dark grey. His white shirt was offset by the dark red and gray of his ascot. He was holding a cane in his hands. His dark hair was falling slightly over the dark grey mask which adorned his face. She took his hand with a smile and went out onto the dance floor.
Buffy sighed. *All alone, once again.* She moved over to a table and sat down.
Buffy looked up to see who was tapping on her shoulder. "Would you like to dance?" he asked, smoothly. The tall man was wearing a tapered, dark brown suit, possibly an Armani, with matching shirt and tie. His eyes glittered behind the half mask he wore, echoing the sardonic smile on his face. Buffy put her hand in his and went out onto the dance floor.
"You dance remarkably," the man said as he twirled her around the dance floor. "Almost as well as you do other things."
"Do I know you?" Buffy asked.
"Indeed you do, Ms. Summers. However, this side of me you have not seen," he whispered.
Buffy didn't know what to say. She tried to figure out who he was, but it was impossible to tell with the mask on. She knew it wasn't Angel, since her Slayersense was not tingling.
They finished the dance and Willow and her cowboy approached the duo.
"Hi!" Willow said, holding the cowboy's hand. She looked at the mysterious stranger, then leaned over to Buffy. "Who's your mystery man? He's a hottie!"
"I don't know," she whispered back. "It's not Angel, that's for sure. Do you know who your cowboy is?"
"It's Oz. I don't think that he knows that I know. I caught a glimpse of blue hair under the hat," Willow said.
Buffy giggled and turned back to her dance partner. He was looking at her with a half smile on his face, as if he knew something that she didn't. *Which of course he does,* she thought.
"Shall we?" he asked, indicated the dancers once again.
"Sure," Buffy said. They moved off to dance again.
"I wonder who that could be?" Willow asked Oz.
"Not sure. He seems familiar though Willow," Oz said.
"Hey! How did you know it was me?" Willow squeaked.
"Your scent. I'd know it anywhere," Oz replied.
"But I'm not wearing any perfume," Willow said.
"No, it's your scent," he emphasized.
"Oh...oh!" Willow said. "That's cheating, Oz."
"Hey! How did you know it was me?" Oz said.
"Blue hair," she said, taking off his cowboy hat. "I saw it under here."
"Dang. I knew I should have gotten the blond," Oz said. He shrugged.
"Can you ‘smell’ who is with Buffy?" Willow asked.
Oz sniffed. He frowned and sniffed again. "Odd."
"Well, I'm not sure who it is. There is a very, very small scent of Giles on him, but other than that, the man exudes great power," Oz said.
"Do you think it could be Giles?"
"I don't know. If it was Giles, why would his scent be so weak?"
"Hmm. Weird. Oh, well," Willow shrugged. "Wanna dance?"
"Sure," Oz said, as they moved once again to the beat.
The music changed. Cordelia felt herself being pulled closer to the mystery man with whom she was dancing. Her heart hammered in her chest due to his nearness.
"Um...I...uh...hate to break this to you," she stammered. "I have a boyfriend."
"I know," the man whispered. He pulled her snug against his body, swaying seductively to the music. He leaned closer to her and brushed his lips against hers.
Cordelia's breath caught in her throat when his lips touched hers. *Forgive me, Xander,* she thought as her body trembled.
"Did you know that one of the legends of the Masque is that true love would be found?" the man whispered questioningly to Cordelia.
Cordelia shivered from his breath as he whispered in her ear. "Um..."
He rubbed against her erotically before she could answer. Cordelia's knees turned to Jell-O and her suitor had to hold her up, using this fact to his advantage to lean her into a dip and kiss her neck.
Cordelia moaned deep in her throat then blushed. *I hope no one heard that,* she thought as she struggled to get her breathing under control.
The man brought her back up and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. "Meet me at your house in half an hour," he whispered. Then he pulled away from her and left the dance.
Cordelia placed her fingertips to her lips as she watched the mystery man leave.
He danced beautifully. Buffy forgot her troubles and enjoyed herself for the first time in weeks. She still couldn't ascertain who was under the mask.
"Will, do you know who I'm with?" Buffy asked during one of her dancing breaks. Her mystery partner had moved off to get her some punch.
"Oz thinks he smelled Giles real faintly, but it was buried under 'immense power,'" Willow said. "Oz's words, not mine."
"He doesn't move like Giles, or stutter like him, either," Buffy said. "And Oz is right. This guy screams 'power.'"
"Why don't you just ask him?" Willow said.
"Nah. It's just a dance. If he wants me to know, he'll say something. I'll just continue to have fun until I have to go patrol," Buffy replied. "Have you seen Cordelia?"
"No. Not since we got her," Willow said.
"Someone dressed in a very nice dark grey suit with a cane asked her to dance earlier," Buffy said.
"She's not here," Oz said, handing his girlfriend her drink. He tapped his nose. "This is coming in very handy tonight."
Willow and Buffy laughed.
Cordelia pulled into her driveway and saw her mystery man leaning casually against a pillar near her front door. Her heart sped up with anticipation. "Hi," she said softly as she approached him.
He smiled seductively, still masked. Cordelia had shed her mask in the car. He gestured to the door and Cordelia moved to open it. "Why don't you take off your mask?" she asked.
He shook his head. "No. Not yet," he whispered. He took her hand and led her from the door up to her bedroom. She looked questioningly at him. "How did you..."
"I know everything about you, Cordelia. I've been doing my homework," he said with a small, sarcastic smile on his face. He pulled her into the bedroom and closed the door, then moved to her stereo and put on some music.
Cordelia stood near the door, her heart racing. *What am I doing?* she asked herself she watched him. He walked slowly back to her and took her into his arms. They began to dance once again to the music.
Cordelia sighed and leaned into the stranger. She felt his lips on her neck and shivered with pleasure. He leaned away from her and cupped her face in one hand.
He claimed her lips forcefully, pushing his tongue into her mouth. He ground his pelvis into hers, using his other hand to hold her body up against his.
Cordelia moaned at his actions. He maneuvered them to the bed and pushed her down. He removed her shoes, then ran his hand up under her dress along her calf. She looked at him with her eyes half closed with desire.
He quickly shed his suit coat, vest and tie, then slowly removed her dress from her body. He kissed and licked his way down her as the dress fell to the floor. Cordelia held him to her breasts as he sucked and teased her into a frenzy. His fingers found their way into her, thrusting in and out, causing her muscles to clamp around them.
Cordelia practically leapt off the bed when his thumb found her throbbing clit. She panted audibly as the waves of pleasure stole over her body. "Oh God..." she yelled as she climaxed, arching into his hand.
He continued to move his fingers until she was spent and began to relax. Then he moved away from her and shed the rest of his clothes, but kept on the mask. He smiled at Cordelia, then put his still wet fingers into his mouth, licking off her juices.
Cordelia's body shuddered in anticipation as he moved over her. "Please," she whispered. "Who are you?"
His only answer was to thrust into her up to the hilt. She screamed in pleasure and wrapped her legs around his hips as he began to move. Faster and faster he thrust, bringing her to another climax. He kissed her savagely, then climaxed himself, pushing his pulsing cock into her as far as he could.
They lay there together as their heartbeats returned to normal, a fine sheen of perspiration covering their bodies. The mystery man looked down at Cordelia's flushed face and kissed her gently.
"I love you," he whispered so quietly she almost didn't hear him. Cordelia lay there without answering as he moved away from her and back into his clothes. "Wait," she began. "Where are you going?"
He smiled at her, then leaned back down and kissed her softly on her brow. "I have to go," he said. He pulled her comforter over her body and then moved towards the door.
"Aren't you going to tell me who you are?" she asked quietly with a pained voice.
"You already know," was all he said as he left the room.
Buffy's mysterious partner just smiled and nodded when she said she had to leave. "I know," he said, then kissed her head affectionately. "Be careful."
Buffy looked at him sharply. "How do you..." she began, but he had already moved off, leaving her alone. She shrugged and then went to find Willow and Oz.
"Hey guys. I'm leaving now to change then patrol. I'll see you at the library Monday," Buffy said.
"Bye, Buffy," they both replied simultaneously, causing the three of them to burst into laughter.
Later than night, Buffy met up with Angel while she was on patrol.
"So, did you enjoy yourself?" Angel asked, falling into step with her as she walked in the park.
"Actually, I had a great time. I had a really attentive dance partner the entire night," Buffy said, hoping to get a jealous rise out of him. It worked.
"Really? Who?" Angel asked with a sharp voice. Buffy chuckled.
"Relax, Angel. I don't know who it was and I'll never find out. He did seem to know who I was though," Buffy replied thoughtfully.
"What did he look like?"
"Well, he was really tall, like you, but that's about all I could tell you." She shrugged.
"The masks and all."
"Well, as long as he didn't try anything."
Buffy laughed at him. "Jealous?"
"Who me? Not at all. I just want you to be careful," Angel said defensively.
"Ok, ok. I'll talk to Giles about it Monday. Maybe he could shed some light the subject. He was suppose to chaperone the dance," Buffy said.
Angel leaned down and kissed her. She responded enthusiastically, ending that particular conversation for the night.
The Scooby Gang, as Xander liked to call everyone, met in the library during lunch on Monday.
"Hey guys!" Buffy said as she entered the library. She saw Cordelia sitting at the table, looking down at an open magazine.
"Hey Buffy," Willow said from her seat at the computer. Oz was standing behind her reading over her shoulder. "How did it go last night?"
"Pretty dead, if you pardon the pun," Buffy replied as she jumped up onto the counter. "Where's Giles?"
"Hello, Buffy," Giles said as he walked out of his office. "I trust you had a successful evening?"
"Yeah. Bagged an early riser, then nada for the rest of the night," she replied.
"Very good," he replied.
"I do have a question for you, though," Buffy began. "The other night at the dance I had a very attentive partner who alluded that he knew me, as in, knew that I was the Slayer."
"'Alluded?'" Willow asked, looking at Buffy.
"Hey, I pay attention in class sometimes!" Both girls giggled.
"Yes, well Buffy, your improving English aside, you do not have to worry about your dance partner," Giles said.
"You know him? Who was he!?" Buffy exclaimed.
"Yes, I know him. In fact, we're rather close," he replied with a hint of a smile on his face. "And I know he'd rather not reveal his identity to you Buffy."
"That's not fair! I gotta know. It could be a matter of Slayer life or death!"
"Buffy," Giles said. "He is of no consequence to you what so ever. In fact, he rarely comes out at all. That is all I will say on the subject."
"Well," Buffy said as she watched her mentor move back into his office.
"Don't worry Buffy," Willow said. "If Giles says he's copacetic, that's good enough for me."
"Copacetic? Will, you've been watching B movies again haven't you?"
Willow and Oz laughed at Buffy's comment as Xander burst into the library with his usual exuberance.
"Hello all! Miss me?" he asked as he went to sit down by Cordelia.
Cordelia inhaled sharply, her body going tense.
"Hey, Xander. Were you even at the dance the other night?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, I was there," Xander said with a mysterious smile on his face.
"We should have thought to have you sniff him out, Oz," Willow said, poking her boyfriend in the ribs. They laughed.
"So, what were you wearing?" Buffy asked her friend.
Cordelia chose that moment to stand up and move to leave. "I gotta go, guys. Um...yeah."
"Cordy, what's wrong?" Xander asked worried.
"It's just...Xander...um...can I talk to you privately for a minute?" Cordelia replied.
"Uh...sure," Xander said, shrugging his shoulders to the rest of the group. He and Cordelia went out into the hall.
"Wonder what that's all about?" Buffy asked Willow.
Xander and Cordelia stood in the hallway outside of the library.
"What's wrong, Cordelia?" Xander asked, putting his arms around his girlfriend.
She shrugged him off. "Xander, I...um...have to tell you something that you're not going to like."
Xander looked at her with a cautious expression on his face.
"Um...the other night...at the dance...I sorta met someone," Cordelia said, facing away from him. "He...uh...kinda...well..."
"Cordelia, what is it?" Xander asked.
She took a deep breath and quickly told him what happened. "This guy asked me to dance and we danced and he kissed me then we left and we met at my house and we had sex and he left and I am so sorry," she said and then burst into tears. When she didn't hear any reaction from Xander, she stopped crying and turned to face him.
Xander was standing there looking at her with a smirk on his face, his eyes glittering with what she perceived as anger.
"Xander?" she said, reaching her hand out to touch him.
He shrugged her off. "I'm glad you told me, Cordelia," he said. "It's shows how much you have changed since we first got together. Before, you probably would have dumped me without explanation."
"Xander, I'm so sorry," Cordelia began. Xander stopped her.
"Here, I guess you might as well have this, then. Kind of a going away gift," Xander said casually, handing her package.
She took it hesitantly. "But..."
"Just open it," Xander said and leaned against the wall to watch her, arms folded across his chest.
Cordelia opened the wrapping, then the box, tears streaming down her face. She pulled out something wrapped in tissue paper and began to unravel it.
"What?" she gasped when she saw what was inside. She looked at Xander.
It was a dark grey mask.
Xander smiled at her and then made a small motion with his hand. "Read the card."
She looked back into the box and retrieved the card. "Cordelia," it read. "You already know."
She looked back at Xander. "It was you?" she whispered, her voice quivering.
Xander nodded slightly, his eyes never leaving hers.
"I love you," was all he said.
Cordelia stood there with a shocked expression on her face. "You love me?"
Xander shrugged his shoulders. "I wanted to show you how much I loved you without worry of you throwing it back in my face."
"Shows how much you know, Xander Harris," Cordelia said, her voice rising. "Here I was all upset and it was you!" She poked him in the chest, hard.
"Ow!" He said, cringing away from her. "Well, if you would have given any indication of your feelings, rather than constantly shoving mine in my face, you would've know sooner!"
"Since when do I shove yours back into your face, lamebrain?!"
"Since always. Every time we're around other people, you act as though you'd rather be turned into a vampire than be with me!"
"Fine. You want me to let others know how I feel about you? I'll tell them how I feel about you!" Cordelia shoved him into the library doors and then turned and stomped off down the hall, losing herself in the lunchtime crowd.
Xander fell backwards into the library and landed with a thud on the floor. "Ow!"
"Xander, you ok?" Buffy asked, helping her friend to his feet.
"Yeah," he replied. He looked at her dejected. "Physically. Emotionally, however, I
think I'm dead."
Buffy put her arm around his shoulders and led him to the table. "What happened?"
"Long story short, Cordelia hates me," Xander said, laying his head down on the table.
Willow and Buffy looked at each other. "That's not true, Xander," Willow said. "I'm sure in her own twisted way, she likes you."
"Thanks a lot, Willow," Xander's muffled voice said.
Willow, Oz and Buffy looked at one another, wondering what to do when they heard the PA go on.
"Attention students of Sunnydale High," a girl's voice said. "I just wanted to let you know that the Masque was a rousing success. In fact, it turns out that the legend of the Masque is true. Love did show itself to me at the dance, as I'm sure it did to many others."
Xander picked his head up as he recognized the voice. "Cordelia?"
"Since the dance was such a success, we have decided to make it an annual event. So, those of you who didn't find love will have another chance next year. Thank you. Oh, and one more thing. I love you, Xander Harris."
Buffy, Willow and Oz all looked at Xander. Xander sat there with his mouth opened, not
believing what he just heard. A red flush slowly crept up his face.
"Go, Xander!" Buffy said, breaking the silence. The three burst out laughing at Xander's obvious embarrassment.
Giles came out of his office. "Well, Mr. Harris. It seems as though you have an admirer," he said, with a smirk.
The trio laughed even harder.
Xander looked sheepishly at his companions and then buried his face in his hands. "How am I going to get through the rest of the day?"
"Red-faced, I'd say," Giles replied, then moved back into his office with a small laugh.
Xander groaned as the bell rang. "I wanna go home."
"Nope," Buffy said, taking one of his arms. "Off to class with you." She pulled a reluctant Xander out into the hallway.
When the other students in the hallway saw Xander, they let out catcalls and whistles.
Xander ducked his head, his face becoming even brighter red.
Willow linked his other arm through his, with Oz on the other side. "Cheer up, Xander. You always wondered what it would be like to be the most popular person in school."
Xander gave her an evil look. "Thanks."
Cordelia stood outside the front doors to the school, waiting.
Xander, Buffy, Willow and Oz all exited together, the three friends forming a protective line with Xander in the middle, not noticing Cordelia.
Cordelia walked up to Xander and stopped, causing the group to almost knock her over.
"Cordy!" Xander gulped.
She poked him in the chest, hard. "Does that say anything to you?" she asked menacingly.
Xander quickly looked at his other friends, then back to the love of his life. Forgoing comment, he quickly reached out and pulled her into a ferocious kiss.
Cordelia kissed Xander back with equal measure. The three friends just stood there, staring at the two lovers.
"Um...guys," Buffy said cautiously. "You're kinda causing a scene."
They ignored her.
"Are we going to have to resort to force?" Buffy asked.
They still ignored her.
"Oh, can I use force?" Willow asked her friend with an evil look in her eye.
"Sure," Buffy said, gesturing to Xander and Cordelia. "It's all yours."
Willow took a deep breath and then yelled in Xander's ear. "CLOWNS!"
Xander broke off the kiss and blinked. "Did you hear something?" he asked Cordelia.
"Hmm? No," she said, taking his hand in hers. "Let's get out of here," she whispered.
He blushed, again, and followed her from the school.
Buffy, Willow and Oz watched them walk away, then turned to each other.
"Well," Buffy said.
"Yes. Well," Willow echoed. "Guess we know how they're going to be spending their evening."
Buffy looked at Willow. "Willow!"
Willow smiled faintly and shrugged. "I've been paying attention in Health class."
Oz and Buffy burst out laughing, linked arms with Willow and headed for home.