Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
As soon as the take ends, there's a flurry of activity surrounding the blonde in the spray-on PVC catsuit. Stylists and make-up people hover around her, touching up, teasing hair, adjusting her outfit. She patiently allows it, as if she doesn't even notice them, like worker bees buzzing around a queen. She drags stray hairs away from her glossy lips and catches her breath, preparing herself for the next take, mentally working through the choreographed steps.
From the sidelines, Cordelia breathes a sigh of relief when the director instructs the extras to take five. If she's honest with herself, she's a little out of shape. Three years since cheerleading and the slight curvature of her belly - comfort eating, best way to assuage those damn headaches - testifies to that.
As she leans against the mirrored wall, panting slightly and covered in a thin sheen of sweat, she's acutely aware of her isolation. The other dancers stand around in cliques, clutching their designer water bottles, hands on their hips as they preen and pose.
Well, never let it be said that Cordelia is a shrinking violet. So when a guy brushes past her, a male-model type in tight pants and a belly top that exposes his six-pack, she seizes the opportunity. She used to leave guys like him quivering in her wake so how hard can it be?
"Hi!" she says a little too squeakily high and bright.
Male-model type blanks her completely and joins his friends, laughing queenily at something.
"Jesus, is there anyone here who isn't totally up themselves?" she mutters to herself, turning away and wiping her brow with a towel.
Cordelia's met a handful of stars in her short acting career, and she likes to think that she's less fawning than most but even she is struck dumb when she turns to see Britney dabbing at her temples with a fluffy towel.
Britney gestures towards the dancers. "Don't mind them. They're like family: very close-knit but not so welcoming to outsiders. It's nothing personal."
Somehow, through willpower alone, Cordelia prevents herself from gawking. "Oh, here was me thinking my leg warmers were a faux pas. Or I was drinking the wrong brand of water. Who knew Evian could be *so* last season?"
Britney regards her with a thousand watt smile. "You're not a dancer, right?"
"Not. . . really. But I go to clubs, like, all the time. Every night, practically." So she's lying through her teeth and she hasn't been to a club since, God, that one time with Doyle when he tried unsuccessfully to grope her on the dancefloor but she isn't exactly going to let Britney Spears see that she's currently living a lamentable wallflower existence.
"You're pretty good though. Picked up those routines real fast," the blonde says, appraising her.
Cordelia preens slightly. "Well, I choreographed a few cheerleading routines back in High School. I guess you could say I was the benchmark for all pom-pom waving bitches, though I hope I've retained my less vicious diva-ish qualities."
Britney unscrews the cap of her bottle of water and takes a long swig before offering it to Cordelia. "I'll have to remember that." She eyes Cordelia as the brunette drinks. "So what do divas do for fun around here?"
There's a lipstick stain on the rim of the bottle and Cordelia can't resist the urge to run her tongue across it. It tastes vaguely of peach lipgloss. A smile makes its way across her lips. "Well, I know a place that serves the greatest margaritas."
The director calls them back onto the set and Britney signals towards him, one minute. She looks back at Cordelia, dark eyes giving her the brief once over. "I didn't catch your name."
The blonde flashes another of those million-dollar smiles. Holds out her hand and Cordelia shakes it tentatively, feeling perspiration cooling rapidly on the other girl's skin, and briefly considers never washing that hand again.
It's as she's packing up her things to leave the studio, after showering and changing, that Cordelia feels a gentle tap on her shoulder.
"So what about those margaritas?" a voice behind her says, tiny hint of Louisiana drawl.
"Oh. . ." Cordelia turns and blinks. "Oh! You really, I mean. . .?"
Britney's in a rather more sensible - not to mention comfortable - ensemble: denim jeans and a tank top that exposes that famously toned midriff, belly button piercing and all. Her hair is loose and tousled, her face scrubbed of the exaggerated make-up that had been plastered on for the shoot and more natural colouring applied in its stead.
"That's if the offer still stands."
"Well, sure." Cordelia pauses, biting her lip. "But I think you should know, the place I had in mind is a little. . . unusual."
"Oh my Lord, what is this place?"
The minute they step into Caritas, Britney's hand shoots straight to her mouth. Grinning a little, Cordelia grabs that hand and pulls the other girl further into the bar. That's when Lorne, lounging against the bar, spots them and drops his Seabreeze, the tinkle of broken glass accompanying his sudden shriek.
He rushes up to them, seizing Britney's free hand and bringing it to his lips. "This is such an honour. Can I get you a drink? Except you're underage." He throws up his hands dismissively. "Oh, who's gonna tell. Franciose! Three Seabreezes over here!"
"Britney, this is Lorne. He owns this place. It's a karaoke bar," Cordelia explains with a wide smile.
Britney just looks at her, her mouth hanging open. The blonde allows Lorne to usher her to a table, dislodging some other patrons from their seats. "A fancy dress karaoke bar, right? We don't really have those back home," Britney says slowly, her eyes darting from Lorne to Cordelia and then making a sweep of the room. She cringes at the two headed demon currently murdering Rainy Days and Mondays.
Lorne just pats Britney's hand. "Whatever, sweetie. Look, I know you must get this all the time." He pauses as the bartender deposits the drinks at their table and takes an experimental sip. "Ugh, easy on the cranberry, Francoise. As I was saying, I would be thrilled if you would give us a little song."
"Well, uh," Britney manages, still transfixed on the demons of varying shapes and sizes at the other tables, "sure, okay."
So she knocks back her drink in one long gulp and takes to the stage.
As the opening bars of Like A Prayer begin, Lorne makes an approving noise. "Good choice for a God-fearing gal." Drops his voice and leans forward, speaking behind the cover of his hand. "If you believe all that 'virgin' baloney."
There's a brief stretch of silence as Britney launches into the first verse.
"So what?" Lorne asks absently, mesmerised by the girl on stage. He glances at Cordelia. "Oh no, honey, that's strictly between me and Miss Britney. Although I can say. . . Justin Timberlake? So not part of her destiny. That hunk of cuteness is gonna be my earthly reward. That and front row seats for Aretha in Vegas."
Three rounds of cocktails later. . .
"The whole girl-next-door virgin thing is a marketing tool. Throw in a few 'goshes' and 'lordies' and wrap it all up in a silver catsuit and we're set. It's about selling an image, a sexual fantasy. It's not who I am."
Cordelia takes a slurp of her margarita. "I get that totally. It's like at school, it was all about self-promotion, and popularity was all about having the best publicity machine and being seen with the right people. Then you make one transgression and suddenly you're a nobody. . . Not that I hold grudges against former so-called friends who dropped me faster than last season's Prada purse."
"Well, I wouldn't know. I was home-schooled." Britney smiles around the day-glo pink straw she's sipping through. "So what happened?"
"Not what, more who. I dated someone, well. . . he was a loser. Clueless in every way."
"Why did you go out with him?"
"The sixty four thousand dollar question. At first we routinely insulted each other and then it turned into this weird sexual tension thing. He made me laugh, in his goofy way, and he was semi-cute. For a while I thought I loved him. . . In retrospect, I still don't get it. It was probably just overactive hormones."
Britney glances down at the obscenely expensive engagement ring on her finger, moving it around idly. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing the right thing with Justin. . ."
"Are you kidding? He's a hottie."
"I know. And I know there are millions of girls out there who would kill to have him - which is kinda scary if you think about it - but, well, I guess it's more of a business arrangement."
"So. . ." Cordelia drags the word out.
"He's like my best friend more than a boyfriend." The blonde shrugs. "It's mutually beneficial to our careers."
There's a lull in the conversation as both girls stare into their respective empty glasses. Britney perks up suddenly, a bright smile lighting her face. "More cocktails?"
Cordelia raises her glass. "I'll drink to that."
"When I got the call to do this video, I was about ready to quit. I mean, my career thus far has amounted to cheesy commercials and a walk-on part in a Steven Segal movie." Cordelia sighs. "It's like that line from that Macy Gray song," she continues, then noticing Britney's blank expression, starts to sing the tune. "You know, 'I'm so fucking beautiful, especially when I take my clothes off.' It's like, yeah, I am fucking beautiful. So why can't I get any decent work in this damn town?"
Britney snickers drunkenly.
"Cordy, I'm sorry." Laughs some more. "You can't sing to save yourself."
"Yeah," Cordelia glowers, nudging the other girl under the table with her strappy-sandled foot, "that's why you have the multi-million dollar recording contract and I don't."
The frown edges into a smile before she knocks back the rest of her margarita.
Britney winks at Cordelia. "You are fucking beautiful though."
"And you're hammered."
"C'mon, Cordelia Chase, let's go dancin'."
There's something about the way Britney's looking at her that makes Cordelia's chest tight. Even the knowledge that it's the alcohol talking doesn't stop her feeling a little giddy because she's thinking about being that close to the other girl, their hips moving in rhythm, surging closer.
She blinks to clear the lust-fog in her brain. "We're too drunk. We won't get in anywhere."
Britney sits up straight and fixes Cordelia with an exaggerated diva-bitch glare. Lowers her voice to a sexy, slightly slurred drawl. "Do you know who I am?"
The illusion is shattered when Britney erupts into another fit of giggles, but just for a moment there, Cordelia's stomach turns over itself.
"What about your image? What will people say?" Cordelia's only half joking.
A shrug. "They'll say daaaamn, those girls are fine."
At this they laugh conspiratorially, knowing that every set of eyes - and some patrons with more than their fair share - are on them.
The minute they step into the club - a small place just a couple of blocks away from Caritas - everyone goes bug-eyed. Throngs of girls and boys rush up to Britney, hands reaching out, as if just touching her would make the moment somehow more real. Before they get to touch so much as an immaculate hair on her head, the management hastily ushers the two of them to the VIP area. It's little more than a few comfortable couches at the back of the club, cordoned off by velvet rope, served by its own bar and guarded by two gorillas in black suits and earpieces.
Still, Cordelia hasn't felt this important and glamourous since she was crowned May Queen.
"This is so cool," she practically squeals as Britney pulls her by the hand to sit down.
The blonde just flashes another one of those perfect smiles. "It's a perk I can live with."
A guy, presumably the club owner - some older guy in an expensive suit who looks like he's escaped from the set of Goodfellas - approaches them. "Ms Spears, it's a pleasure to have you here. If there's anything at all I can get you. . ."
Britney glances at Cordelia with an inquiring look. "My girl and I," she pauses to drape one arm over Cordelia's shoulders, "would like a bottle of your best champagne."
They both give their best imperious stare, and as soon as the owner leaves, they giggle loudly.
"I can just picture him rubbing his sweaty little palms together," Cordelia says with a slight shudder that she hopes disguises her shivering. She acutely aware of every point of contact with the other girl's skin and of the heavy bassline that rumbles through the floor to be absorbed by her feet.
She wants to dance because it would at least give her an excuse to work off this nervous energy. Instead she leans further into the blonde and the smile that Britney gives her is both secretive and confiding at the same time.
Cordelia's almost relieved when the sharp-suited club owner returns with a silver tray, two glasses, and the bottle of champagne.
"Enjoy," he says as he pours, his eyes lingering on Cordelia before he departs.
As she leans forward to retrieve her glass, she feels the trail of fingertips down her back, drawing another long shiver out of her. She glances over her shoulder at the other girl but Britney's expression is completely neutral as she sips from her own glass. The fingers remain at the base of her spine, stroking absently.
All of a sudden, Cordelia's starting to feel a little out of her depth.
"Don't you get sick of pretending?" Cordelia asks, finishing off another glass of champagne. The bottle's nearly empty now.
Britney blinks, brown eyes lazy with the effect of alcohol. "What?"
"With Justin. I mean, to get married? That's. . ."
"Insane? I know," Britney sighs. "Sometimes I wish I could just call a time out. Put everything on hold and just catch my breath. But there's always some new girl being touted by the record companies, ready to steal my crown. I can't ever stop."
"So I guess this - " Cordelia gestures towards the club, "doesn't happen very often?"
"Try never. I'm always working. Which is why I appreciate what you've done for me."
As she says this, Britney clutches Cordelia's hand, thumb moving in slow circles over Cordelia's palm.
"I haven't done anything."
Cordelia swallows, aware of the hotness of her cheeks and the gentle scratch of Britney's nail over her palm. She half turns until their knees are barely touching.
"You have. You've let me be myself. Just Brit."
"Well, I have to admit, I'm still a little starstruck."
"So am I." Britney looks up coyly. "I saw that tanning salon commercial. I was flicking through cable last night when I couldn't sleep. You look incredibly fine in a bikini, which really didn't help my insomnia."
Cordelia just smiles and Britney leans forward in one fluid motion, bringing her hand up to the other girl's chin. Kisses her slow and sweet, tugging gently on Cordelia's lower lip. A hand comes to rest on Britney's shoulder, pushing her back a little and the kiss ends.
Dark eyes meet Cordelia's. "Sorry, I thought - "
This time it's Cordelia who leans in for a fleeting kiss, testing the fullness of the other girl's lips. "I want to," she says after a breathless moment.
Britney's hotel suite is everything Cordelia expects it to be. Palatial and obscenely well furnished. But the obvious signs of the presence of a twenty year old girl stand out and make her smile - mainly clothes strewn over various pieces of furniture and shoes discarded haphazardly on the floor. She doesn't have much time to admire the surroundings because pretty soon Britney has her otherwise occupied.
Hard wall behind, athletic curves in front and her hands explore freely as Britney kisses her. She tastes the peach lip gloss of earlier first hand and the cool of saliva, allowing the blonde's tongue to sweep over her own playfully.
It's all soft skin and surprisingly firm muscle underneath and Cordelia wonders what kind of physical regime Britney endures with trainers and choreographers. Wonders if this is what Buffy feels like with her hard strength hidden under the pretty-blonde exterior and tries not think why that sends a jolt through her.
When Cordelia's hands find full breasts, cupping, grazing hardened nipples with the sweep of her thumbs, the blonde moans encouragingly, that single noise making Cordelia's pulse raise a notch or two. She's never done this with a girl before, outside of her thoughts anyway, and she isn't exactly sure what she's doing.
Sensing uncertainty, Britney breaks the kiss and steps back. Her skin is flushed, hair less than perfect now. Somehow, that puts Cordelia more at ease.
"The bed's pretty comfortable. You wanna try it?" Britney says this like she might be inviting Cordelia for a pyjama sleepover complete with Oreos and ghost stories.
"Sure," Cordelia replies, taking the other girl's outstretched hand.
The bed does, indeed, look comfortable and perhaps bigger than any bed Cordelia has ever seen. Britney's laid out on her side, head propped on her hand, watching Cordelia with panda-dark eyes.
The alcohol's beginning to wear off and her feet are sore. Taking off her shoes, she wiggles her toes, which earns a small laugh from the blonde.
Cordelia rocks on her heels, unsure where to put her hands, as she stands under Britney's scrutiny. "Are you sure - "
"Don't believe the publicity," Britney says, sitting up smoothly and crossing her legs on the blanket. "I'm - "
"Not that innocent?" Cordelia deadpans.
Britney just crooks her finger, beckoning, and that's enough to propel Cordelia towards the bed.
A few days later.
The whole gang are hanging out at Cordelia's apartment, unwinding after a particularly gruesome - not to mention messy - confrontation with a nest of Slusnik demons. Three hours of tracking through sewers, decapitations, and much slime. The usual. Projectile goo all over Fred's hair and Cordelia's brand new shoes, was so not a pretty sight. Neither was the bitching that accompanied it. The guys, meanwhile, had escaped unscathed and spotless with their dignity intact. Typical. Afterwards, they'd all descended upon Cordelia's living room at the promise of pizza and Playstation 2.
Angel and Wesley sit comfortably parked on the couch, thumbs furiously battering the control pads in their hands as they play Tekken.
"Ha, take that!" Wesley crows triumphantly, having delivered a particularly brutal combination of special moves.
Angel remains stoic, a flicker of annoyance barely registering on his pale features. "Best of 3, Wesley."
Gunn looks up from the magazine in his lap, disturbing the banter. "Hey, the Britney Spears HBO Special is on in five." Incredulous looks are directed his way. "Yeah, like you don't dig on hot blonde chicks shaking their goodies," he snarks.
Angel clears his throat.
"But she's so fake," Fred pipes up from her place on the arm of Gunn's chair. She wrinkles her nose. "I mean, you only have to look at her chest. I may have spent 5 years in a cave but even I know what a boob job looks like."
Surprised looks turn on Fred now and she shrugs, pushing her glasses up her nose.
Gunn opens his mouth to respond when Cordelia joins them, bringing pizza and plates from the kitchen. Dennis helpfully hands out napkins.
"What were you arguing about?" Cordelia asks, as she takes a seat between Angel and Wesley.
"Nothing," the three men chorus, each diving for a slice of pizza, except Angel who chugs from the mug of blood in front of him.
Fred rolls her eyes. "They're talking about Britney Spears."
Cordelia almost chokes on her first bite of food. "Oh?" she manages to say, in a rather high pitched voice, after she recovers.
Whilst sheepish looks are exchanged around the room, Cordelia reaches for the remote, changing the channel. On screen, the camera pans lovingly from Britney's gleaming smile to her other obvious assets.
There's a full minute's silence as all eyes in the room admire Britney's abs.
It's Wesley who takes it upon himself to ask the question they were all wondering. "Cordelia, as a very well-endow. . . er, as a woman, do you think, well, would you say that Britney's, um, breasts are. . . real?"
Cordelia looks from the TV back to Wesley and says with a firmness borne of knowledge, "They're real. Trust me."