By My Side
SUMMARY: Buffy is arrested for murder; Angel is a PI working on her case. Sparks fly.
Rupert Giles paused for a moment and looked at the plate on the large building. 'Angel Investigations' it said. What a strange name, he thought. But then the whole situation was. When he had married Joyce ten years ago and looked into her daughter's smiling face he'd never thought it would lead him here. He took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
The outer office was bright and sunny with large windows and lots of green plants standing around. All in all it was a very welcoming atmosphere and Giles was relieved. This wasn't what he had expected, a hidden office, dark and strange, he laughed inwardly, he'd certainly watched to many Bogart-movies. Opposite to the door was a large desk where a beautiful young brunette was sitting and chatting to a dark haired man. The way they were looking at each other made it obvious that they were more than collegues.
He shut the door loudly to announce his presence and the both people looked towards him. The woman smiled and stood up: "Mr. Giles," she said. When she saw the puzzled look on his face she grinned: "Cordelia, I am Cordelia, don't you remember?"
"Oh, yes. My god, of course. I am so sorry, I didn't recognize you at first, but you've changed," he told her.
She laughed: "I hope I can take that as a compliment."
"It was meant to be one," he smiled now as well and extended his hand. "It is nice to meet you again." Then he looked at the man.
Cordelia followed his eyes: "Mr. Giles, this is Alan Doyle, he also works here" she made a little pause. "and he is also my husband," she added.
His eyes widened in surprise: "You are married! What a surprise. My congratulations."
"Thank you. We've been married for six months now." She looked at her husband: "Doyle this is Mr. Giles, he was the librarian at our highschool and he is Buffy's step-father."
Doyle frowned: "Buffy? Oh yes, the new case. Nice to meet you Mr. Giles."
The other man nodded to greet him and Cordelia smiled again: "So, from what Xander's told me, Buffy's in trouble."
Giles face became serious: "You can say that," he sighed. "Very serious trouble I fear."
"I see," she took his hand and led him towards another door. "I think you have to tell us the whole story, but for this we should go to Angel's office." She knocked at the door and then went in without waiting for a reply. Doyle followed on thir heels.
At a large wooden desk sat a man who stood up when the three entered. Giles was surprised to see he was quite young, around his late 20ies he guessed. He was tall, with dark haire and broad shoulders. The type woman found attractive, but he had a serious face, not very common in people of his age.
Cordelia introduced them to each other: "Mr. Giles, this is Angel Finnegan, my boss," she grinned for a moment. "Angel, this is Mr. Giles, I have told you about him."
The both men shook hands and Angel pointed to a chair. When everyone had sat down he asked: "Now, Mr. Giles. Cordelia told me that you might need our help," he put his arms on the table and leaned a little bit forward. "Maybe we should just start with you telling me the whole story and then we will see what I can do for your daughter."
Giles nodded: "Yes," he began. "I think this would be the best." He took a deep breath: "First of all you should know that I am not Buffy's real father, although my feelings towards her are alike. Buffy is 22 now and it is no understatement to say that she had a very colourful life, at least in the last six years. Her father died when she was ten and although she seemed fine I think it was much harder on her then anyone noticed. Me and her mother got married only two years later and she had a hard time to accept a new man in her mother's life, but in the end she did and we became quite close. However, around her 15th birthday she had a crush on a young man who was called Dermot Stevens. He was older than her, almost 20, but none of us took that too serious, we all thought it was just a young girl's dream and would pass after a while. But it didn't. On the contrary it became closer and she began to change. She became more aggressive, she would just stay away for a night without telling anyone. She wasn't interested in her old friends anymore and some other things. So I tried to find out about that Dermot-guy and what I heard was anything but promising. He was in a gang and he also had something to do with drugs. We were very concerned about Buffy and tried to talk to her, but she wouldn't listen, her mother was worried sick and so we forbid any further contact."
He let out a short laugh when he saw Angel looking at him doubtfully: "As you've already guessed this was a fault. As a result she grew further apart from us. And one night she just disappeared. First we thought it was just one her usual one-night-stay-away trips, but then we got a card in which she told us, not to look for her and that she was old enough to decide on her own." He shortly closed his eyes, still clearly remembering the desparation he had felt that morning when he'd found the note in the mail-box. "Well, as you can guess we tried to find her. But without any success. As I know today she stayed in contact with one of her friends. Willow. You will probably meet her. She wrote to her and Willow sent letters back, about four our five times a year. But Buffy swore her friend to secrecy otherwise she would not write again, so Willow did not tell anyone."
"I am sure she thought she would loose the contact if she did," Angel threw in. "This way she would at least have been able to contact her in a case of emergency."
Giles smiled slightly: "I know. And I am not angry anymore, although I was, I have to admit that. However. We didn't know where she was and it came almost as a shock, when Willow phoned us three weeks ago and told us that Buffy was missing. This time really missing. She had been living with a friend, called Anna. As Willow told us, Buffy left Dermot when she was eighteen and as he was quite brutal she hid from him with Anna. They were living in LA, you cannot imagine what we felt, when we found out that she had been here for four years. Willow then persuaded Anna to contact us and she told us that Dermot had found Buffy two days before she disappeared. And then three days later Dermot Stevens was found dead and beside him Buffy standing with the gun in her hands."
Angel nodded and looked at Cordelia who was scribling all the time to get the details. Doyle was sitting at her side with a serious face. "I see," the young investigator said. "Where is Buffy now?"
"She is still in prison. They arrested her right where they found her, standing beside her ex-boyfriend. Tomorrow the judge will decide if they set her free until the trial. I have contacted a lawyer who is a friend of mine and he has spoken to my daughter, but she does not talk a lot. Maybe she is still in shock, but personally I think she does not want us to know anything. The only thing she is very clear about is that she did not shoot Dermot. But the police is sure she is guilty."
Angel nodded again: "So you want us to find out who really killed this Stevens-guy, right?"
"Yes," Giles looked at his hands and then back at the young man: "Do you think you can help us? Xander, a friend of Buffys and Cordelias gave me your adress, he talked to Cordelia about it and she ..."
"I know," Angel raised a hand. "And I am willing to help you. But we will need your daughter's cooperation. That means first of all I need to talk to her. Do you think I could see her?"
"Of course, you can talk to her. I am going to see her in jail this afternoon, if you want you can come with me," Giles replied enthusiastically. For the first time he had a positive feeling about this. The young man seemed to know what he was doing.
"Fine. Then please leave the adress where we are going to meet with Cordelia. What time?"
"Good. So we see each other at four." Angel stood up and the others did the same. "Mr. Giles. We will do what we can to help your daughter and if she is really innocent, we will do all we can to prove it."
Buffy looked up when the officer opened her cell. She'd been to prison for about two weeks now and she knew the people who came and brought her to the visitor's or the interrogation room by now. This time it was officer Quinlan, a large black woman with a friendly smile that was now on her face as well: "Hi Buffy, you've got visitors. Your dad."
The girl nodded, stood up and extended her hands to allow officer Quinlan to use the handcuffs on her. Then she left her cell and walked beside her the short distance to the visitor's room.
Buffy was scared, she could not remember ever having been that scared in her whole life. Her life had not been a fairy tale for a long while now but ever since she'd found herself kneeling beside Dermot lying there in his own blood, the gun in her hand, her life had become a nightmare, only that this was real life. She had wished him dead, more than once but never thought it would really happen.
And now she was sitting in jail accused for murder. She felt as if she was trapped and there was no way out. And then seeing her friends and her parents, all of them with so much disappointment in their eyes. They all said they believed her, but did they really? Or would they think her capable of killing someone? Willow didn't, Buffy knew that, but deep inside she had the feeling she was the only one. And she could not blame them, she'd been away for six years, they didn't know her anymore. The ironic part of this was that she didn't know herself either. Somewhere in the last years she'd lost herself and she was wondering if she would find the real Buffy again. Maybe she was lost forever.
Officer Quinlan opened the door and uncuffed the girl's hands, then she nodded and Buffy knew she was meant to go into the room, as soon she'd entered it, the officer closed the door from the outside.
Buffy looked up to face Giles and was surprised to see he was not alone. With him was another man with a serious but gentle face, dressed in jeans and a black shirt. She admitted to herself that she'd never seen someone that handsome. Inwardly she groaned because she was aware of her blue jail-cloathing, not very sexy, she thought. Where the hell did that come from? Why was she caring for her appearance all of a sudden? She had sworn to herself that she was through with men.
Giles smiled and crossed the room: "Buffy," he greeted her. "How are you?"
"Fine," she replied, swallowing hardly and returning the embrace of her step-father.
"I am glad," he said and gestured towards the other man: "Buffy I want to introduce you to Mr. Finnegan, he is a private investigator who wants to help you. Mr. Finnegan, this is my daughter, Buffy Summers."
The young man stepped forward and extended his hand. The moment she was shaking it a pang of electricity went through her whole body and she stared at him for a short moment. "Mr. Finnegan," she greeted him, glad that her voice was working properly.
He looked at her for a moment, she was a beautiful girl, with her blonde hair and her hazel eyes. But there was a sadness in them, it nearly broke his heart. What must she have experienced in her young life to bear so many scars on her soul. "Miss Summers," he smiled. He had a nice voice, she thought. "It's nice to meet you, and please call me Angel."
She raised her eyebrows: "Angel? It's an interesting name."
His smile grew even wider: "And that is one of the nicest comments. Usually people laugh or try to stay dead serious," he joked.
"Well," she coughed slightly. "It is certainly uncommon, but Buffy isn't very much used either." She chuckled slightly: "So you are a private investigator?"
"I am, and I am here to help you." When he saw her hestiation he quickly added: "If you want."
She gazed to the ground and then towards Giles: "I ... I am not sure if you can," she said, her voice sounding like the one of a little girl. "They are so sure I am guilty." Suddenly there were tears in her eyes and she immediately wiped them away. "I am sorry, I am usually not the whining type."
"Buffy, that's okay," Giles approached her and tried to take in his arms but she backed away, raising a hand. He gave Angel a desperate look and then said: "Everyone would be scared in such a situation. You do not have to be strong."
Angel realised that she was very uncomfortable around her step-father. He didn't know exactly but he guessed it was because of the guilt she felt towards him. He had seen girls in similar situtations and it was difficult for both parts, although he had to admit that her case was a bit more serious. Usually he would only search for run-aways, find them and bring them back home. Usually they weren't in jail accused for murder. And there was something else that added a problem to this case.
He liked the girl, he liked her already more than he wanted, as a matter of fact he felt terribly attracted to her and that was bad. Especially because he'd only seen her for some minutes. And he knew he should've rejected the case the second he had touched her hand and felt the electricity throughout his whole body, but he couldn't. He knew he would do anything to help her and proove her being innocent, which he was sure she was now.
"Miss Summers, I can imagine you have a hard time in here," he began changing the subject. "As your step-father told me you will see a judge tomorrow."
She nodded and smiled at him gratefully: "Yes. And maybe they let me off on bail until the trial. I hope so. It is horrible in here. They watch you all the time, you don't have a moment of privacy. And please would you call me Buffy, Miss Summers makes me feel old."
He smiled back: "I know." When he saw look he added: "I have been here before. Well not in here *here*, but in jail. So are you alright with me helping you?"
She trusted him, she knew him five minutes and trusted him, she couldn't believe it, something like that had never happened before and she felt herself nod: "Yes." Then she let out a short laugh: "I think it can't get any worse, can it?" And she had been so sure she'd never trust a human being again, espcially one of the male species.
Angel shrugged: "You never know. No, but honestly, it is a serious situation, I do not have to tell you that, I guess. But I promise to do my best to help you. Another question, where will you live when they let you go? I mean, I have to contact you."
"Oh. Sure. Well I suppose I will go back to stay with Anna. She is a friend of mine. We share an appartment. I can give you the adress and number if you've got something to write on?"
He nodded and reached in his pocket for paper and pen and was about to write it down when Giles' voice interrupted them: "Why don't you come and stay at home with Joyce and me?"
There was that uncomfortable look on her face again, Angel noticed. "Giles ... uhm ... well, I think. I have lived there for some years now and ... well, I just think we should try to get better known to each other again, before we ... well, rush into things. Okay?" Her voice was pleading for understanding.
But Giles was not able to hide the hurt when he replied: "Sure, if you prefer that. I ... we understand."
She shortly closed her eyes. The last thing she wanted was to cause her parents more pain, but she knew she couldn't just go back as if nothing had happened and she also knew she couldn't face the questions and talks the whole day. She could not deal with this right now. "I am sorry," she laid a hand on Giles' arm. "It's not that I don't want to be with you, but not right now. Okay?" The idea of her mother's eyes resting on her, following her the whole day made her quiver.
He nodded, but his eyes could not betray his real feelings, he felt hurt. Buffy felt the tears in her eyes and she quickly looked away and concentrated on giving Angel her adress and phone-number, while he gave her one of his business cards. When she took it from him, their finger-tips touched and again she felt a shiver running through her whole being.
"Look," he said, gazing at her. "If I am going to help you, we have to talk, you have to tell me what happend. But maybe we do that tomorrow. I could come to the court and take you home if you want," he offered.
"If I am released," she replied.
He smiled at her assuringly: "I am sure. So what do you think."
"It's a deal," she said.
Cordelia was surprised to see Angel coming through the door of the office about an hour later, but she was dying to hear news and so she was glad. Without greeting him she said: "Now, what do you think?"
He looked up, his eyes seemed far away: "What?"
"Buffy of course," her voice was sounding a little bit annoyed.
"Oh Buffy," he suddenly smiled. "She is nice. Very nice."
She rolled her eyes: "Well, that is interesting. But the case. Are we in?"
He nodded: "We are," he answered and disappeared in his office.
"Great," she exclaimed. "That means money's coming in. And we help an old friend, well sorta."
But Angel didn't hear her, he was already sitting in his chair only thinking about her face and her smile. He groaned inwardly, what the hell was he getting into? He had sworn himself never ever to get attached that way to a client again. After the horrible experience with Sarah ... no, he could not think about that. He would never get over his guilt, he would never forget her face, he was constantly dreaming about her. But drowning in this guilt made him brood and not able to act. And this wasn't the time for either of it.
He and Cordelia had searched the net and some of the police files about Dermot Stevens before Angel went to see Buffy. What they'd found was not good. The man was obviously deep into drugs, dealing with them. And he was in the company of other not less dangerous men.
This was going to be a difficult case, in more then one way.
"Hey," Buffy greeted Angel the next day, when he waited for her in front of the jail. As they had hoped the judge had set her free on bail just two hours ago. She was relieved to see only Angel in the court and none of her friends or her parents. She was just not ready to deal with them. It had been difficult in jail, but now that she was free there were no restricted visiting times, nothing that could protect her from their questions or their eyes.
Her lawyer, Mr. Whyte, had provided the money for her release which without any doubt came from Giles. Another thing that would add to her guilt and one more reason to keep them away from her as far as possible.
Angel smiled at her: "You look different," he stated.
"I bet," she grinned now. "It's quite a change to wear my own clothes again."
He just raised his eyebrows but didn't comment her words. There weren't really clothes, he thought. She was wearing a micro-mini skirt, and a tiny tank-top, which did cover up almost nothing. Buffy saw his look: "I am sorry if you don't approve of my choice of clothing." Her voice was sounding angry, but mostly because she didn't feel well in them herself. What changed, she asked herself. Only two weeks ago she thought them perfectly fine, they suited the cause. Why would she care if this ... this ... guy liked them or not? Why would she care about a guy at all?
He raised a hand in defense: "Hey, I didn't say anything. It is hardly my place to critizise you. I am only here to help you, we're not friends or something."
"Exactly," she snapped, but could not help to feel a pang of disappointment at his words. Hell, what is the matter with you, why are you interested in the things that guy is saying to you. She watched him in silence while they were walking over to his car. He was moving with the grace of a big cat. His body was obviously well trained because she could see the muscles under his trousers, although he seemed to like clothes that were hanging loose on him. How might his chest look, she wondered. Bad, Buffy, bad thoughts. Stop it. When they reached the car, he opened the door for her and slipped on the passenger's seat, while he closed the door again and jumped in on the other side. It was a BMW convertible.
"Nice car. You seem to run your business well," she commented.
"Thanks. And yeah, we manage to help some people," was his short reply.
She sighed, not liking the sudden tension: "Look, I am sorry I snapped at you. It's just, I am a little bit cranky."
He smiled while starting the ignition: "That's okay. I am sure, prison wasn't exactly a holiday camp."
"No," she shook her head. "You can say that. Lots of weird people in there and it means something if I say that, because I've met lots of weird people throughout the last years."
"How did you meet Dermot?" When he saw her astonished look, he added: "I am sorry, if I have to ask you that, but if I am going to help you I have to know some things. Your father already told me your story, you should know that. But I'd like to hear it from you. Parents usually see things a little bit different." He gave her a half-smile and she again felt she was able to trust him. He seemed to know what he was talking about.
"I was sixteen, well almost," she began. "He was the guy all girls wanted to date. You know, good looking, cool, all the other guys were afraid of him and I was fascinated. I couldn't sleep, I couln't study, I could only think about him. My grades were going down and I changed. Giles tried some heart-to-heart with me, but I was too obsessed with Dermot to listen to him." She paused for a moment and searched her purse for a cigarette. Lighting it she continued: "He was in a gang, they were called 'the sharks'," she gave Angel a look and grinned. "Pretty lame name, don't you think? But I thought he was so cool. First he was a nice guy, he was caring and he was treating me like something precious, when we ... I mean he was my first ... you know," she paused again and blushed a little bit.
Angel smiled inwardly, she didn't seem like a girl who'd blush by the mention of sex, but he'd learned long ago that looks could be deceiving. She obviously was more innocent than she would allow the world to know.
She coughed slightly: "However. I was so addicted to him, that I went with him when his gang left town. I left my parents without a note. Some days later I sent them a card, I just couldn't let them think I was hurt or something. I sort of lived with Dermot for about two years. He seemed quite successful in whatever he was doing and I didn't care where the money we were living of did come from. But obviously his luck ran out, because there wasn't anymore money and he changed, he became angry, he began to drink and one night he hit me." She heard Angel drawing in a sharp breath and nodded: "I know what you're thinking now. I should have left him at once, but I didn't. I was only eighteen, had left my home and nowhere to go. So I stayed and he promised never to do that again. It was okay for two weeks and then he broke his promise. After that he tried to force me to, well, to work for him, to earn some money." She paused. "As a hooker. When I refused to do it, he hit me again and worse." She felt tears welling in her eyes, but tried to keep them from falling. "When he fell asleep, after that, I took all my things and left. I stole the rest of his money and went to a cheap motel and stayed there for a while." The first tears were falling now and she was surprised to feel a large hand taking her small one.
"You do not have to tell me every detail," he said softly. "If it's too hard, I understand."
"No," she replied almost frantically. "It's good to talk to someone about that. I don't know what's about you, but somehow I trust you and you are easy to talk to."
He smiled: "I am glad. I hope I'll always prove worthy of your trust."
She gave him an astonished look, his words had been so honest and they made her feel save and protected, a feeling she almost forgot about. But could she really trust him, all the guys she'd met so far had disappointed her sooner or later. Why on earth would this one be different. She didn't know, but somehow she just felt it: "As I said, I stayed at the motel," she continued with her story. "But then I heard Dermot was searching for me and I left town, we were in San Francisco at that time, and came back to LA. Obviously he never expected it, because he didn't find me until... But I think I just tell you the things as they happened. Shortly after I arrived in LA I met Anna, we both worked at a diner. Somehow we liked each other and as neither of us had the money for her own apartment we moved in together and became close friends." She flipped her cigarette out of the car.
Angel raised an eyebrow: "This isn't good for you," he stated, nodding towards her hand which had held the smoke.
She shrugged: "So sue me. I'm not smoking as much as I used to do anymore, but I sometimes need it when I get nervous."
"There is no need to get nervous. I promise, I am not going to judge you."
"I know," she replied and laughed shortly: "I don't know you at all and I just said 'I know'. Does this often happen to you. That people trust you, I mean. Is that the reason for this car?"
He laughed also: "I don't know. But hopefully I can do more than just listen to people. Helping them for example." He was serious again. "So please, continue."
"Well, yes. Anna was only working at the diner for a short period, then whe went back on the street. She is a hooker, you know."
"I see. And you?"
"I am no hooker," she replied quickly. When she saw him smile she cursed herself, why did I have to sound as if it was important for me what he thinks. Damn. "It would have been much easier if I could have been," she told him. "But I just didn't. I couldn't. Well, I kept working at the diner and scratch the money for my living. I had some boyfriends at that time, but nothing serious. Just someone to spend some time with and honestly they were all loosers," she shrugged. "But I didn't really care, because my heart wasn't in it. After Dermot, well I was cured from that so called 'love', it is nothing but trouble."
He gave her a concerned glance but didn't say anything.
"Then some weeks ago Dermot found me. I never understood why he searched for me, but he was very brutal when he finally got me and he was about to, well," she paused and swallowed, "when Anna came into our apartment with a gun. He left threatening me." She felt a shiver running through her body and entwined her hands.
"And then he kidnapped you?"
"One of his boys knocked me unconscious on my way home one evening. When I woke up I was tied to a bed. But somehow he wasn't interested in me for a while, something seemed to go on. There were people coming and going in his apartment, I only understood parts of their conversations. But as I didn't plan to stay and wait for what he'd in mind for me, I tried to get off my ties." She swallowed hard all of a sudden and Angel saw the colour draining from her face: "And then I don't know what happened. The next time I woke up he was lying there, dead and I was holding the gun the police stormed the place. I cannot remember and it drives me crazy. The only thing I know is that I didn't kill him. Because if I did, I am sure I would remember." She looked very scared by now.
He reached over and squeezed her hands: "It's okay. Don't try to push it. I am sure it was something severely traumatic and our mind sometimes pushes those things away to deal with them when the time's right."
She gave him a grateful smile: "Thanks. Oh look, there is my house." She pointed to a large apartment building and Angel pulled his car in front of it.
When she saw him getting out of the car as well, she said: "You don't have to come."
"But I will." He grinned: "I always escort the ladies to their door."
She grinned back and pulled out her key to open the house. "It's on the third floor," she explained and entered the elevator. Suddenly she was almost painfully aware of his presence so near by. It had been different in the car with the top open and all, although her body had reacted to him all the time. But now in the confined space of the elevator she had to remember herself to breathe properly and she was glad when it stopped, the door opened and she could bring some distance between them. She'd never reacted to a man like that before, not even to Dermot. She laughed inwardly, of course she hadn't, looking back on that time she knew he'd been nothing more than a severe crush of a lovestruck teenager.
So in order to escape from Angel for a while she almost ran to her apartment door, but she stopped abruptly when it was not closed properly.
Angel saw her hesitation and looked at her: "What's the matter?"
"It's open," she replied, looking afraid all of a sudden.
He reached into his jacked and produced a gun: "You stay here," he told her pushing the door open slowly and stepping into the apartment. He gasped slightly when he saw the place. Everyting was crashed as if someone had been looking for something. Then suddenly his breath stopped when he saw the body of a girl laying on the floor. Checking her pulse at once he realised she was dead.
When he heard Buffy enter the apartment he quickly got up again and stopped her: "No, don't go near," he told her gently. He locked eyes with her: "How does Anna look like?"
"Why?," she asked confused. "Well, she's about my size, but with long black hair and a bit more weight. Please tell me what this is all about."
"Buffy, I am sorry, but I think she's dead."
He felt her beginning to tremble and her eyes went wide: "What?," she whispered.
"A girl matching your description is lying dead in the next room," he said.
Her hand flew to her mouth: "Oh god." She tried to pull away from him: "I want to see her."
But he wouldn't let her go: "No, don't do that. She doesn't look ...", he couldn't finish the sentence as she had managed to get away from him and was running to the other room. He followed her immediately and almost fell over her, because she was standing right in the doorway, her whole body shivering.
"Oh god, Anna," her voice was barely a whisper. Her legs were weak all of a sudden and she felt herself in his arms that were holding her tightly to his body.
"I am so sorry," his voice was gentle and caring. "You shouldn't have come to see her."
"I am okay," she whispered. "Who did this to her?"
"Maybe people who were looking for something, I am not sure. I have to call the police and we have to wait for them," he told her not loosening his hold on her.
"I understand," she replied, burrying her head in his chest. Anna was dead, her best friend was dead and someone had murdered her. What was she going to do now?
Buffy found herself in Angel's car again after the police had allowed them to leave and he had insisted on her not staying there for the night. He looked at her concerned, her face was deadly pale and her hands were tightly entwined, her knuckles white and he could see her knees were trembling.
"Maybe I should call someone. Your parents perhaps," he suggested, trying to sound as gentle as possible.
"NO," she almost yelled. "I cannot see them. I ... maybe I could go to a hotel," her face was directed to her lap.
"I don't like that," he replied. "Whoever did this was looking for something and I am not sure they found it. It's more than possible that they are looking for you too. You were safe in jail, but I don't want you to stay anywhere alone."
She managed to look up and was touched by the honest concern in his face: "But I don't know anyone else. Well, I do, but not that good. And if they really look for me. I would endager the people I am staying with."
"Then why aren't you staying with me?," he heard himself ask. Was I really saying this? Angel what the hell do you get yourself into.
"With you?," she seemed astonished. "But I don't want to intrude your privacy. Your girlfriend might not be happy about it." Where did that come from? Why should I care if he's a girlfriend or not! I am not interested in him.
He smiled: "I do not have a girlfriend or anyone who is staying with me for that matter. So do you want?" He doesn't have a girlfriend! She couldn't stop her soul from making a mental jump. God, stop that Buffy, stop that now!
"Alright," she answered almost automatically. No, no, no, her head was crying out, you will only get yourself in trouble.
He started his car again and they drove the short way to his apartment in silence.
He opened the door to his flat, switched the lights on and put her bag on the floor, then he looked at her: "Can I get you something? You must be hungry."
"No, I am not," she replied and suddenly her body began to shake with sobs. In her mind she saw pictures of Anna laughing brightly, both of them watching television, going into the park, talking about their problems and then finally she saw her body lying lifeless on the floor of her bedroom. All colour drained from her friend's beautiful face, her sparkling eyes closed.
Angel was at her side in an instant and took her in his arms."Shhh, it's okay," he whispered. "I am so sorry you had to see that. Nobody should see a person he loves like that."
"I-I-I, she w-was my b-best friend," she said between sobs. "She was s-so k-k-kind and ... good, who c-c-could do that to her."
He stroked her back and held her for a while and then after some minutes she pulled back: "I am sorry. You must think I am a hysterical girl or something."
He shook his head: "No, I would never think that. Your reaction is only too understandable. When I saw the first dead body I couldn't sleep for a whole week and it was nobody I knew."
"Really," she looked at him disbelievingly.
"Really," he said, smiling at her, then he took her arm and led her to his sofa. "You just sit down for a moment and I get you some tea."
With that he disappeared through a door into what Buffy thought the kitchen. She looked around in his living-room. The interior was classical, there were some paintings on the walls and one or two statues. A large leather sofa and two fitting chairs were standing in the middle with a small glass-table in front of them. Two walls were covered with bookshelves and Buffy grinned inwardly, he didn't look like a scholar. She'd always pictured someone like her step-father in this department. All in all the room felt warm and comfortable and she felt herself leaning back on the sofa and relax.
She almost fell asleep and was startled when he appeared again carrying a tray with tea and two sandwitches. "Here we go," he said smiling. "You just eat and drink some tea and then you'll feel a bit better."
"I am really not hungry," she tried to protest.
"You will eat," he said firmly. "You're already skin and bone."
She raised her eyebrows: "Thanks, the best compliment I got so far."
He sighed: "I didn't mean it that way. Actually I think you look great, I mean...," he began to stutter and blushed in embarrassment. Buffy had to smile, it was a new side, she'd never thought he would blush at all. He took a deep breath: "You know what I mean. So eat." He took one plate with the sandwitches and handed it to her. Then he poured her a cup of tea and placed it on the table in front of her.
"I like your apartment," she told him, biting in her bread.
"Thanks. I like it too."
"How long do you have it?"
"I've been living in here for four years now. I only got it because one of Cordelia's friends moved out over night," he explained.
"It's strange for me to picture high-mighty Cordy working for a private investigator or working at all for that matter," she said, grinning slightly.
"She must have been quite a number in highschool, I guess," he joked. "I met one of her friends one day, Harmony, and I didn't like her at all."
Buffy rolled her eyes: "Harmony was a snob. We didn't get along. Cordy was very interested in Dermot at one point."
He only nodded and drank from his tea. "But she's changed, Cordelia I mean. I don't know if you know but her parents lost all their money at one point. When I met her she was lonely and hungry in LA. Actually I met her during one of my first cases. After that I couldn't get rid of her, she insisted I needed a secretary and kind of employed herself."
She laughed: "That sounds like Cordy."
"And then she met Doyle. He's my partner, a nice Irish guy. They are married."
Now her eyes almost bulged out of her face: "Cordelia Chase is married to a PI? Wow, that's some news. Willow never told me that. I would have guessed she wouldn't do it under a millionaire."
He laughed, she felt a tingely feeling run down her spine, it was a warm and comforting sound. "Well, I don't know," he said. "But they are very much in love, although it wasn't that way from the beginning. It was more of a consistent bickering which changed into teasing eventually."
"It will be interesting to see her again. Actually Cordy is the only one I am not dreading to see," she admitted, biting again from her sandwich. It tasted good and she just realised how hungry she was.
"It's hard, I know." When he saw her doubtful gaze he explained: "You're not the first case like that for me. I mean a runaway-girl returning home. Although you're the first with all the attachments."
"Nice description," she replied, taking the warm cup in her hands and leaning back on the sofa. Her eyes half-closed she said: "It's hard to see their eyes resting on me. They are so disappointed, well Willow isn't, but I wrote her the whole time. I just needed a little connection with home. But my parents are, especially Giles," she sighed. "We have a special connection. He's more of a father as my real one ever was. Maybe because he is my step-father he tried to do everything to make me feel accepted and loved. When I left, I was not really myself, I was way to young and stupid to realise how I was hurting them."
"Don't torture you. Of course they are hurt, but they'll come around. I don't know the others, but Mr. Giles really loves you." He leaned forward with his ellbows on his knees.
"They lost their trust in me," she poured herself some more tea and leaned back again. "Maybe that's also the reason they do not know what to think about Dermot. If I am guilty or not, I mean. But I didn't do it. I mean, I can't really remember, but I just know I didn't kill him." Her voice sounded desperate and frightened at the same time.
Angel looked at her. She was like a scared little child now. Her eyes were closed and he saw her hands on the cup slightly trembling. All he wanted to do was reach out and take her in his arms to make her feel better. But as this was out of the question he simply said: "I know."
Her eyes snapped open and she stared at him: "What did you just say?"
He smiled slightly: "I said, I know."
"I just know. You could never kill someone. You're not the type," he shrugged. "I've met lots of people through the job, it gives you some sort of a feeling for them. And you're just not the type."
She was silent for a moment, then she looked at him: "Thank you, this means more to me than you can imagine. I know you really mean it."
He nodded, his face serious: "I do. I would never lie to you." He gazed to the floor for a moment, then he raised his head again: "Do you want to call anyone? Your parents maybe." When he saw her frightened face, he said: "The murder might be in the papers tomorrow."
"Oh," she had never thought about that. "I-I.."
"Do you want me to make the call," he offered sensing her fear.
She smiled relieved: "Would you do that? They will just ask questions again, and.."
"It's okay," he smiled back and took the phone. "Mr. Giles ... it's Angel Finnegan ... yeah, she is fine. ... But there is something I have to tell you, Anna, Buffy's friend was murdered today ... calm down, she's fine. No ... no, she was not there when it happened ... we ... Mr. Giles, please," he rolled his eyes and gave Buffy an appologetic look. She only smiled at him, she could imagine how her step-father was panicking on the other end of the line. "Mr. Giles, I was with her ... we found the body. ... She's with me at the moment. ... Yes, in my apartment. ... I am sorry, but ... no, you can't ... because she's already asleep." He took a deep breath to stay calm. "I have her call you, I promise. First thing in the morning. Alright. Good night."
He put the phone down and turned back to Buffy, who was grinning. "What?," he asked.
"You just told me you'd never lie."
He grinned back: "No, I said I'd never lie to you. And that wasn't really a lie, he just... He was angry that you wouldn't go home to your parents and prefered to stay with me instead. I didn't want you to talk to him now. I hope you are not angry with me."
"Angry, oh god, Angel, no." She leaned forward and took his hand, but let go again, when she felt another pang of electricity running through her body. "Actually I am glad you did it," she said gazing to the floor desperately trying to hide the feelings that little touch had awoken in her. When she was certain she had herself under control, she looked up again. His face was neutral and wore that professional smile, she'd seen before.
He cleared his throat: "Well, maybe I should show you your room then. You must be tired."
"Yeah," she replied, not feeling tired at all.
He stood up and went to a door opposite to the one which led into the kitchen. He switched the light on and Buffy saw a room with a French bed and furniture that looked as if a girl had chosen it. She looked surprised: "You said you didn't have a girlfriend?"
For a moment he didn't get her, but then he understood: "Oh, I see," he laughed. "No, my sister usually stays here when she's is in LA. Or she did, she's living in New York now. She's younger than I and she choose the furniture at a time when she was visiting quite frequently. But she's married now and they're expecting their first child, so I doubt I'll see her in LA anytime soon."
"When is the baby due?"
"Three months. I will probably see her when the child is baptised. She wants me to be a god-father," he rolled his eyes.
She laughed: "That's a great honour."
"I know," he replied. "It's just... I have no idea how to act around a child."
Buffy grinned, but in her head she saw an image of Angel and a child on his arms, it was perfect: "Don't you plan to have your own sometime," she asked.
He shrugged: "I don't know. Maybe, if I meet the right girl. But certainly not at the moment," he told her. "My kind of business isn't the sort where you keep a wife and children safe. I meet too many strange people."
"Like me?," she asked jokingly, but he heard the pain in her voice.
He layed a hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes: "No, you're not strange, Buffy. You just had a hard time." He quickly removed his hand as if he was touching fire. "You should sleep now. The bathroom is over there," he pointed to another door. Then he turned, but came back immediately with her bag: "There," he said, putting the bag on the floor in her room. "Sleep tight."
"You too," she replied. "And again thank you."
When she closed the door, he stood there for some more minutes. Oh god, he thought again. What am I getting into! He'd never felt something like that before, he'd fallen head over heals for her - in two days, actually less. This is madness, Angel, pure madness, he told himself. It happened so quickly he couldn't do anything against it. These beautiful hazel eyes, her smile and the way she would close her eyes ... god, I am in love with her, he thought. He was surprised he had been able to act so casual around her. It was the only way, she was a client and he was hired to help her. Keep it professional, he told himself. This girl doesn't need romantical involvement, at least not right now.
He looked at his hand she'd touched just before and prayed he would be that strong.
When Buffy opened her eyes the next morning she was confused to find herself in an unfamiliar room. Wiping the sleep from her eyes she set up and stretched her arms. Looking around she rememberd, she was in Angel's apartment, in his spare room, where his sister usually stayed. His sister ... not his girlfriend. God, Buffy, you are barely awake and your mind is travelling to dangerous ground already. But it was difficult not to think about him while staying in his apartment with the real man only some steps away. I wonder what he wears while sleeping - bad thoughts, she scolded herself mentally. Stop it!
But she couldn't lie to herself, she was interested in him, she'd never reacted to a man like this before. Her body was on fire at his touch and her soul was crying out for him. And this scared her, because she felt vulnerable. Her soul had already gotten so many scars she was not sure it would be able to take more, especially in this case.
She snapped back into consciousness by a knock on her door and a voice, his voice calling: "Buffy, are you awake?"
"Yes, you can come in if you want," she informed him.
The door opened and Angel stepped in. Buffy could not help but feel a bit of disappointment when she saw him fully dressed: "Morning," he greeted giving her a smile. "I wonder if you'd care for some breakfast?"
"Good Morning to you too. Breakfast? That would be great," she replied smiling back. "I just would like to take a shower and get dressed."
"You do that," he nodded and was about to turn when he remembered something: "Don't forget to call your parents."
She made a face, but then sighed: "I'll do it, but after I've had some coffee."
"Fine. See you soon." With that he closed the door again.
Returning back to the kitchen Angel tried to get his concentration back to bacon and eggs and away from the image of her rumpled form in his sister's bed. She'd looked so adorable in her pyjamas, the touseled hair and the eyes half-closed. Waking up beside her had to be like heaven.
He shook his head and put some slices of bacon into a pan. He smiled when he heard the shower running, then another mental picture hit him and he abruptly turned towards the coffee machine to get himself busy.
The shower was still running when the phone rang. Turning down the heat, so the bacon would not be burned he headed to answer it.
"Mr. Finnegan?", a male voice said on the other end.
"Yes? Who is it?"
"So she's got herself a PI, that little bitch."
Angel became annoyed and asked: "Who the hell are you?"
"Nobody you know. Tell the bitch we know she's got the stuff. And she can't hide from us forever. So she'll better make sure we get it soon. It's ours."
"What are you talking about?," he wanted to know.
"Ask her, she knows. Tell her, Lex isn't one to be fooled. She was lucky yesterday," he laughed shortly. "Luckier than her friend. Well, tell her if she doesn't want to end like that little whole, she'll better not keep others property."
Angel took a deep breath: "Lex, right? Well, you better keep your hands off her, do you understand me. Or you might get trouble you're not ready to handle."
The other man laughed again: "Oh, I am so afraid. Boy, you have no idea what you are dealing with. You might be tough, I've heard about you, but this is out of your league. I will call again." With this the connection was cut.
Who was this guy. What did he mean that Buffy had something? What would she have? Drugs? Money? He was still staring at the phone when his guest emerged from the bathroom, now dressed in jeans and a blue t-shirt. Seeing him she stopped:
"Angel?" When he didn't react, she said a little bit louder: "Angel? Are you okay?"
His head snapped up: "What? Yeah, of course." He gave her a half-smile.
He shook his head: "No. Well. Buffy do you know someone called Lex."
All colour left her face, and she began to shake so hard that she had to lean back to the wall to keep herself steady. "L-Lex?," her voice was a trembling whisper.
"Yes," he replied stepping closer. "Do you know him?"
Very slowly she nodded, her breath was rapid: "He is ... was Dermot's best friend. He is a ... bastard. What about him?"
"He was on the phone or I assume it was him. He said that name but it was not conclusive if he meant himself by it or not."
"Oh god," she breathed. "How can he know where I am?"
"I don't know." Angel stepped closer and took her hand to lead her to the couch. She was so pale, that he was afraid she'd faint any minute. When she was sitting, he kneeled himself in front of her: "He thinks you have something that belongs to him. Do you have any idea what he is talking about."
Her eyes widened: "What? No, I have nothing," she tried to assure him. Then suddenly a thought hit her and she almost forgot to breathe when she whispered: "They were in the apartment, right?"
"I am afraid, you are right. He," he reached out and took both of her hands in his: "He mentioned Anna."
"Oh god, no, no," she shook her head frantically. "They killed her because of me, oh god, please no." Her voice was almost inaudible and tears were streaming down her face. Angel could not take it anymore. He reached out and slowly carefully pulled her in his arms, pressing her trembling body closely to his, while he tried to comfort her by stroking her back. "Shhh, it is okay. Buffy, it is not your fault." He pulled slightly back, cupped her face in his hands and looked deeply into her eyes: "Did you hear me. It is not your fault. *They* went into your apartment and killed her."
"But they would have never gone there if it wasn't for me," she replied with a desperate voice.
"Buffy," he said, wiping away her tears with his thumb. "You did nothing. It is not your fault that Dermot was obsessed with you. When you followed him you were a teenager and it tells enough about him that he had no scrouples to drag a young girl like you into his dirty business. Do you understand. They killed Anna, not you. It is not your fault."
She nodded hesitantly. Then suddenly she reached out to touch his cheek. She smiled: "Thank you. How do you know to say the right thing all the time?"
He shrugged and grinned slightly: "Training. Are you better now?"
She was suddenly very aware of their position and the fact he was still holding her in his arms. The already well known feeling entered her body again and breathing became difficult all of a sudden: "Yeah, better," she whispered, looking deeply in his eyes.
Angel felt it as well. As a matter of fact he had felt it the whole time, this had been the reason why he had been so reluctant to take her in his arms, knowing how dangerous this could be. The moment she locked eyes with him he knew he was lost. Lost in her eyes and her mouth so near to his. Very slowly he leaned forward.
He's going to kiss me, Buffy thought. He is going to kiss me, her mind repeated again and again, while her eyes were now fixated on his mouth. Unconsciously her mouth opened slightly and she closed her eyes ...
Then the phone rang.
Both snapped out of their trance-like state. Angel looked to the ground, then back into her face and smiled sheepishly. Giving her an appologizing look he stood up and went to aswer the call. Buffy sat on the couch and tried to catch her breath, her heart was pounding in her chest and she could feel the blood rushing through her veins.
"Hello?", he said, trying not to show that he was breathless. "Mr. Giles ... good morning. Yes, she is still here." Angel turned and looked at Buffy, who was shaking her head frantically. He raised his eyebrows. "Sorry, what did you say ... sorry, Mr. Giles. She's in the shower right now. Yes, I told her. ... Mr. Giles, your daughter is a grown up woman. I can not force her to call you. She's not underaged anymore. ... I am sorry if you think that. Alright, see you later."
He took a deep breath and put the phone down. Without looking at Buffy he went into the kitchen. He could hear her following him and so he was not surprised to hear her voice: "What did he say?"
"Your step-father is very protective," he replied keeping his eyes on the bacon, which was ready now. He turned his head slighly: "I hope you do like bacon and eggs."
"It's fine with me," she assured him. "So what did he say?", she repeated her question.
"He was angry, that you didn't call him," he informed her. "He thinks I didn't tell you."
"I am sorry," she said softly. "I didn't want you to get in trouble because of me."
He shrugged: "I am fine. He's just concerned about you and I can understand him." I can understand him very well, he thought. "And I am sure it is even worse because you were away for such a long time. But he has to accept that you are an adult, which means you make your own decisions. Although I think it will be harder on them. Last time they saw you, you were a teenager, now you are a grown up woman. And more, someone who has taken care of her own life for a long time."
"What do you mean?," she frowned.
"I mean, that you are used to lead your own life, independent-like. And now they come with their questions and needs and that scares you."
She smiled: "Thank you."
He gave her an astonished look: "For what?"
"For taking me serious. For understanding me."
"I can assure you, I am taking you very serious." More serious than I wish I did, he added mentally. "But you have to talk to him nevertheless. You cannot ignore him. It would hurt him immensly."
She sighed: "I know. But please after breakfast. Okay?"
"Okay," he smiled. "So could you please take the coffee pot, then I will take the rest."
"Of course," she smiled back. She went over, took the coffee and left for the small dining area of his living room.
Angel let out a long breath. He was almost grateful for Mr. Giles' call. Who knows what would have happened. No that is a lie, he already knew that, they would have kissed and maybe more. His need for her was growing every minute. Stay cool, oh god, stay cool, he told himself. He took the loaded tray and followed her, at least there was a table between them for the breakfast.
Buffy drank the last drop of her coffee when the door bell rang. Angel gave her a look, then he smiled and rose to answer the door. Actually he was glad for it. They had barely spoken during breakfast. Both were feeling the sudden tension between them.
Opening the door, he was looking into well known faces: "Cordelia, Doyle?"
"Angel, man." His partner glanced at his watch. "It's almost ten and you're still not in the office. So we thought we'd check on you."
The taller man raised an eyebrow: "Check on me? Doyle, there have been days I didn't come to the office at all. So what is this all about?"
Cordelia sighed and shot her husband a look, then she faced Angel again: "Alright. Mr. Giles, Buffy's father was calling me this morning. He wanted to know if you are trustworthy regarding ... regarding women."
"WHAT?," Angel almost shouted. "What on earth..."
"My friend, could we just come in," Doyle asked. "I think this isn't a conversation we should have in a doorframe."
"Sure," Angel made an inviting gesture. The couple went in and on seeing Buffy sitting at the breakfast table Cordelia raised her eyebrows. Getting her expression, her boss let out an exasperated sigh: "You have still too much phantasy." Oh you're such a liar, Angel, he thought. Just think about your fantasy!
At that moment Buffy turned round and saw the guests: "Cordelia?"
"Hi Buffy," the brunette greeted the blonde. "Nice to see you." She walked over and extended a hand.
Buffy shook it: "And you. Although I'd wish the circumstances would have been different."
Cordelia shrugged: "That's life. We cannot choose, it just happens."
"Hear, hear, my wife the wise woman," Doyle joked and joined her to greet Buffy as well. "I am Allan Francis Doyle, but everyone just calls me Doyle."
"Nice to meet you. So you are Angel's partner."
"That's me," he nodded and made a small bow. "I'm the one who knows everyone and everything and gets any needed information."
Rolling her eyes, Cordelia added: "And some nobody wants to hear about. Buffy, just ignore him. I do it all the time," she grinned.
"Aye, but you love me, Delia."
"Especially when he uses that stupid nickname," she told the blonde and looked at the coffee pot. Sighing she turned towards her boss: "And I thought I would at least get some cafeine for caring."
Her husband took her hand, kissed it and then grabbed the pot: "I am going to get you some new." With this he disappeared in the kitchen.
"He is nice," Buffy said and smiled.
"Yeah, well, most of the time. But let's not talk about him, his ego is big enough already. Let's talk about your dad and the fact you are staying with Angel," she turned round and faced her boss again: "In his apartment."
He sighed and joined the two girls at the table: "What exactly did Mr. Giles want to know?," he asked his employée.
"Well, he was interested in your private life. He wanted to know if you are married."
"Oh god," Buffy groaned and gave Angel an appologetic look. "I definitely have to talk to him. You are right, he still thinks I am his little girl."
"He told me, that his 'little girl' spent the night at your apartment." She looked from Angel to Buffy: "Your father, Buffy, is over-protective, if I may say. But under the circumstances it is understandable. Last time you fell for a guy you ran away."
"Cordelia, I spent the night here, because ... well, there was an emergency. Angel is a PI who works for me. I did not fall for him or plan to do so in the future. Maybe I should tell Giles, that I am through with men." You are *SO* not, a little voice inside her head told her, but she ignored it.
She was so concentrated on Cordelia that none of them ever saw the flicker of disappointment running over Angel's features. He felt a sharp pain in his heart, it was one thing to stay away from her, but to hear she wasn't interested...
"An emergency? Care to explain?," Doyle asked coming back with a re-filled coffee pot and two new cups. He filled them and handed one to his wife. She smiled gratefully.
"After Buffy was released yesterday I took her to her apartment." Angel explained and then locked eyes with the blonde. "When we came there, the door was open, everything was crashed and then we found her friend. Murdered."
"Oh my god," Cordelia's hand flew to her mouth. "That is horrible, Buffy." She reached out and grabbed the other girl's hand. "How do you feel?"
Angel was right, she has changed, Buffy thought. The old Cordelia would never have shown concern for another. "I am okay now. Well, not really okay, but I can deal. Thanks to Angel. We talked and he knew exactly what I needed to hear." She gave him a grateful smile which he returned. With the two other people in the room it was much easier to act normal.
"So you see, Cordelia. There was just nowhere she could go. Besides I am not sure if it is safe. Staying alone in a hotel or with her parents. So I invited her to stay. It was purely professional."
Doyle looked back and forth between his partner and the blonde girl and had difficulties to hide a grin. They could tell him what they wanted. The attraction between them was almost palpable. Clearing his throat he said: "Do they know who killed her?"
"No," Angel replied, tearing his gaze away from Buffy. "But I had a phone call this morning. Someone called Lex wants something he believes Buffy has."
"And do you?," Doyle turned towards their client.
"What," she asked confused.
"Do you have what he wants?"
"No." Then she paused for a moment. "Well, I don't think I have it. I think we don't even know what exactly he wants, right?"
"He didn't say," Angel said. "But from the tone of his voice he wants it badly. Does the name Lex ring a bell, Doyle?"
The other man shook his head: "No, I've never heard of him. But I will keep my ears open. Maybe it is a good idea, if I just try my sources."
Angel nodded: "That would be really good. The sooner we know about him the better. He doesn't seem like a guy to me who makes empty threats." He paused and thought for a while. Then he said: "Because of that I want one of us with Buffy all the time. And if your father likes it or not, I'd feel better, if you'd stay here with me." He looked at Buffy. God, Angel what will you get yourself into, a voice in his head cried. But there was just no other way, he tried to assure himself.
"Exactly," Doyle confirmed his partner's words, when he saw the hesitant look on the blonde's face. "Buffy, Angel has a good feeling for these things. You should trust him. If he thinks you are safer here with him, you should stay." And it would not hurt my friend to open up again. And he likes you a lot girl, a hell of a lot.
"Okay," she said finally. She knew Doyle and Angel were probably right and one part of her was grateful, but the other was in panic, thinking about being so close to him for days, maybe weeks. Oh god.
She got up and looked at Angel: "I'll better call Giles now. Can I take the phone to my room?"
"Of course," he replied. "You do not have to ask. Try to feel at home."
She smiled, took the phone and disappeared in her bedroom.
After a while Cordelia turned to her boss: "She looks as if she had it rough."
"I guess," was his short reply.
"You like her man," Doyle commented which made his wife raise her eyebrows.
Angel sighed slightly and a desperate look was in his eyes: "Yeah. And that is bad. God, Doyle, last time..."
"Forget that, my friend. Sarah's case was completely different. And it was not your fault." Doyle told him.
"I was responsible for her. And she was killed. She was killed because I got distracted," Angel's voice was rising slightly. "Don't tell me it wasn't my fault."
"Someone shot her while you both were kissing, in a room, in our old office. Angel, nobody could have expected that," Cordelia laid a hand on her friend's arm. "You have to stop punishing yourself with that. Angel, you are young, it isn't normal that you avoid every serious relationship only because you had one bad experience."
"Bad experience," he echoed and stood up. "That is a pretty nice term for it. The woman I was with was killed in my arms. Thank you very much. I've had enough of this. Never again."
Buffy was about to enter the room again, when she heard Angel's last sentences. She could not keep herself from listening, she wanted to know more about him. A woman he was obviously in love with was killed? How horrible.
"This was four years ago, Angel. Don't you think it is time to move on. I know you cared very much for Sarah..."
Angel cut her off: "It's not that. I cared for her, I loved her, well sort of, but the fact is I was responsible for her safety. And can we now please cut the subject." He looked up and saw Buffy entering the living-room again. Shooting his friends a warning look he asked: "How was your call."
She sighed: "They were angry. Well, Giles was angry. Mom cried." She swallowed hard. "I am still not sure, if he understands. I told him, I had to stay here for safety reasons. He said we would talk about it."
Angel nodded: "Good. He will be in the office later and we can talk a little bit more." He turned to his partner: "Doyle, why don't you just go and check your sources, while Cordelia," he faced the brunette. "You could go to talk to Kate, see what they have about this case."
"Kate," Cordelia sighed dramatically. "Why do I always get the nice jobs?" She turned to Buffy: "Kate is a police officer. She once had a crush on Angel, she followed him like a little puppy." Seeing the look on her boss' face, she grinned: "He hates me telling it, but it is true. When she realized he wasn't interested, she was devastated. Poor cop lady."
"Don't believe her, Buffy," Doyle stepped in, grinning broadly. "She hates Kate. Actually she wanted to celebrate when the cop lady finally saw she didn't have a chance."
His wife shot him a nasty look and sighed loudly: "Alright. I'll go and see Kate." She stood up and took her husband's arm. "And you?," she asked Angel.
"Buffy and I will go to the office. Mr. Giles is coming at noon. I think it would be good if we'll meet at three at the office. Then we can check the new informations and see how to go on from there."
The couple nodded: "See you at three then," Doyle yelled from outside when the door was already closed.
And then they were alone.
Angel looked to the ground for a moment then he faced Buffy again: "Are you really okay," he asked with apparent concern.
She nodded: "Yeah. Giles was angry, but I think mostly he was concerned, well hopefully. We were very close ... once. He was a great father. I was even closer to him than to my own mother." She felt her pulse raising and couldn't tear her eyes from him.
"He will come to trust you again, you'll see," he said, smiling. "Just give him time." His blood was rushing through his veins. I should drop that case. Talk to a collegue.
"I will. The situation is just so ... I feel as if my whole world is collapsing, I am standing in the middle and the pieces keep falling down on me." Her pulse was hammering in her head now. God, what is happening to me?
"I understand. I will do what I can to help you, Buffy. You can trust me." He hoped she couldn't see it in his face. How I want her.
He was looking at her.
She was looking at him.
"I know," she said.
Both made a step forward.
The tension was now almost palpable and both felt it. As if an invisible bond was pulling them towards each other.
God, whatever is happening to me it is damned strong, Buffy thought.
I want to take her in my arms, Angel's heart told him, I want to kiss her and never ever let go again.
Her eyes never left his, and she made another step.
Then suddenly his mind kicked in 'no, no - you cannot do this. Remember Sarah'. He shrugged slightly and shook his head. He looked to the ground breaking eye-contact. Clearing his throat he said: "I think, we should leave now. It is half past ten."
She coughed, looking down as well and slightly stepping back: "Yes, you are right," her voice sounded strange. "I better get my things. I'll be back in five minutes."
She headed for her room. Still breathing hard she closed her eyes when she was safely behind her door. She wanted him, wanted him more than she'd ever wanted anything in her life, her whole body was screaming out for him. Could this be, although she was afraid on the other side. And there was more. She felt safe, she trusted him. Trusted him with her body and soul. She had never felt something like that before and she hadn't expected it. Especially after everything that had happened in the past. This was so right, so natural. Was this love? Real love? Was it love when body and soul were crying out for another person? She laughed inwardly, and I thought my emotions were dead. Boy, was I wrong.
Rupert Giles was angry when he and Willow entered the now well known office again. The red-head had insisted in coming with him. She wanted to see her friend.
The problem was he wasn't really sure why he was angry. Was it because Buffy ran away? Because she never called but wrote to Willow, obviously trusted her? Because she didn't want to stay with him and Joyce? Because she didn't call back immediately? Or because he felt betrayed for all the effort he'd put into building up a relationship with his step-daughter? Probably it was a combination of everything mixed with jealousy because this young investigator, a stranger, seemed to gain more of her trust than he.
"Nice office," Willow commented beside him. He only shrugged. And then he saw them. The young man was sitting in the chair as yesterday and Buffy sat opposite to him. They seemed so ... what was the word? He couldn't find it. Then Angel looked up and recognized them.
"Mr. Giles," he greeted the older man.
"Mr. Finnegan," Giles nodded, his voice sounding cold. He turned to his step-daughter: "Buffy, my dear." He tried to give his voice more softness now, but failed. He was angry.
"Giles. It is good to see you," she greeted back, but didn't get up or made a move to hug him. Then she saw the red-head: "Willow! What a surprise."
Giles felt a pang in his heart, when she suddenly smiled and hugged her friend tightly. "I am so glad to see you," she said and everyone could hear she meant it. Well, Giles could hear it and it hurt. He hated himself for feeling that way, so selfish, but he couldn't help it. He knew he should put that aside, she needed his love and support, but it was so difficult. He was behaving like a little boy, he knew, but he couldn't help it either.
"Mr. Giles," Angel's voice pulled him out of his thoughts. "You wanted a meeting here. May I ask why? Frankly there aren't any news I could tell you. I've given you all the informations we have on the phone already."
"I," the older man looked at Buffy and then back: "We do not need your services anymore. I thought this was a matter I'd better take care of personally."
"WHAT?," Buffy shouted and panic rose in her. I don't want to leave him. God, Buffy what are you thinking?
"I am sorry," Angel said quietly. "Is there a problem, I am not aware of?" Are you crazy, you should say yes and get over with. What are you doing? Just say yes, and let it go.
"Nothing special," Giles snapped. "I just think that case is far to complicated for someone so," he paused and looked the other man up and down. *attractive*, he thought, but said: "young".
"Mr. Giles. I can assure you, we are perfectly capable of handling this, as a matter of fact, we had bigger..."
The older man stopped him with a wave of his hand: "I am not going to discuss this. I am only telling you." Then he turned round and grabbed his daughter's arm. After all he felt for her like a real father. "Buffy, come, we go." With this he pulled her to the door.
Willow who was watching everyhting with wide eyes gave Angel an appologetic smile. What the hell was happening here? She was confused. She was about to leave as well, when Buffy, who had been like in shock jerked away from her step-father.
"What the hell do you think you're doing," she yelled and moved further away from him. "I am not a little girl anymore. You have no right to drag me away." Her eyes were furious.
God, she looks so beautiful when she is angry shot through Angel's head. He quickly averted his eyes, afraid someone would see his admiration for this woman. He also felt, that he had no right to intervene, but he did not want to leave either, he wanted to be near her, as if his presence could give her strength. And she would need it judging the expression on her step-father's face.
"Buffy, you are acting irrational and I understand that. But that man," he pointed at Angel, "isn't working for us anymore. And I want you to come home. You have no idea how your mother is longing for you."
"I am sorry, okay," her voice was a little bit softer now, but only a tiny little bit. "But I am 22 years old. That means I am an adult and I am the one to make decisions regarding my life. I know it is my fault, that you have missed six years, but I cannot change that. You have to learn to accept that you cannot control me anymore. And by the way," her voice was rising again, "your constant urge to control was one of the reasons that drove me away from home." You are such a bitch, Buffy, she thought. But he is really behaving like an idiot, he's earned this, another voice said. She shook her head and tried to calm down.
"Buffy," his voice sounded pained. "I only want to help you." Then he looked at Angel and the anger was back in his words: "But I cannot see him being a great help. But however, I have dismissed him, so he won't work for us anymore."
"Then I will hire him," she replied stubbornly.
"Buffy," Giles began, but was cut off by his daughter's voice.
"No, I hire him. Angel," she adressed the younger man and he looked up. "would you work for me too?" She wanted nothing more than to stay near to him.
"Of course," he answered, without looking at Giles. You are completely nuts, he told himself. But he just couldn't let go of her, espcially now, when her life was probably in danger.
"See," she told her step-father triumphantly. "Giles, I really don't want to fight with you. I am a bit crancky at the moment, I have to admit that. Dermot, the jail and all, and it is probably not the right time for this. Please, understand that. It doesn't mean I don't love you and mom. Please." Her voice was pleading now and she sounded like a little girl again. Angel's heart went out for her and he felt anger rising in his chest. How could a father be so ignorant. She was going through hell and all he did was nursing his own pain. His children would never have to go through something like that, Angel swore at that moment. When were children part of your imagination, he asked himself.
"I just don't understand you anymore," Giles replied, sounding desperate now. "We used to be so close and now ... you ... you seem so cold, so ... distant."
"I know, and it is not your fault," Buffy said, sitting down again. "Life hasn't been a fairytale all the time. And we will talk about this, but please not now."
He nodded: "Alright. But why are you so anxious to be with him," he pointed at Angel again.
"I trust him," was her simple answer.
Giles felt another pang of jealousy in his heart. She trusted him.
Angel felt a pang of joy. She trusted him.
Willow only stared at the three of them. Why did she come in the first place?
"I see," Giles said tightly. "Well, if you are so ... certain about this, I cannot do anything. As you already mentioned, you are an adult. But please call."
"I will," she sighed. "I am sorry. And we will talk about everything. Later."
"Okay," he was sounding quite normal now. "I hear from you."
"Willow?," he looked at the red-head.
"Uuh. Well, I would like to stay," she looked at Buffy. "But I do not have a car."
"That is no problem," Angel heard himself say. "It will do Buffy good to have you here. I could drive you home later, if that is alright with you."
"Sure. Good. So I am staying," she told Giles.
"Fine," his voice was tightly again. "Good bye then altogether." Then he left the office as fast as possible. He would find out everything about that Angel Finnegan and then Buffy would realise he wasn't good for her. Be careful, an inner voice said, you already pushed her away once that way. But he did not want to listen to this. He was still angry.
And a picture was still in his head. Buffy and Angel sitting together in one room. And now he knew the word. They looked like an unit.
For a while nobody in the office said a word. Willow was still feeling sick from the whole exchange she'd just watched. She could understand both, she had watched Giles for six years, feeling miserable because of Buffy. But she had also read her letters and knew what she'd gone through. The worst part for the red-head was that they both loved each other, a real father couldn't love his daughter more and Buffy had simply adored Giles, Willow could clearly remember. And she hoped that both would be able to get over their issues - eventually.
Buffy looked to the ground while Angel was staring into space. Suddenly he snapped out and smiled at Willow: "Hi, I'm Angel," he frowned. "As you have already guessed." He smiled again.
"Nice to meet you," the red-head smiled back. "I am Willow. I'm a friend of Buffy's." She paused for a while and because none of the others was obviously going to speak she said: "It has to be quite an experience to work with Cordelia."
"She's okay," he replied. "You would be surprised."
Willow raised her eyebrows in disbelief, when Buffy finally decided to speak again: "She is really very nice now," she assured her friend. Then she dared to look at Angel: "I have a problem," she admitted.
He faced her and felt himself drinking in her eyes. He shrugged slightly to get over this feeling: "What problem?"
She smiled sheepishly: "Well, uhm ... are you expensive?"
Now he smiled as well, she was so damned cute: "Why?"
"I ... uhm ... kinda hired you, but ...," she stopped feeling slightly embarrassed.
"You mean you might not be able to pay for my services?," he asked, smiling assuringly.
She nodded: "It's just, I was so angry with Giles and ... well, I think I really need your help."
Willow looked back and forth between them and a certain feeling entered her stomach. They had obviously forgotten she was there at all.
His eyes were fixated on her face when he asked: "Is it true? You really trust me?"
"I do," she replied without hesitation. "I thought, I said that before." God, don't look at me that way. All I want to do then is kiss you.
"You did," he nodded slightly. "But I wasn't sure you really meant it then." This is going to end in a disaster. Why can't I just say goodbye and walk away. I've never felt like this before. This is so strong, it scares me. And I thought I knew love. But this is so different, so powerful. He added: "And about the money. Don't think about it. We'll find a way for you to pay me."
She took a deep breath: "Good. I am glad. And I am sorry for Giles. I don't know what's the matter with him. Usually he isn't like that."
"I know," he said, looking at his hands. "He seemed very nice the first time we met. But I can handle it, you do not have to appologize for him."
"Uhm ... guys," Willow stepped in. Both faces turned towards her. She smiled sheepishly: "Maybe if I can say something? Well, I think he's afraid, because Angel is good looking and all and he's left you once. You ran off with Dermot. I think he's afraid this could happen again."
"What?," Buffy asked incredulously.
"I think she's right," Angel said quietly. "He is afraid to loose you again. So he tries to keep you as close as possible. I think the moment he realises it isn't going to happen again, he'll come around."
Buffy stared at him, trying to find the right words. How was this possible, how could this man, whom she knew less than two days, know her mind so well, trust her so much: "How," her voice was hoarse with emotions and she cleared her throat: "How can you know I won't run off again?"
He smiled slightly: "Because you are not like that anymore," he stated matter-of-factly.
"No, I am not," she said. "I've learned a lot, grew up."
Their eyes met again.
Both were lost in each other.
Willow felt uncomfortable. Again. What was happening here? She looked again back and forth between the two of them and it hit her. Giles was right. Buffy was in great danger, but not the way he meant, she was in danger to fall in love with Angel. No, skip that, she wasn't, they were *already* in love with each other. Even the dumbest would see it. The way they looked at each other, the way they drank in each in the others eyes. They weren't just ready to admit it. Oh god, someone help, she prayed sliently. I don't want to watch that. This is embarrassing.
She thanked every possible god when she suddenly heard a female voice from the outer office, even when she realised it was Cordelia.
"Hi, together. Is anybody in?," her cheerful voice was to be heard.
Angel and Buffy snapped out of their trance and their heads turned to the door where Cordelia appeared the very second: "Hi," she said a bit breathless. When she saw Willow standing in the room, she smiled: "Hi Willow, wow you improved your haircut. Great job," she complimented. "It is good to see you."
Willow blinked, was this Cordelia? She forced herself not to stare but to smile instead: "Yeah. It's good to see you too. It has been too long."
The brunette nodded: "True. But life's so busy." She put her hands on her hips and looked at her boss: "So I have been with Kate."
"And?," he asked expectantly.
"No luck," she frowned. "She isn't really that communicative. I say she's still pissed because you're not interested in her."
"So you've got nothing?," Angel said.
She grinned: "I didn't say that. I got an adress. The only problem is to get through. It might be a little bit tricky, but we can try."
He sighed: "Cordelia. If you have an adress we just go there. I don't see the problem."
"It's not a usual adress. It's a net adress, where they keep their police files, but I am not sure, I can get through their barriers, passwords and things." She frowned but brightened instantly: "But, as Willow is here," she turned towards Angel: "You have to know, our little red-head here is practically a computer genius. Well, she was in highschool and I am sure she's improved. Am I right?," she faced Willow again.
"Well, I could try," she replied hesitantly.
"That's my girl," Cordelia patted the other girl on the shoulder. "Come with me, I'll show you our computer."
With this the two girls left Angel's office, closing the door behind them.
They were alone. Again.
And they stared at each other. Again.
Then Angel let out a desperate sigh, stood up and began to pace the room. Buffy stared at him in bewilderment.
"Buffy," he began. It was no use. He couldn't deny it. "I should quit this case. Now, before it is too late. Before things get out of hand. I tried to lie to myself, first. Then I tried to deny it, but it is too strong. It overwhelms me."
"What," she asked confused. "But I thought," her eyes filled with tears: "You don't think I'm innocent anymore."
He spun round and faced her again: "No," he assured her quickly. "It's not that. Buffy," he stepped closer and kneeled down in front of her. "I work for you. I am responsible for your safety and to find out what's going on here. And all I can think is, how much I want to kiss you." He let out a short breath and looked to the ground, but didn't change his position.
Buffy smiled, he couldn't see it. Her heart skipped. She felt happy. Slowly, very slowly she reached out with a shaking hand and gently touched his face. His head snapped up and their eyes locked instantly. "This is interesting," she whispered. "Because," she stroked his cheek, "I feel the same."
His eyes widened and her smile grew wider. He shook his head: "But this is wrong, Buffy." He shortly closed his eyes then he looked at her again: "It is too dangerous. We ... I would be distracted. I...," his voice failed.
"How can something that feels so wonderful be wrong," she asked softly. "I have to admit I am scared. I have never felt this way and after ... well. But I cannot let it go. I simply can't," she replied.
"Oh god," he groaned and ran his hand through his hair. "I feel the same," he whispered hoarsley.
"Then would you please kiss me," she smiled again, although her whole body trembled in a mixture of fear and excitement. "I cannot take that any longer."
Now he smiled as well, all thoughts about Sarah just flew out of the window when he was drinking in her eyes. He reached out and gently took her head in his hands and then his lips closed over hers.
The kiss began gentle and sweet, both were hesitant.
Buffy closed her eyes and opened her mouth to invite his tongue.
But then it struck them like lightning. Both felt the shivers running throug their bodies, both felt the heat growing in them, while the kiss became deeper, more passionate. Buffy wanted it never to end. Angel felt like flying.
When he finally broke the kiss and pulled back slightly, they stared into each others eyes and smiled.
"That was ...", she began.
"... intense," he finished.
Both laughed slightly.
"Yes, it was," she replied in affirmation.
"God, you are so beautiful," he whispered, stroking her cheek. "So adorable," he added.
She giggled slightly: "That sounds nice. Keep saying such things."
"I will." Suddenly he became serious: "Buffy, I ... there is something I should tell you. There was a girl, she is the reason I still think this is dangerous."
"Sarah," Buffy said quietly.
He stared at her: "How do you know?"
"I overheard a part of your conversation with Cordelia and Doyle, back in your apartment. But only two or three sentences," she admitted.
He nodded: "I see." He paused for a moment and took a deep breath: "Sarah was a client. It was more than four years ago. I was young and careless. Well not really, but I never saw a problem when we both," he paused again and looked deeply in her eyes: "felt a mutual attraction. We got involved. She had been threatened by her former boyfriend. He was stalking her and leaving her messages he would kill her. In the end he hired a killer. We, Sarah and I, were standing at an open window in my former office, kissing, when she went limp in my arms. I never even heard the shot. She was dead in an instant."
He closed his eyes and Buffy could see the pain on his features. She reached out again and touched him. "I am so sorry," she whispered. "You loved her," it was more a statement than a question.
"No," he replied quickly, opening his eyes again. "Well, I cared for her. It was different, different from this," he looked at her and her heart skipped again. "But the point is, that I got distracted. I didn't act in a professional way and that killed her."
She shook her head: "But you don't know that. He could have killed her everywhere. And besides, you know the danger now. It is different. I said, I am scared, but not that way. I trust you, I know you would never endanger me," she smiled reassuringly. And she felt that way, she trusted him completely.
He cupped her cheek in one hand and gently stroked it with his thumb: "I couldn't stand if anything should happen to you. I have never felt this way. It is so strong. I don't want to scare you. I know you had a hard life and some bad experiences and even if you trust me in a professional sort of way I know you will need time to trust me ... emotionally. I understand that."
She felt tears welling in her eyes. He was so sweet, so gentle, so caring. She'd never met someone like that before. And while the first tear was falling she said: "But I do, I do trust you." She saw his eyes widen in surprise and joy and added: "I trust you in any way."
And then all she felt were his lips on hers. Again.
"I've got it, I've got it," Willow exclaimed happily and grinned at Cordelia who was sitting beside her. "I am in their files' section. See," she pointed at the screen.
"Great," the brunette replied, grinning herself. "I wish Kate could see that. She would be really pissed."
"Whoever this Kate-person is, you don't seem to like her." Willow remembered that tone well. She had been the vicitim of Cordelia's biting comments for quite a while.
"Can't stand her, too needy, if you get it."
The red head was about to ask what she meant by that, when the front door was opened and a young, dark-haired man entered. "Delia, darlin', I'm back." He came over, bent down and kissed the brunette soundly on her lips. When they parted again, Cordelia explained: "Willow, that is Doyle. My husband."
"Your husband," Willow asked wide-eyed. "Wow and hi." She smiled at Doyle.
"My pleasure," he replied. Then he looked back at his wife: "Now where is the boss. I've got some interesting news."
"I'll get him," Cordelia stood up, went to the office door, opened it and froze dead in her tracks. She blushed furiously and closed the door as quickly as possible. With a completely embarrassed expression she turned round: "Uhm ... well, your information has to wait." She took a deep breath and muttered: "Oh god."
"Delia are you okay," Doyle asked concerned, realising his wife didn't look that good.
"I have to sit down. Digest the shock." She went over to her chair.
"What happened," her husband asked impatiently. "Is something wrong?"
She let out a short laugh: "Wrong? No, not wrong. Definitely not wrong. Just ... private. Doyle, they are kissing. And a kiss this is. With hands all over each other. I really don't want to disturb them now."
"Maybe you should try knocking first," he suggested with a grin. He wasn't surprised at all, he had seen it coming from the start and he was happy for his friend.
"You mean Buffy and Angel were kissing, right," Willow asked. "Oh Wow, this is some day," she added.
"I get him now," Doyle said finally and knocked at the door. They heard some noises and he couldn't help but grin broadly. After some more time the door finally opened and Angel appeared in front of him: "Doyle," he said looking a little bit rumpled. When he saw the knowing grin on his friend's face, he smiled, but didn't say a word. Instead he asked: "So did you get some informations?"
"Yes, and some interesting ones, I say." He turned towards the girls who were still sitting at the computer: "you two coming?" Then he said to Angel: "Delia is not feeling too well. Just some minutes ago she opened your office door and ... you know," he made an unmistakeable gesture with his hand.
"Doyle," she shouted from behind. "Shut up."
He grinned and entered Angel's office smiling at the blonde girl sitting in her chair. She looked up and blushed, but when he grinned she smiled at him.
When they were all finally gathered in Angel's room, Doyle sitting on the edge of the desk, he began: "Well at the beginning it was quite fruitless, but then I went to see Joey, you know the small ex-jockey who lost one leg." He looked around but then realised the girls wouldn't know the man, so he continued: "Nevermind. Joey broke into sweat when I said the name Lex, then he told me, after some convincing that Lex and that guy Dermot belong or belonged to a group of serious drug dealers. Obviously Dermot stored some drugs for them in his apartment." He paused and looked at Buffy for a moment. "However, when the cops found the girl and the dead body, that Dermot-guy, they didn't find any drugs. And Lex and his friends don't have them," he looked at Angel. "Can you follow?"
His friend nodded and his face was wearing a serious expression. He looked at Buffy: "They think you have them. The drugs, I mean."
Her eyes widened: "But ... I have nothing, I swear. Angel, please believe me. I..." She felt panic rising. She knew what drug-dealers would do to get their stuff back.
He raised one hand and smiled: "Calm down. Of course I believe you. But they won't. They think you have the stuff and they want it back. That's what the phone call this morning was about." He tried to give his face a quiet and collected expression, but deep inside he felt his heart beating in fear. This was serious, deadly serious, literally.
Willow who saw that her friend's hands began to tremble reached out and put her hand reassuringly over hers. Then she looked at Angel: "We went through the LAPD files, Cordy and I," she told him. "Dermot was killed with the bullet from the weapon Buffy was holding when the cops found her. And he obviously died just before they arrived although all the policemen stated that they didn't hear a shot. The gun didn't have a muffler." She took a deep breath. "And there is another thing, they tested Buffy's hands for traces of the shooting. She had some stuff on them, but I am not sure if it is conclusive. I checked another page on the net and it says that the amount on her hands can also be there from just holding the gun." She gave her friend a warm smile, but Buffy didn't look at her. She was still staring at her lap and her hands were still shivering.
"I see," Angel said after a short while. "That is very interesting. Willow, could you find out who is the owner of that gun."
"It was Dermot's," the red-head replied. This was great, well if she could forget about her friend trembling beside her, but she felt excited, she was involved in a murder investigation and she could acutally help. "He bought the gun from a dealer in San Francisco. The police found the traces. Oh and something else... there was a change in the charge for the case. There was an officer Delaney, but today the case was given to an officer Lockley."
"Oh no," Cordelia groaned. "That's just the bitch. She knows you are connected to the case and now she's going to make it as difficult as possible for us," she gave Angel a certain look.
He took a deep breath: "Officer Lockley is well known to us, Willow," he explained the red-head. "Kate is..."
"Oh Kate," Willoe nodded enthusiastically. "Cordy told me about her. You are not on friendly terms, right."
"I'm afraid not," he replied. "There were some ... uhm ... private reasons."
"Yes, Cordy told that too. What a bitch!"
"Willow," Cordelia exclaimed surprised. Little Willow had grown up!
The red-head only shrugged.
Angel looked concerned at the blonde girl, who was still staring at her hands and hadn't said one word: "Buffy," he asked softly. "Are you okay?"
She didn't look up: "I ...," she took a deep breath. "I honestly don't know."
He gazed at the other three people and gave them a little sign with his head to leave the office. They nodded and he went out with them, closing the door behind him.
"I think she's completely exhausted, mentally I mean. She had tough weeks. I think, I just take her home and we meet again tomorrow morning. We leave her with Cordy then and you and I," he looked at Doyle, "we will try to find out more."
"Good idea, man. And I'm glad, you know what I mean. She's a nice girl" his friend said with a certain smile.
Angel's face was serious: "Yes she is, far too nice. I..."
"No," Cordelia stepped in. "Don't think about it. Buffy isn't Sarah. This isn't going to happen again. Think positive." She smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I can see it in your eyes. She's the one, isn't she."
He nodded reluctantly: "I'm afraid she is. It's overwhelming." He smiled now.
"It is," Doyle assured him. "I know what you're talking about," he added and leaned over to kiss his wife on the cheek. She smiled back at him.
Angel looked at Willow: "Willow, thank you for your help."
"Oh," she made a small gesture with her hand. "That was nothing, actually it was fun," she grinned. "I hope you and Buffy, you both, that will work out. I think you make a nice couple. And I think you're good for her."
"Thanks," he replied and then asked Doyle: "Could you drive Willow home? I promised to do that, but ..."
"No problem, man. Delia and I'll get her home safely. Come on precious wife, we make a little trip. We could stop and see your parents, if you like."
"No thanks, Dad will only ramble about the wrong choice in husbands and I've got enough of that. Come on, Willow. Let's go." Cordelia took the red-head's hand and dragged her with her.
"Bye Angel. And give my love to Buffy," Willow piped.
With that the trio left the office. Angel turned and entered his room again. Buffy was still sitting the same way as before, she didn't seem to have moved at all. Carefully he stepped closer and kneeled again beside her. He reached out and touched her hands gently. She flinched at first, but when she realised it was him, she turned her head.
It almost broke his heart when he saw the despair and hopelessness in her eyes. "Angel, I'm so scared," she whispered almost inaudibly.
"It's okay," he replied softly. "I know, you're scared." He reached up and stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. "But you are not alone. I am here, and Doyle, Cordelia, Willow and your parents."
"My parents," she made a desperate sound.
"Yes, your parents. They love you Buffy. You will see. We are all here to help you. You said you trust me, then do it and let yourself fall, just for now, just for a moment. You do not have to be strong all the time."
"Oh Angel," she breathed and slid from the chair in his arms. He pressed her shivering body tightly to his and gently stroked her hair.
Pressing a kiss on the top of her head, he whispered: "I will always be there for you. I promise." He could feel her nod at his chest and her arms tightened around his neck.
They stayed like this for what seemed an eternity. But after a while she pulled back slightly and looked at him. He smiled: "Do you feel better now?"
She nodded: "A little bit." She tried a small smile: "Can we go home?," she asked. "I mean to your apartment. I am so tired."
"Of course," he replied and they stood up with Angel holding her the whole time. "Let's go." Carefully he led her to his car and entangled himself gently, to get behind the wheel.
When he arrived in front of his apartment complex, he looked over and saw that she was already asleep. He smiled turning off the ignition. He got out of the car, walked over to the other side, unfastened her seatbelt and gently gathered her in his arms to carry her upstairs.
She woke when he tugged her under the covers of her bed and blinked. "Did I fall asleep," she wanted to know.
He smiled: "You did. We are already in the apartment. I'll go and get you some tea."
But she held on to his hand and shook her hand: "No please stay. Don't leave me alone."
"Alright," he pushed his shoes off and settled himself beside her on the bed.
"Don't go away, after I fall asleep, I mean. I don't want to be alone."
He smiled: "I promise."
She curled to him and was sound asleep after seconds.
Angel woke up some hours later, it was already dark outside and he was surprised that he'd fallen asleep at all. He turned his head slightly and smiled at the sight of Buffy still curled tightly to his side, her right hand resting on his chest, while her left was at his neck. Something he could get used to, he thought, but maybe someday with less clothes. He chuckled slightly. And hopefully she would look more relaxed then, now she looked mostly exhausted.
He reached out and pushed some hairs from her face, touching her forehead gently in the process. It made Buffy stir and slowly she opened her eyes.
"Angel," she whispered. "You are still here," it sounded as if she was surprised.
"I promised to stay," he replied.
She smiled slightly: "You did, and you said you would never lie to me. What time is it?" She was still tired and scared, but here in his arms she felt safe.
He looked at his watch: "Around nine, are you hungry?"
She nodded: "Hmm, a little bit." She yawned and streched her arms, touching his chin not so gently in the process. She giggled: "Sorry."
"For what," he asked surprised.
She looked at his chin: "I didn't hurt you, did I?" She reached out with her hand to touch it, but he caught it and planted a soft kiss on it.
"You could never hurt me, Buffy," he whispered.
"Angel?," her voice was small all of a sudden.
"What is it?"
"I am scared," she admitted, sounding like the little child again and avoiding his gaze. "It's not that I don't trust you," she added quickly. "I do not remember someone called Lex, but I knew that all the guys around Dermot were very dangerous. And I've been long enough around drugs and stuff to know what kind of people you meet there."
He gently stroked her hair: "I will not say, that you don't have to worry, because it would be a lie. But I will do what I can to keep you safe and to find the real killer." I would do anything for you he added silently, because I love you.
"You are the first person, who really believes in me, Angel," she told him, now looking in his eyes. "You believed me, when I said I didn't kill him, even as I cannot really remember what happened."
He smiled slightly: "I am sure your friends and your family believe it too."
"They say they do, but I can feel their doubts. One part of me can understand that, you know. They haven't seen me for a long time and all. But then you are, were, a complete stranger and believed me. Isn't that strange. I mean, we know each other for two days and I have the feeling I know you all my life," she put her head in the crook of his arm.
"I feel the same. Maybe we've known each other in another life," he joked.
"Who knows," she replied seriously. Then she chuckled: "I am not some crazy woman, who believes in soul transportation and things, but I think there are many things we haven't even began to understand."
"Possibly," he admitted. He shifted slightly on the bed: "Buffy I am going to make us something to eat, okay. You can stay in bed if you want, I'll bring a tray over here, if you're still tired." He had to get out of this bed. NOW! Otherwise he didn't know what would happen, and he had a feeling she wasn't ready for it. Not yet. She said she trusted him, and he believed her, but he also knew that she needed more time, no, they needed more time to know each other, to believe in each other.
She smiled at him while he was getting up: "No, I am coming with you. Keep you company, you know."
He nodded and she followed him over to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and glanced inside. With his head still behind the door he asked: "I could offer you some vegetable soup or spaghetti." He came back and looked at her standing in the doorway: "I would like to make some fancy dinner, but it is late, so..."
"No, some soup or spaghetti are fine. Whatever you prefer."
"Fine, then we have some soup," he reached into the fridge and produced a small pot, which he placed on the stove. "It will be only some minutes. I still do not have a microwave," he admitted. "It's just not my style."
She grinned: "It's quite functional you know. Especially for making popcorn and stuff."
"I know," he sighed. "Cordelia thinks I am very old-fashioned in my kitchen," he chuckled slightly. "But then it is Cordelia and she thinks her last week robe is old-fashioned already." He would never forget the look of pure disbelief when she found out he didn't have a microwave. 'You are not real', she had exclaimed.
"Some things never change. Can Doyle afford her?" He didn't look like the wealthy type at all.
"He came to an inheritance shortly. Some distant uncle left him some money and he would do everything for Cordelia. He simply adores her."
"I could see that," Buffy replied smiling. "They are a cute couple. And obviously very much in love." She sent a longing look towards Angel, who was stiring the soup. Yes, very much in love, she thought. And she was in love with him, she knew that now. Possible or not, crazy or not, after only two days she knew she was in love with him. So deeply, it was almost unreal.
"Could you take two soup-cups and spoons and get them over to the table. I'll bring the soup," his voice interrupted her thoughts.
"Sure," she replied quickly and carried everything over. He followed with the steaming pot and put soup in both cups.
"This smells wonderful," she complimented and tried it: "And it tastes wonderful."
"Tnank you," he smiled slightly. "I like to cook, actually. But mostly there isn't enough time. It's kinda relaxing, you know."
She wrinkled her nose: "I cannot think anything having to do with a kitchen could be relaxing. I hate cooking, I hate dish washing, I love eating though. I survived because Anna was such a great cook." Immediately a pained flicker went over her face. She looked at Angel: "Could you maybe find out, when they'll burry her? I would like to know."
"Of course. We just call the police. They should know, when the ... body is free again. Do you know if she has any relatives, people who would come and take care of all the formalities and stuff?"
"There is her mother. They weren't on the best terms, but they were still in contact, her name is Frances, Frances Daniels. I think Anna once told me she lives in LA too."
"Fine. I'll try to contact her. I am sure, she'll know, don't you think?"
She gazed at her soup for a while and still didn't look up when she spoke: "I would like to go to her ceremony or whatever they have for her. To say goodbye." Her voice was only a whisper now. "She was really a good friend. She was the first person, who was ... friendly to me when I came back to LA, all frightened and screwed up." She raised her head now and he could see tears in her eyes: "I miss her, Angel. God, I miss her."
He was by her side in an instant, reached out and took her in his arms. He knew there was nothing he could say to make it better, so he only held her and she let herself fall down in his arms - again. He lifted her up and carried her over to the sofa. Sitting down he cradled her in his lap and they stayed that way until her sobbing quieted and her body stopped shivering. But still she was clinging to him as if she was only feeling safe right were she was.
"Are you better now," he asked gently after a while.
"Yeah," she whispered. "It's just. It's all too much. I am usually not like that, I am not crying all the time, in fact mostly I do have myself very much under control." She pulled back a little bit to be able to look at him.
He smiled: "It is nothing to be ashamed of. I think everyone would react like you do. I am surprised you're not completely breaking down."
"Maybe I would if it wasn't for you," she replied honestly. She felt stronger because he was near, because she could feel his strength and somehow draw energy from it.
"I think you give me too much credit. You are a very strong woman, Buffy. Do never underestimate yourself. After all you've been gone through you are still a caring, tender being. Other people might be frustrated and bitter by now." He kissed her gently on the forehead. There wasn't that sexual tension now, it was just a sweet and gentle gesture, of someone who cared deeply for the other. It wasn't the time for romantic feelings now.
"You make me feel special, do you know that?," she told him smiling now.
"That's because you are special. You are very special to me," he whispered, striking her cheek ever so gently. "We will find a way out of this. I cannot bring back Anna, but we will find out who killed Dermot and I am sure your parents will come around too."
She sighed and leaned her head at his chest again: "Hearing you say that, I almost believe it'll come true." She yawned.
"You should sleep now," he told her softly. "Relax, I'll be here to watch over you." He kissed the top of her head. She snuggled deeper in his embrace and was asleep in no time.
"You're sure you both will be okay for the day?" Angel asked anxiously while he was holding Buffy's hand.
"We'll be fine," Cordelia told him. "We're two big girls and we've got lots of things to talk about. We haven't seen each other for quite a while and Willow's coming again later." She giggled: "It seems she's getting a taste for private investigation."
Doyle shook his head and laughed: "I see, I see, Delia dearest. Angel, man, this was a hint that we'd only be in the way. So let's go and find out something to help the girl."
"We'll be back as soon as possible," Angel kissed Buffy on the cheek and squeezed her hand.
"I'll be fine," she gave him a reassuring smile then pushed him slightly towards the door. "Now go."
With a last long look he turned and both men left the office.
Cordelia turned to the other girl: "He's really got it bad for you."
Buffy blushed and looked to the ground: "We'll see," she said evasive.
The brunette cocked an eyebrow: "What do you mean by that? Just yesterday I stepped into his office and what I saw was far beyond 'we'll see'."
"Alright, alright, we kissed. And he's nice and caring and all, but it's his job Cordy."
"What? You think he's behaving like this, because it's his job? Oh Buffy, obviously you've never seen a guy in love." She grinned. "Well I have, because I'm married to one and the signs are obvious. Just look in his eyes, he's hardly able to keep them off of you. The more important question is, what do you feel for him, because he had it tough, you know, and don't want to see him hurt. He's much too soft for that job," she sighed.
"I ... I don't know," Buffy said, averting her eyes. "I've not really experienced that I could trust guys. The ones I knew were, well they're not worth mentioning actually. Angel, he's so different, sometimes I think he isn't even real."
"He is real, I assure you," Cordelia said with a grin. "And I just know that you feel warm allover when you look at him. I mean, just look at him. He's very attractive." Seeing Buffy's face she raised a hand: "No, don't understand me wrong. I love Doyle, but I have eyes. So what does your body tell you, when he's near you, because as an observer I can almost feel the electricity between you both."
The blonde blushed furiously but didn't answer the question. "Could we ... I mean, could we talk about something else."
"You do not have to tell me," the brunette grinned. "Your eyes say everything. And I'm glad. He needs that. And you too. You both are so right for each other and you'll be good for each other. Angel is the most caring person I've ever met, Buffy. Don't be afraid, he'll never hurt you."
"I know," the other girl replied. "I trust him. I really do, the problem is I don't trust myself. I'm still so confused and I'm scared, all this stuff going on in my life. The murder, my parents, it's just a bit too much at one time. And most of all I'm afraid that I might hurt him because of all this."
"I understand. I just want to make sure that you both won't miss that great oportunity, because you're both to afraid to love or being loved. If you ask me, it has been a long time since I've seen two people more destined for each other."
"I hope you are right," Buffy said. "I really hope you're right." Because I love him and being with him is like heaven, it's almost too good to be true, she added silently. She was sure now, that she loved him, it sounded crazy in her head, she knew him three days and was sure she loved him. But there was nobody she loved or trusted more. The question was, was she the right girl for him. He was such a wonderful man and he earned someone without all the scars she had on her soul, someone who could love him without fear and doubts. And then another, very scaring thought entered her mind, what would happen if they'd put her in jail for murder. She could never expect Angel to wait for her. God, how she missed him. He was only gone for ten minutes and she missed him already. She missed his eyes and his hand on her's and the comforting feeling whenever he was around, it was as if nothing could harm her when he was near.
He hadn't told her how he felt about her, so could Cordelia be right. Could he be in love with her? He'd said that he wanted to kiss her and she could feel the passion in him, when he touched her. But love was something different. Life had told her the difference the hard way. None of the boys and men she'd met had ever been in love with her. And she'd never been in love with them. So she was inexperienced in these matters. She tried to remember his eyes when he looked at her which was not difficult. There had been need and passion, but there had also been something deeper and stronger in them. Could that've been love?
She sighed and looked at the clock. He was gone for about 15 minutes and to Buffy it already seemed like an eternity.
"All I want is to see my daughter," Joyce told her husband while she was stiring the soup in their kitchen. "Why do you think it isn't a good idea?"
"As I told you, she isn't quite receptive to our care at the moment. I think that Angel-guy isn't the best influence," Giles replied and leaned back at the fridge.
"But I thought you liked him. You told me so, I clearly remember that. Weren't your words something like 'he is a very capable young man'?"
Her husband clenched one hand to a fist, why on earth had his wife always to remember everything he'd once said. She and her daughter were just the same. "That's not the point. I thought he was capable in his business, but I do not like him to be around Buffy. He is an attractive man and I've seen our daughter's eyes when she looks at him. We had that before, Joyce, and you could see where it lead to."
"That's nonsense, Rupert, and you know that," his wife replied. "You're acting like the typical jealous father." She looked at him for a moment. "Buffy is 22 years old, it's time she has a solid relationship. From what she's told me in jail, there hasn't been any in her life." She looked at her husband for a while, then she turned back to her soup again. "You have to relax Rupert. Our daughter isn't 16 anymore."
"What happend to you? Only some days ago all you wanted was to get her home and never let her go again." Women, would he ever understand them, Giles asked himself.
"I took some time to think about this. And obviously I was more successful than you," she told him without facing him. She loved him dearly, but men could be so difficult sometimes. Of course she'd never tell him that she'd a long talk with Willow yesterday night which made things a lot simpler. According to the red-head and Joyce had learned over the years that Willow was a very reasonable person, Angel was a wonderful man who seemed to care deeply for Buffy's well-being. In Joyce's book and althought she didn't know him, it made him the perfect future son-in-law. She sighed and took the soup from the fire.
"What do you mean by that?," Giles eyed his wife sharply. Why did she feel so superior? It made him suspicious. Any time Joyce acted this way she knew more than he and when he hated something then it was the feeling he was left in the dark about things.
"I mean," she said, turning round with a grin on her face, "it's time to introduce you to a film every father should see sooner or later."
"And that is," he asked quirking his eyebrows. What the hell was she up to?
She stepped closer and kissed him on the cheek: "It's called 'The Father of the Bride'. We're going to rent it for tonight and then you'll see a lot clearer, my dear. Soup is ready, if you're hungry just serve yourself. And if you excuse me now, I promised Willow to drive her. We're going to see Buffy. Oh and I'll take Steven with me. It's time Buffy knows about her little brother." With this she was out of the door and left a stunned Giles behind her.
Doyle and Angel exchanged a quick glance before they entered the 'five-lights-club' where they hoped to find a guy called Brad. He was a little drug dealer, but he wasn't the worst kind. Actually he was too soft for his job and was only selling drugs because he was addicted to them too. Besides that he was almost hearing everything. When something happened in LA Brad would know it or he'd know someone who'd some information. So he was the best person to ask.
When their eyes could see again in the dim light of the club they were looking around. There weren't many people in, no surprise as it was still before noon. Not really the time to go to a club.
After a while Doyle touched Angel's arm and nodded towards a dark coner. Angel nodded back and both men approached the slim, blonde figure crouched on a chair who seemed to be in a conversation with one of the club-girls. They stopped in front of the table and Doyle patted the man on the shoulder: "Brad."
The man's head jerked round and he stared at the two other men with wide fearful eyes, but he seemed to relax when he finally recognized his visitors. "Doyle," he greeted back and then looked at the girl sitting opposite to him: "Vera, these are Doyle and Angel, that's my girlfriend Vera."
The girl's eyebrows quirked and she eyed the two men. On Angel her eyes rested a bit longer, then she smiled seductively: "I'll let you three alone. Nice to meet you," she paused and licked her lips. "Angel." Then she turned and left.
Doyle looked at his employer and shook his head: "Why do they always fall for you, man? I'm going to make a vow never to go with you again. A normal guy just doesn't stand a chance when you're near."
Angel chuckled slightly: "May I remind you of Cordelia. You remember her, pretty brunette, married to you?"
"Very funny, man. I love Delia. But that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate if women find me attractive." He growled slightly: "What they never do with you by my side."
"This is all very funny," Brad interrupted them, his voice sounding a little nervous. "But would it be too much effort to tell me what you want."
Angel studied the blonde man's face for a moment, then he took a seat and simply said: "Lex."
"Lex?," Brad asked confused.
"Yeah," Doyle sat himself beside his employer and leaned his ellbows on the table, his chin in on of his palms. "Lex. He was partner of another guy. Dermot. Said Dermot was shot some weeks ago."
"I've heard about that," the drug dealer said carefully. "Dermot was an ass. Was looking for a former girlfriend. Poor girl."
Angel gave him a sharp look: "Why?"
"The guy was known for his ... let's say special taste." Seeing the questioning gazes of the other men he sighed: "He liked to hit the girls. There's more than one hooker who can tell you about him. I've heard she killed him. Can't blame her, that bloody bastard."
Doyle shot his boss a quick look but his face didn't show any emotion. "Did you meet that Dermot-guy?"
"Nah," Brad snorted. "Wouldn't go near him. I saw him, yes. But met, no. He's a dangerous fella."
"Now what about Lex," Angel asked trying to sound calm. Inside his blood was boiling. The mere thought that Dermot had beaten Buffy. Sure she'd told him about it, but now that a stranger had said the same... Dermot should be happy that he's dead already, he thought.
"Lex," Brad thought for a while. "I've seen Dermot with two other guys. One was Frankie Callan, you know the Beverly Hills-dealer. They looked as if they'd some business."
"Do you know where we could find Lex?" Doyle licked his lips nervously. Frankie Callan, this seemed to be much bigger than they'd thought.
"He plays cards here, in fact he'll come tonight."
Angel studied the face of the blonde man again. He decided he's telling the truth. He nodded: "Thanks Brad. I owe you one. If you ever need my help."
The drug dealer waved his hand: "No big. I don't like guys who hit the girls. If you can take him out you'd do me a favour."
Doyle and Angel nodded again and then left.
When they were outside, Doyle looked at his boss: "I've got a very bad feelin' about this, man. Maybe we should call the cops."
"And tell them what?" Angel asked impatiently. "We've nothing. And I doubt they'll carry drugs with them when they play tonight."
"What about Kate?," his employée wanted to know.
"What about her? I doubt she'll help us. Not after our last meeting."
"Maybe you shouldn't have been so rude to that woman."
Angel sighed loudly: "Doyle, what do you want to imply? That I should've slept with her so she'd help us?"
"No, but maybe you shouldn't have been so direct. She's attractive, it wouldn't have been much of a sacrifice."
"Oh god, Doyle. You're strange sometimes," Angel groaned. "You were there. You know how she was. The only honest thing was to tell her the truth." He suddenly grinned: "Why didn't you sacrifice yourself."
His friend raised both hands in defense: "Hey, I'm married. Delia would've my head."
"Yeah," his boss nodded. "That she would've. Doyle, don't worry. I'll call Spike later. I'm sure he'll come with us."
"Good Idea." Doyle felt better now. Spike was a friend of them and he was working as a private bodyguard. He was just the right person for this. "Maybe he can bring Dru too."
"Yes, maybe. I'll ask him." Angel sighed: "And now let's go and look at Buffy's and Anna's apartment. Maybe we'll find something the police hasn't.
"Be careful not to break the police tape here," Doyle whispered while Angel carefully removed the tape from the doorframe of Buffy's apartment. The police had sealed it, a clear sign that they were still investigating in the case of Anna's murder.
Angel rolled his eyes and shot his friend a look: "Yeah, well, because I haven't done that before. Doyle, I know how to remove it so nobody will know we're here." With a flipping noise the tape gave way and the two men entered the apartment.
Doyle whistled through his teeth: "I'd say someone was clearly looking for somthin'."
"You take the living-room and I'm going to look around in Buffy's bedroom," his employer said and disappeared into said room.
"What are we looking for," Doyle wanted to know. "I mean, it'll much easier to search if I'd know exactly what it is that we're searching for."
"Very funny," came Angel's voice from the bedroom. "If I'd know that, it would be half the case. Just look around. Maybe one of the guys lost something or ... well, I don't know. Just keep your eyes open and look in every corner."
"Just keep your eyes open," his friend muttered under his breath, while he was looking through scattered papers and other things laying everywhere. "God, I love this work."
"What did you say?," Angel asked, his voice now coming from the other bedroom.
"Nothing," Doyle replied. "I was just thinking loud." Then something draw his attention to it and he stepped closer, it was metallic and when Doyle finally saw what it was he grinned. "Come over here," he called his friend. When the other man joined him he pointed to the blinking object. Both men looked at each other and a little smile spread across their faces. "I don't believe that belongs to a girl," Doyle said, taking a handkerchief out of his pocket and picking the little object from the ground.
"A cigar-cutter, well, not very likely. Buffy doesn't seem to smoke at all and we just have to ask her about Anna, but I didn't see any ash-tray in the apartment, so I'd say our killer wasn't so careful after all. Now all we can do is hope that he doesn't smoke his cigars wearing gloves." Angel reached into his pocket: "I've found something too. Something very interesting the police obviously missed in Anna's bedroom. It was laying under the bed."
"Will you tell me?"
Angel pulled out a picture and showed it to his friend: "Do you know the people on it?"
"No," Doyle shook his head. "What's the deal?"
"That," his employer pointed to a laughing girl, "is Anna. When you look on the backside of the picture you'll see it was made four years ago in San Francisco. And now I want you to pay attention to that guy." He looked at his friend for a long time. "I truly wished I never found that picture, because it will hurt Buffy and that's something I don't like at all."
"Spill it my friend."
"You remember the day Mr. Giles came into our office. Later Cordy and I tried to find a little bit more about this Dermot-guy."
"Yeah. And? Come on, man, you're killing me with the suspense."
"This guy on the picture with his arm around Anna's shoulder, the guy is Dermot."
Buffy and Cordelia turned when the door was opened and the blonde's eyes went wide when she saw three people entering the office. "Willow," she greeted her friend. "Mom," she added hesitantly and then her eyes rested on a little boy on her mother's hand. "Hey you," she said, while Cordelia walked over and extended her hand to Buffy's mother.
"Mrs. Giles, is it now I think, hello."
"Cordelia," Joyce greeted her with a smile. "How very nice to see you again." Then she looked at her daughter who was still standing at a desk and hadn't moved yet. "Buffy," she said and stepped closer with the little boy at her hand. "Buffy," she repeated. "I want you to meet Steven. Steven, my love, this is Buffy. She's," she looked at her daughter, "your sister."
"My brother," the blonde whispered, staring at Steven, wonder in her eyes, while the little boy's mouth hang open. "But how," she shook her head. "Well I know how, what I wanted to say is, why did nobody tell me?", her gaze wandering towards Willow.
The red-head came over and said: "I didn't want to make you feel sad. So much was going on in your life that I didn't want to make you feel you're missing something here."
"I have a little brother," Buffy said almost to herself. "How old is he?", she asked her mother.
"I'm five," Steven answered and held up his hand all fingers outstretched. "Buffy," he added and smiled brightly.
"Hi Steven," his sister bent down and put her hands on her tighs. "It's wonderful to meet you." Then she looked back to her mother: "But why telling me now and why are you here at all? I was sure after Giles' last visit you'd avoid me like the plague."
Joyce shrugged. "Men," she snorted. "Especially fathers are sometimes a bit difficult. But he'll come around," she assured her daughter. "I'm here to tell you that I had a long talk with Willow and she opened my eyes for some things." She gave the red-head a warm smile. "I won't bore you with the long story, but the cut version, I want you to know that I'll always love you and I understand and that I'll be here for you whenever you need me. And that I've been an idiot to behave like I did in jail, we both made faults in the past and it is up to us to start fresh." She looked at her daughter waiting for her response.
Buffy felt tears welling in her eyes, this was like a dream. With a sob she embraced her mother in a tight hug. "Oh mom," she cried at her shoulder. "I love you too. And I'm so sorry."
"Shhh, as I already told you, we both have things we're sorry for. But that's the past and I'd prefer to leave it that way."
Her daughter pulled back slightly and smiled: "Yes, I'd like that too." Then she looked down to the little boy who'd been looking at the whole exchange with huge eyes: "Now Steven. I think we both need to know each other, what do you think."
He nodded emphatically: "Yeah," he replied. Then he cocked his head a little bit: "Are you strong?"
Buffy raised an eyebrow and asked: "Why do you want to know that?"
"There is that boy at school," he said. "Dylan. And he's a year older than I."
His sister smiled knowingly: "I see. And you think that's a big sister's job, right?"
He shrugged: "Don't know, but maybe he'll be nicer if he knows you're there."
The four women in the office laughed and Cordelia looked at Steven: "Hi you, I'm Cordy. Are you thirsty or hungry?"
"Thirsty," he replied. "Juice."
"Alright, I'll get you some juice." She looked around: "I'm sorry but I haven't got anything for you to play with."
"Don't worry," Joyce smiled and reached into her purse. "We brought his matchbox-cars." With this she produced four little cars and handed them to her son, who took them and went to play with them on the floor.
"He's a wonderful boy, Mom." Buffy smiled. "Giles and you must be so happy to have him."
"We are," Joyce said, taking a seat on a chair, while the other two girls got seated as well. "But truly happy I'll be when this stupid murder-accusations against you are dropped."
"So you believe now that I'm innocent?," her daughter asked with a hint of surprise in her voice. She was still digesting the new behaviour of her mother. She'd been so distant in jail, almost like a stranger and now the mother was back she remembered from the past.
"Of course I do. Buffy, you are my daughter and I know you. I'm sorry, I made you feel I wouldn't. We're just so confused at first."
"I know," the blonde smiled warmly at her mother. "I'm so glad you came. You'll never know what it means to me."
Joyce grinned: "Well it was one reason. The other," she looked to the ground for a moment as if she wanted to hide some embarrassment: "well, I wanted to meet Mr. Finnegan."
"Mr. Finnegan?," Buffy asked, her brows knitted in confusion. Then her face relaxed: "Oh, you mean Angel. He isn't there. He and Doyle left some hours ago. But why did you want to see him?"
"Well, just nosy I think. Willow told me about him," she looked at the red-head again.
Buffy's heard whirled around and she gazed at her friend who raised her hands in defense: "I only told her, how nice he is and how much he cares for you." The blonde relaxed a little bit. She was already seeing images of Willow telling her mother about their kiss or something.
"You're spending a lot of time with him, honey. You live with him in his apartment." Joyce, you're such a liar, she told herself. That's not what you're really interested in. But you can hardly ask her if she's in love with him.
"Mom," Buffy sighed. "I stay there because it's safer at the moment. I do not live with him."
"I know, I know," her mother assured her quickly. "I'm just interested, okay."
"Fine," her daughter nodded.
Joyce eyed her curiously. Willow had told her she had the feeling something was going on between her daughter and the young man and now Buffy was behaving as if he meant nothing to her. It was very strange and it made her wonder, if the red-head might have seen things. Suddenly something happened in her daughter's face, her eyes lit up and her mouth turned into a warm, welcoming smile, it was the expression of a woman welcoming her lover. The same moment she heard the door opening and turned in her chair. Two men were entering the office and they looked around in surprise.
Steven shot one of his cars directly into the taller man's foot. He laughed and bent down, a warm friendly sound: "Wow, that's a great car. Is it yours?," he asked the little boy. He had a rich, deep voice and Joyce like it from the start.
"Here I have your juice, Steven," Cordelia came out of the little office kitchen, a glass in her hand and smiled when she saw her husband standing there. She went over to him, handed Steven the glass who took it with a smile, then she leaned forward and kissed Doyle lovingly on the mouth.
Angel dropped the car on the ground and joined the other three women at the desk, leaving the couple to themselves. He smiled: "Willow," he greeted the red-head. Then he looked at Joyce.
"Uhm," Buffy said and smiled at him. "This is Joyce Giles, my mother. Mom, this is Mr. Finnegan."
"Hi," Angel said, extending his hand which she took without hesitation. "It's nice to meet you. But please call me Angel."
"Angel," she said with something in her voice he could't really put his finger on. She raised one eyebrow and glanced quickly to her daughter. She barely managed to suppress a huge grin seeing the expression on her face. "I'm glad to meet you."
"Who is the young man over there," he asked and looked at the little boy who was deeply concentrated on his cars.
"He is my brother," Buffy said with watery eyes. "I didn't know he existed until today."
The happy expression on her face warmed his heart: "He has your eyes," he remarked.
"Really?," she asked surprised. "I didn't notice."
"Angel's right," Joyce assured her. "It was the first thing I noticed when he was born." She looked at Angel again with that special look in her eyes, he couldn't read.
"Did you find anything?," Cordelia's voice came from behind and she and Doyle came to join the others. "Mrs. Giles. This is Doyle, my husband. Just call him Doyle. He has a nice name, but he doesn't like it."
Joyce grinned and shook hands with the young man. He had a nice, open smile and she liked him at once.
Buffy looked at Angel expectantly: "Now, did you find anything," she repeated Cordelia's question.
"Well," he began. "We know where Lex will be tonight. So Doyle and I and hopefully two friends of us will check that out later." He moved closer to Buffy and took her hand: "Then we went to your apartment. And found there things too. First of all a cigar-cutter and I think I'm right that it didn't belong to one of you."
"Of course not," she told him. "Neither of us was smoking."
"Good," he smiled assuringly. "We already gave it to a friend who is very good at taking finger-prints. And somehow, he never tells us exactly how, he can get into the finger-print files of the FBI. He'll cross-check them and hopefully give us a name in a few hours."
"That's so great," Willow exclaimed happily. Then she frowned: "It is great, right?"
"Hopefully," Angel replied, then he turned back to Buffy and squeezed her hand: "There is something else."
She saw the look in his eyes and fear was rising in her body: "What?," she whispered.
"I found a picture. A picture of Anna with two men," he went on and pulled it out of his pocket. "I don't know what it means yet, but I don't like it." With this he handed it to her.
She looked at it for a moment as if she would not understand what she was seeing. Then her eyes went wide, the picture slipped from her fingers and her free hand flew to her mouth. "Oh god," she whispered. Her body began to tremble again. This wasn't happening. Anna and Dermot, Anna and Dermot, her mind repeated again and again. It could mean anything, it could mean nothing, but whatever it meant, it prooved that Anna had known Dermot and that meant she'd lied to her. Buffy had trusted her, she had believed her and Anna had lied to her the whole time. "No, no, no," she shook her head, shocked. "This is not happenening," she cried, tears already running down her cheeks. "Angel, I thought she was my friend."
With one swift movement he pulled her to him and held her. "I know, Buffy. I know. And I'm so sorry."
She pressed herself deeper into his embrace, desperately needing the feeling of his ams safely around her body. Angel simply held her and let her cry at his chest, stroking the back of her head gently and whispering words of comfort in her ear.
Joyce watched them together and she knew Willow had been right. There was definitely something between them. And the way Angel seemed to care for her daughter was wonderful. She'd liked him from the beginning, now she was convinced he was right for Buffy. Oh how she wished those two would make it work. He seemed like the perfect boyfriend.
"Mommy, I need to pee," Steven's voice interrupted the emotional moment and everyone in the room, even Buffy, couldn't help but laugh. Doyle turned and looked at the little boy.
"Come on, my friend," he said with a smile. "I'll show you the way." He held out his hand and the boy took it without hesitation.
"Anyway," Joyce looked at her daughter. "Steven and I have to go," she told her. "He'll get tired soon. He needs to take his nap." She looked at the red-head: "What about you, Willow?"
Before she could answer, Angel looked at her: "Do you need to go home tonight," he asked.
She looked at him with a questioning gaze: "Why?"
"Well, Doyle and I have something we need to do tonight. And I wouldn't like Buffy on her own in my apartment. So I was thinking..."
"Of course I'll stay," she said immediately. "I don't even have to call someone as my boyfriend isn't in LA at the moment. He's in a band, you know and they've a gig for three nights in Santa Barbara."
"Alright," Joyce stood up and looked at Steven who'd just returned from the bathroom with Doyle. "Stevie, we have to leave. Please collect your cars and then say goodbye to your sister."
He nodded and crawled over the floor to get his cars.
"Honey," she turned to Buffy. "It was so good to see you again. And don't forget what I told you."
"I won't," her daughter assured her and both women embraced each other warmly. "See you soon."
"Yes, I truly hope that. Come whenever you want. I'll be happy. Oh and a last thing. Rupert and I will see 'The Father of the Bride' tonight." She quickly glanced at Angel and could see an amused glimpse in his eyes. "I'm sure he'll learn something." With a grin she turned, took the cars her son was holding up for her and put them back into her purse.
Steven went over to Buffy, she bowed down and they both embraced. Then he took his mother's outstretched hand and waving one of his little hands they both left the office.
"Doyle and I are leaving now too," Cordelia informed her friends. "I'm inviting myself to your apartment tonight, because I am SO not looking forward to another lonely evening, while my husband is chasing criminals. Besides, we can have a true girls talk then."
Doyle laughed and the couple left.
Willow smiled at Buffy and Angel: "If you two excuse me. I need to go to the bathroom." With a grin she turned to leave them alone.
"How do you feel?" he whispered looking deeply into her eyes.
"I cannot believe she lied to me," she replied with a sad voice.
"We still don't know what it means. Maybe she just wanted to forget about it," he tried to comfort her.
"Yeah," she nodded but didn't sound very happy.
"What did your mom say to you. You do not have to tell me of course..."
She reached out and laid a finger on his lips: "She wanted to tell me that she loved me and that she believed me," she smiled.
He cupped her face in one his hands: "I'm happy for you. See, I told you they'd come around."
She nodded: "You did."
"I missed you, you know," he whispered suddenly.
"Me too," she replied.
They smiled at each other, then leaned forward and their lips met in a sweet kiss, that became passionate in no time. Buffy moaned and opened her lips while his tongue darted out to explore her mouth, then he withdrew it and his teeth captured her lower lip. She moaned again, enjoying the shivers that kiss was sending through her whole body.
He pulled her closer, his hands wandering up and down her back while hers left his neck and found their way into the hair on the back of his head, pressing his lips tightly on hers.
When the need for air finally became an issue, both pulled back slightly, breathing heavily. Staring into each others eyes, their foreheads still touching, they never noticed that Willow had emerged from the bathroom and was now inspecting the ceiling.