I Feel You

by *Stars*

Email:  stars91@gmail.com

Distribution: My site, and anywhere else, just let me know where it’s going.

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon, and his evil band of minions owns it all.  I just borrow for my own amusement!  All songs and title of this fic are from ‘3 Doors Down’ (CDs ‘Kryptonite’ and ‘Away From The Sun’).

Spoilers: None.  It’s AU people!

Pairings: B/A (Of Course)  Mentions of B/R and A/C, others, but you’ll find those out as you read!

Summary: Buffy is a kindergarten teacher in New York City.  Angel is a popular TV star on Buffy’s favorite show, ‘Into the Night’, something about a vampire…. *g*.  Will a chance meeting with her favorite star turn Buffy’s life upside down?

Rating:  Anything up to and including NC-17.  All chapters will be marked accordingly.

A/N:  I’ve taken some liberties with a little bit of military stuff.  I’m sure it’s something that would never happen, but try to remember that this is just a fic.  I don’t mean to offend anyone out there!


Chapter 1 ~ 

Spring Break. 

Buffy Summers was quite sure that she’d never been so relieved to hear those two words in all her life.  It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy her job, and it certainly wasn’t that she didn’t completely adore her students, because she did.  It was just everything else in life made her want to scream.

Richard Snider, who had begun his duties as principal at the beginning of the year due to Mr. Flutie’s unfortunate summer vacation incident with a pig of all things, was slowly trying to make her life a living hell.  He apparently had a strong dislike for young female teachers, which was evidenced by the unfathomable daily demands he put on her time.

After Principal Snider’s first week at PS-13, Buffy soon learned that one of the first grade teachers, a sweet redhead named Willow Rosenburg, was quietly enduring the same torture.  The two young women soon became fast friends, helping each other cope with the new stresses of their job. 

It was during the weeks just prior to spring break, that Buffy desperately tried to convince her new best friend to travel with her to LA, where she was planning on spending the week.  As much as the redhead wanted to go, she politely turned Buffy down, explaining that she and her fiancée Oz, a music teacher at the neighboring high school, were expected in Florida to visit his relatives.

So, Buffy was left to sit quietly on the plane, staring out the window, alone.  But at least she was away.  For the next ten days, she could forget about school, and everything else in her *real life* that made her crazy. 

With a relieved sigh, Buffy pulled out her new laptop.  She had another hour or two on the plane, so what better way to spend her down time than to get in another chapter of her fic, she hoped anyway.  Her muse had a tendency to go on it’s own vacation at any moment.

Buffy had become a total ‘Into the Night’ aholic from the beginning.  Quickly submersing herself completely in the TV show and its world of fandom.  She began searching the net on a daily basis for information on her favorite characters.  Gage, a tall, dark, and handsome vampire who helped keep the streets of LA safe from everything that goes bump in the night, and his soft spoken (and human) love interest Alexandria.

It had made perfect sense to Buffy that when she discovered the incredible world of fanfiction, she too would eventually get the writing bug.  Now, as she sat and stared at the blank screen in front of her, she began to wonder what it would be like to be Alex, or even better, Winifred, since she was the real person behind the character.  It must be Heaven to have Gage, or Angel, depending on how you looked at it, kiss you.  Fred, yeah, she definitely liked the idea of being her more.  Because in real life, it was actually Fred who got to kiss Angel O’Connor, and what a job that had to be!

Smiling inwardly, Buffy quickly returned her laptop to its carrying case.  Instead of trying to force her pesky muse to cooperate, she’d just enjoy the rest of her trip in a nice sexy daydream with Angel.  Which wasn’t hard, especially since most of her favorite authors did such an amazing job describing a Gage/Alex smut scene to perfection.  She’d just climb into one of those scenes, and pretend that it was Angel and he was screaming her name in the throws of passion instead of his TV character Gage calling out for Alex.  Yeah, she could definitely handle something like that.

An hour and a half and a lot of drool later, Buffy was roused from her sleep as the plane skidded to a stop.  Looking around sheepishly, she prayed that she hadn’t moaned in her sleep, because she had certainly done that and more in the dream.  God, why couldn’t real men be like Gage was?  Loving, caring, sensitive and very protective.  She’d give just about anything to find a man like that, especially after what she’d gone through with Riley.

Sighing, Buffy resolved that there weren’t any ‘real men’ out there like Gage. 

Gathering up her carry-on bag and laptop, Buffy quietly followed the rest of the plane’s passengers out the door and into the airport.  Now, she only hoped that she could manage to get to the baggage claim and find her luggage without creating some kind of international incident. 

She might not find a ‘real man’ while she was in LA, but she was certainly going to find herself.  Something that she knew she’d lost somewhere along the tumultuous road of her life.

Chapter 2 ~
(Rated ‘R’ for some language)

Buffy had been exhausted when she’d finally made it to her hotel on that first day in LA.  It’d taken her over an hour after her initial arrival at LAX to make her way through the crowds of people to the baggage claim, and another forty-five minutes to hail a cab. 

She silently mused that she should be use to all the crowds of big city life as long as she’d been in New York, but some part of her was still that shy small town girl who could get lost in the one horse town she’d grown up in.

After a quick shower and a sandwich from room service, Buffy opened her laptop, tiredly hoping to roll out at least part of a chapter before sleep took control of her body.  She hated to keep people waiting on her updates, knowing how much she’d surfed the boards over and over, praying that one of her favorite authors had been kind and reeled her back from that huge cliff they’d left her dangling off of with their last post.  Glancing out her hotel window, Buffy admired all of the twinkling lights of downtown LA.  She was suddenly inspired.

~Stopping his pursuit of the large La’Tek demon, Gage turned on his heels.  He had heard the almost inaudible sounds of a female in trouble, not just any female though.  No, these were the frightened screams of Alex.  He’d left her in his car, thinking that was the safest place for her to be.  Now he knew different.  The La’Tek demon had only been a ploy to get him away from the only thing in his undead life that could cause him pain.~

Buffy typed on in a mad fury, not realizing that she’d been at it for over two hours when she finally finished the chapter.  Saving her work, she gently sat her laptop on the nearby desk and snuggled under the covers.  She needed this break more than anything, and she was determined to make the most of it.  With a soft sigh, Buffy drifted off to sleep, delicious thoughts of a naked Gage playing in her mind.

* * * * * * * *

The second, and first full day Buffy spent in LA was amazing.  She spent the majority of her time sight seeing.  Sometimes she just liked to walk aimlessly down the City’s streets.  Simply taking in everything that this diverse place had to offer was more than she had hoped for, she only wished that Willow had been able to share this with her.  Not to worry though, Willow wouldn’t miss a thing as she’d already disposed of two rolls of film.

Feeling the need to recharge her batteries, Buffy quietly slipped into a crowded corner coffee shop.  She was pleased to find that in her search for an almost non-existent table, that one had just recently been vacated on the patio.  Sitting down with her latte, Buffy silently took in the scenery. 

The people, cars, music, everything just seemed to melt together.  Although from where she sat, it didn’t seem any less crowded than New York, but it certainly held a much more mellow vibe. 

Sipping on her drink, Buffy was suddenly jarred back into reality as a small figure standing much closer to her table than she would have liked caught her attention.

“Can I…can I help you?”  Buffy finally asked.

“Oh, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to disturb you.  I just thought I might find a table out here, and well, no such luck.”  The petite brunette answered.

Realizing whom she was talking to, Buffy’s jaw hit the table.  She’d hoped, no she’d done everything shy of praying to her god that she’d get a glimpse of a celebrity while she was out here, but never in her wildest fantasies…no scrap that, she’d definitely had the fantasies, but still she didn’t actually think she’d be talking to a star, a real life TV star.  And not just any TV star either, no she’d gone and hit the jackpot of stars.

Reaching for the pen she knew she had tucked in her bag, Buffy grabbed one of the napkins off the table and handed them to the young woman.

“I’ll trade you.  Your John Hancock for a seat.”

Taking Buffy’s offer, the woman smiled politely and took the napkin and pen.  Signing her name, she handed the items back to Buffy and promptly sat down in the opposite chair.

“Thanks.”  Buffy said, studying the signature carefully.

“I think I got the better end of the deal.”  Extending her hand across the table she continued, “Winifred Burkle, but I guess you already knew that.”

“Yeah.”  Buffy answered shyly, “It’s an honor to meet you.”

“No honor, just nice.”  Fred answered back with a smile.

Buffy’s confusion evident, Fred clarified.

“I just meant that I’m nothing special, so it’s just *nice* to meet me, not an honor.  I’m just like you.”

“Sorry.  I didn’t mean….you know, I should really be going anyway.  I don’t want to take up any more of your time.”  Buffy replied as she began to gather her things.

“Don’t run off.  I’d like the company.  I’ve got about a half an hour before I’m supposed to meet my boyfriend, so if you don’t mind….”

Buffy figured her smile must have ran from ear to ear.  She couldn’t believe that Winifred Burkle….Alex, *the* Alexandria, had wanted to talk to her!  The next thirty or so minutes seemed to fly by in a haze as the two women talked about their small town roots and their now big city lives.  Buffy was pleased to find out that she had more in common with the woman that played her favorite female character than she had once thought.

The two women giggled wildly as Fred finished a story, that only a small town girl like herself could relate to.  It was in that fit of laughter that they were interrupted.

“Is this a girls only party, or can I join?”  the deep male voiced asked from behind Buffy.

“Angel, hey!”  Fred greeted, rising from her chair she walked around the table and hugged her handsome co-star.

It was in that moment when Buffy Summers turned to see who the question had come from that she felt the biggest adrenaline rush she’d ever had in her entire existence, and the most sickening feeling ever. 

*They* were dating?

“So, what’s the verdict?”  Angel asked again as he smiled at Buffy.

Fred whipped around and grabbed a new napkin and the pen that Buffy had innocently left lying on the table and handed them to Angel.  Cocking an eyebrow in question, he silently took the items.

“Your John Hancock for a seat.  That’s the rule.”  Fred chirped happily as she moved to sit down again.

Sitting his coffee down on the table, Angel expertly signed his name in his neatest script and handed the napkin and pen to Buffy.

“Since happy over there already knows what my signature looks like, I’m guessin’ this is for you.”

Boyfriend-girlfriend or not, Buffy knew right then and there, she could die a happy person.  She’d hit not just a jackpot today, but she’d found the whole fucking gold mine.  Feeling her cheeks warm with embarrassment, Buffy accepted the autograph.

“Thank you.”

“Can I sit now?”

Fred stood.

“Here take mine.  I have to take off anyway.  I see my date.”

‘Date?’  Buffy thought silently to herself.  ‘So, she and Angel weren’t…’  A small smile crept across Buffy’s face, for one short moment.  It was soon followed by the look of sheer terror.

‘Oh. My. God……Fred’s leaving…..leaving me……here……*alone*……with……Angel?  Fuckfuckfuckfuck…no, get a hold of yourself.  You’re an adult.  Act like one.’

“It was really nice talking to you Fred.”

“Same here Buffy.  Take care of yourself, and enjoy the rest of your vacation.” 

“Thanks.  I will.”

Angel moved around the table to take Fred’s seat. 

“Tell Wes I said hey!”  he called after Fred’s retreating form.

“Will do.”  She answered over her shoulder with a smile and a wave.

“So, Buffy is it?”  Angel asked, turning his attention back to the blonde sitting across from him.

“Yes.”  She answered with a sweet smile.

“Short for anything?” 

“Nope.  Just Buffy.”

“Interesting.”  Angel commented, taking a sip of his black coffee, he leaned back in his chair. 

There was a short silence between the two.

“Sort of like Angel?”  Buffy finally deadpanned.

The comment drew a giant grin from the popular TV star. 

“Something like that.”  He answered casually.

The next three hours were spent in deep conversation between the two.  Angel asked Buffy about her life, and she disclosed a slightly edited version of events up to the point where they met.  Angel returned the details, giving out bits and pieces of his history. 

Though both felt incredibly comfortable in the other’s presence, neither wanted to get all Oprah.  They both had things in their past that they were not proud of, no use ruining a good time by talking about any of the sordid details.

For Buffy it was like talking to a dear friend, someone whom she’d known all of her life.  Angel was so common, so ordinary, so deliciously yummy…no, that was beside the point, he was just so damn easy to talk to.  The feeling was obviously mutual, as Angel would smoothly coax Buffy into yet another cup of coffee when she would make an excuse to leave.

She didn’t really want to leave, but the longer she sat there the worse she knew it was going to be in the end, and she didn’t think super gluing their bodies together would be an acceptable thing to do.  Finally after her fourth cup of coffee, Buffy’s body held it’s own revolt.  Politely excusing herself to the restroom, she got up and headed into the building.

Sitting alone at the table, Angel began to nervously fidget with the sugar packets lying haphazardly near the edge.  Why was this girl working him up into such a frenzy?  He’d only been talking to her for a couple of….hours?  They’d been talking that long?  God it hadn’t seemed like that much time at all, really only a couple of minutes. 

Maybe he could ask her out.  Yeah, that’s it.  He could take her to….where could he take her?  To the club, yeah, she mentioned liking that band, and he knew that Spike had somehow arranged for them to play there tonight.  It would be perfect, and since production didn’t start up again until Monday, it didn’t matter how late they were out tonight.  It would be….

“Sir?”

“Huh?”  Angel was jolted out of his musings by one of the waitresses.

“The woman you were with.  She said to wait five minutes and then give this to you, but I couldn’t wait.  I thought you should have it.  I didn’t read it.  I swear.”  The young waitress stuttered nervously.  She knew exactly whom she was talking to, and it was making her insides do flips.

Angel looked at the small piece of paper.

Angel ~

I’ve had a wonderful time, but I know if I stay a minute longer, you’ll have me permanently attached to your side, and I don’t think that would be a pretty sight. ?  Take care, and remember, I’ll be watching!

Best Wishes,

Buffy


Angel grabbed his wallet and slapped a $50 bill in the waitress’ hand.  “Thanks.”

Looking down at the large bill, the waitress turned to try and give it back, but it was too late, Angel was already through the building and out the door.

Chapter 3 ~
(Rated R ~ Some Language)

Minding her own business, Buffy quietly followed two well-dressed, older gentlemen into the hotel lobby.  She hadn’t even noticed the black BMW that had followed her for the last three blocks.  When her small form disappeared through the revolving door, Angel smiled.

Dropping her bag on the bed, Buffy eased her tired body into the desk chair.  Flipping up her laptop, she opened the file containing her story.  That morning before she left on her sightseeing adventure, she had typed herself into the middle of a love scene between Gage and Alex.  After seeing the real life version of them both, her muse was more than willing to pound out some smut.  With a hit of arousal in her own eyes, Buffy began to type.

~Gage gently laid his dark haired beauty onto the red silk sheets that covered his enormous bed.  Leaning down, he kissed her passionately.  Though they had been together several times before, making love to Alex was always like floating in the clouds.  The softness of her cream colored skin, the intoxicating aroma of her arousal, it was sweetness and sex all rolled into one amazing creature.~

Buffy was suddenly interrupted by the all to familiar AOL guy.  “You’ve got mail.”  Happily she clicked her email icon and began checking her inbox.  Frowning at the overload of junk mail she had received, Buffy began clicking away at the useless entries.  Suddenly a smile crept across her face.  She happily clicked on the one from ‘RedWillow’.

~Buffy,

Hey!  Hope your trip to LA is going well.  Oz and I are having a nice time in Florida.  Trying to keep from coming back looking like lobsters though! hehe.  Have you met any stars yet? Well, better go!  Mail me when you get the chance!

~Hugs~  Will


Buffy laughed at the email.  If her best friend only knew.  Hitting the ‘reply’ button, she began her response.

~Wills

Hey!  Glad you and Oz are having a good time.  I hear ‘Water Babies’ has a SPF of like a billion, so keep that in mind. LOL  No lobsters in NY!  At least none that we can’t eat anyway!  Take care, and I’ll talk to you soon!

*hugs*  Buffy~


Hitting the ‘send’ button, Buffy silently contemplated her earlier encounter with ‘a star’ as Willow had so simply put it.  Fred had been so sweet, just as she had expected her to be.  She obviously drew a lot of her character from herself.  And Angel…even more handsome in real life than he was on TV.  And that smile, gods, he could melt an iceberg with that grin.  Sighing, Buffy was startled out of reverie with a loud knock on her door.

Slowly making her way across the room, Buffy glanced through the peephole, checking to see who on earth could possibly be knocking on *her* door.  It was to no avail, as all she could see through the small hole were flowers.

Opening the door as far as the protective chain would allow, Buffy hesitantly asked, “Can I help you?”

“Buffy Summers?”  A male voice asked from behind the giant bouquet.

“Ye…yes.”

“I have a delivery for you Miss Summers.  If you would be so kind as to open your door, I’ll be happy to put them where ever you direct ma’am.” 

“Umm…”  Hesitating for a moment, Buffy finally agreed.  Sliding the chain out of its lock, she opened the door completely.

“Where would you like them ma’am?”  The young man asked.

Buffy surveyed her surroundings.  “The bureau will be fine.”

“Yes ma’am.”  The young man, dressed neatly in hotel attire responded.  Placing the large glass vase of red roses on the bureau, he then turned to face Buffy.

“This is also for you.”  He added, handing her an envelope with her name eloquently scrawled on the front.

Buffy took the envelope, then immediately turned reaching for her purse.  She knew that tipping wasn’t only customary, it was pretty much expected in hotels of this quality.

“No ma’am.  That’s not necessary.  Everything has been taken care of.  Enjoy your flowers.”  The young hotel clerk said politely.  Smiling at Buffy, he quietly turned on his heel and headed out the door, pulling it shut behind him.

Buffy was stunned to say the least.  Looking over the large bouquet of roses, she estimated that there had to be at least $100 worth of them.  Inhaling deeply, Buffy enjoyed the aroma of her favorite flower.

Sitting down easily on the edge of her large bed, she opened the sealed envelope.  Gently pulling out the cream colored stationary she opened the perfectly folded paper.  Inside she found two tickets to a club called ‘Forever’.  At the bottom of the ticket she read the printed announcement.

~Tonight ONLY!  3Doors Down~

No. Fucking. Way.

Unfolding the rest of the letter, she saw the inscription.

~Buffy,

I’ll pick you up in an hour.  Dress casual.

    Always,

     A~


Her breath hitched.  How the hell had he found her?  Did it matter?  Did it really?  She had the opportunity to not only spend the evening with the hottest guy she’d ever known, but she would spend the evening with him and her favorite music group of all time.  Oh, hell yeah!

Fuck any thoughts of doing the right thing.  Fuck any worries of becoming to attached.  Fuck any rationale thoughts she might even consider having.  This was the chance of a lifetime.  Hell, if she was lucky maybe she could even fuck him.  Okay, so *some* rational thinking might be good.

Twisting the watch on her arm so she could see what the time was, she immediately dropped the letter and tickets on the desk next to her laptop.  He had said an hour, but was that an hour from the time the note was delivered or was that an hour from the time he told them to deliver it? 

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Scrambling to her suitcase, Buffy began flinging clothes out left and right.  Finally grabbing a satisfactory outfit, she hurried to the bathroom.  After walking the streets of LA all day, she definitely needed a shower.

Buffy had showered, shaved, dressed and dried her hair in the span of about thirty minutes.  Definitely a record for her.  She had just finished applying her foundation when there was a knock on her door.  Not even thinking she ran to the door and swung it open.

“What?”  she asked in a huff before she got the full view of who was standing on the other side.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Angel smiled sweetly.  He’d been early on purpose.  Not being able to wait a second longer to find out if the beautiful golden goddess he’d spent the afternoon with, talking casually over coffee, had agreed to be his date for the night or not.  Apparently she had….unless of course she was looking ridiculously hot in a pair of low-rise red leather pants and a black sleeveless turtleneck, that stopped just above the waist of her pants, for the room service guy.  It *better* be for him and not the room service guy.

“Hey.”  He uttered, but only barely.  Angel was sure his eyes had bugged completely out of his head when he first saw her.  Nothing like looking like a total dork on your first date.

“Hey.  Sorry.  I didn’t mean….”  Buffy stumbled through her apology as she stepped back from the door, silently inviting him in. 

Angel stepped in the room, closing the door behind him.

When Buffy turned around she saw the disarray that she’d left the room in before she had taken a shower.  Grabbing wildly at the thoughtlessly tossed clothes, she embarrassingly opened a drawer to the bureau and shoved them in unceremoniously.

Gods, he’s going to think I’m a total loser.

“Sorry, I know I’m a little early.”

“No.  That’s okay.  Just….can I have a couple of minutes?  I need to finish my makeup.” 

“Oh, sure.  Take all the time you need. I’ll just….”

“Have a seat.”  Buffy offered, pointing to the chair at the desk.

“Yeah.  I’ll just have a seat.”  Angel replied with a shy grin.  Gods, she was making him feel like he was sixteen again, in more ways than one.  The tightness in his faded blue jeans a distinct reminder of just how much she was making him feel.

Buffy didn’t say another word, instead she turned and headed back into the bathroom.  She was determined to do this as quickly as possible, as she was sure that keeping the ‘star’ waiting was *not* a good idea.  At least it shouldn’t be a good idea, but for some reason she got the feeling that with Angel it was different.  She hadn’t gotten that ‘I’m superior’ vibe from him earlier, and she certainly hadn’t felt in now either.  Shrugging, she began applying her makeup.

Angel pulled the chair out further away from the desk, his long legs just couldn’t accommodate the small space that was there before.  Sliding into the chair, Angel glanced at the note and tickets lying there.  Picking them up he smiled.  He’d never been more thankful that his friend had such good taste in music, and an even better savvy for being able to reel in the big acts than he did at that moment.  He’d owe Spike huge for this one.

Glancing over at the laptop something caught his eye.  Well, it wasn’t so much *something* as it was a name.  And it wasn’t just *any* name as it was *his* name.  Okay so his name was stretching it a little, as it was actually his character’s name, but still.  What was this?  No, wait…he had no right to pry.  This was Buffy’s personal stuff, nothing that he should be nosing into, especially not on their first date.

Turning his head he tried to avoid the screen.  Shuffling the two tickets back and forth between his fingers, the curiosity finally got the better of him.  He’d just never been good an quenching that desire once it grabbed a hold of him.  Looking back at the computer screen he began reading.

~Gage gently laid his dark haired beauty onto the red silk sheets that covered his enormous bed.  Leaning down, he kissed her passionately.  Though they had been together several times before, making love to Alex was always like floating in the clouds.  The softness of her cream colored skin, the intoxicating aroma of her arousal, it was sweetness and sex all rolled into one amazing creature.  Cupping one of her small breasts in his hand, the dark haired vampire gently began to kneed…~

The noise of Buffy shutting the bathroom door jolted him away from the screen.  Looking down at the tickets in his hands he tried to look like an innocent child, instead of the dreadfully nosey beast he obviously was.  He was an actor for Christ’s sake, surely he could pull that off!

“Just let me get my boots, and I’ll be all ready to go.”  Buffy chirped happily.

“Uhh….yeah…sure.”  Angel stuttered nervously as he rose from the chair.  Yeah, doing a great job of playing the innocent part aren’t ya?

Sitting down lightly on the edge of the bed, Buffy pulled on her black heeled boots.  As tall as Angel was, she’d need all the help she could get.  He probably wouldn’t even try to kiss her if he had to get down on both knees just to do it, she mused. 

Kissing?  Getting a little ahead of yourself, aren’t ya Buff?

“Ready?”  Angel asked suddenly, wanting to get the hell out of her room and as far away from the sin he’d just committed as possible.  He’d figure out what that was and if Buffy wrote it or not later. 

But how cool would that be if she was writing that sexy stuff about him?  Maybe that meant she was attracted to him?  No, she was writing that about Gage, not *you* he reasoned.  But wasn’t it all one and the same in the end?

Smiling, Angel reached out for Buffy’s hand. 

“Ready.” She affirmed.  Taking Angel’s large hand, she allowed him to lead her out the door and down the hall.

Stepping onto the elevator, they turned in unison and faced the closing doors.  Both smiling from ear to ear.  They looked as though they’d just stole all the gold in Fort Knox.  Who knows, maybe for them, this was the equivalent.

Chapter 4 ~

The short drive to the restaurant was quiet, and thankfully uneventful.  After Buffy’s initial compliments on Angel’s black BMW, there hadn’t been much said.  Angel was still mentally kicking himself in the ass for invading Buffy’s privacy, even if it did add quite a bit of intrigue into the situation. 

Logically he should be very wary of the beautiful blonde sitting snug in the seat next to him, but he wasn’t.  He should be considering all of the possibilities that went along with dating an obvious fan of his.  Definite stalker thoughts should have been flooding his mind, making him cautious about letting her too close, but they weren’t.  She just didn’t fit that bill.

But Buffy Summers didn’t really seem to fit any bill so to speak.  As Angel caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of his eye while they were stopped at a red light, he decided that she was definitely in a league of her own.  Maybe it was because she was so drop dead gorgeous, and didn’t even realize it.  Or maybe it was the fact that she treated him like just another guy, and not some superhero like Gage who would sweep her off her feet, and make her whole world right again.  Or maybe it was both of those things, and a ton of others that he hadn’t even thought of yet all rolled into one.

He finally felt like he found someone he could feel comfortable around.  There was just something about Buffy that made him feel at ease, like he could let loose, and be himself.  Something that his ex had never thought of as a good idea.  She had only wanted the image of his celebrity, the portrait that his agent had painted of him, not the real him. 

Cordelia’s true self had come as a complete shock.  He had thought that they were the perfect couple, until she slowly began to reveal her true feelings to him.  She thought their marriage would bolster both of their careers, and when hers didn’t progress as rapidly as his did, things began to get ugly. 

He finally realized that it had all been a charade when he suggested that they start a family.  The idea was met with a long line of explicitives and a resounding end to the happy picture he had created in his mind.  She filed for divorce shortly thereafter.  It had been almost a year now since he had become officially single again.

Pulling the car up to the curb just outside the small Italian restaurant, Angel sighed contently as he switched off the ignition.  He had been down the long dark and dank road to Hell with Cordelia.  Now he had her polar opposite sitting next to him, he only prayed that she would be the goddess that would lead him up the golden road to Heaven. 

There was something very special about Buffy, he could *feel* it deep within him.  Besides, he believed that you should never tempt fate, and the fates had obviously worked their will with him today. 

The coffee shop that he normally frequented had been closed due to some “unexpected remodeling” the sign had read, and then there was that water main break on the next street over that had caused him to make a last second decision to stop at the ‘Java Hut’ for coffee.  Some not so quiet whispers between the waitresses there had drawn his attention to Fred who was laughing wildly with a blonde woman, who’s face he couldn’t see through the patio doors.  The rest, he smiled to himself, was Buffy and Angel history. 

“Is something wrong?”  Buffy asked quizzically.  Angel had stopped the car and removed the keys from the ignition, but then had just sat there with a strange look on his face.  Maybe he was having second thoughts about this…. “date.”

“Huh?  Oh no, I was just….thinking.”  He answered.

“Yeah.  I could see the smoke.”  Buffy replied playfully.  She’d never dared speak to Riley in such a way, but with Angel, it seemed only natural.

Angel looked at her funny for a second before he ‘got’ the joke.  She had certainly caught him off guard.  He was so used to Cordelia’s steely demeanor, that Buffy’s comment had initially flew right over the top of his head.

With a devilish grin, Angel took Buffy’s small hand in his, he lifted it to his lips and kissed its back.  “We’re here.”  He stated as he gently released Buffy’s hand back into her possession.

She blushed at his kind gesture. 

Once inside the restaurant the couple was led back to a quiet corner booth.  After a quick glance at the menu, both Buffy and Angel ordered and then settled into a quiet conversation.  They each covered their childhood with a little more depth than they had earlier at the coffeehouse, and then elaborated on a few high school mishaps before they were interrupted.

“Mr. O’Connor…can I….can I have your autograph?”  asked an obviously embarrassed teenage girl.  She’d apparently lost whatever game she played to choose the spokesperson of the group, because she had two conspirators hiding behind her, nudging her forward.

Angel seemed to be frozen in his place.  He wanted to be polite and indulge the young girl’s request, but he wasn’t sure how Buffy would react.  Cordelia had always thrown such a fit when they were interrupted during dinner by “autograph hounds” as she would refer to them, but after he looked across the table, he saw only a kind smile grace Buffy’s already beautiful features, and he realized she was waiting on him to give the poor girl what she wanted.

“Sure.”  Angel answered with a smile.

Letting out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, the young girl handed him a small piece of paper and a pen.

“What’s your name?” 

“Ke…Kelsy.” She stuttered back.

“Well, Kelsy, it was very nice to meet you.”  Angel said, handing the girl the paper and pen.

“Thank you!”  She replied with a bright smile. 

Turning around, the three beaming teenagers took off towards their table.

“And I thought I was special!  Guess you just hand those out to anybody who asks!”  Buffy teased with an obvious grin.

“Autographs….now those are a dime a dozen, but dinner and a concert, those are reserved for only the most enchanting of fans.” 

Angel inwardly breathed a sigh of relief as he watched Buffy’s face light up with his comment.  She was obviously enjoying this as much as he was. 

“So….how many enchanting fans have you taken to dinner and a concert?”  Buffy quizzed, cocking her head to the side, she continued their playful conversation.

“Well there was this one…”  Angel trailed his sentence as he looked up toward the ceiling as if he were truly pondering the question.

Buffy had a sudden desire *not* to know how often he did this.  “That’s okay.  I was just…”

Angel quickly interrupted as he could tell that the playful tone had fell from her voice. 

“There’s only been one Buffy, and she’s sitting across from me now.”  He admonished, reaching across the table, he took her hand in his.

Buffy fought the tears that were threatening to spill from her eyes with his comment.  Damn him, he was doing that incredibly sweet thing again!

“It’s none of my business…really.”  Buffy finally added.

“Maybe, but it’s the truth.”  Angel replied honestly. 

He didn’t want Buffy to think this was something he did on a regular basis, and if truth be told, he hadn’t been on a single date since his divorce.  He just couldn’t bear the thought of putting his heart out there to be broken again.  That was, until he looked into her mossy green eyes.

Both were relieved when the waiter showed up at their table with their meal.  Several minutes passed between them in strained silence, neither knowing exactly what should be said.  They didn’t have to think much longer, the decision was being made for them. 

“Hey there Nancy Boy, you ready to party?” 

Buffy looked up to see a blonde man sporting a leather duster, an English accent, and a smirk leaning, palms down against their table.

“Spike…what are you….”  Angel stuttered.

“Saw the poof-mobile outside on my way to the club.  Thought I’d drop in on ya.  Wanted to check out the hottie you went through so much trouble for.”  Spike answered as he slid his way into the booth next to Buffy.  Eyeing her trim form, Spike raised his scarred eyebrow at Angel in approval.

The gesture wasn’t lost on Angel, as he gave a coy grin to his friend.  Yeah, she was definitely a hottie.  Glancing back to Buffy, he noticed that she had intently observed the guys’ quiet exchange.  Alternating her stare from the blonde man who now had his arm around her to her ‘date’, Buffy held her tongue and sat quietly, waiting for Angel to make the introductions.

“Since all of the blood in Peaches’ head has obviously made a B-line for his cock, let me introduce myself.  Name’s Spike.”

Buffy giggled at Spike’s brash introduction, not to mention his odd name.  Angel wasn’t quite as amused, giving his friend a warning glare and a swift kick under the table.

“Hi, I’m Buffy.” 

“Well Buffy, I’ll leave you and the big Ponce alone to finish your dinner.”  Turning his attention back to Angel, Spike continued, “Doors open in an hour.  If you come around to the back, I’ll make sure than Gunn knows to let you two in.” 

“Thanks.”  Angel said through gritted teeth.  If he didn’t owe Spike so much for these tickets, he’d beat the shit out of him right now for that little comment.

“Nice to meet you Buffy.  Later Peaches.”  Spike said as he got up from the table and sauntered out of the restaurant.

Buffy turned her attention back to Angel, the irritation evident on his usually gentle features.

“That guy’s a riot.”  She added casually, before inhaling another big bite of her spaghetti.

“Yeah, hysterical.”  Angel answered dryly, his eyes still transfixed on the blonde’s retreating form.

“Don’t you like him?”  Buffy quizzed, not quite sure what to make of Angel’s demeanor.

Angel looked at Buffy.

“He’s my best friend, he just sometimes has a way of…..irritating me.  He thinks its funny or something.”

“Oh.  Well, then it’s a good thing he didn’t succeed in irritating you or anything.”  Buffy said smiling.

Angel laughed.

Chapter 5 ~

Buffy Summers was having the night of her life.  Not only had she been out to one of the best Italian restaurants that even existed, in her opinion anyway, but now she was sitting at a table with Angel O’Connor, his incredibly sweet co-star Winifred Burkle, and her fiancée Wesley Wyndom-Price, who was slated to star as James Bond in the next feature film. 

Buffy thought Wesley was incredibly humble about that news, as it wasn’t everyday one was selected to portray the distinguished agent, 007.  Sitting quietly, she listened to the conversations between her fellow concert goers, trying to filter out what they were saying from the noise of the blaring jukebox music.

“Would you like a drink?”  Angel asked suddenly, startling Buffy.

“Oh, uh…water would be fine.”  She answered politely.

“Anyone else?”  Angel asked the group as he rose from his chair.

Both Wesley and Fred shook their heads ‘no.’  They had secured their drinks earlier, and were still nursing them, neither in a hurry to down the dark lager.

Angel moved in long strides towards the bar.  So intent on getting their drinks and returning to his date, he was oblivious to the comment made by a young woman already standing there.

“Hel..lo salty goodness.”    Purred the twenty-something woman.  She was dressed in black leather pants with a green knit wrap.  The curly mop of light brown hair hung to her shoulders and her green eyes were filled with instant arousal from the nearness of the handsome man who came to stand next to her.

Not getting a response, she cleared her throat, and tried again, “Hi.  I’m Meghan.”

There was no answer from Angel.

“Think the bint is talking to you mate.”  Spike offered as he handed Angel the bottled water and beer from behind the bar.

“Huh?”  Angel asked, brows ruffled, a puzzled look evident.

Spike said nothing more, instead nodded to the woman standing scandalously close to the TV star’s side.  Angel turned to see a pair of green eyes staring up at him, though not the ones he longed to look into.

“Oh…hi.  Nice to meet you.”  Angel offered hastily before making a quick retreat to the sanctuary of his table.

With a dreamy look in her eyes, Meghan turned to the blonde bartender, “He said ‘hi’ to me.”

“That he did love, that he did.”  Spike answered with a grin.  It never ceased to amaze him how turned on the chicks got from the simple utterance of the word ‘hi’ from his friend.  Too bad they were all in for a shocker, the big Poofster was in love.  Written plain and simple in big flashing neon letters across his face.  Spike mused that he couldn’t have missed it if he were blind.

Angel returned to the table just as the night’s big act walked out on stage.  Although he wasn’t sure he’d ever heard of a band called 3 Doors Down, Buffy obviously had.  He watched as her face lit up when the lead singer went right into their first song.

There’s another world inside of me that you may never see.
There are secrets in this life that I can’t hide.
Somewhere in this darkness there’s a life that I can’t find.
Maybe it’s too far away or maybe I’m just blind, maybe I’m just blind.

Angel sat quietly watching as Buffy mouthed the words to the chorus.

So hold me when I’m here, right me when I’m wrong
Hold me when I’m scared, and love me when I’m gone
Everything I am and everything in me
Wants to be the one you wanted me to be

I’ll never let you down even if I could
I’d give up everything if only for your good
So hold me when I’m here, right me when I’m wrong
You can hold me when I’m scared, you won’t always be there

So, love me when I’m gone…love me when I’m gone.


“These guys are great.”  Fred offered up loudly, trying to be heard over the loud thumping music.

“Aren’t they awesome!”  Buffy added as she bounced around in her chair, trying to match the rhythm of the drums.

It was obvious to any bystander that neither Wesley nor Angel were paying the band much attention, they were much more consumed with their dates, both of which were enjoying themselves immensely.

Halfway through the band’s set, Buffy and Fred decided they’d had enough watching from afar.  Grabbing Angel and Wesley’s hands respectively, the two dragged their men out into the crowd of people and closer to the stage.

Although this new situation forced Angel into a crowd of people, something he had never been comfortable with, it also allowed him closer contact with Buffy.  She was now standing in front of him, swaying seductively back and forth to the music.  His arms instinctively wrapped around her tiny waist, pulling her body flush with his, their hips rubbing seductively against each other. 

Angel’s possessive gesture startled Buffy at first.  Up to that point they had done nothing more than hold hands, and now she was wedged intimately against his well toned body.  Relaxing into his strong arms, Buffy leaned her head against his chest.  She realized in that instant she felt safe, a word she hadn’t known for longer than she cared to remember.

Through up-tempo songs like ‘Kryptonite’ and more mellow hits like ‘Loser’ and ‘Here Without You,’ the couple held their position, listening and enjoying the music, but moving to a rhythm all their own.  Cocooned within the warm embrace of the man before her, Buffy shook her head to smile up at him, telling him silently she was enjoying herself.

When the last song of the night was announced, Angel pulled Buffy back out of the crowd of people and over to the less congested side of the dance floor.  Turning her in his arms, he leaned down and brushed a quick kiss to her lips before crushing her body back into his.  Sighing, Buffy rested her head again on Angel’s chest.  Somehow through the loud instruments she could hear the steady pounding of his heart.  Closing her eyes, Buffy wrapped her arms around Angel’s waist and listened to the final few versus of the song.

Those little things you say
When words mean so much
You never back down
When they all shy away
You always listen to me

What do I get to get me through these sleepless nights?
And what do I have to hold when no one’s there to hold me tight?
And what do I see the only thing that gets me thought this
Is what I feel….and I feel you.


When Buffy and Angel finally untangled themselves, they slowly made their way back to the table to say their good-byes to Fred and Wesley.  Immediately after Fred released Buffy from a hug, wishing her well, Angel pulled the petite blonde back into his arms.  Buffy smiled sheepishly at Fred when the young brunette gave her a knowing smile.

The two couples were turning to head for the door when a familiar voice froze them all in their tracks.

“Well, well, well.  Guess the cowboy decided to get back on the horse and ride again after all.  How cute.”

Angel clenched his jaw.  He knew that this was neither the time nor the place to get into an argument with her, and especially not in front of Buffy.

“So, where’d ya find this one Angel…Tramps-R-Us?  I mean I can’t believe I’ve actually lived to see the day that you got so desperate you actually paid for it.”

Turning in a wild rage, Angel looked at his ex, “That’s. Enough. Cordelia.”  He spat through gritted teeth, making sure to pronounce each word clearly.

Fred and Wesley quickly escorted Buffy out the rear exit of the club, sending Spike a clear signal in the process that his friend was having some trouble.  It didn’t take the blonde long to figure out *who* the trouble was.

“You mean to tell me that she’s giving you a freebie?  Man, that’s a new one.  I didn’t think whores just gave it out, even to…..I would say celebrities, but we both know you don’t exactly fit that bill.” 

"The only whore around here is you Cordeila. Even when we were married you loved your money and career more then me, whoring yourself left and right for better deals. You've got no right to profess your trash in front of me and my date."  Angel spat.

"You wanted me to become a housewife Angel! You wanted me to give up something you yourself were not willing to give up! You want to talk about whores, you whored yourself for your popularity in the business. You worked late, took extra shoots, and some nights you'd come home and barely say three words to me." Cordelia shot back.

"I wanted to have a family with you, not force you out of your career, I knew how much it meant to you. You're just pissed off that my acting took me places yours couldn't. I'm truly sorry Cordeila that it hurt you.  I wasn't the only one who turned the cold shoulder."

"I never treated you the way you treated me."

"That's right, you never loved me."  Angel retorted bitterly before turning his back to her in disgust.

Without allowing another word to be said, Spike, along with his tall, dark and bald bouncer Gunn, quickly and expertly escorted Angel’s ex out of the club with an explicit warning that she was never welcome at ‘Forever’ again. 

“Your ex-hellbitch is gone.”  Spike said as he approached Angel.

“Thanks.”  Angel muttered in response, wondering at the same time how such a wonderful day had gone so utterly wrong in the matter of seconds.

“Sorry man, I don’t know how she got in.  The boys know when you’re here, she’s not allowed in.”  Gunn added apologetically.

“It’s not your fault.  I should have just walked away.”  Angel replied evenly.

“Well, it’s done now, so you better go and find that cutie of yours before someone else decides to take her home and end the evening proper.”  Spike cut in.

“What’s the point, I doubt she’ll even want to talk to me after that scene.”  Angel answered sullenly.

Spike opened his mouth, but it was neither his words nor his voice that were heard.

“Why don’t you let me make that decision.”  Buffy said with a cautious smile.

In the few minutes that she’d been outside the club with Fred and Wesley, she realized that it wasn’t so much what was said *about* her as it was what was said *to* Angel.  She’d been on the receiving end of blows like that for her fair share of years, and she knew how bad it stung. 

She hated the fact that she knew Angel was feeling the same kind of pain that she’d been subjected to far too many times.  That knowledge is what drove her back inside.  Angel had been nothing shy of a prince to her that day, and she wasn’t about to desert him in his time of need.

Holding out her hand, Buffy waited patiently for him to accept her offer.  Something about Angel had sated the ache and loneliness that had been festering inside of her for months, maybe even her entire life.  She only hoped that she could somehow offer a little bit of that peace to him in return.

Angel stepped forward, lacing his fingers through hers.  The pair walked silently out of the club to his car.  After making sure Buffy was tucked safely in the passenger seat of his vehicle, Angel tromped on the gas.

“I’m really sorry about that.  I had no idea she was…”Angel started as he sped down the dimly lit street.

“Hey, no big.”  Buffy tried unsuccessfully to reassure her date that what had just occurred wasn’t bothering her.

“No, it is a big.  What she said about you….it was out of line.” 

“Really Angel, it’s okay.  Sticks and stones and all.”  She replied with and understanding smile.  Angel really had no idea just how well she understood.

There was a short silence before Angel garnered the nerve to speak again.

“There’s…..a place…….I’d like to take you, if you want.  But if you’d rather just go back to your hotel, I’ll understand.”  Angel stumbled through his question.

Buffy looked at her watch, then sat quietly for what seemed to Angel like eternity. 

“Well, you know it is late, and I only have like six days left in town to see all the sites, so…..as much as it’s going to totally cramp my schedule, I think I can work you in.”  Buffy offered playfully, trying to lighten Angel’s solemn demeanor.

Angel smiled, thankful that she hadn’t wanted him to take her directly to her hotel, never wanting to speak to him again.

The usual twenty minute drive to the Santa Monica Bay Pier was cut to less than fifteen due to the late hour and an unusually light flow of traffic.  After they arrived, Angel parked his car, gesturing for Buffy to follow him, he opened the car door and moved around to the front of the vehicle.

“This….is….beautiful.”  Buffy stuttered through chattering teeth.  She’d only been standing out in the cool night breeze for a couple of minutes, but already she was regretting her choice of shirts.  No sleeves might prove helpful in a hot and crowded dance club, but it certainly wasn’t appropriate for a moonlit walk on a pier in March.

“You’re cold.”  It was a statement more than a question.

“I’m…I’m okay.”  Buffy answered, trying to sound like she actually meant it.

Walking back to the car, Angel opened the driver’s side door and retrieved his waist length black leather jacket from the back seat.  Before returning to Buffy, he silently mouthed a ‘thank you’ to whatever gods were listening to him.  He had planned on taking the jacket into his house two days ago, but a call from Spike on his cell phone had distracted him, so he’d absently left it lying in the back seat of his car.  Lucky for him.

Holding the jacket open for Buffy, he helped her shrug into it.

“Thanks.” 

“It looks better on you anyway.”  Angel replied with a shy smile.

Holding her arms straight out in front of her, Buffy demonstrated how the soft leather swallowed her petite body.

“Umm….if you say so.”  She returned with a wiry look.

Angel put his arm around Buffy and ushered her forward down the long wooden pier to a short backed bench seat at the end.

“I love to come here, especially late at night.”  Angel admitted as he stared out over the rolling waves of the Pacific.

“I can see why, it’s beautiful.”  Buffy offered, closing her eyes and inhaling deeply she added, “And relaxing.”

As the couple sat in companionable silence Angel’s body became tense.  He opened his mouth and closed it about a half a dozen times, never finding the words that he wanted to say.  His eyes darted from the full moon and brightly shining stars above them, to the crashing waves below, to the perfect face of the woman sitting next to him. 

His emotions seemed to have been running a marathon since the second he met Buffy that afternoon, but with his unexpected run in with Cordelia, he felt as though his body was on that very last excruciating mile, waging a battle to keep him from crossing the finish line.

He wanted to tell her how he felt about her, how he somehow *knew* without a shadow of a doubt that she was something special.  He could feel it.  The old saying about ‘love at first sight’ seemed too corny and contrite to spill to her now, but he knew something should be said.  She had taken the wrath of his ex-wife, yet still managed to smile.   But instead of professing his love, or babbling out an apology, Angel sat in dumbfound silence.

“I understand.”  Buffy admonished when she finally opened her eyes to look at Angel.

Pulling her leg up onto the bench, Buffy turned to face the man that she’d once thought of as an untouchable star in the sky.  Now, she knew better, he was so much more than that.  He was kind and considerate, sweet and sexy, and so many other things.  Reaching up with her right hand she traced his furrowed brow, lightly grazing his cheek and jaw line.  Moving down, she then traced down his chest, stopping at his hands clasped together in his lap.  Laying her hand protectively atop of his, she gave them a gentle squeeze.

“I know how you feel, because I’ve been there.”  Buffy knew that if she gave Angel the opening to speak, she wouldn’t finish, so she quickly continued.

“I was married too.  I thought I loved him, but more importantly, I thought he loved me.”  Looking down at her hand that was now engulfed between Angel’s, she continued, “We met in college.  I was born and raised in a small town, and when I started college, everything hit me at once.”

“I had never really been involved with anyone before, and so when Riley began to show interest in me, I was overwhelmed.  We dated exclusively for our final three years of school, and married shortly thereafter.  I was quickly initiated into what life was like with the real him.”

Angel sat quietly, listening intently to the story being told.

“Riley majored in psychology with a minor in criminal justice, so he knew all the ins and outs to controlling me.  He knew exactly what to say, and when to say it.  Shortly after our marriage, he took a position with the Chicago Police Department’s Special Crimes Unit, things just got progressively worse from there.  I was moved to a big city where I knew no one, and he was a member of the ‘men in blue,’ a fraternal order that protect their own.”

“To make a long and sordid story short, I’ve heard it all, I’ve seen it all, I’ve felt it all.  I know exactly what you’re going through Angel, because I’ve been down that road, and worse.  But you can’t let them control you.  You can’t let anything they say to you or about you destroy the wonderful person that you are.”

“Buffy, I….”  Angel started, but was shushed by the brush of Buffy’s lips against his own.

She didn’t know what had possessed her at that moment, she had never intended on being so forward with him, hell, she’d never been the aggressor with her own husband, let alone an almost perfect stranger.

Angel shifted to deepen the kiss.  Passionately their tongues darted within each other’s mouths, both conveying the same longing and need.  Angel tangled his right hand in Buffy’s long golden curls while Buffy wrapped both arms possessively around his neck, drawing him nearer.

“Excuse me…” A young dark haired officer said as he cleared his throat.

Angel and Buffy regrettably pulled apart to stare up at the police officer who was glaring down at them.

“The sign that you’re so blindly sitting in front of clearly states that the Pier is closed from midnight to 5:00 a.m.”  The officer stated, with a little more arrogance than he should have.

Looking down at his watch, he continued, “And since it’s 1:45, I’m pretty sure that makes the two of you law breakers.”
 
Angel took immediate offense to the tone in which the young officer was speaking to them.  He’d spent many a night sitting right in that exact spot, thinking, soul searching, and no one had ever told him to leave, and it certainly wasn’t helping the young officer’s cause that he was so obviously giving Buffy the once over.  Angel rose from his spot on the bench.  Towering over the other male, he looked him directly in the eye, then glanced at his badge so he could address him by name.

“Well Officer…Harris, I’ll have you know….”  Angel didn’t get a chance to finish as Buffy jumped up to a standing position on the bench.  Now that she had a couple of inches on Angel, she quickly wrapped her right arm around the back of his head, covering his mouth with her tiny hand.

“We were just leaving, and we’re really sorry that we were here past hours Officer Harris.  I promise you that it won’t happen again.”  Buffy finished, smiling innocently at the officer.

Looking the couple over questioningly, Officer Harris asked, “Is that so?”

Angel tried to say something, but Buffy kept her hand firmly clasped over his mouth.  She used her arm to move his head up and down in a nod of ‘yes’ while she did the same with her own.

“Alright, but don’t let me catch the two of you here past closing hours again.”  The officer finally said.

“You wont sir, I promise.  Thank you.”  Buffy replied assuringly.

Angel didn’t even try to say another word.  Instead he scooped Buffy’s small form into his arms, and carried her back to his car.  Though he didn’t fail to give the young officer a knowing glare as they passed.

Setting Buffy down gently next to the passenger side door, Angel decided he was going to get one last jab in at that arrogant ass before they left.  He’s been in the midst of an all over body tingling kiss when he’d been interrupted, and he’d be damned, if he was going to let some pimpled face patrol officer get the upper hand on him.

Pulling Buffy close, Angel leaned in and kissed her again.  He conveniently ignored the piercing eyes of the man standing a few yards away.  Instead he concentrated on the soft warm lips that belonged to the sweetest women he’d ever known. 

Although this kiss wasn’t as passionate or as needy as the previous one, it hadn’t kept Buffy from becoming breathless just the same.  As the kiss ended, and their eyes met, the two smiled knowingly at one another.  They both knew that this kiss had been as much about proving a point to the officer as it was a continuation of what they had started.

Neither paid the officer any more attention.  When they were both securely in their seats, Angel started the engine and slowly pulled away.  Reaching across the console he gathered Buffy’s hand in his.  Pulling it up to his face, he gently caressed it against his now stubbling cheek before planting a kiss to its back.

As much as it pained Angel to do so, he drove Buffy back to her hotel, and walked her to her room.  Wanting to be a gentleman, Angel thanked her for spending the evening with him before turning to leave.  He knew that if he kissed her again, there would be no controlling his inner demon, the one that wanted to have her, all of her right there.  In her room, on her bed, in the hall, it didn’t really care, all it knew was that she was it’s other half, and it wanted her now.

Buffy understood why the evening was ending as it was, she could feel it too.  It was this sixth sense of hers that was picking up the same need and desire for Angel.  After finally stepping inside her room, Buffy shut the door and leaned back against it.  God, this day had been better than even the best fanfic she’d ever read.  Hell, maybe she’d make it into a fic, nobody would believe that it had actually happened anyway.  She was startled out of her thoughts by a knock on the door.

Smiling, Buffy moved and open the door.  Her heart sank when she saw that it wasn’t Angel standing on the other side.

“What?  No kiss?”  Riley asked sarcastically as he pushed his way into the room.

Chapter 6 ~
(Rated R – Language and Violence)

New York City – 9:45 a.m.

“Someone better have a good fucking reason for waking me up at this hour.”  Gwen, the slender brunette said as she padded through her apartment. 

Wearing only a t-shirt, the young woman stretched up on tiptoes and squinted an eye to look through the peephole before removing the security chain and turning the three locks to let her morning visitor in.

“I thought you were in LA.”  Gwen stated flatly, still annoyed at having been woken at such an early hour.  Though anything before noon was considered an early hour for her.  Stepping aside, she ushered her visitor in.

“I was.”  Buffy returned with a sad sigh, “Can’t you tell.”  She continued as she pulled her large suitcase, carry on bag and laptop in through the door with her.

“Quick trip.”  Gwen snapped as she closed the door, turning the locks and returning the chain to its normal position.

“He found me.”   Buffy said simply as she pulled her long blond hair away from the left side of her face.

“Ouch.”  Gwen remarked at the site of the now purple and black mark on Buffy’s left eye.  It was plainly visible through the thick makeup Buffy had obviously used to try and conceal it.

“How?  When? What happened?”  Gwen asked as she curled up on her black leather couch, motioning for her friend to take a seat at the other end.

Buffy dropped her bags by the thick black leather ottoman which stood proudly in front of its matching chair, sighing as she did so.

“I’m not sure how he found me, but he did, and at about one o’clock this morning.” 

“One in the morning huh?  He just comes and pounds on your hotel room door at that hour, and you didn’t think to call the police first, before you let him in?”  Gwen asked sarcastically.  She had been over the rules of keeping yourself alive with a crazy ex with Buffy several times already.  Apparently they were going to have to have that little chat again.

“I thought it was someone else.  I didn’t even check to see who it was before I opened the door.”  Buffy offered before she realized what she’d said.

Gwen smiled cattily at her friend.

“Oh really?”  She asked with a raised eyebrow.

Buffy hesitated.  She loved Gwen dearly, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to share *that* part of her trip with her or not.  It wasn’t that she didn’t totally trust Gwen, because she did, with her life even.  It was just more along the lines of not wanting to share such a wonderful memory with anyone.  She wanted to keep her Angel memory tucked down deep inside her heart, where no one could touch it. 

“Well?”  Gwen prodded.

“I met someone.  We went out to dinner and then a concert.  He dropped me off at my hotel door and left.  It was only about a minute later that there was a knock.  I just figured it was him again so I opened it.”  Buffy answered cryptically.

“So…was he hot?”

“Are you forgetting my face here?  *He* is not the problem, Riley is.  What the hell am I supposed to do?”  Buffy asked exasperated. 

“First off, *he* may not be the problem, but I still want to know the hot factor!  You know the rules….I get roused from sleep before noon, and everything is fair game!  Secondly, I want to know how you got away from that bastard with only the eye.  And thirdly, you need to call Lindsey if you haven’t already.”  Gwen explained.

Buffy sighed, “Well I haven’t…”

“In that order, before you go trying to avoid answering my question again.”  Gwen demanded as she quickly interrupted her friend.

“Fine.  Yes, he was a major hottie.”  Buffy admitted.

Gwen grinned, then nodded for Buffy to continue.  She’d pry the hottie details out of her friend later.

“Second, after I opened the door to my room, Riley pushed his way past me.  He caught me so off guard, that I didn’t even have time to think about shutting the door on him.  Anyway, he tried acting all concerned for my welfare and crap.  I mean, as well as the jerk can act anyway.  It was real believable let me tell you.” 

“And?”  Gwen asked, not really concerned with the minor details of the evening’s events.

“And….he lost his temper….as usual.  He yelled.  I yelled back.  He began to advance on me, so I moved towards the door.  He quickly got in front of me so I wouldn’t be able to leave.  With that, I’d finally had enough and so I told him to ‘fuck off.’” Buffy said, a small grin began to creep up on her lips at the memory of seeing her ex-husband’s face at those two words.

“No shit?”

“Nope.  None.  I said it.”  Buffy said proudly.

“Oh god, I bet he totally wigged then.  I’m so proud of you though!”  Gwen replied as she leaned forward and engulfed her friend in a giant hug.

“Thanks.”  Buffy offered when she was finally released, “But that’s how I ended up with this.”  She said, pointing at her black eye.

“Umm…right, sorry.  So, go on.”  Gwen apologized, at least as well as she ever did.

“Okay….do you remember me telling you about my friend Ford from back home?”  Buffy asked casually.

“Fifth grade boyfriend, then just friend, now Marine guy.”  Gwen said evenly.

“That’s the one.”

“And this has to do with what happened to you how?  Unless….the hottie guy you went out with *was* Ford, and he heard what was going on and came back and kicked that low life scum’s ass.”

“No, the hottie wasn’t Ford.  But Ford did help me….in a way.”

“Grrrr….enough with the cryptic crap.  Just tell me what the hell happened!”  Gwen demanded.

“Okay, sorry.  Well, when my mom passed away a couple of years ago, Ford found out and took some leave to come home and pay his respects.  We got to talking and I ended up spilling my guts about Riley and everything that I had went through with him.” 

“About a week after I returned to New York from the funeral, a got a package from Ford.  He sent me a tazer-gun-thingy used by his Special Ops unit.  He let me know explicitly that he’d be in a ton of trouble if anyone ever found out that he’d given it to me, but he said that he wanted to make sure that I was safe, and this thing was small and inconspicuous looking.  Most people think it’s one of those compact cell phones.  Anyway, as a last minute decision, I packed it.”

Buffy paused.

“So, when Riley hit me, it knocked me down to the floor next to my suitcase.  I didn’t even think twice, I just grabbed for it and shoved it in Riley’s chest when he bent down to hit me again.  The thing might be small, but it packs one hell of a punch.  Ford said that it would easily give me twenty minutes to get away if I ever needed to use it.  I didn’t test that theory though.  I was packed, checked out of the hotel, and on my way to the airport in less than fifteen.  And no, I haven’t called Lindsey yet.”  She said, finally finishing her story.

Gwen reached behind her and retrieved her cordless phone from the dark cherry end table.  Handing it to Buffy she began, “First off, ‘you fucking go girl.’  Nothing like kicking some ass in a nice and painful way!  Bastard deserved it.  Secondly, call Lindsey now, and tell him what happened.  He’ll know what you should do next.  Thirdly, I want to know all about the hottie date, just as soon as I go back to bed and get some more sleep.  Help yourself to whatever you want.  You can use the guestroom for as long as you need to.  Night.”

“It’s after ten in the morning Gwen.  Most people have been up for three hours already.”  Buffy called after her friend’s retreating form.

“Rules Buff.  I have ‘em, remember?”  Gwen shot back from her bedroom door.

“Whatever.”  Buffy countered as she dialed the phone.

“Wolfram & Hart.  How may I direct your call?”  The voice on the other end asked.

“Lindsey McDonald’s office please.”

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“I’m sorry Justine.  It’s me Buffy.”

“Mrs. McDonald, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t recognize your voice.  I’ll get Mr. McDonald for you right away.”  The strawberry blonde receptionist said, apologizing for her rude behavior.

Chapter 7 ~
(Rated R ~ Language)

‘This day is just getting better by the second,’ Lindsey McDonald thought as he looked at the Caller I.D. on his tiny cell phone to see who wanted something from him now.  It was someone from his office, and he wasn’t really in the mood to talk to whom ever it may be. 

He was already cranky, irritated, not to mention extremely concerned.  He’d spent the early morning hours wrestling with the crowds of people at the airport, and the last hour trying to piece together what had happened to his wife.  Things were just not going as he had planned.

Flipping open his cell phone, he reluctantly decided to answer the call, “Lindsey McDonald.”

“Hey Linds, it’s me.”

“Buffy?  Where the hell are you?”  Lindsey asked, his tone held more anger than intended.

He had managed to figure out that she checked out of the hotel in the middle of the night from the conversation he had overheard at the front desk while standing in line to check in.  He recognized the man who was inquiring about her whereabouts, and was certain that Buffy had quite a bit of explaining to do.

“I’m…well…I’m…in New York…..at Gwen’s.”  Buffy answered hesitantly.

“Well, I sure as hell didn’t think you were still in LA.”  Lindsey fired back.

“What?  But…”  Buffy started.

“I’m in LA Buffy.  I managed to work in a last minute business trip, and I’m at your hotel.  Where you aren’t.” 

“Oh…  Well, that’s why I was calling you.  I was going to…wait a minute, you’re in LA?  But I called your office, and they transferred me right to you.  How’s that work exactly?”  Buffy questioned as she nervously began twisting the hem of her short navy blue t-shirt into knots.

“They can direct any of my incoming calls directly to my cell phone, but that isn’t the point.  Why aren’t you in LA, and why is Angel O’Connor asking about you at your hotel?”  Lindsey asked straight out, there was no need to beat around the bush here.  They had agreed from the beginning to be completely honest with each other, so there was no reason for him to hide any information he had. 

“What?”  Buffy asked, no yelled into the phone. 

She couldn’t believe this.  Not only was Lindsey in LA, but somehow he’d found out about Angel.  And what the hell was Angel doing at her hotel already this morning?  Oh god, this whole trip had been nothing short of a complete and utter disaster!

“You heard me, I know it was him Buffy.  God knows I’d know his face anywhere as many nights as you’ve forced me to sit through that *show* of his.”  Lindsey responded, still agitated at the situation.

Buffy sat quietly on the other end of the phone for several long moments.  She really wasn’t sure what to say.  Chewing her lip, she pondered her response.  They did have that damn honesty clause in their relationship, and Lindsey had always held up his end of the deal, but this was somehow….different.

“Buffy?”  Lindsey asked, now concerned at her sudden silence.

“He found me Lindsey.  That’s why I came home….he found me.”  Buffy blurted out.

“He who Buffy?  Angel? Wait….no….Riley?  Oh God Buffy, are you okay?”  He somehow figured out in that split second that the only thing that would cause his otherwise fearless and brave companion to pick up shop and leave town in the middle of the night was her crazed ex-husband.

“Yeah, I’m okay I guess.”  Buffy answered evenly.  If the truth was to be told, ‘no’ she really wasn’t *okay*.  Everything in her life had suddenly been shot to hell, and there didn’t seem to be much she could do about it.  She really didn’t want Lindsey to know that though, he worried enough about her the way it was. 

“Did he…did he hurt you?”  Lindsey asked cautiously. 

He held his breath as he waited for an answer.  He had witnessed first hand what kind of damage Riley could do to Buffy if he had the chance, now he just prayed that it wasn’t as bad as the last time.

“I’m okay Lindsey, really.  I’ve got a black eye, but that’s it.  I didn’t give him a chance to do anything else.” Buffy answered, trying to be as reassuring as possible.  She knew how concerned Lindsey would be about her, and as far apart as they were right now, she knew that he’d be jumping to all kinds of conclusions as to her welfare.

“I’m taking the first flight out of here.  Stay at Gwen’s, don’t leave.  I’ll be home as soon as I can.”  Lindsey instructed as he let out his held breath, thankful that she was, at least for the most part, okay.  But he had every intention of checking that out for himself. 

“Linds, no.  You don’t have to come home just for me.  I’m fine.  Gwen said I could stay here as long as I needed to.  I don’t want to ruin your plans.”  Buffy replied.

“Well, I wasn’t really planning….what I mean is….”  Lindsey stuttered.

“It’s okay Linds, I realize why you made the trip.  I don’t mind being your scapegoat, that’s why I married you….remember?  You help me, I help you….”

“But I obviously didn’t hold up my end of the bargain Buffy.  I’m supposed to be there to protect you, and I wasn’t.”  Lindsey replied, the regret evident in his tone.

“You had no idea that he’d find me out there.  It’s not like he’s even been an issue for over a year anyway, so don’t beat yourself up over it.  I’m fine, and I’ll be fine until you get home.  Now enjoy your quote business trip, and tell Graham I said hi.  Okay?”

“I didn’t say anything about Graham…  He’s not the issue anyway, you’re well being is.  Riley could still come after you.  If he managed to find you in LA, he could just as easily find you in New York….again.”

Lindsey paused, giving Buffy just enough time to enter her argument.  She’d lived with the man long enough to have learned a few things about how to present her side of the case.  He was a damn fine lawyer, and she had quickly picked up some of his best techniques.

“Listen Linds, Riley could come after me at any time…any day of the week, any time of the day, where ever I am, whether you are within a five foot radius of me or not, so you’re rushing home to play super hero isn’t necessary.  I’ve survived this long with you out of town on business trips, I’m sure I can take care of myself this time too.  So, I want you to stay in LA for as long as you need to, and enjoy yourself.  You deserve that much, and besides, you have in no way, shape or form let me down.  You’ve always been there for me when I needed you, and this time is no different.  Now, no arguing.  Have fun.”  Buffy directed.

“Buffy, I…”

“Linds, you heard me.  I’m not taking no for an answer.  Now, I’m here with Gwen, and you know just as well as I do that I’m as safe here with her as when I’m with you, so don’t worry about me.  Actually, you should be more worried about Graham finding out that you’re in LA, and contemplating not seeing him because of me.  Do you really want a thorough ass kickin’ from him?  Wait, never mind.  I don’t want to know the answer to that.”  Buffy added teasingly.

“Graham loves you just as much as I do.  He’d understand.”  Lindsey admonished.

“Maybe, but I’m pretty sure that he loves you more and regardless wouldn’t be too pleased that you didn’t see him while you were out there.”  Buffy replied.

“I still think I should come home.”

“And I’m still going to be fine here without you.  Stay Linds, please.  You and Graham haven’t spent any time together in months, you two need this time.  If you don’t start taking care of your man better, he’s going to run off with some other hot looking guy….or worse, a woman.” Buffy teased.

“Hahaha, you’re funny.”

“Aren’t I though?”  Buffy added.

“Okay fine, you win.  But I’ll be home in two days, that’s all the time I was planning on staying out here anyway.  And you have to promise me that you’ll stick close to Gwen.  I don’t want anything happening to you while I’m out of town.”  Lindsey demanded.

“I’ll stick to her so close I’ll be able to tell you what flavor she is.”  Buffy joked.

“You know, you really shouldn’t watch so many movies….books are good too.”  Lindsey informed.

“Hey there pal, if you know that I just referred to a scene from a movie, then you’re one to talk.  Books are good too my ass.  What’s the last book you’ve read?  Huh?  Dick and Jane?”  Buffy shot back.

“For your information I finished reading John Grisham’s “The Summons” Wednesday night while you were watching that ridiculous vampire show.  Which reminds me…I never did hear the Angel O’Connor story.  Should I be worried that a Restraining Order has been put in place with your name on it?  I mean, he is numero uno on your Lust List isn’t he?”  It was Lindsey who did the teasing this time.

“Look who’s the comedian now.”  Buffy shot.

“Well then, what’s the what?”  Lindsey asked, curious to find out what had happened in Buffy’s short stay in LA that would cause her favorite ‘hunk of man meat’ as she liked to refer to him to be chasing after her.

“It was nothing really.  I’ll tell you about it when you get home.”  Buffy answered cryptically.

“Come on Buffy.  It was way more than nothing.  He was about to ring the hotel clerk’s neck for letting you check out last night without leaving your address or telephone number.  Which, I might add was very cunning of you…paying in cash like that.  It should make it more difficult for Riley to track you down.”  Lindsey replied.

“Yeah, real cunning.  I lost the entire week’s deposit by checking out early.  I saved for over a year for that money.  Stupid hotel, see if they ever get any of my business again.”  Buffy grumbled.

“How much was it?  I’ll reimburse what you lost.  It’s not like I can’t afford it.”  Lindsey offered.

“You know the rules Linds.  I pay my own way.”  Buffy retorted, sighing inwardly that she’d lose the money all over again to spend that one evening with Angel.

“Alright, but the offer will still stand.  On another note, do you want me to give Angel your phone number?  I’m pretty sure he’ll be back around again.”  Lindsey asked.  The offer was half sincere and half to try to get more info out of Buffy.  She was smart, but occasionally he could trick her into divulging more information than she had intended.

“No.  Don’t say a word to him if you see him.  I’ve already drug you into this train wreck that is my life, I don’t want to do the same to him.  He doesn’t need it.  Not that you do, but…  Please Linds, promise me you wont.”

“If that’s what you really want.”  Lindsey replied honestly.

There was a short silence in the conversation as Buffy made her decision.

“It is….Well, I better let you go.  I’ll see you when you get home.”  Buffy said finally.

“Okay.  Take care of yourself.  I love you.”  Lindsey answered.

“I love you too.  Bye.”  Buffy replied, then clicked the phone off and set it back on the end table where Gwen had retrieved it from.

Buffy was pretty sure she that she didn’t truly deserve Lindsey.  Granted, she’d survived hell and back with Riley, and she was certain that *nobody* deserved that, but Lindsey was maybe just a little bit too good for her. He was her best friend,  her confidante, her husband…she laughed outwardly at that thought.  If those ignorant jackasses at Wolfram & Hart only knew, they’d all have coronaries.

He always tried to convince her that she was doing him the biggest favor by playing the part of his wife, but she knew better.  Her little acting job was the least she could do to repay all the help and support he’d given her over the years. 

She finally resigned that she could do little more than pray that Lindsey would eventually find the evidence and case law he needed to cement his position at Wolfram & Hart, allowing him to one day come out of that metaphorical closet. 

This hope was a double edged sword for her though.  She really did, more than anything, want Lindsey to finally be happy, and she knew that happiness would include Graham as a permanent fixture in his everyday life.  But it also meant little to no space left for her.  Although she was positive that neither man would demand that she leave and get on with her own life, she was certain that it was really the only thing she could do.

Damn Riley to hell.  If that bastard would just fall off the face of the earth, she could be free to explore things further with that hottie she left behind in LA.  Shrugging her shoulders, Buffy kicked off her white and navy Nike cross-trainers and snuggled up on Gwen’s enormous leather couch.  Pulling one of the crimson colored velvet pillows to her she decided that she could use some extra sleep as well.  It wasn’t as if Gwen would be up anytime soon anyway.

It took only seconds for her to drift off to sleep.

* * * * *

Lindsey reluctantly hung up the phone, though it wasn’t as if Buffy had given him much opportunity to say anything else.  Shoving his cell phone back into his suit pocket, Lindsey grabbed his suite key and headed out the door.  Graham was surely waiting in the hotel lobby by now, and he wasn’t exactly the patient type. 

Pulling the door closed behind him, Lindsey made the short distance to the elevator.  Pushing the button marked ‘L’ for Lobby, he patiently waited as his motorized transportation moved to its destination.  Frowning, Lindsey couldn’t understand why even in the ritziest of hotels, they had to play that same boring music in the elevators as they played in those cheep-ass joints down by the beach.

The elevator bell dinged when it reached the Lobby and the doors opened.  He immediately spotted Graham impatiently pacing by the front doors.  Smiling inwardly, Lindsey thought how hot he looked when he was just the slightest bit pissed, it gave his already well toned body that extra hard looking edge.

The New York City attorney was almost relieved when his attention was taken off of his lover and turned to the close to irate man at the hotel desk.  That was *almost* relieved.  It had definitely taken his thoughts from the quickly increasing uncomfortableness of his slacks, but it moved the tension elsewhere. 

Lindsey McDonald paused as Angel O’Connor almost ran into him when he abruptly turned from the female desk clerk who was now close to tears.  This was his chance.  He knew he had promised Buffy he wouldn’t say anything, but it was evident from Buffy’s lack of details, and Angel’s obvious irritation with not knowing how to get in touch with her that *something* had happened between them.  And it wasn’t as if Buffy hadn’t done a little intervening on his behalf before.  She was, after all, the reason he and Graham were together now.

“Excuse me.”  Lindsey finally said as he tapped Angel on the shoulder. 

He didn’t have time to ponder the rights and wrongs of this.  It was a split second decision he had to make, and he made them all the time in the courtroom.  Now was just another one of those instances.

“Yeah.”  Angel answered half-heartedly as he turned to look the shorter man in the face. 

He really hoped this wasn’t an autograph seeker, he wasn’t really in the mood right now.  And the good Lord only knows what he’d say if it was another proposed date.  He’d gotten several of those lately, and although he wasn’t biased against gay men or anything, he just didn’t swing that way.  Besides, he had a much more attractive blonde on his mind right now.

“I uh…”  Lindsey stuttered as he looked at the decidingly handsome man.  He was definitely better looking in real life than on TV.  It was no wonder Buffy had the hots for him.

Chapter 8 ~
(Rated R ~ Language)

“Yeah?”  Angel asked expectantly. 

He really wasn’t sure what the guy wanted, but if he didn’t spit it out soon, he was going to resound to being rude.  He’d had one of the worst days in his life, and the longer the sun was up the worse he felt.  Besides, he had places to go, and people to see. 

Okay, so maybe it was just one place to go, and one person to see, but he was still hopeful that that one person, in all of his infinite wisdom of the world, would know how to track down Buffy.  He was really beginning to worry about her.  It just wasn’t normal for someone to check out of a hotel at two o’clock in the morning without more of a reason than ‘something came up.’

“I uhh….I uhh….thought you were someone else.  I’m sorry for bothering you.”  Lindsey said finally. 

Shaking his head for his cowardness he started forward towards a very annoyed Graham, who had watched him approach the tall, dark haired guy.  Graham wasn’t sure if this was some sort of stunt to piss him off or turn him on more, but regardless of his intent, Lindsey had succeeded on both grounds.  He was ready to spit nails he was so pissed off that his lover had been so brazen that he would intentionally hit on another man in front of him, yet his cock was rock solid because of it.  Lunch might just have to wait.

Angel didn’t respond as the man walked off.  He wasn’t about to tell him that *yes* he was who he thought he was.  He did occasionally get fans that once close up to him weren’t sure if it was really him or not.  Today though, it didn’t matter.  He’d make it up with the next fan that said that to him.  He figured it would be a wash in the end that way.

Following his sort of, sort of not fan and his companion out the door, he immediately hopped into his black BMW, started the engine and sped away.  Looking at the digital clock on his custom stereo, Angel decided that Spike was probably at the club by now.  He liked to get the weekend’s receipts and the ordering lists for the coming week done early on Sunday so he could have the rest of the day to do as he pleased.  Giving the accelerator more pressure, Angel hurried across town.

“It worked.”  Graham bit out through gritted teeth once he and Lindsey were situated in his midnight blue Navigator.

“What worked?”  Lindsey asked in confusion.  He was still mentally debating whether or not he had done the right thing with that O’Connor guy. 

“You hitting on that guy back there.”  Graham answered sharply.

“What?  I wasn’t hitting on anybody.  That guy back there happened to be Angel O’Connor.  You know, the guy that Buffy lusts over all the time from that ‘Into the Night’ show she watches obsessively.”  Lindsey replied, somewhat miffed that Graham would accuse him of such a thing.

“Really?  Damn, Buffy’s gonna be pissed that you got to talk to him, and she missed it all.”  Graham replied.  His mood suddenly light after Lindsey’s admission.

“She’s already talked to him.”  Lindsey answered vaguely.

“So, is she up in the room trying to figure out which outfit to wear so he’ll fall madly in love with her and whisk her away from you?”  Graham asked playfully as he started the engine to his SUV.

“No.  She’s back in New York.”  Lindsey answered sullenly.

“What?  I thought she was here in LA for the week, what happened?  Did that son of a bitch back at the hotel do something to her?”  Graham asked, now concerned for his dear friend.

“No.  I don’t think so anyway.  She’s not been real forthcoming with the information in that department.  All I’ve managed to get out of her is that she talked to the O’Connor guy and it was ‘no big deal’, it’s Riley that’s caused her to go back to New York so suddenly.  I didn’t find out until I got here this morning.”  Lindsey answered.

“God damn him.  Isn’t that jerk ever going to get a life and leave her the fuck alone?  Son of a bitch.  What’d he do this time?”  Graham asked angrily as he slammed the vehicle into drive and started to pull away from the hotel.

“I’m not totally sure on that front either.  She said that he gave her a black eye, but that she was fine.  She’s at Gwen’s right now, and insisted that I stay here and spend time with you.  She sounded like she was okay, but I’m still worried about her.” 

“So was that what you were telling that vampire guy?  That she was okay?”  Graham asked.

“No.  I was going to give him her telephone number, but I chickened out.  She told me she didn’t want to drag him into this, and made me swear that if I saw him again I wouldn’t tell him where to find her.”  Lindsey replied as he blankly stared out the passenger side window.

“Well, if you really think she’s okay, and she told you not to tell the guy, then I think you did the right thing.”  Graham reassured.

“I hope your right.”  Lindsey answered.

* * * * * * *

Angel easily found a parking spot on the vacant street in front of  ‘Forever’.  Not much happened in the club district on a Sunday at close to noon.  The club hoppers had been gone now for several hours, so the place was a virtual ghost town.  It would look that way for the next twenty-four hours or so and then once again on Monday evening the place would be packed.  There were always people out partying every night of the week. 

It never ceased to amaze Angel how any of them kept their jobs…if they even had one that was.  He knew a few of Spike’s regulars were trust fund kids.  They never had a job, and never would.  But still he found it somewhat depressing that they had nothing better to do than get shit faced drunk every night of the week.  What a lonely life they must lead.

He laughed inwardly at that thought as he climbed out of his car and headed for the back door of the club.  Who was he to judge someone’s lonely lifestyle, it wasn’t as if he was living life to the fullest lately either.  Since his divorce from Cordelia he’d submerged himself fully into his work.  He’d even persuaded the creator/executive producer/writer/director, J.W. Mutanemy to let him get some behind-behind the scenes experience. 

It had been satisfying to get into the business more, expand his horizons to more than just in front of the camera, but he still felt unfulfilled.  He wanted more than just work, and he had thought that maybe last night was his first step towards making those dreams a reality.  He hadn’t felt that good in months.  It was funny how one tiny, and perfect woman that he barely knew could have such an impact on his life.

Angel’s thoughts were disrupted as he pulled open the large rear door to hear Spike laughing hysterically.

“Hey man.  What’s so funny.”  Angel asked as he stepped up to the bar where Spike was seated, staring at the plasma screen TV hanging on the wall at one end.

“Oh, this Tom guy is just a riot man.  He keeps laying into that fat guy there.”  Spike answered as he pointed to the man on the TV, cigarette firmly held between two fingers.

“Why are you watching ‘The Best Damn Sports Show Period’?  You don’t even like sports.”  Angel asked as he took a seat next to his friend.

“Do too.  ‘Sides, I like that Tom guy.”  Spike answered, taking a drag off his cigarette before rummaging though the club’s receipts again that were piled haphazardly in front of him.

“Whatever.”  Angel shot back.

“What’s got your panties all in a bunch?  Cutie not put out last night?”  Spike smirked.

“Fuck you.”  Angel spat angrily.  He’d come here for some help not this shit.

“Take it easy mate.  Just jokin’.  So tell me, what’s got you all bent out of shape already this morning?”  Spike asked sincerely.

“She’s gone.”  Angel answered flatly.

“What’d ya mean she’s gone?” 

“I mean she’s gone.  I went to her hotel this morning to take her out for breakfast, and they said she checked out at about two in the morning.  I think something’s happened to her Spike.  That was only about an hour after I dropped her off.”  Angel answered.  He picked up an empty bottle of beer that had been left on the bar from the previous night and began peeling the label off.

“What the fuck is this?  I thought they were supposed to have some basketball coach on the show next, not some gray haired army general.  If I wanted to watch fucking CNN, I’d watch fucking CNN.”  Spike spat at the TV.

“He is a basketball coach Spike.  The General is just a nickname, and what is your sudden fascination with sports?”  Angel asked as he set the bottle back down on the bar.

“The chicks dig it.”  Spike answered with a shrug, “Now what’s the problem again with the hottie you had with you last night?”

“She’s missing.”

“Missing as in *you* can’t find her, or missing as in *no one* can find her?”  Spike asked as he penciled in a few numbers into a ledger.

“Missing as in she checked out of her hotel room last night at two in the morning, an hour after I dropped her off.”  Angel repeated his earlier assertation of the situation.

“Trace her credit card.”  Spike said flippantly, as if it were no big deal.

“She paid in cash.  Left no address, no telephone number.”  Angel retorted.

“Maybe the bint doesn’t want to be found, ever think of that?”  Spike asked.  Laying his pencil down on the bar, he put the remnants of his cigarette out in the ashtray before him.

“I don’t believe that, not after last night.”  Angel answered.

“So you did get laid…bout fucking time.”  Spike said as he slapped his friend on the back, scooting off his stool he stood up.

“I did not….that’s not the….damn it Spike…”

“Listen mate,” Spike began as he moved to the inside of the bar, grabbing two shot glasses and the half empty bottle of Tequila, he continued, “it’s obvious you have a thing for this chick, but lets be rational about this….you’ve known her for how long?  You’re ex is the queen of bitchdom, and you’ve been sulking in self-pity for months now.  I think you’d have fallen hard for just about any pretty face.” 

Pouring them each a shot, Spike shoved Angel’s towards him.

“No thanks man.  Not really in the mood this morning, and maybe you’re right.”  Angel answered sullenly. 

He didn’t really want to believe it was true, but Spike did have a point after all.  Maybe he was just acting like some hormone enraged teenager who fell for the first pretty face that paid him any attention.  Maybe he did just want to get on with his life in anyway he could, with anybody he could.

“Oh come on mate.  It clears the judgment.”  Spike coaxed before tipping his glass to his friend and downing the clear liquid fire.

“Don’t you mean clouds the judgment?” 

“Nope.  Clears it.  Trust me.”  Spike answered with a wink.

“Nah.  I think I’m just going to go home.  I’ve got to get up early in the morning anyway.”  Angel answered, shoving the shot glass back across the bar to his friend.

“Whatever floats your boat mate.”  Spike replied as he scooped up the full shot glass and downed his second drink of the day.

“Thanks Spike.  I’ll talk to you later.”  Angel said as he turned to leave.

“Hey!”  Spike called after his best friend’s retreating form.  “Tell that cutie you work with to bring her hot self back to the club this weekend, and tell her to leave that Nancy Boy boyfriend of hers at home.  The Ponce won’t let her dance with me!”

“I’ll be sure to pass the message along.”  Angel replied as he slipped out the door.

* * * * * * *

It was well after one o’clock when Buffy finally woke up.  She had slept fitfully, therefore feeling worse now than she did before she fell asleep.  Sitting up on the couch, she felt her stomach rumble from the lack of food.  She hadn’t eaten anything since her dinner the evening before with Angel.  Sighing because of her lost opportunity, she reluctantly rose from the black leather couch and padded over to the kitchen.

She knew that this was probably going to be a fruitless venture, as Gwen never had much in the way of real food in her apartment, but her growling stomach insisted that she look for something….anything. 

She wasn’t sure what the girl survived on, but it couldn’t be much.  Opening the door to the refrigerator, Buffy surveyed the empty contents.  There were a few bottles of water in the side compartment, and she grabbed one before closing the door and moving on to the dark cherry cabinets.

Buffy opened and closed several drawers and doors before finally finding a box of saltines.  It wasn’t much, but it would do for now.  She figured they could order something in whenever Gwen decided to come out of  hibernation. 

Hauling her snack back into the living room, Buffy sat them on the dark cherry coffee table that sat neatly in front of the couch.  She then reached for her laptop, pulling it out of it’s carrying case she sat it on her lap.  Opening it up, she quickly logged into her email.  She wanted to see if she’d gotten any new mail from Willow, her friend always brought a little bit of sunshine into the cloudiest of her days.

She was going through her usual routine of cleaning out the junk in her inbox before she opened any of her ‘important’ mail, when an IM message popped up.

Nick13:  Hey.

Buffy paused for a moment.  Could she really be a good enough cyber friend to chat and be happy when her life was in such utter chaos?

Gagesgal:  Hey.

Nick13:  whats up?

Gagesgal:  Not much.  You?

Nick13:  been wirkin on a new fic

Nick13: *working

Gagesgal:  Cool.

Nick13:  hows your’s coming?

Gagesgal:  I haven’t had time to work on it much.  RL isn’t being nice to me right now.

Nick13:  :-(  sorry.  hope it gets better.

Gagesgal:  Me too.

Nick13:  well, gtg

Nick13:  my brother wants online.  bye.

Gagesgal:  Bye.


Buffy was almost sad when her cyber pal signed off, he was offering her a small reprieve from the shit that had been her life for the past several hours.  Besides, she always enjoyed their chats.  There was nothing forced or contrived about them.  She didn’t have to try and impress him, nor did he have to do any impressing either.  They were halfway around the world from each other, so they simply enjoyed their emphatic chats about each season’s new eps of ‘Into the Night’ or about their latest fics.  It was fun…..and simple, nothing like her amazingly complex real life.

Sighing, for what seemed like the five thousandth time today, Buffy went back to checking her email.  Unfortunately, there hadn’t been any more from Willow.  Maybe it was for the best.  She wasn’t sure what she could say to her friend anyway.  She and Willow hadn’t known each other all that long, and therefore her friend knew nothing about her psycho ex-husband.  Instead she thought that Buffy was the happy wife of one up and coming New York attorney.

Buffy was startled out of her thoughts when Gwen plopped down on the couch next to her.

“Hey Buff.  Get any rest?”

“A little.  Thanks again for letting me stay here.  I talked to Lindsey and he’s going to be home in a couple of days, so I’ll be out of your hair by Tuesday.”  Buffy replied with a half smile. 

“No problem.  You know you’re welcome here anytime.  So, I take it that this little spontaneous business trip was an excuse to go see Graham.”  Gwen stated, rather than asked. 

She’d known about their relationship from the beginning.  She had met Lindsey in the Judo class she taught at the gym he began to frequent soon after moving to New York, and through Lindsey, she met Buffy, and though Buffy, they were both introduced to Graham.

“Yeah.  I’m glad they’re getting a chance to see each other.  It’s been awhile.”  Buffy said as she closed her laptop and placed it back into it’s carrying case.

“Speaking of seeing each other, you never did tell me about the hottie in LA.  You owe me some juicy details sister.”  Gwen said with a wicked grin.

“Gwen…I’m sorry, but I’m really not in the mood do talk about that right now.”  Buffy replied sadly.  The thought that she was *that* close to living out one of her fantasies and then to have it ruined by Riley….it almost brought her to tears.

“Well, if you’re going to be that way…not that it really matters.”  Gwen said matter-of-factly.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  Buffy asked as she eyed her friend.

“Lindsey called back about a half an hour after you talked to him.  He was worried that you weren’t telling him the truth about how you were.  So I told him everything was cool and that you were fine, then I got to thinkin’ that you had probably spilled your guts to him….you always do, so I asked him….about the guy.”  Gwen admitted. 

She wasn’t above blackmailing any and all parties involved to get the information that she wanted, and they all knew it.  It was a risk they were all willing to take to stay friends with her.

“And what did he tell you Gwen?”  Buffy asked pointedly.

“The truth.”  Gwen answered cryptically.

Buffy crossed her arms over her chest and narrowed her eyes, “Well?”

“Okay fine.  He told me you wouldn’t tell him who they guy was either, which is a lie and I know it.  You always tell him everything Buffy.  Come on damn it, I want to know!  Who is this mystery man?”  Gwen asked in half excitement and half-pouting.  She hoped one of the two avenues would work to get her the information she wanted.

Buffy just grinned.  She knew Lindsey wouldn’t give it up, at least not while he was on the other end of the phone and clear across the country from Gwen where she couldn’t realistically threaten violence on him.

“I’m going to take a shower.”  Buffy stated as she grabbed her carryon bag and headed for the bathroom.

“Whatever.”  Gwen mumbled. 

She didn’t like being left out in the cold, and if neither Buffy nor Lindsey were talking, there were other ways to find this info out.  Grabbing Buffy’s large suitcase, Gwen moved it flat on the floor.  Cursing that her friend had decided to use the locks on it, the slender brunette scurried to her kitchen cabinet and retrieved a small pairing knife. 

She’d learned a few tricks along the way, and picking locks with whatever was on hand was one of them.  With a couple pokes of her knife in each lock she quickly had it open.  As soon as the heavy top cracked open, Gwen could smell the distinct aroma of roses.  Pushing the suitcase the rest of the way open she found two long stem red roses lying on top of the hastily packed clothes, and beneath the roses was a carefully folded piece of paper.  Pulling it out of it’s hiding place she opened it.

~Buffy,

I’ll pick you up in an hour.  Dress casual.

    Always,

     A~


“A?”  Gwen muttered aloud, “Hmmm….well, this will be interesting.”  She continued as she folded the paper and slipped it back under the roses.

Carefully shutting the suitcase and locking it, Gwen moved it back to its original position in her living room.  Sitting back down on the couch, she pulled her legs up under her and began to mentally roll off all the names she could think of that began with the letter A.

There was Aaron, Andrew, Adam, Andy, Ashley…that was a stretch, not a lot of guy Ashley’s around….Alan….possibly…..Abner, Abraham…too old sounding….then it hit her out of the blue.  Who was the one guy that Buffy talked about obsessively…..ANGEL!

“I can’t fucking believe it!”  Gwen said out loud, it made perfect sense.

Drumming her fingers on the arm of the couch, Gwen began to think about what it was that she was going to do with her new bit of information.

“This could get very interesting.” She said with an evil grin.

Chapter 9 ~
(Rated R ~ Language, Violence)

Nick13 hurriedly closed his open files on his computer and said goodbye to his IM buddy when he heard his brother’s car pull into the driveway.  Although his older brother held little to no interest in their shared computer, and even less interest in using the internet, he still held a deep desire to keep that part of his life hidden away from him. 

Ever since he was a small child, he had placed his big brother on a pedestal, and since becoming a celebrity, the pedestal just kept getting higher.  So, the seventeen-year-old decided that it was in his best interest to keep that information to himself.  He really didn’t figure that his brother would understand his interest and enthusiasm in what he did for a living.  He was even more certain that if he ever did find out about his obsessive behavior with Angel’s TV character and show, things might come to blows between them, and he certainly didn’t want that to happen.

No, Connor Aaron Nicklaus, otherwise known as Nick13, would keep his idol worship of his brother to himself.  He had done a bang up job so far, and a far better job of not letting anyone know who he himself really was.  Even if anyone ever actually found out his real name, they’d never be able to put two and two together.  They were only half brothers after all, as Angel’s mother Katherine had remarried after her first husband passed away, so they did not share a last name. 

Besides, it wasn’t as if he’d told the complete truth about himself anyway, he wasn’t exactly a twenty something university student from Canada.  But did anyone on the ‘net actually tell the truth?  He sincerely doubted so, and Gagesgal was a good example.  Even though she was one of his favorite cyber pals, was she really a twenty-six year old teacher from New York named Anne McDonald?  Most likely, some, if not all of that personal information was untrue.  Shrugging those thoughts away, Connor waited for his brother to make his way into the house.

“Hey Connor, I’m home.”  Angel said solemnly as he approached his younger brother who was now lounging causally on the living room sofa.

“Hey Angel.  What’s up?  You were out of here pretty early this morning.”  Connor answered over his shoulder, trying to act only half interested. 

It was all Connor could do to keep his calm while inquiring about his brother’s morning activities.  He was well aware that Angel had been out on a date last night, and as far as he was concerned, it could be nothing but a good thing.  Figuring that this morning’s early departure had been a continuation from the previous evening, he was curious.

“Life sucks.”  Angel replied in a tired voice, sinking down at the opposite end of the couch from Connor.

“You want to talk about it?”  Connor asked, hopeful that his brother, and best friend, would finally break down and confide in him.  Something that he’d been wishing would happen since he’d moved in with him after Angel’s divorce from the hellwench, and his early graduation from private school.

“Thanks, but I don’t want to weigh you down. I’m sure you’ve got enough problems of your own.”  Angel answered as he stared blankly at the rotating blades of the ceiling fan that was humming quietly overhead.

“I don’t mind.”  Connor offered.

“Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.  I guess it was just a little wishful thinking on my part, that’s all.”  Angel replied as he continued to stare off into space. 

Connor studied his brother closely.  Over the last year, he had observed Angel’s moods, and this one was strikingly different than the norm.  It wasn’t the angry brooding that he’d witnessed after each unpleasant encounter with the ex, nor was it the depressing self-pity that the young celebrity had honed to perfection.  No, this was something altogether different, and if he didn’t know better, he would’ve sworn that is brother was wearing the mask of a lovesick teenager.  Whoever Angel took out last night had certainly done a number on him.

“Well, if you change your mind, I’m here.”  Connor offered again.

Angel started to say something, hesitated, and closed his mouth again.  He had thought about telling the long and semi-glorious story to his brother, but decided against it.  There was no reason to depress the young boy, and slight him against the opposite sex already.  He’d have plenty of time to experience the happiness and heartache of loving and losing all on his own.

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”  Angel answered as he rose from the couch.

“I’m going to go take a shower.”  He continued over his shoulder as he retreated up the stairs to his room. 

Connor didn’t respond.

Angel had taken a shower early that morning before leaving, but at the moment there was nothing better for him to do.  He only hoped that along with the hot steam all of his memories of Buffy Summers could evaporate into the air.  She’d stolen his already broken heart and took it with her to New York, the only hint of her life that he had, or at least he thought he had.  He didn’t really know if Buffy Summers was even her real name, nor did he know for sure that she was actually twenty-six and a teacher. 

She had given him only a few clues as to her whereabouts, and the longer he thought about hiring a private investigator to look for her, the more reasons he had come up with not to.  Spike’s words had been the deciding factor.

//“Maybe the bint doesn’t want to be found, ever think of that?”//

If she had really wanted to have a rela…..a something with him, she wouldn’t have left town in the middle of the night.  If something had happened to her and she didn’t have a choice but to leave, she could have left word with the hotel clerk as to how to reach her, but she didn’t.  It was obvious what she wanted, or rather what she didn’t want, now he’d just have to live with it, however bitter the pill was to swallow.  Sighing with that thought Angel shrugged out of his clothes and stepped into the hot spray of the shower.  When was he ever going to catch a break?

* * * * * *

Stepping out of the hot spray of the shower, Buffy wrapped the white fluffy towel around her body and sighed.  In the past forty-eight hours she had covered all of the bases, from total euphoria, fright beyond words, and she was now tinkering on the edge of depression.  She’d literally met the man of her dreams, and instead of happily planning her future with him, figuratively speaking of course, she was thousands of miles away with no hope of ever seeing him again.  At least not in an up close and personal way that is, there was always ‘Into the Night’.  She still had that, whatever comfort it could be to her now.

“Life sucks.”  She mumbled out loud, to no one but what she could see of her reflection in the foggy mirror.  When was she ever going to catch a break?

* * * * * *

Sitting at the desk in the vacated hotel room, Riley Finn sipped from his bottle of whiskey, doing his best to nurse his bruised male ego and the mild burn on his chest he’d received for his rescuing efforts.  After months and months of planning and detective work, Riley thought he’d finally gotten his lucky break with his ex-but-soon-to-be-again-wife.  Discovering her whereabouts for the second time in New York had been the easy part.  The dumb bitch and that queer she lived with and called her husband, what a joke, were easily tracked down. 

One would have thought that if she truly didn’t want to be found again that she would have done just a little bit better of a job hiding herself, but it was obvious, to Riley anyway, that she *did* indeed want to be found.  Why else would she put herself in such a public position? 

Keeping her teaching job after she knew that *he* knew were she worked was an obvious sign to him that she wanted him back.  And if that wasn’t enough, the public engagement and marriage to that….that….thing she called a man cemented the knowledge in his mind that she was just biding her time, waiting for him to come and take her back.

With those thoughts dancing through Riley’s already unstable mind, he continued to ponder the reasons for her actions last night.  He had finally made his move, come to her rescue and instead of kissing him and thanking him for taking her back after all she’d forced him to do to her, she attacked him. 

She’d dared to use profanity to his face and far above that she had used some sort of electrical device on him.  She would be reprimanded for her actions.  However ill advised she was, it was still her will that had acted out towards him, and for that she would pay the consequences.  Discipline wasn’t always a pretty thing to be learned, but it was a necessity of life.  Buffy had obviously forgotten that little lesson, but would come to understand that again soon enough.

Riley also came to reason that the little outing she had been on with that other man had only been for his benefit.  She must have been able to ‘feel’ his presence, and somehow know that he had been following her around on her little vacation and wanted to make him jealous.  She had no idea how easy her little plan to seduce him worked. 

Watching her small body grind against the much larger one of that other man had made his cock throb in pain, and their shared kisses both at the club and the pier had almost forced him over the edge.  He wasn’t sure where along the way his little whore had come to appreciate his sexual fantasies, but that seemed to be a benefit, in his mind, to their little separation. 

Riley drained the remains of his fifth of Jack Daniels.  Setting the empty bottle on top of the small desk he turned and glanced at the still body lying in the crumpled sheets of the queen size bed.  The seductive looking blonde housekeeper who had found him unconscious on the floor of Buffy’s room had been one hell of a good lay.  He was certain that she had been schooled in the fine art of pleasure on the streets of Los Angeles, and was only now trying to turn her life around. 

It hadn’t taken much for him to sway her concern about him being unconscious in a recently vacated room.  A quick excuse about drunkenly stumbling into the wrong, luckily unlocked, room had ended with an offer of quick money in exchange for some hot sex.  The small blonde was this lonely businessman’s personification of the perfect fuck.  It was an easy gig, and one that he’d seen time and time again during his tenure on the Chicago Special Crimes Unit. 

The same song and dance, a hooker that had finally had enough of the street life and was trying to turn things around, stumbles upon a handsome young gentlemen who was offering some big bucks for a night of pleasure.  Instead of some easy money, the women only ended up finding themselves thoroughly fucked and dead. 

Shaking his head Riley silently wondered how they could have all been so stupid.  How could seven petite….blonde….sometimes blue, but most of the time hazel eyed beauties be so fucking stupid?  Smiling to no one but himself, he let the real reason slip over his tongue…. ‘greed.’  All those fucking bitches wanted was his money, just like Buffy had. 

It was the same thing every time he brought home his hard earned money to her, she would ask for some of her own.  It was if she somehow thought that she deserved it as his wife.  Just like those seven whores who had asked to be paid when the fucking was over….it was Buffy all over again.  He could see her face in each of them, and it just pissed him off more.  The tramp lying necked and lifeless in the vacant room had done the same.  Looking like Buffy….demanding his money like Buffy….but she could never be Buffy.  None of them had ever been able to take her place.  So Riley done to this one as he had done to the rest….put her out of her misery.

Standing up from the desk chair, Riley moved effortlessly to the bed.  Smiling to himself he reasoned that he would have the real thing back in his arms soon enough.  That thought alone was enough to get him through his remaining deeds.  Picking the waif of a woman up into his arms he carried her to the bathroom and laid her lifeless body down in the white porcelain tub.  He reached up and turned on the hot spray of the shower and began the tedious task of washing away any signs of himself from her body.

Chapter 10 ~
(Rated R – Some Language)

It had been a fitful night of sleep for Angel O’Connor.  As much as he tried to steer them in other directions, his dreams kept returning to the small blonde who had mesmerized him two evening’s prior.  She had managed to seep into every part of his body, clinging to the very fibers of his being.  She was intoxicating, and that scent of soft vanilla mixed with just a touch of her own sweetness still seemed to permeate his senses. 

Angel tossed and turned in his oversized bed until the pre-dawn rays broke through his open window.  With the sheer white curtains blowing gently in the early morning breeze, Angel sluggishly dragged himself out of bed.  Today was just the second day in a long week of production, and he was dreading it in a major way.  He had yet more scripts to memorize, hours of makeup to endure and a new and young costume designer who insisted that she needed to measure his inseam every goddamn time he went in for a fitting.

He couldn’t complain too much about her though.  She was cute, and funny, and had more than her share of wise-ass comments to make while she picked out his clothes for that day’s shoot.  Besides, her fashion sense was over the top.  Had he once again been stuck with that Martina woman who hated him with a passion this could have been an even longer week to endure.  Luckily for him she had decided to pursue other projects mid-season, and in turn someone from J.W.’s office had stumbled across Faith. 

The slim and trim, five foot something, tattooed brunette at the very least kept things interesting on the set.  Although she teased and taunted, she had been straight forth with the information that she was securely taken and had no interest in him or any other guy that worked on the show. 

Angel had caught a glimpse of her a couple of times at Spike’s club, but she had never given him any indication as to who she was there to see.  He was pretty certain that it wasn’t Spike, as he was never one to conceal his conquests, but then again with his newfound interest in sports, one could never be quite sure. 

Pulling his white and blue Dodgers t-shirt over his head, Angel finished dressing and headed for the kitchen for his routine cup of black coffee.  In the four years of the show’s existence, he had never once deviated from his routine.  No matter what time of the day or night he had to be on set, his workday always began the same. 

He’d gotten a lucky break with this acting job, and he wasn’t about to screw it up by changing things.  He was almost more superstitious than Spike, and that was saying something.  Ever since the morning that Spike found out he had been named as the sole beneficiary to the estate of his late uncle, Rupert Giles, he had made a point of keeping his morning ritual exactly the same.

Mr. Giles had packed away millions over the years, and inheriting all of it had been nothing short of a miracle in Spike’s eyes, so he was certain that if he wasn’t careful his good fortune would be gone just as quickly as it had came.  So there in laid the logic behind Spike’s superstition, which had carried over to his best friend, though not quite so thoroughly.  At least Angel didn’t start his mornings with a cold shower, a shot of whisky, followed by four cups of black coffee.  Angel smiled to himself just thinking about the story that had been behind that morning.

Setting his empty coffee cup in the sink, Angel grabbed his keys and darted out the door to his car.  Part of the morning ritual was to be running late.  He’d started his first day off that way, and he was determined to end his career on that same note as well.

Connor glanced over at the clock when he heard the kitchen door slam shut.  The green digital numbers on his alarm read 5:06 a.m.  When was his brother ever going to learn to be quiet early in the morning?  Pulling one of his large fluffy pillows over the top of his head, Connor tried desperately to fall back into the graces of sleep.  His first class didn’t start for almost three whole hours….he really wasn’t ready to begin his day just yet.

When their great-aunt’s antique grandfather clock chimed at a quarter after Connor had finally had enough.  He wasn’t going to be able to fall back asleep, and he knew it.  He never could.  Tossing back the comforter and sheet that had covered his long and lean body during the night, he rose to sit with his legs hung over the edge of the bed.  Rubbing the remnants of sleep from his eyes, Connor moved from the bed and headed downstairs for the kitchen.  At least Angel always left some coffee behind.

Grabbing his favorite mug from the kitchen cabinet, Connor poured what would be the first of his usual three cups of morning coffee.  The fact that he drank so much coffee in the morning had always been a tense spot between the two siblings.  Angel was never very appreciative of the fact that their mother had allowed such a miserable habit to form in the first place, and then to quietly observe as it got so out of hand was even worse.  As far as his brother was concerned, Connor was much to young to be relying so heavily on a caffeine fix to get him through his day.

The sandy blonde haired younger brother smiled to himself.  That was one perk of these bright and early morning shoots, Angel was up and out of the house before he ever got out of bed….well, sort of anyway.  That being the case, it left no one to bitch about his coffee consumption.  Shaking his head, Connor moved over to the computer and sat down.  His brother really needed to find a woman, settle down, maybe even start a family…no definitely start a family.  Angel really needed someone else to play father to besides him.  He had already been down the father son road, and look where it got him, a one way ticket to live with his older brother.

Sitting his morning java down on the small desk, Connor turned on the computer and waited patiently for it to warm up.  He was really going to have to talk Angel into purchasing a new one, this thing seemed like it was still running on squirrel power.  When the computer finally finished cranking and grinding it’s way to full out ‘ON’ mode, Connor eagerly hit the internet icon. 

Signing into his email and instant message account, Connor began his morning ritual.  He was surprised when his IM popped up with a message.  None of his friends were usually on this early.

Gagesgal:  hey

Connor was even more surprised to see that it was Anne.  She was never on at this time of day, and certainly never during the week.

Nick13:  hey 2 u 2

Buffy had been less than shocked to see Nick sign in already this morning, as she was almost certain that the kid lived on the internet.  She was actually thrilled to have someone to chat with this morning, as Gwen had already left for the gym, and Lindsey wouldn’t be home until after six this evening.  That had left her stuck in her friend’s apartment all day, by herself.

Gagesgal:  your up early

Nick13:  my brother woke me up

Gagesgal:  :-(

Nick13:  nb.  have to get ready for school soon anyway.

Nick13:  what’s up with u?  shouldn’t u be teaching now?


Buffy grinned at the question.  Nick was certainly a sharp cookie to remember that she should, on a normal Tuesday, be teaching her kindergarten class right now.

Gagesgal:  spring break until Monday.  I have the rest of the week off.

Nick13:  cool.  Doing anything on your time off?

Gagesgal:  I actually went to LA for a couple of days, but things didn’t work out, so I’m back in the Big Apple.


Connor sucked in a much-needed breath at that little revelation.  One of his friends that he admired, not only for her brilliant writing ability, but also for her kindness as a person was in LA.  Gods, how he wished he could have met her.  She was so incredibly sweet, what a shame they couldn’t be friends in real life too.  Shrugging the thought away, Connor asked the question that was next on his mind.

Nick13:  What happened?

Buffy paused for a moment at the direct question.  She hated lying to people more than anything else….well, except for those assholes at Wolfram & Hart, that she didn’t particularly mind.  Those jerks treaded heavily on the soul of her best friend, and so lying to them was something that she could live with, but lying to Nick on the other hand wasn’t quite so easy.

But she couldn’t exactly tell him the truth either.  What was she supposed to say, “Oh it was nothing, I met the man of my dreams, Angel O’Connor, in a coffee shop. You know him, the guy who is the major sexy star of our favorite TV show.  Anyway, he asked me out, we went to dinner together and a concert.  We made out for a bit on a pier before this cop showed up and ran us off, after which he dropped me off at my hotel room door and left like a perfect gentlemen.  That all happened right before my psychotic ex husband shows up, barges into my hotel room and attacks me, whereby I shock his crazy ass to the floor and turn tail back to New York.”  Oh yeah, that would definitely work.  Not!  Taking in a deep cleansing breath, Buffy typed her response.

Gagesgal:  long…boring…story.  Trust me.

Connor wasn’t totally satisfied with the answer that he received, but he wasn’t about to push the limits of their friendship either.  How could he expect Anne to bare her soul to him, when he wasn’t willing to do the same.  He just hoped that she was okay, and nothing bad had happened to her while she was out here.  This could be a scary and dangerous place to be if you weren’t careful.

Nick13:  ur trusted. 

Nick13:  :-)


Buffy was happy when she read Nick’s response.  She really didn’t want to make him mad at her, but there was absolutely no way she going to tell him what really had happened in LA.

Gagesgal:  :-)  thanks.

Nick13:  np

Nick13:  just wanted to make sure u were ok.


Buffy smiled at the sweet gesture.  Having a guy be concerned for her welfare was nice.  Correct that, having a straight guy concerned for her welfare was nice.  Lindsey didn’t count, he was just a friend, not really a guy in the terms of sweetness because he cared kind of way.  He cared because he had to, because that’s what friends did for each other.  Nick on the other hand….well he was, as far as she knew, straight, so the gesture could still be considered sweet.

Gagesgal:  I’m good.  Thanks for caring.  You’re too sweet.

Nick13:  that’s me…sweet!  brb

Gagesgal:  k.


Connor had heard the morning paper hit the front door, so he interrupted his chat to go retrieve it.  Another nasty habit that he had, according to Angel anyway, was reading the morning paper with his three cups of coffee.  He was a news hound in every sense of the word.  He had to know what was going on in the world, whether it was good, bad, or ugly.  Padding barefoot to the front door Connor opened it to a rush of cool morning air.  With a shiver, he quickly grabbed the LA Times, shut the door and headed back to his seat at the computer.

Nick13:  k. back.

Gagesgal:  k.


Getting himself situated in the uncomfortable office chair, Connor finally flipped the paper over to the headline story.

‘Possible Serial Killer On The Loose’

Nick13:  this sucks.

Buffy scrunched her brow at the comment that popped up from Nick in her IM box.

Gagesgal:  what?

Nick13:  just got the morning paper.

Nick13:  headline reads ‘possible serial killer on the loose’
Gagesgal:  that does suck. 

Nick13:  the story says that 2nd girl was found dead in hotel room.

Nick13:  first one was found Sun, 2nd found Mon.  both killed same way.

Gagesgal:  well be careful.  don’t want them to get you too!

Nick13:  looks like the psycho likes blonde girls.  I think I’m ok.


There was a short pause in the conversation from Buffy’s end.

Nick13:  still there?

Gagesgal:  sorry.  just something weird on tv.

Nick13:  what?

Gagesgal:  well…I’m watching tv.  My friend (where I’m staying right now) has a satellite hookup and it has a LA station.


Connor jumped up from his computer chair and ran to find the remote to the tv that was situated within sight of the computer screen.  He had a bad feeling where this conversation was headed.  He should never have said anything about the murders to Anne. 

Gagesgal:  anyway the news station…LA9 is talking about the murders of 2 women in the past 2 days.  Sounds similar to yours.  That’s scary.  First Vancouver now LA.  *shivers*

Connor flipped on LA9, and watched in disbelief as his carefully constructed cover was being blown to bits in the matter of seconds by his own stupidity.  Returning to his chair he turned his attention back to the computer.  Reading and then re-reading Anne’s last message he contemplated his options.  He could lie and try to keep up the charade, or he could come clean, at least to where he was actually from.

Gagesgal:  Nick?

Pause.

Nick13:  sorry.  just thinking.

Buffy smiled.  This would be the perfect time for her “I know because I can see the smoke rollin’” comment that she used on Angel, but this wasn’t Angel…this wasn’t anywhere close to being Angel.  Not to mention she was on the other end of a computer and couldn’t really see Nick at all.  She decided on another tactic instead.

Gagesgal:  anything I can help you with?

Connor sighed.  This was not going to be easy.

Nick13:  I need to tell you something.  Please don’t be mad. K?

Buffy was puzzled.  She couldn’t think of anything that Nick could tell her that would make her mad at him.  Well, that wasn’t entirely true.  He could say that he had suddenly turned his back on Gage and Alex and was now rooting for the hottie vamp to get hooked up with that slutty police detective Kate.  If that was the case then there just might be a cyber smack down going on soon.

Gagesgal:  I’m all ears….err..umm…eyes!

Nick13:  I’m not really Canadian.

Buffy grinned.  This was the ‘Don’t be mad at me news.’?

Gagesgal:  ooookay.  Why would I be mad about that?

Nick13:  I live in LA.

Gagesgal:  still not mad.  I don’t necessarily believe that *any* of my computer friends tell me the complete truth about themselves.  It’s okay.  I don’t blame you.  Don’t worry about it. K?

Nick13:  k. 

Nick13:  well, I better go now.  in serious need of a shower before school.


Buffy giggled to herself.  She was pretty sure that she reeked as well.

Gagesgal:  k.  I probably should get off of here too.

Gagesgal:  since I now know that you live in LA…BE CAREFUL! 

Nick13:  I will.  U 2!

Gagesgal:  :-)  I will.  Take care.  ~hugs~  bye.

Nick13:  *hugs*  bye bye.


After signing off her laptop, Buffy carefully tucked it back into it’s carrying case before padding to the bathroom for her own shower.  It was almost 9:00 a.m. now, and she was still not dressed.

* * * * *

Leaning against the edge of the counter, Angel waited patiently for Faith to retrieve the extra set of  “The One” clothes.  Unfortunately for both he and Faith the stunt coordinator had miscalculated the speed at which the pulley system would retract his body from the edge of the moving car, hence causing him an unexpected roll on the pavement instead of the nice soft mat that he was supposed to have landed on.

Thankfully, Faith had saw fit to dress him in leather pants and Gage’s trademark black leather duster, the one fabric of choice to help prevent potential road rash.  Shaking off his initial irritation with the stunt department, Angel glanced over to the front of the LA Times that somehow seemed to be calling to him.

Grabbing the front page, Angel sat down gingerly in Faith’s red leather recliner.  He had yet to find out how she’d talked the big wigs into that luxury, but at the moment he was thankful that she had.  He had sustained only a few minor scrapes from the accident, but his body was still sore from the shock of hitting such a hard surface so unexpectedly.

Relaxing back into the chair, Angel began to lose himself in the leading article of today’s paper.  Lost in thought he was completely unaware when the young wardrobe designer walked back into view.

“Comfy there Buster Brown?”  Faith asked sharply.

“Huh?  Oh sorry.  Wait…Buster Brown?”  Angel asked startled.

“Didn’t mean to interrupt your R & R time or anything, but I was under the impression that you were only in here for a quickie……..change of clothes that is.”  Faith answered seductively, holding the new leather pants and jacket out for inspection.

Angel slowly rose from the very comfortable recliner.

“Yeah, thanks.”  Angel answered as he carefully laid the newspaper back on the counter and grabbed the clothes out of Faith’s hands.

“Jeez man.  What’s got you wound so tight?”  Faith asked.  Angel was usually the sweet and considerate conversationalist while he was in her presence.  Sometimes he’d wisecrack with her, but for the most part, he just treated her like a little sister, so this unusual distant-ness meant something was definitely off with the guy today.

Angel didn’t answer.  Instead, he turned his attention back to the newspaper, and continued to stare down at the picture of the Hyperion Hotel that was plastered in full color on the front page.  It was the same hotel that Buffy had been staying at.  The same hotel that she checked out of in the middle of the night.  The same hotel that two unidentified blonde women were found murdered in.  He had an incredibly bad feeling about this, and the sooner he could find out for himself that his worst fears hadn’t been realized, the better he would feel.

“Angel?”  Faith prodded.

“Yeah?”

“You okay man?  You’re acting a little….off today.” 

“I’m fine.  Just got interested in this story.”  Angel answered and nodded towards the paper.

“Crazy ain’t it?  But then again, what do you expect….”  Faith’s sentence trailed.

“Expect….expect what?”  Angel asked, curious about what his wardrobe designer was alluding to.

“I just mean when you’re in that kind of business, you take that risk.  Occupational hazard.”  Faith answered flippantly as she grabbed the now useless black leather duster that Angel had discarded when he first came into the trailer.  Shrugging, Faith continued, “But to each their own, you know.”

“What *exactly* are you trying to say?”  Angel sneered.  If one of those dead women were Buffy Summers, she certainly was no hooker, and he really didn’t appreciate Faith insinuating so.

“Listen..ANGEL...don’t get shitty with me.  You and I both know that the garden-variety psycho in this town picks on the streetwalkers.  It’s no big secret.  Those chicks don’t have a family, no one who gives a rat’s ass whether or not they’re dead or alive.  I know it, you know it, they know it, and the crazy man holding the knife certainly knows it.  So if you’re worried that your regular piece of ass is gone, then I’m sorry.  But life sucks Angel, then you die, so get over it.  And if you ever talk to me in that tone of voice again, I’ll kick your ass right out of here.  Got it?”  Faith finished her tirade and stormed out of the room.  She didn’t get paid enough to take that kind of ‘tude over some dead hooker.  Fuck that.

Angel was left in silence.  He didn’t mean to get so…so…hateful with Faith, but for some reason the thought that anyone would think that of Buffy was…  What the hell was he thinking?  Well, actually that was the problem.  He wasn’t thinking, not clearly anyway.  If he could just find out whether or not one of those two women were Buffy, then he would be okay.  He had to know that she was okay, or at least not dead.

Turning on his heal, Angel headed for the dressing room with his costume change.  He’d get the day’s shoot over and then go from there.

Chapter 11 ~
(Rated R – Language)

It had been approximately two weeks since Buffy Summers had spent the evening of her life with Angel O’Connor.  In those two weeks she had resigned herself to the fact that her life was one way, and his was definitely another.  Though rationally she knew she had made the right choice by leaving, it hadn’t at all helped the escalating longing her heart was feeling for its missed opportunity.

All of Buffy’s spare moments were being filled with flashbacks of that single day in LA with Angel.  If she had only known then how profound an effect he would have on her, she would have avoided their meeting at all costs, but she hadn’t, and now she was suffering the consequences.  

Lindsey on the other hand, had returned from his LA trip, refreshed and ready to take on the world, and that was certainly a good thing as Wolfram & Hart was loading him down with more and more cases each day.  It was becoming increasingly obvious that the firm’s sudden interests in his legal talents were due less to a sudden epiphany that he was an outstanding lawyer, but more by suspicions of misconduct on his part.

Although Lindsey, Buffy and even Gwen had been especially careful in not only their conversations, but also with their actions in front of any firm personnel, there was still a strong gut feeling within the tight knit group that there was a rat among the masses.  Someone knew or at the very least suspected that all was not as it seemed with Lindsey and Buffy’s marriage and had planted a bug in the senior partner’s ears.

Because the very thought of Lindsey losing a job that he had more than outright earned, Graham’s planned return to New York City was being discretely pushed back another week, and his original plans on staying with Lindsey and Buffy had to be changed altogether. 

It did not please Gwen at all to find out that her best friend’s gay husband’s lover was going to be *her* roommate for a couple of weeks while he scouted out a new apartment for himself.  Buffy was going to owe her in a major way for this.

* * * * * * *

Two weeks.  Two very long weeks had passed since Angel O’Connor had gone out on his first date in over a year.   The one woman in all the world that he *had* to take out, was the one woman in all the world that had stolen his heart.  The one thing that no matter how hard she’d  tried, Cordelia Chase never could fully do.

Sitting in his dark trailer alone, Angel was brooding more effectively than the writers could have ever portrayed his character Gage doing it.  He was becoming increasingly harder to deal with by the day, and the long hours of the show’s shoots and the increasingly tedious sessions for his vampire make-up only increased Angel’s seemingly permanent bad mood. 

The show’s remaining cast and crew was doing their best to just stay out of Angel’s way, hoping that it was just the stress of shooting the all important May sweeps episodes that was causing him so much foulness.  Though this had never been an issue for Angel in the past, J.W. and company were much more inclined to blame his bad behavior on stress than they were to admit to what had become increasingly obvious to everyone on the set. 

Tall dark and handsome needed to get laid…..and soon!  The sexual frustration was radiating off of him in Tsunami like waves. 

Faith on the other hand wasn’t so inclined to deal with her once favorite man on set so delicately.  She was, instead, one more of his “whatever’s” away from telling the tall brood-y one to shove it up his ass she’d had enough.  That was at least, until he paid her a little visit late one night.

“Faith?  You still here?”  Angel called into the dimly lit trailer.

Walking out of one of the back rooms that housed some of Faith’s personal belongings, the small and slender brunette answered sharply.

“Yeah.  What’d ya want?”

Having already had enough of Angel’s attitude the past couple of days, coupled with the increasing stress she was under from the higher ups to make this character more sexy and that character darker was taking its toll on her already short fuse.

“I…. I… uh….”  Angel stammered, searching for the right words.

“If you’re looking to get laid, you’ve come to the wrong person.  I’ve got a steady, and you fucking know it…. so get lost.”  Faith barked out.  Those obvious signs of sexual frustration hadn’t been lost on the brunette either, and so she, as usual, called it as she saw it…. or at least how she *thought* she saw it.

Angel stared at the young wardrobe designer blankly.  Getting laid, at least by her, was the farthest thing from his mind.  He needed Faith, and in more ways than he would readily admit, but for sex? 

Suddenly, he chuckled.

“What the hell you laughing at?  I’m fucking great in the sack.  I could ride you until you…”  Faith began her rant, but was quickly cut off by Angel.

“Hold up.  First, I’m not laughing at you.  And second, I’m fairly certain that your bedroom skills would leave any man wholly satisfied, but that’s not why I wanted to see you.”  Angel answered honestly.

“Oh.”  The young designer mumbled.

This certainly wasn’t the first time Faith had stuck her foot in her mouth.  Smarting off to someone she’d read wrong was something that had happened more than once in her lifetime, but this time it seemed to be much more dire.  She’d finally found her dream job, and instead of tiptoeing around the star of the show like she *should* have, she accuses him of…. oh hell…. her career was over now.

Turning on her heel, Faith headed back to the room where she’d come from when Angel had first appeared in her trailer.  Grabbing an empty box from the closet, she began tossing her clothes, hair supplies and various make-up items in.  When she was fairly certain that she’d gathered all of her things, she marched back through the hallway, giving Angel a teary ‘sorry’ as she quickly swept past him and towards the door.

“Wait!  What’s wrong?”  Angel asked as he grabbed Faith’s arm before she had a chance to make her escape.

“I said I was sorry, and I’m quitting.  I don’t fucking get fired, no matter how much I deserve it.” 
The young woman who’d always seemed so strong, so tough as nails and hard to the very core, squeaked out.

She’d screwed up big time, and was woman enough to admit it.  Regardless, she still had some semblance of pride left, and it wasn’t about to give Angel the satisfaction of telling her she was finished.

“Fired?  I’m not going to….  Why would you think…. Listen, it doesn’t matter.  You’re not fired.  I need your help.”  Angel explained, gradually letting go of Faith’s arm as he did.

“You need *my* help?”  Faith looked at the handsome TV star skeptically.  What kind of help could he possibly need from her?

Angel moved over to the old beat up wooden chair that always sat in front of the full length mirror and sat down, motioning for his young wardrobe designer to take a seat directly across from him in the infamous red leather recliner.

Faith followed Angel’s lead.  Setting her box of belongings down on the floor next to her, she settled herself on the edge of the recliner, folded her hands in her lap and waited.

“When I was in the changing room yesterday, I overheard you talking to Fred about your boyfriend.”  Angel began.

A tiny grin began to creep across Faith’s face.  It was the same knee jerk reaction that always happened when her boyfriend was mentioned.  The slender brunette may give off an aura of being a total take no prisoners bitch, but she had a soft spot in her heart for her honey, and even the slightest mention of him would bring a smile to her face.

Suddenly remembering the conversation that she had had the day before with Fred, the smile was gone from Faith’s face, and she began to break out in a sweat.  The two young women had covered several topics involving their lives and their lives with their respective boyfriends.  Part of it had taken place before Angel had walked in and gone to change into that day’s shooting attire, some of the conversation had obviously taken place while he was changing, and the remainder was when he had left.  But what had they talked about when?

Ohgodohgodohgodohgod.

“You mentioned that he was really good with computers, that he was going to school, majoring in computer graphics…”  Angel trailed.

“Uh huh.”  Faith barely uttered her response. 

At least he hadn’t asked to be part of a threesome yet, because she did vaguely remember discussing that fantasy with Fred.  Whether that had come before or after his appearance in her trailer she had no recollection.  Now becoming increasingly more interested in her chipping midnight blue fingernail polish, Faith avoided Angel’s stare.

“Well, what I need…. what I was wondering was….. do you think that maybe your boyfriend could help me with some computer stuff?”  Angel stuttered.

“Umm… yeah… sure.”  Faith answered, thankful that *all* Angel had wanted was computer help.

Angel let out a relieved sigh.  He had been mauling this decision over in his head for the past few days.  Did he, or did he not want to look for Buffy Summers further?  According to a friend of a friend of a friend of Spike’s that was supposedly a licensed PI, Buffy Summers didn’t exist, at least not one that matched the description that Spike had passed along.

The PI had found about a thousand different matches for the name Buffy Summers scattered here and there across the United States, but none that were located in New York City, and none in the surrounding cities that even came close to being a five foot three inch imp of a woman with blonde hair and green eyes you could get lost in. 

Spike’s friend of a friend of a friend had suggested that Angel try a computer search with someone who knew their way around such machines, something that he didn’t know anything about, and had no inkling to learn.  Deciding that he wanted to get this little invasion of privacy going sooner rather than later, Angel prompted Faith for a meeting.

“I know this is a little short notice, but this is sort of important to me…. not to mention somewhat on the private side.  So if you could…”  Angel started.

“Oh hey, no prob.  I mean, I can call Gunn now if you want… figure out a good time and all.”  Faith offered.

“Gunn?  As in Charles Gunn?  As in Spike’s Gunn?”  Angel questioned.  Surprised to think that his answer had been standing right there under his nose this entire time, not to mention a little bit aggravated that his best friend hadn’t offered to talk to Gunn about the computer search to begin with.  He was going to have to have a little talk with Spike about that!

“Yes.  Is that a bad thing?”  Faith asked as she leaned over the armrest of the recliner and rummaged through her cardboard carryall, searching for her cell phone that she was sure she’d tossed in there in her haste to be on her way.

“No, not a bad thing.”  Angel answered with a wiry grin.  “I always wondered who you were meeting at ‘Forever’.  Never could figure you out.”

“Under the stealth of darkness and neon lights I move, to be seen only by the one to which my heart belongs.”  Faith recited out loud.

“Huh?”  Angel questioned in a haze of confusion.  Faith didn’t always make what most people would consider sense, but until now, he normally had some idea of what she was talking about.

Faith waived his question off as she hit the green ‘snd’ button on her tiny cell phone.  Putting the device close to her left ear she waited patiently for an answer.  Standing up, she paced across the small area of her trailer.  When the other party finally picked up she smiled and returned the greeting.

“Hey to you too hot stuff.”

Pause.

“Sorry sweetness, business this time.  Got somebody here who needs a total kick ass computer genius.” 

Pause.

“Yeah.”

Pause

“No.”

Pause.

“What time?”

Faith turned her attention back to Angel.

“Tomorrow at one work for you?”

Angel nodded his agreement to Faith.  She then turned and walked towards the back of the trailer and hopefully out of her guest’s earshot to finish her conversation.  When she had ended the call,  she returned to the front, only to find a beautifully scribed ‘Thank You” written in her…. better not be….. god damn….. favorite…... sonofabitch….. shade…… of lipstick. 

“Out of the five dozen tubes in this box, and he had to pick my favorite!  Grrrrrr…. MEN!”  Faith growled out loud before flipping the light switch and leaving.  She’d get the seven bucks he now owed her for a new tube tomorrow.

Chapter 12 ~
(Rated R ~ Language)

After an unusually long and dreadful day at school, Buffy returned home to find her answering machine blinking with one lonely message. Setting her books and purse down on the kitchen table, Buffy wearily grabbed a bottled water out of the stainless steel refrigerator before walking over to the counter to hit the ‘play’ button.

“Hey Gracie! It’s me.” Lindsey’s warm voice floated through the air, comforting Buffy’s tired and tense muscles with its loving embrace. She smiled at the use of his pet name for her.

“Work is being a bigger bitch today than your hairdresser Anya is on a regular basis!” Lindsey deadpanned, then paused as if waiting for Buffy’s usual comment about him just not ‘understanding’ Anya’s personality before he continued.

“So, I’m guessin’ you get what that means, another late night in the office. Guess you’re on your own for supper, but for safety sake, no going out to eat or deliveries to the house. I much prefer to come home to an alive version of you and not a dead one!”

Buffy rolled her eyes at Lindsey’s almost neurotic state of worrying about her safety.

“Take care, and I’ll see you later.”

Not really being in the eating mood at the moment, Buffy decided to forget the marathon teacher’s meeting she’d only recently gotten out of and turn her attention instead to checking her long neglected emails. Since Principal Snider had unexpectantly changed her schedule, giving her extra duties assisting the new librarian for an hour and a half every afternoon after school, she’d been unable to get online the past couple of evenings.

Instead of surfing her favorite sites, looking for any new news she could find on Angel or reading updates on her favorite fics, she’d been weighed down preparing her lesson plans for the next day. Those were the activities she usually did in that same ninety-minute period after school that she was now spending with a middle aged British gentlemen who preferred to be called by his last name of Giles. Not Mr. Giles, just…. Giles.

Logging into her email, on she and Lindsey’s much larger, and much nicer home computer, Buffy found her inbox full, almost to capacity. The first few entries were just junk mail, but then she came across what she knew would make her spirits rise! Feedback!

She had finally gotten up the nerve to finish the short fic entitled “One Day” that she’d started while in LA, and when it was done, she quickly posted it to her many mailing lists. The responses she was receiving were overwhelming.

**Mafitte**: ~Feedback: "One Day"

Oh my god Sremmus, I don't know how you do it. It’s incredible! I wish I had your muse because this ficlet was fucking amazing. Sure you can't entitle it "One Eternity?" Hehe... it could be a really long fic... now don't say anything I know what you're thinking.

Better update your epic fic soon! You're leaving me on the edge of my computer seat.

Mafitte~


Buffy was smiling from ear to ear. She, herself, had thought that this was possibly her best work yet, but was hesitant to mumble those words out loud. Though Mafitte’s quote of “…this ficlet was fucking amazing.” was beginning to change her mind.

She quickly clicked out of Mafitte’s email, vowing to return to it later to send a quick reply of thanks.

Buffy left clicked on the next message in her inbox.

Haileybaby002: ~ re: Review on One Day

Sremmus,

Damn girl! Bows and praises you. Kisses ground you walk on! You made that ficlet so realistic and it’s so sad that she ran away from the hotel. I wish you would give us a reason why- okay amend that…… me a reason why! Sobs! It’s not fair to leave a good ficlet lying around without a sequel.

Hailey~


Buffy sighed sadly as she read Hailey’s plea for a reason Alex ran away from the hotel.

“Sorry sweetie, I just can’t go there.” Was her mumbled response to the computer screen before moving on to the next message.

gages_babe: Re: FIC: One Day ~ fini

~ Hey Srem!

You know how much I love you right? Hugs you! You've made my day... but shame on you all fluffy-ness but then you end it like that! How is it possible to hate your muse and want to send her gifts too?

Gage's Babe ~


“Its possible, because real life sucks.” Buffy stated plainly.

Click.

Trina1985: your fic

~S,

I loved the part where he took her out for coffee... that was so sweet. The ambling conversations talking about everything and nothing at all! I love having conversations like that.

Trina~


“So do I.”

Click.

AlexisTheOne: feedback one day

~Gagesgirl,

Wow... wow... wow... the walk in the rain under that one umbrella where they smooch on the pier... you certainly can make my heartstrings yank... and I usually love your angst but this was a bitter sweet yummy munchie!

Alexis~


Buffy didn’t comment this time, just clicked the mouse to continue on.

RianaRain: re: re: re: "long ass epic"

~Hey Sremmus,

What can I say hun? I just have this thing against the show what with J.W.’s impending comments to make Alex her own show! Its not fair! Not I tell you! You must feed me more goodness so I can calm down. And I love Tender Anger too much to have one day go by without rereading many parts... yeah I'm addicted (don't tell).

What did you mean by, (there's more)?????

What did you mean by Alex's comment at the end of One Day where she says... hang on let me quote you: "She saw a dawn of a new world rise but could only taste ashes where the sun's rays touched her." Sequel to explain to me? oh please oh please oh please?

Riana~


“Sorry dearie, but I think ‘One Day’ ended after that ‘one day’.” Buffy said, in almost a whisper.

Click.

Nick13: (no subject)

~Hey!

I know this is brief but I think One Day is fab! almost done with the new chapter and will send it to you later with more praise.

But first, I have an embarrassing secret I need to share! I spy on my brother too much. Honestly he's moping about some girl that's newly entered into his life. Sue me I read his email-- okay that’s a lie….well sort of…..but anyway... I think he'd be interested in tracking down the chick but he's so damn tied up in the whole, "She left me and no phone number..." What does he want? A lipstick invite on a mirror?

I want to help him out but would hate to have really bad advice back fire. I think asking a girl is much better in the way of ideas...

Got any??????

Well, better go or I’m gonna be late for class. Mail me!

ttyl.

love ya, Nick.~


Just as Buffy was getting ready to reply to Nick’s email there was a knock on the door. Startled by the interruption, Buffy cautiously walked to the front door of the spacious loft apartment she shared with Lindsey and peered through the tiny peephole.

“Forrest?” She questioned in a whispered voice.

Not at all liking the thought of Riley’s partner from the Special Crimes Unit in Chicago standing outside her door, Buffy instinctively reached for the baseball bat that was routinely kept in the faux cast iron umbrella stand next to the door.

Gripping the Louisville Slugger like one of the local Yankees, Buffy hesitantly pushed the intercom button on the security pad.

“McDonald residence. Can I help you?” She said into the voice box as evenly as she could force her shaking voice to utter it.

“Buffy, it’s me Forrest. I need to talk to you. Its important.”

Buffy paused at the urgency in the man’s tone.

“I’m sorry. You must have the wrong apartment. There is no one by the name Buffy that lives here.” She lied, knowing there was no way he was going to buy it, but clinging to a shred of hope that he would.

“God dammit Buffy! I know it’s you, now open the fucking door! This. Is. Important.” Forrest said in a barely restrained voice. He was obviously upset, not to mention a tad bit irritated, not that the man ever had much self-control, but this was….different.

Buffy suddenly went from being scared to being really pissed off. She’d taken enough orders over the years from Riley and hand vowed never to let another man intimidate or push her around ever again. She brazenly undid the security chain on the door and made quick work of unbolting the three locks below. Swinging the thick mahogany door open with her bat up and ready to hit a home run with Forrest’s head down the long hallway, Buffy confidently looked her one time friend in the eye.

“Door’s fucking open. Talk!”

Taken aback by Buffy’s tough talk and even tougher attitude, Forrest stood speechless, staring down, with mouth wide open in shock, at the petite blonde who was holding her ground, and him at bay with her weapon of choice firmly in hand.

“Well? You said it was important. Spill it, or go the hell away…. or I’m calling the police!” Buffy spat angrily.

“I….uhhhh…. I…. uhhh….” Forrest stuttered.

Buffy pulled the bat further back into the swinging position that Lindsey and Graham had taught her.

// “Elbow up. Bat back. More power that way.” // The two had chanted to her time and time again.

Forrest held his hands up in submission, “Okay. Okay.”

“I’m waiting!” Buffy hissed again.

“Can I come in?” Forrest asked cautiously taking a step closer to his former partner’s ex.

Buffy pulled the bat back again, further illustrating her desire for him *not* to move another inch. Forrest immediately stepped back, deeper into the hall. He reasoned to himself that if push came to shove, he could probably take her down, bat or no bat, but he didn’t really want to risk a concussion or worse, just to find out if his male ego had been right or not.

“Okay fine. We’ll play your way.” Forrest replied calmly.

Buffy nodded her head in agreement, but said nothing.

“There is something really wrong with Riley.” Forrest confided in a hushed tone.

Buffy rolled her eyes, she couldn’t believe he just said that.

“What?”

“I can’t believe you! You come all the way to New York to tell me THAT? I was singing that fucking song from the rooftops years ago! Why the hell you think I divorced the crazy sonofabitch?” Buffy answered angrily.

“Listen, I know he wasn’t exactly a perfect husband back then, but…” Forrest had no chance to finish his sentence, as Buffy abruptly grabbed his arm, catching him off guard, and pulled him forcefully into the apartment. As much as the thought of having the disgusting bastard in her home sickened her, she wasn’t really in the mood to have the entire floor aware of her previous life. Slamming the heavy door shut, Buffy once again took up her fighting stance before she began her tirade.

“Don’t you even *pretend* to know what I went through with Riley! He exacted every type of abuse one person could possibly portray on another human being to me, and not a fucking one of you bastards did a thing to stop him! So don’t *even* go there!” Buffy hissed, tears from long suppressed memories of the abuse she suffered at Riley’s hands surfacing.

For the first time in his adult life, Forrest J. Watson was on the verge of crying himself. He had seen the signs of abuse and ignored them. Hell, he’d even heard the sadistic bastard bragging about what he’d forced his wife to do, and still he stood by and did nothing. The hurt and betrayal that was more than evident in Buffy’s eyes hit him harder than even his own father’s death had. He was just as guilty of those heinous crimes as Riley was.

“I’m…. sorry.” Forrest was barely able to utter the words. He was employed to ‘Serve and Protect’, and he’d failed miserably!

Chapter 13 ~
(Rated R ~ Language)


It had been nearly a week since Angel had met with Gunn regarding his need for a computer detective.  It had been a marathon meeting that had lasted way beyond Faith’s patients for such things, and the soulful brown-eyed actor had paid the price for keeping his costume designer’s significant other occupied for her entire day off and into the early morning hours as well.

Faith had had no qualms the following week about dressing Angel in a designer runway shirt by one of her up and coming designer friends that looked more suited for a circus clown than a dark and broody vampire, but he wasn’t about to complain about it. 

Although Gunn had been unable to make much progress in actually locating a Buffy Summers that even remotely resembled Angel’s blonde goddess, he had, however, put together a refurbished laptop for Angel that was allowing him to continue his pointless search on his own.  It was during one of his late night rendezvous with his laptop that Connor had wondered into the kitchen and found him staring intently at the computer screen. 

The sandy-blonde haired younger brother literally pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t in some sort of bizarre dream.  Even after the slight tinge of pain had registered in his brain, making him realize that no, he wasn’t dreaming, Connor continued to stare dumbfounded at his sibling. 

It was Angel, at least it looked like him….large frame, dark hair, reading glasses that he never let anyone see him wear.  Yup, the person who was sitting at the kitchen table, staring at the laptop, totally engrossed in whatever it was that he was reading, certainly had done a bang up job at taking on the appearance of Angel, but there was no way this side of Hell that his technologically challenged brother would be using a laptop.

The conversation that followed Connor’s discovery was nothing short of comical, at least in the beginning.

“Who are you?”  Connor asked in almost an accusing tone from the kitchen doorway.  He was still unable to grasp the concept of Angel and a computer, let alone Angel using a computer.

“Huh?  Connor? I uhh…. I….”  Angel stuttered, startled by his brother’s unexpected appearance.

Flipping on the kitchen light, Connor made the short distance to the kitchen table, yanking out one of the large oak chairs, he sunk down into the hard seat with his arms folded across his chest.  In reality, Connor realized that there were obviously some changes going on in his brother’s life that he was unaware of, but in the crazy fiction world he sometimes preferred to live in, it was obvious that his brother’s body had been invaded by a demon from some sort of weird alternate universe, because this just wasn’t Angel.

“I said, who are you?”  Connor repeated again evenly.

“Did you fall and hit your head or something?”  Angel asked, unable to come up with a better reason why his brother would be asking him such a stupid question.

“No, but obviously you did!”  The younger man bit out, more harshly than intended.

“What are you talking about?  Are you sure you’re okay?  Did you eat that pizza that was in the refrigerator, because I told you I thought it was bad.”  Angel uncharacteristically rambled.

“Yes, I’m okay.  No, I didn’t eat the pizza.  I threw it out this morning.  It was growing hair.  And I still want to know who you are, because you obviously aren’t *my* brother, because *he* would never get within a ten foot radius of anything with a computer chip in it.  He thinks they might give him cooties or something.”  Connor deadpanned.

Angel had slammed the laptop shut seconds after Connor had first spoken.  He had no desire in embarrassing himself by sharing his new late night hobby with his younger brother.  He didn’t think Connor held him in very high regard to begin with, and if he only knew what he was really doing up in the middle of the night, he’d be ready to pack up his stuff and leave.  Having his brother think he was a total nutcase was the last thing that Angel wanted.  He was the only family he had left, and he wasn’t ready to give him up, so he did the only thing he could do….. he lied.

“Sorry to disappoint you kid, but it’s still me, and the absolute only reason I’m using this blessed contraption is because I have to.  Research for an upcoming project I’m considering.”

Connor considered Angel’s answer for a moment.  Being a highly intelligent teenager, who had not only graduated from his private school early, but with a perfect GPA, the young man was far from being convinced by his brother’s response.  Honestly, he figured his sex-deprived sibling was just looking up some porn to help get him through until he found the next love of his life, but just to be certain and more particularly because he wanted to watch Angel squirm under interrogation, he pursued the story.  

“So… instead of using the piece of shit computer that you make *me* use, you go out and buy a new laptop to do this ‘oh so important’ research on?  The same laptop I might add, that you would never have used but for the *research* you say you are doing for a *project* that you are only *considering*?”  Connor asked with a smirk. 

‘Let’s see you get out of that one!’  The younger sibling mused to himself.

“Well… I…uhhh….I….”

“Oh come on, just admit it.  What’s the big deal?”  Connor prompted.

“Admit what?” 

“Just admit what you’re really looking up, and I’ll leave you alone.  I’m not a little kid Angel, it’s not like I’ve never seen the stuff before.  Go ahead…. I can handle it.”  Connor answered with a mischievous grin.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  This is work related.  End of discussion.”  Angel replied sharply, scooting away from the table, he abruptly stood up, grabbing his laptop as he did.  Hoping that his ‘end of discussion’ comment would actually end the discussion, Angel turned and headed for the living room. 

Connor wasn’t about to let the subject drop so easily.  He finally had his brother pinned in a corner so to speak, and he was going to press him until he finally confided in him.  That was really all he wanted anyway, just to be shown a little bit of trust, to know that he wasn’t simply a roommate.

Following his older brother out of the kitchen Connor continued,  “Listen, I could really careless what you’re looking up on that damn thing.  Just don’t fucking lie to me.” 

Connor’s almost bitter tone got the better of Angel, stopping him in his tracks.  Turning around, Angel noticed, seemingly for the first time since his younger brother had moved in with him, a look of desperation and longing.  Nodding toward the couch, Angel silently asked Connor to sit down.  Taking a seat opposite him, Angel sat his laptop on the coffee table that separated the two.  Without a word, he opened the small portable computer and turned it to face his brother.  He only hoped he wouldn’t be alienating the only family he had by sharing his secret.

Connor looked at his brother, silently asking for permission to intrude on whatever it was that he was so desperate to hide.

“You wanted to know….go ahead….read.”  Angel answered the unasked question.

It took exactly thirty seconds for Connor to figure out what his brother was reading, and about another thirty for it to fully sink in.  Quietly, the younger man leaned back on the couch, searching for the right words to say.

“Why?”  was the only thing he could come up with.  He totally understood *why* he and other fans of the show read and wrote fanfic involving Angel’s character Gage, but Angel himself reading it?  Just didn’t make sense.

“Wait, don’t answer that yet.”  Connor blurted out before his brother had a chance to answer him.

The younger man stood and began to pace around the room.  He wanted to be honest with Angel about his own fascination with the characters from his T.V. show, his involvement in fanfiction and the like, but could he?  He had expected the truth from his brother about what he was doing, wasn’t it only fair to give the same in return?

“You think I’m crazy don’t you?”  Angel finally asked.  The site of Connor pacing around the room deep in thought was beginning panic him.  He really should have thought this through a little more before he just sprung it on him.

When Connor only looked up at him, but didn’t answer Angel continued.

“Listen, it’s not really what you think.  I mean, I’m not so….so…ego driven….that I can’t get enough of myself that I have to read fanfiction in order to get my fill.  It’s not like that at all….”  Angel began to stumble through his explanation.

“No.  Wait.  Angel….man, I’m not judging you.  I mean you’re my brother, and I wouldn’t judge you regardless of what you were looking up, which, by the way, I thought you were looking up porn, but that’s sort of beside the point.”  Connor had interrupted Angel mid-sentence and was beginning his own confession.

Angel started to speak, he was actually a little irritated that his brother thought no more of him than to think he was some sort of loser that got his rocks off by looking up porno on the net in the middle of the night, but his only sibling was having no part of it.

“No.  Just let me finish.”  Connor said as he continued to pace around the room.

Angel simply nodded at him to continue.  There would hopefully be time for him to say his peace later.

“Okay….”  Connor began with a sigh, “Like I was saying, I’m not judging you, and I hope that you wont judge me either for what I’m about to say.  I mean, I look up to you Angel, I always have.  You’re the coolest person I know, not to mention the big brother all my friends always wish they’d had, so I hope you understand, that I only did this because I look up to you, not because I’m some psycho weird guy that needs to be committed or something.”

Connor paused briefly to gather his thoughts before he continued, and if Angel’s mind was spinning from the small revelation that his brother just admitted, he was going to be positively numb in just a few more minutes.

“I know that I probably should have told you about this long before now, but I always figured that you’d think I was a creep and kick me out.”

“Connor….I’d never think you…” 

“Okay listen.”  Connor interrupted abruptly, “I not only read fanfic about your show, like what you were reading, but I also write some of it.  Plus I have several on-line friends who I discuss things with…. nothing personal about you or anything….well except for that one email that I sent to Anne about that girl you’ve been pining over, but that was really only…”

“You WHAT?”  Angel yelled as he jumped to his feet and began his own pacing around the living room.

He couldn’t believe it.  He just couldn’t believe it.  It was one thing for his brother to watch the series and discuss it with his friends, and he could even handle the whole reading and writing of the fanfic.  On one hand he was relieved to know that Connor didn’t despise him and think he was some jerk, but on the other hand….he had told a total stranger about his love life.

Connor was instantly frightened.  Not that he was worried about the older and much larger male beating him to a bloody pulp or anything like that.  No, his worries were much worse.

“Angel…Angel, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to…. I mean….”

“You told a total stranger that I got dumped?  How could you?”  His tone was more of betrayal than anger.  Sure he was angry with his younger brother, but this…this had cut much deeper.

“It’s not like that….exactly.”  Connor pleaded, wanting desperately to fix the mess he’d just made.

Angel fell back into the over stuff chair he’d just recently vacated and stared blankly at his brother.

“Then do you care to explain how it is….*exactly*?”  Angel asked bitterly.

“She doesn’t know who I am.”  Connor answered quietly.

“And *exactly* what does that mean?”  Angel bit out through gritted teeth.

“It means that nobody on the net uses their real identity.  I mean, until recently, Anne thought I lived in Vancouver instead of L.A.”  Conner replied.

“What do you mean until recently?”  Angel asked cautiously.  He wasn’t sure if he really wanted to hear anymore or not.

“Well, you remember back when those two girls were murdered downtown at that hotel?” 

“Yeah. What about them?”  Angel questioned.

“Well, I was I.M.’ing with Anne, and…”  Connor began.

“You were what?”

“Instant messaging.  There is a program on the computer than when you go on-line you can chat with your friends in real time.  It’s quicker than just using email.  Anyway, I was I.M.’ing with Anne when I read the story about those murders in the paper and I happened to mention it to her.   Well, come to find out she was watching an L.A. news channel and they were reporting on it as we were talking.” 

“She lives in L.A.?”  Angel asked.

“No, she lives in New York.  Well, at least that’s where she said she lives.  Anyway, she thought it was weird that the same thing that had just happened in Vancouver was happening in L.A. too.  She was just worried about me, wanting me to be careful and stuff since there was obviously a killer roaming the streets.”  Connor answered truthfully.

“So, where’s the part about you explaining how she now knows you live in L.A., yet doesn’t know who you are?” 

“I’m getting there.  Jeez.  Okay.  So I feel bad about lying to her because she’s like the coolest cyber buddy I have…remind me to tell you all about her sometime…”

“Connor!”  Angel said impatiently.

“Okay….okay….so I told her that I live in L.A. instead of Vancouver since I’d sort of blown it with the murder story.  She was cool about the whole thing though, said she didn’t really expect anyone to tell the complete truth about themselves when they were online.”  Connor finished.

“So let me get this straight.  You’re friend Anne, who lives in New York, so you think, knows that you are a seventeen year old college student who lives in L.A. with his brother who just got dumped by a girl?”  Angel asked crossly.

“No.  Anne thinks I’m a twenty something college student named *Nick* who lives in L.A. with his older brother, who is pinning over some girl that he just needs to call and ask back out.”  Connor answered frankly.

“Nick?”  Angel questioned.

“Short for Nicklaus…you know, my *last* name?  Duh!”  Connor answered with a roll of his eyes, exasperated that he had to explain something so obvious.

“Twenty something?”  Angel asked, through a smug grin.  His mood much lighter at the thought of his younger brother embellishing on the truths to impress a girl he didn’t even know.

“Come on Angel, I had to.  Anne’s like….twenty-six, and I know she wouldn’t talk to me near as much as she does if she found out I was only seventeen!”  Connor answered truthfully.

“Twenty-six?  Connor, don’t you think she’s just a little old for you?”

“NO!”  Connor whined.

“Alright, just no more telling her about my personal life.  I don’t care if she doesn’t know who you really are or not, I want kept out of the conversation.  Got it?”

“Okay.  But I only asked her what I should do because I wanted to help you, and you know….she’s a girl, and I figured she’d be good at that sort of advice.”  Connor replied quickly.

“I understand, but still…”  Angel countered.

“No problem.  I promise to leave you out of things from now own.  Scouts honor.”  Connor promised in his best Boy Scout impersonation.

Angel reached over and shut his laptop off, then rose tiredly from the chair.  Closing the short distance between himself and his brother, Angel put a hand on Connor’s shoulder and smiled.

“Come on, it’s late.  Let’s go to bed.”

Connor smiled and led the way up the stairs to their respective bedrooms.  Though the younger man had a million and a half questions running through his head about Angel and his sudden interest in the fanfic world, he’d save them for another time.  He was exhausted from a rough week of finals, and he was certain that Angel was worn out as well.  The ending week of season finales were always brutal on his brother, and he was sure that this season was no different.

“Night.”  Connor said over his shoulder before heading into his room.

“Good night Connor.”  Angel replied with a smile, as he quietly ducked into his own room.

Chapter 14 ~
(Rated R ~ Language)


Buffy Summers looked longingly out the large picture window of her friend’s apartment.  She was in a daze, a fog of sorts.  She had no idea why she’d let Lindsey talk her into coming here, this wasn’t where she wanted to be.  She had students that were depending on her, that needed her guidance, her love of education to help them continue to flourish within the harsh realities of big city life.  But instead, she was stuck looking at the world through a window.  Her internal musings were cut short.

“I’m leaving now, should be back no later than six.  Remember to keep the doors locked and don’t leave…”  Graham trailed his sentence when he noticed the cross look he was receiving from his new roommate.

“Why don’t you just hire a babysitter to stay with me while your gone daddy?  Oh wait…. You already have!” Buffy bit back, her temper growing increasingly short as the days continued to pass her by.

“Buffy…”  Graham pleaded.

“I’m sorry Graham, but I’m just so tired of hiding.  Half my adult life I’ve done nothing but run and hide when the stakes got high.  I’m sick of it.”  Buffy countered.

“I know this isn’t easy for you.  It isn’t easy for me either, but when Lindsey called last night, he said that they were getting close.  That Forrest guy spotted Riley hanging around across the street from your school the other day.  He’s there Buffy, and it won’t be much longer before they catch him.  Just hang in there a little bit longer sweetie, okay?” 

Buffy simply shrugged.  She didn’t really have a choice in the matter anyway.  Lindsey had made that painfully clear to her over a week ago, when he’d dutifully packed her suitcase and handed her two tickets to Los Angeles.  He had told her in no uncertain terms that Gwen would be accompanying her to L.A., and they were going to stay with Graham until the whole fiasco with Riley was over, however long that took. 

The whole mess didn’t even seem real until she opened the apartment door to find Forrest and a sinfully beautiful blonde staring back at her.  In the short conversation that followed, Buffy learned that unbeknownst to her, Lindsey had made arrangements with Forrest to use an undercover police detective by the name of Darla Chamberlin to pose as the young teacher.  The plan was laid out, and Buffy was given no alternative but to leave her husband, her students and her life and run… again.

Graham leaned down and planted a friendly kiss to Buffy’s cheek.  He stared at her with understanding eyes.  It wasn’t like he didn’t understand how Buffy felt.  He was just as unhappy about the current living arrangements as she was.  Not that he had any issues with Buffy and Gwen staying with him.  Well, maybe he wasn’t quite as taken with Gwen being there, but having Buffy around was normally always pleasant. 

But having that…that…tramp Lindsey insisted was an undercover detective and not a lady of the night living in such close quarters with *his* significant other, was not sitting very well with him.  It certainly hadn’t helped that during their conversation the previous evening Lindsey had relayed what he considered to be a “funny” story, telling Graham how Darla, even after having been told of Lindsey’s personal situation with Graham, had proceeded to try and play her part as the loving wife to the hilt.  She was apparently determined to show Lindsey everything he was missing out on by being gay.

Lindsey thought her ‘I’m going to bring you back to *our* team’ actions were amusing.  Graham did not.

When the apartment door clicked shut, Buffy flopped down on the plush leather couch and blankly stared around the empty room.  It was only 7:30 a.m., so as was per usual, the petite blonde would have at least five more hours of annoying silence before the only other occupant of the small living space rose from her beauty sleep. 

Gwen was like clockwork.  She never voluntarily woke before noon, and she absolutely never retired for the night before three.  The small brunette had easily contoured her routine to L.A. life.  While Buffy was stuck in their friend’s apartment day and night, Gwen had quickly filled her days with long work outs at the nearby gym, and even longer evenings partying at all the local clubs.  Buffy was once again alone.  Sighing at the thought of another dreadful day with nothing to do, she reluctantly flipped open her laptop, and signed on.

Buffy was in the middle of deleting the seemingly unending amount of spam mail she’d received in the past couple of days when she noticed that Nick had signed on.  Excited about having someone to chat with, even if it were only for a little bit, Buffy quickly sent her greeting.

NakedGagesLove:  Hey there!

Buffy quietly, but impatiently waited for a response.

Angel stared at the computer screen.  He had no idea what to do.  

Connor’s computer had, as he so lovingly put it, “died a painful death” three nights ago.  Angel had been in a sound sleep, something he hadn’t done much of lately, when a loud ‘popping’ sound followed by an even louder yell of “sonofabitch” had woken him.  Jumping out of bed to investigate, he’d soundly cracked his kneecap on the footboard of his mahogany framed bed, eliciting an equally loud “fuck” from him.

Stumbling out of his bedroom door, Angel made the short distance to his brother’s room only to find it empty.  Turning his attention down the hall, he quickly picked up the strong odor of something burning.  Hobbling painfully down the stairs, Angel watched as Connor batted at the remaining flames that were still working their will on his computer’s hard drive.

That had been the beginning to Connor using Angel’s new laptop for his own personal use.  He really had no problems with it, as he and Connor had become increasingly close since their little late night confessions a few days before, but now he was in a bad position.  Someone out there thought that Connor was online, and they obviously wanted to talk to him.  Though, how good of an idea was it for his seventeen-year-old brother to be talking to someone who called themselves NakedGagesLove?  What sort of freaks have he been associating with anyway?

After waiting for a few long minutes, Buffy noticed that her screen name had been altered. 

“Goddamnit Gwen!”  She mumbled under her breath. 

And although she knew it was incredibly simple for Nick to figure out who it was, she decided to jump ahead and explain things anyway, hoping that she could entice him into a short chat before he dismissed her as that crazy girl that kept changing her email address and screen names and chasing him around like a lovesick school girl.

NakedGagesLove:  Nick… it’s me, Anne.

NakedGagesLove:  Sorry about the screen name, my friend apparently decided to play with my computer!

NakedGagesLove:  Just a sec and I’ll change it.


Angel hesitated.  Anne, huh?  This was the twenty-six year old from New York  that Connor was so in awe of?

Nick13:  Hey.

Hey.  That was a safe start.  Angel waited for a reply.

Buffy’s face lit up when she saw Nick’s post.  She was beginning to think that maybe Nick’s grouchy older brother had gotten online instead.  She’d only just read his latest email message with a quick recount of the computer fire and the forced sharing of his brother’s new laptop.

Gagesgal:  Hey.  Sorry about that.

Gagesgal:  Anyhooo….

Gagesgal:  How are ya?


There was a short pause as Angel debated how to answer.

Nick13:  I’m fine.  How are you?

Gagesgal:  I’m okay I guess.

Nick13:  You guess?  What’s wrong?


Angel smiled at himself, maybe he hadn’t gone into the wrong line of work after all.  Pretending to be someone else, whether it was in front of the camera or on the other end of a computer, was apparently a good fit.

Buffy frowned.  They were back to her problems again.  She’d known almost the instant she’d hit the return key that adding ‘I guess’ to the end of her post was a mistake.  Nick was always concerned about her well being, and today would be no different.

Gagesgal:  Nothing for you to worry about.

Gagesgal:  Any luck in getting a new computer?


“God, does he tell her *everything*?”  Angel mused out loud.

Nick13:  Not yet.  Still looking for the right one.

Gagesgal:  :-)


“Now how in the hell am I supposed to respond to a colon, a dash, and a…. oh, I get it…smiley face!” 

Nick13:  :-)

Pause.

Gagesgal:  I liked the last bit of ‘In Your Dreams’ you sent me.

Gagesgal:  When’s the next update?  I’m anxious to find out how Gage takes Alex shagging his childe.


Angel stared at the computer screen.  What little color he was allowed to get in his skin, now drained from Anne’s question.  How was he supposed to answer that?  He had no fucking clue what she was talking about.

Nick13:  So, shouldn’t you be teaching now or something?  It’s like 9:45 in NY.

Buffy scrunched her brow as Nick’s reply popped up in her window.  First off he’d flat out ignored her question about his fic, which was very much not like him.  Nick was more than proud of his writing, and never skipped an opportunity to discuss a recently posted chapter, or for that matter ask her opinion on what should happen next.  And we were back to why she wasn’t teaching again.  God was this kid observant or what?  She sat quietly for a few moments, mentally debating her reply.

Gagesgal:  First off, are you feeling okay?  I mean you just totally ignored my question about your fic!

Nick13:  So, what’s second?
Gagesgal:   GRRRRRRRR!  I want to know about the fic!  You left me hanging on top of a friggin’ cliff!  You know how much I hate cliffhangers!!!!!!!  Answer me darn it! *bg*


Angel grinned.  Anne was certainly a spry one.

Nick13:  Sorry about the cliff.  Don’t know when the next part will be out. 

He was going to have to ask Connor about this story he was writing, and why on earth he’d ever dream of having Alex paired up with Gage’s childe Valden.  That made no sense whatsoever

Gagesgal:  Oh, all right.  Just make sure and send me the next part as soon as you get it done.  I want a sneek preview!

Nick13:  Okay.

Nick13:  You never did say why you aren’t teaching now.


Pause.

Pause.

Nick13:  Anne?

Buffy took her time in answering her friend.  She had the sudden desire to share her darkest secrets with some unknown person, yet she had no idea why.  It was as if having a friend far removed from the situation would help, or maybe she really just needed to vent.

Gagesgal:  Well, you sure you *really* want to know?

Without so much as a fleeting second thought, Angel typed his reply.

Nick13:  Yes.

Buffy smiled.

Gagesgal:  I’m in L.A. again.  The hubby sent me and a friend of mine out here until some matters are taken care of back in NY.  We’re staying with one of his friends, and I’m stuck at the house all day alone.  It sucks.

“Well, that definitely makes things interesting.  Wonder if Connor knows he’s been talking to a *married* woman?”  Angel spoke out loud.
“You talking to Anne?”  Connor asked suddenly from behind Angel.

Angel looked like a deer caught in the headlights.  He was obviously in the middle of doing something that he really shouldn’t have been, and got caught!

“I uhh….”  He stuttered.

“It’s no big Angel.  I don’t care if you talk to her, besides, maybe she could help you find that fic that your mystery woman wrote.  She knows all the good archive sites.”  Connor answered casually before crossing the room and sitting down in the overstuffed chair opposite Angel.

“And yeah, I know she’s married.  Her husband is an attorney for some big law firm in New York.”  Connor continued casually, as if it were an everyday occurrence to talk to a married woman on the internet.

Angel glanced back down at the computer.

Gagesgal:  Nick?  You still there?

“She sort of thinks I’m you.”  Angel confessed rather guiltily to his younger brother.

Connor snorted at that comment before realizing that his brother pretending to be him might not be a good thing.  Angel had no way of knowing a lot of the stuff that Anne and he had talked about.  Jumping up from his seat, Connor reached across the coffee table and grabbed for the laptop.  Quickly, he scrolled through the entire conversation that his older brother had had with his best cyber pal.

After reading Anne’s last post, Connor quickly typed a response.  Curious as to what his brother was doing, Angel got up off the couch and moved behind Connor, hovering just over his left shoulder.

Nick13:  Hey, sorry about that. 

Nick13:  You’re in LA again?  Is everything okay?


Pause.

“Why would something be wrong?”  Angel asked suddenly.

“I‘m not sure exactly.  She’s been really vague with the details, but something happened to her the last time she was out here.  She was here for like two days and then had to go home all of a sudden.”  Connor answered as he and Angel waited for Anne’s post to pop up.

“You think it’s her husband?”  Angel questioned, “Sounds like maybe he’s involved in some bad stuff.  I mean if he sent her all the way out here to stay with one of his friends while he took care of things at home.”

They were both suddenly quiet as they read Anne’s newest post.

Gagesgal:  Honestly?

Nick13:  Yes.

Gagesgal:  No.  Everything isn’t okay.


Buffy’s eyes began to well with tears as the emotions of the past few months began to overtake her small form.  She wasn’t sure she should be saying anything at all to Nick about what was going on, but he was the only one who ever seemed to really *listen* to her.  As much as she loved Lindsey and Graham, they were always too wrapped up in their own feelings about the situation to truly understand what she was going through.

She had no doubts that they each loved her beyond the call of duty of a friend, but it was still not what she needed.  And Gwen, for all of her faults, was the best friend that Buffy had ever had, yet she too was incapable of truly understanding the petite blonde.

Nick13:  Anne???

Pause.

Gagesgal:  Sorry.  I’m still here.

Nick13:  What’s going on?  Is…. Is your husband hurting you?


Connor wasn’t sure why he wrote that.  Maybe it was what Angel had suggested earlier that made him do it, and he almost regretted it instantly. 

Gagesgal:  NO!  Oh god no.  Will would never hurt me.

Nick13:  I’m sorry.  I was out of line.  I shouldn’t have even said that.


Buffy smiled through her tears at Nick’s obvious concern for her.

Gagesgal:  It’s okay.  I understand why you might think that!  But like I said, Will would never harm me.  To be honest with you, we’re only married out of necessity.  He’s gay, and the firm he works for isn’t into the whole ‘alternative lifestyle’ thing.

As both Connor and Angel read through Anne’s post, there were two sets of eyes that grew to be as round as half dollars.  As much as Connor and now Angel, wanted to get to know Anne better, neither had expected *that*.

Gagesgal:  Did I freak you out too much?  Are you still there?

Nick13:  Still here.  Just needed a moment to absorb.

Gagesgal:  Sorry, didn’t mean to wig you out, but you asked! *g*

Nick13:  NP.


“What’s NP mean?”  Angel asked seriously.

“It means no problem.”  Connor responded with a sly grin.  His brother had soo much to learn!

Nick13:  Well, if you don’t mind my asking…and if you do, just tell me….

Nick13:  If it isn’t your husband that’s got you all worked up, then who/what is it?


Long pause.

Gagesgal:  It was my ex-husband.  He’s been stalking me.

Nick13:  OMG!


“It means ‘Oh my God’ before you ask.”  Connor answered the question that he knew his brother would be asking any second.

Gagesgal:  Yeah.  The police think he’s the one that murdered those two girls downtown at the Hyperion Hotel a while back.  He’s the reason I left here so suddenly.  He found out I was here and came to my hotel room.

Gagesgal:  I barely got away from him.


Angel and Connor looked at each other in shock.  They could not believe that this had happened to this poor woman.

Nick13:  You let him in your room??????

Gagesgal:  I didn’t mean to.  I thought it was the guy I had went out with that night.  I thought he was coming back to tell me good night again or something, so I just opened the door.


Suddenly the wheels in Angel’s head started to turn.  Buffy had stayed at the Hyperion the same weekend that those two girls were murdered.  That’d been the reason he’d went all postal on Faith when she starting dissing those girls and how they had been murdered the next week at work, he’d been scared to think that maybe one of them had been Buffy. 

Buffy had left suddenly that night, just like Anne. 

Buffy wrote or at least read fanfic about his show. 

Buffy. 

Buffy. 

Buffy….

“Ask her what her real name is.”  Angel demanded suddenly.

“Huh?”  Connor asked confused.

“I said, ask her what her real name is!” 

“Why?”

“Because I said so, that’s why!”  Angel bit out, much more cross with his brother than he had intended.

Nick13:  What’s your real name?

Buffy looked at the screen and suddenly became panicked.  Why would Nick want to know that?  What did it matter to him?  She never should have told him about Riley.  What had she done?

Gagesgal:  I really don’t feel comfortable telling you that, especially with everything that’s going on right now.

“Ask her if her name is Buffy Summers.”  Angel said evenly.

“Why?  Do you know her?” 

“I might.”

Angel unconsciously held his breath as he watched Connor type his question.  It was as if everything that was taking place was going in slow motion.

Nick13:  Are you Buffy Summers?

Gagesgal appears to be offline and may not reply.


“What does that mean?”  Angel asked.

“It means you got your answer.”  Connor responded evenly as he shut the lid to the laptop.

Chapter 15 ~
(Rated R – Language, Violence)


When Buffy Summers read the last question that had popped up in her IM chat box with Nick, she’d practically passed out.  Her normally sun-kissed skin was now three shades paler than Casper the Ghost, and her breathing had practically ceased all together.  She sat stock still for a long moment, trying desperately to reign in her frantic thoughts.

How could she have not known it was him?

How could she have had dozens of seemingly meaningless conversations with that lunatic, and never once caught on to his game?

What seemed at the time to be harmless questions from a cyber pal about her age and what she did for a living, which had only lead to those more intrusive questions about her personal life, were now obviously so much more.  Questions that at the time she hadn’t thought a thing about.  Questions that she had answered freely and for the most part honestly.  Questions that more than likely would have lead to her death at that psycho’s hands had it not been for her little army gadget that Ford had sent to her.

Gods, how could she have been soo fucking stupid as to not think twice about how much personal information she was revealing.  She knew better than anyone else how determined Riley was to find her, and she had played right into his hands.

She wanted to scream, to beat her fist against the wall, all before she sunk to the floor and cried herself into oblivion.  Buffy was tired.  Tired of all the running, and the lying, and always having to look over her shoulder.  She just wanted it to be over.  But it was never going to be over, not as long as Riley Finn was alive and free to do whatever he wanted.  He was a thorn in her side, a menace to society, and a danger to everyone that Buffy became close to.

Steeling her resolve to the inevitable truth, Buffy Summers picked herself up off the couch.  Knowing that she had only one choice left in the world, she grabbed her laptop and hurriedly shoved it into its carrying case.  Without a second thought, she rummaged through her small Gucci purse that had been a birthday present from Lindsey and pulled her wallet, I.D., passport, and cell phone out and tossed them inside the satchel that held her computer. 

She needed to leave a note to tell her best friend what she was doing, but she knew that it was for the better if no one had any idea were to find her.  Buffy unconsciously swiped at the alligator tears that rolled down both cheeks as she took one last look around what had been her safe haven for the past week before she unbolted the door, and walked quietly into the mid-morning sun.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Darla Chamberlin had never enjoyed her work as an undercover detective as much as she was in this moment.  The usual assignments she was sent on had her dressing up like a prostitute, and working the streets to find the latest psycho who took his frustrations out on the Big Apple’s working girl sector, but this one…. She could definitely get use to more assignments like this. 

It wasn’t every day she was put up in a high class apartment building pretending to be the doting wife of a big city attorney, and what an attorney he was.  She had been hitting on the fabulous looking man as hard as she could all week.  She didn’t care if he was married, and she cared even less that he swore up and down he was gay.  It was begrudgingly that she was jolted out of her thoughts when she heard Forrest’s soft whispers in her ear.

“Perp is exiting his car and heading for the building.  We are now at Code Red.  Repeat, we are now at Code Red.”

Darla walked casually toward the hall mirror to inspect her appearance.  Her highlighted blonde locks framed her face, making perfect camouflage for the tiny earpiece she was trying to hide.  The floral print, ankle length skirt was so far from being anything she’d ever dream of wearing, but it concealed her personal “piece”, and certainly made for easy access to it if the situation came to that. 

Adjusting her plain white cotton blouse, Darla moved gracefully back down the hallway, glancing only for a second inside the room designated as “home base” and at the two young police officers that were waiting anxiously, guns drawn, for the party to begin.  The elder detective smirked at the site.  They were so young, so naive to what was about to happen.  With a coy grin, Darla decided that when this was all said and done, she just might have to take those two out for a celebratory night on the town.

As quickly as her musings came, they were just as quickly ushered out with the light rapping on the apartment door.  This was it, the moment that Darla Chamberlin lived for.  Automatically, her heart began to race, and the adrenaline high started to take over.  Taking one last deep breath, she glided effortlessly towards the picture window, and into position.  Raising her right hand to her chest, she clutched the heart-shaped locket, signaling to the waiting police officers outside that she was ready.

“Decoy is ready.  Move into positions.”  Forrest whispered into his tiny mic.

Darla turned to face the door, and waited patiently for permission to acknowledge the person on the other side.

* * * * * * *

Riley Finn was getting ready to live out his fantasy, or at least that’s what he thought.  Every single day since his beautiful blonde bride had left his side, he’d dreamt of this.  Even as a child he’d daydreamed about being the ‘knight in shining amour’ who galloped in on his white steed and saved the beautiful princess from the evil that had taken her prisoner.  He’d tried so hard to rescue Buffy before, but that damn husband of hers had her brainwashed and she’d ran away from him. 

Not today though.  No, definitely not today.  

He had watched her carefully for the past week.  Making mental notes as to when she and that no good freak of a husband came and went, and Riley knew without a doubt in his mind that this was his chance.  This was his golden opportunity to save Buffy, and take her back to the loving life they had once shared together, and no doubt would again. 

As his first light knocks on the door went unanswered, Riley tried desperately to squelch his rising temper.  He knew that the only way he’d be able to convince his former wife to return to him was to keep his cool.  She had to know that he was only there to help her, to love her like he had before that queer poisoned her mind to him.  Wiping away the tiny beads of sweat that were falling fast from his brow, Riley tried once more to illicit the attention from the woman on the other side.

Darla listened again quietly as the knocks on the door increased in intensity.  Finally, the “all ready” signal was delivered through her tiny earpiece.  Clearing her throat, Darla concentrated on mimicking the voice of Mrs. McDonald.  After four non-stop hours of listening over and over again to that wisp of a woman say her “Hellos” and “Who’s there?” on tape, she figured she had her tone and mannerisms down to a T.  And she also decided that even if she wasn’t able to give the best damn Oscar winning Buffy McDonald impersonation performance tonight, the door would still muffle her voice enough that Riley wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway.

“Who is it?”  Darla called out from the middle of the living room, eyeing the reflection of the two young officers in the hallway mirror as she did.

Riley smiled from ear to ear.  She was in there… alone… and she wanted to talk to him.

“Hey baby, it’s me.”  he answered casually.

“Riley…. Riley, is that you?”  Darla cooed with as much faux excitement as she could deliver.

“Yeah baby, it’s Riley.  Can you open the door?  I want to see you.” 

“I… I’m not suppose to talk to you Riley.  They… they told me…”  Darla let her sad and frightened sounding words trail as a wicked grin danced across her face.  Setting this sadistic bastard off was going to be a cakewalk.

Riley slammed his fists against the apartment door in frustration.  He was afraid that this was going to happen.  That fucking Lindsey was still brainwashing her, still telling her lies about him.  Leaning his forehead against the coldness of the door, he tried to calm himself.  He knew he needed to be calm, his tone had to be soothing.  That was the only way to gain trust, and he had to get Buffy to trust him.

“I know baby.  I know what they’ve told you, but they’re wrong.  You know me baby.  You know I’d never hurt anyone.  You know I’d never kill anyone!”  Riley pleaded.

Darla smiled.  She was going to get a confession out of him without even opening the door.

“That isn’t true.”  Darla replied calmly.

“WHAT?”  Riley roared through the door.  How could the fucking bitch say such a thing?  He had taken good care of her for years, taught her the discipline she had needed, and now she had the fucking nerve to call him a liar?

“You… you heard me Riley.  You hurt people, I know you hurt people.”

There was a long silence.  Too long of a silence for Darla’s taste.  She knew she’d pushed the right buttons with her last comment, but she had expected a screaming denial, not…. nothing.

“Riley?”  Darla questioned as she moved closer to the locked door.

There was no answer.

She reached down, lifted her skirt and pulled her weapon from where it had been holstered on her calf.  Motioning for the two officers that were inside the apartment to move to either side of her, Darla, with her own gun drawn, cautiously unlocked the door.  Peering out through the slightly cracked door, she could see no sign of Mr. Finn anywhere.  Turning to her fellow officers, she shrugged and closed the door.

The second year officer to Darla’s right tapped his radio, “Perp has retreated.  Repeat, perp has retreated.”

“Nope.  Perp just found a better way in!”  Riley answered menacingly from behind the two officers and one detective.  With a gun raised in each hand, he made quick work of the two young men with a single gunshot to the head for each.  He had been an excellent marksman, and had even considered taking a position within the department as a sniper, but at the last minute had decided that he would rather have been out investigating the scene instead of being perched on top of a building waiting to get a clean shot.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the six years Darla Chamberlin had been working undercover, she had ran into some of the sneakiest and shadiest perverts around.  Being caught off guard wasn’t something that happened often, but when it did, she had always relied on her gut instincts to get her through the situation, and right now her gut was screaming for her to open the door and run.   Even though all of her police training was telling her to take the very deranged Mr. Finn down as quickly as she could, she knew, logically, that she didn’t have much of a chance.  Riley was taller, stronger, faster, and obviously a dead-on shot.

“Your not thinking of leaving me again, are you baby?  Because if that’s what you’re thinking about, you better reconsider, because I’m getting real tired of playing games with you!”  Riley stated evenly as he moved closer to Darla.

The veteran police detective shuffled backwards towards the unlocked door, her gun still drawn. 

“Mr. Finn… drop… your weapons.  That’s… an order!”  Darla countered, her confidence obviously shaky.

“Oh come on now Buffy, do you *really* think I’m going take orders from *you*?”  Riley asked sarcastically, both guns still pointed squarely at Darla’s chest.

“Mr. Finn, my name is…”

“I know what your fucking name is bitch!  You’re Buffy fucking Finn, and you’re done playing house with that fag.  Now put that fucking piece of plastic down, and let’s go before your punishment gets any worse!”  Riley shouted.

Darla was shocked into place.  Not in all of her police experience, nor all of the case files of the perverts she’d arrested, or even the many hours of psych classes she’d taken in college had prepared her for the total derangement of the man standing in front of her.  He really thought that *she* was his ex-wife.  As she stared down the barrels of both guns, and into the empty eyes of the psychopath standing now only a couple of steps in front of her, Darla did the only thing she thought she could do at that moment in time. 

She pulled the trigger.

* * * * * * * * *

Buffy Summers sat quietly looking out the large windows in the LAX waiting area.  Her flight to England didn’t board for another hour, and she was less than thrilled about that fact.  As she contemplated the wrath she’d eventually have to face from Lindsey, she decided it might be best to head off some of his anger now, plus she really wanted to send a short note to Willow.  She’d been such a dear friend, and Buffy felt as though she’d up and abandoned the redhead.  Not that she’d really had a choice the matter, but she still felt terrible about the situation she’d left her friend in.

Opening her laptop, she was thankful for the newest technology that allowed her a wireless connection to the internet.  Logging into her email, she quickly typed a short apology to Willow, and a promise that one-day she’d be back to visit her.  Buffy had added that last bit as almost an after thought, and was now, after she had sent it, feeling guilty for putting it in.  All her insides were screaming that she would never be back, and for that she shed a single tear.

Next she began her note to Lindsey.

~My Dearest Linds,

I’m sorry to be doing this to you by email, but I have no other choice.  I’m leaving… don’t ask, because I wont tell.  Just know that I love you, and I’ll never in all my life be able to thank you for everything that you’ve done for me.  I will forever be indebted to you. 

You’ve been my best friend, my confidant, my protector…  but, I can’t ask you to do it any longer.  You have a life that you need to lead.  Graham has been more patient than any reasonable human should have had to been.  If you only take my advice this one time, please… please Linds, go to Graham and be happy!  That job of yours, though nice, isn’t everything!  Your happiness is!  Please Linds, be happy, live your life… for me!

My Deepest Love Always,

Buffy~


The tears that she’d fought so hard to reign in were now flowing freely as she re-read her letter to her best friend.  Trying not to look too conspicuous, Buffy wiped away the tears with her shirt sleeve.  Satisfied with what she’d said to Lindsey, she hit the send button.  She was ready to log off her computer when her I.M. box popped up.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Connor, at the prompting of his older brother, had logged back on to the Internet, and was desperately hoping to see Anne, or as Angel referred to her, Buffy, come back online.  Logically, he knew it was a long shot.  Why would someone who obviously got spooked by what you said to her come back online so soon?  But he wasn’t about to argue that with Angel, and apparently it was a good argument *not* to make as a smile crossed his tired face.

She was back.

“Score!”  Connor shouted enthusiastically.

Angel practically knocked Connor out of the kitchen chair to see the laptop. 

Nick13:   Buffy?

Nick13:  Buffy, if you’re there, please PLEASE listen to me!!


“What’s she saying?  Did you tell her it’s ME???”  Angel demanded.

“God, take a pill!  I’ve just now sent my message to her.”  Connor answered, exasperated with his brother’s behavior.

Gagesgal:  I know it’s you Riley.  Now stay the fuck away from me!

“Umm… who’s Riley?”  Connor asked as he looked up at his brother’s hovering form over his left shoulder.

“I… I don’t know.”  Angel answered honestly, a tinge of uncertainty hanging in his tone.  Though in his heart he felt like he’d known Buffy forever, they’d not really had enough time together to get to know much about each other.

Nick13:  My real name is Connor Nichlaus.  I’m Angel O’Connor’s brother.

Buffy carefully read the reply on her I.M.  Just what the fuck was Riley trying to pull now?

Gagesgal:  WTF ever!  I know it’s you, so just Go To Hell!  I’m leaving.  I’m going someplace where even *you* can’t find me!

“What do I say?”  Connor asked after he read Buffy’s reply.

“Get up!”  Angel demanded as he pushed his brother unceremoniously from the chair and slid in so he could type the responses himself.  Connor just shook his head and moved around behind his brother.

Nick13:  Buffy

Nick13:  Buffy, it’s me Angel. 

Nick13:  Gods, I SWEAR it’s me!

Gagesgal:  F.U.C.K. Y.O.U.! 

Gagesgal:  I’m signing off now!


Connor smirked.

“What?”  Angel growled.

“Looks like you’re little honey has a mouth like a sailor!”  Connor answered with a grin.

“Shut up!  This isn’t funny!”

Nick13:  NO!

Nick13:  PLEASE …. PLEASE don’t go!


Buffy stared at the computer screen, reading over and over again what Riley was saying to her.  She couldn’t believe how far gone he’d have to be to try and pretend he was Angel O’Connor’s brother and even Angel himself in order to get to her.  Just as she was ready to close her laptop and prepare to put all of this in her past, her cell phone beeped.  Grabbing it from just inside her satchel, Buffy checked the caller i.d., it read “911”.  She and Lindsey only used that identifier in case of emergencies…. Riley emergencies.

“Is she gone?”  Angel turned and asked his brother after the long pause, and no reply from Buffy.

“Doesn’t look like it.”  Connor answered honestly.

Buffy looked from her laptop to her cell phone and back again.  Finally she reluctantly hit the ‘snd’ button on her cell phone.

“Hello?”

“Buffy?  Buffy, it’s Linds.  Sweetie, it’s over.  Are you there?  Buffy?  Did you hear me?  Sweetie… talk to me.”  Lindsey pleaded, concern evident in his tone.

Buffy couldn’t say a word, she could only sob into the phone.

“BUFFY???”

“Linds… I…. I…”

“Shhh…. Sweetie.  It’s okay baby.  It’s okay.  You can come home now.  I’ll tell you all about it when you get here.”  Lindsey offered.

Home… that word brought Buffy back to reality.

“Oh gods, Angel!  Linds, I’ll call you back later!  Tell, Forrest that he’s my hero, right behind you of course, and don’t read your email!  Love you!  Bye!”  Buffy rambled before clicking off her cell.

Gagesgal:  Angel?

Gagesgal:  Angel, are you still there?

Gagesgal:  I’m so sorry, oh gods, please forgive me!


Buffy typed quickly, hoping to any higher power that would listen to her at the moment that she hadn’t royally screwed her second chance with Angel up!

“Angel… Angel, you better get back in here, like NOW!”  Connor yelled from the kitchen.  After the long pause with no reply from Buffy, a distraught Angel had rose from the kitchen table and dejectedly walked to the living room and slouched down on the couch.

“What is it?”  Angel mumbled in response.

“It’s your girl.  She’s back, and she’s asking for you!”  The younger sibling answered gleefully.

Gagesgal:  Angel if your still there, I’m at LAX.

Gagesgal:  I was going… it doesn’t matter…. just know that I’m sorry, and if you’ll just talk to me, I’ll explain everything.

Gagesgal:  Please just talk to me.


~

~

~

Nick13:  I’ll be there to pick you up in 30 mins.

Nick13:  DON’T LEAVE!!


Buffy smiled through her tears.  Wild horses couldn’t drag her away now!

Chapter 16 ~ (Rated R - Language)

The thirty minutes Angel promised her, seemed instead like thirty days to Buffy.  After receiving his last I.M. message, followed by the generic message that this user was now offline, Buffy had scrambled to gather her few belongings and push her way back through the throngs of people and the none to pleasant security officers to stand out front in the ‘pick up’ section of the front gates.  She had no intention of waiting one second longer than absolutely necessary to see Angel again.

While lost in a dreamy mental musing about how her and Angel’s reunion might be, Buffy Summers was blindsided by a stiff right hook to the jaw.  She’d had no idea what or who had just hit her when she went tumbling to the ground.  Grasping to regain her bearings, Buffy finally looked up into the angry face of her best friend.

“What the fuck do you think your doing?”  Gwen spat out angrily.

The two friends were now garnering alarmed stares from a few passer-bys who had found the time to even acknowledge an altercation had taken place, but Buffy ignored the odd looks of concern and gently touched her quickly reddening jaw before she steadied herself and rose back to her feet.  In her haste to leave her life and her friends behind and out of the danger she thought they were in, she hadn’t considered the impact that her wordless departure would cause.

Gwen hadn’t even been awake yet when Buffy had left.  In fact, she hadn’t seen the young brunette since late the day before when Gwen had said a quick farewell to her and Graham before she had headed out to one of the local clubs.  She should have known that it would have been in her best interest to at least leave a note for Gwen.  Her friend had never been known to take bad news of any kind well, and had she been expecting a visit from her friend at that moment, she would have expected a far worse wrath than what she had received thus far.

“Did you suddenly become deaf *and* mute?”  Gwen asked through gritted teeth as she pulled her right arm back, her fist ready to strike again if necessary.

“Gwen!  Knock it off!”  Graham bit out breathlessly as he raced towards his two friends.

In her mad race to find her best friend before she fled her life for good, Gwen had jumped out of Graham’s SUV at the first stop within the airport compound and took off running.  She’d left not only her friend, but also her latest companion with whom she’d given no other option but to tag along, in the vehicle staring dumbfoundedly at her quickly disappearing figure.

“Shut up!”  Gwen barked back, without bothering to look at whom the order was given to.  Instead she continued to stare at her friend, waiting for her to answer.

“Now, now pet.  Using your friend as a pu…unching bag….”  Spike started as he approached Gwen from behind, but his sentence trailed as he recognized the woman who was the cause of his latest lover’s fury. 

“Bloody hell!”  he finally muttered, still in disbelief .

“Hi Spike.”  Buffy offered painfully.  Her jaw now ached at even the slightest movement.

Gwen automatically lunged at Buffy, ready to strike again.  She was furious that her friend would say hi to *her* boyfriend before she answered her question.   Enraged that she even *knew* her boyfriend, and most of all hurt from the fact that Buffy still hadn’t said she was sorry for leaving.

The very next moment, Buffy was mentally singing the praises of Spike.  Regardless of how shocked he was to see the young woman his best friend had been sulking over standing right there in front of him, his reflexes were still fine tuned enough to reach out and snatch Gwen back to him before she had the opportunity to do any more damage than she’d already done.

Giving Spike an appreciative grin, Buffy took a few steps towards her upset friend.

“I’m sorry.  I thought leaving was the right thing to do.”  Buffy apologized.

“Buffy, you knew we were there to protect you.  You knew that Lindsey was in New York taking care of the mess with Riley.  Why in the world would you think that leaving was the right thing to do?  Not to mention leaving without telling either one of us where you were going?”  Graham asked diplomatically.  As upset and hurt as he was with Buffy, he thankfully had more control over his emotions than the fiery young brunette who was still struggling fruitlessly in Spike’s strong arms.

“I…. well… I thought…. It’s a long story.”  Buffy answered, a wide and somewhat painful  smile taking over her features as her eyes caught sight of the man she’d been waiting on.

“Not fucking good enough.  Keep talking before I…. let go of me!”  Gwen demanded both of Buffy and Spike who was still holding her tightly in his grasps.

“Later.”  Buffy replied simply as she stepped past her friends and into Angel’s arms.

“Hey,” he greeted with a shy smile.

“Hey yourself.”

“Your hurt! “  It was more of a statement than a question, but the concern Buffy saw in Angel’s eyes touched her nonetheless.

“Sort of, got sucker punched by Karen over there.  She’s sneaky that way.”  Buffy answered with a playful grin as she tossed her head in Gwen’s direction.

“I am *not* fucking Karen!  Stop calling me that!  And would you fucking let me go!  I still have someone’s ass to kick!”  Gwen yelled as she continued to struggle, trying desperately but to no avail to get away from Spike.

Angel looked toward the wildly thrashing girl who was being restrained by his best friend.  “Spike?”

“Yeah mate.  Didn’t realize till I got here who Ducks was looking for, else I would’ve called you, clued you in on where blondie was.” Spike answered honestly as he still struggled with the young woman.

“Listen, why don’t we all go back to my place before *Karen* here gets us all arrested for disturbing the peace.”  Graham suggested evenly.  He wasn’t one for public humiliation, and the scene that Gwen was causing at the present was enough to cause even the thickest-skinned person to cringe.

“I. AM. NOT. *KAREN*!!!”  Gwen bit out viciously, still struggling to free herself.

“Well, I….”  Buffy stuttered, not sure what to say, she looked back and forth between Angel and Graham, and ignoring her best friend who was none to quietly uttering profanities at Spike.

“That’s fine.  Where ever you lead, I’ll follow.”  Angel said reassuringly, as a warm smile danced across his handsome face.

“Okay then.  We’ll follow you.”  Buffy said, directing her comment to Graham.  She eased out of Angel’s arms just long enough to retrieve her belongings that were still lying haphazardly on the concrete walk.  With her carrying case in her right hand and the fingers of her left intertwined through Angel’s, Buffy happily allowed her handsome companion to shuttle her to his waiting car.

The ride to Graham’s apartment was quite and uneventful.  Buffy wasn’t sure exactly what she should say to Angel so she chose to say nothing, at least until they were safely out of the moving vehicle, which could easily be turned into a deadly killing machine if the person operating it got a little, let’s say…. upset.   And since Buffy honestly didn’t know Angel *that* well, she had no idea how he would react to everything she needed to tell him. 

Apparently Angel’s feelings were mutual, as he had said nothing while they were in the car either.  He had kept his eyes glued to the rear bumper of Graham’s large SUV under the pretense of making sure he didn’t get lost, but underneath that falsehood was the fact that he knew Buffy had things to tell him that he most likely wouldn’t want to hear.  Plus there was the part about his brother being one of her online friends.  Would she freak out about that?  Or would she be able to handle it?  Did she even like him at all?  Or had her actions the night of their date all been a show?  He really didn’t think so, but when you were in a position such as his, it was sometimes hard to tell.

“Well mate, I think I’ll take Mike Tyson here and get out of your hair.”  Spike said to Angel, breaking the silence as everyone quietly filed through Graham’s apartment door.

“Mike Tyson?  Why does everyone keep calling me…”  Gwen began to protest, but was cut off before she could finish by Spike who covered her mouth with his right hand and grasped her around her midsection with his left arm.  Smiling coyly, he gently pulled her in the direction of her bedroom.

“Uh… yeah… I have some…. stuff to do.  So, I’ll… uh… be in my bedroom if you need anything.”  Graham stuttered with a bashful grin before quickly turning on his heel and headed down the hall.  He had a phone call to make and the sooner he spoke to Lindsey, not only to reassure him of Buffy’s safety, but also just to hear the sound of his voice, the better.  It had been a trying week for Graham, knowing that his other half had been hold up in his apartment with that skanky police detective was just about more than he could take!  Thankfully, it was all over.  Maybe now, they could *all* get on with their lives.

Buffy stood staring down the hallway after Graham’s retreating form.  She was now alone.  Alone with Angel.

“You uhhh…. want to sit down?”  Buffy asked timidly as she turned to look at Angel.

“That would be nice.”   Angel answered, as a shy smile played across his handsome features.

The couple perched themselves on the edge of the couch, neither feeling comfortable enough with the situation to allow themselves to relax.  Angel leaned forward, resting both forearms on his thighs as Buffy sat stark straight, facing directly ahead.  She knew she should initiate this conversation after all it was mostly her issues they needed to discuss.  Inhaling in a deep cleansing breath, Buffy began,

“I’m really sorry about everything.  I know that the way I ran off before without even saying goodbye was… wrong.  It’s just… I….”

“It’s okay Buffy, just take your time.  I’m listening.”  Angel reassured.

“Do you remember me telling you that I was married before?  About my ex, Riley, and how he…. treated me?”  Buffy questioned hesitantly.

“Yes.”   Angel answered slowly.  He began to get a bad feeling about where this conversation was headed.  The abuse that he had assumed had taken place by her careful words that night on the pier, and then her abrupt departure in the middle of the night was now beginning to make sense.  The very bad kind of sense, that he *should* have caught before.  How could he have been so blind, so immune to the situation she was obviously in?  Gods he could be dense sometimes!

Before Buffy had the chance to continue, the perfect looking man sitting next to her interrupted, “Oh Buffy…” turning to face the woman whom he’d fallen hopelessly in love with at first sight, Angel cupped her face within his large hands, “He came after you again… didn’t he?  That’s why you left.  Did he hurt you?  Oh gods Buffy, he didn’t, did he?”

Ashamed, Buffy looked away.  Logically, she knew that anything that ever happened with Riley wasn’t *her* fault.  At least that’s what her therapist, Lindsey, and all her other friends kept trying to drill into her head, but old habits were hard to break, and at the moment she was once again struggling with those old feelings.

Angel saw the immediate change in his beloved’s demeanor.  He no longer saw the sparkling light in her eyes that had enticed him on that sunny afternoon at the café, but instead was faced with a hallow expression of a woman whom had obviously been through a lot.  His own emotions were beginning to swirl into a raging storm.  How?  How could a man inflict this much pain into a woman? He was furious with this ex of Buffy’s, he was furious with himself for not doing something to prevent whatever had happened this last time, and he was distraught at what to do to ease her hurt now.

Pulling her into his arms, flush against his well toned chest, Angel did the only thing he knew to do.  He just held her.   

The brave front that she had always put on for her family and friends crumbled instantly.  For the first time in her life, Buffy finally let go.  Sobbing for the innocence she lost at Riley’s hands, for the life that Lindsey had given up to protect her, and for the lost time with Angel that she would never be able to get back.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Spike watched in quiet fascination as his brunette lover laid silently on the bed.  Gwen hadn’t said a word since they’d locked themselves in her temporary room, choosing instead to stare quietly at the closed door.   It was a stark contrast from the lively young woman he’d met at his club earlier in the week, and whom he’d so willingly accompanied home the previous night.

Regardless of what Angel or Gunn though of him, Spike was actually very sensitive, and an absolute romantic at heart.  Therefore, it wasn’t difficult for him to see that there was much more to Gwen than met the eye. 

“You wanna talk ‘bout it pet?”  Spike asked sincerely.

“Huh?”  Gwen asked absently, still staring at the closed door.  She knew that Spike had said something to her, but in her resolve to hear what was going on in the other room, she had no idea what it was.

“I asked, if you wanted to talk.” 

“Talk…. about what?”  Gwen asked with a puzzled look on her face.  Guys never wanted to *talk* to her, at least not straight guys.  Graham and Lindsey on the other hand could talk her into a coma.

“Maybe ‘bout why you went bonkers on the princess in there.”  Spike answered, nodding his head towards the living room.  “Or maybe you could tell me why everyone calls you Karen, and it sends you into orbit.”

Gwen shrugged, then spoke, “And maybe you could tell me *how* it is that you know Buffy.”

Spike grinned, “That, I can answer.  Met her at my club, ‘bout a month ago.  She was there with Angel, and Angel an’ I ‘re mates.  Go way back.”

“Oh.” 

“Now, your turn pet.”  Spike returned as he casually draped his arm across Gwen’s taunt stomach, inching his lean body closer to her as he did.

“Well, the easy answers are one, she pissed me off.  That’s why I decked her.  And two, the Karen thing is from the tv show ‘Will & Grace’.”  Gwen answered vaguely.

Spike studied Gwen carefully before speaking.  This obviously wasn’t going to be easy.  “Uhhh… o-kay.  How ‘bout you ‘laborate a little pet.”

Gwen hesitated.  She wasn’t really sure how much about Buffy she should tell Spike, and the whole Will/Grace/Jack/Karen thing might freak him out.  Granted he was friends with Angel, so maybe she could at least….

“Pet?”

Turning over onto her back, Gwen inched her way up the bed so she was leaning back against the headboard.  If she was about to have her first heart to heart, she wanted to at least see the man she was ready to pour her secrets out to.

“Okay, first you have to promise me that everything that I tell you is confidential.  You tell no one about any of it!”  Gwen began.

“Sure ducks.  Cross my heart.”  Spike answered with a playful grin, lightly tracing a cross pattern over his chest to demonstrate his words.
Gwen spared one last glance at the closed door, silently praying that her best friend was both okay, and that she would one day forgive her for telling an almost perfect stranger her life story.  Especially since once upon a time she had made her own vows never to divulge this information.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Graham stretched his large frame from corner to corner of his king size bed.  He was finally allowing his tense muscles to relax as he waited patiently for his lover to pick up the phone.   The stress of this one short week had turned the time into a millennia as far as he was concerned.  Finally, on the fourth ring Lindsey answered.

“McDonald.”

“Hey.”

“Graham… hey!  How is…” 

“She’s fine.  Well, I guess as fine as she has ever been anyway.  How are things there?  Are you going to be able to fly out here soon?”

“My flight leaves tomorrow afternoon.  I’m suppose to meet Forrest down at the station first thing in the morning to give my official statement, but after that’s done, I’ll be on my way to the airport.  If I’m lucky, I may be able to catch an earlier flight.”  Lindsey replied with a yawn.  He was surprised at how exhausted he was.

“And Riley?”

“Bastard’s on lockdown at the hospital.  In restraints, with two armed guards.  One inside his room, and one outside the door.  The only place he’s going after he finishes his treatment is a nice 9 x 6 cell.  Hopefully he’s got a nice cellmate, one that can show him what it really means to be somebody’s bitch.”  Lindsey bit out with disgust.  He’d heard Riley more times than he could count refer to Buffy as his bitch, and he could only hope that the jerk-off received some of the same treatment in jail as Buffy had received at his hands. 

“Did you tell her?”  Graham asked. 

“I told her it was over.  I figured that’s all she really needed to know for now.  We’ll deal with the rest when I get there.”  Lindsey answered with a sigh.  He knew from experience within the field of law, specifically criminal law, that the path that still lay in front of his friend was going to be a long and bumpy one.  He could only pray that she would allow him to shoulder some of the burden for her.

After saying his goodbyes for the night, Graham reluctantly hung up the phone and closed his eyes, quickly drifting off to sleep.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It had taken Buffy the better part of an hour to get all of the crying out of her system.   She hated the fact that she’d broke down so easily, that she’d forced Angel, a man who barely knew her, to bare witness to such weakness, but it was unavoidable.  Her emotions had taken over, and no matter how hard she tried to push back the pain of the last few years she just couldn’t.

When she finally felt as though she was somewhat back in control of herself, Buffy pushed her slightly shaking body away from Angel’s chest.  Looking desperately into the deep brown orbs that stared intently at her, Buffy forced a thankful smile before she spoke.

“I’m… sorry.  I didn’t mean to get all emotional on you.”

Brushing back a few golden locks that were threatening to hide the face of the woman he had so desperately wanted to see for the past month, Angel leaned forward and brushed a quick, but gentle and loving kiss to Buffy’s lips. 

“It’s okay.  Whatever it is, and whenever you’re ready to talk about it, I’m here,”  Angel said sincerely.  Reaching down, he took her trembling hand in his and continued, “Nobody’s perfect Buffy, and nobody is without a past.  I’m not going to judge you.  I’ve seen too much and made too many of my own mistakes to pass judgment on anyone else.  I don’t want to pressure you, or rush you into anything your not ready for.  I just want you to understand…. *really* understand, I’m here for you.  And I’ll be here for you as long as you’ll let me.”

This time, Buffy valiantly fought back the tears that were threatening to fall.  Until this very moment, Lindsey had been the only man in her life that she had truly trusted.  Not even Graham had been privy to all of her secrets.  She had even withheld a few things from Gwen, but now…now she felt as though she were on the verge of true freedom.  The sincerity that she felt flowing out of Angel’s words touched her, but the honesty she could see in his eyes was what finally convinced her that the unexplainable feelings she had had deep down within her spirit from the first moment she saw him were real and not imagined.  The dark shadow that had been cast on her life was now gone.

“You’re sure you want to know?”  Buffy asked, needing the verbal reassurance.

“I’m sure.  But only when you’re ready.  There’s no rush, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.  And honestly, I don’t think you could force me to leave now even you if you wanted to.”  Angel replied with a playful smile, trying to lighten the heavy mood.

“I don’t know about that, you might be ready to run before it’s all over.”  Buffy returned quickly.

Pulling the petite blonde back into his arms, Angel nuzzled her tear stained cheek with the tip of his nose before pulling away to look her in the eyes.

“I fell in love with you the second I laid eyes on you in that café.  I feel you on a level that I never knew existed before,”  Angel said, pausing briefly as he searched for the right words to express his feelings.

“J.W. writes about true love and soulmates on the show, and before I met you it was nothing but meaningless babble to me.  Some romanticized wish that people had.  I was jaded to it all,”  Angel confessed, “But when I looked into your eyes that day it was suddenly real to me.  No longer was it just lines to memorize, it was my life… *mine*, not Gage’s, but Angel O’Connor’s, and I’d never felt so complete.”

“Oh Angel!”  Buffy tearfully cried out as she urgently wrapped her arms around his neck.  Though this time she wasn’t shedding tears of pain and sorrow, no, this time she was crying out of shear joy.  She had waited a lifetime to hear someone confess those feelings to her…she had waited a lifetime for her Angel.

For the next several house, until the pre-dawn rays slowly creeped through the living room curtains, Buffy, carefully tucked in Angel’s loving embrace on the couch, laid out her life story.  The good, the bad, the ugly and the downright hysterical.  Nothing was left untouched.  She covered every detail of her life growing up in a small town, the tumultuous life she led as Riley’s wife and the rocky road that followed her divorce. 

She relayed the joy she felt as a teacher.  The inner strength and determination she gained from the twenty some five year olds that looked at her each morning as though she’d hung the moon.  Leaving out no detail, Buffy talked about her good friend, and fellow teacher Willow Rosenberg and her fiancé Oz, adding that she desperately needed to call her friend to let her know that she was alright.

She then confessed to her fake marriage to Lindsey McDonald, her best friend and most trusted confidante up until now.  She carefully explained the reasoning behind the show they had put on as a couple, the elaborate lengths they had went through to convince not only the senior partners at Lindsey’s firm, but also Riley that they were a happily married couple.  It hadn’t been easy or very ethical to obtain the forged documents that proved, at least in theory, that they had been legally married, but they had done it nonetheless, needing for both their sakes to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that they really were married.

Angel quietly listened to every word Buffy said.  The picture she painted of her childhood made him think briefly of Fred.  His sweet, and sometimes over talkative co-star had relayed a similar story of her younger days to him and it made him smile.  The joy that he had felt at Buffy’s carefree and loving start to life was short lived as she continued on to the darker days in her life.  Specifically the ones spent at the abusive hands of her ex-husband.

Doing his best to reign in his ever-increasing temper, Angel pulled Buffy tighter into his arms.  His unconscious gesture wasn’t lost on the young woman.  She embraced it and snuggled into him.  In return, her easy acceptance of his physical presence was far from going unnoticed by Angel either.  He was calmed by the knowledge that someone who had been hurt so severely, both physically and mentally by a man, could be so completely trusting of someone who some might consider an almost perfect stranger.

As the story turned toward her faux marriage, Angel’s emotions went from obvious and instant jealousy straight down the road to amusement.  The longer Buffy talked about the life she led with Lindsey, and all the ridiculousness that entailed at times, minus a couple of Riley incidents, the lighter the air seemed to be in the room.

By the time Buffy was finally finished with everything, including what happened the night of their date, Angel was in absolute awe of the courage and strength that the tiny woman sitting next to him possessed.  He was also grateful that she had been blessed with such amazing and loyal friends.  Although the thought of this blonde goddess pretending to be married to another man was less than thrilling, he was resolved to do anything in his power to help Lindsey find a job more suitable to his personal life.  The man had obviously went through great lengths to protect Buffy, and he deserved, just as she did, to be truly happy.

When no words were left to be said, Angel pulled Buffy’s tired body onto his lap.  Sinking down into the couch, he smiled as Buffy laid her head against his chest and quickly dozed off to sleep.  They were both exhausted, but he had no desire to fall asleep.  Doing so would mean he would have to take his eyes off Buffy, and that was just not going to happen, not for a while anyway.  As Angel carefully studied his love’s sleeping form, Spike and Gwen padded silently in from the bedroom.

“All yours mate.  Take your princess there an’ the two of you go get some real rest.”  Spike whispered quietly.

Angel flashed his best friend a thankful smile and rose to his feet.  Carefully cradling Buffy in his arms he retreated to the bedroom.  Gently depositing a still sleeping Buffy onto the bed, Angel quickly closed the door before easing himself in next to her.  Without waking, the petite blonde instinctively turned and snuggled herself into the man whose heart she would forever hold in the palm of her hand.

Angel knew that there was a long road ahead for everyone involved, but he had no doubt they would all survive and be the better for it.  With one last look at the sleeping beauty curled up in his arms, Angel finally gave into the sleep that he had been so desperately fighting.


THE END!