Part 1, Buffy’s LA Adventure

A far-fetched but fun bit of smut written after a day spent sick at home with one too many Charlie’s Angels reruns on TV.  Mostly PWP, but some plot showed up there.

Author’s Notes: A far-fetched but fun bit of smut written after a day spent sick at home with one too many Charlie’s Angels reruns on TV. Remember how they always had to go undercover in absurd situations…?Started out as a PWP piece, but developed somewhat of a plot during the writing.

I took some liberties with the timeline. Buffy’s 24 or so in this story.

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

Disclaimer: Own nothing. All belongs to Joss, ME, Fox, et.al.

Pairing: B/A

Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host my fics; all others please ask.

Originally posted: Feb 20, 2002

Britney Spears’ “Oops I did it again” echoed loudly in the empty club as Cordelia strolled out on the stage wearing her cheerleader outfit from her days at Sunnydale High, complete with sneakers. At a gesture from the blond man seated at the table in front, she began to dance – with moves that were characteristic of the precision moves of a former cheerleader.

“What the hell is this?” The older, dark haired man asked, more to himself than his companion. “She’s got a great body, I’ll give you that. And if I had a sports team and needed a cheerleader, I’m sure she’d be a good choice. But she doesn’t have the moves for The Wilde Horse.” Steve Ryan took his job as a manager of one of the most exclusive strip clubs in LA very seriously. The Wilde Horse was famous for having the most beautiful women and the most erotic dancing anywhere in Southern California, and he personally auditioned each and every girl, not to mention each bartender and the entire wait staff.

Justin Hanover, Steve’s second in command, gestured to the DJ to stop the music. “Thank you Miss Chase. We’ll be in touch.” Justin looked down at his list. “That’s the last girl today.  Those rumors about the missing girls are scaring off any new auditions. And we need at least one girl before the weekend or it’ll be tough to cover all the shifts.”

Cordelia couldn’t believe she was being dismissed.  They must not have been watching.  How could they not hire her?!  She was going to give them a piece of her mind! Cordelia started for the table at the center of the club where the two men sat. “DID you even watch any of my dance?” Cordelia’s voice rang out in the club. “I’ll have you know that I was the choreographer for most of the dance routines performed at Sunnydale High in ’98 and ’99.  Some of those routines are still being copied today.”

Angel knew by the look on Cordelia’s face that she was mad and ready to let someone have it. He moved quickly out of the shadows where he had been standing at the back of the club, hoping to reach Cordelia and get her out of the club before she made too much of a scene. They couldn’t afford to be remembered if they wanted to investigate this club.

“Honey, you’re beautiful. And from what I can see you’ve got a great body – but if you can’t dance, you don’t work at The Wilde Horse.” Steve looked back at the papers on the table, clearly dismissing Cordelia.

Angel reached for Cordelia’s arm “Cordy, let’s go.”

Steve looked up, surprised to see someone else in the closed club. “Who are you? And how did you get in here?”

“Oh, this is my boyfriend.  Honey, I told you that you could wait in the car.” Cordelia attempted an alibi.

Dismissing them once again, Steve simply nodded to the man standing against the wall. “Eddie?” The enormous bouncer and former NFL lineman simply crossed his arms and gestured for them to leave.

“And, honey – word of advice.  Don’t bring your boyfriend to your auditions.  It spoils the image.”  Steve looked up once again, glancing at the couple as the left.


“I still can’t believe they didn’t hire me.” Cordelia was still stung over her rejection from The Wilde Horse.

“We’ll find another way to get inside the club,” Angel knew it was going to be difficult to find any more information about the missing girls and the reputed demon connection to the club without someone on the inside. And Cordelia had been less than excited when they landed on the plan to have her become that person, so it might not have worked anyway. All they had now was a paper trail that linked the ownership of the strip club to Wolfram and Hart and a reputed demon sacrifice requiring beautiful girls.  Two girls that had worked at the club had already disappeared – how many more were needed and for what was still an elusive quest.

Clearing his throat, Wesley hesitantly started “Well, um, I have a suggestion. I understand that things have been rather quiet in Sunnydale, and well, er, I’m sure that Rupert will be amenable to having Buffy come to LA for a short while.”

“OH, please. If I can’t get a job there, Buffy would never have a chance.” Cordelia indignantly snorted as she moved to pour herself more coffee.

Wesley’s words took Angel by surprise, particularly since it seemed that everyone took such great care to avoid mentioning her.  It had been two, no four years, since he had seen her. Connor was now almost 3 and she had never seen him. Did she even know about him? And his soul.  Did she know that he was given his soul permanently shortly after Connor’s birth?

Gunn had heard of Buffy, knew that she was the slayer and saw the advantages of having the added strength on their team.  “I only have two questions – is she hot and can she dance? I mean, we already know she can kick ass, right?” Knowing that she was Angel’s ex, he could guess the answer to the first question so he looked at Angel for the answer to the second.

Angel suppressed the possessive growl that rose automatically at Gunn’s reference to Buffy. As he looked at the faces looking expectantly at him, memories of Buffy dancing drifted through his mind. Buffy at the Bronze, dancing with Xander to make him jealous.  Buffy at his apartment, dancing with slow but sexy movements watching him watch her before collapsing in his lap for another heated make-out session. She repeated that performance for him only once more before her 17th birthday… Angel’s thoughts veered quickly away from the time he spent as Angelus.  “Yeah, she can dance.” Angel shifted in his chair, adjusting the erection that had begun rising at the memories of Buffy dancing for him and the heated embraces that followed.


 

Buffy walked nervously into the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel. She was both terrified and excited at the prospect of seeing Angel again. The request from Giles had been such a surprise – even more so since he had encouraged her to go. Said it would be good for her to see some action since things were so quiet in Sunnydale. He didn’t know much about the case – just that they needed someone to get a job at some club and then get information. “Ooh goodie, undercover work” had been Buffy’s only reply. Now that she was here however, she was wishing that she had found out a little more about what she was getting into.

“Hello. Can I help you?” A cute girl holding a toddler by the hand walked forward to meet Buffy as she continued into the hotel. “Um, I’m Buffy. I’m looking for Angel or Wesley. Maybe Cordelia?”

“Oh, Buffy. Hi! I’m Fred.” Fred smiled broadly at Buffy. She had heard so much about Buffy that Fred honestly expected a girl both bigger and well, given Cordelia’s less than flattering description, not very attractive.  But this petite blond was beautiful.  She fairly glowed with her tanned skin and golden blond hair. “Oh, and this is Connor.” Buffy smiled at the at the little boy and said hello, just as the sound of Cordelia’s voice came from the stairs. “Angel, I still think this is just asking for trouble. And you’re going to owe me big when I pick up the pieces again.”

Buffy turned to see Angel, just as he and Cordelia came down the stairs. Her breath caught and held as she looked at him – he looked the same.  No, better. Was he always that tall?  He seemed taller, bigger. Her eyes skimmed over him. He was dressed in his usual black, a soft cashmere sweater that clung to his arms and chest, emphasizing the muscles in his arms and the lines of his torso.  His black pants perfectly fit over his long legs and trim hips. Just looking at him caused a warmth to swirl in her stomach, moving lower as she felt herself become aroused.

“Buffy.”

The sound of her name brought Buffy out of her stare. Oh god. I hope my mouth was closed and that I wasn’t drooling.  Oh god. I can’t believe I was getting hot just looking at him.

“Angel.” Buffy’s voice sounded slightly husky to her ears. She shifted slightly from one foot to the other, clenching the muscles in her legs hoping to quell the feelings of arousal that had been stirring.

“Thanks for coming. How are you?” Angel’s voice betrayed nothing, even though he was fighting his own feelings of excitement at seeing Buffy again. She was slightly thinner than when he had last seen her. Her hair was pulled up, so he couldn’t tell how long it was, but it was a rich golden hue. She was wearing tight black slacks, high-heeled boots and a white tank top.  Over the tank top, she wore a gauzy white linen shirt that teased with its slightly see-through look.

“I’m good. You?” Buffy gripped the handle of her bag hard, trying not to rush forward and wrap her arms around him.  Then kiss him.  Then push him to the ground and… Stop. Buffy, stop those thoughts now.

Cordelia rolled her eyes at the two of them, as they stood rooted to the floor staring intently at each other.  “You’re both good. Let’s stop the Buffy and Angel show before it gets into the pain and anguish scene, ok? Wesley’s in the office, Buffy.  He’ll explain everything.  We’re taking Connor to dinner with Mickey at Disneyland, so we’ll see you later.”  Grasping Angel’s hand, Cordelia pulled him forward.

“Daddeeee” Connor rushed over to Angel as if on cue, demanding attention. Angel looked back at Buffy, seeming to want to explain something before Connor tugged on his hand, once again drawing Angel’s attention. When he turned back again, Buffy had already vanished up the stairs.

Buffy was stunned. She moved through the hotel to the office in a daze.  Was that Angel’s son?  With Cordelia?  Or was it Cordelia’s son and he just called Angel daddy?  What were Angel and Cordelia then?  Or was Connor Fred’s son?  With Angel? Then, were Fred and Angel…? A lump in her throat was forming as the questions tumbled through her mind, accompanying the pain and heartache that Buffy felt during 9 out of 10 Angel encounters. She giggled a little at that thought effectively quelling the sadness – maybe she should conduct a study so she could define the actual numbers.

“Hello Buffy. Thanks for coming to help out.”  Wesley voice jarred her out of her musing. Introductions were made with Buffy and Gunn, then Wesley explained the case, and what they needed her to do…


 

Angel put Connor to bed, then went looking for Wesley. He didn’t want to appear too anxious, but he wanted to know how things went with Buffy.  “So, how’d it go?  Where’s Buffy?” Angel found Wesley in the office.

“Better than expected. Buffy agreed to help. In fact, she and Gunn went to do some – well, she called it field research.  Buffy felt that she needed some, um, ideas, before trying to audition. Gunn was going to drop her off at her hotel after they checked out a few places.”

“Didn’t you offer her a room here?”  Angel was annoyed.  He knew it shouldn’t matter if Buffy was out with Gunn, but long lost feelings of possessiveness had awakened at seeing Buffy again.  Hell, she could be seeing someone – or even be married – for all he knew about her life now.  Angel was frustrated with himself and his illogical feelings that resurfaced on seeing her again. He thought he had moved on, that Buffy had been tucked away in his heart to still be loved and remembered with fondness and affection, but not with passion and lust and possession.

Wesley had offered Buffy a room at the hotel – since they had plenty – but she had already made arrangements to stay at a place close to her Dad’s condo.

“Yes, well, she mentioned that she had made other plans. She said that she was going to try to audition tomorrow afternoon and that she preferred to go alone.”  Before Angel could object, Wesley continued, “Assuming she gets the job, then each of us will take turns going to the club when she’s there for backup. We’d be too conspicuous if we all went together, night after night.”  Wesley grimaced slightly at the idea of having to spend his evenings in a strip club – even if it was an upscale club.


 

Buffy watched from backstage as Camille finished her routine. While she was nervous – very, very nervous – about her first performance as a stripper, landing the job had been a huge boost to her ego. Not to mention that she managed to get the job when Cordelia couldn’t.  Well, slayer strength and flexibility should come in handy for things other than slaying…  It was sort of a titillating little fantasy to think that she’ d be the object of lust to the men in the audience. And maybe to a certain, tall dark and gorgeous vampire that was just going to happen to be in the crowd tonight…? Buffy smiled when she recalled the rather heated conversation yesterday with Gunn and Angel about who was going to the club with her tonight. Admittedly, she was pleased – no, make that excited – that Angel seemed possessive and a little bit interested. She still wasn’t sure about Angel’s availability status, who Connor’s mother was or just what relationship, if any, that she and he had…  Buffy quickly diverted her thoughts – sure that she couldn’t dwell on any of those thoughts now. Camille was moving off stage, so she was up next. Luckily as one of the new girls, her routine was short and she was scheduled to perform early in the night when the club was not very crowded.

Buffy sauntered down the stage, hips swinging exaggeratedly to the music. She wore a sheer button up top that was tied over her midriff, a pleated plaid jumper that was so short it barely reached the tops of her thighs, lace trimmed anklet socks, and patent leather shoes that laced up like oxfords – but with 5-inch spiked heels.  Buffy’s hair was pulled up in two ponytails on either side of her head and to complete the pictures, she carried a lollipop.  She was the perfect picture of a naughty schoolgirl.

Closing her mind to the leering looks, Buffy imagined that she was alone in the club with Angel. As if on cue, she sensed him. Knowing that he was watching her created a surge of heat through her body that went straight to her loins. Rocking her hips suggestively to the music, she turned her back to the crowd then slid the straps of her jumper down her arms.  Looking back suggestively over her shoulder, she moved slowly to the music rotating her hips.  Beginning at her hair, she ran her hands down her body, tracing her breasts then hips before sliding her hands down her legs to put both hands on the stage.  Slowing parting her legs and sliding them along the stage into a split, she lowered her body to the floor. Pulling her legs together, Buffy then arched into a backbend, kneeling on the floor with her weight on her shins. She continued all the way back down to the floor so that her head was resting on the floor between her feet. She then slowly unbuttoned her top. Coming up out of the backbend, she dropped her shirt on the stage leaving her topless. Taking a deep breath, Buffy slowly came to her feet then turned around once again to face the audience. Raising her arms up, she pulled the bands out of her hair then shook her hair free then strode up and down the stage, looking but not seeing the men in the audience. Stopping center stage, Buffy began rotating her hips in unhurried circles then slowly slid the skirt down her legs leaving her in only a tiny red g-string.  She kicked the skirt off and to the back of the stage, then danced up and down the stage runway one last time.  Dropping to her knees, she crawled slowly to the end of the stage then rose up to her knees, swiveling her hips exaggeratedly to the music. As the music came to a halt, Buffy arched back, dropping to the stage once again. Buffy sighed with relief – it was over and she made it through – before rolling over and coming to her feet. As casually as she could, she picked up her tips from the various locations around the stage and searched the crowd for Angel. She was sure he had been there, but he was nowhere to be seen now. Sighing once again, Buffy quickly headed back stage.

Buffy stayed for a while, meeting the other girls and asking as casually as possible about the girls that were missing. All she was able to find out was that both girls had been eager to make some extra money on the side and that the last time either girl had been seen was just prior to attending some big-wigs party. No one really seemed to have any details, or wasn’t ready to share.

Walking to her car, Buffy thought once again about her ‘performance’ and about Angel. She imagined him watching her with hot, lusty eyes.  Buffy let her mind drift to a fantasy, imagining that she was crawling up to him on her hands and knees, kneeling before him before reaching up to run her hands up his thighs, then past his groin to his stomach – slowly, teasing. Not touching him where he wanted it the most. Then sliding her hands around to stroke his oh-so-gorgeous ass before nuzzling his thigh with her cheek and following the same path her hands took with her face… With a shaky breath, Buffy stopped those thoughts and laughed quietly to herself as she realized that she didn’t even think to bring a vibrator with her to help ease some of her sexual frustration.

Buffy had just reached her car door when she felt that familiar tingling sensation. She knew that someone was behind her. No, make that she knew *who* was behind her. Buffy turned slowly around to see the face that had just been in her thoughts. They stood silently, gazes locked until the headlights of a car pulling out of the parking lot illuminated them briefly. Buffy stepped forward, “How do you think it went?” her voice was a husky whisper.

Without a word, Angel reached out and grabbed Buffy by the shoulders pulling her into his arms as he lowered his lips to hers. Hesitating only for a moment, Buffy brought her arms up around his back drawing him closer. Buffy opened her mouth luring Angel’s tongue inside. She sucked it gently, then harder before releasing it and pushing her own tongue into his mouth. Whimpering softly, Buffy brought her hand up to caress Angels face just as he lifted his head. Sliding her hand into his hair, she pulled his head back down for another kiss, nipping and biting gently at his lips before pressing her lips to his. Angel shifted slightly bringing Buffy in closer contact, pressing his erection into her stomach. Angel moaned then growled low in his throat as Buffy moved closer, the sound jolting Buffy back to reality.  She pushed away from Angel abruptly, taking a step back.

“Oh, god. Angel. Oh god. What are we doing? We can’t… the curse.” Buffy panted, trying to compose herself after their heated embrace.

“Yes. We can.” Angel started forward, ready to take Buffy into his arms again, only to be stopped by Buffy holding up her hand. Buffy stared up at his face, trying to comprehend what he meant. Thoughts tumbled through her head – what happened to the curse? What about Connor?  More specifically, what about Connor’s mother? Was Angel involved with Cordelia? With Fred?  There was so much she didn’t know.

But what she did know what that she might never have another chance like this one. She’d go back to Sunnydale once this was over, Angel had his life in LA. This could be a one shot deal. The rare opportunity to have a dream come true. But she could have a memory to treasure forever.

Decision made, Buffy reached behind her and opened the door to the back seat of her jeep. Without breaking eye contact with Angel, she pulled off her jacket and tossed it into the front seat of the car. Grabbing Angels belt she pulled him forward as she stepped backward toward the car. Standing up on tiptoes, she kissed him softly again. Staring up at him, she reached under her skirt and pulled off her panties, dropping them behind her in the car. Moving backward once again, she climbed into the car then scooted across the seat. Reclining back against the opposite door, she tugged her skirt up revealing herself completely. Angel moved closer as Buffy spread her legs, hooking one leg over the back of the seat and propping her high-heel sandal against the headrest of the front seat, exposing herself fully to his gaze.

Angel’s mouth went dry as Buffy moved her hand to glide across her clit then lower across her swollen pink flesh.  Buffy’s pussy was shaved, only a small square of neatly trimmed hair remaining above her clit.  Angel thought he had never seen anything, anyone that looked so good.

“Please…” Buffy’s whisper stirred Angel to action. “I want you.” Yanking off his coat, Angel tossed it into the front seat. Unfastening his pants as he moved, Angel climbed into the car and on top of Buffy in almost one move, closing the door behind him. Guiding his cock into Buffy’s wetness, he thrust forward until he was fully sheathed in her heat.  Hesitating only a moment, he began to move – slowly at first then faster. Within minutes, they were both plunging over the edge into ecstasy.  Buffy whimpered and keened softly as she came arching against him. Angel was only a moment behind her, grunting harshly as he released his seed into her.

Angel leaned down and kissed her softly before withdrawing and sprawling on the seat next to her. Buffy opened her eyes and watched him, feelings of arousal stirring again. Her eyes moved from his face down his chest to his cock which lay against his stomach, still semi-erect and wet from their combined fluids. Licking her lips, she moved quietly to straddle his lap.  Angel opened his eyes as he felt Buffy nuzzle his face, tracing his jaw with her nose.  Planting slow wet kisses on his neck, she reached down and pulled his sweater over his head. Resuming her kisses, she traced one side of his neck then the other, stopped only to suck and bite gently at his earlobes. Their eyes met, then closed as Buffy pressed her lips to his.  They kissed for several long moments before Buffy began to glide her hips slowly, rubbing against his cock.  Angel’s hand closed on her hips as she moved to lower herself on him, holding her still on his lap once he was fully inside her. Reaching up, he slid the straps of her camisole top down her arms then pulled her top down to expose her breasts.  “You’re beautiful,” he murmured as he cupped her breasts gently in his hands, before lightly rubbing her nipples with his fingertips.

Moaning softly, Buffy arched back pushing her breasts into Angels hands as she began to move slowly up and down.  Putting one hand on the back of her head, Angel pulled Buffy toward him for several soft wet kisses before sliding his mouth down her throat.  Reaching the scar – his mark – on her neck, he growled softly before licking and sucking at the mark.  Grabbing her hips, he held her still with just the tip of his erection still inside her, her nipples on level with his mouth. Leaning forward he began alternating soft kisses with wet licks to her nipples.  “Ang…el. Angel, ooh,  please… I can’t… ohh.”  Buffy squirmed, trying to slide down, desperate to have him inside her again. Unwilling to let her set the pace this time, Angel continued his leisurely exploration of her breasts, nuzzling the curve near her ribs, biting the plump flesh softly and licking a wet path between them before returning his mouth to her nipples. Sucking hard on one nipple, he rolled the other nipple between his fingers.

Angel raised his head, kissing her again passionately before guiding her hips down to meet his, raising and lowering her slowly until she kept the rhythm herself. Harder then faster, they moved together, the intensity building.  Mouths moving, kissing and licking any available flesh within reach, both too aware that they had been denied this pleasure for so long. Within minutes, Angel grasped Buffy’s hips and slammed her down for two hard quick thrusts then groaned deep in his throat as he came. Buffy leaned down and sank her teeth into Angel’s neck, biting hard then harder just as she too was coming, spasming hard around him before collapsing against his chest.

Justin had seen the couple in the parking lot when he had first stepped out for his usual smoke. He had been looking in their direction, not particularly interested in them until the headlights of the exiting car exposed them clearly. Justin recognized Buffy immediately – it took him awhile longer to recall where he had seen the tall, dark haired man but eventually he recalled him as the boyfriend of the girl who auditioned on Monday night. Somehow the man had gotten past the bouncer into the closed club. He watched them kissing for several minutes before Buffy pulled the man into the jeep. Putting his cigarette out under his heel, Justin thought that the new girl was going to be just the girl that they needed for Hugh Randall’s party tomorrow night. If she’d fuck one of the club patrons in the parking lot, then he doubted she’d have any objections to what he had in mind.

Buffy lay still, crushed in Angel’s arms with his face buried in her hair, her face tucked in his neck.  Sighing heavily she felt a profound sense of contentment and belonging, a feeling so intense and so rare that it touched her very soul.  Running her fingers gently through his hair and stroking the back of his neck, she wondered how she thought she could ever live without him.

Angel shifted slightly, settling Buffy more comfortably against him as he held her, gently caressing her back. Making love to her was like no other feeling he knew, the delicious sweetness and incredible intensity bringing him a sense of deep satisfaction and completeness.  Reaching forward, he grabbed his coat from the front seat and covered them. Closing his eyes once more, he wanted nothing more than to prolong the sensations strumming through his body.

The sound of a car door slamming woke Buffy from where she was dozing on Angel’s shoulder. How long had they slept? It was – thankfully, she thought – still dark, but most of the cars were now gone from the once crowded parking lot. Oh god, how many people saw them in her car sleeping? She groaned slightly with embarrassment.

“Angel. Angel. It’ll be light soon.”  Buffy whispered before sliding off his lap and adjusting her clothes. “You need to go.” Buffy was feeling an increasing sense of panic at what had happened last night.  How could she go back to a life without him?  She had intended to have the one night to treasure, but the feelings that surfaced left her raw and exposed, wanting more. She needed some time to sort out her feelings, to tuck the memory away and deal with her emotions before they got away from her.

Angel rubbed his eyes, surprised that he had slept in the cramped car, much less so deeply. Pulling on his own clothes, he realized that it was really close to dawn. He’d need to hurry.  “Buffy-“ There was so much he wanted to say, but so little time to say it now.

Buffy opened the car door and climbed out, heading around to the driver’s side. “Where’s your car? I’ll drop you.”  Buffy started up the car, then turned to Angel waiting for directions. Angel gestured to the other side of the building, then finished dressing as Buffy drove around.

“Listen, Buffy. We-“ Angel tried again.

“It’s almost dawn. You need to go. I’m going back to my hotel for a while, you know shower, sleep. I’ll come by later.”  Softening slightly, Buffy leaned back and kissed Angel softly and lingeringly before turning back around.  She didn’t want him to see the tears in her eyes.


 

Buffy turned on the radio in her hotel room, then started the shower. Turning the radio up so she could hear it, she stepped into the hot water. When Matchbox 20’s song, “Bent” came on the radio, Buffy finally let go of the tears that she had been holding in check. Hot silent tears mixed with the spray of the water, running down her face. How could she be so stupid? Why did she think that she could play with fire and not get burned, again? Angel might have moved on, but she still loved him. She loved him with the same innocence and romantic dreams of the 17-year-old girl that she had been, and she loved him with the intensity and passion of the woman that she had become. Did she really think it would be so easy to get a taste of what she couldn’t have, then walk away? She really should know better by now. Leaning against the wall, she cried until she had no more tears left.

After the shower, Buffy crawled in bed and fell into an exhausted sleep. When she woke, she pulled on shorts and a t-shirt and headed out for a run.  The steady pounding of her feet on the pavement was comforting, familiar. It helped her to clear her head and make some decisions.  She resolved to *finally*move on with her life, to put her relationship – if you could even call it that – with Angel behind her.  She had made a mistake getting involved with this whole case, but she would see it through. And she had made a colossal mistake last night, but she could learn from that too.  She realized that she was angry and hurt that Angel hadn’t felt it was important to tell her about his soul, about the now non-existent curse. She felt betrayed that he was involved with another woman and that he had a child with that woman, when he told her that he couldn’t. She had wanted his children or none at all. The thought of him being involved with Cordelia was like a knife twisting in her stomach. Well, Cordy had always wanted him. And, maybe what hurt most of all, was the disappointment that her dream wasn’t going to come true; she and Angel wouldn’t live happily ever after.  It was dumb she knew, but secretly she had hoped that somehow, someway….

The more she thought, the more she became convinced that she really needed a change of scenery. Staying in Sunnydale meant that she wasn’t free to completely break free of the past, to start over. UC Sunnydale had an exchange program – she could spend a semester or two in Europe.  Surely they had vampires there.  She smiled ruefully; there was probably even a new Scourge of Europe to deal with. Giles would understand, she’d convince him. It’d be her chance at a whole new life, a whole new Buffy.  With some time away, she was sure that she could deal. Feeling better and more confident, Buffy headed back to the hotel.

Turning on her cell phone as she entered her room, Buffy saw that she had 3 missed calls. Two were from Angel Investigations, and one was unknown, but all left messages. Starting the shower, she called her voice mail. First message was from Angel – he wanted to make sure she was ok and hoped to see her soon.  Maybe she could come by early and they could talk? Second message was from Justin Hanover, the assistant manager at The Wilde Horse.  He knew she wasn’t working tonight but wanted her to stop by. He had an opportunity that she would be just perfect for – and she could make some money on the side.  He needed to see her by 4:00 – could she stop by? Third message was from Cordelia – wanting to know what she had done to Angel. He didn’t get home until almost dawn, Connor was upset that he had missed his Dad, and Angel had gone straight to bed hardly talking to her at all. And what happened to Angel’s neck? It was bruised or something…  Did she always have to come to town and fuck everything up?

Buffy pressed 3-3-7 and deleted Cordelia’s message, not wanting to hear the rest. She had said all of those things and more to herself this morning, and now on top of that she was feeling guilty that she might now be “the other woman” – the one that Angel cheated with. God, how did her life get to be such a mess? Just a few days ago it wasn’t this complicated.

Pushing any further thoughts aside, Buffy hopped into the shower once more. It was already 2 o’clock – she needed to hurry. Justin’s call was promising – maybe she’d get a break on their case today.


 

Buffy called Angel Investigations on her way to The Wilde Horse, unfortunately getting Cordelia on the phone.

“Cordy, I don’t have time to talk.  I’m on my way to the club – I may have something. No, I don’t know what happened to Angel last night. Yes, I saw him at the club. No, no – nothing happened that you need to worry about.” Buffy grimaced a little bit at that little bit of near truth.  “Look, just tell the others that I’ll call or come by once I know what’s what. Bye.”

A few minutes later, Buffy walked into Justin’s office.  “Hey – I got your message. What’s up?”

Justin looked up from his desk, his eyes roaming down her body, assessing Buffy differently today. “Buffy. Thanks for coming down so quickly. I think I have a little side job that you would be perfect for. How does the possibility of making a little extra money – say a few thousand dollars in one night – sound?”

“Uh, wow. Sure. That’d be great. What’s the what?”

“Hugh Randall hosts parties at his house every so often. And he likes to have plenty of beautiful women in attendance. And well, an enterprising young woman like your self can make some extra money if you provide some additional entertainment for his guests. Strictly off the record of course. This is not Wilde Horse business.”

“Uh, THE Hugh Randall? Of Randall Enterprises? Randall Multimedia? Randall other-important-stuff?  And, what type of enter-, uh, entertainment exactly are you talking about?”

“Yes, that Hugh Randall. And, Buffy, you don’t need to play the innocent with me. Just give his guests what you were giving out for free last night in the parking lot. That was for free, right? Oh, you do know he has a girlfriend, right? So many men that come in here lie about that – it’s such a pity.”

Buffy inhaled sharply, “I-I, that- it wasn’t what it looked like.”

“Forgive me. It looked like you were fucking him in the car. If it was something other than that, I’d be more than willing for you to give me a demonstration.  In fact, I think a demonstration – no, let’s say audition – might be in order before I send you to Hugh’s.  I’d hate to think that I wasn’t delivering quality merchandise.” Justin rose, coming around the desk.

Buffy stepped back, “No, that’s ok. I mean, it was, it was what you said, but… but I don’t think you, we, should… Please, the party…  I’d really like to go.”

“Sure, Buffy. I can wait. You realize it’s how you get ahead here.” Justin reached out, brushing a strand of hair back from her face before sliding his knuckles down her chest to stop on her breast. “And we have private rooms downstairs for certain types of, ah, entertainments.  Any cash you take, we split 60/40 – it’s only fair that you get a larger share of the wealth; after all, you are the one doing the work. If you’re giving it away for free, then I’m willing to take my share in other ways.” The look on his face combined with the fingers that were slowly tracing her nipple making his meaning crystal clear. “Of course, The Wilde Horse will deny everything if you happen to get caught, and I of course will know nothing about it. We aren’t running that type of establishment here.”

Clearly dismissing her, Justin sat back down at his desk and picked up the phone.

“Oh, and Buffy, a limo will pick you up around 8:30 – leave the address with Eddie before you leave. I don’t have to tell you to dress sexy – and it’s formal.”

Buffy swallowed hard before whirling out of the room.  Oh god, things were going from bad to worse. Why did she get involved in this again?! She couldn’t leave the address of the hotel – it’d blow her cover – so she left Eddie the address of her Dads condo. And how was she going to explain this to him?


 

“Angel, will you stop. Just sit already.” Cordelia finally had enough of Angel’s pacing around the office like a caged animal. “Honestly, what is up with you? And what happened last night? You know, with Buffy.”

Wes looked up at Angel with interest, “Yes.  Were you able to find out anything? Did Buffy, um, perform?”

Angel rubbed absently at his temple, suppressing a smile at the wording of Wes’s question. Oh yes, she performed. And what a performance… “We didn’t find out anything, but it’s early yet. And yes, she danced.” If Buffy had found out anything, they certainly hadn’t taken the time to discuss it. Angel felt a twinge of guilt that he had ignored the case so completely.

“Well I’ll be attending the, er, show, tonight.  Although, if Buffy’s not scheduled to perform perhaps it’s unnecessary.” Wes was still hoping to minimize his time at the club.

“Did she say anything else when she called earlier Cordelia?” Angel was anxious to talk to Buffy, needing to see her after last night. While he wasn’t sure about everything, one thing was certain in his mind – he still loved her. Besides Connor, she was still the one person that could touch his very soul.  He wasn’t sure where they would go from here, but he wanted to talk to her, to explain everything that had happened in his life in the last few years and hope that she would understand.  For the first time in a very long time, Angel contemplated the idea of a future with Buffy.

“No, just that she was going to the club and that she might have a lead. And you’re avoiding my question. What. Happened. Last. Night. I’d say that I saw teeth marks on your neck earlier. If you didn’t heal so fast I would be sure. Care to explain?” Cordelia clearly wanted answers.

Just then Connor came running through, Fred following closely behind. Angel had spent part of the morning playing with Connor before his nap, but clearly the toddler was ready for more attention from his dad. “Hey there, how’s my big guy?” Angel scooped Connor up and tossed him up in the arm generating a squeal and giggles.

“ANGEL.” Cordelia was nothing if not persistent.

“Cordy, I went to the club. I saw Buffy. I saw her to her car. She went back to her hotel.  I don’t know what you thought you saw on my neck – must have been a shadow. Look now. Nothing.”  Angel hoped that his highly edited version would be enough to satisfy her. He and Buffy needed to figure things out before anyone else got involved.

Before she could question him further, the phone rang. Angel wanted to answer it, but Cordelia grabbed it first, shooting Angel a pointed look.

“Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless.  Oh, it’s you. Hi Buffy.”  Cordelia looked again at Angel, daring him to say something. “Uh-huh, Hugh Randall, huh? Ok. 8:30?  No, there’s a Betsey Johnson on Melrose or you might find something at Decades – it’s just down the street. Uh-huh. All right then. Bye.”

Cordelia hung up the phone, “Buffy’s going to some formal party tonight at Hugh Randalls – yes, the Hugh Randall.  She thinks it may be the break we’re looking for. She said she has her cell and she’ll call if something comes up. I guess we just sit tight in the meantime. Hey – maybe we can look into that other case.  The one where the seemingly healthy elderly people are dying suddenly.”

“Is she coming here?” Angel sat Connor down at the desk next to him, handing him a pen and some papers on the desk to play with.

“No, I don’t think so. She said she needed to find a dress. Here Connor, draw on this instead.” Cordelia stood, handing Connor a blank pad and taking the case file away from him.

“Well, I think we should check out Hugh Randall and see what we can find out about his guests. Perhaps there’s something to connect him with Wolfram and Hart or the missing girls. Did Buffy say why she thought it might be of interest?”  Wes, ever practical, was thinking about the case.

“Um, no.” Cordelia bit her lower lip and tilted her head, trying her best “I didn’t think to ask” face.

Angel, giving Cordelia an irritated look, picked up the phone and dialed.

“Buffy?” Then turning his back to the group, “Can you come by? I know, but-“…“It doesn’t take you that long-“…”Your Dad’s?”…“You could have come here.”…“Ok.  Why do you think there’s a connection?”…“I don’t like you going there alone, without any backup.  What’s the address?”…“How can you not know where you’re going?”…“Yes, I know you do.”

Angel wasn’t happy with this turn of events, and was trying hold his temper. “Look. We’re going to try to find the address, but call when you get there just in case. Keep your phone with you. And, Buffy, on.  Keep your phone on.”…“Ok.  And Buffy, we-“  The dial toned sounded in his ear.  Buffy had hung up.

Ok, well, he didn’t expect things to be easy, certainly not with his Buffy. But he was sure that he wasn’t going to leave her on her own on this.  “I want that address. Wes, I don’t think you’ll need to go to the club. We need to be near that house tonight.”


 

Buffy looked out the window just as the limo pulled up. Thankfully her Dad was out, so she didn’t have to explain anything. She had lucked out on her shopping trip, managing to find a beaded, black strapless top, long straight skirt and best of all, a discounted pair of black ankle-strap Manolo Blahniks. The skirt was a silky crepe material with a high slit, giving it a sophisticated yet sexy appearance. She had pulled her hair up in a French twist, leaving a few strands loose around her face.

Putting a small dagger, her cell phone and a lipstick in her tiny purse, she headed out the door. Reaching the limo, she was surprised to see several girls already inside. “Ah, hi.  Looks like a party already.”

Hugh Randall’s house was set back in Malibu, on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was big and impressive, much as you’d expect from someone in his position. Buffy hung back as the other girls headed inside, intending to make a quick phone call.  Just as she was dialing, one of the rather large security personnel outside stepped forward and gestured for her to follow the others inside. Rather than risk being forced inside bodily – she had no doubt that if she didn’t comply the burly guard would do just that – she simply slipped the phone back in her purse before asking, rather loudly and in her best dumb blond imitation, “So is this really Malibu? We must have been driving for almost 30 minutes from Los Angeles.”  She hoped that someone at AI had picked up the phone and gotten at least that much. Looking back one last time, she ended the call then stepped inside.

Fred was the only one at the AI offices to hear Buffy’s message. She had stayed behind with Connor as usual. The rest of the team was already on their way, having found the address – along with the information that Hugh Randall was a big client of Wolfram and Hart.

Several rather suspicious cases against him had been dropped when witnesses recanted their testimony or simply failed to show in court. Then there was the matter of the missing art collection that was reputed to be in Hugh’s possession.  The collection, which included several valuable paintings and a series of old manuscripts, was said to have vanished from a monastery in Romania. A Romanian family had attempted legal action against Hugh Randall over the collection, but had just as suddenly dropped it when their son and daughter were killed in an accident. Wolfram and Hart had, of course, handled all the litigation. Wes felt strongly that this was the connection to the rumored demon sacrifice – they just needed to figure out what was in the manuscripts.

Buffy mingled with the various guests, sipping a glass of champagne and feeling somewhat ill at ease with all of the leering looks.  Clearly most, if not all, of the women here were available to entertain the guests. She just wanted to find out anything at all about the missing girls or the unknown demon then get out. Looking around to make sure that she wasn’t being watched, she crept down the hall trying the doors and peeking inside.

She had almost given up, having reached the garage when she noticed a door on the far side. That it itself wasn’t particularly interesting.  The number of locks on the door, however was. Picking up a small crowbar from the workbench, Buffy headed toward the door.


 

Angel and Gunn returned to the car where Wes and Cody waited after taking a trip around the estate to look for possible ways in.

“This place is sealed up tighter than a convention at the UN.” Gunn nodded toward the house. “Did you see the weaponry that the security guards are packing? Not your standard issue.”

“It’s not going to be easy to get inside.” Angel, more than a little worried, was fighting to keep control and not show his demon face.

“You have a plan?”

“No, not yet.” Angel stalked restlessly back and forth by the car.

Buffy had only gone about halfway up the dark staircase when she was hit on the back of the head, hard.

When she came to, she was tied with her hands and feet tied together behind her back and a rag stuffed in her mouth.  She was in what appeared to be a storage room, boxes stacked around and paintings leaning against the wall.  She couldn’t sit up tied in this angle, so she rolled on the floor trying to look around. There was a small round window on one wall and the one door. At least she appeared to be alone, for now. She struggled with the ropes, having no success in getting them untied.

Slowly cars began to trickle out the gates, as it appeared that the guests were now starting to leave. Even several of the security guards departed.  It appeared that only a few select associates were staying on for the big event.

Angel and team had simply waited, unable to find a way to get inside unnoticed. Apprehensive and unable to wait any longer, Angel grabbed his phone and dialed Buffy’s cell number.

Buffy jumped when she first heard the sound of her phone ringing. Where was it?  Rolling slightly she reached her purse, which had been dropped by her hip. Clutching the purse, she felt through the soft material until she found the phone. Groping it and pressing buttons, she finally found the one to answer. But, with the gag in her mouth she could only emit muffled groans.  She then tried tapping the phone on the ground – not very effective either. Not to mention, the caller would have no idea what was going on.  She dropped back to the floor with sigh. Her dagger!  Maybe she could get it out of her purse.

Angel waited for Buffy’s voice when the ringing stopped.  He almost hung up the phone thinking that he had lost the connection when he heard a slight moan and some tapping.  What the hell was going on?

“Hey. Girlie. What are you doing?” The thug that had caught her and trussed her up on the floor now opened the door.  He had just been coming to retrieve her for his boss when he heard her tapping on the floor.

Angel’s senses kicked into overdrive and his face changed to his demon visage when he heard the man’s faint question. He could just feel that Buffy was in trouble. He needed to get into that house.

Buffy was thrown over the guy’s shoulder as if she weighed nothing. Knowing that it might be her best hope, she grasped her purse as tightly as she could in her bound hands.

She was taken back down the stairs, through the house and down another set of stairs into another basement of sorts.  There she wasn’t surprised to see a handful of the party guests, including Hugh Randall himself as well as Justin Hanover.

“Justin, my friend. You did tell me that the new girl would prove interesting.  How right you are.”  Hugh Randall stepped forward as Buffy was dumped unceremoniously on the floor. “My dear, had I known you were interested in my art collection you need only have asked. I would have shown it to you myself.”

Buffy flinched and tried to pull back as Hugh moved to touch her. He was repulsive.  Watery, red-rimmed and faded blue eyes were sunk back in a fleshy, wrinkled head which was covered with a few strands of greasy, gray hair. His hands, sticking out of a burgundy smoking jacket, were swollen and red with open and weeping pustules.  His nails were yellowed, but filed carefully to points.  His teeth were darkened and yellow, and he spit as he talked to her.

“What’s the matter honey? Don’t want to me to touch you?” He leaned forward and slipped his finger into her top, between her breasts. “What beautiful big eyes you have. Hazel. One of my favorites.  I just love that look, don’t you? That frightened, I’ll-do-anything-please-don’t-hurt-me look.”  Hugh turned to his guests with a chuckle.

Angel, hearing the whole muted exchange through Buffy’s phone, roared and bolted for the gates only to be stopped by Gunn and Wes, both tackling him around the waist.

“Angel, man. What’s going on? What do you hear?”  Gunn panted but stayed on top of Angel unwilling to let him charge in and get killed.

“They. Someone. Has Buffy.”  Angel struggled, trying to get Wes and Gunn off him.

Wes pried the phone out of Angel’s hand and put it to his ear, motioning the others to silence.

“Hmmm. Yes, she’s just perfect. Her skin just gleams.” Hugh turned back to Buffy, running his scaly fingers over her collarbone and neck.  He paused, looking curiously at the scar on her neck before running his fingers across her face. Stepping back, he gestured to the thug that brought her in to put her on the small table in the center of the room. Cutting the rope that had tied her hands and feet together, he sat her on the table.

Ok, still tied but an improvement.  Now at least she wasn’t in a backbend.  Buffy tried to concentrate, looking around for possible escape routes or anything she could use to her advantage.

”Gentlemen. We are but one step away from our plan. We have the necessary sacrifices.” Pausing he gestured at Buffy. “All we need now is the Pestera Muierii Ruby, which I understand from very reliable sources, is now making it’s way through customs. I expect my colleagues to deliver it within a few hours.” Hugh smiled broadly, his thickset lips covered with spit.  “I suggest we adjourn to my den for cigar and cocktails until he arrives.”

While the other men filed out the door, Hugh turned once again to Buffy. Leaning in, he inhaled deeply. “Your smell is wonderful my dear. Fear and vanilla – a favorite of mine.” Slipping his finger into her top once again, he tugged it down revealing her strapless bra.  “You don’t really think this is of much use, do you?” Reaching around behind her, he unhooked her bra and pulled it away exposing her breasts.  “Hmm. Lovely, just lovely. These breasts are just luscious.”   Pinching her nipples in his stubby claw-like fingers, he rolled them and tugged on them before leaning down to suck one into his mouth. Buffy whimpered against the gag. “Oh, yes. You’re going to be perfect my dear.” Rubbing her chest one last time, he turned and walked out of the room. Buffy sagged against the table, breathing hard before frantically trying to get the dagger out her purse.

Wesley’s eyes widened as he picked up on the conversation. “Whatever he’s up to, it’s supposed to take place tonight. He’s waiting for the arrival of a ruby. I’m assuming that the sacrifices he refers to are Buffy and the other girls.”  Looking at Angel’s still angry face, Wes left off the last part of what he had heard.

“I suggest that we capture the courier on his way in, then take his place. At least one of us, perhaps more if the person is not alone, can get inside.”

Angel seemed to calm now that they had a plan.  “Wes, can you tell if Buffy’s all right? They haven’t done anything… anything to hurt her, have they?”

“I believe she’s fine right now.”  Wes lowered the phone since there appeared to be no additional conversation.


 

A new Mercedes sedan with darkened windows slowly pulled up to the closed gates of the mansion. Just as the gates began to open, Cordelia stepped out into the road and knocked on the window.

“Excuse me. Hello.” Smiling brightly and leaning forward to give the driver a look at her cleavage, she knocked again.  The window rolled down.

“Have you seen my dog?” Raising two fingers behind her back, Cordelia leaned in closer to the car, checking to see if the doors were unlocked.  “He just got away again.” Wagging her fingers, she gave the others the go ahead. “Hmm… nice car. New?”

Gunn crept silently around to the passenger door while Angel snuck up behind Cordelia. Moving together, Angel grabbed the driver while Gunn jerked open the passenger door. Within minutes, they, along with Wesley, had exchanged places with the men and were headed up to the house.


 

“Gentlemen, to the game room.  Boys, bring out the other girls. Our package is at the gate. Soon, we’ll be able to bring forth the demon Zarus, who in turn will bring us wealth and success in all matters that we so desire.  Personally, I’ve set my sights on success with lots of nubile young flesh. All it will require of course is a regular sacrifice.” Laughing manically, Hugh shuffled off toward the room where Buffy and now the others, waited.

Wes and Gunn entered the house first, Gunn carrying the box and Angel following. They were shown to the basement room where the others waited.

Buffy and the other two girls were seated on the table in the center of the room, their backs to each other.  A large circle had been drawn on the floor around them. Buffy attempted to lean forward, modestly attempting to conceal herself. The other girls were in an equal state of disrepair with torn clothing and bruises that indicated that they had been beaten.

Hugh moved to stand next to Buffy, reaching out to idly stroke her arm with his fingernail. “Please place the box, unopened of course, in the center of these beauties.” He gestured toward the center of the table.

Angel growled, struggling again to control his demon upon seeing Buffy and the lecherous toad that was touching her.  Buffy too had looked up, sensing that Angel was close by. Oh god. Justin was in the room. She hadn’t told Angel that he had seen them last night. Desperate to draw the attention to her before Angel was noticed, she kicked her legs out hard, catching Hugh in the stomach before rolling off the table. He staggered back with an “Ooof”, before reaching down to grab her hair and slap her hard across the face. “Stupid, stupid girl. What are you trying to do?” He slapped her once more before lifting her back up on the table.

“Wait. Hugh. This may be a trap.  I don’t know about those two, but that one, he was in the club last night.” Justin pointed to Angel, Buffy’s ruse too late. “Not to mention, he spent quite a bit of time in our little blondie there last night too.”

Angel lost his temper completely and vamped out, knocking the two security guards out cold before he stopped short as Hugh pulled a knife from his belt and held it up to Buffy’s throat.  The remaining three men were hesitant to approach the obviously angry vampire. Angel smiled evilly as he noticed that the odds were now decidedly in their favor.  Hugh’s remaining security guard was cowering against the back wall.

“I think that’s quite enough. Unless you want to see me gut her, you’ll step back to the door. This is all so very interesting. A vampire. And you were fucking him. Did you know that, my dear?  Of course you did.  You’ve a vampires mark.” He paused, stroking the scar on Buffy’s neck.  “This is very interesting indeed.  Justin, you were right in that she was just the girl that we needed to complete the set. You see, my dear, since you have a propensity to screw demons, what’s one more?”

Hugh leaned down and licked Buffy across the neck, leaving a wet trail of saliva. “And after Zarus is done with you, I’ll have my turn.”  Hugh had completely lost his grip on reality now, his greedy thoughts focused on bringing forth the demon that would give him more power. He failed to realize that his hold on Buffy was the only thing that was giving him the upper hand.

“Now, gentlemen, bring me my box and put it where I told you.” Turning back to the others, Hugh raised his arm, motioning forward.

Wes and Gunn hesitated, looking at each other.

“You imbeciles. You won’t stop me. I do hate to carve up such beauty, but I will do so if you don’t do as I say.” To illustrate his point, Hugh sliced into Buffy’s throat creating a thin but long line of blood. Buffy whimpered and her eyes eyes closed, watering. Angel looked away, then around the room, his anger barely restrained as he watched her eyes close in pain and fear and smelled her blood.

Unfortunately, when she kicked Hugh she had lost the grip on her purse, losing any possible weapon that she might have had.

Gunn took the box then set it behind Buffy.  Hugh began to chant, looking toward the sky and sprinkling some powdery substance on the ground.  As the ground began to move, two more of Hugh’s associates ran, scrambling under the table for cover. Gunn seized the opportunity and darted forward, grabbing the box and diving to the floor. Hugh was enraged – the box was needed in that exact spot or the ritual would fail.  Lunging after Gunn, Hugh tripped on his own fleshy feet and feel forward. Lowering his arms to break his fall, he drove the knife that was still in his hand directly into Buffy’s midsection. Buffy groaned, her eyes closing against the pain, the knife twisting further into her as the table tipped over spilled the women into the floor, Hugh landing on top of her.

Angel pounced with preternatural speed, pulling Hugh off of Buffy and breaking his neck in one snap. Gunn drew his gun and pointed it at Kevin then motioned for the other two men to come out. “Hand’s up, friends.”

Angel cradled Buffy in his arms, carefully removing the knife. “Sweetheart.  Buffy. Can you hear me?” She was losing a lot of blood, the scent further agitating Angel.  Her eyes closed tightly against the pain, Angel’s voice coming to her from a distance. Pulling off his coat, he covered her and pressed down, trying to stop the bleeding.

Wes dialed 911 on his phone, then began untying the other girls.

Angel held Buffy until the ambulance arrived, constantly checking her pulse, which was slow but strong. Wes and Gunn held Angel back when the paramedics took her away, Cordelia then led Angel away. “There’s only a few hours until dawn.  One of us will go to check on her.  You need to go home.  Spend some time with Connor.”


 

Buffy looked around groggily, her eyes settling on the beautiful red rose and orchid flower arrangement on the table next to her. A card was propped up at the base. Leaning forward to get the card, Buffy groaned as an intense wave of pain shot through her mid-section. She shuttered as she recalled Hugh Randall’s lecherous pawing, then the struggle and pain. Angel talking to her, holding her was the last thing she remembered.  What had happened?  Was everyone okay?

Opening the card, she recognized Angel’s calligraphic style writing. “Hope you’re feeling better soon.  A.” Well, that was certainly noncommittal. Buffy sighed, then reached for the phone to call Giles. She hated hospitals, and wanted to go home.  Maybe he could talk them into letting her go home to Sunnydale.

Angel played with Connor and did what he could on a few cases, trying to keep busy until sundown. Cordelia had stopped by the hospital earlier, dropping off the flowers and checking on Buffy. She had told him that Buffy was fine, but he’d feel much better when he had a chance to see for himself.

Buffy was dozing when he arrived, so he sat quietly in the chair next to the bed trying not to wake her. He studied her, taking inventory with his eyes trying to determine for himself the extent of her injuries. She appeared pale and delicate against the white sheets, surprising him when she opened her eyes.

“Hey.” He leaned forward with a slight smile.  “How’s my girl?” The words slipped out naturally, easily.

Buffy had expected to see Angel.  He had always been exceptionally caring and genuine and there was that deep sense of responsibility. She would bet money that he visited each and every person – particularly female persons – that ended up hurt on any of his cases.  Which is why she tried not to read too much – make that anything – into his visit. However, none of that logic stopped her heart from doing a flip-flop at his words.

“Me? Except for feeling like a filet o’ fish, I’m good. Want to go home though.” Buffy smiled slightly.

“What if I said that I could bust you out of this place?” Angel knew that Buffy hated hospitals, that she had called Giles earlier asking him to come get her. Giles had told him that when Angel called him. He was concerned about her health but Angel knew he could take care of her – he wanted to take care of her.

“I’d say yes, please.” Buffy moved to sit up but Angel stopped her.

“There’s a condition.”

Buffy looked up at him, not sure what to expect. “Um, ok what?”

“You have to do what I tell you.  I’m not going to take you out of her only to have you risk hurting yourself. Deal?”

“Deal.”

Buffy had been at Angel’s almost a week and had loved every minute of it. He was incredibly solicitous, cooking for her, taking care of her wounds, and trying to keep her entertained. They talked about everything – except themselves or what happened between them. She got to know Connor and had fallen into the routine of playing with him in the afternoons while Angel worked. The three of them had breakfast and dinner together, usually joined by one or more of the AI team.

She was almost healed – good ol’ slayer healing ability – and knew that she should get back to Sunnydale and her future.  Staying here, being around Angel was dangerous to her psyche. After some convincing and admittedly some tears (who knew Giles would give in so easily to tears?), Buffy convinced Giles that the exchange program would be good for her and had even gotten him to fill out the paperwork.  If all went according to plan, she’d leave for her semester in – Ireland? – in less than a month. When Giles had called her back to tell her, she’d been surprised to say the least but Ireland was the only program still available. And Buffy wondered if there was some karmic force at work that wanted to make sure that she would always be reminded of Angel.

She still knew very little about Angel’s life.  She had figured out that neither Cordelia or Fred were Connor’s mother, but she didn’t know who was.  And she had no idea about Angel’s relationship with either of the two women. All she did know was that she was sleeping in Angel’s bed, he was sleeping elsewhere. Sighing heavily on that thought, she moved to pack her things – which Angel had brought over from her hotel.

When Angel entered his apartment just after sundown, he knew she was gone. The rooms were utterly still, strangely empty now that he was used to her being there. His mind was searching for an ordinary excuse why she would be gone – shopping, movie – when he spotted the note propped up on the pillow.

He picked it up, staring at it for long moments, studying her small script. She thanked him for everything, especially her escape from the hospital. She glowingly praised his work and wished him continued success with Angel Investigations, but warned him not to work too hard. She congratulated him on Connor and said how lucky he was to have such a wonderful little boy. She would send a few things for Connor if he didn’t mind. She wanted him to remember his “Aunt Buffy”. She ended the note by wishing him happiness – saying that there was no one that she knew that deserved it more.

Angel crushed the note in his hand, knowing that he shouldn’t have waited to talk to her about their future. He wanted to wait until she was well, then maybe take her out for a romantic evening.  Did anything ever go according to plan with Buffy?

Five days passed. Angel’s thoughts vacillated between letting her go and running after her. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore – he had to see her. Angel threw some of his and Connor’s things into a bag.  Carrying Connor and the bag, Angel passed through the offices telling Wes and Cordelia that he was going to Sunnydale.  No, he didn’t know when he’d be back.  He’d call.

After the door closed, Cordelia cursed a blue streak.  Buffy was always trouble. Admittedly, she was disappointed too. Angel going after Buffy meant that she probably wasn’t going to get another chance to snag the handsome vampire.

Angel went straight to Buffy’s house when he arrived in Sunnydale. There were a few lights on, but the house was quiet. Buffy’s jeep was parked in the driveway behind a small Honda.

Willow answered Angel’s knock.  “Angel. And, and- this must be Connor.”

“Willow. Hi. I need to see Buffy. Is she here?”

“No. She went out on patrol awhile ago.” Willow stopped staring and stepped back from the door. “She should be back soon. You can come in and wait if you want.”

Angel’s first instinct was to go look for her, but he knew Connor was tired and needed his sleep. “Thanks. I’ll put Connor down in her room if you don’t mind.”

Boxes and suitcases were stacked around the dimly lit room. Was Buffy packing? Where was she going? Angel took off his coat, then sat down with Connor on the bed, rocking him gently to sleep as he looked around the room – memories of the time he spent here with Buffy rushing back. Funny how her room seemed to have stayed the same, while they had both changed so much.  Angel soon dozed off with Connor, content for the moment to be among Buffy’s things.

Buffy felt the familiar sensation of Angel’s presence as she entered the house. She didn’t notice his car outside, but she hadn’t really been paying attention when she came up the walk. She had spent the better part of the evening pouring her heart out to Spike.  She had told him everything about her trip to LA, including the job at the strip bar, the horrible Hugh Randall and finally, that she had slept with Angel – in the car, in the parking lot no less. Spike laughed, wishing he had been able to see her performance. He teased her unmercifully about it – knowing that she had told the others a highly edited version of her events in LA. He was uncharacteristically quiet when she told him about Angel – usually Spike was filled with all kinds of remarks about the “great pouf”.  While he said nothing, Spike was seething inside. Buffy was a treasure – how could Angel just let her go? But, Spike also realized that Buffy probably didn’t give Angel much of a chance.  He knew that she could be cruel when cornered, and would often strike out first to hurt rather than be hurt.  Ultimately, Spike encouraged her to go to Ireland, knowing it wasn’t the best place to forget Angel but it was better than Sunnydale. He’d miss her terribly, but promised to head over to Europe and show her the sites – particularly Prague.

Buffy would miss Spike too – he understood her when the others didn’t. They had a brief little fling, but it ended when they both realized that it wasn’t about love, it was about loneliness and the desire to feel something besides pain and hurt. Since then, they had become great friends, often patrolling together or just hanging out.

Buffy sat her bag down with a quiet thud and watched Angel and Connor sleeping on her bed. How many times had she wished for this? Imagined this? But why was he here? And why now?  Sighing heavily, Buffy grabbed her robe and headed into the shower hoping that the hot water would help to clear her muddled thoughts.

As soon as she entered the bedroom after her shower, Connor jumped off the bed and shrieked “Buffeee! Buffeee”, before rushing over to grab her legs. Angel stirred as he felt the toddler climb over him and as heard his voice.

Buffy leaned down and wrapped Connor in a big hug. “Hey you. What are you doing here?”  Meeting Angel’s eyes over the toddlers head, directing the question at him.

“Buffy. We need to talk. About us. I would have brought it up sooner, but I wanted to wait until you were well.  I had no idea you’d just take off.”

Buffy sat on the bed, settling Connor comfortably on her lap and handed him one of her stuffed animals. “Ok.”

Angel looked around the room at the boxes. Standing, then pacing around the room, unsure where to start, Angel waffled.  “Where are you going?”

“That’s what you came to talk about?”  Buffy wasn’t sure where this conversation was going, but that wasn’t what she expected. “I’m leaving in a few days for Ireland. I’m doing an exchange program there through the University.”

“What?” Angel was clearly surprised, that answer being the last thing that he thought she’d say. “When did you- when did you decide to do that?”

“Honestly? After I went to LA, after we-“ Buffy looked down at Connor, sitting contentedly on her lap then back at Angel’s face. “After that night. I realized then that you had moved on. You made a life for yourself, you were doing things that really mattered, you had a family, friends.  And, I realized that I hadn’t.  I’ve been pretending for 7 years.  Pretending that I was over you, pretending that I was happy, pretending that I had a normal life, pretending that you still loved me…” Buffy inhaled deeply, trying to control her emotions.  Kissing Connor lightly on the head, she continued, “Making Lo- Being with you was a mistake. I thought I was mature enough to handle it, but I’m not. It’s ten times more painful now than I had ever imagined.  Besides, you cheated on Cordelia.”

“I never meant to hurt you.” The hurt and disappointment on Angel’s face was plain.

“Angel, that’s just it. You never mean to – but you always do. It’s not your fault really – it’s that I’m way too attached to you for my own good. And for the record, I never wanted to hurt you either.”

“I didn’t cheat on Cordelia. I’m not with her like that… anymore.” Angel looked away, knowing that Buffy need to hear the truth but unsure of her reaction.  “We were together for awhile – I was lonely, she was lonely. We were together a lot – work mostly – and there was this incident at the ballet.  Eventually we realized that it was – nice, but not love. At least not the kind of love either of us wanted.”  Pausing, Angel waited for Buffy’s reaction.

Buffy laid the now sleeping toddler on to the bed, then led Angel out of the room and downstairs to the kitchen.  “Connor’s mother?”

“Darla.”

Buffy whirled in surprise at the name.  “But I thought…”

“We all did. Wolfram and Hart brought her back as human.  Dru made her a vampire again. I had sex with her. I was in a bad place – I didn’t care if I lost my soul. I’m not sure why or how, but she got pregnant with Connor. She staked herself when he was born.” Angel looked down at the floor then back at Buffy, his memories of the experiences with Darla still painful.

“Oh.” Buffy turned away, trying to make sense of it all. “Your soul?”

“It was given to me shortly after Connor’s birth.  I went to the Powers and demanded it.  It was too dangerous for Connor otherwise.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Her voice was barely a whisper.

“I didn’t know what to say.  Or how to say it. After all, we hadn’t been in touch for awhile.”

“And you were involved with Cordelia.”

“Yes. And I thought you had Riley.”

“And Fred?”

“We rescued her, she became part of the family.  She needed us.  At one time, she might have wanted something more from me, but I never- it never happened.”

“So, what do you want now, here?”

“I miss you. I’ve missed you every day. I thought it would get easier, but it hasn’t. Things have been pretty bad at times. You gave me a purpose, a reason to keep fighting. I lost that for a while. Connor was the miracle that brought it back. I don’t understand how or why he was given to me, but I do know that there are very few people that come into your life and make such a profound difference.” Angel stepped forward, grabbed Buffy’s arms and turning her to face him.

“You deserve him.” Buffy looked up at Angel, her heart pounding.

“Buffy. I know that you deserve more than I can give you. You deserve the best in life.  But I-I love you.  I never stopped. I want to share my life with you. I want you to share our lives.” Angel paused, unsure of Buffy’s reaction.

“Angel. You don’t know how many times I wanted to hear you say that. I’ve imagined it like a zillion times. But I’m not sure I trust you. What if you change your mind tomorrow and decide I deserve more? I can’t have my heart ripped out again. You can hurt me too much.”

“I know. We can’t just pick up where we left off.  We’ll start slow and rebuild.”

“I can’t.” Buffy swallowed hard, knowing that what she was about to say was going to be hard and painful, but it was what she had to do.

“Angel. I love you – you know that.  But I can’t be with you. Not now.  I need some time to figure out who Buffy really is – complete package, slayer, woman, whatever.  I need to define myself as a whole person – not a missing half, which is how I’ve felt these last few years.”

Angel stared, knowing that Buffy was right but not wanting to accept it.

“I know that I risk losing you by leaving.  And I don’t want to ask you to wait for me. But if you’re willing, maybe we can get to know each other again. We can write, and e-mail – maybe even call.” Buffy forced a smile, her eyes shining brightly with tears. “And, and I’ll come home for break – we can see each other then.”

Angel pulled her close, hugging her tightly as he closed his eyes.

Inhaling deeply, Buffy pressed close to Angel, wanting to feel him against her again. “If you… Then… When I get back, if you want… and if I… We can maybe try this again then.” Her words were uncertain, hesitant.

Tilting her face up to look at him, Angel smiled.  “Buffy, I’ve waited for you for almost 250 years. I think I can wait one more. I know now – more than ever – that I want to share my life with you. I want *you* to be sure.”

Wrapped her arms around his neck, Buffy pulled herself up on tiptoe for a kiss, unable to resist him. “I will miss you.”

One kiss turned to several, as both Buffy and Angel pressed together longing for more contact. Angel’s hands slid from her hips to her bottom, lifting her slightly to fit into his arousal.  Buffy moaned and pushed closer, one hand tugging at his hair the other clutching his shoulder.

Breathing heavily, Buffy broke off the kiss.  “I… I… don’t know… if I can do this…”

“Sorry. I didn’t-“ Releasing his hold on her, Angel stepped back. “You’re doing the right thing Buffy. Connor and I will miss you, but we’ll write. We’ll head back to LA just after sunset, unless you need help with anything-?”

“No, I’m good. I’ll send you my address when I get there.  And I’ll call.”

Buffy walked Angel to his car, carrying Connor. They had enjoyed spending the day together, just the three of them.  She took tons of pictures of the two of them today, hoping that she’d have some good ones to take to Ireland.

“Ooh, this is hard.” Buffy sighed, putting Connor in his car seat.

Angel hugged her then kissed her neck, her earlobe and her cheek before wrapping his arms around her and pulling her into him.  “Hmmm…” burying his face in her neck and hair, he knew it was unfair of him to tease and arouse her, but he wanted to leave her with something to remember him. He stroked her hips and sides, lightly gliding his hands over the sides of her breasts before returning his hands to her waist.  “You feel so good.”   Finally his lips settled on hers, kissing her deeply.

Buffy responded immediately to Angel’s caresses, knowing that it would have to last her for a while. Damn. Maybe she should have suggested that they make love one more time… No, bad thought Buffy.  She needed to be strong.

Angel pulled away, unwrapping Buffy’s arms reluctantly from around his neck. “I’ll be thinking of you, Sweetheart.”

“Oh, and Buffy? One favor when you return? Would you mind trying on your schoolgirl outfit again? You know, the one you wore at the strip club?  I’ve an urge to play naughty school with you…”

Buffy cursed as Angel drove away, desire flaring through her at his words. She knew he provoked her deliberately.

She headed into the house to finish packing and find the academic calendar. Now when was that first break in the semester when she would be back…?