The Hunger, Chapter 1

Author’s Notes: This story is written in response to a challenge of sorts.

Challenge Notes & Things to happen:

  1. Cordelia and Pike begin to find romance.
  2. For the duration of her stay, Buffy refuses to have sex with Riley. (This is for tact as well as part of one of her soon to be revealed secrets.)
  3. Angelus has to somehow show up
  4. Riley and Xander (and Angel in his own way) as well as Cordelia are exhibiting jealousy over the rapport between Pike and Buffy. Being the insecure jerk he is, Riley bugs Buffy so he can eavesdrop on her. He does this to ensure nothings happening with Pike or with Angel, whom he still feels jealous over.
  5. Although all are thoroughly disgusted by Riley’s bugging – when Angel discovers it – nobody is above listening in when a truly interesting conversation occurs.
  6. Must be NC-17
  7. Xander’s embarrassing little secret about his night with Faith to be revealed

Author: LelaRose, Rehatha, & Gia

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

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

Pairing: B/A, C/Pike.

Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; all others please ask.

Originally posted: Oct 28, 2002

Hunger.

The sharp pain that gnawed at their bellies was all that they knew. It called for warm blood and it called for flesh to fill the never-ending grinding, emptiness.

They yearned for the hunt. They yearned to pour out of their darkened den and search for prey to be brought to ground, prey to be ripped open. They yearned for that moment during the feed when the emptiness was filled, if only momentarily, and the terrible hunger was appeased.

The hunt leader growled, the sound made moist by the saliva that dribbled from his jaws. Food. Blood. Hunger. He did not rise to lead the pack from their den. The hunger must wait. The Light was still out, pouring its vicious illumination over their territory.

Hunger. Hunger.

The hunt leader rested his chin on his out-stretched paws, growling futility as the terrible hunger ate at him. As the ache grew, his growls were interspersed with soft whines. Moments ticked by and it grew stronger.

Unable to bear it a moment longer, the hunt leader abruptly snapped at his flank, ripping at the raw and tattered flesh of his own body. The coppery taste of blood exploded across his tongue and for a moment, that a second, a single taste was enough.

Growling filled his ears and the hunt leader focused his wild eyes on his hunt pack, seeing them closing in on him.

Hunger.

The hunger must be appeased.

He rose and sprang at the smallest of his pack, swiftly ripping open it’s throat. As one beast the pack turned on their fallen brethren, their sharp teeth ripping open flesh in great ragged strips, plunging their snouts into the fallen one’s belly to gobble down his internal organs. The fallen cried and whimpered, snapping weakly at the brethren and quickly swallowing the strips of its own flesh that fell by its maw.

Hunger was silenced.

The hunt leader withdrew to lie down. He waited, his dark eyes flashing atavistic red.

The others withdrew, their hunger too, momentarily sated. The fallen staggered weakly to his feet and withdrew to a quiet corner to wait. Its ribs and leg bones gleamed pink and bare in the dim light as it lay down and rested its head on its paws.

The hunt leader growled louder, sounds bubbling through his saliva.

Hunger. The hunger was an endless gnawing ache. It needed flesh and blood.

*****

His nostrils flared abruptly and the hunt leader lifted his head, tracking the scent that promised to fill the painful emptiness: a warm blood.

They looked out at the sky from different cities. She sat on her roof the air ruffling her hair around her face. She hugged her arms around her legs leaning her head on her knees to ward of the chill of the air that floated around her. She was restless. Always restless. Her hunger so intense it was painful. Never allowing her rest.

In a different city not far away her mate stood on his roof. He barely noticed the cool air floating around him. His body immune to the chill. His large frame was covered in dark clothing. His form was rigid as he studied the LA skyline. He was restless. His hunger eating away at him. His hunger always ate at him. It would not allow him to rest.

Hunger was all they knew. For years it ate at their emotions; it ate at their sanity; it ate at their souls. They had attempted to appease the hunger with others. Their attempts had been unsuccessful. The hunger still gnawed at them clawing from inside demanding to be fed; demanding fulfillment; demanding satiation. No matter what they did how hard they tried the emptiness was never filled. Gnawing at their insides twisting them in knots. Making them want to howl from the pain of their constant hunger. Their lives one long day after day of gut wrenching never-ending hunger. Hunger for the flesh and blood of their mate. Hunger to taste and be tasted by each other. Hunger to devour and be devoured by their one true mate. Hunger that each knew only the other could sate but neither seeking out that one person who would sate their hunger.

Hunger. It tortured them each day, unabated, unsated. Hunger it was all they knew.

*****

Cordelia Chase opened her compact and smoothed her fingertip over her lips, making sure her lipstick was perfect. She was about to snap the compact closed and tuck it back in her purse when she paused to meet the eyes of her reflection.

“You look perfect. You are perfect.”

She swung out of Angel’s black GTX and locked the car door. She shimmied slightly to straighten her short skirt then looked in the direction of her destination.

The dark-haired seer hesitated as she surveyed the location. Reaching into her purse, she pulled out the audition clipping and checked the address again:

876 21st Street. Yep, this was the place.

“What a dump,” she muttered.

The dingy warehouse-looking building was an imposing sight amidst even the other dingy warehouse-looking buildings. The area looked rather deserted for an open audition site but perhaps the dismal area had driven away other prospective actresses, those with less nerve.

Maybe she should have let Wesley drive her. Well, too late now. She strode up to the warehouse door and shoved it open. The light from the outside world cut through the gloom like a knife, briefly illuminating the shadowy domicile, but the atmosphere sank back beneath its murky atmosphere as soon as the door shut behind her. Cordelia blinked, trying to accustom herself to the gloom. Where were the cameras? Hell, where were the *people?*

“Hello? Hello? I’m Cordelia Chase and I have an appointment for an audition.”

The inside of the warehouse looked – if possible – worse than the outside. The dark-haired seer tucked the clipping back into her purse and took a few steps further into the shadows. Her voice echoed eerily though the gloom, as did the clicks of her high heels on the cement floor.

She wrinkled her nose as the foul stench of rotted meat wafted through the air to her. The shadows seemed to grow darker and more menacing with each passing moment.

“Forget this,” she whispered, turning to walk back to the door.

Her path of retreat was blocked. Several dogs padded forward, their toenails clicking loudly on the floor, but they were like no dogs that she had ever seen before.

They were sleek and compact. The little fur that remained on their bodies was short and black. If flesh hadn’t been hanging from their bodies in meaty rents, allowing pink bones beneath to glisten in the half-light, if they didn’t have mouths full of sharp, jagged, broken teeth and pink frothy saliva, and if they didn’t have glowing red eyes, she might have thought that they looked like Dobermans or Rottweilers.

When one moved closer to her, Cordelia backed away, her throat tight with fear. Oh God, she was going to die in this stinking warehouse. The dog thing growled, pulling its lips back to bare even more of its broken teeth.

“Nice doggie. Good doggie.” Cordelia murmured softly, hoping to calm the beasts. She vaguely remembered someone saying that dogs could sense fear, but if you managed to stay calm they were less likely to attack. Not these dogs, however…

It lunged at her, leaping in a graceful arc, aiming for her throat even as the ex-May-queen screamed shrilly. Suddenly, a crossbow bolt struck the beast in the shoulder, knocking it to the floor.

“Forget the nice doggie crap and climb that ladder!”

Cordelia stared with wide eyes at the fallen beast, then at the other eight steadily approaching dogs, then up at the strange man on the catwalk above her. He aimed his crossbow and fired at the next dog.

“Up the ladder! Now!”

Turning around, Cordelia found the ladder he was talking about two feet from her. Wasting no further time, she lunged for the steel contraption and pulled herself quickly upward.

The other dogs lunged forward to prevent their prey from escaping. Claws and jagged teeth ripped at her calves and feet, yanking one of her three-inch heels from her foot completely. Cordelia whimpered at the pain and kept scrambling upward.

The gun shot explosions were deafening and the dogs fell below her. Cordelia threw herself onto the catwalk, sobs and hysterical screams ripping from her throat. She trembled as she looked down at the dogs and gasped as the two that had been struck down by the crossbow bolts slowly stood.

Of the remaining nine, five rose, lifting their snarling muzzles up towards her.

“Can you walk?”

She jerked, startled to find the man standing next to her prone figure. She trembled uncontrollably and turned her frightened gaze to the narrow handsome features of the man who’d just saved her life. She wondered distantly what that annoying chattering sound was, but couldn’t still her shaking enough to ask.

He knelt next to her and gathered her gently into his arms, cradling her shoulders against his solid chest.

“Easy. It’s all right. You’re going to be okay,” he whispered soothingly, stroking her now-tangled hair back from her face.

“What’s your name?”

“C – Co – Cordelia.” She swallowed.

“Cordelia,” he repeated. “It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay.
But we can’t stay here. Not long anyway.”

She looked over the railing at the slavering hellhounds below her. They leapt on their hind feet, barking and snarling, snapping at the air as they tried to reach her. Pink, frothy slobber splattered from their snapping jaws and she distantly wondered whether or not they were rabid as well as supernatural. After several moments of fruitless leaping and snapping, the fiends seemed to realize that their prey was out of reach.

The leader turned his head and snapped at the wooden bolt in his side, crumbling the shaft to splinters before turning to its fallen brethren.

Cordelia watched in disgust as the surviving dogs ripped into their fallen members, snarling as they gobbled at the red meat. Then, to her horror, one of the fallen four began to whine and crawl away from the vicious assault, snapping at its pack mates as it did so.

The ex-May-queen swallowed her nausea as she studied the corpse-like hounds.

“Cordelia.”

His soft, throaty voice called her back from her impending hysteria and she looked into the calm topaz flecked hazel of his eyes.

“I know you’re frightened, but we have to leave before nightfall. They can’t conquer the ladders, but I can’t say the same for the fire escapes. Those might not be such a difficult feat. Now, c’mon.”

He pulled her to her feet, making a sharp sound of distress and staggering before he abruptly locked his legs and steadied the both of them. He tucked his shoulder under her arm and they made lurching progress across the walkway toward the windows.

Idly she wondered whether she had gained so much weight that a handsome young man was bogged down by her weight, then realized that they were probably so unsteady because she was only wearing one of her three-inch heels.

Her hero guided her across the walkway to an open window. “Climb through. The fire-escape is on the other side.”

She glanced fearfully down at the dogs.

“Don’t worry,” he reassured her. “Sun’s still out. They can’t follow us.”

After a moment’s consideration, she nodded.

“Hang on just a sec.”

Cordelia closed her eyes as her hero left her side, going back the way they had come. He returned quickly, slinging the strap of his crossbow over his shoulder.

“Belongs to a friend,” he commented. “She’ll kill me if I lose it. C’mon. Out we go.”

They clambered out of the window awkwardly, landing on the promised fire escape. From there, they proceeded quickly down the stairs and away from the building.

Cordelia clutched him, wanting desperately to burst into tears.

“Is that your car?”

She nodded.

“Okay. You’re going into shock here and you’re in no condition to drive. We’ll take my truck and come back for it later.”

“B – But the dogs – ”

“They won’t step into the sunlight. If we can’t get it before sundown, we’ll just come back for it tomorrow. Or do you have somebody you can call? Somebody who’ll listen if you tell them to pick it up right away and -this is important- to not go into the warehouse?”

Cordelia took a deep breath and gathered her thoughts. “Wesley and Gunn.”

“You have a cell phone? They have keys?”

She opened her purse, still slung over her shoulder and held the technical gadget aloft triumphantly.

“Right,” he murmured. “Call now.”

She hit the speed dial and winced slightly as he pulled her arm back over his shoulder. They again made their awkward lurching progress around the side of the building to his truck. Her legs felt as if they’d been put through and meat grinder and every step burned.

“Angel Investigations.”

“Gunn, it’s Cordy.”

Her hero unlocked the front passenger door of the king cab and helped her in.

“Hey, Cordy? How’d the audition go?”

“There’s been an incident,” she answered vaguely. “I can’t explain right now, but I need you and Wesley to come down here and get Angel’s car.”

“Angel’s car?” Gunn repeated uncertainly. “No. You stay right where you are and we’ll be down to pick you up.”

“Gunn, I’m all right. You guys just come get Angel’s car. You know how he is about that thing. Come get it right now, in the bright light of day. Bring the crossbow and don’t, I repeat don’t go inside the building. Just get the car and get back to the office. I’ll be back as soon as I can to explain everything.”

Gunn ground his teeth together. “Girl, what the hell is going on?”

Just then her rescuer jerked open the back passenger door of the truck and tossed the crossbow in before pulling out a couple of other items. Shutting the door firmly, he tossed a blanket over her lap.

Relieved at the sudden warmth, Cordelia pulled the cover around her shoulders.

“The address is 876 21st Street.”

“Actually,” her dark-haired young man interrupted, “this is 876 East 21st Street.”

“876 East 21st Street,” she repeated. “Please just do it quick okay? I’ll explain later.”

As she spoke, her hero opened a bag a greenish paste and began to smear the colorful concoction over the wounds on her legs. She opened her mouth to object, but at the first touch of the cool green goo, the pain in her legs began to ease.

“And just where the hell are you going to be?” Gunn demanded.

“Me? Where am I going? I think I’m going to the hospital.” She hung up before he could say another word and looked at the dark-haired young man in consternation. “You are taking me to the hospital right? That goo is not the only medical attention I’m getting, right?”

He grinned wryly. “Don’t worry. I’ll get you stitched up and antibiotic’d before I take you home.” He shut the passenger door and limped around the front of the truck to slide into the driver’s seat. “Wesley and Gunn, huh?”

“They’re my coworkers. Did you get hurt back there?”

“I’m fine.” He started the engine and put the truck in gear. “Where do you work?”

“A detective agency.”

“Angel huh? And that black GTX is her car? Nice machine.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “It’s just a car.”

He laughed softly and shook his head.

“And she is actually a he.”

“Boyfriend?”

She snorted indignantly. “No way. He’s way too high maintenance. If there’s going to be a high maintenance person in my relationship, it’s going to be me.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” He turned the steering wheel and guided the truck out of the alley and on to the street. “So, what were you doing down here anyways?”

Cordelia sighed. “I thought I was going to an audition for suntan lotion, not dog chow.”

“And you got your directions mixed up?”

She rolled her eyes. God, what a typical guy. Always harping on the fact that women had a bad time with directions. “And I got my directions mixed up.”

“And you’ve got friends who’ve got crossbows too, huh?” He grinned. “I wonder what else we’ve got in common.”

Cordelia tugged the soft blanket more firmly about her shoulders and rubbed her cold hands together. His words sparked her curiosity and she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “Thank you. For saving me back there.”

“Glad to do it. It’s nice not to be the damsel.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.”

“Well, thank you. Again. Really. You saved my life. I’d be nothing but kibbles and meaty bits, or bones or something if it weren’t for you.”

He waved her comment away, embarrassed at being thanked for just doing the right thing. Noticing that she was her still shivering, despite the heat of the day, he turned on the heater.

Warm air blasted across her chilled skin and Cordelia sighed as slowly, the terror of the attack seemed to fade just a little. She glanced at her hero to thank him and smiled when she saw the trickles of sweat gathering at his temples. For the first time since Doyle’s death, she felt like there was a man thought that she was important. Important in a man to womankind of way, not in seer-friend-coworker way. And despite her recent track record for falling for losers, he was well groomed, with his hair neatly – and attractively – slicked back. And though he wasn’t dressed in designer labels, he was admittedly good-looking in his jeans and dark T-shirt.

“What’s your name?”

“Pike.”

Cordelia stared at his handsome face for a moment. “Pike’s not a name, it’s a fish.”

He burst out in surprised laughter. “I’ve never heard that one before,” he replied in an ironic tone.

*****

Wesley watched from the doorway of Angel’s office as the vampire dropped the telephone receiver into its cradle.

“Is she alright?” the ex-Watcher demanded.

Angel glared at the telephone. “They wouldn’t give me any details about her condition. The charge nurse just said that she checked out about an hour ago.”

“Well, she should be back soon then.”

The dark-eyed vampire nodded. “Did you see anything strange when you guys went to get the car?”

“No. But then again we didn’t go into the building, just as she said.

Considering she suggested that we bring crossbows and wanted us there during daylight, I suspect that she came across a large vampire nest.”

Angel frowned thoughtfully, doubting that conclusion. If it had been a vampire nest, she would likely just have said so. “Maybe,” he temporized. “Where’s Gunn?”

The young black man stepped next to Wesley. “Getting a decent cup of Joe before Cordelia comes back and makes a fresh pot. Woman sure can make bad coffee.”

Angel smiled wryly. “I wouldn’t know. I don’t drink it.”

Gunn lifted his mug in a salute. “Take my word for it. Speaking of words, heard any from Cordelia?”

“Not yet.”

“Hello? Hey guys, I’m back.”

Gunn and Wesley turned to see Cordelia stepping through the Hyperion Hotel’s glass doors with a slender young man at her side.

Angel slid past his two employees and went to meet his wounded seer. Bandages swathed her legs from her knees to her ankles and around one-foot. Angel’s nostrils flared as he scented fresh blood beneath the pristine cloth as well as the astringent odor of hospital antiseptic.

The impractical high heels she had been wearing earlier were gone and her once fashionable attire was now filthy and torn. She walked slowly, favoring her bandaged foot.

The young man at her side walked as slowly as she, leaning heavily on a mahogany cane that Angel recognized as an antique swordstick. His limp was pronounced and he periodically grimaced in pain as he shifted his weight on to his right leg.

“This entire building is your office?” the young man was saying as they approached.

Cordelia grinned. “What can I say? We like space.”

“Yeah,” he chuckled. “Either that or you’re compensating for something.”

“Ah,” she reproved sharply. “No Freud remarks. The man was a misogynistic pig. I’d hate to think that you advocated the teachings of a misogynistic pig. You don’t, do you?”

Angel watched incredulously as Cordelia turned a flirtatious glance up at her limping escort.

“No, ma’am. I’m a big believer that misogyny is wrong.”

Unreasonably annoyed with the flirtatious banter between the two, Angel rushed forward to take Cordelia’s hand and carefully guide her to the circular settee.

“What happened to you?” he demanded as he knelt in front of her. He tilted her face, examining the scrapes and bruises on her cheeks and forehead.

“You didn’t tell us what happened, you didn’t answer your cell phone and we had no idea just how badly you were hurt.”

Cordelia patted his hand absently. “Angel, I’m fine. You have to turn your cell phone off at the hospital, that’s why I didn’t answer.”

“You still didn’t check your messages and check in,” he reproved, his dark eyes angry and assessing.

The dark-haired seer’s eyes glinted temperamentally. “Hel-lo. Pot, kettle. Glass houses and stones.”

“You knew we’d be worried,” Angel scolded. “It was completely irresponsible.”

Pike stepped closer to the bickering duo, who appeared, despite Cordelia’s disavowal, to be arguing in an all-too-couple-like fashion. “Easy there big guy.”

Angel froze and turned his attention to the slender young man that was standing next to him.

“After a tetanus shot, an antibiotic booster, some suturing and the beginnings of a rabies series, I don’t think the lady needs you breathing down her neck.”

Annoyed at the interference, Angel stood to tower over the young man threateningly. “Listen, Mr. Good Samaritan, we appreciate your taking her to the hospital and bringing her home, but you can leave now. We’ve got it from here.”

The two men glowered at each other, Angel’s taller and more muscular form easily making him the more intimidating in the showdown of wills. After a moment, Pike nodded stiffly. He didn’t need this crap, he had things to take care of, and despite his growing interest the beautiful brunette, he did not have the time to fight off a ‘non-boyfriend’ for the right to get to know her better. Besides, demon-dogs had to come before flirtations, even if the girl in question had the most beautiful golden-brown eyes and a pair of spectacular legs. He turned to leave.

Cordelia put out her hand and caught his arm. “No. Pike, please stay. Angel, sit down and relax; he’s a good guy. Pike here saved me from becoming undead doggie chow. So could we please stop the testosterone pissing contest, go to our neutral corners and have some introductions before we decide whether or not we like each other.”

Angel looked down into Cordelia’s determined expression then reluctantly sat down next to her. Pike hesitated, a sixth-sense telling him that he should just go and forget Cordelia and her not-boyfriend boss Angel, but against his better judgment he painfully lowered himself to her other side and stretched his leg out.

Cordelia stared at his leg and then the cane in dismay. “Did you have a doctor look at that?” she asked.

He glanced at her and smiled reassuringly. “Yeah, awhile ago. It’s an old injury, don’t worry about it.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

Pike nodded and forced himself to refrain from massaging his aching hip joint. “I’m fine. I just over-extended myself today. That’s all.”

“Okay, if you’re sure…” Cordelia nodded dubiously. “Angel, this is Pike, Pike, Angel.”

Wesley cleared his throat. “Did you say undead dogs?”

Cordelia pointed at the athletic looking black man. “That’s Gunn.”

Gunn held his coffee cup up and jerked his chin at the newcomer. “Yo.”

Pike nodded.

“Excuse me,” Wesley repeated forcefully. “The dogs. Undead zombie dogs?”

“And that’s Wesley,” Cordelia finished.

Wesley sighed in a put upon manner. “Yes, yes, nice to meet you. The dogs. Cordelia, what did they look like? Were they mastiff-like with more than one head or were they slender with longish ears, rather jackal-like.”

Cordelia pursed her lips, thinking back to her earlier adventure. “One head, jackal-like, but not-so-long ears. Oh, and they weren’t slender, they were kind of muscular, larger built, no tails and sorta meaty looking.”

Wesley glared at the ex-May-queen in annoyance. “So basically not like the jackal dog at all. Gunn, would you mind very much fetching the Gustalk’s Encyclopedia of Demonic Animals from the fourth shelf in the office?”

Gunn raised his brows at the request but went to fetch the requested volume without protest.

“Red eyes, kind of cannibalistic, impervious to crossbow bolts and bullets – ”

“Crossbow bolts and bullets?” Gunn repeated. “Girl, just what are you packing with you when you’re auditioning?”

Cordelia glared at him. “And Pike says they don’t like sunlight.”

“Right,” the ex-Watcher mused. “Cordelia, perhaps you could – ” Wesley looked up and met the simultaneous glares from the two men on either side of the young seer. ” – tell me the name of that demonic database you frequent.”

Pike chuckled softly as he rubbed his thigh. “Try www dot earthbounddemons dot com.”

“Oh my god,” Cordelia murmured. “How did you know?”

“It’s mine. I run it.”

Silence fell in the lobby as the members of the Angel Investigations team perused their new and growing ever-more interesting guest.

“How coincidental,” Wesley murmured.

“Check under Sk’larra. S-k apostrophe l-a-r-r-a. They’re not impervious to crossbow bolts or bullets. Anything that destroys their spinal cord will do the trick. Decapitation, breaking the neck, total immolation, sunlight and 80 percent damage to their brains.”

Total silence filled the room and Pike glanced at each stunned face.

“What?”

Angel cocked his head to the side as he studied Cordelia’s rescuer. “We’re not used to clients being so knowledgeable about demons or demonic phenomenon.”

“Woah,” Pike interrupted softly. “I am most definitely not a client. And I have to say, I’m not too used to running into other people that deal with this stuff either. And a detective agency, no less. Just what type of cases do you handle?”

Gunn crossed his arms over his chest. “So, what are you? A demonic dog catcher?”

“No,” Pike snorted. “Just the guy who’s minding the store.”

“Minding the store…” Angel repeated softly. “That’s a curious expression. Minding it for who?”

Pike smiled mysteriously. “You should all stay off the street at nighttime. Avoid alleys and make sure your sewer covers are in place. If you get trapped somewhere, remember that they can’t climb.” He stood painfully, bracing his weight hard on the cane. “I’ll give you a call in a few days to give you the all-clear.”

Without another word, he walked painfully out of the building, leaving the members of Angel Investigations staring after him bemusedly.

“What happened?” Cordelia wailed. “He didn’t even ask me out yet.”

Angel frowned and stood. He walked over to the windows and looked out, watching as Pike was dialing a number into his cell phone. “I think we just got blown off.”

“New experience?” Gunn queried.

“Very,” the vampire responded. “Who is he calling? Wesley, get me an address on our friend there. See if you can’t track him by his web site. Cordelia, did he give you another name besides Pike?”

She shook her head, still staring at the closed glass doors. “He was so sweet. He held my hand and flirted with me the entire time at the hospital. He was comforting and really seemed like he knew what was going on. And he just left without asking me out.” She glared at the vampire, “This is all your fault!”

Angel turned back around to stare at Cordelia’s outraged expression. “How is it my fault?”

Gunn hid a grin behind his coffee mug. “This I gotta hear.”

“Because of your male testosterone pissing contest! Which, by the way, he obviously took to mean that we are an *item* which we are most definitely not. You scared him off!”

Angel gave Cordelia an exasperated look and dismissed her statements. “If he was that easily scared off you didn’t need him anyway.”

“Humph,” Cordelia scoffed.

Angel gestured towards the door with his head. “Gunn follow him.”

“Way ahead of you on that one,” Gunn responded grabbing his jacket on the way out the door.

*****

Gunn had been watching the Magic shop for several hours. The darkened alley he chose as his stake out point had a great view of the shop yet he was carefully hidden from view of those entering and leaving.

Not much had happened since he’d been there. A few customers had come and gone, some had lingered drinking coffee, tea or whatever. Other than that nothing out of the unusual had happened. He’d reported back to Angel a couple of times and each time Cordelia had wanted to know if any pretty women had entered the shop. He was honestly able to tell her *No.*

Now he was leaning against the building getting increasingly bored with his stake out duty and seriously contemplated calling it quits and heading back to the hotel. when the light blue four-door sedan pulled up and parked in front of the shop. He took out his binoculars and trained them on the new arrivals. Four individuals got out. A tall blonde, muscular guy with a stiff military walk exited the drivers side, a dark haired stockier guy with a sluggish gait, a pretty petite red head dressed in a flowing dress exited the rear and a tiny blonde exited by front passenger side of the car. Well, to Cordelia’s likely disappointment, he was definitely going to have to report that two pretty, no make that beautiful women, had just entered the shop.

Even from the distance he could tell the blonde was a real beauty. Her long hair was pulled back into carefree ponytail. A bang covered her forehead as tendrils of hair escaped from the ponytail to curl around her neck and face. She was dressed in a pair of faded low-rise stretch jeans. The fabric hugged, in Gunn’s opinion, a great ass-et. Her top was a simple spaghetti string white knit tank style that hugged and caressed her generous breast. The slight outline of her nipples could be seen through the top. The tank top barely met the waistband of her jeans showing an inviting expanse of tanned midriff. Even in the thick black-heeled boots she wore she was still tiny.

As they made their way to the door, the tall blonde guy put his arm around her slender shoulders. She stiffened slightly. Gunn doubted if the guy even noticed her stiffening at his touch. He watched them until they disappeared in the shop. He decided to wait and see what would happen next before contacting Angel.

They walked through the door into the dim interior of the Magic Shop. The overhead jingle of the bell announced their arrival. Buffy’s eyes immediately adjusted to the darkness. Just another ability of being the Slayer. She hunted in the dark so her nighttime vision was just as sharp if not sharper than her daytime vision.

The shop’s decor was a throw back to ’70’s. Beaded curtains hung from the windows and doorways. Shag carpeting in an indeterminate color covered the floor. Lava lamps adorned the few tables near the back of the shop in the reading area. Incenses burned all around the shop. Folk music played softly in the background.

Buffy had once asked Pike why he never redecorated the place and why he kept the shop so dark. His response was the decor and darkness added to the magical ambiance and mystique. Well she had to admit he was right – the whole ’70’s thing was a mystery to her.

‘I’ll be right with you,” a male voice called from the back room.

“Wow!” Xander exclaimed sarcastically, “Now that’s exciting. We really need to have a talk about this hobby of yours, Will” he said as he followed Willow.

“This is where your friend works and lives?” Riley asked turning his nose up in disgust as he looked around the small magic shop.

Before Buffy could reply Pike pushed the beaded curtains to the side and limped out.

“Buffy, you got here quick,” he said smiling at his friend.

“I was on the way here as soon as I hung up the phone,” she admitted walking over to give him a guarded hug. Pike hugged her back enthusiastically.

She pulled back guiltily hoping she hadn’t hurt him. “These are my friends. This is—”

“Let me guess,” he said interrupting her, “This is Willow,” he said pointing to the pretty red head that waved at him smiling, “and this is Xander,” he said pointing to the dark haired man, “and is this the guy you’ve been head over heels in love with—,”

Riley’s chest puffed out. He was beaming before Pike finished his sentence.

“for the past two years. The guy whose leather jacket you wore for two whole summers rain or shine. You spent all day sniffing that jacket and wrapping it around you.”

Riley’s chest deflated and his smile turned to a scowl. Xander choked on a bark of laughter. Willow elbowed him in his side.

Xander looked over at her innocently, “What’d I do?”

“Ah, Pike this is……Riley. We, um, um, we haven’t been seeing……we haven’t been together long.”

Riley knew exactly who Pike was referring to. He was still smarting from the confrontation with Angel. Riley stuck out his hand, “Buffy and I haven’t been seeing each other long but we’re definitely serious.”

Willow cut her eyes at Xander daring him to say anything. He smirked but keep kept his mouth shut.

Pike cleared his throat, “Sorry about the mistake. It’s been awhile since Buffy and I talked. I’m a little out of the loop.”

Pike hoped his flimsy excuse worked. The truth was he hadn’t missed a week talking with Buffy in the last two years. And in that whole time she never even mentioned Riley to him. He reached out to shake Riley’s hand, assessing the soldier’s body discreetly. Riley barely squeezed his hand before dropping it.

Buffy breathed a silent sigh of relief when Pike covered her failure to mention Riley to him. It had just never really occurred to her to tell Pike about Riley. It just never seemed important. That should have told Buffy a lot about her feelings for Riley.

Pike ignored the slight. “Good to meet you. Let’s sit down,” he said motioning to the tables. They all waited for Pike to gingerly lower himself in his chair before they took their seats.

“So you’ve seen the Sk’larra den. How many are there?” Buffy asked.

“Not sure. I was too busy savin’ a damsel in distress to get an accurate count. I counted eight or maybe ten, but I didn’t really get a chance to check. It was a large warehouse so there could have been more in other areas. Hell, for all I know there could be over two dozen of’em.”

“What damsel in distress?” Xander asked.

Pike thought about the dark haired beauty. “Some woman got her directions mixed up and ended up in the wrong place. I was busy rescuing her and didn’t get a good count. I took her to the hospital and then back to the hotel her boyfriend owns,” Pike paused thinking, “They may be trouble. They seemed to know a lot about demons. I think they’re some kinda amateur demon hunters. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the kind before. They rush in thinkin’ a gun or a knife will kill a demon, but in the end they end up getting themselves hurt or worse killed.”

“Do you know much about the girl or her boyfriend?” Riley asked.

“Not much. They operate out of this huge hotel the Hyperion. Three guys and the girl were the only ones in the office when I was there. That doesn’t mean there aren’t more. It’s some sort of detective agency.”

“Anything else about the girl’s boyfriend?” Riley asked attempting to take over the conversation.

Buffy rolled her eyes. This was the reason she begged to come alone. Riley thought that he was in charge no matter where they were or what they were doing. Buffy took a deep breath and counted to ten to calm herself.

“He was a big guy. Not as tall as you,” Pike said watching Riley puff up at that. Pike briefly wondered what Buffy saw in him before he continued, “As I was saying he isn’t as tall as you but he’s big, muscular. Got the whole *don’t fuck with me* attitude thing goin’. Had this really cold hard demeanor. His eyes literally froze me on the spot. Definitely not someone I’d want to mess with.”

From his description Buffy had the impression of a burly, no neck body building type bully. She sniffed. She’d show him that muscles weren’t enough.

“What we need to do……..” Riley began.

“What we need to do,” Buffy said cutting Riley off, “is go have a talk with these *amateur* demon hunters and warn them off, then we can deal with our hell hounds. Last thing we need is some would be demon hunters complicating an already dangerous situation. Might as well get it over with. Lead the way Pike. I think I need to have a little talk with your damsel’s boyfriend.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Pike said leaning heavily on his cane he stood. “My trucks out back. Meet me around the front and follow me.”

“I’m going to ride with Pike. We have some catching up to do. Riley you Willow and Xander can follow us.”

Buffy didn’t think she could stand another minute in Riley’s company. Plus she needed to thank Pike for covering for her and she owed him an apology and explanation for never mentioning Riley.

“Make sure to turn the lock on the door as you leave,” Pike called over his shoulder.

Before Riley could protest the riding arrangements Pike and Buffy were already out the door.

“Seems like you’ve been shafted Soldier Boy,” Xander taunted slapping Riley on the back.

“In case you haven’t noticed she shafted the two of you for her friend too,” Riley shot back.

“Yeah, but we aren’t her lover,” Xander replied.

Riley pushed past him and slammed the door the bell jingling behind him.

“You know he’s right she did just leave us for her friend. She didn’t even think about it twice just left. Do I sound jealous,” Willow asked scrunching up her face in that way Xander thought was so cute, “because I’m really not.”

“Of course you aren’t jealous,” Xander assured, “and she did leave us but I’ll be damned if I let Fish Boy know it bothered me,” he said as he held the door for Willow to walk through.

Gunn watched the trio get back in the sedan. The tiny blonde wasn’t with them. Pike’s truck pulled out of the back of the shop and around the corner. He had to look twice before he saw her. The tiny blonde’s head was barely visible over the high seat in the truck. When the truck passed, the sedan pulled away from the curb and followed.

Gunn started towards his truck. He’d follow them and then called Angel to let him know where they were heading. His guess was that they were most likely going to that warehouse to fight the demon dogs, although they were certainly an unlikely group to take on what sounded like some pretty ferocious beasts.

He’d followed the blue sedan and truck at a safe distance and they’d led him right to the hotel. Gunn couldn’t believe it. He’d didn’t know what the hell was going on but he’d be damned if he missed out on it. He parked his truck and followed them into the Hyperion.

Buffy hesitated outside the Hotel. It was a big imposing structure. And for some unknown reason her skin was tingling and her spidey senses were running riot. Not in a *there’s danger* sort of way. But another way. A way that she hadn’t felt in a long time. It was disconcerting. She had an eerie feeling about this place.

Pike looked over and saw Buffy hesitating, a worried expression on her face.

“You okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” she lied. “This place is just creeping me out.”

“Don’t worry about Buffy I’ll take care of her,” Riley said elbowing Pike out the way and nearly knocked him over.

Buffy rolled her eyes and frowned as Riley grabbed her elbow to guide her in hotel. She was definitely going to think of sending him home. Hopefully even tonight.

Pike pushed open the double doors and walked in followed closely by Willow, Xander, then Buffy and Riley.

Cordelia looked up as the doors opened. A look of surprise and then delight washed over her face. She rushed around the counter to greet Pike.

“Pike! You came back,” her eyes bucked in surprise as she saw his companions. She stopped short. “What are you doin’ with them?” she asked rudely.

“Cordy, I see you haven’t lost your sparklin’ charm,” Xander quipped.

“Shut up Nerd boy.”

“Well I see you all know each other,” Gunn said coming through the door behind them.

Buffy couldn’t believe this. This could not -should not-be happening to her. The last time she checked Angel lived in a small apartment below his office building. She was temporarily rendered speechless as everyone talked around her. She could feel his presence. She knew already that he was near watching her. She glanced up. He slowly descended the stairs. Their eyes locked. Buffy didn’t hear anything around her. All she could hear was the thundering of her heartbeat in her ears. She forgot to breathe. He was still so beautiful. He was dressed in his usual fashion; dark, sexy. His black jeans molded to his lean hips, muscular thighs and long legs. His navy blue pull over emphasized his broad shoulders and well-defined chest. If anything the time away from Sunnydale he had become more beautiful. More dangerous, sexy, mysterious. More irresistible.

Ignoring everything and everyone around him, he continued his slow descent down the steps until he was standing in front of her. She was more beautiful now than she was the last time he saw her. His eyes settled on the cross he’d given her the first night he’d meet her in that alley in Sunnydale. He wondered why she still wore it.

The closer he got to her the more things penetrated his mind. He was so close close that he could feel the heat of her body, see the pulse beating in her neck, hear the rapid beat of her heart, smell that intoxicating smell of vanilla, musk and Buffy’s own earthy erotic scent that he found so fascinating, so irresistible. And he smelled Riley on her. Faint but still his scent clung to her. The way only intimate contact could leave a scent. He almost growled his displeasure until he remembered it was what he had left her for. To have a normal life. To find someone to make love to her. Someone to give her picnics in the sunshine. Someone like Riley. He knew why he left. It didn’t mean he had to like it.

Everyone was as mesmerized by the two as they were with each other. A blind person could see the tension radiating from the two powerful beings facing each other.

“Bufffyy,” Riley whined in her ear. “Buffy don’t you hear me?”

Buffy had forgotten he was standing next to her. She finally pulled her eyes away from Angel’s decadent chocolate brown hypnotic gaze to look over her shoulder at her annoying boyfriend.

“Sorry Riley, what do you want?”

Riley placed a possessive arm around her shoulders. “Pike was asking you if you knew these people.”

Buffy gave a wry smile and turned to Pike.

“Pike let me take a *stake* in the dark. Cordelia was your damsel in distress.”

“Yes, she was,” he said smiling at the beautiful woman that was now standing close to him.

“I don’t know who he is,” Buffy said pointing to Gunn.

“Hi, I’m Gunn, new to the group. Pike and I have already met. So, you’re Buffy the love of Angel’s life. The Slayer. I thought you’d be bigger, at least taller, but damn girl you’re fine. No wonder Angel can’t get you out of his mind. If you were my girl I certainly wouldn’t be able to get you out my mind!”

Angel growled low in his throat. Gunn laughed at Angel’s obvious jealousy. He gripped Buffy’s hand and shook it vigorously. “Glad to meet you.”

“Same here and I think he’s done a pretty darn good job of forgettin’ me,” Buffy said careful not to squeeze his hand too hard. Her first impression of Gunn was that she liked him.

Leaning close, Gun whispered in her ear, “Believe me, you’re on his mind more than you’ll ever know.”

Buffy didn’t know how to react to Gunn’s statement so she chose to ignore it. She released his hand before introducing the rest of the AI Team to Pike.

“We went to school with Cordelia in Sunnydale, Wesley is my ex-watcher and this,” she said shrugging off Riley’s arm and taking another step closer to Angel her eyes burning into his “is my cradle robbin’ creature of the night ex.”

Angel’s eyes flashed and Buffy wasn’t sure if it was because of the memory of the first time she’d described him that way or if he was annoyed because she was doing it again.

“This is leather jacket guy!” Pike exclaimed in surprise and then paused considering her further description of him. “When you say *creature of the night* exactly what does that mean?”

“*Creature of the Night* as in Vampire,” Cordelia explained taking Pike’s arm and guiding him to the round settee.

“You dated a vampire?!” Pike asked in disbelief staring from Buffy to Angel as he lowered himself on the settee.

“I’d say she did a little bit more than *date* him,” Cordelia added.

Pike’s eyes widened with understanding, “Oh!”

“Excuse me,” Riley forced his way into the conversation, “in case you haven’t noticed I’m here. I’m Buffy’s boyfriend. Her *current* boyfriend.”

No one was sure if Riley was talking to Pike, to Angel or to everyone in the room at large. Either way, it didn’t matter, as no one paid him much attention not even Buffy.

“Emphasis on *boy,*” Angel muttered walking toward the counter.

Gunn heard Angel’s mutterings and laughed loudly. Riley cut his eyes at Gunn but if Gunn even noticed it didn’t bother him.

“Dead boy, would say it was good to see you but we both know that would be a lie,” Xander quipped.

Angel gave him fulminating glare and ignored him.

“Hi, Angel,” Willow waved. “It’s good to see you. You really look good.”

Angel spared a smile for the cute red head. “Hi, Willow, good to see you too. You’re looking very good yourself.”

A blush crept up Willow’s cheek at the compliment, “Thank you.”

“So how do you know Pike?” Angel asked leaning against the counter with his attention now focused on Buffy. He could tell from their body language as well as looks passing between Buffy and Pike that they had known each other for quite some time. And Angel knew for a certainty Pike was not from Sunnydale.

Buffy didn’t answer. She just glared at Angel.

Pike realized there was a lot going on. “What’s goin’ on here?” He whispered to Cordelia.

“It’s called the Buffy and Angel show.”

“Huh?” Pike asked confused.

Cordy let out a sigh. The last thing she wanted to talk about was Buffy and Angel’s love life. She was more interested in getting to know Pike. “It’s a long story. Come on, I’ll tell you about it while I make you some coffee.”

Gunn grimaced and looked at Pike. He started to warn him about Cordelia’s coffee but thought better of it. He figured every man had to learn for himself.

Wesley decided it would be helpful if they gave Angel and Buffy a few minutes alone, “Why don’t we all adjourn for tea and coffee,” he offered.

“Tea sounds nice,” Willow said instantly catching on with Wesley’s intent.

“I’m not thirs— ouch!” Xander didn’t finish the thought. Willow pinched his arm hard then pinned him with her glare.

“Sounds good, Wes. Lead the way.” Xander said with false cheerfulness, rubbing his arm.

Riley was still standing behind Buffy, determined not to move and leave her alone with Angel.

Buffy didn’t turn when she spoke, “Riley please go with the others. Angel and I need to have a few words alone.”

“I’m not leaving you alone with him,” Riley said stubbornly. He glared at Angel. Angel only quirked his lips in a sneer before turning his back on the couple.

Buffy let out an audible sigh. She was so tired of Riley’s *I’m the man in charge* attitude. He still refused to understand that she didn’t need him to protect her. Buffy’s voice when she spoke to Riley again was cold and hard leaving no room for argument.

“Riley I asked you to stay in Sunnydale but you insisted on coming with me. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t want you to come along. I don’t need you by my side to protect me. I’m a big girl. *Super* powers no drugs needed. You promised that you’d stay out of my way. I’m asking………no I’m telling you that I need to speak with Angel *alone. * What’s your deal? Don’t your trust me?”

“It’s not that, It just that…. that,” Riley stammered, faltering.

“It’s just what Riley?” Buffy asked impatiently.

Riley looked at Buffy and knew this was not the time to voice his insecurities. He also knew that if he pushed Buffy was more than likely to ask, no make that demand that he go back to Sunnydale. Riley decided for now he’d humor her.

“Okay Buffy,” he conceded, “if you need me I’ll be with the others.” He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. If he could have pissed a circle around her to mark her as his he would have. He threw an angry glance at Angel before following the others.

Buffy released a sigh of relief before turning around to face Angel. She knew that the day would come when she’d have to be face to face with him again. She just hoped it wouldn’t be when she was still so in love with him. When she still craved his touch. She only hoped that she was doing a good job of hiding her feelings.

Angel broke the silence. “How have you been? You look good.”

“Fine and you.”

Angel shrugged his large shoulders. “The same.”

“Nice place you have here. What happened to the other place?”

“An explosion,” when he saw the look of confusion on Buffy’s face he raised his hand to ward off her further questions, “It’s a long story I’ll tell you about it later.”

Buffy shook her head accepting his decision to talk about his move later. It wasn’t important anyway. His living arrangements were of no concern to her. She decided it was time to get to the point of her visit here.

“Let’s just cut the crap Angel and save each other a little frustration. Pike and I can handle the Sk’larra demons. We don’t need your help.”

Angel nodded. He didn’t agree or disagree with her. “How well do you know this Pike? How do you know that you can trust him?”

“Pike helped me when my first watcher Merrick died and I had to face Lythos. We’ve been close since then.”

“I thought he looked familiar.”

“Oh, I forgot. You were hangin’ around during my time at Hemery High…..or should I say, lurking,” she said snidely.

Angel didn’t rise to her snide remark. “What happened to his leg? I don’t remember him limping back then.”

Angel knew something was wrong when the color drained from Buffy’s face. He picked up her shallow breathing and wondered what could be making her react like this over a simple question.

“He had an accident one summer when I was visiting my father. His arm was broken and he sustained some spinal injuries.”

Angel could sense she didn’t want to talk about Pike’s limp, so he moved on to another question “So you’ve kept in touch with him?”

Buffy met his stare. “Yes, every summer I came to visit my father. We would do a little Slayin’ and hangout. That’s how we first came across our first den of Sk’larra demon dogs. Pike did some research, we bought a book on them and we found out how to destroy them. Now, he sorta minds the store.”

“That’s why you’re here with Pike? To kill these Sk’larra demon dogs?”

“That’s it.”

Angel looked at her stiff form. He wondered how close she and Pike were. He knew they hadn’t been lovers in the physical sense because he’d been her first. He wondered about her feelings for Pike. They seemed to be very close. A closeness he once had with her. A closeness that he had chosen to walk away from.

Angel wanted so much to reach out and touch her. To feel the warmth of her body next to his. To have her near him without this tension and anger between them but he knew that wasn’t going to happen. There was too much hurt in her eyes. Too much anger and mistrust between them so much time had passed. He didn’t know how to make the hurt go away; to take the wariness out of her eyes as she looked at him; to regain the trust they once shared; to make her love him again. And even if he could, he wasn’t sure if he should. He’d left her so that she could have a better life. A life that included walks in the sunshine and having children. A life that he couldn’t offer her. That hadn’t changed.

“You can go back to Sunnydale Buffy and take your friends. We can handle these dogs. There’s no reason for you to stay.”

Buffy’s eyes shot fire as she angrily paced toward Angel. “Oh I forgot LA is your territory. You put me out once before didn’t you?! Even slapped me to protect another woman. Seems you can give everyone sanctuary in LA. Everyone but me.”

Angel stepped from behind the counter to confront Buffy’s charges. “Are you still harping on that Buffy? Why can’t you just let it go? Must everything be about you? I gave Faith my help. That’s what I do Buffy. That’s what I’m here for. That’s just the deal. Faith was hurting and in a bad place mentally, emotionally and physically. She needed your compassion Buffy, not your anger and vengeance.”

“Compassion?!” Buffy spit out angrily, “Compassion!” Her eyes flashed with fire as she advanced on Angel. ” You mean like the compassion she showed my friends as she terrorized them, or would that be the compassion she showed when she tried to kill my mother, the woman who went out of her way to be nice to her! Oh, Oh, I know…….the compassion she showed me when I was captured and almost killed by the Watcher Council’s bounty hunters! Oh, I have a good one…. maybe it was the compassion she showed me when she violated my body by *fucking* Riley! You-wanted-me-to-show-her-compassion! Why the *hell* should I have shown her anythin’! The psycho bitch tried to destroy everything I loved! She tried to ruin my life!”

Buffy laughed bitterly, “Hell who knows who else she *fucked* while in my body. Her motto was always *get some—get gone.* I’m just waiting for some man or better yet make that men, that I don’t know to come tell me what a good ride I gave them.” Tears formed in her eyes and she rapidly blinked trying to keep them from falling.

Angel was shaken. He had no idea. “I didn’t know Buffy. I just thought you were angry because she’d had sex with your soldier boy toy.”

Buffy shook her head in disbelief. “You didn’t ask Angel. Maybe at the time I was too raw emotionally to explain everythin’ to you. So much was goin’ on. I didn’t handle the situation very well, but neither did you. You just struck out at me. Do you have any idea how it feels to get your body back and not know what has happened to it? Do you have any idea how it feels to walk down the street and have men stare at you while you wonder if it was because Faith *fucked* them while she was in your body? Do you have any idea how many showers I took tryin’ to scrub my body clean? She violated me! Yes, I was angry that she *fucked* Riley, but not just because he was my boyfriend or because I was jealous. That had nothin’ to do with it. Hell, I was angry because she used my body! She had no right to use my body like that! No right to give *my* body to someone! It’s my body! And she violated it and my ignorant boyfriend helped her!”

Buffy laughed derisively, “I still can’t believe he didn’t know it wasn’t me. The man who claims to love me *fucked* my body and didn’t even realize I wasn’t in it. He was lucky there was still some poison in my system and she didn’t break every bone in his body.”

Angel started to ask her what type of poison was in her system but dismissed it. It wasn’t important. What he really wanted to do was wipe the hurt and anguish away. Even as Angelus he may still have nightmares for the atrocities he committed but he remembered. He had wished more than once that he could have been kept ignorant of all his demon had done. Listening to Buffy though he realized having someone invade your body and not knowing what they had done could be much worse. He tried to touch Buffy to offer her comfort. She shied away from him. He dropped his hand to his side.

“She didn’t fuc–have sex with anyone but Riley,” he told her.

“How do you know that? If you are goin’ on what she told you then you’ll forgive me if I choose not to believe her.”

“It ‘s not based on anything Faith told me. It’s based on my knowledge of your scent. When you came to LA after Faith the only scent I smelled on you was Riley’s.”

“What do you mean *scent?*”

“I know your scent. I know how you smelled as a virgin, after we had sex, when you are aroused, when you’re menstruating and everything in between. I know your scent better than my own. Hell, I can pick you out in a crowd blindfolded. The only scent clinging to your body when you came after Faith was Riley’s.”

Buffy let that information sink in. She was a little shocked and embarrassed that he knew her *time of the month.* Mentally chastising herself for not realizing that as a vampire, of course he would know. Blood was his survival. He could track by scent and blood. Of course he knew when she was *on.* But for now she was more interested in the fact that he said he’d hadn’t smelled anyone on her after the Faith episode but Riley. Her eyes locked with Angel. She saw the truth reflected in their depths. She didn’t have to worry anymore. Faith hadn’t turned her body into a *whore du jour.*

Buffy broke the stare. “Thank you,” she whispered. “At least that’s something.” She turned her back to him to regain her composure.

“Buffy I can handle these demon dogs. There is no need for you and the others to stay. You can go back to Sunnydale.”

“No you can’t handle this Angel. And neither can your partners. The spell required to trap and destroy the number of Sk’larra that Pike suspects are in that warehouse would kill you. ”

“How is it that the Spell will kill me and not you and Pike.”?”

“Because the spell has to be done starting with a full moon, ending in sunlight and a Ring of Fire. You can handle the moonlight but the last time I checked you still had somewhat of an *allergy* to sunlight and fire. And your partners are not strong enough or agile enough to avoid the dogs until sunrise.”

“Then I’ll find another way to kill them. In case you haven’t noticed your friend walks with a cane. His mobility is a little limited.”

Buffy turned around and yelled at him. “What’s with you and this macho man bullshit! I don’t need your help Angel! Pike and I can handle this. We’ve done it before and can do it again. Without, I might add, your help.”

The group that had been in the kitchen now appeared in the doorway. Angel and Buffy were still glaring at each other. They didn’t know how much of the conversation the others had heard, and personally, neither cared.

“This is my city Buffy. If you stay here you get my help whether you want it or not. If not you can just leave and I’ll take care of the problem.”

“As much as I hate to break up this touchin’ reunion…if you guys haven’t noticed it is night and we have a den of Sk’larra demon dogs that probably want to come out to play. We might need to get out on the streets, see if we need to round up a few devil dogs and contain them,” Pike said. We only have to contain them for tonight and keep them from doin’ any damage. Tomorrow night we’ll get our full moon.”

“Pike is right,” Cordelia, said following Pike, “there are some helpless, innocent people out there that need us. That’s what we do: help the helpless and innocent.”

Buffy and Angel glared at each other but both knew this would be an argument that would have to wait for another time. Angel moved away from Buffy, heading for the weapons chest.

“Does anyone need weapons?” Angel asked grabbing a Byzantine ax from the chest.

“No we brought our own,” Riley said taking position next to Buffy. “What we do need is a plan. I say that Buffy and I will take…”

“Forget your plan, Riley,” Angel said shrugging into his leather duster. He’d be damned if he took orders from Buffy’s soldier boy toy. “We don’t need it.” Angel addressed his team. “Check the perimeter around the warehouse and be careful.”

“Where are you goin’?” Cordelia asked.

“I’m going to check the inside of the warehouse.”

“If you’re goin’ in the warehouse I’m goin’ to back you up,” Buffy glared at him with her hands on her hips.

“I can do this alone.”

“I can either go with you or I’ll follow you. Doesn’t much matter.”

Angel knew that determined look and stance. He’d seen it often during the nights he and Buffy were together. Nights spent making out as much as patrolling. He knew once she had that look and that stance there was no changing her mind.

‘”Come on then,” he relented heading for the side door.

Riley’s hand shot out and grabbed Buffy’s arm as she moved to follow Angel. “I’ll go with you.”

“No you won’t,” her tone brooked no argument.

“Well what do you propose I do?” he asked exasperated.

“Help the other’s patrol. Keep Willow and Xander safe,” dismissing him Buffy turned to Willow.

“Will, if we round these dogs up and get them back in the warehouse do you think you can do a containment spell to hold them there until mornin’?”

Willow chewed her lower lip thoughtfully before answering. “Yeah, I think I know a spell that might work.”

“Good. Go with Pike and get what you need from the magic shop. Meet us at the warehouse.”

“What do you want me to do Buffster?” Xander asked.

“Patrol with Riley. If a fight breaks out make sure you are *fray adjacent,*” she teased lightly tapping him on his chest.

Xander laughed good-naturedly at the joke. “Gotcha.”

Buffy gave Riley a peck on the cheek. “I’ll talk to you later.”

She left heading out the door behind Angel.