Word count: approx. 3850
Disclaimer: Sadly, not mine.
My thanks, as always, goes to Jo. I couldn’t do this without you, kiddo.
Summary: A clandestine date. Set sometime after Not Fade Away and Chosen.
With the steam from the heat of her shower still coiling into the small room of her motel, Buffy put on the finishing touches of her makeup. Not that she needed makeup, she decided, looking into the mirror. A little eye shadow and liner to enhance her eyes - no crows feet, thank the Gods - and lipstick and gloss to define her lips. Making a moue at the mirror, she stood up, satisfied.
Some people thought she was too scrawny, all sharp angles; her baby fat stripped away, leaving her lean and, she liked to think, a mean fighting machine. She ate when she remembered, and it wasn’t as if she had to watch her calories. Her duties took care of those. Slayer strength and speed, and slayer healing, had her metabolism racing at abnormal speeds. Not having to diet was a bonus accorded a Chosen One. No longer the Only One, she had time for other things, although certain people refused to accept that fact.
She twisted her body so that she could see her form in the mirror. Pretty lace, midnight blue, interrupted the flow of sun-kissed skin. She smiled. She wondered how long it would take him to peel those scraps of material away. The dress she had hanging by the mirror would tantalize and tease. Just the thing she was going for, she thought, as she reached for the blue silk.
It took her but a moment to locate him, her killer instincts recognizing her prey. He was lurking in the shadows, utterly still: people walking by, unaware of the danger he represented. When he moved, it was with a grace that had her mesmerized. He stepped out into the path of humans and negotiated a way through, flowing round them like water around rocks in a stream, fluid and effortless. Under the light of the lamp, he glowed, his alabaster skin flawless. Cheekbones, high and sharp, led to dark brows and darker eyes.
She knew that he knew that she had noticed him; he wouldn’t have let himself be seen, otherwise. The uplifting of his lips confirmed this as she stalked towards him, her Sex in the City heels as sexy to walk in as to look at. The hungry look in his eyes as he took in the sight of her stoked the fire that had ignited low in her belly. He offered his arm, her knight in black Armani. She placed her hand on the crook of his elbow and nudged him in the right direction.
“I’d like to know where you’ve hidden your stake,” he said, his voice a deep husky whisper. The sound of it sent shivers to all the right places.
Saucily, she said, “If you’re good, I’ll let you search for it later.”
The growl he gave her had her grinning up at him. They were out on a clandestine date. Clandestine because her people – she had people now – did not approve of Angel. They tolerated him because he was a Chosen One, chosen by the Powers as their champion. It had been documented, there were even scrolls written about him, but for Buffy to date him, that was frowned upon. Nevertheless, every few months, when he and she happened to be in the same country, the same state, they met up. It worked. She had had months, anticipation building, to think about what they would do. They each had a turn at organizing the time and place and activities. This time it had been hers.
She said, wanting to warn him, “There’s a slayer in town, and with her watcher.”
“I know,” he replied, as she urged him round a corner and along a less crowded street. “I’ve seen her. Ginger-haired and big-boned, she looked capable.”
“Her watcher knows you. It’s Andrew. Be careful,” she warned, knowing it was a futile hope. Angel did as Angel did. He had already checked out the local slayer, putting himself in harm’s way. Slayers tended to stake first and ask questions later.
“Aren’t I always?”
She sighed. He thought she was worried that their secret was at risk. That wasn’t it at all.
“Where are we going?” he asked, after a moment of trying to decipher the meaning of her sigh and failing. She smiled. He worked so hard at trying to understand her. It was one of the reasons she loved him.
“Dancing,” she said, a wicked gleam back in her eyes. “You do know how to dance, don’t you?”
The look he gave her made her giggle. It was the look of a man who had had his honour impugned.
“What were we doing at your prom?” he asked, trying to look haughty and failing, and then looking incredibly sad when he realised what he had just said.
How could she forget? It had been a wonderful moment, one that she would cherish forever. At the time, it had almost driven away the heartache of losing him.
She squeezed his hand to reassure him it was okay. “Don’t feel guilty about that wonderful shining moment. It’s one of my happy dreams.”
“You know, when you settle down at night and want something nice to dream about? I sometimes choose that night: me in your arms, just enjoying the dance.”
“That’s nice,” he murmured.
“What do you dream about?”
“A happy dream?”
Buffy’s steps almost faltered, but then she remembered that happiness was now on the agenda for Angel.
“That must have been so hard for you, Angel, all those years not being able to dream a happy dream.”
He smiled. “You. I always dream of you.”
She was definitely going to let him search for her stake.
Buffy brought them to a stop. She waited while Angel eyed the narrow flight of stairs that disappeared up into a building. “What is this place?”
“You’ll see.” She tugged him up the steps.
Inside, they were greeted by a large expanse of wooden floor. There were people on it, dancing. The men wore suits and the women were dressed in their best finery. They glided around the room like gods and goddesses, their feet moving in patterns set down decades past. Speakers on the walls emitted music chosen by a DJ sitting on a stage. The man looked to be in his sixties. His body swayed in time to the beat. In a far corner, a counter was set up with refreshments. There were tables set back against the walls, and seats, for the weary.
Angel’s eyebrows rose an inch. “Ballroom dancing?”
Buffy smirked. “Afraid?”
At Angel’s look, from the tiny handbag hanging from her wrist, Buffy retrieved a handful of dollars and handed them over to the man by the door.
To Buffy’s delight, Angel was a terrific dancer. She had been in his arms on the dance floor before, moving to slow music at the Bronze, and at school. But this, to be twirled and spun at arm’s length, to be caught and swayed with such passion and expertise, was beyond anything she could imagine. She, herself, had been taking lessons so as not to disappoint, and she was inordinately pleased that she had. Buffy laughed as she was spun within his reach. And the look of pleasure on his face was reward enough.
She wasn’t out of breath when the dance finished, but it felt like she was: her body was singing with exhilaration and the pounding of her heart was its drum. The strains of Strauss filled the room, and Buffy had time to look about as Angel moved them round the floor. There were people sitting and standing, watching them.
“We’re the centre of attention,” she whispered.
“They’re looking at you,” he said, looking down at her with a smile.
She smiled up at him. She was in the arms of the most handsome man in the room and he made her feel like she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She closed her eyes and let the music take her. Slayer and vampire stamina had them dancing for hours, until, finally, Buffy told Angel she needed to quench her thirst. He brought back a diet Coke and set it on the table in front of her. He placed her glass beside it, and a packet of peanuts.
Buffy realised she was famished, and tore into the packet with glee.
Angel sat down. “An unlicensed establishment. There aren’t many of these about.”
Her mouth full of nuts, Buffy said, “Places like these tend to stay quiet. No drunken brawls…”
Someone started screaming, and the sound of glass shattering made her continue, “To ruin our night out.” She swallowed her mouthful of nuts and looked at Angel with dismay. “Don’t tell me, but is this what I think it is?”
He mimed zipping his lips, and stood. Buffy reached down under the table with a resigned sigh, and when she got up out of her chair, there was a stake in her hand. With a smirk, Angel waggled his eyebrows at her.
“Later,” she promised.
By now the ballroom was in disarray. Tables and chairs tumbled to the floor as people tried to leave the premises. Men and women were running about, screaming. The exits were blocked. There was a group of men, no vampires, at the doors.
“How many?” Buffy asked, unable to see above the panicked crowd.
“Ten, maybe twelve,” he said. And added, “I smell blood. Someone is dead.”
“Great!” Buffy muttered. “This dress had better not get ruined.”
Buffy moved forward, shoving through the terrified people. She heard Angel going the other way, to the back exit. There was a body on the floor, when she emerged from the crowd. Two vampires had their victims by the throat and were sucking away, greedily. Another four were menacing others, enjoying the fear they were instilling in their prey.
“Excuse me?” she said, the stake in her hand behind her back. “It’s not nice to play with your food.”
Buffy felt the crush of people behind her pull back. One of the vampires was advancing on her, growling, “Your turn.”
“I think not.” She staked him without breaking a sweat. The shrieks of surprise at the vampire’s dusting, was satisfying. Smiling sweetly, she said, “Anyone else?”
Five vampires leapt at her.
At the other end of the room Angel was fighting for his life. He had dusted two vampires before the others wised up. His smile was cold. Although he’d rather not have Buffy’s night ruined, this was another dance he enjoyed.
He waved his hand in a come on gesture. The vampires obliged.
Buffy had resorted to taking off her high heels and using one as a stake. Two were better than one. “This takes the meaning of killer heels to new heights,” she said with a grin. She dodged and weaved, grateful that her dress was full from the waist down, giving her freedom to move.
Buffy yelled, “Get out of here!” to the frightened people behind her, as she fought off the demons. A lucky punch had her staggering. She regained her footing and lashed out with a foot. The vampire stumbled back. Men and women ran by, and, as an unlucky vampire tried to snag one for a quick bite, Buffy staked him.
In the melee, something changed. Buffy could feel it, Angel too. He had the back exit blocked so that the remaining vamps couldn’t make a run for it. The vampires who had Buffy surrounded broke away to face a new foe. She staked one in the back. A slayer stared back at her. It was the one Angel had said he had seen the night before.
“Name’s Buffy, what’s yours?” she said with a grin.
“Hilda,” she replied with a frown. “What are you doing here?”
“I was having a night out with my boyfriend,” Buffy said. “Let’s party, and we can talk about this later.”
Between the three of them the remaining vampires didn’t stand a chance.
“Four dead,” Angel said when they were done.
The dead lay sprawled, limbs at unnatural angles, their throats ripped out. Buffy didn’t need vampire hearing to know their hearts no longer beat. There was a man unconscious on the floor by an upturned table. He was deathly pale. Buffy could see his chest rising and falling.
A familiar face appeared at the door. It was Andrew, not exactly Buffy’s favourite person in the world. She watched him peer into the room with what looked like trepidation. His face lit up when he saw that his slayer was alive and well. Buffy gave him credit for it. And when he saw Buffy and Angel, his smile widened into a huge grin. He hurried over and tried to give Buffy a hug. She pushed him away. Andrew wasn’t to be deterred.
“Buffy! Angel! What are you doing in town? This is a happy coincidence.”
“That’s what I want to know,” Hilda replied, her eyes on Angel the whole time. “You’re the vampire, right?”
Buffy stepped into her space. “He’s my vampire, and don’t you even think about staking him.”
“Angel.” Hilda’s nose wrinkled. “I’ve heard about you. You’re the one that destroyed a large part of L.A.”
Angel nodded. He had nothing to say. He was guilty on all counts. Buffy bristled on his behalf.
“Buffy,” he said, gently, hoping to avoid a confrontation on his account.
Andrew stepped between Buffy and Hilda, his hands up in a placating gesture.
“You know they don’t approve of Angel, but I won’t tell. I thought Spike…”
He backed away from Buffy’s death glare. “I don’t care who knows. In fact, tell them, Andrew. Let them know Buffy is spending some quality time with her boyfriend. I’m sick of them tutting and pursing their lips at me. I will date who I like.” Buffy flounced over to Angel and grabbed his hand. “I’m Buffy the vampire slayer and I love Angel.” She cocked a hip. “The rest of them can go f…”
“Buffy!” Angel’s interjection gave her pause. For him, she let up. Her glare, though, refused to dim.
Hilda stepped away with a shrug, and Andrew busied himself by pulling out his cell phone. “Better call 911,” he said, and began punching in the numbers.
Angel tugged on Buffy’s hand. “I’d better go,” he said. It wouldn’t do for him to be around when the authorities arrived.
“We’re all going,” she said, letting go of his hand. Taking a deep breath, Buffy decided to smooth the waters. Her dress settled around her ankles in silken waves as she squatted beside the kneeling slayer. Hilda was looking over the injured man, checking his injuries.
“How is he?”
Hilda didn’t turn her head. “A lump on his head. He wasn’t bitten. He’ll be okay.”
“I’m sorry. It’s not you….”
”I understand, Buffy. My Frederick hasn’t been welcomed with open arms, either.”
“My boyfriend. He’s had a…shall we say, a chequered past. Nothing big. Credit card fraud. But he’s on the straight and narrow now. And I love him.”
“It’s difficult being a slayer.”
“Yes.” Hilda turned to look at her sister slayer. “I can’t begin to understand what you see in him,” she jerked her head in Angel’s direction, “him being a vampire and you a slayer, but…”
“Love makes you do the whacky,” Buffy finished for her.
Hilda crinkled her forehead, puzzled. “I’m sorry? The whacky?”
Buffy laughed. “You love them despite everything, or should I say in spite of everything. He’s on our side. I’m sure Andrew’s told you all about us.” She unfolded her legs and stood at her own height. “We good?”
Hilda clambered to her feet. She nodded. “We’re good.”
Buffy put out her hand, and Hilda accepted it with a small smile.
Andrew snapped his cell shut. “The ambulance is on the way. We had better get going.”
Buffy gathered up her stilettos and slipped them on.
By the door, Angel was waiting, her tiny bag in his large hand. Buffy knew he had heard every word. She met his eye and she could see the love for her shining there. He inclined his head with a wry smile. A lump formed in her throat. He was such a good man, and yet he was defined by what he was, by how others perceived him: a monster. Upon reaching him, she gave him a kiss on his cheek.
“I hope your place has food. I’m starving,” she said.
The street was empty when they descended the stairs. Buffy and Angel weren’t surprised. People didn’t hang about when a gang intending to do violence showed up. If a few of those people knew about vampires and demons they would have even less reason to hang around. They hurried away, hearing sirens in the distance.
It was Angel who broke the silence.
“I’m sorry your secret is out.”
Shaking her head, she said, “I’m not, although the clandestine thing was fun. I felt like we were in a James Bond movie with all the secrecy. With what goes on in our lives, having fun is a must.” She was quiet for a moment, gathering her thoughts. “It’s not like I care if they approve of you or not. I just get tired of the questions, the looks I get whenever your name is mentioned.”
“They’re just concerned for you. Giles and your friends are good people. They want what’s best for you.”
“You’re what’s best for me, Angel.” She stopped walking, to look up at him. “And it’s not just Giles and Willow and Xander. I know they mean well. It’s the other slayers. I don’t know half of them, or their names. But they think they know me. Them and their newbie watchers.”
“I’m sorry I’m the reason…”
She held up a hand. “Don’t! All these years we’ve spent apart. Were any of them happy years?”
At his raised eyebrows, she said, “You know what I mean. My life has been a train wreck since the moment you stepped out of it.”
“I caused quite a derailment before I left.”
Again she shook her head. She reached out for his hand and held it in a tight grip. “That wasn’t your fault. You didn’t know! Just like we didn’t know that something had changed with your curse.”
Angel kissed the fingers of her hand. “I’m sorry for all the wasted years. We grew up, though, didn’t we? What didn’t kill us made us stronger?”
She snorted. “Do you really believe that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Come on, this way.”
Letting him lead her, Buffy gave his reasoning some thought.
“You wouldn’t have Connor, I suppose,” she admitted.
“No. I wouldn’t wish him away. I do regret a lot of things that have happened.”
She nudged him. “That’s nothing new for you.” Sighing deeply, she said, “I know I do. But what really irks me…”
“Irks you?” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Where did you pick that up?”
She tossed her hair, a cheeky grin on her face. “Around. What irks me is that nobody realised that pesky clause was a once only deal.”
“I still don’t how it’s possible. Willow cast the spell twice. Each time the clause would have been reinstated. I lost my soul more than once.”
“Yeah, but the last two times your soul went bye-bye was because of a spell, and some happy drug. Anyone who’s gotten stoned knows you lose your mind in a haze of drugs. A powerful witch can majick away my soul if they wished.”
Angel stopped walking and turned to look at her, a stricken look on his face. “Don’t say that, Buffy. It’s…” he went silent for a long moment, and then finished with, “one of the worst things you can imagine.”
Suddenly, overcome with emotion, Buffy found her eyes had filled with tears. She blinked them away, refusing to cry. It had been years since that terrible night and yet it still had its hold on her. “I can imagine, Angel. I was there when it happened to you.”
He reached out and stroked her cheek. “I’m sorry you went through that.”
She leaned into his touch. “So am I.” She pulled away from him to say, “The point I’m trying to make is that all this time your soul was safe we went through hell trying to stay away from one another. But what else is new?” Buffy threw up her arms in frustration. “Welcome to the Buffy and Angel show. I think the Powers had a good old laugh.”
Angel gathered her to him, capturing her in his arms. “Willow made the connection in the end. It’s worked out for us.”
“After I asked her to,” she mumbled into his chest. “Maybe the Powers cut us a break, or maybe Miss Calendar changed the curse just enough to make you safe.”
At his sigh, she added, “And don’t you dare say you don’t deserve it.” She squeezed him tight. “We’ve earned this, Angel. And by God we’re going to enjoy ourselves.”
She felt him kiss the top of her head in reply.
“Okay. Where’s this hotel of yours? I’m starved.”
The hotel had been around a fair while and was a little run down. Its heyday had come and gone, and yet its high ornate ceilings - bare in places where the paint had flaked away - carved doors that had stood a pounding or two, and intricately patterned carpets - slightly stained with who knows what, maybe even blood - and heavy, fading drapes gracing slender windows, retained a certain majesty. Once upon a time it would have cost a pretty penny to stay within these walls, but not today. Now people wanted new, revamped, stylish, and expensive chic hotels, and all that came with it. The rooms of Angel’s hotel were large and clean and the linens were crisp and white. Angel had chosen the place for all of its advantages. Old didn’t have to equate with decrepit. He liked room to move, and cleanliness was next to Godliness, as the saying went. He knew the food in the restaurant was excellent, having had to rely on the advice of a local taxi driver. Besides, the place had charm and character. He had hoped that Buffy would like it. Judging by the look on her face, she did.
“How did you find this place?” She twirled about, thinking the hotel reflected her boyfriend: it held its age well, and was stylish and beautiful. “I love it.” Her legs, made long in her high heels, carried her to the bathroom door. Peering in, she said, “The bath is big enough for two.”
“I can run it for you,” he offered, moving to do that.
A small hand against his chest brought him to a halt.
“Not so fast, buster.” Buffy glanced over at the big bed. “I think it’s time I let you search for my stake.”
“You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.”
Buffy laughed as she was scooped up in strong arms and carried to the bed.
AN: A small part of this story was written as a rosebud for ba_rosebuds and, because readers had asked for more, I’ve made it a much longer story for the IWRY marathon.
I’ve ignored the comics, although I haven’t discounted them.