And compared to what she dealt with most nights in Sunnydale, she'd take the minty smell.
"Hi," she said, locking the door behind her.
"Are you going to the party tonight?"
She really shouldn't. As much as she didn't want to, she should patrol. She hadn't for a few nights now. Since her mother knew what Buffy was doing out late at night, her reports to her father on Buffy's behavior had changed drastically. This meant that Hank Summers was giving Buffy a lot more latitude than he had previous summers.
The team had won, though, and Bruce had sort of taken a shine to her. She wasn't sure how she felt about that. He was nice and cute and didn't seem into himself like some of the other players on the team.
"I have to take the bus tonight, so I probably shouldn't."
"I'll give you a ride home."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, it'll be fun. You haven't been to one of Sandy's parties yet."
"No," she said, tucking some hair behind her ear. She'd gone to a couple things with Bruce, careful to keep it casual. Still raw from everything that had happened leading up to graduation casual was all she could handle. She was starting to realize, though, that she couldn't live like a hermit.
She was here for the summer with a job, thanks to her dad, that involved being around people. Men. Of the very cute and athletic variety. It wasn't like she was committing to anything or anyone.
"Yeah, sure. Why not? I hear he gives the best parties."
"Great. Are you done?"
"Yeah, I didn't realize anyone was still here."
"There are a couple others, but I was waiting for you."
He smiled, looking a little bashful.
"Well, yeah, I told you before I don't like you walking around by yourself."
He was cute in a sort of simple kind of way. He wasn't overly hot or anything, but he was nice. He played in the outfield. Beyond that she didn't know what he did for the team. They were lucky she knew that much about the game. Following sports just wasn't her thing, even when she'd been a cheerleader.
"Thanks, that's sweet. I should call and leave a message for my dad so he doesn't worry."
"Oh sure, here use my phone," he said, handing it to her.
"So, do you like working here?" he asked once she'd called her dad.
"Yeah, it's not so bad. I'm not sure what I'd do if one of you got really hurt."
"Can't stomach blood?"
"Well, no," she said, trying to hide her amusement. "I just get the impression that Dr. Samuels doesn't really want to be bothered unless one of you is dying."
"I'll tell you a secret that no one ever mentions but it's widely known."
"Dr. Samuels was trainer for a pro basketball team. He got into trouble for not reporting one of his players was suspected of using steroids. He was blacklisted, so this is about the only job he could get."
"Oh," she said, biting her lower lip as she processed that.
"So, yeah, he's kind of a condescending bastard, but that's because he is good enough to be in the big leagues."
"Huh." She hadn't known that.
They made similar small talk on the way to his car, where he opened the door for her. And then to the party, which happened to be near the beach.
"Sandy lives here?" She didn't need to see the house to know it was expensive, that was obvious by the neighborhood.
"Sandy's parents do, I'm not sure if he lives with them. He's never said. They're out of town either way."
"Oh," she said with a nod.
Sandy was their star pitcher and pretty good from what she could gather. He had his share of women who tried to get into the locker room before and after the games. There'd been a time or two she'd had to expend slayer strength to get rid of one.
Bruce placed his hand at the small of her back as they made their way to the house. Judging by the music, things were already going strong. Had it taken her that long to clean up tonight?
She scanned the crowd, a habit she'd learned to count on. She'd managed to be out in public with people like Bruce and not run into trouble the past couple of weeks. She just hoped that streak continued. The last thing she needed was to make a fool of herself in front of people who knew her dad.
"I'll get us something to drink. I'll just be a minute."
"Thanks," she said, giving Bruce a smile before he left her side. He knew she didn't drink, so she was confident he'd come back with a soda of some sort for her.
She made her way over to a group of players she knew and was sort of friends with. She vowed by the end of the summer she wasn't going to be as clueless about the game as she was now. Listening in on conversations like this were a great way to start.
He watched, careful to stay out of her line of vision. And out of the range she could detect him. They had a connection, so she'd know it wasn't just a vampire on the premises but him. He'd been able to come in, which surprised him. He'd never totally understand how the whole invite thing worked. He supposed since this was a party, all were welcome.
He took an offered beer from someone so he didn't look completely out of place. Everyone had something in their hand, except for her. And her date. It pained him to think of that. He hadn't been gone that long. If he wasn't mistaken he could feel the effects of her blood in his veins.
He'd known she'd move on, sure. She was too pretty, too much what guys looked for in a woman to stay single for very long. He'd just expected to have one last summer of seeing her. Even if she didn't know he was doing it.
It took him a little bit of time to figure out how she'd landed the job. She had no experience as a trainer. None on paper anyway. Her experience as a slayer, having to bandage herself - and him - up a time or two helped.
Unable to go about during the day, he didn't see her go to work with her dad. He'd just about gone into a rage when he realized what she was doing. Touching people. She had no business touching anyone but him, even if it was for work.
He wouldn't be so curious if he hadn't seen her with this same guy more than a couple of times now. That meant not only did he like her, which went without saying because she was Buffy. It also meant that she might like him. And then what?
He'd let her go for a reason, despite rebelling against it down to his soul. Knew that a future just wasn't to be for them, even if he wanted it to be. There wasn't a day that went by that he didn't mull the Mayor's words over in his mind. Watching his wife die, a wife who had once loved him resentful because he kept his youthful appearance.
Some would say he was shallow, thinking he didn't want to look at an aged Buffy. That wasn't it. She just deserved better than that. Better than resentment and bitterness filling her final days instead of joy.
The things that would bring her joy he didn't like to think about. Only because he was unable to provide them for her. And shouldn't a man be able to provide everything his woman needed? Obviously, she'd get married, have children, and grandchildren. Jenny Calendar's words haunted him, too. That's how he pictured Buffy dying. Surrounded by a bunch of fat grandchildren. People who loved her, people whose lives she could share at all times of the day.
He just hadn't expected to be subject to watching her pursue those things. At least not a month after he'd left. A month after she'd saved his life, willing to sacrifice hers for his.
He could solve the problem he was having easily enough. Stop following her around. He was more powerless to do it now then three years ago when he'd barely known her. Time, and a love that transcended it, made it next to impossible now.
This was the closest he'd allowed himself to get to her so far. He was taking a chance that she'd sense him, pick up on his presence. And maybe that was what he really wanted after all. Self-flagellation was his specialty. But if she saw him, maybe. What? He wasn't sure what he wanted.
She was having a good time. He could tell that she was sincere in that by the look in her eyes, the tone in her laugh that indicated it wasn't forced. God, it was wrong for it to bother him so much. This was what he'd wanted for her. He didn't know the guy, hadn't even bothered to learn his name or anything about him. It'd be too tempting to pay him a pre-dawn visit and warn him away from Buffy.
Angel noticed him slide an arm around her waist and suddenly thought the idea of such a visit didn't seem so barbaric. She was his! And the guy was growing more confident, bolder. Each time she went somewhere with him, no matter her intentions, he would see it as a step closer to being with her. Having her. As his.
He should be glad, relieved. She was moving on. And really the fact she was doing it here, not in Sunnydale, had to be a good thing. How serious could she get with a baseball player she'd see for a couple of months? She'd go back to Sunnydale.
Where she would start college.
That was something he didn't want to think about at all. College meant no longer living at home. Parties. Fraternities. Professors that weren't afraid to toe the line that propriety dictated they not fraternize with their students. Something he'd never had to fear from Giles despite the closeness their relationship as watcher and slayer required.
They had moved to another portion of the house. There were no conversations here instead there was music and dancing. No one paid him much attention as he hung back, watching. Quite a few people here didn't seem to have anything to do with the team.
He knew how much she liked to dance. It was something he didn't actually do much with her, he usually just watched. And he was okay with that. Until tonight. Now it didn't sit so well with him, being a voyeur to her activities. Because he was no longer included, an outsider looking in. And what was worse, she didn't know he was watching. He wanted to dance with her, feel her in his arms, her breath against his neck, smell her blood. Always her blood. There were days he thought it was his reason for existence, for rising each sunset. Not the cause, not even Buffy, but her blood. It called to him, especially now that it was in him.
He left shortly after they'd started dancing, unable to watch without giving into the violent rage coursing through his body. There was a time there he thought she'd known he was there. He wasn't sure what it was that made him think so. A slight hesitation on her part. A glance around when her attention should have been on her date.
He'd done an equally stupid thing, however. He hadn't gone home like a sane person would have. He went to her house, sat in his car and waited for her instead. He had to see her, had to know she got home all right. Even if he wasn't the one in charge of getting her there.
The date's car pulled up eventually. It wasn't a piece of junk but it wasn't a Corvette either. Minor league players weren't rolling in money, and this guy was barely out of college. If he was even that old.
He'd done this before, watched as the guy brought her home. It wasn't until tonight, though, that he thought more than just dropping Buffy off might happen. She hadn't shown any indication of being interested in him before. Tonight she'd had that look in her eye. A look that told the guy on the receiving end of it she was there for the taking. A hug. A kiss. An intimate moment before she went inside.
He should know. He'd been on the receiving end of her particular look several times.
Before he knew what exactly he was doing he was out of his car and walking to the other one. He wasn't as fast about it as he could have been, but faster than a normal human just the same. He saw the shocked look in Buffy's eyes. He saw a brief flash of happiness.
And then there was anger.
That was okay. A slayer pissed at him would mean she wouldn't think about giving anyone else a good night kiss.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, opening the car door.
"I should ask you the same thing," he said, for lack of a better response. What was he doing here? Nothing he could come up with would sound logical or even sane for that matter.
"I live here."
"He does, too?"
"No, he's driving me home."
"Fine. You're home. He can go."
The guy in question looked confused and uncertain. Angel's glare certainly didn't help. He wasn't holding anything back either.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Bruce, thank you for the ride home. And for the nice time."
"Are you going to be okay? Should I get your dad or something?"
"No, I'll be fine. Sorry," she said, shutting the passenger door.
She sounded so sincere, so controlled and calm. Until she looked at Angel. There was no calm or control there now. She was furious, beyond that. Which was good. He wanted her thinking, reacting to him not someone else.
"What are you, my father now? You can't do this, Angel," she said, her voice quivering a little and he saw the unshed tears pooling in her eyes. "You left. Remember? You did that. You turned away from me, turned away from us. You cannot come here and stop me from trying to move on."
"You are mine."
"I did not leave so you could take a job where you have your hands on a third of the guys in Los Angeles."
"It's just a job! It's not like I'm having sex with them. I slather on goop when they're sore or patch them up with band-aids. That's it!"
He took hold of her then. To an outsider he might have appeared violent. Buffy knew, though, that there was nothing violent about what he was feeling right now. He saw in her eyes that she recognized it for what it was. Unbridled desire and passion. For her. Always - only - for her. Her eyes widened for a moment, realizing what he was about to do before he actually did it.
Kissed her, he was quite certain, as he never had before. Because he knew deep down this would be his only chance for this if he blew it.
It took her a minute to respond. She fought it, but despite her attempt at moving on she still loved him as much as he loved her. And resisting him in this instance was futile. Her body betrayed her.
He hadn't let himself go with her like this in months. Since he'd made his decision to leave. He couldn't knowing kissing her like this would only make him want to stay. He'd been right.
He plundered, taking and tearing from her what he wanted, needed. Buffy. Her love. Her desire. Her need for him. Her. Everything she had to offer a man and more. He wanted it all. He required it all, could not function without it.
He broke the kiss only when he knew she'd need to breath, but did not release her. He held her close, taking in her scent and the feel of her. She was pressed against him so tightly now he could feel every curve and was reminded of coming to the day she'd given him her blood.
The day she'd saved his life.
If she'd been even remotely conscious, he wasn't sure he would have been able to restrain himself from taking her there and then. Coming to with her right there with warm, human blood - her blood - flowing through his veins. He'd wanted her more than he thought possible.
He found her neck. The spot where he'd gained sustenance from her. His fangs had been imbedded in her there. He worried it with his tongue, fighting the urge to do it when here and now. It was so tempting.
"Why are you doing this to me?"
"I don't know. You think I want to?"
"You could just leave me alone."
"I'm sorry," he whispered, feeling her shiver as the night air caressed the wet spot on her neck. He smoothed down her hair.
"You can't do this."
"I know. LA wasn't far enough."
"I don't want you too far." He could hear she was crying.
"Me neither," he pulled back, unafraid to show her that he was, too. "I couldn't even if I wanted to. There's something, a part of you - of us - that will always keep me near. My heart," he stopped, not sure he could put into words what he was feeling.
"You have mine. Please stop breaking it."
"I'm just not ready to let you go."
"But you left!"
"I'm not saying it makes sense. I thought I was. I left because it was the easiest way to do it. The best way to do it. But I'm far from over you."
She wiped the tears from her cheeks, he kissed one away she'd missed.
"What does that mean? You said…"
"I know what I said. I said a lot of things that day, trying to convince you that what I was saying was true. Right. I want you to be able to have a normal life."
"You don't believe those things? You don't think we're a freak show?"
He choked out a laugh. "I should say I do."
"But you can't."
"I want you, Angel. You are the only thing about my life that's remotely normal."
"I don’t know if I can do it."
"Watch you die. Grow old. Hate me because I won't do either of those things. Or be tempted to turn you so I don't have to."
"That's what you think?"
"So, we don't get the chance to have the next sixty years together because you think I might get mad at you."
Put like that it did sound somewhat ridiculous. "Time means different things to me than it does to you."
She sighed. "All I know is that I want you."
"You looked like you were moving on."
"Because you didn't give me any choice. And I'm bored here. None of my friends from Hemry are around and those that are I don't want to hang with every day."
"I'm just trying to save us hurt later."
"But I hurt now!"
"Yes," he said, not sure if she was asking if he really knew or if he hurt now, too. Either way, his answer was the same.
"Can't you live here and me in Sunnydale and see if time away draws us apart naturally?"
"And you'd be all right with that?"
"You mean as opposed to not having you at all?"
He smiled slightly, cupping her cheek with his hand. "Yeah, as opposed to that."
"I just want you, Angel. If you need to be in LA for us to have a chance."
"We can try."
He heard her sob, knew it was from relief. She hadn't broken him down really. He'd done it to himself. He should never have come here to check on her, to watch her. It was twisting the knife, repeatedly opening the wound that was Buffy. He'd assumed she'd go back after the summer and then the healing could begin. But would there ever really be healing? How could he heal from discovering love really did exist for the first time in two and a half centuries?
She kissed him then. It was her turn to give in to what she needed and wanted.
They continued that way until he had to leave or risk exposure to the sun. She walked with him to his car where they kissed again before he left.
"You're not going to see that guy again. Right?"
She smirked. "I'll see him at work."
"You know what I mean."
"I do, and no, I won't. I doubt he'll want to after you scared him off."
"That's me, a scary guy."
She hugged him. "You can be."
"I'll pick you up from work?"
"I'd like that."
He slid into his car, tempted to say the three words. She knew how he felt, had to now anyway. Perhaps better than he did.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com