"Honey, I'm home," Buffy called out to the darkened room as she flipped on the light switch to reveal an empty room. She already knew Willow was gone. She was where any normal college girl would be, at her boyfriend's dorm room.
"Too bad Buffy's anything but normal," she said with a pout as she slid off her jacket, draping it over the back of her chair. She sat on her bed and stared at the phone on the nightstand. It was tempting to call LA and find out if Angel was there. If he was not that would mean he could be here and she was not imagining things. But if he was in LA that would mean he was not missing her like she was him. She did not want to know that. She liked believing that he was heartsick over his decision just as she was. She liked thinking he was nowhere close to being happy and in absolutely no danger of losing his soul again.
She let out a breath and sighed as she stood from the bed. She really could use some Willow conversation about now. She could take herself to Oz's room and impose or just sit here and deal with her depressing state of mind. She walked to the window and looked outside, leaning her forehead against the windowpane. She was bored and restless. She wanted to do something, but the patrol had resulted in nothing. Except for running into Harmony. It was still early she realized and her eyes fell to the phone just to her left.
"Xander. Hey it's Buffy. Are you busy?"
"Uh no, Buff," he said. "What's up?"
"I was thinking of hitting The Bronze."
"And you were looking for some company?"
"Yeah," she admitted, hating the fact she sounded so needy.
"I'll meet you there in twenty minutes?"
"Sounds good. And Xander?"
"Any time, you know that."
Buffy hung up feeling a little better. She would do something familiar to her with someone she could count on to make her feel better. She changed into a mini-dress and some boots both worthy of a night of dancing with ten minutes to get to The Bronze. For the first time that night she was pumped and ready to go. She did not need Parker or Angel to have a good time.
She paid the bouncer her fee and presented her fake ID. The turnover at The Bronze was something else so she did not have to worry about this guy remembering she was just in high school last year.
"Enjoy your night."
"Thanks," Buffy said as she pocketed her ID in her jacket. "I plan to." The bouncer really did not care if she had a good time but that was all right. She entered The Bronze and scanned the crowd for Xander. She saw a few Sunnydale students that were seniors this year. "Too bad they don't have a school to go to," she mumbled as she walked to the bar and got herself a Coke when she did not see him. He would not stand her up so she decided to look for an available table.
She found one just as she spotted Xander at the entrance. She waved him over after she'd set the cups containing their frosty beverages down.
"Wow, Buff, you look," he shrugged as he checked her out. "Well, buff. In a divine way."
"You don't look so bad yourself," she said. He had just gotten a haircut so his hair was well trimmed, the shirt he wore actually looked as if it had seen an iron recently, and the jeans he wore sported no holes or bleach marks.
"Thanks. I just got my hair cut. I even bought a new razor. Feel how close and smooth that shave is?"
Buffy ran the palm of her hand against his jaw and had to admit it was impressively smooth given it was so late at night and she doubted he'd taken time to shave before coming here on a moment's notice.
"I have an interview."
"Yes. A caramel double latte, coming right up."
"Get out. You're applying at Starbuck's?"
"Yes. I tried the pizza parlor route and that wasn't good."
"I'd weigh a thousand pounds if I worked at a place like that. But Starbuck's. It's coffee. How can I go wrong with that? I'm hyper enough naturally, I won't need to overindulge on the tasty goodness that is their specially blended coffee."
"I wouldn't say that at the interview."
"I suppose you're right," he said with a chuckle.
"I'm sure you'll get it, Xander. They'd be crazy not to want Xander Harris touting their coffee."
"That's what I say!"
Buffy was sincere. She wanted Xander to be able to move out of his parents' house one day. Soon. She'd really never met them, but she'd seen them and seen how they treated Xander. But if Xander got a job, he like Willow would be one step closer to moving on from the drama and disaster that was Buffy's life and slaying.
"What's a matter, Buff? You look like someone just kicked your cat."
"I don't have a cat."
"Well, Mr. Gordo then."
"Hey, leave Mr. Gordo out of this!"
"Not unless you tell me what's wrong. I'm glad you called, but it doesn't take a genius to know that it was some sort of knee jerk reaction to something that happened tonight. Did you meet a particularly nasty vamp? Get hit on by some sleaze ball fraternity guy?"
"No, none of that. Aside from running into Harmony my patrol was uneventful."
"Harmony? She's still around?"
"Yes, evidently Spike bailed on her. Went to LA."
"You don't suppose he found out that's where that ring went?"
"More than likely. Natural assumption I guess, I'd give it to Angel."
"I'm going to go on record – again – as being opposed to that decision."
"So what's up then? You didn't let Harmony get you down did you?"
"No. Well, maybe a little."
"Tell Xander all about it."
"There's nothing much to tell." He glared at her and she slumped her shoulders in response. "You promise you won't go all mopey on me?"
"I felt Angel."
"You felt Angel?"
"I don't get it."
"Like he's here."
Xander scanned The Bronze. "I don't see him."
"I know he's not here now. Earlier, while on patrol and in my dorm room."
"You can feel him?"
"Well, yeah, vampire slayer here, he's a vampire. But it's a different feeling when it's him."
"I'm going to vomit now."
"Xander, you promised."
"That wasn't moping!"
She laughed and shook her head. "I'm sure it's just my imagination getting the better of me. Harmony made a comment about my lack of love life."
"Who's she to talk? She was lucky to have a boyfriend last a week in high school. And Spike bails on her over a ring?"
"A ring that would let him walk in the sun and basically be unstoppable."
"Well, okay, but still. He stuck with that crazy Dru for years. Even made a pact with you to save her life even though she'd cast him aside," he stopped, obviously realizing what he was about to say.
"Thanks," she whispered. The circumstances surrounding Spike and Buffy's short lived pact were not openly discussed. There wasn't much point. Angel had his soul again and was living some place that wasn't Sunnydale. There was nothing to worry about.
"So, why would he be here?"
"I don't know," Buffy admitted. "That's what bugs me."
"Do you think he lost his soul again?"
"I'm not as confident as you, particularly with that ring on his hand."
"I just hate this feeling, you know? It's bad enough that I have this vampire radar, but it has to tune to specific vampires."
"Maybe it's someone that Angel sired."
She thought on that for a moment, sipping her Coke. She shook her head. "I don't think so. I never had this feeling with Dru around or Spike. It's just him."
"Great. So, he might be back to lurking."
"I hadn't thought of that. But why?"
"Loves you, can't have you."
Buffy couldn't be sure but thought she heard a tone of understanding in Xander's voice and felt a pang of guilt for talking about this with him. Buffy knew how he felt, about her and about Angel. He had asked, though, and offered to listen. "He left, he's in LA."
"It's not that far of a drive."
She sighed heavily, resting her head over her arms on the table. "I hate this."
"I hate it, too. I hate it that miles away he still gets to you. Come on, let's dance. The band isn't bad and some gyrating and sweating should work the kinks out of your system."
"Okay," she said. She was never one to turn down dancing and he was probably right. Sitting here moping and dwelling was not going to make things better. She needed to get back to being perky Buffy, the Buffy she was before Parker. She had still been hurting but on her way to healing. She just needed a little push to get her back to that point. The Bronze and dancing might just do the trick.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com