Mid to Late July 2002
Angel sat at his desk impatient for the sun to set so he could go out to the streets. He had returned to LA after helping Buffy get things under control in Sunnydale for about a month. A month later he was no closer to finding Cordelia, which bothered him. It did convince him that she had not betrayed him the night at the dunes. As his eyes glanced at the clock on the wall willing the hands to move forward his mind wandered to his last night in Sunnydale.
"Hi," Buffy said.
She had looked beautiful as if she had dressed for him. She probably had. He knew she still loved him. He hoped that he had disguised the fact he felt the same way. It was better if she did not know.
"Oh, hi," Angel said casually. As things slowed down he had tried to distance himself from the companionship they had reestablished. It would make it easier to do what he had to do. Leave her. Again.
"Actually, I'm not going with you tonight. I'm going to go back to LA."
"Oh," she said. She could not hide her disappointment from him and he had wanted to take the words back. He knew he could not, though, even if it meant easing her pain.
He had stood aware that Xander's attention was on them instead of the TV at this point. Xander had been looking for an excuse to stake Angel for years. Angel did not blame him for suspecting now might be the chance he had been waiting for.
"We both know I have to go back. Things have slowed down. I think you can handle things on your own now."
She dropped her eyes to the floor. He hated doing this to her a second time. The injustice of it all was not fair. His hand cupped her chin and he tilted her face up so she was forced to look into his eyes. Eyes she used to look into and see a future with him in. He was not sure she had ever given up that dream. He was not in a position to fuel it. He did miss that look, though. And the idea that someone loved him that much.
"Hey, I'm just going back to LA."
"And we'll do better at talking." She nodded her agreement. He doubted she had believed he meant what he said. He wanted to try to be there for her this time. To be her friend. He did not know if he could do it. He had cut her off the last time because it had been the only way for him to deal with being separated from her.
"I knew this would happen. Even with your soul you're hurting her again."
"I'm fine, Xander."
"Sure, that's why you have that kicked puppy look on your face."
"I'll be fine."
"Why do you let him do this to you? We would have been just fine without him here."
"Sure and I would have been so tired from slaying my ass off around the clock that I would probably be dead."
"That's not funny."
"I'm not joking, Xander. You have no idea."
"I do have an idea. I lived here the past year. I watched friends of mine die. I had to stake a grade school friend's mom."
"I've staked people I know, too, Xander."
"Maybe that's no big deal to you, but it is to me. We don't need him. We never have."
"He's leaving now so you won't have to worry about him anymore."
"Buffy," Angel had interrupted. He did not want them at war because of him, particularly when he was leaving again. As much as he hated to think about it being true, Buffy needed Xander.
"Xander, leave us alone for a few minutes."
Xander had left the room, but had made his displeasure at Buffy's request abundantly clear.
It was just the two of them then with Jackie Gleason's voice in the background.
"I have to go."
"I know," she said and tears formed in her eyes. He longed to kiss each and every one of them away. He wanted to do more than that, too, which was the reason he had to get out of Sunnydale. She stood on the tips of her toes and kissed him. They had kissed during the past month, but it had always been restrained, comfort. Two lost souls who were lonely seeking comfort in the one person they felt most comfortable with. They had always held something back, though, unwilling to tempt fate too drastically.
She had not held back with that kiss. Gone was the inexperienced high school student he had known and perhaps naively expected her to remain. She was a woman who had been brought back to save his sorry life for reasons he doubted he would ever be allowed to understand. Her arms went to his neck, coaxing him into the kiss. Not that he needed much convincing especially where Buffy was concerned.
She had pressed her body against his and he could feel her soft curves against his more chiseled ones. Unable to stop himself he had cradled her round bottom with the palm of his hand and brought his other hand to the soft flesh that was her breast.
He felt her tears against his cheek and they pierced his heart like acid rain. He hated hurting her again. It was the reason he had stayed away. She broke the contact long enough to lift her arms over her head. She shed her shirt, dropping it to the floor and his breath caught at the sight of her.
She had changed. Some of it was merely growing out of the adolescent body she had when they first met. It was more than that though. She took his hand and placed it on her bare breast and her body's heat burned him. He had withdrawn his hand, staring at her. He could not remember that sensation having happened before. And then he did the only thing a man in his position could have done. He fled. He left her house without a word, leaving her half naked in her foyer.
He left Sunnydale that night and had not heard from her since. Not that he was surprised by her desire not to seek him out. He suspected the ball was in his court as far as making contact next went. Women did not take too well being rejected, certainly not what she had been offering him so temptingly. He was sure she had no idea how interested he had been. He still ached when he thought about wanting her.
He glanced at his hand, the one that had felt burned when he touched her. There was nothing different about it that he could see. He knew he had not experienced the burning sensation before that night. So that meant it had to be her. Or The Powers That Be telling him to keep his hands off the slayer. He was sure they had not sent her back for the purpose of his taking her to bed, as tempting as the idea was.
Losing his soul really did not enter into the equation. Now that he knew about the curse he doubted he would ever let his guard down enough to achieve that perfect moment of happiness he had his first time with Buffy.
It was time. The sun had set and Angel was now free to roam the streets of LA. He had no idea where to look for Cordelia. His feelings for her were different now. He loved her, but not in the way he loved Buffy. She had been his human connection when he believed he had left himself with none. It was easy to see now how he had let that fact cloud his judgment when it came to how he felt about her.
Angel needed to start focusing on Connor. He could not have his son walking around with a hard-on to kill or torture him. He had looked through books and papers trying to find some proof to offer the boy that he had not killed Holtz. There was none. And then an idea hit him. Of course. He was not sure why he had not thought of it sooner. The emotional upheaval of the moment probably prevented him from honing in on it.
Now he just needed to find Connor and bring him to the proof without Justine interfering. That might be easier said then done but he had to try. He stood from his desk, glancing once more at the clock on the wall. It was still early enough that he could put off leaving for a few minutes.
He sat again and picked up the phone. He dialed the one number that despite his two hundred fifty years made him nervous about calling.
"It's your dime. Talk to me." Angel rolled his eyes and almost hung the phone up when he heard the guy's voice on the other end.
"Xander. Is Buffy there?"
"You probably wouldn't believe me if I said no."
"Fine. I'll get her," Xander said and Angel heard rustling sounds indicative that Xander had set the phone down.
"Hi Buffy. It's me."
"Hi," she said simply and he could feel the effects of the cold shoulder treatment despite the LA heat and the distance between them.
"How are you?"
He pursed his lips and drummed his fingers on his desk top. He had called her because he wanted to hear her voice and knew it was the right thing to do. Now he had no idea what to say.
"I think I finally figured out a way to make Connor believe I didn't kill Holtz."
Her almost enthusiastic "Really?" was followed quickly by a more somber "that's good."
"Yeah, I hope so. I mean," he shrugged despite her not being able to see him. "I just don't want to worry about him. Otherwise, you saving me that night will have been for nothing."
"Listen, about the night I left."
"Don't worry about it, Angel. I get it, okay."
"No, I think we should talk about it."
"Now's not a good time."
"Okay. Well, later then. It's not what you think."
"I wasn't thinking clearly either. I don't need you going all soulless on us again anyway."
"So, we're okay?"
There was a long pause, he heard her breathing so he knew she was still there. "Yes."
"Good. Listen, I'm going to go find Connor. Or try to. I just wanted to call you. Say hi. Share the news with you."
"Thanks. I'm glad you called. We're about to head to The Bronze, though, so I won't be home until later if you have news."
"Oh, and Angel?"
"I," she paused. "I'm not sorry for what I did. It's good you left when you did and everything. Good night," she said and hung up before he had the chance to say anything more.
He sensed that was not what she had been about to say, but it was not really his place to call her on the carpet right then. There were so many things left unsaid between them. "I love you, too," he whispered as he hung up.
It was time to stop dwelling on what could not be and find Connor.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com