Buffy stared at her phone and the digital clock beside it which read six o'clock in the morning. Connor had crashed after pigging out on the TV dinner Dawn had made for him. Dawn with the domesticity was scary, but a little cute. Buffy had suspected he would not return to LA until today. She had kept him plenty busy on patrol while they talked about the things they had in common.
He was a good listener. He seemed to have his mind open to the possibility he may have been misdirected or misinformed about Angel. Angel had done some bad things and she had not lied to him about that. She accepted Angel good and bad. Connor would have to as well. He seemed to sense that. She thought he did at any rate.
She sat up and placed her feet on the floor to pick up the telephone. She dialed the LA phone number hoping she was not doing the wrong thing.
"This is Angel."
"Hi, Angel, it's me," she said. It did not sound as if she had woken him up. She wondered what he was still doing awake at six in the morning.
"Hey. How are you?"
"I'm fine. You?"
"Fine. About the same anyway. No word from Cordelia and not much progress with Connor. In fact I think I blew it with him last night. I had him listening, could see even maybe he doubted some things. I found out he has been asking around about me. I should have left it at that and not pushed. He might have come to me on his own. Instead, he ran away from me."
"About that. He's here."
"I am speaking English, aren't I? That's what I said."
"How did he get there?"
"Hitched a ride."
"Does he realize how dangerous that could be?"
"Angel, I think he could defend himself against almost anybody." She smiled pleased to hear he had instantly thought of his son's safety.
"Anyway, I just wanted you to know he's here and safe."
"Can you keep him there until dark?"
"I suppose I could talk him into that. Or Dawn could. There seems to be a little crushing going on between both of them."
"Great, just what I need."
"Oh come on, he could do worse."
"That's not what I meant, and you know it."
"I know. Anyway, yes. He patrolled with me last night and liked it. So, I think convincing him to stay would be doable. Plus, we were going to go to The Bronze, I'm sure he'd like that."
"I don't know how well he'd do in a crowd, Buffy. Remember, this is not a typical eighteen year old kid. Months ago he was a newborn."
"I remember. I won't let anything happen to him. You wanted to know if I could keep him here until dark."
"You're right, I'm sorry."
"It's okay. It's kind of cute, actually."
"I am not cute."
"When it comes to Connor you are."
There was an awkward pause then, neither saying anything. Perhaps she shouldn't have said that, but it was the truth.
"You'll keep him safe until I get there?"
"This is Sunnydale, Angel."
"Point taken. Do your best and I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Okay, see you later then."
"Yeah. Oh and Buffy?"
"You did say good things about me, didn't you?"
"I told him the truth." He sighed audibly. "But he seemed to appreciate that. I don't think he knows who to trust. So to hear me say good and bad things yet knowing I still care for you I think helped."
"I hope you're right."
"He came to me, Angel, I didn't ask him to come here."
"Anytime. Have a good day."
"You, too. I'm about to go to bed. I waited for him to come back until I had to leave and have been cursing my stupidity since getting back. What will you do?"
"I have to be at work in about an hour. Another shift on no sleep, but I'm used to it. And, hey, I work at Starbuck's so I get all the caffeine I want on the job. I work there til eleven and then I go to the diner downtown and work the lunch rush."
"I couldn't find one full-time job with the flexibility I need." She shrugged even though he couldn't see it over the phone. "You know, my life does get a little unpredictable at times. And I have nights off, so that works well. It's just the busy patrol nights that make it difficult. No calling in sick yet."
"Just don't kill yourself."
"Ha ha," she said with a roll of her eyes.
"I wasn't joking. You're not invincible, Buffy."
"I know. I'm being careful, really. But bills have to get paid."
"Okay, I'd just hate to see you brought back only to have you get sick or something."
"Nah, you can't keep Buffy down. Haven't you heard?"
He chuckled then. "I think I have firsthand knowledge of that fact."
Those were days, months, better not thought upon. "I'll see you later."
"You will at that, save room for me on your patrol."
"Will do. You know where to find me if you're late for whatever reason."
She ran her hand over the phone and fought back the tears that threatened to fall. The son of her one true love was sleeping on the floor downstairs. She had contented herself with the fact she and Angel were in the past. It was hard to tell her heart that when she heard his voice and saw the boy that shouldn't even exist.
His heart was in the right place and she was glad to see that. It wasn't with her and never would be again, but Buffy was getting accustomed to that. She was working at seriously moving on for the first time since he had left Sunnydale.
Since coming back she had made with being social. She figured she'd been given a second chance and she was not going to throw it away. Angel going back to LA had driven home the point that even if The Powers That Be seemed to think she should be brought back to save him they were never going to be together again. She was better prepared for it this time around.
When she wasn't working at one of her two part-time jobs she kept busy. She worked at Starbuck's five mornings a week. There she found herself being asked out on dates by businessmen, a type of man she'd never had the opportunity to socialize with much before. She got to dress up and do things she hadn't gotten to do with Angel or Riley. It was kind of fun. Dawn and Xander teased her mercilessly about having a different date every night.
What she had not bothered to tell Angel is that she functioned quite well on little to no sleep. She'd gone to work on two hours of sleep feeling as refreshed as if she'd slept all night. It was pretty cool, so she wasn't complaining. She set out both of her work uniforms before heading to the bathroom to get ready for her day. She wore her Starbuck's one to work and carried the diner waitress uniform in a duffle.
Buffy darted up the steps leading to the Revello Drive house just before seven o'clock hoping Connor had not already left. She hadn't counted on the day being as busy as it had been at both jobs. Most of the time Buffy left before seven in the morning and got home a little after five o'clock the four days a week she worked both jobs. Wednesday's she didn't work at the diner so she was usually home by noon. Today, the waitress that was supposed to replace her hadn't shown up so Buffy agreed to stay until someone else could get there. To top it off she hadn't gotten out of Starbuck's until absolutely the last second. The break she had anticipated having between her jobs hadn't happened so she'd been unable to call Dawn and ask her to do her best to keep Connor there.
She doubted she'd be able to catch Angel in time to stop him from coming here if Connor was gone. She walked in the house and breathed a sigh of relief hearing the two young voices laughing from the living room. She hadn't let Angel down. He asked so little of her and so the idea of not following through on a request of his left her feeling bummed.
"Hi guys," she said.
"Hey, Buffy. Rough day?"
"Yes," Buffy said, collapsing in the chair. She had to shower and change into non-work clothes but she just wanted to sit for a minute. Her feet were killing her. Thank God she had her mom's Jeep to take to and from work or she'd really be in trouble having to walk everywhere. "How could you tell?"
"Umm," Dawn said with a soft giggle and Buffy stared at her sister. Where had this girl come from? She couldn't remember the last time she'd heard Dawn giggle. It sounded nice, music to Buffy's ears. "Your uniform is a little dirty."
"Oh yeah. Some idiot stood from his table as I was walking by with a tray. Luckily, most of the food ended up on the floor but I got some of it. I'm glad to see you're still here, Connor."
"You are?" He sounded surprised. Buffy wondered how many people had been nice to him simply to be nice. It sounded as if this Holtz man had used him to get his revenge on Angel.
"Sure. It's nice to have a guy around the house when Xander can't be and he's out on a job for the rest of the week. And, hey, you did well last night." She was telling the truth. She didn't mention it remembering his reaction to her suggesting he wasn't completely human, but he fought unlike any straight human she'd ever met up with before. The only ones who came close were Riley, but that had not been natural and it had nearly cost him his life.
"We still on for The Bronze?"
"Yeah, just let me shower and change and I'll be rejuvenated Buffy ready to dance the night away. Are you coming with us Connor?"
"Sure, if you don't mind."
"Not at all. The Bronze is sort of a Sunnydale staple. I hung out there in high school. It's where your dad and I met up most of the time when he was living here." She smiled recalling some of the better memories involving Angel and The Bronze. It still seemed so odd to refer to Angel as being a father. "Anyway, I'll be ready in about half an hour."
She went upstairs hoping that Connor would not be upset when Angel showed up in a few hours. Whatever the two of them decided it was clear they were not going to be able to avoid one another forever. Buffy didn't think Connor wanted that any more than Angel did. He wouldn't have shown up here otherwise.
A little over an hour later at The Bronze Buffy nursed her beer and watched Connor and Dawn dance. She couldn't remember seeing Dawn act so carefree or smile so much. It was nice to see. She just hoped her little sister didn't get too disappointed when Connor left. Angel did it to Buffy, Connor would, too. He had come to Sunnydale looking for information, hoping he could find some truth amongst all the lies and half-truths he had been told by Holtz and the woman that had been at the dunes that night.
"Buffy, hey, what are you doing here?"
Buffy looked up and smiled. "Hi Chase, how goes it tonight?"
He shrugged. "About the same. Too much studying, not enough time."
Buffy nodded. She missed college and hoped to be able to go back soon. "What are you doing out this way?"
"I came to play some pool," he said gesturing to the pool table where a group of guys Buffy at least recognized stood.
"No pool tables on campus?"
"Not without waiting an hour to use a table and then having the group behind you breathing down your neck because they don't want to wait another hour."
"Ah," she said, nodding her head in understanding. Chase had been one of Riley's Initiative friends. She wasn't sure how good of friends they'd been, but she'd recognized him when he came into the diner for lunch one day.
"Are you here by yourself? You can join us if you want."
"I'm here with my sister," she gestured to the dance floor. Dawn and Connor were one of many so he wouldn't know which of them was her. "And waiting for a friend coming up from LA."
"Well, you can join us until your friend gets here. It's better than sitting there drinking alone."
"You're right," she said and stood from the table. She grabbed her beer and followed Chase to the pool table.
"Everyone, this is Buffy Summers. She was at UC Sunnydale but is on a break." He glanced at Buffy then and smiled. Did he know more than he should? She couldn't be sure. It could be as simple as he didn't want to make her sound like a loser to his friends. "Buffy, this is Josh, Chris and Stan."
"Hi," Buffy said as the three guys said, "Hey."
"She's just going to watch."
"Cool," the guy introduced as Josh said.
"What was your major?" It was Stan asking the question she knew would get asked when Chase introduced her as being someone he knew from college.
"Um, I really didn't get a chance to choose. My mom died," she said and stopped to take a sip of her beer. She didn't want to get all depressing on these guys when they were out to have a good time. Not to mention the events that led to her not being here for a year after her mom's death were not something she could talk about to many people. "Anyway, I've had to play Mom to my younger sister so you know the drill, work work work."
"Oh, hey, sorry. That's cool, though." It was Stan again.
"Thanks." Buffy saw Dawn glance in her direction and gave her sister a wave. "Don't let me get in the way of your game."
"So, how are you doing?"
"I'm fine, Chase, really." He seemed like a nice enough guy and was nice looking on top of it. She didn't know anything about him beyond he was in the Army and had worked on the Initiative project with Riley.
"I don't know if you heard about Riley."
Her eyes widened. Had something happened to Riley? She was a bit ashamed to admit she hadn't thought much of him since returning. "Is he okay?"
"Oh, yeah, he's fine. He got married, though."
"Married?" It was a good thing she hadn't take a drink at that moment because Chase's words couldn't have caught her more off guard.
"Yeah. I haven't met her or anything, it happened pretty recently."
"Good for him."
Chase regarded her as if he expected her break down and cry or something. She hadn't treated Riley very well. She understood that now. But she wasn't the one who cheated, though she wasn't sure what Riley did could be called cheating.
"Yeah, that's what I said when I heard."
"I'm happy for him, Riley's a nice guy."
"Yeah, he is."
"Is that why you asked me to join you?"
"No, I mean, I just figured I should tell you. I didn't want you to find out later and think I didn't tell you on purpose."
How often did he think she was going to see him? This was the second, maybe third, time seeing him since they took down Adam. "No problem, really." She took a sip of her beer and glanced at Dawn. She and Connor were taking a break from dancing it seemed at their original table.
"Is that your sister's boyfriend?"
"What? No. He's just a friend of a friend, the one from LA I mentioned I was waiting for."
"Ah. She's cute."
"Thanks," Buffy said.
"Not as cute as her sister, though."
"What? It's the truth."
"Thanks." She still was not real used to compliments and how to accept them graciously without appearing to be an idiot. She had not been expecting one from Chase, so it threw her. Was he hitting on her? Not likely, though thinking about it he had never joined in on the give Riley shit for having a girlfriend with a name like Buffy parade.
Her eyes went to the entrance when she thought she spotted a familiar face. She had, it was Angel. He had made it. She slid off the stool. "Hey, my friend just made it so I'm going to head back to my table."
"Sure, no problem. Hey, could I get your number or something? Or I could just show up at the diner again and hope you're there."
She grabbed a nearby napkin and jotted her number down for him. "I'm usually not home until after five, so anytime after that is good."
"If I called and asked you to see a movie over the weekend do you think you would?"
"Uh, sure," Buffy said with a shrug. She didn't see any reason why she shouldn't go to a movie with Chase. He was a nice enough guy and even though they had never been out socially or anything it was always nice to talk with someone she didn't have to completely lie to about the monsters.
Angel was walking toward her now so she was anxious to move onto where Dawn and Connor were sitting. She wasn't sure what was going to happen between father and son, but she didn't feel like having to explain how someone who looked like Angel had a son who looked like Connor.
"Okay, well, I'll call you tomorrow then. After five. And I'll have the movie listings handy."
"Great," she said, though her eyes were focused on Angel. She hadn't seen him in almost two months and she forgot how easily he could take her breath away. Images of times they had come here flashed through her mind. There were very good times and some very bad ones, too. "I'll talk to you then," she said dismissively.
"Hi yourself. It sounds like you have an admirer."
"Just a friend of Riley's."
"He's asking you out and he's interested."
"I don't think so. It is possible for a guy to ask a girl to a movie as a friend thing."
He leaned toward her, so close she thought he might kiss her. To her disappointment his lips stopped a scant inch from her ear. "I don't think any guy in his right mind would think of taking you anywhere as a friend," he whispered.
Her face grew warm and it wasn't from The Bronze being too crowded. Angel had a way of saying things that made her melt. She could almost forget she felt disappointed that he had not kissed her. "Dawn and Connor are over there." She took the chance at changing the subject to get them on safe ground.
"Cheater," he whispered against her ear.
"You're here for Connor."
"You've heard the expression two birds with one stone. Connor gave me an excuse to come see you."
"Angel," she said and shook her head. There was no point in going down this road.
"Fine," she repeated knowing they could both be stubborn. She saw a look of determination in his eyes that indicated they might not be done talking yet. Was he jealous? Did he think she shouldn't date? It was not as if she was picking out china patterns or anything. She was enjoying being single for a change. Hell, she was enjoying being for a change.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com