Buffy held Angel's hand and squeezed tight, knowing she could without hurting him. "It's good to see you without an apocalypse going on."
"Oh, I don't know, you're pretty sexy when you're doing your slayer duties."
"Well, see, there's the problem."
"I'm no longer the only slayer."
"You mean, there's someone besides Faith?" he asked. He was watching her intently.
"You could say that," she said, knowing she was being coy now.
"Out with it, Buff, what's going on?"
"We did this spell, you see," she started. "It's sort of hard to explain, but with Willow's help and a scythe all of the women and girls who were potential slayers are now slayers."
"No, it's not, Angel. I felt it, I felt this surge in power when they got their powers. It was like I was connected. For the first time since becoming the Chosen One I felt like I was a part of something."
"So what do you want me to do?"
"Well, we're here because Willow did a locate spell that showed there was at least one slayer here, maybe more."
Her eyes narrowed. "What were you doing here?" she asked.
"I told you, I was checking up on something."
"A girl something?"
He scoffed. "No."
"It's nothing," he said with a shrug. Buffy could tell he was not being entirely honest because he avoided looking her in the eye.
"It must be something if you took an entire day off work. Where do you work now anyway?"
"You know that law firm?"
"The one that wanted you dead or soulless?"
"Yeah, that one." He sounded almost amused.
"You're working for them?" The phone call she made to him originally was making more sense now, but she did not get it.
"In a way, yes."
"I don't get it."
"They made me an offer and I took it. I run the firm now. The L.A. branch anyway."
"And you could just forget about all the things they've done to you and to others if I recall correctly?"
"It's not like that Buff, I mean you don't understand and now is not the time to explain it to you. I did what I had to do. Now, let's get back to the subject at hand, slayers."
"Lots of them."
"Tell me about it."
"There's not much more to tell, really. Willow did the spell; all of the potentials fighting with us became slayers, as did all potentials around the world. Kennedy says Willow's hair turned all white even."
"Willow's girlfriend. She was a potential, too."
"Willow seems to have a habit of picking not totally human lovers, too, I see."
Buffy's face grew hot instantly and she knew she was blushing profusely. "Tara."
"A witch who spent most of her life believing she was a demon unless you painted a less than accurate picture for me when you told me about her."
"No," Buffy said softly. Parker had been totally human, but she was not about to talk about Parker. Angel did not know about Parker and she thought it was perhaps better that way. Riley had been human, but with the meds Professor Walsh had him on she was not sure if he qualified as being totally human.
"I didn't mean to embarrass you."
"I know, you make it sound like we deliberately chose the people we have fallen in love with." She felt him tense up, his grip on her hand tightening.
"No, I realize you didn't set out to fall in love with me and Spike, but it happened."
"You don't think I loved Riley?"
"Are you saying you did?"
She shrugged. "As much as I was able to, I guess. It wasn't enough for him, it never would have been because I couldn't have given him what I had given to you. Spike didn't help much either, he was always there to cause problems."
"He was always very good at doing that. He was like a kid sometimes, itching to see how far he could go."
"I guess he never outgrew that." Buffy smiled slightly. As weird as it was to be talking to her first lover about her last lover, it was nice to talk about Spike with someone who knew him as well as Buffy did. Xander, Willow, Giles and the rest, except for Dawn, never bothered to really get to know the man. They had not really with Angel either, so it was not that surprising.
"Angel?" Dawn said from their left. "Oh my god, it is you." She rushed toward them and threw her arms around him in a hug that was uncharacteristic for Dawn.
"Hey Dawn," Angel said, returning her hug. "How are you doing?"
"I'm doing great, thanks." She drew away and glanced to her right over her shoulder. Buffy followed her gaze but was unable to see who she was looking at. "Buffy?"
"Can I go to the arts building?"
"You came back here to ask me this?"
"Well, I sort of got to talking to this guy."
"Wait, you let her talk to some strange guy?" She glared at Andrew as she posed the question.
Andrew shrugged. "He seemed okay."
"They all seem okay, Andrew, even you seemed okay when I first met you."
"Sorry, that's not what I meant, but do you see my point?"
"Buffy," Dawn whimpered. "Please, he's walking towards us. Can I go, please?"
"Alone? I think not."
"Oh, come on, you had been alone with Angel when you were my age."
"I did not randomly meet him on a college campus either."
"No, you just kept running into him in dark alleys and mausoleums and stuff. I remember."
"Dawn, that is so unfair and it was totally different."
Dawn pursed her lips together, her eyes wide with pleading as she cocked her head to her right. Buffy turned to Angel, looking for some help. She was just not good at being the mom. She had to admit she was getting better. Not being the Chosen One helped give her some more time with Dawn. Unfortunately, Angel did not seem to be paying much attention to her, his dark eyes were focused on the guy approaching the four of them.
"Hi," he said as he approached them. It was clearly a universal hi, but he was looking at Dawn. "Hey," he said to Andrew.
"So, can I go, Buffy, please? When am I ever going to get the chance to see a college's art department again?"
"I think she'll be okay," Angel offered quietly.
"What time is it?" she asked, a little irritated that she seemed to be the only one with a problem with this.
"Seven thirty, so we were way within the two hour limit, Buff. I just wanted you to know where I was in case we take a longer."
"Andrew's going with you?"
"Sure, it's fine with me," the boy said. "I don't blame you for being suspicious or anything, but I figured it's better than wandering aimlessly around the campus."
"And you are?" Buffy prompted.
"Scott," he said offering Buffy his hand. "Scott Ross."
"Are you an art student here, Scott?" Angel asked and Buffy could not help but stare at him. He seemed genuinely interested, or perhaps he had lost his broodiness over the past few years and talked to strangers at random with no problem.
"Not directly, sir. I'm undecided at the moment."
"What year are you?"
"First year, sir."
"You can call me Angel," he said, a little too eagerly Buffy thought. "What are your choices?"
"Architecture or law."
"I work for a law firm. Law's always a good choice if you think you can make a difference."
"Yeah, I think I could, but then there will always be new building going on, too." He shrugged. "I'll decide at the end of this year."
"I think she'll be fine, Buffy."
"Angel," she whispered, knowing only he would hear her with his vampire hearing. He merely shrugged in response. "Okay, I suppose, there's not a whole lot you need to do anyway."
"Thank you," Dawn said, kissing her on the cheek.
"You're welcome. Be back here by ten."
"Sure, anything you say," Dawn said as the three began walking away. Dawn glanced back at them after Scott had spoken to her, but they were too far away for Buffy to hear what was said.
"He wants to know if I'm your boyfriend."
"Oh," she said, a tingle running up her spine that Angel knew what she had been thinking.
"Where is your boyfriend, anyway?"
"He's not my boyfriend."
"No, he was my friend, I loved him, but it's not the same."
"He died, Angel," she said softly, unable to look him in the eye.
"How?" he asked and genuinely sounded interested.
"That amulet, he wore it."
"From what you told me, he does seem to fit the bill of a warrior."
"I thought so. I know you wanted to do it, but I have to admit, I'm glad you didn't."
"So what did it do?"
"Well, it won it for us, Angel. Spike saved the world. There was no way we would have won without that amulet, Willow's spell helped but a dozen slayers would not have beaten hundreds of ubervamps."
"I wish you hadn't told me to go home."
"One more wasn't going to make a difference in this, Angel, I knew that. I told you why I sent you away. You have proven that you are a fighter for our side, that was never the issue."
"Do you? I had no problem sending you away, because I knew if we failed you would be there to take over and fight until the end just like Faith and I had."
He leaned toward her and kissed her, gently. The tip of his tongue grazed her lower lip before he drew away. "I know, Buff, I know. I'd forgotten what it was like to fight alongside you. I was jealous, still am, that Spike got to for as long as he did."
She drew away slightly, her hands cupping his face. "Well, I'm giving you the opportunity to fight by my side again. Will you do it?"
"I don't know that I have it in me to say no to you, Buffy, you know that."
She chuckled lightly, though inwardly it made her stomach flip-flop to hear him say that. "So, you'll do it?"
"What is it exactly you want me to do?"
"Well, Faith and I agree that these women when we find them aren't just going to take our word for it. I mean, we are going to probably offer them the only explanation they've gotten as to why in a matter of minutes they went from being a normal girl or woman to one with superhuman strength and other supernatural goodies."
"Right," he said, seeming to concur.
"So, we were thinking you might be proof-boy for a while."
"Yeah, you know, that the monsters we tell them about are real."
"You need to work on closing your deals, Buff. Telling the person you're asking for help you consider him a monster isn't exactly a good selling tactic."
"Angel, I consider myself one of the monsters sometimes. You surround yourself with death, darkness and destruction for so long the line gets more and more blurred."
"Agreed," he said with a slight smile and Buffy realized he had been teasing her, he really had not been offended.
"I don't consider you a monster, but we have to convince them that vampires, demons, and weres truly exist and aren't just the stuff horror novels are made of."
"I'll do it."
"What about the job?"
He shrugged. "This is more important. I took on the task of helping you long before I signed on with the firm. If Wolfram & Hart think they can take me out of the game, they've got another thing coming. I accomplished the one thing I wanted to accomplish, and managed to help you in the deal."
"The amulet, it came from them."
"Wait a minute. You were going to wear something powerful, something you weren't sure of what it did knowing it came from a group of people who have spent the last four years of your life trying to make you as miserable as possible."
"Or as happy as possible," he quipped and Buffy stared at him. He was making a joke?
"Okay, or as happy as possible." She did not even want to think about that possibility.
"Buffy, it would have helped you, so I had no problem doing it."
"Well, I do, Angel, but I guess there's the difference between you and me."
"You wouldn't have let me make that decision for you."
"Yet, you made the decision about what was best for me."
"Was I wrong?"
"Don't even go there, Angel."
"Buffy, a few months ago you told me that you weren't done, weren't ready. Had I stayed in Sunnydale, would you be ready?"
"Probably not," she murmured, hating that he was right. She had needed the past four years for sure to grow and become the person she had become.
He leaned toward her and kissed her again, too briefly for her liking but it would do for now. At least he still wanted to kiss her. That was a plus. "Then know that what I did was for you."
"So then, when do I get to meet these new slayers?"
"I don't know," she admitted. She was sort of glad he had changed the subject, she really did not want to be all serious now that they were finally together like this. "Willow's doing her spell."
"And you want me to help you train them? Even if it means you all would have to stay in LA?"
"Angel, there's only twelve of us left. Three were SITs and I think they're still sort of suffering from shell shock."
"Who are the others?"
"Dawn, Andrew, Xander, Willow, Giles, Faith, Robin, Kennedy, and Me."
"The best for last."
"I don't know about that."
"I do," he said and seemed to be looking right through her.
"We've been renting an oceanfront house since May. It's private so no one wonders what we're doing or why we're there."
"I live at the law firm right now, on the premises."
"Where is your secretary's desk?"
Angel smirked, Buffy was not sure whether she should laugh or cry at the fact she cared. "Not in my living quarters, but I could arrange through the firm to rent something to accommodate you."
"Angel, there's going to be way more than twelve of us when we collect all of these women."
"Well, then we'll figure it out once we get to more than twelve, Buff. I don't know what else to tell you."
"What about that hotel you were living in?"
"I don't know I haven't been back there in months."
"Well, it's still standing, right?"
"Yes, of course it is."
"There'd be plenty of room there, right? Rooms for plenty of women, a place to work out and train?"
"Yes," he said with a nod of his head as if he was processing the idea. "Yes, I suppose there would be."
"I don't know how we'll be able to afford it," she said softly.
"Don't worry about it. You'll be fine. I promise you, Buff, from here on out, things will be going your way."
"You know, I think I actually believe you," she said with a wide smile. She probably looked corny as hell, but he was right. For the first time ever, Buffy felt like things were finally going right, the way they should be. She and Angel were talking without arguing, that was definitely a plus.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com