"Are you in some kind of trouble, Buffy?"
"No, Dad, why?"
"Well, given your history and the fact I'm dropping you at a law firm."
Buffy rolled her eyes, glad the car was dark so he would not see her doing it. She had never told him she was the slayer so he still had no clue there were legitimate reasons for her behavior at Hemry and in Sunnydale. "I'm not in any trouble. This is where my friends are. You remember Willow, Xander, Mr. Giles?"
"Your friends work here?"
"Some do. You remember Angel, he's the CEO or something."
"So long as you're not in any kind of trouble."
"No, I promise, no trouble for Buffy." She moved to open the car door and paused. "Do you want to meet him? You could see Willow and Xander. And Dawn."
"Some other time, sweetheart. You be good and be sure to bring Dawn with you the next time you visit."
"I will, I'm sorry I didn't think to bring her along this time. It was one of those last minute decisions."
He leaned over to kiss her. "Tell her I say hello and if you need anything, a place to stay let me know."
"Thanks, Daddy," she said and cringed at the childish word she used. Some habits were hard to break. He would always be her daddy even if he had not been Mr. Reliable since the divorce.
She entered Wolfram & Hart and tried to remember which way Angel's office was. "When all else fails, ask for directions," she mumbled under her breath and did just that.
She knocked on the office door when Harmony told Buffy that he was in there with the others. "Come in," she heard someone say from the office.
"Hi," she said casually. She heard Angel's "Buffy" over everyone else's greeting and met his gaze briefly.
"Glad you could join us, Buffy," Giles said as he removed his glasses.
It was on the tip of her tongue to apologize but she stopped herself. Not too long ago they had turned her away from them, seeming to have forgotten everything she'd done in the past. She was not going to apologize for needing some time alone.
"We have some answers. Willow and I have been in touch with the coven and it appears they're behind some of this."
"How? Why would they do that? I thought they were on our side."
"They are, Buffy, I assure you. Willow and I were about to seek out the spirit guides for some answers on why the potentials were reverted to potential status."
"They have been for sure?"
"I'm afraid so, yes. And the coven used some magics so that they would stay better hidden in the event the First was not defeated for good."
"Which means the First will think the slayer line did die, right? So the First will think it won."
"Not necessarily, new potentials would be born. The First would not have been able to stop that and I'm sure it knows that. Granted, it would take fourteen years or so for any potential to receive her calling but the line will never completely die. Angel indicated he would take us to where he's been in contact with The Powers That Be previously if the spirit guides cannot or will not provide us information. We won't give up trying, Buffy. The important thing is we know the girls have been reverted to their potential status and they have some protection now."
"I'm surprised the Council never thought of that."
"Unfortunately, I don't think they thought someone would seek out the potential slayers," Wesley offered.
"Okay, Willow and Giles will get back to us when they have some answers from the spirit guides or if they need me to take them to The Powers That Be. I guess that's it for now," Angel said glancing at his watch. "Buffy will you stay for a minute please."
"Sure," she replied. Buffy realized the others were being dismissed and could not help but chuckle lightly at seeing Angel with such power. And to see him using it.
"Harmony, hold all my calls please," he said into the speakerphone as everyone but Buffy filed out of Angel's office.
"Sure, boss," was Harmony's reply.
"What's up?" It was a stupid question to ask she knew what was on his mind.
"Are you okay?"
She shrugged and walked to the windows overlooking LA. "I'm fine, Angel. Really. I just needed some time to myself. I haven't had that for years."
"So, we're okay?"
She turned to face him then, her arms crossed over her chest. She regarded the man standing before her. There was no past tense about it, she still loved him more than anyone in the world. The love she felt for Spike was real, but there would always be a part of her that would love Angel. That part, the part that wanted to be his girl, would be there forever.
"We've always been okay, Angel," she whispered.
"Now I think you're lying."
"No, now I'm being honest. I was hurt when you left me, I closed my mind and my heart off to ever finding anyone to love again."
"I can't say that bothers me exactly."
She laughed lightly and lowered her gaze. "But I think I realize now that I'm not supposed to love again."
"What are you saying?"
"Death is my gift."
"Into each generation a slayer is born. One girl, in all the world, a chosen one, one born with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires, to stop the spread of evil. You remember the drill," she said turning her back to him so she could look out the window again.
"It's just all become clear to me over the past few months. I'm not supposed to share my life with anyone, Angel. I don't think you are either. If I was, if you were, they wouldn't have let you take that day back. If the spell we did was reversed, and I'm convinced it was, then it just proves my point. I'm supposed to be alone, it's part of my destiny. There's no room in my life for love or a relationship. There's no room for more than one of me. Faith is a fluke that the world will just have to deal with. I've tried so hard to be normal, to date, to have friends and go to school but I'm never going to be normal."
"No, you're not," he said. He was walking toward her now, she could tell by the sound of his voice. "I'm not either."
"We are a freak show."
His arms went around her and she rested her head against his shoulder as she had done so many times in the past. This was right being here. "We aren't, Buff, we aren't."
"I don't think I'm ever going to get done baking."
He laughed lightly. "You don't have to go through the process alone, Buff. Not completely anyway."
"Have you not been listening to me? I think you're right, we're both destined to be alone."
"But The Powers That Be wanted us together, Buff. They sent me to you eight years ago. We were supposed to keep one another from being completely alone. That's why I need you here. I'm in way over my head with this Wolfram & Hart thing and I could use a hand."
"I'm always here for you, Angel."
"But will you stay in LA?"
"I can't be your girl, Angel. We can't go back to that place."
"You are the closest thing I have. I don't need sex, Buffy, but I need the acceptance, the support and everything else you give me."
"I need that, too."
"Watching you take on that preacher made me realize how much I could use you here."
"Are you offering me a job?"
"I guess I am."
"Well, working here I don't get to do my Angel Investigations work anymore. It's been months since I've worked the streets. Granted, there hasn't been a whole lot of demonic activity but there are always people in need."
"And what about us? I mean, what do you expect from me personally?"
He brought her more securely against his chest and kissed the top of her head. Her eyes fell closed at the intimate contact. They had shared many kisses and embraces since he had come back from the hell dimension. "Nothing more than what you can give, Buffy. I can't deny I would like to spend time with you, as much as you're willing to give me, for the rest of your life if you're so inclined. But I also realize you're human and there may come a time when you don't want to be alone any longer. I've had sex since you, so it's not sex that makes me happy. It's you, so that is out of the question for us and I wouldn't blame you if you can't live on hugs, kisses and platonic dates. It would hurt, I won't deny it, but it couldn't hurt anymore than knowing you'd been with Spike. As long as we don't get so far apart again that's acceptable to me."
"I want to spend time with you. I'd like to get to know this Angel, you're almost a stranger now. Big corporate executive, father, friend and champion."
"You're a champion, too, one who has always surrounded yourself with champions. It would be wrong any other way." He stepped beside her, an arm remaining around her. "We're both adults, Buffy, you're not in high school anymore. Can we just enjoy one another's company knowing that's all we get?"
"Will that be enough for you?"
"It has to be. The question is if it's enough for you. I meant what I said earlier, Buffy. Our lives are meant to be lonely ones. I believe that's one of the reasons we were brought together, so that we wouldn't be completely alone."
"Yeah," she said softly. "It's enough, Angel."
"I was hoping you'd say that. Everyone I've been with since coming to LA has been an attempt at replacing you. I don't want to have a replacement. I want the real thing."
She turned to him and smiled slightly, placing a hand against his cheek. "It would sure be easier if I wasn't just one of two slayers."
"I think Faith and Robin are going to be taking off."
"They mentioned out east, they're both from there I gathered."
"Yeah, he's from New York and she's from Boston I think. Did you know his mother was a slayer?"
"Yeah, his mother was killed by a vampire about 27 years ago."
"Is he over that now?"
"I think so. It took a while and a little bit of Spike and him pounding on one another, but I think so. It was talking to him that made me realize that I don't have room in my life for anyone beyond friends. I've always been kind of half assed about my slaying and how seriously I take it."
"Well, when you've lived as long as you have doing it it's no wonder. I mean, the first time you died okay. But the second time you chose to die no one bested you."
"I know, but talking to him made me realize I really need to be more about the mission, more about the slaying. I got that way after meeting up with Dracula, was all into the training Giles could share with me. But then life happened, Dawn, Mom, Glory, Riley, my dying, Spike and I just sort of lost my focus."
"It happens to the best of us, Buffy. I've never once heard the word perfect in the slayer lore."
She laughed lightly. "And with no more slayers that means Faith and I really have will have to work when evil starts brewing again." She sighed realizing they had to get back to work sooner rather than later. "You have to promise me something. No more secrets, Angel. No more making decisions without me, at least a decision that effects me or us."
He sighed heavily and Buffy thought for a minute he would say no. If he did, she would be out that door so fast. "All right, Buffy, no more."
"Thanks," she said softly. That was her biggest fear in getting close to Angel again that something would happen and he would take it upon himself to make decisions without consideration for her feelings.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com