"Buffy," Dawn called up the stairs.
"Yeah, Dawn," she called from her room. Buffy was running way late, which was nothing real new. She slid her shoes on and smoothed down the dress she was wearing on her date for the evening.
"I have some invoices for you to sign."
"Dawnie, I'm running way late, you can just sign them for me."
The spacious old house Angel had bought served as both office and home for Buffy and Dawn. Willow went to England so that she could work with the coven further, Kennedy went with her. Giles returned to England taking Andrew with him and the promise that he would return without an impending apocalypse as the reason. Faith and Robin had gone back east and were working on the mission together. Xander remained in LA with Buffy and Dawn. Angel had put him to work at Wolfram & Hart until he found something else. The other surviving potentials had returned home. Things were as normal as they could be for the slayer and her friends. Demonic activity was on the rise, but it was working back to the normal pre-First influence levels. The whole balance thing Giles and Wesley had tried to explain to her.
Dawn had visited Scott, aka Connor, at UCLA's campus a few times and he had visited both their home and Angel's offices. Angel rarely talked about how he felt having his son so close yet so far but Buffy felt for him. At least he was able to see him and to see how well the new life Angel had provided for him was taking. Dawn was in love, Buffy was not sure Scott felt the same way but he treated her decently and did not seem to be playing games, so all Buffy could do was let it play out.
The girls who had been activated with Willow's spell were back to potential status and all were protected by the coven's spell hiding them from those who would seek them out. Buffy had asked what would happen if someone realized the coven held the ability to find the potentials but no one seemed to have a better solution.
"Buffy, this one for Mr. Le Boleis is for twenty-eight thousand dollars."
Buffy rolled her eyes as she descended the stairs. Mr. Le Boleis was a wealthy guy Buffy had worked as a bodyguard for while he was in LA for eight weeks. It was one of the easiest jobs she had ever had to perform and he had been a nice enough guy. She put in the last of her earrings as she approached Dawn's desk. "Okay, I have a few minutes, I'll sign them."
"Great, thanks. I'll drop them in the mail then."
"I may as well do it since I'll be out anyway."
"Oh but Buffy, you're going out, I can do it."
"No worries, he won't mind, Dawnie."
"You look great, by the way," Dawn said as Buffy sat at her own desk and signed the six invoices that required her signature. The other five were no where near as lucrative as the Le Boleis job had been, but she doubted there would be too many other thirty thousand dollar jobs so she took whatever work came up.
Tonight, though, was all about Buffy. She hummed softly as Dawn got the six invoices ready for mailing and checked her reflection in the mirror. She appreciated Dawn's compliment and felt as good as Dawn said she looked. She had long ago stopped hoping for a peaceful existence to counterbalance the death and destruction she dealt out night after night.
The doorbell rang and Buffy stood to answer it, looking forward to her night out. "Hi," she said, offering him a genuine smile. He was a sight for sore eyes. They had talked while she was working for Mr. Le Boleis but had not seen one another since before she started the assignment.
"Hi," he said giving her a brief hug and kiss. "You ready?"
"Yeah, I've got everything we need," she said, gesturing to her bag. "So I'm all set."
"Good," he said, grabbing the bag for her. "I've been looking forward to it since you called."
"Me, too. I need this. See you, Dawn," Buffy said, grabbing the invoices to be put in the night's mail.
"Bye, Buffy, have fun," she said, walking with them to the door. "Have her home at a reasonable hour."
"I'll try," he said with a wink as he slid an arm around Buffy drawing her close to him. "But don't wait up." He kissed her lightly, enough to make Dawn roll her eyes and close the door practically in their faces.
He led her to his car. "So, what's in your little bag of tricks for the night?"
"Oh, some holy water, stakes and a couple of swords. You know, the usual."
"Expecting to encounter some vampires then?"
"It wouldn't be a night of patrolling without vampires."
"I hear that," he said with a light laugh as he opened the passenger door for her. She slid in and closed the door as he put her slayer's supply bag in the trunk. "There are times I feel like we're back to when we first met, patrolling, hanging out in a cemetery together, no Wolfram & Hart or its senior partners."
"Back to the beginning, huh?" she said, sliding over to sit closer to him on the seat.
"Yeah, a new beginning, though. One where we remain there for each other until our work is done."
It did seem like old times, but everything was different between them. Their time apart had been necessary, they would have been dangerous without it. They were aware that those close to them were holding their breath waiting for the two of them to get with the making happy again. It would not happen again because they were both bound and determined to make this work.
She no longer felt lost without him, she no longer felt as if she would die without him. She just felt less alone in fulfilling her duties knowing he was there with her. Though he had not said anything Buffy knew Angel felt the same way. Like she was grateful for his help in giving her a job and patrolling with her he was glad to have her help in bringing down Wolfram & Hart. It would not happen over night but at least he would not be susceptible to the power such a position offered because he had her to keep him focused on his mission. Buffy suspected this was what The Powers That Be wanted all along when they sent him to her years ago.
"I like the sound of that," she whispered as he drove away from the house into the night. "Maybe along the way I'll become cookies."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com