"Damn it," Buffy said, raking her fingers through her hair. "I'm going to be late." She had to watch how hard she gripped the cell phone or she'd crush it.
"I don't know. I want to leave and my street is blocked off."
"Yeah, police cars, fire trucks. The works."
"Well, they won't be there forever."
"I suppose I should see if I can talk my way out of my driveway. Any way you can find out what happened?"
"I can try."
"That would be helpful. I guess my professor will understand if I can't get to class because the police blocked off my street."
"I'll see what I can find for you. I was online anyway."
"Thanks, Will. You're the best."
"Don't I know it."
"Call me back when you have something for me."
"I will. Oh, hey, have you seen Todd lately?"
"Um, yes, as a matter of fact. We did the dinner and a movie thing last night."
"Oh? That's it?"
"Slow is good right now, Will. That's all I want really."
"If you say so."
"Try not to get too distracted on campus. And, hey, police blocking off your street. That means men in uniform."
"Right. I'll do my best. Bye, Will."
She closed her phone, slipping it into the pocket of her leather jacket. She glanced at the closed off street sizing up the cops standing around. There weren't that many just standing there, though. Most that she saw were busy doing whatever cops did. They were going in and out of the house across from hers. They were the last houses before the sac part of their cul-de-sac.
"Excuse me, miss."
"Do you have business here?"
"Uh no. Well, yeah, actually, I live over there and was wondering if I can get my car out. I have class."
"I'm sorry, miss, but it's going to be a while. I'd call your professors and let them know. Can I get your name?"
"I've been asked to get the names of any one passing by."
"You've got to be kidding me."
"Just following orders, ma'am."
"Okay." She gave him her name and address, not sure she was too keen on the idea. She didn't really see much choice. The police department in Columbus was nothing like Sunnydale's. They actually worked here, did their jobs and stuff. She even heard FBI volleyed around. Interesting. Something big was going down on her quaint little cul-de-sac in Columbus.
"Did something happen?"
"I'm not at liberty to say, ma'am. I would advise you to exercise caution."
"Right. Caution. Good advice." Did people really say that?
Columbus wasn't a hotbed of demon activity. In fact, things were downright slow most of the time. She encountered the occasional demon, but she was practically retired at the pace things were going here. She was able to take classes and do stuff that a normal college student did. She'd be done this year, in fact, graduating with a degree in Sociology.
She was close enough to Cleveland that if the slayers guarding the hell mouth needed help she could go. Otherwise, she was pretty much on her own, living a pretty normal life. And, overall, that life was good. She wasn't serious about Todd. He was a nice guy in her major who helped her study. Occasionally, they went out but she didn't consider them dates. He was younger than she was. She'd been tempted despite the slight age difference, but things were dicey enough slaying-wise to make her gun-shy. It bothered her that this happened in her backyard. On her watch. Something like this could make her risk revealing herself.
Deciding there really wasn't anything more she could do she headed back inside. Hopefully, her professors would understand and Willow would have information for her later. She had studying to do, so she wouldn't get bored.
"So, tell me again, why we were called into this."
"The family dog got down to the crawl space and came back with what appear to be human remains. A finger. Thing is the crawl space is off the basement and the family that lives there claims they've never used it."
"Great," he said as he drove from the airport. He liked the Midwest well enough. He would just rather see it without having to wade through bodies. Or bones as the case seemed to be this time. He wondered if there would ever be a time that he believed he'd paid his dues. As he drove on the streets of Columbus toward the crime scene, he doubted it. Nothing could make up for the lives he'd taken.
"No, nothing. The family's only lived there for six months. The house itself, though, is over fifty years old. So, we could have quite a change over there."
"I'll need the names of anyone who's lived in the house."
"We're already compiling that information."
"Good, that's good."
He glanced at the local officer who was walking through with them. "You okay, Officer Colter?"
"It's no indication of how manly you are if a scene like this gets to you. If you're going to get sick, do it outside, away from my crime scene."
Seeley tightened his lips into a grim smile as the officer left his side almost immediately. He recognized the green tones to the young officer's skin. It was never easy finding a body. Even someone as seasoned as he was had to force his mind to focus on what was important.
"What do you have?" he asked Temperance as she examined the remains. They had to stoop in the crawl space, which didn't make the stench any easier to take.
"Young female, probably early twenties. She's remarkably intact considering. There are some interesting marks here near the clavicle."
"Yeah, I'll have to get a better look once we've moved her."
He glanced at the marks. They were oddly shaped, as if something had punctured the flesh too deep. He tried to envision the type of weapon that could make those marks. There was a niggling at the back of his mind that he could not bring forward. It happened to him on occasion, he'd see something and there was a part of him that thought he'd seen something familiar. He'd seen enough that things blended together. "I'll get the team looking to see if there's more and we can start talking to some neighbors."
"You think there will be more?"
"Let's hope not, Bones."
They were getting nowhere. They'd made their way around the circle portion of the cul-de-sac. No one seemed to know of any missing young women. The family that lived in the house now kept to themselves but seemed friendly. Enlightening.
"I hate this part of the job."
"Why don't you let someone else do it then?"
"I want to see the faces of the neighbors. See if I can catch a look that says something different than they're saying."
"Most of the people seem to have lived here a while."
"I get that, too. It seems like a nice neighborhood. But looks can be deceiving." He rang the door to the next house on their canvass. He turned away from the door, scanning the street.
"Can I help you?"
"Uh, hi, I'm Doctor Temperance Brennan. Do you have a minute for some questions?"
"Oh, I was hoping you were going to tell me I could finally leave my house."
He could hear the disappointment in the voice. He turned to face the resident. "Not yet. Sorry." He offered her what he hoped was a comforting smile. The resulting look of shock and terror on her face was not what he'd expected. He couldn't remember getting that response from a woman before. Maybe he was staring too hard.
"I'm sorry to bother you. Miss Summers, is it?"
"I, Angel, is it really you?" She paled visibly. He wondered if she might faint.
Bones glanced at him and he shrugged. "I'm Special Agent Seeley Booth." He showed her his badge and identification. "We just need to ask you a few routine questions."
"Come on, what is this? If this is some kind of joke, it's not funny. I had an exam today in one of my classes."
"We'll provide documentation for your professor stating you were unable to attend class if that's necessary, Miss Summers."
"Angel. What's wrong with you?"
"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about. My name is Seeley. My associate's name is Temperance."
"Get out. Your associate? Are you saying you don't know me? Are you suffering from amnesia or something?"
"If I've met you before, Miss Summers, I'm afraid I don't remember it. I cross paths with many people in my line of work."
"I don't understand."
"Can we come in? Maybe you need to sit down."
She stared at them, through them really. It was an intense look. He saw something in her eyes. Anger, hurt, and confusion. They were all there. There was something else, though, deeper in those hazel eyes. She couldn't be more than twenty-five yet she seemed older. Experienced.
"Bones, help her inside," he prompted when the woman did not respond. "I'll see if I can find her a glass of water." He wasn't one to barge into someone's home uninvited, but he couldn't stand by while someone passed out.
It was a nice house. Homey, lived in. It appeared, judging by the lone place setting at the table that she lived alone. He found a glass and filled it with water, glancing at the framed picture on the table in the entryway. It was the woman but younger with two other people. They looked happy in the photograph.
"Is she all right?"
"I don't know. There's nothing wrong that I can see. Other than shock. She seems to genuinely believe she knows you."
"I could almost swear I've never seen her before in my life, Bones."
"I believe you."
She took the glass of water he offered, clutched it with both hands and drank. She didn't take her eyes off him, though. She looked at him as if he were a ghost. He almost wished he were who she thought he was so that her mind would be eased. She handed him the glass and stood from the couch.
"Uh, Miss Summers."
"Just wait," she said and walked toward the stairs.
"Any idea what's going on?"
"None. A case of mistaken identity. They say everyone has a twin out there. I'm not sure what I think about mine being named Angel."
"Any drunken nights you don't remember?"
"If I don't remember them how would I know about them?"
"You know what I mean."
"Yes, I do, and no, there aren't."
She returned a few minutes later clutching what he guessed was a photograph from the shape and size of the item. She showed it to him. It was him. It wasn't, there was no chance it was him. But it was him. Bones' gasp beside him told him she saw it, too.
"What is this?"
"You and me at my prom eight years ago."
"I remember my prom date, Miss Summers, she wasn't you. And it was longer than eight years ago."
"Then explain that."
"I can't," he said glancing at the photograph closely. He flipped it over to examine the back of it. It seemed legitimate. He found it hard to believe someone would plant a photograph like this on the hope he'd be assigned to a case in Columbus.
"I'm sorry, but it's not. I don't know what else to say." He set the picture down on the coffee table. "Do you mind if we ask you some questions about the house across the street."
She took the picture. Her eyes went from him to the picture to Bones and back to him. He noticed her fingertips skimmed the photograph possessively, intimately. She was an attractive woman. Whoever the guy was in the picture had been lucky to have her for a date.
She answered his questions, though she didn't provide much information. She'd lived there for going on three years, owned the house, and attended Ohio State University majoring in Sociology. Her cell phone rang three times but she made no effort to answer it. She stared at him as if willing him to be a person he was not.
"Well, that was uncomfortable."
"The resemblance is uncanny."
"It is. I worry about someone carrying a torch for someone years later, though."
"Booth, he could be your brother."
They finished their neighborhood canvass and checked in at the scene. Sensors indicated a second body in the crawl space. The team began the tedious process of unearthing the bodies so they could be brought in for examination.
"I'll see you in the morning." He and Bones had dinner at a decent restaurant. It was a college town so the usual fare that one would get in that type of environment was the norm. They had skipped lunch so he was hungry enough that it didn't matter where they ate.
"All right. What are you going to do with the rest of your night?"
"Catch a ball game, the local news, see what they're saying about the scene. Maybe get some information on who lived there or left some bodies in the crawl space. You?"
"I might go for a swim."
"I'll see you for breakfast. Good night, Bones."
He showered and poured himself a drink from the bottle of whisky he bought on the way to the hotel. He reclined on the bed, turning on the TV. The Braves were playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles, so the game was just getting started. It was good enough for him. The tumbler of whisky rested on his chest, his thoughts drifted to the case.
He'd never get over seeing the dead for the first time. He wondered if those who had found his victims felt the same thing he did. He must have drifted off. He found his mind filled with pictures of a pretty hazel-eyed blonde. He woke somewhere during the second inning. It was crazy really. He didn't know her, but there was a part of him that wasn't so sure. He couldn't explain it.
He assumed Bones was still down by the pool and made a decision. He grabbed the keys to his rental car and was out the door before he could think too deeply on why he was doing it. The woman seemed insistent she knew him. She had provided proof that she knew someone who looked almost identical to him. He had to get to the bottom of it, and he couldn't do it on Bureau time.
He glanced at the yellow crime scene tape sectioning off the house where the bodies were found once he'd cut the car's engine. There were lights on at her house despite the late hour. In a way, he'd hoped the house would be dark. It would have given him an excuse to turn around and return to the hotel.
"Out of excuses," he muttered as he got out of the car.
She opened the door, her eyes widened with surprise. She wasn't dressed for bed. In fact, she looked pretty nice. He wondered if she'd been out or was expecting someone. "What are you doing here?"
"Am I interrupting?"
"Uh no. Color me confused, but why are you here?"
"We need to talk."
"Do you still have that picture?"
"You think I threw it out in the last twelve hours?"
"I'd like to see it again."
"Okay," she opened the door letting him in. "Have a seat. I'll get it."
"Here," she said, handing him the picture once she came back into the room. "So, are you going to tell me what this is about? You made it pretty clear this isn't you. Do you know him?"
"No, I just wanted to see it again. Tell me about him. About you. Why seeing me scared you."
"I don't know. If I knew I probably wouldn't be here."
"You won't believe me."
"It's a pretty unbelievable story. And there's no way I can really tell it without making you understand why this is weird to me. Without telling you the truth I mean."
He looked at the picture. He wasn't sure why he was drawn to it. To her. It was uncharacteristic. He was always good socially, but he managed to keep people at bay for the most part. Well, he had a kid so obviously he wasn't an expert at it. He just wasn't that good at personal relationships, which was the reason he'd never been married.
And she did. He got the feeling she'd told it before. Probably more than once. He did his best not to react negatively. She believed what she was telling him, was convincing the way she told it. She had too many facts, proof in the form of bite marks on her neck. She was good, too, throwing enough facts in there to be convincing without trying to be too much so. The people who tried to over prove their cases were usually the ones that had something to hide. He was quiet for a long time after she finished telling him. He sensed somehow it had taken a good deal of faith for her to reveal what she had. He'd say trust, but she didn't know him to trust him.
"And you think I'm him somehow?"
"I don't know. I thought you were dead. Him I mean. No one's heard from or seen him in three years."
"Does that have anything to do with your moving here?"
"Yes and no. I was abroad for a year. I came back here when I found out he'd needed my help. I failed him. He came through for me and I let him down."
"I don't know him, but I'm sure he'd understand."
"Can't really understand if he's dead."
"Buffy. I've never lived in LA. I've been there a time or two."
"You're accepting the supernatural stuff pretty easily."
"I shouldn't I know that." He set the picture down and stood to walk to the window. He slid one hand into his pocket. "I don't know what to say. It's unbelievable. And yet, it's not. I wish I could explain why I look like this guy. Why I believe what you're telling me. Any other day of the week I'd probably dismiss you as being nuts. But what do you have to gain from lying to me? You have the scars to prove it. I don't think you went around poking yourself in the neck with an ice pick or something to get them."
She stepped up behind him. He felt her there before she touched him. Her hand against his shoulder felt like a jolt of electricity straight to his system. He glanced at her hand from the corner of his eyes. He felt the warmth of it through his shirt. He had forgotten to grab his suit coat on his way out.
"But you believe me? And I can trust you that you won't go telling anyone?"
"Who would believe me?"
"You have a point. I told you only because I needed you to know. I have, had, a connection with him. I always knew when he was around. I always thought I'd know, feel it, if he died. That's how connected I felt to him. I've never felt it. That he was gone I mean. I've held on to the belief he's still out there somewhere even though no one's heard from him for three years."
"I'm not him. I have a past. A life."
"I know. Tell me about you."
"What's there to tell?" He wanted to turn and face her. If he did, she'd probably move her hand away. So, selfishly he remained with his back toward her as he revealed his own personal history.
"You used to kill people?"
"Yeah," he said simply. The parallel between his life and this Angel's life did not go unnoticed by him. Both had taken lives and accepted the chance to redeem themselves for doing so. The other one had died saving the world. That would be a pretty cool way to go. Seeley didn't pretend to think that what he was doing had that type of an affect on things. He was just trying to right wrongs.
"Your son. How old is he?"
"Parker. He's four."
"That's a fun age."
"Yeah, yeah, it is. I don't see him as often as I'd like, but I'm working on that."
He did turn then and she didn't move her hand from his shoulder. He reached for her forearm, skimming it with his hand. He saw so much in her eyes. She loved the man in the photograph. Angel. Not man. Vampire. If she was to be believed. He'd go back to his room and think long and hard on that tonight.
"Uh, listen, I should get back to the hotel. It's late and I really shouldn't be here." The little voice in his mind screamed at him. He didn't want to go, but somehow he knew he had to. It was important that he leave. Now.
"Oh right. Are you with her?"
"The woman you were with earlier."
"Bones? No. We work together. I mean, I guess we're friends, but no."
"Then you could stay for a little longer if you wanted."
He smiled then. It was a tempting offer, but it was for the wrong reasons. He knew that. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he couldn't be what, or who, she wanted him to be. He wasn't her Angel. "I'd like that. A lot. I don't know why, but it's true. I can't be a substitute for a guy you lost because I look like him. I have a brother. He doesn't look as much like me. It's spooky."
"It is. I agree, but I'm used to spooky by now."
"I suppose you would be. You don't like have to kill me now that you told me or anything. Do you?"
She smiled and he couldn't help but notice it was a very pretty smile. It lit up her face. "No, but if you tell anyone else then I'll have to. Or just beat you up."
"I'll remember that."
"Why did you come here tonight?"
"I don't know that either. For the first time in quite some time I just don't know."
"I'm not sorry you did." She leaned in then, close enough he wouldn't have far to go to kiss her. Somehow he knew she'd kiss well.
"Buffy," he said coarsely and stepped away as far as the wall behind him allowed him to. "I have to go. I'm sorry for bothering you so late."
"It's okay." She showed him to the door. He didn't have to be a mind reader to know she didn't want to. "Good night, Agent Booth."
"Good night." He wondered if he'd see her again. If he knew what was good for him he wouldn't, but with a crime scene right across the street from her house it was pretty unavoidable.
He drummed his fingertips on the table of the bar with one hand. He spun his glass around with the other before lifting it to his lips to take a sip of the beer. He wasn't sure how he'd gotten here. Well, he knew the how of it in the physical sense. Just wasn't sure what he was doing. Following a lead, tugging on a line until he was satisfied it led nowhere.
He recognized the couple when they came in. Their paths had no reason to cross professionally beyond the halls and elevators of the Bureau building. It helped that they were legendary around the Bureau. Spooky Mulder had managed to redeem himself and nabbed the fine Agent and Doctor Dana Scully in the process. Fine not just by Booth's standards but also most of the men in the Bureau who had eyes. Beauty, brains, the ability to handle a gun, and cut into a corpse without flinching were impressive qualities for a woman to have. It was a shame she'd lost her son. Booth didn't know how, no one seemed to know, beyond the fact that she no longer had a child.
"Agents Mulder and Scully," he said standing from his chair to shake their hands. "Have a seat. Can I buy you a drink?"
"Just a couple more of whatever he's having," Mulder said to the server when she came to the table. He removed his leather jacket, draped it over the back of the chair before tapping the standard 9x11 manila envelope against the palm of his hand. Booth noticed the gold wedding band on Mulder's left hand. He had been a bachelor, a pretty legendary one at that if rumors were to be believed, until he was forty or so.
"We've got some questions first."
"Okay." He'd expected it really.
"Scully and I. We're what you might call skeptical when an agent asks us to do a background check on a woman he's encountered during a neighborhood canvass of a closed case. Particularly when that woman doesn't appear to have anything to do with the case."
"I almost didn't do it and had we not found the information we did may not have given it to you."
"She's got an interesting file."
"Thank you," Scully said as their beers were set on the table.
"The Bureau had a file on her?"
"No, another government branch did. A failed, very hush hush project out in California. We had to have clearance to access it, but I'm surprised it's not better protected than it is. But then, someone would have to know what they're looking for to find it. Sunnydale was the town's name. The town, by the way, is no longer on the map."
"Towns come and go. It happens sometimes."
"Not so much in this day and age."
"Mulder didn't mean it's a ghost town. He means the town itself is gone. Destroyed four years ago. It's written up as if it was some sort of bomb"
"If it was a bomb why wasn't anyone notified? If you read between the lines someone, somewhere knows more. Something happened there. Big."
"Agent Booth, I'm sure Mulder and I don't have to tell you the information is sensitive."
"I'm not going to sell it to the tabloids. I know how to handle sensitive information. I appreciate your handling this for me."
"Why did you ask us to do it? There are plenty of other agents who could handle simple background checks."
"I suspected it wasn't going to be simple. And I figured you two, dealing with the X-Files and all, were best suited to handle this particular woman's background inquiry."
"Fair enough. If what that file says is true the world is a better place for having her here. I'm surprised she and Sunnydale hasn't popped up on my radar before now. Someone's kept tabs, though. As far as the other background you asked us to do."
"What information we found is in there, too. It's not much, but it seems to match what you gave us. He was CEO of the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart law firm. MIA as of three years ago. And going by the pictures in the file. You and he could be brothers."
"It's fascinating. Medically speaking I mean. To think that someone virtually identical to you could exist and not be related."
Booth wondered if there was a possibility they were related. Perhaps this Angel was a relative many times removed. It wouldn't explain why all of the sudden Seeley Booth popped up looking like the spitting image of said distant relative. But it sat better with him than the alternative. What was the alternative? He wasn't sure. He'd thought of various scenarios, and none seemed possible. It was one of the most baffling things he'd come across.
"Thanks for your help on this."
"At least this was a background check I didn't mind running." Mulder sat back in his chair and took in the bar. "Did you have us check her out because you look like this guy? Or because she's nice to look at?"
"I don't let anything but my brain make decisions for me." He saw the telling smirk from Mulder. "Well, not about background checks anyway. I don't make it a practice to invade the privacy of a woman I want to date. She shook me."
"I can't say as I blame you."
Buffy stood out on her deck watching the sunset. She had an exam to study for, but she'd needed to take a minute for herself. She'd been having a hard time for the past month or so. It was hard to keep the past where it belonged right now.
Giles and Willow were busy researching the FBI agent who had caused the current upheaval in her life. She had no idea what it meant. It was probably nothing. The resemblance was not a figment of her imagination or wishful thinking, though.
Todd had seen the prom picture, she'd been unable to put it away this time. He said he thought she looked both pretty and happy. It was no easy feat to accomplish that given she had to take on a pack of hellhounds before she could get her party-thing on. Knowing it was the last date she'd have with Angel hadn't made her very happy either.
She had seen Agent Booth several times after that night, but always from a distance. He hadn't visited her again. When another agent showed up at her door for follow-up questions she knew he was putting it behind him. It wasn't his heart that felt like it had been ripped out again so she imagined it was easy enough to walk away for him.
Some would chalk up her relationship with Angel as being nothing more than a high school fling. It was so much more than that. He was everything to her. Her world. She wasn't sure she'd ever completely gotten over his leaving her. She'd moved past it and was a better person for it. The type of friendship she'd developed with Spike that last year in Sunnydale was important to her. She'd needed it. It gave her hope that she'd find it somewhere with someone.
How was she supposed to move on when he took front and center in her life again after all these years? She was having dreams again, too. About him. It made her wish for the slayer dreams. Not that those were a walk in the park, but at least there she could do something about them. There was nothing she could do to lessen the effect of a Technicolor, larger than life Angel starring in her dreams ten years later.
It was time to get back to studying. She ran her fingers through her hair, letting the sun make its goodbye for the day before heading back inside.
Back at home, Seeley read and re-read the file Fox Mulder and Dana Scully had compiled for him. No one could accuse them of not being thorough. He'd done some research himself online. Sunnydale was, in fact, a hot bed of death and destruction. He tried to picture a fifteen-year-old girl thrown into a life threatening situation. She'd said she was expected to keep her identity a secret. Tough stuff for a girl that age, they loved to talk about everything.
He stood from his desk and walked to the kitchen. He grabbed a beer from the fridge and walked to the window. He raked his fingers through his hair as he took a pull from the bottle. It'd been over a month. The case had been closed. He crossed paths with hundreds if not thousands of people. None had gotten under his skin like Buffy Anne Summers. It was baffling.
The dreams, especially, bothered him. He couldn't remember them, but occasionally he'd get a flash of an image while awake. They were distracting and a little arousing, which was not good when they happened on the job. He'd spent maybe thirty minutes of his life in her presence, but somehow she'd gotten under his skin.
Maybe it was her story. Maybe he wanted to be on the receiving end of the undying love and devotion he saw in her eyes when she spoke of her Angel. And maybe things weren't as black and white as they seemed. Was there a possibility that he and Angel were the same person?
It seemed unlikely. Impossible. She had mentioned, though, that memories had been altered three times that she knew of. He hadn't pressed the issue because he hadn't realized she would still be on his mind a month later.
He returned to his desk, opened the file folder, and studied her picture. It was a computer generated shot from one of Maggie Walsh's computers inside the Initiative compound. She was battered and bruised. The file says she'd come into contact with an escaped hostile. Seeley sensed looking at the picture that there was more to it than that. There was a look in her eyes that said "don't fuck with me" loud and clear. Maggie Walsh had died shortly after and the file indicated that while some suspected Buffy she was killed by her own experiment gone bad. An experiment Buffy had to take down herself in order to stop it from further destruction.
There were other photos in her file. They stopped sometime during 2001, which coincided with the government pulling out of Sunnydale completely. After shutting down the Initiative compound in 2000 they'd maintained surveillance to monitor the situation for a while.
He pulled out a series of black and white photographs of Buffy sleeping spanning a few months. Sleeping beside someone that wasn't Angel. For some reason that bothered him. She'd told him that Angel had left Sunnydale after she graduated high school. These pictures proved she'd tried to move on. The file indicated the man was Riley Finn, now married and actively involved in the takedown of demons worldwide.
So, what had happened? Why was she still single now years later? He had been left with the feeling that there was no man in her life. That just seemed wrong to him.
He focused his attention on the guy in the pictures. Riley Finn. He was similar in appearance to Angel. And to himself. There wasn't much on Finn in the file, which didn't surprise him. He could get the information if he needed it, but it wasn't really important.
He glanced at his clock and took another pull on his beer. He drummed his fingertips on the sheet he was currently reading. He wondered if Riley Finn had provided some of the information in the file. There were a few things that seemed more personal than an objective observer might know. How would she feel if that was true? An ex-boyfriend providing the government information on her. It could be construed as a betrayal of trust, though there wasn't anything earth shattering in the file. They knew who and what she was, that was damning enough.
There were other photographs. A copy of the framed one he'd seen in the front hall of her house. The subjects in the picture with her were Willow Rosenberg and Alexander Harris. Both seemed to not just know of Buffy's identity but had helped her. He wanted to learn more about vampire slayers, but everything he'd found on the Internet seemed mythical.
Without thinking too hard on it, he picked up his phone and dialed the number located on the page he was currently reading. It was the notes of his interview with her last month. Between 2001 and now there were no entries about her personally. Just the destruction of Sunnydale and a note that it was believed the slayer survived. They didn't even reference her by name. Cold.
"Hi. Buffy? This is Seeley Booth."
"Agent Booth. How are you?"
"I'm doing well. You?"
"I'm fine, thanks."
"I didn't interrupt your studying did I?"
"Well, truthfully, yeah, but I could use a break. Has something happened with the case? I noticed the house is for sale again."
"Yeah, the Patton's didn't want to stay there."
"My end of the case is done. There will be a trial coming up. I don't have my notes here."
She sounded confused by his phone call. He wasn't sure why he'd called.
"How's Washington, D.C.? That's where you live, isn't it?"
"Yeah, I do. And it's fine." He glanced to his window. "Have you ever been here?"
"No, can't say that I have. Columbus is the furthest east I've been in the States."
He smiled and leaned back in his chair. "We'll have to change that."
"It'd be nice to see the nation's capitol."
"How are classes?"
"Oh fine. I can't believe how much easier it is to study and stay focused when my life is calm. No sister to protect, no mother dying on me, no boyfriend to worry about, no slaying."
"No activity lately?"
"No, not much. Here and there, but nothing that keeps me out late or anything."
"Why do I get the feeling you really mean that?"
"Because I do."
"Oh. Well, thanks."
He could hear the flirtatious tone in her voice. It wasn't a great leap of imagination to see the smile he'd be on the receiving end of about now if he were there in person.
"Good. Nothing too exciting."
"No serial killers to catch?"
"No, they must all be taking a holiday."
"Yeah, a lull isn't so bad sometimes."
"I'll be honest, I'm not really sure why I called. Other than to say hello."
"I didn't handle things too well. I avoided you and I'm sure that made you pretty shitty."
"Yeah, pretty much."
"It was just too much. You know? The way you look at me, thinking I'm him. It could drive a man to his knees. That look. It's frightening."
"I didn't mean to scare you."
"You didn't really. That's kind of the frightening thing."
"Yeah. Anyway, I could have handled it better. I should have at least reassured you that I didn't think you were nuts."
"Well, you didn't send the men in the white coats for me so I assumed that much."
"I've read your file."
"Wait. I have a file?"
"Yes, you do. It's not very extensive, but it says enough. The Initiative, Maggie Walsh, Adam."
"Ah. I should have known someone somewhere was keeping track. I guess I should be flattered I have a file. Huh."
"It stops for the most part once the Initiative was closed up. There are some notes about Sunnydale in general, but nothing about you specifically after that."
"Not surprising. They had taps on my phones."
"Yeah. It turned out to be a good thing."
"Listen. I have a couple of days vacation coming to me. I was thinking of coming to Columbus for the weekend. There's a game on Saturday and with Veterans Day it's a long weekend."
"You want to come here for a game?"
"Have you seen the Buckeyes play?"
"No, I can't say that I have."
"I'll see if I can round up two tickets."
"Okay. Don't mind me asking. Why?"
"I'd like to see you without a crime scene being across from your house."
"You want to see me?"
"That's what I just said."
"I guess it's okay."
"I'll stay at a hotel and everything. You can see as little or as much of me as you'd like. It's up to you."
"Well, that seems kind of silly. I've got plenty of room. You're an FBI agent. I should be able to trust you in my home."
"You're inviting me to stay with you?"
"I guess it did sound that way. Didn't it? Sure, why not?"
"I could think of a few good reasons. Foremost being you don't know anything about me."
"You're not the only one who can do research."
He smiled then. Oh yeah, he was in. "I suppose I'm not. I'll call you back once I've made the flight arrangements but I'm looking at getting there Friday afternoon sometime."
"Okay. You remember how to get here?"
"It's ingrained in my mind."
"I kind of figured it would be."
"I'll see you Friday then."
"Okay. Good night then."
"Good night, Buffy."
"Oh wait. What do you like?"
"Excuse me?" That was a loaded question if he'd ever heard one.
"I mean like food and stuff."
"Anything really. You cook?"
"I do. I don't claim to be very good at it."
"I'm sure it's better than what I'm used to eating."
"Thanks. Good night."
He hung up, set the phone back in its cradle and pumped his fist in the air. That had gone better than well. The idea for the weekend trip had been spur of the moment, but she was game. So was he. Now all he had to do was line up tickets to the game and he'd be set. There was something about college football games that got his juices going.
Veterans Day weekend, 2007
Seeley wasn't a nervous man by nature. He'd heard more than once that he came off as being too calm and collected at times. He supposed it came from seeing so much. He'd been on both sides of a gun. Felt the exhilaration of a kill and the repulsiveness at the evidence of what that kill shot could do to someone. Every coin had two sides. Seeley Booth's life was no different.
He hadn't told anyone where he was going other than out of town. He had nothing pending now that couldn't wait until the middle part of next week and he rarely took time off. He'd forgotten what it was like to pack with leisure rather than work in mind. There wasn't a suit or a dress shoe to be found in his bag.
He wasn't sure what to expect from the weekend. Her invitation for him to stay at her house was a generous one, but he didn't take it to mean anything more than an invitation. He was going to see her so she'd offered him a place to stay since she had the room. He wondered how she afforded the house. It was hers he'd discovered in addition to a nice car.
He pulled his rental onto her driveway, taking in the house for the first time as a casual observer. It was a two-story house, yellow with white trim kept up nicely. The lawn was brown now, but he had noticed the month before that it was in decent shape. She cared for her property. It was nice to see. It wasn't a large house, but he guessed there were three bedrooms upstairs and the two-car garage was nice.
He walked to the front door after grabbing his bag from the trunk and rang the bell. Other than the football game he wasn't sure what he planned to do with her for a weekend. He'd booked his return flight for Tuesday evening. If things got that bad he'd move to a hotel. When she answered the door with an enthusiastic smile he thought that probably wouldn't be necessary.
"Hi. You made it."
"I did." He slid his sunglasses off. He realized too late he didn't have a shirt pocket to slide them into and held them in the palm of his hand.
"Come on in. You probably think this is weird. Staying here, I mean. I shouldn't have insisted. If you'd rather stay at a hotel I understand."
"This is fine, Buffy."
"Okay. I mean, it's not like I made you say yes. So, I figured you were okay with it. I'll show you to your room. You can put your things away. You have your own bathroom, so spread your things out all you need to."
He followed her upstairs. He had a nice view to watch her walk. She was dressed casually nothing your typical college student wouldn't wear. He tried to envision her doing the things she did. Fight and kill. She seemed so small. She was fit. He noticed that without a problem. She just didn't seem capable of defending the world against evil. Good things came in small packages. Wasn't that a saying?
"This is nice."
"Thanks. It was a gift from the Council. We don't get paid. Slayers I mean. So, this is my income for saving the world."
"Not a bad deal I guess, though it doesn't seem fair."
"No, it's a pretty thankless gig. You're called when you're fourteen or fifteen and if you make it to see eighteen you're lucky."
"But you made it."
"I had help. I would have died ten years ago without it."
He set his bag on the bed. It was a typical guest bedroom. The floor like everywhere else he'd seen so far but the kitchen was hardwood. The bed was a full-sized and looked comfortable. He noticed there was a picture on the nightstand. He presumed it was Buffy and her mother. A pretty woman, he saw where Buffy got her looks. He'd noticed towels set out in the bathroom from the hall as they passed it. There was a third bedroom that looked like a study or office for her.
"This is nice."
"I get guests once in a while. It's easier for my friends to visit me when I'm in school."
"What's your major?"
"Sociology. I'm not sure what I'll do with it yet. Counseling or something."
"When are you done?"
"In May. I might have to go next summer, but I don't think so."
"Good. You've done well. I was thinking about what you were saying. Lots of people who have to leave school never go back."
"Well, I have to live. So, yeah, I mean, I don't have a choice. I think at one time I didn't think it was necessary. I wasn't expecting to see twenty-six."
She was so matter of fact about it. In a world where hitting ninety was fairly commonplace the idea of dying before he finished high school was sickening. No matter how just the reason was.
"I don't know what to say."
"It's okay. Thanks. Anyway, I was just putting some groceries away. Come on down when you're ready. Help yourself to the dresser and if you need anything let me know."
"I won't be long."
"Thanks, Buffy, for everything."
"You came here. I didn't do anything, but you're welcome."
He watched as she went downstairs until he couldn't see her anymore. He didn't have a lot, but he took his things out of his bag and placed them in the dresser. He took his toiletry kit to the bathroom. His room and the bathroom were done neutrally. Actually, the whole house was from what he'd seen so far. Things like curtains and knick-knacks made it obvious a woman lived here but it wasn't too feminine. A man could settle in here and be comfortable.
He made his way downstairs, taking advantage of the fact she didn't seem to notice he was there to watch her. She was humming softly, he didn't recognize the tune but that wasn't saying much. He wasn't much into modern music. He listened to it once in a while so he wasn't clueless, but that was about the extent of it.
"Oh, hi. I didn't hear you."
"Sorry. I was spying."
"Stealthy of you." He saw something flash in her eyes.
"No, tell me. You have this look in your eye."
"Nothing. It's nothing, Seeley, really." She turned her back to him and went to the refrigerator. "I've got beer if you want one. Otherwise, there's wine or soda."
"A beer would be good. Unless you wanted to go get something to eat."
"We could. It is a normal thing two people do when they're spending time together."
"Is that what we're doing?"
"I'm here, aren't I?"
"Yeah, you are. I've been trying to figure out why for the past few days."
"I wanted to see you. Is that reason enough?"
"I guess it has to be."
"Let's go. I'll drive."
"Let me change."
"You look fine the way you are."
"Buffy, you look good. Better than good."
Whatever he had said or done earlier to make her look sad was gone now. She looked excited. He much preferred this look. He had no doubt that she'd seen a lot and probably dealt with a ghost or two.
At dinner, they talked about her classes, his work, and other basic things. It had been a while since he'd socialized with someone he didn't know through work. It was odd not to have the conversation stray to Bureau or Jeffersonian Institute business. It was a nice change of pace. And despite the age difference he felt comfortable with her. She'd lived a full life and it showed. She was confident without being rough or unapproachable. When she laughed it was sincere. She seemed comfortable with who and what she was. Seeley found that he liked that.
Dinner turned into drinks at a local sports bar, full of talk about the big game the following day. He was able to get decent seats and hoped they'd be lucky and the weather would hold out for another day.
It was late, the crowd was starting to thin. She didn't seem to be in a hurry to leave any more than he did. He was pretty good at spotting when a woman was ready to call it a night or move on. She placed her hand over the top of her glass, running a fingertip over the edge. He was so busy watching her hand he didn't realize that she was looking at him.
"So are you going to tell me why you really came here?"
"We have all weekend for that."
"Is there something wrong?"
She placed her hand over his. It wasn't a huge surprise when she touched him. He lifted his hand and laced his fingers through hers, offering her a smile. Thoughts of whether his life was one complete lie didn't seem to matter so much when she touched him.
"You ready to go?"
"Yeah, I guess I am. I'm not a big beer drinker."
"I had a bad experience once. Actually, pretty much any time I've had more than a glass of wine bad things have happened."
"Good reason to stay away from it then."
"I agree completely."
He'd already paid their tab so they stood from their table. She slid her hands into his as they walked out. He couldn't remember the last time he'd held someone's hand. It wasn't something he did. He thought briefly on Cam. Was he betraying her? They hadn't voiced any desire for a commitment from one another. And if they had, he wasn't sure that would stop him from being drawn to Buffy. And that's what it felt like. He was drawn to her. He'd been in his share of relationships and he couldn't recall feeling similarly.
"It's a nice night."
"It is. Hard to believe winter will be here soon."
"Bite your tongue. I'm not ready for winter."
"It's a big change from California."
"I like it, though. I never realized what I'd missed out on not having four seasons."
He opened the car door for her. When he got in on the driver's side she was sitting closer to him than the door. He had to mentally count how many beers she'd had. He didn't think she had more than two, but if she wasn't used to drinking that could be enough.
"I had fun."
"I don't do that very often. I'm on a pretty tight budget and most of the people I know around here are, too. There's a guy I go out with once a term or so. Not like dates, we study together."
"You don't have to explain yourself." He turned slightly to face her, brushing her hair from her face with his fingertips. It was soft to the touch. "You're allowed to have fun. And to have it with whoever you want."
"Okay. Anyway, thank you."
"You're welcome, Buffy."
He kissed her. He hadn't planned to do it. The thought had crossed his mind. A dead man would be tempted. She was there, her eyes wide with something akin to wonder as she looked at him. Him. Seeley Booth. It was light at first, but her mouth slanted just perfectly into his and he couldn't help himself. He slid his hand to her shoulder and around her, drawing her closer. He heard her soft moan of pleasure and made one of his own. He could get lost in her. Buffy. He drew away and cleared his throat as he sat straight ahead again.
"It's okay. I kissed you, too."
Boy, did she. "I just don't want you thinking that's what I came here for."
"I don't. I mean, there have to be women you could call closer to home if that's what you wanted."
He started the car and drove to her house. They were pretty quiet most of the way. His mind was going over that kiss.
"Wait," she said when he pulled into her driveway, stopping him before he shut off the engine. She got out and walked to the garage, entering a code on a keypad he hadn't noticed until now. The garage door opened and he pulled inside.
She stood with her back against the door leading from the garage inside. She watched him as he walked toward her. She smiled, tucking some hair behind her ear.
"It's late," he said. What a stupid thing to say. As if she didn't know it was late.
"Yeah, it is. Tomorrow's Saturday, though."
"We've got the game."
"Oh right. Okay," she led him inside, locking the door behind them. He watched approvingly as she walked through the house, checking windows and the front door.
"You have everything you need?" They were at the top of the stairs now.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"I didn't kiss you to make you uncomfortable. It was impulsive. You're safe, Buffy."
"I know that. I do, really, and it's not because I can defend myself."
"You're welcome." She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "Good night, Seeley."
"Good night, Buffy."
She walked the rest of the way to her bedroom. Their eyes met just before the door clicked shut closing her in and him out.
"Well, damn," he whispered, raking his hand through his hair before going into his bathroom. He hadn't counted on liking her, having a good time. He had sort of figured he'd come here, have a shitty time, and he'd finally be able to put her out of his mind. With her out of his mind, questions about just who he really was would drift to the recesses of his mind. He'd never forget, but he could push past it and move forward.
Buffy couldn't remember when she'd had so much fun. She had fallen out of school spirit mode after Hemry. Being a little older than most of the students on campus she didn't have a lot of close friends to do stuff with. Taking in a football game by herself just didn't seem like much fun. It helped that her school's team was good.
The game was drawing to a close. She'd felt Seeley's eyes on her during much of it. It seemed he got as much enjoyment watching her as the game. She tried not to like that thought. It was strange to sit here in the daylight with a man who looked so much like Angel. It was one of those things her dreams had been comprised of years ago.
Only, he wasn't Angel. Looks aside they really weren't that similar. The atoning thing was a quirky coincidence. The fact that two people who looked identical could both have something they needed to make up for was just a fluke. Wasn't it? And she'd spent a lot of time last night and today looking at him to see if she could find any differences, no matter how subtle. So far she'd failed to spot one.
His personality, though, is what threw her. Seeley liked to laugh, didn't mind crowds of people, and didn't seem afraid to explore what his feelings for Buffy might be or where they might lead. Most importantly, he was human. He came with baggage. A son and a job that probably kept him from focusing on personal stuff.
She had baggage, too. Boy did she ever. And she was in the line of fire, too, just in a different way than Seeley was. And, granted, she was semi-retired.
Stop it, she chided herself. She was so getting ahead of herself. Just because he looked like Angel didn't mean they were going to pick up where she and Angel left off. Then why is he here? That was a good question and she didn't know the answer yet.
He put his arm around her as they left their seats in the stadium. She fit against him comfortably. She knew she would.
"Did you like it?"
"Yeah, it was fun."
"You looked like you were enjoying yourself."
"I'm not sure why I haven't gone to one before today."
"Oh, I don't know, I like knowing I took you to your first game."
"You do?" She looked up at him.
"Call me selfish or greedy."
Buffy glanced around at hearing her name. One thing about her name there weren't a lot of other women with it. So chances were pretty good whenever she heard it that it was for her. She spotted Todd with a few of his friends. She didn't know them well. She didn't really hang out with him much aside from their study sessions and the occasional movie night out.
"Hey. It is you. I didn't think you came to games."
"I don't usually. My friend," she said, gesturing to Seeley. She realized with his arm around her they looked like a couple. She saw the hurt in Todd's eyes. She'd been careful not to lead him on, to be as clear as she could be that she wasn't interested. That didn't stop him from holding out hope. "He got the tickets."
"Ah, you're the study partner."
"Yeah. That's me I guess. I've never seen you before."
"I don't live in Columbus, I'm just visiting for the weekend."
"Oh," he said, though he clearly didn't understand. Buffy had mentioned that she had friends that were out of town so it shouldn't have been that big of a surprise. She'd just never mentioned that one was as good looking as this one was. "Well, I'll see you in class Wednesday."
"Yeah, I'll be there. Maybe we can get together next weekend and go over the chapters for the test coming up."
"Sure, maybe. Gotta fly," he said and jogged to catch up to his friends who had continued without him.
"Yeah, he is."
"He has the hots for you."
"It's true. I don't know what's happening here, but he's here and will be when I can't be."
"He's three years younger than me."
"I'm ten years older than you."
"I've never dated someone younger than me."
"There's a first time for everything."
"No, not that."
"You never know, he could be the guy."
"I would know by now if he was. I've known him for two years."
They started walking toward the exit amidst the crowd of others. Buffy wasn't sure how many people the stadium seated but she was pretty sure three of Sunnydale would fit in the stadium. It baffled her that a football stadium could be that big.
"Where to now?"
"I don't know. This is your thing."
"Well, we can grab lunch or pick something up and take it back to your place."
"That sounds like a plan."
"I like the sound of it, too."
"We could get some movies if you want."
"You're in the mood for a night in then?"
"I guess I am. I don't go out much. I used to, but I'm quieter now. I don't have people around me that I like to go out with."
"You could take advantage of my being here if you want."
"Well, let's get the movies. We'll see what happens. There are a few bars with good dancing."
"I figured you for a dancer."
"You caught me."
They picked up subs after picking out three movies. Buffy figured if they didn't get to them tonight they'd get around to them sometime over the weekend. And they weren't due back until next week so it would work. And if they didn't get to them, so what.
"I like your kitchen."
"Do you eat outside?"
"I have. It's not much fun doing it alone, but once in a while."
"I hear that."
"Yeah, I guess you would understand. You get your son sometimes, though."
"I do. And I make up for the time we're apart. Or try to at least."
"I'm sure you do great." She tried to imagine what his son might look like. Handsome. That was not debatable.
"Tell me about these shifts in memory."
"That first night I came here last month. You mentioned altered memories."
"Ah, we're finally getting to why you're here."
"No, I'm here because I want to be here. I could have this conversation with you over the phone if I wanted to. Or I would have flown in and flown back out. I didn't have to make a weekend, take vacation."
"So tell me."
"Well." She ate a chip trying to organize her thoughts. "Three I experienced or saw first hand. The fourth I only heard about."
"Start with what you experienced."
She told him about Dawn. She told him about Glory and Ben's ability to fool everyone from realizing they shared a body. She told him about Willow's spell that had left them without memories of even who they were. And then she told him about Connor. She kept track of Connor. He didn't know who she was, but she figured the least she could do for Angel was make sure his son was all right. He'd do the same for her.
"Do you remember what it was like without her?"
"Yeah. I mean sort of. It's kind of like they're layered in there. If you peel it, like an onion, you see that it's only on the surface. The memories don't go to the core. The recent memories are clear and detailed, but when I go deeper into my past they're not as much. Fuzzier. But if I wasn't looking for it I wouldn't notice it. How many really remember their childhood vividly? I didn't question who she was or anything until I did a spell."
"You've led an interesting life."
"If you call freakiness interesting I guess I have. Why are you asking?"
"Just trying to figure some things out."
"You're starting to wonder who you are? What you believe to be true?"
"The thing is I don't know what to do about it. I mean, how do I find out?"
"I don't know. I could ask some people who might know. But you need to decide if you really want to know the truth."
"Buffy, I'm thirty-five years old and the fact I have a child aside I've never been one for relationships. Certainly not a long-distance relationship. Yet, the first time I saw you. The first time you touched me. Do you remember?"
"It sounds like a line, doesn't it? A come on? To tell you that I haven't felt that before. And I can't help but wonder."
"Our paths were probably never supposed to cross."
"Or maybe these Powers That Be you mentioned were letting us make a decision without souls and immortality being a part of the equation."
"What are you saying?"
"I don't know. Is there such a thing as fate?"
"I stopped thinking so."
"You did at one time, though? You believed?"
"Yes. I don't think it's all fate. I think we do have decisions to make, but I do believe there are some things that no matter what we do or say are meant to happen. I'm living proof of that. I was fated to be a slayer."
"Good point," he said. He stood from the table and walked to the sliding door that led from her kitchen to the balcony out back. He looked larger than life standing there in her kitchen.
"You're a good man."
"How can you say that? You don't know me. I'm not sure I know me."
"I saw how hard you worked when you were here last month. And like I said on the phone the other day you're not the only one capable of research."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying I'm not sure it matters if you're Seeley or Angel."
"You mean if you had a chance to get him back."
"I've lived this long without him. I love him, will always love him."
"And you could look at me knowing I have his face?"
"I'm looking at you now, aren't I?"
"Yeah, you are. For a while I thought I was being selfish. That I just wanted to see the look in your eyes directed at me. Not a ghost."
"You're not a ghost."
"I may not be Seeley Booth either."
"You're who you want to be. Are you good at your job?"
"Are you happy doing it?"
"You have a son you're proud of."
"What are you saying?"
"That you have a good life. Does it really matter?"
"Yes, yes it does. If I've been around for over two hundred years I'd like to know it. If I only loved one woman I want to know why that was taken from me."
"I told you why he left."
"Yes, you did, but I've never experienced it. I've never been willing to give up anything for anyone."
"Wouldn't you like to know? Wouldn't you rather have him here?"
"What do you mean no?"
"You seem so happy. If you're him. Whatever the reason it was done. The only time I ever saw him as happy, as at ease with who and what he was is when he'd lost his soul."
He turned then to face her, looking or searching for something. She wasn't sure what he wanted her to do or say.
"I'm sorry I ever showed you the picture."
"I'm not. If someone's fucking with me I want to know."
"But you're happy. You like your life. Why does it matter?"
"Because it does damn it."
"You can't undo it."
"So I should just go on like I don't know something's wrong?"
"Oh God, I don't know, Seeley. What do you want me to say?"
"There is no answer I guess."
"Is this why you came here? If it is, maybe this isn't a good idea. I don't have answers for you. Maybe I shouldn't have shown you that picture, I don't know. But you wouldn't be here now if I hadn't."
"No, no, I wouldn't."
"So, I guess I'm glad I did. I had a nice time today. Last night. My heart is getting involved here. And it has nothing to do with who or what you look like. So, if I'm just answer-girl, I can't do this."
He surprised her then by laughing.
"I'm an idiot."
He took the few steps it took to get to her across the room and took her into his arms. He kissed her then. She thought the kiss last night in his car had been something. It hadn't prepared her for this one at all. Her arms went around him as she gave in and rode the tide of his kiss. A hand slid along the length of her spine, cupping her bottom and urging her closer. She couldn't get much closer but she pressed against him just the same. If he wanted full body contact she wasn't going to complain.
"Uh," she murmured when he broke the kiss. "Was that supposed to explain why you called yourself an idiot?"
"Yes, it was."
"Okay. I guess I'm dumb then. I don't get it."
He laughed again. It was a nice laugh, deep and throaty. He slid his hands along her arms. "I shouldn't be dwelling on it. I guess you're better at handling this because you're used to it."
"I'm not used to it."
"More accustomed to odd things than I am then. Does that sound right?"
"I'm here with you, someone who I want to spend my time with. I should just enjoy it. I'm not using you for answers, Buffy. I wouldn't have accepted your offer to stay here if all I wanted was answers or information."
"Let's go out."
She blinked, certain she'd heard him wrong.
"You want to go out?"
Her lips were still on fire from that kiss and he wanted to go out?
"Yes, a movie, dancing. Whatever you want."
"I came here to have fun. You and I can watch movies any time. I want to give you a weekend you'll remember so you want more of them."
"Really. I can't get you out of my head. I need to see this through."
"Well, that sounds romantic."
"I guess it doesn't, but it's the truth."
"All right. This time you have to let me change."
Thanksgiving Day 2007
"Great," Seeley mumbled as his doorbell rang. It would have to ring when he was in the middle of making the gravy. "Can you stir this while I get that?"
"Sure. Are you expecting someone?"
"No. It could be Parker's mom bringing him by to see me. Or a neighbor needing to borrow cream for their pie."
"Oh okay, cool."
He kissed her lightly. "I'm sorry. I've hardly had the chance to talk to you this morning and you got in so late last night. I was barely awake when you got here."
"It's okay. It's not every day I get to ride in a limo so I'm not complaining. Go answer the door. I've got the gravy."
He walked to the door, clutching the kitchen towel he had draped over his shoulder with one hand as he answered it. He'd never done the Thanksgiving dinner thing before. When he'd found out Buffy wasn't going anywhere for the holiday he'd invited her without thinking it through. It was a project, particularly when there were only two of them eating. So, he'd settled on game hens instead of turkey. He had to admit that he liked the way his place smelled, homey. Like his mom's kitchen. Those thoughts only served to puzzle him as he wondered if those memories were real or manufactured.
"Camille," he said unable to hide his surprise at the sight of her.
"Don't you look domestic. Is that a new fashion statement?" She tugged on the towel for good measure.
"Just making dinner."
"I came by to see if you wanted to go out for a bite to eat."
"I already have that taken care of, but thanks."
"Aren't you going to invite me in?"
"I'm kind of in the middle of something here."
"You haven't called."
"I've been busy catching up. I took a few days vacation."
"I know. You dropped off, didn't even have your cell on."
"That's why they call it vacation. And I checked my messages."
"Seeley, this is bubbling." He winced, but not before catching the look of censure on Camille's face.
"I've got to get that or it's going to scorch."
"Don't let me stop you. What is it? Gravy?"
She stepped inside, which shouldn't have surprised him. She wasn't the type to turn tail and run. He walked to the kitchen and turned off the burner, setting the saucepan on another burner.
"Camille Saroyan, Buffy Summers."
"Hi, nice to meet you."
"Likewise," Camille said coolly. "Isn't this homey?"
Seeley saw Buffy's questioning glance. She probably thought Camille was Parker's mom and wondered where his son was. He settled everything on the stove for the moment, checked the game hens to be sure they were still cooking away. And they were.
"I'll be right back, Buffy."
"Okay." She looked a little worried. He couldn't blame her. He hadn't expected Cam to show up on Thanksgiving. It wasn't as if they were serious that it would have been an unspoken commitment.
"I would have called first had I known you had company. She's a little young. Then maybe that's your preference. Young and naïve. Who is she?"
"That's not fair. You don't even know her."
"No, but I know the type. What's the matter, Booth, need someone who's less of a threat?"
He chuckled lightly. She had no idea. "No, Camille. I'm going to pretend you didn't say that. I think it's best if you go before we say things we regret."
"Were you with her on your vacation?"
"I went to see her, yes."
"And you didn't have the decency to tell me."
"There's nothing to tell."
"I guess we have differing opinions there."
"I'm not going to argue with you about this. What I do with my time is up to me."
"We had sex."
"You really know how to let a woman down gently."
"I didn't show up at your door and insult your guest. You knew it wasn't going anywhere. Or is it just that you figured you'd get tired of me and call it off first?"
"Don't expect me to be waiting for you when this fizzles out."
"Because it will fizzle out. You're a born wanderer, Booth."
"That's enough," he said, walking to the door and opening it. "You can go now."
"Happy Thanksgiving, Buffy," she called out politely. The undertone was pure venom and ice. Good thing he didn't have to work with her every day. He locked the door and returned to the kitchen.
"That's okay. Is it just me or was that like majorly uncomfortable? I take it that wasn't Parker's mom?"
"No. Not exactly."
"Someone confused on your plans for the day?"
"No. We work together sometimes. We had a relationship. Well, sex really. We did have a relationship in the past."
"You don't owe me an explanation. What you did in the past is the past."
"Well, I do when the past shows up at my door when I'm trying to impress you with my cooking acumen."
He chuckled softly, glad she seemed to be all right. "Never mind. I'm sorry. She shouldn't have just shown up like that. We weren't that involved."
He handed her plates for the table, which she took and managed to find the flatware on her own.
"So how was your flight?"
"Good. I've never done the late night flying thing before. It's pretty flying over the city."
"And your bed is comfortable?"
"Yes. It's not, you know, my bed, but it'll do for the weekend."
"And in case I forgot to say it before. Thank you."
"You're welcome. No sense in both of us being alone on Thanksgiving."
"Something tells me you would have found company."
"Not company I want. And I get to show you D.C."
"Which is cool."
"I think so."
"Can I see your office?"
"Sure. Well, the areas visitors can access." He took her into his arms. It surprised him how easily she went to him. She felt right in his arms, too. "I'll even show you my gun."
"Oh, well, what more could a girl ask for?"
He smiled with a soft laugh. "My point exactly." He kissed her just as the timer went off.
"So did your study partner get over seeing us together?"
"Yeah. He was a little frosty at first, but he was fine yesterday when he took me to the airport."
"That was pretty decent of him."
"He's a decent guy."
"What do you mean?"
"Camille showing up."
"Yeah, totally. If she had come to get an earring or underwear she'd left the night before last I might be upset."
"Just making sure," he said, taking the pan with the game hens out of the oven.
"It smells really good. I've never had game hens. They're so tiny. Like little chickens."
He smiled, wondering if he'd ever seen such a sincere look on someone's face before. He'd noticed that watching her. She was a genuine person. What her face and eyes told you were pretty true to what she was feeling. Either that or she was the world's best actress. For someone who had experienced and seen the things she had she had a remarkably good outlook on life.
"I guess now we eat."
"Good, I'm starving."
Buffy collapsed on Seeley's couch. She couldn't remember the last time she'd walked so much. All day yesterday and today that's all they did was walk and look at things. She never realized just how much there was to see in Washington D.C. And she knew she hadn't seen it all. They'd done the big stuff that was open, though.
It was chilly, not bad enough to make walking outside uncomfortable. It felt nice to be inside and to know they didn't have to go anywhere else for the night. They were going to order Chinese take-out, which was fine with Buffy.
"I don't want to go home tomorrow."
"Well, that's always nice to hear."
"Yes, you're a very capable tour guide. You get the Buffy Summers stamp of approval."
"Well, that ranks right up there with Zagat."
"It does, doesn't it. My name sounds better. I think anyway."
He joined her on the couch, handing her a cup of hot chocolate. "Marshmallows!"
"What's hot chocolate without marshmallows?"
"That's what I think. My mom was always stingy with them."
"Well, no stinginess here."
"I can see that."
"What were you thinking about?"
"Just now. The smile on your face. You were thinking something."
"Yeah, I guess. I was thinking about Spike and how my mom made him hot chocolate."
"Spike. The other vampire?"
"Right. At the time I didn't think it was very funny because he could have killed her. But he didn't. I guess I should have seen then he was different."
"What are your friends doing for Thanksgiving?"
"I don't know. They're doing the English thing I guess."
"Doesn't anyone come to see you?"
"Sure. It just didn't work out this time. I'm in the middle of the term and they don't want to disrupt my studying. I'm too close to finishing. And, hey, they have jobs and stuff."
"Right. I hate when work gets in the way of fun."
"When will I see you again?"
"I don't know. I do the family thing for Christmas. Do you have plans for New Year's?"
"No, I'm pretty planless at the moment."
"Well, then consider yourself with plans for New Year's."
"Will do. What should we do?"
"Well, I guess it would be my turn to visit you."
"This is going to get expensive for you, isn't it?"
"It's okay. As you can see, I don't live beyond my means. I can afford a few plane tickets."
"Yeah, but one of these days."
"Let's not worry about that."
"Well, you're the one spending the money."
"It's just money."
"Speaking as someone who didn't have any after my mom died I can attest to the fact it's fairly important."
"Sure it is, but it's meant to be spent. And I want to spend it on this. You. Let me check with work and find out if I can take vacation. If not you might have to come here."
"That'd be fine."
She sipped the hot chocolate. It was good. He made it with milk not water. It made it tastier.
"My friend Willow was pretty shocked when she saw your picture."
"Mm, your pretty mug is easy to find."
"It is, huh?"
"Yeah. I think she thought I was exaggerating the resemblance."
"What did she say?"
"She and Giles are looking into some things for us. Unfortunately, no one from Angel's team made it out of LA so we have no idea what was going on."
"You're welcome. You know I don't care."
"I get that, yeah. I do have to wonder if I didn't look like him if you'd be here now."
"We wouldn't have had any reason to talk outside the case."
"Oh right. I don't know. And I wasn't really in the market for a relationship."
"Why is that?"
"I was enjoying my Buffy time. And I want to finish school."
"So the distance might actually be a good thing."
"Unless I rack up telephone bills I can't afford, yeah."
She finished her hot chocolate and stood to take the empty cup into the kitchen and rinsed it out.
"I've had a nice weekend. You do a nice Thanksgiving."
"I think it was the company."
"Mm," she said, returning to the couch. "I think you're probably right."
"That's me. So, if anyone finds out about us could you get in trouble?"
"I was just thinking about Camille. I met you while you were working a case."
"You were questioned briefly during a neighborhood canvass. You weren't a witness, a suspect or a person of interest."
"Well, that's good to know."
"To the murder case."
"Oh, good thing you clarified."
"So, no, it wouldn't be a problem. And I'm not trying to hide you. We just spent the last two days walking all over the nation's capital. Not a way to be discreet."
"Oh, I know, I was just thinking."
"We're fine, Buffy."
"So Chinese food."
"Glad you're so easily pleased."
"I'm not real picky when it comes to food."
"So there are things you're picky about?"
"Yes, there are a few."
"And I fall within your strict parameters."
"Good to know. That should keep me on my toes."
"That's me, always thinking."
"I saw pictures of your ex."
"You're a living picture of my ex."
"No, your other ex. The Army guy."
"There were some of the two of you in your file."
"Oh." She wasn't sure what to say to that. "Should I ask what kind of pictures?"
He laughed then. "Why did you do something you're afraid I might see?"
"There were no risqué pictures. You were sleeping or in bed in a couple and I admit I tried awfully hard to determine what you might or might not be wearing in said photographs."
"Did he not meet your picky standards?"
She chuckled lightly. "No, it was kind of a wrong time and place thing. I wasn't ready for what he wanted. Add on to that my mom getting sick and realizing the person after Dawn was a god. My plate was full. He'd been drugged and when that stopped, his strength went away. He wasn't wimpy but he was a distraction at times on patrol. I was worried he'd overdo it not realizing he had limitations. He started feeling sorry for himself and he needed me to reassure him. I just couldn't do it. They say that we all have one that got away. I think he was mine."
"Do you regret it?"
"No. I don't think I could have been what he wanted me to be. He would've had a problem with my being stronger. Anytime I would have gone patrolling with Spike he would have taken it personally. And I just wasn't ready to get married. That wasn't the focus of my life. Getting through each day was. I didn't want to leave someone widowed or kids without a mother."
"Very smart. It sounds like you've given up a lot to do the right thing."
"It comes with the gig."
"But even now when there are others you're still on call."
"Which means you have an out, could turn your back."
"I couldn't do that. It's in me. When I was traveling abroad. It didn't matter where I went. If I came upon something that needed dealing with I dealt with it. I'm the slayer. There are others now, but it's who I am. That's one of the reasons I'm in Columbus. There's a hellmouth in Cleveland and I needed to be close to it. Not super close. I lived on one for seven years, I had my fill. I couldn't leave the girls that are there defenseless. It's one thing to read in a journal what I did, the things I saw, but to actually see me living and breathing drives home the point a little more."
"I get that."
"Thanks. Didn't mean to ramble there. I'm guessing the photographs were courtesy of Maggie Walsh."
"Yeah. After she died the photograph surveillance stopped, at least of you. There were write-ups, your defeating Adam."
"She tried to kill me."
"She did what?"
"I'm not sure why. I think it was because she had the backing of the government. She had access to computers and research and funding. All I had was a watcher, a witch, your average American boy, and some books. I had Angel to help in the beginning and Spike in the end. But pretty much it was left to me, grit and strength and guesswork. Yet I still got the job done."
"Cut the nose off to spite your face."
"Yeah, something like that. I don't think she was a bad person. I think she had a bad idea and I'm glad I was there to stop it. Chipping those demons and vampires, whatever the cause, was wrong."
"I haven't talked about that in a long time."
"I'm glad you feel comfortable enough to talk to me about all of this, Buffy."
"It's weird. I'm supposed to be secretive. Hush hush. It makes it difficult to form friendships. Forget relationships. I dated a couple of guys besides Angel in Sunnydale during high school. Too much work. Too much deception."
"Well, I guess I'll have to do my best to make sure you don't regret telling me your secrets."
"I already don't, Seeley."
"You're so pretty, Buffy."
"I am not."
"You are. It blows me away that you're single. That you're here with me. That had I let someone else do the neighbor canvass we wouldn't be sitting here."
"It is kind of freaky, isn't it?"
"I want you to know that I'm not going to see Cam anymore. For sex."
"I just want you to know that. I don't want you going back to Columbus wondering what I'm doing and who I'm doing it with. I work with her, though, sometimes quite often."
"I get that. And I'm not asking you to."
"I know you're not asking me to do or stop doing anything. I like you. A lot. I'm not going to ruin this by being on a different page as you are. You've indicated you haven't been dating anyone."
"No, I haven't."
"So, we're both in the same place. No questions, no confusion. If you meet someone you want to see, just tell me. I'd understand."
"I won't. I don't work that way."
"I don't think I will either."
"Well, it occurred to me that while I've stayed with you and you've stayed with me we haven't progressed beyond kissing."
"I just don't want you going back to Columbus wondering if that somehow means I'm not attracted to you. I am, I just. I've done everything wrong to this point. I have a chance to do something right. I want to do it the right way. And that means getting to know you."
She blinked. Was she hearing him right? He wanted to wait to have sex? That was ideal to her, because really sex to this point for her was way overrated. She imagined under the right circumstances, with the right person she might be convinced to think differently. He was right, rushing into it wasn't the answer. She couldn't wait to tell Willow about this conversation. "All right."
"I'm not being too honest? Scaring you off?"
"Okay, good, because I can't say I haven't thought about it."
"It's fine that you think about it. I'm not much with the having random sex. Other than one person I've only been with people I've been pretty serious with. I just don't do casual."
"You wouldn't and you shouldn't. You deserve better."
Willow opened the door and stared. She couldn't help it. Buffy had told her. She'd seen pictures. It wasn't the same as seeing him up close and personal. It wasn't even that they looked alike. They were the same height, the same build, the same smile. It was definitely investigation-worthy.
"Uh hi, Seeley, right?"
"Yes. I'd ask how you know, but you're Willow, right?"
"Yup. And I guessed, because, well, daylight and all. You couldn't be Angel."
"It's. Wow. I might, I thought it was like a fluke thing."
"No, it's not. It's really not."
"Uh, is Buffy home?"
"No, she's not."
"Where is she?"
"She just went to the store. She figured it'd be faster if she just went herself because well, you know, I don't know where anything is."
"Can I come in?"
"Oh, yeah, sure, sorry." Could she act any more stupid? It's not like this was the first weird thing she'd encountered. In fact, compared to some things she'd seen and done this was fairly tame.
"Thanks. Buffy didn't tell me you were coming."
"She didn't? Maybe she forgot. Finals and all, she's been kind of distracted."
"Yeah, she has."
"That was nice what you did. Thanksgiving. I worry about her being here by herself. She wanted to come back to the States, though."
"I'm glad it worked out."
"Can I get you something to drink? She should back any minute. She left a while ago."
"Sure. A Coke would be great. When did you get in?"
"You're where again?"
"London, but I travel a lot."
"Buffy mentioned that."
She came into the living room with a Coke and handed it to him. "Have a seat."
"I know this is weird. I'm sorry if I'm staring. It's really amazing. It's like someone took a picture of him and had you made the same way."
"Have you been able to find anything out? Buffy said you and Giles is it were working on something?"
"We've been researching. I haven't found anything. But if someone did a spell. Well, it's a good one first of all. With Dawn, it was only those close to Buffy that were affected. And not everyone knew about Connor so it was sort of the same thing. But this. This is like huge. You have a son that's older than when Angel disappeared. And yet, they left our memories intact. Unless it was an oversight. If someone knew Angel from Los Angeles they might not realize he'd spent time with us in Sunnydale."
"Do you think that's likely?"
"I don't know. We have a whole coven working on it, but so far if there's a spell we can't find any evidence of it. That doesn't mean anything. Whoever did this could just be that good that we can't find anything."
"That's not really reassuring."
"No, I suppose it's not. I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Willow, it's not your fault."
"Well, it's just spells and magic, they're supposed to be my thing. Buffy doesn't come to me very often looking for magical answers."
"You're not letting her down. Or me."
"Are you sure?"
He smiled then and Willow thought for a minute she was back in high school. Back when she and Angel had conspired to find out information on Buffy's friend Ford.
"I'm positive. I don't know any different any way."
"Sorry I took so long," Buffy called from the kitchen. "Everyone must be restocking after Christmas or something. The store was packed."
"Buffy, you're home."
"I am, and I see you two have met."
Willow watched as Buffy walked to where Seeley sat on the couch.
Buffy kissed him. Willow watched, not to be a voyeur but she needed to see for herself Buffy was happy. It would be easy to transfer feelings from Angel to Seeley given the resemblance. She didn't think Buffy was doing that. Too much time had passed, and Willow really did think Buffy had moved on. Not that she didn't love Angel, the same as Willow still loved Oz.
"I'm glad you made it."
"Did your son get everything he wanted from Santa?"
"And then some, yes."
"He liked the shirt you sent for him. That was nice of you."
"Will his mom mind?"
"I'll keep it at my place. What she doesn't know won't hurt her."
"I didn't want to overstep my boundaries, but I saw it in the bookstore and it was so cute. I've never had a reason to buy little kid clothes before."
"No. No one I know has kids."
"I'll be damned."
"Well, I'm only twenty-six."
"Oh, I know, but you'd think someone would have kids."
"Normally, I guess you're right. My life has been anything but normal."
"Right, you have a point I forget sometimes. So, what did you go shopping for?"
"Oh, food. I didn't want to go before Christmas and meant to get an earlier start this morning. I was feeling kind of lazy, though."
"I'll go put the groceries away."
"She doesn't have to leave."
Buffy sat next to him on the couch, tucking some hair behind her ear. "Well, there's something I need to say."
"No, nothing bad. It's just I sort of forgot when we made plans that Willow was coming, too. I get scatter brained sometimes. And that's without finals on my mind. You'd think I wouldn't forget my best friend flying in from London, but I did."
She leaned against him, running a fingertip along his thigh. "Well, she's here until Saturday, and you're here until next Sunday."
"I only have one spare bedroom."
"I can stay at a hotel for a couple of nights. It's not a problem."
"Well, that wasn't what I was getting at."
She shifted on the couch, turning to face him. "I have two options."
She laughed lightly and looked away. "Willow can sleep with me and you can take the spare bedroom. Or Willow can keep the spare bedroom and you can sleep with me."
"You don't really expect me to be the one to make that decision."
"Well, no, I have no problem with it either way. It's been a few years since Willow and I did the slumber party thing, but it wouldn't be the first time we've shared a bed. On the other hand, as long as we're on the same wavelength as far as, you know, being intimate goes, I have no problem with you being there instead."
"So, you do expect me to make a decision."
"Well, can you just sleep with me?"
"I don't know. I haven't tried. I've been successful in not jumping you being under the same roof as you for days on end. So I think we should be safe."
"And on Saturday if you want to switch rooms that'd be okay."
He placed his hand at her cheek, using enough pressure so she had to turn and look at him.
"I can assure you once you've gotten me into your bed you're not going to get me out of it."
Her heart raced at his words and she smiled. She couldn't deny she wasn't disappointed to hear him say that. "Oh," she said simply.
"So, I'll leave it up to you. If you feel comfortable then that's fine with me."
"Positive. I'm a grown man, not a kid. I won't deny it'll be tempting, but I get the feeling you'll be worth the wait."
"Yeah, I get that feeling, too."
He kissed her then. It started out light but grew more intense until they broke away at Willow's soft shriek.
"It's going to take some getting used to having a third person with us."
"Yeah, it will. Sorry."
"So, what's for dinner?"
"Are you hungry?"
"I could eat, yeah."
"Well, tonight's your lucky night because we have food and stuff."
"Stuff is good."
"I thought we'd make our own pizza."
"Yeah, Willow and I already did the crusts. So we can make our own. I bought some wine. 0r there's beer. I figured it's cold, you've been traveling so we could stay in tonight. And you're here for a while, we can't go out all the time. And you cooked Thanksgiving dinner for me. I realize pizza isn't the same."
"You amaze me sometimes."
"Well, most of the time, and homemade pizza sounds good. And fun."
"I thought so. It was Willow's idea, though."
"I'll thank her, too."
She stood from the couch, giving him her hand when he did the same and walked with him into the kitchen where Willow was putting the plastic bags away.
"All put away."
"Great, let's get started on pizza."
New Year's Eve 2007
He was in love or at least seriously on his way. And with the most unlikely woman. She really wasn't his type. To be sitting home with her on New Year's Eve instead of out somewhere should have been a hardship. It wasn't. He liked it. And what was more he didn't want to go back on Sunday. They had champagne chilling and were set to watch the ball drop from the comfort and warmth of her living room. He couldn't recall the last New Year's Eve he'd been inside and warm.
They'd spent a portion of the evening outside building a snowman of all things. He hadn't even done that with Parker. The snowman completed things had turned from fun into a rather heated snowball fight. There was nothing like fresh air to get the juices flowing, even if it was damn cold out there. The snowman looked pretty good, too.
He was in the kitchen getting the few odds and ends they had bought to snack on for the evening. It was like a party, just a much smaller scaled one. Intimate. He could do that and then some if Buffy Summers was with him.
He opened a container of cheese and arranged some crackers on a plate around it. He wondered how it was he'd gotten here. His life had been pretty well mapped out. Or so he'd thought. Rebecca and Parker were blips on the road, bullets he'd dodged. Not that he didn't love Parker. He was glad to have him, but he hadn't been planned.
Buffy was the first thing he could remember wanting that he actively pursued. She had he supposed fallen into his lap by way of the case that had brought him to Columbus and the resemblance to her ex. It would have been easy to walk away and never see her again. To chalk up the attraction to her still holding a torch for a high school sweetheart.
He knew differently now, knew that the relationship was far more intense than it should have been for a sixteen and seventeen year old. And yet she'd yet to say an unkind word about him. He'd left her, breaking her heart and she forgave him. And actually felt guilty for taking a year for herself after giving so much of herself for years before that.
He found some glasses in the cupboard and brought things into the living room. The water upstairs was no longer running so she had finished her shower. She'd looked fine when they'd come in from the snow. Her nose was red, her eyes were watering and her cheeks were flushed. Her smile was wide and sincere. And her eyes sparkled with happiness. For and because of him. She'd insisted, despite his protests to the contrary, that she needed a shower.
Sleeping in the same bed as her the past few nights had been a true test of his willpower. His ability to actually do it, sleep beside her without turning on the full court press, made him realize all the more that he was gone. He didn't think she'd resist if he were to give a gentle push in that direction.
"Whatcha doing in here?"
He realized he was standing in the dark. He was rarely caught doing nothing or looking confused. "I was getting things ready."
"Thanks," she said.
He set the glasses down and looked at her then, glad he'd put them down. She wore what he presumed was a man's dress shirt that fell about mid thigh. If she wore anything under it, he couldn't tell. And suddenly watching the ball drop was the furthest thing from his mind. The shirt was unbuttoned enough for him to see she wasn't wearing a bra. She had a nice figure. An outstanding pair of legs. He'd seen her in dresses and she'd been pressed up against him in bed the past few nights. So he knew how good she felt against him. It was the first time he'd actually seen her, though. And the shirt didn't hide much from his perusal.
"I feel better."
"You look very good."
"That's what I was going for."
Her eyes drifted past him to the table. She turned out the light as he lit the large candle that would serve as their light source for the rest of the evening. "I see you've got everything all set."
"You did great. Thanks."
"I'm learning my way around your kitchen."
"Mm, among other things."
"In your arms."
"Oh, I brought a blanket down. I thought cuddling on the couch was in order."
"Sounds like a plan."
"I thought so," she said softly as she draped the still folded blanket over the arm of the couch.
The TV was on, but he was so focused on her that he couldn't have told anyone what was going on in Times Square at that moment. The ball could have dropped and he would have missed it. She was so beautiful when she walked. There was an air about her. Confident, regal, and comfortable. She was all of those things.
"I'll open the champagne if you're ready."
She grabbed a grape and slid it into her mouth. "Sure, it's almost midnight anyway."
He popped the cork almost flawlessly and poured them each a glass. "So," he said as he sat next to her on the couch. "Should I be concerned that you have a man's shirt in your wardrobe?"
"I suppose that depends. I bought it myself. It's comfortable. Roomy."
"Yeah," she said and he saw the hint of a blush on her face.
"It looks nice on you."
She picked up her glass and sipped the champagne. He found it a little difficult to concentrate. Now that he was sitting next to her he noticed how delicious she smelled. That on top of looking great. He was doomed. The tails of the shirt had shifted along her thighs giving him a nice view. A view that seemed to suggest all she wore was that shirt.
She picked up a strawberry and he watched, entranced as she dipped it into her glass of champagne. She held it to his lips then, parted her lips in a silent request for him to do the same. He did and she slid the strawberry past his lips into his mouth. He bit down and she moved her hand away. She replaced her hand with her mouth. She kissed his lips, using her tongue to lick the strawberry juice from the corner of his mouth before dipping it into his mouth.
"Was it?" His voice cracked and she smiled.
"You ate it, I just got the residuals. You must need another one." She leaned away and grabbed another strawberry, repeating the process.
He was quick this time, captured her fingers with his teeth before she could slide them away from his mouth. Her eyes fluttered closed as he kissed each fingertip. He could barely make her out in the candlelight, but he didn't need to see her to know she liked what he was doing. Her soft catlike mewls told him more anyway.
"Good," she whispered and sounded breathless. Good, he liked the idea of throwing her off her game a little bit. He'd begun to wonder if anything threw her. She was always so together even frazzled when dealing with finals in some tough classes.
The TV became a distant murmur as their kissing turned more intense. He tried to let his mind get too far ahead of where they actually were. His body was at full attention and that made it difficult not to think of more.
They broke their kiss for a minute, taking a minute to drink more champagne and check out what the celebrants in Time Square were doing. He took advantage of the lull in kissing to use the bathroom.
When he came back the first thing he noticed was that she'd moved from the couch. He thought for a minute she'd gone up to use the bathroom, too. He noticed her after a minute, though. She had spread the blanket out on the floor and was lying on top of it. She clutched the shirt in front of her, but he noticed by the way it sat that she'd unbuttoned it.
"Hi." She sounded so shy. Ordinarily, Seeley would have found that quality ridiculous and a turn off. He liked confident women. With her he found it endearing and in a baffling, possessive sort of way, a turn on. She wanted him and she didn't want just anyone. He knew that.
Even if he hadn't studied her he'd know that about her. She wasn't the type to hop in and out of bed with anyone. He gathered from everything she'd told him that it had been since college that she'd had sex with anyone. He might have interpreted wrong and it didn't really matter, but he knew sex wasn't something she entered into casually.
She released the shirt front, letting it fall and he instinctively licked his lips at the arousing picture she presented.
"God, you're beautiful."
"Thank you. You are, too."
It was an odd compliment, but he accepted it graciously because he knew she was sincere. He joined her on the blanket, lying next to her.
"You know I don't expect." She silenced him with a kiss. Her arms went around him and he was gone. He'd started to say it, she stopped him. He was in the clear.
Within minutes he'd shed his clothes and joined her in being virtually naked on her living room floor. He was partially right in his guess that she wore nothing under the shirt. She had a pair of panties on, but they were so lacey and sheer they were virtually non-existent.
He wasn't sure who wanted to touch who more. They were all hands and mouths, touching and kissing everywhere they could reach. She reached between them, sliding her hand inside his briefs to cup him. He moaned against her breast, taking a nipple into his mouth as she touched and stroked him.
He was dying to be inside of her, but he needed to be sure she was ready for him. He slid lower along her body, bringing her panties with him until he was by her feet. He started with her foot then, touching and kissing her as he made the ascent along those fabulous legs. She parted them without his having to prompt her. He caught her scent then and felt his body react as if she was calling to him. He dipped his tongue between her lips.
Her hands at his head were holding him in place. She murmured his name softly, arching into him. He obliged by sliding his tongue inside of her deeper, grazing her nub with his thumb. She cried out, lifting her hips off the floor.
"Seeley. Now," she whispered. He didn't need to be asked twice. He took a minute to sheath himself so they were protected before he slid on top of her. His mouth found hers as he slid into her. In the background he heard the countdown to the ball dropping in Time's Square begin. He couldn't think of a better way to start the New Year off than making love to Buffy.
They eventually moved up to the bedroom. It was dawn before they drifted off to sleep. He held Buffy protectively in his arms. That was when the dreams started. He dreamt of him. Angel. Vivid and real images played through his mind spanning centuries. He knew that from the styles of dress and speech.
He woke up with a scream, his body coated in sweat. The last thing he remembered was being on the receiving end of a dragon's fireball. He knew he was about to die and the last thing he'd seen before turning to dust had been his slayer's face in his mind. He'd taken down the Senior Partners but at what cost? And then he was here in Buffy's bedroom. Only she wasn't lying next to him.
"I was beginning to worry about you."
"You've been out for two days."
"What?" He rubbed his eyes certain he hadn't heard her correctly.
"I called Willow. I could tell you were dreaming and I wasn't sure what to do. She told me just to let you sleep. Your subconscious was trying to tell you something."
"Boy was it."
"Want to talk about it?"
"I think I remembered."
Her eyes widened and he saw that she understood. "Oh."
It hit him then. The reason for her sadness. She thought he'd leave again. Angel left her. Not this time. "I'm not going anywhere, Buffy."
"I don't know what's going on. I don't understand any of it. I have a chance with you and I don't intend on letting it go. This time we will make it work."
"Oh, God, Seeley, are you sure?"
It made his heart soar to hear her use his name, the name he knew and was comfortable with. He cupped her cheek with the palm of his hand. He saw the concern for him written clearly in her eyes, but he also saw hope there and he smiled. His mind was fuzzy. The dream was just that, a dream fading away. He tried to pull up memories that he was aware of but he could not. The image of his fiery death, though, would forever be etched into his mind.
"I'm sure. We've been given a chance. A real one. I don't think it was chance that our paths crossed in October. I think it was time. Our time. I'm human."
Tears formed in her eyes and he felt the stinging in his, too. "I love you, Seeley."
"I love you, too, Buffy."
He tugged her and she came willingly onto the bed with him, straddling him. "I do want to know one thing, though."
"Will we ever be able to have sex without something weird happening?"
"Mm," he said leaning up to capture her mouth with his. "We can test that theory now."
"Thank you," she whispered.
"You're welcome. I'm glad it was a surprise."
"It was. You're the best boyfriend a girl could ask for."
"That's good because you're stuck with me."
"Such a sacrifice, too."
"Would you two quit with the mushy stuff. We're supposed to be partying, living it up."
Buffy rolled her eyes and glanced at Xander.
"What? It's kind of creepy seeing you kiss him. I know he's not Dead Boy, but alarm bells clang in my head at the thought."
Buffy understood where Xander was coming from. She kept waiting for things to blow up in her face. Not only had she spent the six days with Seeley after they'd made love without any catastrophes happening but she was happy. She had just graduated from college. Her things were packed and tomorrow she was leaving for Washington, D.C. Her house had sold so she had nothing holding her to Columbus.
Seeley hadn't gotten any real memories back. He continued to have dreams but that was the extent of it. They were memories in a way she supposed. And she couldn't help but wonder if there was a reason he didn't remember. She did her best to answer what questions she could. Oddly, he and Giles had formed some sort of long distance bonding as Giles had access to Angel's history that Buffy didn't.
Things were probably better without him remembering all of the bad things he'd done. She didn't begin to understand it. She'd told him about Connor. She had to. As far as she knew, he hadn't done anything with the knowledge. She couldn't blame him. At least she couldn't be accused of keeping something pretty major from him.
The only thing Giles had found while researching Seeley's situation was a prophecy about a vampire with a soul Shanshuing. Giles wasn't sure what exactly it meant, but the general interpretation seemed to imply that he would die to live again as a human. As she herself had proven over the years, prophecies were tricky things.
His explanation for Buffy and Seeley finding one another again was far less complicated. Fate. Angel got his reward for his participation in the Apocalypse. To be human again. Buffy got hers. To be with the man she loved. Forever. And this time they had a legitimate chance at forever. She loved this man. Seeley, whether he had parts of Angel inside of him or not.
He kissed her and she smiled brightly. He had insisted on a dinner to celebrate her graduation. She had been pleasantly surprised that he'd arranged for Giles, Willow, Xander, Dawn, Faith, and Robin to get to Columbus. He'd done it behind her back. She tried to act as though she didn't care about graduating, but she was thrilled. She never thought she'd actually do it. The odds were stacked against her. And yet she'd done it. And now here she was, surrounded by her friends about to drag her hot boyfriend to the dance floor.
She'd felt pretty good after defeating the First. But that didn't compare to this. There had been tremendous loss. Spike, Anya, and many of the potential slayers had died. Today was all about goodness. There was no suffering, no one had died. They could have fun, kick back, celebrate. It was a wonderful feeling. She had no idea what was going to happen when she got to D.C. She was moving in with Seeley until they could find something bigger.
She wasn't sure how busy things would be for her slaying-wise there, but Giles agreed with her that she was to a point where unless it was something she stumbled across she was done. Seeley didn't mind that she was strong. In fact, he said he looked forward to getting her to his gym so they could spar. She looked forward to it, too. There was something about a man who wasn't afraid to get his ass kicked by his woman that was endearing.
He let her lead him to the dance floor. Willow, Xander, Robin and Faith joined them. Giles stayed at the table, not that she was surprised by that. They were here tonight to have fun. Tomorrow they would scatter around the world again. She had no idea when she'd see them again. Email kept them close but it wasn't the same. She even found that she missed Faith of all people.
She was glad to see she wasn't the only one hit by the happiness bug. Buffy couldn't remember ever seeing Faith look happier. Maybe defeating the First had altered the whole doomed thing they seemed to have going on the hellmouth. Or, maybe it was just getting away from the hellmouth.
The music went from a fast song to a slow one and Buffy went instantly into Seeley's arms.
"I can't believe how perfect this night is. How perfect this whole year has been."
"Me either. I told Rebecca about you."
"Well, you'll be living with me I kind of had to."
"Oh right. And?"
"She's surprised and wants to meet you before letting Parker come over."
"I thought so. I'm glad you agree."
"I'd do the same thing if he were my son."
"You have nice friends."
"They are pretty great. Thanks for saying so. I wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for them. All of them."
"I'll have to thank them then."
"They're my family."
"So that means they're my family, too."
"Well, when two people get married they blend families."
"Mm, yes, did I forget to mention that little detail about your moving in with me?"
"Why, yes, Special Agent Booth, you withheld pertinent information."
"Confiscate my badge."
"I was thinking more along the line of your cuffs. I don't think I can do much with your badge."
"You have a naughty streak, Miss Summers."
She kissed him deeply.
"So, tell me again about this plan."
"You, me, marriage, kids, a house, a dog."
"I like the sounds of that. I can't wait to get started."
"Me, too, Buffy, me, too."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com