Buffy decided to wait for Tyler. Tim and Butch had made a beeline for them when they got back. It was almost like they'd been watching for them to return. That was creepy. Coupled with the kissing yesterday, Buffy decided she wanted to stay away. While she hadn't seen Tyler in years, she knew him well enough then to know she could just hang with him. That's all she wanted. Dawn, on the other hand, made a big play of making sure Buffy answered the phone in case Peter called. Butch, at least, had gotten the hint. Tim was probably a different story.
"Hi. You found us."
"Sure. It wasn't too hard. Just ask the guys with eyes where the two hot chicks were."
"Right. That'll do it I guess. Dawn's already down at the beach, I decided to wait for you. There's coolers full of stuff down there, unless you want something now."
"No, I'm fine."
"Okay then." She stepped off the boat and walked with him in the direction of the beach. There were a few new boats today. She'd never given much thought to people who traveled this way.
"So, what brought you back to LA if you don't live here anymore?"
"The past I guess. And the available boat that we didn't have to pay for."
"Ah, that'll do it. So, it's just the two of you ladies?"
"Yup, just us. A week of sun and sin."
He chuckled. "Yeah, you were made for a life containing lots of both. I always knew that."
She laughed. "Tyler."
"What? It's true. I was really bummed when you moved."
"And it was like you disappeared. No one knew where you moved to or anything."
"That was my mom's idea. Sever all ties, put the past behind me."
"I could see that. Burning down the gym, not exactly the way to stay under the radar."
"What do you do?"
"Oh really? Computers or what?"
"Yeah," she said simply. It was always iffy talking about what she did for a living. She hated having to lie.
"How about you?"
"Oh, I'm following in my father's footsteps. Law school. Only I plan to lock the guy's up he tries to get off."
"Ah. Will we be seeing father and son court battles?"
"I hope so."
"Cool. Let me know when the first one is, I'll be there."
He stopped walking and looked at her. Buffy wondered what she had said that was so surprising. "You really mean that."
"Yeah, Tyler, I do."
"Okay then. I admit, when you left like that I just assumed you hated me or something."
"Did you meet someone else?"
"Yeah, yeah, I did. Not like right away or anything, but yeah."
"That's good. Was he good to you?"
She shrugged. Simple questions with such complex answers. "For the most part. It was complicated. He was older."
"Ah. I can imagine how that went over with your mom."
He draped an arm over her shoulder. At fifteen there'd been nowhere she'd rather be than in Tyler's arms. Now, not so much. But she knew when he brought her to him for a hug that it was comfort he was offering her, nothing more.
"I'm really sorry about your mom, Buffy. And so young. All of you, not just your mom. You and Dawn. That had to have been hard."
"It was. I had to quit school to take care of Dawn."
"What about your dad?"
"You'd think, wouldn't you that he'd step in and help? But he was too busy with his secretary."
"Ah, I didn't know."
"No one did. It's okay. Mom before she died, she'd gone out on a couple of dates with a guy. He even sent her flowers. I thought she'd finally found the one. You know?" She hadn't thought of that day for so long. Coming home to the bouquet of flowers there. She had been so happy for her mother.
"Let's make with the good times tonight. Okay?"
"Sure, Buffy, no problem." He kept his arm around her as they walked arrived at the beach. They had a while to go until they could do a bonfire, but there was a game of volleyball going on. Some touch football she noticed, too. All seemed to be having a good time.
"Oh, hi. I thought it was just you and your sister."
"Um, it is. I went to school with Tyler."
"Oh, an old friend."
Buffy hoped Tyler would understand. She'd explain it to him later. She just didn't like the vibe this guy was giving off. She wished it was as black and white as his being a vampire or demon, but it wasn't. He just freaked her out. She placed her free hand on Tyler's abdomen. Oh yeah, the years had been good to him. There was nothing soft about him. "An old boyfriend actually."
"Oh I get it. Hey, it's cool. See ya."
Tyler burst out in laughter once Tim was out of earshot.
"I'm so glad you knew what I was doing."
"Hey, no problem. He was coming on a little strong."
"Uh yeah, you got that too?"
"Yes, definitely. Not that I can blame him. The years have been good to you, Buffy."
"Thanks. So, you don't mind I use you as a guy deflector."
"Use me, abuse me. That's what all the women want to do with me."
She laughed and smiled at him, kissing him on his cheek. "You're sweet, thanks."
"Let's see about that bonfire."
"Do you have marshmallows and stuff?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Cool. I haven't done this in years."
"Me neither." She felt it again. That feeling that someone was watching her. She'd felt it on and off while they were walking around the marina, but it was stronger now. She moved, standing in front of him, as if she was looking right at him. She hoped she could see someone, anyone. Out of the corner of her eye she caught movement, but when she looked whoever it was had left.
"Well, that sucks."
"Do you ever get the feeling you're being watched?"
"I've had it since last night."
"Hmm," he said, taking in their surroundings for what she thought was the first time. He wasn't very astute it seemed. Or perhaps it was just years of being hyperaware that around any corner evil and badness could lurk that made her instinctively look where she was going. And where she'd been.
"I don't see anyone."
"Me neither. Probably just paranoid with creepy guy hanging around."
"I can stay with you tonight if you want."
"No, not like that. I swear. I just, you know, don't like the idea of you and your sister being out here by yourself with a bunch of drunk guys."
"We're fine. They were drunk last night and didn't bother us."
"Well, if you change your mind, just let me know."
"You'll be the first."
"Good to know I'm first in something."
"Yeah, I opened myself for a lot of things there. Thanks for taking pity on a poor guy."
Buffy spotted Dawn in the volleyball pit and led Tyler in that direction. "I still can't believe I never knew you had a sister."
"I didn't talk about her much. You know, pesky, bratty, baby sister. She was a royal pain."
"Ah. But I was at your house."
"She stuck to her room most of the time. She was pretty bookish and shy, so anytime I had company she stayed to herself."
"Oh. She seems to have grown out of that."
"For the most part. She's still bookish and stuff, but not so much with the shy anymore."
"That's good. So, Northwestern. How is she funding that, if I may ask? With your mom gone and your dad not involved? Does consulting pay that much?"
"Yeah, yeah it does. When she's done I'm hoping maybe I'll be able to finish. But I wanted her on the right track rather than derailed from the beginning."
"That's nice of you. Very unselfish."
"You sound surprised."
"I am a little. The Buffy I knew, I'm not sure she was capable of thinking of anyone but herself."
"That was me."
"I like the new Buffy."
"I mean, I liked the old Buffy, but."
"I know what you mean." He was looking at her like he wanted to kiss her. "Um, just friends, remember?"
"Am I that transparent?"
"Just a little."
"No worries. It's easy to get caught up."
"And wonder what I lost out on."
"Yeah, that, too."
"Not so much anymore. I'm where I'm supposed to be. Sunnydale was where I was supposed to be. There was a time, sure I wanted to be back at Hemry before the gym incident. But I couldn't go back. Life went on, you know."
"True enough. You missed out on a killer senior party."
"I'll bet I did. Our class went out with quite a bang." Quite literally, she mused to herself. "It was good."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com