**Part Five**

Mid-August 1997

"You have a date?"

"Yes, Dad."

"Anyone I know."

"No."

"Is this the boy you've been seeing all summer?"

"Yeah."

"And why haven't I met him?"

"Mm, because you haven't been home when he's picked me up."

"So, dinner, that means you should be home by eleven or so?"

"Dad, it's summer and he mentioned dancing."

She could tell that he was thinking it through. She had been problemless all summer, so she hoped that would tip the scales in her favor of no curfew. If she hadn't mentioned the word date he probably wouldn't be thinking of setting one.

"All right. I want to meet him, though. No running out the door as soon as you see his car pull up."

"Dad!"

"I have the right to meet who my daughter is spending time with. And I'm not blind, I know you've been spending a good amount of time with this young man."

"I know. It's just."

"What?"

"He's a little older."

"How much older?"

"Mm, like twenty-five."

"Buffy!"

"What? He's a nice guy, Dad."

"A guy that age. He's only interested in you for one thing."

"Dad!"

She couldn't believe they were having this conversation. It was the reason she'd avoided mentioning Lindsey to her dad. Lindsey seemed to understand that she was not ashamed, merely trying to avoid a confrontation. She was only here for a couple of months, she didn't want to ruin her time with her dad with an argument.

"Buffy, I know men."

"You don't know this man. Dad, I swear, nothing's happened. And it's not going to. I'm not like that."

"You don't need to be like that."

She rolled her eyes. "He's a lawyer. He's ambitious. He works a lot and I think he likes to spend time with me because he knows I'm busy doing my own thing so I don't get upset if he can't see me every day or every other day."

"Just be careful. Especially as it comes closer to you going back to your mother."

"Oh my God, Dad, I'm telling you it's not like that."

"Well, I guess I have to trust you. That doesn't mean I have to like it."

"Thank you," she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek before she went to finish getting ready.

"What's his name?"

She stopped on the stairs and turned to face him. He was trying. She had to give him that. It couldn't be easy, even if Lindsey wasn't out to seduce his little girl. "Lindsey McDonald."

She wasn't sure where Lindsey was taking her. He'd said to dress real nice. She had teased him about that statement, wondering if she didn't normally dress nice. He'd stressed the real part, so she took that to mean he was taking her somewhere fancy. She was excited. The last time she'd been on this type of date was with Tyler for a school dance, and his parents had driven them. Not quite the same thing.

She'd had to go out earlier and get a suitable dress and shoes. Buying new dresses, a fancy dinner type one, was something she enjoyed doing. She'd gone for the stereotypical little black dress. She didn't have one and thought it was about time she owned one. She splurged on a new pair of two hundred dollar shoes that her father would have a fit about when he saw the charge on his card. She put the finishing touches on her hair just as she heard the doorbell ring.

"You look nice, honey."

"Thanks, Dad. You're going to be nice, right?"

"I'm always nice."

This was a side of her dad she hadn't really seen. Maybe it was because she was older. Or simply because he didn't get to spend as much time with her and felt a little out of the loop as far as her daily life. She wondered what he'd say if she mentioned her boyfriend in Sunnydale was ten times older than Lindsey. Probably best he didn't know that.

He opened the door. She knew he would. It was the typical meet the date thing dad's did. She should be flattered he wanted to do those things. Her nightmare world experience where he didn't want to have anything to do with her wasn't totally forgotten. Even though it was her nightmare, she still wondered if there wasn't some truth to what nightmare-world Dad had said. They'd had a good time so far this summer, and that had put most of the doubts to rest. Not all of them, though.

"You must be Lindsey."

"Mister Summers. It's nice to finally meet you."

"Come in."

"Thank you." Lindsey stepped inside. He'd never really been inside before. Usually when he came over they sat out back. She'd meet him at his car and they'd walk around the house together. He coughed, bringing his hand to his mouth when his eyes rested on Buffy standing on the stairs. The new shoes added about three inches to her height. It was kind of nice being this tall.

"Real nice enough for you?"

"Uh, yeah. Very real nice."

"You look very real nice, too." And he did in a nicely tailored gray suit. She'd seen him in his lawyer clothes, but this wasn't a business suit. So, he'd dressed up, too. Good! She brushed a kiss over her dad's cheek, grabbing her purse and a sweater in case it got cool.

"Good night, Dad."

"Night, Buffy."

"It was nice to meet you, Mister Summers."

"Take care of my daughter."

"I will do my best."

"That's all I can ask you to do."

He opened her car door for her as he usually did. She adjusted the hem of her dress waiting for him to join her.

"Well, we finally got that out of the way. It wasn't so bad. I imagined him answering the door with a shotgun or something."

"He thinks you're only after one thing."

"I can understand where he'd get that. Don't be too hard on him. It can't be easy."

"You're siding with him?"

"I see a father who obviously cares about you. I didn't have that. So, yeah, I'm siding with him."

"I'm sorry."

"No reason to be sorry. It's not your fault. I just know he cares about you and wants you safe. Protected. On that we are both in agreement, but he doesn't see that. He just sees an older guy potentially taking advantage of his naïve daughter."

"Hmm."

"I'll shut up now."

"No, you're fine. You never talk about your family."

"There's not much to say. Mama was all right. She did the best she could, it just wasn't good enough. My father was an alcoholic who was barely functional. Let's just say life at the McDonald household was not full of kisses on cheeks. I'm not sure I ever even heard I love you'."

"Not even from your mom?"

"No, I think she was scared to show I really meant something to her. She did her best. Taught me how to do right, work hard, but that was about the extent of her guidance or moral support."

"I guess you don't know how good you have it until you hear a story like that. I get mad because my parents are wicked overprotective. My dad's worse than my mom."

"Because he knows how guys think. I think mom's, even though they were girls at one time and know what boys wanted from them, don't want to think a guy will see anything sexual in their daughter."

"You're kind of deep tonight."

"Yeah, sorry. Meeting parents always does that to me. Especially when I'm trying to impress them. Will he tell your mom about me?"

"I imagine so, when he brings me back to Sunnydale. They don't talk much. In fact, I think he might be dating someone, but if he is it's awfully hush-hush."

"It's normal."

"I know. Mom isn't, though. I guess, you know, I'm that optimist that holds onto hope they'll realize they still love one another and get back together. Mom told me about the night they met in the spring. I'd never heard it before. Odd that now they're divorced something like that comes out."

"And I'll get to meet her, too, when I visit. Hopefully, she'll be prepared and cool with my seeing you."

"I'm sure she'll be fine. Besides, I don't have to tell her right away you're visiting me."

"Buffy."

"No, there's a club in town my friends and I hang at. We could just meet there. Mom would never have to know."

"You don't want me to meet her?"

"I do, I'm just not sure if I do right away."

"Why not?"

"Meeting my dad, I'm here now. You're picking me up for dinner. We've seen one another fairly regularly for over a month now. Dad probably thinks it's just a summer thing."

"Right."

"Well, we may decide after a couple of trips to Sunnydale that we don't want to do this. Whatever this is I mean. So, what's the point in stressing my mom out? At least right away."

"Hmm, I guess you have a point. It's not like the distance is insurmountable, Buffy."

"I know, but it's still distance. I don't make with the driving, so it'll be up to you to come see me."

"There are phones and email."

"Ugh, don't even mention computers. I hate them."

"You may have to learn not to hate them so much. Emails are sometimes easier for me than phone calls. I get a free minute and I can type one up real quick. Or I'm in the middle of something else, and I can type one up, no one knows I took five minutes for personal time."

"All right. I'll ask Willow to set me up."

"We'll set you up before you go home."

"Afraid I'll chicken out?"

"Yes."

"You know me too well."

"I'm getting there."

She knew what Giles would tell her about now. Exercise extreme caution. Don't jeopardize your identity. So on and so forth. The thing was a long distance thing might be in her best interest. She wouldn't have to worry about Lindsey finding out, stumbling upon her at the wrong moment, or wanting to get involved with her slaying like Owen had. He'd visit her, but she doubted he'd stay over night in Sunnydale so they'd have some time together and unless it was apocalypse stuff, Giles would have to make do without his slayer for a few hours once in a while.

She knew it sounded like she was trying to convince herself and she supposed she was. She really liked him. He treated her like a person, which was kind of refreshing. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind, to tell her he found her attractive. She wondered if time away would lessen that attraction they felt, but she doubted it. He was an appealing guy.

The restaurant was nice. Not out of orbit fancy, but she was glad she'd splurged on the little black dress. Their meal was very good. She'd felt a little dumb ordering water when he'd ordered wine, but that was how it had to be. Otherwise, she thought it went very well.

"So, I get you for one more week."

"Yes."

"I'm going to do my best to make sure I spend as much of that time with you. You know, you could come watch me work."

"Huh?"

"I have a couple of court appearances this week. It occurred to me today as I was glancing at my calendar that you've never actually seen me work."

"I could do that?"

"Sure. I'll call you in the morning with the list of the ones you might find interesting."

"That'd be fun."

"We could have lunch or something, depending on when you came and how things turn out."

"I'd like that. You know, I've thought of asking my dad if I could stay here."

"Really?"

"Yeah, only problem is. Well, I told you I had a record at my high school here."

"Yes."

"Let's just say, I'm not sure the Los Angeles school system would welcome Buffy Summers back. That's part of the reason we moved to Sunnydale, it was the closest place Mom could find that would take me."

"Hmm. I could work on that if you really wanted to stay."

"I don't know."

"Don't do it for me, Buffy."

"You wouldn't want me to?"

"That's not it, but if you make a decision like that it should be because you want to stay in LA not over a guy. You'd miss your friends. Willow and Xander. You talk about them quite often."

"Yeah, I would."

There were things about Sunnydale she wouldn't miss, though. Slaying, having to look at the library every day knowing she'd come awfully close to failing to stop the Master from rising.

"You're right. I have to go back. I just I've had so much fun. My last boyfriend he wasn't much with the willingness to admit he liked me. So, we never got much past meeting up at The Bronze once in a while. They weren't really dates, I'm not even sure you'd call him a boyfriend. So, it's strange for me to be with someone who wants to be with me. Who wants to take me to nice restaurants, wants me to watch him work, and stuff."

"I understand." He slid his hand into hers as they rose from their table. "Some guys are like that. And I have to admit, I'm glad he was that way. I probably wouldn't have gotten a hello out of you that day on the beach otherwise."

"I would have said hello. You were cute."

"I was, huh?"

"Oh yeah. Cute and not bad to look at in your shorts. It helped you knew how to play volleyball, too."

"Good to know. Now, it seems like I mentioned something about dancing. Do you still want to do that?"

"I'm always up for dancing. What else did you have in mind?"

"Well, there's always a movie, going back to my place, or a walk on the beach."

"We're not really dressed for beach walks."

"Well, it's up to you."

Going back to his place was the most tempting offer, but probably the one she should stay far away from. With only a week before she went back to Sunnydale, she could see things getting out of hand too easily.

"The beach."

"The beach it is. Do you want to go home and change?"

"No, I'll just take my shoes off."

"You sure?"

"Positive."

"All right then."

The night was perfect. Dancing was great, but she thought this was the better choice. The moon was bright, there were barely any clouds in the sky, and the water was not too calm or too loud. The sand was still warm against the bottoms of her feet. Lindsey'd carried her from his car across the parking lot to the beach so she wouldn't cut her feet on anything. She'd protested, but realized it wasn't such a bad deal being carried in his arms so gave in too easily.

"I could take a week of nights like this."

"Me, too. I'll see what I can order up."

"Thanks." She slid her hand through his arm, pulling herself closer against him as they walked. It was nice to walk with no destination. They were just hanging out.

"It looks like some of your friends are here tonight."

She spotted the bonfire, heard familiar voices. "I guess so."

"Do you want to join them?"

"We don't have to."

"I wonder if your ex is there."

"Maybe."

"With Cherri."

"Maybe."

"And wouldn't it be fun to let him know you've moved onto better things?"

"Mm, a guy not just with a car, but a job and a house."

"Exactly."

"Sure. I'm game. Just don't be surprised if he doesn't even notice. He was always weird that way."

"I'm sure he thought he'd never see you again. Besides, guys your age aren't exactly focused on the long-term."

"I get that. Then again, the guy back in Sunnydale, he's not my age either."

"Oh, I'm not sure you mentioned that. So, I'm not the first older guy you've cast under your spell."

"No spell casting here. Are you sure you want to do this? We could just turn around and walk toward the other end of the beach."

"Positive."

"Okay, let's go make with the socializing."

"Hold on a second."

"What?"

"I just wanted to say you look great tonight."

"Thanks. So do you."

"Well, you look really great while I look like I usually do just in a nicer suit. But you did your hair and stuff."

"You noticed."

"I did and it looks great." He leaned toward her, brushing her lips with his. "And you smell great, too. It was driving me crazy through dinner."

"Really?"

"Yes. My appetite was on things that had nothing to do with food and probably would have made you blush."

"Lindsey."

"Too much?"

"No, I just."

"I know I'm sorry. I've been trying to keep things casual, but I can't help it tonight. I think it's the reason I haven't done the whole formal date thing before now. I've got this fantastic looking woman on my arm. It makes me kind of crazy."

"Well, I don't want to do that."

"Believe me, baby, that's a compliment. This kind of crazy I can deal with."

"Okay, I'll take it as one. Oh, by the way," she said as they started walking toward the bonfire again.

"Yes?"

"When you come to Sunnydale, you still owe me some dancing. My way."

"Okay. As long as you're not expecting Fred Astaire or anything, we'll be okay."

"He's too skinny anyway."

Lindsey laughed. "True enough."

"Is he even still alive?"

"No, he died a while ago."

"Oh. Huh. I think I knew that. My mom likes his movies, I watch them with her sometimes. He was a good dancer."

"Yes, he was. He had good partners, too."

"Ginger is the only one who counts, though."

"I should have known, a Ginger Rogers fan."

Buffy laughed. "I wouldn't say I'm a fan, but I've seen some movies he's done without her and the spark just isn't there. I don't know how else to describe it. Maybe I'm just a romantic and like to think he could only dance so well with her."

"Nothing wrong with that."

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