**Part Six**

Early September 1997

She wished she could say it was good to be back. Oh it was nice catching up with Willow and Xander. It was even nice seeing Giles. He seemed so relieved to have her back. It made her wonder what he did all summer without her to pester. Giles had given her a bit of a reprieve from patrolling, letting her get back into the swing of being back. She'd had no back to school shopping to do because she and her dad had done it all in LA.

Her mom was happy to have her back. Buffy, however, found herself missing LA and the fun time she'd had there. Maybe it was being a visitor, seeing her friends for the first time in months knowing she'd leave again in a couple of months. She knew Lindsey played a big role in it. That, and she really wasn't looking forward to coming back here and having to pick up the slayer stake again. A summer without it had really made her want to hang it up. Dying hadn't helped either.

She had been more than surprised when Lindsey's back to school present for her was a laptop computer of her own. Her dad had made a point of asking, in an indirect and very roundabout way, if Lindsey had required Buffy to do anything for such a gift. She knew it was expensive, but he had said he wanted to be sure they could keep in touch. The only computer she had access to normally was at the school's computer lab or Willow's. Willow actually used hers for like research and stuff. And she didn't want to write Lindsey emails while at school. That was just very lame.

She had spent most of her first evening back setting it up with some help with Willow. Willow was more excited about it than Buffy. It seemed Lindsey had bought a state of the art, top of the line computer for Buffy. Willow, it seemed was envious, especially when Buffy was hesitant to tell her who exactly it was from. She wasn't ready for that yet, merging her two worlds.

She had to admit now that she had a computer of her own, it was kind of addicting. And fun. No more competing with other students to print papers and stuff. And research. Right there, at her fingertips! Of course, she spent enough time at the library that accessing books wasn't really a problem for her.

She was typing an email to Lindsey when she felt a familiar presence nearby. She glanced to her window, but he wasn't there. She knew she wasn't imagining it, so she closed the computer and waited.

"You're back."

"I am."

"I expected to see you out patrolling by now."

"Giles is going easy on me."

"How was your summer?"

"It was good. Better than good actually."

"Is that a new computer?"

"Yeah."

"It's nice."

"It was a present."

His eyes flicked to hers quickly. She saw the question there in his eyes. Now that she was this close to him, it was hard to ignore what she felt for him. She was drawn to him. He was a vampire, though. Lindsey was of the living, breathing human type variety. That was real. What she and Angel had, she wasn't sure what it was but it wasn't the stuff futures were built off of. Maybe it was the vampire part of him that drew the slayer part of her. She'd never know, Giles didn't either. All she knew was that he'd gone out of his way to avoid her. He helped her, sure, but he did it by going behind her back to Giles. She didn't want games. Her life was complicated enough.

"Well, I just wanted to see how you were."

"As you can see, I'm just great."

"Yeah, I can see that."

"I guess I'll see you around."

"Yeah, you will."

"I need to get back to what I was doing."

She saw the confusion and hurt in his eyes. She thought briefly of telling him the truth, but she wasn't even sure she owed him that. They hadn't made any promises to one another. He hadn't asked her to be his girlfriend or anything.

"Good night, Angel."

"Yeah, see ya."

He was out the window so fast she almost missed it. She'd hurt him. Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing. She opened the computer again and finished typing her email. It was a nice way to communicate. She had the chance to think about what she had typed before sending it. That was a bonus, particularly the times when she was prone to rambling.

The email sent, she put the computer away and crawled into bed, ready for school to start tomorrow. Her junior year. This year was going to be a good one. She was determined it would be. Sleep came easily and fast. She had a dream or two, they'd started since she'd come home. She wasn't sure what that meant. Sooner or later she'd get her answer, though. She always did.

***

"Mom, I'm going to head to the mall for a while."

"Oh right because there might be something at the stores here that wasn't in LA? Are you going out with Willow and Xander tonight?"

"Yup. So, I'll be late."

"Okay. Have fun."

"Thanks."

She met Lindsey down the street from her house. He stood leaning against his car, a sight for sore eyes. A delicious sight at that.

"You made it."

"I told you I would."

He was dressed ultra casually for him. A pair of jeans, a Polo type shirt, and a pair of loafers. He appeared to be sockless. That was cool by her, though she'd never seen this side of him. She kissed him and fell into his arms as he hugged her tight.

"I missed you."

"It's only been a week, Lindsey."

"I know, but there's something about knowing you're further away."

"Hmm. I see your point I guess."

"Thank you." He opened her door for her. "So where to, Mademoiselle?"

"Well, Sunnydale isn't LA. The Bronze won't open until about sundown. There's the mall. The movie theatre. We can just walk around downtown if you want."

"Let's start with the mall and go from there."

"All right," she said and directed him toward the mall.

She didn't need to buy anything. He wasn't in the market for anything either it seemed. They walked somewhat aimlessly, window shopping, laughing at some of the ridiculous displays stores made for back-to-school stuff. Eventually, they settled at the sit-down restaurant the mall offered as opposed to the food court.

"So, how was your first week of school?"

"It was good. I'm glad to have it over with, though."

"Are you back into the swing of things?"

"I sure am. Just like, what's his name, Mike Piazza?"

"You made a baseball joke!"

"Was it a good one?"

"It was pretty good. Not bad at all for a beginner. I'll turn you into a fan yet."

"I admit I snuck in a game or two when I was by myself even."

"I won't tell anyone."

"Thanks."

"So, are you enjoying your computer?"

"Yes. My dad was a little upset. I think he thought I traded something I shouldn't have for it."

"I know. I called him and talked to him after you left, assured him it was just a gift, wanting you to have a computer at home. I told him I'd take it back next time I saw you if he objected that strenuously. Initially he said he wanted me to take it back, but he changed his mind."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"You're not a bad guy at all."

"You know, I got the feeling when we hung up he felt the same way."

"So, you've made nice with the dad."

"I have."

"Score one for the lawyer."

Their afternoon continued in much the same fashion, casual conversation, just enjoying one another's company. Buffy liked walking around with him. She noticed a few girls looking at him, too. It was nice to walk around in the daylight with someone other girls thought was cute.

"Buffy?"

Buffy stopped in her tracks. Of course she'd encounter Cordelia at the mall on a Saturday afternoon.

"Cordelia."

"A friend of yours?" Lindsey leaned in and whispered it. Score two for the lawyer. He knew how to be discreet.

"Not exactly."

"Ah, one of those."

"You actually came back to this hell hole! Your father must really hate you if he sent you back here."

"I live with my mom, Cordelia."

"Well, yeah, but who cares?"

"I do."

"Who's your friend?"

"Lindsey. Cordelia."

"It's very nice to meet you." She was pulling out all the stops. The batting of the lashes, thrusting out of the chest, the smile that would look glued on from yards away.

"You, too."

"Are you new to Sunnydale?"

"No, I'm just visiting Buffy for the weekend."

"Oh, you're from LA then."

"Yes, I am. Not originally."

"That doesn't matter, you live there now."

Lindsey shot Buffy a lost look. Was this someone he was supposed to be nice to? She'd said she wasn't exactly a friend, so he imagined not. He didn't want to piss off someone and have it fall back on Buffy, though, either.

"Where do you go to school?"

"I don't. I'm a lawyer."

"Oh, right. A lawyer."

"I am, really," he pulled out one of his business cards. He carried them everywhere.

"Oh, I guess you are. What kind of law do you practice?"

"Cordelia, Lindsey is here to visit me, not to discuss work. Social not business."

"Well, Miss Snotty, he pulled out his business card. I didn't ask him to do that."

"Because you didn't believe he was a lawyer."

"Well."

"We'll see you around, Cordelia. We were just leaving." She glanced at him, shot him a nervous smile. He took her hand, tugged her toward him so he could slide his arm around her waist.

"So, did you and Angel break up then?"

Lindsey paused for a minute, realized she must have been talking about the sort of boyfriend Buffy had mentioned a couple of times over the summer.

"This guy looks even older than Angel. I guess that's your thing. You're not stupid enough to go out with high school guys anyway."

"Cordelia."

"What? I was just asking, because if I like see him, you know."

"You can talk to Angel all you want, Cordelia."

"Like I need your permission." With that, the brunette turned and walked away. Huffed away was more like it.

"Did you say that on purpose?"

"I sure did. There's nothing that pisses off a girl like Cordelia more than being reminded that a guy likes someone other than her."

"And this Angel is one of them? And, of course he chose you over her."

"Yes, there've been a couple actually."

"That does not surprise me."

"You're just saying that."

She turned to face him, her arms going around his waist. She seemed a little more comfortable with touching him here. Maybe because she felt safer here. This was her turf for lack of a better word. Or, maybe the week they'd been truly apart had made her realize she liked him. He could live with that. He'd gotten the impression before she left that she wasn't sure what she felt for him. That wasn't exactly true. She seemed confused. He'd wager this Angel guy had something to do with it. Obviously, Cordelia thought they were still together or assumed it anyway.

"I absolutely am not."

"Hmm, okay. I believe you." She leaned in and kissed him lightly. "Let's go visit downtown Sunnydale."

"I can't wait."

"I know you're dying to see the town that is Buffy's home."

"Well, when put like that."

She laughed, tugging on his hand as they walked toward the door where he was parked. He watched her walk. Not at all minding the view. She seemed different here. A little more confident yet vulnerable in a way he couldn't put his finger on.

"It's a nice town."

"Yeah, it's not too bad. It's not LA, but it's not Nowhereville either. I'd suggest leaving your car around here. We can walk to The Bronze from here. There's not much parking nearby."

"All right," he said, activating his car alarm.

"So, how late can you stay?"

"I'm actually here until tomorrow. The hotel is pretty empty, so I could even extend it until Monday if you were of the mind. Since it's Labor Day and all. No school, no court."

"Really?"

"Yes, I could even meet your mom if you wanted me to."

"Let's see what happens."

"Will your friends be here tonight?"

"Some of them I'm sure. It's Saturday night. This is the only place to be in Sunnydale."

That wasn't really the answer he was looking for. In LA, they'd hung out with the people she knew and a few of the people he knew. Like his volleyball buddies. They'd run into guys he knew from work at one of the baseball games they'd gone to. She'd come to have lunch with him once, too. So, he wasn't hiding her. He sensed somehow whenever she talked about Sunnydale and her life here that she wanted to keep LA and Sunnydale separate. He could understand it, but he didn't have to go along with it.

He pulled out his wallet and paid the cover charge for both of them. He took in the club once they were inside. It wasn't packed, but he could tell people were in the early stages of getting there. It was a decent sized place.

"Live music?" It was a stupid question since he saw a band setting up.

"Yeah."

"Great."

He let her lead them to a table, noticing it was big enough to accommodate a few people other than just the two of them. Maybe she was going to let him meet some of her friends.

"I'll get us something to drink. You want your usual?"

"Please."

"All right, I'll be back in a minute."

"No hurry," she said taking a seat.

He hadn't had much of an opportunity over the summer to watch her without her knowing it. So, while he was getting the drinks, he took a little longer than was necessary and did just that. This was her environment after all. He was sure watching her here would tell him more than in LA would have. She was a pretty girl and judging by the more than a few glanced in her direction he wasn't the only one to think so.

There was an awareness about her tonight he hadn't noticed before. It was like she was on alert, at the ready. It was an odd thing to think, but that was the first thing to come to mind. She looked comfortable, though, at home even, and he was glad that she felt that way with him around.

He had taken a chance booking a hotel room for the night. He had no plans on inviting her back, hadn't even planned on telling her he'd done it unless she asked. She had of course. He just didn't want to drive home after a late night. Or have to cut a good time short. Either way, he'd lose in the deal.

The band had started by the time he returned to their table. The club was filling up, too. It seemed to be one of those places where anyone could come and have a good time, regardless of where they stood at the school. He saw girls like the one they'd run into at the mall, guys who were probably more into their video games than dancing, some jocks, and everything in between.

"Let's dance," she said tugging on his hand before he had a chance to sit down. He hadn't missed her looking over his shoulder, behind him. Something had caught her eye. He was tempted to turn around, but didn't want her to know he knew. Besides, he couldn't complain about getting her out on the dance floor.

He felt it during their first dance. It was kind of casual, nothing special. She was a good dancer, he didn't need to do much of anything other than stand there. That was good, because he wasn't much of a dancer. Someone was watching them. He didn't know how he knew. He moved with her on the dance floor, scanning the crowd as he did.

There were a few people looking at the dance floor. He couldn't tell if any of them were looking at them in particular. Him specifically. He sensed a change in her, too, though. It was slight, but as the band started a new song, her moves grew more seductive.

She had a way of moving naturally that could be construed as seductive. Hell, the day she'd first suggested sparring as a way to burn off steam he'd come away from that fight incredibly turned on. It wasn't so much what they had done but how she did it. She made everything look so graceful, as if she was born to do it. It was very appealing. Very sexy.

And, good god, when she was pressing against him like she was tonight, dressed as she was in a dress that clung to her. It was more than a man should have to take. He couldn't count how many times he'd had to remind himself that she was off limits in that way. It was a test of his willpower, and he imagined a test of what he really felt for her. Going months and months, particularly a good many of those months long distance was a lot to do just for sex.

It was when he had realized he didn't want that from her, at least not just that, that he'd known he was gone. He didn't say anything, not wanting to scare her off. He knew what he wanted. He had his job, he had his life mapped out and was working toward his goals. She didn't even know for sure yet what she wanted to do after college.

***

"Who's Buffy dancing with, Wil?"

"I don't know. I've never seen him before. This is her jacket, though, so I assume she's sitting here."

"Two cups."

"I noticed that, too."

"You think she's here on a date?"

"With someone other than. Oh, hi, Angel."

"Hi. Who's the new guy?"

"I don't know. Xander and I were just talking about him. I've never seen him before."

"He looks older."

"Yeah, now that you mention it, Xander, he does. You don't know him, Angel?" She turned, but Angel was gone. "I hate when he does that! I feel like I'm talking to nobody or what I have to say isn't important enough to him."

"Wil, his woman is dancing with someone else."

"Well, but she's not."

"She's not?"

"Well, no."

Xander and Willow both let out gasps of surprise when Buffy kissed the guy she was dancing with. This was no friendly peck either.

"Wow," Willow said, unable to stop watching. "She certainly seems to be enjoying herself." And as much as it bothered Willow that Buffy had obviously not confided in her about something pretty huge, she was happy for her friend.

"I'd say. Who is that guy?"

"I already told you, I don't know."

"I know, Wil, I was talking to myself."

"Oh. Next time, tell me you're talking to yourself."

Xander gave her a look that said Ďare you kidding me?' loud and clear.

"I guess we're about to find out who he is."

"Huh?"

"They're walking this way, and they look pretty cozy."

Xander's attention quickly shifted from Willow to Buffy who was walking toward the table holding the mystery man's hand. Very cozy indeed. Willow smiled, hoping her hurt feelings weren't too obvious.

"Hi Buffy."

"Buffster. How you doing? You came early and didn't tell us you'd be here earlier than your usual time."

"Hi guys. I'm great."

Willow and Xander both looked from Buffy to the guy and back again. Xander none so discreetly cleared his throat. "Aren't you going to introduce us to your friend? Or should we just call him new guy?"

Willow watched as Buffy walked to her spot and took a sip of her drink. She did not miss the watchful eyes that peaked out over the brim of the plastic cup. Willow winced slightly, letting Buffy know that Angel had seen her. At least she hoped that's what she was communicating. They weren't experts on this wordless thing yet.

"Lindsey. This is Willow and Xander. This is my boyfriend, Lindsey."

"Your what? Buff, you were gone all summer. Where'd you get a boyfriend?"

"Xander."

"What? She hasn't been back for more than a week. And I find it hard to believe she saw Angel and rebounded that quickly. You know how those two are around each other."

"Xander."

"Stop kicking me, Willow."

"Stop talking, Xander."

"What did I say?"

Buffy was smiling, that was good. That meant she wasn't mad, that Xander hadn't ruined anything.

"I met him this summer. He's from LA, down for a weekend visit."

"Oh, that wouldn't be of the conjugal variety, right?"

"Ow! Willow, you're going to leave bruises if you keep doing that."

"Stop talking!"

"What? What did I say? It's a sad state of things when a guy can't even make a joke!"

Willow did notice that Lindsey was stifling a smile, maybe even a laugh. So, he wasn't offended. That was good.

"Sorry. He takes a little getting used to."

"Not a problem."

"So, weekend visits. Buffy, you didn't tell us you met anyone that warranted weekend visits. Where's he staying? He's not sleeping on your floor all weekend, is he?"

"No, Xander, he's not."

"Good, because Angel was bad enough."

"Ow, Willow!"

"It's all right, really. For the sake of all mankind, you can leave his shins alone."

"Okay. If you say so. It's kind of fun, though."

"Willow and Xander have known one another since kindergarten."

"It shows."

"Yeah, it does, doesn't it?"

"I think that was a slight, Wil. They're making fun of us. I see how it is. She goes to LA, gets a new boyfriend and suddenly she's too good for the likes of us."

"Xander," Buffy said, but she was laughing. "I'll be right back, I need to go to the little girls room. You coming, Wil?"

"Uh, yeah, sure. We'll be back."

"He saw us, didn't he?" It was the first thing Buffy said when they got to the bathroom.

"If the he you're referring to is Angel. Yes, he saw you. I'm not sure if he saw you making with the smoochies, but I know he saw you dancing. Who is this guy? And why am I finding out about him this way?"

"I met him back in June and spent most of the summer with him. He seems really nice, but he's older. Twenty-five, a lawyer. I guess I didn't say anything because if he bailed on me for the night tonight I'd look stupid."

"Oh, Buffy, you couldn't look stupid to me. So, a lawyer, huh."

"Yes. A job, a house, a car, and no aversion to sunlight."

"And you're sure you're over Angel?"

"I'm not even sure there was anything there to have to get over, Wil. I mean, come on, we shared a kiss, okay a couple of them, but he went all avoidy on me and," she shrugged. "I don't know. I really like Lindsey. I wasn't planning on it or anything, it just happened."

"Well, they say that's when it happens."

"Whoever they are."

"Yeah."

"So, you'll fill me in after he goes home?"

"Yes. He's the one who gave me the computer, by the way."

"Oh! Buffy! That's very exciting. A gift. A real gift. A huge gift. You didn't?"

"Willow!"

"No, you didn't, I mean, you wouldn't."

"Of course not. You sound like my dad."

"Well, I could see where he might think."

"Do you know me at all, Willow?"

"Well, yes, but. Oh my gosh, Buffy, an older guy. Not a college boy either."

"No."

"Has he?"

"He's been a perfect gentleman."

"Oh, can I be in love with him, too?"

"No."

"I can live through you, though, right?"

"I'll keep you posted of all the details."

"Thank you!"

"What are best friends for?"

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