Buffy sat in her car on the street for close to ten minutes. She glanced at the piece of paper. She knew Angel's handwriting, and this wasn't it. It could be a trap. It was that thought that made her hesitate. Except no one knew that she knew him. That'd mean they knew who she was.
The note was straight and to the point, simply telling her she could find Angel at this address if she wanted to see him. Whoever wrote the note hadn't given a phone number, so evidently it was come see him or no contact at all.
She felt like she was being unfaithful. Lindsey didn't keep track of all of the things she did, especially now that she had immersed herself in keeping up appearances for his sake. For all he'd know, she went to the spa for the day or something.
Taking a deep breath, she got out of the car and walked to the building. It was pretty messy, it looked deserted even. She checked the piece of paper and saw she had the right address.
She closed her eyes, letting the sound of his voice wash over her. She'd heard it in her dreams for over a year now, but it wasn't the same. The real deal was definitely better, more potent. And with that thought, she realized she shouldn't have come. Potency and Angel in the same thought was bad. Bad for her, bad for her marriage, bad for the world.
"Did you get lost?" He appeared in the doorway, looking like he'd just stepped out of a boxing ring. He was dressed in a pair of black jeans that hugged him in all the right places and a wife beater. She hated that term, but she didn't know what else to call it.
"What are you doing here? How'd you find me?"
She walked toward him and handed him the note. "This was under my front door this morning. It's a good thing whoever left it did after Lindsey'd gotten the morning paper."
"So, that answers how you found me. What are you doing here?"
"I don't know. I guess I just had to see for myself that you're really here." She reached for him, her hands closing around his biceps. "You are real, aren't you?"
"As real as I can be."
"I dreamt about you. I, God." She placed her head against his chest. She hadn't expected him to hug her. She'd killed him after all. In her dreams, it always came back to her having killed him. He would never forgive her for that crime. She sobbed against his chest, clinging to him, taking heart in the fact he seemed to be clinging to her just as tightly. "I killed you."
"Angel, I was there. I remember."
"You saw what your mind could accept. Killing me."
"You didn't die?"
"I was sent to a hell dimension."
"When did you get back?"
"A year ago, just before Halloween."
"I don't know what or how it happened. Willow found me, got me help."
She had made love to Lindsey for the first time just before Halloween last year. Could that have brought him back? She remembered the day vividly. She'd had a crappy day at work. Her boss had ragged on her for a broken plate. She'd gone to Lindsey's and he'd welcomed her, made her feel better. One thing led to another. In his bathroom, she'd slid the ring Angel had given her out of her pocket and looked at it.
She kept it on her person always, never certain when she'd have to leave again. It was one of the only things she had refused to leave behind. She had said good-bye to him in her own way that night, putting him in the past. She had known at that moment that Lindsey was her future. She would always love Angel, but she'd realized that night she wouldn't be happy living her life out with the ghost of a man she'd loved when she was seventeen. She hadn't thought he'd want her to do that either. But now here he was. Hugging her. Looking and smelling better than she remembered. Clutching him to her, she drew away a little to look at him. She still couldn't believe he was real, that the man at her house last night had really been Angel.
"In fact, I think you saved my life."
He filled her in on Faith, the Mayor, and everything that had happened in her absence.
"I felt it, too."
"A fever and so much pain, primarily in my chest. I had Lindsey call Giles. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew my blood was the answer. The next thing I knew, I was fine. Right as rain, except this crossbow bolt-looking wound in my chest."
"That's where Faith shot me, injected me with the poison. That's how you knew."
"I don't know how I knew. I had dreams, too. Last Christmas. I was like in your memories, but they weren't memories. It was like we were really there together. When you didn't have your soul and you were killing."
"I remember. I tried to assure Giles you were all right. I knew you were."
She had missed so much. Another slayer. Graduation. Prom.
"They're worried about you, Buffy. All of them. I think you should at least call them."
"I can't. If I do, I'd be tempted to go back."
"Would that be so bad?"
"I lost a baby."
"When I ran that fever with you, for you, or whatever it was. I was pregnant."
He stepped away then. She felt his absence immediately. He had always been her calm in the storm. The one person she could say anything to. Apparently, that was no longer the case.
"I'm not sure I wanted to know that."
"I need you to know. I really have tried to build a life here. A good life."
"Do you have any idea what your husband does?"
"He's a lawyer."
"Angel. Everyone has the right to a lawyer. What would you say if someone judged you based on your time without a soul?"
He turned to face her again. "I look at you, and I'm not even sure what to call you. You're not Buffy anymore. Physically, you are, but the Buffy I know wouldn't need me to tell her that her husband is representing demons. Killers."
"That's what Wolfram & Hart does, Buffy. They cater to the worst of the worst."
"I don't believe you."
"Have you met any of his clients?"
She chewed on her lower lip. She could lie and pretend she hadn't seen or noticed anything, but she couldn't keep secrets from Angel. "I thought Lindsey just didn't know."
"He knows. That's what brought me to your house last night. I took out one of his clients yesterday."
"Russell something or other. Preyed on young girls and counted on Wolfram & Hart to keep him looking squeaky clean."
"I met him."
"You what? And you let him walk?"
"I didn't know he was hurting anyone!"
"He was a vamp, Buffy. Maybe I should call you Anne, because the Buffy I know wouldn't have left the room with a vamp still breathing."
"You don't breathe."
"You know what I mean."
"That's not fair. It was a business dinner, I couldn't stake him. Lindsey would have known. I would have blown my cover. My life."
"This isn't your life, Buffy."
"It is. I just want a normal life. I have a chance at it."
"At what cost, Buffy?"
"The hellmouth needs you. The world needs you."
"Don't lay that crap on me."
"It's not crap, and you know."
"Seems like you all did just fine without me."
"This time." He walked to her, she could feel the anger rolling off him. He grabbed a hold of her upper arms and lifted her up. Her toes barely grazed the floor as he brought her to the height their eyes met. He was furious. She didn't need enhanced abilities to know it. "You should have been there."
"And who's going to be there to pick up the pieces of Buffy the next time I have to drive a sword through you? Don't you get it? I left because of you. I left because I couldn't go back there. Everywhere I'd turn, everything I'd see would have reminded me of you. I couldn't go back. It hurt so much being here even. I dreamt of you every night. I'd wake up and it felt like my heart had been ripped out all over again. Some days I'd wake up and those last few months would be so fresh in my mind I was exhausted from reliving them in my dreams. I can't do it again, Angel. They've gotten all they're going to get from me."
"Don't you get it?"
"Damn it," he whispered and kissed her. He released her then, her feet were back in full contact with the floor. They may as well not have been because it felt like the floor just gave out from under her. It had been too long since their last kiss. If it was possible to combust from a kiss, she and Angel were on the verge of doing it. She clung to him as if her life depended on it. She whimpered when he broke the kiss. Her lips were sore from the almost violent way he'd taken her mouth. She licked her lower lip and he groaned.
"Don't do that."
"That, with your tongue."
"Because you're married. You didn't come here for this."
"Why did you come here?"
"I'm not sure. I needed to see you. To know it was really you. To know you hadn't called my mom or Giles."
"I haven't. I should. They really are worried about you. At least let your mom know you're alive."
"I'm not sure she cares."
"She told me not to come back!"
"In the heat of the moment, Buffy. You can't hold that against her. You'd laid a lot on her."
"You're defending my mother?"
"I'm saying you should let her know you're all right."
"What am I going to do?"
"That's a pretty broad question."
"You're here. You're alive. I thought I'd never see you again."
"Or you wouldn't have married the first guy that came along?"
"Sure he is."
"He is, Angel. He's been nothing but good to me. He has to know I have secrets, am hiding something of my past, but he's never asked. He's never pushed me. He's never asked anything of me, other than to be his wife. And I kissed you."
"Well, I kissed you."
"But I kissed you back! He wasn't convenient."
"And you really didn't know the type of clients he represents?"
"I met Russell, but I assumed Lindsey didn't know. I swear. And how could I approach it? If I asked him, he'd think I was nuts if he didn't know."
"And know you weren't telling him everything about you if he did know."
"He might know anyway."
"What do you mean?"
"It's possible he knows. It's possible he married you because you're the Slayer. Wolfram & Hart would love that. With you out of commission, they can pretty much assure their clients they're free to roam."
"But I wasn't even in LA until last year!"
"I don't know, Buffy."
"Do you know how long it's been since I've heard my name?"
"Too long. I was afraid yesterday you were going to say it."
"I was tempted, but I wasn't sure what was going on."
Her cell phone chirped from her purse. She walked into the outer office area to answer it.
"Hi, Annie, are you coming for lunch?"
"Lunch," she said, glancing at her watch. It was almost noon. There was no way she was going to make it to his office in enough time. Not and make him extremely late for lunch.
"Not today. Okay? I'm on the other side of town."
"Sure thing, I just wanted to check before leaving."
"Have a good afternoon, babe."
"Thanks, you too."
She hung up and turned, running into the brick wall that was Angel's chest.
"Yes, wanting to know if I was meeting him for lunch."
"No. I'd make him late."
"Are you hungry?"
"I can fix you something to eat."
"You have food?"
"Yeah, Doyle eats here sometimes. Come on." She watched, transfixed as he walked to the door, flipping the lock.
"Don't worry, I just don't want anyone walking in when I'm not up here."
"Okay," she said, following him to the elevator. "You live here?"
"It's not as nice as your place."
"You didn't see where I lived before this."
"Was it bad?"
"It was okay. I survived. I didn't have to do anything I'd regret."
"Yeah, positive. I waited tables, working double shifts whenever I could. Do you remember that girl from the vampire wannabe's?"
"Vaguely. Blonde, wasn't she?"
"Yeah. She kinda took my spot. My job, my apartment. My name, even though I stayed Anne."
"You aren't worried she'll tell anyone?"
"Who'd believe her? She's a nice girl, but she comes across as being a flake."
"I'll take your word for it."
He gestured toward the fridge. "I'm not sure what all is in there. Help yourself."
"And tell me about your life as Missus McDonald."
"He's not going to give up until I'm dead."
"Then why'd you come to our house?"
"Because I wanted him to know I could. That I'd find him. That I wasn't afraid of him."
"And he invited you in?"
Angel chuckled. "He did. I hadn't thought of that."
"Does he know what you are?"
"I'm pretty sure he does."
Buffy made herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She found some chips in the cupboard and a Diet Coke.
"You drink diet?"
"It's Doyle's I'm sure."
"Is he the one who left me the note?"
"Probably, I haven't seen him yet today. I may not either, if he thinks there's a chance you're here."
"Who is he?"
"He's helping me stay on the right path."
"Okay?" Cryptic much? That really didn't tell her much, but then why should he if he thought her husband was his enemy. "So, I probably shouldn't go home and tell Lindsey I saw you, huh?"
"I'd say that's a definite no."
"I really wasn't planning on it."
"I know, but I'd be careful. I mean it, Buffy. I killed his client. He's not going to take that sitting down."
"He was really in a bad mood when he got home last night. Didn't say more than five words to me at dinner. After you left, though, he was better."
"I think he believes he's convinced me I'm wrong about him and his firm."
"I'm going to wait. You know me, Buffy, I don't rush. If you learned anything about me while I didn't have my soul you know I like to plot, strategize. I will take them down. If you really think he's not in on it, I'll warn you before I do so you can get him out."
"You'd do that?"
"Do you love him?"
She lowered her eyes to her sandwich, clearing her throat softly. "You shouldn't be asking me that."
"You're right, I have no right to. I have to wonder why you're with him if you don't love him."
"Because he's a good man. He's nice. I've explained this to you. He's not evil, Angel."
"There are all types and degrees of evil, Buffy. I'm surprised you are that closed minded about it still."
"Spike helped you, didn't he?"
"How did you know that?"
He glanced at her, quirking an eyebrow. She guessed it was a stupid question.
"Oh right, you guys had like a year to talk about me."
"So, do you love him?"
"In a way."
"In a way? Buffy, you told me earlier you were pregnant. I should hope you love him more than in a way. Or is that why you got married?"
"No, it wasn't. I don't love him like I love you. I'm not sure that's possible."
"No," she held up her hand, still holding the sandwich so it wasn't very effective. "Just listen for a minute. I'm not going to leave him, Angel."
"I'm not asking you to."
"Gee, you know how to make a woman feel good."
"I didn't mean it like that. I need you in there."
"You heard me."
"You want me to spy on my husband?"
"I want you to keep your eyes open. I'm not sure how much slaying you've been doing."
"That's right. I keep a stake on me, but I haven't used one since," she shrugged taking a bite of a chip. "I don't even know when."
"You're going to meet me every day and train."
"We've got to get you in shape. Buffy, when they start researching me. And they will. They will find out who you are. That means you'll be in danger. Whether Lindsey will protect you or not, I don't know. I hope so, but I'm not taking any chances with your life. So, we'll start training. And I want you to keep your slayer senses focused on things going on. Anything out of the ordinary, let me know."
"I don't have your phone number."
He scribbled something on a sheet of paper quickly and handed it to her. It was a phone number. His she guessed.
"I don't think it's a good idea for me to be calling you from my house."
"Use your cell phone. Is it yours?"
"Yes, it's mine. Lindsey offered to pay for it, well, he does I guess anyway since I don't work, but it's mine. He just writes a check for me. When I was living here before I met him, I couldn't afford a phone."
"What? I'm just telling you how it was. I had to have something, though, because I needed to be able to work extra shifts. No phone, no extra shifts. I had no credit, so couldn't get a phone without a huge deposit, which I couldn't afford. I was able to get a cell phone, a girl at work's boyfriend helped me out."
"All right. Use that phone."
"I'm not going to see or hear anything."
"I hope you're right, but I think you're in danger. I guess I should apologize for causing it, because I don't think you would be if I hadn't made myself known to Wolfram & Hart. Do you have a computer?"
"Yes, there's one in the den. I never use it. Lindsey's got his own in his office."
"Use it. Research his firm. Do some legwork, Buffy. You're not working?"
"So, you've got plenty of time to kill. Use it to get information."
"And betray my husband."
"Would you stop calling him that!"
"It bugs you?"
"It's not your fault. I'm going to say something that's going to sound very cruel."
"You can hate me if you want to, but I'm glad you aren't having his baby."
"I," she looked at her sandwich again.
He shifted, looking very uncomfortable in his chair. "Don't tell me you are?"
"No, I'm not, but."
"No buts, I don't want to hear about it."
"No, I don't, Buffy. Marriage is something I could have given you, kids aren't. I don't want to hear about it."
"I don't care about kids, Angel. I told you that when I was doing that class project."
"So you weren't trying?"
"No, we weren't not trying, but no."
"I can't talk about this."
"You brought it up! It's not like I cheated on you. You have no idea how hard it was for me, Angel. Not just to move on and trust someone again. To want to be with him. But to risk making love to someone again. Do you have any idea what that cost me?"
"I can't even imagine." His voice was low, pained, raw.
"I'm sorry if it hurts you. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you. Even when I knew I had to kill you to save the world I didn't want to hurt you. But I had to go on. I thought you were gone. I thought you were never coming back. I thought I'd be alone for the rest of my life doing nothing but slaying vampires and demons. Having to kill you took everything out of me. A piece of me died when I had to do that. There was a time, months it seemed like, where I thought it was my soul that you had taken with you. That Willow hadn't restored yours at all, that somehow by sheer willpower I'd given you mine, leaving me with nothing."
"It's not your fault."
"It is. I knew better. We should never have."
"Oh stop! It's not like you forced me or didn't say we shouldn't. I pushed. It's my fault."
"It's not your fault either. It was bound to happen, sooner or later. We're dangerous together."
"I'm not so sure we need to be together for that. Sharing dreams. Sharing poisonous fevers. What else?"
She pushed aside the bag of chips, having eaten her fill. "I should go."
"I shouldn't have come here."
"No, I'm glad you did. I would have found a way to get to you, talk to you if you hadn't. I had to know you weren't in trouble."
"It would seem I am. I just didn't know it."
He walked with her to the elevator.
"Just be careful, Buffy. I mean it. This law firm, they don't play games. I'm not sure what they'd do if they figured out who and what you are."
"I just can't picture Lindsey."
"Picture it. I'm telling you, Buffy, maybe he's not dirty, but he's on his way."
"But he's so nice to me."
"Yeah, women said that about Ted Bundy, too."
"Never mind. Just be careful. Call me if you need to."
"I will." She paused just outside of the elevator, not sure if he was going back downstairs. She leaned in and kissed him. She couldn't help it. She was drawn to him. She didn't think it would matter if she was married to Brad Pitt, she'd still be attracted to Angel over anyone else.
"I'm glad you're okay," she whispered against his cheek.
"Me, too. Don't forget, training."
She turned on her heels and left, not trusting herself to stay any longer. Her hands shook as she got her keys out of her purse to unlock her car door. Could Angel be right? Was Lindsey evil? Was she that intent on creating a life away from slaying that she'd missed all of the signs?
She'd dismissed Russell thinking it was a fluke. But if what Angel said was true, and he really had no reason to lie to her, Wolfram & Hart represented people like Russell all of the time. They were paid to allow killers to kill freely. And they knew what they were doing, who they were representing. God, she hated to admit it, but she couldn't stand by and let that happen.
And if she did what Angel asked her to do, came here tomorrow to train with him she was going to plant herself right back into the thick of things. She'd avoided it so well for a year and a half. She couldn't believe how easy it had been to do it either. Why did things have to start happening now? Could she just walk away from Lindsey? Her marriage? No, he would try to find her, which would lead to him probably doing that background check he said he hadn't done. That would lead to badness. She let her head fall against the steering wheel after starting the engine.
"There's just no escaping it, Buffy. You're the slayer. It's time you dealt with it." She thought it might just be easier to take on a corrupt and evil law firm than it would be facing down Giles, her mother, Willow, Oz, and Xander. Because if she jumped back into the game, she had to tell them. She'd have to go back.
She put the car into drive and pulled away from the curb, determined to think about it all later. For the time being, she just wanted to relish in having seen and kissed Angel again. She felt giddy like a school girl again. She found, oddly, she didn't mind the feeling one bit.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com