She really had no business being here a second night in a row. She'd been living on the road, staying in hotel rooms for a while now so she was used to it. Some nights, though, the idea of going back to her anonymous hotel room for the night before dinnertime was so lame. That was something old men who worked their lives away as traveling salesmen did, not twenty-something women. Tonight was one of those nights.
She nursed her Long Island Iced Tea. She'd been unsure if it would be some sort of faux pas ordering one of them while in Manhattan, but the bartender didn't bat an eye. She glanced at the table where Mike and the others had been sitting the night before. Not a familiar face was there now. She doubted any of them would give her the time of day anyway since she'd left with one of their friends.
And she really wasn't up for striking up conversations with virtual strangers tonight. She just didn't want to be alone. A bad day at the office, more or less. It came with the territory. Slayer territory. Even cops who had seen the monsters that go bump in the night found it difficult to stomach what she was trying to tell them.
Today she'd had a street cop question her authority on the subject. You'd think the fact that the governor of their state and mayor of their city felt she was an authority would be good enough. Evidently not. The problem was while she had vast experience and examples to call upon while giving her symposiums; she had no real proof beyond calling upon her experiences. Until today, that hadn't been a problem. Maybe she'd gotten lucky until now, but she wasn't used to having her teachings called into question. At least not publicly by people who didn't understand how the monsters worked.
She'd come here tonight wanting to let off steam. In the back of her mind she supposed the hope of running into Detective Logan was a thought as well. Surely there were other bars she could have gone to. For that matter, she could have picked up a bottle of her own and taken it up to her room with her. Lots of options that didn't require her coming back to the scene of the crime. So to speak. Not that anything they'd done last night had been a crime. (Though there might be some old sex laws on the books they might have broken.)
One night stands weren't usually her thing. In fact, they weren't her thing at all. He'd caught her at a time she'd felt somewhat … vulnerable wasn't the right word. She had spent the day with Faith and Robin. Seeing the other slayer in a relationship with someone human and making it work made Buffy feel something for the first time in a long time.
That didn't really explain the one-night stand aspect of her meeting Mike, but she sort of figured she had to put herself out there again to have a chance of having what Faith had. She had to start somewhere and while long-term it didn't win her anything the sex had been very good. As good sex for the sake of that and that alone had been pretty sparse in her life she figured it was a start in the right direction.
She'd woken up that morning wishing she'd told him to stay the night through. That seemed to go against what they were both looking for last night so she hadn't asked. He hadn't offered and she'd woken up this morning alone. Well sexed, but alone just the same. The number of condom wrappers she'd picked up and thrown into the trash made her cringe. Fortunately for her, she had slayer healing so no one could tell by the way she walked that she'd been a participant in a number of sexual positions the night before.
She took a sip of her drink, glancing at her cellphone when it vibrated that she had a message. She smiled at Dawn's brief text saying that she hoped Buffy had a good night. Buffy really wasn't big on technology, but she did find that having a cell phone with texting capabilities allowed her to stay in touch with not just Dawn but everyone important to her easier. Busy with only a minute or two to spare, she could send a message just so Dawn, Willow, Giles or Xander knew she was alive and well.
She used the keypad to type out her response to Dawn, telling her she was still in New York, looking at a quiet night when she felt someone take the seat next to hers.
"Come here often?"
She had a scathing retort ready about getting an original come-on line, except the voice sounded familiar. She'd heard it say some naughty things the night before. In the few hours they were apart she'd dreamt about him continuing to do those naughty things.
She looked beside her and saw that it was, in fact, the detective she'd met last night. She decided to save the witty retort for someone who couldn't arrest her. And who wasn't quite so nice to look at.
"I think you know the answer to that."
"I guess I do. Mind if I join you?"
"No, it's a free country anyway."
"So it is."
He sat, ordered a drink and took in the score of the ballgame on the TV before turning his attention to her.
"Did you have a productive day?" he asked.
She slid her cell phone back into her front pocket and shrugged. Her work was kind of difficult to explain. She so wasn't in the mood to talk about it now anyway. Especially to a cop since it was a cop who'd soured her mood. However, she couldn't deny that overall it had been a good day, difficult questions and all.
"Yes, for the most part. Yours?" she asked finally.
"The streets of New York are a little safer tonight."
"That's good to know."
"I figured you'd rest easier knowing that."
She laughed. "Is that why you came here? To tell me I was safe walking back to my room alone tonight?"
"That and I figured I'd take the chance you were here again and see if you wanted to grab some dinner."
"Oh," she said. "Really?" Maybe last night hadn't just been a one-night stand after all.
"Well, sure. I need to eat, and you're here alone. I figured why not. If you weren't here I wasn't going to hunt you down or anything."
"I see," she said, taking a bite out of the little lemon slice on her glass. It was tart, as she expected, and she took a sip of her drink right away to get rid of the taste.
"It doesn't look like you really have dinner on your mind."
"Hadn't really gotten that far with my plans. Just need to unwind."
"I can understand that."
She looked at him, into his eyes and saw that he meant it. "I guess you can."
He paid for his drink while she took a sip of hers. He got interested in the game on the TV for a bit.
"So, about dinner? Was that a no?"
"No, it wasn't," she said with a smile. "What were you thinking?"
"Well, someplace other than here."
"Afraid the other cops will come in and see you with the same woman two nights in a row?"
He chuckled, shaking his head a little as he took a sip of his drink.
"What gave you that idea?"
"No questions asked and no attempt to ask for my phone number."
"I could say the same for you."
She shrugged. "I don't live here."
He was quiet as he watched her.
"And I knew where to find you. Is that it?"
"Kind of," she said.
"Listen, I'm not asking you to marry me or even go steady. I just thought you'd like a break from eating dinner alone."
"Go steady. I think my mom and dad went steady."
He laughed and she realized that he had a nice smile. That nice smile made his face all that much more attractive. It was a handsome face to begin with, but when he smiled.
She wasn't the only one who noticed either. She caught a few other women in the bar glancing his way.
"Well, you know what I mean. I know you're from out of town. Here on business."
"I didn't tell you that."
"Why else would you be here for so long?"
"Maybe I'm on an extended holiday."
"You saying I'm wrong?"
"Hmm, you're the detective."
"I am, and my money's on business."
"Because I saw the selection of clothes you had hanging in your room. And while I wouldn't mistake you for a lawyer or anything, everything I saw screamed professional. Business."
He had her there. Except today she wasn't dressed that way. At least not as professional as she usually did. There was something about waking up with her body humming from good sex that made her want to dress with getting noticed in mind.
"Hey, they don't pay me the big bucks for nothing."
"So, dinner. Any favorites you have?"
"In this neighborhood? Most anything. Name it: Italian, Chinese, Greek, French, Thai, and, of course, good old American."
"You pick," she said, reaching for her purse to pay for her drink.
"I'll get it," he said.
Her phone went off again and she looked at it while he settled their bill. This one was from Xander. She sent off a quick reply so he wouldn't think she was ignoring him, telling him she'd get back to him tomorrow. Wishful thinking that she wasn't going to go home alone tonight, but either way he could wait until tomorrow.
He took her to a small Korean place just around the corner from her hotel. He never asked what she did or how she could afford a hotel in the heart of Manhattan. It was a good thing, too, because how The Council got their money was not exactly on the up-and-up. Or at least on the explainable level.
At first, Mike chalked up his showing up at the bar tonight as a booty call. Just without the telephone. He’d had a good time with her the night before and was pretty sure she had as well. The dinner invitation had sort of slipped out, not wanting to sound desperate. Or make her think she was just a piece of meat.
When he started telling her about his case that went south earlier that day, he realized why he'd sought her out. A second opinion. An outsider’s opinion who knew nothing about Mike's past.
"Is there anything else you could have done?"
He shrugged, running a fingertip along the rim of his beer glass.
"I go over it in my mind, you know? I just hope she’ll obey her curfew and not push him again."
She laughed, giving him pause. He imagined that was her intention.
"What's so funny?"
"You don't know teenaged girls too well, do you?"
"If your parent tells you not to do something that means it's exactly what you should be doing."
"You have much experience with that?"
"Not a lot, but I can relate. There was a time or two my mother put her foot down. Or tried to. And all that did was made me do just the opposite."
"Your mother didn't beat on you, though, I'm guessing."
She was lucky, Mike thought. And he couldn’t help but wonder what a normal mother was. He caught glimpses of them as a child, other people’s homes. As he grew older, though, he had no way of knowing if those families put on a show for outsiders just the same as the Logan’s did.
"Maybe she'll reconsider."
"I doubt it. I think she might be scared for her mother."
Buffy nodded as she pushed her plate to the side.
"You liked it?"
"It was very good. I have no idea what I just ate, but it was worth it."
"Good," he said with a smile. It was nice to share some of the hidden gems in this area of New York. If they were somewhere else, one of the ethnic neighborhoods, he could have offered her a selection of many good dishes. This area, though, was pretty commercial, so places like this were like a diamond in the rough.
She set her hand over his, running a fingertip along his knuckles lightly.
"Listen, Mike. I don't know the girl or her situation, but if she's protecting her mother. If that's what you suspect, there's nothing you can do. Beyond just hope she gets out one day. Soon. And takes her mother with her."
"And what? I'm supposed to just stand idly by knowing her dad may send her to the morgue next time so she can't press charges."
"I think you go on with your current cases and work hard on them and hope that you never run across her name in the course of an investigation again."
Her touch was welcome, even though they didn't know one another well. It just served to emphasize that she was listening, empathized with him, and ultimately her point all the more. He couldn't dwell on the past, on things he couldn't change. The here and now was all that mattered.
"Life's too short, Mike. You have to think about the ones you've saved, the ones you've served, and how their lives are different because of you. Maybe her life is, too. You don't know. Maybe she's stronger now, knowing someone's on her side."
"You sound like you're speaking from experience."
"Not really," she said. He could tell her answer wasn't entirely truthful. "Don't we all have experience dealing with things we regret or second guess ourselves on?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"And maybe since charges were filed social services will investigate."
"Yeah, highly unlikely they'd get to her case before she becomes legal."
"Why?" she asked with a frown.
"This is New York City. I've seen their backlog. It's crazy. They'll never take the time."
"If only I'd been so lucky!"
"You had it rough at home?"
"No, nothing like that," she said, stopping as the waiter came and set their check on the table. She grew quiet as he pulled out his wallet, setting his credit card on top of the check.
"It's just after our mom died social services couldn't stay out of my business for a week."
"I didn't know, sorry."
"How could you have? It's all right, it just made it really hard for me to function sometimes worrying if this or that would result in my sister getting taken away from me."
"Out of the picture," she said.
"So, what happened?"
"I guess I eventually proved my worth, but it wasn't easy. Working minimum wage jobs while trying to go to school and yet somehow I was supposed to be home for Dawn, too."
"I could only do it for so long, dropped out of school."
"But you went back."
"Not yet. I'm working on it. Still have some other things to put in order first."
"You're here on business, I thought."
"Business without college."
"Not every job requires a college education."
"The ones that allow you to travel and stay at nice hotels usually do."
"Maybe I'm just good at what I do."
"I could attest to that," he said, grazing the top of her hand with his thumb.
She blushed; even in the dim light of the restaurant he could see it. He chuckled a little.
"Does your turning down dessert mean you're ready to call it a night?"
She took her hand back then and looked around the restaurant, almost appearing nervous about something.
"Well, I was thinking maybe you'd like to come watch Letterman with me."
He glanced at his watch, chuckling. He was very glad he stopped at the store before going to see if she was at the bar again. "I think Letterman's over by now, but I'm game for seeing if that's the case."
"Great," she said, each standing to leave before she could even reply.
They walked the short distance to her hotel, bodies bumping against one another once in a while but no effort at real contact was made. No hand holding, which was fine with him. He wasn't the type of guy that went for that stuff, certainly not in this type of situation.
He wondered what her deal was. Her job. Why was she here? How long was she here? She hadn't offered that bit of information last night. For all he knew when he went to the bar tonight she could have been on a plane back to wherever it was she came from.
"Where do you live?"
"As in across the Atlantic, England?"
"That very one, Detective," she said with a smile.
"I'm from California, though, and I'll be in the States for a while."
"So, no family there?"
"My sister, some friends."
She paused on the street well before they'd gotten to her hotel, but didn't look at him or say anything. At least not right away.
"Do you, I mean, we or I need to buy anything?"
"Oh," he said, realization dawning on him. Unlike him, she did not know how to find him so she wouldn't have gone out to buy protection on the hope he'd come find her tonight.
"No, I took care of that earlier."
"You did, huh?"
She didn't sound upset, so he knew he wasn't in trouble for admitting that.
"You're welcome," he said, falling into step next to her again.
She turned a table lamp on so he could actually see her room this time. The bathroom light hadn’t allowed him to see too much that morning. He hadn’t been thinking about things like the fact she had enough luggage to suggest she was here for more than just a couple of days.
It made him wonder again what she did for a living. The hotel wasn’t top of the line expensive, but it wasn’t cheap either. One night here pretty much exceeded his budget. Of course, he was a cop.
She offered him her hand which he took and walked to the window. He had some vague recollection of the drapes being open last night, too. He hadn’t been paying much attention, but when he was leaving that morning he remembered now being able to see outside.
“I don’t know many people who open the curtains in their hotel room.” He took his cue from her, sliding an arm around her when she rested her back against him. He hadn’t really taken the time last night to notice how much taller he was than her. It certainly hadn’t been a hindrance for either one of them as far as sex was concerned.
“Really? I love having them open when I can. I mean, I’ve stayed in hotels where I’m on the first floor and people can look in so of course I don’t. But otherwise I love being able to see what’s going on. Waking up to see what the day’s like.”
“I can understand that.”
Neither said anything for a few minutes. Both seemed content with watching the smaller than normal looking cars ebb and flow through the area. It was still early as far as New York went so there was quite a bit of traffic in the area still.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
He had to admit, looking at the city like this. His city like this. It was beautiful. There was no evidence of crime or corruption. He could understand why visitors came here and fell in love with it. He loved it, too, he just knew the real New York.
She turned in his arms, sliding her hands along his forearms returning his thoughts to her. It was almost as if she knew he’d been starting to think about his job.
“It is, but so are you.”
She reached up to kiss him then. Even with her heels still on she had to reach up to do it. Of course, he remembered what her kisses did to him so he was more than willing to meet her halfway. Her hands started working the buttons on his shirt about the same time his slid to her thighs. Her skirt was short. He had to wonder how men she worked with could concentrate because he was pretty sure if she was sitting anywhere near him dressed as she was he’d find it hard to get any work done.
He should be upset, he supposed, that she didn’t seem to want to get to know him. She’d listened at dinner and all. He imagined there was little doubt why he’d come back here with her, especially with her asking him if he had protection.
He backed her against the window as he slid a hand higher, cupping a breast through her blouse before moving both hands to work the buttons. It fell open, revealing a satiny number with lace. He didn’t look, but didn’t need to either as he stroked the material with the pads of his thumbs.
He took his wallet out of his back pocket when she started working on his buckle and the fastening of his pants. He took out the required item and tossed the wallet to the floor just as she slid her hand inside of his pants. He kissed her forehead, groaning softly as she stroked him to further attention, letting his pants fall to the floor. Somehow he managed to kick off his shoes and the pants without falling over or completely ruining the mood.
His mouth found hers again as she slid her hands to his waist. She backed him up the short distance to her bed. He sat and she straddled him, shedding her blouse as he slid his shirt off the rest of the way. He ripped open the wrapper when she slid off his lap. He sheathed himself, watching as she unzipped her skirt and let it fall to the floor with the rest of their clothes.
He liked looking at her standing there naked except her heels. He hadn’t really had the chance to look last night. Not like this anyway. He swallowed at the realization that she was beautiful. He wasn’t just using a line when he’d said it earlier. Looking at her like this, he knew that for sure.
“No, don’t,” he said when he noticed her start to take off her shoes.
She quirked an eyebrow but didn’t say anything, instead returned to his lap with her shoes on. She slid her arms to his shoulders, hands stroking the nape of his neck as she took him inside of her. She gasped a little and then found his mouth with hers as she settled herself completely over him.
This first time tonight wasn't nearly as urgent as last night's had been. Well, in a way anyway, at least they made it to her bed this time. And, as it turned out, they stayed there all night. The shoes had been removed pretty early on. While she didn't specifically ask or say anything to the effect of wanting him to stay the night, he made no effort to leave when he woke up at one point.
Her alarm woke him.
"Sorry," she whispered, turning it off.
"It's all right,” he said groggily. “Do you always get up this early?”
“Yes, things to do, people to see.”
“Do you always dress like you did yesterday?”
“No,” she said with a soft laugh. “Why?”
“Just wondering because whoever you do business with would certainly be distracted if you did.”
“What can I say? I woke up yesterday feeling kind of sexy.”
He rolled on top of her. “You don’t do that every day?”
“No,” she said with a shake of her head.
“Now that’s a crime.”
“You would know.”
“Absolutely I would.”
“Do you make it a habit of being so up close and personal with someone who commits crimes?”
“I make an exception once in a while.”
She smiled then with a laugh. “That’s good to know.”
“So, how long until you actually have to start your day?”
“What did you have in mind?”
“I think I still have one left.”
She rolled her eyes. “And what you can’t go home with one left in your wallet?”
“It’d be a shame. It might get lonely.”
“It might, huh? Maybe it’ll reproduce while you’re at work today.”
He winced a little.
“It was a joke!”
When she finished getting dressed for the day his wallet was empty. He’d dozed off again while she showered, waking when she sat at the foot of the bed to put her stockings on.
“Need help with those?”
“Not the type of help I imagine you have in mind.”
“Are you asking to see me later, Detective?”
“I am. Unless you’d prefer I just keep showing up at the bar like a stalker.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a stalker.”
“Are you serious?”
“Oh, kind of. Long story and so years ago,” she said, standing from the bed. She looked a lot more professional today in a knee-length skirt and boots, though he noticed her blouse was unbuttoned one lower than he probably would have liked.
And why did he care?
She walked to the nightstand and grabbed a pen and the hotel’s pad of paper, wrote something down and tore the paper off.
“My number,” she said, handing it to him. He held his hand out for the pen and paper, which she gave him and he returned the favor.
“I was thinking I could bring you dinner.”
“So, now you don’t even want to take me out?”
“I suppose it could be taken that way, but that’s not what I meant. I just thought you’d enjoy not having to go out after working all day. You know, just come back to your room after a hard day and all that. This place has a pool; we could go for a swim or work out in the fitness area.”
“I’ve been told I can be quite charming.”
“I bet you have. You can stay however long you want to.”
“Not afraid I’m going to go through your things?”
“I have nothing to hide, and if I did, being a detective you’d be able to find them anyway.”
He chuckled, leaned up on an elbow to kiss her.
“So, is that a yes for bringing you dinner?”
“Yeah, why not?”
“All right. Do you usually get done about the same time as the last couple nights I’ve seen you?”
“Yeah, unless the subway runs late or something.”
“All right. I’ll call to make sure you’re back before picking food up.”
“Great. What time do you have to be at work anyway?”
“Oh, I should get up and get dressed here pretty soon I suppose.”
“Feel free to use the shower. There’s an extra towel.”
She stepped away from the bed then and he couldn’t help but admire the view as she walked to the dresser to collect her bag. It was bigger than a purse so he imagined it was one of those catch-all bags women carried around with them.
“See you tonight then.”
“Count on it,” he said as she left.
He drifted back to sleep for a little while, eventually getting up and making his way home and into work. Being detectives he had no real concrete schedule, though showing up at noon without a reason wouldn’t go over too well.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com