Word Count: 2,829
She'd left messages, she'd gone to the places they frequented together. It was going on close to a week since she'd heard from Charles. She stood outside Angel's office, not sure why she was here. She had no idea how to find Charles. Angel was the only connection she had to him. He had mentioned Angel looked him up once in a while, so that suggested he knew how to get a hold of Charles.
"Hi Cordelia," Buffy said, not at all surprised to see Cordelia this time. It had been odd the first time around. "Is Angel here?"
"Yeah, in his office," Cordelia said with barely a glance in Buffy's direction.
She closed the door behind her, taking a moment to take him in. There was a time she thought her world rose and set around him. He was still nice to look at, there was no denying that. The hurtful words, the actions that showed he was trying to move on without her, forge his own life here in LA. Those things were fresh in her mind. She'd avoided coming here before now, letting him know she was here for a while because of that.
"Hi," she said simply.
"Hi yourself. I'm surprised to see you here."
She shrugged. "Are you?"
"I haven't heard from or seen Charles in five days. Do you have anything to do with that?"
"Yeah, you didn't like warn him away. Or tell him the more personal details that Wesley fortunately left out."
"No, I wouldn't do that, Buffy, though he's going to put two and two together eventually. He knows about the curse, he knows that something made me happy enough to lose the soul recently."
"What's your game, Buffy?"
"Yeah. It's bad enough you take up with Finn in your territory, but you have to come mess in my pond. Pick one of my guys."
"I didn't know he was one of your guys. Don't you think if I knew he had any connection to you I'd have stayed away."
"God, yes, Angel. We met while we were both hunting one night. We started meeting up after that, eventually a couple of days later we went for something to eat. It just happened. He seems so alone, and something else. I don't know what."
"He had to kill his sister."
"You heard me."
"Oh," she said, processing that. Explaining the haunted look in his eyes clear enough. And why Angel was worried by not knowing Buffy was the Slayer Charles would worry about her, get distracted. "I didn't know."
"Well, now you do."
"A lot of good it'll do me if he refuses to speak to me."
"He'll come around. He likes you. You should have heard the way he talked about you before that night. For days that was all I heard about."
"And you didn't know it was me?"
"No, he never said your name, just that he'd met a female demon hunter that appeared as if she was born into it."
"Little did he know."
"Why didn't you tell him?"
"Because there was no sense telling him my secret until I know what we're doing. For all I know, this is just a summer thing and when I go back to Sunnydale in the fall we'll go our separate ways. Giles wouldn't be too happy yet another person knows my identity."
"Are things really over with Finn? Or is it just a summer fling for you?"
"They're over. He doesn't know they are yet, not completely. That's not something I want to tell him over the phone. He deserves that much. You knew that, though. You knew I wouldn't see someone else if I was still serious about Riley. So, why are you asking?"
He wrote something down and handed the piece of paper to her.
"Because he's a friend, and I don't want you messing with his head. It could lead to his getting killed."
"Thanks a lot."
"Just stating the facts, Buffy. Anyway, here's his address. I wouldn't recommend going there after dark."
"I'm serious, Buffy. It's a rough neighborhood."
"Okay. Why are you doing this?" She took the piece of paper, glanced at the address. She kind of knew where it was.
"You coming here tells me a lot. It takes guts coming to your ex to ask for information on the new guy you're sleeping with."
"We're not," she stopped then. It was really none of Angel's business what they were doing. She saw by the look in his eyes that he was well aware their relationship wasn't strictly platonic either. Great, just what had Charles told him not realizing he was talking to Angel about his ex? "Thanks. And if you need help, you know where to find me for a while at least."
"Oh, and Angel?"
"It was nice working with you again that night."
"I agree. It's been a while. Too long."
She paused, not sure what else to say.
"Was there anything else?"
"No, I guess I'll see you later."
"Okay," he said, making a point - almost too much of one - to get back to work.
"Bye, Cordelia," she said on her way out.
She checked the address Angel had written. She pulled out the LA street map her dad kept in the glove compartment and found it on the map. It wasn't too far from here. She didn't think Angel's warning was something to dismiss. If he was warning her of all people there was a reason for it.
She put the car in gear and drove toward Charles' neighborhood. She watched the area grow worse as she drove and knew why Angel had cautioned her. This wasn't a vampire or demon problem. These were people down on their luck that had nothing to do with their time but to look for and cause trouble. And from the look of many of them, they had nothing left to lose. It'd already been pretty much beaten out of them already.
She found the address, parked and locked the car. Now that she was here, she wasn't sure what to say to Charles, assuming he'd give her the chance to say anything.
She walked to the door, finding no doorbell she knocked on the door. She didn't hear any movement from inside and after a couple of minutes turned to leave. Only then did the door open. He looked terrible. Was that because of her? His sister? What? She wasn't sure she had the right to ask.
"Hi," she said softly. "Angel…"
"Yeah, I get that's how you found me."
"Can I come in?"
He stepped aside, letting her in. The house smelled stale, as if it hadn't gotten any air for a while. But it was fairly clean she noticed as he led her to the living room. He had a sports channel on, but the sound was off.
He sat on one end of the couch so she took the other. He was evidently waiting for her to say something.
"I'm sorry you had to find out that way."
"Which part what?"
"The fact that you boned a vampire? The fact that you have a boyfriend back home? Which would imply I'm just a convenience thing? Or the fact that you lied to me about who you were?"
"I've worked real hard to put Angel behind me. My relationship with him is complicated. He was my first."
"I don’t want to know that."
"He was my first everything, Charles, not just that. My first real boyfriend. And he knew about the monsters. He knew what I went through night after night and he helped me. He made it less of a chore. He made it bearable."
She sighed, taking hold of a throw pillow and clutched it to her abdomen.
"I'm not proud of what happened between us. It was bad. You know about the curse he said. It was because of me he lost his soul. What we did. It took me a long time to come to terms with that. So, no, I don't walk around broadcasting I had sex with a vampire. By the time I figured out he was a vampire, though, it was too late, I was already in love with him."
"I thought you had some inherent radar or something."
"I guess I just didn't see the signs with him. He seemed normal. He helped me. He gave me a cross," she clutched that very cross with her hand now. "I'd never heard of a vampire with a soul, so I don't think my mind could process he was a vampire."
She tossed the pillow aside and moved to the floor, kneeling in front of him. She took his hands in hers.
"As far as my boyfriend back home. We broke up before I came up here for the summer. I meant what I told Angel when I said there were too many differences. He was," she shrugged. "He couldn't handle my being the slayer, my being stronger than him. And he had a real hard time trusting me with Angel."
"Understandable if you're the only thing in one hundred years to make him happy. Not to mention, it's kind of hard for those of us who have experience in the single digits to compete with someone with a couple centuries of it."
She smiled at that. "I didn't plan on this happening between us. When we first met, I was just glad to have someone to hunt with who wasn't fretting over me or whether I was making them look bad."
"You mean, he knew you were the slayer and wanted to protect you?"
"Something like that."
He smiled then. "I can kind of understand that. A guy wants to protect his woman."
"Sure, but it wasn't really about protection. He saw things differently." She explained about the Initiative and their plan, Adam. "He thought he was better than me, his way I mean. I just needed to not be in a relationship. I met you. You hunted demons, you were willing to let me do my thing without getting all hovering and protecting on me. I wasn't counting on the fact I'd start to like you."
"Well, that was weeks ago. It's more than start now. And I didn't know about your sister, Charles. Or I would have told you."
"Angel had no right…"
"I think he wanted me to understand why I should have told you my secret. But, see, it's supposed to be a secret. I'm not supposed to be running around telling anyone who I am. There are a few people who know, you're one of them now. All of you found out by accident. If I'd known about your sister, I would have told you so that you would have known I could handle myself better than your average human."
She saw tears glimmering in his eyes and she kissed him, resting her head against his chest. She couldn't imagine losing someone she loved to the bad guys. Strike that. She did know what it was like when Angel lost his soul. And she'd had to kill him, too. But she hadn't had protective, sisterly urges about Angel.
"These last few days have been hard. I didn't know what was going on."
"You lied to me, Buffy. You let me think you were just a demon hunter."
"Yeah, with an enhanced package."
She drew away again. He wasn't making with the understanding very well.
"Okay, do you not understand the meaning of the words 'secret identity'? It's not like I woke up every morning and said, 'Oh good, another day I get to hide who I am from Charles.' I was planning on telling you."
"Actually, I was waiting to see what happened when the summer was over."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, I wasn't sure what you considered me. This. Us. And when I go back to Sunnydale, I wasn't sure what was going to happen."
"Because I'd let a couple hours keep me away from a fine woman?"
She smiled, tucking some hair behind her ear. "A couple hours can be tough. Especially when I'm going to be in college."
"And I'm not? College material I mean."
"No, I didn't say that. Just that I'll be, you know, studying and stuff. Add into it you know my ex, not just know him but know what he is." She shrugged, lacing her fingers through his. "I just didn't want to take the chance of telling you who I was and then find out this wasn't anything to you but hanging out."
"You know better than that."
"No, I really don't. Relationships and me. Well, not so much with the goodness. I'm really not sure and I didn't want to push you, or do something you might think was pushing you."
She stood then and moved to sit on his lap, knees on either side of him. She slid her arms to his shoulders, going around his neck.
"Am I pushing you?"
She kissed him, lingering a little. "I know it hurts and I know you probably don't want to talk about it. But if you ever want to talk about your sister, I'm all ears. And I'm here for you even if you just feel shitty about it but don't want to talk."
He smiled and she kissed his cheeks, grazing under his eyes to capture the tears there.
"And I'd love it if you came down to Sunnydale to visit me once in a while."
"You would, huh?"
"Yeah," she said with a shrug. "If you wanted to I mean. I don't want to push, and I understand why you're mad. I really do."
"It just took me by surprise. It made me wonder what you see in someone like me. Angel told me the boyfriend was a college guy, Army guy."
"I'm not those things. Your dad tolerates me, but I'm sure if he thought the lily white family tree of yours was going to get sullied…"
"My dad hasn't said anything one way or another and I don't live with my dad."
"Your mother then."
"I'm an adult, and my mom knows I'm the slayer. She realizes that being the slayer may shorten my life pretty drastically. So, I think if I chose the one eyed one horned flying purple people eater as my lover she'd be okay with it because she wants me to be happy during what time I do have. And she knows Angel is a vampire and that our relationship was all about the drama. So, I think human and un-dramatic would be okay with her whoever you are."
"I love that song."
She smiled with a light laugh. "So, are you stupid?"
"What?" He looked insulted, which she expected.
"Are you stupid?"
"What kind of question is that?"
"Well, you make it sound like college is a big deal, which it is if you want to make with being a lawyer or something. I'm going because my mom is sending me, can send me. You don't have that. And, you've had a lot going on, life and stuff besides the money issue."
"And you're okay with that? Come on."
"I'm lucky I graduated high school, Charles. Do you understand that? How many times I was late or had to cut because of a demon or something. I burned down my school's gym here in LA." She cupped his cheek, rubbing hers against his. "You could always come to Sunnydale and stay."
"Financial aid, student loans."
"I don't know, Buffy."
"You'd still get to hunt vamps and demons because you'd be with me."
"Is home. I get that. It's just a thought. You know, in case you think I'm not in this or into you. And if you stay here, I know Angel could use your help."
"Yeah, he's always good for some fun."
She smirked. "Spoken like a true vampire hunter. No one else would think a spot of violence is fun." She wiggled a little, settling on his lap a bit more. "Now, do I get a tour while I'm here?"
"A tour, huh?"
"Yeah, I've never been here."
"Anything in particular you wanted to see?"
"Mm," she said, settling in for a kiss. "Wherever your bed is."
He kissed her then and stood with her still settled on his lap. She let out a laugh and wrapped her legs around him.
"You're so small. It's hard for me to believe you're the slayer. That you're like a superhero."
"Only when I'm hunting vamps and demons. Otherwise, I'm just a girl, Charles."
"Anything but just, Buffy."
"Thank you," she said, finding his mouth again as he walked her in a direction she hoped would lead where she requested.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com