He was in the shower the next morning when he heard Buffy cry out from the bedroom. He had looked at her arm earlier and couldn't even tell anything had happened to her. Looking closely at it he thought he saw a bit of redness, but that was it. It was amazing. So, he didn't think it was her arm bothering her that made her cry out. She wasn't an easily scared woman either. He hadn't seen her handle much of anything with fear. Not even being on the wrong side of a gun and its bullet.
So, when he jumped out of the shower and grabbed not just a towel to wrap around his waist but his gun he was prepared to go through it again. He couldn't imagine any other reason for her to react that way then if she was being threatened. He had no way of knowing if what happened on the street yesterday had anything to do with him. Or his father.
He used his toes to open the door. Her eyes met his. She didn't sleep nude, but she had the top sheet clutched to her as if it could act as a shield. She looked more startled than frightened, so he lowered the gun a little. He was no longer prepared to shoot first.
"There you are."
Matty let out a groan at the sound of his dad's voice.
"Pop. What are you doing here? And why are you barging into my room?"
"I heard my boy got shot at yesterday and his new wife was in the process of defending him. I had to come make sure you were both okay. And see if there's anything I need to take care of out here." He walked up to Matty, patted him on the cheek. "You getting into trouble I should know about?"
"No, Pop. I don't think it had anything to do with us. Two others were taken out. I think we were just in the wrong place, wrong time."
"What do you think?" His father turned his gaze on Buffy's. She didn't look like she knew what to say. "Well?" He turned his attention to Matty. "She does speak, doesn't she? You didn't go out and marry a mute? That's all I need! It's bad enough you're out here in the land of fruits and nuts, but you're going to give me grandbabies who can't talk!"
"She talks, Pop. You're getting ahead of yourself there. You scared her, walking into our bedroom like that. That's all."
His dad laughed then, a sound familiar to Matty but it had been a while since he'd heard it. He had a way of laughing that made him sound not entirely sane. As a kid, he'd thought it was funny. As an adult, he found it more scary than funny. Especially not knowing for sure who was back in New York keeping an eye on him. Matty recognized what it was now, he didn't as a kid. He supposed that was the difference.
"Well then," he said turning his attention back to Buffy. He snapped his fingers rapidly. "Speak. I asked you a question."
"I'm sorry. I, no, I don't think it was personal against Matty. He's right, the people that were hit, we just happened to be in the way. Besides, Matty doesn't usually go out for lunch. It was a fluke that I asked him to lunch. Who'd try to hit him at a time he's not usually out?"
"Good question." Matty closed his eyes, knowing without a doubt what was going through his father's mind. Had Buffy gotten him to go to lunch unexpectedly on purpose?
"Can I finish getting ready, Pop? I have to be at the office. What time did you leave New York to get here so early?"
"You were still tucked in bed. Believe it or not, I was worried about you."
Matty did believe it. Despite their odd relationship, Matty knew his father did genuinely care for him. He was his son after all, and to an Italian like Benny Demaret, sons were important. Something to be proud of. Even if Matty wasn't cut out for his father's line of work.
"All right. Why don't you go to the kitchen? Have Maria make you some breakfast. I'll join you in a bit."
"Tell your wife to put some clothes on and join us, too."
"You ask her, Pop. She was shot yesterday. She may not want to come down and eat breakfast with us."
"What? Were you planning on bringing her breakfast in bed? Of course she's going to eat breakfast with us."
"What? I'm just saying. She has to eat, right?"
Matty rolled his eyes with a shake of his head. "Yes, Pop, she has to eat."
"It's okay, Matty, I'll come down."
"You sure, babe?"
"Yeah. I'll just wash my face and stuff. I'll shower later."
"Okay, Pop? You satisfied? Now, out, so we can get ready."
"Listen to you. My own son bossing me around."
He walked to the door, though, and Matty found himself breathing easier once his father had left the room.
"No, it's okay. It just freaked me out to see a strange man walk into our bedroom."
"Yeah, he'll probably lecture me later about not showing you a picture of him."
She laughed at that and slid out of bed.
"How do you feel this morning?"
"I feel fine," she said. She lifted her arm over her head and then rotated it. "Good. Willow worked her magic like I knew she would."
"I owe her an apology."
"Nah, forget it. I was asking you to do something you didn't understand. I'm not sure I would have let her do it if the situation was reversed. So," she stood on her tiptoes and gave him a quick kiss. "You're a brave man for trusting I knew what I was doing."
He watched as she walked through the bathroom to the other bedroom. It worked out well having her stuff in that bedroom. She had quite a bit of it as did he. One thing he'd learned from his father, and that he believed, was looking good, dressing smart. He liked clothes and had a lot of them. They were a match when it came to that it seemed.
He turned the shower off. He'd been just about done anyway. He just needed to shave and dress.
"Do you always keep a gun in the bathroom?"
He glanced to the door leading to the other bedroom. He tried not to call it her room anymore since she didn't sleep in it anymore. And he didn't want to give her the idea that he wanted her to start again.
"Uh, well, I try to keep one handy, yes."
"I suppose you grew up that way. I never noticed you carrying one until now."
"I know how to be discreet."
"I guess so." She appeared in the doorway, dressed in a pair of sweats and a long sleeved shirt. "I wasn't criticizing, Matty. Just asking."
"All right, sorry. I'm defensive I guess with Pop being downstairs. I always feel like I don't measure up."
"Because you're not a gangster? Get real, Matty. That's how you should know you do measure up. You got out. You chose to do something different. Your father should be proud of you, and if he's not now. One day he will be. And what's that stuff about grandbabies?"
"Mm, well, he expects them. I mean, we're married. It's logical."
"Not like tomorrow, though, right?"
"Well, we've been married a couple months now. In a year he might start asking questions about one of us having, um," he paused with the razor. "Equipment that's malfunctioning."
"Wow. Not a lot of time."
"I didn't say I wanted them that soon."
"That's good. Definitely of the good."
He smiled then and she set about washing her face. It was kind of odd that they did these things together now. They didn't come into the bathroom if one or the other was actually in the shower, but like this they didn't seem to mind.
"I'll go on down then, I guess. Anything I need to know?"
"No. Just be yourself. He'll like you. You won me over."
"Hmm." She took the towel he had draped over his shoulder and wiped a spot on his cheek. "You missed a spot," she said, showing him the shaving cream she'd blotted off with the towel.
She tossed the towel to him. "Anytime. Is he going to ask to see where I was shot?"
"I don't think so."
"Good. It'd be kind of hard to explain to him that it's not there. Oh, and did you call him?"
"No. I'm assuming Jim or Maria did."
She stopped at the bathroom door and turned to face him. "You know what this means."
"He does care about you, Matty. No one would have flown in the middle of the night to make sure someone they didn't care for was all right."
He was sure it would have occurred to him eventually. He was too surprised at his father being here to put much thought into the why of it. He dressed with that in mind. It wasn't something he'd given much thought to. He'd just assumed he was a failure in his father's eyes. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. And maybe it was more complex than that.
"I want to give you a present."
The words prevented Matty from entering the kitchen.
"Mr. Demaret, that's not necessary."
"I'll be the judge of what's necessary. And you can call me Benny. We're family after all."
"Well, Benny, still. I don't need."
"You saved my son's life."
"I didn't. Really. I don't think he was in danger."
"But you pushed him out of the way."
"I'd like to have that type of instinct in some of the men who work for me, Buffy. Now, you'll take this gift. I insist."
Matty could picture the helpless look on Buffy's face perfectly. She really didn't like being on the receiving end of things. He didn't have to know her very well to recognize that quality in her. No doubt what his father had in mind was huge. His father didn't do anything low-key. She didn't like the idea of someone feeling indebted to her. She really thought that she was born to save people. With as fast as she moved he couldn't really argue with her.
"I have a cabin near Aspen. I want you and Matty to use it. Go skiing, snowmobiling, stay in. There's a fireplace, plenty of wood, an outdoor pool that's heated. You've never been in a pool until you've been in one in the dead of winter. It's amazing! Invigorating."
"Mr. Demaret, that's really generous of you, but."
"I won't take no for an answer."
"Pop," Matty said, finally stepping into the kitchen. "Buffy has to work."
"She can take time off. Are they going to hassle her about taking some time off with her new husband? You two didn't even get a honeymoon."
"Don't ‘Pop' me."
Matty sat down in his chair and Maria was there promptly to set his breakfast in front of him.
"Isn't there something a little more low-key you can do, Pop? Buffy travels a lot for her job, I doubt traveling is much of a gift to her."
"I hadn't thought of that."
"Well, why didn't you just say so?"
"Um," Buffy said, glancing helplessly at Matty.
"Pop, lay off. You're making her nervous."
"I am not. I'm just a big pussy cat when it comes to pretty girls. And she is a pretty one, Matty. I didn't think you had it in you."
"What? A man can't admire his son's wife? I'll admit for a while there I was beginning to wonder."
"Pop," Matty said again.
"All right, all right. I'm going to go make sure Jim brought my things in."
"What? You think I fly all the way out here just to turn around?"
"No, Pop, that's fine. It's just we asked you to come for Thanksgiving."
"I couldn't make it, Matty. I'm here and now that I am I want to get to know my daughter-in-law."
Matty hoped Buffy was ready for dealing with Benny. He could be a handful. He was harmless for the most part, to someone like Buffy anyway. She had no reason to fear him because she had no reason to double cross him.
"Besides, I need to rethink the gift. You're right. I should have talked it over with you. Who wants to travel when their job entails travel? You're always thinking, Matty. Such a bright boy."
"Thanks, Pop," though Matty wasn't sure he was really supposed to respond.
"Jimmy," Benny bellowed as he stood from the table and left the kitchen.
Matty slid his hand to Buffy's and squeezed.
"It's okay. I'm glad to see he worries about you."
"Yeah. Listen, about the gift. Whatever he comes up with to take the place of Aspen, just take it. He won't take no for an answer, so save yourself the trouble."
"Hey, if you'd rather have the place in Aspen let me know. I haven't been there since I was a kid, but it's nice. Kind of romantic, though. Come to think of it, I can see why he thought of it."
"I'm just not used to."
"I know. Get used to it. That's how he shows he cares. Benny doesn't say it much, but if he loves you he'll shower you with gifts that you couldn't dream up."
"Like this house."
"Yeah, like this house."
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I just don't want him thinking."
"He won't think that. It's just how he works. Got it?"
"Yeah, I get it."
"What?" He could tell she was thinking something.
"What if I hate it?"
"Just say thanks and we'll deal with it later."
"Okay. This is tough stuff."
He chuckled. "Yes, and getting shot at is much easier."
"Getting shot at. I know how to deal with that. This stuff, it blindsides me."
"What? People being nice to you."
"Well, yeah, I'm just not used to gratitude. I can't tell you how many lives I've saved and I very rarely get a thank you. I'm not doing it for that. I don't mean to make it sound like I do."
"You're fine. You're terrific. I did have Jim call the police and ask. You were right. The two we saw are dead. A couple of others were injured." He brought her hand to his lips, kissing her fingertips. "You couldn't have saved them, Buffy. You did what you could. The fact you spotted it so fast. A couple of other people near us were able to get out of the way because of you."
"That's what Jim said. It was lunchtime, the sidewalk was packed."
"Were they aiming at those two?"
"I don't know. Jim couldn't find that out."
"Thanks for telling me."
"You're welcome. Now," he finished his orange juice. "I have to get to work or they're going to think I'm slacking off."
"Yeah, me. Oh, hey, we're going to the Lakers game tonight."
"Yeah. One of the bonuses of being an agent."
"Oh. Okay. I've never been to a professional game."
"Great. I'll be home about five to get you. Jim will take us in the car."
"All right. I'll be here."
"Great," he leaned over and kissed her lightly. "Have a good day. If Pop gets to be too much just go for a jog or something."
"We'll be fine."
"Okay. Don't say I didn't warn you."
As it turned out, his father was pretty nice. He stayed out of her way for the most part. Their paths crossed once at lunch and again as she was coming in from the pool. He was headed out that way. She had just finished getting ready for the evening. It had taken her a surprising amount of time to dress. What did one wear to a basketball game? Was Matty going as an agent? Or just as a spectator? And was she expected to be impressive for him?
She dressed in a pair of khaki slacks, a green top and a pair of dress boots. It was casual, but not too casual. If Matty looked twice at her, she'd offer to change. She was in her office, reading her email when someone knocked on the door. It was ajar, so she guessed he was just being polite.
"Jim said I could find you here."
"You work from home then?"
"I have a private business that I and a few others are involved with. So, yes, the work has to be done from home."
"Some of it."
"I did some digging on you." Her back must have stiffened more visibly than she thought because he chuckled. "You didn't think I wouldn't?"
"No, I expected you would. I would have if I was in your shoes."
"Very good. Honesty. I like that."
Jim entered the room with a tray.
"I wasn't sure what you were in the mood for. Me, personally, gin and tonic is my drink of choice. So, I had Jim bring up a variety."
"Jim knows what I like," she said, taking her lemonade. "Thanks."
Jim left the tray on the table near Benny's chair. There was some food on it. Buffy wasn't sure what it all was.
"Are you hungry?"
"Just trying to figure out what the old man thinks he's doing barging into your office?"
"No, it's your house. Or was anyway."
"Smart girl. Cheers," he said, clinking his cocktail glass against hers.
"I don't know what you two are doing. Matty hasn't told me much of anything. I will say this, though," he was pretty casual at the moment. He sat there in his chair, sipping his drink like they were talking about the weather. "You hurt my son and you won't need to bother with a bodyguard because they won't be able to find a body to guard."
She swallowed. She'd been threatened before. He probably thought he was scary to her. He had no idea that she'd fought things, defeated and killed things that made him look like the pussy cat he claimed to be earlier. "I should hope the fact that I stepped in front of a bullet potentially aimed at him would indicate we're in agreement about that."
"I would hope. I just needed it to be said. Out in the open. I don't believe in beating around the bush. He's my only son. I won't see him made a fool of. The Demaret name dragged through the mud."
"No intention of doing that."
"This consulting business you do. Is it lucrative?"
"Not really. I was paying my bills when I met Matty if that's what you're getting at. I didn't marry him for money."
"You were renting a small house."
"I was. I wanted a house over an apartment, but it was small enough that I was saving money. I was hoping to have enough saved that I could start school next fall."
"What are you going to school for?"
"Criminal Justice. I like the security angle of things."
"I inquired about you at Topline. They rave about you. I know ‘Boom Boom'."
"You sound about as thrilled at the thought of that claim as I am."
She smirked at that. "Yeah."
"At least we're in agreement about that."
"I guess so."
"Where were you going to go to school?"
"Well, I have a friend up north, but now that I'm here with Matty," she shrugged. "I don't know. I guess my plans have changed a little. Or are changing. I guess locally. I can't very well be married and go somewhere outside of LA."
He took another sip of his drink, finishing it and set it on the tray.
"I understand you lock the door?"
"Just leave the tray on the floor outside the door then, I'll let Jim know to have someone get it."
"Okay," she said, a little confused. "Is that it?"
"We're done. Just remember what I said."
He stood, slowly she noticed. "It's been a while since I gave that speech to someone who didn't react. Probably since I was younger than Matty. Not even a flinch. My son's married someone with balls, figuratively speaking of course. I've no doubt you're more than enough woman for him. I like that."
Buffy wasn't sure what to say to that. "Thanks," she said, hoping that was the right response.
"Enjoy your game."
"See you tomorrow."
He left her office almost as suddenly as he came. If it wasn't for the tray she might have thought it was a dream.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com