"Well, Giles, if I want to get a clue as to what's the what, I need to mingle."
"Buffy," Giles said sounding very perturbed.
"What? I'm not really going to dance, Giles, but I have to figure out who's who."
"Buffy," came his voice from near the stairwell leading to the loft.
Buffy rolled her eyes but stopped talking to Giles and turned to face the mysterious leather clad man who always seemed to know when something was going to happen. Come to think of it, he knew stuff her Watcher did not. "Come to warn me about impending doom and gloom?"
"You need help."
"Thanks, but we've got it under control."
"So you're just going to storm in here and what?"
"Wait until we see the guy with the symbol."
"They're going to recognize you."
"Your little jaunt in the sewers, they saw you."
"Perhaps you should be a bit discreet. If they see you here they may leave and try again another night - when you're not here."
She could not quite argue with that logic. She was still curious just who this guy was. She had assumed he was someone Mr. Giles had assigned to follow her, until Giles had seemed just as curious about him as Buffy was. "What do you have in mind?"
"I assume you brought weapons."
"Giles has them. I mean, I have some on me, sure, but he was carrying the bag of other things." This was so weird to be talking to a good looking guy about her slaying. She had come to Sunnydale to get away from it and now there were three people who knew who she was. Two she considered her friends, Buffy was not sure yet about the guy she was talking to now. He was cute in a broody sort of way, but he was not overly chatty.
"Giles. You don't know him?" she asked, watching his face for any indication that Giles had been lying.
"No, why would I?"
"I don't know," she said unable to read him but sensing Angel was not lying.
"You brought civilians with you?"
"Well, yeah, I mean, they're my friends. The Master killed one of their friends; it's a big friendship thing. But then judging by my stumping you earlier with that friendship thing, you might not get the whole idea of what a friend is."
"So they know?"
"Yeah, it was an accident, but yeah. Nothing I can do about it, besides, you know and I don't even know you."
"That's different," he said. Buffy waited for him to elaborate but he said nothing more.
"Right, so I might as well get them to help me a bit. Help get the other civilians out while I take care of the Vessel."
"That's assuming you can."
"Thanks for the confidence boost." Suddenly, his large hands were at her shoulders, drawing her to him as he spun around so his back was to the crowd and she was hidden from view. It happened so fast Buffy barely had time to react. "What the hell was that for?" she asked, hoping it was dark enough under the stairwell so he would not notice she was blushing. She had a dream about him touching her, but it had not happened quite like this.
It had been after he had given her the cross she wore right now. In her dream he handed it to her instead of tossing it to her, their hands had touched and he had not wanted to leave her. In her dream he had left without even a kiss, but Buffy knew that he did not want to.
"I thought I saw someone," he said softly. He was still looking over his shoulder, scanning the room. Buffy was looking, too, but he seemed to be looking for something, or someone, specific. Buffy just hoped this symbol painted on the Vessel would be easy to spot.
"Yeah, I just bet the little woman isn't too crazy about you being out stalking another girl."
"The what?" he asked with a frown, looking at her now. His dark eyes were intense, and she thought she saw something in them, caring? They did not even know each other, how could he care? He turned his head again to look over his shoulder.
"You know, the little woman, the wife. Maybe you're the type that refers to her as the old ball and chain."
He turned to face her again, regarding her for a long moment in silence. He shook his head then and his attention was again drawn away from her just as her Slayer senses started tingling in full force. "Forget it, they're here. It's time to do your job. Find the Vessel, stop him."
"Great," she said, putting her resolve face on. "And here I thought you were going to ask me to dance."
"You get us out of this, and I'll owe you one."
"Right," she said and started to walk to the stairwell. "Tell my friends to get everyone out to safety."
"Sure," Angel said and turned from her. Somehow she knew he would do more than tell her friends, that he would help. Tall, dark, and broody mystery man seemed like he was on her side of the slaying gig.
Buffy should have known the Vessel would be the vampire she met up with in the crypt. He was big and strong, but not overly bright which allowed Buffy to fool him into thinking an exterior lamp was sunlight. Thankfully, the Vessel and his band of merry vampires were done away with. The band's drummer was going to be in need of a new cymbal, but she reckoned he would take having to replace it over being dead.
The Bronze had been cleared out and was now empty except for Buffy, lots of vampire dust and a few people that would need medical attention. There were a few casualties but as bad as Buffy felt about that fact she knew it could have been worse. Buffy assumed Angel and the others had gotten most everyone out to safety, she stopped paying attention once on stage with the Vessel. Her job was done here, so she walked outside expecting to see Giles, Willow and Xander. Instead, she ran into Angel in the alley outside the Bronze.
"You did it, you actually did it."
"Gee, don't you sound confident in my abilities. If you didn't think I was up for the task, why didn't you stick around and lend a hand."
"I'll walk you home."
"I think I can manage," she said. "Did everyone else leave?"
"Yeah, Mr. Giles said he would talk to you first thing in the morning, something about meeting in the library before first period."
"Right, thanks, but you don't need to walk me home."
"I'd feel better, Buffy, The Master's not going to be happy that you foiled his Harvest plans."
She was of the mind to protest further, but really who was she to complain about a cute guy wanting to walk her home. A cute guy who knew what she was, even better. She tucked some hair behind an ear, realizing she must look terrible after going the rounds with Vessel boy and glanced in the direction that would lead her home and away from the Bronze. "I suppose some company would be all right."
He was quiet as they walked and Buffy had no idea what to say. He was older than she was, how much older she did not know, but it seemed that anything she would have to offer in the way of conversation would seem lame so she remained quiet. He seemed content to walk without talking, so she took her cue from him.
They got to Revello Drive and Buffy paused at the corner. "Well, this is me. I'm just down the street; I think I can manage from here."
"I know," he said but did not seem as though he was going anywhere.
"Really, I can manage a half a block."
"I know you can, it's just," he said, glancing at his boots.
"It's just what? Listen, the gentleman acting gig is good, but I'm not helpless."
"You don't think I know that?"
"Well, then what's with the walking me home and stalking me bit?"
"Angel, you've been watching me. I mean, you show up and toss a cross at me the other night claiming you're not my friend, I see you at the crypt the other day and then at the Bronze tonight. You can't tell me that's just a coincidence."
"No, it's not, I just feel compelled to make sure you're all right," he said with a slight shrug of his shoulders. His hands were together in front of him, his fingertips touching. "That's all."
"That's all? You feel compelled to make sure I'm all right. So you're going to follow me around?"
"I can help you. I was sent to help you."
"I don't know," he admitted, his voice barely audible it was so soft.
"Okay, now you're wigging me out. I'm going to go home and take a shower, I've got layers on top of layers of vamp dust on me and I could use a cup of hot chocolate I think. Are you going to be okay getting home? You seem sort of," she regarded him, searching for the right word. "Out of it."
"I'm good, Buffy, thanks for asking. I guess I'll let you go then. Have a good night," he said but made no effort to move.
"Thanks, you too. You're going to stand there and watch me until I've gone inside, aren't you?"
He scoffed, maybe it was supposed to be a laugh. "Maybe."
"Okay, well," she said, glancing at her shoes. Cute guy walks her home, maybe if she let him walk her to her door he would actually kiss her good night. "Well, in that case, I guess you can walk me all the way there. You're not a stalker, right?"
"No, I'm not a stalker, I have better things to do with my time than stalk high school girls."
Ouch, she thought to herself and physically winced at his words. So much for the idea that he wanted to kiss her, which was of the bad because he probably kissed really well.
"Buffy, that's not what I meant."
"No, I understood you, loud and clear. No worries. I really wasn't of the mind to be on the receiving end of a stalking anyway."
"Why does a guy hanging around have to be a stalker?"
"He doesn't. I'm glad you're not all right, I really didn't want to have to call the police on you because I sense that you're on my side."
"I told you I was sent to help you."
"You didn't say by whom."
"I told you I didn't know, I don't know. I've been here for a few months, waiting, I almost thought that you weren't going to come after all."
"Sorry if I made you wait."
"It's all right, gave me some time to get myself organized, settled, ready," he said. She glanced at him, tilted her head to regard him, sensing there was way more behind those words than she was meant to understand.
"Well, here we are, now you know for sure which house is mine. Don't make me regret it."
"I already knew which house was yours, Buffy. You really should be more careful coming home from your nightly rounds, anyone could follow you."
He shrugged and leaned against one of the posts. "I don't know, I stay far enough back so you don't sense me."
"You know I sense you?"
"The same way I sense you, yeah," he admitted and then pushed off the post taking to the porch steps. "Good work tonight, Buffy. It looks like I owe you a dance."
"I thought you were joking."
"I get to pick the dance, but I could think of worse fates than dancing with you, Buffy."
She blushed again. What was it about him that he could say the simplest things and make her blush like a little girl. It had to be his age, he was older and had to be experienced yet he treated her with some respect. The fact he realized she could probably kick his ass might have something to do with that. "Thanks," she said.
"Buffy," her mom called from inside. "Is that you?"
"Yeah, Mom, I'll be right in." She turned to face Angel, but he was gone. "Angel," she called out, taking the steps so she stood on the sidewalk. She turned and walked back up the steps. "Good night," she called out, sensing that he was still nearby even if she could not see him.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com