Glad yet another Xander under the influence of someone or something event was done with, Buffy was set to relax for a while. Willow and Xander were planning on catching up with her later, Buffy suspected there was some major groveling on Xander's part happening this evening. She wanted to be out of the way for that, Willow's statement the other day about her being the difference really hit home for Buffy. She did not want to come between the two friends.
"Are you here alone?"
She went still for a moment at the sound of his voice before glancing over her shoulder. He had that velvet jacket on again. Buffy wondered if he had such a small collection of clothes and with that thought her hand grabbed a hold of the leather jacket's collar she wore that he had given her. "Were you talking to me?" she asked.
He cocked his head to one side and smirked at her, but his dark brown eyes were full of teasing. "Should I be talking to someone else?"
"No, I mean, I was just wondering. I guess being a Slayer groupie and all you wouldn't have anyone else to talk to."
He shook his head, no laugh, just a shake of his head. "Can I join you?"
"You want to sit here with me?" she asked, realizing she probably sounded stupid. They had never talked, he had never made an effort to sit down and have a Coke with her.
"You look like you could use a friend."
"I thought you said you weren't my friend."
"I said that I never said I was your friend, that doesn't mean I'm not."
"And I want you as a friend because?"
He took a seat on a stool across from hers and just shrugged. "You're wearing my jacket," he said simply.
"What's that supposed to mean, you told me to keep it."
"And I meant that, but if you couldn't stand me you wouldn't have it on every time I see you."
"I wasn't wearing it the other night," she said defensively. Of course, black leather did not really go with the dress she wore the night of her date with Owen, not to mention the image she was trying to present.
"Want to talk about it?"
"No, what's on your mind?"
"Oh, I don't know," she said with a shrug. She broke off another piece of the croissant and ate it, watching him as she chewed. "Why do you even care? You've been all business up until now."
He shrugged, his eyes a little too intense as he watched her.
"Okay, I can see this is going to be a one-sided conversation."
"I don't talk much."
"So I've noticed."
"So talk away."
"I'm just worried I'm coming in between my friends being friends with each other."
"Your two helpers?"
"Two points to the mysterious Angel for figuring it out so quickly."
"Go on," he said simply. Why was he not laughing at her little quips?
"Willow and Xander," she offered their names in case he wanted to know. He did not seem to want to know too much, so it was probably pointless.
"Okay. What about them?"
"Well, I think I'm coming between them. I mean Willow likes Xander. She's too shy to tell him, but now that I'm here she thinks she could never stand a chance."
"What do you think?"
"Well, Xander told me recently, granted it was while he was possessed and acting like a hyena, that he could never settle for Willow." Something flickered in his eyes, a look Buffy did not quite understand, not to mention the whites seemed to darken for a moment. She shrugged it off, the lights in The Bronze did weird things.
"Well, you are a hard act to follow. I can't say that I blame him."
"He's known Willow all of his life, right?"
"From what I know, yeah, at least all through school."
"So here is this pretty blonde girl who talks to him, is nice to him, tries to save the life of his friend. Add to that the fact you have abilities that no other girl has," he shrugged.
"You think I'm pretty?" she asked.
"I was talking from his perspective."
"Oh," she said, feeling surprisingly disappointed.
He placed his hand a fraction of an inch from hers on the tabletop and drummed his fingertips. "You have nothing to feel guilty or bad about."
"But she likes him."
"And don't you think by now if he had returned the feelings he would have done something about it? Your friend isn't the first girl to have a crush on someone that did not share her feelings. And she won't be the last. It's not your fault, Buffy. If it hadn't been you it would have been someone else."
He had used her name, she could not remember his having used it before now. She liked the way he said it, he did not make it sound like a bubblehead's name. "Thanks," she said, taking a sip of her smoothie. She was not entirely sure she believed him, but it was a solid attempt at consoling her. When was the last time anyone had consoled her? Her mom was too busy with work to pay much attention to Buffy. Giles and her friends seemed to think that since she was the Slayer she did not ever need a hug.
"Did I help?"
"A little, I see your point. I mean, if a guy doesn't notice me, what's the point of pining for him?"
"I don't think you can compare yourself to Willow."
"You're not the same type of girl she is."
"No, I'm not," she said unable to deny that.
"I don't think you're doing anything wrong."
"No, I'm not," she said with conviction. And she believed that. She was not leading Xander on; she had not made him believe she was interested in him. In fact, she had gone out on a date with Owen. "Thanks," she said, pushing the plate with the bottom half of the buttery croissant into the middle of the table. She gestured to it, hoping he might eat some of it with her. She did not want to look like a pig in front of him.
"What are you doing?" he asked. His eyes met hers and she felt the weight of his stare right down to her toes from the eye contact.
"Sharing." She was not sure what she had said, but the look on his face reminded her of a little boy who had just gotten the Radio Flyer he had wanted more than anything else for Christmas. All that from sharing half a croissant.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com