He laid the book he was reading face down against his chest and glanced at the bedside clock. The digital display indicated it was six minutes after eight, only six minutes later than the last time he looked at it. Those six minutes seemed to pass far too slowly for his liking. He wanted it to be time for the good citizens of Sunnydale to take to their beds so Buffy could do her patrolling.
By the time the sun had set, Joyce Summers was home from the art gallery and Angel did not wish to risk an encounter with Buffy's mother again. He did not think she bought the tutor story. She did not seem to suspect Angel had spent the night on the floor beside her daughter's bed though. Either way, he did not care to cross that line between business and socializing by calling on Buffy at her house.
Before she got back from summer with her dad he had been ready to call on her socially. He had been a frequent customer of Lacey's Floral Designs over the summer trying to get an idea of what type of arrangement would be suitable for Buffy. He imagined the clerks were tired of him by now, so they would be happy to know that Angel would not be visiting them again anytime soon. Not after the way she had acted and spoken to him in the short time since she had been back in Sunnydale.
He had consoled her at the warehouse because he knew she needed it. She had needed a strong shoulder to cry on and the arms of someone who loved her around her who would not pass judgment on her. It was the thought of whether she would have preferred that shoulder and those arms belonged to Xander that had kept him from resting today.
He had spent most of the three months apart from her wondering what she was doing. He wondered often if she was enjoying her brief respite from slaying. Did she slay while at her dad's? Did she date? Was there someone in LA who had managed to recapture her heart? Was that the reason she had been so cold and cruel to him?
He had written letters, but not one made it to a mailbox. She probably had no clue he had thought of her every day. Perhaps if he had mailed even just one of them she would not have treated him the way she had.
Going to her bedroom the night she had come back to Sunnydale had been the highlight of his summer. He had no idea what exactly he had pictured, but a nice conversation would have gone a long way as far as Angel was concerned. He wanted to know everything there was to know about her. It was a foreign feeling to him, wanting to know so much about someone he was not trying to kill, torture or hurt otherwise. He had not expected a cold-hearted bitch possessing the body of the slayer he had grown to love over the last few months. Apparently, absence had not made her heart grow fonder.
He sat up in the bed, setting the leather bound book on the nightstand and shutting off the lamp. He had to know if she was with Xander, he had to know if the first time he actually felt something real and true was going to turn painfully hellish like the rest of his existence.
He grabbed his leather coat and shrugged into it while glancing at his apartment to make sure he had not forgotten anything.
He could almost hear Darla's laughter in his mind, tormenting him, knowing he had killed her for a woman whom betrayed him for a high school kid. What could Xander do for her? He did not want to even think about the things Xander could do to her, for her, that Angel could not do.
His first stop was The Bronze and that is where he found her. He felt like a little kid looking in the window of a toy store wanting the electric train set on display, knowing he would never get it. He was riveted to the spot he stood and watched as she tossed her hair back and laughed at something one of her friends had said. The three of them looked like they were having a good time and Angel felt the knife twist in his heart just a little bit more.
He watched as a guy approached the table and made a beeline for Buffy. He gestured to the dance floor, but she shook her head "no". Xander did not seem to be bothered by the fact some other guy was hitting on his girl. "Huh," he said more than a little surprised. "Maybe I was wrong," he murmured.
Xander did not strike him as the type to go into a jealous rage if someone were to approach his girl, but he did not strike Angel as being rational about it either. Hell, Angel was bordering on a jealous rage and Buffy was not his and Angel had a few things going for him Xander Harris just never would.
He was still having a hard time figuring out just what Buffy's problem with him was. They had gotten along fine the last time they had seen each other before she left for the summer. Granted, she had died but he thought the night had ended decently considering that small detail. He had paid her a compliment even, something Angel did rarely. Was it not enough? Too little too late? Or did it have nothing to do with him?
Perhaps she had taken the months they were separated from one another and realized that she did not deserve to be polluted by the darkness that surrounded his existence anymore than was necessary. She would encounter darkness every day with her slaying, but she did not bring it home with her. She did not kiss other creatures of the night.
He was satisfied for the time being that she and Xander were not an item and it did not appear that they were the beginnings of one either. She was talking equally with Willow and Harris and did not appear to be paying much notice to Xander. He had seen her on dates before and this was not how she behaved toward a date.
It might have been easier just to ask her, but Angel did not want to approach her just yet. He was not ready for another one of her tongue-lashings or a challenge for him to kick her ass. Hopefully, whatever was bothering her would dwindle down to a smolder instead a full-blown blaze by the time he had to approach her again with information. Until then, he decided lurking in the shadows, watching her back as he had done in the beginning was the best course of action.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com