1. Buffy's at the mall, face buried in his jacket, inhaling the scent. She smells leather, of course, outdoorsy and masculine and tough guy protectiony. She shifts a bit, nose in the collar as if she was a secret service gal, trying to discreetly radio to someone. And right there, she has it. Angel's cologne wafts up, trees and leaves and is that a bit of lavender and there's something else that she can't quite place. She sniffs the sample at the counter, resniffs the jacket. Yup, that's it. Hugo by Hugo Boss. Not exactly cheap, but she's fairly certain she can convince her mom that she's in desperate need of some make-up.
She wonders whether she should be doing this at all. Still, this is an expensive coat and she should show her appreciation shouldn't she? Unless it's going to make him think she's too forward and that would be a bad move because she's not even sure he likes her. Normally, she'd say that giving a girl your coat to keep would be a come-on well beyond passing notes, but with Angel it's seriously hard to tell. There's no small talk unless 'new group of vampires at Sunnyrest' counts. A small token gesture would not only be nice on her part, but would force that chatting thing.
She decides to wait a day in order to get Willow's take on it. Instead, she catches Owen's eye and he catches hers and a day later he's giving her his pocket watch. And true, it's not a leather coat, but it's also true that when Owen talks to her it's damn obvious that major flirtage is occurring. She decides that a cutie who holds hands is worth way more than a silent hottie in the Bronze.
2. By the time she got home, Buffy was convinced this might win an award for crappiest day ever. She felt like there were things crawling all over her skin for one thing and then it occurred to her that fleas weren't out of the realm of possibility. Her face screwed up with absolute horror as she jumped into the shower and scrubbed herself down.
Hair dripping, she decided that at least fleas were fixable. She wondered if her relationship with Xander would survive her earlier behavior. Yes, spell and not her fault, but she had tried to seduce him.
At least she was home now. Bad day was over. And then she saw it out of the corner of her eye, sitting buried on her desk. Wrapped in lollipop colored stripes. She had told Willow that she figured the wrapping paper might get a smile out of him. Plus she had bought it so early that traditional paper for today wasn't in the stores yet.
One of the last remaining things from her before life. When she had been stupidly happy. Before she had ruined everybody's life.
She carefully opened the wrapping paper, sliding her finger under each fold and slicing the scotch tape with her nail. She held the blue book in her hand. Fabriano Quadrato. An artist sketchbook, each sheet 100% acid free. Her mother had informed her that Fabriano paper had been used by Michelangelo when Buffy told her a classmate was looking for a good quality charcoal sketching paper.
She carefully ripped each sheet out of the hard-cloth binding, until she had a small pile in front of her. Then carefully ripped each one in half, in half, in half, in half. She threw handfuls of the confetti in the air until her floor and hair were covered in tiny squares of white and ecru and gray.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Angel," she whispered. Her bad days would never be at end.
3. The taxi was still on the other side of town when Buffy's stomach began to perform some major gymnastic moves. She moved her lips in a silent prayer. How could she have been so stupid? Why hadn't she warned him? Last time she had gone after him, why hadn't it occurred to Buffy it would be the same this time?
Xander had yelled for five minutes straight when she announced where she was going. She wondered what his reaction would be if he found out she was handing over the stakes he had hand carved.
"Ash wood," Xander had proudly announced. "The same wood they make bats out of so it's extra hard." And they had felt stronger, deadlier somehow. That's why she was giving them to him. Silly, she knew, but she'd feel he was just the tiniest bit more protected. Plus the name of the wood itself seemed to imbue it with extra accuracy.
The office was dark, but she had expected that. It was night after all. She had seen the old-fashioned elevator last time she'd been here and stepped in, closing the metal accordion door. It seemed to take forever and then, as she stepped onto the landing, she wished it had.
The two of them, Angel and Faith, intimately entwined on a footstool. Faith's arms wrapped tightly around Angel's neck, her body pressed along his bare chest.
The former flip-flops of her stomach threatened to turn into full-blown nausea. She took a step and felt Xander's stakes digging into her spine. For one insane moment, she wanted to take the stake and dust him. And then knew it wouldn't matter. Her own heart had crumbled to ash and nothing would ever make it whole.
4. Buffy hung up the phone and stood there, slack jawed, eyes unfocused.
"Buffy?' Willow was still a pariah, deservedly so she knew, but she had rarely seen Buffy looking this shaken. Buffy needed her. She reminded herself that Dawn was upstairs, so that couldn't be the problem. Fear gripped her as she thought something had happened to Giles. "Buffy?" she repeated, a bit more urgently. "Is everything all right? Who was on the phone?"
"Angel," she said vacantly.
Willow tensed. Angel was not a topic for discussion in the Summers' household. Considering Buffy had seemed even more withdrawn after seeing Angel several months ago, Willow couldn't imagine that this phone conversation was just a how are things deal. "Is there something wrong," she said cautiously.
Buffy laughed weakly. Then she turned, refocusing on Willow. "What's a good gift for a baby? And a new dad gift also. Might as well go all the way, right?"
The manic note in Buffy's voice alarmed Willow. "I'm not sure. Whose baby?"
"Angel's, of course. It's great news isn't it?"
Willow looked at her friend with alarm. "He's a vampire. Not possible. You misheard something."
Buffy giggled again, her voice getting progressively higher. "You'd think, wouldn't you? It seems there was some kind of prophecy. You know I forgot to find out who the mother is. Maybe I'll call back later. Don't want to be rude when I send the gift. I guess that idiotic loophole is all gone." She was starting to speak faster, arms crossed tightly over her chest. "Did you know that's one of the reasons he dumped me? Because he couldn't do the normal thing. Joke was on him, I guess."
"Don't what? I'm fine Willow, really whatever you're thinking, don't worry about it. We broke up, remember?"
Willow didn't say anything, just chewed on her lip, hands fidgeting.
"Maybe a cute little outfit. You don't think Angel would dress his kid in black, do you? Maybe one of those new parent books? How not to screw up your kid."
"He's a big jerk face."
The corners of Buffy's mouth lifted up just for a second. Then, that disappeared and she looked exhausted. "He didn't want me to find out some other way. He was being considerate." The last word was said with the barest hint of sarcasm and then Buffy closed her eyes briefly. "Would it be terrible if I didn't send presents?"
"I'm sure he doesn't expect one."
"It's just I wanted to get Dawn a few new tops for school. I thought she might like that. And I just got the water bill."
Willow reached out and gave Buffy a quick squeeze on the shoulder.
Buffy stood up straight and began to stride out of the house. "I'm going. To patrol. At the cemeteries."
It wasn't until an hour later that Willow noticed that Buffy had left her stakes behind.
5. It took ten years to get the monument built. A six foot high marble base with the names of the dead etched on one side, holographic projections of a heroic soldier, police woman and firefighter on the other three sides and a large metal sculpture representing "the triumph of freedom over oppression" dwarfing the base it rested on.
"That is the single fugliest piece of crap I've ever seen. "
"Worse than that tragsler demon?" Buffy couldn't help her grin.
"Way. At least that thing I go to chop up."
Buffy stepped closer in, quietly scanning names. "He's not listed."
"You knew he wasn't going to be."
"It doesn't seen right. Because of what happened, lots of people are trying to work together. Things are better."
"We don't do it for the glory, B."
"I was finally ready with cookies." Her hand was tracing down the cool marble.
"Cookies?" Faith decided to proceed with caution. This was a topic where everybody else still feared to tread. "He wasn't big on human food. I mean, you remember that, right?"
Buffy kept looking at he monument. "Maybe that was the problem. He was always so convinced I'd be better off with a normal cookie eater. And by the time he decided that maybe he could be ok with cookies, I wasn't ready to share."
"I don't have one fucking clue what you're talking about."
Buffy snorted at that. "I thought we'd have more time, that's all."
"Yeah, " Faith said softly. "Life's a bitch."
"I miss him. I'd call him sometimes when I was by myself. He knew me, even the crappy me and he was ok with that. And he knew what it was like to make decisions that could get your friends killed and he knew what it was like to screw up those decisions."
Faith took a step so that their sides were touching each other. One more thing his death had accomplished was that Faith was a big part of her life now.
"He's in a good place," Buffy continued. "I know that much. " She turned so that her face was just inches from Faith's. "Thanks for dragging me here. Even if that is the stupidest sculpture I've ever seen."
They turned to leave. "Can I ask you something, B?"
"The guy had a body that just wouldn't quit. Did he know how to use it?"
Buffy laughed and shook her head. "You know we ran into certain, well, limitations. I'll just say I think he had extra muscles in his tongue." Buffy laughed even harder as Faith's eyebrows shot up into her hairline. She linked her arm through Faith's and twisted around for one last look. Someday, she thought. She didn't know how but she was convinced that someday they'd be together again.