"So. Ms. Summers," Eliot's boss said, linking his fingers together atop the table between them. "Thank you for meeting with me today. I've been meaning to talk to you for awhile; but you know how it is." He made a vague gesture in the air.
Buffy wasn't fooled. The last time a man had looked at her that intently, it had been Spike-- and not in the guilty sexcapades kind of way. He saw too much. She wasn't going to get away with lying to him.
"You mean Eliot's always been around," she acknowledged. "Bet you even know what time I'm supposed to meet him tonight...?"
"Don't worry, I won't keep you long," Nate Ford replied, smiling blandly at her. It didn't reach his eyes. "You'll have plenty of time for your toilette."
She didn't know how she'd managed to overlook him back when he was playing Jimmy Popodokolous in Angel's office. Well, no, she did: she'd been angry at Spike, and then there'd been Eliot. He'd just been a colorful distraction on the fringes of her awareness. He still didn't hold a candle to Eliot, as far as she was concerned, but he was like Eliot's Giles, so she was going to make an effort to placate the man if she could. It would help if she knew what had set him off, though.
"One question, first. Is this more about me, or more about my boyfriend's creepy lawyer twin?" she asked. "'Cause, disclaimer? I didn't even know what Lindsey looked like until that day in LA."
"But you knew who he was," Nate surmised, studying her expression.
Yeah; saw too much. Buffy sighed. "He sort of hired a frenemy of mine to kill an ex-boyfriend? Back before he got into the personal redemption kick. Not that I'm really convinced yet he is. Redempting, I mean. He's still way too pissed at Angel to be healthy."
Nate nodded slowly, pursing his mouth; he'd seen as much himself, she'd heard later, when Eliot talked about the stupid lengths he'd gone to to bail his brother out of his contract. "Angel being the ex-boyfriend," he said, thoughtfully. "Angel... the vampire."
She rolled her eyes. "First of two I dated. Yes. Which Eliot's not. And I'm very happy about."
"You don't miss the... freedom from conventions?" he prompted, mildly.
"Trust me, you couldn't get much more conventional than Angel," she half-laughed. "But if you mean, do I miss having a room-temperature bed partner? Do I miss that gross coppery smell in my microwave? Do I miss having to constantly face the disapproval of my friends?" She was shading things, of course; and she knew he knew it. But so did he; she was speaking his language, here.
"Hmmm," he replied. "Look, I don't want you to think I'm underestimating you. I mean, how could I? You know my team. But... I just want to make sure you can keep up with Eliot on, ah, the emotional side of the playing field as well as the physical one. I've never seen him date like this before; and I've known him a long time. A lot longer than we've been on the same side."
"Funny what you can learn about people when you chase them for long enough, or they chase you," she agreed, pointedly putting a period on the subject of her second vampire.
"Fair enough," Nate nodded. Then he stood and extended a hand. "Truce for now?"
"Truce for now," Buffy agreed. Though she didn't kid herself that was the end of it.
She approved. Eliot deserved nothing less from his friends.