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**Part One**

June 1997
Los Angeles, California

"Check out the hottie, three o'clock."

Buffy lowered her shades and glanced in the direction Tasha had said. Buffy had to admit he was fine. She took a minute to take in the eye candy as he walked by them on his way to a nearby group at the beach's volleyball pit. She'd seen them before a couple of times. She got the impression they were working people. Suits. Older than the college guys that usually captured Tasha's interest.

"Looks like they're having fun. Maybe we can join them."

"I don't know, Tasha."

"Come on, Buffy. What's the point in coming to the beach if we don't at least hit on the hotties? It doesn't mean we have to take them home or anything. It'd be fun. There's still way too much sun left for us to sit here until the bonfire."

"I just finished putting my lotion on again."

"So? You'll still be in the sun, just over there."

Running out of excuses, Buffy glanced once more at the group. There was a time she wouldn't have hesitated to approach them. Now, she felt different, not entirely removed from things that were normal but still she was. It was just hard to put on a happy face when inside she was still baffled by what had happened.

Baffled was too calm a word for the war going on inside of her most of the time. She'd died. As in meet your maker dead. If it had just been Angel in those tunnels, she'd still be dead. She owed Xander her life. Unfortunately, she wasn't sure what she wanted to do with that life.

She couldn't believe how easy it had been to fall back into the life she'd had in LA before moving to Sunnydale. Before being expelled from Hemry. A few phone calls and she was not just caught up on all the gossip that had been the last semester of school, but she was back in the fold.

People had short memories. That coupled with the fact that her parents were divorced and it was her mom who had moved not her dad made her a curiosity. Not many parents in her group were divorced, but she was the only one who'd been kept with her mother and taken away from the family house.

Tyler had moved on. Not that Buffy had expected any different. And, honestly, Angel was still fresh enough on her mind that guys were the last thing on her mind. She could tell that had bothered Tyler the first time they'd seen one another at a party. Never mind that now that she'd gotten a taste for someone older, she just had no interest in wasting her time on someone her own age.

As if he knew her mind had turned to him, there he was making an ass of himself with his latest, Cherri. People thought Buffy was bad. Cherry with an "i" was ridiculous. Tyler was trying to make her jealous she guessed, because he'd never been big into hugging or cuddling in public with her.

"All right, you twisted my arm."

"Do you want me to actually twist it so you feel better?"

"No," Buffy said wryly. She stood, brushing the sand from the back of her bikini bottoms. One good thing that came with the slayer package, she was buff and looked good in her preferred summer clothing ensemble. As little as possible.

Some of the others were getting the makings ready for the bonfire they'd be having as soon as the sun went down.

"Hey, Buffy."

She responded with "hi" or "how are you?" as her old friends saw her, some for the first time since she'd moved from LA.

"Girl, who needs Tyler when those guys are looking at you like that?"

Buffy had honestly not noticed who was looking at her. She was no longer used to it, unless you counted Cordelia and her gang glaring at her as if she'd grown a second head. But, Tasha seemed immune to the effect she had, too.

She was one of the few black girls who had made it to the inner circle. She was an Amazon next to Buffy. She played basketball, which Buffy thought was kind of stereotypical given the girl's height. Buffy had heard a few others talking about Tasha, though, and words like scholarship were being thrown around. So, she must be good. Both girls obviously worked out, just by different methods.

"Got room for two more?"

"Sure, ladies. We were just about to start."

"Great."

Buffy had avoided slaying at all costs since leaving Sunnydale. She'd stayed as far away from cemeteries as she could get. And, other than a quick postcard to Willow when she'd gotten here she'd done her best to put Sunnydale out of her mind until September when she had to go back. She was determined to make the most of her summer. If that meant a game or two of volleyball with hot guys so be it.

"I'm Tasha. This is Buffy."

Names of the group were thrown out, Buffy doubted she'd remember one of them. Except the hottie Tasha had gone to the trouble of making Buffy notice. His name was Lindsey. The team opposite Buffy took Tasha and Buffy was on Lindsey's team.

"You know how to play?"

"Are you kidding me? A California girl that doesn't know how to play beach volleyball?"

"Right. What was I thinking?"

She laughed then and took her spot on her team's side of the net. She hadn't played volleyball like this, for fun, in a while. And it was fun. No one was grading anyone, no one really cared if the ball got missed. They were just here to have a good time and to soak up the sun's last few rays of the day. They did play hard, though. No one could claim when they finished for the day that they didn't get a workout.

Tasha was busy talking to one of the guys on her team, so Buffy hung back waiting for her friend. She really wasn't in the mood for the whole bonfire thing, but she was determined to stay busy this summer. Busy was good. It kept her mind off things she'd prefer not to think about. Her near death experience gave her a whole new, more personal meaning to the seize the day advice she'd given Willow months ago.

"Good game."

"Thanks." Buffy wished she was closer to her things. It was getting cooler now and she'd worked up enough of a sweat that she was getting slightly chilled standing there in just her bikini. "Lindsey, right."

"Guilty as charged."

"Are you guilty of something?"

"Not so far today, no."

"Well, that's good." She smiled. "You play here often?"

"Yeah, pretty regularly."

"I've seen you a couple times before this summer."

"Oh?"

"Well, your group I mean," she said quickly, realizing what it sounded like. She was so not trying to pick him up. Like he'd be interested in a sixteen year old anyway. She wasn't real good at judging ages, but he seemed like he was mid-twenties or so.

"Ah. I'm an attorney."

"Oh, so the guilty as charged thing was like a real joke."

"Yes, it was an attempt at one anyway. Evidently, it failed and I need to work on my delivery."

"Hopefully, you're better at opening and closing arguments."

He laughed at that, and Buffy thought it was a nice laugh. "Yes, I've been told I am anyway. My bosses and clients seem to think so."

"Well, good."

"Anyway, these games sometimes are the only break I get. They work us pretty hard at the firm. I need to see the sunshine sometimes, though, so these games keep that need being met."

"Cool."

"So, are you off for the summer?"

"Yes."

"Home then?"

"Visiting my dad, actually. My mom and I live down in Sunnydale."

"I've heard of it."

"It's pretty dull compared to LA. We moved there in March and I have been waiting for summer break ever since."

"Do you go to UC Sunnydale then?"

"Uh no," she said, tucking some hair behind her ear. Here it goes. She'd tell him her age and he'd walk away. "I'm a junior."

"Where?"

She smiled at that. He wasn't real quick, or maybe he just didn't want to be. "At Sunnydale High School."

"Get out."

"Nope."

"You just finished your junior year, you mean?"

"Nope, just finished my sophomore year."

"Ah. I don't suppose you're really dumb and have failed a time or two?"

"No such luck. Sorry."

"It's okay. Hey, we're not doing anything wrong or anything."

"No."

"There's nothing against the law about my talking to a pretty girl, no matter her age."

"I guess you'd know."

"I would."

Tasha and the guy were walking toward them. Buffy sighed softly. It was kind of nice while it lasted. Having a guy talk to her just to talk. And he'd said she was pretty. What girl didn't like to hear that?

"Ian's going to join us for a while at the bonfire."

"Cool. The more the merrier."

"Is there room for one more?"

Buffy glanced at him, surprised at his question. She figured for sure he'd run for the hills now that he knew she was too young. What guy, a lawyer in particular, wanted to mess with jail bait?

"Sure."

"Great. I'd love to hear more about Sunnydale."

"You would, huh?"

"Yeah. It's come up in the news a few times."

She rolled her eyes, cursing to herself. Of course he'd have to follow the news. He was probably one of those lawyers always searching for a client. They walked toward her group from Hemry as his scattered. There were some in her group she didn't know. Some were older brothers and sisters of her friends who were home for the summer and some were just new. It was a pretty diverse group. Lindsey would add a different dimension to it, though. None of them were of the working class yet. Not career-like stuff anyway.

"Didn't your principal die?"

"Yes, he did. He was actually pretty nice."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I kind of had a record from my old high school here in LA, but he was willing to let me start fresh. Of course, my teachers knew about the record so it wasn't really a fresh start."

She shrugged. She couldn't explain what her first few months had been like in Sunnydale. Not without giving away too much. Freaky Friday body swapping, possessed hyenas, preying mantis shape shifters, invisible girls, talking ventriloquist dummies, vampires, and anointed ones. She doubted those things made the news. Just Principal Flutie's premature death. Maybe the death of the hyena guy at the zoo. Otherwise, though, nothing much should have hit newsworthy radars.

"Well, that's good. Everyone deserves a second chance."

"You sound like you mean that."

"I do. I'm living proof of it, in fact."

"Really?"

"Really. Moved to LA, put myself through college and law school at Hastings, and finished before I was twenty-four. I took summer classes, a course extra every semester during college so I could finish as fast as I could. I was offered a job at the law firm I'm with now in the mailroom while I was still in law school. I had to pass the bar exam, of course, to practice, but they made it known they wanted me and had faith I'd pass the exam. It was the first time anyone really had ever had faith in me."

"Well, you worked hard. Who wouldn't appreciate that?"

"You'd be surprised, but yeah, I feel appreciated. I've been given a couple of bigger clients. Small stuff, really, to see what I do with them. I like it, though."

"It sounds like you were trying to prove something."

"I was. To me more than anyone, but it was more of a put my past behind me thing than proving anything."

"Good. So, twenty-four. How long ago was that?"

"I've been out of law school for a year."

"Ah." So, he was nine years older, give or take. It was nothing when compared to Angel, but she doubted he'd see it that way.

"What do you want to do?"

"I don't know." She shrugged. She didn't really have much chance of a future. Did she? She'd defeated the Master, averted an apocalypse or two, but if she learned anything during her months as the slayer, another one wasn't out of the question. "I hadn't really thought about it too hard. A teacher, I guess."

"That sounds like a plan. We need good teachers."

"You think I'd be a good teacher?"

"Sure. You have a nice personality. Why not? If you taught high school or older, the students would show up just to get a look at you."

"No skipping Miss Buffy Summers' classes then?"

"No, ma'am, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a guy wanting to miss out."

"Well, that is something to think about."

"Yes, because we all choose our careers based on the hormones of teenaged boys."

"Well, not all."

They both laughed and Buffy almost wished they weren't around a crowd of people. It was still too early to start the fire so people were doing their own thing for a while. Some were swimming, some were tossing a football or Frisbee around, and some were just hanging out talking.

"Are you sure you want to hang out with us?"

"Why not?"

"Um, because we're high school kids."

"It wasn't that long ago I was in high school. Besides, they aren't all high school kids, some are in college or that age. I can tell. And I'm hanging out with you, not them."

"Oh." What else could she say to that? She couldn't deny the little wave of pleasure that shot through her when he put it that way. He wanted to hang out with her. A lawyer. She glanced at him, wondering what her dad would say if she brought him home.

"What are you thinking?"

"Oh, just wondering the different ways my father would think about stringing you up if he knew I was talking to you."

"Well, we'd best not let him find out then. Besides, I'd talk my way out of it. I'm good with words."

"Are you?"

"So I've been told."

"Well, then, I guess you must be."

"It's helpful for an attorney."

"Did you always want to be a lawyer?"

"Well, I went through the usual stages. Professional baseball player, astronaut, male gigolo."

"Male gigolo?"

"That last one was a joke. But, yeah, ever since I can remember really having a career in mind."

"Huh."

"You make that sound odd."

"I guess it is. I mean, I don't know if any of them knows what they want to do either." They both regarded the others around them. Some were even in college and she knew she was right. There were probably a few that knew, but not many. There were some she was sure that were hoping they wouldn't have to do anything but land a husband with a good job and an endless bank account.

She didn't count herself in with them, because her life wasn't normal. She wasn't normal. She could dream about a future but the chances of her having one beyond high school or college were pretty slim. She knew the odds. Giles wasn't so forthcoming with the honesty, but Merrick had said as much.

"It's pretty, isn't it?"

"What?"

"The sunset."

Buffy turned her attentions to the sunset. It was beautiful. It was too bad she associated sunsets with creatures of the night coming out to play instead of peacefulness like most people. Sunsets made her think of the Master, death, stakes, ambush tactics, and defensive strategies.

She tried to remember what sunsets had meant to her before being called. She couldn't, she doubted she'd paid much attention to them. Sunsets before then signified curfews, time to get home, and other mundane things. Now, she knew what the sun setting for the night really meant.

She glanced at the others, wondering how many of them knew. Did any of them? Did they think she had just suffered a violent outburst and gone a little crazy? Giles said people explained away things they didn't understand or want to understand. She knew that to be true. Hell, she didn't want to believe in the things she knew about.

"Not a sunset fan?"

"What? Oh no, I am. I just," she shrugged.

"Yeah, I get like that sometimes, too. It's okay."

"Thanks." She smiled at him. "I'm betting that bonfire will get going pretty quickly now."

"Will there be alcohol?"

"Are you asking as a defender of the law?"

"Not a chance."

"Then, yes, I imagine there will be a keg or two."

"Do you drink?"

"I'll have a cup maybe two, but no I'm not a drinker. Buffy and alcohol," she frowned. "Just don't mix well."

"At least you know that. Some people don't, or they do and keep trying to make it mix."

"Not me. I guess we should go see if they need help with something."

She caught a glimpse of Tasha, walking away from the group along the beach with Ian. Brave girl. Good for her. Buffy wasn't going to push her luck. So far this guy seemed nice, she wasn't going to do something stupid to risk her opinion getting changed.

"Whatever you want to do."

What did she want to do? She wanted things to be the way they had been the past couple of weeks here in LA. There was no doom and gloom. Giles wasn't after her with prophecies and ancient texts forecasting things before her parents were even born. Angel wasn't appearing at her windowsill with warnings.

For the first time since she could remember, things were quiet. It was nice. She was able to just be Buffy Summers for a while. And while being her, she snagged the attention of a very nice looking attorney. Why he was bothering with her she wasn't quite sure, but she wasn't going to complain. She'd probably never see him again anyway.

"I imagine there will be food, smores and stuff."

"You're making my stomach ache just thinking about it."

"I'm sure," she said with a soft laugh. "I'm going to grab my sweats and then I'll be set."

"You look fine the way you are."

"I'm sure I do, but it's a little chilly."

"I noticed."

She wasn't that cold, not to the point of having anything to be embarrassed about. "Come on, legal man, before you say something you might regret."

"You going to slap me with a lawsuit?"

"Not yet. Give me time, though."

"A woman who plays hardball. I like that."

The night was looking up. Tyler could have his Cherri. She'd show him and have a good time doing it. He seemed nice, funny, and was certainly nice to look at. What was more, he wasn't sending out fifty different signals she couldn't uncross the wires of to get the hint. She definitely liked that.

Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com

Chapter Text

**Part Two**

Buffy relaxed on the couch, her feet propped up in her dad's lap while they watched a Dodgers game together. She could care less about baseball. To her it was a bunch of grown men chasing a ball around. She was just glad to have this time with her dad. She missed it. She'd always considered herself a bit of a daddy's girl. Just because she was sixteen didn't mean she wasn't still. Especially since the past couple of years they hadn't gotten many moments like this. There was too much going on. With her. With her parents.

"Aren't you going to get that?"

"It's probably for you, sweetie."

"Oh, right," she said, swinging her feet to the floor so she could get up and answer the phone. Buffy suspected her dad was seeing someone, but since she hadn't met anyone yet didn't know for sure. Her dad was discreet about it, which made Buffy wonder who he might be seeing. Or maybe he was just worried Buffy would overreact. Like she ever did that!

"Hello."

"Is Buffy home?"

"This is."

"I thought so, but wasn't sure if you had a sister or your dad was remarried. This is Lindsey McDonald, from the beach the other day."

"I remember you."

As if she wouldn't! He'd spent the entire evening of the bonfire by her side. They'd talked, laughed, and even danced a little when the music moved them. It had been fun. He had been quick to pick up on the fact one of the guys in the crowd was her ex.

His whispered, "his loss," as together they watched Tyler and Cherri make out by the fire had made her smile. It wasn't so much that she was jealous or wanted Tyler back. It was that he represented her life before slaying. THAT she did want back. She was over Tyler, she was fifteen when they went out, just not the wanting of a normal life.

Lindsey had asked for her phone number, which she'd given him knowing full well he'd never call. So, she was more than surprised to hear his voice tonight. It had been a week. Not too soon, not too long. They'd had a nice time, at least Buffy believed he had despite hanging out with teenagers.

"How are you?"

"I'm good. You?"

"Good. Busy. I would have called sooner, but I've been kind of tied up."

"Lawyer stuff?"

"Yeah."

"Understood. I didn't really think you'd call, so this is a surprise."

"A good surprise?"

"It's of the good," she said, moving to sit at the kitchen table. She rethought that, first getting herself a glass of milk.

"Did I interrupt something?"

"Only some father/daughter bonding."

"Oh, sorry. Really? Or are you trying to make me feel bad? Like I waited too long to call or something so you're getting back at me?"

"Really, but I'm not trying to make you feel bad. We were watching the Dodgers game."

"You're a Dodgers fan?"

"Um, I know who they are and that they're in LA. And they hit a ball around with a bat and catch it."

He laughed then. "Okay, so not a baseball fan."

"Not really. I just like hanging with my dad."

"Should I let you go?"

She glanced at her dad, who looked like he was about to fall asleep on the couch.

"Nah, I think Dad's had enough bonding for the night. It's late for him."

"Yes, we working stiffs have to get our rest."

"I can't wait to get old." She smiled, taking a sip of her milk.

"Ouch."

"So, do you like baseball?"

"Yeah, it's all right. My firm has box seats so I get to go once in a while."

"That's good, right? I mean, I have this vision of a cardboard box with chairs in it, but that can't be right. Who'd brag about that?"

He laughed again. "Yes, that's good."

"Then cool."

"Would you be interested in a game sometime?"

"Me?"

"No, the other Buffy I'm talking to."

"Oh, well, I heard the other Buffy is too busy for baseball."

"And this Buffy?"

"Not so much with the busy. I could probably squeeze in a baseball game. They sell hats, right? Could I get a hat?"

"You could get whatever you want."

"Well, that'd be cool."

"Hold on a minute, let me see when I can get tickets."

"It's kind of late to be calling someone about that, isn't it?"

"I'm at the office. There's usually a sheet floating around."

"You're working still?" She glanced at the clock. It was after ten. He really was hard working. Ambitious. She glanced at her dad who had drifted off by now. He would appreciate Buffy hanging around with someone who had ambition.

"Yeah. Let me put you on hold for a minute. I'll be right back."

"Okay."

She grabbed a chocolate chip cookie to go with her glass of milk while she was on hold. Hopefully, he wouldn't come back when she had her mouth full of cookie. She took small bites just in case.

"Well, what do you know? There are tickets for not just tomorrow's game but the next night's, too. Take your pick."

"You decide."

"You want to do both?"

"Both?"

"Do you have other plans?"

She should say she did. People always advised playing a little hard to get. But it would be fun. And how hard to get was he going to put up with? "Not really. Nothing noteworthy anyway. Just shopping. Maybe a movie or something with friends, but it's not like I don't have all summer to see them and catch up."

Not that any of them made any effort to keep in touch with her after she and her mom had moved. Oh, she got a few phone calls at first, a couple of letters even, but after the first couple of weeks nothing. She had expected it. Memories were pretty short at this age. She knew that. And people were busy with their own lives, the friends that were actually there. The friends their parents didn't forbid their kids to hang out with.

"Well, if you'd rather shop."

"And you don't have to work?"

"I can break away for a couple of evenings."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

She stood from the chair, walking further into the kitchen so she was away from the doorway leading to the living room. "You do remember I'm only sixteen, right?"

"Yes, I remember. Believe me."

"Okay, just making sure you like don't suffer from short term memory loss or something."

"No, I can't claim anything like that. I had fun the other night. Age is just a number, and you don't act sixteen."

"Really?"

"Not that I saw."

"Thanks."

"And, hey, I'm just taking you to a baseball game. Or two. There's nothing wrong with that is there? I don't have too many friends that I couldn't use one more. Do you?"

"Well, since you put it like that."

"I'll get the tickets. I'll call you tomorrow if there's a problem with it. Otherwise, I'll pick you up around five."

"Okay." Her dad usually didn't get home until around six, so that would work. She wasn't sure he and her dad should meet yet. Her dad may not like the idea of her befriending someone in his twenties.

"I need your address."

"Oh, right." She gave it to him.

"I'll talk to you tomorrow then."

"Okay. See you then."

"Good night, Buffy."

"Night, Lindsey. Uh, don't work too hard."

He chuckled. "I'll do my best."

She hung up, finishing her milk with a big smile on her face. It wasn't a date, at least not formally or officially. But he'd called. And he'd asked her to do something. That was definitely of the good. Two nights of keeping busy, even if it was something mindless like baseball. Two nights she wouldn't have to sit here at the house thinking about stuff that she'd rather not deal with. At least she wasn't having dreams at the moment so she was sleeping decently.

***

Lindsey hung up the phone, spinning the pen he'd just used to write her address down with around on the top of his desk. He shouldn't have called her. Every part of him told him he was getting involved with something, someone, he should stay far away from. The odd thing was, though, that he liked her. It didn't take him but a few minutes of watching the others in her group of friends to realize she was different.

He wasn't sure what it was, but she didn't act like a sixteen year old girl. She had a way of carrying herself. And her eyes. They told him that she'd seen way too much. He'd never really put much stock in the whole windows to your soul thing, but he had to wonder what was in her soul for her eyes to look like that.

So, what was he doing inviting a good looking sixteen year old to not just one Dodgers game in his law firm's box, but two? He wasn't sure. He wasn't doing anything wrong spending time with her. There were people he knew with an age difference with one being a minor. As long as they didn't have sex, which he wasn't planning on doing anyway, he was within the letter of the law.

He had seen something in her that he could identify with. She looked at her friends as if she wasn't sure she belonged. Not on the outside, but not overly certain she was happy where she was. Lindsey knew that feeling well. He'd worked his ass off and there were times he wondered if working himself to an early grave was worth it. That was what had made him call her, he realized. He'd given up his life for the most part to the firm. He was entitled to a little bit of fun.

One thing he did know was someone who was hiding something. Buffy looked to Lindsey like a person who was hurting. Big time. He had picked up on the hot shot pawing a girl at the bonfire being someone she'd gone with. He didn't get the feeling he was the one who'd hurt her though. It was something more than that. A girl didn't get that look over a guy.

He'd watched her briefly while the sun had set that night. He'd seen the effect the sunset had on some of his clients. Those that revered it. Buffy's face was almost a polar opposite to that look. If he didn't know better he'd think she knew what the sunset meant, who it called to. It was impossible. He'd yet to encounter anyone outside his firm who understood things like that. He wished he knew her better to ask.

He still wasn't sure why he'd called. He'd thought about it over the week, but had always been able to talk himself out of it. Tonight, though, he'd given in. He just wanted to hear her voice, make sure she was okay. It was an odd thing for him. Lindsey had never cared much for anyone but himself. He remembered the look in her eyes, though. Haunted.

Maybe he could clear away some of the cobwebs in her head that made things seem scary. There was nothing a baseball game couldn't cure. He usually took clients to the games. He didn't really have friends. No one he'd call up and ask to go to a ballgame with him anyway. Buffy was the first.

He slid the sign-out sheet into the box, and through some process he didn't understand once he'd put in his code, the tickets for the games were administered. There were powers at work at Wolfram & Hart he didn't begin to understand.

There was a chance they wouldn't be alone at the games since he'd only signed out two tickets. He wasn't too worried about it, though. Midweek games were not overly popular. And if they had to share the box, so be it. He looked forward to seeing her face when she took in the view, though. It was impressive. Wolfram & Hart didn't do anything second class. He took a few minutes to put in a food order for some things he thought Buffy might like. It wasn't easy to do considering he didn't know her that well.

She seemed pretty open to anything, and what was the point of having access to a luxury suite and the catering if he didn't go out of his way to try and impress her at least a little. Just why he was trying to impress her he couldn't be sure. This couldn't go anywhere. She was a junior in high school. He could just imagine bringing her as a date to some corporate party. He'd look like a deviant and a letch, even if they weren't doing anything wrong or illegal.

His food and drink requests taken care of, he decided it was time to go home. Home was a long way from what he'd come from. It wasn't the mansion-like place his boss, Holland, had. He did well for himself. Sitting in his second garage stall was his ancient pickup truck. His baby. It ran like a dream and was more reliable than most anything on the road these days.

He couldn't drive it to work, though. It didn't fit the image. And Wolfram & Hart was all about image. So, his car to get around town in was a Saab. He took a minute to check under the tarp, running his hand along the cab's frame. He wondered what Buffy would think if he showed up in this baby. The friends she had were pretty superficial. He didn't get that vibe about her, though.

Oh, she had some of it. What sixteen year old didn't? His drive landed him where he was today. He went inside to his empty house. It was kind of depressing, which was part of the reason he'd taken to working late. If he came home exhausted he didn't notice the foreboding quiet he came home to every night and woke to every morning. A house like this deserved a family. It was too much for just him. There were rooms he had never used. They were furnished, stylishly, but he kept to his room and the office just off it for the most part.

He poured himself a glass of scotch and went to his desk. He wasn't sure what it said about himself that the most used thing in his house was his desk and the things on or around it. With that thought, he decided that maybe that was why he had called her. He couldn't keep driving himself like he was, but he wasn't in the market yet for anything serious. He needed to focus his attention on work, he was on track to make junior partner soon. Unheard of for someone his age. He was going to do it. He just wanted to have some mindless fun while he was at it. Escorting a pretty blonde who wouldn't expect a damned thing from him wasn't a bad way to pass some down time.

Chapter Text

**Part Three**

Buffy felt like she was being watched. Of course, that was because she was. Last night she had been somewhat shy while watching the game. The Dodgers had won versus Anaheim. Evidently, that was a big deal. Buffy didn't quite get what it was all about. Tonight, they were playing them again. She wore the hat and T-shirt Lindsey had bought her the night before. He had laughed when he picked her up earlier.

Last night there were a few others, but there was enough room that no one bothered them. Tonight, they had the suite to themselves. The game had just started, so she supposed that could change. She dipped a tortilla chip in cheese and ate it just as one of the Angels hit a ball to right field. She just about dropped the plate when she saw that the ball made it all the way to right field. On the ground.

"Oh, they're going to score," she said with a pout.

She glanced at Lindsey, who seemed focused on her more than the game. He was a good teacher. He had answered her questions last night. It had taken her a while to get used to right and left field being the batter's right and left. It didn't seem logical that way, but she'd gotten the hang of it eventually.

"Enjoying yourself?"

"I am," she said. "The food is great. It's like they knew exactly what we'd want."

He nodded and smiled. God, he was cute. And nice. When she saw they weren't alone last night she almost expected him to either turn around and leave or treat her like a kid sister or something. He didn't do either. He introduced her as a friend and she supposed let the others there draw their conclusions.

She dipped a chip into the cheese and held it out for him. His eyes widened and she couldn't help but smile as he took a bite.

"Thanks," he said once he'd eaten the whole chip.

"Sure. Want another one?"

"Yes."

She fed him another one. Her eyes grew wide when he kissed her fingertip before taking a bite of the chip. It was the last thing she should have been doing. Feeding him. It crossed a line. She tried not to be overly obvious about letting her hand drop.

"Sorry, I couldn't resist. You had some cheese sauce," he picked up her hand, grazing the pad of his thumb along the spot he'd just kissed, "right there."

"Oh. Thanks." Her voice sounded incredibly shaky to her. Oh God. She was so out of her league here. She had kissed Tyler, sure, but only enough to keep him interested. And Angel, well, the attraction was there but neither of them seemed willing to do anything about it.

"You're welcome."

"I, uh," she darted her eyes from the plate of nachos to the ballgame. "The next batter's up."

"So he is." He let her turn her attentions back to the game, but she sensed he was still watching her. He didn't release her hand either. It felt kind of nice, warm and comfortable to hold hands with him. Oh boy.

The next batter walked and the one after that struck out to end the inning. It was kind of neat watching the teams switch places. One coming in from the field, the other going out. And still he held her hand, which made eating nachos kind of hard unless she let the plate rest in her lap. Was he expecting her to do it again?

The bottom of the fourth inning found the Dodgers still behind by 0-2 and she and Lindsey still had the suite to themselves. She was tempted to ask him if he'd somehow arranged it, but she wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer.

Buffy returned from the bathroom. She knew the suites gave her the privilege of basically private bathrooms, and she had to admit that was a definite perk. She'd been to enough public events to know that bathroom lines sucked. She grabbed a soda just as she heard the crack of the bat making contact with the ball. It was a good solid sounding crack, too. She was learning to tell the difference a little.

"Oh he got a hit!"

She made her way to the window, setting her soda down as the ball went deep to center-left field. The crowd below them went nuts and she clapped her hands. "That was a pretty good hit, right?"

"It was a nice one. It got out of the ballpark anyway."

She regarded him as he stated the obvious. "This must be completely boring to you."

"Why do you think that?"

"You've probably seen a million games and here I am at my second one acting like it's the best thing since," she shrugged. "I don't know what, something really good."

"It's fun to watch you enjoy yourself. Most of the people I bring to games don't even really care what's going on down the field. They want to strategize or make a deal. That's one of the reasons I don't come very often. What's the fun of coming to a ballgame to discuss business?"

"You're sure you don't hate this?"

He stood then and she wasn't sure what to look at. The mini-celebration going on after the two-run homerun or the good-looking man walking toward her. The field seemed safer somehow. He reached for her, brushing some hair away from her face before cupping her cheek. Her eyes met his, there was no choice for her now but to look at him. She wanted to, she just wasn't sure she should.

"I'm positive, Buffy."

"Well, good, because I'm having fun."

"Fun enough to do it again?"

"Sure. Maybe we could even get tickets to real seats and sit down there."

"You'd do that?"

"Yeah. It'd be fun, don't you think?"

"I think if you were with me it would be."

"Oh well."

"I'll get tickets. We'll do it."

"I go home in August."

"I remember."

"Good. Okay."

She was running out of things to say. His hand felt so nice against her cheek. He was looking at her deeply. She had to force herself not to look away. She wasn't used to that type of look. Angel tried so hard to hide his feelings. Lindsey seemed a little confused maybe, but he wasn't trying to hide anything from her.

She sucked in her lower lip, nervously chewing on it. A soft groan from him made her pause. Had she done something wrong? She was just standing here. So then what? She was sure there was something going on down on the field, but everything faded away as he lowered his mouth to hers. She knew what he was going to do. She wanted him to do it. In the worst possible way. Her palms grew sticky and her heart raced.

She didn't have to wait long. When his mouth finally found hers she wasn't disappointed either. His thumb feathered along her cheek as she tilted her face up, granting him better access. She sighed softly, her lips parting, inviting him to deepen the kiss. It was positively dreamlike. The last time she'd been kissed like this was in her bedroom months ago.

She couldn't help but laugh, realizing that had been the night she found out Angel was a vampire. Lindsey wasn't as obvious about losing control as Angel was, but she could tell by the haggard breath he took when he drew away that kissing her had affected him, too.

"I'm not sure I should ask why you're laughing."

"Nothing. Sorry. Um, let's just say the last guy I kissed," she shrugged. How to phrase it? "He kind of freaked out on me."

"I can understand that," he whispered, brushing his mouth over her lower lip.

"You can?"

"Yes."

"Oh."

He stepped away then, letting his hand fall from her face. He took her hand, though, so he didn't completely stop touching her.

"I shouldn't have done that."

"Why not?"

"I, you're sixteen."

"Kissing me isn't illegal."

"No, but Buffy you're a good kisser."

"I am?"

"Yes."

"But you don't want to?"

He brought her hand to his mouth and kissed each fingertip. Her eyes fell closed and she let out a soft sigh when he grazed the skin between her thumb and index finger with his tongue.

"I'm just afraid if I start kissing you."

"Uh huh," she said, not really hearing what he was saying. He kissed the palm of her hand before placing it against his cheek. She felt the warmth of his face, the roughness that was his five o'clock shadow. Eyes still closed, her thumb found his mouth and traced his lips.

"God, Buffy, we have to stop."

"Okay," she whispered, though she really didn't want to.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. You just look so pretty in your hat and shirt."

"Yes, what a fashion statement."

"No, it's cute."

She rolled her eyes.

"I didn't mean it like that either."


***

Lindsey tried to stop his heart from racing. This was way more than he'd anticipated happening. He was attracted to her, sure, but he assumed he could keep his hormones in check for a while. Certainly, longer than the second date. He was the adult here.

She looked at him with such trust in her eyes just then. It was nearly his undoing. At that moment, it wasn't the law that stopped him. He knew his firm could get him off on just about any charge brought up against him. No, it was the fact that he really liked her. It would be easy to give in to the attraction they evidently both felt and go on his merry way. He didn't want to do that, though.

She didn't talk about a past boyfriend, beyond mentioning the guy who'd gone psycho on her or whatever. He knew, though, she'd been hurt and that her heart was fragile. Her mind was likely right behind it, too. He could be a jerk and take what he wanted, leaving her damaged and bruised to the point she would never look at someone with trust in her eyes again. No one would know. She'd probably be too embarrassed to have fallen for a guy's smooth lines and moves to do or say anything.

He'd had girlfriends, but had been so focused on getting out of his hometown and then getting through college and law school that none was serious. What time he had to socialize he spent boning up on extra reading. Every little bit helped, and it had in the long run. Wolfram & Hart had recruited him, passionately.

"I don't know what this is. We've been out twice now, three times if you count the bonfire. I like you, and I think you like me."

"I do, Lindsey, I." He silenced her, placing a fingertip at her lips.

"I'd like to keep it that way. We can't do anything here anyway. Even if we could, I wouldn't do that to you."

She blushed then and he realized he probably took his thoughts further than she had.

"There's nothing wrong with kissing me, Lindsey."

"I suppose not."

"You do want to, right?"

"How can you even ask me that?"

"Just making sure."

"Yes."

"Okay then. I guess I wasn't sure until a few minutes ago. I mean, I don't mind your age. The last guy I liked was way older than me, too, but I could see where you might mind mine."

"It's not your age so much. Really, it's not. I like spending time with you. I had fun last night, am having fun tonight. I've been so busy becoming a lawyer and now that I am one trying to make junior partner that I very rarely take time for a social life."

"Why me?"

"Good question. I don't know. I mean, you're pretty, nice, smart, can smack a volleyball around, and I saw how you handled yourself swimming. So you're fit. And pretty. Did I mention pretty?"

"Yeah, you did."

"Okay, just making sure. And I saw the way you bucked up when that guy was trying to rub it in your face with the other girl."

"Cherry."

"Huh?" What did cherries have to do with anything?

"That's her name, Cherry. With an i."

He laughed, it was kind of fitting. "I like you. I'd like to find out what that means."

"All right."

"So, I guess I'm saying I just want to ease into things. That's not to say I won't kiss you again or anything."

"Well, that's good."

"I think so, too. It's just, I'm busy, you know, and I guess I worry."

"Worry about what?"

"That if I don't call for a few days, a week, or whatever after something like a kiss happens between us you'll get upset."

"No, I understand you're busy."

"You say that now."

"You're right. I have no way of knowing how I'd react."

"And then there's you going back to your mom's in a couple of months."

"You're really thinking ahead."

"Well, I'm a planner, a plotter. How often do you visit your dad?"

"Not often."

"See."

"You could come to Sunnydale. I could visit him more. I just didn't because I was trying to settle in Sunnydale."

"That has possibilities, but if I'm busy preparing for a trial."

"Yeah, I know. We're getting ahead of ourselves, though. That's two months from now. You may not want to see me anyway."

He doubted that. He knew himself well enough to know that there was something about her that was special. He wasn't the type of guy to pick up random girls at the beach, no matter how good looking they might be. It left him wondering, somewhat frequently, why he had made an exception with her.

"I just want to make sure you know that's not why I asked you to these games. I'm not like that."

"No, I get it."

"Okay."

He wasn't sure how it had happened, but somehow the game had gone from between a 2-2 tie to a 4-4 tie at the top of the seventh inning. He wasn't sure what if anything they'd settled, but he felt a little better when they took their seats again to watch the rest of the game.

He didn't know why no one else was there tonight. Usually the suite was hopping. Maybe word had spread he had brought a date and not a client and the others at the firm were giving him space to make a move. He'd have preferred a crowd at the moment. He placed his hand over hers, settling them together at his thigh.

He could still taste her, feel her. God, she knew how to kiss. He had to wonder what the twerp he'd seen the night of the bonfire had been thinking letting a girl like her go. Her move had probably been the reason. That guy's loss was Lindsey's gain. He had to wonder about the guy in Sunnydale, though.

She didn't talk much about herself. She mentioned two friends regularly and the school librarian in addition to her mom. Otherwise, though, she didn't prattle on about herself like so many women he knew did. For all he knew, she could have a serious guy back home and was just looking for a summer fling. He didn't get that vibe off her, though.

The Dodgers managed to pull out their second straight victory in the short two-game series against Anaheim. After losing a couple in a row before last night's game he could tell the crowd was relieved to see the victories. One nice thing about the suites, parking was right there so they didn't have far too walk. Or long to wait getting out of the lot.

He pulled up in front of Buffy's home for the summer a short while later. He'd debated about offering to take her to dinner, but he really did need to get an early start tomorrow. And he wasn't sure he could trust himself to do the right thing with that kiss still fresh on his mind.

He shut the car down before lacing his fingers through hers. They were both quiet. Her dad had left the porch lights on for her, but there didn't seem to be any evidence he was waiting up for her. He wondered who she told him was taking her to the game.

"What are your plans for tomorrow?"

"Well, I should go to the Y."

"The what?"

"The YMCA."

"Why?"

"To work out."

"You don't need to work out."

"Sure I do."

She sounded so adamant about it. Hell, he couldn't see a damned thing wrong with her. Certainly nothing she needed to work on.

"If you say so."

"I do. I try to time it when there aren't so many people there, which is difficult to do in the summer."

"What do you do?"

"Swim. Life weights. Aerobics. I wish I could find an actual gym that has like boxing and stuff."

"You box?"

Now that surprised him.

"Well, I like to spar, yeah."

"You're so."

"Little. I know. I've heard it all before. Believe it or not, I pack a pretty good punch, though."

"I'll take your word for it."

"So, since there's no boxing ring at the Y, I settle for the basics to keep myself in shape."

"Anything else on the agenda?"

"Nope. I'm agendaless for pretty much the next two months."

"I'll try and call you."

"Call when you can, Lindsey. I really do understand you have a job and stuff."

"I'm glad you do. You can call me, too, you know."

"I know, but I don't want to bother you. I'd be afraid I was calling during a verdict or something."

"I wouldn't answer then."

"See."

He chuckled. "You can call anytime. I think I'd welcome the few minutes of relaxation."

"Talking to me is relaxing? My mom and dad sure don't think so."

"I think so."

"Oh well, in that case. I'll think about it."

He was hoping for more than that, but maybe she didn't call guys. Some girls were like that. He hadn't met many of them, but he knew they existed.

He opened his door, glad she waited for him to come around to her side and open her door. He enjoyed treating a woman nicely, with respect. It had been ingrained in him from childhood. His mama was the only good thing he could think upon about his life in Oklahoma. No one could say she hadn't raised him right. He walked her to the door. He noticed she had her key out and ready.

"I had a really nice time again. Thank you."

"Thanks for coming. It was fun. I'm glad you got to see two winning games."

"I'm not sure it would have mattered."

"Maybe not, but the atmosphere is a lot more fun when they're winning."

"I suppose so."

"I'll look into getting those tickets."

"Okay."

She glanced at her feet and did that thing with her lower lip she'd done earlier that had just about driven him over the edge. It was very appealing. She had this look in her eye when she did it, too, that just blew him out of the water.

He leaned in then, tilting her face up slightly with the edge of his hand and kissed her. This one wasn't unexpected like the first one was, but it was just as nice. Even if it didn't last as long. Her hands found his upper arms and she drew herself against him, deepening the kiss. They broke the kiss at the same time, she seemed to need to breathe as much as he did.

"I should go in now."

"You should."

"And you should go home."

"I should."

"Where is home anyway?"

"Ask me again some night when you're willing to see it."

Her eyes widened. She was surprised but not insulted. Good.

"Is it a secret?"

"No. Maybe I just like being mysterious."

"Oh well, in that case, I'll be sure to keep asking until you get so sick of me that you break down and tell me."

"Won't happen."

She laughed then and he noticed what a nice smile she had. It brightened up her whole face. He kissed her again, just the faintest brush of his lips against hers.

"Good night, Buffy."

"Good night, Lindsey. Thanks again."

"You're welcome."

He walked to his car, waited until she was inside and the porch light went out before getting in and driving away.

Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com

Chapter Text

***Part Four***

Three weeks had gone by since the night he first kissed her. They'd talked somewhat regularly, always him calling her. She still wasn't sure exactly what he wanted from her and her heart was still pretty raw from Angel. She wasn't willing to go out on a limb for someone who was just looking to hang out for the summer.

They'd seen one another a couple of times since the game, but it was usually a pretty quick visit. He stopped to say hi and they'd sit in her dad's backyard talking for a little while. He didn't touch her, didn't make any moves to either. He hadn't kissed her again. And for some reason that bothered her.

She was putting the finishing touches on a grilled cheese sandwich by adding some Fritos to the plate when the phone rang.

"Hello."

"Buffy?"

"Hi, Lindsey. How are you?"

"I've been better."

"What's wrong?"

"I screwed up. Big time."

"What? I can't believe that."

The reason their time together had been so minimal the past few weeks was that he'd been working a big case. One he'd hoped he could push paperwork through to make it so his client didn't have to go to trial. She knew how hard he worked. If something had gone wrong, it wasn't because of anything he'd done.

"God, I am so stupid."

"Lindsey, you're not stupid. Tell me what happened."

"I can't over the phone."

"Okay. Come over then."

"I'm too upset."

"Then I'll come to you."

"Are you sure?"

"Lindsey, you called me. It sounds like you need me."

"Yeah, I do."

"Then tell me how to get there." She glanced at the keys to her dad's second car. It was her car really, that was the reason he'd bought it. That had been before her parents got a divorce. Before she'd been carted off to Sunnydale like a degenerate. She wasn't real good with the driving, but if he needed her she'd do it. Her dad wouldn't mind as long as she left a note.

"If you were in the middle of something."

"Just lunch. And believe me, choosing you over grilled cheese is not a hardship."

He laughed then. She was glad to hear it. That meant things weren't that bad. If he was truly at the end of his rope he wouldn't be laughing. Right? She hoped so as she wrote the directions he gave her.

"I'll be there soon."

"Take your time. Be careful. I know you don't like to drive."

"Thanks, I will be. Don't do anything dumb before I get there."

"I won't."

She had already showered for the day, so all she needed to do was change and put on a little makeup. A little time on her hair and she was ready to go. She took one last glance at her bedroom, spotted the gym bag she carried with her to and from the Y. Unsure as to why, she grabbed it to take it with her.

She arrived within the hour. His directions were perfect. Other than a wrong turn on his street, she found the place just fine. The house her dad lived in was nice, but these houses in this neighborhood were beyond nice.

"He must be a really good lawyer." She pulled the car to a stop in front of his house, taking in the grounds before she got out. She grabbed the gym bag and walked to the door just as he opened it.

"You were waiting for me."

"Yes." He took in her appearance. She couldn't help but wonder if he liked what he saw. He'd said she was pretty, but since the night of the game he'd been kind of standoffish toward her. Keeping his distance, she imagined. "What's in the bag?"

"Well, I figured maybe you could just use a little physical exertion to take your mind off things."

"What did you have in mind?"

"You and me."

"Do I want to know what's in that bag, Buffy?"

She smirked at that. "Get your mind out of the gutter, lawyer man. You and me, hitting the mats. Or carpet if you don't have mats anywhere in this house of yours."

"You want to fight me?"

"Well, I was thinking more like sparring. But, yeah."

"Buffy, I don't know."

"You said you wanted to see me."

"Well, yeah, but I'm a guy."

"So?"

"I could really hurt you."

"Prove it."

"What?" He raked his hand through his hair, making it more disheveled looking than it already had. He looked a mess.

"Come on. You can't tell me the idea of letting off some steam doesn't appeal to you? You're pissed. You're madder than pissed. I can see it."

"I don't want to hurt you."

"It's my choice, and it's a chance I'm willing to take."

"Buffy. What type of guy would I be if I hit you?"

"You're not hitting me. We're sparring there's a difference. Pick a room, get changed and let's go."

"You're serious."

"Deadly."

"All right. Let me get changed. There's a room through here we can use. It's empty for the most part. You'll find the house isn't too lived in looking down here."

"Bathroom?"

"There's one right here," he said stopping in front of a door before he continued upstairs.

Buffy wasn't sure she was doing the right thing. She always enjoyed a bit of physical exertion when things were going poorly. It cleared her head, made her think better. She changed in the bathroom and decided to take a seat on the stairs instead of appearing to poke around his house.

"Wow."

"Huh?"

"You look too nice for me to hit."

"You've seen me in less than this." She wore a pair of biker shorts and a sports bra. The bikini she'd worn the first day they met showed way more.

"Oh yeah, just you look nice. Ready?"

"If you are."

"You're sure about this?"

"Positive, Lindsey. This is what I do to let off steam. Maybe it'll work for you."

"Okay."

She could tell he still wasn't too confident as he led her down a short hall to a room that was as he said, virtually empty. There was nothing on the walls at all. The floor was carpeted, which was good for their purposes. But otherwise, there was a lamp on a table and a chair. That was it.

"Did you just move in or something?"

"No, I don't spend much time here. Anyone who thinks being a lawyer is easy hasn't seen how hard we work to start off. I'm lucky to come home to sleep let alone socialize. So I haven't had much reason to decorate."

"That makes sense."

"It probably sounds lame. My room and my office upstairs are state of the art. I figure this way a burglar will see there's nothing here and move on."

"Right," she said with a laugh, sensing he was at least partially joking.

"So, how do we do this?"

"Well, since we've never done this before I'd say we should start with the basics until we get a feel for our styles. Do you do this at all?"

"I've done some fighting, but nothing organized or planned."

"Well, let's see what happens and you can tell me about your day while we're going if you want."

He was quiet at first, but it seemed once he realized she was actually a skilled fighter he eased into a routine with her. This was good for her, actually. Giles was too predictable, so a new sparring partner was good. Eventually, what was bothering him started to come out.

Buffy didn't understand it all. She wasn't a lawyer and there was a lot of legal speak in his rambling. She got, though, that something was supposed to have been filed. He insisted he had filed it in the allotted time yet it was nowhere to be found. Now his client was one-step closer to prison and Lindsey was one-step closer to being back in the mailroom. If Wolfram & Hart didn't kick him out on the street entirely.

It was about ninety minutes into their workout when they finally stopped. It was more of a workout than true sparring. Giles pushed her, tried to throw new things at her to prepare her for something she hadn't seen before. Lindsey, while accepting that she could fight – and he seemed to concede she could do it well – still seemed to go easy on her.

He was leaning against the wall. He was looking at her a little suspect given he was more winded than she was. Hopefully, he'd just chalk it up to her doing this regularly. "You know I think I might have a copy of my brief."

"Where?"

"I might have emailed it to me here. Well, to my personal account so I'd open it here to store on my computer."

"You didn't look?"

"No, I was mad and, all right, a lot scared that I'd done something to jeopardize my job."

"Understandable."

"I wasn't thinking too clearly."

"So, my plan worked."

"It seems to have, yes. Come on, let's go check. If you want to clean up there's a shower in the bathroom you used to change in."

"Is that your way of saying I'm stinky?"

"Well, no," he pushed off from the wall and walked toward her. Her heart skipped a beat as he closed in on her. He brushed some hair from her face, wrapping a couple of strands around his index finger. "I think you look pretty hot actually. I just figured you might want a shower after a workout. I'd invite you to use mine, but I'm not sure that's a very good idea."

"Probably not."

"So, clean up if you want. I'll do the same and then you can meet me in my office when you're done."

"I should be insulted you think I'll take longer."

"You're a woman."

"Yeah, so?"

"It's a given fact that women take longer to get ready. It's a hormonal thing or something."

"Is that your legal opinion?"

"No, it's a hypothesis of mine that I haven't talked about too much."

"Smart thinking."

He was going to kiss her. She could tell by the look in his eyes that he was thinking about it. She decided to be daring. Instead of waiting for his kiss, which over the past few weeks had never come since their first couple of kisses, she kissed him. She wasn't real good at initiating, but he didn't seem to mind as her arms slid around his neck and she stepped closer to him.

His hands slid lower along her spine to the small of her back, a gentle brush of his fingertips along her skin there. She shivered, but deepened the kiss hoping he wouldn't mistake her shiver for being cold. She parted her lips, skimmed her tongue over his lower lip before finding the seam between his lips. He groaned softly into her kiss and she took the opportunity to dart her tongue into his warm mouth.

His tongue met hers and she tightened her grip around his neck. God, he tasted good. He drew her closer to him. She could feel what this was doing to him. That was good, because her body was quivering and tingling like a livewire. It was the oddest of feelings, and yet strangely provocative.

They parted at the same time, almost as if something chose that moment to separate them. He stepped away, his back flush against the wall where he had been standing before the kiss. His eyes met hers and held. She saw so much there. He wanted her but he knew they couldn't. Maybe coming here wasn't such a good idea. It had seemed like it at the time, and he'd gotten an idea about a copy of the brief.

"Should I go?"

"The logical part of me says yes."

"Is there a not so logical part of you?"

"Yes, and it wants you here with me."

"Which part wins?"

"Stay."

"All right."

"I'll go take a shower, one on the cold side. Come up when you're ready."

She watched him go, calling to him just as he got out of the door. "I can go."

He turned to face her then. She had never really known what someone meant when they talked about feeling someone checking them out. She did now, though. There was no doubt that was what he was doing. And her body responded the way it should considering she was attracted to him, too. "No, Buffy, I don't want you to go. I really don't. We just might have to institute a personal space rule and adhere to it."

"Under penalty of death?"

"No, I don't think dying would be the penalty. If it was, though, I know every second would be worth it."

He turned and left then, leaving her stunned. Had he just said what she thought he did? It sure sounded like it. Wow. She had no idea words could affect her like that. Hot and fuzzy and sexy. All from just saying something. He didn't even need to be near her.

She found the bathroom again and took a quick shower, glad she had worn rather conservative clothes to come here. She suddenly felt like she needed to cover up. Too late for that, maybe, but she thought they were both safer that way.

She made her way up the stairs after she was sure she'd given him ample time to get showered and dressed. She didn't think he'd chance her finding him naked or just out of the shower right now. They were dangerous to each other, but the danger wasn't of the bad variety.

"Lindsey?"

"In here."

She followed his voice and walked into what she assumed was his home office. He was right. Everything in here was state of the art. Huge TV, great stereo system with components she wasn't familiar with, and a computer that would make Willow envious.

"Wow."

"Yeah. Now you know what I spend all that hard-earned money on. Toys."

"Nothing wrong with a boy who likes toys."

"Baby, I'm no boy."

"Hmm, I think I discovered that already."

"Not yet you haven't."

"Oh boy," she whispered. "So, did you find it?"

"I'm checking now." She caught him checking her out and smiled. "You look refreshed."

"I feel good. You have great towels."

"That's good to know."

"I'm sure you've lost sleep over it."

"You'd be surprised what I lose sleep over."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Maybe not. Look around if you want. I'm just going to check my computer."

"Thanks."

She left the office to check out the other rooms upstairs. Two bedrooms. One obviously his, the other a guestroom she guessed. His room was lived in. His closet was neat and orderly, not that she rifled through it or anything. His bathroom was still steamy from his shower. Evidently, he didn't do the cold shower routine. Neither had she. She found she kind of liked being in this state. She wondered how long that would last. How long they would last. Would she go back to Sunnydale and move on? Would he? Logic told her that would happen.

"Did you find anything incriminating?"

"Not at all. There wasn't even anything good under your bed."

"No missing socks or anything?"

"Not a one."

"Damn, I was hoping that's where those missing socks were."

She smiled and they both laughed. "Did you find the missing document?"

"I sure did. Not only that, but I still had the original email I sent so the time and date are there, too. There's no question it was done in time. I emailed it to my boss. Hopefully, he'll convince the judge it was an error on her office's part, not ours."

"Good."

"Well, I owe it all to you."

"You would have thought of it eventually."

"I don't know. I was so worried about my job, I wasn't thinking straight. You took my mind off of it." He stood and walked to her, taking her in his arms. He kissed the top of her head. He lifted her up and spun her around. "Thank you."

She laughed as he set her back down. "You're welcome. Glad I could help."

"I owe you."

"You do not!"

"I do! My career. My life! Everything I've worked for, Buffy, could have been ruined just like that."

"I didn't do anything. You would have thought of it eventually. I know you would have, Lindsey. I mean, I'm glad I could help, but I really didn't do anything."

"Well, I owe you anyway."

"I'll take it in visits to Sunnydale."

"Done."

She drew away, looked at him. "Really?"

"Really. Whenever I can. Even if it's just for dinner or lunch. How far of a drive is it? An hour or two?"

"Yeah."

"I'll do it."

"You're not just saying that?"

"No."

"Okay. I believe you."

"I should hope so. This is going to come out sounding wrong, and I don't mean it to, but I need to be honest with you."

"Okay."

"I don't have to do this."

"Do what?"

"Just let me say this."

She nodded.

"I don't have to do this. Subject myself to kissing you and being turned on knowing there's nothing I can do about it. And I do stop, so obviously I'm not trying to get you into my bed. I've pictured you there. Dreamed of you there. Woken up reaching for you only to find you not there. But if that's all I wanted, I don't need you."

"You're right that sounds bad."

"See, I knew it would. I'm just trying to say. I'm in this, Buffy. Whatever this is, I'm in. I'm not going to change my mind because you're in Sunnydale and I'm here. Besides, a couple years you'll have college, maybe you'll come up here for that."

"College." She hadn't thought of college. She wasn't sure she'd make it to college, though she couldn't tell him that.

"You said you were thinking of becoming a teacher."

"Oh right. It just seems kind of far away, that's all."

"It goes by so fast."

"I've heard. So, now what. You found your brief or whatever it was. Do you have to go back to work?"

"I should."

"Okay. That's fine."

"You could stay here and wait for me."

"No, I'd feel too weird. This is your house."

"Yeah, but maybe some weekend instead of my coming to Sunnydale or you coming to LA to visit your dad you'll come to visit me instead. And then you'd have to be here."

"Well, yeah, but you'd be here."

"Good point. I'm going to change back into clothes for the office. I'll meet you downstairs. We can leave together then."

"Okay." It amazed her how he could change so fast. One minute he was Lindsey her boyfriend. If she could even call him that. The next minute he was Lindsey the professional. The lawyer. She took one final look as he walked to his closet. It was a walk-in, of course. He seemed to sense she was watching him so he turned at the closet door.

"You could stay and watch if you want."

"Huh?" Her mind had wandered, she wasn't really sure where. Picturing her here in his life. "I'll see you downstairs." She heard his laugh as she walked to the stairs at a record pace. Watching him change was a very tempting offer. She wondered what he would have done if she'd accepted. Next time maybe.

Chapter Text

**Part Five**

Mid-August 1997

"You have a date?"

"Yes, Dad."

"Anyone I know."

"No."

"Is this the boy you've been seeing all summer?"

"Yeah."

"And why haven't I met him?"

"Mm, because you haven't been home when he's picked me up."

"So, dinner, that means you should be home by eleven or so?"

"Dad, it's summer and he mentioned dancing."

She could tell that he was thinking it through. She had been problemless all summer, so she hoped that would tip the scales in her favor of no curfew. If she hadn't mentioned the word date he probably wouldn't be thinking of setting one.

"All right. I want to meet him, though. No running out the door as soon as you see his car pull up."

"Dad!"

"I have the right to meet who my daughter is spending time with. And I'm not blind, I know you've been spending a good amount of time with this young man."

"I know. It's just."

"What?"

"He's a little older."

"How much older?"

"Mm, like twenty-five."

"Buffy!"

"What? He's a nice guy, Dad."

"A guy that age. He's only interested in you for one thing."

"Dad!"

She couldn't believe they were having this conversation. It was the reason she'd avoided mentioning Lindsey to her dad. Lindsey seemed to understand that she was not ashamed, merely trying to avoid a confrontation. She was only here for a couple of months, she didn't want to ruin her time with her dad with an argument.

"Buffy, I know men."

"You don't know this man. Dad, I swear, nothing's happened. And it's not going to. I'm not like that."

"You don't need to be like that."

She rolled her eyes. "He's a lawyer. He's ambitious. He works a lot and I think he likes to spend time with me because he knows I'm busy doing my own thing so I don't get upset if he can't see me every day or every other day."

"Just be careful. Especially as it comes closer to you going back to your mother."

"Oh my God, Dad, I'm telling you it's not like that."

"Well, I guess I have to trust you. That doesn't mean I have to like it."

"Thank you," she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek before she went to finish getting ready.

"What's his name?"

She stopped on the stairs and turned to face him. He was trying. She had to give him that. It couldn't be easy, even if Lindsey wasn't out to seduce his little girl. "Lindsey McDonald."

She wasn't sure where Lindsey was taking her. He'd said to dress real nice. She had teased him about that statement, wondering if she didn't normally dress nice. He'd stressed the real part, so she took that to mean he was taking her somewhere fancy. She was excited. The last time she'd been on this type of date was with Tyler for a school dance, and his parents had driven them. Not quite the same thing.

She'd had to go out earlier and get a suitable dress and shoes. Buying new dresses, a fancy dinner type one, was something she enjoyed doing. She'd gone for the stereotypical little black dress. She didn't have one and thought it was about time she owned one. She splurged on a new pair of two hundred dollar shoes that her father would have a fit about when he saw the charge on his card. She put the finishing touches on her hair just as she heard the doorbell ring.

"You look nice, honey."

"Thanks, Dad. You're going to be nice, right?"

"I'm always nice."

This was a side of her dad she hadn't really seen. Maybe it was because she was older. Or simply because he didn't get to spend as much time with her and felt a little out of the loop as far as her daily life. She wondered what he'd say if she mentioned her boyfriend in Sunnydale was ten times older than Lindsey. Probably best he didn't know that.

He opened the door. She knew he would. It was the typical meet the date thing dad's did. She should be flattered he wanted to do those things. Her nightmare world experience where he didn't want to have anything to do with her wasn't totally forgotten. Even though it was her nightmare, she still wondered if there wasn't some truth to what nightmare-world Dad had said. They'd had a good time so far this summer, and that had put most of the doubts to rest. Not all of them, though.

"You must be Lindsey."

"Mister Summers. It's nice to finally meet you."

"Come in."

"Thank you." Lindsey stepped inside. He'd never really been inside before. Usually when he came over they sat out back. She'd meet him at his car and they'd walk around the house together. He coughed, bringing his hand to his mouth when his eyes rested on Buffy standing on the stairs. The new shoes added about three inches to her height. It was kind of nice being this tall.

"Real nice enough for you?"

"Uh, yeah. Very real nice."

"You look very real nice, too." And he did in a nicely tailored gray suit. She'd seen him in his lawyer clothes, but this wasn't a business suit. So, he'd dressed up, too. Good! She brushed a kiss over her dad's cheek, grabbing her purse and a sweater in case it got cool.

"Good night, Dad."

"Night, Buffy."

"It was nice to meet you, Mister Summers."

"Take care of my daughter."

"I will do my best."

"That's all I can ask you to do."

He opened her car door for her as he usually did. She adjusted the hem of her dress waiting for him to join her.

"Well, we finally got that out of the way. It wasn't so bad. I imagined him answering the door with a shotgun or something."

"He thinks you're only after one thing."

"I can understand where he'd get that. Don't be too hard on him. It can't be easy."

"You're siding with him?"

"I see a father who obviously cares about you. I didn't have that. So, yeah, I'm siding with him."

"I'm sorry."

"No reason to be sorry. It's not your fault. I just know he cares about you and wants you safe. Protected. On that we are both in agreement, but he doesn't see that. He just sees an older guy potentially taking advantage of his naïve daughter."

"Hmm."

"I'll shut up now."

"No, you're fine. You never talk about your family."

"There's not much to say. Mama was all right. She did the best she could, it just wasn't good enough. My father was an alcoholic who was barely functional. Let's just say life at the McDonald household was not full of kisses on cheeks. I'm not sure I ever even heard ‘I love you'."

"Not even from your mom?"

"No, I think she was scared to show I really meant something to her. She did her best. Taught me how to do right, work hard, but that was about the extent of her guidance or moral support."

"I guess you don't know how good you have it until you hear a story like that. I get mad because my parents are wicked overprotective. My dad's worse than my mom."

"Because he knows how guys think. I think mom's, even though they were girls at one time and know what boys wanted from them, don't want to think a guy will see anything sexual in their daughter."

"You're kind of deep tonight."

"Yeah, sorry. Meeting parents always does that to me. Especially when I'm trying to impress them. Will he tell your mom about me?"

"I imagine so, when he brings me back to Sunnydale. They don't talk much. In fact, I think he might be dating someone, but if he is it's awfully hush-hush."

"It's normal."

"I know. Mom isn't, though. I guess, you know, I'm that optimist that holds onto hope they'll realize they still love one another and get back together. Mom told me about the night they met in the spring. I'd never heard it before. Odd that now they're divorced something like that comes out."

"And I'll get to meet her, too, when I visit. Hopefully, she'll be prepared and cool with my seeing you."

"I'm sure she'll be fine. Besides, I don't have to tell her right away you're visiting me."

"Buffy."

"No, there's a club in town my friends and I hang at. We could just meet there. Mom would never have to know."

"You don't want me to meet her?"

"I do, I'm just not sure if I do right away."

"Why not?"

"Meeting my dad, I'm here now. You're picking me up for dinner. We've seen one another fairly regularly for over a month now. Dad probably thinks it's just a summer thing."

"Right."

"Well, we may decide after a couple of trips to Sunnydale that we don't want to do this. Whatever this is I mean. So, what's the point in stressing my mom out? At least right away."

"Hmm, I guess you have a point. It's not like the distance is insurmountable, Buffy."

"I know, but it's still distance. I don't make with the driving, so it'll be up to you to come see me."

"There are phones and email."

"Ugh, don't even mention computers. I hate them."

"You may have to learn not to hate them so much. Emails are sometimes easier for me than phone calls. I get a free minute and I can type one up real quick. Or I'm in the middle of something else, and I can type one up, no one knows I took five minutes for personal time."

"All right. I'll ask Willow to set me up."

"We'll set you up before you go home."

"Afraid I'll chicken out?"

"Yes."

"You know me too well."

"I'm getting there."

She knew what Giles would tell her about now. Exercise extreme caution. Don't jeopardize your identity. So on and so forth. The thing was a long distance thing might be in her best interest. She wouldn't have to worry about Lindsey finding out, stumbling upon her at the wrong moment, or wanting to get involved with her slaying like Owen had. He'd visit her, but she doubted he'd stay over night in Sunnydale so they'd have some time together and unless it was apocalypse stuff, Giles would have to make do without his slayer for a few hours once in a while.

She knew it sounded like she was trying to convince herself and she supposed she was. She really liked him. He treated her like a person, which was kind of refreshing. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind, to tell her he found her attractive. She wondered if time away would lessen that attraction they felt, but she doubted it. He was an appealing guy.

The restaurant was nice. Not out of orbit fancy, but she was glad she'd splurged on the little black dress. Their meal was very good. She'd felt a little dumb ordering water when he'd ordered wine, but that was how it had to be. Otherwise, she thought it went very well.

"So, I get you for one more week."

"Yes."

"I'm going to do my best to make sure I spend as much of that time with you. You know, you could come watch me work."

"Huh?"

"I have a couple of court appearances this week. It occurred to me today as I was glancing at my calendar that you've never actually seen me work."

"I could do that?"

"Sure. I'll call you in the morning with the list of the ones you might find interesting."

"That'd be fun."

"We could have lunch or something, depending on when you came and how things turn out."

"I'd like that. You know, I've thought of asking my dad if I could stay here."

"Really?"

"Yeah, only problem is. Well, I told you I had a record at my high school here."

"Yes."

"Let's just say, I'm not sure the Los Angeles school system would welcome Buffy Summers back. That's part of the reason we moved to Sunnydale, it was the closest place Mom could find that would take me."

"Hmm. I could work on that if you really wanted to stay."

"I don't know."

"Don't do it for me, Buffy."

"You wouldn't want me to?"

"That's not it, but if you make a decision like that it should be because you want to stay in LA not over a guy. You'd miss your friends. Willow and Xander. You talk about them quite often."

"Yeah, I would."

There were things about Sunnydale she wouldn't miss, though. Slaying, having to look at the library every day knowing she'd come awfully close to failing to stop the Master from rising.

"You're right. I have to go back. I just I've had so much fun. My last boyfriend he wasn't much with the willingness to admit he liked me. So, we never got much past meeting up at The Bronze once in a while. They weren't really dates, I'm not even sure you'd call him a boyfriend. So, it's strange for me to be with someone who wants to be with me. Who wants to take me to nice restaurants, wants me to watch him work, and stuff."

"I understand." He slid his hand into hers as they rose from their table. "Some guys are like that. And I have to admit, I'm glad he was that way. I probably wouldn't have gotten a hello out of you that day on the beach otherwise."

"I would have said hello. You were cute."

"I was, huh?"

"Oh yeah. Cute and not bad to look at in your shorts. It helped you knew how to play volleyball, too."

"Good to know. Now, it seems like I mentioned something about dancing. Do you still want to do that?"

"I'm always up for dancing. What else did you have in mind?"

"Well, there's always a movie, going back to my place, or a walk on the beach."

"We're not really dressed for beach walks."

"Well, it's up to you."

Going back to his place was the most tempting offer, but probably the one she should stay far away from. With only a week before she went back to Sunnydale, she could see things getting out of hand too easily.

"The beach."

"The beach it is. Do you want to go home and change?"

"No, I'll just take my shoes off."

"You sure?"

"Positive."

"All right then."

The night was perfect. Dancing was great, but she thought this was the better choice. The moon was bright, there were barely any clouds in the sky, and the water was not too calm or too loud. The sand was still warm against the bottoms of her feet. Lindsey'd carried her from his car across the parking lot to the beach so she wouldn't cut her feet on anything. She'd protested, but realized it wasn't such a bad deal being carried in his arms so gave in too easily.

"I could take a week of nights like this."

"Me, too. I'll see what I can order up."

"Thanks." She slid her hand through his arm, pulling herself closer against him as they walked. It was nice to walk with no destination. They were just hanging out.

"It looks like some of your friends are here tonight."

She spotted the bonfire, heard familiar voices. "I guess so."

"Do you want to join them?"

"We don't have to."

"I wonder if your ex is there."

"Maybe."

"With Cherri."

"Maybe."

"And wouldn't it be fun to let him know you've moved onto better things?"

"Mm, a guy not just with a car, but a job and a house."

"Exactly."

"Sure. I'm game. Just don't be surprised if he doesn't even notice. He was always weird that way."

"I'm sure he thought he'd never see you again. Besides, guys your age aren't exactly focused on the long-term."

"I get that. Then again, the guy back in Sunnydale, he's not my age either."

"Oh, I'm not sure you mentioned that. So, I'm not the first older guy you've cast under your spell."

"No spell casting here. Are you sure you want to do this? We could just turn around and walk toward the other end of the beach."

"Positive."

"Okay, let's go make with the socializing."

"Hold on a second."

"What?"

"I just wanted to say you look great tonight."

"Thanks. So do you."

"Well, you look really great while I look like I usually do just in a nicer suit. But you did your hair and stuff."

"You noticed."

"I did and it looks great." He leaned toward her, brushing her lips with his. "And you smell great, too. It was driving me crazy through dinner."

"Really?"

"Yes. My appetite was on things that had nothing to do with food and probably would have made you blush."

"Lindsey."

"Too much?"

"No, I just."

"I know I'm sorry. I've been trying to keep things casual, but I can't help it tonight. I think it's the reason I haven't done the whole formal date thing before now. I've got this fantastic looking woman on my arm. It makes me kind of crazy."

"Well, I don't want to do that."

"Believe me, baby, that's a compliment. This kind of crazy I can deal with."

"Okay, I'll take it as one. Oh, by the way," she said as they started walking toward the bonfire again.

"Yes?"

"When you come to Sunnydale, you still owe me some dancing. My way."

"Okay. As long as you're not expecting Fred Astaire or anything, we'll be okay."

"He's too skinny anyway."

Lindsey laughed. "True enough."

"Is he even still alive?"

"No, he died a while ago."

"Oh. Huh. I think I knew that. My mom likes his movies, I watch them with her sometimes. He was a good dancer."

"Yes, he was. He had good partners, too."

"Ginger is the only one who counts, though."

"I should have known, a Ginger Rogers fan."

Buffy laughed. "I wouldn't say I'm a fan, but I've seen some movies he's done without her and the spark just isn't there. I don't know how else to describe it. Maybe I'm just a romantic and like to think he could only dance so well with her."

"Nothing wrong with that."

Chapter Text

**Part Six**

Early September 1997

She wished she could say it was good to be back. Oh it was nice catching up with Willow and Xander. It was even nice seeing Giles. He seemed so relieved to have her back. It made her wonder what he did all summer without her to pester. Giles had given her a bit of a reprieve from patrolling, letting her get back into the swing of being back. She'd had no back to school shopping to do because she and her dad had done it all in LA.

Her mom was happy to have her back. Buffy, however, found herself missing LA and the fun time she'd had there. Maybe it was being a visitor, seeing her friends for the first time in months knowing she'd leave again in a couple of months. She knew Lindsey played a big role in it. That, and she really wasn't looking forward to coming back here and having to pick up the slayer stake again. A summer without it had really made her want to hang it up. Dying hadn't helped either.

She had been more than surprised when Lindsey's back to school present for her was a laptop computer of her own. Her dad had made a point of asking, in an indirect and very roundabout way, if Lindsey had required Buffy to do anything for such a gift. She knew it was expensive, but he had said he wanted to be sure they could keep in touch. The only computer she had access to normally was at the school's computer lab or Willow's. Willow actually used hers for like research and stuff. And she didn't want to write Lindsey emails while at school. That was just very lame.

She had spent most of her first evening back setting it up with some help with Willow. Willow was more excited about it than Buffy. It seemed Lindsey had bought a state of the art, top of the line computer for Buffy. Willow, it seemed was envious, especially when Buffy was hesitant to tell her who exactly it was from. She wasn't ready for that yet, merging her two worlds.

She had to admit now that she had a computer of her own, it was kind of addicting. And fun. No more competing with other students to print papers and stuff. And research. Right there, at her fingertips! Of course, she spent enough time at the library that accessing books wasn't really a problem for her.

She was typing an email to Lindsey when she felt a familiar presence nearby. She glanced to her window, but he wasn't there. She knew she wasn't imagining it, so she closed the computer and waited.

"You're back."

"I am."

"I expected to see you out patrolling by now."

"Giles is going easy on me."

"How was your summer?"

"It was good. Better than good actually."

"Is that a new computer?"

"Yeah."

"It's nice."

"It was a present."

His eyes flicked to hers quickly. She saw the question there in his eyes. Now that she was this close to him, it was hard to ignore what she felt for him. She was drawn to him. He was a vampire, though. Lindsey was of the living, breathing human type variety. That was real. What she and Angel had, she wasn't sure what it was but it wasn't the stuff futures were built off of. Maybe it was the vampire part of him that drew the slayer part of her. She'd never know, Giles didn't either. All she knew was that he'd gone out of his way to avoid her. He helped her, sure, but he did it by going behind her back to Giles. She didn't want games. Her life was complicated enough.

"Well, I just wanted to see how you were."

"As you can see, I'm just great."

"Yeah, I can see that."

"I guess I'll see you around."

"Yeah, you will."

"I need to get back to what I was doing."

She saw the confusion and hurt in his eyes. She thought briefly of telling him the truth, but she wasn't even sure she owed him that. They hadn't made any promises to one another. He hadn't asked her to be his girlfriend or anything.

"Good night, Angel."

"Yeah, see ya."

He was out the window so fast she almost missed it. She'd hurt him. Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing. She opened the computer again and finished typing her email. It was a nice way to communicate. She had the chance to think about what she had typed before sending it. That was a bonus, particularly the times when she was prone to rambling.

The email sent, she put the computer away and crawled into bed, ready for school to start tomorrow. Her junior year. This year was going to be a good one. She was determined it would be. Sleep came easily and fast. She had a dream or two, they'd started since she'd come home. She wasn't sure what that meant. Sooner or later she'd get her answer, though. She always did.

***

"Mom, I'm going to head to the mall for a while."

"Oh right because there might be something at the stores here that wasn't in LA? Are you going out with Willow and Xander tonight?"

"Yup. So, I'll be late."

"Okay. Have fun."

"Thanks."

She met Lindsey down the street from her house. He stood leaning against his car, a sight for sore eyes. A delicious sight at that.

"You made it."

"I told you I would."

He was dressed ultra casually for him. A pair of jeans, a Polo type shirt, and a pair of loafers. He appeared to be sockless. That was cool by her, though she'd never seen this side of him. She kissed him and fell into his arms as he hugged her tight.

"I missed you."

"It's only been a week, Lindsey."

"I know, but there's something about knowing you're further away."

"Hmm. I see your point I guess."

"Thank you." He opened her door for her. "So where to, Mademoiselle?"

"Well, Sunnydale isn't LA. The Bronze won't open until about sundown. There's the mall. The movie theatre. We can just walk around downtown if you want."

"Let's start with the mall and go from there."

"All right," she said and directed him toward the mall.

She didn't need to buy anything. He wasn't in the market for anything either it seemed. They walked somewhat aimlessly, window shopping, laughing at some of the ridiculous displays stores made for back-to-school stuff. Eventually, they settled at the sit-down restaurant the mall offered as opposed to the food court.

"So, how was your first week of school?"

"It was good. I'm glad to have it over with, though."

"Are you back into the swing of things?"

"I sure am. Just like, what's his name, Mike Piazza?"

"You made a baseball joke!"

"Was it a good one?"

"It was pretty good. Not bad at all for a beginner. I'll turn you into a fan yet."

"I admit I snuck in a game or two when I was by myself even."

"I won't tell anyone."

"Thanks."

"So, are you enjoying your computer?"

"Yes. My dad was a little upset. I think he thought I traded something I shouldn't have for it."

"I know. I called him and talked to him after you left, assured him it was just a gift, wanting you to have a computer at home. I told him I'd take it back next time I saw you if he objected that strenuously. Initially he said he wanted me to take it back, but he changed his mind."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"You're not a bad guy at all."

"You know, I got the feeling when we hung up he felt the same way."

"So, you've made nice with the dad."

"I have."

"Score one for the lawyer."

Their afternoon continued in much the same fashion, casual conversation, just enjoying one another's company. Buffy liked walking around with him. She noticed a few girls looking at him, too. It was nice to walk around in the daylight with someone other girls thought was cute.

"Buffy?"

Buffy stopped in her tracks. Of course she'd encounter Cordelia at the mall on a Saturday afternoon.

"Cordelia."

"A friend of yours?" Lindsey leaned in and whispered it. Score two for the lawyer. He knew how to be discreet.

"Not exactly."

"Ah, one of those."

"You actually came back to this hell hole! Your father must really hate you if he sent you back here."

"I live with my mom, Cordelia."

"Well, yeah, but who cares?"

"I do."

"Who's your friend?"

"Lindsey. Cordelia."

"It's very nice to meet you." She was pulling out all the stops. The batting of the lashes, thrusting out of the chest, the smile that would look glued on from yards away.

"You, too."

"Are you new to Sunnydale?"

"No, I'm just visiting Buffy for the weekend."

"Oh, you're from LA then."

"Yes, I am. Not originally."

"That doesn't matter, you live there now."

Lindsey shot Buffy a lost look. Was this someone he was supposed to be nice to? She'd said she wasn't exactly a friend, so he imagined not. He didn't want to piss off someone and have it fall back on Buffy, though, either.

"Where do you go to school?"

"I don't. I'm a lawyer."

"Oh, right. A lawyer."

"I am, really," he pulled out one of his business cards. He carried them everywhere.

"Oh, I guess you are. What kind of law do you practice?"

"Cordelia, Lindsey is here to visit me, not to discuss work. Social not business."

"Well, Miss Snotty, he pulled out his business card. I didn't ask him to do that."

"Because you didn't believe he was a lawyer."

"Well."

"We'll see you around, Cordelia. We were just leaving." She glanced at him, shot him a nervous smile. He took her hand, tugged her toward him so he could slide his arm around her waist.

"So, did you and Angel break up then?"

Lindsey paused for a minute, realized she must have been talking about the sort of boyfriend Buffy had mentioned a couple of times over the summer.

"This guy looks even older than Angel. I guess that's your thing. You're not stupid enough to go out with high school guys anyway."

"Cordelia."

"What? I was just asking, because if I like see him, you know."

"You can talk to Angel all you want, Cordelia."

"Like I need your permission." With that, the brunette turned and walked away. Huffed away was more like it.

"Did you say that on purpose?"

"I sure did. There's nothing that pisses off a girl like Cordelia more than being reminded that a guy likes someone other than her."

"And this Angel is one of them? And, of course he chose you over her."

"Yes, there've been a couple actually."

"That does not surprise me."

"You're just saying that."

She turned to face him, her arms going around his waist. She seemed a little more comfortable with touching him here. Maybe because she felt safer here. This was her turf for lack of a better word. Or, maybe the week they'd been truly apart had made her realize she liked him. He could live with that. He'd gotten the impression before she left that she wasn't sure what she felt for him. That wasn't exactly true. She seemed confused. He'd wager this Angel guy had something to do with it. Obviously, Cordelia thought they were still together or assumed it anyway.

"I absolutely am not."

"Hmm, okay. I believe you." She leaned in and kissed him lightly. "Let's go visit downtown Sunnydale."

"I can't wait."

"I know you're dying to see the town that is Buffy's home."

"Well, when put like that."

She laughed, tugging on his hand as they walked toward the door where he was parked. He watched her walk. Not at all minding the view. She seemed different here. A little more confident yet vulnerable in a way he couldn't put his finger on.

"It's a nice town."

"Yeah, it's not too bad. It's not LA, but it's not Nowhereville either. I'd suggest leaving your car around here. We can walk to The Bronze from here. There's not much parking nearby."

"All right," he said, activating his car alarm.

"So, how late can you stay?"

"I'm actually here until tomorrow. The hotel is pretty empty, so I could even extend it until Monday if you were of the mind. Since it's Labor Day and all. No school, no court."

"Really?"

"Yes, I could even meet your mom if you wanted me to."

"Let's see what happens."

"Will your friends be here tonight?"

"Some of them I'm sure. It's Saturday night. This is the only place to be in Sunnydale."

That wasn't really the answer he was looking for. In LA, they'd hung out with the people she knew and a few of the people he knew. Like his volleyball buddies. They'd run into guys he knew from work at one of the baseball games they'd gone to. She'd come to have lunch with him once, too. So, he wasn't hiding her. He sensed somehow whenever she talked about Sunnydale and her life here that she wanted to keep LA and Sunnydale separate. He could understand it, but he didn't have to go along with it.

He pulled out his wallet and paid the cover charge for both of them. He took in the club once they were inside. It wasn't packed, but he could tell people were in the early stages of getting there. It was a decent sized place.

"Live music?" It was a stupid question since he saw a band setting up.

"Yeah."

"Great."

He let her lead them to a table, noticing it was big enough to accommodate a few people other than just the two of them. Maybe she was going to let him meet some of her friends.

"I'll get us something to drink. You want your usual?"

"Please."

"All right, I'll be back in a minute."

"No hurry," she said taking a seat.

He hadn't had much of an opportunity over the summer to watch her without her knowing it. So, while he was getting the drinks, he took a little longer than was necessary and did just that. This was her environment after all. He was sure watching her here would tell him more than in LA would have. She was a pretty girl and judging by the more than a few glanced in her direction he wasn't the only one to think so.

There was an awareness about her tonight he hadn't noticed before. It was like she was on alert, at the ready. It was an odd thing to think, but that was the first thing to come to mind. She looked comfortable, though, at home even, and he was glad that she felt that way with him around.

He had taken a chance booking a hotel room for the night. He had no plans on inviting her back, hadn't even planned on telling her he'd done it unless she asked. She had of course. He just didn't want to drive home after a late night. Or have to cut a good time short. Either way, he'd lose in the deal.

The band had started by the time he returned to their table. The club was filling up, too. It seemed to be one of those places where anyone could come and have a good time, regardless of where they stood at the school. He saw girls like the one they'd run into at the mall, guys who were probably more into their video games than dancing, some jocks, and everything in between.

"Let's dance," she said tugging on his hand before he had a chance to sit down. He hadn't missed her looking over his shoulder, behind him. Something had caught her eye. He was tempted to turn around, but didn't want her to know he knew. Besides, he couldn't complain about getting her out on the dance floor.

He felt it during their first dance. It was kind of casual, nothing special. She was a good dancer, he didn't need to do much of anything other than stand there. That was good, because he wasn't much of a dancer. Someone was watching them. He didn't know how he knew. He moved with her on the dance floor, scanning the crowd as he did.

There were a few people looking at the dance floor. He couldn't tell if any of them were looking at them in particular. Him specifically. He sensed a change in her, too, though. It was slight, but as the band started a new song, her moves grew more seductive.

She had a way of moving naturally that could be construed as seductive. Hell, the day she'd first suggested sparring as a way to burn off steam he'd come away from that fight incredibly turned on. It wasn't so much what they had done but how she did it. She made everything look so graceful, as if she was born to do it. It was very appealing. Very sexy.

And, good god, when she was pressing against him like she was tonight, dressed as she was in a dress that clung to her. It was more than a man should have to take. He couldn't count how many times he'd had to remind himself that she was off limits in that way. It was a test of his willpower, and he imagined a test of what he really felt for her. Going months and months, particularly a good many of those months long distance was a lot to do just for sex.

It was when he had realized he didn't want that from her, at least not just that, that he'd known he was gone. He didn't say anything, not wanting to scare her off. He knew what he wanted. He had his job, he had his life mapped out and was working toward his goals. She didn't even know for sure yet what she wanted to do after college.

***

"Who's Buffy dancing with, Wil?"

"I don't know. I've never seen him before. This is her jacket, though, so I assume she's sitting here."

"Two cups."

"I noticed that, too."

"You think she's here on a date?"

"With someone other than. Oh, hi, Angel."

"Hi. Who's the new guy?"

"I don't know. Xander and I were just talking about him. I've never seen him before."

"He looks older."

"Yeah, now that you mention it, Xander, he does. You don't know him, Angel?" She turned, but Angel was gone. "I hate when he does that! I feel like I'm talking to nobody or what I have to say isn't important enough to him."

"Wil, his woman is dancing with someone else."

"Well, but she's not."

"She's not?"

"Well, no."

Xander and Willow both let out gasps of surprise when Buffy kissed the guy she was dancing with. This was no friendly peck either.

"Wow," Willow said, unable to stop watching. "She certainly seems to be enjoying herself." And as much as it bothered Willow that Buffy had obviously not confided in her about something pretty huge, she was happy for her friend.

"I'd say. Who is that guy?"

"I already told you, I don't know."

"I know, Wil, I was talking to myself."

"Oh. Next time, tell me you're talking to yourself."

Xander gave her a look that said ‘are you kidding me?' loud and clear.

"I guess we're about to find out who he is."

"Huh?"

"They're walking this way, and they look pretty cozy."

Xander's attention quickly shifted from Willow to Buffy who was walking toward the table holding the mystery man's hand. Very cozy indeed. Willow smiled, hoping her hurt feelings weren't too obvious.

"Hi Buffy."

"Buffster. How you doing? You came early and didn't tell us you'd be here earlier than your usual time."

"Hi guys. I'm great."

Willow and Xander both looked from Buffy to the guy and back again. Xander none so discreetly cleared his throat. "Aren't you going to introduce us to your friend? Or should we just call him new guy?"

Willow watched as Buffy walked to her spot and took a sip of her drink. She did not miss the watchful eyes that peaked out over the brim of the plastic cup. Willow winced slightly, letting Buffy know that Angel had seen her. At least she hoped that's what she was communicating. They weren't experts on this wordless thing yet.

"Lindsey. This is Willow and Xander. This is my boyfriend, Lindsey."

"Your what? Buff, you were gone all summer. Where'd you get a boyfriend?"

"Xander."

"What? She hasn't been back for more than a week. And I find it hard to believe she saw Angel and rebounded that quickly. You know how those two are around each other."

"Xander."

"Stop kicking me, Willow."

"Stop talking, Xander."

"What did I say?"

Buffy was smiling, that was good. That meant she wasn't mad, that Xander hadn't ruined anything.

"I met him this summer. He's from LA, down for a weekend visit."

"Oh, that wouldn't be of the conjugal variety, right?"

"Ow! Willow, you're going to leave bruises if you keep doing that."

"Stop talking!"

"What? What did I say? It's a sad state of things when a guy can't even make a joke!"

Willow did notice that Lindsey was stifling a smile, maybe even a laugh. So, he wasn't offended. That was good.

"Sorry. He takes a little getting used to."

"Not a problem."

"So, weekend visits. Buffy, you didn't tell us you met anyone that warranted weekend visits. Where's he staying? He's not sleeping on your floor all weekend, is he?"

"No, Xander, he's not."

"Good, because Angel was bad enough."

"Ow, Willow!"

"It's all right, really. For the sake of all mankind, you can leave his shins alone."

"Okay. If you say so. It's kind of fun, though."

"Willow and Xander have known one another since kindergarten."

"It shows."

"Yeah, it does, doesn't it?"

"I think that was a slight, Wil. They're making fun of us. I see how it is. She goes to LA, gets a new boyfriend and suddenly she's too good for the likes of us."

"Xander," Buffy said, but she was laughing. "I'll be right back, I need to go to the little girls room. You coming, Wil?"

"Uh, yeah, sure. We'll be back."

"He saw us, didn't he?" It was the first thing Buffy said when they got to the bathroom.

"If the he you're referring to is Angel. Yes, he saw you. I'm not sure if he saw you making with the smoochies, but I know he saw you dancing. Who is this guy? And why am I finding out about him this way?"

"I met him back in June and spent most of the summer with him. He seems really nice, but he's older. Twenty-five, a lawyer. I guess I didn't say anything because if he bailed on me for the night tonight I'd look stupid."

"Oh, Buffy, you couldn't look stupid to me. So, a lawyer, huh."

"Yes. A job, a house, a car, and no aversion to sunlight."

"And you're sure you're over Angel?"

"I'm not even sure there was anything there to have to get over, Wil. I mean, come on, we shared a kiss, okay a couple of them, but he went all avoidy on me and," she shrugged. "I don't know. I really like Lindsey. I wasn't planning on it or anything, it just happened."

"Well, they say that's when it happens."

"Whoever they are."

"Yeah."

"So, you'll fill me in after he goes home?"

"Yes. He's the one who gave me the computer, by the way."

"Oh! Buffy! That's very exciting. A gift. A real gift. A huge gift. You didn't?"

"Willow!"

"No, you didn't, I mean, you wouldn't."

"Of course not. You sound like my dad."

"Well, I could see where he might think."

"Do you know me at all, Willow?"

"Well, yes, but. Oh my gosh, Buffy, an older guy. Not a college boy either."

"No."

"Has he?"

"He's been a perfect gentleman."

"Oh, can I be in love with him, too?"

"No."

"I can live through you, though, right?"

"I'll keep you posted of all the details."

"Thank you!"

"What are best friends for?"

Chapter Text

**Part Seven**

"Buffy, we have to talk."

It was Angel. Of course, it was Angel. Who else would be following her into the cemetery?

"There's nothing to talk about."

She knew what he wanted to talk about. The Anointed One had tried to bring the Master back. She'd freaked out and didn't think. It was what she had dreamt of time and time again over the summer. The Master coming back and killing her for good this time. Her not thinking almost led to her friends and her watcher dying. Did he not realize how much that bothered her? She'd already lost one watcher. That aside, after she'd crushed the Master's bones into little more than dust she'd sought Angel and the comfort of his embrace. She'd clutched him to her as if she was drowning and he was her life preserver. She had wept, he had comforted, and she had relished in his gentleness.

It didn't mean a thing. It changed absolutely nothing! He was still making with the "guess my feelings" game. He'd been broodier than usual since the night he saw her with Lindsey at The Bronze. Not that she could blame him. She had done it on purpose. Danced a little sluttier, kissed him on the dance floor. She knew it would drive Angel crazy, and drive home the point that she was over him. She'd moved onto the living as she'd told him already since she came back.

"Buffy."

"What?"

"You can't pretend it didn't happen."

"Oh my God, Angel, I was upset. I needed comfort, you gave it. There's nothing to pretend. If you think it was more than that, you're living in a fantasy world. I have a boyfriend. I've moved on."

"You say that. You didn't act like it, though."

"Do you have any idea what I went through this summer?"

"No, because you haven't exactly been talking to me."

"There's a shock. You should try talking to people, then they might talk to you back. Unfortunately, I don't feel like being in share mode with you."

"What was this summer like?"

"The only time I felt good, normal, was with Lindsey."

"The guy at The Bronze?"

"Yes, I met him this summer."

He nodded, she could tell that he was putting that information somewhere in his mind.

"Anyway, that was the only time that I didn't dwell on what had happened. The fact that I'd died. The fact that if you and Xander hadn't found me the Master would be roaming free doing who knows what."

"Buffy."

"No. You listen to me. You asked, now shut up and listen. I have a chance for something good here. He's a good guy. A good human guy. He likes me."

"I'm sure he does. You're probably a tiger in bed."

"Oh my God. Why does everyone think I'm having sex with him?"

"Aren't you?"

"As if that's any of your business, but no. I'm not like that. Did I have sex with you?"

"No."

"That should tell you something about me."

"So what then?"

"We spent time together. He took me on dates. He took me to baseball games. He called me when he'd had a bad day at work and talked to me. He took me to dinner. He took me to the beach. He helped me shove it in my ex's face that he wasn't all that. Most importantly, I could see him during the day. Anytime I wanted to. There are no restrictions or rules. He met my dad. He bought me a computer. Knowing my dad would be bothered by such an expensive present, he smoothed things over with him. I like him. A lot. I might actually love him. I don't know. He's willing to come here when he can, and I'm willing to let him."

"Buffy, you can't love someone you have to hide from."

"That's just it. I don't have to hide. He's in LA. I can do my patrolling. He comes to town for an evening or something, I see him and don't patrol. No big deal."

"You tried the social life thing."

"Yeah, I did. And I tried it with someone who I don't have to hide from and that didn't work too well either."

"Now, that's not fair. I was trying to do right by you. There's a lot of years between us."

"Yeah, and they're always going to be there. Lindsey's older than me. Not as old as you, I grant you that, but he's twenty-five. And you know, he's never once indicated that was a problem to him. He's been nothing but respectful and nice to me. He's the one who's put the stop to things when our kissing felt like it was going too far."

"I don't need to hear this."

"You asked!"

"I did not ask about your love life. I came to talk to you about us."

"There is no us, Angel. I like you. I want you here. I'm grateful for your help and your information, but whatever it is between us it's not healthy. It's not right. I'm a vampire slayer. You're a vampire. Does that not tell you right off we're not meant to be in love?"

"Did you love me?"

"I'm sure I always will, Angel. I just can't do it. I can't handle the drama. I can't handle you being cool toward me one minute and warm the next. I need more than that."

"And this guy in LA is going to give that to you?"

"Yes! It's not a physical thing, Angel. It's the emotional, too. I need to know that I have all of somebody. I never got that with you."

"So that's it?"

"We had a few months together, Angel. They were good months, other than my dying. I don't deny that, but it's not like that's a lot of time to you. Can we get past this, please?"

"Your friend, Cordelia?"

"Yeah, I'm sorry if she's been bothering you. She saw me with Lindsey at the mall and took that as an indication you were on the market."

"Thanks a lot."

"Hey, I didn't do anything. You're a good looking guy, she's going to go after you."

They were both quiet for a while. Angel walked beside her. She sensed there was more he wanted to say, but he didn't.

"Can we be friends, Angel?"

"I'm not sure, I guess we can try."

"Good, I'm glad, because there is one thing I do know."

"What's that?"

"I can't do this without you. You saved my life."

"Xander did it."

"You led him to me. I would have died without you. That earns some loyalty, some respect. I just can't be your girlfriend, something a monster of the week movie is made based off."

"I understand."

"He is kind of jealous of you."

"Oh? Well, that's good."

"I think it bothers him that you're here. He knows you slept on my floor that night."

"You told him that?"

"No! What am I stupid? Xander did."

"Of course. Maybe he's not so dumb after all."

"I'll tell him you said so. Anyway. We're okay?"

"Yeah."

"Good."

"Want some company for the rest of your rounds?"

"Sure. You haven't told me about your summer yet."

"Well, there isn't much to tell, but I'll try and make it sound more exciting than it was."

Chapter Text

**Part Eight**

Halloween, 1997

"Giles!"

"Yes, Buffy."

"You won't believe what Principal Snyder just did."

"Mm, assigned you a group of young trick-or-treaters?"

"Yes!"

"And you have a problem with this?"

"Well, no, wait, yes! It's the one night you said things are quiet. It's Friday night. Lindsey is coming down."

She didn't add that her mom was out of town for the night, up in LA actually. And she had really been looking forward to some alone time with Lindsey. She hadn't seen him since Labor Day weekend.

"So, take him with you. It will give you a chance to bond."

"We don't need to bond, Giles. Certainly not with a bunch of kids watching anyway."

"Well, it's been a few weeks since you've seen him last perhaps children along is best."

"Which is why I don't want to be surrounded by a bunch of ghouls and goblins when I see him."

"Yes, I see. Well, there is a curfew, so you won't be stuck taking them around all night. He might admire your willingness to take the children around."

"Just the type of impression I want to give him. He's going to think I want to stay home and bake cookies while he's at work and the kids are at school. Giles, I don't want to scare him off!"

Giles removed his glasses and regarded her. She wondered sometimes what he saw when he looked at her that way.

"You're serious about him."

"Well, duh."

"Pardon me, Buffy, I just assumed as time passed and you no longer saw him regularly your feelings would fade."

"Mm, not so much."

"Well, there's nothing you can do about it now. I'd suggest getting a costume of some sort and just doing it."

"You can't do anything to get me out of it?"

"Absolutely not, Buffy. I can't interfere with your schoolwork."

"Okay. I'll go find Willow and Xander, maybe they'll go costume hunting with me. I can't believe you knew about this and didn't do something!"

"And just what was I supposed to do?"

"I don't know. Use your powers of persuasion to get me out of it!"

"I can hardly get you to focus on your tasks let alone influence the principal."

"There you are."

Buffy barely paid the library doors opening any attention until she heard Lindsey's voice. She spun around, wondering just how much of the conversation he'd heard. Not that they'd said anything newsworthy. Was he a sight for sore eyes, even still dressed in his work suit.

"Hi. You're early." She glanced at the clock behind him. No, she hadn't lost track of time. "Way early."

"Surprise. I saw Willow in the hall, she said I could probably find you here."

"Here I am."

She went to him then and gave him a brief kiss. She felt somewhat weird kissing him in front of Giles.

"Well, you could help me then I guess."

"Help you with what?"

"Well, I've been assigned a group of kids to bring around trick-or-treating."

"Okay."

"We need costumes. So, we need to go get one. You could take us."

"We?"

"Me, Xander, Willow, you, though I suppose you don't need a costume. You can just be a lawyer."

Giles cleared his throat and Buffy turned to look at him.

"What?"

He just looked at her thoughtfully and then glanced at the floor with a nod of his head in Lindsey's direction. It dawned on her. He hadn't met Lindsey before. He'd heard about him and everything.

"Sorry. Lindsey, this is Mr. Giles. Giles, Lindsey."

"I was beginning to think you'd forgotten your manners entirely, Buffy."

"Nope. Just surprised and thrown off guard."

"It's nice to meet you, Lindsey, Buffy's told me a lot about you."

The two men shook hands. She could tell they were sizing one another up, but they weren't being too obvious about it.

"Same to you, Mr. Giles. She's always spoken very highly of you when you've come up in conversations."

"I imagine that's not often."

"You'd be surprised. So, you need a ride, is that what you were getting at?"

"Sure, we could make with the ride instead of walking. I'm sure Willow and Xander wouldn't complain. You can help pick out my costume."

"Sure."

"Be careful, Buffy."

"Always, Giles, thanks. Happy Halloween."

"Same to you."

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Giles."

"You as well, Lindsey. Enjoy your weekend."

"Thanks."

"He seems like a nice guy," Lindsey said once they were out of the library.

"He is."

"I can see why you're fond of him."

Buffy smiled slightly. She hadn't always been fond of Giles. She imagined if he had heard her talking about him last spring he would have thought Giles was a monster.

"Yeah, he's not too bad. It's nice to have someone on the faculty sort of on my side. Even if he can't get me out of this trick-or-treating gig."

"It'll be fun. We don't get too many in our neighborhood, not many of the homeowners have kids."

"I sensed that. I don't know why."

"Maybe someday that will change."

"Maybe."

She let him take her hand as they walked to Willow's locker.

"You found her."

"I did, thanks for the directions."

"No problem."

"Lindsey's offered to drive us if we want to get costumes."

"Great. Let's find Xander and we can go. There's a new place I thought we could try. I've heard Partytown is pretty picked over already."

"I imagine the other place will be, too, Wil, it's Halloween. Really last minute."

"No, the place just opened. I saw a flyer somewhere, I can't remember where now. Anyway, let's check it out."

"Okay, I'm in."

"Me, too," Xander said from behind them. "I already have a costume, but I'm on the lookout for accessories. What's he going to go as? A lawyer?" Xander laughed.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "I already made that joke, Xander."

"When? I wasn't there, so it's not stealing."

"No, but it's already old."

"Fine. So, let's go get the costumes so we can get to the trick-or-treating goodness."

"You're entirely too into this, Xander."

"I've got a great costume, and what's more it didn't cost me much."

"I can't wait to see it."

Xander gave Lindsey's shoulder a playful punch. "So, seriously, man, what are you going as?"

"I'm not."

"You've got to dress up."

"Not this time."

"Buffy, you can't take him with you if he's not dressed as something. Think of the kids. The bad influence!"

"He can wait at my house if he wants."

"Well," Lindsey cleared his throat. "I'd rather be with you."

"Aww, that's so sweet," she said and kissed him. "I'd rather be with you, too."

"My eyes. You two. Stop with the saccharin-like stuff. Let's put the pedal to the metal."

"You know where this store is, Wil?"

"Yup. Downtown."

"Okay. Let's go."

***

Just like that she was back. She was Buffy not that whining, sniveling girl who was scared of her own shadow. She smiled at Spike who seemed aware that the tides had turned. It was the most bizarre thing, but she'd think on it later. Right now she had a vampire with a hard-on for killing her to take care of.

"Hi honey. I'm home," she said and attacked him. "You know what? It's good to be me."

It didn't take long for him to run away. He had been ready for an easy kill not a fight. She tried to collect her thoughts, pushing to the back of her mind how close she'd come to dying a second time. One more second and she would have been a vampire's tasty Halloween treat. The trick would have been on her since Giles said this was a non-day as far as hellmouthy stuff went.

"Buffy," she turned toward Angel's voice. He had helped. That was twice now he'd come to her rescue since she'd told him they were through as a couple. The frat house party she probably would have gotten out of on her own. Maybe. Tonight, defenseless as she was with Xander not knowing who he was, she'd needed help.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I, we should get them home."

"We'll take care of them, Buffy," Cordelia chimed in, sliding her hand into the crook of Angel's arm. Buffy arched an eyebrow at Angel who merely shrugged with a grimace. "You look like you could use a few minutes."

"I need to get home, Lindsey's waiting for me."

She took in the chaos and destruction around her, reality settling in as each minute passed.

"Oh, God, he was at the house when all of that happened. Where did he go?"

"I told him to stay put."

"You did?"

"Yeah, I figured it'd be my head if something happened to him or he discovered your secret."

"Thanks."

"You're welcome. I think he knows something, though, Buffy. He saw too much."

"How much?"

"He saw me stake the one in the kitchen after you ran out."

"Oh," Buffy said, nibbling on her lower lip. "Maybe he won't remember?"

"You can try that. Otherwise, you may want to try the truth."

"Yeah, sure fire way to kill a relationship."

"Don't be so sure. He likes you."

"How can you tell?"

"Because I know the feeling well and I recognize it in him."

"Oh," she said. She walked right into that one. Cordelia seemed oblivious to what they were talking about. Not unusual for her.

"All right, everyone has their kids to take home?"

Once that was settled and she saw that they were filing out, all children accounted for she headed for Revello Drive. Her mind was a whirl of thoughts as she made her way. How had Angel convinced Lindsey to stay at the house? Just how much had Lindsey seen? She'd find out soon enough.

"Hi honey. I'm home." That was the second time she'd said that tonight. This time had a better ring to it. Certainly a better feel to it then saying it to Spike as he was about to sink his fangs in her.

"Buffy?"

"Yeah, I'm here. Are you all right?" She glanced to the top of the stairs. He'd changed out of his suit. He looked a little confused, but otherwise not bad. Unhurt anyway, that was the important thing.

"I'm all right. Are you? You left here. You really didn't remember who you were, did you?"

"No. I did, I mean, I was in there. I just couldn't be Buffy. It was the strangest, most frightening thing."

They met halfway on the stairs. He took her into his arms, she went willingly. He smoothed down her hair, kissing the top of her head.

"I'm so glad you're okay. And your friends? Xander and Willow? There was another one, too. Not your ex, the girl we saw at the mall."

"Cordelia."

"That's right. They're all okay?"

"Yup. All okay. They're taking their kids home as we speak."

"Good."

"Listen."

"Yeah?"

"You're probably wondering about some of the things you saw tonight. Let me change real quick and then we can talk."

"All right."

She returned a few minutes later to find him sitting on the same stair she'd left him on to go change.

"Would you rather ask questions or hear the story?"

They started down the stairs together, arms around one another's waist. She led him to the living room. He must have cleaned up some, because it didn't look that bad in here. She remembered it looking more chaotic. Maybe that had been part of the costume's persona.

"Well, I'd like to hear the story, but first let me ask. Is your ex really a vampire?"

She looked at him sharply. "You? What? Huh?"

"Well, I've seen him before the last weekend I was here. He looked the same tonight as he did then. And he knew what was going on, but so did Cordelia. But she was in a costume. So, I'm just trying to figure out."

"Okay. You know about vampires?"

"Yes. Don't most people?"

"You'd be surprised." She stood from the couch and backed away from him. "Can you give me a minute? I need to make a phone call."

"Okay. I'll be right here."

"Thanks."

She bounded up the stairs, taking them two at a time and went to her bedroom. She dialed Giles' phone number.

"Please be home," she murmured.

"Hello."

"Giles, it's Buffy."

"Yes, Buffy. I was about to call you, I assume you're all right?"

"Yes, I'm fine. We're all fine. I'm guessing you and Willow had something to do with that. So, thank you. Now I have a question."

"All right."

"Lindsey knows about vampires."

"He what?"

"Long story short, he saw Angel vamp out, knows it wasn't a costume."

"Oh. Oh dear. But he knows?"

"Yes, he asked me if my ex was a vampire."

"Hmm."

"Can I tell him?"

"You know my answer to that, Buffy."

"Okay, think as Giles and not as my watcher with the Council training manual at your fingertips."

"I trust your judgment, Buffy. If you think your secret is safe with him then so be it."

"Okay. I just wanted to check."

"I appreciate that, Buffy. It means a lot to me. Good luck."

"Thanks. Good night, and I'm glad you're all right, Giles."

"Me, too. Good night, Buffy."

She hung up the phone, startled but not altogether surprised to find Lindsey standing in the doorway.

"So, did you get permission to tell me what's going on?"

"How did you?"

"Why else would you need to go make a phone call all of a sudden?"

"Oh, well, um, yes. I'll tell you, but you have to understand, this is personal, secret stuff. I don't just tell anyone. Willow and Xander are the only ones that know."

"And Mr. Giles."

"Well, but he's not a civilian."

"Angel?"

"Not a civilian either."

"Cordelia?"

"She kind of knows, but she doesn't know it all."

"Okay."

"So, first let me answer your question about Angel. Yes, he's a vampire. He's a vampire with a soul, though. He helps people, he does good things."

"A vampire with a soul? I've never heard of such a thing."

"Me neither, believe me. He was cursed by a band of gypsies around the turn of the century."

"And you knew he was a vampire when you dated him?"

"Yes. In fact, if you remember when I laughed the first time we kissed and I told you that the last guy I'd kissed had freaked out on me."

"Yes."

"It was Angel, and that's how I found out he was a vampire."

"And you don't believe me when I tell you how well you kiss."

"Well, I didn't think I was the reason he'd vamped out."

"Humble. I like that."

He sat with her on her bed. She was a little nervous having him there. She had planned to let him stay the night. She'd told him not to bother with a hotel room since her mom was out of town. Now that he was here like this, she wasn't so sure.

"Okay. So, we've got that covered."

"Yes. Angel, vampire with a soul, who fights evil."

"Right. Now onto me."

"My favorite topic." He leaned toward her and nuzzled her neck.

"Stop it, Lindsey."

"Okay, sorry. I have to tell you, though, you looked pretty sexy in that getup tonight."

"I did not."

"You did!"

"We're getting off topic here."

"Sorry. Go on, I'm listening."

She'd never told anyone the story before, not from scratch. It was somewhat strange yet it felt like a burden being lifted from her. It was do or die time, though. He'd either believe her or not. That wasn't the most important thing at stake, though. He could stay or go.

He was quiet for a while after she'd stopped, reclining on her bed. His hand never strayed from her leg, though. He ran his finger along her thigh. Occasionally, his finger would drift to her arm. He turned to look at her finally after what seemed like hours.

"You must trust me."

"I do."

"I'll try not to do anything to make you regret that."

"Are you going to tell me how you knew about vampires?"

"Some of our clients are of the non-human variety."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"And you represent them?"

"Yes."

"Lindsey."

"Yeah, pretty big conflict of interest, huh?"

He gathered her to him then, bringing her up against him on the bed. He nuzzled her neck from behind. His breath warm on her neck sent shivers down her spine.

"Can we not think about demons and vampires tonight? Or which side we're fighting on?"

"I suppose."

"I just want to be Lindsey and Buffy. Leave the lawyer and slayer hats at the door."

"Okay." She turned to face him, her eyes scanning his face. "I can handle that."

"Good," he said and kissed her.

She groaned into his kiss. This was different. It was as if by realizing how much she truly trusted him she had bonded them closer together somehow. There had always been emotions between them, but they'd just dialed things up a notch divulging the secrets they'd been keeping from one another.

Her hand drifted along the length of his body, over his torso, lower to his waist, cupping him through his jeans. She was tentative in her touch. She'd never gone this far with a boy before. She felt him grow harder, longer under her touch. It was his turn to groan and she basked in it, her ability to cause that reaction in him.

"Buffy," he murmured, taking her lower lip between his teeth. "God, Buffy."

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't." She started to pull her hand away, but he stopped her. His hand at her wrist, he encouraged her. "Lindsey."

"I want you to touch me, Buffy. I've wanted you to for so long."

"I know. Me, too. But."

"I know, just for a little while."

"Okay."

She rolled onto her back as he positioned himself on top of her. His arms went under her, his hands clutching her shoulders from behind as he positioned himself between her legs. She gasped, feeling him pressing against her even through their clothes. The pressure was immense. She wrapped her legs around his calves, arching into him.

"I trust you, Lindsey," she whispered as their lips met again.

Chapter Text

**Part Nine**

"So, that was it?"

"Well, yeah."

"Huh."

"Wil, that's not enough?"

"Well, yeah, I mean, my mom would kill me if she found out a guy not Xander spent the night. But two nights! And he made you breakfast."

"He's a keeper."

She and Willow were in the library before classes discussing her weekend with Lindsey. An intense weekend it had been. There had been a time or two she'd almost told him to go. To a hotel. Back to LA. Somewhere that wasn't her house. She was a walking ball of hormones. Their clothes never came off, though, other than showers. Which they did not take together, as tempting as it might have been to join him while he took his.

"So, when do you think you'll talk about the fact he works for a law firm that seems to go against what you do?"

"I don't know. Soon. We're going to have to. I mean, that's a pretty big thing to be on opposing sides of. It's not like he voted for Nixon or something and I wanted the other guy."

"Wow, I'm impressed."

"What?"

"You know who Richard Nixon is?"

"Yes, sarcasm girl, I've opened a textbook or two during my eleven years of school. Twelve counting Kindergarten."

"Oh well, it's just not like you to, you know, make with political references."

"Hmm, I'm not sure that should be insulting or not."

"No, no."

"Fine."

"So, how was it?"

"How was what?"

"Waking up to him."

"It was," Buffy paused, thinking it through. "I don't know. I can't describe it. It was scary yet thrilling at the same time. I kept waiting for him to see my hair standing in a hundred different directions or something and run away."

"Oh, Buffy, I've seen you in the morning and you look fine."

"What girl wants to look fine waking up next to their boyfriend?"

"Well, true, but I just meant that you don't look like Medusa or anything."

"Thanks, Wil."

"I'm not helping am I?"

"Not so much."

"Okay. So, scary yet thrilling. I can understand that. But nice?"

"Very nice. Too bad we won't be able to again."

"Why not?"

"My mom doesn't go out of town that often."

"You could go visit him."

"I'm not sure I could get away with that. Mom would want me to see Dad, and Dad wouldn't let me stay over there."

"You're right. It's pretty amazing, though."

"What's that?" Buffy said, gathering her books together to head to class.

"Well, all this time you've been hiding from him who you are. You know, the slayer and all, when he knew about the stuff all along."

"He didn't know about slayers."

"Well, right, but if someone believes in vampires, it's not a huge leap to believe in the rest. That's all I meant."

"Oh right, there was definitely a ‘he's not going to think I'm a total loony' element when I told him."

"And Giles is okay with it?"

"Bye Giles, see you after school," she called out to her watcher before they left the library.

"Bye, girls. Enjoy your day."

"We're going to class, Giles, but we'll try." Both girls laughed lightly as they left the library. Willow got more enjoyment out of going to class than Buffy did, though.

"Giles is okay with it, as okay as he can be. I think he's realized that the rules just don't apply to me."

"And why should they?"

"Exactly! That's what I keep trying to tell him, but he doesn't seem to buy it."

"Men!"

"Watchers!"

They split off when they got to the point of having to go their separate ways for class.

***

Lindsey was running late. For the first time since he could remember, he wasn't at the office before the sun came up. He slid his perfectly knotted tie into place and took an extra few minutes to do a couple of personal things.

First order of business was ordering Buffy some flowers. He hadn't mentioned it, and she probably wouldn't have believed him if he had, but he'd never spent the night with anyone before. He'd found it difficult to sleep last night. He'd reach for her only to find not only was she not there but that he was at home instead of on her smaller bed down in Sunnydale.

It was crazy how easily he had gotten comfortable having her next to him. Waking up with her in his arms. It was probably a good thing it was only two nights. He couldn't remember walking around in the state he had been for days since puberty. She definitely made him aware that all of his parts were in working order.

Second order of business was sending her an email. He had come up with an idea last night driving back from Sunnydale. How good of an idea he wasn't sure, but there had to be some way they could work together now that they knew about one another's secrets.

He defended his clients to the best of his ability. That didn't mean he had any fondness for them. He certainly didn't enjoy using whatever legal maneuver he could to let killers, rapists, kidnappers, and the like go free. He'd signed on the dotted line, though, and there was no going back. At the time, he'd thought it an exciting way to test just how good of a lawyer he was. If he could get the people that Wolfram & Hart defended off, he could get anybody off.

He smiled as he typed the email asking her to meet him online tonight to chat. She was getting more and more computer literate as time went on. They were able to communicate more frequently with it and she seemed to appreciate that as much as he did. He wasn't always in a position to make a phone call and now understood that neither was she. The chats were a new addition he had initiated when they both happened to be online at the same time one night.

It was just his luck to finally find someone he cared about, enough that he was willing to forego working himself to an early grave in order to spend time with her. And she turns out to be someone who not only knew about the types of things he defended but was probably the one person they were most scared of. If they felt any fear at all.

He wondered what Holland Manners would say if he knew he was dating the slayer. He could just imagine how that conversation would go. He was risking the chance the mind readers would pick something up, which meant his life was on the line. He was sure he could get around that, though, because he would continue doing his job. He had come this far, there was no turning back for him. Not that that was an option.

With that, it was time to go. He grabbed his briefcase, checking it briefly to ensure he had everything he needed for his day. One of the things he planned on doing was buying a cell phone. He had one, issued to him by Wolfram & Hart. He needed one that was his, that they didn't know about.

"Time to practice up clearing your mind, Linds," he muttered as he left his house for the day.

***

"He spent the night? Twice? You and him in the same bed?"

"Where did you think he was staying, Xander?"

"I don't know. The Sunspot."

"Nothing happened, Xander."

"But, Buffy."

"What, Xander?"

"He's going to expect, I mean, the next time your mom's out of town."

"I've got it under control, Xander."

"I hope so."

"Wait. I thought you liked Lindsey."

"Well, I do, but that doesn't mean I want him sleeping with you. You're the chosen one, shouldn't you be above that kind of behavior?"

"The kind of behavior that is bad because?"

"It could lead to all sorts of things."

"Uh huh."

"Fine, let him lead you down the wrong path. Stray from the goodness that is your calling in life."

"Xander!"

"Was that a little thick?"

"Just a little."

"Okay, I'll tone it down. But, really, you've opened a can of worms, Buff. You know what the next step is."

"No, Xander, I don't. And I don't think he assumes that's the next step either. I'll see him again for Thanksgiving. With my mother. He knows that, too."

"Oh well, that's good. You don't want him to think you're easy."

"Xander!"

"Well, not, shutting up now," he grimaced and took a drink of his milk. Buffy couldn't help but laugh.

"Good idea."

"I still think you should rethink the whole sharing a bed thing. It's just asking for trouble. Implications that I think at your young age you're not ready to deal with."

"Thank you for those words of wisdom, Xander, I'll take them to heart."

"Yeah, right. So, what's on the agenda after school?"

"The usual. I have to go home. Mom wants to do some bonding after being gone all weekend."

"Bonding with the mother. Hey, at least your mother wants to spend quality time with you and knows what the meaning of the word is. I'm not sure mine does beyond putting a pot pie in the oven for me."

"Would you like to come over for dinner, Xander?"

"Could I?"

"You can."

"Thanks! See ya at six?"

"Sounds good."

"You're the best."

"You're just saying that so I forget about the easy comment."

"Well, yeah, is it working?"

"Not yet."

"I'll try harder."

Chapter Text

**Part Ten**

Thanksgiving weekend 1997

"So, when does the man get here?"

"The man?"

"Yeah, your man, the man. Do you have more than one?"

"Well, no, you just come up with the oddest names for him sometimes."

"It's easier on me than saying Lindsey."

"Hey, whatever works for you."

"So, when does he get here?"

"Should be anytime. He said he'd meet me here."

"And he's ready to meet the mom?"

"So he says. He could always back out I imagine, but he said he hasn't had a real Thanksgiving since he was a kid. I think he's kind of looking forward to it."

"Since he was a kid?"

"Yeah, he left home right after high school, and from what he's told me his home life could give yours some competition for dysfunctional family awards."

"Oh. See, I knew there was something about him I identified with."

"So, he's looking forward to some family time I guess."

"And who but the Buffster to give it to him?"

"Exactly."

"You know, I have to admit, I thought for sure it'd be over by now."

Buffy paused in taking a drink from her cup at Xander's comment. It unsettled her a little. Giles had said something sort of similar. "Why?"

"Well, you and Angel had this thing going last spring. I just assumed you'd come back, see him again and this guy would become a memory."

"I like Angel, if he was human you might have been right. I came to the realization this summer, though, that I can't do it. Slayers and vampires aren't supposed to have relationships. So, he's my friend and that's it."

"I'm not complaining. Not in the least. My opinion of vampires was pretty much solidified when they got Jesse."

"I know, Xander."

"Speak of the devil."

"Lindsey's here?"

"No, the other devil we were talking about."

"Angel?"

"Yup, he just walked in."

Buffy turned in his direction and smiled with a wave.

"You don't need to encourage him over here. I was kind of hoping he'd hang out with Cordelia some more after Halloween and bite her."

"Xander, he doesn't feed on humans."

"A few hours with Cordelia and he'd change his opinion."

Buffy laughed, she couldn't help it. He was probably right.

"Hey," Angel said as he arrived at their table.

"Hi. Something going on?"

"No, I just came to tell you I'll be at Giles' tonight. And to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving."

"Thanks. You, too. You probably don't celebrate it."

"Not really, no. It's just another day to me."

"Were you around for the first Thanksgiving?"

"Xander!"

"What? It's a logical question."

"I'm not quite that old, Xander."

"Oh. Well, it was a logical question. Right?"

"Yes, it was."

"Wow, Dead Boy's agreeing with me."

"And the world hasn't ended."

"Bite your tongue you two."

"What's tonight? Are there pre-Thanksgiving festivities going on that I don't know about?"

"No, it's slaying stuff."

"Oh, well, I can bring donuts."

"I don't think anyone will need donuts before eating turkey dinner tomorrow."

"That's assuming we all get turkey dinners. You, Lindsey, and Willow get turkey dinners. What do Angel and I get?"

"Mm, Angel will probably get what he normally does every day of the year. You? I don't know."

"Meatloaf probably. If Mom remembers to put it in the oven."

"Oh, Xander, you know you can come to my house."

"Really?"

"Of course, Mom and I would be happy to have you. You just can't say anything that will embarrass me in front of Lindsey."

"That's a tall order to fill, but for good food and even better company I'll do it."

"Okay."

"Now," he said, rubbing his hands together. "What's with tonight?"

"Nothing. Giles, Angel, Lindsey and I are going to talk about some things."

"Why is Lindsey included?"

"Because the things have to do with him."

"Oh, I see." He frowned, glanced from Buffy to Angel and shook his head. "No, I don't see. Why is Angel going to be there then?"

"Xander," Buffy said, placing her hand over his and patting it. "Just trust us."

"I'll do my best. Hey, do you think Spike will show up tonight?"

"I hope not! I'd really like to have the night off."

"You just want to dance with your man. Speaking of, I think I see him at the door."

"On that note, I'll be going. See you later."

"Bye, Angel."

"Boy, if I had known mentioning another guy would get rid of him that quick I would have started doing that months ago."

"Xander. Be nice. You at least have a mom and dad. Angel has nobody. Imagine how he must feel at times like this."

"Yeah, I suppose. Having some family is better than none. And hundreds of years of nothing."

"Exactly."

She felt hands on her shoulders and leaned back into the hug and for the kiss to the top of her head.

"Hi," she said before tilting her head back for a somewhat awkward kiss.

"Hi yourself. You look nice."

"Thanks, so do you."

"I kind of dressed down, I didn't realize you wouldn't."

"No, this is normal Buffy-wear. Don't worry."

"Okay. I did bring something nice for tomorrow. I didn't think to ask and wasn't sure if you and your mom do the formal thing."

"No, we're pretty casual. It's just the two of us."

"And me!"

"And Xander. Giles might come. He's invited, but I think he kind of likes being alone."

"Great. Someone I know. Power in numbers or something, right?"

"Oh, that's right, you haven't met Buffy's mom. Just to warn you ahead of time, don't look at the third eye or the horn on the back of her head. There's also this mole, right here," Xander said pointing at his chin.

Lindsey chuckled, gathering Buffy closer against him. "I'll try not to. You didn't tell me about the extra eye or the horn? And a mole?"

"Well, that's because I didn't want you to think to look for mine."

"Babe, I'd love to look. Anytime. Anyplace," he whispered as he nuzzled against her ear.

Buffy's face grew hot in a flash. It was the most forward thing he'd ever said to her.

"Wow, did it just get hot in here? Whatever you said, Lindsey, it had to be good. I don't think I've ever seen Buffy's face turn that shade of red before."

She turned on her stool to face Lindsey, all but ignoring Xander. She kissed him, sliding her arms around his neck to bring him down to her level. She was tempted to tell him to name the time and place, but not yet. Not until they'd met at Giles' house later and she heard what he had to say.

"I don't know, they're pretty hard to find," she whispered against his ear, nipping his earlobe. "Not as obvious as my mom's."

"I'd be very thorough."

She laughed softly, seductively. "I just bet you would be."

"Trollope."

"You know it."

"Hello? Guys? Remember me? The third wheel?"

"Oh look, it's Xander," Lindsey said, giving Buffy one last kiss before sliding onto the stool next to Buffy's. Their hands joined, Lindsey looked at Xander. "When did you get here?"

"Very funny. Ha ha. You know, I take back all the nice things I said about you before you got here."

"Well, if I wasn't here to hear them, you can't take them back."

"Hey," Xander said, looking a little perplexed by Lindsey's logic. Actually, Buffy was, too. "Huh?"

Lindsey chuckled. "Never mind." He released Buffy's hand briefly, extended his hand to Xander. "How you doing, Xander?"

"Good, particularly now that I've been included in the Summers' household Thanksgiving festivities. I'm feeling a little slighted to be left out of tonight's, though."

"Just some dull conversation, you won't be missing anything." He brought Buffy's hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it before resting it, joined with his, against his knee.

"You say that now. It's always the dull conversation moments that turn into something bigger. And then where will you be when you have no jelly donuts to give yourself a sugar high?"

"I don't know. That's something to think about."

"Don't you know it!"

"Where's Willow?"

"You know, I'm honestly not sure. She said she was going to be here. She probably got sidetracked."

"So, are we dancing or just chilling for a while before heading to Mr. Giles'?"

"We can do whatever you want."

"Wow, that's pretty open ended."

He leaned in to kiss her and missed. She wasn't sure if it was intentional or not until he found her ear.

"I like this side of you. I'm not sure I've ever seen you this flirtatious."

She blushed again. She did feel flirty tonight. She was a little more confident in their relationship now. She imagined that helped. Buffy hadn't been sure what would happen after summer and she was back down here. Him coming not just to meet her mom but for Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal.

"I'm glad and I'll try and remember that for the future."

"Okay."

"You two, quit whispering sweet nothings to one another. It's annoying to those of us that are dateless."

"Sorry, Xander."

"It's okay. I get it. You haven't seen each other in weeks. I can let it slide, just try not to get too mushy."

Buffy rolled her eyes, turning her attention back to Lindsey.

"How was your day?"

"It was good. Had a couple of things to take care of, people not wanting to spend the long weekend in jail. Bond. The usual."

"Wow."

"Yeah, it's pretty dull really."

"Well, if you're doing it I'm sure it's not so dull."

"Not as exciting as what you do, but a man has to make a living."

"Yes."

"So, is your mom okay with my coming?"

"Yup. She's anxious to meet you. Dad told her about you when he brought me back in August. I figured he would. She hasn't asked me about you, I guess assuming I'd tell her when I was ready. Just be ready for the third degree."

"I've got my body armor ready to go."

"I'm not sure you'll need that. Just be prepared for lots of stories about me as a child and whatever else she'll pull out of her hat to try and embarrass me."

"Do I get to see pictures of you as a child naked on a bearskin rug?"

"Uh no."

"Then I don't think she's going to do anything to embarrass you."

"Put like that," she nodded. "I'd have to agree."

"So are we dancing?"

"I think we'd better get to Giles', Xander. I'm sorry. I'm sure Wil will be here soon."

"No problem. I'll just hang out. You coming back?"

"I doubt it."

"All right. See you tomorrow then. Unless you change your mind and want donuts after all?"

"Not tonight. Thanks. See you tomorrow."

"Oh, do I need to bring anything?"

"What would you bring?"

"I don't know. A plate, fork, bib?"

"No, just yourself, please."

"All right."

She and Lindsey made their way out of The Bronze. She was looking for his car, so when he walked toward a real old looking pickup truck she was a little perplexed. At first, she thought he was just admiring it. Guys and their cars. But he opened the door for her.

"You have a truck?"

"Yeah. You never noticed that tarp with a large shaped thing under it in my garage?"

"Well, yeah, I didn't know what was under it."

"Well, this is it. My baby."

"Hmm."

"You don't like it?"

"No, I didn't say that. I'm just trying to picture you in it."

"Well, I figured it was about time you saw the real me. Without the fancy suits, nice house and job I'm just an average guy who likes his pickup truck." He leaned in and kissed her, nudging her nose with his. "Is that all right?"

"More than all right."

"Your mom's not going to forbid you to see me or anything?"

"Because of a pickup truck?"

"Just making sure."

"There's not much you could do about it now anyway."

"Leave it here and walk."

"There is that option, but no, she'll be fine."

He got in on his side and she directed him to Giles' house. She had to admit now that they were there she was nervous. There was no reason he'd have asked to talk to Giles unless something about her being the slayer and him working for Wolfram & Hart bothered him. The fact he wanted to see Giles and didn't just break up with her was the only thing keeping her from breaking down and crying.

Lindsey stopped walking in the courtyard outside Giles' place. He tugged on her hand, prompting her to stop, too. "Buffy."

"Yeah?"

"There's something I need to say before we go in there."

"Okay."

"Whatever happens, whatever we decide, because I don't know what it's going to be, and I don't know how anything's going to play out."

"Lindsey, you're scaring me. I've averted apocalypses, I think we can handle this."

He chuckled softly and drew her to him in almost a bear hug. He kissed the top of her head, clutched her face in his hands and kissed her almost bruisingly on the lips.

"I love you, Buffy."

She blinked rapidly several times, sure she hadn't heard him actually say that.

"You? Huh?"

He smiled then with a light laugh. "Yes, I really said it."

"Oh, well, in that case, since you confirmed I'm not dreaming. I love you, too."

"You do?"

"Yes! You think I'd pine away down here for you if I didn't?"

"I don't think you're pining."

"Well, okay, it sounded good. Didn't it?"

"It did."

He kissed her again, not so intense this time. He gathered her into his arms, picked her up off her feet. "God, I can't believe how lucky I am to have found you. I just wish I'd found you a couple of years ago."

"Well, that would have just kind of been, eww. Even for me."

"Age aside, I just meant, where my life was then."

"You probably wouldn't have looked twice at me anyway, from what you've said. Mr. Had His Nose In the Books."

"You might be right. I envisioned how I said it a little nicer than this, but I had to say it."

"I understand, and I'm glad you did. It makes me feel better."

"Me, too," he said kissing her again.

"Hmm. We should probably go inside now. The sooner we go in, the sooner we're done."

"Yes." He ran the back of his hand along her cheek before dropping his hand into hers. "It's time."

***

"Do you really think this will work?"

"Why not?"

"It seems like you're skirting the line."

"I may be, but as long as I go into work each day with the knowledge that I'm doing what I can for Wolfram & Hart's clients, there's nothing the mind readers will pick up on. I have no control over someone, anyone, accessing court dockets for my cases and dispensing justice on their own."

"That seems like a fine line to tread."

"But they're not going to be looking for a vampire. That's the beauty of it. I'm not even sure they know a vampire with a soul exists. If they do, we don't know about it and I'm pretty certain they wouldn't expect me to tip him off."

"Why are you doing this?"

"You guys, this isn't the inquisition."

Lindsey placed his hand over Buffy's and squeezed. He offered her a smile, one meant only for her.

"It's okay, babe. We all need to be sure."

He turned his attentions back to Giles and Angel.

"As far as why," he shrugged. "I had one thing in mind when I put myself through college. I wanted to be the most successful lawyer I could be. Whatever the cost. I had nothing to worry about losing. I had nothing to care about. I didn't mind working double-digit hours at the office every day, even weekends. I didn't care that my clients didn't really deserve my representation. All I cared about was how many billable hours I was able to put in, and my cut of those hours. I wanted things. I have those things, but they don't mean so much now."

"What changed?"

All three men looked at her as if she was crazy. Lindsey felt somewhat bad for her. She really didn't understand how deep his feelings for her ran.

"What? What did I say?"

He leaned forward and planted a kiss on her lips. He had tried to avoid doing that in front of Angel. He wasn't sure what her feelings were toward the vampire, but Lindsey had seen enough to know that the vampire's feelings for her might run as deep as Lindsey's.

"Nothing. You changed. I have something worth living for, and I want it. You opened my eyes to a lot of things this summer. Just sitting in those seats at the last ball game we went to. I've lived in LA for a while now, and I've never done that. I didn't want to do it. The box seats were impressive, they made a statement. Image was everything. And while I still have to adhere to that in my office and in the courtroom, I don't want to so much in my personal life."

"Is that why you drove your pickup here this weekend?"

"Part of it, but really, what I told you was the truth. I haven't driven her in a while and needed to. She's my baby. I feel guilty when I neglect her for too long."

"I'm not sure where Buffy and I come into this."

"Well, you don't really, Mr. Giles. I want you both in the loop, at least at this stage. I don't expect Angel will fill you in on every detail, and I won't be able to obviously."

"I think Lindsey's right," Angel said. "I'm not really needed here anymore, and LA isn't that far. If I was, all you'd have to do is call me. Spike will go away eventually once he realizes he can't beat Buffy."

"Spike's a vampire?"

"Yeah. One of Angel's."

"He's not one of mine. He's one of Dru's who is one of mine. I haven't seen him in close to one hundred years. And believe me when I say it wasn't long enough."

"He's taken out two slayers," Mr. Giles offered.

Lindsey sensed it wasn't easy for Buffy's watcher to divulge that information to him. He appreciated it, though.

"So, Buffy's in danger? Maybe this isn't a good time to do this."

"No, I really don't think he'll stick around. If I leave, I think Spike will, too. He's stayed in part to harass me. We've always had a thing. Rivalry. Whatever you want to call it."

"Okay."

"So, how is Angel going to know which of your clients are human and which aren't?"

"I'll know."

"And they're all guilty?"

Lindsey nodded, squeezing her hand again. She was asking the right questions. Good.

"Yes. There's not an innocent one in the bunch. If they're innocent of the particular crime they've been charged with they're guilty of something else. Probably worse, they just haven't been caught yet."

"Which of you will be in the most danger?"

"I will, I guess. There's always the chance the mind readers will catch something, but it's a chance I'm willing to take. Angel, as long as he remains discreet and in the shadows, I don't think they'll catch on to who's doing it. But it will piss the Senior Partners off to know that their clients are getting picked off. It's risky for both of us, I won't deny that."

He watched as Buffy worried her lower lip. He wanted to lean in and kiss it, take it between his teeth and nip it for her. He wanted to do a number of things that didn't involve the audience they currently had. He'd taken a huge step by telling her he loved her. He'd never said that to anyone before. Now that he knew she felt the same way he found it more difficult to keep his thoughts from straying to places they were probably better kept out of.

"And Angel has to move to LA?"

"Is that a problem?"

"Well, no." Her eyes darted around the room, resting briefly on Mr. Giles. "I guess I'm just used to having him here, helping me."

"I'd just be a phone call away."

"I know. And, really, who am I to stop you from doing this?"

"I am here to help you, Buffy. If you don't think you're ready."

"No, no, I'm ready. You need to do this. You need to do more with yourself than help the Slayer. I know that. You're made for more than that."

"You have more faith in me than I do."

"Probably because I don't have a hundred plus years of your bad deeds floating through my mind."

"Maybe."

"I think you should do it, Angel. I really do."

"You're willing to risk your boyfriend?"

"It's his choice. He can't be my boyfriend if we keep things as they are."

"Does he know that?"

"Yes. He came up with the idea, that should be your answer. I didn't ask him to do this."

"Buffy, Angel, please," Mr. Giles interrupted.

"Sorry, Giles. My point is. I'm not sure I could have even dreamt up this plan. It does make sense. He's still doing his job."

Lindsey had to admit it was interesting watching them. They had feelings for one another, that much was clear. It didn't bother him that Angel was watching out for Buffy even if she didn't think she needed the help. It should have bothered him. There was an understanding between the two, a knowledge of a world that was theirs he wasn't sure he could compete with on some level.

"I've bought a cell phone. I'm not going to carry it on me, but any one of you can leave messages for me if you must. I'll check voicemail messages on it regularly outside of work hours. That's not specific because I keep strange hours. I can't alter that. Buffy, don't email me at work unless you have to and keep it short. Not that you email me very much there, I'm just trying to think of ways to fly under the radar any way I can. Other than that, I'm out of it. It's up to Angel to do the research."

"I think it's worth a try. Buffy's right, I'm really not needed here like I was last spring. She defeated the Master. She's pretty much ready for whatever else may come by my way of thinking. Buffy and I won't be working together directly, but on a different level we will be. Two of us, fighting evil, one in LA, one in Sunnydale."

"I suppose it does have merit. Buffy could probably give you some tips, too, based on her experiences in LA."

"And think about it, I might be able to decrease some of the flow into Sunnydale from the north. Head them off at the pass as they come through LA. Ease up some of Buffy's load so she only has to deal with what goes on here."

"Yes, you have a point. All of you." Mr. Giles removed his glasses and cleaned them with a handkerchief. He didn't know Mr. Giles well, but it was a gesture he was beginning to realize was fairly commonplace. He found it kind of nice, a fatherly thing. Not that he knew anything about fathers. "Let's think on it. We can discuss it at more length tomorrow after the festivities to be sure we're all on the same page and in agreement. I don't want anyone later to indicate they felt forced or emotionally weren't up to making a sound decision. No one's going to be rushing off to LA before the holiday weekend is over anyway. Unless, Lindsey, were you staying after tomorrow?"

"As long as Buffy wants me here."

Buffy leaned over and kissed him. "Silly thing to think I wouldn't. A man says he loves a girl, she's not going to rush him out the door."

"I suppose not. I'm not exactly up on the procedures," he murmured against her lips before kissing her.

"You're not, huh?"

"No."

"Hmm," she murmured and drew away. He missed her even if she was still holding his hand. "Giles are we done here then?"

"Yes, I suppose we are. We'll meet here before your patrol tomorrow evening then. Lindsey and Angel can hash out the details while you take care of your slayer duties."

"Sounds good."

She stood from the couch and tugged on his hand.

"I guess I'll see you tomorrow."

"Good night, Lindsey. Be careful, Buffy."

"Always, Giles. Night, Angel."

"Good night," he said.

Lindsey didn't have to be a brain surgeon to know his voice sounded a little strained. Good thing he was a vamp with a soul, otherwise Lindsey imagined he'd be on the menu for Angel's snack that evening.

"Where are we going?" he asked when they got out into the courtyard?

"I don't know. Anywhere but here." She leaned into him, wrapping her arms around him. "You told me something amazing. I don't want to sit there all night talking about that stuff."

"What did you have in mind?"

"Well, we could go back to The Bronze. Or you could come patrolling with me if you want." She kissed him, lingering just long enough to make him want more. "Maybe we'll luck out and it will be a slow night."

"I'll take door number two and the possibility of alone time with you."

"Me, too. Let's go."

"Mr. Giles won't mind?"

"Won't mind what?"

"My coming with you."

"No. Willow and Xander come with me. So does Angel." She paused at his pickup truck and regarded him so intently he wondered what she was thinking. "Have you ever staked a vampire?"

"No."

"I'm surprised."

"Most of my clients are well-behaved around me, despite their demon status."

"Well, I'll give you a stake just in case, but you shouldn't need it. Just aim for the heart."

"I knew that."

"And don't hesitate. It's a vamp, the person whose body it possesses is gone. No matter what they say."

"Buffy, I'm meeting your mom tomorrow. I think I can handle holding a stake and following your lead."

She laughed then, hopefully she realized he wasn't going to do anything stupid or careless. He just liked the idea of some time with her alone over the crowd at The Bronze.

"Let's go then," she said, planting a lingering kiss on his mouth before drawing away and hopping up into the cab of his pickup truck.

Chapter Text

**Part Eleven**

Xander was drifting off in the chair. He was kind of cute, Buffy had to admit. She felt bad for him that the only time he got quality family time was at her house. Considering, her family wasn't all that normal it didn't say much for his.

She was leaning against Lindsey, who had his arm around her. She glanced at him once or twice, wondering if he was going to drift off, too. There was something about men, Thanksgiving, turkey, and football. It was inevitable that a nap would result.

Buffy and her mom used to laugh at her dad. So insistent the turkey be ready early enough so he could watch football. In theory, it was a fine idea. Except he spent most of the game asleep.

Her mom was tidying up the kitchen. With four of them to help it hadn't taken long to get the table cleared, leftovers put away, and dishes done. Giles had left almost as soon as they were done cleaning up. Buffy wasn't sure why he'd rushed off, but was glad he'd come. Thanksgiving wasn't a holiday he celebrated, not being an American and all. It meant a lot to her, though, that he wanted to be a part of her life like this.

"So, was Thanksgiving dinner everything you expected?"

"More. You didn't tell me that your mom is a good cook."

"Well, do I look like I'm starving?"

He chuckled. "No, I guess you don't."

"So, it goes without saying Mom can cook."

"Right. What was I thinking?"

"See," she said, leaning up to kiss him.

"So, Lindsey my man, can I hitch a ride with you when you leave?"

"Leave where?"

"The Buffster's house?"

"I'm not leaving until Sunday."

"What?"

"Mom's allowing Lindsey to stay in the spare bedroom."

"She what?"

Poor Xander. He looked absolutely aghast at the thought. Aghast? Where had that word come from?

"Evidently, since he's our guest for Thanksgiving she thought it was rude to make him stay at a hotel."

"Well, but, he's your, you're his."

"Yes. He's in the guest bedroom, Xander. Not my bedroom."

"Well, but he, you."

"Xander, it's okay."

"Does he always get like this?"

"Yes."

"Thanks a lot, Buff."

"You're welcome, a lot."

"I can give you a ride if you want one."

"No, no, I'll walk. I just thought. I would like a ride while you're here though. I bet that baby moves."

"Yeah, she hauls."

Buffy rolled her eyes.

"Enough with the masculine pickup truck talk. It's bad enough I'm in here watching football with you."

"But Buffy."

"I'll make sure you get a ride in it, Xander."

"Thanks. See, that wasn't so hard, Buffy."

"You're too nice," she whispered before kissing Lindsey.

"So I've heard."

"You have, huh?"

"Yes. There's this girl I know."

"Oh? Is she pretty?"

"The prettiest."

"Well, okay. What about her?"

"I think she thinks I have the willpower of Superman or something."

"Hmm. Just stay away from Kryptonite."

He chuckled.

"Only thing is, she's the one with the super powers not me. I'm just a man."

"You're not just a man."

"I'm not?"

"No. You're my man and you're willing to do something dangerous for me. For us."

"With the help of your ex."

"Who cares who's helping? It was your idea. And you're giving my relationship with him more emphasis then it deserves I think. We weren't like exclusive or anything."

"But you liked each other."

"Well, yeah, I guess. He was never overly forthcoming with the admission of such things."

"His loss."

"Your gain, baby."

"Yeah, I guess it is. I should stop complaining." He kissed her, hugging her to him. "Are you going out tonight?"

"Nope."

"Oh?"

"Giles and I decided with you staying here, Mom will probably be listening rather intently. So, he agreed that sneaking out probably was better off not done."

"Ah."

She sat up and looked at him, her smile widening. "You liked it! You had fun."

"Well, yeah, who wouldn't? I mean, I'll admit it's kind of strange realizing you could kick my ass from here to LA and back, but," he leaned closer against her ear. "I'd be lying if I didn't tell you it was an incredibly turn-on."

"Oh really?" Well, that was something. She'd definitely remember that for another time, when her mother wouldn't be sleeping with one eye open, waiting for something unsavory to happen under her roof.

"It's weird thinking she doesn't know."

He grazed his nose against her cheek, kissing her. When he did things like that it was all she could do to not jump him. She wondered if he had any idea how close she'd come. Several times now. She knew it was because of her he always stopped things from getting out of hand. He didn't want to push, or to appear like that was all he wanted from her.

"I know, believe me! There are times I think it would be so much easier if I could tell her the truth. And then other times I realize she's better off not knowing."

"She'd worry."

"Yes."

"Like I will now."

"Don't worry about me."

"That's easy to say, but not so easy to do. You've already died once. You don't think it bugs me I can't help you the way Angel can?"

"But you are helping. You're doing something I can't do, Lindsey. You're doing something you don't even have to do. You're risking your life. That's huge."

"I guess. It's not the same."

"Hey," she maneuvered herself with grace onto his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. She snuggled against him with a pout. "It's the same to me. And I'm all that matters. What Giles or Angel or Xander thinks doesn't matter. Not about this. If they all came to me with evidence you were the devil incarnate I might have to listen. Unless you're Keanu Reeves in that new movie he's got out with Al Pacino. I think one of them's the devil."

He chuckled and kissed her. She didn't let him pull away quickly like he tried to. She deepened the kiss, loving the taste of him. The feel of his lips against hers. They fit so nicely against hers, comfortably. He was a beautiful man with his hair just a touch too long. It was nice on him, though, and she loved being able to twine her fingertips around the ends.

"So, how about them Cowboys," Xander called out and Buffy pulled away.

"What?" She glared at him. She couldn't help it. Other than last night she hadn't had any time alone with Lindsey at all. Walking through cemeteries on the lookout for vampires and other baddies wasn't exactly her idea of a way to impress a date. Though, he seemed to enjoy himself.

"The football team, the sport we're watching. Just making sure you remembered someone else was in the room and your mom's in the kitchen before you got too carried away. I'm pretty sure those sleeping arrangements might be adjusted if she saw that."

She rolled her eyes and shifted off Lindsey's lap.

"Sorry."

She settled next to him once again. She hated to admit it, but Xander was right. The quickest way to get her mom to send Lindsey packing was for her to see them getting too snuggly on the couch. She couldn't help it, though. His wanting to do this, just the fact he came up with the plan, proved he really meant what he'd said outside of Giles' house. He loved her.

It would be one thing if they were one-step away from having sex, but they weren't. Not even close. They still had several steps to go to get to that point. So, it made no sense for him to come up with this plan just to get her into bed. That and, well, he wouldn't have accepted her mom's invitation if that was his plan.

He kissed the top of her head.

"What are you thinking about?"

She tilted her head up slightly to look at him. "You. That I love you."

"Well, don't let me stop you from thinking about those things then. I'll be right over here, watching the game. Pinch me once in a while so I know you haven't fallen asleep. Or I haven't."

She chuckled. "Will do."

Chapter Text

**Part Twelve**

May 1999

It was done. She'd graduated from high school and managed to take down the mayor, stopping him from turning Sunnydale into a demon playground. With help. She was beginning to understand the difference between her and other slayers was that she had that and they didn't.

Her eyes scanned the mayhem, the destruction. Too many had died. Classmates, parents, teachers. There was only so much she could do. Her gaze fell on the shadowy figure and she waved. He'd return to LA the same way he'd arrived in Sunnydale. Quietly, without fanfare. She got a Class Protector award, but there were so many who helped her do the protecting. Willow, Oz, Xander, Giles, and Cordelia were faces her classmates knew. Angel's was not, but he'd helped.

He returned the wave and turned away from her, a swish of his coat trailing behind him. He'd been a phone call away just as he said he'd be. She'd tried to get around needing him, but when it got down to it there had been no other way.

She brought her hand up to her neck, pressing against the bite mark that still throbbed. It was healing, but she could tell already it would leave a scar. Her first since becoming the Slayer. She would have to explain it to Lindsey, who hopefully had made it to his house in LA with her mom.

He'd wanted to help, to be here for her, but she'd told him the biggest help he could be to her is making sure he and her mom were safe. She would be useless in battle if she had to worry about them, particularly her mom.

Once she was certain Angel had made it okay, she sought out the others. She wished there was time for them to talk, to catch up. The days of catching up were done in a way. They led their own lives, separated yet still connected by the cause they both fought. He was making a difference. She followed along in the news as best as she could. So far, Lindsey had managed to stay out of trouble, so the plan seemed to be working.

It was hard to be jovial when people had died today, but she'd made it through high school. She had the summer to look forward to. A summer in LA, with Lindsey. And then college. She was alive and as selfish as it may seem, she was glad to be.

"Hi guys," she said once they had all gathered together.

"I guess this is it until the fall."

"It is," Buffy said.

"I still can't believe you're driving to LA. Isn't your mom worried?"

Leave it to Willow to be the thoughtful one under the circumstances. Of course her mom was worried. Buffy wasn't a terrible driver, but she wasn't the best either.

"I'm sure she'll be frantic until I pull onto Lindsey's driveway. I'll call you as soon as I get there."

"As soon as?"

"Well, okay, maybe I'll say hi to Lindsey first."

"I thought so."

"Have a good summer, Buff."

"You, too, Xander. Where are you off to?"

"Not sure. I'm going to get in the Xanmobile and see where it takes me."

"Sounds like a plan. Are you going to say goodbye to Cordelia?"

They both glanced at the brunette in question who was busy talking to a few of her clique. There were a few missing, Buffy noticed. She scanned the crowd, looking to see who else might be missing. One was too many as far as she was concerned.

"You did the best you could, Buff."

"I know. Thanks."

She gave him a hug, said bye to Oz and made her way to Giles. Giles seemed thoughtful, but he always was.

"Hi there. Thinking about all the books you just lost?"

"Huh? Oh no, I moved them all."

"I know. It was a joke."

"Oh right. I'm glad to see you made it."

"Are you?"

"Of course."

"Okay."

"And Angel?"

"Yup. I saw him briefly."

"He's doing well in LA, Buffy."

"I know."

"It was a good move for him, and probably for you, too."

"I know that, too."

"Very well. I'm being repetitive."

"Yup. So, what will you do for the summer?"

"Take a trip to England for a while. Otherwise, I'm not really sure. Put a resume together."

"Well, I bet UC Sunnydale would love to have you."

"Yes, that's one option."

"Okay, then I'll see you when I get back."

"Yes, I suppose you will. Job well done, Buffy. Again."

"I had help, couldn't have done it without that. And Anya," Buffy shrugged. "Who'd have thought she'd come through with some information?"

"People never cease to amaze me, Buffy. One day you'll come to see that as well."

"Hmm," she said simply, not sure she and Giles would ever see eye to eye on things. She leaned in and gave him a hug. "Have a good trip, Giles."

"I will, you do the same, Buffy. Be careful."

"I will!"

It was time to go. If she didn't get back to the house and call Lindsey's, they'd worry. It was time for her annual reprieve from Sunnydale. She not only wanted it, she needed it, this summer more than ever. She still couldn't believe she'd met Lindsey two years ago.

It was hard for her to remember what things had been like for her then. Depressing. Pining away for a guy centuries older than her. And she owed it all to a silly volleyball game. She supposed she'd see her friends again this summer. There were liable to be some good parties being the summer before everyone went in different directions for college. She didn't really care one way or another anymore. Her first summer back in LA she'd cared a lot. Last summer, it was different. This summer was very different. Sunnydale was home now. Willow, Xander, Oz, and even Cordelia were her friends. She made a difference here. The only thing LA had going for it was Lindsey being there.

She made it back to her house on Revello Drive in record time. Her mom's Jeep was already packed and ready to go, so all she had to do was call Lindsey and double-check that everything was locked. That done, she headed to LA.

***

She couldn't remember being as glad to see a driveway as when she pulled onto Lindsey's. She let out a deep breath in relief.

"You're really okay."

She hugged her mom back, she understood how her mom felt. Buffy felt the same way.

"I am."

"Was it bad?"

"It wasn't as bad as it would have been, but yeah. Not everyone made it."

Mom brushed her hair down with her hands and planted a kiss on Buffy's forehead. It was kind of embarrassing. Considering the alternative, though, Buffy let her do the mom thing.

"Mom."

"I'm so proud of you, Buffy. I know we've had some arguments this year over all of this. With everything that happened with Faith. Well, I see how easy it would be for you to take the gifts you've been given and use them to do other things."

"Yeah." Faith's way of life had been tempting. For a night. Buffy learned quickly that while the right way could be boring, it was what was right for a reason. Just because she was stronger and had abilities other people didn't, didn't give her the right to want, take, and have.

"I'm going to head back now. Okay?"

"You are?"

"Yes, as soon as we get your stuff out of my Jeep."

"Okay."

"Be sure and call your father some time, Buffy."

"I will."

"He wasn't too happy about these arrangements. You're eighteen now, so you can do what you want with or without my permission."

"I know."

"But to him, you're still his little girl. And he doesn't know the things I know, so he doesn't realize how very special you are."

"Mom."

"I agree," Lindsey said, coming up behind her and sliding his arms around her. He kissed her cheek. "I wish more people knew what you do."

"Well, then there would be no secret identity. And neither of you would think it's cool or that I'm so special."

"Of course we would, Buffy. Now, let's get your stuff out of my Jeep and you can get on with your summer."

"You have the number and stuff?"

"Yes, on a piece of paper by every phone in the house and at work."

"Okay, so I wanted to be sure you didn't forget."

She kissed the top of Buffy's head. "Not a chance."

Buffy didn't have much to unload since she was just here for the summer. That and Lindsey had taken a load with him earlier. So, it didn't take long. She noticed her mom didn't go inside with them to see where any of her stuff was put. It was so mom-like. She was capable of admitting Buffy could spend the summer with Lindsey with or without her permission, but still didn't want to really think too hard on it.

Lindsey draped his arm around her shoulders as she waved to her mom as she backed out of the driveway. Tears formed in her eyes. The thought of something happening to her mom if they hadn't found out what Mayor Wilkins' plans had been scared her. Or more importantly, when.

"Thank you."

"For what, babe."

"I know you wanted to be involved with things, but I hope you understand that I asked you to get my mom out because you're the only one I trusted to do it."

"I know."

She turned, hugging him. "You do?"

"I do. You look good. Fairly unscathed."

"Yeah, fairly. There's something I need to tell you, though."

"Okay."

She left her arm around him as they walked indoors. For the next three months this was their house. It was sort of depressing, actually, because she'd be used to seeing him every day, every night and then come fall she'd be back to seeing him once a month or so. She couldn't think about that now.

"Well, Faith tried to kill Angel."

"What?"

"Well, I don't think she was really trying to kill him actually. Her aim was too off for it not to be intentional. She poisoned him."

"All right."

"The only cure was a slayer's blood."

"Uh huh." He seemed more intent on making sure she was really all right, which was fine.

"I tried to get her, to take her to him, but she got away. Barely. She's in a coma."

"A coma?"

"Yes."

"Jesus, Buffy, what did you do?"

"Two slayers, fighting to the death."

"Okay, I'm glad I wasn't there."

She laughed. "Anyway, I, um," she averted his eyes and showed him her neck, pulling her hair away so he could see. "I let him."

"Ah. Okay. I get it."

He reached, touching her neck with his fingertip. She couldn't feel it too well, scar tissue she guessed.

"I couldn't let him die, Lindsey."

"And you thought I'd be mad?"

"Well, yeah, I know you always wonder what would have been between us if I hadn't met you."

"But you did meet me, so it's not important. If he wanted a shot at you, Buffy, he wouldn't have come to LA. I'm not saying he didn't like you, love you, or whatever his feelings were for you. I know he did, because everything he felt I feel. Ten times as much. But, he knew you'd moved on, so he left. It was the noble thing, the right thing to do."

"So, you're okay?"

"Yes."

"We're okay?"

"Are you planning on donating your blood to his cause every day?"

"No. It was a one-time thing."

"Then there's nothing for us not to be okay about, Buffy. I know why you did it. I get it. He's fighting for your cause. He'd have done the same for you if he could have."

"He did."

"What?"

"He was with Xander when he saved my life. If it wasn't for Angel, Xander wouldn't have known where to go. I would have died down there."

"Well, then, I'd say you're even."

"I guess we are."

"I know you care for him. I get that."

"Thank you. You're too good to me." She cupped his face, tearing up. She seemed to be doing that a lot today. She kissed him.

"Nah."

She rested her cheek against his, just enjoying being able to hug him. Hold him. Willow had been shocked they hadn't done the usual rent a room for Prom. Buffy had thought about it, but Lindsey seemed like he wanted to wait. Until what she wasn't sure.

"You are."

"You wouldn't be saying that if you knew what I was thinking right now."

"What's that?"

"Do you really want to know?"

"Yes. Tell me."

"I'm wondering how much time has to go by before I get to show you where you'll be sleeping."

"Do I look tired?"

He smiled then with a soft chuckle and nodded, kissing her lips. It was such a gentle moment, which didn't help with her teary mood any. He took her lower lip between his teeth and tugged on it before pulling away.

"Terribly."

"Oh. Well, in that case."

"Buffy, if I get you up there."

She draped her arms around his shoulders, pulling him against her. "I'm not that tired, Lindsey."

"But you've only been here for like half an hour."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"It seems like there should be some time limit or something on how long you're here and my being able to tear your clothes off."

She smiled widely. He'd avoided talking like this until recently, when they'd talked about and decided she'd stay with him for the summer not her dad.

"What if I take them off instead? Does the time limit still apply?"

He groaned softly, kissing her jaw.

"I should get some sort of award or something," he murmured as he found her ear with his mouth.

She sucked in a breath, startled at the feeling that washed over her as he swirled her ear with his tongue. "Oh?"

"Yes. Almost two years."

"That was your choice."

"I know it was. In a hotel room seemed so wrong."

"I get that." And she did. It was one of the reasons she loved him. There were so many it was difficult to keep track anymore. The fact that he cared enough about her, wanted to be sure her first time wasn't something she regretted later.

She gasped when his mouth found the bite marks on her neck. "Oh God," she cried out, her eyes falling closed. She shouldn't have felt anything there, but his mouth and tongue were making her aware the skin there wasn't as dead as she thought. Her body clenched as he nipped at the skin next to the bite marks.

"Lindsey."

He drew away, stood slowly almost as if he was drunk and raked his fingers through his hair. "I'm sorry."

"What are you sorry for?" She was confused. Had she said or done something to make him think she wanted him to stop?

"I. God, you're not even here an hour."

"Lindsey, I'm not complaining. God, I was. Holy cow. It was nice. You've never done that before. Not like that."

"Because I knew if I started I wouldn't be able to stop." He held his hand out in front of him. "I'm trembling, Buffy. I've never," he shook his head, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

"You've never what?"

"A couple of times in college. It's been so long. And never with feelings involved."

"You didn't like the girls?"

"Girl. Just one. And, sure I liked her, but I didn't love her. I didn't want to live with her. And I realized when we were over that I didn't want to lose focus on my coursework."

"There's nothing wrong with that."

"Oh God, you're not hearing me."

"I'm trying to. I'm listening. What?"

"I don't want to disappoint you."

She laughed then and stood from the couch. She could tell it took a lot out of him to admit that. He was unsure. Maybe there was more to his waiting than just her being ready. Maybe he hadn't been ready either. Love was a pretty intense emotion to play around with.

She worked the buttons on her blouse, normally nimble fingers working slowly, clumsily. She hoped she was being seductive as she took a couple of steps toward him and then stopped. She let the blouse fall to her shoulders and undid the front clasp of her bra, letting it fall loose. She was aroused already, visibly so. Just from him kissing her, nuzzling her. Her peaks stood at attention, perky and hardened, waiting for relief. To be touched. By him. His hands, his mouth, his tongue. It didn't matter.

"Does this look like I'm disappointed?"

"Buffy."

She took the last few steps she needed to take to press against him. "Are we going to dance around this all summer?"

He smirked then. "Dancing wasn't first thing on my mind."

"No?"

"No."

She blinked and took a deep breath, grabbing hold of his hand. She pressed it against her stomach. He'd touched her stomach before, but never with her shirt open like this. "Show me what's on your mind, Lindsey."

His mouth found hers as his hand slid higher along her torso to cup a breast. She groaned, almost a purr really, and met his tongue with hers. She hoped he realized she'd been about as assertive as she was capable of. She was more than willing and able, but the actual instigating she was a little nervous about.

She apparently didn't have to worry about him not being assertive. It seemed all it took was letting him know she really was willing. And, maybe knowing she was here with him to stay not a hotel room or his car. His kisses became urgent, needy, which was fine because she felt those things, too. Her body was like a car that had just been hot wired.

He found the bite mark on her neck again and she groaned as he helped her shed her blouse and bra. His mouth found her breast and her knees just about buckled under her. He guided her to the couch. She'd imagined, thought on what all of this would feel like. Her imagination hadn't been very accurate. There was no way she could have anticipated feeling this way.

Her head fell against the back of the couch as his hand was attentive to the breast his mouth wasn't on at the moment. She lifted her hips, her legs going around his as best as she could given their position. She wanted him, needed him. She arched into him as he rolled a nipple between his teeth, crying out. Was it possible to orgasm just from this?

She felt like she should be doing something, but she wasn't quite sure what. Her imagination had never really gotten to the down and dirty part of things. Her hands found his shirt, the buttons there and she worked those. She wasn't sure if the groan came from her or him when she touched his bare chest with her hands, stroking one of his nipples in much the same way he was doing to hers.

He switched breasts and the sensations, the arousal started all over again. It hadn't faded, so instead it was just compounding. More on top of more until she felt like she was going to burst.

"Lindsey, please," she murmured. She wasn't even sure what she was asking, no pleading, for. She just knew he could do it, whatever it was.

"I don't have anything."

Her eyes snapped open at that. She was on the pill, so that wasn't a problem. But after two years he wasn't prepared for this happening?

"Huh? I guess I should take that as a compliment you weren't certain I was a sure thing."

He chuckled, kissing her abdomen. "No, honey, just not here in the living room." He nipped at her belly button, circling it with his tongue.

"Ohhh," she cried out as his tongue slithered lower. And lower still until he had to unfasten her pants. Think, Buffy, think. "I'm on the pill."

"You are?"

She nodded with a whimper, hoping he understood that was a yes. His fingers were sliding under her panties now.

"A couple of months ago. Just in case."

"Smart woman."

She laughed at that. He knelt in front of her, sliding her pants and panties off. She took a peak to be sure she had worn a nice pair today. Yup, red satin. Brand new, too, so they weren't faded or anything. Evidently, her brain had carnal things on it when she got dressed.

Her soft laughter was cut off when he slid a finger inside of her. He hissed as she arched into him, pushing against him. Her legs, still wrapped him were trying to pull him closer, into her where he belonged. Where she needed him to be.

"Do you have any idea how much it turns me on knowing no one's done this to you before?"

She bit her lower lip, forcing her eyes to open and shook her head.

"You are so amazing. I knew that first day on the beach. I can't remember wanting anything as much as I want you." He slid his finger in deeper and she gasped. "And I don't mean just this way either."

"I know," she whispered. She did know. They'd built something pretty amazing over the last two years.

"Christ, Buffy, don't do that!"

"Do what?"

He chuckled. "You clenched."

"That's bad?"

"I, uh, I could probably get myself off just doing this. So, no, not bad, just I had better in mind for our first time. Your first time."

"Oh," she whispered. She smiled then. "Maybe you should undress yourself then and," she let her eyes drift to the front of his jeans. "And maybe replace your finger with something more useful."

"Useful, huh. I'll remind you of that some other time when you're begging me to use them more."

"Okay," she said softly and watched as he stood. He wasn't very careful about how he undressed. In fact, he seemed downright hurried, which just turned her on even more.

"You sure you don't want to go upstairs? To our bed?"

"We have plenty of time for a bed."

He knelt in front of her and kissed her, spreading her legs. "That we do. It's just."

She cut him off by thrusting her hips against him. He was definitely ready. "This is special, Lindsey. It's with you."

He tried to be careful, gentle, she could tell but he gave in to what his body wanted. What she wanted. She wanted all of him, gentle and not so gentle. Slow and fast. Deep and shallow. All of it. He gave and gave. She took it all, letting him push her body and mind both to the limit until she burst with a strangled cry. He followed soon after.

"Definitely Superman," she whispered after a few minutes, kissing his jaw.

"Huh?"

"A while ago you said something about being Superman for not molesting me."

He chuckled, brushing his jaw against her neck. She shifted, arching into him, drawing him deeper one last time. She cried out as her body gave a last spasm around him, which resulted in pushing him out.

"Sorry," she murmured, kissing his jaw again, lapping at it with her tongue.

"It's okay. It would have happened sooner rather than later anyway. But, give me a little while and if you're not sore or anything."

"Slayer healing. I think I'll be just dandy."

"Why didn't that heal?" He kissed the marks in question.

"I don't know. I haven't seen Angel since to ask him. I imagine it has something to do with the fact he didn't close them. But, I don't know. It's the first time I've gotten a scar since I was called, so it's definitely strange."

He shifted so he was under her, which was a tricky thing on a couch without dislodging one or both of them. He held her to him, she rested her head against his chest. She listened to his heart. It was pumping so fast. She had caused that.

"You okay?"

"Yes, more than okay. I'm sorry. Are we supposed to talk about it now or something?"

He laughed, brushing some of her hair away from her face. "We can do whatever you like."

"Well, I say we try out the bed next. And then maybe order in. I don't plan on wearing clothes again for days."

"Days, huh?"

"Yup."

"I sure hope I'm up to the task, ma'am."

"We'll see what we can do about that."

"It's a rough job."

"I know, terrible." She shifted and kissed him. "I love you."

"I love you, too, Buffy. More than you know."

She did know. They didn't say the words often, but the actions were there even when the words weren't. He treated her well, with respect, as his equal. He didn't seem to mind she was stronger than he was, that she was a superhero complete with secret identity. She let her eyes drift close, letting the beat of his heart lull her to sleep.

Chapter Text

**Part Thirteen**

"So where did Lindsey run off to?"

"I'm not sure," Buffy answered her mother. "He said he wanted us to have some time together since we haven't really seen each other since graduation. There aren't that many places in Sunnydale he could go, though. So probably the mall or something."

"You know, I had my doubts, some reservations, but he seems good for you. And to you."

"He is."

"As long as you're still going to school."

"I'm not dropping out, Mom. I'll be back in a couple of weeks for registration."

"Good." Joyce put the last of the dinner dishes in the rack. That was Buffy's signal to start drying.

"How's work?"

"Good. Busy. We're having a show later this week, so we're getting that ready."

"Neat." Buffy wasn't much into art, beyond noticing whether a painting was pretty or not.

"Have you seen your father?"

"Yes, a few times."

"How is he?"

"He's fine. He's Dad. You know, the same."

"Good."

Buffy realized her parents probably didn't talk too much anymore. Now that Buffy was older and not getting into trouble, there wasn't much need. Especially now that her mother knew why Buffy was getting into trouble in the first place.

"It's almost like you're visiting. It seems so strange."

"Mom, this will always be home."

"I know. It's just that you'll leave when Lindsey comes to pick you up. You'll be starting college in a couple of weeks. Soon, you'll be gone."

"Mom. You're thinking way far ahead."

"It happens when your little girl grows up. You'll understand one day."

"Mm, I'm not sure I will."

"You don't think you'll have kids?"

"Not so much, Mom."

"It's too bad things didn't work out with Faith."

"Even if they had, I can't just walk away. It doesn't work that way."

"I know that, I do, but that doesn't mean I can't hope. Pray. Wish. I just want to know you're safe, Buffy. That's all any mother wants to know."

"I know."

The dishes done, they sat down on the couch with some ice cream and old movies to pass the time until Lindsey came to pick her up for their date in LA with Willow and Oz.

"So, has Lindsey said anything about after this summer?"

"What's there to say? We'll do the long distance thing again."

"That's going to be hard, isn't it? After living with him for three months."

"Yes."

"You are. I should have had this conversation with you this spring. You are being careful?"

"Yes, Mom. No accidental grandbabies for you."

"Good. I mean, not that I wouldn't love it. I just want you to finish college. Have the chance at a life."

"Me, too."

"Have you checked in with Mr. Giles?"

"Yes, pretty regularly. We have to be careful, you know. Lindsey doesn't want any calls going to Giles' house."

"I was wondering why you got a cell phone all of the sudden."

"That's why."

"Are you okay? I mean, are you in danger?"

"No more than usual, Mom. Things are going fine, I guess."

"Have you seen Angel?"

"No. And I'm sure I won't unless it's absolutely necessary. Like end of the world stuff."

"Mr. Giles and I worry about you."

"I know, but I'm okay. I don't know if this is a forever thing, but it's the only way we could find out. I mean, I couldn't date someone like that."

Her mom reached over and hugged her. Buffy didn't miss the tears in her eyes. "I know, honey. And it's clear he loves you."

"Is it?"

"Yes. I remember people telling me how they could tell your father loved me. A look in his eyes. The way he looks at you. I could never see it, I was too personally involved. But I see it in Lindsey."

"Really?"

"Yes, and I see it in you, too."

"Well, I hope so. I wouldn't live with just anyone."

"I know that, which is why I didn't object more than I did."

There was a light knock on the door.

"I told him he could just come in."

"Don't complain about him being polite, Buffy. That's a good thing."

"I know. It's just. I'm living with him, he can walk into your house, too."

They both walked to the door. Lindsey's arrival meant Buffy's visit had come to an end. Buffy couldn't help but smile at him when she opened the door. It still amazed her that he was hers. That the cohabitating thing was working. He looked amazing just now. Better than usual. There was a glimmer in his eyes that told her he was very happy about something.

"Are you going to see Willow and Xander?"

"Xander isn't in town and Oz had a gig in LA. I didn't know that until we'd already planned to come down. We're going to go see it, though."

"Oh good. I was wondering why you were cutting the day so short."

"Yeah, sorry."

"It's okay, honey. You'll be back down soon and I'll see more of you. Or not," she said with a light laugh. "I remember what it was like to be in college. The last thing I would have wanted was to hang out with my mother."

"But you're a cool mom."

"I'll remember that the next time you complain about my not giving you enough money for clothes."

"Very funny," Buffy said, kissing her mom. "We'll see you soon."

"Okay, Buffy. Bye, Lindsey, it was nice seeing you, too. You really didn't have to go anywhere."

"Thanks, Mrs. Summers, I just wanted you two to be able to catch up. I know it's a bit of an adjustment and you haven't seen her all summer."

"Call me Joyce," she said, giving Lindsey a hug. "Drive safe."

"I always do with Buffy with me."

"Good."

Joyce walked to the driveway with them, waving as Lindsey pulled the car onto the street.

"How was your visit?"

"It was nice. What did you do?"

"Went to that magic shop downtown. It looked interesting."

"Oh?"

"Yeah."

"Oh, okay. Just call me clueless girl."

"Well, I know your mom wanted some time alone with you, no matter what she said. It passed the time. And we men know it's best not to upset future mothers-in-law."

"You were gone for quite a while just to visit a magic shop."

They were talking in riddles on purpose. Lindsey admitted he wasn't sure if his paranoia was warranted, but they were always careful.

He chuckled. "Not when I'm there to buy my girlfriend a gift."

"Like there aren't stores in LA?"

"Mm. Well, I was there. So, why not? I never get tired of buying you things."

"Ah, I see."

"So, you ready to see Willow and Oz?"

"Yes, I've been ready since I found out. Thank you for letting them stay the night."

"Your friends are my friends and they're both good people."

"Yeah, they are."

She tried not to beam at his casually mention her mother was going to be his future mother-in-law. They'd been together long enough now the thought had crossed her mind. She just wasn't sure about him. Some might say he was her first real boyfriend and she shouldn't count on it lasting. She liked to think they would be the exception to the rule. Otherwise, he'd have risked his life and a pretty lucrative career for nothing.

They got to the club where the Dingo's were playing. Buffy had to laugh when Lindsey of all people had presented her with a fake ID when she'd first come up for the summer. It seemed just wrong that an attorney would engage in illegal behavior. It was nice not getting a stamp on the hand, though.

"There's Willow," Buffy said, having spotted Willow immediately. She was with a group sitting right up in front like a good loyal groupie. She waved with her free hand, her other one clutching Lindsey's to keep him close. The Dingo's were opening for an up and coming band. Most of the audience was here for them, Buffy hoped that meant good things for the Dingo's.

They made their way through the crowd to the table where Willow was working diligently at keeping others away from the chairs reserved for Buffy and Lindsey.

"Hi, Wil," she said, giving her friend a hug. It hadn't been that long since she'd seen her, but it seemed like it for some reason.

"Hi, Buffy, Lindsey. How was dinner at your mom's?"

"Fine."

"She was okay with you leaving early?"

"Yes, she understood."

"Good."

That was about all the chance they had to talk. Apparently, she and Lindsey had gotten there in the nick of time. The Dingo's took the stage within minutes of them taking their seats. They played great. They always did.

"Looks like that Devon dude's going to get lucky," Lindsey whispered in Buffy's ear.

"Huh?" She caught where Lindsey was looking. Sure enough, someone had stars in their eyes and they were directed at Devon. The Dingo's were busy breaking down their equipment so the main band of the night could take over.

"He's a pretty good guy," Buffy said.

"I think you'd say that about most people who don't have fangs, but that's one thing I love about you. You see good in people. It's a lost art and I've found it's kind of contagious having you around me all of the time." Lindsey kissed her, then turned his attention to Willow. "You guys know how to get back to our house, right?"

"Yup. Oz has the directions written down."

"Okay. Just in case we get separated."

"You guys don't have to stay all night either," Willow said.

"No, Wil, we want to stay. I haven't seen you since graduation. We're not bailing. I promise."

"Okay."

It was well after three in the morning by the time they made it back to Lindsey's house.

"So, what did you tell your mom?"

"That I was staying with you."

"And you left out the part that I'm not staying with my dad this summer?"

"Don't you know it? I'm not dumb."

"Good, I'm glad you wanted to stay here. I know it might be weird."

"Not at all. I think it's great what you're doing, that you can do it. I wish I was brave enough. Not yet, though."

"You will, one day. I think Mom's a lot cooler because of everything else she knows about me. Living with my boyfriend doesn't seem so monumental when compared to the rest."

"I suppose not. It's just too bad it's only temporary."

"What's temporary?" Lindsey asked, joining them in the living room.

"Oh," Willow said.

"We were talking about our living arrangement. And how things will go back to the status quo when I go back in a couple of weeks for school."

"Ah," he said, taking a sip of his water. "Well, I was planning on waiting until later to tell you, but I may as well now since it's the current subject of discussion."

"Tell me what?"

"I'm moving to Sunnydale with you."

"Get out!"

"I am. Out of this house, out of this town. I'm going to turn in my notice at Wolfram & Hart Monday."

"Can you do that?"

He chuckled. Buffy realized too late what she'd said. They were very careful of saying much of anything in his house, not sure if anyone was listening. Lindsey had claimed he wouldn't put it past them. Buffy had been creeped out by that thought at first, especially when they were in bed together.

"Of course I can. I had an interview today with a private practice attorney who was more than happy to get someone with my courtroom experience. It seems there were quite a few deaths in the high school explosion. Law suits aplenty, more work than he can handle and some of them are above and beyond what he usually does."

"What about this house?"

"I'll sell it."

"But you can't buy a house in Sunnydale!" He'd never get his money back on a house in Sunnydale. He had to know that.

"No, we'll rent until you're done with college then decide where to go from there. I'll invest the money I get from this place so we'll have a nest egg to work with when you're done."

"You're serious?"

"Deadly. As Willow and Oz as my witnesses, Buffy, I'm in this. I don't know how else I can convince you of that. Until you decide you want to get rid of me anyway."

She threw her arms around him and kissed him, unable to restrain herself or cover up her excitement.

"I believe you."

"Good."

"I can't believe this. It's amazing. You're sure you'll have enough work?"

"Positive. And, hey, there's always prosecuting if I get desperate."

"Are they going to let you go," she whispered in his ear.

"I'm allowed to quit," he whispered back. "As long as they see my reason for leaving is legitimate. I'll have to sign some papers. Basically, that I'll never talk about what I saw or worked on."

He didn't sound completely confident, but she had to believe he knew what he was doing. He was right, though, it was going to be too difficult to go back to seeing one another once a month.

"You really don't have to do this, Lindsey. I know you like your job and you have a chance for that promotion you've been telling me about."

"I know, but there comes a time when a man realizes work isn't all that matters. You matter. I want to be with you. You're in Sunnydale, so that's where I go, too."

"This is amazing. I thought you were too good to be true. Now, I know you are!"

"There's just one thing."

"Anything."

"You have to tell me where we should live. So, you know, we're close to campus and stuff."

"You want me to live with you?"

"Uh, yeah. What did you think I was suggesting?"

"I don't know."

"I said we'll rent."

"I guess I wasn't paying attention to the technicals, I was so busy being surprised."

"Ah yes, that you were. So, you can do that? Help me pick something out?"

"Yes."

"And then just one other thing."

"Okay."

"You have to wear this," he said, holding up a ring. He cleared his throat and she saw some tears in his eyes. "It's not much. It's my mama's. She gave it to me when I left Oklahoma, wanted me to have it. I think she knew I wouldn't be coming back. She wanted me to have something to remember her by. To pass on to the woman I want to be with. It's the only good thing my Pa ever did I think, bought her this. He loved her at the time. That was before he got lost in a bottle and thought the switch was the answer to his problems. Us kids being his problems."

"Lindsey," she said softly as he slid the ring onto her finger.

"I had it sized for you. Your mom helped me with that, so hopefully it'll," he paused as the ring caught at her knuckle. It went on, though. "Fit."

"It's perfect. It's beautiful."

"A beautiful ring for a beautiful woman."

"You want me to have it?"

"Well, yeah, until we get you a wedding band to replace it."

"A wedding band? Lindsey."

"In due time. Once you've finished school and we know where we're going to call home. Until then, I want every guy on campus to know you're well and truly off the market."

"Hmm, I've been off the market since the night of that bonfire." She kissed him, nuzzling against his neck.

"Uh, we're going to head to our room, leave you guys alone. All this romantic stuff, makes me want to make some time with my girl while I have the chance. Thanks for coming and thanks for the place to crash."

They all said their good nights. Buffy knew she and Willow would have a lot to talk about in the morning.

"I think that's the most I've ever heard him say," Lindsey said with a light laugh.

"Me, too."

"Now, where were we?"

"My being off the market since the bonfire."

"Can we send that idiot an invitation?"

"Which idiot?" She knew who he was talking about.

"That guy, the one that let you get away."

"Mm, nope, I only need one guy there. And that's you."

"Oh, good, because if I wasn't included on the guest list."

She chuckled. "So, does this mean we're like officially engaged? Or is this unofficial?"

"It's as official as it gets if you'll have me."

"Yes!"

"Now about this house we'll be renting in Sunnydale," he said, sliding his arm around her as he led her toward the stairs. It seemed Oz wasn't the only one with making time with his girl on his mind.

"Yes?"

"We need a big bedroom. I don't care about any other room in the house, but we need room for our bed."

"Mm, definitely, baby, you've spoiled me but good in that department."

"You know what they say."

"What's that?"

"Once you go king, baby, you never go back."

She slid her hand along his thigh. "King sized bed to match other king sized things."

"Oh wow, do you know a way to a man's heart."

"It wasn't your heart I was aiming for."

"That works, too."

"Mm, I thought it might."

"Let me show you how well."

~The End~