"Come in," Faith called, hearing someone knocking as she modeled the dress in the full length mirror of her suite's bedroom.
Wes came in and stopped dead His blue eyes widened appreciatively even as he blushed. "Oh, I'm sorry, Faith. I didn't realize you were still in your slip."
Faith scowled at him then at Harmony. "I told you this was too slutty, Harmony." She tugged at the silk hem line that cut right across her thigh. Barring the beaded little heart over her right breast, it did look like a slip.
"Ignore Wesley. What does he know?" Harmony glared at Wes. "That's a Marc Jacobs and it's perfect."
"Oh, that's the dress." Wes eyed the barely-there black silk.
"The little black dress, you know, Wes. No wonder you don't have a girlfriend if you don't know that," Harmony scolded.
"I know we're going to be very late for our meeting tonight, Harmony, if you don't get ready," Wes said, impatiently.
"It's that late? I'm so not ready," Harmony squealed, her hands covering her mouth.
"Angel's an old fashioned guy. I should wear the other dress. Unzip me, Harmony," Faith said, feeling odd on turning her back to a vampire.
"Other dress?" Wes asked as Harmony yanked down the zipper.
"The Kay Unger, that's perfect for your skin tone," Harmony said then fled.
"I did manage to stop her at two dresses," Faith said, then raised an eyebrow at Wes as she started wiggling out of the silk cocktail dress.
Wes blushed more deeply and turned his back. She figured he was peeking. What man wouldn't? Faith didn't mind. She was actually wearing silk underwear, a pale shell pink that Harmony insisted would go under any dress without showing. Faith pulled on the other dress, a floor length gown in pale green brocaded silk. The floral brocading matched the silk, pale blue, tiered bodice and the bow of the jacket, which tied just under her breasts, highlighting them. She zipped it up as much as she could without turning into a circus acrobat. "Wes, could you finish me off? I swear, zippers up the back of the dress are a man's way of keeping us dependent on them."
Wes zipped her up. "The flaw with that theory, Faith, is this dress was designed by a woman."
She looked over her shoulder. "Who's trapped by years of male oppression."
Wes laughed. "That doesn't sound like the Faith I know."
"It sounds like Barb, one of my cell mates." Faith grinned, smoothing the dress then pulling on the jacket. "She was a rampaging feminist."
"What did she do?"
"Black widowed about five husbands for the insurance money." Faith twirled. "How do I look?"
Wes caught one of her hands, stopping her. "You are stunning. This dress is lovely."
"You think? I don't want to embarrass Angel or anything." Faith cast a fretful glance back at the mirror. "Do you think he'll like this?"
"Faith, if by some quirk of fate he can't see how beautiful you are, I'll give him a sound thrashing on your behalf," he promised, a little smile touching his lips.
Faith snickered. "I'd pay to see it. I just want to get this right. I've never really been to a high brow event before."
Wes tipped her chin up. "Relax, Faith. Be yourself."
Her face screwed up. "Which me is that, Wes? White trash girl? Slayer? Murderer?"
Wes' blue eyes dimmed. "How about the woman you could become and should have become if we had done right by you in the first place?"
Faith couldn't meet his gaze. "You'd better stop before I cry and ruin the make up and Harmony fangs me for it."
Wes smiled gently. "She did a good job. I like your hair."
Faith touched her rhinestone-studded up-do gently, not sure how stable it was. "Thanks. Harmony said it was all the rage with the celebrities."
"You look so nervous, Faith. Try to relax. You'll have a good time. I understand Angel can be a gentleman." He patted her arm. "More importantly, you know Angel well."
Faith wagged her head. "Almost too well. I've never known anyone like this, Wes. After the whole Orpheus trip, I know Angel's secrets, almost all of them. I've never felt so connected to anyone."
"I can imagine it would be an intense experience going deeper than the top notes with someone," Wes said.
Faith's brow wrinkled. "What?"
"Wine reference." He shrugged.
She rolled her eyes. "I'm more of a beer and whiskey girl."
Wes smiled. "The top notes are the first taste, the more superficial impression. What you want are the undertones, the deeper impressions."
Faith bobbed her head. "I get what you're saying. Thanks, Wes."
"My pleasure. Now I'd better get going or I'll be the one holding up our big engagement for the evening. Angel's waiting for you in his office."
"Okay. Wes, am I getting a hint that this big commitment of everyone's is a giant dodge so no one else would have to go to the ball?"
Wes grinned. "Don't be so suspicious and have fun."
"I will." Faith let him go while she put on the cubic zirconium jewelry Harmony insisted she get. She hoped Angel wouldn't freak out when he saw the bill. She took a long look at her reflection. "Okay, Cinderella, let's go."
Faith didn't know how Buffy wore heels like this to fight in. Faith preferred the chunkier heels herself. The spike-heeled satin Manolo Blahnik pumps with the glitter of rhinestones sprinkled over the toes that Harmony had talked her into were murderous. She paused outside of Angel's office, her heart pounding. "You're being ridiculous," she told herself and walked in.
Angel was looking at the TV he had in his office, glancing up at her hearing her heels clicking. From his expression Faith knew she had passed inspection, knowing full well when a man was interested in her. It couldn't be more obvious if Angel's eyes bugged out and his tongue lolled like a cartoon wolf. She suddenly felt a lot better, like she was on familiar ground. She was used to men wanting her but it never mattered before. Those other men meant nothing to her beyond proving she had control over her body, that it was her choice to be with them, not like when she was a little girl. Faith shuddered, no she wasn't going to think on that. It was too ugly and this was going to be her night. Robin had helped her see men as more than objects. It was a revelation and she owed him big for that. She felt ready to be the new her.
"Looking good in the tux, Angel," Faith said then grimaced. It sounded so lame, even if it was true. He wore black on black with a stark white shirt, very traditional and she was so glad she hadn't listened to Harmony and worn the little black dress. She would have felt like she was standing there half dressed in her slip.
Angel got up, coming over to her, taking a long appreciative look at her. "You look beautiful."
Faith felt her cheeks pink up like she was some kind of innocent. "Thanks. Ready?"
"I am now."
Faith found herself babbling nervously in the limo. She wondered if this was why Willow and Buffy talked so much, nerves. She'd never been in a limo before except once with the Mayor and that was totally different. Angel just let her yammer, even answering questions about was his tux really wool because she didn't know wool was so soft. Damn, she had been hanging around Harmony too long but at least she was right it was wool, merino wool woven in Italy. She wondered if Harmony or, more likely, Wes, had picked it out for him. Did Angel know anything about clothes?
Dinner was even more uncomfortable than the limo, neither of them eating much. Angel for the obvious reasons, she was afraid of using the wrong fork or dropping something on her dress or putting her elbows on the table by mistake. Unfortunately Lorne was seated at a different table and she wasn't able to fall back on his social ease and take cues from him. She was just as glad when dessert arrived and the speakers started begging for money.
She glanced over at Angel. His eyes were as glazed over as she was sure hers were. "You look ready to bolt," she whispered to him.
"This is so dull." He glanced over at her and quickly added, "Except for the company."
"Nice save." She started clapping just because everyone else had launched into it. She had no idea what the speaker had said to warrant it.
"Maybe you'll enjoy it more once the music starts," Angel said, taking out his check book like everyone else was doing.
Faith assumed once business was done, the party would really begin. Her eyes bugged out when she saw the amount Angel was signing to the corporate check. "You know, Angel, slaying's a non-paying gig." She nodded her chin at the checkbook.
"Should I be telling you to talk to your so-called employers?" He smirked.
"I'd like to see that happen. Actually, I think Buffy has brought it up. We can barely hold down real jobs and do the slaying and now that there are so many of us, we'd run through the Watchers' accounts even as big as they are. We need to be hooked up with a place like Wolfram and Hart to bring in the dough."
"I'll introduce Giles to David Nabbit," Angel said.
"Who?" Faith hadn't expected Angel to take her seriously.
"An independent financial wizard, not associated with the firm. He's rich as Croesus and very good at generating cash flow."
Her eyes lit up mischievously. "Is he fun?"
Angel shrugged. "I guess, if you like them short, round and kind of dumpy."
Faith cocked an eyebrow. "You noticed?"
Angel pulled out the check and handed it to one of the buxom girls collecting them. "I had to listen to Cordelia weighing his looks versus his money. He's a good guy, a little geeky, likes to play Dungeons and Dragons and has a taste for demon woman."
Faith wagged her head. "He needs to meet Xander and Andrew."
Angel snorted. "I'm sure Giles would thank me for that."
"Yeah, with a stake in the heart." Faith looked longingly at the dance floor in the middle of the banquet hall . The crowd was slowly trickling out onto it. "So, are we going to dance?"
"You can dance all you like. I don't dance," Angel replied.
"Not even with Buffy?" Faith instantly regretted having asked.
He didn't seem offended. "A couple of slow dances, that's all."
"Hmmm." Faith tucked her hand under her chin.
She canted her eyes over at him. "Just wondering what Cinderella is supposed to do when Prince Charming is a dud."
He pouted. "A dud?"
"Girls like to dance, Angel." Faith patted his hand. "Being as old as you are, I'd have thought you'd know that."
Angel shook his head, a look of consternation on his face. "Let's put it this way, Angelus is nowhere near as scary as me fast dancing."
Faith bubbled with laughter. "Now there's an image."
"There'd be worse images if I actually danced," he assured her. "Sorry, I probably should have told you that before you agreed to come to the dance."
"I still would have wanted to come," Faith answered honestly.
Angel's smile deepened. "That's good to know. Would you like a drink?"
Faith eyed the bar. Usually she'd opt for a beer but wasn't sure with this high brow crowd the bar would even serve it. All she knew about wine was it gave her headaches. She ran her memory for mixed drinks that didn't sound suggestive. All the ones she knew best went right out the window, Harvey Wallbanger, sex on the beach, screaming orgasms, blow jobs, sloe screws. "Um, how about a Black Russian?" Did she even like them? Well, at least it wasn't too suggestive.
"Okay. They have a nice koi pond here in the gardens if you'd like to have a look," Angel said, getting up.
"Um, sure." Faith wasn't a hundred percent she knew what koi were but she followed Angel to the bar and let him order. He led her outside, a scotch in hand and she with her Black Russian, which was sweeter than she anticipated but good. She could see herself drinking one more Black Russian, but just one. She didn't want to get drunk and embarrass Angel.
The hotel's private gardens were well lit, which was just as well. L.A.'s light pollution had turned the night sky a sickly orange and had stolen the moon. This was not the night sky poets wrote about nor painter's painted. Still, she felt a hundred times more relaxed outside. There were just a few couples meandering about and no one seemed interested in her and Angel.
"This is so much better." She sighed.
His hand brushed her shoulder. "I thought it might be."
"Do you get the feeling that if you weren't the boss of a fortune five hundred corporation, they'd be looking at you like you were the handy man?" Faith glanced back at the hotel, feeling horribly out of place.
His lips pulled into a grim line. "Very much so."
"When some of those women look at me, they're thinking 'slut'." Faith fussed with the bow on her jacket.
Angel put his hand in the small of her back. "I don't think you're a slut, Faith."
She snorted. "I know what I am, Angel. I just hate the disdain in their eyes, like they know they're so much better than me and I don't count for a damn."
"You sound a little like Darla."
She glanced at him curiously. "That bad?"
"Not necessarily. She was, in her own way, a strong woman. She earned a sizable estate four hundred years ago at a time when women were little more than property." Angel spoke with such a respectful tone, Faith couldn't help but notice.
"How'd she manage that?" Faith sensed he wanted to talk about it, like he was grasping for conservation topics.
"She was a prostitute," he replied without apology.
She hadn't been expecting that. "And a good one I'm guessing if she was that successful."
Angel laughed shortly. "I suppose you could say that. I'm not overly concerned with people's pasts, Faith, not if they're making honest attempts to change."
"I can see why that would be important to you," Faith floundered, not wanting to get in deep so fast. Her heart was trying to send messages she wasn't ready for. "You mentioned something about a koi pond."
"This way." Angel led her to the pond, also well lit with miniature pagodas in the lake, which was bisected by a bridge. A bench rested at the crest of the bridge. "The Koi can be pretty greedy."
Angel dug in his pants pocket and found his wall, fishing out a little spare change. He plugged it into a 'gumball' machine filled with pellets. "Put your hands under it."
Faith set her drink on top of the machine then cupped her hands, capturing a handful of pellets. Angel took her drink and they walked to the top of the bridge. Setting both drinks on the flat railing, Angel took a few pellets and tossed them into the water under the brilliant lighting. Faith watched dozens of fat colorful fish surface, their mouths flopping open and closed. Faith tossed some pellets, quickly learning she could lead the roiling mass of fish where ever she wanted.
"The Japanese bred them to be beautiful to look at from the top," Angel said.
"I like that one." Faith winged some at a huge aggressive orange, black and silvery-white fish.
"If you watch them long enough, they develop personalities. I thought about getting some for Wolfram and Hart's indoor garden." Picking up the drinks, Angel went and sat on the bench.
"What's up with that garden?" Faith dusted off her hands and went to sit with him.
Angel handed her back her drink. "It's a mix of an English garden and a zen garden. It's designed to be a place to get away from the stress of work on your breaks, give you a little calmness. It's good for the morale. I like to go there. I think the fish would be a nice touch.'
"It would be cool." Faith took a sip of her Black Russian.
"You look a little more relaxed," Angel said, resting his hand on hers.
She made a face. "That obvious, huh?"
"I'm afraid so." He patted her hand.
"I just didn't want to do anything dumb and embarrass you." She wiggled her toes in her shoes, trying to find some extra room. She failed. "I mean, this is almost like a date."
"Faith, it isn't almost a date," Angel said softly. "It is a date."
She glanced away. "You're okay with that?"
His hand caressed hers. "I wouldn't have said yes to you coming tonight, Faith, otherwise."
She turned, facing him. "Good, because I..." She broke off. It was so hard to crawl out on that ledge. What if she told him she really cared about him and he didn't feel the same way?
"It's okay, Faith. You can tell me anything," he assured her.
Faith sucked on her lower lip. "I'm not so sure."
"I am but if you don't want to talk that's fine, too." He squeezed her hand.
"It's complicated and all jumbled up, especially with the Orpheus trip." She was talking so fast she sounded like Willow. Faith made a face at the thought. "Wes said it was something about me knowing you down to the underpants or something."
Angel's brow pinched into a V. "What?"
"I don't know." Faith lifted her hands and let them fall against her thighs. "He was trying to explain something about top notes and under something."
Angel smiled. "Top notes and under tones."
"That's it." Faith gazed back out over the koi pond. "After the whole thing with the Orpheus, Angel, I know you so well."
"And it scares you."
Faith's head whipped around, hearing the pain in his voice. She took his hand again and gave him a comforting squeeze. "No, hell no, Angel. You don't scare me. Why would you?"
"I scared Cordelia." His dark eyes dimmed. "When she was on a higher plane, she got to see all of me and what Angelus did sickened her, ended anything we might have had."
Faith touched his cheek. "I might not have gotten the full Angelus hit but I've heard what Angelus had done and I know everything you did as Angel. Even without knowing it, I know you are a good man. Without you, Angel, I'd be dead or so evil Angelus would have wanted me as a partner."
She put a finger to his lips. "Let me talk. You tried harder than anyone to save me back in Sunnydale, here in L.A., even after what I did to Wes, in jail when you wouldn't let me give up on myself, when you wouldn't let me give in to the drug and die. I owe you everything, more than just my life."
"I was glad to do it, Faith. Helping you, helped me, my own steps on the path to redemption." He smiled softly.
"For my money, you're already redeemed." Faith leaned closer to him, noticing something missing, the lack of breath back on her skin. She wasn't used to that. When she kissed a man she expected his warm breath on her but there was none. She could make adjustments. Just before her lips met his, there was the sound of heels on the bridge. She sat back like she had been shoved. Angel looked a little like a boy who was about to be scolded.
"Maybe we should go inside. It'll give me a chance to try and make you rethink dancing," she said, getting up, smoothing out her silk gown. That might be safer, going back where people could see, she decided. They were moving too fast.
"I do slow dance a little," he admitted reluctantly. "I'm not even very good at that."
"You just stand there and rock back and forth." She laughed. "How hard can it be, Angel?"
"It used to be more complicated," he assured her, slipping an arm around her waist.
Faith leaned into his embrace as they went back inside and set their empty glasses down on the bar. Fast music still thumped inside the dance hall, something she had never heard and would have no idea how to dance to.
"Samba," he said as if reading her mind.
"Not my kind of music. Want another drink?" she asked.
He nodded and ordered another round of drinks then they retired to their table.
She looked at the dance floor, spotting Lorne in his pale lavender tux with its darker lavender bow tie and cummerbund. He looked like a dancing Easter egg. "I almost forgot Lorne was here."
"Organizing these events are part of his job," Angel said. "Lorne lives for this. He'll dance with you."
She considered it, wondering what it was like to dance with a guy with horns. "Does he have date who'll mind?"
Angel pointed at a creature covered in fine "Russian blue" fur. "That's his date. The normal folk think they're wearing costumes left over from Lorne's Vegas days."
"Oh, um, is that furry thing male or female?" Faith winced. She shouldn't have asked that.
Angel squinted at it. "I have no idea. I'm not even sure what sort of demon it is. I'd rather not know, you know?"
"No shit. Oh, hey, listen, a slow song," Faith said, hearing the music shift then her face fell. "But I have no idea what kind."
"It's a waltz."
Faith wrinkled her nose. "Who waltzes in this day and age?"
"Pretentious older rick folks," Angel replied.
She pouted. "I don't know how to waltz."
"I do," Angel said and she eyed him in surprise. "It's not hard. I could show you but you'll have to let me lead."
"I'm not good at letting men do that," she said, taking his offered hand.
"I suspected as much. That's why I brought it up. I'll lead you like this." He slid a hand in the small of her back, applying gentle pressure.
She bobbed her head. "I can do this."
Faith let him dance her out onto the floor. It was a little awkward at first but she fell into the four-step rhythm and anticipated the shifts in Angel's directions so they looked like they had actual skill and a long time partnership.
"This is nice," she said, resting her head against him.
"Faith, I want you to know you were worth every effort I put into helping you. You are becoming someone very special, someone less hurt and broken," he whispered.
She looked up at him, feeling unbidden tears pricking at her eyes. He inclined his head, his lips meeting hers softly. She closed her eyes, returning the kiss. His lips were cool - another adjustment she'd need to make - and he tasted smoky with scotch. The first kiss was brief, a tender, almost questioning gesture, feeling out the possibilities. The second was warmer, more ardent, the tip of his tongue pressing, nudging hers. Her tongue twisted over his like entwined clematis vines. When the kiss broke, she noticed Lorne and his partner had danced closer to them. Faith wondered if he was thinking he might be needing to call Willow for an emergency resouling. The look in his eyes said, yes he was. Angel spun her away from the demon's questioning gaze and kissed her again. This kiss lasted until the waltz melted into a tango. Faith felt Angel's shoulders tense and a look of panic etched into his broadly planed face.
"Let me guess, you can't tango." She grinned.
"Only if you want me to tramp on your feet."
"Not with those Frankenstein feet." She nudged his shoe. "Besides these shoes are Manolo Blahniks."
"Meaning what?" He scowled. "Frankenstein?"
Faith waved him off. "Meaning Harmony insisted they're 'all that' and they nearly cost six hundred dollars."
"Tell me you're kidding," he groaned, leading her back out to the gardens.
"I wish. The shoes cost more than the gown. She had her eyes on a pair of Ferragamo's, too. I'll give Harmony this, they make me look even hotter than usual but they aren't very comfortable."
He wagged his head. "For that money, you're going to be wearing them a lot, comfortable or no. That said, I would never want to go back to the time when men had to wear heels."
Faith tried to smother a laugh. "Sorry, just had a flash of you dressed up like Mel Gibson in The Patriot. "
Angel smiled. "I used to dress like that. I was a fashion plate."
"Somehow I can believe that." Faith couldn't help smiling. "Unless of course you count the 1970's and the '90's."
"Okay, you can't count the totally despondent homeless period." He wagged a finger at her. "Fashion was the last thing on my mind."
She held up her hands. "I'll give you that."
"As for the 70's, I was very fashionable," he said.
"Dude, in the Orpheus trip, I saw you in a leisure suit." Faith snickered.
"That was fashionable," Angel said in his defense.
"You also had on shiny vinyl clogs with two inch cork heels." Faith snorted.
"Faith, you tell that to anyone and I'll be forced to kill you." He tapped a finger on her nose.
"Does that go for the Barry Manilow jones you have, too?" She grinned from ear to ear.
His eyes narrowed. "Goes double."
The tip of her tongue peeked out. "Did you disco?"
"Have you not been listening to me and my feelings on dancing?" he asked, lightly.
She shrugged. "Well, you might have discoed."
"Not unless set on fire," Angel replied. He stroked her hair. "It feels very good to have someone who knows all about me. No one has known me, not for decades, not since I left Darla."
"Surely Buffy or Cordelia." Faith didn't want to bring them up. She wanted to keep them in his past but if she didn't acknowledge their importance then anything she had with Angel would be shrouded by half truths and secrets. She didn't want that "Or Wes and Gunn."
"None of them were ever very interested in my past. Buffy knew some of the really bad parts, a lot of them really, but we never really talked about my past. Mostly we talked about our future." Angel paused, looking pained. "Maybe everyone thought I wouldn't want to talk about it. I certainly never volunteered much. Maybe I should have. I guess I felt like I would sound like I was bragging about the good I was doing."
"Maybe. I could understand that but you did do good," she reminded him.
He shook his head. "Just a little here and there, mostly I kept my head down and just drifted without purpose."
"Until Sunnydale," she whispered.
"Until Sunnydale," he confirmed. "It gave me a new start."
"I have a less rosy outlook on Sunnydale." Faith tensed. "I guess L.A. and prison were sort of my Sunnydale."
"Or maybe the time now is," Angel said.
"I'd like to think so." Faith ran a nervous finger over her necklace. "At least, I've made some kind of peace with Wes, which I didn't really expect because, you know."
"Yes, all too well," he said bitterly.
"You and Giles." Faith bobbed her head. "Let's not talk about this now. I want to enjoy tonight."
He took her hand. "Have you been?"
"Parts of it. I love this garden and dancing with you." She leaned against him. "You kissed me."
He smiled faintly. "Shouldn't I have?"
"No, I was hoping you would and then I thought I shouldn't hope for it because of that curse of yours. Then I tell myself, if it's just a kiss, it doesn't necessarily mean anything more." She hated that she was babbling. Angel seemed to make her tap into her inner Willow.
"Do you want it to?" His finger caressed her cheek.
Faith trembled. "I'm not sure. I think so but it's a little scary."
"When you play close to the heart, it always is, Faith." Angel's voice was soft and tender.
She didn't know what to say for a moment. "If this goes somewhere, Angel, what happens then? Do we only get to be together so long as you're not perfectly happy? What kind of a future is that?"
"I don't know. I've never really had a chance to explore it. When I was with Buffy we thought it was...intimacy that caused the curse to lift. I know now that it isn't sex. Let's just say that there's been proof of that. It's happiness that will damage, and maybe just knowing that will keep me from being truly happy ever again."
Faith considered his words. "Sounds like maybe we shouldn't rush headlong into anything."
"That's usually good advice," he replied. "I'm willing to take my time with you, see what happens next."
"I'd like that."
They both quieted for what seemed like forever to Faith then Angel said, "I know I've already said how good you look tonight Faith but I really mean it. That dress is beautiful."
"Thanks. Harmony had another one she wanted me to buy, too, but I put the brakes to her. She said it was a perfect goddess dress." Faith made a face. "I'm no goddess."
Angel shook his head. "I wouldn't say that."
Faith snorted. "I'm a little violent for a goddess."
"Faith, most goddess are a little violent, especially the most beautiful among them, two sides of the coin; love on one, war and death on the other. You could easily be a goddess of old, Faith."
Faith was hoping there was enough shadow on her face to hide the blush. "Good. Why should Willow have all the fun. Angel, do you think you might have a few more dances in you?"
"So long as I'm not tangoing, we'll be okay," he assured her.
As they went back inside, Faith took one listen to the music and shot Angel a horrified look.
"Swing," he said, sighing. "I'd probably hurt you."
"Well, at least they're giving us variety," Faith said as Lorne hustled over to them.
"Are you two marshmallow peeps having a good time?" he bubbled.
"Pretty good. Angel's not much of a dancer," Faith said.
Lorne took her hand. "Come along then. This is my kind of music."
Faith looked over at Angel and he said, "Go ahead. I like to watch."
"Scratch any guy and you'll find a kink." She smirked and Angel feigned shock.
"And Angel-cakes, I'll get you all signed up for dance lessons first thing tomorrow," Lorne said.
Faith looked over her shoulder as Lorne pulled her out onto the dance floor. Angel had a look that said 'see what you've done to me.' She tried not to giggle at his distress. Lorne was a good dancer and Faith shared a few dances with him, assuring him she had no intentions of making Angel perfectly happy, which was one of the saddest things she had ever promised. The band slowed it down a few more times and she shared those dances with Angel.
It was closing in on midnight when Angel said, "You want to go home?"
She wasn't sure if that was an invite to something more but she'd take it as it came. "Yes, actually."
Lorne caught them on their way out. "Calling it an early night, pumpkins?"
"It's time," Angel replied.
"Not before I get a few pictures first," Lorne said.
Faith and Angel dutifully posed for pictures. The digital camera made Faith oddly nervous. It was proof that this night existed and hinted at what it might become. It was a little scary but she knew that it would be worth it. They were quiet in the limo home, her leaning on his shoulder. The small talk was nothing that stuck with her, a little bit about this and that. She didn't want to make out in the limo. It seemed cheap and she didn't want that. She had been cheap for far too long.
Once inside, they just stood there as if trying to figure out what to do next. Did they got to one of their suites? For more drinks? For talk? For sex? Did she want to rush into that? Could they stop themselves if they went to a room? Since when did she ever think this much about what to do with a man?
"Have you ever been to the gardens here?" Angel asked.
Faith sighed. That was a perfect out. The gardens were safe neutral ground. "No. Want to show them to me?"
Faith slid off her shoes since they were really beginning to hurt. Her expensive stockings had gotten a big hole in them some time during the dancing so she didn't care if they ran even worse. Angel gave her his arm and he led her into the little garden. The greenness gave way to a pristine white sand garden in the center of the room. Three round stones grew out of the sand. A rake leaned on the bench by the sand.
Faith sat on the bench. "So am I just supposed to sit here and stare at the sand?"
"You're supposed to contemplate, meditate. You can create your own patterns in the sand." Angel took the rake and began to change the lines in the white sand.
Faith wondered if he was as nervous as she was. She got up, watching him closer, cutting the lines in the sand. She took the rake and cut a little pattern herself. "I'm not sure I'm doing it right. I'm not feeling the relaxation flowing." She shoved the rake back into his hand. The rake hovered between their hands for a moment then fell to the side as their hands reached for things softer, more giving and sensual.
Faith was barely aware that somewhere during the ardent kiss she had put Angel on his back in the sand. She straddled his waist. The kiss ended when they heard voices in the garden.
"Who the hell is in here at this hour?" Angel hissed as Faith rolled off of him.
"Sounds like Spike," Faith gave Angel a hand up and started batting the white sand off the back of Angel's tux.
"Come on, trust me, this stuff drives him nuts," Spike said.
"I'm not doubting that. I was wondering more why I should want to do so," Wes replied.
"'Cause it's fun," Spike asserted as he rounded the corner with the rest of his companions. For a moment they all just started at each other. Spike, Wes, and Gunn all had on Mickey Mouse ears and Fred and Harmony wore Disney shirts. Faith started laughing and pointing.
"This was your big commitment that you couldn't take my place at the charity ball because of? You went to Disneyland?" Angel roared.
"Well, I guess," Fred hedged.
"Hell, yes. A boring charity ball or going to Disney, which would you do?" Spike lit up. "Harmony won the tickets."
"Put the cigarette out, Spike. So, what are you all doing in the gardens? Here to write more obscene things in the sand, like I didn't already know it was you doing that, Spike," Angel growled.
"What are you doing home from the dance already?" Harmony asked. "Faith, your hair's coming undone."
"I'm more curious about the Angel-sized butt print in the sand," Spike smirked as Faith touched her updo checking for damage.
"Spike, want to be the first vampire ever to die wearing mouse ears?" Angel feinted at him with the rake.
"What's with the mouse ears?" Faith suppressed a smile.
"We lost a bet," Gunn said. "Can we take them off yet?"
"Not yet," Fred replied. "Come on, let's go. Angel and Faith don't want to be bothered."
"That's all right. Faith and I were just leaving," Angel said. "Don't let Spike near the sand."
"Don't worry. I'll just go call Red, and tell her to dust off her orb of Thessulah." Spike pulled off his mouse ears and Harmony slapped him.
"And if I stake him, people will be mad at me," Angel lamented.
Faith pushed Angel toward the door. "Just ignore him."
Out of sight of the others, Angel linked arms with her again. They both agreed leaving the gardens was in order in case Spike decided to double back. They got to her suite and Angel hesitated outside the door as she opened it. "I can't believe they went to Disney without us."
"Well, it probably was more fun than a charity ball," Faith said.
Angel shrugged. "I had fun tonight but I think maybe I shouldn't..." He eyed the interior of her suite.
"You know, I think that's a good thing, to slow down, let it build right, instead of going like wild fire," Faith said softly, wondering if they stopped now would there ever be another time. What if they came to their so-called senses and this was an end to it?
"That sounds like a plan." He leaned down and gave her an almost chaste kiss, firing a hope there would be other times for them. "We could even go to Disney by ourselves."
Faith grinned. "I'd love that but we should go as a group some night, too, because I bet Spike screams like a girl on the rollercoasters."
Angel chuckled. "I'd pay to see that."
Faith's lips pursed. "You don't scream like a girl, do you?"
Angel shrugged. "It's been nearly a hundred years since I've been on a coaster. I'll try not to embarrass you."
"I'll laugh at you if you do," she promised. "My date can't be less manly than me."
"I'm all man," he assured her. "But I won't wear the mouse ears, just so you know."
"Uh-huh." Faith kissed him. "Good night, Angel. Let's do this Disney thing soon."
"This weekend, provided there isn't an apocalypse."
"It's a date. Oh, and Angel, you will be wearing the mouse ears." Laughing at his expression, Faith waved good night and shut the door before she changed her mind and ripped the tux off of him in the hall way.
It had been a real date, she mused, heading for the bedroom. A real date with the promise of more to come, like a real girl in a real relationship. She couldn't put into words how good that made her feel. For the first time, her inner demons were quit, going dormant at the promise of love. She looked in the mirror. Her jacket's bow was a little messy. Her hair was escaping the up-do and her six hundred dollar shoes were in her hand but she still felt like a princess.
"Cinderella, you did all right."
One to Two other characters you want state whether romantic or not: Angel, romantic would be
Two other requests: AtS season 5, appearance by Harmony
Three things you don't want: NC-17, non-con, darkfic