"I don't have anything to wear, Will. Nada. Zilch. Zip."
Buffy flopped dramatically onto her bed from her sitting position, the back of her head hitting the pillow with a resounding thud, sighing as if the world was about to end. Since they had both just returned from a check-in with Giles, Willow was fairly certain that world-endage was not actually on the menu.
Willow stuck her head into Buffy's closet and did a quick surveillance. She decided that pointing out that Buffy's closet contained more clothes than The Limited was probably not what Buffy wanted to hear. "Angel isn't going to care what you wear. He likes you a lot."
Buffy's expression darkened. "I used to be exceptional at this whole dating thing. Every Friday and Saturday night. I was popular. I was cool."
"You're just nervous."
Buffy sighed yet again, her expression making it clear that she was in agreement. "How old do you think he was?"
"I thought he said he's two hundred forty something"
"I meant how old when he was turned. I'm thinking twenty-two, twenty-three."
Willow looked at her friend and sat down next to her. "I'm thinking a few years older", she said quietly.
Buffy pushed herself up to a sitting position and dropped her head into her hands. "Yeah. Me too." She started curling and uncurling the ends of her hair between her fingers. "What could he possibly see in me? He was reading a book in French the other day. The only thing I can say in French is do you speak English?" She dropped back on the bed and stared at the ceiling.
Six skirts, four tops and three lip colors later (she had rejected pink passion and 40's pinup red, deciding to go with tulip pink), Buffy sat at a back table at the Expresso Bean, nursing a double latte, extra foam. She watched as the little bubbles popped one by one, hoping to lull herself into a controlled state of panic, instead of the salsa rhythm her heart was currently engaging in. She ran through a variety of conversation starters, discarding each one. 'Killed any interesting demons lately?' wasn't the opening she was hoping to use. For once, she saw him before he noticed her. He scanned the crowd, looking decidedly uneasy. She finally caught his eye and he relaxed a bit, a tiny smile gracing his face. She saw the way his eyes swept over her, lingering a bit at various points and she decided at least the outfit was working.
"Would you like something?" Buffy found it hard not to smile. He seemed at such a loss. "Why don't you try some of mine? See if you like it."
He took the world's smallest sip and looked back at her with an expression of total confusion. "Bitter, right? Maybe a little sweet? My taste buds are pretty much only attuned…" His voice just dropped off into nothing and he wound up staring at the café floor.
Buffy began to panic. The eating habits of her dates had never been a problem in the past. He didn't own a TV, so discussing the last episode of 90210 was out. School had been over several lifetimes ago. She began to think that this whole date was going to go down in the annals of worst ideas ever, when Angel broke into her reverie.
"Umm, read any books lately?"
Buffy relaxed at that. Something they could connect on. "The latest Danielle Steele", she eagerly replied. And then fell backwards into her seat off of Angel's blank look. "Best selling author? No bells? Not even a tinkle?"
"Sartre?" Angel asked rather hesitantly.
"Aren't they an eighties hair-metal band?"
"He's a twentieth century French existentialist philosopher."
"Oh," she said, feeling like an absolute fool. She wasn't even sure what an existentialist was. Did they think deep thoughts about exits? Buffy reverted to staring back into her latte, wondering if she downed the whole thing in one gulp, would she hopefully pass out from expresso poisoning? She was about to just get up and go home and cry for about twenty hours straight, when Angel's voice cut through her thoughts again. He was even more hesitant this time, which she wouldn't have thought possible.
"Did you ever read Charlotte's Web?"
She couldn't help it, she laughed. The entire idea was incongruous. Which made her belatedly realize that an Angel and Danielle Steel combo was like chocolate sauce on sushi. When she noticed his mortified face, she managed to turn it into a coughing fit that ended when she choked down some latte "Of course. I loved it. My mom used to read it to me at night." She narrowed her eyes as she attempted to recapture old memories." I always thought Charlotte was the best friend anyone could ever have. I mean Wilbur was kind of immature a lot of the time and even a bit self-centered, but Charlotte always saw that he also had a big heart. She just loved him and was always there for him. Know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I do know." Angel leaned forward and splayed his hands on the table. "Wilbur is my favorite. He's just so full of life. Remember that scene where he's doing back flips in the air? And then when he saved Charlotte's children at the end?" Angel looked away at that point and Buffy assumed that he was a bit embarrassed at displaying that much emotion about a pig. A made-up pig, at that.
He picked his head back up and suddenly he was looking at her with such warmth in his eyes that Buffy felt her cheeks heat up. He reached across the table and his thumb was softly stroking the skin on the back of her right hand. She felt drugged, as if the rest of the world was moving at a different, quicker speed. A liquid swirl of contentment was rippling outward from where he was touching her, traveling along every nerve ending, filling her up. She almost fell out of her chair when the girl accidentally banged into the table. Just like that, the spell broke.
Or maybe it hadn't. Angel was smiling at her. Not a full on, teeth included smile, but something soft and inviting, that vanquished the last of her doubts. She grinned back and found her voice. "You ever read Little Women?"
It turned out that not only had he, but he was able to give her some interesting insights about the social mores of the time period. Any book that Buffy had ever read that could remotely be considered a classic, Angel had also read. In school she never joined in book discussions; it didn't help that usually she was more interested in a mid-morning nap. Angel teased out thoughts she didn't know she possessed. She felt witty and sophisticated like Joan Crawford in one of those black and white chick flicks she used to watch with her mom.
They moved on to movie musicals although Buffy suspected he had seen them in their original showing on the big screen. They debated the endless question of Fred or Gene, Buffy opting for Fred Astaire's lyricism and Angel arguing for Gene Kelly's athleticism. Surprisingly, Angel had also seen a fair sprinkling of more current films. She decided that the fact that he and Xander could have acted out entire scenes from Indiana Jones together was knowledge best kept to herself.
From his usual perch on the shelf, Mr. Gordo impassively surveyed the bedroom, as Buffy indulged in that time honored tradition of rehashing the evening.
"Willow, you were right about everything. Next time I'll listen to my betters." Buffy giggled at Willow's response, precariously balancing the phone between her shoulder and chin, while leaning over to carefully paint her middle toenail. "You should have seen his face when he walked into the Bean. He totally liked the outfit." She smirked a bit. "He must have liked the lipstick also, since he licked most of it off later." She gasped in mock outrage. "I am shocked that you'd say such a thing. It was completely innocent." She laughed again and then became a little more thoughtful. "We actually had a lot in common, you know. I mean, I don't think he should go out for a job as a talk show host, but he did talk. And he listened to everything I said. Really listened." She scrunched up her face as she listened to her friend. "Well, if the clueless wonder ever wakes up, we could double date." She gave one final snort of appreciation at her friend's reply and reached over to hang up the phone.
The carnival would be coming into town in a few days. She wondered if Angel was more a merry-go-round or a round-up type of guy. She was already planning on how to convince her mother to buy her the emerald green lambs wool sweater that she knew would bring out her eyes. As she snuggled into her pillow, her last thought was if it was possible to ensure that the Ferris wheel stopped when their car was at the very top.