Don't own, not mine.
Thanks to the lovely TKP for the beta.
Third in the trilogy. First story was Guilt Trembling Spoke My Doom, second was Happy (Baby Won't You Make Me).
"Have you studied for your French test?" Angel smirked at the not unexpected eye rolling and accompanying dramatic flounce.
"So you'll be doing better than a C this time around." He merely shook his head at the completely blank look. "Come on, I'll help you study."
"You don't have to do this. I mean, you're my watcher, not my private tutor and isn't it getting close to patrol?"
"Think of me as a full service watcher. So, study time. Now."
Twenty minutes passed in which she had managed to not accomplish anything. "The test isn't going to make a difference anyway." She pouted, giving him the full lower lip treatment. "I'm graduating in two months."
"No excuse for not doing well."
"You know you wouldn't be on my case all the time, if you'd just get laid."
"What!" Angel's eyes bugged out as he sputtered in amazement.
"Just saying. What are you, forty-one? Can't be healthy."
"First off, I'm thirty-four. Secondly, my sex life--"
"Lack of a sex life."
"Is hardly your business. Thirdly, I haven't forgotten your French test."
His young charge shook her head and grinned evilly. "I went to that new magic shop and I think the owner would be perfect for you." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a piece of paper as she kept up her commentary. "She's an amateur witch and I'm pretty sure she knows about the demony side of life. Tacey Monroe. She's really pretty, auburn hair, tallish, nice laugh, so give her a call," as she slid the phone number over to him.
"What kind of name is Tacey," he groused.
"What kind of name is Cian?" she countered.
"Irish and quite respectable. Stop trying to change--" And with that, the doorbell rang. "I'll get it. You keep studying. Or should I say start?"
He walked to the door, wondering who it could be on a Thursday night at 8:15 PM. Once he opened the door, he was rendered speechless for a minute. "Buffy? What are you doing here?"
She gave him a too-bright smile. "Cian. Didn't you get the e-mail? The council was sending someone in admin just to talk with Arianna, see how everything's going. That kind of thing."
"Oh, yeah. Yeah, I remember." He shook himself as if to wake himself out of a deep slumber.
"I came straight from the airport. Would you believe there was a large address-eating dog in the seat right next to me, so if you could let me know where Arianna lives…?"
"She's here. In the kitchen, doing homework." He stepped aside and Buffy came in, carrying a small suitcase.
He led her through the apartment into his eat-in kitchen, where Arianna sat with an open textbook. As soon as she looked at the older slayer, she jumped out of her seat. "Miss Summers, I mean Mrs. Knightly, I mean what an honor."
Buffy grinned at her. "Please, call me Buffy. You're making me feel old here." She turned to look at Angel. "Cian, could you maybe wait in the living room. I know I'm imposing here, but I'd like to talk to Arianna alone for a little while."
For a moment, Angel seemed in a stupor, and then went into overdrive. "Yeah, no problem, take as long as you'd like. Wait, didn't you say you just came in from London? Would you like some water?" He strode to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle. "Anything else you'd like? Bathroom is to the left."
Buffy shook her head, laughing. "I'm fine. Really. Now shoo."
Angel hunched over on his couch, arms resting on his thighs as he listened to the murmur of female voices. As his eyes began to unfocus, the world melted away. He hadn't seen her in three years; the last time was at Giles' flat. He had gone there at her insistence. He had just taken his first tentative steps toward rejoining humanity, his shanshu almost five years earlier nothing but a reminder of his failings until that point. Accidentally running into Buffy, however, had made him rethink his pitiful non-existence. Made him think that maybe he could put the past behind him and find some happiness. When he'd gone to Giles' to see the old gang -- but mostly to see if he and Buffy could start over, he had been shocked to find out that she had also put the past behind her and had fallen in love with someone else.
When he received the engraved invitation six months later, he had sent a tasteful, expensive gift, included a hand written note wishing them much happiness, and regretfully declined the invitation. He had stayed in his apartment for two days after that, lying in bed in the dark, not eating, moping and feeling sorry for himself. And then he had snapped out of it. Because the other thing that had occurred while he was in London was that he decided to become a Watcher.
Hearing Ari's combination giggle/snort shook him out of his musings. He knew the council sent people out to each of the slayers on a rotating basis to ensure that they were happy, being properly trained, weren't being taken advantage of. Was he a good watcher? He didn't have any idea. He knew he rode Ari pretty hard a lot of the time; he hoped he didn't push her too far. He pushed his hands through his hair, nervousness zinging through his body. He lost everything and everybody time after time. He expected this would be no different.
The two women walked out of the kitchen, Arianna literally bouncing in place. If he hadn't known better, he would have sworn she was coming off a three-day sugar bender.
"Can Buffy come slaying with us? That wouldn't be a problem, would it? I mean, I know we sort of have a rhythm going but…"
Angel held up his hand to stop Arianna from a complete crash and burn. "I don't think that would be a problem. After all, she's been slaying since almost before you were born." An image flitted through his mind of an impossibly young Buffy patrolling and kissing him through the cemeteries of Sunnydale.
"Great!" Ari went over to the huge steamer trunk that doubled as Angel's coffee table and flipped it open. Pulling out a small crossbow, bolts and several stakes, she turned to look at Buffy. "Want anything?"
"Nah, I'm good. I always travel with my own stakes and I find that's usually more than enough."
"…and that move where you did that leg sweep with the right leg and then threw the other vamp over your left shoulder. So cool. I'm going to practice that over the weekend."
Angel hid his grin. Arianna hadn't taken a breath since patrol ended. She opened her car door and waved at Buffy and Angel. "It was awesome slaying with you, Buffy. Super-ass-kicking. Don't forget," she said, looking at Angel. "I have a hot date with Bingo, so no slayage tomorrow."
"Don't forget the difference between past imperfect and regular past tense tomorrow."
"Yes, Dad." Arianna over enunciated the words with an exaggerated look skyward.
She drove off and Angel and Buffy stood on the street until the car was out of sight. "Bingo?"
"I'm pretty sure that's not his given name," Angel explained. "Or, possibly she's dating a dog."
They were in front of his apartment building now. "Is it ok if I come in for a few minutes? I want to talk to you about Arianna."
Here it comes . His fleeting good humor completely dissipated. Arianna's left side had been completely unprotected when fighting that third vamp. Later on, three vampires had surrounded her and Buffy had had to jump in to help her. And that tenth vampire was a lot more challenging than it should have been. Wearily, he sat on the couch and then remembered his manners. "Would you like a drink? I've got fresh brewed ice tea."
"Sounds lovely," Buffy agreed as she plopped on the couch next to him.
Five minutes later, Buffy was sipping an iced tea, while Angel leaned forward on the couch, hands nervously tapping out a rhythm on his knees.
"So, about Ari." Angel could feel every one of his muscles tense. "She's one of the best of our younger slayers. Great technique, incredibly enthusiastic, highly motivated. Very talented."
Angel was so relieved that he was speechless, but Buffy didn't seem to notice. "And most of it is your doing, Cian. I remember her at Giles'. She was so scared of her calling. You're a wonderful watcher."
Angel hung his head, embarrassed by her praise. In all the years he had walked the earth, he finally felt that he found his purpose.
"You love her, don't you?"
He picked his head up at that, startled by her words. And then he considered it. He spoke slowly, carefully weighing his words. "She's my slayer; I can't imagine her not being part of my life. She's incredibly precious to me so I guess I do love her. But if you mean that I want to date her? That never crossed my mind. She's way too young for me for one thing."
Buffy gave an undignified snort. "Oh please. She's older than I was."
"That was fifteen years ago. I'm older."
Buffy flipped her hair. "When you're pushing three hundred, I don't think a few years makes all that much difference."
Angel had no idea what Buffy was playing at but he did know he was getting annoyed. He was about to tell her it was none of her damn business, and then it occurred to him that maybe she was just making sure that nothing improper was going on. She was here, after all, to ensure that Ari was fine in all respects. He took a calming breath and then spoke. "I was twenty-six when I was turned." He saw Buffy's eyes widen and he realized that she likely had never known exactly how old he was when he died. They had never talked about it.
"Back in those days, it was the norm for a man that age to marry a girl who was a young teenager. So, in that sense, it didn't seem odd to me that you were so much younger." He shifted a bit on the couch, lost in thought. He had seen her called and then followed her secretly for a year, helping in whatever capacity he could. He had watched as her parents fighting grew constant and bitter, watched as her friends pulled away and shunned her, watched as her normal carefree existence became a distant memory. Somehow, through it all, she kept her head up. She taught him about strength and hope and courage. And when she unexpectedly let him into her heart, she showed him that he had those traits inside of him also.
"I was a different person back then. We were different people back then. After I moved to L.A., a lot happened." He stopped briefly as he thought of all that had befallen him there. "I'm a thirty-four year old man now. Teenagers don't interest me anymore. I wake up with sore muscles, I hate rap music and my idea of a good time is sitting at home with a book"
"That was always your idea of a good time." He gave a small, sheepish shrug.
She nodded, seemingly satisfied. Then she slid her gaze over until he was looking into her eyes. "So if you met my sixteen year old self now, you wouldn't be interested?"
"No. I really wouldn't." But your thirty-year-old self is a different story. He deliberately broke eye contact. She was married now. He had no business thinking such thoughts.
"Thanks for letting me take up so much time. I'm sorry I grilled you just now, but it's part of the process. I meant what I said before. You're a fantastic watcher." She stood and stretched a little. "I hope the hotel kitchen is open."
Angel gave her a suspicious look. "When's the last time you ate?"
"Yesterday," she admitted. "The airplane food gave me a flash back to the Sunnydale High cafeteria and it was not of the good."
He glanced at the clock on the shelf. "It's almost 12:30. The hotel restaurant will be long closed. Let me cook you some eggs."
"I don't want to impose."
Angel strode across the living room into the kitchen. Sticking his head into the refrigerator, he began pulling items onto the counter.
"Would you like peppers, onion, mushrooms? Swiss cheese?"
Admitting defeat, Buffy followed into the dinette and sat down. "Sounds yumlicious."
He began to quickly chop the vegetables as he looked over at her. "So, how is everybody? How's Damien?"
Damien and I split up. It was never going to work when my heart still belonged to another.
"Cian, Cian? Are you ok? You seemed to space out there for a moment."
"No, I'm fine. It was nothing."
She nodded, blonde hair bouncing around her head. "Well, like I was saying, Dame is great. He would have been here, but some scroll thing turned up in some weird demon language that he's an expert in. Why can't those things ever be written in English?"
Her complete indignation prompted a small smile from Angel.
"Dame is second-in-command to Giles, did you know that? If anyone had told me that I was going to wind up with Giles, the studlier version, I would have said no way."
"How's everybody else?" He actually did want to know, but more importantly, he couldn't bear to hear another word about her happy married life.
"Well, Willow just started dating a doctor. He seems really nice, but…"
"He? I thought she was gay?"
"She finally realized she was bi. And she keeps breaking up with people after about a year. I just wish…" She was more talking to herself than to him, and looked away for a moment. "Giles is still Giles. And Dawn, believe it or not, is dating Xander."
"Xander? As in Harris?"
"Yup, the very same. They're actually cute together, once I got over the initial shock. They're based in Italy, my old stomping grounds. I'm thinking wedding bells." She was happily munching on the omelet at this point. "Mmm, tasty. Didn't know you could cook. I saw Faith recently." She noticed Angel's surprise at that statement. "There was some kind of super big bad over in Chicago and I went over to lend a hand. We've…sort of put the past behind us, I guess. It was fun working together again. Reminded me of the old days, except without her turning evil and trying to kill everybody."
Kill him, she meant. He wondered if that wasn't the real reason that Buffy was finally able to move past her issues with Faith. So many of them had been tied up with him, and he was no longer a factor in Buffy's life.
"She said that you should stop blaming yourself for the past and that if you don't call her, she's going to come here and kick your ass so hard your balls will turn inside out."
Angel's eyebrows lifted up toward his hairline. "I'm assuming that was a direct quote?"
"Well, there might have been a few fuck yous in there also."
"I'll bet." He reached over and took Buffy's now empty plate over to the sink and noted the yawn she was barely covering up. "Instead of going to the hotel, I have a spare bedroom if you'd prefer. It would take me five minutes to put new sheets on, and this way, you could get to sleep quicker."
"Are you sure you wouldn't mind?" He shook his head no. "Then I'll take you up on that," as she yawned again.
He quickly got sheets and towels out. From the spare bedroom, he called out, "What time is your flight out?"
"Not til late. Ten P.M."
He was surprised by that and without really thinking, called out, "Do you want to do some sight seeing?"
"Love to. Except I've seen most of the touristy places."
"How about Central Park?" As soon as the words were out of his mouth, memories he didn't need stirred up. Buffy seemed completely unaware of any deeper meaning, but that was where she had found him three years ago. He longed to take them back.