Part One

BLas Vegas, NevadaBR October 2003/B

Buffy stretched out in the luxurious bed. It was one of the perks she never tired of on assignments like this. Her assignment was officially over when the post-fight party got under way. Her client had won the fight despite threats he'd die if he did. Topline Security Specialists' assignment wasn't done until Barry "Boom Boom" Bartucci was comfortably on his private plane heading back to wherever chauvinist pigs like him come from. Buffy's portion was done once he'd stepped out of his dressing room and into the elevator heading to the festivities. And not a moment too soon as far as she was concerned.

She'd gone to the post-fight party because she wanted to. It was always nice to rub elbows with the people who could afford this type of stuff. She'd had a few too many drinks as she and one of the other agents from Topline watched Barry put the moves on some unsuspecting starlet wannabe. Topline wouldn't look too favorably on one of its employees warning someone off one of their clients. So, Buffy and Tiny – a man who wasn't tiny at all but rather was built like a linebacker – had drunk their guilt away knowing the blonde bimbo would end up being used as Barry's punching bag somewhere along the line if she stuck with him.

Barry was a regular client of Topline. He appreciated their discretion and the fact its employees went that extra mile for him without question. She'd love to give him a thing or two to question, but she'd be fired. And she couldn't afford that.

She groaned, certain the pounding she heard wasn't actually in her head. How much had she had to drink anyway?

"Too much, obviously," she murmured.

There were a couple of agents still on duty so Buffy had the run of Las Vegas for the morning and part of the afternoon. The agents would all return to LA together. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her time. She was all packed and ready to go. Breakfast at one of those all-you-can-eat all-the-food-is-delicious buffets sounded like a good place to start.

She turned her head, her intent to glance at her window to see if she could get a feel for what kind of day it was. There was a man sleeping in bed beside her! She sat up, clutching the hotel issued blankets to her and realized she wasn't even in her room!

"Oh, God, Buffy, what did you do?"

When there was no answer. Of course there wasn't anyone there to answer her but the man sleeping beside her.

"You should know by now that alcohol and Buffy don't mix!"

She vowed right there and then never to drink again, not even a glass of wine at Thanksgiving or champagne on New Year's Eve. She was done with alcohol.

Now that that was decided, she had to figure a way out of first the bed and then the room without rousting her bedmate. She regarded him for a minute. It was a rare opportunity to catch someone while they slept. They were completely unaware.

It was a nice face. Handsome actually. He had nice, dark features, an olive complexion that made her think he was Italian. He looked kind of boyish, maybe it was just the fact he was sleeping. She tried to remember the last man she'd watched sleep. Spike their last night in Sunnydale before all hell broke loose, she guessed. The night before he died and saved the world. Now that she thought on it, she never watched Riley sleep and never had the chance to with Angel. So, the one time with Spike was probably it.

"How lame is that," she whispered. She shook that thought off. There was nothing wrong with that! So, she wasn't a bed hopper. She dated, she just wasn't casual about turning things sexual. Sex, like alcohol, didn't mix real well with Buffy's life.

She could be stealthy about this. Hell, she ambushed vampires and demons for a living. She could get out of a huge bed without waking up its still sleeping occupant. She slid to the edge of the bed, rolling her eyes when she spotted her clothes strewn over the room. Much the same as his were.

"So much for no casual sex," she murmured. Of course, the fact she'd woken up naked with a man in bed with her should have tipped her off that they hadn't been playing cribbage.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid," she muttered as she put her clothes on in record time.

The man stirred on the bed and Buffy froze at the door. She turned and looked over her shoulder, letting out a breath when she saw he was just rolling over. She couldn't help but smile when he reached for her and got the pillow instead. Whoever he was, hopefully, their time together was good for him. She sure as hell didn't remember it.

She stepped into the hall, slid her heels on and made her way to the elevator once she figured out where she was. She could ask Tiny if he'd seen her leave the party with anyone. Was the guy in the bed one of Barry's entourage? She didn't think so, unless he was someone who'd just come for the fight last night.

"Shower, clean underwear and clothes, breakfast," she murmured as the elevator doors slid open. At least she was in the right hotel. She recognized the signage in the elevator by now. So, she hadn't done anything real stupid, like fly to Jamaica with him.

She tried to picture the room again. She didn't remember seeing any residual evidence from sex, but hopefully even drunk she knew better than to not use protection.

It wasn't until later that afternoon, sitting next to Tiny on the plane that she noticed the ring. Well, Tiny noticed the ring. Buffy always wore jewelry, rings in particular, so she barely paid attention from one day to the next what she was wearing.

"Nice ring."

"Huh?" She was deep in thought about the mystery man she'd woken up to that morning. She wondered who he was. Did he wonder where she'd gone? She'd chickened out and ordered room service instead of going to the buffet, not wanting to take the chance of seeing him. A clean break was the best, especially since she couldn't even remember what she was breaking from.

"The ring. It's new, isn't it? I don't remember seeing it on you before. And I'd remember a rock like that."

She held up her hand. Sure enough, there was a rock the size of Rhode Island or Delaware, some small state anyway, on her left ring finger.

"Is it real?"

She laughed then. "Tiny, get real. Would I be stupid enough to wear something like this if it was real?"

"I suppose not. It sure sparkles, though."

"Yeah, yeah, it does," she murmured. She chewed on her lower lip. Her mind was frantically trying to clear the haze that was the night before. What had she done? She knew enough about jewelry to know this was no costume piece. This was the real deal. A marquis cut diamond in one of the nicest settings she'd ever seen.

"So, did you and Lover Boy have a good time after I left?"

"Who?"

"I don't know, Matty something or other, some big shot from the East Coast. He was talking you up when I was about to leave. I asked you if you wanted to head out with me, but you said no." He regarded her for a minute and then bust out laughing. "You don't remember?"

"No. You saw me leave with someone and didn't stop me?"

"Oh, Jesus, babe. I knew I should have stopped you after that second drink."

"You don't know his name?"

"No. Do you?"

"No. I don't do stuff like that, Tiny. You should have stopped me."

"Did you wake up alone this morning?"

"Well, I woke up first and left while he was still sleeping. Does that count?"

He laughed again. "I'm sure it does in someone's world, babe. Well, at least one of us got lucky. Just remember, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

"Yeah." She grazed the diamond with the pad of her thumb. Somehow, she didn't think with a rock this size on her finger anything was going to be staying in Vegas.

"Do you think you can ask around for me? See if you can find out who he was?"

"Sure. He must have made an impression on you. I've never known you to take anything beyond casual flirting."

"Yeah, I'm not much into the dating. My relationships have been pretty disastrous."

Buffy liked Tiny. She was her Xander-shaped friend, but in the form of an adult. He was one of those guys that she never looked at as being a possible boyfriend. He apparently felt the same way. It worked out well for both of them. They hung out together, bounced their respective relationship and dating woes or latest tribulations off one another, and just in general gelled. Buffy liked it. She still felt stupid having slept with a guy she didn't know. She wasn't the first girl, and probably wouldn't be the last, to do it though.

"So, Matty."

"Yeah, something like that. I'll ask around."

"Thanks."

"You bet."

Not too much later, they were back at LAX. The various employees of Topline went their separate ways. Buffy found her company issued Impala and, as she imagined, it was stifling from sitting for a weekend. She made it home, driving with the windows down the entire way. She only used the air conditioning if she had to, like during the summer or if she was driving a client.

"Honey, I'm home." No one answered her, which wasn't unusual considering she lived alone. She set her suitcase on the floor in her room and collapsed on the bed. She held her left hand in the air above her, palm up, taking in the ring once again.

"What have you gotten yourself into, Buffy?"

She stood after a few minutes, frustrated that nothing about the night before was coming back to her. She changed into lounging around the house clothes, went to the kitchen to get herself a glass of water before going to her office. There she turned on her computer to check emails. While it was booting up, she picked up her cordless phone and upon hearing the rapid beeps indicating she had messages checked her voicemail.

I Hi Buffy, it's me. I guess you're not there. Obviously. I was just calling to say hi. It's nothing important. School is great, classes are great, I'm great. I'll try again next week. I love you.
/I

Buffy smiled at Dawn's perky voice as she erased the message from her younger sister. She was at a boarding school Giles was able to get her into. Buffy wasn't too keen on the idea of boarding school, but not knowing where anyone was going to end up for sure it made the most sense that Dawn had something stable.

I Hey, Buffster, it's Xander. I'm thinking of driving down to LA sometime this week to check up on one of my favoritist girls. Let me know what works for you. I know you're working and stuff.
/I

"Sounds like fun," she said, erasing that message as well.

By the third, and last, message she was logging into her email account. It was some telemarketing sales pitch, so she deleted it without listening to the whole thing.

She ended the check of messages, bizarrely disappointed there was no flowery message of missing her this morning from her mystery man. She had no way of knowing if she'd given him her number, email address, or even told him her name. Her eyes drifted to the ring again, though, and she suspected that he had an idea who she was at the very least.

She slid the ring off her finger, surprised at how well it fit. Las Vegas was a town that catered to every whim at every hour of the day or night. Sex, drugs, gambling, food, and shopping. Where in the hell would they have gone to get a ring like this? Had he had it on him?

She set it on her desk and then felt a little guilty for doing that. So, she slid it back onto her finger. She liked it there. It looked nice on her.

"No," she whispered. "It looks perfect." If there was such a thing as a ring being made for someone, this one was hers. The band, which wasn't gold, she wasn't sure but thought it was platinum, was simple without being too thick or thin.

She had a few emails from Willow. There was one from Dawn, reiterating what she'd said in her voicemail message that there was nothing wrong. There was one from Giles, reporting in on the progress of various slayers. There was some junk mail, which she quickly got rid of and then settled in to read Willow's.

Willow could get wordy sometimes. Buffy loved reading Willow's emails, because they always made Buffy feel like she was there, watching Willow's skills improve and grow. She was becoming an accomplished Wiccan. She nor Giles was worried about Willow having a repeat episode of a few years ago again anytime soon.

Giles' would wait until later. She had to pull out the files and update them whenever he emailed her in order to keep track of who was who. Giles liked knowing, in light of what happened with the Watchers' Council headquarters last spring, that someone else had hard copies of this stuff. While both of them were more computer savvy, neither were willing to put their entire trust in them either.

"Who would have thought Giles and I would agree on something like that?"

With that, she turned off her monitor and went back to her bedroom. She needed a nap. She felt like she didn't get any sleep at all last night.

"For all you know, that's the truth."

She rolled her eyes, raking her fingers through her hair as she settled into her pillow. It was good to be home. It was good to have somewhere to call home. It was on the small side, even if it had three bedrooms. She'd take whatever she could get, though, as long as it wasn't an apartment. She didn't own it, but it was still a house to call hers.

As she drifted off to sleep, she wondered what her mystery man was doing at that moment. Who was he? Where was he? Where was he from? What was he doing in Vegas? What was he doing at the party? So many questions and Buffy had no answers. Only this time, Willow or Giles couldn't help her find them.

"You're on your own solving this one." With Tiny's help. Tiny wasn't only a security specialist, he was also a private investigator. So, if anyone could hunt down information for her, he was her man.