1. Big, gigantical thanks to my betas cornerofmadness, thenyxie, and way2busymom. Betas do it with commas.
2. The dialog in the beginning of chapter 1 is from the AtS episode Sanctuary, written by Tim Minear and Joss Whedon. I suspect it will be obvious when that changes.
3. If you think I own any of these characters, I have a bridge I'd like to talk to you about.
Soap Opera Cliché
The room seemed to have a general air of desperation about it that he hadn't noticed on prior visits. Likely because in the past, he had been to the squad room on his own terms and this time he was about to be escorted to a holding cell.
Kate stood next to him, her anger barely held at bay due to his refusal to divulge Faith's whereabouts. "I think you're gonna like the cell we have for you, Angel. It faces east. It'll give you a great view of the sunrise in about four hours."
It was at that point that Buffy pushed in between the two of them. She had obviously overheard Kate and was seething. Her reaction was causing a swirl of emotions in Angel. The fact that she was here, like some avenging Amazon meant that prior appearances to the contrary, she still had feelings for him and he couldn't help but be gratified by that. At the same time he was angry at her display. Didn't she think he knew what he was doing? Lastly though, and most importantly, Buffy could be a hothead. That wasn't necessarily the wrong approach when you were attacking a bunch of demons. But it was the worst idea possible when you were in the midst of a roomful of highly trained police officers, all of whom carried guns.
"Who are you?" Kate was already annoyed with the various hanger-ons that Angel had collected, but the blonde was a new one.
"She is nobody." The words were spit out between gritted teeth. Darkness overtook Buffy's eyes for a second but then it extinguished, leaving her expression empty. She turned on her heel and calmly walked out of the station house, the door clicking behind her. At least this way she couldn't get into any trouble.
Neither Kate not Angel spoke for a moment. Than Kate gave a half shrug. "I'd say that she's a somebody to one person out there."
Angel stared at her, his expression somewhere between a scowl and befuddlement.
The tiniest of smirks crept onto Kate's face. "She's pregnant."
He was about to smugly tell her that if she was trying to rattle him, she'd have to try with something a bit more plausible when his mind provided a full color picture of Buffy from when she had walked in on him comforting Faith. She wasn't dressed any differently than usual. But there was no denying her fuller bust line, the slightly widened hips, the way her gait had subtly changed. How could he have not even noticed? For a second, he thought his knees might buckle and then he heard Faith behind him as she entered the room.
"I'd like to make a confession."
"What are you doing, Angel?"
"Clothes. Suitcase." He pointed to each item in turn. "Figure it out, Cordelia."
"That's not what I meant and you know it."
"What exactly do you mean?" His back was toward her, but his annoyance came through anyway.
"You've just been so pathetic lately and I didn't want you to get even more pitiful." For a moment Cordelia's lip trembled before she clamped down on her outward display of weakness.
Angel's anger instantly dissipated, steam rising on a hot summer day. All that was left was guilt and shame that he had wounded her so when all she was trying to do was protect him. He ran his hand though his hair and sighed, desperately searching for words. "It will be fine, Cordy. How much more useless can I get?"
The corner of her lip turned up a tiny bit. "Good point, loser boy."
He felt relief engulf him. He wasn't sure when this annoying, pushy woman had become so overwhelmingly important to him.
Angel sighed, long and audibly. "It will be all right. I promise." He reached out and gave her hand a fast squeeze. "You're a good friend."
She mock glared at him. "Damn right, buddy."
He'd come full circle. In the beginning, there were good reasons for him staying out of sight. He assumed the slayer would stake him long before he had a chance to explain that he wanted to help. Things were simple back in Los Angeles. Here he was, watching her from afar again, but now everything was complicated.
She was with her boyfriend, the same guy he had spotted on Thanksgiving. They were holding hands and laughing. This was what he had wanted for her, he told himself. That could have been me . He shut that thought down. There wasn't any point in going there. When they started to kiss, he looked away. Even he wasn't that much of a masochist.
They finally parted. The guy seemed reluctant to leave until Buffy playfully pushed him away. She continued to amble through the cemetery. It was obvious now that Kate had been right. How he could have been that oblivious was beyond him. Except he did know. He saw what he wanted to see when he was around her.
Three vampires appeared and Angel almost jumped into the fight. But after a moment, he realized that for now, she didn't need any help. She was fighting differently – not as many leg kicks – but just as effectively. Two minutes later, all three vampires were dust. She whirled around then. "I know someone is there. You've been following me all night. If you come out now, we can get this over with before I miss Conan."
Angel stepped out of the shadows, hands raised in a surrender position.
She narrowed her eyes. "Here to remind me that I'm nothing?"
"Here to apologize. I said a lot of things I didn't mean."
She bit her lip for a second and then looked up at him. "Well, I wasn't exactly gunning for the ex-girlfriend award."
"Also, ah, I want to congratulate you and your boyfriend." He could barely get the words out, but he needed to let her know that he was happy for her. Happy for them.
She looked confused for a second and then her face twisted. "He's not the father. Just call me slutty."
He took a fast step toward her but stopped himself from touching her at the last second. "You're not a slut, Buffy. And if anyone implies that, just let me know who. Just because I don't kill people anymore doesn't mean I can't bend the rules."
She grinned at that and sat down, her back against a mausoleum. Angel sat down next to her, close but not touching. He could feel the heat of her body seeping into his.
"If anybody's a slut, it would be me."
"I don't think the things you did without a soul really qualify."
He suddenly looked sheepish. "I was thinking about before I was turned. I was a bit of a rake."
"A rake?" She giggled. "You mean like that scene where that English guy is seducing a girl by eating sexy fruit?"
Angel furrowed his brow, trying to follow Buffy's train of thought. "You mean Tom Jones", somewhat impressed that she had seen a movie that old.
"Tom Jones?" Buffy wrinkled her nose in distaste. "What does some guy that old ladies throw their underwear at have to do with anything?"
"Ah, nothing?" As far as Angel was concerned, Buffy's train of thought had officially derailed. "All I meant was I'm better qualified than most to judge moral failings and you don't come close."
"Thanks, I mean it." She got an impish smile. "So town slut. Too bad we never got to test that out." Her cheeks pinked a bit and she looked away as she realized what she had said.
An image of Buffy, eyes closed, hair fanned out against his pillow, her legs wrapped tightly against his back, while he kept angling in deeper, deeper…he cleared his throat and shook his head.
"The truth is I don't know who the father is. Willow and Xander and Riley and my mom all think it was a one-night stand. I don't want them to be scared but I wasn't with anybody then. Giles and I have been researching every demon I came in contact with during that period." She wrapped her arms around her legs and rested her head on her knees. "I should have just aborted it but all the sonograms show a normal human baby." Her voice got tiny. "Giles can't find any record of any slayer who got pregnant after she was called. There was a slayer in the seventies who got pregnant right before she was called and she carried to term ok, but once you're the slayer…" Her voice trailed off.
"I don't know why I'm boring you with all this."
He kept his face turned away from her so she wouldn't suspect that he longed to take her in his arms and comfort her. Instead he spoke quietly, trying for a tone that said friend, giving her the only support he was allowed. "You know that I'm always going to help you any way I can. If you want, why don't you send me a list of everything you came into contact with and I'll see what I can figure out. I might be able to find something out."
"Thanks." She gave him a soft smile. "That means a lot. I'm currently sixteen weeks along."
Not even four months yet. He felt a little better at not having realized her changed condition. Angel did some quick mental arithmetic. "So, I need a list of things you went up against in the second week of November."
"No, Thanksgiving week," she corrected. Doctors count from your last period, but you don't actually get pregnant until two weeks from that point." She smiled at Angel's look of confusion. "Yes, I know. According to that, every woman currently having her period is also in her first week of pregnancy. Some kind of male ego thing."
He had stopped listening as soon as she had said Thanksgiving week. But what he was thinking was impossible for any number of reasons.