Darkness swallowed the small town of Sunnydale. The stars shined brightly in the sky, looking like thousands upon thousands of tiny little diamonds embedded in the midnight sky, giving the darkness an illuminating glow. The air was slightly chilled, a slight breeze dancing through the streets. The people of Sunnydale all retired to their beds; couples cuddled up to one another, children hugged their teddies to their chests, and others pierced the soft silence with their thunderous snores. Everyone in Sunnydale slept safely in their beds, escaping the grasp of harsh reality for a few precious hours. Everyone, that was, except two people.
Buffy Summers had waited until her Mother and younger sister, Dawn, were fast asleep in their beds, before pulling on her sweatpants and sneakers, heading towards her bedroom window. Her bedroom window had been her escape passage since she had started rebelling in her teenage years. Now twenty years old, and much less of a rebel than previous years, she looked back on teenage years with embarrassment. Because Buffy, unlike most teenagers, never wanted to cause as much trouble as she had. It was just that trouble had found her.
Lifting up the window gradually, she winced at the high pitched creaking. Finally, when the window was open wide enough for her to slip out, she ducked under and climbed out. The tiles of the conservatory roof were slippery. Before Buffy could steady her self, she fell on her bottom with a thump and slid down the roof at an alarming speed. She knew that her efforts to slow down were wasted, so she merely clamped her eyes shut and waited for the impact of the ground to hit her. Except the impact of the ground she had been anticipating never came. Instead the garden table, which was used for meals outside when it was beautiful weather, broke her fall, buckling under her weight and crashing to the floor. Buffy winced as the table collapsed to the ground noisily, shattering the heavy silence of the night.
'Oh crap,' muttered Buffy, jumping off the broken table.
Her teeth sunk into her bottom as she observed her mess. A little groan escaped her lips as Buffy wondered how much money she would have to spend buying a new and sturdier table. Wiping a trickle of blood from her hand, where a broken piece of the table had obviously sliced her skin, she headed towards the garden gate, pushing her worries about the table to the back of her mind.
Buffy slipped through the gate and shut it behind her. She shoved her hands in the pockets of her sweatpants, bowed her head to the ground, and headed towards in the direction of her destination.
Angel O'Conner pulled on his jacket and watched as his chocolate Labrador, Scooby, bounced up and down eagerly at his feet. Even though Scooby was one of the laziest dogs Angel had ever seen in his life, as soon as Angel pulled on his jacket, the dog would amazingly possess more energy than before.
'Calm down, Scooby,' said Angel.
However his efforts were wasted, Scooby continued to bounce around at his feet, almost tripping Angel up.
Angel was surprised that Scooby had even opened his eyes when Angel had clambered down the stairs. It was half two in the morning, at least three and a half hours before Scooby's usual morning walk. Angel had been unable to sleep for some reason. He had been sat upstairs in his large king size bed, tossing and turning restlessly for hours, squeezing his eyes shut and trying his hardest to fall into the world of slumber. Except hours later, he was still wide awake. Angel was usually rather exhausted by the time he came home from work every night and he usually was asleep before his head even hit the pillow, so it was odd that after a long day at work he wasn't tired in the slightest.
'Sit!' Angel ordered as he reached for Scooby's lead.
Obediently, the dog sat as his master had told him to.
Once his lead was in tact, the chocolate Labrador started vibrating again as the glee of going out shined in his bright yellow eyes.
Angel threw open the door to his house, allowed Scooby to get a head start out first, before locking up his house and making sure all the windows were shut. Checking once again that the door was locked, Angel nearly tumbled over as Scooby anxiously tried to pull him away from the house.
'Steady, boy,' Angel laughed.
He patted Scooby on the head before heading in the direction of his usual dog-walking place.
Buffy wandered aimlessly through the darkness, squinting occasionally to check her surroundings. Thankfully she arrived at a large green gate a few moments later and she knew that she was now outside the Sunnydale Playground. She pushed open the gate, a slight shiver escaping down her spine as it creaked open spookily, before shuffling inside the playground, letting the gate slam to a close behind her.
Buffy had always liked the playground – the swings in particular. Her Mom always used to bring her when she was younger. It was where she had first met her two best friends, Willow and Xander, who also shared her fondness for the playground. Then, when her sister was born, Buffy vowed that when Dawn was old enough she would take her to the playground. By the time Dawn was four, she was running around just like Buffy had been years previously. Buffy knew why she enjoyed the playground so much, even now at twenty. It just held a care-free atmosphere that calmed Buffy in the most troubling times – the times that were troubling her now. It made all her pain and stress melt into the ground, giving her time to remember the days when she was younger … when life was kind to you and everything was simple. Now, however, Buffy knew that the hardest thing to do in the world was to live in it.
She descended further into the arms of the playground, running her fingers along the play equipment, and allowing her self to remember the memories that the place held for her. This was the place where her Mom had told her that she was getting a baby brother or sister. Every memory she held here was a peaceful one.
Making her way towards the swings, she couldn't help but allow a few tears to pool in the corner of her eyes.
Angel allowed him self to be pulled by Scooby, who was still on a high about getting an extra walk.
He pushed open the green gate to the playground and pulled Scooby along with him, waiting until his dog was inside before shutting the gate mutely behind him. Scooby had a tendency to run off, either because he had seen another dog or because he was bored, so Angel tried to never give him any opportunities to fulfil his need to make his owner run three blocks before catching him up.
He scanned the park, checking for any other dogs, before bending down and releasing Scooby off his lead. Before he could straighten up, Scooby was swallowed by the darkness as he wandered off to do his own thing. Angel followed behind, knowing better than to get in his dogs way, and let his mind roam to the work that was piled up on his desk in his office. He groaned at the mere thought.
Angel didn't mind his job, not really at least. He knew that if it wasn't for his Father securing him a place at his powerful and intimidating firm, then Angel wouldn't be living the decent lifestyle he led. He wouldn't have been able to afford his house, or any of the food he brought, and he wouldn't have Scooby to keep him company. Angel was always thankful to his Father for giving him the chance, especially as his Father had always showed more of an interest in Angel's brother, Riley, but he couldn't help despise the amount of paperwork he had to fill in daily. He would have much preferred a good paying job that gave you time to have other commitments. Because he knew that if Riley hadn't found Cordelia before he had started working at the firm as well, then he wouldn't have had a girlfriend until he retired. They were demanded to complete so much work, taking away so much of their time, that dating, having a family or any hobbies was completely out of the window as soon as you got a job there. And Angel, as grateful as he was, sometimes wished he had never been given the job.
Angel suddenly snapped out of his thoughts, realising that Scooby hadn't returned to his side yet. He gave a quick glance behind him, confirming that the gate was still closed and there was no way Scooby could have run off, before x-raying the playground before him.
Towards the back of the playground, on the swings, he saw the silhouette of his dog. However, besides his dog sat another dark figure.
Buffy's eyes were clouded by her tears as she cuddled her self, trying to keep warm. She had been so distracted by her own thoughts that she hadn't seen the brown furred dog stood in front of her, wagging his tail eagerly. She finally registered the dog's presence when it bumped its head into her leg, obviously looking for some attention. Nearly jumping out of her skin, Buffy relaxed as her eyes fell on the loveable dog before her.
'Hey,' Buffy cooed, scratching the dog behind its ear. 'Are you lost?'
The dog sloppily licked her hand, leaving it all slimy and wet, before jumping up at her and licking her face. Buffy laughed and pushed the dog back slightly, wiping her soggy face with the sleeve of her jacket.
Buffy glanced up to see a dark figure sprinting towards her, a dog lead in his hand.
'Hmm, so you're not lost after all,' said Buffy.
She kneeled down and patted the dog on his head, just as his owner skidded to a halt besides them. His breathing was heavy and he gasped slightly for air, before panting out an apology.
'It's alright,' Buffy said, straightening up. 'He's quite the cutie-'
Her eyes fell on the man before her.
His dark brown hair was sculptured, gleaming in the moonlight. Buffy suddenly found she had the urge to run her fingers through it. The colour of his eyes mimicked his hair – except his brown orbs were gentle and twinkled like two stars in the midnight sky. His skin was pale, illuminated in the darkness like a faint light. He gave her a soft smile … and her heart almost melted.
'He's quite the pain as well,' laughed Angel.
His eyes roamed her face, memorizing every single feature of her beautiful face. Her cute little button nose, the determination in her fiery hazel eyes, the blush that was spreading across her sun-kissed glow, and the way her blonde hair spiralled down her back. As the clouds shifted, the moonlight shone upon her inhumanly beautiful face. He noticed the tear tracks streaked down her face, glittering in the light.
'He's beautiful,' she said, pulling him out of his thoughts. 'What's his name?'
'Erm … Scooby,' answered Angel, momentarily forgetting his own dogs name.
A soft laugh escaped her lips as she gave Scooby, who was now securely on his lead, another gentle pat on the head.
'Forgive me for being rude – or sounding like your Father – but you shouldn't be out here alone at this time,' Angel said, feeling suddenly protective of the blonde before him.
Two emotions flickered over her face – sadness and anger. Her teeth gritted slightly before she replied in a firm voice,
'I want to be here, my whereabouts are nothing to do with you.'
Buffy flounced back over to the swing, perching her self on its slightly damp seat, and swinging slightly. She knew the handsome man with the dog was only concerned, although she was able to take care of her self. He didn't know the reason as to why she was here, why this was the only place that kept the saddening emotions at bay. The playground was the only place she could truly break down.
Tears slid down her cheeks.
'Hey, hey, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to be rude,' said the man, taking a seat besides her.
She felt him rest his hand on her shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. His dog lay down next to his feet, crossing his paws and resting his head upon them.
'No, it's not you … it's just –'
Buffy bit down on her lip, wondering if it was logical to tell a stranger her life problems. However, maybe talking to someone she didn't know would be easier. He didn't know her, he couldn't judge her, and maybe telling him would relieve some of the pressure off her heavy chest. It would surely make her feel better.
'Hey, you don't have to tell me anything. I mean, come on, you don't even know me,' Angel smiled.
He watched as the girl's eyes flickered, staring at something in the distance. He had to admit that he was slightly concerned for the young women, whose tears still poured down her delicate cheeks, but he didn't want her to feel as though he was prying for information about her life.
'No, its okay,' she sniffed, wiping her tears away with her sleeve, 'I have to let this out.'
She took a deep breath.
'My Mom has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour,' Buffy said.
She heard the man besides her suck in a deep breath at her statement. 'I'm so sorry,' he whispered.
'It's not your fault. I should have noticed the symptoms sooner –'
'Are you a nurse?' he asked.
Buffy shook her head.
'Then how should you have noticed the symptoms earlier? It doesn't make it your fault because you could have noticed earlier, some things just happen without us having any control over them whatsoever,' Angel said.
He could tell by the way she spoke, the tone of her voice, that she blamed her self for her Mom's illness. Yet he couldn't seem to find the reason why. Angel wasn't a doctor, nor did he have any medical knowledge, but he knew that even some medically qualified people wouldn't have noticed the symptoms. He wished the girl would understand that.
'But what if I had noticed earlier? What if they could have … I don't know … what if they could have had her better by now?'
'Don't think like that!' ordered Angel firmly.
The sharpness in his voice even had Scooby raising his head and looking up at him. He quickly bent down and scratched his dog behind his ear. Angel noticed that the blonde was now watching him, her beautiful eyes transfixed on him.
'I don't know how to cope with this sort of thing,' Buffy admitted, staring down at her hands. 'I have a little sister, well – not little … she's fifteen, but I don't know how to help her cope either.'
Dawn hadn't been open to Buffy since their Mom's brain tumour had been confirmed. In fact, Buffy was sure that Dawn had been avoiding her. Whenever Buffy offered to help her younger sibling, or even when she tried to have a direct conversation, Dawn's words were either limited or she would get up and leave the room. Buffy just didn't know how to cope. It was evident that Dawn blamed Buffy just as much as she blamed her self.
She suddenly felt a pair of warm hands enclose over her own.
'Time,' he said.
Angel watched as she gave him a quizzical look, not understanding his cryptic one-word answer.
'Time is the healer of all wounds. I think that only time will help you cope,' Angel said softly, giving her hands a small squeeze.
'What if it doesn't?'
'Then maybe you just have to cope with not coping,' he answered.
Buffy snorted. 'Huh?'
The two of them burst into laughter, for no reason in particular, as Scooby lifted his head to watch the pair.
Minutes later, after tears strolled down both of their cheeks and they were gasping for air, the playground fell silent again.
'But, seriously, it isn't your fault. You're not the one to blame,' Angel said.
She nodded. 'I think I see that now.'
Buffy pushed back a stray piece of hair behind her ear and looked down at her hands again. By just spending the few moments with this man, she had been able to heal part of her sore wound. The blame that she held for her self now evaporated into the thin air. Maybe instead of forcing her self to cope now, she would have to let it come naturally. And, if it didn't come at all, then she would learn to live with it.
'Thank you,' Buffy said, rising to her feet.
She leant over and pressed a gentle kiss to the handsome mans cheek, before smiling at him. She spun on her heel and headed towards the green gate, vanishing into the night as the blackness engulfed her. A few moments later, the deafening clank of the gate pierced the silence.
Angel pressed his fingertips to his cheek, allowing him self to replay the moment over and over again in his head.
'You're welcome,' he whispered.
Scooby moaned from his place beside Angel's feet, obviously fed up now. Angel rose to his feet, his dog quickly mimicking his actions, and followed the girls' direction as he headed towards the gate. Scooby dragged him hurriedly out of the playground and back towards their home.
From then onwards, both Buffy and Angel's minds were assaulted with each other, though neither of them knew it. And every day, when either of them stepped out and wandered the streets of Sunnydale, they would both always have a sliver of hope that they would bump into their night time stranger.
A/N: I'm going away this weekend, so I thought I would leave a B/A fluffy one shot to entertain you whilst I'm gone! Hope you liked! I'm like a zoo animal – I need to be fed reviews to be kept happy!
Your writer always,