by Dana

Disclaimer: The Buffy and Angel universes belong to Joss Whedon's creative genius. And doesn't that just sound like he's keeping a ceative genius locked up in the basement?

Some tiny little notes: thanks for all your feedback, and especially the lovely Nina who encouraged me to go ahead and post this in chapters. This one's for you, for my sister Carmel, and for her late hamster Archie. To avoid confusion: these are interspersed Buffy and Angel POVs.

* * *

Jesus, am I glad that the drive is over. Nothing has ever seemed so long in my life, and I've had a long life. I panicked a few times on the road, I think. The third time I turned the car around Cordelia rolled her eyes and finally took over the wheel.

Wesley was really very thoughtful during the ride, never complaining about my schizophrenia and keeping the mood light with imitations of sitcom characters. He does a mean Nanny Fine.

But now the silence is almost as loud as the engine that was roaring a few minutes ago, and my throat is dry. I can't believe I'm this nervous. I've got to get myself together before I see Buffy.

"I made reservations at The Tulip," Cordy breaks the silence. "But if we're gonna be here a long time, we might want to look into a more permanent place to stay."

That startles a reaction out of me. My eyes widen slightly. "The Tulip? Isn't that-"

"A luxurious yet casual resort, where I can revitalize my mind and body in the calming environment of the health spa, and be as active, as relaxed or as pampered as I desire."

"That's gotta cost-"

"Renowned for its unique design, the hotel offers an undisturbed view over the lush landscaped gardens and the beach. The unforgettable high standards of service and cuisine offered in numerous restaurants, bars, and other extensive five-star facilities will ensure me memories for a lifetime."

I get out of the car and slam the door, irritated. "Did you by any chance quit while I wasn't paying attention and take a job as their spokesperson?"

"Oh, you'd notice if I quit, believe me."

"Yeah," I snort. "I'd have to start drinking good coffee again."

She slams the door even harder than I did and clicks on the automatic lock. The car alarm beeps three times. "Where are you going with this?"

"I don't see why you have to go and make me pay for an expensive hotel when there are five thousand other motels in this town." I assure you, that does not come out sounding like the whine it is.

We're walking towards the main entrance in brisk steps now, side by side. Her eyes narrow. "You're the one who made us come here on this insane mission in the first place. The least you could do is give me a relaxing place to stay, because I sense many, many headaches in my future."

She may be right.

"What brought this on, Angel? You aren't usually this cheap."

"I'm not cheap! I'm just-" I pause in midstep as I hear a faint pounding in the distance. "Did we--?"

"We forgot Wesley in the car," she finishes. We turn on our heels and I continue speaking.

"I'm just nervous, I guess."

"I promise you, yelling at me won't make you calmer. In fact it may cause the opposite."

We reach the car and Cordy unlocks it. Wesley gets out, looking more than disgruntled. "Cordelia, I'm a bit peeved with you. You," he points at me, "I'm not talking to."

I protest. "How come you're not mad at her?"

"She had to deal with you being a jerk, so she's forgiven," he says with a glare, then turns to her. "Did you tell him he was paying?"

She nods. "He's paying. A whole lot of money. On the bright side," she smirks at me, "imagine how impressed Buffy will be when we tell her how generously you treat your employees?"

Irrationally, that makes me feel better.

"Come on, guys," she links her arms through both mine and Wesley's and leads us cheerily to the hotel. "Make up. You're sharing a room."

* * *

Though I've lived here my entire life, I never get over how hot it can get in California in the middle of winter. It's February, yet I'm wearing a short-sleeved nightgown instead of my heavy winter PJs. There's been some sort of bizarre heat wave in the past couple of days.

But I enjoy waking up with the sun on my face.

Xander calls first thing in the morning. "Is Rob around?" I hear.

I consider throwing the phone out the window. It should be illegal to call this early on days when I'm allowed to sleep late. "Who?" I ask groggily.

"Rob. You know, the guy you're marrying in a few months."

A warm feeling passes through me. "Rob..." I murmur dreamily.

"Is he there? Are you moaning his name while on the phone with me?"

"Who is this?" I ask the air.

I hear a heavy sigh over the phone. "Buffy, wake up."

"Xander, it's Sunday!"

"It's actually not."

"What?" I sit up sharply and glance at my calendar.

"Got you up, didn't I?" I can practically hear his smirk.

I hang up the phone and fall back into my pillow. After thirty seconds it rings again. I pick up. "Don't mess with me on Sunday mornings, Xand."

"Point taken. Is Rob there?"

I fling an arm over to the empty space in the bed beside me. Warm, but no Rob. "No," I pout.

"Okay. Are you gonna see him today?"

"Unless he's going to Mars or something..."

"Yeah. Tell him I got everything set up, okay?"

"Whatever." I stretch lazily and curl around the light sheet I've substituted for my winter blankets. "Wait. What's set up?"

"It's a surprise."

"A surprise?"

He's smiling, I can tell. "I'm not really afraid of Rob, but he said something to Anya and I'm sure she'd circumcise me if I told you. So-" he leaves it hanging.

"Xander," I say as seductively as I can. "If you tell me I'll return those photos I took of you and Giles up in Seven Springs..." I trail off invitingly.

"Sorry, Buff, I'm impervious to your temptations. As much as I'd love explaining for the fifteen-hundredth time that it was FOR A SPELL! I'm gonna go because Anya's chopping cucumbers very eloquently. It's scaring me."

"I bet it is," I grin, and say goodbye.

Well, well. A surprise.

I wonder why...

Oh, no.

Tell me it isn't-

My eyes fly to the calendar again, and this time I groan when I catch the date. Crrrrrrap.

February thirteenth.

How could I have forgotten?

I'm the girl; I'm supposed to kick *his* ass for forgetting Valentine's Day. It just...slipped my mind. I was up late slaying all week, and it just... slipped my mind.

I am a horrible human being. A horrible, horrible human being.

I must act speedily.

I must never say 'speedily' again. I sound like Giles.

* * *

The room really is gorgeous. Thank god Cordy thought ahead to make sure we get two queen sized beds instead of one king. Wesley tends to cuddle; I don't need that with Buffy on my mind.

I actually don't need that when Buffy isn't on my mind, either.

I've decided not to tell Buffy that I'm coming. The element of surprise is always an advantage, and this is no exception: she won't have time to prepare herself. When she sees me, her face will reveal her true emotions and there'll be no avoiding the inevitable kissage, sexual attraction, etc. Her jackass of a fiance will realize what a fool he'd been to imagine she'd ever want him over me and sob his way out of her house, taking with him the Andrew Lloyd Webber CDs I'm sure he owns.

By the way, her jackass of a fiance will henceforth be referred to as The Competition.

Commy, for short.

I've devised a simple strategy. I'll wait until I see Commy leaving tonight and surprise her around dinnertime. Hopefully all the aforementioned kissage will occur and we could be back in LA before next week. Or before my credit card maxes out.

Worst case scenario-I'll improvise. I'm good at that.

I stride out of my room with an air of, I believe, confidence. A few seconds later I rush back in, splash on some cologne that was standing on the bathroom counter and whiz back out.

I'm cool.

"Wish me luck," I throw at Cordy's adjoining room as I prepare to leave.

"Not gonna," she murmurs.

I backtrack a few steps and pop my head through her open door. There's a sort of lounge. She and Wesley are lounging in it. Wesley looks up from his magazine distractedly, with an expression mixing irritation and amusement. He sniffs. "Did you--?" he starts.

"Cologne," I grunt. "Why won't you wish me luck?"

"Because I'm not going to ruin my karma by wishing another woman a failed marriage."

"That's the support I was looking for," I say, wounded.

"Do you remember any of that Shakespeare you crammed into my brain?"

"Possibly," I reply warily.

"What did Casio wish the newlywed Othello and Desdemona?"

"Let me just whip up the miniature Othello copy that I keep in my wallet-"

"'Happiness to thy sheets,' he said, Angel," she says in a self-satisfied tone, as if winning an argument. "'Happiness
to thy sheets.'"

I'm silent for a moment. "Othello and Desdemona both die at the end of the play," I point out.

"That's hardly the point."

"I'd say it's a major factor." I blink. "Why did you bring this up anyway? It has nothing to do with us!"

"There are similarities!" she argues.

"There really aren't. It's a completely different situation."

"He's right," Wesley puts in. "I didn't understand the connection either."

"That's because you're both idiots." She rises from her seat with an exasperated sigh. "Try to hand out some advice..."

I ignore her. "Wish me luck, Wes." I put on my coat.

"Good luck," he murmurs and flips a page in his magazine.

Right. Here I go.

I step out the door.

* * *

It takes me about fifteen minutes to get dressed, pull my hair up haphazardly, snatch my purse and reach the door in a rush. I guarantee you this is an all time record. It's only when I reach the car that I notice my growling stomach and hurry back inside to grab a snack.

There's a note taped to the fridge.


I smile involuntarily as I recognize Rob's considerably messy handwriting.


Knowing Xander, he's probably let something slip, and now you're feeling guilty for forgetting V-day. Don't. I know how hectic the last couple weeks have been for you-remember, I was there, waking up at 4 AM. I really don't expect anything special from my overworked, by all rights exhausted fiancee. Besides which, you more than did your share of observing this holiest of days last year. You deserve a break, and I'm going to treat you to a day of...

Hmm. Wouldn't wanna spoil the surprise.

Love slave, Buff.

I'll be back around evening. Love, Rob~

A feeling which I'm sure Rob would dub 'girly' bubbles up inside me, and the huge grin on my face is positively giddy. He understands. See, that's why I love him.

How many men would wake up at four AM because of their girlfriend's crummy night job, let her into bed stinky when she's too tired to shower, help with the laundry later, and offer to be her love slave afterwards?

Well, okay, the love slave bit might be more widespread, but all the rest...

I gotta get him something, just to show appreciation. Flowers, at least. Maybe bake a cake.

I'm not too good in the kitchen, though. I can deal with salads, but the intricacies of an oven are lost on me. Flowers it is.

This time I make it all the way into the car before I see the small note tacked on the steering wheel.

~I mean it, don't bother going out. It's Sunday. Rob~

Well, what do you know. It is.

Smug bastard. I mean, I could well have been on my way to Willow's or...

Yeah, I know. Sunday morning, exhausting week. It wasn't a hard guess.

I sigh and once again make my way back into the house. I wonder if I even have any cake recipes?

* * *

"Couldn't you have warned me it was sunlight?"

Cordy looks like she's suppressing a giggle. "I thought it was obvious with, you know, our room being blacked out and the clock chiming two PM."

"I'm back with bandages," Wesley declares and sits down next to me. I shrink back for a second. "Hold still," he orders.

"You could have warned me," I insist dejectedly. "You're no friends at all."

Okay. That came out sounding like an eight-year-old. They're staring at me. "Let's forget I said that."

Cordy finally lets out a laugh. "You're lucky you can't see your reflection, because that burn is just... oh my god!" She cracks up.


"Wesley, don't you think it looks..." She's gasping in between laughs. "It looks... looks... fish shaped!"

Wesley narrows his eyes and tilts his head sideways. His eyes widen. "Dear god..."

Cordy finally calms down with a last snicker. "I think Enrique's out for revenge."

"I think you should just shut up."

There's that eight-year-old kid again.

See, what happened was that there are windows on our floor with these patterned wooden shades. Apparently they're fish patterned, though I'm having trouble deciding whether my burn really is Enrique-shaped or Cordy and Wes are just messing with me.

"Just get it wrapped up, will you?" I grumble.

Wesley smears some ointment to ease the sting and bandages the burn quickly and efficiently. I hardly know why we bother to do this-it'll probably heal by tomorrow, considering that I was only exposed for a short while.

"What are you going to do now?" Cordelia asks with amusement.

Wait till sunset, I suppose, and then set out.

"Follow my plan," I answer boldly.