Part 1

Who would ever think that she would find the most amazing guy by just doing her ordinary job—saving the world, fighting off demons? If only she knew earlier, she would have exerted all her witchy efforts to quickly earn points and get rewarded by one good man.

Michael must have noticed her looking, because he turned his head to peek at her from under the brown hair falling at his temples. Man, was he hot! Paige thought. He brooded, and that was sexy in a guy. Of course he had secrets. So many dark secrets in his eyes. But that only made her want him more. It struck some deep-seated chord inside her that she might someday be able to soothe that awful thing bothering him.

Paige smiled at her boyfriend and sauntered over to where he tended bar. He grinned, leaned over the counter and kissed her swiftly.

"You changed your perfume," he commented.

"Like it?"

He smiled. "It's nice. But you know I really like you in the one I bought."

She chuckled. Him and his cooky taste in essential oils and that new age stuff. He wasn't using them himself, but he had this weird hang-up. He just had to smell her wearing them! Now was that fair? Ah well, Paige thought. Everyone had something unique. This was just his. If it helped him get over… No. She shouldn't think about that. That was a year ago and it had not bearing in the relationship that they were building.

"I'll wear it on our next date," she promised.

Michael seemed satisfied with that. He motioned to the other bartender and headed for the backroom. She followed him a few minutes later. Without knocking she pushed the door open. He was looking in his locker for some tiny jar. She could tell by the way he read the labels and sniffed, then placed them back inside. She thought she saw something clipped at the door of his locker. She stepped closer and saw a rather worn picture of a laughing girl, wrapped in so many layers of clothing. Apparently, judging from the background, it was taken on a snowy Christmas day. The humor in her eyes vanished.

Suddenly, Michael straightened. He strained to hear the music in the club. He grabbed her hand and propelled her towards the dance floor. Paige smiled happily. Michael wasn't one for expressiveness. So this was something cool.

"I requested this song," he explained to her.

With a sinking feeling in her heart, she laid her head on his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. The singer that Piper hired crooned on the stage, that old, old love song that Paige learned to enjoy, wonder about and despise at the same time.

"The poets say that all who love are blind, but I'm in love and I know what time it is…"

~*~*~*~

In one of the tall buildings in San Francisco, a stately beauty slammed into the office of her co-vice president. She strode to his table and dropped the financial statements in front of him.

"What do you think this is—your personal savings account?" she demanded. "What in hell do you need all these private eye fees for, Lindsey?

"I need to find someone, Lilah," he growled. "You know that."

She did know that. In fact, she'd been witness to the panic, the sheer drive, the underlying energy in the search for so many months. What she didn't know was why. But the why really didn't matter that much to her. He wanted to find this girl, and that's that. "For heaven's sake, Lindsey, she's been gone a year. She's probably dead."

While he had been calm the entire time she was freaking out in front of time, he had his limits. By the time the last syllable fell from her lips, he'd shot out of his chair and grabbed her by the collar. "Nobody dies until I let them," he gritted out. "And she isn't dead until I see a body. So don't say stupid things, Lilah. The girl's alive. And I needed her found yesterday!"

~*~*~*~

"Ugh!" The blonde girl made gagging noises while the dark guy in front of her guzzled the thick red liquid from his glass. "That is just gross," she complained.

Angel put down the glass and raised an eyebrow. "How can you tell if you won't even try it?"

Her bee-stung lips were screwed in disgust. "At least let me fix it up for taste," she offered.

He shook his head slowly. "No. Your idea of fixing the taste is to dump chili sauce in my precious fresh blood supply. Let me tell you, Type O and Tabasco—don't mix."

"Finicky."

"Sane," he corrected.

"Ungrateful," she tested.

Finally, the vampire chuckled a bit. "Comes from being undead."

Cordelia lowered her compact to watch the two interact. Her eyes narrowed. Angel wasn't being Angel with this Maria around. Her eyes rolled towards the other end of the room. Wesley kept his gaze on his computer screen, but there was a smile on his lips. Gunn was unabashedly watching the two, amazement clear in his face.

Finally Maria pushed herself up and grabbed her purse. "As much fun as it was sitting in the dark with you, Angel, I have a job to go to." He had found her work singing over at Lorne's place. At first The Host wouldn't agree to pay Maria when customers were all eager to sing for free. But Angel got her an audition, and the moment Lorne saw the brilliant clarity of her aura, it was all they could do to get the green guy to shorten working hours. According to the demon, he had never seen a more relaxing aura in his existence.

"Yeah. Gunn's going with you."

Maria snorted. "I don't have money to pay for a bodyguard." She whirled and left hurriedly.

Gunn looked to Angel for his next move. The vampire just jerked his head in Maria's direction, and Gunn ran after her.